Monday, August 29, 2011

Quick Update!

Just wanted to let everyone know we came out of the hurricane with hardly a scratch. A few tree limbs in the yard, and lost power for maybe an hour in the middle of the night. We're feeling very blessed and grateful for everyone's prayers! 

Friends of ours didn't fare quite as well: flooded homes and extended loss of power. Please pray for them and everyone else affected by this storm. I know there were some deaths and injuries as a result, so their families are in my prayers in a special way.

On a very good note... Gemma pretty much turned into a walker this past weekend! I'll post a video soon :)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Anticipating Irene

Just figured I'd write a little posty-post on ye olde bloggy-blog before our power takes a hiatus. 
Being from upstate New York, I've lived through my fair share of storms. Mostly blizzards, but a few crazy torndao-ish "microbursts" as they call them, as well as ice storms and thunderstorms. I lived through a few tornado warnings during my years in Ohio. And just a few days ago, I lived through an earthquake! (A feat which I also conquered while I was over in Kenya).

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that I'm pretty storm-weathered, if you will. However, I've never experienced a real hurricane before. Sometimes we'd get some pretty heavy rainstorms up in Syracuse, the leftovers of the hurricanes those down here had experienced. But now I'm just a few hours away from riding out my first real hurricane. 

Here's the thing. I'm pretty scared!! When I listed all those storms I'd handled before, it wasn't to brag and say "I'm tough, bring it on!" I was just trying to comfort myself a little bit I think! I'm kind of like a housepet when bad weather comes. I get all quiet and tense for days beforehand, the anxiety building more intensely as the storm moves ever closer. And when it hits us, you better believe I will be curled up in the safest spot in our house, saying Hail Marys and drinking Gin & Tonics (medicinal purposes only, people, for my nerves) until it's all over. 

The worst part is, even though this is our first hurricane, we decided to stay and ride it out, rather than evacuate. It's too late now to leave, since Irene will be here soon. We tried to get the opinions of all the locals and SO MANY of our friends here were all "Meh, it's no big deallll, you'll be fiiiiiine!" Come to find out, about half of these people ended up evacuating themselves, leaving us newbies here to fend for ourselves!! 

But, in all seriousness. We should be fine. Our immediate neighbors all decided to stay as well and told us they have our backs. I think about how deeply terrified the disciples in the boat were during the storm, and the moment they cried out to Jesus for help, he stood, commanded the sea, and all was calm. We're definitely not alone during this time. Even just writing this now bring so much comfort to my heart.
Anyway, here's a before/after of the dock in our backyard:
What our dock normally looks like.

The dock as of 11am.
The dock as of 5pm. Also, notice the branches on the tree, being blasted by the wind.
We'll see how the night goes. Please pray for us and all those who will be affected by this hurricane! I'm looking forward to seeing the sun again! :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Happy 1st Birthday Gemma!!!

I've put this post off a little bit for 2 reasons. 1. We've been insanely busy the past few weeks! and 2. I'm still in denial that my sweet little baby is already a year old! 
Her official birthday was August 13th, and on that day, we were all stuck in the car, driving back from a wedding. Strapped into a carseat, facing backwards, is not the best way to spend your birthday. So, to make up for it, we threw her a super, amazing, fantastically awesome Safari Party this past weekend. 

Here's a few pictures of the preparations/decorations:

How cute are these napkins! Ordered from Celebration Express.
Yes, we made that sign! I did the letters, Rocky did the artwork :)
Check out the LOOT!! (In Safari print wrapping paper of course - Dollar Tree)

Alright, so, here's the thing. We had food. We had... lots. of. food. Unfortunately, I was so busy making/devouring it, that I forgot to take pictures of almost all of it. There were bbq brisket sandwiches, buffalo chicken dip, veggies, cheese&crackers, fruit kabobs, sausage dippers, shrimp rangoon cups (yea, they're friggin awesome... will post recipe soon), candy, sweet safari punch, chips&salsa... the list. goes. on. 
Oh, and some amazing cupcakes that I literally spent close to 4 hours baking/decorating! :)
This was all I managed to get pictures of:

The Cheese Lion. My brainchild, Rocky's handiwork!

So cute!! Worth the effort :)

Of course, no birthday post would be complete without sharing some pictures of Gemma destroying eating her 1st cupcake.

It all started so nicely...

 Then, the destruction began.

 She was lovin it!

Daddy gave her a little ice cream to wet her whistle :)

She was taking this whole cupcake thing very seriously... this is as close to a smile as I got out of her!
Note the placement of her chocolate-covered right hand!

All in all, we had such a fun party! First birthday parties can be silly, I know, since technically "they'll never remember it" but really, it's for the parents to celebrate an amazing year of life with their child! I am so, so, so grateful for my little girl. She is truly a blessing in our lives, and I feel thankful to God that I get to be her Mommy. I love you Gemmaroo!! 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

In Spite of ... Everything??

I recently came across this article, which was adapted from In Spite of Everything: A Memoir by Susan Gregory Thomas. I haven't read the book, but the excerpt focuses largely on Gen X couples who, determined not to put their children through the same hell they went through as a result of their own parents' divorces, seem to stop at nothing to ensure the security of their own marriages. Divorce for them, they say, is not an option.

After reading the article, my mind races with about a million things to commentate on, but in an effort to keep this post relatively short, I'm going to focus on one aspect: premarital cohabitation. The title of her book is In Spite of Everything: A Memoir. Well, as you can deduce from the title, the marriage of this Gen X couple did indeed end in divorce. The title is what strikes me as so ironic, because although I do not know this couple personally, and am in no way privy to all the distinct nuances of their marriage, from the information she provides, I can think of a great deal of things they could have done to save themselves from their self-dreaded, self-fulfilled fate! 

One of the measures the couple took in order to ensure the stability of their marriage was premarital cohabitation.
“Before we get married, we like to know what our daily relationship with a partner will be like. Are we good roommates? A 2007 Study published my the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that, among those entering first marriages in the early 2000s, nearly 60% had cohabitated with their future spouses…
My husband and I were as obvious as points on a graph in a Generation X study. We were together for nearly eight years before we got married, and even though statistics show that divorce rates are 48% higher for couples who have lived together previously, we paid no heed.”

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but would not paying heed to that last startling statistic have been a measure this couple could have taken in order to avoid the chances of their marriage ending in divorce?!
She goes on to say:
"We also paid no heed to his Catholic parents, who comprised one of the rare reassuringly unified couples I'd ever met, when they warned us that we should wait until we were married to live together. As they put it, being pals and roommates was different from being husband and wife. How bizarrely old-fashioned and sexist! We didn't need anything so naive and retro as 'marriage.' Please. We were best friends." 

What's interesting here is that you can see she's even poking fun at her own self! She seems to recognize the ridiculousness of their "we know everything; we're invincible" mindset. But would not paying heed to the advice of "one of the rare reassuringly unified couples" have been a measure this couple could have taken in order to avoid the possibility of divorce?!

And yet, somehow, despite her apparent self-awareness of the mistakes they made, she still expresses sad surprise when their marriage ultimately hits a dead-end:
"'I'm done,' he said. It was as if a cosmic force had been unleashed; the awful finality of it roared in like an enormous black cloud blotting out the sky, over every inch of the world. It was done. That was four years ago. Even now, I still wonder every day if there was something that I—we—could have done differently." 

I want to reach through the screen to this woman and say, "But... there were things you could have done differently!" Don't get me wrong, I am in no way bashing on this woman. She, as she herself claims, is a product of her generation. She, like so many other Gen Xers, gave into the false notion that premarital cohabitation is a good idea, a way to add security the present and future of the relationship. She, like so many other Gen Xers, gave into the naive notion that we are all powerful, all knowing, invincible, and therefore perfectly capable of avoiding any ill fates that statistics or those MUCH WISER than us warn us against! She, like so many other Gen Xers, was devastated by the negative outcome, and trying to pin the blame accurately, relentlessly over-analyzes the details, while ignoring the elephant in the room.

Roomates & Pals vs. Husband & Wife

In the end, I found this article intrinsically sad, and I pray for all couples who are struggling with their marriages, and considering divorce. And I continually advise friends and acquaintances of mine against premarital cohabitation, not to condemn them, but to LOVE them. Because I care about their happiness, and true happiness so often comes from joyfully working towards delayed gratification, rather than impatiently indulging in instant gratification.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Garden-Fresh Sloppy Joes

So one of the things that has been so amazing since we've moved to VA, is that many of our neighbors and friends from church have been sharing the harvests of their gardens with us! It's been amazing. I'm a Farmer's Market junkie as it is, because there's nothing quite like fresh fruits and veggies home-grown and hand-picked, ya know? So what's even better than buying fresh home-grown produce? Receiving FREE home-grown produce. Seriously, how awesome is that?!

Anyway, here's how this recipe happened. It was just one of those nights when I really had nothing planned for dinner and was feeling kinda lazy about cooking, so I wanted something simple and easy. I looked over to our big wooden bowl we keep on the counter for fruits and veggies that don't need to be in the fridge, and on this particular night, it was overflowing. I thought, hm, maybe I'll make a quick pasta primavera? But as I kept looking at the bowl, I noticed there were a LOT of tomatoes. So I thought, maybe a red sauce? And then the wheels kept turning... it was a ridiculously hot day and I thought, I don't really want a big heavy pasta dish tonight.

Then, the lightbulb went off. I was cutting veggies, throwing things in the pan, sauteing, and throwing some more things in the pan, and just a few minutes later, voila! I had made some insanely scrumptious sloppy joes! The hubster and I mnoshled (yes, I just made that up) into those bad boys like there was no tomorrow. The little kid inside me rejoiced and the adult inside me who actually cares about being healthy ALSO rejoiced. It was the best of times, it was ... the best of times.

The following recipe is not super precision, seeing as my method (described above) was pretty fly-by-the-seat. So I hope you don't mind the amazingly accurate measurements I'll be using. :)

1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped zucchini
1 small/medium chopped bell pepper
1 smallish chopped onion
1-2 cloved finely chopped garlic
2ish cups fresh chopped tomatoes
1 pound lean ground beef or ground turkey
A few tablespoons of light olive oil (feel free to substitute another oil of choice)
4-5 splashed of Worchestershire sauce
A small blob of kethcup
A small blob of spicy brown mustard
Salt&Pepper to taste
A few dashes of hot sauce (optional)

1. Heat up the oil over medium-high heat, and get your carrots sauteing first since they will take a bit longer to soften up. After a few minutes, add the rest of your veggies. Let those cook for a few minutes, and once the garlic becomes really fragrant to you, add the tomatoes and turn the heat down to low.
2. Once you start to see the tomatoes breaking down, add the ground meat and give it all a few good stirs.
3. Add your sauces and seasonings and stir.
4. Continue to cook until the meat is cooked all the way through.

Serve hot on a nice big whole wheat bun with marinated cucumbers, chips, cottage cheese, pickles, crackers or whatever you fancy!

*As a side note, I wanted to add that if you're planning on feeding this meal to kids who will likely turn their noses up at the sight of carrots and bell peppers in their sloppy joes, simply puree all the veggies, and you'll have an even sloppier texture, the kids will never know, it'll taste AMAZING, and it's still super healthy! :)

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