Thursday, December 31, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
You know, it's really interesting how it often takes losing something that you totally take for granted (like sleep) to make you really appreciate it. We lost electricity the other night for about four hours. Good thing we had good flashlights and a kerosene lantern.
I was starting to worry about what we were going to do with the contents of our refrigerator and freezer, we were wondering if we would have work and school the next day, and we bundled everyone up for the night with jackets and extra blankets (because even though we do have a very well-insulated home, we do live in Idaho, after all. I think our low was supposed to be in the single digits somewhere: a bit chilly). All of these things are things I don't even think about (cold food, work and school as usual, warmth at night), but had to when we don't have electricity.
Our boys thought it was a great adventure, but I'm so grateful for electricity! I was massively relieved when the lights/furnace/refrigerator/freezer came back on about 11:30 that night. Wow, are we blessed! Can you imagine living every day without electricity? Doing everything early morning or evening to night by candlelight? Yikes!
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Ok, having a two-year-old kind of gets you used to having cuteness around. From dancing (our toddler was dancing to his teenage brother's music yesterday with much exuberance: so hilarious and cute!), to word pronounciations (he says both juice and shoes 'dooce'). I am so grateful for those everyday cute things.
But sometimes he does something that is so completely unexpected and over-the-top cute that I can hardly believe it. Last night we had one of those.
We own two nativity sets. One is a set that I got a couple of years ago and is a nicer one (although that didn't stop me from accidentally knocking one of the wisemen down off the mantel last year and breaking him in half...sigh. Oh well, better me than one of the kids). The other one is one that my husband got for a Christmas when he was young. So I happened to comment on the fact that it would be really nice if our little kids had a nativity set that they could play with (thinking of this awesome one that my sister made for another sister this year for Christmas). So my generous husband mentioned that we should get our old one out and let the kids play with it until it breaks.
So last night we set the older Nativity set up on a small side table in our living room. Our two-year-old was so enthralled with this set that he wouldn't even come eat dinner--he just wanted to play with all the people. I went in to check on him and here's what he was doing: he was kissing all the characters together. Mary kissing Joseph (which he pronounces 'Jovis'), the shepherd kissing Mary (which our boys thought was hilarious), the sheep kissing the cow, etc. This morning, though, when he went to play with the set, he started the kissing again, but this time Baby Jesus was kissing everyone. What a sweetie. And what a good reminder, especially at this time of year: Jesus loves us all.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Wow--some of the things that happen are pretty amazing, though. I had one happen to me two weeks ago. My youngest sister is attending the university in our town and asked us to attend her orchestra concert. My parents, brother (who happened to be in town) and I planned to attend (my family's church Christmas party was the same night, so my husband and I had to split up because we would have had all-out mutiny on our hands if we had made our younger children miss the visit from a Certain Jolly Someone).
However, my parents and I ended up ordering our tickets separately earlier that week, so even though we drove down to the concert hall together, we were resigned to the fact that we wouldn't be sitting together during the concert.
So while my dad and brother went to park the car, my mom and I went to the ticket office to pick up my parents' tickets, since I already had mine. When she got them, here's what we saw:
Yes, seats 1,2,3 and 4 in Section J. Out of probably 400 seats in the concert hall, we 'happened' to get four all together. So what do you think? Chance? A mere coincidence? Or God's hand in our lives? I know what I believe, but either way, I said a prayer of thanks in my heart as we walked in and enjoyed sitting together.
If you are interested in reading more about tender mercies, follow this link and read up. It's an awesome talk!
Friday, December 11, 2009
The principle of opposition operates in the fact that you can't really appreciate something until you've experienced the opposite, so being grateful for an uninteruppted night's sleep is a big one for anyone who has ever had a baby. Those first few months are so hard. How you can give around-the-clock care for a completely dependent and uncommunicative (with words anyway) infant, a being who you love more than you can imagine, but who also is so incredibly demanding, is amazing to me. And I've done it five times! I think we definitely have help from angels to get us through those completely sleep-deprived months.
So even though my youngest is two and I usually get a good night's rest (other than the occasional five to ten minutes to help a child with a leg ache or bad dream), a couple weeks ago I was up several nights in a row with barfy kids (is there any more disgusting smell than vomit (not to mention how disgusting-sounding that word is)? I'm a nurse and have smelled a lot of gross smells, but I still think that one still might be the worst).
And just three nights ago I was up scrubbing my bathroom floor at 3:00 A.M. Fun times. I'm sure you can guess why: a child who begged for more drinks before bed, which we unwisely, although not without warnings, gave. In fact, this child laughed at my husband's warning that he would be up 48 times to go to the bathroom. No, he just saved up all 48 times and it ended up all over the floor.
Anyhoo, going without a decent night's sleep really makes me appreciate all those nights that I actually get to sleep all the way through. Most the time, actually. What a blessing! I just can't function without good sleep. Sleep is one of those essentials that you don't really appreciate until you don't have it for a while (like food, water, air... :0)
And just for the record: no, I do not let my preschooler sleep though the night on the couch, but it's a funny sleep picture. This child has a history of falling asleep in funny places or positions: standing up leaning against his bed, behind the door, on the couch, and my personal favorite: under the laundry basket, among many others.
Yay for sleep!
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
My two-year old is absolutely enthralled with his belly button. I think this is a phase pretty much all children this age go through and it is so funny! I love when I'm folding laundry in my room and he comes in to find me, sees the mirror, and goes right over to admire his belly.
Here are my five and two-year-olds checking out their navels.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
While I was growing up, my mother made homemade bread. I think it was mostly because there were 8 kids in my family and we went through tons of bread, so there was a major financial incentive, since homemade bread, besides being infinitely tastier and healthier, is also way less expensive. Of course, being the typical I-want-what-I-don't-have kind of child, I loved the store-bought white bread (uggh! So nasty to me now, but I loved it then) and didn't appreciate the gold mine I had.
It wasn't until I was married and on my own that I really appreciated Homemade Bread. I was forced to buy the store-bought whole wheat bread which didn't compare in any way, and only then (after the fact, of course) did I realize what a great bread heritage my mother had given us. And it wasn't until I actually started making bread myself that I really realized the effort that she went to each week for us (now I really appreciate it, since when I make bread every week and a half, I'm making 12 loaves (three batches). We go through A LOT of bread. My boys can easily finish off a whole loaf in one sitting if I let them).
So during my first few years of marriage, I made bread in my Kitchenaid, but it seemed like a lot of work to go to for two loaves that we were getting through in just a few days. It wasn't until my husband's parents gave us a Bosch mixer one Christmas and a wheat grinder the next Christmas that I really came into my own on the bread-making scene.
Now my children beg for white bread (poetic justice, isn't it?), and I put in a few cups of white flour in my mostly whole wheat bread just to keep them happy. But we all love the absolute culinary joy that is Newborn Bread. That is, Freshly Baked Bread. Hot out the oven. In all of it's steamy, moist, delicious goodness. Just check out that gorgeous specimen of breadliness in the picture.
So, where did that name come from? My second son came into the house after school one day when he was about seven or eight, inhaled deeply through his nose, exhaled and said with closed eyes and a gratified smile, "Mmmmm...Newborn Bread!" So that is what we call it.
So I guess this post is about gratitude for homemade bread itself and for my mother, who instilled in me a love for it.
Here's the recipe I use (my mother-in-laws recipe--it's a bit easier and just as tasty as the one I grew up on)
WHOLE WHEAT BREAD
Note: this recipe makes 4 loaves, which is great if you have a big mixer like a Bosch, but you will need to half it for your smaller mixer.
In your mixing bowl, combine:
5 1/3 c. hot water
2 T. salt
1/2 c. oil
1/2 c. honey
5 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. powdered milk
2 T. yeast (Saf-instant is THE BEST yeast ever, in my opinion)
3-4 T. gluten
In a separate container, mix dry ingredients and add slowly to wet ingredients while mixing in your mixer. When incorporated, add another approximately 9 c. flour, until the dough is still very moist but doesn't stick to your finger. You can add all whole wheat flour, or some white. I add 2 c. white to appease my children, and my mother-in-law does half white and half wheat and hers turns out a bit lighter, but even if you use all whole wheat, it still turns out really good.
If your mixer can handle it, mix the dough for about 10 minutes (this helps work the gluten in and cuts one rise time out). Transfer into a large bowl and rise for about 30 minutes (if you didn't mix in your mixer, you will need to do this twice). Punch down, and separate into four equal pieces.
Shape your loaves (I learned a great trick from my MIL: roll each piece out into a long oval, flip it over and roll it tightly, pinching the ends if you need to, then put it seam side down in the pan. Rolling seems to create a better shaped loaf, I think because it adds structure.)
Rise in pans until about 1-2 inches above rim of the pans, then bake in 350 degree oven for 35 minutes (you may have to play with the temp and time, depending on how your oven cooks and what kind of pans you use).
Let cool just long enough so it doesn't burn your hand to hold them to slice. Enjoy your newborn bread! I like mine with butter and honey.
What about you? What's your favorite kind of bread and how do you like it? (I promise not to mock or look down on you if you really like store-bought white bread!)
Monday, December 7, 2009
This cute little turkey was made by my five-year-old.
Well, I haven't written in about two weeks. It's pretty ironic that my delinquency comes during the holiday that is directly centered on the value that this blog is all about. Something about having twenty-some-odd people staying at my house, cooking like a mad woman, plus all the basic keep-the-house-going type stuff. Oh, and my five and two-year-olds have decided that they don't like me being on the computer for any length of time. Fun.
Back to business. Our Thanksgiving day was wonderful and I hope all of you had a good one as well. I have a fabulous family who I spent the day with (many of whom are wonderful cooks, which definitely comes in handy on this day!). And we started the day with a great tradition in our town: every year on Thanksgiving morning, there is a Thanksgiving concert given by the community choir and other local individual or small group musicians. It was so awesome! This year I was able to sing in the choir with my husband, 14-year-old son (his first choral experience), and sister. Aside from the amazing choral music, we had an organ piece, a mother/son violin/bass duet, an oboe solo, and a sextet singing "New Day." The music was so beautiful and uplifting, the director and accompanyist (a husband and wife team, and family friends) were amazing, and the spirit of the day was wonderful. It was a great way to start the day.
So after the concert I had grand intentions to sit down and write a grateful post on the day, but between company, making rolls and pies, visiting my parents and wrangling kids, it never happened. So I will just do it today! After all, this blog is about gratitude: this is a good exercise for any day!
Here's what you do: set the timer for three minutes and write as many grateful things as you can think of. How many things can you name? Here's mine.
Today I am thankful for:
each of my five boys
a computer that works
when the timer works (note: the first two times I tried this exercise, the timer
didn't work and I had to start again)
our free country
our servicemen who fight & sacrifice for our freedom
a working washer and dryer
my relatively good health
The Book of Mormon
knowledge of a God who loves me
the beauties of the earth
a warm home
my two-year-old's cute mispronounciations
that I can read
that I can write
that my children love to read
fun tv shows (food network)
dancing with my husband
watching my children & husband wrestle
not having to wrestle with them every time
tickling (in moderation)
fun Nintendo time with my family
34 things. How many can you do? It would be interesting to count how many if I didn't have to type them, if I was just naming verbally--I bet I could get twice that many.
I just did it and had one son time and one son count and I got 74. Try it--it's fun!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
I guess I do it because I think it's fun to try a new recipe, and then if it's awful, my family and I don't have to eat the whole thing :0), and if it is good, then I have a new recipe to add to my stack. Works pretty well and actually, I've never had a food bomb so bad that I couldn't take it (at least not that I remember--maybe I've blocked it out).
But I am grateful when I try something new and it turns out well. And so cute!! Actually this isn't a brand new recipe, but I've only made a full pie from this recipe, never these cute little guys. This is seriously in my opinion the best and easiest apple pie recipe. You may not love it, but as far as pies go, it really is easy. So easy, in fact, that my friend used it with my son's scout group: I dropped my oldest off at her house for scouts one day (several years ago) and saw pie paraphernalia all over the place. I asked her what they were doing and she said, "Oh, we're going to make pies." (this is a very ambitious woman--you are awesome, Wendy!) Pies? With 7 eight-year-old boys? Wow! Then she explained that they are so easy (use this tool to cut the apples, dump them in the crust (I think she used store-bought) pour cinnamon sugar over, and put the topping on & bake), but I still don't think I would ever dare try it with scouts :0)
So here is the regular recipe and my adjustments for the minis:
Apple Crumb Pie--original recipe from Wendy Busacker
5-7 tart apples (she suggested Pink Lady, but we have used Granny Smith and Fuji, so just use your favorite baking apple.)
Slice apples & place in unbaked crust--the apples should be heaped up into a mound
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
Mix these together and sprinkle over apples
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. flour
1/3 c. butter
Mix these until crumbly & sprinkle over the top of the apples
Bake at 400 for 40-45 minutes (may need to cover last 5-10 minutes if the topping ends up getting too dark).
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and milk on the side (my favorite). Enjoy!
Mini Apple Pies--adjustments by me
Make a pie crust for a top and bottom. Roll out pretty thin. Use a 3 inch circle cutter (I used a cup) to cut out as many as you can--I ended up getting 16 circles from a one-crust batch, but it will totally depend on how thin you roll your crust.
Fit the circles into mini muffin tins, shaping them so there are no cracks and the crust goes up to the top of the tins and the pastry is tight against the sides.
Cut your apples with the slicer-cutter-peeler-dealie, then cut the slices into little 1-inch pieces and put them into the tins, fitting as many in as you can.
Sprinkle with about 1/2 tsp. cinnamon sugar and top with about 2 tsp. crumb topping.
Bake 375 for about 45 minutes. Let cool and remove very carefully (I didn't really figure out a great way of doing this, so if you do, let me know).
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Anyway, it was a great night: good atmosphere, fun people to talk to, great classes, and my sweet husband and oldest son came over to help us clean up afterward (without being asked).
So this morning I am grateful that it went well and that it is over!
I am also so grateful that I didn't have to plan and carry the shindig out all by myself. What a blessing to ask people to help, have them volunteer for a specific part, and then know that it will get done, and not only done well, but in good time!
For instance, our meeting last night had many parts: publicity, food, classes, a craft, a video presentation, set up, take down and clean up. There were people who agreed to teach a class, and other than checking with them once or twice to make sure everything was cool, I didn't do anything other than attend the class! The woman who volunteered to be in charge of the gratitude journals took care of it all and they turned out awesome! And all others who were involved just did their part, followed through to the end and the night turned out great.
Hoorah for dependable people!! Is that where the term "can-do" came from? Dependable people are those who can & do? Hmmm...I never thought about it. It makes sense, but does anyone know for sure?
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Isn't it awful when you wake up in the morning and are just about ready to turn over and go back to sleep, when you look at the clock and you only have seven minutes left until you have to get up? Or three? Or one? Yuck.
On the other hand, I love it when this happens: I am awakened by a noise, or a child, or just my brain being between REM cycles and I look at the clock and I have another whole hour (or several) to sleep! Hoorah!
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
A good apple is almost the perfect food: they are sweet, crunchy, juicy, nutritious, and you can eat the outsides, (or the insides, if you are my Grandmother. She takes the stem off and eats them from the top down, all but the very bottom yucky part. I guess when you lived through the Depression, an apple was a pretty good treat and you didn't want to waste any).
What an awesome food! We love Fujis (pictured) and Jonagolds at our house, and my boys love Granny Smiths as well, although they create a bit too much of a pucker in my mouth :0). I especially love apples when I get the major munchies while I'm making dinner and after I put my kids to bed (anyone else have this problem?).
What's your favorite kind of apple and how do you eat them?
Monday, November 16, 2009
We had a close call last night that could have ended in terrible injury or even death. It gives me chills even thinking about it, but here's what happened. My two-year-old (you knew this was going to be about him, didn't you? What is it about that age that they not only get into trouble so often, but also put their own lives in jeopardy on a regular basis?! It's enough to drive a mother crazy!) saw me put our griddle away (pancakes for dinner :0) and went to the drawer to get this item (pictured above). I didn't think anything of it, as he gets things out of my kitchen drawers all the time and walks away with them. You would think since I'm raising five boys, all of whom have gone through this lovely (aka destructive, dangerous but so cute) two-year-old phase, that I would look at every item in their grubbly little hands as a possible danger, but no...I let him go.
I was talking to my husband and for some reason after a few minutes followed my little guy to see what he was up to. Here's what I saw: he had plugged the cord end into one of the few sockets in our home not covered with a safety outlet cover (items specifically made for two-year-olds, I'm convinced), and was moving the other end (that spikey end plugs into the griddle, so is a live electrical point) towards his mouth. Aaaaaaaghhh!!! You can imagine the shriek that was emitted from my mouth as I swooped down, took the item from him and put it in its new home, one of my highest cabinets. During this, my little guy just looked at me with this blank stare as if to say, "what's the big deal, Mom?"
My husband watched my reaction, but hadn't seen the putting-the-live-element-into-the-mouth part, and when I told him, we both couldn't say anything but, "Wow. That was too close--can you imagine?" Yikes! I don't really want to imagine.
So today I am grateful that I'm sitting here typing this with my little guy standing behind me on my chair, messing up my hair and sticking his knees into my back, and not sitting in the hospital by the bedside of my unconscious and horribly burned and disfigured little guy.
Wow. What a blessing!
Have you had any close calls that made you grateful?
Friday, November 13, 2009
I was supposed to go with my other neighbor to visit a friend this morning (our church has this awesome program called Visiting Teaching, where all the women are paired up and have a few other friends to visit every month--that way we can make new friends, help each other and, well...visit :0), and when I called her, she was happy to go without me and expressed hope that my kids would feel better soon.
I'm so kind for friends that are kind, helpful, flexible and nonjudgemental! Thank you Debbie and Deidra!
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Friday, November 6, 2009
When I was growing up, we pretty much just had cereal for breakfast. And I was pretty much starving by 10:00 every day at school (although I totally understand that cereal is, by far, the easiest breakfast so it makes sense that in a family of 8 children we would have cereal every day). Occasionally on Saturdays we would have Bisquick pancakes, which we all loved, but that was the only type of pancake I knew.
When I was about nine years old, I went to a sleepover and my friend's mom made us pancakes with chocolate chips in them. Wow! I had never conceived such a wonderful thing!
Now that I'm an adult, my love of pancakes has just expanded and I have found all sorts of amazing pancake recipes: Cottage cheese pancakes, white pancakes (as opposed to whole wheat pancakes), blueberry pancakes, pumpkin pancakes, oatmeal pancakes, cornbread pancakes, apple cinnamon pancakes. All of them: yum!
This one, however, is our standard school morning pancake. It's all whole wheat, and sometimes I throw some ground flax in, just to boost the nutrition. It doesn't take that long to make and cook them, and they are quite filling.
Our favorite topping is applesauce and maple syrup or cinnamon-sugar (I know--weird, but yummy).
These are pictured plain just because a) they are pretty this way (look at that golden brown, unadulterated by any toppings! :0) and b) the eater of these particular pancakes wasn't quite ready to eat them and I didn't want to get them all ready for my picture and then have them all soggy for eating after sitting too long (these were the last of the pancakes) and c) these are both just excuses: I was busy dealing with a cranky 2-year-old and chose not to. There you have it.
My kids even like them plain or if any are left over, toasted with butter and sugar for an after-school snack. You see my 2-year-old trying to take a pinch.
Whole Wheat Pancakes (this was originally a recipe from my Betty Crocker cookbook, but I've changed it a bit)
2 c. milk
2 T. vinegar
(This just makes a nice sour milk to start out with, which seems to make the pancakes lighter. I never seem to have buttermilk around and this is a good shortcut)
Let the milk sit for a minute, maybe while you get the dry ingredients together.
3 T. oil
Mix all these wet ingredients together well
2 c. whole wheat flour
2 T. white sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
Mix all these together and add to the wet ingredients
Add flour or milk to get your desired consistency and mix with a whisk until blended, but don't overdo the mixing. Pour on hot griddle (about 325 degrees) and flip when you see bubbles, or when the underside is golden brown. Makes about 20 six-inch pancakes.
Here's a yummy but not-so-nutritious variation: sometimes (usually on a weekend) I will make these with whole milk and part or all white flour (my boys beg for these pancakes! they call them "white pancakes") and they turn out so fluffy and delicious.
Ok, if you insist: here is a picture of whole wheat pancakes in the double-decker way we like to eat them. Start with pancake, then applesauce, another pancake, topped with butter and syrup. Yum!
I am so grateful for whole wheat pancakes!
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Have you ever gone camping and gone without a shower for a few days (or four or five)? Hmmm...I guess that happens after you have a baby too--you go days without a shower, just because sleep is SO much more important than being clean. But still, that feeling is gross.
You know the feeling I'm talking about, right? The one where your skin and hair are greasy and you can smell yourself and um...it's not a good smell?
Can you imagine living like that?(Not to mention wearing the same clothes every day) I mean, 100 years ago, they bathed once a week and it was a huge ordeal!
Have you ever read the Little House on the Praire books? Whenever I read those books, it makes me so grateful I live now and not 100 years ago. Here's what getting yourself clean was like a hundred years ago (at least in the Ingalls family): in the summer they hauled water from the spring bucket by bucket and warmed it on the stove, then filled a big tub with water and the first person bathed (I'm guessing that process took at least an hour, most likely closer to two). No separate room, so they had to bathe behind a screen made of a blanket in the main room. In the winter, they took snow, warmed it on the stove and went through the same routine. After they were done, the water was dirty, so they dumped it and started all over again for each person who had to bathe. (I got this information in the first book, Little House in the Big Woods, in the chapter entitled 'Sundays')
Wow. It would take all day to take a bath! No wonder they only did it once a week!
I can get up in the morning, turn on the shower (automatic warm water) and be clean (with nice-smelling, foaming soap instead of a nasty-smelling brick that was like trying to get clean using a rock) in ten minutes (well, probably closer to fifteen :0).
I love and am so grateful for my shower!
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
That being said, if I HAD to choose a favorite color, it would probably be blue. Why? Well, my mother loves blue and often (I'd say probably four days a week) wears blue. In fact, my second son, when he was about 4-years-old, started calling her "the grandma in the blue suit." And we all know how our mother's preferences tend to ingrain in our pscyches.
Or maybe because blue is very soothing. When my husband and I were first married, I worked in an nursing home. During my years there, the Alzheimer's wing was redone and guess what color they painted the walls? Yup, soft blues and greens. Apparently, those colors actually affect the brain in a soothing way, helpful for people who might be confused, or agitated, or combative. (Except when there was a full moon. Seriously--I never wanted to work on that wing during a full moon. Craziness.)
And seriously, there are SO many different kinds of blue. I guess you could say that about any color, but blue, to me, seems to have so many shades: cobalt, sky blue, indigo, royal blue, periwinkle, etc.
Ok, I'm done. I guess you can tell that I'm grateful for blue. What about you? What's your favorite kind of blue? Or other color: what color makes you happy? Aren't you grateful the world isn't black and white? How boring!