Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Countdown - Christmas Morning Edition

Merry Christmas! Wishing you a joy-filled, hope-filled, Christ-worshipping day, today and all year long, as we focus our hearts and minds on the child that was born to be our King, our Saviour, our Redeemer!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Countdown

I know, I know. It is Wednesday. I should be posting a Wow-ful Woman. I'm not. This is a man. You need to know, that I did not own this CD until I met my soon-to-be husband. This song instantly grabbed my heart. It may have felt incredibly autobiographical for Chris and I back in the day. Just sayin'.

And it usually made me cry like a girl. Apparently it still does (*ahem*). Christmas barely feels like Christmas until I hear this song. On the recorded version there is a lovely duet part added half way through, but I really, really, really like this SCC plus guitar version (particularly because then I can sing the duet part as if in a really excellent karaoke moment).

LOVE this song. LOVE.
Yay for Steven Curtis Chapman.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Countdown - Duet Style

Okay, so don't mind the awkward Kathy Lee Gifford interview part at the beginning, but do enjoy the brilliantly talented Harry Connick Jr. with his adorable daughter, Kate. How much fun is this?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Building Family Traditions

Sometime near or on December first, our family gets the house ready for Christmas. It has become known as “Tree Day” and it is one of the highlights of our year.

It isn’t anything fancy, really. We go out and buy a fresh tree. Sometimes, we don’t even all go and pick it out together. Most times, my husband goes out, by himself, and with very little pomp and circumstance, brings home a tree. Nothing remarkable about that.

Then we pull out our ornaments and put them on the tree. Now, some families have an ornament for every year that each child has lived, and special ones from special relatives, and memory ornaments of people who have passed on, and some have the crafty ones the kids made when they were little.

We don’t have those.

We have fairly normal, basic, gold and cream ornaments and some ribbon that we wind around the branches. Nothing remarkable about that.

While we are doing the tree, we are listening to Christmas music and eating ‘Christmas foods’. The foods are typically snacky appetizer types that we graze on while we decorate. Chips. Salsa. Cheese. Crackers. Nothing particularly remarkable about that either.

But you know what? This year, my 9 year old said, “I think I like this day almost better than Christmas morning.”

Now that’s remarkable. Why do you think that is?

Please read the rest of my latest Heart of the Matter article here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wow-ful Women Wednesdays - Christmas Edition

This song was brand new to me last year, and I posted it near Christmas. I do believe it bears re-posting. I still always think I can get through this song dry-eyed, and everytime I'm wrong.

A Baby Changes Everything -- Faith Hill

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Countdown

There are soome Christmas songs that everyone covers because they are just that good. This is one of them. But there is something about this version, sung by the lyricist himself, that makes it my favourite version of it. Ever. Mark Lowry sings his song slower than most. And he sings it like he's really speaking to Mary, and really just as awed as she must have been to find out just who her son truly was.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Foodie Fridays

In case you weren't aware, Christmas is coming. Rapidly. Like, very, very soon. And as we all know, Christmas has 2 challenges: First, to buy the perfect gift for the people on your lists; Second, to not gain 30 pounds. Can I get an "amen"?

So, in the middle of all your eating and baking and feasting, you may want something a little lighter to eat. Yet, it has to be simple, because who has time to fuss over breakfast?

A long time ago, I shared my family's favourite breakfast muffin recipe. Well, today, I am going to share my second favourite breakfast muffin recipe. You can't feel bad about eating a muffin that has no oil and no sugar added. Especially when it is still sweet and cakey and sticky and yummy. Okay, so here goes:

Totally Apple-icious Muffins (okay, that's a lame name, but it works!)

3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
2-3 apples, not peeled, diced
2 tbsp baking powder
pinch of cinnamon (optional)
pinch of nutmeg (optional)
pinch of cloves (optional)
pinch of salt
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs
2 cups apple juice

Mix the dry ingredients (and apples) in a large bowl. Make a well in the center. In the well, mix the wet ingredients. Combine all together to moisten, without over-stirring.

Scoop into muffin tins (greased, if need be) and bake at 375F for 17 minutes.

That's it! It makes about 20 muffins (sometimes more, sometimes less depending on how much your flour absorbs the liquid).

If you want to get fancy, add a cup of chopped nuts, or sprinkle the tops with brown sugar before baking. These make very moist, cakey muffins. I really like them. Hope you do too!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Countdown - Country Style

Okay. Throw stones if you want, but I'm pretty sure I'm not the only Country music liker out there. Especially a little *ahem* Garth Brooks. I won't lie. My Garth Brooks Christmas cassette is one of my favourites (clearly not favourite enough to justify dropping $9.99 on iTunes, but whatever. Maybe Santa reads my blog and wants to gift me with it this year!)

I really like this version of this song. Just kind makes me all happy and warm on the inside. (And I know you like it too, even if you pretend you don't!) :-)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wow-ful Women Wednesdays - Christmas Edition

Here it is: Our next installment of our Christmas Countdown! I really like this woman's voice. Did I ever tell you how I irritated the lady next to me when I saw Sarah McLachlan at the Western Fair? Yes, I know I did. How shameful. Still, she sings so prettily. This is just lovely, yes?

Okay: two for one today. Here is a totally different version of this song that takes me back to Christmases long ago! There is no video, just an album cover photo. I cannot tell you how many years I wore my hair just like that. And I can't tell you how many times I sang the descant in verse two thinking I might actually be a soprano, deep down inside (no. No. NO! really, reallly not a soprano...)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Countdown

This carol speaks to me. Always has. And this version in particular is very stirring. Our choir sang this last year. Any WLA'ers able to still sing along?

This might be my favourite of the Christmas Countdown.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Countdown

You need to just close your eyes now. And possibly have a tissue handy. There is no video to watch; only sublime beauty to hear.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Foodie Fridays

Dear Amy,

My apologies for making you wait so long for this post! 4 weeks ago you asked me if I had a good recipe with any secret ingredients for Minestrone Soup, and I have left you high and dry until now. How have you survived?

I do, indeed, have a favourite Minestrone recipe. It began with a recipe from my already stated favourite cook book "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" by Deborah Madison. (Have you all bought this yet? You must!) Her Lentil Minestrone was my beginning platform, and I've tweaked it to make it one of my favourite soups.

Now before I give you the recipe, let me tell you a story about minestrone soup. (Bet you didn't know I had a story about minestrone soup. I have a story for almost anything!)

Way back in 1997 when Chris and I lived in Northern California for 6 months, we met a friend who took us to Il Fornaio restaurant in Sacremento. If that wasn't good enough, he actually took us there TWICE! Oh, Bliss! This was an Italian heaven, let me tell you. Now on to the soup part of the story. The first time we went it was November. We went out for my birthday. So nice. I ordered "Seasonal, Vegan Minestrone Soup" as my starter. It was light and tomatoey and full of perfectly diced veggies. with a shaving of parmasean cheese on top....yes.

Then we went again in December just as we were on our way back home. I thought "I must have that perfect soup again before I die" and so I ordered it again. There was not a tomato in sight! It was thicker, heartier, and definitely with potatoes in it. Oh dear me, even better! Who knew? I asked the waiter and he graciously pointed me back to the menu where it said the soup is made with "seasonal vegetables". Of course!

And so my love of minestrone, in all its variations, began with fervor.

Now I have one basic recipe that I do mostly year round, but I do alter the contents slightly during different seasons. And as always, my quantities vary with how many folks I'm serving, and what happens to be in my fridge at the time. Enough preamble: on to the recipe!

Lentil Minestrone

2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped parsley (Not that I measure it that closely)
1/4 cup chopped thyme (Or a good shake of the dried stuff)
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 carrots, peeled and diced
3 parsnips, peeled and diced
4 ribs celery, diced
1 cup green lentils (or just a big handful, really)
1 cup red lentils (ditto on the handful)
2 bay leaves (optional)
9 cups water, veggie broth, or beef broth
2 cans diced tomatoes (or crushed, for a thicker, more tomato-based soup, or one of each--that's what I usually do)
Good sized Splash of soy sauce (optional, but it gives a depth of flavour, especially if you used water or veggie broth)
Something Green, chopped (you can use fresh or frozen spinach, kale, chard, collards...)
Cabbage, shredded fine (as much as you like: I like lots. My kids? Not so much. Too bad for them! Bwahahaha!)
2-3 cups of small, cooked pasta (macaroni, mini shells, orzo, alphabet noodles...)
(Parmasean shavings to garnish, if desired)

(I know, it looks like a lot of ingredients, but they are just veggies, and you can chop them up and throw them in the pot as you go)

Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Saute the onions until lightly browning. Add the garlic, parsley, and cook another 2 minutes, or so. Add the lentils, bay leaves, thyme, and liquid. Bring to a boil. (while I'm waiting for the pot to boil, I start peeling and chopping, and tossing veggies in the pot as they are chopped.) Once it is boiling, turn it down to a simmer and add all the veggies (including cabbage and greens, especially if they are fresh, not frozen.) At this point you may say "wow Barbara, that was not enough liquid. My soup is way too thick!" You can add more broth, you can add another can of tomatoes, or you can add the water you cook the noodles in (see below). Sometimes the lentils seem to soak up more liquid than other times.

Let simmer until the lentils and veggies are cooked (say 30 minutes). Taste and add salt and pepper and soy sauce to taste. Remove the bay leaves and stir in the pasta, with some or all of the cooking water if the soup is too thick still.

That's all! Now, it can keep simmering indefinitely. And I have made this in the crock pot, omitting the olive oil step at the beginning. Just toss it all in the crock pot overnight on low. Then add the pasta just before serving.

If you want to make it a Winter Minestrone, cut back on the canned tomatoes and increase the broth, and add 3 cups peeled, diced potatoes with the other veggies.

And secret tip: Soup always tastes better on day two, so if you want to make it ahead and reheat the next day that's a good plan. Or just really enjoy the leftovers! Also secret tip number 2: If the soup tastes a little bland right away or the next day, but you don't think salt will help, try squeezing the juice of a lemon into the pot. It won't taste really lemony in the soup, but it will make the flavours POP!Enjoy!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Compassion Bloggers

Our family has a child that we sponsor through Compassion. His name is Juan and he lives in Colombia. It is truly amazing how connected one can feel to a child they will likely never meet just by reading their letters and looking at their pictures.

Juan was in a very serious accident a few years ago, and we have prayed with him and his family as we wait for his recovery. It is a long slow process, especially considering the limitations of finances and access to medical care that Juan's family has.

We praise the Lord for the Compassion Project and the local church that are coming alongside Juan's family to help support them and care for them in very practical ways. We rejoice when Juan says that he loves Jesus and knows that God can heal him, if He chooses. We are so grateful to be even a small part of his life. And we know that we often get too busy and get behind in our letter writing, wondering what difference a note from us might make.

Well, if I ever had any doubt about the difference a sponsor makes in these kids' lives, along comes this video. If you aren't already a subscriber to Shaun Groves' blog, you really should be. If nothing else, seeing his blog will remind you to write to your child. And if you haven't sponsored a child yet, maybe this will be the nudge you need to do it. What a difference a prayer makes. I love this story.
God is so good!

Please follow this link to see this testimony from the family of the girl that Shaun Groves' sponsors.

And then follow this link to learn more about how you can make a difference in a child's life.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wow-ful Women Wednesdays - Christmas Edition

Welcome to a month of Wow-ful Christmas Women! Now that it is December, I feel quite free to pour upon thou some fabulous Christmas Wow-fulness.

Our first spectacle is the stunning video full of stunning vocals that caused me to flood my house last Christmas Eve. (what? You don't remember that post? Oh, go back and read it. It's a doozy.)

Enjoy! Celtic Woman -- O Holy Night.