Signs of Spring

We recently discovered the Columbus Riverwalk. Most of it isn’t actually by the river, but it’s still a nice stroll on a Saturday morning after we hit up the farmer’s market downtown. 

Almost stepped on this frog, which makes for a pretty convincing rock.
Everything is in bloom! We’ve had a ton of rain lately, so our backyard is a lush, green swamp. 

We’re still in a pseudo-post-Whole30-what-are-we-going-to-eat-now-stage. As in, before reintroducing all of the food groups, we decided to break the rules for a few weeks while we hosted guests and traveled. This week, we’re launching back into a mini Whole30 before reintroducing soy and non-gluten grains (such as quinoa and rice). Someday, we’ll actually wrap up this thing and be able to share about our experience, but we’re not there yet. Meanwhile, we’ve enjoyed a variety of foods, including this slightly spicy, refreshing smoothie recipe from John’s sister, Rebecca:
– enough water/ice to make a base
– juice from 1 orange
-1/4 lime, peeled 
– 1 avocado
– several leaves of kale
-a handful of grapes
– 1/4 inch piece of ginger root
– sprinkle of cardamom
-sprinkle of cayenne
On a particularly warm day, we decided to have this for dinner. 

One of the best parts of spring: delicious, tender, local asparagus. We may have eaten an entire meal of sauteed asparagus this week. 

a puppy milestone

We fear we are becoming those people.

You know, the ones whose entire lives seem to revolve around their pet. She determined our sleep schedule for months. We take dozens of photos of her. She rides in the backseat each day on the drive to and from John’s flight room. I spend my free time in places Kaia can play. And we always, always have at least one story to tell.

To be fair,  I’ll be seeing much more of Kaia this year than I will of John. And there’s really not much else going on. Also, she’s really, really cute. Let’s just be honest: we are convinced that we are the owners of sweetest, smartest, most loyal and adorable puppy ever.

Those people. I’m about to post an entry entirely about this dog. I promise, we do still do some other things. Some. Maybe I should write about those, too…

Kaia recently enjoyed her very first bone. Though uncertain at first, she quickly figured it out.

I paused from preparing dinner to find this scene. Upon deciding she was finished with her bone, Kaia placed it on the counter. Maybe she’s got it in her head that all delicious (and therefore forbidden) things go on the counter and, therefore, politely returned her treat when she was finished. Yes, let’s go with that. So smart. 

P.S. The counter tops were thoroughly cleaned! 

What’s Wrong with the World

It’s 3:20 AM.

And I, Kirsten, have been drinking lots of coffee and writing lots of papers under the pressure of a self-imposed hard deadline. It’s silly, I know, but it seems to work.

This link is for sermon podcasts from Pacific Crossroads Church, the church we attended in Los Angeles. I just listened to Rankin Wilbourne’s “What’s Wrong with the World” in effort to gain some inspiration to crank out a few more Genesis papers in the next few days.

The whole thing is worth listening to, of course, because Rankin is an excellent preacher and he handles the Word of God in a way that is captivating and challenging and life-giving. But the last ten minutes are phenomenal and so, so worth the thought, particularly as we prepare our hearts to celebrate the best day in history.

Find the sermon here:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/pacific-crossroads-church/id301642735?ign-mpt=uo%3D4

“But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, 
“Where are you?”
From the very beginning, God goes after us. 
And the Bible is one story after another of the grief-stricken God 
in search of the creatures who are bent on walking away from Him. 
“Where are you?” 
And God knew when he took that first step in the cool of the day 
where his journey would take him— to another garden.
Where instead of God calling out to man “Where are you?”, 
the Son of God would call out to God “Where are you?” 
and the whole pattern of Genesis 3 would be replayed and unwound. 
God came to the first Adam in the garden and said 
“obey me about the tree and live”, 
but he came to Jesus, the last Adam, and said, 
““Obey me about the tree and die.” 

Our Weekend

It’s been a full and relatively productive few days for us. We’ve been trying to make the most of the time before John’s classes start this week. Here are a few highlights from the weekend:

Stores are finally stocking plants! We had to give away all of our plants before we moved and I’ve been eager to replace them. Somehow, adding something green and living makes a room feel so much more complete. I planted herbs several weeks ago too, so we’re looking forward to fresh cilantro, rosemary and basil.

Kaia got a bed for the living room. She seems to understand that this is her place. She does not understand that wood decorative balls are not for eating.

For the most part, she’s doing great. We try to remind ourselves in her more trying moments that she’s a ten week old animal and that this is an excellent exercise in patience for us.

On Saturday, we started the day at Black Creek Farm. We found Scott and his farm on localharvest.org and visited for the first time a few weeks ago. We are so happy to have discovered this place! I love washing dirt off my produce because it came out of the ground only hours before hitting my plate. This week, we came home with a pound of three varieties of kale, some mizuna, and two dozen eggs. Later in the spring, we plan on returning to help process (the nice term for slaughter) some of the older hens in exchange for a few birds to stock our freezer. We’d like to be able to live with an awareness of exactly where our food comes from and this seems like it could be a perfect opportunity.

Happy, free range chickens doing what chickens are supposed to do. The farm was once certified organic, but because of all the political hassles and ridiculous bureaucracy, chose not to maintain the official certification. 

After the farm, we ran errands in town. We stopped at Lowe’s to pick up some stuff for a few home projects, including these newly updated lamps for our guest room. A five dollar can of spray paint can make all the difference!

I, Kirsten, was in serious need of coffee by this point. Providentially (or because John missed a turn), we stumbled upon Beans and Cream. I enjoyed a vanilla latte, my litmus test for any coffee shop, while John ate a cinnamon roll. And milk, naturally. We chatted with the barista, who happens to be one of the student spouse reps here on base. It seems like it’s safe to assume that 90% of the young people we meet are probably affiliated with the base. It’s a small town.

We then went to Ashley furniture for the third time in the last two-ish weeks to sit in a recliner we’ve been mulling over. We confirmed that yes, it is still the most wonderfully comfortable chair out of any we’ve seen. And then we left. I’m sure we’re scoring huge points with the commission-only sales associates.

On our way home, we stopped at Antiques, Almost Antiques and Junk just for kicks and finally found a reasonable chair that works for our little kitchen nook. It could use a bit of love- maybe I’ll paint it down the road. Also, note the nifty $7 espresso machine I nabbed from a consignment store a few weeks ago. For $7, it works quite well!

John and Kaia took a little bike ride. We won’t be able to do this much longer!

She’s learning to run alongside the bike instead of attacking John’s feet on the pedals.

We played in the backyard and explored the woods behind our house for a bit.

In the afternoon, John worked on our taxes while I made his mom’s chocolate hearts- a Valentine’s tradition. We met our friends Zack and Cassi for bowling (we’re slowly improving) and a few games of Dominion in the evening. We hung (and rehung) curtains, too. Next we’ll learn how to patch unneeded holes in our walls!

Today we visited Fairview Baptist Church. It was definitely Baptist. And also huge. We’re still organizing our thoughts and impressions, still unsure as to where we’ll end up. We’d appreciate prayers as we make a decision about which community we want to plug into for the next year.

We enjoyed a tasty frittata for lunch and I wondered why we don’t have them more often- so simple, so versatile, so good. It’s been storming all day and, thankfully, Kaia could care less. She’s not phased in the least bit; she tries to catch the drops in her mouth and I’m sure she’d roll around in the mud puddles if we let her.

And now, we plan to observe a Richards’ family tradition: popcorn and M&M’s while we watch a movie.

Happy Sunday!

And then there were three…

We’re not having a baby. Yet. But we are preparing ourselves by waking up every 2-3 hours, by reading countless how-to articles, and taking dozens of photos. 
Meet Kaia. She’s an 8 week old German Shepherd.

Her mom and dad were imported from Germany about five years ago. Her breeders live on a 40 acre farm nearby and the husband actually works here on base as a simulation instructor. They happily answered all of our questions (and we had MANY questions) and welcomed us back for play dates anytime. 

She hasn’t been here quite a week yet, but we’re starting to figure her out. She sleeps most of the day, with intermittent bursts of energy during which she likes to chew our feet, wrestle, run, and try to sneak upstairs. It’s a good thing she’s so cute- it’s almost impossible to be frustrated with her. Since she’s teething, we’ve taken to giving her ice cubes, sometimes with little treats frozen inside. She loves it.
This seems to be one of her favorite places to nap. 
She likes to be in the middle of all the action. 
Usually, this means sitting on our feet. 

It’s probably safe to say we’re in love. We’re thankful for a smooth transition so far, surprisingly few messes and a very smart dog who, I trust, will bring much joy into our lives. 

Acorn Squash with Quinoa, Apricot and Sage Stuffing

2013? Seriously?

It’s been a whirlwind month. I got home from South Africa (more on that to come), we had Christmas with our families (also more on that to come) and moved to Mississippi (definitely more on that to come). It’s been raining nonstop for a week, which means we haven’t been too motivated to get much done in the way of unpacking and organizing. Instead, we’ve been playing plenty of board games and I’ve been spending more time in the kitchen.

We had this for dinner the other night and, although it wasn’t the first time I’ve made it, I was struck by how fast it all came together. 30 minutes from gathering the ingredients to sitting down to eat? I’ll take it! As per request, here’s the recipe, adapted from Terry Walter’s Clean Food. You could probably use just about any small squash; the original recipe suggests buttercup. The stuffing is excellent as is, but I’m sure you could swap out ingredients as needed. For example, mirin is sometimes hard to find- it’s a sweet, white cooking wine common in Japanese recipes.

Acorn Squash with Quinoa, Apricot and Sage Stuffing

2 small acorn squashes
2 T extra virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing the squash
1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water or vegetable stock
6 shallots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
6-8 dried apricots, chopped
2 T chopped fresh sage
2 T chopped fresh parsley, plus whole sprigs for serving (I’ve used cilantro before, too)
1 T mirin
zest of 1 lemon and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
salt and pepper
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds (I definitely used more, but we really like almonds)

Preheat oven to 375

Wash the squash and cut it in half. Scoop out the seeds and rub the skins with olive oil. Place open side down on a parchment lined baking pan. Roast for 25 minutes or until soft throughout. Turn off heat, but leave squash in the oven to stay warm until it’s ready to be served.

In the meantime, combine quinoa in a pot with water or vegetable stock and a pinch of salt. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the liquid is absorbed (this should take 10-15 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside.

In a dutch oven (a.k.a. large pot) over medium heat, saute shallots and celery in 1 tablespoon olive oil until soft. Then add the apricots, sage, parsley and mirin and saute for another 3 minutes. Fluff the quinoa and add to this mixture. Add lemon juice, zest and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and saute until heated through. Fill individual squash bowls with stuffing, garnish with toasted almonds and parsley sprigs and serve. Delicious!

26 years of John: 11.30.12

Today is John’s 26th birthday! He has no choice now but to admit that his “early twenties” are really, truly over. Since we can’t be together today to celebrate, we’ll have to make up for it in a few weeks. But for now, to mark the occasion, 26 blessings: 
1. I’m thankful for the parents who raised him. I’m thankful for their patience, their sacrifice and their love that helped to shape John into the man he is today. 
2. I’m thankful that we share a love for the beach. I’m sure that was on my criteria list somewhere…
3. I’m thankful for the relationships John has with his siblings. I really enjoy his family! 

4. John is an excellent breakfast maker. Seriously, I almost never make breakfast because he does it so well! 
5. John also makes the best chocolate lava cakes EVER. 
6. John is a great pianist. I love that our home will always be filled with music. 
7. John is a kid magnet. I love watching him interact with our friends’ children and imagining the type of father he’ll be one day. 

8. John opens the door for me. Always. 

9. John makes the bed even if I was the last one out of it. He helps out around the house all the time.
10. John is interested in everything. He pushes me to broaden my perspectives. 

11. John makes me coffee even though he hates it. We’re working on that…

12. John loves my family. I appreciate his effort to invest in my sisters. 

Enjoying Muir Woods
Dinner at our place in LA, August 2012
11. John loves to explore nature and I love experiencing it with him. We’ve been blessed to have the chance to do so much of this in the past year! 
12. John is very articulate and willing to stand up for his convictions, even when they may be unpopular. He is passionate. 

13. He loves to surprise me! 

A surprise parasailing trip to celebrate my birthday, March 2012

13. John keeps me grounded. He helps me to organize my thoughts, no matter how jumbled they are. He reasons with me even when I am most unreasonable. 


14. John is a great provider. He organizes our finances and plans responsibly for our future. He also takes care of our car, which is a huge deal. 

15. He is spontaneous. I love that he’ll agree to drive up the coast at midnight to watch the stars or to chase the sunset, just because. 

16. John is very thoughtful. All the time. 

17. He has a pretty cool job! I appreciate John’s willingness to serve his country. I also love that John is able to share the joy of flying with other people. 

Enjoying clear, summer skies in Santa Monica, July 2012

18. John always seeks to put God first. He challenges me spiritually. 


19. He’s pretty handsome, if I do say so myself. Also an excellent rock skipper. 

Enjoying the Oregon Coast, October 2012
19. John is very intelligent. He’s also a great procrastinator. 😉  I love to see John succeed and I’m so proud of everything he’s accomplished, seemingly against all odds, in the past year. 

Commencement for John’s Masters. We hope to travel back to LA in 2014 to celebrate his PhD
(the ceremony is only held every two years).
20. He let me run away to Africa. Twice. He also came with me once.
Saying goodbye at the airport, October 2012

21. He makes me feel beautiful. 

22. He’s not too old or too cool to dig giant sand pits or watch Disney movies. 

24. He’s my handyman. Hanging pictures, reupholstering chairs, fixing clogged sink drains, helping me with an assortment of items I trash picked… the list can only grow. 

25. John is committed to continue learning about me. The pursuit doesn’t end in marriage. 
26. He’s made the last year and a half of my life the most exciting, adventurous, fun one yet. I think we’ve learned a ton, both about one another and about the Lord. Apart from salvation, John is God’s greatest gift to me. 

Happy Birthday! 

thankful: November 26-29

11.16.12
1. Two great hours of Bible study with Carlene.

2. A productive afternoon of school work.

3. Rest. Much needed rest.

11.27.12
1. Tutoring resumed today! So happy to spend time with the kids again!

2. Making upcycled Christmas cards and playing outside to celebrate the end of term.

3. Butternut soup with Amy.

4. Planning for Choose to Wait next week. It’s good to get the ball rolling, however slowly.

5. An unexpected opportunity to talk to John for a few minutes.

11.28.12
1. An absolutely gorgeous day. I’m so much happier, energetic and productive when the sun is shining!

2. Assembly this morning and the chance to share these truths: I have value; you have value; sex has value.

3. The ability to simply laugh when tutoring is canceled yet again because the students are not coming to school.

3. Taco night with guests.

11.29.12
1. Themba’s Camp Zion t-shirt–it put a huge smile on my face.

2. “What to do with your Thanksgiving”, an excellent sermon from Rankin Wilborne at Pacific Crossroads, our church in Los Angeles. You can (and should!) check it out here.

3. That Sunbury’s internet is capable of downloading a podcast, period! Living alone in a quiet house, I’ve been listening to many, many sermons.

4. This soup for dinner. After a smoothie and nuts and fruit all day, tonight called for a get-every-pan-in-the-kitchen-dirty sort of meal. So worth it!

Check out the recipe here at 101cookbooks.com. I’ve never been disappointed by anything on this site. 

5. That God is for me!

Siyabonga, Baba!

Thank you, Father. 
“Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” -Psalm 95:1-7
1. Great joy! The more I count blessings, the more I take notice of God’s grace in my life, the more fully I experience Him. I think this is, by far, my most thankful Thanksgiving. 
2. A perfectly baked squash dish, despite a finicky oven and limited ingredients. 
3. My tiny kitchen filled with the delicious aroma of roasting squash. 
4. The chance to share Thanksgiving with the men and women who work here from San Souci. 
5. That John has friends with which to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner today. 
6. The unexpected chance to talk to John, however briefly, because OUR INTERNET IS REPAIRED!
7. Thanksgiving dinner with 30 others, gathered not merely for the sake of preserving American tradition, but in celebration of the Lord’s goodness every day of our lives. Sometimes distance and a change of routine helps to remind us what holidays are really about. 
8. Hundreds of thanks shared and translated around the table.
9. Washing dishes with my Uncle Dick. Dishes are always more fun with other people. 
10. Prayers immediately answered. 
11. Pumpkin pie, of course.

thankful: November 23-25

11.13.12

1. I’m thankful for a great assembly this morning where we talked about how God’s Word is the “Maker’s Manual” for our lives.

2. I’m thankful for lots and lots of dirty dishes, which means lots of people here for graduation this weekend.

3. I’m thankful for time in the kitchen with my Aunt Laurel and Carlene. What a blessing it is to travel to the other side of the world and have the opportunity to serve with family.

11.14.12

1. I’m thankful for the chance to be here for ZEBS graduation, which you can read more about here. What an awesome picture of God’s faithfulness in this ministry!

2. Dancing. I don’t dance, but I’m beginning to wish that I did, or think that maybe I should? Worship isn’t about how I feel. It’s not about me at all!

The Bible is full of dancing. There’s something about an outward, physical expression of joy before the Lord. When I watch the amaZioni dance, I witness their love for God.

Psalm 149:3 “Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!”

3. I’m thankful for the satisfaction of absolute exhaustion.

4. My Uncle Dick’s cookies.

5. Watching the first half of the first Christmas movie of the season with everyone here at Sunbury. The most climactic kiss of White Christmas was interrupted by a power outage, which we all thought was perfect.

6. The power outage also meant an early bedtime, which was much, much needed.

11.25.12

1. An awesome sermon this morning by Paul Esteves at Community Connection. The gospel, the true Christian life is not about rules; it’s about grace lavished upon your life. When you understand this grace, you will leave the old self. We are free; let us not continue to live as though we are enslaved to sin.

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” – Colossians 3:5-10

2. Coffee and conversation with Uncle Dick, Aunt Laurel and Kyle at Zara’s, a cute little Greek cafe, after church.

3. Uncle Dick treating everyone to a delicious lunch.

4. Simple roasted vegetables.

5. The Piano Guys. The joy they experience through their music drives me to worship our Creator.

6. The other half of White Christmas. Any excuse to have popcorn again….especially stovetop popcorn.