One thing that keeps me from going absolutely stir crazy is watching the world around me.  I am blessed to live in the country, and I love watching things “wake up” during the spring.  When I need to clear my head of all the negativity going on in our current situation, I often step outside and listen to the birds.  They are going about life as normal, trusting their Creator to care for them as He always does.

Observing nature was something my parents instilled in me at an early age.  They often loaded up the car with children and a picnic meal and headed out, sometimes not deciding where we were going until we got there.  Although we kids would have loved to visit playgrounds with swings and slides, they were not necessarily on the agenda my parents chose.  To them, mountain streams, wooded paths, and grassy fields better served as learning opportunities.

Trips into the mountains of East Tennessee for me were often marred by car sickness.  I couldn’t even begin to count the number of times we had to stop in order for me to be sick.  Fresh air seemed to help, and I often rode with my nose stuck through a window that had been rolled down a fraction.  One time Mom complained that her neck was cold, and Dad told her to either cover her neck or deal with a sick daughter.

As we drove to higher elevations, the roads got steeper.  Our car had to work harder to get us up the side of the mountain.  Mom often told about trips she took up the mountain roads as a child.  Her parents remarked about their struggling automobile, “It’s pulling like Miss Tillery’s in the car.”  (Miss Tillery was a woman of their acquaintance who was very overweight.  They sometimes took her places.)  Then came the day when she was in the car, and they were going up a steep incline.  My mother blurted out, “It’s pulling like Miss Tillery’s in the car.” 

One of my family’s favorite times to go on a car trip was during dogwood season.  My early years in Tennessee taught me that there is always a cold snap right before they bloom.  We called it “dogwood winter.”  This past weekend, I had to make a trip to the post office.  While out, I noticed several dogwood trees that were ready to burst into bloom.  I noticed more on Sunday.  Sure enough, the temperature that night dropped considerably.  I am looking forward to seeing dogwoods in bloom the next time I am out.

Life right now seems so abnormal.  I have found that focusing on the things that are taking place as usual helps my perspective.  The birds aren’t worried about what is coming next.  They are building their nests and laying their eggs.  And I have the assurance that the same God who is taking care of them is taking care of me.

Days on the calendar are coming up like they always do.  It’s hard to believe that May is just around the corner.  May 5th is only a few days away.  Also known as Cinco de Mayo, this date is often celebrated with Mexican food.  Need recipes?  I can help!

Mozzarella Tamale

1 pound lean ground beef

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon flour

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 tablespoon dried minced onion

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1 (2-1/4-ounce) can black olives, drained

1 (6-ounce) package cornbread mix

BROWN ground beef, onion, and green pepper in a large nonstick skillet or Dutch oven, stirring until beef crumbles; drain.  Return beef mixture to skillet.

Stir in seasonings, flour, dried onion, and tomatoes.  Bring to a boil over medium heat; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in cheeses and olives; spoon mixture into a lightly greased 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish.

Prepare cornbread mix according to package directions. Spoon cornbread mixture over meat mixture.

Bake tamale at 425 degrees for 15 minutes or until cornbread is golden.

Chicken-and Rice-Burritos

10 (8-inch) flour tortillas

Vegetable cooking spray

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/4-inch strips

1/2 cup chopped onion

2-1/2 tablespoons minced jalapeño pepper

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup water

1-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

3 cups hot cooked brown rice

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese (may use 4-cheese Mexican blend)

1 cup chopped unpeeled tomato

1 cup peeled, chopped cucumber

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Sour cream


Wrap tortillas in aluminum foil, and heat at 325 degrees for 15 minutes.

Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; place over medium-high heat until hot.  Add chicken and next 6 ingredients; cook 3 minutes or until chicken is done.  Combine water and cornstarch; stir well, add to chicken mixture in skillet.  Bring to a boil, and cook 1 minute or until thickened, stirring constantly.  Combine chicken mixture and rice; stir well.  Spoon mixture in equal amounts down center of each warm tortilla; top each with cheese, tomato, cucumber, and cilantro, if desired.  Fold sides over, and top each with sour cream and salsa.

Enchilada Lover’s Casserole

1 cup salsa

1/3 cup milk

1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies

1 can cream of chicken soup

8 ounces pasteurized, processed cheese (such as Velveeta)

2 cups diced cooked chicken

1 (10-ounce) bag tortilla chips, divided

COMBINE salsa, milk, chilies, soup, cheese, and chicken in saucepan.  Heat until cheese is melted.  Fill an 8-by-8-inch pan with tortilla chips. (Do not crush.)  Pour sauce over chips and place in a 350-degree oven.  Bake until bubbly (about 20 minutes).  Serve with the additional tortilla chips.

Cheesy Mexican Chicken

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chilies

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Paprika (optional)

Combine first 4 ingredients; sprinkle evenly over chicken.  Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add chicken, and cook 5 to 6 minutes on each side or until golden brown.   Remove from heat; top with chilies and cheese.  Cover and let stand 2 to 3 minutes or until cheese melts.  Sprinkle with paprika, if desired.  Serves 4.