Thursday, September 12, 2013

Lessons from a Left Hander

I'm lefthanded. Very dominately so.  All my life.

At least I thought so until I had a small cyst removed from the tall finger knuckle of my right hand, rendering it practically useless. I've  learned I do use that right hand for many important functions in my life. Such as:

1. Contacts. I've been wearing contacts since I was 13 years old. I use my right hand to put in my contacts. More specifically, the middle finger of my right hand is crucial to holding my eye open while I put both right and left contacts in. Who knew?

2. Opening things.  Everything from the half and half to yogurt, to the toothpaste. I open these first with my right hand.

3. Unbuttoning my pants. Yes, I unbutton my pants with my right hand. Surprise.

4.  Rotary cutting. I do predominately use my left hand, but am surprised how often I employ my right for the "other side" cutting.

5. Makeup application. Never knew it was so hard with one hand.

6. Threading my sewing machines. Yesterday I finished a quilt on my long arm. I was surprised how much of the procedure requires my right hand. Including threading and pulling up the bobbin thread as well as putting in the bobbin on both the long arm and domestic machines.

Conclusion.: you learn something new everyday. About yourself too!  Also, do not schedule what you think will be a nothing procedure with little downtime when you have a few deadlines hanging over your head!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lotsa Lotsa Lasagna

All my children and husband love my lasagna. It's been a staple and/or treat for 31 years around the Stowers household. I got the recipe on a trip to Atlanta to see my brother Rusty's family in the summer of 1980.Ross and Sara were infants. Clay was one year old. I believe it was the fourth of July as I remember my sister-in-law, Stacy, and brother-in-law, Sid, running the the Peachtree Road Race. Yes, Stacy was just a few, maybe 6, weeks postpartum and I thought she was crazy and we would find her inner parts on the road somewhere, but being the medical novice that I was, I was wrong. She and Sid finished the race very well.

If you've ever been around the Ross clan around feeding time, you know that's like the feeding of the 5000. We do love to eat. Stacy served many great things that weekend. Having a personal aversion to running I spent a lot of time copying her recipes. I remember specifically her Greek Braid Bread, Praline Cheesecake, All-American Coffee Cake and Baked Lasagna. The prior two recipes were used by me only a couple of times over the years. (My husband was not a particular fan of whole wheat bread nor pecans.) However, the latter became staples in our household.

Whenever I asked my son, Ross, what he would like for dinner he would answer with two specific requests; pot roast or LASAGNA (imagine it said really fast and loud). Of course, those two things, his favorites, take quite a bit of time to prepare properly, so I would usually have to ask for something else.

Ross and his family are coming for a visit before heading back to Italy and I thought I would prepare a few things for the freezer to minimize some of my kitchen time while they are here. One being said lasagna. So, after going to the hairdresser on Wednesday of this week, I stopped in at my local HEB, my favorite grocery store, to purchase the needed ingredients. I love HEB and their store brand products are really equal to any name brand in most cases; especially if used as an ingredient in a baked item. So, amongst all the other needed products, I picked up 3 24-oz cartons of HEB Small Curd Cottage Cheese to use in the 3 lasagnas I was preparing. My plan was to make them Thursday, including a small one for Mark and my dinner, and freeze the remainder.

Thursday came and after lunch I worked about 3 hours preparing the recipe. It looked good if not perfect. Into the freezer they went. After working so, I popped the small dish in the oven, and I retired to my den to watch a little local news, something I rarely do. (I don't like the news, but that's another post.) Imagine my horror and shock when sweet Dominique Sachse announced a recall of HEB cottage cheese and sour cream. It was a purely preventative step HEB was taking, but you were to return any product to HEB for a full refund. WHAT?????

I immediately called customer service at HEB headquarters. It was after 5, so they were closed for the day. If it has been a germ or bug, or something, I would have dismissed it, being they were baked, but what if it was someone's FINGER or something? I called my local store. The manager, Mike, was very nice about it, but said he could not recommend me salvaging the lasagnas and that he would let me come to the store, reshop all the ingredients, including the ones I had used from my pantry. Wow. That was great, but still, the time and the precious LASAGNA!!!! It hurt to throw it in the garbage. I know there are people who go through garbage daily to have something to eat. Oh, my. My inner humanitarian HATED that. But throw it away, I did.

I spent my Friday afternoon as a repeat of Thursday and now there are 3 beautiful lasagnas in the freezer waiting the arrival of my family.

I also followed the advice of several, including Stacy, when I wrote a nice, but firm letter to HEB requesting compensation for my time, the electricity, gas and other resources used to remake the dishes. We'll see what they do about that.

Since the beginning of the debacle involving the tainted cottage cheese, I've had several requests for this recipe.. I've tweaked it a little over the years, but it's basically the same.

brown 1 1/2 pounds of good quality ground beef (I do this in the microwave in 6 minutes using my Pampered Chef Batter Bowl with lid. Contact Sara Foster for more info on that. I also use the PC Mix & Chop to get a perfect texture in the beef.)d

drain fat


1 clove garlic minced (I use a little more)

1 1/2 Tablespoons parsley

1 Tablespoon basil

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1-lb can of diced tomatoes

2 6-oz tomato paste

Mix well and let simmer for at least 30 minutes

Cottage Cheese Mixture

3 cups of cream style small curd cottage cheese

2 Tablespoons parsley flakes

2 beaten eggs

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Stir well

Prepare a 13X9 baking dish with pam or similar product

I use the no-boil or oven ready lasagna noodles. They work great.



1/2 cottage cheese mixture

cover this completely with slices of mozzarella cheese (It will take 3/4 to one pound for entire recipe)

1/2 of the meat mixture

Repeat: pasta, cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese and meat

Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Let stand 10-15 minutes before cutting.

I like this because the cheese doesn't burn or get tough on top. If I'm going to all this trouble (and for me, make the considerable mess), I always at least double or triple the recipe and put the extras in the freezer. It works great. If you allow it to thaw, you bake it the same way. If it's still frozen, reduce the heat to 350, cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Remove foil and continue baking for another 30 minutes or until the middle is hot.

Enjoy. I know we'll savor every bite of ours!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Organizational March Madness!

For those of you who aren't fortunate enough to know my sister-in-law, Stacy, you are missing a treat. She has the ultimate gift of hospitality coupled with organizational skills matching no other. I have an area of my countertop I call "my useless corner" because it is tucked in the corner between the fridge and dishwasher. The designers of my kitchen thought the "drawers" that are 4.5" wide adjacent to one another on the corner would be of some use. NOT. They aren't even wide enough for a potholder or dishtowel. The fridge space is not open, but a wooden "box" so the side next to the corner is dark and difficult to maneuver around although the space is 18" wide by the depth of the bottom cabinets. (Picture will be following) On their visit during mom's birthday last month, I asked her to help me come up with an efficient use of this space. I reminded her that I was serious on the visit this past weekend. She laughed and said she had been thinking of some solutions and was waiting for me to bring it up again.The "useless" corner that started it all!

I am organizationally challenged. I can do the basics, but sometimes look at things in a jumble and cannot picture a way to make sense of it. It has gotten better since we moved and shed ourselves of some 30+ years of accumulations, but still there are myriad places I need to work on. Stacy can look at it and instantly come up with a great plan! I gave her carte blanche to go at my area. She said that really I had so much space in lots of areas in my kitchen and pantry and laundry room, but I wasn't putting it to its best use. After her girls and grandchildren left, she sent me to a nap, her energy kicked in and she started to work. (I know she worked so much easier without my sentimentality and inefficiency in her way.) She single-handedly organized the following areas of my home in one afternoon and one morning: my pantry is now sleek and so functional. That in and of itself is a marvelous feat. She totally reconfigured my laundry room and its cabinets and repurposed so many of my storage spaces that I now have what she calls "white space" waiting for more items. One of our proudest "green" solutions in the laundry room was to take a newly discovered bicycle storage hook from the garage and put it opposite the dryer for me to hang shirts or other things on hangers or to dry. She organized the area under my kitchen sink. It wasn't really that full, but she purposed it so that I have all my cleaning supplies, trash can liners, and even an area for my cutting boards to be stored vertically there. She repositioned some of my drawers for efficiency and usefulness. She took a "coat closet" which has never held a coat since we've lived here and turned it into a pantry annex for my small electric appliances (ones I don't use everyday such as crock pot, waffle maker, seal-a-meal, electric skillet, etc.) and tupperware. The great thing is it is adjacent to my kitchen and very handy. I had been using it for my vacuum and broom, etc. but so much of it was space being wasted.

Laundry shelves with "white space" picture 1.

More laundry cabinets "White space" #2.

Repurposed bicycle rack. It will fold up and away when not in use. Don't worry, it's high enough I won't hit my head on it! She thinks of everything!

Pantry all clean!

The best part of it is the servant's heart she displayed while working, tinkering and problem solving. She would giggle with delight when a plan came together. Such as getting a little help from the men in the house to demo a shelf out of one of those skinny cabinets so I would have a vertical place for my cookie sheets and baking stones or researching the internet for the perfect Rubbermaid turntable for a certain set of supplies. Her pleasure in a job well done and thought out was infectious!

I can't thank her enough for sharing this gift with me. She did mention that she did it for fun and not a business, so don't call her. We have a relationship that goes back to the earliest days of high school and included her being in my wedding where she and my brother became reacquainted after, as my daddy would say, she had "all growed up." The rest is family history.

Thank you, Sister Friend!
Under the sink. Cleaning supplies in the tub on the left. It's white so you can see what's in there. On the right, we have a repurposed pot lid holder for my cutting boards, a tray and longer aluminum foil, waxed and parchment paper.

The new place for cookie sheets and baking stones.

The drawer under the oven that used to hold the cookie sheets, etc. Now for iron skillets, etc. that used to be on top of the fridge in the laundry room.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Reflections on a Psalm

This morning as the doves are calling to one another,the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing and I'm on my back patio reading this Psalm, I just had to share it.

8 O Lord, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.

2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants,

you have established strength because of your foes,

to still the enemy and the avenger.

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

4 what is man that you are mindful of him,

and the son of man that you care for him?

5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings

and crowned him with glory and honor.

6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;

you have put all things under his feet,

7 all sheep and oxen,

and also the beasts of the field,

8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,

whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

9 O Lord, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

It speaks for itself in so many ways, so I won't say much. Our majestic Lord put us on this earth to enjoy it's beauty, majesty, His fun imagination evidenced in creation, from microscopic organisms to the blue whales that roam our seas, to the infectious smile of my grandson, to the freckles on my chocolate lab's nose or the pink blossoms of the azaleas in the front yard, it was all created for us by a most imaginative God.

Thank you is not enough for all these sweet evidences of your love for me, but it is all I have. Thank you, Jesus.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Here's to Christmas!

I must confess I'm using this post to make myself a list for the next couple of weeks. After traveling home after Thanksgiving in Tennessee (what a wonderful time with family and friends!) on I-10 with half of Americans, we hit the ground running.

Mark had driven 14 1/2 hours, unloaded the truck (we brought home several things), then asked me if I would like him to set the Christmas tree up. I couldn't believe how sweet that was. It was 9 p.m. and he went into the garage and retrieved the box. After quickly assembling the tree, we fell into bed for a good night's rest. The next day I did the re-entry thing; laundry, sorting, cleaning so I could put up decorations. Monday night we went to dinner with our good friends, Mike and Francine Creecy, who were here for Thanksgiving with their girls, Brad and new grandbaby, Morgan.

Tuesday I set up the nativities, did more laundry, changed sheets, cleaned some more. Mom is due on Thursday, and I want things in good shape for her. I put up the cookie tree in the kitchen and decorated the big tree. We got out the Dickens houses for the dining room. We took our photo for our Christmas card.

Today I finished a lot of previously unfinished things. I found some items I had purchased last year on sale to add to the Christmas decor. Set those out. Cleaned the kitchen. More laundry. Set up the Dickens Village and got all the lights in them appropriately. I cut some magnolia off our tree and put it in the dining room fixture. I hung some pretty ornaments from it, too. I still have to clean up, put boxes away, etc. I also organized our Life Group decorating two tables for the Christmas Cafe Sunday night and our progressive dinner Saturday, Dec 11.

Thursday morning I'm meeting good friends for coffee.
Pick up mom at 1:30 ish.
Drive to REI on Westheimer for a final small thing for Ross.
Go to grocery. Buy things for mom to eat as well as prepare two of my most famous desserts for our Christmas Cafe at church on Sunday; chocolate fantasy cake and ultimate cheesecake.
Go to Post Office where they will draw more blood for one last package for the Italian Stowers.
Friday we are going to Richmond to get some more pecans. Gotta love Texas pecans.
I'll probably bake my cheesecake that day, too.
Saturday I'll bake the cake for the chocolate fantasy and put it in the freezer. It has to be frozen in order to frost's sooooo moist.
Mark will put the lights outside and clean up the yard after being gone for 2 1/2 weeks. We will probably grocery shop for Tuesday nights dinner....see below.

Sunday we have church. I'll go back around 2 to begin to decorate our tables. I'll also take some Show Hope merchandise I picked up in Nashville. We are using this season to promote interest in our new 1:17 ministry at The Fellowship at Cinco Ranch. The Christmas Cafe benefits this new ministry which will help families in our church with the cost of adoption. We will enjoy the evening filled with Christmas music and lovely desserts!

Monday we will prepare for a dinner party for 15 of Mark's staff. It is a lovely evening. I'll prepare what I can ahead of time.

Tuesday we will get everything ready for dinner so Mom and I can join the Feathered Chicks (ladies who worked at The Feathered Star Quilt Shop) at The Taste of Texas. Tuesday will be a food overload day for sure! We'll get home in time to run items in the oven. Mark will grill. We'll enjoy the evening together.

Oh, and by the way, we are giving Mom a netbook for Christmas and I will be teaching her how to navigate the internet and email everyday while she's here.

Wednesday we don't have any plans. I'm sure we'll come up with something! Mani/Pedis maybe?

Thursday Mom returns to Tennessee. I'm going to my friend Becky's house for a benefit for The Apparent Project, an effort to help parents in Haiti provide for their children.

Friday I get my hair done and we have Mark's office party that evening.

Saturday is our progressive dinner with our Life Group. We are hosting the main course, so I'll have to figure that out sometime! HA

As of now, we are done after that until Christmas where we are having a couple of ladies from Mark's office for Christmas dinner. Our kids are all somewhere else this year, so it will be just the two of us....for the first time in 31 years! Even then we went to our parents' houses, etc. so this is really is a first.

It's all good and part of God's plan for us....this year at least!

Thanks for letting me make my list. I hope it didn't bore you too much!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Few Mnutes of Your Time, Please

This is an explanation/introduction to the ministry Grace's young man, Charles "Chachi" Avirett. is beginning. I think it would appeal to several of you who have young men as sons. Read and enjoy. If you want to contact Chachi about a trip for your son and his friends, please do!

Take a few minutes to think back to early adulthood. You’re finally free from parental control; the world awaits your arrival; possibilities are endless. Reflect long enough and you will likely remember some of the circumstances that make teens and college-age young adults quite vulnerable to an onslaught of moral and spiritual battles. For Trail’s target audience, young men ages 16-24, familial independence, insatiable curiosity, and bold exploration beckon. Like a champion thoroughbred, we chomp at the bit, muscles trembling, waiting for the gate to fling wide. As many of us learn years too late, what we choose to do with that energy and passion, particularly in our first years of autonomy, will often dictate the life path on which we travel. Will we tread on the road of integrity, strength, and character, or take the bypass? As Ephesians 2:10 reminds us, God invites each of us to use our strength and abilities to pursue the great adventure he has planned for our lives. Trail will intercede for these young men, show them the truly thrilling life God offers, and start them on the path to achieve it.

Our unique wilderness expeditions blend a man’s life journey with the challenge of extreme outdoor adventure. Participants may choose to paddle roaring whitewater, scale sheer cliff faces, or trek along Smoky Mountain ridges. Their experience on a Trail expedition mirrors the bold and daring life God has planned for them. Living for God is not for the faint of heart. In a life with Christ, as in our wilderness adventures, challenges are inherent, and obstacles must be overcome. But, that’s what makes it exciting.

Currently, we have eight expeditions planned for 2011. They include: rock climbing in Foster Falls, Tennessee, a fly fishing/backpacking course in the Chattooga River Gorge in Georgia, and one more “to be determined” expedition in Big South Fork National Park in Kentucky. Each week long trip includes 12 students and two to three certified guides. The small group size ensures personal instruction in the applicable outdoor skill and the freedom and time to build close relationships. Time for reflection is built in to each day, and there is no better place to talk with God than from the awe-inspiring apex of a mountain.

If you believe in our cause, please join our team. We need both consistent prayer and financial support to boldly move forward. I ask, above all, for prayer. Please pray daily for Trail; God will bless our organization to impact thousands of young people in the years to come. We must also raise capital for several major expenses including: marketing materials, liability insurance, rock climbing and fly fishing gear, and employee compensation.

Our goal is to raise, or have pledged, $30,000 in 30days from October 10th through November 10th. This is the amount needed to achieve Trail’s short-term goals and to propel us, full tilt, into next year. Though one time donations are extremely helpful with start-up costs, smaller, recurring donations allow us to plan for Trail’s future and are greatly appreciated. We hope to find 100 supporters who give just $20-$50 per month. To join our effort, please refer to the “Donation Options” insert.

If you wish to donate please give us a call 1.866.494.4755 or go to our website;

Thank you for your time and your continued support!

For the freedom of our hearts,

Chachi Avirett
Executive Director
TRAIL Ministries