Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mini Mascarpone Cheesecakes

Whilst on our cruise, we were served a bounty of toothsome treats. By far, our favorite dessert was a mascarpone cheesecake. So it wasn't surprising that when I asked Graham what kind of cake he would like for his birthday he requested, "that one we really liked on the cruise."  

God bless the Internet! How did a mother survive when foreign recipes could not be found with a simple Google search? Thanks to the world wide web, I had an assortment of recipes from which to choose. I selected one that looked simple, but elegant, found on

The recipe is for one (1) mini-cheesecake. I multiplied it by five (5), but made only four (4) mini-cheesecakes with the ingredients. 

2 digestive biscuits
10 g butter
1 T honey
100 g mascarpone
1/4 lemon
1 T icing sugar


  1. 1 Crush the biscuits into small pieces and combine with the soft butter and honey. Place this mixture into one small metal cutter ring and press firmly and evenly on the bottom of the ring.
  2. 2 Add the lemon juice and icing sugar to the mascarpone, whisk for around 2 minutes, being careful not to over whisk as this can cause the mixture to split.
  3. 3 Spoon the mixture into the rings and using a flan/palette knife press the mix well into the ring to prevent air gaps. Remove the ring with either a hot cloth or blowtorch.
  4. 4 TIP: If you find it difficult to remove from the ring, use a flat/palette knife to cut around the cheesecake.
  5. 5 Place the cheesecakes onto a large plate or individual ones and decorate with the fruit of your choice!

Read more:

For my American friends, "icing sugar" is, of course powdered sugar. As for the "digestive biscuits," I used a cookie called, "Speculoos" which is sort of a cross between a ginger snap and a graham cracker. I think graham crackers would work, but you will have to play with the proportions. I had to use like double the number of cookies that the recipe called for in order for the crust mixture to be firm enough to hold its shape. For the gram conversion, 250 grams equals about one cup...I'll leave the rest of the math to you.  But for this reason it may be helpful to do a bigger batch. 

We used frozen berries to garnish. Happy Birthday, Graham!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Our Weekend Plans

Today is Graham's 16th birthday, which is really quite amazing since I am certain that I was 16 years old three years ago. Where does the time go? In the US he would be taking a driver's test  today. In France the minimum driving age is 18--Graham has no permit, and no license in his foreseeable future. It is yet another reminder of how strange our lives have become. But while he may be grieving the fact that he is not having a "normal" 16th birthday in some respects, he is aware of the fact that our abnormal life has its advantages. One advantage is that his FAVORITE band, Skillet, happens to be touring in Europe right now, so Graham's birthday present from us is that he gets to go to Germany with his dad to see Skillet in concert this Friday night. How many American kids get a trip to Germany for their 16th birthday? I'd say that's pretty SWEET! Happy Birthday David Graham--you bless me more than words can say. I am proud of your passion, your generosity, and your desire to do all things well.

While David and Graham are road-tripping to Germany this weekend, Chandler and I will be holding down the fort and taking care of Jack--who is in need of special care at the moment. It seems our cat has (for the FIRST time in his 8 years of life) FLEAS. Jack is an indoor cat, but he has been playing Houdini lately. When we fail to close the front door completely, Jack sneaks out. He doesn't venture very far, he barely leaves the front steps. Nevertheless, he has managed to become the unhappy host of unwanted vermin. It isn't even flea season! And why does finding fleas on my cat make ME itch?

 As if caring for a flea-infested feline wasn't fun enough, I will have the mathematical antics of Chandler to entertain me this weekend. He has taken to creating math problems based on the 12 Days of Christmas. For example, if the gifts were compounding--that is to say if on the second day of Christmas my true love sent me TWO turtle doves PLUS another partridge in a pear tree, and on the third day of Christmas my true love sent me THREE french hens PLUS two MORE turtle doves, plus ANOTHER partridge in a pear tree, etc.--how many birds would I have by the end of the week? OR, again assuming the gifts were compounding, what would I have the most of?  Yes, this is how my second son entertains himself. Should I be worried?

Along with the fleas-a-leaping and the boy-a-counting I will have the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree to keep me company. Today we hope to buy our first ever French Christmas tree. We did not get one last year because, honestly, there was no place to put a tree in our 800 sq. ft apartment. So I am downright giddy with the anticipation of getting a Christmas tree and decking the halls. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Got NyQuil?

I never (hack, hack) get sick.

Well, (sniff) almost never.

I'm currently on day three of this cold, and I'm feeling deeply grateful that our Thanksgiving celebration is behind us because I'd hate to be cooking in this condition. Nothing like sharing the holiday germs.

So, I've broken out the Christmas movies, made the left-over turkey into turkey-noodle soup, and huddled up for a few days.

But what I really want is hot Tang. Tang does not exist in France. Neither does NyQuil. I could cry about that today.

Before I get to whining, (Aah-CHOO!) I'm gonna go lay down.

Do you have any tried and true cold remedies you'd like to share with me?

Sunday, November 20, 2011


I love the Fall. I love running at sunrise on crackling leaves, I love scarves and sweaters, and I love football! My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, and this year we have much for which to be thankful.

We had the joy of opening our home to 34 people on Saturday for an early Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is an all-American holiday, so here in France, Thursday and Friday are regular work/school days. Our celebration was authentic in every way--except for the date.

We had a pot-luck, so I was only responsible for the Turkey (I roasted three--one the night before, and two the day of) and the gravy. But all the traditional goodies were on the menu--mashed potatoes, yams, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans, and rolls. Oh yes, and an abundance of pies--apple, pumpkin, and pecan. I was most impressed with the pumpkin pie because Libby's Canned pumpkin does NOT exist in France. This pumpkin pie was made from scratch--starting with a raw pumpkin. 

Many of our guest were Franco-American families (one spouse is French, the other is American, and the kids have dual citizenship), but we also invited two American interns (single guys) who work at our boys' school. It was a full house!

Just before David said the blessing he told everyone that our family tradition is to take a minute to share something that we are thankful for while we eat our Thanksgiving meal. He encouraged our guests to to do this once they were seated. But we only had table space for those with small children, the rest of us were eating on our laps in the living room, with conversation moving in currents. By the time I sat down, I had forgotten David's instructions, and while the conversation was interesting and lively, we never got around to sharing what we were thankful for. Later, while in line for dessert, one of our teenage guests (a Franco-American kid) asked me, "What did you say that you were thankful for?"

 "Oh," I sheepishly replied," we forgot to do that! Did you guys do it?" 

He said, "Yes!" and then he proceeded to tell me what he had shared. 

It turns out that all of the teenagers, along with the two interns, had gathered in our game room to eat their meal--and they took turns saying what they were thankful for! I was delighted, not only by the fact that 7 guys, aged 13-22 took time to be thankful, but that they were so blessed by the activity that they were asking the others--the adults--what they had shared. 

After we ate, we played games. Many of the guys (including Graham and Chandler) went outside for a game of American football. They came back rosy-cheeked, skinned-kneed, and ready for a second go at the dessert table. I stayed inside for a rousing game of Scrabble.

This Thursday I'll be missing friends and family back home, but I will also be counting my blessings from afar. Blessings like the joy of celebrating Thanksgiving with new friends in France.

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Small Private Victories

It's drizzling outside. Meanwhile, I am curled up in my favorite chair with Jack and a warm blanket, trying to convince myself that it really would be a good idea to tackle the humongous pile of ironing that sits in the closet.

The inner debate begins: Ironing doesn't save souls. Ironing doesn't win awards. Ironing doesn't have any real eternal value...or does it?

The other day I had a lovely conversation with a friend about the importance of being faithful in the small things: Things like daily Bible reading, like being intentional about spending time with your spouse, like playing games with your kids. Things like choosing to believe the best about people, like praying for those who have hurt you, like focusing on your husband's strengths rather than his weaknesses. And yes, things like taking out the garbage rather than cramming one more thing into the bin, like cleaning out the cat litter when it isn't even your job, and like ironing. None of these things are seen or applauded by the world around us. They do not earn us income, nor praise, nor fame. They are what Steven Covey calls, "Small Private Victories."

SMALL...they are the simplest activities of my day. None of these tasks take intelligence, skill, or talent to accomplish. They are not world changing in and of themselves; rather they are basic building blocks.

PRIVATE...they are not done on a stage or broadcast on the television. No one asks, "Jenn, is your ironing caught up?" No one really cares, except for maybe my mom. They are the tasks that only God sees me do.

VICTORIES...they are a triumph over sin and death! The doing of these seemingly small and thankless duties is a chore, but once I decide to do them...I have won. "Won what?" One more battle in the war between my flesh and my spirit.

Paul put it this way in Romans 7:21-24:

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!

I have heard the word "integrity" defined as "who you are when no one is looking." That is to say, does who I really am match who I show myself to be on my blog? at church? at work? in the market? Or more simply put, when it is just me and God, do I choose to live by my flesh or by His spirit?

Oh, its actually pretty easy to do the right things when everyone's watching--the PUBLIC victories. With those come strokes, accolades, encouragement. But how are you doing with the PRIVATE victories? I am convinced that they are the ones that really matter. For it is in the quiet, still, lonely places that God does His best work in our lives--if we cooperate.

With that being said, I am off to do my ironing. I choose to serve my family rather than sit and indulge my inner-sloth. But you will never really know if I actually went and did it. Nor will anyone else, other than the Williamson men for whom I wield my Rowenta iron. This itty-bitty private victory will be for Christ alone--by His strength and for His glory.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Odds and Ends

We finally received our Cartes de Sejour! This is a long-stay visa which is good for one year--and it took us six months to get them. Since they expire on the APPLICATION date rather than on the date that we actually received them, and since you are supposed to start the application process 90 days before the current one expires, in three short months we will have to begin the renewal process all over again. Fun, fun, fun! 

Actually, we have high hopes that our renewal will go much more smoothly next year when we can do the whole thing in Loches, and when we don't have to changes addresses in the middle of he process.

My friend Emma stopped by the other day. We spent some time coloring together, and then a big, ugly monster (David) chased us around. Emma is terrified of Jack, our cat, who happens to be the sweetest creature on the face of the earth. I hope some day they will be friends. Emma is a much-loved member of our community who lives here in Loches with her Grandma. They are from the Congo.

Chandler brought home this dialogue that he had written for his English class. He was marked down a point for NOT using a swear word. Oh the life we live! I daily have to entrust my boys to the Lord's care are rely on His Spirit to be their true teacher. Chandler appreciated the irony of being corrected for NOT swearing. What's a lower grade when your own integrity is at stake? Way to go, Chan!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Contest You May NOT Want to Win

Who is this strange family, and WHAT?!? on earth are they doing?

The photo is actually a still shot from a video. The video will NOT be made public. However, IF and only IF you can NAME the song that we were yodeling singing, I will send you a link that will allow you to view the video. Of course, I won’t MAKE you view it. I don’t believe in torturing my friends. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Counting it all Joy

In the past week...
  • we received an unexpected bill for a French tax for over 1000 euros ($1400) 
  • our hot water went out
  • our clothes dryer stopped working
  • our oven malfunctioned
  • our son  was unjustly penalized at school
I was awake last night praying over these and other issues, when I realized that in the midst of it all, I have joy.

I think, maybe, I am growing. Maybe I am learning. Maybe I am being changed.

In my last post, I  joked about how difficult this year has been. I am not exaggerating when I say it has been the hardest year of my life. And not just because of circumstances like those listed above. Those sorts of annoyances have been a part of most of our weeks this year, but they are just the external challenges. The harder challenges are the internal ones: The nagging fear that we are going to fail at being missionaries; the painful reality that our boys are suffering from loneliness and discouragement; the overwhelming feeling that God has abandoned us.

My faith has been tested in this Refiner's Fire, and a lot of impurities--MY impurities--were revealed. Impurities such as pride, selfishness, doubt, and anger came to the surface, each one uglier than the one before.

I surrendered to the work of the Holy Spirit, though I will admit to kicking and screaming in the process. The lessons learned from this year are like seeds that have worked their way deep into the soil of my heart,  and I am beginning to feel them germinate.

The first seed to sprout is joy!  I know that we are told in the book of James to "count it all joy when you face trials of various kinds," but I guess I did not really know how to do that. I mean, I could've SAID all the right Christianese words and plastered a smile on my face in the midst of my trials, but I would have been faking it. I, of course, did not do this. Rather, I fell into depression, questioned my faith, and yelled at my husband. (No, I'm not proud of that behavior.)

But what I am learning is this: I do not have to deny the reality of my own pain and suffering in order to "count it all joy." If I were to do that, I would actually not be "counting" at all, I'd be avoiding. Instead, I can freely acknowledge that I am frustrated by unexpected bills and broken appliances. I can even admit that I am struggling with my faith. I can tally up my trials, and put them in the JOY column.

Let me explain. Pretend you were to keep a ledger of Joys and Sorrows. There are many items that you could legitimately put into the "Sorrows" column: your sins, global hunger, abused children, the Seattle Seahawks--you get the idea. And God has a plan for dealing with the "Sorrows" column. He shares in those sorrows. But God says, whatever you do, don't throw your personal trials into the "Sorrows" column, they count towards "Joy." Why is that? Because the things in the "Sorrows" column are things that need a redemptive work of God in order to be made right, but the things in the "Joys" column are the things that God has already redeemed.

Yes, what I am learning is that God has already redeemed my trials. I know this because the verses in James say what the end result of trials will be--and the end result is GOOD. And if the end result is good, then the trials will eventually add to my joys, not to my sorrows.

Ah, but I had confused the process with the end product. My joy need not be in the process--improperly cooked food and falsely accused children are certainly not reasons to rejoice. My joy is in the end products--perseverance, maturity, completeness.

Perseverance is one of those qualities for which it can be difficult to see the benefits. Last week in the Alps God gave me such a lovely picture of the blessing of perseverance. There was a certain hike that went up into the Alps which ended on a bluff overlooking mountains and valleys for miles. The fall colors were at their peak, the sky was blue and the air was crisp. I made the walk up to the look-out point with a friend. All along the way, we passed people who were huffing and puffing. Some stopped along the way, others turned back, unable to reach their desired destination. The walk was tiring for me, but I realized that my weekly running discipline afforded me an advantage. I was able to reach the top and enjoy the beauty. Never once in my daily  drugery of running did I imagine that the perseverance that I was building in my lungs and my heart would enable me to better enjoy a hike in the Alps.

I often think of perseverance as work. But the truth is, God wants to take us to the High Places--places of indescribable beauty and grandeur--and perseverance is His means of getting us there. 

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you face trials of various kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

Friday, November 4, 2011


Here are the many ways that I was not allowed to begin our annual Christmas Letter. My husband wisely censored me.

To Whom it May Concern: Due to an unexpected amount of discouragement and grumpiness we regret to inform you that this Christmas letter will be devoid of any merry-making or glad tidings. 

We have had a really challenging year. I say "challenging" because it doesn't seem right to say "crappy" in a Christmas letter. 

The romance of living in Europe is gone, and all that remains is an on-going wish that all the people who ride the Paris Metro would learn the value of a daily dose of deodorant.

All I want for Christmas is my Carte de Sejour!

I'd like to tell you that my vacuum cleaner sucks, but unfortunately it is about the only thing in our life that doesn't.

No wonder the French drink so much wine...

Ah, but I jest. In the end, the writing of our Christmas Letter always turns me towards God in gratitude.  I am no longer looking at the circumstances (which ARE difficult), I am clinging to the Lord (who saves). His faithfulness is enormous and His mercies are new every morning. The TRUTH is that God is good, all the time, and He is worthy to be praised.

Those who sow in tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Psalms 126:5