Saturday, October 20, 2012

North Eastern Iowa Camping

The last time our family went camping, Ezra was 6 months old, and we went to the Christian Reformed Conference Grounds on Lake Michigan.  This week we drove through towns like Elkader, Decorah, McGregor, and Prairie DuChein, WI.

On the way there we stopped at Dyersville to buy Christmas gifts at the Ertl toy store.  We were pretty tricky about that.

Each town along the River was very old.  The historical buildings were so much older than the small towns here in the middle of the state.  The boys soon learned that everything followed the Mississippi River - Highways, train tracks, and campgrounds.

My personal favorite was Effigy Mounds.  We hiked to Firepoint lookout over the Mississippi River.  The land reminded me of Cedar Bluffs over the DesMoines river near Eveland Access - south of Oskaloosa, only much larger.  Several of the burial mounds were in circles, or in the shapes of animals, and were on the tops of the bluffs.  Zachary desperately wanted to run up and down them, but part of the National Park rules were to follow the path, and not walk on the burial mounds.

Brian's favorite was probably trout fishing.  Those pictures are on his phone, and I haven't gotten them yet.  Each youth is able to catch two fish, so we cleaned and took home six fish.  It was a little cold.

We had two rainy days.  We went to Cabella's in Prairie du Chein, made a camper out of a cardboard box and tacky glue, drove around to look at old buildings, and spent an afternoon at Culver's eating french fries, ice cream, and playing GoFish and War.We also had good nap times in the camper on those days.

Our camground overlooked the M. River, and Tue through Thur we were practically the only ones in the campground.  Friday things filled up.

Our food schedule included bacon, sausage, eggs, Peanut Butter sandwhiches, dear bologne, tonka pies, chilli soup and cheesy brocolli soup, oatmeal cream pies, fudge from the Cannery in PdC, and homemade bread.  The boys ate so well at every meal.  I figured they'd run out of space, but they didn't.  We even stopped at Dyersville McDonalds on the way home, and they ate even more.

Thank you Aunt Julie for letting us borrow the camper!  We definitely need to buy one of our own someday.  We had such a good time, and will be making this trip again.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

To make you Smile - Pastor Story

Pastor O ‘Riley woke up Sunday morning and realizing it was an exceptionally beautiful, sunny day, decided he just had to play golf.

After all, there was already a nip of fall in the air and how many more gorgeous days like this would there be before the cold weather came?

So... he told the Associate Pastor that he wasn’t feeling well, and persuaded him to deliver the sermon that day.

As soon as the Associate Pastor left the room, Pastor O’Riley headed out of town to a golf course about forty miles away.

This way he knew he wouldn't run into anyone he knew from his church.

Setting up on the first tee, he was alone. After all, it was Sunday morning and everyone else was in church!

At about this time, Saint Peter leaned over to the Lord while looking down from the heavens and exclaimed, "You're not going to let him get away with this, are you?" The Lord sighed, and said, "No, of course not."

Just then Pastor O’Riley hit the ball and it shot straight towards the hole, dropping just short of it, when it began to roll and fell right into the hole.


St. Peter was astonished. He looked at the Lord and asked, "Why did you let him do that?"

The Lord smiled and replied, "Who's he going to tell?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Aroma of "Living Things"

A few advent reflections since this cold weather has me feeling like the holidays are just around the corner.

Our sermon Sunday night was based on the book of Second Corinthians, in particular, chapter 2.  We studied the aroma of Christ in this world - smells of life to those being saved, and the smells of death to those who are perishing.  It made me think of hog farmers - the smell of money to the farmer, not a feeling shared always by the neighbors. Just kidding.  A quote from Charlotte's Web and the Jesus Storybook Bible came to mind.

I don't know why I thought this after the sermon Sunday night, but maybe the aroma of Christ is quite similar to the smell of "living things," likely the first aromas Christ smelled the first hours of his life.

From 2 Corinthians 2
14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.

From Charlotte's Web, E.B. White, Chapter 3 
"The Barn was very large.  It was very old.  It smelled of hay and it smelled of manure.  It smelled of the perspiration of tired horses and the wonderful sweet breath of patient cows.  It often had a sort of peaceful smell - as though nothing bad could happen ever again in the world.  It smelled of grain and of harness dressing and of axle grease and of rubber boots and of new rope.  And whenever the cat was given a fish-head to eat, the barn would smell of fish.  But mostly it smelled of hay, for there was always hay in the great loft up overhead.  And there was always hay being pitched down to the cows and the horses and the sheep."

From the Jesus Storybook Bible, The Nativity, from Luke 2 - "He's Here"
"Mountains would have bowed down.  Seas would have roared.  Trees would have clapped their hands.  But the earth held its breath.  As silent as snow falling, he came in.  And when no one was looking, in the darkness, he came...[Mary and Joseph] couldn't find anywhere except an old, tumbledown stable.  So they stayed where the cows and the donkeys and the horses stayed.  And there, in the stable, amongst the chickens and the donkeys and the cows, in the quiet of the night, God gave the world his wonderful gift.  The baby that would change the world was born.  His baby Son.  

Mary and Joseph wrapped him up to keep him warm.  They made a soft bed of straw and used the animals' feeding trough as his cradle.  And they gazed in wonder at God's Great Gift, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.  

Mary and Joseph names him Jesus, "Emmanuel" - which means "God has come to live with us."

Because, of course, he had."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ezra, Sonshine Preschool and Explaination

Ezra's preschool orientation was this week. He was more than excited to go to school.  There were a few moments of concern, but after his orientation visit, he asked why he couldn't go every day.  We too are very excited for him to learn and meet new friends.  One of his teachers was actually Grandma Barb's college room mate!  We took pictures of this day, and after uploading them to the blog, I noticed that this crazy corn plant happened to make it in almost every one!  I felt there needed to be some explaination.

Some have assumed that I've planted these corn plants in the parsonage landscape on purpose, to make a statement about myself, something about not being able to take the country out of the girl.  Although this might have been an ingenious idea, this is not what happened.  Actually, I'm thinking these corn plants have been placed there by critters from our bird feeder.  They happened to grow quite nicely in the landscape.  Have you ever seen corn plants used in landscape?  They are quite beautiful.  This year I was fortunate enough to chose not to do much for floral decoration in the church landscape.  The dry summer would have proved to be too much for me to keep up with them. 

So I was grateful for the funny corn plants that have grown.  I'm surprised they survived six little hands and twelve little four wheeler tires.  Most everything has been pulled out our made into a dirt track for things with wheels. 

Ezra has had a fun summer driving in dirt and playing with his brothers.  He is going to love preschool too.

When I asked Ezra to stand on the front step, he instinctively grabbed the plant to pose. 

He has turned out to be quite handsome.

He chose camo shorts and his new Merrel shoes we found out the cowboy store in Wyoming on vacation.

Zach copying his brother.

Elliot joining in.

Always trying to figure out the pecking order.

Everyone is happy.

Picture with dad.

Picture with mom.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Checking the Corn

A few pictures of us checking our corn crop. Everything needs rain. We are thankful for the 2 tenths that we got last week. It seems to be hanging in there.

Wondering why there is one super tall corn that is over a foot taller than the rest?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Photography Entries

I thought you might like to see which images I chose to enter for the Iowa State Fair Photography Competition. The Titles are above the image. This week I received a postcard that three were accepted, and there was an "Award" sticker on the card, so I'm eager to see which won something. I appreciate that there are so many different type of entries at the Iowa State Fair, from amateurs, children, to semi-professionals. You can see a list of Exhibitors accepted here. I will find out the first week of August which entries were accepted, which one didn't and which won and award. 

Catching Up With Edgar - Family Farm Class

Liminal Space - HDR Class

Reading Between the Lines -Iowa Churches Black and White Class

Locomotion - Planes, Trains and Automobiles Class

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Planting Trees and Psalm 148

On Friday night we were able to plant 18 trees in Grandpa Ferguson's pasture under indecisive clouds. I took these pictures shortly before watering the black hills spruce trees and wrapping the aspens so the deer won't eat them. It will be interesting to see if they survive, and if we can water them enough during a possibly dry summer.

I was inspired by both the clouds, which look like waves of water, and the prairie grass and my brother BJ's corn (which apparently is dying because it needs water), which both echo and contrasted the sky. Then Saturday afternoon, while the boys were napping, I found these words from Psalm 148 which reflect the the visual inspiration with scripture.

If you click on the picture, it should enlarge so you can read the words better.

Here is the blog post with pictures of my brothers building the ponds in December 2010.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

New Photography Blog

Just a note to my blog readers (pretty sure mostly my family) that I now have a separate blog for Becky Ochsner Photography that I use to post updates related to my business.  Here is the link:

I'll see if I'm able to put a link to it on the side of this blog so that you can easily link to see sneak peaks of recent photo sessions and announcements.  So much on the way!

The Best Bran Muffin Recipe

These bran muffins are really wonderful.  They are simple, freeze nicely, taste wonderful, and my kids eat them well.  I've made them a few times for friends who've have babies, because they are easy to grab out of the freezer, warm in the microwave, and eat when you have absolutely no time to eat anything or prepare breakfast. 

The only unique thing you need on hand is buttermilk.  Surprisingly, I actually buy it regularly now for quite a few things - Homemade Ranch Dressing and quite a few of my baking recipes.  In high school I would have died.  Buttermilk isn't something that is normal for kids to grow up with.

Its a large recipe.  Can't have any, "oh I'll just try one."  Nope, need to be serious about this one. 

The recipe is originally from my time working at Dutch East Indies Coffee Company in Pella, IA while I was in high school.  We would make a batch of batter and leave it in the fridge and use as needed to make fresh bran muffins for customers.  Except we baked them in the huge muffin tin with six large muffins - like the one that you could share your bran muffin if you cut it in half.  We'd serve it with a side of Apple Butter.  The original recipe also has three cups of white sugar!  Whoa.  Two cups is adequate, unless you are wanting to sell them at a bake sale and make an impression.  I use one cup brown and one cup white.

I usually bake a few normal sized ones for myself, and then bake mini muffins with sprinkles on top for the kids.

The buttermilk in the recipe allows the batter to be stored in your fridge for up a month to six weeks.  That's the whole first part of your summer!  So rather than baking the whole huge recipe at once, bake your self fresh muffins each morning! 

DEI Bran Muffins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 box All Bran Cereal (15oz)  (I prefer original bran - the straw looking ones.  Might not need the whole box if it is bigger than 15 ounces.  Just leave a cup of cereal in the box, that's what I do.  I think they've changed the box size since I was in high school)
1 Cup melted butter
2 Cups hot water

1 Cup brown sugar
1 Cup white sugar
4 eggs
1 quart buttermilk
5 Cups flour
5 tsp soda
2 tsp salt

Its a big recipe, so pull out your biggest bowl.   Its easy enough to mix by hand. Dump in the cereal, and pour melted butter and hot water on top.  Mix to blend in the bran so it loses its straw looking shape.  Add Sugar, Eggs, Buttermilk and mix.  Add Flour, Soda and Salt.  Mix all together and your done!  Spray your muffin tins and fill them 2/3 full.  Now Bake some to eat, some to freeze, some for your friend who just had a baby and put the rest in an ice cream bucket for your fridge!

Bake in 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of muffin tin you use.

A suggestion:  After scooping batter into muffin tin, sprinkle sugar in the raw, granulated sugar, or festive sprinkles on top.  Really helps when kids aren't so sure, but then think - oh this is a treat.  Or if you are aiming for healthier, add ground flax or wheat germ.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The following video is Rick and Karen's first interview after getting out of the candidate race.  Listen at the 2 minute mark to hear him talk about staying out on the farm in Iowa! 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Bill Hybels Video - Dutch & Money

The following video of Bill Hybels is worth watching.  Bill Hybeels, the founder of Willow Creek Community Church, reflects on his upbringing in the Christian Reformed Church and how he learned about work and handling money.  It is 48 minutes long, but worth a listen!  Very humorous, reflective, at times a little emotional, and beautiful presentation of finances.

I want to tell you today why this Dutch system produced such careful and thoughtful money managers.

Keep in mind, that he is speaking to a very large mega-church type congregation that has no clue who the Christian Reformed Church is.  Such a thoughtful presentation of the Heidelberg Catechism as well.

I haven't watched the partner video on How the Aussie's (Australia) do money, but will be soon.

{Click link below}


Who do you work for?  Do you have a vision for glorifying God in your daily work?

..In these little Dutch communities they worked for the glory of God, they worked hard, and these dutch folks really did believe that God was their ultimate provider and wanting to handle God's provisions with great care.  And God blessed them for it!  They had a budget because they wanted their money to BEHAVE.  When you don't have a budget, it dissipates, disappears... The first check you write is to God.  First line item in the budget.

Is tithing (10%) like breathing to you?

Returning honor to him is like breathing, you couldn't imaging doing it another way. 

Our agriculture communities have experienced some of the greatest years of prosperity that they've ever seen. Have we passed the prosperity test?  

Monday, May 7, 2012

What Cheer Flea Market

 The What Cheer Flea Market was a muddy mess, and I should have worn my gum boots.  Even though my toes were wet, I still enjoyed browsing through the items.  I didn't buy the sign above, but most definitely will make one for my house.  Isn't it true?

 An old stroller from the 1950s for 40.00.  It would work great for the baby parade at Tulip Time, with a little grease on the wheels. 

So many shutters for all those projects on pinterest. 

I thought this looked unique, and dangerous.  

I bought this old library card holder to use on my kitchen table to hold tea bags.  Its the perfect size and is both functional and beautiful.  I came home with this and a small wood chair for portrait sessions, along with a lot of creative ideas and projects for the "when I have time," list.