Monday, March 17, 2014

35 Things I Did Before Turning 35

A lot of people make lists of what they would like to do before they turn 30. Well, today, I am turning 35.  Instead of making a list of what I would like to do, I thought it would be more interesting to write about what I have already done.

I didn't just want to make a list of stuff that has happened to me, but of things that I made a conscious choice to do. Because I feel like making an innocuous list of what you'd like to do is just that: an innocuous list. My list of things has been a series of choices, each one leading to something awesome. A lot of things were extremely scary or out of my comfort zone, but I am extremely proud of all of them.

Without further ado,

35 Things I Did Before Turning 35!

1.  Lived in another country for an extended period of time.  Do this. It expands your world and makes you appreciate home.

2. Moved away from my childhood home.  Not an easy one, but another thing I highly recommend. It makes you stronger.

3. Drove across the United States.

4. Went to a midnight movie premiere in costume.

5. Went to a midnight book premiere in costume.

6. Dated a good boy whose heart I broke. Probably not good for him, but good for me.

7. Dated a bad boy who broke my heart. Not good for me at the time, but extremely good in the long run.

8. Married an amazing man who keeps my heart safe.

9. Struggled to conceive.

10. Started and ended a failed business of my own. The failure was difficult, but was so important to teach me what I was capable of, and also what my limitations were.

11. Started and maintained a thriving business of my own. Without the failure of the first, the second business would not have been possible.

12. Went skydiving.

13. Went snorkeling. This was a huge accomplishment, as I am frightened of the ocean.

14. Discovered my own chili recipe.

15. Learned to play an instrument.

16. Sang professionally for several summers.

17. Performed twice for a sold-out stadium.

18. Camped out on the Great Wall of China.

19. Spent 10 amazing summers at camp.

20. Wrote and performed a one-woman play.

21. Stood in line for hours to meet my favorite celebrity.

22. Ran a marathon.

23. Was seen twice on a nationally televised TV show.

24. Visited the Sphinx and the Pyramids of Giza.

25. Climbed out to a precipitous point at the Grand Canyon.

26. Hiked up Mount Sinai and watched the sun rise.

27. Wrote and recorded an original song.

28. Gave birth to a baby.

29. Got thisclose to being drunk, but not enough to make bad choices, and didn't wake up with a hangover.

30. Took a girl's trip to Vegas and danced the night away.

31. Slept in a hut in the jungle, woke up the next morning with a 4-inch spider in the bathroom (not a good moment).

32. Bought my dream car with my own money that I earned.

33. Sailed on the Sea of Galilee.

34. Transferred schools going into high school. Best. Decision. Ever.

35.  Have had my hair cut and colored in every configuration imaginable. This was a lesson learned from my mom. She would always say, "It's just hair. Be glad you have some." Coming from a woman who spent most of the last 20 years of her life without any, it was great advice.  I had fun going through old pics to see some of my former styles. I couldn't find any pics of my red hair, but you get the gist.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Photo An Hour

Inspired by Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point, I took a photo every hour of my day yesterday. It was a different way to document my day.  I only used my phone camera, so the picture quality is terrible. Maybe another day I will use my "real" camera.

8 AM
Avonlea had been awake for about 30 minutes by this point, but I love our morning snuggles. Well, it's more like morning giggles and tackles, as she loves pounding her little hands on my face and squealing like a little piglet. She laid down here next to me and stayed there for a little while--because we were doing selfies.

9 AM
Breakfast time. My enduring quest to find something Avonlea will eat continues. Today, I plopped her on the counter so I could pull something out of the refrigerator, and she entertained herself with the contents of this canister for about 10 minutes.  (no, she didn't eat anything...again)

10 AM
Almost Avonlea's nap time, but time for a little bit of play before going down. She loves pulling herself up onto everything. It won't be long before she walks.

11 AM
My hard work last night to put the dishes away has resulted in a rare mid-morning movie time. Today, it is "Beautiful Creatures".

12 PM
Avonlea still sleeps, so I get to continue my movie. The temperature is dropping, so I added the blanket for snuggles. Gus and Waldo catch a rare, uninterrupted-by-crawling-baby-nap.

1 PM
The Nugget is awake, so we use the time to head to one of our favorite places, the library!

2 PM
Finally having some lunch for myself. Not the healthiest, but we are at the end of the month, so our grocery budget was empty. Scrounging for whatever we had around.

3 PM
Follow-up appointment for Avonlea's double ear infection. Thankfully, the few short days she was on antibiotics cleared up whatever bugs were present--before we figured out she was allergic to the medicine.

4 PM
Home and down for a "nap", but I go in her room to find this. Yep, she is firmly down to one nap a day. *sigh*

5 PM
The "witching hour". Avonlea is done with all of her toys, the dogs are going stir-crazy, and I have no idea what to make for dinner.

6 PM
Dinner for Avonlea while I make our dinner. Pasta with a little bit of cheese, steamed carrots, pepperoni, and a couple of goldfish--she tastes all but eats none (I've documented her food problems on my other blog). Gus sticks around for the little bits that get sent his way.

7 PM
Avonlea is in bed, so I get to enjoy my dinner. Waldo sits close by in case he gets any little tastes (he doesn't).

8 PM
A little photo editing while I catch up on "The Voice". It's amazing how much TV you end up missing--I've stopped watching so many things because I know I won't catch up.

9 PM
I did the dishes as I made dinner, so no real housework to get done tonight--I've been on my computer and watching TV for the last couple of hours.

10 PM
Falling asleep while reading a couple of chapters of Game of Thrones. Another day in the books, and headed to bed!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Baby Mamas

One of the hardest things about moving across the country was leaving friends. Nick and I had a pretty amazing group of people that we were doing life with, watching them marry and have kids. And even though we didn't have kids ourselves, we knew that one day we would, and having a community was really important.

It took a while after we moved here to really make friends. We finally had to accept that it wasn't going to happen without effort. This isn't a bad thing--we just weren't used to going into a situation (like college, or a hometown) where friends were kind of built-in. We were going to have to work a little bit more at it.

Thankfully, God provided some amazing friends for us when we stepped out and got involved in the church choir at Christmastime.

The only problem, though, after we got pregnant, was that none of those friends had kids around Avonlea's age. And while I adore those friends, and are so thankful for how they poured into my life (and continue to do so), I knew that I wanted a little community around Avonlea's age, as well.

Thank God for Stacey. She and I taught the 3-5th Grade Sunday School class together, and became good friends. She got pregnant 5 months after I did, and she introduced me to Emily, who wanted to start a mom group. Emily's daughter Ava is 4 months older than Avonlea, and is now pregnant with a son. In the group, she invited Naphtali, who's son Joshua is the same age as Ava, and is now pregnant with baby #2; Megan, who's twin boys Levi and Noah are 3 months older than Avonlea; Beth, who's son Fletcher is now 15 months, and who had sweet Clark (at 33 weeks) 2 weeks ago; Joanie, who's son Ryker is a year older than Avonlea; Stacey, who's son Wyatt was born 4.5 months after Avonlea; and finally Dianna, who was pregnant when our group started, but just had Evie 6 weeks ago.

I am so thankful for these ladies. The first time I attended after having Avonlea was around 4 weeks, and I just sat and absorbed their energy.  All of us have struggled, all of us have celebrated, and we just encourage each other and lift each other up.  We started out thinking that we would do a book study, but with most of our kids under the age of one, we ended up scrapping the book study and just committing to pray for each other instead.  I look forward to our weekly meetings every Tuesday.

Here are a few pictures from our hangouts that I have taken.

One of our early gatherings:

This is the last time we met before Joanie and Ryker moved to Seattle:

We also go to activities around the area. Here, we are at the Glendale Americana, listening to a music group for kids:

Usually we rotate houses and just have a big play time for the kids:

This pic is from Ava's 1st birthday party. Evie and Clark hadn't arrived quite yet, but I love that we're all in the pic together!

Here's Evie!

So thankful that I get to do life with these amazing women. God has truly blessed us.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Once A Month Cooking - Large Group-Style!

I wrote about Once A Month Cooking before, in another post. If you haven't read about it, click on this link.

In October, I organized another cooking day for the women at my church. This time, I took crazy pills, and decided to offer 3 different menus!  It wasn't a lot of work on the day of, but getting everything set up took a while. This is because I wasn't a pro member of the Once A Month Meals website. The next time, it will be MUCH easier, because I will be able to do customized menus!

9 women were set to participate, so I knew we wouldn't be able to use my house. Though I would love to host that many, my kitchen and work space is just too small!  Thankfully, our church's office space is a former preschool, with lots of open space, and an industrial kitchen!  Woopee!

Everything the day of the cooking went so well. In addition to the 8 women cooking, one was cooking for two families, and 4 of us had our kids and husbands in tow! 

In order to make it work the best, we figured that each person needs to have a prep table, and a "storage" table for their supplies and equipment. There were several 8-foot tables in the conference room, so we spread them out and everyone was able to have their own space, and also be close to the other women doing their same menus. I also learned that it was helpful to have a trash can at (or a trash bag taped to) each work station. I had printed out everyone's labels and recipe cards, so everyone was set! We sent the hubbies out for Starbucks, said a prayer, took a group photo, and got started!

Throughout the day, there really were very few mishaps. A few times I realized I had forgotten an ingredient, or someone realized they chopped too much/too little of something, but for the most part, there weren't many errors in our equipment/supplies. Shannon, the rockstar, was doing cooking for the first time AND cooking for two families! She had a couple spillage instances, but nothing major. And, with so many women around, there were always an extra pair of hands or two to help with the clean up!

One thing I recommended this time was some kind of bowl or stand to set your bags in. When you're adding ingredients to a ziplock bag, the last thing you want is for the bag to tip over, spilling the contents everywhere!!

Another tip is (if you're cooking at someone else's house, or another location) to carry all your supplies in a laundry basket. Sturdy, and carries a lot of stuff!

Finally, DON'T buy cheap bags! Ziplock bags are the way to go. The last thing you want when you thaw your meals is to have the contents slowly leak out of an unknown hole down the drain (or all over your fridge--not that I've ever had that happen)!

We had 4 sub-six-month babies with us, and they all did wonderfully!  They took turns in the "magic swing".  This was during Avonlea's turn:

And when the mommies were feeding the babies, the daddies jumped in to help!

We were definitely making a mess, but everyone was having a pretty good time--at least, they were telling me that was the case!

We each brought "snack food" to share, since once you get started, you don't want to break for lunch. It was nice to be able to snack on fresh fruits and veggies...and brownies! throughout the day.

This was the first time I had everyone do at least one "cooking" recipe. All of the other times I did this I did all easy-assembly meals. I figured, since we had the big fatty stove, we should definitely use it!  Sadly, for me, the recipe that we used didn't turn out all that great. But it's nice to know that the stove works well for when we want to use it in the future.

I finished a little early, so I helped Shannon assemble kabobs. I HATE touching raw meat!  I think I'm going to need to get meat-handling gloves from now on!

Here are all the ladies at the end of our cooking day. We started around 10:30am, and the last of us finished around 3:30pm. We were all tired, but excited to have freezers full of food.  The menu I did yielded 14 dinners, and it cost me $150. Yay!

Unflattering photo, but exactly how you feel at the end of a cooking day:

Excited to do our next cooking day as a group--February!

Also, if you're interested in doing Once A Month Cooking on your own, I am now an affiliate for Once A Month Meals!  You can click the banner on the right side of the page, or click on this link to be directed to the site. When you sign up using the banner or the link, I get credit. Thanks!