IMG_5731Back when I first started this blog, I did a post for Divine Lemon Bars that was inspired by a poster made in 1911 by James Lee in Chicago, Illinois, which had the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments on it.  At the same estate sale at which I bought the Lord’s Prayer poster, I also bought this James Lee poster with “The Lord Is My Shepherd” printed on it, from Psalm 23.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

He leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul;

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness

for his name’s sake.

Yea, though  I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:

for thou art with me;

thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Though preparest a table before me

in the presence of mine enemies:

thou anointest  my head with oil;

my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life:

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever

When I was young, I thought I might want to be a shepherd.  It’s easy, I herd.  Turns out I couldn’t get the staff (cue collective groan).  But I did meet a man once dressed as a shepherd, who told me he was a spy.  I asked him why he was dressed as a shepherd, and he told it me it was because . . . wait for it . . . he was a shepherd spy.

I know what you’re thinking right about now, something like “get the flock out of here.” So without further punnery, I bring you this recipe, inspired by the Lord Is My Shepherd poster, for Shepherd’s Pie, a dish the whole family will enjoy.  I think that because it’s made with ground beef it is technically, according to some sources, a cottage pie — the conventional wisdom being that shepherds are concerned with sheep, and therefore, shepherd’s pie is made with lamb.  Other sources say that cottage pie and shepherd’s pie are synonymous terms.  Don’t lose sleep over it.  To prepare the mashed potatoes, I usually add a few garlic cloves to the boiling water, and mash them up right along with the potatoes (a ricer works best for me), and add just enough butter and half and half to make them smooth and creamy (not gummy), then season with salt and pepper.  You, of course, can make them any way you want — even instant mashed potatoes will work fine.

Recipe type: Beef, Main Course
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup frozen peas and carrots*
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 beef bouillon cube**
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups seasoned mashed potatoes (from approximately 3 large potatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • *Note: Can substitute 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables for corn and peas and carrots
  • **Note: Can substitute ½ cup beef broth for bouillon and water
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until golden. Add beef and saute until lightly browned, breaking up with a spoon as necessary. Stir in frozen vegetables and mushrooms. Dissolve bouillon cube in water, add to corn starch mixture, then stir into beef along with Worcestershire sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes, until mixture begins to thicken.
  3. Spoon beef mixture into an ungreased 9x13 baking dish (alternatively, can use 4 individual casserole dishes). Spread potatoes evenly over top. Brush lightly with melted butter. Bake for 25-30 minutes. If desired, broil for 2-3 minutes until potatoes are very lightly browned.

 IMG_5239Preparing the filling


 Mashed potatoes go on top


 Spread them over the filling




You too, can be a shepherd spy



I found this cheery birthday postcard on ebay.  What a thoughtful person the sender must have been.  It was sent 99 years ago!


I don’t know when birthday postcards fell out of favor, but I vote to bring them back.  Today the sender would probably go on Facebook and write “Happy Birthday!  Hope it’s a great one!  <3 <3 <3.”  Or maybe send a text message, like “HAPPY B-DAY 2U, HOPE UR DAY IS GR8T! :)”  Although I appreciate the electronic sentiments, I’m still touched when someone goes to the trouble to send me a birthday card.  (The same is true for invitations, birth announcements, etc. — the electronic versions aren’t nearly as nice.)

Following the trench warfare during WWI that took place in the poppy fields of Flanders in Belgium, poppies became a symbol of remembrance of soldiers who have died in war.  Wearing a poppy on Memorial Day has been a tradition in the U.S. since 1924.  Remember the crepe paper poppies that the American Legion used to sell?


The opium poppy, papaver somniferum, is the plant from which opium is derived.  The Latin name means “sleep-bringing properties,” and thus, poppies are often associated with sleep.  Remember Dorothy snoozing in the field of poppies?


So maybe the poppies on the birthday postcard symbolized that someone was being remembered on their birthday.  Or maybe it was just to wish the person a sleep-filled day.  Speaking of birthdays, mine was this week.  I look forward to this day all year, because after all, I get a bunch of presents, and I get to go out to eat at my favorite restaurant, and I get a new party outfit, and several hundred people wish me happy birthday on Facebook, and I get a party with a petting zoo and a themed-cake, and, oh yeah, that’s my kids’ birthdays, not mine.  Over the years, as we got busier with work and kids and life in general, and our calendars overflowed with commitments of all sorts, I grew to expect less and less each year on my birthday.

Two years ago, I discovered that although the birthday bar is low for me, it does exist.  My husband had been in California for four months working day and night on a trial.  It was the longest he’d ever been away from us.  I didn’t expect much, given how hard he’d been working, but I thought for sure he’d call on my birthday.  I didn’t hear from him before I left for work, but didn’t think too much about it.  He’d sent flowers for our anniversary the month before, and I thought maybe there would be flowers waiting for me at the office (we almost never send flowers).  Nope.  Around noon I called him, and he answered the phone with “WHAT?”  I said, “I thought you might want to wish me Happy Birthday,” and he said, “Your birthday is tomorrow.”  I corrected him, and then listened to him curse himself for a few minutes before telling him not to worry about it and hanging up.

So the burden of celebrating my birthday fell on my teenagers, who failed to rise to the occasion.  Maybe they muttered “happy birthday,” I’m not sure.  They quit making cards years ago.  We had a scout meeting that night that we couldn’t skip, which meant no birthday dinner with the kids.  We got home around 9 p.m. and settled in to watch a little TV before bed.  I woke up on the couch around 1 a.m. — the kids had gone up to bed and just left me there asleep on the couch.  Thank heavens for the dog that kept me company.  Like I said, I don’t expect much, but it has to be something more than nothing.

This year I didn’t want another sleep-filled birthday, so I didn’t leave anything to chance.  I arranged lunch with friends at a new restaurant, and had dinner with other friends at another new restaurant.  My daughter was babysitting that night, and my husband and son were camping all weekend, so we agreed in advance that we would celebrate later.  I brought my own birthday cake to work, because I’ve only been there 6 months and wasn’t sure if they knew or cared it was my birthday.  It turned out they did know and were planning to order a cake.  :)  I signed up for an herb symposium, which I really enjoyed (more on that later).  There was an unexpected surprise from the Texas Supreme Court in a case I’ve been working on, and that made the day extra special.  I had a great birthday, and am looking forward to wrapping it up with dinner with my family tonight.

One final note about poppies.  When my son was in grade school, he came home one day and told us that he had “sloppy poppies” for lunch.  Of course, he meant Sloppy Joes, but as his parents, it cracked us up, much like everyone thinks “sketti” is hilarious the first time their kid blurts that out.  Inspired by the cheery poppy birthday postcard, I made homemade Sloppy Poppies Sloppy Joes.  They are so good and easy, and I have sent them many times as part of a compassion meal (with big hamburger buns, chips, cookies, and fruit salad), to let the recipient know that they are in our thoughts.  The recipe is adapted from The New Basics by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.

Recipe type: Beef, Main Course
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • ½ green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ½ cup tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 4 hamburger buns, split
  1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add onion, celery, bell pepper, and oregano, and saute until vegetables are tender. Add ground beef and cook until meat is browned, breaking the meat up with a spoon as necessary. Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes. Spoon over split hamburger buns and serve hot.


sloppy joes

 My love upon your Birthday, dear

A happy day, a happy year,

And think of me this morning, too

Because I always think of you.

<3 <3 <3