Missing Dad

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I got the call. Dad had been taken to the hospital, and it didn’t look good. As I raced to Sharp Hospital, this song by Chris Tomlin came to mind.

I Will Rise

There’s a peace I’ve come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There’s an anchor for my soul
I can say “It is well”

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

Chorus:
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

There’s a day that’s drawing near
When this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

Chorus:
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

And I hear the voice of many angels sing,
“Worthy is the Lamb”
And I hear the cry of every longing heart,
“Worthy is the Lamb”
[2x]

Chorus:
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

I was alternately singing and crying and trying to wipe my eyes so I could still see to drive. When I arrived at the hospital, I walked into the waiting room. Deborah said, through tears, “Dad’s dead.”

Time seemed to stop as I tried to process this shocking news. There is just no way to process such a thing. Even though we knew that, due to MSA, his time with us was limited, I could scarcely believe it was over. Done. Final. I’d just seen him a few days before. Surely there was some mistake.

But no. It was true and the only way forward was through the confusion and pain.

While my heart aches and I don’t think I will ever fully “get over it”, I am immensely comforted by the fact that Jesus conquered death on the cross and because of that, my dad LIVES. He has no more sorrow, no more pain. He is worshiping the king right now….singing “Worthy is the Lamb”. And I will see my dad again when my time on earth is done.

Jesus Christ is the anchor for my soul. I can say, “It is well!”

Dad in his studio with Nate, 2004

Dad in his studio with Nate, 2004

Dad in his studio, December 2012

Dad in his studio, December 2012

Headstone

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Soap making – Vegan soap

I learned to make soap back in 1999. I’ve always been interested in DIY, homesteading stuff, forgotten skills, the way Laura Ingalls would have have done it. Unfortunately for me, I had a difficult time locating others who shared my interests and folks further along on the journey who could help me or answer questions. Books were my friends, as always; but sometimes you just need to Checking the temperatureSEE something to “get it”. This was before the current age of the awesome Internet and my good friend Google.

Fortunately for me, during the few years before Y2K, there was a fair bit of concern about the possibility of societal collapse, and the result was an increased interest in preparedness, DIY and fundamental survival skills. I suddenly found it easier to find information on some of the things I wanted to learn… including soap making.

I made an amazing batch of soap totally by hand, and the resulting 50 bars lasted our family close to a year. Due to various obstacles, it was about ten years before I made my second batch: Stirring by hand took a long time; also, I had a lot of little people who I was responsible for, and it did not feel realistic to me to work with lye when I couldn’t really banish my kids from the kitchen for the hours it took to get the soap to saponify.

As time went on, my desire to make soap again increased, in part because my skin became more and more sensitive to commercially produced soaps. I tried so many different brands, only to have my skin itch constantly. I decided to purchase a stick blender to make the soap making process go more quickly. That’s the best $40 I ever spent.

I gathered all the ingredients needed and made my batch of soap. The first time I used it, the skin irritation and itching was gone. I’m sold. I now make all our family’s soap. The process is simple and easy. With the use of a stick blender it hardly takes any time at all to mix; though there is a time delay between when the lye is prepped and when it is ready to mix with the rest of the ingredients.

LyeFirst off, let me say that lye (sodium hydroxide) is ESSENTIAL to soap. There is no way to make soap without it. Some folks have expressed a worry that this is so caustic that it cannot possibly be soothing for skin. However, there is no soap without lye. The lye becomes neutralized when it is mixed with oils and allowed to “cure”. Glycerine soap is still made with lye. “Soap base” that is sold at craft stores is made with lye. Lye IS caustic, but it can be safely handled with a few basic precautions.

When handling lye only use glass, stainless steel, wood and silicone. Wear gloves, eye protection and a Protective gearface mask (or just avoid breathing in the fumes). I use latex gloves. and cheapo eye protection from Harbor Freight.

Keep a jug of white vinegar near by. It neutralizes the lye if it should happen to splash on skin in spite of precautions.

Soap making is a precision event. All ingredients should be weighed out for best results.

I recommend a scale that can weigh in grams as well as ounces, if you are going to make soap with any frequency. Many recipes are written with weights in grams. I use this scale.

The first thing to do is measure out 32 oz of distilled water in a heat proof jar that is at least 5 cups capacity. I use a half-gallon mason jar like this. Next weigh out 10.75 oz of lye. I like to use something easy to pour from to weigh out the lye. A small glass measure works well. Place the glass jar of distilled water in the sink and slowly add the lye crystals to the distilled water while stirring constantly with a wooden spoon dedicated to this task. Stop stirring when the lye has completely dissolved. The lye will heat the water to well over 200°F. Cap the jar and carefully remove it to a place where it will not be disturbed as it cools. Don’t place the jar directly on a cold surface; put a towel or pot holder under it. Cooling may take a few hours. Don’t rush it. (I learned this lesson the hard way.) Every time I stir the lye or take its temperature, I very thoroughly rinse any utensil that has touched the lye to avoid the possible contamination of nearby surfaces, or accidentally getting lye on my skin.

Now get your mold ready for your soap. There are many options for soap molds. The one that has been easiest and cheapest for me is to use a cardboard box lined with a plastic trash bag. For this recipe which makes 7 lbs, a box approximately 15″ x 10″ is good. It can be a little bigger either dimension. I’m not super fussy about the exact size of my bars, so I use whatever box I have on hand, and am totally OK with my bars of soap being a slightly different size each batch.

When the mold has been prepared and the lye has cooled to about 120°F, it is time to weigh out the oils that you will use in the soap, as well as gather and measure out any fragrances, colors, herbs, or other additives (such as oatmeal, bentonite clay, essentials oils) that you want to use.2014-08-dsc_3782

For this recipe, measure out 44 oz olive oil, 24 oz palm oil and 17 oz coconut oil. As each oil is measured, add it to a stainless steel pot. Place on stove top and on a very low heat, melt oils together and bring to around 100°F.

At this point, you need a good thermometer. I love this one. Actually, using two thermometers makes the whole process easier. You need to check the temp of the lye solution and the blend of oils, and bring them both to 98°F. This is simple in concept but is slightly tricky to do. If either item is too warm, you must wait for it to cool. If it is too cool, place the oils back on the stove for a few SECONDS only. Put the jar of lye water in a sink of warm water for a minute or so.

Once both solutions are at 98°F, you want to get your protective gear back on and slowly pour the lye mixture into the oils stirring constantly with a spoon dedicated to the task. (I use the same wooden spoon that I used for mixing the lye solution.) Once combined, pull out your handy stick blender and start blending. IF you don’t have a stick blender, you can just stir and stir and stir and stir and stir and stir for up to a few hours until the saponification process is complete. I highly recommend the stick blender, which shortens the process from several hours to just a few minutes. You need to blend for about 30 seconds, then stir for 10, then blend for another 10, then stir for 10 or so until the soap “traces”. This is something that is difficult to describe, and was hard for me, as a brand new soapmaker, to identify when I saw it. I’ve included a video which, I hope, makes it clear enough to “see”.

I’ll attempt to describe this process. You want your mixture of lye and oils to thicken slightly to the texture of soft set pudding. The “tracing” describes what it looks like if you take a spoon full of the mixture from the pot, drizzle it back down onto what remains in the pot, and you can see that line briefly before it disappears back into the rest of the soap. It really will be noticeable as a line for at least 5 seconds. You will KNOW when you see it. At this point, quickly add any fragrances, essential oils, herbs, or other mix-ins and stir gently but thoroughly.

Soap moldPour the soap into the prepared mold. Cover the soap with plastic wrap, or rest a piece of cardboard across the top of the box. (The point is to keep drafts away.) Wrap the whole mold in a few towels or an old blanket to insulate the soap. You want to keep the temperature of the soap as steady as possible for the next 24 – 48 hours.

After the 24 – 48 hour setting time is up, the soap should be firm. Don gloves and empty your soap onto a clean, flat surface. I use a cutting board. Peel the plastic bag liner off of the soap. Cut the soap into the size bar that you prefer. You can use a ruler and knife to make exact bars or just do like me and wing it.

Gently separate the bars of soap. They are not fully cured and are still a bit soft. Place, on edge, on a clean surface with good air circulation. I use a piece of plywood covered with plastic wrap. Store this in an out-of-the-way place for 3 – 4 weeks until the bars have hardened. At this point, they are ready to use.

Up until the curing time has been achieved, there is still the possibility of the lye in the soap being harsh on the skin. Thus the need for wearing gloves or for washing thoroughly if skin comes in contact with the freshly made soap. After about 2 – 3 weeks of curing, this is no longer an issue. The bars continue to harden as they age.

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Scripture Memorization Made Easy

For years I’ve been memorizing Bible verses. My parents set goals for us and worked with us to memorize. My grandparents offered incentives for Scripture memorization. My uncle offered a camping trip to us if we memorized Psalm 22. And then there was Awana. And being the highly competitive individual that I am, I worked hard to achieve and memorize more scripture verses (sections in Awana speak) than anyone else… particularly more than my rival, Donovan Grey!

Fast forward a few years and I want to get my kids memorizing. I try incentives, goals and Awana. Trouble is, all of that takes a lot of effort. I have to come up with ways to help the kids memorize. Techniques to incentivize them. Rewards that don’t cost a fortune, and appeal to a wide variety of ages. Then I have to record the scripture passage for the non-readers, or read it regularly, or print it up and post it around the house, etc. All of this takes time and is easily derailed by the common disruptions of life in a big family.

And every time I got derailed, I felt guilty… like I was failing to do my part to train up my children in the way that they should go.

I kept searching for an answer to these problems.

A family in our homeschool group began to host a “hymn sing” in their home once a month. Our kids were keen to attend. We shared a meal and sang together. They loved meeting up with all their friends. It was a fun together time. A part of the evening was scripture recitation by any individual or family who cared to participate. We did a few times, but it was hard to get everyone reciting together, hard to get everyone to memorize an entire passage… and let’s face it, the ones for whom it was most difficult were Don and me.

We needed a better way. I kept searching. And God used my mom and dad to direct me to a solution. As my dad’s disease (Multiple System Atrophy – MSA) progressed, he was unable to turn the pages of his Bible. He began using a Bible app on his phone to read to him. The app they used and loved is YouVersion. I checked it out and downloaded it.

We began listening at breakfast. I selected a passage and we listened through the passage once per day. Within a few weeks, even the youngest children were quoting portions of our selected passage. Within a month or so, all have memorized it perfectly. Since they were listening to the same words all together read by the same voice, with the same inflections every time, they all learned the same phrasing and had the same timing. This made for great ability to recite together.

This has been an answer to prayer and has enabled us to more effectively hide God’s word in our hearts.

So far, we have memorized Psalms 1, 19, 22, and 23, and I Corinthians 13. James 1 is in progress.

I trust that God’s word will not return void, but will accomplish that which he pleases, and will prosper in the thing whereto he sent it (Isaiah 55:11).

Have you ever tried this or any similar method to memorize Scripture as a family? What has (or hasn’t) worked for you?

May God richly bless you and your family as you hide His word in your hearts!

 

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The BEST Mexican Rice – gluten free

Grilled pork chop, salad, mexican rice

I grew up in San Diego. I was spoiled by ready access to some of the best Mexican food north of the border. About every third block sports a Mexican food shop. Alberto’s, Adelberto’s, Roberto’s, Marietta’s, Mariachi’s, etc. The rice at these shops is yummy. It varies slightly from place to place, but is light, fluffy, flavorful and addicting!

I decided that I needed to learn how to make this delicious food for myself.

I asked one of my dearest friends, Google, to tell me how to make “red rice like taco shops in San Diego”. This yielded a LOT of hits. I looked through many recipes and selected a few that looked promising. Then I started trying recipes and making my own modifications.

This recipe is the end result of my trials. It is gluten free, which is an important consideration in our family. It’s delicious. So amazing that I have never tired of it. I’ve received many requests for the recipe as it seems that everyone who tries it shares my love.

For my mega family, I quadruple this recipe. That works nicely because then I can just use one 15-ounce can of tomato sauce (close enough to two cups to suit my cooking style) and one quart of chicken broth (either homemade or one of the aseptic boxes).

It keeps and reheats well, so even if you don’t have a mega family, I suggest up sizing this recipe for yummy leftovers. Sometimes I turn it into a main dish by adding sausage, chicken or beef.

Mexican Rice
Mexican rice ingredients3 T vegetable oil (canola or lard)
1 cup uncooked long grain rice (I use Calrose)
1 tsp garlic salt
½ tsp ground cumin
1 T dried minced onion
½ cup tomato sauce
2 cups chicken broth (I use homemade)

 

Rice, puffed and goldenHeat oil/lard in saucepan over medium heat and add rice. Cook, stirring constantly, until rice is puffed and golden.

Stirring in the tomato sauceWhile rice is cooking, sprinkle with garlic salt and cumin. Stir in minced onion, tomato sauce and broth. (Watch out, there will be lots of steam and spitting from the pot).

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Rice might look a bit wet at first, but the liquid will be absorbed as it sits.Mexican rice

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How I got my husband to work around the house, give me awesome gifts, bring me flowers and do other sweet things

Get ready for it….

Just tell him exactly what you want and ask him to do it.

He doesn’t know if you don’t tell him. He is not a mind reader.

Okay, so I realize this is not always the solution. But, I spent way too many birthdays and other special days feeling sorry for myself because my husband hadn’t done anything “special” for me before I finally (dope slap) realized he was all too happy to please me every way he could — he was just clueless about what would actually make me feel appreciated. Then he would get stuck. Not wanting to make a wrong choice and therefore defaulting to nothing.

So, I started telling him. Not just in passing. I would email him. Or text him. Or send him an amazon.com link. Or post a list prominently on the refrigerator of gift ideas and outing ideas that appealed to me. I made sure to state specifics of my preferences. “I like daffodils” Daffodils. Public domain image.is better than “bring me flowers” (unless you just love ALL flowers). Include clothing sizes and color preferences if applicable. Point being, he WILL forget the exact details. But if I provide a written version he can refer back to, he will remember that there is a special day and make an effort by referring to my suggestions.

I, in turn, heap on the gratitude when he makes an effort. Oh how he loves me.

This same technique is effective when I’m experiencing emotional trauma or frustration. In his uncertainty over how to handle his emotionally fragile wife, he may revert to offering advice. Often that’s not what I need. So I tell him. I just need a hug. Or “will you please research this and let me know what you find”.

Specific. Specific. Specific. And he responds beautifully.

And I’m amazed that it can be so simple.

And shocked at how long it took me to figure it out.

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