Sunday, September 23, 2012


Today was Joshua's farewell.  OK, so technically, we don't do "farewells" anymore at church, but Curtis, Joshua and I spoke and the kids did a musical number, so it was still rather like a farewell, but without the name.  ;o)

Curtis talked about strengthening spiritual "muscles," I talked about teaching the gospel at home, and Joshua spoke about his role as a missionary.  I thought my menfolk did a great job, and I was proud of all the wonderful things Joshua said about being a missionary.  I know he's feeling a little scared, but I also know he's eager and enthusiastic, and I'm grateful for that.

Loundia, Lily, Maizie, Sofie, Cora, Jackson and Beck sang "We'll Bring the World His Truth" (my mom played piano) and it was wonderful.  At home as they practiced they would really belt it out, and I was hoping they would do the same in Sacrament meeting.  They were a little more reserved, but they still did a great job.

After church, we had our friends, the H family, over for lunch.  They came all the say from Billings to spend this special day with us, and we loved having them here.  Our kids haven't seen each other in months, but it was as if they'd never been apart.  There was much hugging and kissing and playing and even a little fighting.  ;o)

The new sister missionaries and Zoe's friend B also came for lunch, so we fed 24 people!  Not too shabby!

After lunch, we had an open house for Joshua.  I'd been baking for days, and my mom and sister also provided some treats.  We had a lot of people come over, including a lot of Joshua's friends, and it was a great way to spend the afternoon.  I think Joshua really felt loved.

My emotions have been all over the place the last couple of weeks.  I can't help but think "this is the last time I'm going to be able to do this with him for a while" with so many of our activities.  I've grown so used to seeing him outside painting, and I keep thinking about how after next week, he won't be out there anymore.  He won't be there to go to lunch with me, to help me with projects, to carry in groceries, to talk about my day with in the evening, to sing with at church, to pray with and to laugh with.  Some days I'm just weepy and depressed, but today has been a good day and I made it through without crying.

I know that he's going to be a fabulous missionary.  I know it.  He's a rule follower with a strong sense of right and wrong.  He's a people person who puts others at ease and can relate to them easily.  He has a strong testimony.  He sets and achieves goals.  I know there will be people he will encounter who need to hear the gospel from his lips - people who might otherwise not have accepted the message if it came from another source.  I'm so grateful that he's willing and worthy to go, and I know that once the dust settles, he'll be just fine.  As for me, the jury's still out...  ;o)

Here are some pictures from today.

Our kids with the H family kids.  Just like old times!

Joshua's friend, M.  He's leaving to serve a mission in Washington DC 2 weeks after Joshua leaves.

Our adorable new sister missionaries

The kids love to tell Beck to open his eyes really wide.  This is what we get!  ;o)

M, hanging out with Jack and Beck.  That's M's dad behind him.

Our friends K and F

Loundia, Curtis and Joshua

Me with my dad, mom and sister, J

A houseful!  (And Jonah making a dorky face.  He does that.  Often.)

Me and Joshua 
Joshua and Curtis

Lunch with the H family

Pillsbury Doughboy!

We ended up with an even bigger boatload of kids!

My sister, J and her hubby, J

Joshua, having a serious discussion with a friend, and goofy A, pretending he was part of it.  ;o)

My weird children!


Zoe and Jonah.  There's that face again!

J and Loundia

Curtis and Maizie

Zoe and Joshua 
The spread.  Our friend G is keeping an eye on the goodies.  

Me and my menfolk 
Joshua and Teffy

Our kids saying goodbye to the H kids.  DJ gave everyone a hug and a smooch, including kissing a very surprised Beck on the lips!  

Sofie and DJ

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Weekly menu

The last few days have been very busy as we've been preparing for Joshua's farewell and open house.  I've been baking and creating like crazy!  I'll post more about all of that in the next couple of days, but I will say that I used the five million strawberries for chocolate-dipped strawberries that I'll be serving tomorrow at the open house.  For now, here's the weekly menu and our Bountiful Baskets list.  :o)

16 gala apples
2 bags green grapes
10 red pears
12 plums
2 honeydew melon
16 limes
12 bananas + 10 organic bananas
2 watermelon
8 quarts of strawberries

8 tomatoes
4 bunches of collard greens
4 lbs carrots
2 bunch celery
4 English cucumbers
18 yams
2 avocados + 6 organic avocados
6 bunches boy choy
2 bunches rainbow carrots
2 heads butter lettuce
several bunches spinach
2 heads cauliflower

Stuff I already have:
2 packages sliced portabellos
1 large package baby portabellas

Chorizo, potato and mushroom tacos (I'll be using soyrizo sausage)
Thai curry - I post this recipe all the time, but it's just a couple of tablespoons of curry paste (like Thai Kitchen) and a couple tablespoons of brown sugar to one can of coconut milk.  Veggies and chickpeas get simmered until veggies are tender, and then everything is served over rice with a generous squirt of Sriracha.  
Curried lentils and sweet potatoes with bok choy (This is another curry, but an Indian-inspired one, rather than the Thai flavors from the night before.  Also, it actually calls for swiss chard, but since we got a bunch of bok choy and it's another cruciferous green, I think it will substitute just fine.)


I'm not very happy with our adoption agency.  Have I mentioned that?  Since our dossier went to China on June 14th, I've been trying to get information about our log-in date.  I knew that our dossier had to be translated before it could be logged in, but in the past, this is a step that's taken anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.  I assumed this would be the case with this adoption.

Since getting word that our dossier had arrived, I have emailed our agency every 2-4 weeks asking whether they had received our log-in date.  The first three times I received a response that they didn't yet know, but hoped to know soon.  After that, they quit responding to me.  I've emailed them a couple of times each month and have gotten nowhere.  Finally, on Wednesday, I called and left a voicemail asking what was going on.  I had visions of them closing their doors and absconding with their clients' money or something, and was really starting to get freaked out.  When no return call came on Wednesday or Thursday, I sent an email to the woman who had helped us during the dossier prep stage, asking if she knew why I was being ignored.

She replied early the next morning and apologized profusely for her partner.  I appreciated that.  I also appreciated that she had contacted the facilitator in China to find out what our log-in date was.  However, I was devastated to learn that our dossier wasn't logged in for almost two full months - not until August 9th.  She had no explanation, but said how sorry she was for the delay.

I blasted back an email saying how heartsick we are over this, and how angry we are that no one bothered to tell us as things were happening that there was a delay of some kind.  Had we known upfront, we could have prepared mentally for it.  As it is now, we were thinking our letter of acceptance should be arriving any day, given that we were close to our 3-month wait mark.  Many other families whose dossiers went to China when ours did have been getting their LOAs.  Instead, we learned that our wait has only just begun.

I am beyond disappointed.  This essentially eliminates any chance of traveling before the end of the year, and means Thalia will spend another Christmas and another birthday (January) alone.  It also means we miss the opportunity to deduct our adoption expenses on our 2012 taxes.  I'm so, so sad that we'll be apart even longer, and so angry that they couldn't be bothered to keep us abreast of what was going on.  I practically had to beg for the information I got.

I'm trying to believe that this happened for a reason, but it's difficult for me right now.  I need to get over my angry feelings and focus on the positive things in my life, but I feel so betrayed.  Two months is an eternity when you're a kid in an orphanage.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Weekly menu

Here's today's haul!

Gala apples
green grapes
peaches (we ordered a case and split it with my parents and my sister's family)
green pluots
strawberries (we ordered 8 quarts)
sweet tri-color peppers
rainbow carrots
green leafy lettuce
green bell peppers
English cucumbers (I'm giving these away because we still have a backlog of garden cucumbers)

I also have blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, and a whole bunch of pears, peaches and nectarines from last week.  I also have quite a few potatoes, some leeks, sugar snap peas and some mushrooms.  I wish it was cold!  I'd be making stew and soup!  I'm not sure what we'll be doing with all our strawberries, but I may make strawberry muffins and pancakes to freeze with whatever doesn't get eaten.  I'd make jam, but we still have quite a bit of strawberry jam from my last batch.  And the peaches will probably just get peeled, sliced and frozen for smoothies and recipes in the winter.

Here's the menu for the coming week.  Most of the recipes come from a great new cookbook I got, Chloe's Kitchen.  It's written by Chloe Coscarelli, vegan chef and winner of Cupcake Wars.  :o)

Mongolian BBQ Seitan (I'm using soy curls, and I'll be doing this in the crock pot)

1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 to 2 tsp chili-garlic sauce
2 tbsp canola oil
8 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced (I'm using portabellas because that's what I have!)
8 oz seitan, cut into thin strips (either buy it or make your own.  I'm using pre-soaked soy curls)
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
4 oz snow peas, strings removed
2 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (no!)
2 cups cooked rice, for serving

In a small bowl, make the sauce by whisking together hoisin sauce, water, soy sauce, agave, lemon juice, and chili-garlic sauce.  Set aside

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat and stir-fry mushrooms and seitan until lightly browned and mushrooms have released their juices.  Add finger, cinnamon, and cloves; let cook a few more minutes.

Add the sauce and snow peas to skillet.  Reduce heat to medium, and let cook until sauce has thickened. This may happen quickly.  Turn off heat and mis in scallions and cilantro.  Serve over rice.

Peanutty Perfection Noodles

1 pound brown rice noodles (I'm using soba or ww spaghetti)
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup peanut butter, chunky or creamy (I'll be making a separate small batch with almond butter for our peanut allergy girl, Zoe)
1 tbsp chili-garlic sauce
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
3 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
1/2 cup peanuts, roughly chopped, for garnish
2 tbsp roughly chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish (we'll be omitting!  Bleh!)

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boy.  Add brown rice noodles and cool accruing to package directions.  Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.  Return noodles to pot.

Meanwhile, make the save by combining coconut milk, water, maple syrup, soy sauce, peanut butter, chili-farlic sauce, dinner, and garlic in a medium saucepan.  Let cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, until sauce comes together and thickens.  Remove from heat and mix in lime juice and sesame oil.

Toss hot noodles with the sauce, scallions, and carrots.  Garnish with peanuts and cilantro and serve.

Thai chickpea Burgers with Sweet 'n' Spicy Sauce

Chickpea patties:
1 15-oz can drained and rinsed chickpeas
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 small jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro (I'll probably sub basil since I have a bunch and most of us hate cilantro)
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp canola oil

Sweet 'n' spicy sauce:
1 6-oz can tomato paste
2 tbsp evoo
2 tbsp water
3 tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp white or apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp sea salt

6 burger buns, lightly toasted
sliced avocado

To make the chickpea patties:
Place chickpeas, onions, garlic, ginger, jalapeño, cilantro, bread crumbs, lime juice, and salt in a food processor and pulse until just combined, stopping frequently to scrape down sides.  Using the palms of your hands, form mixture into six burger patties.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat and pan-fry patties, letting them cook about 3 to 5 minutes on each side.  Once patties are nicely browned, remove from heat and drain on paper towels.

To make the sweet 'n' spicy sauce:
In a blender, puree tomato paste, oil, water, agave, vinegar, red pepper, and salt.  Adjust ingredients to taste.

To serve:
Layer the chic pea patties, sauce and sliced avocado on the buns.

Avocado Pesto Pasta

1 pound linguine
1 bunch fresh basil, reserve some leaves for garnish
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 avocados, pitted and peeled
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup evoo
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup halved cherry tomorrows or sliced sun-dried tomatoes, optional.

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil.  Add linguine and cook according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, make the pesto by combining basil, pine nuts, avocados, lemon juice, garlic, and oil in a food processor.  Process until smooth.  Season generously with salt and pepper.

Ross pasta with pesto.  For an extra touch of color and flare, top pasta with cherry or sun-dried tomatoes.  Divide pasta among serving bowls and furnish reach serving with a basil leaf.

Three pepper pasta salad  (I will be subbing marinated tofu cubes for the cheese, or maybe just throwing in some kidney beans.  I have some new Parmela that we can try out in place of the parmesan.)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A little bit of everything

Our first full week of school is done (well, I guess it's not technically full since it included the Labor Day holiday), and it's starting to feel normal again to have the kids gone for part of the day.  Beck is pretty miserable in the afternoons without anyone to play with, but Joshua and I have been trying to keep him entertained the best we can.  I think he'll be glad when Thalia arrives and he has an afternoon playmate again.

On the subject of Thalia, we still no nothing.  I emailed our agency yet again, asking for information about our log-in date and where we are in the process and didn't even get a response.  I'm really starting to get angry, but yet I don't dare rock the boat too much when they hold all the cards with our adoption.  But I can say that never in our previous adoption experiences have we been ignored like we have with this agency.  It's so frustrating.  What I do know from other adopters is that people whose dossiers went over when ours did are starting to get their LOAs.  Hopefully that means ours will be coming soon.

Last week was FILLED with amazing miracles for our family that reminded me once again that God loves us, is aware of our needs, and is in control.  First, we got an unexpected phone call from our contractor with a proposed work schedule that will get our kitchen substantially closer to being finished by mid-October.  (Our kitchen has been in the remodeling stage for over 3 years now.)  Second, we received an unexpected check in the mail from a loved one that will make a huge dent in our adoption fund deficit.  (If you're reading this, dear loved one, we are so very, very grateful!)  Third, Teffy has made a decision about her education and living arrangements that is going to make life SO much better for her.  I won't share all the specifics here out of concern for her privacy, but we are so proud of her and can't wait to see what the next couple of years will bring her.

I always know that my Father in Heaven loves me, but this week, I felt like the floodgates were opened that things that I have been agonizing over for so long were addressed or fixed in one fell swoop.  I've been on cloud nine all week, feeling the weight of these things lessen drastically.

In other news, our kids started with their new piano teacher (who comes to our HOUSE, bless her!) and they really like her.  Anybody who would take on 10 new students from the same family deserves an award!

I started doing Weight Watchers online in order to get off these 10 pounds that I managed to put on over the last year.  So far I'm really enjoying it and I've lost 3.5 pounds.  Since I track my food in My Fitness Pal every day anyway, it feels to me like something I can do longterm and not feel restricted by.  I think once I reach the maintenance stage, I will continue to use it for logging my food.

We're three weeks away from our trip to take Joshua to the MTC.  Some days I feel practically giddy with excitement over it, but at odd moments, something will catch me off guard and I'll get all emotional over it.  Someone mentioned today that Joshua would be gone for Halloween, for example.  Halloween is NOT a big holiday to me - I hate it, in fact, but yet thinking that he won't be here for that when there are already costumes and decorations in the stores really gets to me.  I tear up at the drop of a hat every time I realize that I'm doing something with him that I won't be able to do again for a very long time.  Gulp.

Yesterday, I went with my mom to a church women's meeting in Glendive.  My mom taught a class about following the prophet, and I had to make a display about a book that I'd read.  The whole meeting focused on the good, better and best ways for us to spend our time, and there were several of us who were asked to prepare displays on hobbies and books.  I chose the book "God, Dr. Buzzard, and the Bolito Man," by Cornelia Walker Bailey.  It's an autobiography of this woman who grew up on Sapelo Island, Georgia (one of the Sea Island) and is a Geechee by descent.  (If you're familiar witht he Gullah people, the Geechee are similar.)  Anyway, I found it fascinating to learn about all of the aspects of West African culture that are still alive in the Gullah-Geechee culture.  Sadly, these cultures are dying out because of modernization and tourism.  It was an amazing look into their lives.

Today after church, we ended up having the missionaries over for lunch, plus one of Zoe's friends and a forest fire fighter who is stationed here temporarily.  We had a great meal of beer-battered avocado tacos (one of the missionaries had never eaten avocados before, if you can believe that!) and then played games together.  Then the younger kids put on an impromptu talent show that had everyone laughing.  It was a fun evening.  The missionaries left to go to Billings as both are transferring out and being replaced by sister missionaries.  We're excited about that.  The fire fighter is 18, and he's downstairs hanging out with Joshua and Zoe while Curtis, Jonah, Ethan and my dad are out home teaching.  It's been a great day.

Weekly menu

I'm behind this week, and I actually have a lot to write about for a change, but I'll do that in another post.  Our baskets were pretty good on Saturday - not my absolute favorite but still a pretty good variety.  I got two conventional, two organic, a lunch box pack (which is why there's so much fruit), and two quarts of coconut oil.  The coconut oil was a fantastic deal!

Red butter lettuce
Leafy green lettuce
Baby carrots

Black plums
Mango plums
Green plums
Asian pears
Fuji apples
Yellow apples
Bosh pears
Red pears

From last week, I have a boatload of green pears which are still not quite ripe and that I plan to freeze, plus about 20 avocados, hence today's meal.

Here's the menu:

Beer-battered avocado tacos
Curry (see second paragraph)
Tempeh sloppy joes (see second paragraph)
Cuban beans and rice - this is a super easy dinner that I planned for a busy night.  SW brand now makes "Cuban Recipe Black Beans," which I plan to heat and dump over steamed brown rice.  If I have time, I'm going to bake the peaches and pears with a little cinnamon and brown sugar, but we'll have to see how that day goes.  We do the same thing with cans of Margaret Holmes Hoppin' John sometimes.  Both are good sources of protein and make a super-fast meal.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

School days

The kids started school on Wednesday, and I've been feeling like a fish out of water all week.  It was so quiet in the mornings that I almost didn't know what to do with myself!  I'm sure I'll get used to it again, but it's been weird to have things so different than they were over the summer.

All the younger kids like their teachers, which is good, but I think the jury's still out with some of the teens' teachers.  We'll see.  All in all, they seem to be pretty excited and optimistic about this year, and Jonah and Ethan are especially loving being in high school

Speaking of Jonah and Ethan, they've been working at McDonald's for a couple of weeks now and seem to be settling in well enough.  I have mixed feelings about letting our kids work for a company I can't stand, but the reality is that 14-year-olds don't have too many job options around here.  And I like that our McDonald's doesn't require kids to work on Sundays and is good about working around their schedules.  They also pay more than the other fast food restaurants in town.

Lily and Loundia have already started volleyball and are really enjoying it.  I wish the played on the same team since the driving back and forth is already making me bonkers, but such is life with 12 kids. Zoe is enjoying cheerleading, but we rarely see her thanks to all the practices they have.  And seminary starts on Tuesday for the high school kids, so that will take another hour out of their days (read: sleep).

I have some pictures of the first day of school and will post them when I dump the pictures from my card.  Just picture several irritated children with backpacks slung over their shoulders, and you'll have the general idea.  ;o)

Weekly menu

Here's today's list of produce:

mango plums
green plums or pluots I don't know the name of ;o)
black grapes
yellow apples

curly leaf lettuce
red bell peppers
green bell peppers
light green bell peppers
Hatch green chilies (TONS!)

Plus I already had strawberries, mushrooms, sugar snap peas, bananas, butternut squash and acorn squash.  I'm going to have to buy a couple more packages of mushrooms, some broccoli, and buy or beg a big zucchini from someone for our fajitas.

I roasted all my chilies - maybe 30 of them? - and now I'm going to dice them and freeze them for later meals.

Here's the menu for the coming week.  I can't remember where I got Sunday's recipe, so I'll paste it below rather than linking to it.  The rest of the meals don't really have recipes, and Thursday's tamales are some frozen veggie/bean ones I got at Natural Grocers.

One last thing - I don't cook with honey very often and usually substitute agave nectar, but I do use it once in a while.  Some vegans don't use it at all, which I respect.  I'm sure you could make the soy curls recipe with agave if you want to.

Honey-Sesame Soy Curls

3 cups soy curls, soaked 10 minutes in warm water and drained
salt and pepper
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup minced onion
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced or grated fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup of water

Serve with:
Hot cooked rice
Sesame seeds
Scallions, thinly sliced


Very lightly season the soy curls with salt and pepper and place them in the slow cooker.

Whisk the honey, soy sauce, onion, ketchup, canola and sesame oils, ginger, garlic and pepper flakes together in a mixing bowl and pour over the soy curls. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 4 hours.

Use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the soy curls to a rimmed plate or bowl and cover lightly with foil, leaving the pan juices in the slow cooker.

Stir the cornstarch into the water with a fork or small whisk until dissolved. Whisk the mixture into the pan juices in the slow cooker. Re-cover the slow-cooker and turn the heat to high. Let it cook and thicken for 15 minutes.

Carefully transfer the soy curls back into the slow-cooker. Serve the curls and sauce over the hot cooked rice and garnish with sesame seeds and scallions.