Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hasta Luego

Today finally (finally! a month behind schedule!) feels like spring.
Here is our backyard, with grass struggling to green up.
The last vestiges of snow pile along the edges of our property and beneath our big pine trees.
It's been a long winter.
And last week felt like a total loss, with several snowfalls and plenty of other griefs.
Some weeks are just like that.

Somehow we survived another winter.
I do wonder why our ancestors settled in Minnesota.
They didn't have LL Bean, or central heating, or proper coffee.
They had to use outhouses.
And milk cows.
And do without a hundred little conveniences that I take for granted.

However, they did take pleasure in reading.
Above are the latest books I got out for Malachi.
He can't be allowed to hold them, because he would rip them to pieces and then chew up the shreds.

From top left, clockwise:
Who's A Friend of the Water-Spurting Whale. I like it because it doesn't have too many words, and they are well-chosen passages from Job.
 Down by the Bay. This one has a great tune and pretty good rhymes.
Nose, Toes, Antlers, Tail. A favorite, full of silly animals and very fun to read. Several pages are missing so I need to order a new one.
Rosie's Walk (El Paseo de Rosie). It's important to read to the baby in Spanish as much as possible. And it's good for my Spanish.
You Are Special. A classic by Max Lucado. I still can't get through it without tearing up.

 Basket made by my Great-Great Grandmother Magdalena,
mended with a shoelace by my Great-Grandfather Herbold. 
(He was a thorough Bible scholar, but was also remembered for creative repairs such as this one).
The strange thing is, my forefathers probably had very few children's books.
And their kids were somewhat brilliant.
Go figure.

We don't just pass the time reading.
Sometimes we listen to a few tunes.
Remember this old toy?
I got it a few summers ago at a garage sale, little suspecting that -Boom!- I'd wind up having a little guy who would play with it.

Happy spring, everyone.
We welcome it with joy.

You may also like: How to Read to a Child

Friday, April 19, 2013

Perfect Pie Crust || Baby's First Pie

Nine inches of snow fell yesterday, and we are stuck inside again.
Today I decided to make a pie for my son.
It's coconut cream, because that's the recipe my friend Jackie requested.
(Sorry Dad. The one pie you won't eat).

Perfect Pie Crust
(adapted from Betty Crocker's Cookbook)

One-crust pie (10- inch)

Heat oven to 475 degrees F.

1/2 cup shortening (I use half butter-flavor Crisco and half lard)
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
3-4 Tb. cold water (place ice in the water, plus 1-2 tsp. vinegar)

Cut shortening into flour and salt until fine and crumbly (a pastry blender works best). 
Sprinkle in ice water, 1 Tb. at a time, until dough starts to come together.
Don't forget the vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar), as this is what makes the pastry so flaky.
Gather pastry into a ball, place on plastic wrap.
Form into a hockey-puck shape, wrap the plastic tightly around pastry, freeze for about 1/2 hour.

Remove pastry from freezer, unwrap.
Place dough on well-floured surface.
Roll to desired thickness. I like my crust very thin, but you'll see what happens to it.....
Roll the pastry around your rolling pin.
Transfer to pie plate (Glass pie plates produce the best crusts. Cheap at thrift stores!).
Smooth into place, and form an edge to flute as you like.
If making a baked pie crust, poke bottom of crust with fork (about 10 times) to release steam.
(If filling and baking a raw crust, do not poke crust).

If you have a nine-inch pie plate, you'll have quite a bit of dough left over. You can either make a tiny pie, or just place the rolled scraps on a cookie sheet, sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar, and bake them. They will be done in about five minutes.

Bake pie shell for 8-10 minutes on top rack.

Cool on cooling rack for best results

 Malachi makes sure I measure out the ice water perfectly.
 It's easy to get a perfect hockey puck if you use the plastic wrap to help form the dough.
 Time out for a hug! 

 I use lots of flour, but still the crust gets a little weird sometimes.

 This rolling pin is only $10 at Crate & Barrel. What a deal.

 I made two crusts today, and the first one turned out perfectly.
The second one stuck to the rolling pin.
Don't re-roll your pastry.
Just patch it in, it will still be the best pie crust you've ever tasted.


Fill your pie with your favorite recipe for pie filling.
Our all-time fave is fresh raspberry, from berries we pick that day, but peanut butter is great too.
Here's the recipe for Coconut Cream Filling: 

2/3 cup sugar
5 T. corn starch
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups milk
4 eggs yolks, slightly beaten, in a large bowl 
2 T. butter
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 cup shredded coconut (or flaked, if you prefer to chew your coconut)

1 cup whipped cream, slightly sweetened

Mix sugar, corn starch and salt in a medium saucepan.
Whisk in milk, stir constantly over medium heat.
Bring to boil, boil one minute.
Ladle half of the hot mixture into the egg yolks, pouring it in slowly and stirring or whisking till blended.
Stir the egg mixture back into the mixture in the saucepan.
Bring to boil, stir one minute, remove from heat.
Stir in butter, vanilla, and 1 cup of coconut.

Pour into pie shell.
Cover with plastic wrap so filling doesn't form a crust.
Chill at least 2 hours.

When ready to serve, remove plastic wrap, top with whipped cream, sprinkle with coconut.
(I toasted the coconut first in a skillet).

 He very much wanted to grab the pie.

 Look how flaky that crust is. Hard to catch the tender deliciousness in a photograph. 

 My little photog got the first piece!
Malachi is ready with his two spoons.  

You may also like this post: Shower for Baby Annali

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

This World Is Not My Home

We hope and pray
for that glorious day,
our tears will vanish,
wiped away.
On the saints this day already shines,
on the saints this day already shines.

"Think of friends or family members who loved Jesus and reside with him now. Picture them with you, walking together in this place. All of you have powerful bodies, stronger than those of an Olympic decathlete. You are laughing, playing, talking and reminiscing. You reach up to a tree to pick an apple or orange. You take a bite. It's so sweet that it's startling. You've never tasted anything so good.

Now you see someone coming toward you. It's Jesus, with a big smile on his face. You fall to your knees in worship. He pulls you up and embraces you. At last, you're with the person you were made for, in the place you were made to be. Everywhere you go there will be new people and places to enjoy, new things to discover. What's that you smell? A feast. A party's ahead. And you're invited. There's exploration and work to be done - and you can't wait to get started."
(Randy Alcorn, Heaven, p. 18)

I am so thankful for the promise of heaven.

Friday, April 12, 2013


Here they are,
my oldest daughter
and my youngest son.
She can't get over how great babies are.
As for me, I can't believe how wonderful it is to have an infant
when there are two big girls to help me.
Today they both happen to be gone,
so the baby is crying, I'm missing the Tracy Anderson workout,
the kitchen is messy, and I am a little bit lonely.
(Which is odd for me, since I am never lonely as long as I have a good book to read).

Julia just turned eighteen.
Somehow that is a watershed number.

She'll have two little parties.
Here is the first party, with her high school friends.

Two of these girls are quiet, two are lively.
Can you guess which ones are quiet?
I love them all.
While they were here, I kept trying to give them advice, which probably bored them to pieces.
I don't usually do that, but since I was fresh off my own high-school reunion,
I had plenty of thoughts on the matter.

When Julia was little, she wanted to do all my crafts with me,
including complicated beading.
It got to the point where I tried to make jewelry when she wasn't around,
because she clamored to do everything I did.

Now she has found a craft she loves, leather work,
and the things she makes are far beyond my skill set (you can see her creations on Etsy).
She's going to college next year,
but she'd rather be home, pounding out beautiful leather pieces.
I'm going to miss her terribly.
I keep telling her that college is priceless, that she will love it,
but I sorrow at the thought of our house without Julia in it.

My girl and her friends are at the brink.
From the promise of eighteen,
the wonder of life is an open field in front of them.
I wish them joy.

"Before calling has anything to do with doing, it has everything to do with being, that essence of yourself that God knew before the foundations of the earth, that God called into being and that God alone truly knows. It is the call to be who we are and at the same time to become more than we can yet encompasses everything that makes us who we are: our genetics, innate orientations and capacities, our personality, heredity and life-shaping experiences, and the time and place into which we were born." (Ruth Haley Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership).

(Julia also sells her pieces at Krista Artista Gallery in Anoka, Minnesota).

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Cold Spring, Hot Soup

Five inches of snow today, and more expected tomorrow.
I'm not happy about it, but I'm not beside myself either.
As long as I can stay inside and eat yummy food,
with my daughters and my baby to keep me company,
it's not so bad.

When I was with my friend Lisa in Georgia,
she rattled off a tomato soup recipe from memory.
It sounded good then,
but it sounds even better now,
with snow falling thick on the budding trees outside my window.

Someday I'll blog about my kitchen essentials.
For now, here are two of the best:
a very sharp chef's knife,
and a flexible cutting board (this one is from Ikea).
(I made an open-face grilled cheese sandwich, with avocado and tomato, to go with the soup).

Spicy Tomato Soup

1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 cans fire-roasted tomatoes (14.5 oz. each)
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
2 T. basil or cilantro, chopped

Optional: 1 tsp. sugar, 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

Heat oil, stir in onion, cook over medium heat for about 7 minutes, or till soft.
(I then stirred in 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar, since that is good in so many soups)

Stir in garlic, cook for about 2 minutes, stirring so garlic doesn't burn

Add tomatoes and broth, and sugar and pepper flakes if you decide to use them.

Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes

Allow to cool for about 15 minutes

Using an immersion blender, blend the soup to desired consistency.

If you want the soup very hot, return soup to a simmer.

To serve, ladle into bowls and sprinkle with basil or cilantro.

(Thanks Lisa. This is a keeper).

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Hide and Seek

 (Denim bear by Grandma, baby quilt by Amanda, my quilt by Liz.)
I woke up at four a.m.,
realized by five a.m. that I wasn't going to fall back to sleep,
left Malachi in Daddy's care, and made my coffee.
At one point I fed the baby and put him in his crib.
Which is a pack 'n play at the foot of my bed.
And which he hates.
He screamed for awhile.
Then, blissful silence.
I waited about half an hour,
then went to look for him.
He wasn't in his crib.
He wasn't with Daddy.

I got a little nervous.
Here is where I finally found him.
Anna Kate had rescued him after just a few minutes of heart-breaking cries.
This is just one of the many reasons why this little guy is not on a schedule.
Soft-hearted sisters are constantly rescuing him.

Morning stretching.

Off to his high chair for breakfast.
Now that the day has begun, he's all smiles.

The cutest thing in the kitchen.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Grass and Hope

It was a different sort of Easter.
For starters, we weren't allowed to say "Easter."
Apparently the entire season is drenched in paganism, including the word we've always used to describe it.
So we had "Resurrection bags,"
and we tried to say,
"Happy Resurrection Day,"
or, as always,
"He is risen!"
answered by,
"He is risen, indeed."

I started the wheat grass way too late.
This is how it looked this week.
Just like our terrible late spring,
everything feels slow, as though
we are lurching towards life,
not springing towards it.

This year we hosted our parents for the first time ever.
It was wonderful.
And although my father-in-law is suffering from Parkinson's
(which means everyone who loves him also suffers from it),
the time together seemed set apart.

As I rocked Malachi and held him through his naptime,
the others quietly helped with the clean-up.
And I thought about the life that comes, after the death.

I thought about what our family has survived,
these last seven years.
The things that God allowed so that we could be more broken
than we had ever offered to be.
We almost never choose the ways we participate in His sufferings.

Malachi with his two Grandmas

So we stumble into spring,

thankful and not entirely whole.
It looks like hope,
to be like that wheat grass seed.
Dead, dry, covered,
watered, sunned, and then,
when the time is right,
coming to life.

Thank you, Jesus,
for the power of the resurrection.