Monday, December 30, 2013

Gettin' Crafty - A Project For My Husband


I had been working on a secret project for Bill for a few weeks leading up to Christmas, and it makes me really happy to share it now (and I will post another photo of the art work hanging over our bed).  I decided to make a "headboard" out of a palette and some hearts our wedding party held in our wedding photos (pictured above).  I included the entire collage from a previous blog post, because this project will always remind me of our wedding day, which was hands down the best day of my life, and these photos really capture my heart.  Sigh… I still swoon thinking about it.  This project made me feel like I was preserving our day forever :)

I borrowed the materials necessary (paint can opener, some left over stain from a previous project, and a drop cloth) from my father in law and purchased wood glue and a paint brush and got to work.  Honestly, it was SUCH a simple project, because I already had the hearts made from our wedding!  It was just about staining the wood, waiting for it to dry, gluing the hearts down, weighing them down with paint cans to make sure they really stuck and waiting for the glue to dry. 


Stepping back to look at the final product made my heart so happy, and when this hangs over my bed, I will smile everyday.  A bunch of people keep saying that we won't want it in our house forever because we will not longer be "Just Married".  I sincerely believe our love will always feel new and exciting and that it will not fade, and that "Just Married" is a mentality.  While life enters a day to day mode where you just get things done, we do not have to be that way as well!  We can hold onto little things that make us new and happy.  A million years with Bill would not be enough for me!

He loved this gift, and said we can keep it in our room forever :)  This life is just a blip in the span of time, and we will always be "Just Married". 

Did anyone get crafty with me for Christmas gifts? 

Share please :)

Friday, December 27, 2013

List Love - All I Got For Christmas

1. Facetime for my Sister's Engagement - The fact that I was able to be present for a moment that changed my sister, Faith's life was incredible.  I felt so connected to it I started crying and couldn't believe it really felt like I was able to be there.  Her boyfriend, now Fiance, Josh got down on one knee and said the sweetest things to his girl, and for just a moment all was still in a house generally full of movement.  He really loves my little sister, and to see her say yes to the man who holds her heart was all I really needed for Christmas.


2. Facetime With My Family Christmas Morning - Bill and I woke up at 5:30 am on Christmas morning to open gifts together then at 6:15 am we talked to my twin brother, his wife and their sweet daughter in Pittsburgh and at 6:30 am we facetimed with my parents, younger brother, two younger sisters, and my sister's fiance and his entire family.  My heart was full by 6:40 am Christmas morning, without even considering the gifts everyone sent.  I love those people on the screen so much and facetime really allowed me to feel connected to them despite the miles.  I am so thankful for technology.

Disclaimer: This photo is not from Christmas day, but it's such an accurate picture of our regular facetime sessions :)
3. TWO sets of incredible parents - I am SO blessed to have not only the world's best parents, but also the world's best mother and father in law.  All four of these people are incredible examples of marriage and love Bill AND I without abandon.  We spent the holidays with Bill's family this year and it was a pleasure to be around his parents as much as possible :)  

We spent Christmas eve just the four of us, eating Chinese and Sushi (a Wecker family tradition) and watching It's a Wonderful Life.  What a blessing it is to have such a safe home away from home right around the corner from our house.

Bill's dad captured the top left moment, and I couldn't help but include it in this collage!

4. Holiday Favorite Foods - I can't post on a Friday and not talk about food!  I look forward to the holidays every year because of the incredible food that gets cooked up, and this year was no exception.  Whether it is my mom's home made eggnog and corn chowder or Bill's mom's baked goods, that she starts immediately following Thanksgiving; I am going to gain a few pounds :) This year, I was surprised to contribute a meal  to the mix!

Bill and I prepared his parents and aunt and uncle a Christmas dinner thanking them for always hosting us all year long.  We made a slow roasted pork shoulder, scalloped potatoes, raw and baked oyster appetizers, and honey mustard and pecan green beans.  We also made a few cocktails and had some really yummy Corley Family Vineyards Cabernet with dinner.  We had the most lovely evening that night, and I wish I had pictures to share!  I was having too good of a time to remember to take any!


As always, my loving husband was one of my favorite parts of the holidays.  He loves it all and really wants to the spirit of the season to be remembered, and I felt like this year we were really able to remember what is important.  I am so happy to spend every day with him, and Christmas is no exception to that.  Check back on Monday for a post about a gift I made him that will forever remind me of our wedding day :)

Love you guys!  
Be sure to tell me about your holiday moments that stand out!



Friday, December 20, 2013

Food I Ate Friday - Gingerbread Goodness


I've never made Gingerbread men before, so when Bill told me he used to always make them with his parents and that he wanted to bring the tradition back, suffice it to say that I was really excited.  We followed a recipe Bill's mom had in a cookie cook book she uses every Christmas, and refrigerated the dough overnight.  The anticipation was killing me.

There is something about the smell of Gingerbread that makes me feel all warm and cozy inside, and it filled the house with the smells of the holidays.  Baking in general warms up the house and fills it with excitement.  We put all the cookies on the kitchen table and filled pastry bags with icing and started creating our little men.  Most of them were silly, and by no means are we professionals, but they were absolutely adorable.  Everytime we completed one we showed the group and shared our triumphs and defeats.


Not only did they turn out great, but we had a really lovely time.  We laughed and drank coffee and chatted and decided this would be a new tradition for our little family.  Bill's parents are truly welcoming, and this was such a fun way to spend a weekend with them.

Merry Christmas Friends!  

Bake something this weekend!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Be Encouraged - God Overcoming My Struggle With Weight

Self-Image.  
What a loaded phrase.  

It has a lot of debate, and I truly hope none of these words offend anyone, but I am realizing more and more that all women struggle with their body, and I want to dive into the why today.  With such a sensitive subject, I want to be sure we all understand, I believe any struggle with weight is valid and there is more going on that just the surface shows.

It pains me when women can't see their beauty.  It pains me when beautiful Christian women complain about their stretch marks or hips or anything they view as imperfect.  It hurts my heart to watch women starve themselves over a few pounds.  I hate seeing women obsess over the way they look.  I hate seeing women who have had work done to themselves to make themselves feel more beautiful.  To me, they aren't getting God's intentions.   He didn't curse you with a flabby stomach or straight hair or big feet or small boobs.  He created you to be unique, he did not want us to all look the same with "perfect" bodies and waist lines and hair and makeup.   He had no image of what was "perfect" when he created you and how far from it he was placing you.  Why are we all trying to be the same, when we were intended to be different??   

Please, for your sake, stop wishing you were someone else and just learn to love the person that you are inside AND out.  It is really easy to fake this, but I am learning I will never wear a size zero, I will always have short legs, and I will never have blonde hair.  Why do I feel the need to fight reality so hard?  I am just as guilty as anyone else.  However, I am choosing to be healthy and I am choosing to see people the way God sees them.  It will take a daily decision to be happy in my own skin, not constantly figuring out how to tweak and alter it and make it look more similar to what is popular or fashionable or young.

...

I think it is equally important to realize the battle of being overweight, because it pains my heart in a different way.  Both being over and under weight shows me there is hurt and there is a lack of respect for your body and the temple that God has granted you, and maybe our bodies aren't even being viewed that way.  But what being overweight also shows me is a sense of giving up and being defeated.  Being healthy just isn't a priority, and to me that’s hard to swallow.  It should be at the top of our list.  

I do not think that taking care of ourselves equals buying new clothes all the time and letting consumerism take over whenever we need a pick me up.  We are called to take care of the temple of the Lord, and what we have been given to house him is our earthly bodies.  This does not mean I need be a crossfit trainer, but it means I need to respect my body and keep it running as well as I know how.  This means diet, exercise, and a healthy mind set are all necessary.  It does not mean I cannot eat a cookie or need to feel guilty for having a glass of wine either… everything in moderation and above all, be honest with yourself.  Where do you stand and why? 

Being healthy is a mind battle, and it looks different on different people.  People's resting healthy weights are different.  We HAVE to stop comparing ourselves to others, and we need to focus on our minds and why we do what we do.  Why are we binge eating? Why are we starving ourselves?  Is it for attention?  Is it a cry for help? Is it for control? Do we feel inadequate?  Do we have something to prove? Do we feel like no one will notice?  Is it just a test of our will?  Are you anxious?  The list goes on and on…

she was beautiful, deep down to her soul.

I relate to it all.  My weight fluctuates and I diet and exercise and binge eat and over eat.  I am anxious and search for control and feel inadequate and want attention.  So I write to you from my heart.  If you are a person reading this who struggles with the battle of weight, know that my heart is with you.  I want to challenge you to challenge yourself and to stop making excuses.  This is not about your physical appearance as much as it is about your heart.  As cheesy as it sounds, there is no time like the present to take control.  See the beauty in being healthy, and speak with the Lord on learning to take better care of his temple.  I have times where I do this well and times where I don't, and that's OK.  No matter what type of weight challenge you face, God sees you as his perfect creation.  Honestly.  Believe that.  Stop seeing yourself as less than you are because you aren't "perfect" in your eyes when you look in the mirror, because you are perfect in his. 

We all have different struggles, but I have found this one in particular to be so common.  While we all have different versions of what is healthiness, work hard to focus on your own decisions and not worry about how others are doing it.  Do your research and find out why your body is the way it is.  In this technology filled world, we truly have no excuse. 

Thank you for considering my heart and opinion and knowing that I am figuring this out as well.  Talk openly to me about this friends.  There is no judgement in true friendship, and that comes through quality conversation and no ill intention, and I offer you both.

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Penny For Your Thoughts- Holiday Focus

I think it's assumed when I stop blogging I am too busy, however lately I do not feel that has been keeping me from here.  I have lovely things to say about the holidays and how I have been swept up in them in different ways this year, but mostly I have been spending time with friends, family and my dear sweet husband.  As always, I am counting my blessings and remembering how much I have to be grateful for, but even more so I am realizing that I literally want for nothing.  When people ask what I want for Christmas, there is nothing I need.  Sure I have a list, but if I got nothing on it, I would be fine.  How amazingly blessed am I?  It makes me want to give away a bunch of my stuff, which to some may sound awful, but to me makes me feel like God has given me more than I could have ever imagined :)

I love the holidays for the old school reasons.  Being around family and friends, sharing meals and conversation, carols celebrating Jesus, baking, hand written cards and beautiful decorations throughout homes.  I love good quality time during this time of year, it just feels so special :)  I pray that every person that reads these words seeks out something simple to celebrate the holidays.  Turn off your television and be present with the people you love.  Get to know them better, and make sure to tell them how much you love them.  God only gave us so much time together and so many holiday seasons to celebrate.  Do not waste one minute of this life :)  Dive in head first this holiday season and celebrate having people in your life.  Even if all you get for Christmas is a new toothbrush, focus on the people around you, and you will feel blessed.

You might ask where this is coming from, and I guess it is just that I hear SO many ungrateful people, or see people who are trying to buy each other's love or complain openly about how much they dislike their families.  I want to yell at them and shake them and tell them that being together should be what they are looking forward to!  That is what the holidays are about.  Gifts are lovely when done in the right spirit, and I absolutely love giving them, so don't get me wrong.  I just see so many people who complain their way through the holidays, and I guess it has damaged my heart a little.  If you are miserable, do not rob others of their joy. 

Thanks for reading through my thought process!  I guess I just want to preserve the innocence and magic of the holiday season.  My intention is just to push you to focus on what's important and let the rest go this season.  If you want quality time and a hearty meal, my door is genuinely always open.  Happy Holidays :)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Food I Ate Fridays - Pumpkin Trifle


Ingredients

2-3 cups of leftover spice cake, muffins, or gingerbread (I used spice cake)
1 16 ounce can pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 1/2 cups cold milk
4 (3.4 ounce) packages instant butterscotch pudding mix
2 cups whipped cream


Directions

1) Set aside 1/4 cup of cake crumbs for top. Divide remaining crumbs into four portions; sprinkle one portion into the bottom of a trifle bowl or 3-qt. serving bowl. 

2) In a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, spices, milk and pudding mixes; mix until smooth. Spoon half into the serving bowl. 

3) Sprinkle with a second portion of crumbs. 

4) Whip cream until stiff; spoon half into bowl. 

5) Sprinkle with a third portion of crumbs. Top with the remaining pumpkin mixture, then last portion of crumbs and remaining whipped cream. 

6) Sprinkle the reserved crumbs on top, around the edge of the bowl. Place cherries in the center if desired. 

7) Cover and chill at least 2 hours before serving.


Comments

I did not follow this recipe exactly.  

Also, I did not make fresh whipped cream; I bought cool whip, and guess what, it was still delicious!  

I didn't have Allspice or nutmeg and I didn't measure my spices.  

Despite all that, everyone who had this told me they loved it.  So if you like a little extra cinnamon, feel free to go for it!  I'd also recommend a little pumpkin pie spice!  

Also, if you attempt this, know that the pumpkin and butterscotch pudding is delicious, but really thick, so a good quality spatula would be best for spreading :)

Eat well my friends!


For your reference, this recipe came from Here.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Food I Ate Fridays - Sister Baking Day Featuring Kringala



Last Friday, my sister Faith and I spent the day baking together and it was simply lovely.  We woke up early, had french press coffee with peppermint mocha creamer, and just sunk into our first holiday celebration day.  In comfy pajama pants and messy buns on top of our heads, we baked 5 dozen chocolate chip cookies, completed a tray of peppermint bark and made a batch of these little beauties pictured above called Kringala. 

Kringala hold a dear place in our hearts, and they taste just like childhood to us.  When we were really young, we used to visit an elderly woman, affectionatly referred to as Mrs. Z (her last name was Zebawa), and she always welcomed us with a basket of warm Kringala fresh from the oven.  We spent hours at her home, which I remember as quite an adventure, despite it's size and layout.   She had an assortment of interesting items: vases she had collected, unique napkin rings, paint brushes, and colorful tapestries; and she loved having us there.  I wanted to be like her, with stories of the world and yummy treats for people.  I remember it being a warm place, and even very young I could tell we filled her heart with joy (and exhausted her :).  It was such a dear place to us, and the familiar smell and taste of the Kringala made me feel home and nostalgic. 

This food I ate Friday is special, because I will not be sharing the recipe.  You can find lots of recipes for Kringala online, but this one is just one I'd rather keep close to my heart.  She considered us family, and so I consider it a family recipe.  I would, however, be happy to bake you some if you give me some notice :)  They are truly a wonderful treat with a cup of tea and warm with a touch of butter. 

Does baking make you feel nostalgic?  
Let me know some of your favorite holiday treats!  

(One day lots of people will comment on my posts like other people's blogs, but for now I will just dream of that day and continue to ask questions at the end as if I have a large following ;)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Life Lessons - A Perspective on Thankfulness

A lovely woman has included me on an email list that has a devotional called, Jesus Calling, sent directly to my inbox everyday. It is written from the Lord's perspective, and often times is exactly what I need to hear. If you are interested in hearing more about it, here is at link to the book reviews on Amazon to take a look at! Below is a recent Jesus Calling excerpt that really touched my heart and made me focus even harder on being grateful for what I have now and always.

As I prepare for Thanksgiving day, I always reflect on what I have to be thankful for, and this year is no exception. While it sounds cheesy, I wish people lived everyday this way instead of just making an effort during this season. It would make such a huge difference in America. Please, for your sake, start thinking more about what you do have and not focusing so much on what you want. 

I KNOW that I am blessed. Just having the freedom to write these words is so incredible. Do not take your freedoms for granted and use your finances to bless others. This holiday season, do something with you time and finances that matters.

A THANKFUL ATTITUDE opens windows of heaven. Spiritual blessings fall freely onto you through those openings into eternity. Moreover, as you look up with a grateful heart, you get glimpses of Glory through those windows. You cannot yet live in heaven, but you can experience foretastes of your ultimate home. Such samples of heavenly fare revive your hope. Thankfulness opens you up to these experiences, which then provide further reasons to be grateful. Thus, your path becomes an upward spiral: ever increasing in gladness.

Thankfulness is not some sort of magic formula; it is the language of Love, which enables you to communicate intimately with Me. A thankful mind-set does not entail a denial of reality with its plethora of problems. Instead, it rejoices in Me, your Savior, in the midst of trials and tribulations. I am your refuge and strength, an ever-present and well-proved help in trouble.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sharing the Wealth in my Season of Reading


Bill and I have a problem.  We have officially run out of bookshelf space.  We have small stacks of books piling up around our home and I have decided, as a result of this recent dilemma, as I finish a book, I will send it someone who would enjoy reading it, to make room in my house for more books in the future and to send someone a little joy at the same time.   

SO, if after reading my short review (and potentially doing a little research of your own) you are interested in having any book you see on here in your collection, just leave me a comment and I will arrange to have it sent to you so you can sit in a comfortable chair with a cup of tea and be transported elsewhere, even for just a few minutes a day.  Reading is wonderful, and hoarding books, especially ones I have finished, seems like a crime.  I want to share the wealth!

The being said, I'd love to tell you about this lovely read.  It is a collection of short stories of women who lived over seas and excerpts of their lives and travels.    Some discouraging, some encouraging and all very realistic.  It really hits the nail on the head when it comes to language barriers, cultural differences and celebrating small victories.  I think often times the idea of living abroad is really romanticized, and I thought this book would glorify the expatriat experience, but it actually was very raw and made it clear that the lifestyle is not for everyone and takes a lot of perseverance. 

This book kind of surprised me.  Maybe I need to stop having pre-conceived notions and just a take a book for what I is as I experience it, but this book was better than expected to me.  I haven't read a collection of short stories in awhile, and it was a nice change of pace to read one story at a time or a few back to back as I pleased.  It was a nice change of pace, although it got me craving a good long book… grass is always greener right?

I definitely recommnd this book, but not if you want a lot of character development, but that is the choice you make with short stories.  I loved it though, and it really covered the entire globe with each woman being located in really unique places, it hit on politics and religion, and so much more.  Definitely worth you time!

Anyone interested?


Friday, November 22, 2013

Away For the Weekend - Vegas Here I Come!


I am heading to Vegas this weekend, and as is always the case when I say those words, I am really excited. 

I just love it.  Maybe it is because I am very responsible, I have a structured job, I make a meal plan every week, and I go to church every Sunday.  I am organized and clean and do laundry and don't make spontaneous purchases.  I am very methodical about my life.  I do not buy junk food, never stay up past 10 pm, wake up at 6 am everyday and (attempt to) always put others first. 

And then I go to Vegas…  I sleep in, eat big breakfasts, play games, drink oversized drinks, stay up til 2 am, eat fast food and snacks, do not have a plan, and do what I want.  I think because it is always in short spurts, I really enjoy just existing there for awhile.  Other places I go for vacation, I feel like I need to be productive and see it all and have a plan of attack, but not when I am there.  People say Vegas is dirty and raunchy, but I think that Vegas is what you make of it.  The casinos are really beautiful and the food can be incredible.  The place is famous for a reason and I can't wait to be there and start relaxing and eating and just being with Bill and a couple friends.  I'm also gonna check out my first Motocross race!

Enjoy your weekend friends, and send any luck you don't need my way :)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My Family's Contagious Joy


This picture brings my heart joy and is currently my desktop background at work. 

My family has a contagious energy and my siblings are beyond a blessing to me.

I miss them more than words can describe, but feel peace in my heart about our individual journeys.

This picture is a throwback to the night before my wedding :)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Food I Ate Friday - Almond Biscotti

There is something about biscotti to me...  Maybe it reminds me of my time in Italy, maybe it is my fascination with different kinds of baking, but whatever it is, they make me happy and I love them in a unique way.  I cannot have them without a cup of tea or coffee to dunk in, and my preference is black tea with milk and a hint of sugar.  

As usual, I did not make up the recipe this week.  I found it on Pinterest, and the pin led me to the Hungry Brownie Blog.    If you are foodie, I encourage you to explore the rest of the blog.  There are definitely a few more recipes I want to try on there!  The photo and the recipe both belong to the blog referenced above... I really need to start focusing on the pictures I am taking!


Almond Biscotti

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract (or 1/2 teaspoon amaretto)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon anise extract (optional)
1 cup of almonds, toasted and chopped, but not too fine 

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheet with parchment paper

2) Combine dry ingredients and set aside.  Whisk together eggs, extracts and vanilla until well blended.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix to combine.

3) Scrape out the dough onto parchment paper and form into a long flat loaf, about 10 inches by 5 inches.

4) Bake until firm and dry, about 20 to 30 minutes (I actually ended up baking it for 40 to make sure the center was cooked through).  

5) Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. 

6) Using a serrated knife, slice into 1/2 inch wide slices.  Lay the slices cut side down on the baking sheet and bake for another 10-15 minutes.  Turn the slices over and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

7) Cool biscotti on a rack.  Cool completely before serving.  

*Refer to the Hungry Brownie Blog linked above for additional tips and information!


Have a lovely weekend friends :)  Eat well!



Monday, November 11, 2013

Be Encouraged - My First 10K


I want to take this opportunity to encourage anyone that doesn't think they can do something, because I genuinely and sincerely did not think that running a 10K was ever a possibility for me.  I am not lazy or unmotivated, but I just never enjoyed running.  I would always literally laugh at people who signed up for races because it sounded that absurd to me.  I ran a 5K last year, and left it feeling accomplished and like I never needed to push harder than that because it would be out of my reach… well I was wrong.

I know how cheesy it is, but I really do think all you have to do is put your mind to something.  In training for this, I learned a lot about my body, what it can handle, how diet effects exercise and why it is important to push yourself to do a task you do not believe you can do.  

That morning, when I started the 6.2 mile journey to the finish line, I remember thinking that if I didn't give up mentally and kept believing my body could handle it, I could jog the entire thing.  It was a beautiful morning, and sunlight softly hit my face as I took off just after the sun came up.  I ran beside some beautiful lakes and through the most peaceful neighborhoods.  I played a fun playlist and let me mind enjoy each song as it came on.  I have never run that far before, and I was having some pretty bad knee issues leading up to the run, but dang it, I ran that whole 6.2 miles and did not give up.  Crossing the finish line with the biggest cheering section at the race made me want to burst into tears.  I still can't believe I did it!  

That moment of sheer joy is definitely something I will hold onto for a long time. 



I am so proud to say I completed this hurdle, and look forward to putting a new one in front of myself.  Until then, I plan to bask in the joy that I did something that felt unattainable and I did it to the best of my ability.  I did not leave an ounce of energy unused and I pushed myself around every bend in the road. 

Thank you Lord for giving me the ability to complete this task.  
I pray I never take your gift of life for granted.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Food I Ate Friday - Chicken Tikka Masala

Watch out people, I got a crock pot and I am becoming obsessed with it.

Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Honestly, this recipe could not be much easier or more delicious!  It came from Real Simple magazine (as many of my recipes do) and it can be found here for your reference.  It turned out so good the first time we made it, we immediately made it again the next week.  I recommend shredding the chicken and serving it with the frozen Trader Joe's Naan bread :) 

Ingredients

1 15-ounce Can Crushed Tomatoes
1 Medium Onion, Chopped
2 Cloves of Garlic, Chopped
2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
2 Teaspoons Garam Masala (Indian Spice Blend)
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper
1 1/2 Pounds Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
1/2 English Cucumber, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 Cup Fresh Cilantro Leaves
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Cup Basmati or some other long grain white rice
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream


Directions

1) In a 4-6 Quart slow cooker, combine the tomatoes, onion, garlic, tomato paste, garam masala 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Place the chicken on top of the mixture, cover and cook until the chicken is tender 
*7-8 hours on low OR 3-4 hours on high.
2) In a small bowl, toss the cucumber and cilantro with the lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.  Cover and refrigerate for up to 8 hours.
3) Twenty (or thirty) minutes before serving, cook the rice to the packages directions (we used brown rice so we needed a little more time)
4) Just before serving, stir the cream into the chicken tikka masala.  Serve over the rice with the cucumber mixture.



Enjoy your weekend friends!  

Eat Well!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Happy Birthday Daddy

This is my dad.

Today is his 56th birthday.

He is my biggest fan, the first man I ever loved and the best example of selflessness I have ever known.  He lives his life to make those around him more comfortable, and he is such an incredible husband, father and grandpa.  Growing up makes you see your parents differently, and while some may find their parents not everything they thought they were, I certainly have had the opposite experience.  He is everything I need him to be and is ALWAYS there for me when I need him.  Walking down the aisle with him was an honor because I am SO proud to be his little girl.  


My dad is a man who enjoys the little things.  A cup of blueberry coffee, a walk on a brisk morning and a cabin in the woods are things that make him smile.  He loves the trees changing in the fall and can't wait until the next time he gets to be in Maine.  Sam Adams, tubs of tri-flavored popcorn and Halls cough drops always make me think of him.  Isn't it funny what will make you think of a person!?

He is an unbelievable writer and can bring me to tears with a simple email.  He loves me beyond words and often times that love overwhelms me and helps motivate me to be better and do more.  I work hard and love hard and he taught me how to be that way.  I hate being away from him on days like today when I just want to sit and have a glass of wine with him and celebrate another year of life that we have been blessed with.  I spoke with him on the phone this morning and my heart ached to be in Maryland.

Daddy, I love you so much.  What an amazing year this has been, and look how much more we have to look forward to!  Thank you for always giving your entire heart to each of us and for working so hard to provide for your ever growing family.  I hope today you feel showered and appreciated and are able to have quality time with those you love.  I can't wait until you are here in February and we can celebrate together and share in the simple pleasures of life.  I look forward to many adventures traveling together and enjoying the joy our relationship brings to both our hearts.

Happy Birthday Daddy :)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Oh Hello Friend Party and Quality Time with My Girls


Me and two of my best girls went to a 5 Year Anniversary Party for a blog we have admired for a few years; and while I was so happy to be there and experience it, I was most excited about spending time with my girls.  They are both so dear to me, and I just love any quality time we can spend together.  We laughed in the car and gawked at the cute items and I just loved being around them for something like this.  We had the best time, and it reminded me that no matter what I envy in the blog world, I have it all in my reality.

I did a poor job getting pictures of the event, it was absolutely adorable.  There was cute food and drinks, fun colorful decor, someone who created silhouettes of attendees, a calligraphy artist, a fabulous band playing, a photo booth and a cotton candy machine.  It was a true celebration.

We looked through the shop that opened after the blog gained popularity, which was right around the corner from the party, and you can tell it is a dream of the owner's to have this little treasure trove.  I honestly wanted everything in the place.  It was so, so lovely.  The evening seemed to be exactly what she was hoping for and even though I have never met her, I felt her joy and loved seeing her thrilled at the turn out.  It just made me happy to see someone so happy and to see their dreams come true :)

To check out more of the event, watch this video on the Oh Hello Friend Blog.  

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Season of Reading - A Lovely Italian Adventure


This book is an Italy loving foodie's dream.  I definitely could not get enough of it.  It was like going on vacation whenever I picked it up, because I dream of being the woman who wrote this when I "grow up" :)  She writes with such poise and confidence and makes her meals sound like the most incredible experiences I can even imagine.

The recipes are so sumptuous, and every dish described can almost be tasted from the amount of detail.  Oh my gosh, I just wanted to jump in the pages and be sitting at the table with them!  I can picture myself with a glass of deep red wine soaking it all in sitting in a rustic, yet comfortable wooden chair around a table filled with laughter, candles and conversation.

I have been daydreaming about a trip my family and I are planning to Paris, Germany and Tuscany in the fall of 2015.  While that is only 2 years away, it feels like an eternity.  I cannot wait to be there, living in the setting of this book.  I miss living in Italy everyday and often times wonder if anywhere else in the world fits me as well as a small Italian town.  The beauty in simple moments is overwhelming.  The colors and smells and textures and flavors of Italy are overwhelmingly glorious to my palette, and I realize as I write this that a piece of my heart never left. 

This book just hugs you.  It really transported me back to Italy where life is a little bit slower paced and time stands still a little more.  People take their time and sit and talk and a meal takes hours upon hours and they just sit and enjoy each other.  I feel like this is something American culture lacks, the ability to just sit and enjoy a good meal and wine at a dinner table for a long time.  We are always in a hurry to get somewhere or watch something or on our phones distracted.  This book is such a refreshing reminder that there are places that exist in the world today that linger over meals and just enjoy food and wine and company.  That is how I want my home and life to be known. 

Who wants to help me accomplish this? ;)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things - My Husband, Weekend Trips and Great Food


To say our first anniversary was wonderful would be such an understatement.  We took the train down to San Diego and stayed in Little Italy and had the most incredible weekend filled with amazing food, lots of walking, and heartfelt conversation.  It is so amazing to watch a year go by and see how far you have come.  While we were in San Diego, I realized how much more I love Bill than I ever have before and how amazing it is that love can grow.


He was so thoughtful and brought coffee mugs to make our room feel homey, made sure I treated myself to what I really wanted and brought a smile to my face every moment that he could.  I made the little banner pictured above for our room (1st year anniversary is paper) and gave him a few little gifts, but our focus was taking time out to  just be together.  Sometimes it is more important to be present than to buy presents :)



The morning after we got back, I had flowers delivered at my work with a sweet note and have been receiving more of a puzzle he had made of us since, with sweet notes written on the back of every piece.  Knowing my husband loves me an outrageous amount is really all I need.  If this was supposed to be the hardest year of marriage, I definitely chose the right man.  Although, sometimes I think he chose me...  I guess it works best when you choose each other! 


I am more than blessed in my marriage, but I think it is important to make sure you know that no relationship is perfect.  We absolutely fight and are selfish at times, but it is trips like this that not only remind me why we chose each other, but why it is worth it to tough it out during the hard times.  

Marriage is a constant decision to let go of what you want and consider someone else first, and I feel I am really learning more and more that I am selfish no matter how defensive I am.  God grants me grace through Bill everyday, because even when I am at my worst, Bill forgives me and loves me despite the circumstances and that genuinely is something no one deserves, but he loves me like the Lord loves me and sees my heart first.

Here's to many more baby!  
Cheers to our future filled with weekend adventures!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Eli John - My Best Friend's Answer to Prayers


My best friend is having a baby boy.   She put a lot of pressure on me, letting me know this post would go in the baby book and most likely be something she treasured always, so I feel like I want to do even better than I generally desire in presenting my words eloquently.  So here goes nothing :)

Heather Simone and I are not best friend's for superficial reasons, our relationship runs deep.  It is more than just a girlfriend I chat with or shop with, this girl can literally predict the words that are about to come out of my mouth.  She is more like a sister than a friend.  We have not always been this way, but God absolutely had these plans when he brought us into each other's lives.  He dropped us in front of each other when we were both searching for real and true friendship, and what he led us into is such an amazing testimony to what the Lord can do when two people decide to become the people they know they are meant to be.

She inspires me.  She really pays attention to the details.  Not only does she see the good in people, but she screams it from the rooftops.  She has an incredible gift of honesty without being harsh.  All of this, and you still do not know my favorite quality about her, she loves without abandon and unconditionally, and I cannot fall outside of that love; and that is how Christ taught us to live. She is going to be such an incredible mom, because no matter what Eli brings to her, she will meet it with open arms, without judgement, and give him the grace that the Lord extends the church over and over again.  I literally well up with tears thinking about how overwhelmingly that kid if gonna be loved by her.  She never gives up.  I have never known anyone who honestly knows everything about me, and never faltered her heart towards me.  She is such an incredible friend.  I am blessed beyond measure to hear her thoughts constantly poured out to me, and I cannot imagine life without her, even though she lives 3000 miles away from me!  

She has found a perfect match in Rob.  I think that God does not call everyone to be a pastor or the wife of a pastor, but man oh man he has called these two into ministry for at least this season of their life.  Rob is more than just a good husband, he is an incredible leader.  Although some may seem him as a man of few words, I think the words he chooses to share are always rich and rewarding to those around him.  Now don't get m wrong, we all put our foot in our mouth at times, but I watch his carefulness with words he chooses and I realize that my best friend married a man who is going to be an amazing dad. Like… amazing…  The time I have with him is few and far between, but I always treasure hearing more about who he is and how his story shaped him, because it unfolds a little more of their life to me.  He is so respectful towards me and Heather's friendship and always gives us time to just be together with no agenda, and often times his care for her overwhelms me.  I can see how much he cares for her just in the way he looks at her, and it makes me smile.  He really understands my best friend better than anyone, and I always leave her reassured she still has a best friend by her side at all times.

Now my words for you sweet Eli.  You were chosen to be who you are and where you are and God knows what he is doing.  He is giving you incredible parents, and you are being born into a warm and loving home.  Those parents are surrounded by a sea of supporters and you will have aunts and uncles and grandparents and friends who love you as soon as you make your appearance.  You are being given back to God, and your name is a constant reminder of that.  Make sure to remind yourself daily that you are loved, because there are lots of people out there searching for love.  God gave it to you so early in life.  Make sure to remind yourself daily you are wanted, because there are lots of people out there searching for their place in this world.  Your place is with your dear family.  Make sure to remind yourself daily that if you ever need anything, you can ALWAYS come see your Aunt Ryan and Uncle Bill, because we will be here no matter what.  I genuinely love you already little man, and I have not even met you yet.  Thank you for bringing so much joy into your mommy and daddy's lives.  I will always be asking the Lord to take care of you and you will always be close to my heart.  I pray you find a friend for you like your mommy has been to me, and that you treasure that relationship like we do.



Love you Simones!  

Can't wait to meet your little one :)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Wine Tasting and Walking - A Long Weekend in Napa and San Francisco

Bill and I headed up to San Francisco and Napa for a couple of free nights because we sat through a timeshare presentation, and while this was earlier in the summer I wanted to share a little about it because it was just so lovely.

We started out the trip with an afternoon in San Francisco.  We showed up without a plan and with wandering spirits, and really enjoyed our time walking together.  We check out China town, strolled through an independent book store, ate soup out of bread bowls, and took in the city.

  
We headed up to Napa to stay at a fantastic time share property which had a vineyard on site, amongst many other amenities, and just sunk into it all.  This was Bill's last week as a wine distributor and we capitalized on his connections and got lots of free tastings and discounts.  Everyone in Napa was so nice to us, and we ate so much decadent and delicious food.   It was such a different trip for me, because I had no agenda, we just did what we felt like doing.  The culture of the town is so relaxed, and that gave us the ability to relax with it and drink lots of wine and just be together.


 I can't wait to see wine country again.  Until then, cheers to Napa.  You really treated us well!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

C'est La Vie - A Collection of Woodsy Loveliness


While many people covet my 5 minute drive to the beach, there is something about a cabin in the woods that strikes my fancy much more.  We all find beauty in different part's of God's creative hands, and these pictures make my heart race.  Pine trees, the changing of the seasons, warm mugs full to the brim with steam coming off and coziness abounding.  Man oh man... 












Now I just have to figure out how to work from home and make plenty of money so I can live in a little cabin in the middle of nowhere with my handsome husband... Any suggestions?  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Missing My Favorite Season

Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall | Autumn F. Scott Fitzgerald Quote Typed on Typewriter

For those of you lucky enough to live somewhere where it is crisp and breezy, the leaves are changing colors and you actually need scarves and boots...I am jealous of you.

I love the fall.  This is the season I miss the most.  While it gets cool in the evenings here in sunny Southern California, I could do without this 80 degree weather during the days!

I envy those enjoying this season in all its glory.  I still participate in all things fall, but it just is not the same...

Monday, October 21, 2013

Friendship and Sunshine - Summer Came and Went



I mean I seriously feel like it happened fast.  I didn't share ANY of my summer adventures and I feel like I want to play a little catch up.  I had such a lovely time this summer just being present with people and spending time outside in the sunshine.  Life moved so rapidly, that I had to take a moment to look back at the pictures on my phone and remember how lovely it has been the past couple of months.  Birthdays, babies, friendship, family and outdoor concerts are what I treausured most this summer. 


Here is to a fall equally full of lasting memories :)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Wedding Week in Baltimore - My Little Brother's Wedding

Family.

My most recent trip to Baltimore reminded me how blessed I am to have the family that I call mine. 

I had the privilege to be in my little brother's wedding and stand next to a couple who's love for each other is incredibly sweet and just continues to surprise me.  I have always been proud to be his sister and her friend, but this week was proof that our family is better for adding Nikki.

The entire week felt like a blur.  So many incredible memories were made and I am thrilled to have been there for as long as I was.  I also got to spend time with my bestie, who is having a baby in the spring, and to say I am incredibly grateful for that time is an understatement.  She is family to me.  Gosh, life seems to be flying by.  


The day of the wedding was not the most beautiful day by a weatherman's standards, but the wedding itself was magical and incredibly memorable.  As the rain fell on the guests, and Stephen held an umbrella over himself and his beautiful bride, I had a moment of awe.  I was awed at the journey these two have taken to be where they are, both personally and together.  I was awed at the idea of my little brother, Stephen, as a husband who cares for and provides for a wife.  I was awed at Nikki and her beauty and how gracefully she approached this day.  I was awed at how much I love my family and how overwhelmingly generous they all are.  I was awed that my twin brother has an incredible wife and daughter and one day, far off in the future, we will be celebrating her wedding.  It all kind of hit me at once and I started to cry as I realized how incredible the gift of life really is.


The celebration continued in the tent where wine and food and life abounded.  It was so fun to literally dance in the rain and be with those you love.  The rain forced us all to one place and made it one of the most intimate weddings I have ever attended.  Special just doesn't even begin to describe it.  The first dance was one that I will never forget.  I have never seen them so happy.  As I watched Stephen and Nikki leave to a sea of glow sticks I could not believe it was over, but I also could not believe how blessed we are to welcome the Beautiful Nicole WECKER into our family.  She is truly a joy of a sister and she could not have found a better husband in Stephen.  Her family is lovely and fun and so easy to be around.  I am outrageously proud of the man Stephen has become and I always am counting the days until I get to see them again.

Leaving the next day, was actually painful.  I cried so hard it hurt (I know I cry alot... It's a blessing and a curse).  My heart feels so torn between those I love.  What a blessing it is to love so hard.  I am a blessed woman.


Missing my East Coast family today.  Wishing I could hug you all!

For more pictures check out this link to the photographer's blog - Adam Mason Photography!