"For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace"

Friday, February 17, 2012

happy birthday Tony.

(disclaimer: sorry to my family, the tears will roll on this one, but that's good. love you guys so much)

This day rolls around every year. And every year it just seems to get harder. Tomorrow is my biggest brother, Tony's, birthday. and he is celebrating it with Jesus. It's been almost 10 years we've not been able to tell him happy birthday or make him a cake. Almost 10 years without seeing his contagious smile or be embraced by one of his strong & loving hugs. He set the standard for us kids...we looked up to him so much.

He was just so cool. Each one of us is who we are today because of the ways he has shaped our lives. In 22 years he impacted his family & friends & perfect strangers more than anyone i've ever met...seriously. He wasn't afraid of living. He wasn't afraid of what other people thought. Mostly, he wasn't afraid to love, like crazy. He wore his heart on his sleeve & anyone that knew him, knew they were loved by him. He could press my buttons & get me steaming like noone ever could, yet in 2 seconds he could twist my heart around his finger & remind me how much he loved me and how he just had to give me a hard time out of love. He was the person who could make me the most mad & feel the most loved at the same time. He taught me how to forgive well...he did not hold grudges & always came back with a hug. I miss him, Oh I miss him so much. I miss talking to him. He taught me about being genuine & not doing something just because it was "the cool thing to do", but to be real. He was a dreamer. He could cast a vision & we'd be sold on how great of an idea it was. He was the most passionate person i've ever known in my life. He has inspired me to never settle for just "okay". He pursued life with a passion and love that i've never seen before or since. Sometimes when I start thinking about him, the flood gates open & all my memories come alive again...I love it. I love thinking about him & remembering him.

 Our family just misses him, we miss the life he brought to our family. We just ache for him. I cannot wait to see him again. I can't wait to have a hug from him again. He blessed my life more than I'll ever be able to put to words. He taught me some of the most valuable lessons I've ever learned. He was a leader, a fearless & courageous man who pursued, with incredible passion, how to love & live life to the fullest.

Happy Birthday, Tony! We are celebrating the life you lived & the gift your life was to us. We are forever changed because of you & how you loved us with no reserve. Blue skies, Tony! Heaven is closer every day.

Monday, February 13, 2012

cooking & life

It's finally snowing here in the south! It's actually pretty hilarious when there is a threat of snow down here. Last night we were watching tv and noticed on all the channels how the bottom of the screen kept saying "winter weather advisory"...1-2 inches expected. We had to laugh because coming from IL that would be barely considered a dusting on the ground...here, all the milk in the grocery stores is bought & schools close & businesses close down. So here I am watching a few pieces of snow fall to the ground, thankful I get to see at least some winter before the temperature jumps back to the 50s tomorrow. We've had a few relaxing weekends lately, which has been a nice change after the busy holiday season & all the travelings. We've explored some of little rock, found a favorite coffee shop, caught up on life, tried some fun recipes (see below), and just spent some time "working" through some of the things in our marriage that need some tweaking.

We've found sometimes it's easier to "settle" on certain things because at times it's easier than confronting potential conflict. But we don't want to settle...for anything, because we believe that is less than what God has called us to in a marriage. The point where we "settle" is the point where selfishness tends to show it's ugly face- when we  sometimes don't love each other like Jesus. Someone told me recently that marriage is about making you holy, not happy. There is a lot of truth in that. SO it takes a lot of work. Because we tend to operate in opposite ways. I'm a feeler...I tend to feel everything- in my mind, I feel it, therefore it is real/true (can anyone else relate to this :)? ). Seth is the logical thinker...if there is a problem,  he looks for the solution and fixes what is wrong. We sometimes miss each other when we are operating with our programmed responses. So it takes patience to understand another person's point of view & listen well. But it's good work & down the road we hope to look back, being thankful for the time and tears that sometimes it takes. Okay, enough of my lessons learned in marriage/relationship for today, though my hope is to come across transparent.

Onto my journey in learning to cook. I've always enjoyed baking more than cooking. I think it has to do with how I would always beg my mom to let me make cookies when I was growing up. I loved making cookies...still do, it's a weakness (ask seth). Actually if for nothing else than just eating the cookie dough. mmm. I always was intimidated by cooking...I didn't know what spices were good with what, etc. My mom is an awesome cook. I would often times watch her make supper & she would never need to use a recipe. The food always tasted amazing (ask anyone in my family- they will vouch for me). When I would cook with my grandma- my mom's mom, she would measure to the "t". She would follow a recipe to the exact measurement. And her food was always incredible as well!! SO after observing two amazing cooks, I combined the two ways of cooking & now use a recipe as a guide but also throw in & tweak a little of this & a little of that. Unfortunately this is not full-proof & it doesn't always work in my favor, though (that is why there are recipes for a reason!)...poor Seth has literally eaten everything i've ever made. There has been times it has tasted so bad that i've literally gagged & walked away, haha (Specifcally speaking to a time when I used lemon pepper to season pasta & tried to compensate the flavor by adding everything in the fridge- i'm still slightly scarred to this seasoning). Anyways, thankfully, this has improved some over the years, haha. Now I can say that I am enjoying cooking. It's fun to try new recipes and explore food blogs.  We have developed a rating scale for "recipes"- 1. Ewww 2. Edible 3. Yummy 4. Yowza.

So I thought i'd post a couple of the recipes we've tried lately that have been rated "Yowza" by Seth. The first one I don't have a picture of (though it actually looks pretty ugly when finished, but tastes different that it looks! haha).

Slow-Cooker Sweet Potato & Lentil Soup ( I know, lentils may sound kinda gross- but they taste great & are packed with great nutrients & protein)

1 large sweet potato, peeled & chopped in small cubes (we didn't have this but am trying
 it next time I make it)
3 medium carrots, peeled & cut into small pieces
3 stalks celery, chopped (optional)
1/2-1 onion, chopped
1 cup spinach (optional)
1 cup dried lentils
6-7 cups of water (depending how many veggies you add)
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
ground pepper to taste
1 T tomato paste (optional- I just had some leftover & added it & liked the taste)
1 T butter
1/4-1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1. Add first twelve ingredients to slow cooker (everything minus the butter & cilantro). Stir, cover & keep on low for 8 hours.
2. Stir soup roughly or use potato masher lightly to puree some of the soup- but keep some un-pureed. If too thick, add hot water or milk (if you want it creamier)
3. Add butter & let melt & then add cilantro. Add more salt to taste if needed. Serve with grated parmesan cheese on top if you like!

Chicken Lettuce Wraps (sorta like pf-chang's wraps)

Stir Fry Sauce:
2 T soy sauce
1 T vinegar
1 T brown sugar
1/4 tsp red pepper
1/4 tsp ginger
1 tsp sesame oil
Mix all ingredients together & set aside.

For Chicken/Veggie mixture:
1 lb chicken breast- diced into small pieces
1 1/2 T olive oil
1 1/2 T sesame oil
1 cup diced onion
1/2-1 bell pepper, diced (color of your choice)
1/2 cup diced carrots
1 cup snap peas, cut into smaller pieces
8 oz can of water chestnuts, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced 
1/4 cup cashews, chopped
Heat oils in pan over medium heat, add diced chicken & brown (about 5-10 minutes). Add onions, pepper, & carrots.
Cook until tender or desired consistency. Add garlic, sautee for 1 minute. Add water chestnuts & snap peas. Pour stir fry sauce over
mixture & stir to incoporate evenly. Add chopped cashews at end & let sit for 5 minutes.

For Pouring Sauce (this is optional)
1/4 cup sugar ( I used truvia- but use less if you do this)
1/2 cup warm water
2 T soy sauce
2 T vinegar
2 T ketchup
1 T lemon juice
Mix all above pouring sauce ingredients together & put in fridge to immerse flavors (don't have to do that, though)
1 tsp hot water
1 T dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
Mix last three ingredients together & slowly add to above pouring sauce mixture- to taste. Use to pour over mixture as a condiment at the end.

You will also need a head of iceburg lettuce. Wash & seperate leaves so they can act as indvidual "bowls". Add chicken mixture & add pouring sauce at end, if wanted. Roll up lettuce & enjoy! Warning: this can be messy- have napkins on hand :)!!

Thanks for sticking with me as I am learning to be the woman God is shaping me to be. It's a journey! Happy monday to you!!