Roughing It

We are off on a weekend camping trip in the mountains, just 15 miles away from home. I spent the morning loading up our borrowed RV with the help of 5 extremely excited children. It was a little like trying to organize with a bevy of crickets hopping around me. I kept finding them doing unlikely things like snapping green beans on the bed above the driver’s seat, or hiding in the closets or stowing their camp chairs on top of the toilet. It should be a great time, seeing as we will have ample food, lots of good books to read, trails to hike and real beds to sleep on. The thing about camping this way is that it is so nice and comfortable. It feels wimpy to me, compared to the sleeping bag under the stars which used to be my preferred style. I mean, a heater? Only thing is, the bathroom and the fridge don’t work, so we will still be roughing it, wouldn’t you say? 🙂

Lip Smacking Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce

I discovered this amazing method to make tomato sauce last year, tried it again this week, and remembered why it was that I thought it was so good. First, you don’t need to get out your crank strainer thingy, and it works well for small batches. You only need 5 lb. of tomatoes to give it a shot, enough to fill up a large cookie sheet with quartered tomatoes. Cut up a large sweet onion, and lay it with about 8 to 12 garlic cloves (no need to peel them) on top of the tomatoes. Slide the whole cookie sheet full of veg into a 475 degree F. oven. After 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 400 degrees and continue roasting for about an hour, or until the onions are soft. A lot of the water will have evaporated from the tomatoes. Let them sit until they are cool enough to touch, then slip the skins off. Squeeze the garlic cloves to get all the good roasted mash out of them, then discard the skins. 

Blend all of the veggies into a smooth sauce, then simmer the sauce in a pan with 1/2 cup freshly chopped basil, 1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 T. sea salt, 2 T. sugar. You can add some red pepper flakes or cayenne, as well. I usually start slow on the spices, stirring, tasting, adding pinches until it is just right. 

This sauce is amazing straight out of the pot. After our spaghetti supper, I canned the extra, and I think cold packing it sort of deadens the freshness, but I love the roasted flavor. If you have a couple of late tomatoes in your garden, give it a go and see what you think. 

I didn’t take photos of the process, which means I am not a really serious blogger, but you already knew that. 😉 Here is the finished product:






And here are my sorry looking used-up herbs, who have pretty much fulfilled their mission in life and are ready for a soaring disposal over the garden fence. This is what makes me sad about fall.



One more happy photo to finish out the post. My little Rita has discovered a passion for sweet peppers. No food is quite safe around her, but this… leaves me speechless.



Oh Yeah! It is Friday!

It is Friday, catch-up day here at our house. I still haven’t found a better system than the one I started last year, where we started taking Friday off from school. Since Gabe is nearly always studying, working, or sleeping after night shift on Saturdays, we finish up the week’s lessons then. I really hate coming to Saturday and working like a horse all day, so I opt to do that the day before, and just like that our Saturday is fun again! It works for us.

After a week of what can only be described as free-lance housekeeping, a bushel of tomatoes (I will share a great recipe in the next post), and a couple buckets of green beans, this house needs Friday! And here I sit, my 28 oz. mug of Earl Grey nearly empty, having accomplished nothing except feeding and dressing the littles. I don’t even care. I call it The Inertia of Too Much to Do. Eventually something will happen that will give me a kick in the rear and I will fly into action. But right now? It feels a little like the woman whose husband hid the cookies from his wife “for your own good”. She disagreed, “No, what is good for me right now is cookies!”

What is good for me right now is a Ginormous mug of tea and no schedule whispering dire threats. What do you do when you hit The Inertia?

Varmints in the Woods

I took a stroll down in our pasture with the kiddos last week. Gabe has been working on digging a pond down there, although with the advent of school, that project has puttered to a stop. There are a few puddles, however, that seem to attract a lot of attention already. We saw raccoon tracks, deer tracks, and even little kid tracks in the soft mud. Imagine that! Then I saw another set, huge and unfamiliar around here.

After Gabe and I concluded that it was a bear,  we started looking at images of tracks online. Whoa. Bears have five toes, and this track only had four. What has four toes? I thought maybe a humongous dog, like one descended from the Hound of the Baskervilles, but my man scoffed at that idea. He said mountain lions have four toes. My blood chilled. I can get excited about the occasional berry-satiated bear ambling through, looking for a drink, but panthers? Those horrible things that scream bloody murder and drop silently out of tree tops onto unsuspecting victims below? No Way! I have some fear issues stemming from reading too many Reader’s Digest Drama in Real Life stories, no doubt. I, who have never shot anything, would shoot a panther on sight.

After a night haunted with weird dreams about crazy critters, I took photos of the track and did some comparison checking. No way is that anything but a bear’s front foot, with one toe either amputated or maybe crooked upward in pain from that thorn he stepped on. Or something like that. What do you think?



We made a casting with plaster of paris, which I must say, is the coolest thing we have done yet this school year.

What I Do

I had a sudden inspiration to line up our offspring one evening so I could send a photo to the faraway grandparents.


And there you have it. What I do with myself all day. Those two short ones at the end? They have a conspiracy going. Something like “let’s keep Mama guessing and hopping, then let’s hug her and pretend we didn’t do anything at all”.

Yeah, you might not surmise it, but that blond cherub… is a piece of work! The thing is, she is so incredibly resourceful. I have to remember that she didn’t mean to spill that Lake Erie sized puddle of milk on the kitchen floor. She was just getting a drink while her mama was out at the clothes line. She is a survivor, a self sufficient and helpful little thing, descended, no doubt, from some hunter/gatherer tribe. She is skilled at finding my gum stash, at going potty all BY HERSELF, and she KNOWS why she is wearing those striped socks with her flip-flops, thankyouverymuch. The evening that I discovered her decorating my Bible with a red marker, I remembered to breathe deeply and look at the lion she had drawn and painstakingly cut out for me that very day. Such creativity! :-/

The very shortest one is squishy and fun and needy, especially when we are doing school. That is why I sit on the older children while she is napping. I will never understand why their loudest arguments have to occur right outside the nursery door. Asking, “What were you thinking?” is pointless, since they are always sorry, but they weren’t thinking.

This morning I finished a book by Mary Beth Chapman, titled Choosing to See. It is the story of their family walking through the heartbreak of losing a child in an accident. I was challenged to really make my days with my little guys count, to invest, yes, really pour myself into this journey of mothering. 

It is easy to feel like I have too much to do, there is never enough time, the house will never be clean, I will be cooking until the day I die, etc. etc. I ask myself, where am I going? That goal of an orderly house without paper snibbles on the floor… is it really a worthy goal? What am I reaching for anyway? Is it my own convenience? Sanity? Quietness? I pray that I can keep my heart focused on eternity and on making “fat souls” as Rachel Jankovic describes it in her book “Loving the Little Years”.

Okay, math period is now over and I am sure the baby will be waking up any minute. So long!

DIY Fruit Fly Trap

Because this is the season of abundant fresh vegetables and fruits, because I am assuming that you all detest those clouds of pests flying around the tomatoes ripening on the window sill, and because it is so easy to do, I share with you this tip (that I originally got from my sister-Long Live Sisters!). Pour a little apple juice into a tall glass. Construct a funnel out of paper, leaving only a tiny hole at the bottom for a greedy fruit fly to crawl through as it follows the scent of the juice. Tape the edges to secure them. Set this into the glass, making sure to push it down a bit to seal off the edges of the glass. The funnel bottom should not touch the juice. As you can see, it traps the flies quite efficiently and they cannot seem to find the exit again. I haven’t figured out how to kill them, but I do enjoy feeling this powerful.


Stingy Living

Last night at church we had a guest speaker, John D. Martin,  who shared with us about Investing Kingdom Resources. He started his message with a list of shocking statistics, helping us see how filthy rich we are in America. He showed us in  Matthew 25 that at the final judgement the sheep will be divided from the goats and the difference between the two is quite simple. The sheep were people who lived life with their hands wide open to help others- the sick, the poor, the incarcerated, the misfits. The goats were hoarding their resources for themselves, more invested in their own comfort and convenience than in loving with action. What we say we believe is not the thing. What we do is the thing that shows what we believe.

Matthew 25 also contains the Parable of the Talents. It tells of a master who gave his servants money to invest while he went away on a journey. One of the servants was lazy and just buried his talent to keep it safe until the master returned. While I know that a talent is a monetary term in the parable, it also seems to be the origin of our using “talent” when we mean “natural aptitude or skill”. I am certain that Jesus has given all of us resources to invest, regardless of our bank balance. It is possible to write a large check, dust off the hands, and feel satisfied that I have done my part for the kingdom of God. It is also possible to have very little money, and yet live selflessly, freely investing my life for the sake of others.

If I were to title this past year in hindsight, I would call it The Year of Receiving. It was a humbling, eye opening experience to be the genuinely needy ones, husband sick, unable to work, bills piling up, resources already shrunken,  now withered to less than enough. The day after Gabe’s bowel resection, I came home from the hospital in utter exhaustion and found my house immaculately clean. Laundry done, groceries on the table and in the fridge, gifts of kindness one can never repay. Our children were cared for by large hearted grandparents who helped them deal with the stress of having a sick papa. Someone picked up prescriptions and threw away the receipt so we couldn’t repay them. Gift cards, checks in the mail, visits, hot meals, unbelievable generosity. I cannot put a dollar amount on the comfort of feeling loved and surrounded in our vulnerable place.

I have done a lot of thinking about stinginess, my heart’s clutching of its stuff to preserve it. I like to think of myself as a generous person, so it comes as a bit of a shock to see how many times I protect myself. It is only natural to keep some reserves for lean times. It is inconvenient to pour out my soul for other people, you know. Something about the dying to self just kind of gets to me.

Practically, today my investments in the kingdom may mean that my backyard is plenty of space to exercise my talents. I may end up throwing a football instead of reading my new book. Investing myself may involve making play dough, even though I hate how messy it makes my saucepan. I can carry the needs of a friend to our Father in heaven. It could include watching my man rush off to rescue someone who needs help on a holiday.  Using my talents may even include getting up early to do a bit of writing. 🙂