All posts by Dianna

Strawberry Sensation: Whip up an Instant Family Favorite!

You know you have a winner recipe when you  jot down the date and your family’s reaction when you first try it, then add notes over the years as you tweak it here and there.

Ten years ago I tore a recipe out of a magazine and made it for my husband’s birthday. “Yummy!” was the general consensus…so I made it the following year and added another note to my recipe, “Still yummy!” (thus, a family favorite was born…)

strawberry sensation

Strawberry Sensation

4 cups fresh strawberries, divided (I use all 4 cups in step #2 and add another generous amount of fresh strawberries when I’m ready to serve)

1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk (you could decrease amount slightly to reduce sweetness or use fat free version)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 8 oz. container cool whip (or homemade – see below)

8 Oreos (double or triple the amount so you can add a middle layer)

1 Tbsp butter, melted (depending on how many Oreos you crumble, you may want a little more butter to hold topping mix together)

I love recipes that have a short list of ingredients, and I especially appreciate recipes that can be made in advance. This one is a WIN-WIN! You can keep  one  in your freezer & pull out for an instant crowd pleaser at any time.easy recipe

Step #1 – Prep pan: Line inside of 8 x4-inch loaf pan with foil, leaving a generous overlap to allow for a full coverage later.

Step #2 – Strawberry Mixture: Slice and mash 2-4 cups of strawberries in a large bowl. Stir in condensed milk & lemon juice. Fold in 2 cups of cool whip.

Step #3 – Pour about 1/2 of this yummy goodness into the foil-lined loaf pan.

Step #4- Crush Oreos in a ziploc bag. This is a perfect job for any young helper you may have lying in wait that you can “pay” with a couple Oreos! Add the melted butter into the ziploc and blend in the bag.

Step #5 – Sprinkle about 1/2 of the Oreo topping over the strawberry mixture.

Step #6 – Pour the remaining strawberry mixture into the pan.

Step #7 – Spoon the remaining Oreo topping onto the strawberry mixture, gentle pressing the cookie crumbles into a layer.

Step #8 – Prep for freezing: Fold the foil ends over until the pan is completely covered.

Step #9 – Freeze 6 hours or until firm. I’ve left one in the freezer a couple months & it was fine. I think I made 2 for Memorial Day weekend one year and only served one. It was a happy surprise to rediscover it again just in time for a 4th of July swim party! 

Step #10 – To Serve: Invert onto a serving plate, remove pan and foil. Spread the remaining cool whip onto the top and sides. Slice fresh strawberries, then layer them on the top and along sides of the dessert. Allow to sit at room temperature about 30 minutes until it has softened enough to slice.

blowing out candlesTheoretically this recipe makes 12 servings, but not for my crew! If it’s not all gobbled up during your first serving, then store the remainder in the freezer for a lucky few to have a second round later.

This is easy enough for any summer day, but yummy enough to grant as special birthday wish!

strawberries and creamBonus touch:  Instead of store bought cool whip, make your own! Beat heavy whipping cream in mixer until peaks form, adding a splash of vanilla and a little sugar to taste.

~ ~ ~ Hope you enjoy this sensational dessert to finish your summer strong! ~ ~ ~

***If blueberries are more your jam, check out For the Love of…Blueberries 

How to add a little Sparkle to your Ordinary

Are you familiar with the phrase, the liturgy of the ordinary?

walking the dog
Walking the dog

How much do we pay attention to the daily practices that absorb our time and skew our perspective simply through their mundane repetition?

watering the plants
Watering the plants

As I picked up my groceries the other day, I had a startling reminder that we can experience more joy and connectedness in our daily hustle, sowing seeds a little along the way, rather than resigning ourselves to the drudgery of repetitive chores or errands.

I pulled up into slot #7 & called the pick-up number to notify them of my arrival. Someone answered and yelled into the phone, “WALMART GROCERY PICKUP!” I was so startled I almost dropped the phone, noticing that I already had ringing in my ear from the loud screech.

Almost immediately, the voice on the other end of the line began to apologize, laughing nervously. I asked, Is this Tanya? It was my turn to surprise her because I recognized her voice. “Uh, yeah” she replied somewhat sheepishly. I told her my name and she began laughing, saying “Oh, it’s you! I’m SO sorry! I’ll be right out!”

Typically I don’t call the number. I usually activate the app as I’m leaving my house to warn them of my impending arrival. In fact, I had never talked to Tanya on the phone before.  

How did I know it was her?

Instinctively, I knew it was her because the two of us have been part of each other’s Liturgy of the Ordinary.

As part of her job, she rolls out my grocery order, informs me of substitutions, and cheerfully loads my groceries in the back of my well-lived-in cargo area. As part of my  Momjob, I’m frequently in the waiting zone, rolling down my window and squiggling my autograph on her order phone.

Tanya and I have chatted over the course of the last few months as our mundane duties have bumped us  together more often than I’d like to admit. (A household of teenaged appetites is my excuse for such frequent visits, not poor menu planning…surely not!)

We have become familiar with one another, often sharing a knowing smile of “here we go again!” as we move through our well-choreographed grocery dance.

What began as an ordinary Monday grocery pick-up this week turned into laughter and connection, giving us both a boost of positive energy to resume our rote routines. She hugged me spontaneously and said something along the lines of “Thanks for always being so great! You’re awesome!”

full cartAs I drove home with my grocery bags jostling each other, I was lighter in spirit and grateful for a little unexpected sparkle in my day.

The mundane task of putting all the food away and preparing the next meal still loomed, but my perspective shift was noticeably clearer.

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us.” Psalms 90:17

 

By the way, if you don’t know about grocery store pick-ups, do it! I wish it had been available when my kiddos were younger and in carseats… a game-changer, for sure!

Now, go discover the Sparkle in your Ordinary day, my friend!

 

For the love…of blueberries!

Summer is all about curious explorations and fun family outings.blueberry farmRecently we had a joint family adventure to a local blueberry farm and dove into our first experience of picking fresh blueberries.

We each grabbed a bucket and headed down the rows of lush blueberry plants.Within a few minutes we had established a rhythm:

Reach in to a full branch, grab a few berries,  do a sample taste test, and drop the remainder into the bucket.

Repeat.

It wasn’t long before we were confident in our picking game. The boys quickly determined that the ripest berries would release easily, leaving the rest on the vine for later.The sun warmed our backs and a light breeze kept us going when our task began to feel a bit like “work.”

Occasionally we’d switch rows and swap stories, eyeing each other’s buckets to see how much progress we were making.blueberry pickingConversations bounced about as our buckets slowly filled.

Sweet tidbits of summer’s glory…

With boys ranging in age from 6 to 15, we could see the difference in their maturity levels in their conversation as well as their picking styles.

Some were methodical and steady. Others experimented with centrifugal force as they hurled their buckets in large circles, challenging each other to go faster and faster.

One needed to do his taste-testing at the sno-cone truck to “preview” flavors for the rest of us. (It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it!)

The Lord must see this same maturation process in our spiritual lives. Our prayers and spiritual walks strengthen as our faith ripens over time, saturating into us as we press through life’s challenges.

We are all maturing at our own unique pace – – –

… some of us are “green” yet full of potential

… others are at the “sweet spot” of maturity & ready to share 

…others are past their “peak,” yet maintain a strong, distinctive flavor



Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity…” Hebrews 6:1



amily picking blueberriesAs we rallied the troops and weighed in our buckets, it didn’t matter how much each of us picked. Our efforts were gathered together in one beautiful heap.
One family outing reaped many bonuses:
  • the simple joy of having freshly plucked berries to add to our granola, yogurt, and salads

red, white, and BLUEberry~~~ the red, white, and BLUEberry fun during 4th of July celebrations ~~~

blueberry buckle– camaraderie shared in the deliciousness of blueberry buckle,  carrying on traditions of friends &  past 4th of July parties

blueberry muffinsHow much sweeter all these experiences were because we had gathered the blueberries ourselves and shared in our collective abundance, enjoying the fruits of our labor.  Sweet rewards for hot, summer days – – – infusing fond memories and new traditions – – – for the love of blueberries!

 

 

Squished In: Family Vacations for the Long Haul

Who remembers those long summer road trips when you were a kid, squished in beside your siblings and marking out your territory with imaginary lines? What memories are sharpest for you? What senses were most heightened?

flower marketWe rattled around in the backseat without seatbelts (gasp!) & looked forward to an ice cold Orange Crush from a pop machine at a gas station somewhere along the way. We often had to stop to clarify directions to supplement our well-worn, wrinkled state map that never seemed to fold back into its original shape. If we missed a turn, we could drive for miles completely unaware of our error because we didn’t have a computerized voice perkily “re-calculating” for us.

Recently, we logged hundreds of miles on a family vacation.  At the end of a busy day of touristing, we squished in tight into our hotel room each evening. Our boys had their nightly discussion re: who was sharing the foldout couch and who was bunking on the floor.

family selfie

Somewhere in the midst of traveling, we are reminded about our nucleus as a family. We make frequent eye contact as we’re plotting our course for the day. We track one another through noisy crowds. We squish in closely together in various modes of public transportation. During all these bumps and nudges, we’re reminded of our belongingness in this rugged little family of ours.

brothersWe amuse ourselves waiting in lines by messing with each other, cracking jokes that don’t make any sense to those around us.

We smooth out each other’s rough edges and finish each other’s sentences.

Although we’re out exploring new territory and mingling among strangers, we’re drawn back to one another to circle up for the next transition.

We move on together as a pack.

My husband and I are not big fans of selfies…and certainly don’t have “the knack” for taking them, especially if we’re trying to capture some scenic background, too. Something happens, though, when we huddle in together, squishing in to fit all of our faces into that little square. We claim each other. fam picWe recognize ourselves in each other’s expressions and features.

We identify as a unit, a lifelong team. famWe validate our sense of belonging to one another. We catch a glimpse of who we are together in this snap of time. This is Family.

In this moment, this is Us. familyWe reconnect in ways on trips that we don’t in our everyday routine. We aren’t distracted by our daily chores and pressing schedules. We focus in on one another.

coffee in the parkAs parents trailing along behind our children, we see with fresh eyes the ways they have grown since our last vacation. We observe how they assert themselves in new situations.

Independence lurks at this one’s fingertips and we feel a click of confirmation that he is ready to launch. I’m reminded that we have to hold him loosely, allowing him to stretch forward toward his new adventures.

treeSummer vacations are full of potential and opportunity. It’s a time to explore and be curious, lingering over new discoveries.

We can be carefree and silly with one another as we share new experiences. frisbee fun

We play frisbee in different parks and walk miles on unfamiliar streets, soaking in the sights and sounds.

We cultivate as many family memories as we can into these precious summer moments, unifying together for the long haul of our family story. . . SQUISHING IN for all we’re worth!



“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1



Summer Snippets

Summer has its own rhythm and we just sail along with it the best we can . . . enjoying family vacations, “dutifully” following packing checklists for kids’ various camps, having lazy dinners out on the patio…letting each day unfold in its unique way.

“Good Morning” template for Bible Quilt page

Our Quiet Times might slip into a different timeslot as we try to get outside chores down in the early morning hours before the heat of the day.

We might snatch some devotional time during the afternoon lull when everyone has soaked up enough sun or we may experiment with late  devotions when everyone is settled in for the night.

Dinner time may be a little different also. We eat later and “planning” is looser, typically more laidback. We might have more snack suppers or concoct some simple meals from what we find in the fridge. Breakfast dinners are always a win-win around here!

Occasionally, we’ll be motivated to do some batch cooking and stockpile some family favorites  (i.e. chicken packets) that we can pull out at the end of a long summer day.

I don’t know about you, but it takes me a little while to ease in to a summer rhythm, letting go of the patterns that have nudged us along during the school year. Each week has a different flavor, depending on who might be visiting us or which one of the kids might be away at a camp.  “Adaptability” is key. (at least that’s what I keep reminding myself when things are feeling a bit off-kilter)

So, we might be a little more sporadic sharing posts or offering workshops during this season. We’re allowing ourselves to “go with the flow” and give ourselves some margin for some spontaneous get-togethers along the way.

We plan on gathering at #theturquoisetable for some morning Bible Quilt journaling sessions before the heat becomes too oppressive. Check our Facebook group for some of these Simply Summer sessions!

Enjoy your own rhythm of summer, friends! 


“My Presence will go with you,

and I will give you rest.”   Exodus 33:14



I wonder

We’re all familiar with the preschool song about twinkling stars in the dark sky…how I wonder what you are…” 

As we’re careening to the end of school, the long stretch of summer prompts us all to wonder a bit more than usual.

WONDER – to think or speculate curiously

My youngest peppers me with questions when we’re out together, asking how things work or pointing out advertising anomalies that don’t make common sense on the surface.

I often stumble through my responses and together we generate a lot of hypotheses, sometimes mutually agreeing to consult Syri in hopes that her lofty British accent will produce a more educated guess.

I love my son’s quirky observations and perpetual curiosity.

WoNdER – to be filled with admiration, amazement, or awe; marvel

Summer road trips offer families a chance to veer off the beaten path and see some unusual things.

A few years ago on our way to South Dakota, we cruised through Carhenge and also stopped to see the world’s largest ball of twine.

We didn’t necessarily have to understand WHY someone would create such oddities, but we did enjoy wandering about in awe of seeing typical objects accumulated and displayed in some extreme ways.

wonDeR – to doubt

As Moms, we frequently second-guess our day-to-day interactions with our children. We wonder if we’re doing enough. We wonder if we’re doing too much

biking pathWhenever I’m unsettled about a particular interaction with one of my kiddos, I like to process  through it on a walk. I’ll even choose a different path to stimulate my thinking.

I typically can glean some perspective that I didn’t have in the moment. I may realize I need to readjust my expectations or expand the timeframe involved.

The symmetry of nature soothes me as I explore my personal reactions and the unique personality of the child involved. When I see a flower blooming that has just reached its peak, it’s a gentle reminder that my children are blossoming at their own rates as well. Each one is in a different developmental season and I have to nurture in patient, subtle ways, mindful of timing and spacing.yellow lily

WONder – a feeling of surprised or puzzled interest, tinged with admiration

"I know the Plans" Bible Quilt journal templateSometimes a milestone highlights a child’s growth that’s been occurring all along, but is poignantly brought to our present attention in a formal rite of passage.

Our breath catches as we see our child cross the stage at graduation. As he is swept up in a week-long chain of celebratory events and inundated by sweet cards  of validation from friends, family, and former teachers, something shifts between parent and child.

The child’s effort and determination emerges as the primary focus and our parenting role fades away, providing a backdrop for him to truly shine. 

wonder – a miraculous deed or event; remarkable phenomenon

Boys in a redwood tree

Each experience we’ve woven into our child’s life culminates in a unique blend of teenaged flair.

From the rainy kindergarten zoo field trips to numerous play sessions at the park, and all those family vacations, each contributes to a lifetime sense of curiosity.

It’s fun to see teens begin to seek out adventures on their own, perhaps participating in an overseas exchange program or a church mission trip.

Each new experience stirs up WONDER about other cultures and broadens their outlook a little wider.
“Trust in the Lord” Bible Quilt page

As we teeter on the edge of summer, we have the opportunity to ponder a little longer, to question a little deeper… and to marvel at this season of our family’s life a little more intentionally.



To my graduating son, I look at YOU in Wonder.

I will always treasure our shared history fondly, tuck you into my heart tightly, and hold your future loosely.

May your days be full of wonder.