"Kindred Spirits are not as rare as I used to think." Anne of Green Gables

Brenda Nuland and me after a wonderful Sunday afternoon drive in Sturbridge in the light snowfall, on a Sunday afternoon.

Sometime a couple of years ago, when I was just barely getting the hang of this blog thing, I ran across a blog called coffeeteabooksandme

I was not only attracted by the wonderful name (I loved all of the stuff she put in her name.), but I found that when I read the lovely posts, I felt the comfort of being in a cozy, warm, interesting, stimulating company of a truly like-minded friend. Somehow, and I don't really know how, we began corresponding from time to time. Seems we are in many ways clones of each other. So many similar experiences with our children, moves, marriage, homeschooling, favorite books and so much more. So, Brenda became a dear friend over cyber space. She is always life-giving and quite encouraging every time she would write to me. I considered her an angel from the Lord to keep my spirits up in the midst.

Meanwhile, when Joel and Sarah first drove to Boston for Joel to try out for Berklee College of Music, her wonderful daughter, also a blog friend, asked if Joel and Sarah would live a real home to stay in on their long trip as they lived in Sturbridge. And so, our friendship with Stephanie, their daughter, began as she and Sarah became fast friends and found in each other kindred souls and favorite books, movies, an so much more. 

Wonderful Stephanie, sweet Sarah and Life-giving Brenda

Fast forward a couple of years when last week, I was to speak at a the Iron Sharpens Iron conference in Connecticut. Stephanie schemed a wonderful plan for her mom to drive up from Indiana, and Sarah to fly in, all attending the conference and us to come by their home on the way to see Joel. So, Brenda and I finally got to meet at Stephanie's charming home. Brenda and I seemed like long, lost friends and definitely did not have enough time to talk, as we had a million years to catch up on!

We wiled away the hours feasting on some of the best food I have had in a long time and sharing thoughts, ideas, favorite things, opinions and all the other good stuff friendships are made of!  Of course, when we first arrived, Stephanie had made the most wonderful scones and treated us to strong English tea. It was followed by- bubbling hot potato soup, fresh bread, salad and for desert, one of our favorites--Sticky Toffee Pudding--and old English favorite. We learned to love this when we were visiting Prince Edward Island and first ate it at the very hotel where Anne recited the Highwaymen in the movie Anne of Green Gables.

A few months ago, Stephanie traveled to England with her husband and visited the archives of Charlotte Mason. She also took some great pictures and posted a wonderful recipe that she discovered for Sticky Toffee Pudding and so I share that with you today, so that you can bring a little of English fare into your home on a cold, autumn day! It is served steaming hot, with cream on top, so it is delectable on a cold day with a fire crackling, and candles lit with a rousing story read, and steaming cups of robust tea. I share with you her delightful blog here


Here are her lovely pictures and this great recipe:


2 1/2 cups unbleached flour

2 t. baking powder

2 cups pitted dates, chopped very fine (I use 24-30 dates)

2 1/2 cups boiling water

2 t. baking soda

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups evaporated cane juice (or 1 c. dark brown sugar and 1 1/2 cups white sugar)

2 large eggs, beaten

1 T. pure vanilla extract


2 cups (1 lb. package) of unsalted butter

1 pint heavy cream

4 cups packed dark brown sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large glass or metal baking dish (I don’t even own a 9×13 anymore…I think it’s 10×14? Or you can break this up into smaller dishes to share or freeze). Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan and then add the dates and baking soda; set aside. In an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, beat until blended. Gradually add flour mixture. Fold in date mixture until blended. Pour cake mixture into prepared baking dish(es). Bake until set and firm on top (approximately 40 minutes for one large cake).

Sauce: Combine butter, cream and sugar in a medium size heavy gauge saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil gently over medium low heat until mixture is thickened, about 10 minutes, stirring contantly. Preheat broiler. Poke holes into the cake (I poke a lot! We want that sauce to get way in there!). Pour about 1 1/2 cups of the sauce over the pudding, spreading evenly. Place under broiler until top is bubbly 1-3 minutes.

Serve warm with extra sauce drizzled over, with ice cream or in a bath of heavy cream. To heat up an individual portion after the pudding has been refrigerated, microwave from 30-60 seconds, until sauce is runny. Yummmm........!!! (Thanks, Stephanie!) 


We stayed up too late, sharing secrets and thoughts and hearts and prayers, and I truly was blessed by the generous hospitality, love expressed and grace of friends sharing together. Then, Joel, Clay, Sarah and I were given the master bedroom with a great air mattress and great bed, and we all giggled and talked and shared the few moments we had together as a part of our family, before falling fast asleep.

Alas, 24 hours was too short of time to fit everything in, but we all had to go our separate ways--Brenda and her husband to Indiana and Clay and me, on to see Joel in Boston. (Sarah had one more day to enjoy.) Stephanie sent us off with warm quiche for breakfast and a basket of goodies she had picked out just for us. 

The whole experience just affirmed to me once more, that some of my best friends and close spiritual relationships have been jewels discovered in the midst of ministry, traveling and fun. But, it took Stephanie initiating the idea to create such a great memory! Thanks for having a great idea Stephanie! And thanks to Brenda for making such a long trip just to have some time to meet face to face. I have been truly blessed!


If you want to register for the mom's conferences, you can put your curser on Mom Heart Conferences at the top of the page. It will take you right to the place of the conference of your choice. Be sure to look at the tabs at the top for more information! Can't wait to see all of you who will be able to come!