Happy Easter!

On this Thursday evening, I am thinking about the Last Supper, Christ’s agony in Gethsemane, the trials and the final walk to Golgotha on Friday. I am so very grateful for the atonement; that God would offer to spare his loved ones from the demands of justice, gifting us instead with the gentler law of mercy.

I’m impressed that we worship a God so understanding and magnanimous that He doesn’t seem to mind that we celebrate the most sacred day of the year with symbols adapted from secular, even pagan sources. If the children are happy, it is all right.

So in honor of His return of life, the renewal of Spring, the happiness of Easter and all things bright and beautiful, here are a few Easter favorites.

Easy and fun dessert butterscotch nests with personalized eggs


Melt in a large saucepan

12 oz butterscotch chips

Add and stir until blended

1 C peanut butter

Fold in

10 – 12 oz. chow mein noodles

Drop by large spoonfuls onto wax paper, shape into nests. Using a food marker pen, write names on

large candy-coated malted eggs

Place in nest with a few jellybeans.  Yields 15 small nests.

Sunny daffodils brighten the garden
Easter Miracle Eggs


This sweet little activity teaches small children about the miracle of Easter. A basket is filled with colored plastic Easter eggs containing scripture verses and objects that represent Christ’s experience.

You will need

12 medium to large plastic Easter eggs that open and the objects below.

With a fine point permanent marker write the numbers 1 – 12 on the ends of the plastic eggs. Copy and cut apart the scriptures of the Easter story and place in the numbered eggs with the following:

1. A small cup or wooden thimble (from craft store)

2. Three dimes

3. A 4″ piece of twine

4. A small piece of soap

5. A small robe cut from red felt

6. A small wooden cross or brown card stock cross

7. Two dice

8. A small square of white fabric torn almost in half

9. A square of white fabric

10. A small stone

11. A few cloves, a piece of cinnamon stick, bay leaf

12. Nothing – this represents the empty tomb

Have the children open the eggs in order to read the Easter story.

The Earth laughs in flowers!
A French flower basket is a beautiful and inexpensive centerpiece that is easy to make.

French Flower Baskets

This is a lovely, long-lasting arrangement of living flowers and plants in a basket or container. You can buy the flowers at a nursery or home improvement store; it can be an inexpensive centerpiece if you use a container you already own, and transplant the flowers to the garden afterwards.

You will need

  •  A basket or waterproof container
  • Heavy plastic to line the basket
  • Potted living flowers and/or plants
  • Potting soil
  • Moss, excelsior or dry filler
  • Ribbon, decorative figures or other items, if desired

Line the basket with the heavy plastic, cut away excess. Place a few inches of potting soil in the bottom of the basket.  Tip the flowers to the side and remove carefully from their pots. Set the entire plant on top of the soil in the basket intact, taking care not to disturb the root balls or break the stems. Repeat with remaining plants. Fill any gaps with additional potting soil and water well. Tuck moss or other filler around base of plants to hide the soil.  If desired, add items, such as small clay pots, willow twigs or figures to complement the theme. Water carefully, mist occasionally, keep out of direct sunlight.

A tea to welcome the return of spring


I love this book!

The Country Bunny and The Little Gold Shoes by DuBose Heyward

A sweet mother rabbit wants to be an Easter Bunny. She can do it with her family’s cooperation, but needs a little more help to take a special treat to a  child in need.

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Max’s Chocolate Chicken by Rosemary Wells

Ruby teaches Max the intricate finesse of Easter egg hunting.

Bunny Money by Rosemary Wells

Ruby and Max shop for a present for Grandma.

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The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

The classic adventure of a mischievous Peter Rabbit in Mr. McGregor’s garden.

Your local book store and online book sellers have lots of beautifully illustrated sacred and secular Easter books.

Image result for peter rabbit and mom

Look at these cute ideas I found on Pinterest


Make these adorable cookie pops with your favorite sugar cookie recipe, and get the whole family involved to decorate them with Jelly Belly jelly beans and confections. Click through for the simple instructions! Credit: whatsnewcupcake (Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, authors of Hello, Cupcake!)
Der Goldhase Animal Print von Lindt & Sprüngli wird Ostern in diesen hübsch bepflanzten Gläsern verschenkt und bringt so ein bisschen Frühling und leckerste Schokolade zu den Liebsten nach Haus!
Beatrix Potter Cupcakes
Chocolate Bunny Edible Craft & Free Printable #Easter Tags by LivingLocurto.com


In Italy with Andrew, Annie and Ender

Andrew; how I miss my son. Andrew, the perpetually happy boy who continually taught me lessons about forgiving and sharing.


The one person who could get his little brother Tim to do about anything during his petulant phases. Andrew, all grown up now and serving his country in the army. After 3 year-long deployments to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; he was now a father and assigned to Italy for 3 years with his good wife and little Ender who was born just a few months before they were deployed. Visiting Andrew and his family was the catalyst that spurred the visit to Europe.

My cuddle bear who is so respectful and strong and protective; I consider myself fortunate to have him as a son. And especially lucky to get to see him in conjunction with a visit to the historical landmarks and canonized art of the western world. Because he is in the military, as much as I would like to, for security reasons, I won’t be putting his photo on this blog.

But the best, most satisfying part of our month in Europe was the time spent with Andrew, Annie and Ender.  I cannot adequately express my gratitude for our military and first responders; especially those that are far from home.

On a day that Annie had to study, we invited Andrew and Ender to go with us on a train ride to Lucca.

The ancient walled city of Lucca, translation: Light.
Newell’s cousin author Larry McMurtry beat us to Italy!
Our granddaughters love this cartoon set in Paris, apparently Lucca’s girls like it too!
Lots of antique shops and a huge flea market – it was Sunday, so we just looked around.
A beautiful old church in Lucca.

American tourists do well to keep their presence understated, but a little personal expression can’t be helped.
I was happy to see plaid in Italy.
Lucca is known for bicycle paths on the exterior wall. This bike sported cute handmade baskets front and back.

We had seen Florence and Lucca and would soon go to Pisa. Newell had a flight home to get back to work in Salt Lake City and the flight was cancelled because of fog; Newell was sent to Rome to wait for the next flight. When Tim heard this, he hopped on a train and met his father in the Eternal City.

Tim and Newell toured Rome.

Tim had seen much of the art of Europe, castles, museums and cathedrals but what he saw at the Vatican blew him away.

Tim was impressed with the beauty of the art and architecture of the Vatican and Rome.

Ender had come down with a sore throat and wasn’t feeling well so I had stayed home to care for him. After a couple of days we bought him a gelato hoping it would feel good to his sore throat. He hadn’t eaten much and was having a hard time sleeping.

Andrew took Ender to an Italian pediatrician and I rode along. The medical interpreter met us to accompany Ender into the examination room; Ender had a sore throat and fever. The pediatrician was kind but did not swab his throat as is routine with American pediatricians. The doctor spoke no English and we were  not able to talk to her in Italian without the interpreter. He cried and we were glad to be finished and get him settled down. The doctor prescribed an antibiotic or medicine I didn’t recognize and an over-the-counter pain reliever, the clinic brought both meds to the exam room and the interpreter wrote the dosage directions down for us in English. Getting a 2 year-old with a sore throat to take oral meds is challenging at best; I was glad he didn’t have an allergic reaction – something we have experienced with other family members.

The reason I am writing this is that there is talk of a decision-maker in another country considering cutting the medical liason/interpreter program at Camp Darby to save money. This small base has very few services available to the families stationed there, with the next American military base being several hours away. To send American families overseas and not provide adequate medical care is potentially a serious problem. There is a campaign on Change.org requesting that the interpreter program be left in place; if you have a moment, we would appreciate your signing the petition, the link is below.

Ender after a faceplant on the rooftop playground of his home. Cute little guy, we want what’s best for him.


To the Command Teams of Regional Health Command Europe and Vicenza MEDCOM,

We, the undersigned members of the Darby Military Community (DMC), friends and family members of the DMC, and supporters from around the world urgently request MEDCOM leadership to reconsider the dissolution of services by the TRICARE POC and the three Host Nation Patient Liaisons. Camp Darby is home to over 400 Active Duty Service Members command sponsored family members. Additionally, our community supports a small Retiree population as well as the DoD civilians and contractors that support the DMC missions. The community depends on the services provided by Michelle Cyr, the TRICARE POC, and the Patient Liaisons, Micaela Ballucchi, Ilaria Guerrini, and Barbara Lama for host nation care coordination, language and document translation and navigation of the various facilities and providers within our host nation healthcare network.

Camp Darby does have a small Medical Aid Station staffed by two Active Duty U.S. Air Force Independent Medical Technicians available to provide limited care but to Active Duty only. For the rest of our community we rely entirely on the Italian healthcare system for all our medical needs.

We understand the proposed solution for the elimination of the liaisons is for those enrolled and eligible for TRICARE Prime Remote to rely on International SOS for all referrals, authorizations, appointment scheduling, medical document translation and telephonic language assistance. Unfortunately, communication and language assistance is not always readily accessible. Most areas within the hospital have dead spots, limited or spotty cell service and exam rooms with landlines that cannot dial to 800 or foreign numbers. Therefore, given these obstacles, ISOS is not an acceptable solution.

Not having reliable, clear, and consistent communication to bridge the language barrier puts our Soldiers, Airmen and their families at risk for a potential medical crisis. Many of the host nation providers currently used regularly by DMC patients have already begun to voice concern about seeing us in the absence of the liaison staff referencing legal liability and safety concerns. Our host nation providers deliver quality care but that care is only as good as it is understood. If we do not have the valuable and dedicated liaisons present to assist with the delivery of this quality care, treatments, procedures, and medication information is not going to fully be understood and therefore undermines the quality of that care.

The size of the Camp Darby Military may be small, but that fact should not be used to take away the basic necessity which is access to quality medical care. While this action may support budget cuts, it could very well endanger the lives of Soldiers, Airmen, DOD civilians, and their families.

Thank you.

St. Patrick and the Emerald Isle

My sister recently ordered a DNA test and the results came back that our predominant genetic/cultural matches were Ireland and Scotland. I was excited, even though we always thought we were more British Isles (this, however explains my obsession with all things plaid.)

We visited Ireland for the first time in October of 2017. Although I’ve  posted about our trip there, I thought it would be fun to do a little bit of of a retrospective of the Emerald Isle.

First stop, the Blarney Castle for the kissing of the stone.

Video by Tim McMurtry

Blarney Castle
The tree sweaters at Blarney Castle
Gotta love those tree sweaters.
Interior of the castle
Acquiring the gift of blarney. The green you see is the meadow and trees several hundred feet below.

Blarney Castle battlements. Photo by Tim McMurtry

The difference between baloney and blarney was described to us this way; if a man approaches a mature woman and asks her age, he might say “I wanted to know because I thought you were 16” (baloney. ) Blarney would be, “I wanted to know at what age women achieve perfection.”  I could go with that.

What we didn’t know about the castle was that the Blarney Stone is at the top of several AWFUL upward winding stairways. Steep, narrow and uneven, they were part of the castle’s defense system. Enjoy the photos, I will never climb up there again.

Another part of the defense system, the Poison Gardens.

Oh oh, Irish weed. Poison in Ireland and legal in California.

A more pleasant surprise was the beautiful estate surrounding the castle that included grottos and waterfalls.

It was enchanting, speaking of which (witch?)…

We didn’t see any leprechauns until we reached the gift shop. There they were, caught and canned by the dozens.

On to Waterford…

In Waterford you would find crystal… and Vikings.

Then a stop in Kilkenny where the guys became captives. Blarney? You decide.


“After having a great time in Waterford and heading towards Dublin we saw a sign indicating Killkenny was not far away.  Having ancestors from County Killkenny and it wasn’t dark yet, we decided to go.

The town center was old, medieval with very narrow streets. Driving is difficult on the opposite side of the street than what you’re used to.  Add in the narrow streets with cars parked on both sides with barely enough space for one car to get through (yet it’s a two lane road.)  I didn’t get to see much, because I was so focused on driving.  When we found a place to park by a large department store I was ready to get out an explore.

Pam’s foot still hurt so she didn’t want to explore, but Tim and I wandered around city center heading towards the castle.  There were neat old churches, cobblestone streets, narrow alleyways you could only walk through and lots of people with interesting accents.

We got to the castle and checked, but we were too late to take a tour.  It was an interesting castle surrounded by a 12 foot stone wall and a very large lawn that lots of people were playing on or walking their dogs or just strolling around.  Here is what it looked like from the castle.  Notice all the people walking around and there are even more in the distance.  I thought it would be cool to take a picture from the hill you see it the distance.

We got there and took a picture as most of the people were clearing out.  There was this one man in the yard…” here the story stops, I will add the basics and hope Newell will finish his narrative later.

Tim shares that they were about here when they heard a bell ring. Not knowing what it was for, they started for the castle to find out.

When they arrived, to their chagrin, they discovered that the bell signaled that the castle was closing and they were locked in! The beautiful 12 foot stone walls defied their attempts to exit. Finally they found a tree that they could climb up, then get on the wall and jump off the other side. Imagine their astonishment when they discovered they were in a private yard, also with a locked gate! Somehow they figured out an escape route and got out. And there I was blithely shopping and wondering what had taken them so long.
Climbing over the wall here to exit the castle was not a viable option.
 The escapees found this route back to town.

We love Ireland.

We usually do a roasted corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day but our trip there inspired me to try an authentic Irish meal.

Truly Irish Cuisine

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Photo by Yummy Mummy Kitchen


Wash and pick over

1 lb. split peas

Place in a large pot and cover with 2 quarts of cold water.      Simmer gently 2 minutes; remove from heat. Cover and let stand 1 hour. Add

1 meaty ham bone, about 1 1/2 lbs.

2 tsp. ham-flavored soup base or 2 chicken bouillon cubes

1 1/2 C diced onion

1/4 tsp marjoram

1 tsp thyme

2 potatoes, diced

1 C celery, sliced

1 C carrots, sliced

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove ham bone, cut off meat and return to soup.

Adjust seasonings; serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Welcome to my Instant Pot pork roast recipe.
Photo by Recipe This


For bone-in pork roast, plan 1 lb. per serving; for boneless buy 1/2 lb. per serving. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a baking pan, place on a rack

3 – 5 lb. pork roast

rub with oil, sprinkle on salt and pepper. Bake uncovered 2 1/2 – 3 hours. Test for doneness with meat thermometer, should register at least 170 degrees.

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Photo by Chowhound


In a large skillet over medium heat, melt

2 TBSP butter


3 medium to large onions, sliced thinly

1 tsp sugar

Cook, stirring frequently about 30 minutes. Reduce heat and continue  cooking until onions are golden brown and soft, about an hour. Add

1 – 2 TBSP water if needed to reduce sticking.

Season with salt and pepper, serve hot with pork roast.

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Photo by Irish Central


Scrub thoroughly

8 medium potatoes

Place in a tall pot and cover with water. Add

1 onion, diced

1 tsp. salt

Over medium-high heat, boil 7 minutes. Add

1/4 cabbage or a handful of kale, thinly sliced

Continue boiling until potatoes are tender, about 7 minutes. Drain.

Mash and add

2 Tbsp butter

milk to desired consistency

Serve with butter, salt and pepper


Thoroughly wash and snap off stalk ends from

2 lbs. asparagus

Place in a large skillet with lid, cover with water and add

1 tsp. salt

Cover and cook until tender, about 10 minutes

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Photo by RecipeOfHealth


In a small saucepan melt over medium heat

1 TBSP butter

Stir in

1/2  C milk

3/4 tsp salt

3/4 C dark molasses

Set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine and stir until dissolved

1/4 C very warm water

1 pkg dry yeast

3 TBSP brown sugar, firmly packed

Let stand until bubbly, 5 – 15 min. Add milk mixture,

3/4 C bran cereal

1 1/2 C oat flour (grind oats in blender until powdery)

1 C whole wheat flour

Beat until well-blended, add

3/4 C all-purpose flour

Knead or beat until smooth. Place dough in greased bowl, turn over to grease top. Cover and place in a draft -free area to rise until doubled, about 1 – 1/2 hours. Punch dough down, knead briefly then shape into ball and place on a greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled about 40 minutes. With a sharp knife or razor, cut a tic-tac-toe design in the top of the loaf. Bake at 350 until browned and hollow-sounding when thumped 30 – 35 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool.

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Photo by Storyblocks


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together

2 eggs

2 C sugar

1/4 C oil

1/2 C applesauce

1 can apples packed in water, drained

1 C whole wheat flour

1 C all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 C nuts, chopped (optional)

Place in greased and floured 9″ x 13″ pan, bake for 1 hour. Cool. Frost with

2 C powdered sugar

2 TBSP lemon juice

Irish blessings for you in the coming year! And enjoy the story of the man who inspired the holiday – Saint Patrick.