I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth

I have been exploring several parts of it, though . . .

These last few months have been so busy, I almost forgot that I  have a blog.

Since I’m not sure where to start, an old phrase comes to mind – A picture is worth a thousand words. I think I’ll post a bunch of photos about places I’ve been and people I’ve seen.  

In July, we spent a wonderful week in Hilton Head, South Carolina with Chad, Nate, Brit and Jensen.  We were sad that Jordan wasn’t able to be with us – he was teaching in Korea at the time – and we missed him a lot.  Thankfully, we were able to see him in September – I’ll include those photos further down.

During our time in Hilton Head, we rented bikes and Jim and I enjoyed riding in the evenings.  One  night at dusk, I almost rode over a Copperhead snake that was slithering across the bike trail in the woods . . . Eeewww!

In August, we left for a three-week business trip to Beijing, Seoul, and Singapore.  First we had meetings in Beijing.  Later on that week, when Jim and one of his Tyndale colleagues got stuck in Shanghai during the typhoon there, I covered for Jim and hosted a few more business meetings in Beijing by myself!  Thankfully, Jim returned in time for us to keep our scheduled flight to Seoul, where we participated in a publishing conference and got to spend a weekend with Jordan.

Starbucks in Seoul is pretty much like Starbucks here in Wheaton – except for the sign.  During our weekend in Seoul, we were grateful to spend time with Jordan and tromp around parts of that big city together.

Unlike anything you’d see in Wheaton, this was one view from the Gyeongbokgung Palace grounds.

Korean Barbecues are not for the faint of heart!  Whoa, baby . . .  the food was so spicy that my face began sweating the minute we walked in the door!   It was a fun evening, and I was grateful for the big orange bib they provided with the meal.  We invited Harry Kernitz – one of Jordan’s friends from Taylor University days – to come along.  Harry teaches in a different part of Seoul and is enjoying his experience there as well.

During one of the conference days in Seoul, we met over lunch with some of our friends from Duranno Press.  We feel blessed to meet with such special people around the world.

One evening, we stopped into a YP Bookstore and were pleased to find a bunch of Tyndale’s NLT Bibles in Korean/English.  These are fun discoveries, since that’s one of the things we’re there to license and promote!

Here we are at work in Singapore, where we gave a 2-hour presentation on “Trends in Christian Publishing”, and met for a couple of days with customers from various parts of Asia in regards to rights and exports.

Some of our publishing friends from Campus Crusade Media in Singapore –  Hui Lin and Mui Ing – took us out to dinner at a lovely Italian Restaurant.

In order to get back to Chicago from Singapore, we had to fly back through Beijing and stayed overnight at a hotel close to the airport.  After grabbing a quick dinner, we walked around the neighborhood and came upon a grocery store.  I’m glad we went inside – I had fun taking photos!

Would you like to buy a fish or two?  You pretty much get the whole thing . . .

Or, you can buy it in pieces . . .

Or, you can take some critters home alive . . .

Maybe some of you gourmet chefs have used these in your recipes . . . I’m not familiar with them, though.  I found them in the produce section.  If anyone knows what they are and whether they’re a fruit or a vegetable, I’d be pleased to hear your take on them.

Now these looked familiar to me.  It’s pretty easy to spot an Oreo cookie just about anywhere in the world.

I like the unique way they package their eggs . . .

And if you come out of the grocery store with more things than you can easily carry (which we didn’t because we were flying back to Chicago the next morning), you can hire one of these to drive you and your purchases home!

Well now, that brings me up to late September.  I think I’ll wait until the next blog to post more photos of a few other places we’ve visited between then and now.

I won’t wait three months to do it, though.

Blessings,

Ellen

10 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Toddler’s Songbook ‘Give-Away’ Winners . . .

This past week, I featured The Toddler’s Songbook and had a ‘Give-Away’ here at CrissCross Connections.

I’m pleased to say that there are 3 winners!

Lilla, Carolyn, and Cathy will be notified shortly by email.  I’ll send them each one copy of the book when I receive their mailing addresses . . .

Thanks to all who left comments – there will be more give-aways down the road!

Blessings,

Ellen

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Toddler’s Songbook/CD: Give-Away

If you’d like to enter a drawing for a free copy of The Toddler’s Songbook, please keep reading . . . .

Leave a comment on this blog between now and midnight, Friday June 25, and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win a copy of The Toddler’s Songbook. It’s a fun CD/book for young children to listen to/read in the car (great for car trips), at home, in the morning, or at bedtime.

On Saturday, June 26, I’ll randomly select one person who has left a comment, announce who won over the weekend, and send a copy to the winner next week.

Want to listen to a couple of the songs? Click on the links below.

Old MacDonald:

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands:

Want to see a couple samples of narrative from the book?

Old MacDonald

God made the animals.  Do you know their sounds?

God made the chicks.  Cluck-cluck, chicks!

God made the ducks.  Quack-quack, ducks!

God made the pigs.  Oink-oink, pigs!

God made the cows.  Moo-moo, cows!

God made the animals.  Can you say their sounds?

He’s Got the Whole Word in His Hands

God takes care of the whole wide world.

He takes care of the monkeys in the tree.

He takes care of the wind and the rain.

God takes care of you and me!

Want to see what the artwork is like? Find the cover photo for The Toddler’s Songbook on the right hand column of this blog (a little further down on the right) and click on it.  You’ll get a flavor of the delightful artwork, done by Caron Turk.

Other songs (with narrative) included in the book are Rise and Shine, Praise Him Praise Him, Jesus Loves Me, If You’re Happy, Mozart’s Lullaby, Hallelujah, Praise the Lord, God is so Good, Who Did? Zacchaeus, Mary Had a Baby, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Oh Be Careful, Little David Play on Your Harp, Oh How Lovely Is the Evening, and All Through the Night.

I had fun selecting the songs and producing the product, and Crossway did a great job of publishing the CD’s/books.  Most of the songs are sung by children, a few are sung by adults, and listeners get to enjoy a wide variety of musical instruments throughout the CD.

I hope you enjoy the samples . . .

Blessings,

Ellen

Taken from The Toddler’s Songbook, by Ellen Banks Elwell (illustrations by Caron Turk), copyright 2009.  Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

20 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Red Velvet Cake? Chocolate Cake? Or both?

Our son and daughter-in-law, Nate and Brit, recently visited us in Wheaton with their little son.  Jim and I loved every minute of it.  While they were here, we invited our family members who live in the area to come over and visit with them as well as celebrate Brit’s recent graduation – she completed an MA in Organizational Leadership from Regent University.

Since I love to bake, I planned a Sunday afternoon cake (recipes and photos below) reception.  After looking through several recipes in a Southern Living magazine,  I decided to try a pink strawberry cake – pink is Brit’s favorite color.

Nice idea, but the strawberry cake didn’t turn out so well – and it wasn’t the fault of Southern Living.  I followed all the directions on the recipe – that wasn’t the problem.  The problem occurred while the cakes were baking.  Shortly after I preheated the oven and slid the three cake pans in there to bake, I set the oven timer and went outside to water my flowers.

When I came back inside to see how many minutes of bake-time were left, I realized that the oven had shut off for some reason.  I’m glad that doesn’t happen very often!  I turned the oven back on and guessed how many minutes I should continue baking the cakes.  The timer rang, and the cakes looked like they were done.  They even sprang back when I touched the surfaces.  After taking the cakes out of the oven and giving them a little while to cool, though, I discovered that they were only half baked.  The oven had apparently shut off sooner than I thought.

Thankfully, I was baking a couple days before the event and I had some wobble room to deal with my problem.  I don’t always do this!  (Note to self:  planning ahead IS a good idea.)

After viewing the half-baked strawberry cake – not too appetizing – I decided to try a couple of other options: Red Velvet Cake and Sour Cream Chocolate Cake.  Thankfully, my oven cooperated and they both turned out great!  I’ve included the recipes below.

In the Bible, Hosea 7:8 explains that if God’s people mingle too much with godless ways and godless thinking, we can become as worthless as half-baked cakes.  Warren Wiersbe describes it as religion that doesn’t get deep into our lives but is just a surface thing.  As my recent experience in the kitchen proved, half-baked cakes aren’t useful; completely-baked cakes are.

Here are a couple photos of the two (completely-baked) cakes I prepared for Brit’s celebration.  They received wonderful reviews from our family!

RED VELVET CAKE

SOUR CREAM CHOCOLATE CAKE

RED VELVET CAKE (from Southern Living magazine)

1 cup butter, softened

2  1/2 cups sugar

6 large eggs (yes, 6!)

3 cups all-purpose flour

3 T. unsweetened cocoa

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 (8-oz.) container sour cream

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 (1-oz.) bottles red food coloring (that’s right – 2 one ounce bottles)

Recipe for Cream Cheese Frosting (below)

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.  Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

2. Combine flour, cocoa, and baking soda.  Add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition.  Stir in vanilla; stir in red food coloring.  Spoon cake batter into 3 greased and floured 8-inch round cake pans.  (After I grease and flour them, I always line the bottom of each pan with wax paper cut to size.)

3. Bake at 350 for 18 to 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  (It was a little longer than 20 minutes for me!)  Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes.  Remove from pans to wire racks, and let cool 1 hour or until completely cool.

4. Spread cream cheese frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 (32 oz.) pkg. or bag of powdered sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Beat together until well blended, and ice cake.

SOUR CREAM CHOCOLATE CAKE

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 cup water

3/4 cups sour cream

1/4 cup softened butter

1 1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. baking powder

2 eggs

4 oz. melted unsweetened chocolate

Recipe for Sour Cream Chocolate Frosting (below)

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix all ingredients for 1/2 minute on low speed, then 3 minutes on high speed.  Pour into 2 (9-inch) greased and floured cake pans.  (After I grease and flour the pans, I line them with wax paper cut to size.)  Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Sour Cream Chocolate Frosting

1/3 cup butter (softened)

3 oz. melted unsweetened chocolate

3 cups powdered (confectioners) sugar

1/2 cup sour cream

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix butter and cooled chocolate.  Blend in powdered sugar.  Stir in sour cream and vanilla; beat until smooth.  Frost the cake.

Please let me know if you try the recipes – I’d love to hear what you think!

Blessings,

Ellen

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Morning Glory, Day Lily, One-Year Bible

What do a Morning Glory, Day Lily, and One-Year Bible have in common?

All three of them yield new delights for me each day.   Here are snapshots of the beauty I saw in all three this morning:

MORNING GLORY (from my backyard garden)

DAY LILY (also from my backyard garden)

ONE YEAR BIBLE (from Tyndale House Publishers)

Psalm 125:1 – “Those who trust in the LORD are as secure as Mount Zion; they will not be defeated but will endure forever.”

For any of you who follow this blog, I apologize for more lag time than usual in between posts.  We had lots of travel in April and May, and one of our sons and his family visited (Yeah!) last week.  I hope to get back to a more ‘normal’ blogging schedule . . .

If you happen to know how to keep morning glory leaves from getting eaten by bugs, I’d welcome your advice.  I’ve been finding some signs of pests the last few days . . .

Blessings,

Ellen

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Not enough . . . More than enough

Not Enough

Ever had times when there was not enough time, patience, money, energy . . .  whatever?



More than Enough

Or times when there was MORE THAN ENOUGH? Like this delicious dinner we recently enjoyed with Rick Iles at Hanul Pescarilor, a Hungarian Restaurant near the border of Hungary in Romania . . . I could only eat half of my tasty Hungarian Goulash.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband Jim and I traveled to Eastern Europe to speak at a publishing conference for Christian publishers and booksellers in Romania.  We hoped to be an encouragement to the people who attended.  We ended up coming home encouraged ourselves – on several different fronts.

We were excited to see the good work that Christian publishers in Romania are doing in spite of significant challenges and obstacles.

We enjoyed hearing their individual stories – especially accounts of how they came to faith in Christ.

We were intrigued with just how young Christian publishing in Romania is – most of these publishers have been in business less than 10 years.

Rick Iles of LINKS invited us to speak at this conference, and we enjoyed presenting at four different sessions over the course of the days we were there.

One extra presentation I agreed to came as a (pleasant) surprise to me.  The first day we were in Romania (Monday), I was asked if I would be willing to share some devotional thoughts on Wednesday morning.  What made this request a pleasant one was that early that  same morning I had been reading from my One-Year Bible in John Chapter 6 – the account of Jesus multiplying the five loaves and two fish to feed five thousand people.  As I was reading, I had this fleeting thought: ‘This passage seems like it would be encouraging to the people we’re going to be spending time with this week . . .’

So when Rick asked me – later that day – if I would give a devotional on Wednesday, it didn’t take me long to decide what passage of the Bible I would read from.

In John 6, when Jesus asked Philip where they could find bread to feed all the people on the hillside, Philip replied “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!”  (John 6:7)

Not enough

Andrew spoke up and said, “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish.  But what good is that with this huge crowd?” (John 6:8-9)

Still Not enough

Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people.  He did the same with the fish.  When he asked for the leftovers to be gathered, the pieces filled twelve baskets. (John 6:11-13)

More Than Enough

Many of us have times in our lives when it seems that there’s Not enough.  Maybe it’s a health crisis.  Maybe it’s a challenging marriage.  Maybe it’s the loss of a job.  Maybe it’s a time of depression.  Whatever it is, we have no clue how God will provide for our needs.

I clearly remember the first time I was aware of God’s provision for my Not Enough.

I wanted to attend an Urbana Missions conference over the winter break of my freshman year at college, but I didn’t want to burden my parents for the money.  They were already paying for my college bills.  So I decided to ask God to provide the money if he wanted me to attend.

Several weeks later my mom called from home.  She said that I must have forgotten to cash one of my summer paychecks because the company I worked for had inquired about the outstanding check.  I explained to my mom where I kept my pay stubs, and when she looked in the shoebox in my closet, sure enough, there was the uncashed check sitting on top of all the pay stubs.

Not only did the check pay for the Missions conference, but it also covered my transportation there and back!

That was one of my early More than Enough experiences, and there have been plenty since.  I continue to be grateful that God sees and God provides.  He did it for characters in the Bible.  He has done it for me and for people around me.  And as for the future . . . He has left us these assuring words in John 14:1-2.  “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God, and trust also in me.  There is More Than Enough room in my Father’s home . . . “

Blessings,

Ellen

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Romania, Books, and Belief

My husband and I just returned from a 10-day publishing & speaking trip to Eastern Europe.

Out for a walk in Oradea, Romania

Women we greeted on our walk

Romanian and Hungarian currency in our pockets

A jug of drinking water we purchased from the local mini-mart

A man from the village just outside Oradea

Visiting a gypsy village in Rontau, where Dwight DeLong loves and serves the people

One of the sessions Jim and I did together

Saying ‘good-bye’ to one of our excellent interpreters – Elly

As representatives of Tyndale House, my husband, Jim, and I had been asked to speak on the topics of Company Vision, Branding/Marketing, Couples Working Together, and Time Management.  Jim spoke on the first two topics, and we addressed the last two topics together.  We’ve worked together in Christian publishing for many years, but this was the first time we had spoken together.

The opportunity to visit with Christian publishers from Romania was a rich experience for us.   We traveled there to encourage them, and came away encouraged ourselves.

Throughout our time in Oradea, Jim and I each had memorable conversations with the publishers there.  They are conversations we’re still talking about.  One, for me, was a connection I made with a young Romanian editor, Cornelia.  After dinner one evening, Cornelia and I sat in the hotel lobby and talked for over an hour.  As I listened to her story of coming to faith in Christ, I was reminded of why I feel so passionate about Christian publishing.

When Cornelia was about 13, she began reading books that had been loaned to her mother.  The books had been sent home to her mom by Cornelia’s brother’s teacher.  The school teacher, Iulia, was a Christian woman.  Although Cornelia’s mother had no interest in the books, Cornelia started reading them – and couldn’t put them down.

Cornelia had been going through a stage when her life seemed aimless – she wondered why she was on this earth and what the purpose of her life was.  At one point, someone had suggested to her that she go to a local cathedral and make a wish with a coin.  She decided to go, and found the cathedral to be a beautiful, quiet, and solemn place.  She wondered if perhaps that was what she was looking for.  But when she discovered that the people there were cold and stand-offish – not warm and welcoming – she realized that the cathedral wasn’t for her.

“It was about that time,” said Cornelia, “that I began reading the Christian books that had been loaned to my mother.  As I read the books, I believed.  I realized that God’s grace wasn’t just for a select group of people, but that it was for everyone, including me.”

Cornelia’s mom, who was not interested in the books, asked Cornelia to return the books to her brother’s school teacher.  When Cornelia went to Iulia’s (the teacher’s)  home to make the return, she ended up staying and talking about God with Iulia for several hours.  “My time with Iulia,” Cornelia said, “was catching.”

When Cornelia returned home, her mom was not happy.  But . . . as Cornelia put it, “It was too late.  I’d already believed!”

Cornelia began going to church.  Sadly, there were very few young believers Cornelia’s age.  So . . . she decided to invite her friend, Alina, to come to church with her.  Alina came, and ended up asking her friend Cristina to come as well.  Over time, Cornelia’s friends believed in Christ too, and some years later all three girls were baptized together.

As I sat and listened to Cornelia’s story of searching for the meaning of life and coming to faith in Christ, I realized again how books can be missionaries that take the gospel to places we might never go. 

That is one of the reasons why I am so passionate about Christian publishing!

Blessings,

Ellen

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized