Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Great Lego Project

My kids LOVE Legos. They have for years - probably around 8 or 9 years to be exact, beginning when Kory was four or five. When questioned about what gift they might like for a birthday or Christmas, the answer was usually LEGOS! Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends would ask, "Are you sure they still want Legos? I gave them Legos last year." What they didn't realize was that every season there was a new and better Lego set, with MUST HAVE tools, equipment, weapons, and Lego "guys." If you loved Legos, you just HAD to have it. Currently, for example, there are several Star Wars and Indiana Jones Lego sets. What Lego lover wouldn't want these? And what parent who grew up in the 70's & 80's watching these movies for the first time at the theater wouldn't want their child to have them?

So, over the years as the sets were built and then taken apart to make something new they have all ended up in this catch-all Rubbermaid container which has always been located under the boys' bunk beds. (Actually, this is container #3 - the first two fell to pieces over time!) This was a fine system, and the boys even enjoyed the challenge of finding just the piece they were looking for in this huge collection, but it was time for a change.
(At least in my summer-cleaning-frenzy mind it was.)
So, for the past few weeks the box of Legos sat either on our dining room table or the living room coffee table, and we sorted, and sorted, and sorted. There was quite a bit of distraction from the sorting as long lost pieces were found, and the finder was compelled to build something with them, but even Robert got in on the sorting on a couple of occasions - it was actually quite addicting and satisfying. Cook dinner? Create homeschool proposals for the coming year? Do the laundry? Return phone calls? Sorry....I'm busy sorting Legos. Priorities, ya know. I'm just being a good steward of our material blessings. And won't my grandchildren be so thrilled when they visit in 10, 20 , 30 more years??
So, from Lego-box-under-the-bed to Lego Building Station!
Ahhhhhh.....the glorious order of it all! We have bins for flat bricks, narrow bricks, and wide bricks; drawers for platforms, arches, roofing materials, boats and animals; compartments for flags, flames, steering wheels, hooks, joints, and propellers; small drawers for tools, gear, discs, weapons and more; and last but definitely not least, a special wire basket for those beloved "Lego guys!"
(And all of their detached limbs, little yellow hands, and decapitated heads.)
I do need to give credit to my friend Christina, who has a similar set-up at her house. I've admired it for years, and marveled at how kids flock to the table and use their imagination to build the most amazing things.

So how long do you think this will last? And would anyone be able to relate to my hesitancy to ever let them play with Legos again now that they look so beautiful in their respective bins? I'm sure this will be yet another sanctification through surrender opportunity.
God likes order though, right?

(Kory missed out on all of the organizing into bins and drawers which included the complete cleaning and rearranging of their bedroom, as he is on his camping trip to Acadia National Park and Soul Fest with Robert. Cooper can't wait to be the first to give him a tour of their cool new pad - new comforters and everything! Did I mention the cleaning frenzy? Yeah.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Birthday Girl Celebrates #8

Kayla's birthday was yesterday - can't believe she's 8 and getting ready to start the 3rd grade! We celebrated on Saturday, though, since Robert and Kory left on their big camping trip to Acadia National Park in Maine on Sunday.

For starters, it was fancy fruit cups and gluten free Belgian waffles for breakfast. Then opening presents - a new bike and a Target gift card from Mom and Dad, and two new Webkinz animals from Kory and Cooper. Later we packed a lunch and went on a bike ride down the bike trail near our house. Conveniently, the bike trail passes directly behind Target and the mall, so the birthday girl could spend her gift card and other birthday money.
Back at home, Robert grilled hamburgers, and I made the requested Red River Mud Cake for dessert, singing, and candles. It was a great day! Kayla even requested "just a family party, because those are more fun!"

Yesterday, a gift card from Grammie and Paw-Paw arrived and so it was off for more shopping - a kid's digital camera, and a new comforter for her bed with matching pillow sham! (One of her birthday requests was to go shopping, so I'd say this was a desire fulfilled!)

So thankful for this girl! She is full of joy, loves her family, singing, all things outdoors, stuffed animals, and is still a loving mommy to her many baby dolls.

Happy Birthday, Kayla! We Love you!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Preserving Without Canning: Lacto-Fermentation

It may seem strange to us that, in earlier times, people knew how to preserve vegetables for long periods without the use of freezers or canning machines. This was done through the process of lacto-fermentation. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria. Starches and sugars in vegetables and fruits are converted into lactic acid by the many species of lactic-acid producing bacteria. These lactobacilli are ubiquitous, present on the surface of all living things.....Man needs only to learn the techniques for controlling and encouraging their proliferation to put them to his own use, just as he has learned to put certain yeasts to use in converting the sugars in grape juice to alcohol in wine.

Nourishing Traditions, p.89

"I'm not trying to brag, but they are the best pickles I've ever had," said my friend Aimee after I asked her a few clarifying questions about this process of preserving. Kayla had just spent the day at her house and wholeheartedly agreed - and she doesn't exactly love pickles!

I have only ever really canned apple butter, and I was scared of that whole process. Were the jars really sealed? Was I going to accidentally kill those people I gave these jars to as Christmas gifts? No one died, and it ended up being a rewarding endeavor, so when I started hearing about Nourishing Traditions and this idea of fermentation as preservation, I was interested. Not only because I end up with a lot of veggies to do something with every summer, but also because of the health benefits and digestion aids that fermented foods produce.

So, the first step in the lacto-fermenting of fruits and vegetables is to make whey. A bit of whey will be put into the jar to aid in the fermentation process. As shown above, you accomplish this by pouring plain (I used whole milk) yogurt into a dishcloth lined strainer over a bowl. ( I feel very fortunate to be able to get local, from grass fed cows, yogurt. Really, I live in the land of "local" and it has many benefits!) The whey is the yellowish liquid part that drips from the strainer into the bowl. What you'll have left in the cloth is cream cheese. Below you can see the finished products - cream cheese on the left, and whey on the right.


Next, I sliced cucumbers to fill 4 quart sized mason jars. Two of the jars used cukes from our farm co-op, and in two I used the cukes from my own garden! (Last year I got NO cucumbers, this year I have more than I can use!)

Then I mixed (this recipe is straight from the Nourishing Traditions cookbook, p.97) 1 1/2 cups filtered water, 1 Tbsp sea salt, 1 Tbsp mustard seed, two Tbsp fresh dill, and 4 Tbsp whey in a small bowl and then poured it all over the cut cucumbers in the jar.
They are supposed to sit on the counter at room temperature for 2 days, and then be stored in the refrigerator or somewhere that stays close to 40 degrees - root cellar, cave, etc. :) They are ready to eat after the two days on the counter, and they will last several months in cold storage. I also made a salsa, and beets using the same method!

Scientists and doctors today are mystified by the proliferation of new viruses-not only the deadly AIDS virus but the whole gamut of human viruses that seem to be associated with everything from chronic fatigue to cancer to arthritis. They are equally mystified by recent increases in the incident of intestinal parasites and pathogenic yeasts, even among those whose sanitary practices are faultless. Could it be that abandoning the ancient practice of lacto-fermentation and an insistence on a diet in which everything has been pasteurized we have compromised the health of our intestinal flora and made ourselves vulnerable to legions of pathogenic microorganisms?

Nourishing Traditions, p.91

Good Problem To Have???

About six years ago I started getting together with my friend Betsy for a weekly geography lesson with our kids. The following year a couple of moms expressed interest in joining us, and they did. We decided to study the same history curriculum and meet once a week to do a more involved and hands on lesson. The year after that more joined, and we continued to study history using a combination of the Veritas Press and Sonlight curricula. Last year we were up to ten moms and thirty kids. This worked out alright, although we continued to meet in each others homes and 40 people is a lot to accommodate. Plus, you needed to have 3 separate rooms - one for the pre-schoolers, one for the K-2nd grade class, and one for the 3rd-7th grade class.

This year there are 16 moms and 47 kids! (That's 63 bodies.) We discussed splitting the group in order to stay in homes, meeting in a church with classroom space, as well as contemplated what it would be like with that many people in a house were we to stay large and still meet in homes. (Will anyone's driveway, or street for that matter, accommodate 16 mini-vans???) We'll also need to split the kids into 4 classes instead of three. And even with more classes, there are still about 12 in each group!

A few moms thought splitting the group would be best - keep meeting in homes, smaller class size, ability to have a backyard to play in, depth of relationships is more likely, etc. But the majority of moms wanted to stay together and meet in a larger space. I was in the minority, but I also didn't like the idea of not seeing everyone every week! So the plan is to stay one large group, meet at a local church, increase to 4 classes, and bring your own snack. Each mom will have to teach 6 times, and sign up for two "recess" duties!

Add to this that BOTH local private Christian schools decided to close within the last couple of weeks! So now we are getting phone calls about whether or not more families can join our group!

What to do?

Anyone interested in a homeschool co-op coordinator position?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Gluten Free Friday - "I'm so Blue - hoo - hoo......"

We picked blueberries last week! I really enjoy picking blueberries every year with the kids. This year it was especially easy to fill 10 pints in no time at all - the bushes were literally drooping with berries.
And here's the best-ever recipe I've found for blueberry muffins. (I've only altered it to make it gluten free by substituting the flour for GF flour, adding a bit of xanthan gum, and increasing the butter by a quarter cup.) It comes from the Peach Tree Tea Room Cookbook by Cynthia Collins Pedregon. The Peach Tree is located in Fredericksburg, TX, and I've had the fun treat of going there many times with friends and family. They are known for their delicious soups, quiches, and desserts.

Blueberry Muffins
3 cups GF flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup melted butter (Earth Balance works fine here)
3 eggs
1 cup milk (soy, almond, rice are OK)
1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Mix flour, sugars, baking powder, and salt in bowl. Combine melted butter, eggs, and milk and stir by hand into dry ingredients. Fold in berries. Spoon into greased muffin tins until they are 2/3 full. Bake @ 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Makes 18 muffins.
Recipe doubles well. I sprinkled sugar on top before baking.
Kory just bought the Veggie Tales Rocks album from iTunes, hence the theme song of Madame Blueberry in my head! This is such a funny album - the Silly Songs sung by popular Christian bands. I would highly recommend it for laugh til you cry lyrics and spoofs!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Book Review Roundup - Calm My Anxious Heart

God....is the blessed controller of all things, the king over all kings and the master of all masters.
1 Timothy 6:15, Phillips
Linda Dillow returns to this version of 1 Timothy 6:15 over and over in her book, Calm My Anxious Heart. I finally read this book after recommending it to several young women - even giving it as a gift - on the recommendation of my friend Deborah. I gave it to one of my sisters and then she gave me a copy! Seems a lot of us are struggling with anxiety, fear, depression, and worry. Will my kids "turn out" ? How will we pay the bills? Does my husband truly love me? How will I make the grade? Will the house sell? Will I ever find a job? Am I attractive? Is God pleased with me? Will the cancer lead to death? And then sometimes we just can't seem to put a finger on exactly what the source of our anxiety is - we just feel it, and it can consume and debilitate.

Dillow's simple answer to all of these questions and more is contentment and trust. She uses numerous references to Scripture, personal stories, and stories of women she has worked alongside on the mission field of Eastern Europe. In the beginning of the book her stories discuss contentment in circumstances, in relationships, with self, and with material things. Toward the end of the book she discusses trusting God with the "what ifs," "if onlys," and the "whys." In a chapter entitled "Worry Is Like a Rocking Chair" Dillow asks the question, "Is anxiety a sin?" She then quotes Matthew 6:25-34 in which Jesus says to stop worrying five times! She reminds us that Jesus is calling worry and anxiety a faith problem. She doesn't leave us feeling guilty over our sin, but rather relates to the reader through her own journey of learning practical and biblical ways of overcoming them. How often do I forget the simple truths of trust, walk by faith, not sight, and cast anxiety on Jesus? This was such a basic, practical, and refreshing book!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sad Tale

I forgot to shut and latch the chicken coop last night. Well, I remembered at around 11pm while I was lying in bed. I pondered over getting up, getting a flashlight, making the trek out to the coop, but I didn't do it. I went to sleep thinking of raccoons and skunks and actually had a dream about the chickens. You know the rest of this story, don't you.
I feel like such a terrible mother! We now have only 9 chickens. (We started with 10.) All day I kept waiting for the tenth one to emerge from the bushes where they like to hang out during the day, but it never happened. I never imagined I would be this sad over a chicken, as I am not what you would call an animal lover, but I wanted to cry. Good thing they are layers and not fryers. I don't think I could handle it.

And it could have been a raccoon or a skunk, but we think it may have been a fisher cat. A friend of ours recently had all her chicks and two grown chickens eaten by one of these. It's not really a cat, but a part of the weasel family. We know it's not our groundhog - he walks around in broad daylight and could care less about the roaming chickens in our yard. They don't seem phased by him either.

So, a sad day at the Krum house. You can bet we will secure the girls every night now and even do some upgrades to the coop! (And they're also getting a new roost so they will stay off of my picnic table!!!! They like the porch swing, too!)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Book Review Round-Up - SURPRISE!

So.....I'm running out the door, swim gear in hand, to take my kids and some of their friends to the local pool. Kory is checking the mail and I see the new issue of
Living Without Magazine has arrived. I grab it out of his hands, and throw it in my bag, excited about the new articles and recipes it holds.I swim for a while, (yes, I actually got into an outdoor swimming pool in New England) and then head to the reclining pool chair to read Love and Respect for tonight's small group at church. After about an hour, I finish and it's time to round up the kids and head home. I decide to just pull out the magazine and skim through it looking for what I'll want to come back and read later. Imagine my surprise when I turn to the "Read It" page that always features books of interest to those with food allergies and intolerances and the first book listed is MINE! Kayla was actually reading over my shoulder and said almost immediately, "Mom, there's your book!"
I really enjoy Living Without and had sent them a review copy almost a year ago when the book first came out, but I definitely was not expecting this! And it was such a nice summary of the story - it made my day! I'm going to try and enlarge this next photo so those of you who don't get the magazine may be able to read what a wonderful job they did of reviewing it.
So exciting - and so fitting in this week of book reviews here at Gluten Free Krums!

Book Review Round-Up : The Shack

I forgot to mention that Same Kind of Different As Me, the book reviewed below, is non-fiction. It is also on the New York Times Best Seller list, and as you can imagine, the authors have a new full time job in speaking engagements, book signings, etc. I also discovered that this book will be required reading for all incoming freshmen at Abilene Christian University this year where my youngest sister is a graduate student. On September 9, Ron Hall and Denver Moore will speak to the student body there.

I read an article in World Magazine recently highlighting the fact that there are currently 14 "Christian" books on the New York Times Best Seller list. The Shack by William P. Young is one of those books. Written by a never-before-published father of 6, it has quickly become a sensation in some pockets of Christendom, and draws quite a bit of emotion and opinion therein. We were introduced to it by a sweet couple in Oklahoma who described it as a must read.

The book begins three years after the abduction of Mack's youngest daughter, Missy. The abduction is recalled in detail, though, and proves to be quite disturbing especially for a parent. After three years of struggling with grief, questions about the goodness of God, and just trying to move on with life, Mack receives a note in his mailbox inviting him to the shack, signed "Papa." The shack is where evidence of his daughter's murder had been found immediately after her abduction. He decides to go, concluding the possibility that the note is actually from God. (His wife has always called God "Papa.") Once at the shack, and after raging at God over His seeming aloofness and injustice, Mack meets the Trinity, and spends a long weekend interacting with each person individually and together. God the Father is represented by a large African American woman who can cook a mean breakfast, Jesus, by a Middle Eastern carpenter, and the Holy Spirit as a half human half apparition Asian woman. I have to say that I was taken aback by these representations at first. Isn't this blasphemous? And honestly, each page either angered me over its questionable theology, or roused me to reverence and tears over its profound truths. In the end, though, I was deeply impacted.

Mack confronts many things over the weekend. He gets to ask the hard questions, see his daughter Missy, put himself in God's shoes at the judgment, and experience the love and care of the Lord. The part of the book that impacted me the most was in chapter 11 entitled, "Here Come Da Judge." In it, Mack comes face to face with Lady Wisdom, the judge. In their heated dialogue it is revealed that Mack truly does not believe that God is loving, or can be trusted at all. How could He let his daughter suffer and die like she did? But when he is asked to sit in the seat of judgment, a beautiful ebony desk and chair, he begins to understand God's love for His children as he's asked to choose only two of his to spend eternity with God. He refuses, but the judge is relentless in demanding that Mack act as judge. Finally, Mack begs to be the one to be sent to hell and tortured eternally, and the judge responds, "Now you sound like Jesus. You have judged well, Mackenzie.....you have judged them worthy of love, even if it cost you everything. That is how Jesus loves." It was in this chapter that I was struck with a new and deeper understanding of the love of God for ME.

The other theme that is central to the book is that of redemption through pain and tragedy. It is depicted by a garden in which eventually, the body of Missy is buried. The garden represents Mack's soul and out of the resting spot grows the Tree of Life communicating that the most painful things of life can be true places of beauty because of the intimacy with God that grows, and the comfort we receive from Him. This was Robert's favorite part of the book.

This book is being hailed by some, namely Eugene Peterson (author of The Message), as a modern day Pilgrim's Progress. That may sound blasphemous to you as well. I don't tend to enjoy modern day renditions of classics, either. But, this time I pushed through my apprehension and cringing over imperfect parallels, and gleaned a pure message of true love and a deeper understanding of what I believe is God's true character, not the one I've created and work tirelessly and unnecessarily to please.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Book Review Round-Up: Same Kind of Different As Me

I think I meant to post a review once a month when I originally posted the review on Omnivore's Dilemma, but alas, that has not happened! (Recipes and menus will probably reappear, too - we just haven't been home much this summer) I have enjoyed several books this year, though, and wanted to share them with you!
My friend Karla gave me this book, by Ron Hall, Denver Moore with Lynne Vincent in January and said it was "profound." She was right. In a back and forth style, the chapters alternatively tell the life stories of two very different men - one a privileged Texas frat boy turned high end art dealer and his sorority wife; the other a modern day slave on a cotton farm in Louisiana - "enslaved" because he is never able to work off his debt to the owner. One can't not wear Armani suits, the other can't read. Their paths cross at a homeless shelter in Ft. Worth, TX. Ron Hall has only arrived there at the urging of his recently faith- filled wife, Debbie, who wants to do something besides shop with Dallas socialites. Debbie's life has been completely transformed by Christ, even though, at first, she was more reluctant about conversion than her husband. They meet Denver Moore at their weekly appointment to serve meals at the downtown homeless shelter. As Denver is the most distant and seemingly bitter of all the homeless, Debbie is especially drawn to him and urges her husband to be his friend. Though Ron remains somewhat reluctant regarding this new passion of his wife, what follows is true friendship - not the "catch and release" kind that Denver has so often witnessed through the years at the shelter. Sadly, part of their bond is through watching Debbie's life end after a painful battle with cancer. This book will make you rethink your feelings toward the homeless, inspire you to the transforming power of authentic relationships, and encourage you to not only glorify Christ in life, but also in death.

Ok - I'm going to go ahead and post this even though it was my intention to review all 5 books completed to date. More to come, today, tomorrow.....we'll see.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Switzerland!

Well, first let me introduce you to the reason we were in Switzerland to begin with. This is Romy and Matt Backus. Romy is from Switzerland, but was a student at Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts and a big part of our church while she was studying there. She is married to Matthew Backus, who is from Buffalo, NY, but works on staff at an international school in Zuricha as part of the IT team. They met at another international school in Switzerland where they both found themselves working for a summer. Here we are at their beautiful apartment having one of several amazing dinners Romy provided for us. This is the day we arrived after touring all of Zurich as a way to keep the jet lag at bay. First things first......straight to Starbucks. We paid about $14 (that's 14 Swiss Francs as well) for these iced coffees! They would be our last, though. The Swiss don't really "do" iced coffee or iced anything for that matter, so from here on out we would acclimate to the culture and drink hot espressos at least once a day!
As another afternoon treat Romy took us to Zurich's famous Sprungli's chocolate shop.
These are called Luxemburgerli - like little meringue hamburger buns with cream filling. They were melt in your mouth delicious and the best part.....they were gluten free!
We also bought a small bag of truffles and as soon as we found a good place to sit down on the waterfront, they almost completely disappeared.
Here Romy is demonstrating the availability of fresh cold drinking water from fountains! They were in every town we visited - some very simple and some very ornate - but always flowing with refreshing water.
Zurich's Grossmunster, or Great Minster - a beautiful cathedral, said to have been founded by Charlemagne on the graves of martyrs Felix and Regula, where Ulrich Zwingli preached during the time of the Reformation. This trip felt like a history field trip perfectly timed with our completion of the study of the Reformation, Renaissance, and Middle Ages in history class this year!
View of Zurich from the tower of the Grossmunster. This would be the first of many stair climbing journeys up to the top of cathedral towers. Literally hundreds of stairs.
It was Euro Cup Championship time, and I have to say it was like the American Superbowl times 100. Everywhere you looked were flags representing countries, t-shirts, trading cards, chocolate soccer ball truffles, and these gigantic paper mache soccer players in the Zurich train station. They represented an actual player on each European team - truly amazing.
On our second day we traveled to Bern, the capitol, where Romy is from. This is the tympanum of the Munster St. Vinzenz. It depicts the Judgment, with the saved on the left side and the damned on the right. In the arches above are the prophets and disciples. Below were images of Justice, and the Wise and Foolish Virgins.
Side view of the Munster St. Vinzenz - impossible to get a photo of an entire cathedral - they are so massive.
From 1191 to 1250 this clock tower was the western gate of the city and later used as a prison. It's chimes begin at 4 minutes to the hour.
An example of one of the very old and ornate fountains. On top is Samson and a lion.
On our third day we traveled to Geneva - about a 3 hour train trip. As you approach the city, you see nothing but vineyards lining the hillsides surrounding Lake Geneva - really beautiful. Geneva is in the far west French speaking part of Switzerland. In the eastern parts, German, or rather Swiss German is spoken. Robert and I speak neither language, but I have to say that French is at least a bit recognizable! German seems impossible. Thankfully, most people spoke English as well. (That makes 3 languages that many Swiss natives are able to speak!)
Robert as John Calvin. :)
The Museum of the Reformation is located in Geneva as well as the John (Really "Jean." Did you know he was French?) Calvin museum. We only had time for the Reformation one - and it was very nice. In one room, a fancy dining table was set for a group of men who were influential thinkers during the time. As they spoke (on your audio tour device) a spotlight illuminated their plate. It was a heated discussion on the finer points of Theology.
This is the famous Jet d'Eau in Lake Geneva - complete with another symbol of Euro Cup Fever - a giant inflatable soccer ball. This is the largest fountain in the world - spraying at over 100 meters high.
A view of Lake Geneva from the Cathedral St. Pierre.
More climbing of cathedral stairs!
In Geneva's Parc de Bastions is a monument to the Reformation and the Reformation Wall. Here Robert poses with reformers Guillaume Farel, Jean Calvin, Theodore de Beze, and John Knox.
Day four took us to two small medieval towns called Stein am Rhein and Rheinfall. I think these were our favorite towns - buildings in the half timber medieval style, every building facade painted with frescoes depicting the history of the area, bright flowers , window boxes and fountains everywhere and located on the Rhine River close to the border with Germany. (Switzerland borders Germany, Austria, Italy, and France)
Afternoon espresso and chocolate at one of many sidewalk cafes - so wonderful, and the absolute best coffee I've ever had!
The waterfall in Rheinfall - the largest falls in Europe.
And the day we were all anticipating! The wedding was truly beautiful - ceremony outdoors under a tent, hors d'oeurves in an ancient wine cellar, and dinner and dancing in yet another beautiful and grand hall. Guests arrived all through the week and everyone enjoyed each other's company in the festivities leading up to the big day - a hike, an afternoon barbeque and dinner out. We were so blessed to have this wonderful vacation and to be a part of Romy and Matt's special day. We miss them already and wish them God's richest blessings in their marriage!
Thanks, Romy and Matt, for making it such a special time for us!

For the rest of the photos - and more history/scenery, etc. go to my Flickr page!