Company Zoo Party

Hubby’s work had their summer party…at the Zoo! They reserved the whole zoo after hours and we got dinner, unlimited rides on the train and carousel, and time to wander around looking at all the animals in the cool evening (when both man and beast is in a better mood). We had a great time! I hope you’re not too sick of photos, because here are a bunch of them….Hamburgers….
Hotdogs
No bun, of course….Hubby with dinner…nice hat! (Um, on both the boys)
I love the way this turned out. It was a happy accident, the exposure was too long but it gave the leopard that fluid, hunting feline look.The next 2 are of a different leopardGiraffe sneerThis is what they thought of our being there after hours!
Sarah on the Conservation Carousal

Rachel rode the wolfBears getting ready for a night’s restA little comic relief…Isaiah took this one!

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Descent into the Pit of Peach

OK, you’re probably wondering what on earth I’m talking about.

We have fruit trees…a blessing! It brings me so much joy to have fruit grown right here in our yard, to watch it ripen in the sun, to eat it right off the tree unbelievably sweet, warm and juicy. So don’t get me wrong…I love our trees! I love eating the apricots, peaches and plums fresh, and I love drying the fruit for later, and I love dishing out peaches from canning jars onto the kids’ plates in February. Yup, it’s a blessing!

However.

Anyone who has fruit trees can tell you…it’s also a lot of work! The fruit all gets ripe at about the same time, and the best, ripest peaches come plummeting to the ground if so much as a hummingbird brushes by them. Where they splatter into a giant Peach-Bomb, splashing juice all over and attracting hornets by the droves. To avoid this, one must go out and pick *all* of the peaches off the tree, teetering on a tall ladder for some and reaching with a fruit picker for the uppermost peaches. Inevitably, one or two will fall from the top of the tree and splatter against your forehead. You go out, squinting against the sun, and pick. And pick. And pick. Bugs fall on you (and I am NOT a fan of bugs…that may be the year’s greatest understatement!). The fuzzy stuff on the peaches comes off, falls all over you, and then itches like fiberglass until you shower off…which you will want to do immediately anyway, because you WILL be sticky. Very. Sticky.


Once the peaches are inside, you will have to do something with them. Fruit flies are laying in wait, looking for the perfect moment to amass their minions and descend on the fruit…and from there, they will move on to all the other fruit in the house. Plus your potted plants.

You will turn your home over to canning for days on end, your kitchen will become a processing plant. There will be nothing but canning jars in your dishwasher, on your counter, on the kitchen table. There will be a huge canner full of water boiling on your stove, a huge pot of hot apple juice next to it, and another pot of plain water boiling beside it. There will be lids warming in water on the last burner. There will be bowls, tubs, and containers all over the table full of peaches, there will be trash bags of peach skin and pits, there will be quartered and halved peaches floating in lemon water to prevent browning.

There will be a sticky film. Over. Everything.

The temperature in your kitchen will hover somewhere between unacceptable and outrageous, and the humidity will be equal to that found around the earth’s equator.

You will be hot, sticky, and probably burned. You will most likely cut your thumb. Very little other than canning peaches will be done until every last bit of fruit is put away. Canned peach halves in juice, peach quarters, peach preserves, peach jam. Rows of shiny, happily-yellow peaches like little snapshots of summer sun will line your shelves and pantry, and when those are full, many of your friends’ and family’s pantries as well.

You will be completely, thoroughly, and totally exhausted. You will continue to find sticky spots in your kitchen for the next two weeks.

Am I crazy to be looking forward to this? Probably so. For the next while, my life will be taken over by peaches (followed by tomatoes and salsa…if those darn vines ever get busy and ripen!). It brings me a crazy kind of joy, though, to know that I will be putting food away for my family, like the many women of generations past. I don’t have to do it…in all truth I could probably go buy a can of peaches from the store for about as much as it costs to do it myself. BUT….there is such a joy in knowing that these are our peaches, that I can make them last all winter long, that I am providing this food for my family by my own sweat, blood and tears (OK, well maybe that was an exaggeration. Sweat, anyway).

Ah, the joys of Summer! Let the Pits begin.

Turn It Up!

Not the music, although if you’re in the mood…go right ahead! And, just FYI, if you haven’t yet I highly suggest listening to Steele Croswhite’s song on the side bar to the right…here’s a shameless plug for the amazing music at The Rock Church! We are blessed to have Steele both heading up the music ministry and as one of our pastors, he and his wife make an amazing team musically and I expect that the Christian community will be hearing much more of them!

OK, shameless plug finished.

Anyway, Turn It Up! This is what I’m thinking….

This morning, very early, the kitten jumped up on our bed and ran up to my face, nuzzling her fuzzy little head under my chin and licking me (yes, she’s a bit confused…she’s convinced she’s part dog. Oh, well!). I snuggled her and stroked her soft, soft fur and thought….I LOVE this cat! Then it occurred to me to TURN IT UP, to turn the praise and joy for the created to The Creator…God! Who is responsible for creating kittens so soft and fuzzy. Thanks, God, for fuzzy kittens!

I think it changes you, changes the way you think, changes the way you see the world around you when you turn it up. That swell of love and wonder you get when you watch your child, her eyes alight with a new discovery? Feel it, give it to her, and then turn it up! The pride you feel when your kid tackles a difficult project and then completes it…all on his own? Embrace it, share it with him, and then turn it up! I have to remind myself often that our wonderful kids belong to God, that we have been entrusted with their growth and development and safety for a time, but that they are His creations. It is right to turn all the praise and glory up to Him!


It’s all too easy to lose focus and forget where the glory belongs. After all, we are surrounded by such amazing beauty, such glorious wonders, such sweetness….we could spend all our time worshipping the creation and forgetting to worship The Creator. But it’s so much more beautiful when we do! Because all of this, all these blessings…they are not an accident! The way the setting sun makes the flowers seem to glow, the sparks that glint off choppy lake water in the morning light, the silky-smooth feel of a baby’s cheek, the burst of love in your heart that is so deep it hurts, the brilliant spread of a sunset, the smell of jasmine, the way a soft breeze lifts your heart. All this, all these…are gifts planned for us, are carefully thought out packages of beauty that are designed to bring us–and God!–great joy.

And you and I? We’re part of that creation, too! God looked on all of this and thought….”It is good”. Who are we to argue? Everything around us points up, to His glory. How can we fail to know Him?

Isaiah 40:26
Lift your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one,
and calls them each by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.

Lord, help me remember today to stop and notice the beautiful things You have set before us, and to take good care of them. Help me to appreciate the creation, and then Turn Up the praise to The Creator!

Gratitude Journal

Psalm 147 (and responses of gratitude) continued….

6 The LORD sustains the humble
but casts the wicked to the ground.

(31. Thank you, Lord, for reminding me to be humble!)

7 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;
make music to our God on the harp.

(32. Thank you, Lord, for the worship music we are blessed with every week at church!

33. Thank you for creating us to be creatures who love music!)

8 He covers the sky with clouds;
he supplies the earth with rain
and makes grass grow on the hills.

(34. Thank you for the green grass, for all the growing things that we are blessed with even in our little yard!)

9 He provides food for the cattle
and for the young ravens when they call.

(35. Thank you for the birds that live around our house.

36. Thank you for the family of Quail that we have living in the yard, all those little puff balls bouncing behind their mother!)

10 His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his delight in the legs of a man;

(37. Thank you, Lord, that my body does not have to be strong or perfect for me to please you…you love me anyway!

38. Thank you, that you work though our weakness and use us, regardless.)

11 the LORD delights in those who fear him,
who put their hope in his unfailing love.

(39. Thank you, Lord, that you delight in me!!!!

40. Thank you, Lord, that your love is unfailing. I can’t even comprehend that!)

Stumbling


It’s easy to see God’s grace when everything is beautiful, when the sky is vast and blue and deep like the ocean, when the cool breeze lifts and breaths over you, when every blessing seems to illuminate God’s presence and blooms in your heart, wildflowers of brilliant color bursting within. It’s easy to praise Him, to let your heart sing “God is Good!” When you are running along, heart pounding in rhythm with your feet, sucking in air and life and cruising along with confidence and faith.

You don’t see it in the road, that stumbling block. Maybe it’s not even visible, maybe it’s as silent as a thought, as intangible as a word, maybe it’s an old wound that hasn’t quite healed yet.

It trips you up.

As you stumble, as you fall, as your knees hit the pavement hard….you don’t see the blessings anymore. It’s not so easy to see God’s grace from this vantage point! Stumbling…falling…scraping your knees….you come plummeting down to earth and are jolted back to ‘reality’. This is where you are. And it’s not very graceful.

What’s your first reaction? Mine is anger, hurt. There on the pavement, knocked and bruised, I want to sit, to fume, to cry, to give up. It takes precious little to knock the wind out of me, I am finding. I am not yet strong enough in my walk, I am learning, to let words slide off me and blows glance off, to turn the other cheek when the first is bruised, to see God’s grace when I hit the pavement, kneeling on skinned knees.

But isn’t that the best place to know God, there on your knees? Doesn’t He come through, stronger even than in beauty…when He carries us through pain? If I stop and let Him, won’t He comfort me like a child, sooth the pain, help me to my feet?

My youngest has had a rough summer with the Owies. Not long ago, we were hiking up a steep trail, littered with sharp and scrabbly stones. We stopped and examined flowers, we picked up coiled sea shells…bleached white with age, bits of ocean on the mountaintop–evidence of Noah’s flood. We filled pockets full, to share with others. On the way down, Youngest was running. Flying, really…her feet hitting the ground hard and fast between great leaps of air, aided by gravity on the steep slope. She was having too much fun to heed my warning, and her foot slipped on the loose stones. She came down hard, rolling on stone and dirt, bruising knees and hands and elbows, scratching tender skin. Tears flowed, her cries echoed down the canyon.

I picked her up, this little person so precious to my heart. We examined the hurt places, dusted them off. Yes, this hurts. No, it’s not a Band aid Owie. You’re brave, you’re strong. I’ll carry you until you feel better, but you’re going to be OK. I hurt to see her hurting, but it was a joy to me that I could comfort her, carry her, put her back on her feet and see her run again.

There on the pavement, on my knees….I am going to do my hardest to let God pick me up, comfort me, kiss away the pain. He is waiting to do it, with open arms. It is a joy to Him to comfort me, carry me, put me back on my feet and see me run again.

Psalm 40
As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God!

Thank you, Lord, for helping me back on my feet. I know You hurt to see me hurt, and I know it brings you joy when I let You comfort me. You are good!

photos: Wildflowers along the trail, Rachel on a happier hike, the family (dog included) on the trail as the sun sets….taken this week.

Gratitude Journal

Psalm 147 (and responses of gratitude)

1 Praise the LORD. [a]
How good it is to sing praises to our God,
how pleasant and fitting to praise him!

26. Thank you, God, for how my heart is changing as I learn to seek daily the blessings in my life!

2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the exiles of Israel.

27. Thank you that Israel exists once again. A miracle!

3 He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.

28. Thank you that you that you use the wounds of my past to Your Good.

4 He determines the number of the stars
and calls them each by name.

29. Thank you that you know all of your creation intimately and completely!

5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
his understanding has no limit.

30. Thank you that you that nothing is beyond you, that you understand both the workings of the universe and the workings of my heart.

This Week’s Gluten Free Menu

Monday: Let’s try a little breakfast for dinner! Eggs Benedict Skillet. Cook up a package of Southern Style hash browns with a chopped onion (Ore-Ida brand is GF). Add a package of diced ham or Canadian bacon (Bar S brand, Hormel, or Boar’s Head). Cook it until the hash browns are browned, turn down to keep warm. In another skillet, bring some water to a light boil. While you are boiling the water, make microwave Hollandaise sauce: two sticks butter (or butter substitute…it works fine!), six egg yolks, 2 tbs. water and 2 tbs lemon juice. Melt the butter in a large glass dish, add the water and lemon juice. Beat the egg yolks and add to the melted butter. Microwave 10 seconds at a time (important! Don’t let it go longer or you’ll get chunky sauce.) and stir well between each 10 seconds, until the sauce thickens. Poach eggs in boiling water (break them into a measuring cup and slide them in the water until they are mostly solid). Steam some asparagus spears in the microwave until crisp-tender. Serve hash brows/ham/onion mixture with several spears of asparagus and an egg on top, smother in sauce. Yum! (Double the sauce recipe for another dinner this week!). Serve with fresh fruit on the side!

Tuesday: Hamburgers, potato salad and green salad. Serve on a gf bun (Kinnikinnik or Ener-G are both good). When cooking prepared, frozen burgers…check the label! Some companies put wheat crumbs in their meat as a filler.

Wednesday: Fish Fillets, rice pilaf, asparagus spears. We’ve never been big fish eaters, but the kids discovered that they enjoy fish when they tried a sample at Costco. Tilapia fillets, cooked for about 7 minutes (more if you’re cooking more than 2 at a time) in the microwave….sprinkle with olive oil, lemon juice, and seasoning salt first. Cook some rice in chicken broth with a little garlic salt and parsley (make extra for tomorrow), when the rice is almost done add a little extra water and then place asparagus spears over the rice and water, cover and let the water steam off and cook the asparagus. Use the left over Hollandaise sauce over the fish, rice and asparagus.

Thursday: Chicken and vegetables. Saute some chopped chicken breasts in olive oil, add several cloves of garlic. Add a chopped onion, a chopped zucchini, a chopped yellow squash and a chopped Mexican squash, plus some sliced mushrooms. Cook until the squash is crisp-tender, add a can of chopped tomatoes (drain the sauce) and cook a minute or two more, until the tomatoes are hot. Serve over leftover rice.

Friday: Payday! Eat out…Pei Wei has a gluten free Chinese food menu.

Saturday: Grilled chicken salad. Marinade chicken in olive oil and lime juice with salt, pepper and garlic. Grill, and serve over greens with red onion, kidney beans, blue cheese, sunflower seeds, black olives, bacon bits (Hormel prepared real bacon bits are safe), cucumbers and radishes. Add homemade vinaigrette dressing (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and stone ground mustard).

Sunday: Grilled flank steak (sprinkle a little garlic salt and worcester sauce on it as you grill), garlic mashed potatoes or baked potatoes, green salad with boiled egg, caramelized red onions, and lightly steamed green beans. Make the dressing for the salad by pureeing some of the caramelized onion with olive oil, vinegar, and stone ground mustard.

Gratitude Journal

Psalm 147:1 Praise the LORD!For it is good to sing praises to our God;
for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting. (ESV)

I am thankful, God, for….

21. The vast variety of living things in creation.

22. The way a mourning dove sounds, first thing in the morning.

23. The changing seasons.

24. How soft our cat’s fur is.

25. Quiet moments when I remember that I don’t have to be stressed.

Gluten Free Stuffed Mushrooms (with option for dairy free)

Well, it’s not such a stretch to make these gluten free, I can’t think of any reason why stuffed mushrooms need to have gluten in them (although I *have* eaten at restaurants where they did…breadcrumbs I guess…so maybe it is unusual). Dairy free is a little more challenging but can be done!

These are easy, but so savory!

You need:

~About 15 to 20 large and/or medium mushrooms

~One package (8 oz) of cream cheese or cream cheese substitute (Toffuti, etc.)

~1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese (or sheep or goat cheese…Mizethra is good. If you need to omit the cheese, you might want to add some gluten free sausage or bacon to make up for it. Garnish with parsley flakes instead of cheese.)

~2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (Lea and Perrins is GF)

~Garlic Powder or one clove fresh garlic


You do:

Wash and stem the mushrooms. Let the tops dry while you prepare the filling. Soften the cream cheese in the microwave in a glass bowl. Chop the mushroom stems very finely, and mix them in with the cream cheese. Add one cup of the Parmesan, the garlic powder or crushed garlic clove, and the Worcestershire sauce. Stir until well combined. Place the mushroom caps on a baking dish or sheet, and stuff each cap with the mixture. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese over the mushrooms, and bake at 350 until the filling is brown and bubbly (somewhere around 20 minutes). Enjoy!

If you can’t have dairy and are using the Toffuti and no cheese, you might want to use bacon crumbles (Hormel prepared bacon crumbles is a good GF product) or some cooked, crumbled sausage instead. Just mix the meat in with the cheese and proceed as usual, but sprinkle some parsley flakes on top instead of the cheese. If you can do the diary, you can go ahead and add the meat too if you want! They are very rich with both, but good.