Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Great photos link, and why "she thinks my tractor's sexy"

Our friends over at High Hopes Gardens posted some true-to-life photos of the damage from the ice storm here.

This has now been added to my personal wish -- make that necessity -- list. Kenny Chesney said it all in this song.

The Big Storm

I am finally back to work today after being stuck at home after the big ice storm last weekend. We knew this storm was going to wreak havoc on our area of the state. Friday afternoon, the sleet started around 4 pm. So I headed out to the grocery store and it was a madhouse! Saturday, the power was on and off most of the day and at 6:00 pm, it went out for 36 hours straight. We were among the lucky ones to get power restored by Monday afternoon - - some in nearby communities are still without power.

The ice and cold wind created heavy sleet coats on trees, power lines, and anything else that stood still. Power lines and poles snapped like toothpicks throughout the area (over 20 poles were completely down in a two-mile stretch near our home).
We used a propane tank (for a gas grill) with a radiant heat unit on top to stay warm. My biggest concern was the freezer full of meat. We packed two 5 gallon buckets full of ice and put them inside the chest freezer. That did the trick! We still have well water, so using the toilet was also a challenge. Those with rural water did not have the same issue.
We spent a lot of time reading, working on puzzles, playing cards, and sleeping (ok, I was the only one who slept). DH gets cabin fever something awful, so when he could finally get out and about, he did. I finally ventured out to my mom's yesterday for a little socialization.We even had a dinner guest last night - - our dear friend from church was still without power, so she came out and spent the afternoon with us. We so enjoy her wisdom and company; she taught elementary school for over 35 years and has much experience we can learn from! And there is tremendous mutual admiration between her and DD... so sweet to see them together.
By Sunday afternoon, the sun came out and DH and DD worked on cleaning out the driveway. No easy task with the several inches of ice and slush - - not good for the snowblower.
We have a gas stove, so we were able to cook a couple hot meals & liquids during the outage. Also, our neighbors to the west have a generator and opened up their home on Sunday. I brought over 18 eggs, she mixed in her home-grown ground sausage, a little shredded cheese . . . voila! Dinner for 10 is ready!

Truth be told, I believe it's good to have times like this every once in a while to remind us how fortunate we are to have the luxuries of power, television, heat, and water available at the touch of a button. Imagine the millions of people living every day without those luxuries. Perspective is a wonderful, humbling thing.
More photos from the storm can be seen here.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


What to do when you have a fridge full of veggies from the relish tray (carrots, celery, cauliflower, broccoli) that were not consumed by the 24 people over for dinner on Sunday night? Throw it all in a pot and make soup, of course. Kelli is getting creative and getting raves for her corn recipes with the abundance of corn in her freezer.

California Veggie & Rice Soup
Approx 5 cups raw veggies (carrots, celery, cauliflower, broccoli) chopped into small pieces
2 cans cheddar cheese soup
3 cups milk
3 cups brown rice (cooked)
1 T butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 ham hock
Salt & pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, melt butter and saute onions & mushrooms. Pour cheddar cheese soup and milk into pot, mix well. Dump in veggies. In a separate pan, cook rice. Pour rice into soup. In the rice pan, boil 2 cups water with the ham hock for 30 minutes. Place ham hock into soup pot and pour 1 cup of the ham hock water into soup. Simmer soup for 20-30 minutes. Add salt & pepper to taste. Soup will be very thick.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Yes Lord Amen

[Sermon I gave on Sunday]
Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord. Yes, yes, Lord. These opening lines to the song “Trading My Sorrows” by Darrell Evans greeted me the other morning as I woke up. It was one of those times you wake up nine minutes before your alarm goes off and wish you could go back to sleep but you might as well get up because chances are it will take five minutes to fall asleep again, only to be jarred awake four minutes later. Maybe it had something to do with those lyrics. Odd that it would be that song – it was my “wake up call” from God. The remainder of the chorus goes something like this:

Chorus:And we say yes Lord yes Lord yes yes LordYes Lord yes Lord yes yes LordYes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord Amen

Three simple words, “Yes Lord Amen.” I know when I ask Grace to pick up her room or do some other task, I get a “Yeeesssss, Mommmm.” But when I ask her if she wants to go to Adventureland, I get a “Yes, Mom, Yes, Mom, Yes, Yes Mom!” When God asks us to go through a trial or to give up something that’s worldly, we usually say, “Yeeeessss Loooorrrd.” When we are richly blessed and things are going really well for us, we say “Yes Lord!”

The Book of Ephesians should be subtitled, “Life’s Little Instruction Book.” Specifically in Chapter 4, Paul gives us some pretty clear instructions and inspiration on how we are to live:

Ephesians 4: 1. . .Live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
7… to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

Although Ephesians Chapter 4 is pretty explicit, Isaiah 6:8 summarizes it quite well: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" Isaiah didn’t hesitate on his answer. He didn’t say, “um, where am I going, will I be fed & clothed, and cared for? What is my reward again?” He simply said “Yes Lord Amen!”

This past year has been a trying one for our family. Not just our immediate family, but also with our church family. The Big D’s: death, disease, depression, divorce, disagreements, dysfunction, and desperation. I don’t say this to bring you down, but to remind all of us of the need for and God’s command for us to “bear with one another in love.” As Pastor Sung pointed out last week, the line in our bulletin that reads “Ministers of the Gospel” includes “all members of the congregation.” When you invite the spirit of the Lord into your heart, you become a minister, a missionary with a harvest that is ripe with promise. To bear with one another in love doesn’t mean to solve each others problems, it means to listen to each other, to walk together along the sunlit mountain tops as well as the dark valleys, and to hold each other accountable.

This passage not only says to bear with one another in love, but also to, “speak the truth in love, and in all things we will grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” We could all use some wisdom in learning to “speak the truth in love.” I mentioned several of the “Big D’s” but the past year has also brought about some discontent among us - - I won’t pretend that there aren’t certain things that I would like to see enhanced and improved . . . changed, if you will. And we’ve had vision conferences and many conversations about how to accomplish those things. But I also respect the doctrine of the church as well as the long-standing traditions and values of other members of the congregation. I may not walk the same walk you do, I may not see things the same way you do, but I firmly believe there is a win-win to be found for all of us as Paul says, “4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Contrary to what math teachers may tell you, there’s power in one - - individually and collectively.

As individuals, we all have specific spiritual needs, a hunger to know God in an intimate and meaningful relationship. Some of us are fed by Pastor Park and his teachings and perspective. Some of us are fed through fellowship with each other. Others are fed by feeding others through missions and outreach opportunities. There are so many ways we grow, individually and collectively. 16From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. As some of you know, I’m taking an anatomy class and I’m amazed how each part of our body works for the collective good. Same with a car engine. So, too, should our efforts in this congregation.

God calls each one of us -- not in the same way, not to the same thing -- but He does call. 11It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Are we unified in all that we do in this church? It’s okay to say no, to speak the truth in love. A body cannot function fully without a heart and brains and nerves. A car cannot function fully without a carburetor and spark plugs and gasoline. How can we expect to function fully as a church if we don’t have communication and dedication and innovation?

We’ve all been called to carry out a specific task for God’s kingdom. Sometimes that call is a still, small voice deep down in our heart. Other times, it is a “wake up call” that screams, “Yes Lord Yes Lord Yes Yes Lord!”

When you hear or are reminded He is calling will you, can you say with me, “Yes Lord Amen?” Will you cry out to Him "Here am I. Send me!"? The harvest is ready and the laborers are few. God is calling each of us today to some task big or small to be done in His name. I’m still not sure what God’s question or call to me was the other morning, but I know the answer will be “Yes Lord Amen.” By answering His call, we will know the joy of walking with God in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer: Lord of love and life, you call each one of us each day to tasks for you. Speak so we may understand your will. Bless our faltering efforts when we strive for obedience and yet are afraid. For we will say, "Yes Lord, I will go. I will hold your people in my heart, if you will lead me and hold my hand in yours." In Jesus' name. Amen

Life right now

It's funny how the seasons of our lives are so similar to nature's seasons. Winter with desolation, reflection, with moments of pure brilliance from the million diamonds reflecting off the cold snow. Spring with inner-stirring, hope, storms that can be violent yet nurture the fledgling life underneath. Summer with the heat, scorching, but can warm the soul. Fall's abundance, endings conditioned with brilliant strokes of art.

Life right now is many seasons - - storms of discontent, inner-stirring, hope for many things, moments of pure brilliance seen in the faces of family & friends.
Leah finally went back outside, but as you can see, she desperately wants back in.
My desk overfloweth with school books, garden planning, and church website research. All three overwhelm me. But I have the music of Alison Krauss and Eva Cassidy to keep me company.Question: the seeds in this box are all marked "2006" and have been out in the garden shed all winter - - do I dare use them this year?
I kicked the chickens out of their shed the other day to get it cleaned out. They are deathly afraid of the snow, so I made sure they had a path of grass to wander in. The warm weather has melted much more of the snow, so hopefully they will spend more time outside. But they sure seem to enjoy pecking around in a new bed of straw.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


The cat came back
He wouldn't stay away
He was sitting on the porch
The very next day

This is Socks (on the right), the neighbor cat who seems to really like our place. He has a collar & tag, so we called the owners to let them know he was with us. They came over last night to pick him up, but he was back again this morning. Leah doesn't seem to mind him too much - - he's much more vocal & friendly than she is. DD is thrilled. DH let him in the house last night until the owner showed up. I don't mind him if he stays away from the chickens. Welcome, Socks.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Zucchini good

This was a fantastic use of the zucchini, yes, I made this today. It was so good, we decided to share it with some of the "unsung heroes" at DH's school: the secretary, janitor, librarian, gym teacher, art teacher, and music teacher. We had a few nibbles before dinner and after dinner. It won't last long. Here's the recipe:

Chocolate Zucchini Cake (from the Conrad Iowa Entre Nous Club Cookbook)
1/4 cup oleo, softened
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup sour milk
2 1/2 cup flour
4 T cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp soda
2 cup zucchini
Mix together ingredients. Pour into a greased and floured 9x13x2" pan. Sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup chocolate chips on top of batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

Here's what else we did today:Don't I look so domestic in this fab apron?

DD spent over an hour looking at her scrapbooks - - a good reminder of why I scrapbook.

Digging out from the big storm

DD & I also made her Valentines for the party at school tomorrow - - we took mini Kit Kat bars, pulled off the wrapper and made our own fancy, stamped, personalized wrapper complete with flouncy ribbon. No photos; DD was sick of me taking pictures by then.

It's good to be snowed in when...

...there is homemade wheat bread in the oven and a freezer full of local meat (beef and pork). We still have a 26 pound turkey in there. I'm half tempted to ask DH to take it out to the workshop and buzz saw it in half!

I have three one-gallon bags of shredded zucchini in there. Other than a simple chocolate-zucchini cake (that only calls for 2 cups of zucchini), does anyone have ideas on what to do with all the rest?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Highs & Lows

On the "high" side, I got an A on my anatomy test this week. I was a nervous wreck last weekend trying to cram all that information into my tired little brain.
On the "low" side, we experienced our first loss with our chickens last night. I went out to gather eggs and one of my two Black Astralorps was lying on the floor. A wise man once said, "if you have livestock, then you're going to have to deal with deadstock." But she was a younger hen and I noticed the night before that she was a bit lethargic. She never had a name (strangely the only one without a name), so perhaps I should name her "Anna Nicole" because of her short life (but-not-quite-as-tragic death). Yes, this is all said "tongue in cheek." It just feels a bit odd to say I have five chickens now instead of six.

But God is good all the time...and all the time, God is good.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Pretty little things

In honor of the upcoming sweethearts day, I made a few colorful hearts to put on all the windows & mirrors on the main floor (yes, I do get a bit carried away). These are modified a bit from Martha's version, but just as pretty. I used multiple colors between the wax paper and cut them free-hand using a pinking shears. I made another sheet for DD to cut out her own hearts to decorate her room; DH helped her with that little project last night.

Note: this is a great way to get rid of all those tiny little nubs of crayon that find their way to the bottom of the bucket. Also note: do not use your good cheese grater to shave the crayons (can you say, "wow, that's some colorful cheese on the spaghetti!")

Also found these adorable vintage Valentines. Copy them onto card stock, cut them out, and voila instant kitsch! Here is another good site.

Monday, February 05, 2007

On a roll

Saturday was the INCA Conference in Marshalltown. I had the honor of taking photos at the conference, meeting Senator Tom Harkin, and sitting with Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. The conference provided me with new ideas and inspiration about the economic and environmental impact of eating locally.

We were guests at Orchard Hill church on Sunday, where they showed an interview with Bono and his vision for global stewardship & charity. I don't have a lot of "heroes" but Bono has got to be one of the coolest people on Earth. To have all that money, celebrity & influence and use it for good is the epitome of Matthew 25:34-40:

34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Today, I finally got around to viewing the website for "An Inconvenient Truth." I still haven't seen the film, but will make it a priority when I actually have a free night. If you think one person can't have a positive impact on global warming, take a look at this. Happy "greening!"

Victory Garden Redux?

Add another reason for eating locally and growing your own food ("Victory Garden"). Can you imagine if just a few more people in your neighborhood or community were to plant a garden to consume, share, and preserve? The economic and environmental impact would be huge. Don't underestimate the power of the local food dollar and the ripple effect it has. Here is a great resource to get started.
[photos courtesy of Heirloom Seeds]