Here.

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When I last wrote we were in the midst of some great transition.  We had placed our home on the market.  Chris was no longer planting a church.  We were simplifying.  I was about 27 weeks pregnant…  There was much more, but you get the jist.

We were absolutely lost and confused, unsure where we were or what trailhead we ought to take.  We were praying daily, laughing, crying (well, I was crying…), sending out resumes, trusting God to pay bills, wondering where we would end up.

Well, that was then and this is now.  And two months ago I never thought I would be here.  For that matter, I wouldn’t have believed you if you had told me three weeks ago that we would be here.

2013 September-14

“Here” is testimony to the grace and providence of God in our family and lives.

It is a home that sold in 32 days.  It is a Senior Pastor position in Cedarville, Illinois.  It is a unanimous church vote to affirm Chris’ position.  It is a parsonage that was provided for us to call home.  It is a midwife and hospital that accept our insurance.  It is a body of believers who have loved on our family in ways we never imagined.  It is deep sadness as we have left our beautiful, amazing family and the dearest friends we possess.  It is the answer to prayer for a job by October (be careful how you pray – God is faithful!).  It is, to-date, the absolute craziest two weeks of my life.

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Today I am in Cedarville, in our new home.  Chris is traveling back to Spokane to load our belongings in a moving truck tomorrow and driving straight back out.  Noah will fly into Chicago with my mom this Friday, when we will have a sweet reunion.  I have a week of hugs and kisses stored up for him!

These are exciting, overwhelming, wonderful, exhausting times.  Once again, we are immensely grateful for the providence and grace of our awesome Savior.

I look forward to posting pictures and updates from our new life in the coming weeks.  Thank you to everyone who has covered our family with prayers.  We love you all!

 

The Listing

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For many years I have created lists of New Year’s Resolutions.  The goals varied from the fairly typical, such as eat healthier or maintain a consistent Bible study, to some that perhaps not many people would venture to accomplish, like completing a marathon (oh yes, I am that crazy person.  I enjoy it too…).

As the New Year came in 2013, our little family was busy visiting Chris’ family in Virginia.  While I had ideas rolling around in my mind regarding what I could strive to attain in the coming year, nothing actually was put down on paper.  Almost like a free ride.

There was one singular goal, however, that stuck with me.  Chris and I talked it over and decided that as a family we would try to accomplish one thing.

Simplify.

We both genuinely desired this for our family in so many ways.  We wanted to let go of material possessions that really weren’t needed.  We wanted to clear our schedules of all of the “extras” that take time away from meaningful relationships.  We wanted to get back to the basics and lead our family in an atmosphere free of distraction and clutter.  To focus on Biblical principles and application personally, as well as a family.  To even free our diets of much of the “clutter” of junk and processing

We made strides.  In all of it, though, I was shy to share our goals publicly.  I knew that once we voiced our hopes we would have to truly commit in ways that were challenging for all we desired of a simple life.

We began to de-clutter little by little.  After much research, trial and error, we truly have a healthier means of eating in our home.  But much else was left untouched in hearts that were struggling to release our own preoccupations and selfishness.  So in the meantime I have spent time thinking hard and praying about how to let go of so much that clamored for our attention without much action.

Well, friends, as the saying goes: Be careful what you wish for!

Eight months later and the Lord is giving us the biggest adventure and opportunity of a lifetime (so far) to downsize and simplify.  Due to recent events we are obligated to let go of much that we have held tightly in recent months and years.

Some of this is painful.  For me, the most difficult is certainly putting our home up for sale.  Our lovely place of belonging, comfort and family.  Where we have poured our hearts for the last three years.  A place I love deeply.  The home in which we have established our family.  Where we brought our first child home and hoped to bring our future children to grow and thrive.  My heart breaks a little.

Then I am reminded that the roof under which we gather and rest our heads does not define our home.  Home is established in the love and fellowship of our family and friends.  I believe we can have the same beautiful community in a tiny apartment as we have experienced in our treasured house.  Perhaps more so.  We will soon find out!

There are other belongings we will be releasing soon.  Some of them are almost comical to ponder.  Such as the couch we bought earlier this year.  It was the first time Chris and I had purchased a couch together rather than receiving a hand-me-down.  It brought us such excitement and pride.  But as we discussed moving into an apartment we realized that it was completely impractical to bring our nice, new couch when the old one with the unattractive pattern that sits hidden downstairs in the basement has a hide-a-bed. So while we have anticipated the day when we could let go of that baby, here it comes with us.  And the new couch will be sold in a garage sale…

As Chris often says, we need to hold onto everything with open hands.  That way, if and when the Lord requests us to lay it down it won’t be like prying it from our grip.  Rather, we can give it up as a pleasant offering.

The more we contemplate this era of our lives, the more we are convinced of how wonderful it can be.  Already we are immensely thankful because for the first time in our marriage there aren’t multiple jobs clamoring for our attention to make ends meet.  There is freedom in letting go.  Our family time is sweeter and our faith is growing.  The special “treats” we enjoy are delectable because they are more rare.  We are being refined in our perspective of necessity and desire.  So while I am certain that we will struggle as we pursue this new course of life, I am more certain that we will find solace in the providence of our Savior.  The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.

As a side note, if any of you happen to know a family who is looking for a home in the North Spokane area, please have them take a look at ours!  We absolutely LOVE our neighborhood.  This is possibly the most difficult part of moving because we have such amazing neighbors.  Seriously.  Our hope and prayer is that the family who moves into our home will love it the way we have and truly bless the community with their presence, as we are certain the community will bless them.  Please be praying with us that our home sells quickly!  Here is the listing if you happen to know of anyone:  http://www.mlsfinder.com/wa_sar/kw_179/index.cfm?action=listing_detail&property_id=201322475&searchkey=75de57b5-ba1d-717c-0831-8b476aae0908

‘Tis So Sweet

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’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

Life is much like a mountain.

It is majestic. 

I think of my favorite mountain.  It is Mt. Rainier, as it should be for any girl from the Northwest.  Viewing it from the West side of Washington is breathtaking, if not rare considering the clouds that often crowd the skies.  But when the clouds clear you are brought face-to-face with the glory and majesty of such beauty that there is no other choice but to take a moment of silence and soak it up.  There is no other choice beyond that than to simply worship the Creator of such astounding art.

When we dare to tarry onto the mountain we are drawn closer to the beauty and fear that are contained in such a place.  For the glory of every flower, waterfall, tree and trail there is also a dangerous pass, animal, crevice or force of water.  We understand the danger and treat it with holy fear and awe.  We also understand that the mountain holds untold wonders, promise, places of unknown and adventure.  So we venture out to explore and live!

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

As I have pondered our personal experiences and life lately I have noticed that it is very much like time in the mountains.  There are cleared trails to follow or trecks to be explored off the beaten path.  Either way, however, there is no promise of what will be experienced or found.  And while it may cause us to tremble, even in the depths of the darkness and unknown we find beauty.

Chris and I have come upon a completely new stage and place of life over the course of the past couple months.  We thought we knew just what was ahead.  We were wrong.  Totally and completely wrong.

In a very short synopsis, about a year ago we made plans to help plant a church locally in Spokane.  We gave a year notice to our church at that time that we would be leaving to launch our new church with Chris as a lead co-pastor this September (2013).  Chris tirelessly planned and invested in the blueprints for what we believed to be our upcoming place of home in ministry.  We knew things may be tight and that there would be unforeseen events that would occur as we launched, but we were excited for the opportunity to serve as long as the Lord made clear.

We had no idea how close our time was to drawing to a close.  Recently it became clear that due to circumstances and philosophy of ministry we needed to step away prior to the launch next month.  We found an impasse where we thought there would be a bridge.  So at this moment of life we find ourselves without a church home, a place to minister directly in a local body and without a pastoral position for my sweet husband.

Oh, how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood;
And in simple faith to plunge me
’Neath the healing, cleansing flood!

So we are “here” now.  Though we’re not completely sure where here is.  We do know that in this time we need to set up camp for a while, gather our wits and go back to the map and our Guide to figure it all out.  We are praying constantly, asking the Lord to make clear what we are supposed to do.  Chris is continually applying to churches nationally.  Our utmost desire is to courageously follow the Lord wherever He may lead.

This has been a time of turmoil for me personally.  Between concern with where we will go from here, if we will be called away from “home” in Spokane, where we will live in the meantime, how we will provide necessities for our family, what our ministry is supposed to look like, the capacity in which the Lord desires to serve at this time and so much more, I have found myself overwhelmed with worry.  Oh, and let us not forget the pregnancy hormones.  I’m fairly certain that anything that seems hard in typical life is viewed as the end of the world when pregnant in the third trimester with a toddler who suddenly thinks bedtime and sleep are optional.

In this, however, we have been given such grace.  Already we have seen the Lord provide in ways that are absolute astonishing.  We are affirmed that as God cares for the sparrows and lilies of the field, He cares for us much more.  I am reminded that in life we must always be willing to listen to the Spirit. To trust God for our provision.  To live for His glory.  To lay down self and our personal concerns.  To commit ourselves and family fully to the will of the Lord.  He is the Author of Life, the Sculptor of the mountain.

Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace.

More than anything, Chris and I are reminded that God is good.  In this time of wandering we are given the lovely and amazing opportunity to trust Him in His goodness.   To wait on the Lord for His time and place, whatever and wherever that may be.  We have a new opportunity to rest in His grace and build the testimony of Who He is in our lives.

I have been soaking my heart in the book of Philippians.  I am encouraged because I desire so much for our family to truly mimic the heart of Christ and the New Testament church.  Paul writes profusely regarding how many live for their personal interests, not the interests of God.  He spurs us on to rejoice in all circumstances and live a life worthy of the calling we have been given as believers.  This is my prayer.  My hope.  This is the legacy I desire to leave for my children.

I want to live in such a way that in the unexpected and pruning times of life I am found worthy of the call.  I want to follow Jesus, my Guide.  I desire to live with awe at the beauty of what He gives at all times.  That the majesty, reverence and glory of this mountain of life may to cause me to worship.

I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.

Fabulous Gluten-Free Pancake Recipe… Perfect to Dress Up for the Fourth!

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I can’t wait for tomorrow morning!  I love the Fourth of July!  Chris will spend most of the day out at a fireworks stand, raising money for Journey (plug here!  If you live in Idaho, there are three booths in the Hayden area where you can purchase fireworks and our church will get a bit of the profit!).  The three of us, however, will have our breakfast together.  I plan to have red pancakes with blueberries and fresh strawberry syrup.  And white milk, of course.  Yum!

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We usually have pancakes once or twice a week, but for the past while we have missed our pancakes mornings, for one reason or another.  Pancakes are by far one of Noah’s favorite foods.  He calls them “keeps” and gets super excited anytime he sees anything resembling one.  Then he starts frantically calling out for them.  I know he will absolutely love them in their festive dress.

Pancakes are simply a breakfast staple.  No person should go through a childhood without the satisfying taste of a warm, hardy pancakes covered in syrup, jam or applesauce.  No person should go through adulthood without them, for that matter.  A truly good pancake is great without the extras.

Let’s be honest, pancakes are truly a perfect family breakfast food.  You can color them to match a special holiday, fill them with goodies such as blueberries or chocolate chips, and shape them like Mickey Mouse for the kiddos.

Since going gluten-free I have tried quite a few pancake variations.  We’ve had a few pretty terrible recipes as well as some good ones.  After much trial and error, I finally feel like I’ve nailed down a delicious pancake.  My recipe is based on the gluten-filled one provided in “Joy of Cooking” – my absolute favorite go-to cookbook.  All it needed was a bit of tweaking and we have a perfect fluffy and filling pancake.  An absolutely satisfying breakfast treat.

Last weekend Chris and I enjoyed an anniversary breakfast at a local breakfast establishment (with delish food) and Chris told me that my pancakes are much better than the gluten-free ones he had there.  Talk about a huge boost to my self-esteem!

So just in case you would like to make a festive pancake breakfast for your family too, here is our staple recipe.

 

Fabulous Gluten-Free Pancakes

Combine in a large bowl:

  • ½ C. brown rice flour
  • ¼ C. white rice flour
  • ¼ C. millet or sorghum flour
  • ¼ C. tapioca or potato starch (tapioca flour is the same thing as tapioca starch)
  • ¼ C. ground flax seed
  • 3 TBSP organic sugar, sucanat or liquid sweetener, such as honey or pure maple syrup (add to the liquids if you use a liquid sweetener)
  • 1 ¾ TBSP baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp xanthan gum

Combine in a separate bowl:

  • 1 ¼ C. organic milk
  • 2 fresh eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and mix together (it’s okay if the batter is a bit clumpy).

Melt 3 TBSP organic butter or coconut oil and add to the batter, mixing thoroughly.

Your batter should be a perfect consistency.  You can add some milk or rice flour to adjust, if needed.

Cook the pancakes just as you would any typical recipe.  Enjoy with your family!

Eating on a Budget – The Simplicity of a Menu

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This last year has been a time of great change in our family lifestyle – at least as far as eating goes.  In July we found out that Chris likely had Celiac Disease and in August we fully removed gluten from our diet for a trial run to see if it would actually make a difference.  Within three weeks the results were absolutely life changing and we committed to a gluten-free lifestyle at home.  We’ll never go back.

Since then I have become more aware of whole-food (or clean) eating and we have slowly worked our way there.  It’s been a fairly simple transition, considering that gluten is in almost everything that is processed.  We have had to work hard to get where we are at and we certainly are not completely there.

I am fully convinced that (nutritionally) the best thing I can do for my family is provide an organic (non-GMO), gluten-free, whole food diet.

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For those of us who desire to tarry down this road there are two major roadblocks: Time and money.

Preparing whole foods can take much of the precious time that we would rather use in other areas, such as with our children, accomplishing tasks or even resting.  There is something to say about the simplicity of pancake mix and canned cream soups.

Then there is the financial obligation.  We have had to increase our food budget over the past year to accommodate our changes.  Let me tell you, gluten-free flours and foods are spendy!  And I’m bound and determined to ENJOY our food, not just get by with it.  So we have to get creative sometimes.

Aside from some small indulgences, such as tortilla chips, we are exempt from processed foods – and we try to keep processed foods to five ingredients or less.  Organic is another story.  Our greatest desire is to maintain an organic lifestyle, however each time I try to attempt it we don’t have enough food after all of the money is spent.  It’s easy to feel defeated and frustrated.  I’ve decided a different approach, though.  I have decided that we will attempt to eat as organic and local as possible, within our budget, where it is feasible.  Beyond that I will simply be THANKFUL that the Lord has given us the means to purchase food for my family.  I would much rather carry an attitude of gratitude than to sulk over what I think I do not have.  There is much more peace and thankfulness when I choose this outlook.

I still have found, however, that I can easily waste food.  Oftentimes I lose my vegetables because I pick ones that I think we’ll likely use rather than being sure we can utilize them in the two weeks between paychecks.  Or I buy four cans of corn and discover that I should have used the extra $1.50 to put toward canned olives.  You know the story – I’m sure the plague follows us all.  We finish the two weeks left with choices of strange concoctions, such as eggs, cheese, salmon, butter, broccoli, and sunflower seeds.  Sometimes you can come up with a wonderful new dish that becomes a staple and other times you find yourself praying that the meals pass quickly until payday arrives (I remember a particularly terrible meal early in our marriage that I created where I couldn’t stomach more than three bites when I got a call inviting us over for dinner.  God IS gracious).

Well, I have pondered all of this and have successfully entered a new phase of life – Menu Planning.  I have put it off for months, okay years, and finally broke down last month when I realized I needed to be more proactive with our budget.  We assign $350 each month to our grocery budget ($175 every two weeks).  I would love to get good enough with our menu to subtract some money from this amount, but for right now I found this to be a very workable budget with our dietary needs (no gluten).  I am playing with a few ideas to cut our budget, such as going meatless for one or two meals each week.  I think we can make this work!  If you are not gluten-free, I am sure that for a family of three or four you could easily feed on less… by at least fifty dollars.

I create our menu for every meal about a month in advance and purchase our food according to our needs, not what I think I may want to make over the next few days.  I’m still honing it all, but it’s wonderful to know that I can provide healthy, satisfying meals for my family, along with some diversity.  AND, what’s even better is waking up in the morning and not having to struggle with the age-old question, “What in the world am I going to make today?…”  I simply look at my handy-dandy menu and do what it says.  I am not, however, completely legalistic.  If one day I can’t manage to get the time to create a more time-consuming meal I can simply exchange it with another one later in the week.  We have the groceries for both.  I try not to do this except when I really feel it’s important because I create the menus with a plan.

All of this to say, I am very happy with the outcome and thought I would share my menu with you for the next month.  We’re halfway through the first week, but hopefully just seeing it will help encourage and inspire you to get creative, budget-friendly juices running.

Before I actually share the menu, I thought I would let you in on the “rules” with which I write my menu.  These are my lifesavers:

  • Everything is gluten-free
  • If you can make it from scratch, do so
  • We don’t do low-fat, fat-free, or items which alter the good nutrition that God created for our bodies to use as energy (this allows you to actually get full and avoid overeating.  Foods that have been altered mess with the way your body works and you end up eating more in the end.  (There are great articles on this at www.weedemandreap.com – love this blog!)
  • Plan according to the weather.  If it’s summer and hot, I will try to stick to as little baking as possible.  More grilling.  As winter comes, I foresee more casseroles in our dinners.
  • Eat according to the season.  Fresh, local produce is fabulous.  Especially if you happen to live in Spokane, Greenbluff is only a drive away.  Many farms (High Country Orchard is one of my favorites) carry extra veggies and fruits during the summer from local Washington farms that you may not be able to u-pick.  Better yet, grow it yourself and it’s even more cost-effective.  I’m looking forward to trying some squash/gourd-based meals this fall.  I recently found a great one for gnocchi that I can’t wait to try.
  • Use leftovers for lunch.  Simple as that.
  • You don’t have to have a full spread to have a satisfied body.  It’s okay to eat cheese, nuts and fruit for a meal.  I promise you’ll live.
  • We eat a lot of popcorn, as you will see.  I pop it fresh on the stove and store it in gallon-size baggies for snacks and dessert.  We don’t “dress it up” either.  Naked fresh popcorn is delicious!  No sodium (important to me while prego), only 20 calories per cup, and unprocessed.  Plus, it’s a whole grain.  Oh, and did I mention it’s super cheap?  A $2 bag lasts us two weeks.  Five stars!
  • Make a big meal ahead of time (usually on Sundays) to use throughout the week.  I will make a ham or turkey (we did a turkey two weeks ago) and freeze the meat to use throughout the week or month for meals.  Meal prep becomes much simpler this way.  Also, the special big meal makes it fun for family to enjoy together.
  • Never underestimate the potential of a full cut of meat.  Such as a whole turkey, chicken or ham.  Once you pull the meat off of that baby you can make stock.  I use chicken broth a ton for making creams and such and almost never purchase it anymore.  (I got seven quart-sized bags of turkey broth from the turkey – after using a bunch of it for a huge pot of it for turkey enchilada soup).  When we have bones, we make broth.
  • If there’s a busy day, plan for it.  We eat cereal on Thursday mornings because my mom keeps Noah for me on these days and I don’t want to worry about dishes.  Grilled pizza on Friday nights to celebrate the weekend (I’ll share the recipe later – you literally grill it outside for five minutes.  My favorite way to eat pizza).
  • Snack whole.  Fresh fruits and veggies are satisfying.  Nuts, seeds and raisins (which don’t have sugar or preservatives added like most other dried fruits) make great trail mix.  Add popcorn (see, there it is again), homemade granola, or other yummies to add variety.  Homemade popsicles made with fresh fruit, yogurt, and juices are delicious.  You get the idea.

That’s the main gist of it all.  I hope this is helpful for you.  If you want a recipe, let me know!  I’ll post it.  I don’t make anything I don’t love to eat, so it’s all good.

I am thankful for the opportunity to share this with you.  I have found myself more able to enjoy my family, stay within our budget, and having a more grateful heart to God for what He gives us through this process.  I hope you find the same.

6/23/13

Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Breakfast

PB Toast, Fruit, Milk

Yogurt, Granola, Strawberries

LO Sour Cream Choc. Muffins, Fruit

Eggs, fruit, LO Muffins

Cereal

Eggs, Turkey Bacon, Fruit

Pancakes

Lunch

Cheese, Apples, Nuts

Leftover Roast

Leftover Chicken

Fruit, Nuts, Raisins

Cheese, Fruit, Nuts

Leftover Beef Bulgogi

Leftover Grilled Pizza

Dinner

Roast Beef, Mashed  Potatoes, Salad, Sour Cream and Chive Rolls

Rotisserie Chicken, Green Beans, LO Mashed Potatoes

Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches, Sweet Potato Fries

Beef Bulgogi, Rice, Lettuce

Salmon Patties, Quinoa, Green Beans

Grilled Pizza, Fruit

BBQ Chicken

Snacks

Raisins, Cheese Slices, Veggies and Dip, Popcorn, Nuts, Chex Cereal

Desserts

Stovetop-Popped Popcorn, Organic Ice Cream

6/30/13

Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Breakfast

Sour Cream and Berry Muffins

Eggs, Turkey Bacon, Fruit

Yogurt, Granola, Fruit

Pancakes, Fruit (4th of July Theme)

Cereal

Eggs and Potatoes, Fruit

PB Toast, Fruit, Milk

Lunch

Cheese, Apples, Nuts

LO Pulled Pork

LO Taco Salad

LO Tostadas

LO Pasta Salad

LO Stuffed Bell Peppers

LO Grilled Pizza

Dinner

Pulled Pork, Buns, Salad

Taco Salad

Chicken Tostadas, Sweet Potato Fries

Pasta Salad

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Grilled Pizza, Fruit

Hamburgers, Sweet Potato Fries

Snacks

Raisins, Veggies and Dip, Popcorn, HM Applesauce, Chex Cereal, Nuts, HM Fruit Popcicles

Desserts

Stovetop-Popped Popcorn, Dipped Strawberries OR Strawberr-Meringue Shortcakes (TOH June/July) (for the 4th), HM Applesauce

7/7/13

Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Breakfast

HM GF Donuts, Fruit

Eggs, Fruit

LO Donuts, Fruit

Yogurt, Granola, Fruit

Cereal

Pancakes, Fruit

Banana Bread

Lunch

Fruit, Nuts

LO Salmon

LO Grilled Veggie Salad

LO Sesame Salad

Ham and Cheese slices, Fruit

LO Peppers

LO Pizza

Dinner

Fresh, Wild Salmon, Corn, Rice

Grilled Vegetable Quinoa Salad (TOH April/May)

Sesame Noodle Salad (TOH June/July)

BBQ Chicken, Fruit, Corn

Chicken Salad Stuffed Peppers (w/ LO Grilled Chx) (TOH June/July)

Grilled Pizza, Fruit

Nachos (Tortilla Chips, Meat, Sour Cream, Cheese, Avocado, etc)

Snacks

HM Applesauce, Raisins, Veggies and Dip, Nuts, Popcorn, HM GF Graham Crackers

Desserts

Stovetop-Popped Popcorn, Lemon Bars OR Lemon-Berry Ice Cream Pie (w/ Organic Ice Cream and HM Graham Crackers) (TOH June/July)

7/14/13

Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Breakfast

Quiche

Yogurt, Granola, Fruit

LO Banana Bread

LO Quiche

Cereal

Pancakes and Grapes

Oatmeal

Lunch

Fruit, Nuts

LO Ribs

LO Mac and Cheese

LO Ribs

LO Spaghetti

LO Sandwiches

LO Pizza

Dinner

Ribs, Coleslaw, Fruit

GF Mac and Cheese, Grilled Veggies

BBQ Chicken, Salad, Fruit

Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti

Tuna Salad Sandwiches

Grilled Pizza, Fruit, Grilled Veggies

Steaks, Sweet Potato Fries, Grilled Veggies

Snacks

Raisins, Veggies and Dip, Fresh-picked Cherries and Raspberries

Desserts

Stovetop-Popped Popcorn, Cherry Pie, Raspberry Sorbet (TOH June/July)

Our Little “Miss”

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Monday we found out.  We were delighted to have the beautiful revelation that come this November we will welcome a little girl into our home.  A “miss.”  A bundle of bows, buttons, ribbons, and pink.

We weren’t even scheduled for an ultrasound yet, but I had decided that I wanted to check and see if maybe, perhaps, they had something available.  I was doubtful since we were a three p.m. appointment and I’m sure any ultrasound tech would be chomping to get out the door on a gorgeous, June, Monday afternoon if they could.

Our nurse walked Chris and myself back to our “usual” room and asked about the ultrasound.  Chris quickly piped up that we would love to squeeze into their schedule.  Bev, the fabulous nurse she is, sat us down and went away to see if she could get us a last-minute appointment.  She came back and let us know that unfortunately there were absolutely no openings.  They were packed.  In my mind I was disappointed, but I also happened to have worked in a dental office and know how quickly a schedule can change with fickle patients.  To our delight, not even five minutes later Bev came right back in and let us know that a no-show appointment was available that moment!

We walked into the ultrasound room, sat in our respective chairs (or laid…) and took a peak at the miracle growing in my belly.  Chris and I each held our breath as the tech took a look to see what she could see.  And there she was.  She.  Only one letter off, however completely and totally different than he.
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I glanced over to see Chris’ reaction and I do not lie… he was shocked.  Like shell-shocked.  I think he may have said, “Wow.”  This man who hoped for a rowdy house full of boys is getting a sweet little daughter.  After the appointment we went to the store to pick out our sweetie’s first outfit.  Initially we got a couple pairs of sandals and a baseball hat for Noah and then went to search for the most adorable little girl outfit we could find.  And Chris stopped.  Right at the line between the boy’s and girl’s section he froze, like he wasn’t sure about crossing the line and entering this new frilly time of our life.  With a little laughter and teasing he came over, and suddenly he was pointing out pink pajamas and floral dresses.

That night it settled in Chris’ heart.  Let me tell you, it is darling to see how excited he is getting over our girl.  He’s bursting.  I’m sure he’ll be wrapped around her tiniest pinky by day two!  I think he already is.

Noah has quickly picked up the word “sister” and even went into our shopping bag, pulled out a piece of clothing and declared, “Dress!”  We didn’t even know he knew that word (he amazes me).  I can’t wait to officially introduce him to her and watch them grow into a new friendship.  My heart overflows just thinking about it.

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Our little girl will be named Alina Melody Pope.  We love the name Alina and it’s meaning is much of what we desire for our daughter: Noble, kind, beautiful, bright.  Melody, of course, is after my beautiful, amazing mother.  Her character is all I hope and pray that my daughter will become (what I hope to become!).  I would love our Alina to follow in the faith legacy that my mother has given to our family.  It is an honor to name her after such a simply fabulous woman.  This is only one way that I have the privilege to rise and call my mom blessed.  I cannot wait to hold my dear, sweet Alina Melody and introduce her to her namesake!

It amazes me constantly to reflect on where we are and the road the Lord has led us on to be “here.”  To think that by the grace of God a love and friendship with my husband has allowed us to experience so much fullness in our life and family.  We have an adorable, silly, sweet son who daily fills our home with endless energy and joy.  A daughter we wait to meet, excitedly anticipating her arrival in our family.  A baby we will only meet heaven-side, who has deepened our love and dedication to the Lord, our family, and each other in ways no words can possibly express.  We have each other, to laugh with, embrace, bury tears in shoulders, and grow further as one together.  We have the Lord, in all His omniscience, grace and mercy, Who pursues us, directs us and abides as the glue of our family.

We are full of contentment.  We are more than blessed.  We are consumed with the goodness of a God Who deeply satisfies.

Delicious, Indulgent Banana Bread! Gluten-Free and Organic!

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There are moments in time when you get something in your mind and simply can’t let go.  It comes back over and over again, like neighbor kids who want you to come out and play.  But you’re not sure you can.  For me, in this case, it was particularly because my friendly visitor was banana bread and, well, we have a gluten-free home.

See, I do still make breads, desserts, and treats.  Lately I feel like I’m getting a great handle on GF baking, even a little gourmet you might say.  At least I do.  But when it comes to most-loved indulgences like savory, moist banana bread, I become gun-shy.  So many times when I try to convert a recipe from glutenous to gluten-free it takes at least a few tries to actually get it right, which I wasn’t sure I had the patience to endure.  Because I wanted to have my banana bread and guiltlessly, deliciously indulge in it too the very moment the loaf came out of the oven.  Last night I gave into my daydreaming and decided to take the plunge…

Voila!  Absolutely delicious banana bread!  Better yet, I feel even more guilt-free eating it because it was gluten-free and organic!  I had two thick pieces by myself last night after it had cooled.  Then another this morning for breakfast with the family.  Oh, and another with my mom when she stopped by this afternoon.  Indulgent eating always feels justified when you do it socially.

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The following recipe was given to me by my mom when I moved out of my parent’s home and off to college.  I’ve tweaked it now to meet our dietary wishes, but the bones of the recipe remain.  This recipe is super-moist, very much like zucchini or pumpkin bread.  I can’t guarantee that your recipe will turn out exactly the same if you happen to swap out any of the sweetener or flours, however if you’re familiar with gluten-free flour and feel confident in switching starches and the weight of various flours, then I say go for it!  I’m fairly certain the bread won’t be as moist if you use a granular sugar instead of a liquid one, so if you don’t have agave nectar on hand it would probably be wise to use honey (or maybe pure maple syrup – but be careful because syrup is sweeter!).  Also, you can assume that everything used in this recipe was organic in our home.  I know what tastes I enjoy in my baking now, so this recipe is based on our family’s personal preference.

For those who eat regular flour, you can simply use 1 ¾ C. All Purpose or Whole Wheat Flour in lieu of all of the ones I have listed.  However, you may want to leave some oatmeal and flax in your recipe for depth of flavor.  Also, leave out the xanthan gum or you’ll end up with a super chewy bread.  Not in a good way.

So, finally, here is my new favorite recipe!
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Best Ever Banana Bread  (Originally from the kitchen of Melody Slachter, converted and tweaked by me)

  • ½ C. oatmeal
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tbsp. sweetener of choice
  • 1-2 tsp. cinnamon

In a small bowl, combine all above ingredients and set aside.  This is optional, but who doesn’t love a sweet topping on banana bread!

  • ½ C. brown rice flour
  • ¼ C. ground flax seeds
  • ¼ C. garbanzo/fava flour (don’t leave this out!  Garbanzo/fava flour tastes terrible when a recipe is in dough form, however it is one of the best flours to use in baked goods, for the consistency of the bread, and you won’t even taste it in the final product)
  • ¼ C. sorghum flour
  • ¼ C. tapioca starch
  • ¼ C. arrowroot starch
  • ¼ C. old-fashioned oats
  • 1 ½ tsp. xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1-2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 C. mashed ripe bananas (2-3 medium.  I used three)
  • ¾ C. agave nectar (honey or granular sugar would work too)
  • ½ C. extra virgin olive or coconut oil (melt the coconut oil prior to using)
  • ¼ C. PLUS 1 tbsp. buttermilk (you can add 1 tsp lemon juice to the milk to substitute for buttermilk.  This is what I always do – put it together before you start the recipe so it can sit for at least five minutes and curdle)
  • 1 ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract

In a large bowl, stir together flours, starches, flax, xanthan gum, oatmeal, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  In another bowl, combine eggs, bananas, oil, buttermilk and vanilla.  Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture, stirring with a rubber spatula until moistened.  Pour into a 9x5x3 loaf pan, greased with coconut oil.  Sprinkle the top of the loaf with the oatmeal mixture you put together earlier.  Bake @ 325* for 1 hour 20 minutes, or until bread tests done.  Cool for 10 minutes in the pan prior to removing and indulging.