Life Update

I am in Alabama at my parent’s house and it is a hot mess. 3 dogs, 2 cats, 5 kids, a frazzled mom trying to keep the peace, and a dad with high blood pressure that he brings upon himself. I am at wits end! I was about ready to pack and leave 2 nights ago. Things have calmed since then, but the stress is still lingering under the surface.

Mark is still in MO and the home-hunt is a royal mess. Rent is too high, the area is too dangerous, the place is already rented despite the ad just coming out, the house is not livable (how can they legally rent that??), the landlord doesn’t show up to show the house…..

We are frustrated and about ready to throw our hands in the air and sell every last item and move to a tropical island and raise a herd of beach bums.

However, the children bring joy and we are still surrounded by friends and family and even strangers helping us out. I am not sure where we would be without our community of support!

Here are some awesome things going on:
Zen now says lots of words!
He can say banana and up. If you call for him he says “Here I am!” and if you call for anyone else he asks “Where are you?!?!” The other day he picked up the phone and said “Hi daddy!” He is quite the hot ticket!
Santa stopped at Mark’s work and left a candy cane for Elf because she is his favorite elf. When I told Elf about this she replied “i just saw Santa last night and he didn’t tell me he would see Daddy! It must of been a surprise! He is sneaky!”
How cute is she? <3 Princess has bonded with her grandma and enjoys watching my mom and I in the sewing room. Bug and C-Dog are anxiously waiting to ride Papa’s tractor. The kids are running in the woods for epic games of hide and seek. They are free range here because there is only one other house on this road. They fall asleep happily exhausted. This is what summers are about!

So despite the wretchedness of homelessness there are many positive memories being stored up.
For your enjoyment here is one…I filled a random container with water for Zen to play in on the porch. He had a blast!
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So, for those who pray, please pray we find an answer to no home. For those who don’t pray we appreciate and treasure all positivity you send our way!

I don’t have much internet access here so I will try to write more as soon as I can!

Peace and love to you all!

The Washboard Part 3

My kids like to help me with household duties. They sweep, mop, dust, cook, and more. Zen watches us work as a team and has taken to participating. Normally this results in more mess, but how else would he learn? The chore Zen currently likes the most is laundry. Who can resist a tub full of water and a washboard that makes noise! Zen is our noisy boy. He loves all things noisy and creates “music” wherever he goes :)

I think it is very easy for adults to either think a child can’t help (too young) or simply do not want them to because they (the adult) can get the job done faster and more accurate. We are doing our children a disservice though when we have this mindset. They aren’t learning! How are they going to learn if we aren’t letting them try and gently guiding them. I have to admit I have to often hold my tongue and not intervene, but I am seeing continual progress. Best of all they are learning to clean the way I think is best ;) Ha! 

So here is my challenge, let your kids do the house work with you. Show them how to use the kitchen correctly. Yes, my kids chop vegetables for me and I bet they hold the knife better than many adults. Teach them the best way to mop. Help them learn how to do laundry. You will be teaching them skills they will need as adults and you will have help getting the work done! Make sure you relax though because it isn’t going to be done perfectly. Let the memories and skills be made!

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That Moment

That moment when you have 5 kids and a chocolate lab and you are packing to move the next day but your husband is several hundred miles away working so you are doing it alone. That moment when you are mumbling to yourself because you STILL do not know where you are going the next day. That moment when the skies open and it downpours as you are trying to get everything into the barn because you have no home yet so everything has to be out of the current house and stored. That moment when you look at the mess and boxes and overall disaster that can only mean you are in the last hours of the leaving process and you burst into tears. That moment when you are so angry that you feel like you are radiating the color red. And the tears flow and your children look at each other helplessly; not knowing what to do because Mommy usually has it under control.

That moment when there is a knock at the door and Mr P, the dear family friend who has been making sure we are taken care of during this crazy time, pops in. His presence is fairly powerful, but in a kind and fatherly way. Immediate calm and excitement flood the air as the kids jump up and down exclaiming “Mr P! Mr P!” Zen reaches out to him to be held. The kids adore him.
Mr P asks “What can I do? What needs to be done?”
I tell him I am cursing the rain as it has seriously hindered my ability to do anything seriously productive. I unload a bit. He listens.

He looks at the disaster and then there is that moment when words heal the radiating red moment from above.
“Leave everything that has to go into the barn and we we’ll make sure it gets moved in after you leave.”

THIS is humanity. THIS is generosity. This is kindness. This is amazing. Seemingly small, or maybe not small but certainly not huge, this gesture has completely taken a moment from radiating red to calming and grateful blue…Peace-filled.

You have no idea what small gestures can do to completely turn someone’s day around. The kids witnessed the power of this moment. I hope they never forget it, I know I won’t.

Gluten-Free Scone Recipe

I have been wanting a good scone recipe but it seems all my trials have failed. This week I am packing so I am cleaning out the fridge and freezer. I had 2 bags of fresh cranberries I had frozen. I desperately wanted to use them so I decided to try one last time to make scones. I think I nailed it as best I can considering the restrictions we have.This was a simple recipe and fairly quick to make; maybe 10 minutes at most. The kids L-O-V-E-D them! That means I get to share my recipe with you!

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Corn-Free, Soy-Free Orange Cranberry Scone Recipe

  • 2 cups GF baking flour (recipe at the bottom)
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder (make sure you are using a corn-free one if that is one of your restrictions!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter (I use this because both girls can eat it but I prefer this, although Princess can’t have it)
  • 3/4 cup orange juice (add about 1/2 first and rest only if needed. You do NOT want this too moist!)
  • half a bag of fresh cranberries (or less if you want and aren’t trying to get rid of food)

Blend together dry ingredients.
Cut in butter until it is crumbled.
Add in 1/2 cup orange juice, adding more slowly if needed.
A soft dough should form.
At this point you can follow a typical scone recipe and do this: Turn dough out on a floured board and knead for one minute. Pat into a circle on cookie sheet and cut into wedges.

I didn’t do that. I did this: Add cranberries and hand stir them in.
Plop dough onto parchment lined cookie sheet.

I made mine slightly bigger so I got 6. You can make them smaller though.

Bake at 425F for 10-15 minutes (until brown).
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While cooking I made a glaze. I used confectioner’s sugar and orange juice. Be careful not to add too much liquid!

Once I take them out I cool them about 5 minutes and add the glaze and eat them hot. I haven’t stored them so I have no clue how well they save.

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Gluten-Free Baking Flour Recipe
(I made this up based off of other recipes I had seen. Trial and error; this works for us)

  • 2 3/4 cups garbanzo bean flour
  • 1 cup sorghum flour
  • 2 1/4 cups arrowroot starch
  • 1 1/2 cups tapioca starch

Blend well and store in an air tight container. I keep mine in the fridge. Make sure you stir/shake before each use.

Homemade “Soy” Sauce

We can’t eat soy. Elf is allergic to it. The concept of Chinese take-out is a bit foreign (no pun intended) to my kids. For some reason I find that sad. I fondly remember sitting around the table as a family and digging into those little white containers and eating that yummy goodness. I wanted my kids to have a similar memory. I knew it wouldn’t be the same, but it didn’t mean it couldn’t be special. So my husband and I started compiling homemade Chinese food recipes. The big problem is almost all the recipes call for soy sauce. What is a girl to do???
Well this girl creates a “soy” sauce recipe!

I have three versions. I use each one for different recipes because, although they each have a very similar taste, there is a slight difference and I like that I can make recipes have different undertone flavors. You will notice they are very similar and the cooking and storage instructions are the same.

“Soy” Sauce Recipe #1
1 cup beef stock
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons cider vinegar (I use this brand)
1 tablespoon PLUS 1 teaspoon blackstrap molasses (you could use regular but I much prefer the blackstrap molasses in this recipe)
pinch of white pepper, garlic powder and ground ginger (I use fresh garlic and fresh ginger, finely minced.I do not use a whole clove!)
salt of choice (I use sea salt) to taste

Add all of the ingredients, minus the salt, to a pan and bring to a gentle simmer. Keep it at the gentle simmer until it reduces to about 2 cups. season with salt to desired preference. This will last 10 days in the refrigerator.

“Soy” Sauce Recipe #2 (Vegan)

1/2 cup tart cherry juice
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons cider vinegar (refer to above link to see which one I prefer)
1 tablespoon PLUS 1 teaspoon blackstrap molasses (I highly recommend sticking with this type for this recipe. It tastes best)
pinch of white pepper, garlic powder and ground ginger ( I have not used fresh garlic and ginger in this recipe, but I will next time I make it)
salt of choice to taste

Add all of the ingredients, minus the salt, to a pan and bring to a gentle simmer. Keep it at the gentle simmer until it reduces to about 2 cups. season with salt to desired preference. This will last 10 days in the refrigerator.

“Soy” Sauce Recipe #3 
1 cup vegetable stock
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (note this uses a different vinegar than the above 2!)
2 teaspoons cider vinegar (I use this brand)
1 tablespoon PLUS 1 teaspoon blackstrap molasses (you could use regular but I much prefer the blackstrap molasses in this recipe)
pinch of white pepper, garlic powder and ground ginger (I use fresh garlic and fresh ginger, finely minced.I do not use a whole clove!)
salt of choice (I use sea salt) to taste

Add all of the ingredients, minus the salt, to a pan and bring to a gentle simmer. Keep it at the gentle simmer until it reduces to about 2 cups. season with salt to desired preference. This will last 10 days in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!
~Andrea

Memorial Day

Memorial Day. The day our country honors and remembers those brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives while serving our country. We, Mark and I, do not personally know anyone who died serving. We do, however, know people who have lost loved ones. There are also plenty of veterans in my family and numerous relatives and friends currently serve our great country.

Last year my kids had the opportunity, along with other children, to decorate the graves with flags of the brave souls who are buried in Springfield MO. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and American Heritage Girls, along with their siblings, ran through the cemetery making sure not one soldier was missed. It was touching to see so many children take pride in honoring those who have fought to keep our country free.
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The Sunday before Mark left we decided  to spend it outside and simply enjoy each other’s company. For those who do not know, Mark took a job in another state. Until he finds a place for us to live we are separated by distance.

While we were walking along the beautiful Ohio River front we happened upon 4 pillars. I feel Evansville does a magnificent job at honoring veterans. They have numerous memorials along the river. It was the pillars that I found most beautiful. Four simple pillars with 4 simple phrases.
Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom From Fear, Freedom From Oppression
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Four very powerful ideologies that our country is founded on. People literally give their lives so we can have these as a reality.

There are countries where women and children live in fear, where men are stoned to death for their beliefs, where people are jailed for voicing their views, where people take their authority to a cruel level and stamp down the people.

We are far from a perfect country, but we are lucky. We are lucky to have men and women willing to sacrifice so that we can continue to have these freedoms. So today I reflect on, not what is wrong with our country, but on what is right with our country. I reflect on those people who have given their lives (and those serving) so I can sit here today and type this out with freedom and without fear.
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The Surprise

I woke up with a man in my bed….

It all started when I put the kids to bed in the tent as a treat. That meant I was alone in my room with just Zen. All of the kids had been camping out in my room with me, but I set the tent up in the boys’ room because it is essentially empty so there was room for it. I left the house door unlocked, something I never do.

I did this because I desperately wanted the kids to stay asleep. I needed them to stay asleep.

Then around 1:30 AM a man came into my house. No worries it was Mark ;) He and I pulled off the greatest surprise yet. His boss gave him 3 days in a row off so after work on Saturday he hopped into his car and came east to see us. I put the kids in the tent as a treat, but little did they know it was a distraction. Ah, sometimes I can be quite brilliant.

The kids had no clue! This morning was the air was filled with delighted squeals of “Daaaaaaadddddddyyyyyyyyy!!!!!”

So this weekend I will be moving all our furniture into the garage with help from my right-hand man. We will savor the minutes until he leaves for MO. Then I will pack up the kids and head south…..Hm, I suppose I should really consider calling my dad and telling him I am coming for a visit ;)

I pray y’all have a blessed weekend and remember that this holiday is brought to you by the lives of the men and women who served our country. They deserve our honor and respect.

The tent set up for the kids to "camp" in.

The tent set up for the kids to “camp” in.