new recipes, part 4.

Almost there! These are recipes (goal #14) 16-21:

Baby Red Potato Salad

Even before I cared about the fat content of the food I was eating, I wasn't a fan of thick and heavy mayonnaise-based salads, and this version is good. I made this for as Easter picnic with friends.

Veggie Stuffed Bell Peppers

Very good, and very filling! I did a couple of things differently, just to fit my tastes - I used twice the amount of brown rice (I don't use white rice at all anymore), and I left out the mushrooms. And although I made up the entire amount of filling, I only made two peppers at first, since I wasn't sure how well they would reheat. I put the rest of the filling in the refrigerator, and made up more the next night.

Black Bean and Corn Relish

I found this recipe when I was looking for a way to create Chick-fil-A's Southwest Chargrilled Salad. Salads make for easy weekday lunches, because I can marinate and broil several chicken breasts over the weekend, and the salads are easy to put together in the morning. And if a salad has enough liquid-y stuff, then I don't add dressing to it at all. This recipe has a bit more kick than Chick-fil-A's (but not so much that the average non-spicy-food-wimpy person would probably notice). I added it to a mix of salad greens, tequila lime marinated chicken, and a bit of salsa.

Strawberry Bread

I've made strawberry bread before, but it didn't turn out as tasty as I thought it would, so I decided to try another recipe.  The batter was more dry than I expected, but I decided to trust the recipe. When I checked on the bread after 35 minutes, it was bubbling up over the sides on the pan (and some had fallen to the bottom of the oven). I tested it with a toothpick to see if it was done, and since the toothpick came out clean, I took the pan out of the bread to let it cool. When I went back, it had fallen, and it really hadn't cooked all the way through.

I'm not sure exactly what went wrong, but the parts of the bread that were cooked were really good, so I think I'll be trying this again. Next time I think I might use a bit more baking soda, full the pans a bit less, and definitely let it cook longer.

Fruit Salsa

So easy - I'll definitely be using this one again! I made mine with pineapple, kiwi, strawberries, and blackberries, then added lime juice and some sugar.

Baked Cinnamon Chips

Also easy, and goes great with fruit salsa.


Last weekend I started (in earnest) what is probably the most insane DIY project I've ever tried.

I'm stripping my front door.

This is all a part of the process of fixing up the outside of my house. I'm still not sure of the end result (and I'll probably change my mind many more times), but I do have this idea of a beautiful, imperfect, warm wooden door.

I'm not entirely sure I can pull it off, but I figure, in the worst case scenario, I just repaint it.

Its a long process. I'm using CitrusStrip, so that I can work on the door in pieces without needing to take it off the hinges yet. I started with an all-over coat last weekend, and scraped off the easy parts - any place where the door is basically flat. During the week I've been sticking to only a small section at a time, since I only have my evenings free to do it. All of the detail work is tricky - its hard to get in there really well. I'm doing the best I can, and then thinking of taking my Dremel to it to handle the finer points.

Its a very messy job, and my house smells faintly of a slightly-off orange scent.

I'm planning to do the big parts this weekend, then hopefully start working at the details in earnest throughout next week. Once I've done as much as I can with the door in place, I'll pick a weekend to take it down and stain it. This is what the inside looks like today (the bottom section has stripper on it - I'll start scraping there in a few hours):


I'm a sucker for words - quotes and cards and inspirational messages.

These are some of my favorites:

Red Letter Words

Curly Girl Design

(She Packed Up Her Potential, The World Is Full Of People, Close Your Eyes)

Compendium (Live Inspired)

growing stuff.

I'm not really good at growing things.

Okay, that might be a bit of an understatement. Historically speaking, I tend to kill anything that can't bark when its hungry. My mother has been known to water fake plants, so I'm guessing it might be genetic.

But growing something is one of my goals for the year, so I'm determined that this year will be different. After spending some time wandering around the gardening section at Home Depot, looking at the pretty pictures on seed packets and the million different types of soil and becoming thoroughly confused, I decided to buy these:

I figured, if one of these was for kids, it couldn't be that hard. Right?

According to the directions, I was supposed to only use a couple seeds, but I might have gotten a little over enthusiastic. I figured it was kind of like in vitro fertilization - the odds are kind of slim, so you throw some more in there than you need.

Imagine my surprise when it actually worked! There are actually tiny little green plants growing in those pots!

The only problem is - I don't know which is which. I wasn't super careful to label them when I started, so I guess I'll just have to wait and see what comes up. And, though the kitchen window sill is a good place to see then and therefore remember to water them, it is a bit precarious. I lost a couple when I accidentally knocked them down.

I'm not crossing goal #9 off my list until I either see flowers, or can actually use some of this stuff for eating. But I'm still pleased with my newfound success - and I bought a few tomato plants when I went to Lowes tonight.

why you should clean before houseguests arrive.

Because shortly thereafter, it will look like this (daybed, queen-sized air mattress, trundle bed - and lots of giggling).


Today I wanted to write about something a bit different, in honor of MPS Awareness Day. (I'll explain what that is in just a second.)

I met Matt and Shannon McNeil at Taylor, though I don't know them well. Shannon and I were next-door neighbors my freshman year, but because we actually lived on two different wings and she was two years ahead of me, we never spent much time together. Still, I've been following their story for many months now.

Matt and Shannon's two children, Waverly and Oliver, both have MPS IIIA, also known as Sanfilippo Syndrome, an extremely rare and devastating genetic disorder. I won't pretend to understand the science of it, but essentially children with Sanfilippo are missing an enzyme that causes them lose the development milestones they've gained. Among other symptons, they lose language skills, mobility, and even chewing and swallowing skills. The life expectancy varies from child to child, but children generally do not live past their early teens.

You can read more about Sanfilippo at the National MPS Society website.

I'm writing this to ask you (all five of you who read my blog) to pray for the McNeils. You can follow their story at Shannon's blog, Exploring Holland. I do, and it is a good reminder to keep praying for this family.

Matt created a beautiful video photo montage of Waverly and Oliver - please take a few minutes to watch it.

If you'd like to help financially, Matt and Shannon's friends have set up a fundraiser, called A Hundred for a Home, to help them buy and outfit a house, so they have a stable place to enjoy the time they have left with their children.

catching up.

The last few weeks have been, well, a little busy. Lots to do, lots of traveling, and as much as I have enjoyed it all, I also really like looking ahead at my calendar and knowing that I have the next three months to sleep in my own bed. Almost three months, anyway.

Here's a quick recap:

-- 1 --

My sister Katie married her boyfriend (now husband) Vince in a gorgeous cabin (the Tea Room) at Gambrill State Park the weekend after Easter. The original plan was for a small ceremony with just family, with a big reception/cook-out in August at their house. But with families as big as ours, even small ceremonies can have nearly 50 people.

(Katie, me, Kelli)

-- 2 --

Two weeks later, I met my mom and sisters in Ocean City for a women's retreat.

-- 3 --

I got home from the retreat Saturday night, then hosted a baby shower for my friend Kelly on Sunday.

-- 4 --

The next weekend I headed to Rockbridge for the district youth retreat with some of the coolest girls I know. Vince and Jon were there doing all sorts of cool sound and stage things, and Ally came with the group from Emmanuel. It was fun to see Jon in his element - at one point, I was so proud of him that I leaned over to someone I had just met and said, that's my brother.

Ryan, Jessie, Andrew, Rachel, Heather, Kristin, me

But the very best part of the weekend was something that I'm not sure I can articulate, though I know I'll never forget it. I watched as my niece Ally and my brother-in-law Vince both met Christ. It was a priceless moment that completely caught me off-guard, and I still tear up every time I think about it. Someday, maybe, I'll be able to actually be able to put it into words.

-- 5 --

Less than 48 hours later, I was back on the road again, headed to Ohio to visit JB & Iris (my friends who are missionaries to Russia, home on furlough), then Pennsylvania to visit James and Bethany and meet their adorable new son Ethan.

Ethan (wearing an outfit I bought him - thanks, Beth!), me

Since I was driving to Frederick on my way home, I made a last minute decision to stop and surprise my mom. Shortly after calling to wish her a happy Mother's Day, I called Katie to let her know that I was coming to her house for dinner, and to ask for her help with setting up the surprise. It was late when I finally arrived home, but the surprise on Mom's face (and getting to talk to my family while we rehashed all that happened at the retreat) was well worth it.

-- 6 --

And now I'm home for at least a little least until the end of July. Between then and the end of September, I have a few more things planned - Kelli's graduation, Katie and Vince's wedding reception, the missions trip to Gabon, and Kelli's graduation party. 2010 is a big year for our family.

-- 7 --

Whenever I'm traveling, or just have a few weeks where I'm not home much, I always need some downtime to recover. For most of this week, I've been completely unmotivated. I'd look around and think of all the things I need to do (need being a very subjective word there), not feeling like doing any of them, and just laze around watching TV or surfing the web. I had no motivation to do anything.

But, Thursday (yesterday) was my birthday. I'll be celebrating with both friends and family this weekend and next week, so I spent Thursday evening at home. And because it was my birthday, I gave myself permission to do whatever I wanted - and ignore all of the things that I should do.

So, I started shoving around furniture in my guest room/office, trying to come up with an arrangement that I like better. Then I decided to print out graph paper online and measure out everything, and start playing around with different layouts.

And you know what? It worked. Not only did I have fun, but I also had my motivation back. So I made strawberry bread (a big failure that I think was my fault - more on that later) and strawberry sauce (all of which is more cooking than I've done in weeks - and I normally love cooking!).

Of course, that means I'll spend most of tomorrow getting the guest room back into shape, since Katie, Kelli, and Jacob will here in 24 hours...