Girls Night In

the blog for single, over-40 women

Perfect Fudge

I know it’s something folks struggle with. Perfect fudge is an anomaly that few have mastered.

Is it vain to admit I’m one of the few?

My mom made fudge when I was young and I picked it up from her. She used the marshmallow creme recipe; so do I. Sadly, she’s been gone for over 30 years and I honestly can’t recall much else about how she did it. I just remember how yummy it was.

But I picked it up as a holiday tradition and have been making it myself since high school. With time and practice, I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I don’t even need the recipe. Which is fortunate, because around the holidays the family wants my fudge more than pumpkin pie. My sister prefers it to cake on her birthday. And my dad loves it, as evident in the photo.Perfect Fudge

So … let me tell you how it’s done. Perfect fudge requires the three P’s:

Products
Perseverance
Power

Products:

First of all, as I already mentioned, the marshmallow creme (not fluff!) recipe works perfectly fine. Walmart has small plastic containers of marshmallow creme for only $1. You need one for every three pounds of fudge. I usually make six pounds at a time. Also, make sure you use real semi-sweet chocolate chips* and real butter. (I use salted butter. I haven’t tried it with unsalted so I don’t know if there’s a difference.)

You also need a can of evaporated milk, lots of sugar (1 cup for each pound of fudge) and vanilla. Nuts are, of course, an option but my family prefers it without. Having everything ready to go—butter unwrapped, sugar measured and in a bowl, chip bags cut open, and covers removed from the marshmallow creme—will only make the process easier for you.

Perseverance:

Start by melting the butter, then add the milk and sugar. With the temp at medium-high heat, keep stirring until it comes to a full boil. This will seem like it takes forever. It’s fine to turn the temp up a bit as long as you stir without ceasing and keep an eye on it so it doesn’t scorch.

As soon as it starts boiling, set a timer for 5 minutes. This not only tells you when it’s ready but lets you count down what might feel like the longest 5 minutes of your life. Most importantly, do NOT stop stirring. Persevere, my friends, because this is when sugar and butter become candy. And don’t some of the best things in life come through patience?

I could turn this into a devotional here … but I won’t. You can probably figure out where I’d go with it anyway.

Power:

When the timer goes off, remove the sugar mixture from the heat but keep stirring as it begins to cool. Add the chocolate chips, mixing until melted and incorporated. Finally, add the creme and vanilla.

I’m not going to lie, folks. Stirring all of this together is tough work. At one point, it will look like this:

Perfect Fudge 2

Fortunately, you’re almost done at this point! Not to sound redundant but … keep stirring. As soon as it’s all incorporated and as smooth as pudding, pour into a pan(s) lightly coated with non-stick cooking spray. I usually use the disposable tins.

All you have to do now is put it in the fridge to harden and, voila!, perfect fudge.

If you try it, let me know how it turns out. And happy day-after-Thanksgiving!

 

* Any kind of chip works great, so follow your heart, flavor-wise. One of my friends makes white chocolate with bits of peppermint sticks to share with her family at Christmas, for instance.

Advertisements
Leave a comment »

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

DSC_0014(1)

Leave a comment »

To the Ones We Love

To Loved Ones -  Serge Bertasius Photography

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography/freedigitalimages.net

With the holiday season upon us, I thought now would be a good time to speak to those in our family who might not be aware of the negative impact they can have, intentionally or not, on the single heart.

A meme starting floating around on Facebook this week stating, “Best of luck explaining why you’re still single at Thanksgiving and Charles Manson isn’t.”

Yes, it’s true: we heard in the “news” this week that the 80-year-old psychotic killer had announced his engagement to a 26-year-old painter. I have no idea why this woman wants to marry him, unless it’s to make money. But I do know I feel pity and horror, not jealousy. So I don’t have to explain anything.

Still, it reminded me how hard the holidays can be for anyone who’s confronted by the “why-are-you-still-single” tactics of well-meaning relatives. In fact, I’ve devoted a chapter of my upcoming nonfiction book, Spinstered: Surviving Singleness After 40, to our married friends on this very topic. Here’s an excerpt:

A few years ago, one of my friends lost her mother to a brain tumor. At the funeral, in the midst of her grief, a woman approached my friend and said, “It’s just so sad you never married. I know that’s something she always wanted for you.”

This is the kind of thing no one needs to tell us. We don’t need to hear we’re getting past our prime or a good man is hard to find or we’re breaking our mother’s heart by remaining single.

We know you love us and we choose to believe you want to encourage and support us in our singleness. That’s why I’m pointing these things out.

So, here are a few suggestions for how to show love to the single members of your family:

  • Don’t tiptoe around us like we’re fragile children. Treat us like adults who can figure things out and work through them. Singleness does not equal immaturity.
  • Don’t claim you know there’s someone out there for us. That leads to false hope. The only one who knows if that’s true is God.
  • Please don’t repeat clichés about singleness. We’ve heard them all and have already decided how we feel about each one.
  • Do let us be sad and offer a shoulder to cry on.
  • Do tell us about great single men you know. We realize it’s one of the best ways to meet new guys. Most of us are open to being set up with a good man, as long as you let us know ahead of time. Surprise blind dates are, more often than not, awkward for everyone. Just make sure—I implore you—that he is a good man.
  • Do encourage us to hope but not to obsess; help us through heartbreak and over bad days.
  • Do pray for us.

For our single readers: Do you have anything you want your family to know about singleness as we head into the holiday season?

Leave a comment »

Thank You, Jesus

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/freedigitalimages.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/freedigitalimages.net

Lately, with overwhelming school assignments, post-graduation planning, and the general angst that singleness, indebtedness and transition bring, my emotions have been like a rollercoaster. One day I’m up, feeling as optimistic and joyful as one can feel about the amazing opportunities awaiting me in the future. The next day I’m down, feeling all that the future holds for me is disappointment, loneliness and poverty.

Why these emotional shifts?

I can think of two reasons:

One, I am afraid. I battle with fears from without and fears from within. From without I am regularly hearing stories of people who are achieving big things. This one will be discussing current events on the national news; that one will be delivering a Big Speech before Important People; another one just lost 50 pounds of fat and gained lean muscle mass; someone else has a 4.0 GPA and strong references to include in their applications to PhD programs. They all seem like giants and I seem like a grasshopper.

In addition to all the outward fears, on the inside I have a frenemy. My inner frenemy tells me that I am not smart enough, that I am not Christian enough, that I am not disciplined enough. That Dave Ramsey, the money nazi guru, would disapprove of me. My frenemy tells me that I want too much from life; that I have enough blessings and should just be satisfied already; that I don’t deserve what I desire—who am I that I should get to study in a far and distant land, and pursue a doctorate no less? Who am I that I would dare to preach?

My inner frenemy also really likes to remind me that I don’t have a man.

Which brings me to the other reason that my emotions keep veering back and forth. Secretly, in the quietest recesses of my heart, I’m feeling love feelings for a man that I wish I did not feel.

My logical mind tells me that because my feelings are misplaced (since this man is not on my level in some ways), and because my feelings are inappropriate (since my logical mind has already concluded that aloneness and a life devoted to God are the path to happiness for me), and because my feelings are irrationally leading me to sure and certain heartache, my logical mind has refused to entertain even the possibility of the existence of these feelings.

But feelings cannot be willed away.

When things slowed down for me a bit, and I was able to be still without worry about the long list of things I needed to attend to, I heard my heart whisper feelings of love. And my logical mind heaved a great sigh. A sigh of futility, of resignation and of acceptance. I shouldn’t love him, but I do.

I realized that the answer to all my fears, and the answer to all the silent feelings hidden inside my heart, are the same. Instead of pretending as if I don’t feel like a grasshopper among giants, instead of pretending that I don’t hear the voice of my inner frenemy, instead of pretending that my heart does not feel what it feels, I have to face it all.

But I have difficulty seeing these things, and don’t always have the strength to face them.

Thanks be to God, then, for Jesus.

The whole time I am mindlessly going to watch another movie, or filling my calendar with things that need doing, or going to get something else to eat, Jesus is waiting for me.

When I am still and open to Jesus, His Spirit comes and makes everything clear and makes everything right. He shows me my fear, and tells me to fear not. He then gives me faith to trust Him and to move past my fears. He shows me my heart, and the longing for love inside of it, and tells me how much He loves me. He then gives me the grace to trust His love, and to find satisfaction in Him.

Jesus is there, as often as I need Him, however deep my need, to be my friend, to be my guide, my help, my everything.

In the coming weeks, with all the feelings that the holidays are sure to provoke, I am thankful for the reminder that Jesus is close by, and waiting for me to draw close to Him.

1 Comment »

Let Us Come Before Him with Thanksgiving

Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw/freedigitalphotos.net

Let us come before him with Thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
                                                                                ~Psalm 95:2

Thanksgiving is upon us. I’ve always loved Thanksgiving with its focus on what is most important in life. I also love that it ushers in the holiday season. The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are time for parties, friends, family, shopping and anticipation.

The holidays can be rough for single people. It can be a stark reminder of what we’re missing out on. Sometimes it’s hard this time of year to slow down and find things to be thankful for.

That’s the very reason I think we need to be more focused on our thankfulness. Rather than get caught up in whys and what ifs, we need to remember the great things the Lord has done for us. It will help us get through the holidays if we remember what this time of year is all about.

When we come before the Lord with Thanksgiving, we have the joy of knowing all the ways He has blessed us. And that joy will spill over into our celebrations and time with friends and family.

 

 

Leave a comment »

Can I Get a Witness?

Witness - by imagerymajestic

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/freedigitalimages.net

Something cool happened to me last week but I was alone at the time and forgot to write it down. Does that ever happen to you? I wanted to tell someone; now I’ll have to wait and see if, someday, I remember—and if I’m in a situation where I can share the story at that time. So it is, instead, merely a part of my history that, quite possibly, no one will ever share with me.

Of course, there are many times when that’s probably a good thing. Let’s be realistic. Sure, the night I pulled my Stouffer’s out of the oven but hit the edge of the rack, causing the tray of barbecue chicken and potatoes to flip up in the air and land upside down on the oven door might have caused a few chuckles. Once I started cleaning and venting, though, the fun would have been over.

Still, I wish I would stop forgetting some of those funny or sweet or serendipitous moments that might have led to laughs or tears, or simply made someone smile like it did me.

Did you see the movie Shall We Dance? with Richard Gere? He plays a lawyer named John who starts taking dance lessons from Jennifer Lopez. His wife, Beverly (Susan Sarandon), decides to hire a private detective to find out if John is cheating on her. At one point, she asks the detective why he thinks people get married. His first response: “Passion.” When she says no he turns the question back on her. Beverly replies:

Because we need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet … I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things … all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying “Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness.”

As a whole, that movie didn’t stick with me, but that scene did. I don’t like the idea of my life going un-witnessed. But I would guess-timate more than half of it has. Beautiful moments. Sad moments. The good and the bad. The triumphs and the heartaches experienced in the solitude of my home or car.

Yes, I know God sees it all. I really wish I could say that’s enough. It’s what’s expected. Expected by people, yes, but not necessarily by God. In fact, I believe He understands. He understands loneliness and feeling invisible. Boy, does He understand. After He made Adam, it took Him but a moment to realize Adam needed another relationship besides the one he had with God. The man needed a helper, a companion. A witness.

Did God say, “You have Me. That should be enough”? No, He gave Adam a new relationship. And not just any relationship. He gave him a wife.

That’s significant to me. The first relationship God created—besides the one between Him and man—was the marital one. He didn’t give him parents or siblings or a good friend. Well, I guess He did give Adam a good friend. A best friend. And someone who wouldn’t just witness his life but be a participant in it.

So Adam could say, “Do you remember the time … ?” and there was someone who might reply, even when she was old and gray, “Yes, love, I remember.” Then she could tell him about those little things he forgot.

Do you have a witness to your life?

1 Comment »

Sweet Potato Casserole

Ah, Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Despite what my friends think, because I do love my Christmas lights, I am a fan of Thanksgiving. Growing up we always had a very traditional Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce and all the other good stuff.

For years Mom made mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallows covering the top. I loved how crunchy brown the marshmallows would get as the sweet potatoes cooked in the oven. It was quite possibly my favorite dish.

But then I had Thanksgiving dinner with my friend Jan and her family one year while living in Oregon. She served this amazing sweet potato casserole. For weeks after I craved that casserole.

When I first brought the recipe home and offered to make it for the family I was met with quite a bit of resistance. Until I served it.

Next holiday I was told I could come to dinner at my sister’s house only if I brought sweet potato casserole. And so it became a new tradition in the family. The funny thing was, that year I couldn’t find the piece of paper I wrote the recipe on and had to call my sister to have her give me my own recipe! Good thing I had shared it with her!

Today, I’d like to share that recipe with you all.

Sweet Potatoes

4 medium sweet potatoes (I use the yellow ones which I think may technically be yams, but yam casserole just doesn’t sound as good)

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup corn syrup

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup sugar

Peel and boil the potatoes until soft enough to mash. Once the potatoes have cooled, mash them and then mix them with the softened butter, corn syrup, eggs and sugar. Spread the mixture in a large rectangular pan.

Topping

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup butter, softened

Mix together and drop by spoonful on top of sweet potatoes.

Bake at 350 degrees about 30 minutes until the potatoes are hot and the crust is browned.

***

Unfortunately I don’t have a picture because they never last long enough to snap a pic, but I’ll leave you with this….

 

Turkey

2 Comments »

So, I Wrote This Book …

SpinsteredTheNovelCoverSometime in September, I took a chance and entered my novel, Spinstered, in the monthly Clash of the Titles contest. Since family, friends and fans vote for the winner, I knew it was a long shot. It didn’t help that I had some serious competition.

Still, I told my family, friends and even the high school students I teach. The latter I bribed by promising fudge if I won.

Thursday morning, I crawled out of bed a little early to keep that promise. I won the contest and I know my students had a lot to do with that. Not only did many of them vote but they encouraged their friends and family members to do the same.

Anyway, the website’s announcement included a Q & A about my writing journey. I thought it might be fun to share that here. Just pretend Barbara Walters is asking the questions.

***

Let’s start at the beginning—how long have you wanted to be a writer and what did you envision for your writing life?

I knew I wanted to be a writer when I wrote my first poem at the age of 5. And, for the longest time, that dream meant being a romance novelist. In my 20s, I saw myself becoming the clean, Christian version of Kathleen Turner’s character in Romancing the Stone—enjoying a life of adventure and romance and lots of bestsellers.

So, what happened?

Well, things didn’t turn out the way I imagined. (Do they ever?) On October 15, I turned 51 and, though I suppose I’ve had a few mild adventures, I still dream of true love and being such a popular novelist that even people in the jungles of Columbia have heard of me.

Back in my 40s, though, I realized I needed to write about my single heart and broken dreams. When I started working on Spinstered, it was a nonfiction book about grieving singleness. I took the seven stages of grief—denial, disbelief, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression and hope—and applied them to what I was dealing with as a 40-something single woman.

A few years later, while at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, a friend encouraged me to focus on my fiction writing. As a result, Spinstered the Novel was born.

What are some of your strengths as a writer?

Years ago, I had the privilege to work for the in-house radio marketing department at Focus on the Family. I learned I not only love writing scripts and dialog but I’m pretty good at it. I even won a few awards while I was there.

I’m also passionately committed to making my manuscript as good as I can. Though that can also be a detriment because I’m a bit OCD about it, which means I have a hard time letting something I wrote go until it’s perfect. And it’s never perfect.

Continuing that thought, what are your weaknesses as a writer?

Well, to be honest, I don’t write as much as I should. I think it’s a mixture of fear and laziness. Fear that what I write won’t be any good. And the laziness that comes from letting other things distract me from what I know needs to be done. Like spending too much time on Facebook.

Why did you decide to self-publish Spinstered?
That’s a long, sad story but suffice it to say I went through a disappointing contract experience that did not end with a published book. In the meantime, numerous interactions with singles fed the urgency I felt to get this book to the audience I know is out there.

My choice was to start over with submitting to agents or editors—a process that can take years—or self-publish. Since the novel had already gone through several rounds of edits, I knew I could have it ready within a week or two. In fact, I was able to make my goal of taking copies to the Labor Day Singles Retreat at Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville, NC. I sold several copies there and made some great connections. It also led to my first 5-star review!

What’s next?

First, I plan to finish and self-publish the nonfiction version—Spinstered: Surviving Singleness After 40—in the next few months. In addition, I wrote an unrelated novella titled Cold Read that I hope to have available soon. Finally, I have two sequels to Spinstered in the works. Book two will be titled Inconceived and I’ll probably name book three Altared. Of course, all of that could change. I’m open to whatever God wants to do!

Interested in purchasing Spinstered? Here are the links:

Click here for the Kindle version

Click here for the paperback

And here’s a brief description:

Three friends. Three stories. Three women trying to figure out how they ended up over 40 and still single. 

Committed to her job and pushing fifty, Catie Delaney has almost given up on her dream of love and marriage. Maybe, she tells herself, she’d be happier just embracing her singleness. Maybe that’s been God’s will all along. 

Catie’s friends, Jolene and Uli, have their own struggles with men, careers, and family. 

Then into this mix of feminine angst walks Brian Kemper—the latest GWP (Guy With Potential) to join their church’s singles group. But just as something seems about to happen between him and Catie, her world falls apart. 

With their hearts on the line, these three friends search for hope … and find it in unexpected places.

Thank you for being a part of this journey!
Leave a comment »

Thankful Thursday

There are three Thursdays until Thanksgiving. In the spirit of the month, in celebration of my favorite time of the year, and in obedience to Scripture (“in everything give thanks”) I am going to recognize these few Thursdays as Thankful Thursdays.

Here’s a thing that I am truly thankful for this November 2014:

Alone

Image courtesy of Ohmmy3d/freedigitalimages.net

Aloneness.

This sounds somewhat depressing, I know, but truly it is a gift. For the first time in, well, ever, I am not in a friendship, relationship or non-relationship relationship with a man, nor am I looking to be in such a situation.

The opportunity has presented itself to resume an emotionally unhealthy relationship with one man-friend, or to get entangled in a non-relationship relationship with a different man-friend, or to get out there and date some new man. I have passed on all of these opportunities.

I’ve had moments of loneliness, I readily admit. Moments when I wanted to connect with someone and share some happening that I knew my man-friend would appreciate. There have been moments when I have thought to myself that even if these relationships are not satisfying, and one or both of us is being somewhat dishonest about what we want or need from the other, some kind of relationship with a man is better than none.

Despite these rumblings—of fear, really—I remained alone.

And I am so proud of this fact that I want to have a plaque made or something. To me, this period of aloneness feels like I’m accepting the uncertainties of the future without needing to reach for the security blanket of friendships steeped in confusion. I can face the uncertainty, and embrace the ambiguousness of the future; I can feel scared, or lonesome, or sexy, and not try to do anything about it. I can just feel what I feel until I feel differently. There’s no need for me to create relationships, or to create drama in relationships, to divert my attention away from my feelings.

I am thankful for the grace to be alone.

How about you? Is aloneness on your list of things you’re grateful for?

2 Comments »

If I Knew Then What I Know Now

Photo courtesy: Idea Go/freedigitalphotos.nt

Photo courtesy: Idea Go/freedigitalphotos.nt

The Sunday School class I attend each week meets in the cafeteria of the junior high school next door. Hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the room is a disco ball, just waiting for those ubiquitous school dances.

Between that disco ball and a recent conversation about someone I knew in high school, I’ve been thinking about my junior high and high school career and how that shaped so much of my life. As a child, I was very shy. And on top of that, I grew up in a military family, so I moved a lot and was always the new kid in school. By the time I reached the 10th grade, I was starting my 11th school. It was tough for me to make friends and because of that, as a high school student, I never dated. I didn’t quite know how to relate to my classmates, especially the boys. Apparently, most of the school population didn’t quite know how to relate to me either. I spent a lot of time alone day dreaming of friends, dates and fun.

I don’t know if much has changed since those days. I’ll admit, I am better at making friends, but the whole boy thing still confounds me.

Anyhow, the real reason I bring this up is because I’ve been pondering the question, if you could go back to another stage of your life with the knowledge you have now, would you?

My most common answer to that question has always been, “No, I really didn’t like that time in my life, why would I want to go back?” But, honestly, if I had known then what I know now, it probably would have been totally different. For instance, I always thought the reason I didn’t have many friends was because I was weird or ugly or too much of something or not enough of something. After the conversation mentioned above, I went back to my high school yearbook and as I read through the comments in the book, I realized the reason things didn’t work the way I wanted them to was because I was too quiet and didn’t know how to reach out to others. They were junior high and high school students just like me, and most didn’t have the social skills to know how to deal with someone like me. It was a simple as that.

Knowing that, if I had a time machine, I could probably go back and change my life. The dreams of Mr. Right and a large family might actually have come to fruition. Heck, I might be President of the United States. The possibilities are endless.

I know—by now you’re thinking, what difference does it make? You can’t go back, you can only go forward. You’re right, you know.

So why even bring this up? As I’ve considered all of this, I’ve come to the realization that even if I went back, it might change some things but, in reality, God has always had a plan for my life. I don’t think my lack of social skills in high school made any difference in His designs.

I believe He had a plan in my singleness until I was 42, so getting married early was never in the cards for me. I’m okay with that. I hate the reason why my singleness was so important in my late 30s and early 40s, but I am so thankful God allowed me to be the one to walk so closely beside my parents during the last years of my mom’s life. It was the hardest and yet most beautiful time of my life. I thank God for choosing me to be there.

The other reason I’ve been thinking about this is because what I know about social skills can change the way I approach the future. It can change my approach to men, dating and life in general, and it can open doors for God to use me in ways I never expected. So, no, I wouldn’t go back and change what has happened, but I will let it change the way I do life now.

What about you? If you could go back to another time in life, would you do it? What knowledge would you take with you?

Leave a comment »

%d bloggers like this: