Ponderings, New Adventures, and More

I'm celebrating my 400th post today by unpacking. It's very glamorous. 
The fact that I am unpacking is actually such a wonderful thing. It's been a journey to get here, to this place, and I am proud of my work. 
The other day I was feeling a bit down and confused, wondering what plans God has in store for my life journey, and what the next steps are. With my morning coffee in hand, I sat down with my Devotional Bible and flipped it open. The little devotional reading for this day happened to be from Mother Teresa. If you can't take advice from Mother Teresa, I'm not sure who you can take advice from.
"Little Things
Always be faithful in little things, for in them our strength lies. To God nothing is little. He cannot make anything small; they are infinite. Practice fidelity in the least things, not for their own sake, but for the sake of the great thing that is the will of God, and which I respect greatly. 

Do not pursue spectacular deeds. We must deliberately renounce all desires to see the fruit of our labor, doing all we can as the gift of your self, the degree of love that you put into each one of your actions. 

Do not allow yourselves to be disheartened by any failure as long as you have done your best. Neither glory  in your success, but refer to God in deepest thankfulness.

If you are discouraged, it is a sign of pride because it shows you trust in your own powers. Never bother about people's opinions. Be humble and you will never be disturbed. The Lord has will me here where I am. He will offer a solution." ~Mother Teresa of Calcutta

 What response to her words could I have other than to say, "Yes, ok." Those words, so simple, yet so powerful and full of wisdom have done a good job of "setting me free". I will proceed forward confidently in trusting God has a plan for my life, talents, needs, and desires. All the while, I will accomplish what is set before me as best I can. No need to worry-- He's got me covered! I'll take care of the children, tend the house, see to what needs to be taken care of today. It's what is before me, it is all I can do. The degree of love to which I do each task is what matters. It's a beautiful thought, really. Am I tending each thing with love? Am I moving forward in thankfulness? Perhaps not to the greatest degree that is in my capability-- so I will try to love harder, more, and fully. The tangible evidence of how freeing that is is made clear when I let go and just take a next step forward, not worrying so much about the outcome as much as about the fact that I am still moving forward. Beautiful things happen!
 Extraordinary opportunities have presented themselves lately, and I am so excited. Some of the most exciting news for me is that I was recently asked to be a contributor to Catholic Sistas blog. I'll be sharing recipes and crafts there. I hope you'll join me over there to check out some new and fun things. It gives me a chance to join an amazing team of women, and to share my talents to a broader audience. I feel truly honored, and so excited. I think things are going to come together quite nicely in the upcoming months.

 All my little bits of life are starting to come together into something cohesive, and that gives me some heart-rest. It's beautiful to see how God works in the little things to make a clearer picture for us of what is important. Mother Teresa was very wise in saying to not bother about other peoples opinions. What is right for one person is not necessarily what we are all called to be or do. We're not all blessed with the same talents, or the same life situations. We can only move forward from the place we are in, not from a place of what we hope would have been. We can move forward with hope for the future, though. And that's what I have-- hope for the future.
 My hope for the future is that it brings many blessings on my family and those that I encounter. This great adventure isn't over. Everyday is a new beginning, and I am excited to see where we end up!

Here's to 400 more posts full of life and love.


Life Lessons for June.

Life is full of the unexpected. One day, you are going along and everything is quiet. Then the next there are these bumps that, when focused on, seem to be mountains rather than the small bumps that they actually are.  What does this have to do with my sweet little girl? A lot actually. She is a great teacher.

My little Lisette is a ruthless go-getter. Nothing slows her down. She may take a little more time to reach goals, but she doesn't give up along the way. When I look at myself and the goals that I set, do I approach them in the same way? No. If something upsets my norm, or gets in my path, I panic.  I ring my hands, and panic, and cry, feel out of control, wonder what I do and why this is happening. Lisette doesn't get intimidated, she just keeps moving forward, over and around things until she ends up where she needs or wants to be. What a great lesson. That might seem obvious, I know, but lately things have been piling up one on top of another until I feel like I can't see through the "to-do list" and the "needs list" to be able to think clearly about how to accomplish those goals.

Life has been changed for us drastically over the last 6 months, and though I am not ready to talk about all those things here, I can still share this life lesson. It's a beautiful and simple one. Focusing on what is right in front of you, in this moment, is all you can try to conquer. Just like my little one is trying to conquer walking, she must take one step at a time. In these new and different situations, all I can do is try to conquer what is right in front of me, today. That is all I have: today is all any of us have. I can take a step forward. If I fall, or trip, or get a little bruised up in the process it's ok. Don't let those bruises intimidate you. You're going to be ok. You are ok. Keep moving forward even when your voice shakes. You are brave. I am brave. Brave is moving forward even when you are uncertain.

Be brave with me.


Fancy Shmancy Goat Cheese Mac 'N Cheese

Over the last 16 months since my daughter was born, I've been living on a clean diet. I suppose my action of eating this way speaks loudly about how I feel about continuing to breastfeed my daughter as long as she needs. I feel strongly about it, but I don't talk a lot about it. We just do what comes naturally, and we make the necessary adjustments to diet so that it cuts down on her reflux. That's all well and good, and yay for us for being successful. But....every once in a while, a girl just wants a big bowl of Mac 'N Cheese. I mean, c'mon. No gluten? No dairy? You might as well just tell me I have to eat cardboard and rice cakes for the rest of my days. (Not really, but you see what I'm saying, right?!) 

Ohmygosh, I am a cheese fiend. I love cheese. And bread. I love bread. And pasta. I love bread so much that I like to smother it in huge globs of butter and cheese and melt it all in the oven and each it until I feel like I don't need to eat for a week. Just for good measure, throw some pasta on the side. I miss you cheese and bread. Well, not so much now. I discovered that my little lady will tolerate Goat and Sheep milk cheeses. OMGeeeeeeeee, I'm alive after all! Pass the cheese please! I've been experimenting with cheeses, and using Gluten Free flours for quite a while now. There is a lot to be said for a big bowl of cheesey pasta. I took it upon myself to indulge since the opportunity to do so presented itself. 

I've made this recipe a few times now, and I've done it a few different ways. The first few times, I used unsweetened coconut milk for the cheese sauce. It was this glorious creamy white bowl of delicious sauce. It sat on the spoon much the way a lovely Bechamel does. A nice creamy coating on the back of the spoon, with a lovely tart bite from the Goat Cheddar. The second time, this time, I made it with chicken stock. Though not as creamy, it was still a lovely sauce. And in the end it was probably better for me, with less calories. I sprinkled in a very tiny bit of minced Rosemary as well. It was really a lovely flavor paired with the Goat Cheese. I'm tempted to toast some gluten free bread crumbs and sprinkle them over the top. That would just be the topping on the cake...er, Mac 'N Cheese. 
Recipe follows picture. 

Mac N Cheese with Goat Cheese

1 12 oz box of Gluten Free Macaroni, cooked according to instructions.

2 cups of Chicken Stock, or Unsweetened Unflavored Coconut Milk
2 Tbl Earth Balance Margarine
1 Cup of shredded Goat Cheddar
2 Tbl Gluten Free Flour
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp minced Rosemary, optional

In a medium sauce pan, melt the margarine over medium heat until it bubbles. Add the flour and whisk it together with the margarine. It will clump slightly. Let it cook for a minute or two. Slowly, whisk in the chicken stock or coconut milk until there are no clumps and it is smooth. Keep stirring, over medium high heat until the mixture thickens. About 8 minutes. Once thickened, turn the heat to low and stir in the cheese until it is smooth. Add in the Rosemary, and stir. Season with salt. 


Two Minute Photo Backdrop

 Can I tell you something? It's mostly about my being lazy. Or, maybe it's not so much lazy, as just really busy and short on free time these days. I've been wanting to get some pictures of my kids, but time restraints keep me from setting up some fancy little studio setting. And with the four of them running in all different directions, I'm lucky to get one or two pictures from the bazillion that I snap in a 2 minutes shoot time. This is super quick and super easy. And super cost effective as well. I've put together a few backdrops over the last few years using posterboard and various other materials. I keep them around for parties and holidays, and just to have fun if the kids are in the mood.

This one takes exactly two minutes, give or take! All you need is a poster board or two and a Sharpie.
Google a couple of simple line designs. Ones like this one that I made are trending right now, so you can find them on lots of blogs, framing pictures and even on ads. Find one that can act as a frame or boarder. Simple is good. You don't want to distract from your model. 
 Lines, swirls, or simple fruits are fun and easy. Don't worry about perfection. Handmade has it's charms.

For an oval shaped frame, I used a large serving platter as a template. I traced around the platter and use the lines as my guide for drawing the vine frame. 

Place your back ground in some natural lighting and start snapping away. 
The picture above was taken near a window,  my daughter sitting in a chair, and the poster board propped behind her. 

With my youngest daughter, I simply used a black poster board as a back ground and tweaked the exposure a little to make the colors pop.We set it up on the porch where the wooden floor boards looked decent, and the lighting was perfect.
In the past, I have used sheets, various different pieces of fabric, packing supplies. 
What types of materials have you used for a backdrop?


Bringing in the Spring Harvest

Spring arrived, and along with it a beautiful bounty of fruits are filling the property at my uncles house. We've been spending lots of time visiting with family and spending time with the animals. The kids have loved that! And now that the trees are bending with the fruits of the season, they are happy to help collect from the trees so that I can make yummy jams, jellies, and pies.

There are a few challenges to working on my uncles property. It sits on the side of a hill, so reaching the fruit from the tops of the trees is nearly impossible in some places. Since we were lacking in the proper tools, we improvised! It may seem like a rather crude version of this lovely fruit picking basket that you can order online for $30+, but it worked just as well, and was not anywhere near that price.  And the pretty tape was a nice touch, thanks to my Homemakers kit from Brit + Co.

You simply need a broom handle, a 15 oz can (or whatever size you prefer for your fruit), and Duct Tape. If you'd like to have a sharper edge to your can to cut the stems of your fruit, you can use some metal cutting sheers to cut a V shape before you tape your can around the broom handle. Easy-peasy.
Worked fantastic! And it is especially helpful for us gals who happen to be a whopping 5 ft 1 inch. Ladder not needed!

 And take a look at these beauties!

 Loquats are one of those fruit that can make you wonder a bit. What do you make with them? What can you pair them with? Personally, this was the first time I've ever cooked anything with them. I remember as a child eating them straight of the tree, so Google and Pinterest were my best friend when I was looking how to prepare them.
I chose the jam route, and paired them with some Rosemary. The flavors were beautiful together. It's a simple recipe that I threw together, but could easily be multiplied to suite how much fruit you have to use. Enjoy!

Loquat + Rosemary Jam

1 cup of pitted and chopped loquats
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of water
1 tsp gelatin 
1 sprig of rosemary, plus 1 tsp minced rosemary leaves reserved

In a medium sauce pan put your Loquats, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil, and turn to low to simmer for about 40 minutes, or until the fruit is opaque and thicker like a syrup. Melt your gelatin in a tablespoon of water and add to your pan. Cook for about 5 more minutes. The jam will thicken slightly as it cools. Preserve in a canning jar according to packaging instructions, or reserve in the refrigerator. (In our case, it only lasted a few days, but I imagine it could keep for quite some time!)

Happy Spring!


The View.

Sometimes the view is all about perspective. It's not what's going on outside, but what's going on inside that matters. Life transforms before our eyes everyday and we take it for granted, when things look mellow or boring from where we're sitting. The internal struggles can be so real and yet no one else sees them. It's all the surface muck that changes the view of what's really taking place within for other people. We all know how that goes. We all struggle with stuff throughout life. Often times it's better for us to quietly go about our business of just getting things done.

It struck me yesterday to remember something that I'd seen often floating around on Facebook. It's the quote, "Everyone is fighting a battle. Be kinder than you think is necessary." Or something to that effect. It's so true. We're all going through something. This Lent, I was joking with a few people, God arranged my "fasting and abstinence" better than anything I ever could have come up with. He has a way of knowing what will help us grow if we're open to taking those things on. 
It also gave me some perspective to take into account that maybe a grumpy face, or a pained expression pointed in your direction might not be about you necessarily, but about something that is going on with the other person. Don't take it personally. Instead pray for that person, and be kinder than you think is necessary. Maybe that person is experiencing something that you can't imagine. The perspective is different from the outside. The internal struggle is real. It's all about the view.


Quiet Days & Handwork.

 I've been a little obsessed with sheep and wool and handwork and quiet and calm lately. Probably because life seems a little crazy and "unplanned" lately, and those things I mentioned make me feel peaceful. Peaceful is good. It really has been incredible to me that despite all that goes on around me, and with me sometimes, that God seems to make these perfect opportunites available to me and the kids that allow us to take a "breather" and just rest. As my youngest boy likes to say, "He's a good Dad-God!" He knows just what we need.

We've taken a few short day trips to visit some family that
have some sheep. I'm completely obsessed with them. My aunt and uncle sheered their sheep a few months ago and had been holding onto the wool. They generously gifted it all to me. I have this glorious pile of wool, full of twigs and hay, and lathered in lanolin that is just begging to be cleaned and turned into something magical and beautiful. I'll get around to cleaning it eventually. I wanted the kids to see where it came from, so the day trip was important. The sheep had birthed some lambs just recently and I wanted to make sure that they could experience them while they were still fresh and young! There is nothing in the world like experiencing new life.
 Anyway, all this lamb and wool talk got me enthused to make a quick something. I took 15 minutes and crocheted a cover for this wooden bead that I soaked in Thieves Essential Oil, and strung it on a hemp cord.

Quick crafts are my favorite. Who doesn't love some (almost) instant gratification from a project completed! What's funny is, it's nothing fancy. But I wore it today when I went to the dentist and both she and her assistant commented on it. Where did I get it? Could they get one, too? Funny how that happens.   
Now, to bed to dream of other things to do with all the wool that awaits me.
What would you do with a bundle of raw wool? I'm open to ideas!


A Taste from my Childhood.

Growing up there were a few things that my mom was well known for. There was her artistic talent (breath taking), her taste in furniture (fantastic), and her food (amazing). My sister's favorite cake has always been this sponge cake from The Joy of Cooking, with Seven Minute Frosting, and sprinkles galore. We were visiting my sister over the weekend and decided she was deserving! She's been nothing short of phenomenal over the last year at helping out when we needed it most. The least we could do was make her a cake.

We grow older, and our lives change and grow, but some things stay the same. Like cake with sprinkles. That will always be good. 

Have you tried Seven Minute Frosting? It's like this delicious fluff when it's freshly made. And then, as it sits, it turns to this crispy meringue. Yum. Give it a try!


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