29 April 2010

The Purpose for Which He Sent It

Yesterday, my girls delighted in the rain. Toss on a coat, a pair of boots, and grab a monstrously large umbrella, and they are good to go. I sat at the window and watched as they splashed and stomped with pleasure.

Where we live, we get plenty of rain. It doesn't bother me in the fall or the winter, as I actually kind of enjoy it. But by springtime, it feels as though we deserve some sun and dry weather. We very rarely get it with any regularity until mid-summer. The rain is what makes our point on the globe so green and lovely, but honestly ... I can grow weary of it.

I went looking for scriptures today about rain. Feeling a weighted spirit over difficult issues lately, I feel as though I've been in a personal rainy season for awhile. I know it will end and the sun will shine again ... but today ... it's still rainy.

What I found, however, was verse upon verse that described rain as a blessing. Not the gloomy, wet drudgery I had in mind, but a conscious and merciful act of God. Yes, rain can accompany storms or floods. Rain can be that from which we seek shelter and a reprieve. But a blessing? Is my rainy season not the torrent I believed it to be, but a time of watering to encourage new growth, a full yield, and an appreciation for refreshed beauty?

I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit. Leviticus 26:4

The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. Deuteronomy 28:12

"You heavens above, rain down righteousness;
let the clouds shower it down.
Let the earth open wide,
let salvation spring up,
let righteousness grow with it;
I, the Lord, have created it."
Isaiah 45:8

Well. Maybe so.

"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:9-11

28 April 2010

Another Reason to Love Veggies

I think we've found the easiest, most tasty, and guilt-free gravy out there! After you pull your roast from the oven, pour or ladle off a good portion of the roast juices into a blender and add a bunch of the veggies. Blend well, add seasonings if needed, and more broth/veggies depending on the consistency you want.

Easy veggie gravy, and it's so, so good. Plus, when making soup with the chopped up roast leftovers, just add broth, some cooked barley, peas, salt, thyme, and the rest of the gravy. Serve with warm rolls or cornbread. Two meals in one!

What are your favorite low-effort recipes or tricks for turning out multiple meals in one fell swoop? I so want to know!

While Riding in the Car

Jane, guess what?
I love you very much.
I know.
You do? How do you know that?
Well, you always love me!
Yes, that's true.
So ... just remember that when I'm naughty.

26 April 2010

To Create One Large Bicep

Ironing: 6 little girl dresses, 2 young man button-downs, 3 ladies blouses, 3 mens button-downs. Well now, that only took forever and a half!

Does anyone have any tips to make this process more enjoyable? I confess, it's a task that I like to coat with a generous dousing of dread and and foot-dragging.

23 April 2010

A View Through

It is not good to cross the bridge before you get to it.
-J. Dench

Upside-Down Goodness

Caramelized Pear Chocolate Upside-Down Cake? Sounds good to me! I wanted to make a dessert for after dinner tonight and found such an idea in my Rustic Fruit Desserts cookbook and immediately started salivating.

I had some leftover hard caramels from a last week attempt to make soft caramels. Turns out my candy thermometer was defunct and we ended up with a toffee-ish substance. Tasty, but impossible to chew. So, instead of following the cookbook recipe, I just used it and my pseudo-caramels for some inspiration.

Melt caramels with a little water 'til melted through (or make some caramel sauce, not very difficult) pour into greased 9" cake pan, and let cool. Place sliced pears on top of caramel sauce and pour in chocolate cake batter right on top. (I had a boxed cake mix in the pantry that I used half of.) Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Cool for 15, then flip onto plate for another 5. Lift off pan, and hurrah!

The caramely chocolate goodness is divine and the pears soften and brighten in color making you sure that springtime has indeed come.

22 April 2010

Because Us Girls Love Our Faves

Every now and then I'll stumble upon a "favorite products" article by regular moms, and I just love it. I do not have the motivation to research cosmetics, nor do I care enough even if I did scrape up the mojo. What I do want is stuff that works, is easy to find, and that won't break the bank. So, herewith, some of my product must-haves:

Cetaphil Cream
This stuff is amazing. It comes in a lighter pump formula, but I love this thick cream. It is fragrance free, super hydrating, not greasy, and doesn't irritate my skin. And I have cranky skin. In fact, at my last dermatologist appointment my doctor and I were discussing our Cetaphil love and she mentioned that she used it as a night cream for her face, too. "Really?? You can do that??" I asked. Ever since, I use it at night after I wash my face, as well as an all-over moisturizer. Cetaphil has been my lotion staple for a good decade and you can even pick it up at the grocery store. Perfection.

Thayer's Rose Petal Witch Hazel
Since when did we forget about good 'ol witch hazel? It's gentle, natural, and won't strip your face of natural oils leaving that icky tight feeling. I use this as a toner after I wash my face and some evenings, if I'm dog tired, I won't even wash it but will swipe my face with a cotton pad doused with it. True, it doesn't take off eye product, but zips off the makeup in no time. I'm sure any kind will work, but Thayer's has a lovely light scent and is a favorite.

Neutrogena Healthy Defense SPF 45 Moisturizer
A few years back, I had a skin cancer scare and now I am a SPF zealot. While I like to use a light SPF 15 lotion on my hands, neck, and any other exposed area during the day (yes, even winter), for my face I want something stronger. This facial moisturizer is the ticket. Not greasy, absorbed quickly, and works well under makeup. It's a keeper.

Rare Minerals Blemish Therapy
This is a rather new item in my product arsenal, but having recently hopped on the mineral makeup train ... I'm pretty impressed. This product has a main ingredient of sulphur and when dabbed onto blemishes, manages to dry the beasties up without causing dried, flaky skin. It works under makeup as well as a quick treatment before bed. If you are like me and can't believe that you've reached your 30's and still get breakouts (argh!) this little number might just make you giddy. And Moms ... please oh, please try this for your teen girls! I shudder at my Clearasil past and only wish I had something like this to soothe my horrified face. It's a bit spendy, but if you've struggles with breakouts you may find it's just worth it.

Maybelline Define-A-Lash Mascara
Love it. A little rubbery brush with scads of bristles and a smooth formula that glides on with ease. What else can I say? Oh yeah. It's about $6.00 at Target!

MAC Lipgelée
Lipgloss is the ultimate cheater makeup product. I am very average mom when it comes to cosmetics. I don't wear a ton and what I do is very simplistic. Perhaps that's why tinted lipgloss is an absolute must. Tap on a little powder, brush on a bit of mascara, swipe on the lipgloss and we're ready to rumble. This MAC lip "gel" is very sheer so you can't make a mistake. I swear, you can apply it in the car (which I do) and you won't miss. And you'll be glad to know, it has no fragrance or taste (who wants strawberry-kiwi lips, anyways?), nor is it goopy or sticky -- just smooth and lovely. It's on the pricey side, but a tube lasts me more than a year and I use it all the time.

There it is, girls. Some of my favorites. What are yours? I am so far from being any kind of an authority on this topic matter, and it's entirely possible that what I think looks chic and fresh could be anything but. So, if you know me personally and see me walking around with ridiculous makeup ... please, I beg you, come wash my face for me.

20 April 2010

A Rite of Passage

My mother made this tooth-fairy pillow for me when I was Lucette's age. The age when little girls start turning into bigger little girls ... the age when teeth start a-tumblin' and smiles begin to grow up. A little bit bittersweet, if you ask me.

Lucette has had this tooth-fairy pillow on her bed for almost a year. Lucette has had wiggly teeth for almost a year. Those little pearlies have just hung on, refusing to let go of babyhood and causing Lucette much aggravation.

"Please, yank them!" She would beg us, embracing the potential pain. She gave up on us last night and set to twisting a lower offender. At about eleven o'clock we heard a shout: "I lost a tooth! It's out! I lost a tooth!"

So I asked her, "Are you going to put it in your tooth-fairy pillow?" "Oh, yes," she replied. But after a moments pause, she remarked with a smirk: "I'm going to put it in the pillow, but ... I know she's not real." She went on to explain that she once found a discarded tooth of Peter's before I had time to trash it (No, I don't keep them, it grosses me out beyond words) and she put it under her pillow. Next morning? No cash, no glitter sparkles. The hoax was revealed.

At this point, Pops began to chortle and sputter out peppermint tea. He was never a fairy fan to begin with.

Assuming I don't forget and have to make a bald-faced lie about her having a high-volume tooth night and to try again (everything about that is horrible, I know it), tonight I'll sneak in, snatch the nasty little tooth (and promptly toss it!), and leave a few quarters and some silver glitter sparkles.

It's good not to need to believe ... but pretending is still so much fun.

19 April 2010

A Weekend Performance

Pulled in last night from a weekend trip to see Pops' family and to see his sister perform her new album at a sold out show! The theater was packed and it was the first time the children saw her perform at a formal evening event. Prior to the curtain call, we were able to snack in the "green room" and feel very proud of the gene pool.

The kids sat through the entire 3 hour performance like rapt jazz groupies. Truly, they were amazing ... but then so was Halie.

16 April 2010

This Little Piggy

In the words of my friend, Heather, "Shazaam!" These pigs-in-a-blanket are definitely exclamation worthy.

Pops, husband extraordinaire, managed to perform diagnostic tests, order a new part, install, and finally ... fix my broken oven! (Insert chorus of "Hallelujah" angels here.) With the machine now spittin' out the heat, I had some serious baking to catch up on ... namely some loaves of bread, for we all know that a family without bread is in dire straits. Since I was elbow deep in doughy carb chaos, and completely forgot about the impending dinner hour, I hauled out some franks from the freezer.

Using the crescent roll recipe, I spun up some blankets for these piggies. Once you have your dough ready from the first rise and cut dough into (small) fist sized blobs, you've got some blanket options:

You can snake-roll that dough and then wind 'em round.

Or, you can flatten your dough blob, place your frank in the middle (or a spicy brat, like Pops would wish for), slice a few slits and cris-cross those little dough arms for a nice braided effect.

Let them rise for about 20-30 minutes. If you have the time, brush on an egg wash (whip an egg and add a splash of water) to make them shiny and pretty.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 8 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake another 5 minutes or 'til golden brown. (Or 350 convection for about 15 minutes.)

Serve with plenty of ketchup and a salad, and watch those hungry little monkeys of yours get excited. Shazaam!

15 April 2010

More Springtime Sprucing

Remember the image of the bedroom dresser laden with clutter and toilet paper? This last week I realized the dresser did not have any toilet paper on it any longer ... because we had used it all. Yes, it was not gone because I put it away, but because it apparently became a normal place to keep it and that is where we went when we needed a new roll.

Feeling rather sheepish and a bit re-energized from other organizing efforts, I now have pantry cupboards and the top of the dresser looking happy and presentable.

And of course, a little snip from the yard always cheers me up. I found that one of my glass floral frogs fit into this votive holder. Shove in some unknown shrubbery and a few lavender sprigs, and there we go!

Ahhhh. That wasn't so bad.

14 April 2010

Not Your Grandmother's Brussels

Why have brussel sprouts had such a bad rap all these years? Perhaps it was the ol' boiling method that did them in. Boiled veggies? Not so fun. But roast them up and they get all caramely-crisp and flat out delectable.

Wash 'em and cut off a bit of the ends, removing outer leaves. Slice in half (unless they are tiny) and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar. Place cut side down on cookie sheet. Normally I pop them in the oven at about 375 degrees, turning after about 20 minutes and cooking for another 10 (or 'til tender ... but don't overcook!). Add a little grated parmesan, if you'd like and cook a few minutes longer. They get so crispy and yummy, I swear it's better than french fries.

This week, since our oven went kaput and we are waiting on the part to arrive (here's to hoping that does the trick!), I roasted them in my cast iron skillet on the stove-top. Once the cut sides start to brown and turn golden, start tossing and cook 'til done.

Sigh. Did I mention these are really good?

12 April 2010

A Quick Route to Happiness

Is there anything quite like warm rolls from the oven? These crescent rolls are a family favorite and the recipe makes so many, you'll have plenty to toss in the freezer for a quick accompaniment to a meal.

Once you get the hang of it, a batch will whip up with hardly any thought. Above you see them lined up on the cookie sheet for their second rise, right before they get tossed in the oven.

Make-Me-Happy Crescent Rolls

In mixing bowl let set for a few minutes:
• 4.5 t. yeast
• 2 c. water

With whisk attachment (or by hand) add:
• .25-.5 c. sugar
• 2.5 t. salt
• .75 c. canola oil
• 2 eggs, well beaten

Beat 'til foamy.

Add one cup at a time:
• 4 c. unbleached flour

Switch to bread hook and add:
• 4 c. whole wheat flour (all white flour is fine, too)

Allow bread hook to knead until it reaches a smooth and elastic consistency. Add a touch more flour if too sticky. Allow to rise for 1.5 hours or 'til doubled in size.

Punch dough down. Cut into four equal parts (a serrated knife works wonderfully). With a rolling pin, roll out each part into a circle and cut into 12 equal pie-shaped pieces (I use a pizza cutter). Roll into crescent shapes and let rise on cookie sheet for 30 minutes or 'til doubled.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-14 minutes, or until lightly golden. Remove to cooling rack or take right to table with plenty of butter to slather.

**Added bonus? It's also my go-to recipe for pizza dough or cinnamon rolls. Yum.

**Short on time? Prepare up to the rolling out and place in ziploc bags in fridge overnight. Set on counter to warm to room temperature then resume recipe.

10 April 2010

A Family

A family is a mobile strung together with invisible threads --- delicate, easily broken at first, growing stronger through the years, in danger of being worn thin at times, but strengthened again with special care.

A family --- blended, balanced, growing, changing, never static, moving with a breath of wind --- babies, children, young people, mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles --- held in a balanced framework by the invisible threads of love, memories, trust, loyalty, compassion, kindness, in honor preferring each other, depending on each other, looking to each other for help, giving each other help, picking each other up, suffering long with each other's faults, understanding each other more and more, hoping all things, enduring all things, never failing! Continuity!

Thin, invisible threads turning into thin, invisible metal which holds great weights but gives freedom of movement --- a family! Knowing always that if a thread wears thin and sags, there is help to be had from the Expert --- the Father --- "Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named."

--What is a Family?, Edith Schaeffer

08 April 2010

The Busy Little Nook

I've always had a bit of voyeur in me. When I go for walks in the neighborhood, I love when I can see in through a window and catch a glimpse of someone else's home. Fascinating. I also love when fellow bloggers show me where they do their work. Images of home seem to carry so much personality.

So. Here is my little workspace. A little nook off of the kitchen. It's a perfect location because I can still be in the middle of the hub.

Recently, I found myself wishing for a real mousepad, as I've been using a paperback book to fill the role for far too long. And then it occurred to me ... I bet I can make one! A piece of stiff felt sandwiched between scraps of fabric, and some of that rubbery stuff that keep carpets from slipping for the base ... voila! A homemade mousepad.

Atop of the printer perches my planner. Oh, my beloved moleskine planner makes me purr. It has a sleek exterior, smooth pages and even a little pocket in back to keep extra post-its. Organizational bliss, I tell you.

In the planner, I keep our events recorded, yes, but it also has a blank page on one side. Here I jot down the meals for the week (even breakfast and lunch), a list of To-do's, a list of To-emails, and a list of places To-go. I also keep a post-it on the page for groceries too. I always tuck it in my purse when I head out the door, for I love being able to scratch things down no matter where I am.

And thus, my little workspace revealed. Where do you like to work?

06 April 2010

Smile Inducers

I always consider it a treat to buy flowers at the market and when I saw fresh bunches of ranunculus, I eagerly scooped some up. Don't they look like happy little cabbages?

My favorite thing to do with flowers is trim the stems in a put them in several smaller vases. I grouped three small vases on the dining table and had enough leftover for another vase to sit next to the computer and smile at me while I type.

05 April 2010

A Celebration of Life

Our Easter weekend was filled with family, friends, treats, news of a new babe, and a happy church brunch and service. Just what one hopes for.

In the morning the children giggled and raced to see our traditional resurrection tableau set at the hearth. The onion had been rolled away and Jesus was no longer in the tomb. He is risen, He is risen indeed! And once we turned towards the kitchen table, they were most pleased with the discovery of a little jar of treats setting atop new bibles. One for each child inscribed with scripture by Pops.

Since we were out of town Saturday (egg hunts and a new spring set of chicks to love), Sunday's dinner had to be practical. Toss on one of Nannie's old tablecloths (dryer fluff only, the wrinkles add character), thrifted milk glass vases of daffodils, and fancy cups for the girls. The meal? Spiral ham from Trader Joe's, green salad, homemade crescent rolls (keep dough in fridge, set out to warm in the am and pop in oven after church!), roasted potatoes, a dish of black olives, and a monster fruit salad, courtesy of friend Tracy. Top it off with a white butter-cream cake layered with strawberries and a side of black coffee? Just perfect.

All little reminders of gratefulness. Ultimately, we are grateful for our Savior and what he has done for us.

And for me, let it not be -- to glory, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which to me the world hath been crucified, and I to the world.
Galatians 6:14

03 April 2010

New Life, New Hope

This burst of growth from the side of a cherry tree trunk reminds me of all the unexpected ways new life can show itself. Perhaps in a similar way, we can be reminded of Jesus Christ, the day he was crucified on the cross for our sins, and yet rose again on the third day.

And hope is freely given.

01 April 2010

A Startling Lunch

I thought I would surprise Jane with a sneaky "Boo" as she rounded the corner, but I was the one who was startled! Instead of a sweet, unsuspecting girl, I found this vicious pig-tailed shark! She's been ferociously munching on me for the last hour, claiming I'm her lunch.

Speaking of which, I'm thinking about nibbling on some shark, myself.

Remember and Know

Lucette's full name means "clear and bright light." She has always been a sparkle in our family ... just one glimpse into those eyes, and you'll know exactly what I mean.

Sometimes that sparkle is sheer twinkling delightfulness and at others ... glitter-encrusted sass. When she was about two, she developed a method of sibling problem-solving that primarily involved sinking those sharp little baby teeth into any body part Peter wasn't quick enough to withdraw. This, all done, with great verve and astonishing speed.

In an attempt to halt this behavior (and fear of getting ourselves kicked out of the church nursery) we tried a little Pavlov-love. You bite with your mouth, you get something yucky in your mouth. First up? Lemons. She chowed down with gusto. Next? Tabasco. Bring it on, baby, this tot likes it spicy. Act of desperation? The bar of soap. Munch, munch, smile and a declaration of "I like it."

I began realizing, in a new way, how little control I had over another person's behavior. Even as a parent, we can only command so much. Obedience and behavior that is rooted from the heart? My imperfect efforts only go so far.

I had always prayed for my children. But over time I've realized that it is utterly imperative to intercede for them as the child and myself as parent. The only time I really see deep change in my life or those around me, it has involved prayer. Nothing fancy. Just serious, earnest, regular prayer.

Lucette is a little precocious, yes, but oh, how I love her spunk. What's more, I see God refining her character and maturing her spirit all while keeping her zesty personality. A tribute to our parenting? Hardly. A reflection of God's abiding love, care, and faithfulness? Without a doubt.

When it comes to raising children, there is very little I know for sure. But this I do: I am a better parent when I pray.

This daughter of mine, I adore her. She makes me laugh, she challenges my own perspectives, she makes me proud to be her mother. She'll look back and know well my failings, but may she and her siblings also remember and know ... my mother prays for me.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
Ephesians 1:17-19