Ruth, Sarah, the Hebrews & Me

Not just the biblical Ruth and Sarah, but a Ruth and a Sarah that I have known and loved personally – two women who have modeled for me a grace in the midst of trial, flexibility in the midst of change – two things that I’m learning are a big struggle for me.

Ruth was my grandmother – my dad’s mom. After she died in 1998, I felt very fortunate to receive her china cabinet, dining room table and chairs. It was special to me, because I sat at it many a Sunday afternoon after church eating roast beef, gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, and rolls with butter and jelly. That lunch tradition, I think, was such solace to me in the midst of the divorced home of my childhood.

When the dining room set became mine, I purposed to do just as she had done – feed my family and others around it, creating tradition and comfort. Almost every person that has come into my home has had a meal around that table, or been served Thanksgiving dinner on the china from the cabinet. It has given me much joy to remember my “Memo” in that way.

And she is not unlike the Ruth of Scripture, who followed her bitter mother-in-law faithfully and submissively after the unexpected death of her husband. Ruth also followed the God of that mother-in-law; a new God for her – the God of the Hebrews. My grandmother, Ruth, also followed and served that Hebrew God faithfully through a life filled with trial and change. Her father was killed in a wagon accident, and later she lost her mom and a couple of siblings to the influenza epidemic of 1918. She would have been 11 years old at the time, and already crippled from polio herself. She was then raised by her older brothers and sisters.

What I remember about her most was her surrendered spirit. Her life was difficult and yet she was always content, peaceful, and even jovial. She was a realist, but she also had hope. I cherish the memory of sitting next to her in church singing old hymns, as well as playing Skip Bo with her at the kitchen table over a Coke – but most of all the Sunday lunches around her table.

Well…that table has been well-loved and daily used for the last 12 years. Not only do we feed lots of people around it, but we’ve also done our schoolwork on it for that long as well. The chairs are literally on their last legs. In fact, one poor soul got a surprise this last Christmas Day when he sat in my grandfather’s old arm chair at the head of the table and it proceeded to split right in half.

I think it was around that time that I began to pray about getting a new dining room set.

And then it seemed like only a few weeks later my cousin, Megan, emailed to ask us if we were interested in her old dining room furniture. Hmmmmm……

It had been her mom and dad’s (my aunt and uncle’s) dining room furniture from nearly 35 years ago, and she had recently purchased a new set for her new home. All we needed to do was figure out a way to transport it from Charlotte, NC to our home in MA. We also needed to figure out what to do about grandmother Ruth’s furniture. It was not an easy decision, but we posted it on Craigslist. As soon as the inquiries flooded in, I began to feel sick about getting rid of this furniture full of memories and tradition. The china cabinet sold to a nice young married grad student couple here in town. Robert helped them load it into his truck and drove it to their apartment for them. I made sure they knew it had been my grandmother’s, and definitely felt comforted when the young wife was taking lots of care that it wasn’t scratched in the moving process.

As I cleaned it out and moved it a tad to sweep underneath, I found the above drawing crumpled up behind it. Kayla had drawn this a year or so before and somehow it had gotten trapped between the cabinet and the wall. I love having this rendering of it – complete with the outlines of wine glasses in front of the Lenox China plates propped up against the back wall and a tea pot from Crabtree and Evelyn that even sort of matches the china. But I still hating parting with it – even if it was for something better. And it certainly didn’t help when my 15 year old said, “I was hoping that would be mine someday.”

Part of the need to sell the old furniture was in order to finance a very spur-of-the-moment decision to drive to North Carolina in Robert’s truck, rent a UHaul trailer there, load it up with my Aunt Sarah and Uncle John’s dining room furniture now living at my cousin Megan’s house, and then turn around and drive it back to Massachusetts.

(Apologies to all friends in North Carolina for not calling or visiting. This was a very quick and focused trip!)

Megan received her mom and dad’s old set in a similar fashion. Her mom, my Aunt Sarah, passed away after a difficult battle with cancer in the late 80’s. After Megan married Fred and they bought a home of their own, she was given the opportunity by her dad to have it transported, if she wanted, from Dallas to Charlotte. Her own family has been enjoying it ever since, but recently decided to replace it with something that suits their new home better.

Megan’s mom, my Aunt Sarah, was not unlike the Sarah of Scripture. Beautiful on the inside and out, she was a strong, yet fun – conscientious, yet carefree lady. I was fortunate to spend time with her on several occasions – in good times and bad. Once, when I was about 9 or 10 years old, my dad took us to Aunt Sarah and Uncle John’s house in either Atlanta or Mississippi for Christmas. My own parents had been divorced for about 2 years then. Aunt Sarah must have overheard me talking to my mom back in Texas on the phone, telling her I was homesick, because a while later she came to me, hugged me, and told me that if I ever felt sad or wanted to talk about anything, she was there to listen. I don’t really think I knew how to respond to this sort of love and comfort at the time, but I have never forgotten it. I wish I could tell her how much that meant to me.

I don’t know all the details of her life, hardly any actually, but like Abraham’s Sarah, I know she was often called to move to new places away from friends and family, and was even put in at least a couple of unsettling situations due to the choices of others. Her final trial with cancer was compounded by other trials, and yet the two or three times I was with her in those final years, she remained loving, gracious, and still focused on others in spite of her own pain.

One of those times was at a swim meet for my cousin Megan. I happened to be in Dallas for a conference at the time, and Aunt Sarah invited me to go to the meet during some of my free time. As I walked into the high school pool area and sat in the bleachers with her, I couldn’t help but notice that the cancer, now in her bones, had caused her to shrink in height. She didn’t look quite the same as the Aunt Sarah I had grown up watching and admiring, and now I admired her even more as she set her self-consciousness aside to cheer for and focus on Megan.

It was really fun to hang out with Megan and her kiddos this week while the men loaded up the furniture. (Notice Robert and Fred’s drenched clothes and hair? It was HOT in Charlotte that day.) Megan reminds me so much of her mom – actively loving and caring for three little ones, warmly hosting Robert and me, volunteering at Vacation Bible School, slowly decorating and putting together an absolutely beautiful home, etc. Her life is brimming over with responsibility and activity, and yet she handles it all with grace, humor, authenticity, and love.

Another thing I remember about my Aunt Sarah is that she faithfully wrote my Grandmother Ruth letters. I never saw her do this, but I watched my grandmother receive them in the mail with joy and then read them aloud at times to catch us all up on the cousins. Even as a child I remember being impressed that Aunt Sarah would do this for her mother-in-law. It connected them in a special way in my mind.

In our weekly couples Bible study this summer we’ve been studying the book of Hebrews. I have been soaking it up like crazy. What an amazing book of the Bible, so rich with the incredible work of Christ on our behalf written to the Hebrews who are losing sight of this work – wanting to return to their old ways of sacrifices and priests. They didn’t like change. They were entrenched in their traditions and could not let go – even for something better.

Silly as it may seem, the pang of selling Memo’s old furniture made me understand their struggle. I like tradition. I trust what is old over what is new – even when what is new is better, more beautiful, more secure.

Thankfully, I not only have the Ruth and Sarah of Scripture to encourage me toward Christ, toward selfless surrender to Him, because He is the better way – the only way. I also have two very personal and tangible examples of this in my own family. And isn’t it kind of my Lord to still allow me to have some “old stuff” to remind me of the new and better way?

…so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.

Hebrews 7: 22-28

Oh! And special thanks to Dan and Jessie who hosted us in Maryland on the way down and back. I can’t believe I forgot to take pictures of you guys in your new house!

Giddy Over Greens: Key Lime Pie Shake

(photo by libraryman)
I have SO many things I want to blog about, like our week at youth camp, the kids summer Bible challenges, blueberry & strawberry picking, the priesthood of Melchizidek and what is has to do with me selling my grandmother’s china cabinet today, and other light topics such as that. 🙂

But all I have time for at the moment is this yummy shake that I’ve been making lately. Still high on my “greens” kick, I loaded up my blender and made several types of green smoothies while at youth camp. This one was a definite favorite and also comes from the Living Raw Food cookbook by Sarma Melngailis.

Key Lime Pie is one of my all-time favorite pies, but I think the last slice of one that I tasted was about 8 years ago – before discovering my gluten intolerance. And the pie was actually eaten in Florida which made it even tastier! We were there for my cousin’s wedding on Sand Key and we were without kids. Each of the three or four nights we were there, Robert and I joined my sister for dessert and coffee in the hotel restaurant, and then went straight to the hot tub – pure luxury! Among all of the other fabulous desserts offered, I couldn’t seem to pass up the key lime pie.

I have learned to make a pie crust since being on a gluten free diet, but I still have not made a key lime pie. Now, I wouldn’t necessarily offer this shake as a proper substitute for the pie, but it is quite close and much healthier for you. And it doesn’t have leafy greens in it, but the avocado does make it a beautiful light green color – and avocado is full of healthy monounsaturated fats, folate, vitamin E, vitamin K, and potassium. Read more about the avocado’s many health benefits, and then go and enjoy one of these delicious shakes!

Key Lime Pie Shake

Serves 2

1 1/2 cups apple juice (Sarma juices her own, of course. Mine was store bought)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from 3 limes)
1 ripe avocado
2 bananas
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp agave (I use maple syrup sometimes)

Puree all ingredients in blender and enjoy!

Giddy Over Greens: Cilantro – Pineapple Shake

Yes, giddy. And it’s been coming on for a while now, I think.

Have I ever mentioned THE most amazing food experience I ever had. It was with my sister, Melissa, in New York City. We met there one very cold February for three nights of sisterly and city fun! Previously, she had heard of and even bought a cookbook from a very unique restaurant there. She even brought the cookbook with her full of its beautiful photos of food, and health information, so that we could peruse it in our hotel room before we visited the place.

The thing that was unique about it was that the food they serve there is all raw, all vegan, no flour, and no refined sweeteners, etc. Not like carrot and celery stick raw and vegan, but raw in that the food never reaches a temperature above 118 degrees. All I could imagine was cold veggies and fruit until I saw the cookbook and then arrived at the restaurant and was handed a menu.

Oh my.

The place is called Pure Food and Wine and I cannot recommend it highly enough. (Well, unless you refuse to eat anything but chicken fried steak and Mexican food. You know who you are.)

We had three courses – a salad, a main dish, and a dessert. (All for the NOT low, low, price of about …. $150. Pricey, yes. But definitely an experience.) My salad was of beautiful field greens among other fresh veggies. For the main course, Melissa ordered ravioli, and my dish was stuffed portabella mushroom. Dessert? Tiramisu!

I couldn’t believe that they could make a “stuffing” for my portabella out of veggies, nuts and herbs, and that the ravioli was also made of alternative doughs – more nuts, and the cream sauce to cover was of nut milks and cheeses. Same with the tiramisu – nut milks and cheeses, agave, raw cacao nibs. Wow. It was truly amazing and delicious.

Melissa ended up giving me her “cook”book, since I was so fascinated with it, and kept asking to borrow it when I was in town. (Sneaky, huh?) Evidently they came out with another cookbook in 2009. I know this only because it jumped off the shelf at me while browsing the non-fiction section of my local library. I was so excited! (It’s called Living Raw Food by Sarma Melngailis – founder and CEO of One Lucky Duck, and co-founder of Pure Food and Wine.)

And it was perfect timing. I keep hearing all about green smoothies. My friend Lori, who drinks one every day was just at my house for a visit and has been explaining how to make them, and I am getting LOADS of greens in our farm share.

The first one I made was the Cilantro – Pineapple one. Many of the shake and smoothie recipes come from a juice and snack bar that the restaurant also runs nearby called One Lucky Duck. Admittedly, It can be a little intimidating to drink something that looks like liquefied moss, but trust me; this is a delicious way to “eat” lots of greens. And surely by now you know just how good eating green stuff is for your health. Cilantro is one that I was unaware had so many amazing health benefits. Not only does it contain just about every vitamin and mineral you’ve ever heard of, but it is also a chelator, meaning that it has a property which causes it to bind to heavy metals and other toxins, molds, and yeasts in your body pulling them out in a wonderfully natural detoxification process. (Anti-diabetic and anti-free radicals also!)

Here’s the recipe for the Cilantro shake/smoothie, but I have tried 2 others from the book that are equally delicious, so I will try and post a few others soon. And it may be somewhat placebo induced, but I promise I’m feeling an extra boost of energy, and more spring in my step this week. Healthy, detoxified and happy? I’ll take it!
(Even though I may now officially qualify as a health nut.?!)

Cilantro – Pineapple Shake

2 cucumbers
1/2 pineapple (I used frozen chunks. Fresh is better.)
1 large bunch cilantro (Yes. An entire bunch!)
1/2 cup water
2+ Tbsp agave
2 tsp vanilla

Puree all ingredients together in blender until smooth. Serves 2.

Portabella, Italian Sausage, & Butternut Squash Lasagne

This one sort of feels like a fall dish with its warmth and winter squash, but I couldn’t resist making it after discovering it in the Goat Cheese cookbook I recently fell in love with. And I’m discovering that I really don’t know how to cook without using the oven. It has been so hot here this week (100 degrees on Wednesday!), and with no central A/C in most homes, it is the goal of most local folks to do as little cooking as possible – especially if it requires the stove top or oven. (Maybe I should fall in love with a crock pot cookbook soon!) And really, I think I could definitely get by without “cooking,” as I happen to be fine with cold veggies, fruit, cheese, hummus, etc. – but my family seems to really enjoy a home “cooked” dinner on most nights!

Well, this recipe was a hit even though it contains some questionable ingredients in the minds of some people in my house – mushrooms, onions, and squash. They ate it and admitted to it being surprisingly delicious. All I did was substitute the regular lasagne noodles for gluten free ones. Definitely worth the extra shopping and steps – a wonderful combination of ingredients for summer, fall, or anytime!

Portabella, Italian Sausage, and Butternut Squash Lasagne

1 small butternut squash (3-4 cups diced)
2 red bell peppers, diced
1 small red onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, diced
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
12 oz pkg gluten free lasagne noodles
1 lb. goat ricotta OR 8 oz regular ricotta with 8 oz chevre

2 eggs
dash of nutmeg
4 links Italian chicken sausage
1 Tbsp olive oil
3-4 cups marinara
12 oz shredded goat gouda
8 oz portabella mushrooms, sliced

Combine squash, red pepper, onion, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in baking dish until browned and tender – about 25-30 minutes at 400 degrees. Stir halfway through the baking time. Cook lasagne noodles as directed on package.

Combine ricotta, eggs, and nutmeg in separate bowl.

Cut open sausages, remove skin, crumble meat into skillet coated with olive oil, and brown.

Layers:

1 cup marinara
1/3 pasta
1/2 ricotta mixture
sausage
1/3 pasta
1/2 ricotta mixture
2 cups marinara
squash mixture
shredded goat gouda (Trader Joes has this for a very good price!)
sliced portabella

Cover with foil, and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Uncover and bake 15 more minutes. A bit labor intensive, you’ll want to start this about an two and a half hours before you want to sit down and eat.

Tips to Avoiding a Horrific White Mountain Hike

 

Number 1: Do not go with these people.
Oh sure, their names may be Pete and Betsy (sounds harmless enough, right?) and they may be dear friends and 25+ year Campus Crusade Staffers devoted to Christ and ministry, but they also happen to be undercover “Extreme Backpacking Vacation” Operatives. They will casually mention the idea of a weekend backpacking trip, and they may even mention that it will simply be a 25 mile loop over 4 peaks of the White Mountains (how hard could that possibly be?), but there will be MUCH they are leaving out so that they can enjoy torturing you later – when there is no escaping.
Number 2: Stream and River Crossings are the LEAST of your worries.
About an hour into our 3-day 25 mile loop, we encountered a succession of water crossings – some of which proved to be a challenge to traverse. Some of us even ended up with slightly wet shoes and socks – oh no! Carrying a 30+ pound backpack can throw off your balance in an instant. And to think, I pulled out my camera to capture what I thought was going to be the extent of the water and the difficulty of this hike.
Silly me.
Number 3: You cannot trust the hikers going in the opposite direction.
(i.e. friendly hikers – especially those in their 20’s – who pass by and offer to take your photo are simply other planted operatives who lie about what you are about to encounter.) Strangely, we passed a lot of hikers going in the opposite direction. It should have been a clue. And they did say that it was windy on the peaks we were trying to reach. They even said that at times the rain up there felt like sleet. But they said it with such joy and exuberance. One young couple even asked as they passed us, “Aren’t you guys just loving this rain?” They were serious. We should have turned around right after this group photo was taken.
Number 4: Double check and then meditate upon the ELEVATION given for each peak.
If we had truly considered, even just for a moment, what it might look and feel like to reach a peak that is just 20 feet short of a mile high, and if we had then done a little mental math about the number of miles the trail map and signs said we would need in which to accomplish those feet, then we might have anticipated that MOST of the trail would look like this:
Number 5: Even if it will add another 10 pounds, pack some serious rock climbing gear in your backpack.

You will, of course, only do this if you have successfully completed item number 4. If you disregard checking elevations, you will only continue to be in denial about the difficulty of the trail. But actually, now that I think about it, denial may have been a useful coping and survival skill. We were at least 10 miles from any sort of civilization here, and had no choice but to go forward. Better to keep thinking the trail might get easier somewhere ahead. (It wouldn’t.)

And this is where the photos end for day number 2 of our hike. The trail was so steep, the clouds and fog were so thick, and the rain so heavy, that I had to get out my poncho, waterproof pack cover (Thanks, Jenna!), and put the camera away for safe keeping. If I had taken a picture during the next 2-3 hours of the hike it would have looked something like this:

Seriously, we could not even see our friends who were sometimes less than 5 yards ahead of us on the trail. The only way we could be certain they were still in close range was hearing the whipping of the plastic trash bags they were using to try and cover their packs in the driving wind and rain. I have to admit to being pretty scared. We were 9 hours into this hike, had 4 more to go, and were completely drenched and windblown – not to mention completely drained physically and emotionally. If there had not been some joking at our somewhat dangerous predicament, there probably would have been some tears. Many of the jokes were because Robert had pulled/strained a muscle in his groin about mid-day, and at this point was having to manually lift or drag his right leg along on this incredibly strenuous journey. It appeared that we had decided to take a stroke victim along with us on this harrowing hike.
Number 6: Huts are a nice way to backpack, but you need a reservation and about $100 per person.

Once we finally reached the Mt. Lafayette peak, there was a sign for a “hut” 1.1 miles down a trail to the right of our intended trail. Pete called a “committee meeting” and announced that he was concerned about our safety. (You think?) Should we hike a mile out of the way and see what this hut might be? That would give us an added 1.1 mile to the ten we need to hike tomorrow in order to get back to our car. Or should we press on for another 4 miles in the wind and rain, over two more peaks to our intended campsite? (What’s another 4-5 hours of hiking after we’ve been scaling rock faces for 9 hours already?) Even though delirium was setting in, we had at least a shred of common sense left, and so we headed for the hut. It only took us 2 hours to hike that 1.1 miles. Robert (our stroke victim) took the lead, and about an hour and a half in started calling… “Hut!?! Hut?!? Where are you hut???” Delirium had obviously arrived in full force.

We finally began to see lights and some sort of a structure in the distance. “It’s the hut! And it’s nice!” called Robert. And he was not delirious in this case. It was very nice – compared to our other tent-camping-in-the-rain option. We could see warm and happy people inside drinking coffee and playing card games around tables. (It was now about 8:30pm.) We walked in looking like drowned rats and ALL eyes were on us. An older female volunteer whose spiritual gift was obviously NOT mercy, asked us, “What was your alternative plan?” Pete replied, “This hut. This hut was our impromptu alternative plan.”

The front desk guy asked if we were okay twice before giving us the bad news – they were booked.

BUT, if we would sleep on the dining room floor, and eat our own delicious freeze dried meals, we could stay for $8 per person as opposed to the $100 per person all of the other “hut hikers” were paying. Whew! A hard wood floor has NEVER slept so good.

Number 7: Hindsight and lifted fog is 20/20, there is such a thing as a false peak, and when the guide book lists the hike as “strenuous,” you should assume that even Lance Armstrong will have difficulty with it.

This was the view from the deck of the hut the next morning where we cooked our oatmeal over camp stoves while the rest of the hut guests had pancakes, eggs, and bacon inside. The middle peak is Mt. Lafayette where we had been standing during our committee meeting in the wind and rain. And lest you think that it looks like a short distance to that peak, remember that my camera has a “super zoom” on it. And do you see that peak to the left? Well, that’s what is known as a “false peak.” We kept hearing other hikers speak of this, but we had thought other “false peaks” BEFORE that one were THE false peak. Oh, the discouragement to find that we were not yet to Mt. Lafayette that horrific evening before!

And speaking of hindsight….there is actually a way to have foresight in these hiking adventures. It’s called a White Mountain Backpacking Guide or The Internet. Yes, both sources list our particular hike as “strenuous.” But what exactly does that mean? I mean, hey, we’re all in good shape and lead fairly healthy lives. We eat well, are all runners, and are all involved in some amount of weight training during the week. Strenuous? Surely we’re up to strenuous?! But when people at the hut asked us where we had hiked from, they were in disbelief when we said we had come all the way from 13 Falls campsite that morning. Very kindly they would reply, “That was a very ambitious hike you planned.”

Yeah. No kidding. And many of these were very experienced hikers who knew the mountains well. Strenuous? Yes. VERY.
Number 8: What goes up, must come down and going down is NOT as easy as you might think.
It was not too difficult to decide that we would just continue down the mountain the next day to the nearest trail head and parking area. This meant we would hike 2.9 miles rather than 11 miles on Sunday – our last day of the trip. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, just take a look at Betsy trying to scale this particular part of the 2.9 mile trail and you will notice that it was every bit as difficult as getting up the mountain. I actually began to realize that going up is much easier on the back and knees. And the rain had made everything nice and slick for our Sunday descent. It took us 3 hours to climb the 2.9 miles down from the hut to the nearest entrance to the state park. We were so physically exhausted that it felt like our legs were not attached to our bodies and could no longer respond to directives from our brains.
Number 9: Don’t lose hope. You may begin to long for the return of Christ more strongly than ever before, but unless you see Him coming on the clouds, it’s not your time yet.
Halfway down and Robert is either ready to end it all – or he’s wondering if it might be less painful to just roll down the mountain.
Number 10: Smiling and joking when you don’t really feel like it are excellent survival skills.
(And going on “double hiking dates” is the best way to prevent spousal abuse and/or divorce.)
Somehow, we manage a smile for a group photo taken by a young dad and his daughter. (Why am I the only one wearing my pack here?) There were jokes and wisecracks abounding which kept the mood positive and light. And I think we all admitted that had we been alone with our spouse, the tone might have been more negative. The restraining presence of friends can be a really good thing!
Number 11: Hitchhiking is illegal on the Interstate (or any paved road) in New Hampshire, so plan your trip accordingly.
When we got to the nearest trail head, we were still ten miles away from our car. Most of the hikers coming down the mountain that day were headed north, and our car was south, so they weren’t willing to give us a ride. There is a shuttle between some of the parking lots and trail heads, but none going to our particular lot. No choice here but to hitch a ride. The men headed out to the highway and planned to stand near the entrance to the southbound highway for better ride chances. Betsy and I stayed in the lot and waited.
A hiker and hut volunteer from Canada approached us in his car, and rolled down his window. Previously, he had told us he could not give us a ride because he was headed home to Canada, and that was, of course, not south. But, he had taken a look at his map and decided that our lot was not TOO out of his way, and that he did not mind giving us a ride. By this time the men had also found a ride. The man from Canada ended up doing the kind deed and within the hour we were on the road back home!
Number 12: To make up for taking your friends on such a horrific hike, take them out for steak, and they will agree to consider the possibility of remaining friends.

Yes, Pete and Betsy treated us to a delicious lunch at Outback Steakhouse in Concord, NH on the way home. I’m surprised they actually let us in the place looking like we did, but we did have shoes on (flip flops to show off our blisters), and shirts (that we’d been wearing for three days), so I guess they had to serve us. They did put us in a dining room not immediately visible to those coming in the front door which is understandable. We gobbled up our non-freeze dried food, used real toilets, and laughed until we cried at our foolishness.

(And then we got a flat tire on the way home, but that’s a whole other adventure. Quick Tip: Do NOT purchase cars with “run flat” tires!)

Definitely a memorable weekend getaway. Hopefully, my handy list of tips will help your backpacking adventure be a fun, but not SO memorable outing. One that will not require you to have therapy for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome afterward.

Yesterday at church, on one of the powerpoint slides behind the words to a worship song featured a cross surrounded by rocks and boulders with a mountain peak in the distance. My chest immediately began to tighten at the sight. I think it’s going to take some time to recover.

This is what I’m thinking for our next getaway:

In all seriousness, we are so thankful to have been on this hike with our good friends Pete and Betsy. There is no other couple who could have made this a more fun and laughable time. And their prayers, scripture memory, humor, and stories along the way were a blessing to us. It’s a gift to have friends with who share your values and passions, and we are truly grateful!

Halfway to 30

That’s what Kory kept saying on his 15th birthday (it was the 29th), which is funny, because we’ve always said he was really going on 60. This is the kid who always holds down one or more jobs, completes all schoolwork independently, plays sports diligently, reads WW2 books, and the classifieds and police reports faithfully. He’s our “old man” in a teenager’s body.

He started his special day with a breakfast composed of his favorites – gluten free doughnuts, bacon, and scrambled eggs. His special gift was the Band of Brothers series on the “Easy Company” during WW2. Kory really enjoys war history – especially World War II. He was VERY excited about this gift!

Soon after breakfast, we loaded up the van with all sorts of flotation devices, beach towels, goggles, swimsuits, a picnic lunch, and a huge birthday cake. We headed to North Branford, CT (1.5 hours from home!) for a lake swim party in the neighborhood of our Classical Conversations Director, Debbie. It was really fun to have a little reunion with our friends from our homeschool program this year. The kids hardly ever left the water for the 4 hours we spent there. I took my bathing suit, but never really plan to swim at these things, since the water is always about 45 degrees or so it seems here in New England. (I miss Texas rivers and lakes!) But, the kids said the water was unusually warm, and so was the weather that day. If I hadn’t spent the whole 4 hours chatting with other moms, and feeding kiddos, I would have been in it in a minute! It was so beautiful and inviting.

We sang to Kory and Emma who also had a birthday on the 29th, ate Kory’s gluten free football cake, and then the kids enjoyed more swimming.
Then we loaded everything back up – along with a DELICIOUS glass of homemade iced coffee that my friend Debbie (who doesn’t even like coffee, but knows I stop at Starbucks every Tuesday on my way back to Massachusetts) made for me. I think it may have been the BEST glass of iced coffee I’ve ever had. And she toted it all the way to the lake from her house in a cooler complete with ice, cream, and sugar! Last time I was at her house, she completely spoiled me with homemade flan (she’s allergic to eggs and milk, too!) AND a blended iced coffee drink. Such a treat from a godly lady and sweet friend.
Once back in MA, we had about an hour before our house started filling up with more friends to help us celebrate Kory’s birthday with a backyard burger bash. I think these boys did more fighting and boxing on the trampoline than actual jumping, but somehow they manage to avoid getting seriously injured and have a great time.
And here’s the birthday boy that we love so much along with the dessert for the evening – S’mores!
(and leftover football cake!)

Happy 15th Kory!
We love you and are so proud to be parents to such a special young man!

Bison Burgers & Sweet Potato Fries

The first time I ever tasted buffalo meat was at the Huisache Grill in New Braufels, TX. Robert and I were there on a date that my sweet sister treated us to on a trip to Texas a few years back. I asked the waiter to ask the chef for a gluten free entree suggestion and he suggested the chopped bison steak and garlic mashed potatoes. It was SO GOOD. And bison meat is comparably better for you than many other animal proteins. Check out some of those stats here.

Currently, I live just down the road from a bison farm, and I can hardly drive by without thinking about that delicious steak. Fortunately, (or dangerously) I also live right down the road from Whole Foods, and they happen to carry ground buffalo meat. So, combine all of those serendipitous occurrences with the fact that my current cookbook fascination (Goat Cheese by Maggie Foard) featured a recipe for bison burgers with, you guessed it..goat cheese, and you get, well…..this blog post and the inspiration for a meal we had last week. Two of my favorite food items: bison + goat cheese, plus another favorite – sweet potatoes! Yum.

Robert cooked the burgers on the grill, and they turned out delicious. He’s becoming quite the grill chef – even perfecting veggies, fish, and pineapple.

The cookbook suggested baking the sweet potato fries, but mine always turn out mushy done that way, so I decided to fry them. Kory’s birthday was this week, and he requested homemade french fries, so I got the “opportunity” to perfect the homemade fry with this second round. From my experience, the cast iron skillet did not work as well as the large stainless skillet. Don’t know if the oil didn’t get as hot as quickly or what, but Kory’s b-day fries turned out really nice, with the perfect crispy outside, soft inside texture. (I made both sweet potato and regular potato fries for the birthday.)
The fries are pretty simple – just sweet potatoes sliced in large matchsticks, canola oil for frying, and salt to taste after draining on paper towels.

Here’s the recipe for the burgers:

Bison Burgers with Goat Cheese

1 1/2 lbs ground buffalo meat
4 oz. goat feta
1/4 cup minced shallots
salt and pepper
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh thyme

Saute shallots and thyme in olive oil until tender. Place buffalo meat in large bowl and add sauteed thyme, shallots, goat feta, and salt and pepper. Work ingredients through the ground meat and then shape into patties. Grill to desired done-ness. Serve on buns with lettuce, tomato, mayo, and spicy mustard. Add sweet potato fries on the side and enjoy.