2012

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Believe it or not, I have never once had a New Years Resolutions. All the ones I have ever thought of are way too hard and I instantly scrap them before they are a fully formed thought. My most popular ones that seem to pop into my mind every single year are things like “I will exercise every single day”…. uh, yeah, right. Or maybe the ever popular “I will be kind to everyone, always, in all situations.” How do you think I’m fairing on that one? One year I thought that maybe I should pledge to learn how to cook. I had tried to learn as a teenager but that got scrapped by my parents after I made tacos for dinner one night (My parents aren’t fans) and I never cooked dinner there again. I got overwhelmed just thinking about learning how to cook and decided against that idea as well.

My point is, no matter what I decide to do, I decide to do it with all of my strength or none at all. Maybe some of you have the type of personality where once you set your mind to something nobody and nothing can stop you, but I don’t. I think what generally happens for me is that I see a need, evaluate whether or not I can fill it and then sort of hesitantly put a toe in it.

The first year I started cooking (The first year Matt and I were married) I made the same thing for dinner every single night. Boneless skinless chicken breast with some sort of McCormick’s flavor packet on it, salad and a canned vegetable or store bought bread. It was fine, but it never got too adventurous. Now, nearly 6 years later, I am finally starting to branch out and experiment with different flavors and using whole foods. It’s been a long journey, one that I’m not even near the middle of, but it’s a beautiful one as I’ve learned to show love through food and the time I spend preparing it.

I have always tried to be loving. I am not a gentle person by nature, but I remember when I decided that I wanted to be. At around 17 I remember seeing my sunday school teacher, Ms. Dayle, interact with all of us and noting how gentle she was. Her touch, her hugs, even her voice. This is a woman who I had grown up admiring and I just knew that the key to being a good woman was being gentle like her. Cut to me 10 years later and I still don’t have that deep gentleness that Ms. Dayle has so beautifully perfected, it’s so against my nature, but I have worked hard to discover how to be gentle in my speech and in confrontation with my brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s been a long time coming, and it has not been as easy path, but the days of yelling and pointing out every flaw and problem seem to be a thing of the past. I just couldn’t do it now, I love them too much. This also probably has a lot to do with the fact that I am a part of the most loving and spiritually healthy community I have ever encountered.

On to exercise. Yikes. Here’s the main reason that I do not make resolutions. (Deep Breath)  I don’t want to be held accountable for things that are hard to change. I hate exercise. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. If you are one of those people who loves it and just want to get everyone involved I guarantee I have thought that you are crazy at some point. But that is no excuse to not take my health seriously. I have had 2 babies, 14 months a part, both over 11 pounds at birth in the last 2 years. My body has changed and while I feel no shame or embarrassment in those changes it is time for me to take control of my health and set a good example for my kids.

SO… (drum roll, please) for the month of January, I pledge to exercise at least 2 times every week. If I don’t do this, I will admit it and be accountable through this blog and also with my friends and husband. I will reevaluate this pledge in February and either renew it or increase it. I will take this on a month by month basis because I know that life changes. I currently have mono (all though I feel it is near the end), I could get pregnant (all though that is not our plan for 2012), or a myriad of other things. I am not going to make my goal about how much weight I lose or what size pants I fit into, but to commit myself to a healthy and balanced life.

So, there you have it. My first ever new years resolution! I hope yours are just as successful as mine will be!

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28 years

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28 years

It’s my 28th birthday and in honor of that I’d like to share with you a few of my most hard-earned lessons.

  •  It’s important to love people, and love them as well as you can. Mother Teresa said ” I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” I agree.
  •  Nothing that I own is mine, it all belongs to the community of God. I also feel the same about what they own. We give what we have that others need and we receive what we need without embarrassment or shame. It is harder to receive, but there is also a great joy that accompanies it.
  •  Surround yourself with people who are older than you and who love you. Ask them a lot of questions and really listen to what they say.
  •  Ask other parents what they are doing right and what they wish they could do better. Learn from different types of parents and don’t feel threatened when their opinions and methods differ from your own.
  •  Family is important.
  •  Time alone is important.
  •  Quality time with those you love is important.
  •  Cut yourself some slack.
  •  All women were created beautiful.
  •  Don’t put people on a pedestal. You’re setting yourself up for disappointment and you’re making them feel uncomfortable.
  •  If you’re upset with someone, talk to them. Even if they have hurt you so deeply that you no longer want a relationship with them, still try to work out some sort of resolution. Bitterness is deadly and it starts with sweeping things under the rug.
  • Saying you’re sorry is extremely important. Being the first to say sorry is best.
  •  It’s okay to be an emotional person. That doesn’t make you weak.
  •  Be respectful.
  • I don’t know everything and I really don’t want to.

You are beautiful

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You are beautiful

I can’t say this enough. Girls, teenagers, young women, old ladies… YOU. You are beautiful. Maybe some of you don’t believe that God designed you, that He formed you, thought of you, breathed life into you, but I do. The creator of every flower and perfect snowflake and strong sturdy oak made you and He made you well.

Beauty magazines didn’t form you, in fact, they never formed anyone except through photo shop when they removed “imperfections” from models who are already starved and deprived of robust life.

Men didn’t form you, men formed addictions to the things that we pretend that we agree are beautiful. Men will believe what we tell them is beautiful. And we, ladies, we are beautiful. We are perfect.

We were made to be strong, to be slim, to be curvy, to be soft, to be muscled, to be whatever you are. There is no one mold for beautiful. If you believe that than I strongly urge you to examine the television shows you watch, the magazines that you read, the people who you surround yourselves with. If the company you keep feels negatively about your beauty than weed that company out of your life. Be around women whose beauty shines from within them.

Be proud when you form smile lines, because they are a sign of a happy life. Be proud of your stretch marks, mama, you carried human LIFE in you. Be proud of your curves, ladies, of your softness. Think of the loved ones who have received comfort from it. Be proud of your muscles, ladies, it’s not unfeminine to have them! You are strong, we are proud.

Your weight does not define you. You do not have to wear make up to be presentable. It’s okay to hate high heels, or to love them. Your hair is just hair. You don’t have to straighten it, curl it, put it up or wear it down to be a worthwhile member of the world.

We are beautiful. Not hot, or sexy, or good-looking…. you understand that what I am saying goes beyond your appearance, right? That no one has the right to label you based on that, don’t you?

Please, be proud to be a woman.

 

Soft and delicious Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Soft and delicious Chocolate Chip Cookies

Okay, I know that just about everyone already has a recipe for chocolate chip cookies. I did, too. My mom always used the tollhouse recipe and so did I, with much success. But after Charlotte was born our wonderful friends, the Donaldsons, brought some truly delicious cookies over that made me reconsider being a one recipe woman. I now fluctuate between the two recipes, but this one is definitely a favorite. The best thing about them is that they stay soft forever! I am making them both for Christmas with my family and for our CLG Christmas party this year. I hope you try them, they do not disappoint!

This recipe makes 6 dozen cookies:

  •                     4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  •                     2 teaspoons baking soda
  •                     2 cups butter, softened
  •                     1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  •                     1/2 cup white sugar
  •                     2 (3.4 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix
  •                     4 eggs
  •                     2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  •                     4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flour and baking soda, set aside.

Cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar.

Add  in the instant pudding mix until blended. Stir in the eggs and vanilla.

Blend in the flour mixture.

Finally, stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop cookies by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Edges should be golden brown.

Hot Chocolate you will cry for

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Added to the list of things that are too ridiculously easy to make: Hot chocolate mix. After doing a quick search online I came across a crazy easy recipe that could easy be adapted to several different types of recipes. Here’s the base:

3 cups nonfat dry milk powder

2 cups powdered sugar

1½ cups cocoa powder

1½ cups  chocolate chips

¼ teaspoon salt

Whisk together all ingredients in a large bowl. Working in two batches, pulse the ingredients in a food processor until the chocolate is finely ground. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

To make hot cocoa, put 1/3 cup of the cocoa mix in a mug and stir in 1 cup of hot milk.

And, done! I think the next batch I make I am going to substitute the chocolate chips for Andes Mints. Oh, my!!!

When you put this powder in a mason jar with a ribbon it also makes a really cute gift. Each batch yields about 20 servings. Enjoy, friends.

When rest isn’t optional

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The last few weeks I have been really tired and really trying to push past it. What mother of 2 kids 2 and under isn’t tired? But a week ago today I found myself with a really high temperature, a migraine that wasn’t playing games and a wish to be put out of my misery.  A trip to the ER and one to the doctors later and I get the diagnosis… MONO. Who gets mono when they are 28 years old? Crazy.

Since then I have had a lot of rest. There is no way to look at this mono as all bad (all though it is frustrating to not be able to take care of my family.) I am catching up on a lot of missed sleep from the last few years, I am experiencing the love and help of my community and friends in overwhelming quantities, and I am getting to spend much more time with Matt than usual because he has taken off of work (and canceled a 2 week trip away) to be here with me and take care of everyone in his family. That’s beautiful.

With this rest has come a lot of time to just lay and think. I’d like to tell you that I am having epiphanies left and right but really I am just resting. It’s beautiful. There is no pressure on this rest. If I do not emerge refreshed than I rest some more. If I have a disturbing dream, I pray for the next dream to be beautiful and go back to bed. If I do not have a fresh experience with the Lord, I remind myself of the wonderful and glorious things He has given to me and shown me in the past.

Every day I see people outside of my family that I love, as dear friends come and bring delicious food.

I know that I am loved.

That’s beautiful.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

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Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

So, by now you can probably see that I don’t make a lot of foods that are difficult, just ones that (hopefully) please all four people in my little family and hopefully add to their nutrition. It is so nice to make a nice, easy dinner for my family and see everyone enjoy it. I know that everyone has different schedules/ work/ volunteering to think about in addition to cooking but if I could just encourage you to cook instead of eating out I know that it will make a huge difference in your daily lives. One really easy bit impressive looking meal is a herb roasted whole chicken.

To make it, you just rinse your chicken, removing the heart or whatever gross thing it is packaged inside and then pat it dry, placing it on a cookie sheet breast side up.

Then cut up half an onion and smash a few cloves of garlic and whatever else you like the smell of – an apple, orange, lemon, carrots any of them – and stuff it inside. My favorite thing to use is oranges but since I didn’t have any I used some gorgeous carrots that I got from Thomas and Lindy at Puzzle Peace Farm this weekend.

Then get some fresh thyme & rosemary and remove it from the stem. Put it in a bowl with some sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Add a dash or two of extra virgin olive oil and mix them together.

Rub your herb mixture all over your chicken, making sure to get some of it and the oil everywhere on the outside. This is going to make the skin nice and crisp.

Put your chicken (or chickens, you can make several at a time when you have lots of dinner guests, like I did) in an oven preheated to 450 degrees. Bake for about an hour or until the internal temperature of your chickens is 165 degrees.

Let the chicken sit for about 15 minutes before you cut it up to serve so that it gets a little time to redistribute the juices, if you don’t wait it will be dry.

I served mine with some fresh sautéed spinach and the Trader Joe’s harvest grain mix. It was a hit. Enjoy your easy but beautiful chicken!