Meatless Monday – Healthy-Yummy Ramen

My kids love ramen noodle soup but I don’t want to serve them super-processed unhealthy foods. My version cooks in one pot in less than ten minutes and hits the spot! Seriously, the kids thank me when I make this one. It’s delicious comfort food and an easy clean-out-the-crisper drawer recipe.

Healthy-Yummy Ramen Soup
Serves 4

8 c veggie broth (or combination broth/water)
1 tsp Asian chili sauce or 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4-inch piece of fresh ginger, shaved and sliced thin (a veggie peeler makes quick work of shaving ginger)
8 oz whole wheat spaghetti, uncooked & broken into 2-inch pieces
3 c bite-size veggies (peas, snap peas, edamame, carrots, spinach, bok choy, bean sprouts, red peppers)
Juice & zest of 1 lime
1/4 c low-sodium soy sauce
Sriracha (optional)

Combine ingredients through spaghetti in a large stock pot; bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium-high for eight minutes or until spaghetti is cooked.

Meanwhile, dice veggies as necessary. I filled a two-cup measuring cup with carrots, celery, peas and edamame (I stock peas and edamame in the freezer at all times), and set aside a full cup of spinach. When the pasta has cooked through, remove the pot from heat and stir in veggies, lime juice/zest, soy sauce, and sriracha if desired.

asian soup veggies

This recipe can be customized to what’s on and hand and what you like. What veggie goodness do you need to use up? Do you like tofu? Drain/press a container of firm tofu and add it at the beginning. Fresh cilantro leaves make a nice garnish, and you could also use sesame seeds. One of my kids doesn’t like soy sauce so I set soy sauce and sriracha on the table so each diner can season their own bowl.

asian soup

 

10-minute healthy veggie soup: isn’t that a miracle?

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Thankful Thursday = Happiness!

I asked myself this morning whether I would write a Thankful Thursday post. Answer? Not sure. Then I went to my women’s group at church and one of the topics was “Happy people are grateful.”

So here we go.

*I am grateful that I am developing new rhythms and taking time to write regularly. It’s good for my soul, and I do hope something here encourages you, too.

*I am grateful for the high school girls I meet with for coffee and conversation. They fill my life with laughter and joy and perhaps I encourage them to reflect in new ways on their adolescent experiences. And, let’s be honest, maybe I feel just a little bit cool that a teenager or three consider me good company.

*I am grateful for younger friends who don’t mind when I snag their babies. Today I held an eight-month-old boy who giggled big baby chortles. Best moment of my day!

*I am grateful for friends with more life experience who encourage me to advocate for my kids, to pray for wisdom, to be honest about the struggles. I am grateful for their love without judgment.

*I am grateful for colleagues I enjoy as co-workers and as people. The gals had a quick lunch together today and commented that, while we sure like the guys, girl-talk is good.

*I am grateful for spring-in-winter and the new colors bursting to life on trees: gray and green; yellow; red, rust, and wine; peach, pink, and cotton ball white. The variety of shapes and colors stir my soul.

*I am grateful for the healing arts and that insurance covers my chiropractic visits. As of today my shoulder has healed enough that I can go two weeks between visits, significant since I was at two visits per week last spring, then once a week since summer.

*I am grateful to have followed my instincts on how to protect my body. The chiro gave me a new stretch for my lower back and confirmed that, had I done some additional exercises – the ones more or less ‘mandatory’ for a sleek physique – no doubt I would have done serious damage to my back. (Hah! That’s my ‘excuse’ and I’m sticking with it!)

*I am grateful that, even as Tween steps deeper into adolescence each day, he still wants Mommy snuggles. Yesterday he hugged me long and deep, and all I could think was, “THIS!”

*I am grateful that Teen is doing better than ever in school – no small feat for a kid who was diagnosed with ADHD only a year ago, who all his life had been labeled “lazy” by teachers, who despairingly declared himself, “nothing more than a B student.” And now he has mostly A’s. Hallelujah!

*I am grateful that Teen talks to his parents no-holds-barred on any-and-every subject. No Subject Off-Limits. Sometimes he slips into the adolescent thought-coma and doesn’t respond at all, but when he talks I am aware of what a tremendous gift it is that he engages with us in real conversation on real-to-teen-life topics. And often, he initiates the conversation – talk about a miracle!

*I am grateful for good books and that this whole family enjoys reading. Tween and I just started The Hobbit, a repeat for me but brand-new to him, especially as he’s seen all three movies and they are not the book. I love the power of a good story to whisk us away to new lands and wild adventures!

*I am grateful for a new project that stretches my mind and heart in new ways, and I am grateful for my friend who invited me into this project. I am eager to see how it will turn out.

*I am grateful for our menagerie of pets, some of whom demand that we walk them and play with them and give us affection in return, and some of whom lurk behind glass like zoo fascinations.

*I am grateful for my girlfriends, for opportunities to do life alongside amazing women.

*And today I am grateful for the reminder to be grateful, as the practice of gratitude leads to greater happiness.

Happy Thursday to You!

 

 

Shameless Audacity

One year ago our family was caught up in a season of prayer and preparation for Guy’s pastoral sabbatical. For two years we had thought we’d go to Peru to work with Kids Alive International in the Andes. Guy has been several times and his heart has broken for the needs of the people there; the rest of us bided time until Tween was old enough to make the strenuous trip (early morning flights/drastic elevation changes).

God shut that door.

So we pursued the possibility of spending the summer in Costa Rica. Teen had been on a school trip and fallen in love with the beauty of God’s creation in the rain forest. It could be great (and it was) to spend the summer seeking God where we already knew His creation would astound us.

But living on 1.5 church salaries, how could we afford it?

One week I stood up during our women’s group of 100+ gals and asked them to pray with me that God, who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20), would do a miracle and provide a way for us to live the summer in a Spanish-speaking country (we all have some Spanish skills), whether it be Costa Rica or elsewhere.

A week later God showed up as only God can to provide a house-sitting gig for us that was way, way, WAY more than we could ask or imagine. It made possible our summer abroad and became a safe haven for our often travel-weary bones. You can read more about our Costa Rican adventures and what we called our “God Treasure Hunt” here.

This week it has occurred to me that I prayed with shameless audacity for God to provide for Guy’s sabbatical. I believed God had good gifts to give him, and by extension, his family, during that time of well-earned rest. I believed, and so I prayed, even though I didn’t know exactly what I was praying for.

I don’t always pray that way. Why not?

I definitely get in prayer ruts. I don’t set aside enough time to pray, so I pray on the go – in the car, as I walk, in between the here-and-there of my too-busy life. That’s fine, of course, but it’s like infrequent snacking instead of sitting down to a satisfying meal. And it’s not a very good way to listen for God’s quiet whisper.

In church this morning I had a sudden inspiration, a nudge to the ribs from the Spirit: I would pray in color before writing my next blog post.

Praying in Color is a fun, creative, get-me-out-of-my-head (and my rut) form of prayer. It slows you down to meditate on each word and phrase as you color/write/doodle. You can pray for people, countries, events, whatevers, and you can pray the words of Scripture, no artistic ability required. I prayed the Lord’s Prayer from Luke 11, today’s Bible passage.

prayer

Part of the beauty of praying in color is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. This is my example, but yours would look entirely different. The point is to actively pray, to spend time with our loving Father. And at the end, you have a visual reminder of your prayer.

I just noticed that the Praying in Color site contains templates for praying in color during Lent. Although we’re almost half-way through the season, I might download a template and use it as a tool to pray from here to Easter.

However you pray, let’s pray with shameless audacity that the Spirit will show up in surprising and dramatic ways!

Connect
To whom do you turn when you feel like you need to talk? Explain.
Reflect on an example from your life of persistence paying off.

Study
Read aloud Luke 11:1-13.
Put this version of the Lord’s Prayer into your own words (vv. 2-4). What strikes you about the content of this prayer? [For comparison, see Matthew 6:9-13].
What is Jesus’ main point with His example in vv. 5-7?
What do vv. 9-13 say to someone who feels like their prayers aren’t being answered? [See also James 4:3].

Live
Author Anne Lamott suggests that all prayers boil down to three essential words: “Help,” “Thanks,” and “Wow.” Examine the Lord’s Prayer and see if you agree.
How do you balance your CHATs with the Lord: confess, honor, ask and thanks? Do you tend toward one over the others? Explain.
How would your prayers change if you brought shameless audacity to your prayers? If you expected the Holy Spirit?
How do you incorporate prayer into your everyday life?
What obstacles stand in the way of effective prayer time, and how can you level them?
Which Faith Training Exercises have you tried recently? Reflect on joys and struggles.
Which exercises might God call you to this week, and why?
What is Jesus saying to you through this passage and how will you respond?

Pray
Pray that Jesus will teach you to pray and fill you with His Holy Spirit.

Put Yourself in the Way of Beauty

The intended impulse behind Miracles in the Mundane is to look for God in my everyday life of family, work, and friendship and encourage others to do the same.

So it shouldn’t surprise me that a series of essays on using the sense of sight to see God would move me to experience God in new places, in new sights.

And yet it did, because I get so caught up in life’s everyday-ness that even when I think I’m being contemplative, I’m still obtuse. Anyone relate?

Bit-by-precious-bit this book is guiding me to deeper insight:

[More info here]

A few weeks ago it led me to consider each taste of food or drink I put in my mouth as a way to experience God. Let me tell you, God can taste exhilarating – tart like a green apple, tangy like a ripe grapefruit. But God should NOT taste like a well-intentioned but terrible smoothie made with over-the-edge fruits, including kumquats. Out of guilt for overbuying gorgeous produce I choked down the bitter citrus sludge but my stomach hurt all day, convincing me yet again that I need to get serious about meal planning so I won’t eat barely-justifiable compost.

On to sight: “If I want to see God present in the ordinary, in the daily gifts I’m given, I want to move beyond seeing and into perceiving…. Attentive vision opens us to the extraordinary presence of God blessing us in the amazing ordinary…. the art of spiritual sight…teaches us to sense God at work and play all around us” (pp60-62).

Yes!

I have written previously about my “one word” for 2015 here and here: “Put yourself in the way of beauty.” I don’t mean primarily those things that have physical beauty, but anything that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction, things that point in some way to God.

My word at the ready and this book’s fresh reminder as encouragement, I have opened my eyes and my heart again to look for God, and I am grateful for the ways He has revealed Himself.

*I am choosing hiking trails over sidewalks, sidewalks over treadmills, and treadmills over the couch. Even when allergies make me want to claw out my eyes, I am grateful for the beauty of blooming spring-in-winter: the various stages of bud and bloom, the spectrum of colors, from barely blushing pink to plummy magenta, peachy coral and bluish-purple, spring green, kelly green, and forest green.

*I noticed God at play during my early walks around the neighborhood as my eye caught the iridescent glisten of Fairy Queen dewdrops crowning each blade of grass.

*I memorized Psalm 46:10 –

“Be still and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth”

and I saw God exalted in the earth when we took a family field trip to Ano Nuevo State Park. Tween wanted to see the elephant seals and Teen wanted to see the San Francisco garter snake, both of which populate this area. We saw both, among other beauties.

stones

A flower as ordinary as a dandelion can be spectacular if you have eyes to see.

An ordinary dandelion can be spectacular if you have eyes to see.

Wide and deep fields of yellow wildflowers stretched from the roadside in both directions as we drove to and from Ano Nuevo. Guy pulled over so I could photograph the boys in a field, but you’ll just have to imagine two darling boys kneeling in fields of yellow, since I won’t post their faces here.

*I had a dream in which my whole focus centered on my hand held by Teen’s hand, remarkable because Teen isn’t about to hold my hand. Not wanting to embarrass him, I didn’t mention my dream. A day or two later he noticed my rising frustration in a situation with Tween, so like situations only a few years ago in which I was frustrated with a younger version of Teen, and without saying a word he patted me, hugged me, even gave me a kiss or two on the cheek. We both knew he understood my frustration and was doing something he knew I would appreciate. Seriously, friends, self-recognition and empathy from a teenager? That’s a miracle!

The sun through the trees caught my eye. Our backyard isn't Middle Earth, but in this picture, the trees remind me of Ents.

Our backyard isn’t Middle Earth but, in this picture, the trees remind me of Ents.

This one-of-a-kind beauty in our front yard opens and closes throughout the day.

This front yard beauty opens and closes throughout the day.

Those are just a few of my beautiful moments over the last couple of weeks. “Wonder is the fuel that sustains vision” (Awaken Your Senses, p64). May wonder so fill our hearts that our vision overflows with God’s beauty!

Tuesday Treat – Vegan Chocolate Pudding

Fried brown rice

Fried brown rice

Nope, this isn’t a bait and switch. I promise to point you to a recipe for a delicious vegan chocolate pudding, but first I’m sharing a Tuesday Treat of a different kind: Fried Brown Rice.

This meal came to me like a miracle this evening. Goofy kid schedules, friends coming and going, phone ringing, Guy at a late meeting, I needed to whip up a quick and easy dinner. Chop some veggies, toss in some precooked brown rice, add some seasoning – voila! And in less than 15 minutes start to finish, happy kids chowed down.

I can’t give you a precise recipe, but this meal is great for cleaning out the fridge. I had a container of brown rice leftover from a couple days ago that needed to be used. I had some veggies – I always have veggies! – in this case, I sauteed some carrots, celery, shallot, garlic, and yellow bell pepper in a wok on the stove top with a few drops of sesame oil for flavor; when veggies began to soften, I added some frozen edamame and peas until they warmed.

I transferred the veggies to a bowl and put the rice in the wok with a few drizzles of natural rice vinegar. Stirring occasionally, when the rice began to get crispy and pop, I returned the veggies to the wok. I quickly stirred in some low-sodium soy sauce and hefty spoonful of Earth Balance (vegan butter). When the EB had melted, I moved the fried rice into a bowl. I would’ve topped it with sesame seeds, but I’m out, so I used toasted sesame seeds instead.

I kept it on the mild side since my kids don’t do spicy, but if you like it hot, add some chili garlic paste while cooking or sriracha to taste in your bowl.

So now the pudding. Last Monday was Groundhog Day. February 2nd roles around every year and every year it surprises me. Of course I don’t have to acknowledge a large rodent spotting his shadow (or not) but if I can scrounge up even a few minutes to plan and execute said plan, I do love a celebration.

I went to one of my favorite cooking blogs, Oh She Glows, and what do you know? Vegan Chocolate Pudding was her post of the day AND I had all the ingredients on hand. Tee hee!

It took minutes to make, and I snuck that avocado into the food processor without anyone walking through the kitchen (sneaky, sneaky!). The guys have their limits; breakfast can be eaten for dinner, but not dinner for breakfast. Similarly, avocados belong in Mexican food or salads, but not dessert. You get the picture.

Angela warns against using overripe bananas – a warning I didn’t heed sufficiently. I thought my bananas qualified as “yellow with a few spots” but the pudding did have an initial strong banana taste; I’ll go for yellower with no spots next time. As Guy doesn’t love banana flavoring (although, funny, he does enjoy a good banana bread), he wouldn’t eat the pudding. From time to time Teen avoids anything “unhealthy” (this doesn’t fall into that category, but some secrets are worth keeping), so he wouldn’t try it.

Which left more for Tween and me!

We both added cinnamon; next time I might add it straight to the food processor as it added such a nice flavor. We also both stirred in coconut, and Tween added a dash of almond milk (not sure why, but he liked it).

Best part? I won Superhero Mom points when I let Tween have it for breakfast the next morning. Before you scowl your disapproval my direction, answer me: truly, why not? Bananas, avocado, almond butter, and a little cocoa powder – if I made it in a blender with almond milk and ice, it could be a smoothie.

Hmm, I might just have to try that!

Spelling Bee

Tween participated in the school-wide spelling bee. Placing in the top two in his classroom bee, he joined seventeen other 3rd through 5th graders. All winners before they hit the stage, Tween made it to 4th place.

Miraculous, as years ago experts predicted that given his particular set of learning (dis)abilities, his spelling level wouldn’t exceed third grade.

Watch this kid surpass his doctors’ expectations – woo hoo!

Similar to the well-known stages of grief, Tween passed through several Stages of Anticipation:

At first, he was over-the-moon excited. Giddy, jumping around, couldn’t stop talking.

Next came anxiety with a dash of denial. Let’s not talk about it unless we’re so anxious we have to talk about it.

Then, annoyance: “Mom, I Do Not want to practice spelling!”

Followed by acceptance, “Mom, can we practice spelling?” (Snuggles).

I came up with an unorthodox strategy: I checked out a DVD of Akeelah and the Bee from our fantastic local library. We watched it over two nights after homework and dinner, me pausing the show periodically to quiz Tween on a word (Guy declared it the worst movie-watching experience ever; I argued that we were studying!).

We talked about anxiety and desire, gumption, determination, and overcoming expectations. Tween’s parents watched the power of storytelling wash over him as he joined Akeelah on her journey from inner-city closeted smart kid to National Spelling Bee champion.

From no-dream to pipe-dream to day-dream to reality, Tween caught the spirit.

Finally motivated, he let me quiz him as I inwardly marveled at his ability to spell words I couldn’t imagine he’d seen before and outwardly praised him like crazy for his hard work.

The night before the bee he crawled into bed and buried himself in covers. Overwhelmed, he began to criticize everything about himself – body and brain. You know those moments, when nerves take over and you just can’t see how anything you are or do could possibly be good enough?

I made him look me in the eyes. Firmly, I said, “You do your best and let God do the rest” (thanks, Mom, for that little pearl of wisdom!). “And I will be proud of you No Matter What.”

Morning of, he turned ornery when I suggested he Dress for Success: “Did you read that in one of your magazines?” (Ugh, Adolescent Sassy-Butt, I only requested that he put on a polo-style shirt with his jeans. “But Mom, NO ONE else will wear anything special, you just watch.” Bummer, he was mostly right). After he left for school, I insisted that Guy and I also Dress for Success to honor his efforts.

As Guy and I entered the auditorium to join other parents seated on benches lining the back wall, the school principal called us over. “I have to ask,” he began, “but do you live in a zoo?”

The bee participants had filled out questionnaires about themselves and one of the questions asked about family pets. “I was just wondering how many of these animals Tween listed might actually still be living with you?”

We glanced over his shoulder at Tween’s paper and laughed. He had listed all of our 3 cats, 3 leopard geckos, 2 dogs, 2 snakes, 1 tortoise, and 1 betta fish by name and species. All except for the newest snake which he listed as “ball python (I forgot its name).”

Um, yes, we live in a zoo of sorts. We’re a little nuts.

National Spelling Bee rules at play, kids could only ask two questions about their word. They could ask for a definition, to hear it repeated or in a sentence, word origin (nobody asks that at this level), but only two questions.

I held my breath each time Tween stood up. He spelled words we had studied and words we hadn’t studied. He spoke straight into the microphone, loud and clear, no mumbling. An astonished parent turned to us: “He’s so confident!”

He made it through six rounds. Down to four spellers, Tween’s word elicited hushed gasps from nearby parents:

“Please spell jocularity.”

Parents whispered, “What did he say? What does that mean?”

According to Merriam-Webster: “Given to jesting, jolly.” Actually a pretty good descriptor for Tween.

It hadn’t been on the provided spelling lists. I looked it up in the children’s dictionary he and every other 2nd grader in town received from the local Kiwanis club and, guess what? It’s not in there.

This is not a kid-friendly spelling word, folks.

He hadn’t asked a single question so far, but this time he asked for a definition and a sentence, and then he asked to hear it repeated; he asked three questions, so the principal would not repeat the word.

“Jocularity. Hmm, J-O-C-um…hmm…K…?-U-L-A-R-I-T-Y. Jocularity.”

“Thank you for participating.” Applause.

He walked across the gym and took a seat on the floor with his classmates, high-fiving along the way. He smiled. Clearly disappointed, he put up a good face.

Of course he added a K. Wouldn’t you? Or maybe you wouldn’t, but you might have in 5th grade. Jocularity sounds an awful lot like jock.

The next word: havoc
And: thyme
And I no longer remember the winning word, but it wasn’t nearly so hard as jocularity.

When a winner had been declared, parents stuck around for hugs and pictures and congratulations. The principal personally congratulated Tween, commending him for doing so well and encouraging him that a “ck” made perfect sense, even if it was incorrect.

Bee participants

Bee participants

Rightfully proud of himself – the kid mouthed the correct spelling to every single word in the bee from his place in the back row – and kicking himself at the same time, Tween glowed. But when we picked him up after school three hours later, he glowered. The luck of the draw had not been on his side, and he was angry at Misfortune.

So we made a big deal to celebrate the miracle: we gave him the choice between Slurpees or ice cream (Slurpees won). We spelled jocularity back and forth to one another for the rest of the day; no one in this household will ever stumble over an added K again. We met friends at the park and they expressed admiration for his serious spelling skills. We thanked God for the gift of a spelling adventure. For fun in the process. For a new appreciation of the power of studying well. And for the experience as a whole.

You might even say we acted a wee bit jocular in our miraculous spelling celebration!

Quirky Christmas

School for 2014? Check!

*Sigh of relief* The kids are off to movies and friends as I borrow a couple of quiet hours to straighten up and address Christmas cards. For weeks the house has been an explosion of Christmas detritus landed alongside, underneath, and atop backpacks, shoes and jackets, sporting equipment, and who knows whose papers for who can tell which subject? I’ve done my best to focus on the important over the pine needle rug, the piled-up dishes, the un-addressed cards. The tree was up and lit for a week before we decorated it in the one 20-minute period both boys were home between school and activities.

Teamwork makes quick work

Teamwork makes quick work

My first waking thought earlier this week: “Even in my dreams I’m racing around!” I awoke just as exhausted as I’d hit the pillow. And then I read, “We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories” (Jonathan Gottschall). My mind’s stories had to be of the rush, hurry, rest-less variety.

I haven’t been in a party mood this year. I have needed – more than usual – time for quiet and reflection, sacred moments carved from the craziness of December church and family life. When I gave my life-of-the-party husband the gift of my company at a Christmas party, a woman I’ve known for some time asked how I am, seeming concerned, then asked, “Just let me encourage you? How old are you?” Guessing where she might be headed, I demurred, “Oh, right, and everything’s heading south…” To which she replied, “But you are still beautiful! I know you don’t feel it, but you are!” … Merry Christmas to me! For encouragement’s sake, I’ve been reminded that my numbers, in years and on the scale, are inching skyward. I’m getting older – and fat – but still beautiful… for my age? Goodness…

So I’ve decided in this too-full season to capitalize on my unique brand of quirky Christmas.

"In My Santa Suit" red toes

“In My Santa Suit” red toes, even though it’s absolutely closed-toe shoe weather

My feather wreath: Dr. Seuss whimsy

My feather wreath: Dr. Seuss whimsy

The Christmas Tortoise candle holder makes me giggle.

Doesn’t everyone have a Christmas Tortoise?

Beautiful and broken snowglobe

Beautiful – and broken – snow globe

Not sure how it happened, but the inside base of this globe tilted while in storage. I almost threw it out last year. And then I didn’t. It’s not worth much, but I have liked it since I first spotted it. And as I held it, paused over the garbage can, I decided that this snow globe will remind me: our expectations of Christmas will always be a little sideways to the lived reality.

Christmas, like life, doesn’t go according to plan. At least, not my plan. And Christmas can still be beautiful, sparkling, iridescent, even when – perhaps especially when – it doesn’t go according to my plan.

These things remind me to be present, to laugh at the silly, to be okay with the imperfections of the season and in myself. Richard Rohr writes, “If you are present, you will eventually and always experience the Presence. It is so simple, and so hard…” (The Naked Now, p59). And my current fav, Ann Voskamp, writes: “I always get my Christmas miracle. I get God with me. That’s really all I have to get ready for Christmas – my heart. So I will just come to Him just as I am.”

My quirky Christmas decorations are talismans pointing me toward a better perspective, icons through which I experience an altogether more important Presence. They may look odd or out of place to you, but they serve a significant purpose for me.

Wishing you a merry – and quirky – Christmas!