Monday, September 26, 2011

A little art

Sometimes it is so relaxing to draw with your favorite pens, paint with beautiful colors or doodle with fun crayons. This summer I got to work on some art, and I loved every bit of doing it.

This first drawing is one I did earlier this summer for our dear friends the Stephens. The picture was taken on the day that Cece (their daughter) first went to the hospital to see her newborn baby brothers. We had the privilege to be with them for this occasion, and even got to take Cece to McDonald's (her favorite place!!) while her parents stayed at the hospital for a couple of hours. I gave this picture to the Stephens as a reminder of that special day. So, here's Cece drinking her strawberry water at McDonald's! (Drawn with Copic markers)

I couldn't find the exact picture that I drew this from, but here's another one from that day. So sweet!

Another fun project I worked on was a painting at JV Kid's camp. We were challenged to make up our own flag which represented how our two cultures were woven into one-- a flag to represent our TCK (=Third Culture Kid) identity. The tree represents me growing up in both cultures, and also that I am rooted in Christ, and that's where ultimately my identity is formed!

Monday, September 19, 2011

My brother is ENGAGED!!

YESSS!!!! I am SO excited to finally share the news that my brother, Tyler, is engaged to the wonderful Lara Ragan! She is beautiful, kind, loving, thoughtful and the perfect match for Tyler. I'm so happy for them! I can't even express my joy to see my brother so happy, and to know that I will soon have a sister!

Happiness!! Can't help from smiling every time I look at these pictures. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cook for the week

Yep, that title can only mean one thing: my Mom's been gone for the week. So, that makes me the cook! My Dad and Caleb can totally fend for themselves when the women are gone, but it takes a lot of the pressure off of them when they don't have to do that. With all of the things they do outside of the home, and around the house too, it's my time to step up to the job.

Lucky for me, I like to cook. I like to bake even more, but that's just because I have more of a sweet tooth. Heehee. If I have time, creativity, and the freedom to buy whatever I need (or use my creativity in the pantry and freezer!), then I do enjoy cooking. Especially when listening to an audiobook, a sermon podcast, or some good music. What makes cooking even more fun is doing it with a friend, which I also got to do this weekend. (Thank you, Hayley, for coming on Wednesday!)

All in all, cooking can either be taken as a burden, or as an opportunity to express yourself, be creative, and use what resources you have. This week, I chose the latter. I did have to make the choice though. Will I make my standby recipes (taco salad, chilli...), or will I explore the kind of cooking that I like to eat, something different than the way my mom cooks? I do love my Mom's cooking, but there's no way I can replicate it exactly, so why not just create my own style, use my own recipes?

So, every day, I had to ask myself some questions...

1. What food do I have in the fridge, pantry, or freezer?
2. What do I have time for?
3. Do I have time to go shopping?
4. What do I want to eat?

And here's the menu that resulted out of that thinking:
Monday: Tuna noodle with peas (everything from the pantry and freezer! Woohoo!)
Tuesday: Chicken Stir fry (picked up ginger, onions and some fruit at the store) over rice
Wednesday: Soup night with Hayley (soup is her favorite!): Vegetarian chilli- delicious, hummus with veggies (had to actually grocery shop for this one + pick up some essentials like milk, eggs...)
Thursday: improvising night: I have leftover rice in the fridge, frozen corn in the freezer, leftover ginger, one chicken breast leftover from Tuesday, plenty of eggs, and Harry Potter 4 playing in my headphones.

What to make?


Fried rice with vegetables and chicken

(You can use any vegetables you have on hand) I used:
- Frozen corn
- Frozen green beans
- 2 carrots, sliced into thin rounds
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp oil
- chicken breasts - how ever many you want, I only used one, because that's all I had
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 low-sodium chicken broth/ bouillon 
- 1 tbsp minced ginger
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 can pineapple, drained
- 2-4 cups of chilled cooked rice (or however much you need to use!)
- 1/2-1 tsp (approx.) Siracha chilli sauce- optional
- Cilantro flakes, or fresh cilantro- optional
- Soy Sauce- to top- optional
- Salt and pepper

I could type out the directions for cooking exactly, but I think part of cooking is experimenting, adding your own style to it. There isn't much you can do wrong in this recipe. But just to help you out a little, I'll give you a few of tips:

1. Heat oil in a wok pan at high temp and cook chicken first, then add onions, carrots and garlic.
2. Add eggs however you want, either cook them first as an omelet type thing and cut them into strips, or mix them and pour them over the rice, chicken and veggie mix and cook until there's no more runny parts
3. Listen for a sizzling sound when you're cooking the rice. You want it to brown slightly. Fry that rice!!
4. The pineapple is the last thing to add.

Don't forget the soy sauce! Buy light soy sauce that contains no gluten.
 Got it? Now go look in your pantry, freezer and fridge, and get cookin'! Use whatever you can find and feel free to alter the recipe, and most importantly...

Have fun!

Oh, I did get to do some of my baking too before I made dinner... How could I resist the urge to make this amazing cinnamon bread? Makes me smile.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Signs of Autumn

It seems like every time I come to the crest of one season, and head into a new one, I just can't help but go outside to enjoy it. There's something intriguing to me about the little changes that soon become a completely different season.

I love all of the subtle changes: the bright sunlight turning into more of a glow, the leaves losing their deep green color, acorns growing, blackberries bursting with flavor, the corn soon to be harvested, the apples falling off of trees and scattering the ground. I love it all.

For the posts that preclude this one, go to these posts:
Frosty Mornings
Fresh Spring Energy
First Signs of Life
Summer glow

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Chocolate cookies

There is a secret place, deep inside of me that is satisfied only by chocolate. Well...maybe it's not exactly that way... But don't we all kind of have those kinds of places? Ok, no, seriously now. Who doesn't love a chocolate cookie every once in a while? Especially when that cookie is crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside, with melted chocolate chunks in between. What more could you want from a cookie?

These cookies remind me of the taste of brownies, but are not as heavy. They are a cinch to make if you have the right ingredients on hand. For those of you who are not regular gluten-free bakers and don't have all the special flours, I'm genuinely sorry! But not to worry, there are recipes out there for good chocolate cookies made out of *gasp!*- wheat flour. You do what works though. Each to his own! My own just happens to have to be gluten-free, which I actually love now. It's an adventure, it's challenging, and I know it's better for my body.

Chocolate cookies 
(Thanks to Karina Alrich at for her wonderful recipe! I just changed a couple of small things to fit what I had on hand, but the credit goes to her!)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line one or two baking sheets with an Exopat or Silpat liner.

Whisk together the dry ingredients:

1/2 cup buckwheat flour or certified gluten-free oat flour
1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch or potato starch (not potato flour!)
1/3 cup organic cocoa
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar

Add in:

1/4 cup agave or pure maple syrup 
1/2 cup light grapeseed oil or butter, if you can tolerate it
1 tablespoon bourbon vanilla extract
1/2 cup vanilla rice milk, coconut milk, or almond milk- more as needed

As you beat the dough pay close attention to the consistency. Add more rice milk a tablespoon at a time, and beat to combine, until you achieve a smooth but sturdy cookie dough. I added two more tablespoons of rice milk to my dough.

Add in:

1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips

Stir as best you can to combine (the dough is stiff).

Roll a golf ball sized wad of dough between your palms, and place the ball on the lined baking sheet about two inches apart. Repeat this process to make 18 balls. Use your palm to press down on the dough and flatten slightly- not too much- unless you like your cookies thin. Press a few extra chocolate chips into the tops of the cookies, if you like.

Bake in the center of a preheated oven for about 15 minutes until the cookies are set. They will still be slightly soft in the center. If you bake two pans at once, rotate the pans half way through baking.

Remove the pans from the oven, and allow the cookies to cool and "set" for a few minutes; then use a thin spatula to move the cookies to a wire rack. The cookies will get crisper as they cool.

Cook time: 15 min

Yield: 18 cookies

Claire's notes: 
- These are great for those of you who can't tolerate eggs, or are vegan! They're also great for those of us who like to eat cookie dough! Heehee...
- I feel like these are even better the next day! You can also freeze them and then pop them in the microwave for 15 seconds. They'll taste like they're just out of the oven!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Built upon the rock

There's something reassuring to me about things built of stone. It makes me think of the verse in Luke 6:

 "They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built." 

Stones lay a firm foundation, and are not easily destroyed. If you think about it, it's not wooden villages and houses that have stood the test of time, but ancient cities like Athens, or Rome, which are both built mostly out of stone. 

Sometimes, when we drive through Croatia, and see village after village with its old houses, churches and streets, I wonder, "How long has that been there?". It's so amazing that things can be built centuries ago, and yet today, we can still admire them and enjoy the craftsmanship of those old days. 

What would it be like if we built our own houses upon the rock, and out of stone? I'm not talking about our physical houses here. What if our foundation was as firm as that of one of these Croatian houses? Would we then stand the test of time too? Would we withstand droughts, floods, fires and fierce winds?

And what kind of legacy would we leave?

Would we be able to fly our flags freely, knowing we were safe from any harm?


What is our firm foundation anyway? How do we build our lives upon the Rock?

1 Peter 2:6:
"For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”"

Ephesians 2:19-21:
"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord."

Matthew 7:25:
"The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock."