Tuesday, January 31, 2012

{ Date Night }

Right now our church is going through a sermon series called "Real Marriage," based on the book of the same name that our pastor wrote {it was just published a couple weeks ago}. All of the "community group" {what churches usually call a Bible study} are also going through the material, with individual homework assignments {tailored specifically for husbands, wives, and singles}, group discussion questions, and weekly "experiences" to put into practice what we're discussing. This week's material was about how important it is to be friends with your spouse: not just roommates, or just lovers, or just people who happen to be married, but friends. So the experience assignment was to go on a date that's just for fun: No heavy conversations, no "let's make running errands a date this week"--something fun.

Mike and I are both prone to busy-ness and can be very list- and goal-oriented; we are good at being very shoulder-to-shoulder and working together towards the same goals. It's far too easy to let those traits become prominent in our relationship, so that we're sometimes more like two people {who happen to be fond of each other} working toward the same goal, and having fun together isn't always a priority. And let's be honest...even after just 2.5 years of marriage, it's easy to get into a "rut" and just go to the same handful of restaurants, get takeout, watch a movie, or veg in front of Hulu, rather than making the effort to do something that is intentionally fun. So I was getting excited for Friday night!

Many of our dates before marriage took place in Edmonds. We have a lot of good memories there, but don't go there often anymore. So I wasn't surprised when that's where we headed. For dinner we went to The Loft, a really cool little restaurant where we went for drinks a couple times when we were dating. The inside part is tiny {and I seriously want their wallpaper in my home}, but they have a large outdoor patio in the back that's partially enclosed...meaning that it's bounded on one side by the back wall {glass} of the restaurant, on two sides by the walls of other buildings, on the fourth side by a tall wooden fence, and there's a sort of high plexiglass roof. Two of the walls have tall stands of bamboo growing against them, so it feels very outdoorsy, and yet at the same time you can look inside through the glass wall. There is also a bar with granite countertops, and lots of heat lamps, and twinkle lights strung all along the roof, and at every table there's at least one blanket in case you get chilly. I was thoroughly enchanted: Yes, let's please eat outside in January surrounded by twinkle lights and bamboo and good music and heat lamps!

We talked and laughed and flirted and took pictures of each other, just like when we were dating. Mike ordered a burger, and I had a delicious pear and gorgonzola ravioli dish. And then Mike wrote on my hand, as he is wont to do, and so I wrote on his hand, which he always tries very hard to prevent. Looks pretty good, if I do say so myself:

On the way to the car, I was sidetracked by a new frozen yogurt shop. It seems like cute little frozen yogurt shops are cropping up everywhere, and I've wanted to try one out for a while. It far exceeded my expectations!! There were probably 10 flavors to choose from, and at least 30 toppings: everything from smashed candy bars to fresh fruit {even pomegranate seeds and sliced kiwi!} to breakfast cereals to gummi bears and cookie dough. You choose your flavor{s} and toppings, and pay by weight. We decided to try pineapple, strawberry banana, and ginger lemonade, but bypassed the toppings--a good idea because it turns out that froyo ain't cheap. All the flavors were delicious, and if we lived closer I think I'd find excuses to go back regularly. Very, very regularly. Unfortunately there are no photos because we scarfed it down too fast, and because the place was swarming with high school students and we ended up eating in the car because there were no tables. {Funny side noted: as we were leaving, three teenage girls were about to go in, and one of them stopped outside the door and said, "Oh no! It's all sophomores in there!" We managed to get inside the car before we busted up laughing.}

Thank you for a wonderful, wonderful date, Honey. I love hanging out with you. I love having fun with you. I love it that we're friends.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

{ Thai Chicken Pizza }

This pizza!!


It is so good!

I love Thai food. It's probably my favorite cuisine, hands down. Mike loves pizza. It's probably one of his top three favorite foods. It's been quite a while since I've made him pizza for dinner, so I was looking for a new recipe and stumbled upon this gem from Tasty Kitchen. Unfortunately, I love it a whole lot more than the man I made it for {sorry, honey! More bacon next time, I promise.}. As in, Mike has had two pieces, there are three pieces left, and I've eaten the remainder. He likes it, but I love it. I am exercising a considerable amount of willpower in not going to the refrigerator and scarfing down another piece right this instant. I truly want to.

What makes this pizza sing is the sweet chili sauce. And the peanuts. And the fresh cilantro. And the zucchini. But mostly it's the sweet chili sauce.

I feel weird about posting a recipe when it already exists in at least two places online, so here is the link. Dax Phillips, creator of this wonderful dish, I have no idea who you are, but bless you for thinking up this pizza!

Friday, January 27, 2012

{ Today I am }

Thankful for

:: a day-full of sunshine

:: a balmy January afternoon at the beach

:: old trucks

:: all the giggles I got, watching these five orange-clad BNSF men trying to get the motor started on their little tin can of a boat...seriously, guys, if the motor is that stubborn, are you sure you want to go out in the Puget Sound in that itty bitty thing?

:: tugboats

:: dog prints

:: driftwood

:: water nearly white in noonday sun

:: ferries

:: random Ron Paul van in the parking lot

I'm glad I took the time to go to the beach and just be today.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

{ Things Are A-Changin' }

~ 8 weeks ~

~ 15 weeks ~
wow, my hair looked a lot better in the first trimester...

It's getting a lot harder to tuck you in, Peanut!
Or should I say Fuji? Because you are now the size of an apple!

Postscript: This post is almost a week late, since I'm almost 16 weeks, but I couldn't resist the apple photo!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

{ Just a small leak }

At this very moment, on a blustery January night in Washington state, it is approximately 74 degrees in our home. Why, you ask? Because we're drying out a wall, I say.

Last week's snow was fantastic. I loved every minute of it--every single minute. I was so sad on Friday, when rain began pouring down on top of all that snow. I don't think there is a sadder way for snow to "die" than to be rained to death. It's just sad and ugly. Snow should melt, of its own accord, into springtime creeks and crocuses. It shouldn't be pelted into mush by a rainstorm.

On Friday night, I was scurrying about getting ready for Mike to pick me up for our Bible study group's happy hour at a local eatery. I pulled the drapes shut over the sliding glass door in the living room, and gasped. One curtain was halfway soaked, all the way to the floor. I pulled it away from the wall, and saw

a very large bubble beneath the paint.
I prodded it. Soft. Water.
I looked up.

See that big bubble on the ceiling?
And another one high up on the wall?
And all the little bubbles further down the wall?

And how the lower curtain rod is falling over, because the drywall it was formerly attached to is now the consistency of oatmeal?

Just look at that sucker!

We did go to happy hour {don't worry, I had iced tea}, though I was somewhat alarmed and preoccupied by my discovery {and certainly wished for something stronger than iced tea!}. When we got home, we took a bunch of photos, drained nasty water out of that bottom pocket, and Mike emailed the homeowners' association. The next day, a guy came out to assess the damage, and his little moisture meter found this wall to be 42% moisture. Holy smokes! It appears the cause is that snow got under the flashing {whatever that is}, melted very quickly, and made a leak {at least that's the gist of it}. And praise the Lord, this falls under the responsibility of the homeowners' association, not us personally!

So this week I'm kind of a vagabond. Because there might be toxic mold in the walls, and because they'll be bleaching/Kilzing/repainting the damaged areas, it's not really safe for me and Peanut to be at home. Unfortunately the repairs will take a few days--depending on how long it takes to dry out the wall--so Mike is working from home while this gets taken care of. He is a saint. And I get to live at the mall! Woohoo! It's like being ordered by the doctor to shop, right? 
Just kidding. {Seriously, Honey, I'm kidding!}

I'm planning to go to my womens' group tomorrow morning, followed by a trip to TJ Maxx and maybe Target. I am perfectly happy to curl up with a book at a coffee shop, and if Peanut needs a nap, I can go to Mike's parents' house...which is also where we'll be sleeping tomorrow night if our place is still all fume-y.

So this is what home looks like tonight:

A halogen lamp drying the damaged areas + home thermostat set at 73 degrees. {For once, even I think it's nice and toasty in here!} Say a prayer for us that this is resolved quickly, will you? I'll keep you posted.

Friday, January 20, 2012

{ Balsamic Berry Quinoa Salad }

A few months ago, I started dipping my toes in the strange-yet-wonderful world of couponing. I still have a lot to learn, but that's another story. My point is that, as a result of the couponing websites I've visited, I sometimes get really random emails, most of which I delete without opening. Last week, I happened to open an email from Unilever, and inside was a recipe for balsamic berry quinoa salad. I'm always on the lookout for new recipes, and this one looked quite tasty, so I made it...and ate the entire batch in two days. Goodness gracious, it was delicious! I simply have to share it.

Balsamic Berry Quinoa Salad

Serves 6

~ 2 cups water
~ 1 cup quinoa
~ 6 Tbsp. Wish-Bone Light Balsamic Basil Vinaigrette Dressing
~ 1 large cucumber, seeded and diced
~ 1 cup strawberries {quartered} or raspberries
~ 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced
~ 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion, rinsed with cold water

Bring water to a boil over high heat in 2-quart saucepan. Stir in quinoa, then return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook covered for 12 minutes or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat, fluff, then let stand covered 15 minutes. Combine hot quinoa with remaining ingredients in serving bowl. Chill, if desired.

I should confess: The salad I made had some key differences from this one. First, in my haste I burned the quinoa. Second, I used a balsamic vinaigrette dressing we already had, rather than buying a specific brand {and I only used 5 Tbsp, not 6}. I didn't seed the cucumber. At the grocery store, my box of raspberries sprang open and scattered on the floor as I was in the checkout line, so I ended up using frozen raspberries I had at home. And finally, I forgot to rinse the onion. Also, I think it's a scant 6 servings...but this is also a pregnant lady talking. I'm definitely at least doubling it the next time.

End result: Scrumptious. Darn it, I'm getting hungry again!!

Try it! I think you'll like it!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

{ Turkey Sloppy Joes }

Yippee skippee--it's still snowing!!

After taking a break for the night, fluffy white flakes have been coming down steadily all morning. There are a couple inches on the ground here, with more predicted for tomorrow. The local school district is closed today, and kids are out sledding on the golf course behind our condo complex. It's just dreamy. {Especially since I have nowhere else I have to be, and we're good on groceries for the rest of the week.} This morning, in an unexpected burst of baker-ism--brought on, I think, by the enforced domesticity of the snow and no car--I spontaneously made raspberry muffins, and last night, I curled up on the couch and did some knitting while listening to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer from Books Should Be Free. I only recently discovered this treasure trove of thousands of free audiobooks--what an amazing resource! I'm not a fast reader, and if I can do something like knit or iron or clean the bathroom while someone reads to me, I'm on it! Unfortunately I think that's the only way I'm going to make significant progress on the list of books I want to consume.

This snowy, housebound weather has me thinking of warm, cozy foods: freshly baked muffins, hot tea, sloppy joes...and I have the perfect sloppy joes recipe to share with you. Recently my mom gave me a gift subscription to Taste of Home's Healthy Cooking magazine. It's the second time she's done so, and I am continuing to find it a treasure trove of great recipes. Since I've been nauseous for the better part of the last ten weeks, especially with any kind of food preparation, and especially especially with meat, I'm on the lookout for easy recipes with a lot of protein. Did you know that a pregnant woman is supposed to consume at least 90 grams of protein per day, and that poor protein intake may be linked to development of toxemia and pre-eclampsia? Yikes! So I was really happy to find this recipe for turkey sloppy joes that looked easy and delicious. And let me tell you--it definitely is! Tangy, with a bit of a bite, and slightly sweet, this is much more flavorful than I expected sloppy joes to be.

Turkey Sloppy Joes

Serves 8

~ 1 lb lean ground turkey
~ 1 small onion, chopped
~ 1/2 cup chopped celery
~ 1/4 cup chopped green pepper
~ 1 can {10 3/4 oz} reduced-sodium condensed tomato soup, undiluted
~ 1/2 cup ketchup
~ 2 Tbsp. prepared mustard
~ 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
~ 1/4 tsp. pepper
~ 8 hamburger buns, split

In a large skillet coated with cooking spray, cook the turkey, onion, celery and green pepper over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in the soup, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar and pepper. Transfer to a 3-qt. slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours. Serve on buns.

 The only modification I made was to use an entire bell pepper {red, since it was much cheaper than green}. The extra veggie content didn't deter even Mike from wolfing down his dinner. I hope you all enjoy these sloppy joes as much as we are!

Monday, January 16, 2012

{ These Days }

On Saturday, it snowed. First snow of the winter.

We were at a parenting conference that morning, Paul Tripp teaching about the family as a theological learning community and heart-motives and sin and grace and discipline, and at the conclusion we stepped into the foyer and saw through the glass doors--snow!

It's long overdue, and I'm fully enjoying it...though my perspective must be taken with a grain of salt, because I don't have to drive to work on icy roads. I'm so glad of that. I've dreamed of this winter for years, actually; of seeing snowfall and not dreading black ice and careless drivers and what if I get called in to work during a snowstorm? For someone who frets and worries, as I'm prone to do, winter weather became just one more thing to worry about after I got a job and a pager. Snow just meant getting to and from work was dangerous and time-consuming, and work itself would be crazy because we'd be short-staffed.

In short, this is a day I have longed for. It's pure luxury. Winter wonderland outside, sweatpants and cozy socks and hot chai inside. Because I don't have to leave home to work. The decadence!! Thank you Jesus--thank you Mike! It feels extravagant, superfluous, like too much...to be home and unworried on a snowy weekday. And then I remember that since I don't have to be anywhere, Mike drove my car to work {it has studded tires} and I feel even happier. This really is quite a day!

Besides snow, we've been busy this weekend. The parenting conference I mentioned was phenomenal. So many times, I was confronted with my own sin and need for Jesus' grace, my own vast incompetence to raise a child. Yet each time this was met with hope--Jesus has not left us alone in this monumental task of shaping a child's heart. He is with us every step of the way, and equips us with all that we need to parent in a godly way. So hard, yet so encouraging.

On Saturday afternoon, I accompanied a friend to the peninsula to interview a caterer for her upcoming wedding. I haven't done much exploring on the peninsula, and it was a gorgeous, sunny afternoon {in spite of the fact that it was snowing across the water}, so it was the perfect road trip: good conversation, lots of laughter, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge {a first!}, Port Orchard {another first!}, a delicious lunch, and of course lots of wedding talk. We also stopped by the wedding site in Port Gamble, which has been one of my favorite spots ever since I first went there a few years ago. I can't resist--look at the church where they're going to get married!

Isn't the interior gorgeous?!

Sunday was full to the brim: first church, then brunch with Mike's family to celebrate his mom's birthday. I know it may not seem like much, but by the time we got home at 3:30 that afternoon, I was so tired that I took a two-hour nap. The nausea is getting better, but the days where I take a nap are so much better than the days where I try to power through!

And just because it may be our one-and-only snow this winter, a couple more photos I took this afternoon.

I love the lampposts scattered around the complex. They make me think of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe!

Monday, January 9, 2012

{ Dear Peanut }

Dear Peanut,

It's hard for me to believe, but guess what? We are about 1/3 of the way through this pregnancy! Thirteen weeks plus a couple days is about as close to 1/3 of the way through 40 weeks as you can get. I'm sure you're happy and cozy in there, given how comfortable you are making yourself in my body. According to BabyCenter, you are about three inches long--the size of a medium shrimp--and weigh nearly an ounce.

It's crazy to think how tiny you are, and yet how insistently you make me aware of your presence. I'm still nauseous quite a bit, but my appetite is great. {It's very convenient, actually; last night I justified eating two brownies by saying that one was for me, and one was for you.} I haven't had any strange cravings, though there are quite a few smells that turn my stomach, and photos of food make me queasy. Naps are pretty high on my priority list, too. My pants are starting to feel snug, and sometimes I have to unbutton the middle button on my winter coat. It's at my ribcage, not my belly, but it gets so tight! I guess everything is shifting up to make room for you. 

Last week Daddy and I heard your heartbeat. You kicked the Doppler probe, which made me laugh. It's amazing how tiny your heart is, given that all of you weighs less than an ounce, and yet it has all four chambers and pumps 160 times a minute.

Just in the last few days, I've started looking at nurseries on Pinterest, getting ideas for what I want to do in your room. Fair warning: You're going to be sharing it with Daddy's home office and a variety of other things that just don't fit anywhere else in our two-bedroom condo. So it has to be something that both you and Daddy will like...or at least tolerate. Here's an example of a nursery I adore, but which would probably not work as an office...

...and here's a color scheme that would be more conducive to an office/nursery arrangement:

{Don't you love the elephant hamper?!}

My first "official" purchase for you was an adorable, hand-painted, orange and white mini lampshade from One King's Lane, just a couple weeks after we found out about you. Tonight we are {hopefully} going to make our first big purchase in preparation for your arrival--a crib I found on craigslist. It's the exact one I've had in my mind for years when I imagined having a baby of my own. Hopefully it won't be a scam!

Well, Sweet Pea, I really ought to start cleaning out some space in that office so there will be room for your crib when we get home tonight. Stay safe and sound and comfy!


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

{ Ringin' in the New Year }

Confession: I don't even remember what we did for New Year's Eve last year. My best guess is that we stayed home and went to bed before midnight...that would explain why I can't remember it, right?

This year, we didn't have much planned 'til the day of. Our church rented out a bowling alley from 6 to 9pm and invited everyone to come. We hung out for a couple hours, then headed to downtown Seattle to meet up with some of Mike's friends. We went to a pub called The Blarney Stone, where the bartender made me a delicious non-alcoholic drink. When one of the girls we were with found out I was pregnant, she loudly exclaimed, "You have a human inside you?!"

Another confession: I think I'm missing some vital genetic component that most of my peers possess; namely, the ability to enjoy spending time in a crowded bar with live music so loud you can't hear anything unless someone yells directly in your ear. I just don't get why people go somewhere with friends and pay for the privilege of losing your hearing and being unable communicate with said friends. Like I said, I must be missing some important part of what it takes to be a well-adjusted twentysomething in the 21st century.

{Really, it wasn't that bad. It's just that I don't "get" these types of events!}

As midnight neared, we walked a few blocks to the skyscraper where one of the guys' uncle works. The plan was to watch the Space Needle fireworks from his office, which is on the top {36th} floor of the building. But when we got there, we found out that one of the building maintenance guys was there, and he offered to let us come up on the roof with his family!

It was so cool: This skyscraper is on the edge of the downtown core, so there were no other tall buildings obstructing our view. There was a little breeze, but no rain. There were lights...everywhere. Like tiny jewels studding the velvety black night surrounding us.

It's really hard to appreciate in the photo below, but all the boats on Lake Union were lit up and it was so pretty!

The fireworks show was great. Neither Mike nor I have ever gone downtown for the New Year or Fourth of July fireworks, so it was exciting to share this experience together, and from such a remarkable vantage point! It's a good thing we had this opportunity before having a baby, right? I have a feeling that trekking downtown to watch loud, scary fireworks is not exactly the sort of thing one does with small children!

Photos of fireworks are pretty much the most boring photos ever, so I'll stop now.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Monday, January 2, 2012

{ Christmas 2011 }

This year, Mike and I were able to spend Christmas in Idaho with my side of the family.
I was excited.
I haven't spent Christmas with my family since 2008, when Mike and I were dating, and Mike has never been over for Christmas. Visions of the best Christmases past danced through my head:
lots of snow, falling softly at regular intervals
lots of sledding and inner-tubing on the hills outside Mom and Dad's house
caroling with their church, complete with haybales piled in trucks for the adventuresome to ride on
endless piles of delicious food
card games, board games, and laughing 'til my sides hurt
lots of time with family and friends I don't see often

Some of those things did happen, and they were lovely. We did go caroling, which was a blast. We were positively stuffed with scrumptious food, far more frequently than we ought to have eaten {I am convinced that my mother's love language is feeding people}. We spent lots of time with relatives and played card games to an extent that probably shocked Mike, coming as he does from a non-game-playing family. Other things didn't materialize--like, there was no snow. At all. For the entire eight days we were there. Unheard of!! I was so, so disappointed about that. Some attitude readjustment was definitely in order on that front. But other than the unseasonably warm weather, we had a great trip!

My brother Obediah and I decorated the Christmas tree

Mike did lots of target practice with my brothers Joe and Emery and my Dad.
One morning Joe, Mike, and my cousin Andrew went coyote hunting. They didn't get anything, but Mike spotted the only coyote they saw that day. Seriously, give boys some guns and they are happy for hours!

After paying no attention for some time, the horses decided they were interested in all the shooting that was going on

Joe looks a little worried...maybe he should try swinging, that always helps me feel better!

Beautiful view from the yard

And we played games. Oh, how we played games!! Scum, Phase 10, and rummy were the favorites. One night, my parents' friends Ralph and Sharon came over, and the eight of us played Phase 10...for hours. And hours. It was the game that never ended. Ralph sang "short people songs" to Sharon. Mom got slightly hysterical. I got completely confused and wasted one hand trying to get the phase I'd already gotten the time before. Finally, at 11:30pm, 5.5 hours after we started, Mike won. He snuck up from behind {after being stuck for many hands on phase 1 and phase 6} to win by both phases and points. It was so much fun, but we all pretty much fell into bed!

Obediah on one of his horses, Teko

One really special part of the week was getting to meet my brother Emery's fiancee, Becky. They are getting married in April, but because of how far apart we all live, we hadn't met her before. She's a sweet lady and they are so cute together!

Emery and one of several cool flashlights Becky gave him. A screwdriver head fits in the face of this one!

Joe used a plasma cutter to make this metal plaque for my dad. See the Caterpillar on top and "Steve's Shop" below? Cool!

Dad really enjoyed all the books we gave him about logging/timber/sawmilling in the Pacific Northwest.

Becky and her sister crocheted an afghan for Emery--I don't think I've ever seen him this delighted!

Since he was a butcher for several years, Joe was in charge of the prime rib roast we had for dinner.
It. Was. Fantastic. {And I'm not much of a meat-eater!}

Later on Christmas Day, while us kids were playing rummy, Dad and Mom decided to go on a walk. On their way outside, I couldn't help noticing that Dad was wearing...two belts.

Me: "Um, Dad, did you know you're wearing two belts?"
Dad: "Yup!"
Me: "Uhhhh...why?"
Dad: "One's to hold my pants up, one is for the gun!"

Since there had been a wolf kill a few miles away the night before, I guess I can't give him too much crap for that!

Emery napping with his new afghan and Zoe, Becky's dog

Sadly, this is the only decent photo I have of Emery and Becky together. It was hardly short of a miracle that she convinced him to ride a horse! Apparently Em's not much of a horse person nowadays...

One nice part about unseasonably warm weather was that we went on lots of walks. Sometimes just me and Mike, sometimes the two of us and Mom and Dad.

I really didn't take enough photos this trip. For example, one night there was a big get-together at my cousin's house, which involved lots of games and food and laughter and general craziness. I took one photo. And it's not great. See for yourself:

L-R: Audrey, Christy {my cousin, and auntie to all these little girls}, Emily, Obediah, and Kate

Gorgeous sunrise

The house where I grew up

While up on the farm, Joe built what I think is called a "crazy bike." It's basically a tricycle with two crazy wheels on the back. Because there are no flat, paved surfaces at my parents' house, he couldn't try it out 'til we went to town on the day we left. It is definitely a crazy bike. If only all the spinning and drifting didn't look like it would make me nauseous...

I'm so thankful for my family, the chance to spend a long chunk of time with them, and how graciously and eagerly they've integrated Mike right in. I'm also really grateful for how completely Mike has taken them as his family, and for all the time he took off of work so that we could spend Christmas with them. {In case you haven't figured it out already, Mike is amazing.} It was a wonderful week!

P.S. Mom, I didn't post any pictures of you because none of them were very flattering...and I know how you feel about pictures like that. ;-)