To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common–this is my symphony.~William Henry Channing

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Oh, Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding

Not that it's Christmas time or anything.

Nor would I know how to make figgy pudding but I did get to go to a friend's house on Monday and pick some fresh figs. I don't remember ever eating figs before but when I plucked one off the tree and bit into it my mind immediately flooded with memories. It was like it was the taste of my childhood in the way that Noxema is a smell of my childhood. (My Mother would slather that stuff all over us after getting sunburned at the beach.)

I tried my hand at making fig preserves yesterday which was something. I've only ever done something like that years ago with a friend so I am not really sure how it will taste or keep but I did it. Boiled my jars before and after and everything. I found a recipe on Pinterest (of course!) that called for a little rosemary to be boiled in and removed before canning and since I have an ambitious little bush of rosemary in my backyard decided to give it a try. I figure as long as I am experimenting with the whole process why not get creative?

And also because I am me and it's what I do I also did a little fig photo shoot before I started cooking. I am a lover of this pinterest board and food photography in general, and the colors of the figs also inspired me. They reminded me of fall with their rich hues.

fresh figs fruit harvest

fresh figs

fresh figs

fresh figs Kim Klassen textures

Now, if the jam tastes as good as the pictures look!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Test Kitchen #61 ~ Pineapple Raspberry Trifle


Yes I know, it's a blog post! I am as shocked as you are :-)

Life is busy and, truth be told, I am practicing what I shared in my last post. I am trying to be critical of what I write and why. Am I being defensive? Making a point? Just spouting off? Wasting time writing something to avoid other chores and things I could/should be doing?

When I started this blog I purposed that it would be God honoring and helpful. And this time last year I was a blogging fool. Last summer I wrote posts on modesty, courtship, and just the overall joyful burden of life. Not to mention recipes and pictures and all manner of things.

This summer has been different though. Certainly not quieter in an everyday living sense but certainly in my blogging. I suspect it is just a season though and soon enough I'll be at it again.

But to show that I haven't completely abandoned my little corner of the cyber world I am sharing not one, but two, recipes. Actually to be fair the first isn't a recipe as much as it is a wonderful snack idea. One of our favorite snacks here around the house lately is edamame. I will buy this shelled and serve them as a side dish at dinner but we devour them as a snack. All I do is boil them for a few minutes while they're still in their pod, drain them, and toss with coarse salt.

So delicious!

Now, for an actual recipe. (Although it really is almost as simple as the edamame.)  It's light and tasty and the perfect cool dessert in the middle of the summer heat.

What you'll need:
One angel food cake mix, cooked according to package directions
1 20oz can of crushed pineapple, with juice
1 lg container of cool whip
1 small package of vanilla instant pudding

What you'll do:
Tear (or cut) the angel food cake into pieces.
Mix together the pineapple with the dry pudding mix until well blended.
Gently fold in half of the cool whip.
Layer half of the angel food pieces into the bottom of a trifle bowl.
Spoon half of the pineapple mixture into the bowl.
Sprinkle raspberries on top.
Repeat the layers.
Spread some of the regular cool whip on top and add even more raspberries on top.
Chill for at least two hours before serving.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Why I Should Be Critical

It's been so quiet here on the blog lately, hasn't it? Not for lack of words or ideas and stories; I have those in abundance swirling around in my brain. So much so that I am having a hard time keeping them from running into each other and becoming an incoherent mess. As I typed that out it dawned on me that what I need to do is write it down and sort it out. But, like most of us, I find it easier to let it all rattle around in my head without actually committing to one train of thought and following it through to a conclusion. I have greater success in creating my reality, whether correct or not, when I keep all my thoughts jumbled and incomplete.

But that really isn't helpful, is it? Or profitable. I'm reminded of the prayer found in Psalm 19:14 ~ "Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight..." It sounds good to say that I am spending a lot of time thinking about gracious living and what that looks like but if I am not willing to really sort out what that means, and sincerely look at my life through the lens of true Truth and not just my own rambling thoughts, then my words and thoughts probably aren't very acceptable to anyone, much less a holy and just and gracious God who calls me to live a holy and just and gracious life.

I think what I need to cultivate is a critical eye. We shy a way from that word as if  "critical" has become the new "judgmental" and the whole taken-completely-out-of-context "judge not lest you be judged" is applied the same way. The word critical has fallen on hard times in our society but it's helpful, I think, if we push it into the I-do-not-think-that-word-means-what-you-think-it-means spot light.

The definition that we're most familiar is, of course, negative - one of disapproval and judgement. That's not the critical I am speaking of. Unfortunately this is the critical that comes most naturally to us. Our bent, because of sin, is toward the six foot log in my own eye but all I see is the teensy weensy splinter in your eye kind of critical.

But there is another way of interacting with being critical; a way that is healthy and profitable. It's being able to assess the good and bad of something. When I do a family's pictures I practice this kind of critical when I go through their images later and determine which ones I will give them.

It falls more under the realm of critical thinking and our culture is not real big on that. We leave that to the egg heads, the more studious and analytical types. The average person focuses more on how they feel about something rather than any kind of critical (thinking) evaluation of circumstances or things.

Is there a way to be critical that is bad? Of course there is. We are a magical people with a boundless capacity for turning something good into something bad, and equally good at hypnotizing ourselves into believing that it's all good and not bad at all.

One critical is looking for perfection to it's own standard and pounces with a mighty "Aha!" when it sees perceived sin. The name of the game is control and getting things they way we like it.

The other critical is careful judgment; for the purpose of refinement or, if there is sin involved, for the purpose of restoration. Because sometimes it's not sin. Sometimes it is just immaturity and a rightly critical eye will learn to look for and know the difference.

As a parent I want to turn this kind of critical eye on my children. One way that this looks in my life is our Sunday afternoon lunch at church
each week. When we're getting ready to eat, are my girls looking to help with the younger kids as they go through the line? Are my children always first in line? Is Claire taking only the food and amount of said food that she can and will eat? Are they helping in the clean up afterwards?

I want to assess these things not so I can tell my children they are being selfish and rude, but so I can steer them into the better way of being part of the community. I want them to be thoughtful participants within our church family.

I need to  turn that critical eye on myself as well. Am I being a thoughtful and kind member of our church family? What about within my home? One of the biggest ways that I can do this is by being charitable in my thoughts of others. Am I willing to assume the best behind the actions of others? Or am I immediately taking offense at something said or done?

Being rightly critical is a skill long neglected but surely needed in our world. It is a powerful tool that used correctly can strengthen and encourage the body of Christ.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

To Share Or Not To Share

That seems to be the question of the day since an article discussing the topic has been bouncing around facebook for the past week or so. Normally I don't offer rebuttals to things I see or hear on the WWW, but I keep getting asked about this so here's my thoughts, for whatever they're worth.

To be fair, I agree to a certain extent with the author's position that we aren't doing our children any favors by teaching them that they can have something someone else has simply because they want it. But I think this becomes an issue because we're focusing on something that really isn't the point.

The point isn't really whether or not we should be teaching our children to share. The point is are we raising children that value others over themselves?

Are we cultivating a heart that is learning from an early age to eagerly and joyfully seek the well being of others?

Are we training our children to know how and when they should choose someone else's happiness and wants over their own?

I think there is a big difference between teaching them to share for the sake of sharing and teaching them to enjoy what they have but also be willing to let others have a turn enjoying it as well.

One reinforces the idea that my wants are priority, and one teaches the idea that our joy and delight is made fuller when we include others.

Is there ever a time when they don't have to share? Maybe. Probably. I mean just getting the best ever gift for your birthday and having it for all of five seconds before having to let others share in the joy doesn't seem right or all that fun.

So it would seem that wisdom would dictate whether a certain toy should be brought into group settings. Why put the child in a position to choose their stuff over their friends? Their wants and happiness over that of others? Why place other children in a position to covet what another has?

Our personal policy was no sharing no taking. Of course we also taught our kids that if a friend had something and wasn't letting them play with it they needed to find something else to play with. Hardly seems fair unless of course they were playing in a community where everyone was teaching their child the same thing. And sometimes we were in a place full of like minded people and sometimes we weren't. Valuable lessons were learned either way.

Is there a time when you should force your child to bring out the best ever birthday present and share it? Absolutely, you don't want them to be hoarders or miserly.  But we made that happen in situations were there was less risk to the treasured toy being abused or broken.

Is there ever a time when you should teach your child to just be happy that a friend has been blessed with something wonderful? Yes, of course.  There are always going to be times in life where one person has and another has not and we want our children to rejoice sincerely in either of those times.

But these are lessons that aren't learned in a vacuum apart from real life. They happen in community where, hopefully, they learn more than whether they should have to share or not. It's a community that should be teaching them the value of another human being over material stuff. And that the feelings of others should be considered before their own.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Test Kitchen #60 ~ Blueberry Shortbread Bars

I am not quite as adventurous in the kitchen as Rob. He'll plunder cabinets and spices and throw some deliciously creative something something together that becomes a family favorite. I will tweak a recipe to suit what I want but I still usually start with a recipe as a guide.

Which is what happened with this week's recipe. I came across this on pinterest but the more I thought about it and after a successful blueberry picking trip I realized I would definitely be changing things up a bit. And since I was changing a thing or two I decided to use a really good homemade shortbread recipe instead of  the cookie base they used. (This still looks yummy though so at some point I will probably make it and follow the directions :-)

What you'll need for the shortbread crust:
1 cup of butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour

What you'll do:
Cream together butter and sugar.
Gradually stir in the flour.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and kneed for about three minutes.

brown sugar shortbread dough

Line a 9x13 baking dish with parchment paper leaving some to overlap for easy lifting.
Pat the dough evenly on the bottom of the pan. (I didn't quite get a full pan but it was close.)
Prick with a fork and bake at 300 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes on until the bottom begins to brown.
Allow to completely cool.

brownsugar shortbread

What you'll need for the cream cheese layer:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tsp almond extract
confectioner's sugar ( I eyeball the amount until I have the right consistency...probably about 1 1/4 cups)

What you'll do:
Beat the cream cheese and almond extract until smooth.
Gradually add in confectioner's sugar. (Add milk a little at a time if you need to smooth it out.)

measuring cups, cooking, baking

What you'll need for the blueberry topping:
1 cup of blueberries
1/4 cup sugar (less if your blueberries are really sweet)
2 tsp flour
little bit of water

What you'll do:
Combine the first three ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat.
Cook until the blueberries begin to break down and it begins to thicken.
Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Whew! That seems like a work intensive dessert but really it's all just has parts. Now it all comes together really quickly.

Simply spread the cream cheese mixture over the shortbread and then pour and smooth the blueberry compote on top. Cut into squares and enjoy!

fresh blueberries shortbread cream cheese filling bars

Can't believe I almost forgot this fun tidbit! All the pictures were taking with my iPhone5s which is kind of fun.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The End of One Thing...The Beginning of Another

A week ago Thursday night we celebrated our first graduation. I wasn't as weepy as I expected, although let me be clear that in the week leading up to that night Sarah's entire life passed through my mind at some point or other. And the tears flowed freely during those times.

And to also be clear, they were present at the graduation too. When we were singing the school song, Be Thou My Vision, and I could see her tears as the reality of what was happening hit her, they fell. And there was this moment that even now makes my breath hitch.

When Sarah was little I taught at a Montessori day school. When she turned three she came to my class and to help with the transition if I was leading circle time we would flash each other the I love you sign. During the graduation ceremony we managed to make eye contact and without thinking that hand sign flashed. And oh, the tears fell.

It was a happy time and it is good and right because she is ready to move on to the next phase of growing up. She is well prepared for whatever that is and will do well thanks in part to the community and life at Trinitas.

We were blessed to have family and so many friends come watch and celebrate with us.  There were a lot of hugs and smiles and more than a few photo bombs.

For now she has started working as a nanny for some dear friends of ours and will be doing a lot of reading with her father in the next few months and spend some time learning and developing a love for some life skills (read she is going to learn how to cook and budget and all manner of household things ;-)

Pretty proud of her.