Sick day goodness

It is so good to feel GOOD! After a nasty sick day yesterday, and still waking up a few times last night with my stomach in rebellion, it was such blessedness to wake up feeling sort of myself again. ┬áBrynny’s school had a delayed opening and the toddler slept in, so, O Bliss, I slept till 7:45 this morning. I could snuggle the toddler in bed and get up and make a leisurely pot of oatmeal, which, I am happy to report, is being happily eaten again by oldest son after a long oatmeal strike. We started a new devotional I downloaded for Valentine’s Day on love and kindness and the first one was really good. I hope it sinks into their little hearts. I hope my voice isn’t just a blah-blah-blah sound floating over their heads, sometimes it sure feels like it. I have to ask a lot of content questions to check in and make sure they are actually receiving some of my broadcast.

Yesterday was a challenge, being sick and exhausted at home with kids but it was a good learning time for me.

1. I need to put the kids to work more. They can do it. Sure, they have their normal chores, but the truth is, I do so many things on a daily basis that they are capable of doing.

2. It’s my job to teach them the little things that I don’t realize they know how to do until such a time as this. Like, if mom is in a fetal ball groaning on the kitchen floor, you don’t walk by singing and dancing and go on playing. You stop and ask “are you okay, mom?” Or, the next morning after your mom is sick you should come in to her room and say “how are you feeling today?” It’s funny how as a grownup you do these things so naturally you don’t realize they need to be taught.

3. Verses like Philippians 4:13 (I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me) don’t really have much effect until you are in a position where you *can’t* do it yourself. This is a hard lesson to learn. You aren’t going to personally learn the truth of many of God’s promises until you are knocked down, dragged out, at the end of your rope. Yesterday was one of those days.

Yeah, it was a good day for me, at the same time as being awful. I got to finish Hudson Taylor’s biography (19th century missionary to China, a man of stupendous, incredible faith), which was a stream of goodness flowing into a thirsty soul. Nathanael played happily and his siblings played with him.

Time to get a move on the day! Thanks for stopping by.

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Whipping up a little chowda

Salmon Chowder!

We happened to have 2 small salmon fillets in the freezer and I thought I would try my hand at salmon chowder on this cold, blustery night. I did some internet research and got the general idea of how you go about making it, and then made my own version since I didn’t have a lot of the ingredients. It came out so darn tasty that I felt a blog post was required. If you have frozen salmon, as I did, and you didn’t thaw it overnight, just put it in a tub of cold to lukewarm water while you prep and cook the veggies. It will be thawed by the time you are ready to put it in. Everyone pretty much gobbled this soup down, including picky toddler who regularly shakes his head and pushes away most anything you try to offer him, so I’d say the evening was an unbridled success.

Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large potato, peeled and chopped
2 small or 1 large fillet of salmon, skin removed and chopped into small pieces
2 T flour
3-4 cups chicken broth
1 c. heavy cream
salt to taste
liberal dash of dried dill (fresh would be even better!)

Saute all the veggies in olive oil and throw in the salmon. Sprinkle in the flour and stir it to coat everything. Add the chicken broth (or boiling water and boullion, which is what I did). Veggies should be covered, so add more or less as needed. Cook for about 15 minutes. Add the cream, salt, and dill and cook about 5-10 more minutes. Serve with nice hot rolls and a crisp green salad. A little white wine would probably go nicely too. A little splash in the soup would likely also be nice!




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Autumn Gallery: Cromwell Valley Park

Two weekends ago, on a stunning Saturday morning, I headed to Cromwell Valley Park for two luscious hours *by myself* (thank you, dear husband) to indulge in some refreshing nature photography. The light was perfect. The woods were ablaze. My only dilemma was where I should hike: through the fields? Slosh along the creek (I was wearing my Bogs, wonderful waterproof rubber boots)? Woods? Yes. The forest was calling, the upland woods. And the trail did happen to see a field or two and a trickling creek along the way. I breathed deep draughts of cool autumnal air. Listened to blue jays announce my presence from the mottled canopy overhead. Snuck up on tangles of bittersweet and wild grapes. And, shockingly, got myself lost along trails I had actually never been on before. Bravely utilizing the position of the sun and the chance happening of stumbling onto the communications tower in the park, I did manage to get back to the parking lot. I enjoyed myself completely. I hope you will enjoy this little display of fall in the Mid-Atlantic.

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Good Food

The house is sold. I can feel the stress of many months evaporating through the top of my head. And with that, my passion to cook good food comes roaring back. When I am stressed out, you don’t have to say the words “take out” twice to get me interested.

This morning Brynn and I headed to the Waverly Farmers Market. She was wearing her ladybug tutu and looked very cute. No, sadly, no pictures were taken. It was blisteringly hot so we moved fast. I grabbed things like mustard greens, asparagus, got a deal on three bags of new potatoes and a bundle of green onions thrown in for free. Corn, local kielbasa. Rainbow chard. 2 sticky buns for the kids. Yummy things. I came home and began plotting my plan of attack. First, use up leftovers and have lunch:

We had some grilled chicken on a plate in the fridge so I made a dressing of garlic, olive oil, dijon mustard, red wine vinegar and greek yogurt. In went chopped chicken, cukes, tomatoes, and dill pickles, laid tenderly on a bed of mustard greens on a whole-wheat flat bread. I noticed a just-right avocado laying around so I put that to work right on top. I ground up the salad in the baby food grinder for Nathanael and he liked it just fine. I love his expressions when trying something new: eyes squeeze shut for a second, he shakes his head back and forth a few times, and then, if he liked it, opens his mouth for more. He also got the flatbread toasted, buttered and cut into triangles to hold in his fat little hands. Bear laid down under the high chair, looking up expectantly with his mouth slightly opened, until I realized he was there and sent him packing. He’s not allowed to perform baby-food cleanup duty until *after* the meal.

For dinner: apple latkes. I got a full-of-gorgeous-color-photos “Cooking from a Polish Country house” cookbook at the library and these caught my eye. I made thirty of these inviting little fellows with a delicious applesauce and yogurt dip on the side, and they were gone in three minutes. I should have doubled the recipe. Sixty? That might sound daunting, but as you may know I have a super-duper-fabulous cast iron griddle that can make 10 latkes in one go. Yum!

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Free & Clear.

It’s so good to wake up right. Not on the wrong side of the bed, grumpy, tired, eyes stuck shut. But feeling free, loved, and ready to jump into life. I don’t usually wake up that way. I’ll be honest, my first feeling of the day is usually: guilt. It’s often been that way for me. Not for any particular reason, usually. Just a state of being. Stained, guilty. There is only one way to conquer this- head on. I don’t know how I would tackle this state of affairs if I weren’t a crazy, head-over-heels-in-love with Jesus girl. But since I am, I reach out my arms to Him. I hear him saying to “I love you so much, my precious girl,” and gladly lifting my little inner-toddler-self up for a snuggle. I say to myself with joy “You are free and clear! Washed clean with the blood of Jesus and not a single item is held against you to feel guilty for. You are LOVED by the KING!” This is how to start the day right. And then you run out into a clear, brisk day of brilliant green leaves and startlingly blue sky and birds singing and even children sniping at each other on the couch don’t annoy you as you run by to open the door and leap into flight.

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The Most Spectacular Day

This morning over ebelskivers (frozen- this mama with little kids was not up at the crack of dawn making a homemade Easter breakfast, she was up at the crack of dawn with excited kiddos woken up by a dog yowling in his sleep), we read from the Book of John, which is, I think, my very favorite book in the Bible. It’s told from the perspective of one of Jesus’ very best friends, John, who was one of the few that didn’t abandon Him in fear on the night of the cross. John is the one that Jesus told, from the cross, to adopt Mary as his own mother and take care of her. You can see Jesus thought he was a pretty special guy and the book just glows with John’s love for Jesus. If you let go of the fact that you may have heard this read many times and imagine you are there, this scene will send chills down your spine, and fill you with astonishment and amazement. Imagine you are Jesus’ friend Mary. Ever since He rescued you from being possessed by demons, you have followed Him like a faithful golden retriever everywhere He’s gone. In horror and unbelievable grief, you watched your beloved arrested, nailed to a cross and die. You’ve spent the last three days crying till there were no tears left, and numbness has set in.

“…Mary had returned to the tomb and was standing outside crying. And as she wept, she stooped and looked in and saw two white-robed angels sitting at the head and foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Why are you crying?” the angels asked her.

“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” She glanced over her shoulder and saw someone standing behind her. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him! She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

“Mary!” Jesus said. She turned toward him.

“Master!” she exclaimed.

(John 20:10-16)

If you have ever lost someone that you deeply, incredibly loved… well, I think you can imagine how Mary felt when she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, alive and well. And this is only the glorious start of something incredible, like that scene at the end of the Return of the King when the ring is destroyed, and in a giant shockwave of light, all the forces of evil and the army of Mordor are destroyed. Long live the King! Harken to his side! To war! To life! To joy! I raise my standard high and rush to stand at his side!

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Easter 2012 in Rhode Island with Mama Boyer

Happy Easter! He has risen! Joy and new life! And there’s nothing like the taste of chocolate at 7 am to let you know it’s Easter. I feel tremendously blessed to have my own little family around me with happy kids hunting eggs early in the morning. But for some reason… I always want to be in Rhode Island at Easter. Last year we were! This picture was taken with my sweet Mama Boyer. The Boyers took me in like one of their own when I was a college student at URI. Jan and Margie have some of the most loving and hospitable hearts I know… and last year they let us be part of their family again for Easter. I miss going to the sunrise service at Narragansett beach, eating breakfast in the church basement at West Kingston Baptist, and giving and receiving a million hugs at the Easter service. Happy Easter everyone, especially to my Rhode Island family today- you are loved and missed by this girl!

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Dark Night of Light

Sixteen years ago I gave my life over to the King of the Universe. Two thousand years ago on this night He prepared to give up His life for me. I owe Him my all, all that I am, and I give it willingly. There is no one like Him. You might think I am crazy to do such a thing, crazy to believe that a man could be God, crazy to believe that I am sinful and need saving, crazy to believe He is the only way to God. But I have met Him. I know Him. I trust Him. Tonight, I give Him my thanks, my love, my everything.

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Early March in Maryland

We’re sick. One by one, a nasty cold taking hold of us all. This week was chilly, grey, wet, windy and a big disappointment in the snow storm department (up to 10″ predicted, and maybe 1/4″ of slushiness fell). We had some tough homeschool days where it seemed like more time was spent discussing attitudes than doing work. And, it’s March. Never been my favorite month. Friday was dry, anyway, but a roaring wind was shaking the treetops. I don’t like roaring wind days. However, by the afternoon we just had to get out and I resolved that we would do it. I looked at google maps and picked out a new spot of green that we had never been to before- Krause Park, off Old Harford Road north of the beltway. The Baltimore County Parks & Rec Dept website stated that a playground and peaceful trails were to waiting to be discovered. So off we went.

I wouldn’t say it was a thrillingly exciting park. It’s unlikely we’ll be rushing back. It’s plopped in the middle of suburbia, and the sounds of traffic and screaming from the athletic fields of the nearby middle school carried over the blustery wind.

Plus, everything was pretty much brown, brown, brown. I challenged the kids to find signs of spring. There weren’t many. While we have daffodils and crocuses popping out in the flowerbeds back home (and delicate little blue speedwell and starry white chickweed flowers hiding in the lawn), this park felt like it was still in the grip of winter. We wandered around and eventually found the playground. It wasn’t too bad. The kids liked it.

So far I wasn’t enjoying myself immensely, but there were some surprises waiting for me. For one thing, I’ve been reading a book about understanding bird language and behavior and how it can teach you what’s going on out there in the natural world. Kirstie stuff. Just my cup of tea. So I started putting some of the observation techniques that I’ve been learning to work. And to my surprise, in this grey Marchy wood there was quite a lot of bird activity. In fact, it was a fantastic bird-watching-listening spot and I started to cheer up. First there were the nuthatches calling to each other as they hopped up and down tree trunks looking for food. Then, a downy woodpecker hammering away, and in another spot, a flicker. I started slowly wandering around and about 50 yards away saw a large raptor perching in a tree. The kids and I began to approach it quietly and it took off- some sort of hawk. In a few minutes there was one screech and another- and two hawks came streaking back through the woods. They may have been the reason for a sudden burst of a flock of starlings to come shooting out of the trees, whirl in the wind, and take off. My favorite part was Elijah saying “Man, Oh MAN, did you see THAT!!!??” about the starling flock. After all this bird activity I really started feeling better. The kids went back to playing and I noticed Brynn’s hat and mittens fly off the bench and into the woods. I took off after them and they brought me directly to this shockingly delightful suprise in the “winter woods:”

I don’t live like such things are mere coincidences. To me, it was a “cheer up, my love” note from my God. I love him so.

And today, sick though we were, was sunny and 50′s and not windy and I sat outside while the kids rode bikes up and down the sidewalk and chatted with every passerby in their lovely social butterfly way. Things are looking up.

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Peanut Butter Banana Pancakes

This morning we started off the day with PEANUT BUTTER BANANA PANKCAKES! It’s 10:00 at night and I am ready to go make another batch. I could eat these every day. I think I ate about six of them at breakfast. It was only the kids and me eating (poor Marc was at work, missing out on all the deliciousness) so there were enough leftover to freeze some. I might go and pop one in the toaster when I am done here for a bedtime snack with a glass of milk. I make pancakes pretty often for breakfast since my most awesome husband gave me a cast iron stovetop griddle for Christmas. Making eight pancakes at once makes the time from the thought of “Mmmm, I’d like to have pancakes today” to sitting down at the table about twenty minutes.

This recipe is slightly modified from the version found in the “Peanut Butter & Co Cookbook” by Lee Zalben. Get the book, folks. This ain’t the only out-of-this-world recipe to be found within its covers. If you have any peanut butter maniacs in your family, this book is just the ticket.

1 1/4 c whole wheat flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 c whole milk (I used almond milk)
1 large egg
1 T sugar
1/4 c peanut butter
1 ripe banana, cut into chunks

In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt. In a blender, combine the milk, egg, sugar, peanut butter, and banana. Pulse till smooth. Add the mixture to the dry ingredients and gently stir till combined. This is your pancake batter. Make the pancakes. If you are using a cast iron skillet or griddle, preheat it well over medium heat, and melt oil or butter on it before your first batch. If you have a good, nicely seasoned pan/griddle, the pancakes shouldn’t stick. I find the most important aspect to ensuring no sticking to the pan is the preheating part. I usually start preheating the griddle before I even get out the bowl and ingredients. Makes 12-18 pancakes, depending on how large you make them.

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