word clouds.

I love word clouds - I think they're the coolest thing. Two years ago, I gave Nick a mug with a word cloud from his blog. Loved that gift.

Wordle.net is the same idea - except you can customize font, color, orientation - all kinds of fun things.

Here's mine:

Apparently, I've been talking a lot about food lately.

And this is what Nick has been talking about for the last month (Philippians):

For the record, I didn't do anything special to this - just pasted in the text.


Yesterday was our first baptism service at the Bridge Church.

There's something absolutely wonderful to me about a baptism service outside of a sanctuary. I was baptized when I was 11 in an in-ground pool, because the church my family was attending didn't have its own building. The church I attended before moving here from Frederick, Mountain View, used Lake Linganore.

Last night, as we all stood around the poool and watched our friends make a public declaration of faith, there was a sense of casual celebration that fit us, and I think, honored God.

Then we had a party - we talked and ate and spent time together and celebrated. It was a good way to begin the week.

how to eat healthier without counting calories.

As I've mentioned before, I got home recently from visiting my family. As we were very busy cleaning out their house to get ready for a move, I did a really lousy job counting calories. Which is to say that I really didn't count them, at all.

But, I still know that I ate well and made healthy choices, because I followed my rules. I think counting something (calories, Weight Watchers points, whatever) is the best way to lose weight, but when I can't, these rules are definitely working well for me. I kept losing, even while I was there, and if you know my family, you know that in itself is a minor miracle.

So, all that said, here are my food guidelines:

  • Never drink your calories. - The only exception to this, for me, is smoothies - and I consider those a treat, like dessert. Or I have one in the place of breakfast. And whether I'm eating out or making one at home, I opt for low-fat, no-sugar-added choices.

  • No fried foods - I actually thought this would be hard to do, but it hasn't been. Honestly, right now - the thought of something greasy and deep-fried makes me feel a little sick.

  • Think twice about chocolate, candy, and dessert - And then think again, because if I'm going to waste calories on it, I better really want it and I better really enjoy it.

  • Use low-fat or fat-free options whenever possible - I don't drink milk but cook with skim, I use fat-free butter spray, I eat low-fat cheese and fat-free yogurt, and I buy baked or reduced-fat chips and crackers.

  • Use whole-wheat options whenever possible - I eat lite whole wheat bread and pasta. The calorie and fat content is often similar to the white equivalent, but you're getting a lot more fiber and protein for it.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the choices that I'm making, but when I don't have the time to really count calories, they're working for me.


For more great ideas, visit Rocks in My Dryer for Works for Me Wednesday.

bruschetta chicken.

I love this chicken recipe - its become one of my go-to favorites.

I should mention this is my personal adaptation of Kraft Food's Grilled Bruschetta Chicken recipe.

Bruschetta Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
fat-free Italian dressing (or other marinade)
1 can diced tomatoes
mozzarella cheese

Marinate chicken in dressing or other marinade for at least 30 minutes. Broil chicken breasts, 20-30 minutes, turning halfway through, making sure to completely cook chicken.

Meanwhile, drain tomatoes and mix with mozzarella cheese and basil, to taste. Add mixture to the top of the chicken during the last 5 minutes of cooking time.

Note: In addition to fat-free Italian dressing, I've also used McCormick's tomato, garlic and basil marinade mix, and its really good, too.

For more healthy recipes, visit Honey I Shrank Myself for Watchin' What We Eat Wednesday. This week's theme is beverages, but I make it a rule never to drink my calories unless I'm enjoying them as dessert, in which case they're in a smoothie. And I never follow a recipe for that - I just dump crushed ice and whatever fruit and yogurt I have on hand into a blender.


Someday, I will actually remember to blog when I visit my family. As that didn't happen on this trip, I have lots of things to say all at once:

  • My parents are selling their house and moving to an apartment or condo, so we did lots of cleaning out and organizing. We stuffed Mom's CRV with things to be donated to Goodwill and I lost count of the number of trash bags we filled. And I came home with a few (very few!) nice things, including a brand-new, still-in-the-box, really nice pan that someone will be getting as a wedding or shower present.

  • Vince and Katie are trying to buy a house, probably a fixer-upper. Vince wants to flip houses someday - I told him (jokingly) that we should go into business together. Kelli wants in on the action, and they somehow decided that they should make the decisions while I put up the cash. Right. Because I typically have no opinions. Especially about how people spend my money.

  • Dad is donating an old pizza oven to Summit Grove Camp, so we needed to load it into Dad's truck to be transported up there. It looks kind of like this, only half that size and with just one drawer. It weighs a ton. And I helped Vince lift it from the ground to the bed of Dad's truck. Its because I've been working out. And I now understand why people grunt while lifting weights, because did I mention that thing weighed a ton?

  • I bought a Dyson, and I think I just fell in love with a vacuum. After 30 seconds of using it, I knew I would have paid $400 for it - I liked it that much. Except I only paid $200 for mine.

dc / frederick.

Since I needed to drive to DC for a work meeting Wednesday and Thursday, I decided to spend the rest of the weekend with my family in Frederick. I'm going to attend my cousin's baby shower, hang out with my sisters, help my parents clean out closets, and try to advance my position as Jake's favorite aunt.

Last week's yard sale wasn't incredibly successful - I got a couple small things, but nothing I'm really excited about. Skeeter did really great, though (I took him with me to work on socializing him).


Notice the time on this post.

That's right, folks. Its 7am, and I'm awake.

Those of you who know me well might assume that I've just stayed up really, really late, because although that would be insane, its rare that I'm awake and killing time because I got up early.

I don't get up early. In fact, I usually get up late.

But, I'm going to yard sales with friends this morning, so I'm working off their time table. Except I was planning to be at their house at 7, and I would have actually been on time, but they called at 6:50 and said to get there between 7:15 and 7:30.

I hope I find some great stuff. Because there had better be some good returns on getting out of bed anytime before 10am on a Saturday.

easy snack food.

Believe it or not, I do actually make complicated recipes. I love cooking and baking, and I really love doing it for other people, and I love to try new stuff. Maybe its just that most of the healthiest recipes I know are also the simplest. Regardless, this is a really simple snack food that I love.

Homemade Tortilla Chips and Creamy Salsa Dip

cooking spray
8 oz cream cheese, softened (I use fat-free or 1/3 less fat Neufchatel)
salsa (about 1/4 of 16 oz jar)

To make the tortilla chips, cut into eight wedges, then lay out on a baking sheet or stone. Spray lightly with cooking spray, then bake at 400° for about 5 minutes, or until very lightly browned.

Stir salsa and cream cheese together until well blended.

For more healthy recipes, visit Honey I Shrank Myself for Watchin' What We Eat Wednesday.

go big.

Our church has been helping a young mother recently diagnosed with stomach cancer. They discovered the cancer while she was pregnant, and started chemotherapy as soon as she had delivered her son. He's less than two months old now, and she has a 3-year-old daughter as well. She's a Navy nurse with very little money, and hardly any support system in this area.

Among other things, she needs formula for the baby. So, on my last trip to buy groceries for myself, I bought two cans of formula and walked away feeling proud of my generosity. Until I found out a few days ago that the baby goes through one can of formula in just three days, and the $50 I spent won't even last them a week.

As I was thinking about this yesterday, God told me to buy more, and gave me a specific amount. And frankly, its an amount that hurts a bit.

I'm sharing this not to congratulate myself, but as background for the things that I've been thinking about lately. I think we have tendency to just give a little, and to say, that's enough. I started thinking of other ways to help this woman, and though, "maybe those are too big, too much."

Until God reminded me, that when he wants to communicate something, he often does it in a big way. When he freed the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt, he didn't just whisk them away in the middle of the night, he held back a wall of water, then sent their pursuers drowning in the Red Sea. When he told Joshua to take the city of Jericho, he didn't make the Israelite army just strong enough to win, he told them to sing his praises as they circled the city, then he sent the walls just crashing right to the ground.

And when he put in motion his plan to save us, he didn't just send his son to die, but to experience the most horrific, tortuous death man could come up with.

With God as our model, why shouldn't we do things to the extreme? Give big, love big, dream big, sacrifice big?


This is Skeeter.

He is the most adorable little guy. I'm telling you, this is the one that going to break my heart.

We're not quite sure how old he is - the intake paperwork said 10 months, but a vet looked at his teeth and said 6-7 years. I'm told he was used as a hunting dog before he was taken to the Gloucester Humane Society, but I think he must have been abused - he's way too skittish and timid to be otherwise. I've had him for two days, and he's slowly warming up to me and the dogs.

fruit makes everything better.

One thing I know about food presentation - you add fresh fruit to anything, and it makes it look fancier.

These are mini cupcakes I made for a Fourth of July party this afternoon. I used a cake mix, and topped them with fat-free whipped topping and either strawberries or blueberries (no pictures of the blueberries).

I forgot to pick up eggs on my way home last night, so I looked online for a substitute that would keep me from getting up early to run to the store this morning. I found out that you can use 1 tsp cornstarch, plus 1/4 cup water, instead of 1 egg in baking. It worked - the cupcakes were great, and I didn't even notice a difference. I'll definitely be using that one in the future.

these are the easiest recipes i know.

These are seriously the easiest recipes I have ever used.

Chicken Goop
4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 8-oz container sour cream (I use fat-free)
2 cans cream condensed soups, any variety (I use 98% fat-free cream of chicken and cream of celery)
salt & pepper to taste (optional)

Mix sour cream and soups together. Place a layer of soup mixture in the bottom of the crockpot. Layer with chicken breasts, and salt and pepper as desired. Continue layering soup mixture and chicken breasts, ending with a layer of soup mixture. Cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 8 hours. Serve over rice.

Pineapple Angel Food Cake

1 box angel food cake mix
1 can crushed pineapple, in juice

Mix box mix and pineapple, including juice, and bake according to box directions.

Salsa Chicken Tacos

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 jar salsa
1 can corn, drained (or use frozen)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
rice (I use instant)

Add chicken, salsa, corn, and beans to a crockpot and cook on low for at least 6 hours. After cooking, mix with rice, and serve with tortillas.

For more recipes with five ingredients or less, visit Rocks in My Dryer for Works-For-Me Wednesday.

For more healthy recipes, visit Honey I Shrank Myself for Watchin' What We Eat Wednesday.

crazy love.

Several weeks ago, Heather and I were talking about our church's women's ministry, and our plans for the summer. I mentioned that I was missing the women's small group we had in Frederick - there were several of us, in all different places in our lives, and we talked about hard stuff. We used books and workbooks that required homework, and a lot of the subject matter was intense stuff.

So we decided, for the summer to plan a 6-8 week small group, and really delve into our relationships with God. We chose to read Crazy Love by Francis Chan. Each week, participants would be asked to read 1-2 chapters and come ready to talk about them, and then we would break into groups for accountability.

Last night was our first meeting - there were 8 women there, and I know of at least 4 more who will be joining us and just weren't able to make it the first night. And it was incredible.

Our discussion was great, and I think most people felt very comfortable to share (even though many of them don't know each other at all). Heather set up our accountability time well, and from what I've heard both groups went really well, too. I can't wait to see what God is going to do over the next several weeks.