Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wild and Free

I cannot believe Nora is now one month old! This little beauty has been the largest blessing. I'm pretty sure in my last post I confessed that being a mom is hard. Let me just repeat that sentiment; being a mom is hard! I've become well acquainted with the most obscure hours of the night, the quickest showers in the history of bathing, a variety of poop forms I never knew existed, a level of multi-tasking that warrants some sort of medal (although I'll settle for her smile), a complete lack of awareness as to how I look because my excitement of getting out of the house with everything baby girl needs before noon shadows all else, the struggle to stay up and have some time to myself versus the rational: sleep quick and fast before she wakes up again, the yearning to breastfeed and the physical struggle that ensues, the desire to stay home and raise my daughter rather than having to return to work, and an overwhelming, halting love I never knew I'd experience. It's the hardest, most beautiful job and I would not trade it for anything in the world.

Last week I had the privilege of hearing Jessi Connolly from Naptime Diaries speak at a Charlotte wide ladies' gathering. An open invitation was extended, so I jumped right in and am so glad I went! (I am thankful for a husband who left work early to watch the babe so I could attend. I even received a photo of him in the trenches during my absence, complete with a spit-up stained shirt.) My time there was nothing short of refreshing.

Jessi spoke about her recent endeavor to live a life wild and free. What woman doesn't want to live wild and free? As she talked about confronting the lies we, women, often fall victim to, and the freedom that comes with believing, instead, the promises of the Word, a different speaking point pierced my heart. It was her prompting to replicate the freedom we-rescued, redeemed and restored children of God- experience in the hearts and lives of others. She posed the question, "In whom will you replicate this freedom?" Nora, I thought.

In that moment I wanted to be a better person, woman, mom. I wanted to be the woman I desire Nora to grow into. I want to be the best example of a woman reverent of the Lord in every aspect of her life.

I want sweet Nora to be wild and free.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Nora Evelien

As I type this, the baby monitor sits beside me where I watch my little girl sleep. Nora Evelien joined our family on November 11 at 8:48 pm. Weighing 8 lbs. 7 oz. and nearly 22 inches long, the nurses called her a large baby. In my arms she felt so small. Her eyes opened wide to take in this new, vast world. Then her eyes found mine. I am completely in love.

In my short time as a mother, I have already learned so much. I've learned that being a mom is hard. There are struggles that occur every day, like fighting the worry of will my baby spit up at night and choke and choosing to trust the Lord to watch over and protect her health and heart. It seems silly, but that's a prayer with which I've become all too familiar. In the wee hours of the morning, when she fights sleep, I find myself fighting frustration and exhaustion as I practice patience and choose joy. Then, of course, when she finally drifts to sleep, my bed becomes a distant desire as I can't tear my eyes from her precious face. The minutes pass as I imagine the kind of woman she'll become.

Chad and I have also learned the importance of a loving community. We have been truly humbled by the outpouring of love and generosity from our friends and family. Our hearts are full knowing Nora is surrounded by many who will love and pray for her to know a life walking with the Lord.

Sweet Nora has changed my world, and I wouldn't have it any other way.  

Sunday, October 27, 2013


This weekend, my emotions got the best of me. Shocking, I know. (I know I'm not alone, here!) Chad and I traveled to the land of baby overload -Babies "R" Us - to purchase some remaining items I felt were essential to procure before baby Nora's arrival. I found myself to be in possession of a very generous gift card that could, for an undetermined reason, only be used on diapers, wipes, or formula. We needed diapers-perfect-except for the specific diapers we were looking for were not available in store. No problem,  I'd order them online. Simple enough. However, said gift card could not be used online. As I type this, I'm experiencing no emotional response to those series of events. But last night, after a long, exhausting day, these events caused the waterworks to flow! Along with the tears came every doubt of my ability to mother well. (Hormones, I tell you!) Chad tried to snap me out of my emotional crisis, but I chose to stay there.

This morning, I read over my lesson for our church's children's class. The lesson, in line with exploring the fruits of the spirit, spoke of joy-primarily choosing joy when your emotions and circumstances choose otherwise. In Acts, Paul and Silas chose joy when they were beaten and imprisoned for sharing the gospel. They didn't mope in their cell, but instead prayed and same songs of praise. The Lord's joy was their strength, and He honored them for their choice. They were freed, welcomed into the guard's home for dinner and a bath, and went on their way to continue sharing the gospel. Paul and Silas trusted in God's promise for their life, their path, and He did not fail them.

So, today, when I taught a classroom of children about joy, I wasn't the teacher. God was the teacher and I was the student. If only I can remember that every day.

Nehemiah 8:10 "And Nehemiah continued, 'Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don't be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!'" (NLT)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

God is so good...

Last night I had dinner with two of my best friends. They are kind, loving, brilliant, blunt, and both over 60. Lynne, one of the strongest women I know, housed me for my first three months in North Carolina, only after she landed me my first real, adult job. Pam was my first officemate. She has a tendency to tell you what she thinks, whether you want to know or not, but would truly give you her life if she knew you'd be better off with it than she. These ladies have taught me so much about living. Last night's conversation centered around none other than my upcoming life with baby Nora.

But I don't want to talk about that. I want to share today's post-dinner email exchange with Pam.

Pam: "So great to see you and Lynne last night. You look absolutely gorgeous. Love you much and can't wait to love Baby Nora! Have a happy day and try to prop your feet up!"

Me: "I had such a great time last night. Thank you for thinking of getting together. You do too much for the people you love! Those boots you found are adorable! I cannot wait until she is big enough to wear them.  :) Love the other gifts too! She has a cell phone now, and is still in the womb-ha!"

(Last night's gift brought Pam's total to number four. This child isn't even here yet!)

Pam: "Well, of course I want Baby Nora to be technologically savvy! Can you believe that in 18 years you will be the mother of a high school senior? Doesn't it all seem surreal?"

Me: "I refuse to believe that to be true. Can I do that?"

Pam: "Yes, and she'll be beautiful and accomplished and she'll drive you batty some of the time. And ten years later she will thank you for raising her well. And that, my precious young friend, is the value of this life. How blessed are you to get this opportunity. God is so good..."

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Baby Blues

I haven't had baby girl yet, but today I want to talk about postpartum depression. As someone who has struggled with depression for years, combined with my current status as an expectant mother, my ears perk up a little whenever I hear that phrase thrown around a conversation. Take yesterday, for example.

Yesterday was day two of our prepared childbirth class. It also happened to be our last day, so, technically, I guess we're "prepared". Maybe in the sense of I have a really informative booklet sitting on the table in front of me, but not many other senses. One topic of yesterday's class was postpartum depression; symptoms, treatments, past stigma, and the importance of open dialogue. Consider this post the beginning of my open dialogue. Sure, I've completed the class, but I don't feel prepared for tackling the care of newborn baby, birth recovery, sleepless nights, irritability (mine, Chad's, baby's, all of the above), new schedules (or no schedules), uncertainty, a roller coaster of hormonal responses, and potential postpartum depression.

What is one to do?

Recently, Chad and I were having a conversation about what we would do if we had "lots of money". Somewhere in the banter I said I would throw lots of fun dinner parties. Chad's response? Do it now. Live today like you would if you had "fill in the blank with whatever you feel life would be better accompanied by".

I got to thinking about how I would handle postpartum depression if I find myself in his company. I've read blogs, books, considered natural remedies, taken notes in classes, and-silly enough-worried. (Hence, this post.) As I continue to contemplate whether or not I will take any specific post-birth treatment measures, I plan to take my husband's advice and live today in a way that just might make life better if I do fall into postpartum depression.

1. Spend face to face time with people who care about and love me. Pour into them as they pour into me.

2. Exercise and eat well. (This will start after I publish this post, since I just helped myself to three pieces of chocolate. Hey, we can't all be perfect.)

3. Create and continue an open dialogue where I honestly share how I am feeling. (This counts as a start, right?)

4. Pray without ceasing. If the same power that conquered the grave lives in me, it certainly can conquer postpartum depression. If willing, pray alongside me!

5. Speak life!

6. Reach out to the SO many mothers I know who walk with the Lord and are the brightest lights to their family and children.

I don't know what awaits me following the birth of this wee little one, but her presence-even in the midst of this blog's subject matter-makes me one giddy and excited lady!

If you're a mom, I'd love to hear how you anticipated the potential onset of postpartum depression or walked through it. Heck, you can share it with me at my next dinner party! :)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Frolicking in Fields: Maternity Edition

Sorry for the photo dump, but I just love how these photos by Seth Snider-a great friend and talented photographer-turned out! He'll kill me for saying this, but doesn't Chad look incredibly handsome? 

The photos were taken at 30 weeks, three weeks ago, and I feel as though baby girl has grown so much since then! We are so excited to meet her, and so thankful that she is already wrapped in the love of our family and friends.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Is this lap taken?

I was reminded today of how powerful a small, simple act of love can be. My high school student advisory group traveled to our elementary school to promote classroom literacy by incorporating the presence of a therapy dog. Our first classroom visit was to a self-contained, special needs classroom. There were six students in the classroom to my eleven high schoolers. As one high schooler finished up reading a book to the children, one small elementary student slowly climbed into the lap of a high school football player. The football player looked a little uncomfortable at first, but quickly adapted when he noticed how content the young student became in his presence. My heart melted instantly as I tried to savor the full magnitude of that sweet, special moment. The moment itself was short in duration, but the impact it had on both boys was unmeasurable. 

The moment brings to mind the saying, "We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love." It is the Lord's grace, not our own striving, that gives us the ability to do all things, day in and day out, with great love. This is the very lesson I am in the midst of learning; it is not by my own works, but by God's grace that I can be the wife, soon-to-be-mother, teacher, daughter, sister and friend I want to be. In doing so, walking in His grace, loving as the football player showed love, John 13:35 tells us, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (NIV)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sweet Autumn, I love you.

Autumn arrives tomorrow, and I couldn't be happier! I know I am not alone. The pumpkin spice latte following alone has proven this! Our family walk this morning held hints of Autumn's arrival: specks of coloring leaves, a slight chill in the breeze, and sweatshirt donning neighbors. It was nothing short of fabulous. I always hear people speak of their long list of autumn favorites, so I thought I'd share a few of mine, in no particular order. 

Big mugs of warm yumminess. Be it tea, a latte, or plain old cup o' joe, I love early mornings on the couch, yet under a blanket, and warmed by my favorite mug! (I've been good-no more than a cup of anything caffeinated just a few times a week.) Don't get me wrong, I'll take one to go as well. In fact, check out this recipe for making your very own pumpkin spice syrup at home. 

Crisp air. If Anne didn't get it right, surely Fitzgerald did.

"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall." -F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby 

The native New Yorker in me loves a good, cold morning! Truly, they remind me of soccer practice as a kid. We'd bundle up in multiple layers and go run around the leaf-covered field. No matter how low the temperate dropped, I'd never wear pants. My father swore that real soccer players (code for European) don't wear pants when they play, so I was prohibited. Autumn also provides the best weather for hiking. Chad, the pup, and I did this quick hike over Labor Day Weekend. The crisp air, if for nothing else, makes the scarves, thick socks, mittens and boots all the more necessary. By the way, have you seen these boots? So romantic.

Pumpkins! The deliberation of picking the best one in the pumpkin patch can be rough, but its presence is always welcome in our home. In fact, Chad especially loves all things pumpkin, so we usually have quite the collection. I wish our mantel was a tad bit deeper so I could do something fun like this nicely decorated one

Comfort food-chili, taco soup, baked potatoes, pumpkin pie, and the list goes on. Unfortunately, without moderation, my waistline would go on and on as well. Especially when I've been wanting to try to make these salted caramel apple hand pies! Maybe the consumption of comfort food inspires me to get out and appreciate the crisp air some more. :)

This autumn is especially anticipated as it ushers in Nora's (yes, we settled on Nora!) arrival. Our baby girl is growing strong and healthy and we are so eager to meet her! I imagine my feeling of having to get so many things (school plans, nursery, my mental state) "ready" before she makes her debut is a common one. For this reason, I'm thankful for the seven more weeks before the 40 milestone, but at the same time I want to rush those weeks along. Most importantly, there's comfort in knowing the more time she bides in my belly, the stronger and healthier she will be. 

What are you looking forward to this season? Do share!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Back to school!

First day of school - baby girl at 28 weeks

I have survived the first week of school! "Survived" seems pretty accurate considering the painfully early morning alarm settings and near exhaustive evenings I experienced.

In the midst of the first week's chaos there were some beautiful moments. Returning to the Community School of Davidson for the second year, I am reminded why I love teaching. There will always be days where students don't value the worth of a lesson the way I anticipated or simply try my patience, but that's just it - there is every school day where I have the opportunity to ignite a passion for learning in the heart of a student, more than one if I'm lucky. As I go from bell to bell there are always lessons I am learning. Here are a few:

1. Listening is underrated. Think back to high school. Did you cringe a little? Yeah, me too. High school was a complicated season filled with uncertain identity amidst social and familial trials not many want to relive. My students are there now. Some shut down and want to travel this season alone. Others search for a compassionate ear. When I'm lucky, I'm that ear. It may be very little things they share, but when they see I listen, their eyes sparkle a little to mimic the fullness in their heart. They just want to be heard without judgement or correction, just love. Yes, at times I'm short with them, thinking of the next period's lesson, but when I'm intentional in listening, it matters.

2. Patience is never perfected. Even when I feel I have patience locked down for that day, I'm reminded a moment's occurrence is all it takes to rattle my cage and leave me feeling irritated and anything but patient. The Lord is teaching me to breathe, not sweat the small stuff, and be patient. Which brings me to my next lesson...

3. Let the little things go. Those close to me know I have a minor...major...control problem. I like knick-knacks positioned just so on a table top, I enjoy loading the dishwasher because I can configure the best arrangement for optimal storage space and cleanliness, I like my cereal in the big yellow bowls-not the medium white bowls-with a large spoon, the little spoons don't let you get enough milk with each bite. See? It's scary. Now imagine desiring things to be a "certain way" with 20 teenagers thrown into the mix. Nope. Doesn't happen. If I expect my "certain way" to occur, I'm the only one who ends up hurt. It's just not worth it. So, I'm getting better-with much effort, mind you-to laugh things off and just let those little things go. The dishwasher may be another story, for now. 

4. Love. Love doesn't hold fast to selfish desires but sacrifices for the betterment of others. A teacher's profession centers around student learning. At the core of what I do is always for the betterment of student learning. It sometimes takes sacrifices on my part with how I expect this path to learning to look. It requires me to do what is in the best interest of my students and put my interests aside. It makes me practice love.

So, 5:45 AM alarm, I still don't like you. But I do like the day you bring along. Thank you, Lord, for my job, even in the midst of my own life lessons.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


top :: Papa and younger brother, Kees, in my father's greenhouse
middle :: summer family photo circa 1989-ish, I know you're loving the sock/shoe combination
bottom: autumn family photo maybe the same year, not really sure

My father (Papa) has an interesting story. Born in a small mussel fishing village in the south of the Netherlands in 1949, my father came from humble beginnings. The only boy and youngest of three, my father began working at a young age for local horticulturists after his own father's health succumbed to cancer when he was only eight years old. Developing a love for the world of horticulture, my father studied collegiately in this field before moving to Guernsey, one of the English channel islands, at age nineteen to work. At the time, he knew little English except for his beloved Beatles songs. Today, if you ask nicely, he may take requests.

While working in Guernsey, my father lived with an elderly couple, the Myrtles. Their accents sound a bit like-to me, at least-Mr. and Mrs. Bouquet from the television show Keeping Up Appearances. After three years in Guernsey, my father moved to Ontario to work with at a Dutch family's greenhouse. It was here that my father came to know the Lord.

I'm unsure how many years he worked in Ontario, but at some point he partnered with a colleague in Ontario to purchase his own greenhouse in Utica, New York. His search for cheap-to-free physical therapy for an old soccer injury led him to my mother, and they wed shortly after meeting. My father has seen many places and met many people, but he is happiest when home with family.

After losing his own father at a young age, my father lost his own son when Kees, my brother, was just fourteen years old. Even in the depths of his sorrow my father still rejoiced in the Lord and encourages me to do the same. We don't speak often, but when we do I listen.

Today he shared the following from his current devotional Jesus Calling. 

When things seem to be going all wrong, stop and affirm your trust in Me. Calmly bring these matters to Me, and leave them in My capable hands. Then, simply do the next thing. Stay in touch with Me through thankful, trusting prayers, resting in My sovereign control. Rejoice in Me - exult in the God of your salvation! As you trust Me, I make your feet like the feet of a deer. I enable you to walk and make progress upon the high places. 

Job 13:15; Psalm 18:33; Habakkuk 3:17-19

The greatest earthly gift is a father who points you toward your heavenly one.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Oh baby!

Orthodontic pacifiers. BPA free, slow flow bottles - 6 or 9 ounces? Swaddle blankets. Changing pads. Crib mattresses. Belly cast kit....just kidding. ; )

Last week an experienced mama friend accompanied me on the overwhelming task of registering for essential baby gear. Babies "R" Us has long overwhelmed me, and now that I had to create the registry, rather than navigate by the one in hand, the feeling intensified. I am forever indebted to this gracious woman for spending part of her afternoon taming the aisles for me.

I've been trying to get as much stuff done for our baby girl before school starts-workdays arrive in less than two weeks now! With the help of Chad's parents, and another incredible friend, our girl's room is painted, crib assembled, dresser positioned, and curtains hung.  I often wander into her room and look around, dreaming of the day she'll be there with me. Having a place in which to envision her sleeping and playing makes her impending arrival all the more real. That and the increasing frequency of her gymnastic routines in my belly. Honestly, I love being pregnant.

Chad and I already love this girl to pieces, but I still worry about being her mom. I worry if I'll do everything right. I worry if I'll forget to teach her something that will mess her up for the rest of her life. I worry I'll be too neurotic. I worry I'll struggle to balance work and home life once I return to teaching. I worry about a lot. Of course I know I shouldn't worry, but it sneaks up on me. To fight this worry I try to remember and rest in knowing that God created me for this and his provision will show itself once baby girl arrives.

And, on a completely unrelated note, the arrival of August and, soon, school, get me excited for all the great things of autumn - cool weather, scarves, wool sweaters, cozy boots, changing leaves, warm drinks, and holidays!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hello French Toast

Being in class for the last three weeks has been a wonderful and incredibly worthwhile experience, but it has kept me from Yankee Belle, specifically my summer food series. Tonight my attempt at cooking returned.

Last night Chad and a couple buddies traveled to his parent's house in the Blue Ridge mountains to wake up to a very early, yet peaceful, morning of fishing. Not my kind of fun, but the boys seemed to have a great time! When Chad returned home he was pretty tired. As he caught up on some sleep I decided to make breakfast for dinner-an easy fix, but for some reason I got caught up on the French toast. French toast! Who gets caught up on French toast? Well, the French toast is certainly not blog worthy, but it did ignite a curiosity in me for creative and savory French toast recipes. Here are a few scrumptious looking ones I dug up.

French Toast with Maple-Apple Compote sounds so, so delicious.

The Best French Toast You'll Ever Have by James from Bluebird Vintage

Texas Toast Style

A different spin on a classic: French Toast Muffins

Cannoli French Toast  takes notes from an Italian pastry staple

An indulgent Peanut Butter and Banana French Toast recipe

Emma and Elsie from A Beautiful Mess weigh in with Baked French Toast Sticks

Thursday, July 11, 2013

White Knuckles

This evening, Chad and I (mainly Chad) put together baby girl's crib. Chad doesn't know it, but at one point I fought back tears caused by the sheer joy of our girl's anticipated arrival. It all seems more real today than yesterday. And tomorrow even more, I'm sure. The most amazing part of it all is that no one has met her, yet she is already very loved.

Over the past few months I have spent much leisure time reading any seemingly worthwhile pregnancy and parenting book. With some pages I laughed, some I'm certain I forgot, while others I vowed to disregard in lieu of the ones filled with theories I'm clinging to and, already, have proclaimed to practice as religiously as my own faith. Here's the catch. As valuable as any good sleep training theory worthy of a white knuckle grasp is, the relationships with the vast amount of Godly women-wives and mothers-that the Lord has placed in my life are worth ten thousand times more.

In addition to a regular young mothers' group I attend, last night I took up a friend's invitation to join some Journey Church women as they listened to a (grand)mother share her stories of marriage and parenting at the best French bakery in town. It was in that moment, the moment shared with a chocolate raspberry tart and chai tea latte, soaking up her instruction that I realized the pages I cling to pale in comparison to God's wisdom. I will become the fully equipped mother I am meant to be when I hold on tightly-white knuckle tight-to the wisdom that is revealed when I am on my knees in prayer, surrendering in worship, and humbling myself in the company of mothers who have gone before me and whose children call her blessed.

This is the love that I was talking about. Sure, the women in my life love me, but their willingness to help equip me with the nuances of raising Godly children is the very essence of loving on my baby girl. So, thank you, ladies. Your love is so very gratefully accepted.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Following Yankee Belle

I am so appreciative of those who take the time to visit my little space on the web; thank you! It occurred to me that maybe some of you faithfuls would like to know a few easy ways to stay connected to Yankee Belle that don't involve me flooding all facets of your social media. 


My favorite way to stay connected to blogs I love! In addition to their website, Bloglovin' has a free app for both iPhones and iPads as well as Android. My husband loves this because I use fun technology, but I love it because it's easy, convenient, and everything syncs! To get started you simply click on the Bloglovin' icon on my blog page and create a free account. Then you search for Yankee Belle and follow-simple as that! There are thousands upon thousands of blogs connected to Bloglovin' so you can search and follow any style, parenting, faith, cooking, DIY blog that tickles your fancy.

Follow through Google

Since blogspot (blogger) is a Google based platform, if you have a Google account following Yankee Belle is super easy. Simply click on the "Join this Site" icon on my blog page and subscribe. In doing so you will receive an email updating you of each brand spankin' new post. 

Thanks so much for taking the time to stay connected!

Friday, June 28, 2013

My Latest Prayer

In my last post you heard me mention a ladies' group I soak up once a month. Well, this past Monday's gathering nudged my soul to pray more for our sweet little girl's heart and wisdom as I learn to mother. As a lover for all reasons to buy a new journal, I thought I need to get my hands on a fresh journal and my Bible and kickstart my time with the Lord and prayer for my babe.  Lo and behold, four our third anniversary Chad got me a brand spankin' new leather journal. Leather, apparently, is the traditional anniversary gift this go around; Chad's obviously much better at sentimental gift giving than me. Needless to say, the Lord was making moves to get my heart with Him. 

I put some worship music on-this sweet voice is a current fav-gathered my Bible, new journal, and (small) cup of coffee and cuddled up on my bed during the early morning hours. As I spent time with the Lord, surrendering control and recommitting to trusting Him, the following verses tugged on my heart.

Psalm 18:30
God's way is perfect. All the Lord's promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.

Psalm 25:4-5
Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you. 

Psalm 25:11-13
For the honor of your name, O Lord, forgive my many, many sins. WHo are those who fear the Lord? He will show them the path they should choose. They will live in prosperity, and their children will inherit the land.

Psalm 26: 11
Teach me how to love, O Lord. Lead me along the right path...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Fresh Strawberry Lemonade

Once a month a group of young women from my church (all moms, sans my expectancy) gather together to glean wisdom from more seasoned mothers. Each month an invited guest shares what she has learned about being a wife who honors and respects her husband and a mom that directs her children to the Lord. The night starts with dinner, usually followed by dessert, and then sweet fellowship. I'm so thankful for the time these women take to pour into my life. As Titus 2:3-5 instructs (ESV):

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. 

Monday night I volunteered to bring the beverages. So, true to my new, ambitious spirit I thought I'd try a drink recipe I found on Pinterest. I was skeptical that this recipe, as simple as it seemed, would turn out to be good, but it was quite delicious. Here's what I did:

I took the following and blended it on low for approximately 5 minutes.

1 1/3 pounds of fresh strawberries, halved
2 lemons washed and cut into thin pieces (yes, leave the skin on)
2 cups of water

I paused every so often to make sure the blending was actually occurring. I then poured the mixture into a pitcher and added 4 more cups of water.

The recipe called for a strainer, which I didn't have, so I made some rather silly attempts of my own to "strain" the drink through two different colanders and then by way of searching out the parts needing to be strained. Don't do this. I then called Sarah, our group's host, to see if I could come over early and make use of her strainer. With help from her husband, we ended up using a flour sifter-of all things-but it worked! Hooray for ingenuity!

After "straining" I added some honey, to taste, to sweeten the drink and garnished it with a few sliced lemons. In the end, there were probably 8-10 servings. The second time around I might double the batch to ensure the drink lasts longer. In the end, I thought the lemonade was great! I'm assuming others did as well because there was nothing left to take home. :)

*Next time I promise I'll get better with the photos!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Happy Day!

Today is a very special day for two reasons. Chad and I are celebrating three married years together! I am so grateful to have found a man who loves the Lord and seeks His will, a man who encourages and supports me, and a man who makes me laugh. I love you, Chad.

Today also marks baby girl's halfway point; 20 weeks! The miracle of life is so overwhelming. Just a couple of weeks ago we watched our baby girl squirm about on the ultrasound and-as I type this-I can feel her movements in my belly. Maybe we're going to be meeting a rising soccer star?! I simply cannot wait to meet her. However, I did recently receive some great advice from a brand new mother of two last night: slow down and enjoy the moment your child is in before it is gone. I'll try so hard not to wish away the next 20 weeks and enjoy being pregnant. Baby girl will arrive soon enough.

Wedding photos by our friend Seth Snider.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Tomato Sauce from the Garden

I've long been a fan of Italian cuisine. This love can be traced to growing up in a predominantly Italian New York community full of family-run restaurants with amazing menus. Perhaps inspired by my trip home, today I made homemade tomato sauce with tomatoes from our very own garden!

To be honest, I was not very confident as to how this was going to turn out. 
Here's how it all went down. The ingredients were simple:

6 medium to large tomatoes 
3 cloves of garlic, diced
1/2 one medium onion, diced
4 ounces of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 pinch of crushed red pepper (more to if you like it spicy)
1/3 cup freshly chopped basil
flour to thicken (as you see fit)

To start, and I was a bit excited to try this, hence all the photos: peeling the tomatoes. 

You simply and shallowly score the tomato skins. Then drop the tomatoes into boiling water for approximately 90 seconds.

Remove tomatoes and place into a bowl of ice water. 

I was shocked to find that the recipe didn't lie; the skins fall right off! After this, dicing the tomatoes was a breeze.

The following steps are so easy I moved through them rather quickly and forgot to snap photos. In a saucepan I heated the olive oil until hot. Then I sautéed the garlic and hint of crushed red pepper until the garlic was golden brown. I then added in the onion for approximately 2 minutes. Next, I stirred in the tomatoes with some salt and pepper and allowed the sauce to cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes. 

In the meantime, I ran out to the garden for some fresh basil. 

After the sauce cooked for 10 minutes, I combined the basil and let the sauce simmer for another 10 minutes while the pasta cooked. In the end, I added about a handful of flour to help thicken the sauce. 

Chad suggested some Italian bread and olive oil and balsamic vinegar and we had ourselves an amazing meal!

I added just a hint of parmesan cheese to my dish, which I recommend. 

Even the roses were from our garden. :)

In the end, I thought the sauce came out really well. It was very light and fresh and every flavor I added really was detected in each bite. If I try this sauce again I may add a bit more crushed red pepper. 

Chad approved, so another successful food endeavor in the books!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Summer Musings

Summer, for me, has not yet been underway for a whole week. Even in such a short time I've formulated some musings that I want to share.

1. Visiting a neighborhood pool, in the middle of the day, without children places you in one of three scenarios: a) solitude among soccer moms - read, tan, dunk in pool, talk to no one, repeat,  b) a lover of adult swim and, dually, enemy of all under 10 (they will splash you), or  c) just plain creepy.

2. Weighted squats are apparently great preparation for the birthing process, just not such great preparation or walking the next day.

3. Torrential rain is not a good time to drive without functioning windshield wipers. However, 77 is manageable sans wipers, just keep a modest 50 mph and you're fine. 

4. The Today Show is the best way to spend the hours between 7 - 9 AM.

5. Charlotte is slowly being taken over by wildlife. The proof exists in what we've nicknamed "psycho robin" who enjoys dive bombing Koda, the nest of bunnies in our garden who are now exploring our entire backyard, and the herd of field mice (I swear they were rats) that crossed our path during our evening walk last night.

6. Nesting is not only productive, but fun. 

Today is a very special day for our growing family as we find out if this little one is a baby boy or girl! Stay tuned for the news.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Corn, Avocado and Tomato Salad with Honey Lime Dressing

Okay, so I don't know if I can actually put this endeavor under the label of "summer food series" since it didn't really involve cooking anything. Rather, I chopped, and, darn it, I'm one good chopper.

As promised, this idea came from one of my recent pins to my Pinterest "Grub" board. This salad doesn't really have a name other than its descriptors: corn, avocado and tomato salad with honey lime dressing. This was so simple and light, perfect for a hot summer evening. (The hubs approved.)

So this was the process...

I collected my ingredients. The beauty of this recipe is that you probably have most of what you need in your refrigerator or pantry. What you don't have is cheap and any extra is easily used for other items on your menus.  

Here's what I gathered for the salad:

1 can of corn (I was making this quickly and didn't want to grill corn on the cob like the recipe detailed)
grape tomatoes (halved)
1 ripe avocado (I bought another for guacamole later)
fresh cilantro (1 tbsp chopped)

Here's what I gathered for the dressing:

3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp honey
dashes of salt and pepper to taste
1 garlic clove minced
1 dash of cayenne pepper (which I forgot, but will try in the future)
1 lime's juice

It took me all of five minutes to put together the entire concoction. Here's what the finished, dressed product looked like: 

We paired the salad with Trader Joe's spicy jalapeño chicken sausage and chips and salsa. A summery southwestern inspired meal, yum!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Banana Walnut Bread

The secret has long been out: I am not much of a cook or baker. In fact, when Chad was recently gone for a week on business he called to ask me if I've eaten anything cooked while he'd been away. My only response was a shamefully muttered "Chick-fil-A".  I can follow recipes and do, on occasion, cook or bake something people don't immediately spit out of their mouths in disgust.

Nevertheless, this is an area I wish to change. So I've decided, with some more free time during the summer months, to tackle a few new recipes with the guidance of my Pinterest "grub" board. Every week-if not more frequently when the urge arises-I plan to try a new recipe and share it with readers.

Disclaimer: Be forewarned these attempts may be far from revolutionary. They exist as a simple endeavor to expand my foodie repertoire and build my self-confidence. Seasoned kitchen-goers may not by wowed. 

First in the line-up is banana walnut bread, which happens to be one of my favorite treats. It helps I have some overripe bananas begging to not be wasted. After taking inventory of ingredients I realized that we were out of butter. Mindful not to stifle my ambitions, Chad graciously went to the store. Another minor setback occurred when I discovered we do not own a bread pan, but Chad picked one up for me as well. 

I decided to follow this recipe, but with a few minor changes that I'll let you know about.

The ingredients, although I took this photo before deciding to scratch the chocolate chips.

I used four medium-sized bananas.

I only used half of the sugar the recipe called for and replaced the other half with brown sugar.

After reading a few reviews of the recipe I decided to add a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Rather than chocolate chips I included some chopped walnuts (roughly 1/2 cup).

And my creation heads into the oven (350 degrees) for one hour. 

Voila! Banana walnut bread!