Chopped is not a TV show that causes me to change my schedule or to stop reading a great book to watch, but if I remember at 9:00 on Tuesday night, I’ll turn it on.

I like the concept of the show – four chefs are given a basket of four ingredients and from that they have 30 minutes to create an appetizer. Then four judges decide which three of the four chefs made a dish worthy of moving on to the main dish round. At the end of that, another chef is asked to leave and the two finalists go one-on-one to create the best dessert.

The fascinating aspect is the four surprise ingredients – things like “Make a dessert from liver, goat cheese, honey-flavored cough drops and a Hershey bar” or some such combination that would take me about three years to figure out how to put in any kind of appealingly edible form – but they do it in a short amount of time.

The part I don’t like about the show is the arrogance of the contestants. “I am the best. I work at a four-star restaurant. She doesn’t have any experience. She shouldn’t win.” Sometimes they say mean and cruel things to each other and laugh when the other person is criticized. Often people cry when they’re eliminated because they feel like winning chopped is good publicity for their restaurant or good credibility for their cooking school. Which it is.

But, honestly, I don’t like angry-spiced drama. Probably has something to do with living in the pastor’s house so many years – I’ve seen more than enough real drama in real life. I don’t have to watch it on TV.

I also cringe when I see Christians on reality shows. For those of you who are reading this who aren’t Christians, it’s because those people don’t speak for most of us and we don’t like being put in the same box. For those of you who are Christians, seeing someone “praise Jesus” because they found a gold nugget in a bed of mud (like Amazing Race, etc.) and then turn around and badmouth everyone around them – that’s sad and embarrassing for someone who knows the Lord. Not that any of us are perfect. That’s the point. We aren’t perfect, that’s why we need Christ in the first place. But now, living as a Christian, we need to reflect His love in our lives.

Anyhow – back to Chopped. So last night they introduce the four chefs – all back for the second time for a “redemption” show. As they introduce the chefs, they show you where they work. One of the chefs (L.) worked at a Christian camp and they showed a picture of the chapel with a cross on it.  I wondered what was coming.

As L. worked on one of his dishes, he made the statement that he used to be a jerk and think only of himself, but since he’s let God be part of his life, he understands grace and that it’s not all about him – but about others. He worked intensely, but during the critiques, he smiled and didn’t reflect an arrogant attitude, caring about the feelings of the other contestants.

Another contestant last night was Y.  She was from another country (Maybe Russia?  Not sure).  Last time she was on there, she talked about her grandmother and that she wanted the $10,000 prize money to visit her. Otherwise she wouldn’t be able to. Now she was back again and really, really needed the money because her grandmother was dying.  In contrast to L., Y. was very intense.

So intense in going for the prize, that during the 2nd segment she hurried so quickly across the floor, that she dropped a pan of boiling water/sauce. They had to have her checked out by the medics and she had second degree burns on both her legs – but she kept going because she needed that money. The final round was L. and Y. competing  against each other. L. continually encouraged Y., knowing she was in great pain (limping) and how hard it was for her. But they both did well and the judges were impressed.

After they presented their desserts to the judges – they went to the waiting room and L. said to Y.:

“You’ll win this tonight. You deserve it.”

“No,” she said, “You were very good, too. I am glad I got to work against you. We are both winners.”

When the judges announced L. as first place, Y. was obviously disappointed, but gracious. Yet, she wouldn’t get the $10,000.

But then L. stopped everything. “Wait a minute,” he said. “I came on this show for fun. I didn’t expect to win. My wife and I did not earmark this money for anything in particular. I would like to pay for your trip to see your grandmother.”

Everyone was absolutely still. Most of the judges were wiping tears off their faces and Y. literally broke down in sobs.

“This,” she said, “is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.”

L. shook hands with the judges and left with a smile on his face.

I say. “Thank you, L. for being a light in the world.”  Your “jerk” status isn’t even in sight.


Ever want a word to describe that feeling of waiting for someone to show up at your house? You know, you go out front and look down the street and then nervously pace?  Ever want a word to describe moonlight on water? Oh, yeah, and have you ever reached around and tapped someone on the opposite shoulder to confuse them? Is there a word for that?

Here is your answer …


A year ago I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of visiting Scotland with three friends I have known for a very long time (one of them since grade school).

We were the last to arrive at the hotel that first night – in Edinburgh. The others were already gathering for the first meal together so we took places at the end of the table – along with another couple and the husband’s dad.

At the end of the meal we were told that we had to have a buddy for the trip – someone who we didn’t come with. The goal was for the buddies to keep track of one another (this saved us from having to wear silly name tags like other tour groups). Our buddy had to be someone we didn’t know because if we chose the friend we came with – we might both be off shopping somewhere and no one would miss us.

As it turned out, three of us  were teamed up with the couple and the dad.   The next day we were told to get to know our buddies and introduce them to the group. Surprisingly when I told Bruce that I worked at Awana, I did not get a look of “Awana?  What’s that?”  Turned out their kids had been in Awana when they were growing up down in Arizona.

The dad of the group was from here – and we made some vague promise that if they (the couple) ever got up this way to see him, we should get together.

Today all seven of us did.

What fun – that in the middle of everyone’s busy schedule we managed this and had a great, great time!


So ever since I’ve worked at Awana, my friend Sue has heard me talk about Racine. (Well, actually when she first met me, I still lived in Racine) For the past year or so we’ve been attempting to find a day we could go visit.

We chose yesterday and oh, what a great day for walking (and wading) along the shore.

As an added bonus, I found two up-north munchkins hanging around town with their other cousin – so we took them out to breakfast.

Then we did the lake tour – Wind Point Lighthouse, North Beach (voted one of the 10 best beaches in America) and Reefpoint Marina where we also enjoyed lunch on the balcony of Spinnakers overlooking the water.

And added plus – I unexpectedly ran into a friend. We haven’t been out of contact THAT long – she and her husband came to Ken’s memorial service, but it’s been a few years. Good to catch up with her.

We did the kringle run, but instead of getting kringle from O&H like I usually do, we went to Larsen’s which claim THEY are the first kringle bakery in Racine. Both are good. When I worked at Commitments (across the street), Barbara Bush came to Racine for the single purpose of visitng Larsens and eating kringle. I have a copy of the Racine Journal Times with her picture in it.

And since we were right across the street, we walked over to Commitments. They have a new owner (ten weeks and counting), but said we missed the old owner (my boss) by three minutes. She had been by for a lunch date. (Commitments is a Christian bookstore – I worked there part time for about a year and a half before we moved.)

Besides the lake and kringle, Racine has another claim to fame: Johnson’s Wax. The administration building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, but I had never been on a tour until we moved and went back for a day with Marv and Marjo.

But I have been in Johnson’s Wax Golden Rondelle many times – a theater that was originally built for the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York City where they showed the movie To Be Alive to an estimated 5 million people.  After the fair was over, they took it apart and brought it back to the Johnson Wax Headquarters.

Sometimes it seemed as if we personally had seen the movie five million times. Every time someone visited us, we’d take them to the lake — and then to the Golden Rondelle. This visit, we couldn’t get inside – it’s only open on Fridays.

Relaxing day.


Well I’m at book #58 on my goal of 100 books this year. (Like I’ve said – many of these are listened to in the car and I spend a LOT of time in my car.)

Here are some that are interesting reads – depending on what you like.

54. Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas – I’ve always heard about Dietrich Bonhoffer and had a vague idea about who he was and what he did, but I hadn’t read anything about his life. So I decided to do so.

This is a long book, but Metaxas writes with passion and makes the many details readable. Many of his letters and sermons are quoted giving a personal look into his heart and mind.

Bonhoeffer, for those of you who don’t know, was a German Lutheran pastor who, at age 39, was martyred for being part of the resistance movement that plotted to assassinate  Hitler.

This is not a book that you’ll sit down in read in a night, but Bonhoeffer’s story is an important one in Christian history.

(Oh, fyi – according to Bonhoeffer’s blog, George and Laura Bush have also read the book. So, you can do something presidential this summer.)

56. The Lou Gehrig Story. I didn’t know too much about him before except that he was a great Yankee and he died from ALS, a disease which now often known as Lou Gehrig disease.

He was actually a shy, mama’s boy, very unsophisticated and overwhelmed by the big league and all that came with it.  He eventually married (his mother scared most of the ladies away) a socialite from Chicago who became the love of his life. Again, this is a man who died young.

Interesting character study.

57. Amish Midwife by Mindy Starns Clark.  Christian chick lit – but well-written. I like Mindy Clark’s writing and have read other books by her.

This book is not what you think – it is about the Amish, but the protagonist is not Amish and it is overall a story of secrets and intrigue. Ms. Clark has also written a sequel: Amish Nanny, which is about hmmm … Switzerland.

If you want a fun summer read, this is a series to get.


The last couple days have been busy.
Yesterday was busy and hot.

We did not have electricity from about eight yesterday morning until after nine last night and the house well … the house was hot.

But we have a lot for which to be thankful.

1. We didn’t lose anything – well, maybe a few things from the freezer, and a stick of butter or two, but that’s about it.

2. We did get our electricity back on – 394,000 are still without.

3. After the storm blew through, the sun came out which meant there weren’t sump pumps and rain to worry about.

4. I had a great book here I wanted to read, so I sat out in the backyard and read it. (No technology to distract me.)

5. We are not riding across the prairie in our covered wagon with several layers of long skirts on and no iced tea in sight. (I always think about that when I get bogged down in summer heat).

Ten Non-Tech Activities for Road Trips

This is my post for my parenting blog – but it works well here, too.

Road trips equal suitcase-squished clothes, supper around a campfire and memories for a lifetime.

Here are some great (already- put-to-the-test) road trip activities.

1. The Trip Journal. Ok, I can hear you thinking, “My five-year-old keeping a journal?  No way!”  But wait! I’m not talking about pages of flowery description – only the basics. Buy a small notebook and a pencil for each of your kids. As you travel, write down which restaurants or parks you stopped at and where you stayed at night. Supply younger children with colored pencils and have them draw what they see – and then label the picture. “This is Old Faithful,” or ”

Here is Joey’s impression of the St. Louis Arch.” After you arrive home, put the journals in a safe place to give back to your kids when they’re older. I did this on a few trips when I was young and have found it fun to go back and see where we stopped for lunch, etc. as I took a trip to the same place with my own kids, as an adult.

2. Chenille Wires (formerly known as pipe cleaners). Give your kids a supply of colorful wires and challenge them to make an animal, a flower, a unique invention or spell a word.

3. License Plate Game. This, of course, is an old favorite. Give your kids a list of the states (and provinces) and have them keep track of those you spot. This also gives you an excuse to walk around parking lots when you stop for a break – to get out extra wiggles of young children as you check the cars!  I still remember the year I got them all. I was taking a walk with my Dad around the campground at Crater Lake and I found Hawaii!   I remember Dad telling the owner of the car why I was excited and standing there visiting for awhile.

4. Dry Erase Boards. Buy a small dry erase board for each of your kids. Supply them with dry erase markers and eraser and let them have fun drawing.

5. Twenty Questions. Someone thinks of something – anything. And the others have twenty questions to guess what it is. I remember playing this as we laid in our tent at night, but my grandchildren enjoy it just as much as I did. In fact, just last weekend, the 8yo asked if we could play “Twenty-five questions,” much to the amusement of his older sisters.

6. Spelling Game. One person names a letter. The next person (with an actual word in mind) says a second letter. The object is to keep from adding the last letter of a word.  For instance: lst person “P.”  2nd person “A.” 3rd person “R.”  Now, the fourth person would be out if he said “k” or “t,” so instead he says “m.” because he thinks of the word “parmesan.”  Only count familiar words, not some obscure dictionary word that younger kids wouldn’t know. Also, a player can be challenged at any time to name the word she is spelling, so players can’t use random letters to spell a non-existent word.

7. Verse Game. Learn a verse together. Or teach your kids the books of the Bible in a fun way. (Looking for a CD with a books of the Bible song? Purchase Sing the Awana Way or Sing It, Tell it, Whisper It, Yell It.  “The Perfect Book,” a song with the books of the Bible are on both those CDs. These Cds are also downloadable from iTunes.) Not only will your kids be learning something worthwhile, but you’ll be giving them a head start in Awana next year.  (You could also learn other Bible facts together: the fruit of the Spirit, the Kings of Israel, etc.)

8. Alphabet Game. Another old favorite. One team takes one side of the road. The other team takes the other. (Words on cars or trucks don’t count). First you need to find an “A” on your side of the road, then a “B,” etc. The first team to find all 26 letters wins.

9. Tape and Paper. I drove an 8yo on a 10 hour road trip home from camp. Because I was a camp speaker, I had a box of blank paper, markers and tape in the back. I allowed her to use anything in the box and the tape, paper and markers literally kept her occupied the entire 10 hours. So, yes, the back of your car might get a little messy, but it’s a fun, creative way to pass the time.

10. Radio Game. Everyone in the family chooses a noun or a verb. Then turn the radio on and see who hears their word first!

In our family, to make the games even more exciting, we stopped for a special treat when we had a winner!