Monthly Archives: March 2014

What Day It Is


The question we hear most on this trip is, “What day is it?” It usually takes a discussion involving two or three chaperones to answer that question. We thought this was day three on our Stupendous Band Tour. If we left on Thursday, however, this must be day four since it is Sunday night. But with a day of airport time, the time difference, and today’s change to daylight savings time, we feel like this is day three–otherwise known as the “grumpy day.”

It started off with me waking from one of the deepest sleeps ever. Wow, was it hard to emerge from the depths. The alarm may have gone off for a minute or two or ten (only my roommate, Jonette, knows for sure). Then a couple of my girls went back to sleep after a 7:15 am wske up visit from me and almost missed the bus. They ended up getting ready in like four minutes since everyone was waiting. Grumpy.

The day got better. The weather was sunny and warm (downright hot by Minnesota standards). We took a tour of Salzburg with Ms. Winnie as our guide.

Walked over the lock bridge. Saw the fortress, a piece of pickle art, Mozart’s statue, his birth house, the house he grew up in. Saw an amazing graveyard, several cathedrals, horses, a coffee shop, and the best chocolate store in Austria.

Jonette and I had coffee on the bslcony of Thomadini’s and sausages again for lunch. Yum. Then we shopped for eggs at an amazing shop with thousands of exquisitely hand-painted eggs. Our group may be responsible for a dozen or two making their way to the U.S.

Spring has sprung here. Green grass and flowers are everywhere. Our kids played beautifully in the Mirabell Gardens (one of many gorgeous garden squares in Salzburg) at the summer castle (aptly named since we were all suffering in the warm temps with hot band jackets).

Lots of people came because they knew tbere would be a concert and others were beguiled by the music and joined us. Total success. Mr. Christianson got a text from the mayor thanking us for such a great performance.

After a short rest at the hotel (where shoes and shirts were changed for the benefit of all), we were back on the road again. This time to play a concert in St. Vitalis Church. It was small and it was challenging to get the sound right. But, Boy Howdy, did the band rise to the challenge!

The small wooden church filled with Salzburgians ready to hear and appreciate lovely music. And our kids delivered. It brought tears to my eyes to see the kids do so well for an audience who knew and appreciated each note. I was so proud–I would have popped my buttons if I hadn’t been wearing a zippered jacket. Those gracious, wonderful people asked for an encore then gave the band a four minute ovation. It was one of those awesome moments in time that is imprinted on your soul. What memories.

What day it is? Awesome day.


Chillin’ in Charlotte


Everyone made it to the buses on time for the trip to the airport. No big issues getting instruments checked, getting ticketed, and through security. Perfect.


Jeanette and I had fabulous sushi while listening to a piano player tickle the ivories.
All was great.
They called for us to board our flight for Frankfurt. Phones were turned off, neck pillows readied, passports pulled from the bowels of backpacks.
Then the dreaded announcement. “We have to delay the flight due to an engine check. We will board in thirty minutes.”
That was at 8:00 p.m. one hour ago.


Now it says 9:45.
But the kids are finding fun things to do. No worries. It will all work out.



All is good. Can’t keep kids from having fun.

Austria, Here We Come


Today we head for the Minneapolis Airport to fly across the ocean to see the if the hills are truly alive with the sound of music. They will soon be alive with Minnesota teenagers!

I am a chaperone for the Shakopee High School band as they tour Germany and Austria and play three concerts in the land where Mozart was born and composed amazing music. There are more than one hundred of us traipsing over there together. Exciting. Crazy. Once-in-a-lifetime. Pray for us!

I was going to start a new blog for the trip, but how much can I blog in one week? So I decided to put the posts all right here.  So come back often and check it out. There should be photos from Rothenburg, Munich, Salzburg, Innsbruck. Stories. Exhaustion. Cries for help.

I can’t wait.


Rothenburg, Germany, our first stop.

I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go.
Genesis 28:15 NLT



Once again I was awakened by fierce night sweats last night. If you have never felt these, they are hard to explain. Most people think you just feel hot. It is so much more than that. It feels like you are trapped in a microwave, cooking from the inside out, and if you don’t get out of the covers or clothes RIGHT NOW you will explode like a potato left too long in the mic with pieces jettisoning against the glass to slide slowly to the bottom. Anyway….

I was in the middle of the most delightful dream. As I emerged from the cloud of my dream I was happy and joyful and just wanting to get back to sleep to experience more. But I suddenly realized that my innards were roasting and that I had to throw off the covers, turn on the fan, and possibly move to Antarctica. I was not happy about this interruption. Once things had cooled down and I was back to my shivering self, I realized I could not remember what I had been dreaming about. What was it? It was so clear when I first woke up. Now it was a swirling cloud of vapor. I concentrated and calmed my mind—trying to recreate that feeling of wonderment I had before the reality of the microwaves kicked in. But it was gone. I could only find wisps of the dream remaining—vapor trails of what was or could have been. Bits of happiness. Feelings of fulfillment. Snatches of peace.


It made me think of another kind of dreaming. Those goals, ideas, and hope-to-do-someday plans that keep us fired up when we are young. Lofty ideas. Challenging hopes. Napkin-drawn blueprints for a life we want to build.

How many of us lose those dreams when reality butts in? We were going to start a bed and breakfast, write a novel, travel the world, become a missionary. But we lost a job, had kids, got sick, experimented with the wrong obsession, and the dreams faded. It is frustrating and exasperating.

How do you pick up old dreams when they’ve been lost or put on hold for the unexpected or even for different or shared dreams? How do you coordinate old dreams with new realities. Or do you? Maybe you dream new dreams. Bigger dreams. Dreams that encompass your past, present, and future. Dreams so big only God can make them all work together, reforming the misty possibilities into concrete realities.

That is the kind of dream I want. The kind that includes my messy life—the hot flashes and tea drinking and sign reading (hello, my name is Marilyn and I am a sign reader) and apologies and dirty baseboards—all of it. I want the kind that are too big for me to do by myself. I want God-sized dreams.

And, if it is not too much to ask, I would like to remember them.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.
Ephesians 3:20–21 MSG

Belly Button Bread


Belly Button BreadI make this bread. We call it Belly Button Bread. It has nothing to do with belly buttons. Although I have to admit when it is rising it looks a bit like a belly—well a middle-aged belly maybe. And the little divots we put into it before it bakes sort of look like innie belly buttons. At least that is what Darla thought when she saw the first loaf. The moniker stuck and its been Belly Button Bread ever since.

The original recipe started from a recipe I saw on the Naked Chef. (He never was nekked that I saw.) I’ve added, subtracted, messed with, and generally overhauled the recipe to be something that is easy for me. The basic recipe is what follows. But we change it up sometimes and add cheese or thinly sliced tomatoes or basil or garlic or olives. I have even made a sweet version and topped it with cinnamon sugar and butter. YUMMO.

Play around with it as much as you want. Or stick to the recipe. Just be careful who you give it to once it is baked. They will keep asking for it and you’ll feel obligated to bake more and more and before long you’ll lose your job and live to watch yeast get all foamy, and smell this amazing bread baking. Be careful!20140313_180609

I put the salt and bread flour in my fancy dancy mixer and give it a whirl. You can just use a big bowl. Whatever works. Then add the honey to the warm water and mix before adding in the yeast.

When the yeast water is all foamy, turn the mixer back on and slowly add it to the flour. Once it is all mixed up, I take off the paddle and put on the hook attachment. Then I add more flour until the dough forms a ball and comes away from the sides in one big lump. You can mix it in by hand in the bowl or on a floured surface until you have a smooth, slightly sticky dough. Knead for five or six minutes.20140313_193346

Put it in a bowl that is coated with oil, pop on the lid and wait for about an hour. This is when it kind of looks like a belly. Sort of.

Then it is divided into two pans, brushed with oil, poked, and left to rise again.

Finally it is dusted with rosemary, baked on high heat, and fills your house with a  smell that will make you weak in the knees. Really it will.

focaccia doughRECIPE

2 cups warm water
2 TBS active dry yeast (about 2 pkgs)
2 TBS honey or sugar
2 cups bread flour (or all-purpose flour if you don’t have this)
2 1/2 – 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
1 TBS kosher salt
2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling (or whatever oil you have)
1/2 TBS rosemary, roughly chopped or banged around in a mortal and pestle

Combine the warm water, yeast, and honey in a small bowl. Put the bowl in a warm, not hot or cool, place until the yeast is bubbling and aromatic, at least 5 minutes. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the bread flour and two cups of flour, kosher salt, olive oil, and the yeast mixture on low speed. (Or do all of that in a bowl or on a floured surface using your hands.) Add in more flour until the dough has come together. Continue to knead with dough hook for 5 to 6 minutes on a medium speed until it becomes smooth and soft. Give it a sprinkle of flour if the dough is really sticky and tacky. Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly floured surface, then knead it by hand 1 or 2 times. Again, give it another sprinkle of flour if the dough is really sticky and tacky.Lightly coat the inside of a plastic, lidded bowl with olive oil and put the dough in the bowl. Attach the lid and put it in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, at least 1 hour. Punch down and divide into two pieces.

Dust two baking pans with corn meal (or if using metal pans you can coat liberally with olive oil). Put the dough onto the pan and press it out to fit the size of the pan (leaving it free form makes it look more authentic). Drizzle or brush the top with olive oil. Spread your fingers out and make finger holes all the way through the dough. (Chef’s Note: Yes, this is strange. But when the dough rises again it will create the characteristic belly buttons. If you do not make the actual holes in the dough, the finished product will be very smooth.) Cover with plastic wrap.
Put the dough in the warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour. Ten minutes before the dough is finished rising a second time, preheat the oven to 550 degrees F (or as hot as your oven goes).

Liberally sprinkle the top of the focaccia with  rosemary and lightly drizzle a little oil on top. Bake the dough until the top of the loaf is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove the focaccia from the oven and let it cool before cutting and serving (or dig in immediately before Jackie can get his hands on it).


House Shopping


Today I met my new realtor and we went house shopping. Unfortunately they do not have them in a big box store where you can compare price tags and see the same model in nine different colors and maybe put a Malibu Ken in a room to see how that works. Nope. You have to trek across counties, fiddle with lockboxes, and imagine, while squinting your eyes and turning your head sideways, how the Oliva dining set would look here or the drum playing would echo from there. I was totally wishing for Hermione’s magical purse so I could bust out my four-poster bed and try it in the owner’s suite.


The good news is I have a fairly good imagination. The bad news is it was immediately apparent that our stuff would look crappy in just about every house we looked at.

The problem wasn’t the houses. We looked at all new builds today. Beautiful hard woods, rich cabinetry, burnished copper railings. Newer and shinier than Matthew McConaughey’s Oscar.

Our “stuff,” however, is close to thirty years old and loved into shabbiness. It is time-worn and lived in. Like that favorite sweater you hang on to year after year and wear with both skinny pants and elastic jeans because it is comfy and holds memories in every size. Our stuff is beat up and repaired and has layers of family life splattered all over it.

So maybe it won’t immediately look at home in a new house. But I am sure we will scuff up, wear down, and personalize the new house so the old stuff will feel right at home in time for Jackie to break out his Risky Business moves on the beautiful hard wood floors. Instead of nicks from light saber fights or dents from remote control cars, the new house will have scuffs from banjo playing gone wild and scratches from car keys falling from pockets. We will fight and cook and play and love until the new house is home and our stuff would seem out of place anywhere else.

Lord, help us find just the right house to love!

So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever!
2 Corinthians 3:11