Sunday, November 22, 2009

As precious as they come

Welcome to the world, Joseph Bradley Larson!

This sweet little bundle was born to our dear friends Jeff and Becky on November 14th.  He was a week overdue, and that extra week of wondering when he would decide to arrive felt so long!

But he is here, and he is ADORABLE!  Rob and I had the opportunity to visit the Larson family yesterday, thanks to my wonderful parents who kept Robbie and Ellie all day for us.  We didn't want to bring any germs at all into the Larson home for obvious reasons, but we're very excited for the day all of our kids can be together!  We anticipate a close bond between Ellie and Joey, just like Robbie and Charlotte have.  (Becky and I like to call our newest additions our 'back up plan'... you know, if for some crazy reason Char and Robbie don't work out!)

One good looking little guy... complete with typical Larson-baby hair!  Love it!

We were so honored when Jeff and Becky asked us to be Joey's Godparents.  We love their children as if they were our own, so this was a no-brainer.  I am still so excited that I am a Godmother to this sweet little boy, I told Becky last night that I'm on a Godmother high!

We had a lot of fun playing with Charlotte during the visit since Joey was cashed out most of the time.  She is just as precious as ever, bringing us all of her toys, letting me read books to her, showing off her jumping and spinning abilities... even rattling off a story or two!  It is awesome to watch her grow and develop.  She and Robbie are going to have a blast the next time they see each other.

I want to keep her for my own.  If I didn't love her parents so much, I might have tried to escape with her.

Uncle Rob gets some quality time with Char.

I had to squeeze them both at once!

As we were getting ready to leave, Char decided to try on my boots.  I think it's a good look - don't you!?

Thanks for the wonderful time together, J, B, C and little J!  We love you so much and miss you already.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Broccoli Cheddar Soup Link

Sorry - when I looked at the blog this morning I realized that the recipe looks like it got cut off somehow?  Below is the link to the fabulous website I found it on... head on over for the full instructions!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gymnastics and Soup

This little girl is growing up.  She's starting to really grab at her toys and bottles while I feed her.  Yesterday I caught her hanging on to two things that dangle above her on her play mat.  She was just hanging on for dear life for several minutes!  I think she forgot to let go.  She has also taken to scooting herself directly under the lowest hanging object and sucking on it with both hands by her sides.  Pretty funny.

Last night I headed over to 101 Cookbooks (link on left sidebar) for the Broccoli Cheddar Soup recipe.  I made it for dinner and it was amazing!  I'll list my adjustments below the recipe.  Also, my photo of the soup is awful compared to the one on the original website!  Rob and I agreed that it tasted so much better than it looked.  This is going to be a staple dinner for us throughout the winter.  It was quick and easy to make and very filling.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup Recipe

Look for deeply green, tight heads of broccoli. I typically avoid any heads that have yellowing florets or seem died out. If you like a slightly creamier soup, stir in a generous dollop of creme fraiche after pureeing. You can easily make this soup vegan by using olive oil and omitting the cheese/creme fraiche, and you can make it gluten-free by doing something in place of the croutons.

5-6 ounce chunk of artisan whole wheat bread, torn into little pieces (less than 1-inch), roughly 3 cups total

1/4 cup butter or olive oil (I like 1/2 and 1/2)
1 1/2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes (1 1/2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 1/2 cups light, good-tasting vegetable broth
1 large head of broccoli (12 ounces or 3/4 lb.), cut into small florets

2/3 cup freshly grated aged Cheddar, plus more for topping
1 - 3 teaspoons whole grain mustard, to taste
smoked paprika, more olive oil, creme fraiche (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350F degrees and place the torn bread in a large bowl. In a small saucepan heat the butter until it has melted. Whisk the mustard and salt into the butter and pour the mixture over the bread. Toss well, then turn the bread onto a baking sheet and bake for 10 - 15 minutes, or until the croutons are golden and crunchy. Toss them once or twice with a metal spatula along the way.

While the croutons are toasting, melt the butter (or olive oil) in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the shallots, onion, and a big pinch of salt. Saute for a couple minutes. Stir in the potatoes, cover, and cook for about four minutes, just long enough for them to soften up a bit. Uncover, stir in the garlic, then the broth. Bring to a boil, taste to make sure the potatoes are tender, and if they are stir in the broccoli. Simmer just long enough for the broccoli to get tender throughout, 2 - 4 minutes.

Immediately remove the soup from heat and puree with an immersion blender. Add half the cheddar cheese and the mustard (a little bit a a time). If you are going to add any creme fraiche, this would be the time to do it. Now add more water or broth if you feel the need to thin out the soup at all. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Serve sprinkled with croutons, the remaining cheese, a drizzle of olive oil, and a tiny pinch of smoked paprika.

Serves 4 - 6.

*Ashley's Adjustments:

- I used a french baguette instead of whole wheat bread for the croutons.  It was a good substitute!  Don't skip the croutons. I almost did, and it ended up being such a delicious topping for the soup and wouldn't have been the same without it.  And I don't even like whole-grain  mustard!

- I used probably twice as much cheddar cheese as the recipe called for.

- I also used about 2/3 cup of heavy whipping cream and added it to the soup at the same time as the cheese, after blending it and returning it to the soup pot.  It mellowed out the flavors.

- I skipped the olive oil drizzle on top of the soup once it was in the bowl.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Love this

We will be doing this in our house this year (sans the fancy jar)!  How fun, although I wish we had started it at the beginning of the month.  I'm planning on hanging it on the garland above the fireplace for the Christmas season...

Anyone else up for trying to do this too?

Friday, November 13, 2009


*Just pondering a few things tonight before I close my eyes and rest.  (Special thanks to Meredith Andrews - check out her music.  It will lure you into a bit of soul-searching while you clean the kitchen at the end of the day!)

Where do I run?

I tend to run towards safety.  Towards professionals, and proven methodologies, and things that have been substantiated.  Towards people I love and comfortable networks.  Towards tangible things.

Tonight I realized that only a shockingly small amount of the time, I run to Jesus first.

I am so impatient in my desire for and pursuit of justice, redemption, healing and comfort here on earth - for myself, but mostly for others.  (It is harder for me to hurt for another friend or family member than it is to bear my own pain.)  I see my good intentions now for what they often are - attempts to bypass the journey and administer what is only God's to administer, in His perfect timing.  Peace.  Healing.  Reconciliation.  Faith.  Salvation.  A conclusion.  A happy ending.  

I am also discovering that so often my own disappointment in prayer and it's sometimes lack of apparent effectiveness stems from my own personal confusion over why God is choosing to act differently or move slower than I would in a given situation. 

Hmm.  I'm going to go with because He is God, and His ways are higher than our ways.

Isn't it funny how you can KNOW all of this in your mind, and then examine your life and realize that it hasn't quite made it into the practical-living part of your relationship with Christ?

I'm so thankful for a friend who, without realizing it, by her example has demonstrated her total faith in Jesus Christ by waiting patiently in prayer for Him to move on her behalf before seeking anything or anyone else.  And we really need Him to move.  Desperately.  I'm sure if she reads this, she won't even realize I'm talking about her.  Thank you, dear friend.

Hebrews 10: 19-25 (emphasis mine)
"Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

The slow descent into winter

Baby, it's cold outside!

We've just been hanging out over here in the Livingston household, trying to keep warm in our fleece outfits and fuzzy hoodies...

...building forts and discovering the wonderful world of pretzels.

Those of us who are not yet able to get around independently have been desperately trying to roll over, and have come very close!

In between her efforts, she has taken to happily yelling at her toys, her momma, her reflection, anything that appears willing to listen.

Last week Riley came over to play, and she and Robbie wanted to sit in the laundry basket at the same time.  It was fun for the first few minutes, until things spiraled out of control and both kids were begging me to get them out.  Still cute.

And just when we think she couldn't get any sweeter...

...we fall more in love!

Life is good.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I am ugly.

I wonder if you feel the same way.  It's a little embarrassing to admit.

It happens when we allow ourselves to sit in the throne room and gaze at Holiness and Perfection.  The beauty of Christ illuminates the ugliness of our hearts and lives, our motives, actions and behaviors.

Recently I was having a conversation with Rob about how to know when you're giving too much.  Giving.  Too.  Much.  Why was I even asking the question?!  It came out of an honest place in my heart - not wanting to use our resources in a way that he wasn't in agreement with, not wanting to neglect my first priorities (God, Rob, and our children) because I'm busy doing things with and for other people, not wanting to enable others in my life by being unwise in my interactions (running interference for God), thereby becoming a crutch or band-aid to them in a situation that might need to be hard for a time in order for them to draw nearer to God, etc.  But this morning I started to wonder why I really asked him about it, even though the conversation that followed the question was good on so many levels.

I am sensing the Lord peeling back the layers of my heart.  And what is underneath is usually not pretty.  I am becoming more and more aware of my ugliness.  That sin nature that we are ALL born with?  It's there.  Hiding behind my attempts to whitewash the tomb, and go about pretending that life is good and I am ok.  Some of us have figured out how to live with ourselves, convincing ourselves that we're better than most.  That we have more good days in which we are kind than not, and we are satisfied.  Sort of.

But I'm starting to not be ok with the condition of my heart, even though it has been redeemed.  I'm waging war against my sin nature that lures me into thinking that everything is about me.  My time, talents, resources, family, activities, how God works (!), what situations I am faced with, my ability to give... these are things I often think I have control over or a right to.  My initial response to many things is utterly selfish.  It is such an ugly confession, isn't it?

I am ugly.

And while I am acutely aware of the darkness that masquerades around inside of me, I also know that He who is in me (Jesus Christ) is greater than he who is in the world (Satan).  I'm so thankful for that.  I have been saved from myself by my Savior on the cross.  And He promises to continue to transform my heart and my life so that it is a beautiful, albeit imperfect,  reflection of His holiness and grace.

It is amazing what I am discovering through this process of brokenness.  When I give up my lame attempts to hold on or keep for myself the things I think I desperately want or feel that I need, and instead focus my heart on God and allow Him to change me and focus on others, He moves.  He gives me joy that I couldn't have manufactured or taken for myself.  He uses me in ways I never thought I could be used.  He takes what little I actually have to bring before Him that is of any worth, and multiplies it out to bring blessing to me, my family, and others around me... it's such an abundant life.  And to think that I was willing to trade it so many times for a 'better life' that I thought I could create for myself.  There is so much freedom here.  I desperately want it for you, too... knowing what I do now, in light of where I was before.

Thank you, Lord, that when I am laid bare before you, you see Christ covering over me.