Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Back to SCHOOL!

Yep...after much thought and prayer, I made the big decision last fall that I would begin my journey to become a nurse this year!  Becoming a nurse opens so many opportunities!  It will be a much more family-friendly career, I could do it literally anywhere in the world, I could choose from tons of different specialty areas, I will get to work directly with people by helping them, it can be very fast-paced, nurses will be in demand for years to come...and I can become one within the next few years.  I am attending the community college in my town part-time while continuing to work full time at Samaritan's Purse, where I've been on and off since 2004.  I have a lot on my plate this year but I'm looking forward to the challenge!

My little niece, Eden, has had RSV for the past 2 weeks, but I received an email from my sister yesterday that she is finally feeling better!  Look how much she's grown!

My nephew, Eliot, has been learning how much he loves the snow in his hometown of Chicago!

We had a fantastic Christmas!  John and I journeyed to West Tennessee to enjoy time with my family.

It was lots of fun watching the little ones open their gifts!

We ate lots of food, played lots of games, and relaxed!

For my local friends, I made peppermint bark for the first time!  It was a so easy and so tasty!

My sister asked for the recipe since peppermint bark is gluten-free!  Here's what I sent her:

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark
  • i bought 72% dark chocolate from Trader Joe's called Pound Plus, a huge bar for like $3.50.  When i ran out of that, i also use semi sweet chips or whatever. 
  • melt in a double boiler or i put it in a small pot inside a big pot of water filled just to the bottom of the small pot. 
  • let is melt slowly but surely
  • put in a little bit of peppermint extract (optional, but tasty!)
  • add in crushed candy canes or peppermint but save some for top
  • pour into cookie sheet lined with wax or parchment paper (i used wax, remember what i told you about parchment?)
  • let it sit in fridge for few hours or freezer for 30 minutes or so, until it hardens
  • break up with fingers or use pizza cutter (i prefer fingers because you see the lines from the cutter in the chocolate)
  • I found the little gift bags at Walmart (ugh)
  • Enjoy!

Speaking of gluten-free, I recently took some tests which determined foods that I was allergic to.  The obvious one was milk, which I've pretty much been aware of for years, but I wasn't sure if it was a lactose intolerance or a milk allergy - 2 very different things.  I also discovered that I had an allergy to soy.  Very surprised by this one, since I've enjoyed tofu, tempeh, soymilk and veggie burgers over the years.  Soy is actually in quite a few foods, since it's inexpensive and easy to grow and the US government subsidizes industrialized farms with seeds.  It's practically in anything that "needs bulking up", in the form of soy lecithin.  To my surprise, a gluten sensitivity didn't show up on any of the tests!  I was thrilled!  Still working on the digestive issues as we speak, but each day I'm more and more hopeful to get the source of my stomach problems.

For Christmas, John got me a yogurt maker and an ice cream maker!  I came home from class one night to find that he had made me some cherry, almond, coconut ice cream!  So delicious!  Lucky for me, John loves to experiment, so he enjoys trying the odd foods that I get to eat.  I have now just completed my second batch of coconut yogurt, using this recipe.  For the first batch, I used part coconut milk from a can and part from a carton, and attempting to use gelatin as a thickener.  It didn't work!!  The milk had completely separated and coagulated.  Not good.

I tried round two on Sunday and it turned out better, although I didn't use a thickener, so it's just cultured coconut milk.  Still tasty!
This was my group of ingredients for the first batch
Watching the temp fall back to 100-105 after heating it past 125 degrees

Adding sweetener for the culture to feed on
The yogurt maker keeping the yogurt at a steady temperature for 12-24 hours

This is the result I'm going for!  Except I don't want to pay $1.99 to 2.40 per container!


  1. Love your post Mary! It was a very pleasant surprise to come home to tonight after work. Love you!

  2. Glad to see the blog is active Mary. Great photos from Christmas.