Sunday, December 24, 2017

(Vegan, Refined Sugar-Free, Whole Wheat) Christmas Cookies

I am skidding into Christmas Eve feeling exhausted.  But before exhaustion set in, I made these cookies so my husband will have a treat on Christmas.   I took a recipe I have used before and modified it, and it worked well.  

3/4 c. honey
1 tsp. salt
3/4 c. softened vegan margarine
2 T. flax meal 
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract

Then add 2 cups whole wheat flour. 

Roll dough into 1-inch balls, then roll balls into finely chopped pecans (you'll need about a cup of pecans).  Place on greased cookie sheet 2" apart, then make impression in center of cookies.  Bake at 350 degrees--in my oven, these were done after about 5-7 minutes.  

After baking, fill each indention with a dollop of jelly or preserves.  In order to make them entirely sugar-free, I just blended some frozen raspberries and used that before I baked them.  I am storing these in the freezer until it's time to eat them. 

Image may contain: food

The original recipe is as follows:

3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
3/4 c. softened butter
2 egg yolks (reserve whites)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract

Add 2 cups of flour.

Roll dough into 1" balls, roll balls into egg whites, and then roll in finely chopped pecans.  Place on greased cookie sheet 2" apart. Make impression in center of cookies and bake at 350 degrees (I bake mine for 5 minutes, but the original recipe tells me to bake it for 15!).  Fill center with jelly or preserves (stir jelly before filling cookies).  

Merry Christmas! 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Best Christmas Present Ever

Yesterday my husband had his PET scan.  We left the hospital, walked to the parking garage, and drove to the restaurant five minutes away where we were going to have lunch.  We pulled into the parking spot and my cell phone rang. My husband's physician had already called the nuclear medicine department and read the scan!  And it was clear!  The only cancer that was indicated on the scan was the spot that we already know about in his mouth; it has not spread to any other place in his body.


{husband, 40+ years ago}

This news is huge, as it means that it's highly unlikely that my he'll have radiation therapy.  The only way he'll have to have it now is if a lymph node dissection shows microscopic cancer (too small for the PET scan) in his lymph nodes.  We believe that's unlikely.  

Learning that his cancer has not metastasized was the best present I could get this Christmas.  My gratitude is immense.  It truly feels like a wonderful gift!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

In Which the Landscape Changes

I've lived on the edge of this valley long enough to know that the landscape changes rapidly.  The sun's movement, shifting shadows, weather changes, and even the location of the cattle and wildlife all change constantly. It's so beautiful all the time.

Like life?

A week ago my biggest concern was baking Christmas cookies and getting the gifts wrapped.  But the landscape changed.  Yesterday my husband was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma on his tongue.  We await a PET scan to determine whether there has been any spread, although at this point his doctor doubts it. He'll have surgery to remove the cancer in mid-January (and possibly surgery to remove some lymph nodes; we're not sure).  No chemotherapy, thank the Lord.  Possibly radiation, but it seems unlikely at this point--again, thank the Lord.

The ENT told us that the pathology for the tumor came back negative for a viral infection (no surprise there), and my husband doesn't have the other major risk factors--he's never smoked, and he has never had a drink of alcohol in his life.  His doctor said he sees only two or so cases a year where the cancer is not linked to a virus (usually HPV), alcohol, or tobacco.  

As soon as he walked out of the doctor's office he was vegan and sugar-free, so I'm sitting with coffee and a stack of cookbooks, trying to plan out a beautiful Christmas feast for him.  Because he said he will not be eating our usual fare.  "I'll just take a stir-fry or something," he shrugged.  But I'm going to make some treats for him! I'm joining him in solidarity, too.  

It seems unreal that a 42 year old man who exercises and wins races and has never smoked or had a drink in his life and eats his veggies and doesn't even drink *coffee* could turn up with cancer.  We're shocked.  

But there's a plan, I'm sure of it, and I believe that God is creating something bigger out of this for us, that something good will come out of it.  In the meantime, while we wait for more tests, for surgery, and for results, I'm rallying for prayers, chopping vegetables, and thanking God for early detection!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Learning for the Little Kids

I was thinking about learning for the little kids today after reading a question from a mother trying to implement a curriculum for her 8 year old and 6 year old while also managing a 3 year old and a baby. She felt weary and overwhelmed.  I get it; I've been there. Although my children are only 10 and 6, here's what I've learned so far:

*With little children, we have to remember that they'll be with us for a long time.  There are years and years ahead of us, God willing, when we can enjoy learning together.  A six year old does not need much formal schoolwork. I think the basic scaffolding through the elementary years should be reading lessons (and then reading, once the child is able), copywork/handwriting, some form of writing (even if it's oral narrations), and math.  Then lovely things such as nature walks, drawing, playing, baking, picture books, nursery rhymes, songs, et cetera, can fill in the rest of the day.  Chores are just as important as academics.

*Habits are essential.  Develop peaceful and predictable routines (not necessarily schedules) for morning and evening, and have basic times for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Work together. Cultivate kindness.  If a child is a math whiz but can't get along with other human beings, who cares how great he is at math? Kindness is a habit!

*Do what's sustainable.  If you are committed to homeschooling, do what needs to be done to prevent burnout.  Simplify, consolidate, prioritize.  Figure out what works for your personality and do that.  Some mothers need daily structure and checklists; others need flexibility and spontaneity.  Lots of us are in between. But don't try to fit a round peg into a square hole.  Know yourself!

*Talk to your children.  Don't just answer their questions in a perfunctory way while staring at a device; really look into their eyes and speak to them.  Answer their questions with counter-questions.  Try to puzzle out answers together.  Finn and I were recently puzzling out a question.  I asked him how he could discover the answer.  We talked about finding a professional in the field, reading the encyclopedia, going to the library.  He noted that he didn't want to Google it because that made it too easy.  Good point!

*Read books. Of course!  Want your children to learn how to write?  Let them read great books.  Trust me, it works.  It also teaches them vocabulary.  But more than anything else, reading together is just plain fun.

That's all I know.  Check back in 10 years for the Big Kids version.  :)

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Most Exquisite Work

"'Did it ever seem strange to you that good people have so much trouble in this world?' said Courtland, voicing his same old doubting thought.

'Well, now why? What's trouble going to be in the resurrection?  We won't mind then what we passed through, and this world isn't forever, thank the Lord!  If it's serving His plan any for me to get more than what seems my share of trouble, why, I'm willing.  Aren't you?  The trouble is we can't see the plan, and so we go fretting because it doesn't fit our ideas.  If it was our plan now we'd patiently bear everything, I suppose, to make it come out right.  We aren't up high enough to get the whole view of the finished plan, so of course lots of things look like mistakes.  But if we trust Him at all, we know they aren't.  And some time, I suppose, we'll see the whole and then we'll understand why it was.  But I never was one to do much fretting because I didn't understand.  I always know what my job is, and that's enough. I'm content to trust the rest to God. It's a God-size job to run the universe, and I know I'm not equal to it.'"

                                         --The Witness, Grace Livingston Hill

From my devotional reading yesterday: a description of how lace is made in Brussels; the spinning room is darkened, except for a light from one very small window, which falls directly upon the lace pattern that is being spun.  The lace is more delicately and beautifully woven when the worker himself is in the dark and only the pattern is in the light. The devotional goes on to say:

"May it not be the same with us in our weaving?  Sometimes it is very dark.  We cannot understand what we are doing.  We do not see the web we are weaving.  We are not able to discover any beauty, any possible good in our experience.  Yet if we are faithful and fail not and faint not, we shall someday know that the most exquisite work of all our life was done in those days when it was so dark. 

"If you are in the deep shadows because of some strange, mysterious providence, do not be afraid.  Simply go on in faith and love, never doubting.  God is watching, and He will bring good and beauty out of all your pain and tears."

                                          --J.R. Miller, as quoted in Streams in the Desert

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


Finn and I both had recitals earlier in the week, and we're both happy to report that we are done!
Let's start with Finn.  My violin teacher had asked if he'd like to play a piece at the violin recital, which had sort of morphed into a family recital (one sibling of a student played the dulcimer, another played piano, a dad accompanied his daughter on guitar, etc.).  Finn was game for it, even though it involved playing a keyboard, not a piano.  He went before me at my recital, introduced himself and the piece, and

My husband later told him "I think everyone thought, 'how cute, this little boy will get up and play a song.'  But as soon as you started, you were in command of the room."

He played "Carol of the Bells." The thing that makes that piece commanding is having a tight grip on the changing dynamics, and Finn is so good at dynamics.  

Then it was my turn. I didn't feel nervous, so I introduced my piece, and guess what?  Some adrenaline rush poured into my body and my bow would not stop shaking!!!  By the time I got to the end of my first song I was just laughing because I couldn't believe it. I'd never had to fight through a shaking bow before--having never performed in front of an audience before--and I was stunned at the way my body seemed to betray me.  All I could do was laugh!  Finn--my honest music critic--told me that my sound was still very good, but I was fighting to just maintain control, so I didn't even hear how I played.  

Second song was only slightly better, and when my teacher came in for the duet, I was a little calmer.  But talk about being shocked by your own lack of control over your body.  Yikes.

After my recital we went out for Mexican food and then I went home for a long winter's nap!

Finn's piano recital was Monday night.  He played "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (cute and always a crowd-pleaser), Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies" (a duet with his teacher), and "Carol of the Bells."  He played flawlessly.  I don't know how he does it, really. The funny thing was, his teacher had just finished playing a commanding duet and she still had adrenaline coursing through her body, and she actually messed up on her duet with Finn!  So they played the song a second time.  She apologized later, but I told her all of her students probably really appreciated realizing that even a professional can suffer from an overdose of adrenaline from time to time.

I appreciated realizing it, too! 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Cold and Busy Week

Oh it is getting cold, cold, cold here. My husband reports that tonight it'll be 15 degrees, and we got our first few inches of snow over the weekend.  I realize this isn't cold if you live in, say, Finland.  But it's cold enough for me.

This is the Busy Week: the pinnacle of December.  It started with violin recital on Sunday, moved to piano recital last night, continues on with a full week of normal lessons (art, ballet),  hosting friends on Thursday, a meeting on Thursday night, a Christmas program to attend on Friday night, my sister's birthday to host on Saturday, and our church Christmas play (which my husband writes, directs, and acts in every year, and our children act in as well) on Sunday night.  Somewhere in there I must clean out the fridge, send out Christmas cards, continue ticking off the baking, run lines with Finn b/c he has the main part in the play, wrap my sister's birthday gifts, acquire sushi rice (don't ask!), buy nylon strings for the guitar........

I have visions of curling up next week by the tree with a cup of peppermint mocha coffee and a blanket and a book and Alice {she's the cat} but I have to jump through a thousand other hoops first. 

Still, it's a beautiful and wonderful time of year. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Ten Thousand Hours

Finn told me today that he read that it takes 10,000 dedicated, deliberate hours practicing an instrument to reach expert level.  I had read the same statistic recently, and told him I know, and that's why I'm keeping track of my practice times.  "Only 9,970 hours or so left for me!"  I said.  He cracked up.

At the rate of practicing one hour per day I'll reach virtuoso level at the age of 68.

  I'm on my way!