Monday, December 19, 2011

Big Man Upstairs

Ah, Santa. That jolly old fellow, inextricably connected to our Christmas season. Also an eternal source of conflict among Christians and non-Christians alike. Everyone has different ways of dealing with Santa, from those who embrace the mall photos and write "from Santa" on every gift, to those who are quick to point out that "Santa" rearranged spells "Satan" and cover their children's eyes whenever a Coca Cola ad comes on TV. 

Our children are very young yet so we really haven't had to deal with Santa very much. Although this is Eli's third Christmas, it's the first one where he's really at all aware. We encountered Santa at our community tree trim, and despite a little trepidation Eli took his place in line to receive his treat bag full of candy. Then proceeded several days of talking about "Satta! Canny!" after which Santa quickly faded out of his little memory.

My growing up is filled with clear memories of my own reaction to Santa Claus. We didn't "do" Santa in our family. It was always clear that Santa wasn't real, and our presents were always "From Mom and Dad." It certainly didn't make Christmas any less exciting for us as children - after all, these were presents - who cares who they're from!

My attitude about Santa was one of somewhat smug superiority over my less-informed friends. I had been carefully instructed and admonished that I was NOT to tell them that Santa wasn't real. I wasn't to lie to them, but just avoid the subject. I was fine with this. I remember that it would annoy me when store clerks or people at church would ask me if I was excited about Santa coming. I wanted them to know that I knew, and that we didn't have to keep up the charade. Inquiries about Santa were usually met with an annoyed glance and an "I know that Santa Claus ISN'T REAL" from little Emily. My mother found it awkward. So did the store employees. In retrospect I can see why.

My darling next sister had a very different perspective. She was much more tender-hearted than I was. While I was content with my superior knowledge, she was crushed that her poor friends were so deceived. In her little mind, their parents were lying to them, and she would be their saviour. Despite my parents' attempts to restrain her, I'm sure she spilled the beans on more than one occasion, tears in her eyes, earnestly pleading with her young friends to see the truth. 

 Lianne (Santa-hater), Me, Ariel (The Pretty One), Naomi (Baby)

As we got older and this became less of an issue, my arrogance was replaced with apathy, while her genuine concern was replaced with resentment. She hated Santa Claus. Even as an adult I'm pretty sure she still dislikes most things connected with him. I am sure that when she gets married and has little ones of her own there will be no Santa Claus in that house. Might have to write it into the marriage contract...

My two youngest sisters were much like me, maybe not so arrogant but definitely not as passionately anti-Santa as Lianne was. 

So the question remains, what to do about Santa? Having grown up the way I did I have a very hard time imagining ever encouraging my children to believe in Santa. That being said, I would never object to parents "playing" Santa with their children, as long as they weren't lying to them. Some things are black and white, and the Bible clearly says not to lie. It doesn't say that there are exceptions, or it's ok if it's a harmless lie, or a lie that will help people, or a lie that is fun, it merely says don't lie. I try not to question what the Bible says. It generally turns out to be right. So I wouldn't lie to my children. I also will not demonize Santa, since I see no problem with pretending and make believe.

 Ultimately, I don't want the focus of Christmas to be Santa or no Santa, "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays," presents or donating money. I want it to be about the birth of Christ, not controversy. That's my goal for this season!

Linking Up:


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Perfect Mama

This morning, I rose at six. I made a pot of coffee and curled up in the comfy chair with my Bible and read a chapter. I prepared healthy green smoothies for my family for breakfast, then showered and dressed, gave my husband a kiss goodbye and cleaned up the kitchen. Eli and I did school together, and then we baked a batch of cookies.

Yes, I'm pretty much the perfect mother.

Or... am I?

I did get up at six - when Theo demanded to be fed and Eli climbed into our bed. I groaned and grumbled that they never sleep in.

I did make a pot of coffee - out of necessity - and curl up to read my chapter. I also snapped at Eli for disturbing me during this "me" time and insisted that he sit on the couch by himself rather than curl up in my lap. I read quickly and skipped prayer so I could check my e-mail.

I did make delicious, healthy green smoothies for breakfast - then had a 30 minute battle with my toddler who was refusing to drink his.

I did shower and get dressed - after sharply berating my husband for not paying close enough attention to Eli.

I did  kiss my husband (who was gracious enough to forgive my grumpiness) and clean up the kitchen - because I hadn't cleaned it very well the night before.

I did do school with Eli - though my short temper made it a difficult and stressful experience for both of us.

I did bake a batch of cookies with Eli - and snapped at him again for spilling oats on the floor.

Halfway through the morning, when I snapped at my active toddler once again and sent him to his room, I took a minute to breathe and calm down. I've been struggling some with anxiety the last few days and it's getting to me. I went back into his room, scooped him up and cuddled him, and prayed with him for a minute. Two year olds are so quick to forgive! Everything wasn't magically all better, but it helped a lot.

When my husband came home on this rainy day to hear classical music playing softly in the background and to see me pulling a tray of butterscotch cookies out of the oven, he praised me for creating such a calm, happy atmosphere. He's almost as quick to forgive as our two year old! All my meanness from the morning dissolved in the bowl of my stand mixer. I should never underestimate the power of gentle music, cookies... and a quick prayer!

Blogs are a funny thing. It's so easy to present only the good in my life. To brag about what we're accomplishing and all my hard work. It's only too easy to hide the battles, the crankiness, and my short temper. Unfortunately, that's not really what my life is like. But by the grace of God... it's getting there. Two steps forward and one step back. Today was a "one step back" kind of day. Here's hoping tomorrow will be a "two steps forward!"

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


It was good news and it was bad news.

The good news was that I figured out one of the major triggers of the migraines that I have been battling for years. The bad news? It's chocolate.

You can all weep for me here.

It wouldn't be so bad if it were just an additive or preservative commonly used in chocolate, but no, it's the cocoa itself that seems to be the problem. That means my favourite healthy chocolate fudge recipe is out. It means my evening tryst with a square of organic 85% dark chocolate is very much out. A small amount of cheap milk chocolate is fine, but really, what's the point? I loved the good stuff.

It's at this point that I wish I were allergic to boring things like penicillin or brazil nuts. My husband is allergic to turkey, which is a bit annoying around Thanksgiving/Christmas but really not too much of a burden when you consider he can still eat chicken.

Me? I'm allergic to two things: strawberries and chocolate. Oh the humanity.

Ok, I'm over it now. Done complaining. And really, I whine and protest but in the end I'm so relieved to have finally discovered the trigger for those vicious headaches. I don't know if that's the only cause, but I haven't had one since giving up chocolate.

And in the end it just makes me more thankful that I'm a Christian and have the hope of heaven set before me. To be in the presence of God the Father will be amazing... and to eat chocolate and strawberries at that great feast will be such a joy!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Dresser Solution

My dresser gets messy. I don't know about your house, but in my bedroom for some reason I'll pick up the floor, make the bed, clean off the nightstands and then toss everything onto the dresser. Clutter happens. We don't have a closet in our bedroom, so the two dressers are full of clothes, with no room for any "stuff" in the drawers. So it all goes on top. I don't wear a ton of makeup, I don't have much fancy hair stuff and don't wear much jewelry, but somehow it just spreads itself all over and makes a mess. I was tired of it. I would clean it up and straighten everything, line it all up neatly, and it would stay like that for approximately 20 minutes.

I took a couple of before pictures. This is what my dresser looked like. Messy, huh?

Here's both dressers. I thought about at least shutting the bureau drawers before I snapped the photo but then decided to just leave it as is. More authentic that way.

And what, you ask, was the solution to this problem? A simple wicker basket I picked up at Superstore. It was half off, though still overpriced at $10.

I might have been able to find something cheaper at Value Village, but when every stop while shopping involves unbuckling a toddler, putting on my Ergo, unbuckling a baby and strapping him into the Ergo, going into the store, trying to keep the toddler from grabbing or running away while you're trying to pay, then back out to the car, strapping both kids back in... let's just say I'm currently a big fan of one stop shopping.

So I bought the basket, brought it home, cleared off items that didn't belong on the dresser in the first place but had been buried under stuff that DID belong there, and tossed everything into the basket. I didn't organize it or even try to make it all neat, I'm just being realistic here. I have no aspirations that the basket will stay neat and clean, all I want to do is make the dresser itself look a little more uncluttered. So here's the result:

Ahhh. So much better. An uncluttered space makes the room look ten times more put together. As long as I pick up the floor, make the bed, and sweep everything off the top of the dresser and into the basket every day, I feel like the bedroom is neat. And a neat and tidy bedroom makes a happy Mommy. And a happy Daddy, too!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Few Items

A while back I read a tip from a blogger that suggested every time you go to order something online, do a quick Google search to see if there's a coupon or promo code you can apply to the purchase. I thought, Huh, that's a good idea... and then never did it. Until today! I was ordering a Christmas present for my sister and figured why not. Turns out I found one, and got free shipping out of it. Saved myself $7.50, just with a few strokes on the keyboard. I'm now a believer, and will probably never buy anything online ever again without checking first for a coupon.

Oh, the present was for this sister:

Isn't she pretty? TOO pretty if you ask me. She's going to hate that I posted this picture. Her name is Ariel and someday I'm going to have a little girl and name her Ariel after her. That's Ariel as in "Are-ee-ell," like in the book of Isaiah, not Ariel as in "Air-ee-ell" like the mermaid. Poor girl has spent her whole life correcting people and now I'm going to doom another little girl to a life of correcting others.

Hmmm... that not-so-great photo of my sister inspired me to look through my picture folder and I'm finding some other not very attractive pictures. Let's see...

My parents! Phew, that's a bad one. They're much more attractive than that in person. Take my word for it.

My son! This is Eli. I can't even look at this picture without bursting out laughing.

And just to be fair...

Let's allow chubby, greasy-haired Mommy to make an appearance. AURGH! Ihadababytwomonthsago! Ineverhavetimetoshower! Itsabadcameraangle!

Sorry you had to see that.

Until next time something pops into my head...



October 30th through November 5th is National Vaccine Awareness Week in the US. Our health care systems may not be identical here in Canada, but our vaccination schedule and number of shots given are virtually the same as in the States.

This isn't a popular topic. I don't really like posting about super hot topics, I don't like conflict! But this is something that I've really struggled with, and I'm not sure I really have all the answers yet. Are vaccinations safe? Are they safe for everyone? Are they truly effective? Do they really do what they say they will do? Is there a better way to prevent diseases? I don't have all the answers yet.

Eli is a fully vaccinated, healthy and happy two-year-old. I never noticed a single reaction from him after any shot. No rashes, slight fevers, nothing. He wasn't even fussy! At the hospital when he was born, I was presented with the option of giving him the Hepatitis B vaccine. The nurses were very careful to tell me that it was my choice. I was confused and unsure what to do. The nurse was able to give me a little brochure of information about the disease, and it sounded unpleasant. I wasn't offered any information about the actual vaccine itself, but I opted to go ahead and let him have it. So Eli had his first vaccine at only a day old.

As the months went on and he was given more and more shots I started looking into it a little more. I read articles on both sides of the argument, carefully perused the Government of Canada's website, and tried hard to educate myself. All this while I kept taking him back for his vaccines right on schedule, but as I learned more it got harder to go through with every time. At his last appointment at 18 months old I almost backed out I was so conflicted. It's so hard to see your child in pain, and vaccines are no fun. The only reason that mothers are able to do it is because they "know" that they are doing what's best for their child. At that point though, I wasn't even sure I was doing what was best for him anymore. Letting him have those last two shots was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Then after they were done, the nurse informed me that he was going to have to come back again for a third chicken pox vaccine. It seems they were finding that two shots to prevent the chicken pox weren't working, so now children needed three. I threw up my hands in frustration and told her no. It was the first vaccine I declined.

When Theo was born, I knew right away that we weren't going to be giving him the Hep B vaccine. For starters - Hepatitis B is not a disease that Canadian infants are even exposed to. Secondly I was no longer comfortable with giving a child a vaccine when they were only hours old. I assumed this would be no big deal - after all at Eli's birth they had been very careful to inform me that the decision lay in my hands. To my surprise, when the nurse came to take Theo for his first bath she told me "And he'll get his Hep B vaccine now too." I told her that we wouldn't be getting that shot, and her lips immediately tightened. She told me that she would bring a form that I needed to sign stating that I declined the vaccine and that the baby's doctor would have to be informed. When she brought the form, I saw that it was not vaccine specific but rather a general form stating that I was refusing a treatment. Part of it even said (I don't remember the exact wording) that by signing I was acknowledging that my choices would probably lead to sickness and death. What!

In retrospect, I should have put my foot down and refused to sign the stupid thing. However, in my tired post-delivery state I took the easy route and just signed it. Next baby I will not consent to sign something ridiculous like that. I don't want to be obnoxious or difficult (did I mention I really don't like conflict?) but I feel guilty that I even put my name down on that form, since I obviously didn't agree with what it was saying.

After declining that first vaccine, the time for him to get his first round of regular immunizations loomed closer and I started feeling panicky. I read tons of articles - both sides of the argument of course - and the more I read the less I was convinced. Here's the hard part - I'm not convinced vaccines don't work. If I was completely sure the whole thing was a scam or a conspiracy then that would make the decision easier. But I think they do work, or did work, I'm just not sure that they're safe or that they are the most effective way of protecting ourselves against diseases.

In the end, Theo hasn't had any shots yet. He's only five months old, and I may choose to have some late, or I might just wait and leave the decision up to him once he's an adult. As a parent, the best I can do is make the choices that I think will keep my children as safe and healthy as possible. For me, that means no vaccines for now. In the future that might mean limited vaccines, I don't know.

Ultimately, I just don't want to turn my children into test subjects for a practice that has not been sufficiently tested to prove that it's safe. Sure, Cory and I were both vaccinated as children and turned out fine. Eli has had all of his to date and has had no problems whatsoever. But I'm not going to keep injecting my kids with something that has severely damaged and even killed other people and just hope that it turns out OK. It's not a risk I'm willing to take.

Obviously I'm no scientist so I would encourage you to do your own research and reading on this subject. A lot of people use the delayed vaccination schedule promoted by Dr. Sears in his book "The Vaccine Book."

What bothers me is the assumption that only ignorant conspiracy-theorists don't vaccinate their kids. On the contrary, the people I know who don't vaccinate are the ones who are the most well read and well versed on vaccines. People who do vaccinate often know little to nothing about what is being injected into themselves or their children. I would put myself into that category when Eli was first born. Half the time I had no idea what needles he was even getting! It was once I started familiarizing myself with vaccines that I started to have concerns. Everyone, no matter which side of the debate they fall on, should be able to make an intelligent, informed decision about vaccination. 

A great place to go for information is the National Vaccine Information Center's website. For us Canadians, the Vaccination Risk Awareness Network is another great resource. Of course the Government of Canada's website has lots of info supporting vaccines.

One of the main reasons I'm writing this post is to tell you about the documentary that is available to watch for free right now, just for this week. The film The Greater Good can be streamed in its entirety on Dr. Mercola's website right now. Cory and I watched it together and it was very informative. While the movie is certainly trying to raise a lot of concerns about vaccination, it also had experts on the pro-vaccine side of the debate weigh in.

This post from a blogger that I follow does a great job of articulating why she does not get the flu shot, which is one shot that I've never gotten and never will!

Ultimately, you have to make your own decision about vaccination. I just hope that you aren't like I was and just blindly follow the pack.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I Took A Break

Well... it's been a while.

I would like to say that my lack of posting has been due to some sort of spiritual revelation - a new devotion to spending all my time selflessly caring for my family instead of aimlessly wandering around the internet. But that wouldn't exactly be true.

I was, however, a bit too caught up in checking my hits and comments and followers and was getting a bit obsessed. I like blogging, but I don't want to be a "blogger" or make any income off my blog because it's not my passion. I don't want or need the responsibility of coming up with posts all the time in order to keep a following. I do think that it's a great way for some women to supplement their husband's income while staying at home, but it's not for me. I'm exploring other options on that front - perhaps I'll discuss them in a later post.

Anyway, after my initial blogging break of a week or so, this happened.

That's my beloved's hand. Believe it or not it's actually only his pinky finger that was injured, but it was pretty crushed when a piece of machinery at work fell on it, leaving fractures through the whole finger and joints. Because his job is quite physical, he's unable to work for a few weeks and has been home. We were worried that it was going to need plastic surgery to reconstruct the finger, but as of his last appointment the doctor informed us that, while it will never quite look the same, he does not need surgery. Hurrah!

So I've had my husband around for the past several weeks, which has meant less time spent blogging and more time spent looking busy (it's good accountability!). Add to that the fact that I'm currently obsessed with the TV show "Biggest Loser" and spend my free computer time lounging in the recliner eating snacks and watching it (oh the irony...), and my blog has been very much neglected.

But do not worry! Ideas for posts abound, and I want to talk about the fact that I've finally started meal planning. My mom always made detailed meal plans, and I tried it when we were first married and failed miserably. I think the problem back then was that, with no kids, we were more spontaneous and not guaranteed to be home a lot of nights. Plus I was working. Also, I had the idea that it killed creativity in the kitchen. However, last week I made my first meal plan and it was a HUGE load off my mind every day. I knew exactly what was for dinner, I always had any meat thawed, it was fantastic! This week I looked over our schedule and planned a slow cooker meal for the day we have a doctor's appointment. I think this is going to make my life a lot easier. And the food was just as delicious and fun to cook as ever.

Since I've been so neglectful, I'll leave you with this quick pizza idea we had a few weeks ago. It was SO yummy!

And yes, that crust is made with white flour *blushes*. I ran out of whole wheat! Basically, I halved cherry tomatoes, tossed them with a couple cloves of minced garlic, spread them on a baking sheet and roasted at 450 degrees just for 3 or 4 minutes to get some of the water out. Then I spread out my crust and topped with olive oil, salt and pepper, fresh mozzarella, cooked bacon, the tomatoes and garlic from before and a generous amount of freshly grated parmesan. Bake at 450 for 10-15 minutes until hot and bubbly. Yummy!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Soaked Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Before I start in on the recipe, I have to make something clear here: these are not the prettiest muffins to look at. They're sort of a dingy brown, nondescript colour. But the flavour? Out of this world. 

I'm trying to jump more on the soaked grains bandwagon, not just because they are good for you but also because I'm finding they just taste better. Soft, moist, slightly acidic... YUM.

Inspiration came from this recipe on Kitchen Stewardship for soaked pumpkin muffins, but I had to change it around due to the ingredients I had on hand. I had to change it a lot. I'm running low on butter so I used olive oil.It doesn't taste olive-y at all, it's great, but melted butter would probably give it an even better flavour. I might try that next time. Melted coconut oil would be great too but that stuff is expensive so I tend to hoard it! I didn't want to use sugar (when do I ever?) and thought that the ever-so-slight maple flavour from some real maple syrup would be perfect with the pumpkin. I was right.

After I pulled these pumpkin muffins out of the oven yesterday morning I knew I had hit on a great discovery. These are incredibly soft and moist, sweet and flavourful... I can't praise them enough. And today even though they're a day old they remain just as moist and soft as they were yesterday.

Soaked Pumpkin Muffins

The night before, in a bowl combine:

1 2/3 cups whole grain flour (I used a mix of spelt and kamut because it's what I had but anything would be fine)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup pumpkin puree
2/3 cup olive oil

Cover and leave in a warm place overnight. In the morning, add:

2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup maple syrup (I'm guessing because I just poured a bunch in)
1/4 tsp stevia extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
pinch cloves
pinch ginger

Spoon into greased muffin tins (I got 15 out of this) and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

You can play around with the spices depending on what you like. You could use more or less of anything, but be generous. These are Pumpkin Spice Muffins, you want to taste the spice! Allspice would be nice too, or you could go the lazy route and just dump in some pre-mixed pumpkin pie spice. Nothing wrong with that!

These were great warm, but I actually liked them even better once they had cooled to room temperature. I've eaten way too many of them already, spread with some homemade cultured butter (recipe coming soon!). They make for a super yummy breakfast with a cup of coffee, a great afternoon snack, or a delicious after dinner treat with a cup of Earl Grey. Hope you try them, let me know if you do!

Growing Home

Monday, September 12, 2011

Canning Tomatoes

I decided to do a post chronicling my adventures in canning tomatoes. This was my first attempt and my first year doing it. It was work, but it's worth it to avoid all the BPA that leaches into store-bought canned tomatoes.

Please don't take anything I say seriously, because I'm sure I didn't do half of what you're supposed to do to can safely. I didn't add any lemon juice (you're supposed to), I processed in a boiling water bath (the internet tells me I should have used a pressure canner) and I used my oven to sterilize my jars (another no-no).

However in my internet explorings as I tried to decide how I was going to go about it I ran across one woman who has been canning tomatoes for decades, and she just brings them to a boil, pours them into clean jars and puts the lid on. I figured if she hasn't died yet, then probably I don't need to be as extreme as some other people!

Here's how I did it:

Tomatoes! They're so cheap right now. These were $1.50 a pound. I wish I could say they were organic, but they're not. They are local though, so that must count for something! Rinse 'em in the sink.

Use a sharp knife to cut an "x" in the bottom. This makes it easier to peel. I've done it with and without and this is easier and only takes a second to do.

Now cut the cores out!

While you're prepping the tomatoes put a pot of water on the stove to boil. Mine is covered in spots because I never bother to thoroughly clean the outside of the pot (hey it never touches the food right?). 

Get a bowl of ice water ready. This isn't ice water. This is cold water with four measly little ice cubes floating in it, but I only have one ice cube tray and it was almost empty. I made two batches of tomato sauce on two separate days and the second time I made it I skipped the ice altogether and just refilled the bowl with really cold tap water in between tomatoes and that worked just fine.

Plunge a few tomatoes at a time into the boiling water. Most places say 30 seconds is long enough, but I always go for a full minute. They're going to be cooked soon anyway so who cares if you cook them a little bit now. 

Cute picture of what Eli was doing while I was working. I thought, I should stop him and take the tea away from him, but he's not hurting anything and it's keeping him distracted. Then he smashed my tea canister and I deeply regretted that decision. 

Back to the tomatoes: remove from the boiling water and put them into the "ice" water. My ice melted completely the first tomatoes I put in.  You'll get a rhythm going after a bit. Three tomatoes into boiling water. Set timer for one minute. Pull tomatoes out of ice water, peel, throw them into a bowl. Take tomatoes out of boiling water and put into cold water. Repeat. 

The peels will slide right off. All you have to do is get over how totally gross it feels. And looks.

 Peeled tomatoes!

Toss a few at a time into the blender. Unless you don't mind chunky tomatoes, in which case you can just give 'em a rough chop or even toss them into the pot whole. I hate chunky tomatoes. It makes me want to vomit, so I blend them really well. Now you can cut each tomato in half and scoop or squeeze out the juice and seeds, but I'm lazy and don't care if there are seeds in it. As long as there are no chunks, I'm good. 

Yummy blended tomatoes! Just kidding, this is actually disgusting. And the photo makes it look red but it's actually more of a pale pink. Seriously gross.

Now it's time to turn it into tomato sauce! Pour it into a pot and boil it down until it thickens slightly. I try to skim some of the foam off the top because I read that most of the impurities in food will rise to the top in the foam so it's better if you skim it. I also used a slotted spoon to scoop through it and get out any chunks that didn't get blended. Did I mention that I hate chunks of tomato in my food?

While that's simmering, get the jars ready! I washed them in soap and water and put them in the oven at 225 degrees for at least 10 minutes thanks to a tip from a friend (Thanks Holly!). This was a lot easier than getting out several more pots to boil everything, or running the entire dishwasher just for a few jars. I left them in the oven for about 20 minutes then turned the oven off but still left them in there until I needed them. You'll notice I've got five jars there. That was overly optimistic, this only filled three. I made a bigger batch another day.

Some stuff that is handy but not necessary (do you like my beautiful painted countertop? Joys of living in an apartment...). Well, I would almost say the jar funnel is necessary unless you have some serious talent when it comes to pouring stuff into jars. The rest of it is convenient sometimes but I just as often pull on a pair of oven mitts and just use that to pull the jars out. Then take them off and thoughtlessly grab the hot jar with my bare hands to move it closer to the pot. Every. Time.

I don't have a special canning pot with a rack inside, so I use a regular pot and I like to put a dishtowel in the bottom before I fill it with water. There's no special or fancy reason for this except that it keeps the jars from rattling on the bottom while it's boiling because that sound drives me CRAZY.

Put the jars into the pot and fill it up with water. This is wrong. The water is supposed to come up to at least an inch over the top of the jar, but as you can see my pot isn't big enough. I'm willing to take that risk but you probably shouldn't. Anyway bring this to a rapid boil, put the lid on and boil rapidly for 35 minutes. Then take the lid off, let it stand for five minutes, lift the jars out (this is where those jar lifting tongs come in very handy!) and put them somewhere they can be undisturbed. I put mine on top of the fridge. Then just leave them alone for 24 hours. You should hear the "pop" of the lids sealing fairly soon after you take them out. A couple of mine popped almost as soon as I took the lid off the pot. After they've sat for 24 hours test to make sure they're sealed by pushing on the lids. If it doesn't pop in and out, it's good to go. 
I plan on using these tomatoes anywhere I would normally use canned tomatoes - in soups, sauces, chili, etc. I saved money, avoided - at least for the most part because I think there is some in the plastic on the lids - the BPA, and feel good about doing something with my own hands.

Linking up to The Purposed Heart and these other blog hops...

Growing Home

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Bicycle Built for Eli

My son has a bit of an obsession. Ok, a huge obsession.


Be it your traditional bicycle, a tricycle, a scooter, a four wheeler, a dirt bike, a motorcycle, a unicycle, or even a ride-on lawn mower they're all "Bike!" and they are all awe-inspiring for my almost-two-year-old. He's fascinated. Transfixed. He can think of nothing else. Well, except for the occasional car or truck. Those catch his attention sometimes, but is quickly usurped by the presence of a bike, real or imaginary.

Luckily for him, we live above a gas station. Several times a day during the summer, there's usually a motorcycle or an ATV parked outside where he can stand at the window and stare at it. Let me present as evidence this short clip of him doing just that.

See what I mean? He gets momentarily distracted by a truck going by, but the bike is the real focus here. Also sorry about the lack of pants. We're still potty training around here.

He's also trained himself to have incredibly sensitive hearing when it comes to motorcycles. He can hear one coming a mile away and will immediately perk up. "Bike!?" he'll say. I'll have to stop and listen since my hearing is not that selective, and nine times out of ten he's right. The other 10% of the time it's just a truck, which is pretty exciting too.

He also likes to play bike. At first he used his little ride on car that he's almost outgrown. Then the back of the couch, then Mommy or Daddy was his bike. Then - now brace yourself, this is kind of sad - the other day I noticed this.

That's the stand for his little piano, in case you were wondering. I didn't catch it on video but he was even making "vroom vroom" noises. Pathetic.

Originally I had thought that I would wait until next summer before getting him a bicycle of his own. Winter is fast approaching and he's still pretty small. But this obsession convinced me to get him one sooner.

That's why I am so excited about what is hiding under a blanket in the spare room. The anticipation is killing me.

His very own little running bicycle. As an added bonus, it was 50% off! Good thing, because these aren't cheap. They're regularly $60! I can tell you I was praising God as I was leaving Sportchek.

I'm not sure I can wait until Tuesday to give this to him. I cannot wait to see the look on his face when we wheel this out, and to hear his chirpy little voice say "Bike!"

This verse came to mind with fresh understanding:

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! ~ Matthew 7:11

Now that Cory and I are parents, there is new light shed on this verse. I do know how to give good gifts to my child. I know what he wants, what his passions and desires are, where his interest lies. It's bikes for now, in a few months it will probably be something else, but it's so much fun to be able to give him something that he wants so much. Cory commented when I brought the bike inside and we were hiding it that it really is more blessed to give than to receive. I've always known that verse, but secretly deep down I still really liked receiving. Now I understand how exciting it is to bless someone else, especially when that someone is your sweet little boy who you love with all your heart. 

We're having friends over for lunch after church on Sunday and having a little "party" for Eli. I think we'll bring out the bike then, and let him go riding at the school playground with the bigger boys in the afternoon. I can't wait!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Baked Soaked Oatmeal

Since you asked me for my Baked Soaked Oatmeal recipe, Holly, this is for you!

Topped with fresh local blueberries and cream... yum!

Soaking oatmeal before cooking is a great way to neutralize phytic acid - an enzyme inhibitor present in most grains - and boost the nutritional value of your breakfast. Plus it just tastes better!

Baked Soaked Oatmeal

The night before, or up to 24 hours before (depending on how good at planning ahead you are), in an 8x8 dish stir together:

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup water

In the morning, add and stir together:

2 eggs
1/2 cup melted butter
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup "add ins" - fresh or dried fruit, coconut, almonds, chopped apples, even chocolate chips if you so fancy. Or just leave this out entirely. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. It comes out with a soft, almost bread pudding-like texture. Serve it up warm and treat it like you would oatmeal. Drizzle some maple syrup, pour on the cream, add raisins or berries and enjoy.

Growing Home