Thursday, February 14, 2019

"The spiritual gardening that will make for a beautiful marriage (pulling and planting) must largely be done within your own heart.  There are self-centered thoughts, attitudes, desires, motives, choices, and goals that must be uprooted from the soil of your heart, and new seeds of other-focused thoughts, attitudes, desires, motives, choices, and goals must be planted in their place.  And you need to remember that this pulling and planting is not a one-time thing, but something that must become the lifestyle of your union."  ~Paul David Tripp

On this Valentine's Day, I'm extra grateful for a guy who doesn't let little things slide, but chooses to do the hard work of "pulling and planting" every single day.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Yesterday, we drove a few hours up the road to spend some time with Aaron's grandmother.  She is always so gracious to allow our kids to practice performing their music for an audience of one.  We tried a new recipe to share with her for an early Valentine's Day treat, lemon hearts from one of my favorite cookbooks:  The Great Holiday Baking Book.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Exploring India

We found some high-quality books at our library to enhance Katherine's study of India.  I am SO grateful for our local library.  I have sweet memories of walking to the library (built in 1896 and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places) as a child and breathing in the smell of old wood and books while perusing the shelves on a hot summer afternoon.  Now our library is housed in a new, much bigger building, and they offer so many amazing resources!

Our book basket had some gems this time.  Family unity showed up again and again in both the fiction and non-fiction books.  

The Five Fingered Family by Shakta Kaur Khalsa (love how this promotes family working together!)

Civilizations of the World:  Exploring the Life, Myth, and Art of India by Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad (this book is absolutely beautiful, and I hope to buy it for our personal collection)

Katherine made several recipes from "The Cooking of India", it was hard to choose!  I'm seriously thinking about trying more of them, just for fun, especially since I also checked out a "grownup" cookbook, "Made in India:  Recipes from an Indian Family Kitchen" by Meera Sodha.  We all loved the Spicy Chicken (Bhooni Murgh), and it was super easy because Aaron has a way with chopping up a whole chicken!

Spicy Chicken
Bhooni Murgh

Spice Mix
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

The Chicken
3 1/2 pound skinless chicken cut into 8 to 10 pieces
1 garlic clove
1 lime
4 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee

Wash the chicken pieces and dry thoroughly with paper towels.  Place the chicken in a bowl large enough to hold all the pieces.  Combine the ingredients for the spice mix in a small bowl.  Add the spice mix to the chicken and, using a spoon, toss well to evenly coat the pieces.  

Slightly crush the garlic by laying the flat side of a chef's knife on the clove and pressing evenly to break open the skin.  Remove and discard the skin, chop the garlic, measure 1 teaspoon, and add to the chicken.  Cut the lime in half, squeeze the juice into a small bowl, remove any seeds, measure 2 teaspoons, and add to the chicken.  

Toss the chicken pieces a second time with the spoon and marinate for 15 to 30 minutes in the refrigerator.  Lightly oil an ovenproof baking dish large enough to hold all the chicken pieces and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove the chicken from the refrigerator.  Using a pair of tongs, place the chicken pieces in a single layer in the prepared baking dish.  Drizzle the oil over the chicken and roll the pieces back and forth so they are evenly coated.  

Place the chicken in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Set a timer so you don't forget.  After 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and continue to bake for 35 to 40 minutes.  Serve hot or cold.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Taco Tuesday

Yesterday, our Taco Tuesday was extra special because friends were driving through Arkansas and stopped to eat lunch with us.

Short and sweet.  Framily.  Then, they hit the road and we sped off to piano lessons refreshed.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

Road trips are hard.  Different food.  Less sleep.  Interrupted routine. Interacting with lots of new people.  As one of my bloggy friends likes to say, this is "life behind the prayer card".  Of course, there are special joys, too.  More snow for snowballs.  Beautiful sunsets over city skylines.  Meeting new people and deepening existing relationships.

On this particular trip, I was reminded of just how very selfish I am.  I can cover it up most of the time, but when I'm exhausted and cranky and impatient, my nasty selfishness rears its ugly head.  By contrast, Aaron gets more patient, more kind, more soft-spoken, more giving.  He drives miles and miles and miles in all kinds of weather and keeps us safe.  He still lets me drag him to the hotel exercise room to sweat.  He doesn't complain when I'm running late.  I'm grateful that I have a husband who constantly models to our family what it looks like to weed out selfishness.

"If I go to the local Chinese buffet and indulge my appetite, I do not have one plate.  Thirty-seven plates later I tell myself that there are still edible delights that I need to enjoy!  Healthy marriages are healthy because the people in those marriages have learned to recognize and say no to selfish instincts that lurk in their hearts and in the heart of every one of us.  Selfishness is one of the big weeds that choke the life out of a marriage, and we must continually recognize that selfishness is first a condition of the heart before it is ever a set of choices, words, and behaviors." 

 ~Paul David Tripp, "What Did You Expect?"

At the end of our road trip, we decided to introduce the girls to some local culture:  Lamberts CafĂ© (aka home of the throwed rolls).  It was exactly the shot of fun that we needed to finish the last few hours of our trip with tummies full of down home comfort food, refreshed to tackle the school books and the road ahead.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Fort Wayne

  When we began exploring dates for our trip to Fort Wayne, our hosts, Ted and Deb, asked if we would be interested in attending a production of Carmen  Saturday night at the historic Embassy TheaterThe performance made it easy to choose the first weekend in February for a drive to the frozen tundra.  We jumped at the chance to soak in Bizet's brilliance, but we had no idea that the theater itself would be such a delight to our eyes.  

Sunday morning, we were so excited to be back at Christ's Community Church.  Since we connected with them when they supported printing the entire Solomon Islands Pijin Bible for its launch in 2008, this church has encouraged us.  Aaron shared an update on the Lavukal project during Sunday School, but the highlight of the trip was sitting around the table after church.

There is something about the table and food and the connections that occur when that nourishing foundation is laid.  When the gift of peace is given.  The conversation deepens and people that were strangers just a few hours ago now feel like intimate friends as we share more than just physical sustenance.

And these two couples?  Both sets have been married for more than fifty years.  I came away from our time together encouraged that marriage can indeed grow sweeter with each passing year, despite the sorrows, despite our sin nature.  This is indeed what God designed when He said, "It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him."  
(Genesis 2:18)

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Lexington, Kentucky

"Happiness is a gift, and the trick is not to expect it, but to delight in it when it comes."  
~Charles Dickens

When Aaron and I made the 985 mile trek to attend Stetson University, we had no idea the incredible work God was going to do in our lives.  Not only did we receive a top-notch education, but we plugged into a church that let two teenagers jump in and get involved like crazy.  We also built relationships with students and professors that are still precious to us.  One of those was a biology major from Tampa who became my faithful roommate.  Our time together this weekend was short and filled with catching up while doing the "mom things" instead of taking pictures.  I can always expect to delight in time with Amy.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

"A good laugh is sunshine in a house."  
~William Makepeace Thackeray

We've had both in the last week:

Sunshine pouring in through our windows on the south side of the house, and a girl who loves to do math while sitting in the sunshine in the floor of my room.

And laughter.  As friends and SITAG colleagues dropped in to share "Taco Tuesday" and spend the night.  As a former teacher, Aunt Martha is always teaching kids (and adults) new things, and the after supper conversation turned into researching snowflakes and creating some beautiful, as well as hilarious, designs.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Sweet Sabbath

“Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.

Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.

This new day is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on the yesterdays.”  

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Physical Education

For the fall semester, we focused on PE with both of the girls to give Olivia the credit she needed for high school, but using books like Home School Family Fitness and Food and Nutrition for Every Kid ended up being way more fun than any of us anticipated.

Olivia found she loves going to the gym with me, she keeps lifting more and more weight and challenging me to stay ahead of her!  We discovered Food - Delicious Science on PBS and dusted off our copy of "The Science of Good Cooking".  I love all of the charts and practical science included in this book!  I think we're going to continue through the rest of the school year, just because we are having such a good time learning.

I haven't asked the girls to read the chapters in order, and this week, Olivia chose Concept #50:  "Cocoa Powder Delivers Big Flavor".  "If you simply add cocoa powder to the dry ingredients (as is often the case in cake recipes that call for cocoa powder), you don't get much flavor.  The secret to using cocoa powder is to bloom the flavors by pouring hot water over the cocoa.  Stirring the cocoa in hot water caused these flavor molecules, which would otherwise remain imprisoned, to burst forth, amplifying overall flavor."

Chewy Brownies
from "The Science of Good Cooking"
Makes 24 brownies

1/3 cup (1 ounce) Dutch - processed cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons instant expresso powder (optional)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (17 1/2 ounces) sugar
1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1)  Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Make foil sling by folding 2 long sheets of aluminum foil so that they are as wide as 13 by 9 inch baking pan (one 13 inch sheet and one 9 inch sheet).  Lay sheets of foil in pan perpendicular to one another, with extra foil hanging over edges of pan.  Push foil into corners and up sides of pan, smoothing foil flush to pan.  Grease foil and set aside.

2)  Whisk cocoa, espresso powder, if using, and boiling water together in large owl until smooth.  Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted.  Whisk in oil and melted butter. (Mixture may look curdled.)  Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogeneous.  Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated.  Whisk together flour and salt in small bowl and then mix into batter with rubber spatula until combined.  Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces.

3)  Transfer batter to prepared pan; spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface.  Bake until toothpick inserted in center of brownies comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating pan half through baking Transfer pan to wire rack and let cool for 1 1/2 hours (if you can stand it that long).

4)  Remove brownies from pan using foil.  Return brownies to wire ack and let cool completely, about 1 hour.  Cut brownies into 2 inch squares and serve.  (Brownies can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Arkansas Symphony Youth Ensembles

 Thirty-one years ago, my Saturday routine included a 1976 red Dodge Dart.  Every Saturday morning, my dad and I would pile into this vehicle with no air conditioner, drive through McDonalds for coffee and a sausage biscuit, and make the drive to Little Rock where I had a morning cello lesson.  

When I finished my lesson, Daddy drove me over to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for a 2 1/2 hour rehearsal with the youth orchestra.  As one of the youngest members, playing with this ensemble was a huge kick in the pants for me.  I have a way of finding places that are desperate for cellists.  Or for orchestra teachers.

For the last semester, Katherine has been the one starting her Saturday with her daddy driving her to rehearsal in Little Rock, and another one of her favorite guys conducting her orchestra.  The Arkansas Symphony Youth Ensembles have expanded from two orchestras to four.  This opportunity is sweet and brief, but Katherine's goal is to keep gaining ground on her cello even while we are back in the Solomon Islands, so she can jump right back into a higher orchestra when we return.

If you'll look closely, you'll see a shiny head in the viola section.  Aaron got to play the claves for the last piece.  Who knew that his debut as an alum would be in percussion?!?

Monday, January 21, 2019

In his writing to the Colossians, Paul mentions Epaphras, a colleague who was "always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured" (4:12).  Many of us in leadership roles and positions overemphasize the power of our public work of teaching, planning, preaching, organizing, counseling, and so on, and we underemphasize the power of our quiet work of simply praying.  I'm not so much talking about circumstantial prayers where we ask God to somehow change something in our situation or in others', but about soul prayers where we focus our attention on what's happening in a person's heart, or what's happening in his or her relationship with Jesus and with others.  ~Alan Fadling

These four.  We anticipate them being spread across three continents soon.  They are growing and making good choices, and I'm so proud of them.  My leadership role right now only influences a small sphere:  my home.  But it does include the more public work of teaching, planning organizing, counseling, and "so on".  The foundational work of quietly praying for the treasures that God has given us moves forward, even when all four are no longer underneath our roof.   As Aaron and I launch them into the world, we echo Paul's words that our children may "stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured."  I've recently looked for some new resources to revive my prayers.  

With three teenagers, "10 Ways to Pray for Your Teenagers" certainly fits my stage of life right now (and iMom always has meaningful and beautiful printables for every age and stage).  Another good option is "12 Powerful Verses to Pray and Pour Over Our Children" from Club 31 Woman (you can't go wrong with "a passion for husband, home, and family").  And if you like a little bit more structure, "A Parent's Daily Prayer Guide" will help provide the scaffolding.