Heart of the Home


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Bright sunlight helped her find diamond ring

I had a diamond ring that I wore on my pinkie. It was a bit loose, but not too bad. One day, I went to take my rings off as I normally do, and the ring was gone.

I thought it was gone for good because I had no idea where I had lost it.

One Sunday morning about six months later, I was going to the car to go to church. The sun was shining brightly, and I looked down at something shiny - my ring! All the stones were there, and it wasn't bent, although I had been driving over it all that time.

I was very thankful to find the ring because I'd had it for a long time.

Springdale, Ark.

Glad her favorite sweater is back

My favorite black wear-with-everything, hip-length sweater was missing. It wasn't in any of the closets, and none of my family could remember when they saw it last. I wore it so much in the spring and fall as a jacket that everyone knew it, but no one had any idea where it could be.

I checked the church coat racks, the senior center, restaurants, club rooms, friends' homes and anywhere I could think of that I had been. My sister offered suggestions, and her husband was on the lookout for it, too. Finally, I gave up and decided that someone had picked it up by mistake. I hoped whoever had it enjoyed wearing it as much as I did.

About a year later, my sister entered the coffee room at church carrying a large plastic bag. She handed it to me, and inside was my long-lost black sweater. She was laughing almost too hard to tell me where she found it.

The previous day had turned a bit chilly, so her husband pulled his black sweater out and started to put it on. 'What is a woman's sweater doing in my drawer?' he yelled in surprise.

We determined that I had left it there one day at a meeting. I arrived a bit early and laid my sweater on their bed. When my sister spotted it, she thought my brother-in-law had dropped his there, so she put it away before the rest of the guests arrived. We still laugh about the mystery of the black sweater. It will apparently never wear out, and I keep on wearing it.

St. Joseph, Mo.

Missing wallet's hiding place was finally revealed

After returning from a shopping trip to a nearby town, my sister, Sarah, was frantic when she discovered that her wallet was missing. She lived in a cute cottage in a former coal-mining town nestled between two high mountains. She was a meticulous housekeeper, so this loss made it more difficult to grasp.

She looked in the kitchen, rattling dishes and kettles. The bed was torn apart, and the closets were emptied. Every blade of grass in the lawn was inspected, but to no avail. There was no alternative but to replace the money, driver's license and other papers.

After many years, Sarah and her husband retired. The cottage was now sitting on some valuable real estate, which was becoming a resort area. The traffic had increased to a continuous hum. The town was no longer quiet and peaceful, and the high taxes reflected the changes.

Sarah owned a house in a small town on the prairies of Eastern Colorado. This seemed like a good alternative. They quickly sold the cottage and moved, taking only their favorite furniture. They nestled in their new home and rekindled old relationships. Time passed, and they became old.

When Sarah's husband became ill, she asked me to visit and give her moral support. She was 96 years old and frail. I scrubbed floors, washed windows, put up new curtains and helped her organize things in general. She had kept her stuffed chairs, and underneath the afghans they were like new.

I thought that the afghans should be laundered. As I reached between the cushion and chair back, my fingers closed on a pile of junk. I pulled out gloves, coins, pens, buttons, socks and, finally, a billfold.

Sarah was elated when she recognized the long-lost billfold. The money and papers were still intact. She had fun going through her lost treasures. She had no idea how her billfold ended up in such a strange place.

Craig, Colo.

Sewing stories

Many people enjoy sewing and get great satisfaction from making their own clothes or clothes for their family members.

What's your favorite thing you have sewn? Have you ever transformed a piece of clothing? Have you ever had a sewing disaster? Please tell us your sewing stories.

Send your letters to Kate Marchbanks, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265.


Tomatoes bring vivid color and vibrant flavor to brunch dishes

At the turn of the 19th century, a British gentleman coined the term brunch to describe a new fashion among the privileged classes: lingering over a combined breakfast and lunch after their early-morning hunt. What we Americans did was turn brunch into a leisurely weekend tradition to be enjoyed by any and all. It's nice to relax with family over an appetizing mid-day feast. So, what to eat? Vivid color and vibrant flavor are welcome on any brunch buffet, and cheery-red, tangy-sweet tomatoes deliver on both counts.

To make sure your tomatoes are at their best for these brunch dishes, keep them at room temperature until they turn red and soften slightly. To speed up the ripening process, place the tomatoes in a paper bag and close the top. Good looks and great flavor explain why we love tomatoes so much, but they are an excellent choice nutritionally, contributing to the 'five-a-day' goal many of us struggle to reach. Vitamins A and C, fiber and the antioxidant lycopene are among the nutrients packed into every bite of a fresh tomato.

Brunch gets even better when this golden-crusted tomato gratin is spooned onto the plate.

- Florida Tomatoes
BEAUTY ON A PLATE: Fresh Tomato Gratin is bursting with fresh flavor.

Fresh Tomato Gratin

Heat oven to 425°F.

Sprinkle tomatoes liberally with salt and let drain in a colander for 15 minutes. Transfer to paper towels and gently pat dry.

While tomatoes are draining, combine oil, garlic and red pepper flakes; set aside.

Lightly oil a baking dish large enough to hold the tomatoes in a single layer. Arrange tomatoes in dish, skin side down; drizzle garlic-oil mixture over them and sprinkle with black pepper.

Put crackers in a zippered plastic bag; crush with a rolling pin. Add cheese and herbs to crumbs in the bag; shake to combine; sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over tomatoes.

Bake gratin in the upper third of oven until crumb topping browns and tomatoes are heated through, about 12 to 15 minutes. Yields 6 to 8 servings.

This delicious pizza is very easy to assemble.

Smoked Salmon and Tomato Pizza

Heat oven to 375°F.

Place pizza crust on a baking sheet. Bake until hot and crisp, about 5 minutes. Spread crust with cream cheese. Scatter salmon, tomato, red onion, capers and parsley over cream cheese. Season to taste with black pepper. Yields 6 to 8 servings.

Cooking tomatoes concentrates the sugars, as in any fruit, for this spicy-sweet bread pudding.

- Florida Tomatoes
DIFFERENT DESSERT: Spiced Fresh Tomato Bread Pudding is a sweet taste of summer.

Spiced Fresh Tomato Bread Pudding

Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8-by-8-by-2-inch pan with 1 tablespoon butter.

In a large saucepan, combine tomatoes, 1 cup sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, salt and remaining butter. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in vanilla extract. Add bread cubes; stir until bread is well-coated.

In a small bowl, stir 1/2 cup hot bread mixture into egg. Gradually stir egg-coated bread into remaining bread mixture. Spoon into prepared baking pan. Sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Serve warm with sweetened whipped cream, if desired. Yields 6 (1-cup) servings.

Seasoned tomatoes are the main ingredient of this luscious tart.

Fresh Tomato Tart

Press dough into a pie plate or a tart pan with a removable bottom; trim edge. Chill for 30 minutes.*

Place tomato slices between several sheets of paper towels to absorb moisture; let stand for 20 minutes.

Heat oven to 375°F. In a small bowl, combine, thyme, salt and pepper; set aside.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil. Add onion; cook and stir until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Spread mustard on bottom of tart shell. Sprinkle 1 cup cheese and sautéed onion evenly over mustard. Top with half of tomato slices. Sprinkle with half of thyme mixture and remaining cheese.  Cover with remaining tomato slices and sprinkle with remaining 1 teaspoon oil and remaining thyme mixture. Bake until pastry is golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes. Yields 6 to 8 servings.

*For a crisper crust: Pierce bottom and sides of chilled dough. Bake, unfilled, at 425ºF until pale gold, about 10 minutes. Cool and fill.

Together With God

Believing that you have lost your family is indeed one of the saddest human conditions, yet it was not long ago that I believed just that. I live 1,200 miles away from my family, and with every year, my nieces and nephews grew older.

They passed through school years, recitals I never attended and games they won without me. Before I knew it, I was receiving graduation and wedding announcements. Where had the time gone? I feared my family could only relate to me long-distance, and I to them.

So, I nervously went home to reclaim my place in the family, fearing that it was long gone. It didn't take long for me to discover that I had lost nothing. I was still a daughter, a sister and an aunt. I was still loved.

Distance is only as far as we allow it to be. During those years when I was not physically present, I was still in touch by way of phone, letters and photos. I also learned that it is a lot harder to get out of a family than I had thought. The best feeling about finding something as important as love, and belonging, is to realize it was never lost.

Father, thank You for those who love us. Help us keep our connections to our families strong, so that we may keep Your love growing. Give hope to all who search for lost loves that they may find peace. Amen.

- D. Susan Rutz

A Letter From Kate

Dear Readers,

I can honestly say that I identify with Juliann Spilinek, whose contribution, 'Lost and found is the story of her life,' appears on page 27. My funniest lost-and-found story, however, didn't have much to do with me. It involved my husband, Jay, who has a large collection of plastic action figures, all about 6 inches tall. He is very protective of his 'toys,' and he doesn't really like it when anyone touches them.

My daughter, who was 2 years old at the time, was fascinated with the toys, because they looked like dolls to her. She was especially fond of a certain clown figure. Jay had a duplicate of the clown, so he occasionally let Charlotte play with one of them.

As we were leaving the house one morning, she was determined to take the clown doll with her. We were running late that day, and there wasn't time to fight about it, so I let her bring the doll, thinking she would leave it in the car. When we got to her day care center, she insisted on taking it in with her. She had never lost a toy at school before, so I thought it would be OK, just this once.

When I went to pick Charlotte up at the end of the day, the clown doll was nowhere in sight. I panicked, thinking of what my husband would say when he found out that I let our daughter take the figure out of the house. Her teacher and I frantically searched the classroom, to no avail. We went home, and I continued to worry about what had happened to the clown doll. I finally decided to tell Jay about it. He was not happy, but he said it was not a tragedy, since he did have the duplicate figure.

I was not ready to give up the search, though. Over the next couple of days, I continued to look for the clown doll. Finally, I realized I had never asked Charlotte what had happened to it. When I asked her, she told me that the clown had been bad, so she'd put him in time out - in the trash can. I wished I would have asked her at school the day it happened, so we could have looked through the trash right then. But I considered the incident a learning experience and stopped worrying about it.

A few days later, I was dropping Charlotte off in the morning, and I was there when one of the teachers dumped a silvery, plastic bucket of toys onto the floor. Lo and behold, there was the missing clown doll! I realized it was what Charlotte was referring to when she said she'd put the doll in the trash can.

I was so relieved, I hugged and kissed her. I also grabbed the doll and carried him safely back to the car. He never left the house again. I'm so glad I can laugh at that story now!

Kate Marchbanks