Monday, February 28, 2011


Just over a year ago, I posted some breakfast for dinner recipes. Tonight I made the last recipe from that post and it was so good I just had to post it again! I did make a couple changes this time around, not necessarily for the better, but more for to save a little time and money! Usually cutting corners leads to a horrible outcome, but not this time! First, I used regular old white bread and it was very fresh/soft. Second, I did not buy whipping cream, so I used half and half to make the syrup. It still tasted delicious, it just didn't get very thick. I only made 1/2 a batch as I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out, and I did not have enough sugar in the house for a full batch. Third, we had Redi Whip in the house, so we used that instead of making whipped cream. Finally, I only used two eggs and guessed on the half and half because I wasn't planning on making a full batch. The version below is the best, but what we had tonight was so good, I wish I had made more than 8 pieces! 

French Toast with Vanilla Cream Syrup
You will need French bread, half and half, eggs, sugar, vanilla, corn syrup (dark or light), whipping cream and berries

For the bread:
Cut French bread 1/2 inch thick
combine 1 1/3 cup half and half, 4 eggs, 1 Tbsp sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla

Dip the bread in this mixture. Don't let it soak up too much or your bread will be soggy, but make sure it is wet through. Cook in a pan or griddle. (I made 1/2 a batch-about 6 pieces-one night and made more of this mixture for the rest of the bread the next day)

Serve with Vanilla Cream Syrup
Stir together 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup corn syrup (recipe calls for light, I only had dark and it was fine) and 1/2 cup whipping cream over medium heat and simmer until melted. Remove from stove, add 1 tsp vanilla. Cool, then whip until thickened.

If you want, you can make Whipped Cream using some of your remaining whipping cream. I Googled "How to make whipped cream with whipping cream" and it said to use a metal bowl and put the bowl and whipping cream in the freezer for a while, so I did. Then I whipped the cream with my mixer for a minute or so until it started looking thick. Then I added some sugar and vanilla, then whipped it again. It looked right and tasted good, so I must have done something right!

This might seem like a lot of work, but it really isn't, especially if you make it how we did tonight, and it is just so good. Don't forget the strawberries!!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The haps

We have been living in our new digs for almost a month now. Hard to believe it's already been that long! On the plus side, living in a smaller space has not been near as stressful as I thought it would be. On the downside, having one month down means we only have a little over 3 left here in Hudsonville. I try not to think about it too much, but time is definitely ticking away. (Tami, if you ever get around to reading this, just know that as soon as I wrote that last sentence I immediately thought of DC Talk and Palm Springs.)

February has been a pretty busy month for us. My mom was here at the beginning of the month, the big blizzard meant the kids were around more than usual, we've had small group, cadets, nights out with friends, playdates and more. Here are a few pictures of some of the things we've been up to.

We've been having lots of play dates with Jenna and JJ. We want to soak up as much time with them as we can. Last night we even got to have Reid over at our apartment. Tyson and Jori were thrilled to babysit their favorite little guy. Jori and JJ get to spend the most time together, but Jori and Jenna are a close second. This leaves poor Tyson feeling a bit left out. It's harder to get him together with the others because he is in school an hour later than Jenna, so it doesn't work out quite as nicely, but we'll keep trying. Jenna and JJ both think apartment living is pretty neat. I am guessing they'd be less inclined to think so if they lived here full time!
Jenna did Jori's hair
Lovely, don't you agree?
 Last week we met up with Sarah, Josiah and Miles at Playworld. They had a great time and spent 3 hours running around, climbing, jumping, bouncing and more. I didn't have my camera along, but did take a couple pictures when we got home to show how "played out" the kids were.
Rosy cheeks
Our little sweaty Betty. She looked like she had just taken a shower!  
 A couple nights ago, Jori and Darin went to Daddy Date night at her school. They had a great time together. There were games, crafts and snacks, a perfect night for daddy and his girl.
So excited to go!
Games in the gym
Our sweet girl
Tyson has been keeping busy with school, although he did have winter break on Friday and Monday. We went to Playworld on Friday and on Monday I drove him to Crazy Horse in Holland so he and Darin could go out to lunch all by themselves.

One thing I have NOT been doing is any kind of sorting or packing. I have given myself until March 1 to get started with all of that, so hold me to it!

Cookie Pie

During one of my recent blog stalking adventures, I came across a link to Our Best Bites, which was showcasing the following recipe. Once I saw it, I knew I had to have it. I did not take any pictures, but you can head over to their site to see some if you'd like.

Here's the recipe:
 Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust, homemade or store-bought.
2 large eggs
1/2 C flour
1/2 C white granulated sugar
1/2 C packed brown sugar
3/4 C real butter,
softened (1 1/2 sticks)
1 C chocolate chips (semi-sweet or dark works best, you might find milk too sweet)
1 C chopped pecans (you are welcome to make it without nuts)

Vanilla ice cream, or sweetened whipped cream for serving (a must!  I prefer ice cream)
optional: chocolate sauce (honestly, doesn't really need chocolate sauce, but it looks pretty!)

Preheat oven to 325° F.

Beat eggs in large mixer bowl on high speed until foamy. Beat in flour, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Beat in butter. Stir in morsels and nuts. Spoon into pie shell.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between edge and center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack or serve slightly warmed.  Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

 Yum! It was so good. You have to make sure you let it cool enough so that it doesn't just fall apart, but warm enough to be like a cookie right from the oven. Mmmm. I actually liked it better the second day after it has cooled completely. It was like a chewy gooey cookie bar. This is the kind of dessert you want to make when you will have company to share it with. Do not attempt to eat a whole cookie pie on your own. One slice is about equal to 5 or 6 cookies : ) I was pleased to discover that even without a mixer, my cookie pie turned out wonderfully. Just made my arm a little sore!


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Leaving behind my flannel sheets

As each day ticks by and we get closer to our departure, I find myself looking at everything with a discerning eye. Should we pack that? Will I miss that if I sell it? Are the kids really going to play with all these toys and read all these books? How heavy are those shoes? And most recently, do we really need to take our flannel sheets?

Today is the first time I thought about leaving those sheets. I mean, they are nice and warm. They would keep us cozy during those winter nights out on the farm. Darin can mock me all he wants, but below freezing at night with no heat!?! Come on people, that is cold! If you know me, you know I do not like to be cold. Give me sunshine and warmth any day. Flip flops year round? I'm in!

We were driving around and I was giving Darin some reasons why I think we'll be leaving the sheets behind. First, I really want to buy one of those heated mattress pads with separate heating zones, so I can keep my tootsies nice and toasty and the rest of my body cool. Second, the washing machine we'll be using is small and there is no dryer. Flannel sheets are kind of bulky and totally heavy when wet. Out at the farm, we'll most likely be falling into bed with dirty feet and less than perfectly clean bodies and our sheets will need to be washed often. Washing and air drying flannel doesn't sound very fun to me.

Tonight I watched something that made the whole issue of taking or leaving flannel sheets so much more to me. If I haven't mentioned it before, I am a blog stalker. That means I read lots of blogs of people that I do not even know. Strange? Maybe, but it's what I do. Tonight as I was stalking reading blogs I took the time to watch the following videos of a family that went to Uganda to bring home their son and daughter. Here is part one and here is part two. While I was watching these videos, I was reminded of why we wanted to move to South Africa back in 2008. We had made connections to people that were doing good in their communities and we wanted to get involved with these local organizations because we felt we had gifts and talents that God could use to help them and help others as well. Not that we are so great or so capable, but tonight I was reminded that we both felt like God was calling us to do more than live out our days in Hudsonville, Michigan wrapped up in our flannel sheets! I want to feel that way again.

I confess that over these last few months of waiting and anticipating and a whole lot of other -ings, I have been focused on the wrong things. I have lost sight  of where God has called us to go and why. In fact, it isn't so much losing sight of it, but I haven't even been searching for His vision. I have been caught up in where we'll live, worrying myself about what school will best fit out kids, what church we'll go to, how often Darin will need to be at work and how we can somehow figure out these things and then triangulate the perfect location for us to live based on these places we need to get to. I've left no room for what God might have in store for us. None at all.

I've been tied down by more than flannel sheets. I've been trying to drag my whole life out to South Africa. How can I replicate the school experience that my kids would have here, out there? How can I find a church to meet our needs, be it kids programs, a Bible study for me (Beth Moore to be specific), or a worship service that is similar to what we experience at our church? Is it going to be more fun/relaxing/easy to live outside the city or out in the country? Where can I go and what can I do to find people like me to be friends with?

Our church recently wrapped up a year long series on how this life we are living is not about us. I am not the main character in the story, God is. He is the author and He is also the one the whole story is about. And here, for the last 10 months, I've been making it all about me. No wonder it's been such a struggle. Almost as bad as wrestling wet flannel sheets onto a laundry line.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A look ahead

When we went to South Africa in 2008, we had the privilege to stay in an amazing house right across from Tshepo Ya Bana, the children's home run by Mark and Chris Harding. The house we stayed in belonged to their son and daughter, who both had homes in the city and used this property as a vacation home. I believe I already mentioned this in an earlier post, but when we head overseas in June, we will be going back to this same house. I thought I would share some pictures that we took in 2008 so you can see (or remember) where we'll be living for the first few months of our upcoming adventure.

Standing in the "front" door
Kitchen and laundry room (that's a wash machine under the counter)
Living room
Sitting room, looking into Tyson's room
Sliders in the sitting room
Tyson's room
Straight ahead, our room; to the right, Jori's room
I can't believe Jori was small enough that we had her in a crib!
Our bedroom
Master bath with gigantic tub
These pictures show the parts of the house that we used most often. There was also a huge loft area off of Jori's room and another loft area over the living room. There were also two other bedrooms and a bathroom off of the kitchen. Let's not forget about the great outdoors! We spent a LOT of time outside and ate a lot of meals out there too.
Can't believe how little these two were!
Our favorite place to sit
Walking to shut the gate
Swing Amos made for the kids
We really did love the time we spent at this house. I think we might try to get Internet hooked up this time around as it was tough not being able to communicate with people unless we went to town or across the road, which were not the most convenient options.

Hope you enjoyed the look back. I know that seeing these pictures does make me more excited to go back. If you want to see more pictures of our time in South Africa, you can click where it says "view my gallery" on the right side of my blog.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A look back to October 2010

So this weekend I had the privilege of getting together with some of my college friends in Lansing. First we stopped over at Amy's house to spend some time loving on sweet baby Nora, then we headed to Grand Traverse Pie Co. for dinner and dessert. A good time was had by all!

We do a lot of talking while we are together about all sorts of topics and I just had to share about my new tech savvy-ness. When the subject of my blog came up, these dear friends reminded me that I had somehow never posted anything about our 10 year college reunion, which took place in October! Fail.

So, without further ado, I present reunion weekend 2010!

On Friday night we had our 10 year reunion. I am just going to say it was pathetic. Seriously sad. If our group from First Rooks (plus husbands) hadn't been there, I think the number of attendees would have shrunk by a third. If all former residents of RVD had not attended, the total number would have probably shrunk by half. I guess our old dorm just had a lot of spirit! We've all agreed that we would be better off skipping the next reunion and using the money to go out for a fabulous meal instead. That being said, it was fun to catch up with people that I hadn't seen since we graduated and being with my girls is always fun.
Amy, Pauline, Michelle, Kara, Sarah and me
Best college roomie EVER!!
The happy parents to be
On Saturday, we had a baby shower for Amy. We didn't know at that time that sweet Nora would be showing up a little over a month later, instead of 3 months later when she was due! (She's a red head. Need I say more?) It was so fun to be able to sit and talk and eat (cheesecake bars!!!) and share together.
Me, Amy, Kara, Tracey, Pauline, Jenny, Julie, Sarah and Michelle (we missed you Lisa!)

See the cute little onesies behind us? Sarah had the great idea to get a little crafty instead of playing the typical baby shower games. It was so fun! She had all the fabric laid out, a few patterns we could follow, and all the stuff to stick the appliques on the onesies. Fun! That night, those of us who were available went out to dinner. I think we just wanted to soak up as much time together as possible!

On Sunday we gathered together with our families and went to Frog Hollow Park. It was so much fun seeing the kids play together. They were running around, playing soccer, eating cookies and just having a good time.
Tyson hanging around
Grace (Pauline's) and Jori
Kate and Maria (Jenny's)
Kids playing soccer with Greg. Check out his mini-mi, Christopher, right in front of him.
Simon and Jack (Michelle's)
Fenced in parks are the best!
The whole gang!

Keegan (Kara's), Miles (Sarah's),Christopher, Gracie and James (up front with stripes-Pauline's), Tyson, Tate (Kara's), Jori, Jack and Liam (in black, Michelle's), Kate and Maria (Jenny's), and Josiah (Sarah's)
And they're done

It was a wonderful weekend. Who knew when we first arrived on campus in 1996 that over 14 years later most of us would still be living in the Grand Rapids area. Who knew we'd still be staying in contact enough to be truly invested in each others lives? I am so thankful that God saw fit to put a group of girls from all over the continent, three from Michigan (none from GR), one from California, another from Washington, one from Indiana, two from Ohio, one from Pennsylvania and of course a lovable Canadian and that all these years later our friendships continue to grow!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Somebody stop me!

So I've added another feature to my blog. In the top right corner, it now says "subscribe via email". Under this, there is a box where you can enter your email address, then click on the word "subscribe" below the box. Then, another box should pop up where you enter a word verification. Then you will be prompted to go to your email to check for an email with a subscription verification. You may need to check your junk/spam mail if you don't receive this email in a reasonable amount of time. I tried it out, and I hopped right over to my email account and the verification email was there. Then I just clicked on the link in the email and Voila! I had successfully signed up to receive an email notification when a new post was added to my blog! So try it out, and let me know what you think!

**I am waiting to receive an email that shows my blog has been updated since I wrote this post, but it hasn't come through yet. I am not giving up! I'll see if it comes later today or tomorrow (I don't know if updates are sent out once a day or each time I add a new post) and if I still haven't seen anything by tomorrow, I'll try, try again!

*** Hooray! It worked. This morning I had an email from "Fee Fey Foe Fum" and the whole blog post was right in the email. You can also click on the title of the post, which was in blue and it will take you right to the actual blog, which is great because I don't want people to stop commenting!!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Feeling tech savvy!

I had been contemplating switching my blog from blogspot to Wordpress recently. One of the main reasons I wanted to do this was because in Wordpress, if you leave a comment you can subscribe to receive follow up comments by email. I often leave comments on other blogspot blogs and have to go back to check if anyone has responded to my comments. Sometimes I would forget to go back and check.

Anyways, with us getting ready to head to South Africa in a few months I wanted to make our blog a place where I could more easily communicate with family and friends. Tonight I think I actually figured out how to do that and still keep using our current blogspot blog! Go me!! I am usually computer illiterate, so I am pretty pumped.

Now you can click where it says "Subscribe by email" and any comments made after your comment will be emailed to you. If you leave a comment, I can reply directly to your comment, which you'll then receive if you've subscribed by email, and then (if I read everything correctly) you can reply to my reply by email and keep the conversation going!

So if you read this post or any others, please leave a comment so I can see if it works : ) Otherwise I might still be switching my blog!

**I thought I should add that you will need to register with disqus to leave a comment, but I am pretty sure that the first time you try to comment, you'll be able to get an account all set up. If you can't figure it out (mom) let me know!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fighting Fear...again.

So last night I am laying in bed and my jaw starts hurting. Then my head starts hurting. Why all this pain? I just want to sleep! Then I realize I am starting to clench my jaw and grind my teeth and upon stopping the swirling in my mind, I realize that I am slowly starting to drown in thoughts about the kids school situation when we get to South Africa. Now folks, I have 4 months until we move, and I've already decided to give the kids a summer break til September AND we've decided to "home school" (aka-keep them from falling behind) until the new school year starts in January 2012, so WHY AM I ALREADY LOSING SLEEP OVER THIS???

It's fear. Plain and simple. Fear that I will not be able to teach my kids anything. Fear that they will not respect me as a "teacher", fear that we will all simply hate homeschooling and cry every day about it (ok, that might just be something I will end up doing). Then I have all these fears about the differences in the South African school system compared to the schools my kids are currently at. I know there will be differences, but I've already totally built them up in my head to be insurmountable and horrible and that I'll be damaging Tyson and Jori's childhoods beyond repair by taking them to an unknown country them dumping them into a school system that I have never experienced.

There are so many unknowns and so many different things that could happen between now and January 2012. We could all love homeschooling and decide to do it permanently. Darin could decide to home school and totally remove the burden from me : ) There are quite a few different schools in the area we'll be moving to and we could stop to visit one and fall in love with it. At this point, we don't know if our kids will go to the public school or one of the many private schools in the area.

This morning as I was driving the kids to school I realized that all these fears I started having last night were stealing my joy! I went to bed worrying about the kids schooling and woke up with fears that I am ruining their childhood by taking them from all that is familiar. One fear leads to another, and another and another and instead of feeling myself move in the direction of peace, my heart grows anxious. I have just recently started feeling more positive about our upcoming move, and Satan, the joy stealer, seems to be finding ways to take these happy feelings and crush them to the ground.

Well NO MORE. He's not stealing my joy. I threw my mouth guard away when we moved to this apartment, and I am NOT going to shell out the money for another one, so the teeth grinding has got to stop! No more fear induced jaw clenching for me. "The JOY of the LORD is my strength!" (Neh 8:10)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Pictures of our new home

As promised, I cleaned up (a bit) and took some pictures so you can all see where we are currently living. It did not take me very long : )

Here is the view when you open our door:

The room at the end of the hall is our bedroom, the kids bathroom is to the left of ours, the bathroom is right before the hall carpet stops, just past the open door, and the rest of the apartment is across from the bathroom.
Speaking of the bathroom, here it is:
Nice and big!

Storage closet tucked behind the door

Missing the 6 drawers plus cupboard space in my old bathroom
Next stop, our room:

This is all of it!
We can't have our foot board on our bed or our drawers wouldn't open!
Tyson and Jori lucked out with the master bedroom:
Looking through the doorway

Tyson's "room". The

Play room, and a peek into Jori's "room"

Master bedroom closet or perfect bedroom for a 4 year old?

Jori's special things
 Now the living area.

This is the view from the hallway
The kitchen
The dining room
The living room

Finally, the spare room, which is right off of the living room. This is where we are storing all of the things we are planning to leave in Edgerton, take with us to South Africa or sell.

It's a mess in there and I really don't feel like tackling it today, or any day for that matter, but I'll have to get started at some point. I am currently missing 2 out of 3 pairs of Tyson's school pants and 2 harmonicas. I am not really that eager to find the harmonicas, but not knowing where they are is driving me nuts.

So that is it, our temporary home until we move into our temporary South African home. Sorry about the blurry pictures and the wonky spacing.