Monday, May 31, 2010

What Memorial Day is REALLY About!

I wanted to take a moment to say thanks to just a few of the many soldiers in my life. Memorial Day weekend is more than just a long weekend and an excuse to gorge ourselves with barbecue feasts (although these things are fun), it really is about the men and women, past and present, who have kept us safe and our country still intact. We can never give them the recognition they deserve, but here is just a small memorial tribute to a few of my favorite soldiers. This is my husband with Josiah the day before he shipped out for a 1 year tour to Iraq in 2004. Here is a picture of me meeting him at the airport during his mid-tour leave. Below is a picture of Michael in Kuwait, getting ready to convoy up to Northern IraqThis is Michael's brother, Nathan, in a sand storm. He just completed his 3rd tour to Iraq and just found out he'll be going to Afghanistan sometime next year. He is career Army.This is Michael's niece, Crystal, who was an MP in Iraq the year after Michael got back. She had the challenge of leaving a small son behind while she deployed. She is still serving in the Montana National Guard and is going to school to help returning veterans. I wish I had a picture of her dad, Michael's oldest brother. He served as a Seabee in Vietnam. Rick and his rock. Rick is a good friend of ours who just got back from his third tour to the Middle East. His rock travels with him wherever he goes. He has a wife and two small children.This is Michael and Nathan's father, Theodore James (everyone called him Jim). He was a young Marine during the Korean War. From what I understand, he had his knee shot really bad, but was one of two men out of his platoon who survived a famous Korean War battle that I can't think of the name right now. The only reason he survived was because the other soldier carried him out before the enemy had a chance to "clean up". Michael's family has a long military tradition. Many of his uncles and all of his grandfathers have served our country. 

I also want to thank the families of those who serve(d). I know first hand what a sacrifice it is. Praise God, my husband came home, for many others that was not the case. So take some time and thank a veteran (and their family) for the sacrifices they made and continue to make on your behalf. 

Happy Memorial Day!

God Bless,

Thursday, May 27, 2010

How to Make Raw Sour Cream

I've been meaning to post this recipe for a long time and just haven't had time. Making raw sour cream or "creme fraiche" (European style sour cream) is super easy, especially once you have the original culture made. You can use it over and over again. Warning: Raw sour cream is much more sour than the stuff you get in the store.  It may take awhile for you to get used to it, it did me. Now I love it and the stuff in the store tastes flavorless to me now. It also is thinner because it is all natural. Most sour cream in the store has soy lecithin or some other ingredient to make it thick even when cooked. Raw sour cream is so much easier for your body to digest, so less likely to put on poundage from eating it. Same with raw ice cream

There are a couple of ways to make raw sour cream. I'll start with the easiest. 

Raw Creme Fraiche (pronounced "Crem Fresh") Recipe:

1. In a clean quart jar (can use less or more), add about 2 Tbl of previously cultured buttermilk

2. Fill jar rest of the way with fresh, raw cream. 

3. Let it sit on the counter at room temp until it thickens to desired consistency. It will be a little thinner than what you get in the store. Depending on how warm your house it, this may take a day, it may take 3 days. Don't worry, it won't go bad! It is just getting better. Those enzymes are working and keeping the sour cream alive and more highly digestible to your system.

4. When it is thick enough, refrigerate. I have yet to have my sour cream go bad in the fridge. Over time, it gets more sour in flavor, but that is a good thing. I love that I don't have to sniff my sour cream container or throw out a half used one anymore. 

Here is another method to making Raw Sour Cream if you don't have already cultured buttermilk on hand. It is still very easy:

Using a package of Ricki's Sour Cream culture:

1. Heat 1 quart of raw cream to 86 degrees F

2. Add 1 packet of Ricki's Sour Cream culture (malto dextrin, starter bacteria), mix well

3. Let cream set undisturbed for 12 hours or until desired consistency

4. Refrigerate

I usually always make the first one because I've always got raw sour cream on hand or buttermilk. To make more, with either of these methods, be sure to save about an 2 Tbl from your old sour cream and add to your new fresh, raw cream. Let sit on counter, refrigerate and enjoy!

So easy, super healthy, saves money and wastes not! 

God Bless,

Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday Meandering

We remodeled all weekend. The weather wasn't very good so it was kind of a good time to work on trimming out the dining room/office area. As usual, my patient husband got the kids involved as much as possible. He's so good about that. Michael is teaching himself more about carpentry and it seriously looks like a professional trimmed out our windows and dining room. He makes lots of mistakes along the way but knows how to adjust and fix it. He has the patience of a saint! My patience level extends to staining trim, touching up paint and holding boards/trim in place. Michael and Hailey putting up the window trim. Michael got my chandeliers up this weekend, too. Love 'em!I happened on these rosettes in our local hardware store and thought they would look awesome in the corners of our window trim. We didn't want to do window treatments in this room because it would make the ceiling look shorter. These were the perfect solution. Gave the window trim a little decoration and dimension. Michael was happy, because he didn't have to miter the corners. We got our blinds up and I'm really like the way it all turned out.Michael is putting up a nice thick trim that kind of looks like like crown molding. This is as far as we got on it. Really like the way the beadboard on the ceiling turned out, even though it was a pain to install. At the last minute, we decided to resurface the support beam you see here in oak veneer, which will really finish off the room, since most of it is oak. So, we'll finish trimming the ceiling in the dining room when we get that done. Love the colors I chose, too.We have the most delicious radishes from our garden in our salad last night. So nice to be getting a little produce already. They aren't too hot at all. The kids love 'em! We also got our first three green beans. I guess I'll start a bag in the freezer and just keep adding to it until they really come on. I still need to plant some spinach to go with my lettuce. Our strawberries are starting to form fruit as well. Hope your gardens are doing better than mine. The cold got a bunch of peppers and celery. Still waiting to see if my other plants will germinate. Saw some broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage shoots yesterday.Hailey Baby wanted to wear Daddy's beret. Of course I had to take a picture. 

We had great family time working together. I got the lawn mowed and Josiah trimmed the lilac trees. My lilacs are in full bloom. I adore the smell of lilacs. Our town is full of them. Didn't do much playing this weekend, but sometimes you just gotta buckle down. Did some cooking too. Made three shepherds pies (two for the freezer) and a chocolate zucchini cake.

Hoping I'll have a better with week with Josiah. We ended up with four "Code Reds" last week on the Consequences Pyramid. He has hit a new level of development and it is time to crack down. He seems to have forgotten who is in charge. Trying to remain consistent and praying for him AND with him. I went to a panel last week and listened to veteran homeschoolers. The thing I took away was "character first, academics second". That is going to be my new motto. Another lady shared a wonderful chapter out of the bible (1 Thesselonians 5) that could be applied to homeschooling. It greatly encouraged and motivated me. Look it up if you have time. 

Hoping you all have a wonderful week! 

God Bless,

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nearly Raw Strawberry-Rhubarb Popsicle Recipe

My kids went crazy when I served them these guilt-free, healthy popsicles! They are really simple to make. I got the original recipe from an Azure Standard catalog, but I changed it around to make it as raw as possible. This recipe makes approximately 8 popsicles.

Nearly Raw Strawberry-Rhubarb Popsicles:

1. Simmer together 1 cup chopped rhubarb (fresh or frozen) with 1 Tbl water until tender
2. After cooling, add 1/4 c raw honey, mix well
3. In a blender or food processor blend:
 *rhubarb mixture
*1 cup raw plain yogurt
*1/4 cup raw strawberry jam sweetened with honey (or you can use 1/4 fresh strawberries and 1/4 cup of applesauce)
4. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze 12 to 24 hours before serving.

Hope your family likes them as much as ours does!


Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday Meandering

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend. Besides nearly catching up on my blogging, I had an awesome weekend of riding the Harley, remodeling, hunting and gardening. Since I don't have much time to post these days, I'm trying to combine some topics I would have otherwise split out into several posts. The first picture is of Hailey and her first braid. She was begging me to braid her hair (I don't know how to French braid) and this was the best I could do. I think it can technically be called a braid, LOL! She is wearing the pink ballerina tutu that I wore when I was a little girl for ballet. I can't believe I still have three of my dance costumes in the dress up box after all these years.  The remodeling continues. We finally got smart and rented a drywall jack to get our beadboard ceiling up. We had to rip out the first three that we put up because we did such a terrible job on them. There was no way caulking and paint could cover our mistakes.  There goes $60, urgghh! Live and learn. The "praline and cream" board you see in the middle is what the entire ceiling both in the dining room and living room will be painted. Eventually, we'll trim out the edges.The biggest accomplishment this weekend was that  I got my garden planted the rest of the way (minus tomatoes). I'm hoping and praying everything will come up.  Here is a picture of my lettuce that I planted directly into the garden about a month ago from seed. I can tell I'm going to need to plant more.Same thing with my peas....and turnips and radishes. I need a bigger garden already, LOL! My carrots and onions are starting to germinate as well. I planted three rows of pickling cukes (44 plants in all), so I'm really hoping we'll have enough to do 50 lbs of pickles this year. To plant, I simply ripped a "x" in the plastic or landscape mat (definitely like the landscape mat better) and planted a seed or seedling. I really hate weeding, so hopefully this method will cut down on weeding time significantly.Today, I had enough milk leftover to make cheese. This is a small batch of queso fresco brining just before I put it into the cheese press. If you'd like the recipe, click on this link

After church, while Michael was putting up beadboard, I escaped to go for a fun motorcycle ride with my mom, step-dad and some friends. Michael is going to regret ever having encouraged me to learn to ride his bike, hee hee! We made a big loop through the mountains. It was gorgeous! Still lots of snow up high, but it wasn't too cold and none of it on the roads. I forgot my camera, so no pictures :(

In exchange for letting me ride all afternoon, Michael took us all up to the mountains where he has been turkey/bear hunting. I'm not into hunting, so this was my sacrifice of love to my hubby. We walked around and looked at the amazing view of our valley from the top of the mountain, saw wildflowers and had a P & J picnic as the sun went down. We didn't see any bears or turkeys, but we did see a big bull elk at a distance, and Hailey came home with a tick on her tummy (we got it out before it really started to dig in -yuck!). Again, I forgot my camera. I sure wish I would have taken a picture of the view. It was absolutely stunning. Have to go up again with him sometime and get some pics.

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend. Thanks for your comments on the homeschool field trip!


Friday, May 14, 2010

Union County Museum Homeschool Field Trip

Yesterday, we met up with 10 other homeschool families and toured the Union County Museum. They had a scavenger hunt that helped keep the kids focused and brought their attention to some things they might not have noticed otherwise. I love this first picture of the "one room school" display. One of the questions on the scavenger hunt page was "How does this differ from your classroom?" I bet there were all kinds of fun answers to that question from each of our homeschool families!Of course, Josiah gravitated to the military uniforms immediately. This is a World War I uniform. It was in great shape!Here is a girls' bedroom display.Of course this was my favorite display, the old-time wedding dresses! They were so delicate and beautiful.The museum volunteer told us the story of the attempted robbery of this bank vault (the museum is in an old bank). Apparently the robbers used dynamite to   try and blow the safe open. All it did was jam the door and it took a week for someone to travel from Portland to fix the door. In the meantime, nobody in the town of Union had money available to them (it was all in the vault) and one of the wealthy residents loaned his money to the bank so commerce could still occur during that week. I thought it was a fascinating story!  Josiah loved this old typewriter (he'd never seen one before) and informed me that he wanted to buy one. I said we'd have to try to find one at a yard sale (I'm thinking, yeah right). Well sure enough, we went to an estate sale today and there was an old typewriter for $10. Luckily, he didn't have $10 and so we didn't have to find a place for one of these. They had a fun kids area where they got to dress up as cowboys/cowgirls and ride this saddle strapped to barrel. Hailey is roping while the other kids are pushing the barrel. Josiah is branding the horse.Afterwards, most of us played on the playground in the city park and had a picnic. It was the nicest day we've had so far this spring. The kids had a blast and so did the mommies as we caught up with each other.

Hope you've enjoyed this recap and perhaps even learned something. 

God Bless,

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mother's Day Weekend

This year for Mother's Day, I decided instead of getting upset and angry that my husband doesn't do anything for me, I was going to make it easy on him and let him know exactly what I expected. If I don't start training him and the kids now, they'll never know how important it is to me. I gave him fair warning and told him that I wasn't going to be cooking, cleaning or doing dishes on Mother's Day. It worked! He and the kids made a French toast breakfast Sunday morning and for dinner they took me out to a Chinese restaurant (not my hubby's favorite, but he knows I love Chinese food). Right after church I rode over the mountain (50 miles) and surprised my mom, grandma and aunt by joining them for a Mother's Day brunch at my grandma's assisted living home. We had a wonderful time. This picture shows three generations of lady bikers. I took my time coming home on the back roads. It was a gorgeous day to ride.   The other request I made of Michael was to have the kids make me a card. Josiah made me the heart card during Sunday School. It is so cute! It says, "I like her because she makes good food and wraps exciting presents and knows my favorite cake. I love you MOM". It was precious! Hailey and Michael wrote their messages on a 12 x 12 piece of orange paper. Michael's said, "O, how I love you Sweet Pea. Hope your day is what you wanted. Love, Michael". Hailey's said, "I love you Mom, Hailey". I was very happy.Oh, I forgot to mention that I went to a local nursery and picked out 6 beautiful perennials for my flower bed since I lost a bunch of plants over the winter. This was one of the flowers I picked out and I can't remember the name. Can anyone tell me what this flower is called? I really like to know what the names of my flowers are. I made the kids help me plant them when we got home. Here is my front flower bed. Not a lot in bloom yet, but in June it'll be in it's full glory. I like my flowerbeds crowded so I don't have to weed much.The turnips, lettuce, peas and radishes are all growing in my garden finally. Something is eating my turnips, but I think they'll make it still. I was wondering if I should thin my radishes (pictured above) out. They seem really crowded together. Is that OK?Finally, yesterday, I went in for a color and cut. I decided on more blonde streaks, and shorter, layered hair. I like it so much better than the long, stringy, straight as board hair I had before.

Well, that is about it. Things have been crazy busy around here as usual. The remodeling has been going well in some aspects and not so well in others. Pray for us, please!

Thanks to all who commented on my last post. You guys are awesome! Thanks for your prayers regarding our marriage. I prayed for each of you who shared your struggles as well. 

God Bless,

Thursday, May 6, 2010

"Strong Bonds" Military Marriage Conference

 Look at this crazy young couple! Yep, that is Michael and I. Michael was 22 years old in this picture and I was barely 20. Next month, Michael and I will have been married for 15 years. As you can imagine, we've been in need of a Godly tune-up. Last weekend, Michael and I had the privilege of going to an all-expenses paid conference for military couples. I'm so glad the military is investing in marriages because the divorce rate for post-deployment couples is above 60%. 

We've been to one of these before, right when Micheal first got back from his deployment, but this one was much better. While it wasn't faith-based, Christianity was mentioned numerous times. I was surprised at how much more the chaplains were allowed to speak openly about their faith. They did such a good job of being real about their faith without cramming it down the throats of unbelievers. It made it so much more meaningful, and I believe effective. They used excerpts from "Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage" which were not only Christian-based, but hilarious and profound.

Michael and I have struggled with some issues that have been building on each other for the last 6 years. About a year ago they came to a head, and I've been patiently waiting on the Lord to get my husband's attention. I've been waiting, praying, weathering the storm and ducking (figuratively speaking) so that God could throw His punch to get Michael's attention. As always, God's timing is perfect. He got Michael's attention two weeks before the marriage conference. Michael wrestled with God for about a week and a half and finally "let go" 3 days before the conference. He was gone all last week for another Forest Service conference. He called home and told me about the work God was doing in his heart. For the first time in our marriage, he initiated a prayer that lasted over a half an hour. Together we surrendered our marriage to the Lord that night and prayed against any attack of the enemy who would seek to destroy us. We asked the Lord to help us work through our major issues during the conference so that we could finally not have any resentment between us.

The second day of the conference, we had the the opportunity to use the Speaker/Listener Technique. We had learned this before and it had helped us greatly, but we needed the reminder again. This technique has been a life-saver for our marriage because I'm naturally a talker (shocker)and Michael just clams up during conflict. This forces us both to speak and listen in turn. If you aren't familiar with this technique, here it is in a nutshell:

Speaker Listener Technique:
1. Rules for the Speaker
*Speak for yourself, don't mind read!
*Keep statements brief. Don't go on and on.
*Stop to let the listener paraphrase. 

2. Rules for the Listener
*Paraphrase what you hear (don't translate!)
*Focus on the speaker's message. Don't rebut!

3. Rules for Both
*The speaker has the floor
*Speaker keeps the floor while the listener paraphrases
*Share the floor

At first this feels awkward, but it gets more natural with practice. Anyway, they gave us some time to go do something fun together. We knew we had work to do, so we went back up to our hotel room and using this technique, we got to the heart of the issues we'd been dealing with. Not only were we able to get to the bottom of these issues, we were also able to come up with strategies to change the bad habits that had crept into our marriage. It was an amazing time of oneness that I've never felt before. I can honestly say that we were able to be truly intimate the rest of the weekend, both emotionally and physically. It was incredible. God is so good!

On the last day of the conference, they gave us an opportunity to renew our marriage vows. I think it meant even more than when we said them to each other 15 years ago. 

Now we're home and the honeymoon is over. The hard work to change these habits has begun. Please keep us in prayer as we learn to change our behaviors as well as our responses to one another, AND to give grace to each other when we slip and go back to our old ways. When we do blow it, may God give us the courage to pick ourselves back up and keep moving forward in His Grace and Mercy. 

I hope and pray that if you are experiencing difficulties in your marriage, you will have hope after reading this. I've learned God is capable of changing the hardest of hearts, it just takes time. It took 6 years for us, but I honestly thought that it would take a lifetime for God to get my hubby's attention. Six years doesn't seem very long compared to a lifetime. We need to walk in God's obedience, and be respectfully honestly with our spouse, even when it causes conflict. There is such a thing as healthy conflict. If there hadn't been conflict, there wouldn't have ever been a change. I hope that by sharing my heart in this matter, some of you have been encouraged today.

God Bless,

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Bluebells and Cockle Shells

I was watching my daughter water the newly replanted lawn in our backyard during one of our few and far between nice spring days. She was so darn cute, I just had to do an impromptu photo session with her. I have a really stinky camera, but despite that, I think I got a few that really captured the essence of Hailey. I think she's turning into such a pretty little girl, especially now that her hair is long enough to do something with it. It is still crazy wild woman hair, but at least it looks like I made an attempt to do something with it. Hope you enjoy these pictures.Oh and my tulips and giant hyacinths are finally in full bloom. I love this tulip. It is called "Red Riding Hood". It is a double tulip and I think it is gorgeous. As for hyacinth, I adore the smell.

Hope you are all having a wonderful weekend.

God Bless,


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