Birthday Celebrating & Pavlova

This past weekend I quietly celebrated my birthday with family. That's the best. I don't need anything fancy. My sister spoiled me with a fabulous lunch out by the river, and clothes and toys for my little ones. My kids and my brother gave me BBQ's. Yes, two. We've designated one for meat, and BBQ #2 is going to be the "Pizza Oven". I can't wait to try BBQ'ing some pizza. (Gluten free? I'm going to have to research this!) 
The craziest thing from my day was attempting to make myself a Pavlova-cake. My favorite desserts are light and easy on the tummy, with lots of fruit.  I was super stoked to find berries on sale in abundance, and since I happened to be wandering through Trader Joe's I figured I might as well try out making the Pavlova with egg whites from a carton. You know, save myself 5 minutes. Let me just say....Don't try it. As smart as it seems to just be able to pour egg whites into a bowl from a carton and beat them into heavenly fluffy goodness, the end result is not worth the time. I wasted an hour of my time, and gave my KitchenAide the work out of a lifetime, trying to get those egg whites to whip. In the end, I never did get them to where they needed to be. I resigned myself to lining my skillet with Parchment and pouring them in to bake.

When the Pavolova was finished, it was pretty, but not nearly as fluffy as I would have liked. It was more like a souffle. A sad souffle. A souffle that didn't rise to the occasion. (But still a tasty one.)

On the other hand, the one that I made with separated eggwhites turned out lovely. Typically you want to leave it in the oven when the baking time is up, so that it can cool slowly and dry out completely. I was anxious to eat my birthday cake and share it with my sister before she had to head out, so I pulled it from the oven early. If I had left it, it wouldn't have cracked and crumbled, but turned out like a large lovely, bigger than life meringue cookie. 
 Coconut cream was piled on top, and beautiful tart berries. Plunked a pretty candle in the middle, (because 36 of them would just be way too many).
 Wishes were made. Dreams are expected to come true! They always do, right?

We enjoyed, and then the kids and I relaxed the rest of the day and played with our new toys. I think we're in need of some more little friends to add to our collection now! Maybe I'll make some felt friends...

All in all, it was a lovely celebration. I wouldn't have chosen it any other way. 


Wool you look at that!

Wool, I finally got around to it. Cleaning some of my wool, that is. My Uncle had given me a whole fleece and I have been excited to get around to cleaning it. It's not as difficult, it's just time consuming and requires patience, which sometimes I am not good at. 

I read through several tutorials and watched multiple YouTube videos about the process before I went ahead. I had cleaned a small portion a few months ago, all by hand. I washed it in a bucket of hot water in the sink, wrung it out and laid it to dry in the sun.  It turned out quite lovely. It was only a very small portion, though, and not enough to do much of anything with.

I decided to do it a little bit differently this time. I started by picking out most of the yucky stuff, (you know, poo and grass bits). And then soaked it gently in a rubbermaid of cool water a few times to remove as much dirt and grime as I could. It was amazing. And gross. But a cool process, none the less. The thought crossed my mind the whole time, "What if I felt it by accident?!" The thing is, though, that sheep live outside. They get rained on. They get caught up in fog. Their coats don't felt then. As long as I treated it gently it would be fine. And it was! 

After I had rinsed it a few times, I filled my washer with hot water and a generous amount of Free and Clear detergent. I turned the washer off, gently put my wool in, and let it sit for an hour. Play with your baby.
Maybe sew a few things.
 Do NOT agitate. Can you believe, this was after I had previously rinsed it several times? Let it sit for just a smidge longer.

 Play with your baby some more. Sew some more. Entertain your Preschooler a bit.

Once the wool has sat in the hot water and turned it a muddy color, turn the washer to the Spin cycle and let it drain. No rinsing, just spin/drain. The result will be some fluff flattened to the sides of your washer, but cleaned and ready to be dried. I lay mine out on my picnic table and let it dry in the sun. Not only did the sun dry it, but also had a similar effect on the wool as it does on cloth diapers. It bleached some of the yellow out of it. It was magical.

 I carded a little bit. Now I have to practice with a Drop Spindle. This could take me a while to get the hang of...

 Are there any tips or tricks to using a drop spindle, or is it just a matter of practicing? So far, my yarn looks....lumpy.

P.S. Come check out the recipe I'm sharing over on Catholic Sistas!


Little Wise Ones

 This morning my 9 year old daughter and I were discussing something that I was struggling with. She paused over her cereal and told me, "Well, Mom, who cares about all the little details, anyway, when you have this big beautiful picture to look at?" Well then. There's something to it.
 Most often I'm looking at the big picture. It can be overwhelming. Everyone will naturally tell you to focus on one thing at a time, to tackle one small step at a time. But there's wisdom in what she said too. In the end, the whole big picture might not be "perfect", per say, but if the end result is this beautiful magical thing then what's there to complain about right? The little things do matter. I just spoke about that they other day. But the big picture is important, too.
 I keep being surprised by the little bits of wisdom that come out of my children's mouths. They surprise me with their insights. Sometimes I think I underestimate how much they see and hear until they sit down with me and start talking and asking questions. Note to self to take time and just sit with them each separately, and listen to what they have to say. What insights can they give me today? What little bits of wisdom?
 Always rushing. Always something that my hands need to tend to. My mind is always making lists, checking things off, pushing hard to go Go GO. What do they see that I'm missing? I'm curious to know.
 I've made a point of taking them with me, individually, so that I can hear what they have to say and share about myself with them as well. The two middle kids love those mommy and me dates. My big guy, he's coming around. Those teenage years are fast approaching for him and he's fighting being "a kid", but I can see the internal struggle in his eyes and that he wants to be heard. Doing my best.

All the little things, all the listening makes the bigger picture come together. The little things, when I just look at each one individually, look like one of a one thousand piece puzzle. It's not coherent. But all together, they do make something beautiful, just like my big girl pointed out.

Each piece of our puzzle brings something more to the big picture. Doing the small things as best I can so that we can focus on seeing the big beautiful master piece. 


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?


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