Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wednesdays with Words - imperfection

I finished Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss sometime last week.  There were so many wonderful words and thoughts in this book, but there were times when I just didn't want to stop reading in order to write out a long paragraph, so I would bookmark the page, keep reading, bookmark another page, keep reading, bookmark another page, and so on and so forth.  Now I have about 25 bookmarked pages and am going back through, rereading and/or writing down those many, many quotes.

Here is one:
"I have learned at last not to despise the day of small things, to cherish the tenderest blossom, and to expect my dear ones to be imperfect before they become perfect Christians." 
A page or two later:
"My poor, dear, lovable, loving boy!  He has all his mother's trials and struggles to contend with; but what matter it if they bring him the same peace?"
The main thing that struck me in these passages was the main character's attitude toward her children.  She understood that her children must be "imperfect before they become perfect Christians."  We know, as parents, that we have the labor-intensive task of raising our children, teaching them right from wrong and to love the Lord and trust in Him.  But we can't expect them to be perfect and always make the right decision.  They are still just children - imperfect, immature children.  And they will be for a long time.  They have much to learn and will their whole lives.  But in order to learn, they must start at the bottom; as imperfect creatures to be built up.

(By the way, this applies to us just as much, don't you think?  Isn't this life a continual journey learning how to live for God and His glory?)

The second quote makes me think of my second daughter.  She can be pretty quick-tempered - like me.  Oh how I've prayed that she wouldn't have to deal with that like I have.  How I've prayed that she will learn to control herself and avoid the anguish that ensues from the lack thereof.  "But what matter it if they bring {her} the same peace?"  (Not saying I've reached that peace yet, by the way, but I feel that I'm somewhat on my way.)

God uses our weaknesses to build us up, does He not?  In our weaknesses we learn to depend on and trust in Him; to fall at His feet and cry out for His strength and love and forgiveness.  We learn that in Him alone is peace.  How else can He pick us up unless we fall?

I will still pray that my children overcome their weaknesses, and that God will give me the ability to raise them and teach them what is most important.  But most of all, I will pray that my children will learn to fully and completely love Him, trust Him, listen to Him, and allow Him to pick them up every time they fall.

And I will trust that He will give them peace.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

The best pumpkin cake ever

It's been quite awhile since I posted a recipe.  I mean, I do have a 'recipes' tab at the top of my page, so one would think that I would actually share some recipes every now and then.

My blog, as you can see, is not really focused on any one thing.  It's just about our life.  I post pictures of our family with explanations of what we've been doing (you know, boring stuff that usually only family is interested in!), blurbs about homeschooling (which is not much right now because the girls are still too young to officially begin lessons), random thoughts here and there about faith or what I've been reading or who knows what, and then there's sometimes a recipe thrown in because, well...because I just want to.


Sunday was dreary and we were kind of bored, so I thought, let's bake!  The girls and I ended up making something DELICIOUS and I wanted to share it with you.  It's a pumpkin recipe, and maybe some people are tired of pumpkin because they went overboard around the holidays, but not us.  I still have 4 cans of pumpkin in my pantry.  I think I've only used one can - now two! - this whole fall/winter season.  So pumpkin it was!

We made a pumpkin cake.  It's the only pumpkin cake I think I've ever made, but it definitely won't be the last because it. is. awesome!

I think they're singing while waiting for me to get everything out.

Before it went into the oven.

After it came out.  I thought this picture was so cute, but of course it's blurry :)

Spreading on the icing.

Izzy was super serious about her task.

She didn't do too bad.  I just had to laugh at her, though, because she got it all over the dish.

Of course, I had to fix it, as best I could.  Izzy's got some icing in her mouth.

My camera batteries died before I got a picture of Izzy scarfing her piece down.

This was seriously one of the best cakes I've had.  But maybe I was just in the mood for pumpkin.  I don't know.  It has the perfect amount of spice, in my opinion, it was very moist, and the icing was wonderful with a little touch of cinnamon.  I did not create this recipe on my own, but adapted it from here.  I changed up the spices a little, decreased the sugar (and will probably decrease a little more next time), omitted 2 eggs, decreased the amount of butter, added applesauce, and totally changed up the icing.


Would you like my recipe?  Okay!

Pumpkin Cake

Cake Ingredients:
2 ¾ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ginger
¼ tsp cloves
¼ cup butter, softened
½ cup oil (I use canola)
1 cup granulated sugar (I’ll probably use ¾ cup next time)
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 15 oz. can pumpkin
½ cup milk (I use almond)

Icing Ingredients:
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp cinnamon (optional, but highly recommended)
splash of milk
2 ½ cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour through cloves).  In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the softened butter, oil, and sugars until well mixed.  Add the applesauce and mix.  Then add the eggs one at a time.  Lastly, add the vanilla.  In a small bowl, mix the pumpkin and milk together.  Add the flour and pumpkin mixtures to the bowl of the stand mixer in three batches, beginning and ending with the flour.  Mix each batch just until combined.  Pour batter into a greased 9×13 baking dish (I used a glass dish) and bake for about 45 minutes.  When a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, it’s done.  Let it cool for about two hours before icing.

For the icing:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the cream cheese and butter.  Add the vanilla, cinnamon, and a splash of milk (maybe a tsp at the most).  Add ½ to 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time until the desired consistency is reached (I used 2 ½ cups powdered sugar total.  It was a perfect amount in my opinion.).  When cake has cooled, frost with the icing, and eat!

Store the cake in the fridge.

Enjoy!  Unless you're tired of pumpkin.  I can't help you there.  :)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Warm weather fun

We have continued to enjoy the warm weather the past two weeks or so.  It's really been a blessing to be able to get outside in the warm sunshine in the middle of winter (today, however, it's rainy and windy and cold, but supposed to be near 60 most of the week!!).  Last week I took the kids to the park.  They played and we did our weekly nature walk (which we've struggled to make a weekly thing since, you know, it's the middle of winter, and I'm just not a fan of the cold.  Unless it's snowing.  Which it's only done once, way back in November.).  Anyhoo.


Her shoe fell off. 
Playing McDonald's.
Piling leaves.
I found a dead bee and we spent a few minutes looking at it closely...and pushing it around with a stick.

My kids are still little, so right now I'm focusing on training their habit of attention and observation.  We noticed how big the bee's eyes were, how fuzzy he was, and how he had veins in his wings.

We watched a woodpecker climb up and down some trees.  Can you spot it?

After they played for awhile, we did our official nature walk, just walking on the sidewalk which encircles the park.  Except Izzy always just wants to run as fast as she can, so I have to yell at her several times to slow down and wait for the rest of us.  She's such a busy-body.

We found another dead creature - a squirrel.  Sorry if you're grossed out by dead things.  We made sure not to touch it, not even with a stick.  We mainly looked at its teeth - it had four - and its super sharp looking claws.  We left it after about two minutes because the girls thought he smelled bad.

They played around a big pine tree.

Izzy found a twig on the ground with a tiny pine cone on it.  We brought it home and put it in our "nature basket" :)

They played in the leaves for awhile.

Piled them up on the bridge and ran through...

Of course, you must roll around in big piles of leaves :)

Addy had to hold her pants up everytime she started running.  She and her pants...they never stay up, ha.

Have you had some nice weather lately?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Gardening and comfort

I started reading Les Miserables a week or two ago as part of an unofficial AO book discussion.  I've highlighted many quotes from the first 8 chapters, and a couple ended up in my commonplace.

Sometimes he dug in his garden; again, he read or wrote.  He had but one word for both these kinds of toil; he called them gardening.  "The mind is a garden," said he.
Just like a garden needs to be planted and tended, so do our minds.  They need to be filled with thought-provoking words through wonderful books, and nourished through reflection.  The latter is part of the reason why I so enjoy blogging.

Here's another one:
"The most beautiful of altars," he said, "is the soul of an unhappy creature consoled and thanking God."
God is the source of our strength, peace, contentment, happiness.  Without Him we are broken and unhappy; stumbling in the heap of our sins.  It reminds me of what James wrote:
Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Lament and mourn and weep!  Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  (James 4:8,9)
Oh, how our sins fill us with shame and make us grieve.  But...
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you...Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.  (James 4:8,10) 
It is pure beauty and love that God, in the midst of our sinfulness and unworthiness, will lift us out of that gloom and comfort us and love us unconditionally.

We must be willing to let Him.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

My so-called bullet journal

There's been a lot of buzz about bullet journals lately, and I will admit that I haven't look it up so I'm not entirely sure I know what one is.  I'm guessing it's some sort of checklist, but in a notebook/journal?

Anyway, I've never been a checklist sort of gal, mostly because looking at a long list of things to do tends to overwhelm me.


I made some goals this year not only for myself, but also for our homeschool.  But since it's not an official homeschool year yet (being just kindergarten), I haven't really been on top of making sure things get done.  It's been a bit relaxed - which can be a good thing - but not when I skip Izzy's reading lessons 3 days in a row or forget to play our folk song two weeks in a row.

Of course, skipping those things aren't going to ruin my children and they're still young so it's really not a biggie.  But, the purpose of me including these things is to ease our way into year one of AO in the fall.  There's going to be so much that's new that I feel it would make the transition easier by going ahead and getting our feet wet a little bit.

So, enter my so-called bullet journal.  (I guess it really can be called a journal because it's in a notebook and I haven't torn out the page.)

I figured I would make this bullet list for one week at a time.  The top half of the page has the weekly goals that I would like to accomplish with Izzy (and Addy for most of it, too).

On the left are the read-alouds.  These do not include all of our read-alouds, but these are the ones I definitely want to get to and the ones we usually read in the mornings (except for The Wizard of Oz) along with a Bible story and some poetry/rhymes.  For example, you can see that I would like to read one chapter of Old Mother West Wind this week.  The books are in no particular order - it doesn't matter the day I read the book or which book I pick first.  When I read a chapter, I'll check it off and we're done with it for the week.  This will also give us a taste of how we will read books when we officially begin AO - spread out and savored instead of wolfed down without tasting anything.  (I honestly don't know if my husband ever tastes his food because he eats so fast.)

The Wizard of Oz is the only one in which I have more than one chapter.  I guess I would consider it our "free read."  We usually read it in the afternoons or at night.

At the top right are the art/music boxes.  This is where I'm really inconsistent and need something to hold me accountable - hopefully it'll be this!  I have one box for each which means we'll listen to the song, or look at the art print, once that week.  We usually do this during lunch.

Same idea with the cooking, nature walk, and art time - once per week at least.  I originally had a goal of daily art time, but that hasn't really worked out so I scaled waaaaay back with a goal of once per week.  My kids are just too concerned with running around and playing and pretending than sitting down and drawing.

Lastly are Izzy's reading lessons.  I'm striving for doing these with her 5 days per week (hence the 5 boxes).  Now I know formal reading lessons are not necessary before age 6, but Izzy has an interest to learn to read (but it's not like a beg-me-everyday-to-teach-her-to-read interest that I've heard other kids have) and we're only spending 5 or 10 minutes on each lesson, so I think we're good.

Now to the bottom half - my goals for the week.  I posted the picture again so you wouldn't have to keep scrolling up and down.  These are a mixture of mother culture and household tasks.

I have 5 books going right now.  The Daughter of Time is an AO forum book discussion book so there are certain chapters to be read each week.  Les Miserables is another book discussion, but it's an unofficial one so it's a very light discussion.  I've never read LM, and honestly wasn't planning to anytime soon, but someone on the forums suggested reading it together, I thought why not?  The Count of Monte Cristo is a book that I've been reading since last year and my goal is to get through 3 chapters for the week.  Stepping Heavenward another 3 chapters (actually now I'm down to two chapters left), and The Pursuit of Holiness 2 chapters.

On the right, I have a goal of working in my nature journal once per week and taking a bath.  Yep, you read that right.  We've lived in our house for 4 1/2 years now and I think I've only taken like 5 or 6 baths.  I like to take baths (even though it always makes me think of Chandler on the show Friends when he was disgusted at the thought of taking a bath, saying you were just "stewing in your own filth."), but never thought I had the time.  It was really because I never said to my husband, "Hey, I'd like to take a bath.  Would you mind watching the girls?"  Now I do.  And he says, "Sure."  So there we go.  Plus, I always take a book with me so I'll be able to check off two boxes.  Whoop, whoop.

Lastly are my weekly cleaning goals.  Ugh.  I don't like to clean (does anyone?) and, as a result, I need a system to hold myself accountable and a way to tell what I have and haven't done.  I have the main cleaning areas to be done each week listed.  No particular order in which to do these - I'll just do something that needs to be done and check it off.  (Of course, if the bathroom gets super yucky before the next week, we'll deal with it.  Actually it's getting high-time to teach Izzy to clean the bathroom, don't ya think?  I mean, she'll be 6 in three months.)  Notice the kitchen is not on there.  That's because the kitchen is cleaned everyday.  I do not like dirty dishes in the sink or on the counters or a dirty floor (I just don't), so we take care of that right after meal times.  And, the girls help clean the kitchen with us.

This list took me about 5 or 10 minutes to put together and it's in one of those cheapo 70-page notebooks.  Quick and cheap.  That's how I like it.

Okay.  That's it!  We'll see how it goes!

Do you have a system for holding yourself accountable to get things done?

Friday, January 16, 2015

What have we been up to?

Here's some random what-we've-been-up-to pictures.

The weather has finally warmed up!  It's been sooooo nice outside (it's weird to say that about 45 degree weather) the past few days and we have taken advantage.  Yesterday we were actually outside in the afternoon for about two hours.  Whoa.

We stopped by "our" pond (at a local park) to check on the ducks.  You can't see them; they're stuck on the other side because about 3/4ths of the pond is covered in a layer of ice.  (This was a couple of days ago, so it may be thawed by now; it's been much warmer.)

Addy has recently rediscovered the cat beanie that Nan got her for Halloween.  She's been putting it on and chasing the other kids around.

There's an empty lot down the road with many oak trees and they looooove to just run around between them.

We went exploring one day and Izzy found this.  I'm guessing it's a paper wasp's nest.

This is our "nature treasure basket."  It's mostly pine cones and rocks right now, except for the wasp's nest and a moth cocoon somewhere - I think it's on the other side of the leaf on the left.

The girls have really been into dress-up and tea time lately.  Of course, Izzy has to wait on Princess Addy.

They've been playing with this particular tea set a lot (they have several sets from their Nana) and I think it's the first one Izzy received.  Notice one of the cups is chipped.  I used to get so nervous when they would play with their tea sets, worried that they would break them, but now I just explain to them to be careful because we want to take care of our things, and I let them play.  They are usually very careful, but if they chip something, it's okay - the important thing is that they're having fun.  And it's just stuff anyway.

They've also been into putting-on-a-show, i.e. dancing and singing.  

Goodness, they just crack me up sometimes.

They got ahold of a little mirror that I keep in my purse and were pretending that it was a camera, taking selfies.  I honestly don't know where they got this idea because I've never taken a selfie.  Seriously.

They've been helping me quite a bit in the kitchen lately, which was one of my goals for Izzy for the new year.  They've helped me bake muffins a couple of times.

Don't you love their aprons?  Thanks, Nana!

They're - thankfully - still at that stage where they actually like to do the dishes.

Making enchiladas.

And making tomato soup.

Speaking of tomato soup, out of all the soups including chicken noodle, this is one of the only soups they like.  Tomato of all things.

Technically it's tomato-basil soup and it. is. delicious.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that pretty much every time they help me in the kitchen, when there's a lull, they run off and usually wrestle.  I don't know why.  Sillies.

Alright, that's probably good :)

What have you been up to lately?