Archive for October, 2008

I ran away from home last night…I think I knew I needed to get out when David disassembled the baby gate on the stairs and I nearly started to cry as I held the two pieces in my hands, trying to get them to go back together. I had simply gotten overwhelmed with laundry and cleaning and homeschooling and…well…being a mom on top of all that! Everybody needed something, and by the end of the day I felt like I had run to and fro throughout the house all day long with a fire extinguisher…(not literally, of course!). So I called a close friend to see if she could run away from home, too, and we met for a treat while our husbands graciously supervised dinners and put children to bed.

This morning, (and yes, I found myself much refreshed!) David was asking me what I had last night. I replied “a salad and some potato skins.” I then had to launch into a detailed explanation of what potato skins are, and the kids must have found my description quite appealing, for David immediately asked if we could have them for lunch. “No, of course not!” was on the tip of my tongue, as is too often the case when my children ask me to do anything out of the ordinary. Yet this time I stopped short, and thought about it for a minute. Why not? I had potatoes, cheese, sour cream…I even had bacon! And I had already planned to make mashed potatoes tonight with dinner, so the scooped out potato wouldn’t have to go to waste. I was even able to rustle up some green onions from a dark corner of the fridge (okay, so I had to peel about three layers of “not so fresh” skin off…) and chop them up for a garnish. Viola! Potato skins, and don’t ya know they were even better than the restaurant!

Here’s the recipe:

Potato Skins for One Mommy and Four Kids

7 potatoes, scrubbed and punctured, wrapped in foil

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

½ package bacon, I used Trader Joe’s Thick Sliced Uncured Bacon, cooked until crumbly

Chopped green onion, optional

Sour cream, optional

Put the potatoes in to bake at 400 degrees for 1 ½ hours. You may want to plan to prepare this recipe on a day when you have something else to bake! They can, of course, go in at a lower temperature, you may simply have to bake them longer.

Take out and let cool for a few minutes. Unwrap, slice in half lengthwise, and scoop out a very little bit of potato from the center with a tablespoon (set aside). Place on cookie sheet skin down. Fill each with cheese and place in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, until browned and bubbly. Top with crumbled bacon and green onion, and serve with a side of sour cream.

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Sabbath Reflections

Allposters.com "Blue Door"

Allposters.com "Blue Door"

Happy Sabbath to you! I have been pondering the subject of humility quite a bit lately, as it is what we are focusing on at church in our sermon series on Phillipians. I struggle greatly with pride, as of course most people do, if they are willing to be truly honest. I think it can be especially hard for someone who loves beauty and culture and manners and “everything just so” to avoid becoming wrapped up in it all…because when we have immersed ourselves in what is “refined,” when we have, as Mr. Darcy would say, “improved our mind by extensive reading,” there comes upon us, almost imperceptibly, an arrogant pride in our outlook on life. We begin to become increasingly aware of the fact that we dress a little nicer or speak more eloquently or are more intellectual than many people we come into contact with…and soon the idea that we are “better” takes root in our mind, growing stronger with each passing day.

Instead of seeing the workings of our minds and the craft of our hands as gifts from God and evidence of our bearing his image, we think that it’s all our own doing. In a small way, we “grasp equality with God” when we don’t attribute intellect and accomplishment in our lives as his workmanship, thereby depriving him of glory. Should we then spurn refinement and culture and learning? Certainly not! We should step back and think about how we can best glorify God by living in such a way that proclaims his greatness, how we can make that image that we bear shine even brighter.

In his book on the subject, C.J. Mahaney says that “humility draws the gaze of the sovereign God.” That’s what our desire should be, to draw the gaze of God and not that of man. Appreciate beauty because God is creative. Pursue knowledge and insight, because by possessing such things we can better reflect the wisdom of him who knows all things. Cultivate manners and decorum, because gentleness and kindness are a mark that his Spirit is bearing much fruit in our lives. Just keep in mind, every moment of every day, that God is the source of it all, the reason for it all, and deserving of the all the glory and praise. You are simply the vessel.

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My mother often calls David her “Hobbit” because of his huge mop of curly hair, and because when he was really little he had disproportionately big feet. About twice a year, I take the clippers and give David a “shearing”…I have tried, and indeed tried today, to use the scissors to cut his hair rather than shave it all off, but I only got about one third of it done after more than half an hour, so the poor boy got buzzed.

Then I eyed his little brother…I had given Matthew’s bangs a trim last night, and the blunt, straight style looked strange and very “done at home” (in the worst possible way), so I plopped him up on the stool to shear my second little lamb. Now I have no Hobbit, and most lamentable of all, no sweet baby boy. As he ran around the house chasing the others in his jeans and sweater, sporting his new “big boy” haircut, the full realization that toddlerhood has arrived hit me so hard I almost caught my breath. Thankfully, as I scooped him up to carry him to his bed for naptime, he lay his head against me and clung to me, as if he knew that I needed some comfort from my “baby.” He has been the sweetest, dearest little baby that any of us in this family have ever known…all three of his siblings admit it. I anticipate the future with great joy and excitement, wondering what kind of people each one of my little lambs will become.

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Taking Care of Me

I have a terrible head cold. Usually, when I am sick, the house tends to fall apart. While I admittedly did eat Thai takeout for dinner and only got through half of my pile of laundry (Wednesday is Wash Day!), most of the toys are picked up, most of the dishes are washed, and the Little Ones are all tucked in to bed. In other words, everything is as it usually is at the end of the day. After dinner this evening, I was ensconced on the couch and my little David came over to me and covered me with a green blanket…”because green is your favorite color, Mommy.” He then went to the video cabinet and pulled out the 2005 version of Pride & Prejudice and put it on. Elisabeth asked if I would like a glass of water, and would I like her to turn out the lights? What a difference having children old enough to do such things! And all without asking! Their thoughtfulness was such a blessing to me, once again reminding me that I am not wasting my time as I attempt to diligently and faithfully instill ideas and inspiration in little hearts and minds.

Background from Picaboo: Pink Roses–Mama’s Rose Garden by Eva, Edited in Picasa

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London in a Box

I love surprises! What a delight it was to receive a package from Sarah Clarkson containing a few little tea-related trinkets purchased in London during her mad dash literary tour of England. Teatime in a box! The package contained a beautiful tin of English Breakfast tea, a candle, two chocolates wrapped in paper decorated with London scenes, two dried tea roses, and an envelope of British pence to show to my children. If you look carefully in the pictures, you will only see one chocolate…I wonder what happened to the other one? Thank you so much, Sarah!

I have long been fascinated with everything British. Well, I should qualify that by saying that I’m particularly fascinated by 18th and 19th century Britain. Much of my favorite literature and film are British, to such an extent that when I was expecting Matthew and was confined to the couch more often than not watching an endless stream of videos, my daughter Elisabeth (then five years old) began speaking in a British accent. I would love to one day go to England and travel throughout the country to see many of the places I have read about and seen only in pictures and movies! To sip tea, nibble at dainty desserts, and pop in and out of quaint little shops in old buildings, the kind with flowers growing in boxes in the windows and stone thresholds and doors painted red.

I have the candle burning now on my living room coffee table as I spend some time on the computer while my littlest ones are napping. I am listening to The Gadsby Project by Red Mountain Church, and I have been puttering with different digital scrapbooking software applications as well as editing some photos from earlier in the year. However, I believe that a cup of tea and a chocolate is calling my name!

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Apple Day

What do you do when your plans to go apple picking on a crisp, sunny Saturday in October are thwarted by all four of your darling children coming down with some form of a cold? Well, our family decided to have an Apple Day anyway! We had plans with some friends to visit a charming apple orchard about an hour away, the kind of orchard that has a petting zoo, a cornstalk maze, and of course has the best cider donuts around. Runny noses started up a few days ago, but by last night David was losing his voice and the girls were coughing. The baby woke up this morning wheezing and gasping for breath. We called our friends, cancelled our plans, and drove on down the road to a local produce store to purchase native Cortland apples and a gallon of apple cider. The Cortlands were huge and very sweet, and on special for 50 cents a pound. There was no trudging up hills with small children, no telling them not to touch the rotten apples on the ground, and we didn’t have to pay $28.00 for a bag of apples. We think we’re on to something here!

Seriously, though, we have at least assuaged some of our disappointment over our cancelled plans. While I assembled an apple croustade, the rest of the family munched on fresh apple slices and sipped apple cider, hot or cold depending on personal preference. The tart will be served as an afternoon treat with ice cream (and cheddar cheese, for my husband).

To make your own galette-style apple tart, simply take your favorite pie crust recipe (for two crusts) or smash two store bought crusts together and refrigerate for about 20 minutes. Roll out on floured surface into a large circle, transfer to a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. Load it up with thinly sliced apples (I use 4 cups of apples that I toss with lemon juice), keeping the apples about two inches away from edge of crust, then fold crust up over edges and overlap as you go around…this creates about a two inch border of crust. Brush apples and crust with 2 tablespoons melted butter and sprinkle with 4 tablespoons sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, rotating cookie sheet every 15 minutes. If you like, you can boil the peels and cores down with water (to cover) and sugar (about 3/4 cup)…I boiled mine for an hour and then drizzled a small amount of syrup right over the apples. Be careful not to soak the crust!

Once the tart has cooled, it can be moved carefully with the help of a spatula on to a pretty plate. I tear all the parchment paper from the edges and use the spatuala to slide the tart on to the plate. I then remove the rest of the paper…just pull carefully and slowly. Serve warm topped with ice cream or whipped cream. It’s also delicious cold! This is a great recipe, very easy and can be adapted to use with pears, berries, etc. My favorite combination is peaches and blueberries with some lemon zest.

So, happy Apple Day! We will be enjoying our special dessert and cider…with a side of tissues and cough drops!

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One of my great passions is cooking. I just love to be in my kitchen whipping up something yummy, and my family has come to eagerly anticipate the results as well, when they see me start loading up my big red Kitchen Aid mixer with such simple things as flour, sugar, baking powder, and eggs and “tah-dah!”…soon something yummy comes out of the oven, piping hot and inviting little fingers to touch…how many times have I had to say “It has to cool down first!”???

Today I’d like to share with you my recipe for Cowboy Cookies…okay, I’ll give credit where credit is due, it’s my mother’s recipe. Anyway, I have a habit of bringing these cookies to church gatherings…I have a few friends who have gotten hooked on them. One of these friends in particular gets a bit testy if I don’t show up with these cookies, and one night when I waltzed in with a salad instead of her favorite tasty treat, she strangled me. I’m serious, she put her hands around my neck and squeezed! No, of course she didn’t hurt me, that’s silly (and Patty, if you’re ever reading this, I love you and I thought it was hilarious!), but I thought it quite a compliment to these fabulous cookies. My mom and I have debated over renaming them, something girlier (like “Cowgirl Cookies”…yeah, we’re that creative) because of the yummy chocolate and cherries.

Cowboy Cookies

3 sticks butter, just barely softened

2 cups white sugar

2 cups brown sugar (Okay, stop here. I use 3 1/2 cups total evaporated cane juice instead of the mixture of white and brown sugars.)

4 eggs (I recommend whatever the biggest size available to you is, for moisture reasons that I will elaborate on down below.)

1 T. vanilla (opt.)

4 c. flour

4 c. oats (old fashioned or quick, whatever you’ve got)

1 t. salt

2 t. baking soda

1 t. baking powder

1 c. coconut ( I very highly recommend “Let’s Do Organic” brand, it’s got a great texture and isn’t really any more expensive than my grocery store’s brand)

3/4 c. chopped pecans (you can use walnuts if you like ’em better…just don’t use stale nuts!)

12 oz. package chocolate chips (oh, sure you could use less…but do you really want to?)

Dried cherries (I use about half of a small package, about 1/2 cup, but I have been known to load some extra in for special occasions. If you have a Trader Joe’s near you, they have a wonderful price on these)

Cream butter and sugar, but don’t overmix. Add eggs and vanilla, mix well but again, do not overmix. Now, this is the part where I tell you to combine the dry ingredients except chocolate and cherries in a bowl, but the truth is that I dump all that stuff into my big mixer and keep on going…just so you know. Then I add the chocolate and cherries, but even in the 6 qt. Kitchen Aid I have to keep the dough from flying out of the bowl by with my hands. If you don’t have a large size mixer, I think you can successfully cut the recipe in half. If you try it, let me know! Bake these on ungreased cookie sheets at 350 degrees for 10 minutes (do not overbake, take out at the very first hint of browning, even if you think they look a little underdone.) If, like me, you do two cookie sheets at a time, put the timer on for 7 minutes, and then switch oven racks and bake for an additional 6 minutes. I like to use a cookie scoop to get evenly sized cookies…you can also drop them on with a tablespoon. Just a bit of a warning…my mixer seized up on me a couple of weeks ago while making this recipe…I realized the dough was a little dry, and it’s so heavy to begin with, so if your mixer seems to be struggling with the dough, just proceed cautiously at the lowest speed, do not add too much flour, and moisten it up a little with milk if need be, just a tablespoon at a time. You shouldn’t need the milk, though, I have never had a problem before, and I likely wasn’t thinking and added an extra cup of flour or some such oversight.

If you like plain oatmeal cookies, you can leave out the chocolate and cherries…my son has to eat them this way, because he’s on the Feingold Diet (no, I can’t go into it right now, you’ll have to wait for another day), and he just loves them!

Beware, baking up a batch of these delicious cookies could be dangerous!!!

ps…all you Coffee Tea Books & Me fans out there…yes, she has it on her recipe blog!

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Sabbath Reflections

Ah, the sweet, sweet gospel! How refreshing to the soul! I do hope that anyone reading this who claims Christ and belongs to the family of believers has had as lovely a Sabbath as I had today. Both the sermon text from the second chapter of Phillipians and our Sunday school lesson from 1 Peter highlighted our high calling as Christians to fervently love one another and to pursue unity in our faith as we stand firm against sin and darkness. I felt especially convicted of my tendency to reach out in love and friendship to…well…my friends. It becomes habit to enter a room and rush up to a close friend, to fall into discourse that comes so easily. We are immediately accepted, there is no awkwardness…we don’t even have to think about what we are saying. However, what about the shy woman that sits in the back and leaves right after the closing prayer? What about the one who is struggling with her marriage and tries to hide her pain behind a pair of sunglasses? Or the one whose social skills aren’t as polished as others and is therefore avoided or overlooked in a gathering of people. Have we stretched ourselves a little, made an effort to reach out in genuine love to them and extend our friendship? We need not offer to be their best friend and call them for a long chat three times a week, but I’m certain that we could do more than we are now doing to comfort others with the comfort we have been given. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. There was nothing charming or congenial about us when we were dead in our trespasses, yet our Saviour called us out of darkness into his glorious light. In like manner we too can seek out the lonely and hurting among us and befriend them, even when there seems to be nothing in it for us. Especially then. For in this way we will be following the example of Christ. Sabbath blessings to you!

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I sit propped up in bed with my laptop, back aching and eyes dry and starting to close of their own accord. My mind is still a tangled web of thoughts and frustrations. A good day or a bad day? Depends on how you look at it. Meals were prepared and served. Band-aids were applied, as well as kisses to a downy-soft head. Mathematical concepts were introduced to little minds more interested in the brightly colored pictures of the workbook than the concepts. Literature and poetry and history were read…savored by some, possibly ignored by others. A three-year-old spent her fourth day deprived of her “beloved” diapers and continued her protest of all things related to the potty. And there I was in the middle of it all. Laundry, crumbs, blood, disinfectant, pencils, paper, dishes, tears. That’s what I feel like remembering about today. Yet in the back of my mind are whispers hinting at something more, something deeeper. Fluttering kisses from a little person hanging in the balance between child and baby. The silky curls and big brown eyes of the tearful Potty Protestor. The steaming coffee in a beautiful mug set down beside a chocolate croissant placed on a pretty glass plate. Sweet smiles. “Mommy!”…the sound echoes through our home…”A squirrel, I see a squirrel!” Spotting a blue jay for the briefest instant as he flies away off our deck. David’s tumbling mass of curls, reminding me a hair cut is due yet begging to remain to frame the piquant face for one more day. Finding another one of Elisabeth’s stash of books, realizing that my daughter’s appetite for words on a page may be even greater than my own was at her age. At some point tomorrow all the messes will be cleaned and tidied and the house will sparkle with pretty dishes. Candles will flicker as if saying hello. The smell of strong coffee will waft through the house. I will wear my favorite pants and a pale pink sweater and I will smile and greet guests as they enter my home. I will probably put the Potty Protestor in a Pull Up and I doubt I will remember much of the tension of this day. But I can choose to remember the good things and I can build upon them. I can choose to instill wisdom in my children and lavish love upon them. Today was a good day. Tomorrow will be even better.

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