Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!


I've decided that I don't like getting old 
(right now you're thinking, 'what does that have to do with Christmas?  she should be writing a post about Christmas...after all it IS Christmas Eve Eve & she has a pic of their Christmas tree at the beginning of the post...'  Hang on, I'll get there).

Several things with me have changed over the last couple of years & I'm sure that's it is completely related to the aging process.  Which is inevitable, stinky, & way too quick to happen.

First of all, I have so much to do & I never seem to get it all done.  Back when my world was school, family activities & a few church activities I had all the extra time in the world.  I could read, play, watch an entire movie in one sitting without falling asleep...I had no idea how good I had it.

Secondly, I just plain old felt better.  I think it might have to do with the amount of sleep I used to get as a kid.  As a grown up with that never ending to do list I get less & less sleep.  And that makes me feel tired, old, & occasionally cranky.  I know, that cranky part is hard to believe!

Thirdly, I feel too much.  As in, I cry at the drop of a hat.  It's actually kind of pathetic.  I'm not sure what has happened to my emotions but they have definitely gone into hyper sensitive mode.  And no, this is not a pregnancy announcement.  Here's an example of what I'm talking about: I was thoroughly excited about our church's children's Christmas program.  I just love to see them singing their songs & doing their thing.  Then I sat in the pew & fought tears the entire time.  *sigh*  It just does something to my heart to see those kids singing & talking about Jesus's birth.  

And then there's the Christmas music.  "O Holy Night" is my all time absolute favorite.  The second verse says:
The king of kings lay thus in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our needs
To our weakness He's no stranger...
It gets me every time.  If I even try to sing along my voice goes all warble-y.  The almighty Creator born of a woman in order to be my friend...to become akin to my frail weakness...to understand my needs - especially my need of a Savior.  I am overwhelmed.  I am humbled.  And I am filled with such gratitude.  Where would I be without my Jesus?

And let's not forget to mention the Christmas gatherings with the family.  Mike & I will be running all over town to visit family here & there.  My crazy, fabulous family.  Mike's incredibly loving family.  Can a heart burst?  Seriously, I think I might be going nuts.  I just want to wrap them all up in a big hug & keep them with me all.the.time.  When I contemplate families separated by geographical distance or broken relationships, guess what?  I get teary.  I could literally bawl at the thought.  And those commercials of soldiers sending greetings home?  I'm a goner...get me a tissue...or a whole box.

So, I'm fixing to blubber my way through Christmas.  I'm going to be carrying around a heart full of raw emotion - love, gratitude, joy...it's going to be great!

I wish God's best blessing on your Christmas!  And as always, thank you so much for meeting with me here in this little blog spot.  It means a lot to me...*sniff, sob*  

Gotcha :-)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I've been in hiding for a while.  No good reason...just didn't have much to say (for once!) & very little time to say it in (which means I'd get my post all goofed up anyway).

But it's Thanksgiving.  And that means I have a lot to say.  And a lot to show you.  Fasten your seat belt - I'm going to blow your socks off!  I have never uploaded this many pics to a post before ever in my little bloggy life.  Thanksgiving deserves a little wow factor, don't you think?

I haven't been posting daily what I am thankful for, not even on facebook where it is so easy to jot down a little blurb.  I have so enjoyed reading all the other thankful statuses, though.  I've just been ruminating on all my blessings, enjoying them in my head & trying to order them up so that I can share them in a way that makes sense *grin*  Here we go!

I thank God for saving my soul.
I don't know where I'd be without Him.
I have a sneaking suspicion it would be
somewhere with locked doors & white jackets.
For reals.

I am thankful for God's Word.  It is a treasure.
And I am thankful for the many good books that help me to study my Bible.
This year I read two books,
"Choosing Forgiveness" & "Choosing Gratitude"
Life.Changing.

I thank God for Michael. 
I didn't know what this kind of love would be like,
 but it's very, very good. 

My family.
What a beautiful, crazy, wonderful mess we are.
I wouldn't trade any of them for all the riches in this world.

Every once in a while I get a little panicked. 
The world is a disaster zone -
economic crisis, revolution, war, orphans, terrorists...
Then I witness moments like this -
four little girls singing their hearts out with love for Jesus.
And I have hope.
Thank God for hope.

Thank God for home.
A place for the sunlight to stream in.
A place to create - ornaments, sewing projects, what-have-yous...
A stocked pantry with more food than we should eat.
Blessed.

Thank God for our truck.
It was a desire of Mike's heart to have a truck.
It was a need.
Here is our answer to prayer.
Thank God for meeting our needs & satisfying our desires.

Thank God for my job.
This is my little lab office - the laminar flow hood where I draw doses.
I'm grateful I have a place to work & a reasonable amount of skill to do the job.

Thank God for technology.
I love my iphone.
I love my ipod.
My iphone helps me stay connected & entertained.
My ipod keeps me company on the many road trips I take for work.

Thank God for friends.
And we are talking the good kinds of friends -
the kind that will tell you when you look pretty but also
tell you when you act ugly.
Iron sharpening iron...

I thank God for my health.
There are days when I feel 'off' but I am a healthy girl.
I thank God that I can get out & run & get this happy glow.

Thank God for flowers.
Their beauty is beyond comparison, and such variety!

Thank God for dogs.
Especially Coco.
Where else can you get such unabashed adoration?

Thank God for my G's.
These two are cute, wise, fabulous, & they love God.
Thank God for a heritage in my family that honors Him.
T

Thank God for a quiet place of refuge - our cozy bed.
It's an excellent place to escape to.

Speaking of escape, thank God for good stories.
There's nothing quite letting the words of a story
create an entire universe in your mind.

Thank God for coffee & the gift of a coffee grinder.
I love me some hot brew; it always hits the spot!

Thank God for functional plumbing & hopefully the end of our disastrous sewer saga.
I hope I have learned to be thankful for clean water & properly flowing pipes.
It's not a small thing.
Thank God for air conditioning.  This old window unit isn't pretty, but it came
with the house & it works like a champ.

Thank God for the seasons.
I like to gripe about winter.
But the truth is, it if were gone for good & never came back,
I would feel like my world was missing something.
So I'm grateful for the changing of the seasons.
I am grateful for the full color illustration it presents of the Lord's faithfulness.

It probably seems goofy, but I thank the Lord for this file box.
It wasn't expensive.
It isn't fancy.
But it allows me to keep my sanity in a clutter challenged home.
And for that I am grateful.

This is a pic of my migraine eyes. 
This summer I looked like this A LOT.
It was hard for me to deal with.
And yet I thank God for it because that crazy cluster of awful headaches
caused me to learn many things about my God.
He is good all the time.
He will not leave me alone in my suffering.
He has a purpose for all that He does & allows.
He will provide what I need in every situation.
And.So.Much.More.


As I was drawing up my list of gratitude, I had to include many more things...
*my church & faithful pastor
*my country - what a blessing to be free! 
*opportunities to grow & be stretched - October Unprocessed & the Indy Mini come to mind
*music...it colors my every day, filling my mind with happy thoughts & drawing my heart to God's
*imagination, the ability to dream, pretend, make believe
*opportunities to serve, to give, to help, to live outside of myself
*safety from day to day

There's no doubt the blessings have been flowing down on my life.  I cannot live one day without praise to the Lord for all He has done for me.  And I feel challenged by all of this goodness.  Did the Lord give me salvation so that I alone could enjoy it?  Did He give me peace, joy, love, a warm home, financial stability, a family, & so many other things so that I could thank Him & then sit back to soak up the enjoyment?  I'm starting not to think so.  These blessings are not meant to make me comfy & cozy & set me up for a nice little life.  No.  I'm thinking the Lord has blessed me so that I can learn to share those blessings with others.  Share the Gospel.  Share the fruits of the Spirit.  Share the financial blessings, the warm home, learn how to be family for someone who doesn't have any...so much to think about.

And finally, I'm thankful for each one of YOU.  A big, warm, Thanksgiving hug goes out from me to you.  It means so much to me that you would choose to read my blog - there are zillions of other blogs out there that are more consistent, more entertaining, that have better pics, more profound or funnier thoughts, & way better giveaways...& yet here you are.  You're the best.  Thank you.

And,
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Happy Birthday!

Today is my sister Beth's birthday!


Beth is just 21 months older than me.  She's been my best friend my whole life long (except for a little while in the junior high years when the hormones were running high & we both hated the whole wide world).  I'm so grateful that the Lord put her in my life.  She understands me, she makes me laugh, she teaches me stuff about the world & about God & about everything.  She even reads this blog!  I wouldn't be the same person without her.

I like her so much I'm going to make her a cake. 

Happy birthday, Beth!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

October Unprocessed - A Wrap Up


Well, my first adventure with October Unprocessed has come to an end.  It was an interesting experience.  I definitely think I have learned a lot.  I also think I cheated.  A lot.  As in at least a little bit every day.  However, I can truthfully say that for the entire 31 days I did not partake of these processed foods:
*non-dairy coffee cream
*boxed cereal
*salad dressing
*soda (or any other processed drink or drink flavor packet; it was all tea, coffee, milk, or water)
*processed cheese
*seasoning packets
*tortillas
*fast food
*rice/pasta preseasoned packets
*canned soup
*crackers
*the good candy from my mom's pumpkin dish (think Snickers, Reeses cups, Hershey's Miniatures, Skittles, etc.)

And I could probably list some other things but that's all I can think of right now.

Some of the things I learned:
~ grating your own cheese is no big deal; then you don't have to worry about all the weird stuff they put in there to keep it from clumping
~ I used to think that giving up cereal would cause me all sorts of problems, i.e., I love cereal; what could I possibly eat instead??  Cereal has lots of fiber; I need lots of fiber to survive!
The truth is, there are lots of other things to eat besides boxed cereal.  Most of the month I ate baked oatmeal but I also had lots of smoothies.  Both of these alternatives were high in fiber & I suffered no adverse effects *ahem*
~ I really love smoothies!  I'm not super adventurous with my ingredients but if you combine kefir, a little juice, frozen berries, spinach, & flax seed you're good to go!
~ I love natural peanut butter.  I will not be going back.
~ I had to be super intentional about meal planning & snack planning.  This type of eating does not happen naturally in our society, sad to say.  Therefore, before grocery shopping I had to be really organized about what I was hoping to eat & then I also had to have a bit of a Plan B in case something that I thought was unprocessed was actually processed or just unavailable.
~ Canned beans are not a necessity.  Soaking & cooking dry beans is no big deal.  Once again, I have to be organized because soaking & cooking the beans takes a lot more time than cranking off the lid of a can.
~ It is very difficult to buy canned tomatoes that don't have stuff added.  In fact, I was only able to find one brand that didn't have additives.  This really makes me even more determined to have our own garden at some point & get into canning our own tomato products.
~ Condiments are tricky substances.  We have a lot of work to do in this area. 
~ I got tired of water.  For the first time in my life I could hardly make myself drink it.  I was really surprised by this because I drink water more than anything else.  And all month long I continued to drink coffee (although I never really did get used to using real cream in my java).  But I didn't have any, not even one little slurp of diet soda.  I'm not a big time soda drinker, but I do like to have a couple every week in the evening.  Of course this was when the water just didn't cut it.  I tried a couple of different teas thinking that they would satisfy the craving but this just let me to discover that...
~ I do not like hot tea.  Period.  I tried & tried to like it but it just doesn't work.  If I am sick I might sip a cup of hot tea but that's it.  I will not try to continue to convince myself.
~ I didn't really miss salad dressing.  There were several other easy options - I used my own combo of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, & spices, salsa, or cottage cheese.  Easy & yummy.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something there too but this is getting long & I wanted to wrap up with some honesty. 

Today is the first day off of the challenge & this is what I've eaten so far:
Luna Bar
milk
coffee (with nondairy creamer & raw sugar)
salad with romaine, spinach, Parmesan cheese, carrots, celery, & Catalina salad dressing
yogurt
applesauce (homemade with nothing but a few splashes of cider added to it)

So I'm definitely a hybrid eater.  Some processed & some unprocessed.  In a big way I need to inventory our pantry, freezer, & fridge to see what we have that should just be tossed & what we can finish up & just not buy again.

This challenge has been thought provoking & I hope life changing.  For me it's all about making the baby steps, especially since Mike has to be on board with something this huge in our lives.  I've done a lot of research this month.  I've read a ton of interesting blog posts.  Together Mike & I decided that we would rather buy local as much as possible, buy organic when we can, & pay our grocer rather than our doctor.  It's going to involve training our taste buds to like things that taste a little different.  It's going to involve adjusting our budget.  It's going to affect where I shop, what recipes I use most often & how we plan our time (because I will be spending more time in the kitchen).  But I think those are all good things.

What do you think?  Are you impressed by my partial, failure ridden success *grin*  Are you motivated to make any changes?  Do you think I'm a crazy nut?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Today Feels Like A Day To...CELEBRATE!


Today is October 27th.  In my world that is a special date.  Exactly four years ago today Mike & I went on our first date.
Tiny disclaimer: we segued from being friends to dating without the official Defining the Relationship Talk (something I thought was necessary from watching friends date at Northland).  When trying to recall when our official first date was we kind of hit a stone wall.  But I'm pretty sure it was October 27, 2007.
Anyway, that day was a Saturday.  Mike had asked if I wanted to go get something to eat & see the movie "Dan In Real Life".  Of course I said yes.  I worked at my second job in a retail pharmacy all day that day.  I got off in the late afternoon & had planned on going to visit two of my uncles who were unwell (one in the hospital & one in the nursing home).  When I got off work I received a phone call from my mom that the uncle in the nursing home had actually gone home to be with the Lord earlier that afternoon.  *sigh*  I called Mike to tell him what had happened & that I just wasn't sure if I would be good company for the evening.  He thought that maybe I should go visit Uncle Wayne like planned & then let him know for sure that I wasn't up for the evening out.  Sure enough, I went to see Uncle Wayne & felt so refreshed by that little visit.  So I called Mike, told him we were on for the evening & out we went!
I knew I would have fun with Mike.  I always had fun with Mike.  I just didn't know I would feel so comfortable, so able to truly be myself with him.  We had dinner at one of those Mexican restaurants that we can never remember the name of.  We refer to it as 'the Mexican restaurant where Schlotsky's Deli used to be.'
Exactly one year later, on October 27th, 2008 Mike asked me to marry him.
And the rest is history!

M&M
In Mike I have truly found the one the Lord made for me.  I'm blessed beyond what I thought was possible (yeah, o me of little faith!).  It's not always easy - the Lord has used marriage to show me so many character flaws that I was ignoring - but it is so definitely worth it. 

How did you meet your One & Only?  I love 'how we met' stories & engagement stories so it's time to spill it in the comments, people!  Give me your stories!
Please?
Second Tiny Disclaimer: That is a super old pic, taken about 3 1/2 years ago.  Don't we look young?  And I love those glasses.  Kept them & wore them until the leg broke off, literally.  I wish I had them back.  That's all.  Over & out.

Friday, October 21, 2011

There's Some Good News & Some Bad News...

This week has been a good & can I get a big Yee-to-the Haw! that today is Friday.  I love the weekend.  And it's almost here - that's some good news.

In other good news, I went to the dentist yesterday.  And I got a good report.  I never take that for granted & I always get a little nervy before I go.  What if my toothpaste isn't doing the job?  What if I didn't floss enough?  Will he be able to tell that I have ditched Listerine because it's nasty & it burns?  Yeah, I worry a little bit too much.  But I am super grateful that he found no cavities & no spots that could be something scary.  God is good.
And please, take note of my droopy eye.  Although my teeth might be good, I obviously have issues elsewhere!

And now for the bad news.  When I arrived at work this morning I found three pieces of evidence that a mouse had been visiting.  EWWWW!!!  Since my 'office' is actually a room that also has our break room in it, that means the mouse was in my office!  I am thoroughly horrified.  I had to Lysol the water cooler, microwave, & mini fridge.  A coworker set some mouse traps & then I got to worrying about my lunch.  I always bring my lunch to work & usually set it on the corner of my large desktop.  Today I brought an apple.  I could just picture that furry monster gnawing little bites of my apple every time I stepped away from my desk.  I was talking with my coworkers & we found a solution:

This is my mouse proof lunch box.  It's the plastic insert for one of our delivery cases.  I wasn't too hip about putting my apple inside a box that has carried radioactive drugs so I put it in a ziplock & there you go.  No mouse is going to be nipping on my apple, tomatoes, raw sugar, or salad dressing!

A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.  I just hope that little bugger doesn't have a family.  I might have to quit my job.

Only 30 minutes until my workweek ends!  Have a great weekend everybody!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Latest Addiction

Most of the time I am an all or nothing person.  Usually I find that I am an 'all' person.  If I like something, I have a hard time liking it in moderation (hello, chocolate!).  It's not really a character trait that I'm proud of but it can be helpful in certain situations.  For example, I am a 'nothing' person when it comes to boredom.  I can't hardly tolerate sitting still doing nothing so that tends to make me a productive person (most days). 

This all or nothing personality can make trying new things interesting.  I find that my reactions are seldom moderate.  New foods - I'll scream with delight or gag with disgust.  New movies or books or stories - I'm riveted with amazement or asleep in my chair.  New experiences - I'll be all aflutter with nervous excitement & I'll sign up for the experience again & again or I'll tell everyone in the world that I know why they should never ever do what I just did.

Yep, that's me.

And I recently developed a new addiction.

I signed up for Pinterest.  I know a lot of you have already joined so I am a little behind the trend.  At first I was a little put off - they make you request an invitation to join.  I figured that since I am next to nothing to nobody I wouldn't get in.  I'm not sure why you have to jump through that hoop, but I got in!  I'm so very grateful that they didn't leave me with the nobody-wants-me-on-their-team feeling that you get in elementary school gym class.  What?  That was just me?  ANYWAY, I haven't figured out how to really navigate within the Pinterest website.  I have found people to follow & a few people have found me, which is always fun.  And frankly, what they find to pin is more than enough for me to explore.  I have found so many fun things to look at & dream about...too.much.fun.  If I thought facebook was a black hole of time wasting, Pinterest is the deepest, darkest, worm-holiest, furtherest back corner of the granddaddy of all black holes.  I could be on there all day.  And all night. 

The only consolation is that I might actually find some good recipes & craft ideas while I'm swimming in the black hole.

Come join the fun!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Beginning Band

I don't know how all of you might feel, but I love the feeling that you get when things come full circle.  You know, when an issue gets resolved or someone close to you gets to experience something that you experienced in the past. 

Last night I felt that full circle kind of feeling in relation to my oldest nephew, Caleb.  He's in sixth grade this year & will turn 12 next month *sob*  He's within six inches of being as tall as his Aunt MeeMee & I can't get him to hold still long enough to see if I can still pick him up for cuddles.  It's so sad.

He's got a great smile.
For reals, he's one of the sweetest kids. Ever.
Last night was his first band concert.  He's a trombone player in the making.  I piled into the car with Mom & the G's to attend the festivities.  I wonder how many other kids had their great grandparents in attendance last night?  When mom told me she would pick me up a full forty five minutes before the concert I was a bit tempted to be a little cranky & ask why.  As you can see from the pics, when we arrived the gym was already so full we had to sit BEHIND the choir, band, & orchestra.  So even though we couldn't see the kids' faces we got to see the faces of the various directors which was a show all of its own!

Mr. H handing out some last minute instructions. 
Probably something like, "Put your mouthpieces on your
trumpets & be ready to play for pity's sake!"

This guy right here?  This is Caleb's band director.  He was my high school band director.  His name is Mr. Humphrey.  I think it's great that he is still doing what he loves - teaching kids to make music.  If I had a dollar for every time he hollered at me on the marching band field I wouldn't have a lot of money, but those dollars would have searingly vivid memories attached.  I don't think I'll ever forget the times I came down on the wrong side of Mr. H.  During marching band practice he used to wear one of those long range microphones & be up high on a scaffolding like stand.  The area surrounding the high school has a lot of shopping & restaurants.  One time my parents were out shopping while I was at band practice.  They heard Mr. H holler my name over the long ranger.  Oy.  I'm still embarrassed.


It was more fun than I expected it be, going to hear a huge group of sixth graders squawk, gurgle, & whine through little ditties like "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star:"  And it was exciting, too.  Music is with us all of our lives & it can be such a wonderful tool for interaction, worship, fun, motivation, & more.  I hope Caleb likes it.  I hope he sticks with it.  I hope he joins the marching band in high school.  I just hope no one yells at him over the long range mic.

Friday, October 14, 2011

An Update & A Recipe or Two


This whole month of not eating processed foods continues to be a challenge for me.  I guess that's a good thing, right?  I mean, who wants to do what's easy? what's natural? what's habitual?  Not me, that's who.  Unless I'm tired, hungry, or feeling uninspired.  Which happens a lot so yeah, I'm feeling challenged.

Anyway, since I'm sure you're wondering if I'm actually sticking with it, I thought I'd post a little update.  I have continued my un-admirable streak of failing at least a little bit every day.  This week my hugest failing was a piece of Sam's Club white layer cake.  I'm totally defenseless against this stuff.  Even as I was cramming it in my mouth a voice in my head was screaming that the icing had enough food coloring in it to paint my insides the colors of the rainbow.  But I didn't listen.  Naughty.  I also made sloppy joes with some straight-from-the-bottle bbq sauce.  It's my husband's favorite.  I'm not sure how to tell him that the first ingredient is HFCS but we will have that discussion one day soon, I promise. 

The boundaries that I have still held hard & fast are: no processed cheese, no nondairy coffee creamer, no spray butter, no packaged candy, no boxed breakfast cereal, & no bottled salad dressing.

I have to say that I miss a good cup of coffee the most.  I did splurge last Saturday & have half a pumpkin spice latte.  I always feel like it's too concentrated so I filled my cup halfway with the latte & then topped it off with decaf coffee.  So good.  I did find some recipes online for homemade coffee creamer so I intend to try one of them out this weekend.  I'll let you know how it goes.

I have actually had a couple of new recipe successes this week.  After my post of failures I thought we would all be encouraged if I shared some good news!  Unfortunately I have no pics of the recipes that actually tasted good.  Figures, doesn't it?

We had a Mexican dinner on Wednesday.  I like refried beans & I think it might even be possible to buy them canned without too many weird things thrown in.  However, I read this online post & decided to give her recipe for refried beans a try.  I do have to say, the website Eating Rules does a great job of hosting this unprocessed challenge - there is a post every day brimming with information & recipes. 

I actually really liked these beans & I loved being able to make them from the hard little dry bean all by myself.  Small accomplishments make my day, what can I say.

Here's the recipe with a few observations/notes thrown in by me:

Easy Slow-Cooker Refried Beans

Author: Lisa Leake, adapted from allrecipes.comCook Time: 8 hours Total Time: 8 hours I didn’t think I liked refried beans. That’s what happens when you only try them out of a can. But much like the difference between store-bought and homegrown tomatoes, homemade refried beans are light-years beyond the canned stuff!

Ingredients:

1 Onion, peeled and halved
2 cups Dry Pinto Beans, rinsed
Fresh Jalapeno or other hot pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
Teaspoon Sea Salt
Teaspoon Black Pepper
One big pinch of Cumin
6 cups Water

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker.
Cook on high for 8 hours, or overnight while you are sleeping.
Remove the bigger onion chunks and drain the excess liquid. If desired, save excess liquid until the final product is desired consistency.
Mash remaining beans with a potato masher and voilĂ ! You have homemade refried beans.

I only modified a couple of things.  I used jalapenos that come in a jar that supposedly have the heat removed.  I also omitted the black pepper because it makes Mike sick (isn't that SAD?).  After the beans were cooked I drained the liquid & reserved it just in case I needed it.  I used my immersion blender to puree the beans because chunky beans just didn't sound right to me.  I probably could have added all of the water back in because the beans were really pasty at this point.  I did use about half of the water in my taco meat to make the sauce which worked really well.  The beans were also really bland so I think maybe a hot jalapeno would be a better idea than what I used.  Or a huger pinch of cumin because that stuff is fab.u.lous.  Bottom line, I would make these again & I would probably add 1/2 - 1 cup of salsa into the beans right before serving to zest them up a bit.

That same meal I made taco meat & seasoned it without using one of those little packets from the grocery shelf!  And it was so seriously easy that I hope I never, ever, ever buy one of those packets again.  To me, making my own taco & chili seasonings solves two problems.  Number one, I know exactly what goes into the seasoning (no weird additives or extra salt) & I can tweak it for Mike who not only does not really like the taste of spicy things but he also develops spice induced tummy aches very easily.  Heartburn, anyone?  Number two, I will actually be able to use more of my spices!  Even though I try to cook a lot & make our food savory I know that those spices sit in the rack for probably longer than they should.  This way I can hopefully use them up while they are still fresh.

I wish I could source this recipe for you.  I was doing a massive internet search one day & I wrote the recipe down without adding the information for where I found it.  It's a fairly basic taco/chili recipe that you would find if you did your own internet search.  They thoughtfully posted the recipe for one pound of meat & then quintupled the recipe so you can keep it premixed in your pantry.  At first I thought it might be gross to use the same recipe for tacos & chili but I think it might be just fine.  I haven't used this for chili yet so maybe don't take my word for it.

Taco/Chili Seasoning
For One Pound of Meat:
1 T chili powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. sea salt

Quintupled:
1/4 cup + 1 T. chili powder
1 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/4 tsp. onion powder
1 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/4 tsp. oregano
2 1/2 tsp. paprika
2 T. + 1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 T. + 2 tsp. salt
*Use 2 T. for one pound of meat

The only variations I made were to omit the onion powder (I didn't have any), omit the red pepper flakes (too much heat for my man), & I reduced the salt by about half.  I only used about 2/3 of the amount made from the recipe for one pound of meat & I used about 1/2 cup of the water from the beans to make it saucy. 

We had some yummy nachos that night! 

Whoo - almost 14 days down!  Only 17 to go!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Am I Getting Old?

I think I might be getting old.  Yeah, I know, I know, I'm getting older every day - there's no escape.  And don't get me wrong, no matter how much gray hair it might bring me, I'm grateful for every new day the Lord gives.

But today I'm wondering if I'm getting old.  To me, getting old is more of a shift in mindset.  It's not just that sinking feeling you get when you realize that five or less hours of sleep a night just isn't going to cut it anymore.  Hmmm...

It's waking up on a day like today - chilly & rainy - & realizing that I'm moving kind of stiff-like.  I would prefer to blame it on the intense workout dvd I did yesterday but I'm just not so sure.

And it's having weird thoughts cross your mind.  Thoughts like, "I'm turning 35 next year.  Maybe I should jot down some sort of Bucket List."  No, I've never seen the movie.  It's always seemed kind of depressing to me & seriously, why would I want more depressing in my life?  Give me a comedy people, just a comedy.

And then there was the real kicker.  The other day Mike & I had a conversation that went a little bit like this:
Me: Well, maybe someday we can do such-and-so.  Maybe we'll have more free time & more disposable income & we can pull it off.
Mike: Yeah, we can always try to plan for it.  It's not the end of the world if it doesn't happen.
Me: And until then, talking about it is really almost as good as being able to do it. 

At this moment I can't even remember exactly what we were talking about.  I think it had something to do with quitting our jobs & going after some kind of self-employment dream.  The part that really makes me feel like an old fogey is the "talking about it is really almost as good as being able to do it."  I actually said those words.

Like talking about skydiving could compare with an actual leap from a plane at however many thousands of feet?
Like talking about writing a book could compare with sitting in front of the computer for hours & hours pouring my heart & soul into a story that maybe no one or maybe thousands will read?
Like talking about running a marathon could compare with the hours of training, sweating, crying (there would certainly be tears at some point), & the exhilaration of crossing the finish line?

Yeah, I do not think that merely discussing something is really almost as good as being able to do it.  It must have been just a moment of tiredness that allowed the old fogeyness to seep into my still vibrant youth.  Yeah, that's it.  I'm sure that's it.  Don't you think so?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Autumn Mood

It's that time of year again.  The nights are crisp & cool.  The air conditioners aren't roaring nonstop in our house (we can actually hold a conversation using our inside voices!).  I can enjoy a drive with the windows down & it doesn't feel like I'm trapped in someone's hair dryer.  The sun still feels warm on my skin but it doesn't burn.  That's nice.

I'm trying to enjoy this change in season.  I love to watch the leaves trade in their green for red, yellow, & orange.  It seriously doesn't get any prettier than the Midwest in the autumn.

But there are images of the howling wind, driving snow, & icy temps lurking in the back of my mind.  The long nighted days when it seems we have just moments of sunlight.  Not to mention scraping the windshield every morning, constant searches for gloves, & feeling the need to hibernate until spring.

Yes, in my mind the beauty of autumn is sometimes overshadowed by the dread of winter.  So I decided to be proactive about it this year.  I'm really trying to get into the spirit of the season.

We have Indian corn on our door!  And since it was time for
a new 'welcome' mat I choose one has some mum-ish type flowers.
My parents have this 3-tier Jack in their front window.

I've been noshing on some fallish treats.
Gotta love candy corn & peanuts & caramel apples!

I've traded in iced coffees for an ever-present steaming cup o' joe.

I've been howling at the harvest moon.
Not really.  Just snapping pics of its beauty.

And I've been enjoying the foliage whenever I can.
The beauty of back country roads in autumn just
can't properly be captured by a camera.
But I'm gonna keep trying!

Some other things I'd love to do to celebrate this time of year is go apple picking, hit the Covered Bridge Festival (or really any festival; fall festivals are the BEST!), go to a hot dog roast & eat my requisite one hot dog a year, sit around a camp fire, wear an old flannel shirt, rake leaves, carve a pumpkin, make every sort of baked delicious pumpkin flavored thing I can get a recipe for, watch "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" with Bing Crosby narrating...I've still got lots of autumn celebrating to do!
What are your autumn traditions?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Happy Birthday To My Dad


Today is my dad's birthday.
I think this just might be my favorite pic of him ever.
Happy birthday, Dad.
We'll have a Sam's Club cake to celebrate soon!

Monday, October 10, 2011

It's A Monday

This day, today, Monday started off the way it should.  We got up without too much fuss & without so much 'snoozing' that we had to rush like crazy to get Mike off to work.  After I watched him drive away (a morning ritual because I'm a sap & I never want him to go) I settled in for a little quiet time to read my Bible & pray.  This is by far the best way for me to start any day.  I'd really like to tell you that it's my regular routine, rain or shine, sleepy or wide awake, weekday or weekend, but it's not.  When I have the discipline to do what I should & spend that time with the Lord my spirit is in much better shape to handle the day ahead.

When I got to work things were fine.  We cranked out the second run & I only felt a small bit of irritation when things weren't done exactly how I would like them to be done. 

*Side story: a few weeks ago we were a little shorthanded so I did most of the second run by myself - drew up the doses, ran the QC tests, and even packed the cases.  I told Mike that it was great & I actually kind of liked doing all of those steps by myself.  He said if I was a kindergartener that my report card would say, "Does not play well with others."  We giggled.  Just a little bit.  It's so true.  And that's not so good...

Anyway, as the day has gone on there have been other challenges.  An interaction with someone that left me feeling unwanted or unnecessary.  News from my boss about another change in our schedule that left me feeling insecure.  Stuff.

But because I spent that time on the couch this morning connected to the Lord, studying His Word & praying it seems like all day when 'things' have reared up my first inclination is to turn to Him & start praying.  It's been such a good thing.  I can tell you, when 'things' come up my first inclination normally is to start the hamster wheel in my mind.  You know the one I'm talking about?  The one where your thoughts jump on & start up with the why, what if, if only, what else? kind of nonsense. 

And just to be clear, I have not become some kind super Christian.  Nope.  This is all the Lord's doing.  He can do so much more in my heart & mind when I open the door to Him, when I ask for His help & guidance. 

So simple.  I think maybe I'm going to try it again tomorrow.

Psalm 34:1-10
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Too Many Experiments!

This unprocessed food challenge is not easy.   If I used to think about food a lot before, I think about it even more now.  The worst part has been experiments gone wrong.  I am usually fairly adventurous when it comes to food.  I get bored easily.  I like to wander through the produce section & give the farmer's market a good look for something new, something different, something to have some fun with.  Huh.  It doesn't always work out that way.

For instance, this green cauliflower I got at the farmer's market.  Isn't it beautiful?  I was just sure it would be wonderful, steamed to perfection with a little butter & seasoning.  Yeah, not so much.  It smelled kind of funny while it was cooking & it tasted even worse.  Mike & I ate it though.  It was like we had to keep tasting it to see what was 'off'.  Later we both regretted it *burp*


Then there was also this lovely little gem.  It's cute, isn't it?  I'll give you bonus points if you can guess what it is...


Now can you tell?

It's a cucumber.  Now I didn't really expect to love this because I don't really enjoy cucumbers.  *burp*  I'll let you guess why.  Anyway, it had so little flesh & so much seediness that neither one of us liked it.

This is an assortment of carrots, sweet potato, rutabega, & parsnips.
Yuck.
Now moving on to failure #3.  The bad part of this one is all the time I spent peeling & chopping all of these veggies.  I even sacrificed a fingernail.

 Oh well.  At least I can assure you that the fingernail did NOT make it into the oven with the veggies.

And lest you think that this week of trying to eat unprocessed foods has been a total bust, I'm going to tell you about some of my good discoveries:
Homemade Applesauce - seriously, why would you ever buy it?  I know I'm weird because I enjoy peeling & chopping apples but it is SO GOOD!  The batch I made this week is probably my best ever.  I used lots of Gala apples, two big Granny Smiths & two MacIntosh.  I added just the slightest amount of raw sugar & some cinnamon.  Instant happiness.
Baked Oatmeal - I experimented with steel cut oats for the first time.  And although I don't love, love, love it, I don't mind eating it for breakfast.  And it really does stick to your ribs.  I don't get hungry at 10 a.m. when I have this for breakfast.
Sorghum Syrup - I bought a big jar of this over the summer on a total impulse.  After 15 seconds of research I realized it might be kind of tricky to use in baking so it's just been waiting in the pantry.  Turns out, I really like a light drizzle of sorghum on my baked oatmeal.  And after realizing how much refined sugar & HFCS is in jelly, I've used sorghum to make my pb&j.  So I suppose my sandwich is a pb&ss *grin*
Ezekiel Bread - I've heard of this stuff before but I hadn't seen it at our grocery store.  Then someone told me that it is kept in the freezer.  It's the heartiest bread I've ever eaten.  And since I love things with bark & twigs in it I really love this bread.  It's prepared by soaking & sprouting the grains & it is so good.  I think this change just might last forever.  It's expensive but we don't eat a lot of bread so it just might work out.
Natural Peanut Butter - I have to admit that I never tried natural pb before because it looks so gross in the jar with the oil all separated out.  Then I actually read the ingredients on our jar of pb & I got really sad at all the added sugar & weirdness.  Since I love, love, love pb I knew I was going to have to try the natural stuff.  And it is really good.  I'm not lying, I thought it would be awful without the sweetness.  I am a real sweets girl but I truthfully did not miss it.  However, I did not like having to mix it up when I first opened the jar.  I made a mess.  Anyone out there have any tips for how I can mix it up without making a huge mess next time?

And as far as this challenge goes, I fail a little bit (or a lot!) every day.  But at this point I can still honestly say that I'm trying (though I'm tempted to jump off the wagon!).  And I haven't used non dairy coffee creamer or white sugar in my coffee.  I haven't had any candy from my parent's big pumpkin jar.  I haven't had any boxed cereal, processed cheese, canned soup, or soda. 

Maybe I should confess right now that I had Taco Bell & a huge gas station diet Coke the night before the challenge began *grin*

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Ornies!

Today is the first day of the big craft fair where Mike's ornaments will be sold.  I'm not sure if I have posted all the details of this little adventure so I'm going to give you the whole story now!

Last fall Mike made some intarsia magnets for Halloween.  There was a black spider, a mummy, a black cat, & a couple of other little figures.  We all thought they were adorable so he started on some Christmas ornaments.  He made a few last year & gave them as gifts & some family members bought a couple.  Mike's sister Gwen has been really enthusiastic about the ornaments & bought several for their Christmas tree.  Over the holidays some of her husband's family were visiting & two of his aunts were quite interested in the ornaments.  These two ladies make some primitive wood art & furniture that they sell at craft shows & markets throughout the year.  They are always looking for something that would complement their products that they could sell in their booth.  Several conversations later, Mike decided he would make them some ornaments for the Metamora Canal Days Festival this weekend.

Mike has made about fifty ornaments (aka, ornies) to sell.  We are excited to see how things go!  And although we have had fun making the ornies, I think we will be glad to have just a smidgen of our free time back *grin*  We are headed out tomorrow to visit the festival & I'm almost giddy at the thought of a road trip.  It's been a long time since we've been on one & I'm ready!

I thought I would post some pics & general information about how Mike makes the ornies.  I'm sure some of you might be curious about the process & if you're anything like me, you may have not ever heard the term 'intarsia' before. 
in·tar·si·a
noun
an art or technique of decorating a surface with inlaid patterns, especially of wood mosaic, developed during the Renaissance

And here's how he does it:


First of all I put a solid layer of blue painter's tape
on a narrow board.  This is a step that I can actually do for him!

Then we use an aerosol adhesive to adhere the patterns to the wood.
Mike gets the patterns online or draws them himself.

Then he uses the scroll saw to cut each pattern out.
He follows the basic lines of the picture.

This little guy has been cut out. 
Do you see the individual pieces?

Then Mike uses this dremel tool to contour & shape the pieces.
Try not to notice the sawdust that is 1/2" deep on our basement workshop floor!

Now he has been shaped. 
Isn't he cute?

And then we paint or stain the pieces & glue them together.
*For ornies like the teddy bear & the angel Mike drills holes
& then inserts dowel plugs for eyes & noses.
Sorry I don't have a pic of that...

And that's the basic overview.  I think he's extremely talented & handsome, but I suppose I'm biased *grin*

I hope you all have a great weekend!  I'll let you know how the selling goes...here's hoping we get sold out!