Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cute Little Pumpkin-Shaped Bread Bowls

I've blogged before about how much I love family traditions. I love looking for recipes and experiences that are meaningful and that our family can look forward to each year. A couple years ago I was looking for a good traditional Halloween dinner and I came across an idea for pumpkin-shaped bread bowls. So here is my rendition. I used a basic, flexible bread dough recipe I had and made a few minor tweaks. This will yield six good-sized bread bowls.

2 T. yeast
1/4 c. oil
1/4 c. sugar (or honey)
4 t. salt
2 c. warm water
4-1/2 c. flour

Technically you can dump all the ingredients in a bowl, mix them, and let them rise for a half hour. I like to let the yeast proof in the water and honey first. But do what you want. It's pretty flexible. If your dough is too wet, add more flour.

After I mix the dough I separate out a handful and knead in a few drops of green food coloring. You'll want enough dough here to make six little pumpkin stems. Just use your best judgment. You might have to knead for a minute or two to get the color to mix thoroughly.

Then add several drops of red and yellow food coloring to the remaining dough, turn on your mixer, and let the mixer help you get it to the right color orange. Cover both bowls (the orange main dough and the small bit of green dough) and let them rise for a half hour.

Now grease a 9x13 pan and break your orange dough into six balls. Plop those little pumpkins in your pan. Divide your green dough into six pieces, and form each stem into a cone. If you make them an inch or two tall they'll hold their shape nicely while they finish rising and baking. Place each stem on a little pumpkin.
Let them rise for another half hour, and then bake them at 400 degrees for around 15 minutes.
When they're cooled pop off the stem (and some of the middle), fill them with chili and cheese (or whatever kind of soup you want) and enjoy your bowl of Halloween-dinner goodness. Yum!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Life's Little Moments

From Jake’s infancy I have loved putting my kids in slings, wraps, or strollers and walking to the park, the library, the store, or anywhere else within reasonable distance. I love stopping by parks when we are out and about or going on as many summer picnics as we can squeeze in. I love the sunshine, the fresh air, and the exercise. I never realized how much I took that sun-loving lifestyle for granted.

All that had to change this summer. Emma couldn't even handle indoor light till after her fourth surgery. Playing at parks and going on walks was completely out of the question all summer long.

I will always remember Emma’s first time to play on a park swing. She was 10 months old. It was 8 o’clock at night and the sun was setting and not too bright. We slipped Emma into a swing, Grace helped push her, and she laughed and laughed and laughed. And we treasured the opportunity to have our baby play outside.
The last few weeks when the sun hasn't been too bright I have slipped out to the back yard to push Emma on our baby swing and push Grace on another swing. It is one of life’s simple joys that I might not have appreciated quite so much before. But now that simple little experience is a little bit of heaven. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Math vs. the Mower

Wednesday morning, 8:25am. I am wondering where Jake is and thinking I ought to get him started on his math for the day.

I check the garage. Is he at work with Cameron's tools again? Nope.

I check the street. Is he riding his bike? Negative.

I check the backyard. And this is what I find.
He is happily mowing the yard--still wearing his pajamas.( I tell Cameron that I hope when he prays he remembers to thank the Lord for sending him a son who begs and pleads to be able to mow the lawn.)

On second thought, maybe we'll be starting that math lesson at 9 instead of 8:30 this morning.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Book Review: The Horse and His Boy

As an English major and writer, sometimes it is embarrassing to admit which books I haven't read. I am always reading something, but there are still plenty of classics I haven't enjoyed yet. Chronicles of Narnia are some of those--I feel kind of sheepish when I say that I haven't read them all. When I was young I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and part of Prince Caspian. But that's as far as I made it.

So recently I decided to start reading them in chronological order, starting with The Magician's Nephew, proceeding to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, then The Horse and His Boy, then  Prince Caspian and the rest of the series. I love Chronicles of Narnia for the Christian symbolism. I'm really not one who generally enjoys fantasy, but for C. S. Lewis we must make exceptions, don't you think?
The Horse and His Boy is the story of a boy named Shasta who is introduced to a talking horse named Bree who was stolen from Narnia. The book is the story of their quest to return to Narnia. As with the other books in the series, I marveled at how deftly Lewis wove the details of the story. I think he blends the perfect amount of plot twists and suspense to make it interesting.

My favorite part of the story took place when Shasta was alone on a journey, lost, cold, and surrounded by fog and darkness. He was beginning to sink into self pity when he became aware that someone or something was next to him.

"Who are you?" he said, scarcely above a whisper.

"One who has waited long for you to speak," said the Thing. Its voice was not loud, but very large and deep...."Tell me your sorrows."

Shasta unloaded his whole life on the being who walked beside him. And slowly it came out that the being was Aslan (the lion who represents Christ throughout the Narnia series). Aslan explained to Shasta the different times in Shasta's life when Aslan had cared for and comforted him.

"I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you."

Countless times Aslan had quietly and anonymously worked in Shasta's life and Shasta hadn't even realized it.

How often does Christ work in my life without me realizing it? I am sure that, like Shasta, I am often blind to His careful hand. But this much I do know: Jesus Christ is my Savior. He is the Savior of the whole world. And I rejoice in the knowledge that He is at work in my life and the lives of those around me, whether or not we recognize it. He loves us. And He lives.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Joy of Homeschool

We took the leap this year into the brave world of homeschooling. Homeschooling can be intimidating and overwhelming. But so far, it's a lot better than I thought it would be. I love seeing the kids learn and grow, watching them make connections, and incorporating things they learn throughout our day.

I love adjusting our schedule according to our needs and last week when construction crews came to replace some local fire hydrants. My kids had a grand time watching the parade of dump trucks, diggers, and construction equipment.
See those two kids standing on our neighbor's lawn? Yep. They spent a few hours there that day.

I love the freedom to take the kids to museums and other places at off-times when things are quiet and we can enjoy displays a lot more. Here they all are at a recent trip to the natural history museum.

I love the extra time my kids have to play with each other. I love Grace's insistence on doing school, too. I love "recess" in the back yard and Lego Club at the library. Homeschool is a good deal.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Just Call Me Sunbeam

Our summer was dominated by the presence of lots of little neighbor friends. Sometimes they all hung like monkeys from our backyard swing set. Sometimes, when the temperatures got a little too warm, our basement became a hide-and-seek battleground. Generally the kids were all good and I enjoyed hosting everyone.
Abby with some of the neighborhood boys
One day I stepped into the backyard to snip some onion from my herb garden. Jake and three friends were in the back by the swing set. On seeing me one of them started loudly calling out to the others, "Alert! Alert! Sunbeam! Alert! Sunbeam!"

Hmm. Subtler than a bowling ball on your little toe. Just call me Sunbeam.

Hopefully they can brush up on their detective skills before trying to ward off any more suspicious characters.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I Hope You Get a Child Like You

Wondering where I've been the last seven months? Check out this new page. For now, here is a piece I wrote last winter but never posted:

Recently Grace was helping me clean the bathroom floor. She approached the task with the same vigor and endless energy that she does everything else in life. As I watched her serious expression while she scrubbed with all her toddler might, I couldn't help but smile and think, "Oh, Grace, I hope when you grow up you get a child just like you." Grace is the source of endless smiles and laughter around here. Her enthusiasm brings us much joy.

That night Jake overheard me telling Cameron how hungry I had been before dinner. Thinking the same might still be true, he dashed off to secretly make me a sandwich then raced in to present it to me. My boisterous, affectionate, passionate Jacob--I hope when you grow up you get a child just like you. Every parent should have a kid who hugs so tightly and writes such wonderful love notes. I feel like such a lucky mom.
The same day Abby decided it was time (in the middle of a blustery winter day) to have a picnic in the backyard with Grace. Ignoring my warnings about outside temperatures, they bundled up in coats, scarves, gloves, and sun bonnets and set out with apple slices and a basket full of toy food. I love Abby's active imagination. I love watching her play. I love hearing her delightful little giggle. I hope when she grows up she gets a child just like her.
And then there is my sweet baby Emma. She smiles, laughs, and doesn't complain about being schlepped about from one destination to the next for all of our family's different obligations. She is mild and sweet and a great source of joy and laughter. I love nuzzling her and whispering to her that she is my little slice of heaven. It's true. I hope when she grows up she gets a baby just like her.
Young motherhood is exhausting, but through it all our children bring us much joy and satisfaction. I hope when they grow up they all get children just like themselves.