Happy St Andrews Day

Today, November 30, was Scotland’s national holiday, a recognition of their patron saint, Andrew. My Scottish blood rejoices in opportunities to celebrate my ancestral home. Far from the beauty of that amazing place, I found ways to incorporate Scottish traditions into my day. 

According to historical accounts, about 800 AD King Angus of the Picts, facing a larger army of Saxons at Athelstaneford in what is now East Lothian in Scotland, was overwhelmed by a blinding light the night before the battle. During the night, he had a dream. The message he was given was that he would see a cross in the sky and he would conquer his enemies in its name.

The following morning King Angus looked into the blue sky at sunrise and saw white clouds forming the Saltire Cross. This filled him and his men with great confidence and they were victorious. Saint Andrew and his Saltire Cross were adopted as the national symbols for an emerging Scotland.

Across Scotland today there was feasting, poetry readings and whiskey drinking to commemorate the day. I created my own special holiday that began with hanging my Saltire proudly from my front deck. I wore my SCOTLAND hoodie that I purchased in Edinburgh in 2014, which was very welcome on this chilly day. And I read through the poem “Hame”, by Scottish poet Mary Symon. 

See part of Hame printed HERE on some of Scotland’s national monuments. 

While in the car this afternoon I enjoyed songs by Red Hot Chilli Pipers, accompanied, of course, by the haunting wail of bagpipes. Hearing bagpipes instantly transported me back to the Highlands, where I stood with tears in my eyes, listening to the Lone Piper. 

In Scotland, celebrators dined on traditional fare such as haggis, neeps and tatties, leek and haddock soup, and roast lamb. I am determined to eat Scottish food, with a healthy twist, by Burns Night on January 25. To that end I looked up recipes, and found them, for vegan haggis, tattie scones and leek and potato soup. I’m excited to create new dishes that honor traditional Scottish food while also honoring my decision to eat in a healthy way. 

Tonight I did dine on tatties, roasting my potato wedges in the oven with spices. I enjoyed an after dinner tea, rather than an afternoon one. I brewed a cup of Scottish Heather Tea, pouring it into a fine china cup adorned with Scotland’s national flower, the thistle. This cup and saucer once belonged to Greg’s mother. 

Sliced apples took the place of shortbread cookies. And I tried a fresh persimmon as a special treat. Missouri persimmons are small and very bitter until they are extremely ripe. I bought this California persimmon at my local health food store. Much larger in size, it was sweet and juicy, and perfect paired with apples. 

I am returning to Scotland next fall, after a summer trip to Italy with my grandson and daughter. I’m excited about both trips, for different reasons. Scotland will always feel like a homecoming, a return to the land of my heart. When I travel there next September, it will be in the company of my mother, sisters and niece. What memories we will create. 

Until then, I will celebrate my heritage and my beloved Scotland here in Joplin, as often as I can. 

Happy Birthday Lola

Today the youngest member of my family turned two years old. We celebrated Lola Maxx Sunday at a birthday party in her honor, and I snapped pics of the boisterous occasion. Tonight’s blog post is all about this charming and sassy little lady.

Lola was not only the one celebrated, she also provided the entertaiment, giving new meaning to the phrase, “tooting her own horn”! 

I looked up Lola’s name:

“Lola,  you bring completion. You have a generous nature and like to see returns from your giving. You are a natural leader, fair and diplomatic. You are also moral, balanced, honest, intelligent, and deeply spiritual. Wisdom flows from you and you tend to think before you act. You have an eye for and an appreciation of beauty. 

Dependable and well grounded, you can be methodical and organized. Sometimes you appear to be stubborn and set in your ways, and yet you always finds reasons for celebrating life.”

Because of Lola’s young age, we will have to be observers of her life and see if the words above hold true. I can already affirm that this beautiful child is exceedingly generous and likes for everyone to be happy. She does have leadership abilities that she demonstrates in a practical, no nonsense, take charge kind of way. She is diplomatic and also kind, methodical while being fun. 

At two years of age, she currently shows her appreciation and love for beauty by accumulating bling. Give the girl a stack of pretty bracelets and she’s thrilled. Lola is very bright and connected to Spirit, and wisdom is evident when you look into her big brown eyes. 

Unknowingly using a large gift as a backrest!

It is interesting that Lola is associated with completion, given that she is the younger child in her family, the little sister to an older brother. I think her parents, my nephew Scott and his wife Nicole, find completion and perfection in having a son and daughter. They are certainly amazing parents to their children. 

I haven’t personally witnessed stubbornness from Lola, only playfulness, sweetness and a developing sense of humor. However, as the youngest in her family that could be a useful trait, and a way to make her wishes and opinions known! 

What this child does possess in abundance is a loving nature. She adores her big brother Weston and her Gigi and Papa. She loves her mommy and daddy and enjoys cuddling with them. She easily moves among her cousins, aunts and uncles, laughing, singing, dancing.  And everyone loves her in return, creating a supportive environment for Lola to thrive in while she grows and figures out who she is. 

Her eyes crinkled up Sunday as she flashed me a smile. She pointed to me and said, “Yaya”. That’s all it took to melt my heart. 

Happy birthday, Lola. I look forward to seeing all the ways you celebrate life. I love you!

Healthy Pumpkin Mug Cake

As I was contemplating tea time this afternoon, I considered what treat I could have with my Scottish tea. Afternoon teas have changed drastically since I switched to a plant based diet. No more scones, finger sandwiches or shortbread cookies for me. Instead I’ve had fresh fruit or a Lara bar, which are made of simple whole foods. Often I’ve just skipped tea time altogether. 

However this afternoon I opened up Pinterest, searching for an easy, healthy treat idea. The first post I saw, without even typing anything into the search bar, was a recipe for Healthy Pumpkin Mug Cake. Perfect! I had pumpkin purée left over from Thanksgiving. I slightly adapted the recipe and came up with this super simple mug cake for one, using ingredients I had on hand. 

Healthy Pumpkin Mug Cake


Any gluten free flour could be used. I had these two on hand. Coconut milk could be substituted for almond…keep it unsweetened…and pecans could replace walnuts. The point is to keep the ingredients wholesome and healthy. 

The pumpkin mug cake turned out so well! I don’t like anything to be very sweet so this subtly sweet richness was exactly right for me. The pumpkin, cinnamon and walnuts tasted like fall. 

Paired with a cup of hot Scottish Thistle tea, this was a wonderfully satisfying afternoon tea time. And best of all, this mug cake was good for me. 

Meet Absolem, My Mascot

Absolem is the blue caterpillar from the Lewis Carroll book Alice in Wonderland, and the Disney and Tim Burton movies by the same name. Smoking a hookah as he perches on a mushroom, Absolem first engages Alice in a cryptic conversation that begins with the question, “Who are you?” 

I have always liked the wise blue caterpillar. I loved him in the Tim Burton live action version. When I arrived at the family   Halloween party last month, I was delighted to find my niece Ashley had created a replica of Absolem, and placed him in the Alice in Wonderland area in her home. He was tiny perfection, and I wanted him. 

Absolem’s role in Alice’s life was to help her discover her destiny. I felt this little caterpillar would be the ideal companion for my journey next year, as my destiny continues to be revealed to me. Every year I receive a new word, a new symbol for the journey, and a song. For 2017 I’ve also been given a quote. Absolem isn’t my symbol. I’ll reveal more about that in January. No, the blue caterpillar has been given to me as my mascot, or talisman. 

I was led to him as surely as Alice found Wonderland by traveling through the rabbit hole. 

Early in the year, the world lost a great man when Alan Rickman passed away. More than an actor, Alan possessed creative genius and an expansive heart and soul. I was deeply saddened by his death. Shortly after he died, I found a quote of Alan’s that was destined to shape next year. “If only life could be a little more tender and art a little more robust.” 

From those words a seed was planted, from which grew my word for 2017. I am honored to have Alan’s quote as the foundation for all that has arisen from it already, and all that will flow from it next year. 

Alice Through the Looking Glass released in theaters this year, the sequel to Tim Burton’s previous film. In both movies, Absolem is voiced by Alan Rickman. It was bittersweet to hear his rich and distinctive voice giving life to the blue caterpillar who had transformed into a blue butterfly, knowing Alan had transitioned as well. 

Then, the fabulous Halloween party, with the Tim Burton theme that Ashley and Debbie selected last year, months before Alan passed, has as a decoration the blue caterpillar sitting on his mushroom. He called to me throughout the day, in that unmistakable baritone. “Who are you? And where are you going? Can you make life a little more tender next year, and art a little more robust?” 

He has continued to call to me. 

Today, Absolem came home with me. My niece allowed me to purchase him, knowing I will cherish him. He has a new mushroom to perch upon, that I bought tonight at Target. Both will rest on my writing table, in my creative studio, where I can look at Absolem daily and feel inspired to carry out my mission for 2017. 

I hope he asks me every day who I am. 

Movie Review: Love & Friendship

I declared tonight a movie night, feeling the need for a little nurturing self care. Comfy clothes on, wrapped up in my late father’s Harley Davidson throw, a cup of hot Scottish tea in hand, I settled on a Christmas movie. But moments into the film, I stopped it. The movie I had picked out didn’t feel right, not tonight. 

Instead, I selected another movie from my Watch List on Amazon Prime, Love & Friendship, a historical comedy, if such a genre exists, based upon the novella Lady Susan by Jane Austen. Written early in Austen’s writing career, this delightful little book wasn’t published until 50 plus years after her death. 

I was intrigued, being a fan of Jane Austen and of the many screen versions of her books. I have never read Lady Susan so I was unfamiliar with the story. As I began the movie, I knew I had made the right choice. 

Love & Friendship stars Kate Beckinsale, Chloe Sevigny, Xavier Samuel, Emma Greenwell, Morfydd Clark, Tom Bennett, Justin Edwards and Stephen Fry. This period piece that is classified as both a comedy and a drama, was directed by Whit Stillman. The movie carries a PG rating, for adult themes, and has a run time of 1 hour and 32 minutes. 

Set in England in the late 1700s, Love & Friendship tells the story of Lady Susan Vernon (Beckinsale), recently a widow, and totally without funds. She is not, however, without intelligence, wit and beauty…and the ability to manipulate others. Determined to find husbands for herself and for her reluctant teenage daughter, Frederica (Clark), Lady Susan moves both of them into Churchhill, the magnificent estate of her brother-in-law, Charles (Edwards).

Lady Susan charms the gentlemen, no matter their age or marital status, and invites rumors and scandal, everywhere she goes. Her sister-in-law, Catherine (Greenwell) is very distraught over her uninvited houseguests, especially when Lady Susan appears to have captured the attention and heart of her handsome younger brother, Reginald (Samuel). 

Her only confidante and ally is the American, Alicia (Sevigny), married to an upstanding older gentleman, Mr. Johnson (Fry). It is through her comical and frank conversations with her friend Alicia that Lady Susan’s motives are exposed. While she attempts to play matchmaker between her daughter and the rather silly but wealthy James Martin (Bennett), the past threatens to catch up with Lady Susan, foiling all of her carefully laid out plans. 

This was a wonderful Jane Austen adaptation. The dialogue and characters were very much in Austen’s style…witty, engaging, likable. I was reminded of another of her films, Emma. The difference is that while Emma appears to be conniving and manipulative, she has a good and sincere heart that is always concerned with the welfare of others. 

Not so with Lady Susan. Her plotting and scheming is all centered around her own needs and gains, without regard for the well being of others. Initially I waited for the goodness in Susan to be revealed, as it is in many of Austen’s characters in her other stories. Once I realized Lady Susan was exactly as portrayed, I relaxed and simply enjoyed the tale. 

For enjoy it I did. The clever dialogue, comedy, and over-the-top dramatics created a highly entertaining film that kept a grin on my face. The period costumes were gorgeous, and the stately homes and English countryside created the perfect backdrop for this little known Austen work, allowing the story to come alive. Love & Friendship was exactly what I needed tonight. 

By movie’s end, somehow all had sorted itself out, and Lady Susan played the unique role of both the villain in the story and the heroine. I loved that. And now, I must read the novella. 

Ray’s Snowman

The day after Thanksgiving, I typically avoid Black Friday shopping while still shifting my attention toward Christmas. Often I use this day to create my first decoration or holiday craft for the season. Today I was open to seeing what inspired me. Inspiration did indeed find me, in a completely unexpected and delightful way. 

Greg has been going through boxes and boxes of items, brought from his parents’ house in Arkansas after his father passed away. It has been a huge task that is nearing completion. This morning he showed me booklets his brother Ray created while in elementary school that contained examples of his work. 

Ray, age 2, with Santa Clause. 

Ray, almost age 5, on Christmas morning, 1952. 

Ray, who was creative and artistic, revealed his love of drawing and painting at an early age. The booklets had pages of math papers and spelling words and science illustrations…and pencil sketches Ray drew in 3rd grade. We smiled over his drawings and water color paintings. 

And then one piece of art, that had come loose from its fragile page, caught my eye and sparked my imagination. Ray had carefully written his name across the back of a paper snowman that he had created. The year was 1958, making him 10 years old. 

I love snowmen, adding to my collection each year, and suddenly I knew what to do with this charming artwork from 58 years ago. I did brave the crowds today to pick up a simple black frame, liquid tape and Christmas scrapbooking paper at Michael’s. 

Back home, I quickly assembled the items to create a simple and beautiful Christmas decoration. I love the way the red, green and white plaid paper and black frame highlight Ray’s snowman. This artwork will have a special place of honor in my home and in my heart. 

Greg’s older brother passed away in 2002, after a short battle with cancer, and just three years after their mother died. Ray was five years older than Greg, and while the brothers were fond of each other, the years between them and their different interests kept them from ever being close. Ray’s death ultimately took away any chance of forging a stronger bond. 

Swans watercolor, by Ray Moore. 

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to display his cheerful snowman. I’ll think of Ray every time I see it. Thankfully, this artistic and soulful man continued to explore and develop his creative talents, creating pottery and watercolor paintings in a flurry of activity before his death. 

I am grateful for the way inspiration flows into my life, generating ideas. It creates a kinship with Ray, that goes far beyond being his sister-in-law. It creates a connection between us that allows us to share an appreciation for art and creativity and being authentic. 

I wish I could talk to Ray one more time, and let him know I understand him better now than I ever did during his life. And I love his heart and eye for beauty and color and form. And…this little snowman from his childhood means so much to me. 

Perhaps he knows. 

Thanksgiving 2016

What a beautiful day! With my son and daughter-in-law hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year, I didn’t have as much cooking to do, which was wonderful! Nevertheless, I was up early on this day of expressing gratitude, cooking the rest of the plant based sides that were my contribution to the meal. 

My first utterance of thankfulness this morning was for the food processor that thinly sliced potatoes with such ease and speed that I was tempted to go buy another bag of spuds, just for the fun of it! 

The second occurrence that filled my heart with grateful joy was walking out into my garden, in late November, and snipping fresh thyme and rosemary for the potato and mushroom gratin. I also hoped my neighbors weren’t watching out their windows. I walked outside in a pajama top, yoga pants and a pair of loafers, because isn’t that how everyone dresses while cooking for Thanksgiving? 

The potato and mushroom gratin and the sweet potato casserole both turned out great, as did the pumpkin baked beans that simmered all night in the slow cooker. The cranberry relish was a hit too. 

Megan and Nate had a houseful today and they were such gracious hosts. Megan prepared a big traditional Thanksgiving meal, and the guests all brought sides, drinks or desserts. While everything looked and smelled  amazing, I wasn’t tempted at all to divert from my diet. Megan included a flavorful broccoli salad and perfectly roasted squash and tomatoes as side dishes. My plate was full. I ate well and healthily and I was satisfied in all ways with my first ever plant based Thanksgiving. 

Starting at the top and going clockwise: roasted squash & tomatoes, potato & mushroom gratin, broccoli salad, raw cranberry relish, sweet potato casserole, pumpkin baked beans. 

The greatest blessing of today was gathering with family. We were a big blended group with Megan’s family and Nate’s present. We missed Megan’s sister Tara, who had to work, and her family, and Dayan and Jonathan, who were with other family today.  

After the delicious meal, the kids headed out into the gorgeous sunshiny day to play and jump on the trampoline, while Frankie the youngest child present today, wandered about the yard under the watchful eyes of his parents and grandmother. Inside we visited and laughed and cleared away leftovers. 

Eventually we all ended up outdoors. The kids and adult kids divided into two teams for a fun and friendly game of kickball. The rest of us cheered from the driveway and laughed at the number of times one of the grown up kids ended up on the ground. It was a great way to spend the afternoon, soaking up golden rays of sun and for the more adventurous, getting in exercise after a big meal. 

Family was the focus of the day. Family members of all ages, having fun together, feasting, playing, talking, laughing, expressing their quirks and offering their love, that’s what was most important today. 

I finally had a piece of fully plant based pumpkin pie with coconut cream whipped topping late in the afternoon, after I got home. It tasted as great as it looked. What a perfect end, to a perfectly lovely day. Thanksgiving 2016 is a cherished memory. And I am full of gratitude.

Happy Birthday Nate

Today is the birthday of my family’s newest member…my son-in-law Nate! Although he and my younger daughter Adriel married just last month, it seems like Nate has been a part of the clan for much longer. My whole family has wholeheartedly embraced Nate, since he and Adriel began dating not quite two years ago. 

I looked up Nate’s name:

“Nathan, you have a vivid and expansive imagination and you are one who inspires others. You enjoy life and having fun, and when self doubt is overcome, you rise to great heights and can achieve great things. You have a knack for avoiding trouble, which is why you occasionally repeat an experience so that you can learn from it. Sociable and people-oriented, others are drawn to your genuine charm and generous nature. You are a lover of change, and a seeker of adventure and new experiences. You are bold, inquisitive and interested in others. 

Dependable, down-to-earth and well grounded, you seek meaningful work, a career where you can take pride in your work and do the best job you are capable of. You desire to protect and build a secure environment at home and at work. You can be very persuasive, goal oriented, detailed and well-organized. Your contributions to the world make you a valued member of the community.”

True words describing a truly wonderful young man. Nate is very people oriented, one who connects easily and genuinely with others. When he and Adriel first began to date, he would stop by the house to visit with Greg and me for a few minutes, as we worked in the yard or on a project. Adriel would be at work, but he felt very comfortable hanging out and chatting. He even attended several family events when Adriel was unable to go because of work, not just standing in for her, but being there because it was a family gathering or party and he wanted to be there. No wonder my extended family fell in love with him!

Nate does enjoy life and engages it fully. He likes to have fun and laughs often. And he is adventurous and seeks out new experiences. He and Adriel have had many interesting outings. They hike with their dogs, take trips together, and spent a mini vacation in a wild life refuge. Which wasn’t a surprise at all. Those two love and appreciate nature and animals. They have a menagerie of rescue dogs and cats that are well loved and cared for. 

One of the things I appreciate most about Nate, is how he cares for and loves my daughter. He is a good man, with a good heart, and no where is that more evident than when he is with Adriel. As a mom, that touches my heart deeply. 

Last month Nate and Adriel joined their hearts, their lives and their families, as they said I do before an intimate group of family and close friends. It was a beautiful evening, inclusive and fun and unique, representative of who they are and how they live their lives. I was proud of both of them, and delighted to welcome another son.

Happy birthday Nate! I look forward to seeing what you achieve. I love you!

My First Cranberry Relish & Plant Based Pumpkin Pie

With Thanksgiving almost upon us, tonight I began prepping food to contribute to the family dinner on Thursday. I am very determined to adhere to my plant based diet during the holidays. And yes, I’ve heard it all from well meaning people…from “it’s just one day of eating whatever you want” (two really, counting Christmas) to “a little turkey and dessert never hurt anybody” to “you can get right back on track after the holidays”. 

I realize that what people are really saying is, they don’t want me to miss out. I appreciate their concern. And trust me, I don’t feel that I am missing anything…except pain, a body thrown out of whack and unwanted holiday weight gain! 

With my resolve firm, I greatly enjoyed puttering in the kitchen this evening, creating my first raw cranberry relish, and my first totally plant based pumpkin pie. Both recipes are from Anthony William. The cranberry relish is from his new book, Life Changing Foods. And the pumpkin pie recipe is from his Holiday Pies printout. 

Having never made cranberry relish, I was very surprised to find that other people apparently know something about the goodness of fresh cranberries that I don’t! I had to visit four grocery stores before I could locate a bag of these bright red berries. They were sold out all over Joplin. Thankfully, Aldi’s still had a few bags. 

This recipe was super easy. Using my new food processor, I combined 1 cup of fresh cranberries, 2 cups of coarsely chopped apples, 1/2 cup of orange segments, 1/4 teaspoon of orange zest and 4 tablespoons of raw organic honey and pulsed until roughly combined. The relish can be garnished with chopped mint before serving. 

I sampled a bite of the relish as I popped it into the fridge to chill. It was delicious, with just the right blend of sweet and tart flavors, and quite a contrast to the super syrupy cranberry sauce from a can. 

The pumpkin pie was just as easy and full of healthy goodness as well. The crust was made by processing 1 cup of raw organic almonds, 1 cup of raw organic pecans, 3 cups of dates, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean powder (I located this at my local health food store, Fox Farm Foods), and 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon. 

After pressing firmly into a pie dish, I let the crust chill in the freezer for 30 minutes. For the filling, I used my blender to combine 1 cup of dates, 2 bananas, 1 cup canned pumpkin, 1/4 cup heavy coconut milk, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean powder and 1 1/2 tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice. When the mixture was smooth I poured it into the crust and placed the pie back into the freezer for 30 minutes, before transferring to the fridge. 

I tried a bite of the crust and a dab of pumpkin pie filling. Oh my. Both were excellent…tasty, not too sweet, and perfectly seasoned with spice. 

Tomorrow evening I will attempt making coconut whipped cream, using heavy coconut milk, lemon juice, honey and vanilla bean powder.I’ll let you know how that turns out. With or without whipped topping, this pie is amazing…and absolutely good for me. 

I’m looking forward to cutting into it Thanksgiving day!

Jimmy John’s Lunch with Jonathan

I enjoy having lunch with my grandchildren, at their schools. I pick up the food of their choice and join them in the cafeteria for a meal and conversation. Although their lunch times are short, that 30 minutes still presents a great opportunity for one on one time with that child, who gets all of my attention. 

Today I joined Jonathan at his school. He requested a ham and cheese sub from Jimmy John’s. And this is what’s funny about his request…I’ve never eaten a Jimmy John’s sandwich, ever, until yesterday! I joined friends at one of the Joplin locations and then today, stopped by the Pittsburg Jimmy John’s on the way to Jonathan’s school. Never before…and then Jimmy John’s two days in a row. 

What I discovered yesterday was that this sandwich shop, which promises fresh and tasty products delivered freaky fast, offers a veggie sandwich option. And taking that idea even further, they will make any sub or club into an “unwich”, wrapping the filling in lettuce leaves. 

Perfect. I shifted from thinking I’d just have an unsweet tea while my friends ate…to having an unwich, minus the cheese and mayo. Sliced cucumbers, tomatoes and avocados tucked inside lettuce leaves made a simple and healthy meal. 

Today I picked up another unwich for me and the ham and cheese for Jonathan. We chatted while we ate, covering a broad range of topics. Jonathan is very good at technology and figuring things out. He is eager to help his cousin Aubrey create a YouTube channel soon, as she develops an idea. I love that about this bright, good natured boy, he is always willing to help and offer his knowledge. 

He is also honest and to the point. When I asked him if he was having a fun day, he answered that he didn’t have a fun morning. There was too much math involved! But the day was improving, with a Jimmy John’s lunch and recess up next. 

I love this boy and I am proud to be his Yaya. Our lunch time flew by. Before he headed out to the playground, he humored me with a selfie, because we always capture our time together with a photo. Jonathan probably thinks it’s just one of my quirks, these fun pics. But I’m capturing the moments so I can save them up. I know how fast the years fly by, and how quickly the boy will become the teen and then the man. 

For today, during this moment, we were Jonathan and Yaya, laughing and talking over Jimmy John’s. And I’m smiling tonight, remembering, as I look at our selfie.