Thursday, August 30, 2007

My cup overflows

Nothing blesses me more than celebrating our daughters' birthdays. They're grown-ups now, married with children of their own, but after Jesus, they're God's greatest gifts to us. All their lives they brought us joy and a fresh look at this world. They've opened new paths we'd never have traveled without them. Today is our younger daughter's birthday. I remember her as a baby--big-eyed, skin like silk, barely any hair and a tiny hand that curled around my index finger. She was precious then and she still is. Happy birthday, sweetheart!

Not exactly authentic but yummy lasagna

After our mini tour of Italy, I had a taste for lasagna so I made a pan tonight. If you're a purist, better stop reading because this lasagna uses store-bought sauce and uncooked noodles. I stopped making lasagna from scratch when our kids voted this quick and easy recipe to be their favorite. If easy sounds good to you, then read on. This recipe is to be made the night before the evening you want to serve it. To help you make a grocery list, the ingredients are in bold type. If you make this recipe, let me know how you liked it. It's one of our favorites at family gatherings.

Lazy Day Overnight Lasagna

Brown meat and drain fat:
1 lb. mild Italian sausage
1 lb. ground beef

Add to meat and simmer 15 minutes:
32 oz Prego spaghetti sauce. The jar is bigger so I add more.
1 cup water

Combine in bowl:
15 oz. ricotta cheese
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives. I skip.
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1/2 tsp. dried oregano

In ungreased 9x13 pan layer:
1 1/2 cup meat sauce
1/2 of 8 oz. uncooked lasagna noodles
1/2 ricotta mixture
1/2 of 16 0z. mozzarella grated cheese
Repeat each layer.
Top with remaining meat sauce.
Sprinkle with Parmesan to cover.

Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake at 350 degrees uncovered for 50-60 minutes. Cover and let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Starting a New Book

Starting a new book is exciting and daunting. Luckily, I didn't have to start from scratch. Two of the secondary characters from my debut novel are the hero and heroine of this book so I know Fannie and James. Well, sort of. About as much as I know some of my neighbors. We wave, have an occasional conversation at the mailbox, but I have no real sense of what makes them tick.

To get to know James and Fannie, I'm spending time with them. You could say they've moved into my house. I'm meeting their families, discovering their dreams and fears, figuring out how they react, how they think. They're young. They have some growing up to do. And they will. I'll see to that. :-)

My job is to bring James and Fannie to life on the page so readers will care about them. I'll use conflict and crisis, dialogue and action to reveal their faith, stretch them and produce a fast-paced, entertaining read. Or so I hope. The process takes me awhile. My goal is four decent pages a day, twenty pages a week. With time off in December and for a writers' conference, I should type The End and have revisions done by the last of January.

Besides writing a new book, I'll be involved with the finishing touches on my debut novel to be released in September 2008. I can't wait to get the new title, to see the cover once the Art Department is finished. It promises to be an exciting year!

Whenever you can, stop back and see how my books and I are doing. If you have questions, ask. It'll be fun to share the process with you.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sorrento and Capri

This is a view of the lovely island of Capri off the coast of Italy. In ancient times Capri was part of the mainland. Caesar Augustus' son Tiberius ruled from Capri during the last years of his reign. Once a fishing village, Capri's economy now depends on the tourist trade. A volcano on the island erupts every 50 years or so but hasn't since the 40s. The speed the island's drivers took the steep road's hair-raising turns kept me gripping the seat and trying to look straight ahead, instead of at the sheer drop, but views at the top are spectacular.

Swimmers and boaters take turns to enter the caves dotting the water's edge near the Faraglioni Rock.

Hope you enjoyed this mini-photo tour of Italy. I enjoyed sharing the memories.



Friday, August 10, 2007


Pompeii was a prosperous Roman harbor city destroyed by a volcano eruption nearly 2,000 years ago. Citizens and slaves were killed by toxic gases. New Pompeii was built over the ashes, which became like stone. The volcano changed the landscape and it's no longer on the sea. In the 1600s a farmer found something that led to excavations, revealing a well-preserved city with a remarkable degree of civilization. Buildings had central heating, plumbing, hot water. The city had fountains, spas and shops for carry-out food because only the rich had kitchens. The Temple of Apollo, amphitheater and government buildings stood on the square. Rooms were decorated with frescoes.

Next is Capri and Sorrento, one of our favorite spots.



Monday, August 6, 2007

We loved Assisi

Assisi, the town of St. Francis, is a beautiful medieval town in the region of Umbria. It's built on a mountain, surrounded by walls and paved with narrow cobblestone streets. The stone used in construction of the town makes it look pink. To see the city, we climbed first to the basilica and its lower and upper levels. St. Francis tomb is in the lower level. Pottery, lace and sweet shops line the main street. Quaint narrow alleys and flights of steep stairs captivated us as we climbed. Midway to the top, we arrived at the town square with its fountain and Roman temple that's now a church. We kept climbing. At the very top sits a medieval castle.

Legend has it that St. Francis talked to a wolf that was killing people and got the wolf to leave. Today Assisi attracts religious groups of all kinds. Old buildings hold convents and monks wear brown robes tied with a three-knotted rope. One knot each for obedience, poverty and chastity.

Olive oil, white dry wine and Truffles preserved in oil are some of the agricultural products of Umbria.

The sound of horses' hooves echoing on the cobblestones pulled us away from breakfast to watch a horse race.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Life in Italy

A friend asked if I knew the realities of living in a big city like Rome. Our tour didn't go off the beaten path, but we did learn about some issues facing citizens in Italy.

Our guide complained of high prices, which doubled, even tripled, when the Euro replaced the Lira, and of high taxes. Because of this high cost of living, both parents often work. The extended family helps care for the children. Tuscany and Northern Italy are the richest regions. Sicily is a poor area. The average salary after taxes in Italy is $1200 a month. Medical care for families earning $15,000. or less is free. Surgeries, emergencies, and chronic conditions are free. That explains one reason for high taxes. Italy is tough on drunk drivers. Police spot check drivers on Friday and Saturday nights. Driving under the influence means the loss of license.

On a lighter note, Italian men marry late. They love their mother's cooking so stay at home putting off marriage. Population growth is zero, but the country's immigrants have lots of children. Italians are less patriotic to their country--founded in 1865--than to their particular region or Parish. Italians don't like rules and look for ways to get around them. But do abide by smoking ordinances. I was dismayed by the enormous amount of graffiti we saw in Rome and Florence, marring these beautiful cities. The cobblestone streets are narrow and crowded with small cars. Parking is haphazard. Motocyclists zoom in and out of traffic. I didn't envy our bus driver's job.

More later,