Friday, May 29, 2009

Blogs I Read: Part 5

Blog #5: EnviroMom

Ok, so this blog could really be called "EnviroFamily", but it wouldn't have the same familiar ring to it reminding us of the environment. As you can probably guess by the name, it's a website devoted to environmental responsibility, especially in regards to raising families. Plus, it's written by two run-of-the-mill stay-at-home moms in Portland, Oregon. Their whole shtick is the idea of "baby steps" -- huge, astronomical lifestyle changes just aren't practical in a family setting. At any rate, it's been very helpful for me in my quest to s-l-o-w-l-y adjust our lifestyle so that we live in a more economical, sustainable, and earth-friendly way, and by my own actions, to teach Ian to do the same.

What I love most about EnviroMom is that they're so NOT pushy and judgmental. In fact, they spend most of their time talking about what they haven't mastered yet and ideas they're still just thinking about but haven't implemented yet. It's a daily chronicle of their little "baby step" decisions to cut this small thing out, or add this activity to their lives, etc.

Some things I've changed in our household because of EnviroMom are:
  • using old diapers instead of paper towels
  • using cloth napkins instead of paper napkins
  • buying in bulk to save on container consumption
  • generally reducing what I bring in to the house so I don't have to recycle/throw away as much
  • composting my food prep scraps instead of tossing them in the garbage
  • using homemade vinegar solutions to clean my windows instead of store-bought ones
  • using phosphate-free dishwasher detergent along with vinegar in my dishwasher
  • spending more time outdoors
  • trying to limit Ian's toys to mostly wooden ones instead of plastic
  • feeding Ian snacks that are homemade/fresh and not out of a box or a package

Some things that are still "stewing" in my brain for possible future baby steps:
  • using wash cloths instead of toilet paper for every day use
  • buying bikes to do more of our errand running/church going that way instead of in our gas-guzzling Jeep
  • buying most or all of our food through local businesses or farms
  • switching to "greener" beauty products (possibly reducing my use of makeup -- gasp!)
  • canning/freezing food like crazy in the summer so I don't have to buy it through non-local means in the winter.
I've still got a long way to go, but it's all about "baby steps," right?


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Purple Porch Co-op

Hey, we were on TV last night! Check us out on South Bend's WSBT's website. Just click on "Watch the Video" in the multimedia box, and you'll see me buying some asparagus, eggs, and an eggplant start at our new local co-op dealio. You'll also see Eric's torso and chin, and Ian's leg. Don't they both look so cute?

Oh, and go to if you're in the South Bend area and are interested in participating, too!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Blogs I Read: Part 4

Blog #4: God Entranced

For the six years that we lived in Bloomington, we attended a non-denominational body of believers called Evangelical Community Church and loved every minute of our time there. Not only was the church a real community who supported us and encouraged us in life, but the preaching was dang awesome. Shout-outs go to the senior pastor, Bob Whitaker, for bringin' it week in and week out and kicking our butts every now and then. But kudos also belong to the college ministry pastor, Dan Waugh, who embodies a good balance of cultural relevancy and thoughtfulness in his approach to the Faith. While I never got involved in the college ministry Connexion at ECC, I always appreciated the obvious thought and hard work that Dan put into his Sunday morning sermons when he would pinch-hit for Bob. So naturally, when we moved away, I started reading his blog, God Entranced, to keep up with what was going on at the church.

Now, we're attending a Christian Reformed Church here in South Bend, and let me tell ya, that is quite a difference from our Wesleyan, Anabaptist heritage! But we love the church and we especially love the people we've come to know and serve alongside there. Our time at ECC really prepared us for taking this step into a denomination whose beliefs and practices are a little different in terms of things like baptism and predestination than the churches of our upbringing. And Dan's blog continues to help me understand and appreciate these different points of view, while also giving me some food for thought on topics such as atheism, the evangelical church, the workings out of faith, and various issues in Reformed theology. Plus, the dude has good taste in music. Too bad he likes the Cleveland Indians.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Blogs I Read: Part 3

Blog #3: Simply Recipes

I stumbled upon this food blog around Valentine's Day, when I was searching for a chili-chocolate cake to make at Eric's request. Once I found this recipe, I spent literally an hour, gaping and drooling over Elise's family's recipes and pictures of the delicious-looking food they make. I was hooked. Since then, I've made several of her recipes, including the Chipotle Flourless Choclate Cake (my rendition is pictured here) and Rhubarb Sorbet. Everything I've attempted from this website has been a success so far.

I like several things about Simply Recipes more than other food blogs I subscribe to. One is that the author takes time to share some back story for each dish and why it's special to her. Plus, she's a fantastic photographer and I have yet to see one single unappetizing photo on her blog. The Type A personality in me loves that all her recipes are so organized and indexed so well for easy perusal. Have some extra eggplant on hand? Type it in the search box and you'll get no less than 10 accessible and yummy ideas for the big purple vegetable. And to top it all off, she cooks with real ingredients: no processed food products anywhere, so the website fits well with the way I cook and try to nourish my family.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Blogs I Read: Part 2

Blog #2: Stuff Christians Like
Ok, so I already wrote about this one back in November, but I really, really like this blog! It's by a guy in Atlanta who started it a little over a year ago as a joke (based on the mainstream "Stuff White People Like" blog), but it's turned into this humongous community of people who have a sense of humor about the funny and strange things Christians do, say, and think. If you think about it, we're honestly an interesting and quirky group of people. Full of irony and introspection, Jon Acuff's blog not only makes me laugh every day, but also challenges some of the misconceptions I'm often still holding onto as an American Christian.

The whole idea has become so successful, that this perfectly ordinary guy has become something of a celebrity -- speaking at various Christian conferences across the nation, being referenced in major publications like Relevant Magazine, and even writing a book based on the blog that is set to be published sometime next year.

If you haven't spent some time in SCL world, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to see what Jon has to say. It won't be time wasted.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Blogs I Read: Part 1

The purpose of this blog is to give our family and close friends, especially those who live far away and don't see us much in person, the chance to peer into our lives and know a little bit of what's going on with us. It's one of the ways we keep in touch with you all and share our lives with you, even though we don't see you as often as we'd like. Thanks to the Internet, we can foster a sense of community we wouldn't otherwise have through mere letters and phone calls (which we also utilize as often as we can!).

This week, I thought I'd post a little about the online reading I do on a daily basis. There are a few blogs I follow, thanks to the help of Google Reader, and I'd love to share them with you. Hopefully, they'll enrich your lives like they have mine, or at the very least, you can know and understand me a little bit better.

So, in no particular order........

Blog #1: That's Not Me Anymore
I love this blog, and I love the girl who writes it. She's not only the daughter of some good friends of my parents, but she's also a part of the extended family on my husband's side. We played together when we were in diapers, and now I get to call her my cousin! Her name is Beth and she's a fun, creative, and lovingly transparent mom of three whose love for Jesus is contagious! In addition to all that, she's got her own mom's gift of writing. (If you haven't read anything by Rachael Phillips, you're missing out!) Every time Beth's blog shows up on my RSS feed, I get excited because I know I'm about to read something both funny and touching. Her perspective on life is refreshing, and I'm so thankful that she has the guts to share herself with the world. She certainly blesses my day several times a week.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday at Home

We had a nice, productive weekend outside and inside, and now I'm just chillin' while Eric grades papers for his May term Prob & Stats class. I thought I'd post a couple of Ian pictures for all you family out there. We had a really nice day, even though we're all battling colds.

Eric installed the first part of our project to fence in the backyard and Ian helped him. He's getting really good at his "tool" vocabulary and is able to hand Eric things as he needs them. He even has his own "work pants" with holes in the knees just like Daddy's.
Right before bed every night, if Ian has had an accident-free day, he gets to pick out a sticker to put up on his potty chart (or sometimes on his jammies). Today, he beat his own record and went THREE WHOLE DAYS without an accident, and we decided he needed something a little more special to celebrate. So we gave him a train engine we had put away for a special time, and gave it to him. The engine's name is Murdoch, and Ian got to stay up 20 extra minutes to play with him a bit before going to bed. He was so excited!

PS: Thanks to Ian's Nana (a.k.a, Mum/Pam) for supplying us with Murdoch a few weeks ago!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Baba Ghanoush

Last week I made eggplant-almond enchiladas (soooo yummy, by the way), and bought too many eggplants, so I had one large one left over. So this week, I made Baba Ghanoush for the first time with it. It's a fairly traditional Mediterranean dish that is most commonly served as an appetizer at such restaurants here in the States. I made some homemade pita and served it with a side of cucumber salad and fresh muskmelon, and it was finger-lickin', lip-smackin' good. Pretty easy, too!

Baba Ghanoush, Tyler Florence

1 large eggplant, cut in half longwise
1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
kosher salt and fresh pepper
2 garlic cloves
1 T. tahini paste
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tsp. ground cumin
handful cilantro leaves, chopped

Drizzle eggplant with olive oil and season with salt. Grill on a grill or roasted under a broiler until skins are wrinkled and black and flesh side is nicely charred. Chop into large pieces, then place in a food processor (or bowl, if using a stick blender) along with garlic, tahini, lemon juice, cumin and cilantro; puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the olive oil and pulse to incorporate. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Pour into a serving bowl and serve with warm pita for dipping. (Also delicious with a side of Cucumber Dill Salad.)

Homemade Pita

1 1/4 c. warm water
1 T. sugar or honey
2 tsp. yeast
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 T. olive oil

Put the water, honey, and yeast in a small bowl for about 10 minutes to let the yeast bloom. Mix it together with the flour, salt, and oil, until it forms a ball (if too wet, add more flour). Knead for 10 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and let rise for 60-90 minutes. When doubled in size, punch down and divide into 8 pieces, forming into balls. Let rest for 20 minutes. Roll out into 1/8” thick rounds. Preheat oven to 400, or heat up a grill. If using an oven, place on baking stones and bake for 3-5 minutes or until puffy, but not golden. If using a grill, place on indirect heat and grill for 3-5 minutes or until puffy, but not golden.

Cucumber Dill Salad

1 large cucumber, diced
1 large tomato, diced
2 T. red onion, minced
1 T. lemon juice
2-3 T. fresh dill, chopped
kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and chill for about an hour to allow flavors to blend.

Eight Years

Whenever our anniversary rolls around, I start thinking about how long we've been married in relation to other spans of time in my life.

This year, I'm thinking of how a U.S. president is in office for eight years at the most, and how so much can happen in that amount of time to impact the world. I think back to when I was eight years old and how I felt like I knew so much already (I was the big sister, you know) but still had an entire life ahead of me. I think about the eight years that comprised the sum of high school and college for me and how much I changed and developed as a person in that time: I became an adult somewhere in there.

Eight years really is a significant portion of one's life -- 27.12% of my life, to be almost exact. And that's how long I've spent married to this really cool guy named Eric, who not only is my most intimate confidant, but the person I most love to laugh with. I love to just spend time with him doing nothing, and I love to make really important decisions with him. His personality and talents smooth over some of my foibles. We work really well together as a team, be it in the kitchen, in the yard, in parenting, or in planning a new program at a college. Life with him is just....easier. In him, I am able to realize the true partnership that marriage is supposed to be.

And I feel so blessed and undeserving.

Thank you, Babe, for eight wonderful years.
This is us at Toyo Grill last night, where we indulged ourselves with sushi and tempura, followed by a viewing of the new Star Trek movie and some cheese fries and milkshakes at Steak'n'Shake. It was a date to be remembered.

Here's one of our favorite songs that we feel sums up a lot of who we are.

This Is Us (Album Version) - Mark Knopfler And Emmylou Harris

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Going Veggie

On last week's menu of five homemade dinners, four of them were completely vegetarian, without us even intending to shoot for that many. Maybe it was because veggies are getting cheaper as summer approaches. Or maybe it was because with warmer weather comes an appetite for fresher, healthier meals. Whatever the reason, it was a yummy week of food: vegetarian gumbo-style chili with brown rice, eggplant-almond enchiladas, spinach-mushroom-garlic grilled pizzas, and regular-old whole-wheat spaghetti with marinara and salad. Our one meat meal was a whole grilled chicken served over tacos with an avocado-tomatillo salsa. Yum!

One of our standard vegetarian dishes is, of course, Eggplant Parmesan. Eric has recently perfected this dish to lip-smacking goodness, all with the help of his T-Fal Emeril deep fryer. (Man, that thing rocks!) Coated with whole-wheat flour, bread crumbs, and freshly grated Parmesan, then flash deep fried for a mere 1-2 minutes, these babies come out crisp, golden, and full of flavor, without being overly greasy. Toss a side of whole wheat spaghetti with marinara on the plate, and you've got yourself a classic and delicious dinner.
Eggplant Parmesan


1 large eggplant, in 1/2" slices
1/4 c. whole-wheat flour
kosher salt and fresh pepper
2 egg whites
1/4 c. bread crumbs
1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
enough oil to deep fry

Place eggplant in a colander in layers. Over each layer, sprinkle a little salt, then place the next layer on. Let sit for about a half hour (the salt brings out water, which keeps the eggplant from getting mushy and also lends it a sweeter flavor). Pat dry with a clean, non-fuzzy towel. Heat oil to about 350 degrees F in a deep fryer machine or pan. On a plate, mix the flour, salt and pepper. Put the egg whites in a separate bowl. On another plate, mix the bread crumbs and the cheese. Coat each eggplant slice first with flour, then dip into the egg white, then coat with the bread crumb/cheese mixture. Place on a plate or cutting board. In batches of 4-5, fry for 1-2 minutes until slightly golden. Remove from oil and place on a cooling rack while you fry the rest of the slices. To serve, place on a plate, drizzle with your favorite marinara sauce, and sprinkle with more Parmesan cheese.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Our Little Chef

Eric and I love to cook together. It's probably one of our favorite pastimes as a couple. We love it for its team-building properties, as well as the satisfaction of sitting down at the table with a delicious meal that we both had a hand in. Unfortunately, with a little tyke running around, we're usually relegated to one of us preparing the meal while the other occupies/entertains said tyke so that the meal can be eaten in a relatively good time frame. Lately, however, Ian has been asking to help out with cooking, which I'm perfectly happy to finagle. The more he likes our hobbies, the better, I say! It takes some creativity sometimes to provide him with tasks that are both toddler-friendly (no chance of any fingers being cut off or burned) and parent-friendly (not making too much of a mess), but it's worth it because we can all be in the kitchen at the same time! Thankfully, for his birthday, our friends JD and Andrea gave Ian his very own kitchen apron, complete with his own wooden kitchen tools. In the picture to the left, we're making salsa fresca, one of our nearly weekly culinary experiences. Ian is stirring the jalapenos, bell peppers and onions, while I dice and drain the tomatoes. Then he wipes his hands on his apron like a true pro.

Everybody's happy.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

My Magnolia

When I was a young preteen girl, my family lived in Berne, Indiana. Along with a very interesting stand of banana trees (yes, you read that correctly: banana trees in Indiana), our yard had this incredibly old and beautiful magnolia tree. Its residence was right outside our kitchen window so, in the spring, the fragrant and ornate display of its saucer-like pink and white blossoms could be admired while washing dishes. I loved that tree. What made it even more special, besides its inherent beauty, was that it had a long, sturdy branch about six feet above the ground on which one could climb up and sit for hours. I used to bring books up there and read, surrounded by a perfect canopy of loveliness. While there were many other things about Berne I regretted leaving, I was particularly sad to leave behind my magnolia tree when we moved away, and have always remembered it fondly. To this day, my favorite blossoming tree is the magnolia, and whenever I see one dressed in its springtime splendor, I get excited. (Ok, I get excited about all spring blossoms, but magnolias are really exciting!).

Fast forward to today.....

Since this is the first house we've owned where we can see ourselves staying a long time (Lord willing!), one of our first yard renovations for the house was to buy and plant a magnolia tree. Yesterday, we went to a local nursery, carefully selected the right tree for our price range, and gave it a home in our front yard where it can be enjoyed both by passersby on the street and us through our living room picture window. I hope that it is happy in its new home and will grow to be a tree that we can enjoy and love.