linky love

things I’ve bookmarked or come across this week – maybe you’ll be interested too!

happy Thursday!

foster parenting adventure

so apparently I haven’t said a single thing about our new pursuit of a foster care license online. If I think about it, I think I’ve only mentioned it to about two friends in real life…mostly because ever since we decided to pursue fostering, nothing has happened to move it forward. here’s the story of how we find ourselves elbow deep in redundant paperwork:

Last November, Kyle had a particularly heart-wrenching encounter with a little two-year old boy on a call at work. Kyle found this little guy on a bed in a horrible drug house, surrounded by trash and old food crumbs, obviously neglected, drug-impacted (there was drug paraphernalia near his bed) and far behind developmentally. After a stern conversation with this boy’s mother, and placing the child in an emergency foster home, Kyle came home wanting to do something more. We talked and prayed about looking into foster parenting and called our county to start the process.

We received some basic info in the mail in December, and called back to schedule the next step, but were told they do orientation once a quarter and there had been one recently – the next one would be in the spring of 2011. So we went on with life and I read up on foster care kids, foster care challenges and every blog about fostering/adoption I came across. I recalled my experiences as a house parent to 22 kids at the children’s home in Florida and thought how “easy” it would be to only have one or two kids to care for.

Earlier this month we finally heard from the Foster Care Manager that the next orientation was scheduled for this week and gratefully, it fell on a day Kyle already had off and we could easily attend. Grandma Char and Aunt Molly came to watch Jackson and we sat through a 67 slide PowerPoint presentation on how our house needs to be set up, rules and regulations, information on procedures and how the system works and detailed information on foster care needs in our county.

Later in the afternoon we started on our Mt. Everest of paperwork with duplicate forms going to different state and local agencies, realizing once again that government is anything but efficient. 😛 We also heard from a 12 year veteran foster parent on her experiences and some of her favorite tips and tricks to making kids feel at home and loved in a difficult time. She said two things that really stuck with me.

The first: “The hardest part is always letting them go home.” And the other was her personal vision for fostering to adopt.  She hopes is to adopt as many kids as possible from the MN Waiting Children list until she is too old to do so. Let me tell ya – she’s no spring chicken either – I’m guessing she is near 60 and her youngest adopted child is 5. So far she has adopted 8 kids and more are going to be the lucky ones to have her for an adoptive mom.

I learned that most adoptions of kids in the Minnesota system take just about as long as it does to grow a baby: 9-10 months. Sometimes it can take up to a year if its a confusing or complicated case. There are about 350 kids waiting to be adopted in our state right now. I share this mostly because it was interesting information to me, not because we are actively pursuing adopting through the foster care system. We are definitely open to it if God brings us a kiddo that can’t be reconciled to their family and needs a forever home.

I will not lie: this is a little nerve-wracking for sure. You never know what placement you could get. You can’t possibly know all the pain and hard things a kid has experienced in their short life until you start loving on them and it unravels. I feel like we have absolutely no idea what we are getting into, but am confident that with the massive amount of resources and the power of a Mighty God at our disposal, we can do this. “He is faithful who called you, who also will do it.”

Thanks for your interest, prayers and support as we start this adventure! It will take 2-4 months for us to complete the licensing process and are ready to accept kids. Placements have been down over the past few years in our county (a very good thing!) but there is a possibility other counties would bring their kids to us if we’re available. At the beginning, we will be available for emergency shelter care and respite care and later we will move to longer-term placement status and foster-to-adopt.

So here we go! Into the wild blue yonder that is full of clouds of grace and mercy. We just want to be faithful to Christ’s call to be his hands and feet – to care for the orphan and widow and to be His light in a dark world.

12/52

with my lovely latte

it may be corporate coffee and I know I’m not sticking it to the man with my tastes or wallet, but gosh I love me some Starbucks. After living in the espresso soaked culture of Seattle for the better part of two years, Starbucks is a haven of comfort for my latte-devoted soul.

Out in the land of drive-thru espresso stands, a good cup of joe was easily procured from just about anywhere. My favorite little one was Locals on Lakewood Road, which was on the way from the interstate to Warm Beach. There was this one male barista – oh what was his name? It was incongruous with his looks – he was a burly, tattooed ex-Marine or Navy guy and his name was Stanley or Walter or something very old school. Anyway – he was my favorite.

But here in MN, I’ve not found independent shops to be as consistent or pursue high standards of quality like the giant of Coffeeshopdom, Starbucks. And it just so happens that “my” Starbucks is on the way to almost everything I drive to, since its just south on the trek toward “The Cities”. 🙂 Today I stopped in for my typical vanilla latte’, one of their incredible breakfast sandwiches (gouda, egg and bacon on ciabatta – oh for yums) and a couple gift items.

I guess my “signature” drink is a 2 pump tall vanilla latte, and I always hope the barista can make creamy, dreamy foam…its what makes the drink for me. It’s not a sexy or glamorous or complicated drink, but its me. Simple, classic and tasty.

mom corner: share the wisdom

Here’s a current dilemma I’m facing in mom-land and thought a little help from my friends would be great. Please?

i feel a little lost at this point in motherhood. Jack requires more attention than ever at this stage of the game…life was so much simpler when he couldn’t move. lol. 🙂 So while I have a pile of things to do that can’t really be done while he’s awake and needing me, I also require naps during his naps, which eliminates accomplishing those things while he naps. But the alternative is to be crabby and exhausted when he gets up from his two hour siesta, which is most definitely not a nice choice. For either of us.

I get the things done that I can while he’s my tag along or amusing himself with toys/books/etc. – housework, laundry, e-mailing, errands out and about and then find myself tired at the end of the day and when he’s in bed, all I want to do is curl up with a book or watch TV. I do not want to clean the oven at 9pm or scrub baseboards (things on my spring cleaning list). I’m not a big fan of sitting him in front of the TV, though I do employ that on a desperate occasion for 20-30 minutes at a time.

It’s the things that really require my brain like planning menus, writing stories, major cleaning that Jack will probably try to “help” with and create more of a mess, etc. that I’m finding hard to accomplish. I firmly believe in including your kids in life and I don’t view Jack as a hindrance to accomplishing MY goals…I definitely don’t stress about getting it all done and maintaining perfection, I just need to figure out something better!

Kyle is taking Jack with him right now to run errands while I make dinner, which is GREAT. I am hoping to schedule a day or overnight for Jack to go to Grandma’s so we can tackle major cleaning/organizing in April without him underfoot. On my to-do list is to develop a daily/weekly schedule to give a little more structure to our days, which I think will help a lot. I’m a very spontaneous person, but structure has always helped me reign in my time and be more productive.

How do you handle the needs and fun of a toddler and the need to get stuff done? Any experience or suggestions are welcome! 🙂

11/52

on the lift at Diamond Peak, Lake Tahoe NV

We had such a fun time on our ski vacation in Nevada this past week! Here we are, stupid ski goggles and all, on the lift going to the top of Diamond Peak overlooking Lake Tahoe. Neither of us have ever skied a real mountain, so going from 800 ft. elevation of MN ski resorts to 8400 ft. was absolutely mind-blowing and awesome. 🙂

I learned how to ski in fresh powder too, because the resort got dumped with 11 inches the night before our second day on the slopes. My brag is that I tackled a black diamond (the hardest run on a scale of three types) and managed to only lay it down one time on the way down. I was shaking at the  bottom from adrenaline – it was pretty crazy!

I’ll be back in a day or so to post more pictures from our trip and to wax eloquent on how very cool Nevada and the Storey/Hulson families are.

what I wore: grey, black and pearls

every once in a while, I post my own little what I wore shots. This was my outfit for church yesterday, which is one of about three times a week I get totally put together. My uniform for the rest of the time is yoga pants w/ a knit top and fleece pullover or jeans with a knit top and a cardigan or sweater or down vest. 🙂 I promise someday I’ll do a “real life with Johanna” post revealing my un-done hair, slouchy house clothes and makeup-less face.

what I wore:

  • grey knit sleeveless dress: Liz Lange for Target, thrifted (yep, its maternity, though I’m not really wearing any other maternity stuff yet)
  • velour cropped jacket: Isaac Mizrahi for Target, also thrifted
  • funky polka dot tights: Target, a gift
  • boots: Kenneth Cole Reaction, Macy’s
  • freshwater pearl and sterling silver jewelry: Silpada

 

grey, black and pearls

comfort and stylishness are definitely not mutually exclusive. This outfit was super comfy and I think it was cute too! 🙂 What’s your favorite comfortable, yet styling item in your wardrobe?

lemon vanilla bean cheesecakelettes

The other day I was scrounging around in my cupboards and fridge and discovered three items that needed to be used up. Triple Ginger Cookies from Trader Joe’s that were in danger of staling, a whole bag of delicious lemons in danger of rotting and a block of cream cheese that begged to be used in a delectable marriage of lemon, cheesecake and gingersnaps. 🙂 So I dialed up my favorite food blog: Smitten Kitchen and found a lemon curd recipe and a new york cheesecake recipe to tweak to my own nefarious plan. Success!

I used my fun Hipstamatic app on the iPhone to capture each stage of the process and typed up my tweakings for your amusement and delight, should you have the proper ingredients. (I had to go get eggs – I hate it when I’m out of just ONE thing necessary for my culinary whims of fancy!)

Without further ado, I present to you…lemon vanilla bean cheesecakelettes.

Gingersnap Crust:

1 ¼ cups gingersnap crumbs (I used Trader Joe’s Triple Ginger Cookies – oh delish!)

3 tablespoons melted salted butter

Make crumbs in food processor, drizzle in melted butter and pulse to combine.

Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of crust mixture into lined muffin cups, press down cover bottom of cup. Bake at 350 degrees for about 8-10 minutes. Prepare cheesecake filling.

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake:

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped out (put the bean scrapings into the mixture)
1 large egg
1/2 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Beat together cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla bean scrapings with an electric mixer until smooth. Add vanilla, then the egg and yolk, one at a time, beating on low speed until each ingredient is incorporated. Scrape bowl down between additions! Split evenly among the 12 muffin cups. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes or until puffed and slightly dry. Cool completely.

pre-oven

 

baked and ready for a lemon overcoat

Lemon Curd
Adapted from Gourmet

Makes a little shy of 1 cup

6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest, finely grated
6 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Whisk together juice, zest, sugar, and egg in a 1-quart heavy saucepan. Stir in butter and cook over moderately low heat, whisking frequently, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubble appears on surface, about 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer lemon curd to a bowl and chill, its surface covered with plastic wrap, until cold, at least 1 hour.

To finish:

Dollop lemon curd on top of cooled cheesecakelettes. Try not to devour the whole dozen at once. 😉

10/52

I love accessorizing. 🙂 Even a black tee and jeans can be dressed up with the proper additions. This week my mom had some new Silpada bling delivered to my house because she was on vacation in FL. She is going to have to wrestle it back – bwahaha! 🙂 The turquoise and smoky quartz palette work really well for me – I have a lot of blues in my wardrobe, but the turquoise shade works the best. I love keeping my wardrobe simple and basic and adding pops of color and pizazz via accessories. I almost never wear anything less than a necklace, a ring and a simple silver bracelet. Usually I do necklace, earrings, a ring (besides my wedding rings) and at least two bracelets.

But that’s just me. 🙂

sportin' some bling

linky love: cooking/baking blogs

A friend recently asked me to link my favorite cooking and baking blogs, which I am happy to share! 🙂

smitten cake
  • Smitten Kitchen – this is my top, go-to, most-trusted site. Deb researches the heck out of her recipes, does it all from a tiny NYC apartment kitchen, uses as few bowls and gadgets as possible (yay for less mess!) and has a penchant for really amazing recipes including fresh fruits and vegetables. I’m definitely smitten. 🙂 So is Kyle. I found last year’s birthday cake for him on this site and unless he begs me for a repeat, I plan to make this one for him this year.
  • Brown-Eyed Baker – Michelle’s blog is full of decadent treats and very delicious baked goods. Even just looking at her pictures I gain a lb. or two. Good stuff.
  • Noshings – a very well rounded recipe and baking blog with offerings like brioche caramel rolls (oh. my.) and her take on sloppy joes. I approve.
  • Joy the Baker – Joy is funny, creative and has incredible recipes for delectable bakery items. On my current “try very soon” list from her recipe archive is lemon cornmeal breakfast cake. She also shares vegan and vegetarian meals and recipes, which is a fun break from the typical American fare. I really love her offerings!
  • The Kitchen Sink – I like this one a lot – Kristin is originally from Minnesota. So every once in a while she’ll reference something unique to MN and I feel all warm and cozy inside. Like “awww – she’s talking about home”! 🙂 Both baked goods and savory dishes make it on to her pages…and everything I’ve tried, I’ve liked.
  • Tasty Kitchen Blog – the Tasty Kitchen site is something like All Recipes for Ree Drummond fans. 🙂 Many cooking/baking bloggers contribute, as well as lil’ ol’ home bakers/cooks like me and you. My favorite posts are the recipe collections. They will pick a theme like chocolate cookies and then link photos and recipes for about 30 different variations on that theme. It’s brilliant. Grill recipes, cake recipes, ice cream recipes, you name it – they’ve done it or will. I <3.
  • A Cozy Kitchen – the recipe blog of two friends: Adrianna and Caroline, A Cozy Kitchen is another blog of tastiness. Well rounded with baking and cooking options, these two have fun posting new things often. It’s another great one!
  • Healing Cuisine – my friend Elise started this blog. It focuses on really healthy eating with an emphasis on mostly raw, sugar-free, gluten-free, soy-free recipes. Lots of lean protein and veggies, along with tasty smoothies and surprise treats fill up the pages of this colorful blog. Try the quinoa apple salad – one of my faves.
chocolate peanut butter spread: smitten kitchen
chocolate peanut butter spread: smitten kitchen

Other cooking websites I rely on:

  • Epicurious – this site includes recipes from the magazines Bon Appetit and Gourmet. Definitely a more upscale, inventive recipe source. For our epic Christmas feast last year, I used many recipes from this site, or tweaked recipes I found here to suit what I was going for with the meal. Well-tested recipes and I can usually get all the ingredients at my local small town grocery store, avoiding a trip to the “big city”. 🙂
  • All Recipes – in a pinch or when I’m trying to find an “old recipe” I have in my head but can’t find easily. These aren’t always the best tested or accurate recipes, but if I’m trying to concoct something, the recipes are usually a very good place to start. I combined two recipes I found here for our favorite fish tacos.
  • Food Network – not my first go-to, but there are a lot of great recipes on here. My all time favorite turkey brine came from Alton Brown…bless his overly detailed soul.

So there you have it, folks. All my favorite cooking and baking resources in one, nice list. What are your favorites? Where do you go for reliable and delicious recipes?