Kirsty’s Apple Cake

No, I did not change the spelling of my name. This is not about Kirstie, it’s about Kirsty! Kirstie is a Scottish name and can be spelled several different ways. This Kirsty is a real Scottish lass.

My sister Hannah was wandering in a used bookshop when she came across an old book entitled “Kirsty’s Secrets.” Intrigued by the title, since it’s not every day that you see my name in the title of a book (though I see it splashed all too often across the tabloids in the grocery aisle- thanks, Kirstie Alley), she picked it up. Realizing she had a fine treasure on her hands, she kept one for herself and ordered me another copy for Christmas, arriving from the dusty depths of some other used bookstore in America.

Kirsty is a cook in a fine manor house in the Highlands of Scotland, for a lord and lady with a number of delightful children who adore Kirsty and hover in her kitchen waiting to sample whatever she is baking up for tea. Her foremothers have all been cooks in fine houses, her grandmother even once having had the opportunity to stir the pot of oatmeal for the Queen’s breakfast. This book interweaves her story and her recipes in a wonderfully cozy manner. I’ve found it to be the perfect book for keeping on my bedside table to read and savor, bit by bit, before I go to sleep. It draws my mind away from the cares of the day to pleasant reflections on what I might try baking to lift the spirits of my children when they come home from school.

“…Kirsty sifted 2 cups of flour with 3 teaspoonfuls of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoonful of salt. She added 2 tablespoonfuls of sugar and rubbed in 3 tablespoonfuls of butter. She made a well in the center and mixed to a dough with an egg and a little water.

She placed the dough in a large, shallow baking tin; then pared, cored and quartered the 4 apples, and pressed them into the dough in even rows. She sprinkled the apples well with cinnamon and brown sugar, and baked for thirty minutes in a hot (~450F) oven. The children would get the apple cake piping hot as soon as they came home from school.”

And if you should like to get your hands on this most excellent little book, here is all you need to know:

Kirsty’s Secrets, by Marguerite Alexander, ©1958, John F. Blair, Publisher



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A very bad and good summer, why I’m not homeschooling this year, and generally one of the most important posts I’ve ever written.

Me and my jewel of a sister, who flew out to help me during one of the darkest times of my life.

On Facebook, everybody’s having a good time. Do you ever feel like that? Sure, there are the occasional prayer requests and sharing of the passing of someone near and dear. And the traffic rants and complaints of bad food service. But it would be easy to look over the average person’s page and assume they are having a pretty good life. Pictures of happy kids, vacations, drinking craft beer at a cozy pub, pretty new shoes. On Facebook, we do not know each person’s personal struggles and pain under that happy profile. I don’t think this is necessarily wrong. We need to guard our hearts, be circumspect about who we share our deepest selves with. Sharing that you struggle with drinking too much, or cutting yourself, or that you spent the night shaking in bed over a flashback of traumatic abuse might not be the best thing to share with hundreds of friends. But we all need to remember… there is so much more to the person behind that cool profile picture, and it is unlikely their real inner life looks like what they post on Facebook. One hopes that they have friendships they can share that inner stuff with… not everybody does.

If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I am pretty honest and open. This is where I put the stuff I wouldn’t put on Facebook. A lot of it might seem pretty personal, but I write not just so that you can know what is really going on with me. I know that there are others of you out there that need to know that not everyone around you is living a picture perfect life. I’m a busy mom, so I don’t get to write nearly as much as I’d like. But I’d like to share with you the struggles that have been my life the past few months. They are not secret, I have no shame in them. And I am positive most of the people reading my blog will be able to relate to some of what I write.

I have struggled with anxiety for a long time. My closest friends know this. They’ve listened to how I worry over every ache and pain and the fear that it’s cancer, which does run in my family at rather young ages. I worry when Marc doesn’t get home on time and leap to the worst case scenario and see him lying in a casket. As my toddler comes down the stairs, I see pictures in my head of him tumbling down and blood and ambulances. I check on my children each night to make sure they are breathing. You can probably relate to some of this kind of anxiety. But I also have OCD- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I don’t have it nearly as bad as some of you do because I don’t have many compulsions- hand washing, checking locks, counting to 300 before you can leave the house, etc. But I do have the unwanted, intrusive thoughts (see examples above), which work nicely with my anxiety to form a never-ending feedback loop. I’ll go absolutely bananas sometimes, wishing I could please find the “off” button to imagining I have every sort of cancer or degenerative disease possible, even when I know that I have much more of a chance of dying when I walk outside and get into my car (do I ever obsess about that? No, thank goodness).

But I lived with it. It was annoying, but I felt like I could handle it. I had a terrible experience of trying Prozac when I was in college and being allergic to it and thought… never again. Counseling, yes. Meds, no. You know me. I’m such an organic, crunchy kind of girl, and I worry about the long-term effects of things. My grandmother lived till she was almost 93 and her life policy until the last few years was to go to the doctor on rare occasions, and if a prescription was written out she threw it in the trash on the way out the door with a “who needs this?” I thought that was a pretty good philosophy, and while not following it as stringently I tried to avoid meds as much as possible. And beyond that… I’ll admit it… I probably didn’t want to further consider meds because that would be admitting I have a problem.

You probably also know by know that I am a Christian. One of God’s purposes in our lives is to weed out all the stuff that’s not good for us… our sin, unhealthy habits, bad thinking… He wants to fill us with light and not have a smidge of darkness left anywhere. In His great love and mercy, He makes this a slow process and does not reveal all the crap messing up our lives at once. He knows that would be too much. He knows when we’re ready to deal with something (even if we don’t think so).

So apparently, in His timing, He decided it was time for me to be cut free of some of the heavy ropes tied around my ankles. Actually, this might seem weird to some of you out there, but in the past few years of people praying over me, several have seen a picture of a collar around my neck attached to a chain with a big ball at the end of it. I could feel that, but I really didn’t know what it was exactly or how to get free of except to wait for Jesus to cut me loose.

This past winter we decided to move to North Carolina to be near Marc’s family. At the beginning of June we drove down and found a great rental. Then it was back home to start the madness of packing up the house, finding a moving company, canceling and starting new renters insurance, setting up and canceling utilities… all that fun stuff. And since we scrimp and hoard Marc’s vacation time (and he’d be taking some for the move), it was going to be up to me to do most of this stuff, while watching three kids. With my superwoman complex, I geared myself up for the challenge. I could do this!

I started having symptoms of various sorts. I went to the eye doctor because my eyes were really bothering me and he said no, he didn’t see any tumors back there but I did look awfully tired, and given my circumstances he thought it was probably stress-related. Sleeping was getting harder too. The last week before moving I cried a LOT. Some of you reading this in Baltimore probably remember a few of my overwhelmed, tearful moments. Marc and I drove separate cars to NC and I just felt sad. I was leaving a place of dear friends, the longest place we’d lived in our marriage, a place where we’d put some roots down.

Not long after arriving in NC I started feeling shaky. I thought… blood sugar, maybe? Need to eat more frequent meals? It started worrying me and I found a doctor. She ran all the labs and they came back normal, and she also thought I was probably suffering from stress and anxiety. She made a few suggestions about how to calm my lifestyle down (she must have seen the “I can do it all and don’t try to stop me tattoo” on my forehead), I nodded and and filed her advice under “ridiculous.” She gave me a prescription for a fast-acting anti-anxiety med to try and see if that helped resolve my symptoms. I didn’t fill it right away. Just thought I’d see how things played out. Well. Things went from bad to worse. I started waking up in the middle of the night for hours with my heart pounding. Horrible irrational fears pursued me wherever I went. I’d have moments of respite, thinking I was coming out of it, and then boom! back to square one. My only relief was in times I spent with God, praying, singing worship music, reminding myself with the truths of His love for me and that He is always holding on to me, no matter how I might feel. Finally, I decided to fill the prescription. And wow, it worked! I began experiencing some great relief. But since it is only a med you are supposed to take on a short-term, as-needed basis, I went back to the doctor ready to try a more long-term anti-anxiety medication. I had decided it was worth a try.

The problem with some of the long-term anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds is that they can take several weeks to build up to the levels needed to be effective. You have to start with a small dose and slowly work your way up. And sometimes, you start feeling worse before you feel better. Your brain over-reacts to the presence of the meds and unleashes more anxiety. Guess what? This happened to me. And the short-term anxiety med that I was also taking only lasted about two hours before wearing off. So I was on wild rollercoaster ride. After having started sleeping again, the horrible fear, the sleepless nights with pounding heart came rushing back. I began to feel I just could not function. I was exhausted and feeling like a shell of myself. In short, literally, a nervous wreck. Dark, unwanted thoughts haunted me, terrifying me even more that I might try to harm myself. I later learned that this is very common with OCD- and that people with this condition do not actually act on the violent images in their mind of doing things they don’t want to do, and I sure didn’t want to harm myself- I wanted to live, thank you!

I emailed my dear sister in Omaha at 2 am with a SISTER SOS and begged her to fly out as soon as possible to help me, because I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I was scared that I was losing my mind. She said she had a few things to wrap up but would get on a plane ASAP. As soon as business hours started, I called my doctor’s office and they put me in the very first slot. I cried all the way there. I cried in the waiting room. I cried in the exam room. My doctor determined that my best course of action was to voluntarily check myself into the local psychiatric hospital. I agreed. I would do anything, anything, to feel like myself again. Marc put the kids in the car and drove me into Raleigh to Holly Hill Hospital. I kissed them all goodbye and walked through the doors that locked behind me.

I’m not going to go into all the details of my experience there (you can talk to me if you want to know- I’m more than happy to share). The truth is, I started feeling better very quickly. They put me on some very effective medications and that night I slept like the dead, despite the fact that a staff member opens your door every fifteen minutes and shines a flashlight in to make sure you are safe. I was there for several days, and my sister Hannah was able to get a flight out very quickly to help with the kids. I was very happy to get out in time for my sweet toddler’s birthday- and actually feel like ME again for it! I enjoyed all the family coming together for it so much. I cried- in relief, and thankfulness.

The next Monday I checked into Holly Hill’s Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), which is basically group therapy course learning healthy life management skills and about all sorts of different topics related to the conditions of the people participating. It lasts more or less 2 weeks, 9 to 3.

In the meantime, Marc and I started searching for Christian schools in the area. Now all of you who messaged me asking me why I decided not to homeschool this year probably get it! I couldn’t write to you all at once and that is partially why I decided to write this. We decided as a family that this Mama needed time to rest and heal. It was hard for me to accept, but I knew in my heart that it was the right thing to do. We were able to quickly find one that had openings and we felt very comfortable with. The school year had already started so we had to hop quickly to get through the enrollment process and testing. The first few days were hard but the kids are settling right in.

Back to PHP. I was skeptical at first. The topics didn’t seem that meaningful to me. I had heard and knew a lot of the stuff already- most of the principles they were dealing with were very biblical in nature despite it being a totally secular program. But slowly some very powerful things happened. First of all was the coming to grips with the fact that I really do have a mental condition. I have General Anxiety Disorder and OCD. I learned the actual details of what is happening in my brain and that this is something I cannot fix myself. It’s somewhat possible that with intensive therapy and brain training I might be able to function without meds someday. But coming to a place of acceptance of my condition was a great relief. Yes, there is something wrong with me, but it is treatable, and wow, I was beginning to feel better than I have felt in years! I had no idea of the high level of anxiety I was living with daily until the dam burst and I was forced to get help. Today, as I write this, I feel a hundred times better than I probably have in the last five years.

Secondly, I was very skeptical about “group therapy.” How could sitting around with a bunch of strangers talking about our problems be very helpful? Well, it was. By the end of the two weeks I loved every person in that room and I was praying for each one by name during the half-hour drive into Raleigh. These were broken people (just like me!) from all sorts of backgrounds, with a whole slew of different anxiety/depressive/manic types of diagnoses. People who have seen the darkest and the worst of life. To be honest, people I probably would not have ever gotten to know deeply except in such a situation as this. And, being so burdened with my own problems, probably wouldn’t have wanted meet or be friends with because I had gotten to the point where I was going to collapse if I took on anyone else’s problems. But in group therapy, there we all were, with a competent counselor in charge (so I didn’t feel like I had to rescue anyone), on a level playing field, all broken, all needing healing and change. And as I grew to love these people, wow, did I feel excited and proud along with them when they made break-through realizations about the habits and ways of thinking that had been messing up theirs and other people’s lives. And by the end, I too was learning plenty about my own behaviors and thought-patterns and perfectionism and rescuing-people-from-their-problems-tendencies that have played a major role in ramping up my anxiety and OCD. I may not be able to help the fact that my brain is wired the way it is, but I certainly can contribute to how much it acts up!

I was actually sad by the time the program was over and a little nervous to “get out on my own” again from that safe and loving little bubble. But I’ve done just fine. As I said, I am feeling better than ever. I start working with a Christian therapist one-on-one this week. I feel like a far better parent- mommy is not irritable and grouchy all the time. I have so much more patience, and I feel like I can “enjoy the moment” and be present to it so much more easily (versus being continually distracted by the worrisome thoughts raging through my brain). I sit back and enjoy my kids being kids. I have only lost my temper (and that pretty mildly) once in the last two weeks (used to happen daily).

So, you know what? I experienced several weeks of living hell this summer, an experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But I come out of it deeply grateful to God for bringing me to this place of healing. Yes, He could have miraculously placed his invisible hand on my head and healed my anxiety instantly. But then I would have missed out on so much good stuff that I have gained from this process. I feel like my eyes have been opened to really see people around me, with an understanding that no matter how extremely different their lives might look from mine, in the right scenario we could really, deeply know each other as human beings regardless of race, nationality, religion, economic status, or mental health. I’ve gained the ability to much better assess what is going on in my mind and determine if my thoughts are coming from my disorder or the real me. I’m thoroughly enjoying this new ability to take an anxious thought and say “highly unlikely” and send it on its way. And I can rest in God’s promises that the real me knew was true, but my anxiety constantly pounded with doubts.

If you’ve read this far, I’m proud of you! Thank you for looking into my life and my experiences, and thank you for caring. One of the things that sustained me during my trial was the knowledge of the many, many people that really love and care about me. I am open and happy to discuss further questions you may have. Blessings, Kirstie


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to know and be known

My first post from Cary, NC.

Let me tell you, life is not easy. Good, but not easy. I am glad we moved here, and I see signs that it will be worth it. I like it. I like our house, our neighborhood, the family near by, and what I have seen so far of the surroundings. I like the new furniture in our house, the view into the woods, the flowers on the table. But I am longing for home. It doesn’t feel like home yet. I remember this kind of lost, un-tethered feeling from other moves.

The hardest part is that at the same time there is so much stuff to be done, and we’ve been going non-stop for weeks now, experiencing profound change, and I haven’t been taking stock of my personal inventory of emotions. So it all builds up inside and I feel awful and not sure why until I make myself sit down and pray and self-examine for awhile. And I have a hard time giving myself the green light to “feel” all the negative stuff. My pep-talk voice is notorious for kicking in and telling me why I shouldn’t. “After all,” it pipes up, “you’re not a refugee in Sudan. You’re not fleeing bombs in Syria. You don’t have any right to feel this way. Look at how blessed you are! Praise God! Dwell on your blessings!”

The problem to listening to Miss Pep-Talk is she is twisting the truth. Yes, I am glad I am not a refugee. But this is how I feel whether you like it or not, Lady. And I can still praise God and feel like crap inside. He doesn’t want me to stuff it down and just sing Him la la la life is lovely songs. See, I am pretty sure He wants me to Know Myself. Know who he made me, not pretend I am something I am not or try to clone myself into one of the people I look up to. But I don’t Know Myself very well. Sometimes I think some of you out there know me better than I know me. I want to be known. In the story of Hagar and Abraham in the Bible, Hagar runs out in the desert to flee Abraham’s mad wife Sarah and finds God. She says to Him ““You are the God who sees me.” I want to be fully seen, inside, by Him, and by me. And I want others to know me too, not hide myself and clam up. When I meet new people, as I have a lot these days, I find that I don’t talk about myself much. I ask them questions. I turn the conversation back to them, because I am afraid that if I talk too much, share myself too much, they will think all I care about is talking about Me Me Me. But then I end up not feeling very known. And I don’t do this with just new people, you might have noticed that I do it with you too. I have a very hard time sharing myself, and when I do, I feel like I’ve been talking too much and you won’t like me.

This is hard stuff. And of course, very few people here know me for the simple reason that I am new.  I never like this new phase of moving somewhere. It takes such a long time to really connect with people, and know them, and be known by them. I think I don’t ever really feel like it’s home until I have that.








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Mother’s day post: a happy and sensory-rich childhood

I have a wonderful mother. And I have been thinking lately how much I am grateful to her and my dad for providing me with such a happy childhood. It wasn’t entirely without trouble and tribulation, we did live on planet earth. But even in the hard times, I was never without the security of their love and the knowledge of their unconditional acceptance of me. Those qualities undergirded my whole childhood. But beyond that (and what I am about to tell you about would never happened without that coming first), there is something else that they gave me that makes much of the life I live today full of many nuances of joy and emotion: memories.

I have been recently realizing how much memories shape my day to day life. I don’t know if other people are blessed with such a rich sensory memory, but the smells, sounds, and qualities of light of my childhood are regularly with me. This warm spring day, bursting with light and birdsong, is delightful not just in itself, but also because it stirs up the feeling of running out into our garden early on a summer day, lying in the grass under the maple tree, smelling grassy, earthy smells, the lilacs all in bloom, the sounds of robins and cardinals, no school, mom baking muffins in the kitchen, dad reading the New York Times on the side porch and drinking tea, the quiet background sound of the basement exhaust fan, the sound of squirrel claws scrambling up the Norway maple, Chumper or Grimmy (our very fat cats) coming out to blink in the sun and look up at the squirrels, someone’s lawn mower starting up.

On any given day of my life, smells or tastes pop up that instantly transport me back to my childhood and the security and love arrives right along with those sensory memories. The smell of someone’s aftershave: going into the bathroom on a Sunday morning just after my dad was done shaving for church (and drinking his mug of tea at the same time), the noise of people running around getting ready, the mug of tea forgotten on the bathroom shelf. Wading along the riverbank with my children looking for rocks:  a million other weekend afternoons by the river catching crayfish and minnows and floating on inner tubes and dad over there on the sandbank with his hat pulled down over his face having a snooze. Reading with my children: my mom’s voice reading that same book to me as I struggle to keep my eyes open and mumble “just one more chapter.” Smell of hot vinyl: driving to viola lessons and reading out loud to my mom.  I just re-read Roald Dahl’s autobiography “Boy,” and I could even hear her laughing at the places I remember her laughing as we drove along.  Smell of broccoli steaming: I inhale deeply and am standing in our old kitchen while Mom gets dinner ready. Smell of freshly dug earth and chilly breeze and sun shining: I am helping her dig a new vegetable garden behind the neighbor’s barn on a March day (I am sure I didn’t like it at the time, I was always complaaaiiining about weeding and yard work-amazing how even things I didn’t like then bring pleasant memories when I turn over dirt and pull weeds now). Taste of hard salami and sourdough french bread: sitting high in the golden meadows of Mt Tamalpais on one of our many pilgrimages back to California, looking down at the blue, blue Pacific and planning to end our hike with our feet in the water.  The smell of things baking in the oven: chickens, pies, cookies- all envelop me in warm feeling of comfort of being a child at home. And the instant transport into peace that just walking into the woods and smelling deep, earthy leaf-mold smells and hearing the sound of the wood-thrush that also sang in the woods along the river across the street where we canoed all summer long…

I remember these things being a mother now: and it inspires me to give me children many sensory-rich memories to carry them into adulthood. I don’t know if they will remember things in the same way I have, but I hope that the many muffin mornings, cookie baking afternoons, times reading together, hiking, exploring, wading and splashing will all add up, layer upon layer, into memories that will be evoked and stir up joy in their life as they live their adult lives.

Thank you, mom, and dad, for doing such a wonderful job, and God: for putting me in my family. I am so blessed. Happy Mother’s Day!

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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.  Brynny’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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