Category Archives: Holidays

PSA. Or, what to do when your kids don’t turn out like you.

Public service announcement:  When you have six kids, there are bound to be ones that absolutely ADORE all the things you find super-annoying.

Back story:  Before we had kids, my husband Martin and I said that we really wanted to let them develop into who God made them to be.

Side-note:  We found it a bit odd that EVERYONE thought our kids would be, you know, musical. Worship leaders.  That is, exactly like us.

Back to today:  As it turns out, I’m a little sad that not everyone is musical and no one leads worship, and a little excited that our youngest, three-year-old Jeanie has an absolutely lovely singing voice.  I have high hopes for that girl!!!

super-sparkleLast week:  I caved and bought Fiala a Barbie DVD for one of her birthday presents — her 8th birthday.  I have banned Barbie DVDs in our home, previously. They’re like the gateway drug to Lifetime movies, in my opinion.  Plus, pink and sparkly and relentlessly chipper.  I just can’t hang with that, even though I’ve been a mom of girls for 10+ years now.  I was at Costco and had my choice of three Barbie DVDs.  I picked the one that sounded the least cheesy, albeit by a very slim margin.

Last night:  As a direct result of watching the DVD about 15 times in two days, Fiala tells me she wants to be Barbie Super Sparkle for Halloween.  I try to dissuade her.  “Plus,” I reasoned, “it’s not a movie that was in the theater.  It’s just a Barbie DVD.  I don’t think you’ll be able to find a costume and I don’t have time to make one.”  She promptly hopped onto the laptop (not literally) and found a Barbie Super Sparkle costume on Amazon.  I must admit, not being all that familiar with the current world of Barbie, I was shocked that a costume exists.

This morning:  I ordered said costume using my 19-year-old son’s Prime account and got free same-day shipping.  Fiala is hyperventilating.

I draw the line at the wig.  Fiala is not blonde and will not be wearing a wig.  NO WIGS!  Well, maybe next Halloween.

I draw the line at the wig. Fiala is not blonde and will not be wearing a wig. NO WIGS! Well, maybe next Halloween.

——————

The things you do for your kids that you could never have imagined…  Not to mention that in my younger, stricter phase, we didn’t even participate in Halloween at all.  No costumes.  No nothin’.  Now, I will join the hordes of parents who buy their child overpriced bits of ill-made material and watch them be incredibly excited.

I traveled to Portland…

My friend Kathy told me I need to write more.  So, I comply.

Though I struggle with feeling irrelevant in this age of blogs that are perfectly photographed, engagingly-written by self-assured experts in every imaginable topic, she tells me that I do have a niche, and I fill a role…  I’m still not 100% certain what that role is, nine and a half years after I started blogging.

I’m also going to — at Kathy’s urging — start to journal more on the things about which I cannot write publicly.  I find that, as my children grow toward adulthood, I can’t really disclose to the faceless masses — or even friends I know and trust in real life — many of the things that truly weigh down my heart, as they are often not my secrets to divulge.

Then, when all of these thoughts and feelings and words are teeming in my mind, considered but unwritten, everything else seems like fluff — truly irrelevant and not worth the time invested in writing a blog post.

This, however:  Worthwhile.  To me, at least.

I did something this past weekend that I’ve never done before:  gone on a girlfriends’ weekend with no kids and no husband.  Well, I haven’t done anything like that since I’ve been married.  For Mother’s Day, my husband surprised me with a trip to the Portland area, to see some dear friends.  I had been semi-planning this trip for, oh, about a year…  But, with my oldest son’s high school graduation, my second son going to Civil Air Patrol Encampment in June, a house that sucks up our remodeling budget and most of our discretionary income, a family camping trip to plan, and more — always more — I was certain that it wouldn’t work out.  Unbeknownst to me, my husband had been scheming with my friends.  He’s a good man.

So, while my headcold-ridden husband stayed home with our six children, I flew to PDX, and went criss-crossing southern Washington and northern Oregon with three friends for four days.  Mountains!  The beach!  Gardens!  Farmer’s market!  City!  Country!  We packed a great deal into a short period of time.

One friend, Dee Dee, traveled up from the desert — though not the same flight as me — and we met our two friends who used to live here, but who now live in the Portland area.

This time is a treasure to me.  I have no great love for the Phoenix area… Yet, as my husband says, it is the land of our anointing.  It’s where God has us, and where He has blessed us.  We have not plans — not any hopes, even — of ever living elsewhere.  There are far too many attachments here in the desert:  our beloved church, my husband’s job of 24 years, nearby family (though no one remaining who actually lives in the Phoenix area)….  So, it’s a hard balance, something I’ve struggled with — with varying degrees of success:  I long for green, for water in creeks, for rain, for tolerable weather…  Yet, I cannot give in to discontentment.  It wants to eat my heart, and I can’t let it.  I won’t.

So, any trip outside the desert is a delight, and this one was particularly so.

In my absence, my husband bought me a second-hand rototiller, so all things considered, it might have been the Best Weekend Ever.

at Salmon Creek

At Salmon Creek — on a little hike shortly after my arrival.  The only imperfection was that I forgot my binoculars at home, and there were many birds calling out to me, reminding me of my poor eyesight and forgetfulness.

IMG_20150627_165611

Mt. St. Helens — beautifully stark, profound in its impact, awesome in the recovery of the land.

We four:  Dee Dee, me, Allison, Kathy.

We four: Dee Dee, me, Allison, Kathy.

IMG_20150628_115445

At Oregon Garden in Silverton. I was quite amazed that, in its original state, Oregon had many hardwood timber forests. This particular oak was over 400 years old. The whole garden is very worthwhile, with both sculpted vistas, extensive veggie gardens, and acres of more wild, native greenery.

Upper Ape Cave.  This was 1 1/4 mile of quad-chewing, uphill scrambling, buried inside a lava tube.  Otherwordly and a priceless experience.  This particular view is of a natural skylight, about 80% of the way through the cave.

Upper Ape Cave. This was 1 1/4 mile of quad-chewing, uphill scrambling, buried inside a lightless lava tube. Otherwordly and a priceless experience. This particular view is of a natural skylight, about 80% of the way through the otherwise COMPLETELY DARK cave.

Allison and me at the Haystack, Cannon Beach, Oregon.  What a gorgeous beach -- with wide, flat, finely-sanded expanses, punctuated by massive boulders and fascinating tide pools.  I *think* I saw a puffin.  I also realized that this sweater I dearly love makes me look pregnant.  Love/not-love.

Allison and me at the Haystack, Cannon Beach, Oregon. What a gorgeous beach — with wide, flat, finely-sanded expanses, punctuated by massive boulders and fascinating tide pools. I *think* I saw a puffin. I’m holding sand dollars.  I also realized that this sweater which I previously really liked makes me look pregnant. Love/not-love.

My other favorite times:

  • Hanging out in Allison’s home, with her hubby and their two sons.  The living room is on the second level, and it is like being in a tree house, with massive windows on two walls, tall trees surrounding the property.  We curled up, kicked back, scritched the ears of her two Westies, and chatted for hours.
  • Eating.  Every restaurant in the Pacific Northwest has a gluten-free menu, and even the gelato at the grocery store (Chuck’s, I think it was called) was labeled as g.f.  We also ate at an Iraqi restaurant, which I wish I could transplant here.
  • Kathy made a delicious dinner for all of us, which we ate in her back yard.  As we waited for the meal, we had hors d’oeuvres of fresh blueberries, plucked from the bushes in Kathy’s yard.  Blueberry bushes.  In her back yard.
  • Just the friendship of other women who know and love each other and have similar values…  I feel rich in the blessings of friendship.  And we laughed a lot.  And exclaimed over the same things.  We’re all alike enough to enjoy most of the same things, but different enough that conversation is enlightening and lively, and we learn from each other.
  • On Sunday morning, as we drove to the Oregon Garden, Allison — the driver — made an executive decision that we would worship and pray aloud.  We did, for about an hour — praying for each other, our families, our churches — three represented by the four of us…  And we listened to the Housefires.  Time flew.  And then right at the end, as we were drenched in the Spirit, someone up the way started backing a 60-foot Winnebago into a driveway, and a lady strode purposefully onto the two-lane blacktop highway and held up her 5″ palm, telling us to stop.  This struck all of us as hilarious, because, really… we couldn’t see the Winnebago, and we would have been lost without her direction.  We were so grateful.  (Much laughter.)

I must return.  We’re already making plans, the four of us, to do so.

Butternut Squash with Apples and Cranberries (GFCF recipe)

I’ll admit it:  In this age of expert home food stylists and Pinterest beauty, I’m hesitant to post new recipes.  I snapped a pic of this with my phone, not my Nikon SLR (I don’t own a Nikon SLR or any other fancy camera).  It’s not gorgeous.  But, it is SO VERY delicious that I had to share.  And, it’s just in time for Thanksgiving.  Hopefully, it will become a wintertime staple in your home, as my family has proclaimed it must be in mine.

IMG_20131011_193938_996

This recipe calls for a 2½ lb butternut squash, but you can use any orange-fleshed winter squash:  baking/pie pumpkin;  Hubbard;  Delicata;  Kabocha; Red Kuri, and others.  Personally, I wouldn’t use acorn squash or spaghetti squash.  But, just about any other variety would do wonderfully.  You can even substitute yam.  You may also use MORE than 2½ lb.  You could use up to four pounds of squash without tampering with any of the other ingredients.

I implore you not to substitute any other ingredients.  This perhaps may seem like an odd mishmash of ingredients, but when it comes together, it’s perfect:  savory, sweet, a bit spicy, warm, bright, FRESH.  However, if you do find any subs that work beautifully, do return and comment here!

Also, recent research has shown that it’s more important than ever to buy organic winter squash!

Winter squash is a vegetable that might be especially important for us to purchase organic. Recent agricultural trials have shown that winter squash can be an effective intercrop for use in remediation of contaminated soils. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), including pyrene, fluoranthene, chrysene, benzo(a)anthracene and benzo(a)pyrene are unwanted contaminants. PAHs are among the contaminants that can be effectively pulled up out of the soil by winter squash plants. When winter squash is planted as a food crop (as opposed to a non-food crop that is being planted between food crop seasons to help improve soil quality), the farmer’s goal is definitely not to transfer soil contaminants like PAHs up into the food. But some of that transfer seems likely to happen, given the effectiveness of winter squash in mobilizing contaminants like PAHs from the soil. For this reason, you may want to make a special point of purchasing certified organic winter squash. Soils used for the growing of in certified organic foods are far less likely to containundesirable levels of contaminants like PAHs.  ~from The World’s Healthiest Foods

In other words, squash does an excellent job of decontaminating the soil:  It pulls contaminants from the soil as it grows.  However, where do those contaminants go??  Very likely INTO the food you’re eating.  You can wash the outside of a conventional squash, or peel it.  But, you can’t wash the flesh of the pesticides and other contaminants that the growing plant has pulled from the ground.

Click here for a simplified, printable PDF version of this recipe.

Butternut Squash with Apples and Cranberries
makes 12 servings

  • 12 oz nitrate-free bacon, chopped
  • 3 oz shallots, sliced thinly (about two large cloves)
  • 2½ lb organic butternut squash, seeded, peeled, and diced into ¾” cubes
  • 4 small Granny Smith apples (or other tart apple), cored, peeled, and diced small
  • 1 cup dried, sweetened cranberries (you can use unsweetened just as well)
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh sage (plus more for garnish)
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1½ tsp ground allspice
  • zest of one lime
  • ½ tsp ground white pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. In a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat, cook chopped bacon and sliced shallots, stirring often, until bacon is crisp.  Set aside to cool slightly.  Do not drain.
  3. In a large, heat-proof bowl (such as a glass or ceramic bowl), toss together the diced squash, diced apples, dried cranberries, minced fresh sage, sea salt, allspice, lime zest, and white pepper.
  4. Scrape the bacon, shallots, and rendered bacon fat over the squash mixture and toss to mix well.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a large baking dish (or two medium-sized ones), and spread evenly.
  6. Cover tightly and bake for 40-50 minutes, stirring once, or until the squash is tender.
  7. Garnish with additional chopped sage (or Italian parsley, cilantro, or other pretty green).
  8. Serve hot.

 

Pecans, picture books, tradition, and memories of my mother

I have a friend with some tangelo trees and pecan trees.  I envy her.  Her property has irrigation, which is really needed to grow strong, large, healthy, productive trees in the desert.  We have two citrus trees which are nowhere near as nice;  they were neglected by the previous owner.  Actually, we had three trees, but one died (it was 95% dead when we moved here in July, and to my distress, we couldn’t rescue it;  it kept declining until its death).  One other tree is stunted and didn’t produce anything;  I don’t even know what kind of citrus it is supposed to bear.  The other tree is a medium-sized navel orange tree.  Its fruit is delicious (though hard to peel), but the whole tree produced about 30 oranges*.  I’m thankful for those 30 oranges, but I’m definitely going to make sure that the tree is well-watered and fertilized so that it produces MANY MORE oranges, next winter.  Thanks to the expert knowledge of my local, small nursery, I already learned that, in Phoenix, citrus needs to be fertilized on February 14, then again in mid-July, and once more in mid-September.

That makes me consider the valuable lesson of delayed gratification taught by growing one’s own food.  I think our society would be much more balanced in our perspectives if we all grew things to eat.

But, I digress.

In mid-December, my 13-year-old son Grant and I took my friend Jeannie up on her offer and picked probably 30+ pounds of tangelos (which are very tart, quite sweet, with easy-peel rinds) and about 10 lbs of pecans from her property.  Jeannie wasn’t at home, but her husband and I had a great conversation about homeschooling, parenting boys, and about land and growing things as we harvested.

The next day, before the children were awake, I sat at the island and started to shell the pecans.  As the kids trickled sleepily out of their rooms, there was a universal response of, “Wha…??” as they walked into the kitchen.  As in, “Why would you want to be doing that at 7:30 a.m.????”  But, each sat down at a stool to try their hand.  Soon, all five children were happily cracking away, breakfast delayed, perfect half or even whole nuts held up as a trophy of new found shelling-skill.  We exclaimed over eachother’s successes, and groaned over the occasional rotted nut or slipped nutcracker that resulted in a barrage of shell and nut bits broadcast over the table.

Quickly, in front of me, piled up the outcasts.  When one child didn’t crack the nut quite right, or the nutmeat was just plain stuck, rather than persisting (which is no fun, and can be hard on the fingertips!), they’d pass the nut to me.

It was all right.  It just meant that I was a whole lot slower than even my four year old, Fiala.  I worked at rescuing the stuck bits, buried in each shell.  It felt worthwhile, and I just couldn’t bring myself to throw away even the smallest nutmeat that could possibly be redeemed.

It became one of those unexpected moments where I found myself profoundly missing my mother.

I had a flashback to one of my mom’s favorite winter pastimes:  Shelling nuts in the family room, fireplace blazing, happily chatting around the family room coffee table, eating more than we shelled.  AND…. passing onto my mother our own tough nuts:  the ones we couldn’t best.  She redeemed them all.

I realized, as I worked on the bits of stuck pecans that December morning with my own children, that I thought my mother enjoyed the challenge of picking out the trapped bits of nutmeat.  Maybe she did.  She was like that.

But, maybe it was one of those things similar to how I thought she liked burnt toast, because she always ate it.  It wasn’t until my adulthood that I discovered that her burnt toast-eating was sacrificial:  She knew that we four children didn’t like burnt toast, but she didn’t want it to go to waste, so she ate it.

I thought she liked eating leftovers for lunch.

I thought she liked hand-me-downs.

And so on.

I thought she liked picking out those stubborn, stuck bits of walnut and pecan.

I would have liked to ask her.  I felt compelled, multiple times, to go pick up the phone to call her.  I had to remind myself that I could not.

I also would have liked to tell her that I was passing down what I didn’t realize — until that morning — had been a family tradition.

I have often lamented that tradition was in short supply in my childhood.  But, the longer my perspective is on my younger years, the more I realize that there were traditions tucked here and there… And every time I can pass one on, or share a joy with my children that I experienced as a child, there is such warmth in that, now more poignant than ever.

My mom passed on in October.  In general, I haven’t lamented her death.  She was long ill, and eager to go home to be with Jesus after years of fighting and staying strong.  It was her time, and as much as sad things can be, it felt very right.

I dearly love all of Robert McCloskey’s books.

I had an inkling, though, that there would be many days like these:  Where I would so love to call her and tell her something funny or tender or joyous…  And I just couldn’t.  And THEN I would miss her and deeply regret her passing.

So it was, with the pecan-shelling morning:  All five children happily chattering and squabbling over the nutcracker;  we only have one.  However, one of my children discovered that the garlic press worked wonders!  Ha!!  I had to implement a rule — which had echoes of familiarity — that each child can eat as many pecans as they cared to, as long as they were the one who shelled that pecan;  they can’t reach into the community jar and take a handful of others’ efforts.  “Did my mom say that, too??” I wondered silently.  I also remembered — and expressed to my children — how our pecan-shelling party reminded me of one of our most treasured picture books, Blueberries for Sal.  Sal’s mother had to tell her to go pick her own blueberries, and not take those her mother had picked;  her mother’s were for canning.  Similarly, the community pecans were going to go into Christmas baking and weren’t for general snacking.**  Again, the memories hearkened back to my mother, as she had first read the book to me, as a child.

Over the course of two mornings, we shelled about nine cups of pecans.  Then, our fingertips gave out, too sore to continue.  Still, nine cups was way more than I could have done on my own, despite how many pecans ended up in one small mouth or another!!

Pecans:  One of my happiest and saddest memories of this past month.

———————–

*It would have been about 40 oranges, but I discovered about ten of them with small plastic pellets lodged at various depths in the rind and fruit, and I had to lay down the law about NOT using oranges for airsoft gun target practice.  How could they????  Aargh.

*And, oh, how that added to our enjoyment of each baked good!!  Each child would say, “I shelled some of the pecans that went into this Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread!!”  Many items, we gave as gifts, and it really lent to the feeling of family, of community, of ownership, of pride in what we gave to others.

Dear friends.

I wish I could clearly express how precious this part of our vacation was.

I have had a hard time writing this, because it’s so deep, so close to my heart.  Because of its significance to me, I didn’t want it to sound mundane:  “We had a great meet-up with some friends.  Here are some documenting pics that aren’t nearly as great as I wish they were.”

There simply aren’t adequate words for the knitting of hearts.

It makes me tear up, even now, thinking about it.

I’ve been Daja’s bloggy-friend for… I think five years.  I feel like she is a long-lost sister;  we have so much in common and feel and act so similarly on a huge range of topics*.  We have communicated much — at first, just commenting on each other’s blogs… Then, I enlisted her help with a writing project.  We have chatted on the phone a few times, mostly in our efforts to get our families together, one way or another, and it never worked.

This most recent trip to California, it finally did.

I knew I would squeal and rush to hug her when I saw Daja, and I did just that.

I knew our children would love each other and play merrily together, and they did.

I wasn’t 100% sure about our husbands getting along, but I thought they likely would, and I hoped.  And they did.  In fact, post-trip, there was a loose end we were tying, and at one point, my husband asked me multiple times, “Have you followed up with Daja yet?”  At the same time, Gana was asking Daja, “Have you called Karen yet?”  😀

During our week-long trip, our families spent time together twice:  Sunday afternoon, the 2nd of September, Daja traveled with her seven children to the cottage in which our family was staying.  Thankfully, it was on 1/2 of a wooded acre, and it really didn’t seem crowded or over-loud with twelve children romping.

The second occasion, we drove up to her home for an afternoon and dinner the following Friday.

During that trip, Daja and I needed to make a run to the grocery store, and we took my family’s vehicle.  I noticed that the truck was running VERY rough.  I theorized, upon my return, that it wasn’t firing on all cylinders.  Martin and Gana left, right before dinner-time, to try to get the truck fixed.  It did turn out to be a spark plug that needed to be replaced, but on a Friday evening, fixing that simple problem turned into a three-hour ordeal.  I think it worked out for the best, because Gana and Martin very much enjoyed their time and conversation together, and the dinner that occurred in their absence was THE VERY LOUDEST meal in which I’ve ever participated.  It was joyful — with twelve children hollering to be heard, showing their best funny faces, exchanging jokes, asking for seconds and thirds….  I grinned the whole time;  it was so fun.  But, I think my husband would have popped an eardrum and stressed out at the unceasing, ever-escalating noise level.

During all our time together, I can’t remember even one sad face or squabble.  Well, not any serious ones;  every minor squabble was quickly resolved…  Such love and joy and goodwill flowed from everyone to everyone.  It was absolutely ideal.

I cannot wait until we are blessed to spend time with this family again.

Martin and his buddy, baby River

It’s really hard to get a good picture of 15 people (and a dog), all at once, especially when one’s husband is clowning around, wearing one’s own sunglasses. FUN pictures are just as well as lovely pictures with everyone smiling, though!

I’m actually a little angry that my camera keeps not-quite-focusing at all the wrong moments. If this wasn’t a weensy bit fuzzy, I would frame it.

Both Daja and I love to cook, and I rather envisioned us, bumping hips in the kitchen, prepping food for our families for dinner, and that’s very much how it happened.

It was difficult to get a shot of JUST the parents, as children kept darting into the frame, wanting to be included. It was a happy problem.

I know this picture is fuzzy and isn’t well-composed.  We got too few pics of our children playing together, as, well, all kids were busy playing, and all parents were busy chatting.

Back at the cottage. Another not-great shot of children playing together.

 

The lovely Meg.

On the way back to our cottage, fairly late on Friday night, our 6-year-old Audrey burst into tears, crying, “I don’t think we will ever see them again!”  And my husband Martin replied firmly, “Yes, we will.  We will.”  I looked over at him with startled eyes, cautioning him with my glance to not raise in vain the hopes of our daughter.  He just nodded and repeated, “We will.”

—————

*Even on unimportant things.  For instance, we were at the grocery store together, and decided to get a bottle of wine.  “Reisling is my favorite white,” I said.  “What?  Me, too!  A good, dry reisling is my favorite,” Daja replied.  We got a bottle.  And a red for the guys.

First family photo in… I don’t know how long. Plus, really rad friends.

So, our family vacation was supposed to be “just” a stay in a little cottage in walking distance to the beach.  One can’t quite call it a “beach cottage”, because it’s not right on the water, but we did find the six-block walk quite reasonable, especially on the downhill side, on the way to the ocean.

In our fifteen years of being a family — that is, taking trips with children included — that in itself was going to be our most expensive trip ever.  We usually camp.  Or stay with family.  Or rent an el-cheapo U.S. Forest Service cabin (often without electricity or even running water!).  At most, we stay a night on the outbound side and a night on the inbound side in some inexpensive accommodation.  We have never ever taken a trip where our entire stay was in an actual building with a roof, creature comforts inside, for which we had paid.

Why?

Because we’re cheap.

We’d rather spend ten days camping for half the price of three days in a hotel.

Plus, I rather like camping.

However…  I knew this year was going to be different, because we planned a move for this summer.  Camping takes a LOT of work — both prep work, and work during the event — and a lot of equipment.  I knew that I wasn’t going to have the time or energy for a camping trip.

So, we decided to spring for the aforementioned cottage.  We decided that it would be quite dreamy to go for an entire week with nothing on the agenda but the pounding surf and some warm sunshine.

We had to move the timing of our summer vacation, as the bank picked a closing date smack-dab in the middle of our previously-scheduled trip.  We purchased a short sale, and there was no wiggle room for changing the closing date.  So, we had to change the timing of our vacation.

It worked out for the best, as most everyone else is done with their summer travel, the first week of September.  So, the beach was less crowded.

So was Disneyland, the Wednesday after Labor Day.

What??  Disneyland???  That wasn’t in the plans.  Too much money, by FAR.  None of our five children had ever been, for reasons similar to the reasons for camping:  You can get a lot more bang for your buck if you aren’t plunking down $80+ for each person just to step into some magical kingdom…

But, dear friends of ours — in the shocker of the decade — teamed up to purchase tickets for our entire family of seven, which they delivered to us the night before our departure.

They gave us clues, which NONE of us guessed;  it went entirely over my head that the little gifts they gave were part of a bigger package.

  1. A stick, with an attached tag that said, “In case you find a dog.”
  2. A bag of bread cubes, whose note read, “In case you want to feed a duck.”
  3. A package of motion sickness tabs with a tag, “In case you go on a wild ride.”
  4. A small first-aid pack, “In case you get blisters from lots of walking on your adventure.”
  5. A pair of mouse traps, “In case you find some mice.”

In retrospect, it seems rather obvious.  But at the time, I was torn between thinking, “How thoughtful of them to come up with such fun ideas!” and, “MOUSE TRAPS????  I know we’re cheap, but what kind of place do they think we’re staying in???”  And then I tried to edit my thoughts to rid that last sentence of its dangling participle.  Had I not been so wrapped up in that pointless exercise, I might have realized what was happening BEFORE the tickets came out…

DUH.

We decided to go on Wednesday, because we thought there would be less of a crowd, mid-week, directly after a major holiday.  That meant shorter hours in the park and no firework show, but we decided the trade-off would be worth it.

We were right.  We rocked the joint, arriving as the gates opened at 10 a.m., and happily staying until closing time at 8 p.m.  And, everyone still had a smile on their face and a spring in their step.

We thought we’d have to split up, with my husband Martin taking the three older boys, and me taking the two girls on the “baby” rides, as we thought our youngest, Fiala, would surely be too small for most of the main attractions.  NOPE.  She is 41″, and most of the rides require riders to be 40″.  So, she went on Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean…  All of them, except Matterhorn, for which she was too small.  She also wouldn’t have been able to go on Indiana Jones Adventure, but that was closed for refurbishment, so it was moot.

We went on virtually every ride in the park, from the Carousel and It’s a Small World to Autopia and Star Tours.  The longest line was at the submarine ride;  it was a 20 minute wait.  Everything else was 5-10 minutes, some even less!

And the boys — even our 15-year-old, Ethan — were such good sports, going on all the small rides — like Dumbo and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride — as well.  We didn’t have to split up at all.

Even the weather was perfect:  Mostly overcast, almost cool, with a smattering of sprinkles…

Our friends gave us cash to spend inside, too, and that covered:  parking, stroller rental, and lunch.  In the future, rather than dropping more than $100 on one stinkin’ meal (a good meal, but, still…), if we ever get to go again, I think we’ll take advantage of the picnic area just outside the gates.  I was rather morally outraged to spend nearly a week’s worth of groceries on one meal, and there’s no way we would have done it, had we not been gifted the money… and we knew the giver would actually want us to spend it, not hoard it.  🙂

Other than the cost of that meal, the occasion really was absolutely ideal.

All of us, plus Goofy (how apropos!). It has literally been more than a year since all seven of us were captured in one shot.

Audrey’s just a little bit happy.

So was Wesley.

My sense of propriety was a teensy bit challenged by my husband hopping ON TOP of the entire Sword in the Stone… Ha!

Rabbit ears in honor of the rabbit house.

Ethan on the top deck of the Mark Twain steamboat.

Audrey and Fiala even got to go on-stage and sing “Bear Necessities” during the Big Thunder Ranch Roundup with “Miss Chris”.  Fi doesn’t look too happy, but truly, they had such fun!

Grant with the Mad Hatter.

It’s a Small World was Fiala’s favorite ride because, “It’s so happy and pretty, and there is nothing scary!”

In Toontown.

On our way out, on Main Street, with the camera sitting on top of a trash bin. Everyone still happy at the end of the day, but sad to leave.  Most all with those evil red eyes, and I look slightly pregnant, but really, I’m not. 

I kept thinking that the whole thing was blessed by God;  in a way, the whole visit was “charmed.”  No wait, excellent weather, happy and kind attitudes from everyone, all day long, no one got hurt — not even a blister!  We just couldn’t have asked for anything better.

The only bad thing is that we have opened Pandora’s Box.  Well, not really.  But, prior to this, Fiala had never even heard of Disneyland.  Audrey had heard of it, from friends going, but didn’t know what it was.  When our dear friends came with the gifts, Fiala had a stranglehold on the bag of bread cubes, thinking that was the big gift, having no concept of this “Disneyland” of which everyone was chattering excitedly…  I had to sit her (and Audrey) down at the computer and show her pictures and little video clips and say, “THAT is where we’re going.”

That gave me a little window into how the Father must view us, in regards to Heaven:  We’re hanging on for dear life for the little gifts He’s given us, thinking that must be the pinnacle, with absolutely no grid, no revelation, of what the real gift — the real destination — might be….  I must say, I’ve never really longed for Heaven.  I tend not to dwell on things that are impossible for me to wrap my mind around.  But, just as this trip to Disneyland opened up the eyes of two little girls into the possibilities of wonder, fun, and amazement, it has put a little glimmer of hope, a little glimpse into what might await us as His beloved children.

And may you be blessed with friends who give thoughtfully, extravagantly, with rich kindness and blessing.

Thoughts on Christmas. Of course. And dreaming. And poetry.

I am really excited about Christmas, especially the presents, which is a switch for me.  I’m a terrible gift-giver.  I just never can think of what would be “just right” or the only thing I can think of is a bizillion dollars, or it would have taken a month to make and I’m out of time, or whatever.  It’s a lack of intuition plus inadequate planning, I guess.  Add to that the constraints of staying ON BUDGET, and it about wipes me out.  However, this year, we set aside some money well in advance.  And I’m excited about what I have planned for my family.  Although, also in the back of my mind linger the unpleasant memories of gifts that I thought were going to be AWESOME and they turned out to be a total bust.  It’s so much easier to remember the failures than the successes for me.  Something wrong about that….  Anyway.

I had my children make Christmas lists, which I don’t often do, as I think it’s a bit tacky and self-serving and can get their hopes up for that ridiculously over-priced Really Cool Present that they will never receive, like the CELL PHONE on my 12 year old’s list.  I know there are younger children with cell phones, but I looked at him and asked, “Really??” with the Mom Look:  One eyebrow arched, head tilted to the side, lips pursed, a heavy sigh written all over my face.

However, I need to let my children dream…  I’ve been convicted about that lately.  I caution them and prepare their hearts so well about our family’s values — which have a lot to do with Jesus and very little to do with materialism — that I caution them right out of dreaming.  I’ve specially noticed that about my oldest son, who is 14.  He is afraid to even have dreams, lest he be disappointed;  he doesn’t want to fix his heart on the impossible.  That’s startling, partly because that’s just like ME, and I have to fight just to allow myself to have dreams… and frankly, it’s not a super-healthy place to be.  I read “Hold Fast Your Dreams” by Louise Driscoll to him yesterday and suggested that it was a good poem for him (though “The Metal Checks“, also by Driscoll, is much more striking, as poems go, it wasn’t appropriate for the lesson at hand…).  And, I let the cell phone stay on Grant’s list.

Mine is almost identical to this one, mustache bridge and all. An upgrade from $50 firewood. In related news, pretty much all of our guitar-buying has been pre-1997, when we started having children.

For my younger two boys, Wes (age 10) and the aforementioned Grant, I’m having them memorize Luke 6:27-38, in light of the commercialization of the American Way to Have Christmas, and due to the fact that there has been way too much of, “Hey, that’s mine!  Give it back!” which makes me want to poke out my eye with a fork.  I slowly went over each verse with them, explaining that in God’s economy, if you give up something willingly, you always gain back in greater quantity and quality than what you yielded.  I used as an example:  In April 1994, I semi-unwillingly gave my $50 guitar — which was just this side of firewood — to my roommate who had, in my absence, started taking lessons with it.  It was hard, but I was intentional about being generous.  I got married in November of that same year, and my dear husband greatly surprised me with a Taylor guitar (815C model — jumbo with a Florentine cutaway) for our first Christmas!  I hadn’t even dared to hope — to dream — about my own super-fabulous guitar.  It was enough to play my husband’s.  😀  Come to think of it, that was the first of many instances where my husband goes above and beyond where I dare to dream, when it comes to buying me presents.

Anyway.  I also explained to my boys that Jesus was blowing the minds of his hearers.  The Jews already had an unusual law forbidding lenders to charge interest.  Jesus was taking it one step further telling His followers that they were to give anything to anyone who asked, and not even expect repayment of the principle, let alone interest!  This is challenging, to be certain.  Very challenging.  But, it’s required.  Even for kids.  No more, “Hey, that’s mine!  Give it back!”

And, it must be mentioned, that the former roommate is now a professional musician.

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Cranberry-Almond Stickybread Recipe (GFCF, refined-sugar free)

Mmmm....

I came up with this recipe for a friend whose husband has been put on a really restrictive diet.  At first, I was disappointed, because my intention was to make a dough for rollable cinnamon rolls, but the dough was too wet so I had to glop it all in the baking dish.  My husband, however, vetoed my plans to rework the recipe.  “It’s perfect,” he proclaimed, stabbing his fork into the air as an exclamation.

Usually I make a recipe a number of times to work out the kinks… but after excellent results on the second time making it, I decided to go ahead and post the recipe.  I’m thinking I’m going to make this for Christmas morning.  I read up on Monkeybread, and I think the recipe would work in that style, too — in a Bundt pan, maybe even starting with frozen dough.  I’ll have to work on that, though.

This recipe uses no refined sugar:  honey and/or agave syrup are the only sweeteners.  I used egg whites, as my friend’s hubby can’t have yolks;  I think it would work without eggs entirely — if you try it without eggs, up the water content and leave a comment to let me know how it worked.  I used sweetened, dried cranberries, but any dried fruit would work (and would be necessary to make it truly sugar-free).  I used almonds, but pecans would work fine, too.

Last caveat:  The flours.  I use my favorite trio of gluten-free flours in this recipe, but you may find others that work just as well or better.  Post a comment if you alter the flours and let me know the result!

  • Garbanzo flour is made by Bob’s Red Mill, or you can find it in any Asian market as besan, chana dal, chickpea flour, or gram flour.  Expect to pay about $5-6 for a 4-pound bag of garbanzo flour at the Asian market.  My favorite brand is Brar, which is a product of Canada (and which used to be labeled as gluten-free and is no longer… though there isn’t any cross-contamination warning on it).
  • Mung bean starch is very common in Korean cooking;  most Asian markets are organized by nationality/region, so you’d find it on the Korean aisle.  Or Chinese.  I’ve purchased it from both.  It’s also known, cryptically, as green bean powder or green bean starch, since mung beans are small and green.  Mung bean starch is a bit pricey, at around $2.50 – 3.50 per pound in the store, and about double that online.
  • You can find gluten-free oat flour in many well-stocked grocery stores, or mill your own in a blender, sifting it through a wire sieve afterward.

 

Cranberry-Almond Stickybread (click for printable PDF)
About an hour and ten minutes from start to finish
Makes 15 servings

  • Grease a large baking dish (I use a 9″ x 13″ Pyrex, though size is flexible.  I also use Spectrum Organic non-hydrogenated Shortening to grease my pans.)
  • Turn on your oven to 350°F for only 2 minutes.  Turn off.  This provides a warm location for dough to rise.

1¾ cup warm water
1 Tbsp yeast
2 Tbsp honey

  • Gently combine water, yeast, and honey, and let sit (proof) for ten minutes

1½ cups garbanzo flour
1½ cups oat flour
1½ cups mung bean starch
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp xanthan gum

  • Whisk together these dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Set aside.

4 egg whites

  • When the yeast mixture is done proofing, whisk in 4 egg whites, stirring briskly to combine.
  • Add the yeast and egg mixture to the flour mixture, whisking quickly and thoroughly to combine.  Set aside to rest about five minutes.

½ – ¾ cup honey OR agave syrup OR a combination of the two
2 tsp cinnamon

  • Warm the honey to liquefy using a microwave for 10-15 seconds, or setting the container in a pan of very warm water.
  • Stir briskly to combine the cinnamon with honey.

½ cup almond meal
½ cup blanched, slivered almonds (or other chopped nut)
½ cup sweetened, dried cranberries (or other dried fruit)

  • Stir the dough, then with two spoons, drop spoonfuls of dough into the baking dish, using half to two-thirds of the dough.
  • Drizzle about half of the honey-cinnamon mixture over the lumps of dough, then top with about 1/3 cup of the almond meal and all of the slivered almonds and dried cranberries.
  • Drop the remaining dough in small lumps over the first layer.  Drizzle with remaining honey mixture and sprinkle with remaining almond meal.
  • Place into slightly warm oven or other warm place and let rise for 20 minutes.
  • Remove baking dish, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and preheat oven to 375°F for about ten minutes, for a total rising time of 30 minutes.  Dough will have doubled in size (or just a little less-than-doubled).
  • Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until top no longer feels spongy when touched lightly, and top is a nice, golden brown, and honey is sizzling along the sides of the dish.
  • Cut into 15 servings.  Serve warm, with a side of dairy-free ice cream, or topped with whipped cream if you can have dairy.  (Tastes good cold, too, on the off-chance that there are leftovers.)

 

Thanksgiving family, friends & food; drooling over a seed catalog; a good/bad movie

  • So, Thanksgiving was awesome.  At one point, we had 21 people here —  some watching football, some snoozing, some chatting over coffee and pie, kids running around and playing,  spilling out into our courtyard, friends and family.  Perfect.
  • I made this recipe — Roasted Squash with Almonds and Cranberries — and it turned out so good.  I’m definitely making it again, and I probably won’t wait until Thanksgiving;  I LOVE root veggies.  I used parsnips, carrots, and butternut squash.  I baked it a little longer than recommended, and at 325°F because that’s just how it worked out with the other stuff that was in the oven at the time.  I made it about 1/3 bigger than suggested, and wished I had MORE.  Double recipe next time.  I also chose not to add the lemon zest at the end.  I guess I can’t make a recipe without messing with it.
  • On Thanksgiving, my mom gave me a seed catalog that she said would be right up my alley.  She was right.  Pinetree Garden Seeds is located in Maine, so many of their selections are for much cooler, wetter, more northerly climates than here in the sunny desert.  But, I can’t resist.  I’m making a list and hoping for the best.  They have all sorts of heirloom veggies, plus herbs for medicinal use and even plants for dying cloth.  Lots of other stuff, too…  I’ve been savoring the catalog, reading each description.  The seeds are really inexpensive, too.  So far, I have eight packets on my list, and the total is $10.30.  And their shipping is reasonable, too:  $3.95 for up to $19.99 in charges.  I have this book on companion planting, too:  Carrots Love Tomatoes.  ~sigh~  Makes me want to plant stuff.
  • The ones at Home Depot are the identical brand, but MUCH cheaper -- about half the price.

    I’ve been making my own cheapie windowsill seed starters for months:  You need a paper egg carton and a foam one.  Cut out the paper “egg cups” one at a time and place them in the tray of the foam one.  Fill each paper egg cup with seed starting soil, and place in your windowsill.  Absolutely free (except for the eggs!), but it’s easy to over-water (and thereby have water all over your windowsill), and they dry out really fast — no lid and all, and only 1-2 Tbsp of soil in each cup.  So… at Home Depot, I bit the bullet and purchased a ready-made flimsy, plastic, effective 24-plant windowsill “greenhouse” seed starter, complete with peat pellets that expand like crazy.  I now have lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower sprouts happily growing on my windowsill.  Bugs and birds seem to like lettuce and broccoli;  I haven’t had great success directly sowing them into the garden.  I haven’t tried cauli yet, but I figured if the birds like broccoli sprouts, they probably like cauli, as they’re in the same family…

  • Only (maybe) tangentially related to the above — just because we had wine at Thanksgiving — I wanted to mention that if anyone saw my little post on Facebook that said I was going to watch the documentary Blood into Wine and were interested, you may want to reconsider.  On one hand, the movie was REALLY interesting:  lots of wry humor, the fascinating process of growing and making wine in Arizona, and the relationship between the major characters (Tool’s Maynard James Keenan and Arizona winemaker and ecologist Eric Glomski).  I’m always interested in the… intersection of relationships.  Meaning, the events that conspire to bring two people of really diverse paths together.  I LOVE THAT.  I think of it all the time, and if you meet me in real life, one of the first things I will likely ask you is what brought you, here.  However, the movie was also full of f-bombs, sexual references, and way more all-out earth-worshiping religion than my husband was comfortable with.  I could have hung with the movie, compelled by the good parts and filtering out the other… but after an hour, my hubby asked that we turn it off.  And we did.

More garden stuff, including a little seed giveaway… (plus, any takers for an online/e-mail natural birthing class??)

I promise that there is more of note going on in my life than just my garden, but since I have such a nice pic, I thought I’d post another garden update.

One other thing I wanted to mention, though (buried, here in the garden post) is that I’m thinking about making my birthing class notes available as an online/correspondence/something-like-that birth class.  Anyone interested?  I can e-mail you the PDF of the first class (of six, total) as a preview.  I would send copies of each week’s class, one at a time.  I highly suggest that you take two weeks to go through each class’s material and homework, because there is a LOT of info!  And, for full disclosure, the classes are really geared to married Christian couples, but I’m thinking about editing them to be more appropriate for other… uh… demographics.  The basic idea of them is to show the wonder and amazing, kind plan of our Creator God in the process of birth — so that the mom would birth, filled with that wonder, and eager to participate fully in His transformational intentions for her… and that there would be NO FEAR in birth.  If anyone is interested, I will take on three student couples for $40 each, and you can help me work out any communication kinks that may need fixing.  Beta test, if you will.  🙂  ANYONE can have a free copy of the first class’s notes, though.  karenjoy@onlysometimesclever.com

OK.  Back to this day’s regularly scheduled garden post:

This was yesterday’s harvest:  Red chard, green beans (I found more hiding under the red chard after the picture), two dinky tomatoes, and two Dragon carrots.

The carrots would have benefited from another week or two in the ground.  The packet says that they should mature in 70-90 days, and they’ve been in the ground more than 120 days!!  Things grow more slowly in the winter growing season here… less sunlight.  But, sheesh!  Mature already!!  They’re lovely carrots, though.

My tomatoes are thriving.  I’ve harvested a dozen or so in the last couple weeks, though it doesn’t look like any will be red and ready for Thanksgiving.  😦  There are probably 200+ tomatoes growing on my plants, but the bad news is that they’re all about one ounce “big”.  Teeny tiny.  Bigger than cherry tomatoes, but not by much!  I bought my seeds from Native Seeds/SEARCH, which is a fabulous, to-be-esteemed organization for growing, promoting, and selling native and heirloom seeds that do well in the Arizona desert.  However, the Native Seeds’ description of my Punta Banda tomatoes neglected the mention the size, and I neglected to notice the lack of description.  Here, on another site, they’re listed as cherry tomatoes.

My basil plants just won’t die.  Not that I really want them to, but when I add basil to any dish I’m making, I must confess that I use my basil-and-olive-oil “ice cubes” from the freezer.

Fiala, my three-year-old, ran off with a packet of carrot seeds and a packet of onion seeds a few weeks ago.  It is now clear where she planted them, as there are about one hundred carrot sprouts in about a one square foot area of my garden, onions sprouting in the gravel (leading me to think about the parable of the sower), and a sprinkling of onions and carrots in other less-than-ideal spots.  🙂  Precious, rascally girl.

I hope my garlic has lovely, round, purple blooms like this!!

I have one Mexican grey squash plant that is hanging on…  Broccoli that is sprouting (not too vigorously, though, and I think the birds like the sprouts), green onions that are slowly but beautifully growing, mystery volunteer tomato plants that are starting to flower and bear new, tiny fruit…  I planted some garlic cloves, too, and they’re coming up beautifully.  I love garlic and we eat a TON, but I’m kind of planting them for their flowers.  My green beans (Yoeme Purple String Beans, to be exact) are still hanging on, though I’m only harvesting about 1/4 – 1/2 pound every week from four largeish bamboo teepees.  I have set aside 33 seeds that would be good for planting, and will give them to the first taker who mails me a self-addressed, stamped envelope, if you wanna give them a shot!  Again, e-mail if interested.

My tomatillos are fairly pointless.  I have 1/2 gallon of teeny tiny tomatillos in my fridge, waiting to see if I will make salsa out of them for Thanksgiving.  I guess I should take them out of the refrigerator and let the husks dry all the way…  I’m fairly disgusted with how much space those giant plants took up, compared to the tiny fruit.  😦  I started pruning the bushes WAY back, in hopes that the roots and stalks would super-charge the remaining tomatillos and make them grow big, but no such luck.  After Thanksgiving, I do believe I will just pull them out, amend the soil, and plant more broccoli, and maybe some cauli and rutabagas.

Now that I have a fruitful garden, I can’t imagine even NOT having one.  I pray I will continue to learn, and that my little plot of ground will continue to produce.

And, that’s it!  For today.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers, if I get overwhelmed by cleaning and baking and cooking and don’t make it back to the blog before then.  🙂

%d bloggers like this: