Thursday, December 23, 2010

our Christmas open house

This year, I was very excited to host our first Christmas Open House. We sent invitations to friends that we see often, and others that we don't see as often as we'd like. We planned for people to come and go during the afternoon and enjoyed talking with them all. The treats were easy holiday cookies, and warm drinks which stayed out throughout the afternoon for tasting! *I made way too many cookies, so our co-workers at the daycare and the bank enjoyed our leftovers on Monday!* I remember a childhood friend whose family hosted an open house each year. I thought it was a marvelous idea and have always wanted to do something similar. I'm really thankful that Matt enjoys hosting as much as I do, and was excited to visit with friends in our home too. We're hoping it can become an "annual" Christmas Open House for us, changing a bit each year.

Here are a few pictures for our far away friends, and some recipes you all might enjoy :)

This apple cider recipe came from my friend Lauren, who'd recently made it for another friend Kimberly's baby shower... it's wonderful and simple too :)
Apple Cider
1 gallon apple cider (mine came from ALDI)
1 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp whole allspice
1/4 c brown sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
1 orange peel
Pour apple cier into Crock-Pot. Add brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, and orange peel to cider as it warms. Using a loose leaf tea strainer (I'm not quite sure what it's called) add cloves and allspice, then float in cider as well. Serve when warm.

Clementines are always delicious and remind me of Christmas... mostly because Amy is thrilled about the orange in the bread on the movie "Little Women" which they then give away to a family in need. But the orange was a prized Christmas treat to them all. The clementines were also so pretty in this bowl.

Next were the Swedish Thumbprint Cookies. This is another easy recipe that tastes so heavenly!
1 c butter, softened
1/2 c white sugar
2 c sifted all purpose flour
1/2 c jam (I like raspberry)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
Add flour and mix well --you'll use all the flour even though the consistency will seem to change a lot and look pretty thick.
Shape dough into 1" balls and place on cookie sheets.
Use 1/4 tsp to press indentation into cookies.
Fill indentations with jam.
Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown at the edges of cookies. (Mine were a little over done in the picture!)

We also enjoy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies (in the covered cake stand) which I made from a recipe Meghan gave me. I've taken them to work where they've been a huge hit and even made them with my 4 year olds who also loved them. A new holiday favorite for sure!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
dry ingredients:
2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

wet ingredients:
1 can pumpkin
1 stick butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 c sugar
1 egg

1 bag chocolate chips... I like using the mini ones

Mix dry ingredients.
In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients by hand until creamy.
(Pieces of butter may still be visible, but should be well incorporated and pretty small.)
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix well.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Bake at 375 degrees for 12-14 minutes.
(These cookies don't expand much during baking, and will still look moist even when they're finished cooking.)

The last cookies I made were cranberry pecan cookies which I found in the Taste of Home Quick Cooking 2010 cook book.
1 tube (16-1/2 ounces) refrigerated sugar cookie dough, softened
1 cup chopped pecans
2/3 cup vanilla or white chips
2/3 cup dried cranberries
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl, combine the cookie dough, pecans, chips, cranberries and vanilla. Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto ungreased baking sheets.
Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool for 2 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Store in an airtight container. Yield: about 3-1/2 dozen.

I hope to share more of our Christmas traditions soon... hope the Christmas season has already been a sweet time for each of you and your families.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

three months old!

We're enjoying so many new and sweet moments with Moriah these days as she grows and changes right before our eyes...

~she's becoming quite "talkative" as she squeals and coos throughout the day, when we get close and talk with her, she only gets more excited and chatters away! Matt knows she'll probably be like mom and chatter for many days to come :)

~as she gets excited to see us or over a toy dangling down, she kicks her legs as fast as you can imagine and baby would be able to! she really gets them going and even looks like she's doing the bicycle exercise every now and then

~she wakes up so happy with lots of smiles and giggles, always makes me a happy mama right away as we start the day

~she's sleeping through the night consistently now, sometimes only waking up to get her pacifier back once... otherwise our routine is off to bed around 8:45pm or so and awake at 6:00am for our first feeding of the day

~she's getting a good grip on most anything that comes in contact with little hands, the rattles are becoming the perfect sort of fun for our little one!

~she's so curious as she looks around (holding her head up with lots of confidence!) to see everything within sight of her bright eyes, there's lots she's hate to miss it seems like!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

our little church

We've been attending and serving at Turner's Station Baptist Church in Turner's Station, Kentucky for over a year now! Time has flown, our little world has changed in many ways, but oh these people have been such a blessing in the midst of it all. Some sweet memories include...

*pot-lucks :) Matt didn't really know much about pot-lucks until he "became Baptist", now he thinks they're one of his favorite things... especially at Turner's Station where the food is REALLY good, home cooked, and usually from someone's garden crops - seriously it is, and that is a rare treat indeed

*old pictures... last year I asked one of the ladies to bring some pictures from the church's history to share with us, how amazing! the church was built in 1919 and has been full at some times since then, now it's much much smaller than it was when these members were younger and raising their own families, but they memories they share are priceless and unique

*a surprise baby shower... they coordinated in secret and opened the partitions one Sunday after service (the day before Moriah was born in fact) to reveal a baby shower they'd planned for us, their generosity was humbling and their thoughtfulness was a blessing

*our country drives each Sunday... we see great things that just aren't found in our heart of Louisville neighborhood, deer (including a fawn once), cows of all kinds (even my favorite black and white dairy cows!), horses, tobacco hanging to dry in barns (that's fascinating for me), a blind beagle who lays near the church and lounges in the sun, old cemeteries which enchant me for some reason, and wonderful farm houses, a stream, wonderful wildflowers in the summer, and changing leaves in the fall... I really look forward to showing Moriah such great wonders when she's old enough to realize all the beauty we drive though

*great faith... Matt and I have often said that we've never met more Godly saints in our walks with the Lord than we have at Turner's Station, the simple and profound faith of each person there is astonishing... when one sweet lady was diagnosed with breast cancer last year she replied "God knows what He's doing... why not me!" she was serious, and really that faithful day in and day out, she's currently in remission (praise God!) after doctor's said on many occasions that they'd never had a better patient which she always turned to glorify God as she shared of His sustaining grace at work within her life

*grandparents for Moriah here in Kentucky! each week they ooh and ahh over our little one and pass her around to many loving and always open arms, she has grandparents here too :) they are all very sweet to cherish her as much as they do, and even our tobacco farming friend (who reminds me a lot of Matthew Cuthbert from Anne of Green Gables movies) will hold her throughout Sunday school and do all he can to see her smile!

*generosity... there's a different way of life in the country which often includes sharing in times of plenty, we've been the joyful recipients of farm fresh vegetables in the summer (at one time I had more than 5 batches of zucchini bread and muffins from a surplus of zucchinis we were given), a wonderful fruit basket last Christmas, baby clothes and most recently a pumpkin... I hope we can give to them in our own way that can also bless their hearts

*a pastor's appreciation dinner... we attended a meal provided by Women on Mission at a nearby town's church for all Henry County Baptist pastors, what an example of kindness and service to the body! one woman prepared the meal for 35 of us to enjoy, and said that she was used to cooking like that for tobacco hands as a younger lady... I couldn't imagine preparing that quantity and quality of food ever! they allowed us to enjoy visiting with one another as we ate, and they even held Moriah and shared her with many open arms (all of which were strangers to us, but fellow sisters in the Lord who loved our little one very well that evening!)

We have been so thankful for this experience during this season of life and pray that the Lord will give us many more days with these sweet people. You can always keep us in your prayers, as Matt prepares sermons and teaches Sunday School while working at the bank full time and taking Seminary classes as well. We desire to be faithful to this call and opportunity the Lord has given us now.

I really wish I had some pictures to share, but we don't have any... it's a must that we take some soon!

Monday, October 11, 2010

meal planning... what's working for me

So with the arrival of baby Moriah and my return to work, I knew I needed to brain storm a more efficient way of meal planning. I think I mentioned previously, that my habit before included flipping through my little notebook of favorite dinners, digging out recipe cards, looking through new magazine and e-mail recipes, and finally coming up with my list of dinners for the week. Then I complied all of that info into a grocery list. So I was meal planning... I could NEVER go to the store without a real list and a plan, I admire those of you who can... I would end up at home with nothing I'd need for a complete meal but that's just me! So anyway, while this "system" was fun for me, it was really time consuming and I wanted to make a change.

I found some meal planning templates on another blog months ago and had them handy. The one I liked best included dinner plans for each day of the week with room for the main dish and three sides (although we never have quite that many). Also each page includes the Grocery List which accompanies those particular meals, all seven days of the week are on one page as well making it easy to review at a glance. So I embarked on my last big maternity leave project and found four week's worth of fall and winter recipes for us to enjoy. I sort of grouped them by days: Mon- chicken, Tues- breakfast for dinner, Wed- meatless, Thur-quick dinner, Fri- dinner out, Sat- Crock-Pot, and Sun- free for a new recipe. This grouping helped my brainstorming as I came up with meals we'd enjoy. The Friday night dinner out usually includes one of our favorite fast and less expensive places like: Qdoba (we have great coupons we bought from friends fundraising for a missions trip), Lenny's Subs, or Chick-Fil-A.

So now on a weekly basis all I need to do is consult my master list... recopy the grocery list onto my note paper, add any other staple foods (lunch items, breakfast foods), pantry foods, or toiletries and head out to the store - so much faster for me! I also experimented this week and shopped on Saturday morning EARLY, after Moriah had her first nursing of the day and had gone back to sleep while Matt was home getting ready for work. I really enjoyed it, felt productive and think I might make it a new habit - we'll see.

So here are our weekly plans in case you're curious or need some new inspiration for your own dinners... let me know if there are any recipes you'd be more curious about. I can assure you, they're all FAST and SIMPLE which was crucial for me these days!

feta chicken, rice and a vegetable (recently it was squash from the CSA)
blueberry pancakes, bacon and eggs
cheese and ham souffle, muffins and fruit
nachos with chicken and avocados, beans and rice
French dip sandwiches, a vegetable

lemon-onion chicken, bed of spinach, cheddar biscuits
*** an example of POOR planning, it took way too long and will be soon replaced on our rotation!
waffles, eggs, yogurt, and fruit
grilled cheese sandwiches and salad
pecan salmon, rice, a vegetable (also recently modified... salmon was expensive so I had some cod fillets instead)
cheesy potato soup, rolls, salad

pesto chicken pizza, side?
egg strata, muffins
sweet potatoes, berry and feta salad
spaghetti, garlic bread and green beans
chicken tortilla soup, cheese quesadillas, cornbread, rice

hawaiian chicken, rice, vegetable
pumpkin pancakes, bacon, eggs
spinach and swiss quiche, muffins, fruit
ham and cheese crescent roll-ups, vegetable
chili, cornbread

Saturday, October 9, 2010

funny 4 year olds...

This week I made the switch from teaching a 3 year old pre-school class to teaching a 4 year old pre-school class. I quickly realized that there is A LOT of growing up that happens in that 3rd year of life, as the 4 year olds are SO much more "grown up" than the little 3 year olds. So, needless to say, I personally enjoy the older ones more :) My days are now full of more "real teaching" with specific plans that can be successfully carried out and include art time, pre-reading activities, number activities, journal writing, free play (that's relatively independent and peaceful), calendar time, etc. My days are also absent of diaper and pull up changing as all the 4 year olds are potty trained, which is a wonderful skill that I've become quite thankful for already! I've also found that the conversations I over hear among my little ones is much more entertaining:

me: "Do you want to know something funny Miss I?"
Miss I: "What, Ms. Laura?"
me: "I was eating at your papa's Mexican restaurant the night before Moriah was born. I ate a lot that night, I was really hungry!"
Miss I: "That's not funny" (her reply was accompanied by a very straight and unamused face!)

among a few little girls, Miss I from above was part of this group:
"My parents say I'm a big girl"
"My papa says I'm the biggest girl"
"My mom and dad say I'm the cutest girl in the whole wide world!"
I never realized the implications of such comments... they all took them to be very literal and were unsure about how each could be true :)

I LOVE the 4 year olds, and look forward to many more days of enjoying their company. The classroom is becoming more organized (I actually miss being able to go in and set it up in my own way before a school year actually starts!), and more of "my own". Oh yes, another great thing - I get to cook with them every Friday... I think this is what Kindergarten used to be like, when it was fun!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

in case you didn't know...

Moriah is already 2 months old! I'll join the crowd of people saying "time flies"... "I don't know where the last two months have gone!", etc. :) She's such a great baby, and we enjoy new things about her every day it seems. Here's her 2 month old picture, taken right before church on a cool fall morning - the perfect reason to wear baby girl tights!

Blog topics to come...
our new weekly/monthly meal planning
a sweet dinner in Henry County with fellow pastors
friendships in the Lord
more "best of Louisville"

I'll get to those soon - I hope :)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

fun in Louisville

Recently I picked up one of Louisville's magazines called "Leo Weekly" which awards local businesses with the "Reader's Choice" awards each year for the best in various categories... I'll share a bit of it here, with my own reviews! One of the things I love about Matt is his willingness to explore with me, and venture into new things just to check them out. Growing up, my family often went out on the weekends to see new things, or revisit old favorites - we weren't really ever "home bodies" that I remember. Now I've become much more of a homebody at times, which is a good thing I think but even still getting out of the house is just what I need sometimes. I flipped through these lists and marked the things we'd already enjoyed, and also circled new places we haven't been... it'll provide a go to list for future fun!

We've enjoyed:
~the Speed Art Museum (#2 on Best Art Gallery, #1 on Best Museum)... it's FREE which is wonderful, not too big and not too small which provides just the right amount of art perusing for me and also showcases a variety of art from different times

~the Frazier International History Museum (#2 on Best Museum)... not free, but worth a trip at least once, we've visited with our families more times than I can count :) Matt's dad and brother especially enjoyed it as did my step-dad and step-brother, while it's called "international history" it mostly means international war and gun displays! I like the knight's armor that's on display and also the free re-enactments of various historical events that are available during the day

~the Kentucky Derby Festival (#1 on Best Annual Festival) which begins with the huge Thunder Over Louisville fireworks display! it's been such fun to go with friends and pack a little picnic meal to enjoy before the fireworks... we also checked out the Balloon Glow one year, and have visited the Chow Wagon (tons of food vendors all set up in one place)

~the St. James Court Art Show (#2 on Best Annual Festival) which is the BEST and BIGGEST art show I've ever been to... I think that's saying something since I was drug to my fair share of them in Kansas City growing up with my dad (the Westport Art Show, Brookside Art Show, Plaza Art Show, and even one in Colorado on vacation one year!) I didn't enjoy them at the time, but now Matt and I count them as one of our favorite things to do... funny how time changes you :) This art show is amazing to me because it showcases artists of various fame (the art is not all outrageously expensive!) - in fact last year we went with my dad who was in town (and agreed that it lived up to the hype I'd given it) and he bought us a photo which now hangs in our home (it's a lovely winter scene with various birds perched in snow covered trees). This year my mom, step-dad, and brother will be in town for the art show... it's this weekend if you didn't know and I'd highly encourage you to visit! Another great thing about the art show is the location, it's set up among blocks and blocks of Louisville's brick Victorian homes which are pieces of art themselves. So as you walk from tent to tent you are also among some of the most enchanting homes I've ever seen. I'd recommend parking at the Dupont Manual high school which had a reasonable rate (maybe $5) and wasn't too far from where the art begins! If you're looking for fun, check it out this weekend :)

to be continued...

I hope to add a picture in a little bit of my dear Moriah, who provides us with the MOST fun in all of Louisville, being a mom is such a sweet blessing every day!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

sweet times with my little one

You really don't have to read this if you're not interested, and I'd understand... I never really knew why mom's marveled at their little ones quite so much, and now I find myself doing exactly that. It's hard not to notice all the new and precious things my darling Moriah does, and then of course you want to talk about them all. I realize reading this list will not matter to most people, and that's fine... but to me she's such a delight so I'll share it anyway :)

These are some things that I especially love about my little one...
~the way she strokes the back of her hair with her tiny hands when she's sleepy
~how she clings to my shirts when she's nursing
~that she seems to smile most during or soon after she eats, I think I might do the same!
~how content she is during her bath times
~her bright eyes as they seem to examine the world around her, especially when we're outside
~the serious and thoughtful look she often has, I think she's learned from Matt already!
~her desperate look when the pacifier seems suctioned to the roof of her mouth (only for a brief moment) which causes her to look for a hero quickly who might help her
~how she loves to lay on our laps if we move our legs back and forth to help lull her to sleep sometimes
~the way she'll cuddle with me in our gliding rocker after she nurses
~watching her look at books when we read, of course I'm not sure how much she sees but she does look intently
~hearing so many different little sounds that all seem to convey something specific
~her determination as she holds her little head up and looks around for a few seconds before laying it back down

I know it might seem crazy, and that's okay, but all of these moments are so enchanting to me!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

a sweet birthday indeed

This has been a most excellent birthday... much more mellow than my "quarter of a century birthday" last year when my dear husband went to heroic lengths to throw me the only surprise party I've ever had (I'm not one for surprises too often, so he was brave as well!). He thought that being a "quarter of a century" called for grand celebrating, and so we did - friends from here, and friends from all over came including my kindred spirit who FLEW from Kansas City, and my excellent friend Darcie who drove all the way from Nashville; such fun memories. Back to this birthday... without wanting to sound (or to be) materialistic the gifts I've received today have been so perfect for me, and I'm dying to share my excitement:

from Matt:
a mother's bracelet with Moriah's name... I don't rotate my jewelry often unless it's a really special occasion and I don't typically wear a bracelet (my last daily bracelet was broken on some crazy day at school), so this will be my daily bracelet from the web-site
Here's a picture of the style I chose...

the book written by the Country Living magazine people called "Simple Country Wisdom: 501 Old Fashioned Ideas to Simplify Your Life"

I really love the Country Living magazine, and someday I might like to use more of their ideas in our home, for now I love collecting my ideas and stashing them away... this book is full of so many tips that are right up my alley, everything from de-cluttering your home, preparing a hospitable guest room, and even placing bird feeders in your yard strategically! wonderful, all wonderful :)

a keyboard, which we've been considering for awhile now, we found a great deal I think from Louisville's Doo Wop shop (what a clever name) - so it's set up, and I have my music from the Seminary Wives "Playing Hymns" class, now I just need to remember all I learned and start practicing again. When I took the class, I really enjoyed practicing on the keyboard I leant, it was a really relaxing hobby after work.

some candy... Matt never gives a gift without candy, so I have my fair share of m&m's and Reese's!

from my mom, Nancy:
we really enjoy giving gifts to one another that include lots of miscellaneous little "good things"... this time those included, Wallflower refills in a fresh cotton scent (think Spring!), a "L" charm for my charm bracelet (which I love adding to but don't wear nearly as often as I should because I'm a little self conscious of the clinging sounds it inevitably makes!), and a recipe box

the latest in Martha's encyclopedia series of sorts, "Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts"

I really look forward to learning all sorts of techniques for beautiful sewing that Martha shares including lovely embroidery... I'd like to embellish some little things for Moriah if I can learn how, and I wouldn't think of consulting any expert besides Martha These books also make great reference material, so someday I'll stop calling my mom multiple times daily to ask simple questions and start looking my answers up, for now I'm thankful that mom's patient and willing to answer her phone :)

a wonderful multi-purpose storage set from Rachel Ray that will let me carry foods to church events and keep them hot or cold... it's sort of like the Pyrex casserole dish storage sets that have a soft zip up case which carries your food, except this one also came with a deviled egg insert tray, and a veggie insert tray. So those things would travel well without a mess or you could take out both trays and use it for a casserole dish instead... amazing! I'm sure this will be used often in the Southern Baptist life we live, I'm already thinking of our little Turner's Station Thanksgiving pot luck! this was a great QVC find by my mom, the queen of QVC (I promise some of the best gifts she's ever given me have come from QVC, I used to make fun of it, but not any more!)

The BEST gift of all... celebrating the day with my sweet little girl Moriah! We've enjoyed lots of nice time together today, which I do cherish so much these days. We'll get to see Matt a bit earlier tonight as well, since the bank closes early today - an unexpected gift :) This weekend we have plans to celebrate at a little cafe we've noticed since moving here, but haven't ever tried... Cafe Classico near our apartment in the Clifton neighborhood (have any of our Louisville friends been there?), then we'll be off to dessert at the Sweet Surrender for something delicious I know!!!

Monday, September 13, 2010

new mom questions... dinners and house cleaning

Okay friends in blog-world... this is the last week of my maternity leave with little Moriah. Beginning next Monday I'll return to my pre-school teaching job with the three year olds, while baby girl Moriah goes to the baby room across the hall. I'm SO thankful that the Lord provided this job when He did. It's as close to ideal as we can get right now since she'll be near me all day (I'm even able to nurse on my lunch break), I have much less stress and responsibility than I did as a public school teaching (meaning I come home with more patience and energy), and I'm still helping support us as Matt works through Seminary without any debt. *In other news, the Lord has been very good to us lately and we're almost debt-free entirely (then I'll consider donating to SBU someday when my college is actually paid for)!* So back to the point of this post... I know things will change when I return to work and that our evenings will feel full and time will fly. I'm trying to be as prepared as possible in order to make a more smooth transition for myself and our family. I've been mostly thinking about dinners and house cleaning. I'd love your tips on these two areas of life.

Have you ever made a meal plan of sorts? How does it work for you?
*Before now, I typically thought about tasty dinners made a list of five or six for the week, and then wrote my grocery list from it. Each evening we picked a meal off the dinner list, I had what I needed on hand, and we ate! That took more brain power and time than I feel like devoting these days so... I'm thinking of going through my commonly prepared recipes and sorting them into types of food and ease of preparation. Then I think I'll try to fill out a calendar with meals for an entire month, varying what we're having throughout the month and leaving room to try new recipes from time to time (I still love looking at cookbooks and magazines, so I can't give that up yet!). I hope that will allow me to plan grocery lists for each week, so that shopping on the weekend will be a no-brainer, and take much less planning time in advance. I'm also hoping to jot down five or so specific lunch ideas for Matt and I as we both brown bag it with our jobs. This would ensure that we always have something we could take for the day. I know this sort of planning would be insane to some people, but I thrive with structure and planning. For now, it seems like it might help and if it doesn't I'll stop, that simple! Let me know if any of you have tips that have been helpful for your families.

If you lived in a relatively small space would you clean it all at once or divide the tasks? How do you divide them... do you have a job every day? When do you do your cleaning?
*I've been cleaning our apartment well on the weekends... usually Saturday morning while Matt works at the bank or Sunday afternoons. It really doesn't take me long to do the things that seem most important to me, and I just do it all at once even though it can take me awhile to get motivated. These cleaning days have entailed: kitchen cleaning (refrigerator clean out of leftovers, counters, floor, etc.), bathroom cleaning (shower, sink, mirrors, toilet, floor), house cleaning (dust bedroom, vacuum everywhere). As I notice other "deeper cleaning" tasks I add them to the list. So it works well, but takes a chunk of time. I anticipate wanting to enjoy my baby girl as much as I can on the weekends and would love to have my cleaning done at other times... I also know I'll be tired in the evenings and they'll be full too. I'm not sure what might work best. I've also considered joining the GirlTalk blog ladies (C.J. Mahaney's daughters and wife) as they practice a 5am club, though I know sleep is important too. Again, I'd love your thoughts!

As a disclaimer, for those of you who know me well... I often set myself up with ambitious plans that just aren't realistic. I know that about myself, and I really don't want to do that again. I'm just wanting to try new things that might be helpful. Really don't worry about me - I'm offering myself much grace (Matt does too, always!) and flexibility as I try to balance these things!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

some super easy recipes

Here are a couple of delicious recipes we've enjoyed lately... in fact, both of them were discovered as we enjoyed meals which were delivered to us by church friends soon after Moriah's arrival! If they're new to me and easy enough for me to have prepared as new mom learning to balance life with a little one, they must be winners :) I wish I had pictures to offer of them, but you'll just have to trust me sight unseen.

Feta Chicken

4 chicken breasts, thawed
1 package feta cheese
garlic powder
salt & pepper

Cut chicken breasts in half to make a pocket that can be stuffed (think pita bread), and place in baking dish.
Mix about 1 TBSP oregano into feta. You might like more or less, but you want to have plenty.
Stuff each chicken pocket with feta.
Sprinkle any remaining feta on top of chicken breasts.
Add garlic powder and salt and pepper to the tops of each piece of chicken.
Bake at 350 degrees, for about 20-30 minutes until chicken is cooked thoroughly.
*tastes great with rice

Cranberry Chicken

4 chicken breasts (or chicken tenderloin pieces)
1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
8 oz French dressing
1 package onion soup mix

Mix cranberry sauce, dressing, and soup mix to prepare sauce.
Place chicken into baking pan and top with sauce.
Bake at 350 degrees, for 1 hour.
Serve with rice.
*I tried to make a quicker version tonight since I had tenderloin pieces and thought they'd cook faster... I wouldn't recommend it as the sauce didn't caramelize quite as much as it had when the meal was delivered to us... the more well cooked sauce tasted even better!

As a side note, it was SUCH a blessing to have meals delivered to us for a couple of weeks after our family left and we were officially "on our own" with Moriah. If you're a soon to be mom, ask friends for meals if they offer to help and let them serve you that way! If you know a soon to be new mom, offer to bring a meal - it will help much more than you probably realize :)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

good things for baby

I had a friend ask for a list of things that I found especially helpful for our little girl... I just sent this list to her this morning. I'm sure other moms who have months and years of experience would have lots of good additions too (leave me a comment!) I know every baby and every family are different so these things might not be as helpful to you as they have been to us. Maybe it will be helpful to some of you as you prepare for a baby to come... (it's a pretty candid list, so don't read if you don't want to!)

so when I first started nursing (during the first week) and things were sore a lactation consultant at the hospital recommended that I buy "polysporin" ointment and use it after each nursing to help me heal... it was great and helped a lot! I also used the samples from the hospital of Medela's lanolin cream (it was some "modified lanolin" I think)... I really liked it because it wasn't quite as thick and goopey as some of the other creams - they also gave me some Medela gel pads at the hospital that were really helpful, you could keep them cool in the refrigerator and put them on after each nursing to be soothing, they were sort of sticky so they stayed in place and could be reused for up to 24 hours I think, I saw them at Babies R Us

once we were home and I was walking in to the living room to nurse her at night, I didn't want to turn on all the lights but I also didn't want to trip, so we bought lots of little night lights to help me see!

nursing in our glider has been so comfortable for me, I'd highly recommend some sort of rocking chair if it's at all in your budget (I was thrilled to find mine at the consignment sale) because you'll be sitting there a lot!

Nursing pads that go in your nursing bra are essential in case of leaks... I guess some people never do, but I have - maybe just have some in case you need them and then you could always buy more... so far I like the Avent brand of disposable ones best

I also bought a regular blue reusable ice pack to sit on during the first week or so when we were home, it was really helpful for the overall sore-ness

Moriah LOVES her bouncy seat! I know some people like swings too, but for a small space her bouncy seat is great and easy to move into whatever room we need her to be in... it often helps her fall asleep if she's fussy and not wanting to sleep, it also has been helpful for me to use right outside the bathroom door in the morning while I take a shower, so I can still see her, but she's safely strapped in!

she also really loves to be swaddled, so the SwaddleMe blankets with velcro to help them stay on have also been great

we started giving Moriah a pacifier a bit earlier than some books recommended, but I figured we can't do everything "by the book" and she's really been happy to have one... it seems to sooth her and help her calm down to get ready to sleep

a small breast pump was really good in the early days when I was "engorged" as the milk first came in... mostly that just means you're REALLY swollen and it's not too comfortable, so if you can pump sometimes it helps you feel relief and it helps get things ready for the baby to nurse

the gowns that you see for babies have also been a night time favorite of ours... it makes things much easier for me as I change diapers in the middle of the night, and also lets little Moriah curl her legs up, which she's always liked to do... sleepers with legs made her really mad because she couldn't get her legs curled :)

Hopefully this is a little helpful, it's so exciting to have so many friends who will have little ones soon!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

recent reading

By recent I mean since summer started in June... this is an overdue post :) So far I've read two books that were in my original stack, and I added a third that wasn't in the stack but I wanted to read (can't pass up good deals at Half Price Books!). Here are the short reviews.

First I read "Living Faith: Willing to be Stirred as a Pot of Paint" by Dr. Helen Roseveare. If you don't recognize the author, I'd encourage you to find out about her. I first heard of Helen Roseveare while reading "Faithful Women and their Extraordinary God" by Noel Piper. Helen was the contemporary example of great faith as she served as a medical doctor - missionary in Africa for most of her life. Next I was thrilled to hear her speak at a Desiring God conference Matt and I attended when we were engaged a few years ago. She is an amazing woman of deep love for the Lord. She has always been highly encouraging to read (she also wrote "Living Sacrifice") as she is very sincere and honest, while she also sets a great example of loving and serving God. This book was filled with testimony after testimony of the Lord's work and goodness to her throughout various circumstances. The testimonies alone would be encouraging enough, but her added insights make the book all the more valuable and challenging.

Next I read "Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl" by N.D. Wilson. This was not a book I'd normally read probably. The author writes with a different style that is a bit quirky at times and could even be called scattered :) What I really liked about this book was the way he writes about very important things with a new perspective. He also makes intense and hard topics fairly simple, in a good way. N.D. Wilson explores many aspects of faith throughout this book in an non-traditional way. I'd encourage you to read it, even if it seems to start off a little different than you expected. Thanks to my dear KS, Hannah for the recommendation!

Today I finished reading "First Time Mom" by Dr. Kevin Leman. This book is written directly to first time moms as they embark on uncharted territory in their new role. He writes a lot about birth order throughout the book, as it is obvious we are now raising a "first born" child, and all she entails :) This is a very practical book with helpful insights. I found many of his thoughts to be wise although I probably don't agree with 100% of them. There were however many "gems" throughout the book that made it a good read.

Bit by bit, I've also been reading some of Jerry Bridges' book "Holiness Day by Day"A as recommended by Kara. It's been very helpful to remind me again and again, that the Gospel is transforming us as believers daily. It is very relevant and necessary that we are constantly reminded of the grace God has lavished upon us, and this book certainly does remind me.

Now I'm moving on to John Piper's book about Ruth, "A Sweet and Bitter Providence".

I hope you're enjoying some good reads too... unless you're a teacher who just started school, and I totally understand that there's not too much "free time" to read in your days now!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

baby days

My days are full of many new joys, here's a run down of just a few...

~ Moriah notices her hands and plays with them a lot, it's sweet to watch her stretch out her little fingers, grab my finger tightly, let go, and do it again
~ she stretches her neck out and lifts her head a little when I hold her upright, unfortunately she can't quite master laying it back down gently so it bumps into me instead - I've stopped wearing necklaces since I worry it will poke her little face
~ baby gowns are our new favorite for night time, Moriah curls her legs up and cross them at her ankles which is easy and comfortable in a gown - not so much in a sleeper
~ Moriah makes a very serious "thinking face" as Matt and I call it, I'm sure it comes from her dear dad :)
~ we just finished Moriah's first growth spurt - or so it seems - she ate every 2 hours for about 3 days, with great fervor... I think her little arms seem a bit more plump (but that's all relative as she is a tiny baby, don't let the chubby cheeks fool you)
~ now we're back to our "routine" eating every 3 hours or so in the daytime, and sometimes waiting to eat every 4-5 hours at night!
~ hiccups really upset her these days, so we've started using Gripe Water when they're at the worst and it really works! this morning she'd been unable to get back to sleep because the strong hiccups lasted 30 minutes... I asked Grandma Nancy to bring Gripe Water to us - as soon as little Moriah saw that the hiccups stopped! she really doesn't like the Gripe Water and usually puckers her lips then spits it out, this morning it seemed like she almost made the hiccups stop to avoid the yucky taste (I'm sure that's not really it, but the coincidence was too funny)
~ bath time is a favorite of little Moriah, she never makes a peep and just looks at us while we wash her little body
~ there are lots of little baby body parts that are easy to overlook... I noticed lots of fuzz between her tiny toes which Grandma helped me clean with a q-tip, now I know to look there when we take a bath :)

Monday, August 9, 2010

a baby story

Well, my last post started out to be Moriah's birth story... but then went in a different direction, so I'll try again now.

On Sunday evening I was "nesting" for sure! Matt and I conned our good friends, Andrew and Christian, into helping us rearrange our storage unit. Our storage unit houses all of my teacher things, and since I've been teaching pre-school we make frequent trips to find things that I "need" for school! It was a very disorganized space and tubs were even caving in... so I just really wanted to nicely organize it. Christian's a teacher too, so she understands :) After we went out for Mexican food (it was the first time I ate the entire dinner portion, even the beans and rice) with the Walker's we rearranged the storage unit in less than an hour... amazing! We came home and rested for about an hour before getting ready to go to bed. I told Matt I thought I was feeling a little different, but thought it was only the same Braxton Hicks contractions I'd been having. He told me that maybe we'd have a baby by Friday... I told him I thought it might be sooner.

I slept on Sunday evening from about 9pm to 11pm when I woke up and couldn't ignore the contractions any more. I started timing them and realized they were about 5 minutes apart, but not very strong at all yet. I honestly thought they'd probably stop so I reviewed our Bradley book and decided to take a shower, eat a snack, and do some little projects to distract myself. I did use the restroom and realized I was bleeding a bit. I called our doula (who we'd just met with for the final time earlier in the afternoon) to let her know what was going on. She told me to keep her up to date. I waited to wake Matt up until 1am, and I just didn't think I could wait any longer... really I just wanted his company more than anything as the contractions still weren't unbearable at all by that point. Matt was comforting to me and we continued timing the contractions. They stayed about 5 minutes apart, but did get stronger over time. We called our doula again around 5am to tell her what was going on. She told us she'd be on her way soon. She arrived at our apartment close to 6am and was encouraging as she told me that it was the real thing and probably wouldn't stop after having been so consistent for the last few hours. We continued laboring at home until about 8am when I asked if we could go to the hospital soon. I was dreading a car ride with contractions and knew that the longer we waited the harder the car ride would probably be. By the time we got everything situated and loaded up we arrived at the hospital around 8:45am I think.

When we went into the Labor and Delivery Triage they checked me and told me I was dilated to 6 cm. Since I was far enough along, I was admitted into Labor and Delivery right away. I continued to have contractions and progressed to 8cm around noon I think. My water was still in tact. The nurse told me to roll onto my side and "rest" for awhile because I was stuck at 8cm and not making too much progress over time. Soon after I rolled over on my side I felt baby Moriah give a strong kick and felt something like a balloon popping in my stomach! It was the craziest feeling ever :) Needless to say, my water had finally broken. While that was "progress" I had no idea how much the pain would increase. Moriah's head was turned in such a way that most of my pressure with each contraction was felt in my back. I was able to find comfortable laboring positions, but after my water broke nothing seemed to provide much relief. I labored this way for what felt like a long time, I think about an hour. I was feeling more and more exhausted and overwhelmed by the pain. I really didn't think I could deliver a baby! After talking with our doula and Matt and the nurse, I asked seriously for some medicine. I was able to have 30 minutes of medicine in my IV ("to take the edge off" as the nurse said) which they'd hooked up to also provide fluids to help labor continue progressing. So for those 30 minutes I was able to rest a bit and felt pretty spacey. The medicine wore off totally and I was back to feeling overwhelmed by the pain. I knew that I would need to push eventually but didn't really feel the "uncontrollable urge" I'd heard so many women talk about. Somehow, my body started pushing anyway. Just when I thought the nurse left to get approval for 30 more minutes of medicine she arrived back with my doctor and a team of nurses ready to deliver our baby! Not what I was expecting. I tried pushing in every which way I could attempt for probably 30-45 minutes feeling really uncertain of my ability to have a baby. I honestly thought I might stay pregnant forever! Finally Matt told me he could see her head as I pushed... that was the encouragement I needed to know that I was almost done and about to meet my baby. At 2:50pm Moriah arrived! There was meconium (sp?) in the water when it broke so they quickly suctioned her mouth and reassured us that all was well. We heard her cry, Matt cut the cord, and delivered the placenta as they rubbed her off. Then we were left alone for our "golden hour" according to the hospital's policy to encourage bonding and skin-to-skin contact right away. Moriah started nursing at that point too.

So while it wasn't totally natural all but 30 minutes of the 14 or so hours were! I quickly told Matt that I'm not sure I could do that again :) I know there were many great things about delivering naturally, but it was honestly a lot harder than I ever could have anticipated. I've been told that by the time we're ready for another baby I will have forgotten some of the less comfortable details... maybe so, but for now they're still pretty fresh! When we left the hospital I told Matt I felt like I was leaving with the grand prize of our little baby, and the moms coming in really didn't know what they were getting into :) This has been very long already, so I think I'll stop sharing and go hold my sleeping beauty. I'll update with more about us later!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

a precious baby to love

Well, our little baby Moriah has arrived! She was born last Monday, August 2 at 2:50 in the afternoon. She weighed 7 pounds, 1 ounce and was 19 inches long at birth. Despite her chubby cheeks like her dad (as a baby) she's really a tiny, tiny little girl. When we came home from the hospital Wednesday she'd lost down to 6 pounds, 10 ounces. I'll be excited to find out Monday at her check-up how her weight gain is going and where she falls in the percentiles... to me she's a little one! She has more hair than I expected (only because I didn't have much as a baby) and it's dark too. I think it looks a little auburn in the sunlight sometimes, but I may just be wishful :) It also doesn't help that when we gave her her first sponge bath I used as much soap on her hair as I could've on her whole little body... it came out faster than I expected! So today, before Grandma Nancy arrives, we'll have another bath and be sure to get all the baby soap out :) She did enjoy her first bath as Matt held her and we washed one little part at a time, attempting to keep her wrapped up otherwise for comfort and warmth. Being wrapped up and swaddled is her favorite way to be! I'm hoping to practice using my Moby Wrap soon because I think she'll really enjoy it. The doctor told us an evening walk would be okay if the temperature was below 90 degrees... those days have been few and far between so we haven't really ventured out yet (except a quick trip to Target for some essentials). When we brought her home Wednesday it was the warmest day of the summer... 100+ degrees! (crazy to say the least).

She's been such a sweet baby who has learned to nurse well (we had good helpers in the hospital) when she can be roused from sleep by mom. She sleeps so soundly and even enjoys being awake for little bits of time too. Her face can look very serious (not mad like my mom thought), as she seems to furrow her brow and concentrate... it won't surprise you that she probably gets that from dad! :) We've enjoyed reading little board books together, singing hymns (Jill Phillips is our favorite while nursing), and listening to lots of good music (Mozart Wombsong free download, a Celtic Lullaby CD which was a gift, etc.). Dressing up in cute, cute little girl clothes is also a favorite activity of mom's :) I can't resist a little bow with just about every outfit, although she often makes her serious face and looks at me like it's really not necessary! We're excited to have some baby pictures taken this week with a coupon I won as a door-prize from a Seminary Wives luncheon. I look forward to a new family picture.

Matt has been a wonderful father already, as I knew he would be. He's taken lots of chances to talk with her and tell her all about the world. He's told her about friends near and far we're excited for her to meet. He's explained many things of the Lord as he studies and reads his Christianity Today magazine. He even flipped through the pages and showed her every black and white picture he could find, while explaining it's significance! So sweet to watch :) He loves her dearly and told me the other day that it just brings him so much joy to see her. He hurried to get me last night when he went to wake her up to eat and found her sleeping like this:

He thought her little folded hands were the sweetest thing he'd seen! He's been a very willing helper to me, getting things I need when my hands are full or I'm moving a little too slowly. He's excited to practice his diaper changing skills too!

We've enjoyed introducing her to many friends and visitors so far, but look forward to meeting more in the future. Today my mom will arrive for her week long visit which we're all really looking forward to! I'll have to post more of a "birth story" later... let me just give you a teaser and say natural birth is very, very hard work to say the least :) I had no idea what I was getting into... Grace you are an amazing woman!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

37 1/2 weeks

Here I am today... 37 1/2 weeks into our little baby girl's life and just waiting to meet her for real :) The Braxton-Hicks contractions seem to happen so often, I'm just ready for the labor contractions that will lead to a baby! So our bags are packed, snacks for early labor (popsicles, honey sticks, and Gatorade - maybe even chocolate banana popsicles) and the hospital stay (orange juice for after labor, things for Matt to munch on) are purchased and we're waiting, waiting, waiting.

After I posted this originally, Matt and I started our weekend cleaning... I think I'd call it "nesting" as much of what we did is out of the ordinary for our cleaning routine, like:
~deodorizing the couches and rugs with baking soda cleaner
~scrubbing the refrigerator drawer and shelves
~washing the kitchen floor with a scrubbing sponge and Clorox
~using a Magic Eraser almost all the way in the bathroom and kitchen and also to scrub scuff marks off the walls and doors
I'd like to think that this too is a sign of some sort of progress towards Moriah's arrival, but I know I need to stop analyzing so much! At the very least, I'm hopeful that things will stay fairly clean between now and whenever she makes her appearance so our visitors won't visit a terribly messy house.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I could've been a great many things...

Well if you don't recognize that quote on your own, I'll help... it's from Little Women, and Jo is the one who says it. There are lots of moments in my life when I feel like it's a fitting response to my thoughts or situation. So it's been a blog in the works for awhile... at least in my mind! Maybe the Lord will use these very different interests someday in different seasons as He desires. Maybe not, it's certainly up to Him and in His wisdom I know I'll never be "missing out" if some are unfulfilled in an earthly sense. Really I don't even know that I want each one to be fulfilled, rather I think the curious side of me just likes to wonder sometimes what it might be like to try it out. I guess I'm more of a "Renaissance woman" than I knew - I think I could attribute that to my dad, if you know him you'll understand :)

So the list goes like this...
~a teacher, and of course, I was and am still teaching in different settings... I sometimes wonder if it would be fun to teach a college class of teachers, or to teach older students (3rd grade was my max), or to teach a class of gifted children
~a pastor's wife... which I'm learning to be a little at a time in our tiny church which is a different sort of situation of course, I'm also thankful for the Godly examples of pastor's wives I've seen for my entire Christian life... Julie, Grace, Dollie, Holley, Rebekah, Deanna, Melissa, Megan, and many more I'm sure
~a librarian, mainly a children's librarian... or to work at a children's bookstore, a quaint one where I could know my customers and make personalized recommendations - how fun!
~a simple server at a bakery or charming cafe... this might be more glamorous in my mind that it would be in day to day life, but I love cooking and being around great foods (mostly sweets) and I don't think I have the skills or desire to be THE baker - but I could work for one and enjoy watching :)
~the director of a daycare/preschool... making the behind the scenes decisions that matter in the everyday would be very fascinating for me
~a historian or museum curator... only if I was working with something that is particularly fascinating to me, EX: Egypt
~a prosecutor... this really was shifted to the other list - things I could NOT be - after my jury duty experience, but it still tempts me to think about it sometimes
~an activities director in a nursing home... I really enjoyed time in nursing homes as a middle schooler/early high schooler, so I volunteered there a lot, when my grandma was in a nursing home for a few weeks before she died I was reminded again that many people lead lonely days and would love to have the company and encouragement of a life shared with others, it would be very rewarding I think and sad at times too
~an educational researcher... again only if I was interested in the topic of research, lots of research is done on things that seem a little trivial to be honest! I'd have ideas for research on all sorts of things... lately, the effectiveness of busing students and also the real long-term impact of charter school education would excite my thoughts
~a curriculum writer... maybe in a church setting for children, maybe for homeschooling, maybe in public schools - I don't really know - just a passing thought

Well I think that's enough of a glimpse into my scattered thoughts... you can analyze that list and figure out what that means about my personality... let me know when you do, because I'm not too sure!

For now I'm so thankful that the Lord has chosen in His wisdom and perfect timing to add to the list "a mom"... we're just counting down for little Moriah's arrival... as I write this I'm at 36 1/2 weeks, hoping to hear about more of my body's progress at our Wednesday's appointment!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

36 weeks... wow!

Well, it's really late for me but we enjoyed an evening with friends who've come to Louisville from our Kansas City world... what a great and happy mix! So I'm awake now feeling lots of little hiccups from our baby Moriah who's doing well according to my doctor, as I had a 36 week check-up today. While her check-up doesn't predict any sort of time line it was reassuring to know that my body is starting the progress that it will need to continue in order to deliver a healthy baby in the next few weeks, naturally we hope :) So here's a picture of me tonight... feeling pretty big, but you can be the judge of that I suppose!

Friday, July 2, 2010

a special person

When finishing up our 4th of July theme for the week at pre-school today we looked over some books we've read this week. I have a few patriotic children's books of various sorts, but most had too many words for three year old's to sit through so we looked at the pictures and discussed them instead. The White House was pictured in one book and trying to recall to their minds our discussion earlier this week I said, "Who is the special person who lives in this house? Remember, it's called the White House..." - lots of fairly uncertain stares met my gaze as I attempted to prompt and refresh their little memories. Then one little sweet girl's eyes lit up and she said "Jesus!" It was very sweet to hear that for her, Jesus is the first one who comes to mind when "a special person" is mentioned. I pray He will continue working in her heart and that her child-like faith will lead to salvation in His perfect timing.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

being a wife

As these thoughts rolled through my mind during this weekend, I decided I'd like to add them to my blog. Then I realized that for some, my pleasure in being a wife would be laughable or even absurd. If you feel that way there's no need to read on, it may really irritate you. I pray that's not the case and that most of you reading (who are my good friends in real life, I realize) will rejoice in the Lord's plan of marriage and His blessings in it according to His timing and desires for us.

So that's the preface I suppose...
Yesterday was a really "normal" Saturday, and today has been the same sort of normal Sunday. Throughout this weekend however, I've just been struck with delight as I've lived as Matt's wife. I really don't know why, but I'm especially thankful that the Lord is good to give us feelings which at times DO match the reality we read of in Scripture. Marriage is blessed according to the Lord's perfect plans and will for His people in their individual lives (i.e., not everyone should marry, I know). The world would tell us otherwise, and at times our feelings would cause us to believe these lies instead of the Lord's Truth.

So my "normal" day included dropping Matt off at work then making a trip to the Farmer's Market to buy a lovely new assortment of fresh flowers that I could use as centerpiece on our kitchen table. I ventured into the world of Whole Foods (I'd never been inside before) to buy some dill and whey to use in pickle making. I came home a cooked a lot... real dill pickles (with CSA pickling cucumbers), 3 batches of zucchini bread (with giant zucchinis given to us by a church member), and dessert (a Martha twist on Rice Krispie treats) to share with our friends who were visiting later in the evening. Then, I cleaned our house which had been neglected by a lack of motivation recently for thorough cleaning. I finished it all in time to pick Matt up from work (we're a one car family now), and then go on a lunch date with him thanks to our Groupon find! We came home and enjoyed watching the World Cup (but the US lost if you hadn't heard). We delivered a meal to our friends who are enjoying their newest family member, a tiny little girl! When we came home we ate a very simple dinner (cereal, zucchini bread, fruit salad, and leftover egg souffle). Then time with more friends who came for dessert and great conversations. Today has been more of "normal" life... cooking, doing dishes, doing laundry, etc. Nothing particularly spectacular about this weekend.

In spite of such mundane tasks as some might say (or as I might say even at times), the Lord has called me to these things. He gave me great joy in them this weekend. I am glad that Matt loves zucchini bread and that I could make a ton and freeze some so that he'll be delighted to enjoy it for days to come! I love that I could have a clean house for him when he came home from working so hard to provide for us and our growing family. I'm very thankful that we enjoy similar things (most of the time) and had a great time watching soccer and visiting with friends. He really is my best friend, and spending these sweet days together leaves me with gratefulness in my heart.

One more thing... he shared this with me after I picked him up from work:
A co-worker (who is a middle aged lady) was explaining why everyone is her family thinks that marriage is a mistake for everyone, and is horrible over-all.
Matt replied that he loves marriage, and is really glad to have a wife.
She told him that he's the only person she knows who feels that way and can be sincerely believed. She explained that Matt is genuinely happier than most people she knows, and that his pleasure in marriage is honest.

This is the Lord's work no doubt, and I pray He will always be glorified in our marriage... the world has no answer for His ways as they are "higher" than ours. Trust Him, He is so good.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

beet chocolate cake

I am an extremely messy cook... I'd really like to work on that. My husband, or my mom, could share a long list of kitchen mess horror stories they've witnessed or experienced during my cooking. It's really not good. As I cooked my very experimental beet chocolate cake this evening my kitchen was splattered in purple dye from counter tops and stove top to the floor! I'm pretty sure early pioneers could've and should've (maybe they really did) used beets to naturally dye their fabrics, I'm sure it would work! In the process I also drop so much, Grace I promise this is TRUE! I dropped my food processor bowl today and it cracked. Now I'm really hoping that Cuisinart makes it possible for me to order a replacement bowl only. We'll see. So not only are messes made under normal conditions when you drop things like spatulas with batter they of course splatter. Then I dropped my bundt pan in the process of flouring it... what does that mean, a cloud of flour! So if you came into my house mid-cooking project you would've found, purple beet juice everywhere (including all over me), flour sprinkled all over my black yoga pants, and counter tops covered in a combo of ingredients that may have been spilled during the process. I hope this doesn't discourage you from eating at our home again... things are always clean to start with and end with. The middle just gets messy! Just a confession I thought I'd share. Now I need to check this beet chocolate cake and see how it's doing. It had great potential I think. The following quality ingredients even Martha might endorse... 1) organic milk 2) organic eggs 3) farm fresh beets 4) Ghirardelli chocolate 5) enriched flour - I'm hopeful!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

3 year olds... BUSY!

So I've started my new job as a "teacher" of 3 year old children at a local daycare. Wow! Three year old little ones are very busy, thus I am not sitting too often and I'm getting plenty of time with sitting on the floor and squatting (various Bradley exercises that are unintentionally preparing me for labor in a few months)! If you have a three old please share any of their favorites with me, I feel like I'm still getting to know this age and will be for awhile I'm sure.
So far I've gathered this...
~free play is a lot of fun, for about 1 hour... then they're not quite sure what to do
~music really captivates them, Dr. Jean songs are perfect for this :) I'll be investing in more CD's I can burn from my collection as they are also quickly scratched
~these little ones already know A LOT (in comparison with my more recent experiences in much different areas)... many of them know most letters, all sing the alphabet song, they count very well to about 13 or so, etc.
~art activities are fun and their creativity often is displayed in less structure than I'd expect :) (EX: we make a fish with our foot print, and add cut out grass, rocks, and shells... some of us end up totally covering the fish we started with!)
~sand is more fun to fling or dump than it is to play with at the sand table in the place it should stay
~napping is good once they get to sleep!
~potty training is tricky and is not quite so "all or nothing" as I'd imagined... changing poopy Pull-Ups is also an interesting acrobatic feat for both the child and myself
~listening to new books is fun once we get to the carpet
~meal time is usually good until I insist on putting everything on their plates, even those things they don't really like - spills are also all to frequent :)
~being younger than the rest (only 2), speaking little English, and having a spunky spirit makes one little girl much more challenging than her friends!
~shoes and socks seem to be optional attire for many, they're always the first things to go in any difficult moments
~lining up is almost impossible, or so it seems thus far!
~sharing and taking turns are very new concepts and it's more common to scream when you don't get exactly what you wanted or expected... thus a new phrase in my lingo is "please use your words" or "let's talk to your friend about how you feel"
~being held seems to solve most problems these days, which is a very sweet difference and might be even better in about 2 months when this baby belly begins to shrink :)

I'd really love to hear from you all... let me know what insights you've gleaned from this fun age!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

CSA adventures

I think my blog is a good place to share some information about the CSA we joined this summer. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and allows members to buy shares of a farm's produce. So we're paying to pick up a box of farm fresh produce every week! The produce varies based upon each farm, the weather, etc. We chose Misty Meadows Farm to try because for the most reasonable price they offered a variety of produce that we were mostly familiar with, along with others that we realized would be new and were willing to try. Matt picked up our first box of delicious food tonight... this is what it looked like (minus the kale which I was cooking with at the time):

So this is what we received this week in our half share (a good size for two)...
kale (not pictured, cooked and ate already!)
swiss chard
head lettuce
red onions

I had fun via text conversation identifying the lettuces with Darcie, while also using my on-line resources, Joy of Cooking from Hannah, and Martha's Cooking School book.

If you're interested in learning more about joining a CSA this is a great resource. And the Local Harvest web-site was our starting point for us as we searched for a good fit.

I bought a lettuce knife at Victoria's recommendation to use in cutting my lettuce so that it doesn't brown. I also invested in a salad spinner to store it, and some green bags for my other fresh produce. Those are all additional "investments" but will get a lifetime of use I think!

So this was part of our first dinner to include some of our bounty...

Gretchen sent this recommendation to me for Greens and Beans via Facebook, and I can't tell you how seriously AMAZING it was! I've never eaten "greens" before and didn't know if I'd find them too appetizing... I was wrong... these were so good. *a side note: some of the schools I've worked in serve greens in the cafeteria for student lunches, did you know of diversity in cafeteria foods? pretty fun I think!* I may even buy more kale at the Farmer's Market just to have it again soon :) If I do buy more Darcie also recommended Lemon Kale Chips which sound interesting. I found a Kale-Potato Gratin recipe in the Joy of Cooking which also sounded good. Who knew that there could be so many new foods to try with thought given to one new-to-us ingredient!?

So our dinner tonight which came to me on a whim included: baked potatoes (with cottage cheese for me), asparagus, greens and beans, and cheddar garlic biscuits (not really healthy but a good addition). A really filling and tasty vegetarian meal that Matt also enjoyed a lot! Now I think I'll go enjoy some of our strawberries over cereal for my night time snack.

*one more thing... I found out about a free canning/preserving class being offered in connection with our local Farmer's Market - I'm so excited to go on June 12, we'll see whether or not I can get off to a slow start with canning this summer or if it will have to wait :)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

five years with Matt

Well in case you're confused, no Matt and I haven't been married for five year... about two and a half. So, why five years? Matt reminded me recently that we met each other for the first time five years ago this summer when we started working together at a church in a Kansas City suburb as Middle School interns. Thinking about that now all seems so funny, and if you know us each now we're about the farthest cry from middle school intern personalities, but the Lord had us there according to His good plans (maybe just so we could meet and then get married?!). :) So I thought I'd join Grace and compile a list of lots of fun memories over five years, which will also include reasons I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Matt! (it's quite a hodge-podge of reasons)

~he wrote letters to me even before we were ever dating, the girls in the dorm took it as a serious "sign"... I reassured them that he was just a friend!
~he told me of his desires to be celibate once, the same night I was more sure than ever that I really liked him and wished someday I could maybe just marry someone "like him" - since he had made such a declaration
~the first time we really spent together was at Atlanta Bread and then Borders... we still love Border's dates together... I get magazines, Matt gets magazines too or photography, architecture, or traveling books to browse
~he tolerated lots of interruptions during our evening phone calls while we were at different colleges, there were girls who just knocked during that hour because they knew who I would be talking to! dorm life was crazy sometimes
~he was very slow during our dating days and didn't ever overwhelm me, I think he knew, and I think the Lord showed him, that's what I needed most
~he's always been willing to share his ideas and thoughts with me, I don't always have a lot to contribute but I'm so glad to really KNOW him and listen to the way his mind works
~he really enjoys watching soccer, we spent a lot of time during the last World Cup summer following the games
~he's intense in the greatest way that I really need... he won't let you get by with an "easy answer" and in that way is such a solid man - that was my one word description for him five summers ago when we were eating our intern lunches one day - the more I've grown to know him the more I'd agree with that initial impression
~he's willing to learn and grow, and never shies away from challenging himself... this means that I love hearing all about his newest thoughts and latest favorites (authors, magazines, ideas, implications, etc.) - it also means I usually fall asleep with a lamp on as Matt reads himself to sleep long after I doze off :)
~he's willing to learn about me and grow together with me... I'm a quirky person marriage has taught me, and Matt has been very patient with every new discovery (EX: I drop most everything and have numerous spills throughout the day which he tolerates very well and with great grace!)
~he's passionate and creative, we compliment each other well I think... my mind is a pragmatic one, his thinks about the bigger picture in many ways (art, the nature of beauty, poetry, etc.)
~he likes to learn the names of flowers, trees, and birds and I love to share
~he's stopped to pick wildflowers for me by the side of the road on more than one occasion, like today on our way home from church in fact!
~he's encourages my femininity and enjoys it when I cook, plant flowers, make bouquets, wear jewelry, and paint my toenails... he often says he's a "fish in the desert" when I ask his opinion on these things
~he gladly serves me in many little ways that are a HUGE blessing, he's become our laundry man as he hauls our full laundry baskets up to the laundry room on campus and back again... he fills the ice cube trays every morning (because I spill a lot when I try to)... he often does our dishes after dinner
~he is a leader for our family who I will always gladly follow! I'm reminding him often that soon he'll have a little cheerleader who is glad to follow as well when baby Moriah is born, I know she'll love her dad and he'll continue to lead us all very well

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

if you're in the mood to read

This is my list of hopeful reads... during the upcoming weeks, summer evenings, and maternity leave later this fall. It's an ambitious list, but I'm really excited about each book for a different reason, so the motivation in certainly there - I just need to make the time to read them all! It's also an assorted list, some baby or parenting books, some food books, and some books that will be spiritually challenging or encouraging. I really LOVE libraries, so some are from the public library, some I've bought and have been stashing away, and others are from my husband's library (which I often forget all about). Let me know if you've read any that I should move to the top of the stack, for enjoyment first!

baby or parenting books...
The Christian Childbirth Handbook, Vanderlaan
The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems, Hogg
(a funny title I realize, but so far it's been a good book!)
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, La Leche League
Teach Them Diligently, Priolo (only the study guide available on amazon, sorry!)

food books...
All About Canning and Preserving, Joy of Cooking series
(an ambitious aspiration for some of our CSA produce we'll be getting in)
Sara Snow's Fresh Living, Snow (recommended by Victoria and her reading list!)
Real Food, Planck (another Victoria recommendation)

spiritually challenging or encouraging...
*re-reading a few really good ones
*Disciplines of a Godly Woman, Hughes
*Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God, Piper (an all time favorite!)
*The Great Divorce, Lewis
Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl, Wilson (recommended by my Kindred Spirit, Hannah)
Counterfeit Gods, Keller
Living Faith, Roseveare
A Sweet and Bitter Providence, Piper
Be Still My Soul, Elliot
The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Burroughs
Holiness Day by Day, Bridges (recommended by Kara at her blog)
The Mortification of Sin, Owen
Corrie Ten Boom biography

No you have no excuse not to find a good book and start reading! I think I could've been very happy as a librarian too... maybe someday :)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

health(ier) eating

Well there's always a lot to learn, and lately we've decided to become more informed about the foods we're eating. We really didn't realize all that we were embarking upon... and probably still don't as it's all very new to us and we're amateurs for sure! We've both been relatively healthy eaters over-all, I liked to cook full meals mostly homemade, we didn't eat boxed meals, we enjoy fruits and vegetables, we didn't eat too many sweets (well Matt didn't, I indulged more so), etc. If it was only that simple! We began to realize that the foods we were buying for economic benefits (they were cheap) were really packed full of additives, preservatives, etc. and that there were certainly better options.
Our baby steps towards healthier foods have included...
~ joining a CSA as explained via this web-site, our first produce should begin to arrive within the next couple of weeks! We've joined with this particular farm, Misty Meadows and really look forward to the new venture
~ evaluating our produce based upon the "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen" guides... knowing that some foods are more "worthwhile" to buy organically while others aren't as urgent - this also helps with our budget since last week I went over-board with our first attempt and spent more than we could frequently afford to buying organic produce while still not being able to eat the quantity we'd been used to
~ looking thoroughly at labels on breads to choose the healthiest option for us, still not doing sprouted grains, etc. (I don't know enough yet!), but a baby step to find something that avoids high fructose corn syrup, etc. while still being able to buy it which saves time
~ enjoying organic Greek yogurt as a parfait which is great for protein in pregnancy and better for us anyway :)

This week I was thankful to find a better balance for us as I went back to ALDI for basics that we're not doing organically (some of the produce, milk, eggs, cheese, plain oatmeal that we seem to devour) and then went to Kroger and found the organics we wanted while also making some generally healthier choices than ALDI allowed me in breads, spaghetti sauce, etc.

We hope to explore more as we invest more time and thought into learning about things like...
~ farm fresh eggs
~ local meats (maybe chicken?!)
~ making more breads in our bread maker, if time allows while working and soon adding a baby to our world!
~ soaking beans (should be easy I think, and better for you?!)
~ canning (so I can keep this wonderful produce we're getting all summer stored for the winter when we can't eat it all quickly enough)

Last Friday while on our Barnes & Noble date night I discovered a helpful magazine with great sounding recipes along these lines, and articles which spelled things out clearly while staying simple enough for me... I plan to look into it more too:
Clean Eating

We'll trust the Lord in this area of life as in all others, as He knows what we need, what He provides for us, and how we desire to serve Him as good stewards. So thankful to trust in Him with all things!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

the Lord's provision

"No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised." ~Romans 4:20

It's very true that the Lord is always at work, even when we're feeling very unsure about a future that we just can't see. He sees all things. He is not bound by time at all. Doesn't that just blow your mind!!! We can't even comprehend that reality, because we are slaves to time in so many ways. So in considering the future, we're often too filled with worry or anxiety as we just simply don't know. Yet again, I'm reassured that the Lord does know. He is not hindered as we are, He is all-knowing and all-powerful. So not only does he KNOW, he can make things happen as He designs them to. He is sovereign over it all, controlling all things by His goodness and grace. And we're undeserving, yet He chooses to let us know Him and His ways as He works.

So lately, Matt and I were praying and thinking about our plans for jobs in the upcoming months. Matt has been working as a part-time bank teller for over a year now and enjoys the bank he works for a lot. They've been really understanding and flexible with his class schedule at the seminary, which has been great. I have been teaching kindergarten this year as my second year in the Jefferson County Public Schools here. Teaching has always been the only thing I could imagine myself doing, but it hasn't been filled with easy days, and it also requires a lot of "take home" working... both real work and emotional exhaustion after difficult days. We knew that things needed to change in preparation for our little girl Moriah in August. We just weren't sure what the changes might be.

Matt found out about a full-time teller position at a branch he'd particularly enjoyed traveling to while a roaming teller. He applied for the position, interviewed (a lady retired after working 50 years for the bank to open up this opportunity), and soon after was hired! So we knew Matt would start working full time this summer, continuing into next school year and begin taking evening classes at the seminary. Not our original plan (although it only adds one semester to his time frame for completion - about 2 1/2 more years), but a plan that would provide for me to find a different job and take care of our new baby in a way that would fit us better. Matt's new bank income and preaching income will cover all of our current bills and expenses and also offer more affordable and better health insurance for him!

I started looking for jobs with many options in my mind... maybe nannying (and bringing our baby with me I'd hoped), maybe teaching more "part-time" in a different type of school (we have great private schools in Louisville), maybe tutoring, maybe baby-sitting the baby's of seminary friends, etc. We had lots of options it seemed like. While I tried pursuing them diligently nothing had quite materialized. I was too discouraged, just really unsure about which things would be best and how to "secure" something - the sooner the better I thought! Over Spring break a couple of weeks ago, I thought I'd look on Craig's List for job postings. Sure enough there were a lot! I called a daycare center which had a posting that was about a month old, not thinking much of it but deciding it could be worth exploring. Sure enough, they were still hiring and told me I could stop by to complete an application and meet the directors. So why wait! :) I went to the daycare center right away since it was my last day of Spring break. I completed their application while I was there, then met the directors who were very friendly. One even knew the principal I've been working for (a good connection to have)! I toured the center which was newly opened (in December) but filling up with children quickly. It was very clean, fresh, and nice. The teachers all seemed friendly and the children were all busy and well cared for. The rooms were big and well-stocked with supplies for lots of learning! I left encouraged and hopeful, but tried to be realistic knowing that it was out of my control. We prayed about the opportunity and waited a few days to hear from them. Praise the Lord they offered me a job, when they called! I'll begin the week after school gets out (no summer break this year) as a pre-school teacher in their most newly constructed classroom. I'll be working 8:30-5pm, full time hours to help provide financially for Matt's Seminary tuition (we're continuing on a debt free track here). Once our baby arrives in August, I'll take a 6 week maternity leave then return to work. Our baby will stay in the daycare's baby room which is only across the hall from me through a big glass window that I can peek in at any time! :) She'll also be given a half-price rate as the baby of an employee!

The Lord's blessings are truly abundant towards us in Christ alone. Then to add that He cares to continue providing for our earthly needs is so gracious and loving. We're thrilled with His most recent goodness. Please pray for us in this time...
~that I'll have energy all summer with pre-schoolers :)
~that we'll be wise is knowing how to pursue health insurance for myself and our baby
~that we'll have financial wisdom with these new incomes, knowing how to balance our expenses in new ways
~that I'll be ready to return to work after my maternity leave ends
~that Moriah will be well cared for, and that I'll adjust to someone else caring for her
~that our new school-year schedule will provide us with quality family time and enough study time for Matt as he works (his classes will be Tuesday and Thursday nights from 7-10pm)