Category Archives: Holidays

Encouragement We Need This Mother’s Day Week…

Friends!  Blessings to you this Mother’s Day Week!  Whether you’re a Mom, or an Aunt, or a Grandmother, or a Mother-like-neighbor, I pray we’ll all be encouraged this week not only for ourselves, but so we may in turn encourage the precious Moms who are in our lives.

Many of us know Mothering is no piece of cake.  It’s the most rewarding experience we can have, and yet it’s one of the most difficult jobs we’ll ever hold. (As in it never ends.  Case in point:  My sweet Mother-in-love, who’s a mere eighty-six years old, is found often worrying about one of her sixty-something daughters who’s battling Parkinson’s.)

I nearly fell out of my chair this morning (for many reasons you’ll soon see) as I was reading a devotional by my good buddy, Debora Coty.  I’ve written about this book before, Too Blessed to Be Stressed—Inspiration for Every Day—365 Devotions for Women, but this particular entry is well worth sharing.  First, here’s the book:

Second, let’s have some fun and encouragement together thanks to Debora’s entry on May 8th, Surviving the Hood.  (“Hood”, of course, referring to Motherhood.   LOL.)

Debora believes our reward awaiting us in Heaven will be “something akin to a twenty-four-year deluxe spa treatment with a Godiva smorgasbord.” I knew as soon as I read that I was all in on this day’s devotion.

Debora dubs her friends who are moms “mom-sisters.”  Let’s just see how some of their quotes affect you:

  • “Giving birth to a child is the beginning of a long good-bye.” (Debora’s friend, Sarah) This is killer.  Don’t even broach this subject with me as our family has just been blessed with our first grandchild…
  • “If you wouldn’t want someone calling you poopy-face, don’t call anyone else poopy-face.” (Deborah’s friend Debbie explaining Matthew 7:12, a/k/a The Golden Rule, to her twins.) This is grand “toddler speak.”

  • “I’m a parenting survivor!” (Deborah’s friend Carol at her son’s high school graduation.) This is brilliant  and empowering given the popularity of Survivor on TV. Yes! Let’s say that together, “I am a survivor!”…

Take a moment to pour over these little numbers.  I still can’t believe this:

  • “Think you’re busy? According to Guinness World Records, the greatest number of children born to one mother is sixty-nine children (an 18th century Russian peasant)…

She had twenty-seven pregnancies:

 16 sets of twins,

7 sets of triplets, and

4  sets of quads.

 I’m betting her tombstone said, ‘Rest in Peace. Finally.’”  I know.  Mercy sakes’ alive…

And, I love this…Here’s what happens when your kids finally get a glimpse of what you’ve been thru’:

  • “When my friend Eddie asked her son, married one year, when he planned to have kids, he answered, ‘I’m not ready to share my fries like you always did, Mom.’” I confess I didn’t always want to share my fries or cookies or…

Finally Debora leaves us a jewel of a Scripture to encourage us to “continue to diligently pray for our children and grandchildren”:

If you’d like to learn more about Debora’s devotional, here’s the link to my recent review.  All of Debora’s books are wonderful with her hysterical humor and heartfelt devotion to our Lord, whom she calls “Papa God.” Checkout her website:

Happy Mother’s Day!  And many thanks to my dear Floridian friend and mentor, Debora Coty, who continues to bless me every day.

Next week you’re in for another treat with some astonishing stories proving God pursues us even as young children…

‘Til next time!

P.S. It’s our distinct, overwhelming pleasure to announce the birth of our first grandchild, Claire Elizabeth Hoagland.  Born May 9th at 9:17 a.m.  Mamma Diana, Papa John Jr.  and Baby Claire are well. Huge answer to prayer! We praise you, Lord.  Claire weighed 7 lbs., 15 oz., and is 20 inches long. Here we go on our new adventure!!! Needless to say we’re ALL smitten. =)

Here is the girls’ side of the table at Our Last Supper before Baby Claire’s arrival. Left to right:  Yours truly, LT, Lauren, and Diana (9+ mos. pregnant!) This was at one of our favorite hangouts, Noosh Nosh.


Here are the new proud parents, Diana and John Jr with Baby Claire.

Have you ever seen any bigger ear-to-ear grins on new grandparents?  We hope to be called Lolly and Poppy, but I’m told whatever the grand darlin’s call us is what we’re called.  So be it for the little angel.

Here, unbelievably, are our three grown sons with Claire.  Left to right, Proud new father John Jr., Uncle Woody in the center with Claire, and Uncle Gordy (maybe Uncle “G”) on the right.

Amen and Amen.



Filed under Book Reviews, Holidays, Scripture

Let’s Prepare Our Hearts for Easter With Help from Liz Curtis Higgs and Her New Book: The Women of Easter—Encounter the Savior with Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth, and Mary Magdalene

Friends!  Greetings this lovely Lenten Season!

I confess I haven’t proclaimed what I’m giving up yet even tho’ Ash Wednesday was March 1st…usually it’s chocolate and I manage to fail at keeping the promise.  Deep, I know…

My freshman year of college I gave up the elevator and walked the four flights of stairs to my room.  Deeper…

I love what my friend, Nancy Sleeth from , suggests:

Consider what you might ADD during this season to draw closer to God?”

Nancy offers the following ideas:

All  great ideas, thanks Nancy!

I have another stellar idea for you that our Tuesday Bible study group, a/k/a “Blessings on Burlington” is about to embark on to help us appreciate Easter more.  We’ll be reading Liz Curtis Higgs’ newest book, The Women of Easter—Encounter the Savior with Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth, and Mary Magdalene.

Before I even opened the book, I need to own up to the fact I wasn’t certain who all these Marys were.  Once I dove in, I realized “Mary of Bethany” is none other than the chill-child-Mary vs. the nervous-Nellie-Martha…you know, that Mary and Martha duo.

How many times have we all said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things…” (Luke 10:41) Liz calls Martha the “first century Martha Stewart”. She kills me.

Mary of Nazareth was Jesus’ Mother and Mary Magdalene was the demon-possessed woman who Jesus healed and who became a devout follower of our Lord.  The numerous details Liz reveals within each chapter on these Marys is fascinating.

Liz tells us readers, “We’ll meet three women of Easter who poured our their lives for their beloved Teacher. .. Mary of Bethany prepared the Lord for burial by anointing Him with a priceless perfume. Mary of Nazareth, who’d watched Jesus draw His first breath, bravely watched Him breathe His last. Mary Magdalene witnessed His resurrection and proclaimed the good news to His disciples.”

Liz walks us thru’ several parts of the Bible, teaching us along the way via various translations, making us feel as if we’re right in every scene.  When Jesus raises Lazarus from the grave, you experience not only His affection for Lazarus, but the palpable grief from the sisters, Mary and Martha.

She explains what’s happening in certain passages, drawing a teaching point for us to think about, showing us how we can apply it to our life.  She also builds the tension toward what we know is coming:  the crucifixion…

Blissfully dotting the pages with her humor, we readers find this to be a relief from some of the very tough subject matter.  For example, when Liz is talking about the disciples deserting Jesus and fleeing (Matthew 26:56), she says, “It’s heartening to realize that Scripture has no parallel stories of women betraying Jesus, denying Jesus, or abandoning Jesus.”

Frederick Dale Bruner said, “They’re not like the disciple-defectors.” (!!!) Lizzie calls Jesus’ female followers “loyal from start to finish.”

Good luck getting thru’ Chapter Seven without hunting down a Kleenex or two, or ten.  Liz’ description of what Jesus endured as well as the women looking on will take your breath away.

Liz reminds us, “Lent is a time of remembering, of revisiting the familiar scenes in Scripture and discovering what God wants us to learn this year. We are not the same women we were twelve months ago. Our lives have changed and our perspectives have shifted. …His love for us has not changed, and our need for Him has not diminished.”

May we STOP… and consider what we’ve learned this past year as we refocus on the cross and the miraculous resurrection this Easter.  Liz’ book is akin to a guided tour toward the cross…and yet, praises we sing,  with an empowering ending.  Let’s celebrate!


If you live anywhere near Louisville and are nearby next Wednesday, March 22nd, don’t miss the opportunity to hear Liz speak at St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church at 6:00 p.m.  She’s one of their Lenten Series speakers and will be talking about this excellent book. She’s the third of five speakers each Wednesday before Easter. For more information, visit

‘Til next time!


Filed under Book Clubs, Book Reviews, Holidays

New Gig in Town: CYCLE BAR, Will Transform You in 5+ Ways…(Part 2 of 4 on Fitness)

Friends! Happy Valentine’s Week!

Hope you’re parked by a chunk of chocolate…

Chocolate candies heart

Wait ‘til you hear about a new exercise option we Louisvillians have. Before you say, “Not interested”, please allow me to present my case…  Because trust me, if I can do this anybody can do this.

As if last December could be any busier with all the Christmas shoppers wreaking havoc on the road, our kids excitedly discovered a new cycling/spinning class that just opened.  It’s name? CycleBar. (It’s near Trader Joe’s in the Shelbyville Road Plaza.)

The plot thickened when these same kiddos told us for the first two weeks CycleBar was open, classes were free. They jumped at the opportunity.  One by one, they began telling us how much they liked the classes…

Didn’t take long for Hubster (my better half) to try a class. He’s an avid cyclist while I practically still need training wheels. Honestly, the more he told me about it, how you get  to have your name up on the board and see how you compare with the rest of the class (gulp), I quickly blurted out, “This is not for me.”

Half a second later, he said, “Well, you may want to retract that statement as I believe some certain Santa may have purchased a package of classes for you for Christmas.” Alrighty then.

Off we went. (By the way, you do not have to have your name up on the board if you don’t want to.  Hallelujah. You’ll receive an email immediately after class with your stats.)

Upon arrival, CycleBar’s gracious staff greeted us. One gal made sure I could find my shoes (They provide them for you if you don’t have any as everyone must clip in), helped us sign in, etc.  There are lockers for your belongings, huge water bottles you can fill, and lovely, clean, fluffy towels awaiting you on your bike.

Riders of all ages, shapes, and sizes attend. Check your pride and insecurity at the door: Judgment is non-existent. A huge plus!


If you need help adjusting your bike or clipping in, the staff and/or the class’ teacher is happy to help. Being pampered is just another benefit.

I’m generally not a fan of group exercise, but, our kids, and now John, reassured me the classroom, a/k/a CycleTheater containing fifty bikes, is nice and cool and dark. Only YOU can see your bike’s screen with your time, your speed, your gear, and “IT IS YOUR OWN RIDE” as the teachers reiterate.

What’s so awesome about this little fact is I can happily tool along next to John while his bike is practically smokin’. He usually doubles my miles, but who cares? We’re both getting a workout and it’s something we can do together. Had we been out on the street on bikes, he’d have long left me in the dust.

Before I share a few more benefits of this experience with you, I want to introduce you to my new friend, Katie Kanapell Ryser. Katie’s the Owner of CycleBar St. Matthews.


We grabbed a Starbucks last week as I was interested in learning how someone so young (she’s only 37 years old!) could pull off bringing such a huge endeavor to town. You’ll see it was no simple journey getting here either…

Clip in, ‘cuz we’re going for a ride….


Katie and her husband, Fred, lived in New York City for several years. They had their two children while living there who are now almost five (Freddie) and three (Carolina). Katie’s parents live here and are beyond thrilled they’ve moved to Louisville!

Before we got into how CycleBar came about, Katie candidly shared her past with me because she believes if it can help anyone else out there who’s struggling, all the better. She’s a beautiful vision of making her former misery her ministry.

Early into their marriage, Katie realized she was drinking too much. She needed help, and good news is, she got it.  Greater news is she’ll celebrate her seventh anniversary of sobriety in May. We praise you, Lord.

While in New York, Katie tried several spinning classes via Soul Cycle and Fly Wheel. Something led her to research spinning classes in Louisville should they move here. Nothing turned up like what she was looking for… She firmly believed we needed a high-end fitness class offering a strong cardio’ workout.

Further research helped her discover CycleBar, headquartered in Cincinnati. How Katie was able to get the rights to open one here, is nothing short of a miracle.  Katie is one determined young lady.

Happy to report she’ll be opening two more CycleBars in Louisville: Springhurst, opening after Labor Day this year, and one in the Highlands, opening next year. Here’s her St. Matthews’ boutique:


If you don’t live in Louisville and want to see if CycleBar is in your town or closeby, go to the main website, and click on “studios”.  Last I checked there are over one hundred and eleven locations.

Prior to opening in St. Matthews, thanks to friends and a boatload of networking, Katie interviewed over one hundred peopleShe was able to staff her store as well as hire eleven teachers.

She brought in a professional spin trainer for the teachers. These eleven brave souls were baptized by fire in a one-week boot camp for….nine hours a day. Gutsy!

John and I’ve met several of the teachers. They are all wonderful. One fun connection we have is with Jady Koch.  He not only teaches classes at CycleBar, he just so happens to be the lead pastor/rector at St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church, preaching powerful sermons.   (Sweet Sidebar:  Jady performed the marriage of our youngest son, Woody to his wife, LT.)

I’m convinced Jady must’ve loved the game King of the Hill growing up, because he takes us on forty-seven hills during our fifty-minute class. (Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration.)

Jady says he has a newfound appreciation for all the coaches and fitness teachers he’s had in the past, never realizing how much advance work goes into coordinating a class.  He said “Teaching has been a great way to meet a cross section of the community and a wonderful way to encourage people in their (our) daily quest for a healthy and fun lifestyle.”



Here’s a pic of my Valentine with Jady before class…as in no sweat yet!

Another teacher we’ve enjoyed getting to know is Paige. We’ve taken her early class a couple of times.  Last time her husband was in there with us, as her student.  He’s from Germany and they met at Southern Seminary where they’re students.  They’ve been married for a year.  Don’t you love a love story?  Hey, it’s Valentine’s Week!

One addition to the cycling part of class is each bike has a weighted bar across the top. A little over halfway thru’ the class, the teacher will show you how to lift it, working all the muscles in your arms as well as your core.  While the bars are only four or six pounds (I hear there are eight pounders coming soon), with enough reps, they feel more like four hundred pounds!

Finally, here are just a few more benefits to encourage you to give this a try:

5+ Benefits of Spinning/Cycling:

1 – The Bible tells us we’re to take care of our bodies. Exercise is an excellent way to do that.



2- Believe it or not, sweating is a benefit, because it’s so cleansing for your body to get rid of all those impurities, detoxifying you during your workout.

When you try a class (and I know you will!), you may wish to tote along an extra shirt because the one you ride in becomes a bit damp. We take the euphemism, “Horses Sweat, Men Perspire, But Women Merely Glow” to a whole new level. (Showers are also available if you’re going to work or to another function from there.)

3 –A cardio’ workout of this caliber will kick your metabolism into gear. (Translation:  potential weight loss!) It also strengthens your heart, your lungs, and increases your bone density, hugely beneficial for all ages.

Katie tells me there’s a guy who’s been coming to CycleBar who’s lost forty pounds and is determined to lose sixty more for a total of 100 pounds! He keeps her updated weekly. Amazing!

4 – Fellow cyclists report having more energy, and less stress, improving their mental disposition. 

Recently two co-workers whose department was undergoing an inordinate amount of stress randomly showed up in the same noon-time CycleBar class.   When they saw each other, they burst out laughing, knowing they were both there for the exact same reason…to de-stress.

Another gal who’s been attending CycleBar classes has a condition that leaves her exhausted and often depressed. After taking several classes, she’s lost fifteen pounds, feels amazingly better, and her depression is gone.  Wonderful!

5 – Spinning inside is SAFE.  It keeps you off the road.

John and I have several friends who’ve had terrible bicycle accidents. Some, more than once.  We live near River Road and my worry-meter rises significantly when John takes off from our house on his bike. Like I said earlier, the fact that we can ride together, inside at Cycle Bar is yet another benefit.

The music the teachers select is another fun facet to CycleBar, offering a wide variety of songs and styles.  Occasionally the teacher will ask you to bend down or press down on the handlebars to the beat of the music, while riding.  (Here’s where I could be Steve Martin’s understudy in The Jerk.)  Oh, but it’s FUN!

Beyond enduring technical issues, and an occasional maintenance issue with the bikes, Katie said they’re coming up for air on the learning curve. Her attention to detail and passion for the product is what makes it function so well.

CycleBar further spoils its’ customers by always having fresh bananas and oranges for you after class, gum to grab on the go before or after class, and lip balm…come on now!


CycleBar is always offering specials.  They now allow couples to share packages which John and I are doing as are our oldest son, John Jr. with his wife, Diana. (They were the two elves who gave us the packages for Christmas.)

Here’s what’s available right now:


Why don’t you and your Valentine or friend or co-worker try a class? CycleBar offers several classes per day with Intro’ classes for beginners.  Checkout their website:

Y’all keep Katie, and her sweet family, and this new business-for-fitness in your prayers.

You’ll be thrilled to know next week we have a break from fitness to talk about Book Club, followed by part 3 of our 4 fitness landing us on the back of… a Harley. Huh?

‘Til next time!

FYI: Don’t miss Ken Davis’ must-read, Fully Alive. It’s for anyone considering a fitness/lifestyle change.  He takes you along his highly intense journey and amazing transformation.  You will laugh and cry ‘til you’ve bruised a rib. Here’s the link for more information.

Fully Alive


Filed under Friends, Holidays, Life Lessons

To Exercise, or Make Fudge? (Two Fun Ideas with Favorite Things for You and Your Friends)

Friends!  Happy New Year!  Are we really in the year 2017?

Happy to report we will not be discussing New Year’s Resolutions this week because research shows those of us who make ‘em, break ‘em.  Just sayin’….

New Year's Resolutions

This week I’m sharing a new recipe which turned out to be a stellar experiment.  I also have an idea I received from a fabulous party I attended.  You may wish to try these with your friends next Christmas, or sooner!

First, the recipe discovery is for Million Dollar Fudge.  It’s easy, it’s delicious, and while you may be irked at my timing, once you taste it, you’ll thank me, trust me. (Recipe’s at the end of this post.)

Secondly, watch how the other idea transpired:  My Spiritual Mom, Lynn Reece, invited all of our Wednesday Bible study gals to her home for a Christmas Brunch. (100% of us refer to her as our Spiritual Mom.) While Lynn was making most of the meal, she did let some of us bring a few goodies.

This group is a beautiful picture of Hebrews 10:25, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (NLT)


The week before Lynn’s Brunch, she and our other fearless leader, Jane Chilton, attended a cookie exchange where one of the gals brought Million Dollar Fudge.  We all met for lunch the next day while Lynn and Jane rattled on and on and on about this fudge until I could stand it no longer.

“Okay,” I said.  “I think we need some of that fudge to complete our Brunch next week.  I’ll hunt for a recipe, make it, and bring it.”  That was that.

Visions of huge storefront windows revealing expert chefs making fudge, rolling it out onto tables,  floated thru’ my head.  Think  small-town charm, accompanied by delectable aromas wafting thru’ the streets.  I never pass those stores up without marching inside and buying a slice to sometimes share with Hubster.


Once googling Million Dollar Fudge began, I landed on a recipe  from  Per usual, the day evaporated and Hubster would soon be home to pick me up to go to a Christmas party.  I either had to run upstairs for a quick workout, or dash into the kitchen and make the fudge so as not to be up too late the night before Lynn’s Brunch.

Plus, I didn’t want to disappoint my sisters who all really wanted to re-live the fudge experience.  You can guess the exercise flew right out the window and ooey gooey fudge began to appear in our kitchen.  (Scarlett told me there’s always tomorrow.)

Being a complete chocolate snob, I was elated and relieved to learn two kinds of super tasty chocolate are in this recipe:  bittersweet chocolate (I keep a huge container of Nestle’s Tollhouse chocolate chips in our pantry. Know you’re shocked.) and sweet German chocolate.


Arriving at Lynn’s our usual fifteen minutes late, our Bible study gals rushed in, covered dishes in hand. Gathering around the table, holding hands, Lynn led us in a chorus of O Come Let Us Adore Him to open our morning.

Our worship and fellowship looks like this:

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 34:8

Lynn’s  beautiful table, complete with linen tablecloth, china and silver, made our time together even sweeter.  Doris had fun with the cardinal napkin rings since we lovingly dole out UK and U of L jabs from time to time.  (They were playing each other that evening and well, we won’t discuss the outcome.)

We also belatedly celebrated Olivia’s birthday.  Translation:  Big birthday cake!  Another sure-fire reason we needed fudge to go with it.

Clearly 1 Corinthians 6:19 escaped our brains:  “Do you now know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own…”  (We claim the 80/20 rule which probably regresses to 50/50 at best during the holidays.)


Lynn started the ball rollin’ last year for a Favorite Things Party.  She gave all of us Scrub Daddies. This snowballed into all of us bringing our newest favorite things this year. All eight of us chose one of our favorite things, wrapped them, and presented them, one by one to each other.

The variety and the discoveries are priceless.  (Lynn suggested we limit the expense to $5-$10 dollars/item which some adhered to and some sorta/kinda did if one were grading on the curve.)


From left to right on the top row is: Doris Bridgeman, Gwen Paten, Lynn Reece, Olivia Kirtley, and Reggie Willinger.  Seated left to right is: Jane Chilton, Yours Truly, and Betsy Heady.

For your enjoyment and education, here’s what we received from each other this year:

For you straw lovers, we learned thanks to Doris’ gift, there’s a package of straight and bent stainless steel straws, complete with brushes to clean them.   Saves the environment and your pocketbook. (Amazon has several varieties.)


Lynn introduced us to a nifty gadget called The Eurosealer for anyone needing to seal their bag of chips, or crackers, or anything else you wish to keep fresh.  Once activated, a rolling ball heats up, meshing the two sides together.  Between the Scrub Daddy and this contraption, Hubster is in Gadget Heaven. (Both are available at )



Reggie gave each of us a Jude’s Miracle Cloth (available at Two Chicks, ) which is amazing on stainless steel appliances, car windows, mirrors, etc., plus it goes in the washing machine! Gwennie suggested cutting it in half, one for inside your house and one for inside your car.


Reggie topped her gifts with Modjeskas, a local treat no one can pass up. The history of this candy is fascinating.  Check it out via

Also from Two Chicks, Gwennie gave us Captain Rodney’s Private Reserve Scotch Bonnet Pepper Boucan Glaze:  “A Grilling and dipping sauce from the heart of the Caribbean”.  (Our boys go gaga over this because bacon is involved.)

Jane gave us a wonderful, ultra flexible, Mrs. Anderson’s Mini Serving Spatula, only one and a half inches in width that’s perfect for flipping brownies out of the pan or anything similar.  Much better than a regular-sized spatula and easy to find in your drawer, being red.


Betsy had a theme of a good night’s sleep going with her favorite things:  Lavender Bath Bombs to make us sleepy followed by a Rest and Renew satin pillow protector to keep our coifs at bay. (Available at Bed, Bath and Beyond.) Clever, Betsy!


We all agreed Betsy’s packages won the most creative and beautiful award plus she’d written an attribute for each of us along with a Scripture to expound on it on our gift tags.  She was spot on with each of us and we had trouble fitting our heads thru’ the door on the way out.

“A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!” Proverbs 15:23 (NIV)

Finally, Olivia and I chose books. (Surprised???) I gave my current favorite du jour:  31 Verses to Write on Your Heart by Liz Curtis Higgs.  My Tuesday Bible study group is reading this as a devotional, attempting to memorize a verse a week.  It’s wonderful regardless of how you use it.  You’ll learn fascinating things about each verse, thanks to Liz, which helps the reader understand it better, making it easier to remember.

31 Verses to Write on your Heart

Olivia’s choice is sitting here on my desk staring at me because I’m dying to dive in….soon.  She gave us French Women Don’t Get Fat—The Secret of Eating for Pleasure by Mireille Guiliano. (Is that some kind of title, or what?)


It appears to have loads of great info’ in non-diet fashion, as well as recipes, many of which contain chocolate.  (Hallelujah.) There’s even a chapter entitled, Bread and Chocolate. (My two very favorite things.)  My guess is you’ll hear more about this soon. Smile.

Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for:

Recipe for Million Dollar Fudge: (This makes two 9 x 9 pans, so you may want to cut it in half like I did.)

4 ½ cups white sugar
1 pinch of salt
2 tablespoons butter
1-12 oz. can evaporated milk
2 cups chopped nuts (I used pecans)
1-12 oz. package semisweet chocolate chips (I used Nestle’s Toll House chips)
12-1 oz. squares of German sweet chocolate (I used Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate Baking Bar.)
2 cups marshmallow crème

1 – Butter two 9 x 9 baking pans and set aside.
2  – Place chocolate chips, German chocolate, marshmallow crème, and nuts into a large mixing bowl.  Set aside.
3 – In a large saucepan, thrown in sugar, salt, butter, and evaporated milk, stirring over low heat ‘til sugar dissolves.  Bring to a boil, and cook for 6 minutes.
4 – Pour boiling syrup mixture over ingredients in the bowl, stirring ‘til all the chocolate is melted.  Pour into the prepared square pans.  Let stand a few hours before cutting (if you can stand it).  It literally melts in your mouth.

Furthermore, your friends and family will love you.

I pray you all have a Wonderful, Happy, Healthy 2017 and am excited to talk with you about a variety of books-n-topics in the New Year.

‘Til next time!


Filed under Friends, Holidays

What’s on Your Christmas Playlist? (With help from Alistair Begg)

Friends!  It’s Christmas Week!   I pray your heart is at peace, your mind is at rest and not in frenetic motion, and you’ve got a skip in your step.


If you’re saying, “Yeah, right.” I bring you good news along with some mighty fine tunes. Hang with me…

Few things help my mood more than music.  You? Our grown children talk about their playlists non-stop.  Little country here, little soul/dance-band-college-song there, sprinkled with a little worship music. (See their favorites at the end of this post.)

Hubster and I enjoy a little bit of everything.  We had friends over for dinner this week and he put on a “dinner party” tract, thanks to Pandora, that was perfect. Think Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, ahhhh.

Some mornings when I’m about half awake, I have three go-to worship songs which almost immediately transform my mood from “ho-hum” to “let’s go!” Give these a try when you have time:

#1 – We Will Feast in the House of Zion by Sandra McCracken

Here’s the chorus:

“We will feast in the house of Zion.  We will sing with our hearts restored.  He has done great things, we will say together, We will feast and weep no more.”

#2 – O Church Arise by Keith and Kristyn Getty

Favorite part:

“Come, see the cross, where love and mercy meet, as the Son of God is stricken; Then see His foes lie crushed beneath His feet, For the conqueror has risen! And as the stone is rolled away, And Christ emerges from the grave, This victory march continues till the day Ev’ry eye and heart shall see Him.”

#3 – In Christ Alone by Keith and Kristyn Getty

Two favorite stanzas slay me every time:

“In Christ alone my hope is found; He is my light, my strength, my song; This cornerstone, this solid ground, Firm through the fiercest drought and storm….My comforter, my all in all—Here in the love of Christ I stand.”

“There in the ground His body lay, Light of the world by darkness slain; Then bursting forth in glorious day, Up from the grave He rose again! And as He stands in victory, Sins’ curse has lost its grip on me; For I am His and He is mine—Bought with the precious blood of Christ.”

On the rare occasion when Nancy Aguiar and I are in the same room hearing the above song (usually sung by Travis Cottrell at a Beth Moore Conference), puddles of tears splash about our feet. We are undone, 100%.

So where does Alistair Begg figure into this equation?  Oh, I’m so glad you asked. Big smile.

Alistair has written a clever-while-petite Christmas book, perfect for one’s stocking:  Christmas Playlist – Four Songs that Bring You to the Heart of Christmas.  You could read it in an afternoon over a cup of coffee.  Or, you can savor it during this Christmas/winter season, and the next, and the next. (How cute is the cover?)


Alistair hails from Scotland.  If you’ve ever heard him on his radio program, Truth for Life (, you love his accent and his preaching like the rest of us.  Alistair pastors Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio.  He’s been there since 1983. ( )

He was recently on The Eric Metaxas Show which is how I learned about Christmas Playlist.  ( ) Hearing Eric attempt Alistair’s brogue is worth the effort above and beyond the program itself!  Alistair says Eric sounds like a very sick Mrs. Doubtfire.

Two very fun surprises from Christmas Playlist blessed me before I dove in:

First, Webb Simpson wrote the Foreword.  You golfers know him.  I had to call our resident golf expert, our middle son, Gordy, to find out about Webb. Gordy said, “Oh yeah, Mom.  I know him.  He’s a great golfer.  Won the U.S. Open in 2012.” Awesome.

Webb tells us, “This book is about eternity…Allistair takes us to the first Christmas and to what, or who, that first Christmas was truly all about—Jesus.  In Him, I’ve found a sense of fulfillment and peace that no number of major golf championships could ever bring me.”

Webb adds, “On the 17th hole of the final round of the 2012 U.S. Open, when I was…just a few shots from winning the golf tournament I’d dreamed of winning, I had a conversation with my caddie, Paul Tesori. We reminded each other that if we won that day, it would not make any difference to our sense of satisfaction, because we couldn’t take the trophy with us beyond this life anyway. There was a more important contest that would matter for all eternity, and the one who was born at that first Christmas had already won it for us.”


Second surprise will shock your socks off.  One of Alistair’s endorsers is Alice Cooper!  He says, “Connecting the Bible’s songs to modern songs makes this book come alive.”  (Checkout his Christian testimony)

Back to the book…Alistair’s Christmas Playlist walks us through:

Mary’s Song: What is God like?,
Zechariah’s Song:  Why do you need God?,
The Angel’s Song:  How did God come?, and
Simeon’s Song:  How did God do it? 

Alistair tell us these four songs of the first Christmas “were heard before, during and after the birth of the baby who lies at the heart of the real Christmas…This is a playlist that helps us to prepare for Christmas properly, and to celebrate Christmas joyfully.”

We readers journey through the Gospel of Luke in Chapters One and Two, plus Twenty-three and Twenty-four as Alistair points out the importance of the crucifixion and resurrection. He notes, “Luke’s Gospel finishes in a very similar place to where it began. We began with angels appearing, and we finish the same way. We began with an angel announcing the presence of life where it is, humanly-speaking, impossible—in the wombs of a woman who was infertile and a woman who was a virgin. We finish with angels announcing the presence of life in a tomb—the resurrection of a crucified criminal to eternal glory.”

In the conclusion, Alistair reminds us, “Christmas provokes a decision. At the first Christmas, Jesus came to you. Now you must decide:  Will you come to Him?”

Rick Warren said in a recent Daily Hope email, “We have a hard time missing Christmas as a cultural phenomenon, however we can miss the very point of Christmas.  Take the innkeeper for example.  Are you too busy with your work to make room for Jesus this Christmas?  Is your schedule, your plans, or your budget too tight to let Jesus in this Christmas?”

Let’s keep those questions in our hearts while we praise the Lord for another Christmas season…


I pray you and your family have a most Blessed Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year.  As we used to say on the last day of school before Christmas Break, “See you next year!”

P.S.  Wednesday, December 14th was a banner day in the Hoagland Household for two reasons:

First, it was the 33rd anniversary of Hubster proposing to me. We celebrate our engagement almost as much as our wedding date.

Secondly, we were blessed to attend “The Big Reveal Party”, hosted by our oldest son, John Jr.  and his lovely bride, Diana.  See the amazing-after-thirty-years-of-boys results below…

Merry Christmas from our family to yours:


Coming May 4, 2017, Lord willing:  Claire Elizabeth Hoagland

We’d covet your prayers for a healthy pregnancy and baby! (Pictured left to right:  Woody and LT, Hubster and Yours Truly, Diana, John Jr., Lauren and Gordy)

P.S. Again!  (Oh, you’re so glad I’m not blogging again until January…)

I polled our family for their favorite songs/genres/playlists FYI:

John Jr. says it’s a two-way tie between country music and audio books.

Diana says it’s a tie between country and Christian music.  She especially loves the group NeedtoBreathe.

Gordy’s current favorite song is the classic New York, New York by Frank Sinatra. (They just returned from a fun trip to the Big Apple this month.)

Lauren loves country and Christian music with her favorite artists being Lauren Daigle and Thomas Rhett.

Woody’s current fav is Love Me Now by John Legend.

LT loves the worship group Bethel along with John Mayer, Johnny Swim, and pop music.

Hubster parks mostly on country channels while I flip back and forth from Christian to jazz to classical to songs from our college days in the ‘80’s.

I cannot be still if Earth, Wind, and Fire are playing.

I maintain Phil Collins is one magically talented musician.

However, after seeing and hearing Nicole C. Mullen sing My Redeemer Lives in Nashville this summer, I’m a forever fan. Mercy.

Please comment and tell me your favorite artist, song, or genre?

‘Til next time!


Filed under Book Reviews, Friends, Holidays, Music

Calling All “Fixer Upper” Fans…(Make it a Merry “Magnolia Story” Christmas!)

Friends! Are we really in the month of December?  Translation: The countdown to Christmas has arrived. As of this writing, it’s early in December, however many folks have had the nerve to reveal they’re done with their Christmas shopping.

Herein lies the challenge to “rejoice with those who rejoice”…I fear I must be related to Scrooge. Very distantly, of course.


Good news is there are plenty of delightful distractions to detour one’s potentially foul mood. Bigger bonus: My cousin Bonnie, a/k/a Bow Creator Extraordinaire, has moved right up the street from us. I can magically appear in her foyer in three minutes, tops, begging for a bow. Smiling with relief while typing…

One of my favorite distractions is a wildly popular TV show, Fixer Upper, starring Chip and Joanna Gaines. Their new season has just begun, and there are plenty of other seasons to catch up on.  Just ask my friend, Val, who “caught up” on all of them while recovering from surgery. She’s newly hooked.

Before we talk about the show, surely you’ve seen the Gaines’ new book, The Magnolia Story. It landed lickety-split on the New York Times’ Bestseller List and hasn’t left.


Now that I’ve read it, I also learned Chip and Joanna recently recorded the audio version which would be a total hoot. The book uses two different fonts, helping us readers distinguish whether Chip or Joanna is the one writing. The audio version where one could actually hear them would be stellar.

Mark Dagostino is who helped Chip and Joanna write the book. He has completely captured their personalities. We can literally envision them bantering back and forth. While it’s their story, as in non-fiction, it’s quite the page-turner.

The book also takes us down memory lane via a large section of adorable pictures. You can see their childhood pics, wedding pics, and of course, Fixer Upper pics.

I learned of their show from one of our daughters-in-love, LT. She was wildly blessed by one of her friends last fall who invited her to go to Waco, Texas for the Grand Opening of the Magnolia Market at The Silos. (Silobration)


LT’s friend, Jamie Marshall Dorr, happened to register to win tickets to the Opening, never thinking she’d win. Lo and behold, she not only won, she won four tickets! Jamie took her sister, Randy, plus LT, and LT’s sister, Chelsea. We could hear them shouting many miles away they were so excited.

They got to go to the Grand Opening, attend a concert by Johnny Swim, meet Clint Harp, the fab furniture maker, and even spend some time with Chip and Joanna:


Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Left to right:  Joanna, Jamie, Randy, LT, Chelsea and Chip

And don’t miss the identical leather jackets Joanna and LT are sporting. (Thank you, Anthro’….)


In addition to learning how Chip and Joanna built their business (you’ll be stunned to learn at one point, they nearly went belly up financially), you’ll connect with a beautiful theme within the book: Their steadfast faith in God. They consistently give God the glory in their endeavors while never waivering in their faith or trust in Him, even in the hard times.

Being a huge fan of Billy Graham and his family, I was excited to learn Chip credits Billy Graham and Danny Lotz (Anne Graham’s husband) with leading him and his family to the Lord. His Mother attended a Billy Graham Crusade in 1975.  Her newfound faith trickled down to her children.

Later while attending college at Baylor, Chip met the Lotz’ children and got to spend time in their home.  He said Danny took an interest in him and mentored him, showing him what a relationship with Jesus Christ looked like. (This came from an article in Decision magazine this past May.)

Both Chip and Joanna are very candid in their book.  They reveal lessons they’ve learned which have the potential to open our eyes to our own foibles.

For example, one home Chip and Joanna bought was what they then considered their dream home. It was in a lovely area of Waco. Joanna worked her creativity to perfection. Problem was they had little bitty children who naturally made messes, leaving trails of who-knows-what behind.


Joanna said she was constantly fussing at them, straightening, picking up, forever exhausted and frustrated. Her “aha!” moment finally came when they moved to a much smaller home where she purposefully created fun, livable spaces for her kids to just be kids, spill milk, squish play-doh, etc.

She said, “If all I’m doing is creating beautiful spaces, I’m failing. But if I’m creating beautiful spaces where families are thriving, then I’m really doing something. Doing that became my new calling…It’s not just about pretty anymore. It’s about practical.” Stunned, she said, “I saw my family come alive in ways I’d never quite felt before.”

When their Magnolia Market at the Silos opened in October 2015, Joanna said she felt like they’d come full circle. She said, “If ever I needed proof that I should trust God with my dreams, this was certainly it.   He turned my little dream, my mustard seed of faith, into all this.”

What a visual of Matthew 17:20!


Joanna concludes, “Not even a decade after I made that difficult decision to close my shop to stay home with my babies, God delivered on the promise of making my dreams come true in ways that were bigger than I ever imagined.”

This is where I hear Ephesians 3:20 blessing the Gaineses plus us readers:


Lastly, my favorite thing about Chip and Joanna is they are complete WYSIWYGs. (What-you-see-is-what-you-get.) The folks at HGTV capture their authenticity which is the main ingredient that draws us viewers in. (It’s throughout the pages of their book as well.)

Joanna says, “We love our kids, we love each other, we love this town, and we love our clients. That’s the heart behind our show.”

If you need another Christmas gift idea this season, your friends would enjoy reading the The Magnolia Story. It’s a fascinating journey.


Meanwhile, enjoy this Christmas season and may we all remember the reason for the season.


‘Til next time!




Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Friends, Holidays

Cling to the KEY of our Christian Faith this Holy Week…

Friends! It’s almost Easter! Please tell me why there are more chocolate candies everywhere you go, than anything relating to our most wonderful upcoming holiday??? Perhaps my nose for chocolate is the culprit…

Chocolate Easter eggs and rabbit on plate, on color wooden backg

I can’t resist reprising the below post which first came out three years ago. A couple of updates before you dive in: Woody’s now nearly twenty-four, married to LT for nearly two years, and I’m thrilled to report of my five friends who became Grandmothers to five granddaughters, all five of those darling little girls have become big sisters!!! (Two of them are about to have yet another sibling!!!)

As you’ll see in the below post, the Resurrection is the KEY to our Christian faith and you’ll find five reasons why. Note our assurance and the resurrection power which is available to us all. You’ll also find the importance of leaving a legacy of faith to your family. Don’t miss this!

Billy Graham reminds us, “It was the resurrection of Christ that caused the disciples to go out as burning young revolutionaries to change the world of their day. They preached, ‘Christ is alive!’ THIS should be our message, not only at Easter, but every day of the year.”

He is not here, He is risen…. (Matthew 28:6)

Cross Against The Sky

Grab a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy this little reminder this Holy Week. Blessings to you and your family for a Beautiful Easter…


He is NOT here, He is “Rizzzen”…

Don’t tell me children don’t learn a LOT at an early age!  And watch out, THEY are watching YOU!  And horror of all horrors:  THEY will imitate you!!!  Our third-born son, named Woodford, a/k/a Woody, is a blast.


One Easter weekend, when Woody was  two years old, we’d just returned home from church.  Scurrying to get a meal on the table, we asked our oldest son to entertain the younger two boys.  Thankfully this wasn’t the year before, which nearly did me in…

That particular year before, John and I chose to take two cars to church since the Easter Bunny’s arrival was postponed ‘til after church.  (Don’t ask me how we explained that one.)  “The Plan” was that I would hurry home, ahead of John, hide the eggs, and be ready for the boys.

Problem is my husband tends to drive a tad speedier than yours truly, so I was barely ahead of them.  Hurrying in heels isn’t a gift of mine either, so I was literally hurling eggs thru’ the air in the back yard.  To top it off, my heels were sticking in the grass, and well, it’s a good thing none of our neighbors were within earshot.

Darned if John and the boys didn’t arrive while the eggs were flying thru’ the air.  Our  oldest son, John Jr., more astute than anyone needs to be, said, “Look Daddy!  It’s raining Easter eggs!”  Well, let’s just ADD to that big web of lies we’d already woven, throwing in one more far-fetched explanation.


Now while I know there’s not really a “time out chair” in Heaven, I still envision myself spending time there for some of these antics…So sorry, Lord. (Don’t you know He thinks we’re completely crazy sometimes?)

So back to the year Woody was  two:  The boys were playing upstairs and I ran up to get something.  Woody was marching back and forth across the hall, while holding a big plastic telephone, just-a-chatterin’ away.  (I’ve been known to walk thru’ the house while talking on the phone….hmmmm.)


Woody was shaking his head, back and forth, emphatically saying, “NO!”… pause, pause….”He is not here!” …LONGER pause….”He is RIZZZEN!”, prolonging the ‘s’ into buzzing ‘z’s!

That spectacular Easter Sunday, the Sunday school teachers were teaching the precious children about Jesus’ resurrection.  As Liz Curtis Higgs said in her blog last week about the resurrection, “This truth changes EVERYTHING!  His heavenly Father ‘has raised him to life’ (CEV). Hallelujah!  God be praised!  He who was dead is now alive forever!”… And even two year olds can begin absorbing this.

To read more from Liz, visit her website:

This Easter week, let’s celebrate TWO important points:

First, and foremost, let’s celebrate that the tomb is EMPTY!  Christ indeed has risen!


An angel of the Lord announces to Mary Magdelene, Mary the Mother of James, and to Salome in Mark 16:6  “Don’t be alarmed…You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.  He has risen!  He is not here…” (See also Matthew 28:6, Luke 24:6 and John 20:11-18.)

BLOG Three Marys

The Life Application Bible points out the importance of the resurrection by calling it “the KEY to the Christian faith.”  Let’s look at 5 reasons WHY the resurrection is “vitally important.”

 1 – “Jesus kept his promise to rise from the dead, so we can believe he will keep all his other promises.

 2 – The resurrection ensures that the ruler of God’s eternal kingdom will be the living Christ, not just an idea, hope, or dream.

 3 – Christ’s resurrection gives us the assurance that we also will be resurrected.

 4 – The power of God that brought Christ’s body back from the dead is available to us to bring our morally and spiritually dead selves back to life so that we can change and grow.

5 – The resurrection provides the substance of the church’s witness to the world.  We do not merely tell lessons from the life of a good teacher,  we proclaim the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

 Don’t miss these truths held within the verbs in each of the above five points:  we CAN BELIEVE…; we are ENSURED ; we are GIVEN THE ASSURANCE ; Resurrection power IS AVAILABLE to us; it PROVIDES THE SUBSTANCE  so that we can PROCLAIM THE REALITY OF THE RESURRECTION….

Let’s take time this week, with Good Friday approaching and Easter Sunday on the horizon , to be still, to reflect on this resurrection power available to us, and perhaps pray about a friend or neighbor who needs to hear this GOOD NEWS.

 Country Church

Which  brings me to the second point:  Let’s all be ever watchful for ways to teach our children, or our grandchildren, or nieces and nephews, or neighbors, about the Lord and His powerful Word.

Remember, Woody was just two years old at Easter time that year, and he clearly  “caught” the Scripture being taught.  We mustn’t forget what little sponges these children are. 

You won’t believe this, but in the past four months, I have five, yes FIVE, close friends (two of which are my sister-in-laws!) who have just been blessed with granddaughters!  (Think pink! ) These are all strong-in-the-faith Christian women and I can hardly wait to see what these little angels will learn about God from their grandmothers.

Look at their beautiful names and please say a prayer for them and their families:  Caroline, Maria, Lucie, Emmeline and Emerson.  I  suspect you, too, may know of a newborn to pray for!  Pray for them and their parents to raise them up knowing the Lord.

grandmother with baby

One of my many sins over the years in attempting to raise these boys is I tend to compartmentalize my faith.  I need this Scripture forever in the forefront of my mind:  Deuteronomy 11:18-21  says,

 “FIX  these words of mine in your hearts and minds;

  TIE them as symbols on your hands and

 BIND them on your foreheads.

 TEACH them to your children,


 when you SIT AT HOME and

 when you WALK along the road,

 when you LIE DOWN

 … and when you GET UP.  

 WRITE them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.” (NIV)

 Now you can see what I’m emphasizing above….again the verbs:  fix, tie, bind, teach, talk about when you sit, walk, lie down, get up, and write.  Don’t miss the fact that IF we do these things there’s a promise…”so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land…”

I pray you and your families have a most blessed Easter and Spring (even tho’ it’s snowing as I type). May we all rejoice that “He is not here, He is risen!” 

 ‘Til  next time!

(This post is dedicated to our youngest whipper- snapper-son, Woodford Lee Hoagland.  And for those of you parents out there who have more than one child and fret over treating each child equally, hang in there, I’ll be writing about our other two awesome sons in the future!!!  John and I are also forever grateful to the ministry of Campus Outreach on UK’s campus which discipled Woody  to focus on Christ, rather than chaos which we all know can come with college experiences.  Checkout for more information.  I love Campus Outreach’s mission statement: “Glorifying God by Building Laborers on the Campus for the Lost World.”  Amen.  Happy Easter everyone!)

Eliz and Woody


Filed under Holidays