Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In the spirit of Christmas, and remembering why that baby boy came after all...

Jesus Paid it All (lyrics, copyright, etc)

I hear the Savior say,
“Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

For nothing good have I
Whereby Thy grace to claim,
I’ll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

Lord, now indeed I find
Thy power and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots
And melt the heart of stone.

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

When from my dying bed
My ransomed soul shall rise,
“Jesus died my soul to save,”
Shall rend the vaulted skies.

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

Just a friendly reminder that true Christmas only makes sense in light of Easter. May God bless the rest of your holiday season and start you off to a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Came Early

I didn't appreciate how much of a gift it was to be home full-time until I wasn't. I've really been grateful for the opportunity to work this fall (and into the spring), but it hasn't come without a price. The house is a mess, the laundry's behind, and we've eaten countless meals of food that can best be described as junk. The trade-off has been our ability to buy our little house and get on secure financial footing before Baby comes in May. It's definately been worthwhile, but I've so missed my home.

But Christmas came early this year!

Due to the way my company pays holidays, we each got an extra day off this week. We always get Sunday-plus-one; this week we get Sunday-plus-two! And, I took a double shift for Wednesday, so I actually get Sunday-plus-three this week. I'm beside myself with joy. Today (Tuesday) is my first home-day in literally months. No errands... no classes... no commitments outside my own four walls. The big plan? Wearing a skirt (only my wrap one fits right now, oh pregnancy), wearing an apron, baking cookies, folding laundry, scrubbing the floors and the kitchen, maybe even finding a little time this afternoon to curl up in front of a movie and work on kitting Blueberry's blanket (thank goodness I have until May!). I'm cooking a big, healthy pot of soup and relishing in the gift that is today.

I'm off Thursday, too, when my sister is coming to spend the day with meand receive her early Christmas present: instruction on how to plan a menu and grocery shopping. She moved into an appartment in August and has been trying to figure all that out in addition to being a senior in college. I've planned her a couple menues of Once-A-Week cooking of her favorite meals. I haven't decided yet if we'll test run the cooking Thursday or just talk about it theoretically, but it's sure to be a wonderful day.

It's a gift I couldn't have known I needed: the gift of time. Time to appreciate doing the things I really love to do. Time to work on making my house into a home. Time to renew a special relationship with my sister. Time to just breathe.

I pray that this crazy, busy holiday week, you have an opportunity to think on the best gift we've been given: our Savior Christ, whose coming as a baby is celebrated at Christmas, but even more upon his sacrifice as a man at Calvary. And, I pray that your heart is nourished in the way you most need so that you can enter the new year refreshed and filled with supernatural joy.

God Bless!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Facing the Consequences

It's been a challenging week in Springfield. Tuesday morning, the mayor of our city committed suicide. He's always been a Springfield boy -- several of my coworkers at the bank were personal friends of his. One had even just gone to dinner with him over the weekend. No one knew anything was wrong.

Part of why no one saw this coming is Mayor Davlin's suicide isn't like many others: he wasn't caught in a mire of depression and loneliness. No... I truly feel for those people whose world has grown so dark they see no other way out. I've been there. Mayor Davlin's case is quite different. Over the past few weeks, it has come out that he has been embezzling money from an estate he had power over, as well as evading federal taxes for the past several years. Tuesday morning he was due in court to face the music; when he didn't arrive, police were sent to his house to investigate and found him dead. He killed himself because he didn't want to face the consequences for his actions.

Every action has a consequence. If I go to bed very late, I will wake up tired in the morning. If I overeat at the many Christmas parties we're attending, I will feel uncomfortable and face indigestion. If I embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars... I should expect to get caught, expect to have to repay the money, and expect to be shamed.

He didn't want to face the consequences.

The sad part is that this earth isn't all we have. Our own life isn't the only one we affect. He may have avoided having to explain himself in a human court of law, but now he must stand before the Eternal Judge. He may have avoided personal discomfort, but he leaves behind a family -- including 4 young grandchildren -- who have to navigate not only the legal issues he left behind but also the emotional damage of losing him a week and a half before Christmas. He left behind a city that truly loved him... a stack of half-finished projects. Was it worth it? For money, and the risk of embarrassment?

No matter what, on earth or in heaven, you can't avoid the consequences.

Monday, December 13, 2010

18 weeks, and all I want for dinner...

This baby is strange. For the past several weeks (turning into lots), food just isn't appealing. None of the casseroles I've made for hubby; nothing from any restaurants; just... no food.

All I eat is fruit, snack foods, and popcorn. And tea... mmmm, tea. Of course the child would choose exotic fruits, too. I'm blowing through several pounds of kiwi, pomegranets, and grapefruit every week. And pears, but those aren't exactly exotic.

You'll laugh -- I know I did. Last Friday night, I spent hours cooking a big pot of chicken and dumplings, per special request of Hubby. It smelled excellent... the whole house smelled warm and homey. I lit a couple candles, dished up a couple big bowls, sat down with him at the table, took one bite... and that was it. It smelled awesome but just didn't taste right to my hormonal tounge. Shaune verifies it was as good as ever ; he ate his bowl, mine, and went back for more. I had a kiwi and 1/2 a pomegranet. And a mug of goldfish snack crackers.

I think the best thing about pregnancy so far is it's taught me that things don't make sense, and that's ok. I can't control everything. In fact, I can't control anything! I just have to make peace with whatever God throws my way, roll with the punches, and eat what I can. I have to trust that He's got it all figured out in the end. In the mean time, Baby and I are going to go grab a pear and just sit around -- when I'm still, Baby dances all over my belly. It's a glorious feeling :)

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Getting Back on Track

Do you know what the hardest part of a routine is? For me, it isn't setting it up in the first place. No. In my house, the hardest thing is when I have a brilliant (or at least functioning) routine down pat and then for whatever reason, I stop. Starting AGAIN is more challenging than anything the first time around.

That being said, this fall has been chaos. Not a single routine I had in place in August is occuring this first week of December.

To be fair, my reasons for dropping routine have been good. We *did* after all move into a new house (which immediately became a construction zone). Our new house is missing the dishwasher I had come to rely on at our apartment. I did start a nearly-full time job and a new ministry position that puts me out of the house, together, nearly 50 hours a week. Oh, and did I mention? On top of all that, I'm pregnant and that 1st trimester is a *real* challenge.

So my Christmas gift to my husband, my child-to-be, and myself -- more special and important than anything material available in any store -- is to get back on track with routines. I'm going to make an honest effort to get at LEAST back to where I was over the summer, and hopefully improve even further in a few key areas I've always struggled with (oh, laundry...).

So Sunday afternoon, I dug through all the boxes of books (which are still waiting for their shelves to be finished) to find my cookbooks. I brewed a pot of tea, grabbed my calendar and a blank notebook, and curled up to plan the menu for the week. This has got to be my favorite routine ever! I wrote up the grocery list, as well as a task list for the week. Tuesday mornings are my only home mornings (until I quit my job in the spring) so I made a jolly mess of the kitchen and cooked 3 days worth of dinner plus one extra for the freezer. It's been soooooo nice this week to have healthy, homecooked, tasty meals ready to be warmed up when I walk in the door exhausted at 6:30pm. I can't believe I went so long (cough... like, almost all 17 weeks of this pregnancy...) without a plan for the kitchen.

One routine down, and it's one of the most important! Now that we're fed, next week I'm going to add on laundry so we stop the morning scramble for work clothes. I've got to start it over the weekend tho, with finally -- FINALLY -- moving in the dressers from storage and unpacking all our clothes from the suitcases and laundry baskets and moving boxes they've called home for the past 2 months.

I'm curious: What's the most important routine in your household? What routine are you still trying to accomplish? And, once I have both cooking and laundry under way, what should I tackle next?

Friday, December 3, 2010

What a busy week!

Guess what I'm doing tonight! I'm moving into my house!

Now, you're saying, "Wait... didn't they move way back in October?" Yes, we did. WE moved into our house, but none of our stuff did. It got stacked precariously in the garage out back while we did some substantial cosmetic rennovations to the interior. I've been living with a grand total of 4 pieces of furniture... in the ENTIRE house. One bed, one dresser, one comfy chair, and one kitchen table (and two kitchen chairs at it... so 6 total). Everything we need (ie, clothes) has been stacked in various moving boxes and laundry baskets or simply piles on the floor. Utter chaos.

And, as I'm increasingly preggo (17 weeks all the sudden), my tolerance for mess has steadily decreased. I want my little nest to actually have a place to sit :( BUT! Last night, my dearest darling husband finished painting the living room. This morning he got up early to remove the tarps and tapes. I'm ALMOST done cleaning the hardwood floor back to what it looked like in October. And tomorrow! Tomorrow my couch is coming in! And my books (have you ever gone 2 months without any books? Not even cookbooks? I'm glad it's over)! AND MY CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS!

I'm so grateful to Hubby. He's worked hard to get us to this point. There's still a ton to do, but I'm calling it quits until after the first of the year. It's time to relax and enjoy being homeowners!

Pictures soon :) I'm waiting til the "stuff" is in place :)

Friday, November 26, 2010

7 Questions Meme

I'm bored at work on the day after Thanksgiving. Everyone's out shopping, and no one needs the services of the Bank... therefore, much internet time ensues. I stumbled across this over at Mrs. G's blog and thought it would fill some time!

1. Do you prefer Thanksgiving or Christmas? I love, love, LOVE Christmas and Advent leading up to it. Thanksgiving is an insane holiday in my world where we're expected to see EVERYONE all across the state. Christmas day is ours and ours alone -- telephones get turned off before we head out to evening service and aren't turned back on again until AT LEAST afternoon. It's a peaceful, worshipful time for just me and Hubby (and next year, Baby!)

2. If you had to choose between your computer and your television, which one would you get rid of? Easily TV. In fact, we practically already have. When we moved in October the TV got put in the garage (along with nearly everything else) while we redid the house. It's still out there and I haven't missed it at all.

3. Which book heroine do you think is the most like you? Jo March! Especially when I was younger. I have firm opinions and it's taken me a long time to learn how to express them at the right times, to the right people, using the right words. If I'm not careful, I definately speak before my brain can catch up!

4. What is your ancestry? As far as I know, I have a fair bit of Swedish in my blood. That would explain the tall blondeness. However, I do know my dad's been able to trace the Scottish line of our family back to their immigration papers in the early 1800s. My maiden name (Lawhead) is a mispelling from "loch" or lake.

5. What's your favorite flavor of Pringles? Original, for sure! Although the low-fat are prett

6. Are you old-fashioned? Only in certain things. I have great respect for the past, but love elements of now, too.

7. Do you prefer shopping online or in stores? It depends on what I'm shopping for. I buy clothes online because that's where I can find them, but htere's nothing like flipping through books at Barnes & Noble on a rainy Saturday.

I tag everybody! Here's the questions I want YOU to answer! Some are from above, some are new :) Copy them to your blog and answer each. If you answer please let me know so that I can read what you've written!

1. What's your favorite Christmas song or hymn, and why?
2. Which book heroine do you think is most like you?
3. What's for Christmas dinner -- turkey, ham, pasta, or something else entirely?
4. What's one piece of parenting advice you wish you had BEFORE the baby was born? If you're not a parent yet, what part of parenting are you most curious about?
5. What is your guilty-pleasure food?
6. Santa: Yes or No?
7. What is your most favorite part of the holiday season?

Have fun!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I received a fascinating email first thing this morning from the president of my alma matter. Although I am not Catholic, I am a proud graduate of a local Catholic university. I wanted to share this with you because it provided some fascinating food for thought.

Here's the situation:

The director of the Teacher's Education Program is a lesbian. It wasn't a surprise; she was director before Benedictine took over the local college (although the local college was Catholic as well -- Ursuline in fact). The university has a policy similar to the military's don't-ask-don't-tell: she was expected to endorse 1) General teaching best practices and 2) Catholic worldview while at work.

The dilemma arose when she and her partner went to Iowa over the summer and get married. Then, they came home and put a wedding announcement in several of the local papers. In the announcement, she stated her place of employment -- this Catholic university -- by name. As a result, this woman lost her job at the university, not for her sexual orientation but for defaming the university's religious reputation and not withholding her employment contract. She is currently procuring a lawyer to sue on discrimination charges.

All I know about the situation is from the newspapers and the President's letter. It appears that both parties did some things incorrectly; I don't want to discuss that. I also don't want to discuss whether homosexuality is right or wrong. What I do want to present to you is a few quotes from the President's letter about the concept of discrimination.

The following quotes are from the President's letter (link to the whole):

When an individual steps outside this teaching (about traditional marriage) and publicly announces that he/she is living a lifestyle in total opposition to what the Catholic Church and one of its universities hold dear, that decision represents a lifestyle choice that he/she is free to make. But if the person holds a position that represents the Catholic Church, there is conflict… For instance, if you wanted to be an officer of an environmental group that premised its mission on the reality of global warming, you would expect that your fellow members would hold you to advocating that doctrine and not give speeches claiming that the phenomenon is a chimera. If you came to believe differently, the responsible thing would be to leave the organization.

[When interviewing] I make a simple statement to the candidate, something to the effect: “XYZ is a Catholic and Benedictine university with a set of beliefs and traditions. No matter your religious background or affiliation, you are expected to respect and honor this tradition and set of beliefs. Can you accept that?”

If a person does not ascribe to the belief system held by the Church, a Catholic institution may not the be appropriate place for that individual to work. The blessing of America provides a patchwork of many kinds of institutions of higher learning. Where one’s belief system may put them outside the orbit of one institution, there is surely another to find a better fit.

So, what do you think? Did she face discrimination when she was fired? Or is it something else? Is the fault with her, either by misunderstanding or willfully breaking the assumptions of her employment? What are the rights of private -- especially private and religious -- institutions when it comes to social causes? What should they be?

PS: This is a complex situation -- just a loving reminder to choose your words carefully and politely! However, I would LOVE to hear views on all sides of this dilemma (Erika, this means you!)

Monday, November 15, 2010

A "Good Old Days" Kind of Day

I got to live the "good old days" today. And well, it wasn't great, but we made it!

Our computers were down at work today. You would have thought the Tribulation was already upon us by the chaos that ensued. For those of you that don't know, I'm working as a bank teller. And as you can probably assume, the ENTIRE banking industry is run via the internet nowadays (what isn't?).

I arrived to one of my coworkers (who tends to be a little high-strung anyway) in full fledge panic: "You'll never guess what is wrong today! The computers are down! We have to do everything the old fashioned way!"

Now, I'm pretty comfortable with a calculator and a piece of paper, so I mildly replied, "Really?"

"REALLY! I don't think we'll make it!"

Her panic was unnecessary. And to be honest, although it was certainly not easy, I think our work turned out at least as well if not better than usual because we did have to be so much more careful. It took us longer to process things (since we were doing them by hand), but it was far from a catastrophy. Meticulous care while scribbling notes on literally 4-5 different pieces of paper leads to a balanced drawer at the end of the day. Not so much as an extra penny left our door; nor did we short anyone. And, we got to practice those rusty math skills!

I have a lot of respect for those bankers who came before me, with their dirty fingers and ledger books. And I'm encouraged to realize I DO still know how to do a whole lot more than hit buttons on a calculator (yay mental math). However, I think I'm going to leave the "good old days" behind -- at least at work. Hopefully the computers will be back up tomorrow!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

14 Weeks

I've been withholding from you. I hope you'll forgive me :)

I'm 14 weeks along! Second trimester, whoohoo! I woke up about a week and a half ago, and realized I wasn't already halfway to the bathroom to lose the rest of dinner. Then, I realized I could think again. THEN I went a whole day without taking a nap! (Tho, I did go to bed ridiculously early). It's kind of amazing.

It may not look like much, but that little bump is giving me a world of headache when it comes to getting dressed in the mornings. And I'm pretty sure I still look more like I hit up the Golden Corral buffet than pregnancy. But that's ok :) Soon it'll be undeniable. And since my mom hooked me up with a spare sewing machine (my regular one is looking like it will need some time consuming repairs) I should be able to start solving the clothing issues sooner rather than later.

I love this part of pregnancy. It almost (ALMOST) makes morning sickness worthwhile :)

Monday, November 8, 2010

When your (church) home doesn't feel like home

We're really struggling with something here in Central Illinois. It's been building for a couple months, but it's really come to a head over the past two weeks: Our church has crossed a couple of lines and we're not ok with that. But the biggest question now is, what comes next?

We attend a large (huge? We're over 3,000 members) mainline denominational church led by two exremely faithful men of God. If it were just the pastors, we'd be thrilled and have no concerns. The problem comes from the board, and the way the board is driving the church. (The way our church is structured, the pastors only have so much control. They lead the preaching and the teaching, but other boards and committees deal with everything going on outside the sanctuary.) The biggest concerns are with the direction of the children's and youth programs -- something we've ignored until now, but no longer have that luxury with Blueberry joining us in May. This is the metaphorical "straw that broke the camel's back." We will not be long for this congregation.

This whole thing is tearing me to pieces. It's a constant radio station running in the background of my brain. What do we do? When do we do it? And how on earth do we go about finding another congregation? And overriding many of these other thoughts, how do I both support and submit to my husband as he leads us in this?

We want to stand for truth in the place that we are; we want to honor our membership commitment; we want to honor the relationships we've spent the past 2.5 years building. But we also want authentic worship and the right, Biblical, truth-filled home for us to raise our family in. I don't know where to find that.

So, I have a couple questions for you lovely ladies who are infinately wiser and more experienced in these things than I am: Have you experienced a situation like this? Did it turn out ok in the end? And, how did you learn the balancing act between supporting your husband and being helpful, and submitting to his leadership? I'm really in the dark and would appreciate any insight you've gathered along the way.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I've been struggling with writing inspiration lately. I could tell you all about our new house... but it's in a state of "in-progress" and there's nothing worth showing. I could tell you about projects I've done... except I haven't done any. I could tell you about my pregnancy, but it's uneventful and peaceful so far (well, as much as the 1st trimester can be expected to be!). Work is just work. Politics is too depressing to discuss. My intensive Bible Study on Isaiah is so wonderful, but it takes every minute I can find to just finish it before our Wednesday meetings, much less take extra time to write about it. So, life goes on, and I keep waiting for some brilliant inspiration to hit.

Speaking of my Bible study -- it's wonderful, interdenominational, and global. There's probably one near you. The day classes include a children's program for pre-schoolers; the night classes have a program for school aged kiddos up to 17. We're studying Isaiah this year. There's actually 8 years of curriculum -- last year was the Gospel of John, next year is Acts of the Apostles. Women's groups meet day or evening, mens only meet at night (the assumption is most guys work). AND they're trying to start a new men's class in PEORIA, IL in January 2011. This study has really impacted my life since I joined in February and I can't speak enough on how it pushes you to dig deeper and deeper into the actual word of God -- not some book written by some modern author. Check it out: Bible Study Fellowship

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Promised Children

I haven't talked much yet about my intensive bible study since it started up in early September. This year we're studying Isaiah. I have always been confused and afraid by Isaiah -- my common response when flipping it open and reading a passage has been, "What IS he talking about?" It's such a blessing to open the Word with other people to sort through the maze together.

We're 6 weeks in and only up to Isaiah 9 so far. But oh my! How filled those 9 chapters are! Woes and punishment, an angry God and a mission that would bear no fruit... and hidden amongst the negativity, 4 very special promised children.

Most people know that Christ was prophesied about in Isaiah, but they've only heard the selected passages read during Advent. It's absolutely amazing to see, even in just these nine small chapters, how much actually points to Christ. It's so much more than what you've heard. But first, the other 3:

The first promised child was actually already born when we meet him in Isaiah 7. He's Isaiah's son, Shear-Jashub. His special name means "A remant will return." His name was a promise and a prophetic message to the people of Judah.

The second is one that many people miss. In Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah prophesies a sign from God: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." This is one of those Christmas verses most people have heard once or twice (a year... every year). What most people DON'T realize is the context: This is one of those common (and I'd never noticed before) Now-And-Later prophesies in the old testiment. You can tell the "now" from v. 16 -- "But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste." This was fulfilled when the King of Assyria swept in a few years later. The "later" (Christ) is actually a little hidden, even though it's the one we're more familiar with. And, actually, I have a hard time seeing it myself, so feel free to refute me! I'm drawing this from several respected theologians and the study notes. According to them, the reference to Christ is in v. 13 when Isaiah addresses not King Ahaz (who he was previously speaking to), but the whole house of David. I never knew about the earlier child before, who was also called Immanuel, meaning God with us. I have some more research to do!

The third promised child was another of Isaiah's sons. This son was born in 8:1-4 and was named Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. That's a mouthful, isn't it! I must say, that one didn't make the list for our Little Somebody. His name means "Quick to plunder, swift to spoil." Verse 4 tells us what this means: "Before the boy knows how to say 'My father' or 'My mother,' the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria will be carried off by the king of Assyria." Destruction against Judah's enemies will come quickly, even though in chapter 7 (and child #2) we find out that Judah will be overrun (But! According to child #1, a remnant will remain!).

Oh! And the long-awaited fourth child! I bet you can guess who this is!

6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor,Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7 Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David's throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.

Four promised children. Four prophetic names, rich with meaning and understanding. And four reasons to hope, even in the midst of Isaiah's messyness. I just had to share!

God bless you on this Wednesday!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Maternity Clothes Woes

I don't know what it is about my body, but I am showing REALLY early. I'm just past 11 weeks and already having to lay aside my regular work wardrobe. I hung out with my mom this weeked and she revealed that she went into maternity clothes full-time at 10 weeks. So I guess I've gotten a little past her! It's just ironic, because so far I've actually lost a good bit of weight (gotta love morning sickness... boo).

But with my changing figure and a lack of time, I've been busy shopping to keep myself covered. At least, I've been trying to...
What is UP with modern maternity clothing?! Everything I've found is either 1) ugly 2) expensive or 3) most often, both! I have zero interest in wearing skin tight leggings and ill-fitting tops, or even worse, ill fitting tops with writing on them:
Lest I come across as too grumbly, my lovely mother has purchased a couple dress lengths of jersey knit and is whipping me up a couple of work dresses. And eventually, I'll find my sewing machine in the chaos that is moving boxes, get it repaired, and sew for myself. In the mean time, I'm going to take a moment to be positive: Since I need a whole new wardrobe anyway, I'm replacing with more pretty skirts and dresses that I really like instead of the pants I keep finding myself slipping back into. And once I quit my job in the spring, no one will care if a robe counts as "dressed" for the day!
Wish me luck. Hopefully I'm in the last throws of morning sickness and I can start gaining back the 8lbs I've lost, getting on the right track for the long term. Tho, I will miss the easy excuse for my 4th nap today :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Neat Website

I stumbled across this site at work today and just had to share with you:

It's an online database of books, posted in various formats from simple text to the fancy e-readers. They're all free -- the concept of Project Gutenberg is to put every book in the public domain online so that they're free and available forever. It started in 1971 with the US constitution and has expanded continuously from there :) Best part is that since the copyrights are expired, you can print, copy... essentially do whatever you want with the texts.
I know I'm a bookworm, and many of you are too, so I thought you'd like to know!
PS: Still pregnant, still morning sick, still holding on :). 11 weeks down, 29 to go. And a rant in process over the pathetic state of maternity clothes for those of us whose sewing machines are broken.

Friday, October 15, 2010

I forgot to tell you...

In the midst of everything else, I forgot to tell you how our initial appointment with our OB went!

It's routine at the practice I go to to do early ultrasounds, mostly to correctly date the pregnancy. For me, this has extra significance: I needed to know that Baby was, and is, ok. I have faith in God of course, but I was having so much anxiety about the what-might-bes that when the ultrasound was offered, I definately accepted. I needed that reassurance.

Reassured I was!

Our happy little baby was bouncing all around during the whole procedure. You wouldn't think a 9 1/2 week old could get around much, but this little one was. The tech had to do the measurements a couple times because Baby wouldn't stay still. Then, right at the very end, Baby started waving his/her little arms. It was everything I needed and then some to feel safe, confident, and loved. Everything is going to be ok -- no matter what. It was such a blessing.

Just thought you'd like to know!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wallpaper Woes

I slipped off the blog-wagon again -- but I have an excuse!

Friday morning we closed on our house. It's beautiful. It's perfect! At least, it will be once the many-decades-old-and-ugly wallpaper comes down. Personally, I'm leaning towards a ban on wallpaper. It should be illegal, or you should be required by law to remove it before selling your home. Why? WHY?! Because it is such a long, exhausting, PAIN!

Although my camera is at the other house, let me paint you a word-picture:

In the bedroom... blue wallpaper in a quilt pattern with wood panelling half way up, and a chair rail. We pulled off the pannelling to find ORIGINAL (1930s) pink wallpaper that kind of looks like brown paper bags painted over with dusty rose. Current stripping time: over 15 hours, with probably 2 or 3 still to go

In the dining room and hallway... red, white, and black floral print that was so small and painful that my camera didn't know what to do with it. It turned the flowers into dizzying lines. There was panelling in there, too, which was hiding tan... um... I don't even have words. It's tan, with vertical lines, and little gold foil bits that kind of look like worms. Stripping time: not yet started, and I'm dreading the day.

I'm saving pieces for my scrap book.

It's a lot of work (a LOT), but I'm so excited to be getting my nest ready for our growing family. There's so much to do and only 30 weeks to accomplish it in! I've already picked the colors fomr the living room and our bedroom. I've got some good thoughts on the dining room. And I have NO idea what I'm going to do with the nursery. Change that a little... I have far too many ideas, but I can only use one. Narrowing it down is going to be a challenge. I think I'm going to put that off for a few more months :)

Happy Wednesday!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Flu Shots?

Hi Ladies!

I wanted to ask you all something: Have you gotten or do you plan to get a flu shot this year?

I'm debating. Technically, according to "people who know," pregnant ladies (like myself!) are supposed to get the shot. However, I have real hesitations with unnecessary medications, and I think shots for common things are kinda silly. My dr. is leaving it entirely up to me and I'm at a loss!

What do you think?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Multitude Monday

holy experience
It's been a while since I've had an opportunity to participate in the Multitude Monday. Not that I haven't had things to be grateful for -- we certainly have! -- but I always seem to busy to write them. Today, finally, I have one blessing that I've been waiting nearly forever to share with you:
#56: The gift of new life...
We're having a baby!
I'm 9 weeks along and feeling... well... I'm 9 weeks along :). We're due in early May.
We decided to delay starting prenatal treatment this time because there's nothing doctors can do in the first few weeks anyway. "Stop drinking." "Stop smoking." Things I don't need to hear anyway. It's all up to God -- all the way through. My practitioner (insurance-selected...) recommends starting treatment at 6 weeks or as soon as you find out... we convinced her to delay until 10. Not a huge bump, but significant to us. So, on Columbus day, we'll go in to see and hopefully hear our little explorer and how he/she is growing and finding the way to us. One more week! God willing, everything's normal and we're on the right track.
Happy Monday, and may you be blessed!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I was going to hold back on this until October, but I'm bubbling over! I just can't hold back anymore, I'm so excited!

In 17 days, for the first time in our lives, Shaune and I will become HOMEOWNERS!

We got our mortgage approval last night. The inspections are completed and everything's fine -- the few cosmetic issues, my hubby knows how to fix. Of course, the bathroom could use renovation, as any older home would, if anyone feels like a Fix-It and wants to help! Now we just have to pack and wait for closing.

There's hardwood floors thoroughout (except the kitchen, with laminate)... and these built-in bookcases in the living room are to die for. My house looks like a library. That's a good thing, because I already have so many books, and my wish list is even longer!

The kitchen was renovated just a couple of years ago. I love how the cabinets go all the way up to the 10' ceilings. There's even a built-in desk in the kitchen with more bookshelves -- can anyone say, Cookbook Collection?! The only thing that's missing is a dishwasher. I've gotten a little spoiled (alright, entirely spoiled) by having one where we've lived in the past. But, there is a place for one and running a hook-up wouldn't be too challenging, come spring. I've just got to make friends with handwashing between now and then.

There's so much more I didn't get pictures of. There's a full basement, unfinished, with some brilliant storage solutions already built in. 2 big bedrooms with giant closets. The foundation is all brick and in great shape. Considering it's in-town, the lot's a good size, and the beautiful community park is a half mile up the road. Within walking distance, there's multiple convenience stores and restaurants, a Wal-greens 24hr pharmacy, and an Urgent Care center (non-emergency medical facility run by the local hospitals) that's in our insurance network.

I still wish we had found property outside of town where we could begin a small homestead, but alas, now isn't the time. This is our perfect starter home. Can't wait for October 8!

Monday, September 20, 2010

What is this world coming to?

Just a quick note to post something that I wish you would join me in prayer over:

Evangelical Lutheran Church ordains 3 openly homosexual women

Whatever your opinion on homosexuality is in terms of people, just people, living lives out in the world, this is different. This is a church proclaiming to be evangelical... proclaiming to stand for and teach the word of God... disregarding it. Cherrypicking the love and grace, while ignoring the sin and justice. The Bible is a whole package and can't be broken down.

Just to shed a little light on my own beliefs, I believe that humans should be treated fairly under the governmental law, regardless of their religion or sexual orientation. No one, under the American constitution, should be in fear of bodily or economic harm based upon their beliefs. But that's the government. This is the church... as a private institution, their first call is to the Lord. The church has voluntary membership, voluntary leadership. The church has the right and responsibility to stand firm to their values -- the Bible, the Word of God. Or, stop pretending you value them.

2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I'm Still Here

I have some big news, but I don't want to jinx it :) I'm still here, just overwhelmingly busy with the joy that is my life. Hopefully by this time next week I'll be at liberty to spill all the beans to the world!

I'm still reading all your lovely blogs, even tho I haven't been writing much here or commenting much on yours. You're still all such a blessing to me and I'll be back in business very shortly -- 1st of October at the very latest.

God Bless!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Doing Hard Things

Last spring, I was approached by the leader of the large Bible study class that I attend. Over 200 of us meet together every week for worship, small group study, and teaching. For small group time, those 200 ladies are broken down into groups of 10-12 lead by a leader who is also responsible for shepherding them during the week. And as of... now... one of those leaders is me.

I got my group assignment last week and it took my breath away. Although I met with, and prayed with, the assignment team several times last spring, and have continued to pray/worry about it over the summer, I wasn't prepared once the envelope actually arrived. God's definately pushed me out of my comfort zone on this one.

You see, I've always been aware that I'm young for the groups I'm involved in. I married young (by today's standards at least), gave up on teen ministry and joined the adults when I was young, have friends with kids my age. I teach at my evening Bible study regularly, despite being years younger than the other members. But I've never been *responsible* for leading them before. In the group I've been assigned, the next youngest person is 16 years older than me. The oldest is literally 3 times my age.

God's good at stuff like this. He has a better grasp on the situation than I ever could. One thing I've learned very firmly this year is that I have NO real control. I may PRETEND I do sometimes... but it's an illusion. So while this isn't the group I would have chosen for myself (I was hoping for the young marrieds/moms group), this is exactly the group He wants me to have.

This is a big "hard thing" for me. I hate phone calls anyway. I hate calling strangers even more. Strangers many times my age, who I want to respect me? I'm shuddering.

But alas, God has proven himself, once again, to be good. I've reached half my group and most of them seem very excited to get started. The rest? They'll come around. Or leave. Or whatever it is that God wants to teach both of us.

The best thing I've found about doing hard things is that I can't do them. I can't -- it's beyond me. But God can -- and He will. This is another opportunity to revel in my own weakness because it is here, when I keep trying even without hope of success, that He can take over for me. Hard things teach me no my own abilities, but to rely on His strength.

What hard things do you have to do this week? I encourage you to give up early -- not to quit, but to quit trying to do it alone. It's a freeing experience.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What to say?

I started my new job last Monday -- I've never been so excited or so terrified in my life. We spent all day Monday reading government policies, all Tuesday playing with Monopoly money... and Wednesday!

I think my heart stopped for a minute or two when the girl training me handed me $10,000 -- cash -- with a smile and a "Here!" Then my first deposit came in for a local business and the numbers went so high I can't even remember them. Working in a bank is going to take some getting used to.

The people I work with are all in my age range, give or take 3 years. Everyone's super nice and I'm looking forward to making new friends. Hopefully it'll lead to some good witnessing opportunities as well -- we spent a lot of our downtime talking about our lives and experiences. I already got to talk a little bit about our trip to Africa. Everyone is very real to themselves -- no fakeness, polite but not concerned about "political correctness." It's a nice change of pace to the school environment which was either straight PC or total lewdness with any middle-ground thoughts being completely ignored.

The only other thing that's new in Prestonland is we've found the house we want. I can't tell you details for fear of jinxing it! But if you're feeling generous, lift a prayer for us this week as we hopefully go into contract, escrow, down payments and inspections. I really want this home :)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New Beginnings

I've always loved August. The sun rises a little later... sets a little earlier... evenings are a *tiny* bit cooler... the first "Fall Storm" (mmm... popcorn and novels, with the sound of rain beating the windows)... back to school shopping...

Wait a minute! I didn't have to do that this year, for the very very first time in literally 20 years -- 2 years of preschool, 1 kindergarten, 12 grade school, 5 college. I'm a nerd. I always waited all summer for school to start again. I begged my parents for workbooks and educational summer camps (our district only offered remedial summer school, not enrichment). The night before the first day was almost more exciting than Christmas, knowing my backpack was filled with crisp notebooks and freshly sharpened pencils, with a pretty new outfit waiting for the first morning's light. Once I hit college I took classes every summer.

I think I'm going through withdrawl. I actually got a little teary-eyed at the site of a bus yesterday morning.

But life at the Preston's is never boring. I started my first "grown up" job on Monday morning -- I'm officially a bank teller at a local bank here in town! Monday we read all about how to do the job, Tuesday we played with Monopoly money, and today! Today I actually get out of the back room and onto the teller counter with real customers and real money! It's almost as good as going back to school (but only almost). I do get the pretty new outfit laid out, even if the backpack is missing.

It's a strange transition, all the sudden feeling like an adult. Working 5 days a week (but only 30 hours), staying on top of the house, continuing my volunteer postions. About that -- I got my group assignment for the Bible study class where I volunteer. I'm a group leader this year. All of my ladies are in their 30s - 70s: I'm more than a decade younger than my youngest class member! I know it's God-ordained and He wouldn't set me up to fail, but the words of Nickie Gumbel are ringing in my ears: He explained that when HE thought he was ready for a certain appointment within the Church of England, GOD knew that he still had a long way to go. It was only when Nickie began to doubt his own abilities that God had room to work. I very much feel the same way.

Add to that our search for a new house, with all the "grown up" stuff that comes with that (can anyone say 'mortgage'?)... I'm going through a bit of a culture shock.

And all I can think of is Paul:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect
in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so
that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in
weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when
I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

May God bless you all this August, no matter what paths you may be starting!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Trim Dilemma -- HELP!

I've nearly completed the bodice on my sheer dress. It's turning out really pretty. This is probably the first project I've entirely draped, instead of drafted. I love drafting... draping is quite a change of pace. I haven't decided yet if I like it... it kind of makes me nervous to throw a piece of fabric up on my dress form, add a couple pins, and start cutting away. It's been working alright so far -- I brought the back up a little too far, but it'll be easily fixable with a waist band.
Now, my dilemma... I am scared to death of trim. If you haven't noticed, all of my gowns are fairly simple. No lace... maybe a pintuck here or there... no ruffles. I'm frightened of trimming things wrong, so I just never trim at all. That leaves a very unfinished sort of look -- especially on this glamourous sheer gown! SO! I need your opinion!
This is the original:

I think I've already decided the elbow flounces are too much for me. Too out of my comfort zone. But I definately want to do that band around the yoke -- there's a matching one at about mid-calf on the skirt, too, which I'd love to include. Here's where I need your opinion. Lace trim? Or self-fabric flounces?

The trim has the benefit of being finished and just needing stitched on -- a valid concernt 2 days before the event. And the blue ribbon running through it matches PERFECTLY. However, it's polyester, and more attention getting. A self-fabric flounce matches with the original better... and requires much more work. I couldn't find a tiny edging lace like the original uses when I was at the store yesterday, so I'd have to hem. But it may be worth it... I'm at a total loss and am going to put the bodice aside until I get some feedback! The agony of wanting to be right!

So, PLEASE! Which do you prefer? Fabric, or lace?!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Adventures in Preston-Land

We're doing something this week that I NEVER in a MILLION YEARS thought we'd be doing -- at least, not yet. I thought you had to be at least 30... and rich... or something, before anyone would even take you seriously. But NO! Even humble little us has a chance at this. Guessed what it is yet?

We're house hunting!

Looking at important things, like where the dryer vents.

I'm a numbers girl. I've always loved math. As a grown-up, I don't get to do nearly as much math as I did when I was in school. Sometimes, I come up with math projects for me to do just for entertainment value (I'm broken and have come to terms with this...). Well, earlier this month I did a cost-benefit analysis of renting vs. owning the place that we live. You know what I found? We can save over $100 a month by purchasing a home with the exact same floor plan we're living in now! And, I can paint! And, we can do whatever we want to the yard. And, and, and! I'm almost beside myself with excitement.

We've toured 6 homes so far. One was a real gem and we were about to put money on it, but then noticed some issues we weren't comfortable with having to refinish right away (**shudder** mold...). There's another list of 3 or so we'll be seeing tomorrow evening. The photographs look really promising and I can't wait to get in there!

Blogging may be scarce over the next few weeks as we pursue this adventure. I also start my new job as a bank teller first thing Monday morning. But never fear, I'll pop in for some excitement as able!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sheer Dress

I'm at it again: Dress #2 for Civil War reenacting! This time, I'm making a sheer... since it is August and so steamy hot. This is what I plan on remaking:

It's an original found on http://www.thegracefullady.com, in the sheer dress section. It's so, slo lovely. I'm using a pretty blue floral print dear Sarah Jane from Romantic History passed on to me. It may not show off quite as nicely as the polka dots, but I can't resist the pretty yoked look! It seems nice and cool for the summer, too. Now... *sigh* all I have to do is get started. I've GOT to stop procrastinating!

Making Summer Last

Summer is my favorite time of year. I need sunshine... I need warmth... I absolutely need fresh veggies growing right outside my door! Alas, this wonderful, beautiful season can't last. Even if I can't keep the sunshine and the warmth, I CAN keep the veggies -- at least in some form!

I took a few days off of the garden this week. We were traveling (surprise! When are we not?) to go send my sister off to college, in addition to all our normal busyness. Well, even though I was on break, the garden clearly was not. I went out this morning to find a frightening amount of food that needed picked now. Until today, we've had a handful here, a basket there... just enough to throw into that particular day's meals. Not so anymore.

The dehydrator is running with 3 yellow squash and a couple (ridiculously massive) zuccini. Whenever I tell people I dry zuccini, they say, "I didn't know you could do that." I'm not sure if you're supposed to... but I did it last year and am doing it again. Zuccini chips are yummy on their own with a bit of ranch dip, and they're super easy to throw into a soup at the last minute. In fact, the plan for these ones is to make dried soup mixes for my sister -- she's moving out of the dorms and into her first apartment this week!

Green beans are getting blanched then frozen. I thought about canning them since my freezer space is at such a premium, but there are 2 very good reasons not to do that:
  1. I don't have a pressure canner, so it wouldn't be safe (according to various sources that may be overly cautious)
  2. I HATE canned green beans. Too mushy.

So freezing is the only option! I had a good 1/2 gallon freezer bag full and there will be many, many more in the coming days. I was afraid a few days ago because my neighbor had already put up pounds and pounds of beans. He's already ripped his plants out and replanted that area while I'd only brought in a few small, sad handfuls. Mine were just a couple days behind, it seems! I worried too soon.

I'm still waiting on tomatoes. They're being pokey. Maybe next week :)

PS: Yes, that is my teapot there, matching the green beans. I don't think I could survive without tea.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hot Pepper Jelly

What's a girl to do when the jalapano bushes are overwhelming me, and the tomatoes are just starting to hint at red? Salsa isn't an option until the tomatoes come in... there's already several jars of peppers put up... every square inch of the freezer is dedicated to something else...

Hot. Pepper. Jelly.

I saw this recipe in one of my cookbooks and went "ew." I saw it again in a different cookbook at the library and became curious. THEN I saw it on the back of the pectin box when I went to the store. With an abundance of peppers and a good sense of humor, I decided to try it. What's the harm?

It's WONDERFUL stuff, so you know. And attractive to boot. We've already eaten an entire jar (half-pint) with crackers and cream cheese. I fully intend on making more soon for my Christmas baskets.

Here's the recipe:

  • 6 jalapanos, chopped. Remove seeds if heat is a problem. I removed about 1/2, left about 1/2.
  • 1 cup white vinegar. The recipe called for CIDER vinegar but I didn't have any, and didn't miss it either.
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 packet liquid fruit pectin

Put the peppers in the blender with 1/2 c vinegar. Blend until smooth. You can see in the picture that I left mine kinda chunky for visuals -- do as you please.

Pour the pepper mixture into a pot and add the rest of the vinegar. Add the sugar. Boil for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. At this point, I added a few drops of green food coloring to brighten the color. The peppers make it a kinda pea-soup green and I wanted gemstones!

After 10 minutes, remove from heat. Stir in pectin. Return to heat and boil hard 1min. Fill and seal jars -- 1/4 in headspace, 10 min processing in a hot water canner. Makes about 3 cups of jelly.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Back Online!

I've learned an important lesson about antivirus software for my computer: in short, have it. Things were a jumbled mess, but blessedly we have friends who are good at stuff like that. I just had to wait until they were available to fix it!

But, I've been cleaned out, rebooted, loaded with protection, and am back online. I believe I have 35 blog posts I've missed reading since last week, plus countless Facebook thingies that I don't think I care enough to sort through. I never realized how addicted to the internet I was.

I'm glad I went computer-less for a few days. They were rough days... my husband checked my email for me at work and called to tell me what it said... but I also got a lot done. Like jars of hot pepper jelly. Vacuuming. Every piece of laundry in the house. More than one novel. I clearly see that it's time to set limits on my 'net use. We'll see how it all plays out.

*sigh* It just feels so good to type away again!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Forced Computer Fast

Well, friends, it's finally happened: I've been tempting fate without an antivirus software on my computer for a few months... and yesterday one found me. I was faced with 2 painful options: pay $200 to have someone fix it, or wait until Monday when a friend of mine can do it for free. As anyone living on a budget knows, I don't need my computer $200 badly. I can wait.

So, God willing, it's a quick and easy fix once my friend gets ahold of my system. In the mean time, I'll sneak off to the library when I can, and catch you all next week!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Waiting with Grace

My Dearly Beloved and I have been married for 2 years -- today! These have been two of the best years of my life, growing closer to each other and to God together. Every day is a new adventure. We've had so much joy, as well as sharing so much pain.

You see, we thought we'd have a child long before now. God willing, we'd be working on #2. But alas, that wasn't our Lord's plan -- I'm still not sure what his plan is. We're waiting.

Waiting hasn't been good for my heart. I'm an impatient person by nature, wanting things now, now, now! I tend to waste my time, because "what if!" this month is the lucky one. I hesitate to commit to anything, because "what if!" After a lot of prayer and conversation, we've decided that I should pursue a part-time job so that I can use our waiting time productively.

It's not a decision come to lightly, but it is the right one -- for our family, and for my heart. See, I've been beating myself up that what we wanted hasn't happened yet. Obviously, I'm doing something wrong (says that naggy little voice inside my head). I don't believe that is the case -- rather, for whatever reason, God has called us to wait. So wait we shall.

But in the mean time, I'll be busy paying down our debts, meeting new people, perhaps even pointing them towards faith. I'll be out in the world where I can make an impact, until my most important job of raising a family comes along (at which point I'll be making an impact with them!). Life is a journey that we can't control. Thankfully there is a God who does!

I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait

I will move ahead, bold and confident
Takeing every step in obedience
While I'm waiting
I will serve You
While I'm waiting
I will worship
While I'm waiting
I will not faint
I'll be running the race
Even while I wait

I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am peaceful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it's not easy
But faithfully, I will wait
Yes, I will wait

I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve you while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting on You, Lord
John Waller, While I'm Waiting, from the Fireproof soundtract, has been a constant comfort to me over the past weeks. I play this song on repeat because it reminds me of the Who who knows.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Murder-Mysetery Summer

I'm such a bookworm, but over the past couple years I've been steadily disenchanted with reading. I had too much assigned through school to pick up much for pleasure. When I did find time to just read, so many of the books I found were disappointing: too racy and too easy, to difficult, too boring.

A dear friend of mine completely understands, so we bonded together in pursuit of worthwhile books that we would read together, then meet up to discuss (and watch every movie adaptation available!). The only rule is they have to be pleasure books -- we both do enough research reading in our "real" lives. First, we read Emma -- I love Jane Austen.

The next book was my friend's choosing. I'd never heard of it before... but it was altogether facinating. The book is "Rebecca," written by Daphne du Maurier in 1938. The back cover proclaims that it is "one of the bestselling novels of all time!" Once I got into it, I totally understood.

There's something about summer that makes you want a predictable book, but not boring. I've never read mysteries before -- I thought they were dumb cop-and-robber stories with no plot, or all science like many of the popular TV shows. But this was rich storytelling. I found myself thinking just ahead of the characters, trying to solve the riddle. It was predictable enough to follow while throwing enough twists to keep me interested. All wrapped up in well-developed dialoge and a pleasant lack of descriptive romance. I never would have suspected I liked this kind of book if my friend hadn't suggested it (and put the copy in my hand, saying "Read this, it'll take some getting into but you'll love it").

So my question to you: What kinds of books do you like to read? How do you choose a new book / series / genre to try out?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bruchetta Pizza

This is probably the best treat I've ever eaten. I couldn't help sharing it with you!

My first ripe tomatoes have been coming in this week in any real numbers -- I pull in 2-3 a day (there's more coming, I have no doubt). I've been doing what I can to be creative with them -- there's not really enough for a good tomato sauce, and just throwing them into things seems a little haphazard. I came across a recipe for bruchetta: an Italian appetizer of bread toasted in olive oil topped with chopped tomatoes and basil, a bit of feta cheese and a drizzle of olive oil (plus salt and pepper). I had a bit of the topping left over and was trying to figure out what to do with it.

Well, Shaune beat me to the topping (using it as a filling for omlettes), but I came up with an idea: Why not use it on a pizza? And it was fabulous... you could taste the lovely fresh tomatoes, but it wasn't "just" tomato. Oh my... we ate the whole thing! I wish I had gotten a good picture, but alas, you'll have to try it yourself :)

Bruchetta Pizza
  1. Prepare your favorite pizza dough. Prebake it in the oven for about 15 minutes so it's nearly done
  2. While that's cooking, coarsely chop 2 tomatoes. If you have it, chop fresh basil. I used dried because I failed to plant any this year :(. Gently stir together tomatoes and basil, plus a few tablespoons of feta cheese -- just enough for contrast. Drizzle with olive oil and crack on some fresh ground pepper. Taste it -- if you need to, add a bit of salt. Sea salt is best. Set bowl in fridge until pizza crust is ready
  3. Totally optional (but adds extra nutrients): thinly slice a small zuccini into "coins"
  4. Once crust is baked, you get to build your pizza! Drizzle crust with olive oil (I like to take a paper towel and "paint" it all over). Sprinkle a bit of mozzarella cheese. Scatter the zuccini, if you're using it. Top with the tomato mix and a bit more cheese if you'd like -- I made it fairly not-cheesy, but whatever it takes to make your husband/kids eat it!
  5. Bake for just a few minutes -- 8-10 -- just so all the flavors meld, things warm up, and the cheese thinks about melting. Slice and enjoy!

We're pizza fanatics here, eating it bare-minimum once a week. Pizza night is never known for its health value -- until now! Round out the meal with a salad, or add some cooked beans or chicken to the pizza itself. Yummm...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Special Family Birthday

This may seem silly to many of you, but I just had to share: My dear little car just hit 200,000 miles!

200,000 miles of:
  • Visiting family
  • Strengthening friendships
  • Working for the Lord
  • Learning new skills
  • Having fun
  • Shedding tears

This car has been mine since I got my license. It was my Dad's for 5 years before that -- I've traveled all over the eastern USA as either driver or passenger. It's silly, but very significant to me!

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thai Chicken

I've been holding this post back, in the hopes of taking a picture of this tasty treat. Lo and behold, we ate it again for lunch today, and AGAIN it all disappeared long before any thoughts of the camera crossed my mind. You'll have to take my word on it -- it looks just as yummy as it sounds :)

The best thing about Thai Chicken is it is ridiculously, 8pm and haven't eaten yet, easy. 4 ingregients. Think you can handle that?

  • Chicken
  • Peanuts, unsalted (Aldi sells them with the red lid. Blue lids are salty)
  • Jalapano, diced. Start with 1, build up from there if you like the flavor. I used 3 today
  • Soy Sauce

I precook a whole chicken early in the week and portion it out, so all I have to do is thaw a package. 5 minute meal. My dear friend Amanda, who shared this recipe with me, uses raw boneless, skinless chicken. If so, chop it up into bite-sized pieces and saute it in a little oil first.

Once your chicken is cooked or thawed, throw in the diced jalapanos. Cook until bright green, only a minute or so. Throw in the peanuts. You may want to crush them a bit; I do sometimes and don't other times. Cook for a minute or so. Pour over enough soy sauce to make everything brown and wet looking. It'll only take a few tablespoons, but I never measure so I can't tell you for sure how much to use. Start with a little -- you can always add more, but you can't take any away!

We serve this layered into a bowl. The bottom layer is plain white rice. The middle layer is a veggie -- the best is the tiny frozen green beans, lightly steamed, from Aldi. I was out of those today so I used peas. I've also used steamed asparagus, chopped small. Scoop some chicken on the top, grab the chopsticks, and enjoy!

I love easy meals that taste like a million bucks :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

An Education

A couple times a year, my 10 year old brother comes to stay with Shaune and myself. It's a special time for all of us. Matty gets to have different rules, different house, different EVERYTHING! We get to play parents -- all the fun, none of the suffering :) I am still the cool big sister, after all. It's always a good time. We watch movies and play games. And, Shaune and I have a chance to share our values with him. There's a subtle vein of education running through most things we do.

For example, we don't have cable television and the Internet in our apartment is pretty iffy. So when he's with us, Matt learns the value of being bored. It leads to all sorts of fun -- gardening, board games, even fishing. Plus the joy in learning how to just be quiet, without outside stimulation.

He also learns how to get his hands dirty. I'm not sure where he learned this, but he hates touching pretty much anything. Shaune and I had fun with this. When Matty caught a fish (his very first ever!) Shaune wouldn't take it off the hook for him. Shaune coached, and guided, and even provided a glove! but declared that if Matt wanted to catch fish, he had to do the whole job. We had lots of laughs over that one. Then later, we were making personal pan pizzas. Matty didn't like how squishy the dough was... so we buried his hands in it :). It's all in good fun, but it's also an important thing to learn. How are you going to get through life if you won't touch anything yucky?

We taught him about movies that actually have a plot, and no explosions. We taught him how to find the tip quickly at a restaurant. We even took him to a museum to practice thinking critically about the claims that "scientists" (or biased exhibit designers) make. But most importantly, we taught him once again that we love him and we're here for him, and he can always ask us questions and receive an honest answer (even the ones that are hard to ask parents). We teach him life. These are the weekends that make life worth living.

Monday, July 19, 2010

First M.E. Church

There's a beautiful new stained glass window installed at our church. It used to be in the old building downtown -- they moved it into a frame and stored it when that building was sold. They've just now pulled it out and hung it.

The stained glass was made back when our church was the First Methodist Episcopal Church -- a denomination that no longer exists on its own but is a part of the United Methodist Church. "Methodist Episcopal" has too many letters for a stained glass worker... they shortened it to M.E.

First M.E. Church. Every time I see the window, I get a knot in the pit of my stomach. It's beautiful, yes, and the intended meaning is innocent enough. But every time my critical eyes view it... I see a commentary on the culture of our church... and the vast majority of other churches I've visited.

First, me. I'll pray, but first me. I'll worship, but first me. I'll serve, but first... me. My needs, my wants, my preferences take higher priority than serving the Lord. I'll join the Bible School committee, but only if we do it my way. Does this ring true for your churches? Not everyone, all the time... but some of the people at least some of the time. First, me.

Lest we be too harsh on the modern church, the "me first" mindset has been a problem since the very beginning:

Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give
to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When
the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Matthew

The young man was focused on his wealth, his comfort, his earthly security blanket. He was saying, "First me."

He said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."
Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."
Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord, but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family."
Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." Luke 9:59-62

These situations seem good -- caring for family -- but Jesus declares them both to be unfit. These men, too, said "First me." I'll follow you after I do the things that I want to do. Even good things can be bad if we lift them to a higher position than following Christ.

Jesus never said that following him would be easy. In fact, he said the exact opposite: "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." John 16:19. We are to be hated, despised, persecuted. Even if that person hating you is your own family (Luke 8:19-21).

So who's first in your heart? Yourself? Or Christ? Although I still struggle with this every single day, I'm glad there's a window at my church reminding me that I don't want to be a part of the "First Me" church culture.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Garden Mystery -- Solved!

So I posted a few days ago about a mystery in my garden: the two jalapano plants were producing very different peppers. I think I just figured out what happened.

One plant cross pollinated with the bell pepper plant right next to it!

The jalapano didn't change much in flavor, just in appearance. The bell peppers -- which I pulled the first from tonight for a pizza -- didn't fare so well. They look like bells... smell like jalapanos... and taste somewhere in between. They have some kick, let me tell you!

So, note to self, next year the pepper varieties need to be located a little bit further apart. Or else I can leave them close together -- mysteries are kind of fun!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Summer Eats

I've never been good at menu planning. I've tried -- I've read books and blogs, all excitedly touting the benefits to your health and your poketbook. I make a beautiful menu that doesn't look so beautiful by Tuesday's Lentil Casserole. I'm giving up for the summer. There's no point -- and with a lovely garden outside, there's no need!

My summer cooking routine is simple:

  1. Choose protein. There's a wide variety of frozen, cooked beans and meats ready to go, as well as some quick-cook meats like ground turkey. Set selected protein on counter to sort of head towards thawing.
  2. Choose starch. We love rice here and go through the 25lb bag from Sam's every 3 months of so. I set rice or brown rice up in the rice cooker (yay single button cooking!) or a pot on the stove for noodles. If I'm really lazy we just eat bread.
  3. Visit the garden and pick whatever's ripe. Lately there's been nothing but squash, but today I found my first red tomato and two lovely jalapanos -- Mexican-ish it is! I can't wait for the green beans!
  4. Chop veggies, stir fry or something with the protein, grab a can of sauce if desired (I've always got spaghetti sauce and italian salad dressing ready to go) or spice if you'd rather.
  5. Serve the veggie mix over the protein and GO!

One caveat -- I almost always know what should be ripe in the garden, so I do think ahead a tiny bit with the protein. Like, I knew the tomato was ready today... only one, and none others even close, so it would have to be eaten alone.

Today's Garden Simple Meal

  1. Black Beans (precooked and frozen in a meal size package. Never canned -- too salty)
  2. Brown rice (rice cooker love. This and my crock pot are the only two appliances I couldn't live without)
  3. Tomato, 2 jalapanos from the garden, plus a couple cloves of garlic from the store

Put the rice on to cook even before going to the garden. Cook the peppers and garlic, chopped, in olive oil til fragrant. While cooking, chop tomato and toss in when ready. Stir until tomato starts to break down. Break frozen chunks of black beans into the pot, stir til thawed. Hit with a little water, little salt and pepper, then let simmer. This kinda made its own gravy... yum. Put in a generous helping of rice (more for the boy, he's always hungry!) and top with the beans. It was literally heaven in a bowl.

We've lately also had squash with tomato sauce and noodles, zuccini and spinach soup, Thai chicken (theres a recipe I've got to share!), and all sorts of salads. Garden dinners are never boring and never preplanned, so we can eat what we want each evening. And, I'm pretty sure we've doubled our veggie diet! I love summer :)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Garden Mysteries

I absolutely love having a garden. If you were around last year, you probably laughed while I experimented with growing for the first time. I used Rubbermaids on the balcony. It was fabulous, but I knew there was more.

This year we have ground of our own and I have been living it up! The garden lines one side of our house. It's only 3 feet wide, but 2 bedrooms long (so exact, I know). I love staring out my window at the flowers on the squash and tomatoes... I feel more connected with the "real" world even while I'm tapping away at my computer.

This basket is my new centerpiece for the kitchen table during the growing season. Today's selection: lettuce, spinach, and a crookneck squah. Some days the selection is still store-bought, but every day there's more home grown and less hothouse!

But I have a mystery to run past you all: Do you know why 2 plants, exactly the same, purchased together on the same day, planted side by side... would turn out two completely different peppers? They taste the same -- they're both clearly jalepanos. But they look so different! One plan it putting out the rounded-end, shiny peppers. The one next to it is producing matt green peppers that are long and pointy. I repeat -- they taste the same. I'm just curious to see if anyone has any input, as I'm new to this green thumb thing!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Bobbin Lacing -- oops! Edited with pictures!

7/6, 10:13 pm : I can't believe I posted a project post without photographs! It has been remedied and will NEVER happen again! Unless I forget again...
I have been wanting to write this post for a week! Life keeps getting in the way, and, you know, life must be lived or else there will be nothing to blog about :)

When we were at the Jacksonville Civil War event back in June, I met a neat lady sitting under a tree doing something I had never seen before. Her hands were flying, throwing around these little wooden sticks displayed beautifully on a blue pillow. And what what happening when those pretty sticks crossed? LACE!

I couldn't help myself... I had to learn.

Because that's what I do... Learn stuff :)

The lady was generous enough to invite this crazy blonde into her home, promising me she'd teach me the basics of bobbin lacing. So last Wednesday found me jumping in the car on an adventure to Bloomington to learn this beautiful art.

My first lace: one section of each of the 3 stitches

Learn I did. Ramona taught me how to wind the bobbins (the little wooden sticks), then she taught me the stitches. There's actually only three stitches in bobbin lacing and they're all pretty easy. Lace is made when you put the different stitches together and grab different bobbins each time.

My first pattern!

I wish I could explain it to you better, so that perhaps you could learn, too... but I can't. All I can do is demonstrate my extreme excitement and encourage you to find a master, too! Learn! Or I can muddle through showing, maybe... but not online. What fun! I already have like a bazillion projects designed in my head to decorate all the pretty little somethings I've also designed. Maybe one day they'll get made!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

My Life Goal... er, Obsession

I have a horridly ambitious goal in my life. Maybe some of you can help me achieve it. I want to learn every traditional form of handwork and sewing known to womankind.

It's been my passion for years. I never sit down to watch a movie without something to keep my hands busy. I look forward to car trips for the guilt-free, uninterrupted hours I can spend on my projects. I'll even drive far out of my way to learn something special (this week, I'm headed 1.5 hours north to learn Bobbin Lacing; my 16th birthday present was a several-hours trip to spend a day with a pattern drafter).
Here's where you come in: Do you know any interesting arts you'd be willing to teach me? I have never yet found a person to teach me tatting -- that's probably at the top of my list -- but I have a hunger for anything and everything fiber related.

You also come in on the second, more important half. I dearly pray that these arts don't die out. I would love to teach anyone anything I know. I'm not an expert, but we can practice together.

Pictures stolen from various sources. The photos themselves link back to the original location.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Jacksonville Civil War Event

It's taken me all week, but finally I get to share with you: My very first, in period dress, Civil War event!

I'm so glad I took the time to do everything correctly. It made a huge difference. I saw so many women miserable in polyester dresses and other horridly inaccurate garments that were neither attractive nor comfortable in the 95+ degree heat. My many layers of cotton kept me cool-ish, as long as I was moving or in the shade.
Before I explain everything, I have to give a HUGE thank you to Sarah Jane of Romantic History, who graciously let me borrow her stack of patterns and surprised me with the lovely sunbonnet. I would have been completely lost without you!

The picnic tables became our favorite spot.

I have to tell you a secret... I am a world-class procrastinator. It was a joke between me and my husband (and before him, my roomates) that I would never start a paper more than 24 hours before it was due. That isn't entirely true, but it was true enough to become a stereotype. This dress was no exception. I took my sweet time making the undergarments: a seam here, a hem there, "there's still x days left before the event"... all the way up until Thursday evening when I realized that, wow! The day had almost arrived!

Shaune made it onto the battlefield (He's the 2nd from the wagon, with the leaning gun)...

I fit the lining Thursday evening. I started cutting the fashion fabric Friday at 8:30, only moments after my husband walked out the door for work. From there, I worked like crazy, only pausing when absolutely necessary. The dress involved a ton more hand sewing than I'm used to -- the center front has 15 pair of hooks-and-eyes, which I stitched over the course of a movie (Les Choristes, in French -- my favorite!). By lunchtime, I had a bodice front and back mostly put together and sleeves in progress. Shaune helped me when he came home, and we decided that the sleeves really needed epaulets to make them more interesting... one more project, but a worthwhile one.

But he didn't make it off. Boo :(

Evening found me with a bodice, epaulets attached, and panels cut for the skirt. I sent my hubby to Martial Arts class so I could have another 3 hours of uninterrupted sewing. I think we ate dinner, but I'm not certain. If we did, I certainly didn't stop for long! I gave up around 1am with a completed skirt and a nearly completed bodice. I bound the edges and whipped the two halves together over breakfast. There were still safety pins, but by golly! I was fully dressed by the time we reached the event!

Aren't we a lovely pair? The banjo always draws a crowd.

I'm hooked. I spent the entire event staring at other ladies' gowns, deciding where mine needs finessed and designing my next gown. I believe we'll be camping out at the next event we go to, sometime in August, so a second dress (or at least a second chemise and some more petticoats) is a must. Although, I do believe that next time... I might start at least 2 days before the event :)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It Feels Like Home

I've noticed something: I live a busy life. We're always going somewhere, doing something, rarely home for more than a few days -- and if we are at home, we have company. It's a fun life, but ever so exhausting. Part of the problem is that home isn't "home," at least not in my heart. My heart belongs far, far away... and I got to go back this past week for my cousin's graduation.

My dad grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on the top of Squirrl Hill. My grandparents are buried there; my cousins still live there (well, a few hills over); my earliest memories are there. Even though I've lived in central Illinois since I was a small girl, every important event was marked by a trip to the mountains. Mom's family lives in or near the mountains, too. Corn fields offer no comparison in terms of beauty, mystery, and peace. Mountains signify home in my heart... especially the ones around Pittsburgh (And your farm, Erika, we just don't get there very often!)

So, I was thrilled when things fell into place for Shaune and I to go with my parents back to Pittsburgh for my cousin Beth's graduation. Shaune's never been out East. While it's always special to revisit home on your own, it is even more special to be able to share that experience with one who's never seen it before.

We visited my grandparents...

Rode the Incline (like a trolly that goes up the side of the mountain)...

Looked over the skyline...

Climbed a mountain to find a waterfall (in a skirt!)...

Played weird instruments (this is a ukelele banjo. I have no idea anything about it)...

And even punched statues (oh to be a 10 year old boy!)...

It's weird how much driving certain streets, climbing certain hills, seeing certain buildings can make a place that has never been "home" feel so much like where I belong. One of these days, we'll live out East. One of these days I'll say good-bye to corn fields and flat and buy a piece of property halfway up a mountain, and home can finally be where both my heart and my body are found!

PS: I DID get all my Civil War sewing completed -- last minute -- and had a total blast at the reenactment this past weekend. More on that when I catch a minute; we have friends in from Liberia, Africa this week and a lot of events to attend with them.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Draw Me Nearer

I am thine, O Lord, I have heard thy voice,
and it told thy love to me;
but I long to rise in the arms of faith
and be closer drawn to thee.

Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
to the cross where thou hast died.
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
to thy precious, bleeding side.

Consecrate me now to thy service, Lord,
by the power of grace divine;
let my soul look up with a steadfast hope,
and my will be lost in thine.

O the pure delight of a single hour
that before thy throne I spend,
when I kneel in prayer, and with thee, my God,
I commune as friend with friend!
Hymns have a way of touching my heart in a way that words can not. They take what I'm feeling and express it much more eloquently than I can pull off. We sang "Draw me Nearer" this morning and the refrain just keeps playing through my head, a constant background to my day. It makes me think.
This song has it right in one ever so important way: God draws US nearer. He is constant; He is unchanging and unmoving. I'm the one that drifts away on the current of distractions. He stands there, a Rock for me to cling to if only I remember to do so.
He's a fisherman, too... casting out his line to draw us in. Or a lover, drawing the beloved in for a hug. He's where he's always been... I'm the one that walks away.
Draw me nearer, Blessed Lord, this day and every!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Civil War Wardrobe: Building Up Correctly

I'm a classic, textbook perfectionist. There's no point doing something if you're not going to do it right... the first time. So, when we decided to take up Civil War reenacting, I briefly considered shortcuts to getting me dressed. But the more I thought, the more I realized: since I know what's right and how to do it, why not do it right from the very beginning?!

Tada! My very first corset and chemise, proudly displayed by the headless Ellinor. (I would have displayed it myself but 1. the chemise is REALLY short and 2. Hubby's not here to lace me in). There's still a few finishing touches to accomplish but overall I'm THRILLED! Everything's boned with cable ties cut to fit. The front is hook-and-eyes on the underside instead of a busk. To be honest, I think I like corsets. I wore it around the house for a while last night and didn't have to tug at it once. It fits me better than Ellinor because I squish in places that she doesn't :)
My petticoat is cut out and stitched together. I plan on gauging it to the waistband in the car this weekend -- we've got a 12 hour drive to Pittsburgh, PA, to attend my cousin's graduation. We're going with my parents and my 10 year old brother. I've already claimed the back seat of the minivan all to myself so I can spread out my sewing. Privledges of being the oldest kid :)
Now that I've laid a firm foundation (haha... sorry) I can start on the dress -- the best part! For inpiration, I'm looking at this dress here:
I love it! Gathered bodice, little collar, etc etc etc. It's elegant without being overwhelming. The only thing I don't like is the sleeves -- I've never worn big sleeves and they intimidate me. I think I'm going to make narrower sleeves like these dresses here:

Both examples show buttons up the front. I haven't decided yet if I'll do buttons or stick to hook-and-eyes this time. But I do know I'll be putting a pretty bow at the front collar!
I'll have 3 sewing days next week to whip this out. I think I can do it. Here's a teaser on the fabric. I think I'll add a few details with a dusty rose colored ribbon, too, with a white cotton collar and maybe white cuffs, depending on what I'll have time for.