Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Chocolate Cheesecake

I started with a friend's recipe for chocolate cheesecake and, of course, my alterations began almost immediately.  When the batter was ready, I found that she had failed to say it would be enough for two 8" cheesecakes!  I was not disappointed.  One for now and one for the freezer.  And you can do the same with the basic recipe (make two crusts instead of one).  Or, you can end up doing what I did and take the second half of the batter, add 3/4 cup of pureed strawberries and two 9" regular pie shells and you'll end up with two strawberry-chocolate cheesecake pies.  Lovin' it!

Here is the basic recipe:

Crust (to make one):
1 package graham crackers
4 tbsps sugar
4 tbsps melted butter or margarine

In medium bowl, break crackers into small pieces and crush into fine crumbs.  Add sugar and stir well.  Add butter and make sure all crumbs are moistened.  Spread onto the bottom and sides of a springform cheesecake pan.

Filling (enough for two):
3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup milk (whole)
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 tsps vanilla flavoring
4 tbsps cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Place softened cream cheese in a large mixing bowl.  Add sugar and cream together.  Add eggs one at a time, stirring between.  Add milk and vanilla flavoring and stir.  Add cocoa and stir after each two tablespoons.  Use electric mixer on low to medium speed to completely smooth out the batter.  Pour one half of batter into each prepared cracker-crumb crust.  Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 300 degrees and continue baking another 45 minutes or until firmly set, but not overdone.

If making strawberry-chocolate cheesecake pies with second half of batter, add 3/4 cup strawberries to batter and smooth out with electric mixer.  Pour half of batter into each of two 9" pie crusts.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until set firmly, but not overdone.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


I'll be sharing this poem at the next poetry meetup at Tate Street Coffee House.  It is the favorite of my own poems, written September 16, 1996:


She is anxious for spring,
this little red-coated dog,
the same as I when,
out on our walks,
under cover of the clouds,
a February sky breathes
dampness down upon us.
Our six feet measure moisture
in the mingled earth,
where Carolina clay
makes mud cake casts,
a temporary mark of our passage.
Our bodies presage the season,
absorbing the wet and the chill--
all the remains of winter--
joining the porous earth
in heralding, becoming the spring.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Music: The Soul Transformer

I owe to my first husband, Bill Jolly, both my love for and knowledge of music.  He taught me over the years, though his own love for music, the soul transforming power of the medium.  Ironically, during those years when he patiently exposed me to the music of the world in its various forms and means, I did not believe in the existence of the soul or of God or of anything beyond this life we live on earth.  Only now, after ten years of being reaquainted with the Creator, do I have a grasp of the tie between music and God's revealing work.  As I write this, I am listening to Josh Groban.  His voice is a true gift from the Holy One, and I believe Josh has this understanding and appreciation for what he has been given.  Gifts from God, of course, are often a tremendous responsibility as well as a blessing.  Too many gifted musicians and singers do not comprehend the blessing and they see only the burden of responsibility.  They are unable to handle the foibles of fame and fortune.  Sadly, their gift destroys their promise.  Kurt Cobain took his own life in the desperation that befalls many musical artists.  Stevie Ray Vaughn was reunited with the Spirit prior to his tragic death, and he had come to the realization that his music was OF God and FROM God.  Al Green learned from his own spiritual journey that the songs he had recorded prior to his ministry were not of the Devil or of evil origin . . . these songs, too, belonged to and originated from the Great Spirit. 

For me, music is a medium that goes beyond art and beyond the written word, because it has the ability to involve us body and soul.  We hear and feel the rhythm of the instrumentation, the melody, the human voice, the careful arrangement of recorded songs.  There is a relationship between the physical being and the pulse of music.  That relationship expresses itself in movement, in dance, in a communicative bridge among people.  Music is, indeed, a universal language.  But it is even more than this.  It is transforming to the soul of humankind.  God uses music to share Himself with us and to reach out to us.  Music carries all the emotion of memory.  It is evocative of our yearning for God.  I cannot hear Josh Groban sing without feeling my soul praise God.  I feel that my attempt to express this relationship is feeble, but anyone who has a love for music will understand.  Music, like God, cannot be put into a box and limited.  Music, like God, is nearly unfathomable.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Language of the KJV Bible

Ten years ago when I decided to pick up a Bible to read after a long absence, I sorted through a variety of versions/translations.  As John Timpane of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes, "For 400 years, the King James Bible has ruled among all the versions."  And I settled upon this 1611 authorized version, too.  It is the beauty of the language.  It is simply the same Elizabethan language that I love in Shakespeare's writings, as well.  Mr. Timpane's article, The Divine Word, appeared in the Greensboro News & Record on the front page of the Ideas section on Easter Sunday.  Since we have a Bible study class going on addressing this very topic, I was quite interested to read the article.  He writes on page H4, "Its creation took seven years of work by 47 of England's most learned men."  And he quotes Debora Shuger, a professor of English at UCLA:  " . . . You can find errors and question interpretations, yes, but these were translators who heard the poetry, the underlying feeling, and stay true to it throughout."  The poetry, the underlying feeling, those are key elements to reading Shakespeare and to reading the Bible.  A modern translation may be helpful in many ways to the study of Biblical writings, making them easier to grasp and understand, making them more relevant to today's choice of wording.  However, modern texts lose the lilting rhythm of the KJV.  How else can one read the 23rd Psalm of David?  And many of us remember the verses we learned as children in the sweet language of the King James Bible.  To read them in any other wording seems "off."  Regardless of the choice we make in study texts, it is comforting to know that the message remains the same.  The Bible is a collection of works that ultimately teach us about the God-human relationship and the eternal love that is available to us.  And that is beautiful in any translation.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Real Connection

Tonight I attended a wonderful study at Speedwell Presbyterian led by Reverend Rebecca Taylor.  We learned about the writing, copying, translating and printing of the Bible and how it came to the form as we know it today.  It was quite a journey, incredible in its magnitude and scope, relying on the expertise and dedication of thousands of scholars over approximately 1400 years.  We touched on the many versions of the Bible now in print:  NIV, KJV, The Message, and so on.  And there are so many study Bibles out there--those designed for women, teens, college students, children, devotional, and many more.  For so long, the common person could not read, much less own a hand-copied Bible.  Now the market is inundated with the most read book in history.  Consider for a moment if we had no Bible at all.  Consider if none of those incredible writings had ever been committed to print.  Would it change anything about our relationship to and with God?  As precious as the works of the Biblical writers are to us as Christians, the poetry, the history, the stories of Jesus' ministry, they are all extraneous to the "real connection."  The true connection to God is the inherent desire we feel to commune with the eternal.  We are a part of God and He is the pure love that brings us into relationship with Him.  I love the language of the Bible, but I understand that without it, my relationship with God would not miss a beat. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Daylight Savings Time

It is now that period of time when I cannot go to sleep, yet I know that I will "lose" an hour and have to get up early tomorrow.  It's a harbinger of spring.  Extended daylight in the evenings gives me more time to get things done, and I'm a doer.  Warm weather is around the corner.  Yesterday I wrote about preparations, and this is a time of preparation for outdoor activities.  At our house, we'll be painting the deck, planting flowers, mulching the flower beds, and giving the patio furniture a fresh coat of paint.  Our very bodies urge us to action following the downtime of winter.  Although my heart is nagged by sadness over recent life changes, I feel renewed at the prospects ahead.  It's called hope.  Where there is hope--that gift from God--there is a means to accomplish.  Earthly life goes on in the face of loss.  Just one step at a time will prevail.  Holding onto God's hand is how we get lifted out of despair and set aright again.  Blessings, and feel the renewal this third day of Lent.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Making Preparations

This morning's news carries the horrific words and pictures from Japan.  An earthquake triggers a tsunami and loss of lives follows.  I am merely preparing to go to work this morning.  But for most of life there is truly no preparation.  Natural disasters occur regardless of our attempts to be ready for them.  Some of these tragic events come with little or no advance warning, despite our best early warning equipment.  We can make ready for our routines as creatures of habit, but what happens when a routine is turned upside down?  When lives are shaken or destroyed?  If you watch the aftermath of a natural disaster, you will see rescue efforts, desperate attempts to restore life to normal.  We clean up the mess and try as best we can to move on, because that is what life does--it goes on in spite of our losses.  Perhaps the only beauty that comes of tragedy is that it moves people to work together and to show care and concern for one another.  We come together in a way that reveals the best of humanity.  Let us strive to do that on a daily basis.  Let us come together and work for the best of all of us when there is NO tragedy involved.  We prepare for life's hardships by first understanding that God is still the creator, the life giver, the one constant in our lives.  Then we can look to one another, His creations, His earth, and see that He instilled in us this need to serve.  We please Him and we are at our best when we serve others.  Yesterday I wrote about abundance.  When we can truly look beyond what we think we lack, then we can give to one another out of the abundance that God provides.  Blessings and hope for a reflective, healing Lenten season to you all.