Saturday Date Night

It was a Facebook post Saturday morning that started the adventure.

Some friends are building a home in northern Missouri and had discovered a little country church nearby. They were having a Sweetheart Dinner that night – would we like to come?

Lured by the thoughts of prime rib with all the fixings, followed by an evening of gospel music – it was an easy sell.

Jan and I drove the winding country roads of southern Iowa into the alphabetical maze of back roads the makes up northern Missouri as the sun was setting over beautiful snow covered fields.

It was so peaceful.

We found the church nestled in the hills surrounded by rolling pastures, just as it had been for the last 150 years.

This faithful congregation had been serving up a free prime rib meal and gospel music to the community every February for more than a decade.

They greeted us warmly – wayfaring strangers that we were. The conversation was lively. The company fun.

And the food! Oh my! The food was abundant, delicious, and homemade – a hunk of prime rib that covered half my plate, potatoes, salad, crescent rolls, green beans and bacon, and a table full of desserts.

Then the music began.

It was nothing professional – just some friends who played really well. A man on the banjo with his eighty something year old momma on the bass and his buddy on the guitar.

Joking. Laughing. Strumming. Singing.

It was comfortable – like being invited into someone’s living room for some music.

Gospel songs. Mountain melodies. Old Hymns.

The melodies rang out of the old church on the frosty February night.

And we were a part of it.

When the music ended – we reluctantly said our good-byes and started the 45 minute drive home, navigating those same winding roads under the light of  full moon.

The snow sparkled as we held hands, the music still ringing in our ears.

And my heart smiled.

Valentine Banquet

Part of last week’s busyness included taking this crazy crew of kids…youth group…and pulling off a Valentine’s banquet for the entire church.

The kids did everything!

They set up the tables…

Valentine tablescape

…using wedding pictures to decorate – as well as candles, streamers, M&M’s and conversation hearts.

 

They did the cooking.

kitvchen crew

And with my own Dagmar (in the black apron) in charge of the kitchen, everything ran smoothly.

Or – close enough.

And serving.

servingWhich also went surprising well. (Oh yes – that is a tuxedo! Only the best for our guests!)

Then – following the delicious three course meal – the kids provided some world class entertainment!

Valentine skitsWell – okay – it was actually a series of skits that the kids wrote full of inside jokes and some wigs that left the audience in stitches. (That’s my Pedro in the center!)

And when our guests – of all ages – left, the kids cleaned up.

I was so proud of how hard those kids worked and what a good job they did!

And I’m tired.

Very tired.

Working with teenagers is not for the faint of heart!

Valentine Goodies

This is one of my favorite weeks all year!

Call me a hopeless romantic – but I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day, with all the pink and red and hearts and, of course, chocolate!

We’ll be celebrating with our traditional lasagna meal with cream puffs for dessert.

But we’ve also enjoyed –
Cookies

Chocolate sugar cookies, cut in the shape of a heart and drizzled with white chocolate. If I had been a little more energetic – I would have frosted them beautifully – but they still tasted great!

DippedAnd covered pretzels. We used white almond bark and then sprinkled them with pink colored sugar. Super fast to make -and a family favorite!

And later this week –

Chocolate strawberry ice cream loafI’ll be working with our Youth Group to make and serve several of these strawberry ice cream cakes at our church Valentine’s Banquet.

Even though the layers do take some time to freeze between, it’s worth it!

Seriously – who wouldn’t love Valentine’s week with all this good food to enjoy!

So – how are you celebrating?

Let’s Love Them While We Can

CookiesOn Saturday – like every year on the Saturday before Valentine’s Day – I took my kids in to the nursing home to help their 4H club host the February birthday party.

I will admit it wasn’t something I looked forward to. It was more like something I made the kids do because it was right and good.

But I walked away from that nursing home with tears in  my eyes and a full heart.

As we were arranging cookies and passing out the well-used bingo cards, I noticed a couple walk in. He was gently leading her – holding her arm while carrying on a quiet conversation, pointing out things of interest, asking her where she would like to sit.

She was silent, her head down, her eyes open, but vacant as she shuffled in beside him. I wondered if it was a sudden stroke, or the slow moving effects of Alzheimer’s that had robbed this man of his wife.

He gently seated her at a window table and continued the one sided conservation – all the while holding her hand.

I watched through-out the Bingo game as he played her card and his own, announcing her Bingo and choosing the prize he knew she would like.

She remained seated there staring into space – quiet and still  – except for the involuntary spasms her limbs made.

I lost sight of them for a few minutes while we passed out the frosted sugar cookies and punch. But later, as things calmed down, I looked over to see that he had gently tucked a napkin under her chin and was slowly, methodically, patiently feeding her a sugar cookie.

I wish you could have seen his eyes. They held no pity for her, no shame, only love. It was as if they were the only two people in the room.

That’s when my eyes filled with tears. I wanted to take a picture – but I couldn’t. It was such a private thing. That man was sharing his heart.

But if I had taken it – it would have been a perfect picture of love.

“Love is patient, love is kind… It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking… It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

I wondered how many Valentine’s they had celebrated over the years? How many Mondays and Tuesdays and Wednesdays they had shared? How many times they had sat down and enjoyed a cookie and small talk together?

How many times she told him she loved him before her speech was gone?

How many times he had told he loved her before she couldn’t understand?

It made me want to go home and hug my husband, tell my children I loved them, and call my parents and siblings – with a heart full of gratitude because they are still here to love.

“We must love them while we can, we must love them while we can
For time just seems to hurry by, and the days slip into years
And the moments that we have will disappear
So love them while we can…”

from the Chris Christian song, “Love Them While We Can”


Deep Dark Chocolate Mousse

Ahh..February,  how I love you!

When you arrive it means that nasty cold and overcast January is history for another year.

You are the short little month that bridges the gap between the arctic wind of winter and the warmer breezes of spring. At least we hope so….

You bring us the legendary Groundhog’s Day and the holiday that celebrates romance – Valentine’s Day.

And you remind me of chocolate.

Well, all right – so everything reminds of chocolate!;)

Since we’re talking about chocolate anyway – how about something rich, and creamy and smooth?!

Something so decadent that it would chase away the winter doldrums!

Something that said “Chocolate” with every bite.

Enter the legendary Chocolate Mousse.

Made with a rich dark chocolate, this one will make you smile no matter what the thermometer says !

Deep Dark Chocolate Mousse

From the Hershey’s Chocolate Cookbook

1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup milk
1 cup dark chocolate chips
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup cold whipping cream (1/2 pint)
Sweetened whipped cream or Cool Whip (optional)

Stir together the sugar and gelatin in small saucepan. Stir in the milk. Let stand 2 minutes to soften the gelatin. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture just begins to boil.

Remove from heat and immediately add the chocolate chips, stirring until melted. Add the vanilla and cool to room temperature.

Beat whipping cream with electric mixture on medium speed until stiff peaks form. Add half of the chocolate mixture and gently fold until nearly combined.

Add the remaining chocolate mixture and fold until just blended.

Spoon into pretty bowl or individual serving dishes. Refrigerate.  Garnish with sweetened whipped cream just before serving.

Enjoy!