Five Minute Friday – Dive

Lord, please forgive me for watching 30 minutes of this incredibly stupid show!

Lord, please forgive me for watching 30 minutes of this incredibly stupid show!

After our company left on Wednesday, I turned on the tv. Bad idea. If the Five Minute Friday were any other word, I wouldn’t even be sharing but yes,

I watched about 30 minutes of Celebrity Diving and I repent. Perhaps the stupidest show ever created.

Strangely though, that ridiculous show, which I wouldn’t have watched had the tv not been on that particular channel, it did get me thinking about diving.

That feeling of plunging into the unknown is exhilarating.

The whole reason we had company on Wednesday night is because two people jumped into something.

In some way, you could say these guys are divers!

In some way, you could say these guys are divers!

Last year, my ministry-minded olive shoot began tutoring Hispanic students at a local church every Monday evening. He became fast friends with one of the boys and soon Aaron was working with this young man every week. As I contemplate the word “dive,” I see how my OS jumped into this opportunity with all his might.

During break from college, Aaron returned to visit the students and soon reunited with Mario. His mother embraced my boy and an offer to make us dinner materialized.

Diving into opportunity and deliciousness, two moms of three olive shoots bond over food, faith and family.

Diving into opportunity and deliciousness, two moms of three olive shoots bond over food, faith and family.

Two days later, Miriam was at my house. Homemade, from scratch tostadas, homemade mashed beans, Habanero sauce, queso fresco – mouth-watering delicious, authentic Mexican food carefully prepared for us to enjoy.  This precious mom of three olive shoots dove right in to my kitchen. Without any hesitation, she prepared us a meal and insisted on serving us even though we would have been happy to make our own plates.

We dove into our meal, the experience, the love and common bonds we shared. I want to dive into that moment again.

So what’s Five Minute Friday? What’s 5 minute Friday? It’s where a beautiful crowd spends five minutes all writing on the same topic and then sharing ‘em over here. Check it out, I love it! 5minutefriday

Are you a Soaky McSoaker?


“The treadmill routine of the week is: washing, baking, ironing, fixing dried fruit, airing clothes, sewing, cleaning, baking and cleaning again. So it goes week after week. Eating and drinking, cooking and cleaning, scrubbing and scouring we go through life; and only lay down our implements at the verge of the gravel!…You bake, and boil, and fry, and stew; worry and toil, just as if the people’s principle business in this world was to learn how much they could eat-and eat it.” Jane G. Swissholm, Letters to Country Girls, 1853.

I love Helen Nearing’s book Simple Food for the Good Life. Filled with recipes and pithy sayings, I selected the above quote from Nearing’s book because it sums up my average day. I try not to find drudgery in homemaking and consider a skill, a privilege and a science. Our world has belittled the career of motherhood and domesticity. Most of us don’t teach these skills to our children and then don’t understand why our kids can’t take care of themselves, eat horribly and have homes in disarray when they are older. My three sons are ages 22, 18 and almost 16 and they know I’m on a mission to change that. They make a mama proud. God gave me three olive shoots for a reason and in general, I like how they’re sprouting up to be competent, Jesus loving, strong men who can also throw down.

But today I want to write about pre-soaking grains and seeds literally. I am a total neophyte in this arena. A caveat, please correct any of the information I am going to share as my desire is to contribute to the discussion. Add to the conversation also, I want to learn.

But first, did you know about 15 years ago, I had a funny flax seed story published in a book? It’s true! I shall soon share. It’s about Nate, brownies and a little bit of trickery on my part.

Do you want to hear a super creepy story in the interim? I had a friend whose boyfriend had his wisdom teeth extracted. He ate pizza a few days post-surgery. A few days after that, the guy went into the bathroom and screamed to his girlfriend to come right away. She rushed right in and there he was mouth agape. He said, “@*&@!!,” pointed and she spotted it. Back where one of the wisdom teeth had once lived, a tiny sprout had grown in its place! Can you imagine what it would have been like to pull a small plant out of a hole in your mouth! I would have Instagrammed it.

If you thought the only time you sprouted a seed was before you planted it or following dental surgery (!), here are some things to know.

Sprouted seeds

Sprouting biologically activates the seed and makes the plant proteins, essential fatty acids, starches and vitamins bio-available.

Flax seeds are hard for our body to digest. They have natural enzyme inhibitors which prevent digestion. There is much to love about flax seeds – their crunch, color, flavor, even tactically, put your hand in a bag of flax seeds before and after you buy them from Whole Foods and you’ll notice their silky texture. Let’s just say I “know” someone who does this. You’d really like her. 😉

Despite a flax seed’s many attributes, though I don’t need a stomach ache. My family will usually try anything I make but if they have a bad reaction or don’t like it, I’m done. They won’t revisit it. Ask them about kale cake. Gigantic epic fail. If you’re sensitive or allergic to certain grains, soak your whole grains beforehand, in a salt brine, anywhere from 7-24 hours and it will probably lessen the symptoms. Oh, and don’t ever make kale cake. Ever.

Use warm water. It coaxes the enzymes out of their little crusty shell. Don’t soak them too long or they will grow bacteria. I think I did this for you, so trust me. Last year I made a batch of granola. I was a Soaky McSoaker and soaked the oats in a mixture of keifer, coconut oil, butter and water. Recipe said overnight but I pushed it a little. This resulted in a granola which brought facial expressions reminiscent of kale cake. I fed the trash can, not the Hubs or my OS that time. Duly noted. puts it this way,  pre-soaking, “allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to not only neutralize the phytic acid, but also to break down complex starches, irritating tannins and difficult-to-digest proteins including gluten.”

Here are some great websites with additional information. I’m giving them mad props for their discoveries and information. They’re not quite as humorous but super helpful.

The Nourishing Gourmet

and in case you’re interested in soap nuts, which are not edible but organic, biodegradable and incredible, 100% natural laundry soap, there’s always

Olive Shoot Institute!

Let’s be Soaky McSoakers, kk?

What color was your dinner?


“Hey everybody, this is important!”

Food is on the table

Getting ready to pray

When I look at the spread before us

And notice

Hey, this is a bi-color dinner!

Quick, grab the camera!

People need to know!

Edamame – green

Massaged kale salad – verdurous with splashes of bright yellow (mango) and sage green (pepitas)

Italian quinoa salad – social butterfly yellow, green pepper green, yellow corn

This is my unintentional bi-color dinner, everybody!)

Within arm’s reach, a shaker of homemade celery powder, made in my dehydrator

Over to the side

Popcorn – hints of soft yellow amidst the white explosions speckled with Fire Dancer seasoning

Then I realize, WHOA!


The plates are

Green plate swirls

Garden spot green

Witty green


Optimistic yellow!

The Pyrex bowl containing the roasted kale (brown green), you ask?

Cut the Mustard gold

I love all the beautiful colors in Pyrex!

I exclaim, “Hey, guys! This is really important!

But no one else noticed,

Neither, the Hubs nor the orange hair, freckle face OS cared.

They were just hungry. Phooey.

This blog post was brought to you by the colors yellow and green and by the word observant

Find your colors at Sherwin Williams and this amazing app on Sherwin Williams ColorSnap. I didn’t know about this app until I started writing this post. But you can use your smart phone to match real-world colors with paint colors. All for free! You can take a picture of your dinner (like I did) and it will tell you the names of the corresponding paint colors! How cool is that! 

T(h)anks for the memories


Last week I began a small business called Olive Shoot Institute. Since January, I have been faithfully using a 100% biodegradable, organic laundry detergent called soap nuts. Now I’m selling those delightful non-edible nuts/berries along with a host of other cleaning supplies for personal and home use. Got me a Olive Shoot Institute facebook page too!

Just a sample of the products we are offering. I love doing this.

Seriously if you have known me for the last six months, I have probably talked to you about soap nuts. I don’t want to be one of those people who deluge friends and family with endless convos only about the products they are selling because that gets old but it’s exciting to begin a new endeavor. Whoever said that my OS are the only ones who get to branch out this year? Seriously!

So now my life duties include maintaining a website, shipping products and talking about the merits of soap nut stuff. This in addition to sending my middle OS off to college at Moody Bible Institute and the orange hair, freckle face OS beginning sophomore year in high school. While the younger OS are in the throes of transitioning, praise the Lord, Nate has adjusted to life away from West Point and as an Army officer at Fort Benning. To hear the voice of a happy child, be it the high-pitched squeak of a little boy or the deeper, richer tones from a young man, ah, it’s like massaged kale salad – zesty, fresh and satisfying. If you know me, you also know I am a BIG kale fan!

Nate sent me this picture of a little sumpin/sumpin he was making. Couscous with fresh tomatoes and feta! Impressive my little man!

Nate and I bond marvelously over food and domestic life. He talks to the Hubs about politics and tanks and recants to me the lovely meals he is preparing for himself and his housemates. It’s a good compromise. My 2LT is also a Dave Ramsey fan (so are we) and he follows many of Dave’s principles.

So when he moved to Georgia, Nate promptly got on Craig’s List, found a washer and dryer for only $100 and with nary a second guess, bought it.

How many guys send their moms a picture of their washing machine? And how many guys post a picture of their dead washing machine on facebook? I’m pretty sure there’s only one and I gave birth to him!

The guy was so proud of himself and talk about convenient! He loved being able to throw his stinky Soldier clothes in the wash and not have to traipse his clothes to a laundromat. But last week, the stupid thing died. On facebook, Nate bemoaned, “The spinner of my washing machine is now sideways. It has always sounded like a small man was in there but ran like a champion. Unfortunately those days are over.” Another person put it this way, “actually, it sounded like a small man was getting murdered in there ;-)”

So in memory of my OS’s short-lived first appliance purchase and in honor his thriftiness,  I’m saying “Tanks.” I mean, “thanks” to my readers
and I’m offering a 10% discount of Extreme 18X until August 22nd. You just need 1/2 TEASPOON to do a load of laundry!  Crazy, huh?

1.No harsh chemicals

2. No harmful toxins

3. Hypoallergenic

4. No need for fabric softener either. Clothes are fluffier than ever!

5. Only about .20 cents a load (you’re probably spending more if you add up your fabric softener)

6. Takes up a ton less space

7. And can replace 70-80% of your household cleaners, it’s that versatile!

8. Fragrance free but your clothes smell fresh and clean.

9. Perfect for HE (High Efficiency) washing machines.

I love this stuff, I love my OS and his silly sense of humor! You need that in the Army, trust me. Rest in peace noisy washer, you were good while you lasted. Enjoy the 10% discount, friends.

Traffic at Fort Benning. Not like regular people traffic!

Real Soldiers eat salad and I have proof


Nate and one of his housemates threw a party for the other folks in their troop. It’s weird thinking that my OS is now hosting social functions without my input but it’s also quite awesome thinking that he is doing it so well.

I’m not sure it’s leather but Nate got this find for only $200! Thanks Dave Ramsey!

He is getting settled and learning the nuances of independence. Recently I received a text from him and he was all aflutter (I just had to say that about my Soldier as it conjures up the silliest visual image) about the new leather couch he bought at a yard sale! The other day he bought a washing machine and dryer for only $200. My OS is doing all that he can to make Fort Benning a good place for him until the next season of life rolls around.

I am happy to hear how he’s acclimating but the proudest moment for me was when he told me about one particular dish he served to his nearly 20 guests at his 4th of July bash.

Our Soldiers need to eat well in order to be Army Strong!

When asked about what kind of lettuce he used, my boy said, “Romaine!” He actually said “Romaine!”

Among other things offered at the 4th of July celebration, Nate also served salad. And not just any salad, oh no. That boy remembers his roots and he made his own dressing! And when I inquired about what kind of lettuce he used, I secretly hoped that he wouldn’t answer “iceberg.”  My oldest OS did not disappoint. That amazing young man replied rather matter of factly, “Romaine.” Yes! A feeling a total contentment a washed every fiber of my being and since I eat Romaine lettuce, I have plenty of fiber thank you very much. 😉

Y’all, the Lord could have taken me Home right then and there! But since He didn’t and I’m still alive, it gives me a chance to post the recipe for you. Originally a Rachael Ray recipe, we have since renamed it Hooah Salad. Nate has made this salad in El Salvador for his girlfriend and her family and now he’s taking his culinary skills to Fort Benning in Georgia. I smile thinking of my Soldier stopping by the grocery store in his ACUs just to buy a small jar of tarragon. He might have worn his civies but I like my image better. That’s pretty cool.

I gave this recipe to a newlywed couple recently and asked them to pray for Nate and the troops anytime they make Hooah Salad. If you ever make this, will you do the same? It would mean a lot to this mama of a Soldier.

My Soldier likes salad. Thanks Rachael Ray for a great recipe that is a family favorite!

Here you go, enjoy!

Hooah Salad

The zest and juice of one small navel orange

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

2 t. Dijon mustard

1 t. dried tarragon (a traditional French spice)

1 t. salt

1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

2 bunches romaine lettuce

3 scallions (green onions), chopped

Whisk orange zest (it smells really good), orange juice with garlic, Dijon mustard, tarragon and salt. Stream in extra virgin olive oil and whisk to combine. Chop lettuce and toss with scallions and dressing.

Remember Nate and all those serving as you enjoy!

And oh, here’s the link to ordering that cookbook if you are interested. I know a lot of 2LTs need some good recipes and for under $5, this has a ton!


Treats for the Troops


I’m often amused when my extended family extols my baking abilities. Aside from the epic fail of kale cake (which will go down in infamy as the most horrible dessert any human has ever created), my mother lavishes praises on my desserts.  My typical response to her exclamations is to casually tell her that the reason I bake so well is this…I’m literate. I can read a recipe, it’s really that simple.

See below for detailed pics of my family’s reaction to the kale cake!

Disclaimer: These pictures are not
representative of my baking abilities, I assure you.

Considering how I was loathe to all things domestic prior to my spiritual conversion to Christianity, it is quite wonderful that I enjoy spending time in the kitchen. It is not drudgery or “beneath” me as I thought previously. My heart is stirred into my sugary creations, especially if the treats are going to someone I care about.


Which is why it is a special privilege for me to be involved in West Point Moms Bake. Each month a group of over 130 West Point moms ship baked goods to deployed servicemen and servicewomen overseas. The excitement is contagious as my fellow WP moms (thanks to a private facebook group designed just for us) detail the thoughtful items and care they put into crafting each package. About ten of us moms are given the name and address of one of our heroes and we send a “boodle box” to that Soldier. This means that several packages of home baked treats arrive around the same time allowing these men and women to share the goodies with their unit. Many times my West Point mama friends humble me with their creativity and effort. Despite having busy lives of their own, the ladies of West Point Moms Bake still find time to bake delicious treats AND include other conveniences of home to their assigned Soldier. 

Nate at West Point during our
mother/son weekend last year.  

I don’t want to think about this but soon the day will arrive when my oldest OS is on that list. Upon his graduation from West Point and subsequent training, I must accept that my boy will probably be deployed. Knowing Nate, with his sweet tooth and tender heart, it will mean so much to him to think that others appreciate his service to our country. He will enjoy getting boodle from us but to get treats from others who don’t even know him personally will surely encourage him along the way.

In a recent package to my assigned hero, I made tasty and healthy treats for him and included a picture of our family. The Hubs, the middle OS and the orange hair, freckle face OS wrote him individual notes and it was OUR privilege to reach out and offer our support. 

Frequently members of West Point Moms Bake will hear back from their Soldiers. They are so appreciative and thankful. We love to share pictures and stories with each other and hear how our packages have lifted spirits. To date, over 500 packages have been sent since September! 

If you know of a deployed Soldier and like this idea, please leave me a message and we’ll put that person on our list. If you include a comment on my blog or would rather email me at, I’ll forward your information to my contact person and we’ll make it happen. One more thing, don’t worry, I promise I won’t send kale cake! 🙂

How to mess up a good batch of brownies


Since writing this story 11 years ago, I have experienced plenty of culinary catastrophes and victories. I believe my venture into dessert experimentation began with the brownies made with a special ingredient (not THAT ingredient, btw!)

Yes, I actually wore this to the grocery store one day…

Lest you think that my boys dance and prance for all of my delectable meals, I should set the record straight. One memorable moment stands out as a reminder that, perhaps, I should just stick with simple spaghetti if I wish to earn their favor.

After several months of annoying body aches and pains, a friend suggested I start taking vitamins and some organic, unrefined oils to aid in my overall health. I was interested in getting myself back into better shape. I liked the results of these vitamins and the time came when I needed to re-order.

While looking through the mail order catalog for the produce, I was delighted to find another product any good mother would want to give her children. I found the children’s version of these oil pills I had been taking. I carefully read the description and without hesitation placed my order.

Soon the small box arrived at our doorstep, just before my two oldest OS arrived home from school. My freshly baked brownies were cooling on the kitchen counter. I looked at the colorful bottle.  Darling little jungle animals and bold lettering made the label seem so appealing. The scrumptious butterscotch flavor described said it was delicious over desserts. I swept into action and a secret plan started cooking in my head. 

Nate and Aaron bounded up the street and took their usual places around the kitchen table, awaiting their afternoon snack. I told them about the yummy brownies and they were practically salivating with anticipation! 

Can you say yum? Can you say yuck?

Carefully, I cut each of my three sons a square of warm brownie. Then I added the elusive ingredient. I diverted their attention and poured a few thick teaspoons of this oil on top of their brownies. 

The oil sat that on the brownies for a moment, almost as if it were saying, “Are you SURE you want to do this?” but then it seeped into the dark chocolate.

They’d never know I had added some health food to the middle of this treat. Aha! Mission accomplished!

I presented each boy with his own plate. It was Nate, age nine, the most discerning of the three, who asked me, “Mom, what’s that on the brownies?” I escaped answering the question and encouraged him to dig in. 

The bite had barely entered his mouth when he grimaced and contorted. He held the moist brownie bits on the curl of his tongue, hoping not to swallow any and cried, “Ugh, Mom, these are sick! What did you do? They taste terrible!”

flax seed not in oil form!

I tried not to laugh and despite me encouraging him to try another bite (he was almost gagging from the first one), he quickly declined. Seeing their big brother so grossed out, the other boys suddenly lost interest in their snack. They scrambled from the table before I could torture them, as I had their brother.

I wanted to be the best mom in the world with a homemade snack and health food all rolled up into one great afternoon treat. While the taste of that nasty brownie concoction will hopefully fade from my son’s mind and palate one day, I take solace in knowing that he’ll probably growing up remembering one thing, that his mom made a mean plate of spaghetti!

“I shall never forget that day my mom almost poisoned
us with those horrible brownies. Wow.”

We mothers can rest assured that although we may not be remembered for all of the grand meals we made, it’s the everyday, commonplace love that is never forgotten. I bite down on my mother’s tender, tasty sandwich and my sons devour their mother’s slippery noodles and we feel loved once again.

How about you? Any tricks you’ve tried that were less than successful? 

Cooking in a Restaurant

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a pupuseria in El Salvador, doesn’t that look pretty? 

It was Saturday afternoon and Nate and I were on a mission. Much like the special training missions he goes on at West Point, my OS and I were focused and ready, steely-eyed and single-minded. Our task was significant. Nothing was going to stop us.

Our task – to procure ingredients and learn how to make a traditional Central American dish worthy of the fine country from which it hails. (Proclaimed in a loud, official voice with great gesticulation) A country whose name is on our lips more than I ever expected. A country I visited on a true mission trip from the Lord and while there serendipitously met a beautiful girl with whom my OS is now in love. The girl is Lu. The country is El Salvador, the dish, mi amigos(cue dramatic music)

a pupusa
a real pupuseria in El Salvador

the adorable couple in El Salvador during Christmas

Nate had announced his desire to make pupusas for the family prior to arriving home for a brief visit. With two trips to San Salvador under his belt, he has embraced both his girlfriend and these thick, hand-made tortillas with gusto. A few months ago, Aaron and I happened upon a local Mexican restaurant that makes pupusas. A coincidence? I think not. Aaron was getting his driver’s permit and this restaurant is literally next door to the DMV! How convenient that it is only ten minutes from our house!

So my Soldier/OS and I drove to Tarascos Restaurant and went inside. 

Good salsa, great pupusas, lovely people!

Without hesitation, we each ordered a pupusa. A casual conversation began between us and the employees. Nate practiced his Spanish per my prodding. I think it’s so important to speak another language! As a French major, I actually understood some of the conversation. These people were warm and friendly especially when Nate explained that his girlfriend was Salvadoran. It appeared that they weren’t used to Americanos coming in and ordering pupusas.

Nate making his first pupusa

We inquired about how to make the perfect pupusa and before we knew it, the cook had invited us back to the kitchen. We had personalized instruction from Lillia who showed us how to make pupusas! Honored that she was taking the time to demonstrate the technique, Lillia invited Nate to try to make a pupusa himself. Pupusas aren’t hard to make at all but seeing her skilled hand prepare them was invaluable.

I predict that one day this guy’s gonna open up his own
pupuseria in the States! 

My little cutie-patooty and his pupusas!

So how did OUR pupusas taste? Aaron and Ike were rather unimpressed. Nate felt as if he was tasting play-dough. I didn’t think they were that bad. They were definitely better than the pupusas the Hubs tried to make a few weeks ago. Can you say “blech!” 

We did everything according to her instructions. I was a keen observer and despite the lack of flavor when we tried to make pupusas at home, we need to not give up. There wasn’t a secret ingredient mixed into the corn flour but maybe it was the seasoned griddle Lillia used, I’m still trying to figure it out.  I’m not giving up on mastering this dish though, I assure you! I just finished the book The Art of Eating In and feel more compelled than ever to master tasty, interesting, economical meals for my family. 

We are praying that one day, Lord willing, Lu and her family will come here for a very special cooking demonstration.  

Even though our pupusas weren’t as good as the ones in El Salvador and at Tarasco’s, we remain blessed and optimistic about the future of cooking and of love. When the world feels so close and people get along, it is cause to rejoice!