September 28, 2013

The Joy of Reading

I started this post on Facebook, and as I quickly approached 200+ words, I realized it might be a little intense for social networking. So, I decided to post here instead.  You know, so only a brave, few readers with thirty minutes to spare on a Saturday have to be bothered with this. Has anyone seen the Friends episode where Rachel writes Ross that 12 page letter? :) That's me (and Nick is Ross when I write a note to him) anytime I pick up a pen or start typing. I just get carried away. Apologies in advance. See?! I just took an entire paragraph to explain WHY I explain so much! Seriously? Anyways...

Last night marked the night the boys and I finished reading through the entire Little House on the Prairie series together. It was an exciting two-year journey. I feel like the Ingalls and Wilders are part of our family now. As we reached this milestone, I found myself reflecting on the impact reading has had in our lives. How our times reading together have been some of our best times together. Whether it is studying the Proverbs or character traits at breakfast, science at lunch, history huddled around my armchair, audio cd's in the car ("MILES MORGAN!"), or reading through a novel in their bedrooms at night; it has been not only an adventure, but a joy. The ironic part is, the more we read, the more we enjoy it. I have been taking my boys to the library since Gabe was a baby. After home and church, it is probably our most visited building wherever we are. Upon moving to Michigan, one of the first things I sought was a library card. Before we had a permanent address, before a drivers license or tag, before we even had our beds out of storage. We loved the quaint and cozy library at Auburn Hills. They even had fireplaces. In the children's section. We would stay there and read for a while, check out a boat-load of books, and then walk right around the corner to a nice playground and miles of beautiful forest and walking trails. Even though those were crazy times, (living in a third-story apartment, having just moved across the country, hubby with a new job, not knowing anyone or where we would live next) there were some great times for the boys and I. And our shared love of  reading was central to those times. And it still is today.

 I think this love of reading is generationally passed down. My Mom and Dad devour books. In fact, I think my Dad has an alphabetical list of all the books he has read. (Can you guess where I may have got my OCD tendencies from?) My grandmother is an avid reader and writer as well. My grandfather and her are some of the wisest people I know. Still sharp as tacks as they near 90 years old. We all give each other books for Christmas and birthday presents. We pass around favorite books from one member to the other. I peruse my parents' massive bookshelves for reading material all the time. We covet Encyclopedia collections. Just last night I found my seven-year-old duct-taping up the Kingfisher  History Encyclopedia, for the sixth time. At 10 p.m.

 And so, my children have seemingly "inherited" this lovely reading "gene". Is it nature or nurture? I don't know for sure. I would venture to say the love of reading is cultivated. My parents cultivated it in us, and we in turn have cultivated it in our children.

"Parents often ask me how I can study so many "how to teach" books. When the boys were young, I read nearby while they played in the creek or at the playground. Reading stories out loud to them every night improved my own reading, spelling, and literature analysis skills." Leigh Borton, "The Core".

 As the above quote emphasizes, we are not only enjoying the stories, we are learning. Learning and growing and having fun as a family. It is so simple, yet so valuable and precious to us. To look back at all the books we've read, and all the milestones of our life we have "read" through. To see our boys engrossed in books at night in their beds. To find our four-year old asleep with a 400- pg. science encyclopedia open on his chest. To sit in the library and be able to read through magazines, or a few chapters of my own book, while the boys look through books simultaneously along side me. To be able to travel fifteen hours in the van with only a few novels to listen to. (Another shared love between my family books. We love those little suckers.) Reading the children's version of Pilgrim's Progress to four little faces in awe of every word. These are some of the things we will treasure when the boys are grown.

So, now the question is...what series should we read next? Gabe suggested "Chronicles of Narnia". Even through he has already read through them himself. I have only read the first book myself! Henty books were mentioned. Hubby suggested Tolkien. Might be a little intense for a read-alout, but maybe ;) Catcher in the Rye, perhaps? Ha...only kidding. I do own the book, but will wait a little while. We have already read through most of E.B. White's books. We have recently started listening to The Boxcar Children series, and enjoy those. Any suggestions?

Start reading to them early and keep on reading. The rewards and benefits are too many to list. Do we still watch TV and movies at times? Yes, don't get me wrong. We love some Duck Dynasty, American Ninja Warrior, Turtle Man, and some good ol' Lost In Space dvd's. But, reading is our bread-and-butter. Think about it. How did God choose to reveal himself and His ways to us? Through written word. The greatest book ever, The Bible. Just a thought.

We are a family of readers. It's who we are. It may be considered "dorky" or just plain weird nowadays. But, I delight in that fact. It brings me great joy to see my boys love reading. When I feel like I'm failing at everything else, and our day has been chaos and meltdowns, there is always a book to enjoy at the end of the day. There is always THAT time at night together. We can forget our day and be transported to whatever time and place the book holds for us. I love my little captive audience of readers. Small victories. And the small victory of reading to your kids each day and cultivating that love of reading will invariably add up to huge victories in time. There is no greater gift, in my opinion, than this gift. I look forward to reading to my grandchildren, lord willing. Savor this wonderful joy of reading. You will never regret the time spent reading.

And that's all I have for today. I need to stop writing so we can get to the library. :) :)

March 12, 2012

A good, quick read in reference to my thoughts on birth control

I copied this from an email I got today from Vision Forum, and wholeheartedly agree!

The Obama administration’s war on life and babies has prompted widespread outrage. In response to President Obama’s mandate to Christian organizations that they must provide insurance to their employees that covers birth control contraceptives and the murderous “morning after pill,” key Christian leaders have fired back: “We’ll go to jail rather than comply.”Yet the Church is not without blame in this attack on life. For decades, Christian married couples — not just co-habiting partners — have embraced America’s culture of contraception. Husbands and wives have valued a larger 401(k) plan and the convenience of smaller families more than fruitfulness, choosing temporal niceties over the blessing of more children. While Christians are quick to define abortion as a “moral evil,” thwarting life through contraception has been excused and even praised as wise “stewardship.”This perspective flies in the face of historic Christian doctrine. For nearly six thousand years, believers viewed children as a reward of the Lord, and fruitfulness as a blessing to be desired. It was widely accepted that those who cut off their seed usually did so in violation of the express commands of God. Only in the last eighty years have child prevention and birth control become acceptable in the Church, beginning with the Anglican Church’s 1930 Lambeth Conference and followed by compromise from other denominations once the “Pill” was declared legal in 1960.While it is right to bristle at ObamaCare’s tyrannical mandates, it is also fitting that we examine our own hearts: Do we truly cherish the blessing of life, or have we been complicit in advancing a culture of self-imposed barrenness? When it comes to God’s gift of children, where do our priorities really lie?

April 7, 2011

EASY Couscous salad

This doesn't really have a name or an exact recipe....just kinda a throw-together kinda salad! This salad is truly easy and soooo healthy. There are so many different additions you can throw in with couscous. Try Parmesan, pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, any veggie really, and the great thing is, couscous cooks in five minutes! Alright, onto the ingredients that I used for this salad, but again, there is no set amount for any of these...just toss in to your taste! Tri-color couscous (I made about 4 cups of it) baby spinach 2 ripe avocados cherry or grape tomatoes EVOO red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar fresh juice and zest from one lemon salt and pepper Cook couscous, and dump hot couscous onto spinach in bowl (it will wilt quickly this way) add in the diced avocados and cherry tomatoes (I didn't have time to halve mine, but that would be preferable!). Toss together dressing ingredients (and whatever else floats your boat) and pour over salad. Chill or eat warm as is! Good either way. Note: I also cook the couscous in chicken broth for more flavor and sometimes add some lemon zest to the broth while it is coming to a boil. I have a picture of this on my facebook album "Adventures in Cooking". But, for some reason my card-reader on my printer is acting up....again. ughhh, so try to post a picture of the salad on here later!

March 11, 2011

Baked Beans!!

So, I had a revelation when I realized I could make baked beans from scratch! And....they are easy, cheap, and best of all...healthy! I'll spare you my lecture about the nutritional benefits of beans and just give you my recipe. However, the beans taste a little different each time I make them. You really can throw in whatever you like. Example...honey instead of sugar. More or less molasses, ketchup, etc. So, here goes...

Baked Beans
2 cups (1 16 oz bag) navy beans (NOT CANNED!! dry beans...that are like 89 cents!!)
1 small onion
about 5-6 (or 8 if you are bacon-lover like me) strips bacon
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 cup ketchup
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup molasses
1 tsp. dry mustard
mustard (optional)
pure maple syrup (optional)

Soak beans in water overnight (or can use "quick soak" method on back of bag). In morning rinse and cook in enough water to cover beans (about 5-6 cups water) about 1 hour or until tender. If you decide to cook these in a crockpot...DO NOT add the salt until the end of cooking. The beans will NOT get tender. (I speak this from experience!)
Then put beans and rest of ingredients (I do add the prepared mustard and maple syrup) into a 9x13 pan and cook at 350 for about 1.5-2 hours!
Great with cornbread muffins (maybe I'll put that recipe up later...but its on the back of the corn meal box)

November 5, 2010

The best way to use avocados!!

I found this recipe for fish tacos that had this amazing avocado cream sauce...oh my goodness! Sooooo easy and soooo delicious! It goes good on the fish tacos but is also a good dip and good with salsa!

Avocado Cream

2 RIPE avocados
1/2 - 1 cup sour cream
fresh cilantro (amount to taste...I like alot!)
juice plus zest of one lime
salt and pepper to taste

Put all ingredients into blender (or food processor) and add just enough EVOO to make it blendable. Pulse until smooth. Refridgerate and serve!

Could also use some chopped garlic or other fresh herbs to your taste in this! The lime zest and FRESH cilantro really make this "pop" so don't leave those out!!


September 24, 2010

Pumpkin Chip Muffins


4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 can (15 oz) solid-pack pumpkin
1-1/2 cups vegetable oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional: nutmeg,cloves)
1 tsp.salt
2 cups semisweet chocolatec chips

IN a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, sugar, pumpkin and oil until smooth (I use a hand mixer). Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon (and other spices if using) and salt; add to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Fold in chocolate chips. Fill greased or paper-lined muffins cups three-fourths full. Bake at 400 for 16-20 minutes or until muffins test done. Cool in pans 10 minutes before removing. Makes about 24 muffins! These also freeze well!

Note: I also add a dash of vanilla with the wet ingredients. And you don't have to mix the flour mixture seperate. I just add all the dry ingredients in after I have beaten together the wet ingredients.

August 13, 2010

My favorite Chicken Salad!!

Tarragaon Chicken Salad

recipe from Stephanie Nelson's book, "The Coupon Mom's Guide to Cutting Your Grocery Bills in Half"

3 large boneless chicken breasts (1.5-2 lb package)

3/4 cup Mayo

1/4 cup sour cream

about 1/4 cup fresh tarragon

1-2 stalks celery, diced

4 oz. red or green grapes, cut in half

1/4 cup toasted almonds or pecans (optional, I leave these out)

salt and pepper to taste

I usually poach the chicken, but you can also roast it. Then I dice very finely, but if you have a food processor, you could also use that to chop up the chicken. Just don't process it too much, you want some good chunks! That's why I like to cut mine up by hand! Then combine the chicken with all the other ingredients and chill.

I use extra mayo, sour cream, grapes, and celery, just because I like to make it taste real good :) The original recipe called for low fat mayo and sour cream, so feel free to use those if you like, but I prefer the real thing, fat and all! The fresh tarragon is really what makes it, so I put in alot! You can get it at Kroger or Publix, so it's not hard to find. You will want to pull all the skinny leaves off of the "stalk" (don't know what is called) of the herb, and then chop it up really well. It smells soooo good!

I like to serve this on those thin sandwhich rounds, but its also good with pita, or just eaten with a spoon!