Friday, October 30, 2015












  







I could tell a million stories
I could write a thousand words
But never can this trip be translated
It is deep in my soul
And far into my heart
And these memories will always be with me

Family and friends that are family
Laughing and walking through foreign cities
Eating and drinking everything in sight
To say this trip was amazing
Would not be great enough language

It was perfect in its own way
The first of its kind
I can’t believe it’s over
But I can believe we went
My heart feels full a month later

These pictures are just moments
In a sea of so much to take in
To all the moments we have shared
And all that are to come
I thank you for loving me selflessly

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Together At Last


Joy moved to California!! 

 My youngest sister decided our hearts could no longer be divided, packed up her tiny pants and moved across the country - AND in with me and Bill to our new house!  We have been in transition for a few weeks, and I feel like things are starting to feel more settled and fall into a bit of a rhythm.  All three sisters live within 20 minutes of each other and because of that, my heart is happy.

Having her here is the most wonderful.  I am not sure I can put it into words.  She is contagiously excited and caring and she has made me feel at home in my new home.  I know our time is short lived and in no time she will have a bunch of friends and find a roommate and settle into a schedule apart from me, but I am clinging to this in between.  The time where we pass each other in the kitchen, we read the Bible out loud to each other before bed and we get take out Indian and sit and watch a show on Netflix while we eat and laugh.  This time is precious and I can’t believe she really did it.

I will be forever grateful to my parents as well.  They supported her choice and drove across the country with her and we all had a glorious weekend together before they had to fly back to Maryland.  It’s funny, because when I fly to Maryland I still say I am flying “home” but buying a house makes Orange County feel pretty permanent too.  I have lived here for almost 9 years, and yet I still feel like both places are home in different ways.  Having Joy here really helps bring that connection and gives me such a sense of peace about this current season of life.  She is here and I am thrilled and God is too good to me these days. 

Thank you Joy for doing this.  I will never be able to express it in words, but it changed my life that you would do this so we could be close to each other.  It was so selfless and so wonderful and you are such an incredible person and I am so proud to be your sister.

Monday, August 17, 2015

It's The Little Things - Thoughts On Moving In








Moving in is a process. 

We have been in our new home for about a week and a half and it is starting to feel real and sink in.  These lovingly worn wood floors are ours, those oranges growing on those big beautiful bushy trees are ours, that pink sink that has held many plates after family dinners in the kitchen is ours, those near perfect roses growing outside the kitchen window are ours, and that sunroom that is warm and cozy and wonderful is ours.  It is all ours.  Every weird quirk and every fabulous feature.  We own a home and I am starting to believe it.  I am focusing on the little things, rather than being overwhelmed by all the projects.

I am a list person, and I am learning that everything cannot get crossed off when you want it to when it comes to home owning.  The other day we ended up picking oranges and squeezing a pitcher of fresh juice rather than a bunch of other items on my to do list, and that is great.  I loved every minute of it.  I am learning to respect the house for what it is and remember there is a history in those walls. I can only take it day by day and room by room and allow myself time to relax.  It is not a race against myself; I still have to live life inside those walls.    

“What are four walls, anyway? They are what they contain.  The house protects the dreamer. Unthinkably good things can happen.” – Under the Tuscan Sun



Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Portland - Thai Food, Coffee and People that Make me Happy



The second leg of our birthday trip was equally wonderful!  We traveled down to Portland as a big group and went big.  Walked a lot downtown, went to the weekend market, searched out a fabulous brunch with bottomless mimosas, acted like tourists (as you can see my friend making fun of us at Stumptown), ate some of the best Thai food in America at PokPok, strolled through Powell’s book store and spent a ton of time laughing and enjoying each other’s company. But seriously you guys, if you are ever in Portland (and you like Thai food), you MUST go to PokPok for Thai.  It is the closest thing Bill and I have found outside of Thailand and everything we had was incredible.  Also visit Stumptown Coffee Roasters if you are in the area, sure it is touristy, but dang it their coffee is delicious and worth the trip!


I have to say, this traveling group was perfect.  Sometimes traveling in a big group can be very stressful and high maintenance.  Different people get really dramatic, issues arise and it feels like you never get to relax.  However, on this trip, I felt as though we all got lots of relaxation time in, and we each did what we wanted while somehow sticking together.  When I think back on this adventure, all I can do is smile.  I got 5 days with some of my favorite people in beautiful places with great food and good vibes.  What more can you ask for!!  

Oh and by the way, isn't our godson the cutest!  I mean come on... top right.  James and Ali, you did good :)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Seattle - A Feast for the Eyes


As you will see, as I attempt to catch you up, we have been very busy!  While my posts may be brief, I just feel some things need to be written about even though they were awhile back now!  This trip was back in March, but it was too good not to post about now. 

  
My husband turned 30, and I don’t want you to think we did not celebrate that! He is my absolutely favorite and spending time with him traveling is the most fun.  For Bill’s 30th birthday (and my 29th) we took a family/friend trip up to Seattle and Portland for 5 days and explored the Pacific Northwest as a group.  My sister and her husband, Bill’s parents and Bill and I flew up to Seattle and stayed just outside the city with Bill’s Aunt and Uncle in their beautiful home.  We went to Pike Market and soaked it in eating oysters, watching fish get thrown, enjoying mid-afternoon beers at a brewery, and admiring all the local artisans, food and gorgeous flowers.  A couple of Pacific North friends drove up to meet us with their son (also our Godson) and enjoyed the tail end of the time there.  We all drove up to a fantastic area called Woodinville and did some wine, beer and spirits tasting and caught a fun lunch together at a brewery.  

There was no better way we could have spent our birthdays :)

To be honest, this trip did something for my soul.  Clean fresh air and a family retreat always makes me happy and this absolutely delivered!  We will visit again for sure, and I look forward to it very much.  After Seattle we drove down to Portland and that post will come soon (too many pictures for one post).  I have traveled quite a bit, and there is no place like the Pacific Northwest.  Hope you enjoy the pictures friends!  

Monday, August 3, 2015

We Bought a House!

Ignore the time stamp - Our realtor forgot to update the date!
Wow it’s been awhile friends!! In my absence I have been concentrating on being present, practicing yoga and moving into a new home!  Yoga has become a 3-4 times a week practice for me (over the past 4 months) and my heart feels satiated by it.  I found my forever form of exercise and don’t see myself stopping anytime soon.  It has truly made my heart soar and brought me such peace in my own skin.  In other news, my youngest sister moved out to California and the three sisters are reunited on the West Coast!  Her presence has brought me such joy and peace and wow I feel like crying just typing these words.  This season of life feels really rich in love and family.  Blessed doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel.

Bill's Parents with us when we went for our property inspection
This past weekend Bill and I moved into a house that we purchased, and to say it is glorious wouldn’t be giving it enough credit.  Sure moving is tough, it was hot outside and all the stress of furnishing a bigger home is weighing on us.  We are real people and with that comes all the real struggles, but man, to have our own home is amazing.  Inside (and more outside) pictures to come, but for now I thought I would share these pictures that happened while we were in escrow.  The story of how the seller’s chose us is also something I want to share, because it is such a God given testimony to patience and confirmation.  You guys, God has been good to me and Bill!  My sister Faith immediately started crying when her car pulled up to the home just thinking about the memories that would be made.  It confirmed so much for me. She has such a sensitive heart to the Lord and she saw everything that it would be for us.

My parents drove across the country with my youngest sister and we were able to get them to see the inside of the house and meet the sellers :)  
Can’t wait to share more.  My heart is so full of things to pour out.  Yoga, my family, my house, decorating, and adventures of house owning will be sure to be future topics.  I feel honored to be back with you all sharing my life.  Looking forward to sharing words with you more often.


Friday, March 20, 2015

A Penny For Your Thoughts - On Living a Quiet Life

 
I’ve been thinking a lot about the value of quiet lately.  For me this is especially valuable. Generally speaking, I need noise.  I turn on the television for background noise.  I put on music when I am in the bathroom getting ready in the morning.  I talk constantly.  However, what I am finding is that I need to make space for quiet in my life.  I think quiet, in the right way, can be associated with humbleness, simplicity, comfort and peace.  There is nothing wrong with noise, but sometimes I find it important to allow ourselves to just be present.  I think practicing comfort in quiet will bring my anxiety down and teach me things I do not anticipate, and I feel the Lord’s confirmation of that to me in my prayers and devotions lately.
 
1 Thessalonians 4: 11 & 12: 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
 
I love that living a quiet life will lead to respect.  Don’t you think often times you lose respect for someone because they open their mouth too much and don’t hold their tongue.  There are so many verses on this topic, but I guess lately I am realizing that I could do myself a service and hold my tongue more often, not everyone needs to know what I am thinking.  Plus, it would give me the opportunity to listen and really hear other people’s hearts.  As I lean into what God has for my future I can’t help but know that there is sweetness in just sitting still with him during this chapter.
 
Rest in Him this weekend friends.
 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Season of Reading - Shantaram


The Amazon Synopsis reads as follows: " 'It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured.'

So begins this epic, mesmerizing first novel set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay.  Shantaram is narrated by Lin, an escaped convict with a false passport who flees maximum security prison in Australia for the teeming streets of a city where he can disappear.

Accompanied by his guide and faithful friend, Prabaker, the two enter Bombay's hidden society of beggars and gangsters, prostitutes and holy men, soldiers and actors, and Indians and exiles from other countries, who seek in this remarkable place what they cannot find elsewhere.

As a hunted man without a home, family, or identity, Lin searches for love and meaning while running a clinic in one of the city's poorest slums, and serving his apprenticeship in the dark arts of the Bombay mafia. The search leads him to war, prison torture, murder, and a series of enigmatic and bloody betrayals. The keys to unlock the mysteries and intrigues that bind Lin are held by two people. The first is Khader Khan: mafia godfather, criminal-philosopher-saint, and mentor to Lin in the underworld of the Golden City. The second is Karla: elusive, dangerous, and beautiful, whose passions are driven by secrets that torment her and yet give her a terrible power.

Burning slums and five-star hotels, romantic love and prison agonies, criminal wars and Bollywood films, spiritual gurus and mujaheddin guerrillas---this huge novel has the world of human experience in its reach, and a passionate love for India at its heart. Based on the life of the author, it is by any measure the debut of an extraordinary voice in literature.


This book is everything a novel should be: adventerous, passionate, exciting, romantic, gruesome, gritty and consuming.  All this being said, I have been reading this book little by little over a couple of years and had to re-start it twice.  For the life of me, I cannot explain why.  It is one of the best books I have ever read, and I was hooked from the first few pages, but I think the size of it felt daunting and I wanted to savor it in a way.  It is an epic tale and I was happy to find out that it was the first written book in a series of books. 

I would highly recommend this read.  It brings you into a fascinating world and holds you there in a brilliant weaving of words.  The author introduces you to unforgettable characters and experiences and you come out of the story feeling attached to people and places you have never met or visited.  I literally cried a couple of times, and while I am an emotional person, it is also the gift of the writer to bring you that deeply into their story.

A friend of mine in Uganda said he was so enthralled by this book he was reading it on the back of a motorcycle that someone else was driving with the book between them, and I can understand that after finishing this read.  It is entrancing and addictive.  I hope someone who reads these words takes a chance on a monster of a book that is well worth the time.  

Monday, February 16, 2015

Beautiful Words - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

My littlest sister sent me the following words and I let them wash over me every day since.  They are not just true, but they are settling.  A gentle but necessary reminder to take a step back and look at life in a slow and meaningful way.  Progress is gradual and time is rewarding and healing.  I hope these words bring you peace in the midst of frustration and chaos as they have brought me...

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Friday, February 6, 2015

Food I Ate Friday - Bread and Wine Cassoulet

Simple Cassoulet with Garlic Breadcrumb Topping | Neighborfoodblog.com

This recipe hugs you.  Cassoulet is essentially the French version of an American casserole, and it delivers big time on flavor and richness.  It is my definition of a cozy winter meal.  The combination of flavors is surprising and wonderful and just offers you a retreat for a little while.  It is the kind of dish I want to make as an annual tradition so I can look forward to it all year long, and not have so often that I stop appreciating it's goodness.

I hope that you love this as much as I did and that it warms your hearts and homes.  Please let me know if you try any of the recipes I post and any comments you have!  I'd love feedback :)

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
1 onion, thinly sliced
1½ cups chicken broth
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 parsnips, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
2 15 ounce cans cannellini beans, drained
1 heaping teaspoon dried thyme
½ heaping teaspoon Kosher salt
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced

For the breadcrumbs:
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups bread crumbs 
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
4 Tablespoons butter, melted

Instructions

1. In a large dutch oven or soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook until the sausage is browned. Once the sausage is cooked, tilt the pan to one side and use a paper towel to sop up and discard any excess oil.

2. Add the chicken broth and remaining ingredients (excluding the bread crumbs) to the pot. Bring to a boil.

3. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the vegetables are tender.

4. Meanwhile, make the breadcrumb topping. In a mixing bowl, combine garlic, bread crumbs, parsley, cheese, and butter. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread the crumb mixture over the cassoulet in the dutch oven or transfer it to an oven safe casserole dish. 

5. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until crumbs are golden brown and crisped.


*If you'd like to make this dish ahead of time, prepare it without the crumb topping. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 2 days or freeze up to 4 months. When ready to cook, uncover the cassoulet, sprinkle it with the breadcrumbs, and bake 45 minutes to 1 hour at 400 degrees.

**I stole the above image from here and the recipe was taken from the Book Bread and Wine which the author claims to have taken from Real Simple Magazine.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Beautiful Words - Be Still, My Soul

I am starting a new Series called Beautiful Words because I run across a lot of poetry, music and quotes that really speak to me and I would love to share those with you all.  My attempt in this will not be to draw attention to inspirational movie quotes that could be expressed in a Pinterest meem, but rather to use eloquently written words to facilitate thought and delve us into someone else's expression of the greater issues of this life we are in and how to live it best.  Geez, I hope I can pull that off! 

My first selection below is a hymn from church two weeks back that made me think how often I try to avoid thinking of death unless it is currently affecting me.  This hymn was not timed because someone in our church had passed away, but the focus is to remind us that our ultimate goal is being with the Lord when we leave this earth.  I need to be constantly reminded that my life is not my own and that what we do and believe and prioritize on this earth determines our future dwelling.  God offers me peace if I trust in his order and provision.  I will be striving to have a still soul and a peaceful spirit and to focus on the Lord's promises to me through His Word.  He never promises a long life, but should we choose to walk with Him, He certainly offers a full one.

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain
Lease to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heav'nly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hast'ning on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Please meditate on whatever type of language speaks to you and see the beauty of our Lord and our world through intentional and beautiful words by many different types of authors and artists. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Penny for your Thoughts - More and Less List



Since it is still January, I feel like I can still squeeze this post in :)  Rather than doing a New Year's Resolution list, I decided to take a different approach and do what I like to call a "More and Less List".  I have already started putting into action quite a few of these items, and am looking forward to focusing on them more and more.  I like the beginning of the year as it always gives me a chance to re-evaluate my priorities.  I remember every year that there is always room for growth, this year was no exception.  

As I look over these lists I know that God is so good to me that these are the things I can spend my time focusing on.  I would encourage you to make a list like this just to get your mind thinking this way.  This also gives you no ultimatums and just helps you to focus on priorities.  I think I often feel like a failure if I do not hit a goal, but this type of list helps me remember it is about reinventing the way I live and not a number on the scale or a title at my job, life is about so much more than the specifics and this helps me focus on the big picture.

More

Rest
Walking
Prayer
Quality Coffee
Burning Candles
Small Business Shopping
Sunshine
Avocado
Yoga
Volunteering
Clean Eating
Water
Farmers Markets
Hosting Small Dinners
Good Wine
Exercise
Picnics
Reading Classic Literature
Green Tea
Bike Riding
Writing
Exploring
Spontanaeity
Homemade
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
 

Less

Stress
Excuses
Television
Comparing myself to others
Dieting
Processed Food
Pressure to do Everything
Stuff
Reading Silly Online Articles
Anxiety
Social Media
Documenting and not being Present
Potato Chips
Fear
Being in a Rush
Gossip
Expressing Frustration
Political Ignorance


Share some "More or Less" ideas in the comments below!  
I'd love to hear your ideas  :)  

Be well dear friends.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things - Christmas in Baltimore

Christmas in Baltimore was pretty close to perfect.  I haven't written about it yet, because I feel like trying to put it into words is impossible.  There was some magic in it though, that is undeniable.  Below are images that show a few of my favorite things about the Holiday Season.  Some things you will not find in the pictures but I hold close to me heart is the French pressed coffee every morning, the wine that flowed all week long, the hide and peek games (you read that right) with my niece, the laughter and tears, the wonderful meals, the genuine words, the sincere hugs, Christmas morning as a group, my parents welcoming hugs, my Italian sister-in-law's bonding, Christmas Eve Service in Baltimore, walking around the Inner Harbor, watching my niece try on all the items from the dress up box we gave her, and some dear friends that were there for it all.  I think our society is so obsessed with capturing a perfect image of their time together and posting it online, but I felt like this Christmas I really got to experience and be present with those that I loved, which is all I really wanted :)


1. My families unique sense of humor is something that continuously surprises me.  Much like a television sitcom, we. talk. fast.  I can tell when people are going to mesh and when they aren't because when we are all together it is kind of an "all-in" situation.  As you can see in this photo, the words Joy Noel have been arranged to create a phrase you will often hear around the Wecker home at Christmas time "Jen Yolo".  I guess a phrase isn't quite accurate, we almost refer to Jen Yolo as another member of the family.  Honestly, it's impossible to explain, but we get it.  Yeah it's kind of odd for me to basically be saying that it's an inside joke, but it is more than that.  We are bonded over a million inside jokes, much like most families.  It is like we speak our own language and if you haven't been around for some period of time you may not always be able to follow, but isn't that the beauty of big families?

Bill's family has certain things they say and refer to and they realize they have to stop and explain things to me because it doesn't make sense to "an outsider".  Now granted, the more I learn, the less of an outsider I am, but that is just a part of growing up and having inside jokes.  All this goes to say, inside jokes are fun and genuinely bonding and it was so nice to be around the people that a lot of my inside jokes are with.


2. Meals together are one of my favorite parts of being home.  The dinner pictured above was wonderful.  We brought the farm tables out from Faith and Joshes wedding that they used for their head table and lit what seemed like a hundred candles.  Beautiful greens of holly from the yard were layed down the middle.  My Italian Sister-In-Laws made us the yummiest Italian feast, and we just were together.  Not only was the food fantastic and the ambiance beautiful, but the people were all people that loved each other.  It was nice to just be together.

My dad also arranged a dinner at one of his restaurants that was incredible.  We had trays of sushi together on Christmas Eve before we watched White Christmas.  We ate Thai food the night before Bill and I left and we had big group breakfasts multiple mornings.  Every single time I took a moment to just look around at everyone laughing and talking together.  Meals with my family is one of my favorite things.


3. I believe they need no introduction, but this is my family.  My parents, my siblings, everyone's husbands/wives and my niece.  Sigh... They are my absolute favorite thing in this world.  My heart is always with them and they are what made Christmas in Baltimore so special.  As we all get older our priorities are changing and time together is so precious.  Just knowing I always have their support and love is all I could ask for.  

Friday, January 23, 2015

Food I Ate Fridays - French Onion Soup


Another holiday idea that came from my other sister in law, Cirsinta, was for my sisters and mom and I to all buy the same cook book and begin cooking through it together.  I will share more on this in the future, as another blog is being designed for it as we speak, but what I want to share today is a recipe that my husband has requested I learn to make for years.  

French Onion soup is one of those things I put off learning to do because I was intimidated by the process, but as I embrace cooking and trying to cook new things that have previously seemed overwhleming, I am learning that simple meals really are simple, sometimes you just need to take the time to cook them well.  This soup turned out fantastic, and is definitely something we will make again.   I hope you find time to enjoy cooking and invest the time into making meals you and your loved ones really love.   

Directions

Heat in a soup pot over medium-low heat until the butter is melted:
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Add and stir to coat:
5 medium onions, thinly sliced
Pinch of dried thyme

Cook, stirring occasionally, and keeping a vigilant eye on the onions so they do not scorch, over medium heat. As soon as they start to brown, after about 15 minutes, reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, covered, stirring more often, until onions have a rich brown color, about 40 minutes.

Stir in:
2 Tbsp. dry sherry or cognac

Increase the heat to high and cook, stirring constantly, until all the sherry has cooked off. Stir in:
3 1/2 cups stock (vegetable, chicken, or beef) - I used beef and it was divine

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes. Season with:
1 to 1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Place 8 ovenproof soup bowls or crocks on a baking sheet. Ladle the hot soup into the bowls and top each serving with:
1 to 3 slices French bread, toasted if fresh
3 Tbsp. grated Gruyère or Swiss cheese

Broil or bake in a 450 degree oven until the cheese is melted and starting to brown. Serve immediately.


Hey, I posted my own picture this time! This recipe comes from the classic cookbook, The Joy of Cooking.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sister Bonding - The Pyrex Picker Sisters


You know those gifts that you get every once in awhile that are just perfect?  Someone spent time and energy picking them out just for you and they were dead on.  Well I actually got a couple of those this Christmas (Faith your box touched a very special place in my heart, Cristina those mugs were so wonderful and let's not forget the bike my husband is getting me!), but the one I want to highlight today is one that brought me and some very special women in my life together in such a fun and unique way.  My Brother and Sister-In-Law hunted through thrift stores and  found me and 5 other wonderful women two matching pieces of a vintage pyrex sets picked out individually for us and our personalities.  Mine is called Autumn Harvest and I could not love it more - I mean a sprig of wheat on a rust colored container... need I say more!

Each sister was requested to be looking for pieces to complete their own set and to help other ladies complete theirs.  To say this has been a fun bonding experience would be an understatement.  Lot's of texts have been sent and I was the first to find another edition to my collection at a local antique store. 

I think what I love most about this is now when I see ANY Pyrex I smile.  Each girl's set really fits their personality.  We all have been texting pictures of us using our containers and I just love the energy of it all.

This Christmas was really unique because it was the first time we have all been together in quite some time.  My parents, my siblings, everyone's significant other and a few others that are like family to us.  Hannah and Ashley (pictured above) are not technically related, but they are as close to family as they can be.  Having them there for precious moments and sweet memories is a blessing and an honor.  I love that Nikki and Stephen (My Sister-In-Law and Brother who came up with this idea) included them in this bonding experience.  The other 4 pictured above are my Sisters-In-Law and Sisters, and with our sisterhood complete my heart could not be happier with our blend.  We challenge and defend each other and love so hard.  We are all emotional and cry a lot, and sometimes we just sit close and remember time is precious.

Gosh, I could talk about these women all day!  The Pyrex Picker Sisters is what we have dubbed ourselves, and the true joy this group brings is enough to carry me through a lot of tough days.  Love you girls!  More every day!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Season of Reading - Wild




The Amazon synopsis reads: "Wild is a powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an 1100-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe - and built her back up again.

At 22, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother's death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State - and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than "an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise." But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone.

Strayed faced down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her."


This book was different than I anticipated.  When I read the description I kind of imagined it more as a learning "how to" on hiking long distances from a now expert and a nod to the perfection of nature and its provision for healing.  However, this was more of an experience with her along every step of her journey and her processing of her life and who she was and how she got to where she was.  She did not glorify her decisions, in fact, she often put down the way that she was.  However, I admired that we was unapologetically herself and that this hike was the way she chose to come to terms with some things about herself and who she had become.  We all have a story that shapes our steps and it was really intriguing to take a look into her's.

I don't know if I agree with the synopsis that she was healed through the journey, but I think as with anything you set out to do alone, she learned a lot about herself.  You really feel the miles with her and the sense of urgency when she has it.  You feel the rest when she gets to the posts along the way and while you know she will make it through, there is always this question of how.  I was inspired by her journey and it made me crave a solo adventure to find myself, even though my problems do not even begin to compare to hers.

A good friend summed it up like this, "Isn't it lovely to trod those miles with her?  To feel the sense of dread when there is too much snow to keep walking or when something breaks?  And accomplishment when she reaches the next stop?  I'd love to go on an adventure."  

Friday, January 9, 2015

Food I Ate Fridays - Sausage, Kale and Spaghetti Squash Boats

Sausage, Kale, and Spaghetti Squash Boats- this is such a soul satisfying dish! I make it every chance I get. So YUMMY!

Ingredients

1 medium spaghetti squash or 2 small spaghetti squash
1 1/2 lbs. Italian chicken sausage, casings removed (We got spicy)
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch kale
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp pine nuts, roasted (almonds worked just fine as well)
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped


Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place squash in the microwave for 3-4 minutes to soften. Using a sharp knife cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Place the halves, with the cut side up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 45-50 minutes, until you can poke the squash easily with a fork. Let cool until you can handle it safely.

Meanwhile, prepare the kale by removing the center stems and either tearing or cutting up the leaves. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 4-5 minutes. Add the chicken sausage and break apart with a spatula to crumble. Cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring regularly, until the sausage is browned and cooked through. Add the kale and stir. Cook for a few minutes more to wilt the kale. Remove from heat and set aside.

Once cooled, scrape the insides of the spaghetti squash with a fork to shred the squash into strands. Transfer the strands into the skillet with the sausage and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide the mixture among the squash shells, and then top with pine nuts and parsley to serve.



You guys... I love spaghetti squash.  My mom used to make it with just butter and salt and pepper and that was when my love started.  Squash is ending its season right now, but you can still find some if you want it bad enough :)  This turned out delicious and you should definitely give it a try.

Oh and always trying to give credit where it is due!  I found this recipe through Pintrest and it led me to this blog (which is also where I stole the picture from).  

Eat well my friends and have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A 30th Birthday and a Surprise Vegas Trip

It feels surreal that I am even celebrating my close friends 30th birthdays, but Bill turns 30 in less than 2 months and his buddy James hit the big one in November.  Him and his lovely girlfriend and their sweet son (our godson) came into town for a visit and we surprised him with an overnight in Las Vegas!  I want to brag on James for a second, he is such a humble guy.  He always wants to bless everyone around him and would give his last dollar to make someone else more comfortable.  


In Vegas we ate, drank, played a little, walked a lot and went to a Cirque Du Soleil show at Treasure Island.  Even though it was a short trip, it felt sacred.  A lot of the time we spend together as a group feels that way.  It was just fun to be somewhere new experiencing it together and laughing and walking.  Sometimes all you need is good friends to make a trip memorable.


The entire time they were here felt fast and slow at the same time.  When we are with them time seems to slow down.  We love being around this family and spending time with their sweet boy.  Looking forward to a trip up North soon when we can hug them again :)