Snapshots & Whatnot: Mountains, Seas & Me

As folks venture out to favorite beach and mountain retreats for a respite from COVID-19 and worries of all sorts, here’s a quote from one of Virginia’s previous posts about travel (circa 12 July 2012) and snapshots to go with…

“People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars……and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.” St. Augustine (from his Confessions)

Wondering at the height of giraffes & mountains in Tanzania

Wondering at stormy waves in Newfoundland, Canada

Wondering at the heights & depths of the Grand Canyon

Wondering at the vast compass of the ocean in Dar es Salaam, TZ

Wondering at sunset over Lake Victoria (view from Kagera, Tanzania)

We must not pass by ourselves without seeing the wonder inside…

grace, peace & meaningful wonderings

Virginia : )

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.”  Psalm 139:14

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UPSIDE-DOWN PINEAPPLE CAKE BLUES

The next week or so Virginia is sharing a few posts from her archives (before she learned about things like “tagging.”) Here’s one from her first month of blogging (11 July 2011.)

Last weekend I experienced a bad case of upside-down pineapple cake blues. After checking the baking progress of a carefully constructed pineapple upside-down cake, it looked done (according to the recipe time, it should have been and then some!)

A more recent stay-at-home vegan apple upside-down cake (that turned out okay!)

Inverting it upside-down on a cake plate, however, hot brown sugar syrup splattered all over the counter. A bit dismayed dodging the scalding, sticky mess, I unclasped the spring-form pan and took the top off (very carefully) to find an alarmingly large sinking crater of liquid batter in the middle of the cake.

TOTAL CAKE DISASTER!!

Major-league upside-down pineapple cake blues ensued. What to do? With busy pots on burners bubbling away for a special celebratory dinner, there was no time to procure a cake or bake another one. Contemplating the demise of all those yummy ingredients also increased the blues factor.

Frazzled, yet suddenly dazzled with possibility, I quickly upside-downed the ruined cake back into the pan, and (with a prayer) put it in the oven for a second round of baking.

While tending busy dinner pots, a food flash of inspiration hit (this also required a bit of faith that everything would pan out okay.)

Why not make more brown sugar syrup to replace the sticky mess scrubbed off the counter? After 30 more baking minutes, the crispier cratered cake was once again upside-downed, poked, drizzled with new syrup, and later served after dinner with a bit of faith and whipped cream. (Note: turned upside-down no one could see the crater underneath!)

Rescued upside-down pineapple cake (no crumbs left!)

My brother, the feted one who chose the cake, said it was “the best pineapple cake he ever ate.”  There were no crumbs left on anyone’s plates (mine inclusive!)

Washing up with a grateful heart, I got to thinking. Hmmm, God, maybe there’s a lesson here? Sometimes our lives get messy with upside-down blues when things don’t turn out as we expect and look disastrous – like crashing craters of cake and carefully crafted brown sugar syrup that splatters everywhere.

We get befuddled and muddled by craters and splatters – how we’ve mixed things up, our failures and (seemingly) wasted efforts, and maybe what we’ve splattered on others?

But God has given us good ingredients: grace, mercy, wisdom, peace, patience, and joy mixed in divine batter of Everlasting Love for us. If we by faith persevere, God is good in the divine restoration department and second chances are what God is all about.

Don’t give up. Try again…

No crumbs left.

grace, peace & upside-down cake faith

Virginia : )

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Celebratory Grooves @ Roses in the Rubble!

There’s a party going on here @ Roses in the Rubble. Today Virginia’s blog turns NINE!

As faithful readers know, celebratory grooves for Virginia usually involve chocolate (lots of chocolate!)

Can’t believe it’s been 9 years since Virginia ventured into the blogosphere to share her first post entitled “…Inspiration” on 30 June 2011. Since that time there have been 800 posts (as of Sunday’s blog) – another something to celebrate.

Short posts, long posts, photos, quotes, Advent and Lent post-a-day gigs, travel, books, movies, music, meanderings, trees and (lots of) roses: 800 = lots of posts!

“Finding inspiration in Rubble, books, movies, music & more…”

Some blog posts have been popular, like last year’s “Books! Reading! Books!” and “Hearts Molested,” a poem I wrote about Human Trafficking 9 years ago that still receives views. (I’m not much of a poet, so it’s cool that one still garners attention.)

Others, not so much, but they were fun and/or meaningful to do (like this first week of blogging favorite: Cosmic Hilarity & The Galactic Gourmet.)

The thing about blogging, posts should be about things that interest you. You can always hope that others like what you like, too. But, accept the fact that not everyone is into the same things as you.

Not everyone gets Jack Skellington and Sally’s “Nightmare Before Christmas” struggles like groupie Virginia.

Before he passed, my bedfast quadriplegic papa painstakingly read every post using his voice-activated computer. Papa didn’t always ‘get it’ but he encouraged me to keep at it.

Sometimes Blogger Virginia thought, “Why am I doing this? It’s time to give it up.” Then someone would comment, text, call or send an encouraging email from afar and near.

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” Maya Angelou

One of the biggest blessings these nine years has been interacting with bloggers and readers around the globe. While some dear ones from long ago have gone on to other things, it’s been special hanging out with blogging buddies in the blogosphere. You have made blogging these nine years meaningful (and fun keeping up with what you are up to!)

Virginia always enjoys making new blogging friends…

A big THANK YOU to faithful readers (family, friends, blogging buddies inclusive) who inspire and encourage Virginia SO MUCH in SO MANY WAYS.

HaPpY BIRTHDAY ROSES IN THE RUBBLE!

grace, peace & celebratory grooves

Virginia : )

p.s. For an explanation of why “Roses in the Rubble” click here.

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Quickie Quote: Springs of LOVE!

On this summer Sunday (when we may be feeling a little hot and bothered) here’s a reminder that God’s love never runs dry.

“This I have known for certain, that God is love. Even if I have been mistaken on this or that point, God is nevertheless love…God is love, not God was love, nor, God will be love, oh no, God is love. Like spring water which keeps the same temperature summer and winter – so is God’s love. God’s love is a spring that never runs dry.” Søren Kierkegaard

grace, peace & LOVE

Virginia : )

Photo: Banff National Park, Canada

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…strategic timeouts (more #tea anyone?)

You may be thinking, “Virginia, enough about tea already!” The challenge with sharing something appreciated (forever) is squeezing everything in one post.

There are so many teas. Virginia still has many more favorites!

Like this lovely green Rishi Jasmine Tea. (Rishi also has a fabulous chocolate tea gifted to me awhile back. Of course, it’s all gone!)

You may also be thinking, how can Virginia write about tea when global challenges – conflicts, injustice, and deadly viruses – fill our screens? Yes, I am seeing the same negative stuff as you.

Working in conflict zones and serving as a caregiver (both equally hard) Virginia learned the value of recharging internal batteries. Because how we do what we do matters.

Being totally frazzled doesn’t help me, or anyone.

Taking daily timeouts for prayer & peace = important!

As we do all we can to be Light (accessing God’s grace that’s available daily for me and you) try to appreciate something good amidst the chaos.

Take a timeout for something that brings you joy.

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes…including you.” Anne Lamott

grace, peace & strategic timeouts

Virginia : )

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KEEP CALM AND DRINK #TEA!!

Our world is filled with whacked out challenges, so what to do? Take a timeout today with Virginia for a little calm and lots of fantabulous tea.

For tea groupies like Virginia, tea is something to be enjoyed whether sitting at a desk or taking time out for a lush tea with a full plate of treats.

Tea in the morning. Tea in the afternoon. Tea in the evening.

Tea can be daintily sipped, but also slurped on the go. There is a big dilemma for tea groupies, though. With so many grand teas out there, how to choose which one to brew?

This teapot light brews calm in our kitchen

Although a long list of favorites (and a big tea cabinet) make daily tea selections a fun exercise, today Virginia invites you to sample ten of her current top favs. Favorites tend to evolve discovering new teas, but that’s as it should be.

Disclaimer: Virginia is an equal opportunity tea drinker of black teas, green teas, red teas and herbal teas – loose leaf AND teabags.

Stash Tea offers a host of lovely flavors

#1: STASH TEA   Virginia has been ordering loose leaf teas from Stash Tea, based in Portland Oregon, for years and years. Their 100g bags are a great value for high quality tea. Yes, we can buy Stash teabags in grocery stores here, but their loose leaf blends are fabulous. The last few years their “Everest First Flush Nepalese” black tea has been my top favorite, what I save to share @ teatime with tea groupie friends or brew on a challenging day as a pick-me-up. Their “Empress Grey” has been a longtime family favorite, brewed almost every day for Mama and Papa’s morning tea. Of their readily available teabags, “Breakfast in Paris” is another black tea fav.

The Republic of Tea VANILLA ALMOND

#2: The Republic of Tea has many grand teas (loose leaf and teabags) that Virginia has enjoyed over the years, but this Vanilla Almond black tea has been one of my favorites for eons. Friends have asked, “Virginia, what is the best tea you’ve ever tasted?” Visiting Vienna years ago I had a pot of Macadamia Nut tea at a tea cafe next to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Best tea, ever! I could not acquire tea-leaves-to-go as the tea shop was closed and I was leaving Austria the next morning, but this Vanilla Almond Tea gives off similar delectable nutty vibes.

The joys of Darjeeling!

#3: Darjeeling has been called “the Champagne of teas” for good reason, it tastes divine. Darjeeling has always been one of Virginia’s go-to favorites – anywhere, anytime!  This Taylors of Harrogate loose leaf is a lovely blend, but I also rotate through other tea cabinet Darjeelings (tea bags and loose leaf packaged from local shops.) As my brother once said, “I must drink my Darjeeling, to get in touch with my inner feeling!”

Christmas Teas – joy, joy, joy all the year through!

#4: Virginia is a huge groupie of Christmas teas, not just in December. It’s fun to crank up Christmas carols and have a cup of holiday tea in the summer. Definitely a spirit-lifter-upper. As December nears, however, it’s time for Christmas Tea every day (several times a day since there are so many kinds of holiday teas!) I have always enjoyed Stash “Christmas Morning” (a blend of black and green teas), their “Christmas in Paris” black tea, and their herbal Christmas Eve loose leaf. Twinings Christmas Tea has also been a top, top favorite (when it can be found.) Last December I tried the Darvilles of Windsor Christmas Tea – the flavor burst of orange in this holiday black tea has quickly become an absolute favorite.

Green Tea and Roses (what’s there not to like?)

#5: Harney & Sons “Jane’s Garden Tea” is Virginia’s favorite green tea, an absolute delight. Although a hardcore black tea drinker, years ago Virginia had to cut back her black tea intake (doctor’s orders) so she ventured into the world of green teas. At first green tea tasted like seaweed (yuck!) Learning to steep it at the correct temperature (175F) what a difference, and what delicate flavors emanate from green teas properly brewed! (It helps that brother treated for special electric kettle that has buttons for different tea temps.)

Now a plethora of green tea fills Virginia’s tea cabinet, all so delicately lovely, a great way to start each day in Virginia’s first pot every morning.

Colorful teapots (my sister-in-law made that one) and ‘towering’ tea

#6: Continuing with Harney & Sons teas, this Tower of London black tea blend has honey overtones, delightful for an afternoon pick-me-up. Harney & Sons make such lovely tea blends, there are usually two or three tins on the go in Virginia’s tea cabinet. Their Tropical Green Tea is another fav along with their herbal African Autumn rooibos blend that Virginia drinks all year round.

African red bush tea “rooibos” is such a delight!

#7a: Virginia first encountered rooibos tea while working in Tanzania. A strong red bush herbal tea, it stands up well to milk. This amazing red bush tea can be flavored so many ways – the Republic of Tea’s “Good Hope Vanilla” is a yummy mix of vanilla and rooibos that’s a pick-me-up, without the jitters of caffeine.

Cutting down on her caffeine intake, Virginia’s tea cabinet maintains a significant stash of herbal rooibos teas – because they also taste great!

Twinings of London, lovely teas for night and day

#7b: With a huge range of flavored fruity teas and blends, grocery stores here usually have multiple rows of Twinings teas on offer. Since Virginia makes at least one pot of rooibos every day (sometimes two) Twinings rooibos blends have become favorites. Their Orange Cinnamon Spice is one of my brother’s favorites (mine, too) but I also like their “Pure Rooibos Herbal Tea” that’s straight up comfort in a cup. I am also an over the top groupie of Twining’s “Honeybush, Mandarin & Orange” herbal tea. A joyful cup of orange to brighten any dark evening.

Sipping tea can be a journey of flavors, memories & more

#8: Ahmad Tea’s Apple Refresh is a remarkable black tea. There is a huge flavor burst of apple in every sip, a truly delectable experience for green apple aficionados like Virginia. I discovered Ahmad Tea at the Mediterranean Bakery in Richmond, VA (while stockpiling their 5-star hummus and Middle Eastern treats.) All the Ahmad teas we’ve tried have been lovely, but the Apple Refresh is extraordinarily amazing. It reminds me of drinking apple tea while visiting Turkey when I lived in the Middle East. Loveliness in a cup!

  Ambessa blends, delectable teas doing global good

#9: Two of Virginia’s favorite things: tea and chocolate. Usually enjoyed separately, but finding them together in Ambessa’s Choco Nut Blend, wow, a tasty treat! Ambessa is an imprint of Harney & Sons that brings a world of flavor alive and also supports global organizations like UNICEF.

Barry’s Tea, and it’s a Good Morning

“Let the Stress begin!”

#10: Barry’s Irish Breakfast tea is a great way to caffeine up for whatever morning stress is coming your way. A nice hearty tea that can be taken with milk, or taken straight up. Whichever way you choose, it’s a great way to wake up!

Hope you enjoyed this sampling of Virginia’s favorite teas. Since her favorites are ever evolving, please share your favorite tea in the comments (it’s fun trying something new!)

grace, peace & tea groupies

Virginia : )

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” C.S. Lewis

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Teatime with Mama…

Yesterday was the memorial of my precious Mama’s passing. Oh, how I miss her!

Mama, enjoying tea + treat

I sent this pic out to my siblings yesterday after finding it in the recesses of my iPhone. Mama always enjoyed tea and treats. I can just imagine her now enjoying treats (of a ethereal sort) up in the Heavenlies with Papa.

This pic reminded me of the many, many teatimes Mama and I shared.

During the caregiving gig for my parents, tea played an important role in our daily routine. @ 6:15 every morning I would bring in a tray with hot tea and a muffin so Papa could take his first pile of morning meds before my brother came in at 6:30 to help Mama get him up.

Tea + morning muffins on a tray

While they were getting Papa ready to eventually hoist him to his hospital bed in the living room, Cook Virginia would scoot down to the kitchen to whip up breakfast – with another round of tea for everyone.

After breakfast my parents needed a recovery period (I actually got them up @ 5:45AM to do a few things before the tea task.) Once recovered my Papa would either start with his writing projects on his voice activated computer or start seeing his appointments.

Which left Mama and I free to meet up for morning teatime in the kitchen.

Tea for two, with treats of course!

Tea in Mama’s special cups (& rugelach!)

Teatime with Mama was an experience. We would take a wee break, catch our breaths, and visit about our hopes for the day.

Tea with Mama involved using fine china and pretty cups. To me, a nice cup enhances the experience of tea. I got that from teatime with Mama!

One of Mama’s favorite porcelain cups (bluebirds! bluebirds!)

No matter how crazy the schedule, we always tried to squeeze in teatime. Sometimes it wasn’t ‘til late afternoon with a quickie treat, but we prioritized our teatimes.

After Papa passed Mama and I continued to enjoy teatime together every day. We would see my brother off to work, Mama would have her recovery period (fluffily blanketed), then we would have tea and treats.

Teatime by myself is just not quite the same.

But I will eat a piece of chocolate cake and have a cuppa in honor of my Mama!*

grace, peace & teatimes with Mama

Virginia : )

*Mama loved chocolate. Like mother, like daughter!

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Fatherless on Father’s Day (again!)

On Father’s Day here’s a post shared awhile back that resonates today…

Cherished and adored, two words that remind me of my father.

And loved.

Although it’s been several years since Papa passed, there’s still a crater-sized hole in my heart missing him. I don’t think that hole will ever get smaller because Papa loomed so large in my life. Center-stage with Mama, the two of them cheered me on with their love to do and be – whatever, whenever, wherever.

Their deep love anchored this redhead through good times and turbulent times: always there, a constant port in every storm.

Papa cherished me (and my 4 siblings) through our growing pains in childhood, the onset of adulthood, and as we muddled our way into middle-aged-hood. He would say, “You are beautiful!” (Growing up with a pimply face and skinny legs, really Papa?)

He pushed us to pursue our dreams. He supported us. He made time for us.

Growing up in a boisterous family with five kids, sometimes it was hard for my younger brother and me to get a word in edge-wise. Papa made space for us to speak through daily “round table” dinner discussions where he asked each of us to share the highlights and challenges of our days.

Round table went like this:

  1. “Did you have a good day (or a bad day?)
  2. “What was the best thing (or the worst thing?)
  3. “Do you have anything to ask, or show, or tell?” (We had to bring our ‘shows’ with us to the table.)

Papa & Mama’s round table (still in use)

Papa spent time with us. He took Section B (what he called my younger brother and me, the three oldest = Section A) on monthly dates for dinner and every Walt Disney movie that came out. (There were many.) When we were a little older it was John Wayne westerns. (There were many of those, too.)

As I grew up these fun outings morphed into more serious encounters – a time set aside to seek his wise counsel and share worries, debacles, hopes and (ever changing) dreams.

An important part of cherishing is encouragement. Papa encouraged me to seek to be all that I can be as his beloved daughter and precious daughter of our Heavenly Father.

When I moved away from home to work in Washington, D.C. and then overseas for many years, Papa and Mama called every week, faxed, and emailed (as technology evolved.)

They were always there for me.

Even when several oceans separated us, I knew they had my back in prayer with their heavenly-hotline buzzing as I dodged bullets, stones, landmines and endured malaria, fractured ankles (et all.)

Papa always said, “The will of God will never take you where the grace of God cannot keep you.”

God dished out grace in many ways and in many places. But a big chunk of “hang-in-there-grace” came through Papa and Mama. Despite incredible challenges, their example of faithfulness – to God, to each other, to us, to ministry – inspired me to keep going.

Papa always said, “When I’m weakest, God is strongest!”

The will of God has now taken me to this place of being father-less on Father’s Day. I pray for God’s grace to keep me when my heart misses Papa. Lots!

I miss his larger-than-life presence, his love, encouragement, cherishment, the twinkle in his eyes, his sense of humor, his joy (even when as a bedfast quadriplegic he couldn’t move anything.)

I miss his zeal for life, his faith in God, and his faith in me.

Cherished.  Adored.  Loved.

All three, a gift from my father to me.

There is a crater-sized hole in my heart, but it’s filled with the legacy of Papa’s love: the love of Jesus in and through him to me. Thank you, Papa!

A blessed Father’s Day to you fathers out there. Treasure the moments.

Cherish, adore, love. See what your children become.

Virginia misses her Papa & Mama so much!!

grace, peace & legacies of Love

Virginia  : )

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The Weight of the Matter

“Keep in mind that even during a pandemic no matter much chocolate (and cheese) you eat, your earrings will still fit.” Anonymous

A comforting thought in these troubled times, especially for chocoholics like Virginia.

Virginia is glad her earrings still fit, but finding a pair of shorts that fit is another matter altogether, a weighty matter.

The weight of the matter is heavy, TEN POUNDS to be exact. The problematic location of these pounds makes squeezing into summer shorts an impossible task.

The other day while trying on 20 pairs of spiffy shorts from the recesses of her closet, Virginia thought: “How could they all have shrunk over the winter?”

It seems unlikely that 20 pairs of shorts would shrink, all at the same time.

Hmmn. Miss Murple in Purple (what my brother calls this avid Miss Marple groupie) made a calculated deduction.

To the scales! Oi vey, not a happy day.

All those coronavirus stay-at-home treats from Virginia the Baker (cheesy biscuits, blueberry cheese muffins, chocolate ricotta muffins…) and Virginia the Cook (cheesy veggie lasagna, 5 bean chili-cheese soup & 4 cheese nachos a little too often) = a weighty matter.

Too much matter in me!

Unless Virginia does something drastic (like, um, a DIET) her shorts won’t fit until September – when it will be time for them to be packed away.

Voluptuous Virginia must get her “well rounded” curves back in the right places.

Fortunately, Virginia’s t-shirts (like this one) still fit

This week it’s back to lettuce and NO MORE CHEESE.*

grace, peace & weighty matters

Virginia : )

*Chocolate still allowed. (Virginia must keep up her strength!)

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Quickie Quote Monday: Fresh-eyed Friendships

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” C.S. Lewis (“The Four Loves”)

grace, peace & fresh-eyed friendships*

Virginia : )

*Here’s to seeing friendships with fresh eyes, not taking our friends for granted as we weather our voyages of discovery together.

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