Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Moments of joy

Lately the little things have been taking my breath away...

-Watching the sun rise as we leave for school.
-The crisp air of a clear morning.
-The truths in Christmas songs. (Especially in the soundtrack to the Nativity Story movie-it's one of my favorites!)
-The smell of a freshly cut pine tree on the side of the road by my school.
-The view from my mom's office window.
-A fire flickering in the fireplace.
-Kind words from friends.

But not only do the things I see take my breath away. The things I read are just as powerful...

-Jesus' softness towards women in the Gospels.
-Mary's faith in the unknown.
-God's sovereignty over everything that happens in our lives.
-Paul's goals to share Christ, show Christ, and know Christ. 

There are so many places where I can be encouraged day after day. I just need to remember to lift my eyes to see what God has prepared for me.

No tumbling under the waves...I want to see the view of the ocean.
Thank you Caleb for capturing this amazing moment from JVK camp this year in Croatia!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Aunty Joyce's Amazing Granola

I think we all have aunts, grandmas, cousins, and maybe even uncles who just make the best _________. You know what I mean: maybe it's your Grandma's canned green beans, your aunt's bbq chicken, or your mom's cinnamon rolls. Well, I'd like to share a favorite recipe from my Aunty Joyce! (My Dad's sister)

I first tried her granola this year at family reunion. She brought a batch, and, oh my!! I fell in love. It's so simple, soothing, but real and pure. It has a light taste, which is not overpowering.

And I also have to say that making this granola was somewhat therapeutic. I don't know what it was about it, but I loved the whole process! (It might have helped that I made it in the morning, in a quiet house, in a clean kitchen, with the sun streaming through the windows...yep, I definitely love mornings.)

Amazing healthy granola (can be gluten-free)
Here's her recipe:

I learned to make this granola in a class from a young woman who was teaching us to make homemade soap and balms. It’s simple and tasty. I like to eat it with plain yogurt, a little honey, and fresh fruit.

Spray a 9x13 cake pan with spray oil. Spread 7 cups of old fashion oats in pan. Preheat oven to 350. In a small sauce pan on stove, heat ½ c olive oil and ½ c honey and a dash of salt on medium until easily pourable. Then pour mixture over oats in a zig zag fashion across and up and down the pan. With large spoon, fold oats and honey mixture until evenly distributed. Bake in 15 minute intervals at 350, turning mixture every 15 minutes until desired crispness (I usually cook the granola for 45-50 minutes total).

In same sauce pan used for oil and honey, add 1-2 Tbs olive oil or cinnamon infused oil*. Add ½ c sliced almonds, ½ c chopped pecans, ½ c chopped walnuts to oil. On medium heat, stir nuts constantly to roast until you hear a slight sizzle or pop in the pan. Then pour roasted nuts over baked oats and fold in. Add ¼ to ½ c craisins. Cool completely. Store in airtight container.

*To make cinnamon infused oil, fill small glass bottle with narrow opening with cinnamon sticks. Pour olive oil over them, filling bottle. Close tightly with lid. After a couple days you have cinnamon infused oil. Bottle may be refilled a couple times with olive oil before changing out cinnamon sticks (depending on how often you use this).
This is what the nut mixture should look like before you add it to the granola
 Claire's notes:
- I added some puffed amaranth for a little protein and other good stuff, and 'cause we had it on hand. :)
- Use the best honey you can! It will make a difference!
- I added pumpkin seeds, which were absolutely delicious! I love the crunch they added. (And those little brown specks are flax seeds ground. You've probably heard me say already how good flax is for you and such...so why not add it to your granola??)
- A serving suggestion: cut half of a banana, peel, and place in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave banana on high for 30-50 seconds, then mash. It totally enhances the flavor of the banana, and melts amazingly into the yogurt and granola. Yum. Deliciousness.
- Play around with this recipe. The possibilities are endless!
 And one last picture of my dear Aunty Joyce (and Uncle Dave). Thank you for the recipe!

Question of the day:
Have you ever made your own granola? Success? Did you like it? I'd love it if you would share your favorite recipe!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Transformed for Christmas

My brother Tyler said it well...."Now that the turkey had his day...it's time for Christmas!". Who else out there decorates their house the weekend after Thanksgiving? We haven't always done this, but it sure is fun.

So, here's to welcoming the Christmas season!

First, a couple of before pictures...

 And after...

If you want to hear about the creative way we got this Christmas tree for free, go to my mom's blog.

 Question of the day:

When do you decorate for Christmas? What's your favorite Christmas decoration?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving with JV family

While we don't get to spend Thanksgiving with our family in the States, we do get to be with our JV family! I have never in my life spent a Thanksgiving in the States, but that's why JV Thanksgiving feels so special to me here. This is what our tradition is for Thanksgiving!

I'm thankful for lots of things, one of them being my JV family!
Thank you Caleb for this picture!!
Everyone brings their best dishes to contribute to the big table, we have fresh turkeys, mashed potatoes (provided by the hotel) and lots of yummy side dishes.

What would Thanksgiving be without our annual football game?
I love these girls! Jillian's in the middle, and Hayley's on the right.

Preparing some yummy food! One of my favorite parts!
So good!
The kids get especially excited about all the fun food!
The JVK talent show.

 And of course the hosts were just as entertaining! :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Micron pen drawings are fun

I love using Micron black pens for drawing. They are smooth, waterproof and long-lasting. Here's a drawing I worked on this weekend.

This is a street in Jelsa, Croatia this past summer. I miss Croatia! I love the fresh, clean air, the blue ocean, the stone houses, the rosemary and lavender...ahhh. So refreshing. I'd go there right now if I could!

Question of the day:

 If you could take two days off and go anywhere relaxing right now, where would you go? Why?

* By the way, I used an app on my phone called diptic to put these two pictures together. It's a great app! I love it! 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pumpkin bars and CCK

I have a new favorite blogger. Ok, just stop and think for a minute what would make a blogger my favorite... Yep, it includes baking. And sweets. And healthy. And cuteness. And good photography. And it's all dairy-free and gluten-free-adaptable. So...who is this blogger?

Chocolate Covered Katie!! If you've never heard of her, head on over to her wonderful blog here.

Today I tried one of her yummy recipes for pumpkin bars. She asked kindly if other bloggers would not share her recipes, but would link back to her, which I am happy to do! So here's the recipe link:

Pumpkin cream cheese bars (vegan, can be made gluten-free with an all-purpose gf mix)

A couple of notes:
- I used a normal egg instead of a replacer (I'm not vegan), and I think that's why my bars turned out more cakey. The second time I made these bars (I made them twice in two days!), I decided to just go ahead and make it round like a cake. It's so pretty that way!
- If you want to reduce the fat content or oil content, use applesauce instead of oil.
- If you don't have stevia, no problem! Katie added the measurements in sugar for those who want to use it. Stevia is a great sweetener though, and leaves a nice sweet taste on your tongue. It is a no calories, all natural, no side-affects, plant-based sweetener. Don't know stevia? Read about it here or here...it's great! (I have stevia from this company- and it's not bitter at all!)

Question of the day:

Do you have a favorite food blog, food TV show, or cookbook? I'd love to learn about something new!

Some of my other favorite CCK recipes include:
- Chocolate bar pie
- Chocolate cookies filled with pumpkin

And I really want to try:
- Brownie batter pancakes
- One minute chocolate cake (Update: this was incredible and so easy!!! You need to make it.)
- "Skinny" snickerdoodles

*Oh, and thank you Lucy T. for helping me out with the photos for this shoot! You were a great hand model. :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sometimes we need to look back

You know those times where you happen upon some pictures from when you were six and can't stop looking at them? Or when you find some dusty videos in a drawer and can watch them for hours? Or when you find a tape (yes a cassette-tape!) of you singing a song from when you were four (yes, we have these!)?

 I love looking back. Sometimes I look back at really old things, occasions and events that I can't even remember, because I was so young. And other times, I just like looking back at a beloved place I visited a year ago, or pictures with my grandparents from the summer. Anyway, I like to remember happy times. 

So, here we go... let's look back at what life was like on this day (or very near this day), November 16th, in 2004, in 2005, in 2006...

This picture was taken on exactly this date, in 2004.
Just had to add this one too from 2004- three days after the picture above was taken, we had a snowstorm. A playground for us kids had arrived in white!!
2005, Nov 16th- it snowed again. Lily used to explore the wild white yard and come back looking like this. She was just collecting snow-balls I guess!
2006, Nov 17th- Grandma and Bapa visit us in Czech!
2007, Nov 16th (My mom is good at taking pictures often, isn't she?!)- yet again, there is snow on the ground. This time Caleb is shoveling the drive way with his little loyal helper- Lily.
2008, Nov 13th- we visit Chicago to support my dad in the launch of JV's capital campaign. We take a day as a family and go to the Museum of Science and Industry, where they already have their Christmas decorations up.
2008, Nov 14th- kick-off of the 2x3 Josiah Venture Capital Campaign, which has now successfully reached it's goals. Praise God! (Josiah Venture updates and webpage)
2009, Nov. 13th- Caleb's first sluskolona.

2010,  Nov.12th- my sluskolona (go here for one more video)
2010, Nov 16th- a more accurate date to correspond to this post- I visited a JV missionary family in Slovakia with the Ellenwoods and Caleb. Tthe Rumbolds were (and are) awesome!!
And here we are...today's date: November 16th, 2011: an ordinary November day. Mom is frying chicken for dinner, making mashed potatoes, and steaming broccoli. And me? I'm enjoying some time with my doggy, Kaylee, and remembering past years through fun pictures.

How fun it is to look back at what happened each year! My mom has done a good job at keeping track of our lives through photos, and I'm very grateful for that! Thank you Mom!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

It's ball time!

It's that time of year again when after weeks of ballroom dance lessons, students perform what they've learned for their friends and family. Last year, I took dance lessons (for more on that, go here or here for a video). But this year, it was Caleb's ball that we all attended! He had taken dance lessons two years ago, but why not do it twice? It's so fun!
The last step of the promenade: the bow and curtsy.
Love the traditions like this one: each partner has to buy a small gift for the other and present it in a special way.
And the best part about these balls is fun times with good friends. All of these girls are in my class at school, and I love them!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Oh Pinterest, I love you

Ever heard of a website called Pinterest? If not, then you are about to discover one of the most wonderful and helpful things on the internet.

"Pinterest is a virtual pinboard. Pinterest allows you to organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. You can browse pinboards created by other people to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests." 
(quoted from here)

And I'm telling you, it is so helpful to have pinboards! There are so many things that I find on the internet that I want to remember, or share with my friends. This is a great way to keep track of those random discoveries on the web like recipes, craft ideas, decorating tips, outfit inspirations and so many other things. Here's what my "pinboards" looks like, for example.

I have a profile, and I can create boxes (categories) for things I find. For example, something like this (a creative way to organize shoes) would be in "Dream home":
Or this (an amazing, delicious, dairy-free, healthy chocolate fudge pie from this blog) would be in "For chocolatey days":

One of the best parts about Pinterest though, is that you see all of the things that your friends pin on pinterest too. You can follow anyone's boards and see what they find on the internet....and that's how pins circle around on pinterest! You can "repin" anyone else's pin if you like it, so you remember it too. So you get some great ideas from people who's styles you like or who cook great food! 

So sign up for free! It's really a creative idea, and it's worth trying out. I love it, and hope you will to! 

Oh Pinterest, you make me happy!

(To see my boards, go here. I hope to see you on Pinterest soon!)

Saturday, November 5, 2011


I don't know about you, but my idea of homemade caramel was always sticking a can of sweetened condensed milk in boiling water for hours and hours and eating it straight out of the can with some apples or ice cream. Thick, creamy, decadent caramel.

And yes, full of milkiness, and sugar and all those things that make my stomach hurt.

Thus, I went on a search for a caramel recipe to dip apples in that would be good on my tummy. Ok, I couldn't get rid of the sugar, but I did get rid of all that cream/milk! I found a recipe on my new favorite website Pinterest (If you haven't heard of it yet...it's amazing! Totally a collecter's dream website, and a girl magnet...hehe) that I loved. I made a few little changes...so here's my version!

Vegan Apple Caramel sauce
(Adapted from "Happy Healthy Life" ...go check it out for some amazingly yummy looking ideas for the caramel sauce. And although I adapted it slightly, all credit for the recipe goes to Kathy!)

1/2 cup apple cider or apple juice (or other liquid...play around with it!)
1/4 soy cream (1/2 cup butter or shortening is the original recipe)
3/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp maple syrup
1-3 Tbsp corn starch (or arrowroot powder)
Pinch ginger powder
Dash cinnamon
2 Tbsp lemon juice
pinch of salt (opt'l)
1 tsp molasses (opt'l)

1. Dissolve the corn starch into the cider.

2. Add the cider/starch to a sauce pan with the other ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil - stirring constantly. When the bubbling becomes intense, reduce to medium heat and continue stirring until the mixture thickens a bit. Next, pull the pot off the stove whip the caramel with a handheld mixer. I think it really fluffed up the caramel in the end. After whipping it, reheat it for another minute or two - then turne off the heat. If you don't have anything to whip the caramel with it will still turn out fine - just a bit less airy.

3. Remove from heat. Pour the sauce into a bowl and chill in the fridge for at least an hour. Once chilled, use sauce as you wish in recipes! (It's also great warmed in the microwave for 20-30 seconds...yum!)

This recipe was awesome with apples, because the apple cider/juice complimented it well. For less of an apple-y flavor, I would use a different liquid (maybe goat's milk, or soy milk, or chai tea?). Experiment with it! I definitely will! If I come across a really good variation, I'll be sure to share it will you. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Pictures with my little buddy

Remember earlier this year when I posted about my little buddy, Lia Bozon? (If not, go check it out here!)

Yesterday I had the privilege to take family pictures with the Bozon family. Originally they had asked my mom to take pictures, but she delegated the actual photography to me, and managed the positioning for photos, as well as making the kids smile. It was so much fun! The kids were great, and they are all so photogenic. 

I hope to show you a few of my favorite photos from yesterday soon, but I want the Bozon's to see them first and get their approval before I share any more.

But, for now, here's an adorable picture of sweet Lia! (Sitting next to her mom, waiting for everyone to get in the right positions for the family photo). 

Hope you're having some nice fall weather wherever you live!

Question of the day:
What's your favorite sound of fall? The wind in the trees? Stomping through leaves? Maybe rain on your roof? I'd love to hear from you!