Catching Up

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, so I thought I’d do a brief “catch up” on some of the things I’ve been up to.

Picnic Bread

Baking bread in the bread machine is always fun. Last week, I tried out a lovely recipe for Honey Wheat bread (not pictured), and the loaf turned out so tall and brown, like a masterpiece. Again, I can’t take credit for it…the machine did all the work.

 

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The only way to make homemade bread even better is to eat it with homemade butter…and in the great outdoors. I tried my hand at “churning” butter (i.e. putting cream in a mason jar and shaking the heck out of it). The results were pretty standard. I mean, how fancy can butter get by itself? But eating it with homemade bread on a breakfast picnic was super fun.

 

Bible Cover

A few weeks ago, I noticed my Bible cover was getting a little banged up. So, I decided to turn a piece of patchwork I had done into a “quilted” Bible cover. I used the tutorial written by Amanda at Simply Homemade, highly recommended!

 

Peacock Embroidery In Progress

This peacock is just a random design I found online. I traced it onto my fabric and am doing the outline in a stem stitch with royal blue thread. I’m thinking about adding in the Chinese characters for peacock next to the bird’s head to give it a more sophisticated look. Any thoughts?

 

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And another trip to the library yielded another stack of pretty books. I haven’t been in much of a reading mood for the last week or so, hence the stack of coffee table literature. Pictures are worth 1000 words, they say, so I’ll tell myself I’m “reading” the equivalent of War and Peace. 🙂

Happy Monday!

 

Curb Appeal

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Remember those herbs I planted several weeks ago? They are still alive, amazingly. The basil came up pretty fast. After thinning it out, I ended up with five plants. Four of them went into the bed by the curb, along with some Vinca flowers for decoration. A little bit of curb appeal, and bonus points for edibility (the basil, that is)!

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The thyme has also come up nicely. I’ve wound up with four plants and have gone ahead and transplanted them into a larger pot along with the extra basil seedling.

The parsley is doing pretty well. I might give it a few more days before transplanting. Ditto for oregano.

The rosemary…

I hold onto hope.

I actually thought it wasn’t going to come up at all. All of the other seeds had sprouted very quickly, but the rosemary pot was still just dirt. Then, I went to water them one morning and saw one tender shoot unfolding from the soil.

I didn’t know I could get that excited over a plant. The neighbors must think I’m crazy.

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I am really enjoying the little bit of gardening I have done this year. It’s really satisfying to see the fruits of your labor, literally, growing before your eyes. And, it’s a miracle that these plants have done so well. If they have survived me this far, I think everything is going to be OK.

 

Sparrows

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Last summer, I saw a documentary that detailed the lifestyle of individuals living under the oppression of North Korea’s communist regime. Amidst the information regarding smuggled USB drives, phony department stores, and communist propaganda, one segment of the film really stuck with me. I’ve been thinking about it for almost an entire year.

Watching the film on my computer, I saw the innocent faces of North Korea’s forgotten children. They are alone, dirty, hungry, scared. These are the street children of North Korea.

Many of them have been abandoned. They have no conception of what love really means. And what’s most heartbreaking is that they have no idea that there is Someone who loves them more than they can imagine and who sacrificed Himself to draw them unto Him.

This has really been weighing on my heart the last week or so. North Korea is the most isolated country in the world, and the fact that these children – who are at the bottom of the pecking order of who’s important in NK – are starving physically, emotionally, and spiritually…it’s heartbreaking. And it leads me to ask myself the question:

“What can I do?”

I can’t just hop a flight to Pyongyang and set up an orphanage next to the Juche Tower. So what can I, a gal in the country most hated by North Koreans, do to help these precious children?

I can pray. And that’s what I’ve been doing.

But do you ever get the feeling that sometimes “just praying” isn’t enough?

I was reading Blaine Harden’s book, Escape from Camp 13, this week. The book chronicles the life of Shin, a North Korean man born in a NK gulag. He escaped the camp when he was in his early 20s and defected to South Korea. He now travels in the US and South Korea, giving speeches to raise awareness for what goes on behind the walls of communist North Korea.

In the book, Harden talks about the street children Shin met while running through North Korea towards China. These children, like the ones in the documentary I saw, were starving and struggling to survive. They banded together to find or steal whatever food they could get. Shin says these children are known as “Wandering Sparrows.”

And that’s when it hit me.

God’s eyes are on the Sparrows.

I may not be able to spoon rice and fish onto plates before these kids. I may not be able to hold them in my arms and whisper that everything is going to be OK. I may not be able to wipe away tears or tell them I love them. But I know the One who can.

I know the One who holds each of these “Wandering Sparrows” in the palms of His hands. I know the one who “loves the little children of the world.” I know the One who said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matt. 19:14).

My arms can’t extend across the Pacific. My income can only support so many charities. But my prayers are limitless in their reach. God hears me.

And He hears the Sparrows’ cries.

 

Corn and Potato Chowder – A Recipe

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I like to think that I’m not a procrastinator, but that’s not entirely true. I’m a prioritizer (if that’s even a word). I don’t really procrastinate on the stuff that has to get done right away or that I deem important. But if there’s no deadline or I can’t see the significance of completing the task, I’m likely to put it on the proverbial back burner.

Thus the story of the Corn and Potato Chowder begins.

I bought two 5-pound bags of red potatoes when they were on sale for $0.99 during the winter. And it has taken me forever to use them up. “They’re potatoes,” I told myself. “They stay good for a long time.”

There were seven potatoes still left in the bag yesterday when I got a hold of myself. No more potato procrastination! Time to use those babies up!

On top of the potatoes with the widow’s oil effect, I also have some corn left over from last summer. I bought a bushel from some local farmers and froze it, not realizing that we really don’t eat that much corn on the cob…

So, this dish was my way of “spring cleaning” the seasonal staples that really should have been gone a long time ago. Hope you enjoy!

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Corn and Potato Chowder

Serves 8 with leftovers (This is a HUGE pot of soup, people!)

  • 7 cups of corn stock (See Step 1)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 7 1/2 cups of red potatoes, cubed
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn, cobs reserved
  • 3 cups of skim milk
  • 1 t. of salt (or to taste)
  • 1 1/2 t. dried thyme
  1. Corn stock is a handy little idea I picked up from Sarah Wilson’s cookbook The I Quit Sugar Cookbook. When you remove the corn from your corn cobs, place them in a large stock pot. For every corn cob, add 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon of salt for 7 cups. Simmer for one hour. Discard cobs.
  2. Saute the onion in olive oil. Add to the corn stock.
  3. Add cubed potatoes, corn kernels, salt, thyme, and milk to corn stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20-30 minutes.
  4. Serve garnished with parsley. This chowder is very good with a crusty French bread.

 

 

 

Flash: A Review

In celebration of warmer days, my sister and I exchanged “to-do” lists for this summer. Each of us made a list of 3 books, 5 activities, and 2 recipes we wanted the other the experience.

Now, my sister isn’t much of a bookworm. It took her a while to scratch out the 3 books she wanted me to read. As for me, I had a hard time limiting it to just three…

Anyway, the very first book she came up with for me to enjoy this summer was Flash by Rachel Anne Ridge.

My sister is a horse person. I’m talking full-fledged, eat, sleep, and breathe horse kinda person. So, a book about a donkey is right up her alley. Me? Not so much. I like horses, and all, but ain’t no way Jose that I’ll ever find the scent of horse manure anything less than gross.

But I do have a soft spot for books. So, I can handle a book about a member of the equine family just fine in dandy. No disgusting smells involved.

Turns out Flash was more than what I expected. I finished it in about 3 days, it was so good.

In this memoir of faith, family, and everyday encounters, Rachel Anne Ridge recounts the story of how a stray donkey wandered into her life and turned it upside down. This is no ordinary little beast of burden. No, Flash is his own kind of donkey. This little guy has a big personality and is never afraid to push his limits.

Like the night he broke out of the pasture to have a little romantic rendezvous with the mare next-door.

Or the time he vandalized the practice putting green in the barn and left his signature pile of donkey poo in the middle of the mess. Twice.

Or when he made peace with his lifetime archenemy – the dog – right before the dog died.

Through watching her furry friend take on life in bites sometimes too big to swallow, Rachel learns a few things about herself. She and her husband are struggling to make a go of it in their small mural-painting business, and she is dealing with insecurity. It doesn’t help matters that her neighbor is the model Southern-belle, brie-serving Saint who insists on calling Flash Hay-soos (that’s Jesús).

Flash serves as Rachel’s inspiration, a tool that God uses to show her to let go of her mask of perfection and her burden of insecurities and just take a risk. Her story is one of finding freedom in following the care-free ways of the donkey that was just standing in her driveway one night when she and her husband came home from a hard day of painting murals.

This book had me laughing out loud on several occasions. Rachel’s writing style is so personable, it’s like she’s sitting in your living room telling you her funny stories about her unusual pet. And what’s more, her object lessons are something that anyone can relate to. She encourages readers to “Be trailblazers,” “Run with horses,” and “Find your passion,” all while showing how she herself did it with the help of God and the inspiration of her donkey.

Readers of all ages will enjoy this book. Kids 12 and over should have no problem with the reading-level, and for younger readers, consider checking out Rachel’s new children’s book, Flash the Donkey Makes New Friends, set to release this October.

Flash comes highly recommended, to equine enthusiasts and not-so-horsey-people (like myself) alike!

 

Confessional of a Non-Gardener

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This afternoon, I headed outside wearing a green jacket, a green hairband, one green sock, and a green mindset. The only thing I didn’t bring was a green thumb. Which I don’t have.

Last week, I bought some seed starting soil and a few herb seed packets in preparation for my 2nd annual herb garden. Last year’s garden consisted of (drum-roll, please) one tiny pot of Rosemary that never amounted to more than a sprout and a pot of Sweet Basil that miraculously yielded some edible leaves. This year, I have higher hopes. I’ve done my research, learned some lessons from last year, and set my cap for a more successful year of herb planting.

To get in the gardening mood, I donned the Sunhat I inherited from my mom. Apparently, I can’t pull it off like she did. The dog thought I was a stranger and growled at me. But, I digress…

I had five packages of seeds – Sweet Basil and Rosemary leftover from last year, and Oregano, Flat-Leafed Parsley, and Thyme (the newbies). After scrounging around the garage and storage shed, I produced the materials I needed. Namely, one bag of heavy potting soil, one bag of light seed starter mix, and a conglomeration of pots to plant my little babies in.

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Basil came first. She and I are good friends. I tucked the little seeds into the same pot they occupied last year, covering them up with a blanket of light soil before giving them a good drink of water. Sleep well, little friends, and grow fast!

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Next came Rosemary. I have heard this herb is particularly difficult to grow from seed.

No-duh.

Last year’s Rosemary plant pushed its way bravely through the hardy potting soil (I didn’t realize I was supposed to use seed starter…), grew about 1/2 inch, and stopped. I held on hope that it would grow some more, but after a month with no change, I figured it was probably dead.

I was right.

So, Rosemary, here’s hoping you can buckle down and really come through for me this year.

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Next came the Flat-Leaf Parsley. I read in a book I bought a couple of weeks ago that Parlsey takes a long time to germinate. The book (and the back of the seed packet) recommended soaking the seeds overnight to speed the germination process. I sprinkled my pre-soaked seeds into their little peat cup filled with tender soil and covered them over, too. I’m hoping they’ll be able to grace some summer salad for family reunions that always seem to come around in September.

 

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Thyme and Oregano went into their pots in much the same way that their other herb companions did. I was surprised by how tiny the seeds were! Such microscopic little seeds!

I was feeling quite proud of myself, with all my little plant-babies all tucked away and ready to grow. Unfortunately, I ran into a couple of bumps in the road… Parsley mysteriously fell over, spilling the top layer of soil in large, compact clumps onto the ground. I gently scooped it back into the peat pot, hoping that the seeds hadn’t been disturbed. And since misery loves company, Thyme decided to follow Parsley’s example after the dog got a little too excited around my gardening station. Again, I scooped the soil and seeds back into the peat pot. Lord willing, they’ll still grow!

 

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The 2nd Annual Herb Garden: Day 1 (Basil not pictured)

As you may have already deduced, when it comes to gardening, I’m like Darla from Finding Nemo. Darla loves fish, but she just…doesn’t know when she’s loving them a little too hard. She doesn’t really know how to handle the fish, as you well know if you’ve ever seen the movie. I feel like my plants may be conspiring against me, just like Nemo’s tank mates do against the dentist’s niece. Hopefully, these little seeds can put up with me as I learn how to care for them properly.

Bless their little plant hearts.