Friday, March 30, 2012


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

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


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


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.