Gluten Free Friday ~ A 7-Day Breakfast Plan

Do you ever get in food ruts?  Seems like it’s so easy to just keep eating the same things for the same meals every day.  Eight years ago, when our family began to discover and be diagnosed with a gluten intolerance (everyone except for hubby), I was forced, in a way I am now very thankful for, to find new foods to eat, and new ways to cook. We discovered hummus, lentils, nuts and nut butters, fresh and dried fruits, goat cheeses, almond and coconut milks, Indian food, pureed vegetable soups, yogurt, kefir, and kombucha. (Living in a quirky, hippie, farm co-op, college town also pushed us in this direction.  Celiac Disease + Crunchy Town has been a good combination for our overall health in general.)  But even with all of these new eating options, I can tend to buy, cook, and eat the same things over and over.
Three years ago, I purchased a Health Magazine because it had a 7-day meal plan, created by registered dietitian, Dawn Jackson Blatner, that promised foods that were nutritious, low sodium, and bloat-banishing.  (P.S.  I just checked out her website, and it appears that there are MANY more creative meal ideas and fun recipes there ~ like this one ~ Wow!) It was also a weight loss plan, as the meals only added up to 1200 calories a day.  I wasn’t in need of losing weight, but the low sodium, low bloat appealed to me as well as the variety of foods it suggested. So, without really following the portion sizes (i.e. SMALL!) I have gone back to this meal plan over and over over the last few years, and thought I would share it with you ~ starting with breakfast.  I’ve also altered it a bit to be gluten free and contain a few more calories, and fresh items than it originally suggested. I’ll post the snacks, lunches, and dinners in the weeks to come.
Hope it gives you some fresh ideas for feeding yourself and your peeps!

7 Day Gluten Free Breakfast Plan

Day 1: Walnut & Maple Oatmeal
1-11/2 cups cooked GF oats
3 Tbsp chopped walnuts
2 tsp maple syrup, honey, or agave

Day 2: Yogurt with Berries and Almonds
1 cup Greek yogurt, unsweetened
1 Tbsp honey
1 cup frozen or fresh raspberries and blackberries
2 Tbsp toasted slivered almonds

Unfortunately, the above breakfast has caused me to go into a yogurt, berry, and NUT RUT or should I say CRAZE.  Oh well, I guess there are worse addictions.

Day 3: Mango & Pineapple Green Tea Smoothie  (SO GOOD ~ and Good for you!)
1 cup brewed, cooled green tea
1 cup almond or coconut milk
1/2 cup frozen or fresh mango
1/2 cup fresh or frozen pineapple
1 Tbsp nut butter (almond or peanut are my favorites)

Day 4: GF Waffle with Peanut Butter, Yogurt & Banana
1 GF frozen waffle, toasted
1 Tbsp natural peanut butter
1 Tbsp Greek yogurt
1/2 banana, sliced
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp honey
dash of cinnamon

Spread waffle with peanut butter and yogurt. Top with sliced banana, sesame seeds, and cinnamon.  Drizzle with honey.

Day 5: Spinach and Egg Scramble & GF Toast
1 piece GF bread, toasted
2 eggs scrambled with 2 cups fresh spinach,  placed on toast
2 Tbsp crumbled goat cheese, sprinkled on top

Day 6: Rice Cake with Peanut Butter and Honey & an Orange
1 brown rice cake (Lundberg is my favorite brand)
2 Tbsp natural peanut butter
1 tsp honey

Eat this as well as a whole orange.

Day 7: Blueberry Smoothie
2 cups unsweetened almond or coconut milk
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp peanut or almond butter

Shopping list for this Breakfast Meal Plan:

Greek yogurt                                       eggs
raspberries                                           baby spinach
blueberries                                           goat cheese                    
mango                                                  almond or coconut milk
pineapple                                              rice cakes
orange                                                  GF frozen waffles
banana                                                  green tea bags
bluberries                                              peanut or almond butter
GF oats                                                 slivered almonds
GF sliced bread                                     honey
maple syrup or agave

Half Marathon #5 & Running Therapy

The alarm went off at 4am.  We were out of bed a few minutes later and eating breakfast ~ ugh.  A rice cake with peanut butter and honey, a banana, some regular H20 and a few swigs of Vitamin Water. I’d rather eat nothing until the race is over, but I know the fuel and electrolytes will cause me to feel better as I run. It will be the last thing I put in my body before the finish line at the end of 13.1 miles, and I may get scolded for not drinking anything along the course ~ no water/Gatorade stops for me ~ but if you knew what it was like to live in my body, I don’t think you would stop either.  As soon as anything goes in, everything starts working and moving, and you really don’t want to much “movement” on the race course!
We leave for downtown Austin at 5am, because all of the race info we’ve read says to be there and parked by 5:30.  There are 20,000 people running which makes this the largest race we’ve ever participated in. The state capitol is the starting point, so we park nearby, and I snap a photo of Rocky Robert and the rotunda. The capital is near the campus of The University of Texas where we both attended college, and we’re both excited to be a part of a race that takes us to many parts of the beloved city where we met, dated, and were engaged!
We walk around a bit in the chilly morning air, and snap a few more photos for ourselves and others.  We can’t decide if we’ll check our bag at the designated location or just walk it back to the parked van, because we’ll need to to shed our jackets and my not-very-small camera.
As we walk, I’m even thinking that I really don’t feel like running all that way, but that’s how it usually goes for me.  I think a lot of people have a sort of love/hate relationship with running, or any exercise for that matter! We just ran another half-marathon in Galveston two weeks prior ~ a training run for the Austin Half,  Robert kept calling it.  And I guess it was, but Galveston was FLAT (as in sea level flat, along the sea wall even!), and Austin was NOT.  Have I even recovered from Galveston yet???  I guess I have, and even ran a 10 miler in between to stay trained up for this race.
Then, we meet up with cousin Zach, who lives in Austin, and was running in his first ever road race!  At the start he tells us he’ll follow behind us, since we’ve done this before, but it doesn’t take him long at all to lock into a faster pace and cruise on ahead.  In the end, he’ll finish 10 minutes faster than us, and might have been even faster, but there were some killer hills AT. THE. END.  Don’t know who planned that race course, but miles 11-13 were just cruel! (Actually, miles 1-6 were sort of evil also, but the hills are difficult to avoid in this beginning-of-the-Texas-Hill-country-town, I guess.)
Even though I was hesitant to start, I felt great by mile 4, and this is why I will get up when the alarm blares at crazy hours of the morning to do a crazy thing like run 13.1 miles. (Only “half” as crazy as the 26.2 mile runners as one of the creative spectator’s posters read!)  It makes me feel good.  It lifts my mood, and lightens my heart.  Thoughts of gratitude fill my mind ~ for health, for strength, for my marriage, and running partner husband, for my kids, my church, for sabbatical, for friends.  I’m not bogged down by worry or fear, but rather freed to have a godly perspective, free to trust the Lord with all sorts of anxieties. Free to recall God’s Word and think on it.  Free to remember both His Truth and His faithfulness to me
And I know there are physiological reasons for this, but even those are created by God!
I cracked up over this t-shirt that I discovered at the race expo the day before the race.  Yes, I suppose running is my therapy and my drugs in this overly-psychoanalyzed and medicated culture, but really the positive effects are all accomplished by my Lord, and I’ll keep racking up the races for as long as He allows.

Yankees and Ugandans at the Rodeo

I’m pretty sure it wan’t on my top ten list of favorite things to do when I was 12, and I know for certain that I absolutely refused to wear the hat and boots that my cowboy-hat-salesman father encouraged me to, but now going to the rodeo is something I look forward to when we’re in Texas, and also something I couldn’t wait to introduce my kids to this year.
A few months ago, I was thinking about the different things we could do in Texas while here on sabbatical and the rodeo immediately came to mind, since it is held in February of each year.  I looked up dates and performers online and decided that Lady Antebellum was the concert everyone would enjoy the most.  I was about to call my dad to see if he wanted to get a group of tickets together when my youngest sister called to say that she and my dad had just purchased rodeo tickets for everyone.  And just guess which concert night he bought tickets for?  That’s right ~ HE READ MY MIND!  And I believe it was a sold out crowd. Wow!
My other sister and her kids weren’t able to go, so we had extra tickets.  My dad asked if we would try and find some friends to take.  Well, I immediately thought of our new friends from Uganda ~ Jackie and Jonathan.  They happened to be free that evening, and what fun it was to experience the rodeo through their eyes as well as the eyes of my never-been-to-a-rodeo-kiddos!
Circling around the horse arena over and over raking the dirt to prepare for a cutting horse demonstration, we decided this was the rodeo version of the “Zamboni.”  Don’t know what a Zamboni is?  Think ice skating and hockey.
Finding gluten free food and food that was palatable to our Ugandan friends was a bit difficult, but Jonathan enjoyed a traditional BBQ plate of sausage, brisket, beans, and white bread, and Jackie, who doesn’t eat red meat, enjoyed a surprisingly healthy dish of soba noodles with chicken and veggies.  Rodeo food really can’t be expected to be healthy at all, unless you have convinced yourself that funnel cakes, chicken-fried bacon, and deep fried Snickers bars are a balanced diet. 
As Jackie studied the various food vendors, she asked:
“Why does Bubba’s say their  BBQ is ‘bad’?”
“Hmmmmm…… Well, because sometimes in America ‘bad’ means “really good’ ?”  I replied.  Really, I don’t know how anyone ever learns the English language at all, not to mention the slang that is forever evolving. Evidently, “sick” means “really good” now, too.  At least that’s what my kids tell me.  Who can be expected to keep up with this opposite-meaning thing?
They were intrigued by the whole Cowboy Church thing, which is a really big thing here in the Great State, as well as the many farm implements (log splitters?! welders?!), and the display of Texas indigenous wildlife ~ more than any other state evidently, but I’m definitely not missing the rattlers, tarantulas, and scorpions.
Our tickets, unfortunately, were not all together, but with my super-zoom lens I could spy on Cooper, my dad, and my sister, Melinda, in their far off section of the arena!  Let’s see…which of these three does not belong at the rodeo? Yeah, Cooper was secretly hoping the dirt and manure would disappear and the Spurs home basketball court would emerge with Derrick Rose attempting to shoot 3-pointers.
Jonathan was shocked by the steepness and height of our seats, and could not believe parents would allow their children to sit up that high.
“Has anyone ever fallen from their seat?” he asked, and declared that he would probably never bring his children to such a dangerous place.
We all cracked up at the Mutton Bustin’ event in which VERY small children try and hold on for dear life ride a sheep for as long as they can.  Gateway to buckin’ broncos and bull-riding, really.  A darling little red-headed, freckled, four year old won this event and went home with a prize belt buckle which was literally as big as she was.
I think the Yankee kids and the Ugandans were rooting for the poor calves in the team roping and in the steer wrestling. And as always, the bull-riding was exciting and intense, but not as much as I remember as a child.  Seems like the rodeo clowns did a lot of taunting of the bulls in order to create more thrill back then ~ scurrying up the arena fences or diving into their protective barrels.  If I’m remembering correctly, they also used to attach their barrel to a hook that would pull them high into the air to get away from the angry bulls.  It was quite a sight, and sort of stressful, but very exciting to watch back then.
And Lady Antebellum did not disappoint, of course, with their post-Grammy awards performance that night.  The concert did not start until after 10pm (the rodeo events began at 7:30 and we got in our seats at 6:30), so I thought it might be difficult for our guests to sit through more of this Texas cultural experience, but I was wrong!  They loved every bit of the evening, and kept perfect time with the loud music by clapping and swaying throughout the entire concert, which did not end until around 11:30pm.
It was SUCH a fun evening ~ even more than I anticipated because of the friends we got to share it with.  They were great sports, and except for passing on wearing the cowboy hat, definitely followed the “when in Rome” mindset.
Then we took everyone home in a torrential downpour and thunderstorm, and finally made it back to Austin and our beds at 2:30am.  Then it was 40th birthday parties and half-marathons and homeschool work and fajita fellowships with old college friends, and…
Whew ~ this sabbatical is exhausting.  In a good and rich way, of course.  ☺

Hope Received & Hope Given in Uganda

 I’m very excited to introduce you to some new friends today.  You may already have been introduced to Jack and Kelly, the very American looking couple in these photos.  Kelly was my middle school Spanish teacher turned dear friend, and Jack is her husband.  You may also already know that Jack and Kelly got engaged in Uganda a few years ago while on a mission to build water wells and visit sponsored Compassion International children there.
Jonathan and Jackie, the other couple in these photos, are from Uganda, and grew up there as sponsored children through Compassion International. They have been married four years, and already have two sets of twins!  That’s right, four children under the age of four!
The Lord brought Jonathan and Jackie into a friendship with Jack and Kelly through their visits to Uganda.  Now, the four of them are working together to give back the hope they have received from the ministry of Compassion, and through their friendship.
 Here is Jackie’s story of hope received as a sponsored child:
Isn’t she beautiful, and don’t you love the joy with which she shares her gratitude for the hope she received through sponsorship?
We felt so privileged to spend an evening with these two couples eating dinner and hearing about a new ministry they have created together.
Kayla felt privileged to bask in puppy love of Cleo and Sasha all evening! 
(Pretty sure the doggies were basking in Kayla love as well!)
Kayla, Cooper, and I each picked out a Ugandan treasure from the coffee table overflowing with necklaces, bracelets, sewn and stuffed animals, and beautiful banners while we heard about what this foursome is up to these days as they try and extend hope to even more children in Africa.
Together they’ve created African Hope Children’s Ministry.  It is a child sponsorship program much like Compassion International, but because Jackie and Jonathan have inroads into some very rural villages, they are able to reach older children and teenagers in Uganda who may not be reached by one of the child sponsorship ministries, and have already been able to support and provide safety for some who needed immediate help because of crisis situations.  “Mercy”, their first sponsored teenager was in just this sort of immediate need.  Today Mercy lives with Jackie and Jonathan in safety, and is attending school as you can see from the informational material below.
This ministry allows for children to be “double sponsored”, in that each child has two sponsors who commit to $35.00 per month.  As you can see, this provides for school expenses (school is never free in Uganda), health and well-being, as well as further life-training through camps and conferences.
I’ve blacked out their address and phone number for now, but will be more than happy to pass them along via email for any of you who may be interested in supporting this much-needed ministry.  Also, they are in the process of developing a website with more information and avenues of giving. 
Again, I’m so thankful for this new friendship and the privilege of introducing them to you!  Please let me know if you would like to connect with them in any way.  Jackie and Jonathan are here in the states (based in TX) through March.  They have a fairly full schedule of speaking engagements, but would love to consider sharing their story of hope with you, those you know, or your church, etc. and giving others the opportunity to help them extend that same hope to others in their native country.
And stay tuned, because not only did we get to spend an evening having dinner with this lovely couple, but a week or so later we also got to take them to the biggest and best rodeo in the state of Texas! ☺

Valentine Fun & Flair

 After Classical Conversations was over on Monday, Kayla and I made our usual stop at Starbucks (i.e. reward for enduring another week of CC without her friends from home), and then we headed to Michaels to pick up some Valentine supplies.  
Oh ~ the endless possibilities found on the scrapbook paper and sticker aisles!  
We had lots of fun and came home with as much creative potential as $20 can buy.  I made cards for Robert, Cooper, and Kayla (Kory is overseas!), and Kayla made cards for some of her friends back in MA.  We had to be creative in shifts, though, because I wanted my cards to be a surprise for the next morning.
 I love making surprises for them to wake up to on special holidays, and it was really fun making them these cards ~ which is another gift of sabbatical ~ a bit of time and space to do things you might not otherwise.  
After Kayla woke up, she helped me make heart-shaped pancakes.  We happened to have a GF pancake mix in the pantry, but we wanted them to be pink.  Since there was no food coloring in the house, Kayla had the idea of adding red sprinkles (left over from Christmas cookies!) to the batter.  They quickly dissolved and gave us our desired pink batter!  Add eggs, fruit, and syrup = fun Valentine breakfast!
And now for the flair…
For some reason, this pastor’s wife and homeschool mama has been obsessed with owning a pair of platform pumps, which really don’t fit with my current ministry and homemaking lifestyle, but still…they are so pretty on, and so feminine, and so yes ~ I’ve been a little consumed with getting some. Maybe since I saw Natalie Morales wearing a pair on the Today Show? I don’t know.  Kory once told me I looked like her, and I took that compliment, and have been riding high on it ever since.
I do happen to attend more than your average number of weddings in a given year, so surely I deserve owning a pair!?  (“What you deserve…. is hell,” I hear my beloved teacher of the book of Romans, Cas Monaco, saying in the back of my mind.)
Well, finding a pair that is not totally and completely outrageous is more difficult than you might think.  Where in the world does Natalie shop?  I mean all I have been able to find are Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Lopez versions that are hideous colors and scandalous heights.

See what I mean?
Well…I had about given up on this “vain things that charm me most” pursuit, when I decided to click on the Zappos link that appeared in my Facebook sidebar one day, and THERE THEY WERE ~ a seemingly modest, reputable, brand named, pair of black, leather platform pumps, for a decent price.  I really didn’t even hesitate in entering my debit card number, and taking advantage of this obvious answer to prayer.
Just kidding.  I really didn’t pray about shoes, but I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with it, and I do believe it may have been a little grace upon grace to me ~ a fulfilling of even a silly, girlish desire of my heart.
When they arrived, the heel was a tad higher than I anticipated, so I put them on and wore them while preparing dinner to see if I could walk somewhat gracefully in them.   I guess my husband found the sight of me peeling potatoes in heels amusing and started snapping photos.
And then I decided to pose for a few more…
…and finally decided that I would keep them.
Their arrival was just about a week before Valentine’s Day, and though you can’t see them in this pic, I did wear them on our super-fun Valentine date last night. They also make me about as tall as Robert, but I’m sinking in the mud by the tree here, so it’s hard to tell.
Robert did all of the research required to find an amazing downtown restaurant complete with a four-course Valentine-themed meal and lively, yet romantic atmosphere.  The weather could not have been more perfect either.  It was still warm enough to seat people on the patio and leave the large glass doors open to the hip Austin avenue outside.

After the delicious meal, and even a bit of wine sampling, we walked around downtown a while ~ i.e. more opportunity to see of I could really pull off those pumps, and then got coffee at a local cafe before heading back home.
I’m happy to report that I did not fall flat on my face, or stumble at all for that matter.
And what did we find to talk about on our 20-something-th Valentine’s day together?  Well…the fourth chapter of Ephesians, what we’ll do differently when we return home from sabbatical, King Saul and Doeg the Edomite killing the priests of Nob, the importance of and Scriptural exhortation to love and be committed to the church, what this sabbatical has done for our individual souls, our marriage, and family, if and when seminary is in my future, and more.
Proving that wearing platform pumps is not necessarily inconsistent with being the pastor’s wife. ☺

Stature, Strength, Steadfastness, Service

She said he was growing in wisdom and stature, and I knew that, but to hear it from another observer was encouraging.  Moms love, but they see everything, and can even lean anxious and be blind to what is good, what is growth.
“Bring your clothes down, and I will wash them for packing,” I shout up the stairs.
“I did it yesterday, mom.  I’m already packed.” He replies.
And then I go through the checklist to find out what he’s missing.  Nothing but a pair of gloves, which are really optional.
He’s got this.  Am I really even surprised?  Stature.  Strength.  It’s been displayed since he walked at 9 months and told ME what a “good helper” I was at 24 months. He doesn’t  meticulously tuck in his shirts and wear a belt, wristwatch, and knife anymore.  Those things are replaced by cell phone, iPad, and a bit more savvy regarding style.
I open my email.  There’s one from him that contains his essay on Macbeth. He’s heeded my corrections, integrated my suggestions for a stronger argument, rewritten, and delivered it to me, albeit electronically, before he leaves. 
Responsibility. Strength. Steadfastness.  
Why am I hard on him sometimes?  Why do I fear?
We celebrate him with the choice of a  special send-off dinner.  He chooses a home-cooked meal over a restaurant outing ~ beef tips and gravy over rice.  We add candles, sparkling juice, Toll House pie, a laying on of hands and a prayer.
From Colossians Kayla prays for “a knowledge of His will…spiritual wisdom and understanding.”  Cooper follows, requesting “(the) bearing (of) fruit in every good work.” My prayer is for protection, freedom from harm and danger  (motherly additions to Colossians), as well as the grace and strength to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects,” in thought, speech, and behavior.  Robert asks that Kory be “strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience…”
…a power from Christ to choose CHRIST over anything else ~ including Kory’s own life ~ if, by some chance, that is what the trip, the situation requires.
And I know it probably won’t, but I startle at these words, and yet I’m glad they are spoken by a man who has chosen Christ in life, and would also choose Him in death.
Steadfastness. Service.
The alarm goes off at 3:45am.  I thought I would have to wake him.  Haven’t I learned anything? I find him on the couch updating his Facebook status ~ showered, dressed, bags ready to go.  He’s even leaving five days early, by his own arranging, (and definitely not mine, since 5 + 12 = 17 days. 17 days!) because he doesn’t want to miss fellowship, doesn’t want to forgo the teaching, or the encouragement he knows his heart will receive at a men’s retreat back home in MA.
He’ll be in the company of others with Stature, Strength, Steadfastness, and hearts to Serve.
We pull out of the garage at 4:11am ~ the three of us, and I know it doesn’t take two to drive one to the airport, but I want to be a part of this milestone, want to be with him until the last possible moment, want to observe the strength, the stature, want to be a part of this sending off for service ~ even at 4am.
He knows the drill, and it’s not his first solo flight.  Touch the screen, weigh the bag (48lbs ~ whew!), show the passport, receive the boarding passes, and head for the security check.  On the way, we pull aside to pray again, but I can hardly focus, because he’s really leaving now…
 and he’s achieved it himself…
and who am I now?
And who is he?  Who will he be?  What will this journey transform in him?
I keep receiving sweet text messages.  “How are you today? Are you doing okay?  I’m praying for you and for Kory.”
How am I?  Not anxious, really.  Not fearful, except for slight twinges.  Mostly excited for his opportunity ~ serving in central Asia at age 16.  And even confident because of the gifts of grace I see in him…
Seeking to Serve
Thanks be to the “Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.”

Gluten Free Friday ~ Nutty Fruit Smoothie

Another thing I was able to do last week, while I had a few days to myself, was explore the “cook” book that came with my Vita Mix blender.  The sad thing is, I’ve had the blender for about a year now and can never find time to sit down and learn how to make better use of it through the book’s wonderful recipes.  Unfortunately, the same goes for my camera.  I’ve had it two years now and just can’t seem to take the time to load the instruction manual in CD-Rom form and learn how to really use it.  Both of these pieces of equipment will do many amazing things, but my becoming educated is required to make those things happen! Maybe one day…
I did, at least, learn a few things that my blender can do, like make soup.  That’s right, just add the ingredients, blend for 5 or more minutes, and the heat generated by the high-powered blending will actually cook the soup.  It also has some delicious looking recipes for dips and sauces, and ice cream as well.
But it’s just so easy to resort to the smoothie, especially when you love smoothies, and want a quick, easy, and highly nutritious breakfast ~ or lunch, which is usually the case for me.  The cookbook has lots of great smoothie recipes from super-fruity and dessert-like, to full-of-veggies ones that are sweetened with some fruit. Here’s one I’ve had twice since last week.  So good, and I think it would work just fine in any old blender.
Nutty Fruity Smoothie

1/2 cup water
1/4 cup plain yogurt or coconut milk
1/2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
1 banana
2 Tbsp walnuts
1 Tbsp almonds, raw or blanched
1 Tbsp honey or 2 dates
1/2 – 1 cup ice

Place all ingredients in blender in order listed.  Blend on high for 1 minute or until desired consistency is reached.

And yes, I could sit outside on the back porch and enjoy my smoothies in the sunshine ~ in February, which is just icing on the cake ~ or fruit on the smoothie, in this case.

Restin’ and Fishin’ and Runnin’ and Eatin’

While I was sitting on the porch last week, reading, soaking up the sunshine, and enjoying the golden silence, the kids were having a great time in Hondo, TX with Grammie and Paw-Paw.  The highlight of their week away was a guided fishing trip that Paw Paw arranged for them.
They caught 25 catfish, and had such a great time.  Kayla was a bit horrified by the fact that the fish are cleaned while still alive, (I did not know this either!) and as hard as I try NOT to pass on any food hang-ups of mine, she somehow remembered that catfish are “bottom-dwellers.”  So, she was not exactly eager to eat those dead-but-still-flopping-bottom-dwellers that Grammie fried up the next evening!  Fortunately, Grammie provided countless gluten free meals that more than made up for the catfish that Kayla reluctantly ate.
Robert and I enjoyed our weekend in Galveston.  We had not been back to the Gulf coast city since our honeymoon 20 years previously.  We drove past the condo-hotel where we had stayed and found it looking just like we left it way back then ~ seemingly untouched by Hurricane Ike that destroyed much of the city in 2008.  Our weekend weather did not include any hurricanes, but it was rainy, windy, and cold.  “Texas cold”, that is.  (Cold is a relative term, I’ve learned.) We prayed that it would clear up for the half-marathon, but it really didn’t.
It was pouring down rain when we left our hotel at 6:45am on Sunday morning for the 7:30a.m. race.  Robert made fun of me for using my umbrella, but I wanted to at least start the race dry.  The rain did let up a bit after we started running, but the WIND ~ oh my! We ran a four mile stretch with the north wind directly in our faces.  I never wear a cap while running, but decided to wear the race freebie cap this time to keep the rain off my face.  It was a good decision, but keeping it on in that wind proved to be a bit difficult.  It blew off three times!
Amazingly enough, we completed the race in these adverse conditions, and still met our goal to finish in under two hours!  Sea level = no hills to climb, so at least that was working in our favor. It even allowed me to finish in the top ten for my age group, which is a fun honor, but is not really saying much, since there were women in their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s who finished with a much better time than me. Ha! I guess the 40-something women were just a slow bunch!
After taking long, hot showers to thaw out, we enjoyed a scrumptious breakfast at Mosquito Cafe.  I had the Breakfast Bowl which was roasted potatoes, topped with sauteed spinach, topped with bacon pieces, topped with smoked mozzarella, topped with two fried eggs. Yum.  We were also tickled with way the cafe steeped our hot tea!  Do you see the cute flowers with tea leaves in the middle sitting atop our mugs? There was a “leaf” receptacle on which to rest it after steeping. So funny. 
No trip down I-10 between Houston and San Antonio is quite complete without a stop at Buc-ees, and we needed to fill up our gas tank and use their immaculate restrooms anyway. If we weren’t certain we were in Texas before, it was confirmed by these “hunters” carrying their off-road-ATV-drive-around-the-hunting- lease-vehicles.  There were four of them standing out in the parking lot examining the sagging end of the trailer which seemed to be pushed to its extreme limits.  Must have been some serious hunting, a.k.a staying away for the weekend, and getting home just in time for the Superbowl.
Speaking of the Superbowl, we arrived at my dad’s house just in time to grill burgers and watch the big game.  Robert’s parents had transported the kids to my dad in San Antonio after church and they all enjoyed a meal together at the Alamo Cafe.  When Robert and I arrived at his house in San Marcos, my dad wasn’t even there.  He had taken Cooper to the gym to shoot some hoops.  Have I mentioned that my dad is 73 years old?  So very thankful he’s still able to practice his jump shot and even give Cooper a bit of competition.  Cooper did say that he “schooled” Grandad, though, and Grandad did not refute this claim.
And whoever said the gluten free lifetstyle is restrictive?  Just take a look at our Superbowl snacks ~ queso, guacamole, black bean dip, chips, and not pictured are our cheeseburgers, sweet potato fries, and baked beans.  It was quite a feast.
A feast of delicious food (even the bottom-dwellers were delicious, I heard!) and a feast of rest (even if it included running a brutal race!) ~ that’s what last week held for our family, and we feel extremely blessed by it.
Big thanks to Grammie and Paw-Paw and Grandad for helping to make it happen!

Gluten Free Friday ~ Running Recovery Smoothie

The two days of silence were wonderful!  I started each day with a morning run and fruit and veggie smoothie of my choosing out of a cookbook that I haven’t had time to experiment with much. Fun! And then I sat.  Sat on the couch and read my Bible, prayed in my journal.  Sat and read books and magazines.  Sat in the bright sunshine and soaked up lots of vitamin D.  Sat on the porch and listened to the south Texas doves cooing.  See? It was glorious!
Now Robert is back home, and we are about to pack our bags and drive to Galveston, TX.  We haven’t been there since our honeymoon almost 20 years ago. Sunday morning we’ll get up early in order to run their half-marathon.  Galveston is on the Gulf Coast, so we figured it would be nice and flat ~ an easy training run for the upcoming Austin half-marathon which will NOT be flat! (We drove part of it the other day, and discovered that places in miles 11-13 are scarily inclined.  Yikes!)
Yes, Galveston should be nice and flat, but I’m not sure about how “easy” it will be considering the current weather forecast ~ 100% humidity, rain, 50 degrees, and 30 mph wind gusts.  Oh my.  It sounds much worse than the first half-marathon we ever did in Lowell, MA where the rain turned into snow by the end of the race!
Our last long run was at Town Lake last week. After strategically parking the car near one of our favorite breakfast restaurants, we ran 10 miles around the lake, and then enjoyed a big yummy breakfast.  An added treat was turning around to see one of my oldest friends sitting with his mom in the booth behind us!  Mike was my arch enemy in 5th grade, and then my prom date my senior year of high school.  It was so nice to see his mom, too!  We’ve all kept in touch through the years, but this unexpected sighting was so much fun.
Later that afternoon, I made this “recovery smoothie.”  It’s sort of a combination of all of the running recovery foods suggested in various running magazines and websites.  Nothing green about this one ~ it’s pure comfort and deliciousness, but also a good way to replenish the body after a good long run.
Running Recovery Smoothie

1 frozen banana
1 cup plain yogurt (I used coconut milk)
1 1/2 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 Tbsp peanut butter
1/2 cup brewed coffee, cooled (optional)
1 Tbsp flax meal (or 1 tsp flaxseed oil)

granola and sliced bananas

Place first 6 ingredients in blender.  Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape sides of blender if needed.  Top with a few tablespoons of granola and some sliced bananas.

OK ~ pray for strength and endurance if you think of it!  And prayers for a reversal of the weather forecast would be greatly appreciated, too! ☺

Counting One Thousand Gifts ~ January

“The counting of all blessings is ultimately summed up in One.
All gratitude is ultimately gratitude for Christ, all remembering a remembering of Him.  For in Him all things were created, are sustained, have their being.  Thus, Christ is all there is to give thanks for; Christ is all there is to remember.  To know how we can count on God, we count graces, but ultimately there is really only One.
And the radical wonder of it stuns me happy, hushes me still: it’s all Christ.  Every moment, every event, every happening.”
~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

I already mentioned receiving this book in the mail from the Lord, via His daughter, Michelle.  And I also mentioned that I knew it was to confirm the Spirit’s previous revelation to me that gratitude is the key to joy ~ to knowing Christ truly, which is joy complete.
Hoping to know and worship Him in more joy and intimacy this year by participating in the challenge to record at least 1000 gifts, graces, remembrances, over the course of a year.

Here’s January:

1. black-eyed-peas
2. laughter with the Graf family
3. a real two hour nap
4. a run, then a walk in sunshine
5. a deep cleaned sabbatical house
6. Taco Cabana ~ breakfast tacos on corn tortillas
7. homeschool basketball league for Cooper
8. sunshine and 65 degrees ~ a Texas winter
9. the community and nostalgia of small town Texas sports
10. a birthday dinner planned and prepared  by my kids
11. flan ~ the scrumptious Mexican custard
12. browsing a new art museum
13. We Bought a Zoo with Kayla
14. self-serve frozen yogurt with countless toppings
15. 20 years and counting of faithful church family @ Manchaca BC
16. the homeschool community of Classical Conversations
17. catching up on 3 years of life with Tamyra
18. wind chimes and lunch on the porch
19. Cooper’s invitation to pray through a dream
20. sisters who serve and love my kids and me
21. a gathering in Tulsa with encouragement and inspiration abounding
22. the heartfelt and individual tears of Todd and Deborah
23. a cup of blonde roast on a rainy day
24. a joyful, jumping girl in her new gymnastics class
25. airport trips and visitors from “home”
26. antique shops & coffee shops with Karla
27.  tender tilapia on the grill
28. Scripture loving sisters in Christ
29. a healthy, generous, loving grandmother
30. “Here Comes the Bride” memories over lunch
31. Starbucks dates with the Lord
32. watching the Today Show in bed ~ till 9am
33. stars and conversation on an evening stroll with Robert
34. a daddy’s delight in his daughter ~ and Olive Garden & Frozen yogurt
35. Holy Spirit groanings, intercessions for my kids on a solo run
36. finding dear old friends in the next booth over
37. Biblical Womanhood with Cindy Hawks in the flesh, not via CD (or cassette!!)
38. sharp cheddar dipped in blackberry jam
39. Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz
40. Friday Night Lights finale ~ and a sorta happy ending
41. Hannah’s song of praise
42. plans being thwarted because of a better blessing in store
43. Spirit-led surprise packages in my mailbox (a bracelet & gift card for healthiness)
44. repeated reunions with old friends
45. gluten free cupcakes with LOTS of icing at The Bee’s Knees
46. Gristmill salsa and warm chips
47. white lights on trees and sips of wine around the fire with family
48. always finding “good” in “giving attention to the Word”
49. sunlight streaming through windows on cleaning day
50. opportunities for healthy independence for Kory
51. his Kindle, my softcover ~ reading Sacred Marriage together
52. new iced coffee “toddy” ~ brewed 24 hours
53. country music’s entertaining, raw, and real life lyrics
54. secrets brought to the light, freedom and intimacy restored
55. a Sabbath of silence

Want to join?  I’ll need a total of 93 for January to really participate ~ didn’t realize that Ann has made daily, monthly prompts ~ for three gifts a day.  Click over to Ann’s blog and take a peek at February’s challenge. (You’ll have to scroll down to the bottom.  The February challenge and the calendar in my photo above is also available there as a free download.)