"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." -- Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Weekend Recap

The weekend was a good one. Nice and long and restful, until yesterday. But yesterday was a wonderful day, so the tired today is worth it.

We went to visit Beau's friends at their mountain farm in West Virginia. It was a gorgeous, if blisteringly hot, day. In addition to us, one of their kids' family was there and some church friends. I think there were 9 adults and 7 kids.

These friends are the folks from whom we bought a side of beef (with my parents) a couple of years ago. We signed up for a side of beef this year. We're keeping all of it this time, which means a lot of beef, so we'll need to make sure the freezer is empty in November when it's time to pick it up. Also, we're making the list now of the cuts we want so that when the butcher is ready to do his thing we're prepared.

Here's a picture of the steers they raise. It's hard to see through the window screen. My apologies on that. We forgot our camera and I took that shot with my Blackberry through the upstairs window when I noticed the cattle had moved up close to the bard.

The kids had a fun time running around free on the lawns. Molly was enthralled with the cows and would have stayed there staring at them staring at her all day if we'd let her. Jesse loved having other kids to play with and the large scrape on his knee only slowed him down a little bit.

I think these pictures tell the tale of how their day went?

We got home, both kids crashed into bed and then we crashed, too.

It was a lovely day.

Friday, May 27, 2011

In Memoriam

On this Memorial Day weekend, we remember those brave men and women who have given their all for the cause of freedom.

Thank you to all veterans and their families for your sacrifice.

We remember. Always.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tragedy and Small Helps

The devastation of the tornadoes around the south and midwest is overwhelming. The pictures of whole towns blown to rubble and sticks is incomprehensible. The loss of life is horrible.

It's times like this that I hold my husband and kids a little tighter, kiss them a little more often, tell them that I love them as often as the thought comes to my mind. And as a worst case scenario thinker, I work out solutions in my head should we be faced with similar circumstances.

I wish there was more I could do to help, but really what these people need is money given to organizations who are equipped and on the ground to lend aid. And so, I am using my small business to do just that. For all of May and June, any sale in my Etsy shop will help the folks impacted by the tornadoes. 10% of all sales revenue will be given to Samaritan's Purse, who has been helping in the south after the tornadoes hit them in April and now in Missouri and other parts of the midwest in the wake of the tornadoes this month.

For the month of May sales have been sparse, but I've been able to give $14.00. And I am matching it with personal funds, so that means an additional $14 has been given. It isn't much, but every little bit helps.

So if you're looking for gifts for teachers or birthdays, consider buying some jewelry knowing that part of your purchase will go to help the victims of this tornado season. Thanks in advance.

EDITED TO ADD: SP is in Joplin, MO.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

QotD: Godly Parenting Edition

I think I'm going to have to get this book:
‎"We are not, nor can we be, the saviors of our children. He is the Savior. When we forget this, our parenting will be pockmarked by fear, severity, and exhaustion." - Elyse Fitzpatrick, Give Them Grace
As my mother commented to my posting of this on Facebook, "Psalm 78:1-8 should be emblazoned on the hearts of all parents." Amen.

[Via Jared on FB]

The Weirdness of Dreams

It's disconcerting to wake up from a vivid dream wherein I'm reliving 9/11. I have no clue where it came from - I haven't been thinking about that dark day any more than normal. I don't know why my subconscious put me and my family on the roof in New York, but there we were and I was terrified. There was smoke and noise and fear, and then I woke up.

The clock read 3:13am.

I started praying, asking the Lord to remove the images, and managed to doze off until they came back and I woke up again. 4:05am.

Since the alarm goes off at 4:27am, I got up.
With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O LORD!
I will keep your statutes.
I call to you; save me,
that I may observe your testimonies.
I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I hope in your words.
My eyes are awake before the watches of the night,
that I may meditate on your promise.
Hear my voice according to your steadfast love;
O LORD, according to your justice give me life.
They draw near who persecute me with evil purpose;
they are far from your law.
But you are near, O LORD,
and all your commandments are true.
Long have I known from your testimonies
that you have founded them forever.

-- Psalm 119: 145-152 (ESV)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Littles

Here are a few recent pictures of the kids.

First up, Jesse with the tadpoles he and Daddy killed.

The two of them together. They're very sweet to each other - lots of spontaneous hugs and kisses and snuggles. I hope they're always so loving with each other.

This was taken this morning on the way home from church. After a long day yesterday and then some serious playtime in the walkers' room, I guess Molly Ann was tired.

A Fine Meal

Last night we had a low key belated Mother's Day/Birthday dinner. My parents and my Uncle Bill came over for a little family time. Mom and I didn't get to celebrate Mother's Day since my parents went to Disney World that weekend. Then we delayed celebrating my uncle's birthday because that day occurred on the weekend that they returned from Disney.

We had a Scotch-English-Irish meal, inspired by a throw-away request from Uncle Bill for colcannon sometime. I had to do the research on colcannon - I had heard of it, but wasn't sure what it was. Turns out is is a delicious mashed potato, cabbage, ham/bacon (I used bacon) dish of Irish tradition. Here's the recipe I used. Of course, with Beau's milk intolerance and my weight loss work, I tweaked the recipe. I used Smart Balance instead of butter (and I reduced the quantity by half!) and I used rice milk. Also, I used bacon instead of ham since it was a side dish. Using ham would make this a lovely one pot meal.

The main dish was this Steak and Guiness Pie. Oh. My. Goodness. This is so good. I pretty much followed the recipe exactly except that I did use beef stock instead of chicken stock. Next time I may add more radishes. I'm not a fan of radishes, but these turned out tender and almost sweet. Delicious. Also, this will be how I make a basic beef stew, with radishes and Guinness.

Since our meal was on the heavy side, I wanted a lighter dessert and opted not to do a birthday cake. Instead, we had Pavlovas with Custard and Berries. I've made these before, when we had dinner with the Sleepy Family. I made the meringues last weekend and stored them in the freezer. Last time, we all decided they were a bit too sweet, so I cut 1/2 cup of the sugar. They were perfect - not too sweet at all. We had both vanilla-coconut pudding and also a chocolate-coconut pudding. And a mixed berry combination of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries that macerated for several hours with a teaspoon of sugar and lemon juice.

I had a blast planning and preparing the evening. It was fun to be in the kitchen again. Not as much fun to clean the house, but Beau did the motherload of cleaning so mega-props go to him for that. Thank you, Beau! It was a good meal. It was a good time with beloved family. The kids loved seeing their Marmie and Pop and Uncle Bill, too.

Until the next time...

Only You Give Life and Breath...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

When Is a Love Triangle Not A Love Triangle?

Before I read The Hunger Games novels, I had heard a few complaints about the love triangle between Gale-Katniss-Peeta. So I went into them cautious about that aspect of the story, maybe with a jaded eye. I came out of it thinking that there really wasn't as much of a love triangle as readers may have thought.

***The following is spoilerish to all three of the novels. You have been warned. Also, those who have not read the books can move along - most of this will make no sense to you.***

In the first book, Katniss and Gale are best friends with nothing romantic between them. She is aware of Peeta only as the boy who gave her bread and then as her fellow tribute in the arena. We the audience are made aware of Gale's potentially not so platonic feelings for Katniss at the station before she is on her way to The Capitol - when he yells out at the last minute, "Katniss, I l--." It's broken off. We assume he was going to declare his love.

Then she and Peeta are thrown together in a sense, but things take a turn when he declares his love for her in the interview with Caesar Flickerman before they go into the arena. She's completely taken aback by this news. And also suspicious because it could be a game tactic he can use against her. That Haymitch encourages it doesn't help.

So Katniss and Peeta go through their time in the arena, trying to survive against the other tributes, pretending to be in love to help their case with their mentor, the game makers and the audience, and ultimately prevail by surviving together. Then they're thrown back to reality at home, grappling with what occurred in the arena still, and the expectations of the people to whom they have returned. But they are not the same people who left. Everything has changed.

Now we get to the second book. I believe it is in this one that Katniss states clearly and more than one time, that she never intends to marry or have children because she doesn't want to bring kids into that world, ensuring their chance of being reaped for the hunger games and certain death. But she's now dealing with the complicated feelings of and for Peeta from their time in the arena and also from Gale, who has made it clear that he loves her, too.

So here's where we get to a sort of love triangle in the story. Peeta loves Katniss. Gale loves Katniss. Katniss loves who? She loves both, differently, but I believe equally. And while it may read to some as a love triangle, I don't really believe that it is in the classic romance novel sense. First, she isn't interested in a mate. Second, she is in survival mode and has been since her sister's name was called in the reaping.

As I read the story, I didn't really care if Katniss ended up romantically tied to either one of the boys. I liked them both and thought they both were important to her. Each has a role in her life. To me the story was more about their battle for survival and victory over the evil of The Capitol, which is where the third book, Mockingjay, took me. For me, The Hunger Games was more about good versus evil than Gale versus Peeta.

Of course, then we get the epilogue, which wraps up the romantic bow neatly (for some). But I would have been fine without that postscript, too.

Burn Us Up

It's a familiar Bible story from childhood. The Veggie Tales folks made it a kitchy cartoon (that I love, by the way - it's one of my favorites of the VT videos). But I have never really studied it. How can that be? It has been rectified and I'm grateful.

It's the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (or Rack, Shack, and Benny in VT parlance) in Daniel 3. Go read it. I'll wait.

Isn't that a great story? There's a lot to take away from it - the fury of King Nebuchadnezzar; the appearance of the 4th man in the furnace (many have said he's an angel, I believe he is pre-incarnate Jesus); the utter faithfulness of the three who disobeyed a king to obey the King.

Lord, may I be as faithful as Rack, Shack, and Benny in the face of fire. Help me to trust You to deliver me whether it's from the fire, through the fire, or in the fire. Thank you for your amazing mercy.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Books: Catching Fire and Mockingjay

Being sick had one serious advantage for me this week. I was able to listen to two whole books while lounging around in my bed. I was able to lay there, resting with my eyes closed, and just let the stories be told to me by a lovely-voiced narrator. How awesome is that? (I highly recommend the audio books - the narrator is very good and it really brings Katniss and the Panem world to life.)

The first one finished was Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. This is the second in The Hunger Games trilogy. I liked this stage of the story, but not as well as the first book. If it's possible, the story gets darker. The love triangle gets dragged out a bit, which could annoy, but the conflict was in keeping with Katniss' character - it's not just about choosing which dude to love, it's a deeper conflict than that.

Having read the final book immediately after this one, it was clear that Catching Fire is the book used to propel the story forward. Put all the books together into one book, and this one is the stuff that keeps things moving, explores things deeper, increases the mystery. I'm OK with that. As a stand-alone, it's fine. As the middle part of a longer story, it's good.  4 stars out of 5

Last night I managed to finish Mockingjay. This the darkest of the three books, if that's possible. There was a time while listening to the middle portion of the book that I was completely depressed, wondering if there would be redemption, happiness, resolution. It finally got there, but it was a long slog - it reminded me of Return of the King by JRR Tolkien - Frodo continued to be possessed and haunted by The Ring, but continued on his quest to Mordor. Not that The Hunger Games novels can really be compared to Tolkien's genius world and story, but that is what came to mind. So I stuck with it and I'm glad I did. It is my least favorite of the books, but it's a good wrap-up of the story. 4 stars out of 5

I give them both 4 stars as part of the entire trilogy. Neither of these books should be read alone, imho. They are part of a larger work and that's how I reviewed them. Of the three, The Hunger Games is my favorite of the parts.

EDITED TO ADD: I need to add a warning for parents. Mockingjay is not for the faint of heart or for younger teenagers. I warned similarly for The Hunger Games and that warning is the same for Catching Fire, but the violence and adult themes in the last book are such that it may be hard for younger tweens and teens to process it well or to come through it without nightmares. The imagery is vivid and if your child has a strong imagination, then they may need to wait until they're older to read Mockingjay. As such, I'd give this trilogy a strong PG-13 rating.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I've been laid up with a cold for most of this week. Molly and Jesse came down with it over the weekend. As Monday progressed I could tell that I had it. I got home from work and immediately went to bed and that's where I've been for most of the past two days.

I'm headed back to work today, though. I'm not 100%, but I'm feeling strong enough to get back to it. I'm just going to hunker down in my office, try to keep my germs to myself, and try to conserve enough energy to be able to take care of the kids tonight while Beau is at his small group.

The good part was that I was able to finish Catching Fire and get more than halfway through Mockingjay. Review coming up...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Reading Room: The Hunger Games

There's something in me that resists bandwagons, but if I'm honest I have to admit that I hop on-board many without hesitation. However, the one area where I really resist is books. I don't know why exactly, except the Oprah Book Club thing usually comes to mind. I think I can name maybe 3 books that were recommended by Oprah. I refuse to read the rest. Anyway...

Cut to the huge wave of readers of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Young adult science fiction? I'm not so sure about this. But I couldn't get past the plot - it did sound interesting, different, provocative.
Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don't live to see the morning? 
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by 12 outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. 
16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before -and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
My sister had downloaded all three of the audiobooks (it's the first of a trilogy), so I had it easily available in our shared Audible.com account and I decided to give it a try.

I was not disappointed. From the first words I was hooked. Told in first person, having the book read to me by a lovely voiced narrator made it seem as if I were being told her story. It was engrossing, from the post-apocalyptic (sort of) world, to the concept of the games, to the actual games. The characters were well-written - full people, fully fleshed out. The dialogue was good, realistic. The plot was detailed, solid, moved forward well and grew the tension at a steady pace.

I so enjoyed the book that on Friday when I got home from work I had only 45 minutes left to listen to, so after the kids were in bed, I went to bed and finished it. And I promptly started the second book, Catching Fire (I listened to that some last night, so I'm already 90 minutes into it and loving that one, too).

This is supposed to be young adult fiction. This is something I would have read and enjoyed as early as 6th or 7th grade. I can recommend it for mature kids that age, but if your young adolescent is sensitive to death and violence, then they may need to wait until they're a bit older to read it.

The Hunger Games gets 5 stars out of 5 from me.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bible Study

Back in December, prompted by a post by Amy at P2P, I accepted a challenge to read through the Bible in 90 Days. It was challenging, but I accomplished the mission and actually finished the Bible in 89 days. By far it was one of the most rewarding spiritual exercises of my 30+ years as a Christ-follower. Around Christmas and New Year's it was a struggle to get in the hour of reading for that day. I fell a bit behind, but managed to catch back up by reading extra for about a week.

The best thing was getting the big picture of God's plan and work and seeing how Jesus was weaved throughout. I loved the experience so much that I plan to do it again and often. Even now, just mere months out from completing it, I'm considering when I'll do it again. Sometime this year or early in 2012 for sure, I think.

O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His steadfast love endures forever! -- 1 Chronicles 16:34 (ESV)
I'm grateful for the renewal of my interest in God's Word as a result, too. For too long, any time I spent in Scripture was somewhat stale - not because the Bible was stale but rather because my heart was closed and my spirit was wrapped up in false idols. Over the past few months, the Holy Spirit has reopened my heart, revealed the idols for removal, and caused my spirit to reignite with fire for my Lord. It's humbling to realize how much lip service I paid to my spiritual life. But I know that God was faithful where I was unfaithful. He was loving, merciful, and gracious where I was not. And He still is, daily.

Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them.The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments. Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name. Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me. Redeem me from man’s oppression, that I may keep your precepts. Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes. -- Psalm 119: 129-135 (ESV)

Blogger Burps

So most folks know that Blogger experienced some issues this week - posts and comments are missing. I'm kind of bummed about the ones that went missing; to replicate that content may not be possible. I'm hoping that they'll come back.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Books: A Game of Thrones

I'm not one who reads much fantasy or science fiction. However, I saw so many friends on Facebook mention A Game of Thrones as the HBO miniseries start approached that I thought I'd give it a try. I checked the reviews on Audible.com and they were glowing as well so I downloaded the audio version and started listening.

I couldn't get past the first 6 hours. I can tolerate a lot in what I read, but one thing I absolutely cannot is incest. There's plenty of it in A Game of Thrones, at least in that short first 6 hours. I figured that was more than enough so I stopped listening.

I haven't not finished a book in years.

0 stars. Hated it. Do not recommend it - just had to put that out there since it's currently showing in my reading list in the sidebar as completed. That isn't quite true.

Recipes: Mexican Rice with Black Beans and Corn

I started Weight Watchers a couple of weeks ago. I married a guy who likes to eat. I like to eat. We eat well. Very well. It has gotten out of control. And being over 40 and having given birth to two children late in life on top of always already struggling with my weight, maybe you can imagine the problem.

So, I'm counting points. It's rather annoying and also invigorating. But mostly annoying. That said, it works. And it's a plan I can live with long term, which is basically for the rest of my life as long as I'm disciplined. But that's a whole different issue.

Anyway, I'm on the hunt for flavorful, filling, and low points recipes. This one is about 3 points per serving - a serving being 1/2 cup. It's meant to be a side dish. Add some grilled chicken to make it a meal.


2 cups uncooked white rice
2 cups low-fat, low sodium chicken stock
2.5 cups water
dash salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
1 4 or 7oz can diced green chilies
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 Tbsp cumin
1/2 Tbsp paprika
1 15oz can black beans, drained
1 11oz can corn

1. By whatever method you normally use, cook the rice with the chicken stock, water, and salt.

2. Warm a large saute pan over medium heat. Add oil and allow to get hot. Then add the onions and garlic, being careful not to let the garlic burn. Cook until the onion is translucent.

3. Add the tomatoes and green chilies, including their liquids. Mix a bit and then add the chili powder, cumin, and paprika. Mix all together well, making sure any lumps of the spices are broken down and everything is incorporated.

4. Add the black beans and corn. Include the liquid with the corn. Mix well.

5. Add the cooked rice. It will take some muscle to incorporate the rice with the mixture - you may want to transfer it to a large bowl to mix.

This makes a large batch that will serve maybe 20 half cup servings. I think.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Out with the Old, In with the New

My regular blog is dead, at least until I can gain access to the back room via FTP. Since I was unable to log in this morning, I fear it could take a while.

When it went kaput, I was sort of panicked - I mean, think about it. There's nearly 8 years of crap stored there. My thoughts on nothing; my thoughts on Beau in the early "we're not dating" days, my wedding planning, the wedding itself, my pregnancies and my kids (and the separate blogs that resulted); hundreds of photos; dozens of recipes. All of it inaccessible because I was too busy with life to do the work of maintaining the software. Two years of neglect resulted in a major compromise and down she went.

So in the past week I have been considering letting it go. I'm considering figuring out how to gather the data to keep for myself, but letting the domain and those blogs go. I spend most of my online time on Facebook, but there are times when I still wish to flesh something out further than a short FB status post. But this means starting over, starting fresh, building a new audience. Is it worth the time?

It's something to ponder.