Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spring is coming...it's on its way

 Don't you just love when spring subtly comes along? Those warm breezes are refreshing; the sun lightens our mood; every blooming flower is a little surprise of color.

To brighten your day, I'll show you a place that is very close to my heart...
This path actually has a lot of meaning to me. When the Pitchers (a missionary family that has now moved back to the U.S.) lived just across the river, this is where we would meet, play and explore. Since they moved, I haven't been around this area. I guess I just forgot about it. But not anymore.
There is a little "farm house" right next to the river (it's really more of a stream, I guess) that has chickens...
...and an adorable little kitty.
When I was a kid, there wasn't a bridge here. We would always hop across rocks to cross the stream. In fact, I hadn't even seen this bridge until now!
What a beautiful way to connect the two sides of this village.
Splashing our feet, collecting pretty rocks, picking flowers, walking as far as we could in the water... I have so many memories here.

Crocuses are one of my favorite flowers, because when they bloom, it is almost guaranteed that Spring is here to stay!
On my way back home.

Monday, March 21, 2011

JV Ladies Retreat- A First

You're probably thinking... isn't a ladies retreat for missionary women, not missionary kids? Well, yes. But I kind of "cheated the system" and got to go as a babysitter for the week! What a privilege and joy to get to serve some of the most loving, brave and beautiful women I know.

Me and Laurel Jackson (my dear JVK friend in Slovenia) watched four babies, all under 7 months, during the teaching sessions. With nap schedules and eating schedules, only once did we have all four babies at once, so it was fine! I had so much fun getting to know each baby's personalities... it's amazing how unique each baby can be even at such a young age.

Not only did I watch babies throughout the week, but I also had the job of taking pictures (which, if you know me, I love!). Whenever I could, I snapped pictures, trying to capture the feel and "culture" of a JV Women's retreat. Since there is no way to describe how wonderful that "culture" is, let me share some pictures with you.
Come on in and join us...
We got to stay in a renovated Polish palace. I felt like a princess all week...and I was the baby-sitter! :)
The dining room was my favorite...what a special place to talk, eat good food, and sip a nice cup of tea.
It was so fun watching my mom and Aunt Amy do what they do best- minister to women. They've been planning conferences for so many years together, and now I finally got to see them in action! Here they're running a game for the women.
Answering fun questions and sharing their hearts. What fun for us women! :)
One of the babies I watched last week- Benjamin Saar. Such a sweetie! He got all bundled up for an outing to a special town...
Boleslawiec- the home of polish pottery!! JV Women love polish pottery, so we spent a whole afternoon pottery shopping. It was fun shopping with my mom too. 
If you don't know polish pottery, it's time to learn about it! It's so beautiful, artistic, individual and special. 
Isn't it beautiful?
Laurel was such an encouragement and help in baby-sitting! I only see her twice a year, so it was a perk to be with her all week!
All the sweet JV Women! I love them! It was a blessing to get to spend some extra time with them, not to mention, baby-sit their kids!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Mint tea with lemon

So simple. So soothing. Classic, but often forgotten!

Many people associate mint with ice cream, or chocolate, but mint actually has some serious health benefits! Here's what I found:

"Mint is also said and in many cases proven to:
  • Relieve symptoms of indigestion, heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome by relaxing the muscles in and around the intestine.
  • Act as a powerful antioxidant, protecting the body against the formation of cancerous cells.
  • Inhibit the growth of many different types of bacteria and fungus.
  • Ease and unblock the breathing and respiratory passages and airways.
  • Relieves the symptoms of colds and flu.
  • Mint can help with nasal allergies.
  • It can relieve congestion, head colds and headaches.
  • Act as a mild sedative and has calming properties.
  • Relieve minor aches and pains such as muscle cramps and sprains.
  • Combat bad breath.
  • Provides a cooling sensation to the skin and can help to treat minor burns, itching and skin irritations.
  • Mint is a very good cleanser for the blood.
  • Mint tea can help clear up skin disorders such as acne."

My tea recipe is simple:

Mint tea

1. Buy fresh mint leaves (either the whole plant, or any fresh leaves)
2. Boil a pot of water and pour over 4-6 mint leaves, depending on how "minty" you like your tea
3. Squeeze in some lemon juice and add a spoon full of honey
4. Let steep for 3-5 minutes and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Homemade Gluten-free Thin Mints

For those of you who read my mom's blog regularly (livingbylysa.blogspot.com), you may have read a post where she talked about some thin mints that I had made. Well, the wait is over! Here, now, you can finally see how I made them.

First of all, let me just say, these cookies were amazing. So worth the wait and the odd (for gluten-eaters) ingredients-- mainly flours. They took a little extra time to make, but don't let that stop you from trying these! You'll be glad you made them. My whole family loved them so much! My dad was even wondering if I could make a whole bunch of these and keep them in the freezer... (sorry Dad, I dont think they would keep that long, and it would take a lot of time to cut out that many cookies!).

For those of you who can eat gluten, I'm sure these would be a lot easier if you found a recipe using normal flour. But then, you might as well just buy the Girl Scout Cookie brand (though my family said they liked the homemade ones more anyway). But if you're gluten-intolerant, or live overseas, making homemade thin mints is so rewarding!

Gluten-free Dairy-free Egg-free Thin Mints

Recipe courtesy of: Jennifer Kelly, here

Adapted from Gluten-Free Baking by Rebecca Reilly
Makes about 48 small cookies
For cookies:
1 1/3 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup potato starch
1/3 cup tapioca starch
1/3 cup + 3 heaping Tbsp dark cocoa blend
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp xanthan or guar gum
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
½ cup organic shortening
4 Tbsp cold water
¼ cup honey or agave
1 tsp peppermint extract or flavoring
¼ cup tapioca flour, for rolling the dough
Preheat oven to 325F. Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add the shortening and incorporate with a pastry cutter or fork. Stir in the water, honey, and peppermint mint extract, until pea-size crumbs form. Knead dough gently until it comes together in a ball. If it seems dry, add 2 to 3 Tbsp more water. Dough should be pliable like play-doh, not sticky. (If dough does seem sticky, dust with a bit of tapioca flour, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes.)
Roll dough 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick (depending on your preference) on parchment dusted with the tapioca flour. Cut into circles using a small lid or cookie cutter. Arrange on the prepared baking sheets, spacing cookies 1/2-inch apart.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes; let cool completely on baking sheet as they ‘crisp’.
For Chocolate Coating:
2 to 3 cups dark (60 percent or more cocoa) chocolate chips
1 to 2 tsp peppermint extract or flavoring
Line a baking sheet or two with parchment.
Melt chocolate (you may want more or less, depending on your preference). Remove from heat and stir in peppermint extract, to taste. For a thick chocolate layer, dip cookies in chocolate using a fork to lower each, then tap the fork against the inside of the bowl to remove chocolate.
Let coated cookies dry on parchment-lined sheets until chocolate is set, about 30 minutes. Save time by freezing the baking sheets.
Notes, tips, and short-cuts:
- I do not recommended refrigerating this dough for more than 24 hours; it dries out. It can be revived with a bit of water, but it's not ideal.
- If you eat dairy, butter (brought to room temperature) may be used in place of the shortening.
- Dark cocoa produces darker chocolate cookies. Jet black cocoa (ultra-Dutched cocoa) is available at gourmet and specialty shops. Alternatively, you can use regular cocoa powder, but it will result in a lighter-colored cookie.
- If you'd like to skip rolling the dough, simply divide it, roll into two logs, and slice into 1/8-inch discs. Bake as directed.
- If you prefer less chocolate on the cookies, or a quicker way to coat them, dip only the tops of the cookies. Or use a pastry brush to brush the cookies with melted chocolate.

As I said before, I know the directions look long, but it's really not that difficult. And the finished product is simply-- DELICIOUS.