Saturday, August 17, 2013

More Coffee, Please

Ever since beginning what I like to call "The Program" (what most people would call "a diet"), I've noticed that my sweet tooth has diminished. But strangely. I still love my brownies and my mom's chocolate chip cookies, and ice cream is still a wonderful treat. But I ordered a grande (that's small right?) Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks a few months ago, and I could only drink a couple sips before I decided to listen to my cringing teeth that were telling me "THIS IS TOO SWEET!"
So how do I get my fancy coffee drink fix without too much sugar (and money)? By making my own, of course!
Now, I understand that part of what you're getting when you go to Starbucks or Caribou is the convenience. But I happen to have my own espresso machine that my parents gave me for Christmas a few years ago, and it's not getting much use. Partly because of the time involved, but also because I like the flavors of the drinks at a coffee shop. And that's not the easiest thing to manage at home.
So yesterday, being in the mood for a latte, I started brewing one. And then I went to to look for ideas for flavored syrups. Honestly, the website wasn't the most helpful. It did occur to me that probably, most of the flavors are a combination of simple syrup with an added extract. So I thought I'd try it.

Flavored Syrup
1 part white sugar to 1 part water
Combine in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure all the sugar dissolved. While it's heating, add some of your flavor extract. Regular extracts, like you'd buy in the baking aisle of a grocery store, take more than the concentrated flavors, like what you'd buy from King Arthur Flour. I used about 1/2 teaspoon of mint extract with one cup of sugar and one cup of water in one batch. The second batch was 3/4 almond flavor (hey, I'm Norwegian) to one cup of sugar and one cup of water. The third batch was about 15 drops of Washington Cherry flavor to one cup of sugar and one cup of water.
I put about 2-3 tablespoons of syrup in a coffee cup, added 2 shots of espresso and about 1/2 cup of steamed milk. This morning's Mint Latte was amazing!

Now I just need to find a marshmallow flavor so I can mimic Caribou Coffee's Campfire Mocha and I'll be set!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Some Things Do Stay the Same

At age 6, Claire (fortunately) doesn't exhibit much of the same behavior that she did at age 1. Except for one sweet thing. Starting about a month after her first birthday (right after she was weaned), she began tucking her little hand just under the neckline of whatever shirt I was wearing when we would rock (it was bad if I was wearing a turtleneck). I liked to think she was feeling my heartbeat and wanting the closeness we had when she was still nursing. I never discouraged this behavior, knowing I would miss it when it was gone, and she didn't stop doing it.  And even now, at age 6, Claire's little hand rests right above my heart whenever we rock. Of course, it is less and less all the time now, but even sweeter because of that.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Getting Back to Routine

The girls and I have moved back into my parents' house for the next six months, due to the fact that my lease is up in a few weeks and Troy and I don't want to live together before we get married. The move has been gradual and started back near the end of February. We've been living out of laundry baskets (because the dressers were still in Elysian), and I haven't really cooked or baked much of anything lately. I would cook on our usual Thursday nights that Troy would join us in Elysian, and I have made some cookies here, but otherwise, nothing.
This past weekend, most of our stuff got moved here. All of my kitchen stuff, including cookbooks, is here. Our dressers (and the girls' beds) are here. I feel somewhat more settled, but I still have quite a bit of work yet to do. I need to put more pictures up on the walls and organize the kitchen area Mom and I set up. 
I am definitely more in the mood for cooking. I'm making supper on Wednesday night, and I've been printing more recipes lately. That's where it's nice that it seems to be the current fashion on Facebook to post links to recipes. I have seen several that I'd like to make. I'm sure Mom will let me make supper much more often, too.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Poet

While I was reading my Bible for the day, I came across a page (in Ezekiel, of all places) titled "Humor and Comedy in the Bible." It was very interesting how the writers of the Bible do, in fact, use comedy to illustrate their lessons, such as riddles, parody, and satire. Lots of these occur in the Old Testament, with some in the New Testament, too. But at the end of the page was a fascinating and comforting statement from Martin Luther: "When matters are in such a bad way and so desperate that no hope of deliverance is seen, we should know that it is the epitasis or climax of the comedy and that the catastrophe is very near...God is the Poet, and we are the verses or songs He writes."
Always a good reminder, that God is in control, and He knows that the story will end well for His children, even if we can't see how.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Angels and Demons

No, not the Dan Brown book. Although, that is a very fascinating read.
The Bible class at church began a study on angels yesterday. Pastor put together a very nice handout so we didn't need to spend the whole class flipping back and forth throughout the Bible to find the verses. The plan is to cover angels in general, then fallen angels, and then the Angel of the Lord. Even though I rarely miss Bible class, I am definitely going to make an effort NOT to miss during this study.
I wonder if one of the reasons I have learned so little about angels so far is that, to a born and bred Lutheran like myself, angels seem like a New Age-y, spiritual thing. Also that portrayals of angels in movies and on TV don't really ever seem to have ANYTHING to do with the Bible. Even Touched by an Angel, a TV show I particularly enjoyed watching, NEVER mentioned Jesus. Maybe it's not so surprising that several people who were at Bible class yesterday are so excited for and fascinated by this topic.

At the end of the class, Pastor handed out nice laminated copies of Luther's Morning and Evening Prayers, with an encouragement to incorporate them into our daily lives. So I added the Evening Prayer last night to bedtime prayers with Claire and Natalie.
       I thank You, my heavenly Father,
             through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son,
             that You have graciously kept me this day;
             and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins
                  where I have done wrong,
                  and graciously keep me this night.
       For into Your hands I commend myself,
             my body and soul, and all things.
       Let Your holy angel be with me,
             that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.
I pointed out to the girls that not only do we have God the Father and Jesus watching out for us while we sleep, but we have God's holy angels keeping the devil at bay, too. Natalie, who is always fearful of the devil, asked me if the devil would come in their room and scare her. (And oh, it would be SO EASY to offer false comfort.) I told her that that was why we prayed the way we did, so that we would be protected. Then I reminded her that God and Jesus and the angels are much, much stronger than the devil, and they were always near her to keep the devil away.
Just as they are always near us, and we have only to ask, and we'll receive all the help we need to keep the devil away.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

You are Mine

The Lutheran Study Bible has a reading plan to read straight through the Bible in 2 years. I began last January and did fairly well, but fell terribly behind in the last few weeks of 2012. So now, in my quieter moments at work, I'm trying to catch up. I'm in the middle of Isaiah, which, I'll admit it, gets a little hard going at times. But then I read today:
But now thus says the Lord..."Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior...because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you." (Isaiah 43:1-4)
I love this passage. It's a reminder that God does not promise that we will not go through hard times, but that He will be with us when we do.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Another New Year

Hello, 2013. You're the first new year I've been excited to see in a long time. And no wonder. I have so much to be excited about!
Claire is learning so much at school and everywhere else. She has had the switch flicked on in her brain about reading, and her reading ability is growing daily. She is also learning how to learn, which was evidenced by how quickly she learned to tie her shoes this past week. She was able to communicate to me exactly what it was that she was not understanding, and once we sorted that part out (what part of the lace to push through to make the second bow), she had it down pat.
Natalie is a born storyteller. She can come up with (truly) compelling stories, complete with villains and heroes and a happily ever after. I am always impressed with the broad scope of her imagination, and how she is clearly absorbing everything in her world to add details to her stories. She is also my little foodie and wants to "feed" everyone with whatever she has at hand, be it beads, blocks, or actual toy food.
I have been with my Troy for nearly 7 months, and I can't imagine life without him now. He not only loves me for myself, but he loves my girls and they positively adore him right back. It is hard to put into words exactly all this relationship means to me. It is thrilling and comforting and joyful and fun. Troy doesn't let me wash the dishes when he comes for supper, but nudges me out of the way and hands me the towel to dry. We watch TV shows like Castle and Big Bang Theory, and laugh a lot. We attend church and Bible class together, and I can hardly say how much I enjoy worshiping with him. His daughter, Carsen, loves reading about as much as I do, and we can talk Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and being geeky like that together. His son, Adam, plays wonderfully with Claire and Natalie, and manages to remain patient even when they get to be a little too much.
*happy sigh*
This year I have a few goals, like I did last year. I want to keep trying new recipes, and the goal of at least one new recipe each week is definitely doable (I did it last year). I would like to keep shrinking my stack of books to be read (I made some headway last year). And of course, the usual goals of exercise more and lose a few pounds.
So, 2013, yes, I'm happy to see you, and I'm looking forward to what this year holds for me and my family.