Archive for March, 2009

Movie Review: Fireproof

I watched the movie Fireproof with Hannah and her best friend during Spring Break. Not once did we pause the movie for a snack or a drink. That’s because the story is a compelling one about a firefighter who is neglecting his wife. Married seven years and on the verge of divorce, neither the firefighter or his wife understands the meaning of true love.

Sound a bit boring? Don’t you believe it. There’s real entertainment value in the two, intense rescue scenes that illustrate the main plot and the themes of the movie. The firefighter, Caleb Holt, is willing to give his life to save strangers, but struggles with saving his own marriage. He trains a rookie firefighter to never leave his partner during a fire, and learns to personally apply that concept to his life partner.

The rescue scenes were well-shot and engaging. There was also a good dose of humor. The conversations of the women who worked at the hospital with the wife, Catherine, and the playful banter among the firefighters at the station, were funny. As the story unfolded, we watched some scenes through tears or with an ache in our throats. All of the actors are amateurs, with the exception of professional actor, Kirk Cameron, who portrayed Caleb. Yet, the amateur actors make the story even more believable.

Interwoven throughout the story is a clear presentation of the gospel, and the meaning of true love. Caleb and Catherine’s failing relationship is based on their own flawed definitions of love. As the story progresses, Caleb acquires a new definition of love—outside and above himself—from the Lord who created love.

This movie grabs your attention because it’s about real love and real life.


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Legendary Cake

Waldorf Astoria batterToday Hannah and her best friend celebrated their last day of Spring Break together by baking a Waldorf Astoria or Red Velvet Cake. When we were growing up, Mom allowed us children to choose our birthday meal. Although we occasionally chose this mildly chocolate cake, I was impressed that it was the only birthday cake that Aunt Delma baked for her family. In my mind, it made the cake even more special.

The first urban legend that I ever heard was about this particular cake. Mom said that she had heard that the cake acquired it’s name from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where the cake was rumored to have originated. A customer had asked the restaurant staff for the recipe, and later noticed that her hotel bill included a $100 charge for the recipe. Consequently, in order to to get her money’s worth, she passed the recipe on to as many people as possible.

The Waldorf Astoria story was circulated in the 1950s, but the recipe first appeared in 1902, as Devil’s Food Cake, in an American cookbook called Mrs. Rorer’s New Cook Book: A Manual of Housekeeping by Sarah Tyson Rorer. Mrs. Rorer was the Rachel Ray of her day.

There are a variety of Waldorf Astoria cake recipes, but I wouldn’t consider using any but Aunt Delma’s.


1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 2-ounce bottle red food coloring
2 tablespoons cocoa (heaping)
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 large eggs

3 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup unsalted butter


Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs, beat well.

Make a paste of food coloring and cocoa. Add paste to creamed mixture.

Sift flour and salt. Stir vanilla into buttermilk. Add buttermilk to creamed mixture, alternately with flour and salt, ending with flour.

In separate bowl, add soda to vinegar. Stir foaming baking soda and vinegar into batter. Blend—don’t beat.

Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans. Bake 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool on rack. Split layers into four pieces.


Cook flour and milk until very thick, stirring constantly. Cool completely.

Cream sugar, butter, and vanilla until very fluffy.

Add creamed mixture to cold, flour mixture. Mix until well blended. It should look like whipped cream.

Fill and frost four-layer cake.

Hannah used three 8-inch cake pans. She also followed Aunt Delma’s suggestion to use 1 ounce of red food coloring and 1 ounce of water. One hot November, I made the cake for Andrew’s birthday. The icing was a runny mess. I had to throw it out and start over. If it’s really warm, quickly cream the sugar and butter, and place in the refrigerator to chill before continuing.


Hannah is using monofilament to cut the cake, like her Grandpa Mac taught her.[/

Hannah is using monofilament to cut the cake, like her Grandpa Mac taught her.

Frank's favorite cake. :)

Frank's favorite cake. 🙂

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A Good Night’s Sleep


Mark puts this on my pillow sometimes. He found it on his pillow at a Westin Hotel. I think I sleep better after I’ve read it. 🙂

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Hannah and her best friend, who is our guest for the week, are cooking up a storm. While they looked for new recipes to try, I organized my collection of cookbooks. Before long I was reading cookbooks, too. I enjoyed reading ’90s … Then and Now: A Historical Cookbook published by the Howe Chamber of Commerce in 1991. My great-great-grandfather, Samuel Wilkerson Young (1834-1909), settled in Howe in 1874, when it was called Summit, and established a residence, a general store, and served as post master.

The oldest recipe included in the book is Samuel’s formula for Seidlitz powders, a forerunner of Alka Seltzer.

Receipt for Seidlitz Powders

8 oz. Rochelle Salts
6 oz. Bicarbonate of Soda
(If for physic, only 4 oz. soda)
Mix will together
4 oz. Tartaric Acid kept separate

For a drink, take 2 Tea Spoonful of the Salts & Soda dissolved in water and a half Tea Spoonful of the acid in a separate Cup. Pour together and drink while effervescing.
—Samuel Wilkerson Young
January 30, 1870

Learning about the little formula that Samuel wrote down 139 years ago provided a glimpse into his 19th century medicine cabinet. It also helped me appreciate the epitaph of Mary Ann Lowder, purported to be located in Burlington, Massachusetts.

Here lies the body of Mary Ann Lowder;
She burst whilst drinking a seidlitz powder;
Called from this world to her heavenly rest,
She should have waited till it effervesced.

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It’s a Joke

The first thing that we do when we get in the truck to go home from church is to discuss the sermon, and take turns giving detailed reports about what we learned in Sunday School.

Not really. Hannah and I power walk across the parking lot to the truck so that we can turn the radio on, and listen to A Prairie Home Companion. The show’s theme was jokes, and by the end of the program I had gained courage—courage to tell bad jokes, old jokes, and silly jokes.

Here’s a selection of goofy jokes from A Prairie Home Companion.

Before they invented golf balls, how did they measure hailstones?

Why did the Romans shut down the colisium? Because they ate up the prophets.

Why didn’t the oyster give up her shell? Because she was shellfish.

So, some blondes and a brunette were on the ladder of a helicopter and the pilot of the helicopter said, “We need one of you to let go of the ladder and fall to your death so that the copter can stay up.” The brunette said, “I’ll do it,” and she let go. And the blondes clapped.

“I used to hate to go into the woods. The chiggers would drive me crazy, but now I know how to keep them off me. I just dab a little whiskey around the top of my socks.”

“Whiskey?! What good does that do?”

“Well, chiggers can’t be boozers, you know.”

A man arrived at a dress-up ball carrying a young woman on his back.

Someone inquired, “What have you come as?” He answered, “I’m a snail.”

“But what about the woman on your back?”

“Oh, she’s Michelle.”

One day a cat died and went to heaven. He was greeted by God who asked, “What would you like during your stay in heaven?” The cat replied, “I’ve had to stay outside all my life so I’d like a nice soft pillow.” “You got it,” God said. The next day, some mice arrived in heaven and were greeted by God who asked, “What would you like during your stay in heaven?” They replied, “We’ve had to run from cats our whole lives, so we’d like some roller skates.” “Granted,” God said, and off they went. The next day God was strolling through heaven and came upon the cat resting on his pillow and asked, “How have things been?” The cat stretched and yawned and then replied, “Just wonderful, and those meals on wheels were especially nice.”
Here’s what Garrison Keillor, host of A Prairie Home Companion, has to say about jokes:

Jokes are democratic. Telling one right has nothing to do with having money or being educated. It’s a knack, like hammering a nail straight. Anyone can learn it, and it’s useful in all sorts of situations. You can go your whole life and not need math or physics for a minute, but the ability to tell a joke is always handy.

So, I’m going to start practicing telling jokes, even if they sound like some of Hannah’s elementary school jokes.

Oh, yeah, we do discuss the sermon—during Sunday dinner.

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Charadrius vociferus

Walking across the parking lot to church the last few Sundays has been a noisy experience. Dozens of killdeer repeatedly cried out kill-DEEE as we walked near the fields that are their nesting habitat.

The first killdeer I ever saw was in Corpus Christi when I was about seven years old. I was concerned about the bird that for several days had hobbled a few yards in front of me, dragging its wing as if wounded, until Dad explained that the bird was pretending to be injured in order to lead me away from its nest. I searched for the nest but never found it, not understanding how well the eggs would blend into the surroundings.

I took these pictures in Austin last year, and was practically on top of the nest before I spied the eggs.

Four eggs camouflaged in a stoney scrape.

I was quick about inspecting these beautiful eggs because the parents put on such a show. They did it all: pretended to have crippled wings, loudly called kill-DEEE, and generally ran around frantically.


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Tina’s Oatmeal Cookies

Today was another beauteous, cool, grey day with slow, deep-soaking rains—the kind of day that infuses me with energy. Spring Break began the second that Hannah walked in the door from school, and a pan of oatmeal cookies, just coming out of the oven, greeted her when she arrived. Tina developed this recipe, so the official appellation is, until further notice, “Tina’s Oatmeal Cookies.”

We have voted them the best oatmeal cookie ever. The first batch is history: Hannah, one of her friends, and I ate all the baked ones, and Hannah finished off the unbaked dough, and we both took turns eating the frosting out of the bowl. (The frosting is awesome.) We are exercising self-control as we bake the second batch, so as to have some for company tomorrow.



3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups oatmeal (old-fashioned or one-minute)
1 1/4 cup unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bakin soda
1/4 teaspoon salt


Cream softened butter and sugars. Add egg, vanilla, and cinnamon. Stir until combined.

Add dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Drop by tablespoon on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 10 minutes at 375 degrees.


1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk (or more if needed)

Melt butter and heat until milk solids separate. (Heating to this stage helps the frosting to dry on the cookies.) Mix in maple syrup and powdered sugar. Beat in one tablespoon of milk. Drizzle over baked cookies.


About 2 to 2 1/2 dozen.


Probably longer than it will take for them to be eaten, according to Aunt Margaret 🙂

Note: I reduced the brown sugar to 1/2 cup, and the the granulated sugar to 1/2 cup also. I didn’t notice much of a difference in the two batches.

These taste great, but they're aren't as beautiful as Tina's.

These taste great, but they aren't as beautiful as Tina's.

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