/> a mother's heart



We love quinoa here.  It’s a protein-packed powerhouse of a plant, tastes amazing when toasted and cooked in my homemade chicken stock, and is relatively inexpensive.  By “inexpensive,” I don’t mean “as cheap as beans and rice” for supper, but on a relative scale, for something that’s organic, pre-washed, comes from another part of the world, and is as nutritionally dense as it is, it’s inexpensive.  I think our Costco sells a 2 pound bag for about $11.  That’s a lot of storable protein (it’s dry and easy to put in our food storage) for not a lot of money.  :)

Our neighbourhood has an email list that is a bevy of useful information.  Sometimes with swap/share posts, sometimes with local events, and sometimes with recipes.  So when one of the members put out a call for recipes using quinoa, many responded with ideas.  One of those ideas is what I ended up serving for supper tonight.  Truth be told, it was on the docket for last week, but it got shuffled to this week when my husband and I ended up with an unplanned dinner-date.  :)

Brendan isn’t a huge fan of quinoa.  I can’t figure out why, but as I answered questions about what was in the dinner menu for the week, he began to look forward to it.  He wasn’t 100% certain about the marinated artichoke hearts, but truth be told, neither was I.  😉

We ended up scarfing this meal, uncharacteristically so, between a dance lesson and a Scouting meeting.  But the overwhelming response was, “Ohhhhh…. this is GOOD!”  :)

Mediterranean quinoa salad

  • 4 c chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 c quinoa, uncooked
  • 1/4 c raw apple cider vinegar (ACV)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • juice from one lemon
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 c kalamata olives, sliced
  • 2/3 c fresh cilantro OR parsley, chopped
  • 1 c cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (I used a large organic heirloom tomato, instead)
  • 1/2 c chopped artichoke hearts (feel free to use more – I wish I had!)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 c crumbled feta cheese

[This first step is optional, but increases the taste-factor of the quinoa by about 100.  So do it anyhow.  It’s worth the effort.  :)  Place the quinoa in a dry skillet over medium heat and gently stir and toast the little seeds until they are a light golden brown colour.  Some of mine got dark brown and “popped” while doing this step – that’s okay.  After the quinoa is toasted, proceed with the rest of the instructions.]

Cook the quinoa in chicken broth in a medium pot.  Bring it to a rolling boil, then turn it down to medium, and put a lid on.  After 20 minutes, turn the heat off and permit the quinoa to continue absorbing liquid, if necessary.  Cool cooked quinoa completely (2 hours in the fridge was sufficient for my batch).

In a large mixing bowl, combine the ACV, garlic cloves, lemon juice (I used a large lemon), and the olive oil.  Whisk vigorously until all is combined.  Add in drained kalamata olive slices, cilantro (or, in case you’re a ‘cilantro-hater’, parsley), tomato dices, artichoke hearts, and feta.  I gave up on the whisk at this point and went straight for a spatula.  I seasoned this mixture first, somewhat heavily, as I knew the quinoa was somewhat bland and brought a less-seasoned taste to the party than I wanted.  So my usual suspect of Redmond Real Salt went in the bowl, as well as multiple grinds of fresh pepper.   Chill completely.

Combine the quinoa and the flavourful bowl of goodies and mix well (but gently, due to the fragile nature of the feta) and serve it up.  Good as a side dish; better as a main dish.  :)


a close-up of the quinoa salad in question – full of protein and deliciousness!

Καλή όρεξη! target=”_blank” (Kalí óreksi!) [bon appetit in Greek]






All of my life, I’ve loved soup.  When I say “I love soup,” I mean I would happily eat soup twice a day, every day, for the rest of my life if the weather permitted.  I’ve loved my mom’s chicken noodle soup (although I humbly say my CNS is now better than hers 😉 ), her split-pea soup, her beefy noodle soup.  I could do without her beef-barley soup, but that was mostly due to her preference for undercooked barley.  I called it “tooth soup,” because the texture of the barley reminded me of chewing teeth.  Please don’t ask why I came up with that analogy.  To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never actually chewed on teeth.  What can I say?  I was 11 when I came up with that description.  😉

So fast forward to me as an adult, married, and loving the smell of a pot of soup on the stove, simmering away.  The way the flavours of the independent components blend together?  Bliss.  Except for one tiny thing:  my husband doesn’t like soup.  He doesn’t hate it, but he also doesn’t share my passion for the gloriously delicious stuff.  So most of the time, I’d make a big, beautiful pot of soup, he’d have one or two bowls, and the rest would be mine.  Which was really okay with me.  I’ve made all sorts of soups:  chicken noodle, spicy ham & bean, beefy vegetable (sometimes featuring venison), cheesy hamburger soup, a knock-off of Panera’s cheddar broccoli soup (which will be next week’s recipe here), and most recently, cheesy potato corn chowder.  With the cheesy potato corn chowder, however, I heard these words:  “SADNESS!  There’s a scant cup of soup left!  Not enough for lunch tomorrow!”

WHAT?!  Who are you and what have you done with my husband?!

This recipe was a huge hit with my crew.  :)  The original recipe credit goes to Julie over at OakParkHatesVeggies, tweaked (of course) by yours truly.

Cheesy Potato Corn Chowder

6 decent-sized organic potatoes (I used red potatoes), washed & chunked
4+ c. chicken stock
1 t. (+/-) granulated garlic
1 t. (+/-) granulated onion
1/2 t. cumin
2 c. freeze dried corn (or use fresh or frozen – about 3 c. of those types)
cook the potatoes and corn until soft; I used my pressure cooker on high for 25 min and then left it on “warm” for several hours).  Gently break up the potatoes with a potato masher.  You’re not looking for mashed potatoes, but something bite-sized for a spoon.


3 T. butter
3 T. flour
2 c. milk or half-and-half
salt & pepper to taste
2 c. shredded cheese
Make a roux with the butter and flour, and allow it to cook for about 5 minutes.  Then add in milk or half-and-half and whisk until thoroughly combined.  Add to pot of potatoes, corn, and chicken broth.  Mix well, heat completely through.  Season, add in cheese and stir until melted.  Serve it up before you start sampling from the pot.  Seriously.  *burp*

Serves:  many!



So our Real Milk source dried up last fall, sadly.  I was driving down to [practically] Mexico (okay, maybe it was only San Tan Valley, but it felt like we were driving to Mexico) to buy this amazing, delicious, healthy stuff.  It was amazing – we haven’t had milk like that since we moved from Michigan.  But the friend who was running her small farm found that she had to revamp things – drastically.  This meant that until she could procure some real pasture land, she had to sell off her animals and close up shop.  Such a sad day for all of us.


And in a roundabout way, that’s where this story begins.  When my friend sent out her notice, I was understandably sad, and when we picked up our milk for the final time, we were chatting.  I support her decision, even though it meant a loss of this amazing milk for my family, and as we were talking, I asked her what she was doing with her chickens.  It was a completely spur-of-the-moment question, and then after hearing her response of “I’m going to sell them,” I had to hurriedly call Mark to see if it was okay to even consider progressing.

You see, as Mark was out here 2.5 yrs ago interviewing in Tempe, I was back home with Brendan, at a Tractor Supply Company, holding fuzzy little chicks.  These things were so flippin’ cute I could hardly stand it – fluffy little balls of fuzz, peeping, pecking curiously.  I actually tweeted a picture and my husband’s response was, “Why aren’t you buying them, already?”  I knew I couldn’t buy chicks until we knew if we were moving – and indeed, my intuition proved correct.  So my long-dreamt-of chicken coop never became a reality in Dexter.  And we only purchased this house at the end of July 2012, so we were poised at the corners of Maybe We Can Do This and Maybe We Can’t.

Happily, we had friends who were willing to help us build a chicken tractor (a portable coop with an open bottom for pasturing the chickens), and we had both the time and funds to pull this off.  We chose a pattern called the Catawba, and procured most of our parts and pieces at 84 Lumber.  The final cost was somewhere between $110 and $120 for the whole build, which was about half of what our friends who bought lumber at a local Blue Big Box Store paid.  :)

chickensSo one warm day in late November, I drove out to [nearly] Mexico for the last time and picked up 4 pullets and 1 laying hen.  I knew that I wanted a laying hen immediately, so shelling out the extra $5 for her wasn’t a big deal.  The other four would grow in to laying-maturity soon enough.  And truly – one of them began laying about 10 days ago, so we’re up to two eggs per day.  :)

We call it “chicken therapy” when we let them range the yard at the end of the day (about an hour before sunset) – we sit out in our non-fancy “patio furniture” (camping chairs!) with our mugs of tea, a book, yarn work, or a laptop, and watch them chase crickets, scratch for bugs in the desert-scape, investigate the (now, former-) horseshoe pit and dust bathe there, or come looking for wheat that we toss out for them.  :)  It’s truly delightful – I had chickens as a kid, but don’t remember them being so fun to watch. And right now, my friend Elizabeth is reading this, shuddering, and thinking I’m insane, because she hates birds.  Especially chickens.

We named each bird – Brendan picked out most of the names.  Henrietta is the oldest; our first laying hen and a Rhode Island Red.  The conversation went something like this, “Mama!  I think the hen should be Henrietta.  HEN-rietta.  Get it, Mom?  Get it?”  “I’m trackin’ ya, son….” (shaking my head with silent appreciation for his puns).  Rosie is a Red Star – her colouring is darker than the other Red Stars.  Annie is another Red Star and was named after Ann Arbor – we have a dog named Dexter, so honouring A² just makes sense to me.  😉  Jewel is the final Red Star and Brendan thought the white feathers on her neck looked like a bit of jewelry.  And Baby Paulette is just that – the baby of the brood.  She’s a Barred Rock and is delightful.  She’s definitely Chicken #5 (bottom of the pecking order), but she doesn’t seem to care.  She’s uniquely independent and doesn’t mind being off by herself, looking for crickets, getting hand-fed crickets by Brendan, or being snuggled by one of us.  Yes, she’s my favourite.  :)

There are hundreds of more words I could pour out at the moment on this topic:  how these birds are improving our lawn and yard (eating weeds and bugs), how they up our preparedness-factor, how the eggs taste, how delighted I am at feeding them a Real Food diet…. but I’ll save it.  I’ll leave you with a compilation of “our girls” and save the rest for future posts.  :)


Category: life musings  3 Comments

So our trip to San Diego was great fun – it was the first time we’ve ever gone on vacation to a place instead of to see people.  Even our trip to Michigan over the summer was a working vacation – but it was to see people. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but let’s face it:  touring flying in to Metro Airport is significantly less interesting than Sea World or the beach.  😉

'DSC_0095-36' photo (c) 2011, A Mother's Heart Photography - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/Brendan was in the dark until he saw the sign for the state line.  Beyond being in California, though, he didn’t know where we were headed or who we were meeting up with – so finding our friends The Webbers at the townhome was a delight.  :)  When we travel and see people, we invariably don’t have much to worry about in the way of accommodations.  We’re incredibly blessed to have friends offer to host us while we’re in town.  :)  But this visiting a place-thing made finding accommodations interesting.  The Webbers took care of procuring the townhome we stayed in, but prior to knowing how all of this would work out, I spent time scouring Orbitz, hotel sites, and trying to figure out the best bang for our buck.  It’s confusing, to say the least.

I saw one hotel and booked a reservation (that I cancelled later) – Orbitz listed it at about $65/night plus taxes.  When I called the hotel directly, I got the rack-rate of $54 per night – $60+change after taxes.  That’s a pretty interesting difference – and one I don’t take lightly, especially when considering a multi-night trip.  Moral of the story:  call hotels directly after you get the information from the online source.  You may save money by making a phone call.

Sea World was a blast – Brendan declared it “one of the best days of my life!” as we piled in to the van to drive home.  :)  He got soaking wet with the whales’ splashing, rode his first roller coaster, was mesmerized by the sea lions, and generally couldn’t find anything he didn’t enjoy immensely.  We didn’t have time for the Cirque de la Mer show, and we missed the dolphin-show, but being relatively close to the park means that we’ll likely go back in the future.

The day at Sea World was definitely for Brendan and the next day at the beach was definitely for us.  Although by my photos, you’d never know it – Brendan had more fun than all of us combined.  :)  It was his (and Mark’s) first time at the Pacific ocean and once he was brave enough to go in the surf, we had a hard time pulling him away.  :)

For us, it was a much-needed day just to chill and relax – and see our dear friends Paul & Sarah.  They drove down from Ontario, CA to spend the afternoon with us at the beach and we were so blessed by our time 'DSC_0426-53' photo (c) 2011, A Mother's Heart Photography - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/together.  We love them beyond words and it’s always so good just to hang with people who really get you and with whom you don’t have to pretend or hide parts of yourself.

The tidal pools were AMAZING – the sea life that was there absolutely blew my mind. Beautiful sea urchins, starfish, anemones, crabs… I just couldn’t get over the colours and varieties we saw.

We drove home mid-afternoon the following day – after meeting up with my cousin and her family who had just moved to San Diego.  We planned to catch up before we left, but didn’t have their address until the night before we saw them.  When we plugged it in to the GPS, we found that the townhome we stayed in was about .6 miles from their home!  What an amazing thing, to be in the enormous city of San Diego and end up being less than a mile from your only family there.  :)  It was a treat to meet her kids and husband and we look forward to more get-togethers, now that they are only a few hours away.

If I ever thought driving I-8 in the day was dull (and it is – except for the THREE border-patrol stops we had to make), driving the same patch of road at night is torturously boring.  So I think when we are there next, we’ll leave earlier in the day and avoid the desert at night.  I was petrified of hitting a coyote on the road, but thankfully, none came near us while we were travelling.

And now we’re back home – in the thick of stuff.  I’ve been working in the food storage & put up another 57 lbs of beans (peruano beans), I have canning to do next week (salsa and applesauce), and I’m in the process of reorganizing the pantry.  Such is my glamorous life.  :)  Look for more posts in upcoming days – because I’m back in the saddle of real life all over again.  :)

And oh, if you want to peruse the pictures I took, they’re on my Flickr account here.  :)

'At a San Diego Beach 02' photo (c) 2006, ZeHawk - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/So over the summer while in Michigan, we had lunch with dear friends.  And they mentioned that they would be in California for a family wedding in October.  Which got my little brain to thinking … we’re only 5.5 hours by car from San Diego…. and the plot for a potential double-family vacation was hatched.

Except life is what it is and I didn’t think much about it again until about 2 weeks ago.  I wasn’t completely sure it would happen and thought if it didn’t, we might be able to drive up to Flagstaff and Sedona and poke around, too – we’ve not ventured far from the East Valley area since we landed here a year ago.  Happily, it looked as though things were going to come together.

And we leave tomorrow morning.  :)  The dog is cared for in our absence; the car is gassed up and got a fresh oil change this past week.  I have to assemble some no-bake protein bars (because, as I discovered this morning, Honey Nut Cheerios are no longer my tummy’s friend. *sad*) and clean the bathroom and wash the sheets.  But after that, it’s dream-time and we are heading out by (hopefully) 830a.  I’ve got meals planned, tickets to Sea World purchased & printed out, and a quick call to the Marine Corps station will determine if we get to see a USMC graduation on Friday morning or not.  We’ll go tide-pooling, share a condo, and let our families just hang out and relax together.

I can hardly wait!

So what am I doing still writing here?!

BYE!  :)

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It is no secret that I have contempt for the people of Westboro Baptist Church.  “How can you say that, Sue?” might be the question from those who don’t know me well.  “They’re a CHURCH and you are a Christ Follower!”

Gah.  See?  That’s the problem.  This group is the same group that pickets soldiers’ funerals with “God hates fags” signs and screams profanities at those who oppose them.  How does putting “Baptist church” after their name justify that sort of behaviour?  There is nothing that they do which represents the love and message of salvation that Jesus brought and died to give us.  I do NOT want to be lumped in with these nutjobs.  Ever.

But all of that aside, I was reading yesterday that WBC is planning on attending and picketing Steve Jobs’ funeral.  It makes me sad that they would pick an event like this – but I suppose, since not even soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice are safe from this group, Jobs is no different.

As the story goes, the daughter of Fred Phelps (founder of WBC) tweeted (aside:  who follows this group on Twitter? ick!) that WBC would picket the funeral with this quote:  “He had a huge platform; gave God no glory & taught sin.”  The irony?  She tweeted it from her iPhone. If Jobs really DID “teach sin” (and I really want to see proof of that instead of taking this group’s word for it), then why would you use the tool that is so iconically Apple and represents sin?  What a bunch of hypocrites.

The Daily Mail (UK) reports that the funeral will be private and purportedly, WBC won’t picket a private funeral.  I don’t know that I believe that last part, but whatever.

This group wants a platform – and publicity is their end goal.  If they don’t get publicity, they will die.  Am I playing in to that right now with this post?  Unfortunately, yes.  But my suggestion for those who live in the Southern California area and will be available during the funeral is to use your body to create a wall of privacy & space around the Jobs’ family & friends who are mourning his loss.  A group of pastors in the Phoenix area agreed to do this last year after the shooting rampage in Tucson – WBC threatened to picket the funerals going on there.  The pastors agreed to go to Tucson and create a wall of silence a distance from the funerals, effectively blocking WBC and their noise & signs from the mourners.  If I recall correctly, WBC then pulled out of the planned picketing because they wouldn’t have the publicity they wanted and be able to create the tense, hate-filled atmosphere they crave and thrive on.

I’m not in SoCal, so I don’t have the ability to organize such a thing for those who profess to be Christ Followers but also for those who would stand in solidarity against such hate.  It’s a quiet thing I’m suggesting – not a loud, shouting match.  It’s a peaceful event – to contrast the heated, hate-filled words and actions of WBC.  If this appeals to you and you’re in the appropriate area at the appointed time, I encourage you – meet with others who believe likewise and create a counter-event.  You’ll have the privilege of gathering with others who love God, oppose hatred, and will be able to show love in a tangible way to those who are mourning.


For all of my growing-up and adult life, Sunday has been anything but a “day of rest.”  As a kid, we went to 'Feet up' photo (c) 2011, Niki Odolphie - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/church service, but after that, it was always a day to catch up on homework, do chores, or have some sort of a family gathering.  Not that any of these things are bad, mind you, but it was never a day to actually rest.

As an adult, Mark & I have always been involved in serving at church – and since church met on Sundays, it meant serving on Sundays.  So Saturdays were our day to do chores & get caught up from the week, run errands, or whatever – but Sundays were not that much less filled, just because we were serving.  I enjoy serving others, no matter what it looks like, so I wouldn’t stop – but Sunday was never a “day of rest” as my grandparents were told (and quite frankly, made to observe).

Our church recently added Saturday night services to accomodate the attendance boom we’re having – nearly 6,000 people on campus on a given weekend!  We were encouraged to shift to Saturday night services and attend and serve at that time in order to give new people a space on Sundays.  We hesitated for a bit – with this idea that Saturday would dramatically cut in to our “social lives.”  (Aside:  As if, in our current stage of life as parents, we actually HAVE a social life…!) Once we considered our situation realistically and realized that Saturdays would work for our family, we took the plunge.

The very first thing we noticed was that Sundays were glorious. I’m not a big sleeping-in type of person; I’m far more of a morning-girl and function best at that time of day.  But the pressure being off to HAVE to get up and be at church by 840a?  That just makes any time of sleeping past 630a feel luxurious.  Instead of bugging my kid to get his teeth brushed and scarf down breakfast quickly, I found myself thinking about making a family breakfast.  Mark & I are both non-breakfast-eaters (in general – we follow body cues for when to eat), so this was a stretch, but the time it took to make blueberry pancakes or eggs & toast was multiplied in a good way by the relaxing time we had around the table.  Today, our son requested a “family breakfast” every week because it’s so enjoyable.  I think I can oblige on this one.  :)

But I think the most noticeable thing to me about Sundays now is that I actually relax.  I might wake up at 700a or 730a, but we snooze in the afternoon and I find myself not caring quite so much about the chores that I know await me on Monday, willing to focus instead on the down-time that Sunday now provides.  Even now, as I look at the clock and remember back a few months, I realize we would have just gotten home from church, and would be shooing our kid to a nap, feeling as though we had to hurry and snooze before the evening’s events were upon us.  I like this better – we might still shoo the 9y/o to nap, but it doesn’t feel rushed or pressured in any way.  I also don’t find myself dreading Monday quite as much – it used to be that I needed a weekend to recover from my weekend & hating facing Monday.  Not anymore though.  It’s an interesting change for me.

I’m not short-sighted enough to think that this change is permanent – we may, at some point, head back to serving and worshipping on Sundays.  I hope, no matter what happens or how things change in the future, that I can maintain an attitude of resting one day per week.  Maybe that day will shift to something other than Sundays; maybe not.  But I’m really seeing the value of actually resting one day per week.

Right now though, I’m content to be where I am and to enjoy Sundays as I do.  Relaxing.

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