Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's Like . . . Christmas and a Baby--All Rolled Into One

Let me just say . . . I may just have a problem when Christmas is over.  I might, potentially, may be addicted to online shopping.  Why have I never online Christmas shopped before?  I mean, I've ordered an occasional gift or two, but whoah.  This year takes the cake.  Today is NOVEMBER 28 and most of my Christmas shopping is done.  Me.  The one who is out shopping like a maniac on Christmas Eve every year.  It's still November, for crying out loud.  In a way, I am beyond impressed with myself for having so much of it done so far.  Not only have I scored some pretty amazing deals, but I am also having fun *cough* opening every package that is delivered to my door.  It's like Christmas already, and the gifts aren't even for me!  It's thrilling!

Knowing that I will be 37 and a half weeks pregnant by Christmas, I think that my inner "preservation mode" has clicked on.  Anything that can be done now, I'm working on accomplishing.  If I have almost zero energy right now, I can be almost certain that I will have even less in just a few weeks.

Christmas aside, I am also finding that I am much more prepared for this little one than I was for Natalie.  I have my second freezer well-stocked with frozen meals that will end up being life-savers later down the road.  I don't think I even had frozen CHICKEN PATTIES when Natalie came.  This time, though, I have soups, chili, and all manner of yummy eats just waiting for the day when I am too tired to cook.

We're pushing along our "get the house ready to sell" to-do list, and I am pretty excited.  Our windows should be good as new in a few weeks, we'll put in a new stove, and I've procured the use of a carpet cleaner to make our two carpeted rooms look AMAZING.  After that, all we have to do is storage.  It's still a lot, and I will definitely need help with packing things, but we're getting CLOSER.  I can almost SMELL it.  Lord willing, I won't have to call Patrick with my "I loaded the groceries on the belt, separated the perishables from the non-perishables, had TWO FEET between the groups, BEGGED the cashier to please keep them separate when she bagged them because 'I live on a third floor condo and have to get my pregnant self, my 17 month old, and the groceries up the steps and I'd like to leave the non-refrigerated stuff in the car until I have the energy for another trip' and I STILL had to separate out my groceries in the FREEZING RAIN" rant (yes, this just happened again yesterday, and I was less than thrilled). 

People keep telling me, "Oh, you've got time left" regarding the length of time until the baby comes, but, thankfully, I have realized that I do NOT "have time."  Christmas is in a few weeks: cookies, shopping, parties, time with family . . . and then right after Christmas I will be 38 weeks.  38 WEEKS.  Natalie came at 39.  Soooo, I am learning to make the most of my time and to work hard now so that I'm not "killing" myself later.  My how time does fly.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Happy and Blessed

The last several months have flown by, probably due in part to my sister's wedding in October.  As tired as I am, especially as I anticipate the holidays, I sit here feeling quite satisfied with myself because I have gotten a LOT accomplished over the last few weeks.

Were you to have come over to my home three weeks ago and then to come again tonight, you would be totally shocked at the appearance.  I finally hired a painter to come and finish our main room as well as paint the bathroom.  After that, I found us some "new" (*cough* matching *cough*) furniture on Craigslist.  We had three different companies come to give us estimates on repairing our windows, and I researched new stoves to replace our ancient, half-functioning one.  On Saturday, Patrick and I (mostly Patrick) cleared the music room of a bunch of junk, rearranged it it so that it is "livable" again, and stacked all the boxes of packed items that need to go into storage.  Today, I vacuumed, mopped the parquet floors, and painted all of the electrical and light-switch covers that were still split-pea green, along with all the other regular day-to-day things that needed to be done.

Through all this, Natalie has become more and more vocal, active, and . . . destructive.  The child is BUSY.  What can I say.  Whether it's helping me empty the dishwasher by trying to put all the spoons in her mouth (don't worry, I rewash them when she gets them) or attempting to wash the floor with all of my clean dishrags or cooking with a measuring cup and a spoon that she's pulled out of my kitchen drawers (along with everything else), Natalie wants to be just like Mommy.  Which is great now, despite all of the extra work it makes, but I shudder to think of when we actually get this house on the market--which is now looking like it will be SOON!!!.  When she isn't taking things out and putting them down, she is running after me yelling "UP!", "COOKIE!" or "JUICE!", trying to ride on the vacuum cleaner while I use it because it makes her hair fly into her face, or she is begging to have a "bookie" read to her.  I have learned that the Sesame Street station on Pandora radio is my best friend because it keeps her dancing, excited, and happy while I sing along with it while I work.

Our lives are so full right now, but we are happy and blessed.  I still laugh when people intimate that I, as a stay-at-home mom, have a lot of free time . . . because I don't . . . and I'm often not home . . . and my schedule is pretty full most of the time.  However, I am so grateful that God has worked it so that I am able to stay "home" with my daughter.

This past week, I received an invite to join a "Professional Women" sort of association that promotes being the best you can be and helps women rise to the top.  It made me laugh because obviously this group has no idea who I am or what I do.  In the eyes of many, I am an unfulfilled woman who is wasting my talents and gifts by staying at home, taking care of my children, husband and home, etc.  However, I feel that I am "at the top" because there is no job that I would rather have and nowhere else that I would rather be.  Through my being at home, I have found ways to serve others that would otherwise be impossible.  I am able to minister to my family (both immediate and extended), my church, and my friends.  Why would I trade this for anything else?


Monday, September 10, 2012

Prayer=Love

Have you ever said the words "I will be praying for you" to someone and then felt like it was a shallow offer?  Something that anyone could do . . . and that you could be doing more?  I know I have.

However, I have recently come to the realization that those very words "I am praying for you" are actually a vast blessing.  Something so simple yet so wonderful.   When spoken in sincerity and love by one who loves God, the words are a promise to lift that other person before the throne of Almighty God, to pray for his or her comfort in a time of need or want.

I have had a few health issues in the last month, along with the stresses that come with a very busy schedule AND trying to get a home ready to sell, and I have had friends who, upon hearing these things, have promised to pray for me . . . and then who have followed-up with me to let me know that their prayers in my behalf are continuing.  Words cannot describe how uplifting this has been for me, and the knowledge that people care enough to pray for me and are actually doing it has been a balm for my soul.  To me, that is amazing love.

Nevermore be tempted to think that prayer is a paltry offering to one in need.  True, anyone can offer to pray, but who has ever complained of having too many people praying for them?  Continue to bless your friends by bringing them before the Throne of Grace.  It shows your love and lets the love of Christ shine through brightly.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Today was the day was the day that our sweet little Anise Joy was due.  While I don't think that one ever quite gets over the loss of a child so dearly wanted, I know that God had other plans for us today.  Instead of giving birth to a child, we got to see another.  Rather than being 40 weeks pregnant, I am nearly 20.  Today, we found out that we are having a _________!!  I'll reveal that in another post on a later date . . . once we've spread the word a little more personally (which does not mean Facebook--I'm trying to see how long we can go without making this child "Facebook Official").

Our latest little one was rather camera shy, which ended up working to our advantage because, while the incredibly nice, super nerdy (she and the doctor were totally geeking out over brain shots---"Oh man!  What a beautiful corpus callosum.  So perfectly aligned!" giggle, giggle) tech  was trying to determine our little one's gender and to get a profile shot for us, we got tons and tons of photos--almost 10 in all.  Way more than we ever got with Natalie.  We got hands, legs, feet, and then finally a gender shot followed by several profiles of another thumb-sucking little one.  We were in there for about an hour and a half.  Healthy baby, so we're happy about that, and a few concerns about me, but other than that, everything looks great!

Little Tootsies

Look at them legs!

Little profile with a hand by the face


Another thumb sucking kid . . .


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

First Kiss

As I was driving home from the store this afternoon in what felt like million degree heat, I heard again a song sung by Darius Rucker (can one REALLY listen to anything but Country music in the car when it's so hot outside?) and was struck by on the lines in the chorus:

This could be one of those memories
We want to hold on to, cling to,
one we can’t forget
Baby, this could be our last first kiss
The door to forever
What if this was that moment
That chance worth taking
History in the making



Since my anniversary is tomorrow (three years, yay!), I was reminded of my own first kiss.  The one on my wedding day.  Not my first kiss as a bride, my "first kiss first kiss."  


The decision to save my first kiss for my wedding day was rooted in a respect for my parents' wishes and then blossomed into something that I wanted for myself.  I guess you could say that it was both a family and a personal choice.  While I would never judge anyone for not saving their first kiss--although I hope with all my heart that my own children will honor my wish for them to wait--it is something that I thoroughly appreciate for myself and for which I am so very thankful.


My husband knows that I have only ever kissed one man.  Him.  That's pretty special.  Coupled with purity, it was probably one of the most sacred wedding gifts that I could have ever given him.  Despite being difficult to manage (especially when we were engaged), it is something that I have never regretted.  I will always remember exactly when and where I received my first kiss.  For me, there was no "last first kiss," only a first kiss that signified everything that we vowed before God and man.

Happy Anniversary, Patrick!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Free time?

I haven't forgotten about my blog . . . I've just been really busy dealing with ear infections (both of mine), a teething baby, and wedding plans (my sister is engaged!).  In fact, it looks like the next few weeks will continue to be super busy.  Just in case I don't get a chance to blog often, here is a dose of cuteness to get you through.  :-)




Monday, April 30, 2012

Praising God in a Cave

Patrick and I were blessed on Sunday to once again hear Joshua Harris preach at Covenant  Life Church  The sermon, entitled "David: Praising God in a Cave," revolved around King David's time in the caves during the season of his life when Saul tried to kill him.  (1 Samuel 21:10-22:4)

I was a little distracted for parts of the service because Natalie was really wiggly and extremely chatty (side note: it's really difficult to keep a child from squirming and talking during church when everyone around you is furtively waving and making faces at her . . .), but the main gist of the message really struck home.

Christians are going to suffer.  We all go through trials and tribulations, we all face the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  How do we react in these times of our lives?  How do we react to others as they battle difficulties?

David praised God throughout the lowest points in his life.  Gath was the home of Goliath--he was in such danger from Saul that he had to flee to the home of the Philistine over whom he had triumphed in battle shortly before.  During this time, David had to pretend to be a mad man in order to escape the wrath of Achish, king of Gath, hide in caves, and bring his parents to Moab to protect them from the pursuit of Saul.  As far as things go, it was pretty bad for David.  Humiliation and degradation characterize this period of David's history.

Still, he praised God.  Read Psalm 57:


Let Your Glory Be over All the Earth

To the choirmaster: according to iDo Not Destroy. A jMiktam1 of David, when he fled from Saul, in kthe cave.

57 lBe merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul mtakes refuge;
in nthe shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
otill the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
to God who pfulfills his purpose for me.
qHe will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame rhim who tramples on me. Selah
sGod will send out this steadfast love and his faithfulness!
My soul is in the midst of ulions;
I lie down amid fiery beasts—
the children of man, whose vteeth are spears and arrows,
whose wtongues are sharp swords.
xBe exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!
They set ya net for my steps;
my soul was zbowed down.
They adug a pit in my way,
but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah
bMy heart is csteadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!
dAwake, emy glory!2
Awake, fO harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
10 For your gsteadfast love is great to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
11 xBe exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!


Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!  Let your glory be over all the earth.  Awake!  Awake!  I will sing and make melody~  I will give thanks to you, O Lord . . . I will sing praises to you . . . For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness is to the clouds.

What an amazing response to God.  It wasn't written in a flower filled meadow, it wasn't penned in a lavish palace . . . it was sung in a cave by a wanted man, by a man who didn't know when his troubles would end.

I have had my own share of life-altering sorrows lately, and I was convicted once more of the need to continue to praise God through all things.  You may be facing grave illness or the loss of a loved one or even a job.  Perhaps it would seem that life is not being kind to you at the moment.  Seek the Lord.  He will never give us more than we can handle and He is there to bear our burdens and to comfort our  grief and to heal our pain.

Josh Harris pointed out that we may not know when or if a certain trial will end.  Do not let that rob you of your joy.  David knew that, despite his current circumstances, he would eventually be king.  If we trust in the power of Christ's blood, we also will rule in glory with the King.  Look forward to the glory to come.  Accept life's sorrows but do not wallow in them.  Keep your eyes on the prize--eternal life with one Awesome God.

The sermon can be heard here.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Busy with Blessings

Anyone who says that stay-at-home moms don't "work" obviously has never been a stay-at-home mom.  For starters, "stay-at-home" does not literally mean "stays-at-home all day."  This past week, I have run from one errand to the next appointment to the next commitment day after day.

Whether it's making a little extra pocket money by doing a consumer food test, going to my  mom's house to pull weeds and work so that she'll help me out next week (working together is so much more fun!), or heading to church (I've been there twice this week, not including Sunday), I've actually had very little time to just stay at home and even less time to put my feet up and do nothing.

After coming home from these "events," I have to make dinner for my family, feed Natalie, put her to bed, and then clean up so that I can do it all again the next day.  Before them, I need to run laundry, pack a few boxes, and scrub my bathrooms.  Throw in ordering books for my sister and proof-reading a seven page paper for my brother's modern lit class.  And answering my youngest sister's play-by-play texts about American Idol (which I wasn't watching because I was at church) after it was over.

Right now, I have a double batch of cupcakes to make so that we can drive two hours to New Jersey tomorrow for a family event.  I am so tired at this very moment that I decided to sit for a few minutes and enjoy my decaf (regular would help the headache brought on by my lack of sleep, but that would only contribute to further lack of sleep via Natalie later tonight).  Through all of this, I have a super-busy, ever-moving ten month old to tend and watch.

Last night I was reminded that being so busy is both a difficult thing and a blessing--and that I should be thankful for all that God has placed in my hands to do.  I am exhausted.  However, that little bit of perspective helped change my attitude just a little.  Instead of longing for a little respite (which won't come this weekend because we have lots of plans--including going grocery shopping at 6 AM on Saturday morning to save lots of money), I am trying to thank God for entrusting me with so much.  Interestingly, the things that He has given me to do this week are all things that I really, really enjoy--so instead of griping for how many things that I have to do, I am attempting to remember that the only unpleasant "duty" of the week was the cat box . . . and cleaning up the cat vomit all over the house today.  I've gotten to eat, cook, spend time with my mom, shop, edit, hang out with friends, bake . . . Who wouldn't want to be me?


Monday, April 16, 2012

Different is Okay

Being a stay-at-home mom is so much better and yet so . . . different . . . than I ever expected.  Don't get me wrong--I wouldn't change being home with Natalie for anything.  It's just that when I was a little girl and I was daydreaming about being a mom, I never quite imagined the "bad" parts.  My children were always perfectly behaved, were always happy, and our days were all sunshine and laughter.  There were no nap time tantrums, no grabbing at power cords, and certainly no times when we accidentally gave a child a little too much sugar before bed, thus leading to hours of rocking a screaming, fidgeting, very much awake child.

Alas, despite Natalie's generally excellent disposition, she has been teething and clingy this past week and we did give her a little bit too much rainbow sherbet (to help her aching gums?).

This aside, I get to stay home with a usually cheerful baby.  I get to cuddle her, hold her, take her on walks, sing with her, and teach her.  Despite my misconceptions, being a mom is still the most wonderful calling I can imagine for myself.  The "differences" (okay, okay--let's call them "AAAHHH moments") make the more joyful times even more sweet.  Who wouldn't smile when looking at this face all day?  I am blessed.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Slow Down!

The past week has brought SO many changes in Natalie!  For starters, my month of singing only the "clap your hands" lines of If You're Happy and You Know It paid off.  Natalie not only knows how to clap right now, but she wants to clap any time she hears praise, applause, or music.  It's pretty cool.

She finally began to crawl for real--she's been able to do it for a few weeks, but she preferred to scoot because it was faster for her.  Now that she's perfected the crawl, she's everywhere.  Literally.

On the heels of this accomplishment, she decided to pull herself up on anything and everything and to stand.  Constantly.  If she's not standing, she's trying to figure out how to stand.  This started yesterday, and already she's standing in her crib, standing by the coffee table, and trying to be standing everywhere else.

Also, Pippi the cat has decided that Natalie is on her love list.  Sure, she has always been protective of Natalie, but now she will go snuggle up against her even when I'm not right there.  Natalie gets away with things that would send Pippi on the attack with most others--pulling her ears and tail, patting her, throwing her arms around her . . . It's a little scary for me because Pippi still gets irritated by too much attention and will take a swipe once in a while when she's had enough (usually she just gets up and leaves), but I've been so thankful that it appears that she keeps her claws IN when she bats Natalie away because Natalie isn't covered in scratches.  They are buddies.

It seems that all of a sudden my little baby is growing up and trying to show me that she isn't quite so little anymore.  But then she gets tired, pops her thumb in her mouth, and snuggles her head into my shoulder--and I know that she will always be my little girl.



Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Heaven on a Cupcake

When my mom requested orange creamsicle cake for her birthday, I must admit that I was just a little bit disappointed.  Orange?  Instead of chocolate?  Instead of pound cake?  Determined to make the best of the situation, I began to contemplate what icing I could use that would really turn boring (in my mind) orange cake into a luscious orange creamsicle dream come true.  Remembering an icing that one of Patrick's coworkers made recently, I began to search the internet for a whipped cream cheese icing.  Whipped cream AND cream cheese combined into one amazing icing?  Was it possible?  Yes.

I cannot take responsibility for this recipe, I cannot claim it as my own . . . I can only say that I am never going back to regular cream cheese icing again.  This stuff is heaven on a cupcake, it turned creamsicle into dreamsicle, and it would be awesome on just about any kind of cake (chocolate, carrot . . .).

Enjoy!


Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

Directions

  1. In a small bowl beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl combine cream cheese, sugar, salt and vanilla. Beat until smooth, then fold in whipped cream.
(Make sure that the cream cheese is room temperature.  Even if it is, it may still take longer than usual to get the sugar semi-dissolved so that the mixture isn't grainy!  It took several minutes of beating on high to get it mostly smooth.  Also, keeping the finished icing cool is important because it tends to "droop" after a while.   Some of the reviews stated that it couldn't be piped, but Marissa did some beautiful piping work on the cupcakes--but it got more difficult as the icing warmed).

Monday, April 2, 2012

Adults Only: Variations on Ham and Cheese

My sister and I threw a small get-together together this past weekend.  Being Italian, food was pretty important to us.  We decided to do adult hors d'oeuvres.  In addition to the standard deviled eggs and fruit platters, we made several variations on recipes that I found online.  One recipe that we didn't follow, however (and I'm sure that 900 million other people have already come up with this), was for ham and cheese pinwheels.  How do you make them more . . . grown up?  How do you make them more classy?  And just how do you do all of this without breaking the bank OR using up all of your precious prep time?  Easy.

Thinly Sliced Ham
Cheese (we used deli American because I had it sitting in my refrigerator)
Tortillas (regular size, not fajita)
Philadelphia Cream Cheese Whipped Chive (I'm usually a cheapo--but I figured that this would spread easily [it did] and taste good without my having to spice it up [it did, too]) in the tub
Green Olives.

Throw a bunch of green olives (drained) into your food processor and chop until fine.

Spread your tortilla with whipped chive cream cheese (all the way around).

Spread a thin layer of green olives all the way around (not too much or it will be super salty).

Layer on ham and cheese, roll up, stick with toothpicks, and slice into pinwheels.


Voila.  Easy.  Delicious.  You could even add lettuce and tomato if you wanted.  We didn't.  ;-)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Memories

I am so thankful for all that I've been given, but this past week has been really hard for me as I would have been 20 weeks along in my pregnancy.  I miss my little Anise Joy, and I am reminded of her every day by the necklace that I wear around my neck in her memory.  Jesus will hold you, my little one, until I join you in His arms.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Birds and the Bird Watchers

The phrase "I'm never home" might be just an attempt an an excuse for some, but the saying is literally true in this season of our lives.  We literally are never home.  Between visiting family and house hunting, we spend more time away from our home than we do in it.

During the few moments that we actually spend within the walls of our comfy condo, though, there is one activity that never seems to grow old: bird watching.

I have always been fascinated by birds, and our condo backing to the woods has always provided ample opportunity for me to enjoy the winged beauties from afar.  However, my mom gave me a small suet feeder for our anniversary last July, and I think that it is hands down my favorite gift that I have ever received.  For less than ninety-nine cents a month (birds go through suet fast!), I am able to have flocks of birds on my porch almost nonstop.  Seriously.  At any given time there are as many as six birds vying for spots on the feeder.  A hierarchy definitely exists, however.

When a male cardinal is present, all other birds must defer to him.  It seems to be the unspoken rule of sorts.  If a "lesser" bird does not vacate the feeder quickly enough, the male cardinal fights for his place (which is often comical because most of "my" males are so fat I am amazed that they can even fly!).  Once he is done, he flies off to a tree right behind our porch and keeps his eye on his female until she has eaten her fill.  While this is being done, all the other birds sit below and wait for seeds to drop out.  Once the cardinals are done, the other birds are free to feed at will.  Interestingly, all the other birds seem to be fine with sharing, and I often see three to four birds on the feeder at once.

At first, Patrick kind of laughed at me when I would share the latest antics of "my bird friends" with him when he got home from work.  In time, though, he began to see for himself just how fascinating it really can be.  Now, watching the birds is a family past time.  Patrick, Natalie, and I enjoy seeing brightly colored cardinals, yellow-bellied sap-suckers, cat birds, sparrows, and chickadees chowing down on our porch (and yes, my mom gave me the handy-dandy bird guide for Christmas so that I can identify all the birds on my feeder!).  Pippi loves stalking the birds.

When we move, eventually, I think that I am going to keep our renters supplied with a suet.  I've never been one to abandon friends, and I certainly will miss the birds that have brought me so much joy over the past eight months!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Chipotle Lime Chicken Salad

People might look at me now and think that I could stand to lose a few pounds.  What they probably don't know, however, is that I have lost almost 35 pounds since the initial "post baby weight" came off.  Natalie is now nine months old, and I am 25 pounds lighter than I was when I got pregnant with her.

Exercise and a diet of moderation have changed my life.  As a part of a well-balanced diet, I have been eating a lot of boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  In fact, I'm pretty much chickened out.  Patrick claims that he could have chicken every night for dinner and never get tired of it, but he isn't eating chicken breasts and lettuce for most of his lunches and dinners.

Shortly after whining to my mom about how SICK I am of eating chicken constantly, I happened with her upon a sample of "chipotle chicken salad" at Mars Supermarket.  It was really good.  It was also filled with mayonnaise.  We decided then and there to come up with our own delicious, more healthy alternative.  Here is the result!

3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 packet McCormick Chipotle Pepper marinade (or Mojito Lime if you can't find the chipotle)
A dash of olive oil
A generous handful of FRESH cilantro
Two Limes
Two onions
A can of corn
A can of black beans
Three tablespoons of mayonnaise
Adobo w/o pepper
Salt
Pepper

Dump the marinade packet into a glass baking dish.  Instead of following the instructions and using a 1/4 of vegetable oil, pour in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and then add 1/4 of water.  Mix.

If the chicken breasts are thick, cut them in half and put them into the baking dish.  Make sure that each side has marinade.

Bake on 350 until just cooked so that they are nice and tender.

Meanwhile, throw your onions and your washed cilantro into a food processor.  Chop till fine, then put into a big bowl.

Zest both limes and juice them.  Add to cilantro and onions.

Add the mayo, corn, and black beans.  Mix.

When the chicken is fully cooked, let cool.  Throw into the food processor little by little and grind until you get the consistency you want (we didn't make it a paste, but we went pretty fine).

Add chicken to the bowl, then pour in all of the marinade juice that is still in the baking dish.  Add Adobo (I use plenty!), salt, and pepper to taste.

Serve over lettuce or rice.

This chicken salad is sooo good that you'll forget that it's super healthy and good for you!  It gave me a nice alternative to just boring old chicken breasts, thus giving me incentive to continue my venture into the life of healthy living/eating.  Enjoy!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Smile!

There is no getting around the fact that I now have "laugh lines" around my eyes and mouth when I smile.  Why are they called "laugh lines"?  I certainly don't see any woman ever laughing when she notices lines on her face . . .

Still, I must confess that there is something that always makes me happy when I see an elderly woman whose face is filled with laugh lines when she grins.  It says to me, "That woman has lived a happy life.  She must have smiled a lot."

I want to smile a lot.  I want my family to smile a lot.  Smiling is great.  Smiling is contagious.

Have you ever noticed what can be achieved with a simple smile?

When we go to Subway, Patrick always lets me order the sandwiches because he was highly impressed the first time he saw how loaded my sub was when I went through the line smiling and laughing at and with the sandwich makers.  He'd never seen a sub from Subway so superbly stuffed.  Do I kiss up?  Nope.  I just smile.

Cashiers in grocery and retail stores are often bored (trust me, I was one) . . . Bring your smile with you when you check out, and your service is much more likely to be a pleasant experience.  Of course, occasionally you get a dour personality, but I find that generally a smile and some small talk work wonders (and sometimes get the cashiers to offer me coupons that I didn't have!).

And then you have the phone conversation.  These are the most difficult (especially when dealing with being on hold and then getting transferred to a zillion different departments).  Sometimes, just sometimes,  you can get better service if you smile through your voice.  Of course, there ARE times when you get someone who wants to shoot the breeze for a while when you JUST WANT TO GET THE CONVERSATION FINISHED . . .  But still, it's worth a shot.

The last scenario that I will present is vital.  When you go to get blood work done, SMILE FOR ALL YOU ARE WORTH.  Wouldn't you rather have the nurse be extra gentle because she likes you?  As a person who usually requires two to three sticks along with some probing to get ANY blood drawn, I have found that it is important to smile and be friendly.  HOWEVER, judge the nurse's experience before you begin talking up a storm.  There was this one really friendly nursing student who tried to take my blood when I was pregnant with Natalie.  She was super sweet, but  . . . she got really into our conversation and ended up bruising me badly before she called for her mother (the nurse in charge) to come and try to draw my blood.  Ouch.

I'm not saying to bribe people with a smile, but I am pointing out that people are generally a lot nicer when you are friendly.  Smile because you are happy, and chances are that everyone else around you will be a little happier too!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Beautiful

As I sit here drinking my first afternoon cup of decaf, I am thinking on a topic that has been holding my interest for the last two months or so.  Once I had Natalie, my life changed in so many ways.  My schedule, my outlook, and, yes, my body, among other things.  During times when I have been tempted to be discouraged because I feel like the first thing people must be noticing about me are the dark circles under my eyes or because none of my clothes fit the way that they used to because everything about my body is different than before, God has brought people around to share encouragement with me and to open my eyes to true beauty.

After Christmas, Patrick, Natalie, and I (seven weeks pregnant at the time) had the pleasure of getting together with our dear friends Peter and Naomi and their two, soon to be three children.  I was worn out from being pregnant, from being up with Natalie, and from being the one who did most of the shopping, wrapped most of the gifts, and cooked all of the desserts.    Over coffee, Peter shared something like, "You know, Erin, there is something just so beautiful about a woman who obeys God and who is devoting her life to raising her children in the fear and admonition of Him.  You're doing a good job."

Coming from Peter, whose wife Naomi is like super-mom in my eyes (two kids, cool recipes, awesome pictures, neat-as-in-fab-decor house . . .), this really encouraged me.  It also opened my eyes.  There is something about women who obey God.

I don't mean that you need to have a houseful of children or a husband to be obeying God, just this: if you are finding joy in what God has given you to do, then that joy radiates from you and makes you beautiful inside and out.  You don't have to be perfect--I'm not . . . trust me, cleaning my house is NOT fun, and I often grumble when I have to wake up at 2 AM to change a poopy diaper and nurse a screaming child.  However, I am fulfilled in role in which God has placed me, and I find joy in the tasks (um, most of them) that he has put in my hands.

You may just see mounds of laundry, piles of dirty diapers, and stacks of dishes (or maybe it's home work, your bedroom, and dealing with siblings), but if you find your joy in the Lord, rest assured that everyone else is seeing a beautiful woman who is striving to obey God.

I look at women like my mother who endlessly cares for her children (home schooling, helping with scholarship applications, tax forms, and studying for exams), her mother, and her home, my sister who diligently teaches a classroom full of 10 year olds and works long hours to make learning a fun and fulfilling experience, and Naomi who nurtures her children and strives to bring beauty to others, and I see beauty.  Beauty doesn't have a size or a skin type, beauty comes from obedience.  Beauty comes from being redeemed.




Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Pack Rat Purges

I am kind of a pack rat.  I confess it.  I have a tendency to think "I might need this someday," or "One day when _____, this will be perfect for X" and then I keep stuff.

I also am a sucker for sentimental things.  When my grandmother (not if, when) offers me things that SHE is purging, she weaves a story about how these things were used every Christmas (tradition) or this item was once really loved by a deceased ancestor (how could either of us get rid of something like THAT?!) or this _______ was something that I used to do with my grandfather.  We cry together and I take the trinket.  Unfortunately, while some of the things are nice, others are beautiful only in the eye of the beholder.  Since she loves them, I love them and keep them and accumulate them.  I really do have deep emotional ties to all of these things since they all carry a memory that I hold dear.

Patrick is a pack rat.  He has tons of items that we never use that he owned before we were married.  They take up more space than my stuff, and they are NOT sentimental items (thus I am more justified than he).

About once a year the "PURGE BUG" hits me and I go crazy.  Last year it was cleaning out every piece of junk mail and church bulletin that Patrick had ever received and going through every birthday card that I was ever given . . . ever.  For ONE DAY, all my sentimental feelings go out the door.  When they do, I get rid of as much stuff as possible.

NOTE: I have only four small dresser drawers--the paper trash had THREE dresser drawers.  Literally.  They were in a dresser of their own.  My cards were in a box under the dresser, BTW.

This year, I am getting rid of all of the miscellaneous glasses, stemware, microwave cookbooks (there are about ten hard bound copies), magazines, and, if I persevere, paint cans.  I already have boxes of glassware ready to go to the Goodwill, but now there are literally 25-30 one gallon cans of paint (um, our home has a few different colors) stacked in both my storage closet and my laundry room.  Talk about a waste of SPACE!

Thankfully, there is no emotional attachment to any of these things.  I am able to PURGE.  Don't touch my stuff, though.  They're mine.  My letters, my Santa mugs, my antique sewing machine, my rusted ladle that Mommom used to serve soup . . .

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

In Love

Right now, I am a little obsessed.  It's been a while since I've been this obsessed about something . . . and it's the first time that I've ever been obsessed with . . . exercise.  Exercise?  Erin?!

Yes, those who know me best have probably realized that I've never been into playing sports (probably because I have about zero athletic ability beyond playing badminton), that I have never been one to seek out physical activity, and that I have really never WILLINGLY exercised.

Sure, I went to the gym with a friend in college--but that was because we motivated each other and I wanted to look good.  I enjoyed the results without exactly loving the way I got them.  Cardio has never been my thing, and my mom has always called me a wimp for not relishing going on 8 mile uphill "walks" with her (and for always lagging behind, panting as I go).

As of this moment, however, I am LOVING my workout routine--not just the results.  I was actually looking forward to and greatly anticipating it this morning.  Weird, huh?  It's just that I have discovered yoga.

With the problems that I have had with my back since Natalie was born, I've found that certain kinds of physical exertion merely exacerbate the problem.  There are times when I can hardly stand up--so how am I supposed to do a million sit-ups?  Well, with yoga I don't have to  . . .  In fact, my back and the rest of my body is more limber and relaxed than ever before AND I am toning up.

So it isn't the most calorie-burning routine I've ever done--it is, however, the only one that I have ever loved.  Not only do I feel good AFTER I do it, I also feel good while doing it.  So I'll trade off getting in shape a little faster for actually sticking to and enjoying my exercise.  

Friday, February 17, 2012

Four Years Ago

It's funny to think that just four years ago, I did not know my husband.  We had never officially met, and the one, the ONE TIME that we'd spoken in passing, he had taken a jab at me . . . a comment which, despite his being cute and well-intentioned, I hadn't really forgiven him for making.  Little did I realize that one week from today four years ago, I would meet the man to whom I have been married for coming up on three years.  Perhaps I'll write a more elaborate post on this subject a week from now . . .  As for this moment, I am just grateful for all that God has given to me in such a short amount of time.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day to your family from mine!  This time last year, our Valentines were ultrasound photos of our little Munch . . . so much better to have here her here!

Shout out to Naomi from Works of Anselm for the adorable dress on Natalie!







Wednesday, February 8, 2012

L'incendie au village voisin

It has been a long time since a piece of music moved me as much as this work by Charles-Valentin Alkan did when I heard it on the radio yesterday.  Although an etude, this work is also program music as it depicts its title: "Fire in the Neighboring Village."  A beautiful pastoral scene is painted which then  gives way to a violent fire and then finally the calm after the flames are doused.  In a way, it describes life: things are good, bad things happen, but God always calms the storm for us in the end.  Enjoy!


Thursday, February 2, 2012

What I Learned When a Loving God Took My Baby

Whenever there is a loss in life, a great trial or tragedy, people often wonder how a "loving God" could have allowed such a thing to occur.  The answer often is not clear to mortal minds, but I know that, in this instance, God used great sorrow to grow amazing love.

The week before Christmas, I found out that I was five weeks pregnant.  Once the initial shock wore off, I was super excited, albeit a little scared, that I was going to have two children so close together.  Playmates, best friends, life-long companions--perhaps even closer than my sister and I are because my two were going to be just fourteen months apart instead of thirty.  We shared our news with family and a few close friends around the holidays, and our happiness only grew.  My mind was filled with dreams of the next year--two babies around the tree, double strollers, and joy.

Just before I was eight weeks along, just a month away from entering my second trimester, I lost the baby.  Words cannot describe the agony that wrenched my soul as I realized that I would never hold my little girl in my arms, that her birthday would come and go . . . without her, that the life that was within my womb was no more.  Grief.  Pain.  Devastation.  I am still struggling with it.

Through it all, however, I have felt the arms of Jesus holding me close to His heart.  I have felt His love surrounding me.  I have felt His strength upholding me and giving me the power to make it through each day.

Why would a loving God take my baby when it was already so loved?  There are so many healthy babies whose lives are taken from them by mothers who don't want them--why did God take a little girl whose parents were excited to meet her?

I don't know.

But that doesn't make God any less loving and compassionate.  In fact, it has drawn me closer to Him and introduced me to His love in a whole new way.  God says, "I love you, and I know what is best for you, my child."  As He has guided and continues to lead me through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I see and feel His light encompassing me.   I cling to Him and He holds me close.  I cry and He wipes my tears.  I pray and He tenderly listens.

One might say that I prayed that God would save my baby and that He didn't answer . . . but He did.  His answer was no.  Now, I have a little girl waiting for me in heaven.  As I envision her running into the arms of Jesus, it draws me closer to my Lord.

How could I still love a God who would allow me to experience such heart-rending pain?  I honestly don't know--I just know that I do.  I understand that God will never give me more than I can handle, and that He has given me the ultimate test of my faith.  It is one thing to die for Christ--it is another to sacrifice the child for whom you would die.  God asked Isaac of Abraham, and Abraham was willing.  God did not ask me, but my test was whether or not I would serve Him in the end.  I do.

Looking neither to the right nor to the left, I will follow Him, no matter the cost.  For me the cost seems high indeed--but I understand just a little more just how much God paid to redeem me.  The blood of His innocent Son shed before His eyes.  What a sacrifice, what a cost, what a love this is.  I will praise Him for His goodness, and thank Him for His love.  And one day, one day, I will shout with joy when I join my little girl in the Everlasting Arms.

Through the darkest night He leads me, leads me, leads me.
In my hour of need, He holds my hand.
Though the world would tear me from Him, firm He keeps me,
Guiding me on to His promised land.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Fruit of Tears

Sorrow is a fruit; God does not allow it to grow on a branch that is too weak to bear it. --Victor Hugo


God will never give us more than we can handle, and He uses the trials of this life to make us stronger and to point us back to Himself.  Too much comfort and earthly joy can breed attachment to this place, but God allows sorrows and pain to make us long to be home with Him.


I am reminded again of the Sovereign Grace lyrics to "In the Valley" :


. . . In the daytime there are stars in the heavens
But they only shine at night.
And the deeper that I go into darkness
The more I see their radiant light.
So let me learn that my losses are my gain,
To be broken is to heal
That the valley’s where Your power is revealed.



The darker our sorrow, the greater the glory of the Lord and the brighter the light of His Celestial City shines.