30 March 2010

Now, Isn't That a Nice Sight

My spring cleaning fervor hit a wall a couple weeks ago and the cupboards and drawers seem to have noticed. They apparently had a covert meeting and all agreed to become horribly cluttered and disastrous now that my attention had waned.

How it seems to happen overnight, I have no idea. I think the catalyst was in the grande trip to Costco that yielded boxes and bags of goods that no common shelf is really prepared to deal with. I've got soup and granola bars spilling out in happy abandon.

The food cupboards are still in atrocious form, but I did manage to do one productive thing today: the plastic container drawer. Gone are the containers and lids with no mates and proud sit the sets like little soldiers ready for leftover duty.

I'm hoping the sight of this cupboard (because you know I walk by and look in just be proud of myself) will spur on some other organizational efforts. Goodness knows, something must be done. I'd hate to find a loved family member buried under cereal or oatmeal when they least expect it.

28 March 2010

A Quick Camp Together

Back from our little mountain camping excursion. Laundry is almost done, van cleaned out and the bins waiting to be reorganized ... we're getting there. So much involved in such a small trip, but the delight of the children make it so worth while.

While it rained most of the time, our first day there was perfection. Plenty of sun for hiking, campfires, and the beloved marshmallow roasting.

Jane would like to welcome all to her yurt. It's like a little circus tent in the woods!

Both of the girls shared the upper bunk. This, in distinct disobedience to the orange sign requiring individuals to be at least 7 years old to mount this upper bedding region. Shameful of us, I know.

Peter and Pops set to sharpening the hatchet. Wood doesn't chop itself, you know! Good thing we had a couple of men to take care of it for us.

Jane cuddles carefully with her Pops ... those whiskers are scratchy!

I asked Lucette if she liked camping, to which she replied: "Of course! What's not to like??"

We took a lovely hike along Salmon River. Beautiful setting, good rock skipping, and only one child managed to fall in.

Trips such as these aren't magnificent in their presentation but offer the treasure of being together without the busyness of everyday life.

Taking a rest on a tree stump, Jane and Pops sit and wonder about bears together. "Daddy, if you have to fight him, I want to pet his mane first. But then, I hope you win."

Jane and I watch out for "tree snakes" (exposed roots that are prone to tripping distracted hikers!) and enjoy each other's company.

We certainly didn't pack light, but Pops is a master at stuffing the van. Pops is a master at lots of things. We like to take him wherever we go.

23 March 2010

A Day of Hustle, Bustle and Perspective

Sitting around the computer surrounded by bins and boxes of camping supplies. A list of tasks to be done, food to bake, items to pack. But the sun is shining and a little girl who loves flowers asked me to take her picture.

Everything else will manage to get done. But a little girl with a fistful of snowdrops, the breeze in her hair, and an impish little grin? A distraction I find to be nothing short of: worth-my-time.

Back after a bit, my friends. We're off to be happily distracted by one another.

22 March 2010

Berries and Sweet Girls

Oh, spring is here! The flowers, the birds, the sunshine ... the return of fruit!

We were at the market today shopping for our upcoming camping trip and these red lovelies just insisted they come home with us. We acquiesced without much of a fight.

After putting the groceries away, the girls delighted in a heaping dish of strawberries and cream. Such an easy way to become the best mother in the world.

And then, off they go to prance about outside. Must check on the trillium plants we relocated from the woods to the backyard and give a little love to Clarence, the latest gardener snake who is currently living in a very plushly appointed 5 gallon bucket.

19 March 2010

Church People & Cake

Time to party with the bible study group tonight. I've never known such a diverse group of people who could have so much fun, laugh so hard, and still manage to study the Word.

And then, the clock strikes 9 0'clock. Dessert time. Four layer chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting tonight. Yep. Church People + Bible Study + Cake = Fun.

Well, Hello There

I can't quite tell if these sunglasses are sexy or hysterical. Either way, I love them. Jane and I had an hour to kill this afternoon and these lovelies were awaiting at the thrift store. For a dollar.

They are definitely circa 1980's, as evidenced by the gold Liz Claiborne triangle at the temple. Giant tortoise-shell Liz sunglasses? Most certainly a relic from my childhood years. But, hey. The 80's are back in, right?

I think I may be a bit of a spectacle (truly, no pun intended) while wearing them, but I will anyways, and with an aire of ignorant confidence. Besides, I've given up on actually being "cool." I drive a mini-van, I have three children, and young girls in their 20's refer to me as "ma'am" when I go out. The gig is up if it was ever really down in the first place.

Regardless of the facts that may indeed be begging me to steer clear of trendy fashionable efforts ... I love me some big ol' 80's sunglasses.

16 March 2010

She's Just Resting

I had heard muffled sounds of music and various thump, thumping. Not unusual for rest time to include some vigorous dancing. But then. The thumping stopped while the music continued. I set upstairs, following the the unmistakable sounds of the ever jovial "Wiggles," and discovered this scene.

Jane, stripped of appropriate cold-weather clothing, now wearing last-year's-but-definitely-way-too-small-for this-year swimming suit, shorts, and pink cardigan. And when you are all wiggled out, why not relax on a giraffe blanket and examine forgotten toys?

If We Discover

"If we discover a desire within us that nothing in this world can satisfy,
also we should begin to wonder
if perhaps we were created for another world."

-C.S. Lewis

14 March 2010

I Ain't Scared

How come so many of us tremble and quake at the thought of making a pie crust? Is it the cutting in of butter into "small peas"? Or the sprinkling of water that never seems enough until you've sprinkled so much it turns gooey? Maybe the rolling out and then praying it stays in one piece as you beg it to slide into the pie pan. And the crimping. Of course you have to manage that edge crimping.

There are a lot of steps to making a crust. But those fillings are so darn easy and pie always looks so impressive! Recently, I decided the fear and perfectionism must be banished and pie crust making must commence. Since I am all about quick tips and cheater versions, here are a couple to nudge you towards that empty pie pan:

Wax Paper
Someone recently explained to me how she rolls out her dough in between two pieces of lightly floured waxed paper. I can't even begin to explain how much easier this is! Dampen your counter slightly so the paper doesn't wiggle all around and roll from the center out.

Once you can flip a pie pan on top of the rolled-out dough for measurement, making sure it is a good inch wider than the pan all the way around, trim the edges with a knife so it is a nice, smooth circle. (Save the scraps to toast up with cinnamon sugar for the tots. And if you are clever like my mother, they can even re-roll it and use small cookie cutters.)

Now, here's some more brilliance. Peel off the top layer of waxed paper and discard. Lift the bottom piece of waxed paper up by the middle, with pie crust on it, and ... while still holding in the air ... let it fold in half, dough side up, like an upside-down taco. Are you still with me? All you have to do now is place the folded pie-crust in the pan with the middle at the center of the pan. Grab the top corners of the waxed paper to unfold onto the other half of pan. You can now wiggle it around until it is centered perfectly. Gently, gently, peel off the waxed paper. Voila! All you have to do now is press into pan, fold under edges and do a little crimping. And if the crimping has you flustered, just press around the edges with the tines of a fork and call it good.

Crumb Topping!
Near breathless from just completing one pie crust let alone two? Don't bother putting a crust on the top, just toss together a little crumble. Flour, sugar, butter, and even some oats. Every cookbook has a recipe.

I still don't make amazing pie crusts. But pie has a way of still tasting delicious. Added bonus? Tell your family you made them a pie and you'll lauded with praise and smiles. Definitely worth the effort.

Any more pie tips out there? I'd love to hear them.

• Butter Pie Crust •
Single pie crust recipe. Double if needed.

Combine in mixer:
1.25 c. unbleached flour
.25 t. salt

Add (or cut in by hand) mix 'til coarse crumb texture:
.5 c. butter, chilled and diced

Slowly add, 'til mixture forms a smooth ball (Don't overmix!):
2 T cold water

Let rest and roll out as usual.

If precooking:
Prick with fork and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes with parchment lining and pie weights (I use dried beans!), then remove paper and weights and bake for another 10-15 minutes.

12 March 2010

Grand Possibility

When your children are young, their future holds such mysterious possibilities. Learning about their interests, encouraging new experiences, watching unique pieces of self being revealed.

Peter has long been fascinated with ancient cultures, geography, and archeology. A persistent curiosity that doesn't seem to wane. The other day, while washing dishes, I turned to Pops and remarked, "You know, I just can't wait to meet the man he becomes, given another 20 years. I want to learn all about his life."

Ultimately, all I really hope for in the lives of my children is hearts that are devoted to Him and have a desire to serve others. The profession that gets them through the day? Not a big deal. That said, this is their time of life to dream and wonder, and like any hopelessly devoted mother, I'm just sure the future holds grand possibility.

10 March 2010

Unlikely Beauty

Lucette had picked a branch of cherry blossoms to adorn our living room. It sat in a vase and charmed us until it was just too tired to do so anymore.

As I went to dispose of the branch, I noticed how exquisite the wilted blossoms were. Like little fairy dresses from a bygone era. Such beauty in that which has grown weary.

The reminder was timely. Weariness reveals itself in time and age, yes. But also in effort, hope, heartbreak, patience, sadness, even love. However, beauty is not lost in weariness. It just takes on a different form. Quiet, a little fragile perhaps, but if one is willing to adjust the gauge ... beautiful indeed.

You gave abundant showers, O God;
you refreshed your weary inheritance.
Psalm 68:9

09 March 2010

One-Pot Dinner

Now, what housewife isn't attracted to one-pot dinner recipes? And when you've a friend like Edith, the possibilities abound.

Last night, we tried a tasty pasta recipe from Glorious One-Pot Meals. I'm thoroughly enjoying a cookbook that revolves around my giant cast-iron pot. However, I must mention that the recipes are, oddly, designed to serve two. A hearty two, but hardly family size. As long as I remember to up the ingredient amounts it's not a large issue.

So, herewith, the (altered) recipe for a yummy pot of dinner:

• Farmhouse Pasta •

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and as heating, toast on cookie sheet:

• 1/3 c. pine nuts
Watch carefully, as these will brown quickly. Set aside to cool.

Spray pot and lid with cooking spray and add:
• 3 c. tubular pasta
• 1.25 c. water
• a few cranks/shakes of sea salt

Scatter on top:
• 6 oz. goat cheese, in chunks
• 1/2 small red onion
• .5 c. oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
• .25-.5 t. red pepper flakes
• 1 T dried basil (or fresh leaves if you have it!)
• .25 c. balsamic vinegar
mushrooms, halved
• toasted pine nuts

Wash and stem:
• 1 large bunch kale

Top with as much kale as you can fit in the pot and still have the lid fit tightly. Cover and bake for 45 minutes.

** Slice some salami and sprinkle into the mix if you'd like to meat it up!
** Serve kale in separate bowl with a sprinkling of balsamic and a little salt and pepper.

08 March 2010

Daffy Down Dillies

Daffy down dilly
Has come into town,

In a yellow petticoat
And a green gown.
-Traditional Rhyme

06 March 2010

To Love and Be Loved in Return

When I was in high school, my father gave me a locket. It was pretty, it had an engraved forget-me-not (my favorite flower), and it was even real gold. All the elements to make a young girl feel adored by her daddy.

But what was really meaningful about this locket were the pictures he placed inside.

A father and his little girl.

How grateful I am to have grown up with the tender love of a father. It taught me to expect nothing less from the men in my life and that, in turn, led me to a husband who loves his little girls with the same tender devotion. I am blessed.

04 March 2010

An Evening Surprise

The other day, Jane helped me make pudding for dessert. A most special treat, since dessert is typically not served on a weeknight.

We made a chocolate and vanilla batch and were quite pleased with our dual swirl in the cups and the dash of nutmeg on top. Into the refrigerator with much hand clapping and excitement.

The children raced through their evening meal that night and happily received their cups of creamy goodness. In the spoons plunged with smiles abounding.

But then, there was a quiet yet abrupt pause in the moment. While Pops and I attacked our pudding cups with great industriousness, the child spoons slowed, their smiles turning quizzical.

Turns out, none of my children like pudding. Say what??

03 March 2010

To Be a Lady

After donning the lacy headscarf from the thrift store, she danced down the pink blossomed sidewalk and declared: "Ladies don't run ... they skip."

And skip she did, all the way to the mailbox and back.

02 March 2010

A Feather Found

I think every child loves to find a feather. There is always the brief flash of wonder ... how did this feather get here? How long was it waiting for me?

And then the fingers get busy. Feeling the smooth length of it. Separating the segments and magically zipping them back up again. A feathery tickle for a cheek.

I've never seen a feather fall from a bird. Only discovered tucked, wedged, or just resting upon the space I'm about to pass. And I still like to wonder about the journey it's taken on the way to be found. Yes. It's good to be found.

01 March 2010

Morning Scones are Nice

In slight disbelief that it is already March, I'm finding myself reflecting a bit on my January plans. The exercising kicked me right off the wagon about a week and a half ago, but I'm climbing back on, girls. I'm climbing back on.

Evening book reading? Coming along nicely. The children and I finished The Railway Children a bit ago and now are marching through Five Little Peppers and How They Grew. Some evenings we are just all too tired and must tuck into bed, but on the whole? Much improvement on such an easy and delightful experience to be had together.

And surprisingly, the goal of eating breakfast together has been far less taxing than I expected. In fact, it's breathed some new life into our home and interaction with each other. I quite marvel at how an setting the alarm 20 minutes earlier and making a morning meal to be shared at the table could be rather transformative. Time to talk, to taste, to read scripture, and even sing. My goodness. What a blessing.

This morning we had tea, apple slices and these easy-peasie soft scones. It was nice.

• Jammy Coconut Scones •

Mix well until butter is well cut in:
• 1.75 c. flour (white whole wheat is excellent)
• .5 c. shredded coconut
• .5 c. oats
• 2 T sugar
• 2 t. baking powder
• .25 t. salt
• 1/3 c. cold butter, cut into cubes

In small bowl, beat together:
• 2 eggs
• .5 c. milk (coconut milk is nice, too)

Add to dry mixture and mix until just moistened. (Reserve just a smidge to brush on top later.)

Butter baking sheet and pat dough into a round (about 8 inches). Brush remaining egg mixture over top. Score dough into 8 wedges with a knife and make a depression with spoon at end of each wedge. Fill with a dollop of jam. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar (regular works fine too).

Bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes.