Little Things Mean a Lot

From the Archives, February 2012. One of my all-time favorite posts! A good reminder of how important the little things are in a marriage! Still true six years later.

QuiltI’ve always loved quilts. I’m amazed at how a quilter can take separate pieces of material and turn them into one beautiful creation.

The definition of a quilt is simple – a bed coverlet of two layers of cloth filled with padding held in place by ties or stitched designs.

I’ve found from experience that the more stitches or ties that are binding the pieces together – the longer the quilt lasts.

Several years ago I sewed a quilt for Matt’s bed. It looked nice at first – but since I made it very quickly, the few ties that I put in to hold it together soon broke in the strain of use.

I have another quilt that my Grandma made for me during my college years. She carefully tied it every few inches making a tight and warm covering that has stood the test of time and is still being used today.

One quilt lasted and one didn’t.

Marriage is like a quilt.

It begins as two separate lives that are bound together by a vow.

Then the process of “quilting” begins.

A good quilter knows that many small stitches hold better than a few big ones. The same is true of marriage. It’s the little things in daily life that will make a marriage strong.

Little things that say “I love you and you are important to me.”

Things like – getting up early to make your husband breakfast and packing his lunch before he leaves for work.

And getting the special “thank you – I appreciate this” look while he holds your hand and blesses  that breakfast.

It’s when your husband puts a CD in and immediately goes to your favorite song, or when he gives you all the M & M’s from his trail mix, or takes the dish towel from you and sends you to the couch to rest.

It’s letting your husband eat the last piece of apple pie, or choose what to watch on TV, or sleep undisturbed in the recliner on a Sunday afternoon.

It’s a kiss when they leave and a kiss when they return.

It’s a phone call at lunch break, a back rub, a shared joke.

It’s taking time to really listen.

It’s putting their needs ahead of your own.

It’s those little things.

Stitch by stitch. Everyday. Binding your hearts together.

“Little Things Mean A Lot”
Kitty Kallen

Blow me a kiss from across the room
Say I look nice when I’m not
Touch my hair as you pass my chair
Little things mean a lot

Give me your arm as we cross the street
Call me at six on the dot
A line a day when you’re far away
Little things mean a lot

Don’t have to buy me diamonds and pearls
Champagne, sables or such
I never cared much for diamonds and pearls
’cause honestly, honey, they just cost money

Give me your hand when I’ve lost the way
Give me a shoulder to cry on
Whether the day is bright or gray
Give me your heart to rely on

Send me the warmth of a secret smile
To show me you haven’t forgot
For always and ever, now and forever
Little things mean a lot

Saturday Date Night

It was a Facebook post Saturday morning that started the adventure.

Some friends are building a home in northern Missouri and had discovered a little country church nearby. They were having a Sweetheart Dinner that night – would we like to come?

Lured by the thoughts of prime rib with all the fixings, followed by an evening of gospel music – it was an easy sell.

Jan and I drove the winding country roads of southern Iowa into the alphabetical maze of back roads the makes up northern Missouri as the sun was setting over beautiful snow covered fields.

It was so peaceful.

We found the church nestled in the hills surrounded by rolling pastures, just as it had been for the last 150 years.

This faithful congregation had been serving up a free prime rib meal and gospel music to the community every February for more than a decade.

They greeted us warmly – wayfaring strangers that we were. The conversation was lively. The company fun.

And the food! Oh my! The food was abundant, delicious, and homemade – a hunk of prime rib that covered half my plate, potatoes, salad, crescent rolls, green beans and bacon, and a table full of desserts.

Then the music began.

It was nothing professional – just some friends who played really well. A man on the banjo with his eighty something year old momma on the bass and his buddy on the guitar.

Joking. Laughing. Strumming. Singing.

It was comfortable – like being invited into someone’s living room for some music.

Gospel songs. Mountain melodies. Old Hymns.

The melodies rang out of the old church on the frosty February night.

And we were a part of it.

When the music ended – we reluctantly said our good-byes and started the 45 minute drive home, navigating those same winding roads under the light of  full moon.

The snow sparkled as we held hands, the music still ringing in our ears.

And my heart smiled.

Valentine Banquet

Part of last week’s busyness included taking this crazy crew of kids…youth group…and pulling off a Valentine’s banquet for the entire church.

The kids did everything!

They set up the tables…

Valentine tablescape

…using wedding pictures to decorate – as well as candles, streamers, M&M’s and conversation hearts.


They did the cooking.

kitvchen crew

And with my own Dagmar (in the black apron) in charge of the kitchen, everything ran smoothly.

Or – close enough.

And serving.

servingWhich also went surprising well. (Oh yes – that is a tuxedo! Only the best for our guests!)

Then – following the delicious three course meal – the kids provided some world class entertainment!

Valentine skitsWell – okay – it was actually a series of skits that the kids wrote full of inside jokes and some wigs that left the audience in stitches. (That’s my Pedro in the center!)

And when our guests – of all ages – left, the kids cleaned up.

I was so proud of how hard those kids worked and what a good job they did!

And I’m tired.

Very tired.

Working with teenagers is not for the faint of heart!

Valentine Goodies

This is one of my favorite weeks all year!

Call me a hopeless romantic – but I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day, with all the pink and red and hearts and, of course, chocolate!

We’ll be celebrating with our traditional lasagna meal with cream puffs for dessert.

But we’ve also enjoyed –

Chocolate sugar cookies, cut in the shape of a heart and drizzled with white chocolate. If I had been a little more energetic – I would have frosted them beautifully – but they still tasted great!

DippedAnd covered pretzels. We used white almond bark and then sprinkled them with pink colored sugar. Super fast to make -and a family favorite!

And later this week –

Chocolate strawberry ice cream loafI’ll be working with our Youth Group to make and serve several of these strawberry ice cream cakes at our church Valentine’s Banquet.

Even though the layers do take some time to freeze between, it’s worth it!

Seriously – who wouldn’t love Valentine’s week with all this good food to enjoy!

So – how are you celebrating?

Let’s Love Them While We Can

CookiesOn Saturday – like every year on the Saturday before Valentine’s Day – I took my kids in to the nursing home to help their 4H club host the February birthday party.

I will admit it wasn’t something I looked forward to. It was more like something I made the kids do because it was right and good.

But I walked away from that nursing home with tears in  my eyes and a full heart.

As we were arranging cookies and passing out the well-used bingo cards, I noticed a couple walk in. He was gently leading her – holding her arm while carrying on a quiet conversation, pointing out things of interest, asking her where she would like to sit.

She was silent, her head down, her eyes open, but vacant as she shuffled in beside him. I wondered if it was a sudden stroke, or the slow moving effects of Alzheimer’s that had robbed this man of his wife.

He gently seated her at a window table and continued the one sided conservation – all the while holding her hand.

I watched through-out the Bingo game as he played her card and his own, announcing her Bingo and choosing the prize he knew she would like.

She remained seated there staring into space – quiet and still  – except for the involuntary spasms her limbs made.

I lost sight of them for a few minutes while we passed out the frosted sugar cookies and punch. But later, as things calmed down, I looked over to see that he had gently tucked a napkin under her chin and was slowly, methodically, patiently feeding her a sugar cookie.

I wish you could have seen his eyes. They held no pity for her, no shame, only love. It was as if they were the only two people in the room.

That’s when my eyes filled with tears. I wanted to take a picture – but I couldn’t. It was such a private thing. That man was sharing his heart.

But if I had taken it – it would have been a perfect picture of love.

“Love is patient, love is kind… It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking… It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

I wondered how many Valentine’s they had celebrated over the years? How many Mondays and Tuesdays and Wednesdays they had shared? How many times they had sat down and enjoyed a cookie and small talk together?

How many times she told him she loved him before her speech was gone?

How many times he had told he loved her before she couldn’t understand?

It made me want to go home and hug my husband, tell my children I loved them, and call my parents and siblings – with a heart full of gratitude because they are still here to love.

“We must love them while we can, we must love them while we can
For time just seems to hurry by, and the days slip into years
And the moments that we have will disappear
So love them while we can…”

from the Chris Christian song, “Love Them While We Can”

Deep Dark Chocolate Mousse

Ahh..February,  how I love you!

When you arrive it means that nasty cold and overcast January is history for another year.

You are the short little month that bridges the gap between the arctic wind of winter and the warmer breezes of spring. At least we hope so….

You bring us the legendary Groundhog’s Day and the holiday that celebrates romance – Valentine’s Day.

And you remind me of chocolate.

Well, all right – so everything reminds of chocolate!;)

Since we’re talking about chocolate anyway – how about something rich, and creamy and smooth?!

Something so decadent that it would chase away the winter doldrums!

Something that said “Chocolate” with every bite.

Enter the legendary Chocolate Mousse.

Made with a rich dark chocolate, this one will make you smile no matter what the thermometer says !

Deep Dark Chocolate Mousse

From the Hershey’s Chocolate Cookbook

1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup milk
1 cup dark chocolate chips
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup cold whipping cream (1/2 pint)
Sweetened whipped cream or Cool Whip (optional)

Stir together the sugar and gelatin in small saucepan. Stir in the milk. Let stand 2 minutes to soften the gelatin. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture just begins to boil.

Remove from heat and immediately add the chocolate chips, stirring until melted. Add the vanilla and cool to room temperature.

Beat whipping cream with electric mixture on medium speed until stiff peaks form. Add half of the chocolate mixture and gently fold until nearly combined.

Add the remaining chocolate mixture and fold until just blended.

Spoon into pretty bowl or individual serving dishes. Refrigerate.  Garnish with sweetened whipped cream just before serving.


Happy Valentine’s Day!

You must know by now that I love traditions – especially holiday traditions!

Valentine’s Day just happens to be one of my favorites!

Somewhere around baby number three we realized that finding a sitter and heading out to eat on Valentine’s Day was more expensive and stressful then it was worth.

So I made a special meal for the entire family – and served it by candlelight.

A tradition was born.

This year was no exception! But since we had a church activity on Valentine’s day – we celebrated early.  Dagmar was our chef for the evening and decorated the table with candles and napkins.

It is amazing how beautiful 25 cent silk flowers from the thrift store look in candlelight! It’s also amazing how candlelight covers up the baskets of unfolded laundry, the piles of toys, and the school books that never got put away!

Notice the napkins? Over twelve years ago I bought some nice red cotton material, cut it into napkins and hemmed them up. We’ve used them for Christmas and Valentine’s Day ever since!

The menu varies somewhat from year to year – but always includes red jello with Cool Whip. This year Dagmar got fancy with a heart mold and conversation hearts!

An Italian dish – like cavatini or lasagna is almost always our main dish. This year it was a yummy sausage lasagna! She added a lettuce salad and freshly baked baguettes. We filled our garage sale stemmed glasses with pink lemonade to drink.

Dessert is always cream puffs – always!

They are filled with French vanilla cream and topped with chocolate ganache.  Yummy! This year we fancied up the plates a little with Smucker’s raspberry plate-scapers.

There is usually a card or two to open, maybe a small gift or chocolate treat.

It’s a simple, but very special way to celebrate with my Valentine’s.

What better way to say “I Love You” then with food!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Chocolate Mousse Cake

Chocolate Mousse Cake

This  rich chocolate mousse cake is a delightful chocolate treat that is sure to impress the Valentine’s in your life.

It looks and tastes like it took hours to make, but actually is quite fast to assemble. If you are short for time, just use a boxed chocolate cake mix.

Chocolate Mousse Cake


Stir together in a medium bowl and set aside:

1 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Beat together in a second bowl:

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/3 cup sugar


1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat on high speed for 1 minute.

Slowly add the dry ingredients into the mixture alternately with 1 cup milk.

Pour the batter into 2 greased 8 inch round cake pans and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Let the cakes cool on wire racks for 10 minutes, then take them out of the pans and cool completely.


In medium bowl combine:

1 1/2 cup of milk
2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract

Beat in for 2 minutes:

1 large package instant chocolate pudding mix ( 6 servings size)

Fold in:

2 cups of Cool Whip


Place one of the cakes on a platter. Spread with 1/4 cup of seedless strawberry jam. Spread with a large spoonful of the mouse.

Spread the other cake with 1/4 cup of seedless strawberry jam and invert on the first layer.

Put the cake and the remaining mousse in the refrigerator for about an hour for the mousse to set.

Spread the remaining mousse on the top and sides of the cake.

Refrigerate until served.

Chocolate Heart Cookies

Chocolate Heart CookiesReady for a change from the traditional white sugar cookies for Valentine’s Day?

How about a chocolate heart cookie?

These are a really yummy cookie, but a few cautions are needed. They are very soft and break easily, so handle with care.

The original recipe called for dipping the cookies in white chocolate and drizzling with dark chocolate, but we had a lot of trouble dipping!

Actually we had a lot of trouble melting the white chocolate, then it wouldn’t stick to the cookies.

We finally scrapped the white chocolate off and mixed it all into a basic frosting recipe, tinted it pink, and frosted the cookies.

Yummy! It was both colorful and tasty!

Chocolate Heart Cookies
(from Taste of Home Feb/Mar 2005)

Cream together:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Beat in:

  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla

In a separate bowl combine:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup baking cocoa.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4 inch thickness.

Cut out cookies with a 3 inch cookie cutter. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until firm.  Cool on wire racks.

At this point you can frost them or you can melt 1 cup of white chocolate chips with 1 tablespoon of shortening. Dip both sides of the cookie into the melted chocolate.

Melt 1/2 cup of chocolate chips with 1 tablespoon shortening and drizzle over the cookie.

Either way, the cookies are a great way to make your Valentine’s feel special!

Valentine’s Day Tradition: Cream Puffs

Chocolate Filled Cream PuffsI love Valentine’s Day! All the love talk and chocolate, and hearts, and chocolate, and silly little valentine’s and chocolate. Oh by the way? Did I mention the chocolate?

The kids and I have been watching the Food Network’s chocolate specials every evening and I think I’ve gained 5 pounds just looking!

Of course I can’t let this holiday go by without some special desserts for the special Valentine’s in my life! Several years ago I started the tradition of making cream puffs for dessert for our special Valentine’s meal. I fill them with French Vanilla Custard and top them off with a rich chocolate ganache. They are a little more involved (as in more steps and take longer) than most of the recipes I share with you, but not very difficult.

Cream Puffs: Melt 1/2 cup of butter in 1 cup of boiling water. Add 1 cup flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt all at once and stir vigorously. Cook, stirring constantly until the mixtures forms a ball that doesn’t separate. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating vigorously after each one.

Drop by heaping tablespoons 3 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake in a very hot, 450 degree oven for 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the cream puffs from the oven and split them open. Turn the oven OFF and put the cream puffs in oven for 20 minutes to dry out. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.

French Custard Filling: Mix together 2/3 cup of sugar, 2 Tablespoons flour, 2 Tablespoons cornstarch, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Gradually stir in 3 cups of milk. Cook and stir until the mixture thickens and boils, cook and stir 2-3 minutes more. Stir a little of the hot mixture into 2 beaten egg yolks, then return to the hot milk, stirring constantly, bringing just to the boil. Add 2 teaspoons of vanilla. Cool completely. Beat smooth with electric mixer. Whip up 1 cup of whipping cream and carefully fold in. (Or you can shortcut and use 8 ounces of Cool Whip)

Chocolate Ganache: Melt in microwave 2/3 cup of whipping cream and 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips. Stir till smooth.

To assemble: Open the cream puff and fill with French Vanilla Custard. Lay the top on carefully and drizzle (or dump, pour, drown) it with the chocolate ganache. Serve with a kiss and a smile and the Valentine in your life will thank you!

All of the components (cream puffs, French vanilla cream and the ganache) can be made ahead , then assembled the day you wish to serve them. I have on occasion used a box pudding mix instead of the custard. (I highly recommend the Jello White Chocolate Pudding!). I just mixed according to the recipe and then folded in Cool Whip.

Enjoy a delightful and chocolate-filled Valentine’s Day!