odds and ends

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We did a little walk last week in our neighborhood, which is a regular occurrence for us.  I called it a nature walk, so Phoebe brought her nature journal and crayons, and we set out to look for things that were interesting, new, and to take note of what is happening in the woods around us during the month of September.  We found a massive spider web (can you see it in the picture above with the building behind it?) which she sat down to draw, while the little ones played bubbles with me, then we all headed to the nearby playground.  It was the first time it felt like one of our “fall” walks, and my heart skipped a beat.  I live for fall in the mountains of NC.  Something in my sort of wakes up, and I would say I am most inspired by fall and winter.  The mornings feel just a little bit cooler, there is the first hint of that distinctive smell, the first scuttle of leaves across the pavement.  We hear acorns constantly dropping on the metal roof of our neighbors house.  I plan to be outside pretty much every day, since the mosquitoes will finally leave us alone.

I finished knitting my first sweater for my nephew and am sending that off this week, and planning knits for each of the kids for their birthdays.  I hope to make each a sweater, but Brandon tells me I’m probably being too ambitious.

School so far has been going really well.  Phoebe seems to drag her feet in phonics, though I think it’s because the book I’m using to teach her is mostly geared toward auditory learners, and she seems to be more hands-on.  She loves math and asks to do it constantly, mostly because of the math manipulatives I think.  She is so incredibly bright and quick to memorize and I’m finding that doing school together gives us just some mother/daughter time that we both are enjoying so much.

Our ordinary days together at home are so full of learning opportunities.  We cook together, talk about odd or exciting things we see out in the world.  We observe the changing seasons, we talk about heart matters as we live alongside one another and sometimes treat each other harshly.  We read scripture and recite memory work.  After nap time a few days ago the three children wanted snack on the porch and I stood at the doorway and watched them all squished together on one side of their picnic table, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they could be more spread out.  But there they were, all squished on one bench, munching and giggling and playing.  It was a happy moment and made me so thankful for this chance to home educate and have Phoebe here with us.  The younger two would really miss her.

A few days ago Phoebe turned to me at dinner and asked, “Why don’t we ever give our food to the poor and needy?”  I was taken aback by her question, quite happily, and we talked about it for a few minutes.  She was thinking, then she bent her head and folded her hands spontaneously and prayed “Dear Lord, thank you for this lovely dinner.  And we pray for all the needs, and the poor and the hungry that you would give them food.  And we pray for all the mean and the selfish an the bullies, that you would help them and that you would take them away and that we wouldn’t have to see them again.  In Jesus’ name, amen!”  My heart was melted (even as I fought laughter over her requests for all of the “mean and selfish.”  Thank the Lord He is more merciful than we are.)  Needless to say, we are cooking a meal this week together to drop off of at a local homeless shelter.  “And a little child shall lead them,” right?  😉

I don’t have particularly spectacular things to say about all of these random odds and ends, but these are the little moments that I don’t want to forget, these are the things of “now,” this is the good stuff that I treasure.

harbingers of autumn

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I never used to pay attention to the way the bright spring green ages, deepening into the dark green of autumn before green gives way to brown, gold, scarlet.  Last weekend, I felt that particular itch in my soul to get up and away into the mountains, and I took the kids (with my mom) to one of my favorite areas, Black Balsam.  There’s something about this place that quiets me, and somehow hiking those familiar rocky paths and setting my eyes on that wide and wild view that makes me feel like I can breathe.  There’s so much glory.  The kids were such great hikers, even Philippa hiked the whole way and refused to be carried.  So we kept the pace of a child, which is a good pace for a tired soul.  It is the pace that allows you to notice things like darkening green, brilliant goldenrod, red and orange sumac, queen anne’s lace, all the harbingers of autumn.  It is the pace that allows for wonder.  It is the pace that allows you to really see and remember that this season is passing and giving way to another, so drink it all in.

 

My Top 6 Favorite Soups

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November is off to a dreary start.  Sigh.  I don’t mind the rain one bit usually, but a full week of it in the forecast makes a few stir-crazy children!  With the rain + the cold of November, we are in “soup season” here.  A few of my friends have asked for my go-to soup recipes.  These are my favorite favorites.  The cream of the crop, folks.  These are tried and tested and absolute regular staples in our house for years.  These are husband-approved by a guy who isn’t as crazy about soup as his wife.

1.  Beef Stew

The simplest yet tastiest beef stew you’ll ever find.  I love that its easy to put together, doesn’t require a bottle of wine (and yet the balsamic vinegar adds so much flavor!), can be made in a slow-cooker or in a couple of hours in a dutch oven if you forget to start it in the morning.  Also, to make it gluten-free, I sub coconut flour for regular flour.

2.  Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash + Quinoa

I always sub a can of black beans (washed + rinsed) for the olives, because my husband doesn’t like olives.  I also sub cilantro for parsley and sometimes add a dash of cumin + chili powder to go along with the black bean/cilantro/mexican taste.  Also, I never use quinoa because it doesn’t agree with me (insert breaking heart emoticon), and lately just leave out all grain, but you can sub wild rice (delicious!) or a small pasta like orzo.  It tastes just great without it though!

3.  Chicken + Vegetable Soup

This one is one my husband’s favorites, comes together really quickly + with minimal ingredients, and is a great way to use up leftover chicken.  Is great with grilled cheese on the side!

4.  Pea Soup

This is my mom’s recipe.  Super simple.

1 yellow onion, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
2-4 large carrots, chopped
1-2 large russet potatoes, peeled + chopped
1 lb dried split peas, washed + rinsed
6-8 cups chicken broth (or water/broth combo)
optional: chopped ham (about 1-2 cups)
salt + pepper to taste

Sautee onion in olive oil over medium high heat in a large dutch oven or soup pot until soft/translucent, about 8-10 minutes.  Add garlic and sauté for another minute.  Add rest of ingredients (except for ham), bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to simmer, and let simmer for a couple of hours, stirring every so often.  Basically, it will become a thick, creamy soup as the split peas soften and disintegrate.  Once it’s at this stage, it’s done.  You can add the ham any time, really, but I usually add towards the end of the cook time and let the flavors marry for 20 minutes or so.

5.  Spinah + Lentil Soup with Cheese + Basil

This one is to die for.  Do I keep saying that?  This one is so good.  You have to try it.  It does require a few more pricey ingredients, but to compensate for that I always sub bacon for pancetta (you can’t loose with bacon).

6.  Black Bean Soup

My recipe, which I’ve posted before here.

My favorite bread to accompany soups used to be Sullivan Street Bakery’s No Knead Recipe, but since going gluten-free I have found this recipe for Easy Brazilian Cheese Bread to be a super quick dinner roll that I can throw together (in about 30 minutes) if I’m needing something on the fly that everyone loves + it’s gluten-free + grain-free with only a handful of ingredients!  My only recommendation is to cook it a tad bit longer than she says (more like 25 minutes).

So there you go.  These are the essentials of my soup pantry.  What are yours??  Please do share your favorites + your staples!

leaf peeping

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October is North Carolina’s best month. I grew up in these hills, and though I spent some of my favorite years in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, I always missed this the most about NC.  There is nothing like fall time here!  So, just in case you live somewhere where the leaves don’t turn, I thought I’d share it with you!

The last two Sundays we’ve been out trying to see and enjoy all the color this time of year offers us in the mountains here.  So we wandered up on the parkway one bitterly cold Sunday, along with all the other slow-driving “leaf peepers,” and ate a quick lunch in the car, hunting for color and playing with long icicles.  And we meandered about our own neighborhood the next Sunday afternoon, rooting ourselves in our own soil, seeing all the shades of yellow, green, brown, and red. Someone is finally getting into riding the strider bike and will possibly be getting his own for his birthday.

Fall, we don’t want you to end!  Stay, with all your color and warm light, your crinkling breezes and cool evenings.

the Father’s love

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Well, all the kids have been battling a minor head cold the past few days.  We had a quieter weekend with more tasks and mundane work at home to catch up on on Saturday.  Yesterday we stayed home from church, not wanting to pass on the sickies, opting instead for a quiet easy walk at nearby Lake Powhatan.  We always ache to be with our church family, but the days when we are forced to stay home with feverish babies are days to receive with open hands, a good sort of rest and quietness.  We basked in the sun and the glorious first-fall-feeling day, all bundled up to keep little sick ones warm in the wind.  We spent the afternoon resting, reading, snacking on the porch after naps + looking through old photo albums, then riding bikes in front of our house while dinner simmered on the stove.  Simple things, small things, all the things we can easily take for granted.  What a gift it is the have each other, to be together, to work through the hard moments when we are all sharp and fractious, stumbling along in our journey to understand grace, offering quiet sorry’s and long hugs.  What a sweetness to just let the work sit, as much as we are able, and let our souls sink down deeper in our faithful God.

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I’ve been reading through the Gospels all year.  I thought I’d be farther by now, but it has been the sweetest, most powerful journey alone with the Lord, just His Word and I, and I’ve had to go so slow to just savor the beauty of all His Spirit has been speaking to me.  I’ve chased whatever rabbit trails He’s told me to, sought for understanding only to find usually more questions and mystery.  But I have felt so very near to my Savior and so much more reacquainted with His ways, His agenda, His heart beat.

Lately I’ve been in the first few chapters of Luke.  You can’t come to early Luke and not feel like it’s Christmas time.  It’s just heavy with the anticipation surrounding that time of year.  It’s hard to say which Gospel writer I enjoy best, each so distinct and variegated, but I do think it could be Luke.  There’s something about the way he turns a phrase and tells a story.

I’ve often wondered what Jesus was like growing up.  After the accounts of His birth, we have no details to fill in the gaps between his birth and his 30’s, other than the singular story of Him, recorded by Luke (2:41-52) of Jesus at age twelve.  This singular story recording that time when Mary + Joseph lost Jesus for three days, giving us a glimpse into His boyhood and the mysterious way that He was both fully human and fully divine as a child.  Here Luke finds it important to tell us that at age twelve, Jesus was beginning to display His independence, His God-ness, His otherness a bit more.  His wisdom astounded the leaders + teachers in the synagogue.  He was already beginning to be aware that He had to be about His Father’s work.  He was already beginning to move away from dependence on His earthly parents with a growing awakening to His calling, a strength, a focus, a settledness and resolve.  Yet, when His parents scolded Him in their great relief to have found Him, the Scriptures tell us He submitted Himself to them.  Willingly, He submitted His God-ness to live under their human, yet God-given, authority.

From this point on, in every Gospel account, we don’t see Jesus do a thing until He has first been baptized by John the Baptizer and the Holy Spirit descends upon Him.  Every work of Jesus thereafter recorded in the Scriptures flows from the infilling of the Holy Spirit, an outpouring from within.  His work is preceded by His baptism, the Father’s pronouncement of Sonship + good pleasure over Him.  This is how His work begins.  This is where our work must begin also.  First, our own house in order.  First, our own soul.  First, our own rootedness + settledness in our identity as His dearly loved child.  First, our own experience of His love lavished on us.

Then all our work can flow from the awareness that He is the orchestrator behind it, the generator of it.  The sustainer of us in it.  Then, and only then, our identity is not dependent on our work or our success, but in that deeply personal work He has already accomplished in us in the secret place with Him.  This frees us up from striving for a name, striving for an outcome, being crippled by the negative response of others–whether that be indifference, unpopularity, misunderstanding, or plain criticism.  Only when we know we are settled securely in the Father’s love + good-pleasure over us do we really have anything to pour out onto others.

“A voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son, with you I am well-pleased.'”
(Luke 3:22)

How He would need these words in the days to come.  He went straight up out of the waters of this moment into the bone dry heat of the desert to fast and be tempted by Satan for 40 days and nights.  How He would need those words to draw upon in order to finish His course, in all the ways that the coming days would test His certainty of His Father’s love and good-pleasure over Him.  How He would need those words when He hung on the cross in His bleakest and most desperate moment, when He would cry out, “Father, why have You forsaken Me?”

Maybe you need those words today, too, in your Tuesday work.  In your ordinary moments and your boring mundane.  In the tasks that you are putting your hand to, the hidden work that no one sees, the uncelebrated and passed-over, the thankless efforts.  May He speak His love over you today as you head into a new week.  May your own soul be at rest in Him, so that you can abide in that place even while heading into the fray.

Summer is coming to a quiet little end around here, melting sleepily away into chilly morning air.  (We still have a beach trip planned, so I’m hoping some warmth hangs around for a little while longer!)  The goldenrod are blazing their signal, summer giving way to fall.  DSC_0360 DSC_0362 DSC_0413 DSC_0415 DSC_0398 DSC_0381 DSC_0384DSC_0430DSC_0434DSC_0427

This next picture was taken by Phoebe:

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These three were taken by Noah:

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I love seeing their little happy fingers holding the camera and clicking away.  I love seeing their perspective.

Lemony Roasted Beet + Garlic Soup

So, with fall right around the corner, I’m getting ready for soup season.  I love soup season!  I had bought some beets this past week to make baby food for my littlest, but I saw this recipe and just couldn’t resist (inspired by my sister).  My husband is a very adventurous and gracious eater of my creations, but he does loathe beets.  Loathe.  He ate this soup, though.  He is such a trooper like that.  And also, he was hungry. 🙂  I probably won’t make it often since he doesn’t like it, but it was super easy, fast, and so much flavor and goodness!  I basically trimmed the beets + garlic, seasoned + oiled them, put them in foil and in the oven once kids got up from naps and then we went out for a walk.  When we came back an hour or so later, the house smelled divine and the remainder of the recipe to pull the soup together took only a few minutes.  I served it with a green salad + a ribeye steak on the side, so that Brandon didn’t entirely hate me.

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Happy eating!

(This is a Martha Stewart recipe, which you can find here!)

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 medium beets
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 6 unpeeled garlic cloves
  • 1 large leek, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Coarse salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

    DIRECTIONS

    1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle beets with olive oil and roast in parchment-lined foil until tender, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, drizzle garlic cloves with oil and roast in separate foil packet, about 30 minutes. Unwrap beets, let cool, peel, and quarter. Squeeze garlic from skin. Set aside.

    2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add leek and cook, stirring, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add beets and garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and 3 cups water. Season with salt and pepper.

    3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, 5 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Let cool slightly, then puree in a blender until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and adjust seasoning to taste.

Leaves are Falling

It’s hard to believe it’s nearly the end of October.  We’ve had a very busy week, but here are some moments from the last day or two captured.  The leaves are turning and the higher winds this week are blowing many off the trees prematurely, it seems.  We’ve been enjoying chilly afternoon walks in this beauty!

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Tastes of Fall: Hearty Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash + Quinoa

Hey there Monday!

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Here is a favorite pumpkin-y kind of fall stew that I LOVE to make thanks to Dara from Cookin’ Canuck.  I make a few changes to the recipe, substituting black beans for olives (since my husband hates olives), and cilantro for parsley.  Also, I usually omit quinoa entirely or substitute it with wild rice.  {We love quinoa and the stew tastes great with it, but the last few times I had quinoa, it caused me hours of the most insane stomach pain + cramps.  So, there’s that.  TMI.}  This stew freezes/reheats wonderfully, too!

Happy Fall cooking and enjoy!

Playing in the Leaves

Our Saturday began in the chilly cold dark, setting up for a yardsale in the dewey morning.  I sort of despise doing yard sales, but making $300 when everything is priced below $5 is pretty awesome.  We also were able to scout the neighborhood sale and found some great things for the kiddos.

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Later in the afternoon, we took the kids to ride their new toys at a nearby park and when we were back home, I was chopping veggies for stir fry and could hear screams and giggling outside where the kids were with Daddy.  Looking out the window, I see them raking a huge leaf pile and screaming and jumping in it.

Sometimes savoring the moment means dropping what you’re doing and running outside to join in the fun.

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Tastes of Fall: Black Bean Soup

I’m a cold-weather girl through and through.  I love a good dreary rainy day, or dumping snow (the best).  I loved living in Breckenridge, Colorado for a few seasons of my life where summers are mild and winter lasts about eight months of the year.  I definitely appreciate the other seasons, but I love the fall/winter the best.  And my cooking shows it.  I am way more equipped in the kitchen for the cold season.  There are a whole slew of soups and stews that have become staples around here over the years, but one I’ve latched onto lately is a Black Bean Soup.

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It’s sort of my own recipe, adapted from simple black bean soup recipes that I googled.  But for an inexpensive and meatless dinner, it is so quick, delicious + satisfying!

Black Bean Soup

{ingredients}
2-3 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium onion
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 green pepper (or whatever color pepper you have on hand)
3-ish cups fluid (can use water, but chicken broth lends more flavor)
2-3 cloves chopped garlic
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes, or a couple fresh diced tomatoes
cumin
chili powder
salt + pepper
paprika
oregano

{toppings}
chopped cilantro
avocado
dollop of plain greek yogurt (or sour cream)
fresh squeezed lime

{optional serve with}
corn tortillas heated OR cheese quesadillas
green salad

Basically, you heat your soup pot on the stove with the olive oil, onion + green pepper until soft (5-8 min) over medium high heat.  Add garlic, cook for another minute.  Then add beans and water/chicken broth, tomatoes, and spices to taste (I don’t usually measure, I just put in a dash of this and that, so not sure how much to recommend using).  Let simmer for a little bit to let flavors meld, probably minimum of 10 minutes but longer if needed.

Then use an immersion blender in the pot to chop it up a bit, or take out 2 cups or so of soup, blend in blender, then return to pot.  I leave mine somewhat chunky, as you can see above.

Top with toppings of choice and it is to-die-for with cheese quesadillas on the side.

Happy Cooking!