Friday, October 30, 2009

Cherry Cream Pie

In light of creating something from nothing (my last post) I thought I'd share my most recent culinary creation. I love messing around in the kitchen. Notice I don't say "cooking" or "baking"--mostly because I love doing them both, but also because sometimes my results are tragically messy. And sometimes they're pretty stinkin' good. Like this one. :)

On Sunday morning before church I had this wild notion that I just had to bake another pie for lunch. We go to my parents for traditional "Sunday Dinner," and I had already made a French Silk Pie. It was plenty for the ten of us. But as I showered I couldn't stop thinking about another pie... So I raided my pantry and refrigerator and came up with a frozen pie shell, a can of cherry pie filling, and a block of cream cheese. I created Niki's Cherry Cream Pie. And I'm so glad I did! Some friends of ours showed up unexpectedly in church and our lunch crowd grew exponentially. Now tell me that wasn't God nudging me with visions of pie!

Enjoy! This is really, really yummy...

Cherry Cream Pie

1 frozen pie crust
1 can cherry pie filling (reserve 1-2 tbsp. of sauce)
1 8 oz. block cream cheese
1/4 - 1/2 cup sugar (less or more to personal taste)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 carton whipped cream (divided in half)

Fill pie crust with cherry pie filling and bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes. The pie is done when the crust turns golden brown. While pie is baking, let the cream cheese soften on the counter. When it's soft enough to whip, mix the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in a small mixing bowl until creamy. Add the reserved cherry sauce to turn it pink. Blend in half of the whipped cream until the mixture is light and fluffy. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the cooled cherry pie. Top with remaining whipped cream. Serve each piece with a maraschino cherry.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Something from Nothing

Thanks for putting up with my snarkiness this past week or so. Praise the Lord, the sun shone bright and brilliant for the last few days and I'm a new person. I had no idea I was so affected by the weather... Maybe I do need to move south. Possibly Tahiti? ;)

Anyway, I have lots of news and updates, some changes in both my personal life and my writing life, but they'll have to wait just a bit. Exciting stuff, all of it, and as soon as I can spill the beans you'll be the first to know. In the meantime, I'm writing a new book. No, not the airplane one (you can read about that idea here). This is a totally new and unexpected idea. I think you're going to like it.

But as I sit before a blank sheet of paper, new pen gripped firmly in hand, I'm astounded once again at the act of creating something out of nothing. I have ideas of course (in fact, I have pretty much the entire story straight in my head), but breathing life into all these abstracts is an overwhelming endeavor. Exciting, but intimidating. Thrilling, but terrifying.

It's not just a matter of getting the characters right. Or the setting, or the plot. It's not about having a great hook or meaningful symbolism woven throughout. It's about the things you can't quantify--the cadence of the words, the sweep of the story, the unique tenor that only my voice can pitch properly. I was called to write this story, and while I'm honored beyond description, I'm equally as humbled.

We all have opportunities to create. As friends, mothers, teachers, students... fill in the blank. Part of the process of being human is being plugged into the creative energy of our God. But do we really create something from nothing? I don't think so. Only God spoke stars and mountains and people into being when before the awesome sound of his voice there was nothing.

I can't tell you how comforting that is to me. As I sit before my blank legal pads (six of them, I've found that's what it takes for me to write a book) I rest in the realization that I'm just a part of the fabric. This story is universal in some small way, it has already happened and it will happen again and again... Woven with pain and brokenness and, always, amazing grace. How cool is that? My creation is a way of adding my voice to a song already playing in round. Oh, I'm so so grateful to be a part of it.

Sing on, friends.

Friday, October 23, 2009


I know nobody likes a whiner, but my frayed edges have unraveled so far I'm downright grumpy. The sun won't shine, my kids are feeling cooped up and crazy (me too!), and winter seems soooo long--and it hasn't even officially started!

Anyway, I'm usually a pretty optimistic person, but just this once I feel like indulging my inner... You fill in the blank. Maybe it'll be cathartic. Maybe I'll make myself laugh. Here's hoping.

Without furthur adieu, a list of things I hate.

  • Soggy leaves that turn to sludge on the sidewalk. They're slippery, stinky, and all around miserable. Plus, it's impossible not to track them into the house.
  • Earwigs. Even the name makes my skin crawl. I secretly believe that they can't possibly be a part of God's good creation--they've got to be the brainchild of some mad scientist (heavy on the mad) who intended to use them for the purpose of mind control. I mean, why else would you call them earwigs? Their obvious, sinister intent is to crawl inside our ears and penetrate the inner sanctum of our minds. Thus, I scream and run like a woman possessed whenever I see one.
  • Being stuck in my house. I'm an outside girl, and though I know I'm not made of sugar and won't melt in the rain, enjoying the great outdoors when it's 35 degrees and drizzly isn't much fun. Boo-hoo.
  • Dry hands. Because I wash them so often, my hands get so dry in the fall and winter that they crack at the knuckles when I bend my fingers. Very painful and not much fun.
  • People who complain. And the irony is not lost on me: I'm being a big baby. Whether the sun is shining or not, life is good. There's a puppy curled up on my lap, a child sound asleep upstairs, and my handsome husband is beside me. My house is warm and cozy, I have mint tea in the cupboard and pork thawing for a stir-fry tonight. I'm halfway through a fantastic book, and I have a date with my tub and bubble bath tonight. What right have I to be grumpy? None at all.
Well, I think it worked. Indulge your inner whiner and realize that you have absolutely nothing to whine about. A little humbling, but at least the clouds outside seem just a bit lighter...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Thanks to we've got our winner! Carmen 7351 is our lucky gal. Unfortunately, we didn't quite make it to 30 entries... 29 is soooo close, maybe we'll have to make an exception. If so, I'll let you know ASAP. In the meantime, congratulations Carmen! Please email me with your snail mail addy so Travis can send you your book.

Thanks for stopping by everyone! November 15 is just around the corner... Another author, another giveaway. And I'm featuring another lovely lady of fiction. You're gonna love her. ;)

*Wait a sec! I just got a comment on Facebook from a friend who tried to leave a comment on Travis's post but couldn't do it... I think that counts as 30, don't you? Anyway, we met our goal so I picked another winner. Melissa (m & amp; m) is our second book winner! Ditto what I said to Carmen: email me your address, please!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Catching Up

The above picture is a pretty close approximation to me these days. I guess I'm still playing catch up from our work-cation last week... Not feeling my Wheaties. Did that just date me? Do any of you even know what that little catch phrase means?!?

Anyway, in spite of my frazzled state, I wanted to quick pop in and encourage SEVEN more people to sign up for one of Travis's books! Did you not read the fine print? The part where I mentioned the books are free? Or am I one of the few true giveaway gluttons? I'd take a colonoscopy if it was free. Okay, maybe not. But I'd seriously consider it. You never can be too careful...

At any rate, go to Thursday's post and leave a comment. You don't even have to have a Blogger account to do it. Just sign in annonymous. I'll be posting the winner(s) tomorrow at noon.

With that said, I'll leave you with a few funnies from my day. It's been a fiesta, let me tell you.

From my five-year-old:
"Feed me to the crocs, where the blood flows down..." (his interpretation of Hillsong's Lead Me to the Cross. I tried to correct him, but it was no use.)

From my three-year-old:
"Look, Mom!" (Thrusting a finger in my face.)
"What's that, honey?"
"A boogie!"
"Oh, yucky. Let me get you a Kleenex."
"No! I want to keep it. It came from my nose."

From my five-year-old:
"I think I'm smarter than you. Does that make me the boss?"

Sure, Sweetpea. You can be the boss. But that means you have to do the cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping, carpooling, kissing, cuddling, diaper-changing, potty training, puppy patroling, phone answering, email reading, blogging, writing, agent chatting, book planning, kid's church organizing, Bible study leading, hockey fundraising, yard working, story reading, song singing, boogie wiping, and nightmare consoling. Does that make me the kid? Oh please, oh please, oh please?!?

Phew. Anyone wanna be my mommy for a day? ;)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

More Travis Thrasher

Quick interview with Travis

One sentence bio:

Have wanted to be a writer since third grade and have proven that persistence is a lot more important in publishing than talent.

Why should somebody read your books?

Name another author that started his career with sweet love stories and now writes bloody ghost tales. Somewhere in between, you’ll see what happened to my demented mind. (okay, not really, but that’s a good marketing hook to get people to read, huh?)

Two authors you respect:

Francine Rivers, for showing me how to be a graceful bestselling author, and Jerry Jenkins, for never doubting I would get published (or at least never showing it!)

Last great book you read:

The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Dark, mysterious, and amazing. There’s also The Moment Between by an author you might know . . .

What’s next on the publishing slate?

I wrote a love letter to my daughter that’s called Every Breath You Take. It’s coming out this winter. In May, Broken will be released by Hachette. It tells the story of a woman on the run. Then in August, Solitary will be released by Cook. It’s the first of a four-book supernatural series for the teen market.

One bit of advice for writers out there:

Write out of love and passion. Write for yourself. Separate the personal side of why you write with the professional side of the business. They’re two different animals. The more you understand about both, the easier it will be. At least that’s what I tell myself every day.

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It's not too late to win one of Travis's awesome books! Just leave a comment on Thursday's post... Right now we have 17 entries, but if we can make it to 30, Travis will give away TWO of his books. The odds are in your favor... Tell your friends! I'll draw the winner(s) on Tuesday at noon.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Grapevine: Travis Thrasher

I don't remember which one of you guessed TT were the initials of my next spotlight, but you were right! ;) You should get a prize or something, but I'm afraid bragging rights will have to do.

I met Travis when I signed my first contract with Tyndale House Publishing. He was the director of Author Relations at the time, and I made a total fool of myself by not realizing that he was also a multi-published author. Poor guy had seven or eight books under his belt at the time--sadly, I can be pretty clueless. Anyway, he forgave my oversight and was incredibly kind and helpful as I bumbled my way through interviews, photo shoots, and video-tapings.

It was only after I left Chicago that I started to get to know Travis as an author. I started off by reading his debut novellas, a two-books-in-one printing of The Promise Remains and The Watermark. They're both totally tender love stories with endings that make you sigh. So I have to admit that I was shocked a year later to read his latest release, Isolation. Do you like Stephen King? Then you'd love Travis Thrasher's horror stories. Creepy, psychological, and spine-tingling... And a 180 degrees different from his love stories.

Travis writes horror, romance, suspense, mystery... A little bit of everything. I both love his versatility and envy his ability to write masterfully on so many levels. No matter what you read, I think you could find a book by Travis you're bound to love. Check him out! And don't forget to leave a comment... Travis has agreed to give away a book (or two!). All you have to do is comment on this post. Let's make it interesting... Follow this link and let me know which one of Travis's books most appeals to you!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Home: The Sweetest Word

I'm home. I'm home. I'm home!

I'm so in love with my bed I may never leave it again. In fact, I'm blogging from it. Okay, I'm not, but after hotel beds, futons, and floors, my king-size latex memory foam mattress is a little slice of heaven. My favorite part? Stretching all the way out and still not being able to find Aaron. He-he-he! Anyway, I love going away, but as Toot (from my kids' favorite cartoon, Toot & Puddle) would say: "The best part about going away is coming home again." Amen.

The trip was awesome. Time spent with family and friends was blessed and filled with laughter. And I loved being the Writer-in-Residence at my old school. Loved it, loved it. I was sick on Thursday (incapable of getting out of a crummy hotel bed--I seriously think it was the infamous H1N1) and couldn't go to school, so I spent the morning crying about it like a big baby. It may have been a fever-induced weep-fest, but I'm blaming it on the fact that I had to miss school.

At any rate, I just wanted to say "hi!" Tomorrow is the fifteenth and you know what that means... See you then!


P.S. The photo is of the view from our old house. When we lived in BC we looked at Mount Baker every day. Pretty, isn't it?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mommy Moment: Revisited

(This post was first published on March 10, 2008.)

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Tonight the Baart family loaded up two hockey bags full of stinky equipment and headed down to the local ice rink for our end of the year banquet and game. Aaron is a coach and my oldest son is a Termite. Yup, you read that right: you’ve got your Mites (they’re the little guys), the Mini-Mites (self-explanatory), and then there’s the Termites (squirts so tiny you marvel that they can manage to stay upright beneath all that equipment). Dressing my son for practice is a fifteen-minute affair replete with shin guards, elbow pads, knee socks, garter, hockey shorts, shoulder pads, jersey, and helmet. Did I mention ice skates? Lacing those things up is a five-minute job in and of itself. Oh, but I love it. What could be more fun than watching him scoot around the ice?

I have to admit though, in prepping for tonight it never once crossed my mind that I would have one of those intense “mommy moments.” You know the ones--those brief yet poignant realizations that my baby is not my baby anymore…

After the banquet the hockey association had a brief meeting for parents during which the kids had a free skate with the guys from the college hockey team. My Big Boy is only four. I never imagined that he’d jump on the ice with all those older kids and let mom and dad disappear. But that’s exactly what he did! He got all geared up, stepped one foot out onto the ice, and never looked back. I missed him so much during the meeting! And you better believe I beat a fast track back to the rink the second the buzzers went off for the Zamboni. In the midst of dozens and dozens of kids, there was my sweet baby, calmly taking off all his equipment and chatting with the boys next to him. Sigh. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when his daddy geared up for the coaches’ game against the Bantam’s and Big Boy trotted off happily to find his new friends. I looked at my real Baby and said, “It’s just you and me, honey.” Except for that he’s a total chick magnet and had his own group of little admirers around him in no time. Sigh again. My boys are four and one. How can they be growing up so fast?

As I tucked my boys in tonight, I kissed their soft cheeks and whispered, “Mommy loves you to the moon and back,” just like I’ve done every single night since they became my sons. But tonight I couldn’t help whispering a prayer as I left their rooms: Lord, help me savor these precious years.

And then I spent a little time with Kahlil Gibran. From The Prophet:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you, but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
And He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
So He loves also the bow that is stable.

*     *     *     *     *

This old post is particularly poignant to me because my now almost-six-year-old starts hockey this week. Time flies...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Naked in Love: Revisited

(This post was first published on November 25, 2007.)

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Like my racy blog title? I’ll probably get some people trawling the World Wide Web for sexual references checking out my blog! Sorry to disappoint, this post has nothing to do with sex. Oops! I said the S word. Another red flag just went up somewhere in blogland. He-he-he!

Anyway, I had to post this. I was curled up on the couch this evening doing my Bible study as my husband got my four-year-old ready for bed. All of the sudden, said little one comes barreling into the living room buck-naked except for a pair of khaki socks. He proceeds to do a wild jig and then pauses to admire himself. He holds out his arms and studies them. He bends down to check out his legs. Then he hooks his chin over his shoulder and peeks at his backside. After a moment of contemplation he says, “Mommy, I love my bum.” He gives it a resounding smack for good measure and runs from the room.

I laughed my head off. And then I envied him a little bit. I can’t remember the last time I’ve done such a thorough inspection of self and come back with such positive results. Most of my self-evaluation (physical, mental, emotional, relational, spiritual, etc.) is rather harsh and uncompromising. I don’t see a whole lot in myself that I can love as cheerfully as my son loves his bum.

Hmmm. I think I could wax philosophical on this for a long time, but I’d rather leave you to your own deep thoughts. Have fun. I’ve been pondering this for hours… And laughing. I've been doing a lot of laughing... :)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Extravagant: Revisited

(This post was first published on June 17, 2007.)

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As a pastor's wife, I get to attend more than my share of weddings. Truthfully, I'm becoming a bit immune. What used to elicit a tightening in my chest, even a random tear or two, is now sometimes little more than mundane. Well, I guess that's not an entirely fair thing to say. I have yet to experience that incredible moment when the bride walks down the aisle without catching my breath...

Anyway, yesterday Aaron and I witnessed the marriage ceremony of good friends. Aaron counseled the couple and officiated the ceremony, but he asked them not to give him an honorarium. They slipped him a check in spite of his request, and in an act of what I initially considered utter lack of judgement, Aaron went out and bought them a gift with the entire amount. What did he buy? A bottle of wine. Okay, I love wine. I've even been privileged enough to taste a $50 bottle of wine. I considered that extravagant. But this 2002 award winning Cabernet Sauvignon blows that "cheap" bottle of vino out of the water.

"Wine?! You spent that entire check on a bottle of wine?" I smiled blandly, trying to keep my expression amused even though I was thinking, "You are completely insane." It's not that we needed the money or even that we wanted it. But I couldn't help thinking that there were easily twenty things that would make more sense to buy. Make a donation to a charity in their name! Buy them something nice for their home! Help them out with their first month of rent!

I shook my head at my silly husband all the way to the wedding. And then the ceremony began and everything changed. Instead of lighting a unity candle, the couple elected to participate in a traditional Jewish engagement ceremony where the prospective groom offers his beloved a glass of wine. If she drinks from his cup, they are engaged and he will go home to prepare a place for her. (Sound familiar? Overtones of eternity?) It's all about commitment, love, acceptance, vulnerability. It is a beautiful, holy thing. I listened to Aaron speak of their marriage and how, if they are planted in the Lord, in the years to come their love will only get better with age. Like fine wine. Suddenly that bottle of wine, that extravagant, ridiculously exquisite vintage became symbolic, sacred even--a reminder of how unique, how consecrated this covenant between a man and a woman is. It reminded me of another time that someone was chastised for the unapologetically lavish nature of her gift (John 12:1-11).

It saddens me sometimes how quickly I diminish the hand of God as he weaves lives together, levels kingdoms, lifts the heads of his people... How often do I miss the sacred in the every day? A "routine" wedding ceremony is nothing less than God's plan being revealed one life at a time.

Believe it or not, this does have much to do with writing. It struck me yesterday at that moment when the couple kissed, when the witnesses throughout the church erupted in laughter, cheering, rejoicing, that as an author who is a Christian I can do no better than to allow my readers a glimpse of such beauty, such extravagance through my writing. We forget. We forget how sacred our lives are. We forget how each moment is an act of worship, whether or not it is the Lord whom we worship. I am so thankful for moments when I am allowed the smallest taste of the richness of heaven. It lifts my soul, it deepens my hope. It makes me want to keep trying to capture little pieces of the eternal and pin them to my paper, if only for a moment. It makes me long to taste the wine at the wedding supper of the Lamb.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fabulous: Revisited

(This post was first published on May 25, 2007, four months before the release of my debut novel.)

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We ask ourselves,
Who I am to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn't serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We are born to manifest the glory of God that is within us.
ALL of us.

And as we let our light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

-Nelson Mandela

A few days ago I wrote about perspective. Mostly, I suppose, because I feel sometimes lately like I’m losing mine. After the Leaves Fall hasn’t even hit stores yet--and won’t for another four and a half months--and still I find myself obsessing… Are people looking at my website? Will they like my book? What stores will pick up my book? Do I look like a goon in my photos? Well, the answer to that last one is unequivocally yes, but all the same, it’s ridiculous to worry about these things so much. I don’t want to be this way…

And yet there is a fine balance to walk, I think. I often shrink from the spotlight because it makes me feel like somehow I’ve got everyone snowed. Why in the world are you looking at me? Or, maybe growing up in Christian circles I’ve learned over the years that “it’s not about me.” That’s true--it isn’t about me--but I’m starting think we’ve done ourselves a great disservice by trying to remove “self” from the equation.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people pray some version of the following: “Lord, empty me of myself so that your Spirit can fill me up…” It has always felt wrong to me somehow. Don’t get me wrong, being filled with the Spirit is the earthly goal of the Christian life, but I don’t think that the Lord ever intended us to be emptied of ourselves. He made each one of us according to his good and perfect will and I believe he wants me to be present in the things he has called me to do.

Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Not that I am any of those things by a long shot, but I believe Nelson Mandela is right. Who am I not to be? I think the Lord wants to celebrate with us in our joys, uphold us in our victories. I think he dances over us--and not because we are empty, because we are full.

So, keep my perspective, absolutely. But just this once: I’M BEING PUBLISHED!!! YAY!!! I’m doing a happy dance. :)

I hope you feel that you’ve been given permission to let your light shine. You are brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and oh my word, you are fabulous.

Friday, October 2, 2009


I'm sorry I have been so quiet this week. A number of things have contributed to my lack of communication, but the three biggest are: a quick trip to Minneapolis, an upcoming vacation to British Columbia, and... (wait for it)... I'm writing again! Yay! I know some authors force themselves to put pen to paper every single day (and enforce it with word counts!), but I absolutely cannot do that. Maybe it's the stage I'm at in life, maybe it's just my style as an author, but I think if I forced myself to write I'd kill my own joy in it. As it is, I've been contemplating my fifth book for a few weeks now, and suddenly I'm filled to overflowing and dying to get everything out. I sat in Hell's Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis on Wednesday morning and wrote the first two chapters without coming up for air. I came up for coffee, but not air. ;) Anyway, it's thrilling. Characters are coming alive before my very eyes...

But I'm sorry to say that things don't get any less busy in the coming two weeks. I'm going to be the Writer-in-Residence at the amazing high school where I taught for four years, my birthday comes (and, blessedly, goes), we're visiting old friends and family, and I have to keep working on my upcoming book proposal. So, I'm afraid I'm going to have to take a little break from blogging. Sigh. But have no fear! I have something fun planned.

Most of my current readers have not been with me from the beginning. Nothing wrong with that--I wouldn't have read my blog two and a half years ago either! But, believe it or not, there are a few ancient posts that are actually interesting... Some are funny, some meaningful, some offer a glimpse into my life. Anyway, I spent some time over the last few days going through my favorites, and I've picked a handful to re-post and share with you. They may not be of-the-moment, but I think they are still relevant and worth the read. And though I won't be taking the time to write new posts, I will stop in and chat with y'all via comments and email.

Look for fresh posts starting the week of October 12... And don't forget that there will be a new Grapevine introduction going up on the 15th. If you haven't won a free book yet, this may be your month!

Thanks for reading. Have a lovely early October.