Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I've read and heard that the mind is most active and creative during the stage just between asleep and awake. I've experienced this phenomenon more than once, so I believe it to be true.

A couple of days ago, I had in mind to make a grilled chicken salad for dinner. We've had our share of cookies and ice cream lately - and probably another family's share, too - so I thought that we should have some lighter fare that was power-packed enough to give our systems a boost.

I once read an article by a guy who hikes more than the average "crunchy" person. He claimed that if he could take only one superfood on the trail with him, it would be

That's "keen-wah".

A Google search will yield many articles citing the nutritional benefits of quinoa, but I first heard of it through my friend, Becky. She was the first person whom I ever met that cooks and bakes with fresh grains.
I purchased this book that highlights the main super grains, along with a bit of history of the uses and benefits thereof.

Anyway, back to my brainstorming. 
I awoke with the idea to have a quinoa salad with our grilled chicken salad. 
(I also thought about how to season the chicken for grilling, rather than marinating it. Yum!)

Quinoa can be eaten as a hot breakfast cereal - best, in my opinion, with cinnamon, ginger, almond milk, a dash of salt, dried blueberries and agave nectar - but I've seen recipes for salads and other sides made using this versatile grain.
In fact, I once made it as a yummy side dish with mushrooms, and my friend, Lauren, makes amazing cookies using quinoa. 

When I made the salad, I wanted to merge a few different flavors, so I included dried cranberries for a bit of sweetness, as well as slivered almonds, cilantro, cumin, salt, pepper and olive oil.
These were added after cooking 1 C quinoa in 2 C salted water, which I brought to a boil, then simmered, covered, until the water cooked out, and let it cool in the refrigerator while working on other preparations.

I found it a bit salty as I "poison tested" it, so I drizzled just a tad of agave nectar for balance.

The final assessment?
Lots of positive feedback from the natives.

I forgot to mention that during my half-awake brainstorm, I came up with an idea for sun-dried tomato dressing for the grilled chicken salad. I didn't write it down, but here's what I remember:

sun-dried tomatoes (the kind in a jar of oil & herbs)
red wine vinegar
balsamic vinegar
minced garlic
Greek seasoning
lemon juice
Dijon mustard
a hint of soy sauce

Tweak this per your own taste. I made this in the Vita-Mix, which made it a little thick and caused it to somewhat resemble Thousand Island dressing, which I absolutely do not like. So, I had to remind myself that I'd enjoy the end result.
And I did. 
We all did.

The Sewing Room

I haven't had a sewing room since I used Gabriela's nursery back in '99. We didn't even live in that house for a full year, so it was a brief privilege.

Some nice family member unloaded a box and tossed some fabric onto the shelves for me to organize. Thank you, Person.

When we first saw this house and walked upstairs, Craig took one look through the little French door and said, "Your sewing room!"

Have I already said that I'm really glad to be married to him??

When we moved in a few weeks ago, I began to despair of ever getting around to organizing my work space. There was such a huge mess, and we've had so much fun visiting with relatives and helping out where Craig works, that it's taken a WHILE to get to it.

I've tackled it in stages, and it's coming together.

Wait a minute! How'd SHE get in there before me?!

Don't try to look all innocent!

The story continues in a future post...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Looking For A Good Snack?

I love granola. 
Muesli is what it's called overseas, so I get tickled when I see it labeled that way in restaurants and groceries here in the States.

I feel so cultured. ;-)

Throughout my 19+ years as a homemaker, I've been through several "favorite" granola recipes. The first one I used came from Karey Swan's Hearth & Home.

Later, I came across a couple of Southern Living recipes, a Martha Stewart recipe, and one from a celebrity chef (although I don't recall which one).
These were all good.
In fact, Southern Living recipes are among my favorites in many categories.

I felt perfectly content with my arsenal of muesli options until that fateful day when I visited my amazing friend, Lauren, in Indiana.
One taste of her delectable, perfectly-textured granola, accompanied by her refreshing homemade yoghurt, and I was hooked!

Being the sweet Titus 2-type homemaking pal that she is, Lauren was delighted to share the recipe with me.

Being my father's daughter, I had to personalize it.

Following the basic framework of David Lebovitz's recipe, I made these changes:

*Instead of the full measurement of almonds, I use half almonds and half pecans.

*I detest sunflower seeds, and I'm not so crazy about sesame seeds, either, so I substitute with
flax seeds & millet 

*Instead of brown sugar, I use Honey Granules.

*While making the sauce, I like to grate orange zest into the pan with the other ingredients.

*The recipe calls for rice syrup, which I'll use if I have it on hand. If not, I use honey in its place.
Where the recipe calls for honey, I use this same measurement of agave nectar, instead.

*My final substitution is coconut oil in the place of vegetable oil. 
~We really love this stuff. 
I even use it to remove eye make-up, and it helped to repair the damage done to my hair while living in southern Africa.
But there are those who can better expound upon the multiple uses of coconut oil (try here, for a start).~

*Oh! I almost forgot. When I made this a few days ago, I didn't realize that we were out of millet, so I used pepitas, aka pumpkin seeds, instead.

It's fun to add shredded coconut and/or dried blueberries and/or dried cranberries and/or dried apricots...
Use your imagination.

My favorite way to eat this is with homemade yoghurt and chopped fresh fruit.
Bliss, I tell you.

Obviously, the original recipe is necessary to follow, as I merely listed the changes I make.
This recipe can easily be doubled. 
I do so because I live with boys whose last name should have been

Monday, July 11, 2011

Moving: Part 3

Right around 1400 miles is the distance between our old and new homes. Caelyn was my sleepy-time driving relief, but the guys got no such luxury.

Jon has been a blessing to our family in many ways, and in this case, he agreed to drive one of the 26-foot U-Haul trucks ALL the way to Houston, help to unload both, and fly back to the 'burgh just in time to be in his friend's wedding... in Ohio. That's some kind o' tough.

This was one of our frequent stops for food/fuel/potty. Many thanks to Kaitlyn for assembling our sandwiches while I finished packing.
(We miss you, Kait!)

Morgan's even adorable while eating a sandwich at the side of an interstate highway!

We received the tremendous hospitality of friends in Tennessee. Truly, their homes were an oasis to us. At the first home, where we actually slept, the chocolate lab had a litter of puppies.
At the second home, where we enjoyed a delicious dinner and wise counsel, a calf had been born the day before.
I. Love. Tennessee.
If we weren't so thrilled to be in Texas, I'd be bugging Craig to take us to the Volunteer State.

This family really ministered to ours, and our children had a wonderful time talking, playing with the dogs and seeing the farm.
After a refreshing breakfast & lots of stimulating conversation, we were off...

... Sadly, after 20 miles or so, Craig's U-Haul had a blow-out.
Praise be to God for His marvelous works!
As we approached the interstate, a torrential downpour ensued, then stopped & made way for glorious sunshine, just minutes before the tire blew.

We stood on the roadside of I-40, about halfway between Nashville & Memphis, for close to three hours. It was a perfect opportunity for family bonding & more stimulating conversation.

The dogs traveled very well. I'm sure they were relieved by our own frequent stops for potty breaks.

Rhodes wasn't the only one in need of exercise after so many miles.

I'm so thankful for Caelyn, who served as my relief when I got sleepy behind the wheel. Unfortunately, our three hours on the roadside created an imbalance in my schedule. This, in turn, made it necessary for me to stop and sleep twice when Caelyn was also too tired to drive. In the end, we arrived in Houston about eleven hours later than we had hoped.

*Having family in Houston*
We were pleasantly surprised to find that they had already been to our new home.

I love the sign they made. Notice Chloe's clarification of where "Home" is located.

And so it begins...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Moving: Part 2, Saying Goodbye

On Memorial Day, we went for a walk by one of the rivers, enjoying the sunshine (that arrives so late in Pittsburgh each year).

On one afternoon, the girls & I visited Aunt Marion, who was temporarily staying in a nursing home for rehabilitation on a hip injury. Aunt Marion is the only sister of my late Grandma Betty.

One of the children's special requests was to have one last visit to Kennywood Park before moving. This ended up being Gabriela's birthday treat, since her birthday was spent packing our house a week later. Jon, Kaitlyn and Zach went with us.

Mom and Daddy met us at Kennywood, as well as our "nephew", EJ. It was so fun having them with us, and Daddy LOVES rollercoasters!

Zach & Jon had a moment of silliness with the prizes won by Craig & EJ at the basketball toss.

Several people stopped by our house on our last day in Pittsburgh, including "Aunt" Paulette, who was smitten by our cute little Penelope.

We were especially excited to see our great-niece, Ava (who apparently wasn't as enthusiastic as the rest of us). We don't see much of her, now that she lives in NC.

Kaitlyn has been such a blessing to us. She's a wonderful friend to Caelyn, and our entire family has come to love her and Zach as our own. The two of them, as well as Jon, spent an entire week coming to our house in the evening to help us pack.

To loosen things up a bit, the guys had a wrestling session in the living room. 

It's not all fun and games with these guys. They carved out intentional time to get into the Word of God together, even in the midst of moving.

We were so grateful for the meal that Kaitlyn fixed for our family. She's a very thoughtful and generous friend.

Gabriela worked so hard on packing her own room and helping in other areas. Kaitlyn & Zach thought it would be fun to give her a manicure and pedicure.

Our time in Pittsburgh was rich with fellowship and fun experiences. We thoroughly enjoyed our neighborhood in Mt. Lebanon, and it was wonderful to spend time with family, even for a brief season.

It was really hard to say goodbye to everyone, but we are thankful for this new chapter in our family.

Moving: Part 1

It seems like it was last year when I posted about our upcoming move.

It has now come to fruition, and not without just enough adventure to keep us on our knees.

Praises be to our great God for His providence!

We learned one week before our moving date that a mistake on the part of the moving company left them unable to arrive for packing on the date we had determined. The new homeowners needed us out by a certain date, which meant that we'd have to resort to drastic measures.

By "drastic measures", I mean that Craig called me on Tuesday, June 7, around 6 p.m. from Houston, and spoke these words:

"You know how we're always telling the children that they should rise to new challenges and do hard things? Well, that's what we're going to do. We're going to pack ourselves and take two U-Haul trucks to Houston."


At 6:30, Graham and I drove to the U-Haul store and bought boxes. By midnight that night, our kind, generous, reliable, faithful friends, Zach, Kait, and Jon, had already made good progress packing, with some help from the children.
Several others came to contribute lots of hard labor on our behalf, getting everything packed just in time to load the trucks on Sunday and Monday and drive away on the morning of Tuesday, June 14.

The girls' friend, Meghan, donated several hours of her time to helping pack. 

This is drama, but Caelyn really was tuckered out! All of the children worked so hard to make the move possible.

I could write a book on all of the things that my parents do and have done to make life easier, but I'm especially grateful to my mom in this case for packing my sensitive antique items.

Daddy carefully wrapped all of our glass shelves, among many other things.

Here's how the loading crew looked:

One 26-footer down, one to go

To be continued...