Thursday, January 29, 2009

Overheard lately

1. "Mama. Daddy." (especially in the middle of the night)
2. "Bang-kee, Ma-ma!"
3. "Mo nuhse."
4. "I-yas tuff."
5. "Bye-bye, Ella."
6. "My baby!"

These are some of Hope's favorite phrases lately. Translated:
2. "Blanket, mama!"
3. "More nurse." Imagine her persistance... she is almost weaned, but had a recent bout of stomach flu and would-not-stop asking to nurse. This well was runnin' dry, folks!
4. "Eva's stuff." Can you tell she's the second born child? A very common expression pointing to whatever is not hers for the taking (also used with "Daddy's stuff..., etc.).

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Best of 600 pics...

After much prodding, Eric sifted through all the pictures and loaded his favorites for us to view. From what I can tell, it was a terrific weekend. The guys left our house in the dark, Friday morning about 3:00. They arrived in Ely, MN on the edge of the Boundary Waters around 8:00, loaded up, used the facilities one last time, and started the trek. Here they are, trekking, with their sleds pulled behind. They wear snowshoes to stay afloat in deep snow. Although some pull your average neon sledding sled, Eric and a few others used super heavy duty sleds that they rigged up with PVC pipe harnesses. Cool.

OK, since I am not equipped to narrate these photos, we will continue with a little interview session. But be forwarned, Eric's no-nonsense attitude towards blog interviews may make this a little dry for some...

How far did you go in? Only a couple of miles. What lakes did you travel (this is a very important question to all BWCA enthusiasts)? Just Slim Lake. How deep was the snow? On the lake it was only about a foot. Other places it could be up to three or four feet, I guess.

Eric, is winter camping fun? Uh huh. Is it a lot of work? Yeah. How long did it take you to build your quinzee? Probably about an hour to pile the snow and an hour to dig it out. Maybe two hours each. How did you do it? Just piled up snow, waited for a couple hours for it set, dug out the hole. Did you really need to haul in those heavy duty shovels? Oh yeah. What else would we have done? They weren't heavy duty, they were really light. Just aluminum.

How did you decide on a good location? Ummm, Peter decided for us, I think. I mean, it was a bay that was sheltered from the wind, tucked away behind the island. So, you were actually on the lake? Yeah. Was that scary? The lake would crack at night and make big, deep noises. You could feel it in your back. Weird.
That looks like a good use of carabiners. How did you stay warm? By sleeping skin to skin with Peter (Peter is the one with the big red beard and lumberjack jacket, the one who actually lives up there. He's a taxidermist. He's serious about this survival stuff). Just kidding. He saved my life. Soooo, how did you stay warm? By working, sleeping, or sitting one foot away from the fire. Did the fire ever go out? Yeah, every night.
What are those nuggets of tin foil in the fire? Bagel sandwiches that Scott made. On a scale of to 10, how delicious were they? nine. They would've been a ten if we could've heated them to the very center without burning them.Are you experiencing an isolated rain shower in this next picture? We discovered that it was cold enough that when you threw boiling water up into the air, it just vaporized into steam and snow. (There are LOTS of pictures of this activity... must have been entertaining!)
What were the temperatures like? Well, around 0 during the day and lows around 20-30 below zero at night. Were you cold a lot? Umm, no. Why not? Because we were always busy and there was always a fire burning.
Ooooh, here you are in your quinzee going to bed. Tell me all about it! Well, I think that was us getting up. That doesn't matter. Do you want me to tell you what I was thinking when I was getting in my sleeping bag? Sure, go for it. Well, I was just nervous cause I only had a 20 degree bag. Um, so I tried to get all my clothes on that I needed without losing too much heat. But that activity actually made me kind of hot. So I spent the first minute or two with my arms outside the sleeping bag. Then what? Then the deadly cold started to set in and I realized I might be endangering my safety by not conserving my heat. So I quickly zipped up the mummy all around my head. I couldn't find my hat, even though it was somewhere in the quinzee. Was someone playing a practical joke on you? Um, no, it was dark and I didn't know where it was. Although there were a couple glow sticks in the wall and my headlamp.
In the next picture, your legs are up in the air in a cloud of snow. What were you up to? We went back country sledding with our sleds on Saturday afternoon between our late breakfast and late lunch. So we scoured the shoreline to try to find a good place where we could get a sled run of more than 10 yards without hitting a big tree or boulder. We finally found a place for a pretty good run. Did you hit a jump in this pic? Yeah, two jumps on the whole run.
Two days later, their windblown tracks remain...
All eight fellas on top of their snow hut.
Where are you guys sitting? In the caved-in top of the quinzee. How did it cave in? All eight of us stood on top of it, then decided how many times we could jump on it before it caved it. Did it take awhile? Maybe eight jumps in one spot. So it's a pretty sturdy deal, huh? Yep.

The rugged outdoorsmen (L-R): Nathan Hettick, Peter Johnson, Scott Kc...crazy spelled last name, Jason Lindquist, my handsome hubby, Bert Eikum, Luke Thompson, and Mark Brenner (taking the photo).
What was the highlight of the trip? Um, (sigh) probably our Saturday night discussion around the fire. Will you want to do this again? Probably.

Headed back to civilization.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Adventure Papa

We stayed up until 12:30 this morning putting the finishing touches on Eric's sled and packing his food. Then he was in the shower at 2:30 to get ready to go...


That's right, he is sleeping, or smoking a cigar, or playing Frisbee in the dark right now up in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. No (southern folks!), they did not go canoeing. They loaded three days worth of stuff onto souped up sleds and snowshoed a few miles to a place where they can be all alone in the woods. If a tree falls in those woods, they'll be there to hear to it :).

Actually, I have no idea what they are really doing. Maybe they got a hotel. Maybe they are stranded on a portage because some one's snowshoe binding broke. Maybe they are painting lovely yellow on white pictographs in the snow. Last I heard, 7:30 AM, the reception was choppy and they were having a spirited debate about a mystery issue. I texted after that, hoping to get a little better response, but alas I am stuck dying in suspense. Late Sunday night I will know it all, every harrowing detail of the adventure tale. But for now, we can all wait, quietly imagining what it is like to live outside when the high temperature is 0 degrees and the weatherman says there will be "strong winds likely." Whoaaaaa...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Christmas in Cambridge

One more Christmas gathering to record and share with you all. This time we were in Cambridge with my family on the second weekend of January- which is becoming a welcome tradition.

We were together for the whole weekend, playing Blokus, eating a delicious Greek themed Christmas dinner, opening gifts, debating/talking/philosophizing, playing, walking, cooking, etc.
Eva received a set of doctor tools, which she is in love with and plays with all the time.
Eric is mighty glad to have another "son" in the family now days. Jon got him a cool Wii game, that I'm sure will bring on a rousing family competition some day soon.
Jon and Erin got Dad this t-shirt that we all thought was so funny... you might have to have a little red-neck in you to see the humor-- I'm not ashamed-- , and we got a good laugh. PS)that is a rainbow trout in the frying pan ;).

The next series of pictures depicts what we call "The Road to Bethlehem." When we were growing up, we would do "the road" every Sunday afternoon during Advent. It is a progression through the Bible, telling the story of Jesus' birth. It starts with the Advent readings from Isaiah, announcing a Light to come, and ending... well, I'm not sure how it ends! It is very visual and tactile, great for little minds and hearts. Each Sunday, my mom would unroll the next section of road, give the reading, move the wooden figures represented in the story, then light a candle. Usually we would sing an applicable Christmas carol, then do an artistic response of some sort.

This year is the first time "the road" has been out in several years. Eva was mesmerized by it, and of course my premenopausal mother was in tears as the tradition continues on. Unlike years past, we did the whole road in one sitting. It was moving to see the whole plan of history unfold, revealing the Christ child, our Light. After snuffing the candles (a highly coveted responsibility in our house), we used playdoh to make an image of something meaningful to us drawn from the Advent story. Eva made a cross and a manger, my mom made a candle, I made a heart. I am excited that this tradition has been resurrected, and I look forward to introducing all the little ones to the big story of Christmas.

Sunday afternoon was bright and beautiful, so we decided to take a walk, just the ladies. I love walking near my parent's house. Every season holds beautiful scenery and colors. The sun was starting to set as we walked, illuminating the dry oak leaves with warm light.

It was crazy windy, but the girls love being outside, so they never complained a moment about the windchill! Even Hope is enamored with snow and sunshine... check out her multi-floral print outerwear... she is a true fashion statement this winter!

Don't you love the stark contrasts of the winter landscape!?!

Well, this is a little random, but I had to include it. Eva is a true girl and she adores dressing up. In her stocking this year she found the lovely purple sequined thing, which is under the lovely pink sparkly thing, which is draped with the gorgeous blue plastic beads... all of which found their way into our home from my dear mother. Let's be clear here, Eva loves these gifts!

And in case you're wondering what else she has on, there are two pair of pajamas layered under there, one head scarf (veil today), one set of bunny ears (bridal headpiece), and some feathery, glittery high heels. She got married to Hope that day, and this was her most elegant bridal ensemble.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Red Sage Quinoa Bread

A few weeks ago I described this delicious bread that my sister in law makes. Somebody asked for the recipe, and I've been wanting to try it for a while too, so here you go:

***This is a bread machine recipe, but it translates easily to a regular recipe if you know how to bake bread from scratch. The only thing that Jessica does differently perhaps, is using her own fresh ground flour and ground cayenne peppers from her garden. I don't know if that produces a significantly different product or not.***

Red Sage Quinoa Bread

"The combination of sage and quinoa results in an aromatic, earthy bread that is good with chicken dishes, including chicken soup. The soft texture of this bread also makes great rolls (truly, they are GREAT). Red sage is an herb with a bright red flower; looks like a minature version of Indian Paintbrush. It is rare and not easily available to the home cook."

1 c. dry quinoa

2 1/2 c. water ----- complete first step of prep.

1 c. water

2 T. lukewarm milk

1/2 c. whole wheat flour

3 c. bread flour

2 1/2 t. salt

3 T. dried rubbed sage

1 T. chile molindo (ground chile peppers)

2 t. active dry yeast

2 T. canola or corn oil (use olive oil???)

12 fresh sage leaves, coarsely ground (pretty sure Jessica does not use Red Sage as described above)

Place the quinoa and 2-1/2 cups water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the quinoa expands and becomes fluffy. Drain the quinoa and place in a measuring bowl. There should be about 2 cups of cook quinoa. Set aside.

Bread Machine Instructions: 1. Combine the ingredients, except the fresh sage, in the bread pan in the order specified by the manufacturers instructions. 2. Process on the sweet or raisin bread setting. 3. Add the fresh sage at the beeps. TRADITIONAL YIELD: 2 loaves or 16 rolls.

***Using my bread machine, I would layer all the wet ingredients (milk, water, cooked quinoa) first, then add all the dry ingredients (flour, etc.), followed by the oil, lastly followed by the yeast in a small hole in the middle of the dry ingredients. I'm not sure how much bread machines vary, so I would check your users manual!***

MMMMMM, Enjoy!

PS) I found a recipe for a traditional loaf here. And a reminder- try it toasted!

Monday, January 19, 2009

I Resolve...

This is a belated New Year's resolutions post. I was inspired awhile ago by this, but alas the weeks got away from me and I am only now attempting to post resolutions. I find it very, very difficult to make resolutions each year, mostly because I am paralyzed by fear of this reality: I will not accomplish all of my resolutions. I am sort of a perfectionist. But I am plagued, as most perfectionists are, but an inability to live up to my own desires/standards. As a result, I tend towards extremes... either I am relaxed about things to a fault, or embrace legalistic and life-sucking expectations for myself and everyone in my path . Whew! Now that I've bared my soul and revealed my goal setting glitches, I'll share my plan for this year.
I'm just starting to understand that in the christian life grace and personal responsibility are wound together, and we cannot completely exchange one for the other. I know that I am a sinner saved by grace, and only God's grace. But the Bible is also clear that we should be using our time wisely (Ephesians 5:15-16), which suggests some personal involvement. I hope that making some resolutions will help me to use my time more wisely. In it all though, I must remember that I am dependent on God's help to do any good. When I am leaning towards legalism or the other direction of laziness, I am not trusting God to help me! Depending on God to accomplish what He has called me to, is an overarching goal this year.
I've asked for input from Eric to assess what resolutions would be most valuable to our family, to him, and myself. These are what I've come up with, roughly listed from least important to most important.

10. Teach Eva to read. She has a perfect grasp of what reading is, knows most of her capital letters, and knows the sounds that some make. She can write her name, and is constantly asking me how to spell different words. Once or twice she's even sounded out a really short word. For some reason, I haven't given much formal attention to Eva's interest in reading, but I feel like I should seize the day since she has so much enthusiasm. However, my general "less is more" attitude remains, so if her interest wanes or reading proves difficult, I won't be disappointed. It is certainly not a critical life skill right now!

9. Communicate with other women more. I plan to start some new routines this year (more on that later, I'm sure), and within these routines I will have a time set aside for calling, emailing, or old-fashioned writing the women in my life. I am bad at maintaining friendships and pursuing other women. At the top of my list are the women in my small group at church and my family.

8. Always have a batch of Kombucha brewing. This week I unveiled my latest attempt at herbal tea kombucha, and we loved it! Correction: The girls in the house loved it. We like to drink the stuff, and I notice a slight improvement in our immune system strength when we're regularly consuming it. I don't know why I don't keep a batch brewing so there's always something to drink. It's so easy!

7. Purchase a grain mill and begin baking with fresh ground flours. I'm giving myself until the end of February to decide on and order a grain mill. After that, there will be an adjustment period while I learn how to use the thing and how my recipes respond to fresh ground flour. Also, I would really, really like to start soaking my flour before baking, but that involves majorly reworking my recipes or finding new ones. In an attempt to make achievable goals, I am baby-stepping along, starting with purchasing the mill.

6. Teach Hope to be a good sleeper. Folks, I've tried a lot of methods to help Hope be a big sleeper, and so far we've made little progress (although, I do celebrate any progress). She's not the worst sleeper ever, but she still only gets about 6-8 hours in a row at night. After the long stretch, she gets up once or twice and must see us, face to face, in order to go back to sleep. Eva was easily doing 12 hour nights by 10 months, but here we are and Hope is almost 16 months old! Eva sleeps through Hope's wakings, but the other three of us would really benefit from a good night's sleep. My goal is to make a plan that will have her sleeping well by the end of March... that's about two months away. Any of you experienced mamas out there want to lend some advice? As I said, I have tried a lot, but I am open to any suggestions!

5. Laundry!!! I used to feel good about how I do laundry. "A load a day keeps the chaos away" (thanks FLYlady), but I'm finding that it doesn't always do the trick. My new plan is to still do just 1 load per day (unless we've had company or the stomach flu or something), but insist that it get IN the dressers each day. You see, I've gotten lazy and tell myself that just having the clothes clean is a good thing. But then clean clothes sit in the family room, sometimes folded sometimes not, piling up until it is a major job to get them put away. This week, I started folding the laundry in the upstairs living room. I am much more protective of this space, making sure it is neat and tidy each night. If there was laundry sitting around upstairs, it wouldn't last long. So far, my new plan is working and we've put away up to three loads a day this week! By the way, this was Eric's #1 concern as we discussed resolutions...

4. A big goal: the Marathon. I have always admired people who follow through on things, especially when it means diligence and self-discipline over a long time. Last fall, I started feeling like I am not diligent. Worse, I never, ever accomplish something that is DONE. Laundry, dishes, cooking, raking are only done until the next time. I am frightened beyond belief to put this into print: I plan to run the Twin Cities Marathon in October. This will mean daily training, and hopefully a completed race. And it means that I really, really don't want to get pregnant until at least November. We are taking measures to ensure this accomplishment!

3. Devotions. Since about 10th grade I have struggled to have daily time reading the Bible and in prayer. 2008 was a significant improvement, but I still lack regularity and desire in this area. By God's grace, I hope to have daily devotions in the morning before the girls are up. If we have a wretched night's sleep resulting in no morning devotions, I will have to give up part of afternoon quiet time. I really enjoy my time alone with God, so I don't know why it doesn't happen each day. Here's to a new year with increased consistency.

2. "She rises early..." (proverbs 31:15). It seems to me that the main key to making most of these resolutions work, will be getting more time in my day. Believe it or not, for me rising early will mean 6:30 AM (pitiful, I know). But that is one whole hour earlier than I rise now!

1. Going to bed early. And the real key to making ALL of these resolutions work, will be getting into bed by 11:00. Good thing I am putting my hope in God, and not myself because this one will be tricky!

Well, now that I've gone public with these resolutions, I hope that you'll check in on me once in a while and see how it's going! Just letting you all in on my plan will probably help me to be more diligent. I've read some of your resolutions already, but what about the rest of you???

If you're interested, here are a few links to blog posts and articles that were helpful for me as I thought about my new resolutions-

Setting Goals that Work

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Ugly Photo Of The Week
Another blogger I know posts an UGPOW on a regular basis, giving her readers a good laugh and cultivating humility in her family...
I thought this one from our excursion yesterday deserved a public showing!

Despite appearances, she is healthy and functioning normally (at least that's what I think!).

Saturday, January 17, 2009

85 Degrees and Humid

It has been widely broad casted by my husband that I love the Summer. True indeed! However, when Eric is announcing my delight in all things hot, humid, sunny and steamy, he is the spin doctor. We both know, what he isn't announcing is that I hate the Winter. Don't get me wrong- I love winter sports. But let's be honest, during the long, cold winter, we spend a very small percentage of time doing wintry activities. At this time of year, I am just starting to think about the next few COLD months, but I guarantee by the middle of February I will be huddled under a down blanket on the couch paging through seed and bulb catalogs, imagining new green life again. I do it every year.
This predisposition must be genetic because this week, out of nowhere, Eva has started to fantasize about summer. She talks about summer all the time. She has worn her swimsuit (even under her snow pants and coat) most days this week, replacing her usual warm double undies plan. She pines for swimming, tree forts, walking to the park. She is planning every minute of the summer of 2009, now realizing that you can't take a single ray of warm sun for granted. She got me going too, and together we hatched a plan to go to a water park this weekend. So today, we travelled to the northern reaches of the Twin Cities to Tropics Water Park.
It was hot and steamy inside, and the place was jammin' with kids and grown-ups alike. We sort of felt cheated because today was a spring-like 15 degrees outside and we didn't get the experience the extreme temperature contrast. Also deflating was the fact that a person can still get chilled in a heated swimming pool. With purple lips and goosebumps, we were all a little disappointed that we wouldn't be nursing sunburns tonight. BUT, it was still fun to get out and do something different. The girls had so much fun, in fact, that they were sound asleep by 5:45 tonight. Eva went to bed with a headache and a slight fever... as if maybe she got sun stroke. Maybe not this time :).

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Crookston Christmas, III

I'm back to the Crookston Christmas recap, and the third and final installment has us celebrating at the farm. Eric's dad still lives on the family farm, a short drive from Crookston. A trip north is never complete without a visit to the farm- I love being out there. It is slow and quiet, but there is always something to do outside. It is fun to check in on the chickens, ducks, pheasants in (dramatic pause) Eva's Aviary or if it is Summer, snag a sweet treat from Sarah's Strawberry Patch. (Eric's dad has a penchant for alliterations formed from his grand children's names -smile-)

This brief visit was just an afternoon. We ate a big-time home style meal created by Eric's dad, with help from sister Jessica. If my memory serves me right, I think we ate pheasant, duck, chicken, squash, sweet potatoes, wild asparagus, rolls, garlic bread, tossed salad, spinach/bean soup, bread stuffing, pumpkin pie, and chocolate mint cookies.

I don't have pictures this year, but for some reason a highlight of the Christmastime visit is always the electric train. This was Grandpa's electric train when he was a child, which he sets up in his bedroom for the kids. They love to watch it race around the track, and I love to think about how many decades that antique train has been puffing along. Not to be morbid, but I imagine that train will certainly outlast it's owner... being a sweet reminder in decades to come.
We "opened" gifts of course. As of late, Grandpa Patenaude has a strange affection for all things sparkly, so many of the gifts were some kind of precious metal or stone. He gave a lot of the grand kids solid silver dollars from the year they were born, which is cool. He also handed out silver bracelets, necklaces, and jewel studded rings to the women. The men got hunting knives with glistening blades, as well as work coats, gloves, hats. Random gift- Eva received a Cabbage Patch doll. Gift time at the farm is always a bit of a grab bag. I guess Grandpa buys things that he thinks are special, then hands them out as the Spirit leads... often without wrapping or ribbons. The gifts reflect the giver- surprising, unusual, sometimes eccentric. They provide us with lots of funny memories and opportunities for pictures! In all honesty though, there are often many useful, thoughtful items too!
I know Grandpa Patenaude spends a lot of time dreaming and planning for our visits, because he always has some show-stopping activity up his sleeve. One year it was an elaborate, homemade carnival game complete with chintzy prize gallery. This year, it was the old Polaris Colt snowmobile pulling a train of two sleds. So fun for everyone, despite the wickedly cold weather.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Some Housekeeping

A friend actually called today to make sure we were alive and well. And it was the third time she had called. I finally called her back, and we chatted for well over an hour. I needed that. She said she really got concerned when she went to this blog and determined that I hadn't posted in weeks. Something must really be wrong! Well, we are a little off kilter around here, but it seems like things are going to get back to normal soon. In the meantime, here is a little update:
  1. it is very cold and snowy in MN. I can't help thinking that this is the perfect Nordic ski season, if only I were still coaching. But then I would be crazy and way too busy. Currently, at 3:38 pm it is -4 degrees, with a windchill of -23. This will be the high today, I'm sure. We also have about a foot of snow in the yard. The piles where we've shoveled off the porch or sidewalk are much higher.
  2. it is too cold to play outside, and the snow is too deep for little legs to walk through. Thus I sent a very rambunctious Eva outside after lunch today and watched her sit on the steps. Then she decided to take her mittens off (FOOLISH child) and eat snow. Which led to crying b/c fingers should not be exposed in this climate. She lasted about 3 minutes before she was pounding on the door to come in. After the babies were down for naps, I went outside, barefooted in my crocs and wearing no outerwear, to run with her. I forced the poor child to run up and down the sidewalk a dozen times or so. We also did spin jumps off the steps. Eva knows all about vitamin D, and tells me that we aren't getting enough of it this time of year. Amen, sista! That might explain the overall slump we're all feeling.
  3. For those of you who have asked or are curious. My fantastic white elephant gift was a brand new rotisserie oven. I cannot decide if this is a blessing or my demise, but I do plan on roasting one of Eric's dad's ducks soon. If it takes 4 hours to clean afterward, it is my demise. If we develop a taste for duck, I will celebrate.
  4. A baby is crying. I will update more later...

Monday, January 05, 2009

Other Christmas Memories

This blog is mostly so I remember. Although it's fun keeping up with the online community of bloggy moms and I enjoy sharing our life with distant friends and family, the blog is mostly my journal (and my therapy tool some days). That said, a little and inconsequential thing about this Christmas that I want to remember is: "Jingle Bells."
Christmas 2007, Eva sang the song, "Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, All the way..." (in case you missed it, she was skipping the "Jingle all the way.")
Christmas 2008, Eva is making a little more progress. "Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle all the way! Oh what fun it is to ride in a wonder hausen sleigh. Hey!" She accepts the correction, but her tongue is stuck in a rut with the strangely German sounding version. And we all laugh heartily.

Wonder in her Eyes

Eva was laying awake in bed when Eric got home from a meeting tonight. He went in to give her a hug and kiss goodnight, and was invited, in the sweetest of manipulation tactics, for a cuddle. As he lay in the dark with her, this conversation ensued:

Eva, touching her eye: What's this Daddy?
Eric: Well that's your eyelid.
Eva, still groping around her eye: No, no what's this Daddy?
Eric: Your eyebrow.
Eva, in her best schoolteacher voice: No. OK, close both your eyes and cover them. You'll see magic!
Eva, covering both her eyes, voice full of amazement: I see sparkles, Daddy!
Eva, a second later covering her eyes again: This time I see jewels!

Crookston Christmas, II

The Crookston Christmas continues with a description of the evening of December 26th.
After we were all together two years ago, there was some discussion about how to make the celebration more meaningful and purposeful. We all recognized a need to structure some of our time, given the large number of people together in one house. Out of these musings came a lot of ideas, and this year as we started planning the shindig, Eric's mom suggested we serve a meal at the Care N Share, a local homeless shelter. It would be no small feat to feed 25+ residents, all the while maintaining sanity among our own troops.
The menu was set via phone conversations and our special Christmas "wiki" (a web page that multiple people can access and edit). Mom and Eric's sister Jessica led the planning committee, the rest of us happily traipsing along behind. It was determined that this would be a served meal- no buffet line or family style digging in. The evening evolved to include little gift bags, live entertainment, fancy-schmancy food, and friendly service

Menu, December 26th
Caesar Salad
Quinoa-Sage-Cayenne Bread
Chicken Armando over Spaghetti
Double Chocolate Raspberry Tart

Eric's brother Ryan works at an Italian restaurant in Ohio where Chicken Armando is the BIG deal. So Ryan twisted the arm of the the chef/owner to hand out the recipe and Ryan and Eric stood over a very hot stove making Chicken Armando (pounded and breaded chicken breasts, mozzarella, cream, Parmesan, sauteed mushrooms). It was extremely rich and delicious, and definitely made Ryan's chicken pounded-splatter painted t-shirt worth it!
Below you see a picture of the stove that lit itself on fire right in the middle of getting the food on the plates and out the door. The emergency gas shut-off is rumored to be a few rooms away, but Ryan managed to safely put the fire out and resume cheffing! I really enjoyed watching my in-laws problem solve in this moment... they were all a little frantic, but somehow still calm. Except Mom, she had hit fast forward and was seeing mental images of the cover page of the Crookston Times with the whole Care N Share burned to smithereens. But to be fair, she still looked calm.

The work-horse kitchen, huge frying pan that contained the famed Armando sauce.

Eric's sister Jessica is artisan bread maker extraordinaire. The quinoa loaves may be my favorite ever, comprised of fresh ground wheat flour, cooked quinoa, sage, ground cayenne peppers from her garden. It is chewy, savory, and a little spicy. Hope loves it toasted, Eva says it's too spicy. I'm with Hope on this one.
I'm taking credit for the idea of SIMPLE Caesar salad, but Nedra did all the hard work of salad tossing.
The dessert was something I used to serve when I worked for the catering department at Concordia. I usually make this recipe around the holidays, but this year I made a big 'ol batch and transported them to Crookston frozen . Pie crust, raspberries, white chocolate mousse, and bittersweet chocolate ganache on top. I confess, it was too rich to follow the Chicken Armando and Caeser Salad, but it was yummy anyway.
What? You think I just wasted four paragraphs describing the food? Well, let me move on then. Eric, Ryan, Jessica and Mom went to the Care N Share in the afternoon and prepared most everything. When the other 14 of us arrived, we finished up little odd jobs, attempted to keep the kids out of the kitchen, and mingled with the residents. The two littlest, Hope and Baby Thor, were worn by their mamas, making it much easier to keep rollin'. I had the privilege, while pouring Coke, to pray for one of the residents, the highlight of my night!
Eric chatting with Brad
The kids got excited about the opportunity to serve. Even Eva was able to bring empty glasses with ice around to the tables. The older kids got to bring out the plates of steaming food and serve each guest one at a time. The guests were truly thankful for the food and service, and they loved watching the kids pitch in.
After dinner, Eric's brother Dana broke out his guitar and we participated in a little caroling and some silly songs for the kids too. There were two little girls living at the shelter with their parents, and our little girls were quick to make friends with them. One of the girls had a sweet collection of girly Christmas gifts and was very kind to share with our crew (6 of the 9 grand kids are girls!). Children are amazing at making friends, and it was fun to watch them sit together long after all the hoopla was over, still playing away.
Dana in the background with the guitar leading a carol or two.

Grandma sings with Katelyn and Eva.

I always come away from these kinds of events questioning why we do this. After it's all said and done, I usually feel like I get more out of it than the ones I am supposed to be serving. Strangely, for the first time in my life, I felt like that was perfectly OK. I realized that I am now looking through the eyes of a parent, and I see this situation as one part service opportunity, one part teaching opportunity for my kids (and the rest). Once home, I overheard several meaningful conversations between parents and their kids about the experience of serving homeless people. Particularly interesting to me, Ethan (10 y.o.) and Dana discussing a mural at the shelter depicting Jesus standing in a soup line wearing a pair of old tennis shoes.

I know that those who spent most of their day in the kitchen might feel otherwise, but I really enjoyed making this memory and I hope that it will become a bi-annual tradition!