Life Allsorts

Tomorrow we celebrate our seventh anniversary! I cannot believe Tuan and I have been married for seven years. Time has flown by and I can honestly say that the days have been nothing but good. Why with every passing year we have become more and more of "one mind and one way of thinking," but not in that creepy Collinsish way! I love to think back on the way God brought us together and used so many twists and turns of providence to bring us to where we are now. Johnny and Aubrey have only added to our joy. Happy Anniversary honey, even though you don't usually read these ramblings!

I was thinking today how much fun our children are. Time passes in a different kind of way once you have children and I forget how far we've come and how much they've changed. At our Christmas party, a friend's baby was crawling around and she was having to chase him and keep him close. I had this sudden epiphany that, "wow! I haven't had to chase a baby or toddler like that in a while--and soon we'll be going right back to where we started!" I've enjoyed every age and struggled with the difficulties of each age, too. However, in the midst of each one I've thought, "this is such a great time! Can it get any better?" Well each new stage brings such joy.

J is three and a half and A will be two in January. They are so much fun and I LOVE the three year old boy I've got right now. He is growing so much in his communication skills and in his memory. He remembers so much and is really beginning to learn some songs--Joy to the World, Deep and Wide, Jingle Bells and Go, Tell it on the Mountain, as well at Thomas' theme song frequently burst forth from his enthusiastic little self.

He and A both are improving in their ability to help around the house--the other day I asked J to pick up all his trains and track and went out of the room. When I came back, he had obeyed--"all the way, without delay!" (that's our expression) I was so proud and thankful to see some fruit of all the hours of prodding and helping him pick up toys.

A, I suppose because she is a girl, is communicating very well and likes affirmation. She usually makes a statement and then tacks on "right?" at the end. For example, she'll say, "Daddy at work, right?" It makes me laugh. Having a big brother to shadow helps her to pick things up quickly. She can tell you about the baby Jesus--a little--and sings "Deep and Wide." She is also so much more emotional--like her momma--and sometimes just needs a cuddle. She is also using "need" instead of "want." When we were at the grandparents for Christmas, they returned a Bible story book that we'd left there. She said, "I need a Bible story!"

I don't post many photos on here because this blog is public, but I do love my children and family so much! Some days are hard and some are easy, but they are all filled with points of grace and I'm so thankful for where God has placed me in His Kingdom.


What would you choose?

We had an amazing sermon yesterday morning and an equally amazing service of lessons and carols last night. If you think Presbyterians are dull and lacking in real joy, you should have been at FPC last night! I feel like being very quiet and still today and letting it all soak in. I'm still swimming in the wonder and the words, but I want them to saturate my being so I can enjoy them for a good long time.

I was thinking about the wondrous night of Christ's birth--things natural and supra-natural occuring. Woudn't it be neat to see and experience all the things that we read about in the Bible? To see the angels and run to the manger. To behold the star--but I think I'd want to experience all that with the knowledge I have now. Surely all those involved had an inkling of what was going on--hello, everyone involved at the stable had seen ANGELS and been spoken to personally by them! I guess that would give you an inkling and then some.

But then I was thinking about what we, as Christians living 2000 years benefit from. We have the gospel accounts of Christ's birth--from so many perspectives. We hold in our hands and have engraved in our hearts the prophecies. Then we are also on this side of the cross--we see the birth of Jesus unfold into his sinless life and death and resurrection on the cross. If that isn't amazing enough, we have the writings of the apostles who--inspired by the Holy Spirit--expound and explain the mysteries to us! Reading in II Corinthians that "God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might have the righteousness of God" surely gives me even more cause for delight and wonder as I ponder the Christmas story. Then there is Revelation which inspires such expectation and longing within for things to come!

Scripture alone is sufficient for why I am actually glad to celebrate Christ's birth in the here and now, but God has also gifted us (here and now) with the gift of 2000 years of saints meditating and writing about Christ's birth. We have access to writings and songs and poems that express what one person alone could not.

So, I suppose, here in 2009, as distracted as I am by the worldly trappings of Christmas, I am thankful to be here and not there. I am thankful to look backwards at that chapter of the Great Redemption Story and to rest in the knowledge that one day I will be present and participating in the grand finale--the return of our King! Even so, come Lord Jesus!

Which would you choose?


The Live Nativity Scene of Covington County

Some years ago, perhaps in the early nineties, a funny thing did occur in my hometown just before Christmas. Now much of it is lost in the telling, but I will relate to you as best I can how things came to pass.

Our county and particularly my town, the county seat, was a place filled with civic pride and possessed a busy and enterprising Chamber of Commerce. This particular year, my daddy was serving as the President of said Chamber and they cooked up a Christmas celebration of great magnitude--to be held on the courthouse square. Our county's courthouse is a beautiful old red brick building. It is bordered on three sides by grassy lawn, while the southern side possesses an unfortunate parking lot. Along the North lawn there is a beautiful evergreen--tall as any tree to grace Rockefeller center (in my mind) and bedecked with large colorful lights for Christmas. Highway Eighty Four runs along this northern side. It comes west from Prentiss and continues East through the downtown and onto Laurel.

This celebration of Christmas coincided with the 100th birthday of our country or city (I don't recollect which) and there was a great to-do happening all around. A cake was set up on the Eastern lawn, there was to be a parade featuring Santa himself, and on the North lawn--Oh, this was the greatest thing--there was to be a Live Nativity Scene. The good folks of Lone Star Baptist church were behind these grand efforts and all their resources were pooled to create a grand scene. There were to be sheep, donkeys, horses, longhorn steer, a black llama, goats--not to mention the requisite characters so vital for a Live Nativity Scene: Mary, Joseph, Shepherds, Wise Men and an Angel--and a large pickup truck.

Pens were set up around the evergreen on the northern lawn and while the county was celebrating it's own birthday on the east, the good deacons of Lone Star Baptist church--already in full nativity costume--were preparing to celebrate a far more important birthday. All of the animals, save the donkey, were secure in their pens, and one of the Wise Men was carefully backing up the cattle trailer which contained the donkey. Backing up with care was a good thing because the lawn was more than a bit muddy from recent rainfall. With just a few more feet to go, they were all shocked by the sudden appearance of a geyser just under the truck--the careful Wise Man had backed over a sprinkler head and knocked the top off releasing a stream of water high in the cold Christmas air.

I have no idea what was said by the Wise Man, but surely he was shocked and for a few seconds at least, he must have lost control of his senses. The pickup jerked quickly back, hitting the pens and knocking more than one over. The longhorn steer and the llama escaped and went running.

My understanding of this story is mostly second and third hand, but my Daddy, with tears in his eyes has more than once related his shock and amazement over what followed. He was on the Eastern Lawn, emceeing the County Birthday Celebration and just as he began to introduce a musical number by Miss Hospitality, he saw a stream of water, heard an engine rev and pens clatter. He looked and a longhorn steer came running from the Live Nativity Scene chased by a shepherd with a lasso. The Shepherd actually lassoed the steer and being no match for a steer, was drug off the lawn and down to highway 84. The shepherd let go, but the steer continued on an Eastward course toward Laurel. Immediately behind the cowboy Shepherd came the Three Wise Men in the pickup truck--in hot pursuit of the steer.

Meanwhile, my mother, sister and I--late as usual--were on our way to the courthouse. We were driving down a neighborhood street and saw several blocks down a Large Black Animal making haste through the town. Was it a dog? A horse? An ostrich? What was that Large Black Animal? We are good, conscientious citizens and hailed a passing patrol car. Of course we happened to pick the only patrol car in town that was delivering Santa to the parade. (We know it was the right Santa because he was riding in the front seat and not the rear).

"There is a Large Black Animal--it ran that way!" we said in what I'm sure was a less stagnant use of words. "Don't worry, M'am" said Santa as he grabbed the Patrolman's rifle, "we'll take care of it." Then they turned their blue lights on and took off after the Large Black Animal which we now know to be the the LLama.

There is no real conclusion to this story. The county ate cake and the parade went off beautifully. I doubt Lone Star Baptist Church ever volunteered to to a Real Live Nativity Scene again, and I don't know if they caught the steer or the Llama. Life's stories rarely give us concrete resolution and this is one of them. However, it has given us many a laugh over the years and I have not been to a Real Live Nativity Scene since.


caution: body parts discussion

So, Aubrey has started using the potty and Johnny is very interested in this. Johnny is basically interested in anything involving peeing, pooping and "weenies." I always had an inkling that we would deal with this topic, but never in such a day-to-day quantity. Here's an example.

Scene: Aubrey just pottied and I'm changing her diaper. Johnny walks up.

J: Aubrey pee-pee in her bootie.
Me: Well Aubrey's pee-pee comes out right here, yours comes out of your weenie.
J: (Confident and enouraging) One day Aubrey, you will have a weenie
Me: No, no, Johnny, Aubrey will never have a weenie. Aubrey is a girl. Girls don't have weenies.
J: (pauses and confidence returns) But all the campers have a weenie!

Johnny has this idea that having that particular type of genitalia is something you aspire to. "One day, when you grow up . . . " He encouraged me with the same sentiment the other day. And soon, I will have two boys. Oh, dear!


Pantry Challenge Parts V and VI

This is probably the last day since we're going to see family tomorrow and I know we're eating out for lunch on Monday. I've had a lot of fun and since there are so many other demands on our budget at this time of the year, I'll still limit the grocery buying and keep purging the pantry.


Polished off the last of the waffle batter with some syrup/butter and bananas. The kids were so excited to have bananas again!

Elevenses: Tuan came home and cooked up an egg concoction with some cheese and thawed out the last two pieces of bread he found in the freezer.

Lunch: Johnny ate Sunflower Nut Butter and Preserves on a corn tortilla. Aubrey and I ate leftover dumplings. They were even better then!

Supper: We totally caved. It was the right thing to do. The kids had tortillas with SNB and Preserves again (they were too ill for words and needed to go to bed). Tuan went and picked up dominos and sundry beverages, then surprised me with a small pint of ice cream. I love that man.

We all slept in--whoo, hoo! For this meal Johnny discovered the leftover Pizza and we all ate that. (Gotta keep it real, right?) They also enjoyed bananas with theirs.

Pre-nap Saturday Fun: I had the ingredients on hand for a Cranberry-Pecan tart and we had that with coffee and milk. I found this tart recipe in my November Better Homes and Gardens and must say it is a winner! I borrowed Emily's round tart pan and the full recipe made enough for the tart pan and a pie pan. This time only made half a recipe and I do recommend being a bit more generous with the cranberries and pecans than the recipe calls for. You can use regular sugar instead of the powdered and brown sugar the recipe calls for and I encourage you all to try it! The tart pastry was so much easier than pie pastry. I've never cared for Pecan pie, but the cranberries are a magical ingredient that cuts some of the richness. Great with Whipped cream!


Pantry Challenge Part IV

We made it through another day! I went to the grocery for shindig supplies and got some juice, milk, bananas, carrots and cheese, but everything else is still coming from the pantry/freezer. Cheese opens up a world of possibilities, I must say.

Breakfast: Homemade Waffles with honey and butter. We felt very festive this morning! Tuan was off to a holiday party without us, so I thought that living well was the best revenge!

Lunch: Lack of bread, solved. PBJ on leftover waffles for the kids and I will not divulge what I ate except to say that I am pregnant and it was there and most of it was nourishing. : )

Supper: Chicken and dumplings! Oh, my. We had a frozen bird. This is one of our favorite foods. The kids had theirs on the side with hoisin sauce for dipping.

I'm going to continue the challenge through the weekend.


Pantry Challenge Part III

So, we made it through today! I have to buy some groceries Thursday or Friday night because we've got a shindig on Monday and I need to cook, but I think I'm going to keep challenging myself with our meals.

Leftover Red Beans and Rice. This would have been supper last night, but things worked out otherwise.

Salmon Croquettes made with a can of salmon, onion, eggs, and saltines. Instant mashed potatoes I'd bought on a pregnancy whim also came in handy!

Whole wheat rotini, canned four-cheese spaghetti sauce, onion, leftover frozen turkey, some bell peppers I'd frozen and a the remnants of some parmesan I had in the fridge. Doesn't it sound so romantic to talk about remnants of parmesan? I also had some cream leftover from Thanksgiving baking that we added to the sauce--it definitely elevated the sauce from pedestrian to yummy! I'll try that trick again!

We ran out of juice today and I really wish we had more produce. That's probably where I'll cave in when I go to the grocery. Nevertheless we're still going strong especially with meat. I have a whole frozen chicken, so I'm thinking some chicken and dumplings for the weekend!


pantry challenge, part II

So, today was a bit of a bust. The electricity went out camp-wide around four-thirty and Tuan ended up taking the kids out to eat with the Vincents while I attended the WIC Christmas party at church.

Breakfast: Oatmeal with butter and honey

Lunch: Leftover red beans and rice

Tomorrow is another day and we're not leaving the house, Lord-willing, so I expect to have a true update.

Ps. A tree fell on our power line. The camp's electrical bill is actually paid up.


Pantry Challenge, Part I

I thought as we went through the week, I would share daily rather than in a chunk. I feel as though we've got it too easy, although not having any cheese or sour cream or things like that available is a challenge for me!

Sunday Lunch
Tuan kept the kids at home while I went to church. He pulled lunch together for us:

Leftover Thanksgiving dressing I'd thrown into the freezer, warmed up with some frozen Turkey leftovers
baked sweet potatoes with butter and spices ( I was so glad to get these potatoes cooked--they'd been giving me the evil eye for some time)
homemade cranberry relish left over thanksgiving

Sunday Supper: we ate at church, a cheat

Monday Breakfast
This was weird. I woke up early and drank some sweet tea and was too hungry to wait, so I ate some dried Mama Noodles. Yes, very weird. They are like Ramen, but a tastier Vietnamese version. Tuan bought a case a few weeks ago, so if we get really desperate there is a stash of Mama Noodles.
Tuan had cooked Mama Noodles and the kids ate oatmeal with honey and cream and we drank coffee.

Monday Lunch
This was a cultural fusion meal. We had some frozen Vietnamese Eggrolls that Tuan fried along with some home fried corn tortilla chips, Vietnamese dipping sauce, hummus (from my last can of chickpeas) and some homemade yogurt cheese, topped with mint and olive oil. So . . . Mexican, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern. I can handle that.

Monday Supper
We haven't eaten it yet, but tonight we are eating Red Beans and Rice made with some dried beans, half a thing of sausage in the freezer, some tired celery (very tired), onions and garlic and some bellpepper I froze this summer. We have a motley assortment of rices so it could be Jasmine, Basmati or Brown depending on the quantity.

Like I said earlier, cheese and sour cream, and fresh produce would be nice, but we'll survive a few more days on this. The fridge is pretty empty, but the freezer and pantry are holding out . . . .


retail therapy recovery

So . . . Tuan went to Colorado for a conference last week and I spent the time of separation traveling around visiting family and engaging in retail therapy--aka Christmas shopping. Well, the traveling, shopping, gas buying and eating out drastically depleted the budget. But oh, the fun we had!

Nevertheless, I am compensating by not grocery shopping until Payday--that's Friday. Milk and eggs are the only allowable purchases, because the kiddos need milk and eggs seem to open up so many more possibilities. Can we make it? Will the pantry and freezer stretch that far? I have to say that I'm up for this pantry challenge, but will definitely be fighting the urge to eat out come Thursday. I'll have to share what we pulled out of the box--if we're successful. If not, this blog post may quietly disappear.


Amateur Science

Did you know that Alton Brown's Good Eats episodes are on You Tube? It's one of our go-to entertainment resources in a TV free household. (We're not convicted or anything, just never got a converter box.)

Anyway, Alton and the Joy of Cooking are kind of the ultimate authorities on Cooking (ha--On Cooking is a culinary school textbook). But seriously, folks, no more parenthesis. I think I use them like Emily of New Moon used italics.

Did I digress? I think so. Last night, we pulled up YouTube and settled in for an episode on--making your own bacon! He made it look so do-able and made a year's worth in one batch. We are inspired and spent some time looking at instructions for building a cold smoker. With a butcher nearby and the fun of jerry-rigging a cold smoker, I think we are going to be making and perhaps even giving some homemade bacon soon!

One thing that appealed to me is that Alton used a nitrite-free recipe. I've been hearing a little bit about how bacon and, yes, lard, can be good for you, but there are concerns about the use of sodium nitrite, aka "pink salt". Thank you so much, Sally Fallon.

I googled sodium nitrite and found that one of it's uses is is to prevent botulism in pork products. That's noble, I mean, who wants botulism? (except in our lips, right? Dang, a parenthesis) The problem seems to be that when it is heated carcinogens can be produced. Then, I read something about ascorbic acid being added to counteract the carcinogens with it's antioxidant powers. So, use the nitrite to prevent botulism but you might get cancer later . . . that's what sounds like a "short-term gain, long term loss" to me.

Anyway, I'm not a scientist and there's an article on Wikipedia if you want more information.

Michael Scott:
"Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject, so you know you are getting the best possible information."