Titus 2:11-13

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Books, Bears, Trash and Treasures

When I look around my house, I realize that if someone were to walk in not knowing anything about us, they would quickly come to know this:  we love books!  My husband has one of the world's largest Bible collections (Ha!), the number of our reference/study books is continually growing, and the kids' books are beginning to overtake the bookshelf.

One thing I am glad Travis and I are passing on to our kids is our love of books.  As much as we--and they--love books, though, I must admit that we have made very few trips to the library.  (Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I'm in a stage of motherhood where sometimes it's easier to just stay home. :-))  So last week after realizing that Abel and Amariah are beginning to outgrow many of the children's books we own--and that we all have grown a little bored with reading the same ones time and again--we put the kids to bed, and I made a trip to the library all by myself!

With the help of a very nice librarian, I perused the many shelves of children's books and selected a good-sized stack that I was sure we would all enjoy.  When I got to the circulation desk to check out my books, I nerdishly said to the librarian, "I'm so excited!" and she laughed with me (With, not at.... Librarians are book nerds, too, right?...).

One of the books I checked out was a Berenstain Bears book called The Berenstain Bears Clean House.  After Mama Bear determines, "We will clean our house from the top to the bottom, from the bottom to the top," the Bear family goes through their house saying, "There are too many things," and then they select some items to put in a yard sale.  (I thought this was an appropriate story since Abel and I have been in the mood to get rid of some things!)

Anyway, just like Mama Bear, I have been busy cleaning my house from the top to the bottom, from the bottom to the top!  No "hidden" place has gone untouched as I've made my way through the house, purging it of things we don't need.

A lot of our "too many things" I am packing up to put in a garage sale this spring, and other things just simply need to be finally thrown away--like the five or so mostly empty bottles of lotion that didn't have quite enough left in them for the pump to work, or the several mostly new cleaners that I've never used and probably never will.  (I've been hanging onto some of this stuff for most of our marriage.  I told you I'm frugal!)

Minimizing "stuff" is definitely a good feeling... most of the time.  A few of the things I've come across have drudged up some emotion or memory that makes me want to stuff it right back where I found it:  like the very first maternity outfit my husband ever bought me; or the baby name book that we thumbed through countless times as we searched for the right name for Abel... Amariah... Ande... Isabel... Elliana; or the positive pregnancy test that informed us God had given us another blessing--a double blessing.

But, I can't keep this stuff forever, right?  When the Bear family looked at everything they had put in their yard sale, they said, "This is hard," and they hauled it all back inside to store in their attic.  I have to admit, I did think about throwing that pregnancy test right back in the drawer, and I did wince a little when I threw it in the trash instead.... :-)  Just like Mama Bear, I was tempted in that moment to treasure my stuff.  But then I remembered what Jesus said:  "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19-21).

Friday, February 5, 2010

I'm Okay With This

This morning I was standing in my bedroom folding my mountain of laundry, and as I looked out the window at the snow falling to the ground, I thought to myself, I'm okay with this.

The theme of my life for the last 8 1/2 months has been, "It's just a season." Remember when I said I was falling apart just to hold it together? Life with twins has definitely required some temporary changes. The most major of those changes has been that I have had to be more tied to the home. (Let's face it--going places with two nursing babies just isn't as easy as going places with one.) It's not that I wasn't committed to my home before the twins were born; it's just that I had more flexibility to get out when I wanted or needed to.

Don't get me wrong--I am totally content with my circumstances. But there are times when I have to remind myself, It's just a season. And it's at those times that my very next thought tends to be, Maybe next year....

Last summer I really wanted for us to go to our church's family camp. But when we thought through the logistics of taking two 2-month old babies who were still nursing--and then napping--every three hours around the clock, we said, "Maybe next year...."

This past December when it came time to do our Christmas shopping, I really wanted to be the one to go shopping. But when we realized that it would be more work for me than it was worth, we said, "Next year...."

When I learned that some new women's Bible studies were getting under way at our church this month, I really wanted to join one. But when I considered that the babies' bedtime routine falls right in the midst of the group's meeting time, I said, "Maybe next year...."

But today, in spite of those few momentary disappointments that have come from our need for me to just stay home, it was in that moment when I looked at the snowy world on the other side of the window that I really realized just how okay I am with being tied to the home. I love being a mommy. I love that the Lord has blessed my husband with a job that provides for our needs so that I can stay at home and be a mommy. And I love the four little people who make me a mommy. I am blessed beyond measure, I'm a little tied down, and I'm okay with that... because I'm right where I want to be.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Few Recipes

I've been asked to share some of the recipes I've been using since changing my family's diet to include more whole foods.

Many of the changes I've made lie simply in the quality of the ingredients I'm using. For example, spaghetti has always been on my menu plan; but now I make it with Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Pasta and a better quality sauce than what I was using before. Or, for another example, here's my new and improved recipe for Maid-Rites. (Don't know what Maid-Rites are? I didn't either until I moved to Iowa. :-) Think Sloppy Joes but less sloppy....)

Maid-Rite Sandwiches

Ground beef
Organic ketchup
Prepared mustard
Real maple syrup
Organic oats, uncooked
Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Burger Buns OR homemade Whole Wheat Bread

Brown and drain ground beef and return to skillet. Add ketchup, mustard, maple syrup, and oats to desired taste and consistency. Warm and serve on lightly toasted buns or bread.


Other dishes that were on my menu plan I have eliminated altogether. For example, I no longer make Jello-based salads or dishes that require condensed cream of chicken soup. I think there may be some healthy alternatives to these things out there, but I haven't done much looking yet. (Pointers, anyone?)

And, of course, there are some new recipes that have made their way into my kitchen! I am definitely not a master of some of these things yet, but I intend to keep practicing!

Whole Wheat Bread (This recipe originally comes from Bread Beckers, but I picked it up off A Matter of Eating and Drinking. I'm posting it according to how I do it.)

1 1/2 c less 2 T very hot water (I put it in the microwave and bring it just to the point of boiling.)
1 c cold almond milk (can use organic whole milk)
3 large eggs
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
1/3 c honey
1 T sea salt
4 1/2 t instant yeast
6-7 1/4 c freshly-milled flour
1/4 c (heaping) wheat gluten

Combine water, milk, eggs, oil, honey, and salt. (Temperature should be just right for yeast.) Mix in yeast. Add gluten and enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead until dough passes the windowpane test. Shape into loaves, cover with tea towel, and let rise until double. Place in 350 degree oven and bake 25-30 minutes. Makes 2-3 loaves.

A few notes from my experience with this recipe:
*Measure your honey in the same cup you used to measure your oil. This way the honey will slide right out.
*It takes about 20 minutes of kneading in my KitchenAid mixer before my dough passes the windowpane test.
*This tends to be a more sticky dough than you might be used to, so don't be tempted to add too much flour.
*I use 2 stoneware loaf pans which create bigger, more evenly browned loaves than the smaller aluminum loaf pans do.
*It takes my bread about 1 hour to rise at room temperature. (See UPDATE below.)
*I bake the two larger loaves for 28 minutes.
***UPDATE 02/04/10: I have always used organic whole milk in this recipe, but I just used almond milk for the first time and am far more pleased with the results. The dough had a much lighter, spongier feel to it, it smelled better (both before and after baking!), it rose faster (1 hour) and bigger, and it browned perfectly.

Whole Wheat Crackers (adapted from here. I've only made these once, but it seems like it will be an easy recipe to perfect.)

1 3/4 c freshly-milled hard wheat flour
1 1/2 c freshly-milled soft wheat flour
3/4 t sea salt
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
1 c water
sea salt for sprinkling

*Crackers continued to crisp up after being removed from the oven.

Whole Wheat Pancakes (from Wholesome Sugarfree Cooking cookbook)

2 c freshly-milled (soft) whole wheat flour
1 t baking soda
2 t baking powder
1/2 t sea salt
2 T honey
2 eggs, beaten
1 3/4 c organic whole milk
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c vinegar

Add ingredients in order given. Don't beat too much. For waffles or fluffy pancakes, beat egg whites separately and add last.

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust (from Wholesome Sugarfree Cooking cookbook)

1 egg, beaten
2/3 c organic whole milk
1/2 c butter, melted
2 c freshly-milled (soft) whole wheat flour
1/2 t baking soda
2 t honey
1/2 t sea salt

Mix all together lightly. Press in a 12" x 14" pan. Top with your favorite pizza toppings. Bake 25-30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

*This makes an excellent bread-like crust. I am still looking for a recipe that makes a nice thin and crispy crust.

Breaded Chicken Breasts (from Nourishing Traditions)
Serves 4-6

8 skinless chicken breasts
1 1/2 c unbleached flour
1 t pepper
4 eggs, beaten
2 c whole grain bread crumbs
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
about 4 T butter
about 4 T extra virgin olive oil

This is a delicious substitute for fried chicken. Trim chicken breasts and pound lightly with the small prong side of a meat hammer. Mix flour and pepper together on a plate; have beaten eggs ready in a bowl; mix bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese in another bowl. Using tongs dip each piece first in the flour mixture, then in the beaten egg, then in the bread crumb mixture. Saute a few at a time in butter and olive oil about 7 minutes per side, being careful not to burn. Transfer to a heated platter and keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.
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