The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. ~ Psalm 16:6 nasb

Monday, June 29, 2015

Music Times Two

Danny was asked to sing a duet with his friend Andy, who takes voice lessons from Thomas Seidel.  So past Saturday morning, Fernando and I attended the recital to hear them sing.

Andy sang a solo first.

A little bit later in the program, Andy and Dan sang The Lord is My Shepherd.

They sounded wonderful!  We were so blessed to hear them sing.

We had to sneak out of the recital early, race back home, get ready and drive out west for Aelsa's graduation celebration.  Aelsa is daughter of the B. family, whose church is Grace Church, which Allie attends (I'm so sure you're keeping track of all our friends and their connections!).

As part of Aelsa's celebration, she planned a musical program for us!

Aelsa and her brothers perform a trio.

Allie accompanied Aelsa on the piano.

After the music portion, we shared refreshments (of course!) then retired to the field across the street to watch some of the attendees play volleyball.  And we sat and chatted with each other for quiet a while.  We talked away the afternoon, and everyone was invited back to the B. family's home for pizza and more fellowship, which we happily did.

Today was a great day for celebrating the accomplishments of our young people--these guys and girls who grew up and are living their lives for Jesus.  I thank the Lord when I see how He has worked in each of their lives, whether academically, musically, or spiritually.

Back to life,

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Fathers Day

For Fathers Day, our family was invited to Shabbona Lake for the H. Family's cookout.  I'm so happy I get to spend time with my friend Becki, and that Jake gets to spend time with Allie!  I had never been to this forest preserve before, though I'd heard of it because Fernando has fished and hunted there.  The afternoon wasn't too hot, so we took a walk in the woods and along the lake together.  Everything was so green!

Strange things happen when I hand Fernando my camera.  I try to look natural, and always end up looking over-posed.  So, here I am, posed along the wooded path.

Isn't it so pretty in the woods?

Field of coneflowers.

Lake Shabbona.

Back at the picnic pavilion, I had a chance to take pictures of this cute baby!

And this cute couple, too!  Allie stuck out her tongue for me, just like her dad always does in pictures.

Isn't she adorable?

Jake crawled up beside Allie and I caught this cute shot of them.

My guys always give me weird looks when I'm behind the lens.  Goofy guys.

Allie's brother John.


We had a great time, and met lots of great people and had lots of fun.  I'm thankful we were invited to this special day.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Early June in the Garden

Time to check on things in my early June garden, now that convention is over and I can spend a bit of time out here.

I was so excited to see bean plants growing!  I haven't done green beans in a few years because of various issues, and I've done pole beans, not bush beans.  This year, I found packets of organic bush beans (French style), so I thought I'd try those.  I'll thin out these bushes a little bit to give them room to grow.  I tried to not plant them in rows, but do a zigzag plant, but alas, they look like rows still.  Oh, well.

Then it rained.  And hailed.

So, the next day I went back out.  The hail didn't really do damage.  These are Paul Robeson tomatoes, an heirloom variety.

See those green things below?  I'm going to have carrots this year!  --she says with great hope in her voice.

I've mentioned before about the strawberry plants being disobedient.  Here's proof:

They just wouldn't stay inside the wooden raised beds Fernando built for me.  They have no idea how to stay put.  At least we're reaping tons of strawberries from their disobedience!

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Monday, June 8, 2015


Right in the middle of convention, Danny started pet-sitting for the director of the health clinic where he volunteers.

Meet Daisy!

Daisy is a sweet, goofy yellow lab, who is shedding like nobody's business.  We have an incredible clean-up job once she's gone!  But she has been fun to take care of, especially when she's in a playful mood.  I'll let you know next week if we survive, or better yet, if she survives us!!

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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Convention Blessings

This year, Melinda Boring came back to present workshops for families who are homeschooling with struggling learners or special needs.  I have to tell you, I really love Melinda.  And she is anything but boring.  She stubbornly, willingly pours out her heart every minute of the convention, to make sure every person who comes to her is ministered to.  She even has her meals brought to her, so she doesn't take time out of talking to people.  That's just who she is, and she's pretty special.

I took just two quick pictures of Melinda's most popular workshop.  We crammed as many as we could inside the room, and several stood outside the doors or in the hallway.  This workshop was the same way when she came several years ago.  What a blessing that so many got to listen to her share her wisdom and knowledge!

For me, this year's convention was very different, in an amazingly special way.  I had a personal assistant!  Jake's girlfriend Allie came to stay with us for convention week, and she helped coordinate all of Melinda's workshops.  Jake was able to get Friday off (convention runs Wednesday night through Saturday afternoon), so he and Allie took over all my responsibilities.  There was a reason for this!

At our convention each year, Bret and Michelle set up a very special room called the Oasis.  It's quiet and peaceful, with beautiful little tables and chairs, with centerpieces and bowls with mints.  There's a larger table with helpful books, brochures, and pamphlets, and the Oasis is staffed with volunteers who are veteran homeschoolers who take the time to minister to anyone who walks in and has questions, needs help, or wants prayer.  Adrianne, my friend and "assistant" with all things special needs, usually spends all her time here throughout the convention, talking with parents who come in with questions regarding struggling learners or special needs students.  This year, however, she was rarely in due to her being ICHE's webmaster and having other very important duties.  Bret and Michelle let me know this, and since Jake and Allie handled the workshops, I could be in the Oasis.

I spent most of my time here, talking to person after person, couple after couple.  I was so blessed, even if I couldn't answer the specific questions.  Just to be a listening ear, a sympathetic heart, and a praying tongue to encourage those who came in--what a privilege to minister in this way.

Jake and Allie helped make that happen for me.  What a blessing those two were to me.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Healthy Strawberry Shortcakes

If strawberries could talk, they'd be shouting in a sweet-happy-excited voice, "Welcome to summer!  It's here!!"

They'd also be begging to be put into a shortcake with some whipped cream.  Please don't introduce them to Cool Whip.  They want the real thing.  Trust me on this; I heard it straight from the berries themselves.

That's a seven-quart bowl, right from my little garden.

Enough overflowing strawberry pictures.  On with the recipe.  The original recipe can be found here.  She has beautiful photography, too.  I use freshly milled whole wheat, and I have to note that this recipe makes about ten cakes, not six as the original recipe states.  Though maybe my biscuit cutter is smaller...

I don't add any sugar to my strawberries, either.  (Most recipes tell you to add sugar of some sort, then let them sit so they mellow and soften.)  I love my strawberries as fresh as possible, so they go straight into the shortcakes.

Another modification I made is to mix the egg and honey first, then mix the milk in.  Honey is sure hard to mix well with the cold milk.  I've noted that in the directions below.

Strawberry Shortcakes
Yield:  10 shortcakes

2 cups fresh whole wheat pastry flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed

1 egg
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup milk

Whipped cream

Preheat oven to 400°.  In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  In a small bowl, whisk egg and honey first, then add milk and whisk until smooth.  Stir into flour mixture just until moistened.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead gently until dough is smooth.  Pat dough into 3/4-inch thickness; cut with a floured 2-1/2-inch biscuit cutter.  Place on stoneware baking sheets (or parchment paper-lined sheets). Bake 12-15 minutes or until light brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.

For fresh whipped cream, pour a pint of heavy whipping cream into a chilled bowl (colder makes it go faster).  Add 2-4 tablespoons of sugar (I use cane juice crystals and "err" on the side of four tablespoons)) and a splash of pure vanilla extract.  Beat until thick and peaks form.

To assemble, split shortcakes in half.   Fill with whipped cream and strawberries.  Top with additional whipped cream.  And a strawberry or two.

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Monday, June 1, 2015

Skillet Cake

This is another recipe courtesy of the Penzey's Spices magazine.  Super easy, super moist and yummy, and easy to clean up.

It's called Skillet Cake because you make it right in the skillet--mix it, bake it, serve it.  Easy-peasy and it's so moist.

This is not a rich cake, but a great way to have a little piece of dessert, a little piece of sweetness after your meal (or before), without having the sweetness overwhelm you.  The frosting has a little coffee in it, so it really balances the cake well.  Which is great, because all good cake has frosting.

Skillet Cake
Yield:  10-12 servings

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder (I use Dutch-process)
1 cup sugar (I use cane juice crystals)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons oil (I used evoo without any taste issues)
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup cold water

Preheat oven to 350F.  Sift the dry ingredients together into a 10" cast iron skillet (also works well in an 8x8 baking pan).  Make three wells in the dry in the dry ingredients in the skillet.  Pour the oil in the first well, the vinegar in the second well, and the vanilla extract in the third well.  Pour the cold water over the top.  Stir with a fork until well blended.

Bake at 350F for 25 minutes.  Don't forget to use a hot pad or oven mitt when grabbing the handle of the skillet to remove it!  Let cool, then frost.

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons soft butter
dash salt
2 tablespoons brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature

Cream together the powdered sugar, cocoa, butter, and salt until well blended.  Add the coffee and mix well.  Spread over the cooled cake.

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