A Huge Accomplishment for Jordan & A Paucity of Time for Me

By now you may have guessed that I am a list maker. Lists help me stay on track and reach my goals.

Today I had a long list of things I hoped to accomplish. I did not finish them all.

I went grocery shopping twice (at two different stores)

I cooked, picked, and chopped up two chickens

I made keto bread which I’ll need for a casserole on Sunday

I browned five pounds of sausage

I made a double batch of cheese and sausage balls

I made another batch of hot cross buns

I made my yummy keto crackers (which I only make for VERY special occasions)

I did a LOT of critiquing for my students and critique partners

I got my walk in at the gym

There are six things left on the list, which I’ll have to put off till tomorrow and hope that I can get them all done before our first visitors arrive. Still, I’ve made some great progress on the food for Easter weekend and I know I’ll be glad to have more time with my family while they’re all here.

Meanwhile, today was a BIG day for Mary and Jordan. Jordan finally was able to defend his doctoral thesis at Vanderbilt and is now Dr. Jordan Nikkel. We are so proud of him! And so relieved that this long journey in quest of a PhD is over. Tomorrow, they will be on their way here to join us for Easter so we can congratulate him in person. And no, I have no idea what his thesis was about and I’m sure if he explained it to me, I still wouldn’t know. Math and I have only a passing acquaintance.

As I write this, Flynn and Tiffany are already on the road from Colorado. They plan to drive all night, stop to visit friends in Dallas, and arrive here tomorrow evening. Then everyone will be here except Mercy and Daniel, who won’t arrive till Sunday due to Mercy’s work schedule.

And Lucy is spending the night camping out in a hammock. She is attending the annual Easter weekend goat roast held by the university’s international students. I hope she stays warm enough!

Familiar Activities

This morning I had a tutoring student, but you know what I did this afternoon? Cooking and baking, just like I did last week. This time, though, I’m doing it in preparation for Easter weekend so I will be free to spend more time with my kids, all of whom will be here at some point during the weekend.

I made a whopping 96 rice cakes—a family favorite. It took over four hours, but now they’re all in the freezer and it will be so quick to heat them up. I also made my first batch of hot cross buns. Gone are the days when I was willing to get up at 4:00 a.m. to make dough for hot cross buns so they’d be freshly baked at breakfast time. Making them ahead is a lot less stressful.

I’ve still got a lot of grading and critiquing to do, but I am ploughing through that too!. If only I could shake this sinus infection!

Books & Art

I jumped right back into life this morning. I had a student to prepare for and a hundred other things to do too. After my student left, I did allow myself a little rest before getting ready to go to book club.

Today we had the biggest crowd yet—13 people. It was a specially fun discussion since the book we read was by our host, so we could ask the author anything we wanted. The book is a legal thriller set in our neck of the woods, and dealing with the subject of school violence. You should read if you like that genre. The title is Sufficient Certainty by Stephen Woodfin.

After book club ended, I took the book out to the car and brought my painting stuff back to the building for the monthly free art session. This month I painted a few rocks with an Easter theme. Only one other lady came, and eventually our hostess. I had so many other things to do, but I find that little sliver of time spent creating something is very important to my wellbeing.

The TC Returns from the RR, and a Tragedy Occurs

For many years, my grandparents used to go on an annual migration which my grandfather referred to as “taking the TT on the RR.” The “TT” was their travel trailer (camper) and the “RR” was the “relative route,” a journey from Florida to Michigan that included stops with many relatives along the way. At the end of the summer they’d do the trip in reverse order. When my husband and I were in Georgia, we even got to be on the RR one year.

It occurred to me this past week that I now have an RR of my own. Sadly, I don’t own a camper (although it is one of my life’s ambitions) so instead of a TT I’ve got a TC—Toyota Camry. The TC and I visited quite a few relatives in Tennessee. I saw cousins in Memphis, and also my daughter and son-in-law. I visited another cousin in Murfreesboro, and then my parents and aunt in Crossville. I missed seeing my other cousin in the Nashville area—but I met up with his parents (my aunt and uncle) on my way to Memphis yesterday. And no—we’re not originally from Tennessee. We all started off in Detroit.

Sunday morning (yesterday) a massive storm moved through Tennessee after having done a lot of damage in Texas. I loaded my car in pouring rain and driving wind. However, by the time I actually left, the worst was over. Before I was even twenty minutes down the road, I was driving in sunshine, though it was still very windy.

On the far side of Nashville I met up with my aunt and uncle for an early lunch. It was so good to see them and visit with them for a little while. I walked back to my car in balmy 73° weather. By the time I arrived in Memphis less than three hours later, it was in the 40s!

I spent the rest of the afternoon with Mary and Jordan. Jordan made us omelets for supper and afterward Mary put a great deal of effort into starting a fire in their fireplace. The problem was that the few pieces of wood they had were wet. Between the two of them, they finally got a fire going and even roasted marshmallows over it.

This morning got off to a chilly start. I had a nice big mug of tea at Mary’s before I got on the road. The temperature was in the 40s when I left Memphis, but by the time I reached Texas this afternoon, it was in the 80s. Crazy weather!

Half an hour after pulling into my own driveway, I had to leave again to take Jasper to a birthday party. While he partied in the restaurant, I sat in the car and was able to catch up on some reading that I was behind on.

Now I just have a zillion things to do before everybody gets here for Easter . . .

And I can’t write about today without mentioning the tragedy of the cathedral of Notre Dame burning in Paris. I went to Notre Dame several times when I was in France for the summer of 1980. It makes me sick to think of that majestic landmark on fire. Every time I see someone post a photo of it, it makes me sad all over again. So I’ll leave you with a photo of the cathedral as it was:

A Fancy Dinner

Today was my final day with my parents, so I tried to make the best of it. I did the last grocery shopping this morning before I even went over there, so I could just cook the rest of the day. I got the lasagna sauce going and made a double batch of shortcakes (for my parents to freeze for making strawberry shortcake).  

Instead of making one big pan of lasagna, I made six loaf pans so my parents can just take out one whenever they’re in the mood for lasagna. I had a few free minutes after lunch, so I went ahead and made a “bonus” batch of lemon brownies too.

Today was my most ambitious day in terms of the menu. My dad had requested German rouladen, and that took most of the afternoon. I made German red cabbage to go with them and roasted some new potatoes. The final project was a lemon meringue pie—one of my dad’s lifelong favorites.

My aunt wasn’t able to join us for supper this time, so there were just three of us for this special meal. I had never made rouladen before—and they are a LOT of work—but I may make them again because they certainly were delicious!

I had contacted all three of my brothers, and by an amazing miracle, they all were available this evening, so I set up a video chat with them on my laptop. That was a real treat to be able to hear and see my brothers and for my parents to be able to talk to all four of us at once.

It’s been a very intense few days, but my parents’ freezers are now full and that was the plan! Tomorrow morning I will be leaving to drive back to Memphis for another brief visit with Mary and Jordan before I head home on Monday.

Parting Shot:


Rouladen and Red Cabbage. They were both delicious.

Working the Plan

It’s a good thing I drew up a fairly detailed plan for this visit before I left Texas, because otherwise I think I would be feeling very daunted. Instead I only feel a little daunted.

Today I hit the ground running, so to speak, making bread dough for the calzones my dad had requested. While the dough went through its rising cycles, I cooked the filling for and then assembled the date bars and got them in the oven.

By the time the date bars came out of the oven, I was rolling out dough into circles and adding filling for the calzones. My dad wanted some filled with pepperoni and some with kielbasa, so I did four of both. My parents taste-tested them for lunch and they passed!

Right after lunch I got going on eight mini meat loaves for my meatloaf-loving mother. I even managed a power nap while they were in the oven, but as soon as they were out, I headed back to the grocery store to get even more food.

When I returned, I jumped right into making the shepherd’s pie my dad wanted, after getting a large quantity of chicken marinating in buttermilk. My dad’s version of shepherd’s pie is very different from the kind I make, but I followed his instructions and ended up with a very nice-looking pie, all of which will be frozen for future use.

And as soon as that came out of the oven, it was time to coat the chicken pieces and get them into the oven. The recipe was supposed to be a facsimile of “KFC” chicken. It turned out pretty well, which is a good thing, because there was a lot of chicken and I ended up baking three large cookie sheets full!

While the first batch of chicken was baking, I cooked up a skillet full of Brussels sprouts and bacon. My aunt joined us for supper, which consisted of the chicken, sprouts, potato salad, and coleslaw. I cheated and bought the potato salad and coleslaw.

I took a break to watch an episode of Star Trek the Original Series with my dad after supper, but then I came back to the kitchen to wash dishes and make him a loaf of barley bread, which he had requested.

Whew! Tomorrow I only have five things to make—but a couple of them will require quite a bit of effort.

Parting Shot:

A beautiful redbud tree I saw on my way in on Wednesday. I’m getting to experience spring twice!

A Day in the Kitchen

I am one tired cook. Because of my sinus infection, I’ve been waking up rather early in the morning needing to cough. So my plan to sleep in a little this morning didn’t materialize. Although I am cooking for my parents, I am actually staying with my aunt who lives a block away. So I got up and had some tea and visited with my aunt for a while before coming to my parents’ house to start on the day’s work.

The first thing I did was get Toby the turkey ready for his time in the sauna. Once the turkey was in the oven, I took off for Walmart to get all the ingredients I needed for the rest of the day’s cooking adventures. After arriving back, I went to work preparing the ingredients for the oyster dressing, and also making rice and chopping veggies for the stuffed cabbage as well. And cooking a big pot full of chicken.

By supper time we had roast turkey, oyster dressing, giblet gravy, and a huge pot full of stuffed cabbage (my Russian grandmother’s recipe). My aunt joined us for supper. Afterward there was plenty of stuffed cabbage and dressing left to freeze for the future. And once I had emptied the big pot, I made a big batch of groundnut stew. All the chicken I’d cooked went into it, along with the leftover turkey. Now that is all in the freezer too.

I am happy to report that I did everything on my list today. Tomorrow, I have a very challenging agenda and I just hope I can do it all!

700 Miles

After two days on the road and about 700 miles, I am back in Eastern Tennessee with my parents. I left yesterday morning and drove to Memphis, with a cooler containing a turkey I named “Toby,” who came along for the ride (and to give him time to thaw).

My first stop in Memphis was my cousin Mark’s house. He was still at work, but I got to see his wife and a couple of his sons. Then, when it was about time for Mary and Jordan to get off work, I drove to their townhome. They moved there in August but yesterday was the first time I’d seen it. It is bigger than their old place and their cats seem very happy there!

Mary had to work an event last night, so while she was gone I got a start on reading this month’s book club book. Since I know the author, I’ve found it pretty entertaining so far.

This morning I had a bit of a visit with Mary before I set off once again. This time I was headed for my parents’ house with a little detour to visit my cousin David and his sweet wife Julie at their new place in the country. They have a beautiful view! And I couldn’t have picked a better day to be traveling the back roads of Tennessee.  The scenery was absolutely spectacular! The weather was sunny and warm.

I had to make another little detour to a grocery store because I had promised my parents I’d make them some pork chops for supper. Moments after walking in their door, I had pork chops and broccoli cooking, and supper was only a little late! And I cooked a bunch of extra pork chops for later.

Since then I have made a pan of cornbread and a batch of oatmeal cookies. I’ve got a very strict schedule to keep if I’m going to make everything on the list while I’m here.

Getting Ready

I have had a busy couple of days grading papers and preparing for my road trip. In fact getting sleep tonight is more important than blogging because I leave first thing in the morning. Blogging may be sporadic for the next week, but I’ll see what I can do. Heading to Tennessee to see family!

Living For Jesus

Another of my childhood favorites.

Living for Jesus

Thomas O. Chisholm

Living for Jesus, a life that is true,
Striving to please Him in all that I do;
Yielding allegiance, glad hearted and free,
This is the pathway of blessing for me.


O Jesus, Lord and Savior,
I give myself to Thee,
For Thou, in Thy atonement,
Didst give Thyself for me.
I own no other master,
My heart shall be Thy throne.
My life I give, henceforth to live,
O Christ, for Thee alone.

Living for Jesus who died in my place,
Bearing on Calvary my sin and disgrace;
Such love constrains me to answer His call,
Follow His leading and give Him my all.


Living for Jesus, wherever I am,
Doing each duty in His holy name;
Willing to suffer affliction and loss,
Deeming each trial a part of my cross.


Living for Jesus through earth’s little while,
My dearest treasure, the light of His smile;
Seeking the lost ones He died to redeem,
Bringing the weary to find rest in Him.