Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Really Tasting LIfe

So I was reading one of my favorite magazines the other day and ran across an interesting article talking about really savoring meals and snacks. The author poses an interesting question, "When was the last time you ate M&Ms one at a time?"

May seem silly, but she goes on to talk about how we're always on the go and we rarely take the time to really enjoy a meal or snack and in turn, do a lot of mindless eating.

I've been thinking about that whenever I eat ever since i read the article. How often do I take a handful of chips or candies or dried fruits or whatever and don't taste it. I don't taste the chocolate melting into my tongue. I don't enjoy the warm cheesy macaroni when it enters my mouth. Instead I usually eat very distractedly, often thinking about the things I still need to complete on my to-do list.

What good would it do so many families if, instead of sitting down for dinner with the goal to finish quickly so you can go on to do your own thing, we sat down with the purpose of actually sitting there, catching up with those who mean the most and really enjoying the meal God has provided for us.

When I was in college, I spent a summer living with 7 girls in one big house. It was part of a program that focused on faith in our lives and one of the things we were committed to do was to sit down together each night for an hour and eat, taking turns talking about our days. At the beginning of the summer it seemed so long and I wasn't sure what to do after 10 minutes, but after a few weeks I began to really look forward to those dinners.

I loved having the time to converse and learn from my household sisters. I loved learning about them through those meals and slowing life down, if even just for that hour.

We can't make it an hour at our house right now because we have an almost two-year-old who wouldn't sit still long enough to let it happen, but we can usually make it a half hour. When it happens, I know that is by far the best part of my day. I love just enjoying that quiet time with my family - no phone calls, no emails, no TV - just us enjoying each other's company.

One beautiful fruit from that time is on those days my husband and I seem to have more understanding and patience with each other because we know what has been good and what has been challenging throughout our own days.

Our family is working to truly enjoy the food as well as the company we enjoy it with. I challenge you to take pleasure in the little things in life like daily meals and enjoy all the gifts God has given us ....right down to that M&M.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Learning Something New.....

So I'm finding that trying something new every day can be quite challenging when you are very pregnant and supposed to spend more time resting than anything else:). I'm glad I combined it with learning something new, which is a lot more feasible within my home.

Yesterday I learned the word zoophagous, which means:

1. flesh-eating, meat-eating
2. animal, animate being, beast, creature, fauna, brute - a living organism characterized by voluntary movement
3. carnivorous - (used of plants as well as animals) feeding on animals; "carnivorous plants are capable of trapping and digesting small animals especially insects"


Today I figured out how often you need to clean your dryer lint (apparently every 6 months), why it is important and how to do it. Apparently the dryer sheets can leave a film on the vent and increases the risk of fire because the holes are blocked, even if they don't look like it.

You can tell if any holes are blocked when you run it under water. If the water pools above the vent instead of draining out, it's blocked.

It was very simple to take a toothbrush or soft bristle brush, run it under hot water and use dish washing soap to scrub clean the holes.

In the end, keeping that and your vents clean help decrease energy use and, most importantly, keeps your fire risk a lot lower.

So it's not an earth-shattering lesson, but it is a practical thing to know how to do.

And now, back to work. I have a few more weeks, pretty much until the baby's born and then I am finished with it.

More soon....

Sunday, October 28, 2007

My Favorite Ad Campaign

I usually don't pay much attention to ad campaigns in general, but one I have thought is far and above any I have ever seen is the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. When I first save the 'True Colors' ad, I was working in a newsroom cutting all the commercials from the Superbowl during the Superbowl for our station's web site. It stopped me in my tracks and I watched it over and over again because I felt it was so powerful.

I remember always not feeling like I quite fit into the image of beauty because I didn't fit the tiny, blond-hair blue-eyed version of beauty. It didn't help that my best friend was gorgeous and fit that stereotype (although she was still insecure about herself - most girls are not immune). It wasn't until I spent a summer working for a camp for homeless kids with people from all over the world I began to realize how many forms of true physical beauty existed and how many other forms did as well.

After that realization, I didn't stop struggling with how I looked, but I grew to appreciate who God made me and how He made me and become more confident in who I was at the time.

As part of the media and specifically as a photographer, I have experienced first-hand how much the media can influence young minds and how much decisions made, specifically in editing, lighting and creating photographs, can really affect what people see and how they see themselves.

There are three YouTube videos posted on here. The first one, 'True Colors,' is my favorite and gives me chills when I watch it because it gives me hope that there are people actually pushing to change the status quo ... people in a position to actually affect it most.

'Onslaught' highlights how much what we are exposed to everyday can shape not only our minds, but the minds of our beautiful children as well and to me is a good reminder to be ever vigilant about what I allow my children to be exposed to.

Finally, 'Evolution' highlights the "amazing" tricks in Photoshop and sheds light on why no one can truly live up to the models they see in the magazines - no matter how hard they try.

Dove Film 'True Colors'

Dove Film 'Onslaught'

Dove Film 'Evolution'

Friday, October 26, 2007

Five Years Ago....

Five years ago I began a journey with my husband I never could have predicted much of the path. We smile when we think about how much we couldn't understand about marriage until we were married and know there's so much more we will learn in the years to come.

We never imagined five years would lead us through two graduate degree programs, four states we have called home, five pregnancies, several of which ended in miscarriage and unimaginable feelings of loss, bigger fights than we had ever imagined and more love than we can express. So many people spend so much time preparing for their wedding, but not their marriage, which is a big mistake. The wedding lasts a day, the marriage lasts the rest of your life.

I remember when we began dating thinking, "I have never been this close to someone in my life. He's my best friend and I can't imagine it getting better."

Then I remember on our wedding day thinking,"I knew nothing when we started dating, but now I really know this person. I know what to expect. I know what I love and hate. I can't imagine it getting any better."

Five years later we laugh at how much we couldn't have predicted or known. I still feel like I can't imagine a better life, with all the ups and downs, but I now know this relationship is a journey, always changing, growing and evolving. I pray five, 10 and 15 years down the road we look back and seen we've grown that much more together.

So this day is to honor my husband for who he is and how he challenges me every day to be a better person. I look forward to many more years of anniversaries together. I pray we continue to grow together to serve God and each other through our lives and actions.

PS: I didn't make the quiche yesterday due to several factors, so I switched gears. Instead I learned how embed a search engine on a web site specific to that particular site. For what I do, it's a very helpful tool:). Today I am not sure what I am going to tackle, but it will be something fun.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Making The Most of Each Day

I was surfing the net and found this CNN story in CNN's "Young People Who Rock" section. Although the photo is weird - why in the heck does the woman have a mustache?!?!? - I like the idea she has and think it is not just for those facing what they feel is some milestone in their lives.

I am personally going to turn 30 in less than a year. I don't face it with dread, but the last few years have been very weird for me because I remember when my parents were my age and younger. I remember saying, "My mom is 27," when I was in kindergarten.

Instead I think how blessed I am to have had almost 30 years on this Earth and pray I am blessed with many more with my family and friends.

I do like what this woman is trying to do though. She has decided to try something new each day until she turns 30. I would think it would be so addicting in a good way you'd want to keep it up past then, but whatever:).

I really like this though because it makes examine all the big and little things in life and really appreciate them.

On that note, I am going to try to follow her lead and try something or learn something new everyday. I don't ever want to stop growing and learning and when I left grad school a few years ago, I knew that if I didn't seek out opportunities to learn and grow, I would experience so many less things in life.

God has given us one life to live - shouldn't we embrace it and make the most of where we are and what we have at the time? I challenge you to join in and try it until at least the end of the year. What have you got to lose?

Today: I am going to learn how to make a homemade quiche. My husband and I have really enjoyed quiche lately and it's about time I learn to make it - doesn't look that difficult:). Guess we'll see. I'll report back with the final product - even if it fails miserably.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Just For Today

Likely you have seen this, but this is one of those poems that makes me smile and think when I read it. I think of all the times as a mom I get frustrated or short on patience and how most of the stuff that is bugging me really isn't a big deal in the end. I know my little man is just a kid and what he wants most from me is time with him. I know that if anything would happen to him, all this other 'stuff' that occupies a lot of my time wouldn't matter. It' s good reminder to cherish and spend time on the important things in life.

Just for this morning, I am going to smile when I see your face and laugh when I feel like crying.

Just for this morning, I will let you choose what you want to wear, and smile and say how perfect it is.

Just for this morning, I am going to step over the laundry, and pick you up and take you to the park to play.

Just for this morning, I will leave the dishes in the sink, and let you teach me how to put that puzzle of yours together.

Just for this afternoon, I will unplug the telephone and keep the computer off, and sit with you in the backyard and blow bubbles..

Just for this afternoon, I will not yell once, not even a tiny grumble when you scream and whine for the ice cream truck, and I will buy you one if he comes by.

Just for this afternoon, I won't worry about what you are going to be when you grow up, or second guess every decision I have made where you are concerned.

Just for this afternoon, I will let you help me bake cookies, and I won't stand over you trying to fix them.

Just for this afternoon, I will take us to McDonald's and buy us both a Happy Meal so you can have both toys.

Just for this evening, I will hold you in my arms and tell you a story about how you were born and how much I love you.

Just for this evening, I will let you splash in the tub and not get angry.

Just for this evening, I will let you stay up late while we sit on the porch and count all the stars.

Just for this evening, I will snuggle beside you for hours, and miss my favorite TV shows.

Just for this evening when I run my finger through your hair as you pray, I will simply be grateful that God has given me the greatest gift ever given.

I will think about the mothers and fathers who are searching for their missing children, the mothers and fathers who are visiting their children's graves instead of their bedrooms, and mothers and fathers who are in hospital rooms watching their children suffer senselessly, and screaming inside that they can't handle it anymore.

And when I kiss you good night I will hold you a little tighter, a little longer. It is then, that I will thank God for you, and ask him for nothing, except one more day.

Dealing With Debt

One thing that has been difficult for my husband and me over the years is to save any money and pay off debts we have. A lot of it had to do with getting through graduate school, but now that we have completed that task finally, after almost five years, we are better able to focus on paying down debts, both school and non-school ones, and getting rid of all of it.

I know for both of us, it is such a relief to be focusing on it and although we have a long road to go, our goal is to be debt-free, with the exception of maybe a mortgage, in a few years.

It is a lofty goal, but when crunching the numbers is actually attainable. We are choosing not to buy another house right now since we are not so sure how long we will be around here. Instead we are renting just the space we need and using the extra money to begin chipping away at the debt.


Another challenge for us is our decision that at least for right now, I will stay home with our boys when the second one is born and even though I will do freelance work, I will focus on being home most of the time. We know if I worked, we could financially have a lot more freedom, but we also believe in the irreplaceable value of one of us being home with our kids while they are young. Sometimes it takes more creativity to make it work on one income, but even with my husband's salary and the small projects I take on, we are on the right track - just not as fast:).

Sometimes it is difficult to see friends going on great vacations or affording things we may have the income for, but we really shouldn't buy. It takes enough discipline for us to say even though we would really love to go out to eat some nights when it's been a long day, instead we are going to stay home.

It means finding free and cheap activities to do when we want to go out and really making decisions when we can splurge a little.

It also means that although we would love to visit our families every month during the year, financially we have to decide when we are coming and stick to it, barring any major emergencies.

It really means being realistic with what we can afford to do, which many people nowadays aren't.

I firmly believe this is like a diet and the best way to succeed is not to cut out everything extra completely. I know when I have done Weight Watchers, a key for my success besides prayer and support at home was to allow myself food I was really craving. When I really, really was dying for a piece of chocolate, I let myself have some. It was usually a smaller piece and I didn't eat it all day long, but it was enough to satisfy my craving. Likewise, there are things we don't need that we are allowing, like eating out once every week or two. It may be a $10 meal, but it's something my husband grew up with (many times a week) and completely asking him to cut that out isn't fair ... plus it is nice to be able to do it once in awhile:)

It is a change in lifestyle and thought. Our society constantly feeds us the messages of instant gratification - if we want it, we should have it now. The reality is the more we work to achieve or have something, the more we value it as well. I think that attitude has made us too much a 'throw-away' society in everything from the little things like disposable kitchenware to the big things like lives of those who aren't considered valuable in our society.

Even though we have spent the last five years in school, we barely had enough most of the time to make ends meet. We were not frivolous and didn't go on wild shopping sprees, but it is easy to run up debt when you also don't have any savings and emergencies happen.


One of the best things I ever bought was when I was in 6th grade. I really wanted a good stereo and a nice mountain bike. My parents told me that was nice, but they weren't going to just buy them for me.

I worked all summer and saved up enough money to buy a really good stereo system (which almost two decades later I still own and works quite well) and a bike. I spent every week of my summer working as an aide to a family down the street a few days a week. By then end of the summer, I was able to the stores and buy what I had worked so long and hard to get (my parents did contribute a bit to the bike so I could get a good lock to keep it safe and get a step up from the model I was going to buy).

I was very proud of both my bike and my stereo because when people asked me where I got them, I knew how much I worked to save up the money and buy them. I took such good care of them that my bicycle lasted me through my first two years of college as well before it was stolen from our campus.

While 'things' are definitely not my goal in life and never should be, I do want to get to a point where we don't owe all this debt and we really think before buying items we may or may not need.


The reality is so much of what we think we need, we truly don't. I know growing up we had periods of very, very little money, but God provided what we truly needed. We had times like that throughout grad school and God doesn't disappoint.

But when He gives us enough or more than enough to survive on and we are still struggling because of debt, it's important to look at what is going on and what you can do to fix the problem.

The debt to me, hinders us from being able to help provide for and help those in our society, our churches and our neighborhoods who really need it to the full extent I want to.

Credit gives us a false sense of having more than we actually do and not taking a realistic look at what we need to do to get something.

Ignoring debt does not make it go away and now that we are entering a new stage in our life where we can choose to make it go away, we are.


Please pray for us as we continue on this challenging, but very rewarding journey that we don't get discouraged and keep pushing through to make it happen. It is not fun an it takes lot of work and it is a lifestyle change. It is one that I believe is fully attainable though.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Apple Butter Perfection

So after a miserable first attempt and a whole day of cooking, I made a second double batch of apple butter and after the day of cooking, got it right where I wanted it.

If it weren't for my mom and all the cooks that came before me in my family, I wouldn't be able to cook some of my favorite recipes.

So for all who don't have a good recipe, here's their recipe that is really not too difficult and quite yummy. I made a double batch and it yielded 13 1/2 pint jars of apple butter. Bonus: The house sure smells fabulous the whole day as the apple butter cooks:).

16 Apples - about 6lbs (I used Golden Delicious, but there are several good cooking apples you can use).
2 quarts water
1 ½ quarts apple cider
3 cups sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp allspice

Cut apples. Cook in water until soft. Run through food mill. Bring cider to boiling, add apples, sugar and spices.

There are two ways you can cook it after that:

Stove top:
Can cook at simmer on top of stove, stirring often until thick. Place in sterilized jars.

Place in roasting pan and place in preheated oven at about 325. Cooking times will vary depending on the oven. Mine was about 6 1/2 hours, my mom said hers tends to be a few hours longer. Stir once every 45 minutes - more toward the end. Place in sterilized jars with about 1/2 inch room at the top when completed.


~ When it begins to thicken, you can test to see if it is the correct thickness by sticking some in a small bowl or plate and cool it down to see how thick and spreadable it is. My first batch failed because I cooked it to a certain thickness in the oven and by the time it cooled, it was way too thick to spread.

~ After filling the jars, you can skip the water bath to seal it if you do this. Scoop it into the jars immediately, add a sealing lid and a rim and screw tight. Turn upside down on kitchen towel until cool. Generally the lid will seal from the heat.

It's a great recipe to cook when you are spending the day at home - especially when it's cool outside.

Thanks Mom!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Becoming Better Stewards of Our Environment

I've really felt God push me to consider more effects of our daily living on the environment. For those of you who are skeptical - hear me out.

I used to think a lot of the environmental causes were a ridiculous amount of hype and people who were a little wacky trying to show they really cared about something. However, in the last year, I really feel like there are truths in a lot of it. Through prayer and contemplation, I feel like just as we are to be good stewards of God's gifts in our lives such as our abilities and talents, we are also supposed to be good stewards of the gifts he has given us such as the environment we live in. God asks us to be good stewards of all the gifts He gives us, not just some of them.

So my husband and I are trying to figure out small ways we can do this. We don't have a lot of extra money right now and we are in a new place so it can be challenging, but one of my favorite newest things that seems to be catching on are reusable grocery bags. Most of the local grocery stores have begun carrying these reusable grocery bags. I didn't know how they would work, but at $.99, I figured we could buy a few, try them out, and if we liked them buy a few more each time we shopped until we had enough we would use on a regular basis.

I like using them so much! They hold a lot more than it first appears, probably because they won't tear like plastic, and they have sturdy handles that make them easy to carry. I now have seven and got 95 percent of our groceries to fit in them when I went shopping this weekend (we usually go on a big trip once every two weeks, and this was the week).

While I don't have time currently to do a ton of research on this right now, this is information from a National Geographic article in 2003.

"The numbers are absolutely staggering," said Vincent Cobb, an entrepreneur in Chicago, Illinois, who recently launched the Web site to educate the public about what he terms the "true costs" associated with the spread of "free" bags. He sells reusable bags as a viable solution.

According to Cobb's calculations extrapolated from data released by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 2001 on U.S. plastic bag, sack, and wrap consumption, somewhere between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. Of those, millions end up in the litter stream outside of landfills—estimates range from less than one to three percent of the bags.

The figures may not be totally up to date, but even if we consume half that amount today, switching to reusable bags would still have a major impact on our environment.

I don't know about your household, but I know we throw away tons of those bags yearly because we just can't reuse all of them. We use them as liners for trash cans and lunches and bags for trips, but we can only use so many in a year.

We have always recycled and have increased our recycling to all the packages we can in our house, but I think this is one pretty painless step many of us can do to truly help reduce our waste in our world. I don't know how long these bags will last, but I figure even if I can get a good year out them, think of all the plastic bags I will have not used and kept out of landfills.

One warning to those who do not support the Susan B. Komen Foundation due to their support of Planned Parenthood clinics, there are bags floating around, especially this month since it is breast cancer awareness month, that are pink and a percentage of the sale goes to the Susan B. Komen foundation. It is not listed on the bag, but I looked up the information and they seem to be the only charity benefiting.

Happy shopping and let me know if you have any great ideas on ways to reduce waste.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Life Is....

I just really like this quote - especially the last line.

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is a beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is life, fight for it!
- Mother Teresa

Monday, October 8, 2007


One thing I truly enjoy, as many of my friends seem to, is organizing and decluttering. Although I really don't like having to move, one thing I love is going through the boxes of stuff we have and getting rid of a lot of it that has piled up.

I just took another few boxes to the Salvation Army Thrift Store and it feels so good to 1) be able to pass it on to someone who may be able to use it and 2) get rid of it and have less stuff.

To me, it's amazing how freeing decluttering and organizing life can be. After having my son, I finally understood what so many of my friends and family had discovered earlier on, most likely with their first kids ... kids toys build up quickly and kids only "need" a few items otherwise they are overwhelmed.

I have already gotten rid of some toys my son, who is 18-months-old, received because he just doesn't have room for them.

One thing I have learned through this as well is that keeping every item from every experience is silly. Not only do have so much you never actually look at it again, but it also just takes up more space.

Additionally, the more "stuff" I have, I find more distractions in my relationship with God and more difficulties focusing on my faith life.

I mean, who really needs the VHS of a movie they really liked when they were younger...we realized since our wedding five years ago, we have watched a total of 3 or 4 VHS tapes, mostly in the first year.

So one of my current goals is to not have items in storage with the exception of items like baby clothes that we may not be using today but may likely use again in six months. I find a lot of times I don't even remember what I got rid of and the most difficult part is letting go of whatever it is.

I try to go through the house once or twice a year and always feel so relived once i get through it. Afterwards, I often find it easier to relax and focus on life more fully and what is truly important.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Ahhh - The Birthday of A Mom

So I woke up tired, but happy because it was my birthday and it's difficult to really be down on your birthday - or at least it is for me.

My husband made me a fabulous breakfast and my son and I drove him to work so we could use the car for the day. I was driving back when I heard my son start yacking up his breakfast all over the car. At first I was like, "oh no!" and then I started laughing.

I pulled to the side of the road and started cleaning up the mess, stripping him down to his diaper and using wet wipes to mop as much up as possible. Being very pregnant, I got a little sick myself. After we got the initial mess cleaned up, I thought about it the whole way home. Even if I didn't want to, there was that beautiful smell permeating our car so the thoughts lingered.

I thought about how your perspective, expectations and desires in life change as you have kids. When I was younger, my birthday meant I didn't have to do any chores all day long. I could play with my friends, talk on the phone, etc. It was such a gift - so much better than most material possessions.

Even when I was a young adult and a young married person without kids, the day was still all mine. I could do whatever or not do whatever I wanted. I could sleep in, go to a spa, hang out with friends or just be.

Now as a mom, all that is totally different....and I LOVE it. No my idea of a perfect birthday is not cleaning up barf....that was way, way down on the list. My ideal birthday now includes just being....being with my husband and son. Enjoying a nice meal and celebrating the life we have together. We didn't go out to a fancy restaurant (although my husband made a dish only to be rivaled in the best places around). We didn't have a day without kids - instead I chose to keep my son home the daycare he is still attending because I missed him and wanted to spend the day with the ones I love. There was no last minute getaways or anything else as grand. It was exactly what I hoped for. A day playing with my son and enjoying time with my husband. I did some laundry, and worked on the kitchen a bit.....but it wasn't a bother.

When I think of all the ways I have been blessed in my life, I can't imagine it any other way and I try to spend more time looking at the positives instead of the negatives. I may not have all this laundry or dishes in my life.... or I may never spend a birthday cleaning up barf...., but then that would mean I wouldn't have a little person or a husband that I am doing it for either. That trade-off would never be worth it to me.

I'll take the extra dishes and laundry any day:)

About Me

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I'm a mommy, wife and educated woman with an inquisitive mind. I am always looking in ways to challenge and grow in my faith. Many wise people I have known have reminded me if I am not growing, I am going in the wrong direction.