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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Life Lessons - A Perspective on Thankfulness

A lovely woman has included me on an email list that has a devotional called, Jesus Calling, sent directly to my inbox everyday. It is written from the Lord's perspective, and often times is exactly what I need to hear. If you are interested in hearing more about it, here is at link to the book reviews on Amazon to take a look at! Below is a recent Jesus Calling excerpt that really touched my heart and made me focus even harder on being grateful for what I have now and always.

As I prepare for Thanksgiving day, I always reflect on what I have to be thankful for, and this year is no exception. While it sounds cheesy, I wish people lived everyday this way instead of just making an effort during this season. It would make such a huge difference in America. Please, for your sake, start thinking more about what you do have and not focusing so much on what you want. 

I KNOW that I am blessed. Just having the freedom to write these words is so incredible. Do not take your freedoms for granted and use your finances to bless others. This holiday season, do something with you time and finances that matters.

A THANKFUL ATTITUDE opens windows of heaven. Spiritual blessings fall freely onto you through those openings into eternity. Moreover, as you look up with a grateful heart, you get glimpses of Glory through those windows. You cannot yet live in heaven, but you can experience foretastes of your ultimate home. Such samples of heavenly fare revive your hope. Thankfulness opens you up to these experiences, which then provide further reasons to be grateful. Thus, your path becomes an upward spiral: ever increasing in gladness.

Thankfulness is not some sort of magic formula; it is the language of Love, which enables you to communicate intimately with Me. A thankful mind-set does not entail a denial of reality with its plethora of problems. Instead, it rejoices in Me, your Savior, in the midst of trials and tribulations. I am your refuge and strength, an ever-present and well-proved help in trouble.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sharing the Wealth in my Season of Reading


Bill and I have a problem.  We have officially run out of bookshelf space.  We have small stacks of books piling up around our home and I have decided, as a result of this recent dilemma, as I finish a book, I will send it someone who would enjoy reading it, to make room in my house for more books in the future and to send someone a little joy at the same time.   

SO, if after reading my short review (and potentially doing a little research of your own) you are interested in having any book you see on here in your collection, just leave me a comment and I will arrange to have it sent to you so you can sit in a comfortable chair with a cup of tea and be transported elsewhere, even for just a few minutes a day.  Reading is wonderful, and hoarding books, especially ones I have finished, seems like a crime.  I want to share the wealth!

The being said, I'd love to tell you about this lovely read.  It is a collection of short stories of women who lived over seas and excerpts of their lives and travels.    Some discouraging, some encouraging and all very realistic.  It really hits the nail on the head when it comes to language barriers, cultural differences and celebrating small victories.  I think often times the idea of living abroad is really romanticized, and I thought this book would glorify the expatriat experience, but it actually was very raw and made it clear that the lifestyle is not for everyone and takes a lot of perseverance. 

This book kind of surprised me.  Maybe I need to stop having pre-conceived notions and just a take a book for what I is as I experience it, but this book was better than expected to me.  I haven't read a collection of short stories in awhile, and it was a nice change of pace to read one story at a time or a few back to back as I pleased.  It was a nice change of pace, although it got me craving a good long book… grass is always greener right?

I definitely recommnd this book, but not if you want a lot of character development, but that is the choice you make with short stories.  I loved it though, and it really covered the entire globe with each woman being located in really unique places, it hit on politics and religion, and so much more.  Definitely worth you time!

Anyone interested?


Friday, November 22, 2013

Away For the Weekend - Vegas Here I Come!


I am heading to Vegas this weekend, and as is always the case when I say those words, I am really excited. 

I just love it.  Maybe it is because I am very responsible, I have a structured job, I make a meal plan every week, and I go to church every Sunday.  I am organized and clean and do laundry and don't make spontaneous purchases.  I am very methodical about my life.  I do not buy junk food, never stay up past 10 pm, wake up at 6 am everyday and (attempt to) always put others first. 

And then I go to Vegas…  I sleep in, eat big breakfasts, play games, drink oversized drinks, stay up til 2 am, eat fast food and snacks, do not have a plan, and do what I want.  I think because it is always in short spurts, I really enjoy just existing there for awhile.  Other places I go for vacation, I feel like I need to be productive and see it all and have a plan of attack, but not when I am there.  People say Vegas is dirty and raunchy, but I think that Vegas is what you make of it.  The casinos are really beautiful and the food can be incredible.  The place is famous for a reason and I can't wait to be there and start relaxing and eating and just being with Bill and a couple friends.  I'm also gonna check out my first Motocross race!

Enjoy your weekend friends, and send any luck you don't need my way :)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My Family's Contagious Joy


This picture brings my heart joy and is currently my desktop background at work. 

My family has a contagious energy and my siblings are beyond a blessing to me.

I miss them more than words can describe, but feel peace in my heart about our individual journeys.

This picture is a throwback to the night before my wedding :)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Food I Ate Friday - Almond Biscotti

There is something about biscotti to me...  Maybe it reminds me of my time in Italy, maybe it is my fascination with different kinds of baking, but whatever it is, they make me happy and I love them in a unique way.  I cannot have them without a cup of tea or coffee to dunk in, and my preference is black tea with milk and a hint of sugar.  

As usual, I did not make up the recipe this week.  I found it on Pinterest, and the pin led me to the Hungry Brownie Blog.    If you are foodie, I encourage you to explore the rest of the blog.  There are definitely a few more recipes I want to try on there!  The photo and the recipe both belong to the blog referenced above... I really need to start focusing on the pictures I am taking!


Almond Biscotti

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract (or 1/2 teaspoon amaretto)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon anise extract (optional)
1 cup of almonds, toasted and chopped, but not too fine 

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheet with parchment paper

2) Combine dry ingredients and set aside.  Whisk together eggs, extracts and vanilla until well blended.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix to combine.

3) Scrape out the dough onto parchment paper and form into a long flat loaf, about 10 inches by 5 inches.

4) Bake until firm and dry, about 20 to 30 minutes (I actually ended up baking it for 40 to make sure the center was cooked through).  

5) Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. 

6) Using a serrated knife, slice into 1/2 inch wide slices.  Lay the slices cut side down on the baking sheet and bake for another 10-15 minutes.  Turn the slices over and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

7) Cool biscotti on a rack.  Cool completely before serving.  

*Refer to the Hungry Brownie Blog linked above for additional tips and information!


Have a lovely weekend friends :)  Eat well!



Monday, November 11, 2013

Be Encouraged - My First 10K


I want to take this opportunity to encourage anyone that doesn't think they can do something, because I genuinely and sincerely did not think that running a 10K was ever a possibility for me.  I am not lazy or unmotivated, but I just never enjoyed running.  I would always literally laugh at people who signed up for races because it sounded that absurd to me.  I ran a 5K last year, and left it feeling accomplished and like I never needed to push harder than that because it would be out of my reach… well I was wrong.

I know how cheesy it is, but I really do think all you have to do is put your mind to something.  In training for this, I learned a lot about my body, what it can handle, how diet effects exercise and why it is important to push yourself to do a task you do not believe you can do.  

That morning, when I started the 6.2 mile journey to the finish line, I remember thinking that if I didn't give up mentally and kept believing my body could handle it, I could jog the entire thing.  It was a beautiful morning, and sunlight softly hit my face as I took off just after the sun came up.  I ran beside some beautiful lakes and through the most peaceful neighborhoods.  I played a fun playlist and let me mind enjoy each song as it came on.  I have never run that far before, and I was having some pretty bad knee issues leading up to the run, but dang it, I ran that whole 6.2 miles and did not give up.  Crossing the finish line with the biggest cheering section at the race made me want to burst into tears.  I still can't believe I did it!  

That moment of sheer joy is definitely something I will hold onto for a long time. 



I am so proud to say I completed this hurdle, and look forward to putting a new one in front of myself.  Until then, I plan to bask in the joy that I did something that felt unattainable and I did it to the best of my ability.  I did not leave an ounce of energy unused and I pushed myself around every bend in the road. 

Thank you Lord for giving me the ability to complete this task.  
I pray I never take your gift of life for granted.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Food I Ate Friday - Chicken Tikka Masala

Watch out people, I got a crock pot and I am becoming obsessed with it.

Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Honestly, this recipe could not be much easier or more delicious!  It came from Real Simple magazine (as many of my recipes do) and it can be found here for your reference.  It turned out so good the first time we made it, we immediately made it again the next week.  I recommend shredding the chicken and serving it with the frozen Trader Joe's Naan bread :) 

Ingredients

1 15-ounce Can Crushed Tomatoes
1 Medium Onion, Chopped
2 Cloves of Garlic, Chopped
2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
2 Teaspoons Garam Masala (Indian Spice Blend)
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper
1 1/2 Pounds Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
1/2 English Cucumber, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 Cup Fresh Cilantro Leaves
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Cup Basmati or some other long grain white rice
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream


Directions

1) In a 4-6 Quart slow cooker, combine the tomatoes, onion, garlic, tomato paste, garam masala 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Place the chicken on top of the mixture, cover and cook until the chicken is tender 
*7-8 hours on low OR 3-4 hours on high.
2) In a small bowl, toss the cucumber and cilantro with the lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.  Cover and refrigerate for up to 8 hours.
3) Twenty (or thirty) minutes before serving, cook the rice to the packages directions (we used brown rice so we needed a little more time)
4) Just before serving, stir the cream into the chicken tikka masala.  Serve over the rice with the cucumber mixture.



Enjoy your weekend friends!  

Eat Well!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Happy Birthday Daddy

This is my dad.

Today is his 56th birthday.

He is my biggest fan, the first man I ever loved and the best example of selflessness I have ever known.  He lives his life to make those around him more comfortable, and he is such an incredible husband, father and grandpa.  Growing up makes you see your parents differently, and while some may find their parents not everything they thought they were, I certainly have had the opposite experience.  He is everything I need him to be and is ALWAYS there for me when I need him.  Walking down the aisle with him was an honor because I am SO proud to be his little girl.  


My dad is a man who enjoys the little things.  A cup of blueberry coffee, a walk on a brisk morning and a cabin in the woods are things that make him smile.  He loves the trees changing in the fall and can't wait until the next time he gets to be in Maine.  Sam Adams, tubs of tri-flavored popcorn and Halls cough drops always make me think of him.  Isn't it funny what will make you think of a person!?

He is an unbelievable writer and can bring me to tears with a simple email.  He loves me beyond words and often times that love overwhelms me and helps motivate me to be better and do more.  I work hard and love hard and he taught me how to be that way.  I hate being away from him on days like today when I just want to sit and have a glass of wine with him and celebrate another year of life that we have been blessed with.  I spoke with him on the phone this morning and my heart ached to be in Maryland.

Daddy, I love you so much.  What an amazing year this has been, and look how much more we have to look forward to!  Thank you for always giving your entire heart to each of us and for working so hard to provide for your ever growing family.  I hope today you feel showered and appreciated and are able to have quality time with those you love.  I can't wait until you are here in February and we can celebrate together and share in the simple pleasures of life.  I look forward to many adventures traveling together and enjoying the joy our relationship brings to both our hearts.

Happy Birthday Daddy :)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Oh Hello Friend Party and Quality Time with My Girls


Me and two of my best girls went to a 5 Year Anniversary Party for a blog we have admired for a few years; and while I was so happy to be there and experience it, I was most excited about spending time with my girls.  They are both so dear to me, and I just love any quality time we can spend together.  We laughed in the car and gawked at the cute items and I just loved being around them for something like this.  We had the best time, and it reminded me that no matter what I envy in the blog world, I have it all in my reality.

I did a poor job getting pictures of the event, it was absolutely adorable.  There was cute food and drinks, fun colorful decor, someone who created silhouettes of attendees, a calligraphy artist, a fabulous band playing, a photo booth and a cotton candy machine.  It was a true celebration.

We looked through the shop that opened after the blog gained popularity, which was right around the corner from the party, and you can tell it is a dream of the owner's to have this little treasure trove.  I honestly wanted everything in the place.  It was so, so lovely.  The evening seemed to be exactly what she was hoping for and even though I have never met her, I felt her joy and loved seeing her thrilled at the turn out.  It just made me happy to see someone so happy and to see their dreams come true :)

To check out more of the event, watch this video on the Oh Hello Friend Blog.  

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Season of Reading - A Lovely Italian Adventure


This book is an Italy loving foodie's dream.  I definitely could not get enough of it.  It was like going on vacation whenever I picked it up, because I dream of being the woman who wrote this when I "grow up" :)  She writes with such poise and confidence and makes her meals sound like the most incredible experiences I can even imagine.

The recipes are so sumptuous, and every dish described can almost be tasted from the amount of detail.  Oh my gosh, I just wanted to jump in the pages and be sitting at the table with them!  I can picture myself with a glass of deep red wine soaking it all in sitting in a rustic, yet comfortable wooden chair around a table filled with laughter, candles and conversation.

I have been daydreaming about a trip my family and I are planning to Paris, Germany and Tuscany in the fall of 2015.  While that is only 2 years away, it feels like an eternity.  I cannot wait to be there, living in the setting of this book.  I miss living in Italy everyday and often times wonder if anywhere else in the world fits me as well as a small Italian town.  The beauty in simple moments is overwhelming.  The colors and smells and textures and flavors of Italy are overwhelmingly glorious to my palette, and I realize as I write this that a piece of my heart never left. 

This book just hugs you.  It really transported me back to Italy where life is a little bit slower paced and time stands still a little more.  People take their time and sit and talk and a meal takes hours upon hours and they just sit and enjoy each other.  I feel like this is something American culture lacks, the ability to just sit and enjoy a good meal and wine at a dinner table for a long time.  We are always in a hurry to get somewhere or watch something or on our phones distracted.  This book is such a refreshing reminder that there are places that exist in the world today that linger over meals and just enjoy food and wine and company.  That is how I want my home and life to be known. 

Who wants to help me accomplish this? ;)