Friday, January 29, 2010

Let's tour the School Room!

Are you ready for a tour of the school room? (It'll be quick, I promise, the room is only about 10x15!) Let's go have a look!

The view from the door . . . The school table. Notice the lack of anything creative, interesting, or beautiful on the walls. I'm not really homeschooling yet! But I envision it filled with fun charts, maps, the alphabet, etc. Also notice the terrible use of space on the table top. A project for the future is to decide what I need, buy some organizer/sorter things that can stack, and use the space going up. Right now, I'm just happy to have a printer and plenty of open space for the girls to play, do crafts, etc.

A different angle . . .
Here I'm standing at the door and looking straight in. I love all the natural light! The cozy blue/white chair really is the heart of the room, in fact I'm sitting in it at this moment! It's my quiet time chair, my read aloud chair, Clara's rest time chair, and even occasionally the girls all pile in there to watch a movie, set up on the ottoman. Thanks Ikea for cozy happy furniture!

The bookshelf, with its doors open, invitingly beckoning us to come and read...come and read...
And here's my view from the chair with the bookshelf doors closed. Neat and tidy, just the way I like it!

Baskets of board books and pillows on the windowseat complete the cozy corner. So, my school room is still in process, but I'm thankful for its welcoming warmth! I think it will be fun to teach and learn in this space.
Hope you enjoyed the tour! Sit in a cozy chair and read some books with your kids today!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

Breadmaker Bliss

This is the real thing, people--tried and true recipes from my breadmaker that get rave reviews in our house. I present for your enjoyment three beautiful breads: Homemade pizza dough, (now there's no excuse not to make pizza at home, this is so easy!), my Cinnamon Roll recipe which I have tweaked to perfection after years of John saying "hmm, not quite like Cinnabon," and Golden Honey Pan Rolls, known as "Honey Rolls" in our family. We often eat them with vegetable beef soup for lunch when I'm tired of stirfry (about once every 10 days or so). My house helper has honed her skills on all of these and they turn out great every time now! Enjoy!

Pizza Perfection
3 cups bread flour
1 1/8 cups water
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp yeast

[Feel free to add some dried basil or oregano, or substitute garlic salt for the regular salt to jazz things up!]

Load the bread pan, using the dough cycle. When it finishes, remove the dough. Let rest 5 minutes on a floured surface. Divide dough into two pieces. (I have found this amount makes enough for my one big and one small pizza pan if we want thin crust, or enough for just the big one if we want a thicker crust.) Roll it out on a lightly floured surface, then place in greased pizza pans, forming the crust around the edges. Prick each pizza with a fork and prebake the crust for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. (I have found the prebaking to be the key to the yummiest pizza! Before I started doing this I always had trouble getting my dough to the crispy/chewy stage, it always turned out too soft. But if you like a much softer crust, skip this step.)

Spread with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, and your favorite pizza toppings. Bake for another 10 minutes or so until cheese is melted and beginning to brown around the edges. Enjoy!

BONUS: Here's the recipe I use for pizza sauce: in 1 Tbsp olive oil, saute 2 chopped cloves of garlic, 1 tsp dried basil and 1/2 tsp oregano, just until fragrant. Add one 6 oz can tomato paste and 1/2 cup water. Heat until simmering and salt to taste.

Our Favorite Cinnamon Rolls (with the bread machine, these are very do-able for breakfast!)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1 egg plus water to equal 1/4 cup
4 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp yeast

4-5 Tbsp brown sugar plus about 2 tsp cinnamon, stirred together
4 Tbsp melted butter

Load the bread pan, using the dough cycle. When finished, remove the dough to a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest in the frig for 30 minutes. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle--roll the dough as thin as you can manage. This will ensure that the filling-to-dough ratio is right. Too much filling makes the dough difficult to roll up, so you want to roll the dough very thin so that the filling spreads out as well.

After you've rolled it very thinly, spread on the melted butter. (You could use a pastry brush, but why? I just use my fingers, not wanting to waste any of that beautiful butter soaking into the pastry brush bristles.) Sprinkle with the brown sugar/cinnamon combo. Roll the dough up into a long, thin log, pinching the seam to seal. Slice the log into 12 pieces carefully with a serrarated knife. Place the rolls in a greased 9x13 pan, not touching. Cover with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place for 20-30 minutes. Preheat oven to 360 degrees and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden.

For a simple icing, combine 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 Tbsp milk, and a dash of vanilla and pour over the top. For a lovely, decadent, creamy frosting, make this delicious cream cheese concoction:

8 Tbsp softened butter
3-4 oz softened cream cheese

Beat these two together. Then add 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1/8 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp vanilla. Beat until fluffy. This recipe makes enough for several batches of cinnamon rolls and keeps great in the frig!

Finally, last but not least, everyone's favorite Honey Rolls! They're like a dinner roll except so sweet and soft and tender that they melt in your mouth...Yum!

1 cup milk
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp honey
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups bread flour
2 1/4 tsp yeast

For the glaze:
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp melted butter
1 Tbsp honey
1 egg white (the other half from that yolk you needed for the bread part)

Load the bread machine, using the dough cycle. When finished, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Punch down; cover and rest for 10 minutes. Divide into 24 pieces, shape each into a ball. Place 12 balls each in two greased 8 inch square baking pans. [I usually just use one 9x13, but I do find that they have to bake just a tad longer that way, otherwise the center ones don't get done.] Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes. Combine the glaze ingredients and drizzle over the dough. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy warm with a bowl of soup, and if you have any left over, they're delicious with a slice of ham stuck in the middle!

Happy breadmaker baking, everyone!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Adopted for Life

Today, some great friends of ours are meeting their new adopted daughter for the first time. In less than 2 hours, they will hold her in their arms...this daughter that they have loved, longed for, and waited for for more than two years. It's been a long journey for them, and my heart is just thrilling at the way that the Lord brought all things together for them to receive this precious baby girl.

These friends also happen to have a wonderful blog, where they shared their adoption story, life in an Asian country, recipes, lots of great photos, and other fun stuff. Look them up!

I borrowed the title for this blog from a fairly new book by Russell Moore. I have not read it, but have friends who have, and it is a wonderful resource if you are thinking of adoption or simply concerned about the orphan crisis in the world. I'd also recommend to you Noel Piper's blog,, as she and her husband, Dr. John Piper have adopted and she shares some of her story there. In recent days she has also provided many links to excellent resources concerning the Haitian orphan situation.

Musing about adoption has also inspired in me a fresh thankfulness for the way that I myself have been adopted into God's family. . . for life. What a wonderful picture of His fatherly love, affection, and care. Praise Him for His abundant grace!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Praying for Haiti

The devastation in Haiti has been on my heart and mind today, as well as yours, I'm sure. If you are looking for a great, biblical, balanced commentary on events from a theological perspective, please read Dr. Al Mohler's recent article: "Does God Hate Haiti?" at his website, I couldn't commend it more highly.

As well, if you are looking for a way to give and aren't sure where, consider Compassion International. This organization has more than 65,000 children in sponsorship in Haiti, and they anticipate that many, many children have been affected by this earthquake. If you'd like to know more, go to and you can give online there as well.

Let's all join together in prayer for those affected by this terrible tragedy. May the hope of the gospel be real to those who are hurting.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

12.25.09: Happy Birthday, Clara Anne!

Our birthday celebration for Clara Anne started out with a birthday breakfast of fresh, homemade cinnamon rolls, which turned out absolutely perfectly and I have no pictures since we were in a rush to get out the door! We had an important appointment at Clara Anne and Chloe's kindergarten, to go and share with them about Christmas! Not until after we arrived did I realize that the kindergarten teachers and kids had ALSO prepared a small program, and we weren't "the whole show." We were glad to take a backseat for a moment and watch the kids perform. Below, all the kids have filed in and are getting ready to do some singing with actions. Some parts were even in English; they had obviously been practicing!
Clara Anne's class also did a small program. She did a good job following along. (Can you find her in the crowd?)
It was a picture-taking free-for-all.
After Clara's class performed, John and I got up and told the Christmas story, using a children's storybook, a wooden nativity set, and a translator. The kids were restless by then and despite them being really noisy, we trust that the message communicated, even a little bit, to the parents and teachers. We then played a game of musical chairs with Christmas music--each class got a turn to play and it was FUN! Everyone got into it and there were lots of laughs and smiles all around. Finally, we ended by singing some Christmas songs as well as passing out cookies to each child. (Christmas tree cut-out sugar cookies--so glad I had lots!)

After all that hubbub, we took Clara Anne to KFC (her choice) for a birthday lunch. Whew! It was early enough that the crowds had not descended there, so we enjoyed a relaxed meal over a bucket of chicken. We returned home to take naps, frost the birthday cake, and prepare for her birthday supper. Clara Anne was pretty excited about her mini-pizza on her special birthday plate!
The table all set for supper; whoops, it looks like Christin is already enjoying her pizza!

I found this adorable plate and mug set in the capital city recently, isn't it fun? Growing up, we had a red plate that we called the "Special Plate." If it was your birthday, or we had a special guest, or we were celebrating an achievement or something like that, we got out the special plate. Now our family has a special plate too! There's a large platter and several other cupcake-shaped serving plates that I bought as well that all match, such fun! Making memories, for sure!
Happy Birthday Clara Anne, Happy Birthday to you!

Five to go. . .
And there they go!

Our sweet, precious Clara Anne Danielle! We love you, five year old girl!

Since that was Christmas night, we got to put the final star ornament on the Jesse tree during devotions. Everyone seems pretty excited about it! We then spent some time looking through Clara Anne's baby book and talking about her life before she opened her birthday gifts. I will confess: I didn't get any gifts wrapped this year except the ones we opened early with Grandpa and Grandma on the webcam. Christmas week was too much of a rush and I was still sick, at that point we were just doing the essentials! Instead, John just brought out gifts one by one from where they were hidden in our bedroom. The girls didn't seem to care a bit and it saved me lots of time and energy! Just to keep things real, here's how I looked after all the celebrating was over:

That's one tired mama, not my prettiest moment, that's for sure! I think it cannot be disputed: mothers make holidays and birthdays and special occasions happen. I'm not saying fathers don't help, but if it were up to dads it might not happen in the same way! But, the important thing is, we are building a family culture of traditions, enjoying one another, celebrating the life that Father has given us, and if it requires a little extra effort (or a lot), that is a joy for me to contribute. I see it as part of my calling as a mother to celebrate these things in a special way. But when life gets back to "normal," that's a great thing too! :) Here's a final look at our birthday girl, wearing a birthday gift--another new dress-up dress from Mommy and Daddy.

Here's a few thoughts about Clara Anne at five. She is full of imagination, always telling stories. She usually names her characters and they get featured again and again in her make-believe. Rosaput and Mary are two favorite names. She can make a story out of anything! (Bits of play-dough, her two chopsticks, tiny pieces of paper, stickers, etc--all become people and have interesting, dramatic lives that she narrarates.)
I have seen tremendous growth in Clara Anne in the last year in being willing to relate to people, both in the local language and in English. She is gaining confidence in both languages and more freely expresses herself even to people she doesn't know very well. She may not be outgoing and gregarious, but she is doing so much better and is learning to be polite, which was my goal to begin with.
More and more we are seeing evidence of faith in Clara Anne. We have seen some times of pretty distinct conviction of sin, and a desire to follow the Lord. She is much more willing to pray, both in public and alone, and she loves to make up praise songs and then tell me about them.
Clara Anne also loves to dance. One of her favorite things to do is to put on music and dance around the living room--it's a daily activity. And then of course, wearing a pretty dress to dance in is absolutely necessary! I never knew how necessary dresses were to a little girl's life!
That's Clara Anne! Sweet, loving, caring towards her sisters (most of the time), Mommy's great helper: "May I help you do something, Mommy?", a vivid imagination, a beautiful smile, lover of books and stories, a loyal friend, our precious girl. Happy Birthday, Clara Anne! We love you!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Creamy Christmas Eggnog

I thought I'd pause between picture-heavy posts to share with you a favorite recipe that I only just last week tried for the first time in Asia. The problem before was not a lack of ingredients or the difficulty of the recipe. So why didn't I make it before? I'll be upfront with you: I had a hang-up regarding this recipe. It contains raw eggs.

Now, in the States, raw eggs may seem a little scary, and most people avoid eating them. But here, they seem MUCH more scary. Our eggs usually arrive fresh from the hen, usually speckled with a little poo for good measure. I have no idea how much they're handled, what the standards are for raising the hens that laid the eggs, or anything like that. They also don't come in a cute, handy carton (unless you buy organic eggs, which, since the organic industry is not well regulated here, who knows if they're organic or not!). They're sold on the side of the street and even in grocery stores in big plastic crates, all piled on top of one another. It took me a long time to get used to buying eggs in a plastic bag. But, if you don't buy too many and you don't buy too many other items, you can usually get them home safely.

But, I decided that I would take the risk of salmonella (online research assures me it's a small risk) and make this eggnog which is a recipe I got from my Aunt Bonnie ages ago. It is absolutely delicious! After I made it, my first sips were tentative, but after hours passed and I felt fine, I had a little more. It's wonderfully smooth, with absolutely no "raw egg" taste, beautifully creamy and full of flavor from the nutmeg. We have now safely and happily consumed two batches! (Note to self, though: when making it into an eggnog latte, heat gently. I zapped it too long and it cooked the eggs, turning it into eggnog soup!)

So without further ado, here's the recipe. You'll be enjoying eggnog in less than 10 minutes.

6 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups milk (I used whole milk)
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup whipping cream, whipped (or partly whipped if your hand mixer is so pathetic it cannot whip cream in 10 minutes! I finally gave up!)

Beat eggs until foamy. Gradually add sugar. Beat until thick and lemon colored. Reduce speed, gradually add milk, then vanilla, then nutmeg. Beat until combined. Chill thoroughly. To serve, stir in whipped cream and sprinkle with additional nutmeg.

Enjoy a cool, creamy cup in these January days. Or warm it, gently, and add to a cup of coffee. Simply delicious!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Christmas Day in Pictures, 2009

Merry Christmas! Won't you come in and join us for our traditional Christmas Eve Day brunch? Let me serve you a lovely slice of blueberry upside down cake, along with some scrambled cheesy eggs and breakfast sausage. Take a few fresh strawberries, too! The candles are lit, the coffee is hot, just relax and enjoy!

Merry Christmas, Chloe!

Merry Christmas, Clara Anne!

And Merry Christmas, sweet Christin!

[I had a cute picture of Christin to go here, but accidentally deleted it and then couldn't get it back in this spot, argh!]

We love this breakfast cake!

We spent the morning getting our family pictures taken at a local photo studio. We got some cute pictures! The girls were cheerful and did well, despite the over-warm temps in the studio and having to wait awhile initially. We won't see the pictures until January 23, however! Bummer!
Lunch after the picture event was at a hotpot restaurant. For those of you unfamiliar with this Asian food, a big bowl of steaming broth is brought to your table, and then you order a variety of thinly sliced raw meat, vegetables, and even noodles or tiny dumplings to cook in the broth. The cooked food is then dipped in a special sauce and eaten. It's a wonderful, warming meal in the wintertime.
This hotpot restaurant was special because the side dishes came around on a little train, you could lift off whatever you liked! The tracks are running right behind John and Clara Anne.

Lou came with us and enjoyed the break from cooking lunch! Our hotpot had two sections: spicy and not spicy. The spicy was truly HOT! John was sweating after a few bites of food cooked in the spicy broth!

Choo choo! Here comes the food!
After hotpot we sent Christin home with Lou to get a good nap while we took the girls shopping for a Christmas gift. Things took longer than expected, and when we wanted to return home about 5, NO taxis were available. We waited and waited on the side of the street, and finally after about 40 minutes, a woman driving her own car offered to take us home. How kind! We were able to share with her a bit about Christmas, but unfortunately didn't get her number. Both of the girls fell dead asleep in the half hour it took us to get home.
Arriving home we ate a quick, snacky supper, and then began our family Christmas worship time in our customary place: the sofa, where all three girls sit with John while I'm at the piano. We had a nice time of singing, reviewing the four carols that had been our "songs of the week" during December.
Then everybody got excited about putting on the next-to-last ornament on the Jesse tree. Almost to Christmas day!

The Scripture reading that night was Luke 2:1-5. The girls surprised Daddy by getting up to recite it instead of him reading it. (We had been working on that as a gift for Daddy throughout December. I meant to have them memorize much more, but the first five verses were as far as we got!) Christin got into the act too, doing some of the hand motions even though she couldn't say the words!

"To be registered with his wife Mary, who was with child."
It was Christin's turn at the Jesse tree that night.
We finished by letting each of the girls hold a candle (Christin held hers with me) which we lit from one to the next, and sang together Silent Night. They loved it and were very quiet and careful with the candles! I felt so blessed to have some time to truly worship in that moment...there in the quiet, dark, with only the slight flames of the candles illuminating our faces. This moment was "Christmas" for me, if you know what I mean. So thankful...A special time of prayer concluded our family worship.
Next we opened up our stockings. Here's Christin, seeing me hold the stocking and thinking she needs to put her foot into it!

Oooh! New stickers!

Gathered around to see the fun!

Hmmm, what else could be in there?
Clara Anne had fun opening her stocking too!

The gift for the girls this year was dress-up dresses. Clara Anne chose this dress because she loved the color and all the frills.
We think it looks a bit "riverboat hussy" but she was set on it, and it is ONLY a dress-up dress. So, there you have it!
Christin got a new baby stroller. She also co-opted Chloe's new fuzzy crocs.
The new stickers were immediately enjoyed.

Here's Chloe's dress-up dress, which melts John's heart:

And all of the girls got new (2$) butterfly wings, wands, and headbands.
You can see the state the living room was reduced to! We had a fun time and let the girls stay up late, but finally had to get them to bed...a busy day ahead on the 25th celebrating Clara Anne's birthday! Those pictures coming soon!
It was a wonderful Christmas celebration, (if a bit tiring!) but we were thankful for the time to spend together as a family. I was still battling my cold, but the Lord gave strength and energy for what I needed to do that day to make things special, and of course John was right there with me. What a memorable Christmas! Celebrating the gift of a Savior who was born to us, Jesus Christ the Lord!