Archives for September 2011

Baby giveaway!

Today’s giveaway is a group of useful baby items. The first is a cute partitioned plate with pictures on it to demonstrate healthy ratios of meats, veggies and starches.

Next is a book filled with all sorts of ideas to help babies sleep. Now, I need to mention that I disagree with a few of the ideas in the book. Breastfed infants don’t need water. They just need their mommas.  I don’t believe that co-sleeping  is dangerous.  Undrugged mommas are very capable of keeping their babies safe sleeping right next to them. If dad happens to be a very deep, restless sleeper and you’re concerned,  keep baby in one of those cool ‘sidecar’ things on mom’s side of the bed.  (This one is THE best ever!)   Also I disagree with letting a baby under the age of 9 months or so cry it out. Older babies, maybe. But even when I’m putting a 1 year old in bed and insisting he stay there, I am sitting next to the crib patting his back.  I just don’t feel right about leaving little ones alone to cry.

So, yeah.  I have reservations about a few of the ideas in the book. But along with the few ideas I hated,there were many, many creative ideas that just might help a sleep-frazzled parent coax a little more sleep out of their little one.  If you can take the advice with a grain of salt, you’ll find lots of helpful ideas in this book.

The final item that I am offering to give away is an adorable waterproof cloth-diaper cover by Mika of Froggy Girl Designs.  She does all sorts of adorable custom sewing, including clothing and diapers for babies and little children.  The winner of the giveaway gets to choose whether they want the red transportation design or the pink piggy ballerina design.  There are many other cute designs offered on the site as well. These diaper covers are size medium, and thanks to their 4 rows of sturdy snaps will adjust to fit most babies between 12 and 22 pounds or so.  The leg and waist openings are softly gathered with a stretchy fold-over elastic to feel comfy on delicate skin, and the inner layer is a soft waterproof PUL. These are great little diaper covers. The only reason you get to choose from both of these is that my daughter and her husband don’t know yet if they’re having a girl or a boy, and I don’t know which of these cute covers to keep! (If I end up giving away the one they need, I’ll be high-tailing it over to Froggygirl Designs to buy them another one!)  ūüôā

To enter this drawing for your own baby or just to have a great baby shower gift sometime, comment below and tell me one item that you think is absolutely essential when getting ready for a baby to arrive.  A couple things on my list:  onesies, and a good baby carrier. For a second entry, go visit Froggy Girl Designs and tell me one item you like there. For a THIRD entry, hit the ‘like’ button at the bottom of this post, then comment again and tell me you liked this giveaway.  I’ll be announcing a winner on Friday.  And stay tuned:  I’ve got more cookbooks to give away this week, including a very cool rice cooker cookbook.

Our 5K

Unlike my first 5K in June, I went into this race with some serious goals.¬† I was hoping to finish in 32 minutes.¬† I was also hoping to make my final mile my fastest. Knowing that there’d be things I couldn’t control or predict in the race, I also made a more modest fallback goal: to at least beat my June 5k time of 34:32.

I was thrilled to be running this race with our 13 and 16 year old daughters. John dropped the three of us off two blocks from the starting line, then drove off with the other kids to find parking and get situated to cheer at the finish line. The starting line was right in front of the capitol building, and when we got there, the streets were already filling with women and girls. We had signed up for the red wave (runners hoping to finish in <35 minutes) so we found our group and settled ourselves about 30 feet behind the front of the line.  Our wave would be released right after the elite runners and wheelchair racers.

The temp was in the 60’s and we’d left our jackets with John. So we bounced around a bit trying to stay warm before the race.¬† Balloons, rock music and thousands of people filled the space and made for a festive atmosphere. Soon we spotted John’s sister and her daughters and waved for them to join us.¬† We visited, people-watched, and stretched a bit to warm up.¬† I was really pleased that our daughters were as excited to do this as I was.

The race was to begin at 9.¬† Elite wheelchair racers were released first, around 8:50.¬† My girls moved further forward in the waiting pack because they were hoping to finish in 27 minutes or so.¬† I set my Garmin to find satellites, and started my mp3 player, thinking we’d still be waiting til 9 to start.¬†¬†The elite runners were released a couple minutes later, and almost immediately¬† the rest of us began to move forward.

Somehow I didn’t quite believe that this was our start-gun too.¬†¬† I thought we were still five minutes ahead of race time and two blocks behind the start line.¬† But in reality we were starting early, and not only that, the starting line was a block earlier than I thought as well.¬† Because of my confusion, I wasn’t even running when I hit the start pad.¬† Then my stopwatch wandered off into lala land, which meant I had to wait for it to find satellites again before I could even turn it on.¬† Not an auspicious beginning.

I was flustered, but started running at what felt like a pretty easy pace.¬† My girls were already far ahead of me, and I guessed that my sister in law and nieces were close behind me, but I didn’t look back to check. After a minute or so I looked down at the Garmin and saw an 8:30 pace.¬† Yikes, too much adrenaline. I’d be burned out in a mile at that rate.¬† I slowed down a little and tried to stay relaxed and easy.¬† The first mile was pretty much flat, and my watch read 10:30 when I finished it.¬† Good, that was pretty much on target with what I’d hoped to do.

The second mile began with a pretty decent hill up towards the train depot with a water station around the 1.5 mile mark.¬† I powered up the hill trying to keep up my speed, encouraging myself along with the thought that I’d let myself walk through the water station.¬†¬† Between the hill and the walk through the water station, that half-mile was slower than 11 minutes/mile.

Once past the water station I ran again, fighting to keep my pace up.  The asphalt was really feeling hard  (I usually run on gravel) and I knew I still had a long way to go.  I was encouraged to still be keeping up with a couple of fit-looking younger galsРactually, everyone around me looked pretty in-shapeРand far in the distance I occasionally spotted my 16yo daughter.   I was gaining on her.

But I was getting tired.  I made the goal of getting to the 2-mile mark, promising myself a 30-second walk break when I got there.  But by the time I got there, my left foot  (the one with plantar fasciitis) was seriously tightening up.  It felt bad enough that I feared it would seriously cramp on the final stretch, which included a lovely downhill that I was hoping to really speed down. I decided to stop briefly to stretch it.  I hated to do it, but I wanted to run, not hobble, that last mile.

As I was finishing stretching, I spotted my daughter Erika.¬† She’d positioned herself along the edge to cheer us on– it was a really good time to see a familiar face, have someone cheering me on, and to hear that the girls ahead of me were doing well too. A few minutes later, I hit that final down hill I’d been so looking forward to.¬† I was tired enough that even running downhill still felt like a big effort, but the pause to stretch had been just what my foot needed.¬† I gave it all gas and no brake and was seeing 9:30’s on my Garmin down the hill.¬† Very encouraging.

After the downhill there was only 2/10 of a mile left.¬† But without the momentum of the downhill, I felt like I had zero speed in me. I was sure I had to be running a 12-minute pace or slower, but I couldn’t bear to look at my watch to find out how bad it was.¬† I couldn’t even smile as I passed my cheering family– all I managed was a side-armed wave.¬† I wanted SO badly to stop, but I couldn’t, not this close to the finish. When I finally reached the finish, I was totally spent.¬† Not a bit left for a final kick.¬† I just trundled in at the same pace, glad to finally be done.¬† Afterward my Garmin told me that I’d actually been running a 9:56 pace during that last 3/4 mile.¬† No wonder I felt like I couldn’t go one mite faster.

Past the finish line, I was greeted by my family, where I promptly sat down on a curb to pant with my head between my knees.¬† My foot was in utter misery, it was SO unhappy.¬† My final time was 33:55– about two minutes slower than my goal pace, which was disappointing to me.¬† My Garmin recorded my actual moving time as 32:55 with a distance of 3.15 miles.¬† I think if I’d gotten out there quicker at the start and hadn’t needed that minute to stretch my foot, I’d have been closer to my goal time. I ended up 45th out of 80 people in my age group who wore timing chips. Not awesome, but not terrible either.

Our 16yo daughter finished a minute ahead of me and was 17th in her age group.  Not bad for having a rip-roaring cold at the time.  And our 13yo daughter finished in 26:05 which put her 6th in her age group, and 89th overall.  She is one speedy girl.

Looking back a couple days later¬† (and still feeling my sore quads) I know I gave it my best, especially considering my misbehaving foot.¬†¬† I’d like to have run faster.¬† But I have to keep things in perspective.¬† A year ago I couldn’t run between two telephone poles without stopping.¬† Last Christmas I ran 2.5 miles in 33:35.¬† Saturday I ran 3.1 miles in 33:55.¬† I did my last mile in under 10 minutes, and I beat my June race time by more than half a minute.¬† I’m not speedy by any stretch, but I’m improving.

And really— do you know what was the best thing about this race?¬† Getting to run it with my girls.¬† We all enjoyed the challenge and the fun of doing something out of the ordinary.¬† It was a fun experience to share, so much that we’re already scheming our next race!




The three winners of Shaun Grove’s Third World Symphony are:

The book Finding Aster goes to #3 Heather

In Search of Fatherhood goes to #22 ESNzira


Congrats, gals!¬†¬† Email me your address and I will get these items headed in your direction! Next week will be the final week of giveaways– I’ve got baby goodies and more cookbooks to give away.¬† Also on Monday I am hoping to tell you about today’s race!


5K playlist

Here’s my playlist for tomorrow’s race. I think it could safely be called eclectic.

Orphans, poverty, my place?

(Music giveaway below!)
I first met Shaun Groves in a waiting area in the Miami International Airport.   We were on our way to spend a week together in the Dominican Republic along with several other bloggers, where Shaun (who’d invited us) would be showing us the work of Compassion International.   I hadn’t really met a ‘real’ recording artist before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but my overwhelming impression after the week with him was one of humility and heart.  OK, and a good sprinkling of corny humor.  The trip was an amazing experience for me  (more here).  I ended up so gratified and happy to see what Compassion is doing with our money.  They’re headed in the right direction regarding this orphan crisis:  supporting families so that there will be fewer orphans in the world.

Shaun and Keely hoping for late-night blogging inspiration

I’ve been a fan of adoption for years, obviously.  But adopting our older girls, and seeing the tremendous pain they’ve experienced losing family and country all in one fell swoop has given me a more nuanced view of adoption. Yes, it is a good solution for some (many?) children.  But in many cases, a better solution would be to support the families who would parent their own children if they could afford clothes and food and school.  We in America are not ignorant to the poverty in the world. It exists even here.  But to walk into a shack and literally see the lives that people lead…well, it gave me a whole new understanding. The picture above is of Shaun and our awesome photographer Keely, pounding the keyboard late at night, getting words out to describe the days we spent in the Dominican Republic.  Boy, that was hard for me– wanting to come up with exactly the right words to bring others there with me.

Shaun-Groves-Third-World-Symphony-iTunes-banner-120x240Shaun has dealt with this same issue in his music– wanting to make a difference with his words.  And I think in his latest CD Third World Symphony he has done exactly that.  It’s been played at my house at least 5 times a week since I’ve gotten it.

One of the things that was hardest for me about coming home after the trip was assimilating the memory all those real faces — those real struggling people —  into my everyday life.  It made me really rethink where our resources go.

Frankly, it’s an ongoing seesaw:  seeing need, wanting to help, taking a step to do something.  Then there is a slide back to complacency and comfort.  Almost a forgetting.  Granted, by many people’s standards, we have contributed to solutions through the adoption of our children, and through the sponsorship of others.  But when I’m being searingly honest about our life, there is more that we could do.

I asked Shaun how he wrestled with this issue.   Here’s what he wrote:

      “I battle the Schindler syndrome, yes  – struggling with not doing all that could be done, looking at even the smallest comfort in my house and wondering how many more could be saved if I did without it. How austere, how simple, how generous am I to be?
      “We sold our dream house and moved into one much smaller but many third world homes could fit inside its walls. We support a local food pantry and homeless mission with time and money but we still throw out leftovers and expired groceries. We sponsor three children and one college student through Compassion International but when I’m losing my battle with addiction we could sponsor a couple more with what I spend on morning soft drinks. We’ve adopted recently but we have space and love for many more.
    “I wish God gave us a program, some rules to follow when it comes to simplicity and generosity. To keep us from the extremes of gluttony and asceticism. But instead of a program God gave us a Person: Jesus. And all I know to do, Mary, is to spend time with Him, in real intimate relationship with Him and other Christians who know the details of my life –  regularly, constantly. And in that relationship to do much more listening and pleading for direction than I do talking. To prepare more than I plan. To create margins, leftover time and money and energy, so that I’m free and ready to give or go as He leads me.
      “A wise mutual friend of ours, Brian Seay, taught me that God’s will for my life will often be found at the intersection of someone’s need and my ability. I stood in an Ethiopian orphanage looking into orphan eyes and found God’s leading there. I have an ability that matches their need. I had a neighbor who had a medical need but couldn’t afford to get treatment and I had extra in the bank that month – God was telling us something wasn’t He? And on and on we go, with hands and eyes open, looking and listening for the intersection of our ability and the needs of others.”
Shaun has graciously offered me three Third World Symphony CD’s to give away today. I think that you will really enjoy his music.  To enter the drawing, comment below– if you wish, you may share how you wrestle with this dilemma. Or just comment and share one person or thing that is a blessing to your life today.  For an additional entry, share the link to this giveaway post on facebook or twitter.  And thanks for reading today. When you take the time to visit my blog you bless me!

Recipe: Cinnamon Date Bars

A week or so ago I gave away¬† a cookbook called Maman’s Homesick Pie and mentioned that we had tried and enjoyed a recipe for Cinnamon Date Bars.¬† Here is the recipe in case you’d like to try it!¬† They’re a little like fig newtons, but with a much more flaky top.¬† Yum!

Makes 3 dozen



  • 7 ounces (1-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon
  • 1 egg, beaten, for brushing the dough


  • 2 cups finely chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon


  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

To make the dough: Cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until pale, about 2 minutes.  Add egg, egg yolk  (I just used two eggs here) and vanilla separately, mixing well after each addition.   Add flour and salt to the butter mixture and mix until the dough comes together. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and roll into a ball.  Wrap in plastic and chill 1 hour or overnight if you like.

To make the filling:  Combine dates, brown sugar, and water in a saucepan and cook over low heat, about 8-10 minutes, until mixture boils and thickens.  Stir in the cinnamon.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely.

To put together the bars: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper  (I just greased and floured mine).  Remove dough from fridge and cut in half, setting one aside. On a well-floured surface, roll half the dough into a rectangle about 10 x 14 inches.  The dough is crumbly, so patch it together with your fingers if needed.  Roll dough carefully up onto your rolling pin and then unroll it onto the baking sheet.  Brush with beaten egg.

Spread date filling evenly down the center and out toward the edges of the dough, allowing 1/4 inch on the edges for sealing.  Roll the remaining dough into a same-size rectangle.   Roll it onto the rolling pin and unroll it directly over the dates.  Press gently to seal edges.  Trim edges and brush top with beaten egg.  Using a fork, lightly poke top layer of the dough to make vents.  Refrigerate 20 minutes.

Sift together powdered sugar and cinnamon over the date bar before placing in oven  (I just sprinkled mine with granulated sugar and forgot the cinnamon).  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet.  Slice into 2-inch bars.





Third World Symphony

I’ve got a giveaway of this new CD coming later this week.¬†¬† But first, a story from Shaun Groves:


Last homeschool giveaway

The winner of the Lamplighter book according to is commenter #36 Kari J.¬† Congrats! Also, if you haven’t entered my giveaway for a Keurig coffee pot, there’s still time!


The final giveaway for homeschooling week is a great tool for kids who need to get their math facts down or need some spelling practice.¬† Dr. Aardsma’s Drills is a website that offers a variety of services to parents, all designed to cut down on the work for the parents.¬† They have an online Saxon math checking service that is $28 a year per student.¬† Kids plug the answers to their math lessons online, and the service emails reports to the parents each day or each week. There are also online spelling bees, spelling quizzes, and math flash cards for a variety of ages.

The giveaway today is two FREE Dr.  Aardsma’s Drills, one for spelling and one for math.  These are great time savers for busy moms!  You can enter this drawing twice:

1. To enter once, go over to Aardsma’s¬† Drills and look around, then come back here and tell me which service looks most useful to you.

2. For a second entry to this drawing, go to my Owlhaven Facebook Page and tell me which blog post categories here on Owlhaven are most useful to you:¬† recipes, money saving ideas, homeschooling, adoption, or whatever else you like best. I’d love to hear what you like best.

I’ll announce the winner on Monday.¬† Also Monday we begin a new week of giveaways.¬† So stay tuned!¬† I hope you’re enjoying giveaway month. Also