Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cinnamon Bunny Rolls

Using the pre-made cinnamon rolls (really easy!), unroll a couple of the rolls, place them as bunny ears. Add raisins or chocolate chips for eyes and nose, sliced almonds for the teeth. Cute! We have family visiting this week - our grandaughter helped make these faces.

Our son calls them Cinnabunnies.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Joy and Drudgery

"I saw this principle in operation when I visited the Dohnavur Fellowship in India. There, day after day, year in and year out, Indian women (mostly single) care for little children, handicapped children, infirm adults, old folks. They don't go anywhere. They have none of our usual forms of amusement and diversion. They work with extremely primitive equipment - there is no running water, for example, no stoves but wood burning ones, no washing machines. In one of the buildings I saw this text: "There they dwelt with the King for His work." That's the secret. They do it for Him. They ask for and receive His grace to do it. I saw the joy in their lovely faces."

-Elisabeth Elliot
Keep a Quiet Heart, page 225-226
The reference quoted is 1 Chronicles 4:23

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Easy Oven Cleaner

This formula is my go-to for keeping the oven presentable. Spills happen. Life is messy. But you already know that.

Easy Oven Cleaner
3/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup water
Mix to make a paste. Smear on the messy spots in the oven. Let sit a few hours, or best, overnight. Wipe clean.

I am attempting to switch away from all the heavy chemical laden cleaners. At one rental we had a double oven. The bottom oven looked like someone had melted half a gallon of chocolate marble ice cream in it. Shudder. I didn't even open the bottom oven for months. We were having a crowd over, though, and I needed both ovens. For that, I bought a spray can of "unscented, odorless" cleaner. It wasn't. But it did the nasty job. Cleaning someone else's mess is different than cleaning your own. Do you feel that way? Our own dirt and mess we can tolerate. Someone else's dirt, though, is - well - disgusting! Anyway, that oven cleaned up fine and was sparkly once all the ice cream - or whatever it was - was gone.

This formula is easy to mix with stuff you already have in the cupboards, easy to spread, and it is easy to go do something else for a few hours while it does its job in the oven, soaking up the goo on the bottom of the oven. If you need to spread it on the sides of the oven, thin it with a little bit more water.

Wipe clean - not perfect, but a clean oven makes me feel like a good housekeeper. And that is a good thing. Perhaps I should mention that this works best if done routinely, as spills happen. Not waiting months until the baked on mess has solidified enough to be carbon dated. But you already know that.

Oh, and I should mention, this formula is from Martha Stewart. Guess I should mention, too, that no reference to a certain product name is intended.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Lessons From the Garden

Saturday, our daughter and I attended a Western Landscape Symposium. Partly because we are new to this area, this unique climate, and mostly because we love plants and gardening, we looked forward to a full day of learning and listening to experienced gardeners who love what we love. She signed up for a plot in a community garden which she can start working in next month. I have a raised bed with chard, beets and spinach held over through the winter, and in a couple weeks can start some of the cool season crops.

We were surprised by how much the speakers love what they do. Their delight and enthusiasm was contagious, whether they were talking about soil or bugs or landscaping or vegetables.

The gal who talked about knowing the condition of our soil is a thirty year veteran of soil study and soil love. (I have some sons I thought might make a career out of dirt, the way they reveled in it when they were younger.) This gal thrilled to talk about and share her knowledge. Obviously, what she shared with us was just the tip of the iceberg of all she knew: chemical properties, the living, breathing processes going on in our soil, [a new term I learned: aggregation, the microbial exudates (micro-poo) that aggregates in our soil, increasing the porosity, aeration and drainage in our soil - love that thought, micro-poo from all the critters in the soil], and that some factors of our soil cannot be changed. Some things we just have to accept and work with. For example, here in the west, our soils have lime. In the east, gardeners add lime. She suggested a test. Put some soil from the yard in a container and sprinkle vinegar on it. If there is lime, it will foam up, like when you mix baking soda and vinegar. We tried it when we got home, and sure enough, the dirt fizzled and sizzled. The presence of lime means certain plants will not do well. Don't expect to grow eastern plants in western soil. Accept that, and plant what thrives here.

Lesson:  What do I love to study and talk about?            
             What conditions do I need to accept and work with, not against?
             How about you, how would you answer these questions?

The bug talk was my favorite. A huge surprise because I am a gardener squeamish around bugs and crawly things. Ugh. This man, an entemologist walked onto the stage wearing red converse. We knew right away he would not be boring. Understanding that the larvae and the different stages of an insect's life each require a different type of food, shelter and needs was fascinating. He actually plants certain types of flowers and plants to attract those shuddery creepy crawling things I attempt to avoid. Or eliminate the moment I see them. He encourages them. He encourages his grandchildren to admire the caterpillars that will turn in to beautiful butterflies, accepting the little bit of leaf damage they do as part of the process of the beauty they will create as the mature butterflies flutter around our gardens drinking nectar from the flowers. I have a new perspective. When I see one of these caterpillars, I can think, "Oh look, you are a baby butterfly." I won't go so far as to say, "Cute," but I understand, in a new, deeper way, that there is give and take in nature, in my garden, and accept the processes that go on as part of God's created world, part of His design. 

Lesson: Those in life who bug us, who annoy us - understand they have needs of their own and when possible, provide for those needs. If we understand and accept, we have a better chance to happily co-exist.

The gardener who talked about growing vegetables was a many year veteran of community gardens, working in schools, low income neighborhoods, churches and businesses, offering classes and advice to encourage healthy eating and understand our food and where it comes from. He also was a deep well of experience and information, listing specific varieties that do well in this area and techniques, full of stories and joy that overflowed as he described delicious produce. Made me want to crunch on raw vegies, fresh from the sun-warmed garden (a few months from now).

Lesson: The work we love should be shared with others, for their benefit and nurture.

Where we live is considered high desert. Many of the homes landscape with rock. As renters, we work with the landscape our owners put in, which, fortunately for us, includes some patches of grass and evergreen shrubs. With the decorative rock. I don't mind, as long as there is some green, and they said I could plant whatever I wanted. We will be under water restrictions this year, limiting plant choices. We have lived with water restrictions before, and I know how to be wise and save what water we can to use on the plants. The gardener who talked about landscape listed many, many beautiful plants that require little water, flourish in this climate and offer much more beauty than rocks. I can't wait to get started - another week or two, and we can start planting. Yes!

Lesson: No matter where we live, whatever our circumstances, with creative thinking and work, we can create little spots of beauty.

photos from Passionate Gardening, Lauren Springer

Thursday, March 14, 2013

One Breath at a Time

We sat in the rows of seats at the Driver's License office, waiting for our number to come up. Our son studied his manual again, reviewing the numbers, the laws, the statistics, preparing for his written test to earn his driving permit. On the wall, a digital display asked trivia type questions, then scrolled through the words, "Welcome to the Colorado Department of Revenue. Have a nice day," followed by the answer to the previous question. "What was the first animated movie to receive an Academy Award?" (Beauty and the Beast, 1991). "What are the most used letters in the English alphabet?" (t,a,e,s - I think that's what they were). This question caught my attention: "How many breaths does a healthy adult take each day?" The answer, 23,000.

All day and all night, 23,000 breaths, in and out, rise and fall, fill and empty, the rhythm as waves of air pulse in and through and out of our bodies. It made me grateful I don't have to think about each breath. Another son, with a nasty cold, breathes, resting on his bed, and I can hear each raspy, labored, congested breath. Exhausting, the effort he takes with each breath. Gladly, that is not normal, and he will soon be breathing again without thinking about each difficult breath.

But sometimes I do have to remind myself to breathe. That means a deep, slow inhale and a slow, relaxed exhale. It means taking the time to think about the breath, the life-giving calm of oxygen filling my lungs ,the energy distributed through my blood and body, and released, out.

He did pass his test. We have been out driving three times so far and he has done well. There will be plenty of opportunities over the next year for both of us to remember to breathe. Me, especially, as I sit in the passenger seat and attempt to direct and guide with calm patience. His older siblings have all successfully learned to drive and earned their licenses, I know he will, too. I want to remember to be grateful for this time with him, to talk and laugh and learn together. Not to be the storm cloud sitting in the passenger seat.

I want to take this opportunity to breathe, to not take for granted the incredible life we have both been given.  To know that no breath is trivial. The calm, quiet energy of each breath is a powerful life-full force, and until each of us takes our last breath, there is opportunity for hope and love and life, one breath at a time.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Captain Ty

Captain Ty is a short short condensed from a short story I wrote about the Cora, a clipper ship owned by my great great grandparents. I shortened the word count for a short story contest, which, I did not win, but still had fun with the challenge of editing and re-writing.

                Maine summers were hot and sticky. Miserable and tired of playing alone, Tyler complained to his mother that everyone, except him, was at camp.

              “You should go visit Grandma,” said his mom.

                “Mom, I hate going there. Her house smells. It’s boring.”

                Tyler ran out the door and hiked through the woods toward the ocean. When he reached the rocky coastline, the relief of cool air soared over the bluff.  He made his way north among the rocks, watching the seagulls and inhaling the salt spray from the pounding waves. Coming to a quiet inlet, he climbed down the bluff to sea level. Foundered on rock and mud was an old sailing vessel. Tyler scrambled along the shoreline for a closer look.

Click here to continue reading

And if you want to read the longer version, click here

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Your Light

"Send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me..."

Psalm 43:3

joining the quiet Sunday community

and Still Saturday

Friday, March 8, 2013

He is Home

Five Minute Friday
Five Minute Friday, once again. The prompt this week, the word, Home. Write, five minutes, free and easy, listening to the words, tapping them out on the keyboard.


Our lab has insecurity issues. The times we are gone, which for her sake are infrequent, she can be a real basket case, a bundle of nerves. Yet, when her boy is home, she relaxes and life is good. Fortunately, he is home most of the time.

We were discussing the other day, how she pouts when he is gone. Her whole demeanor changes. It is not a visible face pout like you or I would make, but her whole body pouts. She tolerates the rest of us, she knows she is not alone. But when he walks back through that door, her whole body smiles. Life is good. Same thing when Dad walks through the door after work. She wiggles and wags, content to have her family all home, together, again. Now she can relax and enjoy life - which means go to sleep on her comfy blanket.

Her security is people, not place. She loves to go out, for a walk, for a ride, as long as her people are there. For her, anywhere is home, with her people. Aside from the insecurity issues, this is a good philosophy. A home is not a place as much as it is the location of connected hearts.

Time is up.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Change the World (A Bit)

This is one of my short shorts, a 500 word short story, with a different theme than I would normally use. It's fun to experiment, try new things, see how words work together to create an effect. If the clutter on my desk is any indication of project overload, I have a few things to finish. This one has been floating around, waiting for brilliance. I decided instead to call it done and send it out.

 Hope it makes you smile and think (a bit).

“Jimmy, get up now, or you’ll be late.”

“So what?”

His mom stood outside his door, her arms full of laundry. “So what? So the bus driver will hit the car that would have been a minute later if he didn’t have to wait for you to cross the street, still fiddling with the arm of your jacket.”

Jim sat up in his bed, rubbed his eyes and scratched the back of his head. “What?”

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What to Spend


My sister-in-law had this quote as a cross-stitch on her wall. Several years ahead of us in the child raising years, she lived these words. She home-schooled before it was a thing, simply because it allowed her to spend more time with her two children and it enabled them to work together, learn together, be together.  I attempted to follow that example.

I made up a pattern, designed the cross-stitch, and it sat in my project pile for years. I wanted to put it on my wall, just like she had it. I have to admit (with a grimace), that I think it is still downstairs in a project box, moved from house to house, how many times? I am not even going to go look.

At this point, I wish I could say that I didn't spend the time to make that cross-stitch because I was too busy spending time with my kids. Maybe, maybe not. But it has helped me keep a focus on priorities. It is not all the things that make a rich life. It is time, together.

  More important than putting that cross-stitch on my wall, it is important to write those words on my heart, making them come alive in my life, and playing them out in our children's days.

"Mom, will you play a game with me?"

"I'm busy doing [this]. Why don't you go play the Wii for awhile?"

What good mother would ever say that? Ahem... I don't want their memories of me to be of my back, turned toward some busy project. I want their memories to be of my face, available to listen and spend the time with them that they need. Balance is important here, too, though. One of our sons would take all my 24/7s if he could. Obviously there has to be a line.

Having this quote speaking in my head, reminding me of my choices and priorities, helps me keep my focus less on stuff and more on time, all the minutes and moments with this family God has given us.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Terms of Measurement

"Measure thy life by loss instead of gain;
Not by the wine drunk but by the wine poured forth;
For love's strength standeth in love's sacrifice,
And whoso suffers most hath most to give."

-Ugo Bassi

"Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, 'Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.'"

-Luke 21:1-4

What terms of measurement do we use? Do we measure by loss or by gain?

joining the quiet Sunday community

Saturday, March 2, 2013


My one word theme for 2013 is quiet. I meant to write more about it, delving deeper into various meanings, but this past month I have felt, well, quiet. Haven't posted as much as usual. Not sure exactly why, but my excuse is practicing quiet.

When I think of my ideal quiet day, I think of the beach. The beach, however, is not a quiet place: waves pound on the shore, wind roars across the sand, seagulls screech, sand blasts against your face, your clothes are blustered and hair whipped by the wind. I had to laugh when I thought of it that way. Why do I think of the beach as a quiet place? Perhaps because it marks some of my favorite get-away destinations. Visits with families who had a beach house gave us moms time to chat and breathe while we kept a quiet eye on the kids. House-sitting opportunities at a beach house gave us the luxury of living in a place we could never afford. There are memories of beach-side hotels that offered pleasant retreats for my husband and I. Visits with distant family meant beach trips in Hawaii and the Gulf of Mexico. One house where we lived was close enough to the beach to take frequent afternoon trips for the kids to play in the water and the sand. Even with the wind howling, the waves crashing and the seagulls screaming for our food, beach days were quiet days.

At one beach house where we visited friends, a storm moved in. The tides were predicted extremely high, swallowing the sand, up to the low brick walls protecting the patios. Over the afternoon we watched the ocean turn from blue to green to gray to violet to indigo to navy blue to black, and the storm was on us. A quiet afternoon? Not in the forces of weather, but the kids all played outside as long as they could, tossing the tennis ball into the water and watching for the waves to toss it back, their sweatshirts wet in the cold spray.

From our house where we lived in the central California coast area, we would drive to the Pacific Coast Highway, turn north, and travel about thirty minutes to Pismo Beach. It was a great kids' beach. A long, slow, gradual slope, waves that came in gently at low tide, hard-packed sand perfect for playing and building. We loved to go mid-week, a benefit of home teaching, after the morning school work was done, a quick lunch packed, and often, the beach was practically deserted.

One drive, I don't remember why, we turned a different route off the Pacific Coast Highway, left on a street named Halcyon. At that point, we were still on the bluffs, the homes high, overlooking the coastline. After a block or so, the road appeared to drop out from underneath us. It plummeted, seemingly straight down for several hundred feet. The kids all screeched, some in panic, some in delight, like on a roller coaster ride. (I admit, other times when we drove this route, I would crest the top of the hill and let off quickly on the gas pedal to create a greater feeling of anti-gravity and increase the fun.) The road dropped quickly to sea level, to fields of strawberries, lettuce and broccoli, crops that flourished year-round in that perfect sea climate. Never too hot, never too cold, ideal for growing.

Halcyon looped across the green fields and joined the road that took us along the coast to the section of beach we liked. The dictionary says the word halcyon is from the name of a legendary bird that "had a peaceful, calming influence on the sea at the time of the winter solstice." The afternoons at the beach created for us a calming influence. A time to relax and play, to enjoy being with each other. I would take a book, but rarely read it, choosing instead to gaze at the waves and the kids playing together, and watch for the occasional dolphin or sea lion. We loved to go in the winter when the beach was pretty much guaranteed to be empty. The water was too cold to swim, but they would play, tossing a football or frisbee. Or, they would build sand creatures or castles. Or sit and enjoy the scenery, no responsibilities, nothing to do but relax. Or collect seashells. Or bury each other in the sand and take silly photos.

"Halcyon days," is a phrase from literature and music, denoting nostalgia and remembrance. Our granddaughter, when she was little, knew to go to her "happy place" when something frightened her. We were at a lively restaurant with animated animals displayed in the jungle scenery. When the elephant above our table trumpeted, she quickly retreated into her happy place, her eyes shut tight, humming a little song to herself. Then she cried and a kind waitress let us move to a table less populated with four legged creatures. For me, the beach is my happy place, a place where the tranquility and beauty soak into my soul, creating a sense of deep quiet.

When I realized, however, that the beach is really not a quiet place, I also realized that the sense of quiet can be achieved in the middle of a normal day's chaos. The noise of a normal household, the clashing personalities, the challenges of learning and growth, the demands of duty and responsibility all create wear and tear, like the waves pounding out their rhythm on the ever-changing sand. Even here, there is calm and beauty and peace and halcyon days.

We do not live near the beach anymore.  I am learning that a state of quiet is from within - not a result of idyllic external circumstances. It is rooted in a tranquil heart. At any time I can choose to retreat to my quiet place, a place of trust and love and being loved and grace and being deeply grateful. There, always, there is quiet. My biggest surprise in understanding quiet is that it is not about stillness or quantity of words or volume of sound. There is an energy in quiet, like the ocean waves surging deep below the surface, powerful. And I still have much to learn about quiet.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Just Me

The prompt this week for the Friday Five Minutes is "ordinary." Five minutes, words flowing, unrestrained, unplanned, unedited.

linked with lisajobaker.com

Plain and ordinary. That I can do. Just me. Some may be motivated by fame or fortune. Fame does not interest me one little tiny bit. No siree. Fortune -well, that would be fun to try, at least, for awhile...

Just ordinary me.
 The face the son wants to see when he wakes up in the morning.
The master meal cooker.
The kitty litter cleaner.
The make sure the trash is out on the right night person.
The one who notices the weeds.
The one who notices the dust and clutter scattered on the table.
The one who knows where the feather duster is (didn't say I got it out and used it, did I...)
The inspired pile sorter, and the inspired pile maker, and the piles-on-my-desk dreamer.
The book reader.
The word writer.
The dog walker and cat lap.
The heart that wants to love and understand and grow and thrive.
The mind that wants to learn and understand and grow and thrive.
Yup. Just ordinary me, making it through the ordinary days.

source - Mary Engelbreit calendar