Baking and Testing for the St. Joseph Table 2015

This past weekend we produced a mountain of Italian Sesame Seed Cookies and tested my skill of making cream puffs.  It’s been a long time since I last made cream puffs so I needed to affirm my ability to make pate a choux and a nice flavorful custard.  Both came out great and I made some food testers very happy.  I also have some scardolini drying out, which is one step in the process prior to baking them in the oven.  We had lots of people over the past week volunteer to bring items and we’re getting a lot more interest and the excitement is building.


St. Joseph Table

Mountain of Italian Sesame Seed Cookies

Pate A Choux

Tested my ability with Pate a Choux.

St. Joseph's Table

Testing my cream puffs for the 2015 St. Joseph’s Table.

List of items provided and/or what the community has offered to bring:


Loaves of Bread

Fig Cookies

Sesame Seed Cookies


Italian Cream Puffs



Green Bean Artichoke Casserole

Eggplant Parmesan

Italian Stuffed Shells

Spaghetti with Sardines (Pasta Con Sarde)


Cheese Plate

Mixed Cheese Tray

Chocolate Spice Balls Cookie

Juice, fruit, and a dessert

Baked Whole Fish

St. Joseph Sheet Cake

St. Joseph Picture Cake

Lemon Bars

Flowers and Lilies

Items we Need
Vegetable Dishes
Italian Dessert Items
Lace Table Cloth

St. Joseph’s Table 2015

Two years ago we held a traditional St. Joseph’s Table and we’re doing it again this year 2015.  Today Judy came over and we made a pile of Italian Fig Cookies.  We’ve also planned out everything else that we’re planning to make. This is only the beginning.  We’ve got a long list of things that need to be done.  Everyone is welcome to contribute in any way they can to the celebration.  Time and effort along with lots of flour, sugar, butter, milk, eggs, spices, and other ingredients are required to prepare the table for a celebration.  Some consider their contribution a sacrifice while petitioning St. Joseph to intercede for healing, employment, or safety for a loved one at war. 

Southern Cobbler Recipe


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I’ve used this recipe for peaches, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, rhubarb and strawberries, and even for a mixture of fruits when cleaning out the freezer.  I think frozen fruit works just as well as fresh but be careful with your peaches as all varieties don’t cook the same.   If you try this with cherries, include a teaspoon of almond extract to the fruit when it starts to boil.  Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream are always a compliment.

Paradise in Washington State

An easy day trip from Seattle or Portland, Mt. Rainier National Park offers spectacular alpine scenery and hiking opportunities.  The most popular destination is Paradise where you’ll find Paradise Inn, a visitors center, and paved trails for a close up experience with the mountain.  You’ll see alpine flowers such as Bear Grass blooming in the fields during the summer.  Get there early and enjoy the fresh clean air, mountain views, and peaceful old growth forests.


Touring Seattle and Pacific Northwest

What are you going to do when you’re in Seattle with a few days before you head out on a cruise or return home after sailing to Alaska?  This is a common question for many and fortunately has several answers depending on your budget and personal preferences.  There are many options close to Seattle and there are other exciting options just across the state border in Oregon.  Follow the hyperlinks within the discussion below for detailed information as you plan your visit and when you find your way around the Northwest.

If a waterfall is what you’re looking for, it’s an hour or less drive out of Seattle to Snoqualmie Falls.  Don’t miss Pike Place Market if you’re in the downtown area.  The first Starbucks is just across the street.  You’ll find numerous shops with unique and hard to find items, plus you might be lucky enough to see a fish fly above the crowd.  If you like planes or cars, plan a visit to the Museum of Flight just south of downtown or the Car Museum in Takoma which is just a little further south of town.

Travel into the Cascade Mountain Range to see Mount Rainier or Mount St. Helens.  Mt. Rainier is seen from Seattle and can be reached in only a couple of hours.  I recommend the Ashford, WA entrance which leads to the Paradise section of the park where you’ll find outstanding views and fresh air.  If you have more time to travel out of Seattle, you’ll want to visit the Johnston Ridge Observatory at Mt. St. Helens.  Yes, it’s still active but taking a rest for now.  The latest report (Spring 2014) is that a mass of molten material is growing beneath the mountain.  The eruption of 1980 is an incredible story and one worth checking out in person.  Check out my previous post on Mount St. Helens for some photos.

If you want to experience the Pacific Coast, head over to Ruby Beach in the Olympic National Park.  It’s over a 3 hour drive through Olympia, WA.  Lodging in the park is extremely costly or unavailable.  In about the same amount of time you can get to Astoria, Oregon which is filled with history and beauty, if it’s not foggy.  Just south of Astoria is the incredible North Oregon Coast.  On a clear day the coast with its rocks, sea lions, and huge crashing white waves are an amazing sight.  One of my favorite locations is Ecola State Park located just north of Cannon Beach famous for its haystack rock.

The Cascade Mountains and the Northwest coast are truly spectacular, but equally in grandeur is the Columbia River Gorge.  Start out in Vancouver, Washington, at the actual location of Fort Vancouver established before the Northwest was part of the United States.  Next swing around to I-84 via I-205 and venture east.  The Vista House at Crown Point should be your first stop.  Then stay on the scenic path and stop at all the waterfalls.  Multnomah Falls is the most popular and offers food, information, and restrooms.  One option is to get back on I-84 and cross over to Washington State at Cascade Locks.  Be sure to stop at the base of the bridge in Cascade Locks ( Bridge of The Gods) to look at the river and get some pictures of the bridge.  When you cross over, you can check out the city of Stevenson just to the east about five minutes, or you can head back toward Vancouver.  See my previous post on Stevenson for more on the city.  On your way back to Vancouver you’ll see Beacon Rock State Park.  This is interesting from an historical and geological point of view.  The rock is actually the core of a volcano that was referenced by Lewis and Clark.  You can climb to the top and get some incredible views of the area.  Continuing east you’ll come to the city of Washougal where you’ll see the Pendleton Woolen Mill along Hwy 14.  Stop here if you want a tour of the mill or want to purchase some merchandise from the most famous maker of wool blankets.

If you have even more time to explore the Columbia River Gorge, don’t turn off at Cascade Locks and keep traveling east toward Hood River.  The little town of Hood River is well known for its apples, cherries, berries, and other fruit crops that are available beginning in June.  You’ll see the flyers for the Hood River Fruit Loop at all the information stations in the Gorge.  Continuing east will bring you to The Dalles, Oregon.   Stop at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center to learn about the Columbia River and Native Americans that lived off the river until the politicians demanded electricity for every American.  This farther end of the gorge is unlike the area around Multnomah Falls.  Here in The Dalles you’ll find more arid conditions that add to the experience.

Regardless of the path you choose when you set foot out of Seattle you won’t be disappointed.  Just be sure to check for alerts on the web sites of where you’re headed.  Summer is also known as road construction time so check the ODOT and WSDOT sites before you get on the road.  Enjoy your time with nature in the Northwest and remember to take only pictures and leave only footprints.

April Blood Moon


The big day finally arrived for may sky watchers as the first blood moon of 2014 rose in the sky late on Tuesday 4/14/14 and early on Wednesday morning 4/15/14.  Pictures tell it best.  Click on the picture below to start the slide show.

And there are even more pictures to share.  Just click on the picture to start the show.

Fortunately we had a sky that was not completely cloudy here in the Pacific Northwest.  For April that’s a blessing.  The clouds actually helped add to the drama and helped create some great shots.

Do It In 2014

Have a good day every day in 2014.  Will this be the year of actually doing or just dreaming?  Will you see results or just the same old thing?  Perhaps the same old thing is really not that bad for some, but there are many that would like to and even more that need to improve upon their current situation.

Simply set your sights on a destination, goal, or whatever you need and don’t get distracted.  Be prepared to say no a million times to say on course.  Plan it all out and make a list of steps toward your goal.  A list might contain getting a library card, reading certain books, attending a class, listening to a subject matter expert, or trying a recipe until you get it right.

Try to avoid frivolous goals like losing weight or learning a foreign language unless you actually have a bigger goal that drives you to achieve these things.  Maybe you’re planning to get married, run a race, visit a foreign nation, or volunteer as a translator.  These would be goals for which you must prepare by shedding a few pounds or learning Chinese.  Like I’ve heard many times before, shoot for the stars and you might just hit the moon.

Sometimes you get help from others and sometimes you need help from others to know what goals you should set for the new year.  Upon entering the church for Christmas Day Mass we were given a book and told it was a gift from the parish, The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic by Matthew Kelly.  Fr. Mitchell asked that we use this for our own personal spiritual growth and that we use it for our Lenten study groups.  So, the four signs are prayer, study, generosity, and evangelization.  Apparently these four areas were emphasized by Mother Teresa, JPII, Therese of Lisieux, and other notable saints and blesseds that are still helping to change the world today.  I can’t wait to start on the book, meet with the guys during lent, and then get to meet the author when he speaks at another local parish in July.  The journey continues in 2014.

From Christmas Day to 3 Kings Day

We are now on the 6h day of Christmas.  What did your true love give to you today?  How many want to have Christmas for more than one day or want it to last a little longer?  Perhaps not as many as the number that really don’t want to endure painful memories or regrets, but there are many.  This year almost every other person tells me that Christmas just came and went so quickly.  If only they would celebrate Christmas until the wise men arrive on the Epiphany.  I have to admit, the season has truly flown by this year but I am making the most of it and plan to wrap it up with a 3 Kings Day celebration.  Some call it Epiphany and some call it Twelfth Night.  This will be the final day of Christmas in my house.
I hope you all had a very happy and merry Christmas on Christmas Day.  As a simple human being, it’s hard to fully grasp the meaning of God’s gift that we celebrate.  Our journey during Advent helps us to understand the meaning of life and put our whole existence into perspective.  Taking the opportunity to spend time with family and friends will remind us of what’s most important….  Watching It’s a Wonderful Life or The Grinch gets to the point but is no substitute for the real thing.  Hope you all have a longer and happier Christmas filled with peace and joy from celebrating the birth of Baby Jesus with all those you love regardless of the miles that may separate you.  Make a difference in the lives of others and bring joy to the world.
Now it’s time to start looking for my king cake recipe.  Have a good day and let the celebration continue.

Human Rights Day for Mandela


Pope Francis asked the world to join him in a prayer wave on Tuesday December 10, 2013 to give a voice to all those who hunger in our world.  Much like a cheering wave at a football stadium, I see one group in Tonga beginning the rise of prayer toward heaven and then as it goes silent, another in New Zealand begins to rise.  This occurred today with the final rise toward heaven coming from Samoa.  The Catholic Herald from the United Kingdom reported

Pope Francis invited all people to act “as one single human family, to give a voice to all of those who suffer silently from hunger, so that this voice becomes a roar which can shake the world.”

December 10th is designated by the UN to be Human Rights Day.  UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared the following:

“As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, let us intensify our efforts to fulfill our collective responsibility to promote and protect the rights and dignity of all people everywhere.”

In the United States, Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledges the daily struggle for human rights around the world.

Around the world, the fundamental struggle for dignity – for economic justice, political freedom, and personal expression – continues every day and in many forms.

Everyone has a right to food and Pope Francis points out that waste and inefficiencies in our world contribute to the problem of hunger.  Access to food is critical for life and overlooking the problem of hunger is overlooking the dignity of the human person.  We must look beyond our own table and listen above the crunching and munching beside us to hear the groaning stomachs and see the empty bowls of our neighbors.

I did not hear anything in the news today about hunger or about human rights.  There was however lots of news about Nelson Mandela.  He fought for the dignity of South Africans and he fought for human rights.  It was most appropriate for Mandela’s memorial and celebration to be held on this day.  Perhaps this is a sign of hope for human rights around the world.

Nelson Mandela once said:

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”






New Year’s Evaluation

The value of light in our world today is most likely a lot less than what it was in ancient Israel, only because we take it for granted.  We have lights everywhere you go, except when you get out into the country or the wilderness.   The absence of light essentially makes you blind.  You can’t see.  You feel insecure.  You want to see.  You are forced to rely on other senses like sound, touch, and smell.   Only if you’ve recently experienced a black-out do you have an idea of what life was like before electricity.

Our gospel today presents the two blind men that are healed by Jesus.  They both ask to be healed and Jesus asks if they believe He can heal them.  Fortunately they have the right answer of “yes” and were healed.  These men were in the dark but now they can see.  They had faith they could be healed and they were healed.  Their faith is now stronger and more genuine than before.  Jesus is the light of the world and He gives it freely.  Just do what the blind men did.  They followed Him and then they asked Him for the healing.

Many cultures and religions understand the importance of light in our spiritual lives and acknowledge it with religious activities.  We have the Diwali festival, Hanukkah, and of course Christmas.  Do you need some light in your life?  Only with light will you really see where you are and truly understand your current position.  Advent is an excellent opportunity to let the light of Christ into your life.    From a secular perspective we make New Year’s resolutions in January to better ourselves.  For Christians we start the New Year with Advent and use the light of Christ to better our spiritual lives.