Sunday, December 20, 2009

Family Portrait 2009

We had a Cook Family photo session today, and it was pretty fun. Weslee wasn't sure about it at first, but we found a little hat that fit him there, and he just loved it. He did really well for his individual pictures! Here are the pictures of our family:

Where's the Baby?

The other day Ken and I were in the living room when I realized I hadn't heard Weslee playing for a little while... I listened carefully and suggested Ken might want to check out the bathroom, because I heard the distinct sound of a toilet paper roller being turned. Ken went in, and this is what he found...

Dad! Let me show you what I can do...
TOILET PAPER!!!!!!!!!!
Aren't I just the cutest :)

Luckily, he only got the end of a toilet paper roll, so it wasn't such a big loss. First yarn, now toilet paper. The kid likes to unravel things! We usually have the bathroom door closed to prevent things just such as this. I'm a little more vigilant now, checking and double checking that the door has actually clicked closed when I pull it.

More December Pictures

Opening his first present (actually Mom's present) and playing with the paper
Mmmm, block!
Pat, pat, pat!
Dancing at the church Christmas program while Grandpa avoids flailing arms
Playing with a hat and bucket Aunt Melissa gave him to pass the time at the portrait studio

December Pictures

Getting into mischief with Dad
Babies and cats have the same reaction when they find yarn
Looking at his book
He loves sitting next to people on the couch
Excited about the camera

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Baby Blanket

I felt like crocheting yesterday, and when I got my yarn down I found a partially finished baby blanket I had started for Weslee last year. He's too big for it now, so I went ahead and made it into a girly blanket by adding some crocheted flowers. It's a very light mint green, with white trim and green & white flowers on it. It'll work perfectly for a smaller baby.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Baked Oatmeal

My dear friend Crystal over at Serving God and Family has been making this baked oatmeal for a while, and I've been drooling every time she talked about it. She finally posted the link to the recipe, and I was all too happy to try it. I'd never had baked oatmeal before, but it's really quite something. It's not mushy oatmeal, but crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. I think it's meant to be served with milk, more like a cereal. You can find the recipe here at All Recipes.

I modified the recipe a bit because I wanted to make honey almond baked oatmeal. I didn't have any eggs, so I used about 1/4 Cup homemade applesauce mixed with about 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil. I substituted about 1/8 Cup honey for some of the brown sugar (though I would increase it for more of a honey flavor next time). In addition to the cinnamon, I also added ginger, nutmeg and a pinch of cloves (I put these four spices in any sweet thing I can). To give it a nice crunch I added about 1/3 Cup chopped almonds (I think I would also increase this next time). I omitted the dried cranberries as well.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Becoming... who?

I have awesome parents. They are kind, giving, loving. I don't ever remember being in want of anything in life growing up. My family is unique... we all live in the same area, and we like hanging out together. We have family dinners pretty regularly, and some of us go to church together. My parents have taught me so much in life.

However... yes, here comes the "but"... somewhere along the line I missed the lessons on how to be a proper wife and mother. I gave into the worldly thinking that I needed to break free from my family to "find myself" and "experience life". I spent much of my later years at home trying to force my opinions on others and create my own rules at the expense of others'. I missed out on what were probably the most valuable lessons of all.

My dad is an original. I've never met another man like him, and I don't expect I ever will. He does more than anybody I know. When I was little, it was he who cooked and cleaned the house, and that was after working a day at a high school. My mom worked later hours, being a teacher at an elementary school. I grew up with an (unrealistic) expectation of men that I didn't even know I had until after I was married and realized my husband had never cleaned a bathroom in his life.

I can't remember anybody ever telling me that men didn't know how to keep house... I certainly don't remember being taught that I would be the one who needed to do it. I had those feminist ideals of equality, and even superiority to men. Media and friends supported the idea that men were oafs who needed to be changed and molded to be better people, and to care for their wife as she pleased.

I didn't even want children when I got married. I figured if I had to have them, I would adopt, since my parents adopted me. I prepared to prevent, instead of preparing for the possibility that God would choose to bless us with children. Another mistake on my part.

I feel like the past several years of my life have been those of self-discovery in the real world. Trying to get an education, make friends, and break free of my family wasn't reality. Working to maintain a marriage, raise a child, and keep a home- that's the real world. Sometimes I can't fathom why it's so difficult. Nobody took the time to talk to me about what marriage is like. Passing comments about "marriage isn't easy" or "finances are the number one cause of marital strife" doesn't educate a young woman on how to have a successful marriage.

As a result, I've had my share of blunders, and outright failures. I've had heartache that could have been avoided had I been better prepared. I find that now I'm very honest with those who are preparing for marriage or who want to be married someday. I figure they need to know the whole truth about the not-so-pretty side of being a wife and mother. I don't want them to become disillusioned when they find that it's not all about them, and it's not always happy.

That all being said, I believe that we have a serious lack of women in the Church who are willing to fulfill their biblical role to mentor the younger women as instructed in Titus 2:

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled."
-- Titus 2:3-5

We have fallen prey to the worldly belief that we don't need to help others. I think it's a disgrace that a young Christian woman cannot find a mentor in her church- I have heard that story from too many women my age. Mentors don't have to be perfect, they just need to love God's Word and desire to follow Him. God will use them to His glory.

If we have so many women who don't see themselves fit to fulfill their biblical roles, then we have a greater problem than selfishness. We have a failure of the church in the area of discipleship. The Great Commission has more than one part to it:
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."
-- Matthew 28:19-20

What good have we done for the Lord if we haven't completed the Great Commission He gave us? Have we really even carried out His instructions if we fail to teach those who believe, and in effect have therefore failed to make disciples?

I'm not perfect- and I'll be the first to admit it. I fail, and I repent, and I know I'm going to fail again. Growing in holiness is a lifetime process, and it will not end until this life has ended and this sinful world has passed away. I do believe that we have a responsibility as Christ followers to invest in the lives of other Christians- to care about them, to desire that they know the Lord more thoroughly. We should all want that of ourselves and those we know. Why just care about the unsaved?

So please, if you are an older Christian woman, love your daughters and sisters- teach them as the Lord has commanded, and help them in their walk to becoming the women God has called them to be. Younger Christian women, don't follow in my first footsteps- be respectful of your elders, listen to the wisdom they have to give, and follow the instructions God has left you.

There is no higher calling than that of the feminine role God has laid out before you. Revel in the love of the Creator who made woman unique and separate from man, who created us as a helpmeet, a completion. We, in our submission paired with the authority of our husbands, show the relationship between Christ and the church. Let us not bring blasphemy upon His holy name, but instead strive to glorify Him in all of our ways.

"...let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening."
-- 1 Peter 3:4-6

Pan Grilled Chicken with Apple-Onion Sautee

Tonight's recipe is the result of a last minute meal fix. Ken tried a "roasted chicken breast with marmalade recipe" and needless to say, the recipe was a disaster. After nearly losing lunch from tasting some of it, to the smoke alarms going off, I feel pretty accomplished for pulling a success out of the hat tonight.

2 Boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/5 Onion, diced small
2 Apples, diced
1/2-1C Apple juice

Season chicken breasts with salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder to taste. Cook in a lightly oiled skilled until golden on both sides and cooked through. In a bigger pot, cook onions in a little olive oil until translucent, add a little salt, pepper, and garlic (I used powder, but would entertain the real thing next time). Add chopped apples and sautee for a few minutes, then add apple juice. Increase heat to high and let the liquid reduce by half. Add chicken breasts on top and reduce heat to medium/medium high. I started stirring the apples around the chicken so the chicken would absorb a good amount of the flavor. Cook down until the liquid is gone, apples are soft and starting to caramelize.
We served ours with herb & butter boxed rice, and it was fantastic. I'll definitely be making it again, intentionally next time. :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ken's Pancakes

Ken makes the most interesting pancakes I've ever had. He doesn't put any leavening agent in them like other pancakes, so they are thinner (like a crepe) and more dense than your average pancake. My favorite thing is that they are slightly sweet and buttery- I like to eat them plain, as well as with toppings.

11.5oz Flour (A little more than 2C)
2.5oz Granulated Sugar (Between 1/3C and 2/3C
2C Milk
2 Large Eggs

Sift flour, add sugar. Add wet ingredients and stir until well incorporated. Batter will be slightly lumpy. Preheat skillet on medium heat (level 5 on our stove). Melt a little butter to cover the pan. Add 2/3C batter for large pancakes and 1/3C for smaller pancakes. Before flipping, add a little butter around the edges of the pancake. You'll know it's ready to turn when the edges turn slightly tan. It takes about a minute for the first side and less than a minute for the second. Pancakes should be slightly golden- pay attention, they burn quickly.
Serve warm plain or with desired toppings- we add butter and syrup or butter with cinnamon and sugar. They also work well with fillings. Enjoy!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bagel Chips and Dip

Ken and I decided to try making bagel chips last night with some leftover onion bagels we had. These chips are great for snacking on or taking to parties. After they're baked, they keep really well in a resealable plastic bag. To make them:

Bagel of your choice (we used onion, and found that one bagel, sliced, fit on one sheet pan)

Slice bagel in 1/4" rounds, butter and place on sheet pan. Bake at 325F for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from sheet pan. Makes 20-24 chips, depending on the size of your bagel.

Sour Cream
1-2tsp Garlic Powder
1-2tsp Dill

Stir a few tablespoons of sour cream in a small dish with garlic and dill. You can add the spices to taste, this amount makes enough for one or two bagel's worth of chips.

My Mornings

I don't know if I'd say that I'm a morning person, but I have certainly been forced to become one if I wasn't already. Weslee is a great sleeper; he sleeps right around 12 hours a night. The funny thing is that he usually goes to sleep around 5pm... which means he's awake before 6am. That means mom is up before 6am each morning, even if she was able to sleep in.
I have to say the mornings redeem themselves when I get to hang out with my little guy. Today Weslee and I got up at 6am and let Ken sleep in. We played a little, then Weslee played while I cleaned the kitchen and made muffins, we snuggled and Weslee fell asleep, and now we are sitting together on the couch. He is carrying on some sort of enlightening conversation with me, which is very cute.
Just us, the Pandora Christmas playlist, and some gusty arctic wind. Have I mentioned lately how much I love this little bundle of joy he Lord has blessed us with?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Cook or Be Cooked

After prolonged prompting from Ken, I've started a food blog called Cook or Be Cooked. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Baked Acorn Squash

Ken picked up a couple of acorn squash from the store the other day, and I needed to do something with them before they went bad. I decided to bake them with butter and brown sugar, which I always find delicious. Here is what I did:

2 Acorn Squash, halved and gutted
Score the flesh with a paring knife (this allows the buttery goodness to soak in and makes it easier to remove after it's cooked)
Spread 1-2 Tbsp room temperature butter on each half (the back of a spoon works well for this)
Pack 2-3 Tbsp brown sugar on each half over the butter
Place halves in a 9x13 baking dish and bake at 350F for 45min to 1 hour. Squash is done when the flesh is soft when a fork is inserted. To serve, I put a squash half in a bowl, run a knife around the outside to separate the flesh a little, and put a bit more brown sugar in the melted butter to make a nice sauce. Leftovers can be covered and refrigerated, then reheated in the microwave or oven.

Chicken & Rice Soup

Winter is the perfect time for soup! I've been having fun making up soup recipes, and this chicken & rice soup is my version of something that was served at our church's Community Kitchen. I must say, I think my version tastes a bit better. I had a lot of time to let it sit, though. I ended up with a ton of soup, so I took some to my sister, who seems to be fighting some kind of cold like Weslee and I are. I don't usually measure my recipes, but here is a rough estimate of what went into the soup:

Boil 2 chicken breasts in a big pot(I tossed a little salt and pepper in the water, and probably had 8-10 Cups water)
Cook 2 Cups Rice (I have a rice cooker, so I did the chicken and rice at the same time)
1/5 Onion, chopped
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 Whole Carrots, diced
Spices to taste
6-8 Bouillon cubes (I put in a few less than the amount for the water I had)

Remove chicken from water, set on cutting board to rest. Strain water from pot into another container. In pot, add a couple teaspoons olive oil, saute onions, garlic and carrots. Add seasonings. Slowly add a few cups of water, adding each when the previous water returns to a boil. Add bouillon cubes as water boils. When you've added about 6 cups of water, start adding spoonfuls of rice. When rice has been added, chop chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to pot. You may need to add more water, depending on how much the rice has absorbed. The starch from the rice will thicken the soup. Let soup simmer for 1/2-1 hour to let flavors meld.

Like I said, the recipe is not exact, but just a rough estimate of what I did. Experiment with it to figure out what you like best. I served it with some garlic bread, but that's not a requirement. It's really a stand-alone meal, as well. It's a great alternative to chicken noodle soup, and was very soothing to my cold.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Love, the Gospel, and Service

What is love? 1 Corinthians 13 describes love as follows:

"Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails."
-- 1 Corinthians 14:4-8 (NASB)

We often overlook the beginning of the chapter which says:

"If I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing."
-- 1 Corinthians 14:1-3 (NASB)

The passage seems to be discussing our actions, and clearly indicates that they must be acts of love, since love is also an action. Without love, nothing we do matters, and it is not pleasing to God.

That said, we are incapable of love. Love by God’s standard is impossible for us to accomplish on our own. The unbeliever cannot love in accordance to God’s standard. The only reason the believer is capable of love is through Christ’s imputed righteousness- the perfection that God sees in us not because of our own doing, but due to the blood Jesus shed on the cross to atone for our sins, our depravity, and our inadequacy.

I wonder often when we serve others who we are really doing it for. Just because we say we are Christians does not mean we do everything to God’s glory. There are things we do that do not please Him, things that He hates. When we serve out of a selfish nature, the things we do- though good by human standards- are worthless to the Lord. His standard is so much higher than ours.

I think sometimes we get so caught up in “doing” that we forget why we do it. We don’t clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless to make sure they are dressed, full, and living in a warm house. Have I lost you?

We do acts of service because it enables us to spread the Gospel, to share Christ with others, to fulfill the commands Jesus gave us. What good does it do us to install a smoke alarm when the building is already on fire? Similarly, what good do our works do unless we also share the Gospel with those who we are serving?

Our desire should be that all would be saved, not that people would be “comfortable” in life. After all, what good is it to make the world a better place to go to hell from? The Christian walk is difficult, and God often uses hardships to draw us close to Him. There is a reason that it is nearly impossible for a rich man to be saved. When we are down, without hope- that is when we have only the Lord to turn to.

So when we serve, let’s focus on first getting the person out of the burning building, then work on helping them build a new house through discipleship and further acts of service. People will not always know we are serving because of Christ- we must make that clear by unashamedly sharing the Gospel message with them.

True love is caring enough about a person to want them to be saved from eternal hellfire and damnation. Jesus told us He came to seek and save the lost- to glorify the Father- his signs and miracles were an aid to that, not the main goal. Let us keep that in mind as we strive to serve others- to the glory of God, not man.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and the son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you..."
-- Matthew 23:19-20 (NASB)

“We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father…”
--1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 (NASB)

O Christmas Tree!

Weslee's first look at a Christmas tree

Ah, a tall tree! After 4 1/2 years of marriage, we finally have a tree taller than 3'! I hit the sales after Christmas last year and scored a 6 1/2' tree for only $10 at Wal-Mart. Go me!
Life at our house is never boring, and putting the tree up was no exception. I had put all the bottom branches on and fanned them out nicely, when I realized the top section just wasn't going on right. Ken, in all his brute strength, tried to force it on a little harder. Instead, the base of the tree that holds the legs snapped, and the tree fell over. I (along with a little help from Ken) spent the next hour super gluing and holding the cracked pieces together in hopes that the tree could be salvaged. That super glue was worthless- it didn't hold anything together except my fingers (I'm lucky I'm not typing with fingers permanently adhered to each other). We tried a little duct tape over the broken pieces, and that held for a couple minutes, but the base still gave way under the weight of the tree.
Finally, in a last-ditch effort to salvage the tree I'd spent so much time putting together, I grabbed the roll of duct tape and started wrapping it around the base. It worked. Half a roll later the tree stood up as straight as it originally had. Afterward, Ken found the tree's warranty (who knew fake trees came with warranties?) and discovered we still have a year left on it, so hopefully they'll send us another base to the tree so I don't have to buy another one this year.
Weslee was in awe at the tree when I showed it to him in the morning. We put it all together while he was asleep- one so he would be surprised, two so he wouldn't get in the way. Hooks and glass ornaments do not mix with the fast little hands of a baby. He just stood and stared at the tree for a few minutes before trying to figure out how to get to it. I'm glad we have a gate to put around it.
I think we'll go shopping this year for a "baby's first Christmas" ornament. Right now we have Ken's first ornament (from 1985) on the tree, since it's for a boy. I'm so looking forward to getting to show Weslee what Christmas time is about. I know he won't understand about Christ's birth this year, but he will get the joy of all the new things happening around him, and that's still pretty cool.
Next on our list is decorating the rest of the house and putting lights up outside (that's Ken's area). This will be the first Christmas we've really had the whole house decked out. I feel like a "real" family now, starting our own traditions that we can follow through the years.

Dill Potato Rolls

I have discovered an awesome recipe for potato rolls (by a lady here in Oregon!) on click here to see the recipe. The only difference in my recipe is that I add about 2Tbsp of dill to the dry ingredients. You can't really taste the dill; it just gives it more of an aromatic flavor, I think. They still have that potato-bread sweetness to them that I love! I also roll them or tied them into 32 knots instead of the 24 the recipe suggests. It makes slightly over-sized dinner rolls, or small sandwich rolls. I made them for my family's Thanksgiving, and they were a hit. I'll probably be making them more, since they don't take much work.

Thanksgiving 2009

Family pic, from left to right:
Ken, Me, Weslee, Meredith, Quinn, Sela, Ryan, Mom (Nancy), Dad (Wes)

Our updated picture (the last was in May, I believe)
We kind of have this pose down, now, and it seems to work for us

Ken hanging out with Weslee

This year we spent Thanksgiving day with my family in Dundee (which is only 10 minutes from where we live in Newberg). I have to say, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays since it's always spent with family. We had our traditional meal, and spent the afternoon in fellowship, just having fun.
We did go to Ken's parents' house on Friday for their Thanksgiving meal. It's always nice to be able to see family that we don't get to see on a regular basis. The Lucas family brought some smoked turkey that was amazing! I had never had it before, and I'm sold on it.

Weslee Walking

Weslee is now walking a little bit, though he's still got some balance issues to perfect. I know that I also walked at 10 months, and we're not sure when Ken started walking. We've noticed Weslee has a tendency to do the least amount of work possible, and you can clearly see he's not eager to take more steps than absolutely necessary to get to Mom as evidenced by his lunging forward, arms out.

Date Night: Tyrone Wells in Concert

Tyrone Wells and Mark Chippelo

Ken and I after the concert... it was about midnight, and it shows on our faces

Ken and I went to my cousin Tyrone's concert at the Aladdin Theater November 11. We don't get out very often for date nights, but this one was totally worth it. My sister and one of her friends and our Aunt, Uncle, and a cousin were at the concert, too. It was fun to get to see some family we don't see too often. If you haven't heard of Tyrone Wells or listened to his music, check out:

November Pictures

Weslee standing on his own for the first time

I came home and found the boys sacked out together on the couch

Pumpkin Pictures

We carved out Weslee's 30lb pumpkin and he had some fun sitting inside it, and Mom and Dad had fun taking some pictures- fun for the whole family! He's 9 months in these pictures.