Category Archives: Sweet stories

Trendsetter and other good news

Fiala was the flowergirl in the wedding of some dear friends in November. I made her dress.

My days aren’t always wonderful.  But, today has been smashing and I don’t want to forget it.

First, our mourning has been turned into dancing.  Earlier this week, we discovered that the awful scraping sound emanating from my Land Barge’s engine was its last, dying gasp.  It needed a new engine — to the tune of $3,500 or so.  This morning, someone called to tell us that, essentially, he is going to pay for it.  This “someone” is returning a favor for house plans that my husband designed for him.  I must confess that I have groused somewhat about what I feel is people taking advantage of my husband’s generosity with his home-designing skills, which he frequently does for free, or very nearly so, on the side*.  It seems to me that folks don’t comprehend the time, effort, skill, and flat-out genius that goes behind their remodel, or whatever.  I have strongly suggested that he charge what he’s worth.  He refuses.  I pout and feel self-righteous about at least internally defending my husband.  However, I will never breathe a word of complaint again.  Even enters my mind I will remind myself that GOD IS ALWAYS FAITHFUL and HE WILL ALWAYS TAKE CARE OF US and no kindness is wasted in God’s economy.  I will give all future unkindly thoughts** a kick to the curb and not let them enter into the dwelling place of my ponderings.  Seriously.  My mind is changed FOREVER.  My paradigm is permanently shifted.

Secondly, something over the last week or so, of which we didn’t hear until today:

  1. Last week at our dentist’s office, as always, my five year old daughter Fiala was unfailingly kind and encouraging. She told the dental assistant, Shawn, that she looked beautiful, and gave her a hug and a kiss.
  2. Shawn went home, and when asked about her day by her elementary-school-aged son, she said that a little girl made her day, describing the incident with Fi… They talked about the name “Fiala”.
  3. The son’s teacher is pregnant with a little girl and (bravely!) told the students that she would let one of them name the baby. She set up a suggestion box in the back. Shawn’s son wrote down “Fiala”.
  4. The teacher announced yesterday (I think) that her new baby would be named Fiala.
  5. Buh-bam! Darling girl is a trend-setter, spreading her sweet spunkiness and genuine affection, getting babies named after her.


*He is also paid to design houses in his full-time job.  🙂
**At least on this topic.  😉

Housework! Summer soup! Beef jerky! Computer viruses!

  • Fourteen upper cabinets.  Twelve lowers.  Fifteen drawers.  All cleaned, inside and out, sorted and re-organized.  Plus, as they don’t go all the way to the kitchen ceiling, the tops are cleaned off, as well as all the decorative items that reside up there.  ~sigh~  That is a sigh of exhaustion.  And relief.  In our nearly six years of living here, I have never done all of the kitchen cabinets in one fell swoop.  It had been nagging at the back of my brain daily, each time I took something out of a cabinet and saw an accumulation of crumbs, dust, and/or greasy grime.  Note:  Gel Gloss looks fabulous for about ten minutes, but then that gleaming shine washes off super-easily with soap and water!  Not great for quartz countertops in a kitchen that gets regular abuse use.  Bummer.  Anyone have a favorite stone countertop product they love??
  • Have you ever tried my Thai Chicken Noodle Soup?  I just updated the recipe.  I can’t believe it’s been almost four years since I originally posted the recipe.   The soup —  more of a meal-in-a-bowl than an actual soup — is a staple in our home, even in summer.  Lots of fresh veggies, tasty and fun.  Mmmm…
  • I turned seven pounds of London Broil into beef jerky the other day.  Smoky-garlic and soy-garlic.  It’s in preparation for our vacation.  Jerky comes in handy for snacks and meals-while-driving, as well as made into various recipes (which I learned from this fabulous cookbook for hikers/campers — it’s a shame it’s out of print!  One review says “Invaluable!  Wore out library copy — had to buy my own.”  That is exactly what I did!!)…  Anyway.  What wasn’t fit for jerky got put into a pot of what was supposed to be red chile stew.  Which it was, sort of.  But, I got enticed by a Really Big package of dried chile de arbol at the grocery store last week, and thought, “Oooh, those are the chiles in Cholula [my fave hot sauce],” and I bought it, really knowing nothing about them.  Well, it turns out they are REALLY HOT.  I removed the stems, seeds, and… pith (or whatever it’s called), and my hands burned for hours, even though I think I only used five chiles.  Also, the broth was SO HOT that I had to scoop out all the beef chunks and — sadly — drain the broth, which seemed like such a waste, but I knew if I kept it as it was, it would be inedible for my kids.  I added water to cover the remaining beef (to which some crushed chile still clung), added a chopped onion, sea salt, and about eight cloves of chopped garlic.  After it had simmered for nearly three hours, I thickened the cooked-down broth with some corn starch, and served it with some Spanish rice (which I had made earlier in the week) and some refried beans (from Trader Joe’s — my favorite).  It was good.  Still, lesson learned:  very judicious use of chile de arbol in the future.
  • My computer contracted a nasty virus, somehow, a few weeks ago.  It died.  Actually, it would power up, but Windows wouldn’t start.  The virus was called Windows Repair Module, which — obviously — was a fake.  How insidious.  I kept getting warnings from Windows, and it turns out that each time I clicked the “OK” button, I was unknowingly activating the .exe file associated with various aspects of the virus.  A friend of my husband’s took my hard drive home with him and worked on it every night for four nights.  He was able to pull most of my documents and pictures (THANK GOD!  I cried when I thought they were unretrievable), and save them to an external hard drive.  Then, he reformatted my hard drive.  Now, I just have to load a bunch of software that got wiped out… but that’s OK.  I then thanked my oldest son, Ethan, who will be 14 later this week.  Why?  Because “…with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  Ethan worked a hot and hard day at the home of a friend, laying tile and cleaning…  and with that measure of service and giving, it was returned to us, in the form of a repaired computer.
  • If you’re still reading… today is my birthday.  I am 38.  🙂  The only thing I really love about growing older is the history, the perspective that it brings to my life.  I freak out less, because I can say, “Look.  We had that really rough patch five years ago, and God brought us through.”  When I was younger, everything was new and untested, and every challenge threatened to topple me.  Now, I’ve had years of tasting God’s goodness, and seeing His faithfulness first-hand.  To me, that’s a really, really valuable birthday present.


I keep telling Fiala that she’s a genius.  She’s smart, but I am more impressed by her… emotional intelligence.  She’s two years old — just barely — and often more perceptive than any of us.  She is the sweetest member of our family, deeply concerned when someone gets a boo boo, or gets in trouble, or has a hard time with something, ready to give hugs and words of consolation, celebrating — with visible relief and joy — when the difficulty has passed.  Likewise, she notices and files away into her memory things that make people happy, and will frequently say something like, “Great dinner, Mama!” simply because she knows it brings a smile to my face, and she’ll receive sincere thanks and some lovin’ in reply.  She acts with similar kindness and encouragement to everyone.  Recently, she has started asking just about everyone, “Hi!  How are you doing?” because she has noticed how happily everyone responds to a two-year-old who is sincerely concerned with their well-being.  She is simply a gift of God to our family;  I become more and more convinced that God knows we need.  🙂

Her restricted diet gets more and more difficult to manage as she gets older.  If you’re 12 months old, and you’re eating something different than the rest of the family, you’re not that likely to notice.  But, if you’re 24 months old, and you really like eating, it becomes a source of frustration and sadness that you can’t eat what everyone else is enjoying.

Countless times, Fi has asked for a food item, only to have me respond, “Oh, Fi… I’m so sorry, but you can’t have that.  It will hurt your skin!”  or, “It will hurt your tummy!”

At lunch on Thursday, we had a similar exchange.  Fiala had her Fi-safe lunchmeat, carrots, and farinata.  She was particularly desirous of the pepperoni and cheese that others were having.  I sometimes give her a bit of sheep’s milk romano, but she really wanted a whole slice of provolone.  “No, Fi.  I’m so sorry.  This cheese will hurt your skin, honey.  And your tummy.  I can’t give it to you.”

Fiala was quiet for a while, thinking.

Then, she piped up, in a heart-achingly hopeful voice, “Cheese makes me better, Mama!”

I about laughed and wept at the same time.

Precious child.

In which I get coerced in the Asian market

Every week or two, I visit a gigantic, fun, confusing grocery called Lee Lee Market.  Ostensibly, it’s an Asian market, meaning all of Asia, as they have aisles for Japan, Korea, China, Thailand and more.  Additionally, they have food from Africa, Mexico, Spain, South America, the Middle East (which I guess is technically Asia) and… Holland.  Why Holland?  I don’t know.  But, there’s an entire half-aisle of foodstuffs with labels in Dutch.

I don’t go for the Dutch food;  I get things like fresh veggies (there are about 10 different varieties of bok choy), gluten-free rice snacks from Japan, and garbanzo flour — I have officially graduated to the ten pound sacks!  I also buy lamb at Lee Lee.  Though it’s frozen, Lee Lee has the best prices and selection of lamb that I’ve found, including thinly sliced boneless leg roasts, which we call Lamb-Umms.  Most recently, I went to Lee Lee for rice.

Last time I went to Lee Lee, I had looked for plain white long grain rice, and oddly enough, I couldn’t find it.  I found all sorts of OTHER rice, but not your regular run-of-the-mill white.  (For the record, our family is split between white rice and brown rice lovers.  I’m in the brown rice camp, but I’ll still serve white rice to delight those who like it.  However, I’m still on the total elimination diet with Fiala, and she and I get to eat none of it.)  While I shopped in vain, I kept thinking, “C’mon!  It’s an ASIAN market.  Why don’t they have plain rice???”

This most recent trip, I figured out my error.  I was looking amongst the normal aisles of food.  Rice is in a corner towards the front of the store, in the BULK FOODS section.  Ten, twenty, fifty pound sacks of all sorts of varieties of rice.  Rice, rice, and more rice.

So, there I stood, contemplating the dizzying array, trying to compare prices (I was a bit baffled by the price signs, which didn’t seem to match the selection very well).  I gravitated towards a 10 lb bag of basmati rice in a lovely burlap sack.  However, being that it was in burlap and the writing was mostly not in English, I couldn’t figure out if it was brown rice or white.  I saw a little tag added with cooking directions, probably for the benefit of Americans.  I thought, “OK.  If the directions say ‘cook for 45 minutes’ it’s probably brown.  Ten-twelve minutes, it’ll be white.”

As I set about my investigation, a short older lady sidled up to me.  Helpfully, she asked, “Do you know how to cook rice?”

I insisted that I did, and explained my situation, asking her if she knew if it was white or brown.

“Oh, it’s white rice.  You’re looking to buy rice, then?”

Yes, I certainly was.

Found a pic!! This is my rice!

She gently grabbed my arm and steered me further down the piles of sacks.  “Then this is the rice you want.”  She lovingly laid her hand on a dayglo orange bag of rice.  I saw the word “parboiled” on the label.  Out of politeness, I inspected the bag, but I was doubtful.

I turned to her husband, who lingered nearby, “You like this rice, too?”

“Oh, yes.  We drive here all the time, just for this rice.  My wife won’t buy any other kind.”

Peering at the image on the front of the bag, I asked, still unsure, “Is the rice yellow, like in the picture?”

“Yes.  Well, no.  More like golden.  Well, more like off-white.  The grain is yellow, maybe ivory-colored, but it cooks up off-white.”

I was not convinced.  I had been holding a bag, but set it down again.  She looked disappointed.

Sweetly, the lady continued, in a confiding tone, “We’re from Afghanistan.  We eat rice with every meal.  If you serve a meal to someone from Afghanistan, and there is no rice, they will ask you, ‘Where is the rice?’  When you make this rice, you will know by the aroma.  You will make it, and the aroma will rise into the air, and your family will be drawn into the kitchen and say, ‘Oh, that aroma…’  When it is cooking, you will know that it is good rice.  The right rice.”

Who could argue with that???  😀

With a last longing glance at the handsome burlap sack, I hefted the 10 lb orange, zipper-topped sack into my cart, thanking her for her advice.  “Upon your recommendation, I will try it.”

“Oh, your family will love it.  I am sure,” she smiled.

I perused the overhead labels;  I didn’t want to buy a $30 bag of rice.  As best as I could tell, it was about $12.  That’ll do.

The label has various words in English:  Royal King Sella Parboiled Basmati.  In searching fruitlessly for a picture, I’ve found that “sella” refers to golden rice.  It is not quite golden, but it is off-white.

I’m not sure where the “parboiled” part comes in.  To me, parboiled means Minute Rice — previously cooked, then dehydrated, leaving rough, bent rice grains which then re-“cook” in the few minutes that it takes the grains to re-soak-up the water.  The rice from Lee Lee has directions that say, basically, to soak it for two hours (I didn’t), then add water and cook for 12-15 minutes.  Sounds like normal rice to me.  It’s definitely not parboiled.  Maybe something was lost in translation.

The verdict?  Everyone thought it was dreamy-wonderful.  Everyone except for Audrey.  Like only a 3yo can, she asked, without even trying it, “Why does this rice smell weird?  I don’t like it.”  She did finally eat it, somewhat begrudgingly.  Everyone else scarfed it down and had seconds.

And I have had a warm feeling in my heart for the last 48 hours or so, from being coerced by a sweet Afghan grandmother into buying rice that I likely wouldn’t have, otherwise.

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