‘Tis the Season…

…for camping and anniversaries.  camping-2 A couple weekends ago, Eric and I celebrated our seventh anniversary with a little overnight camping trip. By ourselves.

We dropped the kids off at Eric’s parents house, stopped at one of Alexandria’s renowned kettle corn shops for provisions, and set up camp at a nearby state park.

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‘Tis the Season…

…for Easter Bunnies and Baby Bonnets. 

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So this one time, I tried to put Elsa in a bonnet from my childhood for Easter because it would be adorable and sentimental, right?

And she apparently thought I was trying to personally ruin her life.
We finally got her settled down so we could take a picture of her looking like the world’s chubbiest pilgrim. You’re welcome.
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‘Tis the Season…

…for indoor outings.  wild-rumpus-1 This last weekend, after a delicous breakfast at one of our favorite spots, courtesty of Eric’s dad, we took a little family outing to the Wild Rumpus bookstore.  It’s a bookstore totally made…for kids.

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mini door within a door. what?!

It seems like the warmer it gets outside (50* today – woot woot!), the more I want to get outoutout! (Especially after five straight days at home last week while our car was getting worked on). But it’s not quite spring yet…and if you’ve ever tried to take a walk with a toddler, you know that the last thing you need is icy sidewalks slowing you down.

wild-rumpus-3  So, we made our outing indoors. We read a bunch of books, and even ended up buying the follow-up to one of our current favorites.

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But the real highlight of our trip were the animals. This bookstore comes replete with critters: chickens, cats, ferrets, and various other birds. Owen loved listening to the birds and watching the chickens, and I’m sure we’ll be back.

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Later today, after his nap, we’ll for sure be heading out for some icy-puddle walking, because after this winter, 50* feels like 80*. But we love these fun little spots in the city when the weather isn’t so cooperative. What are your favorite indoor outings (Minnesotan or not!)

‘Tis the Season…

…for waiting.

At 39 weeks, this little lady is out of space. I actually finished my pre-baby nesting ritual to-do list this weekend by cleaning up our basement and installing the infant carseat.

Believe it or not…..despite my type A-ness (wait…that doesn’t sound quite right), I’m out of things to do.

So now, we wait.

‘Tis the Season…

…for a true winter.

Winter Wonderland | carpéseason We literally spent the week of Christmas in a winter wonderland. At my parents’ house in Wisconsin, we were wowed by their snow-covered trees…and it seemed like the entire time we were there, snow fell lightly. It was really, really beautiful and so perfect for the holidays.

And now, the snow is over, but a true Minnesota cold has set in. Facebook is aglow with reports of how parts of Minnesota are colder than the South Pole…and even Mars…and I believe it. I only opened the door once to the -50* windchill cold outside today, to throw our recycling into the bin on our back steps, and that in and of itself took my breath away.

Snow and cold. Cold and snow. Winter is here.
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Countdown to 2014: Favorite Snacks & Appetizer Recipes

Favorite Recipes of 2013 - SNACKS For this final week of 2013, we’re feeling reflective. About food, of course. So we’re taking a look back at some of our favorite recipes from the year, along with lots of other bloggers on Finding Joy In My Kitchen.

Each day, we’ll be looking at a different category:
December 26 - Favorite Breakfast Recipes
December 27 – Favorite Soup & Bread Recipes
December 28 – Favorite Main Dish Recipes
December 29 – Favorite Snacks and Appetizer Recipes
December 30 – Favorite Dessert Recipes
December 31 – Readers’ Favorites

Let’s snack it up!

1. Steak Fajita Nachos

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Countdown to 2014: Favorite Main Dish Recipes

2013-MAINDISHES For this final week of 2013, we’re feeling reflective. About food, of course. So we’re taking a look back at some of our favorite recipes from the year, along with lots of other bloggers on Finding Joy In My Kitchen.

Each day, we’ll be looking at a different category:
December 26 - Favorite Breakfast Recipes
December 27 – Favorite Soup & Bread Recipes
December 28 – Favorite Main Dish Recipes
December 29 – Favorite Snacks and Appetizer Recipes
December 30 – Favorite Dessert Recipes
December 31 – Readers’ Favorites

Let’s dig in!

1. Easy Crockpot Carnitas with Crunchy Bell Pepper Slaw

Easy Crockpot Carnitas

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Countdown to 2014: Favorite Soup and Bread Recipes

2013-soups-breads

For this final week of 2013, we’re feeling reflective. About food, of course. So we’re taking a look back at some of our favorite recipes from the year, along with lots of other bloggers on Finding Joy In My Kitchen.

Each day, we’ll be looking at a different category:
December 26 - Favorite Breakfast Recipes
December 27 – Favorite Soup & Bread Recipes
December 28 – Favorite Main Dish Recipes
December 29 – Favorite Snacks and Appetizer Recipes
December 30 – Favorite Dessert Recipes
December 31 – Readers’ Favorites

Let’s soup it up!

1.  White Chicken Chili

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Countdown to 2014: Favorite Breakfast Recipes

2013-breakfast For this final week of 2013, we’re feeling reflective. About food, of course. So we’re taking a look back at some of our favorite recipes from the year, along with lots of other bloggers on Finding Joy In My Kitchen.

Each day, we’ll be looking at a different category:
December 26 - Favorite Breakfast Recipes
December 27 – Favorite Soup & Bread Recipes
December 28 – Favorite Main Dish Recipes
December 29 – Favorite Snacks and Appetizer Recipes
December 30 – Favorite Dessert Recipes
December 31 – Readers’ Favorites

Today, it’s all about breakfast, the most important meal of the year day.

1. Easy Homemade Granola Bars 

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Deliverance

Mother Mary All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

Here, in my eighth month of pregnancy, I imagine Mary. She is tired. So, so tired. And this baby within her – this Promised One – has caused her back to ache in ways that she never knew it could. She lies awake at night, restless, uncomfortable, imagining all that is to come. And she finds herself tearing up at least once a day…overtired, overwhelmed, the accusations of “lunatic!” and “whore” still echoing in her head; those grating whispers have followed her all this way. So far from home.

She wants to curse this journey, its timing; her sciatic nerve has been pinching for weeks, and with each step the donkey takes, her pelvic bones groan and ache. Joseph looks back at her; she winces another smile, biting back even more tears. They seem to stop every five minutes for her to go to the bathroom.

Finally, Bethlehem. Joseph looks away as he tells her that there are no rooms available, his voice cracking when he tells her about the barn. But she is relieved. Anything to be off that donkey. As she stretches and starts to unpack: the first contraction. She gasps a little and thinks – so that’s what it feels like.

Minutes later, another. And another. And soon, the painful rhythm is set. She whimpers her way through them; they walk, rock, and breath, and then it passes. The stench of beast and waste around her are nauseating. She cries now and then – wondering how she came to be so far from her mom, her sisters, at such a time as this. But this is just the beginning.

All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

I used to wonder at these words of Jesus. He is speaking, privately, to his closest friends, who want to know the signs of his kingly return. They are eager for it – they know that this man is the Solution, the Remedy, and so they ask. Jesus responds, and his answer is filled with all of life’s greatest fears: Wars. Rumors of Wars. Famine. Earthquakes.

He is speaking the language of burnt out and broken landscapes. Of wearied people, refugees, fleeing with terrified children.  Of starvation and pain and death. And yet, Jesus says: This is but the beginning.

The sin and suffering which has already marred so much of humanity and history will only increase. His words promise a crescendo to the curse of a fallen world. And for much of my life, I held these words in dread and despair.

But as I write tonight, anticipating the birth of my second child, and I remember the birth of my first…the whole of it…the beginning of the birth pains, the intensity of pushing, and the eventual birth of my son into my arms, I remember a night of agony turned into incredible joy. And I realize that these words of Jesus are the furthest thing from a curse. They are instead a promise of hope. Of deliverance.

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Like earthquake tremors, her labor increases. Soon, she is breathless. Her eyes are clenched; Joseph’s are wide. The pressure is unbearable and she cries out, breaking the silence of the night. She tells him over and over I cannot do this! And yet another one comes. Soon she is on her knees in the straw, pushing, and the pain is tremendous.

And then, at once. It is over. The pressure releases and she feels him – Him! – come out. Joseph is sobbing, and she is shaking, and he is here. She shivers and shakes and opens her eyes as the baby is laid on her chest. And she is delivered.

He is here. HE is here. God with us. Immanuel. And in Him, in his flailing arms and rooting cries, in Him all of the fullness of the promise of deliverance comes to life. He is the One who will destroy even the memory of war and famine and earthquakes. Who will wipe every tear from our eyes. The One who will defeat sin and death and establish a peace secure and lasting.

Merry Christmas. We are delivered.

 

Swedish Christmas Bread Braid (Kardemummakrans)

Swedish Christmas Bread Braid | Carpé Season When I first met Eric, his family was still living in his hometown of Lindstrom, Minnesota, which is a small town – just a few thousand people – about forty minutes outside of Minneapolis.

What’s overtly clear about Lindstrom, from the minute you enter the township, is that it still has pretty strong ties to its Swedish-settled roots. It’s home to the Karl Oskar days – a summer festival built around a fictional character by the same name who pretty much embodies the Swedish emigrant experience in a great little series of books.

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Crockpot Coconut Hot Chocolate

Crockpot Coconut Hot Chocolate I can’t really start this post any other way:
This recipe is a game changer, friends.

Seriously, I do not think I can over-rave about it. I’ve had my eye on this recipe since last year, and now I’m sort of kicking myself for not making it sooner. Let’s get into, it, shall we?

Hands down, this is the creamiest, richest hot chocolate you can even dream of. Forget your 2% or whole milk, for this concoction, we’re using coconut milk and sweetened condensed milk, so you know we’re off to a good start.

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Easy Mint Fudge

Easy Mint Chocolate Fudge Before staying home with Owen, I was an ELL teacher (English Language Learners). And I spent those years as a teacher teaching a wide range of ages, from toddlers to the middle-aged. But my longest and most recent job was with 5-8 year olds; basically, you just need to picture me with a bunch of tiny Somali kids, all hopped up on their school-sponsored sugar breakfasts, who could understand and communicate with me to varying degrees of effectiveness. It was chaotic and exhausting, and mostly I loved it.

In the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to lead corporate training once a week in a gigantic organization. It’s basically the complete opposite of my last job in that no one in my current gig gets out of their seat to, you know, pick at the lint on the carpet and consider eating it. However, it’s not without its share of difficulties.

Take last Tuesday for example.

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On the Cooking Club: Make-Ahead Breakfast Braid

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I’m over on the Cooking Club blog again today, sharing a favorite holiday recipe: The Make-Ahead Breakfast Braid. If there’s two things a holiday breakfast should be: it’s a little fancy and super easy, and this little braid meets both criteria. Look how pretty that is! Plus, it can be mostly assembled the night before and then popped in the oven the next morning for just about 20 minutes!

Head on over to check out the recipe. 

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Cooking Music – Fall Playlist

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While Christmas music season may be just around the corner, we know there’s a few of you out there who may be holding out until after Thanksgiving. So, we thought we’d share a taste of what we’ve been listening to lately and give you something to listen to as you cook your Thanksgiving feast. This playlist is mellow and is best paired with a mug of something warm.

Cooking Music – Fall 2013 by Eric Berget on Grooveshark