Friday, June 25, 2010

Kale, Caramelized Onions, & Pepperoni

While waiting for an iced coffee at Barnes and Noble the other day, I was perusing a Fine Cooking Magazine. It was chock full of recipes that include the very things I get from my local farm co-op each week. I ended up going through the cafe line again to purchase the magazine, because I knew it would come in so useful.

This issue had a section on many different ways to prepare lots of different GREENS - which is about all we get for the first few weeks at the farm. LOTS of kale, chard, arugula, spinach, bok choy, tatsoi, mizuna, and collards. Today I managed to finish off every last green, turnip, radish, strawberry, and head of lettuce that we picked up this week, and that makes me so happy! Oftentimes, I end up throwing things away because I can't think of anything to do with the green stuff which is really disappointing. Here's how they got used this week:

1. I boiled the turnips with potatoes and mashed them with garlic to go alongside of roasted chicken. (The turnip greens and radish greens became chicken feed.)

2.The lettuce and radishes became a tossed salad which served as a veggie side to the chicken and mashed potatoes.

3. The 2 tiny patty pan (or sunburst) squash got sliced and pan fried in a bit of butter - also as a small side dish for dinner.

4. Strawberries (the ones not eaten) got washed, placed on a cookie sheet, frozen individually, and then placed in a ziploc bag and put back in the freezer for future smoothies, baking, etc. (You'd be surprised how quickly low sprayed/fertilized strawberries go bad - like 24 hours and your eating chances are over!)

5. Garlic scapes were made into "garlic scape pesto" as suggested by the farm newsletter. It's in the freezer, too, waiting for some future gluten free pasta dish or pesto pizza!

6. And the huge bag of kale turned into this dish which I took to our weekly small group Bible study to share.

Here is that recipe which was inspired by one in that section of Fine Cooking, but you should really go grab the current issue of Fine Cooking to see the rest as well as MANY other great summer recipes.

Kale, Caramelized Onions, and Pepperoni

4 Tbsp honey
4 Tbsp cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt

16 oz kale? (I used about 1/2 of a plastic produce bag packed fairly tight with kale)
2 - 4 Tbsp olive oil
2 vidalia onions
20 thinly sliced pepperoni (I like the kind from the Whole Foods deli dept - big thin slices)

6 Tbsp butter

Directions:

1.Whisk together honey, vinegar, and salt in small bowl or jar.

2. Slice vidalia onions and saute in 4 Tbsp butter on medium heat for 20-30 minutes until translucent and light brown.

3. Remove onions from skillet. Slice pepperoni rounds in thin strips, separate and saute in same pan as onions. No need to add more oil or butter. Saute until crispy - about 10 minutes.

4. Remove pepperoni from skillet, add 2 Tbsp olive oil and saute kale in batches until wilted and dark green - just 2-4 minutes.

5. Combine kale, onions, and pepperoni in serving bowl, toss with 2 Tbsp butter. Pour honey and vinegar mixture over and toss again.

Serve, and prepare for people to be amazed that green stuff could taste so good!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pastor's Wife Perks...

Getting to see LOTS of precious new babies and their proud and happy parents in the hospital!
This week we even got to visit the Neonatal ICU where our two newest church members are hanging out until they gain a little weight. : ) Above is Robert's hand compared to Baby E's hand....so tiny!
I got to hold baby E for a whole hour while his Mama worked hard at pumping and storing some of that lifegiving nourishment!
And here is that beautiful Mama! I think Baby E is puckered up because he wants to kiss his sweet Mommy and thank her for the amazing job she's doing.
(Isn't that about the cutest thing you've ever seen?)
And now for baby L with his handsome, hardworking, and godly Daddy. He and Mama asked that we come and hold and pray for these precious twins yesterday. What a privilege. I had tears in my eyes the whole time!
And the day before, we even got to babysit the "big sis to the twins." Yep...she's not even two yet, but already has the big sister title! (Send extra prayers for this Mama and Daddy!) Actually, I did close to nothing for this sweet little girl (besides diaper duty), because my own sweet little girl kicked it into Mama gear immediately - playing with her, feeding her, pushing her in her stroller, and even reading to her and putting her down for this nap!

And this is what I've been hearing on repeat for the last two days.....

"Mommy, now I really want a little sister - even more than I did before."

Uh. Oh.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ten Years of Homeschooling - Completed! (8 More to go...)


This has been the scene in my dining room for about two weeks now. I have been writing the end-of-year reports that the local school district requires, and collecting work samples from each child to send in for approval. Supposedly, Massachusetts is one of the most highly regulated homeschool states (anyone surprised?), but I don't mind letting them know what we're up to. It also gives me a thorough and concise record of what each child accomplished each year.

This year's reports have been a bit more difficult, in that Kory just completed his 9th grade year, so I needed to begin his high school transcript. That's actually what all those papers and books are above. I spent about three days recording ALL math assignment and test grades, government quiz and project grades, Latin quiz and test grades....etc, to come up with actual number grades in each of 10 subjects. Then they had to be converted to a 4 point scale, and then averaged for an overall GPA for the year. Then all of this was entered into a form via AcademicRecords.net which keeps the information stored over the course of his four years of high school for a fee of $15 per year. There is also a section of the site which creates a student resume' for the year listing all achievements, community service, sports, clubs, seminars, conferences, etc.
I love this photo. First of all, I can't believe that 10 years ago Kory was learning to read through Saxon Phonics, and here he's reading a wonderful piece of American Literature. Also, the baseball pants he's wearing indicate that this photo was taken AFTER baseball practice (or a game) one evening, which means he is choosing to read AFTER the technical school day is over. And, you can also see that he is near the end of the book. He enjoyed this book so much that he wanted to pick it up again in the evening and find out what happens to Scout and Jem Finch after their school play and after their Dad's trial.

Kory read over 25 pieces of great American Literature this year - either in novel, short story or poetry form, and was required to write an essay on each as assigned in the Classical Conversations program we participated in this year. And this was only one of 7 courses during the semester. It was a very rigorous year for him (and me!), and I am SO proud of the excellent work he did. (Other courses were: Composition, Algebra 2, Latin 1, Physical Science, Debate, Drama, Economics, Government, and Philosophy.)

And here he is participating in one of 3 debates for his debate class. He is being cross-examined on the topic of genetically modified foods. He was on the Negative side of this debate, arguing that the U.S. should not abandon the GMO practice.
And here he is in Physical Science class working on one in a series of water property experiments. How many drops of water can we get to fit on one penny? (Special thanks to Dan M. who supplied us with many more ideas and tools for these experiments than our book even suggested!)
Cooper had a great year of school this year as well. You may remember this post in which he achieved the title of Memory Master in his Foundations class. This kid can memorize anything and in an eerily short amount of time. This is Coop working on a lesson in his Saxon Math book. He definitely has a love-hate relationship with math - and Saxon Math especially. It is a challenging curriculum in that it never drops a concept learned. You never have a set of problems in which you only perform long division, but rather, if long division is the new concept learned, you will have several practice problems in this concept area, but the rest of your 30 problems for the day will encompass many other previously learned concepts. It keeps you current, and doesn't leave much room for forgetting. Coop is great at computation, but he doesn't especially like to THINK through steps. If the answer is not attainable within a few seconds and all in his head, well then forget it! He can actually compute things MUCH faster than me, but REALLY dislikes word problems that require writing down steps. We've been working on this for about 8 years now....and we are still working on it. But give the boy a writing assignment or something to memorize, and he's 100%!
And Kayla is just a perfect combination of her brother's individual school temperaments. She loves precision, and works slowly, but accurately. She is overly concerned about misspellings , and her math exercises look like they were computer-generated - perfect alignment. She absolutely loves her Essentials of the English Language Class, diagramming sentences, and writing essays via the Institute for Excellence in writing seminar and workbook. The past few days she's been working on a Rick Riordan inspired story. She requested that we go to the library and check out mythology books. But not Greek or Roman mythology - because Rick Riordan already used THAT idea. No, she wanted African and Celtic Myths to pattern HER story after. And you know the little Mr. Paper Clip icon in Microsoft Word? The one who knocks on the computer screen to let you know how you could improve something or punctuate or spell correctly? Well, she's constantly telling me about some new grammar or punctuation rule he's taught her as she writes her story! Oh my. I think she might be ready to read Strunk and White. Maybe that could be our next read-aloud!?! (Because Mama enjoys practicing the grammar and punctuation rules, too - and could use some refreshers.) Speaking of, I absolutely relished getting down from the attic a 10th grade Grammar and Composition Curriculum curriculum I bought at a school closing last year. Looking forward to helping Kory refine his writing skills next year.
Oh, what a journey this has been. I think it is the most difficult and yet the most rewarding task upon which I have ever embarked. I have cried tears of joy over the thrill of a seeing a skill mastered (Kayla is reading!), or tears of emotion over the vibrant characters and their sagas in a classic novel (Will Faithful really die in Vanity Fair?). I have thrown pencils and books across the room in frustration (sad, but true), but I have also gotten on my knees with each child and together prayed prayers of brokenness and begged for mercy, protection, and transformation in these precious lives and hearts.

In the two years leading up to this one, because Kory was approaching high school age, Robert and I prayed together for direction concerning whether or not to continue homeschooling through high school. And to be honest, I think I was sort of hoping the answer would be to send him to public school. This homeschooling road is NOT and easy road, and I think I was hoping to be done with at least one of three! But, in very obvious ways, after each season of serious prayer on the matter, the Lord brought person after person into our path who encouraged us to continue - whether it be the young Ph.D. student at church who had been homeschooled through her high school years, and who, over coffee, enumerated the reasons she was SO thankful her mom had continued to homeschool her through high school (that would be you, Carla), or the parent who had lost the heart of their child to negative peer influence and teen culture after having their heart for so many years at home. This happened to us over and over, and the Lord's desire for us was made clear.

So, I praise the Lord for His sustaining strength these last ten years. And I praise Him for the awesome privilege it has been to know and disciple my children daily, and even moment by moment because of their nearness. I thank Him for the freedom it allows us - to teach them in the way we think is best, and what we think is important and godly.

(And the kids would praise Him for not having to awaken to an alarm, or get out of their pj's in below freezing temps, for getting to do school in front of the fire or on the trampoline, for continuing to have a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack well into their high school years, and for oftentimes traveling to Texas and visiting cousins for the whole month of January!)

Praying now for endurance and refreshed vision for the next 8 years!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ironing, Hiking, Praying, Protecting

Everyone he told thought is was a joke - that one of his Father's Day gifts was an iron. But it wasn't a joke. He loves to iron. (My clothes, too. Aren't I blessed?) If you asked him why, he would probably say something like, "It is so satisfying to bring order out of chaos in a short amount of time. You know, life can just seem so unmanageable sometimes, and ironing a shirt is a small domain to conquer - plus it's quiet and meditative." But he also enjoys a well-pressed shirt - and I have to say that I think he looks great in a button down!

Would you believe that in 18 years of marriage we have never used the dry cleaners - except for things like his suits and jackets. I think that one time for his birthday I took around 5 of his favorite shirts to the cleaners and requested "heavy starch." He liked that, too - even though he didn't get to do the ironing.

Well, in 18 years of marriage, the average cost of our irons have been somewhere around $19.99. And their average lifespan? About 2 years. The one we have now has a short in it, and you have to jiggle the cord to keep it on. So, I knew he would really enjoy having a new and more quality iron. He examines them often while in Target or Sears, dreaming of the day he might own an upscale iron of his own. Well, today was his lucky day - a brand new T-fal iron with automatic shut-off, vertical steam, the patented Easycord System, and the Ultraglide Diffusion soleplate. Truly amazing features for the reasonable price of $45. (Couldn't go for the $200 versions quite yet. Maybe after the kids are out of college???)

And of course, we had to get him a new Gap button down shirt in order to test drive the new iron.
And then, after a semi-dramatic morning at church (another post, another day), we went on a hike which has been our yearly Father's Day tradition. This one required us to drive about an hour to the southwest corner of Massachusetts to Bash Bish Falls State Park. We had come here years ago, and decided to visit again, as it boasts one of the most spectacular waterfalls in all of Massachusetts. We started with a climb to a scenic view which was beautiful. You could hear the falls below.
Then the quarter mile trek down to the falls and a drop in elevation 300 ft. Breathtaking greenery all around....
It was very steep and and slippery in places.....
And very dark and forest-y in places....
And the beautiful, delightful, surprise and reward at the bottom of the gorge is a cool and refreshing spray from the rushing falls! There are rocks to climb and places to just sit and take it all in....

We even caught a glimpse of a rainbow in the mist.....
and Kayla and Daddy found an inchworm on the trek back to the top.

It was a wonderful afternoon, and the Krum fam is truly blessed with a wonderful Daddy who wraps them all up in the protection of his godly character, his strength, and his constant and faithful prayers on our behalf.

We love you, Robert, and know that we don't even fully realize the gift that you are to our family and to our church. Thank you for humbling yourself and sacrificing yourself and your own needs and desires to make sure we are all so well taken care of. You are an incredible and faithful man.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Operation Gluten Free Graduation Cake

On Monday of last week I received a desperate bulk email from a woman on in our local Celiac Support Group. She was emailing the whole group (probably 50-75 people) to see if anyone knew of a local bakery who could make a "fancy gluten free graduation cake for about 150 people - the party is Saturday and I haven't found anyone to do it yet!" I read it to Robert, and we both agreed that I could probably help her, so I emailed her back...

Hi- I am not a professional, but I have had some gluten free cake baking/decorating experience and think I could do this for you.

She emailed back immediately and seemingly relieved, agreed to let me do it. Then I got scared! What was I thinking? I am definitely NOT a professional. I have never even taken a cake-decorating class. It's always just been me and my Martha Stewart Cake Decorating Kit and my kids' or friends' birthday cakes or Christmas cookies. This was serious, and I could potentially ruin a sweet 18 year old's graduation party!

So I got started the very next day...

I did some research on different gluten free cake recipes, and then more research on ingredients. My first thought was to use the Betty Crocker yellow cake mixes, but at about $4.50 per box, (and I was going to need 8-10) I decided I could do it cheaper by using all scratch ingredients.

I made two different versions of a gluten free yellow cake recipe I found online, and let my gluten-eating hubby do the taste-testing. The first one tasted good, but seemed too "gummy and moist." For the second one, I decreased the amount of xanthan gum, the amount of mayonnaise (yes, mayonnaise!), the amount of rice flour, and the amount of salt. Then, I increased the sugar by a little bit, and added potato starch to replace the decreased rice flour. Robert and kids agreed that this second try was very tasty and lighter - more like a "real" cake.

After figuring the approximate costs of ingredients and estimating the time it would take, I emailed this mom and told her I thought I would have to charge $175. I could hardly sleep that night, thinking this would be a deal-killer, but she called the next day to say that was just fine and "probably more reasonable than a professional bakery." Whew. But still some panic...Can I really make a cake that is worth $175????
So last Friday, AFTER visiting new parents-of-twins in the hospital and celebrating the last day of school - and BEFORE chaperoning my daughter's ballet class for nearly three hours for their dress rehearsal that evening, the afternoon and late night were spent baking eight 9x13 gluten free yellow cakes. While they were baking in shifts, I tried out a couple of icing recipes, tried to decide on colors, and figure out how I was going to assemble them. Robert was dispatched on a mission to Home Depot for a thin piece of plywood to use for the base. You know, he's oftentimes the silent partner in these endeavors of mine, and never complains. He brought home a 3x3 piece of plywood, but by then I had decided to arrange the cakes in a way that would not require such a large board, so without hesitation, he went out to the garage and magically appeared 15 minutes later with a 2x2 sheet. Perfect!

He even wrapped it with foil for me.

Of course I dreamed about cakes and icing all night and got up before 6a.m. to start working on it again. I was finished by 9a.m. and called to let the mom know that they could pick it up anytime. Their family was so busy cleaning house and getting ready for the big party and shopping for groceries, that they had to send Grandpa to pick up the cake. He and I put it in the back of his mini-van, he handed me my payment, thanked me, and drove off.

And then it was gone! It was a weird feeling. I always end up being a part of the celebration that these creations are meant for, whether it be my own kids' birthdays or the party of friends' - eating it together, taking pictures, enjoying the response of the celebrated person, but not this time. This time it went out the door and left a big clean space on my kitchen table.

It was a fun project, and they did email and say that the cake was a hit. I ended up sending some photos of it to the entire Celiac Support Group and offering my services in case anyone else was in need of something like that. We'll see!

Here's the recipe, and I have to say, it is just like a "real" full-of-gluten yellow cake.
Watch out, Betty Crocker!


Rachael's Gluten Free Graduation Cake


Cake Ingredients (X 8)

1 cup rice flour
3/4 tapioca starch
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking soda
3 tsp baking powder
4 eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp vinegar
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla


Directions: Combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt. Mix well. Cream eggs, mayonnaise, and sugar together. Add vinegar to bottom of 1 cup measuring cup and then fill with the milk. Add creamed sugar and egg mixture as well as milk and vinegar mixture to dry ingredients and beat on medium-high. Add vanilla and beat again for 3-5 minutes. Pour into a 9x13 greased cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Icing Ingredients ( X 10)

1/2 stick butter, slightly softened
1/2 block cream cheese, slightly softened
1/4 cup milk
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla


Directions: Cream together butter, cream cheese, milk and powdered sugar. Add vanilla and beat again until thoroughly combined. Add more powdered sugar or chill if icing is too thin.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Farm Fresh Smoothie for a Full Day

Is it obvious how much I love smoothies? I think I have one for breakfast at least 3 times a week. They can be so delicious and full of healthy ingredients all at the same time. Our farm share began this week, so on Tuesday I came home with strawberries, kale, radishes, turnips, spinach, lettuce, and arugula - it's mostly "rabbit food" as they say, for the first couple of weeks. Now technically, I have never made a green smoothie - as in, the color of mine has never been green, but I have been putting a lot of green stuff in my smoothies this week!

It's 9pm on a Friday night right now. Today we celebrated the last day of school by not doing any school, going to a local cafe for gluten free treats, and then visited a couple from church in the hospital who just had twins. I just got back from Kayla's ballet dress rehearsal (3 hours long!), I'm working on a big gluten free cake project that's due tomorrow (Can't wait to share it here!), while listening to the "Tim McGraw" station on Pandora (had forgotten the joy I often find in country music!) Robert is in Vermont at a rehearsal & dinner for a wedding tomorrow, the kids just finished eating pizza and watching our weekly Friday night movie, and all just walked out the door to take care of Kory's dog-sitting responsibilities in the neighborhood. Whew! It has been a full day...full week... But I still want to leave you with the ingredients to a great and "farm fresh" smoothie. Enjoy your weekend!

Farm Fresh Smoothie
(measurements are approximate - and there's lots of room for improvisation, obviously!)

1 cup strawberries
1 banana
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 inch peeled ginger root
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup fresh kale
1/2 cup fresh spinach
2 Tbsp almond butter (I gotta have protein!)

Blend all in blender and enjoy. If you freeze the banana or strawberries ahead of time, it makes for a nice cold icy smoothie. The one I made today had nothing frozen in it, and it was not quite as nice as the cold ones that have frozen fruit included.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I've Been Adopted!



Just wanted to let you know that my bloggy friend, Shirley, of Gluten Free Easily, has adopted me in her monthly "Adopt a Gluten Free Blogger" series. She wrote such a kind review of my book AND my blog on her blog last week. This week she is giving away one of my books to a lucky commenter.

Shirley forgot to mention in her write up that when I sent her a replacement copy of my book for her support group lending library, she sent me some fresh "homemade" honey from her own bees! It was such a treat - and it has been a blessing and fun connection to "know" her here in bloggy-land.

When she told me she had adopted me, I told her that I felt adopted a long time before she wrote this kind post. This is because she's even been known to email me privately with events I might be interested in or special thoughts and concerns prompted by something I've written. She is one kind soul - and her blog is FULL of great gluten free recipes. You should definitely stop by there and say hello!

To enter the book giveaway on Shirley's blog, click here.



A Couple of Cute Garden Helpers


Well, we finally borrowed our friend's tiller and prepared the garden for planting again this year. I think it is safe to say that we got almost NOTHING from our garden last summer. Lots of rain plus hardly any sunshine made for a not-so-good gardening year. Plus, the critters kept getting in and eating things as soon as they would spring up. I built a tower trellis for green beans and a different one for peas, and as soon as the seeds sprouted into leaves, the were gobbled down to nibs overnight!

On Monday morning after a run, gym workout, chicken-feeding-watering-egg-gathering, breakfast with the kids, and math lessons, (It was a productive morning, and I was definitely on a mission to get a lot accomplished this week!) I asked Kayla if she wanted to help me get the plants in the ground that we had purchased over the weekend. She absolutely loves being outside in the garden, and decided to bring along a little friend. Meet Mr. Izzy. He started out as Isabella, but then became father to two litters of baby bunnies while "rooming" with Kayla's other bunny Chelsea. (We were ASSURED they were both females when we bought them for Kayla's birthday last summer.) Now living in separate hutches, Mr. Izzy gets more playing time out of the hutch because he is not as wild and crazy as Chelsea is. (More crazy with each pregnancy, I think. It happens to the best of us.)
Since we had already put the garden fence up, Mr. Izzy was free to hop around freely while we did our planting. He immediately found the only shade in the garden which was under a raspberry bush. I'm not sure I would even call it a bush yet, as this looks to be the first year it will produce. My friend Christina gave me a couple from her garden a while back, and we've been anxiously waiting for them and trying to protect them from teenage boys with weed-eaters! (And husbands with riding lawn mowers.)

He left the raspberry shade to hop around and enjoy his freedom several times and even stopped by to say hello to Kayla while she was planting some squash!
It was so cute to watch him stop by for a little visit, and then hop off again for either some playtime or more rest in the shade.
They do seem to prefer winter to summer as their coats are beautifully thick, but he was definitely enjoying the wide open space of the garden on this day.
And we got all plants in but the green beans and peas.... pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, bell peppers, jalepenos, basil, carrots, daisies, zinnias, and another type of flower that I can't recall the name of. We also got some free veggie starts at our farm co-op - lettuce and stevia.

The leaves of the squash and pumpkins have already been eaten which led me to search for a remedy to the critter problem. The fence now has strips of dish rags soaked in vinegar dangling at intervals all around, and Buddy, our Golden Retriever, is about to get a haircut and have his hair sprinkled around the base of the fence - two home-remedies I discovered. We'll see....

Of course, it was all worth it to see these adorable garden helpers at work with smiles on their faces!

Note to self: Take camera back in house after capturing cute images of little girls and bunnies in the garden. Otherwise, you may end up "watering" the camera after you have done all the planting. Thankfully, it survived. This time.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Not Just a Gift.....A Treasure

(Cover photo taken by my sister, Melissa, on a coffee/tea date to the Esselon Cafe here in MA!)
You know life is good and you are loved when you are still celebrating your 40th birthday five months after the actual date! And to think...I thought it was all over after the amazing trip to NYC and the surprise gathering of friends and family in Texas.
Boy, was I wrong.
Our dear and long time friend and fellow ministry partner, Lois invited me and a handful of other ladies over to her house on Tuesday evening for a gluten free meal, chocolate dipped fruit, and pedicures. I simply thought she wanted to get a few of us together before she leaves for a majority of the summer for various mission trips. Plus, this little group of ladies hadn't all been together for this type of thing in over a year.
I was completely shocked when she brought out a gift for me and pulled a lit candle toward me to blow out after they sang "Happy Birthday." I had to ask the other ladies if they knew this was happening, because I felt like this little spontaneous party was taking away from our real purpose - eating, catching up on each others lives, and toes! But, of course, they all knew what was coming.
And by now you've certainly figured out what that gift was. A big, beautiful, heavy coffee-table-type book whose pages are filled with photos and letters from so many people who have been so dear to me over the last 40 years. Complete shock kept the tears from streaming immediately, but it didn't take long. I think it was my kids' letters that really got me, but it was also one from my dad, and the ones from young women I've had the privilege to develop friendships with through the church through the years - girls I met when they were 18 or 20, who are now in their 30's in full swing careers or having 2nd and 3rd babies. And the letters from my sisters and my brother....and....
(That is Kayla and me in Maine, sporting our matching french braids before a trip to the beach!)

I am simply overwhelmed by this gift. If you are reading and you were a part of contributing to it - thank you. You will never know just how meaningful this is to me. And thank you to Lois, who planned, tracked down friends and family to request letters, stalked me, my blog, Facebook, and Flickr account for photos to cover every aspect of my life in the last 11+ years! Thank you for adding your own photos and your beautiful touch to make it so special. I know how much work it was, and I know it was out of love and a desire to encourage.

It really is so much more than a gift. It is a treasure. A thing that I will cherish as love and affirmation from the Lord in what feels like "round two" of life. Already this treasure has given me strength and motivation to continue on in the calling He has on my life - to treasure my family, other people, my church, and above all - Him.

...that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God's mystery, that is,
Christ Himself,

in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Colossians 2:2-3