Sunday, January 31, 2010


"Order is a lovely thing; on disarray it lays its wing, teaching simplicity to sing."
--Anne Branch

"Encourage yourself to simplify, simplify, simplify and strip away what's unnecessary."
--Mina Parker, from "Less is More"

Ironic that my reading today had to do with order and organization.  Yesterday, the hubby and I went to buy some bigger bookshelves for my office at work.  Today, he graciously volunteered to stay after church and get them put together for me.  What a guy!

I've been feeling like I was drowning in mounds of paper and books for a few weeks now.  Since my job description was expanded, I've been purchasing and borrowing lots of new resources; leading new study groups - requiring more resources; studying all kinds of new philosophies and strategies...  All leading to more and more STUFF.

I was getting buried under it all - and had no where to put it.

But my husband.  What a guy.  He put the shelves together after everyone went home this morning.  As he was assembling, I got to clear out some things and organize other things.  Awesome.  We were there for three hours - but it was so worth it!  I still have more to do when I get there on Tuesday - but it will feel wonderful to have it done!

I know people make fun of me for my bit of hyper-organization and neatness...  But, man.  I can't describe how good it feels when it is done!  I have a renewed energy and enthusiasm...

I wonder what I could organize next?....

Things I am thankful for today:

1.  The hubby making a new friend.
2.  My confirmation boys - great discussion!
3.  Getting to pray with someone after church - for good results on her surgery tomorrow.
4.  My new shelves - so nice!
5.  My hubby - so great!
6.  A quick nap and dinner in the brief time I was home.
7.  A good Annual Charge Conference at church - all good reports!
8.  Looking back at our past year of ministry - wow.  It's amazing how many things have changed for the better!
9.  Being told by a friend that I've been doing good work. It means a lot.
10.  Getting home for some of the Grammys.  The wonderful, the ugly, and the questionable....  It's always interesting.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Photo Hunt: Spotted

Hmmm...  We came upstairs after a lovely breakfast... and this is what we find from our poor, neglected dog.  Since we were too busy to entertain her, she found an old toy (a buffalo), and gutted him!  His nose is partly tore off - and she began meticulously taking his stuffing out.  Piece.  By.  Piece.

I will give her this - she's methodical.

Apparently, when she heard us coming upstairs, she figured she'd look less guilty if she was chewing on her bone...  Goodness.

Things I am thankful for today:

1.  Waking up to the smell of coffee.
2.  A delicious new breakfast!
3.  No plans today.  Woo-hoo!
4.  Staying in our jammies til afternoon.
5.  A "Law and Order" marathon - perfect to nap to.
6.  A trip to IKEA.  (Bookshelves for my office!)
7.  Pioneer Woman's "Rosemary and Sea Salt Dinner Rolls" - FABULOUS!
8.  My grandma, Baba's, Beef Stroganoff.  Yum.
9.  Not doing ANY work!
10.  Being very relaxed...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Fave Five - January 29

Woo-hoo!!!  It's Friday!  Time to think back over the week and name five things that made me happy.  Wanna play along?  Link up to Susanne's blog and share your Fave Five!

1. Making brownies for my confirmation kids inhonor of one of their birthdays.  I saw his birthday notice on Facebook the night before and looked to see what I had in the cupboards.  Poor kid.  He had to deal with Ghiradelli chocolate brownies.  Ha ha ha.  He actually found me later on, and gave me a hug!  So cute.

2.  Learning to cook meals that can be eaten throughout the week as leftovers - and it's GOOD stuff!  We got to pick between pork tenderloin and mashed potatoes, lasagna, pesto bread, and soups.  I suddenly don't mind leftovers anymore! This week, we did beef stroganoff and chicken and black bean enchiladas are on the agenda!

3.  Going to Feed My Starving Children with 15 other people from church - so fun!  It's a place where you can go to help pack meals for starving kids all over the world.  Right now, most of the food is being sent to Haiti, so it felt even more urgent than usual.  In the hour and half we were there, our group plus 70 other people, managed to bag over 15,000 meals - which will feed 44 kids for a year!  Awesome.

4.  It's been a good movie week (I feel like I rarely get to watch movies anymore...)!  I managed to watch "PS I Love You,"  "Runaway Bride," and "Leap Year."  All good, none of them made me cry, and some made me laugh out loud.  I loved the movies that included Ireland - it made me want to go back so bad (but also SO happy that I've been there!).

5.  The privelege of getting to work at my church on Thursday nights, during Open Sanctuary.  We are open for two hours, with the sanctuary open for praying - people can come in, light candles, pray, read, and find peace in the midst of their hectic lives.  This week, someone who is in the midst of some very difficult health issues came in (as she does every week) - but informed me she would be having another surgery on Monday.  We got to have some time to talk together, cry together, and pray together...  I can't get over the blessing that comes with being able to pray with people...  That they let me in, so I can continue lifting them up.  It's so huge.

Things I am thankful for today:

1.  Doing a little shopping.  Fun.
2.  Deciding not to do any work today!
3.  Working out.
4.  Going out for the evening.  Much needed!
5.  Checking out the swanky lounge at the "W Hotel" in Minneapolis.  (And a local celebrity sighting - John Hanson, from "Twin Cities Live," and Dez from KS95.)
6.  Getting a chance to see a new band at Kieran's Irish Pub - "The Hounds of Finn" - very cool!
7.  Guinness Beer.  Yum.
8.  Meeting fun new people!
9.  Free parking in the city.
10.  A great story about a friend licking GB Leighton's ear.  Oh goodness. (He's a local musician.)  I'm still laughing.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Memory Box Thursday - January 28, 2010

Here we go again...  what other embarrasing stories can I come up with about myself?  I'm going through my "memory box" of objects, scraps of paper, and other memorabilia...  Writing down pieces of my life - as a way to discover new things, remember old things, and have a little fun doing it!  So this week, we have...
My Brownie Sash.  Ha ha ha.  Only 3 badges ON the sash - and a pile of them next to it...  Mom never really got into the sewing the badges on...  And the ones that are on the sash - barely!  Ha ha ha.  Let's see here...  Cookie badges, camping badges, an "international friendship" badge, a litter pick-up badge, and of course, a flag ceremony badge.  I'm actually surprised I have as many as I do!  Our troop didn't seem to do a whole lot - we couldn't even keep leaders.  No one wanted to work with our crazy group of girls!

An "I (heart) John Clem School" button.  John Clem was my elementary school in Newark, Ohio.  It was a good place - but the best part?  John Clem was a little drummer boy in the Civil War, who eventually worked his way up to General.  When my family went to Washington DC on vacation, we found his grave at Arlington National Cemetary.  Cool, huh?

A book of memories from my 6th grade class at Country Hills school in Brea, California.  Every student was invited to write down a strong memory from their life so far...  "Some are happy, some are sad, some are funny, and some are incomplete.  But isn't that the way that memories are?"  Cheesy.  Let's look and see what I wrote about...Interesting...  I'm on the very last page.  I wrote about the time I went to a "Friday the 13th" party in 5th grade.  We watched Freddy Krueger movies all night long, and when we were finally ready to go to sleep - we turned off the tv... and the sound of metal against metal was heard!  (This is the sound of Freddy's metal fingernails on pipes.)  We all screamed and woke up the girl's dad - he got mad and wouldn't look around for us.  We tried to go back to sleep - and it happened again!  We were all so scared we didn't know what to do...  Finally, her dad went outside and looked around - and we all heard a bunch of laughter.  Turns out, her dad's employees knew there was a slumber party at his house that night, so they came to scare a bunch of little girls.  Well, they did a nice job!  Ha ha ha.

A little cross-stiched rainbow.  This used to be my grandma, "Baba's."  When she died, my dad gave it to me to put on my desk to remember her.  I've always kept it close by.  Everytime we see a rainbow, we all say "Hi, Baba!"

My "Your Land and My Land" booklet from my high school Government class.  This booklet includes the history of the flag, The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, The Star-Spangled Banner, The Gettysburg Address, and a list of the Presidents and States.  Government was probably one of my favorite classes in high school.  I loved studying these things - and liked examining my own beliefs about politics for the first time.  Mr. Cwodzinski was a great teacher - energetic, fun, and inspirational!

My "University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point" student ID.  Ha ha ha.  This got me food, books, and helped me register every semester.  I had to carry it all 4 years...  And they didn't tell you when you were getting your picture taken!  So I have out-of-control bangs, and frizzy hair.  Ahhhh....  The horror!  (And if you said you lost it and needed a new one... they'd pull up your old picture and charge you for it!  Ugh.)
My "Letters" from high school - the "95" for graduating in 1995.  Yep.  I didn't do enough "qualifying" activities to earn the whole "EPHS" and a letter jacket... just the "95."  And that was only because of choir...  If you weren't a jock - forget it.  But I did do:  Art club, Explorers Club - Natural Resoures, Environmental Club, SADD, Peer Counseling, Circle of FIRE, Key Club... and probably more.  I wasn't exactly a slacker!
A rainbow painted rock with a cross on it.  The summer before my senior year of college, I was the Interim Youth Director at my home church in Minnesota.  It was my first time working with kids in this kind of capacity - and I loved it.  We brought spirituality back to the projects and fellowship we did, and I got to bring a group of confirmands to summer camp for a week.  One of the projects we did was to make "prayer rocks."  I still have mine - and I've had every youth group I've worked with make them!

My prom pictures.  Gross.  Ha ha ha. I went with the kid who lived up the street.  We both wanted to go to prom and didn't have dates - so we went as friends.  It was still fun.  Our prom was held at the International Market Square in Minneapolis - very cool.  The boys had decided that we would go for a limo ride before the prom, then head out to Lake Minnetonka for a boat ride afterwards (a cruise boat).  It was fun, we felt cool - and that's what mattered, right?
Lastly, 2 little paper boats made out of movie ticket stubs.  I've always like making paper boats out of ticket stubs, napkins, dollar bills, etc.  These are from some of my first dates with my hubby!  One of the is "The Green Mile" - great movie!

So there you have it...  some more silly glimpses into my "oh-so-exciting" life!

Things I am thankful for today:

1.  Open Sanctuary tonight - crying and praying with someone dealing with health issues.  I'm so amazed by her faith and hope and continue to pray for her every day!
2.  Our Bible Study group - only four of us, but what great conversations about our unique journeys in faith.  I love getting to know these ladies!
3.  We took a moment to remember our baptism and bless each other, "You are a child of God, beloved, precious, and beautiful to behold!"
4.  Time to chat with Diane.  We've been so busy lately - it was nice to chat again!
5.  My friend, Beth, jumping into action with our Mission Team to help me out!  Thanks, Beth!
6.  Noticing, on Carol's blog, that I am somehow "mature beyond my years."  Goodness!  What sparked that?!
7.  The hubby getting our taxes mostly done. It's looking good!
8.  Coming home to curl up on the couch with a blanket and some tv.
9.  Immunity Tea - I think it works! 
10.  The dog doing tricks for popcorn.  So cute.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Yummy Wednesday - Herb Roasted Pork

Ohmygoodness. We were at my parents' house a couple of weeks ago... and Mom pulled this out of the oven. The aroma alone was delicious! Then the pork... and the glaze... Heaven. I don't think I've ever eaten so much at their house! I couldn't stop!

Do me a favor. Try this one. I can't imagine you wouldn't love it. (And if you don't, don't tell me. It would breakmy heart.  For you.  It would break my heart for you.  Because I want what is wonderful for you.)

Herb Roasted Pork

You will need:
3 tsp rubbed sage
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp pepper
3 cloves garlic, crushed
olive oil
2 large pork tenderloins
1 1/2 cup sugar (brown or white - we used white)
3 tbsp cornstarch
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup water
6 tbsp soy sauce (or teriyaki - which we used)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a bowl, combine rubbed sage, salt, pepper, crushed garlic, and a small amount of olive oil - to make a pasty consistency.

Apply rub to the pork tenderloins.  Baked in the pre-heated oven, uncovered for approximately 2 hours (the pork should reach 150 degrees internally).

Meanwhile, combine sugar, cornstarch, balsamic vinegar, water, and soy sauce or teriyaki in a small sauce pan.  Heat until bubbly and thickened slightly.

Brush the glaze over the tenderloins 30 minutes before they are done.  Save some to pour over the pork when serving!

(The glaze is great with mashed potatoes, too.  Just saying.)


Things I am thankful for today:

1.  Deep sleep.
2.  Advil.
3.  Getting an "A+" on my annual report.  Too funny.
5.  Oprah today.  Talking about "Food, Inc" the documentary and interviewing Michael Pollen.  Very interesting.
6.  Feed My Starving Children.  The hubby and I joined several other church members and 70+ other people to bag 15,000+ meals tonight that will feed 44 kids in Haiti for a year!  Awesome.
7.  Getting to know more fun church members!
8.  Enjoying the fun with my hubby.
9.  Planning our cooking for this weekend - and leftovers for next week.  Yum.
10.  Vodka tonics.  Mmmm...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


"Cherish the gift of humor.  Life doesn't need to be so gloomy.  Spirituality doesn't need to be so serious and somber.  Work doesn't need to be that way either.  Learn to see humor in life.  Look for it.  Find it.  Enjoy it.  Surround yourself with people who like to laugh.  Being around people who laugh can open us up to the power of humor in our own lives.  Laughter can become contagious.  There is something magnetic, something healing, about being around people who let themselves laugh often."
--Melody Beattie

Today was a rather ho-hum day.  Nothing bad happened... I just feel like I'd like to get away...  Much daydreaming about warmth, beaches, green trees!

Ha ha ha - but I know I'm lucky.  I do laugh - all the time.  I work with people who make me laugh.  I come home to a hubby who makes me laugh.  I have friends who laugh with - and at - me all the time.  Life is good.  No more ho hums.  Time to laugh! (Book group is tonight - that will bring much laughter!)

Things I am thankful for today:

1.  Sunshine!
2.  Laugher at work.
3.  So many leftovers to choose from!  (I love bringing two hot meals to work on 10 hour days!)
4.  Inspirational readings.  They make me smile.
5.  Talking about our fears at book group - very interesting and enlightening.
6.  Heat.  Goodness it's cold here!
7.  Popcorn.
8.  Getting excited for a vacation (still two months away).
9.  Venting.  Sometimes you just have to do it.  Then you can move on.
10.  Tylenol PM.  Good night!

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Simple Woman's Daybook - January 25th Edition

For Today...

Outside my window... fresh snow is falling!  Woo-hoo!
I am thankful... that football season is, essentially, over in Minnesota.  (Yikes - I'm gonna get hurt!)
From the kitchen... more leftovers this week - lasagna, soups, pork tenderloin, pesto bread.  All yummy!
I am wearing... dark grey sweats, a blue t-shirt, and a grey hoodie zip up sweatshirt.  Comfy is the name of the game!
I am going... to stay home today.  Warm and cozy.
I am reading... "An Echo in the Bone" by Diana Gabaldon, and "Fearless" by Max Lucado.
I am hoping... I can get my act together and start working out again!
I am hearing... the morning show, the garbage trucks, and the dog's snores.  Welcome to Monday morning!
Some plans for the week... meetings, Book Group, Open Sanctuary, Bible Study, some coffee dates with friends, Feed My Starving Children...  another busy week!
One of my favorite things... Smartwool socks. I love them.  They're thin and warm, and not itchy at all.  And the stripes make me happy.  Happy feet!
A picture thought I am sharing: One, little, lonely brownie left...  I guess I might have to give this little guy's life meaning...  I will allow him to bring me joy.  I will eat him!  Ha ha ha.

Things I am thankful for today:

1.  Multi-vitamins.
2.  A good workout.
3.  Doing my annual report - it's always fun to look over the past year at ALL the things we've accomplished!
4.  A pretty snowy day - to look at from indoors!
5.  I started reading "The Happiness Project."  It seems good so far!
6.  More pork tenderloin for dinner.  Yum.
7.  The hubby leaving me the last little brownie.
8.  Hot cocoa.
9.  Soft jammies.
10.  Pretty tulips at Trader Joe's.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Silly Goal

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you may have noticed the side-bar listing of states and countries who have visited the blog.  I began keeping track simply out of curiosity...  And now, it's become a silly goal to see someone from each state visit!

I'm only 8 states shy of that goal!

So...  If you know someone from one of these states - and want to make a silly dream come true (or just humor me) - send them a link to this blog, will ya?!  I'll do a cartwheel when the last state visits!  I promise!  Ha ha ha.

Delaware, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia

Hope you're having a WONDERFUL Sunday!

Update:  North Dakota is in the house!  Hi Darcie!
01/25/10 Update:  Tennessee is spoken for!  My Dad's cousin's wife - Kathy!  So good to see you here, Kathy!

Things I am thankful for today:

1.  A hug from my confirmand for bringing him brownies in honor of his birthday!
2.  Ginny's joy at having new hearing aids!
3.  Sitting with the children's Sunday School class (pre-school - 2nd grade) for a few moments today - so fun and cute!
4.  So many people from church wanting to serve at Feed My Starving Children this week, that I ran out of room!  (A great problem to have!)
5.  More wonderful New Members at church today!  Woo-hoo!
6.  An uplifting Children's Ministry meeting - good ideas, joys at the kids and their break-throughs, and genuine desires to do ministry (not just programs) - so fun!
7.  Bennet's sincere prayer concern.  So sweet that she would say it aloud in church (even if it embarrassed her mom a bit).
8.  My mom's pork tenderloin recipe - we made it tonight.  Fabulous.  Watch for the recipe this Wednesday!
9.  Only 7 states needed to visit my blog - then all 50 states will have stopped by!
10.  GAP sweatpants.  Great for watching football!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Photo Hunt...

Yeah... the Photo Hunt theme today was "Balance," but I got nothing... and since I don't link up to them anyway, I thought I'd post something better.

My baby sister got first place in her first speech tournament of the year. Woo-hoo! Big sis is so proud.
(And that necklace she's wearing? That was her good luck piece. The hubby and I gave it to her - a gift from Ireland. She said she thought she might need a little "Irish luck" today. Ha ha ha. I love it!)

Things I am thankful for today:

1. A lazy morning.
2. Staying in my pjs til 2pm.
3. Poached eggs and toast for breakfast - a little Irish theme to the day...
4. Watching "Runaway Bride" on tv. I giggle out loud at that one!
5. Smoked salmon from Alaska for lunch - thanks Em and Karlin! It was YUMMY!
6. Going to the movie, "Leap Year." I don't know that it was the best movie I've ever seen... But I LOVED the seens of Ireland!
7. Irish men. Sarcastic, free-spirited drunks... They all make me smile.
8. Kayla winning her speech tourney!
9. Making Ghirardelli brownies for my confirmand's birthday. Yum.
10. Life is good.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Fave Five - January 22

Friday!!! Woo-hoo! If you're as happy as I am that it's Friday, feel free to link up to Susanne's blog and share five of your favorite things about the past week!

Here's mine:

1. Seeing "Avatar." I was VERY skeptical... but I loved it! We saw it in 3D - and I highly recommend it! It's beautifully done in so many ways, with so many neat messages... I even cried - at a sci-fi, computer-animated movie. What is this world coming to?

2. Cooking lots of new recipes! Black bean soup, spinach and cheese strata, lasagna, a new pasta sauce... Yum. Only one flop recipe last weekend. A gross sweet potato buttermilk pie. Not recommended!

3. Church on Sunday was a beautiful, moving service about the devastation in Haiti. We even found out, during the service, that 2 United Methodist pastors doing mission work, died due to the earthquake... After that was announced, we sang "Amazing Grace." Tears were shed.

4. Coming home early on Wednesday to spend time with the hubby in the evening. A nice dinner, a glass of wine, and a movie. Lovely.

5. Some really meaningful, good conversation at work this week. Sometimes when I wonder if I'm doing anything that makes a difference, just the right person comes along to show me I'm wanted and needed. It happened at a perfect time this week, from an unexpected person!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. A day off.
2. Staying in my pjs til noon!
3. The hubby coming home early!
4. Godiva hot cocoa. Mmmm...
5. A new book - "The Happiness Project." Sounds right up my alley!
6. Mom's doctor appointment went well!
7. Plans with Em tonight!
8. A playful dog.
9. Hugs.
10. Watching my soap opera today... Ha ha ha.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Memory Box Thursday - January 21, 2010

So, I'm taking some weeks to go through my memory boxes - to do an archeaological dig through my life... Excavating relics, and writing down the memories that are associated with them... Here's another 10 for this week:My "Youth Conservation Corps" badge: I spent a summer (I think after my sophomore year of high school) working for the Minnesota Vally National Wildlife Refuge, with the youth Conservation Corps, doing all kinds of interesting things! It was a summer of record-breaking floods in the Twin Cities metro area, so we got to do a lot of flood clean-up along the Mississippi River, building new boardwalks, clearing trails, and sawing up downed trees. We got to be the people to place signs and markers on newly acquired land - so, got to be the first to really explore new prairies and wetlands for the Wildlife Refuge! And we got to help with a lot of studies - bird-bandings, gypsy moth traps, and goose and egret counts. It was early mornings, long days, and hard work - but one of the best jobs I've ever had!

My work gloves from my Youth Conservation Corps job: These gloves have seen MANY days of hard work! They're covered in paint, stain, mud, dust, they're ripped and worn - and altogether cool. A great reminder of a fun summer!
My Ink Spot Tattoo Studio pen: Ha ha ha. I can't believe I still have this! This was a studio in Stevens Point, WI. One day, a friend of mine announced she was going to get her eyebrow pierced... another friend jumped in and said she wanted to pierce her tongue... and at the time (when I was much thinner), I wanted my belly button pierced. So, off we went! The three of us, and a few other friends (for support) went and got it done! Uffda. All I can say, is it was a bonding experience, to be sure. So funny. But, none of us passed out! (And I'm pretty sure, none of us still have our piercings....)

My 6th Grade Photo from Country Hills School in Brea, CA: We only lived in California for one full school year, and 6th grade was it! It's funny to look at what everyone is wearing in the picture - bright, tacky colors, leggings, beach t-shirts, keds, very funny. It's fun to see the girls that made that year and half of my life so fun: Galit, Della, Kirsten, Jennifer, and Kelly.

"The Kids from Fame" cassette: Oh dear. If I could only count the number of times I belted out the songs from this tape as a little kid! I had a leotard, leg warmers, and thought, despite my lack of coordination, that I could be one of these talented people! (I think I might take this tape in the car with me tonight... Just for a little stroll down memory lane... and it's still cold out, the windows are up... I may be able to sing along!)

My first Gideon New Testament Bible: My high school Sunday school teacher, Drake, was a member of the Gideon's, and for our first mission trip, he gave each one of us a New Testament to bring with us. For a long time, I carried this little Bible in my backpack or purse, brought it on mission trips... I have things highlighted and a notes written inside. Drake was always great at encouraging us to continue our faith walk everyday - not just on Sundays. This little pocket Bible was a great symbol of that!

My "Just Say No" button: Yikes. That's old. In elementary school, I walked in the "Just Say No" parade in Newark, Ohio. We had the green t-shirts with white lettering, and the buttons. I think I was part of a group that signed a pledge as elementary kids that we would "say no." That pledge was only the beginning - I was also part of groups through high school that promoted healthy and responsible choices.
A twig with a star in the center: I'm pretty sure that my Grandpa used his pocket knife to show me the secret of this twig. He cut it at the node, and a star was inside! Very cool. I kept it all these years... Another reminder of my Grandpa.
My Renaissance Festival season pass medallion: The first summer that the hubby and I were back in Minnesota, my dad bought us season passes to the Renaissance Festival. We loved it! We were able to go down and spend Sunday afternoons listening to great music, sitting in the sun or shade, visiting our favorite shows or shops... maybe even having a turkey leg and a Guinness for dinner! It was a wonderful end to our summer - and we almost always ran into Dad! We know just the spot to find him...

My Girl Scout vest: Ha ha ha. This has always been a bit of a joke. I think of the few badges that are on it, most are superglued... I probably had the vest with the fewest badges... We didn't really take scouts very seriously, like some families... It was just something fun to do for awhile. Mostly, the site of the vest just makes me laugh!

So there you have it. 10 more funny little things from my life thus far... I'm off to listen to my "Fame" cassette now... If only I could find a tape player...

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Finally getting my paycheck deposited!
2. A day with only a few distractions.
3. Getting caught up at work. Busy week!
4. Good news at work - someone's health is improving, and we have another couple who wants to join! Yeah!
5. A good meeting tonight - lots of good ideas, positive feedback, and a "thank you" for all my hardwork. (I know I shouldn't need that, but it did feel good...)
6. A little Bailey's Irish Cream.
7. An interesting conversation about our purpose in life. Someone was questioning theirs... and I realized that's something I don't really question... It felt kind of good to realize that I'm content with my life.
8. Excitement and follow-through at work. It's fun to hear people's stories of how our recent programs and implementations are affecting people's lives.
9. Open Sanctuary - always a peaceful part of my week.
10. Warm, cuddly blankets to curl up in after a cold day.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Yummy Wednesday - Minestrone Soup

Here's another great winter soup - warm, hearty, yummy, and very healthy! Eat it with some warm, soft bread and a dollop of pesto sauce - delish! This one comes from The Low GI Diet Cookbook, by Dr. Jennie Brand-Miller, Kaye Foster-Powell, and Joanna McMillan-Price.Minestrone Soup

You'll need:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 leek, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 lean bacon slices, chopped (we use 4!)
2 carrots, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds, or finely chopped
2 celery sticks, thinly sliced
1 14oz can Italian peeled tomatoes, chopped
1 bay leaf
6 cups good-quality chicken, beef, or vegetable stock
1/2 cup small pasta or pasta pieces
1 14oz can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 cup finely shredded cabbage
freshly ground black pepper
basil pesto or sun-dried tomato pesto, to serve (optional)
shaved Parmesan cheese, to serve (optional)

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based soup saucepan over medium heat.

Add the onion, leek and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is golden and soft. Add the bacon and cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the carrots, celery, tomatoes, and bay leaf. Pour in five cups of the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

Stir in pasta and continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente. Add more stock if the texture is too thick.

Add the beans, peas, and cabbage, season with pepper, then stir to combine and cook for a few minutes to heat the vegetables through.

Serve with a dollop of basil or sun-dried tomato pesto and scatter over the Parmesan cheese, if using. You may like to serve with sourdough bread to mop up the juices.


Things I am thankful for today:

1. Getting a lot more work done!
2. Making plans with Em!
3. Going home early today.
4. Dinner and a glass of wine with the hubby.
5. Going for a walk with the hubby and the pup. So fun!
6. Finally watching "PS I Love You." Nice to see scenes of Ireland again!
7. Ordering a new book...
8. So many yummy leftovers in the fridge - makes for a great week of taking lunches and dinners to work!
9. The hubby getting a jump start on our taxes (gotta love Turbo Tax)!
10. Marrying my best friend.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


"If we could literally reach into you and remove all your fears – every one of them – how different would your life be? Think about it. If nothing stopped you from following your dreams, your life would probably be very different. This is what the dying learn. Dying makes our worst fears come forward to be faced directly. It helps us see the different life that is possible, and in that vision, takes the rest of our fears away.

Unfortunately, by the time the fear is gone most of us are too sick or too old to do those things we would have done before, had we not been afraid. […] Thus, one lesson becomes clear: we must transcend our fears while we can still do those things we dream of."

--Elisabeth Kubler-Ross & David Kessler

Our next book for book group is going to be talking about fears... I'm so curious. I don't usually think of myself as an overly fearful person, but when I really think about the things that make me nervous, worried, anxious... I think I have a lot of fears!

I like this quote - especially, "We must transcend our fears while we can still do those things we dream of." Good advice for us all, huh?

Do have fears that hold you back?

Things I am thankful for today:

1. A normal day at work. I'm liking routine.
2. Immunity tea. Yum.
3. Warm leftovers for lunch and dinner.
4. Details about our church trip to Israel in 2011 - I'm so excited!
5. Feeling productive.
6. Feeling appreciated at work.
7. Book group.
8. The cool feeling of so many things in my life connecting on lots of levels.
9. Getting home in time to watch "The Good Wife."
10. Popcorn.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Simple Woman's Daybook - January 18th Edition

For Today...

Outside my window... a snowy beautiful day!
I am thankful... that I was invited to the MLK, Jr Breakfast this morning to see my former youth group kid, Clayton, get an Emerging Leader award! So cool.
From the kitchen... lots of yummy leftovers from this weekend - spinach and cheese strata, black bean soup, and lasagna is on the agenda for tonight!
I am wearing... black cords, a black cami, a white sweater, and my fun blue scarf!
I am going... to try a new lasagna recipe tonight with a new pasta sauce... It sounds delish!
I am reading... "An Echo in the Bone" by Diana Gabaldon, and "A Beautiful Mess" by Rick McKinley.
I am hoping... for a good night's sleep tonight. I think I was so worried about not waking up at 5:30am this morning, that I couldn't sleep! Goodness...
I am hearing... the Vikings game! Go Brett!
Some plans for the week... meetings, book group, Open Sanctuary, Bible Study, a night out with Em, and a day at home on Saturday!
One of my favorite things... Rev. Joseph Lowery's speech at the MLK, Jr Breakfast. Great stuff! (If it ever gets posted online, I'll link to it!)
A picture thought I am sharing: I'm a dork.
Things I am thankful for today:

1. Waking up on time for the breakfast!
2. No traffic this morning!
3. Clayton getting such a nice award! Great job, Clayton!
4. Rev. Lowery's sense of humor.
5. Not being afraid to try new food. (A mexican breakfast was served this morning... I think I was the only person at my table to eat mine!)
6. A LONG nap when I got home!
7. Feeling good about where I work.
8. AWESOME dinner with the hubby tonight - so fun to cook together!
9. A good episode of "Castle."
10. Going to bed early.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


"Wondering what life will be may be the single most complicated question we face, and yet the answer can be nothing but simple. It will be what it will be, a sequence of events, an accumulation of hopes, relationships, hard work, and difficulties. There is no figuring out the journey beyond putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward into it, whether or not your steps are sure."
--Mina Parker, in her book "Less is More"

As we've watched the events of the earthquake in Haiti unfold... as we've talked about it, prayed about it, cried over it... I keep thinking, "what will these people do?" New Orleans has still not fully recovered from 2005's Hurricane Katrina - and we have an infrastructure and resources readily available... What does a country like Haiti see as it's future right now?

My guess is, each person who survived is putting one step in front of the other, taking one breath at a time, and deciding in each moment whether to push on... or give up.

The sadness overwhelms me. But so does the hope - the hope of all the people, all over the world, sending prayers, money, supplies, and themselves to reach out the hands of God and care for the people of Haiti.

If you're able, please consider donating to one of the organizations that are already in the midst of the crisis, doing what they can. Here are two that I support:

UMCOR (The United Methodist Council on Relief)
Feed My Starving Children

It's so easy to get caught up in wondering about our own lives, and what will happen next... But when something like the Haiti earthquake happens, it seems silly to worry about it. Life is good here in Minnesota - so what can I do for Haiti?

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Journalists who are bringing the stories of hope from Haiti.
2. Pastor Penny's moving worship service this morning.
3. Tears.
4. Hugs.
5. The United Methodist pastors that gave their lives for the people of Haiti.
6. All the ways people are reaching out to help.
7. The Golden Globes Award show doing their part to help, too.
8. Feeling blessed and safe in my own home.
9. Distractions.
10. Kisses from the dog. Smiles.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Photo Hunt: Jiggly

The Photo Hunt challenge today? Jiggly. Now, other than body parts that I don't wish to publish... I thought of the dog's tail when she's ready to play!

This is a picture of the hubby putting together my new bookcase... and the dog thinking it's a new jungle gym for her! She was very happy and ready to play!
Hope you're having a tail-waggin' Saturday!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Sleeping in.
2. Making spinach and cheese strata for breakfast - yum.
3. Working on the budget with the hubby. It's good.
4. Finally feeling able to give and save money more freely!
5. Some time to myself.
6. Cooking black bean soup for dinner!
7. Good music on the radio.
8. Doing some more reading - for fun!
9. I love my new bookshelf - it houses awkward dishes and cookbooks!
10. The quote: "Each moment in time we have it all, even when we think we don't." by Melodie Beattie.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Fave Five - January 15

It's that time of week again! Time to take a moment and think back through the last week - what were your favorite five things about the week? If you'd like to share, feel free to link up to Susanne's blog!

Here are mine:

1. Last Saturday we took down the Christmas decorations. Usually this makes me really sad - but I was ready. It felt really good to have the house clean, fresh, light and airy again. I'm ready for routine and simple daily life again!

2. Sunday, I preached and led worship at church while our pastor was on vacation. I wasn't feeling well, and was really low energy and felt like I didn't do a very good job with worship... Only to get all kinds of "thank yous," "I learned this or that..." and "that thing you said meant a lot to me!" It's always the Sundays that you assume what people hear depends on you - that you realize God was doing the talking and prompting the whole time! Another cool lesson in how God works (and humbleness)!

3. Spending time with my niece, Finley, and sister, Emily, this week! Fin was staying at my parents' house while Em and her husband were on a trip in Florida. I got a little time to go over to the house and play with her. Then, Em had a couple of days here, so I got to stay at the house on Wednesday and spend time with her. They live in Alaska now, so we soak up every minute we can get!

4. My new study group at church. It's small - but it's great! We had a wonderful conversation this week about perseverance in our faith life. It really stuck with me! We're looking for small steps we can take in our journeys, to bring us closer to God. It's all about being intentional. Very cool.

5. It was a fabulous food week. Grilled salmon and mashed potatoes on the cedar plank. Mom's pork tenderloin. Meat from Alaska. And I'm trying a new black bean soup recipe tomorrow. I can't wait!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. A morning to myself.
2. Looking forward to dinner and movie tonight!
3. Less back pain every day! Woo-hoo!
4. The dog being so happy when I woke up this morning!
5. A new Vosges chocolate bar - Organic Peant Butter Bon Bon Bar. Mmm.
6. Happy Hour at the local pub + a Black and Tan + the hubby = a lovely start the the evening!
7. Going to see "Avatar" in 3D. AWESOME movie. I cried. I'm a sap.
8. Whipping up a new breakfast recipe at midnight.
9. My new Rachel Ray dutch oven. Worked great - thanks, Mom!
10. Gryuere cheese and nutmeg - a delicious combination!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Memory Box Thursday - Jan. 14, 2010

So, at the start of this year, I began reading the follow-up to A Simple Abundance, by Sarah Ban Breathnach. The new book is Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self. It has more beautiful readings about discovering your past, present and future; and exercises to help you get there. One is a Discovery Journal, and the next that I have come across is to do an Archeological Dig through your old memory boxes... and record notes of what you find...

I have at least 2 big Rubbermaid containers full of notes, cards, and small objects that I've kept over the years. I've been meaning to go through them and get rid of anything I don't really need to hang onto - but the task seems a little overwhelming...

So, I thought, with this exercise I would take it slow, starting today. I'll take out 10 objects, look at them, remember their meaning, record my memories here, and do another 10 next Thursday.

So welcome to my past - this should be a funny and interesting ride for sure! (I'll post pictures of the unusual things, too!) Here we go!
Pocket Pal Harmonica: I was in Women's Concert Chorale all through high school, with a wonderful choir director, Ms. Kanthak. Loved her! After our last choir concert, she called all the seniors on stage and handed each one of us a harmonica - a reminder that life is fun and silly at times, and that music can follow us wherever we go! (I've never learned to play the harmonica, but it's a lovely reminder of happy times, and whimsical fun!)

A piece of wood, whittled, with my name carved into it: When I was in elementary school, in Newark, Ohio, my grandparents would come visit and often my Grandpa would come meet me at the bus stop after school. I'm pretty sure, on one visit, he handed me this piece of wood when I got off the bus. He must have been sitting on my front porch that day, lost in thought, and working on this with his pocket knife - as he did a lot. It's a cool thing, to think of my Grandpa thinking of me - and waiting for me to get home - so he could spend time with me!

A "Heart of Ohio Girl Scout Day Camp - Art Appreciation" badge: Ahhh... the days of day camp! I remember going to the Arboretum near where we lived in Ohio and spending the days learning about nature, cooking meals over campfires, making crafts, and singing songs. I still have a God's Eye somewhere that I made that week! (I didn't remember getting a badge for art, though!)

A "Monical's Pizza PAPA (People and Performance Award)" pin: For a year and a half, I worked as a waitress at Monical's Pizza in Kankakee, IL. I knew we wouldn't be living there long, so I didn't want a job I would get attached to, and we had a friend that was a manager at the restaurant... I took the job - and actually liked it! I liked the people I worked with, and I loved many of our customers. I enjoyed be good at the customer service end, but also in making the kitchen and wait-centers more efficient and better at service. I was good at it - and people recognized that. I won a couple of small awards while working there. Kind of fun...

Our wedding program: Nov. 1, 2003. "Where there is love, there are always miracles." The names of everyone involved in the ceremony, the music, the readings, a blessing from our families, 'thank you's to all who made the day special, a list of loved ones we were thinking about that day, and instructions for the sparklers that would light our way as we left the church that night! A wonderful day to be remembered... Wonderful.

Kelly's Little College Instruction Book: When I graduated high school, our youth director, Kelly, gave each of us graduates a book of funny and wise advice for life after high school. Some examples: "Get up early - Mom will not be waking you up anymore!" "Do not order pizza after 6pm." (Hmmm... I didn't follow that one!) "Stay away from casseroles in the cafeteria." "Eat breakfast." "Volunteer." "Take risks."

Pictures of our dog when we first brought her home: My first puppy as an adult, only 7 weeks old, in our first (rented) house with a yard. So fun. The picture quality is poor... But still so fun to have these!

A picture from "Prairie Fest": A retreat I helped lead my junior year of high school. It brought junior high kids together from our school district and spent a weekend teaching about good , healthy choices, team-building, and realizing that everyone has a story and everyone has baggage in their lives - and that's why we need to love and respect everyone, because we never know what they're going through... It was an emotional and wonderful weekend! (The picture is of one of our advisor's, Gay, me, Teddy M.(who I had a major crush on), and Amanda B.

A few report cards: Hmmm... Not terribly interesting... Struggling in math, great in science, english, and choir. Fun to remember the teachers - I had a lot of good ones!

And last, but certainly NOT least...

My "chin-a-gins" body:
My core group of girlfriends in junior high and high school did the "Chinagins" in the school and church talent shows (we, apparently, didn't have any REAL talents!). We lip-synced to the song "Lollipop" - very funny! (And yes - this photo-shoot was self-shot, just for you! The pics on Google didn't do this justice! The things I do for this blog....!)

So there ya go - my first 10 "excavations." Now, I'm curious what we'll find next week!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Memories.
2. Teachers who inspired and cared.
3. My Grandpa. I'll always remember his hands.
4. The joy of a puppy!
5. Laughter.
6. Taking the time to hold, remember, and tell the stories.
7. Open Sanctuary tonight - praying deeply for a new friend.
8. A new study group with some amazing women - we're all on the journey together, and it's fun to share the ways we learn and see our faith!
9. A whole morning with Em and Fin!
10. Em and Fin visiting me at work. A lovely time showing them where I go everyday, and a place that is such a huge part of my life!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Yummy Wednesday - Cedar Planked Mashed Potatoes

Every year when the hubby and I go to the Uptown Art Fair, we always HAVE to stop at The Kitchen Window a culinary shop. They have their "green egg" grills set up outside and make samples of some of their best grilled recipes... and every year - I try the mashed potatoes... and go back for seconds... and may get thirds when we head back to the car... (It's only a little teaspoon every time - it turns me into Pavlov's dog, drool and everything!)

This year, the hubby decided he was going to learn to make them - and so we did a week ago. I LOVE mashed potatoes... but I may never go back. These are the best ever!!!
Cedar Planked Mashed Potatoes with Grillmaster's Cajun Butter

Mashed Potatoes
3 lbs Russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
1⁄4 Cup Cream
1⁄2 Cup Butter, melted
2 Cups Jack cheese, shredded
1.5 Tbsp Salt, to taste
2 tsp Smoked black pepper

Grillmaster's Cajun Butter
1/4 pound unsalted butter
1 teaspoon Grillmaster’s Cajun Seasoning
1 ¾ teaspoons Tabasco

Mashed Potatoes
1. Boil potatoes until tender, drain and run potatoes through a ricer (or just mash - small lumps are ok!).
2. Add all ingredients to potatoes, and mash. Adjust seasoning. Refrigerate overnight.
3. Place cedar plank into water, let soak 30 minutes to 1 hour
4. Form the potatoes into a rectangle on the cedar plank and make several (tbsp-sized) indentations on the top.
5. Preheat grill on medium heat to approximately 400 degrees.
6. Place a tablespoon of Cajun Butter in the indentation.
7. Grill over medium heat until heated through, approximately 20 minutes.

Grillmaster's Cajun Butter
1. Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and mix until the ingredients are evenly incorporated. Transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate until needed.
2. Check seasoning and adjust if needed.

If you like smokey, creamy, slightly salty, deliciousness - you will MELT when you try these!

Things I am thankful for:

1. A hubby who makes yummy foods!
2. Wise
3. Listening ears.
4. A good meetings - lots of cool ideas!
5. Seeing my sister from Alaska!
6. Staying up til 1:30am, talking and laughing with my sister and hubby.
7. Matching Christmas pjs - too funny, and really confuses the 2 year-old niece!
8. Mom's delicious dinner! (That recipe may be another Yummy Wednesday post!)
9. A visit from a former youth group kid - so fun to catch up!
10. Finley, the niece, dancing while talking to her daddy on the phone - adorable!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I'm always amazed at the funny comments people make about the hubby and I.

A few weeks ago, when we went sledding with a couple of families from church, the hubby and I went down the hill, and when we got up - we were laughing, he helped me up, and we linked arms and walked back up the hill together. Seems normal to me... When we got to the top, the other adults were snickering and asked how long we had been married? 6 years. "And you're still this NICE to each other?!" Incredible.

Tonight, at book group, one of the my friends was talking about an adorable elderly couple at the doctor's office, whispering sweetly to each other, holding hands, obvious love and concern in their eyes and voices. She said it was such a sweet moment to witness... And another friend whispered, "and that will be Megan and her hubby."

Oh geesh. It's cute. I hope it IS what my marriage is like when we are that age! But sometimes I think people think I have a fairy-tale marriage and life, and I'd just like to say: I'm not perfect (I know, hard to believe!), the hubby's not perfect (crazy, I know!), we do actually fight once in awhile...

But, we DO like each other - that's why we got married. We DO have fun together - almost always! And gosh-darn-it, I like US.

So what if we're cheesy and cute?

Happy Tuesday!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Pastor Penny's back from vacation!
2. A normal day.
3. Getting a lot of work done.
4. A free sandwich for dinner!
5. Book group - I've missed these ladies!
6. A visit with Rebecca.
7. Leftover tirimisu when I got home. Yum.
8. A new tea - very yummy.
9. Lots of reading today - good books!
10. The hoar frost this morning was beautiful!

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Simple Woman's Daybook - January 11th Edition

For Today...

Outside my window... a blanket of white... but it's warming up! 30's this week!
I am thankful... that I seem to be feeling better today!
From the kitchen... leftovers and meats from Alaska (caribou, musk ox, reindeer, and salmon)!
I am wearing... new pj pants (cream colored with blues pine prints) and a light blue t-shirt.
I am creating... a plan for a busy week.
I am going... to see my sister, Emily, on Wednesday! I'm so excited to spend an evening with her and Finley!
I am reading... "An Echo in the Bone" by Diana Gabaldon, and "A Beautiful Mess" by Rick McKinley.
I am hoping... I'm past whatever was wrong with me... I'm ready to feel good and energetic again!
I am hearing... the washer and the dryer... otherwise, quiet.
Some plans for the week... meetings, dinner with a college student, book group, more meetings, small group, open sanctuary, dinner and a movie night... and then a restful weekend, I hope!
One of my favorite things... our 3M gifts from my aunt! She works at 3M, and every year sends us bags of post-it notes, band-aids, dish scrubbies, tape, etc. I love my varieties of post-it notes!
A picture thought I am sharing: our cedar-plank mashed potatoes. Yum-a-roomie! Smokey, slightly spicy, and a little rich. They are to die for! Good job, hubby!
Things I am thankful for today:

1. Waking up without pain.
2. A good night's sleep.
3. Getting a lot of work done.
4. A clean house.
5. Laundry done.
6. Looking forward to dinner with Kelsey!
7. Teresa's Mexican restaurant.
8. A good Neighbor's Inc meeting - and shorter than expected!
9. Funny stories about dating in college - ahhhh... the memories.
10. Homemade candies for dessert. Yum. Thanks, Kels!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Magic Number

"Many of us walk around with a dollar amount in our heads - an amount that, if we had it, would make us feel prosperous, secure, and successful...

"...We have to keep in mind that we're not on this earth to give our money a great life piling up in the bank; the money is here to help us live better. If we can keep that subtle reminder with us every time we imagine our future fortunes, the amounts we have and the ones we imagine we might have one day can change, but the feeling of prosperity and contentment will be the same, and that's what counts."
--by Mina Parker, from "Less is More"

As the New Year is upon us, the hubby and I are getting ready to spend a day working on our budget for the year... a time that usually frustrates and upsets me. I always stare at the numbers thinking things will never change... We will never feel like we have enough... We will always be in debt and looking for ways to bring in more.

But this year... I think we're both looking at it differently. For the first time, we both really realize that how we see our financial issues is all about the choices we make. And we're excited to think about those choices for the coming year! We're excited that we can make room for a trip to Europe in March, we're excited to spend some time in Alaska with my sister and her family this summer, we're excited to begin saving for a dream to come true, and we're excited to put aside a chunk for charity. We realize that sacrifices will be made to make these things happen... But we're excited about it!

I have no reason to complain about money - I never have. I've always been fed, housed, in nice clothes, with transportation, and money to spare on fun. I'm done feeling like there's never enough - and enjoying looking at the abundance that fills my days!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Having confirmation again! I've missed the boys.
2. A pretty good church service - I wished I felt better and had more energy, but it went pretty well.
3. A few people telling me they learned something new or were touched by parts of my sermon.
4. The hubby noticing when I didn't feel well, and getting my stuff to go.
5. A two hour nap when I got home.
6. Spending time with my niece, Finley, at my parents!
7. Playing with post-it notes - Fin and I sticking them to each other's foreheads.
8. A hug, kiss, and "I wuv you" as she went to bed.
9. Being at my parents' house to comfort my sister, Kayla - lots of hugs.
10. Coming home in time to watch "Brothers and Sisters."

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Photo Hunt: Bulky

Ha ha ha. This is my elliptical. It's bulky. It takes up a lot of roon and is not the prettiest thing in our house. But, if used properly - and often - it makes me LESS bulky! Things I am thankful for today:

1. Sleeping in.
2. The hubby making coffee and starting breakfast.
3. Cinnamon egg nog french toast.
4. Taking down the Christmas decorations - finally.
5. Taking it slow and easy.
6. Working on my sermon. I like the process.
7. Penzey's Mint hot Cocoa - brain food while I work!
8. Life getting back to normal.
9. Dinner break - leftover smoked mashed potatoes - heaven!
10. Getting to bed early.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday Fave Five - January 8

TGIF!!! I'm so excited it's Friday, although I'm not sure why... I've worked from home most of the week, and since I'm leading worship this weekend, I still have a lot to do over the weekend! I guess it's just a mental roadblock - Fridays are always appreciated!Here's my Fave Five of the past week. If you want, you can join us in looking back at your week and noticing the good things. Feel free to link up to Susanne's blog to share!

1. Since, I didn't write last week's fave five, I'll include New Year's Eve today. We were at my husband's mom's house with two of his sisters and their families. We had a nice dinner, opened Christmas presents, played games, and welcomed in the New Year with hugs and champagne (even the little ones had sparkling grape juice). It was such a nice night - so fun.

2. Coming home on Saturday was lovely! For over two weeks we either had company or were at someone else's house - which while fun, wears me out! So, Saturday night, walking into our home was a dream. Sleeping in my own bed, taking a long hot shower in my shower, and cuddling up on our magic couch... Perfect.

3. Sunday, our church had a special "Blessing" service to kick off the New Year. During the service, our Pastor "set" the Communion Table as if setting it for a fancy meal, explaining how special this moment is, and invited people to come forward when they were ready, and take communion themselves. Then, two pastors and I had the privilege of blessing people as they came to us for a blessing or with prayer requests for their new year... It was really a beautiful way to start the new year and such a gift to be one of the people to pray with others.

4. Internet and phone service. I've spent most of the week working from home. I haven't been feeling well, and have been having a lot of discomfort - so I've been pretty reliant on my heating pad... I feel very lucky to be able to work from home, and to have a wonderful administrative assistant that has kept me in the loop and helped out so much! Thanks, Diane!

5. Last night I got to start my new small group at church. We'll have 5-6 people who haven't been too involved in small groups in the past and I'm really excited to get to know them a little more! Our discussion was really neat last night as we got to know each other and spent some time talking about the "journey" of faith and what that means to each of us. I'm really looking forward to the next 6 weeks!

Happy Friday!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Stopping
by work - good to see some friends today!
2. Resting.
3. Getting ready for friends visiting tonight.
4. A delicious menu - cedar-plank salmon, cedar-plank mashed potatoes (both on the grill!), tomatoes stuffed with ricotta cheese and herbs, and tirimisu for dessert. Mmmm....
5. Getting more Christmas gifts put away.
6. Unfortunately, our guests couldn't come... But we had a lovely dinner of just the two of us!
7. Chillin' by the fireplace.
8. Good conversation with the hubby,
9. Realizing again and again... that I have a great life.
10. A good night of rest.
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