Saturday, July 23, 2011

Oh, hi there…

It has been quite awhile since I’ve dusted off the blog. Work and life in general have been so insane lately that I am lucky if I have time and energy to cook a healthy meal, let alone blog about it. The past six months have been a rollercoaster, at the Large Unnamed Banking Institution, at home with my health and money matters, and in our social life as we try to balance our need for rest with our desire to see friends and family as often as possible.

But I turned 29 yesterday, and if that isn’t a good time for some thoughtful reflection, then what is? Besides the 30th birthday (eep!) coming up next year. Anywho, this week I received an amazing compliment from a coworker, a fun gal who is not that much younger than me. She said that she would like to be in as good of a place as I am on her 29th birthday.

And I thought, wow, yeah, I am in a damn good place, aren’t I?

Yes, this has been an incredibly stressful year at LUBI. But it’s also probably my last, as I plan my retirement from corporate America and my foray into the world of housewifery. No, my health has not been the greatest, but we have been sustained through some life-threatening moments and now have a good plan to keep me symptom-free. Beyond that, we have had some words of encouragement from many prayer partners who have reminded us of God’s promises and assured us that this season of struggle will soon make way for a time of freedom and peace. Our financial situation has improved such that we have no debt except that tied to our house, and we are able to live off Jer’s salary alone. We’re hoping to start a family sometime soon, an idea which sends both my mother and mother-in-law into fits of ecstasy. And through all the highs and lows, I have been gifted with an amazing husband, who is loving, caring, patient, and strong.

God is good, and His mercies endure forever.

So yes, I may be entering the last year of my twenties, which some would say represents the end of my youth. But when I look back at how I have grown and how I have been blessed, I am happy to say that life is better now than it has ever been. I have faith that not only will 29 be the best year of my life, but that it will be followed by many more years filled with the goodness of God.

Monday, March 14, 2011

All Will be Well

I haven't felt much in a writing mood lately. Haven't even been putting stuff up on Jerbecca. It's been a tough few weeks. Over a span of a few days we lost many people in our lives-coworkers and friends lost a mother, a grandfather, and a niece, and my in-laws lost a cousin and a dear friend. Both of Jer's grandmas have had bad falls, and his dear aunt Stephanie, one of my favorite Anderson relatives, had emergency surgery. Praise God she and the grandmas are recovering well.

In the midst of all this I have had a relapse of the virus that put me in the hospital a few months ago (not as bad, but still distressing), work has been extremely stressful, and now we are faced with the tragedy in Japan and the losses not only in the past few days bt still to come, as rescue workers are still searching and nuclear reactors are still melting.

Despite all this, we have hope. God is good, grief passes, healing comes. I've been watching this video all weekend, and it has been a great comfort. I hope it is to you as well.

The Opiate Mass from The Other Journal on Vimeo.

All will be well. All manner of things will be well.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dear Body. You're Pretty Cool.

I've been pondering my new year's post for three weeks now. Work has been insanely busy and making time for family and friends never stops, and I've got to sleep, so blogging has been low on the priority list.

Fortunately, I ran across a post yesterday in my skimming of my Google Reader that captures what I think my resolution should be:

Dear Body...from now on, I'm going to listen to you. When you ask for food, I'm going to feed you what you need. When you tell me you're tired, I will rest. When you want to move, we'll do something that brings us both energy and vitality. And when you need a break, I'll give you one.
I don't care what you weigh. I don't care what your pant size is. I don't care if you have scars and stretch marks and pimples. You still deserve to be respected.
Dear Body, as far as I'm concerned, you're pretty cool and I'm glad I'm stuck with you. Thanks for putting up with all the garbage I've put you through. You deserve better and that's what you're going to get from now on.

Read the whole thing here.

To a wonderful 2011!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Coming Back to the Land of the Living


You know that verse that talks about not planning for tomorrow, for you don't know what life will bring? The past three weeks have been a good reminder of that principle. A couple of days before Thanksgiving I was planning the family meal and thinking ahead to the Christmas shopping I would be doing the weekend after. Those plans never quite materialized though, as I came down with a rare illness that landed me in the hospital. It's halfway through December now, and while I am past the worst of it, I am still recovering my strength, and this month is definitely not shaping up the way I had intended.

But that's okay. I'm grateful for my recovery, which according to my doctors is better than they expected. I'm blessed to have family and friends who supported us through the dark days with their prayers and help. I am overwhelmed by the love of my husband, who tended to me so faithfully both in and out of the hospital, and still managed to make me feel beautiful and treasured even when horribly sick.

Most of all, I am in awe of my Lord and Savior, who sends us His Spirit to comfort us in the midst of trials. Even when I was feeling my worst, when the fever was raging and the pain was extreme, I had a deep peace ministering to me, reminding me that God works all things together for good. I knew that I would be okay, despite the dicey situation I was in, because I had a reassurance in my soul that the Lord wasn't done with me yet, that this was simply another battle that He had already won on the Cross, and that I would see the victory here on earth as it is in heaven. I hold firm to the promises that have been spoken to us, that we are winning the war against the eczema that I have battled for so long, that this extreme situation was a last stand of the devil, and I do not need to fear, for my God has redeemed me, body and soul.

I've read a lot of encouraging words and listened to a lot of good songs during this time, but one has stood out to me: 'Our God' by Chris Tomlin. This has become my mantra:

Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…

And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?
And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?
What can stand against?

Nothing can separate us from the awesome, powerful love of God. Hallelujah!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


One of the blogs I follow is Crunchy Betty, who always has fun ideas for natural homemade skin care concoctions. Making my own skin care has become a new hobby of mine, as I learn about the dangers of the chemicals in conventional products and see results from new essential oils and giving up shampoo. Today though as I skimmed my Google Reader (quite full of unread posts as Jer and I were gone for the weekend celebrating our anniversary) I came across Leslie's post on beauty, and her struggles with weight and self-image. This is a struggle I can relate to, having gone through years of being the fat, frizzy-haired girl who never got a second look from the guys, to a diet-and-workout obsessed girl finally experiencing what it was like to be thin, to a woman now who has been dealing with health issues that have caused all that weight previously lost to come back with a vengeance. Right now I am working on my health and trying not to worry about my weight, but I will admit that having a loving husband is one the biggest reasons why I am not wallowing in a sea of self-pity and loathing. He encourages me and reminds me that I am beautiful, and truly, when I am held in his gaze I am the most beautiful woman in the universe.

But even so, I need posts like Leslie's to remind me of how far I have come, and how important it is to support each other in our quest for self-love. I'd encourage you to check out the post, as well as the comments. Whether you are struggling yourself with these issues or know people who could use some encouragement, it's a good discussion. Someday I hope to have daughters and I pray that I will be able to guide them through the process of learning to accept themselves as beautiful creatures, beloved of God, designed for a purpose and a destiny.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Am I Really That Unusual?

I was chatting with a woman yesterday, someone I had never met, who also works in the banking industry. She's probably 5 years older than me, very polished, seems successful in her career. I don't know anything else about her. We were talking about life and careers and marriage and I mentioned that I probably won't be working in banking in another year or two. She asked why, and I said that I was planning to have kids in a couple years. She turned a surprised face to me and asked incredulously, "you could stay home?" as if that was the most shocking thing she had ever heard. Why yes, I am a fairly successful woman in business and I would rather be a stay at home mom.

We continued to chat with the other woman there and a reference was made to life at home and how if I wasn't going to work every day I could "make a nice dinner" for my husband. I said that I already love to cook for him, and that the night before I had made butternut squash ravioli from scratch. At this, the woman's jaw hit the floor and she said, "who are you?" Somehow it was inconceivable that I would choose to head home from work, roast a squash, knead pasta dough, saute mushrooms, and put it all together for dinner. Yeah, that was one of my more elaborate meals, but I make dinner almost every night, unless I am really tired or busy, and then Jer steps in and cooks me a tasty frittata.

Am I really that odd? My perception is that there are thousands, maybe millions of successful women who every night leave work, pick up their kids, and make a nice meal for their family. It might take effort and planning, but they make it happen. I also know for sure that I am not the only gal out there who is or will be satisfied being a stay at home mom. The blogosphere is more than enough evidence of that. So why was I such a surprise to this woman?

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Spiritual Side

Oh, poor blog. I fear I've been neglecting my blog here at Secret Life of Daydreams in my enthusiasm for my posts at Jerbecca, where I've been going on about our diet changes and homemade toiletries and tasty recipes. Lately I've been feeling the tug to post back here but haven't been sure how to delineate topics between both blogs.

My current plan is to continue posting on kitchen and health related matters over there and use this blog for reflections on religion, politics, and the economy. I haven't said much about the economy lately, but boy was I surprised when I read the headline proclaiming that the recession had ended last summer. Far as I can tell, the unemployment rate is pretty darn high and the national debt is deeper than the Mariana Trench. I also read a scary article the other day about how even though it appears that American consumar debt is falling, a large portion of the decrease is coming from loans being charged off by banks as borrowers go into foreclosure. With the economy not showing any concrete signs of recovering, it's no wonder that pundits are predicting a huge turnover in Congressional staff this fall.

Speaking of politics, did you hear about Stephen Colbert testifying before the Senate? Jer and I listened to some of it on the radio this morning, and it's pretty darn funny. He tiptoes on the line between satire and contempt, but he makes some interesting points. Immigration is one of those areas that really gets my dander up-I firmly believe that we should be preventing illegal immigration, but I also believe that as Christians we are called to help the stranger and the foreigner, those who are experiencing oppression and injustice. Until we get our system fixed to empower people instead of entangle them in bureaucracy and let the needy slip through the cracks we will continue to have lawmakers who react to the problem with laws that penalize the needy instead of providing real solutions.

But enough of my soapbox. What was really on my heart when I started this post was the spiritual side of all these changes we have been making over at Chateau Anderson. On the surface it would seem that my entire focus is on what I can do in my own power to heal my conditions. I haven't talked much about the spiritual aspect of our journey. You see, I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit is active in the world today, and we can experience healing of physical, emotional, and mental wounds and disease through prayer and the life of Christ that is in us. We are children of the most high God, who formed us and loves us and does not desire that any of us should suffer.

And yet I don't believe that we should merely pray and go on with our lives expecting that there will be no consequences for what we eat or how we live. I believe that modern medicine, when considered carefully and with a critical eye, can be a tool and a blessing. And our actions must go beyond just caring for ourselves. God created us as physical beings in a physical world, and He called it all good, so we are to honor and be good stewards of both our body and environment. If, as my pastor often comments, our call is to help restore the world to the Shalom that God intended, then we must fulfill our call to stewardship of the natural world.

So while I attribute a lot of my health improvements this past year to the changes we have made, I recognize that many people have been praying for my healing, most notably my husband. His faith and encouragement kept me going on days when I despaired of ever getting better, and he has supported my research and changes better than any wife could hope for. I read stories of other women whose families fight them all the way as they try to make positive changes, and I thank God for a husband who empowers and blesses me for my diligence in the kitchen.

I also hold firmly that what the devil intends for evil, the Lord uses for good. The allergic reactions and subsequent infections I experienced last winter came straight from hell, let me tell you, but that experience made me confront the ways I had stopped caring for myself and put me on the path to research new ideas on how I could help heal myself that was beyond the status quo. Through this process I have uncovered so much good information that I was ignorant of in regards to diet, nutrition, exercise-you name it. Specifically, the science behind gut dysbiosis and the causes of allergies and eczema that I have found has completely revolutionized my thinking. I talk more about it here, but for the first time in my life I have hope that not only could I heal from my lifetime of symptoms, but I could prevent my children from inheriting the same issues.

I still believe that tomorrow prayers could be said and I would immediately heal from all these things I have been trying to overcome. But I wouldn't go back on the changes I have been making. This is about caring for myself, my family, and my environment the best way I know how, and believing that God will bless my faithfulness, along with my faith in His goodness and mercy towards me. I'm convinced that because of our prayers, the Lord has been and will continue directing my web searches, the people I come into contact with, the facts I encounter, the conclusions I reach, as I ask for His wisdom and guidance through this process. His desire is for His children to live an abundant life, and I know that the lifestyle we are embarking on is part of the plan of abundance He has for me.

The Lord is good, and His Love endures forever.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Feeling Good

As much as I love reading blogs on real food and the great health results that have come to various bloggers from changing their diets, I love even more seeing how my own body is responding to what we are doing. While I have many years of bad health to recover from, I have continued to feel better and better as I make changes big and small.

One of the problems I used to deal with a lot was unstable blood sugar. There is a history of diabetes in my family, and I was worried that at any moment I was going to get diagnosed with the disease myself. When I was a child, I would get sick if I ate too many sweet things, but as a teenager and adult I craved sweets. Even when I was on a low-carb diet, I ate a lot of sweet things, and consumed far too many artificial sweeteners. I also found that I had to eat every 3-4 hours, snacking constantly to keep myself from getting shaky or light-headed. I thought that I was keeping my metabolism going, but in reality I was just overeating and keeping myself caught in the blood sugar rollercoaster.

This summer I have started to focus on eating more healthy fats, especially at breakfast and lunch. My old routine was to eat a small packet of organic instant oatmeal (which was ridiculously expensive, btw) with an apple and coffee for breakfast at my office around 8am, then eat a snack at 11, then lunch at 1, then a snack at 3, and then dinner at 6. If I missed any of my meals or snacks, I would start to feel the effects right away, and if I didn't get food in me fast, would turn irritated and depressed. But now I am trying to focus on eating nutrient-dense foods like eggs, bacon or homemade sausage, cheese, veggies, and whole fruit in the morning. If I make oatmeal these days, I soak it the night before to decrease the antinutrients, and cook it with coconut oil or whole milk to provide healthy fats in my meal. And I am finding that eating good protein and fat is incredibly satiating.

For example, today around 7am I had an egg, a couple pieces of bacon, a little leftover kohlrabi and greens baked with cheese, and a peanut butter-banana muffin made with sprouted flour. The result? Well, it's lunchtime now, almost 6 hours later, I am just now starting to get a little peckish. No sugar crashes, no shakiness, just a natural hunger, which will soon be satiated with a lunch of sauteed cabbage and bacon, and a green salad with grapes and lacto-fermented ginger carrots.

When I do feel a little hungry in between meals, I have a cup of tea with cream or coconut oil mixed in, which gives me just enough fat to calm the hunger and keep my blood sugar from spiking or crashing. I pass up the leftover baked goods from meetings that populate the lunch room (I find they're not that good anyway compared to my homemade recipes) and no longer dip into the candy jar at the neighboring cubicle. Overall, I am probably eating less but taking in more nutrients. I feel great and have been steadily losing weight.

There are books and studies out there that give competing and conflicting messages about fat and carbs and how to eat, but if you value real life experience at all, you'll take my advice: put back the cereal, eat healthy fats, and don't skip breakfast.

ps: Jer has moved our joint blog over to Wordpress since we were having issues at our previous location. I've posted a few new recipes there. Enjoy!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Letter to my 21-yr-old self

I was in my blog reader the other day, skimming through all the wonderful writings I enjoy every day, and came across a post at Tea & Cookies entitled A Letter to my Twenty-something Self. Tara was sharing how she found another blogger who had asked for women in her life to share what they would want to tell their twenty-something selves about life. It was a way for her to glean wisdom from those around her. Tara decided to write her own, and described it as a cathartic experience. I've been pondering it all weekend, and have finally decided to put down my own thoughts. While I am still a twenty-something, looking back at the year I was first a twenty-something, there are some things I needed to hear.

Dear Rebecca,

I know you are not feeling so 'dear' right now. Your heart is broken and you are wondering if it will ever heal. And while I can tell you that it will heal, that the choice you have made is the right one, it won't help the pain you are feeling right now.
Will it help if I tell you that this year, and last year as well, I didn't even remember June 28th? I know today you think you will never lose the sting of that moment, and will mark that day forever. But time does heal, and as your life is filled with goodness, the old days you used to mark will no longer hold meaning for you. Instead you will mark new days, days of joy and fulfillment.
It will be a long journey, my dear. There are days when you will be weary, ever so weary and tired, and will think perhaps there is no hope. But you must choose to live in hope, in the truth of God's love and promise to fulfill His good work. It is a very very good work, and it will never cease, just as His love for you will never cease. Right now you aren't feeling loved, and you certainly don't feel lovable. But you are. You are so entirely lovable. And there will come a day, an afternoon in the sunshine, when you realize that fact. And that will change you. You will start to allow others to see you, the unfinished self you are still learning to enjoy, and you will allow them to love you.
In a few years someone will give you Isaiah 54 as a promise from the Lord. Hold on to that promise. Sing it to yourself during the long nights when you ache to be held. Read it again after every dashed hope tries to pull you down.
In a cathedral on a cold December night, someone will sing these words: 'If today, you hear My Voice, harden not your heart'. Allow those words to wash over you, to make you weep, to convict you. For you will want to harden your heart to the pain of loneliness. But the same band that sings those words will also sing another song: "if you want love, don't go hiding." Don't hide, my dear. Allow yourself to be open, vulnerable, to feel, even when it is difficult.
Because there will come a day when you will want to be open to possibilities. When the feelings that come will be of excitement, promise, giddiness. The Lord will call you back, as if you were a young wife rejected (because I know that is how you feel right now) and He will give you a greater joy. Your broken spirit will be mended, will be made whole.
His plans are better, dearest. And yes, you are dearest. To Him, and to those around you, who do indeed care for you, more than you know, more than you are able to care for yourself right now. But give it time. These years will not be without struggle, but there will be joy, and slowly you will learn that it is good for you to be who you are. Not that you will ever stop discovering who that really is. Don't be afrain of the uncertainty, of the process. Know that you will never be forsaken, that your dreams will come true.
The Lord has given you these dreams for a reason. Hold them loosely, but cling to Him tightly. Trust in the Giver, and He will be your fulfillment, and will bless you greatly.
I have one final piece of advice for you. A simple phrase I put up on my wall one day and hold to when life is hard. It is a struggle sometimes to see the joy, to see God in the midst of circumstances. But you have to choose how to respond, how you will see this life. So this is what you must do:

Call each day glorious.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Good Decisions

Last year on June 21st, Jer asked me to marry him. I said yes.


Sunday, June 13, 2010


Wow. I won a giveaway.

There have been very few times in my life that I have won a giveaway or door prize or raffle or whatever. I always enter, and I always expect to not win. Yet I still enter...I wonder what that says about my personality?

Well, I am glad I keep entering, because I won something! Sprouted flour from a giveaway over at Health, Home and Happiness. I'm excited to try it out-sprouted flour is something I have been wanting to try, but don't currently have the equipment for. According to what I have read, sprouting is good because it breaks down the anti-nutrients in the grain and make it more like a vegetable than a starch. And since I am trying to eat more vegetables and less grains, sprouted flour seems like the right thing for me!

I've also done a bit of blogging so far this month over at Jerbecca on my real food adventures, if you are interested:

Low Carb? Not So Bad Actually

Planning Is Fun. No, Really.

Pastured Eggs

The Color of Our Thumbs

I'll be blogging more recipes and tips as I experiment and continue on this grand experiment in traditional foods. Tonight we had grass-fed steak and sauteed vegetables, including kale from our patio garden! Tasty!

Friday, June 11, 2010

But I Like Cookies

So, it's no secret that I like to bake. Correspondingly, I like to eat what I bake. I'm not big on cake or cupcakes, and I think I could do better with my pie crusts, but cookies, brownies, sweet breads, muffins, and fresh bread are some of my favorite things.

Of course, I'm trying to reduce my intake of refined carbs and sugar. This limits my baking, and I have been looking into interesting alternative recipes over the past few weeks and having both successes and failures. Then this month I decided to go seriously low carb, just to cleanse my system a bit and jump start a little weight loss.

I've done a bit of blogging on the recipes over at Jerbecca. I was feeling pretty good and enjoying the recipes I was making and not missing the pasta or the tortillas or anything. And then I fell off the wagon a bit. Cheats are fine, I said. A little bit won't hurt I said. Hmm.

First, I decided to make cookies for Jer's office. He and his team have been working insanely long hours and he had to work on the weekend, so I baked three different kinds of cookies and sent them along in a huge 6 qt tub. But before I sent them I had to, ahem, "test" them. Up first: the white chocolate macadamia butter. Then, the oatmeal scotchies. Then finally the double chocolate chewy brownie cookies that are my signature specialty and perhaps the best cookies ever.

Well, after tasting all the cookies, I found myself with a bit of a stomachache. It reminded me of when I was little-anytime I ate too much candy I would feel sick (this happens to all kids, right? How come parents still give us sugar?) I figured it was because I hadn't eaten anything else-I was just spoiling my dinner, as they say.

But then, this week at work I snitched a big cookie from a meeting. I was running around helping my regional manager and hadn't had a chance to eat my healthy afternoon snack, and cheated with a chocolate chunk cookie from the catering company. It wasn't even that good: a little dry, and lacking the flavor profile of the baked goods that come out of my oven. And then, predictably, I ended up with an upset stomach and feeling slightly gross all afternoon.

So there I was, feeling great for a couple weeks, and all it took was a cookie full of white flour and sugar and who knows what else to steal my health away. Sigh. I guess my body is telling me soomething about my diet of baked goods: if you eat it, it won't be worth it.

I don't know how to balance it all out yet. I can't quite give up my love of baking, and yet I want to be healthy and fit. I know from my research that soaking and sprouting grains will help, and I haven't seen any stomach upset from my soaked grain muffins, so that might be the key. Somehow I need to figure out how to make those double chocolate cookies healthy, because they are just too good to give up.

This post was submitted to Fight Back Fridays

Friday, May 28, 2010


I've never been very good at resting.

Okay, you can stop laughing now. Yes, the people who know me are guffawing loudly and asking, "Reeeaallllly?? You? Problems with resting? Noooo" in the best faked sincerity they can muster. They know that back in the day I led three ministries at Quest: a weekly C group, the Life Together ministry (monthly meetings, events every 1-3 months, and occasional all-day stints at church doing announcements) and worship (singing 3-4 times a month, occasionally leading, and meeting with the worship advisory council every month). I was probably at church or a church event 3-6 days a week. Add to that a high-stress job that worked me about 60 hours a week, party-hopping every weekend, and trying to get to the gym 4-6 times a week, and I was pretty much stretched farther than the mom in Incredibles.

Then I come to 2009. In the fall of 2008, I had recommitted to everything I was doing at church, and while I was enjoying my lower-stress, less-hours job, I was still a busy gal. But I increasingly felt a burden on my heart that I needed to give up my leadership role after my year of commitments were up. I blogged about feeling like something new was coming, and then of course I met my fabulous husband. The reason for giving up that busy lifestyle was clear: I had a marriage to focus on.

Fast forward to now. I've been married for 7 months and 4 days (incidentally, Jer came home last night and told me how he realized that we had been married for just as long as we knew each other before we got married. I love that he thinks of these things). If there is one thing I have learned about my husband and our relationship (and I've learned a few things!) it's that we have different needs when it comes to down time. He needs waaayyyy more alone time, quiet time, relaxation time than I do. I am still quick to reply yes to every invitation, volunteer for every opportunity, plan to go out every night of the week.

Obviously I have had to temper those habits. I reply 'maybe' and more often than not we stay in. I know to protect our Saturday mornings as much as possible, and that each weekend needs to provide Jer with a good chunk of time to just write programs, play games, and watch TV. And little by little, I am finding that this rest is not a bad thing.

I have always been such an achievement-and-approval driven person, that the concept of a person valuing me for just sitting with them has been tough to get into my heart. But I am finding that this constant need to be doing things is just as selfish as making time to relax. If my motivation is to appear busy, or to gain approval, or to avoid depth and vulnerability in my relationships, then all the serving I am doing is for nought. Sometimes the way I can most serve my husband is to sit with him and watch Rocky. I must apologize to him for getting up and doing laundry during it.

So I'm still learning. This weekend is supposed to be about rest and relaxation, and I have a long list of projects I want to do: clean the pantry and my office, try out about half a dozen new recipes, write a bunch of blog posts, and get a head start on my continuing education for my insurance licensing. Already this morning I have worked for an hour, made muffins and hardboiled eggs, and started my pantry cleaning. I really should just take some time to read and pray, but every five minutes I think of something else I could be doing. Old habits die hard.

It's a process. I am glad that God gave me a husband who will challenge me to submit my workaholic tendencies to a contemplative spirit. I'll always be a doer-that's how I was wired-but I can serve out of a place of peace and calm, not out of striving or need. Ultimately, I will be a better follower of Christ, and a better wife, mother, friend, and member of the body.

This morning I'm drinking out of a coffee cup that Jer gave me. On it there is a picture of a woman saying, "stop me before I volunteer again." Good reminder, huh? I love my husband.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Real Food

Over the past few months I've been doing a lot of reading in various books and blogs regarding healthier ways to choose and prepare meals. Somewhere between watching Food Inc. and reading Real Food by Nina Planck, Jer and I decided to drastically reduce the amount of processed food in our lives. And I don't just mean processed food like fake cheese snacks and Hostess cake. We've never eaten much of that anyway. I mean refusing to buy meat that has been raised in a processing plant with cruel conditions and improper diet. Rejecting bread that is full of chemical "dough conditioners" and high fructose corn syrup. I mean eating as sustainably and locally as possible.

Doing this while maintaining some semblance of a rational food budget is going to be a challenge, but I feel I am up to it. Choosing to go this route means I have to cook most of our food myself (with Jer's help of course, and his Big Green Egg). I already do a lot of that-I don't think we have bought bread all year-but it also means taking more time to properly prepare ingredients, and making things stretch farther. Turning one chicken into four meals (two with the meat, and two with the stock that I make from the meat). Using a sourdough starter for my bread. Making my own yogurt and buttermilk.

Ultimately I think we will be happier and healthier. While we started this a few months ago, it's really been the last few weeks that the major changes have been put into place. After having the worst year healthwise last year, I have hardly been sick at all this year. No colds, no flu. My mom was commenting this weekend that my skin had looked better than ever (surprising after the skin issues of last winter). My nails have gotten healthier-less ridges (a sign of vitamin deficency) and splitting, and they are actually growing out longer and stronger, which is a very new thing for me. And both Jer and I have lost a few pounds in the past month.

When I was a teenager, my family ate mostly low-cost, low-fat, high-carb meals, like pasta and rice. I was overweight, and carried most of it in my midsection, with very little energy or muscle. About four years ago I changed my diet drastically, doing South Beach for a few months and then settling into a more vegetable/protein heavy diet. I also started exercising regularly. I lost weight, had more energy, and generally felt great. I got lax on it after a couple of years and began eating out more and put a lot of weight back on. Then last spring I went vegan for Lent. I ate a lot more grain than usual, and started drinking soy milk. I was sick all the time, my allergies were worse, I put on weight, and then got mono. Looking back on it, the contrasts are striking: low-fat and high-carb led to weight gain and allergies; high-protein, low-carb led to energy and good skin.

Based on my reading and my own observation, I have virtually eliminated any non-fermented soy, high fructose corn syrup, and trans fats from our diet. We've never eaten a lot of meat (I always laugh at the blog posts about having a meatless day a week or some such thing-we have meat two, maybe three times a week) but what we are buying now is grass-fed and free-range as much as possible, and we stretch it so we are eating less at a sitting. We're using a lot of eggs, whole milk, beans, and organic produce. I'm planning meals around what is coming in our CSA box instead of what is on sale at Albertson's (really the WORST store if you are trying to eat less processed foods. They don't even have options for free-range meat). We're also planting a few pots of veggies and herbs on our back porch.

I'm finding that making high-quality food means I eat less but get more in the way of real nutrition. And it is tasty food-burgers made with grass-fed beef and homemade whole wheat buns are far superior to anything at a fast food joint. That doesn't mean we don't splurge and eat out, but it does mean that overall we are eating better than we ever have. While I am still learning, and have a long way to go before I can be considered a true real foodist, I am glad to be on my way.

Some resources for you to investigate:

Real Food, by Nina Planck
The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan
Food Inc.
King Corn
The Healthy Home Economist

Thursday, April 29, 2010

New Favorite Quote

I was reading a bit today and run across an article about cooking by Michael Ruhlman, who wrote my new favorite kitchen book, Ratio. His missive yesterday was a pretty good diatribe against our country's obsession with the fastest, easiest way to do things instead of focusing on eating good, real food. Then I came across this passage and decided Mike is my new favorite writer:

Quick, fast, and easy isn't the point. Good is the point. Makes you feel good is the point. I am not saying spend three hours making a chicken galantine. I am saying put a chicken the oven with some cut up potatoes for an hour. Yes, a whole hour! If you're inclined to enjoy some carnal exertions with your partner during that hour, that chicken will be all the more appreciated. But if there's laundry to be done, if there are kids who need help with their geometry, then do that.

"Carnal exertions." Awesome. Truly, truly awesome. I'm going to go buy a chicken now.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Big Snip

Ah, the tale of my hair.

This might surprise some who know me, but I was born a blond. Towhead, actually, with wavy white hair typical of those sharing my Norwegian heritage. But as I grew up my Syrian and Cherokee roots took hold and my hair became darker and curlier every year. I still get natural blond highlights in the summer but my days of having golden hair are long gone.

When I was nine my mom cut my hair short. It was supposed to be all the same length but the back sprung up and created this cute 20's style bob. After that cut I decided I wanted long hair, and so since then I have never had it shorter than shoulder length. But this past week she was at it again, chopping off over a foot of hair that I had been faithfully growing out for years. And so for the first time in my adult life I have short hair.

My long curly hair has always been my signature look. People would comment on how beautiful it was, how long and curly, asking if it was natural and saying how much they wished for curly hair like mine. My mom used to spend hundreds of dollars a year on perms and styling to get an approximation of my spirals. For a girl with a weight problem and a host of self-esteem issues, having one thing I could hold on to as a positive about my looks was like a security blanket. Even when I felt ugly or unwanted, I could still hold on to my hair as something desirable about me.

My best friend, who never cut her hair while she was growing up, has donated her hair to Locks of Love a couple of times (boy did she get me good the first time, not telling me beforehand and causing me to practically fall over in shock when I saw her). Every time I thought to myself, oh, that is a good cause, but I would never do that. I couldn't have short hair. It's not me. I need my long hair. Even as I started to learn to love myself and my body, I still clung to my hair as my backup plan.

But it's amazing what marriage does. Or at least, marriage to a man who is constantly appreciating you and your body. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then Jer makes me the most gorgeous creature in the world every time his eyes smile at me. And he expresses it in so many ways-his words, his touch, his actions-so I've started to believe more and more that I am desirable. He loves my hair, but he was the one who gave me the freedom to cut it.

(Side note: apparently when Jer was growing up he had a little crush on Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, best known for her turn as Maid Marian in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, where she rocked the big and curly hair to the extreme. Additionally, he liked the look of Andie MacDowell, who also rocks the curly locks. His mother has told me this, and how she was sure that he would end up with a girl who had long, curly hair like mine. I wonder if this is similar to my obsession in early life with guys who had names that started with J...)

Jer didn't suggest the donation, just a trim of a few inches so it would be lighter for summertime, but when I shared the Locks of Love idea he fully supported it. While he was shocked at the reality of how short it ended up being-no one really understands how curly hair springs up when you cut it, except for my mother-he has decided that he likes it and the short 'do is a fun change. So despite my lifetime of believing short hair would be a disaster for me, I find that I am still beautiful and loved, even with hair that doesn't make strangers ooh and ahh and follow me down the street. Who needs 'em-I've got my man.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


My biological clock has been ticking since I was six.

Really, this isn't an exaggeration. Except for a brief stint in highschool when I wanted to be cool and not bothered by crying little baby brothers, I have always wanted kids. Lots of kids. Like, seven kids.

I've adjusted my goal down to the 3-5 children range, (which makes my husband breathe a little easier) and I've mostly given up on the names I had picked out in second grade, but I don't think I will ever stop wanting babies.

So many people I know are either pregnant or just had a child. In the past few days I have had the chance to hang out with a couple of friends who recently had little boys. And while I was certainly reminded of all the work that goes in to having an infant-the crying, the feeding, the changing, the seemingly impossible task of managing a tired child while attempting to conduct adult life-I was also reminded of the inimitable sweetness of a child asleep on your shoulder, a baby's smile, the feel of them in your arms.

This full picture of both the work and the blessing reaffirms my current desire to enjoy a couple years of DINK-dom before plunging headlong into the role of mommy. I want to be able to work and play with Jer, take fabulous trips together, and get as much sleep as we can in between crazy workweeks and busy social calendars. But in a couple years I will be approaching 30, and around about that time I think the alarm on my biological clock will finally go off.

The fact that I want lots of kids makes my mother and mother-in-law extremely happy. They are just dying for grandchildren, female grandchildren, to be precise. Neither Jer nor I have any female siblings, so both our mothers are anxious to have little girls to dress up and spoil. I want girls too, but honestly I feel like boys are easier. At least, I know how to handle them. Having grown up tending to four brothers and a host of male cousins makes the prospect of little men running around the house not so scary. Girls though. Girls are complicated. Even in adult life, I am way more comfortable at a nerdy boys' poker night than a baby shower.

Besides, Jer really wants his firstborn son.

In the end, it's not up to me, of course. I will take whomever the Lord blesses me with, and I am sure both grandmas will enjoy spoiling them rotten. But all this to say that while my heart yearns to hold my own sweet baby in my arms, for now, when people ask me when we are having kids, I will just smile and say 'someday'.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Watch This. Yes, All Of It

New favorite thing:

Seriously, watch the whole thing. And then go do what she says.

See you at the farmer's market!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Food Blogging

For those of you who enjoy my culinary adventures, I have been doing my food blogging over at Jerbecca. Most recently, I explain how Jer got me to eat an avocado. If you know me, you know this is quite a feat.

I'm hoping to get another recipe up today: Bean and Bacon Soup. Eat your heart out, Campbell's!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Notes From Suburbia

Well, it seems March was the month of the blogging break. Well, that's not entirely accurate. I did some food blogging over at Jerbecca and that has been fun. I don't expect that I'll become the next big thing in the food blogging world, but it's a nice exercise and fuels my dreams of one day turning the memoir genre upside down with my fabulous literary genius. Or not.

Most of the break was due to our vacation. We had been planning to take a long weekend off to celebrate the anniversary of the day we met but were faced with a fortuitous schedule change which led to a fun trip. Jer was sent by his employer (which he describes as a "small" local tech company based in Redmond) down to Vegas for a conference, so I followed him down and we relaxed in a fabulous suite, took in the sites, and just enjoyed each other's company. It was a wonderful break.

What was slightly surreal was that we spent five days apart while he was at the conference and I was stuck at work in Seattle, the first time we had been apart since the wedding. Suddenly I was back to life as a single girl, just as I was before I met my fabulous man. I went dancing, cooked for myself only, drank a lot of coffee, woke up alone. I even spent time with my former roommate at the house I lived in last March, which only reinforced the deja vu.

I hated it.

I know some folks enjoy their solitude and freedom, and certainly Jer and I build some alone time for each other into our schedules, but I just about went nuts without him. Wandering about our suburban house north of everyone, alone in the kitchen with a cauliflower, I bemoaned the separation and tossed and turned in our big bed. I tell you, it is so much easier to wake up in the morning when there is someone there to give you a kiss and brew you some java.

But life now is back to normal, and we are waking up together bright and early (very difficult after we were able to indulge our night owl tendencies on vacation) and trying to get back into a schedule that involves working out and completing all those goals we set at the beginning of the year. Jer has promised to help with those darn thank you cards I have piled up, and I've started going to the chiropractor with him in order to reduce some of the back and neck pain that has been preventing me from working out regularly. Progress is being made, and my life is full and contented. Every day I look at my husband and am overcome with gratitude and love for him. Like the song says, we're better together.

I believe in memories
They look so, so pretty when I sleep
Hey now, and when I wake up,
You look so pretty sleeping next to me
But there is not enough time,
And there is no, no song I could sing
And there is no, combination of words I could say
But I will still tell you one thing
We're better together.

Jack Johnson, Better Together

Monday, March 01, 2010

Wait, what? It's March?

There seems to be a theme running through most of my blogs on Google Reader today: "What the heck happened to February?!?"

Seriously, it's March? I thought perhaps it was just this weekend that was a blur, but I find that it was in fact the entire month. I know February is shorter than most, but those two days shouldn't make all that much of a difference.

A lot of our month was swallowed up in doctor's appointments related to Jer's tendonitis. Our wonderful schedule went kaboom and neither of us spent much time working out or having good gameplaying/reading/blogging time. As a way to help with commuting and provide Jer with a car during the day to get to appointments, I have been driving with him to Bellevue and then taking the bus over to Seattle, adding time to my commute and eliminating a lot of my evening free time. It does give us more time together in the morning, and it's the best way to handle evening car needs, but it doesn't fit with our big schedule plan at all.

So I would have to say that my goals for February went kaput. There were a couple of opportunities to hang out with friends, and we went on a couple of double dates, but my grand ideas of weekly coffee dates with girlfriends, working out five times a week, and making significant progress on cleaning my office or completing thank you cards scurried off to wherever the rest of February disappeared to.

One thing I do remember quite clearly though is Valentine's Day weekend. It was our first V day together, and whether it's a cultural excuse for materialistic excess and denigration of singlehood or not, my romantic self wanted it to be special. With our budget focus, Jer had to restrain his generous tendencies and stop himself from buying a (quite beautiful) necklace and settle for a lot of fabulous chocolate and flowers. But being as it is him, he was not content to simply give me a Russell Stover chocolate heart on Sunday morning. He ordered several kinds of chocolate from La Maison du Chocolat, a Parisian chocolate boutique, and stealthily stashed them around the house throughout the weekend. The first small box showed up on Thursday evening. Then I found chocolate in my purse. And on my pillow. In the kitchen. In my office. Each one a different flavor, including the best hot chocolate ever. And then on Sunday afternoon a big bouquet of tulips and irises showed up at the door. It was a fabulous weekend.

(I would tell you what I got Jer for Valentine's Day, but that would be TMI. Let me just say, he was a happy husband.)

So, despite the month being sucked up by doctor's appointments and the premarital class that we are taking (yes, we know, it's a little late, but there wasn't one available before the wedding!) there are some good memories. And now here is March, and we are planning a fun vacation to celebrate the anniversary of that fateful evening that we first met. I keep hoping that life might slow down one of these days, but I somewhat doubt it.

I will say though, that I have one small accomplishment for February. I have now completed two-count 'em, two!-thank you cards. Two down, a hundred to go. Hey, it's progress.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Giving Up Lent

My lenten practices have varied throughout the years. For the majority of my formative years I was part of a nonliturgical church community. We rarely celebrated communion or lit advent candles, and there was not a hymn to be sung (unless, of course, it was an updated Chris Tomlin version). While fasting as part of a devotional prayer life was part of my spiritual lexicon, Lent was a virtual unknown.

I started to learn about Lent in college. Although my school was specific in its founding denomination, it welcomed and supported a variety of Christian traditions, and somehow I found myself beginning to practice lenten fasting. I don't recall now if it was truly from conviction or because I wanted to do what everyone else was doing-probably a little of both. But over the years making Lent part of my spiritual calendar has become very important to me.

Last year I felt called to a very strict fast, the most restrictive I have ever tried. I gave up a lot of foods-meat, eggs, dairy, sweets-functionally becoming a vegan. I even gave up coffee-something I had never done in my life. This is why my first date with Jer was at a tea shop-the typical coffee date wouldn't work for me!

It is funny now to look back and see that the deep sense of anticipation that I felt going into Lent was justified. I had to give things up to gain the promised blessing of my husband. The foods and indulgences were merely stand-ins for what I really needed to give up: my fear, my loneliness, my desire for control, my faithlessness, my discontent. The first half of Lent 2009 was a struggle of wills-giving up my will for Christ's. The second half was spent rejoicing and learning that His will is always better.

This year, I feel no conviction to give anything up. I'm eating chocolate, drinking my coffee, roasting chickens and making cheese bread. I feel convicted to spend more time in prayer, more time in fellowship, but not to deprive myself. This is my year of celebrations, of dancing in my kitchen and soaking up all the joy I can get.

I know there will be other years of fasting and times of reflection. But this year I am living the truth that our Lord exchanges beauty for ashes.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Why I Cook

"I still think that one of the pleasantest of all emotions is to know that I, I with my brain and my hands, have nourished my beloved few, that I have concocted a stew or a story, a rarity or a plain dish, to sustain them truly against the hunger of the world." --MFK Fisher

A wonderful summary of how good it feels to cook or bake something delicious and see your loved ones enjoy it, from one of the very first food writers. Check out The Gastronomical Me from the library, look up a recipe online for molten chocolate cakes, and make something special for a loved one this weekend.

Friday, February 05, 2010

The President's Budget

Folks have passed around the budget graphic from the New York Times showing how the 2011 budget is allocated. The graphic is interactive so you can compare to 2010. But the crucial button, I feel, is the "Hide Mandatory Spending" button. This shows what parts of the budget Obama actually had control over: military spending and the bottom right corner, made up of administration, veterans' benefits, transportation, and other (relatively) small pieces of the budget.

The rest of the budget is controlled by-you guessed it-Congress. Laws passed in the last five, ten, twenty years through both liberal and conservative legislatures. Now, I am not a huge Obama fan, but honestly, he has very little direct control over how the money is spent (except, it seems, in the area of military spending). His role as chief executive is to influence policy, not write laws. So how could he really make change?

Well, the first thing he could do would be to take a page from Dave's book: audit the legislature. There is this awesome movie starring Kevin Kline as an ordinary guy who is a doppelganger for the president. When the president goes into a coma, Dave is called on to impersonate the commander in chief while his aides figure out what to do. But Dave finds that he can use the opportunity to make some big changes. At one point he sits down with his friend who happens to be an accountant and they try to balance the budget. The accountant says, "if I ran my business like this, I'd be out of business!" How true.

Dave proceeds to identify several laws and spending bills that are nonsensical, wasteful, and just plan idiotic. In one of the pivotal scenes of the movie, he asks lawmakers to repeal them so that they can keep a homeless shelter. This is the kind of work a president focused on balancing the budget could do. Determine where the waste is and ask Congress to eliminate it. Don't just propose a freeze on spending, hold lawmakers accountable to where funds are currently going and evaluate the programs that are wasting taxpayer dollars. Threaten the lawmakers with exposure and transparency-force them to own up to their votes, showing the public what kind of job they are doing up there on Capitol Hill and at the Federal Reserve.

Wait, isn't that what Ron Paul is asking for?

Monday, February 01, 2010

The Struggle

One of the things I have found challenging as I try to be more intentional and frugal about our food choices is the battle between price and quality. I scour the ads and plan my menu and grocery list every week, looking for things I can buy on sale to cut costs. But I also want high quality ingredients, including organic produce, free-range meat and dairy that is not full of antibiotics and hormones, and food that has not had all the nutrients processed out of it.

Take chicken for example. I can get a 3lb value pack of BSCB (boneless skinless chicken breast) for say, $2 a pound on sale. That's a great price, and that total of $6 can be stretched over several meals. But that pack of meat likely comes from chickens that have been packed into a pen so tight they can't move around, their beaks clipped to prevent injury to themselves or other birds (because they go a little crazy in their claustrophobic environment), and shot up with hormones and antibiotics because they are standing in their own excrement. The meat from these chickens is then pumped full of water to make them appear moist and juicy and give you less actual meat per pound. So while I got it at a cheap price, I got less meat and lower quality. Add on to that the moral implications of the treatment of the animals in light of our Biblical call to be stewards of creation, and I can't justify that purchase, no matter the apparent cost savings.

On the other hand, I could buy a pound of BSCB for about $6 that is organic, free-range, antibiotic- and hormone-free. The chickens eat grass and bugs and run around in a pen in the open air. Their meat is tastier because they eat what God designed them to eat instead of processed corn byproducts and their meat is not pumped full of chemicals and water. Here's a great video I saw recently that gives you an idea of what a free-range chicken life is like. It really shows you the difference. As Jer says, he wants to eat a happy chicken.

So it is better, not just for us, but also for the environment. And this applies not only to meat but also dairy, eggs, and produce. With all the strains of bacteria that are becoming resistant to antibiotics, the last thing we want to do is eat food that has been pumped full of the stuff. And I think we all know enough to say that eating produce covered in pesticides is probably not so great.

But it is only because we have a good income that I can make the choice to purchase higher quality, more expensive food. We spend $100 a month just on organic produce through a CSA program, not to mention the weekly purchases of meat and dairy. And we don't even eat that much meat-we probably have chicken once or twice a week, seafood maybe once a week, and hardly ever eat red meat at home. Still, for two people, we spend a lot of money on food in order to get good ingredients.

I don't know how I would do it on a limited income. What if we had minimum wage jobs? And kids? What if we were on unemployment or welfare? How would we purchase healthy food for our kids with food stamps and government assistance?

Just do a search on "obesity rates in low income households" and you will see the disparity that exists based on income. The cheapest foods are the most calorie rich, nutrient lacking foods out there-the highly processed grains that make up a lot of the middle section of the grocery store. These are the types of foods that leave you feeling hungry but end up as fat in your midsection, leading to heart disease and diabetes. Experts say that the healthy way to eat is to spend the majority of your food budget on the outer edges of the store-the produce section, dairy section, meat, bulk bins of nuts, etc. But those are some of the most expensive items. When you have to feed a family of four on less than $50 a week, spending $6 for a pound of BSCB that might get you through one dinner just isn't going to work.

Another thing to consider is the time involved in healthy cooking. Although I work a full time job, since I have no kids I have the time to sit down and plan a menu, make elaborate meals, and bake my own bread. A working mom has no such luxury. If it were me, getting home from a long day at work, with a couple of cranky kids just picked up from daycare, I wouldn't want to think through roasting a free-range chicken or preparing a vegetarian stir-fry. I certainly wouldn't want to chop veggies if I had to help the kids with their homework, do the laundry, and try to get to sleep early enough so I wouldn't nod off during the important work presentation I had the next day. So out comes the blue box mac and cheese or the frozen fishsticks, full of chemicals and not a lot of vitamins.

So what do we do? As a society we have decided that cheap processing is the way to go, and have left the small local farmer in the dust. While there is a definite movement towards local, organic, and healthy groceries, it seems that is currently the privelege of those who can afford it. When you have fast food dollar menus, why spend what little cash you have on sweet potatoes and leafy greens? When your kids are begging you for the sweet treats that are promoted on TV, how do you convince them that the apple from the local grower is the better option? How do we create a culture that values homecooked meals and healthy living rather than what is fast and convenient?

I don't have answers, I'm just becoming more aware of the questions. Time to read more Wendell Berry.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fess Up

So, it's January 31st, and this means that I must evaluate how I did on my goals for the month. Let's start with the good stuff:

The Living Room
MAJOR success. I am currently sitting on my new living room furniture as I type this post. A full set (couch, loveseat, chair, ottoman) was gifted to us by Jer's parents, and a group of fabulous friends helped us move it up here. I cooked and baked while they worked, and yesterday we all celebrated by sitting on the comfy furniture and eating soup and bread and cinnamon rolls and cookies and veggies and...yes, it was good.

Incidentally, another success realized yesterday was the bread. I have been trying to get my sourdough starter to turn into an actual loaf of good sourdough bread, with no yeast, a nice crispy sourdough crust, and a good tangy flavor. It took several failed attempts, but using this method, I made an excellent loaf that was quickly devoured by the hungry visitors. More importantly, the husband (who requested the sourdough project many weeks ago) pronounced it a delicious win. Yay!

The new project is now to clean and sort through all the stuff that ended up in my office without a home. We were able to get rid of a lot of stuff and organize a ton, but there is still more to do.

Eat From the Pantry Challenge
Well, I would call this a success. The amount of pasta and canned goods present in our pantry has been reduced by at least half. Even with all the recipe experiments and the friend hosting I was still able to be very frugal with my food purchases as I used things up and portioned things out for lunches. I didn't throw away a lot of food but instead got creative with our CSA. We've eaten a lot of veggies this month, including salads. Salads are not my usual go-to item, but when you make your own dressing and toss in fruit and cooked chicken, it's a lot easier to enjoy!

I'm also getting a lot better at planning my menu and shopping. I can estimate how much my shopping list is going to cost, and decide if I can splurge or need to rethink my list, which keeps me within budget. Which leads us to...

We made a significant amount of progress here. We completed the refi on our house thanks to an awesome mortgage broker and moved some funds around to make good headway on debt paydown. We did some figuring this morning and are very excited about where we are going to be financially in a couple of years, and the freedom that will give us to dream about what God might call us to in the future.

While I did have my budgeting breakdown, we made a lot of progress getting details down and changing some of our habits. The whole process is really helping us make our money work for us instead of rule us.

So those are the successes. Now, there were a few items on my goals list that met with mixed results:

Okay, I wrote 5 posts for this blog and 3 for the family blog (with another in process), so I think I had a win there. An average of two posts a week is definitely an improvement for me. The personal writing was less successful though-I think I had one good journal entry and no fiction. And I certainly didn't spend time writing on a daily basis. That part of the schedule didn't happen. Speaking of which...

Scheduling and Working Out
These kind of go hand in hand, because when we are following our schedule, we both get good workout time. While in general I would say we did better sticking to our schedule, and I certainly worked out more this month than the previous three months (maybe combined) it was not a total success. Between coming down with a cold (me) and reinjuring old areas of debilitation (Jer) neither of us got the amount of working out we wanted. The first half of the month was pretty good-I worked out 3-5 times a week-the second half of the month was not. So we need a reset there.

Both of these areas saw progress, so I would not call them complete fails. What I would call a complete fail:

Thank You Cards
Cumulative number of cards mailed Dec 31st: zero. Cumulative number of cards mailed Jan 31st: zero. I think I might have addressed a couple more, and I started writing a few. No completions. Sigh. Well, I know what I am doing in February.

Speaking of February, here are my goals for the upcoming month:

1. The aforementioned thank you cards. No more talking, just doing.
2. Continue working out 3-5 times a week. Barring serious illness, this is a completely doable goal
3. Hangout with a girlfriend at least once a week. I find that I am missing my gals, spending good one on one time. Some of the highlights of January were the couple of coffee dates I had with friends, and I want to continue to have those.
4. Double dates. We had an awesome double date with one of my best friends and his fabulous new girlfriend last Sunday, and Jer and I both enjoyed ourselves immensely. We've got a list of friends that we want to hang out with and want to be intentional about making those dates happen, at least twice a month.
5. Clean out office. Yeah, now that I have a big stack of homeless items in my office, I need to find homes for it all.

Above and beyond these to-dos, Jer and I are really seeking to be in prayer more, whether that be individually, as a couple, or with friends and family. We've started tossing around the idea of hosting prayer nights at our house or something of that nature. Having a good place to host means that we can be more creative and intentional about reaching out and creating good fellowship. So that is a goal in process-a desire that needs to be given actions.

So there we are. I think that despite having to fess up to not getting some things done, I can look at my list of goals and call the month a successful one. And that is the benefit of having defined goals: you can celebrate the achievements.

Here's to a good month, and more to come!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


One of our goals for the beginning of the year was to complete our budgeting project, or at least get a good draft completed that we can tweak as we go along. My wonderful husband devoted several hours to this project over the weekend, combing statements to estimate bills and watching Dave Ramsey videos. He also figured out all those funky excel formulas to create a huge master spreadsheet of awesome accuracy.

I, on the other hand, had a minor meltdown. After three hours of staring at the computer as he input numbers and we discussed potential costs for this month and next, I was on the verge of an anxiety attack.

I realized that, even though I may be a banker, I am not a numbers person. I don't like sitting and poring over spreadsheets. I am a get-it-done person. Efficiency. Easy solutions. Check it off the list. Smile and have a nice day.

My husband, however, is an engineer. Details. Accuracy. Calculations. Exact plans. Figure it all out before moving forward.

What's funny about this is that in Dave Ramsey terms, I am the free-spirited saver and Jer is the nerdy spender. I can work off a very general budget (with nice round numbers) and be quite fiscally responsible. Jer will research and diagram and cost-analyze until he finds the very best deal, then go haggle for a better deal, and plunk down a lot of money for exactly what he wants. I'll look at it, decide it's too much money and/or hassle, and go without. But hey, if that great sale happens on those shoes I want, well that's justified, right?

We balance each other well, and this is good. But we learned that the details side of the budgeting needs to be done in small doses so I don't lose my mind. Of course, once we have the template in place, following it and revising it will be a lot easier than the initial creation. I think I will be able to handle that.

So it's still a work in progress, but thanks to my wonderful nerd, the budget is closer to being reality, as is being debt-free.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Family Blog

So Jer has started us a joint blog. I'm still trying to decide what I'm going to blog over there and what I'm going to keep over here at the Daydreams blog, but in the meantime you can check out the new posts at Ruminations From Earth-That-Was.

And yes, that is a Firefly reference, and yes, we are nerds.

One Week In

One week in on the resolutions. Part of the problem with resolutions is that we don't hold ourselves accountable to them, don't monitor our progress and recommit ourself each week. Taking time to chastise or praise ourselves is good in pursuing goals. We also don't acknowledge when a resolution is too much or too little, and so we either fail miserably because we overreach or we fail to make any meaningful change because we undercommit. Reviewing our progress helps us analyze and revamp as needed.

So, allow me to be accountable to my goals discussion from last week:

  • New Schedule/working out: We weren't perfect, but we're starting to get into the rhythm of the new schedule. We both missed a couple of workouts and didn't always get to sleep on time, but in general I feel good about the progress we made. And this week looks like it will be better.
  • Literary Hour/Thank You Cards: I did some blogging and reading, but not too much in the way of creative writing or journaling. Better adherence to the schedule would probably help this, although the main issue was that I had a couple of appointments last week that threw things off. I made no progress on thank you cards, beyond looking at them once and promptly finding something else to do.
  • Budgeting/Eat From the Pantry Challenge: We had a couple of good conversations about goals and things we want to do but still haven't figured out details. Work to do there. The eating from the pantry challenge has gone well though-I have only been to the store once for just a few dollars' worth of flour, butter, and produce. Additionally, I have made some really good bread and tried out new bran muffin recipes that make me very happy. I think this week will require going to the store for more ingredients, however, as we are quickly burning through things and getting to where we eat pasta every day, which, while cheap, is not very good for us.
  • The Living Room: Um. Nope. No progress there. Oops.
So, I guess this week I need to focus on working out, cleaning the living room, and writing thank you cards. No surprise there. All in all, though, I feel positive. The schedule is not too crazy to work, I've got over two weeks to finish my January goals, and I'm finding time to hang out with people again. So life is good.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Kitchen Successes and Failures

Last night was a kitchen win for Becca. I marinated shrimp and created homemade teriyaki sauce, then pulled out the wok and successfully stir-fried broccoli, mushrooms and shrimp to perfect doneness with yummy flavor (with water chestnuts thrown in at the end to make the husband smile). Also tossed together an impromptu pear crisp with a couple of ripe pears from our CSA. Served warm with just a drizzle of cream. Mmm....

Stir fry might not be the most earth-shattering new recipe, but hey, when you get it right it is definitely comfort food, and it is simple, healthy, and can be fairly inexpensive depending on ingredients (I bought a big bag of frozen uncooked shrimp on sale so they are really cheap for us) which all supports my January goals of being healthy and not spending a lot of money on groceries. So I am putting this one in the success column for sure.

This win was especially satisfying after a serious fail on Monday. We have been watching Emeril Green on the DVR and the recipes always look awesome. I tried his Roasted Veggies with Heritage Grains because it looked healthy and yummy and I have been wanting to learn how to cook quinoa and millet. Well, it might have come together fine on the show but the directions online were less than helpful. The veggies have different cooking times-I know this, but trusted the recipe-and so the parsnips and potatoes were still crunchy although the zucchini was falling apart. The grains had good flavor but also turned out terribly in regards to texture, as the millet and quinoa need different amounts of liquid and cooking times. The recipes says 20-25 mins, and it took about 35 mins to soak up the liquid and the millet was still not done. The grains were a waste and the veggies were eaten under protest covered in a lot of pepperjack cheese.

Next time I review a recipe I am going to trust my instincts when the instructions look suspicious and do more research beforehand. In the meantime, I give you last night's dinner, FTW!

Pear Crisp

This is the simplest thing ever. Start this before dinner-it will bake while you cook and then cool while you eat dinner and be perfect for dessert.

Preheat oven to 375. Peel and slice 2-3 pears that are just ripe but still firm. Toss with 1 Tbsp. each of flour and sugar and 1 tsp. of cinnamon. Place in a small buttered baking dish (I used my pie plate).

For crumb topping:

1/2 c. old fashioned oats
1/4 c. flour
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. butter

Mix together dry ingredients, then cut in butter. Mix until butter pieces are no bigger than a pea and mixture resembles granola. Spread over pears. Bake for half an hour at 375. Topping will be crunchy on the edges and pears should be soft. Let cool slightly and then serve with just a drizzle of heavy cream on top.

While that's baking, make dinner:

Easy Teriyaki Stir Fry

The instructions I give are long, but this is super simple and comes together in half an hour start to finish. Best to serve over perfectly cooked rice.

For teriyaki sauce (adapted from Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat):
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 c. mirin
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. chili garlic sauce (more if you want it super spicy)
1 tsp. ginger juice

Mix ingredients together and let sit while you chop your veggies. This is a very easy sauce to change up according to your tastes-just start with the soy sauce and mirin and add from there.

For stir fry:

Marinate large uncooked peeled shrimp, 6-8 per person, in 2 Tbsp soy sauce and 1/4 c. sake or white wine for 5-10 minutes while you prepare your veggies.

Pick two veggies to go with your shrimp. I used broccoli and mushrooms, you could use bell peppers, bok choy, snow peas, anything that strikes your fancy. Try to stick to only two or three veggies though so you can focus on perfectly cooking each element. If using broccoli, peel and chop the thick stems and get the florets to a mostly uniform size.

Heat up a tablespoon or two of cooking oil in your large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. We use sesame oil whenever we cook asian food for the flavor and good cooking results. Using tongs, place your shrimp in the pan with just a little of the marinade. Cook quickly-2 mins per side at the most-if you overcook they will get tough and rubbery. Remove from pan.

Add mushrooms and broccoli stems and half of the teriyaki sauce to the same pan. Saute for a few minutes until the mushrooms start to soften and release some of their water. Add broccoli florets and the other half of the teriyaki sauce. Cover for just a minute to slightly steam the broccoli, then remove the lid and saute for 3-4 mins more. You can add a can of water chestnuts at this point if you'd like-make sure they are well drained. When veggies are tender-crisp, add back in the shrimp and toss to coat with the sauce.

The key is the order of cooking-you do it all in one pan, but each one is at the right point of doneness because of the timing.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Obligatory 2010 Goals Discussion

So it's that time of year when resolutions are made and new ventures are begun.

I've never been a big fan of new year's resolutions-I prefer to make the change when it needs to be made, not save up all your changes for some big push that will fizzle sometime in February. However, this year the timing is perfect for making resolutions, as Jer and I are working on establishing a new schedule and budget now that I am feeling better and we've worked through wedding and holiday craziness. Therefore, I give you some of my short and long term goals:

For the year:

1. Implement new schedule. Jer and I worked on this to incorporate some of our individual and mutual goals, such as getting in daily exercise and giving each other good personal de-stress time. Jer needs his techie creative time and I need my literary creative time or we both go a little nutso. Things might need tweaking as we go along, but I think we can find a good rhythm that works for both of us.

2. Regarding literary creative time, I will have an hour every night that I want to spend reading and writing. Getting into a regular practice of writing, whether it be blogging, journaling, story creation or freewriting, is definitely one of my goals this year. Hopefully the practice will get me ready to try out National Novel Writing Month in November.

3. Budgeting. We've got a few things figured out but still need to cement a final structure on this. Depending on bonuses and raises, I'm hoping that we can have all the debt outside of the mortgage paid off by the end of the year, March 2011 at the latest. This will be slowed down by our plans for house projects, furniture, and travel.

4. Take one fabulous trip. October will be a great month to take a wonderful overseas vacation for our anniversary. I have already reserved the last half of the month off, and we are talking about places like Australia or Spain or somewhere equally wonderful. We both love international travel and experiencing new places, and it will be awesome to do that together.

So breaking it down to this month's goals:

1. Eat from the Pantry Challenge. I did a lot of grocery shopping in November and December, what with stocking a new kitchen and experimenting with holiday recipes. I probably bought way more food than I needed-we are only two people after all. So I am going to do my best to not go to the grocery store except for perishable items like dairy and produce, and basic ingredients as they run out, like flour and sugar. I'm making bread, experimenting with soup recipes (a lot of pasta and beans in my pantry!) and cutting down portion sizes to stretch leftovers. We also signed up for a CSA so we would get fresh organic produce every week that would force some creativity into our diet (which worked wonderfully last week as I found the most delicious way to eat chard).

2. Workout 3 hours a week. The new schedule gives me about 45 min every afternoon for working out. I plan to alternate cardio and strength training and start getting myself back in shape. Three months of medications that make you gain weight and an extended illness that leaves you too exhausted to do much more than collapse when you get home from work have led to a change in my body shape that I do not enjoy. I'm hoping to lose 20 pounds in the next three months.

3. Finish the living room. We almost had the living room done and then decided to rearrange some other rooms, and the living room again became a receptacle for random stuff. By the end of the month I want to have it DONE. No more stacks of boxes, find a place for everything and put it there, put up shelves and pictures on the wall and get our couch and loveseat moved in. That way we could actually start having people over!

4. Mail Thank You cards. I know that technically I have a year after the wedding to get cards out, but I really wanted to get them out in November. Illness ended up foiling my plan, and prevented getting any Christmas cards out as well. So by the end of the month I want to get all my thank yous mailed. Oh, and all the gift cards used!

I think that's enough for now. I tend to overcommit myself at times, so I think I will save the rest for next month. Being well again has given me both physical and emotional energy now so I look forward to getting into a good rhythm and checking things off my list. Here's to 2010!