I can’t help but be envious, just a bit, of Ruger and his total and complete sense of contentment; his utter trust and faith that he is safe and sound in our care.

As humans, I feel we are all looking for that sense of peace that comes with complete trust and faith being placed in the hands of another. With age, hopefully comes some wisdom and some enlightenment. I’ve just celebrated 5 decades under my belt and the one thing I’ve come to realize is that the only one I can place complete trust and faith in is my God and His Son. Humanity, in it’s flawed and fallen state, will inevitably let me down. It’s not a criticism of any one human being, it’s just a result of living in a world separated from our true home. But there is One who will never let me down even if the world does, who will always love me even when no one else can, and who promises me that one day I will leave this earthly realm that groans under the weight of sin and see my true home, the place I truly belong.

And what a home that will be.

A welcoming party that will surpass the best of parties ever, as all my past and future canine companions, as well as the relatives, friends and family who have preceded me, welcome me to the ultimate place of happiness and contentment.

When I watch my puppy sleep, I catch a glimpse of that glorious and perfect contentment.

When I watch my puppy sleep, I am reminded of something someone wise told me once. Something I knew deep down in the core of me, where the Spirit resides and affirms basic truths. Something that sums up my love for these loyal, trusting, loving, happy, furry domesticated canine companions:


Now THAT, is contentment.

Gluten Free Mac ‘n Cheese: Christmas Party at the Horse Barn


Well, isn’t that post title truly an example of words that you’d never expect to see together! My daughters ride horses, and so when the trainer holds a Christmas party, it just seems to make sense to have it at the barn!

As those who are gluten intolerant can appreciate, one can never be confident that foods at a holiday party are going to be safe to eat. I have entertained for decades, (oh, I hope that doesn’t date me too much!) and I can say with confidence that most parties tend to be rather unfriendly environments for those who cannot do wheat or gluten. (*2014 update: Things are slowly becoming more GF friendly!) Whether it’s potluck or cocktail party, there are loads of crackers, breads, pasta, tortillas, and hidden flour in many dips, chips and casseroles. I cannot emphasize this point enough: a potluck table is a dangerous place for those GF. We discovered quite belatedly, that the lovely ‘Stewed Apples’ a woman brought contained hidden gluten in it. After asking her for the recipe, she said she used Stouffers as the base. Here I was thinking to myself, stewed apples, cinnamon and dried cranberries, how can that have gluten? Shortly thereafter, my daughter had a reaction and I went online to check. Guess what? Stouffers Harvest Apples has wheat in it. Who’da thunk? You’d think the two of us would have learned better by now!

Back to the point, when you have dietary issues, it’s smart offer to bring something, and I tend to bring/send both a main dish as well as a dessert that is safe. I want my daughter to be able to enjoy herself. It’s hard enough being a teenager where pizza parties reign, and having to sit by and watch while they eat, so I make the extra effort to always send something for her to enjoy. Plus, I ensure it’s tasty enough that my daughter isn’t the only one digging in.

Today with temperatures being in the 20’s here, I decided to bring Macaroni & Cheese. One of my favorite versions is from the Cook’s Illustrated Family Cookbook. You can trust from Cook’s that the recipe will turn out the way they describe.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a pantry cook. I do my shopping weekly and pretty much make something based on what is either in my fridge and/or pantry. Then I proceed to modify the recipe based on what I have on hand. Today, I had on hand some sharp cheddar, jack cheese, a little havarti and swiss. Altogether it was close to the amount of cheese called for in the recipe. I used lactose free milk and substituted the pasta for my favorite brand of GF noodles – Tinkyada (Penne) Noodles. The Tinkyada holds up magnificently in cooking and just refuses to get soggy. Use whatever brand works for you, but make sure to not over cook the noodles and rinse them fully, or when you bake them in the cheese sauce you’ll end up with cheese flavored wallpaper paste, most certainly not the desired result.

*This will look ‘loose’ when you put it in the oven. That is ok, it will tighten up while baking. Do not add more noodles or it will turn out dry.

This has been a regular favorite in our family. I hope you enjoy it also.

Macaroni & Cheese (gluten free)

8 tbsp Unsalted Butter (you will use 2 tbsp melted to toss with the breadcrumbs)

2 cups Breadcrumbs (I pulse GF bread in a food processor to make my own)

1 lb Macaroni Noodles (We use GF)

1 Garlic Clove, minced or put through a press

1 tsp Dried Mustard, reconstituted in 1 tsp water

1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper

6 tbsp Gluten Free Flour (You can use regular wheat flour, I use Pamelas GF Artisan Flour)

3.5 cups Whole Milk (I used lactose free, please use whole or add cream to make your low-fat whole. This is mac n cheese for goodness sake, it’s not a diet dish!)

1.75 cups Low-Sodium Chicken Broth

1 lb colby cheese & 8 ounces of extra sharp cheddar (I used what I had on hand, see above. I really feel it’s up to you. If this were not for a potluck, I’d have added pepper jack!)

Preheat your oven to 400 deg

Mix the breadcrumbs with the melted butter and set aside.

Boil your pasta till a dente. Drain, and rinse thoroughly. While the pasta is cooking (I’m all about time efficiency. Turn the oven on, get the water boiling, and start your sauce…)

To make the cheese sauce:

1. Melt the 6 tbsp of butter, add the garlic, mustard and cayenne. Cook until fragrant, about a minute.
2. Add the flour, whisking till smooth and well combined. I cook it about a minute to make sure there is no ‘flour’ taste.
3. Slowly add the milk and chicken broth, whisking constantly to keep from clumping. Cook it about 6 minutes until the mixture is slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and add your cheese, still whisking to keep from clumping. 4. Add your well drained noodles, and gently fold together until well combined. (Don’t panic if it seems overly soupy. I have done exactly that, trying to spoon off some of the ‘excess’, only to have a dry dish in the end. Leave it and it will remain creamy and yummy if you don’t panic!)

Pour in to a 13×9 baking dish, top with the buttered bread crumb and bake for about 25-30 mins until bubbly and topping is well-browned.

Let sit for 10 minutes before enjoying. And then…..ENJOY!

ps) This may not be the most artistic photo, but I took it at the barn with my smart phone. As you can see, it had been 1/2 devoured and we came late after most had already eaten. Yes, it really is that good! One more tip: I have a gel pack that is microwavable which I put under the casserole dish to keep it hot. If you can find one and live in a climate like mine, I highly recommend. No power source needed!)

Halloween Came Early…

I am currently sitting here, in my spot, at the kitchen table and had to share with my fledgling community of friends and followers the intense joy I am feeling. 

To my left is a gaggle of girls. I use that term endearingly, having raised two and having had young ladies trooping in and out of my house for years. When there are more than three, it becomes a gaggle. Ask anyone who has experience of more than three women together. Talk gets fast, increasingly louder, giddy, giggly, you know, girlie!

Here in Minnesota, October is the month of MEA. Basically, it’s a convenient, state mandated day off for teachers to ‘educate’ themselves. Thus, basically its two days off for the kids. Offspring #2 is a senior in High School. As seniors, they got off a day early as the rest of the school is in testing. (They do pre-ACT’s for the younger grades) As seniors, they are celebrating by having a pumpkin carving extravaganza, and decorating store bought cookies. Yes, I did offer to make them, but was turned down by offspring #2. To be honest, I was disappointed and relieved at the same time. I love planning parties, and offspring #2 knows that. I think she inherited a bit of control freak from me, as she wanted to do this – HER WAY. (I’m dating myself, but i’m reminded of the Burger King commercials)

I had a bible study tonight, so hubby saved the bacon by setting up the banquet tables in the garage for them to do their ‘biz’ with the pumpkin until I got home. 

Now they are in the kitchen, around my island with frosting flying, black teeth, and the beginnings of a sugar high. And I am in heaven. 

I think about the fact I have a senior. I have been a stay at home mom for 18 years. Staring at that number, I cant help but think 18 looks like a small number. That is, until I put it in perspective. I’ve been through 3 moves; many friends who have come, gone and stayed; I’m nearly 2 decades older, and I’ve seen 3 presidents in office during that time. I have been a mom nearly 2/3rds of my life. This year will fly by. It did with offspring #1 and I know it will with this one. What will it look and feel like this time next year? Where will be the gaggle of giggling girls, excitement and joyful noise filling every corner of my house? It is something I look forward to with anticipation and trepidation. The fear of the unknown, the anxiety of entering a new phase of my life and redefining ‘who’ I am. 

I’ll worry about that later. For now, I am in my own little slice of heaven. Thank you Lord for all the blessings you have given me. Truly, it is the riches of the heart that are more precious than all the gold of this earth.

ps) I am one who struggles with technology. I have not mastered yet how to post pictures, but when I do, I will attach them. I apologize in advance for the lack of visual cohesion. Its a joyful mess here.