Sunday, January 29, 2012

Let Me Just Say, I Love Scripture Songs

Though it may not be evident from my history of posting, I really, sincerely enjoy music. I love to sing, and my husband will testify that I can, and do, make up songs about just about anything. 

I know I am not unique in that when I hear words set to music, I am more likely to remember the words. This was why my mom set my telephone number to the tune of the "My Little Pony" theme song when I was three. For those of you who are not familiar with "My Little Pony," I have the video posted here for your enjoyment. If nothing else, this video will give you an idea of why I expect the world to meet up to my idealistic standards:

Based on how much this ridiculous theme song affected my life at a young age, I am convinced that the music I choose for my (future) children to listen to is very important. I recently ran across this gem called Seeds Family Worship. Their mission statement is, "Planting the seeds of God's word in the hearts of families." 

If you don't mind your children learning Bible verses in either New International Version or English Standard Version, check out Seeds Family Worship. They have five or six albums out, all filled with Scripture passages set to catchy tunes. 

I've had Philippians 4:6-7 bouncing around in my head all day because of them. Not a bad thing. And after listening to the "My Little Pony" theme song, I'm sure that you are more than ready to have something else in your heads too. Enjoy!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Adoption and Parenthood: Making Plans

Because I haven’t mentioned adoption in a few weeks, some of you might be wondering if Husband and I have forgotten about the idea of adoption. Or that we have given up on it.

Neither is true.

We are continuing to read books about adoption. (We just finished reading through The Adoption Decision by Laura Christianson and are now starting The Complete Book of International Adoption by Dawn Davenport. The former is written by a woman familiar with domestic adoption. The latter, obviously, goes into more detail about international adoption.) We are continuing to discuss.

The discussion has taken an interesting shift for Husband and me. We are no longer discussing if we will adopt, but rather, when we will adopt. We feel confident that God is leading us to adoption, but not quite yet.

Because in the last few weeks of talking and praying we have also come to the joint decision that God is leading us to pursue biological parenthood first. Though I don’t want to share all of the reasoning that went into this decision, I do want to share the final product with you:

Our plan is to use a common and non-invasive fertility treatment that is almost entirely covered by our insurance. Our hope is that God will bless us with a biological child through this process, but whether He does or not, we will begin our first adoption process, either after our first child is old enough for us to be able to start paperwork, or when the fertility treatment has reached its end.

This is our plan, but I am already shaking my head and sighing to myself over my use of the word plan.

When I tell God these things (usually pretending that I am asking), I imagine that God is staring at me, compassionately, but with a quizzical expression on His face and an eyebrow cocked. He’s patient enough to listen and love me anyway, but He’s certainly not taking notes!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Week of Impatience

If I could use one word to describe this past week (excepting my thrilling whirlwind tour with yogurt), it would be impatience.

For a while now, I have felt as though Husband and I had a number of significant decisions looming over us, and at the beginning of this week, I expected to be able to make some of those decisions. As in, I wanted to be able to make the decisions on Monday morning, preferably before 8:00 a.m.

But between waiting for a little information here and waiting for a little information there, we weren’t able to make those decisions on Monday morning before 8:00 a.m.

I ended up spending my week in a spirit of dissatisfied and grouchy suspension.

After Husband’s sister had spent two nights sharing our humble little house, and after I saw it snowing this morning, I realized this, and I was sorry I had wasted a week in such a state.

We had so much fun with Husband’s sister. We got to play Dominion, we shared enjoyable conversations, and we ate baked oatmeal together for breakfast. During her visit, I thought, Seeing family and good friends is so wonderful.

This morning I awoke to a town clothed in white. The welcomed white visitors were still arriving fast and steady when I sat down to read my Bible and pray, and I thought, Falling snow is so wonderful.

I caught myself in this state of contentment, as I contemplated the snow, and I realized what I had been missing this week: Contentment. Joy in the little things.

I finally remembered—thought of course, this will seem obvious to you, my wise readers—that joy is not found in making plans. Of course, joy can be found in the big things, the events that stand out as significant and life-changing, but the true art is finding the joy that’s woven inconspicuously into the plain pattern of everyday life.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A New Love for Husband

My husband has a new love.

Thankfully, it’s not the kind of love I feel that I need to (or am able to) compete with.

My husband loves the card game, Dominion.

When he got it from a friend for Christmas, I had never heard of it before, and to be honest, it looked a little like a Pokemon trading card game or something of the sort. He said that he was sure I’d like it, but I was a little skeptical.

Since then I have come to discover that I do enjoy the game, though not as much as Husband. I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy it as much as he does.

Almost immediately upon returning from our Christmas festivities with family, he used some of his ‘personal spending’ money (part of our monthly budget—I won’t start that topic now) that he had been saving up for a few months to purchase an expansion pack for his Dominion game. Now we have not only Dominion, but also Dominion: Intrigue. Ooooh.

Last night I kindly and graciously agreed to forego an evening spent with a Masterpiece Theater’s version of Jane Austen’s Emma so that we could break in his new Dominion: Intrigue game.

I have never seen my husband quite so taken. Other than with me. Of course. Twice, when his attention was on the cards laid out on the table, he shuffled his own deck of cards right onto the floor.

And, even more amazingly, at the beginning of the game I asked him if he wanted popcorn with the game. He said that sounded good. But that was, apparently, the last he thought of the popcorn. I ended up eating almost the whole bowl, despite repeated reminders that he could, and should, eat some of the popcorn.

All in all, I am quite enjoying how much he is enjoying his new game. It’s not often that I get a whole bowl of popcorn to myself.

Greek Yogurt: Part 2

It is yogurt!

I was admirably disciplined during the eight hours that the warm bacteria-laden milk sat in the crock pot. I didn’t check on it once.

But at about 8:30, I hesitantly unwrapped the home-made incubator.

This is what I saw:

No longer milk!

My brother was at our house at the time, playing a game with Husband and me.

“It worked!” I squealed. “I have yogurt!” I glanced from the crock pot to my husband and brother and back again, expecting them to jump up with gasps of amazement at my superior ability to nurture the growth of bacteria, but neither one moved.

Husband looked up from his cards long enough to say, “Oh, good!”

Ah, well. I think Husband was excited; he was just more excited about his game, and he had put less energy into making the yogurt happen. My brother was not excited: Plain yogurt? Eeew. Gross.

Because my bacteria colony festered and multiplied the way it was supposed to, I was able to move onto the next step. If I had wanted plain yogurt, I would have been done at this point. But because I wanted Greek plain yogurt (which is thicker and creamier), I still had one more step to take.

I lined a colander with a cloth napkin (the directions call for a linen towel), and emptied the crock pot contents into the towel:

This was supposed to allow the yogurt to drain off more of the whey. Just to make sure the directions weren’t leading me false, I picked up the colander (over the sink), to see underneath it, and lo and behold, clear-ish whey was dripping from beneath the colander.

I let it sit that way overnight, and early the next morning, I took a spatula and scooped the remaining yogurt into a container. This is what my finished product looked like:

I probably could have let more whey drain off, and maybe for the next batch I will, but even this tastes creamy, full-fat, and delicious.

Other than some worrying, and one dream during the night about teaching our ESL class to make yogurt, this process really took very little physical or mental energy on my part. In fact, making yogurt made me feel resourceful, frugal, and fond of bacteria.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sugar Detox and Greek Yogurt Part 1

Stumbling Through the Sugar Detox

Today Husband and I are starting up the third week of our sugar detox. (If you would like to try a sugar detox yourself, you find the one that we are following on this website.) During the first week, we cut out all high fructose corn syrup, and during the second week we cut out all refined grains. We did allow ourselves some liberties with the detox, however.

For example, even though the garlic cheese biscuits that I made last Friday were made with white flour, when we started Week 2 of the detox, we allowed ourselves to finish them off, rather than throw them away (though I will not be making any more baked goods with white flour for the duration of our detox).

And as another example, we were invited to a dinner party on Wednesday night. Though the dessert served appeared to have been made with white flour, we ate it anyway: a special occasion, and no desire on our parts to be rude.

And a final example: a co-worker of mine gifted Husband and me with a pan of absolutely divine cinnamon rolls. We ate them—all of them—in about 36 hours.

So far the sugar detox hasn’t been too difficult for us. I’m pretty proud to admit that Husband and I do not have much in the house that has high fructose corn syrup in it. The list is about 25 food items, but frankly, in our corn-based foods society, I was expecting to find a lot more. Eating only whole grains has presented a larger challenge for us, especially in the way of breakfast cereal.

We love breakfast cereal. My favorite is probably a toss-up between Cracklin’ Oat Bran and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Oooh, my mouth waters just typing the names. Mmm.

Anyway, not many breakfast cereals are made with neither corn syrup nor refined grains, and because Husband and I eat cold cereal for breakfast pretty much every day, we are having to branch out, put forth a little more effort to procure healthy alternatives for breakfast.

So, I made granola today. I love granola, and I have made it before. This is my absolutely favorite recipe:

Maple-Almond Granola with Dried Berries

Yield: 8 c.

5 c. old-fashioned oats
2 c. slivered almonds
2 t. ground cinnamon
½ c. canola oil
½ c. pure maple syrup (though I often use honey because it’s cheaper)
½ c. hot water
1 T. vanilla
2 t. almond extract
½ t. salt
1 ¼ c. dried cranberries or blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss oats, almonds, and cinnamon in large bowl. Whisk oil, maple syrup, hot water, extracts, and sea salt in a medium bowl. Drizzle over dry ingredients; toss to coat. Divide mixture between two baking sheets. Bake for 20 minutes. Stir. Bake until golden, another 20 minutes, or so. Move baking sheets to racks to cool. Sprinkle fruit over the granola and allow to cool completely.

See? Yum.

Greek Yogurt—to be or not to be?

With a great degree of trepidation, I have also begun a new project today: Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is all the rage right now as a ‘health food,’ yet it is outrageously expensive in the grocery store. I had never actually had Greek yogurt before, and I’m not quite sure what possessed me to try to make it myself. The only reason I can think of is that I have noticed a particular urge in myself, in the last few weeks, to create, so when I saw a recipe online for Greek yogurt, I was drawn to it. I’m also considering trying to begin a sourdough starter at home. Sourdough bread. Mmmm.

I did have to purchase a small amount of Greek yogurt for the purpose of using its live culture. My husband did the shopping, and he came home with enough Greek yogurt that we could try some too. We tried it last night with supper, and I was surprised when I dug the serving spoon into it to see how thick it was. I plopped a blob of the thick white stuff down on my plate and took a tentative bite.

Love at first taste. I should have expected that. Any dairy product that is full-fat generally has my stamp of approval. But I did not expect to enjoy the firmness and creaminess of Greek yogurt quite so much.

Suddenly, my desire to make my own Greek yogurt at home was more than a passing fancy. If I can figure out how to make it at home, I can eat it regularly. If not, well, then Greek yogurt will merely be the occasional expensive treat.

So, at around noon today, I began to heat my whole milk:

I needed to heat it to 180 degrees. I monitored it’s heating up with this thermometer:

Never mind that it’s in a glass of half ice and half water and still says 40 degrees. It really was accurate. This picture must have been taken immediately after re-submerging the thermometer in the water.

When the milk got up to 180 degrees, I took it off the heat and let it sit until the temperature was only about 120 degrees. Then I mixed a half cup of the milk with a half cup of Greek yogurt (purchased for its live culture), added that mix back into the milk, and transferred the milk and yogurt to a pre-warmed crock pot:

The crock pot is not plugged in, and is actually never plugged in throughout the making of the yogurt.

I then wrapped the crock pot up really well:

Now it will sit until about 8:00 tonight, at which point I will set it to drain off the whey in a colander lined with a linen cloth, and we will see whether I have created yogurt or sour-tasting milk.

Stop by tomorrow to see!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Book Challenge Update and Some Number Crunching

For those of you who weren’t reading my blog back in September, I challenged myself at that time to read through all of the books on my bookshelves at home before buying any new books or checking books out from the library to read. You can find the challenge I made to myself here.

I was going to post pictures of my bookshelves again today, but after updating the pictures, I can’t see any marked difference, and it look like I haven’t been doing much reading at all. I decided I just couldn’t post the pictures. I really have been reading and I really have  been following my challenge, at least to some extent, but the bookshelves just don’t show it.

How very disappointing.

In retrospect, I see a few reasons that my challenge is not working as well as I had anticipated:

1) I need to read some youth and young adult fiction for my job as a children’s librarian.

2) Changing circumstances for Husband and me have led to the need for purchasing and reading certain books on topics that our former at-home library was lacking.

3) Simple, embarrassing, occasional lack of willpower. (I work in a library. It’s just hard.)

I keep a spreadsheet on my computer where I list the books that I read. I have columns for the date (month and year) a book was read, the title, the author, and then columns for seven genres. The seven genres I have listed are: Christian living, biography, nonfiction, Christian fiction, general fiction, classics, and youth fiction. Obviously ‘general fiction’ and ‘nonfiction’ comprise a very wide array of books, but they work for me right now.

When I read a book, I record the month and year in which I finished the book, the title, the author, and then I mark ‘1’ in the column of the genre under which the book best fits. I’m displaying my true nerd-ness now, because I enjoy being able to crunch book numbers. I might want to see how many books I read this month compared to last month, how many books I read in a year, how many books I’ve been reading in each of the genres in recent months, and so forth.

I started this list two years ago. Just in case you are curious (and because, again, I like seeing the numbers), over the past two years I have read:

Christian living – 16
Biography – 11
Nonfiction – 14
Christian fiction – 9
General fiction – 14
Classics – 8
Youth fiction – 37

I don’t know if I should be embarrassed by those numbers or not.

Anyway, I thought that today I would just share with you the titles of books that I have read (or am reading) since the start of my self-imposed challenge in September:

  • Chalice, Robin McKinley, youth fiction
  • The Help, Kathryn Stockett, general fiction
  • Closing the Achievement Gap: How to Reach Limited-Formal-Schooling and Long-Term English Learners, Yvonne Freeman & David E. Freeman, nonfiction
  • This Present Darkness, Frank Peretti, Christian fiction
  • The Unfinished Angel, Sharon Creech, youth fiction
  • I Am the Messenger, Mark Zusak, youth fiction
  • Twilight, Stephenie Meyer, youth fiction
  • New Moon, Stephenie Meyer, youth fiction
  • Eclipse, Stephenie Meyer, youth fiction
  • Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer, youth fiction
  • One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp, Christian living
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains, Tracy Kidder, biography
  • The View From Saturday, E.L. Konigsburg, youth fiction
  • Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol, Tom Mula, general fiction
  • A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, classics
  • Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen, classics
  • Let Justice Roll Down, John Perkins, biography
  • *Heaven, Randy Alcorn, Christian living
  • *The Adoption Decision, Laura Christianson, nonfiction
  • *Taking Charge of Your Fertility, Toni Weschler, MPH, nonfiction

*Books that I am currently reading. I am definitely not above reading multiple books at the same time.

That means:

Christian living – 2
Biography – 2
Nonfiction – 3
Christian fiction – 1
General fiction – 2
Classics – 2
Youth fiction – 8

Have you read any of the books on my list above? What books would you recommend to me (if I was allowed to check out books from the library)?

Monday, January 2, 2012

More family time, please

I love my family.

I also love my husband's family, which makes me feel very blessed, considering the stigma attached with the 'in-laws' in the U.S.

Growing up, I almost always went to my mom and dad first, before any friends with concerns and questions I had. I'm sure my consistent transparency saved them a lot of worry. (Can I say, without sounding egocentric, that I want all of our children to be just like me in that respect?) I loved extended family gatherings. And I still do. I realize that I am a very family-oriented person.

And for that reason, living away from all our immediate family is a little hard. Especially right after the holidays are done and work is resuming. Big sigh.

Oh dear. I did not mean to make the mood of this post one of despondence. In fact, all I had really wanted to do was share some pictures of my beautiful families.


Husband's beautiful family

My beautiful family