Friday, August 26, 2011

Crazy Life Happenings [in bullet points]

  • My grandad passed away last Friday at home.  It was a blessing that Levi and Clara were there when it happened.  And it was a blessing that it happened on a Friday so that relatives and friends could get here over the weekend for the service on Monday afternoon.  It was really a splendid service with military honors which reflected what he desired for a funeral.  I learned yesterday that Texas A&M at Commerce (where he was a professor for many years) flew their flag at half staff in memorial of him.  That's pretty special.
  • Grief is such a weird thing.  I still haven't felt the need to have a huge deluge of tears.  It's just more of a "bleh" feeling.  I mean, it was so hard to see Grandad suffer at the end (although God was gracious in allowing him to be made comfortable by the morphine) and he was so unlike his usual jovial self that I am relieved that he is no longer dealing with that.  However, it's the memories of him as he was two, three, or fifteen years ago that makes me feel sad.  
  • A very good thing is getting to spend time with the crazy Texas relatives: looking at photo albums, swapping stories, and just laughing like crazy.

  • And another very good thing was spending time with the wonderful, fantastic D girls this week.  I just can't get enough of their fellowship (sadly, I don't have any pictures on my camera) and it was a blessing to host them in the middle of a crazy week.  They graciously postponed their arrival by twenty-four hours and then survived the chaos of family happenings.  Maybe we'll have a visit when things aren't so hectic.  But I doubt it.
  • Part of the hectic-ness occurred when I waltzed downstairs to let the Cretans dogs out of their kennels for an afternoon outing and discovered that there was 1/2" of standing water in one half of my basement.  [insert much moaning, groaning, and general freaking out]  Thankfully, the water was only on the unfinished side and everything that was on the ground was in plastic storage totes so we didn't lose anything.  And I was so grateful that Jenny was the dog wrangler, Tim and Julia hauled out tons of soggy boxes, and Levi pretended to be stomping grapes on the water saturated blankets that were in the dog kennels.  What caused the momentary disaster?  The air conditioning was clogged up with dog hair and was not draining properly.  My dear father came over with his air compressor and performed a very inexpensive fix.  Now we're all dry!
  • Baby Jemima is a darling.  She has the most massive baby legs I have ever seen. I hope our next baby is this deliciously chubby.

  • Can my life settle down for a few minutes, now?

    Five Minute Friday: Older

    Harriet is getting older every day, every hour, every minute.  I've known this and observed this since she was born, but this week her growth and development seems to have exploded.  I keep wanting to tell inquiring minds that she is fifteen months (or fifteen years, for that matter) instead of almost fourteen months.

    This week my sweet darling girl gained three new teefies, learned to say her cousin's name, and mastered the art of eating oatmeal with her own spoon.

    But her major development was finally, finally getting over her perfectionist tendencies long enough to start walking.  It is beyond precious to see her stepping carefully away from a piece of furniture, glancing in awe at her Robeez-adorned feet, and walking confidently toward the welcoming arms of a Small Aunt.  I'm blown away every time.

    People say, "Enjoy it now, they grow up so fast!"  To be honest, I'm glad that Harriet is growing up.  Each moment of her development opens up new areas for adventure...soon she'll be learning to read...and I can teach her how to sew...and she can go from being my little baby to the Friend I really want to have in my eldest daughter.

    (And it also helps to know that there is another little Rodgers on the way.  That way I can enjoy watching two sweet children grow older.)

    Friday, August 19, 2011

    Five Minute Friday: He Makes All Things New

    It's hard to think about things being "new" when I feel sabotaged by morbid thoughts of sickness and death.  It creeps in everywhere...the prayer request at church for the family of a baby who died after a premature birth...the daily experience of watching my grammy and Clevi watch my grandad slip away toward even sneaks into the books I pick up at the library.

    The fact of life is that death is imminent and it effects every one.  It's easy to get depressed.  What is there to really live for?  Is it just plugging along here on earth and then dying?  What are we doing?

    But this gives hope:

    50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”[g]       55 “ O Death, where is your sting?[h]      O Hades, where is your victory?”[i] 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:50-57)

    There is something else, something new that is coming.  God will make all things a twinkling of an eye (which, as I think C.S. Lewis mentioned, is such a cheerful and wistful action).  There is a point and something better is coming.

    So, in light of this:
     Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

    We keep going and in the middle of entropy and death, we look forward to something new.

    (This was my first time writing a 5 Minute Friday post.  The theme was "New," yet the topic of this post has been on my mind for a few weeks.)

    Tuesday, August 16, 2011

    Cooking Adventures: Flatbread Pizza and Goo-Goo-Ga-Ga popsicles

    Even when my crafting stuff is buried in the deep dark chasm of the basement, I do find a creative outlet in cooking.  This is why I tend to contrive elaborate menus with involved preparation time even though I really need to keep scooping out my house.  But it's fun!  And rewarding and fuels my creative spirit.

    (The sad news is that my camera is still out of juice, so I don't have blog-worthy pictures...or any pictures at all...of these cooking endeavors.  I'll just have to use the power of words to induce you to try out these recipes.)

    Flatbread Pizza

    Most of you are aware of my infatuation with The Cookbook and the subsequent cult of Cookbook followers.  Actually, The Cookbook is entitled The Food Matters Cookbook, written by Mark Bittman, and chock full of recipes that emphasize vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean meats, and so on.  The recipes are incredibly simple, absolutely delicious, and (this is the great part) inexpensive to put on the table.  The flatbread pizza recipe is a perfect example.  Not only was it absolutely delicious but it took less time to make than a frozen pizza.  And it cost less, too!  We tend to have pizza on Fridays, but this recipe was so easy and fabulous that we made it on Sunday night, too.

    Here's the recipe for the flatbread (with changes by moi):

    Easy Whole Grain Flatbread
    1 cup whole wheat flour
    1 teaspoon salt
    2-4 tablespoon olive oil (I used a cast iron skillet so I only needed 2 TBSP of oil.)
    1/2 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
    1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, optional (The fresh herbs would be amazing, but I only had dried and it worked just fine.)

    1. Put the flour in a bowl and add the salt.  Slowly add 1 1/4 cups water, whisking to eliminate the lumps. (In his intro to this recipe, Bittman notes that use can use more or less water to create a more custardy or cracker-like flatbread.  It's up to you.)  The batter should be the consistency of thin pancake batter.  If it's not, whisk up to another 1/4 cup water into the mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time.  Cover with a towel and let sit while the oven heats, or up to 12 hours.
    2. When ready to bake, heat the oven to 400*F.  Put the oil in a 12-inch rimmed pizza pan or skillet and put into the heated oven.  Wait a couple of minutes for the oil to get hot but not smoking; the oil is ready when you just start to smell it.  Carefully remove the pan.  Add the onion and rosemary if you're using them and give them a little stir.  Pour in the batter, gently swirl the pan to distribute the oil and return to the oven.
    3. Bake until the flatbread is well-browned, firm, and crisp around the edges, about 45 minutes.  (It will release easily from the pan when it's done.)  Let it rest for couple of minutes before cutting it into wedges or squares.

    OR make a pizza!

    I baked my flatbread pizza crust in a 450*F oven and flipped it over after 20 minutes of baking to give it a crispy crust on both sides.  I baked it for about 10-15 minutes on the other side, cutting down the baking time significantly.  I added toppings, stuck the pizzas back under the broiler for 3 minutes to brown the cheese and hooray!  Pizza!  We made two flatbread pizzas last Friday: three cheese and tomatoes and mushrooms.  We noticed that the juices released from the tomatoes and the mushrooms made the flatbread really soggy and kind of weird.  So, on Sunday night we sauteed the tomatoes and mushrooms before adding them to the flatbread and it worked stupendously.  The crust has the yummy taste of a pan pizza with the crispyness of a thin crust.

    Okay.  Enough gushing.

    Goo-Goo-Ga-Ga Popsicles

    My fantastical discovery of the week has been the book Ice Pop Joy, by Anni Daulter.  This book contains loads of recipes for organic, healthy, delicious...popsicles!  The pictures that accompany each recipe make my mouth water.  I want to make all of the popsicles.  Some of the popsicles are the typical fruit variety (although the combinations are anything but typical), but many recipes are very adding spinach or wheat germ or even tofu to give the popsicles a nutrious boost.  Harriet loves ice cream (as in, hyperventilates when she sees it in the freezer), so I think that popsicles will be a great alternative, especially these healthy kinds.  Today I tried the Goo-Goo-Ga-Ga popsicles which was a mango and an apple steamed until soft and then blended with 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt.  Pour into the molds, freeze, and you have a happy little popsicle.  Harriet went bonkers over it and sat in her highchair (shirtless, I must add) and sucked away for 45 minutes.  Brilliant, I tell you!

    And now for my popsicle mold story.  Apparently popsicle molds are obsolete in central Nebraska because I looked high and low in this silly little town and came up empty handed.  Not to be dissuaded (I wanted popsicles!), I found some horribly cheap little plastic containers in the dollar section at the local Wal-Mart knock- off that were just the right size for popsicles.  Using brute strength and some really sharp kitchen shears, I poked a hole in the lids, and stuck a popsicle stick through into my pureed mango/apple/yogurt.  They worked well...but I don't have a picture to prove it.  Yet.  I really need to invest in some Real Popsicle Molds.

    So there you have it: cooking adventures from this week.  I won't tell you about my banana muffins which turned into banana cake thanks to a mis-measuring of the milk.  But I will tell you that H hyperventilated over chicken and rice stew this evening with the same enthusiasm as she regards ice cream.

    This gives me hope.

    Friday, August 12, 2011

    The story that is my life

    I'm back in the wonderful world of internet!  Yes, yes, I know I'm going to have to be careful about frittering away my time on that menace Facebook, but I've already enjoyed the half hour or so I spent browsing for maternity clothes tutorials.  The Harriet is in bed, the dishes are done...what else is a girl to do while she waits for her Mr Wonderful to come home?

    It has been a long while since there was a proper blog post.  The funny (and relieving) thing is that my Google Reader has been very quiet lately, too.  I think that late summer tends to breed either busyness or introspection and blogging takes a back seat.  For me, blogging has taken a back seat to a tremendous quantity of busyness, insanity, logistics, stress, etc.  Things are calming down ever so slightly (at least the county fair is over and done with), and the glorious fall routine is looming in the near future.  And I'm itching to get back into the blogging world.

    So, to bring you up to speed (although most of you readers know this stuff because you are a) family, b) close friends, or d) somehow connected with my family/close friends), I'm going to run through what has taken place somewhat categorically.  Or something.

    My grandparents:
    Probably the most difficult event of the past few weeks is that my grandparents (with whom we are all super close) moved back from Colorado because my grandad decided to stop chemo treatment for pancreatic cancer and get on hospice.  Not only did this create a bunch of logistical confusion (mostly involving a decision to go to a nursing home or to stay at home under hospice care), but it is also really strange and difficult to see my grandad physically challenged, confused due to the continuous influence of morphine and...dying.  I told Steve that we are too young to have our grandparents getting old and ill.  Thankfully, Clevi have committed to spending each night with Grammy and Grandad to help Grammy out and provide some assistance as the needs occur.  But please be praying about all of this if it comes to your mind.

    The brother:
    Also high on our prayer list is the finding of permanent residential treatment for my brother, Peter.  His violent behavior (which is the result of mental retardation) has grown to such an extent that he cannot live at home any longer.  This is in spite of months and years of therapy, neuro feedback, medication, alternative settings, and so on and so forth.  My parents have been working tirelessly to find and apply to residential treatment facilities that will meet his physical and mental needs and nothing has turned up yet.  (He was denied placement at what would have been a perfect place because his mental capacity was greater than the clients they usually accept.  Major bummer.)  He will be entering a special ed class at our local school which will get him out of the house for the majority of the day and also give him something to do.  Hopefully this will provide some immediate relief while the quest for a permanent location continues.

    The house:
    After living at the parents' house for almost three months, we were able to get back into our own place last week.  What a huge, huge, huge relief.  Don't get me wrong, I have been ever so grateful for the space, food, entertainment, pull-out couch, and support that my family provided.  But I missed my dear little house and my air conditioning.  The ironic thing is that after a blazing hot couple of weeks without A/C, we moved and we have only run our air twice.  But those two times have been splendid!  We're working on getting things pulled back together, getting our stuff re-organized, and planning on building a privacy fence for the back yard.  We went grocery shopping the other night for the first time since being back in our house and Steve and I agreed that we felt all giddy and newly-wed again.  I guess that's what it takes: any time we start losing the marital bliss, we'll go live with our relatives for a few months and then move back to our house.

    The pregnancy:
    It is weird to be pregnant with the second kid and just not be really paying attention to all of the What Is Happening This Week updates and such.  Sorry, baby, but you're along for the ride for the time being.  Things are going really well, overall, and I can't believe that Monday marks the beginning of the second trimester.  I never had really puke-worthy morning sickness, but rather felt gross all day long and ate nearly everything in sight.  This stopped at eleven weeks which completely freaked me out since I just woke up and felt perfectly fine.  We have seen the little munchkin on the ultrasound several times and he/she looks healthy and big and active.  Yayness!  (And as far as the craving question goes, I don't really strongly desire anything except for large quantities of meat and Subway salads.  And I can't stand anything remotely tart or sour.  *willies*)

    The Harriet:
    I have to talk about the HarriEd because she is amazing and wonderful and adorable and ever-so clever and takes up all of my time every single day.  She had a language skills explosion last week and while she has been saying words for several months, now she says things totally in context and without any prompting.  I almost feel like I'm having a conversation with her instead of being her Dorling Kindersley vocabulary book.  She says everything and mimics everything we say.  Now I'm going to have to curb my rather flagrant use of "crap" and "stupid."  HarriEd climbs on every surface she can get her teeny petite self up onto, but still refuses to walk despite her ability to do much more coordinated physical activities.  She is like her daddy.  And her mommy.  (Although somehow we got over our phobia of trying new things long enough to learn how to walk.)

    The other things:
    In case I didn't have enough to do, I'm going to be starting online classes this fall with Calvary Bible College to finish up my degree.  I was able to transfer over 90 credits which let me enter as a full senior.  I don't think I'll finish it all in a year, especially with the baby in February, but I'm shooting for graduating in December 2012.  Exciting!  And I'm also hospitality and creative activities coordinator for our MOPS group this year.  It's a lot of work but it is FUN and I'm brimming over with excitement about the craft ideas I've found online.

    There you have it.  This is kind of like a Christmas card in August, but I wanted to get the bloggie up to date before diving in again.  I really do appreciate your prayers for the grandparents, for Peter, for my parents, and for the rest of us as we desire to help, support, and minister to them.  Thanks!