Posts tagged ‘Parenting’

April 19, 2010

The Power of a Simple Apron

When I get blue and don’t want to budge, I instinctively search for a dose of inspiration (some days, a double dose). Often, I’m inspired by beautiful imagery such a lovely table setting or brilliantly designed floral arrangement. Other days, a powerful quotation will spark a fire in me. Housework, especially laundry – my personal nemesis, is an unending cycle of daily tasks that can bring down even the most dedicated, disciplined and visionary of mothers.

I’ve a secret weapon. Some people wear power ties or power shoes, my self-inspiring garb is a little less glamourous – it’s a power apron. Sure, I’ve been guilty of mocking pictures of mums in fancy apron and pumps, but now I’m in awe of those wise women who went before me. There’s power in a simple apron! When I tie those proverbial strings, my whole persona changes. I become “Mother” in the dearest sense, and I’m ready for work. I’m suddenly the heart of my home wiping noses, baking cookies, kneading dough, folding laundry, and….

My apron inspires me. It lightens my load. Like the glorious and faithful rainbow, we all need something external, tangible and pretty to serve as a remembrance. My apron reminds me of all the quotes I collected, verses memorized, the Martha Stewart magazines devoured, the countless books and articles absorbed, and the cookbooks read cover to cover in an effort to become a better mother, wife and homemaker. My little apron does all that and more (on a practical note, it even protects my clothes from inevitable doughy clumps). It truly is a power apron!

For more super cute aprons, check out:

www.squidoo.com/jessiesteeleaprons

www.flirtyaprons.comLove the cupcakes!

Fabulous color combination! Are you inspired, yet?

“We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love…” 1 Thessalonians 1:3

April 16, 2010

Le Fort Cafe Follow-Up: 1 and 1

Just a follow-up from Le Fort Cafe and the mad multi-tasking that goes on in a day. Okay, I’m 1 and 1. Here’s the breakdown (living in a sports-driven household, I speak with statistics – a language they can really understand!):

  • The Cherry Cobbler = Amazing! +1
  • The Ham Hock = RIP! -1

Moving on, then, from the Ham Hock Horror

For the cobbler recipe, I reworked my classic dumpling recipe which I use for both beef and chicken stews. If you’d like to recreate this heavenly delight….

  • Prepare cherries (or use the can variety)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Fill 9X13 pan with cherry filling
  • In food processor: add 2 cups flour, 1 T sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 T baking power
  • Place cover and while it’s running add 1 frozen stick of butter (1/2 C butter) *
  • Mix until combined – should be crumbly in texture
  • Add 1/2 C of heavy cream while running processor
  • Should have the consistency of pie dough
  • Pat dough into about 9 pieces to top cherry filling
  • Sprinkle with sugar
  • Bake for approximately 20 – 25 minutes (depending on your oven)
  • Serve hot with REAL vanilla ice cream

Note: Before I had a food processor, I cut the frozen butter by hand using a pastry dough cutter (my sister actually uses a 2 knife method). In the long run, it probably is a faster method with less clean-up:)

EnJOY!

The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Psalm 126:3

April 13, 2010

le fort café et boulangerie

Here’s what’s cooking at Le Fort Cafe et Boulangerie a.k.a The Strong Cafe and Bakery (it’s always better en Francais – oui?):

Breakfast was a warm Oatmeal Porridge reverently referred to (by me) as “Heaven in a Bowl.” The organic steel-cut oats are cooked to perfection and served with a dollop of butter (real, of course) and raw, locally harvested honey (Ravencroft Farm). A comfort food and taste sensation, Irish oats are pure bliss in the AM! But, alas, the food critics they demand more. They find this simple fare, well, simple. Consequently, the pressure for a pleasing lunch selection was keenly felt, I had to rally…

Lunch….hmmm… Did I mention I had a deadline yesterday and so my 14 year old graciously offered to help with lunch?  I was Chef (chopping vegetables, barking out orders, emailing attachments, and re-emailing attachments) and he was Sous Chef. Well, when I told him to add 2 cups of flour to the mixing bowl (homemade egg noodles for the chicken and vegetable soup boiling away on the stove), he assumed I’d meant for him to add them to the bowl of cherries (hand-picked last year) with a handful of sugar and a pinch of pectin thawing on the counter. Barely making my deadline, I rushed back to the kitchen for some quick kneading of the noodle dough. And then, I saw the bowl – a pink, pasty mixture of cherry delight.

When life gives you lemons – right?  Okay, we’re trained experts here, we can handle this. Added was a few more packages of frozen cherries and more sugar to thaw & marinate on the counter. Today, it was cooked down a bit and it’s now slated for cherry cobbler (writing my own recipe) and cherry turnovers (left over puff-pastry from the Asparagus & Gruyere Tarts made for Easter – AMAZING!!).

It’s hard to think about lunch when you’d rather be a Pâtisserie Chef than just a plan old, boring Chef. As the critics began inundating with questions as to the identity of the Lunch Special, I started to grab. I pulled out my trusty 9×9 ceramic pan in a lovely, spring-green hue and buttered it (again real butter). After slicing the last few pieces of bread, I grabbed and quickly grated all the cheese ends I could find (we’re down to just cheddar – Gruyere doesn’t last here). I threw in some diced ham left-over from Easter; some free-range, organic eggs with their glorious bright orange yokes (indicating a high level of nutritional content); and yummy mushrooms who spoke (“eat me, eat me”) to me when I was rummaging through the fridge. Viola! The Lunch Special was in the oven.

Ham, oh my! A ham hock still remained in the fridge. While lunch was baking, the ham was tossed in the crockpot on a low heat with some water.  Last year, my attempt at Ham & Bean Soup became a copious amount of  salty, mushy bean disaster. But, not one to give up too easily, I’m starting again – perhaps, I learned something and this year it will be tres magnifique… FYI – Mere de Chef doesn’t love Ham & Beans so her attitude may have created a biased that affected the whole process.

Turns out lunch was not so special for all the foodies. One critic, in particular, spent most of lunch comparing the homey Egg Strata to Quiche (which is what he would have preferred to have).  When the general unrest trickled down to the rookie foodies who started to request items from the Ala Carte Menu, Mere de Chef pulled out her standard line perfected with years of use:  “I am not, nor will I ever be, a short-order cook!”

Remember the cherries and puff pastry?  The Cherry Turnovers turned out divinely, and proved to be a triumphant ending to The Lunch Special.  Mere de Chef can kick her feet up still donning her “power apron,” sip her green mint tea from mismatch chinz, contemplate her bowl full of cherries (literally and figuratively), lament another day without homemade yogurt, and plan for The Dinner Special…  Welcome to Le Cafe!!

“These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time.” Psalm 104:27

October 3, 2009

Harvesting “Les Raisins”

October 2009090Autumn is synonymous with harvest in the cooler north. The trees begin to show their fall splendor with shocks of brilliant red and golden yellow.  The garden is finally yielding its hard squashes and pumpkins for spice-laden pies and breads.  The cooler nights means that apples of all variety are finally ready to become apple crisps, dumplings and sauces.  And, the grapes…

Picking ripe fruit is an experience of utter joy.  The fragrance fills the air and the colors stimulate the senses.  I’ve had the pleasure of harvesting strawberries, raspberries, currants, cherries and now grapes this year.  But, it’s not only the harvesting.  It’s sense of community with those around you who are also caught up in the moment and in the pleasure.  The excitement in their voice as they exclaim, “You must see this clump.  There’s a bucket-full right here!”

Graeme

Graeme

Grapes, to me, are the grand finale of the fruit picking season. I am lost in the sheer pleasure of the experience feeling a special kinship with my very (very) distant relatives harvesting ancient vineyards in the French countryside. The Bible tells us the God has given us wine/grapes to gladden our hearts. Just the plucking of the fruit is enough to make my heart sing.

Forrest

Forrest

He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for man to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:

wine that gladdens the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine,
and bread that sustains his heart. Psalm 104:14&15

Colin

Colin

Drake

Drake

Grandmere

Grandmere

C'est moi!

C'est moi!

Grapes!

Grapes!

July 24, 2009

Forrest’s Frugal Friday: Cantaloupe

Bayfield09.001My little Forrest is a true-blue, science-guy. He’s the kind of kid who’s room is filled with aquariums, miscellaneous specimens and collections. He loves studying and learning about animals from furry ferrets to darling dragons (Rocky, the bearded dragon, actually lives in MY kitchen). From Biology to Botany, he’s an avid gardener as well.

Rocky the Kitchen Dragon

Rocky the Kitchen Dragon

This spring after eating a cantaloupe, Forrest decided he wanted to grow his own so he saved the seeds. We put the seeds in a baggie with a moist paper towel for propagation. Soon, he had a bagful of cantaloupe sprouts (he could’ve planted a field!).

Bayfield09.002He carefully planted the heartier sprouts in a milk carton. When the plants matured, he transplanted them into Grandma and Grandpa’s garden. Now, he’s in the garden whenever he gets the chance weeding, watering and hoeing his precious cantaloupe plants.

From a tasty cantaloupe snack one spring afternoon, Forrest now has 3 hearty plants with multiple flowers on each. If the weather permits, he could have a dozen cantaloupe. More importantly, my 7 year old has learned the frugality, wisdom and reward of seed saving.

Happy Frugal Friday!!

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. Genesis 1:1

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June 17, 2009

Another Irish Prayer

May your day be filled with blessings
Like the sun that lights the sky,
And may you always have the courage
To spread your wings and fly!

Celtic Cross

Our oldest son, Drake, will soon be leaving for a summer long missions trip to Northern Ireland with Teen Mission International (TMI). The fact I can write those words means that I’m not completely in denial – it is literally 3 days away!

His journey will take him first to Merrit Island, Florida, for Bootcamp. This primitive 2 week training includes team building with an early morning obstacle course run, brick laying and other construction training, and evangelism courses. He will be living in a tent, hand-washing his clothes, and doing physical labor. The purpose is to train teens for missionary work around the world.

Next, he and his team will depart for Dublin, Ireland, via Canada. They will then bus to Northern Ireland where the remainder of the summer will be spent in dormitories, and working with a local youth missionary organization. He will not only be evangelizing and partnering with Fringe Youth Works, but also doing light physical labor.

To say my emotions are mixed is an understatement. I’m so proud and excited for him, yet my heart is breaking! As a former TMI team member (Glasgow, Scotland), I know first-hand what a live-changing experience it is – he will never be the same! While I’ve had months to prepare myself to let go, I’m finding it difficult to let go.

My niece, Ashley, is also going on her first TMI trip (following in her mother’s footsteps). Her summer will be spent in Malawi, Africa, washing the feet of AIDS orphans. Sweetie, I‘m completely enviously and totally proud of you, too!

This Irish prayer is my prayer for Drake and his companions as they prepare and leave for the Emerald Isle. It is also reminiscent of a poignant song about a parent singing over a child especially the lines, “It’s not living if you don’t reach for the sky. I’ll have tears as you take off, but I’ll cheer as you fly.Godspeed, my dear one!

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June 14, 2009

Prophets and Strawberries and Wisdom

bible

Proverbs: Daily wisdom

As a young mother, my heart’s cry was to obtain wisdom. Parenting is a monumental task and I felt grossly ill-prepared. Eagerly I sought knowledge and wisdom in parenting magazines, articles and books. Somewhere along the way, I gleaned some tips from Ruth Graham’s life. She too was desperately seeking wisdom as a mother. Her response, I learned, was to read one chapter of Proverbs every single day.

“Hmm, sounds simple enough.” 

Because Proverbs consists of 31 chapters (one chapter for each day of the month), I could easily adopt that pattern. Since then, I’ve read the book of Proverbs well over 100 times, and it’s become part of my motherly meditation and language. A verse I tend to repeat often to rally and motivate my troops is: “All hard work brings a profit…” (Proverbs 14:23)

800px-Strawberries

Strawberries

One early morning last summer my two eldest sons and I were working in the strawberry patch. As we crawled through the muddy straw slapping mosquitoes, I attempted to encourage them with the “hard work” verse. Drake finally broke down laughing and he confessed his issue with Solomon’s timeless wisdom. Apparently whenever I recited this sparkling gem of truth, for years he thought it read Prophet (not Profit). We had a good laugh that morning, but now I can’t read that passage anymore without a smile and a little chuckling.

Can you imagine how reluctant you’d be to work diligently if every time you put in a hard day’s work a Prophet showed up at your door?

“YIKES – I sorted and treated and washed and dried and folded and put away all the laundry and I’m utterly exhausted – do I have to hear another fire and brimstone message today? And do I need to serve honey and bugs again?…”

“GREAT! Just shampooed the carpet – will that Prophet show up again in those dirty, smelly sandals? Guess it’s another foot-washing…

Prophets at my door again?

Prophets at my door again?

Be at peace – it’s Profit not Prophet! The promise and wisdom here is for your encouragement (not to frightfully alarm) – your diligence is always, always, always rewarded! Watch for the reward because it will be there. And as your eyes are opened, your heart will overflow with thanksgiving and joy. Perhaps then, you may smile and chuckle a bit too.

And if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. Proverbs 2:3-5

June 13, 2009

Frugal Friday: Chocolate Cake

You're Special Today!

You're Special Today!

Over the years, our family has developed special birthday traditions and rituals. And each year, the boys get to decide what their special birthday meal will be and flavor of their cake. Earlier this week, we celebrated Colin’s 12th birthday and his cake of choice was this year was (drum roll please): CHOCOLATE! 

My personal definition of frugal living encompasses living inexpensively with an emphasis on nutrition and nurturing:

Frugal Living is an art form and a skill I wish to cultivate in my life and home. It’s not just about saving money, conserving resources and being green.  What makes it an art is combining frugal standards while creating a nurturing and pampering environment. In other words, your family feels spoiled and loved not neglected and deprived.

Hershey recipe

Click for recipe

Chocolate cake made from scratch may cost a bit more than a box of cake-mix (frankly I’ve never done the calculations) and it may take a little more time to prepare, but it is the ultimate in yumminess and pampering. Our family favorite recipe comes from Hershey Chocolate. This cake is decadently moist and the frosting is fudgy-good!

Happy Frugal Friday!

Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Psalm 127:3

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May 29, 2009

Frugal Friday: Granola

A little knowledge CAN be a dangerous thing. And once given a smidgeon of knowledge, you are forced to make a decision. There is no turning back. Hence, the danger.

51210RGXETL._SS500_In my case, the little bit of knowledge has to do with cereal manufacturing. My parents are organic-certified producers and attend conferences on a wide variety of related topics. They introduced me to Sally Fallon‘s book, Nourishing Traditions. Her book offers a wealth of knowledge regarding nutrition, healthy eating habits and nurturing foods. She explains in her book that dry cereals are produced by extrusion. Grains are made into a slurry, poured into a machine called an extruder, and then forced out of a hole at high pressure and temperature. The shape of the whole dictates the shape of the cereal. If that isn’t enough, the shapes are slice, sprayed with a coat of oil and a coat of sugar. The extrusion process all but destroys any naturally occurring nutrients, fatty acids (these are GOOD), and even the chemical nutrients that fortify the cereal. During this process, amino acids become toxic. 

Faced with this wee bit of information, I have been forced to make a decision: no going back to manufactured cereal ignorant bliss!

So now this is how I shop: When I reach the dreaded cereal aisle, I pick up the pace (My little boys in the cart resemble test pilots going Mock 1). I zoom past all the colorful cartoon and beautifully styled food pictures to grab my precious jar of wheat germ and containers of oatmeal (and Irish steel-cut oats).  Quickly, I round the corner before they can even finish their sentences, “Mommy, can we get…” Actually, the boys have for the most part ceased to ask for cereal. Every-so-often, I will fall off the bandwagon and grab a box of whole grain goodness. Not being able to help myself, I read the list of ingredients. “Oh, that’s right, BHT…” (another one of those little bit of knowledge deals) and 95% of the time it goes right back on the shelf (The other 5% usually involves the need for Rice Crispy Bars).

acp_00_11So, we make do with instant oatmeal, pancakes, waffles, fraffles/wench toast, French toast, coffee cake, scones, home-made cinnamon bread, eggs, toast, porridge and the like. Years ago, my mother faced with many of the same breakfast challenges (four daughters rather than four sons) would make us home-made granola from the More With Less Cookbook (a must have for any frugal fanny with a health-food bend!). It was simply delicious! Armed with that memory, I have determined to find the perfect granola recipe and create my own convenience breakfast.

Granola is also a frugal response to expensive and nutritionally-challenged boxed cereal. It meets my frugal standards of being highly nutritious, tasty, nurturing and cost effective!

Happy Frugal Friday!

Wise men store up knowledge. Proverbs 10:14a

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May 25, 2009

It Takes Faith to Garden!

FMOBeansBushBlueLkFIt takes faith to garden. Seeds are collected. The long winter provides ample time for sketching and plotting the garden. Spring finally arrives so hoe in hand the garden is cleared and tilled. The work is hard, but pleasant and invigorating. The frost is finally gone and the weather is nearly perfect. Taking advantage of the opportunity, the garden plan is produced. Holes are dug. Seeds are planted, covered, and lovingly watered. Rows are marked and prayers go up for an abundant harvest. And then, the wait.

It takes faith to garden.

FMOBeetTallTopFDuring the wait, the questions come: Are the seeds deep enough? Are the seeds too deep? Will the abundant spring rains wash all the seeds away? Will the sparse spring showers damage this crop? Will those pesky chickens get into the garden again and eat all the seed? Were the seed bags correctly marked or will runners grow instead of bushes? WHEN WILL THE GARDEN GROW?

It takes faith to garden.

Parenting is form of gardening. As a mother, I try to daily plant seeds of love and wisdom found only in God’sFMOEggplantEarlyLongPurpleF word. I water with many, many prayers (and oftentimes my own tears).  I attempt to weed out bad habits and nip foolish tendencies in the bud while covering my sons with kisses and hugs and “I love you.” I must take it all in faith that my daily tending is going to produce a bountiful and beautiful harvest. Children’s gardens have a looooooong germination time, and we’re given many precious years to nurture and tend these gardens. We will not see the mature fruit for decades.

It takes faith to garden.

FMOPumpkinBigMaxFMinistry is too like a garden plot. As a children’s pastor, I also plan and plot and pray along with my fellow laborers. Each week, we plant seeds of God’s love and God’s word in the heart of children. Some of these children we only meet once while others spend years in our ministry. We encourage each other with reminders that God’s word never returns void and always accomplishes what it intends (Isaiah 55:11). But still, we are planting by faith. In ministry, chances are we may never see the final outcome. The Apostle Paul wisely understood the nurturing connection between ministering and gardening. He eloquently explained in this verse, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” (1 Corinthians 3:6) We do our part and trust God to make it grow.

It takes faith to garden.FMOWatermelonMoonStarF