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Free Ice Cream

Hello, freebie-loving folks!

Free soft serve ice cream through the 8th at Burger King! I just left there on my way home from an appointment and was very pleased with the head-sized cone. And might I suggest getting a cone. I mean really – t’s half the fun.

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Show this coupon on your smartphone or print it out before you leave. 

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Almond Chocolate Chip Biscotti

I’m a stay-at-home mom, and my husband only goes into the office two days a week. So when it’s breakfast time, I usually cook something. Don’t get me wrong – I love my Cracklin’ Oat Bran and Golden Grahams and organic pumpkin flax seed granola. But when we got married and didn’t have jobs, I baked or cooked or preserved or otherwise made everything possible to save money. Cooked breakfasts and hesitation towards store bought bread are holdovers from that.

One of our long time favorites (except when I’m in early pregnancy stages and can’t stand the idea of coffee) is biscotti. If I’m on top of things and have lemon on hand, and if it’s late summer and we have fresh blueberries, then that’s my favorite flavor. But for the other 10 months, almond and chocolate chips make a perfect sweet/savory blend. And, this is probably the only thing in which I don’t overhaul the chocolate chips. I know. Crazy. But trust me – if I like it like this way, it’s at least worth a try.

Notes: You can use any stir-ins you want. If it’s lemon and blueberry, juice a fourth to half a lemon and add some peel peel. But experiment! It’s your breakfast. 

Almond Chocolate Chip Biscotti

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book

Prep: 20 min

Bake: 60 min

Makes about 2 bar pans of biscotti

Ingredients

2 3/4 cups   all-purpose flour (or a mix of whole wheat and AP)

1 1/2 tsp      baking powder

1 tsp            salt

1 1/2 cups   sugar

3                  eggs

5 tbs            butter, melted

1 handful     slivered almonds

1 handful     chocolate chips

 

Directions

- In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Make a well in the center and place eggs and butter. Stir just until it starts to come together (and liquids won’t just coat the stir-ins). Add almonds and chips and stir until combined (it’ll still be a little crumbly).

- Preheat oven to 325*.

- On a large bar pan, dump out half of the mixture and form it into a long log. Pat it down until it’s flat and level. Use your hands to keep straight sides (tapered ends will burn). This can vary – I like ours to be longer, thinner, flatter pieces, but you’ll find what you like. Repeat with the other half of the dough on the same pan.

- Bake for 40 minutes. (Rotate halfway if your oven isn’t consistent throughout.)

- Remove from oven. Using a sharp, serrated knife, cut the logs lengthwise into pieces that look more like your traditional biscotti. Arrange, cut sides up, on either one or two bar pans (just so they’re not touching, they can be as close as you want.)

- Bake another 20 minutes. (Remember to rotate, ya’ll with ovens like mine!)

 

Enjoy! Your very own cafe breakfast!… just don’t forget the coffee!

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Spring Is for Dancing

Spring has finally arrived! And to help put you in the right mood to enjoy this weather (wherever you are, whatever your actual temperatures), here is a FREE playlist of up-and-coming artists from Google Play! The tracks I downloaded myself are: “Shelter Song” – Temples – I can’t place my finger on who they sound like, but perfect alt-psychedelic rock. “Wut” - LE1F – Bullet-fast rap laid overtop Macklemore-esq saxophone hooks. “You Go Down Smooth” - Lake Street Drive – Mowtown voice with modern rock music. Feel good, upbeat, perfect for springtime dancing! “Pathetic” - Erik Hassle – Regardless of the title, feel-good R&B tune channeling Frank Ocean’s voice and Justin Timberlake’s style, with a just a touch of techno background. “Tongues” - Joywave – More alt-rock. Also upbeat with a nice hook. Told you this was a dancing playlist. And finally, a music video to whet your whistle for my kind of music.

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Winter Blues

I know – hush the thought! Winter is only here another 11 days! BUT… that doesn’t mean we don’t all need a little help on the winter blues.

This is a good article from CCEF on advice for moms at home with kids, often inside for days… weeks… months on end. I know this year has been particularly brutal: our plans for using the adorable wooden sled given to our little tyke for Christmas have been frozen at a standstill. And, as I’m pregnant, I’ve been particularly prone to lying on the couch for extended periods. Lemme tell ya’ – that don’t help. This happened two years ago when my first trimester aligned with the first three months of the year. It’s particularly hard for me to feel happy when I physically feel sick.

But this time, at least, I’ve already got one fully-baked bun to play with. One of the pieces of advice in the article is to make a conscious effort to smile at your kids. It is largely due to my child that I have been smiling these past few months. I’m very thankful for the need to change his diaper and feed him lunch – not usually at that moment, but as I’m playing with him on the changing pad, I’ve realized more than once how much better I feel right then than I have in hours. Having a purpose has been healthy for me.

There’s also a follow-up article with more practical tips, such as reaching out to others in the same situation or serving someone. These go along with the need for purpose. Both of these physically direct your thoughts to the larger picture instead of the minutiae of day-to-day indoors.

So, here’s hoping this advice won’t be needed much longer (this season). I know tomorrow’s forecast for my little town is “Partially sunny and delightful.”

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Freebie of the day! Big is available as a free HD download for Google account holders. 

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Laura Mvula

 

This is just to make you happy today. I’ve heard most of this album, and she’s talented. Her videos are beautiful. And this one is just great.

Also, her facebook page is very active – one of the best kept I’ve seen. Check it out if you like her!

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Free patterns! March is out like a lion, in like a lamb - at least, here’s hoping!

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Lecrae, BET, and Kanye

My brother has been working in film for a while now, mostly independently, but also professionally. He attended NYU Film School in Singapore before they closed their doors, and that was after graduating from the Reformed Theological Seminary. We went to Creation a few times growing up, listened to DC Talk and John Reuben, but mostly listened to the radio. We went to public school and dances. We went to the movies. The topic of Christians intersecting with the world at large has been a common one in our family.

Recently my brother sent this article to me about Lecrae, a Christian rapper who is trying to break out into mainstream music culture, with pretty good success. He’s been getting a lot of flak about it from his Christian fans, who have actually said they’re afraid non-Christians will get their sinner cooties on him and his music. It’s a weak faith that’s afraid of sinners.

Most of what I have to say has been covered in this article. It’s a great one. Lecrae himself has most of the wisdom, as he’s done a lot of thinking about his life in this intersection. But as I’ve said before, our job as Christians should be to make the best  –blank–  possible. If you’re a doctor, do your best to save lives and stay on the cutting-edge of medical advances. If you’re an author, write the best possible books and articles you can. If you’re a web developer or some other desk job, be the best employee you can. If you’re a church, excel in everything, including the music, building aesthetics, even coffee. Whatever you do, glorify God by being the best at it you can. Don’t judge your success by how many times you say Jesus’ name, but by your effectiveness in being a man or woman of God in the world.

There’s a quote often attributed to Francis of Assisi, “Preach often, and, if necessary, use words.” No one’s sure that’s from him, but he did say something similar (just not as quippy):

“…love one another, as the Lord says: ‘This is My commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.’ And let them show their love by the works they do for each other, according as the Apostle says: ‘let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.’”

I think that’s better, anyway.

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Wondering about the title? You’ll have to read the Lecrae article to see how it all works. 

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Free song o’ the day! Speaking of the devil having all the good music… Amy Winehouse, “Back to Black“, is free on Google Play. I’m not gonna condone the content, but I love her style and how she brought sultry jazz back to mainstream. 

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Free Tunes – 20 Feb ’14

(Remember when that was a word separate from the “i-” prefix?)

I l-o-o-o-v-e free things. I’m signed up to a multitude of email blasts for daily free items. For example, I don’t think I’ve bought tea in years – folks always giving away samples of tea.

Happy Black History Month! To commemorate, Google and I are giving you free music (I’m just directing you to it… it’s not actually coming out of my pocket, much as I would love). There are, to be precise, three free songs and perhaps an entire album. (I previously downloaded the Kanye West album “Yeezus” out of curiosity and the inability to resist something free, so I can’t tell if it’s free on Google at this moment, but it has been for a few months up until now, anyway.)

Though there are only three (as opposed to the usual dozen or more) offerings, one is Prince and one is Missy Elliott: “Lose Control“, one of her best (but also the uncensored version). And the last one is by Parliament…? Sorry. I’m not that cultured. I am, after all, a WASP… (*sigh*).

You don’t need me! Being signed up for Google music releases gives you these notifications directly – they always include free music, games, apps, or shows. 

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Knitting = Love

Guys, I love knitting. I learned how to crochet in 5th grade from my teacher, Mrs. Lingenfelder. We’d have free time where we watched educational videos each day, and my best friend and I sat by her desk instead, learning to crochet chains. From 5th grade ad infinitum, I crocheted everything I possibly could (without reading a pattern, meaning everything with fairly straight edges). Friends and family got laptop cases, camera baggies, Game Boy pouches, and scarves – oh they got scarves.

But my pastor’s wife… she knits. She’d be knitting away during sermons, parties, Bible studies. What beautiful creations! And how do those two needles work like that?? At the time, the friend giving me job training also knit, so Heather taught me the cast on, Stacey taught me the knit, and the Internet taught me the rest.

My first real pattern was a sock. I remember following the instructions and holding it up going, “I have no idea what this is doing.”  And then I got to the end, and voila! it was a sock! Patterns are like magic!

But my first actual attempt at following a pattern was a washcloth. It took me so long – it was the only thing I gave my Granny that year because it was such an accomplishment. So here: this is a link to one free knit washcloth pattern, gratis Knit Picks. Maybe this’ll be the start of your knitting fancy, too.

(By the way, that was just two years ago I picked up knitting, and I’m currently working on spinning yarn for a sweater for my husband. It’s like “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” - careful. You don’t know what you’re getting into.)

KnitPicks.com is offerng a year of free weekly washcloth patterns. Sign up for their newsletter to get them all!

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Horse and carriage and horse and…

Love and marriage are like a horse and carriage, amiright? I think what they’re saying in that song is that one follows the other: man and woman fall in love, ergo, they get married. But it’s not that straightforward. I propose that they’re cyclical. Not only does love lead into marriage, but being married creates a situation for love to grow deeper, fuller and more complex. Here’s a story to illustrate:

My husband and I, we met at 18, fell in love at 23, and married at 24. In between there, we lived a whole lot of life separate from each other. That’s not a bad thing – we brought a lot of variety in movies, music, experiences, food, etcetera to the lives we created together. But there were also things that, once we were together, still made us feel separated from each other.

Some of those things were still sneaking into our marriage, even though they were deeds long and dead. (Sin can outlive its sinfulness, morphing instead into guilt or blame, other sinful beasts in themselves.) But we were married. We both knew those lives were behind us, and only our lives together in front of us.

Then that “together” grew to include three. We found out we were pregnant on our six month anniversary, and welcomed Copper shortly after our year anniversary. Ladies… childbirth is rough! (Married men, pay attention, too.) I asked and asked those who had gone before what it was like, and they were all vague. I’m not here to be graphic, but in the hospital a day or two after our son’s birthday, I wondered how in the world single women do this. I needed help for everything. And at first, there were nurses. But very soon, it was just my husband, our tiny baby, and me at our house, and I still needed help. I strained too much during labor and couldn’t raise above absolutely flat or a stress headache would take me over. I had to check on stitches. I had to do Sitz baths three times daily for 20 minutes each, during which time I couldn’t do anything to help myself, let alone the poor newborn. All in all, I was pitiful and helpless.

And my husband was there, through it all. He helped me get to, from, and off the toilet. He got my Sitz baths ready and emptied them out. He made sure I ate, that dishes didn’t organize to overthrow us, that the household downstairs continued on. He drove me to and from endless checkups while I was prostrate in the passenger seat, or he let me lay in his lap in the waiting room. Ok, here’s a good one – he was there for the whole inglorious act of labor, wherein I was reduced to pure muscle and inhuman sounds, incapable of anything remotely resembling a lady – and thought it all glorious.

He loved me, through it all, by very clear actions.

While we were planning our wedding, my brother was overseas. He returned a few weeks before the ceremony, but I wanted his input, and it would have been too late by then. I emailed him, and he replied with a suggestion from his comrades at Capenwray where he was studying: a feet-washing ceremony. It visually represents the servant-like attitude Jesus taught and himself took on his last night.

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We did it to illustrate what we would, with God’s help, make our marriage, and we did it to remind ourselves of that if it got tough later on. And that was what Cody was living and breathing in that time after our baby was born. He was bending low, serving his wife and son, stooping lower than even I, constantly on my back.

It’s this what marriage is made of. It’s consistently bending low, not just for the big stuff like childbirth, but for the little things – cleaning the cat litter without fail since the day you let your wife get them. Making sure he goes to work with lunch, even if that means you get fruit and cottage cheese again. Getting up and going to your crying child in the middle of the gripping paragraph in your book so you can kiss it and make it better.

(My brother also pointed out the opportunity to practice servant-like love at its best when Copper was born: there is nothing that old-man looking infant can do for you for quite a long time, even if we count “make you feel loved” as a goal. They can’t even see you, folks. But meantime your entire life – and income – are poured into them. Do they recognize it? … do you remember thanking your parents?)

I realized over a year later that, when we were first married, I felt much more like two people who were married. Now, we are much more clearly one. When Genesis 2:24 says “they become one flesh,” maybe it’s not meant to be read as an instantaneous change. In some senses, of course, it is. But in others, it happens over time, through trials and tribulations that you face together, as one being and of one mind.

(And, as I’m saying this, it’s works both ways. I’m emphasizing the effect that serving has on the overall marriage, but when I talked to my husband about this, he thought he saw the most growth and change in himself. was served and felt its effect, but he served and through that, changed as a man and a husband and grew to love me more through serving me. Fiddler fans, what does Golde reply when Tevye asks if she loves him? … )

What I’m saying is that love grows so deep through selfless service, which is perfected in marriage. You don’t have to have kids to experience this (though I clearly think it accelerates it). But I really believe you have to be married. Without that dive, you’re holding back and waiting to make sure you’re not missing out on anyone else. It allows for an escape route in case cleaning up the other person’s mess gets too messy. But right here, in the midst of the wild abandon that marriage is, it lets us see how God was wild in his abandon for his love for us. We’re the bride Jesus came to serve. We’re the huddled masses, unable to help ourselves out of bed, and he comes and carries us. That’s what marriage it, and that’s what love is.

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Whenever possible, I’ll be recommending Tim Keller on all things Gospel-related. So here’s one for the topic at hand: The Meaning of Marriage

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Joy to the World

I love Christmas. Most kids do.. Whether or not Santa and the elves are involved, it’s a magical time. There’s often snow here in Pennsylvania. We see family we don’t often. We dress up in rich colors and gather in cozy houses with warm drinks. It’s a time we splurge, in many ways, in the name of the holiday.

But there are a lot of people who have a lot of reasons not to be cheerful during Christmas. “Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire” sets our sights high, but what if we don’t have a fireplace or even know where to get chestnuts? We can get hung up on little things that “ruin” the big day, but what if this year has to be celebrated without a cherished friend or family member? What if there isn’t money for carol-worthy festivities? Or what if the world just seems like a dark and bitter place compared to what we’re supposed to be experiencing?

I grew up with a particularly enchanting childhood, and Christmas was the epitome of it. My parents love Christmas, and always went (and still go) to great lengths to make it wonderful for everyone. Last year, however, just before the Advent season began, I was brought face-to-face with a grievous sin that had been here in the world all along, and I didn’t know it. Instead of the world I’d come to believe was real, a very different reality presented itself and argued to take its place. Instead of the aforementioned, traditional bliss of the season, I got to realize more of the reality that lots and lots of people know firsthand.

My response – cling even tighter to Advent, the season of waiting. Not waiting for Christmas morning and Christmas dinner and Christmas presents. Waiting for the baby. Looking at the world through the eyes of Jewish shepherds and a young expectant girl, told that the Messiah foretold 700 years earlier in the book of Isaiah, the descendant promised to Abraham hundreds of years before that, was finally coming. And he would change everything.

It took me a long time after becoming a Christian to see the Bible as one story. I thought the Old Testament was about God, the New Testament about Jesus. Actually, the whole thing is about all three persons of God. Jesus is written into everything in the Old Testament – he’s foreshadowed in the system of sacrifices and being clean or unclean, he’s the fulfillment of all the promises, he’s the keeper of the covenants. And once Jesus gets here, every word out of his mouth is about God and the Spirit. So all the promises God made throughout Jewish history, all of them suddenly come true when God is born.

My son was about 10 weeks old when I started studying Advent last year. I knew helpless babe. I knew the grittiness of birth. And I knew expectancy. Knowing it’ll happen one day… soon… and just waiting… My husband and I tried to be constantly well-rested, just in case I’d go into labor at 1 AM, and then we could say, “Good thing we went to bed at 8!” (As it happened, we went to bed uncharacteristically late the night he was born. Thanks, “Dr. Who.”) Now, we’re waiting again for Jesus to come back and finish the work he started. He defeated evil. We’re living in this funny middle time where we know evil and death have been defeated, but we’re still here among it. We’re still fighting, but fighting from victory. We know how it ends. We just have to wait until Jesus finishes his work.

And that’s what people mean when they say Jesus gives them peace and joy. That’s how I could still celebrate Christmas last year, and every day since then. I know how it all ends. Jesus wins, and along with him, everyone on his side. We shouldn’t be shocked when we see evil and its effects – anyone who’s honest with themselves recognizes it in themselves - it’s what we get for being born human. But once that New Earth is here, we get new, perfect bodies, free of anything dark or bitter. For now, we live in the paradox of a created, beautiful world that is marred by sin and evil, knowing that it has been defeated but waiting to see that truth. And in the midst of it, knowing we belong to the victor, the tiny baby of Christmas.

 Download and print these Advent Verses to read during the countdown. They are largely from the Old Testament and include a wide variety of books, with an emphasis in Isaiah. 

Some thoughts borrowed from Steven Estes in “A Better December.” For more on audacious joy, see Ann Voskamp’s blog, “A Holy Experience“. Ann’s sister was crushed by a truck in front of her when she was little, her mother went to a psychiatric ward, and she has since buried two nephews. She is the author of the book, “One Thousand Gifts“.