Friday, October 22, 2010

Dreams For The Future



I have written much about goals and dreams on this blog. I am a big visionary and love to pursue things that I have passion and interest in. Many things have come along recently have challenged me and have caused me to re-evaluate how I pursue my dreams and goals and how much emphasis I put on them in my life.
First it began while listening to a dear friend of ours, Peter, talk about dreams for our lives. He shared that when we are children we dream of things that seem to be out of this world. We dream of being a princess at Disney or of being an astronaut. But as we grow up we realize those are not realistic dreams. Now into our 30’s and 40’s many of us are just in the mode of staying afloat in life. Keeping a job, paying off debt, caring for the kids, etc…As we go along and the pressures of life come, we water down the dreams for our lives. We start losing site of dreams and visions for our life and begin to think, “if I can just get to the end, “thank God”!
I agree with this. I do see a watering down of dreams as the pressures of life come on. I especially see this in the life of my husband who doesn’t have the luxury of staying at home with the kids each day as I do and surrounding himself in a creative think box all day long. He works at a job that isn’t his dream job (but a nice job nonetheless) to provide for us. I feel sad that he isn’t able to pursue his dreams more. They are definitely watered down and lessened by the realities of putting food on the table and providing for the family. He and I have had many late night discussions about how we can make his dreams and hopes for his future still come to fruition.
A different perspective came when I was listening to a radio interview with Phil Vischer, creator of the cartoon Veggie Tales, who lost everything due to bankruptcy. The interview was fascinating as he talked about the dreams he had for the company and watching as he lost it all. This is what he said (in a nutshell) of having and pursuing dreams.
“We worship dreams in our culture. We ‘dream the impossible dream’. We grow up learning that ‘When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true’. Dreaming is so wired into our culture that we haven’t realized that dreams have become our religious experience. When we back up and say “I’m not going to call that my dream but instead I’m going to call it a good idea”, suddenly it loses its power of me. The minute I take an idea and make it a dream, I am holding onto it to tightly. We sew these things so tightly into our skin that when we lose them, it hurts.”
This was such a fascinating concept for me. I am certainly a product of the culture and have claimed and reached for many dreams in my life. They have indeed become sewn into my skin that it doesn’t necessarily hurt when they don’t happen (although they do occasionally), but instead I feel like I let myself down and not living up to the expectations I have by not accomplishing them. The pressure I put on myself to accomplish my “dreams” is enormous and this is what I have been wrestling through lately. I have begun writing down all of these dreams, visions, ideas and hopes I have for my life (i.e. career, personal, family). I am spending serious time praying and thinking through the list and slowly beginning to let myself off the hook. Not that I won’t pursue those things that should still be pursued but I am taking this list as a list of “good ideas” rather than “life goals” which takes an immense amount of pressure off and gives me the freedom to enjoy life as it comes….my how I can take life so seriously!
With all of that said, this weekend is going to be a weekend of late night talks for the hubby and I. With this long list of mine, one of his and a mutual "dream" list, we are in for some great discussions about how to reconcile these lists, take all of these great ideas and shape the future to make those that are suppose to happen, happen. We have no crystal ball and obviously can't foresee what twists and turns will happen in the future but we can choose to move toward the direction we believe our lives should go and pursue those ideas we believe and have passion for. I want to hold to them loosely though so if they do fall through, we aren't crushed and despaired but instead ready to pursue the next in line.

Weekend Cookies



Last night was a perfect fall night. And a perfect night to have a group of 20 plus friends over for an after dinner backyard potluck under the big yellow tree (that is losing leaves way too fast for my liking).
A bonfire, lentil soup, chicken and dumplings, spinach salad with figs and goat cheese, homemade salsa, cookies, wine and great friends. It was certainly a perfect fall night.

I'll leave you with this recipe from my homegirl Ina Garten over at Barefoot Contessa for ginger cookies. They made my house smell like a Coloniel Williamsburg gift shop (you know, the mix of spices that is just oh-so-dreamy?) They were super easy to make and really a great recipe to get the kids involved in.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
1 extra-large egg, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups chopped crystallized ginger (6 ounces)
Granulated sugar, for rolling the cookies

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and salt and then combine the mixture with your hands. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the brown sugar, oil, and molasses on medium speed for 5 minutes. Turn the mixer to low speed, add the egg, and beat for 1 minute. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula and beat for 1 more minute. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the crystallized ginger and mix until combined.

Scoop the dough with 2 spoons or a small ice cream scoop. With your hands, roll each cookie into a 1 3/4-inch ball and then flatten them lightly with your fingers. Press both sides of each cookie in granulated sugar and place them on the sheet pans. Bake for exactly 13 minutes. The cookies will be crackled on the top and soft inside. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 1 to 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly




Oh how we love our yellow tree in the fall! It literally makes our house glow a beautifully golden hue. Of course, fall is much too short lived for my liking...the leaves are already falling by the hundreds each day.


I don't think I have shared yet on here that our chickens were killed by raccoons a few weeks back. There are still a few feathers around the yard which is a sad reminder of their absence. We haven't decided if we'll get new chicks in the spring again or not. The raccoons are really prevalent here in Lexington.


This is what has happened over the course of a few weeks as the front bathroom in our home is was demolished and everything was heaved out the bathroom window into the backyard...nice one, honey. The reconstruction has begun (new tiled shower, new floors, new walls, etc...) so hopefully the yard will get cleaned up before the first snow fall.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Liking Veggies

Vegetables are a hard one for me. I would consider us very healthy eaters. Hardly any pre-packaged foods, soda or juices, and lots of healthy things stocked in the cupboards. And although we do have veggies each day, I can't say we branch out much beyond the basics; broccoli, carrots, peas, corn, lettuce, and peppers.
As a young child, I spent my days at daycare while my mom worked. Some of my earliest memories are spending time in the kitchen with the daycare cook helping and watching. I also remember telling that sweet cook that I was allergic to spinach and couldn't eat it or I would get verrry sick. I don't think she believed me, but she never made me eat that gross canned stuff~ thank God.
Growing up in the 80's, in the height of convenience food, meant loads of canned vegetables and TV dinners. Farmers markets, if they were around, didn't make an appearance in our suburb either.
Last week I was reading one of my favorite blogs and Molly was swooning over bok choy. Oh how I wish I could soon over things like bok choy! I may occasionally swoon over steamed broccoli, but never bok choy.
We've been organizing our books recently and I came across a book I had forgotten about. This book goes along with the popular book Prescription for Nutritional Healing and is reminding me once again, how important vegetables are in our diets. They are so vital to our health! Obviously, I knew this, but its great to be reminded of their power and effectiveness.




So I am working in more vegetables throughout the day. To start sneaking them in (I have to sneak them in on myself), I juiced some beets, carrots and kale (gagged on the smell of kale juice), mixed it all together and froze the concoction into ice cube trays. Now each morning I take one of the potent juice ice cubes and add it to my smoothie. See! I am such a healthy eater! Beets and kale right off the bat.
Adding shredded red cabbage to our salads and extra veggies is also not so bad.

The best of all was the carrot bread made this weekend that has been declared Canaan's favorite. He has even asked for this to be his birthday "cake". Little did he know, it wasn't pumpkin bread (like he thought), but carrot bread made with whole wheat flour, no sugar, but with lots of carrots and even some beets.



(All that was left when I woke up this morning)

Canaan's Favorite Carrot Bread

• ½ cup agave nectar
• 1/4 cup apple juice concentrate
• 3/4 cup canola oil
• 2 cups king Arthur whole wheat flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 2 eggs
• 1 pinch salt
• 1 cup grated carrots (as finely grated as you can get)
• ½ cup applesauce
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 Degrees C). Grease and flour a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.
1. In a large bowl, beat together the nectar, apple juice and oil. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into the bowl while stirring occasionally. Beat the eggs together, and gradually stir into the batter until everything is combined. Mix in carrots, vanilla and applesauce until well combined. (if the batter is a little thick, you can thin it with a bit of water or juice) Pour batter into prepared pan.
2.Bake on middle rack for 60 minutes, or until it tests done. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, and then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why Did We Think This Would Be Fun?


The Biltmore Estate


Walking through the Gardens at The Biltmore was beautiful.


Downtown Asheville ~ lots of locally owned shops and cafes.


Canaan catching up on some Laura Ingals Wilder reading at Izzy's coffee.


Pictures can be deceiving...
I thought we were headed out on vacation this past weekend but I was wrong. Really we were going on a ‘hell’ cation, as it is now referred to (by me) when I talk to Mike about our uber-stressful weekend away.
It had all the makings of splendor. A quick four hour drive to Asheville, North Carolina to enjoy the changing leaves at the Biltmore estate, eating at local hotspots, and taking in the beauty of the weekend…it was certainly lining up to be something to remember.

Something to remember it was. Now if I could only forget. Forget the bickering that ensued in the backseat from minute one until we made it home three days later. Forget that the sweet 7 month old declared his independence from his car seat, high chair, stroller, backpack carrier and our arms by screaming, crying and squirming at every meal and every activity. Forget that we, as parents, butted heads more times than I can count about the bickering children and screaming baby. Oh…I could go on…and on…

There were some glimmers of hope though. The Biltmore truly was amazing, as was the Inn at Biltmore where we stayed. The Arboretum was gorgeous and serene (as serene as it can be with a 7 year old and 4 year old clamoring to “lead the way” at every turn). The trees were just beginning to turn and the mums were in full bloom.
There was a bit of encouragement too from a table filled with sweet grandmothers dining near us at Tupelo Honey Café. They must have sensed the stress we were all filling as Otto cried throughout the entire meal, keeping Mike away through most of it trying to quiet him. Despite my attempt to make the best of a bad situation, the toll it was taking must have shown. They rallied around us, giving words of encouragement which brought some tears of relief and thankfulness on my part.
I know we all have these times…parenting certainly is exhausting. Thankfully, I am even beginning to chuckle at the whole experience although at this point in time, I am still firmly swearing off any further trips (I am sure this will change with time too.)


Hiking through the Arboretum. Amazing. The visitors center even provides free backpacks for kids, filled with all sorts of fun things like butterfly nets, bug catchers, maps, a journal and pen and bunches of other things we never made use of.

Now that I have written this post, I am thinking that it may not have been as bad as I had orginally thought. This is the beauty of the human mind, right?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Snacks & Stuff

My new favorite snack; Whole Grain Wasa crackers, Nutella and sliced banana. Yummo...seriously.


In other news; we have pulled out the fall clothes and are happily wearing them every day, thanks to fantastically beautiful fall weather. (ignore the dark circles resting under our eyes...Otto has decided middle of the night is a perfect time to play).



Ezra has been sporting a new look lately. His glasses (fake and fashionable from Urban Outfitters) "help" him see to find soccer balls, read book, and well...you get the point.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Downtown




Along with a beautiful sunset picnic at Shaker Village last Friday night, we headed downtown on Saturday night for some fun in the city.
Lexington is in the midst of hosting the World Equestrian Games ~ the first time the games have been out of Europe. The city is so festive and fun during the next two weeks, part of which include these painted horses all around town. Each horse has a different theme and they are literally scattered everywhere ~ from grocery stores to libraries.



Once a month, the city hosts "Swinging on Main" ~ a swing band and lots of fun dancing in the street. I seriously could get teary eyed at times like these. There is something so moving, so joyful and so bonding about things like this. Seeing everyone full of life and literally beaming from ear to ear as they dance with their partner; its fantastic....I just love it.



To add to the thrill of the evening was a discovery of this place! In a small city like Lexington, its hard for things to go unnoticed. But this little fish and chips place was a surprise find! It is attached to the little Ireland imports shop and is literally just a walk up and order kinda place. We haven't eaten here yet~ but I am imagining some tasty meals in our future.




We landed at Alfalfa for dinner~ a great spot for vegetarian and healthy meals. There's something so magical about eating a late night dinner downtown~ don't you think? I just love an evening with good food, good conversation and great friends. To add to the dreaminess of it all, the weather was perfectly chilly which meant a piece of pumpkin pie and a cup of coffee were certainly in order after our meal.

Monday, October 04, 2010

An Evening Picnic



The weather was perfect on Friday night and we just couldn't pass up the chance to get outdoors and enjoy and evening picnic. Canaan and I whisked to the store to grab a few goodies and we all piled in the car for a beautiful 30 minute drive out to Shaker Village.



Google Shaker Village if you've never heard of it...its amazing...one of Martha Stewarts favorite places, in fact. There is a fee to go in the buildings, but its free to just enjoy the grounds~ which is just what we do so often.
Besides the several dozen ducks and Canadian geese already resting on the hillside by the pond, we had the place to ourselves.






We stayed until the sun set. The boys threw the football while Otto and I laid on the quilt savoring every minute of the evening.



Its one of those times that was just impossible to captivate on camera. How can you photograph a perfect experience? Impossible.