Archives for April 2012

Running by the Book

This weekend I got chatting with my brother, sis-in-law, and my son in law, all of whom had run ‘Robie’, a race billed as the toughest half-marathon in the northwest because it consists of about 8 miles uphill followed by 5 miles downhill.  If the uphill portion doesn’t kill your knees, the downhill will.

My brother and his wife who’d run the race for fun, enthused about the party atmosphere.  My son-in-law (who doesn’t run any race slow, despite what he sometimes claims) talked about the unusually warm temps that day, and made it clear it’d been a really tough race.

In the midst of the talk, another sister turned to me and asked if I’d ever thought of doing a half-marathon.  “Yes,” I said.  “Someday.   Maybe.”

“You should run Robie with us next year!” enthused my ever-encouraging sister in law.

I have to admit that the thought appealed.  I’m always up for a challenge and in a race that tough, there’s no shame in walking some (or more than some?).  But a half-marathon at this point is far beyond my capability.  These days when doing my favorite 3.6 mile loop, I take at least a couple 5-minute walk breaks.  If I run something this year, it’ll probably be more in the 5K range.  And if I run a half-marathon ever, it’d probably be smart to pick something other than mostly-uphill Robie.

But this morning when I sat down with a heap of books I’d promised to review  (stay tuned for another Mother’s Day giveaway this week!) I opened a book that has been here for a few weeks but that I hadn’t had time to look at yet.  And it immediately sucked me in.

Running by The Book: Becoming Physically and Spiritually Fit is an intriguing mix of race-training manual and devotional.  The book is written by Corinne Baur, a certified running coach who has run distances ranging from 5K to ultra-marathons. The idea of the book is to encourage runners toward both spiritual and physical stamina, with the goal to run either a 10-k (about 6 miles) or a half-marathon (13.1 miles) at the end of 12 weeks.

With this book in my hands, I found myself scheming a plan.  There’s a race called the Harvest Classic in September with distances of 1,2 or 5 miles.  With the help of this book, I’m hoping to spend this summer training to run the 5-mile race.  If that goes well and I remain injury-free, I may even think about trying a half-marathon the following spring.  Probably not Robie –are there any half-marathons that are gentle downhills all the way?? —  but I’m excited to have a goal and interested to see how much I can improve over the next months!

Are you interested in challenging yourself to greater distances?  I have good news.  I’m giving away a copy of Running by the Book to one lucky reader.  All you have to do to enter is to tell me where you are on your running journey.  Are you a newbie?  An experienced runner ready to take your running further? Or somewhere in between?  Have you ever run a race?

For an additional entry,  go ahead and look up a race that happens this fall in your area.  Comment again and tell me when the race is and what distance it is.  Wanna run it?  Think about it!  🙂

I’ll be announcing the winner of this giveaway on Thursday!





If my heart is overwhelmed
And I cannot hear Your voice
I will run to what is true
Though I cannot see

If the storms have come my way
And the road ahead gets steep
I will lift these hands in faith
I will believe

I’ll remind myself
Of all that You’ve done
And the life I have
Because of Your son

Love came down and rescued me
Love came down and set me free
And I am Yours
I’m forever Yours
Mountains high or valley low
I sing out, remind my soul
That I am Yours
I’m forever Yours

When my heart is filled with hope
And every promise comes my way
When I feel Your hands of grace
Rest upon me

Staying desperate for You, God
Staying humble at Your feet
I will lift these hands in praise
I will believe

I’ll remind myself
Of all that You’ve done
And the life I have
Because of Your son

Love came down and rescued me
Love came down and set me free
And I am Yours
I’m forever Yours
Mountains high or valley low
I sing out, remind my soul
That I am Yours
I’m forever Yours

Two-book Mother’s Day giveaway!

This weekend I have a very fun two-book set for you that I’ll be giving away to two different readers!  I’m excited about the timing of this, because both these books would make lovely Mother’s Day gifts. The first book is called Life’s Too Short to Miss the Big Picture (for Moms) written by Melanie Simpson.  This book is scheduled to be released on Mother’s Day, so the winners of this giveaway will have their copies before the general public.  It is a compilation of stories by a mother of two, sharing some of her most precious moments of motherhood, both the good and the challenging.  It is the type of book that can be easily read in short snippets of time, which makes it perfect for a busy mom.

The second book is called A Scrapbook of Motherhood Firsts: Stories to Celebrate and Wisdom to Bless Moms. This one was written by an interesting group of mama-writers: Leslie Wilson, Trish Berg, Terra Hangen, Cathy Messecar, and Karen Robbins.  This book combines thoughtful essays with mothering advice on topics that range from cookbooks to travel to bedtime routines.  This is an easy, encouraging, lovely book that any mom would enjoy.

To enter this drawing, comment below and tell me one mothering book that has been an encouragement to you over the years.  For an additional entry, share this giveaway on facebook or twitter using the buttons below, then come back and comment again so I’ll know you did it.  I’ll pick a winner on Tuesday, and get the books shipped out to you in time to give away as Mother’s Day gifts if you wish!  Looking forward to hearing your book recommendations!

Raising Fearless Eaters

As a kid I remember feeling disdainful of the kids whose mothers cut the crusts off their sandwiches.  My mom would never let me waste 20% of my bread, and I didn’t really understand what was so bad about a bread crust anyway. I mean, really – save your dislike for something truly disgusting. Like liver.

My preferred approach with liver was to cut it into pill-sized bits and swallow without chewing. I never have served liver to my kids.  But I grew up truly enjoying most food.  And fairly early on in our parenting career, my husband and I decided to encourage our children to have a broad range of food likes.

Home cooking right from the start

One of the first choices we made towards that goal was to skip commercial baby food. Except for rice cereal at the very start, our kids just ate well-mashed bits of what we ate at every meal. I think that got kids used to the flavors of family cooking right from the
start. That was back before I even knew that a lot of commercially prepared baby food contains a fair bit of high fructose corn syrup – not the healthiest ingredient in the world.

Just a couple bites

We encourage kids to taste everything offered at a meal.  The standard rule at our house is that you need to eat at least as many bites as you are old.  So a 3 year old would eat three bites of carrot.  A 6 year old would need to eat 6 bites of spaghetti. The only exception to this rule is true gagging aversion, which does happen occasionally with some kids and some foods.

Limit junk

Soda pop and potato chips come with us on vacations, and also occasionally when company visits.  But in general we avoid high-sugar, high-salt, highly processed food that serves to dull taste buds to the deliciousness of real food.  For more on this idea, check out Recultivating Our Sense of Taste.

Mix it up!

Because I love to cook, we eat a huge variety of food at our house. One day we may have Korean sushi (kimbap) for dinner.  Another night we’ll serve Mexican tortilla skillet.
Because our kids routinely see new  things at the dinner table, they’re used to jumping in and trying things.  I always try to serve a familiar thing or two along with the less familiar.  For example: rice, bread, green salad, and carrot sticks appear frequently, and serve to fill in the cracks if a kid doesn’t love whatever the main dish happens to be that

Don’t give up

Studies have shown that kids need to taste a new food 10 times to acclimate their taste buds to something new.  Many times a kid will initially dislike something new, but after tasting it a few times will change their minds.  We have a couple kids who have persistent, strong dislikes to one or two foods. That’s OK, and again, I am lenient when a kid really, truly hates something.  But the vast majority of our kids quickly grew to like most food, even our two older daughters who came to us from Ethiopia at age 9 and 11, and had to try a whole slew of new things.

Try ‘Salad-Bar’ style meals

Serving tacos, fajitas, or baked potatoes with lots of possible toppings gives kids control over what they eat.  My kids know that mom expects them to choose some veggies, and occasionally I’ll need to remind a kid to take some tomatoes along with all that cheese.  But when given choice, they will usually happily serve up their favorite veggies, and sometimes kids will surprise me by taking veggies I thought they didn’t like. For example, the other day one of my older Ethiopian daughters served herself mushrooms, which she despised when she first arrived in America.

The problem with raising brave eaters

And the down side of success at this venture?  Well, some day you may have just little pizza dough in the fridge.   You’ll spread it out on an oiled cookie sheet, and you’ll pile it high with fresh spinach, sweet peppers, mushrooms, sliced avocado, and mozzarella cheese.  By the time you’re done, this pizza is a masterpiece.  You’re happily picturing inhaling it almost single-handedly.  You set out nachos to decoy the kids.  If you had normal kids, this would work.  After all, just look at all the scary vegetables on this pizza! But your kids, veggie-lovers since babyhood, barely look at the nachos. They head straight for the pizza, and happily gobble down almost every speck of it. Leaving just one piece of veggie-pizza heaven to mom.

Ah well.  No plan is perfect.

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Pie. From an actual pumpkin.

(This recipe was first posted in October, 2006.)
When you have a craving for pumpkin pie, and you happen to have a couple dozen real live pumpkins within 50 feet of your back door, it seems a trifle silly to run to the store for a can of pumpkin pie filling.  So here for your viewing pleasure I present yesterday afternoon’s pumpkin pie marathon.

3:45 pm.  Go to garden, trailed by 4 youngest children. Wade thru viney weedy pumpkin patch, tripping repeatedly.  Realize this would be easier if you were wearing tennies instead of gold wedge flip-flops that were conveniently sitting by the garage door from Sunday.

Bypass at least 4 monster pumpkins because, really, how much pie do ya want to make?  Carefully select 3 smaller-than-soccer-ball pumpkins, one for the front porch and two for pie.  Hand two to the 8 year old boys and 1 to the 4 year old girl, cautioning them not to drop them on the way in. Pick up one year old who does not want to leave the mosquito-ridden garden.

3:50.  Set kids playing in back yard.  Go in and wash pumpkins, absently scratching mosquito-bitten knuckles.

3:52  4 year old comes in sighing and saying it is ‘sweaty out there’.  Thermometer reads 74 degrees. Tell her she can help if she washes her hands. Chop pumpkin in half and hand half to the 4 year old.  Once she stops saying ‘ewwww!’ she proceeds to do an excellent job scraping seeds out of the interior of the pumpkin. Put large pot of water on to boil to cook pumpkin in.

4:00 pm.  Finish chopping pumpkin into large chunks  (skin still on). Put into boiling water.  With 4 year old’s help, sort pumpkin seeds out, sprinkle with oil and garlic salt, and stick in oven on 300 degrees for half an hour or so. One year old is still thankfully playing outside with 8 year olds.

4:10– 4 year old loses interest once pumpkin is boiling and goes back out to join them.   While pumpkin boils (about 20-25 minutes) begin to make easy press-in pie crust.  Line up 4 pie pans (hope there’s enough pumpkin for that many!) and in each pie pan put 1-1/2 cups flour, 1 T. sugar and 1 t. salt.  Mix with fork and add 1/2 cup oil and 2 T. milk.  Mix with fork to combine wet and dry ingredients.  When mixture begins to ball up, finish mixing with fingers, then gradually spread dough out on the pan, pressing dough into bottom and sides of the pan with fingers.

4:25–Do a fancy edge on crust if there’s time–yup– toddler is still happily playing in back yard. Remember just in time to take pumpkin seeds out of oven.

4:30 –Drain pumpkin which is fork-tender by now.  Rinse in cold water till it is cool enough to handle.  Peel with a sharp knife.  Drop peeled chunks into blender as you peel.  Puree pumpkin in blender, adding a cup of evaporated milk to help it puree easily.  Make mental note that you have already added that much milk to the recipe.

4:45- Follow this recipe to make filling for pie.   Pour into pie shells.  Fill 4 pie shells and discover you have only used half the filling.

4:50-Put first 4 pies into oven, and pull out 3 more pie pans to make more crust.  Kids come inside, and promptly eat most of the freshly roasted pumpkin seeds.  Manage to save a few for hubby.  Enlist one of the 8 year old boys to help press piecrust into pans.  Other 8 year old reads a story to one year old who is beginning to whine at mom’s legs.

5:05 –Hurriedly finish pressing out piecrusts, fill them (3 more was just right!) and then set them on stove to be cooked after first batch comes out.  Sit down and cuddle one year old.  Wow– 7 pies in an hour and a half.  No wonder I’m tired.

For more yummy desserts, visit my recipe index.

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105 Family-Friendly Recipes

Here’s a compilation of the best recipes that I’ve shared over the years here at Owlhaven. Check back now and then;  I’ll be adding more recipes as I post more– or whenever I remember to add them.  Enjoy!  And if you find this resource useful, I’d love a pin on Pinterest.


Harvest Grain Bread





Canning Grape Jelly





Lemon Curd Cake with Raspberry Sauce



Make-It-Yourself Items

Three Easy Salad Dressings


Main Dishes








Side Dishes and Snacks

Spicy Oven Fries




Soups and Stews




For 200 more recipes like these, check out Family Feasts for $75 a Week. .



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Creole Cobb Salad

I didn’t even know what Cobb salad was until I saw the movie Julie and Julia a few years ago.  When I finally got around to googling a recipe, I had to come up with my own twist.  My thinking is that if a recipe already includes avocado, bacon, and egg, it will be just fine without chicken.   Instead I decided to add Creole-seasoned lentils, which added a really nice depth of flavor and another texture.


Mary’s Creole Cobb Salad

Preparation Time: 40 minutes

Serves: 6

Creole Cobb Salad

Creole Cobb Salad


  • 1/2 pound bacon, diced
  • 1/2 cup dry lentils
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon Tony Chacheres Creole seasoning ( or 1/2 tsp paprika and 1/2 tsp salt)
  • 4 eggs, hard-boiled
  • 1 pound salad greens (I used half iceberg lettuce and half spinach)
  • 1 grated carrot
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup Italian salad dressing
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese


  1. Dice bacon and fry in a heavy skillet over medium heat until crispy. Set aside to drain. Reserve 2 tablespoons bacon grease in a small bowl. Wipe the rest of the grease out of the skillet.
  2. Return reserved grease to the skillet and add the lentils, tossing until coated. Add two cups of water and the Creole seasoning and cook lentils on medium low until they are just beginning to soften, about 30-35 minutes. Remove from heat when done. (If you wish you may cook lentils ahead of time, and refrigerate until you need them. They can be added to the salad either warm or cold.)
  3. While the lentils cook, hard-boil the eggs, then let cool submerged in ice water. Dice avocado and toss with lemon juice to keep them from getting dark. Grate carrot and chop tomato.
  4. In a very large shallow serving bowl (or on a platter with at least a 1-inch rim) combine salad greens, carrots, tomatoes, feta cheese, and avocado. Toss with Italian dressing. When eggs are cool, peel and quarter them. Arrange them across the top of the salad. Sprinkle salad with cooked lentils and bacon. Serve, with additional salad dressing on the side, if desired.
  5. For more affordable recipes, check out Mary's cookbook Family Feasts for $75 a Week

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Volunteerism, family-style

A Facebook friend asked me this question the other day: “Just looking for a bit of advice. Do you have a book you can recommend or a blog post about balancing getting involved with causes and balancing family?”


Great question, eh? I think that especially when parenting little ones, it’s important to be sure not to over-commit. Parenting is our main ’cause’, after all, and I think we really have to be wary of things that deprive our kids of our attention and energy. Ann Voscamp wrote a great post along those lines here.

I occasionally feel a pang of guilt that I do almost nothing volunteer-ish at our church, with the exception of supervising church camp cooking every June. Granted, that is a HUGE undertaking.  But it only takes a couple weeks a year, and I didn’t begin it til my kids were past the toddler stage. I may have time to fill other positions at church later in life, but for now I’m at my limit in that department.

Other families have had good luck doing volunteer projects with their kids, especially once they’ve reached elementary age. A few years ago my oldest daughters and I and some friends sewed dresses to bring to kids in the orphanage where our younger daughters lived.  It was a really fun project that let us get together with friends for a couple hours a week for a couple of months.

I’ve heard of families who arrange to sing and visit at nursing home a time or two a month.  Some work together with their kids in soup kitchens or community gardens.  Others fill boxes for Operation Christmas Child.  There are many ways to help in the world.  I think the answer for each family is unique, and needs to be evaluated often and prayerfully.

What about you?  Is there a particular activity that has worked well for your family?  Something that didn’t work?  How did you balance volunteerism and your family’s needs? Please chime in and share your wisdom, friends.

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Death has been defeated
Jesus Christ, Redeemer
Conquered hell and freed us
Forever we are saved

Giveaway: Char Crust and Trader Joe’s

This Saturday I’m giving away two fun food-related items.  The first is a set of spice packs called Char Crust Rubs.  These rubs are to be used on meat when barbecuing to add flavoring and a nice crust.  Recently I was sent four different varieties to sample, and the winner of this giveaway will be sent those same four flavors.  The flavors include: All American Barbecue, Roasted Garlic Peppercorn, Amazin’ Cajun, and Ginger Teriyaki.  The 4-ounce boxes  at $5 each are a mite pricy, but I’ve gotten 2 or 3 meals out of one box for my family.  So for an average size family they will probably last even longer.

The second item in this giveaway is a cookbook called Cooking With Trader Joe’s Cookbook: Pack a Lunch! As you might guess, a lot of the recipes in this book include specialty ingredients from Trader Joe’s.  Because I don’t happen to have a Trader Joe’s in my area, I wasn’t sure if the book would work well for me.  But on closer inspection I decided it’d be relatively easy to find similar items at any grocery store.  So I don’t think you’d need access to Trader Joe’s to enjoy this cookbook.  Recipes that caught my attention included:  Toasted English Muffins with Avocado and Hummus, and Lentil Salad with Pancetta and Sausage.

To enter this drawing, you can comment below and share one of two things:  either tell me about your favorite barbecue recipe, or describe the most interesting thing you pack in lunches for yourself or for your kids.  I’ll choose one winner on Tuesday to win both these items!