Friday, December 28

Sometimes Wisdom ... found in the strangest places.

I was visiting an online discussion board about birth choices the other day and discovered a quote from C.S. Lewis that pretty much sums up my anxiety issues in a nice neat little package:
We're not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.


Wednesday, December 26

Boxing Day

That's where you take all the boxes and wrapping paper out to the trash after the Christmas bonanza, right? No. I know. It has something to do with bestowing gifts on those less fortunate that oneself. (And, yes, as a matter of fact, I did know that before I read the Snopes reference. A game of Trivial Pursuit, anyone??)

In any case, it is Boxing Day, the feast day of St. Stephen, and the first day of the twelve days of Christmas. To celebrate that last one, I posted one of my favorite new snacks on By Hook or By Cook.

Pears and Cheese

This post originally appeared on By Hook or By Cook.

I'm not usually a big fan of salty cheeses with fruit. No slice of cheddar on my apple pie, thank you very much! I tried this combination accidentally one day while I was having a snack, and WOW! I may just have to rethink that apple pie thing.
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Dried sliced Bartlett pears
Basque Shepherd's Cheese, sliced

· Arrange slices of cheese atop slices of pear.
· Enjoy the symphony of flavors.

Ingredient note: I found both the dried pears and the cheese at Trader Joe's. If you're not able to find these particular ingredients, however, you can substitute another semi-soft cheese and dry your own pears. Colorado State University has a nice drying primer available here.

Tuesday, December 25

Happy Christmas

Glory to God in the highest
and peace to His people on earth!

Easy-Peasy Peanut Butter Fudge

This post originally appeared on By Hook or By Cook.

I found the original recipe for this simple yummy fudge in an old cookbook put together by the Women's Missionary Society at my grandmother's church. I've made it according to their recipe, but I think my version tastes better!
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1 lb. powdered sugar (3¾ c)
1 t vanilla
¼ c milk
6 T butter
¾ c chunky peanut butter

• Line an 8x8 pan with foil and butter lightly.
• Measure sugar and vanilla into a medium bowl. Set aside.
• Heat milk, butter, and peanut butter over medium heat until just boiling, stirring constantly.
• Pour peanut butter mixture over powdered sugar and mix thoroughly.
• Press fudge into prepared pan. Refrigerate 1-2 hours.
• Unmold fudge from pan and remove foil. Cut into ¾-inch squares. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 3 pieces (12 g)
Serving per Recipe 36
Amount per Serving
Calories 56 Calories from Fat 17

% DV
Total Fat 2g
Saturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.5g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 5mg
Sodium 14mg
Total Carbohydrates 10g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 10g
Protein 0g


Saturday, December 22


When I was single, housecleaning was a reasonably rare activity. Unless people were coming over or I was out of dishes, there didn't seem to be much point. When I would finally get it all together and clean, it would stay that way for weeks ... or, well, days anyway.

Now, I'm married with an almost-three-year-old kid. Adam and I can spent hours cleaning and tidying the house, only for our daughter to start messing it up--before we've even finished cleaning. It's very demoralizing.

We had a date last night, our first real date in months and months. Our daughter's godmother graciously offered to babysit for us, so we needed to make an effort to tidy up the house. We'd been a bit lax about it the last several weeks; we'd all been battling illness and hadn't gotten back on track yet. But we put a few hours of work in and got things organized, swept, dusted, toys put away, and the bathroom clean. It felt really good to come home last night and have the living room look all tidy and inviting.

Within 20 minutes of waking up this morning, the wee one had already started leaving tracks of her progress around the house. There is currently a pair of discarded shorts in the corner, two books on the coffee table, her purse with its contents scattered on the easy chair, a toy ball resting on top of the TV stand, and the backing from a page of stickers crumpled on the floor. The stickers themselves are plastered to her bare tummy. She was dressed less than an hour ago.


I know this stage will pass. They even tell me it will be over all too quickly. But some days, I'm just discouraged that I'll ever have a clean house.

Wednesday, December 19

Vegetarian 3-Bean Chili Mix

This post originally appeared on By Hook or By Cook.

Originally this was a recipe for hearty bean stew. As I played with it, though, I found that the chili was more appealing to me. This makes an easy homemade gift or something nice to have on hand in your own cupboard for cold winter days when you don't want to spend too much time thinking about what you'll make for dinner.
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½ c dry kidney beans
½ c dry black-eyed beans (also called "black-eyed peas")
½ c dry black beans
1 t cocoa powder
1 t vegetable bullion (or 1 cube, crushed)
1 t dried minced onion
½ t parsley
½ t chili powder
¼ t garlic powder
¼ t thyme
1-14½ oz can diced tomatoes

Mix Directions
• Layer beans in a sealed 12 oz container.
• Mix dry seasonings in a sealed bag.

Cooking Instructions
• Add beans to 3 cups boiling water. Cover & remove from heat. Let soak 6 hours or overnight.
• Drain beans & add another 3 cups water. Cover & bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat & simmer for 90 minutes.
• Stir in undrained tomatoes & seasoning mix. Simmer an additional 60 minutes or until chili has thickened.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 370 g (approx. 1½ c prepared)
Serving per Recipe 6
Amount per Serving
Calories 219 Calories from Fat 9

% DV
Total Fat 1g
Saturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 110mg
Total Carbohydrates 41.5g
Dietary Fiber 12g
Sugars 4g
Protein 12.5g


Christmas Star Ornaments

This post originally appeared on By Hook or By Cook.

I was playing around with an idea one afternoon, trying to figure out how to fill in a star and these little guys just appeared, almost fully formed, on my hook. They work up very quickly and are a great gift in themselves or as a package embellishment.

Materials used
small amount of Red Heart® Super Saver® #324 (Bright Yellow)
I crochet hook (5.5 mm) for large star
1 steel crochet hook (2.75 mm) for small star

Gauge and Finished Size
Not essential to measure. The large star is about 4" tall and the small one is about 1½" tall, but really, they can be any size.

Skill Level

Large Star
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Pattern is worked with two strands of yarn held together.
Rnd 1: Using the Magic Adjustable Ring technique, make 5 sc in loop. Do not join.
Rnd 2: Make 2 sc in ea sc around (10 sc). Do not join.
Rnd 3: *Sc in first sc, 2 sc in next sc* around (15 sc). Join with slst in first sc. Circle complete.
Rnd 4: Slst in 1st sc. *[Ch5, slst in 2nd lp from hook, sc in next st, hdc in next st, dc in next st] point made. Sk next sc in circle and slst in next 2 sc. Rep from * around circle, after last point, make only 1 slst.
Rnd 5: Ch 1, sc in ea st around (50 sc).
Bind off ends, tucking tails into right side of fabric.

Match stars with right sides facing in. Beginning at the top of one point and leaving a 5” tail, whipstitch around in the back (inside) loops only for each stitch around. Tuck ends beneath the top stitch from opposite directions and knot. Knot again several inches above star to form hanging loop.

Small Star
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Rnd 1: Using the Magic Adjustable Ring technique, make 5 sc in loop. Do not join.
Rnd 2: Make 3 sc in ea sc around (15 sc). Join with slst in first sc. Circle complete.
Rnd 3: Slst in 1st sc. *[Ch5, slst in 2nd lp from hook, hdc in next 2 sts, dc in next st] point made. Sk next sc in circle and slst in next 2 sc. Rep from * around circle, after last point, make only 1 slst.
Bind off ends, tucking tails into right side of fabric.

Match stars with right sides facing in. Beginning at the top of one point and leaving a 3” tail, whipstitch around in the front (outside) loops only for each stitch around. Tuck ends beneath the top stitch from opposite directions and knot. Knot again several inches above star to form hanging loop.

Works for Me: Homemade Christmas

This week's theme is Last-Minute Christmas Tips. If you're trying to find something easy and inexpensive, but still with that homemade touch, take a look at what we did.

This year for Christmas, Adam and I gave our friends dinner baskets filled with homemade mixes, a small bottle of wine, and a coupon for dessert.

Dinner is Vegetarian 3-Bean Chili (mix recipe and directions here) and cornbread. I designed the apple-shaped coupons to round out the meal. They read, "This coupon entitles you to one scrumptious dessert made fresh in [Adam & Amy’s] kitchen."

I packaged the mixes in Wilton® Clear Party Bags, but they could just have easily gone in canning jars or even plastic zipper bags. The chili mix includes a small spice packet and a can of tomatoes. To make them look a little prettier, I placed the bag containing the spices on top of the tomato can and covered both with a crocheted cap that Adam made--doesn't it look great? The star ornament is my handiwork. It does double duty as both another small gift and a package embellishment. I posted a pattern for the star here (it's the Small Star).

To find more Christmas tips, head on over to Rocks in My Dryer.

Monday, December 17

Comment Etiquette

Okay, I've been a blogger for more than a year now, and I have to just come out and admit it. This commenting thing confuses me.

I know there are various ways to deal with comments. I could respond individually by e-mail (to those people who have included an e-mail address). I could do that, but I really don't see it happening.

Another choice is to respond in the comments section of the post. I have done that on occasion. But most of my posts don't seem especially controversial. Certainly not enough to bring in the sort of comments that inspire ongoing responses back and forth. Plus, how many of you actually come back to read again?

Or I could respond by leaving a comment myself at the blog of the individual who commented here. This one just seems a little strange to me. Unless it's part of a carnival or meme, I don't usually do this. I almost always visit the blogs of people who've commented, and will often comment on something there which piques my interest, but I've always felt a little awkward leaving a note that says "thanks for visiting my blog."

Then there is the just-ignore-them-and-hope-they'll-come-back method I've been employing lately. I hope I haven't offended anyone. I really do like your comments. I do read them. I just don't really do much else about them.

So here is my question: What is your comment etiquette? Do you respond to comments regularly? Do you expect other bloggers to respond to your comments? If so, how?

Sunday, December 16

What You Think It Means

One of my favorite quotable movies of all time is The Princess Bride. There is one scene where the kidnappers (Vizzini, Fezzik, and Inigo Montoya) have just carried Princess Buttercup up the Cliffs of Insanity. They reach the top and cut their rope only to discover that The Man in Black not only didn't fall to his death, but is actually scaling the sheer rock face to reach them. Vizzini and Inigo stare down from atop the cliff. Vizzini shouts his trademark, "Inconceivable!" To which Inigo replies, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

The same, I believe, can be said of the word "communication." We all use it; we bandy it about as though we understand what it means to communicate with family, friends, co-workers ... but do we really?

In general usage, communicate can mean two slightly different, but very distinct things. In the first sense, you can communicate your thoughts, desires or dreams to someone else. That is the way most of us think about communication--talking with one another about how we feel inside. The second meaning of the word is a little trickier in real life. Merriam-Webster says it means "to transmit information, thought, or feeling so that it is satisfactorily received or understood."

We skip that last part a lot, don't we? I know I do. And it's not just a matter of not being clear in my own speech. I have that problem, too, but more often than not, my breakdown in communication comes from listening poorly. I think I've heard what someone (usually Adam) has said and I respond or act on what I think he meant. But, what happens if that isn't really what he meant? What if, when I understood what he said, I got it mixed up? All of a sudden, I'm starting fires in the microwave.


When I was about 10, we got our first microwave oven. My mom loved the speediness at which she could now cook--potatoes no longer needed an hour to bake, just pop them in the microwave for a few minutes and they're done! Personally, I preferred the chocolate chip bar cookies made from the recipe printed in the manual. In any case, one evening we were sitting down to dinner and my brother got a delivery call (he worked for the local pizza place a few nights a week). He dashed out the door leaving his food untouched. An hour or so later, we got a call that he was on his way home. My mom asked me to reheat his dinner for him in the microwave. I asked how long the potato needed to cook and I set the timer for the 15 minutes I thought she'd told me. About 8 minutes later, my mom glanced from the family room into the kitchen and saw flames shooting out of her new oven.

We were able to put the fire out quickly enough, and after a cleaning, the microwave looked almost as good as new. When my brother got home, we were all scratching our heads trying to figure out why the potato would just burst into flames like that. Mom must have asked me half a dozen times if I'd set the timer properly. I told her I had; I was sure of it. Finally, someone thought to simply ask me how long I'd cooked the potato. "Amy," Mom shouted, when I told her, "it only needed to be in there for three minutes!" Whoops.

The same thing happens, though, in conversation with spouses, parents, children, friends: I think I hear one thing, respond to it, and suddenly a burning argument needs to be resolved. Maybe one of these days, I'll learn to curb my temper and just ask, "Does this mean what I think it means?" before bursting into flames.

Saturday, December 15

Ramblin' Woman

I just checked the date of my last post and realized it's been nearly three weeks since I've written anything. It's been a crazy three weeks, so I'm only sharing the highest and lowest lights, not all the in-between days.

In good news, Adam has been getting a lot of calls for interviews lately. He finished his course with the executive coach he's been seeing and the new résumé really seems to be garnering more attention on the job sites.

Not so joyfully, I had another miscarriage. On the plus side, I had known I was pregnant and had a full week to enjoy the little life I carried. But a loss is still a loss and death is still death, even if it occurs before life legally begins. Grief is still grief. Life is still life, too, though, so I'm pointed forward again, at least.

I simply can't believe that Christmas is in less than two weeks. All of the Advent waiting that I had in mind when I wrote last has gotten a bit sidetracked amidst the chaos that has surrounded us the past few weeks.

Anyway, I mostly wanted to just check in and say I'm here and hanging in there. Let's see if I can get back to blogging a little more regularly again, shall we?