Earlier this month, I began crocheting a baby blanket in anticipation of Uncle Dan and Aunt Laurel's little baby. Peter was curious and I showed him how to crochet a single chain. He took off with a ball of charcoal wool and whipped up leashes for stuffed critters and rope for his playmobil knights.
Since then, Lucette has been requesting a tutoring session. I've been well intentioned, but rather poor in follow-through. The lessons kept being postponed. So when she asked permission to pilfer the yarn stash and then declared "I'm off to learn to crochet!" ... I didn't pay it much mind.
A half an hour later, she bounced down the stairs with a five-foot chain tagging after her. "Lucette! How did you learn how to do that?" "Oh, Peter showed me real quick." Now that's a quick learner!
Evangelical Christians are not typically observant of the Lenten season, the 40 days prior to Easter. Such a shame! It can really be a lovely time of reflection and anticipation.
Today (Ash Wednesday) is the first day of Lent, and we celebrated by making soft pretzels. Tradition has it that the pretzel represents arms crossed in prayer. A reminder that these waiting days leading up to Easter are a particular opportunity for us to seek the Lord in prayer. The kids have a great time making the pretzels (or dough "whips," as they were for awhile today) and anticipating the finished goodness.
Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. (Isaiah 6:4)
•Lenten Soft Pretzels•
Dissolve yeast in water: 1.5 c. warm water 1 (heaping)T. yeast
Mix: 4 c. unbleached flour (I use half w.wheat) 1 T. agave syrup(sugar or honey is fine) 1 t. salt
Add yeast mixture and knead together by hand or with bread hook. (Starting with 3 c. flour then adding the final cup as needed is a good idea.) Divide into pieces, roll with hands, shape into pretzel, and place on greased or parchment lined cookie sheet. Let rest for about 15 minutes. Beat: 1 egg splashof water Brush pretzels with egg and sprinkle generously with salt. Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent begins. Traditionally, Christians would give up certain ingredients for Lent that included butter, eggs, and milk, so why not use them up and make pancakes? We invite friends over, share a bit of our faith together, and have a big 'ol pancake feed. It's always lots of fun and gets our family excited for Easter.
This year, we had our own version of a British pancake race, and while not very spiritual, was an awful lot of fun. The picture is horribly out of focus (darn that forgotten ISO function!), but it still gives me the giggles. David and Pops make fine pancake-flipping housewives. They ran a dangerous obstacle course through the house, resulting in a win for Pops. There are threats of a rematch, however, as Pops had home-court advantage as well as shoes. Poor David, clad only in socked feet, performed admirably on the treacherous hardwoods.
(Note: We found that leftover pancakes make an excellent frisbee and can clear the back fence when released from the patio.)
Yesterday we celebrated Peter's birthday. Eight years old! The years are revealing a fine young man; an individual that manages to reveal as much to us as we seek to impart to him.
The day was full of excitement: eating, churching, laughing, playing ... and some more eating. Birthdays are a lovely excuse to gather those dear and just enjoy each other. I used to fight a dread of preparation and clean-up, but I'm learning to find pleasure even in those elements. The cake plate empty but for crumbs, gift wrap shredded with glee, a grouping of chairs echoing conversations.
After examining cookbooks, Peter selected an apple bundt as his birthday cake. It was made with a great quantity of butter, so it was bound to be excellent. (We were not disappointed.)
Rock climbing hand grips to mount to the fence. He'll be scaling and traversing in no time.
Jointed (& robotic!) construction set, and his own digital camera ready to photograph Honduras.
(On a side note, I think these sound-muffs might be equipped with an invisible function. It's quite possible my kids have been wearing them for years, unbeknownst to me. Perhaps I should start frisking their heads before I launch into my monologues ... just in case.)
I've been fortunate to find myself emailing with Ambrocio, a Honduran national leader in missions. It has been so exciting to communicate and develop a relationship knowing our families will finally meet this summer.
I don't speak any Spanish and his English is limited, but Google Translate has been our saving grace! I take his Spanish message and out pops an English translation. I type in English and I'm given a fresh Spanish version to send. I don't know what we'll do when face-to-face without our internet, but for now we communicate quite effectively.
I've recently learned that the village we are traveling to is in need of dental supplies. Toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, fluoride rinse. But also an electric sterilizer for dental instruments and even a "portable patient chair" is needed. The first part of the list seems doable, the last couple items ... well, I'm anxious to see how God provides. Who knows how to get a dental chair down to Honduras, much less how to acquire one cheaply!
Pray with us. Won't it be fun to find out the answer?
We love yeasty carbs in this house. Cinnamon rolls are a particular favorite, although we like to refer to them as "Sweet Buns" then chase after small children and try to pinch theirs. We may have to change tactics when they get older, but for now it's awfully delightful.
For de-licious cinnamon rolls, just use half of the dough (enough for 1 loaf) from bread recipe. Follow the instructions up to the point of making the dough into a loaf. Now, spread on some yummy filling:
Filling: 4 T. butter, melted 1 c. brown sugar 1 T. cinnamon
Mix with fork 'til grainy/crumbly paste and spread over dough. Roll up jelly roll style, pinching seam together. Slice into 12 rounds (a serrated knife works great!) and place in buttered 9x13 dish. Let rise again for 30 minutes then preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake for about 20 minutes.
Let cool but while still warm, drizzle/slather icing on top:
Icing: 1 c. powdered sugar 2 T. milk (more if needed) 1/2 t. vanilla
4 T. soft butter(Once, I used a little orange juice instead and it worked great!) 1/3 c. cream cheese 1/2 t. vanilla pinch of salt 1 c. powdered sugar
It's been poked, prodded, tested, and tinkered with. Here's our favorite version:
2 lbs. lean ground beef 1 onion 1 green pepper, chopped 3 t. chili powder
Combine in pan and cook 'til meat is browned. Drain off grease.
2 cans red kidney beans 2 cans pinto beans 2 cans black beans 1/2 bag frozen white corn 1 can petite diced tomatoes (14.5 oz) 1 can tomato paste (6 oz) 1 1/2 t. salt 1/2 t. pepper 1 t. garlic salt 1/2 t. cumin 1/4 t. cinnamon
Stir in remaining ingredients. Simmer low for 20 mins. Top with cheese or sour cream!
*Works great in crockpot! *This is a large recipe. Reduce by half for regular family meal or just freeze leftovers.
I try to make a pot of soup once a week, particularly in these chilly months. It is a great way to use up leftover veggies, meat, and noodles. I often toss in some sort of beans, as well. (We're partial to black beans, navy beans, or kidney beans.)
The main ingredient for almost any soup, of course, is stock or broth. I'm finding that making my own is really quite easy and practically costless. If you've been saving your veggie scraps (remember, nothing cruciferous!) and roasted chicken carcasses in the freezer, you have just about everything you need! Grab your biggest pot and here we go:
In large stock pot toss in: • Chicken carcass (or beef, ham-bone, etc.) • Frozen veggie scraps or a couple: • Carrots, Onions (toss in the peels, too!), Celery ends/leaves
Cover fully with cold water. Add about 1/2 c. vinegar (apple cider vinegar is good) or wine to break down those bones. Some people get creative and add in spices, too.
Bring pot to a slow but full boil then reduce to a low simmer. Let this pot simmer all day. Some people leave it for a full 24 hours (really gets all the goodness out of those bones and veggies), but I haven't quite convinced myself to leave it on overnight. **Update--I'm now an overnight convert. I turn it off before I go to bed (keep the lid on tight) and return it to a boil in the morning.
When done, strain broth in fine sieve or through cheesecloth. You can store in ziploc bags (defrosts quickly in a sinkful of water), or in mason jars with screw top lids (just leave about an inch head space for expansion). Chill in fridge 'til fat rises and skim off ... or skip this step like I sometimes do! Place in freezer and you are set.
Don't forget to save out some of the stock for soup tonight. Toss in beans, leftover meat, frozen white corn, salt & pepper, parsley, petite diced tomatoes, some noodles, and more water to cover. Serve with crackers, salad, and a big ol' smile that's beaming with pride.
4 c. whole wheat flour 3 c. unbleached white flour or white whole wheat 2 - 2.5 c. warm water 1.5 T. yeast 2 t. salt .25 c. blue agave syrup (or honey) .25 c. oil (I like expeller-pressed canola)
Toss into the mixer with a bread hook (or knead by hand) 'til soft and dough cleans bowl. Place in glass bowl w/ a touch more oil and turn to coat. Dampen dish towel and place over bowl and let rise 90 mins. in oven. (If cooler weather, place a dish of warm water on rack underneath.)
Divide in half, "roll" out with fist (much easier than a rolling-pin) on the damp towel. Roll up jelly-roll style, tuck ends under, place in greased bread pans. Rise again 30 mins. then bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes.
*I'll often use half for bread and the other half for dinner rolls or cinnamon rolls. *Have fun tinkering with kinds of flour or tossing in extras, like chopped oats or even sprouts! *I always use yeast right out of the freezer without any problems. Just keep in an airtight container, like a glass canning jar. *If you grind your own grain, you can get away with using all whole wheat flour.
What a surprise to wake up this morning and find snow! We were able to watch big fat snowflakes fall all morning before it was all melted by lunchtime.
Sometimes snow can feel like a fluffy wool scarf. All cozy and delicious until it's been just too long and it starts gettin' itchy. Today was a lovely cashmere scarf. A perfect accent piece to the day.
I spent a good part of this past weekend (in between coughing fits and naps) winding bobbins with embroidery floss. The feel of the thread and the rote motion of it all was quite soothing, actually. Plus, all of the colors felt like candies in my lap. The girls thought so too and became quite giddy when selecting the next skein for me to work with.
Now my fingers are just itchin' for a new project. Maybe some cloth napkins with juicy looking fruit at the corner.
I found this cotton 'linen' (I tried to convince myself it was linen, but I think it's just a nice cotton) and plaid wool yardage at the thrift store the other day. I think I need to convince myself to always buy thrifted yardage if it is at all cute and a decent price. It's so interesting how the fabric acquires a life of 'becoming.' I really enjoy the process.
I made a couple of reversible bags (I do love bags!) and placed a deconstructed flower in the upper corner. I'm really happy with it. I'm picturing the bag holding a wallet, book, and maybe a moleskine journal and pencil. Perfect for a morning at the corner coffee shop.
This project had better tide me over for awhile, as my cranky machine is acting up again. Darn bobbin tension!
Now that we are all pining for spring, this is an odd recipe post. However, I've had this ratty recipe bumping around since November and it was so very good. I keep expecting to throw out this nappy piece of paper on accident then be forced to mourn it's loss. So for posterity, here it is:
We are quite the under-achievers when it comes to watching sports. It's not that we don't appreciate sports or enjoy them ourselves. We just tend to forget about them, too busy with our nerdling-activities.
We did, however, all manage to pile onto the couch for the super-bowl this past Sunday. It took a few minutes of establishing who the "red guys" and the "men with the yellow pants" were. The red cardinal on Arizona's helmet was misidentified as St. Louis (baseball, I think) and the Pittsburgh 'Steelers' were called the 'Raiders' for about 10 minutes.
I give you this background information to set the stage for our surprise when Lucette calmly announces: "There's my husband." She was referring to one of the players. One that we had obviously never noticed, discussed, or appreciated before.
Now, I understand that men like the sport for its various attributes and women often like it for the players' various attributes. So I'm thinking little five year-old Lucette has spotted a strapping young quarterback with sandy blonde hair and a toothsome, boyish grin to fancy for the afternoon.
In actuality it was this man. Strapping, certainly, boyish ... uh, maybe, but that's about where her dream man and my imagination stopped cooperating. "Really?" we asked her. How come he's your husband? Her matter of fact response: "He's handsome."
Upon further probing, we discovered she was specifically taken with his "fluffy hair" which had the added benefit of easily identifying him even with his helmet on. His name is Troy Polamalu, Lucette pronouncing it as a sultry "Pala-Olive."