Saturday, February 26, 2011

beach dreams

Andy and I are joining five other couples for a week in the Outer Banks this June. The trip has been on the calendar for months and I don't know how I'm going to wait another three and a half months! Doesn't this house look so inviting? It's saying come drink coffee on my porch and smell the salty air.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

what love is

I was talking with a friend earlier tonight and she mentioned that she was struggling with wanting her husband to change (not completely, but in certain ways). She acknowledged that he already has changed since they got married, but also that there are several areas of their relationship that could be better.

Story of all our relationships, right? We all want to be loved simply for who we are, but we rarely ever love people that way. It's hard to! We go into relationships, especially marriage, with the expectation that this person loves you too much to ever hurt or disappoint you, and OOPS you realize that no one is perfect and that we all make mistakes and feelings get hurt.

How can we approach our loved ones (let's say spouses from here on out) about the changes we desire to see in them or in the relationship without being unloving/unselfish/unaccepting?

Do we bring out the best in our spouse? Do we sacrifice for them? If we do sacrifice for them, are we taking notice of when they don't sacrifice in the ways we wish they would? Are we counting/measuring acts of love?

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Stop looking at that as a "cliche" passage on love and really pay attention to what TRUE love looks like!

You cannot change your spouse. You can pray for them, encourage them, support them and kindly express concerns/desires, but that's as for as it goes concerning your ability to change them.

Love ALWAYS protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres.

Another friend has reminded me that the things I would like changed in my marriage may NEVER change. I may NEVER get what I want in those areas. I chose to marry Andy for better or for worse. The only person/thing I can change is myself. I can become more patient. I can become more kind. Less rude. Less angry. Less selfish. Less jealous. Less prideful.

Andy and I made a decision a few months ago that has truly changed our marriage for the better. This is our "mantra"-- we choose to believe the best in each other.

When Andy doesn't do something I wanted him to do, instead of thinking seriously? How many times do we have to go over this? I would choose to think Andy loves me and he put a ring on my finger because he wants to be with me forever. He did not intentionally forget to do this for me- it must have truly not crossed his mind.

I have blossomed under Andy's efforts towards being a less-selfish husband. Andy has blossomed under my efforts towards being a less-selfish wife. The temptation to be selfish or to measure acts of love is definitely there, but God always provides a way out of those temptations.

Gaze into my eyes and let me know you'd fight thousands for my love.

If I had $25

I'd spend it on 6 boxes of Ezekiel 4:9 cereal. I spend $5 on it at the store, so buying from Amazon would mean getting 1 for free.

My mom and sister have been eating Ezekiel products for a while now, but I didn't start eating the cereal until over Christmas. I eat around 1/4 cup with 1/2 cup mixed nuts (almonds and walnuts normally, pecans if I'm splurging), a sprinkle of dried currants and 3/4 cup skim milk. It is faaaabulous and keeps me full until lunch. It's not a breakfast that is low in calories, but it is extremely nutritious.

I am a cereal FREAK. I've heard about cereal "bars" where you mix cereals with toppings, kind of like a Coldstone but with cereal instead of ice cream. Someone must be hacking into my dreams...

Monday, February 21, 2011

baking tips

three tips that changed the way my baked goods turn out:

1. Use baking soda that hasn't expired. No wonder all my cookies were coming out flat!

2. AirBake insulated baking sheets. Seriously amazing. I've never used cooking spray on them and all of my cookies come up easily, plus they are a cinch to clean (make sure you read the instructions for proper care).

3. Cool your cookies/baked goods on cooling racks. I follow the recipe's cooking time and take my cookies out when they are still soft to the touch, put them on the rack, and wait until they are chewy-tender. I've found that cooling my cookies when they are still soft keeps them chewy for several days.

Yesterday Andy requested that I make him some oatmeal cookies. We love oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips and coconut, but this time I followed this recipe, which uses cinnamon and walnuts. Mine didn't turn out flat like many of the reviewers said they would. They probably were using expired baking soda!
Next time I make them I plan to chop up some apples and add them to the mix. Mmmmmm.

I've been thinking about these cookies all afternoon. I can't wait to try out the recipe!

find more of my favorite kitchen gadgets here.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

if I had $15

If I had $15...
I would purchase these key plates from West Elm.
I'd keep one for myself and give three away.
Instead of using them for food I would use them as a catch-all for keys and change (like the one in the top left corner). They're the perfect size for an entry table and would look super cute on top of a stack of books or next to a potted plant.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

where is your treasure?

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21

I struggle with this verse. As a daughter of God who loves her Father, I desperately want to obey Him and store up treasures in heaven. As a wife, daughter, sister, friend, and lover of books/fashion/home decor/etc... I also delight in my earthly treasures. It's hard for me to find the line within my heart that separates my selfish desires from my genuine joy and delight in the Lord when it comes to those things I've listed above (earthly treasures). Does that make any sense? For example-- my books. If I view anything in my life as a tangible treasure (not including people), I think of my books. I would be heartbroken if anything happened to them. Most of them were gifts or cost me less than $5 (Green Valley Book Fair, holler), but they are still precious to me. Anyone who knows me well would say that my love for reading comes from God. My parents never had to pay me a dime to read a book (if they did I would be rich). I devoured books as a child, and I still do when I have a good chunk of time.

I don't believe it bothers God that I love to read or that I love my library. In fact, I think it brings Him joy. BUT, by buying books and lining bookshelves with them, how am I not storing up treasures on earth? In fact, translated in the Greek, the verse is really saying "Don't accumulate / heap up treasures" (as in stockpile). I do accumulate books. My love for books is within my heart! I can't deny that. And not to at all take the spotlight off of myself, but I don't think I know a single person who isn't homeless who doesn't have knick-knacks or gadgets or something that they own more than one of.

OK-- I know it's all about the condition of our heart and where our priorities lie. I know that it would be bad if I were buying books to look smart. It wouldn't be right to spend my whole life reading and not spending time with God and family and working. I guess the struggle for me is that  this passage doesn't include the middle ground of having treasures on earth AND in heaven.

Later in chapter 6 the Word tells us we cannot love both God and money (which, if you look up in the Greek, translates to treasures/riches/wealth). At Bible study last night we talked about how to make wise decisions concerning our income and how we can do so in a way that is accordance with scripture. 

I'll admit something- there's quite a list of things I want for our house right now. We legit NEED a new shade or curtain for our guest room because the shades broke and too many overnight guests have had to change in the bathroom... but that isn't the end of the world. I want:: more frames, linens, lipsticks (lame, I know)... while I can't think of anything else right now I know there's a much longer list than that! It's easy for me to get carried away when I'm shopping, especially when the items I'm buying aren't expensive. The thing is, stuff always adds up. It stinks. 

While Andy and I do work, have a budget, tithe and pray about big purchases, I want to do more than that. I want to ask God about little purchases too. I want to align my heart to His will. I want to find more delight in what's in store for me after death than what I have here on earth. 

What treasures on earth are you holding on to?

Monday, February 14, 2011

my valentine

the two of us after our dinner date

Andy and I went to the Mill Street Grill in Staunton on Saturday night. We had a gift card, so the only thing we paid was tip. We only went 26 cents over our card!

We were told that we'd have a 45 minute wait for a table, so I suggested we try grabbing a seat at the bar. Two people left the moment we walked up to the bar. Andy sweetly told me that he wouldn't mind waiting the 45 minutes if I wanted to sit at a private table, but me, being a) all about eating and b) all about fun atmospheres, said I wanted to stay and eat at the bar. (Andy was relieved.)

I ordered stuffed artichoke hearts as an appetizer and begged Andy to try one. He has always made a big fuss about how much he hates artichokes and how he never wants to eat them, but the fried boursin cheese goodness combined with the artichoke smelled and looked amazing. I convinced him to have a taste and he went nuts for them. I love getting people to try new things.

Andy had ribs and I had a chicken caesar salad for dinner, topped off with slice of chocolate cake for dessert.
We stayed and continued chatting after the bill was paid. I was shocked to get in the car and see that we had been at the restaurant for two and a half hours! At home dinner lasts maybe 20 minutes.

I so enjoyed our date. I love you Andrew Scott!

I bought this on Etsy and framed it over the weekend. 
oh hey! that's us with the Tower Bridge behind us!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Italian sausage with parmesan couscous and asparagus

Tonight we have for you parmesan couscous over a bed of asparagus tossed with lemon garlic butter, topped with spicy Italian sausage.

that's what I told Andy when I served it to him.
yes, we have been watching Master Chef and Top Chef.

I like to use my kitchen scissors to cut up the sausage into hearty chunks
before cooking instead of cooking whole links and cutting after they cool.
the boxed couscous was a cinch to make. this is what it looks like
before fluffing with a fork. 
for the asparagus I made a sauce using a little over
a tablespoon of butter plus a 1/4 tsp of lemon juice
and 1/4 tsp of minced garlic JUICE (just push down
the garlic to get the yummy garlicky liquid)

I tossed the asparagus with the butter sauce + a little S&P before putting it on the plate. After plating everything I topped the sausage with grated Parmesan, which is a lot prettier looking after it has melted a bit.

Andy gobbled his up. I, on the other hand, took about three bites and that was it. I had a nasty stomach bug on Tuesday and my appetite isn't back to normal yet. I cancelled a Coldstone date last night. That is how weird my appetite is.

BUT, the three bites I had were yummy. Success!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

the word is near you

"Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”

No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it."

-Deuteronomy 30:11-14

I had never read the book of Deuteronomy until recently, and it is chock full of incredible encouragement! These verses are exactly the kind of reminder that I've been needing. I need to continue quoting Scripture aloud and keeping God's word in my heart.

In January my small group studied the topic of worry. We learned that worry is a sin. I grew up in the church and reading the Bible, so I should have always known that worry is a sin, but I always chalked it up to being something that's natural and unavoidable. We memorized Philippians 4:6-7, which says:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

I made it my goal to stop myself every single time I experienced worry and go through the following steps::

1) tell myself "Laura, it is a sin to worry."

2) ask God to forgive me for worrying

3) quote Phil. 4:6-7

4) thank God for promising to give me peace that transcends my understanding

This process occurred around the time that I was interviewing for a job at the local newspaper, waiting to hear about the job and then starting the job. I worried a LOT. I confessed a LOT. I quoted Phil. 4:6-7 a LOT. I was shocked by how often I had to stop and correct my thoughts. There were many days when I would quote the verses several times an hour.

the word is very near you

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

If I had $18

I'd buy a green bento box from black + blum.
I love taking my lunch to work. I keep a mug, tea bags, a bowl, oatmeal packets, napkins, and plastic forks and spoons in my drawer. I haven't decorated my desk yet, but I've made sure I can eat! Priorities, people.

sorry for the terrible picture quality!!

Monday, February 7, 2011

registry must-haves

Lots of engaged friends = lots of people asking me what they should put on their wedding registry. Andy and I registered for most of our needs at Crate and Barrel and Macy's and then a few items at Pottery Barn and Target. Moving on. Make sure your registry has a wide range of items and prices. Put on fun stuff like games and camping necessities alongside linens, dishes and pots and pans. 

Register for at least eight plates/cups/bowls/silverware sets. You can always buy more after the wedding. We have eight bowls, twelve plates, twelve cups and twelve sets of silverware. We have so many different sizes of bowls, so eight basic white work fine. **Speaking of basic white-- if you love a patterned set of dishes, go for it! Make sure you find out if they can be used in the microwave and dishwasher. We chose this basic white china set from Crate and Barrel. Another important thing to check when it comes to dishes (and silverware) is their size and how they feel in your hands. 

Pots and pans can be tricky. Sets can be appealing, but you may not need every pot and pan that comes in a set. See if you can register for them separately. Andy and I did not receive the set we registered for and we paid for it ourself. I love the set, but I haven't used any of the inserts. Oh look, it's on sale! I bought a small non-stick skillet from the Giada line at Target and it is amazing-- Andy and I have been so impressed by how well it's worked for us.

Now to the point of this post- here's my list of must-haves to register for::
-- OXO good grips mixing bowls (the new colored set is super cute)
-- OXO can opener
-- OXO whisk
-- Pyrex!! (we have this set and it's awesome) -- I would recommend getting one or two insulated bags for your baking dishes- I use mine all the time to take dishes to Bible study and other people's houses
-- stainless steel measuring cups- they are apparently more accurate than plastic and the numbers don't scratch off (I got mine at wal-mart but I can't find them online)
-- a good knife set (we bought this one and love it love it love it-- it's nicer looking in person)
-- games!! we registered for Catch Phrase, Taboo and Scene-It
-- luggage

Don't be afraid to put something on your registry because it's expensive. That being said, don't get your hopes up! You may receive almost everything from your registry, or you may have guests that prefer to give checks or one-of-a-kind gifts.

Also, don't be afraid to return the gifts you don't want! If someone asks about their gift and you've returned it, be honest with them. Tell them you appreciated their thoughtfulness and chose to use the money from that gift towards something you needed more.

Check your registry often as your wedding date approaches. Stores may run low on the items you register for, or worse, run out of stock. 

Happy registering!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

the times they are a-changin'

I'm planning to make some changes here. I've decided to no longer run "Flashback Fridays" or monthly "Little Pleasures" lists. I will still include little pleasures here and there.

Some new features to look forward to:

--more recipes- with pictures! yikes I really need to remember to take before AND after pics...
--more home decor pics
--more DIY projects
--a weekly "If I had x amount of $$" post -- where I'll feature a product I'd like to own
--a weekly scripture with personal reflection
--consumer complaints (seriously...I think it's hilarious to read ppl's bad experiences w/ restaurants and shops)
--more silliness, more honesty, more advice, more ME!

OK: here is my first consumer complaint:

The smell of Target popcorn makes me want to vomit. I love Target, but I HATE being anywhere near their food area. I guess that's not such a bad thing, because they sell personal pan pizzas and I loooove personal pan pizzas.

Friday, February 4, 2011

the julie project

photographer Darcy Padilla chronicled the poverty-stricken life of 19 year old Julie, a young mother with AIDS and history of physical and sexual abuse.

her project (click for link) will be on my mind for a long, long time. sit down with a box of tissues and prepare to be feel enthralled, angry, disgusted, sympathetic and heartbroken.warning: contains graphic images. don't let that stop you- this is truly a must see/read. Padilla's other work (click on her home page to view) is astounding as well.

photo by Darcy Padilla

Thursday, February 3, 2011

the great khaki search

Harrisonburg is out of khaki pants.

OK, that is a lie. 

Correction:: Harrisonburg is out of khaki pants that are suitable for anyone who is not a grandma.

I want a pair of casual khakis that are free of cargo pockets. I don't want anything baggy or dressy or slouchy in the rear-end. I just want a DARN PAIR OF PANTS, people!

UPDATED on 2/7:: got a great pair of chocolate brown khakis for $10 at Kohls, along with a pair of casual gray pants for $17. I'm set!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

sorry ladies, he's all mine

Andy gave me flowers and a card last night to congratulate me on my first day at my new job. The envelope says "Mrs. Editor" and the card reads "You Suc" on the front. When you open the card it reads "You Succeeded!" HAHA. That is so my husband.
We ate dinner at the table and later read together on our bed with a plate of cheese and crackers between us.
GOSH DARN IT I love him way too much.