Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cooking with Becca
To make these cookies just double your cookie batter or divide it in half. To one half add 1/3 c. cocoa and dark chocolate chips or something else fun like m&m's or Reese's chunks. To the other half add mini chocolate chips or something different. I took spoonfuls of one batter and swirled it into the other to make the cookies above. I got thinking though that you could fridge the batters, roll them out, stack, roll up and cut to make fancy pinwheels!

Made my own vinaigrette for dinner Monday night. Took this recipe and tweaked it:
Becca's Honey Mustard Vinaigrette (Makes 1 cup, serves 4)
10 T oil (any type you have will work)
4T. Balsamic vinegar
2-3 t. dark brown sugar
1 T pesto (I have Classico Traditional Basil Pesto, but hope to make my own someday!)
1-2 t. honey Dijon mustard (the grittier the better)

I just shook it up and served it and it turned out great! A lot of the vinaigrette recipes I've tried lately have just not been sweet enough for my taste and my hubby suggested last time we add the brown sugar and that helped a lot. The pesto was my idea to replace all the herbs and garlic that get added separately. Oh, and I only had honey mustard on hand, but all the recipes I've seen call for regular mustard.
Salad Toppings
Just in case you need some dinner inspiration. In the summer we try to keep a bag of spinach in the fridge. We cut it up and throw on:
  • Raisins (our favorite topping)
  • Walnuts
  • Chopped Apples
  • Croutons/crackers
  • Strawberries
  • Shredded sharp cheddar or crumbled Feta
  • Sliced grapes
  • Chopped Carrots
  • Sliced grilled chicken
  • Raw chopped veggies like peppers, cucumbers or zucchini
  • Grilled veggies like asparagus
Movie Review! On a Clear Day: A Scottish movie about a man who was made redundant and found the ambition to swim the English Channel. It was a good movie, with just a little language. At times the subtitles came in handy for their thick accents, but the same was part of what made it so endearing. We found this at our local library and glad we made time to watch.

Check out PlumPudding's neat post on "repurposing"
And this craft idea on RootsandWingsCo where they'll tell you step by step how to make it!
I have all new pictures for the slide show. We had Z's 3rd birthday over the weekend, he's such a big boy now!!! Here he is with his garage sale present from mom and dad: a plasma ball! He loves it!

Juju is 9 months now and loves to pull herself up to stand. Saturday I caught her standing alone, unassisted! It was short lived, but it startled me nonetheless. Here she's showing off her curls from the baby lotion I put on her head after her baths.
Looks like our closing date for our current house has been postponed about 10 days so our buyer can get all their ducks in a row. Please pray that goes smoothly. Thanks!

Putting on Love
I learned something great in Sunday School a week ago. I was the teacher, but I'm pretty sure I learned the most. The lesson was on God's gift to everyone: Love and Forgiveness. As we tossed around a tupperware container full of slips of paper with different frustrating scenarios on them like, "Your brother just broke your favorite toy", when the container landed on you "L-O-V-E!", you had to come up with a way to show love and forgiveness in that situation.

I realized that by teaching our children to show love and forgiveness, we inadvertently teach them to follow rules. For instance, no need to say, "No hitting or fighting" when you could talk about God's great love and forgiveness for us and how we need to extend it to others. It's still in the theoretical stage, not sure how to practically apply it to lots of circumstances, but it's such a refreshing take on parenting, I am looking for ways to implement this concept in my own parenting. Doubtless, there are situations they just have to obey the rules like when it comes to safety, but to move my focus from teaching my kids rules to teaching them to be loving and forgiving is a good move in my opinion.

It reminds me of a wonderful resource my mom gave me a few years ago that lists all sorts of common behavior problems and identifies the heart issue (or sin) underlying the behavior, ideas of what to say to your child to put off the old attitude, put on the new and a Scripture reference to back you up. It's a great handy resource in a calendar like format and it's only $4 on Amazon.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Here we are!!!!

Finally, I got the picture scanned of our five generations. Moments like these I'm thankful I never did get dread locks like I'd wanted for so long. From Juju clockwise, there's Great Great Grandma G from Iowa, me from Ohio, Great Grandma VN also from Iowa, and Grandma from Germany. We all have the same chin, don't we? I only wish I'd inherited more of that curly hair of theirs. There's some hope for Juju, she has curly wisps that Z never had. I sure love these ladies!!! It was so fun to all be together in Iowa for Mother's Day weekend.

Cooking with Becca

I made strawberry freezer jam today. I've only made raspberry before. I'm liking the strawberry! Probably helps that the berries were freshly picked, thanks to some help from my sister-in-law, Debbi. Ben's Grandma H. taught me how to make this kind of jam. I've made it under her watch several times before I was adventurous enough to make it on my own (twice now).

To make your own, just buy PINK Sure-Jell boxes, which require less sugar than the yellow and allows you to taste more fruit. See the instructions inside for how much fruit to buy and sugar to add. For strawberry freezer jam, you need 4 pints of fresh berries. After crushing them, they need to add up to 4 cups, so you can use frozen berries to make that amount. Get them to room temperature. Follow directions in Sure-Jell box for "Quick & Easy Freezer Jam Recipes". The only moment we veer from the written instructions is when it says to boil and stir for 1 minute. Grandma H. says boil for 1 minute 15 seconds. Do not boil too long though!!! I did this once and had plastic pectin chunks floating around in jam that barely set. What you see above is three recipes worth, so it doesn't make a ton, but it's ever so yummy!

Juju's recently started a baby blog about natural living...
...I think she's a little excited about moving to the country!

Little cabin in the woods, little man by the window stood...
As promised...here's some pics of our new abode.
It's a 100 year old farm house that was added onto and added onto, then resided.

See Ben and his Dad peeking in the windows below?
Juju's in the grass on the left, if you can squint really hard. It's more house than we'll ever need, we know that. We're pretty sure God has other plans for the use of the upstairs. There's 3-4 bedrooms and 2 baths upstairs alone. We'll be able to live on the first floor solely in the master bedroom and 1.5 baths until the kiddos are bigger. I wasn't blogging when we first pursued foster care, and I don't think we'll be doing that again, but it'll be fun to have readers to share with as God unfolds plans for this place and our lives. We love our readers!!! Thank you for your time and your prayers!!!!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

And the panic is over...

I'm still a little in disbelief today that the search and the negotiations are over. The people who sought financing for the house evidently did not bid on it. So, the papers are signed. Last night we went to see the house again and got a proper tour by the current owner. As we got home Ben said, "We got a steal!". Evidently, there were more good things about the house that we didn't even know about before we bid on it.

Glimpse of God

On Thursday, before we signed the papers, I had called my student loan company and asked how they decide to grant the economic hardship deferment that I get for not working. They said, "Well, you get 36 months..." Immediately, my heart sunk. It's the last of our debt outside a mortgage, but we hadn't figured in my school loan into the new budget since we hadn't had to pay on it for 3 years. So, we had to make another big decision. Do we still sign the papers? Well, we prayerfully decided to continue on.

Last night at the house, I remembered that the lady who took the pictures of our house (for showing on-line) was pregnant and planning to quit when she has the baby. I asked our realtor about it and she said that not only is she losing her in a few weeks, but the lady who puts the virtual tours together for her just quit the day before and she was stressed because she didn't know who would do it for her. When I informed her that I needed to earn a little income, she said the virtual tour lady was willing to train the next person and that she does it for all the realtor companies, so that could potentially earn quite a bit. I asked if I needed to interview. She said that I just needed to know how to take pictures! She said she was so relieved to have that need met already! I felt the same way!!!

I get to set my own hours to take pictures of the houses and create the virtual tour at home! It couldn't be more perfect as Ben and I were already talking about how I need to get out of the house once in a while. For those that read regularly, I'd mentioned teaching a college and career class next year at the homeschool co-op that we'll be part of. Unfortunately, there weren't enough kids signed up for the class, so it won't be happening yet. I was competing with Drama class, and I don't blame them! Perhaps next year! Now I'll have more time and energy to take pictures of houses.

Hopefully, I'll have a picture of our new house up soon...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Haggling over a house

Wow! I really thought we'd know something for sure by now. Instead, it's more complicated than ever. They came down 3K, we needed 13K, so we said, "No deal," and...our realtor appeared to panic. So, she and the mortgage rep from the bank worked out a deal to lower our interest rate with points, our realtor even gave up a percentage of her commission to make it work. We signed the papers. While all of this was going on someone else was getting approved for a loan for the same house. All we need is for the owner to sign our papers, but I think they're waiting to see if the other people outbid us. We are completely at peace with either way this goes. If the "competition" outbids us, they can have it, we're not budging. This is so not as fun as haggling for a carpet in Turkey.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

WigHouse Update

This was taken by my Dad before he and my Mom returned to Germany on Monday. I wanted a picture of us in front of our house before we move away so we always remember how little the kids were at this house (in this pic, they're REALLY little!). I updated the pictures in the slide show today...to the tune of 70 pictures! I had to include the best of my camera, my dad's and my mom's. Though, I admit, most of the pictures are my Dad's. Below are my four favorites that he took:

Thanks for such wonderful pictures, Dad! The best part is that they truly captured what a lovely time we had with you two.

My parents graciously watched the kids as we house shopped EVERY day for two weeks! Some how we still found time to enjoy each other. They got to see the house we chose to bid on as well. It's probably silly of me to write about the following now as we should find out in the next few hours whether we won the bid or not, but I'd rather include you all in our journey and not just in the outcome.

As I shared previously we wrestled with all the choices before us. If we were honest, we'd admit we wanted our cake and to eat it too. Slightly roomier house with acreage for half the price! Well, when we looked at houses that were half the price, if they actually had any land with them they were barely inhabitable. Two didn't have a kitchen or a bathroom! As we realized something had to give if we wanted a cheaper house, we looked at trailers and land, houses in town with a yard, we explored all our options. As it began to look dismal, I started to realize my "need" to live debt free was becoming greedy in it's own way. Funny how in their extreme forms both materialism and frugality can reveal a greedy heart.

Finally, last Friday we looked at a great house, roomier than we'd ever need and it had 1.25 acres. I asked God if this was the place and I felt Him say to follow Ben's lead. So, turns out Ben loved it. We made a super low bid on Monday, the asking price is about 20K more than our TOP bid. They came down a little, we came up a little, but still we were 18K apart.

Last night as we talked about how much to counter offer we got talking about another house we had looked at and discussed how much we'd bid on that one in comparison. The more we thought about it, the more we realized that it was just as good of a house as the one we bid on and we'd be just as happy there. We slept on it last night and decided this morning to make our final offer on the big house, knowing we had another house we can bid on if this doesn't work out.

Now we wait..wait to hear how much of a buyer's market it really is right now. The owner says he has 30K more invested than they had in the starting price. Will they come down another 13K just to get it off their hands? I have a peace either way, but I'll keep ya posted!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

“There comes a time in every rightly constructed boy's life that he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure”. -Mark Twain

Ben Here: Rebecca has so totally been on my case about getting some content up here on a recent camping trip that I took. So much so that she did all the real work for this post and I just added commentary. I went hiking and camping with my good friend Matt Sebree to the desert and mountains of Nevada. Thanks Bec for the hard work and for giving me the chance to get out into the wilderness!

The purpose of this trip was to see some good old fashioned ghost towns and mines in the West. For 12 years now, Matt S. and I have periodically taken to exploring different parts of the Western U.S. This time it was a driving/camping trip out of Salt Lake City, UT and into Central Nevada's desert for an approx. 1200mi round trip. Here's another Mark Twain quote that I feel sums up the trip:

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do."

As a warm up, please enjoy this video of Jim Gaffigan accurately describing camping. Then scroll down to see some photos.
Ah yes, sweet desolation! This is Highway 50, known as America's Loneliest Highway. It re-traces parts of old western wagon coach and pony express routes over desert plains and mountian passes. We drove for 5 hours and only saw perhaps 5 other cars.

Our first camp site (near Wheeler Peak in the Great Basin National Park), high up (somewhere over 8000 feet above sea level) out of the desert heat in a beautiful Aspen grove with a pristine crystal clear and drinkable creek running by that was fed from the snow melt at higher elevations. Note to others: this makes for a very cold morning bath!

Here I am at 10,000 feet with Wheeler Peak in the background. The road had just been opened to this point thanks to the snow melt. There were still places where the snow was 4-6 feet deep! They have found Bristle Cone Pine trees in this park that have rings that date them to over 4500 years old!

There are hundreds of ghost towns in this area of NV. Here is the ghost town of Belmont, NV. It lost it's County Seat status in 1905 after the silver mines failed and everyone left.

Speaking of mines, we saw a bunch, so here is just one example of what you'd find. Usually they were partially collapsed and very dark inside!

The photos above and below are of the Monarch Mine, near the ghost town of Sprucemont. This was one of the best preserved mines we saw... and NO we didn't dare go inside. You could see the mountain trying to squeeze and crush those 100 year old timbers! Also, don't forget radon gas, old unstable explosives, bats, snakes, and rodents.

This is a log cabin that used to have a sod roof. It was just one of about 20 structures still "kinda" standing in the ghost town of Sprucemont, NV

And finally, the famous Bonneville Salt Flats. We were trying to set world speed records home to Salt Lake City so we could take a shower! If we slowed down, we would be forced to smell our aroma after 5 days in the wilderness.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Well, hush my mouth!

The people who are buying our home came through the house while I was here and Ben was still in Utah. They wanted to check the chimney and roof, so of course, I didn't clean much. Turns out the lady, the guy, her daughter and their realtor came through, oh and the chimney guy. So, I show them around, and give them the inside scoop, showing the built-in chopping board in the original 110 year old cabinetry, etc.

Well, then we're sitting around talking and I mention that I never hung many pictures in our nine years here because the plaster walls aren't easy to put holes into. She says she has an extensive "Home Interior" collection and has LOTS to hang up. I was still trying to emotionally let go of my home and had little sympathy. I said I used Velcro hangars sometimes. So, we're still sitting there talking while the men are investigating the attic and my dog, Scout, starts scooting along the carpet next to us to clean her butt. A little embarrassed, I said something about Ben steam cleaning the carpets about once every other month.

As we walked around to show her daughter the place the lady mentioned how while she was here last the place smelled of freshly baked bread and she was so excited to live close to the pizza place across the street. I said, "Oh, that was my bread maker, I heard that if you make your house smell like baked bread, it makes people want to buy it. It worked, huh?"

I did serve them all rhubarb crumble and ice cream since I had it on hand, so that might have redeemed my behavior a little. I just will miss this place very much, I'm not super eager to let it go, but we do need a yard.

We're getting burnt out on house shopping, every day for a week and half now. Definitely we're leaning toward affordability and not luxury. I'll keep ya posted!