Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas pictures

Thanks to my sister, I won't need to post pictures from Christmas. She created this awesome slideshow on her blog.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

According to...

Update number one from DC.
Before we arrived, Peter's room was cleaned. Deep cleaned. Dusting, vaccuuming, organizing occured. And new sheets were placed on the bed. Not by him, of course.
Then, Peter came home the night before we arrived. He, understandably, slept in his own bed.
He did what he normally does. He rolled into bed, with his clothes still on late in the evening. However, on this occasion, his normal, innocent action was detered.
As he slept, his nocturnal activity proved a demise to the great preparation effort made by my mother and sister. When he awoke, he found he had ground into the sheets small chocolates my sister had placed on the pillows.
Boy's eyes. The male powers of observation once again proved genetically deficient.

Friday, December 21, 2007


We are still in Phoenix. We delayed our departure for the holidays to DC a few days. We learned that there was a chance that our friends would be saying goodbye to their mother yesterday. We wanted to be available for them as this would be an understandably difficult day. We were grateful for the opportunity to serve them and stand by them as they walked through the "valley of the shadow of death" as a family.
Joneen Ross passed away sometime early yesterday morning. We were grateful for God's mercy to take her and not to prolong her struggle. According to the doctors I work with in private practice, only 5% of people survive her kind of heart attack, and of those, most live out the rest of their days in a nursing home.
The tragedy is very raw and real. The Ross family now faces Christmas, and life, without their mother, wife, grandmother and mother-in-law. Death may be inevitable, but always leaves us with the reality of loss. My mother said to me:
"...your compassion is from the Father’s heart….i just read again this morning from John 19 that “near the place where Jesus was crucified there was a garden”….there is always a garden near our sorrows…a place where “he walks with me and he talks with me and he tells me I am His own”
Her departure is felt deeply by our community. She was a wonderful beautiful woman of God. We will miss her. But we are grateful that she is with her Savior. That is our deepest comfort and abiding joy in the midst of sorrow.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Prayer needed

Please continue to pray for the Ross family as they continue to wait for the doctors to determine a safe time to monitor their mother's brain function. We wait with them, our prayers finding comfort in God's promises from 1 John 3:19
By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, [4] and God [5] in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Prayers are needed...

Please pray for our friends' mother, Joneen, as she remains in a coma after a heart attack last night. Please pray that the damage to her brain would be minimal and that God would be comforting the families and our friends though this time.

Baby Update: Second Trimester

There are a lot of things going on this week! All twenty teeth have formed. Our baby approximately weighs 1 ounce. Consider that the placenta weighs about an ounce now as well.
Your baby's intestines are migrating from the umbilical cord into his or her abdomen. The villi are also forming in the intestines, these help in peristaltic movements and digestion. The pancreas is even secreting insulin.
The baby also got it's first Christmas presents: a blanket, a bib and onesie and a book...Goodnight Moon. We can't wait to read it to you!

Monday, December 17, 2007

According to...

...our little friend, Caden Spencer, who is almost three.
His mother found him last week on their townhouse stairs with his shirt off. He was holding his shirt and scrubbing the stairs vigorously with it. Erin asked, "Caden, what are you doing?" He answered, "Mommy, I'm baptizing people. Lots of people."
You see, we have had Sunday morning baptisms two Sundays in a row lately. We have a portable baptismal pool that is on stage. When some of the, shall we say, larger individuals are baptized, the wave of water can sometimes crest over the stairs leading inside. Usually, another pastor is on hand to wipe up the water as it spills onto stage. They use dry towels to dry off the stairs before that person exits the pool. Caden was just imitating them.

It reminds me of the Little Rascals episode where Buckwheat is being baptized in the river.
"Are you saved?" they ask their sheet-wrapped friends after they dunk them. And one of them is a stubborn sinner, because he answers everytime , "Nope". So under he goes again and again.
Guess they didn't have the indoor wave pool we do.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Baby Update: Week 12

Officially we are in the third month today. I must say that surviving the first three months has been a mild experience. I am so grateful that I have not had the morning sickness that most have; it has been God's grace which has helped me tremendously go to work every day... except yesterday. The weekend must have been more fatiguing that I realized because I woke up on Monday feeling very tired, nauseated and with a killer headache from sinus pressure. My wise husband told me to take a day off, convincing me by reminding me of what happens when I "push it". Fortunately, one of my kind co-workers with who I jobshare volunteered to go in for me.

Things we are learning preparing to be parents: the pack and play is obnoxious, Travis is learning to pronounce words like "Petunia Picklebottom" (the supposed cool mommy bag the girls at work refer to), and unclaimed boy names are more difficult to find than girl names.

The baby must be growing because I am hungry all the time, even though I still have some food aversions. My mom asked me if there was anything I particularly wanted while we were in DC. I told her I still wasn't very interested in meat like beef or chicken or pork. She asked if I like fish. I said probably not. She laughed and said that she was probably going to let me find my own meals then because the family might not appreciate carbs for every meal. But I do like eggs...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Baby Update: Week 11

Joyful update on the baby today. We went to our appointment yesterday and heard the heartbeat: a strong heartbeat at 177 beats per minutes. My heart rate was elevated too though-- instead of it's normal below-normal 90/60, it was 120/60. I had been running around at work trying to get over to my appointment and then mounted the two flights of stairs up and down from the kitchen and then more stairs to get to the Dr.'s office. I sat down after I checked in, turned two pages in a magazine and they said, "Come on back". My heartrate definitely did not have time to drop. Then I jumped on the scale and it showed I had lost 1/2 a pound, which wasn't a surprise since I haven't been working out as hard or as much. My tummy is definitely thicker though but no bump yet. My mom said she didn't show until 4 months. That means I have 5 more weeks to use my regular pants: yes!
For the baby, development continues on bones and joints. At this stage, the head is about 1/2 of the body size. The baby's irises develop this week and finger nails appear. The baby weighs about 7 grams.

Monday, December 03, 2007

According to...

"coolness" track suits and Coach bags are THE look for Christmas shopping. THE accessory for the year is a red holiday Starbucks coffee cup. Tennis shoes complete the look.
If you are under 18, the look would be short shorts and Ugg boots.

What are these girls/women thinking!?*!!
You see, Travis and I have spent too much time in the mall lately. Travis has been working and I have been joining him for dinners to break up the monotony. We just love "people-watching" ...which is really just criticizing other people's idea of fashion. Don't you just love our generous holiday spirit??

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The depths

I wish I could do better things at night. Read intelligent books or write nice letters to people encouraging them. Nice idea in theory.
Pregnancy levels you. At least it does that to me at night. My general activity from 7-9pm before I go to bed is to watch TV. I am now aware of and following Dancing with the Stars.... how much lower can it get???

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Four Paper Clips

It's baby Tuesday. Iwant to post an update on the baby on these days because that's when the weeks change over. Today I am officially 10 weeks. We have a baby that weighs about 4 grams, or the weight of 4 paper clips. In the next two weeks until we get to the second trimester, we are still praying for God's protection over this little one, but it is exciting to think about all the things he/she is growing:
This week we have entered the fetal period, which means we have :
-a placenta that has begun taking over on the hormone production
-toes (still fused together)
-eyes sealed shut
-an upper lip
-spontaneous movement away from the uterine wall

Monday, November 26, 2007

Home in the Basement

We are now settled into our little room inside Steve and Janis' home in their basement in a large spacious room with our own bathroom. What a wonderful blessing! We are so relieved to be done with the moving process (again) and relaxing.

It is an amazing thing to be living in another woman's house. I forgot so quickly. I don't have to meal plan, grocery shop (the majority of it), schedule cleaning on my day off (other than my room and bathroom) or generally keep up on the maintenance on our living space. Plus, I have handyman Steve living upstairs, so I don't have to fix any projects myself without help!
It is so relaxing that I was actually bored on Saturday afternoon. The house was quiet, everyone was out and Travis was at work. I made bread and took a nap. Those were my highlight activities. I've decided I need to go and get books from the library so I don't watch too much TV.

With all my free time, I will also be able to tackle the quilts. I will just need to find my fabric box...there are always a few things that seem to run off in a move like I can't find a blue pillowcase or my brown sham. Small losses. They will probably turn up in some random box at a later date.
This morning I am back to work. The only change in my life is that I now have to add time for commuting again. To be perfectly honest, I think I'd rather have fewer chores and a few more minutes in the car. We could not be more thankful for the Shank's generosity.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Day One

There were some other things we did this past week.
On day one of vacation, Sunday, we gathered our families together for lunch. I made chicken salad for rolls and a large garden salad to celebrate our continuing warm weather. We picked up the Jansen's from the airport in the morning. The Shanks came over after church. Everyone greeted one another, and Travis joined everyone around for a quick prayer before we ate.
We stood close, embracing, while he thanked the Lord for the day and our families. I could feel his heart pounding as I stood under his arm against his chest. My heart was beating fast too. Travis began to end his prayer. "And Lord we pray for Nora that you would bless her in this pregnancy and that you would give her strength and help her not to be too sick while her families is here."

There was a squeal and a "What!!?" and a "Are you serious?!" from the Shank girl corner and a shocked and confused array of faces.

We're pregnant.
About 2 1/2 months pregnant.

We've been keeping it a secret until we could tell both families together.

So now you know what we did on Day One of vacation together.
We have had much to be thankful for this week.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Day Three

An update from the Phoenix

The nails were groomed
The toes were done
The clubs were swinging
It was a day of fun for all.
Topped off with a bowl of spaghetti.
With meat (that's for Travis)
And then a rowdy game of Scrabble.
Watch out family.
I haven't lost yet :)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Day Two of Vacation

Have it ever seemed that the second day of vacation seems to drug you with a sleepy lullaby of rest and relaxation? Motivation was low today. But I did accomplish some prep for tommorrow's big Jansen/Shank luncheon. We're keeping it simple. I made a delicious chicken salad from scratch with grapes, radishes, onions and celery and I made all the fixings for the yummy salad I got from Becky... some rolls, some fruit and we're set. I might make some mojitos if I get to Lee Lee's tonight for the fresh mint. I probably should vaccuum the floor too...but, you know, my Dad is coming, and I wouldn't want to take away his favorite chore :)
Ps. I got an early birthday present... it's coming in the mail and should be here by Wednesday... my husband splurged and got me a D80 Nikon. Picture quality will be up slightly on the blog as soon as I get it all rolling :) What a generous gift! I can't believe it still. What an awesome toy to play with for the holidays.

Friday, November 16, 2007

House hopping and Jr High woes.

We are moving a week from today. Bye bye to the beautiful cave.
But this weekend, it is hello to the Nam's house...
Our dear friends are kind enough to loan us their house for the week while the Jansen clan joins us here in Arizona for a week-long Thanksgiving vacation. I loaded up all the food, the cookbook (Frog Commisary), the essentials (wine and the lime press plus the food processor) and our clothes and "moved in" this afternoon while the Nams are on their way to LA for the weekend.
It will be a series of moves for me all week. Tommorrow I will be taking a load of things down to the Shanks to begin our moving into their basement. The apartment is all packed up and mostly ready to go. I wanted to get a headstart by clearing out all our clothes and bathroom items (you know, that last car load of random items) and moving them down there. But we'll see how fast I move tommorrow morning.
Yesterday, I literally wiped myself out at work. From seven until 3:30, I was on my feet trying to keep the attention of 500 7th and 8th grade boys fixed on nutrition and health. You try it sometime. My highlight moment of the day was with this boy named Devon. You could tell the minute he walked in. He was the wild child. You can't always figure out who is going to be the silent but deadly child...but you can always pick out the vocal ones. My strategy is always to find one kid in the crowd to focus on, using their name and using them as an example. There's always one. This time, it was Devin. My rule is that during my presentations, you talk, you do push-ups. Girls or boys, it doesn't matter. So when Devin started commenting 4 seconds into my presentation, I said, "Drop and give me ten." He looked at me with this face like "you're not serious?!". I repeated my instructions and he did them. I couldn't help it. I went ahead and said it even though I probably shouldn't have. When he finished his ten push-ups, I said off-handledly, "I'm surprised you could do ten in girl jeans." I couldn't help it. What are you supposed to do when all these 13 year old boys wear tighter jeans than their girlfriends do. The whole class roared. I have to say, it was my favorite moment of that very long day.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Reasons for Silence

The dead silence from Arizona is not because we are stupefied by the heat. No, we have been reveling in the glorious cool mornings and warm days. No it is not even "cold" here. It is still a high of 80s during the days. I think I'll take that. I've heard the lows in Maryland are in the 20s. Already. Fun....

The real reason for a non-existent blog is because I have been putting in really long weeks at work. Several six days stretches to have a day off, then returning to the hospital for another five. My friends have started to complain. "Where have you been?" "I never see you anymore!" "Are you working again?" I even had a nurse on the floor, Brian, ask me "How much do you work?!?" the other day, so I know it isn't just my friends that think that. YES. I have been working. I am still working part-time clinical dietetics at the hospital. On top of that we have been doing some community education in the schools, as well as ramping up our partnership with a pilot program for Headstart in our area to combat childhood obesity. I have also been developing my private practice with the two cardiologists that pursued me for their practice. One of them is doing some very interesting stem cell research techniques using the patient's own leg muscle tissue and cultivating it to help regrow necrotized (dead) heart tissue after heart attacks. I have been seeing patients there one day a week. There went my day off.

But the end is in sight.

Travis received a great job offer from Sunrise Assisted Living, the company that my dad works for, which is looking favorable. Even though the offer is less than other jobs, the opportunity is greater. They are offering 100% tuition reimbursement. The commute is 25 minutes instead of a hour and a half each way. Travis is still in grad school two nights a week and, with a full-time job, we both feel the quality of life issue is much more important. My job plus my private practice will offer enough supplemental income.

The other update is that we are moving. Again.
This time, our kind family is letting us live with them for six months.

We want a house. This way, with both incomes we can save enough to buy a house. For real this time. The third time has to be a charm :) So for a while, we will be at home in a home. In the basement of the Shanks. From a house, to an apartment, to a room. My packing skills are reaching expert level. That is my extracurricular activity right now.

My other extracurricular activity is shopping at JCrew. Travis' in-between job is fun for both of us. On Sunday we finished 97% of our Christmas shopping. Yahoo!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Different Kind of Construction

I needed a pack and play for my friend's kids.
So I bought one on craigslist. Imagine this.
Two men meet for the exchange at a Home Depot.
One man is my husband. The other is the brother in law of the seller.
I instructed my husband to inspect the item for damage or missing parts, so they open it up.
Two men wrestle the pack and play open.
They can't get it to open all the way.
So one man calls me. The other calls the brother, the husband of the seller.
An amusing thought:
Two men in a Home Depot parking lot wrestling with a pack and play, unsuccessful trying to open it, on their cellphones receiving assembly instructions.
I would have paid good money to see that one. Or to know what the thoughts of a passerby would be.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

It's official

This week is officially the halfway point in Travis' graduate school program! We are thrilled that he has this coming week off from school so that we can party... This week is full of excitement with Matt and Becky's annual Halloween party, dinner at Clay and Hayley's and then the official Block Party for Whole Foods on Friday night....wahoo!!! Sounds like I'm only making dinner once this week :) I've been getting off easy the past couple of weeks. Shh...don't tell Travis.

According To...

Our pastor's son, Jack, is famous for his quips...but this one had me laughing hysterically last night. Hayley told us at dinner club that Jack refers to Fruit Loops as "beautiful Cheerios". So much for making healthy food appealing to children.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dinner and a Movie

Last night, I planned our date night... it was supposed to be a surprise, but when you plan it with some of your very best friends, inevitably it gets out (thanks Matt). Matt and Becky Ross joined us for dinner at the Elephant Bar and then to see 3:10 to Yuma.
At work a few weeks ago, we had a really crazy week while my boss was away...and I was the only one there to deal with it. So my boss rewarded me with two movie tickets and some red tokens which you redeem at HR for gift certificates. So, we had dinner and saw a movie for under $40 for both couples!
We all agreed the movie was GREAT. For those of us who grew up on old westerns, it definitely fits the mold even as a modern remake. It still has a lot of the same flavor that old westerns do: good dialog, cruel posses, good horseback races, lots of guns, and a shoot-off. But what was neat about this film was that it also mirrored some of the character development found in old films: leading you to wonder more about the characters and their connections, as well as character development that stands behind the old truth that people can change. Overall, we thought it was a great (adult) film; even a good date night movie that pleased both sexes :)

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Hunting We Shall Go

It's fall. Many of our friends are hunters. One in particular. Clay Richardson will head off soon for his annual meat hunt for the year.
Travis is doing a different kind of hunting. Many of you know already that Travis is out of work right now. And I have been asked for some updates. So here's the count so far: several interviews, several possibilities,lots of networking, and a couple of rejections.

After almost two months the results are still out there. He is still waiting to hear from the Diamondbacks now that they are done with the post season. They are interested in offering him a part-time internship of sorts (undefined yet) doing finance work. But...we haven't seen anything formal. There is also a possibility with medical sales, but that won't be until they reassign terrotories (possibly first of the year). He's also made some meaniful contacts in the heathcare industry. A friend at school told him about a job at the state in finance. And a friend at school told him about a finacial analyst position at Merrill Lynch which may be interviewing next week. There are also lots of jobs he's interviewed for that would open up for a MBA graduate.

Just nothing yet.

We knew when Costco turned him down, God must have something unique in store for him.
Maybe it's JCrew.
For that, I love my husband. I respect him even more. It's a sign of true love when your husband is willing to work a job just to buy you cool stuff that you want :) Because, let's be honest: would you really want a discount at Costco??? Have you seen the fall JCrew collection???

In truth, this test is an exercise in patience. Hunting is about waiting. Waiting for the right shot, the right time, the right angle. Right now we are waiting for the real bucks. Literally.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Virginia is for ...

-eating donuts at the beach (the true, one and only, Atlantic beach)
-watching the Shank's history in musical parody
-laughing with all of Janis' "crazy ladies"
-visiting Travis' childhood stomping ground.
-seeing Steve enjoy Bob Hughes and his boys jam
-kissing Sarah Huckaby's new baby girl
-smelling boxwood in Williamsburg
-Sweet Potato Muffins at Christiana Campbell's Tavern
-sipping Illy coffee with my mom and sister
-enjoying both families around one table for dinner (yea! here comes Thanksgiving too!)

What a wonderful trip we had! You can see the pictures on the Flickr site on the side bar. I am so blessed that I have such a wonderful inheritance: from both sides of my families. It is a sweet fulfillment of the promise God gave me before I moved from Isaiah 54:2
"Enlarge the place of your tent,
and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out;
do not hold back; lengthen your cords
and strengthen your stakes.

I have so much to be grateful for: a Godly heritage, wonderful history and legacy built into local churches, fabulous family friends, and I have gotten it on both sides!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Late Night Cravings

Call me crazy, but when I got into my car tonight after an especially hard spin class at the Y, I smelled pizza. But I wasn't crazy. Travis had picked up pizza in our car. On Sunday. So I must have inherited my father's nose, because I could still smell it.
I got to thinking, I have all the stuff...and I mean, how long could it take dough to rise??? So I made some. Late night pizza and beer. What could be better?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Last night Travis came home after a long study group. He walked in and said to me, "Well, now I know that we live in a safe neighborhood." He smiled at me. Then he chuckled. Then he burst out laughing. "I know it's safe if you can leave your car running for four hours". The battery on the Hyundai died yesterday morning and before Travis left for his study group, we jumped it and left it running for a while. I was supposed to turn it off after about half an hour. Good thing we live in a safe neighborhood :)

Monday, October 08, 2007

New 'Do

Check out my new 'do...thanks Cynthia!

Friday, October 05, 2007

According To...

My sister Emily: she is Belle and I am Pocohantas. Play here to find out which Disney Princess you are :)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Whatever my God ordains is right
Though now this cup in drinking
Bitter it seems to my faint heart
I take it all unshrinking
My God is true, each morn anew
Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart
And pain and sorrow shall depart
This was a hymn my sister forwarded me from Ian's fiance. It reminds me that even in my trials, I can still trust God. It is a difficult lesson to learn right now. Today is one month that Travis has been out of a job. Yet, we are learning through this trial to trust God even deeper than we ever have before.
Fortunately, God has given me a well paying job, so we are able to maintain our just means sacrificing all extras and really buckling down. My friend Kristina told me that it would keep me grounded. True, but I think I'm below sea-level already :) More often than not, my husband's job is to get me to fly a little above the horizon.
Steve read a great scripture at our Family Meeting last night that greatly encouraged me from 2 Corinthians 1
For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fall's arrival

I heard it from a non-native yesterday, "This weather is just great!" I agree, as it is now in the lower 60s at night here in Phoenix. I also couldn't help buying these flowers at Costco last night to make a truly fall statement for our Family Meeting tonight at church. I am in charge of our snacks. Tonight we are doing cookies and milk (thanks to friend's help and the Dairy Council) I'll keep you posted to see if everyone else loves the mini milks as much as I do. My affinity for them is probably due to the fact that I never had them at school when I was little :)

Sunday, September 23, 2007


As you have previously read, I actually made some beef. This time we didn't burn the steak either. I actually enjoyed it too. But I have a confession to make. I didn't just "pick it up" at the grocery store. Travis has the Nam's to thank for the extra steak leftovers. Ashley is without a functional kitchen still (only two more days!!) so they came over to do some cooking on Friday night, bringing with them their entourage as well as goodies. My fridge is stuffed! I've spent the weekend trying to cram other things into it (it coincided with my food co-op weekend).
We feasted on steak and, according to Chuck, something he couldn't resist: crab legs. So today my goal is to take the remaining crabmeat and make something delicious with leftovers. Since it isn't Maryland crabmeat, and more of the Alaskan sort, I can't make I will foray into the unknown again.
One of our highlights has been getting to know the Nam's children. Friday night, it was so fun to watch Mattie light up when she tells a story. She is small and typically quiet;but when she has a story to tell, she is incredibly animated. Must be all that sugar and sweetness coming out :)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

According to Travis...

"Is this lettuce?"
"No dear, it's watercress"

Spicy Steak Salad adapted from Oprah's website, serves 2

1 2" thick steak, marinated in the following:
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tb lime juice
1 Tb olive oil
1 tsp grated lime zest
1 tsp kosher salt
1 shallot, minced

1 bunch watercress
2 cups mixed greens
1/4 cup grated daikon radish

1 large hot pepper, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp canola oil

2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp Sriracha (red chili and garlic paste)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt

First, heat the oil in a saucepan to medium-high heat. Dust the pepper strips in the flour; tap the excess off. Fry the pepper strips in the oil until toasted brown. Let dry on a paper towel.

Grill steak over medium high heat, about 6 minutes per side, to medium-rare. Pour marinate over steak. Let rest for 5 minutes. Cut steak into slices.

Toss steak, steak juices/remaining marinade, and greens to coat. Garnish with fried hot pepper strips.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Every day is special

My Tante Bobbie called me tonight. We chatted for a beautiful hour on the phone, sharing news and stories from our lives. What would you have to say when you are 91? She tells me how she just took her whole family on a cruise in Alaska this summer alongside news of her eight pots outside that she waters every day. She tells me how she drives to the nursing home nearby, taking other elderly residents, who are younger than her, on outings. She picks them up, takes them out, all while driving on the freeway.

Bobbie was one of my Oma's best friends, and her cousin. She still lives in Arcadia, the place my Oma settled in after she immigrated. She still attends the same church the family went to back in the 1940s. Bobbie used to host a tea after church. This was the tea that my grandparents first met.

She doesn't host teas anymore, but she still feeds people. She feeds people with her life and, more importantly, her words. She feeds my soul with vibrant words of faith, and little cards in the mail. She just overflows with endless gratitude and exuberance. She chatters a mile a minute, sharing all her recent sorrows and joys-- four funerals of friends and a miraculous pregnancy for one of her granddaughters who had several miscarriages. She tells me that she just got email: "Imagine that! At 91 I have email!" she says.

She isn't an anomaly. She still faces life as a 91 year old. She has a compressed disk in her back, she had a colon resection 26 years ago after fighting cancer, and she has high blood pressure that fatigues her. But her words ring in my ear: "Jesus makes all the difference." In contrast to the depressed elderly I see every day in the hospital, here is a woman who defies age. She defies it with her faith, her outlook and her Lord.

She tells me how she loves potatoes as I fry them on the stove while we talk. She says I can eat the fish, she'll eat the potatoes. I wish I could have her to dinner tonight, if only to just listen to her love for life and the Savior. She tells me that life is precious. Every day that passes, she realizes it more and more. Every day is special, whether it's a letter from a friend, or a phone call, or an invitation to a barbeque. What a heritage and treasure! I have my grandmother's best friend still calling me to tell me that my life is just getting started. She reassures me that I am just planting my foot in life. She tells me that she can't think of a better way to start life. I need to hear that. I need her perspective. I want to live like her, believing with joy that every day is a gift, remembering that this day is indeed special.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bright Spots

On Saturday, the grad school widow found something to do on Saturday while the husband was studying all day. The Nam girls (my new sisters) and I found a few projects and activities to occupy ourselves with: we picked out fabrics for their pillow shams at the fabric store, picked up our peach order and then sat down for a nice lunch at Oregano's.

Afterwards we went to my house to use my dishwasher. The Nam's are still without a countertop and without running water in the kitchen...which means, no dishwasher. They have been using the tub and sink, but that just doesn't cut it on spaghetti sauce on Tupperware :)

According to...

nurses, a chest tube is one of the most painful medical treatments possible. Our dear Steve was hospitalized last week and has been keeping us away from computers, blogs, Travis' books. But, our fatigue can't compare to the "excitement" and exhaustion he went through recovering from the complications of his pneumonia. The picture from ADAM gives you an idea of the lovely invasion he underwent. He had two 12 inch tubes inserted into his pleural cavity to help him heal after surgery. More info than you probably wanted but now you'll know why pneumonia is so dreadful.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


As I have been thinking about my life lately, I am trying to rejoice in the permanance of my salvation and hope. This is especially relevant after the death of two young women I have had the priviledge of knowing while they battled cancer: Madonna, from my old church, and Amy, a previous caregroup lady, who died yesterday. My friend Rachel reminded me of this great quote from the Gospel Primer.
For the Gospel is the one great permanent circumstance in which I live and move; and every hardship in my life is allowed by God only because it serves His gospel purposes in me... The good news about my trials is that God is forcing them to bow to his gospel purposes and do good unto me by improving my character and making me more conformed to the image of Christ.

Saturday, September 08, 2007


My friend Becky, asked me to help teach her how to make granola. To her credit, this skill has been passed down to me by the lovely Mrs. Lauterbach, who taught us how to make California style granola. There are many versions, but yesterday I made crunchy Tropical Granola with pineapple, coconut and almonds. Becky wanted gooey-style, like the Costco version.
In the back of my mind, I remembered thinking about ordering granola from my co-op, but I checked online and it didn't appear that I had ordered it. So, Thursday, I make two whole containers. Friday, I get my reminder email to pick up my co-op granola. Needless to say, we have more than enough.

Friday, September 07, 2007

extras in ORDINARY days

I went to a meeting.
I wrote emails.
I talked with my boss.
I ate lunch with my mother-in-law
I visited friends.
I made granola.
I listened to my power steering pump grind away.
I changed my sheets.
I spritzed my bathroom counter with grapefruit Method.
I rearranged furniture.
I washed my sheets.
I did the ironing.
I ironed my sheets.
I ironed all my t-shirts.
This is my day. My evening obviously was very exciting. This is what happens when I don't go to spin class on Travis' school nights. Thank goodness for the YMCA.

Monday, September 03, 2007

PheNAMenal times

We have been busy here in Arizona... helping the Nams move into their new and almost improved Phoenix house. I felt like I was moving in all over again-- the endless shopping, endless boxes, and endless cleaning :) What a joy to welcome them into our lives here! They hosted us for their first dinner party-- I made Deep-Dish Pizza (the oven is one of two appliances in order) and we had an incredible Italian salad. The Nams are great friends that are just as close as family; Travis' family stayed with them during our wedding week-- you can see their house in all the pre-wedding photos! We both feel that we now have three families to divide our time between because of their care, their friendship and the openness with which they share their lives. We'll take some photos once the kitchen is is the last frontier-- we are waiting for the granite to be fabricated...

Saturday, September 01, 2007

According to...

Brittany K. Thanks for the amazing photo of Brett from one of the conferences.


My friend, Chanelle, tagged me in her blog to talk about my four favorite standby recipes. I will start with the everyday dinner category, since that is what I typically make the most of on the fly. These are some of the recipes that are the ones I go back to time and again.

Lentil Casserole--a classic one dish meal that incorporates vegetables with the high fiber qualities of the often neglected legumes to create a filling yet low-calorie one dish meal.

Fresh Salsa--this spices up at least one meal a week in my household, to eat with eggs and toast or beans and rice or a baked potato.
2- 15 oz cans diced tomatoes (with or without jalepenos)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp salt
4 green onions, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 jalepeno, seeded (opt), minced
Place the greens in the bottom of a blender, then add the remaining ingredients on top. Process on chop or slowly, in quick pulses, until greens and tomatoes are incorporated.
Deep-dish Pizza Dough--this pizza dough is a soft, thick chewy crust that handles a week in
the refrigerator beautifully. This recipes comes from the best cookbook, Frog Commissary.

2 tsp yeast, proofed in 1 1/3 cup warm water
3 cups bread flour (can sub 1 cup whole wheat)
3/4 cup semolina
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
Combine flours and salt and sugar in bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add yeast and oil and pulse to combine. Remove from bowl and finish by kneading until smooth.
Let rise 1 hour in a covered bowl. Punch down and either use immediately or refrigerate. Roll to a large rectangle to fit a greased jelly roll pan. Top and bake at 400 F for 25-30 minutes, or until edges begin to brown.
Chicken Nectarine Salad--this has become a classic Jansen family recipe that is treasured in the summer. I adapt it for the winter substituting other season fruits like apples and walnuts, etc. We have had this endless times, to the enjoyment of all again and again.

The rules:
1. Let others know who tagged you (Chanelle)
2. Start with 4 recipes you especially like
3. Tag 4 other people and notify them that they have been tagged : Megan, Lory, Emily, Rachel
4. Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 4 recipes.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Finishing the To-Do List

There are three projects on my to-do list after the quilts:
3)Wedding album
The wedding album is 90% complete, and awaiting some tweaking from creative friends.
And today, I did 75% of #2-- the chairs. A long time ago, I saw a picture of Reese Witherspoon's beach house. She had a white table with mismatched chairs surrounding it, all painted black. When I borrowed the Shank's round table to use as our dining table, I faced a challenge to find chairs. So I adapted the mismatched idea. I purchased 4 raw chairs on craigslist, which I stained. Then I found 3 iron chairs, which I recovered and painted. The last 4 we purchased were steals from Goodwill Half-price Saturday. But they lacked good, comfortable seat bottoms. I planned to recover them with a modern take on Shaker-style woven bottoms. So, I bought off Ebay thick twill tape. In February.
The long term plan worked out.
I ran out of tape.
But I have three chairs!
And I consider that project DONE.
I'll figure out what do to with the extra chair frame later.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Taking Courage

There are so many reasons that we can be afraid in this world. This life can be full of danger, both internal and in our surroundings.

Every day in the hospital, fear is visible on patient's faces. As I do my rounds, the disbelief and surprise is the first thing they mention. They cannot belief that their enemy is internal. A few may have become numb to their routine hospital visits; but they are all still afraid. This week was another example of both: the 99 and the 27 year old female sleeping down the hall from each other, both fighting disease and infection in its various stages. There was the 26 and 51 year old men, with large amounts of unexplained weight loss, both facing new diagnosis of metastatic cancer.

In light of these daily examples, you would think I would take courage in the face of our own external trial. We found out last week that Travis will be done at his current job next Thursday, a week from today. He and the company mutually agreed that there wasn't a job for him currently with any training potential.

The internal battle to not be afraid is still strong. It is probably what it feels like to be in a hospital gown in a hospital bed. When is the next test? Where is my doctor? What did the test show? Where's my lunch? You wait. Most people don't realize that half of the time in a hospital is spent under observation. All you can do is wait.

Travis' job has been a roller coaster since before we were married. And now it is another waiting game with more upswings and plummeting drops. I am afraid at times. Will we ever find a stable job? Will Travis be able to find one quickly? Will the money run out?

Yet we have hope. Hope beyond health. Hope beyond money. Hope that is eternal. We can take courage in the promise of heaven and comfort in the love of Jesus. Even through it all, this is a test of faith, not willpower or time. It is an opportunity, as one of our friends put it last night, to think creative thoughts of God. Think creatively. What an interesting way to be reminded not to allow our minds to be limited when we think of God's workings.

We have had so many creative blessings too. On the same day Travis lost his job, I got a large bonus at work. I also found out that it will cost us nothing to be covered for health insurance through my work. I also have a job interview today to explore some private practice work for two prominent cardiac surgeons on the side. Creative blessings that show God is taking note.

Here is a promise to hold on to:
I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD. (Psalm 27:13-14 NASB)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Seed to Sprout to Bud to Flower

What is the first thing you do when you see a beautiful bouquet of flowers?
What do you instinctually do?
Most people lean in, and take that deep inhale, trying to drink in the smell of the beautiful flowers they see.
Have you ever craved that smell of flowers? The fresh cut "green" smell, the gentle scent of a opening, ripe bud, or the heady perfume of an open blossom?
I am reading this incredibly interesting book called Flower Confidential, that my brother Peter sent me in the mail. It is written about the floral industry. As a former floral designer, I knew some of its main points, like the outsourcing of all the roses to South America, and that the rest of the flowers usually come off the Dutch market. But the detail to which it all happens is just fascinating. For instance, did you know that the floral industry is a $40 billion dollar-a-year business? I had no idea. I mean, I've been to the wholesalers in Maryland, D.C. and in New York. I've seen the open warehouses jammed packed with every variety and type of flower imaginable. I understand why the business is $40 billion dollars a year. The author makes the point that it is difficult to keep money in your pocket as you peruse those artificial fields of glory. Who could resist the delicate droop of white French tulips with a gentle pink threading down each petal? Money always flew out of my pocket faster than my business sense let me on those early mornings.
One of the chapters is on the development of new varieties, like for instance, a new rose. Some of the discussion is how all the varieties are being bred for shelflife. Through that process, most of the flowers have lost their natural scent. A flower's scent is its sexual reproductive mechanism-- the smell becomes most powerful when it is ready to be fertilized. This conceptual loss is similar to the theme of the book I just finished, Animal Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, who comments on the loss of fruit and vegetable variety in the American diet. There used to be thousands of varities of fruits and vegetables; now, we commonly see less than 50 in most grocery stores. The old hardy local indigenous varieties have died out to outsourcing, genetics and production.
Didn't you say that you leaned into every bouquet? Do we really want to forget the smell of flowers? The same goes for local produce. We don't want our industry to outweigh the natural resources of plants. For more information, visit Slow Foods. We need to be aware of our consumer habits and how they are affecting our future, our oil prices and the environment.

Friday, August 17, 2007


More quilts. I now declare myself "retired" from this gift giving...but I had a lot of fun finishing the two promised quilts to the rest of the Dinner Club girls. Hayley also had Tory thirteen days early, which motivated me to complete this summer project. Becky already had Bella almost two months ago...and I hadn't finished hers either. Bella's quilt was a "wave" pattern which I found some terrycloth to back it with, to honor her mother's swimming passion. For Tory though, it was thoroughly tradition: black, white, cream and brown, to go in her elegant bedroom.
Two quilts ain't nothing compared to the accomplishments of Janis + the awesome Mary Walsh, in from Vancouver, B.C., this week. Mary came down to help Janis finish all of her sewing projects. Who would not be encouraged to sew in the presence of this list?
- drapes for 3 large windows
- curtains for 2 large windows
- four valences (2 for summer, 2 for winter)
- ottoman out of a coffee table
- valences for a bedroom window and bathroom window
- 8 pillows
Are they insane or what? And I thought I was crazy. Mary even got Janis going until 11pm-- way past her early bedtime. But with Steve gone this week and Travis occupied with his final exam in accounting, we were grateful for the diversion. She is now the official angel to the lonely Shank (married) women.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

August Adventures

Did I miss a month here? I know you all are wondering where I went.
I was in San Diego.
With my Mom and Sister.
It was a whirlwind.
But we came, we visited, we conquered.
We went to visit our dear friends, the Lauterbachs. Dear Rachel was not able to join us, but we enjoyed the company of the rest: Rondi and Becca. (As well as Mr. Lauterbach, of course).

Our first course of action was getting there, but that took longer than we expected. After a seven hour ordeal, we arrived, albiet late, to the Lauterbach's home in Escondido, CA. We enjoyed our picnic dinner, that was supposed to be enjoyed on the beach in Carlsbad for a beach jazz festival. But alas, we got swallowed up in traffic woes on the freeway. Evil traffic, Rondi calls it.
Saturday we spent the day together in Pacific Beach, browsing thrift stores and eating an amazing lunch at an asian restaraunt, followed by a delicious frozen mocha. These are all activities my friend Becky introduced me to while we were in San Diego last year.
We visited with Joe Ward briefly, who lives near by and has been a long-time friend. That night we also got time with some dear friends, the Whites, who hosted us in France for two weeks several years ago. Rondi made a delicious steak dinner with a wonderful side salad from Fine Cooking that included oregano marinated cherry tomato halves with feta cheese, olives and a delicious dressing.
At church on Sunday, we were able to reconnect with all the East Coast Pilgrims like Jess Aveni and others as well. We were able to see the new Grace Church building and then shoot on to Trader Joe's for lunch on the fly. We then threw all our stuff together and headed for a quick afternoon at a different beach.
That night we went to see "Bourne Ultimatum". You see, my mother and Rondi, both, wanted to be spies when they were younger. That was their major bonding moment, right after "You were a dance major too? in the early days of our friendships in Maryland. The funny thing was, I've never seen a movie in my bathing suit, much less with sand still on my feet. We laughed about our general appearance, but who could complain after such a lovely afternoon at Del Mar?
And we finished off our weekend with a visit to our newly transplanted cousin/nephew, Brad and his new wife, Jane, who live in Escondido as well.
No joke.
it was a whirlwind.
But it was the first of many times to come.
We will always have memories.
And most of them come from laughter-- some of them at eachother's expense. My mom, who
has a difficult time getting over her highschool French, said at one point, trying to pronounce words as we went along the freeway, "What are we looking for? Oh... there it is: Rrrrrauncho...
At that point, we didn't let her finish because we were laughing too hard. Classic.
What a good start to memories together here on the West Coast.
And today I'm at work, waiting for my time to leave.
And they are off galavating the city, shopping up at Kierland.
Tommorrow: another conquering oppurtunity: Last Chance. Movie time with Janis and Janelle.
The day after: the Camelback Spa for the day.
Here we come.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Sweeter Success

Thanks to Caden, who helped me cook last night, we have had some improvement in the cooking department. We had delicious homemade waffles with strawberries and Greek yogurt for dinner before the Spencer's left for caregroup. (Travis missed the party since he was at school.) Then, after dinner, Caden helped me stir the lime curd we are making for Hayley's baby shower. Then, he helped me roll the tart crust into balls before pressing them into mini muffin tins with my nifty little tool from Pampered Chef. I think I prefer this method of mini tarts instead of the tart pans that I am used to using. Although they aren't quite as nice, the prep time is so much less.

Lime Curd
2/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 T. fresh lime zest
4 T. unsalted butter
Whisk sugar and eggs together until lighter in color and the sugar has
begun to dissolve. Mix in lime juice and zest. Cook over medium heat, while whisking constantly, until butter is incorporated. Continue cooking until mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate until mixture is set. Can be made up to 1 week ahead.

This is the recipe I have used since I began cooking seriously at thirteen. It comes from the Williams Sonoma cookbook series, this one from the "Pies and Tarts" book. It is very crumbly, so shape the dough by pressing in wax paper or parchment. This recipe is easy using a food processor.

Pastry Crust
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled, chopped
2-4 T ice cold water
In a food processor bowl fitted with a blade, mix flour, salt and sugar together until combined. Add butter. Pulse in short bursts until mixture resembles oatmeal size peices. Add water one tablespoon at a time until, pulsing 2-5 times in between tablespoons, until mixture is moist enough to hold together. The dough will be crumbly. Dump mixture onto parchment paper or wax paper and press together into a thick disc. Place in a plastic bag and refrigerate until firm, no less than 1 hour.
Prebake crusts at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Meat Mishaps

So for all of you who think I cook four course meals every night, here's a story you might enjoy of our weekend entrees.

Saturday night: The Plan. I had some nice spicy Italian Sausage from a reputable grocer that was going to nicely complement my husband's love of pasta. We were going to have a delicious spicy ragu. As I sauteed the meat, my sensitive nose was turned off by the smell. I tasted it and it tasted like pork sausage. Knowing my tendency to dislike raw pork, I had the Sous Chef taste it. My husband said: "It's fine". So I proceeded. I finished the meal completing the pasta dish with a nice fresh lemon zest and black pepper and placed our two pasta bowls on the table. We prayed. We tasted. I couldn't stomach it. Then the opinion at the table changed. The Sous Chef recanted and decided it had a decided funny aftertaste. So we picked through the beautiful sauce and ate the pasta and pushed aside the meat.

Sunday morning: I awoke with a start. I realized in my early morning dozing that I had taken out the steak for our Sunday dinner and left it out. Now, in most states this would be okay. But not in Arizona. Even with our "change of seasons" where the monsoons have cooled off our desert surroundings, it is still hot. No amount of A/C can account for a steak left out to thaw. So here we go again. We are going to cook this steak: to WELL-DONE and try it.

Not my finest meat moments.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Oh baby...

Yes, I've noticed that my friends have all decided to have babies before me so I figured I should start trying too.. that is, trying to find reasons to answer that inevitable question: "So..when are you all going to start trying?"

First, my husband reminded me that no matter what, my first role is always being fulfilled as a daughter of God. Then, I also am completely fulfilling God's purpose for me by being a wife. Sometime I am tempted to get focused on what I don't have, or what I think God is not providing for me, as if He is withholding blessing from me, but it is not true. There is no moment in our lives when we are not fulfilling His purposes. We can however stray from them, especially in my case, by complaining (see the Israelites).

On a lighter note, here is an article I found on on why I need to be childless (at least for now) for all you moms and moms-to-be:

Why You Need at Least One Childless Friend
Of course you love your mom buddies, but it's still a good idea to hang onto the pals you had before kids or to make some new ones whose lives don't revolve around the playground and naptime. Here's why:
-Childless pals link you to your former life. They bring out interests and passions that may have been dormant for a while; you get so used to thinking of yourself as a mom, you forget that you are also an artist, book lover, and runner.
-You need a break from 24-7 kid thinking. It's easy to get so caught up in your baby's world that you don't take time for anything else. Some dishing on adult life (even if it's only Brad and Angelina gossip) can be a wonderful mental break from diaper duty and potty training.
-They offer perspective. Listening to your friend discuss the trials and tribulations
of the dating scene (the grass isn't always greener) may make you appreciate
your life a bit more.
-They admire your baby without giving advice. Childless friends tend to lavish attention on your little one without feeling the need to offer theories on sleep or feeding. Plus, it's just plain fun to watch them enjoy each other.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Fun Jobs

Here's a picture of me and two little "students" I took around the hospital the other day...some of the education I do is fun!


Yes, we're back from another vacation. This past weekend, instead of going to Flagstaff for Together '07 (which was cancelled), we joined our friends, the Ross', on a trip down to Tucson. We enjoyed a resort at the summer prices and low summer capacity for two nights of kings beds, cooler pools and shopping. (The boys would add cable tv and Man vs. Wild-- we basically couldn't find them every afternoon because they were watching it again.)
And of course...what vacation would be complete with out eating. (Rachel don't read... we don't want to make you more nauseous :) Here's the Roadfood Report: Apparently the place to go for breakfast in Tucson is a greasy spoon called Jerry Bob's. What a name! and what a great little spot! It was the kind of place full of "specials" written on a whiteboard above the window open to the kitchen. Coffee was served in old brown 70's earthenware mugs and all the tables had some formica or vinyl. We all choose to partake of the diner classic: we all ordered some form of eggs and hashbrowns. The hashbrowns were great--soft but perfectly golden and crispy on the outside and my egg white mushroom and swiss omelet was delicious. It was a great way to meet the locals too. The fire department was parked outside on the sidewalk table and there were old and young alike lined up for tables for a hearty Saturday morning breakfast. It was a true small town feeling-- We even ran into a friend of Becky's. Everyone of course oohed and awwed over the baby-- who could help it? Becky glues a pink bow onto her forehead almost every day-- no one can resist that!
The next day we tried something on the other end of the spectrum-- a white table cloth brunch at a placed called Bluefin where I enjoyed Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes and everyone else enjoyed some form of eggs benedict. The boys had a version called Lobster Eggs Benedict that was delicious.
But probably best of all were the people we shared our meals with. Being around the table with our friends, Matt and Becky as well as Becky's family, reminded us of the Lord's generosity to give us such wonderful friendships. Every one of the Lambros' have a wonderful way of making you feel like family and Matt and Becky model it as well. We are so grateful for their generous spirit and love. Thanks friends!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

More blood

I'm pretty sure I'm safe from sadomasochism, but I did poke about fifty more people's fingers today at another screening. I guess we're saving lives, right? I even poked my own. My cholesterol is around 150-165 and my HDL came up from all the exercising I have been doing training for the triathlon. For those of you who think you are safe, check your cholesterol-- even preschoolers can suffer from high cholesterol. Here are the guidelines:
Total Cholesterol <200
HDL >40
LDL <100
Triglycerides <150
Ratio <3.5 for women

For more information on cholesterol, go to the American Heart Association website.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Dear Alivia,

I remember the night I met your mom at Indiana University of Pennsylvania when I was fourteen and trying to be as cool as her. I remember your dad at ten running around shirtless with the Walker boys playing football in the rain. I remember your parents wedding and how cold it was that November day. And I remember what chair I sat in the day your mom called me from the hospital to tell me that you were born. I remember your sweet pudgy feet and hands at my bridal shower when you came with your Mom. I remember all the joy your little laughs brought me as I read about your antics across the distance. I remember how I prayed for you as I stitched your quilt together. I will remember your little life and the way it touches so many even through you were suffering. We love you Livi and will miss you dearly.
Alivia Rachel Haughery went to be with the Lord on Friday, July 6th, 2007.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Fish Update

Apparently, the fishing did not go so well. Shortly after arriving, Connor broke his pole in two on some rock. Jordan laughed at him and told him how ridiculous of a mistake he made. Then, twenty minutes later, Jordan broke his pole doing the same thing. Steve said there is no way anyone who takes fishing seriously would tolerate the presence of two buffoons goofing off like they did. So... no fish for dinner tonight. Maybe longer poles would work, they tell me. Maybe serious fishermen? :)

Vacation Tales

Internet connections have been few and far between up here in the White Mountains of Arizona. We are on our family vacation with the Shanks at a friend's lodge. We are in Show Low, AZ which is also where I am going to be doing my triathlon. But, this week, we are here for other purposes. Our time since Sunday has been wonderful. It is a perfect location with lots of amenities. The drive up here through a beautiful canyon was worth the whole trip in and of itself.

We love this community of houses that we are staying in as well. They are full size homes where some people are retired and others just have second homes. It is a golf community centered around three golf courses, but has all sorts of other amenities like swimming, pool, clubhouse, gym, great biking paths, driving range, fishing, basketball, tennis. Needless to say, we haven't kept too quiet. There's something physical to do every day. I've loved it because it affords me an opportunity to train in the altitude, as well as bike with my road bike instead of at the gym.

The other highlights have been learning to play some golf and playing Scrabble with my new competitor, Janis. She is stiff competition and I have been thrilled to play against such a worthy opponent. Not only that, but she knows all the real rules like: if you don't think your opponent's word is correct or valid, you challenge it. If you are wrong and the word is correct, you lose a turn. If they are wrong, they lose their turn. Cool! And you're not allowed to look at the dictionary unless someone challenges. How great is that! All those years of trying to compete with my family who like to "check" their words in the dictionary before they place them!
Here's a picture of our first game together. Last night was a rowdier version with Connor (who won) and Travis joining us. There was much more discussion and delay, much to our chagrin.

We have enjoyed other things common to every great vacation: food and fellowship around the table. Great food and laughter are abounding-- we enjoyed grilled teriyaki pork chops with fruit salsa last night and sweet potato fries last night and then followed it up with a hilarious Brian Regan stand-up comedy routine. Our sides were aching from both.

Today's activities include: reading, sleeping, fishing and eating-- of course with some driving range practice (me-- trying not to top the ball and shoot bullets at the golf course) and a daily workout. I'll keep you posted on the fish count- yesterday's results weren't great. We might not be having rainbow trout for dinner but who knows?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


A thousand lights run up and down your threads
As the angle changes the outsides edges disappear
But less or more light does not vary her purpose

The tender threads might deceive a reader's eye
Hinting at a permanent fragility that's false
For, have you ever tried to wash away a web with water?

A few threads may disentangle at the pressure
But they tenaciously deny you your prowess and hold
A product that proves her purpose despite our supposed power

Against nature she wins against mightier wind, rain or snow
She always leaves behind a remnant of her work
A flag of strands that wave in the wind defiantly

What effort it must take to make such a material
A process of a production that is made and given, again and again
Does she think about what she will leave behind?

Her home is never abandoned without another plan
She weaves and spins another cloud of protection
The old one may still stick some prey but for what?

She's left it behind; that is not her home.
As I sat on our private balcony yesterday morning, I was struck by the spiderwebs that clung to the edges of the railings. I am inspired me to think about the value I place on "home". I think we all weave "clouds of protection" as we strive to create some comfort on earth. What do we count as weak or strong and what is of our own creation and what is His? We all know that we should not "store up for yourself treasures on earth" but it is more real to me as I consider the Shank's sacrifices as a family over the years. I may have left one home, but they have left many. You cannot cling to the illusion of strength in your web-- Christ compels us to leave everything and follow him. And we must surrender to such sweet love as Spurgeon says so eloquently:
"Speak Lord for thy servant heareth! O that He would walk with me; I am ready to give up my whole heart and mind to Him and every pother thought is hushed. I am only asking what He delights to give. I am sure He will condescend to have fellowship with me for He has given me His Holy Spirit to abide with me forever. Sweet is the cool twilight when every start seems like the eye of heaven and the cool wind is as the breath of celestial love. My Father, my elder Brother, my Sweet Comforter, speak now in loving kindness for thou hast opened mine ear and I am not rebellious (July 1 Evening)"

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Vacation Tales

Internet connections have been few and far between up here in the White Mountains of Arizona. We are on our family vacation with the Shanks at a friend's lodge. We are in Show Low, AZ which is also where I am going to be doing my triathlon. But, this week, we are here for other purposes. Our time since Sunday has been wonderful. It is a perfect location with lots of amenities. The drive up here through a beautiful canyon was worth the whole trip in and of itself.

We love this community of houses that we are staying in as well. They are full size homes where some people are retired and others just have second homes. It is a golf community centered around three golf courses, but has all sorts of other amenities like swimming, pool, clubhouse, gym, great biking paths, driving range, fishing, basketball, tennis. Needless to say, we haven't kept too quiet. There's something physical to do every day. I've loved it because it affords me an opportunity to train in the altitude, as well as bike with my road bike instead of at the gym.

The other highlights have been learning to play some golf and playing Scrabble with my new competitor, Janis. She is stiff competition and I have been thrilled to play against such a worthy opponent. Not only that, but she knows all the real rules like: if you don't think your opponent's word is correct or valid, you challenge it. If you are wrong and the word is correct, you lose a turn. If they are wrong, they lose their turn. Cool! And you're not allowed to look at the dictionary unless someone challenges. How great is that! All those years of trying to compete with my family who like to "check" their words in the dictionary before they place them!
We'll post a picture of our first game together later when we get better internet connections. Last night was a rowdier version with Connor (who won) and Travis joining us. There was much more discussion and delay, much to our chagrin.

We have enjoyed other things common to every great vacation: food and fellowship around the table. Great food and laughter are abounding-- we enjoyed grilled teriyaki pork chops with fruit salsa last night and sweet potato fries last night and then followed it up with a hilarious Brian Regan stand-up comedy routine. Our sides were aching from both.

Today's activities include: reading, sleeping, fishing and eating-- of course with some driving range practice (me-- trying not to top the ball and shoot bullets at the golf course) and a daily workout. I'll keep you posted on the fish count- yesterday's results weren't great. We might not be having rainbow trout for dinner but who knows?

Monday, July 02, 2007

That's a Beer Mug

Travis is enthralled with life's little pleasures in the mountains here. Last night when Steve and Janis arrived, he lauded the invention of the iced mug. I said, "Honey, that's a beer mug". Steve laughed hysterically and Janis piped in, "That's the product of his upbringing". I have to say in his defense that he knew what they were. He had just never benefited from using one before. Ahh... cold to the last drop.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

To Start

Vacation is here! Travis officially declared that it had started yesterday evening as we finished up our workout and ate "chunky monkey" style bowls of icecream in bed.

When we were first married, Travis and I decided that we would alternate vacation and Christmas as a way to stay connected to both families. This year, we will be celebrating our vacation by joining the Shanks at a lodge in the White Mountains of Arizona for a week. My parents are currently on a short vacation with Emily and Brett in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They went for my cousin's wedding and are enjoying the GR lifestyle including lakes, skiing, parties, bbq's and Dutch bingo (who are you related to or know in relationship to the person to who you are talking). Travis and I are excited about joining them for Christmas again this year.
As you can see by the picture, I am thrilled at the prospect of long days sitting down. I know we will still stay active with amenitites like swimming, running, biking, hiking, and GOLF (Travis' input). I have some catching up to do with triathlon training-- the higher altitude will be perfect for training for our race in August. My other favorite amenity will be no cable TV. I have my big stack of books for the trip as well as ones I am going to pick up at the library this morning. That chair is calling out my name right now. I hope our days will include coffee, devotions, workout, read, nap, cook, eat.

So after a long vacation from blogging, I'll pick back up and post some of our favorite vacation activities and updates in our world as of late.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Jesus Makes Us Buoyant

Did you read this on Girltalk today? I have been contemplating a lot about the birth and life of children lately. One of my close friends is nearing her due date, as well as several of them pregnant. There are also several stories of children who are suffering with illness, such as Alivia, or another little boy struggling against inevitable death. This comes close on the heels of our friends, Jon and Jenny, losing their little newborn to prenatal disabilities.
There are so many possible things that can go wrong: in utero, during birth, as a child. Nothing is guaranteed. We are all touched by death in some way sooner or later.
As I have been working with children all this week in a summer nutrition camp that I am running at a local library, I am aware of all the different kinds of childhoods as well. Health is one thing, but care, love and guidance from a loving family is also needed.
But I loved what Diane Jones said on Girltalk because it offers such a wonderful thought: Jesus makes us buoyant. Whether it be a needy child that is our own or one that we come to know, I know that Jesus can lift us up.
He can certainly lift us up. Travis and I received news today that we are going to get back our deposit on the house. After finding out that the reimbursement program wasn't HUD certified, we appealed to get our money back and pull out of the house that we bought. (And for those of you counting, yes, that is 2 houses that we have now "bought":) This news comes at a much needed time when bills are due, cars needed repairs, teeth need repairing and the money just wasn't adding up. It is easy to feel like you are drowing against an inevitable tide. I am learning, however, that circumstances may not change, yet Jesus will lift you up, allowing you to bounce back against all the odds.
We are praying for those odds for others as well. If you can, lift up a prayer for Alivia that God would bring her parents a much needed boost of spirits.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Caramel Sauce on Fish?

We hosted dinner club today for lunch after church. We fed the kiddos, put them to bed and then had a couple uninterrupted hours together as couples. We went for a Southeast Asian theme using some various recipes from Food and Wine, Terrific Pacific and the famous Frog Commissary Cookbook.
We decided that the best new recipe was this one: Spiced Chicken with Coconut-Caramel Sauce and Citrus Salad. Here's a picture of the recipe made with chicken. I tried it using Ahi tuna instead of chicken and put them on kabobs. I served the grilled kabobs over lettuce leaves with the citrus fruit segments underneath and the caramel sauce drizzled over top. It was a great new flavor combination, well worth the effort to make the caramel. I also added coconut milk to the marinade to soften the spices, since we were using fish. My husband also came up with a GREAT new way to grill fish-- put a large piece of aluminum foil underneath and grill as usual. You even get great grill marks still without the pieces all falling off the kabobs through the grates.
We also served Bacon Wrapped Beef Kabobs with Sweet Potatoes marinated in a watered down Peanut Sauce (from the famous Frog Commissary Cookbook) over rice. We had a White Cabbage and Green Papaya Slaw and several tropical juice drinks. We also tried some very curious Ginger Malt drink that I found at Lee Lee's, our international super grocery store. And we finished off the afternoon with Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta (a little too rich for me-- next time I'll use some whole milk instead of cream) with a Twisted Poppyseed Yeasted Coffeecake from a very old article in Martha Stewart Living. I'll post later about the delicious appetizers we made from Terrific Pacific cookbook...

Check it out...

Were you up early this morning? . From 6:30am-7:00, you might have heard me on the radio stations KMLE 108 or on KOOL 94.5. I was a guest on a local program called Sunday Sunrise where we discussed the benefits of healthy eating.

If you missed me, you can catch it again and hear my voice next week too. Same time, same place :) For those of you on the East Coast, this will be easy, but for us on the West Coast, it might require some sacrifice.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

According to... uncle. A laugh to get you back into a pleasant mindset for a (shorter!) work week.
A thief in Paris planned to steal some paintings from the Louvre. After careful planning, he got past security, stole the paintings and made it safely to his van.

However, he was captured only two blocks away when his van ran out of gas.

When asked how he could mastermind such a crime and then make such an obvious error, he replied, "Monsieur, that is the reason I stole the paintings. I had no Monet to buy Degas to make the Van Gogh."

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Smoked Oyster Potato Salad

Memorial Day Weekend is here! It's time to break out the BBQ sauce, the baked beans and the traditional (German) American potato salad. Here's a great version I made yesterday for our al fresco caregroup grill party. Sorry, but there's no picture; the last of it is currently getting consumed while writing this post. Enjoy this unusual twist on traditional potato salad--it is a smoky sweet version that everyone thoroughly enjoyed.

Smoked Oyster Potato Salad
2 lbs. Yukon Gold Potatoes, quartered
3 large eggs
4 Tbs. vinegar
1 can smoked oysters
1 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. EV olive oil
2 Tbsp. mustard powder
3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. raw sugar
2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup capers, drained
1/2 red onion, minced

Bring potatoes and enough water to cover to boil in a large stockpot. Place eggs on top of potatoes and continue to boil 10 minutes. Drain and remove from heat. Remove eggs and let cool then shell and chop coarsely. While potatoes are still hot, sprinkle vinegar and let stand for 10 minutes until cool. (Can be refrigerated at this point overnight).
Combine remaining ingredients and toss into potatoes until combined. Season to taste.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

According to...

my cousin Brandon... way to go B! Although he didn't win the watermelon eating contest, they had to pick his cute face for the picture! The event was sponsored by Good Earth- which was a produce stand started all the way back when I was seven in Olney... I'm happy to know that good small businesses don't have a problem outlasting the super grocery stores.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

According to...

my beautiful mother and father.
This week, check out my parent's inspiring story about giving generously to the mission of their home church in the movie on the Covenant Life Website.
PS-I can't help but comment on my dad's "frown" which is actually just an incredible effort not to cry :) Love you Dad!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

More Iowa Moments

I know you all are dying to know about Iowa.
I mean, come on, isn't it one of the most popular destinations for traveling Americans?
Well, I'm here as a firsthand witness to tell you that it should be.
Why? Because it is a true American city-- full of surprises, funny stories and a small town feeling.
Some examples:

Our first night at the hotel, we pulled our suitcases to the doorway at the La Quinta Inn to discover that we were not alone in our discovery of Davenport, Iowa. We were preempted by the dog show that was apparently going on the next day... Our greeters were 4 poodles with ponytails.

Another shared Midwest experience-- traffic in Chicago.
One wrong turn after a delicious pizza meal and it took us an hour to go 7 miles. Then once we were finally on the right highway, it was 20 miles an hour all the way outside the city limits. A less than 3 hour trip took us 5.5 :) But at least we were full on stuffed deepest dish Chicago pizza.

Did I tell you that we visited a children's paradise? We also got a private ride on a locomotive... at least a gas powered one. And it goes FAST. I probably would have done it ten times. Not kidding.
It was on the property of Travis' aunt's parents home. They have a castle, a bus with a slide, a pond, swings, dogs, a summer cottage ...and did I mention the train??
Apparently that same family has a summer home called Lansing that overlooks the Mississippi River and houses 25... another stop on the future cross country trip with children.

The best local food, since I know some of you want to know, was the kettlecorn. We didn't venture too far into local culture, because we feasted on delicious kabobs at the relatives one night and another we hit up Applebee's. We did Starbucks, but Iowa was not lacking in coffee culture. There were several unique coffee bars and shops along mainstreets-- we ate at one in downtown Davenport that had a very good homemade Potato and Leek Soup and flavored coffee with live music. Who can turn that down? I just wished we could have nosed around longer in Iowa. Guess that means I'll have to go back. Who would have known the adventures that marrying a Shank would lead me on?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Hello and Goodbye

The trip felt that quick. No sooner were we saying hello to Chicago than were we saying goodbye to the city. It was a wonderful trip-- it was a hello, it was a homecoming, it was a goodbye.

We flew into Chicago and then drove to Davenport, Iowa, were Travis' grandfather, Robert Brown, lives. In between and around visiting with him, we returned to Travis' mother's childhood city-- Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We stayed with her brother's family--the Browns, who were lovely hosts and fun company, full of laughter and friendliness.

We primarily went to visit Travis' grandfather, who is ill; but he was still very lucid and sharp, just weakened by his emphysema and his compromised heart. We spent some time with him, talking and he told us stories-- how he met five presidents, his job as a reporter, magic shows, mind-reading tricks, his favorite books, and his life mottoes. He also escorted us down to a street fair on the street parallel to the Mississippi Rive. There we ate the best kettle corn, straight hot out of the kettle, hearing stories of the magic shop he owned on Pershing Street.

He reminded me of my own grandfathers. One died when I was ten. The other's death is a distant memory from my early childhood-- I was only two when he passed away. Certainly, as I was older, the second death left an indelible mark on my life.
I have shreds of memories from Tom Jansen's life-- his knee-bouncing game, his cigarette lighter, his paper and press, gardening. Now, I have a few photos and a few pieces of his life--two pictures from his travels to the Polynesian Islands during his time in the Dutch Merchant Marines, a copper scale, and a wooden card file box. I have heard a few stories, but he was a quiet and gentle man, living far from his home country with a thick Dutch accent but surrounded by those who loved him.
The other grandfather was closer; but just as much of an unknown. He was a smart man, a passionate pianist, a world traveler, an international economist. He bought me dolls from around the world and he took me to the Kennedy Center as a little girl two seasons in a row to a children's program. I have more memories, but just a few before he got sick-- like the time he kept telling me "F sharp" as I fumbled through a piano piece. He always had a funny sharp small about him and bristly speckled gray hair-- enough to go around too for it was always poking funnily out of his ears and nose too.
I never had the opportunity with either of them to know them as an adult. My childhood sensibilities were young and impressionable. An adult grandchild probably sees more. We know more about the world and how a grandfather could too. I just know that I wished I still had one living, no matter their state.
As Janis said, there is a "deposit" left in all of us from those we meet. I know I will take our trip to Iowa and put it in safekeeping for a long time, in hopes of returning to it's beautiful simplicity. This is the deposit Bob Brown leaves with me-- the lessons of simplicity. He grew up very poor and shared with us how he, to his regret, got it wrong for a long time about things being more important than people. In that little room in downtown Davenport, he reminded us to get it right: to love others and to give your life away. I will try, Grandpa Brown.