Thursday, June 28, 2012

Who does that?

I have a friend named Jen. A couple years ago she called me to ask if she could bring anything over.

No one had ever asked me that question before. I didn't know how to even answer it. So I said the first thing that came to mind.

"Thank you. I think I have everything I need." I said.

That day, Jen and her family brought me a bag filled with some of my favorite treats from Trader Joes and a gift card for 100 dollars.

That day defined to me what going above and beyond for the people in our lives looked like. And when I asked Why? She simply said this.

That when she is blessed she takes on the responsibility to bless some else. That day, that some one else was me.

Blessed by her generosity, I have tried to keep that perspective in mind. And I thought I was doing a pretty good job of it too.

But that was before Maria called me.

Maria has one of the biggest hearts for people and for Jesus. We see each other at least once a week. So, when we didn't have our usual date it felt odd and we missed each other.

Pretty soon, I received a message.

I want to take you out. It said. When would be the best time to meet?

I replied with a date and drove over to her house, thinking that we would have lunch and chat like we usually do.

But she had a whole different kind of day planned.

Maria took me out to a new place, just because she knew that I enjoyed small adventures like that.

Maria read the reviews, to make sure that I wouldn't be disappointed.

Maria told me to pick anything off of the menu, ordered meals for each of my kids and paid for all of it.

Seeing her pay. I honestly felt uncomfortable. I just wasn't used to this act of kindness from people that i knew didn't have extra to give away. I knew that this was something she might have had to save up for and I felt like I didn't deserve such a grand gesture.

So, when she offered to take me out for yogurt. I declined. I made an excuse that it was too cold for yogurt, that the kids also needed naps, and that we could enjoy a scoop of ice cream at her place. So we did just that.

But that wasn't the end of the story. As we sat and caught up on our lives, we made plans to see a movie that evening with a few girl friends.

That evening, she came to the movie theater first. And paid for Jen and I.

Later, as I drove home, I thought to myself. Who does that? What kind of person takes me and my kids out for lunch on a regular day. Who offers more then she has. Who willingly pays for my friends. And who does it without expecting anything back. Who does that?

The next time I saw her, that's exactly what I asked. And you know what she said.

That she had been blessed and in turn wanted to bless some one else.

I don't know about you. But if there happens to be a day when some one asks that question and says "Who does that?" I want the answer to be, Nadia does. Maria does. Jen does. And so on.

I want it to spread in the same way that I have seen it be spread. Touching the lives of people close to our hearts and impacting the people surrounding our lives. I want to learn how to think about you and practice it in my life . I want to be the one that "does".

That day. I was convicted. I so foolishly thought that I was doing enough instead of going above and beyond.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Louder than words

This week was picked out of the whole year to be the week of little miracles.

All of face book seemed flooded with photos of little feet, tiny hands, and chubby cheeks. Proud papas paraded their new born in the halls of the maternity ward. Mamas melted in the arms of yet another new found love. And in the land of parenthood, all was precious.

Between the hospital visits, flowers, and sanitizer, the memories of labor came flooding back. As I remembered it, it wasn't the labor that was hard, it was the week that followed.

The sleepless nights, the constant feedings, the colic, the aches and pains, and probably the worst of it were the breasts! Just the thought of it, makes me cringe. But I must say, the sights of a child breathing in my arms is nothing short of a miracle, and I rejoiced with the new moms.

One of the things that I do, to extend my congratulation and to really help in the recovery is to coordinate a meal plan for the mom.

I usually send out a message to her friends and family, asking to help in the meal planning for the week or so. Each person that volunteers are asked to pick a day out of the week that would work best with their schedule. By bringing dinner over allows the family to focus more on the baby and all the changes that this may hold on the household. Personally, I like the sense of community and idea that our actions speak louder than our words.

Do you sometimes feel as though you say empty words?  I do, but I also don't want to. I never want my words to be empty, I want to stand behind them with my deeds. I never want to expect some one to do the things that should, I want to be the first to do them. And I never want to be the girl that holds bitterness in others successes, I want to be the one to help them succeed. Because what I want, is to be so consistent in my 'wants' that my life would show it. And I feel as though you do to.  So, be the next one to bless some ones socks off.

Here is the recipe I used this week.

Lasagna recipe:

1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 onion,diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup heavy cream
28 ounces crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper
fresh basil
Olive oil

In a dutch oven, on medium heat the oil and add the onion, cook until softened.  Add the garlic and cook about a minute.  Add the ground meats and cook until it looses its pick color.  Add the heavy cream and cook until it is absorbed into the meat.  This might take up to 10 minutes.  Add the can of tomatoes last and return to a simmer.  Adjust the flavors with salt, pepper, and basil.  Sometimes I add more herbs like Marjoram,  parsley, rosemary.

After the meat mixture is ready.  Make the ricotta mixture.

1 15oz container of fresh ricotta
basil leaves, chopped
1 egg
salt and pepper

You will also need:

Modzerella, grated
Parmeson, grated
Uncooked, ready to bake lasagna noodles

Then in a casserole dish spread the meat mixture on the bottom.  Try to have more liquid then meat in this step.  I like to use the uncooked, ready to bake lasagna sheets, just because its one less step to worry about and it takes the flavor of the sauce.  Place those on top.  Smear with the ricotta, sprinkle with Parmesan first and then mozzarella, top it off with more of the meat mixture and repeat.  I usually end up with 3to 4 layers.  

 Cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated oven at 375 F for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for 15 more minutes.  After removing it from the oven let the lasagna rest for 10 minutes before cutting.

Of course, enjoy :)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Vintage pretty

I found myself truly blessed today. Disguised by small moments throughout my day, I saw my life as I should be seeing it daily.

It started like any other. I showered, made breakfast, prepared lunches, kissed the older ones good-bye, waved to the bus driver, and then finished getting myself ready while the two younger ones played.

I felt lucky to still be living inside of our home. I felt that God had given me today, and that the time we had left in our house would be determined by Him and not anything else. So, I did the most natural thing I could. I untaped a few boxes, found my sewing machine and watched that needle bop up and down. The way I saw it, was that if time was the gift He gave me, I was going to use that time to give back.

The bonnet was made from a soft linen type fabric, by leaving the edge raw, I felt that it gave the hat a modern twist to a very vintage concept and I was pleased with the finished product. Especially because it brought back memories of my little Mikka and the bonnet I made for her. I smiled, she was rummaging in the pile of loose scraps on the floor, I couldn't believe that she was one already!

The pacifier clip was more of my friends talent then mine. To be honest I saw her post a picture of a necklace she made and thought it would make the perfect clip for Pearl, she loved vintage things along with urban touches and I felt that this would be right up her alley. Luckily, my friend Olga had all the parts that I needed and was also a sweetheart in helping me out with this project. Please, check out her things at

Lastly, I took a moose ornament and made a little bow tie. I felt that it presented the bow well and that it was a unconventional way to display it. I also knew that Pearl loved pretty little gifts and that the more thought I put into it the more it would be a true representation of time.

Do you ever feel so blessed that you can't help but spread the joy? I hope that everyday I can live that out. What I want is to be able to notice the very things God gives to me and then be moved enough to share it!


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My little sister

Today is my little sisters birthday. Her name is Alina and she turned 19 today. Being that she is younger than me and lives far from me, I have been wondering what would be the appropriate gift for her. So I went shopping. If I know anything, it's that she loves being glamed up, with curls in her hair and high heels, she can pull off the look like a supermodel. Confident, stunning, and graceful. She has a humble heart, a thankful attitude, and kind spirit that is always willing to give or to help. In my eyes she would win any beauty pageant out there and I love her to pieces.

But as much as she loves show stopping beauty, at the end of the day, she loves to unwind with sweaters and sweatshirts. So I found a gift that was well suited for the down to earth, side of her. I wrapped it. Addressed it. And then looked at it.

As much as I enjoy gift giving, it just wasn't enough. What I wanted was for her to see how important she is to me, how valuable she is to our family, and how honored I am to have her as my little sister. All of a sudden, the box seemed empty.

So I thought about us. I thought about all the times she just wanted time with me. The way her innocent, young eyes looked up to me and as an older sister and I just never had enough time to give her. How fast time flew by since then, how much had changed since childhood, and how much I wanted to just sit and finally give her all the time I had.

So I did. I packed the kids in the car, and decided that I was going to take my sister out. Even if she couldn't really be here with me. Even if it looked crazy while doing it, I was going to pretend she was right beside me.

At first we went to a yogurt place. It was chaotic, crazy, and the candles didn't light up. Sorry Alina, somehow in my mind it seemed easier. But don't worry, the kids enjoyed the cheesecake, red velvet yogurt to the last drop. Derek picked cheesecake, because some how some where he remembers you making it. Jenny chose cake, because it's a birthday. Then they loaded the bowl up with berries, brownies, cherries, gummy bears, caramel, and sprinkles.... Of course! We stuck 19 candles in, and sang until we turned blue.

I hope you enjoyed it as much as they did. I also hope that all those toppings are your favorite! The video on the other hand was a mess, so we took you out for dinner where you enjoyed macaroni and cheese with meatballs, french fries, and Pepsi. After a fantastic meal, happy tummies, and hopefully happy hearts, we lite up another candle, sang another song and wished more wishes.

Happy birthday, little sis. I hope you feel loved today, I hope I made you feel special, and I hope you feel like your the most important girl in the world!

My wish to you is that you begin this next season of your life with wisdom and triumph. You have seen the mistakes that I have made, witnessed them almost first hand. You have lived through the tears that were shed for our brother and then waited on the miracles of prayer. You have had to see more, experience more, and hear more than any of us. For being 19, you hold more years on you. You have also had to be there for each one of us, kindly accepting our ways but cautiously walking on your own. I love how much you enjoy your privacy, it's never loud, it's never gloating, it's simply escaping from the chaos we put on your shoulders. Not every one can bear the burdens you have had to and I know that you were meant to be the youngest for a reason. The reason that we need peace and you bring that, we need kindness and you show that, we need loyalty and you are always there. So thank you, from he bottom of my grateful heart. You will walk the path of triumph, I can feel it:)


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pieces of me

One of the challenges that I am often facing is consistent thoughtfulness. I know that I want my children to witness kindness outside the walls of our home and I feel that it is easily practiced if I make it a priority. The problem is that it takes more than a desire to be thoughtful, it also requires the delegation to do it. And that to put others before me and my schedules, I would need to stop making excuses.

I usually find that more often than not, I would suddenly get tired, or I would find myself frustrated, or be so overwhelmed with my chores that it wouldn't be possible to make room for any thing else. Wanting to change this pattern, I started asking myself if the sudden idea (which was most often last minute) was possible or not. I would then seek for a window of time, and ask God, to show it to me.

Some times it has been as simple as putting an item on hold for a friend and sometimes its putting something of mine back so that I could bless some one else.  And some times, its bringing a coffee by, or lunch, or dessert, or maybe just a drop by. Regardless, I have been working on being thoughtful.

Today I was reminded of my parents.  I was reminded of  my mother and how she instilled in me the importance of bringing something to the host of the home that I was entering. It was a simple thought usually, I box of chocolates, some fruit, or jam.  But even simple actions require time and  I wondered at what point in my life, I got so busy that I lost the gratitude of being a guest.  And honestly, I wasn't okay with that.  I wasn't okay with ignoring this thought, especially because Tamar is one of the most influential women in my life.

Tamar is one of those ladies, who never complains, and I admire that about her. Besides raising her 5 children, being a pastor to the young adults in our church, carrying her sixth child, and finding time to develop her passion for renewing furniture, she happens to also be my friend on top of that. I am so grateful for our time, especially because she has blessed me with a few knowledgeable tools that I use with my children to this day.

Number one.
If you have something to say, place your hand on my shoulder and wait patiently for me to finish talking. I can not forget, because you are touching me and I know it is of value to you because you have waited. Besides practicing the diligence of patience, it is also a good example of respect.

Number two.
If you misbehave before your friends arrive, you will not be allowed to play. You have disobeyed me and the rules of our home so you will need to be in your room, by yourself. I need to know that I can trust you independently before you are allowed to play with your peers.  This promotes obedience as well as teaches consequence.  

Number three.
There are two types of snacks. When the adults are eating and talking it is called "adult time". You can not have or ask about the snacks on the table, they are put out for our guest. I have separate snacks for you and the other children, which I can give you once we finish having "adult time".  I think this just promotes sanity for the moms and a reason to have special treats.

Those are my favorite three. Of course there are probably a dozen more because Tamar is very wise and I look forward to learning new parenting techniques in our meetings together. While having her on my mind, I decided that running a few minutes late was not going to hold me back from making a treat for our "adult time" today. While I was prepping, I also began to wonder about your day and if it was any different than mine?

Don't you ever wonder what other people are doing? I do. Sometimes it's for the sanity of not being the only one. Sometimes it's for ideas to new approaches. And sometimes it simply to feed my craving for curiosity. In any case, I hope that you enjoyed having a small moment with me.

Find time, Hope.

I made a Russian salad called, Vinegrette.

1 boiled potato, peeled and diced
3 small boiled beets, peeled and diced
3 boiled carrots, peeled and diced
1 can of pickles
1 can of peas
Olive oil, salt and paper to taste
Sour kraut is also an option.

I also had time to make the sandwiches.

Crusty bread, sliced
Basil pesto
Ricotta cheese
Spinach tossed in a little oil, lemon juice and salt
Pickled onions
*I just do sliced onions marinated in red wine vinegar while preparing the sandwiches.