This. This is everything.
These are a few of my favorite things…
This. This is everything.
Ok, so the title may be slightly melodramatic, but what else is new?
In August of this year, Brad and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. 10! And prior to that, we dated for 5 years. And while I know that is but a drop in the bucket compared to some of you, I’m still proud of it and us.
In celebration of this 10th year, Brad and I agreed that this was the year to take our marriage from great to exceptional. Life has certainly thrown us twists and turns and plenty of way, way ups and some very difficult downs, and so far we are making it. In 2014, our tenth year as man and wife, we are choosing to focus on selflessness for the next 12 months and beyond (for those of you that know me well, stop laughing). And in no relationship is selflessness more important (and honestly, more challenging), than in marriage.
This year is shaping up to be a busy one for us… and with the changes, opportunities and challenges that surely lie ahead, we want to be more intentional than ever to love on one each other, support each other, respect each other, spend quality time with one another and [GULP] serve one another.
I feel like being 10 years into marriage allows me to speak with some authority on the subject. Not much authority, to be sure… but maybe just a teensy bit. The longer that I am married the more I know that this mystery of marriage- this relationship- perhaps above all others- will take the most effort, the most commitment, the most grace, the most forgiveness, the most focus.
“Why?” you ask.
Because, you ding dong, this is the one person that you live with, that knows you most intimately, that sees you at your darkest, that knows all of your worst habits, that knows what buttons to push, and it is the one person that you (if all goes according to plan) will be with until your dying day.
And to pile on top of that, the outside distractions continue to mount and they weasel their way into marriages (and all relationships). When Brad and I were first married, we didn’t have Internet in our house. Imagine the horror! We had no social media, no phones with texting capabilities, no computer, and cable (fancy, I know) without a DVR. Neither of our first jobs provided a laptop with the expectation that you are available outside of work hours. Basically, if we didn’t find something to watch on TV, we busied ourselves with a glass of wine and good conversation on the patio.
Now, distractions abound… we have all of the above along with two dogs and a two year old. It can all lead to a level of disconnection with my husband- the relationship that matters most to me. Unless, that is, we are jointly intentional about staying fiercely connected to one another. And that, my friends, is our plan for the year.
We have lots of little things planned for the year ahead to make sure we are successful. If any of this has resonated with you, and if you and your significant other want to join us in our 2014 journey to a greater level of love, connectedness and commitment, I invite you along.
Well, not along per se. Like, you can’t come on our journey with us… but you can carve your own journey with your guy or gal.
I’ll share here from time to time what I am (or rather, what we are) up to to make sure that I am focused on Brad this year, on us this year, on our marriage this year. I believe there is no greater gift we can give to each other, to our children and to the future generations.
So, if you (and your spouse- and yes, it will require you both to be fully on board) are game, here is the first official challenge. Choose a night of the week and have a standing date with no, and I mean NO, distractions. If doesn’t require going out. It requires tuning in. For us, this means that we pick one night a week where there is no phone, no texting, no Internet, no TV- and our time together officially begins after Henry goes to sleep. It could be sipping on wine in front of a fire, playing cards, planning a getaway, dreaming a big dream or talking about nonsense. Our other rule is to keep work talk to a minimum. This time is intended to restore intimacy that is sometimes lost in the busyness of life.
For some of you, this one will be a breeze. For others, this challenge may feel like an impossible hill to climb. I think there is something magical about undivided attention to the one you love most.
So, that is what is new here. I hope everyone’s 2014 is off to a stellar start.
I spend most Thursday and Friday mornings at the gym in the pool. I’m not an expert swimmer, but I have taken a liking to the exercise. Friday mornings are my favorite. Want to know why?
There are about 2 dozen women aged 60ish-90ish in the pool moving and grooving to everyone from Marvin Gay to One Direction. I freaking love them. I love their energy, I love their camaraderie, I love their gossip.
But what I love most of all… what nearly moves me to tears week after week… is the love these women have for their bodies.
These women, who are well past their physical prime, walk around in their birthday suits with comfort and ease. For a woman like me, in my thirties, I love witnessing the freedom that comes with finding a true comfort in your own skin.
Here’s the thing. We women are too dang hard on ourselves. Most women really suck at loving their own body.
I’ve been there. Some days I’m still there. But I’m working really hard to love what the good Lord gave me.
These women have wrinkles and sags and spots, and my God… it is beauty.
For those of us fortunate enough to have a stretch mark or two from being pregnant, find gratitude. Perhaps you are lucky enough to maintain that fabulous lower abdominal pooch… gratitude. Maybe our once perfect ta-tas have lost a little perk… thank you. The wonderment of being able to get pregnant and then carry and deliver a little one is a miraculous feat. And our weird and wonderful bodies made it happen. As we criticize that extra baby weight or mourn the fact that our bras can no longer come from Target, let us remember those that would give anything to experience the miracle of pregnancy. Let us find joy in a moment with our child. Let us remember the generations before us that bear similar scars of wonderment. Let us be grateful for the imperfections.
For those of us who have a spider vein or a dimple in a place besides our face. For all of us with a thigh or two that we believe needs thinning or toning, find gratitude. We have strong legs that move us through our daily happenings. To carry us through life. Perhaps they have helped us walk into a new job, or they have carried us down the aisle toward a love or maybe they take us through parks and cities and countries on adventures. These are legs that work for us, and they do not let us down. Let us be grateful for their strength. Let us be grateful for the imperfections.
For those of us that look in the mirror and see creases appearing on our faces for the first (or hundredth) time, find gratitude. For every joy, smile, worry, fear, surprise is captured in those tiny crevices. They are miniature maps of our lives. Of the ups and downs and the round and rounds. Let us stare at our faces of beauty and be pleased with what stares back. Let us be grateful for the imperfections.
Let us joyfully and fearlessly end the compare game. Different is beautiful. And sacred.
I love those gray haired women for being an example to me of finding comfort in your own skin. For finding gratitude that my lungs breathe air in and out, that my heart pumps blood, that my brain works for me (some days more than others) without fail, that my feet, legs, stomach, arms, neck, face and all of the rest of it are solely mine. And they are strong. And they are lovely.
Love yourself today.
Today I made 17 dozen snickerdoodles.
That’s a lot of dang doodles.
I think there is still some butter and cinnamon shellacked to my hand.
My sister gets married two weeks from Saturday.
And at her wedding (like all of our family weddings), there will be a cookie table.
And all of those women in her life that love her will contribute to the table.
And all the guests shall partake.
She sure is lucky to have a sister like me.
Actually, I take that back.
I’m the lucky one.
Jessica is fiercely loyal, one of my best friends, hilarious, kind, smart and fun. And she is my sister.
For those of you that have sisters (with whom you have a close relationship), you understand the magnitude of the relationship and the joy that comes with seeing your sister happy.
I am so so so excited for August 17. I cannot wait to celebrate Jessica and Adrian.
I forgot something.
I forgot that sometimes you can throw something out into the blogging universe, and the universe hears you.
Look what I got yesterday.
Macaroons. From Pistacia Vera.
As noted in my last post, they are the most delightful bits of heaven.
They are dainty and small.
So, you must eat more than one.
This is a mocha flavored morsel.
What makes this my favorite sweet treat is:
1. The crisp and slightly crunchy exterior.
2. The soft and chewy interior.
3. The creamy goodness of the ganache (or buttercream- depends on the flavor) glue that holds the whole she-bang together.
Now, don’t be discouraged.
If you were planning on getting me these exact macaroons, and you are disappointed that someone beat you to the punch… I will gladly accept more.
After all, I shall not deny the universe of the gifts it desires to give me.
It is Tuesday, my friends.
Make it a delightful one.
Hi. I’m sitting here writing on my blog. There is a warm nostalgic feeling that comes along with choosing photos, editing them and sharing them here. It has been a long, long time. And I’m not even sure anyone will even read this. And that’s ok.
But if you happen to read this know that I have missed this and you.
And that I’m not going to make any promises that I’m going to recommit myself to this little corner of the web.
So, what’s new? What are you up to? How is your summer?
Our boy is 2 now.
Not sure how that one happened.
He loves anything with wheels, yogurt, riding on his dad’s shoulders, the zoo (mainly for the train rides), music-specifically anything with a solid beat and he loves his independence.
He hates anything green, when he doesn’t get his way and having his toenails clipped.
Here we are.
Photo courtesy of Darrin Ballman
Being a parent has been one of my life’s greatest joys.
Along with the big, big highs of life, there are inevitably the lows.
This year we said goodbye to Brad’s grandma and grandpa.
I mean… Don’t they just look like fun?
Jennifer and Byers were simply the best.
He was a surgeon in a small town who was known to fry up a squirrel as a delicacy, and he wore a bow tie religiously.
Jennifer was 25 years his junior, and they met at the hospital where they both worked. She was an encourager, a quilter and the consistent bright spot in any room.
Saying goodbye was sad, but somehow lovely too.
Everyone that attended Byers’ funeral donned his signature look.
Side note: My sister-in-law travelled to the funeral to watch the kiddos so that we could attend the service uninterrupted. She saw me before she saw anyone else, and she thought that my bow tie was a new trend that she hadn’t heard about.
So, I’m thinking about starting that trend on up.
Moving on to happier topics.
We’ve hung with cousins.
These mischief-makers love each other’s company.
And I’m nervous for the trouble these guys will make together in a few more years.
We’ve spent time with my family too- glorious long days at the pool with serenades at night.
Henry gets his large dome from his Papa. Sorry Dad, but it’s true.
Far more important than spending time with family, I spent some time with some 90s icons.
Yes, folks. Perhaps the best concert of my life. Boyz II Men, 98 Degrees and my personal favorite- New Kids on the Block.
I loved Jon when I was growing up and I was in the screeching height of fandom. He was my jam. I remember vividly being at my best friend, Erin’s, birthday slumber party sitting 2 inches from the TV screaming our pre-teen heads off at NKOTB. I may have shed a tear.
And now, after seeing them together again, a little spark of love was rekindled.
And here is the funny thing… all these years later, Jon is still totally the one.
Although my pre-teen Jon make-out fantasies are less important- not that he would be in to that sort of thing anyhow.
Here are we are pre-sweat fest concert. My friends and fellow NKOTB lovas.
Let’s catch up on our yard, shall we?
First, we have a small-ish flat roof that was in desperate need of replacing.
So, we did.
And we upgraded.
Introducing the Wise Bistro.
It is Brad and my favorite place to hang out, sip wine, chat, snooze, read books, and so on.
And from our roof, we can look out back and spy treasures.
Like this mama deer with 4 (!) babies. I die.
These little babies were all wobbly on their feet and the mama spent most of the day snoozing. I think we got to watch them when they were only hours old.
My friend and neighbor, Stephanie, and I were very concerned about this mama. And we wanted to help.
So, Steph whipped a crate of strawberries over the fence to make dining a little easier on Mama Deer.
I’m not sure if she ate them or not, but I’m not going to lie… the strawberry toss helped me sleep at night.
Speaking of neighbors, this is Henry’s best friend. She happens to be the strawberry thrower’s daughter.
They spend far too much time (according to them) separated by a fence.
When they manage to finagle their way into the other’s yard or house, they are just impossibly cute.
Until the “mine” game starts. Then they are cute, but in desperate need of a referee.
So, that about covers it. You’re caught up.
And in case you are wondering, we’ve been eating well. I still cook a bunch, and maybe I’ll even throw some food on here some day (maybe even before another 6 months passes).
We’ve eaten this kind of goodness…
And we’ve eaten in places that store their wine like this…
And we’ve dined with the loveliest of folks like them…
And we’ve tasted wine after tacos- with a chat on the deck post consumption…
I’ll end on this note.
I had the best macaroons of my life as a birthday gift.
If anyone is looking for ideas of what to get me, you should get me these.
That is all for now.
If you happened to stumble here, I’m so glad you did.
Sorry for my ramblings and my long absence.
Like blogging, I read in waves.
There are seasons of my life where I devour book after book unable to get enough. Then, there are other times where I can’t bring myself to crack open (or push my Kindle “On” button) a book. I have been in the latter season as of late. I was sluggishly trying to make my way through Zadie Smith’s “On Beauty” (highly recommended with great reviews), and I just couldn’t get into it. So, I slacked off.
And then Brad and I planned a trip to head to Florida to celebrate his sweet cousin’s wedding, and I needed a good beach book because we were leaving our boy behind and I planned on devouring at least one book.
One of my favorite book sources recommended “The Lonely Polygamist”. And Oh My Gosh. I just freaking loved it.
You know when you read a book and the characters are so real, so well defined that you can not only picture them, you can feel what they are feeling… that is this book.
Golden Richards is lonely. Even with his 4 wives and 28 children, he is alone in the world for all intents and purposes. And this loneliness drives him to an affair. And chaos in his already wild life.
Golden is a large man with a sad history- an absentee dad and a depressed mom. The Church saved him in more than one way.
But Golden pales in comparison to my favorite character in the book- Rusty Richards.
Rusty is hilarious and heart wrenching. He is fun and devastating. He falls somewhere in the middle of the 28 kids, and he is the one black sheep in a very large flock. And he is in my top 10 (maybe even top 5) literary characters of all time. I seriously could not get enough of this kid in the book.
It is thoughts from Rusty, like this one, that make this book as amazing as it is:
So because of Aunt Beverly’s shoe policy, here he was pedaling down the street in his tube socks like a retard. Where was he going? He didn’t know. He had thought about going home and asking his mother to allow him to stay there, he would tell her all the terrible things Aunt Beverly and her a-hole kids were perpetrating on him, but he had already tried that twice now and it hadn’t worked. Today, he decided, he would pedal until he got so far out into the desert nobody could ever find him, except for maybe a bunch of illegal Mexican bandits who had got lost on their way to Las Vegas and formed their own civilization by constructing adobe forts and eating lizards and he would surprise them because of his silent-walking ability, and they would look at him suspiciously and say, Cómo estás? and because he had paid attention in Spanish class at school he would say, Bueno, gracias. Cómo estás bien? and they would all start jumping up saying, O mi Dios!, deeply impressed because not only was he a guy with excellent silent-walking ability, he also spoke their difficult language as well, and they would start asking him questions, most of which he couldn’t understand because they spoke even faster than Mrs. Burdick at school, but he would hold up his hand and say, Sí, Sí, mi nombre llamo Rusty, and they would fall down and practically worship him and his BMX racer because they’d never seen a person riding such a technological bike and he would be their king.
Such masterful writing.
I love food.
I really love Thai and Chinese food. For realsie.
So, a healthy (gasp!) and vegan (double gasp!) Asian inspired meal is right up my alley.
Love or hate the girl, Rachael Ray can write a mean recipe for the home cook. And this one comes from her.
Start by preheating your oven to 400.
Please don’t be scared because this recipe begins with soft tofu. I feel for tofu. It has a pretty bad reputation amongst those of us that enjoy eating meat. And I would like to acknowledge that it can taste awfully nasty. However, when prepared correctly and married with yummy ingredients, it is pretty darn good.
If you are new to tofu, you can generally find it in the health foods area (sometimes in the produce area) in the refrigerated section. For this recipe I chose soft tofu. It comes packed in water, so your first step is to drain off the water.
Put a nonstick pan over medium heat, and add a little olive oil. Pick up your brick of tofu and crumble it directly into the pan. It should look a bit like scrambled egg whites.
If you are adamantly opposed to tofu and meat is a necessity, you could use ground chicken or turkey or pork.
But be adventurous. I really think you might like the tofu.
You real only need to heat the tofu through.
Crank up your heat to stirfry mode AKA high heat. Then add in 2 choppity chopped up ribs of celery and a good amount of chopped shitake mushrooms. They sell the shitakes in 4 oz pre-chopped packages and my store, so I just picked up one of those.
Stir fry for one minute.
During that one minute, feverishly chop up 1/2 of a head of napa cabbage (napa cabbage is oblong instead of round- it is mostly white with some lighter green, and most grocery stores carry it).
Drop that into your pan.
Add a handful of bean sprouts- I like the fresh from the produce section. They are found near the alfalfa sprouts usually. If you prefer canned, go for it. They are in the international foods aisle.
Dump in a small can of drained chopped water chestnuts (also in international foods).
Add in 2 finely chopped garlic cloves.
And grate in 1 inch of fresh ginger root. If you don’t have the fresh ginger, you can use 1/2 t. of powdered ginger.
Cook for about 2 more minutes to make sure everything is heated through.
Then, stir in 2 T of Tamari. Tamari is a smoother, better tasting, slightly richer version of soy sauce. If you don’t have Tamari, feel free to use regular old soy sauce.
Stir that all together and turn off the heat. You have completed making the filling for your giant egg rolls.
Allow the filling to cool a bit before making your egg rolls. This way you don’t burn your precious fingers.
I’m always looking out for you.
Now, it is time to be an artiste.
Lay out one sheet of phyllo dough- found in the dessert section in the freezer aisles at your grocery store.
Side Note: If you haven’t used phyllo dough before, you’ll need to allow it to thaw out prior to trying to work with it. The package comes with several very thin sheets of phyllo. Have a clean, dry kitchen towel handy to cover the sheets you aren’t currently working with. If you don’t, the phyllo gets dry and crumbly and impossible, and you will hate it forever and ever, Amen.
Paint some olive oil on to the sheet, and then lay a second sheet on top.
You could also use butter or a butter substitute.
Dab with a little more of your oil and then fold the phyllo in half.
Spoon about a cup of your filling into your phyllo.
Tuck in the right and left sides of the phyllo, and then fold up the bottom and roll your dough into an egg roll shape.
Please don’t be put off by the bland looking color of this filling. I assure you, this is anything but bland.
Once you’ve got them all rolled up, plop them on a pan.
Give them another quick dab of oil.
May I suggest using some parchment paper? These buddies have the potential to get super sticky on the bottom.
And cleaning sticky pans is the worst.
Actually, having your kid poop in the bathtub is the worst.
Nope, I take that back- having your kid poop in the bathtub, and in your moment of panic using your hands to scoop up the poop- is the worst.
But I digress.
Bake at 400 on a center rack for 15 minutes.
They come out looking beautifully golden brown.
Serve them up with some delicious Asian Slaw.
I used a sweet chili sauce as a dipping sauce for the eggroll. If you like spicy, you could use those little spicy mustard packs that you get if you ever order Chinese takeout.
These buddies are so good, and super filling- and baked NOT fried. Yum.
I’ll leave you with this kid. He also approves of these eggrolls. He certainly scarfed his down.
And then he pooped in the tub.
Good thing he’s cute.
I think I have posted this recipe before, but I’m too lazy to look for it.
I’m sure you won’t mind if I share it again, will you?
Well, if you do mind… then just stop reading now, and go about your merry way.
They are mysterious. They are filling. They are sexy. They are delicious. 3 out of those 4 statements are true.
Lentils have high levels of folate and magnesium- heart healthy stuff! Lentils also have lots and lots of fiber that help keep that blood sugar regular while lowering cholesterol. They are full of iron and B vitamins, and finally protein makes up 26% of the calories in lentils (3rd highest level of protein of any food!). So, in a nutshell (or a legume shell, in this case), lentils are good for you.
Know what else? Lentils are CHEAPY, CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP!
You’ll find lentils in the rice aisle at the grocery store- they come in all sorts of colors including brown, green, red, tan, etc. These poor buddies are usually on the lowly bottom shelf in a plastic bag. They are so pathetic looking- won’t you give them some love?
Finally, if I haven’t sold you yet lentils are super easy to make and they are similar to chicken in that they take on the flavors that you give them.
Get out a pot and pour in some lentils (1/4 c. is a serving size, and I usually make about 1 1/2 c. at a time). Cover those lentils with water, and boil them until they are al dente.
They will eventually turn to mush, just like pasta, so don’t overdo it on the cooking.
Oh, did I mention that the measly 1/4 c. dry serving gives you 10 g of protein.
Go ahead with your bad self, lentil.
Once they are cooked to the texture of your liking, drain the lentils (again, I like a little more chew to it than cooked pasta would have).
Add in 1-2 T. of barbecue sauce.
Um. Your done.
I told you it was easy.
I either add these to a salad or I eat them in a wrap.
In this wrap, I also include a little more BBQ sauce, some pickled jalapeños and some sliced grape tomatoes.
Lets take a moment now to acknowledge how awesome I am at taking pictures of red things.
Further proof that I am a total amateur with a camera.
This boy loves him some lentils.
And even though he isn’t eating them in this picture, please believe me that he endorses this lovely legume!
Blah. Boring. Bland. Bleck.
Or is it?
Cue mysterious music.
The truth is that I would much rather have a giant bowl of Lucky Charms over oatmeal any day, but that just isn’t a smart move. I think I would be a diabetic by the time my next birthday rolled around if I did that, but those fake little hard marshmallows are delicious.
My friend Liz corrected my oatmeal course not too long ago… she told me about all of the different ways she would doctor up her oatmeal, and it became a fun little experiment to come up with new delicious concoctions.
I eat the heart healthy serving of oatmeal- 3/4 c. of dry oats. That is 1.5 servings of whole grain (so if you are counting, we’re up to 2.5 servings of whole grains for the day after the green smoothie). 3/4 c. of dry oats also gives you 9- count ‘em- NINE g of protein. I usually include 1/4 c. of raw unsalted almonds in my oatmeal, and those are 5 g. of protein.
That means, with no animal product we are up to 29.5 grams of protein after breakfast(s) alone. That is about half of my daily required protein intake.
Let’s just take a moment to acknowledge that oatmeal doesn’t taste nearly as delicious as a heaping pile of bacon. Or waffles. Or tater tot casserole, and I want to be clear that I believe there is a time and a place for that level of breakfast deliciousness.
However, if we are talking healthy choices that provide nutritional benefit, oatmeal is a solid choice.
Up first- and appropriate for the start of the fall-ish season, is pumpkin pie oatmeal.
3/4 c. quick cooking oats (again, I go for organic here)
Add in 1 1/2 t. of pumpkin pie spice- or if you are like me and don’t have that stuff because you have never made a pumpkin pie in your life, add in 1 t. cinnamon, 1/4 t. ground cloves, 1/4 t. nutmeg (or whatever you have on hand).
Cover that with water, and microwave for 1 1/2 minutes.
Then get out your pumpkin. I use pumpkin in from a can- NOT pumpkin pie filling. Canned pumpkin is one of the best values in the grocery store, in my humble opinion. Think of all the work you would have to do to procure just 1/4 cup of puréed pumpkin.
Mix it up and sprinkle on 1/4 c of raw, sliced almonds.
So good! I promise that you’ll love it- I think!!
If pumpkin isn’t your jam, how about a little Apple Raisin Cinnamon deliciousness?
In this version, I start with 3/4 c of oats. Add in 1/2 of a peeled apple chopped. Throw in 1/4 c of raisins or craisins or dried cherries, and top it off with a generous dash of cinnamon and 1/4 c of your almonds.
I was feeling naughty so I topped this one off with a sprinkle of brown sugar.
At the beginning of the week, I put all of the dried ingredients for these oatmeal treats in Ziploc baggies so they are easy to grab as I run out the door or work.
On the mornings that I start my day with a green smoothie at about 7:30, I’m ready for my oatmeal around 10 or 10:30.
Hope you are all having a better start to your Saturday than I am. I’m in the waiting room at a doctor’s office. I just wrote this entire blog post on my phone (please or give any misspellings) while waiting my turn.
Enjoy your oats.
Have a great weekend!