Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Prayer of Stillness

There has not been a lot of stillness in our lives lately.  Classes at Bethel started this week.  Eric's teaching a more-than-full load as usual, and I'm embarking on a new adventure with my first "real" college class (to native speakers - ack!)  in an intensive 7-week format.  Ian's been....well, let's just say he's been very four lately:  testing boundaries like they're going out of style (at which point I assure him, they're not) and just generally being a pill.  Add to that a visitation/funeral for Bethel's former president, community service with the school, a fireplace cleaning that turned into kind of a mess, and catering an art show at church -- well, it's been a doozy of a week.

So when Eric wisely suggested I take a morning to get some work done and do whatever I wanted to, I really couldn't argue.  Since it's yet another absolutely gorgeous day -- can't believe the fabulous weather we're having --  I hopped on my bike with my Bible in tow and spent an hour at the Mishawaka Riverwalk this morning.  I picked out a park bench on Kamm Island on the south side of the river, just across from the spot where Eric proposed to me over 10 years ago, and I just sat.  I took time to notice the things around me:  the cool breeze, a brilliant blue sky, the lazily meandering river, geese taking a ride backwards and sideways on their own personal aquatic thoroughfare, the scent of grass and water.  Eventually, I retrieved from my backpack a book of prayers written by Richard Foster, and quickly came across this one:

"I wait now in silence, Lord, that the good may spring up and the evil dissipate.

May the ocean of your light continually overcome the ocean of my darkness."  

After meditating on this for a while, God began to give me a true sense of peace.  Not just that feeling that you get when things are hunky-dory and nice.  But true, deep, supernatural peace.  The same kind of peace I felt in the days and weeks following Beta's death.  The unexplainable, transcendent calm that can only come from the Creator of the Universe and the Redeemer of our hearts.  And I felt thankful and truly alive.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Leaf Hunt

What to do on a cool Indiana August afternoon?  (Wait, is there such a thing? Apparently, this year, there is.) I try to mix things up for Ian so we don't get stuck in too much of a rut, but the other day, he helped me out by coming up with an idea himself:  a leaf hunt!  So we walked all around our front yard and picked individual leaves from every tree, bush, and flower bed plant that we could find, naming as many of them as I could for him (there are still some things in our yard I'm unfamiliar with).  He then lined them all up on the front porch and spent the next half hour "organizing" them into different piles, declaring himself to be a "leaf scientist."  While he sorted and resorted, I had a chance to sit next to him and paint my toenails.  Double bonus!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Eggplant-Zucchini-Tomato Casserole

The summer harvest is in full-swing, and even though our garden is suffering from terrible soil and a lack of water, we've been able to enjoy fresh, seasonal, local produce through our co-op.  With the end of summer comes a plethora of eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes, all begging to be incorporated into our daily menus. Thankfully, last summer, Food and Wine Magazine provided our family with what is now a tried-and-true favorite (worthy of The Cookbook), which uses all three of these estival crops.  I've made it twice in the past week for two different potlucks -- which, interestingly enough, were both "locally" themed -- and both times, I had no leftovers to bring home. This recipe can be used as a veggie side, but we usually give it main dish superiority and have a salad on the side, and sometimes it stands by itself.  I've adapted the recipe a bit from Food and Wine's original recipe since we like more tomatoes and cheese than it calls for.  I think I also use more bread crumbs on top.

© Quentin Bacon, Food & Wine
Eggplant, Zucchini, & Tomato Casserole

  • 4 T. olive oil + more for brushing
  • 3 medium zucchini, sliced 1/4” thick
  • 2 long, narrow eggplants, peeled and sliced lengthwise, 1/3” thick
  • kosher salt and fresh pepper
  • 2 large shallots, minced
  • 2 lb. roma/plum tomatoes, cut into 1/2” dice
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh basil
  • 8 oz. feta cheese, crumbed (2 c.)
  • 1 c. panko or coarse dry bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 425F. Oil 2 large-rimmed baking sheets. Put the zucchini slices on one sheet and the eggplant on the other, arranging the slices in slightly overlapping layers. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 min., until tender. In a large skillet, heat 2 T. of olive oil; add the shallots and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 3 min. Add the tomatoes and cook over high heat until slightly softened and bubbling, about 1-2 min. Season with salt and pepper and add the basil. Oil a 9x13” baking dish. Lay half of the eggplant in the dish and layer half of the zucchini on top. Spread half of the tomatoes on top and scatter with half of the feta. Make another layer of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and cheese. Mix the panko with the remaining 2 T. of oil and sprinkle over casserole. Bake in the upper third of the oven for 20 minutes, until bubbling and crisp. Let stand for 5 min., then serve warm or hot.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Homemade Deodorant Re-cap

You may remember that back in March, I started a new experiment of using homemade deodorant.  I just wanted to let you know that it's going fabulously!  I really, really love it.  It fits all the criteria I had hoped it would:  it's cheap, it's earth-friendly, and most importantly, it works, even on the hottest, sweatiest days.  I keep a small jar in my bathroom to apply with my fingers, and an old deodorant container in my fridge (because on hot days, it feels so good to put something cold under my arms).  In the winter, I'll be able to keep the deodorant container in my bathroom, since the coconut oil won't melt once it gets colder than 74 degrees.  But, after five months, I'm sold.  Hooray for baby steps!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Oglesbee Odes: Sting's Songs from the Labyrinth

Eric and I are going through yet another run (our third?  fourth?) of watching the single season of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.  (Brilliant show, by the way. What were people thinking when it got cut and 30 Rock was kept on the air at the same time? Anyway....)  Last night, we watched one of our favorite episodes in which Sting is a guest on the show, performing some songs from his album "Songs from the Labyrinth" that he made with Edin Karamazov on the lute.  It was that episode that led us to actually buy the album a couple years ago, and we love it.  Sting's alluring remake of "Fields of Gold" is one of the highlights of the album, but I'm going to leave you with another favorite:  "Come Again."


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Homemade Bread Revisited

About a year and a half ago, I posted a recipe for homemade wheat bread.  At the time, I was still using a couple of cups of white flour to keep the bread soft, but since then, I've discovered the power of wheat gluten.  It does wonders for hard, woody, whole-wheat baked goods!  After a lot of tweaking and experimenting, I've also started using a recipe that doesn't involve milk products, so it's a little more simple to make.  And we love it!  Now that my pregnancy-induced nausea seems to have subsided, and I can handle the smell of baking bread again, I've taken to making a batch once every week or two.  It's nice to be back in the habit.  So, without further ado, here's my new, revised bread recipe.  I hope you have as much success with it as I have!

Lisa's Whole Wheat Bread


3 tsp. yeast
1/2 c. hot water
1 T. honey
3 T. olive oil
1.5 tsp. salt
2.5 c. warm water
1/4 c. honey
7 c. whole wheat flour
2/3 c. wheat gluten

Mix yeast, 1/2 c. water, and 1 T. sugar or honey in a glass bowl and let sit for about 10 min. or until foamy. Mix together oil, salt, water, and honey; add the yeast water. Add the flour and gluten and knead for about 10 minutes in a stand mixer using the dough hook. Place dough into a greased bowl and turn over until well-coated. Cover w/ a damp towel and let rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours, or until just doubled in size. (I put it in a slightly warm oven that has been turned off.)

Punch the dough and place it on a flat surface. Divide into 2 equal sections and form into loaves. Place in 2 greased pans, and sprinkle w/oats (optional). Let rise another 45-60 min., or until almost doubled in size (again, in a barely warm oven).

With the loaves in the cool oven, turn on the heat to 400F.. After 15 min., reduce heat to 375F and bake 25 minutes longer. Test for doneness by removing from pan and knocking on the bottom; if a hollow sound emerges, the bread is done. Let cool completely on a wire rack before storing.

Optional: add 3 T. ground flaxseed and 3 T. sesame seeds to the flour and gluten for a heartier, multigrain bread.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The search for truly healthy skin

Hey ladies, how many facial cleansing products have you tried in your lifetime?  Too many to count?  Yeah, me too.  I've also spent literally hours of my life standing in a store aisle trying to find just the right cleanser to make my sometimes dry, sometimes oily, always blotchy face magically gorgeous.  Who knows how much hard-earned money I've spent trying different products, a lot of which haven't worked.  And something I've been coming to realize lately is that there are potentially very harmful things in those cleansers -- things the oh-so-trusted FDA hasn't even bothered to have tested...which means I'm the guinea pig.  (If you want to be even more, informed...on this issue, take five minutes and watch The Story of Cosmetics.) 

What's a girl to do on a tight budget and with the drive to be as healthy as possible?  Thanks to my friend-of-a-friend Katie at Simple Organic, I have something new to try:  the oil-cleansing method.  What?  Cleaning with oil?  Isn't that counter-intuitive?  I thought so and was pretty skeptical about it until I did a little research (most helpfully, here)  and have started to think differently about my skin's needs.  My body produces oil naturally, and when I try to strip it of that essential oil, it often works overtime to produce more. So, I'm embarking on a new adventure.
The anti-inflammatory, healing, and cleansing powers of Castor oil mixed with the soothing, moisturizing powers of sunflower oil are supposed to give me glowing, smooth skin.  And since it's easy on the budget ($3.19 for the bottle of Castor oil + $7 for the bottle of sunflower oil, the combination of which looks to be able to last me at least six months), and proven safe for my body, I'm willing to be the guinea pig here.  For my combination skin, I'm going with a 25% castor to 75% sunflower oil ratio.  If you have oilier skin, you might want to try closer to a 30/70% ratio, and if you have drier skin, a ratio of  10/90% might work best for you. 

The method is easy, too:  massage the oil deep into your skin, rubbing all over your face and eyelids.  Place a hot, wet cloth over your face and let it cool.  Then rinse the cloth again in hot water and gently wipe off all the oil.  That's it!  I tried it last night, and I was immediately happy with two things:  1) It took my eye makeup off beautifully and effortlessly, and 2) I didn't feel the need to moisturize afterwards and I wasn't greasy, either.  My skin just felt soft and happy.  I'm going to give it a week or so to see how my skin reacts and if I'm using the right ratio of oils.  I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

All-purpose cleaner

A few of you have asked for my all-purpose cleaner recipe.  I can't remember where I got it from (so I can't responsibly give the credit to whom it's due), and I don't really have a set recipe, but I can tell you what I do...and that it's really simple and CHEAP, not to mention all-around better for the earth. 
Here's what you need: 
  • an empty 32-oz spray bottle
  • hot water
  • about 1/2 cup of Borax
  • vinegar at room temperature
  • a tablespoon or two of lemon juice (both fresh and bottled are fine)
And here's what you do:  Fill the bottle about halfway up with really hot water (but not boiling - it might melt the bottle!) and add the Borax to it.  Shake it or stir it or do whatever you have to do to make the Borax dissolve.  Once you can't see any clumps in the bottle, add enough vinegar so that it almost reaches the top.  Add a little lemon juice, and you're done.   You're ready to safely and cheaply disinfect your home!  This cleaner works on all kinds of surfaces:  tables, countertops, sinks, toilets, etc.  To disinfect, spray it on and let it sit for about 10 minutes before wiping off with a clean, wet rag. 

Monday, August 02, 2010

Shared Hobbies

I love to cook. (Big secret, I know.) Eric loves to cook. And more and more, Ian loves to cook. Preparing food has become a family activity as Ian continues to get older and more responsible. This, of course, warms my heart. I think it's so important for members of a family to share activities with each other, rather than each person going off and doing their own thing (although, there is a place for that, as well). Eric and I try to incorporate shared family time into each day, where we're all doing the same fun thing together. Sometimes, it's playing a circuit of team-style MarioKart on the Wii. Sometimes it's building a train track in Ian's room, or reading a book on the couch together. But it's also often gathering in the kitchen to make a meal where we all have responsibilities and can help each other out. When we sit down to breakfast or dinner, there is a sense that we all have ownership over what we're about to eat. And that is a satisfying feeling.

Anyway, all that rambling is to say that Ian's new play hobby has become cooking. He only plays with his trains two or three times a week now, rather than devoting the entire day to the goings-on in the lives of the inhabitants of the Island of Sodor. At least one part of each day often consists of getting out his play cooking tools (some plastic silverware and plates, a few smallish wooden utensils, and my old measuring cups and spoons) and concocting whatever imaginary food is on his mind.  He's been known to come up with some pretty strange "recipes" - my favorite so far is orange juice soup with gummy bears, jelly beans, and black beans (blech!).  But hey, I'm lovin' the creativity. 

Our little chef looking rather "Swedish"
Want some ideas for ways to incorporate little ones into the kitchen activities?  Check out the advice from Simple Mom and Simple Bites.