Monday, December 31, 2012

highlights from 2012

January / a belated cabin Christmas
February / House hunting
March / Laura's first trip to Uganda 
April / Moved into our new home in Maryland
May / Visited Laurel in Kentucky
June / Family trip to Hawaii
July / Missed Hawaii and thought about family
August / Got back into baking
September / Chopped off my hair
October / Visited Becca in Boston and drove to Cape Ann
November / Found out I get to go back to Uganda
December / Made friends with stingrays on our Caribbean cruise 
What a great year.

Thanks to Sam, Holly, Kristen, Amber and Jackie for guest posting!
a Marylander's POV
Holly's orange dreamsicle bread
Kristen's guilt-free snacks
Amber's guide to Hampton Roads

Jackie, on being a mom

Thursday, December 20, 2012

nifty gifties

Some of the items I mentioned in my 2012 gift guide were straight from my own Christmas list, but what about the other things I asked for? Here are five things that caught my eye recently:

1) chevron clutch from pretty penney
I saw this clutch on Dooce's gift guide for kids. Embarrassing? Slightly. I know I'm getting it (thanks babe) but I won't be able to open it Christmas day. Production time is around four weeks and we ordered it last night. Hey, it'll be fun to get a present in late January!

2) essie "midnight cami" nail polish
I'm picky about nail polish and I could see this being one I'd use all the time.

I fell in love with these after borrowing a friend's pair.

Everything about this clutch is adorable, from the asymmetrical opening to the polka-dotted interior. Yes please. It's cute in green, too.
5) "The Snow Child" by Eowyn Ivey
Someone somewhere (can't remember) wrote a rave review about this book and made me want to read it. I did read about a woman who picks up a snow/winter-related book every year and reads it around Christmastime. Maybe I'll adopt that as a new tradition?

Monday, December 17, 2012

crockpot Italian sausage and veggie soup

This is one of my favorite soups! I love the flavor that the sausage lends to the broth, and I get unreasonably excited about adding big handfuls of fresh spinach at the end. This is a great recipe to play around with. You could use mild sausage or a combo of the two, use different veggies such as zucchini or mushrooms, swap the chicken broth for beef broth and/or use a different pasta than shells.

Crockpot Italian sausage and veggie soup (similar to this)
makes 8 servings

put the following into a large crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hrs or on high for 4-5:
-3 to 5 links of cooked spicy Italian sausage (we find 3 is enough)
-1 chopped onion
-1 cup of chopped celery
-1 cup of chopped carrots
-1 can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
-1 can of Italian-style diced tomatoes, drained
-8 cups chicken broth- use more or less depending on how much broth you like. (I recommend using bouillon cubes or paste instead of canned or boxed broth. SO much cheaper!)
-3 cloves of garlic, minced
-several large pinches of Italian seasoning
-salt and pepper to taste

add before serving, if desired:
-fresh spinach
-1/2 box of cooked pasta shells (I recommend adding pasta to each serving as opposed to adding it to the crockpot—otherwise the pasta will overcook and become mushy.)
-cheese to add on top (we like mozzarella or cheddar)

Christmas card 2013

Thursday, December 13, 2012

a dedication

On Monday night I resolved to dedicate my 26th year to Christ. I told myself I would get up the next morning for a 6:45 a.m. Bible study that I was recently invited to. Then... I had a hard time sleeping. :-/ My stomach hurt. I tossed and turned. It felt like I had just fallen asleep when my alarm went off. I put the pillow over my head and tried to go back to sleep. I'll go next week. I can still be dedicated to Christ. I'll just read my Bible later. 

But I couldn't go back to sleep.

I attended a former classmate's memorial service a few days ago and was greatly impacted by the words spoken by Joey's friends, family and pastors. Joey was my classmate all throughout elementary and middle school, and we also attended the same college (though by then we had lost touch).

According to those closest to him, Joey was a man of integrity. During his two-year battle with cancer he soaked up knowledge of God by attending Sunday school, church and Bible study. He read his Bible even when he was in a hospital bed with drugs pumping into his body. He sent encouraging emails to his family and coworkers and asked people how he could be praying for them.

I struggle with doing those things and I have a healthy body.

All day on Monday I pondered my spiritual growth. I thought, that is the kind of legacy I want to leave. I don't want to keep choosing myself. I don't want to live for my own gain. I don't want to live for the world. I want to be so focused on Christ and obeying Him and advancing His kingdom that I, like Joey, would rejoice in suffering and use it to bring glory to God.

I was listening to Ascend the Hill on the way back to Frederick after the service and I found myself praying the words of the hymns. My heart was heavy from grieving and reflecting, but I found it lifting as I sang.

Oh, love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in Thee.
I give you back the life I owe,
and in your ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be.
My life is not my own, it's yours. 

I tried to go back to sleep on Tuesday morning. I couldn't. I made it to the study.
God- 1. Me- 0.

So anoint me with joy, and joyful I will be.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

crockpot chicken and veggie soup

Andy and I are doing the P90x diet, which breaks your food items into groups like "carbs," "protein," "fats," etc. Regardless of what phase of the diet you're doing, you're supposed to get several servings of protein and veggies and at least one serving of carbs. I love the ease of the crockpot and decided to create a one-pot meal that would include all of the yummy foods that are good for mah belly. I also only used one knife and one cutting board, so clean-up was super easy.

Crockpot chicken and veggie soup
put the following into a large crockpot:
1 cup of the following veggies, chopped: celery, onion, zucchini, carrots
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups fresh green beans, chopped
2 cans of diced tomatoes (I used the Italian-style kind)
3 chicken breasts, diced and seasoned with oregano and salt and pepper
roughly 36 oz low sodium chicken stock
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
to add later:
1 cup instant brown rice (or 1 cup of cooked pasta)
1 large bag of spinach, chopped

I did all of the prep work last night so that I could toss everything into the crockpot before work this morning. I set it on low for 8ish hours and added the instant rice 20 minutes before serving. I added the spinach at the last minute. I was surprised by how flavorful the soup was considering I hardly used any seasoning. We both loved it. Most of the soups I make are naughty, cream-filled soups, so I'm thrilled to add a super healthful soup to my repertoire!

Monday, December 3, 2012

our Caribbean cruise

We're baaaack! We had a great time cruising to Grand Cayman and Cozumel with our buddies Kevin and Jackie. It took me two and a half days to get my land legs back, and Andy came down with a cold, so both of us wish we could be on vacation just a little bit longer. We also kinda miss this guy:

kissingray 2 by lrennie86
smooching a stingray in Grand Cayman
Both the food and entertainment were better on this cruise than our last one (which was also Carnival). It was a little windy on the pool deck so we mostly hung out inside and played games and cheered people on who were doing karaoke or playing some ridiculous trivia game. We also ate and ate and ate, and then went back for dessert. I tried alligator and frog legs for the first time and ordered two appetizers and two desserts nearly every night! You best believe I wore drawstring pants on the plane ride home.
We went to Stingray City and the Turtle Farm on Grand Cayman. Both places were great, but if we had to pick a favorite we would both pick Stingray City. Being in the water with the rays was so thrilling! We fed them fresh squid, which they sucked out of our hands like a vacuum. Those baby turtles were awfully cute, though. 
In Cozumel we took a taxi to a public beach and shared a jetski instead of paying for an excursion. The public beach was swarming with people trying to sell stuff, so we moved our chairs and wound up having a private little section of the beach all to ourselves. Andy read a Bill Bryson book and I read "Secret Daughter" for book club. I wanted to stay on that beach forever, but we had a free dinner to get back to! We stopped by a little coffee shop on our way back to the ship and had the most amaaazing iced coffees.
It was a simply fabulous time.
Also, the shower in our bathroom was the best ever.