Friday, January 13, 2017

Maple Syrup Snow Candy Recipe

On Wednesday we woke up to over a foot of snow.

We are glorying in all the beauty.


Roo has never seen this much snow before and loves sniffing, digging, and bounding across the yard. The snow is up to her neck, so her bounding looks more like bouncing (she's our Kanga-Roo), and it is just about the cutest thing I've ever seen.


I am also delighted to report that I enjoyed a major limbic system retraining victory after the snow fell:


I went cross country skiing!

We all did, actually.


It was much easier than walking anywhere.

A few months ago I got motion sickness just turning my head, rolling over in bed, or walking across the room, so it was wild to be gliding across the snow and feeling fine.

The second day we skied it was much icier.


Much, much icier.

So icy that I took a hard fall on my tailbone.

The fall seemed to have caused some whiplash, and since then my body has been in a bit of a tizzy that feels like a flare-up in my chronic symptoms. So, I've decided to cozy up with Anne of Green Gables and some maple syrup snow candy for the rest of the afternoon.

If you've ever read the Little House on the Prairie series, then you may remember that in Little House in the Big Woods Laura enjoys maple syrup snow candy at her grandmother's house. I first made this candy after reading the book as a kid and was so excited to make it today.

It's super easy (and delicious!), and I've posted the step-by-step recipe below for those of you with snow outside your window.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup of pure maple syrup
2 TB butter (optional)
A pinch of sea or pink Himalayan salt

Instructions:

1. Put the ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat.


2. Boil for a few minutes until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage or 235 degrees Fahrenheit for those of you who have a candy thermometer.


I didn't have a thermometer, so after the mixture had boiled for a few minutes, I drizzled a bit of it into a glass of cold water. It formed a soft ball upon hitting the water, so I knew it was ready.

3. Once the mixture is ready, take it outside and pour it into a clean bed of snow. Be sure to wear your boots while you're cookin' so you can make a mad dash outside when the mixture is ready!




I recommend you use a rubber spatula to coax the mixture into the snow in bigger ribbons than the ones I made, since the thin ribbons can be hard to fish out of the snow. 

You could also pack snow into a pie pan and bring it inside for this step.


4. After you've finished pouring your candy, it is ready to eat!


And boy oh boy is it GOOD.


I hope you are all having a lovely Friday!

Cheering for you, Home Skillets,

Sarah





© by scj

Monday, January 9, 2017

Happy News

It snowed again this weekend.


This is the snowiest winter this area has had in awhile, and we are loving it.

We love watching the snow fall from our cozy perches by the fire place, but we especially love going on walks in the snow.

My brother and his wife stopped by for a bowl of soup just as the snow started to fall, and they left my mom and me a note on their way out.


Roo likes it too! She gets cold, though, so my mom has devised a way to make one of her wool vests fit Roo. The fitting process involves lots of safety pins and is not unlike fitting a cloth diaper to a newborn baby.



The vest tags! 😂

My mom is nothing if not resourceful.

A related side note: Roo went through heat recently — apparently small dogs go into heat at a pretty young age — and my mom fashioned diapers for her out of old underwear. Watching Roo trot around the house in those "diapers" was one of the delights of my life.

Roo adores my resourceful mom.


They are BFFs.

Oh Roo-berry, you are the apple of our eyes, the sauce on our spaghetti, the peanut to our butter. We love you, as is evidenced by our suffocating snuggles and excessive doting, and we are wondering how you will do when Baby Jackson is born...

Yep, that's right: My brother, Aaron, and his wife, Natasha, are having a BABY, due in June, 2017!!!!!!

This week, Baby J is the size of a white onion. We are fresh out of white onions, so we found a yellow onion that looked like a white onion, and we marveled at how fast Baby J is growing.


If you've been reading my blog for awhile, then you know my brother met his wife on their college track team. He was a dual sport athlete at their university — he played soccer and was a sprinter on the track team — and she was a world-class heptathlete. After graduating from college, Natasha went on to compete on the world stage, and she trained for years at the Olympic training Center in Calgary, Canada. Her goal was to compete in the 2016 summer Olympics for Canada. Unfortunately, her years of training were riddled with frustrating, incapacitating injuries that interfered with her Olympic dreams, and it was with peace and hope for a new season of life that she retired from track and field last year.

We are all excited about what this next season holds for her and Aaron.

She and my brother announced their pregnancy on Facebook with this sweet video, accompanied by the caption: "Aaron and I collaborated on a design project together. It's not your average Nike ad..."

video
(This video format may not be compatible with your mobile device).

You guys, I think I am going to adore auntie life. And my parents. Well, they are over the moon about being grandparents.

They've already started buying baby clothes, starting with this onesie:

Photo taken from Pinterest


Baby Jackson, you are the perfect addition to our clan and we love you already.



Hopeful, grace-filled Monday, my friends.

I'm cheering for ya!

-SJ






© by scj

Monday, January 2, 2017

Hope

I never used to think about hope much, but now I know: hope is jasmine winding its way through your insides, climbing into your most intimate parts, filling the empty spaces with the fragrance of spring.

When you are sick for years and years, your hope of health shrivels and droops until it is nothing more than a few black, spindly stems. When this happens, it is easiest to let hope die, but you mustn't.

You must coax your hope back to life with the water and air of imagination. You must imagine you are climbing Half Dome, or learning to surf, or hosting a tea party, or running in the rain, and you must imagine you are doing it all with ease. Do this daily, and with time you will notice your hope has sprouted the tiniest waxy, green leaves. One day, it will bear fragrant blossoms again.

For months I've been working to cultivate hope by imagining myself exploring Portland with my siblings, a cup of tea in hand and the neurological firestorm at bay. And you guys, today I did it, just exactly the way I imagined.

It was wondrous.







© by scj

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Thank you

Dear friends,

Last night I was feeling a little anxious as I looked toward today. I wanted New Year's Eve Day to be different and special — to somehow signify the change I've been working so hard toward these last several years— so I determined to make the day memorable.

I've been hoping and praying for snow during my visit to the Pacific Northwest, and since the Portland area doesn't get much, if any, snow I decided I would go hunting for it up in the mountains. But my dad worried that the car (and its southern California driver) wouldn't do well on the icy mountain roads, so that adventure didn't seem like a wise option after all. I settled on a hike in Portland instead. But then those plans fell through, too, so I decided to go on a walk in the neighborhood to soothe my disappointment. 

As I walked, I thought back to last spring. I spent the spring much like I spent the last few years: researching treatments and clinics, implementing medical protocols, trying new doctors, and meeting with old doctors. It was brutally exhausting and generally fruitless. In May, I realized I had been working so hard to get healthy that I hadn't given God much opportunity to advocate for me, and I felt a strong prompting from the Holy Spirit to cancel my appointments at new clinics so He could direct me to life-giving treatment. I cancelled the appointments, and two weeks later, He led me to limbic system retraining.

Since then, I have felt convicted to practice the discipline of waiting for God's blessings — of letting Goodness and Mercy pursue me, the way the Psalmist describes, rather than chasing them with frantic ambition. The more I have practiced waiting, the more convinced I have become that in this season, God wants me to stop hustling, to stop planning, to stop doing all of the things that seem so very sensible so he can provide for me: a Dad taking care of his beloved girl.

As I planned my adventures this morning, it didn't occur to me that today, of all days, God would like to show me his care for me by filling my day with good things, apart from my own efforts. So halfway through my walk, I asked him to make the day special — to mark it with something exciting to signify a new chapter in life.

When I got back to the house, it started to snow.


The big, feathery flakes felt like a reminder of God's attentive care and a symbol of the newness that lies ahead. It was the perfect New Year's Eve gift.

As I look toward 2017, I want to thank you for your support in 2016. Many of you have been faithful prayer warriors on this roller coaster ride, and words don't do justice to my gratitude for your prayer support. Your prayers and notes of encouragement are two of a few things that have mitigated the suffering of the last year. I also want to thank those of you who have contributed financially to my medical fund. Your generosity is a wild and wonderful gift to me. I wish I could give you each a hug in person and explain to you how all of your support has deeply influenced this journey.

My friends, I pray your transition into the New Year is filled with reminders of God's persistent goodness and mercy. There is no god like our God; and there is no better life than a Life in Him.

I'm thankful to be walking this journey with you,

and I'm cheering for you.

Happy New Year,

Sarah







© by scj

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Soccer at sunset

I'm in Washington for the holidays and am enjoying time with family. Today, we had a rare batch of blue sky, so my brother, sister-in-law, their cat-who-is-more-like-a-dog-than-a-cat, and I headed to the local soccer field. Brother plays soccer, so he was the only one with mad moves; but boy, we all had fun.



It was a limbic system retraining victory.

Happy Tuesday, my friends!


-SJ



© by scj

Sunday, December 18, 2016

FINISHED!

My friends,

I MADE IT TO THE FINISH LINE! I experienced very few neurological triggers this last week and was able to wrap up my doctoral classes with just one casualty:


These poor little sweet potatoes never got to meet the bacon I was cooking up for them. It's too bad: I think they would have had a sizzlin' relationship.

Alas, such are the misfortunes of finals week.

After submitting my last homework assignments Friday afternoon, some dear friends and I braved the frigid Orange County temperatures to look at lights.


Oh me oh my, if you are a girl, then you know: there is little on earth that fills the soul like girl time.

There is a neighborhood in Fullerton that rallies to hang hundreds upon hundreds of glowing orbs from the large trees lining the streets. They go all out to light up their houses, too; and the result is magical — like 1,000 more times magical than this photo:


This is the first week in awhile that I haven't been fighting the neurological flare-ups associated with colds, and I was delighted to realize, partway through our Christmas light outing, that I felt sort of normal.

HURRAH!

I'll write a limbic system retraining update later this month, but for now, this is another encouragement for those of you who are considering trying DNRS: do it. It really, truly is healing me.

Thank you for praying for me this semester, my friends. I am just so thankful for you.

And now, I turn to GRADING!

Continued prayers welcome. ;)

Merry Sunday, friends.

-Sarah





© by scj

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A post about online dating

This is a post about online dating. It is a post to help those who are considering online dating; and it is a post for those who have been online for ages and are tired of it. For the former group, I'll describe the online dating landscape and evaluate several different dating apps. For the latter group, I will make some lamentable observations about online dating. Because if you've been online for awhile, then I know you are also lamenting, at least on the inside, which means SOLIDARITY. Sometimes solidarity is more consoling than a carton of Ben and Jerry's.

But first, a caveat: I have not online dated in awhile; however, I do occasionally reactivate dating apps to reassess the online dating landscape. And also to psychoanalyze profiles. Does anybody else do this? These profiles are better than reality TV, Jack. The Real Housewives ain't got nothin' on online dating profiles.

Also-also: this is not a post about the "success" I've had with online dating. (And there has been some success). It's also not a post about the remnant of all of the really wonderful, godly men who are online. I have written about them, though; and I think it's probably important for you to know they exist, if you're a Christian considering online dating. (For a post about some online dating success, go HERE.)

So. Here are some of my observations about online dating.

I've used dating apps in both Portland and Los Angeles and have discovered the dating pools are really different. In Portland, the men are rugged and outdoorsy and tend to work as scientists or employees of Nike. They like craft beer (obviously) and are generally pretty hairy.

In Los Angeles the men tend to be metrosexual entrepreneurs, models, actors, and musicians with their shirts off. These men like to spend time on their yachts and drive around in their convertibles, and they post a staggering number of pillow selfies.

According to their profiles, the men of both Portland and Los Angeles are all positive with a sense of adventure, an aversion to drama, and an affinity for wine, yoga, and live music. A significant number of them are always smiling and want someone who is always happy, which, in my estimation, rules out ALL OF THE HUMAN RACE. Many of them are sick and tired of us posting photos of our yoga poses on the beach.

A side note: in general, a good profile picture is a clear close-up of your face.

Things that do not make a good profile picture:
  • Driver's license photos
  • Photos that have been blown so much that your head looks like a constellation of pixels
  • Group photos in which you are in the back row wearing sunglasses
  • Photos featuring your grandma, from which you have been cropped
(And also, it's really nice if you're smiling in your profile picture).
I didn't formally crunch any numbers, but I'm going to guess that for every 250 men online, one of those goes out of his way to profess Christianity. The number of Christians does seem to vary from app to app, though, so I'll talk about that more below when I review dating apps.

I, like most people I know, run across the profiles of friends and exes fairly regularly online. If they are a friend, I shoot them a message to say hello, and haha it's good to see you, and good luck on here.

If they are an acquaintance or an ex, I check out their profile in stealth mode, which ensures they cannot see I have visited their profile. Curiously, many of these men (friends, exes, acquaintances) are Christians, and many of them do not specify they are Christians on their profiles. I'm not sure why this is, but I think it's likely a case of not being super great self-marketers.

A few other bummers:

1. If you dislike texting and emailing, then online dating will be a draaaag.

2. If you are a really busy or tired introvert, then online dating will be a draaaag.

3. If you dislike first dates with people you have never met, then online dating will be a draaag. 

4. Watch out for fake profiles

5. Be careful about the information you provide. All it takes is a first name and the name of your workplace or a school you attended for someone to find you on the web.

5b. All it takes is a first name and the name of a school or workplace to find all sorts of information about someone you're considering meeting. Youtube videos. Family history. Church involvement.

A recommendation: find videos of the potential date before committing to a date. I have discovered that initial attraction is like 95% body language (WHO KNEW!) and a video of a potential date may end up saving you the hassle of going on a date and discovering there is no attraction.

I realize 5b is not a bummer. In fact, I love 5b. There is very little I like about online dating, but I LOVE gathering Intel on potential dates. I chalk this up to a deep value for...research.

And now, for a few encouraging tidbits to balance out the bummers:

Tidbit #1: I once went out with this guy I met at a party. He was selfless, hardworking, and kind, and I knew he would be fiercely loyal to whomever he married. We didn't end up having romantic chemistry, however, so we didn't date. I later saw his profile online, and he eventually met a great gal whom (I think) he found online.

See, you could meet someone just like him online, as long as you're okay with sifting through hundreds of photos of half naked men flexing on their yachts while holding a baby they borrowed.

Tidbit #2: I have had a number of men reach out to me online expressing spiritual hunger. They have been particularly interested to learn about Jesus and the new life that he offers. For this reason, I love online dating.

Tidbit #3: A couple of years back I had a friend who was going on a first date with a guy she met online. She was dreading it, as most of us tend to, so a group of us decided to join her on her date, unbeknownst to her date. We sat several tables away and took seflies with them in the background, and when she went to the bathroom, we went to the bathroom; and it worked so well we decided to make a habit of showing up at each others' first dates.

It was a great system.

Tidbit #4: Age does seem to be just a number among the singles of Portland and Los Angeles. If you are a female in your 30s, the younger guys will want to date you just as much as the older guys. So if you're open to dating younger guys, your pool is probably not as small as you think. (FACT: at one point, almost all of my Orange County girlfriends in their 30s were dating guys 6-9 years younger).
 
Okay, onto the dating app reviews. But first, a note:

Some women are afraid to try online dating because so many women get inappropriate messages and photos from men. I'm not sure why, but I have never gotten either; so it's very possible to have a mostly clean online dating experience.

TINDER:
Swipe right for people you're interested in; swipe left for people you're not. If you both swipe right, then you'll be connected, and either one of you can begin a conversation. Tinder doesn't require biographical information, so a lot of people's profiles are biography-less, which makes it even easier to swipe left. There are people on this app who are genuinely looking to meet their spouse, but they are feeeeew and far between. Generally, this app is full of people looking for hook-ups.

BUMBLE:
Bumble works like Tinder, except only women are able to open a private chat room once a connection has been made. If you are a woman pooped out on online dating, then I'm guessing you won't love this feature.

If the woman doesn't open a chat room within 24-hours of the initial connection, then the connection will disappear, unless someone uses their daily option to extend the connection by 24 hours.

Like Tinder, participants do not have to fill out a profile, and I'd guess about 1/8 of the guys fill in the profile section. When they do fill out a profile, the men of Bumble seem to be more opinionated than the men in other dating pools, and say things like, "Please do not say 'Hi' or 'Hey' when you reach out; if you can't think of anything more creative then I'm not interested."

I find apps like Bumble to be pretty overwhelming. There's so much dizzying swiping, that you can end up with matches you don't remember investigating, and the work to sift through them just doesn't feel worth it. My tactic, when using Bumble, was to only consider the profiles of men who used their 24-hour extension. That limited the pool considerably and was less overwhelming to me.

COFFEE MEETS BAGEL:
This app works a little differently than Tinder and Bumble. Every day at noon participants are sent a profile that they can either accept or reject. When two people accept each other's profiles, then they are connected and can begin communicating. Private chat rooms expire after seven days.

Profiles on Coffee Meets Bagel are more detailed, so it's a little easier to assess initial interest, and I've found there are more professing Christians on Coffee Meets Bagel than on Bumble and Tinder. I also know more people who have found potential dates on CMB than anywhere else, though admittedly, the dating pool on CMB has shifted in the last year or so. I'm just theorizing here, but I think the best time to try an app is when it's brand spankin' new. After awhile, all the Tinder people catch wind of the app and migrate over. I think this is what has happened to Coffee Meets Bagel.

A note: it turns out, if you delete the app from your phone, your profile is still active. You must deactivate or delete your profile in order for it to be removed from the profile pool. Same with Bumble.

MATCH:
With Match, you pay for the service, get access to a pool of people across the United States (or in your area, if you want to narrow the pool), and you can send messages to whomever you want, whenever you want. Of course this means all the men on Match can reach out to you, whether you want them to or not, which may mean you find yourself sifting through a bunch of unwanted emails.

The profiles on Match are more thorough (you have to write SOMETHING), so it can be easier to assess initial interest. 

OKCUPID:
This service works like Match but is free. There are several Christian guys on this site in my area — that's a literal several — though it mostly feels Tinder-ish. Like Match, the profiles are more detailed, which helps with the sifting process.

Welp, theeeeeeere you have it, folks. 

May your dating efforts be fruitful, or, at the very least, entertaining.

Let me know how it goes.

Happy Wednesday.

I'm cheering for ya, Home Skillets!

 -Sarah



P.S. Thanks to those of you who have been praying for me this week. I've not gotten any bugs and have been able to get a lot of work done, though I'm not in the clear yet. Tomorrow and Friday I need to be ultra productive as I work toward a fast-approaching deadline. Please continue to pray!


© by scj

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Prayer support

Hi Friends,

I'd love your prayers in the coming weeks.

The last two months I've had back-to-back colds that have often been like lighter fluid on the neurological fire. They have made life extra hard.

As I head into the last few weeks of the semester, I have an absurd amount of homework, along with the usual piles of grading, and I'll need to be cold-free in order to do it all.

Would you pray for protection from bugs and other neurological triggers between now and the 20th? I'd love to be able to finish the semester's race.

Thank you!

Cheering for you,

Sarah


P.S. These are the Jackson girls:


I love them a lot, and I love this photo, which is why I'm sharing it with you. 





© by scj

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Grandma Ona

My Grandma Ona passed away last month, and though she had grown old and her health was failing, the suddenness of her passing was a blow.

My grandma was quite a woman.


She was tender, resourceful, active, tenacious, and hilarious. She lugged castaway furniture out of alleyways to give it new life; she cooked with plenty of butter as all good cooks do; she kept her fridge — and other corners of her house — well-stocked with candy (in this way, I always felt she was my kindred spirit), and she never judged me when I wanted to eat chocolate before and after every meal. She raised three kids after the sudden and very early death of her husband; she sent all her grandkids birthday cards every year; and she laughed readily and fully — especially at herself. She was marshmellow and steel, and we loved her for it.





Once, when we were kids, my sister, cousin Emily, and I stayed at my grandma's house for the weekend. We had a hankering for hard-boiled eggs that first morning at her house, so we plopped several eggs in a pan of boiling water, put the lid on the pan, and, before the eggs had finished cooking, we decided to go shopping. My grandma had a knack for finding a bargain and a hunch that the sales down the street would yield all sorts of treasures.

In our eagerness to hit the sales, we forgot about the boiling eggs, and when we returned from shopping, we were greeted with the overpowering stench of eggs-gone-bad. Upon walking into the kitchen, we noted the burner was on, the egg pan was empty, and the ceiling was splattered with the boiled eggs. It was a sulfuric Jackson Pollock, traces of which would stubbornly cling to the ceiling for many years to come. 

When my grandma saw that mess of goopy egg on the ceiling, she laughed fit to kill. Her shoulders shook, and tears welled up in her eyes, and the three of us girls joined her in deep belly laughter. For the rest of her life, whenever we revisited the egg incident, we laughed.


Last week my family sat in a circle and told stories about grandma. We revisited the egg incident, of course, and we remembered our last conversations with her; and when we were done remembering aloud, we planted a rose bush in her memory. When spring comes, it will yield sunset roses with petals of fuchsia, sherbet, amber, and crimson.

My siblings and I with grandma's rose

I think my grandma would have loved it.




© by scj