November 28, 2011

diamond in the rough

Did you ever have a day when you needed a little shot of victory, even if it was someone else's?  Well, today was like that for me, and if you read on, it may be your lucky day, too.

I want to introduce you to a family who lives near me.  They have accomplished much just in raising their own family with love, but recently they took on something much, much larger - so large that God alone could bring success.

And He did.

They adopted a precious, desperately mal-nourished and under-developed little girl with Down's syndrome from another country, which was a miraculous journey in and of itself.  They are now trying to love her back to health.  I watch eagerly as the story unfolds, and this child of God is enfolded in the arms of God Himself through the loving care of this family.

Katerina is nine and a half.  Years, not months.  And this family has already, in a short, short time, loved her from this:

to this:

I hope their story blesses you as it has me.

Click here for Katerina's Story...

November 22, 2011

rainy day thanks

When it's sunny and the children are cheerful and the husband is home and the floors are clean and time lasts longer than the to-do list, it's easy to be thankful, it flows effortless as springwaters after rainfall.

But it doesn't bless me like being thankful does when the rains have been scarce and the spring has dried up to a trickle.

Today, with tight schedule made tighter by bowing to Lil' Snip's needs, with heart heavy from one sister's careless cruel words to another, with eyes aching from sleep I didn't get, with dark skies out my window instead of sunshine ... today it blesses me to be thankful.

I will be thankful ...

... for my Farmer, willing to do the uncomfortable thing because it benefits someone else, the hard thing because it's right.

... that a nap is helping Lil' Snip's enormous grouchiness, even though it complicates my plans for the day.

... that my family defied my expectations and liked those chicken hearts, actually preferred them to maple syrup on their waffles!!

... for that look of love he gives me, still.

... for a daughter's rush of remorse over her unkindness.

... for hard pretzels and leftover cheese fondue.

... for hard cider, so sweet & uncomplicated

... that when the sewing machine wouldn't, it wasn't for a necessary project.

... for the longday ache and knowing that bedtime is coming.

... for a really good garlic dill pickle.

... for a choice to not be offended.

And I thank my Creator, who does all things well, that in his generous wisdom he commands me to be thankful in everything, knowing that the thanking will bless me even more than the blessings themselves.

November 14, 2011

Rosemary-Garlic Focaccia

I have another winner to pass along to you!  This one had Lil' Snip giving me conspiratorial giggles when I laid pinches of it on his highchair tray.  When your children think they've gotten away with something you know the food is good!

My slightly aged recipe card says "Mother Earth News" on it so I'll trust that that information is correct, and although I can't vouch for volume, issue, or page number, I can vouch for the yumminess factor.  Since I used the "wrong" cheese, and since it's the cheese that carries this, I'm also going to take credit for the yumminess factor.  (and now you know what kind of magazines I read...)

* p.s. this recipe also makes great breadsticks.  When you get to the asterisk in the recipe, just form into breadsticks about half the thickness you like, any length, and bake at 425 F till they're browned.  I brushed them with the extra infused oil.  Yum!

Rosemary-Garlic Focaccia

3 T olive oil
1 tsp. rosemary (dried)
3 large garlic cloves, quartered

Heat oil with rosemary and garlic until garlic begins to sizzle.  Set aside.

1 cup warm water
1 T dry yeast
1 T honey

Sprinkle yeast over warm water and honey in large bowl.  Add:

1 cup unbleached flour

Whisk well, cover and let set 30 minutes to rise.  Remove rosemary and garlic from oil.  Mince garlic and set aside for topping.  Add half the oil to the yeast sponge, stir, and add, stirring well:

1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt* (see above note on making breadsticks)

Cover and let rise 45 minutes.  Oil hands with remaining oil and place dough on oiled cookie sheet.  Press into 10x12" oval.  Sprinkle with:

1/2 lb sharp Swiss cheese (I used an Emmental which, having gotten it at our local dent and bent, I'm pretty sure was well-aged)
the minced garlic
extra rosemary or oregano (my children found the extra dose of rosemary too strong, but tolerated the oregano just fine).

Let rise 30 minutes.  Bake at 400 degrees F till lightly browned (10-15 minutes).  Cut into wedges with a pizza wheel and serve!  Yum!  (we had it with beef stew)

November 11, 2011


If you were to peek into our lives over the last few weeks, 
here is what you might have seen ....

Grandma not only gave Mommy the day off, she set the girls to making applesauce while she was there!  They made and canned 13 quarts, all finished before Mommy came home.

We spent a day baking and decorating cookies for Sugar and Spice to sell 
at church to raise money for Bibles for India.

For five lovely days we played at a cabin in the mountains, 
part of the time with extended family.  

Teepees that grow more elaborate with each year that we go.  
This year they made "natural museums" complete with little mossy displays.

Lil' Snip loves his corners!

My Farmer was thrilled to find over a dozen different (and new to him) forms of fungus.

And everyday adventures.....

Dressing Lil' Snip up in a Honduran vest that Daddy wore when he was little:

Bounty of colorful carrots from my Farmer's fields:

Tasting agar (!?) from an extra petri dish my Farmer filled for propagating mushrooms:

Tea party surprise one day after Quiet Time:

Sunshine transforming the ordinary:

Our "Farmers' Breakfast":  kale and onions, toast, egg on ham with broiled cheese & tomatoes, coffee, and two squares of dark chocolate to finish it off.

November 8, 2011

Feta Avocado Salsa

Served this tonight with our usual black beans and rice (which, remind me sometime, I want to include in the recipe box eventually since for some reason my family swoons over black beans and rice - the girls have been known to request it for their birthday dinners).  This salsa ... words fail me.  May I just say, we don't bother with chips.  Even Lil' Snip, all of 18 months old currently, gets demanding after the first taste.  And that's with raw onions in it, folks.

[Actually, to be perfectly honest, my daughters are not the ones scarfing this up.  The Farmer, Lil' Snip, and I take sole responsibility for the salsa consumption.  But - where I've served it to other adults, the accompanying chips appear to be of secondary, or possibly tertiary, interest.]

This is one recipe I have not tinkered with.  I originally got it from my sister and consider it just one more proof of the good taste I've always known her to have.

Feta Avocado Salsa

1 cup chopped tomatoes
1-2 ripe avocado(s) chopped
1/4 cup finely diced red onion (Vidalia types work well, too)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T chopped cilantro
1 T olive oil
1 T red wine vinegar
1 T lime juice
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese

Chop what needs to be chopped, then mix it up with the liquids - use an easy hand and kind of fold it together, though, so it doesn't turn into mush (although I can vouch for it's being tasty that way, as well).  Last of all turn the crumbled feta into the salsa, and chill that puppy as long as you can resist its siren song (but not longer than, say, overnight).  [We have noticed no ill effects resulting from immediate consumption.]

November 7, 2011

5 minutes on remembering

Linking up with the Gypsy Mama this morning, a few days late, to keep the writing part of my brain from getting rusty.  Every week she cues us with a subject, to write unedited for five minutes flat, to "just write" without worrying about whether or not it's "just right."

(If you're thinking about sharpening your skills again, join us some Friday ... or any day ... )

This week's cueword:  remembering ...


I'm remembering, alright, but I'm remembering anew.

When I was 18 months old (my mother told me later, dating it by how pregnant she remembers being with my brother), I was dropped off in a basement childcare arrangement while my mother worshipped with some neighbors up above.  There were toys and kind ladies, I remember.  But what haunted me for decades was the stairs.

I remember climbing those stairs, crying (loudly, my mother said) in the dark, hearing my mother's voice soaring with the others, unreachable.

The stairs went on and on; I never reached the top.  I suppose one of the kind ladies took me in hand.  All I remember is the climbing and the crying.  For years, all I knew was that I wanted Mommy and she wouldn't come.

Rejection.  Abandonment.

I wrote about it in college for an "earliest memory" assignment.  I got an A.

Later, much later, I asked my mom about it.  I could have saved myself so much hurt by asking sooner.  She'd heard me and ached with me.  She'd tried, sometimes, to have me with her, but I was wiggly and restless.

Her love for me spoke volumes.  I heard it in her eyes, her voice.  The hurts were healed.

So now, when I remember, I see more than just the stairs.  I see my mother hearing me, distracted from the singing, wondering what to do with that beloved child, what's best ....


p.s.  Mom, I love you.  And now that I've got "one of those" I understand, better.  Thanks for being patient with me while you waited.  You're still doing a great job.

November 6, 2011

thanking in the week ...

Some days the thanking comes harder than others.  Some days I don't even want to thank.  There is something sinful in me that wants to wallow, sometimes, something that shrinks whining from the light of the freedom that gratitude brings, and wants only to peer into the dark.

I'm on my fourth child.  Many have borne more than me, in quantity and "quality", if you know what I mean.  I wouldn't dare to try to claim that I've the heaviest load to bear.  But for me, for now, this load is some days all that I can carry - more than I can carry.  And I forget, sometimes, Him on whose shoulders the government rests, who offers to bear the load with me, to share the yoke, to catch my tossed-on-him cares, to care for me and give me rest for my soul.

I forget.

It was one of those days today.  The fourth child is birthing his own fourth, an eyetooth.  Stubbornly sensitive, lingering, that pearly little gem will not emerge.  The tender bud that will be gets in the way of everything he wants to chew: toast, beloved apples, even cheese.  Understandably, he resents that.  Unfortunately, he resents it loudly.  Unrelentingly.  Even in the middle of the night.

I don't know how many times we heard him last night.  At first, forgetting how it works with him, we went to him, all sympathy and warm comfort.  He hushed to our caresses ... until we laid him down.  How he wailed.  No one had e're been wronged like he had.  To be left alone!  In flannel-sheeted crib with special plush blanket!  (Compared to Mama's arms, it was a hardship).

By morning we were wearied, equally from his whining wails as from lack of sleep.  Some "extra" hour we'd had.

But gamely we pulled ourselves together and went to church.  All teary-prone, my "fine" fooled no one, and a few listened with sympathy to tales of teething, and remembered.

Later, when I had rested, I flipped some pages in my notebook and pen in hand began to think.  In all my weariness and utter, pathetic lack, what is there to be thankful for?

God's always good:  there's always something (usually more).  Here's what I found, today, bleary-eyed (and wanting only what I couldn't have: cease of pain):

391 - sympathetic ears

392 - hope for a new day tomorrow (and a better night tonight!)

393 - teachings of truth

394 - their delight in braided loaf, with butter and cheese

395 - long afternoon of quiet

396 - wealth of persimmons, overflowing baskets despite the birds

397 - the good-humored chuckle amidst all that whining

398 - wooden puzzles

399 - pampas grass swaying, shining silken in the sun

400 - sunlit life

401 - smart-alecky husband (but you're right, dear, I wouldn't want you any other way!)

402 - wool sweaters and afternoon coffee

403 - an outside for them to play in!

404 - "this too shall pass"

(my own refrain of praise, from #1 till now ....)

November 3, 2011

what's in a name?

Last night I sat at a pottery wheel and spun some clay.  I picked up tools and dug in pots to make designs.  I drew.  I cut.  I smoothed out seams with fingers.  I pulled a handle and fastened it to make a mug, a pitcher.  I used the pictures in my head and in my sketchbook.

I am an amateur, unprofessional, a hobbyist.  I am a mother with a BA in English and a TESL minor, raising children, and throwing pots for fun.  I pay for the privilege of instruction.  I sit under people who earn (at least part of) their living from their art.  Any dreams I have of making pottery "for a living" are very faint indeed, dimmed by my very real and present duties of cooking and cleaning and loving, and pulled out only on weekend retreats.

My classmates, fellow hopefuls who have tried their hands at this for years, complimented everything I did last night, ooh-ing and ahh-ing with abandon.

Feeling dishonest with my "thank-you's", my discomfort reached a tipping point when one of them spied my sketchbook left open, full of chicken scratch, attempts to capture beauty with a pen to help my memory.  More exclamations, and then,

"Are you an artist?"

I thought how I should answer.  "I am a mom," I said.  "I have an English major and I like to make pottery - a lot.  Does that  make me an artist?"

She looked back in my book.  "You're an artist."  Her voice was firm, authoritative from her decades of teaching school.

What's in a name?  What separates the amateur from the artist?  As much as I'd like to believe her, and as much as I appreciate the encouragement, I think she's wrong.  The admiration of amateurs does not determine art, but the acceptance of those who have already gained acceptance from those who have already gained acceptance from .... the public.  Hmmm.  Perhaps I have created a circular argument.

Either that or my brain is just limp with listening to Nice playing with Lil' Snip, talking nonstop in that piercing voice reserved for the hard-of-hearing, foreigners, and small children.

But feel free to point me in the right direction, someone - what is  the criteria for defining art?

(I'll come back in an hour; my brain will be more receptive when they're all enjoying "Quiet Time" ...!)

November 1, 2011

crab soup, Maryland-style

I first had this soup for lunch with a friend in a very busy and crowded restaurant (which I think is the best endorsement you can give an eatery) in Northeast, MD, en route to Chincoteague, VA for a camping weekend, if I remember correctly (good grief, that was nearly 20 years ago!!).  Our tent (and, more importantly, our sleeping bags) got soaked in a deluge and I got pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence (at 10 in the morning and 18 years old, needless to say, the only influence I was under was excitement ... although I admit that driving with my left foot out the window may not have been the savviest move).

But that's a story for another time.  Back to the crab soup, which was so good that as soon as I got my hands on some crabmeat, I tried to recreate the experience.  Unfortunately, that wasn't until five years later, in small-town coastal Japan, but my tastebuds have a better memory than the rest of my senses, and I think I came pretty close.  Here's the recipe I'm serving tonight, with cheddar-garlic biscuits adapted from Betty Crocker's cookbook:

Maryland-style Crab Soup

1/2 lb shrimp - steam and shell, set aside
1/2 lb crabmeat (I use the real deal, in a one pound refrigerated can - the other half pound goes for crab dip, another crowd-pleaser.  Maybe I'll post that recipe another day)

4 potatoes, cubed and cooked (I add the potato water to the soup, too)
corn / carrots / green beans (optional - about 1-2 cups total, depending on how thick you want the soup)

While the potatoes (and vegetables) are cooking, use butter to saute:
red bell pepper
celery (in a pinch, celery seed will do)

To the potatoes and sauteed vegetables add:
28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
2 cups each chicken broth and shrimp broth (I use the water I cooked/steamed the shrimp in, or just more chicken broth - and see here for how to make the best chicken broth you've ever eaten)
1 bay leaf
splash of Worchestershire
pinch each of clove and cayenne (more than a pinch of the hot stuff if you like it spicy)
a few grinds of black pepper

When all vegetables are tender, add the shrimp and crab.  You're just heating them through.  Don't boil them or they'll get tough (although I've done that by accident and the flavor is still fabulous).  In fact this soup is great made the day before and just heated up at mealtime to serve.  Garnish with cilantro, and prepare yourself to hear raves from your family or guests......

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