Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My Once Upon a Time Life

 
 
The house is quiet, almost eerily so. So quiet that I can actually hear the appliances humming and the cars driving by. In my world, full of incessant toddler chatter and infant cries, this is a rare moment. In fact, it only happens once a day (if I’m lucky), during that one magical, mystical hour - naptime. If you’re a parent, you know what I mean. That one, sacred, religiously protected hour without demands to hear, and snacks to get, and needs to fulfill. That one, precious, perfect hour without endless questions to answer, and songs to sing, and games to play. That one single hour, when I can actually sit at my computer without little hands pulling for my attention. Me time.
Life wasn’t always so loud. Once upon a time the most anticipated part of my day was in the evening, and not naptime; closer to ten o’clock than two. Once upon a time I had down time, and free time, and a full eight hours of sleep each night, with a bonus twelve on the weekends. I once had personal space, and personal hygiene, and a chance to take a shower without carrying on a constant conversation with a two year old about what I’m doing at that exact moment. I once stayed up past midnight without paying dearly for it the next day, and stayed out past eight o’clock without throwing a little someone’s schedule off for two weeks. I once partook in adult conversations, and used words bigger than “no-no” and “potty”, and composed sentences more sophisticated than “DON’T LICK THE DOG!!” I once read Hemingway and Dickens, instead of Dr. Seuss and “The Big Red Barn.” I studied human parasitology and animal biology, instead of poopy diapers and ten little piggy toes. I memorized life cycles and scientific names, instead of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and (to my dismay) her favorite episode of “The Backyardigans.” 
Once upon a time I had a life.
But now, I spend my days blowing noses and washing sticky hands, bathing babies and wiping countless dirty bottoms. Vacuuming the carpets, and brushing the dog, and washing the same dishes that I just washed yesterday. Folding the clothes (or, let’s be honest, dumping them on the bed), scrubbing the toilets, and picking up five million My Little Ponies.
I spend it listening to a sweet little voice singing nonsense songs at the top of her lungs. Listening to her endlessly entertaining chatter, with her adorable toddler twang and her own personal pronunciation and syntax. Listening to her proclaim her love for her sister, and her dog, and her toys, and ice cream, all in one breath. Listening to her tell the dog exactly how to sit, so that she can use her as a slide. Listening to her shout her excitement at the top of her lungs. Listening to sweet baby coos, and grunts, and sleepy sighs.
I spend it watching her little face fill with glee as she spins in her new twirly dress. Watching her play with her tiny zebra for hours, in her own little wonderful world of imagination. Watching her kiss her sister sweetly on the head. Watching chubby baby cheeks dimple as her little body wriggles from the pure joy packed into that first smile. Watching her fists wave and her feet kick. Watching her relax and enjoy spa (bath) time. Watching her gaze in awe at that glorious, glorious light bulb.
I now spend my days reciting the alphabet, and naming colors, and drawing shapes. I spend it counting to ten, and painting with glue, and coloring butterflies. I spend it teaching the most precious, beautiful, priceless resources that God has given us about Him, and about good, and right, and preparing them for this life that is sometimes so hard. I spend it doing the hardest job I know, and training them to know what is wrong, and what is sin, and what is repentance.
I spend it reading favorite stories over and over, singing silly songs ten times in a row, playing ring-around-the-rosy and peek-a-boo until we’re too dizzy to stand. Cleaning play-doh off the carpet for the umpteenth time, and washing shaving cream from her hair yet again, because messy play is so much more fun. I spend it laughing at her laughing at the dog licking her toes, or at me saying the wrong word, or at the tickles I can’t help but give her. I spend it realizing the true meaning of bittersweet, as I proudly watch them grow, and learn, and change, and I spend it being amazed that I love them even more than I did the day before.
 I spend it rocking sweet babes to sleep, and kissing soft heads and deliciously chubby cheeks, and smelling that sweet, precious smell that is theirs, and theirs alone. I spend it holding these perfect little gifts in my arms, and aching so beautifully inside, and wishing that somehow this one moment, just this one, will never end. I spend it sneaking into their rooms to look at their innocent, sleeping faces, and wishing they’ll wake up so I can give them one more kiss.
Once upon a time, I thought I had a life. Turns out, I was just waiting for this one.
 
 

Friday, February 14, 2014

True love.

 
It's that time of year again- candy hearts, construction paper valentines, and rose petals. Love displayed for the world to see in pink cellophane wrapping and red window clings. Sappy sayings on cards, hour long reservations at restaurants, and mobs of men buying last minute get-out-of-the-dog-house-free gifts of chocolates and giant, stuffed puppies.
Whatever happened to love?
Don't get me wrong. I think men should show their women how much they love them. And the occasional box of chocolates or bouquet of flowers throughout the year is an important way to show that love. And I think it's darling when a little boy hands his mama a handmade "I Love You" card, or a daddy buys his little girl her first red rose.
But when did love become so easy?
Buying candy and lighting candles is the easiest way to love. I don't want a love purchased with a fancy dinner and a black tuxedo. I'd rather celebrate the hard kind of love.
The kind that takes grit, and commitment, and passion, and hard work. The kind that is gnarly, and not fun, and soul wearing. The kind that is a choice and a sacrifice, and a work of art, not just a cheap pay off. The kind that bears true fruit, not simply earning another year of peace from the old ball and chain. The kind bought with a price far higher than jewelry or electronics.



 
 
Let's celebrate the old man who cares for his wife of sixty years, trudging his weary bones to the nursing home every day to see her beautiful blue eyes. Eyes that are dimmed from the sparkle they once had, eyes that forget the faces they once treasured. Let's treasure the tears that drop on their wrinkled, clasped hands when he has to leave her side, the kiss they share when they must part.
Let's honor the mother, who patiently builds block towers for hours on end, and endures tantrums with patience, and endlessly trains and trains and trains her children, when she'd rather give up and give in and let it be. The mother who wipes bottoms and noses, and logs hours of rocking in the middle of the night. Who holds feverish babies, and paces floors worn with worry, and spends every waking moment working and praying for their health, and happiness, and eternity.
 
Let's reward the fathers who toil every day, and come home beaten and weary from the world. A world they face and bear on their strong shoulders, so that their wives and children don't have to feel that weight. Fathers who put aside their exhaustion and take the time to play peek-a-boo with an infant craving his love, or tickle the toddler that glows from his affection.




 
Let's commemorate the husbands who love their wives with deeds, and not just words, and on every day, not just on the days society demands it of them. Who wash the moldy, week old dishes, and spend their Saturdays fixing clogged pipes and squeaky doors. Who lead their wives with prayer, and honor them with their thoughts, and love them, wholly and alone. Who fight every day against a culture that does not expect them to be men, does not want them to be men, a culture that belittles them for striving to be men, and who stand up as men still.
Let's thank the wives who live their vows, and stand by their man, and serve him in the mundane days. Who cook dinners, and wash clothes, and rear children, and let their husbands be boys every once in awhile. Who adorn themselves in humility, and grace, and battle against the pressures of a world that values the opposite. Who choose to love, when they'd rather walk away.
Let's memorialize the daughter who serves selflessly by filling needs others can't meet, and the brother who serves God in ways we may not see.  Who give of their heart, and time, and energy so others can rest from their own weary toils.
Let's remember the aged grandmother, caring for the grandfather who is slipping away before her eyes. Who doesn't remember dates, and details, and names like he once did. Who's very personality and essence is changing. But she sticks with him. Because she swore to do so, even in the unlovely.

 
 
 
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
1 Corinthians 13
 
 
 


That, my friends, is true love. Not this papered and candied confection of love that we "celebrate" once a year. Because love is patient, and kind, and selfless, and true. And not made from teddy bears and Hallmark towers. Love takes from the lover. And expects nothing back.  


But mostly, love is a Man, on a cross, bleeding red for you and me.


"We love because He first loved us."
1 John 4:19


Monday, February 3, 2014

Keeping it Real.

 
 
I admire the bloggers that have the guts to post “Keeping It Real” photos. I honestly do. I appreciate that they are willing to admit the fact that they aren’t perfect. That they have days full of dirty dishes, and screaming babies, and cluttered floors. I think that the fact that they are willing to share their shortcomings with the world, so that we know they’re human too, and that we are encouraged on our dirty days, is laudable.
But nobody shows us their most real days. You know which days I mean. The days when we wake up tired, and angry, and foul, and right-down-to-the-core rotten. The days when we have pure, putrid, stinking hate in our hearts. When we hate the day, and the job, and the very air we’re breathing. The house may be sparkling, the children may be darling, the day may be blue, but we are still filthy inside.
We don’t share those days. We don’t keep those days real. Because on those days, we don’t want to be seen. We want to crawl away into our little hole and hide from the light of day. We hide, because we know. We know the depths of the ugliness still rooted in our hearts. We see without a doubt the very sin that brought Christ to the cross, and we cling to it with all our meager might. These are the most real, the dirtiest of days.
God sees those days. We may hide it from others behind cheery smiles and empty platitudes and good deeds, but He sees us down in the pit of our hearts, relishing in the muck and the mire of self-love and self-indulgence and self-pity.
He sees our wretched sin, and He condemns us to hell for it. For our selfishness isn’t just an annoyance to others, or inconvenience for us, or a bump in the road to holiness, but it is damnable blasphemy against our holy God Himself.
We carefully avoid the Bible on those days, for the Word of God brings condemnation. We avoid Christian fellowship on those days, for they point us to the Word of God. We avoid letting our putrescence show to the world, for then our Christian brethren would seek us out. Instead, we cover our sickness with a spotless veil of piety, and avoid anything that would root it out.
But, thank God, He is gracious. He does not leave us to rot in our depths of despair, though His holiness allows it. He gives us a way out, even in our darkest of dirty days. He doesn’t let us try to worm our own way out, but sends His precious Son, Who has not a spot on His shining soul, to plunge His holy hands into the filth that surrounds us. He sends His Son to pull us onto His back and out of the muck. He washes the filth from our being with His priceless blood, and presents us to His Father as clean, holy, worthy.
Thank God, that on our truly dirty days He does not abandon us.

Just, you know, keepin’ it real
 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Spinach Ricotta Slab Pie

Yum. That's all I have to say.
 
 
 
Spinach Ricotta Slab Pie
 
1/2 lb Italian sausage
1/2 lb ground beef
1/8 cup minced sweet onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1 cup Italian cheese blend
1/4 cup parmesan
1 bag fresh spinach
 
 
Sauté meat and onions until browned, then add garlic and sauté for just another minute. Drain off grease, and then add cheeses, including the ricotta. Add the spinach and allow to wilt. Remove from heat.
Roll out one pie crust to line a 9x13 sheet pan (or whatever your crust will fit in!), pile on filling, then roll out your second crust and lay it on top. Pinch edges to seal, cut a slit in the top, then bake at 400 degrees for 25-35 minutes, or until top is golden brown.
 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Calling.

I’m tired today. So. Tired. We’re going on two weeks strong of really bad sleep from the kids. We’re all exhausted, cranky, emotional, and very short on patience. Parenting is hard, with no weekends off, no vacation days, no sick days. I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure how anyone survives it, but we’re all still here, so I guess it happens somehow. Never mind, I do know how. Purely by the grace of God.  But, anyway, through the tired and the cranky and the inconvenience and the unruly children, I still strongly believe this:
Raising children is a high calling from God. He treasures His children, and the littlest of these He calls to Himself.
But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ ”
Matthew 19:14
We are raising them to be followers of Jesus, “little Christs”, and in turn they bless us daily. They give us joy and teach us patience and are tools in our own sanctification (oh, are they ever tools in our sanctification!) And they point us to Christ.

Our toddler prayed her first prayer the other day. It was simple and cute and full of childish innocence.  She thanked God for Mama, and Daddy, and Charlotte, and Ice Cream, and Kona the dog. Aaaw, adorable, too cute, precious…moving on. Only, that’s not all my husband and I saw in it. To us, it wasn’t just something sweet to jot down in the baby book. It wasn’t just a cute little anecdote to post on Facebook. To us, it was awe-striking.
" Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
    in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger."
Psalms 8:1-2
 
The praise of the little ones is a mighty thing. Without prompting, without truly understanding herself, our two year old just praised God for ice cream. She gave God glory for the things He has created. And God loves her praise! He ordains it, He creates it in her heart, and He establishes strongholds against enemies through it. That simple prayer that we witnessed was her first purposeful act of praise to God. It showed us the tenderness of her heart, and the working of the Holy Spirit. It gave us hope for her salvation. It turned us to Christ, and made us glorify His name as well. It filled us full of awe. It may sound childish to thank God for ice cream, but when is the last time you simply thanked God for the things you love? Our daughter gave heartfelt thanks for the things most important to her in her little, two year old world. For the things she loves the most - family, and ice cream.
So, consider this. If God values children so highly, how heinous is it for the world to devalue them? To slaughter them as unborn babies, to dispose of them as unwanted newborns, to disregard them as irritating toddlers, to belittle them as immature grade-schoolers, to ignore them as angst ridden teenagers, and to excuse them as irresponsible young adults? How surprising is it that this generation is full of selfish, immature, worthless adults when they were so cheapened as children? Who are we to put such a low worth on children when God Himself deems them so very precious? Who are we to kill them when they are unwanted, to ignore them when they are inconvenient, to disregard them when they are seeking guidance? Sure, you say, that’s how the world thinks, but we Christians understand the importance of children. So, I challenge the church. Who are we to automatically usher the tiny babes from the worship service because they’re too distracting? To shush the toddler belting out his favorite psalm because he’s too enthusiastic? To quiet the chatty preschooler, fervently praying the Lord’s prayer at the top of her lungs? To be embarrassed when our child is the one who shouts a lusty amen with the pastor at the end of the prayer?
God cherishes the praise of babes. We should see those moments for what they are. Pure, childish, godly, awesome praise. Let’s join them.
 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Seasons.

 

 
The beauty of a personal blog is that it’s allowed to be whatever you want it to be. There are no rules to follow, no faux pas to avoid, no one way to be. This little speck in the corner of the vast internet started, rather unplanned, in my little bungalow kitchen one day. It started with my discovery of a passion for food, as I learned how to be a wife and homemaker. It has followed me through my journey to a new home in a different state, nudged me on my transformation into a wannabe foodie, waited for months at a time through the busy miracle that is motherhood. It has evolved from a record of my learning curve in the kitchen into a chronicle of my discoveries in a healthier diet. I believe a truly worthy endeavor is always growing, constantly changing. Life is made up of seasons, always changing. And so, I’ve entered a new one. A new baby, a home to call our own, a shifting of priorities. Suddenly I find my thoughts consumed by child rearing and motherhood, with a little less inclination towards writing posts with recipes. Understand, I don’t intend to stop posting recipes completely. I still love cooking, and sharing that love with others. But I’ve also always enjoyed writing, and have recently rediscovered that dusty love. I feel like digging it out of the attic, and giving it a bit of a polish. I’ve been inspired by other bloggers, by their daily grit and grind that they share with the world. By their faith and tenacity as they plod through life. I feel like taking advantage of the flexibility of a blog, and writing what I feel like, when I feel like it. The crusts and the crumbs of my life. A recipe today, a remodel post tomorrow, a reflection on parenting next week. I face a wide open space, waiting to be filled with whatever I desire. And I like that challenge.


 
I’m not a spotlight kind of girl. I’m shy, and quiet, and a bit reserved. Oh, I like a good razzing between friends, and a spirited board game with the best of them. I love hosting friends and family and cherishing moments together. But at my soul, in my heart of hearts, I’m a quiet evening with my man, fire blazing, hands wrapped around a warm cup of tea kind of girl. That’s when I’m most blissful. So, I don’t write for a spotlight, imagined or otherwise. I don’t write for others. I write for me. If not a single person (besides my soul mate-we’re bonded as one, so he counts as me) reads this blog, I’d be just as satisfied in writing it as if a thousand had read it. Which is good, because a thousand people definitely won’t be reading this. No, I write because there is an itch in my soul. An urge, somewhere deep inside of my being, to craft my thoughts into words and inscribe them, preserve them, and make meaning from them. It brings me peace to take the whirling dervish in my mind and put him to rest.  
Much of my writing will never even see the light. It will never make it past the parchment of my mind, where it is scribbled in invisible ink for me alone. But some of it does.  That bit is what is written here. Humbly posted for the world to see, if it cares, or to ignore if it doesn’t.


 
 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Tropical Moment

 I can honestly say that there is no vacation I covet more than a tropical one. Warm sun, sparkling blue waters, sandy beaches, and exotic food. All the brilliant colors and foods, and the warmth just calls to me. And I tell you what, with all the crazy going on around here (a new baby on the way in October, and quite the variety of house guests and weekend trips over the past few months), we could use a vacation! Someday, maybe. But, until then, I like to make these Fish Tacos and Fried Plantains, with their hints of lime and coconut, and just pretend that I'm on a tropical island somewhere, sipping Brazilian Lemonade in a frosted glass with a tiny umbrella.


 Heart Health:

Cabbage- this sweet little gem (the best cabbage is always sweet!) is full of insoluble fiber, beta-carotene, folate, and vitamin C. It also contains dithiolethiones, compounds which may guard against carcinogenic agents and increase glutathione, an antioxidant. All of these things help in the fight against heart disease!
 
Garlic- Garlic has anticlotting properties, possibly due to the ajoenes present. Also, the sulfur phytochemicals may help protect against heart disease.

Cumin - this tasty spice is thought to be cardio protective and have antioxidant properties.
 
Corn- Corn often gets a bad rap as being without significant nutrients, but actually is a great source of complex carbs, folate, and soluble fiber, which may help protect against heart disease.


Olive Oil- This healthy oil contains disease-fighting phytochemicals, vitamin E, and monounsaturated fat. All these help keep arteries clear of cholesterol. The monousaturated fat may also help raise good cholesterol, and a diet rich in this fat may help lower your chance of heart disease.
 
Coconut oil- Although a saturated fat, it is composed mostly of medium chain fatty acids, which actually increase good cholesterol and help protect the heart. In some studies, coconut oil was also found to lower cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as prevent the oxidation of cholesterol (which leads to atherosclerosis- the depositing of fats on the artery wall) (http://www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/latest-studies-on-coconut-oil  http://www.coconutresearchcenter.org/article10132.htm)

Citrus (lime)- Citrus fruits are most well known for bing chock full of vitamin C, which may help heart disease by getting rid of harmful free radicals, strengthening blood vessels, and regulating blood pressure. But they also contain hesperidin for lowering cholesterol, nobiletin for anti-inflammatory actions, and folate to help lower the risk of heart disease.

Honey is often considered a super food, and is nutrient dense and full of enzymes- a great choice for sweetener whenever possible. Local, raw honey has even been suggested to help with allergies. 
 
Source: Fight Back with Food: Use Nutrition to Heal What Ails You,  The Reader's Digest Association


Honey Lime Cabbage

1/2 head of a small cabbage, chopped
2 Tbs. white vinegar
4 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. honey
2 Tbs. lime juice
1/2 tsp sea salt. 

Whisk all the sauce ingredients together, than stir in the cabbage. Allow to marinate for several hours ahead of time, so that the cabbage has a bit of time to get tender.

Fish Marinade

1/3-1/2 cup Coconut milk
2 Tbs. lime juice
2 Tbs. honey
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne
2 cloves minced garlic 
4-5 fillets of Tilapia
Olive or coconut oil

Mix ingredients for marinade, then add to fish and marinate for at least an hour, or more, in the fridge. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet or griddle over medium high heat. Add fish fillets and fry until golden on each side and cooked (opaque white) through. Remove from heat and allow to cool, then flake into bite size chunks. 


Crema

1/2 cup crema mexicana (this is totally optional, as it's basically just thick cream. It makes the sauce creamier and more mild, but you can easily use all sour cream or milk or cream in place of it.)
1 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 minced clove garlic
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbs. lime juice
Whisk together until smooth. 

Corn Salsa

2 cups cooked corn
2 Tbs. softened butter
2-3 Tbs. Chipotle Tabasco Sauce
1/2 cup chopped onions (optional)
Cilantro to taste (optional)
I happen to hate raw onions AND cilantro, so I leave those out, but my husband likes them, so often I will have them on the side. 

Mix the tabasco sauce with the softened butter, than stir into the cooked corn, onions, and cilantro.

Note: an alternative to tabasco sauce that I sometimes use would be the same spices used in the crema. 



Tacos

Corn tortillas
Olive oil
Cooked fish
Corn Salsa
Honey Lime Cabbage

Fry tortillas lightly in olive oil, until golden but still flexible. Drain and cool on paper towels. Build tacos with fish, cabbage, corn, and crema. Or, simply toss all ingredients in a bowl and rip off bites of tortilla as you go. Enjoy!





Fried Plaintains with Coconut Cream

1 can of full fat coconut milk, refrigerated at least over night
Sugar to taste
2 ripe plantains
2 Tbs. butter or coconut oil
1 tsp cinnamon
2-3 Tbs. brown sugar

Take the can of coconut milk form the fridge and remove the lid. There will be a separation of the coconut cream/fat and the milk/water. Scoop the hardened coconut cream into your mixer and whisk on high speed until it resembles whipped cream. (Hint: if you are making fish tacos as well, use the leftover milk for the marinade.) You can use the liquid as well, but your cream will not be as firm. Once it's whipped to your desired consistency, sprinkle in sugar to taste. Scoop into a bowl and refrigerate until needed. 
Right before serving, slice the plantains into coins and melt the butter in a hot skillet. Add the plantains and cook on one side until golden. Flip them over, then sprinkle the golden side with cinnamon and brown sugar, and allow the brown sugar to melt. When the bottom is golden, remove from the skillet. Serve warm with a dollop of whipped coconut cream.

Brazilian Lemonade
We tried this out a few days ago, and simply loved it! I love finding fun drink recipes to make a meal feel just a little bit more festive. I used this recipe here: http://www.jetsetcarina.com/2010/07/untipsy-tuesday-brazilian-lemonade.html

and added a can of coconut milk and a small carton of raspberries. Plus, honestly, a bit more sugar and water, as it was pretty tart and strong for me. Just mix it to taste.