Thursday, January 23, 2014

New Blog ~ Please come follow!

For those of you who have followed my work here on Cooking With the Carpenter's Wife...well, I have a new venture.  Within the past couple of years, I have forayed into writing fictional romance novels.  I have already had two novels published that are available through Amazon and Createspace.

I would like to cordially invite you to come follow my blog which is dedicated to my writing.  It is titled The Carpenter's Wife Journeys.  It will give you a look inside some of my work and give you a taste of my writing.  You can also follow my work on Facebook on my author page, Eleven - Journeys.  Here is the link for the blog.

Thank you for your support of my work.
Karen S. Rodgers
(pen name K. S. Hayden)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Something To Believe In

The holiday season is upon us and Christmas is quickly approaching.  It's an easy time to remember one's faith; with all of the songs about Christ's birth and nativity scenes in every other store window.  But to me, it goes much deeper than the nostalgia that the holidays bring forth.  Especially, this year. 
My parents, Pete & Glena, are 83 & 84 years old.  Earlier this year, we almost lost my dad.  And now, my mom is currently in the hospital fighting for her life.  I'm thankful that we live in a day & age of modern medical technology.  The doctors are knowledgeable, skilled, & have the finest scientific data & equipment at their disposal.  But there is something much bigger at work in my parents' journey.
My parents have been married for 59 years.  Ironically, their anniversary falls on Christmas Day. It hasn't always been easy for them.  In fact, they have faced many challenges & hardships along the way.  And I know their secret.  Yes, they have always turned to each other.  But their God has been at the center of everything. 
Although they brought us up as Christians, it wasn't going to church, reading scripture, or what they said to us that eventually bolstered each one of our belief systems.  It has always been the example of how they have lived their lives.  We have seen their faith in action throughout our entire lives. 
As my mother has faced a life threatening situation this week, we have witnessed many miracles that are testaments to my parents' faith.  As most of you know, I began posting Facebook updates on my mom; requesting prayers.  At our family's darkest hours, we have felt the love & prayers of our family & friends lifting us up and carrying us through.  And as the doctor came to visit us with grim news following her first surgery, our family bowed our heads as our dad led the sweetest, most heart-felt prayer I have ever heard.  We have encountered strangers at the hospital who have come across our path, stopped & prayed. Our little community of Meadow has lit up the direct hotline to Heaven!
My mother's progress has astounded all of us, but most of all...her doctors.  But what they didn't realize was how mentally & spiritually tough my little 84 year old mother is...and how many good people she has praying for her.  At last count, I have had over 1000 comments, messages, texts, calls, emails, etc. regarding prayers being sent up for her.  Literally, people all over the world are praying for her and our family.  It has been a humbling experience, to say the least.
There may be some who think it is easy to attribute healing to faith...but what if someone doesn't survive?  Are prayers answered then?  What if things don't turn out the way we want?  What if our prayers are answered, but not according to our hopes?  That is when the truest test of faith comes in.  We KNOW God has heard our prayers.  We KNOW he has heard the prayers of our loved ones.  And we TRUST in God's plan and KNOW it is so much better than our own.  We have FAITH that God's plan will be best for Glena. And we ACCEPT his will, not just for her path, but for our own.
It is during these difficult times that I am left to wonder how people who have no faith can endure hardship.  How can they endure life at all?  I don't care if you are Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu...whatever.  If you have no belief in a higher power, how meaningless is everything? 
To me, it is so much more than a denomination, a sect, a doctrine, a religion.  It's not just about sin, redemption, judgement.  It is about knowing there is more to life than what is offered in our Earthly, human existence.  When you have faith and turn everything over to the will of a higher power, you aren't just rewarded with good, but you are granted a comfort and peace that goes beyond any of our comprehension that can carry you through ANY hardship.  And it is about LOVE.
Over the past few days, our family has shed a lot of tears. We have been scared and there have been many anxious moments.  But we breathe a sigh of relief every time we remember that God is in control.  Glena knows this, too.  As my Dad told her surgeon, "We have been married for 59 years and had a good life.  Glena is a good, Christian woman and we know that whatever happens, she will be okay." 
There is no way to express how much all of your prayers have meant to my family.  We haven't heard all of them, but we have FELT them.  And we know God is carrying us through this dark time, just as he always has and always will.  My prayer for each of you is that you realize the kind of strength, comfort & peace that comes with turning your life over to a higher power.  It is a form of LOVE that our creator has afforded to ALL of us and knows we are worthy of receiving.  All you have to do is ask for it...and it will be yours.  And should any of you ever need prayers for yourself or someone you love, you can count on me to lift you up in prayer, as you have done for me!
Merry Christmas...and may you all truly BELIEVE!

Monday, November 5, 2012

In Your Dreams

Dreams have always fascinated me.  I have read several books regarding dreams & their interpretations.  I have also been known to fire up my computer search engines after being wakened from slumber by particularly disturbing dreams; searching for their meaning.
My dreams are usually quite vivid.  Yes, I dream in color.  Yes, I have recurrent dreams.  Yes, I dream about people from my past.  Yes, I have dreamed about things before they happened.  No, I still don't know what any of it means. 
I think it's all what you make of it.  It's a bit like the bible or religion--everyone interprets them the way they apply to their own particular circumstance in life. 
Last week, I had the opportunity to correspond with my childhood best friend, Kelli.  It was her birthday, so I sent her an email expressing my best wishes.  You see, I had a dream about her a couple of nights before her birthday.  I chalked it up to it being my subconscious's way of reminding me not to forget her special day.  I didn't mention this to her in my first email.  However, when she responded, she told me that she had dreamed about me recently, as well. 
Hmmm...funny...wonder if our dreams about each other occurred on the same night?  I wrote back to her and told her about my dream.  The experience did give me cause to wonder if somehow, we are connected to each other in our dream worlds.  In fact, there have been several occasions when my friends and sisters and I have dreamed about each other on the same nights. 
In this particular dream I had about her, I dreamed we were redecorating a house in New Home together.  I dream about running around in New Home a lot.  (Now, you don't have to go too far out on a limb to interpret that scenario...I simply revisit a very happy time in my past.)  Kelli & I were making the decisions regarding paint colors, carpet, tile, etc.  Our friend, Shannon, was being quite bossy and telling us we were going about it all wrong,  One of my favorite parts of the dream was about my friend, Gina, who we lost this past year to cancer.  In my dream, she was there...laughing at all of us and telling Shannon to quit being so bossy.  Shannon's sister, Debi, just kept crossing her arms, sighing, and rolling her eyes at all of us.  For anyone who personally knows the 5 of us, my dream was probably a fairly indicative simile of our personalities.  The irony Kelli's dream, she dreamt I had told her she was a hoarder.
Once again, I was left wondering what it all means and does it have any influence or cause in our waking hours.  Perhaps it is a way for us to connect to the people who mean the most to us.  It's comforting to think that we magically travel the gossamer webs of our dreams to visit one another from time to time.  But then again, I dream about my long-lost past "luvahs" from time to time.  So that probably blows my theory out of the water.  Especially since most of those dreams involve me brandishing & unloading sawed-off double barrel shotguns.  (Insert wicked hysterically laughing demonic emoticon here).  Hmmm...wonder if, when, & how I invade their restful slumber.  That's a nice thought with which to end this stream of consciousness.  See you in our dreams!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Peeves ~ I Let Them Inspire Me!

In the movie Robots, Rodney Copperbottom's mantra is "see a need ~ fill a need".  I repeat that phrase to myself from time to time. 
Occasionally, it is one of my many peeves that ends up becoming a source of inspiration to me.  That was the case when it came to the inspiration of my newest cookbook, The Carpenter's Wife~From Freezer to Crock Pot.  You see, I have always been the kind of person who doesn't let the dust settle under my feet.  It has always been my nature to stay busy doing something.  I don't do well just sitting around...not much of the couch potato sort. 
Even though I love to cook, I do not like wasting a lot of time in the kitchen.  Nor do I like spending a lot of time cleaning up!  I have always said, I would prefer double dishwashers over double ovens, any day!  And I always try to do the dishes immediately after cooking.  The last thing I want to face after enjoying a good meal with my family is trudging to the kitchen to load the dishwasher.  Even worse...waking up the next morning to sink full of dirty dishes. Ughhhh!   NOT a good way to start the day. 
I have also tried the power cooking method:  cooking up several meals in one day to put in the freezer.  Okay...although it was nice to be able to go pick a premade dinner out of the freezer, the prep day I spent organizing ingredients, prepping, cooking, separating into containers, clean-up, etc. was quite a fiasco.  I'm an organized, detail oriented person...and it was almost too much work for one person.
So....I tried to think of a way to streamline it...make it easier...more efficient.  Hello Pinterest!  I cruised several pins that were chock full of recipes that were for freezer to crock pot cooking.  I thought to myself, "now THIS is the way to do it!".  In no time, I set to the task of compiling recipes designed for this way of prep:  from grocery store/pantry, to freezer bag, to crock pot!  Easy, peazy! I found several recipes through Pinterest, had some sent to me from friends, and used several of my own.  I converted all of them to be split into TWO 1 gallon size freezer bags.  That's recipe makes enough for two meals!  All you have to do is assemble your ingredients, fill your freezer bags, put them in your freezer or deep freeze, pick one for dinner,  & plop it into your crock pot to cook! 
The BIG bonus came when I realized there was practically NO clean-up involved.  During prep, you only use your can opener, chopping knife & cutting board.  Throw away packages & cans!  AND...if you use crock pot liners when you cook, you don't even have to clean your crock pot! Dang!  I wish I would've discovered this way of cooking years ago!
So...let me know if you want to streamline your way of cooking.  The Carpenter's Wife~From Freezer to Crock Pot will save you time & energy...give you more time to spend doing something you enjoy.
Now...if I can just come up with an idea to reduce the amount of time I spend doing my hair & make-up in the morning...another peeve! ;-)
Much Love & Happy Cooking, y'all!!!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tortilla Chip or Spoon???

David Hall, MD was a surgeon who's office was in the same medical office building in which I used to work.  Not only did I enjoy knowing him professionally, but I had the pleasure of having him as a friend.
Occasionally, our gang would hit On the Border for happy hour on Fridays.  David would never disappoint; always making us laugh and smile with his intelligent, witty banter.  He was engaging, charming and always a gentleman.

I was frequently compelled to try to come up with something that David didn't already know.  Our friend, Yvette, and I were always in a race to see which one of us could solve his email riddles the quickest.  And his stories!  Oh, he was a story teller! My favorite one was about a midnight spelunking adventure when he was in college.  How I wish I had saved that email!

I was quite proud of myself when I discovered an unusual story about a certain wine varietal called Carmenere'.  It was made from Bordeaux grapes in the Medoc region of France until a severe drought wiped out the vineyards in 1867.  They thought that variety of grapes were lost forever, until it was discovered that an art collector from Chile' had visited the area and fallen in love with the Carmenere' wine. He had not only brought several cases of wine back home with him to Chile'--he had also imported several vines and had started growing them locally!  The Carmenere' varietal had been delivered from extinction!

David was fascinated with my find and by the accompanying story!  And, of course, I brought a bottle of Carmenere to his home for us to sample. 

It was not unusual for David and his lovely wife, Linda, to host a get together at their home.  David, who was quite adept in the culinary arts, would usually be busy in the kitchen concocting something fabulous.  On one occasion, he had whipped up some homemade Gazpacho and it was waiting on the serving bar for us to sample. There were small bowls and spoons by the side of the large serving bowl which had a ladle for the Gazpacho. 

One of our friends in attendance was Mike, a post master from Vernon, Texas.  He took a look at the Gazpacho and asked, "Where's the tortilla chips?"

His girlfriend, Stacy, was humorously annoyed and told him, "That's soup, dumbass, you eat it with a spoon!"

Well, to make a long story short--none of us could pass up this opportunity.  We found a large bag of tortilla chips and started eating the Gazpacho with them.  All of us kept complimenting David on his wonderful "Salsa".  I know he was probably frustrated with us, but he was just as amused.

Several times after that party, I would run into David in the hallway of our office building.  I would ask, "Hey, David, you got any of that yummy salsa?"

He would smile and reply, "No.  Do you have any of that Dodo Bird Wine?"

We lost David last year.  He was loved.  He is missed.  Today is David's birthday.  He would have been 64.  And today, his lovely wife, Linda, gave me his recipe for Gazpacho.  I will feature this recipe in my next cookbook I am currently working on, 'Signatures'.  I find it a fitting way to honor the memory of such a wonderful man.  You can bet I will be enjoying a glass of Carmenere' whenever I whip up a batch of David's Gazpacho! Happy Birthday, my friend. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

This Little Light of Mine

I grew up in a little speck on the planet Earth called Meadow, Texas.  My small town-America childhood was of Norman Rockwell proportions--riding bikes up and down the street, roller skating in neighbors' driveways, baking mud pies, claiming the Smith's wisteria bush as our neighborhood fort, scooping up tadpoles from mud puddles after a big rain, mothers cooking dinner and washing dishes, grandmas baking pies, and church on Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday evening.  Everyone knew eveybody and in a lot of cases, were related to each other.  The town was full of first cousins, second cousins, third cousins and well, kin to 'em somehowsins.  The list of people who had climbed the kettle water tower in the middle of town was legendary.  This was the same little town in which my father and grandfather had grown up before me.
It was a magical childhood chock full of memories.  But something changed during my teen years.  All of a sudden, this little town was no longer a place of adventure and wonderment.  I knew if there was any fun to be had, it was not going to be found in Meadow, Texas. 
Many nights, I would sit on my parents' front porch and stare at the twinkling lights of Lubbock, the "big city" that was only 25 minutes away.  Oh, if I could just make it to Lubbock!  I was sure that all kinds of things were going on there--and I was missing the party!
On one particular Saturday night, I was feeling rather sorry for myself.  All of my friends had made plans of their own and I was left to my own devices in this boring little town.  Since we only had three channels to choose from on the television and my dad held domain over the remote control, I decided to take my crossed-arm sighing and eye rolling outside. 
It was a warm summer night and a gentle breeze blew in the air.  I sat down in the porch swing under the big fruitless mulberry tree on the South side of the house and begin to sway back and forth, staring at the Lubbock lights in the distance.  If I could just be anywhere--anywhere but here!
After a while, I heard the front door of the house open and saw my dad step out onto the front porch.  He leaned up against one of the cedar posts and looked off into the distance.  Hmmm--maybe he was wishing he was some place else, as well.
He wandered over to the swing and asked, "Mind if I sit with you a while?"
I didn't answer--I just scooted over a little further to right side of the swing and he took a seat on the other side. 
As usual, he placed his elbow on the arm of the swing and wrapped his hand around the chain and we began to slowly sway, lightly pushing off from the well worn dirt below us. 
He inquired, "So, not much happenin' tonight, huh?"
"Nope.  Everyone else had plans," I said as I looked out into the plowed field in front of us.
"Yeah, not much excitement to be had in this town," he said.
Oh great! Now even my dad was sympathetic to my miserable social life.  I must be a hopeless cause!
Then my dad asked me to turn around and look at something behind my right shoulder.
As he pointed down the street, he asked, "You see that street light there on the corner?"
I'm sure I rolled my eyes as I thought to myself, "Wonderful! Another one of my dad's stories".  My dad loves a captive audience--and on this Saturday night, I was shackled and padlocked.
He continued, "That's my favorite street light in the whole world."
What?  I knew if I didn't get busy getting out of this little town, I would face the same pathetic predicament of actually having nothing better to do in my life than picking out a favorite street light.  Good grief!
I took the bait and responded, "Ummm, you have a favorite street light? That's weird."
My Dad took a deep breath and began to tell me why he held so much fondness for that boring, obscure lamp, "You see,  Mama and Daddy's house used to be on that street.  It's not there anymore.  They tore it down long before you were even born.  It was on the other side of the Knight's house, there on the corner.  That's where I grew up.  Mama and Daddy were still living there after I graduated from school and got drafted into the Army."
He took a long pause.  So--that was it?  That's why it was his favorite street light in the whole world?  Whoop-ti-do! Big deal!  I huffed and rolled my eyes--again.
As I contemplated my choices of either staying put and being regaled by one of my Dad's infamously "hang on, I'm getting to my point" stories or going to my room and listening to Joan Jett or ACDC scream through my head-phones, my Dad took another deep breath and continued his story.
"I'll never forget coming home," he said, with a far off look in his eye.
He wasn't referring to coming in from the farm, driving home from going to town, or any other small trip.  I listened a little more intently now, because I realized he was about to tell me something I hadn't heard before.  He was talking about coming home from the Korean War. It was hard for me to think of my Dad as a world traveler.  But then again, he hadn't done it to get another stamp on his passport.  He was part of a rare breed--the kind that knows what is really important in life and places himself in harm's way to protect and preserve freedom for the rest of us.
He continued, "I didn't make it home in time for Christmas.  After getting off the ship in California, me and a buddy took a train because there weren't enough plane tickets to go around.  It was a long train ride, but it wasn't too bad.  I got to see a lot of pretty country.  It was a real treat--considering where I had come from.  We made it to Lubbock a few days after Christmas.  You see, back then, we didn't have a way to get in touch with people to tell them where we were or when we would get to where we were going.  So there wasn't anyone in Lubbock waiting to pick me up at the train station. 
When I got off the train, it was snowing.  There was a cold wind blowing out of the North.  But I had my Army issue trench coat on to keep me warm.  I picked up my duffel bag and started walking. 
I lucked out because a fella that was going my way stopped and offered a ride.  I was thankful not to have to walk the whole way."
Then he paused again, pointing to the end of the street, "Right down there--that's where he dropped me off, on the other side of the railroad tracks.  I got out, grabbed my duffel bag out of the back seat and thanked him for the ride.  When I turned around, I looked down the street and saw that street light.  It was shining down on Mama and Daddy's house.  I was never so glad to see a place in my whole life.  I'll tell ya, after spending my share of time in cold fox holes and drafty tents in the middle of a foreign country, not knowing if I was going to wake up the next morning or not, this little town looked mighty good."
He went on to tell me that his Mama had greeted him at the door with open arms to welcome him home.  She hadn't allowed anyone to open the Christmas presents yet.  The family had waited for him to come home before celebrating the Holiday.  But my Daddy's best gift that year was the privilege of being home, with the ones he loved.  He had developed a new appreciation for his home town--and knew it was where he wanted to stay. 
That story has stayed with me ever since he shared it with me on that warm summer evening.  And I understand the point of his story now more than ever before.  Sometimes, life comes full circle and you find the place you have been running from ends up being exactly where you were meant to be. 
After years of chasing the bright lights of the big city, I am back in the same small town.  There is no place I would rather be--for now.  It is safe, we are free and this town is filled with some of the best people in the world. It is my gift to our son's future.  Even though this town isn't big enough to have a school band or convenience store--he can ride his bike down the street, skateboard in his neighbors' driveway, play hide & seek behind the neighbor's shed, have water balloon fights with his buddies and scoop up tadpoles from puddles after a big rain--a place to make the best kind of memories. And it's the kind of place where he can sit on a porch swing on a Saturday night and listen to his grandfather tell him fascinating stories-- about street lights.
My son now has his own street light.  My hope is--no matter where he goes in this great big world or how far away he may wander, that street light will always be a beacon for him--waiting and watching on the place that he calls home, just like the good men who came before him. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

I Gave New Meaning to "A Mess of Beans"

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I like to experiment in the kitchen.  I love combining different flavors, modifying recipes and trying new things.  Some of my best dishes were created on impulse or by accident.  And some have ended up as inedible disasters!
My husband, James, doesn't talk much about my cooking--at least not in my presence.  However, if I ever make something he doesn't like or something that's "not quite right", he will, in a gentle manner, let me know.  And just as in most other aspects of life, you learn some of your most valuable lessons in the kitchen by making big mistakes.
One of my biggest blunders in the kitchen happened when Jaxson was a baby.  James was working for a construction company and we would take lunch to him every day so he could enjoy time with his little boy on his lunch break.  I would usually pack a lunch consisting of left overs from our meal the night before.  I'm known to get a little creative with left overs too.  That way, you don't feel like you are eating the same thing over and over again. 
On that day, I had some left over roast and pinto beans in the fridge.  So I decided to chop up some of the roast, add barbecue sauce and make barbecue sandwiches.  There were several times I had either heard the phrase or seen in magazines or on menus "barbecue beans".  So I added some barbecue sauce to the beans, as well.  I packed up our lunch "fixins", filled up the tea jug and we were off!
After we arrived at James' work site, he hopped in the car and quickly wolfed down a sandwich.  The beans were still a little hot from heating them up, so he opened up the lid to let them cool off while he played with Jaxson.  All of a sudden, I picked up a rather strong menthol-ey scent. 
I asked James, "Do you have a cold?"
He looked at me rather oddly and said, "No.  I feel fine."
Then he took his first bite of beans.  He stopped chewing, looked up at me with a furrowed brow and spit the beans back into his spoon. 
He had a rather twisted expression on his face when he asked me, "Did you put Vicks in these beans?"
Then we both started laughing!  To this day, I don't know what caused it, but some sort of chemical process occurred by mixing pinto beans with barbecue sauce that made them smell and taste like Vicks Vapo Rub.  Perhaps it was the flavor of barbecue sauce or maybe it had reacted with the small amount of baking soda I added to the beans to reduce the "gaseous" after effects of the beans.  Who knows?  But I can assure of this, I have never and will never add barbecue sauce to pinto beans EVER again!  I won't add baking soda either!
A lot of memories can be made through food--good AND not so good.  We always have a good laugh any time I ask James what he wants for supper and he replies, "I don't care, just not any Vicks n' Beans!"
Much Love & Happy Cooking!