Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~ GK Chesterton

Friday, February 28, 2014


And . . . we merge Day 5 of 7 Posts, 7 Days with 7 Quick Takes Friday!  I'm tossing in my end-of-month garden views, as well!  

I was a bit afraid that the Garden Views: End of February wouldn't look all that different from Garden Views: End of December or Garden Views: End of January.  Happily, there are some differences, which goes to show that each month has its own beauty.

~ ONE  ~

The snow mound: a mere shadow of itself!

The last big snow was a big one, so despite one warm-up and a lot of warm rain, traces do remain.  This is what was left of the big mounds of snow that were created from shoveling the driveway.

~  TWO  ~



The hungry birds have just about emptied the cupboards.  No berries left on any of the holly bush; the privet is just about picked clean.  I can hear the robins every morning, now.  They must be eating other things.

~  THREE  ~


 This is the elderberry.  Not ready to burst for a while, yet, but the buds are more plump than they were.

~  FOUR ~

One lovely forsythia

Another lovely forsythia
 Views of forsythia bushes. I should make a cutting and force the blooms indoors.  They are getting that look my daughter calls "pretzel."  Indeed, they look like pretzel rods with big chunks of salt.

~  FIVE  ~

Native Grass

The grasses that provided some winter interest will be cut down in the next few weeks.

~  SIX  ~

Identify me!

Identify me!
I have not tried to identify this greenery.  It grows in the garden during cold months.  I guess you could call it winter interest, as well, but I always pull it up when the veg and herbs need planting.

~  SEVEN  ~

Spring will return!!
I tried my best to do the fancy editing things people do, where they circle parts of a photo, or put a giant arrow to highlight some object.  That's beyond my capabilities.  So, you'll have to do the work.  In the very center of this photo, you can glimpse a green triangular shape.  That is a daffodil!!!  At this moment, I am blocking from my mind what the daffodils look like in other parts of the world in which I have lived.  I am singing with happiness over this small sign that spring will come.  Soon.

7 Quick Takes ROCKS!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

7 Posts, 7 Days: Now we’re cooking!

Still hanging in here with Day 4 of 7 Posts, 7 Days!

Today I feature a recipe I made up all by myself.  This is big.  Typically, I am a baker who follows recipes with scientific precision.  Only recently have I been able to conjure up my own creations.  Then I write it down before I forget, since I’d never be able to replicate it!

This recipe was inspired by those microwave-cakes-in-a-coffee-cup recipes.  I prefer to use the microwave for reheating purposes, so I’m not fond of eating something that has been cooked entirely by the microwave. 

I needed to make cake for the members of the family who cannot eat chocolate or wheat flour.  So I considered the ingredients that are in many full-sized cakes and attempted to scale it down for a small batch of mini-cakes.   

N.B.: This is not health food.  This is not healthy.  It was for a birthday, so that those who have food sensitivities could indulge in a treat like the rest of the family!

We own some small metal baking pans, about 5 inches in diameter and 1.5 inches high.  Presumably, they are used for small tartelettes.  This recipe fills three of these little pans.

This goes by the prosaic name of. . . . 

wait for it . . .
Gluten-free, Legume-free, Nightshade-free Cake

Mix together with a fork:

1/3 cup butter, softened
4 TBL sugar

Stir in:

2 eggs

Pour on top of these and then stir:

2 TBL arrowroot powder
1 TBL tapioca flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla

Pour into the pans.  Grease, if the pans are not coated.  Bake at 350* for 15-18 minutes.  The cakes will test done, just as a standard wheat flour cake.  The result was a spongy textured cake.  Not grainy, as many gluten-free flour recipes.

I frosted our cakes with a raspberry buttercream frosting.  Yum!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

7 Posts, 7 Days: Playing

Welcome back to Day 2 of 7 Posts, 7 Days!

Neither toddlers nor teenagers are very terrifying to me, if I can keep in mind two things: proper sleep and proper nutrition. For me, the most difficult years are between the ages of 4 and 6.  Something happens to my kids at that phase that pushes the limits of my sanity.  But those other ages that have such a bad reputation, terrible twos or snarky and emotional teens, have not bothered me when I can keep ahead of the game with kids who are well rested and well nourished.

The well rested thing gets to be a bit of a challenge when children haven’t had enough physical activity during the day.  My children do have organized activities that help with their needs for some sort of physical outlet, but it is necessary to work something, anything, into the schedule, on days that they don’t.  Or on days when even dance class or baseball are not enough.  That goes especially during these cold, winter, housebound days.  My favorite plan: go do something outside.

I was thinking about this, after reading a post over at The Art of Simple.  Last week, when I was being driven crazy by the weather that was shifting from freezing rain to near-60 and back to cold again, there was posted Go Play Outside, from one of the Art of Simple contributors.  This article goes beyond the benefits to children’s physical health.  I’d like to share this quote:
“When a child is out in nature, all the senses get activated. He is immersed in something bigger than himself, rather than focusing narrowly on one thing, such as a computer screen. He’s seeing, hearing, touching, even tasting.

"Out in nature, a child’s brain has the chance to rejuvenate, so the next time he has to focus and pay attention, perhaps in school, he’ll do better…But even if kids don’t have any of the specific problems mentioned above, kids who don’t get out much lack the sense of wonder that only nature can provide.”

I like that. Observation has shown this to be true.  The kids go out to play, but the running around, biking, jumping rope, or scootering turns into something more soulful.  Suddenly, they are contemplating clouds, or the behavior of bugs, or watching how the remnants of snow melt away under the prodding of a bicycle tire.  The mind wanders."

Something clicked for me.  It isn’t just that the children are outside, tiring themselves out so they’ll rest properly, so that they’ll have a more pleasant disposition.  Rather, I believe that part of the “magic” worked on them is that the outside play is a bit of a retreat.  Yes, there is the physical component of play, but when left unimpeded, children at play have the chance to be contemplative, even if they don’t realize that’s what they’re doing.

I’m sure of this: children benefit emotionally and spiritually from unstructured play as much as they do physically.  I still believe that proper rest and proper nutrition are the keys to happy children, but perhaps the definition of “rest” should be broadened to include downtime, not just sleep time.    And, it’s a safe bet that adults benefit from such daily retreats, as well.  So, go play!

Monday, February 24, 2014

7 Posts, 7 Days: Writing to God

Welcome to any 7 Posts, 7 Days readers.  I look forward to reading your posts this week.
Today’s post is part of my newly hatched Monday Musings.

Recently, a friend presented the challenge of writing a poem to God.  I filed this in the back of my head, since I didn’t have any great lightning strikes of inspiration from the start.  But that changed the other day. 

I was reading a poem by St. Teresa of Avila, “In the Hands of God.”  If you follow this link, at Catholic Fire, you’ll find the poem in its entirety.  Here’s one part:

In Your hand
I place my heart,
Body, life and soul,
Deep feelings and affections mine,
Spouse – Redeemer sweet,
Myself offered now to you,
What do You want of me?

Throughout this writing, St. Teresa presents various contrasting scenarios that could happen in life. She repeats that, whatever happens to her, she will it accept unreservedly, “What do you want of me?”  She writes of abandoning her will to God, whether that means life or death, sickness or health, war or swelling peace, delight or distress . . .what do You want of me?

As I was reading the poem, I found myself agreeing with her sentiments.  Specifically, I was agreeing with the generalities: hunger/famine, darkness/sunlight . . . what do You want of me?  I reflected how, in the abstract, I can pray the same as Teresa.  “Yes, God, lead me where You want me to go.” 

Then I began to consider specifics, the things that apply to my life in a concrete way.  Will I have to wait for a dramatic event in order to surrender myself to God?  No! Heaven is full of saints (lowercase ‘s’) who lived ordinary lives, never having to practice heroic virtue in the face of famine or war or persecution.  Most of us are called to ask What do You want of me? under more ordinary circumstances than the extremes of famine or war.  Specific to me: sleepless nights due to a toddler who doesn’t seem to need sleep, frustration in meal planning for multiple people with differing food sensitivities, frustration from last-minute changes to my carefully crafted schedule of activities outside the home.  If I were to put any of these into a poem in which I promise to surrender myself to whatever God wants, would I be able to surrender as St. Teresa does?  [And why does it seem easier to promise to die for God, if a gun were put to my head, than it is to accept with grace a night of fitful sleep?  I suppose it is because that gun is not at my head and the poor sleep is a constant. That doesn't say much about my willingness to live a life for others and not self.]

A poem of my own began to form, as I considered the areas in life where I don’t always see the hand of God.  I do not accept my poor sleep with grace.  I stress out about food.  I have a fit if my carefully designed schedule needs adjusting.  If I were to pray this poem of Teresa’s with my own, concrete, ordinary, admittedly-first-world-problems, I would not be doing it honestly.  I have not surrendered myself in those myriad of ordinary ways that add up to a lifetime of selfishness or selflessness.

What is it for you? Difficult neighbors, unpleasant family members, obnoxious co-workers, chronic health issues, underemployment, and on and on?  I won’t be sharing my poem on the blog, as my areas of surrender or non-surrender include things more personal than the examples I’ve used this morning.  However, I pass along my friend’s challenge to you.  Write a poem to God, but with the twist of looking at your life through St. Teresa’s poem, “In the Hands of God.”

Yours I am, for You I was born:
What do You want of me?

Friday, February 21, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday

~  ONE  ~

So, I didn't realize, until I read it from Fr. Z., that it is considered poor etiquette to take photos of one's food and then post it on social media.  Well.  I guess this will be my way of sticking it to The Man.  Even if it is my own kitchen and my own food.

Pizza for those with special dietary needs.  Gluten-free on the right.  Legume-free and nightshade-free on the left.  That one on the left was superb!  I cannot wait to do it again!  Just a butter/garlic mixture on the crust, topped off with sauteed bacon, mushroom, onion, and spinach.  A bit of freshly grated parmesan topped it off, once it was baked.

~  TWO  ~

Crazy glue.  It is crazy.  It is glue.  Discuss.

Am I the only person who seems to run into trouble every. single. time. I attempt to use super glue?  One week on, the spot is still sort of there on my index finger . . .

~  THREE  ~

In the car, driving away from home, with the subdivision still visible across the snowy expanse of fields:

6-year-old: Look!  I can see our neighborhood!

2-year-old:  I can see the 'hood!

~  FOUR  ~

I have been on a purging frenzy lately.  Is it the cabin fever, from being indoors?  I just hate clutter.  Truthfully, I hate things that aren't technically clutter.  I'm feeling stressed out by napkin baskets and salt & pepper shakers.  I'm not sure why.  But perhaps I should be more sympathetic towards my two-year-old, when she's (yet again!) taken off everything down to the diaper.  Things can weigh a person down!

~  FIVE  ~

Meteorologists.  Grrr.  I was looking forward to getting outside, the actual out-of-doors, for a run this week, what with the weather taking a turn for the better.  But then they predicted thunderstorms and I decided to choose my first outdoor run for the season to be on a day less hazardous to one's physical well-being.  Except that all day long, the timing of that highly anticipated and predicted thunderstorm kept being put off another hour, and another hour, and another hour. I could have run out of doors; I didn't.  I think the weather (and maybe meteorologists) deserves its own post, one of these days.

~  SIX  ~

From the files of "obscure-but-witty," check out this from Ilvys, of "The Fox" fame.  Not everyone will appreciate the language, so I'm giving that warning.  But it's funny!  I promise, you don't even have to be up on your Norwegian politics to get it!

~ SEVEN ~ 

Jennifer Fulwiler is proposing another 7 Posts in 7 Days Challenge. The fact that I'm making this one of my Quick Takes means that I am thinking about it.  Tune in!

Thanks, Jen, for hosting another 7 Quick Takes Friday!  Welcome to all Conversion Diary readers!