Monday, April 29, 2013

Yogurt Pops for the Grandbabies

Some years ago I heard a healthfood chef say that we should "eat the rainbow" every day.  No, not Skittles.  I wish!  The rainbow of fruits and vegetables.  This, I suppose, is to get the whole spectrum of vitamins from our food.  So I make and keep in the freezer single servings of mixed vegetables (corn, carrots, green beans, spinach, red cabbage, yellow pepper, etc.) for the twins.  I cook each vegetable separately according to how I think it tastes best (roast with a bit of olive oil or steam) and process them separately so that there is a variety of textures (chop, shred, puree).  Levi and Liam love the veggie mix.  I love making the veggie mix for them.

But sometimes a Grandma wants to make a special treat for her grandbabies.  A healthy treat, of course!  So I decided that frozen yogurt pops would be the perfect thing, especially with warmer weather approaching.  I found this nifty little pop maker earlier this spring:

the pop mold

I like the size (treats are supposed to be small, right?) and the circular handle (easy for baby hands to hold and nobody gets poked in the eye with a stick).

I mixed together some Greek yogurt, some fruit juice, and some ground flaxseed  and let it sit for a bit to thicken.  I didn't measure but I'd guess I used a half cup of the yogurt, a third cup of juice, and a quarter cup of ground flaxseed.  Once the mixture was thickened, I spooned it into the molds, put on the handles, and popped them into the freezer.  There was some left that wouldn't fit, so Mommy fed it to them with breakfast, unfrozen.  They inhaled it so I was hopeful!

single pop

The pops were a bit of a pain to get out of the molds but I'm pretty sure it was worth it.  You be the judge...

First Taste

Liam when he started.  Liam when he finished.  Not much difference!

Levi when he started.  Don't touch my pop!

Oh, this pop is good.  Sooooo good!

Where did my pop go?  I want more pop now!!!

As much as they liked the pops, they were content to eat a good dinner not long afterward.  That's how much they love their veggies!  

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Book Review 2013... #9 Radical by David Platt

How this book came to me:  I read a review of Radical somewhere and thought it sounded interesting.  My husband bought it for me for Christmas.
Nutshell Synopsis:  Radical is a call to Christians to abandon the American dream as we currently pursue it and to follow the commands of the Great Commission.
Quotes from the book:

"We are settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves." 

"...with the best of intentions, we have actually turned away from Jesus.  We have in many areas blindly and unknowingly embraced values and ideas that are common in our culture but are antithetical to the gospel he taught.  here we stand amid an American dream dominated by self-advancement, self-esteem, and self-sufficiency, by individualism, materialism, and universalism. I want to show you our desperate need to revisit the words of Jesus, to listen to them, to believe them, and to obey them.  We need to return with urgency to a biblical gospel, because the cost of not doing so is great for our lives, our families, our churches, and the world around us."

"We will look at the core truth of a God-centered gospel and see how we have manipulated it into a human-centered (and ultimately dissatisfying) message." 

"Everything in all creation responds in obedience to the Creator...until we get to you and me.  We have the audacity to look God in the face and say, "No."" 

"This, after all, is the goal of the American dream:  to make much of ourselves.  But here the gospel and the American dream are clearly and ultimately antithetical to each other.  While the goal of the American dream is to make much of us, the goal of the gospel is to make much of God."

More Info:  David Platt is the lead pastor of a mega church in Alabama.  He has a passion for going into all the world and teaching others to go into all the world to teach the gospel.  He speaks to the harsh realities of our complacency... millions dying without ever hearing about Jesus, lost for eternity, all because we pursue what is temporal more than what is eternal.  Regardless of your agreement or disagreement with his basic premise, it is a book that will most likely make you think and reevaluate.  Near the end of the book he issues a 5 part, year long challenge to help the reader test "his" theory.   
Reading Level:  True to its title, this book is pretty radical in comparisson to how most American Christians are currently operating.  I'm glad I read Crazy Love by Francis Chan before reading Radical.  You can read my review of that book HERE.  I think I would have found the concepts in this book much more difficult to understand if I hadn't. 
Re-readability:  I don't know if I will read this book again but I may visit the last chapter to look futher into the challenge he issues.  There is a follow-up website as well.  I don't often request my husband read the books I do but I have asked him to read this one.  I told him that he really should be aware of what is going into my brain so he can more easily understand what is coming out of my mouth!! 
Lasting Impressions:  It is my belief that we only feel condemned by the beliefs of others if it is an area in which we already feel some sort of guilt or shame, or if our current belief is somewhat shaky.  When we are confident but are seeking to grow,  then we are free to experience conviction, change, and growth.  So before reading this book I would gently suggest you determine how you view your current situation.  This is not an easy concept to ignore once you read it.  

"Though you and I find ourselves surrounded by the lure of temporary pleasures, we must fasten our affections on the one who promises eternal treasure that will never spoil or fade.  If your life or my life is going to count on earth, we must start concentrating on heaven.  For then, and only then, will you and I be free to take radical risk, know that what awaits us is radical reward."

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Meet 3 Truly Remarkable Women

Today I had the distinct honor of having lunch with 3 ladies whom I consider to be among the finest women on earth.  Tena, Miss Margaret, and Miss Gloria.  All 3 are God-fearing, Christ-following, Church-loving, People-serving, Life-speaking ladies.  And to tell you the truth, I'm not entirely sure why they include me in their circle but I know that I am the better for it. 

Tena and I have lunch together about once a month and consider it mutual therapy, having way more fun with the foibles of life than we ought to.  Not only do we laugh with each other but we are very comfortable laughing AT each other as well.  Sometimes we take our husbands with us out to dinner.  Fortunately they get along very well and can converse easily while Tena and I chatter on about one thing or another.  We can all talk amicably about politics, religion, child-rearing, AND finances. That is a true accomplishment! 

I am blessed beyond measure that God saw fit to cross my path with Tena's.  Our friendship started about 7 years ago when my daughter was dating a young man who is like a son to Tena.  We met and hit it off instantly, or as instantly as I am capable of.  People often frighten me but Tena is so large-hearted and kind that I couldn't help but feel her trustworthiness.  She is quick-witted, wise, and caring, an outrageously devoted mom, and gifted to be generous with all that she has and is.  Tena is also a nurse.  She cares for the elderly and infirm.  One act of love that she gave will cement me to her for all my life.  When my Mom was in her final days of this life, when we were emotionally and physically exhausted, Tena came to my Mom's home and bathed her.  The compassion and dignity with which she treated Mom still causes me to weep.  It was the most beautiful and humble act that I have ever witnessed.  She is truly a remarkable woman.

Miss Margaret is a real lady.  Not the kind that sips tea in a pretty dress, but the kind who raised 3 rough and tumble boys who know to treat their Mama with respect.  I met Miss Margaret about 20 years ago when we lived next door to one of those sons.  I didn't know her very well then, but any woman who could raise a gravel-voiced tough guy with a soft heart had my instant respect.  We attended church together for a few years where I came to know her better.  She is apt to speak her mind (and almost never offended by others who are apt to speak theirs), eager to laugh, and always willing to give.  Legally blind, she is also a painter.  I'm not sure of her actual age but her leather-like skin, work-worn hands, and wise counsel would put her well into her 80s and beyond.  It is the pleasantest of tasks to give her my arm and have a few minutes of close conversation while we walk to wherever she is walking.  I especially appreciate when she talks about her now-deceased husband, Bill.  I bet 'ol Bill didn't have a clue what he was getting when he married Miss Margaret.  What a firecracker!  She is truly a remarkable woman.

Miss Gloria.  I don't know her nearly as well as I'd like but I can tell you this about her... her first love is Jesus Christ.  Always will be.  And she isn't shy about it.  She is also Miss Margaret's baby sister.  They did not grow up together, though, so their close relationship did not begin until much later. To look at her soft face and compassionate eyes, you would never guess her troubled past.  To get a tiny glimpse into her life is to get perspective.  Real perspective.  This lady is the embodiment of what happens when a person allows God to turn the worst of trials into the best of triumphs.  I briefly met Miss Gloria about 10 years ago when our 4H club did a community service project at an area food pantry.  Miss Gloria was in charge of the kitchen where she served tables full of homeless men, weary women, and neglected children.  She has taken into her home, given a bed to, and ministered to people who most of us would be wary to even speak to on the street in broad daylight.  She knows what it is to be damaged and is on a mission to help others find the Only One who can heal.  Miss Gloria worked a 44 hour week last week at Sam's Club.  Did I mention that she is 79 years old?  She is truly a remarkable woman. 

On my way to lunch my biggest concern was whether or not I was going to stick to my low-carb eating plan.  On my way home from lunch I was thinking about the kind of woman I hope to become if I am allowed the time to become her.  Time.  It always starts... now.   


Friday, April 19, 2013

Spring, So Far

Spring has never been my favorite season, likely due to the fact that our weather is so erratic and it signals the coming of summer.  Our summers are muggy and looooong.  I am not fond of summer.  At all. Spring ushers in summer so... kill the messenger!  But in keeping with "pursuing contentment and joy" I decided to anticipate spring this year by planting spring bulbs last fall.  You can read about that HERE.

Lo and behold, this spring has brought travel, mostly nice weather, and pretty flowers. Here are a few picture that I took while in Florida...

~sunflower stepping stone in Aunt Betty's garden
~tree-within-a-tree, also in Aunt Betty's garden
~slice of fresh sourdough bread with real butter for an almost midnight snack
~the other loaf
~one of the pretty spring decorations at Aunt Betty's house
~pulled pork lunch... I did NOT eat all the food pictured

You can read a little more about my Florida trip HERE.

Here are some pictures of the flowers that greeted me this spring... 

~the determined crocus
~the friendly daffodil with the fragrant hyacinth
~the much-anticipated peony shoots
~the budding hydrangea
~the chartreuse groundcover (sorry!  forgot its name)
~the tentative clematis

Here are some pictures of odds and ends...

~gift t-shirt from a great friend who knows the struggle and supports the process
~first attempt at hypertufa
~spring bunny pedestal found online purely by accident at 50% off
~un-named hedgehog takes his place on the party cart

This spring has brought with it some very hard times in our family.  It hasn't all been happy and light-hearted.  Spring, so far, has been tough.  Really tough.  But I, together with my husband, have set my hand to the proverbial plow and am not looking back.  Spring, so far, has been good. Really good.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Tail of Two Bunnies.

I'm not particularly good at sewing and I'm not particularly fond of decorating with pillows, so why have I been sewing so many decorative pillows lately?  I'm not entirely sure!  But I have found a certain amount of relaxing enjoyment in the process so I'm just gonna go with it.  Plus I bought a huge amount of polyfil that MUST be used!  My husband made all but one of the stencils I've used for my pillows so far so all the credit for that goes to him.

I've used this bunny stencil for a pillow that was part of a giveaway.  You can see that here.   I put a new spring twist on my most recent bunny pillow using a light-colored fabric and white paint.  I was fairly pleased with the results! 

Here is how it looked while it was still at my house...

This bunny pillow was not meant to stay with me, though.  It was made to live with someone else.  My Aunt Betty.  Aunt Betty is not biologically my aunt, but a dear friend of my Mom's for as far back as I can remember.  They met through church when I was just a year or 2 old so I cannot remember a time when she was not Mom's friend.  She and Mom remained friends until Mom's passing... and then she became my friend!

I visited her in February '12 for the first time since I was a teenager.  I was sick almost the entire time, not the ideal house guest AT ALL!  She graciously welcomed me back this year for a second visit and I wanted to present her with a gift that showed my appreciation.  Knowing that she enjoys seasonal decorating, I decided to make her a bunny pillow for Spring.

After I sewed it I asked my husband if he thought it needed a fluffy tail.  I think I worded the question something like this... "Hey Hon.  I am going to ask your opinion but before you answer please be fully aware that I may completely dismiss it.  And please don't let that offend you.  Do you think I should put a fluffy tail on this bunny pillow?"

He said that he thought it did need one but, true to form, I decided against it thinking that it would've been "too much" with the ruffles at the top and bottom.  So sans fluffy tail, the bunny pillow and I headed to Aunt Betty's Florida home.

Here it is, hanging out in his new digs and getting to know his neighbor...

Notice that the neighbor seems a bit disgruntled that he is now required to share his perch.  Poor chap!  Aunt Betty informed me that he had not been out of a storage space for several years so I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and think that it was probably poor eyesight that was making him glare so!  After a little discussion,  Aunt Betty stated that she agreed with my husband about adding a fluffy tail so off to the store we went in search of the perfect one.

Here it is after the new addition...
The neighbor is still unimpressed but looks to be warming up a bit.  We thought the fluffy tail was just the thing!  What do you think?  Before you answer please be fully aware that I may completely dismiss your opinion... <ornery grin>
My visit with Aunt Betty was the exact thing I needed.  It was relaxing and peaceful, and I am so glad that I was able to go.  I hope to visit again.  You can visit her as well through her blog My Crazy Quilt LifeShe will take you on tours of her gardens, serve you tea, share some of her decorating talents, and occasionally take you on tours of interesting places around Orlando. 
Now I am off to work on my next pillow.  It is a complete departure from the ones I've made thus far.  Look for it to be featured in October when I publish a series entitled "31 Days of Making It New". 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Book Review 2013 ... #8 Prayer by Philip Yancey

How this book came to me:  I bought it at Ollie's quite a few years ago, started to read it (I don't remember reading any of it, but I noted a few things in the first chapter, so obviously I did!), and there it sat on the bookshelf til now.

Nutshell Synopsis: Prayer is about... you guessed it... Prayer!  Mr. Yancey wrote this book from the perspective of a person wanting to discover what prayer is, what prayer does, how and why we pray, what our prayers mean to God, and much more.

Quotes from the book:

"Prayer helps correct myopia, calling to mind a perspective I daily forget.  I keep reversing roles, thinking of ways in which God should serve me, rather than vice versa."

"In a world that glorifies success, an admission of weakness disarms pride at the same time that it prepares us to receive grace.  Meanwhile, the very weakness that drives us to pray becomes an invitation for God to respond with compassion and power... In the presence of the Great Physician, my most appropriate contribution may be my wounds... By trying to be strong, I may even block God's power."

"For most of us prayer serves as a resource to help in a time of testing or conflict.  For Jesus, it was the battle itself.  Once the Gethsemane prayers had aligned him with the Father's will, what happened next was merely the means to fulfill it.  Prayer mattered that much."

"Not everyone worries about the philosophical underpinnings of prayer.  For those of us who do, however, what we conclude about this issue may well determine how we view the utility-- or futility-- of prayer."

"Real power rests in those who perceive history as God's own drama, who tap into a power accessible only to those who ask and seek and knock.  Prayer sets God loose.  As we revolt against the world's disorder in our actions and in our prayers, refusing to resign ourselves to evil, we demonstrate that there remains, in Jesus' phrase, "faith on earth.""

More Info:  I am almost positive I know why I stopped reading this book all those years ago.  The layout of the writing must've thrown me off.  Having a few crippling quirky OCD tendencies, I probably had too much difficulty with the offsets (which are numerous) not being in predictable placements.  This time I was able to push through the chaos and focus on the content rather than the style.  <Satisfied grin at small accomplishments!>  The author also included many, many quotes from other sources about prayer.  He seems to be, at heart, an investigative reporter and wants to provide the reader with multiple points of view.  Even conflicting perspectives.  He also has other resources on prayer listed in the back of the book.

Reading Level:  Phillip Yancey is a trained writer,  highly educated, and writes at a level slightly more advanced than most books I read.  I had to consult a dictionary a few times when I could not figure out a word by context.  But don't let that scare you away.  There are so many thought-provoking passages in Prayer that it makes the little extra effort worth it. 

Re-readability:  I doubt that I will read this book cover to cover again but will definitely keep it on hand for thoughts and quotes.

Lasting Impressions:  After I got past my own aversion to the layout, I began to really appreciate this book and the ways in which I was prompted to approach such a personal topic.  "By bringing us into the presence of God, and giving us a glimpse of the view from above, prayer radically changes how we experience life.  Faith during affliction matters more than healing from affliction.  Submitting to God's will is preferable to a rescue from crucifixion.  Humility counts more than deliverance from a thorn in the flesh."