Friday, February 25, 2011

I've Been Working

I've had a lot going on lately (de-cluttering, bread baking, homemade yogurt, and of course, homeschooling). It feels so wonderful to be productive. I really thrive on busy work -- even if it's just sitting at my desk and shredding papers. It just feels great.

It's really a good thing that I've accepted Liesl's challenge to use the sewing books that I already own, because I've been awfully tempted lately. I saw this at the fabric store today and nearly caved. 

Fortunately, I had the satisfaction of a freshly-completed project as incentive to press on and deny myself. I've wanted to make this bag from Amy Karol's Bend the Rules Sewing, so I seam-ripped a throw pillow, grabbed some of last year's spring fabrics, and got to work. Gabriela gasped, oohed and aahhed over the finished product, so it's probably going to be hers. I'd change a few things about the next one, but it was a fun and easy project.

I'm kicking myself for forgetting where I bought this adorable gray kitchen-gadget fabric. (That cliché is so funny. Who really kicks herself?) 
I can't even locate my invoice. I'm down to mere scraps, and really want more. To add further insult, after laboring over this oven mitt, I discovered irreparable damage to part of it, which I've tried to hide in this photo. I was so tickled with the quilting I had done, and I had hoped to present these two as a set. *sigh*

My friend, Nicole, in Florida requested two aprons from me. One is for her personal use at home, and the other is for her cupcake business. She saw the black and white apron that I made for my cousin, Denise, a few weeks ago, and asked for one like it. I couldn't find the same exact fabric, so I found a similar one. This isn't actually finished yet. I still have to add monogrammed pockets. Nicole's jubilant and grateful attitude make gift-giving easy. I delight in blessing her, as she has greatly blessed my family's life.

I made this cupcake apron for Nicole a couple of weeks ago, but I had a bit of a glitch with my embroidery machine. After getting some good trouble-shooting help this morning, I was able to move forward on getting the initials of her business monogrammed on the front. I. Can't. Wait! to give these to her!

Head on over to Amy's Sew & Tell to see all of the lovely talent represented there. I'm so thankful for that group of ladies who keep me inspired and motivated. Now that Amy has decided to only "meet" once each month, I'm even more anxious to participate.
Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

On Being Thankful

I love it when our children do silly things like this. I'm assuming that Morgan took this photo. This was a little diversion from the game of Ten Days In Africa that the children played while Craig and I were away over the weekend. By the way, I'm thankful for children who are trustworthy enough to leave at home together while we're away. We owe a lot of thanks to our two oldest daughters who are more than capable of running the home in our absence, and to our three younger children who lovingly and joyfully cooperate.

During a long-over-due Skype session with my far-off friend, Terri, this morning, she reminded me of the importance of being specific in prayer. Instead of simply saying, "Lord, I just thank you for ____, and I pray for _____ and lift up _____ to You for Your will to be done in ______'s life...", as far as we are able, we should approach the throne of grace with specific details on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Of course, our Sovereign God already knows these details, but He invites us to join with Him and gain His perspective in prayer, by the leading of His Spirit.

I'm so glad that Terri also reminded me in our nearly three-hour (!) conversation that we should not merely give thanks for "everything" we've been given. Scripture says, 

"... give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."
I Thessalonians 5:18 (emphasis mine)

As she stated, we should be specific in giving thanks, listing the blessings that the Lord has freely and lovingly bestowed on us -- such as the sound of her small son's voice next to her while we were Skyping -- as the Lord brings them to our memory. This got me thinking about some of the little things that can often be overlooked, but for which I am deeply grateful.

For instance...

This just cracks me up. Here, the children are wrestling with Rhodes in an attempt to force him to wear one of Gabriela's scarves around his head. I'm thankful for their crazy antics.

I'm thankful for this dog who has stolen my heart, and who is such a good sport when the children take their boredom out on him.

I'm thankful for random special moments, like this one at a local grocery store, where the sweet ladies behind the chocolate counter not only gave us samples of chocolate, but also demonstrated how cotton candy is made.

I'm thankful that God didn't leave us all with just manna to eat (although food from Heaven would obviously be flawless & sufficient). We can enjoy so much variety in our meals, and we are provided with foods rich in the nutrients necessary to fuel the systems of our bodies.

I'm thankful for fun family activities, like puzzle building -- and that Craig even got in on it with us!

I'm thankful for little details like monogrammed teacups. I bought these when we lived in Alabama. The "T" mug was especially for Terri's visits to our house. Although she's now in Germany and I'm now in Pittsburgh, I keep it in a special place for future use, Lord willing.

And I'm thankful for Terri's friendship. I'm inspired by her industrious ways as she lovingly cares for her larger-than-average family and supports her faithful, dedicated husband. I love that she makes me laugh (a lot!) and that she challenges me to live obediently, according to God's Word. I thank the Lord for the wonderful memories that our families have made together, and for modern technology that helps us to stay in touch.

I'm also thankful that we are having a glorious day of sunshine, fresh air, and higher temperatures than we've had lately. 
What things are making you thankful?

Monday, February 7, 2011

"Do Not Muzzle An Ox"

I love days like today:

~Another fresh batch of yoghurt

~A fresh batch of pita

~Pieces cut for an apron

~Hoping to make peanut butter next

~Planning to go to the gym later

~Much-needed help from the children to make it all happen and still do school work

Pita is on this week's menu; but as there was none in the freezer, it was time to make more. I learned to make pita a few years ago while living in Alabama. A sweet Lebanese lady at our church invited a group of ladies to her home for a lesson, notebooks in hand. I carried my cute little toile-covered recipe journal and happily scratched down every tip she offered, and we continue to enjoy the fruits of that afternoon.

As Craig Grayson and Morgan worked to prepare our lunch today, I rewarded them with samples of our oven fare.

Here's part of the merry mess I made in the kitchen:


Mmmm... Satisfaction:

Homemade Pita
(modified from Jenan's original recipe)

1 pkg. yeast 
(I use about 1T of instant yeast.)

4-5 C warm water
(If you're using packaged yeast rather than instant yeast, you'll need to dissolve it in the water first.)

pinch of Kosher salt 
(I add a bit more.)

pinch of sugar 
(I use honey or agave nectar.)

approx. 1T oil 
(I use light olive oil.)

3C white flour
3C wheat flour
(I use all freshly-ground whole wheat, although today I did mix fresh wheat with a tiny amount of store-bought white flour.)

Stir together. Add more flour as needed. Knead (I use a Bosch; otherwise, do this by hand). Shape dough into a ball and let rise, covered, in an oiled bowl in a warm place. (Jenan has said that if more time is needed, you may punch the risen dough down and let it rise a second time.)

Take some dough out to work with, leaving the rest covered to prevent drying. Squeeze off balls of dough & roll in flour, shape. Roll the balls flat, flipping as you go to avoid sticking -- and being careful not to flatten them so much that they won't puff. (On the other hand, the un-puffed pitas are the ones that we get to "poison" test.)

Place a baking stone into the oven, preheated to 500℉. Bake pita rounds (I do four at a time) until golden brown and puffed (approx. 5 minutes). Place on a rack to cool.

Here are a few ways in which we enjoy our pita:

~Dipped in oil (with salt, pepper, herbs, Feta, etc.)

~Filled with a big, yummy Greek salad with chicken, bacon, chickpeas, artichoke hearts, Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, kalamata olives, etc.

~Filled with avocado salad

~Dipped in hummus, foule mudammas, tzatziki, or labneh

~with Nutella :-)


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Doing My Best

This is a big day here in the city of Pittsburgh. Steelers fans are passionate about their team -- our family, included. I must admit that I, personally, have never been a very loyal fan, but it's hard to resist being swept away in all the excitement. 

In a city where many people -- even women! -- wear Steelers jerseys to church, my pseudo-southern sensitivities are somewhat offended. (It's quite vexing really.) I've decided to wear black and gold today as we join friends to watch the Super Bowl. That I'd even do this is noteworthy, considering the fact that I've never even worn team colors to our son's football games. 

Where I actually attended. 

And he actually played. 

Our son. 

Who came from my body.

Choosing game attire has been a bit of a challenge for me. I own plenty of black, but other than a (very cute summer) skirt that I stole inherited from one of our daughters, I have nothing yellow. Although I find them appealing, I avoid yellow clothes, for the most part, because I'm... well... yellow. It's just wrong for me.

Thanks to one of our daughter's sweet friends, I do have a metallic gold scarf that should work just fine, I think, for today's festivities, along with one of the magnetic bracelets I bought a while back in the Strip District.

And here's the final ensemble:

The bracelet and scarf don't really match, but hey! It's only a game.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Recent Discoveries

While checking a cookie recipe link from a friend, I discovered this terribly enticing sandwich. Just two pages of Julie's blog made me wish we were neighbors. I've suggested to the children that we eat exclusively from Julie's repertoire for a month.

On a very different note, I happened upon this yesterday. I can relate to Sheri's struggle determining which books to pack on her family's RV tour around the country. It was challenging for our family to decide which cookbooks, reference books, literature, etc., to take with us to Moçambique when we moved there in the summer of 2009. Sheri gives insight into how to choose the essentials, as well as how to translate each on-the-road experience into "school", while taking full advantage of all that our diverse country has to offer. I plan to visit her blog often. She's living one of my dreams.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait...

... And even to some who procrastinate! For quite a long time, I've wanted to make yoghurt (Don't you love foreign spellings? I do!) For no particular reason, though, I've put this off... and off... and off. When I visited my sweet young friend and her adorable family in Indiana several months ago, she had made some delicious yoghurt. Delicious! Perfect texture and all! She had managed to make a gallon at a time in her slow cooker. (Eventually, I want to learn that method.)

In the meantime, I've had my eye on this yoghurt maker at Williams-Sonoma for a few years. In fact, I actually gave this same appliance to a friend as a birthday gift several years ago, promising myself at the time that I'd reward my own generosity some day.

My waiting finally paid off when I went to scope out the after-Christmas sale at Williams-Sonoma. Our dear friend, whom we affectionately call "Nana", visited with two of her lovely granddaughters a few months ago. Before leaving, Nana blessed me with a gift card, knowing that Williams-Sonoma has long been one of my favorite stores. I held on to the card until after Christmas, and to my great delight, I found that the price of the yoghurt maker had been reduced.

A while back, I wrote about the trouble of being content with an older model when a newer version is released. I've decided that I'm perfectly happy with my new sale-priced yoghurt maker, despite the fact that customers may now purchase this.

Speaking of waiting, in a few more hours we will have a fresh batch of yoghurt to enjoy. A friend chuckled when she saw how much yoghurt I normally buy from the co-op. Now that will no longer be necessary! I suppose that I should get busy on some granola...