His reflection



dsc0301 (1)

I love you I love you I love you

The perfect reflection of womankind

Molded from clay and desire


I love you I love you I love you

A worldy devotion transcribed in time

To walk with the angels on high


I love you I love you I love you

If only no words graced replendent lips

In vain all that passion ignites


If only If only If only

The shimmer and shine had not dulled your eyes

Worthiness gone in an instant

Sweep up your troubles and mop broken dreams

Fallen beguiled and bewildered






2008 Saudi Arabia

A desolate and lonely desert wove its way through tiny towns where necessary stops were made for fuel. Tones of brown and red rolled over dunes that swirled in the mid afternoon heat. Seats were laid down and made into a large bed of blankets, pillows and clothing. Although he made several trips each year the children and I had not been to Damascus for a while and Taita (grandmother) had been asking to see our youngest child, Ibrahim. The used vehicle that had been questionable was now seen as a blessing and nothing more was said.

In the months that lead to this trip our household was eerily wrapped in a temporary calm. Talk of visiting Uncles and cousins gave rise to a cheery and reminiscent atmosphere. He was not allowed to take the company car out of Saudi and so he started looking for a suitable vehicle. When asked about my preferences I had only one request and that was that there would be enough seats to accommodate every person.

With each day his frustration mounted as he viewed numerous vans, cars and SUVs until he found the perfect fit. It was a used passenger van with extra seats and amenities, tinted windows, a television and plush carpeting, but most importantly plenty of seating for our family of nine. He took us to see the van that promised to be the beginning of this last trip to Syria. A guarded excitement found its way into our home as we discussed the comfort and luxury that would ease this long and arduous journey.

The next day his plans changed and he announced that this was a frivolous vehicle that would not be used when we returned. That evening he took us to see the SUV he had chosen and asked for my approval.  I pointed to the lack of seating and when confronted, calmly stood my ground.  He asked one more time if this would be a good purchase and if I would agree, but the same words emanated from my mouth, no. It was hard for him to contain his temper and although I was scared I felt proud of myself for having my own opinion. His thobe (men’s long white robe) swished past me and he stomped towards the car,entering and starting it while the children piled in. Only little D and I remained standing, waiting to take our seats. I plopped her onto a seat and felt the crunch and grind of a tire roll over my foot.  The children let out a gasp and called for baba (father) to STOP; he ignored this and kept driving as I hopped into place.

The car fell silent after doors were shut and a measure of safety was secured. Each child glanced my way and the usual tears welled up but this time they were allowed to drip down my nose and onto ragged lips that had been sealed in desperation. The sting of humiliation was too much and no eye contact was returned, afraid that sobbing would be uncontrollable. My instructions were always clear and meant that the children were to remain calm and never intervene.  Physical pain became insignificant and was overshadowed by the feeling that once again I was somehow an accomplice in this vicious cycle that was brought against me.




Chocolate cake



I started making this cake many years ago. It seems that many home cooks have a special chocolate cake recipe that they like and this is mine. It is basic and one that I think Grama Elva used. I usually put sweetened whipped cream in between the layers, topping it off with Fabulous fudge frosting. I freeze it and then slice to serve.


Chocolate cake


2/3 cup butter

1 3/4 cup white sugar

2 eggs

3/4  unsweetened baking cocoa

2 1/2 cups  sifted flour

1 1/4 cups cold water

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt



Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Grease and flour two cake pans. Make sure that the flour is not caked on but just a light dusting to cover all of the pan.

Grama Elva was always about creaming the butter and sugar well, adding eggs and beating until fluffy. So this is basically what I do in many recipes that call for a fluffy and tender end result. She also warned of putting too much flour because that might make your cake heavy. So, I am always careful when adding flour and in fact in this recipe I sift the flour before I add it.

Mix softened butter (not melted) with sugar until well combined, add in the eggs and beat until fluffy. Slowly add the cocoa on low speed so it does not create a huge mess! Scrape bowl well, add salt and soda mixing until incorporated. Add one cup of flour and  beat well, add 1/2 cup cold water and continue with this process of alternately adding cold water and flour (ending with flour) until ingredients are gone.

Pour batter into pans evenly. This will be a thicker batter so don’t worry if it does not pour easily. Place two cake pans into preheated oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until done, this really depends on your oven heat and the size of your pans. Do not over bake. Remove pans from oven and let them cool at least 10 minutes. Turn  pans over allowing cakes to rest on a cooling rack or whatever you like using for this purpose. Let cake cool completely before frosting.

You can serve this cake plain or with a frosting of your choice. Once cake has cooled I smooth a layer of sweetened whipped cream on a cake layer and carefully place the second layer on top. I frost this with fudge frosting and the link for that is listed below.

Fabulous Fudge frosting





Walk the loop



Happy Friday everyone. I have had a pretty good week working on the book and balancing other tasks in my life. I have reached a milestone and one for me that is important. I am once again able to take my usual walks without anxiety. 


Daily dreams and nightmares seemed to keep company with day time vigils. Locking checking and planning an escape route if it became necessary. I looked through the slider and out onto amazing land that rolled and dipped, dotted by tractors and an occasional pasture. Memories of summer evenings and moonlit drives along the winding Palouse had faded and were replaced by an all-encompassing vision that this was no longer my home.

A faint crunching kept pace with footsteps that at first moved gingerly past brightly colored houses. The stride widened as confidence grew and an increase in speed took over. Bare streets stood in contrast to the distant Palouse, now a brown and white patchwork of snow and fields waiting to be planted. Geese floated giving their customary greeting of honks and a visible formation crossed overhead. Three grain silos marked my favorite scene, one that was viewed daily from the wooden deck he had enlarged just 3 years before. The old red barn held it’s place in the backdrop and was a welcome reminder that we were in farm country. A pristine winter sky engulfed the landscape making it seem endless and I walked the loop without looking back once.


Grama Elva’s Swedish meatballs


                  Great grandparents                                                 Grampa Adolph

Grampa Adolph worked in the brickyard in the small town of Troy, Idaho. He was a quiet man who barely spoke and when he did he had a broken accent. His parents had emigrated from Sweden and while his older siblings were born there, he was born in America.

He married Elva Sodestrom and they had three girls who were raised in a loving but strict household. My mother was the eldest of these girls and has always treasured her Swedish heritage. Elva was a feisty little lady who made the best cinnamon rolls, maple bars and sweets. She left an indelible impression that has never faded.

My mother never forgot her Swedish roots and continued with the tradition of making these special meatballs. She would make large batches for family reunions and when she came to Saudi she enlisted the kids help in rolling and frying them.

As you will see these meatballs are not low-fat! I am sure you can alter this recipe to make it less fatty which I have tried a few times. I am posting the original recipe not a low fat version!


2 pounds ground beef

1 cup finely chopped onions

2 eggs slightly beaten

1  cup milk

1 cup fine bread crumbs

1 1/2  tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. nutmeg


1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup flour

4 beef bouillon cubes

3 cups hot water

1 1/2 cups milk

1 1/2 cups light cream or half and half

Butter for frying meatballs


Soften breadcrumbs in milk

Mix ground beef, breadcrumbs and all other meatball ingredients until well combined

Roll ground beef mixture into 1 inch balls

Place a small amount of butter in a large saute pan and brown meatballs on all sides. Fry until thoroughly cooked. You will have to work in batches with this larger recipe. When cooked, remove to a baking dish.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix water and bouillon cubes on medium heat until dissolved, set aside. Melt 1/2 cup butter and add flour, mix until smooth and bubbly. Add milk, cream and bouillon to flour mixture and stir until smooth and thickened. Pour sauce over meatballs and bake in oven an additional 30 minutes.

My mother’s original directions are listed below. I changed them a bit to suit my needs.