Thursday, May 5, 2016

Words to Grow On

Life is Good: the world is waiting for you & you are ready!

I adored my maternal grandfather. He was too many things to write about right now. He gave me lots of precious gifts---words of wisdom, mostly, and a great example of a spirit-led life. He had a lot of favorites---including licorice (ick!), 60 Minutes, and Fords. He also had a favorite cousin named Atha. He loved her so much that he named one of his daughters after her! And lucky for me, his favorite cousin, Atha, had a son who then had a daughter (have I lost you yet?) who happened to become one of my favorite cousins. And her name is Jen.

Jen has two sons. Two smart, handsome, talented, well-rounded (insert tons more compliments here) sons. And I often text Jen with some sort of "boy, I am going to have lots of questions for you about raising sons when my little dudes get to be...(this age) or (doing this), etc." And she always self-depricatingly makes it sound like her sons grew up only by the Grace of God. I know that faith played a key role, but I also know that she and her husband have been intentional in every way possible as they parented these boys. 

Today, Jen and her family celebrate a momentous milestone. Her eldest son walked out the door for his very last day of high school. He will graduate soon and move on to college. And the big wide world awaits. And again, I wonder how she's managing this extremely emotional time. And I say that I will certainly need her suggestions and guidance when I get to this time in my life!

Jen was kind enough to send a letter to me that she wrote to her son. And generously agreed to let me post it in hopes that the words that have come straight from her heart will touch another mama's heart. I don't think these are words that speak only to moms of graduating seniors, though, but to all of us who, from time to time, have to widen our grasp of our children in little and big ways. Though these thoughts are for her son as he says goodbye to high school, I think they are words--sweet, precious words-- for all of us to grow on...
To my Precious Son as you prepare to depart on your own life's journey-
There are so many different emotions swirling in my mind and my heart, I often just feel overwhelmed. But I 
hope you feel calm, focused, excited and confident.  You've done the work.  You are ready.  
Right now, there are still many decisions to make.  And they seem so big.  Which is the right school for you? 
Where will you fit, excel, grow, and be happy?  But here's the thing:  Any of the places on that list we've 
poured over can be the right place. And it will be, once you choose it. 
You'll fit by trying new things and learning to fully appreciate differences. You'll excel wherever you go and 
whatever you do because those are the choices you make.  You've practiced them over and over.  You are 
disciplined, and you see the big picture.  You have lived through disappointments- without becoming bitter or 
discouraged, but instead allowing them to drive you. Your perseverance will take you through setbacks to 
successes.  I know it.

You will grow by taking the leaps of faith that feel uncomfortable.  Over the years, I've seen you be more 
and more willing to do that.  I've watched in awe as you've become welcoming of necessary discomforts. 
And you've done it all with such a calm confidence.  
You'll make mistakes, too.  That's part of the process.  There will be sadness, or a broken heart, or dashed hopes.
And you will turn them into lessons and get back up and move on.  Your help and support will be just a text or 
call away- as much or as little help as you need. Right here. And when I can't physically be there or 
its a thing I can't really fix, our God who is greater than it all will be all around you, working all things for good.
And you"ll be happy. 
I know you will because I've prayed it over you a million times. And I know you will because you already 
understand that happiness, too, is a choice.  
We will be here, marveling at you as we always have, and missing you so very much, too.  We will make our own 
choice to be happy, even as we feel the loss of the way things were.  There will be tears- you know me. 
But never due to doubt or regret or fear.  It's just hard to let you go because I know how special you are 
and I know how far and how high you will fly.  And I want you to! 

 I love you more than I ever imagined loving, I'm so proud of the amazing young man you are, and I will be 
right here- missing you, cheering you, praying for you, believing in you.
So, go, baby. Make your choice, you can't go wrong.  Your wings are ready!  

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Eggless Egg-free Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake and/or Bread

Life is Good: I'm baking again!

Need a sure-thing to take to a friend with a new baby, a family that is grieving, to share over coffee & a chat? 
This recipe does not dissappoint. I got it from my friend, Merie, and adjusted it to make it eggless for our family's needs. You can make it as a cake or a bread, chocolate chips or chocolate chocolate chips, all with the same results...YUM!

Eggless Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake
2 C flour
2 C sugar
3/4 C cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
mixture of 3/4 applesauce and 1/2 T baking powder (mixed together in a separate bowl until foamy)
3/4 C canola
3/4 C buttermilk (I have often used milk and it has turned out well)
3 C grated zucchini
3/4 C chocolate chips or chunks (My friend Merie used a 1/2 bag rather than measure them)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease and flour two loaf pans.
3. Mix applesauce and baking soda together in a small bowl and set aside.
4. Mix flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together in a large bowl.
5. Add applesauce mixture plus oil and buttermilk into large bowl of dry ingredients and mix well.
6. Mix in zucchini and then chocolate chips.
7. Pour into pans (half of batter in each) and bake. In my oven, this recipe is done after about 45 minutes. However, all ovens are different, so I suggest that you start checking the middle of the loaf with a toothpick or cake tester after 38-40 minutes.
I typically leave the cocoa powder out of the recipe when I make this bread for my kids since they are allergic to nuts. Most cocoa powders are processed in facilities where nuts are present. If I add cocoa, I have to grind Enjoy Life chocolate chunks into a powder. Sometimes I feel like going through the extra step and sometimes...I'm lazy! The absence of cocoa powder doesn't affect how delicious it is. However, the addition of cocoa powder kind of "takes the flavor over the edge", if you will, and makes the bread much, much more rich. Try it both ways and see what you think!
The original recipe calls for 1 tsp of cinnamon, but it makes for a very obvious cinnamon taste and I prefer it more subtle, especially when leaving out the cocoa powder.
This recipe was originally a cake made with eggs that my friend, Merie, who happens to be a marvelous and adventurous cook, posted on Facebook a few years ago. (Thank you, Merie!) I adapted it to be eggless and the result was more of a bread than a cake, so I bake it in loaf pans, but if you want to try it in a cake pan, go for it! I made it as a cake for our Little Kid's birthday cake a couple of years ago and everyone loved it.

Here is the Chocolate Chunk Zucchini bread version (I used Enjoy Life chocolate chunks.)