Saturday, June 25, 2011

Chocolate Pudding Cake

Once a month I like to post a recipe that fits the criteria of easy to make and great to eat. It’s been raining here for a week – we had two fabulous, bright, sunny days with temperatures in the mid-20 degree Celsius range before the clouds rolled back in and I was forced to don a long-sleeved sweater and huddle over a steaming cup of tea while I shivered at my desk. I needed comfort food and my mind wandered back to my childhood and my mother’s dessert we referred to as “Chocolate Pudding Cake”.  It’s a fairly dense chocolate cake baked in a rich chocolate sauce. Served warm it had my taste buds quivering in anticipation of the first bite, and the second, and the third and...well you get the picture.

I dove into the recipe cupboard and rummaged through the sizable collection until I unearthed the familiar paper booklet; torn and stained from years of use. The original recipe was actually called “Chocolate Sundae Pudding” but Mom altered the recipe here and there. Her pen notations blocked out some of the original printing and as a child I added my own handiwork by scribbling orange wax crayon over the entire page. Ah, the heartwarming, tasty memories of childhood!

I made this last night. After a feed of nachos for dinner (yet another comfort food) I closed my eyes and paused to inhale the delectable chocolate aroma as I raised the spoon to my lips. Some things just aren’t as good as an adult as you remember them being as a child, but the chocolate pudding cake didn’t disappoint. It lived up to all my chocolaty expectations! Just before I sat down to write this I had another bowl full. Now it’s chilled in the fridge but I’ll let you in on a little secret...if you scoop it out cold and pour some milk over it, it’s just as good as the first day when it was warm. Granted the milk makes it kind of mushy so if you’re not that brave, pop it in the microwave and viola, just like the day it was baked!

Enough teasing your taste buds! Here’s the altered version of the recipe the way Mom used to make it. This is a must try!

Chocolate Sauce
Combine the following ingredients in a microwave and oven safe casserole dish:
3 tbsp. butter
¾ cup sugar
3 tbsp. cocoa (sifted)
½ tsp. salt
2 cups water
Put in microwave until butter is melted. Mix with a whisk to remove any cocoa lumps.

Cake Batter
Beat ¼ cup butter, add ¾ cup white sugar and an egg – beat until smooth
1 1/3 cup flour
¼ cup cocoa (sifted)
3 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¾ cup milk
Beat until smooth

Drop spoonfuls of the batter into the chocolate sauce (use a large spoon for this). Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 to 45 minutes.
It’s great served warm just the way it is or with ice cream, whipped cream or milk – be creative and enjoy!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thoughts On Fathers' Day

This Sunday is Fathers’ Day. My father died seven years ago. I think in some ways it’s harder to lose a parent as an adult than as a child. When I lost my mother as a teenager I wasn’t really sure how to react so I just continued with everyday living. Of course I missed her and mourned in my own way, but I don’t think I realized the full impact of the loss. Losing my father as an adult I understood just how much I’d lost – not just a parent, but an advisor, a mentor, a leader, a teacher and a friend. He wasn’t a demonstrative man. We weren’t a “touchy/feely” family and I don’t recall hearing the words, “I love you” very much. It was a different time. My father worked hard; there was always food on the table, always clothes to wear and shoes on our feet. There was enough money to take family vacations and build memories that last a lifetime and somehow I knew he loved me even if it wasn’t expressed in words. Seven years later I still miss him.

When special days of recognition like Mothers’ Day or Fathers’ Day roll around I believe there’s a large number of people who may dread going to church that morning. This Sunday fathers will be singled out of the congregation. I realize it’s important to recognize fathers (and mothers) and the importance of their roll in the family. There are a lot of wonderful fathers out there and when I watch my husband with his children I realize he is one of them. I don’t begrudge fathers their well-deserved recognition in church one Sunday a year, but what about the rest of us sitting in the pews this Sunday morning? The reminder of what’s lost or for some people what never was, always brings a needle-like stab in the heart.

As you celebrate this Fathers’ Day may I ask you to take a few minutes to think about the children, now adults who were abandoned. How do they feel? Consider those who suffered abuse and don’t have happy memories of their father. How do they feel this Sunday morning? Think of the person who has just lost their father and whose heart is still raw with grief or the couple who grieve because they aren’t able to have children and be parents. I encourage you to celebrate with your families, celebrate your fathers and please take time to say a prayer and reach out to those who may be struggling on this day of recognition. Let's remember we all have a heavenly Father who loves us so very, very much.

Happy Fathers’ Day

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Determined or Stubborn...A Fine Line

Have you ever considered the words “stubborn” and “determined”? defines “stubborn” as “unreasonably obstinate” and/or “resolute” while “determined” is defined as “resolved or resolute”. Apparently both can mean resolute yet typically “stubborn” has a negative connotation while “determined” is considered to be a positive attribute. Can determinedness become stubbornness? Are there times when you are determined to do something a certain way? Times you want something so badly you become stubbornly focused on it, completely ignoring the roadblocks and warning signs to the point you miss out on God’s desire or plan for your life?

There are two biblical men in the book of Numbers who set perfect examples of what this determined stubbornness looks like. I’m referring to Balaam and king Balak. Their story begins in Number 22. Just to make things really interesting there’s a talking donkey thrown into the mix. Who knew there was a talking donkey in the Bible? Up until a few years ago the only talking donkey I’d ever heard of was the Eddie Murphy-ized character, Donkey, from the movie Shrek. You know the one...he asks annoying questions like, “Are we there yet?” and makes popping noises with his lips irritating enough to make even the most patient saint throttle him!

Balak is king of the land of Moab and terrified the Israelites will wage war on his country. The study notes in the Life Application Study Bible say Balaam is a sorcerer. He worships whichever god happens to be convenient. Balak wants Balaam to curse the people of Israel but Balaam approaches God and asks what he should do. God tells Balaam in no uncertain terms that he is NOT to curse the Israelites. Balak doesn’t like this answer and we glimpse the beginning of stubbornness. Balak tries again and sends important officials to Balaam promising him great riches if he will curse the Israelites. Greed brings out a stubborn, rebellious streak in Balaam and he approaches God one more time, hoping God may change his mind and allow him to get on with the curse. God understands Balaam is motivated by greed and his stubbornness in not accepting God’s direction nearly gets him killed on the journey to see Balak. His life is spared only because of quick action from his donkey who speaks up to save him. Balaam learns that day that obedience to God is much better than stubborn fulfillment of his own desires.

What about Balak? We’ve already seen one example of stubbornness when he refuses to take “No” for an answer. Does he learn from this? Not really! Instead of cursing the Israelites, Balaam blesses them. Balak is not happy but Balaam, having learned his lesson, insists he can only say what God tells him. Balak won’t accept this answer. He takes Balaam to another area overlooking the Israelite camp, telling him to curse them from this spot. Balaam once again blesses the Israelites and Balak can’t believe what he’s hearing! This isn’t what he wants! He wants curses, not blessings! Determined to get his way Balak gives Balaam one more chance, and once again blessings flow like poetry from Balaam’s lips while Balak is left fuming. Balak is so determined to get his way he completely misses the fact that God has other plans for the Israelites.

 I can think of a number of times in my life when I took the road that led away from God’s blessing. Why? Because I wanted to do things my way, not God’s way and because I have a large measure of determination in my character – something that often works in my favour but a trait that quickly turns to shear, pig-headed stubbornness if I lose sight of God. What about you? What blessings has a stubborn heart caused you to miss? The story of Balak and Balaam is a great story. Read it yourself now. You’ll find it in the book of Numbers in the Old Testament, chapters 22-24.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Guest Post at Faithful Devotions

Recently I submitted a guest post titled "Risky Faith" to the Faithful Devotions website. Faithful Devotions, part of the Faithful Bloggers on-line community, is a place for Christian women to come together and share their thoughts, musings and experiences about God. You'll find over 600 blogs listed according to category in the Faithful Bloggers directory. Please feel free to scroll through their directory at your leisure. I'm sure you'll find something that speaks to you personally. Click here to read my guest post, "Risky Faith".

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Laugh Or Go Postal

Have you ever had one of those surreal days where so many things go wrong you either have to laugh or “go postal”? Today was one of those days and at the risk of turning this into a manic rant or epic whine I decided to share some of the events with you.
                My day starts in a Holiday Inn Express in Kamloops. I’m on my way to work at a trade show for the weekend (everyone’s dream job) and rather than hop on a two hour flight I’ve decided to drive the 1100 km through Canada’s breath-taking Rocky Mountains. I love this drive. The mountains are so awe inspiring and remind me how incredible God is. My car, the Impala, loves the drive because the steep inclines, sweeping curves and strategically placed passing lanes are perfect for its six cylinder, 3.8 L engine. It purrs along contentedly like our new four month old kitten, hugging every turn as tightly as a newly married couple. It’s such a pleasure to drive!
But back to the morning...since I drove for nine hours yesterday and have only four hours to go today I decide to sleep in. I set the alarm for 7:30 a.m., planning to be on the road by 9:00. There are two things wrong with this plan...
1) it’s June and the sun rises at 4:52 a.m. in Kamloops - the hotel doesn’t have blackout blinds
2) I entered a time zone that is an hour behind my home.
You see where I’m going with this? That’s right my body is programmed to wake up to light outside the window which at home happens around 6:30 a.m. except 6:30 a.m. is now 5:30. I stubbornly pull a pillow over my face and try to sleep but faced with a choice of suffocation by pillow or waking up, I choose the latter. After launching a guerilla attack on the free continental breakfast (an orange, scrambled eggs, pancakes, cinnamon bun and a tea) I roll outside to the car. The drive is uneventful; I listen to an audio book and marvel at the sight of never ending lush green forests clinging to the side of jagged mountain peaks.
Typically I work out at Curves three times per week and have learned when I travel I MUST head straight to Curves when I get into town. Once I my butt takes root in the hotel room I’m not leaving. The GPS guides me through the unfamiliar city to the address for’s not there. Crap! I do a search on the GPS and it helpfully tells me there’s one two km away.  I naively follow the directions from the GPS to the new Curves. OK, this is getting a little old now. I pull out my Blackberry (isn’t technology great), open the web browser and find another address with a phone number.  Let’s not be stupid about this. I call the number, but my cell phone provider (who shall remain nameless) tells me, “We’re sorry all circuits are busy, please try again later.” Perfect! I dial again, and again, and again and listen to the same message again, and again and...again. I give up and punch the address into the GPS, only five km away...fine! Off I go and you guessed Curves. By now I’ve wasted 45 minutes of my afternoon, and I think it’s going on 2:30 local time. I say “I think” because the day before my Blackberry automatically adjusted its time for the time zone but for some reason known only to the Blackberry software it bounced back to my original time zone this morning, which completely disorients me. I give up on the Curves workout and find lunch instead. Out of spite I order a greasy burger with sweet potato fries and chipotle mayo. Take that hips, thighs and waist! Better than ordering a potentially e-coli infested salad!
                I head to the conference hotel. It’s an old hotel on the corner of the Trans Canada highway in Abbotsford (can you say LOUD traffic). I stagger into the lobby, fighting to get my suitcase and computer bag through the non-automatic doors and check in. The clerk hands me my room key – I’m on the second floor. I glance around the elevator! I don’t travel light...never have, never will. I wrestle my expansion suitcase, computer bag containing two laptops and a bunch of paperwork, book bag containing a small library (just in case I have some spare time), grocery bag containing bottles of water and snacks and my purse (the smallest thing in the group) up the two flights of stairs to the second floor and down the hall to my room. A large sliding patio door faces the busy highway, perfect...noisy traffic all night, but that’s OK I travel with earplugs.  I walk over to the door to see if there's perhaps a sunny spot on the narrow balcony where I might bask with my book. The door opens easily...too easily. It won’t lock. OK, I’m on the second floor, doubtful that anyone is going to “Spiderman” up the building in the middle of the night and break into my unlatched door. Then I realize there’s an adjoining room sharing the same balcony. This is too much! There’s no way I’ll sleep knowing someone could coming blundering through my unlatched balcony door in the middle of the night. I walk down to the lobby, explain the situation to the front desk clerk and soon I’m wrestling all my worldly travelling belongings down the hall to another room.
                OK, time for a run on the treadmill. I know I say that as though it’s something I do often. Actually it’s something that I just decided to start this week. For reasons known only to God, I’ve had a sudden desire to start running (maybe it’s a way of learning discipline and perseverance). Whatever the case, I went for my first run (or feeble attempt) on Wednesday, the day before I chose to sit in a car and drive for nine hours. I was so stiff by the time I got out of that car on Thursday evening I thought I’d have to call 911 to come and lift me out in a permanently seated position. But I’m determined to keep going so I optimistically head for the fitness room. There are two treadmills, a TV and a stepper.  “Out of Order” signs hang mournfully from one treadmill and the stepper. The one working treadmill has a dire warning printed across it stating, “DO NOT USE THE INCLINE BUTTON”. No chance of that! I start the hunt for the television remote, lose the battle, turn it on manually, crank up the volume and start to jog on the treadmill.  I’m ramping up for a second ten minute stint of running when suddenly everything goes black! Lights go out, TV shuts off and the treadmill shuts down abruptly, sending me lurching forward like a drunk falling off a curb. I flail madly for an instance before clutching the bar in front of me. I stand there in disbelief. Seriously! Back to the front desk. The clerk tries resetting one circuit breaker to no avail, and then gets on the phone to Maintenance. It turns out the circuit breaker is located in the guest room outside the fitness room (don’t ask me why, I decided I didn’t want to know). She knocks on the door, it opens and she asks if she can come inside to look at the circuit breaker. A women’s voice says her husband is in the shower and  it’s not a good time. That’s it, I can’t take anymore!
It’s now 9:00 pm, I’ve had my run (outside), every muscle aches and I’m sure I’ll be walking like a 95-year-old tomorrow, if I’m walking at all. I’ve been obsessively saving this as I type because the way the day has gone my computer might decide to crash just to end the day on a high note!
                I know we all have days like this. Sometimes it’s hard to keep your cool and not lose it totally, but if you think about it, it’s really kind of funny. Next time you’re frustrated try seeing the humour in the situation. Anybody out there want to share some funny or frustrating travel experiences? Click on “comments” below.