December 27, 2010

Five Things to be Happy About: 12/21 - 12/27

1.  Coming home from work a few days before Christmas to find a wrapped present addressed -- To: mamacita From: santa


2.  No flight delays to or from Chicago!  Getting to spend a lovely Christmas with the many Meitls.

3.  I'm officially a b-cup!  Never thought I'd see the day.  Too bad my belly has definitely surpassed my boobs, haha.

4.  Finding the perfect rocker for the nursery on Craigslist... not that easy to do!  I wanted white wood, with a footstool, not too large, but with padded arms... and I didn't want to have to drive 30 miles to take a look at it.  Found just what I was looking for and picked it up on Christmas Eve... can't wait to recover it!!

5.  Matt's aunt and uncle Jarvis donated one goat and two chickens to a family in need in our name for Christmas through World Vision.  I love this!  First of all, it's just kind of fun and funny.  Second of all, it really means that a family struggling to survive now has a goat for milk and chickens for eggs and, well, chicken!  Pretty amazing actually.

December 20, 2010

Five Things To be Happy About: 12/14 - 12/20

1.  Finding out we're having a baby girl!  Seeing her bee-bop around in there and watching in amazement as the ultrasound tech scanned her.  She's got everything in a little 10" 7oz body.

2.  My fantastic co-workers.  They bought two balloons and two onesies.  One for a girl and one for a boy. They had me pop the "wrong" balloon leaving the one that would tell them what we are having.  They are so sweet to be so involved.

3.  Traveling to Richmond, spending the day with my sweet friend from high school and her family.  Seeing the Nutcracker and being reminded of so many childhood Christmases in Richmond.

4.  Making 7 batches (32 cups!) of peanut brittle to put in our Christmas gift boxes for our friends and family.

5.  Packing a large suitcase full of presents for all of the good little boys and girls waiting for us in Chicago.  So excited for Christmas with the Meitls.

December 13, 2010

Five Things to be Happy About: 12/7 - 12/13

1.  Company Holiday Parties.  Especially when you get to attend your spouse's.

2.  Christmas shopping for kids!  Not a ton of children in my family, but there are quite a few in Matt's, and I had such a great time shopping for them all.

3.  White elephant gift exchanges.  Who would have expected a pirate pinata to change hands five times?  One guy, due to an exchange that he did not have control over, ended up with the tacky Christmas sweater he was responsible for bringing.  The person that brought 36 rolls of toilet paper ended up with a game of toilet golf, and the person that brought the toilet golf ended up with the toilet paper!  I ended up with one of three snuggies, I'm happy enough with that.

4.  A pastor that quotes Brian Regan, references Glee, sites youtube videos (a double rainbow, what does it meeeean?!) and says, "some of you need to repent of your white-ness."  Love the way some of his statements sound out of context.  :p

5.  The sound of our new wind chimes from the Bahamas, made from coconut.  Makes the howl of the winter wind sound light and friendly.

December 12, 2010

Broccoli Casserole

I don't have a ton of recipes I can call my own, but this is one that I can.  Love it, it's "light" in terms of your typical casserole and I just love it.

2 12 oz bags frozen broccoli cuts (thawed)
1 1/4 cups freshly grated cheddar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 can cream of celery soup
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
dry stuffing mix for topping
2 tbsp melted butter

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix the first nine ingredients in a 9x13 (or so) pyrex.  Top with stuffing and pour melted butter over top.  Bake uncovered for 35 minutes.  That's it!  No picture, but it's a broccoli casserole, use your imagination ;)

December 6, 2010

Five Things to be Happy About 11/30-12/6

1.  Outback "to go" and a movie (Date Night - hiliarous) on the couch on a cold Friday night.

2.  Working on home-made Christmas gifts in the kitchen with the hubs.

3. Snow!!!  Started Saturday night and we woke up Sunday to a thin little blanket on the ground and rooftops, pretty :]

4.  Shopping for 9-year-old Jennifer from the Salvation Army Angel Tree.  I took 9-year-old Oliva with me, and she was so so good the entire time.  Even in the toy section she stayed focused on the task at hand and seemed very pleased to be buying nice things for someone who is less fortunate than she is.  I dropped the gifts off in the designated area at work this morning and was blown away by all of the bags of presents... all of that generosity.  One 9-year-old girl had asked for a skateboard and her Angel got it for her.  How happy is she going to be on Christmas morning?!  I just love the love, it makes me so happy.

5.  Hearing Willie Nelson sing Frosty the Snowman

November 30, 2010

Five Things to be Happy About: 11/23-11/29

1.  Fantastic Co-workers.  Since there were not many of us here the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we grabbed our laptops, headed down for breakfast and camped out in the cafeteria chatting and getting work done until our batteries died and people began rolling in for lunch.  A nice change of pace from sitting at or desks all day.

2.  I started reading a new book.  Loving Frank... about Frank Lloyd Wright and his love affair.  Fiction, but based on truths.  Pretty great so far, a little over halfway through it.

3.  Matt and I were seriously tested in a very "parental" way.  Without going into too much detail, our niece had a hard time leaving her grannie Annie and grandpa Lenny and was a bit of a challenge on the four hour car ride home.  The good news is, Matt and I were pleased with our composure throughout the entire thing. 

4.  One of my favorite 15 minutes meals: Cover one side of salmon with sesame seeds, cook for 3 minutes in a skillet with olive oil on medium heat then put the skillet right in the oven 10 minutes at 350, done.  Orzo on the stove takes 9 minutes... add cherry tomatoes.  and fresh steamed broccoli.  Yum.

5.  Mama gave me a sewing lesson while we were in TN for Thanksgiving and for my first project I made stockings.  I'm so proud of them, and I finally feel a little more comfortable using the machine.

November 23, 2010


I'm totally fired.  Has it really been 7 weeks.  I should rent this out to other people to post... just so it stays active :p  Oh gosh, and so much has happened!!


1. Matt finished preparing and gave his speech at a clean energy symposium at Rutgers.

2. I threw a surprise birthday dinner party for Matt's 30th birthday.  40 adults, a handful of kids, and he had no clue.  It was at Dos Perros downtown Durham, and it was a fantastic event.

3. My sweet friend Denise was in town for a wedding and we got to spend some serious quality time together <3

4. At work, we filled our boss's office with balloons.  Over 900 balloons to surprise him on boss' day.  At some point during the day one of my co-workers and I decided to walk around in the balloons.  Once the static started to build and the balloons (that were pressed right up against my face) started popping, I freaked... running towards the exit as balloons kept popping, making me scream each time.  I was crying by the time I got out of there.  Meanwhile, there was an interview going on in the room next door... I'm so classy.  I still have "Rachel - Balloon Wimp - Meitl" written on my cube.  :)

5. Matt and I took our parents (yep, both sets!) on a cruise to the Bahamas.  What a fantastic time; we are truly blessed to have 4 parents that love us so much and get along with each other great!

Hey - I think that's about it.  Do you believe me when I say I'll update next Monday?  Probably not... we'll see... I'm definitely going to try.

October 2, 2010

What a week... what a month even!

Hey blog-reading friends :]  I'm home on the couch while Matt and a bunch of our friends load everything from Joy's one bedroom apartment in Cary into a 14' UHaul and unload it here in Durham.  (Joy is my sister-in-law for anyone that doesn't know that).  This weekend marks the end of a pretty hectic, stressful month(s).  Summers are always a little busy with weekends being extra packed, but Matt spent much of this summer's free time and weekends preparing for a presentation he gave at Rutgers a little over a week ago.  Getting on the other side of that definitely took a load off of us stress-wise.  His presentation was last Thursday and his 30th birthday was that Saturday, a week ago.  I put together a surprise birthday dinner for him that included over 40 of his favorite people.  Juggling that and keeping it a secret while also supporting him in his presentation prep-work,  and preparing for Joy's move this weekend was just a lot all at once.  Joy has been taking public transportation from Cary to Durham for 4 weeks now.  I know, she's a rockstar, but starting Monday she'll be minutes from us and minutes from work with a car reliable enough to drive herself around town.  Woo hoo!!

So, why am I home while all of my friends eat Bojangles chicken biscuits and load a UHaul on one of the first brisk mornings we've had this season?  Because, since last Sunday, I've been having symptoms that indicate a UTI, and for the past 3 days (today will be the 4th) the truth that I am passing kidney stones has become quite apparent.  So I'm home alone, a bit scared, because the pain is like nothing I've ever experienced or imagined.  It's a dull pain, and I definitely think dull is better than sharp, amen?  But it feels like I'm laying on my stomach and someone is pressing their palm into my right kidney with as much force as possible (actually, it feels like more force than would be humanly possible) and that constant pressure doesn't let up for a couple of hours.  This leaves me laying on my right side stretched out, laying on my left side stretched out, laying on my back and moving my legs like the bicycle motion you might have done regularly as a kid, laying on my back with my knees up swing them open and closed, laying curled over my knees, bent over the countertop, you name it.  Meanwhile I'm literally moaning like I'm in labor.  Unfortunately, for the past 3 mornings this has happened, it has lasted about 2-3 hours, and has involved a couple rounds of vomiting mixed in there.  Really awful stuff.  It wasn't until yesterday (after 3 mornings of this) that we went back to the dr adamant that it was not a bladder infection and that (despite no evidence in my urine and no fever) it had to be kidney stones.  An ultrasound confirmed 1 stone in my bladder and "a couple more small ones" in my right kidney.  Apparently 4 mm is small.  Hopefully this morning will be a little different than the last few, because this morning I'm armed with Tylenol 3 (can't imagine this is going to do much of anything once an episode comes on however) and medicine for the nausea (I think I can handle it if I'm not also fighting the urge to puke in the middle of the pain).  TMI?  Hopefully I haven't just lost half of my blog reading friends with this story...

It's crazy though!  And I'm scared.  I feel way too young to be having kidney stones, right?! But I guess 29 isn't that young.  I've missed almost a full week of work over this, and how can I possibly go back until all of the stones have passed??  There's no way I can be flailing around the office floor moaning for 2 hours.  We do have an onsite nurse though... the school nurse, if you will.  I suppose if this weekend shows that the medicine really does help me handle the "episodes" then I could always go into the office and plan to sit with the school nurse for 2 hours if I have to.  Wee.

Alright, well... I guess I'm going to go pee... wish me luck.  And send up a couple prayers please.  Gratzi!

September 13, 2010

Woops... I'm still here!!

Yikes I've really let this drop lately.  I let a month go by!  Seems like I haven't done a very good job keeping up with many things these past few weeks.  It's so hard to remember a month ago, but here's five.

1.  Received my notary stamp in the mail - I'm official!

2.  Entering football season with several Hokie co-workers.  Matt and I already have tickets to one home game and one away game.  One co-worker is planning a tail-gate at his house before the VT/Carolina game and my boss writes stats on his dry-erase board!!  I'm lovin it.  :D

3.  Had a few nights in a row of good dreams!  I never have good dreams!

4.  Being called Mrs Meitl at work... and having it sound familiar and not strange like maybe I've just tried on someone else's name for a while.

5.  Melissa and Clayton had their baby girl - Haven Claire Welch.  6lbs5oz.  Itty bitty!  So sweet and so perfect.  I got to spend the day last Monday with Melissa and it's just amazing how terrifying something so small can be.  Every little move she made caused Melissa and me to sit up and see what she was doing.  Just precious.

August 9, 2010

1.  Reaching 60,000 miles in the first car I bought new off the lot.

2.  Pulling up to a stop light to sense that someone is waving at me from the lane to my right.  Looking over and discovering it's a resident from Lenox, the lovely miss Partlow.  Blowing her kisses in return while both of us grin ear to ear.

3.  Deciding to use some of our savings to take our parents on a cruise - Bahamas in November!

4.  An hour long conversation with Kara - we should schedule those monthly... it's such wonderful therapy :)

5.  Taking maternity pictures of Melissa and Clayton around Durham.  Looking forward to meeting their sweet girl in about 3 weeks!

August 2, 2010

1.  Our church pairs up engaged couples with married couples to act as mentors.  This past weekend our bible study threw an appreciation dinner party for all of our marriage mentors.  They are so much more than mentors to us, they really are friends.  Towards the end of the night the guys and the girls split up to chat.  The girls sat on the screened porch with a few candles so we could see each other.  Five women who have been married anywhere from 8 to 40 years and five women who are all right around the one year mark.  What a beautiful picture.  We talked about personal things, we talked about challenges, we laughed... a lot, and we received words of wisdom that we all needed to hear.

2.  Back to school shopping!!  One of my co-workers is organizing a school supply drive for an area elementary school with a high rate of under-privileged children.  Matt and I took the list of needed supplies and filled one backpack for a boy and one backpack for a girl.  Who doesn't love a new box of crayons and colored pencils and picking out notebooks with the best looking covers?  The backpacks are loaded and sitting by the front door ready to be delivered.  Hopefully this means one girl and one boy that will not have to worry about standing out for not having the basic school supplies that the other kids have.  Hopefully they can walk in with their backpacks and just focus on learning and making friends, with one less thing standing in their way.

3.  Amazing prayer time at bible study Wednesday night.  It seems like each of the girls has something really major going on right now and it felt really good to delve into to prayer together.  There's something really powerful about calling upon the name of the Lord with a group of women you know and love.  

4.  Bacon wrapped shrimp with basil, bbq sauce, and goat cheese.  Sooooo goooood.

5.  Sampson loves my stuffed animals.  It doesn't work to buy him his own stuffed animal; he wants mine.  He has a tendency to drag them out of the bedroom when no one is looking.  He gets them in the middle of the living room floor, starts kneading them, and meows.  He never does it while we're around though.  We never actually see him grab the stuffed animal and drag it.  One night this week Matt woke up at 4am to Sampson meowing.  He had kibo (my hippo, kiboko, "hippo" in swahili) out in the living room.  He had stolen it from the bed while we slept!  I woke to find that I had Matt's gray t-shirt under my arm instead of my gray hippo, haha!  

July 26, 2010

1.  Dierks Bentley and Tim McGraw with Carrie.  So so much fun.

2.  Coming home from Dierks and Timmy to find my sweet husband with his guitar learning how to play "Come a Little Closer" by Dierks Bentley

3.  Date night:  Italian take-out, a $4 bottle of red, and super mario brothers on the wii.  Wonderful.

4.  A really really productive week at work... feeling like a couple of big projects are going to soon be complete!

5.  Picking our first pepper from seeds we plenty months ago and slicing it open to discover it's a tomato!  And that all of those pepper plants that have shot up in the yard are actually tomato plants!

July 19, 2010

What a lovely week this has been

1. Being much more diligent about morning prayer time with my husband.

2. Spending some time with 10-day old Oliver Sebastian and his sweet sweet new parents.  What an amazing gift he is... with mama's cheeks and daddy's ears.  Aww :)

3.  Getting a quote for the foundation work that needs to be done on the house and (even though it's a lot and we're not excited about it) not freaking out, because we did the work to create an emergency fund for times just like this.

4.  Realizing several times this week what an amazing work environment I am a part of (of which I am a part?  Whichever. Does anyone actually talk like that?  I digress...)  I'm empowered, appreciated, challenged, and respected.

5.  Seeing my parents continue to just "do what it takes" in every facet of life - loving the example they have always set for me.

July 12, 2010

1. Tuesday morning, the person before me in line for coffee at the cafe at work paid for mine for no reason.  He said he was, "Brad, I'm just a safety guy."  That means he works for Jacobs, one of the contractors on site here since half of the site is under construction.  He was just doing a nice thing, and encouraged me to "pay it forward" although he did not use those words.  I felt so excited and happy by this small random act of kindness!  I regret to say I have not yet paid it forward. 

2. Oliver Sebastian Belousov entered this world on July 7th.  Jacquie and Yakov are happy parents to a sweet healthy boy.

3. Matt and I had an unusually positive experience at Hardees.  I was craving a greasy burger (don't judge me) and I couldn't think of a burger better than their thick-burger.  It's $5 and I'm sure it's better than the $10 burgers at Red Robin or Chile's or anywhere else nearby.  Maybe it doesn't beat Five-guys.  Anyway.  The points is, we "dined-in" at Hardees and it was a very enjoyable experience.  First, they gave us a number to put on our table and they brought our food out to us.  We ordered a burger and curly fries, and we also wanted to try their new hand-breaded chicken fingers (with all three sauces, please).  Everything was brought out in black plastic baskets.  No trays!  Nothing was wrapped up like it normally is at a fast-food restaurant, even if you order "for here."  The burger was wrapped in white paper with part of it exposed, for easy handling and eating.  The fries were in the basket with the burger, no typical fry-holder.  The sauces were in plastic sauce cups like you might get at Chile's instead of the packets with the foil-y peel-back lids.  Amazing!  What's gotten into them?  Nevermind the fact that I immediately regretted the decision to eat fast-food when my stomach started to yell at me in the middle of Kroger.  Bah!

4. I didn't set the kitchen on fire this weekend.  Although I almost did.  Poor Matt was in the bathroom shaving when I start hollering, "Matt!  Matt!  Matt!  Matt!"  and continue to holler this even after he is standing right beside me.  I totally froze.  Just stood there watching the flames reach out from the slightly cracked oven door.  What a reality check, I had no clue what to do.  He threw the door closed, turned the broiler off, and ran back into the bedroom to put clothes on (haha).  I didn't think the smoke alarm would ev-er stop going off, and I was sure the neighbors had to wonder what the heck was going on.  No one ever showed up though, and eventually the fire was smothered out.  Wow.  So - maybe we'll get a fire extinguisher in the next couple of days?  Anyway - I'm thankful it was not worse than it was.

5. Meeting the Gordon's at the Recovery Room (a bar in Chapel Hill - not the hospital like my mom thought) for BBQ (yes, she thought we were meeting at the hospital for BBQ - hey, she's cute.  Love you mama, because I know you're reading this!!).  Also - tasting two really amazing drinks made by none other than Mr. Michael Hernandez: some kind of thin-mint creamy goodness, and his best attempt at Jennifer's request for a "blueberry muffin" drink.  Although it did not have the taste of a crumb topping like I would have preferred.  :)

July 5, 2010

Happy Girl

"I've come to know that the world won't change just 'cause I complain.  Let the axis twirl, I'm a happy girl." -Martina

1.  Cashing in 4 hours of vacation time and getting a 4 day weekend!  And seeing Pat Benatar sing and talk about stories behind her songs on Rachael Ray.  What an awesome and beautiful woman she is.

2.  Noticing a difference after a little over the month at the gym - little biceps and calf muscles, oh my! - and being excited that I really missed the gym after having a tough time getting there this past week.

3.  A lecture on gender roles in marriage by Ed Gravely - learning a lot about what God's commands really are for a wife in marriage and feeling blessed for my husband and thankful that God is the giver of perfect gifts.

4.  A fourth of July celebration at Oval Park in Durham - sitting in the shade with two lovely friends (mulch sticking to the sweaty undersides of our legs, haha) watching kids play in the water being sprayed by the fire truck hoses.  My kid-at-heart husband saying, "I wish we could stay here all day."

5.  Currently: laying on my back on the couch, the front door open because it hasn't yet reached the 94 degrees the forecast has called for today, with the laptop propped up on my legs, watching the ladies from Sex and the City on the View, and blogging.  Sighing, because Matt is alone in the office working on a presentation he'll be giving in a few months which totally obligates me to be productive around the house (instead of laying on the couch blogging...) *putting the computer away now :)

Potato Salad

Potato Salad
3 lbs yukon gold potatoes, chopped into bite sized pieces (should just fill a 9x11 pyrex)
tbsp kosher salt
1 1/4 cup mayo
2 tbsp (not heaping) yellow mustard
1 tsp celery seed (not celery salt!)
3/4 tsp smoked paprika (this is very different than the paprika in your pantry that does not say smoked)
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup bacon (bag of bacon bits)
5 scallions chopped

Place the potatoes in a pot of luke warm water.  Bring to a boil and let boil vigorously for 3-4 minutes and drain.  Run cold water over the potatoes to stop the cooking process, spread them out in the pyrex and put them in the fridge for 20 minutes.  Mix the mayo, mustard, celery seed, paprika, lemon juice, and pepper in a bowl and pour over the potatoes.  Toss to cover.  Add the bacon bits and scallions and toss one more time.  Cover and store in the fridge until ready to serve.

I didn't take a pic but it turned out fabulous.  Makes 8 servings.

June 28, 2010


1.  Baby bird hatched!  Oh my word, so cute!  She looks like a big fuzzy bumble bee with toothpicks.  About 1/4 the height of the curb and you can't even see their legs move when they run... they just look like hover and quickly glide up and down the parking lot.  There is still one more egg being nurtured by mama bird while she chases baby bird around.  :)

2.  We got home on Wednesday evening to discover that the HOA fixed the uneven shift in our sidewalk!  What a pleasant surprise.

3.  Seeing an old friend from High School that I haven't spent time with in, oh, 11 years?... and her sweet baby girl. 

4.  Crab-pickin with family and friends in Richmond... hands down one of my favorite things to do, ever, and I'm so excited that Matt just dove right in.  And bringing home a Hanover tomato and White House rolls!

5.  Our coreopsis moonbeam, after it's 3rd year in the garden, has bloomed!

June 22, 2010

Psalm 68:5 Father to the fatherless, defender of widows--this is God, whose dwelling is holy.

Matt and I are in the very early stages of this, but I already feel like it's time to start talking about how God is working in our lives in the area of adoption.  It's something that we both had a heart for, even before we started dating.  We both wanted a large family, we both wanted that to include adopted children, and we both felt like we wanted to more-or-less begin adopting early on, as opposed to waiting until we were done "birthing."  Haha.  As always - we make our plans, but God is the one who is ultimately in control.  Here we are, a year into our marriage with no baby on the way.  This is not how we saw our story being written I don't think, but I've never looked back on my life and felt like God's timing wasn't perfect.  It often takes being far past a situation to be able to see how God was working, and I feel blessed to be able to see it in this circumstance while still being right in the middle of it.

It started with Matt and I being on the same page and having the same heart for adoption, but in the last six months things have progressed without any effort on our part.  I was laid off and got pregnant.  I thought my path was set.  It would be hard to get a job pregnant, and I wasn't sure I wanted a job anyway.  I was burned out on property management and didn't know what else I would do.  Of all the resumes I sent out and of all the jobs I applied for, it amounted to one interview that just so took place the same week I miscarried our first pregnancy.  I've already blogged on this, so I won't go into detail, but it was one more step toward the place we have found ourselves right now.  Not only did I land a job I'm excited about, but I landed a job that offers to reimburse up to 10k of adoption costs per child.  And the severance package I got when I was laid off will provide the money we will need to pay for the costs upfront.  Amazing.  In addition to the financial support, I work with two Christians (from my same church, no less) who both have hearts for adoption.  One has adopted twice in the past and one is set to bring home two babies in about 15 months.  Talk about support and encouragement.  The earliest you can adopt as a married couple is after one year of marriage (for Ethiopain adoptions) although for many countries - including domestic adoptions, a longer marriage is required.  The Tuesday following our one-year anniversary our church kicked off a new Orphan Care ministry that includes support and information on international and domestic adoption as well as foster care.  250 people showed up to the information meeting last night.  Now we have a church family that may be going through the process we are, asking the same questions we are, facing the same anxiety and excitement along the way. 

You can't deny when you're completely surrounded by a topic that God has already put on your heart.  We feel like he's left no opportunity for us to ignore what is right in front of us - all doors are open, all we need to do is step through.  We picked up the book Adopted for Life and read the first chapter last night and we're going to begin requesting information from agencies in the area to find out what each one requires and what their fees are and such.  Realistically speaking, I do not see us sending in an application for another 12 months.  One of the girls speaking last night about babies that she'll be adopting in over a year said, "We're kind of in that place where it's so early that you haven't told everyone you're pregnant yet."  I feel like that.  I'm hesitant to post this blog, because, knowing life, something (probably our own lack of diligence) will put a halt on this process and before we know it we'll be a couple of years down the road with no clear future of adoption.  In general I'm hesitant to talk about things that are still "just ideas" and don't necessarily have a solid chance of coming to fruition.  For me though, blogging is about where I am right now and this is an exciting place.  Already in the last six months God has lead me away from where I thought I'd be and in a new direction, and I'm not naive enough to think that I fully know what he has in store for us.  We just want to be open to wherever it is that he leads us.  We want Him to continue to break our hearts for what breaks his and we know that He is Father to the fatherless.

June 21, 2010


A special-addition five happies tied to our anniversary and vacation to Chicgao

1.  My anniversary present from Matt.  The first stop on our honeymoon cruise was in Grand Cayman.  One of the first stores we went in was a jewelry store that had this beautiful caribbean ocean blue stone - similar to turquois but softer and less green.  I really loved this one pendant, but it was pricy and we had just gotten started on our vaca, so I figured it was best to wait.  Besides, we'd probably see it all over the place.  Our next stop was Cozumel.  At this point I had decided that I loved the necklace enough that I wanted to get it if we saw any more of them.  I had slept on it and knew I would not regret spending the money on it - it was beautiful and just perfect for me.  We looked in several jewelry stores in Cozumel and didn't find the stone at all, much less this particular pendant.  Belize and Roatan - no aqua blue stone.  Bummer.  Even just a few weekends ago at the market in Charleston, SC I looked at their turquoise display hoping to find something that I liked.

My beautiful husband did a little research and found a couple places online that cell the stone.  He even found the exact pendant I had fallen in love with on our 2nd day of marriage :)  I don't know how he remembered, but the stone is called larimar.  It's a tilted heart set in silver with a sweet little design engraved in the back.  I'm totally in love with it and him. 

2.  Sailing on Lake Michigan.  What a rush!  This is no easy task.  My short wing-span and tiny biceps are not cut out for such work.  There were a couple of times I was sure I was going over.  How amazing to be out on this lake that looks as far reaching as any ocean while looking back to see the sun reflecting off of the skycraper windows on the shore. 

3.  Public transportation.  I even enjoyed racing to the next bus stop just to see the daggon thing pull off without us.  Running down the street with my wheely bag o' luggage... flipping it over because I took too much of a lean on the ramp up onto the next sidewalk.... needing Josh's help to get it flipped back in place so that I could keep running and catch up.

4.  Animals at the Shedd Aquarium.  My favorites: penguins, sea lions, sea turtles.  Ah! So cute.

5.  Taking Matt's parents to Trader Joe's and picking up some of our favorite things for them to try.

Close runners-up: Eating watermelon on the Koh's roof top with the Chicago skyline in the background and live music on the Navy Pier.  What better first anniversary song to be playing when we walk up than, Love Stinks? haha.

June 14, 2010

Five Happies

1. Being called a regular by one of the guys that works at the gym

2. Guess who's back?!  Mama bird has laid another nest!!  In the parking lot again, ha.  In a worse place than last time, if that were possible.  She's is all the way on the edge of the island against the curb so that when cars park, the nose of their cars end up over top of her nest, which really irritates her.  These little birds are so cute running up and down the parking lot.  Their tiny little legs move so fast they just look like they are gliding up and down the parking lot without moving their little feet.  Anyway, I put my fence back around her so we'll see what happens this time - no scheduled landscaping in the near future so that's good.  I suppose there is no way for me to know if it's the same bird or not, but there was one nest in the parking lot last time and one nest this time so I'd say there's a pretty good chance it's the same bird.  Besides, I'm writing this story and I say it's her.

3. BLTs with L and T from the garden.  There are few things better than the juice that is made from the combination of mayo, tomatoes, and salt... yumm.  Does that make me crazy?  I asked Matt if he grew up eating tomato sandwiches or if that is just a southern thing.  (Sometimes when you are surrounded by something you don't always realize that it's just a regional thing).  He said he does not believe it is a southern thing, but that he was just never "in" to tomato sandwiches.  So I replied, "but people ate tomato sandwiches?" and he said "well, people drink tea with sugar, but they don't call it sweet tea, " meaning, people didn't have a name for it, but that doesn't mean they didn't put tomatoes on bread and eat it every now and then.  So of course I informed him that tea with sugar added is not sweet tea, and if they truly understood the goodness of a tomato on bread with mayo, salt, and pepper, they would have been sure to name it.  He didn't seem to understand.

4. Working hard around the house on Saturday... finally cleaning and organizing the outside storage closet, and being rewarded with my first Rita's mango gelato of the year.  Even better was sharing it with my sweet husband, sitting on the bench barely covered by the awning while the rain fell onto the hot parking lot pavement making a very familiar summer smell and steaming up the evening.

5. Friendships that can withstand distance.  Kara, Sandi, Carrie, Denise, Danny, David, Joe, Monica, Amanda.  Even when ridiculous amounts of time pass, the friendship is still there as much as it ever was and for that I am incredibly thankful.

June 7, 2010

Five Things to be Thankful for on a Monday Morning

A girl friend of mine emails a bunch of her friends every Monday with five things to be happy about. It's a nice change of pace for a day that has a reputation for being griped about. I thought, since I'm having a hard time keeping up with the blogging these days, this might be a nice way for me to chime in at least once a week and share some sweet things that are happening in my life. So:

Five Happies:

1. Slicing the first tomato from our "garden."
2. 90 minute car ride to a wedding in the middle of nowhere, NC with old co-workers - a great time to play catch up.
3. For the first time ever I think every room in the house (including the "spare" room which is usually the catch-all) is clutter free!
4. Walking up and down the middle of the street on a warm summer (er... it's still spring, isn't it?! well, it sure feels like summer!) evening... barefoot... for 45 minutes while chit-chatting with mom.
5. Feeling baby "tulip" wiggle around in my sweet Melissa's belly.

May 27, 2010

I'm still here...

I realize it looks like I may never write again.  Most of it is starting the new job and having much less free time in my schedule.  The other part is that we're not trying out many new recipes right now... we do a lot of grilling meat and veggies and then whip up a simple side like orzo or rice.  I do have some recipes that I need to get up here at some point though.

I think what initially held me back from writing is that the next story to come up for me to write about was the conclusion of my last post about the mama bird.  I came in to work one day and her nest had been covered over with mulch by the landscapers.  I spent the day snotting into a tissue... I was just so upset that they would be so careless.  I procrastinated writing about this unhappy ending, but I felt like it was the next thing to write so I didn't particularly want to skip it.

So there it is and here we are... only a month later.  Still loving my new job, still loving my new husband (coming up on our anniversary in less than one month!)

In the past month we've visited my parents in TN, we had Carrie and her baby Spencer spend three days with us, I re-joined the gym with Matt, I went to Jacquie's baby shower, we thought about getting a doggy and decided against it, we ordered tiles for the kitchen backsplash (the bigger story is that we agreed on which tiles to order for the kitchen backsplash), we sat in as the "newly married couple" on a panel discussion for engaged couples at our church, we saw avatar on blueray and watched the last episode ever of LOST (and cried), matt finally got new sandals so he can stop wearing those nasty tevas even though he says "but i can run in them!," we have 11 tomatoes on the vine that are waiting to ripen, as well as peppers, strawberries, mint, thyme, rosemary, chives, and a big ol' head of lettuce, and we've begun trying to get pregnant again.

Last time we were trying to get pregnant was in my 6th year of property management, so ready to be done with the working world.  We also weren't sure if we could get pregnant, which adds a whole other dimension of stress to the situation.  This time I'm in a job I love, learning new things and not particularly ready to be "done" with it.  I also liken this to someone having their second child.  It is our second pregnancy after all.  We don't have to wonder if we'll get pregnant... and when was never really an issue for us.  All of that to say that we love how things timed out.  We are in a much better place to be trying to get pregnant right now (a happier place with much better bennies!) than we were 7/8 months ago, and God's hand in our situation is very obvious to us.

April 22, 2010

Protector of the baby birdies - and it just so happens to be Earth Day!

On the way in to work yesterday I accidently came a little too close to a bird that was sitting under a tree in one of the medians in the parking lot.  He flared his tail and starting squawking at me.  I looked up in the tree to see if he was protecting a nest, but I didn't see anything.  Oh well.

On my way back out to my car that evening the same bird was still sitting in the same spot!  This time he flared his tail, squawked, and hopped in place.  The hopping allowed me to see that he... she... was sitting on her eggs.  Why is her nest on the ground?!  This is a terrible place for baby birdie eggs.  I just know someone is going to come barreling through the parking lot on their cell phone, not paying attention, and crush the eggs while the mama is not around.  Needless to say I lost a little sleep over this.

My wonderful husband was heading to Lowes and suggesting getting something to put around the bird to protect her and her eggs.  Great idea!

This morning I parked near the tree and sure enough, there she was!  I got out my little fence and slowly got close enough to her to put it up where it might make a difference.  She was flaring her tail, squawking her little beak at me, hopping on one leg, and even shaking a little.  She was not happy, but I did my best to convince her that I was not going to hurt her babies.  I hope she understood.  Meanwhile, whoever parked right in front of her next was still sitting in his car reading something, only slightly distracted (I'm sure) by the crazy bird lady that has parked beside him.  I apologized to him at one point, slightly embarrassed at all the noise the bird and I were making.

We brought in two interview candidates today and the first one was already in the lobby when I got there, so I grabbed him and walked him to his interview location.  I asked a co-worker to grab the second candidate for me when he arrived.  She did, and she walked him to my cube.  I looked up when they got there and instantly recognized him.  "Were... you... sitting in your car... while... I was putting the fence around that bird?" Yup.  Awesome.  What are the chances? :)

April 11, 2010

Acts 3:1-17

I really love the messages I hear at my church.  I really love the things they get me thinking about... the way the continue to challenge me.  I thought I might start typing my notes into a blog.  It may not be complete thoughts or even complete sentences; it will just be the notes I take on Sunday morning's.

Today was on Acts 3:17 - Belief unlocks the power.
1. In the midst of the mass spiritual awakening, God is concerned with the hurting individual.  God sends his messengers away from the excitement that's going on in and around the church to the individuals in need.
2. Peter and John reached the lame man in the streets as individuals, normal people, not as ministers in the church.  The church is not where God does the majority of his ministry and miracles.
*Who am I ministering to individually?  Do I pray about it, plan for it, and work strategically to minister to individuals?  Am I deliberate?
3.  Ministry in the streets is what amazed the community in these verses.  The community needs to see.  Jesus' works demonstrated the word.  We should persuade with our message and amaze with our works.
A. With miraculous answers to prayer.  Do we believe God enough to pray big?
B. With radical generosity.
C. With joy in the midst of persecution.  Do I live well and suffer well?
C. With the love/unity within the church.  The early church displayed unity among ethnicities, fasted regularly that there would be more food for the hungry, brought in babies that were left on doorsteps unwanted, took in refugees who needed shelter.
*If all followers of Christ committed to giving back to God the first ten percent of what he has given them, would there be a need for medicaid and medicare, would we need to put our faith in the government to take care of so much?  what would it mean for the homeless or orphans?  Would each local church then be able to support it's community?  Would the world look radically different?

Our pastor, JD, has five people groups that he believes God has put on his heart for this church to find a way to make a difference: the homeless, orphans, unwed mothers, prisoners, and high school dropouts.

Salad Dressing

I don't often make salads, only because I feel like they should not cost much, but by the time you get the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, and whatever else you want on it, the cost adds up.  For me, the right time to make a salad is when I have enough random things from other meals that I can just get the bag of lettuce, spring mix, baby spinach, whatever.  We have so many great salad fixings around the house right now.  Strawberries and grapefruit, dried apricots that we always have on hand from Trader Joes, pecans leftover from a bunch of bags we got to make Christmas goodies, goat cheese from dinner a few weeks ago, blue cheese because we always have it, a fresh green chili pepper from stuffed peppers we did last week, and cherry tomatoes that we mixed with orzo the other day.  Perfect!

Another reason I don't often make salads is because I never have a good salad dressing.  If you know of a great ranch or blue cheese that tastes like you got it at a restaurant please let me know.  I decided to try to make a balsamic vinaigrette and it turned out excellent.

Salad Dressing
To make a whole bottle:
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp lemon juice (from the big plastic lemon is fine, but fresh is best)
** you can also just do 6 tbsp balsamic here
8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (then one more at the end if you taste it and it needs it)
1 large clove garlic minced
1/2 tsp honey
a good pinch of salt and fresh ground black pepper

To make enough for two:
1 tbsp balsamic
1 tbsp lemon juice
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (then on more at the end if you taste it and it needs it)
1 tiny clove of garlic minced
a tiny drop of honey
a small pinch of salt and fresh ground black pepper

**I hold off on adding the last tbsp of olive oil until the end, because people's tastes are different and you may or may not like yours to have a little more bite**

April 10, 2010

I think I actually forgot for a moment how much I miss shopping.

I've always been a serious buy-returner.  I just can't make a decision in a 4x4 stall.  I've cut down on this habit since getting married.  1. because I have cut down on shopping period, and 2. because I just think it would freak Matt out a little for me to come home with $200 worth of clothing even if I only planned on keeping $50 worth.  Well, in preparation for Vegas, I've been dress shopping.

I stopped by TJMaxx the other day to check out their dresses and nothing fit.  I stopped by Ross the next day and everything fit!  Of the eight that fit that I liked, I brought five home with me, that's not too bad.  That's manageable, yes?  Today Matt and I swung by H&M because we were in the neighborhood (it's typically about 35 minutes away) and I got two more dresses.  We're up to seven now.  The same mall also has a Forever XXI which happened to have THE dress I had seen online that I really wanted for Vegas.  While searching for THAT dress I found two more I liked... three more in that store makes ten total, woops.  So, here I am at home with ten dresses.  I hope it goes without saying that I can't keep all ten dresses.  But seriously, how do I decided?  I love them all!

This is when it got fun.  Newlywed decision making at it's finest.  My sweet sweet husband got out a notebook and a pen and rated each dress 1-5 in three different categories.  a. First Impression or Overall Likeability b. Wearability (to include church, weddings, date night, cookouts, etc) and c. Fit.  It also got a check mark if it was a Vegas dress, because once I started dress shopping I ended up finding dresses I loved that would not necessarily work for Vegas.  He said he felt like Jay Z... haha.

After I tried them all and had seen them for a second time myself, I was able to put them in three piles of my own.  There were three I really wanted to keep, two that I could part with, but it might take some convincing, and five that I felt like I could let go without too much trouble.  Meanwhile, Matt tallied up his scores and one of his top four dress was in my keep pile so we decided it was a definite.  His second place dress, and the two that tied for third however, were in my "definitely could go back" pile! which also means he left out two I loved and two that I put in the maybe pile.

I had him re-convince me of the three that he liked from my "to go" pile, and I made attempts to re-convince him of the two he left out from my "keep" pile.  When all was said and done, we ended up keeping one more from mine and two more from his for a total of four really awesome dresses... for only $70!  What a fun thing :)

Side note:  Forever XXI has a terrible return policy (you have to get it back within 21 days and even then you can only get store credit even with the receipt and the tags still on... who does that?!) but they get brownie points because the bottom of their shopping bags say John 3:16.  Interesting, huh?  I thought it was pretty great.

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not parish but have eternal life."

April 2, 2010

Automatic Flushing Toilets

How do I always seem to trigger them when I'm... er... sitting there, but when I'm done I can't seem to get the thing to flush. Frustrating. And scary!

Today is Good Friday! I made little treats for my co-workers. Made me feel like a room mother, and you know I love that :) I got little clay pots, filled them with Easter grass, placed one big egg filled with jelly beans in it and stuffed in a packet of seeds - marigolds for the ladies, peppers for the men. They were sooo cute. Didn't get a picture unfortunately, so you'll have to take my word for it.

March 27, 2010

Well, I did end up calling in sick on Wednesday, I didn't have a choice... and resting a day definitely did the trick.  I was bright eyed and bushy tailed... back at 'em Thursday morning.

We decided to take our grocery list and see if we could get it all at Trader Joes today.  That's a little bit of an adventure; you have to have a little flexibility in order to get everything you need.  For example, they don't sell individual green peppers so we ended up with a 2 pack - one red and one green.  They do not have cream of mushroom soup in a can so I decided to get mushrooms and cream and I'll make the sauce myself (it's for pork chops anyway, and this will be way better).  The pre-washed caesar salad in a bag was WAY more expensive that it would have been with Kroger so we got a bag of just spring greens, but we'll put pecan, strawberries, and goat cheese that we already had at home on it and probably enjoy it much better.  The only bread crumbs they had were a bag of organic that was about half the size of the tins I usually get and twice the cost, ouch!  All in all I don't think we spent that much more, and we're pretty excited about the things we got that we wouldn't have gotten at Kroger, like a 3 grain mix of rice, barley, and spelt (don't know what spelt is, but I'll keep you posted).

We also finally got a few reusable grocery bags, yay!  I was only holding out, because I didn't want to take a "Trader Joes" bag into Kroger or a "Kroger" bag into Harris Teeter and so-on.  Oh well.  I'm excited.  It felt pretty great walking out with a ton of groceries and no plastic bags.  Now I can glare at the people still using plastic bags.  Kidding.  Kind of.  ;)

Chicken Bruschetta a la TGIFridays

I don't think I would bother attempting this recipe unless you had someone to grill the chicken for you while you do the rest.  It's pretty easy to make, but not counting the chicken, it takes 3 burners on the stove... the chicken would mean all 4 and I think that's just too much.  If you want to try it and need to cook the chicken on the stovetop, you might consider cooking extra pasta from another meal earlier in the week that you can just use for this meal.  Another thing I would highly recommend if you don't mind spending the extra $4 is buying a bottle of balsamic drizzle (not the same as just balsamic vinegar) instead of making the balsamic glaze.

Chicken Bruschetta a la TGIFridays
3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, grilled
1 lb angel hair pasta
6 roma tomatoes diced
2-4 tbsp olive oil divided
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
2 minced garlic cloves
5 basil leaves (I didn't have them, made it without them, and it was fine)
2 garlic cloves sliced into thin coins
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tbsp sugar

First, find someone to grill your chicken for you.  I suppose you could use a george foreman... do people still use those?  I recommend grilling the chicken last, right before you're ready to serve.

Bring vinegar and sugar to a boil then bring to a simmer and reduce by 75%.  Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the diced romas, minced garlic, basil, salt, pepper, and 1-2 tbsp olive oil.  I scooped the seeds out of my tomatoes, but add any juice that remains on your chopping block into the bowl as well.  Set aside.    Cook the pasta according to the package.  Drain and set aside.  If the balsamic has thickened enough, turn the heat off, because it's best if served at room temp.  Add 1-2 tbsp of olive oil to a skillet over medium low heat and saute the garlic coins, about 30 seconds per side.  If they brown throw them out and start over.  Add the diced romas, tomato sauce, and stir.  Add the pasta and toss.  If you don't have a strapping man around to "man" the grill for you, just keep the burner on very low heat and cover while you grill the chicken.  Serve with the grilled chicken on top and garnish with the balsamic glaze.

There are quite a few steps to this but if you do your chopping in advance and just focus on one step at a time it's really quite simple and well worth any extra effort in my opinion :)

March 23, 2010

Orzo with Shrimp and Feta (and a few extras)

It's only my second week of work at my new job and I have a head cold!  Terrible timing.  I can't bring myself to call in sick on day 7... I'm not that girl that calls in sick every time she sneezes and I don't want to portray myself that way.  On the other hand, I don't want to get my co-workers sick and I realize that if I did stay home and rest for one day the cold would probably go away.  Alas, I insist on going to work, so this will most likely get progressively worse.  What's a girl to do!

I did not make dinner last night.  I didn't do anything last night.  My way-cute husband took my tennis shoes off for me and brought me a blanket on the couch.  That's where I stayed until the nyquil kicked in and I drifted off to sleep.

I did manage to fix dinner tonight however.  Luckily I was able to taste it a little bit too!  This was another throw-together-what's-in-the-kitchen meal.  I just love those.

Orzo with Shrimp and Feta (and a few extras)
3/4 cups orzo
olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 green pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
10 shrimp, shelled, deveined, cut into thirds.
lemon juice (optional)
sliver of butter
1/3 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup crumbled feta

*If you've got time to chop everything before you start cooking, I highly recommend that.  We should all have sous chefs, don't you think? :)

Cook the orzo according to package directions.  Drain and add back to the pot.  Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently for about a minute, don't let it burn.  Add the green pepper and onion and cook, stirring occasionally for 3-5 minutes.  Add the peppers and onions to the pot with the orzo.  Put another drizzle of olive oil in the skillet, turn the heat to medium-high and add the shrimp.  Cook, stirring occasionally for 4-5 minutes.  Squeeze a little bit of lemon juice and give them one more good stir then add them to the orzo.  Add the butter and stir it in until it melts.  Toss in the cherry tomatoes, feta, and a tiny drizzle of olive oil if the pasta seems dry at all, or if you just love the taste like I do.  Go easy though on it though.

feta: you could use goat cheese or parm or any cheese you like
red onion: use any onion, shallots, or just leave it out.  maybe use two colors of bell pepper instead
green pepper: any pepper although I think a bell or sweet pepper of some sort is best
cherry tomatoes: obviously any tomato is fine, or, like the onion, replace it with a second color bell pepper
shrimp: leave the shrimp out and serve it as a side dish with grilled chicken

March 21, 2010


I'm never going to have time to write ever again!  Wow, what a week.  I'm loving my new job, but of course still just getting acquainted and learning lots of new things... and LOTS of new acronyms.  I really get a sense that there is going to be a lot for me to do, and plenty of opportunity for me to really make a difference.  Every night this week between 9:45 and 10 pm I was crawwwling towards the bed... pleeeeease just let me sleep!  I slept like a baby all week :)  Keep in mind that daylight savings was the day before I started my new schedule so for a few days there it felt like I was waking up at 5 am.  Anyway, it's just a matter of time before my body adjusts.

Because I can't blog regularly anymore, I'll just be packing a week-worth of random stories into one weekend post... at least until I can work out a better routine...

We went to a couple of March Madness parties Friday night.  At one of them, Michael (my roommate before Matt and I got married) and Bart (my neighbor) had smoked a whole pig.  Just a big ol' cooked pig strewn out on the table.  Just pull meat from wherever you want and throw it on a bun.  NC at it's finest.  So, apparently whenever you smoke a whole pig you have to give it a name.  This pigs name?... Hampson.  Yes, this is a play on my sweet black cats name, Sampson, whom Michael picks on like he's his little brother.  Poor kitty kitty.  I think deep down Michael really loves my kitties, but hides behind this aggressive attitude so that no one discovers the truth.

Matt and I got me a tennis racket this weekend and played a little on Saturday and Sunday.  On some level, I don't think we've ever had that much fun together.  And... I wasn't nearly as bad as I thought I'd be.  I even managed to make contact with the ball 4 times in a row!  Never mind the fact that I can't aim, my form stinks, and I either don't make it over the net or it goes flying over the top of the fence that surrounds the court... at least I make contact more often than not. :)

Well, in the cooking world, I think I finally mastered a really good cheese sauce!  I made it on Wednesday for a loaded mac and cheese and tonight for au gratin potatoes.

Cheeeeese Sauce
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter.  Whisk in the flour and let it cook for a minute or two after it's well blended.  Add pepper, just eyeball it.  Add a cup of milk (we used whole on Wed and skim tonight... it really doesn't matter) about 1/4 cup at a time.  Each time, whisk it until it is well blended. After all of the milk has been added and whisked smooth, let it just begin to simmer.  This might take turning the heat up just a hair.  Once it barely begins to just think about maybe trying to bubble (you get the idea?) go ahead and whisk in the cheese... no more than 1/2 cup at a time.  Add more pepper if you would like.

On Wednesday we added this to elbow noodles that we had cooked for 4 minutes, chopped red pepper, chopped broccoli, and half of a kielbasa chopped.  Bake for 20 minutes at 350 and 15 minutes at 425 (to brown the top).

Tonight we added it to 4 redskin potatoes that we sliced about 1/4 in thick.  We layered potatoes, cheese, potatoes, cheese, and so on, in a small casserole dish and baked it covered for 40 minutes at 375 and uncovered for 15 minutes at 425.  This would work fine with russets too, but you might need to cook them for an hour at 375 instead.  We used redskins, because it's what we had in the house.

I love the warm weather because grilling means you don't have to be creative in the kitchen for dinner to still be great.  Matt grilled pork that he seasoned with emeril's essence (we always keep some of this on hand) and zucchini seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  So good!

March 11, 2010

I'm afraid my days of sleeping in are over...

I begin work on Monday.  Thinking about getting up at 6am almost makes me hyperventilate.  Matt already gets up that early and I'm still not sure I'll be able to do it.  Luckily he's sweet enough to get my cup off coffee going in the Keurig for me... maybe the aroma will cause me to just float out of bed and drift towards it like Garfield when he smells lasagna.  If I can just get that cup of coffee in my hands I think I'll be okay.  I used to open up at a coffee shop, so why does this seem like it's going to be such a major adjustment?  I used to stand in the middle of the dark cold parking lot scraping snow off of my car while the rest of the world slept so that I could be at work around the time I will now have to just be waking up for work.  I can do this!

I'm afraid between this job and potential future children, I may never sleep past 6 again.

I'm not sure I've ever looked forward to a Thursday night more than this one.  The house was spotless, the laundry was all caught up, the kitchen was beautiful and begging to be used.  I fixed a cozy meal, it was raining outside, but not too cold... I rented a movie from the redbox and we pulled out the twin bed sleeper and curled up.  I don't care if this homebody business makes me old and boring... I was so happy deep down to the core.

A picture of the finished kitchen floor:

French Bread Pizza with Sausage and Broccoli

French Bread Pizza with Sausage and Broccoli - Another tweaked Rachael Ray recipe.  I'll get over this kick soon enough, I'm sure.
French Bread
1/2 lbs sweet italian sausage (we cooked a whole lb and saved the rest to stuff portobellos later)
1 cup ricotta
1/3 cup milk
salt and pepper
dried oregano, thyme, whatever you like on your pizza
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 head of broccoli, coarsely chop the florets 
shredded mozz

Toast both sides of the french bread under the broiler for 3 minutes on each side.  Brown and crumble the sausage on medium high then set aside on a plate/paper towel to drain.  Meanwhile, mix together ricotta, milk, salt, pepper, and dried herbs.  Just eyeball the seasoning.  Drain most of the grease from the pan, lower the eat on the burner, and add the garlic and red pepper flakes.  Allow the flowers to infuse the oil then toss the broccoli in it.  Spread the ricotta mix on the french bread, top with sausage, then broccoli, then shredded mozz.  Put it back under the broiler until the cheese is brown and bubbly.  

We served this with watercress topped with grapefruit and avacado.  I just made my own dressing with a touch of white vinegar (because that's what Matt wanted), lemon juice from half a lemon (because that's what I wanted), salt, pepper, one clove of garlic minced, and then enough olive oil until it tasted right.  What a beautiful salad!

March 8, 2010

Home Improvement

Our first major house project. It looks amazing, and we didn't get in an argument once! I'm so proud of us on so many levels. It was half way through Saturday when we decided on a whim to tackle this, although I have to say... getting rid of that terrible vinyl has been my dream project since I moved in over 3 years ago. I could scrub that thing down with 20 clorox wipes and it would still look dingy. On Saturday we moved the fridge to the dining room, the stove to the living room, ripped up the vinyl using crowbars, and scraped the glue off of the cement for hours. We also spent two hours in Lowes laying groups of tile all over the aisle trying to decide which one we liked the most. After church on Sunday we dry-laid the tile, made sure it was spaced right and looked good, and then headed back to Lowes to get a few L-shaped tiles cut and to get a tile cutter to do the rest ourselves. As you can see in the pictures, our first few cuts did not go well, but after cracking about five tiles Matt got the hang of it, and we were able to knock out the rest of them pretty quickly. We didn't start mudding the floor and laying the tiles until 8:45pm and we finished at 11:15. I've got a hot pack on my lower back this morning, but I'm sooooo happy with the results. When Matt gets home from work tonight we'll grout it and then we still have to wait a few days before the stove and fridge can go back in. Let's see what kind of meals I can throw together without a stove. Luckly the fridge is plugged in in the dining room, and the weather is nice enough to fire up the grill.

March 4, 2010

God-centered anger is marked by grief.

Tonight Matt and I went on a mini-date to a banquet/fundraiser for the crisis pregnancy center where I volunteer, but this is not where my story begins.

Yesterday, after getting out of the shower, I twisted my hair in 1/2 in sections and let it air dry like that. The pieces untwisted most of the way, but it still tamed the frizz and left a soft wave in my hair that my husband said he liked. So today I attempted to take this one step further. I took a late shower since I am still a stay-at-home and can, and this time I twisted the pieces much smaller. If you take a small piece of hair, twist it tight, and fold it in half... it twists up again and stays in place! Amazing! So I spent 40 minutes (watching Ellen and) twisting my hair. I wish I had taken a picture of this silly creation, but I was so excited about the wave it would give me in the end. At about 5:15, 1 hour before I had to walk out of the house) I took down my pretty little twisties. Oh meee gosh... my hair was 3 times it's usual thickness and it looked like I had taken a crimper to it. Ooops! That's not cute! I didn't have time to get that mess wet enough that the crimp would blow dry out so I tried putting it in a pony tail. That really looked like the tail of a pony. What a mess. In a moment of panic I decided to put the ponytail high on the crown of my head and wrap it loosely around itself giving me a messy/modern bun, this was my hope at least. I think it worked, for the most part. The only problem was now I was going to a "business casual" banquet with a ballerina hair-do. Oh well, I threw on my outfit, held my head high, and tried to rock it with confidence. Matt let me know that he liked it, but that he liked my "regular hair" better. Like he was worried this might replace my "regular hair" 350 days out of the year. Haha. Thanks. You don't have to worry about me wearing my hair in a high bun too often.

So the banquet! It was really nice. The speaker was Tullian Tchividjian, and he talked about "righteous anger." God-centered anger as opposed to self-centered anger. He showed that we are commanded in Ephesians 4:26 "Be angry and do not sin..." It doesn't say if you happen to be angry, be sure you do not sin. As christians, we should be angry at the sin in the world. He then used Mark 3:5 to show what God's anger looks like: "And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart..." Anger that is marked by grief, because it comes with an understanding that people are created for so much more than the sin that fills their lives. My favorite point that Tullian made was that, to the average un-churched person on the street, christians are known for their anger. They are not typically known for their grief however. He discussed different ways to tell if your anger is self-centered or God centered, and how we should be equally (or more) mad at our own sin than the sin in others. This makes perfect sense. The final point he made was that it's the grief we show in regards to the sin in others that brings glory to God, not the anger. It is because of the anger felt towards the particular sin of sex before marriage and the grief felt for all the people affected by that particular sin that inspires organizations like the crisis pregnancy center in Durham. I wasn't expecting a convicting message tonight, and I definitely wasn't expecting to hear something I hadn't kind of heard before, but I got both and I'm very thankful.

March 2, 2010

Asian Pepper Steak

Oh Rachael Ray, what would I do without you? She made this recipe in her slow cooker but the thought of this dish being soupy/saucy with mushy peppers did not appeal to me so I took the ingredients and made it on the stove top instead.

Asian Pepper Steak
1 lbs beef for fajitas
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 large onion, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
1 yellow pepper, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger, grated
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 c plus 1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 c canned tomato sauce

Dredge beef with cornstarch and shake off the excess. Use just a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet. Heat over medium high and brown meat, cooking for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium, add onions and peppers and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Once the peppers begin to give off their liquid you won't have to worry about stuff sticking any burning. Add garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in the pepper. Dissolve the brown sugar in the soy sauce, then add that and the tomato sauce. Simmer on medium low for 7-10 minutes. Serve over white rice.

March 1, 2010

Waiter, there's too much pepper on my paprikash.

I love this scene from When Harry Met Sally :) I wish I could master the voices they use. I was so excited that Rachael Ray was making chicken paprikash last week. I usually end up tweaking her recipes, but I'm pretty sure I kept this one just like she had it (except I almost always half recipes). Oh, I didn't use "roasted" red peppers, because a jar of them is pricey, and I didn't feel like roasting my own. It still turned out great.

Chicken Paprikash
4-5 bone in, skin-off chicken thighs, just take the skin off yourself
salt and pepper
flour for dredging chicken, plus 1 tbsp
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 cubanelle pepper (if you're food store doesn't have them, use a small can of diced chilis)
1/2 a large onion, finely diced
1 red pepper, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp paprika
1/4 white wine
1 cup of petite diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 sour cream

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dredge in flour, shaking off the excess. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or large skillet with fairly tall sides. A lot is going in! Brown chicken on both sides, 3-4 minutes per side. Remove chicken and place on a plate. Remove skillet from heat and reduce the eye to medium. Melt butter in the skillet, add the peppers, onion, and garlic. Once the eye cools down to medium, replace the skillet, add 1 tbsp flour and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt, pepper, and paprika, stir to mix then stir in the wine. Cook 30 seconds and add tomatoes and stock and wisk to combine sauce. Add chicken to the sauce and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take a ladle of the stock and put it in a bowl with 1/2 cup of sour cream. Mix well then add back to the pot. Stir to combine and remove from heat.

She recommended serving this with potato gnocchi and since I happened to have some that I had picked up while they were on sale, that's what we did. Boiled in water for 3-4 minutes then tossed in a med-high skillet with 1 tbsp melted butter, salt, a tiny tiny sprinkle nutmeg, and parsley for 3 minutes.

February 27, 2010

More Slow Cooker Goodness

Rachael Ray has been featuring one slow cooker meal a week on her show and it's been great, because it's difficult to find newer up-to-date dinners for the slow cooker. I've especially had difficulty making a good beef stew, but this turned out great. Browning the meat first made a big difference, and the addition of bacon didn't hurt either. Rachael Ray must have a double-wide slow cooker though, so I have to cut her recipes in half for them to fit.

Beef Stew
3 strips of bacon, cut into 1/2 in slices
1 lbs beef stew meet
1 tbsp flour
4-5 small redskin potatoes
1 c chopped onion, medium dice
1 cup baby carrots
3 celery stalks, quartered
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 14oz can stewed tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
pepper to taste

In the slow cooker put the potatoes, onion, carrots, celery, and thyme. Cook the bacon over medium until crispy. Add to the slow cooker, reserving the fat. Turn the heat to medium high and brown the beef, 2-3 minutes on each side. Stir in 1 tbsp flour and add to the slow cooker. Top with stewed tomatoes, and tomato paste, and pepper. Give it a little stir and then cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4 hours. After it's all cooked up, stir it all together really well and cut the potatoes down into quarters just using a fork.

The piece de resistance:

Cheddar Bay Biscuits!
1 1/4 c healthy heart bisquick (this is impt because it doesn't have trans fat)
2 tbsp cold butter
1/4 c plus 2 tbsp milk, any kind
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 heaping cup shredded cheddar

Brush on top:
1 tbsp melted butter
1/4 tsp garlic powder
a few shakes of dried parsley flakes, just eyeball it

Inspired by Red Lobster, this recipe makes a less greasy version. They turned out so good I'm almost too excited to type the directions!! Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the butter up into small pieces, more or less dice it. Combine it with the flour. I found it easiest to just use my hands. The butter should remain in little chunks throughout. Add cheese, milk, and garlic and toss together with a fork. Don't over combine. Drop approximately 1/4 c portions of the dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until the tops of the biscuits begin to turn golden brown. After you take the biscuits out, melt the butter and stir in the garlic powder and parsley flakes. Use a brush to spread the garlic butter over the biscuits. Do not skip this step, it really makes them. Use up all of the butter. Enjoy!

February 25, 2010

Is going to church really necessary for christians?

Can God be powerfully at work in your life apart from being part of Christ's body, the church? This was one of a few eyebrow raising questions posed by our pastor last Sunday while doing a study on Ephesians 2:11-3:13. I like this question. I've been the christian who touted the fact that I had a close personal relationship with God, but was not interested in the "religion" and rituals found in a church. I think this is pretty common thinking of non-christians and believers who did not grow up in church. My sophomore year of college is when I accepted that Christ was my savior and the Lord of my life. I was going to church then and all through college. It wasn't in church that I first accepted this, however. It was in my dorm room with my bible. I learned and benefited from the messages I heard at church, but I really felt my relationship grow during my quiet times with God. After college I moved back to Richmond where I did not have a regular church, and I did not make the effort to find one. This was the stage in my life where I would have said that I didn't need to go to church on Sundays to be a christian. This was reinforced when I moved to North Carolina and had one heck of a time finding a church to call home. There were plenty of churches that I felt like would distract from my faith instead of grow it. This caused me to be even more sure that what God and I had on our own was enough.

It wasn't until I found a gospel-centered church that challenged me to continue to really grow in my knowledge of God and be truly changed as a christian, that I was able to look back and see that I hadn't been growing; I hadn't really seen God work in my life; I hadn't seen the fruits of my faith. I still had the assurance of my salvation, but I certainly wasn't experiencing what God had hoped and planned for me to experience. God's vehicle for fulfilling much of his plan is the body of Christ... it is the church. Being involved in a good church has provided me with opportunities to bless others that are less fortunate that I am, and it has provided me with opportunities to serve those in need in my community. These are both things that are part of God's plan that I was missing out on when I was not attending church. There's so much more though: I'm really learning about God's character, I've got a core group of amazing friends to pray for me and encourage me, I've been inspired by the faith other people exhibit in tough times. It's a true community of people who all fall short of the holiness of God, who are all thankful that God has loved us anyway and desires that we know Him, and who desire for God to use them to fulfill his plans for the world.

Another related point that our pastor made was that people are often looking for God to "zap" miracles or answers to prayers. For us, this is plan A. We pray for it and when that doesn't happen, we try plan B. We go to church and then we find someone who is able to meet our particular need. What we often don't realize is that the church is plan A, it is the way God plans to grow us, bless us, and use us to fulfill the good works He has planned. So can God be powerfully at work in your life apart from being part of the church? My own personal experience says no. If that is the case, then do we have the right to pray for God's blessings in our lives if we're not involved in the church? And how involved should we be in church?

February 23, 2010

Lovin the slow-cooker!

Slow-Cooker Short Ribs

1/2 cup bbq sauce
2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp onion salt
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 tsp yellow mustard
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tbsp flour
2lbs pork short ribs

Mix the first 7 ingredients together in the bottom of your slow cooker. Toss the short ribs in the sauce very well. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4 hours.

We served this with white rice and steam-in-a-bag carrots.

February 22, 2010

Life is but a Dream

Today was a dream of a Sunday, exactly what I think they should all be like. We had 7 friends over after church for grilled brats and pasta salad. The girls sat around and chatted with the Olympics on in the background while the boys played games in the dining room. The wii was played for a bit and I went for an hour walk around the neighborhood with one of the girls. People ended up staying so long that I decided it would be a good idea to feed them dinner as well. It was about 7:30 when everyone left for the evening. I was exhausted, but couldn't stop smiling. What a joy it is for a house to be used as a place to gather and enjoy friends. Especially since I'm not working, I'm way not used to being "on" all day long, talking, standing, interacting. It took a lot out of me, but it's exactly how I wish every Sunday would be. Like a dream!

I got a jobbbbb!

I got a job offer today! Yay! I'm so so so excited.

HR Rep: We'd like to extend you an offer to join our team.
Me: Reeeeally?!!
HR Rep: Yeah! You won!!
Me: Yay! I'm sooooo excited!!

haha :) I'm super super excited. This was a tough interview process, and definitely not the easiest job (for me) to land. Blessings run amuck!

Random story: I am losing my mind. I recently had to buy ground coriander after tearing the pantry up looking for it. Where did it go?! I KNOW I have it and there's no way I ran out without realizing it. Welp, just found it. In the door of the fridge. I'm awesome.

Baked Salmon with Tomatoes, Spinach and Mushrooms
2 salmon fillets
1/4 cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups chopped fresh spinach leaves
1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
2-3 roma tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup kraft roasted red pepper italian dressing
crumbled goat cheese

Another kraft.com inspired recipe, this website is the best. The recipe online called for shallots, but I'm using onions and garlic, because it's what I've got. If I didn't already have to go to the store to get the tomatoes, I probably would have just left out the mushrooms. It wouldn't have been worth a trip to the store for them, but I'm glad I got them. I love that you can just grab 3 or 4 from the bulk bin and it barely costs anything. I still have some fresh baby spinach leaves left over from recipes earlier in the week which is part of the reason I am using this recipe. I am adding the goat cheese, because I have some of that left over from earlier in the week as well, and it sounds like the perfect addition to this fish. Also, the original recipe called for sun-dried tomato dressing, but I used what I had (surprise).

Heat oven to 375. Place fish in a baking dish skin side down. Season with salt, pepper, and minced garlic. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and spoon over fish. Bake 20-25 minutes. This was a fabulous salmon recipe. So excited about it!

We had this with our new favorite find from Trader Joes, Harvest Grains, which has orzo, couscous, quinoa, etc, all mixed together.