Friday, May 31, 2013

Leche Asada ~ Flan

Soon after we started sponsoring a child through Compassion International, we had a potluck at our church where the meal consisted of dishes representing our children's countries.  Variations of flan can be found all over Latin American, and it turns out the recipe we chose ended up tasting very much like Greg remembered from his childhood in Romania.  He's been pestering me to make it for weeks, and his birthday was the perfect opportunity to indulge him.

1 (14 oz) can of sweetened, condensed milk
1 (12 oz) can of evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 eggs, beaten 
Mix the condensed milk, evaporated milk, 1/2 cup of sugar, vanilla, and eggs.

In a saucepan heat 1/2 cup sugar over med-high, stirring constantly until it becomes syrupy and slightly tan.

Pour the caramel in a glass baking dish (8x8x2 or similar) and pour the milk mixture on top.  (We used an 8 x 3 round white casserole inside a larger square casserole and cooked it 20 minutes longer.)

Place the dish with the milk mixture inside a larger glass dish.  Fill the larger pan with hot water to come halfway up the sides of the inner baking dish. Cover everything with aluminum foil. Cook in a 400-degree oven for 45 minutes or until the custard is completely cooked.

Cool a short time, run a knife around the edge, place serving dish on top, and flipping the entire deal so flan falls into serving dish.  Serve slightly chilled. 

(I was just looking back at recipes I've posted in the past and found out I already did this one before!  Oh, well.  That one didn't have pictures!)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Star Trek Catan

Star Trek Catan plays almost exactly like Settlers, and we enjoyed the change of theme.  The only criticism we have is that with three players, it's easy for one to gain a strong advantage in resources by being first to claim a starting area red would have occupied.  We have a couple of "fixes" in mind and have tried one of them, but I look forward to playing in a game with four people.

Greg won both games we played!  I guess he picked the right birthday gift!  ;-)

Greg's 38!

Greg's birthday occasionally lands on Memorial Day, and this was one of those years!  We joked about how it was his birthday "weekend," with having Monday off: heaps of extra attention three whole days!  For his main gift, he picked out a Star Trek version of Settlers of Catan.  I'd already ordered him a Star Trek t-shirt and Enterprise pizza cutter.  It's funny, because we're not big Trekkie fans.  I mean, we have fond memories of watching the older shows as kids and have carefully selected a few to watch with Kylen, but that's about it.  Quite a coincidence!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Inspirational Quotes

There were a few quotes in the June edition of Guideposts that stood out to me more than usual:

"If you want your kids to listen to you, don't yell at them.  Whisper.  Make them lean in.  My kids taught me that.  And I do it with adults now."  ~chef Mario Batali

Reminded me of the story in the Bible when God spoke in a still small voice:

"And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice." ~KJV I Kings 19:11, 12

"Behold the turtle.  He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out."  ~Shirley Thiessen


"Only God can turn a mess into a message, a test into a testimony."  ~Joyce Meyer

Ain't that the truth!

May Update

I participated in my first women's group Bible study through our co-op.  It had been going on all year, but I didn't join until the last trimester.  We met an hour before classes, while the older children played games and the younger children watched a cartoon.  It was a fantastic experience, the first time I've done a women's study that truly clicked with me.  I was sad to learn that the author didn't make any for co-ed groups, and her work isn't published.  We were using printouts from our own homes from images that had been scanned.  When co-op starts in the fall, we'll finish the last of them, taking us through part of the second trimester.  After that . . . ?  I hope the Lord will bring us something just as good, because after this, it will be hard to accept anything of lesser quality!

We've been trying a new church for a few months, the same church that hosts our co-op.  Our attendance has been sporadic due to my recent health issues and an occasional need for a quiet weekend.  It should be better now that co-op is over and we won't have two busy days in a row.  So far, we feel pretty good about continuing there.  We joined a mission team that will be traveling to Belize in January.  I've had a strong interest in missions for many years, and this seemed like a good opportunity to learn more.  We won't actually be going on the trip, but perhaps next time we'll be able to contribute more of our own ideas and at some point go!

The yearbook for our co-op is done and ordered.  That was a huge project, and I am extremely grateful to Greg for pitching in and helping, especially with some of the mundane work and technical aspects.  Once I designed the pages, it was paste, resize, photo edit over and over and over.  It ended up being around 90 pages, including spreads with all the classes, individual student shots, field trips and activities, a couple of candid pages, and family pictures.  We're satisfied with the finished product and glad to be over the learning curve.  Next year, it should be easier!

We finished our last school subject a week ago.  Yay!  We're in no hurry to begin summer studies, so the next few weeks should be pretty low key.  I just found out that God's World News arrives every month except December and May, so we'll continue to enjoy that.  Kylen should be starting violin lessons soon, I'll keep reading aloud, and we might study the states.  He works on his stories often, but it's all on his laptop.  I'm thinking of having him journal, maybe with suggested topics so he can get more physical writing in.  We're also planning to sign him up for a basketball camp.

My Health
I'm doing much better mentally.  For nearly 6 weeks, I felt like I was living in a nightmare.  I kept up my daily routine out of sheer desperation to distract my mind but was incapable of giving to others in any way - no desire to show compassion, write, blog, leave the house, get together with people, or do anything fun or creative because I was mentally drained by constant misery.  I suffered the most when relaxing, so activities I usually love such as spending time on the computer, reading, riding in the car, watching a movie with the boys - became something to dread.  Back when my health was worse, as long as I wasn't moving, my primary symptom (arthritis) wasn't noticeable.  Of course, we can't live without moving, but at least I could get breaks.  When breathing is the problem, you don't get a reprieve.  Thank the Lord, the incessant message to my brain abruptly stopped by the sixth week.  My occasional deep breaths are more automatic, and I'm definitely yawning less.  I praise God and am thankful for everyone's prayers, because I had just about reached my limit!  I know there is a good reason for what I went through.  I'm still working on figuring out what's going on and appreciate prayers, but at least I have my zest for life back again!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

LEGO Chess Set

Kylen wanted to make a LEGO chess set, including the playing pieces.  He came up with a design, figured out how many bricks he'd need, and had Greg order them.  They finished building it the same day the order arrived and even played a few games.  I think it turned out pretty cool!


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Risk Legacy: Game 4

I'm finally doing a post from my brother's stay two weeks ago!  Game 3 resulted in changes during set up, which we got to experience in game 4.  We now take turns picking from several options to gain an advantage in one area while losing the advantage in another.  Kylen and I made our clan choice top priority, Ryan started with extra cards he could turn in for men, and Greg wanted first pick at his starting location.  He was last, but picking his starting location first gave him way more of an advantage than any of us imagined.  He dominated most of the game, having begun in Australia where he got an extra man above the bonus (from having named the continent in a previous game).  It's the easiest area to hold, which left him plenty of men to expand and conquer.  For his reward, he chose to name a major city "Guinea Pig Island" in his beloved Land Dad-Under.  The rest of us could only upgrade a territory.

We opened TWO envelopes!  Both had a LOT to digest, so we'll be going through them at the beginning of the next game.  The most exciting discovery was a new clan!  We decided to take a break on Ryan's next visit and play a round of Settlers of America, but game 5 of Risk Legacy should prove very interesting.  =)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Mother's Day

My Mother's Day gift each year is for the boys to do yard work and plant flowers in the front, mostly petunias.  Between inclement weather and lack of time, it usually gets delayed several weeks.  This year though, Saturday was perfect.  We spent the morning purchasing flowers and hanging baskets for the porch.  The boys helped weed, Greg assisted with planting, and we all got plenty of fresh air and sunshine . . . just in the nick of time!  The weather turned muggy and overcast the very next day, but when summer returns, our yard will be ready!

The church we've been attending hosted a special bell choir from a Bible college.  It was an interesting experience!  I couldn't see very well from where I was sitting and hoped to get a closer look at their set up, but they were almost finished packing by the time I reached the front.  One of the musicians noticed my curiosity and was kind enough to chat with me.  I was surprised to hear that many of the students learned everything this year, some even how to sing!  That's pretty impressive considering how well they performed!

Afterwards, we went to the same brunch buffet at the Coeur d'Alene Resort that we visited for Valentine's Day.  We appreciated being seated next to the windows again!  The weather was fairly humid and warm, so we didn't feel like carrying our full bellies far, but we did manage to make our way along the boardwalk until the bridge.  I took a few pictures, we drove home and called our parents, and I opened cards from my sweet boys.  It was a happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Settlers of America

I am still struggling with my breathing issue, though there might be a slight improvement.  I've begun asking folks to pray again.  This is something I REALLY don't want to live with the remainder of my life!  In the meantime, I'm trying to keep everything as calm as possible, mostly staying home, and not having people over (other than my brother!).  During one of my worst weeks, we played a LOT of games to help distract my mind.  One of those was Settlers of America, and what a fun game!  There are plenty of similarities to the original Settlers, but we were surprised by all the differences.  It was a LONG game, which made it even more awesome that Kylen won!  Somehow, he did extremely well in resources and held that advantage the whole way through.  Greg and I were struggling just to keep up!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Prayer Works! Update On My Breathing

First, I want to express how grateful I am to all the friends and relatives who prayed for me.  It is very rare for me to be that discouraged from symptoms related to my illness.  Beside here and those who talked to me on the phone, I also asked for prayer at an online homeschool forum for moms and at co-op last Monday.

Beginning Tuesday, I have seen some improvement each day.  My breathing isn't normal yet, but it is livable.  I can talk well instead of needing to just say a few words before I take a breath.  I yawn and take deep breaths much less often, and my lip is almost completely healed.  I am praising God for the improvements and lessons learned through the experience.  :-)

I saw my autoimmune disease doctor yesterday.  The good news is that it seems unlikely this is a problem with my lungs or heart, since it isn't making me tired when I get up and go about my usual daily routine.  The bad news is that it's not a normal reaction to anxiety.  Confirming my research, breathing problems related to an anxiety attack usually resolve themselves quickly once the person is calm.  No matter how calm I was, it didn't seem to make any difference.  The anti-anxiety pills I took a couple times made me very calm but didn't improve my breathing either.

I will be getting my 6-month blood work done soon, and they have added the thyroid.  Thyroid abnormalities can cause anxiety problems.  I am also moving up a breathing test I already had scheduled to early rather than late June.  For now, I won't be taking anything for anxiety.  We will see how the blood tests turn out and see if my breathing goes completely back to normal.  If not, I may see a lung specialist.  In the meantime, I am working on handling stress better, focusing on the present instead of next year, month, week, or even next hour!  I am a planner, so it is foreign for me not to be thinking ahead all the time.

One thing that surprised me through this ordeal is how common anxiety attacks are!  I have been surprised at how many people have told me they understand how scary it is, because they've had anxiety attacks as well.  Thank you again for all the prayers!  For now, I am releasing everyone from praying for me on this, since there are much bigger things out there to focus on.  But if you think of me, pray that my breathing will return to normal and for me to handle stress better.  Blessings!  =)