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So that I can learn to have a heart filled with love and gratitude.

A letter from Lenis on Mother’s Day weekend.

Dear sponsors,

I am greeting you with much love hoping you are in good health. I send you my best wishes. We hope you are having a happy Easter. Christian likes to go to the river and play in the water. I want to tell you that it is very hot and we enjoy the shade of the trees, we have plenty around the house. It is beautiful. Christian likes to play soccer with his cousins. We go to church on Sundays, we pray for you and your family. He is in first grade, and he has a good time at school. He is getting good grades. Thanks to your help he received a backpack; he also has clothes, shoes, and food supplies. We love you very much. We ask God to give you good health and keep you away from harm. We ask him to provide just like you do with Christian. We always pray for you and your family, we love you very much. I am closing now on behalf of my child Christian.

May God Bless You.

Letter from Lenis, artwork from Christian

Here’s a whole-wheat recipe I’m sharing with my TEDxICT friends tonight. You can make it even more “home-made” by buying wheat berries from a local whole food store. Then, use a blender to grind the berries into whole wheat flour. (Be sure to refrigerate any leftover flour.)

Hope you enjoy.

Makes: Eight individual flat breads or pizza crusts, or two large pizza crusts; Prep time: 20  minutes, plus rising

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups warm (115 degrees) water

2 packets (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast

1/4 cup oil, plus more for bowl

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for kneading

2 cups whole-wheat flour (spooned and leveled)

STEPS:

1. Place water in a large bowl; sprinkle with yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Brush another large bowl with oil.

2. In bowl with yeast,  whisk sugar, oil and salt. Stir in flours with a wooden spoon until a sticky dough forms. Transfer to oiled bowl; brush top of dough with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; let stand in a warm spot until dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

3. Turn dough out into a well-floured surface. With floured hands, knead until smooth, about 15 seconds; divide into two balls.

To freeze 1-pound balls:

Set balls on a plate (they should not touch); freeze until firm, about 1 hour. Then freeze in a freezer bag up to 3 months.  Thaw overnight in refrigerator.

To freeze individual shells:

Divide each ball of dough into 4 pieces. Using your hands, stretch each piece into a 5-inch disk (if dough becomes too elastic to work with, let it rest a few minutes). Freeze shells on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Stack frozen shells between layers of parchment paper. Freeze in a freezer bag up to 3 months. Bake from frozen.

(From “Martha Stewart, Everyday Food.”)

This is how I know. I never hung that mirror that is so handy in the utility room. That dining room wall clock is not my style, but I would never think to move it. There are canning jars and baby bottles that were stashed in the cellar before I was born.

I am the third generation to live in this old farm house. I am the third mother that cleaned after her kids and worried about her kids and thanked God for her kids. I am the third wife that loved her husband with all her might.

Sometimes, I wonder about living in a house that was only mine, that I helped design or pick out. But, then, especially at the holidays, it’s so warm to share Darlene and Marie’s home.

In the Woods

November 25, 2011

On a  cold, gray, windy, post-Thanksgiving day, D., E., Cesar and I headed to the woods.

$1 a day

August 12, 2011

You know the TV commercials for charities helping children in poverty? “Just $1 a day” is all that’s needed to change a child’s life. You know what? They’re right. You can change a child’s life with $1 a day. But there’s more. Much more — at least with one organization called Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA).

For my family, it’s $1 a day to reach across the world. $1 a day to learn a new culture. $1 a day to feel love for and the love of someone you will  never meet or even talk to on the phone. $1 a day to remind us to stop complaining about what we don’t have. $1 a day to teach our kids about the rewards of charity.

We sponsor two children through CFCA, Flora from Tanzania and Christian from Honduras. We learned about the organization at church. We learn about a lot of worthy organizations at church, but this one spoke to us as a family.

Flora

We chose Flora because her birthday is one day ahead of our wedding anniversary. She was born in 1993. Her father died in 1994. Her mother earns money selling tomatoes. Flora carries sand to earn money for school. Her life goal: Once I complete my primary education, I would like to continue studying up until university and be a doctor. I will assist my family, friends and the whole community.

How could we not benefit from knowing such a person? We have been sponsoring her since 2005 and have received dozens of letters with beautiful drawings. She writes them in her native language, Kiswahili, which are then translated. I still tear up over the letter she wrote after we shared that V.’s mom had died. In the midst of her daily challenges, she was so concerned for us and was praying for us.

Christian

We were drawn to another child a year later because he reminded us of our own son. Christian was just a year old when we began sponsoring him. His mother is a housekeeper and they live on $15 a month. We also receive wonderful letters from him through a family friend. Christian adds drawings of rabbits and turtles and flowers. Here’s the note he sent this past Christmas:

At midnight close your eyes and make a wish for the new year. At the same time I will do the same. My wish will be that your wish can come true!! Merry Christmas!!

As another commercial says, priceless.

If you’re interested in learning about other children awaiting sponsorship, I would be glad to share information about Hassan from Kenya, Benjamin from Mexico, Eveling from Nicaragua, Naresh from India, and Angely from Colombia.

Or, if you want to research the group further, here’s the site, http://www.cfcausa.org/. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter, @CFCA. One statistic you should know: More than 94 percent of donations go to program support.

I’ll sign this as Christian and his mother, Glendi, signed a recent letter — Receive hugs and kisses from the ones who love you very much and remember you always.

Letters from Flora and Christian

Letter from Flora

Letter from Christian

Sedgwick County Fair ribbons
Sedgwick County Fair ribbons

I make two dishes that I’m proud of – banana bread and lasagna. So, last year, when my 4-H kids were in county fair prep frenzy,  I joined in and entered my banana bread in open class. I whipped it up. Plopped it on a paper plate. Zipped it up in a baggie and off we went. I thought it looked and smelled great.

What did the judges think? White ribbon. That’s one higher than the thank-you-for-coming ribbon. I didn’t think I had an ego, but, apparently, I do. It was bruised.

The judge’s comments: over filled; under done; ingredients not at room temperature; and others I’ve tried to forget.

Now, a year later, I had a chance to reclaim my baking honor. Humbled, I tried a new approach. I followed the recipe exactly. I measured the flour carefully, using a knife to scrape off the excess; not my usual shake and dump. I mindfully chopped and measured the nuts, adding just ½ cup. Bananas were mashed with love. I used a new baking pan.  And, my ingredients were at room temperature (still puzzled by how the judge could identify that).

Most importantly, I didn’t multi-task. No phone calls. No starting a load of wash. No email checks. No Facebook or Twitter.

It was actually liberating to focus on one simple task – and aim to do it perfectly.

Unfortunately, the judge didn’t deem my bread perfect just yet , but I did bump up to a red ribbon. The bread was “nicely browned, moist
and had good flavor.” However, it was also a little soggy on the bottom (need to remove it from pan earlier) and top edges were overdone (go easier on the cooking spray).

Next year it’s my year. I can feel it. 357 more days to practice my banana bread — and single-tasking. My ego and shelf need that blue ribbon.

Roberta Seiwert Lampe and Ramona Lampe

Roberta Seiwert Lampe and Ramona Lampe

Good storytellers write about what they know and what they love. For Roberta and Ramona, what they know is that prairie dogs can be pets, calves can sometimes find their way into the kitchen and a Clydesdale named Ruby was destined for divadom. What they love is turning these stories into children’s books about farm life.

Roberta Seiwert Lampe and her daughter Ramona Lampe together have written two novels, six children’s books, four books of poetry books — with several more in the works. I wrote about Roberta last year (http://lynnwoolf.wordpress.com/2010/05/14/strong-women-and-their-stories/ ) and was lucky to meet Ramona this spring.

Roberta has written throughout  her career, but started writing her first novel later in life, as a way to cope with her husband’s cancer and other family tragedies.

Agnes was a story I wanted to write for years. I thought ‘This story has to be told,’ ” says Roberta. Agnes was her grandmother, who emigrated from Germany, moved to Kansas and married a widower with six children.

Ramona started writing her first story, Ruby the Diva Clydesdale, at Roberta’s urging. “I kept saying she should write this story, but she said, ‘I don’t know anything about Clydesdales. You write it.’ So, I did.” Ramona drew upon the personality of a real-life Clydesdale from a horse farm where she works.

Their author relationship is separate from their mother-daughter relationship. Ramona says they’re not a creative team, but a marketing team. They write separately, but share book signings and speaking engagements. Both are good talkers and good listeners, so they enjoy conversations with strangers as well as friends.

I believe their mother-daughter relationship strengthens both their creativity and marketing efforts. And, it’s heartwarming to see their mutual admiration. For instance, Ramona warmly refers to Roberta as her “rebel mother.” Roberta tears up when she says  how proud she was of Ramona at a recent book signing, when Ramona shared her personal struggles after a head injury.

They share a common goal, too: Draw upon their own experiences on their family farm to help educate children about agriculture — and bring a smile or two.

A testimonial from my own farm girl (and artist): “The stories are funny and cute and the drawings are very inspirational. My favorites are Prairie Dog Pet and Calves in the Kitchen.”

You can learn more Roberta, Ramona and their books here: http:\\lampebooks.tateauthor.com.

Roberta Seiwert Lampe and Ramona Lampe

Unlikely content

January 15, 2011

This post is one of confession and admission.

I confess I haven’t officially made my New Year’s resolutions.
I admit that I’m not setting the blogosphere on fire with subscribers to this blog.

Enter this flyer. I’m not sure how it landed on my kitchen table, or why I was drawn to it while enjoying my usual bagel-and-peanut-butter breakfast (with a chocolate chaser). I’m glad I flipped through it, though. I found common-sense, easy-to-remember  nutrition info. And, it reminded me that healthy eating should be a no-brainer when it comes to resolutions.

I found this tidbit:

What is a whole grain? Wheat flour itself is not a whole grain so make sure that the product uses the word “whole” in front of wheat. Look at the ingredients for “enriched flour.” If it is the first listed ingredient, there is more white flour than any other flour in the product. Whole grain must be listed first for it to qualify.

And this:

“Look for items with at least 2.5 grams of fiber per serving. The adequate intake for fiber is 38 grams per day for men and 25 grams per day for women.

Use the % Daily Values as a guide for vitamins and minerals. 5% or less is low and 20% or more is high.”

Like you, I check food labels. However, I mostly check calorie counts or fat grams. These simple guidelines will help me better decipher  labels — and make healthier food choices.

The other lesson? Good content can stand on its own, no matter where it lives. Another resolution for me, then: Strive to write great content. Make sure it gives back and is worthy of the pixels or ink it requires, even if nobody reads it or it’s nestled among coupons.

Wordless Wednesday

November 3, 2010

Family portrait through E.’s eyes:

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