Thursday, June 28, 2007

Look not unto yourself...

Something that has been ever on my mind lately is...myself! I try to contemplate how I can solve a problem, how I can make the right decisions, how I can care for others that God has placed in my life, how I can please God through my life and do the right things. These are just a few examples of how I try to depend on myself and my own strength. And though we do play an active role in "working out our own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 3:12) I tend to forget the last part of this passage: "for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Philippians 3:13) I forget that though I do work out my salvation through obedience and active decisions to please God through my life... It is really God's work in me, through His Son, that makes it all possible! Looking to myself is never the answer, I am called to look to Christ...yet I so quickly forget to do so. The result is usually weariness, grumbling, and feelings of being defeated. It usually when these things appear that I realize what is going on and God kindly refocuses my gaze back onto His perfect son, whose bled was shed for all of my weariness, that I can have victory!

This is how God brought this to my attention this morning:

“Looking unto Jesus.”

Hebrews 12:2

It is the continual work of the Holy Spirit to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan's work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ. He insinuates, "Your sins are too great to be forgiven; your repentance is not real; you will never be able to continue to the end; your faith is weak!"

All these are thoughts about self, and we will never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self; He tells us that we are nothing but that "Christ is everything." Always remember that it is not your hold on Christ that saves you, it is Christ Himself (and his hold on you); it is not your joy in Christ that saves you--it is Christ (and His joy in saving you); it is not even faith in Christ, though faith is the instrument of your salvation--it is Christ Himself (His blood and merit) that accomplishes salvation.

We will never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we want to overcome Satan and have peace with God, we must do so by "looking unto Jesus." Keep your eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon your mind when you wake up or when you lay down each night. Don’t let your hopes or fears come between you and Jesus; look to Him, and He will never fail you.

“My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness:

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”

-Morning and Evening 6/28
Charles Spurgeon

I pray that we can be reminded to look to the author and perfecter of our faith and run with endurance the race that is set before us. He is the one who has gone before us, and He is the one that makes the way possible.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2

Monday, June 25, 2007

Spontaneity at it's best!

Thursday morning I was doing some things around the house when I checked out my sister hannah's blog and saw some new pictures of my nephew Isaiah. I started to think about how much I missed them since they moved to North Carolina and then the thought came to mind...hmmm Lew is only working a half day on Friday...hmmm...we don't have any plans this weekend....I'm gonna call Lew! So I did and presented him with a crazy and spontaneous idea for our weekend "Let's drive down to Charlotte this weekend!" With my sisters approval we left around 11:30 Friday morning.

We had such a fun visit. Friday night some friends from their church (the Sovereign Grace Church in Charlotte) invited us over for some southern hospitality with my sisters family. We had a cookout and played some Corn Hole....this is a game similar to horseshoes and very popular a long with the game Washers.

Then Saturday we spent the day at a spray park (hard to explain you'll see what it is with the pictures) and then on the play ground. Then we got to drive around with Hannah and Enoch to see some of the area along with where their new home is being built. Charlotte is such a neat place, there is definitely a lot of building and growing down there right now.

Then Sunday we got to visit Crossway Community Church which was like a smaller version of our Church here in Maryland. We really enjoyed it! Then we went out to lunch with Hannah, Enoch and Isaiah and were on our way back up to Maryland. It was a great of those spontaneous things that makes being a newlywed so great. We were reminded that these are the kinds of things we won't be able to do once we have kids, so we're taking advantage now!

So here are some pictures of our weekend! Thank you Hannah and Enoch for accommodating us on such short notice! We had such a great time.

Lew spent a lot of time playing with and entertaining was very cute!

Story time with Uncle Lew

Music time with Uncle Lew

Tickle time with Uncle Lew

Jumpin' on the bed time with Uncle Lew

"Uncle Lew even let me play with his keys!"

Fun Keys ;)

Then at the spray park....

He was very hesitant...he just kept his distance for a little while

Then we convinced him to get a little closer...but as you can see by his face he still wasn't thrilled!

Then Uncle Lew convinced him to touch the water....

and then he even convinced him to let him run through the water while being held...

Holding on for dear life...but enjoying it none the less ;)

Then I got a chance to run through with him...he looked a little concerned at times but for the most part really had fun!Weeee!
Then he got to a point where he would walk through as long as one of us was holding his hand. As you can tell we weren't really getting wet. We were walking under the sprinklers...we didn't want to upset him too much!

With MommyAunt Laura....You can tell I was having fun, I think I had just gotten splashed in the face there.

He loved this ducky inter tube he found but it wasn't ours and he wasn't too happy when we had to take it away! At this point he was really getting into the experience ;)

And then to the park....

Lew did a great job keeping "little buddy" (as Lew likes to call him) busy. He ran around the playground with him like a big kid!Weee! Going down the slide

Going down the slide with Uncle Lew

Riding the... tractor?
At this point Isaiah was really looking tired ;) You can see it in his face!

This is a video I couldn't resist. When we were eventually driving home he was so exhausted...but definitely was trying to fight his sleepiness. You can see him nodding off....but then trying to keep his eyes open...too cute! Lew definitely wore him out.

Then when we got home....
Isaiah apparently wore Lew out too! He napped while Isaiah was napping.

Then....little buddy woke up....
"Wake up Uncle 'Woo'....come on wake up...lets play"
(of course he didn't say any of these things....but I think he was thinking them!)

"Come on....don't you wanna play!"

"Ha Ha! Mission accomplished!"

We had such a great time! Thanks to my wonderful husband who went with my spontaneous plan....and spent a lot of time we could go for the weekend! I am so grateful for you my love!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Some Pictures from this past week.

Here are some fun pictures from Father's Day. We had so much fun spending time with my Dad and family. A lot of the pictures I took were of Gianna (I can't resist she is just too cute...and funny!)

She was thrilled to get in on some of our "adult food" ;)

Unfortunately I didn't get a good picture of my Dad and Gianna....but this one makes me laugh so hard. My Dad is mid-sentence and Gianna is can see for yourself ;)

There is that tongue again ;) She looks cute with Mommy here.

Dad with one of his remaining children. We call this one the "red-headed stepchild" (his real name is webster) he has a complex and thinks everyone is conspiring against him. So he is always on edge and tends to isolate himself. Ever since they adopted his sister Tiny he has felt overruled and very powerless. So most often you will find him sulking, and usually the brunt of many jokes.

Gianna playing with the TV

Happy girl

Getting to know Gidget (the dog my little sister is watching for the week)

Gidget looks a little hesitant as Gianna goes for her ear...

So, Monday I was at home when I got a call from Lew saying something funny had happened. He entered a raffle for free Nationals tickets that morning and won...and the game was for that night. So my good friend Kelly let me reschedule our dinner plans for that night (very last minute..your the best Kel!) and Lew and I were able to go to the game. It was such a fun time...even though the Nationals lost horribly.

Thats all for now! Whats going on in our life the next week....hanging out with the small group that we lead tonight, zoo on Friday....and next week Cheryl and JD's wedding ;)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Some Summer recipes....

I have been hanging on to some recipes and keep saying "I will post them tomorrow" but don't ever really get to it! So here are a few of our recent summer favorites:

Kubideh Kabobs

  • 1 lb. ground lamb or beef (I did a combo of ground beef and ground turkey)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped (I also added about 1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Wood skewers soaked in water for about an hour to keep them from burning
These are sooooo easy! I thought there would be more to it but they have so much flavor with very little work! Prepare grill or broiler. Combine meat with all other ingredients. After mixing put in fridge for 10-15 minutes. Roll meat into a ball about the size of a tennis ball and put onto a flat skewer. Compress and shape it like a cigar, about 5-7 inches long. Repeat with remaining meat and skewers. Now broil or grill for about 4-6 minutes each side. Be careful not to overcook! They aren't good if their dry. So easy and tasty ;)

For sides: I made whole wheat cous cous in my rice cooker and just added some chopped onion, chopped green pepper, and chopped seeded tomato with a little bit of olive oil. I also used one of my frozen back ups from trader joes: Sezshuan Green beans. These are so good and only take 5 minutes to cook.

Chicken in Tangy Escabeche of Carmelized Onions, Carrots & Jalapenos

So this one isn't too summery but we still like the recipe, and it's not too heavy for a summer dish.
  • 2 Teas. dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 1 Teas freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teas allspice
  • 1/2 teas salt
  • 2 pounds bone in chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons canola or EVOO
  • 1 large qhite onion cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 thick on diagonal
  • 4 cloves garlic peeled and halved
  • 1/4 cup vinegar, preferably cider vinegar
  • 2-4 pickled jalapeƱos, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth

Combine Oregano, pepper, allspice and salt in small bowl. Sprinkle half the mixture over the chicken. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook turning once until richly browned (3-4 min on each side) Transfer to plate, leaving as much oil behind in pan. Add onion and carrots to the pan. Stir often until onion is browned, about 7 min. Add garlic and stir until aromatic, about 1 min. Add remaining spice mixture, vinegar, jalapeƱos, and broth. Nestle the chicken in the onion mixture. Cover and simmer gently over medium low heat until chicken is just cooked through, about 12-20 minutes (depending on sizes of chicken. Serve chicken topped with onion mixture.

Sides: I just made some black beans and made some Mexican rice in my rice cooker with veggies in it.

Open-face sausage and pepper sandwiches
This is one of our favorites!

  • 3 peppers (I used one green, red, and yellow) cut into 1/2 inch wide strips
  • 2 Medium red onions cut into 1/2 inch wide wedges
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette dressing
  • 1 lb fresh Italian Chicken or Turkey sausage cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 long loaf Italian or French bread
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 teas. dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Heat oven to 500 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with nonstick foil. Spread peppers and onions in one pan drizzle with 3 tbs vinaigrette and toss to coat. Place sausage in other pan, drizzle with remaining vinaigrette and toss to coat. Roast 10 minutes or until sausage is cooked through. Meanwhile split bread lengthwise, leaving 1 long side attached (like a hinge). Open loaf brush cut sides with olive oil then sprinkle with oregano and cheese. Remove both pans from oven. Toss peppers and onions and return to oven; place bread cut sides up on oven rack. Roast 5 minutes or until bread is lightly toasted and veggies are tender and slightly charred. Top bread with veggies and sausage. Cut loaf into quarters. Eat sandwich with fork and knife.

Sides: I have just added chips and fruit, or sometimes I will make baked sweet potato fries or just baked regular fries.

Chicken Parmesan
From Southern Living, another of our Favorites!
Again there isn't much "summery" about this dish, but it also is not too heavy for the summer heat.
  • 1 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 2 skinned and boned chicken breasts
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Tomato Sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Combine breadcrumbs, flour, and ground red pepper in a small bowl, and set aside.

Place chicken between two sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap, and flatten to 1/4-inch thickness, using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Dip 1 chicken breast in egg whites, and coat with breadcrumb mixture. Dip again in egg mixture, and coat again in breadcrumb mixture. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken breast. Cook chicken in hot oil over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until done. Place chicken breasts in a single layer in a lightly greased 8-inch square baking dish. Top evenly with Tomato Sauce and cheeses. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until cheeses melt.

We usually serve this with a side salad. I either pour some sauce over the pasta or I mix the pasta with Olive Oil, salt, pepper, and italian seasoning.

I don't have any pictures of the next few:

Macadamia-Crusted Mahi Mahi with Pineapple Salsa

  • 1 1/2 lbs mahi mahi fillets (4-6 filets)
  • 1 1/2 cups Diced Macadamia nuts
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 6 tbs olive oil
  • 3 small garlic cloves minced
  • 2 large shallots minced
  • 2 large sweet red peppers minced
  • 1 small green chili, seeded and minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro minced
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 20 ox cans crushed pineapple drained
  • 1 11 oz can mandarin oranges drained
Salsa: Heat half of oil in skillet over medium high heat Add garlic, shallots, pepper, chili, and cilantro. Saute until vegetables begin to soften. Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to simmer for approximately 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Set aside.

Mahi mahi: Mix macadamia nuts with ginger in small flat bowl. Pat fish dry. Coat each piece of fish completely in remaining olive oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper. Roll fish in nut mixture coating entirely. Place fish fillets on sheet pain and bake 20-30 min until nuts are golden brown and fish is flaky. Serve with side of pineapple salsa. Salsa can be served cold or hot (we liked it cold).

Sides: Asparagus with lemon, Wasabi mashed potatoes
and Cheddar-green onion muffins
We've mixed and matched these sides with lots of other dishes and they are delicious.

Our favorite burger recipe:
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1/2 onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded colby or monteray jack cheese
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1 (1 oz) envelope dry onion soup mix
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teas. dried parsley
  • 1 teas. dried basil
  • 1 teas dried oregano
  • 1/2 teas/ crushed dried rosemary
  • salt and pepper to taste
Preheat grill for high heat. In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients. Form into 4 patties (these patties are relatively large you could probably make 6 smaller burgers out of this). Grill patties for 5 minutes on each side. Serve with your favorite fixens!

These burgers are really moist and flavorful, we love them! We usually serve them with baked garlic fries, roasted potatoes, or salad and fruit.

And last but not least our two favorite desserts thus far:

Blackberry oat crumb cake:
  • 2 cups regular oats
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup 1% low-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen blackberries, unthawed
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup regular oats
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chilled butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare batter, place oats in a food processor; process until finely ground (about 1 minute). Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Add flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt to food processor; process until well blended. Add butter; pulse 5 times or until combined. Spoon mixture into a large bowl. Combine milk, egg substitute, and vanilla, stirring just until blended. Add to oat mixture, stirring to combine. Gently stir in blackberries. Pour mixture into a 9-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray (batter will be thin).
To prepare topping, combine 1/2 cup oats and remaining ingredients in a food processor; process until finely chopped. Sprinkle evenly over batter. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until lightly browned and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.

This was so yummy! We serve it with whip cream or vanilla ice cream. The oats give it a really good texture (and its lighter than most crumb cakes).

And finally the cake I made for Lew's birthday:

Luscious Lemon Cheesecake

This cake was delicious! Lew loves cheesecake so I spent a while searching for the "right one" and this one was so tasty. I substituted 2 packages of reduced fat cream cheese and replaced the sour cream with reduced fat to lighten it up a little and you couldn't tell at all.

Whew, that's all for our summer cooking for now. Next time I won't wait so long to post them! I am still looking for some new summer recipes...I look forward to checking those out on your blogs, ladies ;)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Let's trade

Yup, it's me, carving out some time to write to all those who read this blog. Hi!

There are some books that I have thought about writing reviews on here for, but I haven't had the time. I have had other ideas about things to post about other then books, but then when I finally do get around to blogging I forget what I was going to blog about or feel like it is kind of outdated. Alas.

What do you know, it's free time and an interesting topic to blog about. My newest obsession that I've been telling people about lately is called, "Paperback Swap"

If you are like me, you have read your fair share of books, some of them are worth reading again and some of them just sit on your book case collecting dust. You can find a used book store with the intention of selling your books for spare change, but why do that when you sign up for Paperback Swap.

Paperback Swap is free to join. Let me repeat, it is free to join. All you pay is postage.

It's easy to join, all you have to do is list 9 books and immediately you get three books in return! When someone orders a book that you list you receive a credit to order another book from the website. Remember the barter system that was taught in history class, this is it in the 21st system, for every book I mail out I receive a book.

Currently in Paperback Swap there are over a one million books listed and over 280,000 unique titles. Over 10,000 people have logged into Paperback Swap so far today and this week over 30,000 books have been given away over Paperback Swap.

The only downside to Paperback swap is the speediness of books sent. A book is being sent to me from the state of Washington, it is estimated to arrive by July 9th. I am hoping that they are estimating way late, but who knows, maybe while I wait for the book to arrive I'll post other books on Paperback Swap.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Another fun week...

This past week was a lot of fun and not quite as busy as some. Thursday night my sister Charissa and I went and picked some strawberries from Larriland farm. Aren't they beautiful?! And they tasted sooo good too. In fact we ate them all (5 lbs of them) in 24 hours ;) This was our first time having fresh picked strawberries and it was so worth it! God also answered a huge prayer request for me in the most unexpected time! While we were at the farm my sister ran into a girl who just graduated from her college. The girl was asking her if she was interested in being a camp counselor for a camp in august, but my little sister is already going to be a counselor at another camp that same week in august. Well I was so shocked because this past month I have been praying for opportunities to be a counselor at a camp this summer for underprivileged children but hadn't found any open doors yet. This has been my dream to do before I start working. So I asked her about the camp and it just so happens that it is for children from intercity Baltimore who are infected with HIV, and they actually are in need of people with a health care background . I knew this was God opening a door so I gave her my info and it looks like I will be going for the first week of August! The camp is actually a Christian run camp and the point is to reach out and show love to these children who can sometimes be treated as outcasts! I am so looking forward to this opportunity. If anyone else in our area is interested in this, please let me know. They are still looking for more counselors.

Lew and I also had a picnic at Tridelphia Lake which was so beautiful! The weather was really nice and from the picnic tables on the hill you can see the sunset over the lake. We had a very nice time.

Then Saturday night my Parents, Rissa, and Lew and I went to my second cousins graduation party in Westminster. My Mom and Lew had a great time on the trampoline as you can see by the pictures:

This is my favorite ;) Lew and my Mom are definitely one of a kind!

Then we played horseshoes, which seems to be kind of a family tradition on my Moms side of the family for graduation parties ;)

Rissa after she got a "ringer"

My luck wasn't so fact I think I got close to the pit once! It was pretty funny.
My Dad was the best. He some how managed to win 3 games in a row!

And our highlight from the weekend was going to South Mountain Creamery again, but this time with Jeremy and Rachel. We had so much fun and this time got to feed the baby calves!

This is the story of a greedy goat. He saw some hay that seemed fresher and tastier than the rest so he climbed his way into the calves pen and ate of the grass for a while and then realized he couldn't get out! The poor guy was stuck in there and couldn't climb back out from under the gate. Poor greedy goat, he sacrificed his freedom for a full stomach ;)

Training for parenthood:

Jeremy soon realizes that these cows are not like babies. They try to pull the bottle away and not only that, when you take the bottle away because it's empty they become ferocious aggressive cows ;) They acted like they were starving! And then they would try to steal the bottle away from the cow next to them.

Some more fun farm pictures:
This cow had really nice eyelashes ;)

A mother with her kittens

This one was going after Jeremy's knee!!
Rachel and I with the kittens.

Thanks Jer and Rach! We had so much fun with you guys.