Monday, February 28, 2011

No Bake, 'instant' Frosted Cookie Project

I don't know about anyone else but this weary Nana always seems to have much more inspiration from the couch, late at night after the last 'whew!' of the day. During my pre-sleep stupor I somehow imagine all of the energy and time I will miraculously have 'tomorrow'. When tomorrow doesn't deliver, I get down on myself for being a slacker and the cycle continues as I promise that the next 'tomorrow' will reap many productive hours. As a way to assuage the guilt and actually make good on these late night promises to myself, I sometimes 'invent' shortcuts that make a project doable.

Keeping in mind how much fun I had when making my cookie bouquet I resolved to make this a craft with the kids...but I lack the time and patience for an all out, full blown batch. So here is the guilt-free, quickie Nana version:

  • Animal Crackers - I buy a gallon-sized container from Sams (they store forever)
  • Sugar cookie frosting recipe
  • Sprinkles
  • Paper plates
  • Spoons
  • Dole out a few cookies per child and place on paper plate
  • Make frosting and flavor (we used lemon juice)
  • Tint to favorite color (the princesses like pink)
  • Place bowl of frosting between kids and give each child a spoon.
  • They can drizzle or spread, depending on ability (I worked with a 2 and 4 year old)
  • Place sprinkles into a small cup and allow children to pinch a bit and sprinkle or pour.
  • Voila', you now have frosted cookies
  • Let them stand until frosting hardens.
  • Use as bargaining tool throughout the day ;-)

Although this condensed version lacks the panache of the adult
variety, the kids are happy and think that they are just as tasty. If you've ever noticed, kids seem to like the taste of anything that they have helped to 'create'.

No baking, minimal mess and happy campers all around!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Spring always finds me musing about new beginnings and starting over. We've suffered through the cold and tried to make the best out of the short, dark days of Winter by casting a positive eye at the beauty of the snow as it affords a pristine white powdery covering for the otherwise dreary earth. The mind numbing hibernation phase we abhor is being overtaken by an exciting tension in the air...even the wind whistling around the eaves of the house can't quell the optimism blowing around like so much confetti.

As a gardener, my first foray outdoors is always in the direction of the flower beds. These beds that are covered by fall leaves, when brushed aside, give us a glimpse of chartreuse new growth swelling from the powdery earth. The decay of old plant matter has enriched the soil and made it even more hospitable to the tender shoots straining for a fleeting glimpse of the February sun.

So, too, it is with life. We go through dark times when all is dreary and forsaken. These are times when we fall from grace and simply rely on our instinctive drive to survive. Sometimes we just don't like our lives and don't find much gratitude in our weary souls but occasionally a friend or loved one enters into the darkness and gives us a pristine new perspective. These 'angels among us' remind us of the optimism that should be ever-present in our souls. This too shall pass, as they say.

Those of us who are fortunate enough to call a family member, friend, have a double helping of joy. That's how it was with Mom. Sure, we were mother and daughter, but there was so much more. We had evolved beyond the parent and child state and had traversed the treacherous waters of adolescence and had landed on the solid, rich soil of friendship. My brother, Michael, was her youngest child and was only 5 years older than our oldest child, Rowan. So we attacked life with the joy of companionship and mutual interests. Gardening was one of those interests and together we learned through trial and error. We established a hard and fast partnership in beautifying our surroundings and spent all year 'round looking for the green spring buds of life.

After Mom died too early, at 58 years old, my joy went dormant. Gardening held no charm for me, only a somber reminder of who it was I missed. This Winter in my soul lasted for 5 years or so. I raised my family, sometimes on autopilot, but I could never quite approach 'our' pastime. Time is the ultimate healer, however, and with the love of a devoted husband and children I began my rebirth...the new Springtime of my soul.

I still think of Mom with every spadeful of dirt, every blossom and shiny leaf but now it's with a fond remembrance. I see her in the bright, shining stars late on a clear summery night and I envision her smile at the things I've learned since she's been gone. The one thing that she has left me with is the warm knowledge that your loved ones are with you forever...sometimes you just don't see them in bodily form.

Now I have my own mother/daughter bond and life marches on. Erika, our daughter has developed into quite the friend and I take great pride in that...because it is a priceless blessing to have such a bond.

The last words Mom said to me right before she died were, 'now you're me'...I take this to heart and as the greatest compliment. As the oldest female of my family I now enjoy the continuation of the legacy which started years before me. Mom was but a lovely link in this priceless chain we call family. Hold your mothers tight and hug your daughters daily.

Life and love - they are precious gifts from God to be enjoyed and nurtured!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Let's get Creative with Cookies

Our grandson, Simon, was born on Valentine's Day and in keeping with our family tradition a themed party was in order.

For this special occasion, I decided that my offering would be a cookie bouquet.

I had just recently heard about this creative new way to combine a bit of artistic skill with cooking and it seemed like a perfect match.


  • Use your favorite sugar cookie recipe to create dough.
  • Refrigerate for at least an hour - I prefer overnight.
  • Roll out dough on parchment paper to a thickness between 1/4 - 1/2''. I experimented and found that it's really not structurally necessary to go extremely thick, so just use your preference.
  • After cutting your cookies in the desired shapes, insert a wooden skewer all of the way through the height of the cookie, making sure that your skewer is thoroughly covered with dough.
  • Try to keep cookies as flat as possible and don't pick up using the 'stem'.
  • Bake at the time and temperature recommended by your recipe and allow to cool thoroughly before moving.

  • Make your favorite recipe of sugar cookie frosting and tint using food coloring liquid or gel.
  • Decorate your cookies after they have thoroughly cooled.

TIPS: if your frosting is runny you can let it drip over the sides creating a 'dipped' effect. To solidify your frosting simply add confectioners sugar until the desired consistency is achieved. As long as you are careful you can add different colors to the cookie instead drying between colors. For best results, let frosting dry overnight before assembly.


Using a flower vase and a packing material (I used clear glass marbles) arrange your cookie 'flowers'. I found that adding a few flowers at a time and then partially filling vase worked best. This will also allow for multi-level arrang
ing. When your 'bouquet' is arranged to your satisfaction, pour in the remaining marbles nearly to the top.

VoilĂ ! Your Cookie Flower Bouquet is complete for display AND eating...beautiful and tasty!


For the car cookies I drew a car on a piece of cardboard and cut it out. Then I laid it on the cookie dough and used a knife to cut out my shape by tracing alongside the cardboard.

I used Simon's favorite color - yellow - for most of the cars but made a few green and red ones as well.

For the lug nuts I used round cookie sprinkles and I put some white frosting into a ziplock sandwich baggy, snipped off a tiny portion of the corner and used this as my 'piping bag'.

Friday, February 11, 2011

I Want to be Me: no more, no less

As the oldest of 6 children, I grew up in a happy, rambunctious German family…the Waltons, our friends would say, had nothing on us. Our mother, however, always sought balance in our lives…keeping us grounded. Even my earliest memories contained snippets of my mother's cautions to us, her children. It was never 'if' she got cancer, it was always 'when'. In her loving, motherly way, she sought to blunt the blow even as she put the fear of God into us in morbid anticipation. After all her grandmother died at an early age and her own mother died at 42 - both of breast/female cancer.

Time is short. Live well. Love deeply. Have faith, but as she would say, 'be realistic', even as I called her pessimistic.

Sadly her admonitions turned into reality and we watched Mom struggle for 5 years as she gallantly sought to win the fight. Mom in her 'realist' mode made the decision to have a radical mastectomy and bravely decided to forgo reconstruction. This was a decision she would later regret because, as bad as cancer is, not being 'you' makes it even worse. I don't think she ever considered that we have two breasts because, for the most part, our bodies are symmetrical. Remove one and your balance is off - forever. You have to dress discreetly because the CAVE left by the removal of a breast is not's deep...and wide. Even with prosthesis, she struggled daily for lack of balance, lack of 'normal' and a terrifying visual reminder of her battle.

And even so, the formidable enemy was not willing to succumb to surgery and chemo and prayers and hopes. After 5 years of brave struggle and heroic effort, Marie-Luise Annerose Suzanne Fingerhut Rumohr Atherton was laid to rest after dying in her own bed surrounded by family saying the Rosary. She was only 58. The race had been run and she crossed the finish line Home!

The years went by and one day, at age 48, my number was up...the lump in MY breast was cancer and so my journey began. I had learned a bit, though, watching Mom: spending nights with her when she couldn't be alone, going on the endless series of doctors visits this disease demands and always learning - holding it close to my heart. Now it was my turn.

My first reaction was flight. Run for the hills. Surrender to the beast because I 'knew' how this would end. Why would I have chemo and suffer the side effects? Why should I prolong the inevitable? Why shouldn’t I just wave the white flag of defeat and end this thing quickly?

My family was adamant but I persisted and sank into the darkest of nights in my heart and soul. I never asked 'why'. I never lost Faith in God. I just didn't want to fight.

And then a voice of reason, stronger than the pleading of my family rose through the darkness...a priest, who told me that I was morally obligated to fight, that must do all I can - for the sake of those who love me. He won me over. He gave me the armor I needed. He even sent me in the right direction...MD Anderson Cancer Center. That night I spent a bit of time before the Blessed Sacrament and my burden was lifted. I felt freer than I had since the verdict came down and I knew what I had to do.

The wonder of this circle of life is that you take something with you from every experience. Having been intimately involved in Mom's journey, I had pondered and I had learned. So when it was my turn, I stepped into the arena with guns blazing. Lump in one breast? Take it...and while you're at it, take the other as well! Why take a chance on a recurrence? If you're going to play the game you might as well give it your all.

But I'd learned something else as well. I had learned that state of mind is a powerful thing. Attitude DOES matter! I was fully on board for a complete recovery and for taking back my life. I wanted to feel like ‘me’ more, no less.

It was also clear that I had come to the right place. MD Anderson knows that they are dealing with the whole person...not just 'parts'. They are there with options and answers for physical, mental, and spiritual healing. They will help you become 'you' again.

Cancer leaves scars both physical and mental. The most complete way to heal is to address both. You can go through chemo and surgery and follow-up appointments for the rest of your life but you will never again be an 'innocent'...your Garden of Eden has been invaded and you have been laid bare. The most obvious and accepted healing is the physical. You do away with the cancer and try your best to insure that it will not return but you are scarred emotionally. You'll always be a cancer victim. That's why it is vital to acknowledge that when a woman chooses to have reconstruction, it’s not about vanity…it’s about wanting to be as ‘whole’ as she can.

My route was long and tough. My doctors and I chose a free tram flap using belly fat to ‘create’ new breasts with my own tissue. If this procedure is successful you have your own tissue, which grows and shrinks with your body weight, and is very natural. The other options include a silicone implant or a combination of implant and tram. For once, being overweight was an advantage because I had PLENTY of belly fat/muscle to build two new ‘breasts’. An added benefit was that the belly fat from my lower abdomen would be gone for good.

In my fear and to lighten the mood, I referred to this as a combo ‘boob job and tummy tuck’. These were brave words, spoken in the face of fear and not a true representation of how a breast cancer victim actually sees this procedure. I was the little mouse, flipping off the eagle, even as those killing talons were inches away. It was a weak attempt at finding the silver lining and yet…

Sadly there were those who would begrudge someone who is fighting for their life. As someone who was trying to add

levity to a situation so grim that the outcome was unknown, this was unbearable. To allow for a 16 HOUR surgery to remove all cancerous tissue, lymph nodes and cells, was a powerful leap of faith. It was certainly not a play at vanity. The cut of cancer went deep but the unkindest cut was the realization that some people would somehow find fault with someone over something that they don’t have the vaguest idea about. Who would begrudge me a chance at my new ‘normal’?

Why would you tell someone fighting for their life that they were being vain? You should know this anti-makeup, natural Nana much better than that by now! Not to understand this was utterly heartless and cruel. All I wanted, all any cancer victim wants, was to be ‘me’ again…no more, no less.

Please, in your charity, at least allow me the dignity of that!

Note: now that 29 year old daughter, Erika, is the fifth generation (as far as we can trace), spare her your unjust judgment. She, too, only wants to be herself more, no less!

So on February 17, 2011 she will, once again, go ‘under the knife’. For someone who is feeling well to submit to surgery – and the necessary recovery process – seems like an act of insanity. Unless…you can find it in your heart to understand the human drive to be ‘me’…no more, no less.

God bless you, honey, as you continue the path…

Loving Father, I entrust myself to your care this day; guide with wisdom and skill the minds and hands of the medical people who minister in your Name, and grant that every cause of illness be removed, I may be restored to soundness of health and learn to live in more perfect harmony with you and with those around me. Through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Into your hands, I commend my body and my soul. Amen.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Creative Spy Work

I'm a spy...yes, you read that correctly. As a part of my pro-life 'vocation' I go into stealth mode and comment/post on sites that are pro-abortion. It's tricky business and if you're not careful you will soon be spotted and blocked. I got this idea from my daughter, Erika, who saw the suggestion on the wall of one of the pro-life organizations we follow.

The pro-life movement is in my see, I was in high school when the infamous Roe vs. Wade decision was being debated. As a part of one of my classes this topic was suggested by the teacher and I leaped at the chance to defend life. Maybe my personal history had something to do with the fervor of my enthusiasm but that's a story for another day. The point is, that once I did the research - being the over achiever that I am - I was hooked on the topic. Not only did I win the debate, I began to write Letters to the Editor in our local newspaper. Surprisingly this led to even more immersion into the pro-life arena.

Rick and I married while I was still in high school (at the tender ages of 18 and 17). I completed my college degree and walked the stage with our 1 year old son watching from his father's arms. The next few years were spent having more babies and being a young family.

Then in 1993 the impact of all of those letters in the paper came to fruition. I walked into the local Right to Life office, on a whim, to suggest something about bumper stickers. When I walked out, I had been offered a job as their very first Executive Director! My mother had just been diagnosed with a terminal recurrence of breast cancer and I was hesitant that this was the right time for such a demanding job...going from stay-at-home mom to pro-life advocate.

My mother, in her wisdom and charity said to me, ''honey, take the job, it's important. I don't want to give you up but for this I will!''.

So I took the job and still managed to be with Mom daily as she spent her final days on this earth over the next few months. I was touched by the kindness shown to me by these pro-life folks, all of whom I had just met, when they drove 30 miles to attend my mother's funeral - even sharing words of comfort at the wake.

The next several years were spent indoctrinating my children to be pro-life citizens as well. By the time he was 3, Mark could identify political yard signs for those who 'like babies' and those who 'don't like babies'. Erika and Rowan made posters and stood in witness for life. We attended protests, rallies, banquets, and political events. This was our shared family hobby!

As the years passed by, I stepped down from the Executive Director position but my zeal never wavered. When I homeschooled our youngest, I was the instigator of many a last minute rally or protest.

Husbands deadpanned, ''so where are you going to protest today'', when I called their wives.

Other homeschooled kids laughed with glee when their moms would begin those spirited phone calls for our unofficial phone tree.

We once protested an event, held at a Catholic parish hall, for a pro-abortion candidate and managed to have 60 - 70 in attendance including their Parish Priest! This happened in a matter of three hours from the time I noticed the article in the paper! That day, we had the opportunity to speak with a young girl, straight out of Catholic school, who didn't know that her religion prohibits abortion for any reason. She didn't want to listen at first, but with our Catechism in hand and some gentle conversation, we hoped we had made a difference - her uncle was the candidate!

I've languished for a while now. Right before I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I stepped down from my second term as Executive Director of Right to Life of Owensboro. When cancer comes into your life, everything else (except Faith) takes a back the past 5 years have been spent in surgery, chemo, and mental/physical healing. Then came the grandbabies and I dove in, head-first, into being their daytime caregiver (all 5 of them) while their parents worked.

Now the new evangelization has found it's way into my life and Facebook is my medium of choice. I am able to 'go out in the trenches' and do pro-life work from my desk. As moderator of two pro-life organizations' fan pages, I am able to touch many lives with valuable, life-affirming information. Events can be planned and organized. The many fans of Right to Life of Owensboro and hopefully soon the Gospel of Life Committee - Owensboro Diocese, are willing partners in spreading the pro-life news.

There's another aspect, that I've discovered lately. Going to where the pro-abortion people converse and insinuating myself just enough to gain a hearing occasionally. It's a dirty business sometimes and it's not for the feint of heart but it's something that is second nature to me. I still love to debate and my age has seasoned me from being a caustic and sarcastic know-it-all to a more tempered albeit sometimes feverish conversationalist.

My latest foray is to the pages of Planned Parenthood. Taking an online suggestion and running with it, I have 'liked' the Planned Parenthood fan page on Facebook! For the past few days I have been having conversations with rabidly pro-abortion women and men. They have called me names and questioned my intelligence and facts but some have also, surprisingly, come to my defense.

The post that has gained the most support is about how our 28 year old daughter, 20 weeks into pregnancy, was diagnosed with breast cancer. MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX came onto our radar since it was the institution to which I went after my diagnosis. The good news is that she was able to undergo chemotherapy while maintaining her pregnancy even though no local doctors where even vaguely aware of this option.

I know that at least one woman was touched by my post and she bravely went against popular opinion (many times) to defend my right to be on the Planned Parenthood wall. She had experienced cancer in her family and knew how devastating it can be. I also think that she recognized the value of what I was posting.

My proudest moment was when she said, ''I'm going to save the link you posted, Birgit. Cancer occurs much more frequently now in younger generations than it used to. Your link can (and probably has) definitely come in handy and (will) provide hope for a number of women (and men). :)

The above is my sole 'success story' in my spy mode, but just as we, in the pro-life movement, seldom have the chance to meet that babies we've saved...we also don't see the pro-life seeds we may have planted. That's where Faith comes in, and I have all of the faith in the world that I'm doing a corporal work of mercy. There may someday be a baby out there whose mother was touched by something said on a Planned Parenthood site. That thought is what keeps Hope alive!

''“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” -- Jeremiah 1:5