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Friday, August 31, 2007

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Okay, I know "whole wheat" and "chocolate chip cookies" don't sound like they should go together, but I promise you that these are the best chocolate chip cookies! Just try them and see for yourself.

1 1/2 cups butter
1/2 cup natural chunky peanut butter
2 cups sugar
2 cups brown sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
4 eggs
2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. baking soda
4 cups whole wheat flour
4 cups oats
3 cups chocolate chips

Mix everything together. Bake at 350 for about 17 minutes, depending on the size you make them. Serve with cold milk! :)

Tomato Basil Parmesan Pasta

I have to be honest that I was really shocked that Marc loved this pasta so much to take a picture of it and blog about it. It is so easy that it hardly deserves this kind of attention. I feel like I should pat some flour on my face and pretend I've been slaving away!

It's kind of hard to write out recipes of Italian dishes. In Italy measuring cups and spoons do not exist. When I would ask an Italian how they made a certain dish, they would literally say, "two handfuls of flour," or "a few large pinches of salt," or "just mix it until it gets a beautiful color." So, pardon me for the recipe below, because I really don't measure any Italian dishes I make. You might have to make it over and over until it comes out right. :)

Tomato Basil Parmesan Pasta

Barilla Pasta, cooked al dente
5-8 Roma tomatoes
2-4 Tbls. extra virgin olive oil
2-4 Tbls. basil and oregano, each
1/3 cup tomato sauce
Shredded Parmesan cheese

While the pasta is cooking, dice the tomatoes in small chunks. Combine the tomatoes, olive oil, and the spices, and cook on medium heat in a skillet, until the tomatoes look like they're well-cooked (about 10 minutes or so). Then, if you need the extra sauce, add it, but not more than 1/3 cup. When the pasta is done, drain and add it to the sauce. Mix it well. Top with parmesan cheese (NOT the Kraft powder stuff! Use the shredded more real stuff). Serves about 4. Easy Peasy and so yummy people will want to blog about it! :)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Megan's Pasta is So Good

So Megan came home for lunch today and decided to make some pasta. I didn't watch the process, so I don't have any recipes for you, but I remember hearing the words "tomatoes from our garden" and "italians don't use too much sauce" or something like that. All I can really say with any surety is: This was unlike any american pasta I've tasted. And that is a GOOD thing.

First off, I've had real Italian food before, since I lived in Italy for two months. Which is to say, Megan invited a friend from Italy to come stay with us for two months, and the two of them transformed this house into Italy. Every day I felt complete culture shock from sunup to sundown, as two Italian-speakers talked back and forth and made dishes I've never had before. Some I liked, and some I thought I would need to Get Back to You on, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, today's pasta was the good stuff. Even our cats knew a good thing when they smelled it:

Thanks Megan!


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Back to School

Isn't Marc just the sweetest thing there ever was?! It has been so hard to know how to follow a post like his below. He is so wonderful! And, just for the record choosing him as my husband was the best choice I ever made. Hands down. He is my favorite blessing!

This last week has been really busy. On top of his busy work schedule, Marc started teaching his Computer Graphics class at the college again, as the semester has started over. Marc is a natural teacher, able to explain the most complex ideas and concepts in such easy terms that anyone can learn what he teaches. He makes teaching look easy and makes learning fun. I haven't been able to attend his class yet, because he isn't sure if it's okay for me to be there... but, I'm coming up with a disguise. :)

With the start of a new semester, I've also started my classes, too... as a student! Yes, I have taken the plunge. I finished my B.A. four years ago and have only now just decided the time was right to go back to school. I'm working towards getting my teaching credentials, which will only take three semesters. I'm looking forward to learning new things, as well as the end result of being able to get involved in education.

I have a few friends who home-school their children, and I've always thought that I'd enjoy doing the same thing when we have kids. But, I've thought that rather than taking them out of the school system, I'd really like to get into the system myself and try to make a positive impact. Maybe it's naive of me... and soon enough I'll find out. Luckily, we still have a lot of time to figure out what we'll do with the schooling of our kids, but I'm excited about being a "teacher," in whatever setting I end up doing it in.

Along with a new semester, early-morning seminary is here again. Last year I team-taught with another teacher, but this year I'm flying solo. And, instead of starting at 6:10am, we're starting at 6:00am. That's right A.M. You wouldn't think that extra 10 minutes would be that big of a deal. Fortunately Marc is very supportive. I recognize that he could choose to support me by rolling me off the bed to get me up or by dumping water on my head. Instead, he wakes up with me at 5:30am and helps get me going. In the winter months he even goes outside and warms up the car for me. Who does that kind of thing? Well, Marc does.

And, in between school, work, and seminary, the soccer season is off to a great start! Our little team of 13 girls is making great progress and preparing for their first game in a week and a half. Hopefully they'll do awesome despite the lack of coaching skills they've found in their coaches!

Our schedules are full... but, they're full of things that we enjoy. We are lucky to have so many opportunities to participate in life. Hopefully we'll still be able to find time to check back in here just as often as before. We've enjoyed the connections we've strengthened with friends and family through the blog-o-spere, as well as the new friends we've met. So, keep coming back... we're still here. :)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Fifth Anniversary

Megan and I celebrated our fifth anniversary yesterday. It's amazing to me that we've been married for only five years, yet we've gone through so many wonderful experiences together.

One day when I was in college, I received a letter from my Dad in which he listed several of the girls he dated before he met my Mom. Reading his short descriptions, I gather he would have been a different man had he married any of them. It was clear that he knew when he found a good match in my Mother.

When I met Megan in 2001, things unfolded the same way. My life seemed to be crumbling like the World Trade Center, and from within my thick dust cloud of emotions I found it hard to trust that Megan was...well, real. She helped lift me out of my trials and I hesitated to ask her to marry me because I was sure that no positive experience that significant could last a lifetime.

And of course, it has lasted. Thank you, Megan, for marrying me. I love you.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Lists and more lists

By default, I am a big "lists" person. I make lists for everything. "Grocery" lists, "to do" lists, "painting idea" lists, "books to read" lists, "baby names I like" lists, "places to visit before I die" lists, etc.... Sometimes I even make lists of things I need to make lists of. Like, today for example, I made a "to do" list and on it I put "make a list of school supplies to get."

Sometimes lists put me in "A to B" mode. You know, when you're so focused on just getting it done, that you don't put any thought into the process you go through to get it done. In some cases, that mentality is forgivable. But, what if life was full of moments of just going from A to B? Isn't life meant to be enjoyed along the way?

I'm learning that making lists is okay, but only as long as I don't complete the more important tasks just to check them off. I want to go through experiences in a way that they go through me; that the experience itself changes my life forever. I want to be changed by the places I visit, the books I read, the experiences I have day after day. I don't want to just go through life to get it done. I want to use life's experiences to take me through a refining process that will help me become a better person. Isn't that the real purpose of life, afterall?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Prayer

I really love this song - The Prayer. The first version I heard was Josh Groban and Charlotte Church. I fell in love with the lyrics as well as the music. It is a beautiful song.

Just the other day I came across this version of Josh Groban with Celine Dion.

I can't decide which version I like best. I just know I love the song's message. I'll come back tomorrow and put in the Italian translations, for anyone that is interested. Anyway, please enjoy listening to the music in the meantime.

The Prayer

I pray you’ll be our eyes
And watch us where we go
And help us to be wise
In times when we don’t know

Let this be our prayer
As we go our way
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe
La luce che tu dai (The light that you give)

I pray we’ll find your light
Nel cuore restero (Will stay in our heart)
And hold it in our hearts
A ricordarci che (To remind us that)
When stars go out each night
L’eterna stella sei (You are the eternal star)
Nella mia preghiera (In my prayer)
Let this be our prayer
Quanta fede c’e (There is so much faith)
When shadows fill our day
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace

Give us faith so we’ll be safe.
Sognamo un mondo senza piu violenza (We dream of a world without violence)

Un mondo di giustizia e di speranza (A world of justice and hope)
Ognuno dia la mano al suo vicino (Everyone gives a hand to his neighbor)
Simbolo di pace e di fraternita (Symbol of peace and brotherhood)

La forza che ci dai (The strength that you give us)
We ask that life be kind
E’il desiderio che (Is the desire that)
And watch us from above
Ognuno trovi amore (Everyone finds love)
We hope each soul will find
Intorno e dentro a se (Around and inside of self)
Another soul to love

Let this be our prayer
Let this be our prayer
Just like every child
Just like every child

Needs to find a place,
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe
E la fede che (And the faith that)
Hai acceso in noi (You have lit up in us)
Sento che ci salvera (I feel that will save us)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Saturday Morning Garage Sales

Every once in a while on Saturday mornings we like to get up early and take walks around our neighborhood, and check out garage sales. We've found some pretty good deals in the past, like the Dr. Seuss books we found - five for a dollar! So, since we didn't have a lot going on this morning, we thought we'd go on another one of our garage sale walks.

The first house was the usual experience - we took a casual walk through the driveway and knew right away there wasn't much to look at. So, we continued our walk down the street and came across the second sale... and right away we found this:

A jogging stroller! (As you can see, Einstein and Watson love it already.) We are slowly adding to our baby items, as we find things that we just can't pass up... and this was one of those things. We've looked around and priced some jogging strollers, and after a little bit of bargaining this was too good to pass up - $35! We brought it home and put it through a power wash in our backyard, pumped the tires up with air and it really looks just like new. The lady we bought it from only used it a couple of times and it has just been sitting in her garage. We're happy to have it now safely stored away with some of the other baby items we've accumulated.

When we first started the adoption process, we had decided that we weren't going to buy any baby stuff until we knew for sure that a baby was coming to us. But, after a talk I had with my Mom one Sunday morning, when she encouraged me to go out and start getting things that we'll need, we have slowly started to get things.

I guess it's one of the ways we express our excitement and show our hope that a child will come to our family. And, we really are excited and hopeful! We talk all the time about how much our life will change when we have a child... and we can hardly wait! Whenever and however it all comes together, we know that it will be the result of the workings of the great miracle-worker. The Lord has blessed us so much and we are so grateful for His guiding hand in our life.

Hopefully we'll soon have a third little person join us on our Saturday morning garage sale walks, and we'll get to use our new jogging stroller!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Einstein playing fetch

Yes, we have a very smart kitty. We taught him to play fetch, not really knowing he'd catch onto the idea. Check this out!

As you can see, Einstein is quite talented if a bit annoyed by the concept of "giving up what I just worked hard to get". We shot this video after watching him go back and forth about twenty times though, so overall it was a memorable performance. He's a good fetcher. :-)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Life is good...

So, it seems that we're having a little bit of a blogging slump. I'm sitting here trying to figure out what to blog about. I've considered divulging all the details of my emotional day today, but then I'd be really embarrassed. I could brag about how talented our cats are - how we've taught them to play "fetch," and how they always come running to the door to greet us when we come home, but then maybe all cats do that and I'd look foolish for thinking it was anything to brag about. Or, I could tell you all about soccer practice tonight, and our pre-teen girls tearing up the field in a scrimmage against some Latino teenage boys, who were waiting to use our field, but maybe that wouldn't be very interesting.

So, maybe I'll just say that I'm grateful to have a husband who is very sweet and understanding when I have emotional moments; that my heart melts when I open the front door and hear the jingling bells around our kittens' necks as they come running to greet me; and that I absolutely love coaching a soccer team full of girls who have a contagious energy and love for life. (Oh, and they did awesome tonight in their scrimmage, even though they technically lost.)

So, yeah, life is good. There are blessings we still seek, but I sure have a lot to be grateful for.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

CBS Adoption Segment

Yesterday, CBS News showed an adoption story (article and video; video is a bit easier to follow) that really moved me. I think it's so neat that even just one man can have such an impact. The story helped renew my hope in our adoption process. For us, adoption has so much to do with sharing our lives, giving what we can give to others.

I've been thinking about that story all day today. We went to the beach and I was laying under our beach umbrella, wondering what our own adoption will be like. Sometimes media has the ability to clarify our inner feelings, to solidify some inner search, in a way that stimulates the imagination for days.

By the way, the beach was wonderful - the weather was perfect...sunny and warm at times, overcast and moody at others. You could run around on the beach barefoot while it was overcast, but as soon as the sun came out, the hot sand quickly became too much for bare feet.

Oh, and Meg has a nice sunburn now :)


Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Fresh Peach Pie

Okay, first I have to say that I am not a big fan of pie. If there is ever a choice for dessert, ice cream is my choice 99% of the time. Of all choices, pie is almost always my last preference. So, you may be wondering why I'm posting about Peach Pie. Well, I'll tell you.

Last month when we went to Utah, my sister Dawnette made a peach pie. I politely accepted a slice since there was a large scoop of vanilla ice cream included. I was in for a pleasant surprise. Not only did I completely savor that slice of pie, I helped myself to a second slice! That's how delicious this pie was! A non-pie-eater was converted to pie from this one experience.

So, this week I decided I had to have the recipe and make this pie for Marc and me. It really is as delicious as it sounds. I think I realized the difference with this pie is that it's made with fresh peaches. Most pies I've eaten have been made with canned fruit or canned pie filling. The fresh ingredients really do make a big difference. Here's the recipe:

Pie Crust

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
About 4 oz. oil
About 3 oz. milk

Mix flour and salt. Using some measuring device that measures ounces (like a baby bottle), fill the oil up to a little past the 4 oz. mark, then add the milk to the oil until just past the 7 oz. mark. With a fork, mix the milk/oil mixture together with the flour. Divide dough in half and roll dough out between two pieces of wax paper. Place one in a pie plate, and set the other aside to go on top.

Peach Filling
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup Kraft Minute Tapioca
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
5 cups peeled, sliced fresh peaches (you can also use nectarines)
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 Tbls. diced butter (optional)

Mix the first five ingredients together. Pour peaches over the pie crust in the pie plate. Scatter the diced butter over the top of the peaches. Lay the other pie crust over the top of the peaches and pinches the edges so they look pretty. Wrap the edges all the way around the pie with tin foil to keep the crust from burning. Bake at 425 degrees for 35-45 minutes. ENJOY!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Carpe Diem

When I was in high school I was part of the "Carpe Diem Club," which was basically just an excuse to have weekend game nights and movie parties. We had so much fun, people would have thought we were high on something other than life. Our group really knew how to seize the day!

I came home from Church today feeling that same desire to "seize the day." I'll admit that not all Sundays have that same result. Especially Fast Sunday. Today was exceptional - the meetings went along just like they do on every other Sunday, but the difference I think came in my own attitude and desire to get something more from the meetings.

By the time I came home, I will filled with a deep joy and excitement to be alive. Life is so short and fragile - at any given moment our experience here could be over. And, while I am very curious what the next life will be like, I know there may come a point later that I'll look back on my time now and wish I had enjoyed it more.

So, I'm going to steal the motto that inspired a club from high school and reinvent my life. There are so many things I want to do and new things I want to learn... and really there's no time like the present, right?

To begin my Carpe Diem quest, I've decided to start coaching a soccer team of girls, ranging from 12-15 years old. I love the game, but I've never coached. I should be scared out of my mind, but I'm really excited.

So, what are you doing to seize the day? What have you been wanting to do and just haven't yet out of fear, or lack of time, or lack of motivation? Come on, join the quest!

Carpe Diem!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Bourne Ultimatum

Yep, it was good. Good, good.

I was barely able to watch the Bourne Ultimatum all the way through tonight, though: my neck kept hurting. I changed my posture, rolled my head around a bit, but nothing helped. Then I realized, it's not me. It's the movie.

Sometimes the picture was shaking so much, it was like this film was shot by five cameramen, all fighting for control of the same camera.

Actually, the film really was great. It answered a lot of questions for me. Like, "what does Matt Damon look like from a shaky camera shot out of a third-story window with wire mesh glass?" and "who is Jason Bourne's favorite morning talk show host?" Hm, OK. I'm joking about that last one.

But it's a funny thing. I started to ask other questions. I started to wonder about Bourne's personal life and hobbies. Like, does he prefer a specific brand of frozen burrito? Most guys do. Favorite animated movie? Etc.

There's something about a man watching a Bourne film that clicks on a neurological level, too. A man suddenly remembers all of his long-forgotten Special Forces skills after watching Bourne at work. Megan noticed an immediate improvement in my evasive driving skills on the way home from the theater. Also, I've decided to spend the night on the roof with a walkie-talkie, just in case.

*Crackle* We shouldn't have any problems tonight, honey. *Crackle*

Jason Marc out.

P.S. You didn't hear me say this, but oddly enough, Megan was more excited to see the movie than I was. I think we all deserve an explanation. :)