Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Sourdough Bread

I've never been a bread maker. My mom used to bake yummy, homemade bread. It was eaten more as a treat though, we used boughten bread for most occasions. I married a man who isn't crazy about bread, so it never became a priority to learn the art. My children, on the other hand, looove homemade bread. I've tried my hand at it a few times over the years but mostly have learned to make dinner rolls, not loaves of bread.

Enter a daughter who likes to try things - particularly unusual and healthy things; things that require research and extra effort.

I confess I rolled my eyes when Jasmine got it in her head to try to make her own sourdough starter. It sounded way too complicated and time consuming for me. I made it perfectly clear that this was her project, not mine.

Well, Jasmine being Jasmine, she read and she researched and she tried recipes. There were some flops and some interesting baked goods but she finally got a starter strong enough to make a delicious loaf of bread!

First loaf

And guess who was hooked? Yeah. The skeptical mother.

If you're looking for sourdough info and recipes, Home Joys is a great place to check out. Her bread recipe is the only one we use and when there's none available for my morning toast, it's me who says "Get your starter out Jasmine!" It's me who makes sure it gets fed and it's me (usually) who mixes and stretches and bakes the bread and me who eats it every morning... along with several others...

My normal breakfast -- 
Hot drink, yogurt with granola and maybe fruit, and sourdough toast. 
Right now really all I'm looking at is the green in that picture though.........

Here is the recipe:

2 C active starter
1 C milk
1/2 C water
1/4 C oil or melted butter
1/4 C honey
2 1/2 C whole wheat flour
3 C white flour
3 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients except salt for 2-3 minutes.  Allow dough to rest for about 20 minutes.


 Add salt and knead for about 5 minutes.


Place in oiled bowl and allow to rise 3-4 hours. (Optional: every hour stretch your dough and return to bowl. I've done this the last several times and I think it makes a nicer rise but it may have been coincidence.)


Divide dough into 2 pieces; shape into loaves and place in greased pans. Spray with oil and cover with plastic to keep from drying out. Allow to rise 2-3 hours.


When dough has risen, slash top of the loaf (Optional. I don't usually slash it for fear of making it fall.)

Bake at 400 degrees 25-30 minutes.



Enjoy! My favorite way to eat it is toasted and spread with butter or used for a grilled cheese sandwich -- sprinkle the buttered side with italian seasoning and garlic salt before grilling for the best grilled cheese ever.

    * * * * * * * * *

You know my writing motivation is still at a dangerous low when I start posting recipes..... just saying......

Thursday, January 10, 2019

This Is Us

Wow y'all. Aside from feeling a little guilty that I might have been taken as begging for comments, your responses just made my day(s)!! Thank you. Thank you so much. I loved it.

****************

With the start of a new year, I thought perhaps an introductory post might be in order. I don't think I've ever actually written an introduction to my family, as such, although if you've read here for any length of time, I would guess you've gotten to know us quite well along the way. Off the top of my head, I can think of several posts that would give you a little background, such as the series of posts on how my husband and I met, and my introductory posts to the Treasure In Heaven series here and here.

But without further ado, let me tell you a little about us.


Soon after we got married, a friend inspired me to try to get a family picture every year over the time of our
anniversary -- it doesn't have to be anything
great, just a simple snapshot will do. Well,
I have a picture from every year, but we'll just say
that "over the time of our anniversary" has
become a very broad term. This year's photo
was taken on the very last day of 2018. 


Starting with the oldest child... 


Isaac Christopher was born to us a little less than one month before our first wedding anniversary. We basically know very little about marriage without him in the equation. Isaac is 16 years old, has his driver's license, and is set to graduate this year, completing 12 grades in 11 years. With his blonde hair and blue eyes, most people assume he takes after his father. The truth is, in personality Isaac is the most like his mother... albeit with a healthy dose of his father's upbringing, which is not a bad thing at all. Isaac has a tender heart, loves any kind of game and would like to teach school some day. 


Jasmine Annette is our second born. Arriving one year and nine months after her brother, the two of them have always been close.  If Isaac is the most like his mother, than Jasmine is even more her father's daughter. I am continually amazed at the way the two of them think alike. Jasmine will be 15 next month and does everything she puts her hand to with all of her heart. She loves painting and drawing and about every other creative outlet you can imagine. She's fulfilled my girlhood dream of learning to play the piano and enjoys cooking and teaching her younger sisters much more than I do. In spite of us joking that we never like the same things, the two of us are best of friends.


Jennifer Lynn is our rainbow baby. Joining our family 4 years after her older sister, Jennifer was a much longed and prayed for baby. I don't think I've ever talked here about my miscarriage between Jasmine and Jennifer but those years had their share of tears in them for me. Jennifer is 10 years old and has held the drama card in our family for every one of those years. You will never be left in doubt as to what this child is thinking. On the other hand, you will probably never fail to be charmed either nor fail to be astonished by her creativity and imagination. I have never seen a child who possesses quite Jennifer's ability to create vivid, enthralling play out of whatever materials are available for use. While I struggle often to identify with her completely different personality, I love to watch her vibrant creativity and her passion for reading. 


Lillian Bethany came to our family 17 months after her longed for sister. I will never forget calling my midwife (who knew all about my tears before Jennifer) and confessing that I was crying again but for an entirely different reason. She laughed and told me that God certainly has a sense of humor. She could imagine Him saying, "Make up your mind, honey!" Lillian was born into probably the hardest years of our marriage. But this is about her. Lillian is 9 years old, loves making lists and hates washing dishes. She is our only child who is shy and quiet like my family, although she can easily hold her own when no strangers are around. Lillian is a protective little mother hen and does great with young children. She does not like to be pushed but she does love to be hugged and held and cuddled. Lillian has a hilarious sense of humor and writes the best funny stories. 


And then, there is Charles Elmer, the little tag along who came 3 and a half years behind Lillian. I still feel bad sometimes that we didn't have the second part to his duo like we did the rest of his siblings but life happens and that's just how the years played out. Charles is small for his age and definitely treated as the baby of the family, poor thing. He is the most touchy - feely child I've had and still comes around often  to spontaneously give a hug and kiss and to say "I like you!" Charles loves stories. And every story that he hears then gets translated into his play and acted out with his Fisher Price people and cars and trucks. He has the Eicher gene for memorizing and can rattle off countless snippets -- from Bible stories to Adventures in Odyssey to Hank The Cowdog -- all with impeccable precision in wording and voice inflection. I love nothing more than to listen to Charles and Isaac doing the voices in a story and Charles setting his older brother straight on some minor mispronunciation. 


And then, of course, there are the parents. We are definitely an 'opposites attract' couple, although I would say 17 and a half years of marriage have certainly made us rub off on each other a good bit. 

Chris manages his brother's tire shop and is a handy man to have around with his previous years of experience in carpentry, cabinets and countertops. He built the house we live in almost single handedly. Oh, he had some help, of course, but he hired out very little of the work. Chris loves nothing more than to pull off a good surprise and his favorite thing is to keep his family wondering what idea he'll come up with next. While his opinionated nature often portrays a false harshness, Chris has the biggest, most unbiased heart you will ever find. 

And.... I'm the mom of the bunch. I cook and clean and do laundry (Do I ever do laundry!). I'm quiet and a home body and a loner. I like using my creativity and making something from nothing puts a sparkle in my eye. Give me a good book and I won't be worth a thing for the rest of the day; ask me to play some strategy game like Chess and I will soundly refuse. If you want to know any other bits about me, I shared 39 of them once. 

This is us. We have strengths and we have weaknesses; we mess up and sometimes we get it right. All in all, I like us a lot. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

The Little Blog

Once upon a time there was a tiny, Little Blog. With it's mini, 22 line posts, the Little Blog was a virtual nobody in the vast world wide web filled with hundreds of voices. Still, the Little Blog felt important in it's obscure corner and delighted in any and all visitors who happened upon it's small space. The Little Blog's best-est thing of all, were the few and far between comments that some sweet visitors would leave. Every time those 22 line posts would go out, the Little Blog would wait breathlessly, hoping against hope that someone would take the time to enter their thoughts in the comment box.

Days and weeks and months went by. The Little Blog faithfully trotted out it's tiny posts and relished it's trickle of visitors. As time went by, the Little Blog settled comfortably into it's position, slowly but surely accumulating friends and acquaintances along the way.

Years passed, and the Little Blog grew up bit by bit. Gradually things changed for the tiny Little Blog.  Where there had once been 22 lines, there were now pictures and lengthy posts. Where once there was only stark simplicity, there were now blog headers and sidebars and subscribe buttons. In place of a trickle of visitors, there was now a nice little crowd. In the comments the Little Blog began to recognize the regulars, those that faithfully followed along who encouraged and strengthened the Little Blog.

Over time, the Little Blog gathered courage and expanded it's voice. Sometimes it provided space for a series of posts and there would be lengthy discussions and questions in the comment section. Other times the Little Blog became a place to promote someone's book with a review and a giveaway involved. These times were perhaps the Little Blog's favorite, when the visitors would drop by in a flood and the comments would stack up in an impressive pile. The Little Blog sometimes puzzled over this phenomenon. It would almost have appeared that the visitors only left comments in order to receive a prize, but the Little Blog didn't want to be so judgemental as to assume that.

The Little Blog took great pride in the faithfulness of it's work. Sometimes the words would slow and there were even a few spells of silence but always the steady stream of posts would reappear and the faithful little crowd of visitors along with them.

Then, one day the Little Blog was startled to realize that the words had slowed considerably. In fact, when the Little Blog took the time to take careful stock, it became apparent that the flow of blog posts in it's corner seemed to have stopped completely. What could have happened, the Little Blog wondered? Day after day, the Little Blog missed it's visitors more intensely. Some days there would be stirrings and the Little Blog would perk up expectantly, only to see the words that had been typed disappear abruptly with one flick of a button marked 'delete'. Other times there would be rows upon rows of words relegated to the position of 'draft', and there they would sit to waste their days away; the Little Blog really could not understand it at all.

Months passed and the Little Blog had all but resigned itself to it's fate. After all these years and all the growing it had done -- the friends it had made and the niche it had carved; it seemed a shame to the Little Blog, a real, crying shame.

And then, lo! One day out of the silence a post appeared. The Little Blog waited quietly, hardly daring to hope that these words would escape 'delete' and 'draft'. But patience prevailed and the words were sent out and the Little Blog breathed a long sigh of relief. The sight of the subject caused the Little Blog some bewilderment. Why anyone would choose to wax eloquent about a little old blog seemed a strange twist of reason to the simple Little Blog. Then again, if that was what it took to open the wells and restart the steady stream, the Little Blog would hardly take it upon itself to stand in the way. And with that, the Little Blog sat back expectantly to await the return of it's visitors and to relish the anticipation of at least a few comments.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Tidbits

Confession: I take this blog way too seriously. If I don't post for awhile, I always feel like I should have something big to say when I return. When I don't have something big to say, I just keep on not returning. It's time to stop taking things so seriously.

And so..... a post of tidbits....

     * * * * *


My youngest has been going off to school three days a week since October 17. He absolutely loves it and has turned into a little man almost over night. He delights in telling us all the things he is learning!

People wonder how I'm doing with my baby going off to school? Honestly, it's a switch but so far I'm rather enjoying it.

     * * * * *


My view is returning! I'm not a huge fan of Autumn, it reminds me too much of what is coming next, but we have had some delightful weather and some pretty trees and I do look forward to that view...

     * * * * *


Speaking of views.

Charles: "Look at the clouds, mom!"
Me: [busily washing dishes] "They're pretty aren't they?"
Charles: "Yes! You should take a picture... pleeease mom?!"

Glad I did.

    * * * * *

For months now I've been listening to the chronological Bible in the NLT version as I have time and/ think of doing it. Listening to the Old Testament makes me deeply grateful that I'm living in the time of the new covenant; listening to Psalms makes me almost chuckle at David. Ever notice how often he's moaning and lamenting one minute and praising and worshipping the next?

Makes me feel like maybe I'm normal.

     * * * * *

This past weekend was a doozy. We had our first experience doing respite care + Chris and Isaac were gone Saturday - Sunday.


Walking and biking under the gorgeous blue sky Sunday evening was the perfect way to get some deep breathes for my soul.


I like these people. 

    * * * * *

A week ago I discovered a little, pink package in our church mailbox. Curiosity aroused, I quietly opened it while around me the singing progressed. Quickly scanning the note inside, I found the sweetest, most encouraging words and the signature of a friend far away. Completely mystified as to how this bit of 'water for a thirsty soul' had made it's way to our church mailbox, I could hardly wait to email the sender!

All of this to say, if the idea/ opportunity presents itself to surprise someone with a bit of encouragement, do it. Do it! You may never know how deeply a heart may be touched.

    * * * *


Charles loves to rinse dishes when Lillian is the dish washer. There's often a lot more than dishes happening with these two. One night I caught them on video, Lillian pouring and Charles solemnly intoning (among many and garbled things), "Do you promise to be good? Yes. So I make it to the father, the son, and the holy ghost..."

You can bet there was a lot of laughter going on behind their backs!

    * * * *

There's my tidbits, what are yours?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

I Want What You Want

Dear God, I just want what You want. 
Is that too much to ask?
I'd like to have it tomorrow, 
And wrapped in green with a bow 
But I'm sure that won't be a problem. 

I just want what You want, God. 
Your way is always best. 
I'm pretty sure the path will have
These turns and those bumps
But of course, You're the one in control. 

I truly want what You want, God. 
It's so hard to sit and wait patiently.
While I wait I'll just paint in a few ideas, 
Get a picture of how this might look
But I'm waiting on You, really. 

O Father God, I just want what You want.
I know You have it all in Your hand. 

You might use red
With brown string?
There's a good chance 
Of steep hills
And deep valleys?
You threw all my
Pretty pictures
In the trash?

Well, yes.
Of course. 
That's what I said.
I want what You want...
I think. 

What is that?
That's not how wanting what 
You want looks?
Oh. Yeah, I did say I would make myself 
Available. 

That's not what making 
Myself available means?

You're saying being available
Means letting You choose the colors
And paint the pictures?
It means allowing You to
Map out the terrain?

Oh, I see. 

But You care about me?
You know my needs better than I do?
You see the future?
You have my best in mind?
I can trust You, right?

Yes, Father, yes. 
I believe you. 
I really am making myself available. 
I confess I have no idea 
What that might look like,
But I want what You want. 

Really. 

Friday, October 5, 2018

A Blanket, The Sun, and Redemption

"Oh, oh. Get ready! Here it comes!" Convulsive giggles and frantic wiggling ensued in the seat behind me. "Put up the blanket! There's the sun!"

We were on a simple, evening drive and my three youngest had turned holding a blanket we would need at our destination into a thrilling game of be-prepared-to-block-the-sun-when-it-shines-into-our-faces. You would have thought it was the most exciting activity they had ever taken part in, judging by the shrieks and laughter it produced.

My husband and I exchanged amused smiles. "A child's life is so exciting," I commented quietly.


That incident was weeks ago but it's returned to my mind often. Here's why -- what if 'becoming as little children' means living like that?

Little children bounce; they sparkle, have you noticed? Jerking a blanket over your face every time the sun peaks through the trees is thrilling as you drive along on a summer evening! To big people it's an annoying bother - the sun in your eyes and a visor that doesn't provide enough shade. At what point, exactly, do we lose the sparkle, I wonder? The bounce? What changes when little people get big?


Us big people, we know a lot, don't we? We've known a lot more pain, a lot more heartache; we've shed a lot more tears. As the years stack up, so do the losses. We've said more goodbyes, let go of more dreams, picked up more broken pieces. With the knowing comes a little less bounce, a little less sparkle, a little less child-like-ness. And sometimes, if we're not careful, the pain of this world looms bigger than the God who promises redemption.

"How is it that the sun keeps shining in times of devastating loss? Or that the waves roll in, robust as ever, and tea kettles whistle, and people go to work? Maybe God is saying that death <loss> is real but so is life, and even in the most black and empty days of death, life keeps nosing in, reminding. He is the resurrection and the life. He will win."       ~Dorcas Smucker



 Lately I've found myself grieving so much loss and pain -- my own, my friend's, my family member's. Sometimes the pain of life feels crushing and there is healing in tears and grief. But the bounce and sparkle of a child keep coming back to my mind's eye; the wonder and joy found in simple blankets and sun in the eyes. What good is the resurrection and the life if I live my days under the cloud of loss and pain? If the theme of God's story is redemption, shouldn't the bounce and sparkle of a child line my clouds?

The brokenness of this world is reality; just because we are His doesn't erase the effects of sin and death in our lives. But let's not forget to pause often and view life through the eyes of a child. There is wonder in the sunset, joy in service, sparkle in a hug, bounce in shared laughter, hilarity in a blanket and the sun; don't miss it.


No matter what losses we face, no matter how devastating our road, He is the resurrection and the life.

He will win.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Pickleball

It is a cloudy, chilly morning. Matter of fact, we've had quite a lot of clouds and rain lately, and I'm feeling a little rebellious about it. Not that I'm complaining or anything but Winter Is Coming, you know.

My house is cozy and warm though. And I've already mixed up a batch of sourdough bread, which makes me feel all accomplished and Ma Ingalls-ish. Isaac now has his license, so off the children went to school by themselves! Maybe that's part of the prairie woman feeling because that leaves me stranded here without a vehicle. Not that I usually go anywhere during the day but, you know, when you don't have it you're sure you'll need it.

Anyhoo......

So here I sit, drinking my coffee and looking around every few seconds at Charles' "Mom, mom! Look!" And trying  to decide what I should say this morning. Should I dip into the murky waters of joy and grief? Should I talk about living with uncertainty; the questions of what God wants from me - from us - at this stage in life? Or should I tell you about nights at the park and the discovery of Pickleball?

I hope you're not too disappointed if I go with the easy one.

You should know by now that we're a fairly flexible bunch around here. We're not the sort who has our days planned to a tee and if we do, those plans are more likely to get changed up than not.

Jasmine and I clean the tire shop Chris manages. We try to get it done once a week but the day and time varies (see above) and sometimes we suddenly decide at 4:00 on a Thursday night to all go in to the shop to clean and eat the pizza that dad will order. Just as typically, the pizza might never get ordered because of a customer at closing time, so the shop might get cleaned and we might end up with pizza from Little Caesar's at a park we haven't been to before.


It was a lovely evening and the children were soon done with pizza and off to try out swings and slides. There was a basketball court being kept busy by some energetic boys and beyond them, more courts where people appeared to be playing tennis. I didn't pay too much attention to the activities and was actually chafing to go home when I realized that Isaac had joined the players and that the sport was actually called Pickleball.


Pickleball? I'd never heard of it. According to Wikipedia: "Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis. Two or four players use solid paddles made of wood or composite materials to hit a perforated polymer ball, similar to a Wiffle Ball, over a net."

The sign says -- "This court is reserved for Pickleball only. Open to public - beginners welcome. Instructions and equipment provided." Beneath that are listed days and times for playing.

Apparently most of those interested are in the 50-60-ish age range, or so it appeared from the crowd gathered that night. Isaac was the only one of us wearing tennis shoes, which is a requirement, and they welcomed him in and taught him the rules. They quickly decided that he had too much energy and wondered what court he had played on before? ☺

We went again last night, equipped with tennis shoes this time, and the three oldest and Chris all tried their hand at the game.


It is apparent that a lot of them playing are regulars and that the games are purely for fun and exercise. They are some of the kindest people I've seen, welcoming my crew warmly and appearing to enjoy a game that included a newbie 10 year old as much as one with their seasoned cronies.

It's too bad we discovered this at the end of summer rather than the beginning. But you can bet our children will be wanting to make the most of every chance we have left! I guess this proves again that flexibility often provides you with gifts in the most unexpected places.

What about you -- have you ever heard of Pickleball?