Friday, December 31, 2010

Another New Year's Post ;)

This morning I was greeted by a freezing cold room (according to California norms) and a pounding headache. :P But as my coffee and advil begins to kick in, I've decided to write down some observations and hopes:

2010 was an interesting year to say the least
January brought my niece to live with us
February brought Tim's job loss
March took my patience and my niece
April brought spring break with my boys
May took my husband to Texas
June brought Ethan's 10TH!!!! birthday and a trip to Texas
July brought anxiety and (at that time) my inability to deal with it
August brought the realization that we would be staying in California for the remainder
September brought school and the comfort of schedules and routine
October brought Indian Summer temps and plans for holidays
November brought together family and crafting
December brought the introduction of nightly family worship and prayer

Months don't really bring us things, do they? But sometimes it feels that way. It's almost like every month is a new year.
I could write volumes about all that the Lord has taught us in the past year. I am so very thankful for how he has brought Tim and I closer together and to our boys. I am thankful for the tangible ways that the Lord has shown His love for us by anonymous gift-givers and friends who listen.

My hopes for 2011 are simple:

Yes, I do hope for a job for my husband
that nightly family worship and prayer continues
that, by God's grace, I can become more of the wife and mother that I was born to be.

My head is full of ideas, friends! :) And my hope is in the Lord, not the number of this year.

Have a wonderful New Year's eve!!!


Thursday, December 9, 2010


Have you ever watched someone who is suffering and been absolutely helpless? Doesn't have to be something horrifying. . . maybe just someone who is in a lot of emotional pain and not a word you say will be able to console.
I was struck by this helplessness twice today:
On my way to pick up the boys from school, I passed by a familiar cemetery. It's the cemetery where many of my loved ones are buried, and so I always look over as I drive by. Don't really know why, probably just to try to see the spot where their bodies lie. Anyway, as I drove by today, there was a tent up with a freshly covered grave underneath. And sitting in a chair under the tent, was a man with his head on his hand, just looking at that fresh grave. In the seconds as I passed, I could tell that he was not very old. Probably around my age. But something about the way that he was sitting there struck me to the bone. I could feel his sorrow. As I continued driving, I thought about what this day must have been like for him, and how he must feel now, sitting all alone mourning whoever was in that grave. And I felt helpless.
Then tonight. Tonight is the night when Paul has cub scouts and Ethan and I get to have some special time together at Denney's. And he started talking. You see, just this week, his Tourette's tics have flared up for the first time in about 7 months. And they are back with a vengeance. It's very hard to listen to his talking getting interrupted by these tics and then see him grimace because of the pain. Helplessness. Nothing I can do can take my son's pain away. And believe me, I have tried.
While we were at Denney's, Ethan started playing with some things he brought with him, and I began working on my Bible study of the book of James. We are in chapter 5. Want to know what verse I read? "Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray." (vs. 13)
I can't go back to that man in the cemetery to pray with him, but hubby and I can teach our son to pray. To cry out to our Heavenly Father who loves us. And the crazy thing is that before I could even share this with Ethan tonight, he prayed. He asked that the Lord would help the pain not be so great. That it would not be distracting to him in class. Tears are falling down my face even as I type this. . . . I am so thankful that the Lord prompted Ethan to pray to Him. And I am humbled and corrected for not going to Him the way that my 10-year-old has done. When I see someone suffering, my first response should always be to pray, either for them or with them! Why do I always try to figure out how to "fix" the situation?!?! Really. Who do I think that I am?
Now, I don't know if it is the Lord's will for Ethan to be healed, but I pray that Ethan will continue to lean on Him who has the power to heal and has Ethan's best interests in mind. Praise God that there is a remedy for helplessness: Prayer.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

New Favorite Bread Recipe

Well, I know I wrote a crazy-long post last week explaining the bread recipe that I use. That is a great recipe, but a friend of mine directed me to another one that is even better! Truly, this bread tastes and feels like no other bread I have ever made.
So, check it out and let me know what you think! :)

Delicious Whole Wheat Bread
makes 2 loaves
Crystal Miller

2 cups warm water
1/3 cup honey
1 T yeast
1/3 cut olive oil
2 t. salt
1/3 cup gluten flour
5 to 7 cups freshly ground whole wheat flour

In a large bowl or in a large mixer (such as a Kitchen Aid or Bosch type) combine the water, yeast and honey. Let sit for a few minutes to give the yeast a chance to start working. Add the salt, oil, gluten flour and 3 to 4 cups of whole wheat flour. Continue to add more flour until the dough does not stick to the side of the bowl and does not feel sticky to the touch. Knead for 4 minutes in a Bosch mixer or 7 to 10 in other mixers or 10 to 15 minutes by hand.

When dough has finished kneading let it rise once until doubled in bulk (unless you are using a Bosch type mixer and in this case you can skip the 1st rising). Punch down dough and divide it into 2 pieces and form into loaves and set in bread pans.

Let it rise in a slightly warm oven (
this means that you turn the oven on for just 2 or 3 min. or until you can feel the heat and then turn it off, if it is too hot then it will kill the yeast) for 15 to 25 minutes or until the dough is ½ inch above top of pan. Turn oven to 350 (without taking bread out) and bake for approx. 30 minutes or until golden brown.


Monday, December 6, 2010

I heart Pecans

About 45 years ago, my grandparents, along with my dad and uncle, moved out to California from Oklahoma. Rural Oklahoma. From what I understand, my grandmother needed some medical attention, and they had some family out here, so they came and eventually settled in the Inland Empire on about a half an acre. Shortly after they moved in, my grandfather began to make that land his own by composting and planting. I wish you could see the pictures of that land. I remember as a child, running through the rows of corn, and around the tomato plants. Picking up the strange looking squash that looked like flying saucers. The land seemed to huge to me, and yet it was small and right in the middle of a city.
Along with all the vegetables and trees that he planted, he decided to plant some pecan trees. The story is that he had to order them from a grower in Georgia and that people laughed at him. They said the trees would never produce in California; what was he thinking?! Well, they did grow to become beautiful shade trees, but did not produce.
My grandparents were both gone to heaven by the time I was in high school, and so the mini farm died away. But the trees stayed. Mostly because they were easy to maintain, I suppose. And about 5 years ago, my uncle died in September. That November, the pecans emerged. It really was an amazing thing. All four tress, dripping with pecans. I can't even recall how many were harvested, but we just kept picking and picking.
Since that year, we haven't ever seen a crop like that, but the trees faithfully produce these wonderful nuts every year.
Those trees are especially a blessing to Tim and me. We dry the nuts and shell them every year to give as gifts in mason jars. This allows us to give gifts when we wouldn't be able to afford to. And people love the wonderful taste of these fresh, raw pecans. I also love the fact that the boys get to help pick them and spend time with a grandfather who they don't see very often. There's some sort of peace about that property that I will always love.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Homemade Advent Calendar

Every year I make the goal to follow an advent calendar with the boys, and every year, so far, I (we) have failed to follow through. So I decided we need more than a piece of paper or a candy filled countdown calendar to use. . . but we don't have the extra money to purchase what I had pictured in my mind. I knew I would have to make one. :)
Then I remembered that I bought this (McCall's M5778) pattern weeks ago to make little Christmas tree decorations. That pattern also includes a Christmas card holder, which is in the shape of a big Christmas tree. Perfect! Here's what I did:

1. Cut pattern. I used some green fabric (I think it's a bottomweight) that I was given, but I would recommend using 72" green felt from Joann's.

(I had to use my kitchen table!)

2. If you are not using the felt, you'll need to iron on interfacing. Decor Bond works really well if you have heavier weight fabric like this bottomweight that I used.

(You might need to piece the interfacing)

3. Pinning the fabric with right sides together, sew around the Christmas tree, leaving an opening for turning at the bottom. (About 5 inches) Now, if you're using the felt, you can just sew the two layers together. No turning is necessary. :)

4. Clip corners and turn the tree right side out. Press and top stitch the entire tree, including the opening at the bottom. (If using felt, skip this step)

5. Sew on the ric rack in desired placement.

6. Mark desired locations for the 25 paper clips, and then hand sew them on to the tree.

(You only need 3-4 stitches per clip)

7. Hot Glue on the buttons

8. Cut out desired shapes for ornaments and number them. At some point, I'd like to make mine a little nicer, but these will work for now. :)

9. I used this site for the daily Bible reading and Christmas hymns. Then I just wrote them on a white label and stuck them on the backs of the ornaments. Nothing fancy. ;)

10. Hang! Okay, well, I didn't hang mine. . . . I used tape! :S I know I'll regret it next month when I take it down, but I really didn't want to make holes in the wall, and I don't have any of those command hooks. If you would like to use hooks, just makes some loops out of ribbon or left over ric rack and glue them onto the back of the tree. :)

I hope this post serves as an encouragement to start some new traditions and get crafty! :) You can do it!!!


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Amazing, make-u-feel-accomplised, Bread recipe

Seriously. I feel like superwoman after pulling this bread out of the oven! There's something about the work that goes into kneading it, the smell of it, and just knowing that I will be slicing it up to use for sandwiches and dinner everyday, that makes me smile. This is just one tangible way of being a Titus 2 woman, and I love it. :)
So on to the recipe. I found this amazing recipe on here. And, to be perfectly honest with you, the only reason I chose it was because of all the ratings it has. There are also tons of ideas in the comments that are great.
Here's the recipe (with my comments included):

Simple Whole Wheat Bread

3 Cups of warm water (110 degrees)
2 (.25 ounces) pachages of yeast (or 4 1/2 teaspoons)
1/3 cup honey (or agave nectar or maple syrup)
5 Cups of bread flour (yes, you need to use bread flour)
3 Tablespoons of melted butter
1/3 cup of honey (see above)
1 Tablespoon of salt
3 1/2 cups of wheat flour

1. In a large bowl, mix warm water (make sure that it's around 110 degrees. If it's too hot, you will kill the yeast. And if it's not warm enough, it will take too long to rise) , 1/3 cup of honey and the yeast. Stir to combine. There will be little chunks of the yeast, but that's okay. Then add the 5 cups of bread flour by stirring while scraping the sides of the bowl. Let this set for about 30 minutes, or until it is big and bubbly.

2. Mix in 3 Tablespoons of melted butter, 1/3 cup of honey and salt, just stir it all in. Then stir in 2 cups of the whole wheat flour. You may have to use your hands a bit, but the idea is that it is not super sticky so that you can start kneading. So after the 2 cups of wheat flour are mixed in, through some wheat flour on the counter and take the dough out of the bowl. There will still be some parts of the dough that are pretty sticky, so just kind of push those parts into the flour on the counter and start forming a mound. (I hope that makes sense. . ) Keep adding the wheat flour about 1/2 a cup at a time. You'll need to add more flour to the counter and to the top of the dough as you are kneading. Now, I don't know if this is the professional way to knead, but the way I do it is to push the dough forward with the palms of my hands, fold it over, turn it, then push again. If you are still confused, watch this. By the time you are done kneading, you will have added about 2 1/2 more cups of wheat flour and the dough will only be slight sticky.
Place your dough in a large, greased bowl, turning once so that it has a thin layer of the grease, then cover the bowl with a damp dishtowel.
You're going to let this rise for about 2 hours, or until it has doubled.

3. Whoohoo! You're almost done, and this is my favorite part. :) Once your dough has risen to double the size that it was, you punch it down. That's right. Make a fist and punch down in the center of that big bowl of dough. It is truly satisfying! :D

4. Now you grease your 9 x 5 loaf pans (I believe glass ones are the best if you have them), and divide the dough into three, equal sized loaves.

5. At this point, you can either put all three loaves into the pans, or roll out one or two to add ingredients. To roll the dough, you just lightly flour the counter, roll it out to about 5 x 10 inches and spread the ingredients on the dough. I've used cinnamon and sugar, cinnamon and raisins, dried cranberries and pecans or walnuts, really anything that sounds good in bread! Then just roll it up and pinch off the ends. Then place in the loaf pan.

6. Once the loaves are in the pans, you will need to cover them up again and let them rise until they are about an inch above the pan. (about another hour)

7. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Once the loaves have risen, stick them all in the oven for about 25-30 minutes. You'll know they're done when the top and the sides are browned. If your sides and bottom are still white, then the inside of your bread will be doughy. Believe me. :(
The top may get a little crispy, which I like. But if you want a softer top, you can spread butter on the top of the loaf right when it gets out of the oven.

8. After you remove your loaves of yummy-smelling bread from the oven, make sure to let it cool for a bit before attempting to remove from the pans. You may need to run a butter knife along the edges, but most of the time, they just fall right out. Use a good serrated knife and dig in! :)

Please don't be intimidated by this process of bread-making! Grab a friend and try it together! Oh, and one last thing. Yesterday I said that it cost a little under a dollar to make this bread. I don't think that's entirely accurate. It's difficult to calculate the exact amount, but it probably comes out to around $1.50. The most expensive part is the honey, so use what you have. Maple syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, etc. :) Also, much to my dismay, I use **gulp** bleached bread flour. . . I know. . . but when a 25lb bag is about $6.50 at Costco, it's really hard to spend $18 at Winco for the wheat bread flour. When my budget allows for it, though, I will switch for sure.
Okay, have fun baking!


Monday, November 29, 2010

Baking Day!

The aspect of Tim's job loss that has probably affected me the most is in the area of our food budget. I am a stay at home mom, so I am constantly preparing meals and snacks. And when we don't have the money to buy the food that I would normally use, things get a little hairy. . well I get a little cranky. ;)
Over the last few months, I have been working to develop my baking and cooking skills to better use foods that are inexpensive: read: whole foods, fresh food!
Now, I had already been cooking mostly all of our dinners from scratch for some time, but our baked goods and snacks were a different story. Good bread and healthy snacks are expensive! So I had to make a choice. I could either buy cheap "wheat" bread at the dollar store, or I could learn how to make wholesome and tasty bread for my family for a little less than a dollar per loaf.
As I have been perfecting my skills and baking away, one problem kept arising. . . . where can I fit this into my schedule??!?! And then I remembered a great post written by Abbi at Proverbs31 living:
What a concept! Most of us are either home everyday, or we dedicate a day of the week to stay home to do laundry or other household chores. Why not use that time to bake as well? Really. Most of the time involved in baking is in letting the dough rise or baking it in the oven. During those times, keep on going with your normal tasks. :)
Monday is my baking day, so I thought I'd share with you whats on my menu for today:

-Banana muffins
-Honey wheat bread
-Wheat sandwich rolls
-Molasses Cookies

I usually try to make one breakfast item for those mornings when I don't have time to cook breakfast. . . . err, when I don't get out of bed on time. ;) Loaf bread is made every week, and this week I am trying out these sandwich rolls. And then I make one or two sweet snacks for lunches and for hubby's sweet tooth. :)
Really, I can't express to you enough how much this has saved us! I'll write more about this again, and provide recipes. But start thinking about items on your grocery list that you can replace with homemade goodness.
Now, I'm off to go take the umbrella out of the patio before it flies away in this crazy wind! :)