strumming patterns

My son has been taking guitar lessons since September, and it's been so cool to watch him gain skills and learn to enjoy playing.  He's using my old guitar (from when I thought I might become a folk singer), and there have been times that I've opened his books and tried out different things he's working on.  It's been good for me because I have never had any guitar lessons, and while I could teach myself chords, there's a lot I've yet to learn!

The biggest revolution in my playing has been the strumming patterns.  I hadn't really given it much thought, but I knew that something wasn't quite right when I strummed along.  A strumming pattern can make all the difference!  who knew?  So as my son has (seemingly) endlessly practiced the pattern: down, down, UP, UP, down-up, clapping the rhythm, saying and strumming along, I've noticed that sequence pop into my conscious thoughts at random.

down, down, UP, UP, down-up, down, down, UP, UP, down-up....

Isn't life just like this strumming pattern?

As much as I try to will myself to be even-keeled, I often find myself going through emotions that reflect that pattern.

disappointment, hurt, SATISFIED, ENCOURAGED, frustrated-optomistic....
down, down, UP, UP, down-up....

I'm starting to realize that my feelings are not who I am.  Through the course of one day, I can feel everything from peace to complete turmoil, from happiness to the depths of despair - and back again.  I long for a steady life, one not at all dictated by what I feel.  A life grounded in Truth and in Christ.

While this strumming pattern makes guitar playing sound interesting, it makes life difficult and often painful.  It can bring about doubt - at least it can for me.  And so I pray, as I often have before:

"may your good spirit lead me on level ground."
psalm 143:10


by popular demand

I posted this picture on my facebook/instagram yesterday and apparently a few people were intrigued!

The recipe comes from a great book that I was given last year.  Here's the back-story I told my cousin that you simply must sit through to get to this coveted recipe! (haha)  I've added a few edits to make it understandable for the masses. (double-haha)

ok, so i got a recipe book from [my dear friend] Carla a few years back called Grazing. It is the greatest cookbook for easy (and somewhat healthy) appetizers and dip-type things. I make the spinach artichoke dip, cinnamon sticky buns and black bean and mushroom quesedillas ALL the time, among many others. I use it so much that I buy it as a shower gift for many people! The last time I did, the lady who helped me find it at [the book store] Chapters told me about the follow up (by the same author) call One Smart Cookie (julie van rosendaal). [My brother] Johnny & [his lovely wife] T gave it to me for my birthday last year!  I LOVE this book because there are tonnes [that's how we spell it in Canada] of recipes for squares (which I never used to make) and most of them are made in an 8 x 8 pan, so it's not like having a 9 x 13 of something that mama is the only who likes and then eats it all.... i feel free to try new things because the squares won't be sitting around forever. i've made the date squares a few times and Gav and my dad both love them.

Long story longer, the other day I really felt like baking but didn't have any eggs, so I was flipping through the book to see if there was anything without eggs and found the granola bar recipe. I'm not sure why I didn't notice it before, but G and I had JUST been talking about granola bars (and the cost of them) when I said I could probably find a recipe and make them and wouldn't that be better for the kids, anyway? Tonight was the first time making them and they are literally as easy as making rice krispie squares! There are a few variations. I'll give you the one I made, most kid friendly, s'mores! 


In a medium-large sauce pan combine 1 Tbsp butter, 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1/4 cup honey. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently for 1 minute.

Remove from heat and stir in 1 1/2 cup rice krispies and 1 cup quick oats. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool slightly. When the mixture is almost at room temperature, stir in 1/3 cup coarsely chopped chocolate chips (I used mini choc chips, no chopping) and 1 generous cup mini marshmallows (those I cut up a little). Press into ungreased 8 x 8 pan and chill until set.

that's it! next time I'm going to double it and put it in a 9 x 13 so they last a little longer. my kids said they were better than store bought. high praise indeed! 

So there it is friends.  Feel like a rock-star, stop buying prepackaged and make these granola bars!

And better yet, go buy the book One Smart Cookie (and you might as well get Grazing while you're at it!).


feed my family

feeding this family is getting easier and easier.  making the decision that eating out (as much as we did) just isn't an option has forced me to follow through, and we're all better off for it!

today's recipe is about as easy as "real" cooking gets!

my cousin posted that she was having this crockpot wonder a few weeks ago, and my sister-in-law has also made it.  i adapted for my (fussy) bunch, and it was a hit!

(it was so easy, i had LOADS of time to take lots of pictures!)

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches

I started with 4 of these intensely thick boneless pork loin chops.
(does every man have to choose the thickest pieces of meat?)

Pop them in the pot and pour in 1 can of rootbeer.

Cook on HIGH for 5-6 hours.
(see you after work, meat!)

The original recipe I looked up called for 
a bottle of your favourite bbq sauce.
I know my (fussy) family likes our classic 
rib sauce, so I figured I'd use that.  
Turns out, I only had enough ingredients to make half of the usual amount and no time to go to the store, so I just went with it.

Thankfully, it was the perfect amount!

In a small pot, bring to a light boil:

1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 liquid honey 
(or slightly less, depending on how sweet you already are)

Set aside.

When the pork is nice and tender, drain the rootbeer (and stuff) from the crockpot really well.
Use a fork to "pull" the meat.
(This was SO easy!  I could just press on it and it wanted separate.)

Once it's all shredded, add the sauce over top.
Ours was "lightly" sauced, because that's how we prefer it.

Serve on a toasted whole wheat bun with the side of your choice.
I made garlic carrots for the family & my favorite salad for myself. 

Bon appetit, mes amis!
and be sure to check out farmgirlpaints for links to more great recipes!



I've just finished week 3 of my homework for "James, Mercy Triumphs" by Beth Moore.  The study has been really good, as have the group discussion times and the dvd talks by Beth.  I must confess, though, that I haven't really felt anything major - am I the only one who comes to a Bible study hoping to have my world rocked?

I hadn't that is, until day 2 of week 3.

How many times have I asked myself "Why?"  Why can't I control my ________?  Why can't I resist ______?  Why do I seem to forget what God has shown me in His Word?  Why do I continue to fail in the same areas? Why isn't this working for me?

(that's so many 'whys' now, that it doesn't even look like a real word when I type it....)

Day 2 of week 3 answered my question, and asked me to draw a picture.

James 1:23-24 - 
"Anyone who listens to the word and does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror, and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like."

Is this really true of me?

Beth somehow - by God's grace - spoke just to me when she wrote:

"We can underline our Bibles till our pens run dry without a drop of ink splattering our lives.  The self-deception slithers in when we mistake appreciation for application or being touched with being changed." (p78)

My Bible is full of underlining - particularly for my areas of struggle.  Anything related to these things is underlined, highlighted, and sometimes starred!  Any yet, I'm not experiencing the victory I thought I would, or could.


How am I lying to myself?  And how is that keeping me from the life I desire, the life God desires?

I have told myself that knowing and reading the Word will change me.  I nod knowingly when I hear a scripture through which the Lord has spoken to me.  Oh, I know that one,  I think to myself, that one says it so well. And then I walk away and forget.

"The Word of God, however, is meant to do more than penetrate.  It's meant to activate." (p 78)

I have a very poor memory - people close to me can attest to that.  I have said that maybe that was the problem.  I do forget - because I'm just a forgetful person, is what I'd tell you!  

And yet, through this study the Lord spoke to my heart saying that was a lie.  It's not that I'm forgetful, or that I choose not to remember.  It's that I've allowed myself to be deceived into thinking that if the Lord really wanted me to change, He wouldn't let me rest until I gave into Him.  That He would do whatever it took until I experienced victory.

Leaving me, of course, as the passer-by in a sense.  The one who passively accepts the Lord's movement in my life.  It seems almost extra-righteous to think that I'm just waiting on the Lord to change my mind and my heart so much that my actions will (magically) follow.  I've been inspired by the Word, I'm just waiting for the Lord to do the rest....

"Simply put, the Word was meant to work. And, through it, we were meant to bear fruit." (pp 78-79)

I am to bear fruit - that's my part.  Not as a way of earning God's love or salvation, but as a response to the truth He brings into my life!

It reminds me of a time that I devoted myself to getting up early every, every day.  For the first two weeks, every morning when the alarm went off and my bed felt too warm to leave, I would repeat to myself:

"this is what discipline looks like, this is what discipline looks like..."

I can hear the prompting of the Lord to change an attitude or behaviour, but if I don't exercise the discipline to follow through, I am that person looking in the mirror.  I walk away and forget what I look like.  I walk away and forget that I'm a bearer of the very image of God, created for a life of victory in and through Jesus.  Not just once, at salvation, but every day - by His grace.  

But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it - not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it - they will be blessed in what they do.
James 1:25

"It's not until the hearing turns into DOING that believing leads to BLESSING." (p 79)

How does this rock your world today?  



Sometimes when dad is away, mom gets to be the fun one. Mom gets to takes the kids on a special outing or have a favorite meal.

Sometimes when dad is away, the kids pull together, work together, play and share together.

Sometimes when dad is away, mom is light, the days are peaceful, the time flies by.

Then there other times.

Mom wakes up to the sound of fighting, or wild running, or wrestling that's only fun for the biggest kid and always ends in crying.

The day is spent saying 'no,' sighing heavily, and rolling eyes, (kids & mom alike).

The nights can't come quickly enough, and even in their sleep they are demanding as they take turns sleep walking - scaring the pants off me every time when they show up out if nowhere saying crazy things...

And when dad comes through the door, we all breathe a sigh of relief, try to let bygones be bygones, and greet him with delight, not 'save me!'
find it here

And we hope and pray that next time (in 2 weeks!) will be better; we remember that each member of our family is so vital and loved; we makes plans to do better and be better.

Maybe I'll even buckle down and get this book read before the next time....



this morning i'm trying to rev myself up.  my energy has been really low for the last few weeks and it's really bothering me.  the less action i take in a day, the worse i feel over-all, which leads to -guess what?- less action.

a vicious cycle.

i know how important rest is.  i know how valuable it is to have limits.  but what i'm also learning about myself is that when i spend too much time "resting" (i put it in quotes because really (for me) i should be saying "lazing"), i have too much time to think.  my mind begins to unnecessarily replay conversations and situations that make me feel badly about myself.  when i tell myself "i need my limits" and use that as an excuse to get nothing done, i feel discouraged and hopeless.

seems a little like a no-brainer when i put it like that!

today i'm overwhelmed with the feeling of needing a win.  sometimes i just need to do something well, just need a small success to help push me past the feelings of "i can't."

so - i'm going to prioritize my bible study homework today.... i'm going to exercise... i'm going to make a full-on supper (do you know what i mean by that?)..... i'm going to go for a walk in the sunshine... i'm going to do some laundry.

today the win will be the exercise.  i don't enjoy the thought of it, and even though i usually enjoy it at some point during, i have a very hard time motivating myself to get to it!  if i can make myself exercise, i know i can feel better about myself and my day.  not because i'll be more fit (yes, i realize it takes more than occasional effort to achieve fitness), but because with God's help, i overcame the things that held me back.

winning for me is walking in the Spirit, living in obedience, listening to the Lord's call.  winning for me is taking little steps (laundry, supper, exercise) to being the wife and mother, friend and worker, child of God i'm called to be.

with His help, I can.

Now what I am commanding you today 
is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 
It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, 
“Who will ascend into heaven to get it 
and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 
Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, 
“Who will cross the sea to get it 
and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 
No, the word is very near you; 
it is in your mouth and in your heart 
so you may obey it.
deut 30:11-14

What can you do today to experience a "Win?" 



Some people are just born with a romantic soul.  My youngest daughter is like that.  She treasures little tokens from friends, she's very affectionate and puts hearts and flowers on everything.  Valentine's day was made for her!

Not long ago, I was wearing a locket that belonged to my mom - I'm not sure why she ever gave it me, but I wear it a lot.  Inside is a picture of my folks in the early '70s and my older brother as an infant.  It's pretty cool to walk around wearing a little bit of family history!

Cass snuggled with me on the couch on a lazy Sunday afternoon and was opening and closing the locket. She stared long and hard at the pictures inside and then would snap it shut.  When her blue eyes met mine, she asked:

"Do you ever just hold the locket in your hand and remember your mom and dad and uncle Johnny and then look at the pictures and smile and then snap the locket shut?"

With a far-away look in her eye, she smiled a small smile and I didn't even have to answer.  In her romantic heart, she knew it was true.

With her around, we'll always have plenty of love and romance on Feb 14 and always!

Happy love day!



today i'm dreaming
of a big loft space
with exposed brick,
wood floors, 
and a great, big grand piano.

i play and play
(beyond all actual skill),
until my hands and wrists and arms ache.

flowing from classical pieces,
to hymns, 
to contemporary worship songs,
to simple chords.

making music~
just my Lord and I.

Sing to him a new song;
   play skillfully, and shout for joy.
psalm 33:3


feed my family

Well, it's been a few weeks of menu-making and I'm persevering!  Some days, like last night, I want to give in and get fast food.... so tempting!  But having things on hand that I can throw together quickly (even when I don't have the mental energy to make what's on the menu) has really helped!  For example, last night I had planned to make chicken stirfry, but I couldn't decide what kind of sauce to make so I threw together whole wheat spagettini and meat sauce.   (it sounds really pathetic that stirfry sauce was more than my brain could handle, but that's just the truth!)

Last week I made another dish from a church cookbook, and that's the recipe I'm going to share and link up to Feed My Family Fridays.  This one was from our own church's cookbook and was submitted by my dear friend (who is an awesome cook!).

I will say, I love this recipe in the book because it lists the ingredients and an 8 step, hour long process to making it, followed by a "variation" that says to throw everything in a roaster and cook for an hour!  Every time I make it, I ask myself 'is there anyone out there that would rather do the 8 steps and stand over the pot for an hour??'

I'll give you the easy method!

PAELLA (spanish rice)

1 19 oz can diced tomatoes
chicken legs or thighs (I usually use breast (3) and thighs (8))
1 Tbsp oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 small onion finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp paprika
3/4 tsp tumeric
dash of cayenne pepper
3 c. chicken stock
2 c. long grain rice
1 red pepper, cut in strips
1 c. frozen peas

(traditional Paella would also include shrimp or other seafood and possibly charizo, feel free to add, but I never have)

Throw all ingredients (except peas) in a small roasting pan and bake in the oven for about 1 hour @350 F, stirring occasionally.

(yes, that's raw chicken in there... the recipe says an hour, but in this corningware dish it usually takes about an hour and 15 or 20.  gotta make sure that chicken is cooked through!)

About 50 minutes into cooking I add the peas.

You can add them at the start, but they get that grey-green colour that is not super pretty.

I served this with 
(guess what?) 
but didn't take a finished product picture because we had company for dinner  and that may have been weird....

just trust me - it comes out looking and tasting great and the leftovers are even better!

let me know if you try it!



It's 'taco tuesday' at the Hall home!  As I considered what we would need to make a fabulous fiesta, I suddenly realized I didn't have enough soft shells to satisfy my troops.  With a bit of time stretching before me I thought of walking to the grocery store, but only until I remembered I have a recipe for soft tortillas.  It's from my aunt and I've had it for years but never attempted it.

Today is the day!

Simple ingredients dumped into a bowl, followed by butter and water.  As I used my pastry blender to cut the butter in, I wondered if I was doing it right.  The recipe just said to "add" the butter.  I know some people use two knives, and some people use their hands to combine butter into flour....

I kneaded the dough and cut it into pieces.  As I attempted to roll out (not-so-perfect) circles, I looked down at my hands and thought,  Even if I botoxed my face to oblivion, my hands will always give away my age.  I laughed to myself remembering when one of my beloved children said to me, "no offense, mom, but your hands are disturbing."


I continued to roll as the radio played in the background.  I hummed along with a song I know well, but was struck when it came to chorus.

"I lift my hands to believe again..." (listen here)

Just like the Israelites, gathered to hear from the Word of God:

5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. (nehemiah 8:5-6)

As a sign of their belief and in response to the truth they hear, they lift their hands.

Hands.  Just like these "disturbing" hands of mine that often ache from years of piano practice and data entry jobs.  These hands that wipe noses, rub backs, brush hair and touch foreheads to check for fever.  These hands that fix lunches, hang pictures, fold laundry and scrub toilets.  These hands that create and conduct and make music.

My hands are one of the most active parts of my body and so it seems fitting that they would take action in my personal worship.  I lift my hands to believe, to respond, to agree - Amen! Amen!

1 You, God, are my God, 
   earnestly I seek you; 
I thirst for you, 
   my whole being longs for you, 
in a dry and parched land 
   where there is no water...

4 I will praise you as long as I live, 

   and in your name I will lift up my hands. 
(ps 63:1,4)

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