Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I'd rather be kayaking

I went for a walk today, in the early morning hours.  The moon was still high in the sky, yawning its way toward the western horizon, and the kiddos still fast asleep.  I took my favorite 4 mile route through the state park because I knew my customary summer weekday 2 mile walk around the "block" wouldn't be enough.

I love walking.  Y'all know that, right?  I certainly talk about it enough.  I especially love walking in the early morning hours.  God is with me on my walks.  I am sometimes talking, sometimes listening, always walking with my Savior. 

My favorite 4 mile walk follows along the north side of the river and lake, but the dense forest blocks the view of the water for most of the time.  I came to one of two breaks in the trees overlooking the lake, sat on my rock, and gazed down toward the water.  The lake was still as glass.  It looked so peaceful, so calm, and suddenly, I wanted to be on the lake, soaking in the stillness and serenity.  I wanted to be down in the quiet, the only sound my paddle dipping into the water, the only movement my boat cutting across the smooth surface of the lake.  I wanted my soul to mirror the water.

It was so beautiful.

But as beautiful as that lake is, it's only a shadow of the glory it was meant to be.  Like a hazy, grimy film, this world and everything in it bears the stain of sin and brokenness. 

I think of it like those Disney movies, released from the vault and digitally restored.  You don't realize how drab and faded the films have become until you see them next to the remastered film--you don't even know what you're missing, how sharp and colorful and lovely they can be.  The original films are wonderful.  But the restored films are so much better.  Just like my lake--I don't even know what I'm missing, none of us does.  There are places of beauty in our world, but a restored world will be unimaginably better.

It must hurt the Creator's heart so, to see what our choices have wrought upon His masterpiece, to see the consequences we've rained down on ourselves, to realize we don't even know what we've done, to see His beautiful world tainted by so much pain, so much brokenness.  How can God even bear to look?

And still, He draws near.  In the midst of ugliness and pain, He seeks to restore, to renew.  He shows us glimpses of His glory, the beauty that could be, that should be.  And He bids us walk with Him.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Menu Plan for the week of July 14 and beyond

Wow, y'all, 2 summer menu plan posts in a row.  Amazing.  As I've mentioned, we have 3 weeks of crazy starting today.  It's unlikely I'll get a chance to post menus again this month, so although they are not complete, I thought I'd put what I've got for menus out there for your inspiration.

Here you go:

Week of July 14:
--Creamy Italian Chicken (in the crock pot, from the freezer), bow tie pasta, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots
--Pancakes, eggs, fruit
--Out to eat
--Chicken/rice/broccoli casserole (from the freezer), fresh fruit or peaches, sugar snap peas
--Pizza, tossed salad
--Grilled pork chops, rice, grilled zucchini or Brussels sprouts
--leftovers/fend for yourself

Week of July 21
--Brats/hot dogs
--Hamburgers
--Grilled Beef and veggie kabobs
--Chicken Skewers, grilled French bread, romaine salad, corn on the cob

Week of July 28
--Haystacks or taco salad
--Ranch chicken kabobs
--Brats/hot dogs
--Basil chicken burgers

Other:
--Cookie dough hummus
--Crunchy granola bars
--No bake peanut butter chocolate chip granola bars
--Orange cream cake pops
--Green stuff
--Chocolate caramel layer bars (similar to this recipe)

What are you cooking this month?

Friday, July 11, 2014

This week in review

After a few sunny, warm, and humid days, today has dawned cooler and windy with rain.  As I sit here at my desk with the windows open, I'm wearing a sweater.  Y'all know I'm not a huge fan of the heat of summer, and it is so refreshing to have these cooler days to recover.  This week has been less hectic than the others so far this summer.  It's been kind of refreshing, like the rain this morning, kind of like a reset.

AKD and MC both had soccer games scheduled for Monday evening, and both were canceled due to severe thunderstorms.  AKD's game was to be played about a 45 minute drive away, and when we left the house, the sky was gray, but it wasn't raining, and we hadn't seen any lightning.  About 20 minutes from home we saw the first bolts of lightning ripping across the sky, and I knew the game would be canceled, but we had to keep going just in case it wasn't. 

By the time the city officials came out to the field to let us know they were closing the park, there was a full blown thunderstorm raging down on us.  It was a driving rain that the windshield wipers couldn't quite keep up with.  The cars ahead of us would disappear and reappear with each swipe.  More than once, I felt the 'burban being pushed sideways by strong gusts of wind.  My knuckles were white, for sure, and I was wiped when we finally arrived back home.  At home, it was sprinkling, like the angry wind and rain, the slashing lightning and crashing thunder, had never even existed. 

AKD's game was rescheduled for Tuesday evening, and the night was absolutely gorgeous.  With their victory that night, his team clinched the conference championship.  He had another game Wednesday night (at home, thankfully), which they played brilliantly and won, bringing their record to 10-1-1 for the season.  Playoffs are this weekend, and the state tournament is in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday morning I escaped the house, and the children, for some mystery shopping--always a good time.

On Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday the boys had friends over, one at a time.  Sure wish we could have scheduled all those play dates at the same time--it just didn't work out that way.

In between, there has been lots of trampoline jumping and pool going ining, a bit of errand running, and lots of relaxing.  In truth, I've been gearing up for another 3 weeks of crazy, storing up the calm to mete it out bit by bit in the storm.  And even though it's all good, the crazy, I would be lying if I said I wasn't feeling a bit anxious about how it'll all get done.  One day at a time, I guess.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Where June went and menu plan for the week of July 7

When last we spoke, school had just ended and we were midway through June. Now, it's July.  A week in to July, in fact.  Where did June go?

Well, I'll tell ya.

Summer school and swim lessons, that's where.  There was also soccer, a visit from my parents, more soccer, a camping trip, Scouts, soccer again, eye appointments, orthodontist, rain, canning beans, and more rain.  And laundry!  We finished June with my three oldest boys heading off to Boy Scout camp for a week.  Started July that way, too.  Now we have a merely busy week ahead before 3 weeks of crazy busy starts again.

Yup, I will definitely need a vacation to recover from this summer "vacation," and we haven't even done anything fun yet.

Anyway, we're going to eat this week.  You know, in between the soccer, appointments, mystery shops (4 of them. In one day), library, swimming, and preparing for the crazy busy.  Everything is either in the crockpot or on the grill, yes, even the pizza, because the summer heat is finally upon us, and we don't need to be heating up our oven.  Or even our stove.  Here's what's on the menu this week.

Supper:
--Creamy crock pot chicken and rice, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots
--Shell casserole (in the crock pot), green beans, orange slices
--Chicken chili verde tacos, taco fixin's
--Hamburger stroganoff, corn, applesauce
--Brats, carrots, green stuff
--Hamburgers, sugar snap peas, watermelon
--Pizza, grapes

Other
--No bake peanut butter chocolate chip granola bars
--Almond butter

What's going on with you this week?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Game Changer by Kirk Cousins: A Review

When I saw that NFL quarterback Kirk Cousins' book Game Changer was available, I knew I had to read it.  Kirk attended the same high school as Hubby (and most of my in-laws), the same college as my parents (and other family members), and was drafted by the team most of our friends in WV root for.  I also have a son who is just a tiny bit obsessed with football.

In Game Changer, Kirk Cousins gives readers an inside glimpse at his life on the football field and off, and shows how he puts his faith into action.

 
I really liked this book, even though it wasn't quite what I expected.  I was expecting an autobiography, the story of Kirk Cousins in chronological order, but it's better than that.  Kirk sat down and thought about specific ways in which his faith has influenced his life for the better.  Then he wrote 13 inspirational chapters to encourage others to use and develop their faith, by using the Bible as a playbook, by making good decisions, by surrounding oneself with a great team, and 9 other ways.  Kirk's writing style is conversational, engaging, and easy to understand.
 
This book would be an excellent book club selection for tweens and teens, especially young football fans--I plan to read this book aloud with my boys.  Mr. Cousins is talented, hard working, and humble and I would be incredibly pleased if my sons wanted to be more like him.
 
I received this book from the publisher through BookLookBloggers for free in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert: A Review

Regular readers of my blog will not be surprised that I chose to review Katie Ganshert's third novel, A Broken Kind of Beautiful, given my fascination with the art of turning broken things beautiful. 

 
I loved Ms. Ganshert's first two novels, Wildflowers from Winter and Wishing on Willows, and I was thrilled to see this new offering.
 
Ivy Clark is a 24 year old fashion model, whom it seems no one wants--24 is ancient in modeling terms.  Out of desperation, Ivy agrees to model a line of wedding dresses for her stepmother, Marilyn's, boutique.  After 10 years as a model, Ivy has come to believe that no one cares how broken and stained she is on the inside, as long as she looks beautiful for the camera.
 
Davis Knight was a rising star in the world of fashion photography before he gave it all up to become a church maintenance man.  He reluctantly agrees to come out of retirement to shoot the photos for the wedding dress campaign as a favor to his aunt.
 
The book opens at the funeral of Ivy's father.  Marilyn, Ivy's stepmother, was married to Ivy's father when Ivy was conceived as the result of an affair.  Instead of rejecting her husband, she clung to her marriage.  Instead of rejecting Ivy, Marilyn welcomes her into her home year after year.  For reasons even she doesn't understand, Marilyn feels called to love this girl who feels rejected and unloved by all those around her.  Marilyn sees the broken and hurting inside while the world sees just another pretty face.
 
During the course of the wedding dress campaign, with the gentle prodding of the one person who always loved her, and influenced by a man who loves God and treats Ivy in a way she's never been treated, Ivy's experiences come to challenge what she has come to believe about beauty and worth--that God sees her, broken and stained by the world, and wants her still.
 
I loved this book and found it hard to put down.  Ms. Ganshert's writing is vivid and descriptive and her characters are compelling and real.  This is a love story, but not in the way one might think.  Yes, the boy and girl fall in love, but more than that, the book shows the selfless love of a stepmother for her husband's daughter, a love the world doesn't understand, a love that can only come from God.  In the end, this story is about how God loves us, values us, pursues us, even when--especially when--we are broken, stained, and unworthy.
 
I received this book for free from the publisher through Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.
 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

inScribed Collection: A Review

Earlier this year, Book Look Bloggers sent me the first four books in the new inScribed collection.  This collection of studies strives to lead women to not just survive but thrive by encouraging them to immerse themselves in the person of Jesus Christ. 


The collection is gorgeous, with nice thick colorful paperback covers and striking cover images.  The covers have flaps for page-keeping, which I love.  My one complaint about the books themselves is it's kind of difficult the flip through them looking for a specific page because the pages are cut unevenly--it looks beautiful, but is kind of unpractical.  Maybe that's the point, though--these books are meant to be poured over and savored, not flipped through.

The first four studies in the collection include:

Living So That: Making Faith-Filled Choices in the Midst of a Messy Life by Wendy Blight


Living So That focuses on many of the powerful "so that" verses in the Bible, like "Jesus came so that...", "God Spoke so that..." and "Let Your Light Shine so that..."  The book consists of 5 chapters, each with 5 parts, so one could complete the study in 5 weeks, reading one part per weekday.  The study includes memory verses, journaling prompts, application questions, and an "if you want to go deeper" section, along with concluding thoughts.  Through Biblical teaching and personal examples, Ms. Blight equips readers to live the word of God in a practical way.


Amazed and Confused: When God's Actions Collide With Our Expectations by Heather Zempel


In Amazed and Confused, author Heather Zempel explores the book of Habakkuk to make sense of God's sometimes confusing response to us.  Ms. Zempel tackles the tough question of how to respond when God's actions seem out of line with His promises.  This interactive Bible study is perfect for those who are hurting and confused about God response to their prayers.  The book has 10 chapters.  Each chapter concludes with discussion questions and space for notes.



Leaving Ordinary: Encounter God through Extraordinary Prayer by Donna Gaines


In Leaving Ordinary, author Donna Gaines shares from personal experience how prayer can link the believer's heart to the heart of God, so that we can experience true intimacy with Him.  The book explores the tabernacle, through which, God taught his people how to approach and worship Him.  This book is essential for anyone who wishes to enter the presence of the Lord.  The book consists of 20 chapters in three parts: part 1 tells the story of the tabernacle, part 2 shows how the tabernacle foreshadows Christ, and part 3 explains how to pray through the tabernacle, using it as a pattern for obtaining intimacy with God.  At the end of each chapter, the author includes a few short questions to  consider, along with space for notes.



Dive Deeper: Finding Deep Faith Beyond Shallow Religion by Jennifer Jernigan


According to author Jennifer Jernigan, there is a big difference between knowing the Bible, and truly understanding it.  In Dive Deeper, Ms. Jernigan uses a study of the book of Ephesians to teach the reader her D.I.V.E. method of Bible study, through examples and opportunities to practice.  This unique Bible study method will encourage you to jump head-first into the exhilarating waters of Scripture and find a deeper relationship with Jesus than you ever thought possible.  The book consists of 6 sections, each with 2-3 lessons.  Each lesson walks the readers through the steps of Define, Investigate, Visualize, and Embrace.


Three more titles are set to be added to the collection in October.

I don't have the space to give more than a brief overview of each book, but I did want to share this excerpt from Dive Deeper: Finding Deep Faith Beyond Shallow Religion:
She was satisfied playing in a puddle.  Sitting in the hole she'd dug in the snow-white beach sand, my daughter played for hours while others jumped waves and dove deep into the crystal blue waters.  Every now and then the inside of her puddle would drain empty, and with yellow pail in hand, she'd walk to the ocean's edge.  Cautiously, she would bend her small-framed body, holding tightly to that yellow pail, as the two of them met the rolling waves.  Once her pail was full of salty, cool water, she'd wander back to her hand-made beach playground and turn the pail upside down.  The insides of her sandy hold would instantly transform into a shallow puddle of ocean water.  Until it emptied again.


Are you satisfied with a shallow, safe puddle of religion, when there is an ocean of faith just steps away waiting to be explored?  Something to think about.

I love that this series has something for everyone--for the most experienced Bible reader on down to the novice, and for every stage of life.  These are great for personal study and reflection or to study with a group.

I received these books for free from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, June 20, 2014

This week in review

Whew!  We are on summer vacation!  And, in typical Bluefield fashion, I expect I will need a vacation to recover from this vacation.  Those Bluefields, they're always on the move.  But don't worry--there are always plenty of snacks to keep one's energy up.

MC & Bubby are both participating in enrichment classes this week and next.  Bubby is learning about dinosaurs and creepy-crawly things, and MC is learning about ... what else? ... sports.  All three boys are also taking swim lessons, and that rounds out our morning. 

It looks like this: MC, Bubby & Mama leave the house at 7:45 a.m. and drive to Bubby's summer school.  MC & Mama then drive over to MC's summer school, then Mama drives home, arriving sometime around 8:45.  Mama leaves the house again at 9:40 to pick up Bubby, then head over to pick up MC and play at a park for 15 minutes until it's time to get ready for swim lessons.  AKD leaves home on his bike around 10:15 (if it's not raining, which it was 40% of the mornings this week) and meets us for swim lessons.  After waiting an extraordinary amount of time for the boys to come out of the locker room after their swim time is done (seriously, I don't know why it takes them so long.  They don't even change clothes.  They just put their shirts and shoes on, which ought to take ... oh ... 2 minutes, but really takes at least 15), we head home, arriving around 12:30ish, and collapse in a heap before slowly crawling to the kitchen to figure out something for lunch.

The upside to all this busy-ness?  I have not heard "I'm bored" once.

AKD was finally able to get his contact lenses in this week.  We decided to try them so he'll actually be able to see when he's on the soccer field.  Yay, AKD!  And then it took him an hour to get them back out.  For some reason it was unacceptable for him to rub his eyes and then blink repeatedly to get the lenses out.  Those opticians.  I tell ya.  So demanding.

We had 2 soccer games this week, and one rained out game.  MC has only played 3 of the 6 scheduled games so far due to soggy field conditions.  He's missing the last game of the season due to a conflict, so we're looking at a best case scenario of 50% of the games.  He's very bummed about the whole situation, and I am, too.  He's one of the best players on his team, and it's fun to see him play and improve.

AKD's soccer team continues to dominate their division--it's been so great to see the boys learning to work together as a team.  We've been seeing some great passes and terrific plays.

The boards are still off the front porch.  The boys took the boards off last week, and we were working on correcting the slope of the landscape, but we've had so much rain that we haven't been able to get enough dirt--the landscaping place wouldn't sell it to us because it was too wet!  We did manage to get enough done that we haven't had any additional water in our basement, so that's a good thing.

On tap for the weekend?  Some family fun time.  Next week, summer school and swim lessons continue.  We also have a play date scheduled, house guests for part of the week, and 4 soccer games + 4 soccer practices, along with a Boy Scout meeting, and maybe we'll catch a baseball game.

What's going on with you?

Defending the Line: The David Luiz Story by Alex Carpenter

All three of my boys are playing soccer this summer, so I jumped at the chance to read this book.  Defending the Line tells the story of David Luiz, a rising star on the international soccer scene.  The book touches on his childhood, playing for soccer clubs in Brazil, through making it to his first professional team, to now playing in the World Cup for Brazil's national team.  This book is appropriately leveled for 6th - 8th graders (although I couldn't get my 6th or 8th grader to read it).


I enjoyed reading Defending the Line.  I found myself a bit confused at times by all of the different levels and names and locations and teams, but I did learn a lot about how international professional soccer works.  It was inspiring to read about how David Luiz overcame adversity and setbacks with his tenacity and hard work to realize his dream of playing soccer for his national team. 

I was a little disappointed by the simplistic approach to exploring Luiz's faith.  The tagline of the book reads: "The story of a Brazilian soccer star fueled by faith."  This led me to believe that the author would give specific examples of how faith played an integral part in Luiz's life and success.  Instead, there were just a few vague mentions that Luiz's faith kept him going or allowed him to persevere.  Since this book was written for 8-12 year olds, perhaps the lack of detail was designed to keep the target audience from tuning out.

Bottom line: this would be a great read for the young soccer fan in your life, and a non-threatening way to start planting seeds of faith in a non-believer.

I received this book from BookLook Bloggers for free in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Reasons My Kid is Crying by Greg Pembroke: A Review

I was excited to receive my copy of Greg Pembroke's Reasons My Kid is Crying.  As a busy dad, the author was faced with the problem many, if not all, parents have, of his kid crying for any and all reasons, rational or not.  When faced with the choice to cry alongside his tantruming 3 year old, or laughing about it, Mr. Pembroke chose laughter.  He posted a few pictures of his child mid-tantrum, along with the reason he was crying: he had broken his cheese in half.  Within weeks, parents were sending him pictures of their children along with the reasons why they were crying.  Mr. Pembroke complied the best of these into Reasons My Kid is Crying.  The book is described as a glimpse into the tribulations of parenting that is part documentary, part therapy, and completely hilarious.


I really expected to enjoy this book.  I mean, what parent hasn't experienced their child crying for ridiculous reasons?  For my kids, it always seemed like they were most likely to get upset if I did exactly what they wanted.  It's always nice to know you're not the only one.

The book itself is beautiful, with full page photos, and is organized into several sections.  I found the content to be a bit tiresome, though.  I mean, the first few were funny, but it got old fast, and I didn't like seeing pictures of all of those crying kids.  Plus?  A lot of the reasons the kids were crying sounded pretty valid to me!  I think that I'm just past that stage.  My kids still cry for irrational reasons, but at least now I can talk them down.  Sometimes.

That said, I do think this book can be a lifeline for a parent in the throes of toddlerhood.  There comes a point in every parent's life where all you can do is laugh or cry, and this book goes a long way toward encouraging laughter.  It will also encourage parents who feel isolated and alone to know that this is something every parent and child experience.

This would make a great baby shower gift, but not for a first child--I'd say wait until the first baby is at least 12-18 months old.  Don't want to scare the newbies ;)

For more information, check out these resources:
  • Reasons My Kid Is Crying Press Release
  • Facebook Link
  • Twitter Link
  • Reasons My Kid Is Crying Book Trailer
  • More Info
  • Read Chapter One
  • Author Bio

  • I received this book for free through Waterbrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review.

    Friday, June 13, 2014

    This week in review

    I guess I'll start with the biggie.  All three of our kids reached significant milestones in their education this week.  Bubby completed Kindergarten, MC completed 5th grade, and AKD completed 8th grade.  For MC and AKD, this means new schools next year.  We're so proud of their accomplishments so far, and can't wait to see where the future takes them.

    A lot of our week revolved around end of the school year stuff.  MC and the 5th graders headed to the big zoo on Monday, while Kindergarten showed parents and grandparents how much they've learned at a Kindergarten celebration. 

    Tuesday was AKD's 8th grade Fare-Thee-Well, sending the class of 2018 off to High School. 

    Wednesday we celebrated the end of the school year with kite day at the elementary school.  Even managed to get my kite up (which happens {on kite day} about once every 4 years or so--they always seem to pick a wind-less day).  Wednesday evening the 5th graders faced off against their parents and teachers in Trench (which seems to be a more complicated version of dodgeball?) at a picnic in their honor. 

    Thursday was the last day of school, which is always a big party at the elementary school.  This year they duct-taped teachers to the wall.  Not kidding.  AKD and the 8th graders headed off to a waterpark and amusement center for their last day.

    Of course we had soccer games and practices this week.  MC and Bubby are both strong players on their teams.  I think MC's team tied.  Not sure about Bubby's team, but he scored their only 2 goals.  AKD's team pounded their competition on Monday, winning 8-2.  Wednesday's game was closer, but the Raiders pulled out a 3-2 victory.  His team is playing well, and his coach has been moving AKD around a bit.

    I walked to the waterfall yesterday, which from our house is about a 6-7 mile round trip (more like 9 if you believe the map, but I do not believe the map).  Remember when I said I would before the end of the school year?  Well, it was down to the wire, but I made it.  It was a lovely morning to be out walking, and I love that path, the lake, river, and waterfall.  It was a nice, contemplative way to enjoy my last few hours of alone time before the kids were home for the summer.

    I made the dessert for the important person in my life yesterday.  Well, I started making it yesterday, but it was so busy I wasn't able to get the final layer on.  I don't think she'll mind.

    On Sunday, we returned home from a weekend camping trip to find water in our finished basement.  A lot of water.  Again.  So frustrating.  We ripped out the carpet and are in the process of drying out.  We were advised to redo some landscaping, so our weekend plans have been canceled to take care of this issue, hopefully once and for all.

    Today, the boys and I are taking care of a few things around the house that have been neglected due to the busyness of the past few weeks, plus doing some prep work for the weekend.  Then we're off to the library to sign up for the summer reading program, followed by shopping for snacks for the older boys' Scout camp.

    Next week, we are off and running into our busy summer, with enrichment summer school classes, swim lessons, a couple of appointments, and of course, more soccer.  Off we go!

    Tuesday, June 10, 2014

    A Gift & A Joyous Reunion

    Well, that didn't last long.  Within 4 hours, I broke down and awoke my beloved yeasty beasties from their hibernation.

    Last week, a friend told me that she bought me a gift.  She didn't give it to me, mind you, she just told me about it.  I think she was a little ... surprised ... by my completely over-the-top reaction.  There were definitely boisterous hugs involved, and there may have been a happy tear or two.  You see, it just meant so much to me that she would think of me.  And not just think of me in some random or obligated way, but pay attention to something I had said days (or maybe weeks?) earlier, know that this gift would make me happy, and act on it.

    The gift?  A plastic-coated whisk.

    And it's pink!

    And then yesterday, an hour or two after I put the yeasts down for their nap, she gave it to me.

    Oh, happy, happy day: I have a plastic-coated whisk!

    And it's pink!

    And then, AKD came home and tasted the carrot cake Friendship Bread (so good!  You should try it) and asked me if I was going to make zucchini.

    It was too much to bear.  A plastic-coated whisk, a request for zucchini Friendship Bread, and you know I was already missing my dear, tasty yeasty friends. 

    One more round.  I'll use my whisk, we'll bake up some bread with green flecks, and Hubby tells me his office will eat anything our freezer won't accept.  Then the yeasties can nap.

    Monday, June 9, 2014

    Time for a nap, yeasties...

    It's baking day again.  Today I made regular, lemon-chia*, and carrot cake Friendship Bread.

    Can I just say?  Why don't people make carrot muffins and bread more often?  It's the same as zucchini except the little green flecks are orange instead, and it is so, so delicious!  Carrots are cheaper for most of the year, too.  It's a good thing I baked mine in mini-loaves, because it's got built-in portion control.  Sort of.

    I have mixed feelings about this being my last baking day for a while.  On the one hand, I am ready for a break from the stirring, feeding, and baking every 10 days.  I've made a good selection of different varieties--all of the ones I care to try right now--and there's not much more room in my freezer for Friendship Bread.  I'm out of pudding, and almost out of flour (the 10 pounds I bought 2 weeks ago.  Yup).  Plus?  It's getting hot.  I will thank myself 10 days from now when I am not baking 6-8 loaves of bread.

    But I've grown attached to my little yeasty beasties.  This is a beautiful starter, my friends.  Sweet and still quite active after all this time.  I think I will be sad tomorrow morning when I look at the corner of the kitchen where my starter has lived these past several weeks and find it empty.

    Not to worry, though.  My yeasty beasties will just be taking a little nap in the freezer for a bit.  And when they wake, we will resume our beautiful relationship once more.

    Good night, sweet starter.  Sleep well.


    * I added 1 tsp lemon extract to my lemon-chia bread this time, and ohmygoodness, so yum.  To make it, from the original recipe, omit cinnamon, vanilla, and cinnamon-sugar topping.  Substitute 2 small boxes (4 serving size) of instant lemon pudding for the vanilla pudding.  Add 1 t lemon extract and 3 T chia or poppy seeds.

    Wednesday, June 4, 2014

    Hummus

    Hummus is a great source of protein and healthy fats, a combo that makes for a very filling and satisfying snack.

    Hummus.  Love it.  Don't love the price tag. 

    Seems like I 've heard that somewhere before.  Like, pretty much every time I share a recipe.  Y'all must think I'm so cheap.

    Well, you're right.  Why pay more than you have to?  For anything?

    Garbanzo beans (or chickpeas) are a neutral tasting legume, taking on the flavor of whatever you mix with them, so be sure to load up your hummus with flavors you love (have you tried...Cookie Dough Hummus?  Me neither, but I'll let you know about it when I do).

    Here's my favorite version (this is quite garlicky.  If you don't love garlic, you might want to cut back a little...)
    {Source}
    Hummus

    15 oz can garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas), drained, liquid reserved
    3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
    1/2 t. ground cumin
    1 T olive oil
    1-2 T lemon juice
    salt & pepper to taste
    • In a food processor or blender, blend together garbanzos, garlic, cumin, olive oil and lemon juice until smooth.
    • Add reserved liquid a little at a time until the desired consistency is reached.
    • Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
    Keep this in the fridge for about a week.  I like to dip veggies, like carrots, sweet peppers, and sugar snap peas in hummus.  It also makes a great sandwich spread.

    And speaking of sugar snap peas, Fleet Farm.  Best. Store. Ever.  They have everything.  Including the elusive sugar snap pea seeds (although I did see some empty slots there as well!  I wonder what's going on in the sugar snap pea seed realm... World-wide shortage?  Mom Group meeting talking about how easy and delicious they are to grow?  The world (and by "the world" I mean me) may never know.)

    Tuesday, June 3, 2014

    Does this tomato look funny to you?

    I've given up on gardening.  It's just too disappointing.  Year after year of low yields because my "garden", if you can call it that, doesn't get enough sun.  Whatever.  I'm over it.  Totally.  Over it.
     
    I planted my tomatoes today.
     
    What's that you say?  You thought I was done gardening?  I am.  Done.  Over it.  These tomatoes are not in the garden, though.  As has been my practice for the past several years, I planted a grape tomato plant in a large pot situated near our flagpole, where it gets plenty of sun and produces abundant fruit.
     
    This year, I planned to also plant sugar snap peas around the perimeter of the pot.  Two for the price of one, you see.  The fam loves to eat both right off the vines.
     
    However, there has apparently been a run on sugar snap pea seeds in my town.  In the past 24 hours, I have seen exactly 16 empty slots in seed display thingys where the sugar snap pea seeds ought to be.  They're gone.  It's like the sugar snap pea rapture--only the snow peas have been left behind...
     
    Tomorrow, I expand my search area.  All I need is one measly sugar snap pea packet to make my life complete.  OK.  It won't make my life complete, but it'll make my pot complete.
     
    
    {I suppose I can order them online...}
    I might plant some among the corn as well, you know, so they have something to climb up.
     
    What's that?  Where'd I put the corn if I've given up on gardening?  Well...you see...I got some free popcorn seeds from the Boom Chicka Pop company, and Bubby insisted on planting them.  And I'm sure they won't actually produce anything.  But that's it.  Well...and some zucchini, 'cause I had some seeds leftover from last year.  Might as well see if anything happens.  And in the interests of full disclosure, I planted some spinach and basil in a window box. 
     
    But I am through gardening.  Through, I tell you.  Over it.  So, so over it.

    I also planted a patio tomato in this pot. 

    Does this tomato plant look funny to you?
     
     
    That's because it's a marigold.  The tomato is underneath.  Up-side-down.  Topsy-Turvy, you might say.
     

    You've seen those up-side-down tomato planter thingys?  I decided to make my own using an old hanging basket.  I just cut a bigger hole in the bottom of the pot, threaded the leaves through, and filled it with dirt.  Saved myself $9.99 + shipping & handling by making it myself.  Plus?  It's a heck of a lot better looking.  On a whim I decided to put the marigold on top--it was a gift, and I thought, why not?

     
     
    I had to make the hole bigger than I wanted to in order to get the leaves through, so I put some newspaper in the pot next to the tomato's stem to hopefully keep the dirt in there.  If it doesn't work, I have plenty of dirt.  I guess I can just keep adding more to the top.
     

    If this works, we might just have a whole row of up-side-down tomatoes next year.

    Except I've given up on gardening.  Over it.  Totally.
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