Sunday, October 31, 2010

Recent Pictures

Last soccer game of the fall:

Most likely not our Christmas card picture:

With our neighbor friend at the hay maze:

Love this one:

Fall on the beach in Maine:

Friday, October 29, 2010

Here's the Plan

It's only a 2-day plan. My parents are coming, so tonight is lamb stew and tomorrow is chicken milano. An old "family favorite" that I remember my dad making when I was little and my mom was sick.

So after Saturday night, I have no plan. It exhausts me to to think of things to eat. On the one hand, there's my children, who eat nothing; on the other, my parents, who eat everything (These leftovers in the back of your fridge? Sure, I'll eat 'em. Weird.).

I am open to suggestions. What should we have for supper next week?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Any Road, Any Cost

Leaving the safe and familiar
With their hearts set on a heavenly prize
There were some who laid down their nets
And some who laid down their lives

A good long time ago, I worked as a counselor at a Christian camp. A lot of my ties to New England go back to that now-defunct camp. I spent three summers there.

This past week (when I started this post, it was "last week;" now it's more like "3 months ago"), I worked VBS at my church. I was with a section of the second grade and I haven't thought about my time at Mountain View Bible Camp (MVBC) as much over the last 12 years as I have this past week at Merrimack Valley Baptist Church (also MVBC).

I started working at camp the summer of 1996. My cousin's husband's brother was the director and for some reason I thought I could have her life if I could just snag him . . . despite my energetic efforts to "kiss dating goodbye" and practice "the rules," he stubbornly refused to declare undying love and marry me. But that is a story, not so much for another day, but best forgotten.

And not the story I sat down to write.

Not sure where they were going
But they did not have to know
'Cause they knew Who had called them
And they said, "We will go."

I'm not sure why I went to Mountain View. I'm still working out what those summers meant. I don't like the person I was then. I was legalistic, self-righteous, proud, and clueless. I didn't like being outdoors, or bad smells, or big ball volleyball.

Down any road at any cost
Wherever You lead we will follow
Because we know
That You've called us to take up our cross
Down any road at any cost

Right around the time I went to Mountain View, I was introduced to Point of Grace. They weren't new or anything; I was just so afraid of listening to "rock" music that I scorned anything that wasn't BJ-approved. Laugh. Please. I am. Then I heard Life, Love, and other Mysteries and loved it and felt wild & rebellious listening to it.

This past week at VBS reminded me of Mountain View (not the negative things I feel about how I was then, but fond memories): taking limited supplies and trying to decorate for a theme; smiling enthusiastically as 8-year-olds stumbled through memory verses; cheering as they played a group game with not much point but lots of running.

I almost felt myself breaking into that uninhibited camp-counselor persona: running with abandon to not be tagged by the big inflated exercise ball or enthusiastically singing a song with excessive hand motions.
But I also felt my age. I for sure did not have the energy level or carefree mindset I had a decade and a half ago.
It may be fear that we're feeling
When we see what we must sacrifice
But You promised You'll go with us
So we'll trust with our lives

After my third summer at Mountain View, I moved to Derry, NH, to work at a school (which is now also closed); I moved sort of for a boy, but again, a story best forgotten and not the one I sat down to write. Looking back, I can see that what I thought was my motive for moving was really God leading me to where I am. I was always in a panic (back then) about finding God's will and being "absolutely holy all through" (Oswald Chambers). I thought the road was going another direction (Guam?) and going to be really, really difficult, but I was sincere when I told God "any road, any cost."

It's Your love that compels us
To do what You've called us to do
And be completely abandoned
To You

I thought I wasn't finding my way because I wasn't doing enough or committed enough. Every guy I picked out to marry wasn't following through. I was giving up any/everything I could think of to pay the cost and get God's perfect will for my life.
What I didn't factor in was that God loved me and wanted to give me my heart's desire. That His yoke is easy and His burden is light. When I stopped agonizing and worrying, He showed his love and faithfulness. Again. It wasn't some awful, unbearable situation that I'd have to grit my teeth for the rest of my life and mutter "His yoke is easy," but it actually was . . . easy. A wonderful gift from the God of Love.
I hadn't thought of any road, any cost in terms of my current life until I got to the end of this post. I've realized that it's not a one time decision that doesn't have to be revisited. It's a choice I make every day . . . sometimes the cost is putting down my scrap magazine to read a Bible story during breakfast. Sometimes it's pausing my TV show (I know, how spoiled am I that I pause a show and not miss any of it?) to comfort one of my babies as they go to sleep. Sometimes the road goes to the park and not the mall.
And sometimes, when they're both in school . . . it does go to the mall.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Apples and Pumpkins

I love fall. Who in New England doesn't? Fall is so glorious up here, so colorful and bright that we sort of forget that winter is coming with its gray gloom and snow.

We finally went apple picking and this year I'm determined to not let half the apples go bad in the bottom drawer of my fridge. I started with apple cookies.

I got this recipe a few years ago from Craig's cousin and hadn't tried it yet.

Craig thinks that a cookie with no chocolate is a waste of time. I thought of that as I made them; how I just made a whole bunch of cookies he wouldn't eat. But he loved them. He even mentioned the "no chocolate" thing and how he was surprised himself that he liked them. His assessment: "They taste like apple pie in a cookie."

This is the first batch, made the way the recipe is written.

Here's my adorable assistant coring, peeling, and slicing the apples. She's a talented multitasker.

Shot of chopped up apples. I tell myself I'm going to take process pictures to post here so here's one.

Since the recipe called for shortening and I'm not the hugest fan of eating large quantities of shortening, I google searched to see if I could substitute butter for shortening. The site I found suggested adding an egg if making that substitution and that would make the cookies more cake-like.

This is the first batch which would have turned out a lot nicer if I hadn't gone upstairs and assumed I could hear the kitchen timer while in the laundry room (I can't).

And yes. That's a pizza stone I'm baking the cookies on. It's really new so I'm using it for everything. Also, when I make cookies, I have to have three (or four) stones in rotation because they don't cool down between batches like a metal one would. And you can't be putting dough on hot stones (or cookie sheets) now, can you?

The next batch looked better. They darkened up after sitting for about a minute.

They did have a fuller texture; the shortening ones spread more and were thin. The butter ones were more cake-like. Next time (I feel like smitten kitchen or something trying the same recipe over and over with variations to find the one I like best) I'm going to do butter and not the additional egg. I will forget to let you know how that goes because I might not make these again until next year. Just letting you know.

Last year I found this recipe for pumpkin bread. It was really good so I filed it away for this year. When I looked at it this year, I notice A CUP of oil! and THREE cups of sugar! WHAT?!

Immediately I cut the oil to 1/2 cup and added 1/2 cup of applesauce. I also cut the sugar to 2 1/2 cups and asked on facebook if people thought I could cut it to 2 (that being 1/3 the sugar of the original). I also added some vanilla.

Now. I think this should be addressed: I "heard" (on facebook, the primary source of my information, followed by the yahoo! homepage when I log in to my e-mail) that there's a "pumpkin shortage" (confirmed by one of the stores I went to not having any) so anytime I see pumpkin in a store I buy two or three cans. Therefore, I have plenty of canned pumpkin around here.

I also have an eager and enthusiastic assistant when I bake:

Here is the recipe as I finally ended up with (there's no picture of the finished product; as much as I start with good intentions of process pictures, I have a short attention span. Plus, there's yummy fresh-baked pumpkin bread sitting there. What would you do? Photograph it or eat it?):

"Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread"

1 15 oz can pumpkin puree

4 eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup applesauce

2/3 cup water

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups white sugar

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three 7x3-inch loaf pans (which I don't do, I use 2 regular-sized pans and they're a little crowded).

2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, applesauce, water, vanilla, and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.

3. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

There are still a few things I want to play with with this recipe, like replacing one of the eggs with flax and adding the flax with the water. That's just to add the flax for its (you know) great health benefits. And maybe some kind of topping.

Next: apple bread and pumpkin cookies. And maybe this stone for my collection.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Perfect Ten

Me, pondering the future. Craig pondering . . . the present? What he paid for the ring?*

I had big ambitions to scan some of our wedding photos so they'd look all neat and I'd look all tech-aware and all that. But I didn't get around to it.

So here's a glimpse of some of them, as seen through the lens of my camera.

*The professional pictures were taken by Wade K. Ramsey and are copyrighted by him.

Kate concerned about where the baby is. No comment that I look pretty or the dress is nice or anything. Just, 'where's the baby?' (most likely meaning herself).

Is this type of shot still taken? It's kind of cheesy, the bride with the groomsmen and the groom with the bridesmaids.

I admit that most of my favorite shots are candids. I love this one, just after the ceremony ended and we're heading down the aisle.

One piece of wedding advice I read a lot was to pay for a good photographer because the pictures are what lasts. On the one hand I totally agree; I don't' have tangible things from that day any more but I do have the album. On the other hand, the album stays in its box and I don't think anyone's looked at it for a good 4 years.

And of course, the most tangible thing that's survived the last 10 years is my wonderful, amazing husband.

Love you honey! Happy Anniversary. Here's to many, many more.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Way Back's Back! (for now)

My junior year . . . no, spring semester my senior year (maybe?), I took Jeremiah and Ezekiel with Michael Barrett. I had to go get special permission from some dean to take it with the nurses, because according to my exceptional class-scheduling skills, it was the "only" Bible class that fit into my schedule. My 11-credit schedule.

The nursing majors took the class for 2 hrs on Tuesday and Thursday for the first half of the semester and then did something nursey for the second half. This meant that I'd be done with the class halfway though the semester and have a lot more time to curl my hair, hang out in the A&O, or iron my pleated skirts.

There was one other non-nursing major in my section, Scott Hunter (a boy! all the girl nursing majors, me, and him. He sat next to me).

I don't remember anything from the class. Well, content wise. I did horribly on the first quiz so after that I photocopied the chapters for the subsequent quizzes (one of the nurses suggested this) and it felt weirdly sacrilegious to do that, but having done it I could highlight much more than I'd feel comfortable with in the Bible and then I did better on the quizzes.

And then there was the time they moved the Bryan Bear game from the weekend to Monday night (or something - I think there might have been a migraine in there somewhere, too) and I did NOT have time to study for the quiz and I asked if I could not take it and make it up later in the week because it was my birthday. He said in 20 years of teaching he'd never heard that excuse he'd heard and yes, I could make it up.

Later in the week, I went to the office to take the quiz and took him a piece of my cake.

That's it. No insights into prophecy or the time period or any overtones of Christ. Cake and nurses.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Things I Didn't Know

Top Ten {Tuesday}

Ten things I did not know ten years ago:

1. That Craig snored when he was asleep.

2. That the first year of marriage would be so easy (it's supposed to be hard, right? Ours wasn't. Most of the credit for that (I'm going to say goes to Craig but you know it goes to God, right? That goes without saying.) goes to Craig for being so calm and even-keeled.

3. That the nicer brand undershirts fit better than the generic brand undershirts.

4. That we'd move twice and change jobs 4 times.

5. That Craig didn't like mustard.

6. That getting a king-sized bed so everyone could fit comfortably would be such a good idea.

7. That I'd trade Martha Stewart for Martha Speaks and not mind at all.

8. That a book Craig chose and read first would be such a good read.

9. That Craig would still be talking about getting a Jeep.

10. That I'd love him more now that I did 10 years ago.

For more top 10 lists, head over to ohamanda.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Kids' Choice

This has been a week of kids' choice. Craig was late three nights this week and gracious I cannot dig up the energy on those nights to cook something more elaborate than frozen ravioli for the three of us.

And I didn't even have the energy for that this week.

Even Friday night, when Craig was here, they still got kids' choice because we were having leftovers (from Thanksgiving on Monday and the chicken I roasted last week. I can't let yummy roast chicken and that phenomenal gravy I made go to waste now, can I?).

Last night, when Saturday sloth translated itself into pasta with meat sauce (the house special), there was a moment of whine from both of them . . . "I don't want that."

Their memories are so short. Four days of kids' choice and they think it's a choose-your-own-entree house.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pumpkin Pie

I like pumpkin pie. Always have. Pumpkin anything. Cookies. Bread. Cheesecake.

On Monday, while Americans had "off" for Columbus Day, we went to my friend (and mentor)'s house for Canadian Thanksgiving. She did the turkey, stuffing, rolls, carrots, potatoes, and pie. I brought fruit, green bean casserole, chips and dip, and pumpkin pie.

But not just any pumpkin pie. Cinnamon Streusel-Topped Pumpkin Pie.

It's simple, really. Take a really good thing and add something else that's really good and then you have something really, really good. And you might get a shout-out on facebook for making the best pumpkin pie ever.

I won't bore you with the entire recipe. Maybe you have a pumpkin pie recipe you like. Add this:

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup regular oats
1/4 cup chopped pecans
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground ginger
2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
2 to 3 teaspoons water.

Combine first 6 ingredients in a bowl. Cut in the butter with with a fork or fingertips until crumbly. Sprinkle with water, tossing with a fork just until lightly moistened. Sprinkle on your pie and bake.

Not sure how Cooking Light it is when you eat half the pie in one sitting, but you can congratulate yourself for trying.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


:: for early autumn afternoon sun

:: for a wonderful friend who has opened her home and her life to me and my family

:: for leftovers

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ten Wedding Gifts We Still Use

Sometimes I pick something up and think this was a wedding (or shower) gift; how nice that we're still using it. Some things didn't last the first year while others have been incredibly useful. So here, a list of ten things we still use AND as a bonus I'll tell you who gave it to us, if I can remember.

1. Towels (one set was from my parents' friends the Racillas)

2. mattress from Craig's parents (transplanted to Maine)

3. plastic food storage containers (about half the set is left)

4. pyrex dishes with plastic lids

5. waffle iron (One year later, Craig's aunt and uncle gave us a gift card to a store on Nantucket and we got the waffle iron while we were there for our anniversary.)

6. china (many contributors and the collection is still growing)

7. placemats/napkins from my friend Amy

8. Bookcases (bought with wedding money)

9. quilt from Craig's mom

10. blue baking dish set (my bffforever Sarah's parents)

Now give yourself a present head over to ohamanda for other top-ten lists.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Nothing New Under the Sun

Remember this?

Here's the website I was looking at when I first got the idea. How cute, huh? I love the circle and the name.

But then, too, I have a hang up about kids' names on shirts . . . don't want total strangers knowing their names. Unless I'm yelling across the playground to get their attention, that is.

My children's attention. Not the stranger's.

I also like these.

But again. Not really spending a lot on something that will get so little wear. After I made Kate's, I made one for my niece with a bandanna instead of the patchwork fabric for her "Toy Story" party. It was wicked cute, if I do say so myself.

(I right-clicked this off my SIL's album on FB.)

I thought I could sell those.
Then I went to etsy.
I don't have the energy or resources to compete with that.

I feel that way about hair bows, too. They are fast and easy to make, but I feel like I can't match what's out there in terms of quality or creativity.

I thought I was so stinkin' creative and original . . . I think I like for my hobbies to be hobbies. Once it becomes "work" or something I "have" to do (as opposed to have to do, or, the irresistible creative drive), I don't want to do it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ten Movies

Eleven years ago last week, I met the man of my dreams. And 10 years ago this month, I was blessed to marry him. So here's another 10 years of marriage top-10: Ten movies that we've liked, laughed at, and watched more than once in our relationship.

1. The Sixth Sense: On our first non-date, we were at a Halloween party and The Sixth Sense came up. Some people had seen it, Craig and I had not. I had read the ending in Entertainment Weekly (the article did warn that it was going to spoil the end but I kept reading). The people who had seen it offered to stop talking about it out of respect for those who hadn't, but we shrugged and said go ahead. So it's become "our joke" (like "our song," only funnier): I told him the end of The Sixth Sense, setting us up for a pattern of me reading too much, knowing a lot about movies that I haven't seen, and generally thinking that knowing the end before I see the movie saves me from having to watch it again.

2. Pirates of the Caribbean: We watched this when Sam was about 4 days old and I could not follow it. It seems that since giving birth, I can't follow the plot of basic movies and Craig has to explain them to me.

3. The Village: I guess we're dating ourselves by all the M. Night Shyamalan movies on the list; the first three were really good. I was excited about The Village (looked creepy in the trailers and we were finally going out after having a baby) and Craig guessed the twist. I didn't want to believe him but he was right.

4. Fireproof: Our church showed this for a couples' Valentine's event and we went for a little Kirk Cameron fix. It turned out to be a lot better than we expected.

5. The Departed: We really like this. It's a little rough, but so. well. done.

6. Office Space: Craig introduced me to this and, well, I'm going to have to go ahead and ask you to come in on Saturday. I don't like to talk about my flair.

7. Walk the Line or Ray: We liked both of these . . . they're basically the same movie, aren't they? And after each of them we added Johnny Cash and Ray Charles to our playlists.

8. Harry Potter: This is all me. I've read the books. I wanted to get book 7 at midnight and read it one day. But Craig tolerates it. He drove me to the mall for the midnight release. He watches the movies with me and lets me describe in detail what happened in the books that didn't make it into the movies which, in my opinion, should have, since those were key plot elements and makes other things that happen make more sense and clarifies characters' motivations.

9. Slumdog Millionaire: Craig did not want to see this. I totally did. I started watching it one night and he quickly became absorbed and admitted it was really good; he didn't know what the premise was but he ended up really liking it. Why does he question me?

10. Forrest Gump: On our honeymoon, we ate at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Craig realized I had never seen the movie. Once I saw it, I loved it. I cried and cried when Bubba died . . . I asked Craig if he died and he said no (he claimed he meant that Bubba wasn't dead when Forrest found him). If we're flipping channels and this is on, we always stop to watch.

Now. Push the pause button and head to ohamanda for more lists.