Acts of Love

On Motivation and Encouragement

Preparing a Child’s Heart for Easter March 25, 2012

Filed under: Family,Keeping the House,Lesson Plans,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 11:37 am
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Lent is a time of preparing our hearts and homes for Easter and the celebration of the Risen King. As moms, we should also make it a point to prepare our children’s hearts and foster a sense of anticipation for this most blessed and miraculous event.

This year I did two things, created a set of resurrection eggs and planted an Easter garden. The eggs are used in a daily object lesson in the 11 days prior to Easter morning. The Garden is a representation of Jesus’s tomb and a hands on way for children to engage in the Easter Story.

To make our Easter Garden Makayla and I filled a shallow glass bowl with rocks and then soil. We partially buried a small terra-cotta pot to serve as the tomb (I have seen Easter Gardens with actual  caves that people either made or bought at an aquarium supply store). We planted cat grass which grows fast, and also thrives indoors. For some detail, we created a path leading up to the tomb, placed a cross on the ‘hill’,  and put a small Lamb in the tomb to represent Jesus.

This is (hopefully) what it will look like when the grass grows.

The garden can serve as the focal point for another tradition; using resurrection eggs. Resurrection eggs are a series of plastic Easter eggs that are filled with objects and a corresponding scripture. You can either hide them and open them all on Easter morning, or place one near the garden each morning and have a sort of Easter advent. I like the later option because it creates anticipation, and you can spend more time with each element of the story.

You will need to find objects to fill the eggs with, and I am certain you have all of these things in your home already. If you do not, you can make an appropriate substitution. You can buy resurrection egg kits already made, but I like creating my own. There are lots of different ways to do it, this is just mine. So if you do want to make your own set, be creative and make yours unique for your family.


Here are the directions for making the resurrection eggs I put together for my family.

Egg #1:

Message — Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. The people waved palm branches.

Scripture — Matthew 21:1-11
Object– A donkey or a palm branch

Egg #2:

Message — Mary poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet.
Scripture — John 12:2-8
Object — A small perfume bottle or cotton ball sprayed with perfume. (There is a very strong connection between smell and memory, so anytime you can incorporate smell  into a lesson you should do it!)

Egg #3:

Message — Jesus shared the Last Supper with His disciples.
Scripture– Matthew 26:17-19

Object– A piece of bread

Egg #4:

Message — Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

Scripture– Matthew 27:3
Object– 3 dimes or plastic “silver” money

Egg #5:

Message — Jesus carried His own cross.

Scripture– John 19:17

Object – A cross

Egg #6:

Message — Soldiers placed a crown of thorns on Jesus’ head.

Scripture– John 19:2
Object– a branch with thorns

Egg #7:

Message — Soldiers parted Jesus’ garments and cast lots for His coat.

Scripture– John 19:23

Object– Dice

Egg #8:

Message — Jesus was nailed to a cross and pierced in His side.

Scripture– John 19:18,37 & John 20:25-29
Object– A nail and/or a small play sword from an action figure

Egg #9:

Message — They gave Jesus vinegar mixed with gall on a sponge to drink.
Scripture– Matthew 27:34
Object– A small sponge soaked in vinegar. (make sure the sponge is dry when you put it on the egg,  you just want the vinegar smell)

Egg #10:

Message — Jesus’ body was prepared for burial.
Scripture –John 19:40
Object– a roll of gauze (the kind you would find in a first aid kit) and some spices

Egg #11:

Message — The stone covering Jesus’ tomb was rolled away.
Scripture– John 20:1
Object — A rock

Egg #12:

Message — The tomb was empty,  He was not there. He has risen!
Scripture– John 20:6-7
Object — Nothing! The tomb is empty!

I play to place one of the eggs near our Easter Garden each morning. As part of our homeschool lesson  Makayla will open the egg and then I will share the story with her and read the scripture from our illustrated family bible.  Also,  some of the items can be added to the garden or placed in the tomb; for example the  shroud from egg #  10 can be left behind on Easter morning and the rock from Egg # 11 can be rolled away to reveal the empty tomb.

These are just two examples of ways we can honor God in our traditions, and make sure that the focus is on Him, rather than some made up story about a rabbit! I hope you have a blessed Easter season creating memories with your family.

There are many different ways to create resurrection eggs and an Easter Garden. Here are some links to some other versions of these ideas.


Table Art March 24, 2012

Filed under: Creativity,Family,Hospitality,Keeping the House,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 12:55 pm
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One of my favorite parts of cooking a special  meal for people is creating a tablescape. My husband built our diningroom table; it is beautiful and one of a kind. Similar to what are sold in high ends stores as ‘farmer’s tables’ it was built with left over wood. It has a beautiful wood grain and deep knots, along with some dings and scratches my husband calls ‘character’. Because we love our table so much, I almost never use an actual tablecloth. Instead, I like to create themed centerpieces with some unexpected elements.

Today we started making the centerpiece for Easter. I wanted lots of colored eggs, so we made a batch first thing this morning. Makayla watched in awe as I poked each egg and blew the yolk and white out into a bowl (the dogs were lucky this morning and had 12 scrambled eggs for breakfast.) I used a regular store-bought kit to dye the eggs, but I added some lemon juice to mute the colors into a more pastel tone.

Next I wanted to creat some terrariums. I should preface the remainder of this post with an admission: I am incapable of keeping a house plant alive. Even the heartiest breed of plant fail to thrive under my care. I decided to try putting together some terrariums because they apparently ‘thrive on neglect’. Perfect! I can neglect a houseplant! I went to the garden center this morning and bought some plants. The key is to select an odd number of plants (odd numbers are always more esthetically pleasing) of varying heights, colors, and textures. I could not tell you the names of the plants, I just picked them based on the above criteria.

You can use any glass container to make a terrarium. I had some around the house and just picked a few with a wide mouth.  You need to fill the bottom with small rocks for drainage. Makayla helped with this part.

Now you can start arranging the plants. Be sure to have a front and back view for the terrarium. There are lots of other steps if you are a more serious terrarium-builder. Because this is my first attempt at terrarium making, I did not want to purchase lots of expensive supplies. I will include a link at the bottom if you want a real professional instructions on how to do this.

The really fun part is to hide little objects inside the terrarium, like small animal figurines and seasonal items. I put some eggs and decorative rocks in mine, and these adorable little birds. Makayla and I put together a couple smaller terrariums and then arranged them all on an antique wooden tray on the dinning room table. We added the colored eggs to complete our centerpiece. Now all we have to do is neglect them! The only care they need is sunlight and the occasional squirt of water.

I love how the centerpiece came out because it is short enough not to obstruct the view around the table, and it is interesting. There are lots of little hidden details and unexpected elements. This was a really fun project and totally kid friendly.

Here is a link to everything you need to know to build you own terrarium.

Happy Spring!


Hoisin ‘Grilled’ Tofu March 23, 2012

Filed under: Family,Keeping the House — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 11:51 pm
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The vegan fast continues! Today I made a faux grilled tofu dish for dinner. I marinated the tofu in Hoisin sauce, which I have never tried before. It had a very interesting flavor similar to the bean paste used in Korean cooking. To go along with my lenten-vegan fast, I have been having smoothies or fruit juice for breakfast and lunch, so by dinner time I am ready to chew something savory. This dish did not disappoint. I served it with buckwheat noodles and a simple kale stir-fry.


1 bunch Soba noodles

1 package firm tofu

1/2 cup Hoisin sauce

3 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon grape seed oil

1 tablespoon Bragg’s liquid aminos (a gluten-free soy sauce alternative)

4 cups kale

2 tablespoon sesame seeds

4-5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 cup straw mushrooms (or any other type you like)


#1 prepare the soba noodles according to directions and set aside to cool

#2 Mix together Hoisin sauce, honey, rice vinegar, and Bragg’s liquid aminos

#3 Slice tofu into squares and cover with marinade; chill for one hour








#4 Set oven to broil on high. When tofu has marinated, place on wire rack in oven. Cook for 8-10 minutes until deep brown and crispy on the edges

#5 In a saute pan, heat grapes seed oil. Cook kale, sesame seeds, garlic, and mushrooms over medium to high heat for 4-6 minutes

#6 Serve tofu and vegetables over cold soba noodles






Eggplant and Avocado ‘Burger’ March 22, 2012

Filed under: Family,Keeping the House,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 12:04 am
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I am about halfway through a 30 day vegan challenge; which truth be told has not been very challenging at all. Vegan cooking is so simple: the basic flavors and qualities of a food becomes the centerpiece making lots of fancy cooking techniques and expensive ingredients unnecessary.

Tonight I came up with this recipe based on what was left in the kitchen at the end of my shopping week. I was so pleased with how it came out I had to share. It features eggplant and avocado. Eggplants are fantastic, and they have such a unique texture which I find rather ‘meaty’.  Avocado on the other hand has a sort of buttery quality which complimented the eggplant perfectly. The recipe also calls for vegan mayonnaise, which I have just recently discovered and love. I recommend the brand pictures above.


one eggplant

one ripe avocado

4-6 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise

fresh basil

fresh rosemary

grape seed oil

diced tomato

bread crumbs

sea salt

#1. Peel an avocado and place it in small bowl. Add  2-4 tablespoons of vegan mayonnaise and mash. Add diced tomato and stir. Chill until eggplant is ready.

#2. Mix about a half a cup of breadcrumbs, a teaspoon of sea salt, and a two tablespoons of fresh herbs finely chopped–I used basil and rosemary.

#3. Slice the eggplant into circles. Spread vegan mayonnaise on each side and then press into the breadcrumb mixture. Place a wire rack on a cookie sheet of the same size and use this to cook the eggplant slices.

#4. Drizzle a small amount of grape seed oil on each slice, and broil until golden brown on one side. Remove from oven and flip.  Drizzle the other side with grape seed oil. Broil this side until golden brown.

#5. Serve eggplant slices topped with avocado mixture.

Happy Vegan Eating


Kitchen Ambition March 18, 2012

Filed under: Family,Keeping the House — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 12:18 am
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My husband has been out-of-town, which means several things. First, I cannot keep the wood stove going and we are freezing. Second, the chickens are probably not being as well taken care of as they should be. Third, I can watch all the mindless reality television I want without reproach. and lastly, I can cook whatever I want. That is not to say my husband is a picky eater, but he prefers meat, and only begrudgingly eats vegetarian for my sake.

With my husband gone, it was all about meatless meals for the girls and me. I was in total vegan bliss. I made a very satisfying marinated tofu, the remainder of which I just scrambled with some kale–it was dreamy. For real: kale is my new go to vegetable, and I feel like a total rock star when I eat it. I have been adding it to soups, salads, and smoothies. Kale, which is actually a form of cabbage,  is very high in beta carotene,  vitamin K, vitamin C,  and fairly rich in calcium. Kale  contains  (particularly when chopped or minced), a chemical with potent anti-cancer properties.  Kale is also a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells. Kale retains the lest amount of its nutritional properties when it is boiled, so it is best to eat it raw, stir fried, steamed, juiced,  or purred in a smoothie.  Kale is known as a ‘super food’ which basically means it is amazingly good for you and you should probably be eating it and feeding it to your family on a regular basis.

Below is a link to a plethora of recipes featuring kale.


I also discovered a brand new (to me) super food this week while shopping at a local organic market: black rice. Being that my husband is of the Asian persuasion, we eat our fair share of rice, but I have always been uncomfortable with straight up white rice. Something in my head whispers ‘white food = bad’ as in wonder bread and fluff. I purchased about a pound of dry black rice and cooked a batch in my rice steamer that very night.  I mixed in some dark red kidney beans and mexican seasoning to make a sort of red beans and rice dish. The rice itself has a wonderful nutty taste and texture. I thought it was fantastic, and the girls devoured theirs. I anticipate Henry will not be impressed, undoubtedly  feeling loyalty to the white rice of his childhood.

Black rice (which is actually more purplish) is rich in fiber and iron. The healthy benefits of eating this include, prevention of cancer, prevention of diabetes, prevention of heart disease, prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, and prevention of heart attacks. furthermore, your skin will thank  you because it has more antioxidants, per spoonful, than blueberries. Apparently, this stuff is also known as Forbidden Rice, because it was cultivated solely  for the emperors of China, who wanted to hoard all of these awesome anti-aging properties for themselves.  Nowadays, even we commoners can eat this super food with all of its  helpful medicinal qualities. It is rather expensive, but undoubta blycheaper than getting sick.

Below is a link to some great recipe ideas.

Lastly, I experimented with Tempeh. I am not sure how exactly I have managed to avoid tempeh in the years I have not eaten meat, but it was certainly not intentional. Tempeh is a soy product from Indonesia.  Apparently, the soy beans are fermented, allowing them to retain more of their nutritional qualities. Its texture is similar to a veggie burger, and comes in these sort of loaves that are easily cut up. I sliced the tempeh and sautéed it with some grape seed oil, and later added some kale. It immediately turned a golden brown, but when I tasted it I found it to be really bitter, although the texture was great and quite hearty. In an effort to offset the bitterness I added some soy sauce and simmered the whole thing for another few minutes.


This was not the right move and it turned out way to salty, although the girls and I managed  to eat  it, with the help of several glasses of water. In retrospect, I should not have added the soy sauce, but used it as a dip on the side. After lurking on some vegetarian discussion boards I learned that you can soak the tempeh in warm water before cooking to cut down on the bitter flavor. So, not really a kitchen home run for me, but I was excited to learn about tempeh. It seems like a very versatile meat alternative.

Below is a link to some tempeh recipes.

I like risk taking. I am not afraid of failure. I think you can tell a lot about someone’s personality from their kitchen. Do you play it safe, relying on the comfortable and familiar, or are you adventurous and always on the look out for something fresh and different? I am not saying that one way is better than the other, there is something to be said for the regular traditions that make us who we are, but I find variety very inspiring. It is all about balance. When Henry returns from his trip I will likely prepare a dish I know he enjoys, and old favorite like shepherd’s pie. Then I can have another go with the tempeh. It is all about balance,  and being able to couple tradition with innovation.

Happy Cooking.




Asian Marinated Tofu March 14, 2012

Filed under: Keeping the House — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 1:33 am
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If you aren’t eating tofu on a regular basis, you are missing out. Tofu is vegan, a great source of protein, and totally versatile. On its own, it taste like nothing–my girls eat it this way. But, you can use it in basically any dish and it will take on the flavor of whatever you are cooking it with. Below is a simple recipe for asian marinated tofu.


1 Package Extra Firm Tofu (If you are new to tofu, it comes in different consistencies, this recipe calls for firm)

1 Tbs Rice Vinegar

2 Tbs Soy Sauce

1 Tsp Sea Salt

1 Tbs Sesame Oil

Juice from one lemon





Red Onion

1) Prepare a green salad using your choice of veggies, I used the veggies listed above.

2) Remove the tofu from its package and drain it in a strainer. Then cube and crumble the tofu in medium size bowl.

3) Whisk together rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, lemon juice , and sea salt. Pour over tofu and chill for one hour.

4) Serve the tofu on a green salad–top with a dressing of your choice.


How to Doctor a Cake Mix February 28, 2012

Filed under: Keeping the House — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 11:21 pm

I really love to bake a cake, but I would much rather be doing the decorating. It just isn’t right though to pay so much attention to the outside of the cake and ignore the inside. So here is a quick way to doctor a cake mix and make it taste homemade.

1) Start with any yellow cake mix.

2) I always add one more egg than the recipe calls for. Fresh eggs are the best.

( We happen to have backyard chickens and it makes a huge difference. So you will have to go get some baby chicks and wait about 20 weeks for them to start laying. Okay, just kidding, whatever eggs you have will be fine. )

3) Substitute softened butter for whatever amount of oil is called for.

4) Substitute buttermilk for water.

5) Add one packet of either instant pudding or instant jello–this is a way to add a unique flavoring of your choice.

6) Always allow the ingredients to sit out at room temperature before you start cooking, especially the butter and eggs.

7) Make sure to grease your pan with crisco and dust it with flour, plain old spray pam is not going to cut it.

This cake will taste homemade, but is much easier to prepare. Enjoy!