Archives for January 2015

Recipe: Bacon Lentil Soup

The other day when it was cold, I decided to make lentil soup for dinner, and as I was sauteing the veggies, I realized I hadn’t ever shared my recipe here on the blog. I often tweak it based on what veggies I have in the fridge at the moment. I happened to have a beet the other day, so you’ll see that in the photos along with the spinach, onions and carrots that the recipe mentions. Also, if you don’t happen to have bacon, you can use a cup or so of chopped pepperoni instead. Soup recipes are easy and forgiving like that. So don’t hesitate to adapt what I’ve written here to use veggies in your fridge or suit your family’s preferences.

Sauteeing Veggies

Recipe: Easy Lentil Soup

Recipe: Easy Lentil Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 12-ounce package of thick-sliced bacon
  • 1 onion
  • 3 carrots
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups dry lentils (green or brown)
  • 15 oz. can diced tomatoes (or fresh)
  • 4 cups broth (chicken, beef, or vegetable)
  • 3 cups water
  • a couple of generous handfuls of fresh spinach
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Dice bacon. Fry in a heavy stock pot, watching carefully and removing it gradually from the heat as it is done. Set cooked bacon aside in a bowl.
  2. Dice onion and slice carrot.
  3. Drain all but a tablespoon or so of the grease from the stock pot.
  4. Add onion and carrot to the stock pot and sautee for 5-7 minutes, until both are getting soft.
  5. Meanwhile mince garlic and rinse lentils.
  6. Add garlic, cumin, paprika, and salt to stockpot. Saute 1 minute.
  7. Add broth, water, tomatoes, and lentils to the pot.
  8. Increase heat and bring to a boil.
  9. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until lentils are tender.
  10. Chop spinach and add during last couple minutes of cooking.
  11. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  12. Stir in cooked bacon and serve!
http://owlhaven.net/2015/01/29/recipe-bacon-lentil-soup/

Easy Lentil Soup

Goodbye, old gold. You served us well.

Probably the most exciting thing that happened yesterday was the arrival of the new light fixture that I ordered at Joss and Main.  A friend who is a home stager  (is that a word?)– anyway, she does home staging to help houses sell—mentioned that she loves the site, and while checking it out, I spotted a really fun light fixture.  I immediately thought of the aging light hanging in our entry, and since the price was fairly reasonable, I snatched it up.

Here’s a photo of my fearless hubby taking ‘old gold’ down.  Why, yes, that is dust on his shirt due to my fabulous (lack of) interest in dusting.

Taking out the old fixture

 

Here’s a photo of the new fixture from about the same angle.  It proved to be ridiculously hard to find an un-busy background against which to get a photo.

Seen from the front door

Here’s the fixture in the dark.  I forgot to get a photo showing the very cool light that this throws on the ceiling due to all the criss-crossing lines, but it is really fun– and crazy-bright for only fitting tiny 60-watt bulbs.  The entry is a great place for a little more light, since we have a small desk there where teens often do homework in the evenings.

Love the chandelier bulbs- this fixture is very bright!

Then here’s a shot of the light from the stairs– such a nice difference.  It’s really fun to look at.

 

New fixture seen from the stairs

Now I’m looking at my dining room light cross-eyed– isn’t that how this type of thing always goes?  But  since I still like the shape of that fixture, and don’t have a budget to replace things around here willy nilly, I think what I’ll do is try spray-painting it in a color similar to the oil-rubbed bronze.  Then it will match my entry light tone-wise if not in style.

I’ll probably also paint my front door handle.  It is bright brass too– but getting worn looking– and a fresh coat of paint would really improve its looks.  Here’s a tutorial I saved with info on how to do it.

Frugal Friday

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It’s Frugal Friday again, time to talk about what went well (and not-so-well) in the finance department around here.

On my couch this week

This week I made a concerted effort to use what’s in the freezer. At the moment both of our outside freezers are plugged in and two thirds  full.  I’d like to get things cleaned out a bit so I can defrost one of the freezers and turn it off for awhile– at least until it’s time to butcher the cow this spring.  In the freezers I have lots of on-sale butter, as well as ground beef and chicken that I’ve bought on sale in the past few months.  But the biggest space hogs were definitely the turkeys– two of them.  So Saturday evening we had turkey and mashed potatoes for dinner.  On Sunday I made a turkey soup with Thai flavorings and coconut milk that was quite good.  Then Monday we had turkey sandwiches for lunch, and that about finished off that turkey.

GF noodles Another time this week for dinner I jazzed up ramen noodle soup  for the kids by adding meatballs and chopped spinach.  Since I try to limit my own intake of wheat and didn’t happen to have any GF noodles at the moment, in my version of the soup I added broken-up sheets of spring roll wrappers, the kind made from rice flour.   The rice wraps cooked practically instantly in the hot broth and acted a lot like egg noodles in my soup.  Quick and yummy.  I am writing the idea here hoping that I will remember it for another day.  It was so easy and good.

Had an odd thing happen with bananas this past week.  I bought a bunch quite green, because there wasn’t much selection in the grocery store at the moment, and they never ripened.  Not a bit.  How can that happen?  I was going to return them to the store to get my money back, but ended up being too lazy to go, and just threw them away.  Ah well.

I feel like I almost always focus on food in my frugality efforts– or at least when I write here.  I’m going to try to think more about what I do to save money that doesn’t involve food. I had several days this week that I went nowhere.  Which I love.  Monday I almost hit the clothing clearance sales at Fred Meyers — hello, 50% off lowest-marked prices.  But then I realized we didn’t truly NEED anything clothing-wise, so I opted to stay home –and save 100% instead.  Yay, me!  Staying home bores some of the kids, but thankfully the quickest-bored ones now have their own licenses and vehicles, so now they can drive themselves places (and waste their own gas.)

Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.I requested a book from PaperbackSwap.com this week instead of automatically going to amazon.  In case you don’t know, PaperbackSwap.com lets you list books, send them to others for credit, and then use those credits to request other books.  Sometimes you have to wait awhile to get newer books, and they don’t have every book.  But when I’ve got a few credits built up, it’s a great way to lay my hands on other books that I want for just the cost of shipping.  Speaking of credit, if you sign up and list 10 books, mark me (owlhaven) down as the person who referred you, and I will get a credit.  Then if you like the service, you can refer other friends and earn credits that way too.

 

How did your frugality efforts go this week?  I’d love to hear about them!

 

 

Ranger

Walking up the driveway to your front door yesterday, the very first thing I spotted was your face down low, peeking through the tall narrow window next to the front door, grinning out at me with your million candle-power smile, delighted that I’d come to visit you. You, the person in the world who first made me ‘Nana’.  Your hug after I walked in the door was as big as toddler arms could give.

Ranger

I turned to hug your sweet sister and chat with your momma.  You hung close, waiting as I spoke to others, but then grabbing my hand to pull me in and show me your airplane and be certain that I intended to stay for awhile.  I sat on the floor and you bopped around, playing and showing me things.

Later we went into your room to play, and you were all exuberance, all appreciation, all shrieky-happy laughter as I made an over-the-top silly gasp each time a ball popped out of a slot in your toy.  You came up to me and turned around and backed up to seat yourself on my lap and I whispered in your ear that I love you, that you’re a good, good boy.  You didn’t look at me and you didn’t speak but you pressed your ear close, and your body was quiet as you soaked in my words.

When your sister came to sit on your lap, on my lap, making you the unwilling middle of a lap sandwich, you pushed her off.  But when I asked you to scoot over, to make space for her too, you did so willingly.  As long as I kept space for you too, you were happy.  It’s hard being an older sibling, isn’t it?  From one first born to another, I know how hard it is when you’re little to have siblings pressing in close, competing for everything.

Later when it was time for me to go, I didn’t want to leave.  But you were resigned, and came willingly when I asked for yet another hug. You opened your arms wide for me and snuggled in.  I whispered in your ear that you’re an awesome boy, and that I love you so much.  You turned your face to me and I thought you were going to say something, but instead you kissed me right on the lips, and my heart melted into a puddle.

You’re not the only child-of-my-child who I love as if you were my own.  With each new grandbaby, my heart expands a little more and each time the love is just as big.  But you were the first one to show me  that’s how it is to love a grandchild.  There’s a special Ranger-sized place in my heart and it will always only be all yours.

I know God made you for great things, but I’m convinced that at least one tiny purpose in your life, and in that of your sweet sister and your precious cousins, is because God knew I needed your kind of love. With my house full of wing-flapping, boundary-pushing, squawking-on-the-edge-of-the-nest teens– people who seem perpetually displeased with me- – God knew my battered heart needed toddler-love too, the uncomplicated, wholehearted embrace that teens just aren’t in a place to give.  I needed little ones to see my heart truly, to affirm who I really am.   To show me Jesus-love in a way that only you can.

Oh, what a gift you are.    Straight from Jesus.  I am so blessed.

Weekend happenings and book winners

Somehow I got through the weekend without ever getting to Frugal Friday.  There was a wedding in there, plus three meals where family came to visit.  Good times there.  The teens had some cousins over and they made pizza together– always fun.  We had a nice chat about wedding details with our oldest son and his fiance.  July is coming!  Also we had grandbabies over to play– oh, the sweetness.  The photo here is one I took a couple weekends ago.  The four of them can destroy a living room faster than anyone I know, but they are shining lights in my life. Pure joy.

toddlers everywhere

I also made some serious progress on my homeschooling e-book.  Still on track to get that done by the end of the month– hooray!   I’m really excited about it and am trying to cram in all the secrets and wisdom and shortcuts that I wish I’d known in my early years of homeschooling.  It’s funny– I envisioned this as a short lil 20-page thing.  But each time I start in on a topic I get long-winded, thinking of more and more that could be useful to other mommas.  It’s looking like about a 40-page book at the moment, but I’m sure there’s still more to write.

Despite being a 20-year veteran of homeschooling, the first week (month?) after Christmas break is always painful.  Sigh.  It is SO hard to get back into the habit of rising dragging teens out of bed at 8 AM.  And I do think that is a lot of the pain– just getting so many sleepyheads moving. Other years I have let kids sleep til 9. But a couple of them have jobs, some starting as early as 2, plus they’re juggling college classes that happen two days a week.  We really need those morning hours to get things accomplished.  Ironically, the younger ones who could afford to sleep later pop up like daisies every morning.   Figures, huh?

Anyone else struggle with homeschooling in the winter time?  What keeps you going?

Finally, the winners of the book More Love (Less Panic) are commenters #18 Katie P. and #30– S.  Email me your addresses, ladies, so I can get those books headed your way. Thanks for commenting and sharing your parenting wisdom.

When you’re suffering

Suffering

I’ve been thinking lately about the hard in life, how it lambasts you sometimes amid a stretch of tranquil days, surprising you with that ‘oh, it’s you again’ familiar misery.  How lying in the dark some nights the heart aches so hard it’s a struggle even to breathe.  There are moments you’re wild to talk it through with someone, someone who will understand the pain of it all, someone who will lift just a few ounces of the stifling load off your chest.  Someone who can sit with you and encourage you to keep breathing, keep trusting, keep stepping forward.

But who can we truly trust?  Who will not betray us?  Oh, it is scary to be transparent, to honestly unveil the shape of the ‘hard’ that is rocking your particular bit of the world on any given day.  The reasons not to speak are so many.

When it’s a loved one whose pain is savaging your heart, even in the middle of that pain you often still want to protect them from the uncharitable thoughts of others.

Or maybe it’s pity you want to avoid.  Who wants everyone feeling sorry for you, or wincing at just how un-together your life is some days?

Or maybe it’s judgment that you fear.  Always it seems there are people judging you for not getting this thing or that thing under control.  Judging you for not preventing this pain in the first place.  Not being wise enough, kind enough, dedicated enough, maybe even ruthless enough.

There’s also the problem of scale. Maybe despite the very real misery in your own heart, you know that others have it so much worse.  There are friends mourning lost children, loved ones coping with their cancer or their child’s cancer, friends facing financial ruin or relational ruin or spiritual ruin.  And all over the world, for the love of all that’s good, there are mothers whose dearest wish is simply to be able to feed their children.  So. much. hard.

How dare I complain?

And yet.  The heart aches.  Quietly breaks sometimes under the weight of the struggle just to keep breathing in and out.  What then?

The longer I live, the more I realize that pain is a familiar stalker of us all.  Some more than others, perhaps.  Each of us experience it in different ways, and some hide it deeper than others.  But oh, we all know hurt.  Don’t we, friends?

Our first and best and brightest hope in all of this pain-filled world is Jesus.  He remembers our weakness.  Sees every tear we shed.  Feels every ache. He promises to someday wipe all tears from our eyes.  He promises that His plan for us is good, that it is intended to give us hope and a future.  He promises that He will carry His good work on in each of us to completion.  He went to the cross and died to ensure that bright and complete and perfect future for us.

On those promises we can depend.

But when we find ourselves adrift in the abyss of suffering, I think most of us also long for the kind of friend willing to be ‘Jesus with skin on’ to us. The kind quick to offer solace and forgiveness and encouragement,  and glacier-slow to offer judgement.  We also need friends willing to share their own moments of struggle and pain.

Some of us have hurts deep and raw and evident, and we need no invitation to share.  It just bubbles out. But others of us are all too quick to paste on a smile and to say, ‘Oh, I have it so much better than so many…’ when really what we need most is a safe place to share honestly, to unburden those covered-up hearts. And for some of us that courage only comes when someone else is brave and honest and vulnerable and transparent, first.  Leading the way.

Oh, to have friends like that.  Oh, to be that kind of friend. It truly is one way to see Jesus at work in this hard and hurting world. We all know pain and suffering.  Let’s lift each other up whenever we can.

Flowers in the redwoods

Book giveaway!

In Ethiopia with our two youngest daughters


I haven’t done a book giveaway for awhile, and I’m really excited about this one. The book is called More Love, Less Panic: 7 Lessons I Learned About Life, Love, and Parenting After We Adopted Our Son from Ethiopia.  Claude Knobler and his wife adopted their son  just five months after we brought our first Ethiopian daughter home, and a year before we brought home our second daughter  (pictured on the right).   So it was really interesting to read about their experience in Ethiopia, and also about his parenting journey since then.  As it turns out, his book is more about parenting than it is about adoption.

While reading the book, I found myself nodding (sometimes ruefully) because so much of what he’s learned is also part of my own learning curve.  So often early on in parenting I think we see it as our job to somehow ensure that our kids will be successful by making all the right parenting choices.  And then we discover that they’re already so much their own people (especially when we adopt them past infancy) that our best hope is simply to influence them.

I really enjoyed this book, and I’m excited to have two copies to give away.  If you’d like to win one of those copies, just comment below and tell me something that you’ve learned along your parenting journey.  Or if you prefer, you can share something that you vowed you’d never do as a parent.  (Do you find yourself slipping up and doing it anyway?)  Parenthood is such a learning journey, isn’t it?  For an additional entry, ‘like’ this post (using the buttons below) on facebook or twitter and then comment again, telling me you shared it.  I’ll pick a winner on Friday!

 

during this the last week before school starts again

I can’t think of one frugal thing that I did this week. I did do a lot of other things, however. So I guess I’ll just tell you about all those things instead. Sunday was our Zeytuna’s 17th birthday party and Wednesday John and I took her out to dinner and a movie, which is a tradition at our house. We saw The Maze Runner, which was kinda violent, but had (I thought) an intriguing story line. We enjoyed it.

Monday I took Emily and Julianna out to pick out paint and new bedspreads for their room.They’d been begging for new paint in their room for a good long time as there were lots of chips and they were itching to try out some new colors in the room. They had Christmas money to spend, which purchased the bedspreads– hooray!!– and I bought two colors of paint and a new shade for their window.  Here’s how it looked a few days ago, with Julianna buzzing with excitement and John busily installing the shade.

RoomPaint (3)

Here’s Emily washing baseboards and laying down blue tape at the edges.

RoomPaint

And here’s Julianna painting away.   She and Emily were both thrilled to help out with this project.

RoomPaint (1)

Tuesday was spent first moving beds, then cleaning up all the stuff we’d unearthed from under the beds, and then finally painting. Whew. What a job. It actually stretched partway into Wednesday, and I was very grateful that John painted the white trim for us, since I was sick of painting by then.  As you can see, it turned out really cute.  It’s a delight to peek into their room now!

 

RoomPaint (5)

They especially love their poster wall, installed strategically across from the beds so that they can both see them all.  Lots of fun!

RoomPaint (4)

On Wednesday, John got my new baby gate painted and mounted on hinges at the bottom of the stairs. We opted to distress the white paint, and then added a layer of poly for extra protection.  As you can see, it sits snug against the wall when it’s not needed.

Gate

 

And here it is, swung shut. I think it turned out really cute, and it’ll be nice to have a permanently mounted gate that we can easily shut when we don’t want the little kids climbing the stairs.

Gate (1)

On Thursday I went over to Amanda’s house, and helped her sort and organize baby clothes into bins by size. With baby #3 coming in April, she is working to make space and keep the house functioning well with another little one added into the mix. Very fun. On Thursday I also got some new shades from amazon to go in my bedroom. They are pleated shades that have no strings– so neat and easy. It was very nice to throw away my dusty beat up old ones and replace them with something crisp and new.

Then today I began the day by taking Emily and Julianna to the rec center to meet Amanda and Erika and all the grandbabies for a swim. They’re the only people in the world that I’d don a swimsuit in January for, that’s for sure.  We had lots of fun, and ended with lunch at Panda Express.

Monday starts school again, though I don’t think any of us are quite ready for Christmas break to be done.  How did your week go?  Feel free to comment below and tell me how your frugality efforts went — hopefully a lot better than mine!

Easy affordable gluten free recipes

I’m getting a fair collection of easy and affordable gluten free recipes here, and I thought it might be helpful to some of you  to list them all together into one post.  If gluten free is not your thing,  don’t forget about my main recipe collection— it’s up to 105 recipes now, all affordable family-friendly food. And as always, if you find this resource useful, I’d love a pin on Pinterest.
Gluten-Free Recipes from Owlhaven)

 

 

MAIN DISHES

 

Pork and Veggie Stir Fry

Pork and Veggie Stiry Fry

 

Prize Winning Chili for a Crowd

(Imagine a photo of chili here– I made it the other day but forgot — again- to get a photo!)

 

Ethiopian Sloppy Joes

Ethiopian Sloppy Joes

 

Sriracha Barbecue Chicken

Sriracha Barbecue Chicken

 

Thai Lettuce Wraps

Thai Chard or Lettuce Wraps

 

Sesame Chicken and Veggie Stirfry

Sesame Chicken and Veggie Stirfry

 

 

 

Gluten Free Meatballs (served over rice instead of the pictured rolls)

Gluten Free Meatballs and Sauce

 

 West African Sweet Potato Soup

West African Sweet Potato Soup

 

Molly’s 10-Minute Chicken

 

 

Hearty Meatloaf  (Use gluten free oats to make this recipe completely gluten free)

Hearty Meatloaf

 

 

Eggplant Tomato Bake

Eggplant Tomato Bake

 

 

 

SIDE DISHES and EXTRAS

 

Lemon Cilantro Rice

Lemon Cilantro Rice

 

Alecha (Ethiopian Comfort Food)

Alecha (Ethiopian Comfort Food)

 

Blue Cheese Biscuits

GF Blue Cheese Biscuits

 

Creole Cobb Salad

Creole Cobb Salad

 

 Three Great GF Salad Dressings

GF Salad Dressings

 

Vegetable Pancakes

Vegetable Pancakes

 

Kimbap (Korean Sushi)  — I even made a video for this one!

Kimbap (Korean Style Sushi)

 

 

Cauliflower ‘Mac’ and Cheese

Gluten Free ‘Mac’ and Cheese

 

 

Scalloped Potatoes for a Party

Scalloped potatoes (alongside my Hearty Meatloaf)

 

 

 

BREAKFAST FOOD

 

Christmas Breakfast French Toast Casserole (with regular and gluten free options)

French Toast Strata

 

Hash Brown Combo

Hash Brown Combo

 

Lemon Cream Cheese Pancakes

(no photo yet!)

 

 

DESSERTS AND SWEETS

Berry Pudding Dessert (regular on left, gluten free on right)  The pix is a little rough, but I snapped it quickly in the midst of serving 80+ people this dessert.

Berry Pudding Dessert

 

The Best Banana Bread Recipe Ever (no gluten free collection would be complete without this one is from JoLynne– yum!)

gluten-free-banana-bread

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reeses Peanut Butter Bark

Reeses Bark

Flourless Chocolate Cake

GF Flourless Chocolate Cake

Why Pinterest works for me

I’ve heard a lot of people groaning over Pinterest because it makes them dissatisfied with what they have.  I understand that feeling–I’m most likely to be tempted when it comes to cute clothes. But in general I use Pinterest simply as a tool.  I think it excels as a springboard for creative thinking. Whether I’m trying to find a new use for chicken breasts, or a way to accessorize a jacket that I already own, or am seeking just the right paint color for a bedroom, Pinterest is there with tons of beautiful photos and brilliant ideas for doing the very thing that I’m attempting.

endless dish soap

Thanks to Pinterest, I know the very best GF banana bread recipe.  As of a few weeks ago, I am the happy owner of an almost-bottomless dish soap dispenser. I’ve got some great smoothie recipes. My hubby made me a great permanently-mounted baby gate for the bottom of my stairs–I’ll get you a photo once it’s painted. And what girl wouldn’t love this sparkly use for those Christmas lights that we  all just peeled off our Christmas trees?

What do you think?  Have you found it possible to use Pinterest for good, or do you avoid it to keep your longings in check?