Monday, January 31, 2011

this beautiful mess

Saturday was demo day at our house.  I don't quite know how to put into words how completely grateful we are for those who came ready to tear it up, on a Saturday.  
For the wives who encouraged their husbands to leave them, kids and their own "honey-do lists" behind to go work on someone else’s house.  Our house.  BLESS you dear souls!  It was dusty, nasty, hard work.  At one point, Andy said he heard hammers in all corners of our house, the push of shovels, and was overwhelmed to tears with gratitude.  We feel so truly blessed.

 part of the crew...

When I walked into the house, the first word that came to my mind was “hideous.”  You can say it.  I thought it.  Absolutely…hideous!  The next thought (and words out of my mouth) was "What have we done?"
They tell me this is what it takes to make new. 
It will take longer, is much harder, and requires patience...but is worth the wait.  
It would have been easier to go in and cover over the cracks in the walls with puddy and paint.  That would have looked prettier, more put together.  But it would only be a matter of time before we would find out about the rats’ nest…or the bats…or who knows what else was in the fury of dust and asbestos that poured out from behind those walls when a sledgehammer cracked into them.  
I think about this as I drive home.  About this mess.  It feels vulnerable.    It's refining.  And we are so very dependent.  But there's beauty in that.  

The hard discipline is to lean into the ugly and whisper thanks to transfigure it into beauty.  The hard discipline is to give thanks for all things at all times because He is all good.  

I have lived the runner, panting ahead in worry, pounding back in regrets, terrified to live in the present, because here-time asks me to do the hardest of all: just open wide and receive.  - Ann Voskamp

Learning to open wide and receive, giving thanks in all things, for all things.
Especially this beautiful mess....and for all those who helped us make it!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

chicken rice soup...just like home

We've been fighting off some colds over here.  Nothing sounds quite as good as my mom’s chicken rice soup.  Of course, what sounds even better is my mom making it for me...  How lovely that would be.  And was.  But it's my turn now, to give my kids the same memory I have of this hitting the spot on an under the weather sort of day.

Chicken Rice Soup
6 c. chicken stock
2 carrots
2 celery ribs
1/2 onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. cooked chicken (or leftover thanksgiving turkey I'd frozen)
2 c. cooked rice
1 c. cilantro
Cook chopped veggies in chicken broth until tender.  Add cooked chicken, rice, and cilantro until heated through.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

I've been well-cared for, as you can see.  Jude made me some lunch of his own too - fresh fish he caught from the ocean and told me "your food is weady, mama" (above pic).  

He even made me some hot tea (again, using his "skeeky bath toys").

Jack's motto all-around is that laughter is still the best medicine. 

There is a super-fun new club that just opened in our living room.  And I was invited!  

I am so blessed to be learning from Ann Voskamp's 
One Thousand Gifts: a dare to live fully right where you are   

"What will a life magnify?  The world's stress cracks, the grubbiness of a day, all that is wholly wrong and terribly busted?  Or God?"
Magnify Him with thanksgiving.  Psalm 69.30
"As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible."  
above excerpts from Ann Voskamp's book

Even here. Even today. Even under the weather. Abounding in thanks, for
the chance to be home with my loves,
lingering hugs in the kitchen before work,
morning fellowship with a couple who is ready to leave it all for the sake of Your name,
little one stopping his cry when he hears my voice,
continued direction with our house,
years that have built trust,
hope and peace!
magnify Your name in this all. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

broccoli beef stirfry

I meant to add this earlier to my previous thoughts, but I accidentally pressed post instead of preview, and since I still haven't taken the time to figure out how to pull a post when I do that...Today is your daily double!

Broccoli Beef Stir-fry... 
or known 'round here as prehistoric trees (broccoli), dinosaur bones (beef), and dinosaur eggs (rice)
1 T. coconut oil
4 T. soy sauce (I use GF tamari sauce)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
12 oz. **marinated lean beef steak, cut into strips (I use sirloin)
1/4 c. dry red wine (you could sub beef broth)
2 t. cornstarch
2 small bunches broccoli, cut into small florets
Cooked rice or rice noodles
Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok.  Add the beef, garlic, ginger, soy sauce and stirfry over medium heat until beef is browned.  In a small bowl, mix the wine and cornstarch well.  Add to the pan the broccoli (and any other desired vegetables - sliced red pepper or green onion would be delish) and the cornstarch mixture; cooking until vegetables are just tender, 5 minutes or so.  I cover them for a bit during this, stirring often.  
Serve with rice or rice noodles.

**I like to marinate the steak in soy sauce, garlic, and ginger for atleast 30  minutes.  But the longer, the better really.

a brand new day.

I love this space to share the joys and victories of our little life, whether it be a gluten-free recipe or restoring a home or just some random thoughts.  But you gotta know with 3 boys…3 creative. adventurous. passionate. boys…our life can be very…lively.  Sometimes I step back and wonder how it all got so crazy over here!  
Although, to be honest, I love this little face...
Tempers flare.  Brothers turn on each other.  Mani- pulation used. Irrationality fades into meltdowns.  My heart aches.  A few weeks ago, we found ourselves in a trying parenting phase. Conse-quences given.  And still no sign of hearts softened, attitudes changed, peace restored, shalom in the home.  And again, we were…at a loss. 
As I have for almost 8 years now, I check on them after they are asleep.  But this time I’m urged to cover them with more than a blanket.  I cover them in prayer.  I can’t do this on my own.  I ask our Father’s help.  I need a heart-changer, a heart-healer.  And He meets me there.  In my tears.  In my longings.  In my weakness and all my shortcomings that overwhelm me.  I plead for His grace in our lives, for the fruit of His Spirit, for a fresh start. 

The words come to mind: every breath is a second chance.  
(from switchfoot's song always)
For me.  For them.  Even if tomorrow unfolds as it has before, there’s always late-night prayer in a quiet room over the souls of my children.  I’m starting to see that may be the best thing I do as a mom.  Looking to the Prince of peace, for a second chance.

Friday, January 21, 2011

love the little things.

Just a few weeks ago, we were sitting on the couch for a few hours with nothing to "do."  No big matters to discuss, the house was clean, laundry folded, kids asleep, checkbook balanced, with a cup of tea in hand, I told Andy "we need to find some sort of hobby to do."  The words were out of my mouth before I realized what I said (oh, the joy of being an extrovert :)  He paused (because he is in the category of "he who thinks before he speaks") and says... "Like renovate a house?"  
Well, guess what?  We have a hobby.  
It has taken up any extra nook and cranny of time we have left to give.  And we haven't even lifted a finger yet, it's still in the planning stage.  I just can't wait to get in there to rip up the old carpet, tear down some walls...The plans continue to form in my mind of what it could be, what it is going to be.  But I'm starting to realize the patience it takes to do things well, redo things right.  I have so much to learn.

When something is broken, I just want to fix it.  But I have a feeling God is teaching me to wait, and I have more to apply it to than simply our house.  Not just waiting it out until it's the way I want it to be.  But being still in His presence.  Not rushing in with my sledgehammer to rebuild.  But to ask.  To trust.  To praise.  To love the little things.

There's a lot to love.
Like, SNOW DAYS!!!

and having my boys all to myself all day long!!!

this boy reading to me.  he is SO grown up!!!

BLT salads with avocado and homemade GF croutons!!!

basil, even in January!!!

He makes all things new.  
And I love that sometimes in our waiting, we realize that what truly needed renewed was ourselves.  

He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.  Psalm 40.3

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

glazed cinnamon scones

An actual conversation in our home last week.
Miles:  We don't have school Monday because it is King Michael Junior's Birthday.
Me:  Wow, that's great!  Who was King Michael Jr?
Miles:  He was a brown man who wouldn't give up his seat on the bus.  
Andy:  I have a dream this afternoon...  
Miles:  It wasn't a dream, dad.  It was real.  
(This boy never ceases to make me smile with his twist on grown-up conversations and all his drawings I find laying around :)

Today we celebrated dreams.  
Last night, I asked the boys what one thing they would hope to do most today.  
Jack replied sledding and hot chocolate.  Miles requested we play games.  
And Jude had several dreams of his own...
There's a whole lot of dreaming going on over here...

I dream of meeting the recipient of this little bundle someday (I'm sure you feel the same, Holl :)

These glazed cinnamon scones are so completely dreamy (I substituted GF flour and added 1 t. guar gum.)  But, I have not figured out how to be gluten-free AND sugar-free, since one of them is a must and the other...well, there's always next month...
In between all the "dreaming" of our own, I read up on the man whose dream we ultimately celebrate today.  

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. 

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. 

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.

Life's most urgent question is, what are you doing for others?

We must use time creatively. 
- Martin Luther King Jr.

I cannot even imagine the hate this man must have known, and to read his perspective is so very inspiring to me.  To use our time creatively to love ALL men.  Because there are some dreams that are just too good to leave it at that.  I would say sharing the love that God has lavished on us, regardless of our nationality, background or color, is one of them.

Friday, January 14, 2011

homemade laundry soap

We're in the process of praying through our Christmas cards.  I love how much the kids have gotten into it this year.  The other day when Miles saw Kim and Luke were on top of the pile, he asked if we could save them for dinner since he would be at school for lunch and didn't want to miss out praying for them.  

Included in the pile was our first Christmas card for next year from one who is working this year on being prompt :)  I have a lot to learn from this lady.  And so, two weeks later, here is the laundry soap recipe lovely Jules...

a healthier alternative to regular detergent,
a cheaper option than natural laundry soap,
AND its quick and easy.
I timed myself. It takes less than 15 minutes to make (and that includes taking 2 pics).

homemade laundry soap
2 c. grated bar soap (I use Dr. Bronner's all-natural soap.  Peppermint is our fave, but almond smells so good to be devoured, and lavendar would be a sweet gift for a new baby)
1 c. borax 
1 c. baking soda
1 c. washing soda
Mix well.  Use 1/8 cup per load.  

And, while I'm being so prompt, here's the french onion soup recipe you asked for, like 3 years ago...

soupe a la onion (pour le crockpot)
4-6 onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 T. butter
1/4 c. red wine, optional
4 1/2 c. beef broth
1 1/2 t. worchestire sauce
freshly ground black pepper

Cook onions and garlic in melted butter 15 minutes over medium heat, covered, stirring occasionally.  (If using red wine, stir into onion mixture after 10 minutes and simmer on med-low).  Transfer to crockpot.  Add remaining ingredients.  Cook on low 5-8 hours or on high 2-3 hours.  
Serve with toasted french bread topped with melted cheese (mozzarella or swiss, or gruyere if you're fancy :)

A little gluten-free trick to replace the french bread is to make your own croutons from GF bread (Here, I cut up some some leftover GF naan bread I had made, drizzled with olive oil and salt and toasted until browned - GF sandwich bread works as well)  

Thursday, January 13, 2011


We closed on our house today!!!
We are the elated owners of one. big. ol'. mess... laced with wondrous possibilities.  

I still somehow see what it is going to be.  We've been scouring blogs for ideas of bungalow/craftsman-style house renovations (and are open to suggestions please :)  I didn't foresee being in the position to choose everything from paint to cabinets to countertops to appliances to fireplace mantel to bathrooms to light fixtures...I have a feeling craigslist and e-bay will become close acquaintances of ours.

This house was such an answer to prayer.  
1.  My ideals in a house were: wood floors, fireplace, basement.  Other than that, it didn't matter.  This house also had the added bonus of cat-pee and painted butterflies on the walls...
2.  We put an offer on it within 24 hours of being on the market.  Being a cash-only sale, we were told there had already been an accepted offer.  After a weeks-worth of dreams, I asked Andy if there was any way he could check if there was still a chance.  Because he loves me (and, because I can be a little persistent :), he called the realtor one more time.  A few hours later we were asked to put in another offer.  AND, a few days later they accepted it!  Unbelievable, really.    
3.  After our offer was accepted, I couldn't wait to walk inside for the first time.  Never thought we'd buy a house I hadn't seen...

I'm not sure what we have gotten ourselves into.  But we're ecstatic!
So, before our house project overtakes this blog, I have some crafts to fill you in on.

Remember those vintage door knobs?
Merry Christmas to my brothers and sisters:

And, Merry Christmas to me :)  
I cannot wait to hang this in our "new" home.


Monday, January 10, 2011

ghiradelli chocolate cheesecake

There's a little bit of a story behind this cheesecake, but I'll spare you the details of trying to find a gluten-free meal in Chicago last weekend on our anniversary getaway and just tell you that Cheesecake Factory did NOT have a GF cheesecake.  So, this was made upon our return home, and was super yummy, AND much less than the $7 a piece they were charging.  

ghiradelli chocolate cheesecake 
18 crushed oreos (about 1 1/2 cups)  (OR cocoa pebbles because they are gluten-free.  I used 1 cup crushed cocoa pebbles and 6 GF oreos.  Next time I'd like to try a mixture of nuts and cocoa pebbles)
2 T. melted butter (I used 4 T.)
4 pkg. softened cream cheese (I used 2 regular and 2 neufchatel cheese)
1 c. sugar 
2 T. flour (I used GF rice flour blend)
1 t. vanilla
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled slightly (it's worth the extra $1 to buy ghiradelli)
4 eggs
HEAT oven to 325.  Mix cookie crumbs and butter.  Press into 9 inch springform pan.  Bake 10 min.  BEAT cream cheese, sugar, flour, vanilla with mixer until well blended.  Add melted chocolate; mix well.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low after each just until blended.  Pour over crust.  BAKE 55 min. to 1 hr. or until center is almost set.  Run knife around rim of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing rim.  **Refrigerate atleast 4 hours.  
**I would refrigerate atleast overnight, and I think it tasted even better the next day after that.**
source: adapted from the Philadelphia brand cream cheese recipe

Now, I have officially sworn off sweets until Valentine's Day.  SO, that is the last of the desserts for me for awhile.  This afternoon we're feasting on kale chips.  I know, it's weird.  But somehow our boys love them...and it was Jack's suggestion to make them today.  Really.  Here's the proof...

This morning as I left for Zumba, I noticed the many tracks in our driveway, revealing how full our weekend was.  And I was overcome with gratitude for the people in our lives.  The refreshment I feel this morning comes from the fullness that those relationships bring, and from seeing God's hand in crossing our paths.  

Thursday, January 6, 2011

10, and counting...

Has it been a decade already?!

The past 10 years has taught us lots...
That the hard times make the good ones all the sweeter.  That yesterday is grace, today is a gift and tomorrow is uncertain - we must never take today for granted.  That it doesn't matter if our 10th anniversary dinner is Trader Joe’s in a parking garage in Chicago, because anything can be special with the one I love.
Happy Anniversary, B!  
You still sweep me off my feet.
(Nevermind the black leather coat, jeans and hiking shoes in is one of my top regrets of the past 10 years :)
Our life may be a little piece of crazy, but there's no one I would rather journey through it with than you.

 Here's to many many more...

I'll be back here posting more recipes soon.  
We're still adjusting to getting back into the school routine...But next up for sure is this ghiradelli chocolate cheesecake, our anniversary treat :)