Tuesday, March 29, 2011

dress shirt by day. cloth napkin by night.

Some people may call this pack-rat.  I like to think of it as re-purposing.
Here's a little tale of a girl who cannot throw anything away without wondering what else it could become...

About a year ago, we started moving toward a paper-less kitchen, using cloth napkins instead of paper.  At first it was an economic decision.  Not that it saves a ton, but every little bit counts... We do so much laundry anyway, it's not extra to throw in a few napkins.  But now I just like them so much.  There's something special to sitting down to a piece of toast and tea in the morning, with a cloth napkin laid beside.  

It's the little things.
Most of our napkins are made from larger ones cut in half, folded and sewn. But cutting squares to make the dress-shirt quilt got me thinking about  napkins...So, back to the cutting board on a sunny afternoon.

Step 1:  Gather up your material (large cloth napkins, old maternity shirts, skirts, sheets).  Make some tea and find a sunny spot.

Step 2:  Cut the material double the size of napkin desired.  
I like the size 5 1/4" by 7 1/2".  Doubled would be 10 1/2" by 15".  Adding 1/2" for the seam would make it a 11" by 15 1/2" rectangle to cut. 
Although, that takes the fun out of sewing - just "eyeball it"  :)
OR Step 2:  If using cloth napkins, cut in half.   
 Step 3:  Fold rectangle in half.  Sew right sides together, leaving one side open.
Step 4:  Turn right-side out.

Step 5:  Turn the open side ends inward, and sew along the edge all 4 sides.

This is the remaining shirt carcass.  I managed to sew 10 napkins out of one shirt.  Is it ready to throw away yet?  Possibly...but after I cut off the buttons to keep.  Snowman Button Christmas cards, anyone?  
Now when I tell Andy his shirt looks nice, he has to wonder if it's in danger of becoming a napkin the next day :)

We are so happy to have him home.  Thrilled, really!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

the stuff dreams are made of

WeLkum HLme Dad. I love you! is written on our doors.  
We have been missing him for the past few days over here.  While we have had lots of fun, we are ready to welcome our man back into our arms!  I listened to him pull out of our driveway at 4.30 the other morning, as an ambulance sped past, lit up with sirens.  And the stuff of life and beliefs collide for a moment, when "what if's" flood my mind...  Eventually I drift off to sleep, after recalling Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth...Psalm 121. 

The morning brings a hustle and bustle of getting 2 boys off to school, and 1 out of his sleeper...without my own personal barista.  Grandparents arrived to love on little ones.  We made wonderful memories.  
Cum to Jack's Bug Farm :)

Yes, that is the above boy who sold us cotton candy...and juggled fire... 
Not as crazy as the ring master, who was on a dirt bike announcing the bikers before he put on his helmet...  A very impressive circus, starring like 4 people :)

The boys are asleep, dreaming of lions and tigers and elephants.  The house is so quiet.  I plan to sew some napkins, because I'm lame and old-fashioned like that.  

Cloth napkin post to come...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

sprouting seeds

Pots are filled in with dirt and sprinkled with seeds, basking in the sun, waiting for the sprouting of new life.  
And such is my mind.  Filled with much dirt of its own - deceitful, wicked, plaguing lies.  Needing the seed of His Word planted deep into the memory, turning toward the Son, and waiting for truth to take root.  Wanting to be more like the seed, willing to die to self to produce a lovely harvest.

It has been so long now that we have said “we should memorize verses.”  Seriously, years... So, enough already. One morning, I pulled out a card, folded it in half, wrote a verse on each of the 4 sides, and placed it on the table.  

I just wish I had done this years ago… Because what came next has been beautiful. Each meal, we sit down and are reminded of His Word.  Truth is being etched into our minds. Boys are mumbling verses as they go about their days.  I am starting to recall them when the world warps my thoughts. 

And if you have not heard of Seeds Family Worship, I so highly recommend it. You can listen to them online. I just love how it is all Scripture, and without realizing it, or even meaning to, you will have 12 verses memorized just by listening to it.

What a heart knows by heart 
is what a heart really knows. 
Dennis Lennon 

why sprout?

Well frankly, sometimes I just get bored looking at dirt, wanting to see some green poke through.  Sprouts are easy.  Fast.  Cheap.  And so good on top of a salad or sandwich.  

These are red clover sprouts, which have a mild, sweet flavor. Rich in phytochemicals, which protect against diseases like cancer. They contain vitamins A, B, C, E and K, the minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, phosphorus and zinc, trace minerals, carotene, chlorophyll and amino acids. They contain 26% protein.

Sprouting magnifies the nutritional value of the seed. It boosts the B-vitamin content, triples the amount of vitamin A and increases vitamin C by a factor of 5 to 6 times. Starches are converted to simple sugars, making sprouts very easily digestible.  So that's why, I guess :)

how to grow your own sprouts
You will need:
1. a wide mouth jar
2. a sprouting lid (from Whole Foods or most health food stores) OR screen or netting, and a rubber band
3. a bowl to drain the jar 
4. fresh water 
5. sprouting seeds* (from Whole Foods or most health food stores)

Step 1:  Put 1 to 2 Tbsp. of seeds or 3 to 4 Tbsp. of beans in a wide mouth jar.
Step 2:  Cover with netting or cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band.  (Or place on sprouting lid.)
Step 3:  Rinse a couple times, then fill the jar 3/4 full with pure water, room temperature, and soak 6-8 hours or overnight.
Step 4:  Drain soak water. Rinse 2 or 3 times in cool water.
Step 5:  Invert jar and prop at angle in sink or bowl to drain.
Step 6:  Rinse 2 or 3 times twice a day in cool water.  (I just do this when I'm washing dishes.)
Step 7:  Place sprouting jar in bright light, but not direct sunlight, last sprouting day to allow chlorophyll to form.
Step 8:  They will be ready in 3 to 7 days.  Seed sprouts, like alfalfa or red clover are 1" to 2" long when ready.  (See the above photo)
Step 9:  I like to rid of the brown seeds off before storing.  I have found to do this best, I cover the jar with water, drain sprouts and water into a colander, then pick out the sprouts, placing them in a container lined with a paper towel (for freshness), leaving the brown seeds behind.  Refrigerate to store.

*Organically grown sprouting seeds are preferable. Seeds that are not specifically sprouting seeds and are not organic may be chemically treated with pesticides and those chemicals will end up in your sprouts.  2 oz. of seeds will yield 1-2 pounds of sprouts, and 8 oz. of beans will yield 1 pound of sprouts. Your indoor garden will grow best when the temperature is between 65F and 75F.

I love Jack's little notes around the house.  
Wherever this week takes you, I hope you can
Hav Funn People!!!!!!!!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

learning to cast.

There I was, standing in the kitchen, folding a mountain of laundry, needing to move onto the dishes before friends arrive.  (Friends who have seen our mountains more than once, and still love us, but you know...)  
I glance outside.  And spot this.  That pudgy little hand that holds onto mine for morning errands.  He who is happy to tag along with me, working through my to-do's.  
I tune into their imagining what sort of creatures are beyond that screened porch, listening to the jabber of 2 boys 4 years apart, but made from the same stuff.  
I go out to snap a picture, because the memory must not forget this.  It is too precious.
 How did I not anticipate what words would follow...
"Would you come out and sit with us?" (Insert eager grin and wishing eyes)
"Um...Er...SIT?  Well, I have lots to do...laundry...dishes..."
Mama is in the zone!  Their faces unveil that they have heard this before..."maybe later," which really means "if there's time after I do everything I need to do." 
I catch myself and see the moment as a gift.  I can't stand to let it sit any longer, it must be full-force-torn-into and enjoyed.  The rest can wait.  The laundry isn't the one going anywhere.  The dishes aren't the ones growing up.
I sit.  We swing.  I hear all sorts of dinosaur tales.  Am asked a bazillion questions about creatures I have never heard of, but apparently existed.  For real.
We laugh, look into each other's eyes and smile.  I am so thankful for this moment.  Their heads that rest on my shoulders tell me they are too.  
(By the way, it is strange to see the back of my head.  I would have never found me if I was looking for myself in a crowd of head-backs.)

This is Thursday.  We stay outside nearly all day, basking in the new-ness of spring, letting the freshness fill our lungs.  (Besides the moment where I nearly caught the corn field on fire when I had an oops burning the paper, but anywho...)  

(Basil rising with a great big victorious YAWP!)

(Before you are jealous, let me tell you that the muffler has fallen off, and you can hear him coming from miles.  Really, the top down is just so he doesn't doze off from fumes :)
Friday comes and I am high on life.  Andy and Jack are working on the house, Jude is napping, and I am digging into gardening books.

A phone call brings me back to reality.  Our oldest at school is hurting.  Not the kind that is easily dealt with, that can be covered over with a band-aid.  One that stems from a diagnosis and the struggle, at times, to order his world.  I recall the past week, and how often he has asked me to play with him.  The times I have, he pours out his day, right there in one sitting, tells me all sorts of his perceptions.  And I patted my back for saying yes, and sitting.  When in actuality, I can be there...But not be present.  I have not been unwrapping the gift of his mind like I should.  Like he needs me to.  

I pick him up from school.  I ask him what happened.  Tears appear in his eyes, and his lip quivers.  We talk it through.  Again, that bottom lip starts to tremble, but everything in him wants to be brave.  It pains me to see the struggle.

But how thankful I am to have a weekend with this little man all to myself. 
To tear into the present.  And we did.

This salty, sweet, spicy slice of deliciousness is borrowed from the brilliance of a friend. (Thanks Brooke!)  It is pizza topped with chorizo, jalapenos, mango, and cilantro.  There are mushrooms and green peppers on this too.  I never would have combined all these flavors, but it is uh-mazing!

We're not sure where to go from here.  There is talk of meeting with a behavioral team.  There is comfort knowing how much others care.  He is so lovable.  There is a reason our memory verse this week has been:
Cast all your worries on the Lord, because He cares for you. 
1 Peter 5.7

Reminding me, continually, of His care.  For us.  For me.  For Miles.  After I got the call Friday, I pulled out a pen and paper, wrote down the whole big whopping list, and casted.  
Because. He. Cares. For. You.    

Thursday, March 17, 2011

thin mint brownies

Happy Saint Patrick's Day,
and a top of da marnin' to ye lads and lassies!  
I'm not even going to pretend to know what St. Patty's day is about, but I love this prayer.  It's been a great start to our day.

.: The Prayer of St. Patrick :.
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.

Christ shield me today
Against wounding
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation

We had 4 dear couples over last night, who are preparing to move overseas in the next few years (some of them months!)  How exciting to be a part of their journey!  I thought of them as I read this prayer this morning.  Whether we rise from our straw mat to the sound of the village roosters crowing to greet the morning, or crawl out from beneath our down comforter and place our toes into our bright blue Sorels.  Don't we all need this?  He is our strength, our hope, our purpose to begin another day!

In honor of Mr. Saint Patrick, we made some mint brownies, because he likes green.  Or is that the leprechaun?  Well, whoever likes green probably likes mint, and who can pass up a brownie?  No one could tell they were gluten-free.  Not even the leprechaun who must have snuck in and eaten a few before everyone got here...

Thin Mint Brownies
1 c. sugar (I use sucanat)
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1/3 c. melted butter
2 unbeaten eggs
1/4 t. salt
3/4 c. flour (I use GF brown rice flour-blend)
1/2 t. guar gum (if using GF flour)
1/2 t. baking powder
1 drop mint extract (or 1 t. vanilla)
Combine sugar and cocoa powder in large bowl.  Add melted butter and mix well.  Stir in unbeaten eggs.  Add flour, salt, baking powder, guar gum, and peppermint (or vanilla).  Beat until smooth.  Spread batter in greased 8x8  pan.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.  When cool, spread with the following mixture:
Minty Cream Layer
1/4 c. butter
2 c. powdered sugar
2 T. milk
3 drops peppermint extract
2 drops green food coloring (optional)
Put frosted bars in refrigerator and  make the following mixture:
Chocolate Glaze
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
2 T. butter
Melt and spread very thin on mint frosting.

I feel so very lucky to be their mama.  Blessed, truly.  

Monday, March 14, 2011

midwestern rolls

I am finding it hard to sit down and write about our little happenings.  When there's wars, earthquakes and tsunamis, children fighting for their lives, to name a few.  And we’re over here, ordering sushi... 

Sometimes, our life seems like a dream.  And, I just don’t know how to rationalize the horrors others are facing with the happiness we find right now.  It just doesn’t seem fair.  Of course, our kids squabble and what should be nice drives through amish country looking into kitchen cabinet options turn into what will make my brother explode games.  But that seems so trivial when I pick up TIME magazine or watch videos of the tsunami online.

I am seeking to live fully these days, thanking God for the gift.  And yet, my heart aches for those who are unwrapping days they never in their life hoped to see.  We don’t know what tomorrow holds.  This life is a vapor.  We pray.  We prepare.  We hold each other close.

Some friends introduced us to this idea:  After the kids were in bed, we ordered a few sushi rolls from a local restaurant and enjoyed date night without having to hire a sitter.  And would you know lights off and lit candles hides a multitude of toys on the floor and messes you would have otherwise spent your Friday night cleaning up :)

How did I miss out on this all my life?  We're learning how to roll our own, because I have lots of catching up to do!  These rolls have smoked salmon, avocado, green pepper, green onion.  I don't know if there's a technical name for them, so I've improvised.  
And bring you midwestern rolls...

Annie's Eats has a helpful explanation on rolling sushi here.
This is the rice recipe I personally use.
sushi rice
1 1/2 c. sushi rice
1 3/4 c. water
3 T. unseasoned rice vinegar
1 T. sugar
1 t. salt
Put rice in medium bowl and cover with cool water.  Swish rice around with your hand, pour off water, and repeat until water runs clear (about 5 or 6 times).  Drain rice in colander and put in medium pot.  Add the water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, 12 minutes.  Turn off heat and let sit 10  minutes.  Combine vinegar, salt, and sugar in small pan.  Cook over low heat, stirring, until sugar and salt dissolve.  Remove from heat and cool.  Transfer cooked rice to large glass bowl.  Slowly pour vinegar mixture over rice and gently fold together with spatula.  Let cool before rolling sushi.  Let stand at room temperature.  DO NOT REFRIGERATE.  

Just for memories' sake...

This was the scene that may have inspired all these ramblings, as we drove through the peaceful countryside with images of devastation on our minds... 

How do you know what will happen tomorrow?  
For your life is like the morning fog--it's here for a little while, then it's gone.  
What you ought to say is 
"If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that."  
James 4.14-15 (NLT)