Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Art Prize Part Two

I know Art Prize has been done for a week and a half, but I still wanted to share these photos. For my own enjoyment and future reference. I'm mean-who does scrapbooking anymore? It's all on the blogs.

So, the grand prize winner was a box thing with scroll work that had a light bulb in it. It had to do with something Islamic. It was pretty, but I didn't make it in to see it again-thus no picture.

I feel that we covered a lot of ground at Art Prize this year, in between our 5 trips. We saw lots of good art, and lot of meh art. It's all taste. 

There were more 2D entries than any previous year. Paintings, drawings, photographs, mosaics and murals. It was fun to see the variety of mediums and techniques. I'm definitely inspired again. To make sure my kids get some art in their education.

Without further ado...
4000 paper origami cranes. The different groups represent the seasons.

tiny cranes. 

the Blue Bridge on a fall day at Art Prize

random, modern, cool

Freckles chilling out between exhibits

the girls drinking Starbuck's caramel apple cider

one of the top 3-D entries. Molded glass. Scene from Lake Michigan.

the kids like touching that says it is OKAY TO TOUCH.

a rather realistic painting

a top entry in the time lapse category. music, quotes and scripture. Light out of darkness.

an set of pencil drawings of soldiers.

3D winner. whimsical.

I love watching the turtles every summer at the outdoor concerts we attend. These reminded me of them.

This sculpture's message-you can reach your goals. It may be hard, but just keep climbing.

this one is called heart. A mom and a daughter. Love it.

this is a chalk drawing. Incredible!

a kiragami eagle

reminded me of ancient Greek or Roman art

eagle and the cat

carved from one piece of wood.

I really liked this painting. It is something I'd hang in my home.

cranes from the earlier exhibit. I'm just too lazy to fool with moving it.

a marble octopus. I love the colors in the marble.

this is an ink drawing. Kids and pasta. I'd also display this one.

moving in its own weight. rather like kinetic balls or something.

no commentary. just interesting. variety.
Another year, another dollar...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Go Ahead: Question God

(please don't call fire and brimstone down on my head for blasphemy...)

Trust in Him at all times; ye people, pour out your hearts before Him: God is a refuge for us. (Psalm 62:8)

I've been thinking about this idea as I have been studying Moses in BSF. I am always amazed as I read Exodus 3-6. Moses has a lot of questions. Some of them seem rather ridiculous. Personally, I'd categorize a whole lot of them as stupid questions.

But, God didn't.

God patiently answered Moses's questions. Because all Moses did was verbalize what was on his heart. The majority of the questions reveal a lack of wisdom, not a lack of faith.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally, and upbraids not; and it shall be given him. (James 1:5)

God already knows our questions. He already know our hearts. He knows the things that we aren't even willing to acknowledge to ourselves. God knows everything about everything. Everything.

So, when we pour out our hearts to God we are being vulnerable. We are being honest-with ourselves. We are making a conscious choice to depend on God and not ourselves.

God, our Refuge.

Interestingly enough, God answers question after question, challenge after challenge, from Moses in chapters 3-4, until the very last one. Which was basically a plea.

Just send someone else. Please.

This was the tipping point. This is where God got angry. Why? It wasn't because there were too many questions and God was tired of answering them.

Moses's questions had become a stall tactic. He moved from the perspective of faith, obedience and needed wisdom to stalling in unwillingness to obey and in lack of faith.

Stall tactics are not cool.

I think of Meres. She is put into bed every night. She has had a drink, went potty, brushed her teeth, had a story, been prayed over, and is all tucked in. But, she doesn't want to sleep. She doesn't want to be obedient. So, she stalls. She needs a drink. She has to go potty. She wants a book. Then she needs re-tucked in.

She is stalling.

God welcomes all of our questions and ugliness that comes out of a desire to obey. God doesn't appreciate our stall tactics.

A prime Biblical example of this idea is found in Luke 1. Mary and Zacharias. They both are visited by an angel. They both ask very similar questions...How shall I know this? I'm old. and How will this be since I am a virgin? 

They are both viable challenges. They are both legitimate questions.

Mary's was asked in faith. (Luke 1:28)  Zacharias' was asked in unbelief. (Luke 1:20)

God knows what is really behind our questions.

So, ask your questions. God knows them anyway. But, as you are asking, let God work in your heart. Allow Him to weed out and expose any unbelief. Ask your questions from a position of faith and obedience.

Lord, help my unbelief.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Recipe: 6 Ingredient Panna Cotta

It was my birthday this week. And it was a good birthday. My bff gave me a gorgeous white bowl for food photography (and for food serving, of course=)). My (favorite) sil brought me a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting piled high with chocolate shavings. She knows my love language-chocolate.

The kids were good-on my birthday. Which is always a bonus. The older I get and the older my kids get, the more I empathize with my mom's annually stated wish. All she wanted for her birthday was good kids.

I got to go shopping this week. Because birthdays bring awesome coupons! World Market. Ulta. Panera bread. Kohls. Goodwill. Ironically enough, I spent the same amount at both Kohls and Goodwill. Except at Kohls I left with 4 shirts. At Goodwill I scored a pair of shoes, 7 pairs of jeans, 1 pair of dress slack, 2 dresses, and 4 shirts. That's some savvy shopping right there.

I also finally figured out what I am wearing to my blogging conference next week. And on vacation the following week. If the forecast remains the same. I am pretty proud of how light I am envisioning my suitcase. I guess we will see if it actually ends up that light.

I made 17 quarts of applesauce this week, and I am supposed to be making another 9 quarts today. I wanted to get the apples done that I bought earlier this month. And get them done before my vacation. But, 26 quarts is hardly enough for this family, so I will be buying and processing another 2-3 bushels when we get home.

I also made a lot of new recipes this week. Because it is dual homework for She Plans Dinner. I need to make sure these recipes I am sending out are actually good. And, I need to take pictures of all this food so everyone knows what the end product is supposed to look like. 

One of the new recipes was this Panna Cotta. I had Panna Cotta at the retreat I spoke at last month and I was pretty impressed. Which is actually surprising because I am not the biggest fan of pudding type desserts. I like substance.

But, this rule has been bent for flan and now for Panna Cotta. 

Panna Cotta is an Italian custard that is not baked because it has no eggs. It is fairly fail-proof, using only 6 ingredients. A main one being unflavored gelatin, which is going to make the stuff set, come hell or high water.

So, you have heavy cream, sugar, milk, unflavored gelatin and vanilla. Pretty simple flavors. Top it with a ganache garnished with mint leaves and raspberries, and you have a stunning dessert that was no sweat!

Panna Cotta
1/3 cup skim milk
1 (.25 oz) package of unflavored gelatin
2-1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup white sugar
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy cream

-In a small bowl, mix the milk and gelatin. Set aside.
-In a saucepan, brin the heavy cream and sugar to a boil, watching carefully and stirring occasionally so it doesn't boil over. Add the gelatin mix, and cook an additional minute. Remove from heat.
-Stir in the vanilla.
-Place the saucepan in a bowl of ice to lower the temperature quickly. Stir every 3-5 minutes, until at room temperature. (about 10-15 minutes)
-Pour into 4 or 8 ounce ramekins. You should get 4-6 panna cottas depending on how much you put into each container. (you can make them as big or small as you want) Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.
-To make a ganache, heat the heavy cream and chocolate chips until the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth. Spoon carefully onto the panna cotta and return to the refrigerator.
-If desired, garnish with raspberries or strawberries and mint leaves.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Getting Rid of (Positive) Labels

I recently heard someone say, "they only liked me because I ______." While the truth was actually the opposite, the person had reason to feel that way. They had been labeled. Niched.

We all know the devastating effects of negative labeling. Fat, ugly, dumb, short...These words can shape an impressionable soul-forever.

But, we rarely consider the negative effects of positive labeling. Because even though positives focus on positives and strengths, they often only focus on one or two facets of our personalities or skill set. Thus labels can end up being stifling and limiting. What if you want to try out new horizons? Raise the bar? Branch out into other areas of service?

You've been boxed, and niched, and nicely labeled.

Please just stick with what you are good at.

Athletic. Book worm. Pretty. Skinny. Independent. Strong. Good with kids. Decorator. Artistic. A good cook. Organized. Musical. High energy. Smart. Fashionista.

Labels can discourage growth. Labels can cause us to settle. Labels keep us from discovering something that we might actually like or be good at. Labels give information, but not the whole picture.

Positive labels can even blind us to the needs in the person we are labeling.

Maybe the always put together mom desperately needs a day out without her kids. Maybe she is struggling to get it all done and to not be held hostage to her own expectations. Maybe the artistic woman needs a friend. Maybe the fashionista wants to be known for her heart and not her style.

Positive labels emphasize the gifts of God, but forget the calling of God. (the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable...) Labels make the assumption that God would never call us to something that we can't handle or that we aren't gifted in.

But God calls us to do all sorts of things so we can be stretched, molded and turned into Christ's image. God calls us to ministries where we have no skill so the power is obviously all of God and none of us.

So, how can we speak life into people and encourage their strengths without labeling, while giving room for growth and new experiences and cultivation? How can we encourage each other to stretch our wings and fly?

We can: Listen more than speak. Listen for understanding and not to give advice or be heard ourselves. Listen to hear what the person is saying and not saying. We can: Allow room for both successes and failures.

What's the worst that could happen from trying?

What's the best that could happen from trying?

Are you guilty of labeling someone-either negatively or positively? How can you breathe life into their dreams and life this week?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

36 Lessons for 36 Years

I'm getting older. Hopefully I'm getting wiser.

In honor of the 36th anniversary of my entrance to this terrestrial sphere...36 Lessons I've learned. (in no particular order of importance)

1. Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

2. Anything done well takes effort. And sometimes sweat, blood, tears, and pain. But, it's worth it. (see #1)

3. There can be too much dark in chocolate. As attests the 95% cacao bar in my fridge. (it's been there for months)

4. 75% cacao is about the perfect ratio of light to dark.

5. It is possible to acquire a taste for other wines besides the "girly" wine Moscato. A monthly wine membership is a helpful vehicle towards that end.

6. Life dreams emerge, change and grow or fade as time passes.

7. Poetry is worth reading.

8. Clip-in bicycle shoes are both a blessing and a curse.

9. Laugh out Loud. It's good for the soul.

10. There's no place like home.

11. Home is where your people are.

12. Loving someone well requires self-knowledge and them-knowledge.

13. Running in a torrential downpour is a blast!

14. Parenting preteens is awkward.

15. Learning Spanish makes my brain hurt. Moy bien?

16. Drinking wine makes my skin flush. Cheeks. Décolletage. You can always tell when I've been nipping the cooking sherry.

17. Friendship pops up in unexpected places.

18. It is better to give than to receive. Less disappointment.

19. Technology is grand, but there's nothing like a thick spiral bound notebook and ink pen for dreams and plans and goals and lists and schedules.

20. A good camera makes all the difference.

21. A good lens makes that much more of a difference.

22. Sometimes meat can taste good with fruit. Hello, Chicken Mole!

23. If there is a beautiful pair of tall boots at the second hand store that look like they have never been worn-there might be a reason for that. Take it from the person who couldn't get her great buy completely on (or off) without assistance...

24. There is nothing (nothing!) funnier than I Love Lucy reruns. Good, clean humor.

25. You can't go wrong with a little black dress-or 5.

26. No matter how much I might want that peasant blouse to look nice on me-it never will.

27. Freshly grated parmesan is a far superior product to the powdery stuff sold in the aisle by the pasta. It is worth the splurge. Every time.

28. Dust if you must-and only if you must.

29. Sometimes a book is not worth finishing. It's okay to not finish it.

30. Always cook with an apron on.

31. You can teach a dog new tricks. (see # 15)

32. I don't like to be surprised.

33. Don't ever buy a brand new car.

34. Intangibles are far more valuable in the long run than the tangibles. Invest time and money and effort in them.

35. Pick your battles.

36. Learn from the past. Live in the present. Have boundless hope for the future.

Happy October 15! 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Getting Hooked on Reading

Looking over the past month, I can pick out several triumphs. Triathlons. Half-marathon. Running every day (so far) in October. New She Plans Dinner subscribers. Finishing up 6 weeks of school.

But, none registers as much as a certain one...

Freckles found his love of reading.

If you are a teacher or a parent, you probably understand why I am uber excited about this.

See, almost any teacher or parent can teach the mechanics of teaching. Phonics. Word families. Dick and Jane. We can set a good example by reading books ourselves. We can build a good foundation by reading aloud to the kids.

But, each and every child will struggle through reading until they are hooked. They will read because it is required, not for the love of it.

Until they find that book or series that catches their interest enough that they will read and read any chance they get.

The book they can't put down. The book that is more interesting than playing outside or than watching movies. The book that is the first tangible step to a life-long love of reading.

Freckles discovered his hook within the past month.

It was in the form of the Percy Jackson series. (for those of you who have never read them, it's a modern series about teenagers with lots of Greek mythology mixed in.)

He had read the entire first series (5 books) in the past month. This is unheard of for him. He'd rather be doing about anything, but reading. This month I keep stumbling upon him reading. In his bed. On the floor. Eyes moving back and forth. Lips silently mouthing the words.

This truly makes my heart happy.

Another reader has been born.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Recipe: Chicken Black Bean Burritos

It has been a week. A week of rest and recovery. A week of catch-up and work. We finished our 6th week of school. Already! Time is flying.

I am officially resting my shoulder from my two falls-one on the bike and one while running. So, no biking or swimming for a while. Now is the perfect time to heal it. Triathlon season is over with. Training can be scaled back without repercussions. Instead of swimming and biking I entered an October challenge. Run or walk at least one mile per day. It doesn't sound like much-unless it is a torrentially rainy and cold, busy campout weekend. Saturday night found me pacing my house at 10:45 to get in a mile. The things I agree to do...

I played with my camera and my food and the light the other evening. My food photography class was helpful enough, but I think a lot of it is just going to be trial and error. And asking for a butcher block something or other for my birthday or Christmas to use as a neutral back ground. My good winter light is in my living room-on my buffet-with a bright white top. Not the  best surface for food photos.

I finished a book this week. I have had 4 brand new releases on my bedside. I had to return one, but I was able to renew the other three. I got one finished (Lisette's List), and am hoping to finish the other two over my vacation-if not before. Those would be both Diana Galbadon's and Clive Cussler's newest offerings.

This weekend promises to be sunny though cool and fairly not busy. Mr. Hippie is preaching at church on Sunday morning and we will be heading to Art Prize one last time for this year. Other than that, I see lots of sleeping and reading and just hanging out in the forecast.

This recipe is easy, and it puts your slow cooker to work. First do a batch of black beans. You could even cook them on low overnight. And then cook the chicken the next day. Voila! Food cooked while you sleep...

This is a fairly healthy recipe. I swapped out the tortillas for Romaine lettuce leaves on for my Fit & Healthy plan. Feel free to use tortillas or lettuce as you will.

Slow Cooker Beans
1 pound dry beans
6 cups water
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
1-1/2 tsp salt

-Wash and sort the beans. Place in the slow cooker with 6 cups of water and the bay leaf.
-Peel and halve the onion. Add to beans. Crush the garlic clove with the flat side of a knife blade and remove the peels. Add to the beans.
-Cook the beans on high for 6 hours or until tender. Add the salt and allow to cool. Can freeze in recipe size portions. (1-1/2 cups of beans equals 1 [15.5 oz] can of beans.

Chicken and Black Bean Burritos
2 pounds chicken breasts
4 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp water
1-1/4 tsp salt
1-1/4 teaspoon cumin
2 onions, sliced
2 green bell pepper, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
12 to 18 flour tortillas
12-18 large romaine lettuce leaves
2 tomatoes
2 green onions
3 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
2 (15 oz) cans black beans or 3 cups homemade black beans
1 tsp cumin
1 jalapeño pepper (opt)
3 Tbsp water

-Slice the onions and green peppers. Mince the garlic.
-Place chicken breasts on the bottom of a slow cooker. Add the butter, water, salt, cumin, onions, green pepper, and 3 garlic cloves on top of the chicken breasts. Cook on low for 8-9 hours or on high for 5 hours. When meat is cooked through use a knife and fork to shred it.
-In a medium skillet, combine beans, water, jalapeño pepper and 1 tsp of cumin. Mix well and heat until hot.
-Chop the green onions and tomatoes.
-To serve, layer tortillas with a lettuce leaf, chicken mixture, bean mixture, green onions, tomatoes and cilantro. Fold.

So, I forgot to serve mine with both the cilantro and the green onions. And I even had remembered to buy the green onions. Oh well...

Have a wonderful fall weekend!