Monday, December 7, 2015

Welcome Skylar Alexa!

Have you sent out your Christmas cards already? I usually do mine over the long Thanksgiving weekend. This year, they just laid on the desk staring at me everytime I went into the study! I do a Christmas Letter to include in the card and  I wanted to include the BIG announcement of our Great-grand daughter's birth! Her due date in November came and went, another day and another. We were so anxious! Finally, last Friday December 4th she made her grand entrance into the world! Skylar Alexa, 9 pounds and 1 ounce, 21 inches long and heart-melting beautiful! 

“It is no small thing, when they, who are so fresh from God, love us. ”   ― Charles Dickens

So I set down yesterday and the words just poured out...
CommeSo, I set down yesterday and wrote from my heart... the words just poured out! 

Merry Christmas!

Big news this past week, we achieved “Greatness” when Skylar Alexa Athey came into the world December 4th! Who would have ever thought that being a great grandparent would be just as exciting as becoming grandparents 21 years ago when Jackson was born? 

Shannon and Jackson are doing well, Nana and Pop (Stephanie and Ken) are walking on air, and we are all learning that this is what it’s all about… welcoming the next generation! How our parents would have loved to have held them close, I do hope Heaven has a window! 

We are looking forward to a trip to Amy’s before Christmas. Hopefully the weather will hold until after the holidays are past and everyone can be with loved ones without having to worry about icy roads. It would be nice if we had a few flakes of snow! 

Every gift I wrap, every cookie I bake- I think of Mom and Dad, my Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and cousins who filled my whole life with memories to last a lifetime! Feeling blessed beyond measure this year and wishing you and your families good health, happiness and prosperity in the coming year!

                                             Love from Memaw and Papa! 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Southern Cornbread Dressing

Upside down, Thanksgiving is being planned later this year than ever before. With Mom in the hospital we had the holiday meal on hold, but thank God she is improving so it's Katy Bar the Door... menu planning full steam ahead!  One thing for sure... Daddy's Cornbread Dressing will be on the table. It's a family favorite made with homegrown sage that comes from my Mom's farm. My Dad planted that sage over 40 years ago and even though he's gone now, the sage thrives in the garden at Lead Hill. Every fall before frost I pinch off several stems of the fragrant herb, bring it home and dry it. The fragrance of that sage reminds me of years of happy Thanksgivings on the farm. 

My Dad loved preparing his famous chicken and dressing for the holidays. It was his offering, as much from his heart as from the simple ingredients that went into the dish. He had made it so many times for family and church potlucks that he could have made it in his sleep! If you’re from the South, dressing is made from unsweetened cornbread, sauteed onions, celery and sage; slow simmered broth from the chicken and generous amounts of butter make this a cardiologist's nightmare! But it is “Slap Dab Delicious” and comfort food at it’s finest! This is the time honored recipe that Daddy used to make and has been passed down to me and to our daughters to share with their families. It is remembered fondly in our family and immortalized in the Risley Family Cookbook.

Memories... my Dad always used the Crockpot, it smelled so good when we would walk into the house on Thanksgiving!

Daddy's Dressing
1 pan crumbled cornbread (no sugar in cornbread, please!)
1 pan biscuits
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 bunch celery, chopped
1 stick butter
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons dried whole leaf sage
4-5 cups rich chicken broth 
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare cornbread and biscuits the day before. Cook onion and celery in butter and broth covered until tender. Pour over the crumbled breads in a large bowl, add beaten eggs. Rub the sage between your palms to release the flavor adding to bowl. Add broth to make a very moist consistency (almost soupy, as this bakes it will dry out). Adjust seasonings adding salt, pepper and more sage if desired. Bake 350* for 45 minutes until hot, or place mixture in crock pot on HIGH until hot then turn to LOW to keep warm

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I see the red barn...

I think of my Grandma Keeling often this time of year. I associate a warm kitchen and the aromas of the holidays with her. Although she's been gone for 40 years now, I can still see her in that little kitchen at Lead Hill. Thanksgiving was always at Grandma's house. We'd make the trip down to Arkansas after Daddy would get off work. I'd sleep part of the way, waking up when we headed down the big hill that turned into their gravel driveway. You could see the porch lights and the glow of the kitchen windows shining brightly in the cold November night. The house would smell delicious as we came through the service porch, pies and broth and sage all mingled together.

The next morning when I woke up, she and Mom would have already started the preparations for the big meal. Grandma in her apron with the big pockets, their voices would go up and down depending on what they were discussing. Grandma was always cheerful and she spoke often of friends and family. She was a prayer warrior, sprinkled into her sentences were the mention of those who were in need of a prayer sent up. "Bless Cora May, she's going through a hard time right now." We always knew who was sick or sad or down on their luck. Grandma would laugh and talk non stop as she cooked dinner, making trips to and from the pantry. In that pantry were rows and rows of tomatoes and green beans, pickles and relishes, jams and jellies. Every jar she opened, she'd say the same thing... "Isn't it good to have plenty?"

Today as we celebrate with a table loaded with our favorite dishes, in a warm house with family all around us, we feel blessed and loved and her voice rings in my ears. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Chicken Dumpling Soup

I've made this many times since I ran this last year, it's one of our favorites! Today is shaping up to be another busy day so I have a chicken in the crockpot and when I get home late today I'll whip up a pot of this soup. Don't tell anyone it takes less than 30 minutes... it'll be our little secret!

I've had to go to the dealership twice this week for maintenance on the car, I hope I don't have to go back for awhile. Akin to setting in a doctor's office, you are at their mercy and a hour drags by as you set in the waiting room with coughing people, blaring tv and kids who are misbehaving. By the time I got finished there it was after 3 and I went to Wal-mart to pick up a few things. Bad idea since after 3 is when everyone else goes to Wal-mart, when the kids get out of school I guess. I had a list, but you know how that goes... you start lookin' and then you start reading and then the next thing you know, your cart is FULL! I hadn't planned on buying a new cookbook yesterday, until I saw this new paperback publication by Gooseberry Patch. Comfort Food 101, I know it doesn't say that, but that's what it is. Inside the covers are a primer for anyone who has to get a meal on the table in an orderly time frame. Quick to fix recipes that are down home good. As I was thumbing through, I see the Chicken Dumpling Soup that we had at Stone Mill this week. OH MY GOODNESS! The recipe, I hear Angels singing...

You won't believe how easy this went together. I got home at 4:30 and it was ready when Jerry walked in the door an hour later. His favorite food, in soup form was simmering on the stove. I think I'll be getting flowers or maybe a dinner out for this little magic trick...

Chicken & Dumplin' Soup  PRINT RECIPE
10 3/4-oz. can cream of chicken soup
4 cups chicken broth
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
2 (15-oz.) cans mixed vegetables, drained *I used a handful of peas and carrots instead
12-oz. tube refrigerated biscuits, quartered *I used Mary B's frozen Butter Biscuits, slightly thawed 
Optional: pepper to taste

Combine soup and broth in a 6 quart stockpot; bring to a boil over medium high heat, whisking until smooth. Stir in chicken and vegetables, bring to a boil. Drop biscuit quarters into soup; cover and simmer 15 minutes. Let soup stand covered for 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle each serving with pepper, if desired. Serves 6-8

*This can't be improved on much, it's almost perfect! Cut the biscuits in smaller pieces since they puff up quite a bit. They are super tender and really, really good, I was a little skeptical of the whole biscuit thing! My husband ate two bowls, that's like a rating system at my house... 2 bowls is like 5 stars! If you buy rotisserie chicken or have leftover from another day, this recipe is on the table in less than 30 minutes.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Prayers for Patricia

Pretty, isn't she? If you knew her you'd really think she was somethin' special, cause she is! I don't think that just because we're kin, she's got a whole posse of folks who are pretty high on her! Right now she is facing a battle with cancer, and the smile on her face is there because she knows she is being carried into battle by her Lord and Savior... and the prayers of about a zillion friends and family. She's been a warrior once before so she knows what lies ahead. I ask you please to remember Patricia in your prayers, she is facing a pivotal point in her battle. Her words, "Inspire until you expire" ...she will feel the strength of many praying for her.

Love ya Sweetie! 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Chocolate Fried Pies

That's not the way to feel about anything as delicious as Chocolate Fried Pies. In fact, it's an insult to a Southern delicacy that's rarely made these days! I hadn't thought about fried pies in a long time, but Saturday when my BFF Chocolate kept knocking on my front door... I caved and went into the kitchen and made myself (I say myself because my better half knows to keep his mitts off my chocolate cravings!) some homemade chocolate pudding. The recipe is from Hershey and it's simple: 

1/2 Cup Hershey's cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Dark Cocoa)
1 1/8 Cup sugar 
1/3 Cup cornstarch
1 tsp salt
3 Cups milk
3 TBS butter 
1 1/2 tsp good vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, mix cocoa, sugar, cornstarch and salt, whisk well. Gradually add milk to dry ingredients in saucepan. Whisk til smooth and well blended. Cook over medium heat. Stir constantly. Mixture will come to a boil. Boil 1 minute, remove from heat. Add butter and vanilla. Whisk to blend. Pour into serving dishes, or into cooled baked 9" Pie Crust. Cover with plastic wrap. Cool in refrigerator 4-6 hrs. Or till firm. 

Now I grew up on this stuff and it's as different from the little square boxes of  Jello as day and night. 
It's Pure Comfort, Mama loves you, The World is Round Food. 
It will take you away from politics, or the state of the economy or even a failed relationship. I don't think it can cure cancer though, that would be great wouldn't it?

I ate a few spoonfuls when I was pouring it into serving cups, you know from the the pan. I had to do that, it's wasteful to leave any smidgen~ Then I put the plastic wrap on each serving and put them in the fridge. About 9pm I remembered them, oh daddy! The first bite was Heaven, but you know... it was little RICH! I used to be able to eat chocolate buttercream out of a bowl with a big spoon but age has robbed the glutton clean out of me. I get ACID REFLUX, if I abuse my stomach it's just not worth it. So I ate a few bites and put it back in the fridge : (

The next morning after a few cups of coffee, my brain started working again and I knew just what to do with that decadent chocolate pudding/pie filling! Chocolate Fried Pies... just like Mama used to make and Grandma and probably her Grandma.

It's easy as 1-2-3 to stir up the crust, no waiting for it to chill. You just measure out 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup Crisco and 1/2 cup milk. Cut in the Crisco into your flour and salt with a fork or your fingers, just work it into a flaky consistency. Then add the milk and stir gently to moisten. If it's just a little dry and won't pull together, add a teaspoon more milk. Pat into a disk and then divide up into about 10 balls. 

Flour your surface and roll out the balls to make little 5 inch circles, not perfect circles unless you want them to look like store bought Hostess Fried Pies and that's not what you are making. You're making Grandma's Fried Pies and she'd be mortified if you cut them out to make them perfect!

Add a dollop, a rounded tablespoon or two to each little pie. 

Then dip your finger in a bowl of water and run it around the edge of the crust. Fold over and press, crimp the edge with a fork and place on a plate in preparation of the frying of the pies!

Don't they look purty? 

Heat the oil up to medium high, to test you can dip the edge of the crust into the oil a little. If it's just right, it will bubble slightly.

Slip them in, one at a time and watch them like a 2 year old! Don't be trying to clean up the kitchen or put away the flour or answer a text cause this is where you can mess up quick! 

Patience Grasshopper, you are looking for golden brown. Not tan, not brown, golden. 

Drain on paper towels and admire each one as they come out of the pan. Talk to them, tell them 
"I love you!"

Last one, and you are finished!  

Luckily, we had company this weekend and the fried pies went home with them. There's few things more dangerous than a fried pie on the kitchen counter. Especially if it has chocolate filling!

That is all.

Fried Pies

Fruit fillings are delicious too... just boil down some dried fruit with sugar and water and a little spice.
6-7 ounces dried fruit (peaches, apples, apricots or even a mix of all three)
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
1/4 cup butter 
 T lemon juice 
1/2 tsp cinnamon 
2 Cups Flour
1 Tsp salt
1/2 C Crisco
1/2 C of milk 
Place dried fruit in a pot and add water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer until fruit is tender. Add butter, lemon juice and cinnamon, mash together with a potato masher or fork. Set aside to cool while dough is prepared.
In medium bowl, place flour and salt. Stir together. Cut in shortening with a fork or your 10 little fingers! Add in milk and stir until dough sticks together. Divide into ten portions. Roll each portion out on a floured surface into a five inch circle. Place two tablespoons of filling in each. Use your fingertip to wet the edges with water and fold over, crimping with a fork. Cook in oil which has been heated on medium heat, until golden browned on both sides, turning as needed. Remove to paper towel lined plate.

PRINT RECIPE (Chocolate Filling too)

Fried Peach Pies

Grandma Keeling's fried pies were simple, that's not to say that they weren't the most delicious treat that came out of that old kitchen. She was a country cook who used lard and white flour and didn't have to go to the store for everything, they grew most of what they needed. Every morning she put on her apron and made biscuits for Grandpa, he would have thought the world would have come to an end if he didn't have a hot biscuit on his plate alongside his eggs at 7AM! Those biscuits were enjoyed with honey or sorghum or preserves that had been put up over the summer months when their little orchard produced peaches, apples and pears. Grandma also dried the fruits, spreading them out on steel screens that Grandpa fashioned out of old window frames just for this purpose. On special mornings she'd put that little saucepan on the back burner and add some dried peaches in preparation for making her fried pies. As the peaches cooked down the smell of summer filled the kitchen, even if it was the dead of Winter. If you had a Granny who made these for you, I don't have to explain how good they are. If you didn't, you need to make them... just once. Make sure you do it when someone you love is there with you to absorb the goodness♥♥♥

Fried Peach Pies
6-7 ounces dried fruit (peaches, apples, apricots)
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
1/4 cup butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Cups all purpose flour
1 Tsp salt
1/2 C Crisco Grandma used lard
1/2 C of milk
Put the dried fruit in a saucepan and add water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer until the fruit is tender, about 15 minutes. Add the cinnamon, then mash with a fork. Set aside while you make the dough.Place flour and salt in a bowl and stir together. Cut in the shortening with a fork and add the milk and stir until dough sticks together. Divide into about 8-10 balls. Roll each out on a floured surface, in 5-6" circles. Place 2 tablespoons or so of filling in each. You want them full but not enough that it oozes out. Wet the edges and fold over, crimping with a fork. Cook in oil which has been heated on medium heat, until brown on both sides, turning as needed. Remove to paper towel lined plate.

Stand back and wait for compliments!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Street Tacos

One of my favorite places to eat when we are in Texas is Taco Cabana. Once you get to the Dallas area, or anywhere south of Dallas... they are everywhere. It's a chain like Taco Bell, but the food is far superior. The difference? Well, they have real cooks in real kitchens making real Mexican food--by hand. That means they are chopping the cilantro, roasting the peppers, stirring the beans and making the tortillas everyday.

My love affair with Taco Cabana started on a balmy March day in 1996 when we had just moved to South Texas. It was icy in NW Arkansas when the movers came to pack us up, but a pleasant 80 degrees as we enjoyed our meal that night on the patio. Over the next 5 years we ate at nearly all of the famous Mexican restaurants in the San Antonio area. As memorable as they were, Taco Cabana is etched in my heart as a favorite!

They have street tacos on the menu now, and while we were in Texas I had them 3 times... they are THAT GOOD!  Little corn tortilla treats filled with seasoned chicken, brisket or pork and topped with a variety of fresh sauces, they are the perfect lunch, dinner or snack.  

I bought this great magazine at Sam's Club in Dallas while we were there and spent the trip home planning the recipes I'm going to make. Better Homes and Gardens publication Mexican is the real deal, authentic dishes from the many regions of Mexico. Inside the covers are the treasured recipes that are so hard to duplicate on your own. This weekend we tried the Beer Braised Chicken Verde, I took a shortcut and made the recipe with rotisserie chicken. The filling was delish, very much like the ones at Taco Cabana♥♥♥

Beer Braised Chicken Verde
1 tablespoon canola oil or vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano or dried oregano, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 12 ounce bottle Mexican beer (such as Modelo Especial or Pacifico)
1 11 - 12 ounce can tomatillos, drained
2 4 - 4 1/2 ounce can diced green chile peppers
1 1/2 pounds chicken breast tenderloins
1. In a 4-quart Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook and stir for 3 minutes. Add butter, cumin, coriander, chili powder, oregano, and salt. Cook and stir until butter melts.
2. Add beer, tomatillos, and chile peppers. Bring to boiling. Add chicken. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 15 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink, stirring every 5 minutes to break up the tomatillos. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken from the cooking liquid to a cutting board. Gently boil the cooking liquid, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, using two forks, pull chicken apart into shreds.
3. Place chicken in a medium bowl. Add 1 cup of the reduced cooking juices; stir to moisten. Use chicken mixture as filling for quesadillas or tacos; pass the remaining cooking juices.

Tacos el Pastor
1 medium peeled and cored fresh pineapple
8 dried pasilla and/or guajillo chile peppers
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup vinegar
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoonsalt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 pounds boneless pork loin, cut into 1/2-inch slices
16 6 inch corn tortillas
1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
Snipped fresh cilantro
Lime wedges
Bottled hot pepper sauce
1.Cut pineapple into 1/2-inch-thick slices, reserving juice; cover and refrigerate pineapple and reserved juice separately.
2. Remove stems and seeds from chile peppers. Place peppers in a medium bowl and add enough boiling water to cover. Allow peppers to stand about 30 minutes or until soft; drain, discarding water.
3. In a food processor or blender combine chile peppers, any juice from the pineapple, the orange juice, vinegar, garlic, salt, cumin, and cloves. Cover and process or blend until nearly smooth.
4. In a 3-quart baking dish arrange pork slices in a single layer, overlapping slices as necessary. Pour chile pepper mixture over pork slices, spreading evenly. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 4 to 24 hours. Remove pork from marinade, discarding marinade. Stack tortillas and wrap in foil.
5. For a charcoal grill, place tortilla packet on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals. Place pork slices and pineapple slices on the grill rack alongside the foil packet directly over medium coals. Grill pork and pineapple slices for 6 to 7 minutes or until pork slices are slightly pink in the center and juices run clear (160 degrees F), turning once. Grill tortilla packet for 10 minutes, turning once. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Grill tortilla packet, pork slices, and pineapple as directed above.)
6. Coarsely chop pork and pineapple and combine in a large bowl. Fill warm tortillas with pork and pineapple mixture. Sprinkle each taco with chopped onion and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges and, if desired, hot pepper sauce.
Print Recipe

Roasted Tomato Salsa ~Yes, this IS that great restaurant salsa recipe!
2 1/2 pounds roma tomatoes (about 15)
3 fresh jalapeno peppers
1 medium head garlic
1 teaspoon salt
2 medium white onions, finely chopped
2/3cup lightly packed cilantro leaves, snipped (1/4 cup)
4 teaspoons cider vinegar
Tortilla chips
1. Core the tomatoes. Place in one side of a 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Halve the jalapeno peppers. Remove stems and seeds. Place, cut side down, in the other side of baking pan with tomatoes. Peel away outer skin from garlic. Cut off the pointed top portion with a knife, leaving the bulb intact but exposing the individual cloves. Add to pan. Roast, uncovered, in a 450 degree F oven for 25 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and pepper skins are charred. Cool.
2. Remove tomato skins. Press to remove garlic paste from individual cloves of garlic. Place garlic, jalapeno peppers, and salt in a food processor bowl or blender container. Cover and process or blend with a few pulses until finely chopped. Add half of the tomatoes; cover and process or blend with a few pulses until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add remaining tomatoes to food processor bowl or blender container; cover and process or blend with a few pulses until coarsely chopped. Stir into tomato mixture in bowl.
3. Stir onions, cilantro, and vinegar into tomato mixture until combined. Cover and chill several hours to blend flavors. Serve with tortilla chips. Makes about 4 cups.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Nine Eleven

All of us are remembering where we were 9-11-2001. Fourteen years have passed, but in my heart it feels like yesterday. Our life at the time was a flurry of family turmoils; our youngest daughter had moved back home to escape an abusive relationship, my Mother was on a downhill slide with her dementia and my brother was facing his last year with terminal heart disease.

That morning I was on my way to Mom’s farm 100 miles away to take her to a doctor’s appointment. I had an oil change scheduled early at the dealership and was in the waiting room watching TV when I saw the first reports of the plane crashing into the Trade Center. By the time they had the car ready and I was on the road to Mom’s, the second plane went down. The radio announcers reported the news in a panicked state and I remember feeling so vulnerable in a world I’d never known. I turned the car around, called Mom and told her to turn the TV on and to stay inside close to the phone. As I drove home I saw long lines at gas stations, really long…out on the highway, backed up to refuel in this state of emergency. My head spun with what to do first, call my husband…he had left that morning on a business trip and was on the road too. He too was in shock, turned the car around and headed home. We both realized our lives had changed forever. In the days that followed we watched in horror the coverage on TV. I remember thinking how worried I was about Mom’s declining health and Amy’s broken heart. Now those problems seemed so small compared to the grief so many were facing with the loss of their loved ones.

A lot has happened in fourteen years. Life has a way of going on. Regardless of what happened yesterday, one thing is certain about life…the fact that it’s uncertain. But that makes the sun coming up each morning so special.

Our gratitude to the many who sacrificed countless hours and months in all capacities to rebuild our country. Today I honor those who lost their lives, our thoughts and prayers are with the many loved ones left behind.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Pumpkin Spice Doughnuts

Pumpkin. Spice. Doughnuts. 

Those three words are dangerous all by themselves, but put them together and I have a "situation." I found this recipe on Pinterest last year and couldn't stop making it! It takes roughly 10 minutes to make them and 12 to bake. They were delicious and tasted very much like that famous place with the sign that says "HOT DONUTS"... you know the one! Keep this recipe handy for the next time you are jonesing for KK, it'll save you a drive across town!

Pumpkin Spice Donut Holes
1 3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease a mini muffin tin with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt and spices.
In a separate bowl, combine oil, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, pumpkin and milk.  Mix well. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stir until just combined.  Fill muffin cups about 2/3 of the way full with your cookie scoop. 

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until they test done with a toothpick. Mine were perfect in 12 minutes.

Melt butter in a small bowl.  In a different small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon.  After donuts are done and have cooled enough to handle, dip them in the butter and then roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Pope Francis

Pope Francis' words this week reached so many people, a nation and a whole world that has lost hope, direction. Last night, millions were tuned in to watch the interview by World News Tonight anchor David Muir on 20/20. Never before have we had a Pope so public, his actions always precede his papal title. From the moment he arrived for the interview, he acknowledged everyone in the room shaking hands, blessing them. 

The virtual audience from chosen locations gave a hurting nation the encouragement we were needing. He spoke first to a teenager who had suffered bullying at school because of her skin condition. As she told of her feelings of embarrassment and lack of confidence, tears streamed down her face. Pope Francis asked her to sing for him and she could barely bring herself to do it. He told her, "Be courageous!" Another stunning moment when a mother and her two daughters stood up and she confessed she felt as if she had failed being the best Mom. Pope Francis' words, "I'm proud of you for being courageous and not having an abortion!" She was stunned that he called her courageous! Another young man wept as he told of losing his father at an early age and he now is the family breadwinner, his dreams of college are gone because he's the child of undocumented citizens.  

All the problems that we are facing right now are being addressed by this Pope. With public appearance, interviews and interaction he is healing us. His compassion and love is reaching out to those who need hope, those who have all but given up on society. 

I've added the Pope on my Twitter feed, my daily dose of inspiration... you can do that too!

The Lost Wallet

I know you can't believe everything that you read on the Internet, but when I read this on Facebook the other day, I wanted it to be real. You will too...


As I walked home one freezing day, I stumbled on a wallet someone had lost in the street. I picked it up and looked inside to find some identification so I could call the owner. But the
wallet contained only three dollars and a crumpled letter that looked as if it had been in there for years.

The envelope was worn and the only thing that was legible on it was the return address. I started to open the letter, hoping to find some clue. Then I saw the dateline--1924. The letter had been written almost sixty years ago.

It was written in a beautiful feminine handwriting on powder blue stationery with a little flower in the left-hand corner. It was a "Dear John" letter that told the recipient, whose name appeared to be Michael, that the writer could not see him any more because her mother forbade it. Even so, she wrote that she would always love him.

It was signed, Hannah.

It was a beautiful letter, but there was no way except for the name Michael, that the owner could be identified. Maybe if I called information, the operator could find a phone listing for the address on the envelope.

"Operator," I began, "this is an unusual request. I'm trying to find the owner of a wallet that I found. Is there anyway you can tell me if there is a phone number for an address that was on an envelope in the wallet?"

She suggested I speak with her supervisor, who hesitated for a moment then said, "Well, there is a phone listing at that address, but I can't give you the number." She said, as a courtesy, she would call that number, explain my story and would ask them if they wanted her to connect me. I waited a few minutes and then she was back on the line. "I have a party who will speak with you."

I asked the woman on the other end of the line if she knew anyone by the name of Hannah. She gasped, "Oh! We bought this house from a family who had a daughter named Hannah. But that was 30 years ago!"

"Would you know where that family could be located now?" I asked.

"I remember that Hannah had to place her mother in a nursing home some years ago," the woman said. "Maybe if you got in touch with them they might be able to track down the daughter."

She gave me the name of the nursing home and I called the number. They told me the old lady had passed away some years ago but they did have a phone number for where they thought the daughter might be living.

I thanked them and phoned. The woman who answered explained that Hannah herself was now living in a nursing home.

This whole thing was stupid, I thought to myself. Why was I making such a big deal over finding the owner of a wallet that had only three dollars and a letter that was almost 60 years old?

Nevertheless, I called the nursing home in which Hannah was supposed to be living and the man who answered the phone told me, "Yes, Hannah is staying with us. "

Even though it was already 10 p.m., I asked if I could come by to see her. "Well," he said hesitatingly, "if you want to take a chance, she might be in the day room watching television."

I thanked him and drove over to the nursing home. The night nurse and a guard greeted me at the door. We went up to the third floor of the large building. In the day room, the nurse introduced me to Hannah.

She was a sweet, silver-haired old timer with a warm smile and a twinkle in her eye.

I told her about finding the wallet and showed her the letter. The second she saw the powder blue envelope with that little flower on the left, she took a deep breath and said, "Young man, this letter was the last contact I ever had with Michael."

She looked away for a moment deep in thought and then said Softly, "I loved him very much. But I was only 16 at the time and my mother felt I was too young. Oh, he was so handsome. He looked like Sean Connery, the actor."

"Yes," she continued. "Michael Goldstein was a wonderful person. If you should find him, tell him I think of him often. And," she hesitated for a moment, almost biting her lip, "tell him I still love him. You know," she said smiling as tears began to well up in her eyes, "I never did marry. I guess no one ever matched up to Michael..."

I thanked Hannah and said goodbye. I took the elevator to the first floor and as I stood by the door, the guard there asked, "Was the old lady able to help you?"

I told him she had given me a lead. "At least I have a last name. But I think I'll let it go for a while. I spent almost the whole day trying to find the owner of this wallet."

I had taken out the wallet, which was a simple brown leather case with red lacing on the side. When the guard saw it, he said, "Hey, wait a minute! That's Mr. Goldstein's wallet. I'd know it anywhere with that bright red lacing. He's always losing that wallet. I must have found it in the halls at least three times."

"Who's Mr. Goldstein?" I asked as my hand began to shake.

"He's one of the old timers on the 8th floor. That's Mike Goldstein's wallet for sure. He must have lost it on one of his walks."

I thanked the guard and quickly ran back to the nurse's office. I told her what the guard had said. We went back to the elevator and got on. I prayed that Mr. Goldstein would be up.

On the eighth floor, the floor nurse said, "I think he's still in the day room. He likes to read at night. He's a darling old man."

We went to the only room that had any lights on and there was a man reading a book. The nurse went over to him and asked if he had lost his wallet. Mr. Goldstein looked up with surprise, put his hand in his back pocket and said, "Oh, it is missing!"

"This kind gentleman found a wallet and we wondered if it could be yours?"

I handed Mr. Goldstein the wallet and the second he saw it, he smiled with relief and said, "Yes, that's it! It must have dropped out of my pocket this afternoon. I want to give you a reward."

"No, thank you," I said. "But I have to tell you something. I read the letter in the hope of finding out who owned the wallet."

The smile on his face suddenly disappeared. "You read that letter?"

"Not only did I read it, I think I know where Hannah is."

He suddenly grew pale. "Hannah? You know where she is? How is she? Is she still as pretty as she was? Please, please tell me," he begged.

"She's fine...just as pretty as when you knew her." I said softly.

The old man smiled with anticipation and asked, "Could you tell me where she is? I want to call her tomorrow." He grabbed my hand and said, "You know something, mister, I was so in love with that girl that when that letter came, my life literally ended. I never married. I guess I've always loved her. "

"Mr. Goldstein," I said, "Come with me."

We took the elevator down to the third floor. The hallways were darkened and only one or two little night-lights lit our way to the day room where Hannah was sitting alone watching the television. The nurse walked over to her.

"Hannah," she said softly, pointing to Michael, who was waiting with me in the doorway. "Do you know this man?"

She adjusted her glasses, looked for a moment, but didn't say a word. Michael said softly, almost in a whisper, "Hannah, it's Michael. Do you remember me?"

She gasped, "Michael! I don't believe it! Michael! It's you! My Michael!" He walked slowly towards her and they embraced. The nurse and I left with tears streaming down our faces.

"See," I said. "See how the Good Lord works! If it's meant to be, it will be."

About three weeks later I got a call at my office from the nursing home. "Can you break away on Sunday to attend a wedding? Michael and Hannah are going to tie the knot!"

It was a beautiful wedding with all the people at the nursing home dressed up to join in the celebration. Hannah wore a light beige dress and looked beautiful. Michael wore a dark blue suit and stood tall. They made me their best man. If you ever wanted to see a 76-year-old bride and a 79-year-old groom acting like two teenagers, you had to see this couple!

A perfect ending for a love affair that had lasted nearly 60 years!
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