Random thoughts

1. It is hard to keep creative energy flowing in January.

2. Especially when all four of your kids come down with the stomach bug at the same time.

3. I found joy in tending them but I will be so happy when we are all well again… if this is really going to happen, which in the darkish hours I tend to doubt…

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4. Is there anything in the world more tasty than a fresh homemade donut? I’d never made one before, so my friend Yvonne invited us all over for a lesson and a party. When the first bite sparkled on my tongue I was smitten. Hard.

5. The world is full of good news and bad news. And many, many words. How do you choose what you listen to?

6. My husband just listened to Jayber Crow on audio and found it stirring and powerful. Now it’s on the top of my to-read list.

7. Especially since the last book I read was a real lemon. What is it with that stripe of classic English literature? The author creates the perfect woman (gorgeous, cultured, spunky, refined) and the perfect man (handsome, muscular, aggressive, and [oh-by-the-way] filthy rich), and places them into extremely compromising situations, from which—having saved each other—they escape with their morality intact but their lives irrevocably one. No one in the world could possibly think of so many exquisitely romantic things to say. Or say them while hanging by one hand off a cliff.

8. (Except, apparently, the novelist, who probably never touched a cliff in his life.)

9. My brother’s T-shirt slogan comes to mind: “Great story, babe. Now go make me a sandwich.”

10. This does not mean I don’t believe in romance.

11. But I prefer the real-life variety.

The random words of Shari are ended, for now. And the sarcastic and weary part of me is fiendishly pleased to see I have eleven observations. This seems to fit.

Is freedom of speech a Christian value?

So I’ve been thinking about the tragic Charlie Hebdo shooting and wondering.

I’ve lived within western democracy for so long that it’s hard to think in any other terms, but is freedom of speech a Christian value?

That is, was it important to Christ, and should it be to His followers?

You can hardly claim it for yourself but refuse it to others. Is it valuable to Him that we each may speak freely what we feel and believe, and grant to others the same privilege?

Why? Why not?

The SAD Regimen

Confession: I never could get the hang of January.

This year I am blessed. I have energy and focus and I love my life, but some days some days I worry myself sick over the silliest things, and I just can’t think of that WORD while I’m talking to my children (and so I stammer until they supply it for me) (multiple times in a day). Some days I can feel it like ghostly fingers: tendrils of SAD fear and fog creeping into my mind.

I have been here before and I remember how to cope, to live, to heal; and I know that I am loved and that spring will come again before I know it. So I hang in there, and I bless Jesus for conquering darkness. I make small goals for myself and do them—even just cleaning my bathroom or making that phone call. I eat protein and fruit. And I tell my husband how I feel.

Dorcas Smucker wrote an article called What Works for Me: the SAD Regimen. Read it, if you or someone you love has down feelings in the winter. It’s excellent advice, the best I’ve read on the topic for a long time.

April is coming!



Whole Wheat Honey Bread

Hi there, dears! I hope your holidays were as delightful as mine!


Confession: I thought I’d never try a how-to video again, but I did.

My sis-in-law was asking for a tutorial post on bread-making and I said—“Oh my. You just have to be there.” So I created a movie for her, in lieu of countless pictures and thousands of words.

This 12-minute video will teach you to make Whole Wheat Honey Bread {printable recipe here} from start to finish, alongside a few general tips for working with yeast. I’m not a professional, and probably mistaken in a few minor points, but I refuse to be held responsible for accidents. Yours or mine.

My husband and I filmed this a year and a half ago, when I had braces, smaller glasses over which I barely peered, and stage fright, as evidenced in my sober opening and rapid flow of words. But various technical difficulties and staff shortages pushed off our production date, and here we are.

(Not that I don’t have stage fright still.)

So. If you’re interested in bread baking, enjoy! There’s comic relief along the way in the form of children and animals, and a formidable string of bloopers clipped onto the end. This is real life in my kitchen. Stay tuned.

Any questions or corrections, please share them below.

Just for Kim Zook, a most loved sis-in-law.


I have my fingers in many pies at the moment, and so my blogging is going to turn a temporary corner. For the next four to six weeks I plan to post more simply… a picture, a thought, a quote, or a question for discussion. You are free to liven things up as much as you wish; I’m still here and still listening. Just very busy wearing other hats.

Ginger cookies filled with buttercream

She made them better than anyone else could: small and perfect rounds, soft and sugared. And then she’d make them in miniature, the size of an American quarter, just for the little people.

We called her Tiny Grandma, and her hallmark cookies? Ginger.

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I have her recipe, and when I bake her cookies I remember a lady I loved, though I can’t match her product. She was a careful baker—Cool the melted butter to room temperature; use your fingertip to scoop the last egg white out of the broken shell. Her work never varied, unless of course she forgot something. She did make pumpkin pies once without the pumpkin…

Grandma’s Ginger Cookies

¾ cup margarine
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
½ cup molasses
4 ½ cups flour
4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. salt

Melt and cool margarine. Add sugar, eggs and molasses and beat well. Add dry ingredients. Chill dough, then form into 1” balls. Roll in white sugar and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375° for 7-8 minutes. Do not overbake; when they crack, take them out, and let them finish baking on the cookie sheet.

Sometimes I make ginger cookies when I miss her. And this season, I copied my aunt and tried something new: filling them with lemon buttercream and sticking them together as sandwich cookies. Or with coconut cream filling. You won’t believe it—heaven!

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Buttercream Filling

10 Tbsp. butter, softened
3 ½ cups powdered sugar
Dash of salt
1 tsp. vanilla

Beat ingredients well—frosting will still be crumby until liquid is added. Divide in half. To one half, add

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

and beat till fluffy. To the other, add

2-4 Tbsp. whipping cream
½ cup coconut

and beat.

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Frost the underside of one cookie and stick it to another—making some sandwiches with coconut buttercream and some with lemon. Place cookies in an airtight container and leave alone for a day to soften, so the filling does not squeeze out when you eat them… if you can wait that long [wink].

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Then… enjoy.

And that’s all the news from the Zooks for the year!

Merry Christmas, folks. See you in January!

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