Friday, July 29, 2011

Birthday

Somebody had a
 !

And for the first time in a long time,  AKD had a birthday party within a few days of his actual birthday.  For the past several birthday parties, we celebrated around the end of the school year because of what happened the last time we tried to host a party in July.  One person (that's right: one) was able to come.  It was disappointing enough that we decided not to try that again.

But, because of scheduling issues (mainly the fact that Hubby wasn't home for any weekends from about mid-May through the 4th of July), we were not able to have a party in June this year.  A shutdown by a state government that shall remain nameless opened up some weekends for us, et voila!  A birthday party.  In July.

AKD invited 3 friends for a sleepover.  Here they are in the pool avoiding the camera.  Yes, they're really all in there, plus MC.  Can you see them?  I can see 3 of them, but that's because I know where to look.
 Snapped this one when they thought it was safe to come back up.
 Here's AKD and his friends warming their hands over the inferno created by 11 candles.
The boys had a great time, as always, spending a lot of time in the pool and a lot of time in the trees (hmmm...part fish, part monkey...)

For AKD's birthday breakfast we served this yummy Cinnamon French Toast Bake from Pillsbury.  So delicious and so easy to make.

1/4 cup LAND O LAKES® Butter, melted
2 cans (12.4 oz each) Pillsbury® refrigerated cinnamon rolls with icing
6 LAND O LAKES® Eggs
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (I substituted 2% milk)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup Fisher® Chef's Naturals® Chopped Pecans
1 cup maple syrup
Garnish
Icing from cinnamon rolls
Powdered sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup, if desired
  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Pour melted butter into ungreased 13x9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish. Separate both cans of dough into 16 rolls; set icing aside. Cut each roll into 8 pieces; place pieces over butter in dish.
  2. In medium bowl, beat eggs. Beat in cream, cinnamon and vanilla until well blended; gently pour over roll pieces. Sprinkle with pecans; drizzle with 1 cup syrup.
  3. Bake 20 to 28 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 15 minutes. Meanwhile, remove covers from icing; microwave on Medium (50%) 10 to 15 seconds or until thin enough to drizzle.
  4. Drizzle icing over top; sprinkle with powdered sugar. If desired, spoon syrup from dish over individual servings. Serve with the additional 1/2 cup maple syrup.
That's right: we sugared 'em up and sent them on their way :-)  For the party, I made it as specified in the recipe, but when I tested it the weekend before, I halved the recipe and added some sliced-up cooked breakfast sausage links.  Yum! 
 
Happy, happy birthday, AKD!
 
(This has nothing to do with anything, but while you're over at Pillsbury, check out this recipe for Peanut Butter S'more Bars.  Double yum!)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chocolate Diaries

I am a firm believer in the power of chocolate.  Nineteenth century German chemist Baron Justus von Liebig said, "chocolate is a perfect food, as wholesome as it is delicious, a beneficent restorer of exhausted power." So true, so true.

The Chocolate Diaries: Secrets for a Sweeter Journey on the Rocky Road of Life
 
Karen Linamen, author of The Chocolate Diaries: Secrets for a Sweeter Journey on the Rocky Road of Life, agrees that everything is better with chocolate, and so, chocolate figures heavily in her book about dealing with the unexpected ups and downs of life.

I really liked this book.  Ms. Linamen's style is honest, breezy, and humorous, and I found it to be a quick read.  Sprinkled throughout the book are short "Sweet Secrets," in which readers and friends of the author answer the question, "What's your secret to a sweeter journey on the rocky road of life?"  And each chapter ends with a section titled "Food for Thought," with questions for reflection or discussion, plus a chocolate recipe, "because real women don't need a cookbook."  This is a book that I would enjoy reading with my small group at church--it's fun to read and would provide great jump-offs for conversation (and, of course, we would need to make and share the chapter's chocolate recipe at each of our meetings :-)

I loved the opening illustration using the Food Network series Chopped, in which chefs are given unusual and sometimes unappetizing ingredients from which they must prepare a dish.  Ms. Linamen shared that her favorite episode is one where chefs are asked to create an appetizer with chocolate and sardines!  Of course, the chefs always come up with delicious dishes, and Ms. Linamen compares this to our lives.  We don't always get the ingredients in life that we want or hope for, and some of our ingredients are downright unappetizing or even bitter, but "if we know the secrets, the bitter flavors can not only be tamed, sometimes they also end up being the very thing that transforms our efforts from ordinary to truly remarkable."

Throughout the book, Ms. Linamen shares the secrets: various tools for coping with our rocky roads in life, and by the end the reader learns that while chocolate helps, really it's God to whom we should turn when our journey gets a little (or a lot) rough. 

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review.

Did you like this review?  Please take a moment to rate my review below (if you read my blog via email, you will need to visit my blog to rate my review).



Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I finally figured out why my oldest son keeps saying, "Physics?!  I hate physics!" and it's not because he actually hates physics.  Thank goodness!

***********************

A friend recently told me that her in-laws think her kids are rowdy.  I don't know if that's true.  I'm not qualified to know if that's true, since I see her in-laws even less frequently than she (like, never), but I do identify with the sentiment behind the remark.  I want my children's grandparents to know them, to see them as I do.

My friend's children, like mine, see their grandparents only a couple of times a year.  It is impossible to really get to know someone in intense, concentrated visits such as these, and it makes me sad. So very sad.

And so I'm left with hoping.  Hoping that during these short visits, my children will display their best selves so their extended family is left with the impression that they are the terrific kids I know them to be.  Hoping that these snapshots of memories made during our fleeting times together represent the best parts of our kids, because that is all their extended family knows of them.  But at the same time, knowing that their best selves are more reliably revealed in the routine, every day, mundane moments of our lives, not in the busy pressure-cooker of a brief visit.

Please know that, because of a visit's inherent break in routine, you are not seeing us as we really are.  Because we are not in our own space, or because our space has been invaded by others, we are not quite sure what to do with ourselves.  Because we are doing more, or less, than we normally do, we are cranky and tired or restless.

It's probably true that my friend's children are rowdy when they are around their grandparents, but they are so much more than just rowdy, and I understand my friend's pain and disappointment that their grandparents would see them through that filter.  My children are so much more as well.  Grant us grace, and see them.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Blogging for Books

I have enjoyed participating in WaterBrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program over the past several months--I mean, what could be better than free books?  OK, maybe free books and free chocolate...
The Chocolate Diaries: Secrets for a Sweeter Journey on the Rocky Road of Life

Seriously, though, I've mentioned before that I find it difficult to stay focused enough to actually finish reading an entire nonfiction book, but the accountability of participating in this program has enabled me to finish five in the past several months, as well as one that wasn't a part of the program.

Due to changes in the program, in order to be offered actual physical books to read and review, I need to achieve a minimum rank of my reviews.  And I will not be reading and reviewing ebooks--sorry folks, it's not gonna happen.  The threshold is actually pretty low; I know that with your help I can get there.  All you need to do is rank my reviews.  Pretty simple, isn't it?

So if you've enjoyed reading my reviews, even a little bit, please use the embedded forms below to rank them (if you read my blog via email, you may have to actually go to my blog in order to use the forms).  You will need to enter a valid email address, but it's only used to verify that I'm not trying to artificially inflate my review ranking, unless you check the box to receive updates.  My next review, of The Chocolate Diaries, will be coming later this week.

God Loves Me More Than That (Dandilion Rhymes)




Lazarus Awakening: Finding Your Place in the Heart of God



When Sparrows Fall: A Novel



Bad Girls of the Bible and What We Can Learn from Them



Plain Wisdom: An Invitation into an Amish Home and the Hearts of Two Women



PrayerWalk: Becoming a Woman of Prayer, Strength, and Discipline

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

End of School Year, part 2

Guess what I'm avoiding right now.  Besides sleep, that is.  Go ahead: guess.

Making a grocery list. 

Did you guess it?  It's swiftly becoming critical that I perform this task, since someone is having a birthday soon, and because a bunch of someones couldn't get their act together, the someone who is having a birthday decided to have a party.  And invite 5 of his friends.  To spend the night.  Day after tomorrow.  I think they're gonna be hungry at some point.  *sigh*

So, instead of making my list, I'm bringing you the long-awaited part 2 to the End of School year saga (click here if you missed part 1).

For AKD, it wasn't just the end of the school year: it was the end of elementary school.  It blows my mind that my baby will be 11 in just a few days and is off to middle school in just a few short weeks.
Why didn't anyone tell that boy to take his hat off before going up to get his certificate?  Yes, I shed a tear or two...or a hundred...but who's counting...as Ms. A called my firstborn forward, marking the end of his elementary years. 

But first, we "celebrated learning," whatever that means, followed by a picnic lunch and a "fun activity," which turned out to be various Minute to Win It challenges.  A bit chaotic, but I think the kids had a good time.
 Here's MC stacking blocks on Bri-Guy's head.
 Here are various 5th graders, including AKD, flinging their shoes at me...I mean, at a table.  AKD was the first to land both of his shoes on the table without them sliding off--he's so talented.

 One of the favorite end of school traditions is the staff/parents versus the 5th graders game--you can see various 1st, 2nd, and 4th graders milling about in the foreground as the staff/parents and 5th graders compete in the background of this picture.  Sawblock had been looking forward to this day for 5 long years.  I still don't know what they were playing, or who won, but it really doesn't matter. 

In the couple of weeks before the last day of school, AKD and his class participated in the district-wide field day, took a field trip to the zoo on the hottest day of the year (well, hottest up until that point--we've got that beat now), and hosted a poetry coffee house (and I solidified my standing as not-mother-of-the-year by not getting pictures of any of these activities).

AKD, Sawblock, and Grandpa Blue headed off for a fishing trip as soon as school was dismissed.  Here's a couple of my favorite pics from their trip:

 Big Rufus went along on the trip as well...
And that's it.  Now, off to bed, and on to the rest of the summer!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Weeds

On our current property, we have ample opportunity for weed pulling, with multiple flower beds, a vegetable garden, and a long driveway, but since we moved here 6 years ago, my arch nemesis in the weeding department has been the flower beds lining the walkway leading up to our front door.  These beds are packed with iris plants, which is lovely when they bloom, but makes weeding somewhat challenging.  It has been my fervent desire, for at least 3 years now, to dig up these beds and start over, finishing with an extra thick layer of mulch to discourage new weeds from growing, of course.  I want these beds to look beautiful and well cared-for because they welcome visitors to our home.

I got my wish on the house side of the path.  A couple of weeks ago our weekend plans changed, and so our pond finally went in outside the guest room window (you may remember I dug the hole last summer).  I'm waiting until our intense heat wanes a bit before surrounding it with perennials, but the mulch is ready and waiting to be employed in its weed-smothering capacity.

On the other side of the path, I decided to just try my best.  My best is the best I can do, after all.  So, with yet another schedule to guide me, I vowed to weed as much as I could get done in 15 minutes each day and to forgive myself for not being able to get to it all.  It started out well.  I managed to get the weeds cleared from about 1/3 of the flower bed.  For the first time in as long as I can remember, that section actually looked good...the rest wasn't so great, but at least I accomplished that much.

For the rest of the week, I turned my attention to other areas, weeding as much as I could in those 15 minutes a day.  About a week later, I walked up toward the front door of our house (I generally go in and out through the garage) and was shocked and dismayed to discover that the weeds were back, and bigger than before!  All of my hard work was wiped out in such a short time.

I don't know if you've noticed this, but it is so discouraging and disheartening to do a task that is so easily and reliably undone, not to mention how difficult it is to get motivated to do it in the first place.

It reminds me of how God's people make the same mistakes, over and over and over again.  If you've studied the before-Christ portion of the Bible, you know what I'm talking about.  Heck, if you're breathing right now, you probably know what I'm talking about.  God's people turn away time and time again, then cry out to God for help, asking why he's abandoned them.  Truth be told, I would give up.  I did give up.  As soon as this heat wave passes, I'm gonna be out there with my shovel. 

But God never gives up.  As many times as it takes--that's how many times God will save one of his children.  As many times as it takes, God forgives.  As many times as it takes, God will draw us back into his loving embrace.

The works of his hands are faithful and just;

all his precepts are trustworthy.
They are established for ever and ever,
enacted in faithfulness and uprightness.
He provided redemption for his people;
he ordained his covenant forever—
holy and awesome is his name.
Psalm 111: 7-9 TNIV

Monday, July 18, 2011

Foggy

A week or so ago, I woke up early, so I decided to go for a walk before anyone else was up.  I told myself it was the perfect way to start my day, walking outside in the quiet of the early morning shortly after the sun has crept up in the eastern sky, before anyone else is out and about.  Sounds wonderful, doesn't it?  But I must admit, I was feeling a little foggy that morning.  My thoughts were scattered, and I actually couldn't see very well either--everything was blurry, out of focus.

But I set off anyway, feeling, well, feeling a little off-kilter, like all was not well with the world.  As I walked, I talked to God.  Well, I tried to--my thoughts, along with my vision, were cloudy.  After a while, I turned a corner, and as I did, I walked into an early morning mist, the damp fog swirling around and swallowing me, an outer manifestation of my inner experience. 

The sun was shining brightly, and as I walked I imagined I could actually see the sun burning away the fog.  It might have been true because a few minutes later, I turned around, and the fog was gone.  At the same time, I noticed that my personal fog was also gone.  I had left it behind as I walked through the mist and the sun shined down on me, as I talked to God. 

This experience reminded me of my brother's wedding, not because his wedding was foggy or unfocused, but because I was honored to read 1 Corinthians 13 during the service.  We all know the famous verses about love that are found in this chapter, but verse 12 has remained in the forefront of my brain for almost 16 years now:
Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. (NLT)
I certainly felt as if I was looking at the world through a cloudy mirror that morning!

The Message puts it like this:
We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
Because we are human, we can't see God or his presence in our lives clearly.  I think a lot of us have foggy areas in our lives that leave us feeling scattered, unfocused, not quite right, where our vision is cloudy.  I realized on my walk that, if we invite him to, the Son will shine his light into those cloudy areas and burn away the fog, leaving warmth and light in its place, and allowing us to see clearly.  And every now and then, when the kingdom of heaven draws near, we can catch a glimpse of the glory to come. 
Then, we shall see face to face. (NIV)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Friends

I have always striven to make our home welcoming to our boys' friends.  I want our kids' friends to want to hang out here, mostly so I can keep an eye on them, but also because watching my boys with their friends lends insight into their lives and character.  And it reminds me that appearances can be deceiving. 

We have one friend who has ADD.  He's seen by many, including his teachers, as a wild child, and he definitely can be a handful, but when he spent time with us recently, he was polite to me and compassionate toward the younger kids, and really quite helpful.  Sure he has some trouble with impulse control, but what young boy doesn't?  As a matter of fact, I have trouble with impulse control--it's just that my impulses are less damaging to property.  This boy is such a great kid, especially when he's getting positive attention from adults.  And is positive attention from adults really too much to ask for?  I don't think so.

We have another friend who is very smart.  He participates in his school's gifted/talented program, and is perceived as being a good kid, but when he's visited with us, I have noticed that he is destructive and has a mean streak.  And I have noticed that his friend, my son, gets mean when this friend is around, too. 

Just as an aside, the last time this friend was visiting, I told my husband he was a bad influence, and Hubby asked why we continue to have him over.  I guess it's because I know that he and our son will continue to hang out together at school, and while I have no control over what happens there, I hope that we can be a good influence on him while he's here.  But I do think we need to have some more intensive talks with our son about why he likes this friend and what we've noticed about him and why that concerns us.  And I thought parenting an infant was hard...I laugh at my much younger self, struggling with lack of napping or any of the dozens of other issues I've cried over through the years.  Ha.

It all makes me think about how our children behave when they're visiting other people's houses.  I hope that the parents of my kids' friends see them behaving in ways that are polite, compassionate, and helpful.  I hope that the values we have attempted to embed shine through in our kids' character when they are away from us.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Recipes using crushed legumes

I know: that's kind of a strange thing to blog about, but what can I say, I like legumes, whole or crushed, so let's get to it, shall we?

Several months ago, my cousin mentioned that she was making refried beans in her crock pot.  I like refried beans, but the one time I tried to make them myself, it didn't go so well, and it gets to be kind of expensive to buy them pre-made if you're only going to use 1/4 cup and then the rest is going to sit in the fridge forgotten until furry green stuff starts growing (*sigh*).  Did I mention I'm the only one in my household who likes refried beans?

So anyway, I tried her recipe about a month ago, and it was pretty good.  I froze it in individual portions, so no more green furries invading my yummy bean-y mush.  Here it is:

In a crock pot, place:
3 c. dry pinto beans (rinse and pick through first to remove any foreign debris)
1 onion halved (I would use a big one, or two small ones)
1 chopped jalapeno pepper--keep the seeds in
2 T fresh garlic
salt & pepper to taste (I've heard that salt in the water while beans are cooking is not a good thing, so I waited to add the salt until the end and I forgot!)
1/8 t. (or more) ground cumin and
9 c. water

Cook on high for 6 hours; drain some of the liquid (I would suggest saving the liquid to add back in if you accidentally drain too much), and mash (use a potato masher if you want a lumpy texture or a food processor for a smoother texture), adding more cooking liquid if necessary to get it to the consistency you want.

Easy, and yummy!  For a quick and delicious lunch, I spread 1/4-1/2 c of beans on a flour tortilla, sprinkle with cheddar cheese and black olives, and microwave until the cheese is melted and the beans are warm.

Several months ago, my mom in law mentioned that she had discovered hummus and loves it.  It's so good for you, too: high in fiber and protein, but it's kind of expensive considering what little goes into it.  Some time ago I came across this easy recipe for hummus from HiddenValley.com--I liked this particular recipe because it doesn't call for tahini (which is not a staple food item in our home).  So, a couple of days ago, we tried it.

Ranched up Hummus Dip

1 can (16 ounces) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
¼ cup Hidden Valley® Original Ranch® Light dressing
3 tablespoons warm water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 clove garlic

Combine garbanzo beans, salad dressing, water, lemon juice and garlic in food processor. Process until smooth. Serve as a dip with red bell pepper strips, carrots and pita wedges.

I served it with wheat thins and carrots.  MC, who insisted several times while Bubby and I were making the hummus, that he does not like hummus, l o v e d it!  Bubby liked it, too.  I would have preferred a little less ranch flavor, but it was still pretty good.  AKD, on the other hand, made a face like he was going to throw up after he tasted it...oh well, 2 out of 3 ain't bad.

A discussion of crushed legumes would not be complete without everybody's (OK, not everybody's) favorite crushed legume food: peanut butter!  Seriously, people, if you haven't tried fresh homemade peanut butter, you're really missing out, and it's so easy to make your own, cutting out the extra salt, sugar, and trans-fats that give commercial peanut butter a bad name.

So, um, all you do is throw some roasted peanuts into a food processor and process until it's the consistency you want.  If you use unsalted peanuts, you might want to add some salt.  You could also add some peanut oil (about 1 T for 1.5 cups of nuts) to make it a little more spreadable.  For chunky peanut butter, add some more nuts after you get the butter to your desired consistency and process for a few seconds longer to create chunks.  According to kidshealth.org, peanut butter can be stored in a covered container in the fridge for about 2 weeks.  I came across this recipe from Joy the Baker, suggesting the use of honey roasted peanuts.  What a great idea!

Last but not least, homemade Sunflower Seed Butter.  One of my favorite people is allergic to peanuts, so while this last recipe does not contain crushed legumes, I wanted to include it for him.  I got it from Funky Food, which looks like a great resource for folks who have food allergies.
 
1 cup sunflower seed (I would use roasted, unsalted, which you can usually find in the bulk foods section of your grocery store)
1-3 T oil of choice
salt and sweetener to taste

Toss in blending machine of choice. Blend. Add more oil if it isn't smooth and creamy. Scrape down sides and blend some more.

Funky Food Trisha suggests adding sweetener if you're using it for sandwiches or spreads, but probably not if you're using it for baking.
 
Here's another recipe for sunflower seed butter that's a bit more complicated, but looks oh-so-good!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

It's a Keeper

So, if you're one of my Facebook friends, you might have noticed me asking for recipe suggestions last week.  I have a weakness for buying meats that are on sale, but then I don't quite know what to do with them, so they sit in the freezer for months.  So finally, this week, I'm defrosting and cooking up some meats that I don't normally cook with.

Yesterday was our pork roast day and MC said (I am not kidding), "this is the BEST meal I've ever had!"  Wow.  Strong words of praise.  It really was good--everyone thought so, including, I think, the black bear who walked through our front yard as we were eating it.

Here's the recipe I used for Rubbed and Grilled Pork Loin from allrecipes.com:

  • 1 (4 pound) boneless pork top loin roast (single loin)

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil


  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

  • 2 teaspoons paprika

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons onion salt

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt

  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander (I didn't have any, so I left the coriander out)


  • Place boneless pork loin on large cutting board or platter; brush oil over all sides. Set aside. Meanwhile, stir together dry rub seasoning. Rub over pork to cover. Prepare charcoal grill to cook over direct and indirect heat. Place pork loin over medium-hot coals (direct heat) or on medium-hot (about 400 degrees F.) gas grill. Cook for 10 minutes on each side to brown. Move pork to area on grill over indirect heat. Cook, covered for 70-90 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. On gas grill, move pork to one side of grill; turn off the gas directly under the pork. Leave the rest of the grill on medium heat. Cook, covered for 70 to 90 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. Serve with your favorite sauce.


    I served it with Roasted Smashed Potatoes from recipetips.com, which everyone also loved (even potato-hater, MC):

    - 12 baby red potatoes

    - 1/4 cup olive oil - more or less as needed
    - kosher salt - to taste
    - black pepper - to taste
    - 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary - chopped
    - 1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese - shredded (we left this off)
    - 2 tablespoons fresh parsley - chopped

    In a large saucepan, boil potatoes until tender. Drain and allow to cool slightly.

    Preheat oven to 400°F.
    Spray a cookie sheet with non stick cooking spray and lay the potatoes out evenly on it.
    With a potato masher or the bottom of a glass, gently press down on each potato to smash it.
    Drizzle each liberally with olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary.
    Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the edges just start to brown.
    Remove from oven and sprinkle on the cheese and parsley.
    Place back in the oven for approximately 5 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

    And, although I served corn, we all thought that Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pecans from Real Simple would go nicely with the meal.  They even roast at the same temperature as the potatoes.
     
    2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

    1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    kosher salt and black pepper

    Heat oven to 400° F. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the Brussels sprouts, pecans, oil, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Turn the Brussels sprouts cut-side down.

    Roast until golden and tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

    Yum!  I'm looking forward to the rest of the week.  Up next, chicken drumsticks, with a little recipe help from Mom of the Wild Things...

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    Deadheading

    For Mother's Day this year, as in past years, my favorite boys gave me two beautiful hanging flower baskets.  AKD (the kid formerly known as Code-man) picked particularly lovely ones this year: there are three varieties of flowers in shades of purple, and I really like them.  A lot.  They were so nice that I was particularly dismayed to think that what happens every year to my hanging baskets would happen to these.  You see, they always start out looking beautiful, and then, well, they get scraggly and sickly looking.

    So it was with a bit of trepidation that I set about caring for my Mommy's day gifts.  I was vigilant in keeping them watered, even adding some gorgeous self-watering globes to the pots to keep me covered if I missed a day or two.  I set up a rotation schedule so they would receive equal light on all sides.  I fed them miracle grow.  And, after a few weeks...they started getting scraggly and sickly looking.  *Sigh*  I supposed I was destined to have scraggly, sick looking hanging flower baskets.

    Until...

    About a week ago, my no-longer beautiful hanging flower baskets were suddenly, overnight, in fact, full and beautiful again.  What brought about this miraculous recovery?  I deadheaded.  Deadheading is the process of removing withering blooms from a flowering plant so it will produce more flowers.  You see, the purpose of flowers is to attract pollinators so that the plant can produce seeds.  Once a flower has been pollinated, the plant diverts its resources into producing seeds, rather than producing more flowers, and without blooms a flowering basket just looks sad.

    Oh, I had been deadheading, dutifully removing the spent blooms 2 or 3 times a week (I had a schedule for that, too), but I wasn't doing it correctly.  I was taking off the dead flowers, but leaving the portion of the flower where the seeds are formed.  I needed to cut deeper.

    You know, sometimes we need a little spiritual deadheading. 

    Jesus said, "He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more" (John 15:2 NLT).

    What needs deadheading in your life?  What is diverting your spiritual energy so that you're not blooming?  What's looking scraggly and sick?  Maybe it's a bad habit or uncontrollable thoughts.  The Master Gardener prunes; He knows exactly what to do, how deep to cut, to produce growth.  All we need to do is to invite Him in to deadhead our lives...and to marvel in the beauty God generates in the process.

    Friday, July 1, 2011

    End of School Year, part 1

    Whew!  It's summer.  And it's been a busy one so far in the Bluefield household, as you can probably tell from the scarcity of my posts.  But before I can tell you about all of that, I've got some end of the school year business to wrap up.  Enjoy these pics from MC's last few weeks of 2nd grade. 
     The 2nd graders went on a field trip to Target Field to see Seattle beat the Twins.  It was very educational :)

    And I'm sure y'all have been waiting for this picture ever since I posted this lament over 2nd grade costuming issues.  Here is MC's wolf mask.
     It makes a howling sound when you push its nose.  MC valiantly resisted the urge to press it during the show.  Good job, MC!  And good job, 2nd graders.  They were terrific.
    Here is most of the cast of "The Cheetah and the Sloth."  You can just tell by looking at them that none of their mothers experienced costume angst...but then again, it doesn't really look like MC's mama did, either, and we all know that's not true.

    Alright, that's all for now, because 1. I need to make supper for whichever of the boys happen to be here right now and 2. the rest of the end of school year pictures are still in the camera, which is...well, I'm not sure where, right now.

    Oh, but before I go, an update on our pets.  The baby birds grew up and flew away, but not before depositing a large amount of excrement on our brand new deck.  Hubby vowed to take the nest down, so no future baby birdies could deposit similar amounts of waste on our deck, but before he got to it, the mama came back and started a second family...so, now we're waiting for these babies to hatch.  Pictures will be forthcoming (of the babies, not the poop :)

    We adopted a third caterpillar, and named her Viola.  We actually got to watch her molting into her pupa stage a couple of days ago.  Hector soon followed, and I caught him on video (which will also be forthcoming, but it could be a while, considering the lack of high-speed internet around here).  Tiny is not so tiny anymore, and Bubby has renamed him Blackandwhite.  When we measured this morning, he was 48 mm, which is more than 9 times bigger than he was when he came to live with us just a few weeks ago--I'm sure he'll be not too far behind the others in forming his chrysalis soon.

    And now, that's really all.  More to follow...

    Prayer Walking

    In PrayerWalk: Becoming a Woman of Prayer, Strength, and Discipline, Janet Holm McHenry shares her experience in combining the two disciplines of walking and prayer.  When I saw this book, it was another case of "why did I not think of this before?"  I love to walk, and I have been known to pray while walking, but I've never been intentional about praying while walking.  This book opened my eyes to the possibility of spending time with God while doing something I love that's actually good for me.

    In the first half of the book, Janet talks about walking: why it's a good thing to do, both physically and mentally, how to walk correctly to avoid injury, how to reduce aches and pains, and how to prayerwalk with a partner.  The second half of the book explains how and what to pray while walking.  This 2011 edition includes a study guide, with questions for small group discussion, resources on walking, a Thirty-Day PrayWalk challenge to get you started, and an appendix explaining how to organize a community prayerwalk event.  It also includes an epilogue talking about some set-backs and victories the author has experienced prayerwalking over the 10 years since the book was first published.

    I liked the book, because it helped me to see how I could combine two activities that I really would like to do more of, and I enjoyed reading about the author's experiences and results.  I also appreciated how the author emphasized the importance of spending time with Scripture as well.  Do you really need to read this book in order to prayerwalk?  No.  But I found it to be inspiring and an easy read, and definitely worthwhile to read.

    I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review.

    Did you like this review?  Please take a moment to visit Blogging for Books to vote for my review.


    If prayerwalking sounds interesting to you, you might want to check out Daily PrayerWalk: Meditations for a Deeper Prayer Life, also by Janet Holm McHenry.  I haven't read it, but I'd like to--it sounds like a great devotional to read before heading out to prayerwalk.

    Here's a review from Publishers Weekly, posted on Amazon.com:
    Janet Holm McHenry follows up her popular book PrayerWalk with Daily PrayerWalk: Meditations for a Deeper Prayer Life, once again encouraging Christians (especially women) to enhance their prayer time by walking. Fifty prayer-related meditations can be used as daily devotions before setting out. McHenry also offers quick fitness tips to complement the Scripture verses and "prayer starters" that accompany each devotion. 



    Here's a review from "prayerwalker," posted on Amazon.com:

    If you are searching for a deeper prayer life, or wanting to put your faith into action, Daily Prayerwalk is a great devotional for getting your day started on the right foot!! Daily Prayerwalk contains daily scripture readings that challenge you to be in God's word and focus on His desires for your prayer life. The meditations that accompany each day's scripture challenge the reader to get more out of their daily prayer time, and the testimonies of answers to prayer will increase your faith and encourage you to get out and try prayerwalking for yourself. The fitness tips for each day also provide practical helps for using prayerwalking to become physically fit as well.

    I was looking for a devotional that would encourage me daily to not just read the meditations, but really dig into the Bible, and I found that in Daily Prayerwalk.
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