Dealing with Newness

Dear Child of Mine,

Your realness seems to have brought about may unexpected changes to my life. Yes, already. I am still finding it hard to believe this is for real, and perhaps I’ve become jaded by our years of disappointments. I’m trying to hard to be excited, but for now I’m just thankful for the swarms of people being excited on my behalf.

Have I mentioned you’re going to be so loved, Child? You are! You have been prayed over, anointed, and desired by so many for so long. All those years ago when we started trying to conceive, I wanted to have a baby. I wanted to be a mom. It was purely a personal desire, one which was untainted by the pangs of infertility or the uncertainty of adoption.

All these years later, my focus has shifted in ways I never could have orchestrated on my own volition. By the grace of God you have been brought into our lives, and by the grace of God I believe you are going to be used to further His Kingdom. I am more excited about the holy anointing I believe to be on your little life than I am about becoming a mother. I truly believe that Creator God has ordained your life for a purpose, for this moment in time. I am so honored to get to carry you and parent you. Your Daddy and I are going to love you ’til you’re blue in the face and you’re so embarrassed by our public displays of affection. But in the end, we know whose you are. The Lord God is forming your body and preparing you to do His work. I can’t wait to watch your story unfold.

In the meantime, here’s what’s been happening in my life since your little heart started beating.

1. I am exhausted. I nap once or twice a day, even when getting over 8 hours of sleep each night. Apparently being a host for the creation of a human being takes a lot out of woman.

2. I have terrible acid reflux. My lifelong intestinal issues have probably eased me into this stage, but man, the burning and the regurgitation and the burping and the bloating.

Speaking of which….

3. I sort of look a little pregnant, but I’m pretty sure that’s mostly bloating. I live a relatively healthy life with a well-balanced diet. I love my fruits and vegetables, and get a good number of proteins and carbs in; I enjoy sweets and fried foods but normally with self-control. This pregnancy has thrown all balance out the window. There may or may not have been a day when I ate a cheeseburger and chips for lunch, most of a full-sized bag of Cheetos as a snack, and then had a Big Mac and medium fries for dinner. I never would have eaten like that in a million years. I don’t know if it’s hormones or cravings or some mental game, but it is messing with me.

4. The morning sickness has been totally tolerable. Again, perhaps it’s the years of nausea that makes morning sickness reasonable for me, but I’ve only had a few days of holy cow not fun. My stomach feels a little off most of the time, but I’ve learned to ignore it. My new habit includes a slice of peanut butter toast (on white storebought bread, not ever my thing…) first thing in the morning, and grazing or small meals every couple hours. Thank you to every woman ever who has recommended that new eating structure. (My waist line does not thank you, however.)

5. I find myself easily out of breath. This is totally frustrating to someone who typically speed walks ahead of the group. I now find myself lagging behind, huffing and puffing. Oh, and leading worship takes all the wind out of me. *whew* Apparently all this has something to do with increased blood and oxygen production, which makes sense.

I am finding myself anxious for the next time I’ll get to see you or hear your heartbeat, just convincing my brain that you really do exist.

Psalm 139:13 (The Message)

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.

Valentine’s Tradition


Dear Child,

Years ago, probably our sophomore year of college, your dad and I decided that pizza would be our Valentine’s tradition. Rather than adding another holiday to the list of expenses and extravagant expressions of love, we thought we’d have fun exploring the local pizza joints – a new restaurant every year. This has given us something wonderful and DELICIOUS to look forward to and we honestly thought it would be a really fun tradition to continue once YOU join us (whenever you decide to join us. I’m feeling particularly impatient atthisverymoment.)

We enjoy the hunt for a new restaurant, deciding together on the style of pizza (New York style, Chicago style, Detroit style), picking out the perfect toppings (lots o’ meat, savory garlic, something fancy-pants), and boxing up the leftovers.


Valentine’s is not the only time we eat pizza, though, don’t you fret.  Besides those bi-monthly-ish occasions when we splurge on a restaurant pie, every week or two, I make one from scratch. Sometimes I fail miserably – the crust isn’t cooked, I drop the whole pizza on the floor, the dough never rose. But most of the time, there’s crust, sauce, cheese pepperoni and garlic, and THAT makes us very happy.

You know you want a bite! Don’t worry, Child, we’ll save some for you!


Your Mama

An Eccles Easter

We were so blessed to have our Eccles Family with us for this holy weekend. They arrived in time for the Good Friday service (which was a wonderful time of remembrance and solemnity with our Ecumenical brothers and sisters), and we still had plenty of time for a late stew dinner and good conversation before bed. There really is nothing quite as lovely as conversation with our parents
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Saturday was a simply gorgeous spring day and we ventured out of the confines of our cozy home many times. We took a walk around the village while the Sour Cream Pound Cake was baking, admiring homes and wishing the canal was filled with its gentle waters rather than revealing the contents of its belly. 
After enjoying a light snack of Pacific Beach Peanut Butter (which I reviewed in yesterday’s post) and homemade crackers, we opted for an exploratory walk through the locally acclaimed Mount Albion Cemetery. It might sound strange to enjoy a cemetery so much, but you would not believe the beauty contained in this sprawling, terraced, park-like grounds. Not only is it intriguing and emotionally riveting to read the various epitaphs and calculate lifespans, but the walking path is just incredible (not to mention extremely aerobic.) 
By the time our walk was over, it was time to head to Medina for an tasty tour of Della’s Chocolates (we came home with Dark Chocolate Toffee & Coconut Clusters and Dark Chocolate Peanut & Raisin Clusters – a grown up kind of Easter treat!) and Rosenkrans Pharmacy and Gift Shop (where I couldn’t resist buying 2 bags of Easter M&Ms on sale for $1.99 each!) Finally we were more than ready for a sit down, early dinner at Avanti’s! (They don’t open until 3:30 on Saturdays, 4:00 on weekdays.) The boys split some spicy Buffalo wings and a Cheese Steak Hoagie Pizza. I ordered a delicious salad with apples, walnuts and crumbled Bleu cheese (my dad would be impressed with my love of that stinky cheese), and mom enjoyed an amazing-looking burger and fries. (I shared a few of her fries and a Buffalo wing, so don’t think I was too ultra healthy. :))
Sunday morning we enjoyed a celebratory worship service together at AFMC and rounded our time out with another filling meal. I opted to stray from the traditional ham or turkey dinner and made a pot roast with carrots, mashed sweet potatoes, biscuits, green beans, and that delectable sour cream pound cake with ice cream and strawberries for dessert. Yes, we were full! 
As we waved goodbye to our dear family, we opened the windows for a bit of fresh, 60 degree air and settled in to enjoy a true Sabbath Sunday together

How I Fell in Love with Oatmeal

Oatmeal seems to be one of those highly divisive foods–people either love it or they hate it. I think it’s really about the consistency or texture. It could added to the list of foods like tapioca pudding (or any pudding), yogurt, and stuffing that has the potential to trigger one’s gag reflexes. At least that’s what it used to do to me. 
(side note–I have grown to love yogurt and have moments of really loving pudding. But tapioca pudding or stuffing are still on my “most hated” foods list.)
When my sister and I were kids, she was all but obsessed with “ointmeal”–her 3 year old name for oatmeal. She loved the little Quaker Instant Oatmeal packs of peaches and cream, strawberries and cream, and brown sugar. I would enjoy the smell of these warm breakfast cereals from across the table, begin to be convinced that I would love the stuff, give it a taste, and gag my way to the garbage can. Yuck! 
I stayed away from oatmeal of any kind until college. The dining commons produced this extremely thick oatmeal with a side of brown sugar that I just HAD to try. And you’ll never guess–I LIKED IT! I quickly realized my previous issues with the oatmeal was the runny consistency. Thanks to the DC, I realized the oatmeal could be made to your desired thickness. 
I was still into the heavily-sugared varieties (included the Brown Sugar instant packets), until senior year of college. On my meager budget, I decided it would be much more frugal to buy a canister of dry, rolled oats rather than the pre-made packages. Thanks to my need to save money, I gradually began to wean myself off of the tons-of-added-sweetener bowls of oatmeal. 


A year or two into marriage, I really began to experience oatmeal to its fullest potential. Now, it’s my most favorite breakfast! I combined old fashioned rolled oats with water or milk, a generous sprinkle of cinnamon and chopped fresh fruits like apples or bananas. If I’m feeling especially indulgent, a swirl of peanut butter or a sprinkle of chopped nuts tops it off to perfection. 
And so, my friends, the moral of the story is Give Good Foods a Second (and hundredth) Chance. Tastebuds are always changing and it might become a favorite in the future. 
The end. 
How do YOU feel about oatmeal??

My Favorite Relaxing, Productive Saturday

Ahhhhhhhh. The Saturday Morning I’ve been longing for, but hadn’t been able to grasp hold of in so many months. 
Sleeping in until my internal clock wakes me up. No alarms. (This meant 7:17am.)
Lazily rolling out of bed, still deciding what the day might hold. 
Opening the curtains to let the dreary daylight shine in. 
Doing 10 minutes of easy yoga stretches just to get the kinks out. 
No working out. (who, me?)
Showering even before my husband wakes. 
Deciding it’s a perfect day for canning. Driving to Sheryl’s to retrieve my canning supplies at 8:45am. 
Wanting doughnuts for breakfast and giving in (for the first time in at least a year.)
Bringing home peanut crunch and coconut crunch doughnuts.
Cutting each down the middle to share with my husband. 
Enjoying doughnuts, sipping, coffee and playing Settlers together at the breakfast table.
Starting the canning process before 10am. 
Process 16 quarts of tomatoes to yield 6 pints of salsa and 8 pints of marinara. 
Having only one can not seal. 
Pulling a cardigan over my shoulders because suddenly it’s Fall

The One with the {10} Likes of Late

Top Ten {things I’ve been loving lately}

1} Naturally More Peanut Butter. it’s seriously the best peanut butter ever. It’s much lower in calories and fat calories, higher in protein, lower in sugar, and straight up delicious.

2} Fresh, fragrant peaches.

3} Grilled sandwiches. As in, sandwiches cooked on the grill. I’m addicted to their crispness and depth of flavor.

4} Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips. I may or may not have bought a bag while in Seattle due to a chocolate craving. I won’t tell you if the bag’s gone yet or not.

5} Homemade strawberry jam. There’s something extra satisfying about picking, processing, and canning your own jam. Plus, you need something to go with all that peanut butter.

6} Keeping a beautiful stock pile of birthday cards. Such a simple expression of love can mean so much.

7} Our new kitty! (I just remembered I hadn’t introduced her to you all yet! My apologies! She kinda-sorta doesn’t have a name yet. We have thrown around 4 or 5 good options, but nothing has stuck, try as we might. I’ve just been calling her “kitty.” I’m leaning toward Akeelah because it’s a prettier version of her original name “Aki.” We’ve joked about Napster because napping is pretty much her thing. And then there’s Phoebe or Alice. *sigh* poor cat.


8} Anyone else noticing that “food” largely occupies my list of likes?

9} Reading Reddit’s frugal page. It’s amazing the tips and tricks you can pick up from others.

10} and just because I’m out of awesome things I’ve enjoying lately, here’s something just plain awesome (and pretty darn funny too).  Click HERE for Parenting Tip.

The One with the 10 Fave Snack Duos

It’s no secret I love food. I mean, I have an entire blog designated to recipe after recipe. Today I thought I’d simply share my favorite food combinations. There are just some snacks that are meant to pair up. I can hardly eat pretzels without popping in a few M&Ms. I mean really
You have probably thought of all of these. It’s not rocket science. But these are my top 10 favorite food combinations–snacks I eat on a regular basis. I hope you like ’em. 
1) Apples and peanut butter. All time forever-kind-of-favorite. Right now, I’m really into Golden Delicious apples and Krema Natural Peanut Butter.
2) Homemade Granola and Yogurt (1/3 low fat vanilla & 2/3 plain)
3) Chocolate chips & pretzels (semi sweet chocolate plus mini twists, please). I’m a sweet and salty LOVER. 
4) Raisins and Unsalted Dry Roasted Peanuts. This is a nice alternative to my chocolate chip & pretzel combination. There’s the sweetness of the raisins and the natural-saltiness of the peanuts (even the unsalted kind have that “salty” sense to them) 
5) Hot Cocoa and loads of mini marshmallows (and I don’t have to have fancy-pants cocoa. The little mix packets are fine by me.) 
6) Fresh Bread and (real) Butter. I mean, come ON. There is a reason this is one an age-old staple. NOTHING beats homemade bread and butter. Correction–buttah
7) Old Fashioned Oatmeal and banana. In fact, I think I shared this recipe in my top ten last week. There’s a reason for that. It’s gooood. 
8) Gingersnaps and hot tea. I am a grandma sometimes, I know. But I totally get by my grandma was always eating those crazy-hard cookies with her hot tea. It’s perfection. 
9) Peanut Butter Toast with Milk. I have always been a sucker for the melty peanut butter action that happens atop freshly toasted bread. Dip that sucker in some milk and beauty happens. 
10) Popcorn and Diet Coke. These two go together like peanut butter and jelly (which, oddly enough, I did not mention in this list.) 
yep, I’m linking up with Oh! Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday again! 

The One with 10 Wintertime Recipes

Top {Ten} Favorite Winter Recipes
It’s that time of week again! Top Ten Tuesday! And this Tuesday I have decided to share with you all some of my most favorite cold-weather recipes. Bon appetit
1) Rich Hot Cocoa. If I didn’t know how caloric this drink was, I would make it every single day. It’s that good.
2) Banana Nut Oatmeal. This may or may not have been our breakfast for the past 2 weeks. And we’re not even tired it. (Here’s a secret–we like to use a Tbsp or two of peanut butter to add to the goodness. And I haven’t had walnuts, so I just skip that part.)
3) Fresh Homemade Whole Wheat Bread. Nothing beats this stuff. We could probably devour the loaf and call it a meal. But I have some sense of rational thought and typically try to serve it alongside a well-balanced meal. 
4) Slow cooker Chicken Noodle Soup. Cheap, fast, and easy. And ridiculously comforting. 
5) Creamy Butternut Squash and Chicken Soup. Not your typical soup, but so creamy and so good-for-you, you won’t stop at just one bowl. I know I didn’t. 
6) Leftover Ham and Potato Soup. (Are you sensing a theme here? We love soup.)
7) Sweet Heat Chili. Did someone say “chili”? I am so there! 
8) Challah Bread (Jewish Egg Bread). This stuff is too good to never experience for yourself. So delicious, it’s almost dessert (and that’s saying something coming from Miss Sweet Tooth.)
9) Homemade Pizza Dough (which automatically means PIZZA FOR DINNER, right?!) We have this every single Friday night for dinner–whether it’s 100 degrees or 10. You should too. :) 
10) Zesty Oven Roasted Potato Wedges. These are our favorite accompaniment to our almost-weekly burger night. De-double-lish. 
Subscribe. why don’t ya? :)

The One with the Ultimate Popping Corn

During the week of Christmas we were excited to host Kevin’s mom, dad, brother, and grandparents for a few days. It was a tight squeeze at times in our little house, but we all had a lovely time together. We perused downtown boutiques, checking out all the historic spots along the way, celebrated together in a Christmas Eve and Christmas Day worship service, enjoyed a party with lots of church friends, ate a fantastic pot roast dinner at Randy & Sheryl’s and watched Courageous with them, toured the local schoolhouse-turned-Bed-and-Breakfast and as well as the college campus where Kevin takes seminary classes, and played a rousing game of Apples to Apples. 
In the midst of all our goings and comings, we found time to sit and relax. Some read, some napped, some computer-gamed, some crocheted. And two or three times we watched a movie or tv show together, including Love Comes Softly (one of the movies mom received for Christmas), Mrs. Miracle (your typical Hallmark movie), and an episode of Monk and MacGyver. Yeah, we’re that awesome. 
During the showing of Love Comes Softly (which is way more intense to watch now that I’m married and understand these things…sheesh, Janette Oke), I decided to start a batch of popcorn. Now, if you know me, you know I love popcorn. And in the past couple years I’ve really fallen head over heels for the homemade variety. You know–kernels, oil, pot, salt, done. A few times a week (not even kidding) I heat up our heavy-bottomed pot and whip up a batch of my favorite snack. No problem. I don’t have to shake the pot or watch it like a hawk. This stock pot does popcorn right, all by itself. 
So I started the popcorn and left the room to watch the movie with the family. 
After the popcorn was popping away, Dad asked me if I needed to check on it. I said, “No” knowing my awesome pot would be just fine. I did think it sounded a little louder than usual, but we just turned up the tv and ignored it. 
When the popping began to die down, I went out to take it off the heat. What I saw made me simultaneously want to laugh and cry. There was popcorn popping and flying ALL OVER my kitchen. I had forgotten the lid to the pot and those beautifully popped kernels (along with all the oil!) was EVERYWHERE. I started cracking up laughing and the family quickly rushed to the scene, pulling out cameras and ipods to capture the moment. It was pretty memorable. 
For the next 20 minutes, I was sweeping up popcorn, picking it out of baskets and shelves, having Kevin move the stove so I could get the hidden kernels, and scrubbing up grease on my hands and knees. I made another batch of popcorn and settled in for the end of the movie. All 5 minutes of it. :) 
I’m hoping I’m not alone in kitchen mishaps. Anyone else? (This same weekend I also burned chex mix, forgot the timer on the rolls, and let potatoes boil over.)
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The One with Cookies & Deliveries

friday favorite things | finding joy 
This week has had its ups and downs, but today I’m finding my {favorite} things about the past few days. Looking for the thanksgiving always brings joy.  
Last weekend I delivered 5 dozen Vanilla Almond Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing to a friend who had ordered them from me. Yesterday I heard she thought they were the most delicious, most beautiful sugar cookies she’d ever had (or seen.) I’m was thrilled! I do love the uniqueness of the vanilla almond flavor. It takes the simple sugar cookie to the next level. 
With a freezer over flowing with cookies, I decided it would be nice to deliver a few sweets to our neighbors. Since we just moved in 4 months ago, we still haven’t met many families on our block (shame on us). But cookies always bring people together, right? And yes, I decided to be all…well…”Melanie” about the packaging and give a little COOKIE CODE inside the boxes. :) I’m certain it will be appreciated. And probably made fun of. Most mostly appreciated. 
I even made festive labels and tied the boxes with ribbon. SO CUTE. I add both of our business cards so our neighbors wouldn’t have to try to remember our names, and so they would have our contact info if they ever needed to get a hold of us. (And hey, if they decide to come to our church or take piano lessons from me, I wouldn’t be bummed. :D) I hope that was ok.  

And just because I love ’em, and I thought you might too–
Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies


and their new adventurous counterpart–
Rolo Blossom Cookies.


What are your {favorite} things this Friday? 

linked up with Rachel @ Finding Joy