short stories of a busy week.

A Pastoral Visit, by Susie Mey

There is surely something special about people who invest their lives into the lives of others in a very real way.  My husband and I were not only trained under Pastor Dale in international campus ministry, we were also mentored by him when it came to things like disagreements in our marriage, our personal relationship with Jesus, and the sinful state of our hearts.  To have someone who lives to see you and others walk into the life God destined for you is amazing.  Greg and I feel incredibly blessed to have him as a part of our lives.  God used him (among others) to bring about the supernatural thing we call our marriage.  He married us in a lovely ceremony 2.5 years ago.

So, it was a pleasure when he and his family paid us a visit this past week, and what a needed visit it was.  I felt really dry in the faith department.  The kinda faith that “moves mountains”.  He spoke a message, which I know was directly from the heart of God, that spoke faith into everyone that heard it.  It made me realize that simple faith in Christ, and relying on His grace, is needed everyday, every hour.  Without it, we can’t live an overcoming life.  We also invited him to speak to our students (of the Friday Night Bible Study) at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.  Thirty students attended the meeting.  Many rededicated their lives to Jesus, and many stuck around late for Q+A.  It was an awesome, awesome time.

Before God called Pastor Dale into full-time ministry, he wanted to be a veterinarian.  So on Monday we went to the National Aquarium in Baltimore — Dhara’s first time!  Bless her heart, and her curiosity!

An Aunt is a Lovely Thing, by Susie Mey

Once upon a time, there lived an Aunt Beth.  Aunt Beth had a niece named Dhara.  One week, Aunt Beth decided to visit her niece for a few days.  They played and played and played.  Dhara loved her Aunt Beth dearly and greatly missed her when she left for her home at the beach.  Dhara had a blast playing with her aunt and gallivanting around town together.

As a birthday gift, Dhara took her Aunt Beth to downtown Baltimore to a snazzy bead shop called Beadazzled so that her Aunt Beth could design herself a necklace from the many beautiful beads found there.  They also went to a local farm and saw sheep, goats, cows, piglets, chicks, and 2 huge bunnies.  Dhara’s mom was in the mood for some of Twins Polish Boleslawiec Pottery, so they all headed to Aunt Beth’s old stomping grounds of Bowie to the Shops at Fabian House and some other antique shops.  Dhara’s mom also often frequented those shops when she lived in Bowie too.  Dhara’s mom picked up a Polish plate to add to her beloved collection, while Aunt Beth got an antique Maryland license plate to add to her own collection.  And lastly, Dhara got to introduce Aunt Beth to her 3 little woodland cousinlies in New Jersey.  Aunt Beth is super great with little ones, so the 3 woodland cousinlies loved her too.  They all played and had chocolate cake together.  The End.

Cousinlies, by Susie Mey

As a young child, I always cherished the days spent with my older cousins.  I remember my Ohio cousins driving to Maryland every year in their wagon bearing gifts of coloring books, stories, good laughs and secret cash — my aunt would secretly pull me aside before she left, take my hand, and fill it with a folded up $20 dollar bill — how surreptitiously exciting for a small child like me!

So you can probably see why I was excited to take Dhara to meet more of her little cousins for the first time and begin the tradition of summers together, slumber parties near a cozy fireplace, lemonade stands and their dear Betty Aunty reading them books like Anne of Green Gables.  It was the sweetest thing to see these four lasses together.  Also had the tastiest venison burger ever for dinner.  I wish I had one right now.  More photos here.

Red Mango, by Susie Mey

It’s the season we’re in.  A season of babies.  We went to Long Island, New York for my cousin’s baby shower.  The highlight of this trip was seeing Dhara as the most pleasant, smiley baby ever.  I just love this little girl to pieces.  She didn’t mind at all being passed around and around and around.  She gave great big smiles to everyone, and wasn’t the least bit homesick.  Maybe it’s that Karingatal blood in her — really gregarious people, my maternal side is.

My cousin told me about a yogurt place in Manhattan called Red Mango.  I am such a sucker for trying new yogurts or really great frozen yogurt places, which, by the way, are popping up all over the place.  (And I don’t mean TCBY).  We wanted to go to Red Mango, but for the sake of saving time (to get back home at a decent hour) we passed the savory offer.  But wouldn’t you know…  Our GPS, funny systems these things are, took us right through Manhattan and right passed Red Mango, which, by the way, we didn’t stop at because we were so caught up in all the hubwub of Manhattan traffic and stylish folks streaming out of every direction, that we missed it in the blink of an eye.  Just like that.  Boo.

4 months old.

The little girlie babe is 4 months old.  Oh, the things I love…love…love about her…  She gives me open-mouth slobbery kisses on my cheeks all the time.  She loves it when I kiss her everywhere…the look of enjoyment on her face is priceless.  She squeals at the top of her lungs when she’s happy and content.  She giggles more often now too.  I love to take naps with her.  Though, it’s harder to put her to sleep because she wants to be awake.  She can’t sleep until she holds onto the collar of my shirt or puts her little hand on my face — I know it’s because she wants to make sure I stay put while she sleeps.  She likes to sleep nose to nose.

Mornings with Dhara are delightful because she’s so alive and ready to live a new day.  I love to hold both her arms around my neck and pretend that she’s hugging me — she loves it too.  It’s so amazing how much this little one has touched my heart.  I can’t even begin to explain it.  God did such a good thing.  Oh, and she rolled over for the first time this past week!  From her stomach to her back.  She doesn’t even realize she’s doing it. : ) 

indian baby massage.

One of my most treasured times of the day is sunset.  The sun setting is my cue to gather my tired baby for her bedtime routine — a massage and bath.  My bedtime routine for her goes as such,

  • feed her so she has a full and happy belly,
  • lay out a blanket on the ground,
  • choose a natural oil [I use apricot oil, jojoba oil, or olive oil],
  • put on a little soft folk music like Allison Krauss, Brandi Carlile or Sara Groves,
  • dim the lights, or use candle light — which is my preference,
  • choose a lovely cotton nightgown for afterwards to have good dreams in,
  • and lastly, massage and bathe away…

This really sets the atmosphere and gives baby a time to relax from her hard taxing day of being out and about and learning a ton of new and exciting things.  I love massage and bathtime because I know that she loves it.  It’s comforting and relaxing for her.  It makes her feel loved and cherished.  Sometimes life does get in the way of this special time, and we have to give her a quickie massage and bath without the elaborate massage, but I do hope to make this a loving routine for however many children God gives us.

A dear friend, Lakshmi, came over a week ago to give Dhara an Indian massage and bath.  Dhara absolutely loved the massage.  The Indian styled bath, much different than her tub bath, we have to work on. : )  In India, people use warm sesame oil to massage babies.  Sesame oil has therapeutic and ayurvedic properties that really relax babies and promote well being.  It easily penetrates the skin, has a cooling effect on the body, and is rich in vitamin E.

I kid you not, the photo above shows how she slept after Lakshmi’s massage and bath!  Sweet dreams little one.

just beachy. [plus, a give-away!].

Before I go any further with this post, please tune in tomorrow for my first ever give-away contest!!!  [Can’t…contain…excitement…]  : )

So this past weekend we drove off to the beach to visit Dhara’s Grandpa + Grandma Smith and her Aunt Beth.  We ate at the lovely Georgia House for lunch for the second time.  I think I love that place.  The food is just so simple + so yummy, nothing fancy.  I got a club sandwich on wheatberry bread with sweet potato french fries.  Soooo good.  I just might have to convince the husband to stop there every time we go to the beach.  Another place I wouldn’t mind stopping at next time is the local antique store Greg’s mom took us to.

I’ve been to many an antique store and I’ve only been to a few that actually have things I like, and this is one of them.  [The other 2 are in Dayton, Ohio and Carbondale, Illinois].  I picked up some goods for a summer garden party I’m planning for Dhara’s half birthday.  Something sweet, pretty and girly.  [Once I found out Dhara’s due date was around Christmas time, I knew we had to do a half birthday for the poor gal.  To have your birthday during the Christmas season is just not fair!]  So come June, we’ll be throwing her a fun little summer party in the woods with her little girl friends and little girl cousins.

Back to our weekend — I picked up some large, old, blue and green glass mason canning jars to serve as lanterns for candles, and as vases for wildflowers.  These are the old school kind with zinc lids.  I also picked up a linen, embroidered napkin, and a beautiful vintage girl’s dress made of the most thin, airy, wispy, yet crisp kind of cotton.  My most favorite kind — I wish they sold this kind by the yard — I would probably purchase the whole bolt and then some.  : )

It was also important to Greg that we got Dhara’s toes in the sand and ocean for the first time!  She’s definitely going to be a little water baby like her daddy.  Growing up, Greg spent his summers at the beach and in the water, and so we’re pretty sure that Dhara will look forward to her beach summers.

the meager beginnings of a vegetable garden, pt 1.

I am not a gardener.  At least not yet.  I don’t have a green thumb.  At least I don’t know if I do.  What makes me want a garden is having a baby in a world where food is filled with preservatives, pesticides, hormones, and the unreal.  I want my baby to eat real food.  My friend, Tina, recommended a book called Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck.  I’ll write a review on this book in a future post, but for now, something the author says that really resonates with me is:

“Real food is old and it’s traditional.  “Old” means we’ve been eating these foods for a long time…  The Old Foods Pantry is ample and diverse.  Meat, fish, poultry, milk, cheese, yogurt, nuts, berries, potatoes, leaves, lentils, chick peas, honey–and their close relations–are all old foods of good standing in our diet.”

I know I want to stick to whole and locally grown foods for my baby.  We live out in the country where farms and local produce are readily available, but we thought we’d also try our hand in growing a vegetable (some fruits) garden.  Now, we know nothing about gardening, except the watering part.  But we thought we’d give it a shot anyway, and learn as we go.  There is SO much information out there on gardening, I wish someone wrote a simple book on growing an organic garden — maybe even a gardening book for kids would be helpful to me.  : )

So first things first:  How do we want to build our garden?

After doing a little research, we thought that a raised bed would be better because it allows for a warmer atmosphere for plants to grow, versus growing them in the earth, where it is much cooler.  Although, I did read that some plants do better growing in cooler environments.

So off we went to Home Depot to pick up wood!  We wanted cedar or redwood to make our garden bed.  Come to realize they only sold pine wood and pressure treated pine wood (chemicals to preserve the wood from rotting and termites).  We were assured by the person in that department that everyone uses the pressure treated pine for gardening, but Greg purchased the untreated pine anyway.  He didn’t like the idea of an organic garden contained in chemically treated wood.  After doing more research, Greg came across an eco-friendly hardware store in old town Kensington, called Amicus Green.  There he found an all-natural oil that would preserve the untreated pine wood for years to come.  Score.  The typical Home Depot or hardware store does not carry something like this.

Since we live in deerland, we need to build a fence to keep the deer away if we want to taste the fruits of our labor.  Next up, fencing a garden.

figgy buckwheat scones.

I awoke on Saturday morning ready to prep for a recipe I wanted to try so that we could indulge on Sunday morning before church.  Figgy Buckwheat Scones from Good to the Grain.  Gregory has been asking that we switch to whole wheat flour for our breads and desserts, so I thought I’d give it a shot.  I came across this recipe on 101 Cookbooks — I love this site because Heidi always incorporates whole and natural foods into her cooking — and what recipes I’ve tried of hers always tastes yummy. 

Heidi’s version of the figgy buckwheat scones came out beautifully!  Her scones had a tinge of earth purple, mine did not — I think it’s because I accidentally picked up the gluten-free buckwheat flour.  However, I must say that gluten-free or not, these scones were delicious.  The buckwheat flour gave the scones a very nutty, earthy taste — which I loved!  I didn’t have anise star in my spice cupboard, so I used cardamom.  And I realize that the recipe calls for red wine AND port — but the alcohol cooks out so nicely — it gives the fig butter a taste of pressed grapes.          

Fig Butter:

Kim’s headnotes: In this recipe, dried figs are cooked in a syrup of sugar, red wine, port, and spices, and then puréed until very smooth. Adding butter at the end gives the jam a wonderful richness and a beautiful gloss. Once finished, the fig butter can be smeared over the dough in Figgy Buckwheat Scones (above), creating a flavor-packed spiral. The scone recipe requires only half the amount of fig butter made here, so reserve the remaining spread for your morning toast–or use all the fig butter at once by doubling the scone recipe.

1/2 cup / 2.5 oz / 70 g sugar
2 whole cloves
1 star anise
1 cup / 240 ml red wine
1/2 cup / 120 ml port
12 ounces / 340 g dried Black Mission figs, stems removed
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 ounces / 113g unsalted butter, softened
salt to taste (hs: suggestion)

1. To poach the figs, measure 1/4 cup / 60 ml water and the sugar into a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir the mixture together with a wooden spoon, incorporating the sugar without splashing it up the sides. If crystals do get on the sides of the pot, use a clean pastry brush dipped in water to wipe them off. (The goal is to prevent the syrup from crystallizing.) Add the cloves and star anise.

2. Bring the mixture to a boil over a medium flame and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until the syrup is amber-colored. For even coloring, the flame should not come up around the outside of the pot.

3. Add the red wine, port, figs, and cinnamon, standing back a bit, as the syrup is hot. Don’t panic when the syrup hardens; this is the normal reaction when liquids are added to hot sugar. Continue cooking the mixture over a medium flame for 2 minutes, until the sugar and wine blend.

4. Reduce the flame to low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The figs will burble quietly as they are jostled together by the flame; they are ready when the wine has reduced by half. Remove the pan from the stove and cool to room temperature.

5. Fish out the star anise and cloves. Pour the cooled figs, with their liquid, into a food processor and purée until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the softened butter to the fig paste and process until smooth. (HS note: At this point I folded in a few big pinches of salt as well).

The fig butter can be spread right onto the buckwheat scone dough or stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. If it is refrigerated, bring it to room temperature before using.

Makes 2 cups.

I awoke on Sunday morning, cut my logs into 16 scones, popped them in the oven, loved the smells coming from the oven for the next 30 minutes, and then carefully choose 6 beautiful scones and placed them on 6 beautiful dessert plates, put the plates on a tray, and lastly skipped around the house passing out some figgy goodness.  Now for my next batch.

Figgy Buckwheat Scones:

Kim’s notes: I was inspired to create a scone with buckwheat and figs when I realized how similar they are. Both are ripe and jammy, almost winey. Imagine a sophisticated Fig Newton but less sweet. Although this scone recipe may seem a bit more time-consuming than others, remember that the Fig Butter can be made ahead of time.

Dry mix:
1 cup / 4.75 oz / 135 g buckwheat flour
1 1/4 cups / 5.5 oz / 160g all-purpose flour
1/2 cup / 2.5 oz / 70 g sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Wet mix:
4 ounces / 113 g cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups / 10 fl. oz / 300ml heavy cream

1 cup / 8 oz Fig Butter (see recipe below)

1. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter.

2. Add the butter to the dry mixture. Rub the butter between your fingers, breaking it into smaller bits. Continue rubbing until the butter is coarsely ground and feels like grains of rice. The faster you do this, the more the butter will stay solid, which is important for the success of the recipe. (HS note: for those of you who like to make short doughs in a food processor, that is what I did, and it worked out great).

3. Add the cream and gently mix it into the flour with a spatula until the dough is just combined.

4. Use a pastry scraper or a spatula to transfer the dough onto a well-floured surface. It will be sticky, so flour your hands and pat the dough into a rectangle. Grab a rolling pin and roll the dough into a rectangle that is 8 inches wide, 16 inches long, and 3/4 inch thick. If at any time the dough rolls off in a different direction, use your hands to square the corners and pat it back into shape. As you’re rolling, periodically run a pastry scraper or spatula underneath to loosen the dough, flour the surface, and continue rolling. This keeps the dough from sticking. Flour the top of the dough if the rolling pin is sticking.

5. Spread the fig butter over the dough. Roll the long edge of the dough up, patting the dough as you roll so that it forms a neat log 16 inches long. Roll the finished log so that the seam is on the bottom and the weight of the roll seals the edge.

6. Use a sharp knife to slice the log in half. Put the halves on a baking sheet or plate, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. (The dough can be kept, covered, in the refrigerator for 2 days.) While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

7. After 30 minutes, take both logs out of the refrigerator and cut each half into 6 equal pieces about 11/4 inches wide. Place each scone flat, with the spiral of the fig butter facing up, on a baking sheet, 6 to a sheet. Give the scones a squeeze to shape them into rounds.

8. Bake for 38 to 42 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. The scones are ready to come out when their undersides are golden brown. They are best eaten warm from the oven or later that same day.

Makes 12 scones.