Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Message of Hope

A couple people I know posted this link on Facebook today.  It took me awhile to make the connection and the realize exactly how profound this is.  David Wilkerson, founder of Teen Challenge and author of The Cross and the Switchblade died yesterday afternoon in a car accident.

This is what he had posted on his blog earlier that day.

Please take a couple minutes to read this.  It is short but it spoke volumes to my soul.  There is no doubt in my mind this a message directly from God to all of us.

It was exactly what I needed to hear.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Things You Might See Around Here

Fruit trees in bloom

Fresh rhubarb

Loads of wood, split & ready for next winter

Boy stuff...anywhere and everywhere

Muddy clothes & boots.  This was the 2nd set of clothing this particular day the boys went through.

The reason my house doesn't stay clean

Repurposing old sheets to make 'sling swings'


Reminders of God's love

Monday, April 25, 2011

Keepin' Busy

Hi everyone!  I hope you had a blessed Easter!  I feel like I haven't had time to post on here, but thought I'd stop in real quick & give a little rundown of what's going on around here....

1.  The boys had 3 days off of school...Thursday, Friday, and Monday.  Plus I had to keep Edison home on Wednesday because he had pink eye.  I know there are lots of wonderful people out there who homeschool and I just have to say "You amaze me!".  I'm going a little nuts with all four boys here at home.  And, they are getting antsy.  It's time to send them back to school.  I'm going to have to come up with a gameplan for summer!

2.  Related to that last thought....Do your children entertain themselves well?  My boys seem to need me constantly.  Even when I send them outside to play, they want me with them.  I'm all for interacting with my kids and I do.  But, I still have work I need to get done too.  And, it seems to me that when I was a girl, my sister and I could entertain ourselves for hours.  (Mom, I know you're reading this.  Am I right?)

3.  We had a lovely Easter with our families.  The boys are completely stocked up on candy for the next 5 years.  And, we had a beautiful day - very warm & sunny with a bit of a breeze.

4.  I make a kickin' dessert for Easter (if I say so myself).  I made a white Texas sheet cake and I made a strawberry rhubarb sauce (from our own fresh rhubarb!).  We spooned the sauce over top the cake and it was super yummo.  I'll share the recipes here soon.

5.  I recently watched the documentary "Food, Inc."  and I'm not sure if I ever want to buy anything from the grocery store again.  

We are blissfully unaware of what goes into making, processing, etc. the food we so willingly eat.  And, the documentary painted a disturbing picture indeed.  John and I do grow some of our own fruits/vegetables already.  We raise chickens for eggs.  And, we usually have deer meat in our freezer since John is a hunter.  (Nothing like eating meat that comes from it's natural habitat.  Plus, it's a very lean meat.)  But, I would still love to figure out a way to buy even more of our food from local, fresh, organic sources.

6.  I've got a lot on my mind from a spiritual standpoint too.  It's too much to go into right now.  But, I'm doing a lot of searching and praying.

7.  I was thrilled to find 'volunteer' cilantro growing in my side flowerbed.  (My father-in-law always uses that term when something comes up from seed from the previous years planting on it's own.).  I did plant some there last year and it didn't do all that well.  But, apparently some seeds took root and so far it looks like it could do really long as my husband stops mowing over it!

Have a great week!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Whoopie Perfection

I love a great whoopie pie.  Now some people might say that any whoopie pie is a good whoopie pie.  Not me.  Whoopie pies should be completely amazing, mind-blowing, and delectable.  Anything less is unnaccceptable.

Whoopie pies are the one of the rare things that inspires the quest for perfection in me.

I have a whoopie pie recipe I've been using forever.  It's the same one that my mother has always used.  But, recently I've been unhappy with my results.  It may be that I had been a bit heavy-handed when measuring the flour.  (I'm a scoop & dump type baker as opposed to making precise, scientific measurements).  My cookie part had been coming out very thick, heavy, dense and kinda dry...too cakey for my tastes.

Something had to be done.  I looked up a few recipes on-line to get some ideas.  But, in the end I came back to my original recipe and tweaked it a bit - a little less flour, a little more liquid.  

I'm much happier now.  There is still a bit of room for improvement...I'd like the cookie part to be even moister still and I may need to double my filling recipe to have the obscene amounts of cream between the cookies that I love so much.  But, overall, a good...almost great....batch of whoopie pies this time.

 My cookies came out nice and flat, round, and spongy the way they should be.

 This is how a whoopie pie should look close up.  Like it's begging and pleading with you to take a bite.

My Whoopie Pie  Recipe (as adapted from the cookbook, "Our Favorite Recipes from Masonville Mennonite Church)

1 cup shortening (Crisco)
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
4 cups flour
1 cup cocoa
2 tsp. salt
1 cup sour milk (I put about 1 tablespoon white vinegar in the measuring cup and then fill with milk to the 1 cup line.  Let sit at least 5-10 minutes before using.  The longer it sits, the better)
1 1/3 cup water (or you can substitute coffee...sometimes I do)
2 tsp. baking soda

Cream shortening & sugar together.  Add eggs and beat well.  Add cocoa, salt, and sour milk and beat well.. Mix in flour & baking soda.  (Dough will be stiff).  Add water and mix well (be sure to scrape sides and bottom as you mix).  Drop by teaspoon on a greased cookie sheet.  (Or for monster size whoopie pies like I made, use about 2 tsp. per cookie).  Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.  Cool and fill with filling.

2 egg whites
1 Tablespoon vanilla
4 Tablespoons milk
4 Tablespoons flour
4 cups confectioner's sugar
1 1/2 cup shortening (Crisco)

Beat egg whites till stiff.  (If you are freaked out about raw egg being in your food you can apparently buy dried egg whites.  But, I've always done it this way and never had a problem).  Add vanilla and beat.  Add milk and flour and beat well.  Add confectioner's sugar and beat.  Add shortening and beat very well.  Put between cooled cookies.

Wrap those babies in Saran Wrap after you've filled them all.  It keeps them from sticking to each other.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Mennonite Game

Have you ever played the Mennonite game?

Chances are unless you have a Mennonite background or you are native to the county in Pennsylvania I'm from that's known for it's large Mennonite & Amish communities, you haven't.

The Mennonite game is very similar though to the whole Seven Degrees of Separation concept (or Seven Degrees to Kevin Bacon).  Just with a Mennonite twist.

When you meet a new person and they learn your last name, if it sounds Mennonite or Amish in nature (ours does), they are likely to dig a little deeper to figure out who your mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, cousin, father's cousin once removed, etc. etc. is.  And, chances are, they will at least know someone in your family.  And, most likely you'll also find out you are related...however distantly.

It really is like a game.  And, it's quite popular in our area.  It's the way people make a connection with each other.  And, it's a beautiful holdover from those days when everyone really did know everyone else.  My grandfather was so talented at this when he was still alive.  It was as though he had pages & pages of geneaologies stored in his brain.

My own family has a Mennonite background on my father's side, and a Brethren background on my mother's side.  At one time both families were conservative (i.e - the women wore cape dresses - a dress with an extra panel across the chest & back, and head coverings, the men also dressed conservatively in black pants & jackets, white shirts).  By my mother & father's generation the conservative dress had been set aside.  And, I grew up in a Brethren in Christ church which is still relatively conservative, but most people wore regular dress.

My husband also has Mennonite background on his father's side.  His father actually grew up in the Pike Church (also known as the Stauffer Mennonite Church).  This is an Old Order Mennonite group (we call them 'Pikers') that shuns electricity & modern transportation.  The group still uses horse & buggy and is very similar to the Amish in this way.  As a young man John's dad did not choose to join the Pike Church.  His own mother & father (John's grandparents) chose to leave the church at one point and were shunned by those friends & family that were still part of the church.

(Interesting sidenote:  The house that John & I own was built by and owned up until 2000 by John's great-uncle.  This was his grandfather's brother, Daniel.  Daniel and his wife were part of the Pike church too and remained so their whole lives.  Daniel's son Wesley (my Father-in-law's cousin) still lives on this same road.  So, we are neighbors to him and his wife.  His wife, Marla wrote a book about our little house and the family that raised 9 children in it!  Anytime, I feel cramped with 4 children in our small house, I remind myself of this.)

Anyway,  the video that follows is one that was posted on Facebook by some friends.  If you know about the Mennonite game you will probably find this song pretty amusing.  If not, you probably won't get it.  But, you can still watch the video and see pictures of the types of conservative Mennonite groups that are the large portion of the community in the area where I live.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Some Questions for You

Hi fellow bloggers! Today we are experiencing more rainy, cloudy, chilly weather. It's been a couple weeks of this type of weather. We had a short reprieve yesterday and it was a beautiful, sunny day with the temps actually reaching 80! I didn't want to return to the dreary weather after that!

Anyway, I have several things on my mind today, but am having a hard time formulating one thoughtful post. So, what I'd like to do instead, is to ask you all some questions. If you have a minute to answer one, two, or all I'd be thrilled. So, here goes....

1. How much time do you spend on the computer each day? I'm finding that I've become a bit obsessive in the amount of time I end up checking Facebook, Craigslist, real estate listings (just out of curiosity/dreaming), and reading other blogs. What do you do to help yourself stay on track during the day and not get sucked into internet land?

2. Do you have a cleaning routine or do you just wing it? I wing it. And, I'm finding that's it's not cutting it for me. But, my spirit rebels against follow a specific plan for the week. Ugh. What do you do?

3. How do you foster and nurture contentment in your heart? I struggle in this area specifically in regard to my home. I'm still formulating a post on being good stewards of our home no matter where home is. Sometimes it's hard to put my money where my mouth is.

4. Are you reading any books that you are loving? I would love to hear about them. Our book club is always looking for some new ideas.

5. How closely do you follow the news via newspapers, tv, computer? Lately, I hardly tune in at all because when I do I come away depressed and/or disturbed. Yet, I'm wondering if I'm sacrificing 'staying informed'. And, is 'staying informed' really important?

There you have it. A few random thoughts. I'd love to hear yours.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Food on the Brain

I went to the grocery store this morning. In the rain. With my two youngest children.

But, we really, really needed to go. The cupboards and refrigerator were bare.

This actually resulted in 2 good things.

1. I cleaned my refrigerator. Technically, I'm not done cleaning it yet. I had to do it in sections. It was that bad. I would share pictures with you but then you would think less of me. You really would. Let's just say, I watched an episode of Hoarders and realized that the inside of my refrigerator looked just as bad as the guy's on the show.

2. I had a stroke of genius for last night's dinner. I looked what remaining ingredients I had and came up with this: Chicken topped with Crab Au Gratin, Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Onions, Carrot & Celery Salad. Not too shabby for a last minute meal idea if I say so myself.
(My poor menu on the sidebar has been sadly neglected. I need to get back into the habit of planning out my weekly menus. We had that sickness a few weeks back and then I never got back into the swing of things).

Now our cupboards and refrigerator are restocked. But, I spent way more money than I wanted to and I STILL forget 2 items (and I used a list!).

You know I've been a mom now for almost 8 years. And, all this time we've had an older pac n play. It was a hand me down from a friend of mine. We pretty much have stored it in the attic and used it for when we travel with the children (We used it when the boys were babies and we went camping).
This is similar to the one we have.
image found here
Somehow, the thought never occurred to me to use this beautiful child-containment device when bringing in and putting away groceries. Instead I'd bring the kids inside and try to run back and forth to the van (We do not have a garage) with load after load of groceries all while the little one cries and tries to cling to my leg and/or escape out the door.

Today, the lightbulb went off in my head. I stuck the boys in the pac n play with some books and crackers and bringing in and putting away the groceries was almost enjoyable!

On that note, I'm going to go now and enjoy a couple more pieces of one of my all-time favorite candies that I permitted myself to get today. Hopefully, I show some restraint and don't make myself sick.
I love these things!
image found here

Have a very excellent and blessed weekend!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hobbies Are Supposed to Be Fun

Did I mention what I did this past weekend? I don't think I did. I went on my annual scrapbooking getaway with my mother-in-law.

Our Creative Memories consultant hosts a scrapping weekend in the spring and in the fall. I usually just attend one - this year it was the spring retreat. We travel about an hour and 1/2 to a quaint town in Maryland. We stay in a hotel and the hotel also provides their conference room which is where about 30-40 ladies set up their supplies and scrap to their heart's content.

image found here

Two days. No children. Quiet. Time devoted to scrapbooking. Aaah.

Now, I have to tell you that scrapbooking is one of those hobbies that I enjoy and that I think is a great way to record some of life's great memories. It is also time-consuming. And, space is a precious commodity in my house. I have nowhere to set up my supplies and leave them out. If I want to scrapbook at home I have to pull everything out when my kids are sleeping and then put it away again. Frankly, that's a bit too much work for me.

Wouldn't this be a great room to have? Alas, only in my dreams...
image found here

I had been introduced to scrapbooking when I was still a single woman, but it wasn't until I was married and had my first child that I really did anything with it. Then, I almost felt like it was mandatory. I HAD to preserve these cherished memories in a creative, lasting way.

My first son has the most scrapbooking pages devoted to his early life.

Then I had another son. And another. And another. Suddenly my goals of scrapping each and every important event in my childrens' lives (for individual scrapbooks) and in our family (for the joint family scrapbook) didn't seem very realistic anymore. Especially since I was really only scrapping once a year on the weekend retreat.

I drastically adjusted my goals.

I have a baby book for each boy which covers his birth and first couple weeks of life. I just finished Joseph's (my youngest) this weekend (and he's 15 months old). Maybe someday I'll add more pages. But, for now, this is good enough.

I added one new goal when my oldest entered school. That is to have a school album for each boy. It will just be a few pages for each year of school. So far, I've started this for my oldest. He's in 2nd grade and I only have his Kindergarten year complete. My second son is in Kindergarten now and I haven't started his school album yet. With four children who will eventually be in school, I will have to evaluate if this is a realistic goal or not.

For now, that's it. I would love to also have birthday albums & a family Christmas album. But, the more goals I add the more my hobby starts to seem like work.

And, hobbies are supposed to be fun.

As women we sometimes create expectations for ourselves that no one else necessarily has. I found myself falling into this trap with my scrapbooking hobby. So, now I'm trying to keep a more level head.

And, now I'm able to enjoy myself.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I'm In Love

I'm in love and I have to tell everyone about it.

Ok - maybe 'in love' is too strong a phrase. But I'm definitely experiencing a pretty strong infatuation with these....

When I picked these up at the store, I wasn't sure if they'd be for me or not. I do like Triscuits a lot. But, with this particular flavor...Cracked Pepper and Olive Oil...I had my husband in mind.

They've been sitting in the cupboard for a couple weeks until a couple nights ago when we opened them up for a little night-time snack. Oh my!

Pair them with some sharp cheddar cheese and you've got all kinds of wonderful flavor sensations happening at once.

You must try these!
Do you have any new favorite snacks? I'd love to hear.

Friday, April 1, 2011

My Friend the Atheist

I wasn't actually going to post today.  I've got a bunch of things I need to get done today over naptime.  But, then I 'quickly' popped over to my Facebook account, saw a post by one of my Facebook friends, and now I feel compelled to write this post.

Most of my friends and family are believers.  This is a great blessing.  This can also be a detriment of sorts when I do encounter someone who isn't a believer.  I'm left floundering a bit for how I should best interact with that person.

As I mentioned above I saw a post today from a Facebook friend.  At one point in my life I knew her a little better than I do now and we hung out with a similar crowd of people (a crowd I don't hang out with anymore).  But, we've always been more of acquaintances.  

She is an atheist.  Most of her friends are atheists.

And, today she posted a quote and a link that left me disturbed to say the least.  I debated on whether or not to share them here and have decided not to.  But, basically they called into question not only our belief in a God, but this particular link even tried to decry Jesus Christ as a historical figure and to reduce Him and His story to that of myth.

I'm outraged.  I'm upset.  I'm confused about what my response should be.

I got pulled into a debate with this friend once before.  She posted a comment about how much she enjoyed the movie 'Religulous' by Bill Maher.  I commented that I found the movie offensive.  And, thus ensued a 'facebook debate' that went back and forth for a couple days.  I was the only Christian in the debate and the rest of the comments were from her and some of her other non-believer friends.

I felt beaten up and shaken after that experience and I vowed never to get involved in another religious debate on Facebook.  Since then, I have been praying for this friend and those friends of hers.  I've been praying that God would reveal Himself to them in a way that was powerful and undeniable.

So, today I was unsure what my response to her post should be.  Part of me wants to steer clear.  Another part of me feels that as a Christian I must speak up. As it is she has a ton of comments from her friends applauding her post. 

And, what are my reasons behind becoming involved in a argument discussion?  

Is it my concern for my friend's spiritual life?

Is it because I feel threatened?

Is it because I want to stand for what I know is True?

I am pretty smart I think.  But, I'm not 'smart' enough by the world's standards to enter into a highly intellectual debate.  And, the thing with Faith is, it's not merely an intellectual debate.  It is a spiritual issue - one that man's wisdom cannot accept or understand.

And, if I'm truthful, I don't want to give the enemy the opportunity to plant seeds of doubt or confusion in my mind and my heart.

But, then what do I do?  I don't want to just hide my head in the sand.

I'm really torn.  And, if any of you have words of wisdom or experience in talking to friends or family who are atheists, I'd appreciate hearing from you.

It used to be that I thought everyone believed in something and that it was just a matter of pointing them to Jesus.  In retrospect, I guess that was naive.  So what do we do about those who deny the very existance of God?

Related Posts with Thumbnails