Monday, March 31, 2014

Monday Montage: Another Milestone

Our Blog is flying high this year as we hit another 50K milestone. We love being able to share the stories from our heart, our mission, and our kitchen.

Thank you for following our family's journey as we welcome our newest member. Thank you for supporting our orphan care projects. Thank you for purchasing from our Scarlet Scraps shop which funds our Adoption Grants. Thank you for caring about our work with Burmese refugees in Midland, TX and seamstresses and artisans in rural China. Thank you for participating in our periodic discussion boards about the tough topics.
We love the interaction that we have with each of you. And, we are often asked: how do we help? So, here's a couple more ways to stay involved and to build the ST mission and community!
  • Keep the comments coming.
  • Share a Recipe (and a picture of your ST apron). We are always looking for new content from aspiring food bloggers, so send us an email.
  • Pin our Posts. Share on FB. Tweet. Like.
  • Become an Affiliate.
  • Grab our Button.
Thank you so much, Community, for continuing to take part in our mission. We can't do this without you.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Fantastic Friday: Hats, Hearts & Healing

The hat is yellow, with thin red bands of color and a thick blue bottom.  I can imagine her mother sliding it over her head the last morning she held her; bundling her warmly before setting her down for the last time.  The orphanage staff kept the hat, putting it in a thin plastic bag with a small sticker with her name, birthdate, and inventory number.  It sat in waiting... a small link to her past; a well-worn tobaggan.  Tucked away in a storage cabinet waiting for the day she'd leave this place.  Today they passed it on to me.  The only link our daughter has to her biological family.




Who would imagine a small hat would hold such meaning.  There are probably thousands just like it in China today.  But this one was held by her first mama, saved by the institution that cared for her -- for no other reason than to help preserve some small piece of her history -- and given to her new family today.  I wept when I held that hat.  I told our coordinator I wished it didn't have to be this way.  I'm so thankful that this smiling, spunky little girl is my daughter, but I wish this story hadn't started in a tragedy.  I wish there was no need for adoption.  I wish her first mama had pulled that hat on her head a 100 times more.  I know some people believe God's perfect plan was for their child to be placed in their family... but I can't say that myself.  I've said it before and will say it again: Adoption in my opinion is a redemptive response to a tragedy.  It is a necessary response and one that I stronly believe in... but it is a response to a tragedy.  I don't believe God orchestrated Alea's story to have such dark beginnings just so she would join our family.  I believe that was a tragedy that broke the Father's heart.  I do believe that as He called us to adoption, He was working to bring our two stories together... to use our response to be a part of her healing, and I have no doubt that He will use her to work untold things in our lives.  We are family forever, and I'm so thankful for that.  But I can never think about the beginning of her life and the story that brought her into our family as anything but the result of a broken, fallen world.


Visiting Alea's orphanage was hard but good.  We've been in lots of orphanages, and as far as orphanages go, hers is a nice one.  We've been in many orphanages, but this is the first time I've been in an orphanage that cared for my daughter.  And I can't fully explain the way it felt to see her bed.  To see her nannies.  To see her little friends still waiting.  I need more time to let it all sink in.  One week ago, this was Alea's daily routine.  Sleep in one room.  Play in another.  Go back to the first room to sleep and eat some more.  Repeat tomorrow.  And the next day.  And the next.  And today I was in her room with 30 kids and babies who needed their mamas and daddies to come yesterday.  Babies who will wait for who knows how long... maybe months maybe forever... for someone to come for them.  Alea's crib was still empty, and my heart soared, but it won't be empty for long.  I want to see all the cribs empty.  None of them full.  I want to see mamas pulling yellow hats over their babies' heads on a cold winter day. I want children to never enter such a place -- where even the most well-intentioned and loving caregivers can not possibly meet all the needs of the babies because there are just. so. many. -- and for those who are there, I want them out.  I want to see people step up and say YES to adoption... to all the fears, and terror, and uncertainty.  I want more people to recognize that life isn't about being safe and certain, but it is about loving others well.  And these little ones have so much worth -- so much intrinsic God-given value.  They don't know it yet, because they've never had their mamas and daddies sing it over them; or its been far too long since they heard it.  But it doesn't take long for the song to shape their souls and heal their hearts. Not even 3 days after joining our family, we are already seeing joy crinkle the corners of Alea's eyes and hearing her cry out her needs -- two signs she is learning that she is precious to us and to this world.


Going back was harder on Alea than I imagined.  And I'm not sure if taking her with us was the right or wrong thing to do.  On the one hand, I'm so thankful to have the pictures and knowledge of her home for the first year and a half of her life.  We were able to ask questions and meet the people who cared for her.  Her primary nanny was there today and wanted to hold Alea.  She did for a few moments -- Alea went to her willingly -- but then she started to look more and more nervous and scared, and we all agreed she needed to be back in our arms.  It was encouraging to see that there are some baby steps of connection forming in her heart, but I do wonder if taking her back was the best thing for her.  After a short afternoon nap and a bunch of food (the girl can EAT!), she perked right up and has been laughing, cooing, babbling, and playing more than we've seen all week.  So I don't think any serious harm was done... I just feel badly for putting her in ANOTHER stressful situation, when everything about this week is like something out of a nightmare for any child.



This is a little random and all over the place, but I've got TWO beautiful daughters to put to bed, so I'm going to wrap it up for now.  We are doing well.  It is great to be back in China.  Cora is an amazing big sister.  We are seeing more and more of Alea's sweet personality.  And we are learning how to be a family of four.  God is soo good to us, and we are so thankful for your love and prayers.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Wonderful Wednesday: Finally All Together

I want to remember it all.  The way I saw her walk in... I knew it was her even without seeing her face, just  because she was the size I imagined she would be.  The way she clutched my China necklace the moment they handed her to me, winding those little fingers in and out, in and out.  No tears. Just quiet glances at my face when I wasnt looking directly at her.  The way she sucks her first two fingers when shes overwhelmed.  The surprising way it felt to meet her for the first time... a stranger yet not a stranger at all.  The way I realized late last night that it already felt like she has been a part of our little family for more than a day... it feels not only like she belongs, but that shes been missing all along.
 
The room was chaotic.  I think Alea might have been the only child not screaming in terror.  And nearly twenty children screaming in one concrete block building with  coordinators yelling above the noise creates an indescribable sound of sadness.  Alea wasnt crying, but rather a bit shut down.  She was taking it all in, but was clearly overwhelmed by everything.  In a surprising bit of Gods grace -- though why should any of this be surprising at this point -- Cora acted as if what we were doing was the most normal thing in the world. They had a lilttle play area off to the side, and Cora happily played there by herself, shrieking and laughing above the din. It was one of the first times since weve been in China that Cora wasnt velcroed to one of us, and in by far the most overwhelming set of circumstances. Grace.  And when we called her over to meet Alea for the first time, she joyfully hugged her little sister and she has been thrilled about "her baby" since then.  I realize once the newness wears off, Cora might be less thrilled... but for a little gal who doesnt really like babies that much, this has been a total surprise and another glimpse of Gods grace.

 

Jacob wisely decided to take Alea outside.  There was a small park with a fountain in front of the building, and we walked over and sat in the sunshine, away from all the noise and fear.  Alea squinted in the sun, but she started looking more closely at both of us. She doesnt seem to have a strong preference for either of us in particular, and would probably happily go to anyone as long as they were willing to hold and feed her.  She loves to watch Cora play, and I think it wont take long till she's Cora's little shadow.

 

By the time we got her back to the hotel, we thought she might be hungry.  She made no indication that she was, but it just seemed like feeding her would bea  reasonable thing to do.  However when she saw a bottle, she began whimpering and hungrily sucked it down.  Shes tiny... some 6 to 9 month clothing is too big, and we think she would eat all the time if we let her.  (Its hard to know how much to let her eat... we know she may know the feeling of a hungry belly, but we dont want her to gorge herself and make herself sick in these early days.) 



Despite her size, shes clearly been well-cared for.  She came to us incredibly clean in a darling pink outfit.  She crawls very well and loves to pull-up to stand.  She is alert, curious, and engaged... signs that she hasnt been left to stare at a ceiling for hours on end.  Jacob got some giggles out of her by gently tossing her up above his head, and he put her to sleep for her first nap (and her second).  We think she loves his big soft arms, and I have to confess it has been nice that shes comfortable with both of us because Cora is definitely a mamas girl, and I was a little worried about having TWO mamas girls.  (To be honest, this experience has made Cora more willing to let Jacob do things for her than before... again another Grace-gift that I didnt expect, as I anticipated the opposite.)



The man who brought her to us said that she was in the Half the Sky program, and that her nanny cared for her and three other children. Those are absolutely INCREDIBLE ratios in an orphanage setting, and we will be forever thankful.  We got an album of pictures showing Alea with her nanny, and we know that she has left an imprint of love on Aleas heart. Today when Alea woke, she was much more detached and somber than yesterday, and we both think she is probably missing her nanny.  I cant even begin to describe how much it breaks my heart to think of what our little girl is going through right now... And that the calm facade doesnt reflect the probably inner turmoil... and that honestly Im just not the person who knows how to comfort her best right now.  But we are doing our best to love her well... treating her as we would a newborn, responding to her EVERY need as soon as we realize what it is she might want.

After a nap from about 3-5:30, she slept great last night. She went down at about 8:30 and didnt stir until about 7:30 am.  I tried to rock her to sleep, but she wouldnt settle and seemed to want out of my arms.  I prayed about what to do... what would bring her the most peace and comfort, and decided to lay her in her crib.  Within 5 minutes she was asleep.  She didnt stir in the night.  She was within arms reach of me, and I woke several times to check on her because I honestly expect that if she did wake, she wouldnt cry but would simply lie there silently.  I want her to learn -- as soon as possible -- that she has a voice and that her needs are worthy of being met by her mama and baba.  This morning she ate a great breakfast and its been a busy day of meetings and appointments.  And just like that, its official.  In the small lobby of a Henan civil affairs building, we became a family of four.  Alea slept through most of it, and Im so thankful she feels safe enough to do so.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sunday Snapshot: At Home in China & Prayer Request

Our week in Beijing is finished. Delicious food. Good friends. Happy babies. Beautiful blue skies. It felt like coming home. I don’t feel “split” anymore – not the way I used to when we lived here… I’m not (usually) wishing I’m here when I’m in the USA or wishing I’m in the USA when I’m here. Maybe I’m finally learning how to just BE wherever I am, and be thankful for the friends and community and family we have in both places.


 As I said goodbye to some of my dearest Beijing friends yesterday, I couldn’t hold back the tears as I realized my love for them has grown even deeper now that I’m two days from meeting my Chinese daughter. God has blessed Cora and Alea with some incredible Chinese ayis. Aunties who love my girls and who show them what a strong, loving, compassionate Chinese woman looks like. Especially with Alea coming into our family, I want her to grow up proud of her heritage and background, and I know that with these women in all of our lives, she will come into an understanding of who she is as a beautiful Chinese woman with their mentoring and love that I might never be able to show her. My heart swells with thankfulness that God has brought them into our lives.


I spent a day with Deng Jia, our Scarlet Threads seamstress. We went to the fabric market together and she helped design new products. I stood back and watched as she negotiated the prices for fabric, contributed new design ideas, and talked about future products we could develop.


Her husband brought us heaping bowls of steaming noodles and we talked about growing plants and children and her hometown in Sichuan province.


She doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak much Chinese… but we’ve learned how to talk with each other these last few years. I respect her business prowess and incredible skill, and I’m thankful God brought her into my life.



We’re getting on a train later today… headed to Alea’s hometown. And in about 48 hours we will have her in our arms. We are excited and terrified all at the same time. It honestly feels completely surreal. We are days away from becoming a family of four. God has been so faithful on this journey so far, and I’m leaning into Him as closely as I can as I seek to trust that He will continue to knit our family together. But in these last few hours before we meet her… when uncertainty looms large and I don’t know how the next few weeks will all play out, we have lots of prayer requests. And we also know we have lots of people who are praying for us, which fills us with incredible peace and gratitude.

 We’d love you to join us in praying for these specific things:

  1. For continued health and strength and rest for our family. Last night Jacob woke up in the middle of the night and it seemed he had the start of a bout of food poisoning or a stomach virus. Knowing we are about to get on a train today, I started praying like crazy that it would pass… and just like that, the wave of intense nausea ended and he went back to sleep. We all woke up in the morning feeling well-rested and fine. We just want more of that.
  2. For Alea’s heart to be prepared for our family. We’ve heard she is happy and open – and we pray that she is able to adjust as easily as possible to her new family and environment. One specific prayer request we have is that we will be able to comfort her when she’s upset. We know we are strangers to her, but we are praying for God to supernaturally move in her heart so that we are able to meet her emotional needs in these early days… that we will feel like family and not strangers.
  3. For Cora to be prepared to be a big sister. She knows what is coming, but she can’t possibly truly understand. And in general, our sweet girl has a hard time with children younger than her… babies aren’t her favorite. Mostly because they put her things in their mouth and knock down her towers. We know the adjustment won’t be easy for her, but we are praying that God supernaturally moves in her heart so that she can step into her new role as big sister with excitement and joy. 
  4. For our hearts to bond with her. I know a deep and true connection will come for all of us, but I’m praying it happens quickly. We’ve spent lots of time with lots of orphans, and one of the side effects of that is that for us, we’ve become a bit detached. I’m praying that even in the very moment she is placed in my arms, I will feel a “mama-love” for her, even if it is faint, and I’m praying for that feeling to deepen quickly and fiercely.
  5. And finally, that the next two weeks in China will be filled with more moments of joy and happiness than trauma and difficulty. We know it isn’t going to be easy, and we are fully prepared for it to be hard work to become a family of four. But we would love to be able to enjoy our time in China. We have friends we hope to see in both cities we plan to visit, and lots that we would like to see and do. Our children of course will come first, so if Alea and Cora aren’t up to the hustle and bustle, we won’t do it. But we are hoping that maybe – just maybe – things will click and we can enjoy two more weeks of time in this second home of our hearts.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: What's Baking?

What is this dough going to turn into??? Leave your guess in the comments and wish me luck on the recipe... here's hoping it will be good enough to share for Tasty Tuesday.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Last Day

The house is quiet.  LeLe is sprawled on the guest bed behind me, sighing as she stretches and wakes up, pleased that she has the entire bed to herself.  I hear Cora's sound machine, but her room is quiet and dark otherwise... we've been keeping her up later and later each night to help with the upcoming jetlag, so she may not wake for another hour or more.  Our bags are mostly packed.  A few more things in, a few things out, and they will be ready for the final zip. And just like that, here we are: Our last day home.

The day before we leave for China.  My last day in our own home as a stay-at-home mama of my ONE feisty and sweet little girl. 

 Cora with her next-door-neighbor/best friend/future husband, Presley.  Not wearing Scarlet Threads aprons.  What kind of business owner am I?!

We're feeling lots of BIG feelings these days.  Excitement, nervousness, anticipation, a smidge of fear, joy, and thankfully most of all for me, peace.  But today there's another feeling in there, and I think I want to stop and feel it for a while.  Bittersweet.

I'm getting another daughter in just a few days... so sweet.
Today is Cora's last day at home with just her mama... a little bitter.



It isn't that I'm not excited about the way our family will take shape in the coming weeks and months, but it's the end of the season in our life when our family looks the way it does right now.  And I do love the way our little family looks right now.  So I'm holding these two feelings at the same time -- ecstatic at where this journey is taking us and joyfully anticipating meeting my newest chickadee, and mourning, if you will, the end of a season I've truly treasured... our quiet little life as a family of three.  I've been thinking about the ups and downs, the way my sweet girl has changed me as a woman and made me a mama, and I just want to celebrate what a remarkable little girl she has become. 

So today I'm setting the packing aside.  I'm going to go to the park and swing with my girl.  We'll probably get ice cream.  I want to do puzzles in her room and have a tea party.  Maybe we will make snakes with play dough and blow bubbles in the back yard.  I hope she'll sit with me on the couch and let me read a book or two or three to her.  I'm going to try and get her to help me vacuum and tidy up our home so that our house-sitter is welcomed to a pleasant retreat, but if those things don't happen, I know they won't matter half as much as spending time with my girl.

Drawing a picture of her WHOLE family.

She's about to be a big sister.  She knows this as well as any three-year-old can, drawing pictures of Alea in our family and talking about our upcoming trip to China to get her.  She's worried about Alea eating her toys and having to share, but I see her heart growing in tenderness and anticipation.  At a store the other day, she saw a little Asian girl about Alea's size and loudly shouted, "Look mom! It's Alea!"

She's about to be a big sister, but today she's just my only little girl... and today I'm going to pour as much as I can into her because I know it is the last day her life is going to look the way it does right now, and change is never easy.  But through it all, I'm going to remember that while today might be the last day, tomorrow is the first day of something grand... the start of our journey to becoming a family of four.

-------

We leave for China tomorrow.  We're spending a week in Beijing visiting friends (and doing some Scarlet Threads work!) before traveling to Alea's hometown to meet and adopt her on the 24th.  I hope to be able to blog while we're there, so if you want to follow along with our journey, please check back here over the next three weeks!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: My Superman

This is my superman. My partner in crime. Ready to battle the day to day grease and grime to keep order in our house!


This is a just a little glimpse into our life that I wanted to share. A bit of our fun!


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: A Ciabatta for Me!


Making bread that you’re happy with 
is a matter of both the bread 
and your expectations.
-- William Rubel


This is my second bread post... ever. But that doesn't mean this is my second loaf. This is more my 22nd loaf. And, I'm pretty much in love with this quest I've embarked on to learn the ins and outs of bread making.

My first and second bread posts really shouldn't have been this far apart, but I've just changed jobs and I am on a pretty steep learning curve. As a type-A perfectionist (Samantha, you are not alone), I find it a challenge super motivating and any form of failure extremely deflating (for a moment, then it's on if you know what I mean). Well, it's really the same thing in the kitchen.

The one thing that I love-Love-LOVE about the kitchen is that I can experiment and try new things with near-instant results. Then I can keep what works, throw out what doesn't! I love to celebrate the successes and laugh at the failures (after I grieve, of course). I really enjoyed this blog post from An Artist's Journal that related homemade bread to the philosophy of art making. I'm really an artist at heart, after all.

Well anyway, the other day I came home for lunch to continue my bread odyssey with a ciabatta loaf and a rye loaf, simultaneously. Both were huge hits in my house. We always have our neighbors over when I've baked fresh bread, in part to keep us from having to eat the entire thing and the rest because we love them. My husband, however, ate almost the entire loaf of ciabatta before our neighbors arrived from next door. So, they each were left with but a sliver.

Now, I started with the recipe from the "Becoming Bread" post and then tweaked the application a bit to end up with a ciabatta loaf. In fact, I started with the full quantity, made the dough, then halved the dough for two separate bread attempts!

Ingredients:

1/2 c. Starter (See the recipe in the Becoming Bread post)
1 1/2 c. Bread Flour*
1 tbsp. vital wheat gluten
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. dry active yeast
1/2 c. lukewarm water*
1 tbsp. olive oil




Up Front Tips:

1. To begin with in this ciabatta process, I used the starter ("my longest living pet" as I've coined it) that I've cultivated over the past couple of months.

2. This dough needs to be a bit less structured than the french country loaf, so you will absolutely need to let it rest multiple times between flour adds so that you keep the dough very stringy and elastic.

3. Because it's going to be sticky, rub your hands with a bit of olive oil before handling, this will keep you away from that ever present impulse to add more flour.



4. Start early, because the key to good bread according to William Rubel is not to bake your bread before it's ready to be baked.

5. It's not going to be perfect the first time, or the last. Adjust your expectations, my dear Reader. It will be delicious all the same.

6. Use your breadmaker/mixer to do the heavy lifting, but a bit of hand kneading is good for the soul.


Instructions (Long Version)

Bread baking seems to me like it is more about techniques and time and texture of individual steps and much less about the exact proportion of ingredients. At this point, I don't know whether this is true or if it is a logical fallacy that I've invented to justify the fact that I don't really like to follow anyone else's recipes.

That said, take everything with a tsp. of salt and make it your own.

Add the water, starter, yeast, sugar, and salt to the bowl. Then add most of the flour, but reserve some to avoid that over-formed bread we were talking of earlier.

Turn on the knead function (or just pick a random setting on your bread machine to get it going) or use your dough hook and a low setting on your stand mixer.

Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. It's going to look like a sticky mess and may not be "balling" at all at this point. This is fine, it's as it should be. If it's too dry and crumbly, add some more water (a tablespoon at a time). 

At this point, let it rest. Go make yourself a cup of hot tea and come back in about 15 minutes. Often, I find there is an absolute transformation in the dough from soupy to sturdy...

As you begin to knead (with your mixer / bread maker) take a look at the dough, you want it to begin to ball but when you stop the mixer it should still be able to relax.

Now it is time for the first rise. Oil those fingers, grab the dough ball, give it a quick hand knead, then toss it into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Rise for 4 hours or until well doubled.

When the dough is ready for you to continue, gently shape it into a rectangle (traditional) or other shape (read: whatever the dough chooses to be) and let it rise. This can be either under oiled plastic wrap or a damp towel. It also works if you set up some cans around the loaf and place the damp towel on the cans to create a little bread shelter.

I've found that the longer I let this loaf rise, the better the holes I achieve. So, this loaf rose from 1PM to 7PM when it entered into the oven. Generally, the guidance is about a 2 hour rise. Just experiment and see what you come up with.


Bake at 415 degrees for 25 minutes or until your bread tester / bbq thermometer says it's done. If you are using the thermometer method, look for >205 degrees F. If you are using the bread (cake) tester method, make sure that the tester comes out clean.

Cut and Serve!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Monday Montage: Last Days of the Big Sale!

Well friends, my baby niece is coming home in a few short weeks. As a consequence, we are about to begin a short spending freeze while our family is in China finalizing the adoption and meeting sweet Alea for the first time! (Leave a comment for luck and encouragement!)

So, because we are freezing shipping starting this coming Wednesday, we want to give you the opportunity to order early! There's a code below for 30% off your entire order and there are 8 products on sale (3 on SUPER SALE). Here's the thing about ST, we are absolutely dedicated to ethical production of our entire product line. But, ethical production doesn't mean unaffordable!

In fact, you can shop today and tomorrow and beat big box store prices by a long shot! And, you'll know that the proceeds of these sales are going to a company dedicated to empowering artisans through employment.

http://scarletthreads.org/sale

So, we already introduced five products that are on sale and we are going to add to that for just two days... And, these are extra special, super duper, ridiculous sales. That's why it's only going to be for 48 hours!

If you've been coveting one of our aprons, we are going to make it super easy. Hopefully I picked the right one for you! If not, accept my sincerest apologies and in exchange use "superduper" for 30% off your entire order.

6. Suzy - $12 (reg. $25) WHAT? We have to be kidding, right? No. You have to be FAST. Sale price ends Wednesday midnight.
http://scarletthreads.org/sale

7. Annie Jane - $16 (reg. $36) Why are there two aprons in the product shot?? Because this beauty is reversible. So, that's like two aprons for the price of a half. That's one for you, one for your friend, one for that girl in your office who is getting married, etc.

http://scarletthreads.org/sale


8. Pocket Applique Tee - $8 (reg. $15), sales on our Chin Collection line are rare! It's been quite an endeavor to launch this new line. But, we do want to see more of our ethical products on your kids. Isn't it amazing to know who made the shirt your little one is wearing??
http://scarletthreads.org/sale


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thrifty Thursday: A Big Sale!

We have time for one more big sale before the "Shipping Freeze" that starts on Wednesday of next week.

You remember, Carrie and Jacob are adopting my new niece from China and they are bringing home soon. And by soon, I mean in just a couple of weeks! Because our "warehouse" is really just another name for any and all spare closet space in their house, you can understand why we will need to suspend shipping until they get resettled. We will be live blogging portions of the trip to China, so do stay tuned!

As a send off, leave Carrie and Jacob a note of encouragement in the comments!!! :) This is a scary wonderful experience and I know that they would love the support!

We're sorry for the inconvenience, and that's why we're having a quick little sale so that you can get purchase and receive your ST products before our brief outage. Our freeze will last from Wednesday, March 12th through April 1st.



We're going to put several of our products on sale through next Tuesday! And, if you haven't met our artisans yet, you should!



http://www.scarletthreads.org/shop.html/sale?product_id=85


http://www.scarletthreads.org/shop.html/sale?product_id=77

http://www.scarletthreads.org/shop.html/sale?product_id=83

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Accountability

Our retail partner, Delicate Fortress Creations, shared this photo and it definitely spoke to me... What about you?
 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Triple Chocolate Banana Bread from Five Heart Home

If you read the blog on Friday, you will know that we have a new blog partner (we call them Advertising Affiliates) named Samantha and that she is a wonderful, witty, type-A, perfectionist who created a fabulous food blog called Five Heart Home. We are thrilled to share one of her tantalizing recipes, complete with gorgeous (read: way-better-than-you-get-from-me-because-I'm-just-learning) photos.


You'll probably see more from Samantha and Five Heart Home here on the blog as our partner-friend-ship grows, but you should definitely show some love and like her on Facebook and follow on Pinterest and, I suppose I should say it but you should have already done it, visit/follow her blog.


We will be sharing more about the affiliate program soon. Right now we are in beta test mode and all signs are showing us that this could be a great way to build the ST Community and grow our fair trade mission (let's be frank, growing sales is really the only way to work with more artisans and work more with our current partner-artisans). My favorite part of Scarlet Threads has been working with new people and watching them fall in love with the work we do, the people we work with, and the products that we create - and then watching them become our cheer leaders and prayerful supporters.

-- Thank you to one and all! Here's more from Samantha! --


Hi, everyone! It's Samantha from Five Heart Home and I'm so excited to be visiting Scarlet Threads today to share one of my family's favorite quick bread recipes!
Triple Chocolate Banana Bread | FiveHeartHome.com
 
So who else buys way more bananas than you can possibly eat before they start to turn brown? I'm guilty of that almost every time I go to the grocery store. You'd think I would have learned my lesson by now, but the truth is, I somewhat do it on purpose because I love baking with bananas! I have lots of banana-loaded goodies in my recipe file, some of which I've made just a few times and others that my family requests again and again. And this Triple Chocolate Banana Bread is definitely on the frequent flier list!
 
After all, who doesn't love banana bread? And this is banana bread with chocolate. Three kinds of it, to be exact. Not only do you sift a bit of cocoa powder into your dry ingredients, but you also stir some melted baking chocolate into your batter and then add plenty of semi-sweet mini chocolate chips to take it completely over the top!

  Triple Chocolate Banana Bread | FiveHeartHome.com

The resulting banana bread is soft and moist and oh-so-chocolatey, delicious for breakfast or a snack. It's perfectly tasty at room temperature, but it is amazing still-warm out of the oven with a pat of butter slathered on top. You can definitely make this recipe with regular all-purpose flour, but I typically make it with whole wheat pastry flour to make me feel better about eating it for breakfast. ;) I love baking quick breads, muffins, pancakes, waffles, and such with whole wheat pastry flour because it is 100% whole wheat flour but has a lighter taste and texture than regular whole wheat flour. By using whole wheat pastry flour in a chocolate-infused recipe like this, I don't think anyone would ever guess that it wasn't made with regular white flour.

Triple Chocolate Banana Bread | FiveHeartHome.com

One of the things I've learned about baking quick breads is that I almost always prefer the outcome when I divide my batter between mini loaf pans instead of baking a full-sized loaf. Full-sized loaves are great but, at least in my experience, it's sometimes difficult to get the center to the desired level of doneness without overcooking the edges. The other bonus of baking smaller loaves? They're done -- and ready to slice into! -- that much quicker. Multiple loaves also make sharing and gift-giving possible...if you can restrain yourself from eating them all first. ;)

So the next time you have a couple of overripe bananas longing to be put to use, I hope you'll try this Triple Chocolate Banana Bread! And in the meantime, I'd be honored to have you stop by for more quick and easy, family-friendly, kid-approved recipes!

  Triple Chocolate Banana Bread | FiveHeartHome.com

TRIPLE CHOCOLATE BANANA BREAD

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour OR whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 medium bananas, mashed (equaling approximately 1 cup)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or spray with cooking spray) three 5 3/4" x 3 1/4" x 2" mini loaf pans.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In another bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until smooth, and then beat in sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in egg, vanilla, melted chocolate, banana, and sour cream until fully incorporated (batter may look curdled at this point...it will smooth out with addition of flour). Gently mix in dry ingredients and chocolate chips until just blended.

Evenly divide batter between prepared pans and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool bread in pans for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

NOTE: Instead of mini loaves, you may also bake bread in a full-sized loaf pan for 60 minutes or until bread tests done.

I'd love to have you visit Five Heart Home sometime or join me via social media! Here are some of my latest goodies...

Recipes by FiveHeartHome.com
 
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Monday Montage: Discussion Board - Sex Trafficking

A friend of mine posted an article to facebook today about a new indie film (called Eden) that's being released soon in the UK. It is the story of a woman visiting a foreign country who was sold into the sex trade at age 19. No, it isn't Taken. (Although, I totally love the righteous rage of Liam Neeson in that movie.) And, no it isn't hollywood fiction. It is a real honest-to-goodness tale of inhumanity at its finest. It's not exactly one of those movies that you rent for girls night, but I am thinking of doing it all the same when it is released.

Click the picture below, it will take you straight to the original content.

http://investik8.wordpress.com/2013/07/17/eden-a-sex-slaves-story/

I would so love for the ST Blog to be a place to talk about important things. I think we are already doing important work, tackling some hard challenges and having fun along the way. The most important thing that we can do is bring to light and talk about the things that happen in the dark. The darkness can have no more power.

So, we are going to start a discussion board, right here on the blog and/or the facebook page. Take a read and leave a thought. Is this the forever plight of humanity - to degrade, to enslave, to hurt? We already have thoughts flowing in on facebook so feel free to jump right in.




Here were my thoughts upon reading the story of Chong Kim.

I want to meet people where they are. I want to see the invisible.

This is what we do when we focus on orphan care and adoption. We don't turn a blind eye to little ones who are hurting with no one to comfort them! But they aren't the only ones who are without comfort and protection in this world. This is what we do when we work with refugee groups (like the Chin people in Midland, TX). We see people who are sometimes invisible.

We are called to be a hope to the hopeless, a light in the darkness, a friend to the friendless. I think what we are really trying to be is honest. We need to see the world the way it is, we need to see the people who are invisible, and we need not be afraid of the darkness. Fear gives it power.

The church we once attended was just starting to get involved in the human trafficking and sex trade ministries a couple of years ago. And, if you couldn't be involved directly, they asked you to pray. Pray for the victims, pray for the Johns, pray for the captors. In praying, we have opened our eyes to the evil, we name it, and we ask for the power to overcome it.