Saturday, September 25, 2010

Never Forget ....

The words below are not well organized or planned out. They are merely my thoughts thrown onto a screen. An outlet after reading about such grief. A reminder to me of resiliency and life, of humility and grace.
I recently finished reading Escape into Darkness by Sonia Games and Rena's Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz by Rena Gelissen, and as usual, I'm moved emotionally to a place I never thought I could go. It's not that I haven't emotionally been in this place before. It is instead, just incredible to me how their stories, the stories of the most resilient people I've ever heard of, can continue to transform my life and remind me of the condition of the human spirit and how thankful I am that I have grown up without being directly touched by such horror in my own life.

I suppose though that what amazes me the most is that there are so many people...educated and well read individuals...who firmly believe that the Holocaust never happened. It's not that they all believe that Jews, homosexuals, mentally and physically ill individuals, children, etc., weren't killed. They do admit this, yet they believe that "only a few thousand" (if there could ever be such a thing as "only a few" when talking about murder) were killed and that they were not killed in a systematic and planned way by the Nazis. There are schools in the UK, Africa, Germany and yes, even the United States, that no longer teach the history of the Holocaust. How can this happen!? Why are we as a nation, as parents, as educators, not causing more of an outcry about this tragedy? There is fear that teaching on such a horrific topic will disturb children or "offend" those who don't believe it ever happened. When did our world, our country, become some worried about "offending" other people that we as humanity have stopped talking about one of the most horrific periods of time in the last 100 years?
I completely understand that parents and educators do not want to traumatize children with stories of the Holocaust, but as all educators and parents understand, there is a way of explaining things to a child without showing pictures or being graphic. Yet you can still explain to them the significance of what happened and WHY it happened.

Since I was a child I've been what you might call obsessed with the Holocaust and stories of Holocaust survivors. Each time I read their stories, and believe me when I say that I've read hundreds, I can't help but be moved to a place of sadness, grief, anger, and even humility. How incredible that people, even children, could endure and survive without being filled with overwhelming degrees of hate for their offenders. My heart breaks for each of these people, their families, even their pets, who were simply discarded as if they were lower than rotten garbage, thrown into cattle cars for deportation to death camps or simply shot in the streets. I’ve always kind of laughed at the “mom comment” of “people are starving around the world, so you should be grateful for the food you have and eat it” when a child refuses to eat dinner or wants to throw away food. I’ve laughed because I know that my not eating the food in front of me is no sooner going to provide food for the starving in Africa than a student not studying in England is going to make me pass or fail my own school test. Yet each time I read a survivor’s story I am humbled and reminded that no, my eating my food won’t help the starving, but I have a duty and a responsibility to be grateful for the provisions I have and not be wasteful. Rena Gelissen speaks often in her book about the food she and her sister were given, usually a weak version of tea for breakfast, a small ladle of watery broth at lunch, and a small crust of “sawdust-like” bread for dinner. This food was to sustain them for their years in captivity which ultimately led to the risking of their lives to find potato peels, lemon rinds, or anything else edible in Auschwitz that could keep them alive.
As I sat tonight at dinner with my husband with an abundance of food before us, I had to stop a moment and remember how blessed I am to have this before me. It’s so easy to take for granted the abundance I’ve been blessed with.

I suppose there is so much more I could say about this subject, yet I know that I’m merely rambling and will soon be chasing my own tail in this post. I want to meet them. I want to meet the remaining survivors and thank them. But thank them for what? For doing everything they knew how to do so that they could merely survive from day to day in the most hellish environment imaginable? Should I thank them for being so courageous to share their stories? Or should I thank them for finding the grace to forgive or at least not harbor hate towards those that treated them so horribly? I don’t know. I fear that nothing I could say or do for them could ever be enough.

Perhaps the best I can do for them is simply to never forget them. Never forget their sacrifice. I will use their stories to further propel me to help other torture survivors. I will always remember their faces, their names, the small details of their lives and the lives of those who did not survive. It is through remembering that we give honor to their lives and perhaps it is through never forgetting the past, as George Santayana said, that we should hopefully never repeat it.
Some of the most memorable books I’ve read about the Holocaust, if you’re interested in learning more about the history of the Holocaust or simply putting a name and face to one or two of the millions who perished.

Rena’s Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz – Rena Kornreich Gelissen
Escape into Darkness – Sonia Games
Night – Elie Wiesel
In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer - Irene Opdyke
I Have Lived A Thousand Years: Growing Up In The Holocaust - Livia Bitton Jackson
All But My Life - Gerda Weissmann Klein

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Oven-Baked Chicken Chimichangas

I love my new adventure into the blogging world, but what I enjoy even more is exploring all of the various blogs out there, especially any that involve FOOD. Yum! Cooking Ventures by Vince is a particular favorite. I happened on his blog one day and ran across this post:

He has a variety of interesting recipes and often his writing gives me a good chuckle (like the crab salad post). So, tonight I decided to try his Oven-Baked Chicken Chimichanga recipe. They are, in a word, perfect. SO GOOD! Make them soon and I promise you won't regret it. Yum!

Don't just breathe in and out. Live a life worth living!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Shepherd's Pie

One of the most delicious meals I've ever had came from McGuire's Irish Pub in (my hometown) of Pensacola, Florida. They have a variety of out-of-this-world good foods, but my favorite is definitely the Shepherd's Pie. I've tried before to recreate the recipe, but no luck. This is my second attempt, and although the meat mixture is not quite the same, the potatoes are definitely getting closer to the McGuire's taste, probably thanks to the paprika and broiled potatoes.


Shepherd's Pie

- 1 lb. lean ground beef
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 1 to 1 & 1/2 cups frozen mixed veggies (or veggies of your choice)*
- 1 pkg. McCormick's Low Sodium Brown Gravy Mix (prepared per package instructions)*
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
- 3 medium baking potatoes
- 2 Tablespoons dried parsley
- Salt/Pepper to taste
- 1 Tablespoon paprika
- 1/2 cup of milk
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Garlic powder and onion powder to taste
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese


- Peel potatoes, cut into medium sized chunks and place in a large pot that is 2/3 full with water. Add a few dashes of salt and pepper. Cook until potatoes are fork tender. Drain excess water.
- While the potatoes are boiling, brown beef and diced onion in skillet until fully cooked. Drain and rinse off excess grease. Pour into large mixing bowl.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Add frozen veggies to ground beef/onion bowl.
- Add Worcestershire Sauce to the prepared gravy mixture, mix well.
- Pour gravy over beef/onion/veggie mixture. Stir well to combine.
- Pour beef mixture into a 2 quart glass baking dish.

- In a separate bowl, use a potato masher or fork to mash and combine the potatoes, milk, parsley, and butter. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Cover the beef mixture with the potatoes until all of the beef is fully covered.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until meat mixture is heated thoroughly.
- Move rack to top position in oven and turn setting to "broil".
- Broil casserole for 5 minutes, checking mid-way to make sure that the top of the potatoes are browning evenly.
- Remove from oven, sprinkle with paprika and cheese, then return to broiler for 2-3 minutes.

Serve with a salad and enjoy! :)

*For the veggies, we used about 3/4 C. mixed frozen veggies consisting of green beans, corn, carrots, and peas, plus an additional 1/2 C. of frozen corn.
*The meat was well moistened with the amount of gravy used, however an additional 1/4 C to 1/2 C gravy might have been better. If you have it available, use it. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Delicious Breakfast Pizza ..... or Quiche!

Ready for an easy to make but delicious breakfast item? Looking for a yummy item to serve at brunch or for overnight company? Try out the recipe below.

Luke and I made this delicious breakfast pizza on Saturday and it was too good not to share. It calls for making it in a pizza pan, but since we only have a pizza stone (with no raised edges for the crust) we simply made it in the tart pan, which gave it more of a quiche feel than a pizza feel. Loved it!

Breakfast Pizza...or Quiche!

* 1 pound Bulk Pork Sausage
* 8 ounces, weight Pkg Refrigerated Crescent Rolls
* 1 cup Frozen, Loose Pack Hash Brown Potatoes, Thawed Or Shredded Potatoes
* 1 cup Shredded Sharp Cheese, Swiss Or Monterrey Jack
* 5 whole Eggs
* 1/4 cups Milk
* 1/2 teaspoons Salt
* 1/3 teaspoons Pepper
* 1 dash Worcestershire Sauce
* 2 Tablespoons Shredded Parmesan Cheese


Brown sausage and drain.

Separate rolls into 8 triangles. Place on non-greased 12-inch pizza pan (or tart pan) with points toward center. Press over bottom and up sides to form crust. Sprinkle with potatoes and sausage. Top with cheese.

In bowl, beat eggs, milk, salt, pepper and sauce. Pour over potatoes and sausage. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake in 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.


Note: We used extra sharp cheddar for the cheese, which gave it a nice bite. For the potatoes, I had one remaining whole potato leftover from a previous meal that we never cut up, so we just peeled and shredded that. Worked great!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Every day is a life changing day

Each day is not only a new day, but a day to make a difference for someone else. God has blessed me abundantly and I feel like it would be such a waste of His blessings to not pass them along to others in some way. Yet, I fail. On some days I fail so spectacularly at not sharing His blessings that I wonder why in the world He continues to provide not only what I need, but what I want.

There are those days where every little thing seems to tick me off, and I take it out on those around me. I just get so fed up with the apathy in people that I forget to just take everything with a grain of salt and take into consideration the factors in their own lives that may have led to a bad day for them, too.

But I want to make a difference. I want to be that friendly smile for a stranger, the source of a bowl of food for a stray animal or the encouraging word(s) that a newbie to our group needs. I listen to the "Make a Difference Monday" segment on KLOVE Christian radio and I'm always touched so deeply by the many ways in which others have reached out to those in their community and made a difference that day. I've heard stories of people paying for the coffee or breakfast for a total stranger, helping a busy mom carry her groceries to the car, or in one of my favorite stories, a woman who saw a need for her community and started a program that provides shoes for those that are homeless. 

Since I was a little girl I've always known the difference you can make for someone just by a small act of kindness. I learned this from my mother. I'll never forget the moment when I was about nine, we were standing in line at the grocery store behind a young woman with a few groceries. We were struggling financially ourselves and I have no doubt now, looking back, that my own mother was like so many parents, just trying to make ends meet. As we stood in line waiting for the other woman to purchase her groceries, we saw her start pushing items to the side as she realized she simply could not afford the items. These weren't frivolous items like candy, drink boxes, frozen pizzas and other convenience foods. These were basic items like applesauce, peanut butter, and oranges. It was now our turn in line, and as the woman in front of us was still waiting for her groceries to be bagged up, my mother quickly pushed the formerly discarded items into her own line of items to be purchased. She pushed the now purchased groceries to the items needing to be bagged for the other customer, and with a smile, simply said "I've been there". 
I'll never forget the smile of extreme thankfulness that came across the woman's face or the way in which you could practically feel my mom's heart swell with love and empathy for this stranger. I knew at that moment that one of my goals in life was to take every opportunity to make a difference for someone else.

What if we all did something, even just one thing a day, that made a difference for someone else? There are a million and one opportunities around every corner, if we simply open our eyes to the possibilities. So that's the challenge for myself and for you. Make a difference. Do something unexpected for someone. Be that smile that they need or those words of encouragement to help boost their spirits. You never know how it may change their day, and even add a little sweetness to your own.

 Little ways that you can make a difference:
  • Buying someone a cup of coffee in line behind you at Starbucks
  • Buying someone lunch in line behind you at the drive thru
  • Writing someone an encouraging note
  • Shoveling your neighbor's driveway
  • Buying someone some groceries
  • Sending a friend a card
  • Providing food for a stray animal
  • Watching your neighbor's kids while they go out
  • Baking some cookies and taking them to work
  • Leave a note of encouragement on a random car in the parking lot
  • Volunteer at your local Meals & Wheels to deliver meals once a week

    Leave me some feedback! What are your ideas and creative ways to make a difference? :)

    Don't just breathe in and out. Live a life worth living!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Countdown in 5...4...3...2...

...and so it begins! My first real deal blog. Go me! Okay, so I'm a little behind the times, but what with grad school and being a newlywed, I haven't exactly had time to join the modern blogging world.

But alas no more! I'm finally here to tell you more than you probably ever wanted to know about my life, my family, friends, faith, and pets. Oh and of course the many recipes and pictures I'll post of delicious treats, sure to make you regret ever reading this blog. 

So jump on the wagon and join the fun. I can't promise I'll always have interesting, life altering statements to make, but at the very least I'll be able to get my thoughts out on digital paper and you'll have something to occupy your own 5 seconds of free time each day. :)

Welcome aboard!