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Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

This little gem came to me from my dear friend Cristine, she brought a loaf along with the recipe to my house years ago. The funny thing is that over the years we have had to ask each other for the recipe a couple of times, it’s one of those that you will search high and low to find again. I’m happy to put it here so I know once and for all where to find it!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

1/2 c. unsalted butter
1 1/4 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 t vanilla
1 c canned pumpkin
1 3/4 c flour (I use whole wheat)
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt (or none if using salted butter)
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t ground ginger
1/3 c milk
3/4 c chocolate chips (I use mini chips and only 1/2 c)
3/4 c chopped nuts, optional

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix wet ingredients (first five) until well blended. In a separate bowl sift the dry ingredients (next six). Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients into the wet, alternating with the milk and continue until all ingredients are incorporated. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. Pour into a loaf pan and bake 50-60 minutes, or 17 minutes for muffins.

One Question

unfoldingOver the last twenty years, my guy and I have moved around the country quite a bit, changing for a new position within the company or for a new opportunity with a different corporation. At this point, we have committed to our children that we will not make any more moves until they have all finished high school, so we have a few years to breathe deeply and invest where we are.

In the past, however, whenever my guy would start to get restless and look at the next possibility within the corporate world, he would gauge my interest in a new region or even another country. I would always try to respond in the same way each time, simply asking: will you be there? Because I’m not interested in staying where we are if he’s not here with me, and I sure don’t want to go any place without him. He is my home on this earth, and together we can make it work wherever we live.

Keep Your Pantry Clean

pantryEver have the urge to clean out a closet or office, only to get in the middle of the task and feel overwhelmed by it all? The worst is when someone walks in while all the junk is out of hiding and question what you were thinking! I spent the morning cleaning out my kitchen pantry (this is not a picture of my pantry). Thankfully, nobody walked in on me, because it was a mess! I love to cook and to try new recipes that involve ingredients that I don’t use everyday. I have a pantry that is packed with various oils and spices, many that have been used only once or twice. I’m not a hoarder in any other realm, but am more likely to buy an ingredient than to even bother with looking to see if I already have it. Ridiculous, I know.  I pulled every single ingredient out, checked for expiration dates and multiples, and put everything back together again. I wasn’t terribly surprised to find three jars of turmeric and some garlic powder that expired in 2006. I even alphabetized my spices so I can quickly see if I have one or not!

Bear with me, there was a significant thought that came to me while doing this mundane task. Our marriages can be a lot like my packed pantry; full of old stuff that we hold onto for no other reason than to say we have it. Sometimes we need to take the time to pull everything out and look at it, re-evaluate it and decide if  we really want to keep it anymore. It takes hard work to get rid of the clutter of years of accumulation, and it looks the messiest, and the most hopeless, when you’ve got everything sitting out in the open. But you’re also the closest to the goal that you’ve been in years. The key is to keep at it; keep picking up every item and intentionally deciding if you need it anymore.

Those hurt feelings from a misunderstanding years ago? Maybe it’s time to address it and throw it out.

The shame of a critical spirit against your spouse? Perhaps now you’re ready to make the decision to stop it once and for all, and get rid of it.

The memories of those first weeks in your first home together? Hold onto that, place it in the front where you be be reminded often, if you want to.

You get the idea. You are in charge of your pantry, nobody else gets to decide what stays and goes. Do the work of cleaning it out, so you know what you’ve got and also what you need.

Our Teens Still Take Time Outs

super-nannyWhen our children were little, a time out was the symbol of trouble, somebody had pushed Mom past the point of understanding and they needed to take a break. Truth was that break usually as much for me as them.

These days my teens still take time outs. Some more often than others, depending on the need and their individual personalities. For example, our oldest daughter was away at college last year and every few weeks would have a strong need to come home. We would be tempted to make plans to go do fun things, but she just wanted to be home, hearing the music that plays in our house almost constantly, resting on the couch while I cooked dinner. She needed a time out from the stress of college, some home cooking and to be reminded that she is loved.
Last week out youngest daughter texted me while at school, middle of her morning and said she was struggling with friends and that maybe she should come home for the day. I picked her up at lunchtime and took her out to lunch. Just the two of us for less than an hour. We talked about school and Homecoming and plans for the evening, and a little about what was bothering her. I dropped my girl off at school in time to get back to class and she had a great afternoon. She just needed a time out for fresh air and a sandwich, and to be reminded that she is loved.

Later this week my guy is taking our son on a trip to New York City for a long weekend. He’s off to a great start on the school year that is normally known for being a stressful one, and this will be a time of refreshment and bonding with his Dad. He just needs a couple of days away in a city he’s admired for years, and to be reminded that he is loved.

In our family, a teenage time out can be a late lunch at a downtown restaurant, a quick trip to the a favorite store for a special skirt, or just a walk with the dogs through the neighborhood. The trick has been figuring out what works with whom, and making the time to do it. I love having big kids for many reasons, but one of them is because I actually enjoy their time outs these days.

 

Roof Repair

repairWhen is the best time to work on your marriage? Today. Everyday. My guy and I spend a lot of our time with couples who are in crisis. We wade through discussions about household chores, parenting and sex with people we don’t know well. We hear accusations, doubts and even pleadings for one to do more around the house, or to step it up in the bedroom. Rarely is the argument truly about those kinds of details, but it’s the place where we land because these are tangible characteristics – behaviors, that show how much someone is invested. It is then our job to try to get to the root of the problem, sometimes that root is years old and something that hasn’t been discussed ever between the two of them.

How do we avoid getting to this place? This past weekend we were at a Couples Retreat, and heard a great quote by John F Kennedy: The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining. Brilliant. I doubt Kennedy was talking about his marriage when he said this, but I think it pertains to this confusing, mysterious relationship best. So, what does roof repair look like in a marriage? Here are some of the common topics discussed when we are talking with couples in crisis, and potential ways to work on them while the sun is still shining:

Feeling like the roles and responsibilities in your marriage are out of balance? Bring it up while out running errands together. Tell the other how you feel without picking a fight. Praise your spouse for what they do well already.  Ask for what you need.

Have differences in your views on parenting? Go for a walk, probably a long walk, and talk it through, being open to compromise. Talk about how you were parented and listen to their stories, as well.  Tell the other what you long for without accusing.

Stressed about your finances? Don’t wait until you’re paying bills to mention it, sit down and iron out details over coffee. This seems to be an area that can carry a lot of shame, so tread lightly. Paint a picture of your future together without debt, inviting your spouse into the details.

Communication is difficult even in the strongest relationships; it can be awkward to talk about your hopes for your sex life while the lights are on, but you are both less likely to get hurt or defensive if you discuss it in a non-threatening setting. In our marriages, we must make the effort to talk about the little things early and often, before they get too big. This small step can help you avoid one day sitting across from a couple like us, desperately trying to cover over the hole in your roof.

 

 

 

Slow Growth

greenthumbThis year I have been growing tomatoes from seed. What this means is that I am experimenting with going from placing a tiny seed in the dirt all the way to pulling a red, ripe tomato off the vine at just the right time. Simple enough, right?  At least, that’s what I thought.

Turns out there’s a good bit of time and patience that goes into making tomatoes. And sunshine and rain. And luck and a lack of bugs.

I’m not sure why, but I love working on something while it grows. The act of placing seeds, then eventually plants, into dirt and watering them daily helps me to feel peaceful.  Searching for any new tomatoes as they start to grow always excites me, way more than even the act of finally picking the fruit and enjoying it. Over time I have noticed that there seems to be many spiritual truths in gardening:

Only with time and daily attention does real growth occur.

Plants wedged deep into the earth with layers of dirt to protect their roots produce more than those planted in shallow soil.

It is important to cut away dead areas because the plant will send all its resources to the weakest place in an effort to keep it going, and sometimes this pruning can mean cutting out something that still appears to be beautiful and life-giving.

No matter how well I water them, all my plants seem to do better when God sends a good soaking from the sky.

Practical application? For me, these guys remind me that I need to spend time in God’s word daily to experience real growth and depth, which is important when the winds come. I need to be noticing how I spend my time, and cut out anything that is not leading to growth in me or in others, and I should always be grateful for the good gifts that God gives me, so much better than what I can provide for myself.

Happy gardening to you all!

Why Don’t You Know?

handsThere was a time in my marriage when I expected my husband to read my mind. We were one flesh, right? So he must know how I feel without me needing to explain and of course he knows what I want based on my subtle hints and clues….ha! Over and over again I would get mad/frustrated/resentful because he didn’t respond the way I wanted; the right gift in the wrong color, trying to fix my problem when I just wanted him to listen, misreading my need for a hug with a desire for more.

I decided to try something truly innovative – I communicated what I wanted. I had my eye on a baker’s rack in a catalog, and an open wall in the kitchen where I wanted it to go. We couldn’t afford the piece immediately, so a few weeks before Christmas I tore out the picture, circled the color I wanted and taped it to the wall where I envisioned it sitting. You know what happened? I got exactly what I wanted!

My husband loves to give me what I want, these days I have to be careful with my words because if I like something he will try his best to get it for me. I’m not sure why I thought he should ‘just know’ what I needed, like that was the sign of a good marriage. I owe it to my guy to be honest with him when something is bothering me, instead of playing a game and then resenting him for not following my rules.

After many years our communication has improved, and our marriage has too. Maybe we’re on to something…

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