Gluten Free Friday ~ Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream

Today is a bit dreary here in New England, but the days leading up to this one have been perfectly gorgeous.  The leaves are rapidly turning, colorful mums are coming up in my front flower bed {and everyone else’s}, and our farm had acorn squash, spaghetti squash, and pumpkins to take home yesterday!  {The pic is not our farm co-op, but another local farm and maple sugar house.} We have yet to pick apples, but these days of school and sports and church activity fly by so quickly that it seems difficult to fit all of the proper “New England fall” activities into the schedule.  I DID have a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks last weekend, so that was one necessary item checked off the list.

After our veggie-pick-up yesterday, Kayla and I stopped by Atkins Farm Market to pick up a few extra groceries, and while we were standing at the deli counter getting turkey and cheese, we noticed the prepared bread pudding in the next case over. It wasn’t just any bread pudding, though.  This bread pudding was made with the farm’s homemade cider doughnuts!  Oh my. Can you imagine? It’s upon discoveries like that that I wish we didn’t have to follow a gluten free diet, and I may just have to try substituting a gluten free doughnut and re-creating that delectable-looking dessert here at home!

Here’s a recipe I tried out last fall mostly because I was interested in the “cider cream” !  I don’t remember where I found it, but have it scribbled down on a small piece of paper in my kitchen.  There wasn’t any butternut squash for us to take home yesterday, but I can’t wait to make this soup again when they are ready!

Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream

5 Tbsp butter
6 cups butternut squash {peeled, seeded, chopped}
2 cups leeks
1/2 cup carrots {peeled, chopped}
1/2 cup celery {chopped}
2 Granny Smith apples {peeled, cored, chopped}
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp sage
5 cups chicken broth {could use veggie broth for a vegetarian version}
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 cups cider
2/3 cup sour cream
chives ~ optional

Saute squash, carrots, celery and leeks in butter for 15 minutes. Add in apples, thyme, and sage.  Transfer to stock pot if using a skillet to saute, and add chicken broth and 1 cup of cider.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  In batches, puree in blender or food processor and then return to stock pot. Bring to a slow simmer.

Boil 1/2 cup cider until reduced by half. {about 5 minutes} Cool.  Whisk cider together with sour cream.

Add the 1/2 cup of whipping cream to the soup and stir.  Ladle soup into bowls and drizzle cider cream across the top of the soup.  Tops with chives to serve, if you like.

Gluten Free Fall Friday ~ Pumpkin Love Smoothie, etc.

It’s been kinda quiet around here, I know.  I feel like I can hardly breathe with the constant flurry of activity in our home.  Classical Conversations has been in full swing for 5 weeks, and I haven’t even shared any photos from my wonderful class of 13 students.  We’ve had a great time learning Latin and algebra together, performing lab experiments, competing in the stock market, and engaging in heated, but civil debates.  We launched 10 new small groups at church two weeks ago ~ five of which are for women only.  I’ve attended and hosted a couple of baby showers, enrolled Kory in a Calculus class at Amherst college, chauffeured Kayla to dance classes and Cooper to cross country practices several times a week, and tried to consistently meet with women from my church. We’ve been to Maine and New Hampshire in the past few weeks ~ for short vacations we weren’t able to schedule earlier in the summer.  There have been parent orientations, visits from grandparents, potluck dinners, birthday dinners, and more.  
My awesome Challenge 1 class after a pizza debate and feast!
Robert and I went for an 8 mile run this morning ~ trying to up our mileage and participate in the Hartford Half-Marathon again this year for the third year in a row.  Typically, we would give ourselves MANY more weeks than 4 to train, but we couldn’t even THINK about the race until some other “races” were finished.  As we ran, we noticed the trees.  They are already more-than-blushing with the reds and oranges of the New England fall.  And as much as I do not like the end of summer, I long for the routines that fall brings.  One more hurdle this weekend ~ but a delightful one.  I have the privilege of speaking at a women’s retreat in New York tonight and tomorrow. Pray for the women who will be there to be refreshed and renewed and built up in their faith if you think of it.  And pray for me, that the Lord would speak through me and bless those who hear by His Word.
And here’s a repeat recipe, but a very fitting one!  The mornings and evenings are cool, but the afternoons are still warm here.  This is the perfect smoothie for days like that!  And who can resist pumpkin right now?  I made my first batch of pumpkin chocolate chip muffins this week, and it felt so good!

Pumpkin Love Smoothie
1/3 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup plain yogurt (or vanilla, but I don’t like all the added sugar.)
1 frozen banana
1 Tbsp peanut butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp honey or agave
1/4 tsp vanilla
Blend all ingredients in blender until smooth.  Top with a dollop of yogurt or whipped cream and sprinkle with more cinnamon.  Drink while gazing out your kitchen window and watching the reds, yellows, oranges, and greens blow gently off the trees.  ☺

Counting One Thousand Gifts ~ August {Triathlon Treats, etc}

Eight months of counting gifts now, and is it just me, or does this practice seem to make those months FLY right by? ZOOM, actually. I could hardly believe it when I saw the new September Joy Dare posted on Facebook.  Is it already time to print out another one? And because my friend Betsy and I were signed up for an Olympic distance triathlon in August, many of my gifts for the month center around it ~ with a really fun and out-of-the-blue one the day of the event.
Gifts centered around a triathlon?  Well, yes ~ even though it was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done!  And even though the two days prior, I was so nervous ~ had non-stop butterflies.  And even in spite of the fact that I really don’t have extra time to train for something like this, and that I began feeling completely overwhelmed with all of the tasks of homeschool, church, relationships, travel, and home beside this big one that wasn’t even necessary!  I must be crazy ~ or just plain dumb as I’ve mentioned before.
But there was the gift of spending time with Betsy and laughing over our common craziness in braving the very cold water of our local pond twice a week.  And then gift of being healthy and able to exercise.  And the gift of very early morning and quiet bike rides through the very beautiful part of New England I live in ~ time to think and pray and worship. 
I did freak out a bit when I saw on the Facebook page for the Triathlon that there were only 80 people registered and that the time frame for the event was from 7:30am to 10:30am.  I even emailed the contact person to make sure I had not signed up for some elite-athlete-only event, because 80 people???  I was hoping to get lost in a sea of hundreds.  And only three hours to finish???  I knew it would take me at least three and a half.
They got right back to me and assured me this was an event for everyone from first-timers to seasoned triathletes and that the Facebook page was wrong about the times.  Each participant would have five hours to complete the course.  Whew!  Oh ~ and they expected to cap the registration at 150 people, so there would at least be a few more than 80. {But still really not enough of a crowd for my anonymity!}

It was a bit concerning, though, that when we arrived and they began to welcome us and give a few rules and announcements, two of the groups they gave a special welcome to were the Coast Guard Academy “guys” and the Yale cycling and/or triathlon teams.  Yep ~ college guys from the Coast Guard Academy and Yale.  Guess how many of them lapped me multiple times on the 25 mile bike ride which was a 6.25 mile loop repeated four times?  If your guess was ALL OF THEM, you’d be correct.  And they didn’t smile and shout encouraging words as they passed either like the hundreds of women did for each other last summer at my all-women’s sprint triathlon.  Nope.  They were serious competitors.
Do you see me crossing the finish line in that bottom right photo above? Did you notice that there is no one behind me?  Well, that’s because not only did those college guys pass me up on the bike ride, but eventually everyone was out in front of me, and I came in last place with a time of 3 hours and 17 minutes. {Well, there was a woman WAY far behind me, but she was so far behind that I think they eventually pulled her from the course.} The funny thing is that that is a pretty good time for me!  I really thought I would be in the three and a half to four hour range.
The fun and out-of-the-blue gift happened as Betsy and I were arranging our things in the transition area.  She ran to the bathroom, and so Robert {the photographer/encourager} and I were just standing there waiting for things to get started. Ours were the only two bikes on our rack, until this man came along and asked if he could put his bike there, too. When he started arranging his things underneath for a smooth transition, I couldn’t help but notice the t-shirt he prominently and proudly spread on a box top for easy access once he came in from his swim.

“I like your t-shirt,” I said.

“Oh, thanks.  Never sure what kind of a reaction I might get because of that t-shirt,” he replied, still wondering if I was sincere or not, and then started comparing it to the “Got Milk” t-shirts and campaign to make conversation.

“My girlfriend just texted me a verse ~ Philippians 4:13,” he added to the conversation.

I didn’t know it was a test, but I immediately began to quote it…

“I can do all things through Christ…” I said.

“Ok ~ NOW I know who I’m dealing with,” he enthusiastically replied finally convinced we weren’t mocking.

About that time, Betsy returned from the bathroom, and I pointed out his t-shirt to her.

When he saw me pointing I said, “I wanted to make sure my friend saw your t-shirt.  She’s ‘got Jesus’ too.”

At this point he stood up {he’d been working on his gear}, faced us, and stuck out his hand to shake ours…

“Well, I think it’s time to meet my new brothers and sisters in Christ!” he exclaimed.

We enjoyed exchanging names, getting a little history on each other, and being in fellowship for a few moments before the race began.

And even though he’s a guy {and a competitive-former-police-officer one, at that}, when he passed me on the bike portion of the race, I saw a smile and heard a kind and encouraging voice shout out…

“Keep up the good work!  Remember Philippians 4:13!”

And yet the Lord also provided all of these other August gifts, too:

1. Ferry Boat to Bustins Island, ME (white)
2. Cottages on the island (white)
3. Sauvignon Blanc to toast 20 years (white)
4. Eggs, toast, and fruit breakfast by Robert (eaten)
5. Gluten free soup and sandwich at Fresh Batch in Freeport, ME (eaten)
6. Grilled asparagus (eaten)
7. Reading on a foggy island day (10am)
8. Still fog, still reading (1pm)
9. Book finished! (10pm)
10. Devotions on the island cottage deck (sitting)
11. On a rock in the ocean with Robert (sitting)
12. Scrabble game and dark chocolate (sitting)
13. Seeing the sunset from an ocean kayak (outside)
14. Candlelit dinners (inside)
15. Olympic gymnastics! (upside down)
16. My kiddos floating and laughing (in water)
17. A pond/place to train for the triathlon (in water)
18. Cooling rain (in water)
19. “I am the bread of life…” (John 6)
20. “That My joy may be in you…” (John 15)
21. “Ask the Father for anything…” (John 16)
22. California wedding trip (in summer)
23. Cindy and Ben’s wedding (in summer)
24. Backyard cookouts/Picnic table dinners (in summer)
25. Oceans and ponds for swimming (hole)
26. Farm fresh raspberries and veggies (whole)
27. Coconut Curry Rice from Fresh Side shared with Kayla (half)
28. Janet’s life and death (hard eucharisteo)
29. Ministry and money (hard eucharisteo)
30. The pace of life (hard eucharisteo)
31. Anniversary bracelet (metal)
32. Old, but workable/ride-able road bike (metal)
33. Two good family vehicles (metal)
34. Wisdom and strength in Nicolette (half hidden)
35. The Lord’s abundant grace to me (half hidden)
36. My kids’ spiritual gifts (half hidden)
37. Lily pads on island pond (green)
38. Fresh mowed lawn (green)
39. California avocados (green)
40. Full circle phone conversations (in a ring)
41. Bike wheel fixed (in a curve)
42. Ripe summer tomatoes (in a sphere)
43. Health scares that give perspective (ugly-beautiful)
44. Dental appointments that reveal more serious health conditions (ugly-beautiful)
45. Parenting (ugly-beautiful)
46. A home and heritage (in family)
47. Memories hard and good (in family)
48. Comfort, laughing, and belonging (in family)
49. God’s Word (in the morning)
50. Exercise/Running (in the morning)
51. Cups of hot black tea (in the morning)
52. Fresh picked raspberries (red)
53. 1 Kings & Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge (read)
54. 20th Anniversary Card (written)
55. Baby dedications (in church)
56. Laughter (in church)
57. The Gospel reiterated every Sunday (in church)
58. The good feeling of giving away/contributing (in serving)
59. The privilege of being used by God (in serving)
60. Joy in lifting the burdens of others (in serving)
61. First day of Classical Conversations Challenge 1 (straight)
62. Celebration cups of FroYo (curve)
63. Reconciled relationships (turn)
64. Teen homeschoolers filling my sunny backyard (in light)
65. Dinners at the picnic table (in light)
66. Lunch out with our Senior son (in light)
67. Etsy spice racks (old)
68. Funny photos found while cleaning/organizing (old)
69. Friendships (old)
70. Kayla running to prepare for 5K (moving)
71. Jayden (Kayla’s dear friend who is moving!)
72. Church business and prayer meetings (moving)
73. Susan Branch tea pot (fragile)
74. My grandmother (fragile)
75. Pregnant mamas and new babies all around (fragile)
76. Sweet slices of watermelon and cantaloupe (cut)
77. Beginnings of reconciliation (sewn)
78. My lips in self-restraint (buttoned)
79. Eyelet top from TJ Maxx (new)
80. Running shoes for Cooper and Kayla (new)
81. Small groups for women (new)
82. Kory’s senior year! (long awaited)
83. Annual trip to Maine (long awaited)
84.  Cindy’s and Stu’s weddings/marriages (long awaited)
85. A loving and faithful husband (one)
86. Challenge classes for Cooper and Kayla (two)
87. Strong, unique, and smart kids (three!)
88. A cyst that was not a “lump” (very small)
89. A believer’s bike parked next to ours (very small)
90. Marigold and Bonk Breaker Bars (very small)
91. Chuck’s heart valve issues found and repaired (miracles)
92. My church (miracles)
93. My salvation from a young age (miracle


Rockin’ The Pink & Black Ones ~ For a Quest!

 Good thing the shoe shop was having a buy-one-get-one-half-off-sale last week, because this girl needed some running shoes, too!  While Cooper was deliberating with Dad over arch support versus coolness, Kayla and I were in the back of the store finding her a pair of non-Converse shoes {she owns MANY versions and colors of those!} for a goal she’s trying to meet this fall.

If you’ve been keeping up with us at all, you know that Kory and Cooper each completed what we’ve called a Quest during the year between their 12th and 13th birthdays.  Well, guess who turned 12 at the end of July?  This cutie pie:

She watched her brothers accomplish their individual “Quests”, so she was eagerly anticipating her own.  For the “big reveal”, we took her to her favorite restaurant ~ Fresh Side{Asian Fusion!} ~ and gave her the list of challenges to meet before she turns 13.  Kayla’s Quest looks a little bit different from her brothers’, and is centered around the text of Proverbs 31.

Here it is…

Through Christ, A Godly Young Woman Is…
{A Quest for Kayla}
She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
Proverbs 31:26
Books to Read or Study:
The Five Aspects of Woman for Young Women by Barbara Mouser
Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss
The Basket of Flowers by Christopher Von Schmid
Beautiful Girlhood by Karen Andreola
Secret Keeper: The Delicate Power of Modesty by Dana Gresh
Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot
I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris
Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II by Darlene Rose
The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
Memory Work:
The Apostle’s Creed
The Book of Philippians

Healthy & Strong
She girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong.
Proverbs 31:17
Train for and run in a 5K Road Race
Participate in a Kids’ Triathlon ~ Summer 2013
Hike the Seven Sisters/Mt. Holyoke Range
Hard-Working & Skillful
She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard…her hands grasp the spindle…she makes coverings for herself…she looks well to the ways of her household…she does not eat the bread of idleness.
Proverbs 31: 16, 19, 22, 27
Three Sewing Projects ~ PJ’s, a tote bag, and re-usable lunch wraps/bags
Menu Planning ~  Create a two-week, healthy menu of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners
Cooking ~ Plan and cook Monday night dinners for the months of September and February
Gardening ~ start 4 seed varieties, plant, tend, and harvest them
Woodworking ~ wood project of your choice with Dad
Music ~ learn and perform one piece of music on the piano {or possibly viola!}
Leadership ~ Lead one week of family devotions
A Servant
She extends her hand to the poor, and stretches out her hand to the needy.
Proverbs 31:10
Continued help with childcare and communion at Mercyhouse
Volunteer at and bake goodies for homeless shelter/warming center 2 or more times
Organize nursing home Christmas Caroling and Party with other homeschool groups
and Receives Rewards
Give her the product of her hands, and let her work praise her in the gates.
Proverbs 31:31
Camping/Backpacking trip with Mom and Dad ~ Summer 2013
Dinner at restaurant of your choice and a theater performance afterward

She received all of this with excitement and delight mostly, and only a bit of anxiety.  She immediately got to work on the healthy, two-week menu ~ and we even implemented most of her ideas though it wasn’t required.  She has finished 2/3 of The Great Divorce, and we’ve already run together several times. {She can do a whole mile now without stopping!}  I am really proud of her already, especially for tackling the running right away.  She witnessed some girls on the high school cross country team passing out near the finish line at one of Cooper’s meets last year, and that certainly did NOT motivate her to want to join the team or do any sort of long distance running for that matter.  But, she is facing the challenge head on, and asks me regularly to run with her, so she’s prepared for a fall/winter race.

Even without this list of challenges, Kayla is already a skilled and wise young lady ~ and I’m so proud that she’s mine!