Friday, May 30, 2014

May update

We have been at Green Acres for about 6 weeks now.  June 1st will mark 50 days exactly.  Life is good here in East Tennessee.

Decorating a new house has been a joy and a challenge.  Now that we've got things hanging up on the walls and most of our belongings all over the place, it is looking homey and comfortable.  We made a coat rack downstairs using an abandoned board and some dock cleats.  Our instruments are hanging in the living room.  Delaney, Libbey and I share a small bedroom.  We hope to make quite a few changes to the house in a series of remodels, so all of our sleeping arrangements will eventually change.

Most Sundays we attend Basswood Church in Knoxville.  We are making many acquaintances and have been attending Wednesday night Bible studies at a family's home about 45 minutes away.  Sundays look a lot like what our family is used to back home, only on a grander scale.  The congregation meets at 10:30 for the service, which goes until around noon.  Then there is a potluck meal, followed by a second, shorter session.  Communion usually wraps up the gathering.  We have heard that a group of people go to a park nearby to play ultimate frisbee at a park nearby, and we'd like to be a part of that sometime as well.

I absolutely LOVE the weather here!  It is ever changing, especially since the lake creates its own weather.  As I write, the water is as smooth as glass and the sky a little hazy.  The sun is warm and Libbey is playing outside, something she didn't do as much back in Cali.  Our property here is perfect to run around in, and our circular driveway provides an endless track for Lib to ride her bike!

Here is a link to my latest web album, with plenty of pictures and informative captions.  Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

More on books: my reading list & more

Books I would like to read this year:

Gossamer by Lois Lowry

The Journals of Jim Elliot by Jim and Elisabeth Elliot

Sacred Singleness by Leslie Ludy

The Naturally Clean Home by Karyn Seigel-Maier

The Mine with the Iron Door by Harold Bell Wright

Body & Soul by Bethany Hamilton

~This is my favorite'll find it in Annapolis, Maryland...a quiet shop brimming with books and has a tiny cafe tucked in the back.  Perfectly lovely!~

A few more of my most-loved bookstores:

McKay - a large used bookstore that also carries used CD's, DVD's, magazines and more.  There are three locations in TN...yippee for me! ;)

Landmark Booksellers - a booklover's paradise!  I've found a few *reasonably priced* treasures here.  This little shop is in Franklin, TN.

Phoenix Books - okay California, this one's for you.  Located in San Luis Obispo, this shop is brimming with books!  Some parts of it looks much like the photo below.  Heaven!

Powell's Books - located in Portland, OR, the location I visited is four stories and takes up an entire block.  I've never, ever been in such a large bookstore.  They have five locations in Oregon, and an online store.  If you want a book, they have it!

What if the book you wanted most was on the very bottom? :)

Are there any books you enjoy that you would recommend to others?  What is your favorite book, the one you read again and again and never grow tired of?

"Books make your mind more exciting...spirits higher...stress levels lower...heart more compassionate." 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A treat for you

photo courtesy of The Coterie Blog

You must try Speculoos Cookie Butter from Trader Joe's.  Its sweet, gingery, spicy flavor is irresistible.  When I found this recipe for cookie butter cookies, I knew we had to try them.  Boy, was I right.

Be careful not to over bake these cookies.  You can store these in an airtight container (if they're not all gone in the first 15 minutes) and make sure to throw in a slice of bread with them.  The bread will keep the cookies nice and soft, instead of becoming stale as homemade cookies quickly do.  Trust me, I have tried it and it works. 

Cookie Butter Cookies

1/2 c. cookie butter, or speculoos (I used the creamy kind, but you can buy chunky)
1/2 c. butter
1 1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. vanilla
*extra cookie butter for drizzling at the end

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a mixing bowl beat butter and speculoos with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup of the flour, the sugars, egg, baking suda, baking powder, and vanilla. Beat till thoroughly combined. Beat in remaining flour.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 8-9 minutes or till bottoms are lightly browned.

Cool cookies on a wire rack. After the cookies cool for at least 20 minutes, melt about 1/4 c. speculoos in microwave and drizzle over cookies with a spoon.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Monday, May 12, 2014

A year's worth of books

As I was looking at my cloud list of subjects on my blog, I noticed the the "books" subject was by far the smallest!  While I have a long Amazon wish list for books, a Paperbackswap account where I trade books with other members, and an extensive Pinterest board entitled "slave to books", my little blog hasn't showcased very much on this magical world of literature.  Well, that certainly puts a stain on my claim as book enthusiast.  Something must be done about this!!

In the last year or so, I've read many new books and discovered some authors new to my horizon.  I read childrens' books, old books, non fiction, fiction, historical and theological.  I don't ever want to be too old to enjoy a simple kids' book, nor too limited to read a thick theological volume, so I try to keep my stack of reading material diverse and interesting.  

A few of my friends have questioned me on my favorite books, and ones I'd recommend to them.  So here is a list of a few books I read in the last year or so, and a brief note on each.  I encourage you to use your own discretion on what you choose to read, though, basing your convictions on the Bible and what your parent's idea of what you should be "filling your head" with :).  I use the guidelines of Philippians 4:8 as my standard, which is also the heading of my blog!

{Some of} What I read last year, and a bit about them:

A Chance to Die by Elisabeth Elliot
A reverent biography of an incredible woman.  Mrs. Elliot brings Amy Charmichael to life with photos, journal entries, letters and her own words on this lady who dedicated her life to serving in India.  On a personal note, I don't necessarily agree with all of Amy Charmichael's views on life, particularly marriage, but overall this book provoked me to examine my own faith and commitment to Christ.

Crazy Love by Francis Chan
Having received this for a graduation present, I read through this as we traveled cross-country.  I was challenged, humbled and repentant as I realized how desperately in love I need to be to Jesus Christ.  This is a book that all followers of God ought to read and ponder.

The Wanderer by Sharon Creech
Technically a book for 8-12 years old, this isn't really a light read.  While the text is simple, the storyline is fascinating and the plot rather puzzling.  An enticing blend of adventure and reflection.  This is easily one of my favorite books.

The Giver (book one of The Quartet) by Lois Lowry
This is the story of a young boy, living in a seemingly Utopian, futuristic world.  He is selected for a special position in the community, one that will reveal the true joy and pain of life long forgotten.  A unique blend of science-fiction and , this suspense-filled series is heartwarming and intriguing.  Good for readers 12 and up. 

Too Small to Ignore by Dr. Wess Stafford
My heartstrings were tugged as I read this poignant book.  Children are too intensely loved by Jesus to be forgotten, and it is our duty to cherish our children and invest in others in need, whenever we get the chance.  As a boy, the author was raised as a missionary child in an African village, and during the school year he lived at a boarding school which profoundly altered his life.  His first-hand account of the hardships, trials, joys and memories compelled him to tell others that there is a way to intervene for those less fortunate, and even those in our own homes.  

Chasing Redbird by Sharon Creech
Another kids' book, but it definitely holds a place on my favorite book shelf.  This Newberry Medal-winning tale is a delightful read that will bring a smile to your face...and a sympathetic tug at your heart.  Honestly written, this is the story of a quiet young girl lost in the middle of a big family, and how she steadily finds her way into adulthood by journeying into her family's mysterious past.  

Their Yesterdays by Harold Bell Wright
Heads up speed readers: slow down on this one.  While it's not exactly an exciting novel, this book has an important message behind it, so take the time to read each page thoroughly and understand it's meaning.  While some I know didn't care for this book, I personally found it very enjoyable and thought provoking!  Harold Bell Wright was an exceptional author and I recommend all of his books with the highest regards.

Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis
You will be deeply touched when you read this book.  This young woman had a passion to follow Jesus, and He took her to Uganda.  She left everything behind to obey the call of God and continues to pour her life into serving the people of Uganda to this day.  This is a journey of radical love and sacrifice.  Follow Katie down the red dirt roads of Africa, laugh and cry with her and learn more about her ministry, Amazima.  This book is a must-read!

Dinah Harris Mysteries by Julie Cave (a trilogy)
This exciting trilogy follows the story of a former FBI special agent as she struggles to take control of her life, all the while aiding the FBI in several different twisted crimes in Washington DC.  The Lord takes hold of her and brings people into her life that disciple her to live in accordance with Christ.  These books also strongly promote a young-earth creation worldview, and is filled with scientific facts and discussions about God and human existence.  I would recommend these books for ages 13 and up.

Keep an eye out for my next post about books, coming shortly!

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.  The man who never reads lives only one." 
-George R. R Martin

Monday, May 5, 2014

Success with gluten free

-photo courtesy of Baked Bree

I've been toying around with gluten free for some time now, and there have been successes and failures.  I like to find recipes that taste like they have refined flour and sugar, all those fake additives and cheats, because it's like getting the "good" flavor without compromising quality.  When I made this cake, it was like I'd died and gone to heaven.  You won't need more than one piece of this, it's so rich and gooey and chocolaty on it's own!

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake
Gluten and dairy free

6 Tablespoons high quality cocoa powder
1/2 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups almond meal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup olive oil
3 eggs

Whisk together cocoa and boiling water in a measuring cup. Add the vanilla. It will be a thickish paste.

In another small bowl, combine the almond meal, baking soda, and salt.

Add the sugar, olive oil, and eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture is pale yellow and thick. Reduce the mixer speed and add the cocoa mixture. Add the almond meal mixture. Mix until combined.

Pour the batter into a 9-inch springform pan that has been brushed with olive oil. Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes. The sides will be set and the center will look slightly damp. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the ring and let cool. Dust with powdered sugar.