Friday, March 14, 2014

What did I just do?

I was totally honored when Beth Kinder over at Remade Ministries asked me to guest post on her blog.

Head on over and visit me.   :)

Bring chocolate.

Now, for some shameless plugs!

If you happen to live in California (or just really would like to take a vacation), Beth will be hosting a workshop called Faith Over Fear in Vacaville on March 22nd, 2014.  I hear it's going to be amazing, so get your tickets quick!

If you can't make it, a little birdie told me to have you keep your attention focused on the Summer...there may just be an online version of the workshop on the way!

Also, there's an online Bible study coming up in April.  I don't know about you, but I enjoy these types of things...and since I've been a part of Remade's bible study's in the past, I can tell you the community of women is pretty amazing.  The groups are very active and the study works at YOUR pace!  Plus, if you register by March 24th, you'll be entered to win a free copy of the book!

C'mon, who doesn't like prizes?!

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Pass the Sprinkles

I don't know about you, but I often find myself completely obsessed with my task list.

Lists are a big part of my life, whether mental or hand-written.  As useful as they can be at times, they can also be paralyzing, suffocating, stumbling blocks.

Yes, I said stumbling blocks.

This blog was actually formed because I realized something.  My list was never going to end, and that should be totally ok.  I should be delighting in the journey, not the end product.

Because if you're actually done, you're probably dead - right?

It seems, after careful observation of my everyday neurosis, that I have two types of lists - a short-term 'to do' and a longer-term 'really want to'.

For some reason, I seem to have some kind of fascination with re-writing the 'really want to' list, because I find it everywhere - in drawing pads, note pads, my bible study book...

I've found journals with nothing in them EXCEPT this 'really want to' list.

I usually don't have too much of a problem crossing things off of my short term 'to do' list.  The long term?  Not so much.   I will usually have a flurry of 'DO ALL THE THINGS' and get a couple of them crossed off, followed by a lull of like...


I like to think I'm pretty good at time management (don't be too impressed, insomnia gives me a bit of extra time than most) but you know what I'm horrible at?

Faith management.

You know what I love?  Knowing that you have a problem, being completely unsure of what the problem actually is - and then having God smack you upside the head with both the problem and the solution.

I've been a bit down in the dumps lately.  I try not to dig too far down into the 'hole of ick' because I am completely aware of my blessings in life.  These are the moments that I am most thankful for my checkered past, because they keep the present in a thankful-perspective.

I am also completely aware of how strong that 'hole of ick' can be if you let that sludge go anywhere past your kneecaps.

As I walked into church yesterday morning, in my head I was thinking what I'm usually thinking.  It goes something like this:

"Ok, Lord, I really need your help.  I'm not sure what I need your help with, but I need some direction.  I need to understand what I'm supposed to do.  Make sure you remember to get eggs...oh, and feta.  Sorry, Lord.  I know you are calling me towards something...I have all these things on my list - which is it that I'm supposed to do?  Quinoa.  Don't forget quinoa, either.  And Elijah needs socks...and bubbles.  SQUIRREL."

Yes, I think I have some kind of ADD...but aside from that, I'm always asking God what it is that I'm supposed to be doing.  When I don't get an any annoying child, I just keep asking.  In the meantime, my list stays stagnant, because I am so focused on where to start that I never actually start.

So we're in church, and we're reading Galatians 6: 11-18.  I won't quote the whole thing - but basically, Paul is telling the Galatians that there are people trying to say that, in order to be right with God, you must live by both the cross and the law (of the Old Testament) - when in fact it is only faith in Christ that will 'save' you.

In essence - faith, not works, are what make us worthy in the eyes of God.

This is not a new message for me.  I came out of church and didn't feel the usual amaze-balls 'Yay!  Direction!  Thank you, God!'  But I still enjoyed the message, so I went about my day and pondered.

This morning, I woke to do my bible study and prayed the same prayer as the day before, minus the eggs, feta, quinoa, socks and bubbles.  I pondered yesterdays message for a brief moment, and asked the Lord to set me on fire.  I wanted to get out of this 'blah' feeling, and instead feel God stirring in my soul.  I opened up my Bible, randomly, to Romans 4 and started to read.

Of course, the scripture was about the difference between justification by works and by went hand in hand with the message from church yesterday.

"For the promise of Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.  For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.  For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression." Romans 4:13-15

In the words of Gru, from Despicable Me:

 Image from galsandhorses

Sometimes, we get so caught up in the action of trying to do what's right that we don't stop to have purposeful faith in what is happening in our lives.  

Faith...regardless of what we're doing.  

Prayer...not for answers, but for thanks.  

The lightbulb moment, is that by accepting Christ into our hearts and choosing to live in faith through Him, we have already fulfilled God's main purpose for our lives.  

All the 'good things' we want so desperately to do are just sprinkles on an already frosted cake.

I don't know about you, but I'm going to try to ease up on pummeling God with my need to know, and start reflecting on the fact that whatever I decide to do, God will use towards HIS purpose.  After all, I'm pretty sure His purpose is way more important than mine, individually.

My lesson for today?

Good works are the product of much faith, not the other way around.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Oprah Moment, Anyone? #Empowered

Whenever I hear the word 'empowered' - I literally see a picture of Oprah in my head.  Anyone else?

Just me?

Ahem.  Moving on.

For anyone that doesn't know (which is probably pretty much everyone) I joined a bible study a few days ago with Proverbs 31 Ministries.  We're reading 'Made to Crave' by Lysa TerKeurst and talking about, among other things, struggles with food and how to overcome cravings.  I actually already read most of it...but I'm starting over, because I am still not enacting what I've been reading.

The main point here is - we are born with an innate desire to be filled.  Ideally, we would fill ourselves with the love of God and crave His presence in our lives.

Me?  I crave ice cream instead.  (This news is not new.)

I won't even go into the whole thought process that takes place when I binge on a bunch of crap.  It's basically along the lines of 'WHAT DID YOU JUST DO AND WHY DID YOU DO THAT?!'  Then I tell myself that my body is supposed to be a temple for God to dwell, and although I'm pretty sure the Lord probably thinks ice cream is awesome, I'm also pretty sure He doesn't need all that sugar in order to inspire me.

Then I feel bad, which causes me to eat more - it's a vicious cycle.  And you know what?  God doesn't want that.  He doesn't want me to struggle or berate myself.

It's just not spiritual.

So this weeks word in our study is #empowered.  When I first heard that word (and scratched the picture of Oprah out of my head) I thought of the apostle Paul.

In 2011, my husband and I were blessed to be able to visit Greece for our belated honeymoon.  One of the highlights of the trip, for me, was being able to stand at Areopagus where Paul preached in Athens in Acts 17:16-34.

See that marble hill in the bottom right?  That's Areopagus (also known as Mars Hill).  Can you imagine standing on top of that hill and screaming to the masses below?

Ya, me too.  Takes my breath away thinking about it.

I'll never forget the feeling I had while sitting atop that rock.

It was peaceful, and powerful.  I remember an eeriness about it as well.  To know you're standing where Paul stood?  For someone like me, it felt like my internal elevator shot to the top floor.

No one else has an internal elevator?


Once again, moving on.

Let's take a look at Acts 17.  Paul is in Athens and he's upset because he sees so many idols in the city.  As he's attempting to tell the people about Jesus, the 'philosophers' took him to Areopagus and and asked him to explain.
22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

Today, I needed to read this.  I actually already had a note in my bible from when I had read this before. 

It said 'Remember, you have a personal relationship with God.'

What, I ask, is more empowering than knowing that?

Yesterday, I was feeling very defeated.  I felt like I was failing.  I reached out to friends and felt like no one understood.

My idol?  Something I place above God?


Today, not so much.  Not after reading that.

My food cravings are cravings for love, deep down.  I have so much love in my life - my husband, my child - so it is obvious that the love I am craving is a love they cannot give me.

It is the love of God I crave, and He has that in abundance to give.

I am #empowered by His love.

I know, there is a whole lot of corn rolling around in this post.  Feel free to collect it and make popcorn to enjoy as this tale unfolds.

Without too much butter, because you know...watching the waistline.


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Thursday, January 16, 2014

"I got chills, they're multiplyin'"

This is a re-post...because I'm doing a new Bible study, and we've been asked to share our Jesus stories.  You know you want to read it again -'re welcome. ;)


Before I get to the meat of things, I thought I'd share with the world what an epic dork I am.

I love the X-Files.

A lot of people already know this about me - especially people I grew up around.  Some of those poor people (including my parents) had to put up with years of fanaticism.  Sorry, Mom.

Something about Mulder and Scully still makes my heart 'squee' with delight, like I'm a teenager all over again.  I love the conspiracy, the romance, the scariness...the overall depth of the show.  I am also totally not above a spontaneous weekend trip across the country for a fan event where I get to see and meet members of the cast.

(That totally happened, by the way.)

But this post isn't about the X-Files.  It's about something Scully said, once...something I felt the weight of back when I watched the show, but I never grasped until recently.

"I'm afraid that God is speaking and no one is listening." - Revelations, Season 3, Episode 11

Before 2006/2007, I was pretty good at putting on a show.  That's not to say that people very close to me in life didn't see that something was really wrong behind the scenes - but everyone else seemed to buy that things were generally fine.  Everyone struggles, right?

Professionally, I think I was pretty convincing.  I was good at whatever job I was in at the time, and even after being laid off three times - I was never unemployed long.  I was determined to climb the corporate ladder, even with no degree and no clear path.  Unfortunately, because I had no degree, I didn't make much money either.  I can't even say I was living paycheck to paycheck, because there were plenty of times when I had absolutely nothing (except cigarettes - because those were more necessary than food, of course).

The truth?

For about seven years, I was completely lost.  I rebelled.  I was an emotional roller coaster, on and off of medication for depression, anxiety and panic attacks.  I self-medicated with drugs and alcohol.  I stopped eating properly, lost a ton of weight, and my stomach was wrecked.  I found comfort in relationships that weren't always the healthiest for me, or for the people I was with.

(Sidebar: Some of my past loves are still the most important people in my life today, and I would never change anything about my past even if I could...because it all led me to where I am this very moment. Just had to say that!)

And then there's that thing...that 'straw that broke the camels back.' That moment when you think you might possibly get yourself together, but you wind up falling apart instead.  The moment when you think you're at the bottom, only to realize there's another floor below you giving way.

Did you ever have someone hurt you so deeply, so personally, and so publicly that you felt - quite literally - gutted?  In one day, my closest friend had become by greatest enemy.  I was so hurt I couldn't think straight. I felt so betrayed that I didn't know who to turn to.  Not only that, I was being evicted from my home.


To say I was broken would be a grave understatement.

Eerily enough, a few days prior, a friend of mine had broached the subject of God with me.  He was a brave man lol.

Back then, I couldn't separate God from man.  Christian people offended me deeply.  There were so many different kinds, too - those who expressed their faith quietly, and those who were loud about it.  There were those who were condemning and those with a message of love.  Some churches said the same things again and again, while some encouraged dancing in the aisles.  Some practiced what they preached, but the majority that I had met did not.  I saw them all as hypocrites.  How could all of these people be so different but be followers of the same God?

Diversity.  How human of them.

I took every Christian I had ever met and put them in a box labeled 'Jesus freaks'.  These people offended me - so their God must not be for me.

Then, I met Lester.  Lester was one of the happiest guys I had ever met in my life.  His personality was infectious.  We'd sit in his office at lunch and chat about nothing in particular - until one day he asked me where Jesus was in my life.

I about broke in half right there on his desk.  I had such a visceral reaction that I actually felt bad for this man.  I literally cried so hard that I probably left a puddle on his desk.

Where did THAT come from?

I totally couldn't comprehend why I was crying.  I had buried God so far down, I had forgotten He existed.

So when one of the most important people in my life, one of my best friends, threw me out the window - I did the only thing I could think of.

I called the man who spoke to me about Jesus.

My friend had written me a very hateful letter...six pages spewing acid all over me.  There were so many lies that I couldn't find the truth.  I would never claim to be completely innocent about anything, but this crossed so many lines.

It was a head trip and a half, if you know what I'm saying.

Was I going insane?  How could I have not seen this coming?  How did I not know things were this bad? What should I do now?  Do I respond?  Do I run away?

Lester gave me the best advice of my life.  He told me to tear up that letter.  If it didn't make me feel good - if it was full of lies and hurt - why would I entertain it a moment longer?

Why feed the darkness?

It was that moment, when I tore up the evil splashed across those pages, that I realized I really was - finally - at the bottom.  I had no home to go back to, my best friend was gone and I didn't know what to do.

Friends - when you're at the bottom, the only logical place to up.

You know what's even freakier than hearing Christians talk about their relationship with God?  Actually having a relationship with God.

I cracked open a bible for the first time in years, and the first verse that jumped out at me was Matthew 6: 19-21.

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and dust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

I remember sitting there thinking...well what the heck does that mean?  I have no freakin' treasure - I am broke as broke can be.  Maybe this God thing isn't for me, after all.

I didn't put too much stock into it at the time, but I did say a prayer.  A simple one.  God, please...please help me.  I don't know what to do anymore.

My friend Lester invited me to his church that weekend.  Inside, I was hesitant.  You would think, perhaps, I would have already been convinced - but no.  I'm pretty stubborn, and there were a lot of years spent trying to be everything *but* a Christian...I was walking in to enemy territory.

I sat down with Lester and his wife, Susan.  The church was different from any I had ever been in - there were butts in the seats.

Thousands of butts.  In seats.  At church.

Great, I thought...probably hootin' and hollerin' kind of people...the kind with a Pastor who had gold rings on each finger.

Nope.  The music was contemporary but reverent.  The Pastor came on stage in jeans and a Hawaiian shirt...he was an older man, in his late 50's, early 60's, I guessed.

He began to speak, and I listened.  I liked that he gave the history behind what he was reading, and even gave the different translations of words...Latin, Greek, etc.

Then, he said it.

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and dust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Now, please tell me...what are the odds?  With over 30,000 verses in the Christian Bible - what are the odds that that day, he would speak the exact words that I had read just days before?

I was covered in goosebumps and it was suddenly very hot in there.  My mind was completely blown, and completely clear at the same time.

I understood.  I had spent my entire life putting my faith into human beings.  Into jobs.  Into material things.

Human beings, however lovely they may be, are imperfect creatures.  They will always disappoint...even if they have no intention of doing so.  Even if they don't mean to.

Jobs?  They go away too, or they change...or one day you realize that you're getting paid thousands of dollars less than the guy next to you who does half the work.

Material things?  Please.  I won't insult your intelligence...if you don't know by now that material things disappoint, you've never had a computer hard drive crash.

You see...the only perfect thing in the universe - the only thing that never changes - is God.

I might be stubborn, but I'm not bulletproof.

The old me died that day.  At the end of the service, I found myself walking to the front of the church in tears and asking Christ for forgiveness.

To this day, that is still the craziest thing I've ever done in my life.  Lester and Susan are still in my life, too - for...forever, I hope.  Even after I talked their ear off and cried all over them for hours.

The next week was insane.  I decided to be honest about everything I was going through, rather than hide it.

My friends came to my aid.  My real friends.  They knew me, and they knew that the horrible things being said about me just couldn't be right.

My parents came to my aid.  There was a lot of past hurt there, and I had also put them through quite a bit with my rebellion - so this was something I wasn't expecting.

My friend Valerie was my saving grace.  Even though I had been a wayward friend, choosing instead the friend who hurt me to be around the most - she helped me.  Within a week, she had me lined up for an apartment in her building.  She even found me a dining room table!  I don't know if she really understands, to this day, how much I appreciated that.  I'm sure I was really crappy at expressing my thanks.  Thank you, Val.

Because I lived paycheck to paycheck, there was no way I could save up deposit money as well as first and last months rent for the apartment.  My parents stepped in and took care of that - it was hard for me to accept that money, but I put my pride down that day.  Thank you, Mom and Dad.

I even got a free couch! lol

Within a week, I was moved and had a place of my own.  Something I never could have imagined.

Could it be?  Was this help divine?  Were these angels placed on earth just for me?  Did God really love me this much?


You see, I was still human.  After all that, part of me still wondered if I really *was* 'saved'.  Part of me wondered if I had manufactured all of these coincidences in my mind.

This, to me, is proof positive that seeing is not believing.  It took...probably years, to accept the fact that God loved me and I was saved from my sin, and from Hell.

Over the years, I have pursued a relationship with Christ.  I've been through so, so much and have come out incredibly blessed.  I still have so much sin - but that isn't the important thing.  The important thing is that I'm no longer ignorant to sin, and no matter what I screw up - God can fix it.  He already has.

Little by little, God showed me what was wrong in my life and walked by my side until I righted those wrongs.  He still does it to this day, because I still screw up all the darn time.

And God still gives me goosebumps - often.

Am I risking looking like a nutcase to a lot of people by telling this story?  Sure.

Does it bother me?  Not really.  It is what it is.  Anyone that knows me, knows that I'm the safe kind of crazy, if anything.

What I get now, that I didn't get back that I didn't understand.  I didn't understand that church was 'for sinners, not for saints'.  I didn't understand that the 'hypocrites' I had labeled so long ago were, most likely, just trying their best...even when they fell short of practicing what they preached.

I didn't understand that bad Christians (truly Westboro Baptist Church, which I'm not even going to link to, because they don't deserve the traffic) were not synonymous with Christ or His teachings.

There is no darkness in Christ.  Nothing bad comes from God - the bad stuff comes from the other guy.

I never separated God and man.  I had put the sins of the world on God, when He was the one washing them away.

Silly human.

So if I have any advice for anyone reading's just to pay attention.  Pay attention to every moment and die to the past every day.  You don't live in the past.

You don't deserve a thing, and you can't earn happiness...happiness is not something you achieve, it's something you decide to be.

And grace...grace is free to the masses.

You just have to know where to look.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dude stole my trapper-keeper. Somewhere, Lisa Frank weeps.

Have you ever been sad about something and then realized it happened for the better?  I love those moments.  It's those moments that make the totally annoying, borderline trite expression 'everything happens for a reason' worth hearing one more time.

When I found my way back to God, the church gave me a new Bible.  I loved all over that book...I wrote in it, stuck notes inside - you would have thought that thing was a trapper-keeper.  Remember those?

Heck yes, me too.  I had a blue/gray one.  It was pretty plain - not a cool Lisa Frank one like some of my friends had.

Thanks for the image, MC.

But I digress.

I also remember when you could leave your doors unlocked in Philadelphia - long before Philadelphia became 'Killadelphia'.  I've been a lot of places, and it's still the only city that can simultaneously lift me up and break my heart.

I don't live in a bad part of the city.  The neighborhood is nice, relatively quiet and super kid-populated.  One night, a while back, I left my car door unlocked overnight.  

It was accidental - I'm not *that* trusting, anymore.

When I first opened the door and saw stuff all over the place, I did what every red-blooded, married-woman would do.

I blamed my husband. Duh.

As I was cursing his messiness under my breath, I remembered that my husband is pretty OCD.

It was definitely a creepy moment when I realized a stranger had ransacked my car.  The strangest part, though, was when I realized they hadn't taken anything.  There wasn't much to take - but I had tons of change and some dollar bills in there.

Weird, right?

It wasn't until I went to church that Sunday that I realized what had been stolen.  My husband and I both kept our Bibles in the car the week before.

Dude stole our BIBLES.  For real?!

My first thought was...'who the heck would want our Bibles?'

My second thought...'guess he needed them more than we do right now'.

When my third thought came, it was a bit heartbreaking. 

I had written so much in that much of my life had changed because of the words I read as I thumbed through the pages.  The post-it notes stuck to the pages held revelations, prayers, pain and resolutions.

My first baby-steps toward Christ were written in that Bible.  My first life-changing Christian experiences, too.

Anyone who's ever lost something of emotional value, knows the pang of sadness I'm talking about.  I think it would be like losing Elijah's baby book.  I kept hoping I was wrong, and that the Bibles would magically appear somewhere.  

But alas, no.  Gone for good.

I bought a new Bible shortly after, but I was still mourning my old one.  The old one had been a standard, red bound, gold leafed version.  When I chose my new one, I chose the complete opposite style.  Light blue, silver leafed...swirly ivy through the cover.  

It's no Lisa Frank, but it's halfway there.

Even though I thought it was pretty, I still couldn't get my mind off my old Bible.

Until, of course, God threw a brick at me.

I opened up my shiny new Bible, looked down, and saw Ephesians 4:22-24.

But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

I literally felt like I had been smacked upside the head.  Losing that book had been a blessing.  

God knows what I will remember and what I will forget.  There was so much pain and confusion written in those pages that, to this day, I am glad I cannot remember all of it.

He made me a new person - why would I spend my time reading the pains of my past among the pages of my former self?  Who needs that?

I certainly don't!

I still remember the breakthroughs...the goosebumps...the good that came from the bad...but I don't have to read the blow-by-blows, you know?

So thank you, Mr. thief-man, for stealing my trapper-keeper Bible.  Although I know you may have just thrown it away, I hope you learned a little something from my pain and prayer.

Or at least 'thou shall not steal', right?


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fat Tuesday: The holidays are a horrible time to lose weight.

Although I've been neglecting my blog, I haven't totally forgotten my Fat Tuesday purpose.  I've lost about seven pounds so far.  Usually I wouldn't be too excited about seven pounds, but given it's the holidays...I figure that's equivalent to at least fifteen in regular calendar time.

Fifteen, I can get excited about.

Unfortunately, I can't give myself too many props.  I've lost the weight because I've been busier that usual, and not so much because I've changed anything.  

Such is life.

I shall keep on truckin', in any case.

Today I'm sharing one of my favorite, favorite, favorite things to make.  A friend of mine (*waves*) introduced me to a Brazilian steakhouse a while back.  Why did I not know of these before? While I don't consider myself a big meat eater (I was actually a vegetarian for quite a few years) there is something about how those Brazilian's do meat.  

Especially lamb.

Now, I don't know if lamb is a regular in many people's home - but it surely is in mine.  I have managed to find a recipe that makes even the hesitant lamb tryer-outer cry 'bring on the meat!'

I won't pretend that my lamb is as amazing as the top sirloin, Brazilian, yummy goodness.  It's actually more in the vein of the way Greek's make their lamb.

My husband and I went to Greece for our honeymoon.  We spent a couple days in Athens and a glorious week in Santorini.   We were absolutely floored by this tiny island, and can't wait to go back.  We definitely didn't expect to fall in love with that place as much as we did...and we also weren't expecting the food.

I admit, I had no idea that Greek food was amazing.  I don't think I had really even *had* Greek food before I went to Greece.  Is that crazy??

The only thing that trumped the food, was the view. I can't even describe it, that's how amazing it was.

Crazy awesome, right?  Yes - go there, now.

Back to the lamb.

Greek lamb is more of a 'fall off the bone' type of meat, rather than the Brazilian steak.  I don't know about you, but I'll take it!  

It takes a while to cook, but totally worth the wait.  Besides, I love a dinner that I can throw in the oven and leave alone!

Happy eats!

Braised Leg of Lamb

(You can also do a version of this with shoulder cuts - shoulder cuts are crazy inexpensive, a great dinner for a smaller family and they only take about 3 hours to braise.)

Recipe closest to mine totally borrowed from this young lady.  Edited a bit.

    1 7-8 pound Leg of Lamb
    2 bay leaves
    Several Sprigs of rosemary
    10-15 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
    1 onion, peeled, and cut into eighths
    2-3 pounds of small red potatoes, scrubbed
    6 carrots, peeled, ends cut off and cut into 3 inch pieces
    1 cup of white wine (Or use extra stock)
    2 cups of stock (chicken or lamb)
    Sea Salt and Pepper
1-If you are using clay cooker, put the bottom of the clay cooker in the oven and start preheating the broiler. Place your lamb leg in the clay cooker and broiler until you start to see speckled brown spots on the surface of the lamb. Turn over, and do the same to the other side.

2-Take the lamb and cooker out of the oven, and turn down the heat to 275 degrees. Surround the lamb with the carrots, onions, and potatoes, garlic and rosemary and bay leaves, then pour the wine and broth over it. Sprinkle everything with sea salt and pepper.

3- If you are using a clay cooker, then put the top on. If you aren’t, make an aluminum foil tent over the food (don’t let it touch the food). Make sure that the rack in the oven is in the lower third of the oven, and place your lamb back in the oven. Now all you have to do is leave it alone for about 7 hours. Gently turn it with the help of tongs or two large spoons every two hours (read my notes above about what I did with what results).

4-When it’s done, take it out of the oven. We were lazy and served straight from the clay cooker. But you can remove the meat and veggies and plate them. Then you can skim some of the fat from the leftover juices, and boil it down a bit, and adjust it’s flavorings. Or you can just spoon it straight from the cooker over the vegetables and meat like us. Enjoy!

Friday, November 29, 2013

I'm not dead, I promise...though Boober warned me of death and pestilence.

Wow, that was a totally unplanned sabbatical I took from writing!  Probably won't be the last time, not gonna lie.  After all - men plan, God laughs.

So it's the day after Thanksgiving - and guess what?

Are you still feeling thankful today?


Do you have a toilet?  Did it flush today?

Well there you go - a reason to be thankful.  You're welcome.

There are tons of things I want to update about, but since it's 10 o'clock at night, I'm not going to venture into anything deep.  Instead, I'd like to discuss my sons new obsession.

Image Courtesy of Muppet Wikia

Now before we go further, let me say this - I don't want my kid in front of the TV all day.  At first I was all 'No TV until after he's 2 years old!'  But you know what?  There are some things I really, *really* enjoy on TV...and some things I didn't want to wait to introduce to my son. 

Ok, really only one thing: Muppets.

I watched tv when I was a kid, and I think I learned a ton (probably too much, actually) from my viewing habits.  I'm not saying my kid should watch as much as I did (After all, it's pretty annoying how many movies and tv shows I can recite word for word - right, mom?) but I am definitely saying that some restricted, quality TV time is ok with me.

It started with Sesame Street.  I let Elijah watch Sesame Street in the morning while we have breakfast, and that has been the extent of his TV exposure.  He was allowed to watch Veggie Tales once or twice too, not gonna lie.

Then, one day a couple of weeks ago, I thought to myself...I wonder if he'd like Fraggle Rock?  He loves to dance, so I figured the songs would appeal to him.

Oh, boy.  Big mistake.

Did you see that head action? 

If we're home, he will turn on the TV, turn on the xbox, and point to the Fraggle Rock box.  Why is this 14 month old so smart?

Must have been the Sesame Street.

Anyway, I've got to make sure I limit his viewing better than I have been.  I admit I've enjoyed singing along to all my favorite songs...

...wait for it...

Nope, sorry.  I thought the shame would come, but it didn't.

This, however, is something I can't bear:

It happens right after the opening credits - pretty much every time.  


We will beat this, my little man.  Together, we can.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Montessori Baby: Sensory Play and Salt Dough Handprints

As I've mentioned in the past, I try my best to find the joy in the mundane.  Sometimes it's tough to remember to stop and explain what you're doing to your little one (even if they may not completely understand) - when it's second nature, it's easy to breeze through and forget there's a little baby wondering what just happened!

For that very reason, I try to plan little activities for Elijah and I to do together.  I can't blame mommy-ADD with a focused task!  

Montessori explains that sensory learning is the obvious first learning method for children from birth...sensory play is used to refine their senses as they grow.  

This week?  Salt dough!  Perfect as a tactile exercise, making salt dough will facilitate the explanation of textures such as rough, smooth, grainy...and states of matter such as liquid, solid, etc.  

Now I'm not crazy - I know that my kid is only 13 months old and will not be grasping these concepts outright...'s really just a way to sound smart while I play with flour and salt :D

Whenever I plan on doing something messy, we set up in the kitchen...and I pretty much always follow up an activity with some water play.  Elijah may splash water everywhere, but it makes for an easy cleanup!

I also try to establish a workspace for Eli so that he knows he has boundaries for the activity.  In the kitchen, I tend to use a nice sized tupperware for him to play in because they have taller sides to contain spills.

Needless, to say, every time he sees me take out the tupperware, he is ready to go!

The recipe for salt dough is super simple.  

Salt Dough

1/2 c salt
1/2 c flour (I use wheat flour sometimes...the color is just awesome for crafts if you like the 'natural' look.)
1/4 c water (pour a little at a may need more or less)

Mix it all up to form dough.

After plenty of play time, I decided what better to do with the dough than make some handprints?  They make awesome gifts for loved ones!

To harden the dough you can let it sit out for a few days, or you can bake it in the oven at 200 degrees for a few hours.  I did 3.5 hours but it could probably use a little longer in my oven.

Then I cut out some felt and stuck it on the underside...this way the handprints won't scratch whatever they're sitting on!

Finally...we added some paint (I used brown gouache, super watered down)...and voila!

Sensory play and crafts all rolled into one!

What are some activities you like to do with your kid?  Are there any you absolutely hate?

Until next time...enjoy the little people in your lives!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fat Tuesday: Well, crap.

So last week my big confession happened.  I remember hitting 'publish' on that post with all kinds of gusto and resolutions to be better.

I'd love to be able to say that I got my butt back in the gym, while writing down my food choices and finding my problem areas.

Yea, that totally didn't happen.

I think I've spent the last week in a state of panic-eating.  That's when you eat everything in sight because you're not supposed to.

If I thought last week was embarrassing, then this week really takes the cake.

This morning, when I realized it was Fat Tuesday and no progress had been made, I decided to take my issue straight to the big Man upstairs.

Many mornings (not all...hey, I'm not perfect) I get up around 4:30 with my husband and I do independent Bible study.  This consists of penning my issue in a copybook, saying a prayer for direction, randomly opening up the Bible and studying what I find. Then, I record what I've learned.

So I wrote down how frustrated I was with myself, and wondered (on the page) whether or not I'd ever really change.  I popped open my Bible and there it was:

"Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's spirit dwells in you?  If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple." - 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17.

Wow...okay, I'm listening.

Now...I've read that verse before - but I never had it jump off the page as an answer to a prayer.

It was pretty intimidating at first.  I love, love having a personal relationship with the Lord - but I also have a pretty healthy fear of God as well.

And He knows that.

So rock on, God - you got my attention.

I think, in response to the brick I just had thrown at my head, I should probably be a bit more aggressive in my efforts to change.

I've had my gym membership on hold the past couple of months, so I'm going to reactivate that.  My goal is to go at least three times a week - twice during the week and at least once on the weekend.  If I cannot get to the gym, I will exercise on my own.

I was on a roll a couple of months ago with the gym, and went three times a week for about 6 weeks - there were plenty of reasons I had to stop, but I won't list them, as they'll just be excuses.

I had even worked up to ten miles on the bike.  Which was awesome.

Hope to get there again!

I'm also pretty sure that I'm both lactose and gluten intolerant.  My acupuncturist had me stop gluten for a while and I felt pretty awesome...but my cheese...oh my cheese (and ice cream...did I mention ice cream?) is SO much harder to think about giving up!

I admit it - I'm addicted to feta (and ice cream).

I'm trying to psych myself up over here - - HELP ME OUT, PEOPLE.

In the meantime,  I tried this fantastic recipe this past week and absolutely must share.  I did edit it a bit - so my version is below.

Quinoa Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

  • 1 cup dry quinoa, pre-rinsed
  • 1c low sodium chicken stock and 1c water
  • 4 large portobello mushrooms, caps removed
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (1.5 if you want it a little less strong)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher or sea salt to taste
  • 1 1/2 cup diced vine-ripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped basil
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees f.

Cook quinoa to package instructions. (If you don't know how - here you go...boil your water [or stock in my case], add quinoa, reduce to simmer and cover for 15 minutes.  You don't have to stir it.

Remove gills from mushrooms.  While quinoa is cooking, place mushrooms gill (open side) up on a cookie sheet. Brush mushrooms with olive oil.  Season with salt to taste.

Cook mushrooms 10 minutes.

Saute balsamic vinegar, black pepper, red pepper flakes, salt to taste, tomatoes, bread crumbs, basil and feta. Remove from heat and combine with quinoa

Remove mushrooms from oven and evenly divide quinoa mixture, approximately 1/2 cup, into each mushroom. Bake 12 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and cheese is melted. Eat immediately or allow to cool slightly.

It was really awesome...and super easy!  We are definitely addicted to quinoa!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Oh no...already?

A conversation with my 13 month old son:

Me: Elijah, honey, come put your shoes on.
Eli: No.
Me: Yes.
Eli: No. (walks away)

Seriously? Already?

This is bad.

Before I know it, he'll be planking.