Thursday, December 28

Thursday Thirteen #11

This post originally appeared on By Hook or By Cook.

Maybe you're getting ready for a new diet. Or maybe making all the traditional holiday food has gotten you bored, in any case, here are

Thirteen places you may not know to look for recipes

Celestial Seasonings: recipes for cooking with tea
Panera Bread: I didn't expect a bakery to offer bread recipes
Iowa State's Tasty Insect Recipes: especially for my MK friends
Seussville: 3 recipes for green eggs and ham recipes from the US Government
UPenn's African Cookbook: recipes and cooking tips
Williams-Sonoma: seasonal recipes and entertaining ideas
San Diego Zoo: kid's recipes A-Z
National Hot Dog & Sausage Council: didn't know we had one
10· NativeTech: Native American technology, art, and recipes!
11· Jersey Fresh: recipes from the NJ Department of Agriculture
12· National Watermelon Promotion Board: sandwiches? entrees??
13· Colonial Williamsburg: anyone for rabbit-free "rabbit"?

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Monday, December 25

True Community

This goes out to a couple of friends who I believe wish to remain anonymous. Let me tell you their story.

For years they have been close friends to one another and several months ago they were engaged to be married. Unfortunately, a job loss and some other events caused the wedding to be postponed, twice. One of them just lost another job, and the other is able to work only part time and receives disability compensation. These are not wealthy people.

On a recent Sunday, we all gathered together for lunch after church as is our custom. Our friends had paid for our meal, and I gave them what cash Adam and I had. It was not enough to cover our portion of dinner, but it was all we had available. I wasn't told this, but I happened to see the total.

Later that evening, after we'd returned home, I was fishing something out of my purse and I discovered a $10 bill.

"What's this?" I asked myself. I pulled it out and saw another wad of cash beneath. I found all the money we'd given to our friends, plus some extra. One of them had tucked it into my purse when I wasn't looking.

I feel humbled and amazingy blessed. To think that we are in a position to receive charity from these friends, who are in no firm financial position themselves, is uncomfortable. Yet, to see quite clearly how much they care for us and want to offer the little they have when we are struggling...that is an incredible honor.

Thank you, my dear friends. You have shown me a true example of how to be more like Christ in this season of giving. I am loved and honored and blessed to know you.

"And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need." (Acts 2:44-45, NASB)

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 22

Unexpected Grief

I wrote this a few days ago, just for myself, trying to figure out why I wanted to cry all evening. I don't know if other women feel this way, in the midst of things. I've never talked with anyone else about it. Maybe it's common, but one more of those things we don't share with each other.

I didn’t think I’d feel this way. It’s like I’m losing a baby. As if I really have been pregnant these past several days and now I no longer am. I never considered that losing a dream can seem just as traumatic as losing a child—even when it’s only a temporary loss.

We’ve been actively trying to conceive for almost five months now. I know that’s not really very long in the scheme of things. But it never occurred to me that it would take any time at all. It didn’t the first time. Long before I figured I was ready for a baby, God had already blessed us with our daughter growing inside me.

It took a while to get back to thinking about another one. Many months passed before I was ready and willing to try. Raising one child has been so overwhelming at times, I haven’t known how to even imagine having another.

Then we started trying. After my first full cycle, it became clear I wasn’t ovulating. Pretty hard to get pregnant when half the parts are missing. I had to work my way through that. Feeling like I wasn’t a “real” woman. I wasn’t good enough to have another baby. I was being punished for all the years I’d joked about parents who only wanted one child and how everybody needed a sister or brother.

I started to feel better about it. Relieved that the pressure was off. I had more time to get ready. Until last month. I spent a week wondering if I had ovulated. My temps were up. I might have. Then, another round of anovulatory bleeding.

This month, I was ever so much more careful to make sure there weren’t other factors inhibiting my correct analysis of my body’s signals. It was still a bit confusing. But I was pretty sure I’d ovulated last week. So, again I sat. And stewed. And wondered what God was thinking sending an ovulation in the midst of the holidays. I’d been getting used to the idea of not getting pregnant until after the first of the year. Yet, I figured it was pretty certain I’d have a confirmed pregnancy before Christmas.

Until today. Today, it’s pretty clear I’m not pregnant. Again.

How can I miss a child who was never even conceived?

Thursday, December 21

Thursday Thirteen #10

Thirteen things that make it Christmas (then and now).

Then: Christmas started the day after Thanksgiving, dragging the big box with the artificial Christmas tree and box after box of ornaments, lights, and silvery tinsel garland out from storage. It was our all-day project to match up the color-coded branches, test every string of lights, unwrap each fragile ornament from its nest of paper toweling (often in a print that had been discontinued years before and was yellowed with age).

Now: We celebrate the 12 days of Christmas (beginning Christmas Day and ending with Epiphany, January 6th). The tree and all the decorations go up on Christmas Eve. And the tree is real--even if it's just a small potted one from Target.

Then: Presents collected under the tree from the day it went up until they were opened Christmas Eve. We did have to wait until Christmas Day to open our stockings, though.

Then: Beautifully crocheted stockings (made by my grandmother, I think) were hung for each of us kids. They were filled with trinkets and treasures, and always at least one Avon-brand lip balm, all wrapped individually with Christmas paper.

Now: Stockings are strictly decorative. Our daughter is young enough she doesn't really understand either "the stockings were hung by the chimney with care" or the concept of opening lots of little presents. We may fill them someday, but we haven't yet.

Then: Dad would put on easy listening radio while we opened our gifts, one at a time. Either Dad or one of us kids got to be Santa each year, passing out presents from both sets of grandparents and the aunts and uncles in addition to our parents and each other.

Now: Christmas doesn't come in packages anymore. That's not just a philosophical line either. We're just as likely these days to get a check in the mail or a gift card (or just a greeting card) from our parents and siblings, rather than packages to be unwrapped.

Then: Christmas dinner included turkey, stuffing that had actually been stuffed inside the bird, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce from a can (I was a teenager before I realized there was any other kind), and two homemade pies, pumpkin and usually blueberry for my sister who claimed that one piece of pumpkin pie was enough for her in a year.

Now: If we do it up, Christmas dinner is chicken, green bean casserole, potatoes, dressing, and homemade cranberry sauce (which I've discovered is incredibly easy to make, and much tastier than the canned variety).

Then: Christmas stollen (a sweet yeast bread studded with candied fruits and nuts) made in big batches that Mom mixed and Dad kneaded. We'd have some when it first came out of the oven, then Mom would warm it up for breakfast over the next several days. YUM!

Now: My husband doesn't think it's very tasty. We've only made it once. I'm working on him.

Then: My parents used to give each of us a special ornament for the tree every year. Often they had the date on them and for several years we got the flat brass ones with our names etched into them.

Now: Adam and I have continued this tradition, with a minor caveat that the ornament should be particularly representative of that year. Last year, for our daughter's first Christmas, we chose an ornament that is symbolic to the meaning of her name.

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Sunday, December 17

The Sickie

I'm having thoughts of Peter Falk, in his role as the grandfather in The Princess Bride.

The three of us have been experiencing various levels of yuckiness and exhaustion all week and this morning it seems like it would just be nice to have someone come over to read a story to me, just because I'm sick. I could cuddle down in the covers and drift in that lovely place between asleep and awake while still dreaming.

Actually, I think we all have or are getting or are getting over having the flu. Which means that place between awake and asleep, at the moment, is either too hot or too cold, uncomfortable in pretty much any position, and (at least in my case) whiny.


On that note, I should probably try to get some more sleep and see if I'm feeling up to going to church later today. Although, maybe it would be better for everybody else if we stayed home and kept our illness to ourselves!

Have a blessed Sunday, and may sickness stay far from your homes.

Friday, December 15

"Approved Unto God"

Special thanks to Judy Callarman who's comment inspired this post.

I often have an idea about what I want to say. Maybe God's been teaching me something that I really want to share. Or He's been trying to teach me something and I don't want to learn, so I'd rather talk about it and get some sympathy. And sometimes I just have some churned up feelings inside that seem to be fighting each other and the only way they get resolved is for me to sit down and write them out until they make sense.

But I hadn't thought of it as much of a spiritual discipline. And I've certainly been a mite surprised everytime I've gotten a comment or e-mail about how something I've said has touched someone else's life. But maybe that shouldn't be so surprising.

Today's reading from My Utmost for His Highest is all about working out what you have to say in order for God to bless others through your words. Go ahead and read it. I'll wait here.

Finished? Wasn't it great? Didn't it totally seem to speak right to bloggers, even though the Rev. Chambers lived in a world where blogging was as unimaginable as...well, something I don't have any words for because I cannot even imagine it.

It's just like he says, "Struggle to re-express some truth of God to yourself, and God will use that expression to someone else." God really does work in mysterious ways sometimes. Who else would use the words of a man who died 89 years ago to speak straight to my heart this afternoon?

So, thank you to all of you who work and struggle to get the words God has given you out there so that I can read them. Even when you may not think you have much of great value to say, it may still be just what someone like me needs to hear.

Thursday, December 14

Thursday Thirteen #9

Thirteen ways I felt like a badmommy today

1·I was annoyed to hear my daughter awake after only 10 hours of sleep (usually she sleeps nearly 12).
2·I (unknowingly) left her in a messy diaper for at least half an hour after she'd had a bout of not-so-happy bowels upon waking up.
3·When I offered her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, she only nibbled, so I took it away and ate it myself.
4·That was the only protein I had until about 7:00pm (I'm hypoglycemic).
5·I put her down for a nap at 1:30 and let her play in her crib, not sleeping (but not fussing, either) until after 3:00.
6·I yelled at her when she pushed her finger into the Christmas cookies I was making and she broke one.
7·I yelled at her when she pounded on the computer table and knocked down the receipts I had in a pile ready to be entered into the checkbook.
8·I yelled at her when she started pulling papers out of a binder I needed for my meeting tonight.
9·I yelled at her various times when she got in my way, pulled my hair, tried to climb on me or otherwise acted like a normal 21-month-old.
10·I called her over to apologize for all the yelling and for a moment she looked scared to come close.
11·I didn't make any dinner for her (I let Daddy be in charge of dinner).
12·I didn't finish two of the five projects I set out to accomplish this morning.
13·And none of the five involved cleaning the house.

In all, we had a not-so-good day. I guess that doesn't really make me a badmommy, just a humanmommy.

Today, I failed. A lot.

Which is funny, because just last night I was having a conversation with God about how I really have trouble letting go when I do something wrong. Apparently, He decided to offer me a crash course today.

Amy's seminar in letting go of your failures and moving on with your life: You're Human, Get Over It. Space is limited, register NOW!

Check out other thirteeners at

Peppermint Cookies

This post originally appeared on By Hook or By Cook.

My friend Wendy's family makes special cream cheese cookies every Easter. But their original recipe calls for almond extract rather than peppermint. I think the peppermint tastes better, and it's much more festive for Christmas cookies.
click photo for larger image        

1 c. sugar
½ c. butter, softened
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ t. salt
½ t. vanilla
½ t. peppermint extract
1 egg, separated
2¼ c. all-purpose flour

· Blend sugar, butter and cream cheese until creamy.
· Add salt, vanilla, peppermint, and egg yolk. Mix well.
· Stir in flour until well blended.
· Chill dough 1-2 hours or overnight.
· Roll out dough for cut-outs, or form 1" balls and flatten on cookie sheets.
· Brush cookies with beaten egg white for a shiny gloss or to add sprinkles.
· Bake at 375°F for 7-10 minutes until lightly golden.

Wednesday, December 13

Fluffy (uh...make that "Flaky") Post

I found great site set up to have silly fun for a good cause.

Go make a virtual snowflake over at Popular Front's Snowdays Page. Each snowflake created between now and the end of the year is equivalent to about .4¢ and for each 250,000 made, Popular Front will increase their donation to the Salvation Army by $1,000.00.

So get going and be a flake create a flurry today!

Check out one of mine while you're there, #3586223.

You can also click through to the site using the button on my sidebar. I will leave it up through the end of the year.

Tuesday, December 12


A few days ago I started thinking...I have a number of recipes and crochet patterns and other crafty ideas that I've put together over the years. I really like to cook (when the kitchen is clean) and craft and crochet. And one of my favorite things about each of those is to come up with new ideas. New patterns, new recipes, what-can-I-do-with-this-sack-of-pine-cones kind of stuff.

So, inspired by my friend Angela over at Purple Puzzle Place who started a food-allergy cooking and recipe blog to share some of the inventive recipes she's created to keep her family fed...


I give you
By Hook or By Cook!

UPDATE: By Hook or By Cook is no longer an active blog. Posts have been imported and combined into Experience Imagination.

For those of you who may be interested, I have posted the pattern for the scarf and mittens I featured here a couple of days ago. Now you can all make some for yourselves. Unless you live somewhere too warm for such things.

But then you can crochet and donate them to a charity that collects warm clothing for the poor and homeless. Maybe I should research those and post a list on my new blog....

Monday, December 11

Winter Scarf & Mitts

This post originally appeared on By Hook or By Cook.

These are a quick and easy pattern and they look great when you're done!
click photo for larger image        
Materials used
•2 skeins Yarn Bee® Fleece Lite in Quartz (each 5 oz, 108 yds)
•K crochet hook (6.5 mm)
•F crochet hook (3.75 mm)

7 dc=3", 5 dc rows=4"

Finished size
Scarf: 5" wide x 50" long
Mitts: 5" wide x 9" long

Skill level


ch 14
Row 1: dc in 4th st from hook, dc in ea st to end (12 dc)
Rows 2-54: ch 3, dc in ea st to end (12 dc)
Tie off and weave in ends.

Note: Scarf uses one full skein of yarn.


For palm and fingers, ch 8
Rnd 1: 2 dc in 4th st from hook, dc in ea next 3 sts, 3 dc in next st, turn to work in back loops of ch, dc in ea st, join with slst (12 dc)
Rnd 2: ch 3, [2 dc in one st, dc] repeat around, join (18 dc)
Rnds 3-6: ch 3, dc in ea st around, join (18 dc)
Rnd 7: ch 3, 17 dc, ch 6 (this will be the thumb opening), join (24 sts)
Rnd 8: ch 3, dc in ea st around, join (24 dc)
Rnd 9: ch 3, 17 dc, [decr, dc] twice, join (22 sts)
Rnd 10: ch 3, 8 dc, decr, 8 dc, decr, dc, join (19 sts)
Rnd 11: ch 3, dc in ea st around, join (19 dc)
Switch to smaller hook.
Rnd 12: ch 3, dc in ea st around, join (19 dc)
Tie off.

For thumb, sc 8 st evenly around thumb opening, join with slst.
Rnds 1 & 2: ch 3, dc in ea st around, join (8dc)
Rnd 3: ch 2, using decr method, begin dc in ea st around, keeping last loop on hook (you will have 8 loops after final dc), join all loops in one st, closing the top of the thumb.
Tie off and weave in ends.

Dry and Weary

I try to manage it every morning, but some days just take off with a speed of their own and what I try doesn't always make it to what I do.

What is "it" you ask? Why Bible reading with my daughter, of course. Lately it's been the most devotional time I've had. We've been working through the psalms one (and sometimes only part of one) per day.

A couple of days ago we hit Psalm 63. And when I say "hit" I mean as in "me, like a ton of bricks." Let me share some of my thoughts and responses to these powerful words.

I've often wondered about why God leaves us alone. Not theologically, I mean, He's promised never to leave us. Yet sometimes, He doesn't talk much. My prayers just seem to be drifting out there. God seems really far away.

David says, "I've worked up such hunger and thirst for God, traveling across dry and weary deserts." (v1)

It had never really occurred to me that maybe He just wants me to miss Him. To remember Him. To let absence (or perceived absence) make the heart grow fonder.

"So here I am in the place of worship, eyes open, drinking in Your strength and glory. In Your generous love I am really living at last! My lips brim praises like fountains. I bless You every time I take a breath; my arms wave like banners of praise to You." (v2-4)

That sure isn't the place I've been for the past several weeks. How is it that we understand the idea of discipline and continuing to do something whether or not we are emotionally invested when we're talking about reading the Bible, attending church or prayer meetings, but when it comes to worship and singing there seems to be this idea floating about that it's only "real" when I feel like it?

"If I'm sleepless at midnight, I spend the hours in grateful reflection." (v6)

Don't know about you, but I'm generally not grateful to be sleepless, whatever the hour. Sleep is a highly valued commodity here at our house. My first thought upon waking in the middle of the night generally isn't, "Praise God! More time to worship You." Perhaps it ought to be.

"Because you've always stood up for me, I'm free to run and play." (v7)

Isn't this the very picture of a confident child? I don't think I'm a confident princess (daughter of the King). I find that trust is often hard to come by and I feel weighed down by the cares of the life in this world, rather than free to play.

"But the king is glad in God; his true friends spread the joy..." (v11)

When strangers look at me, do they see joy in my face? Am I glowing and empowered by the work of God in my life? Am I spreading the joy, not just in this holiday season, but throughout the days and years of my life? Do people want to spend time with me? Do they want to know what makes me different? Am I different enough that people notice?

Friday, December 8

Wild Rice Casserole

This post originally appeared on By Hook or By Cook.

I have no idea where my mom got the original recipe, but my guess is it came off the side of a can of Campbell's® soup. Growing up we called it "Chicken Rice Casserole" despite the fact that it's made with beef.
click photo for larger image        
5 c. chicken broth
¼ c. wild rice
1½ c. white rice
2 lbs. ground beef
2 medium stalks celery, diced
3-4 mushroom caps, diced
2 c. half-and-half

· Bring broth to a boil in a medium saucepan.
· Add wild rice and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
· Add white rice and simmer, covered, for an additional 15 minutes.
· Meanwhile, brown ground beef and drain, reserving 2T fat.
· Sauté celery in reserved fat 5 minutes or until translucent.
· Add mushrooms and sauté an additional 10 minutes.
· Combine all ingredients in a 2qt. casserole dish or 9x9 pan.
· Bake at 350°F for one hour.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size about 1⅓ c (143 g)
Serving per Recipe 6
Amount per Serving
Calories 397     Calories from Fat 49
% DV
Total Fat 6g
     Saturated Fat 1g
     Monounsaturated Fat 2g
     Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 4mg
Total Carbohydrates 77g
     Dietary Fiber 9g
     Sugars 20g
Protein 14g


International Conventions

This post originally appeared on By Hook or By Cook.

I should mention at the get-go that I'm in the U.S., so for all you international visitors who are used to measuring food in grams and hooks by millimeter and so forth, I mostly don't do that.

Check out the following links to get the conversion information you need:

Also, just so you know, I don't knit. I won't be offering knitting patterns and I can't answer knitting questions.However, if you're interested in trying to convert crochet to knit (or vice versa), you can check out these sites:

Crochet Pix

Several people commented that they wanted to see photos of the scarf and mittens I crocheted. Since I'm not up for working on the in-depth spiritual post I started yesterday, I thought I'd just post those.

Here is a photo of the set. The scarf is about four feet long and the mittens are big enough to fit my hands, but also Adam's hands (which are considerably larger). I made them for a friend who did some babysitting for us a few weeks ago. The scarf is payment-in-kind for the sitting. She also celebrated her birthday recently and I told her I'd make her choice of a matching hat or mittens. She chose the mittens, which I was kind of excited about, since I'd never done mittens before.

For those of you who are into such things, I thought you might appreciate a detail of the fabric, as well, so here it is.

Both the scarf and the mittens are double crochet throughout (with the exception of the thumb joining) and made with Yarn Bee Fleece Lite in Quartz.

Thursday, December 7

Thursday Thirteen #8

Thirteen highs and lows of my week

1·It snowed! Now I can go out and play.
2·It snowed. Now we have to clear off the driveway and sidewalk.
3·We brought dinner to a family with a new baby and I got to hold her.
4·I filled out at least a dozen custom forms to mail five packages.
5·I got locked out at the post office while carrying three large boxes.
6·I discovered it's illegal to send nail polish through the mail.
7·At bedtime, my daughter lay down and let me cover her with a blanket.
8·She went to sleep without fussing.
9·I made hotel reservations for the out-of-state wedding of an old friend.
10·I figured out how to crochet mittens that match the scarf I'm making.
11·My meeting tonight is actually next week.
12·Adam broke out the peanut butter kisses I'd been saving.
13·I've had the opportunity to blog again.

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Monday, December 4

Life in the Crazy Lane

Life has just been terribly (or wonderfully) busy these past couple of weeks. Adam's parents were in town the week of Thanksgiving. Having the built-in babysitters was fabulous, and of course, it was great to spend time with Mom and Dad, too. I'm now officially jealous of all you parents who have grandmas and grandpas living close by and willing to take your kids for an afternoon or everning every once in a while. Sigh.

Our expected houseful on Thanksgiving Day turned into a modest five as several guests were unable to make it at the last minute. So, the 17-pound turkey we'd purchased gave us lots of leftovers. Turkey and stuffing, reheated. Turkey sandwiches. Turkey corn chowder for a potluck dinner at church. Turkey with eggs for breakfast (actually, I only tried that one once. My daughter ate the eggs and left the turkey). And an excellent turkey-rice casserole, a twist on a yummy comfort food growing up.

Last week, I thought I'd have some lovely recovery time. The in-laws were headed to the other side of the country, the dishes and feast-day clean up was begun.... Then I started my work project for the website I design.

At first glance, I thought I could get it done in a few hours over a couple of days. Ahaha haha haha! Try 30 hours over six days! But it looks really nice now. I just have a few finishing touches I need to add, but I'm officially still on vacation from that today. Ahhh.

And one more thing to add to the mix, I'm on the Missions Team at church and we were getting Christmas packages ready to send to the missionaries we support. I was going to shop on Friday, then Saturday our whole team met to wrap and package all the gifts. But then it snowed on Friday. Some places were reporting 18 inches! Driving Adam to work in the morning took almost two hours (most of that time we were stuck in the snow in an uncleared parking lot--our daughter helped and encouraged us by sitting in her carseat chanting "Go! Go! Go! Go!"). After dropping him off, we started our shopping at a favorite superstore. Three hours later with a basket full of presents, I discovered that I'd left my wallet at the house. I almost started crying right there in the check-out line. Eventually it took two more trips back to the superstore and another to a local Christian bookstore in order to get all of the presents purchased for the next day.

The wrapping end of things went very well, however. My team plus a couple of additional volunteers, fueled with apple cider, coffee, and bagels, wrapped, ribboned, and packaged gifts for 4 families and 24 individuals. And we were done right at noon, exactly on schedule.

One last piece of business. Jenny over at Home is Where You Start From has tagged me for a meme: Six weird things about me.

One disclaimer before I begin...most of these things, I don't think are all that weird, but other people (mainly my husband) have told me so.

1. I enjoy sleeping in a cold bedroom in sweats and several blankets. If my nose is cold and my toes are toasty, I'm a happy camper.

2. I often like to eat something sweet followed by something salty. I completely grossed Adam out one night when our bridge group was over and I served dark chocolate followed by black olives. Yum!

3. The stock market makes no sense to me. How can all of these number-crunching, show-me-the-money types have come up with a system that is entirely dependant upon the reputation of companies and the fears of the public? I just don't get it.

4. I'm a bit of a math nerd. My favorite part of math in high school was geometry proofs and I still like long division.

5. I know all the words to the original Gilligan's Island theme song (beginning and ending credits). I also know what words changed in the second version.

6. For a while, in high school and college, my favorite movie was Tango & Cash with Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone. I think I even owned the video at one point.

So, there ya go. I'm a strange one, living a crazy life. But you love me anyway, right?