Worth the Risk?

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“I think there should be a God-honoring, obedient risk in our lives every single day…I’m saying that Jesus lives on the other side of our comfort.  And that when we get comfortable for too long, we start to miss our need for God.”  –Jennie Allen

I always find it interesting how I choose my next topic to write upon.  Sometimes there is a pressing notion on my mind, and other times it just slaps me across the face and I can’t get the thought out of my head until I have it down on paper.  That is what happened today as I read from Jennie Allen’s book “Nothing to Prove.”  This particular chapter talked about Jesus’ risk for us, and how we tend to avoid risk in life.  We like the comfortable spot in the chair, or in our church pew, just so long as not too much gets shaken up.  I started to contemplate all the “risks” I have found myself taking lately in life.  Things I would probably have never had the courage or tact to do even five years ago.  And I could see the point Jennie was trying to make.  We, as human beings, have a tendency to make our decisions based on fears (or the fear of risk) instead of relying on our faith to guide us.

Faith can have different meanings for various spiritualities, but for me, it means I am a follower of Jesus and I strive to live my life out in my faith through Him.  Jesus risked so much to give me life, and it makes my own fears seem obsolete.  So as I kept reading Allen’s book, I was thinking about my own battles with fear, how have I worked to overcome those fears, and what am I still lacking when I am supposed to obediently live the “what would Jesus do” lifestyle.  It also had me thinking about risk.

As a child, I would not have considered myself a risk-taker.  For those of you who knew me then, and even read this blog, you would probably agree.  I was always a rule-follower and didn’t stray far from the safe path in life.  I didn’t take huge risks when it came to school, relationships, or physical activities.  I chose not to “put myself out there,” whether it be fear of failure or rejection.  I came out of adolescence with only a few bruises, but what opportunities did I miss because I failed to take a risk? Because my fear of failing overruled my desire to see what the grass looked like on the other side of the fence?

Moving away to school was the first big “risk” I took, and it began a slow, yet steady tick of finding myself in life.  It has taken years, and a lot of life experiences, but I am letting that fear of risk slowly go.  Rome was not built in a day, so this does take time.  Yet, it is so liberating when you can finally be comfortable in your own skin and own your identity.  The space I take up in this world, I worked hard to own and this is just the beginning.  I have built some pretty amazing relationships in life, am putting myself out there more to become involved in big ideas, and realizing that fear and risk are not necessarily bad things.  Just so long as I can keep my faith in perspective and Jesus in my heart.  I am not expecting to move mountains or set the world on fire with my new-found, risk-taking attitude.  But what I hope to achieve is a more solid foundation to stand on as I get older and live my life.  To show my children that taking a God-filled risk can result in some awesome discoveries, no matter how scary the idea.

“Every time we risk, we place our lives in the hands of our God and test His enoughness.  It is for freedom and joy that we stand out past the limits and confines of our comfort.”  –Jennie Allen

Risk-taking means the chance of bumps and bruises.  It’s like me cringing when I see my kids race on their bikes or try to ski behind a boat.  I know there lies the chance for broken bones or bruised egos, but the flip side is the joy and elation they feel whenever they succeed.  The knowing and trusting that God has them in His arms and protects them more than I ever could as a mother.  It’s the million dollar question shored up by eternal salvation, grace, and love.  I just have to remember to let the fear go, to let the risk happen, and to trust more.  That doesn’t mean I’m going to let my kids run in traffic, or that I am going to hit the blackjack tables in Vegas.  Instead, I know I am not always going to be there to offer protection and help to my children.  And I know that Jesus watches over them as they take their own risks through life, just as I know He watches over me as I am taking more of mine.  It’s not an easy thing to do, to let go and let God.  But then again, who said life was going to be easy?

So I ask you to think about your own risk-taking, fear-loathing attitude in life, and maybe kick it up a notch or two.  See what you can do to put yourself out there more.  Will you build a new relationship, or perhaps mend an old and damaged one.  Will you jump towards a new career, or maybe move thousands of miles away.  It’s hard to say how the cards will play when you take a risk or two, but I pray you find it and settle in for the ride.

Until next time,

Cheers

 

 

 

 

 

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Walking Through the Door of Opportunity

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I am a little chagrined at how long it has been since I have posted on my blog.  It just goes to show how life can put a road-block in things.  But this morning I had some solitude and I also had a project to work on for a friend.  I was able to self-reflect on why I wanted to become a part of something unique and special.

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It’s funny how people come into your life at just the right moment. One minute you are finding yourself struggling with change and the next you have this wonderful individual sitting across from you at your local coffee house, sharing about life and relating to similar circumstances. I met Raelenna Ferguson at a point in my life when there needed to be a change in myself. Approaching 40, I was really beginning to feel the desire to give more of myself, to focus on deeper relationships with people, and to make a positive impact on the world for my two children. I just didn’t know where or how to do it. My church is huge on overseas mission trips, but I felt that just wasn’t the right fit for me at this point in my life. My children are young and although the tug on my heart was growing, I just didn’t think God was pointing me in this particular direction. Little did I know He would soon gently lead me in the direction He wanted for my life.

A random morning in Starbuck’s not only sparked the beginning of a wonderful friendship, but it was also God opening a door for me to become a part of something bigger than myself. That opportunity was One City. When Raelenna began to speak about her vision for this organization I knew I wanted to be a part. It had everything I was looking for in my heart; growing the community we lived in, developing relationships with people I would most likely never cross paths with, and helping lift people up by simply believing in them. Over the next several months, the more I heard about One City from Raelenna and her husband Jeremy, the bigger the pounding in my heart and soul became. So when I was asked to be a member of the board, I knew the answer. Prayerful considerations and talks at home with my family ended with a phone call to Raelenna telling her I was all in.

Fast-forward almost two years and now One City is a physical reality. There is a building, and a solid plan that focuses on job training, enriching children with the arts, and creating a safe place for people of all socio-economic backgrounds to come together and share this crazy thing we call life. Being a member of this board not only integrates me with some amazing people who bring a tremendous amount of integrity to One City as an organization, it is going to expose me to another aspect of life I never knew existed right here in Cape Girardeau. It will make me get out of the comfort zone I have lived in for 38 years. It will offer my family an opportunity to get immersed in new cultures and meet people we probably would never run across in our daily routines. This depth of personal and spiritual growth is why I wanted to be involved in One City. It was the change I needed in life to offer opportunities to people from all walks of life. But what I would soon discover is how I am changed by what I am learning and experiencing from my involvement with One City. My heart is softened and my eyes opened to the reality that God changes us simply through relationships.

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Sometimes I feel we can miss the forest for the trees when it comes to volunteering and finding ways to grow as a person. We can easily stay caught up in the materialistic aspects of life and society. Sometimes it takes a person or an idea to make us be still and listen to what our hearts are trying to tell us. I challenge you to find that inner voice and see where it can take you. See what kind of impact you can have on the world around you, especially your immediate environment. One City is a great way to do this, to find yourself a part of something bigger, to make a difference in someone’s life and have them make a difference in yours. We are all spiritual beings in a materialistic world, and what we do with this one life is up to us. So come join us, in whatever capacity you can, to shake things up and make a difference in the world together.

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“I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that He will guide me to do whatever I’m supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I’m praying for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things.”

– Mother Teresa

Red, White, and…Green!

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Happy 4th of July America! In honor of the holiday I decided to post my most recent creation in the kitchen.  I called it my “red, white, and green salad” to go along with the patriotic theme.  Our household is learning how to cook in a gluten-free environment nowadays, so I have found myself experimenting with gluten-free swaps.  This recipe used a gluten-free elbow macaroni, and the consensus was a total thumbs up!  I think I even heard the words, “you can’t tell the difference.”  Sweetness to my ears!

Going gluten free is more common nowadays than it was even ten years ago.  My household is doing it for medical purposes, but many people choose to go gluten-free for a variety of reasons.  The time it would take to fully go into this topic would make this post longer than necessary, so I will save gluten-free issues for another day.  Needless to say, if you need or want to take gluten out of your diet, it doesn’t mean you can never have pasta, cakes, or sandwiches again.  

So if you want to try gluten-free, and get some healthy greens in your diet, perhaps you can give this recipe a whirl at your next meal.

For the “meat” of the salad:

  • 2 cups of gluten-free elbow macaroni (any brand will work) 
  • 3 large leaves of lacinato kale, stems removed and roughly chopped 
  • 1/2 cup of julienne sun-dried tomatoes 
  • 1/2 cup of chopped artichoke hearts
  • 1/4 cup of diced red onion

For the dressing:

  • 3/4 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar 
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 or 2 small anchovies, chopped 
  • 1 to 2 tsp freshly chopped parsley 
  • Salt and pepper, to taste 

I mixed the dressing ingredients together and set aside while I assembled the salad ingredients.  For the kale, I did massage the juice of half a lemon with the leaves to help break down the fibers and cut the bitterness a bit.  Once everything was cooked and chopped, I combined it all in a large bowl and let it cool in the fridge for a bit.  Then it was ready to serve! For hot summer cookouts, this is a great accompaniment without worrying about what is secretly hiding inside.  If you can’t do the kale, substitute fresh spinach leaves instead.  Easy-peasy and still just as healthy. 

So at your next gathering, instead of going to your grocery store’s deli section, surprise your guests with a healthy alternative to pasta salad.  

Happy Birthday America, and until next time,

Cheers!

Dinner on the Run

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If you would have asked me years ago how I felt about green peas, I probably would have made a gagging motion.  Especially the kind that come in a can and appear to be a funky green color from over-processing.  

But today I was able to find some fresh green peas while in St. Louis, and decided I wanted to do something for dinner.  I was in between obligations for my kids, and I needed to figure out what everyone was going to eat and when.  I also needed to clear out some vegetables in my refrigerator.  What better way to incorporate both than through a salad? 

Here is what I used to whip up this tasty, but really healthy “Dinner on the Run.”

For the salad:

  • 1 10 oz bag of fresh spring peas
  • 1 cup of broccoli florets, chopped
  • 1/2 English cucumber, sliced and halved
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, set aside.

For the dressing:

  • 2 heaping TBSP Primal Kitchen brand paleo mayonnaise
  • 1-2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Coconut vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard 
  • 1/2 tsp celery salt
  • 1/4 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp garlic powder 
  • Fresh ground pepper, to taste 

Wisk all ingredients together and pour over the vegetables.  Toss and then enjoy!  It gets better as it sits in the refrigerator.  So if you feel stretched for time, but want to make something healthy for yourself, always remember vegetables make a great salad.  If mayonnaise-based dressings are not your thing, then use a vinaigrette you love.  Whatever you do, make it your own.

Until next time,

Cheers! 

Making a Difference One Step at a Time

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My fellow readers, I have to share this post from my dear friend Raelenna Ferguson.  This will be my first guest speaker, and I can’t think of a greater honor to bestow.  Raelenna, along with her wonderful husband Jeremy Ferguson, is bringing about change in our community.  Change is always hard, but a necessary matter in life, especially if you want to see progress and unity.  No matter if the change is big or small (but this will be epic), the heart of this particular project has Jesus holding the wheel.  I hope you are able to take time and read this piece of beautiful transformation and learn how two individuals are making great changes to unite one another with love, compassion, and understanding.  All in “One City” of Cape Girardeau. 

Here we go…

The biggest dream yet – One City.

April 23, 2017 by Raelenna Ferguson

“I want you to start something like this” those are the words I heard.

Jeremy and I were standing in a worship service at Austin New Church, the church founded by Brandon and Jen Hatmaker. The music was incredible (I mean it’s Austin, funky cool people and awesome music) but it wasn’t the music that God was talking about when He spoke those words into my head. It was the culture around us, it was the mix of people, it was the colors of the people worshipping together, it was the ages, it was the different style and ways each person was worshipping, the unity and sense of togetherness. It was the freedom and feeling of true community in the atmosphere that day that took my breath away.

During the rest of the service I quietly and internally panicked. I was determined to not tell anyone what I just heard in my head. I was terrified that God had just spoke into me and called us to plant a church and the last thing on my life plan would be to start a church, and by last I mean VERY last thing. So I decided I would tuck that little nugget away and keep it tight and safe, telling no one not even Jeremy.

Service ended and we headed to our rental car so we could hit up downtown Austin before flying home that night. As soon as we got in the car I could tell something was up with Jeremy. He just looked off and I was afraid to ask, so I didn’t. I didn’t have to. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said I heard something in that service (my inner voice was like well crap or maybe something worse). He said I heard “I want you to start something like this”. There it was, the exact same 8 words I heard he had heard at the exact same point in the service I did.

I would love to tell you that sitting in our rental car in that school parking lot after we knew without a doubt that we just heard a calling from the Lord that there was all kinds of magical feelings of excitement and trumpets were blowing. Nope nothing like that, actually the exact opposite. I sort of lost my mind and started spitting stupidness out of my mouth, lots of selfishness and lots of whining and crying about how this is not what I want in this phase of life. How I don’t really even like church, how I had been a pastor’s wife before and it didn’t work out real good for me. Do you see the pattern of the “me” and the “I” here? Again, at this point we both really felt it was a calling to start a church. I knew I would be obedient, but I had made up my mind I was going to go kicking and screaming.

God was very gracious with us after that morning, even that night our flight was canceled and we had to stay in Austin another night. It was actually perfect, we had an extra night away from real life and could be alone together and process and sort of wrap our heads around what was happening. We had some more time to capture our thoughts and realize maybe it wasn’t the literal version of a church God was calling us to, maybe it was a new way of doing community together with the church.

We came home from Austin on a soul journey. It was game time, we both knew it. What the Lord spoke to us was not a prophetic word for 10 years down the road, it was for now. The time was now! We met with our pastors and shared what had happened, we wanted them to know first because we knew we would either be leaving our church to start a new one or we would be starting something new that hopefully our church would want to be part of.

One thing Jeremy and I knew when God said to us both “I want you to start something like this” he meant diversity. He meant relationships, connections and life with people that look different than us. He meant people lifting each other up, sharing life and resources, coming together as one, as a true community. We knew this because we had already felt this conviction for a while, that our world was very white and very homogenous, that we had no friends of color. Three things really hit us hard: First, we have an adopted African American daughter who has no one that looks like her in her life. Secondly, we have no one in our life that looks different than us. Three, there are needs in our community and we know people with resources. We need to figure out ways to connect the dots

Here’s one thing about me, I may kick and scream for a little bit about something I don’t want to do, even when I know the Lord is calling me to it. But once I become obedient, I am all in. It didn’t take too long and both Jeremy and I were going all in.

We knew we had to start forming relationships and friendships within our diverse community. We knew without a shadow of a doubt it was time for us to get around people who did not look like us, more than anything to learn and just listen. We knew we needed to get to know and hear from our neighbors who live in different socioeconomic areas of town than we do. God was stretching us more and more and challenging us. We began having hard conversation with people. Have you ever had to have a super awkward conversation with anyone? Like just plain uncomfortable and out of your comfort zone? Well that is just what Jeremy and I had to start doing. Yet, through these uncomfortable phone calls or meetings we have been met with grace and love and the same desire to get to know our community as a whole without preconceived racial or economic barriers. It has been refreshing, inspiring, fun and so very hopeful.

We know God has been preparing us to lead this new calling for many years, we can go back a full decade and see His hand all over this. It has became more and more evident as we have dug in deeper on this journey of searching out what the Lord was calling us to. A little bit of this is shared on the Behind the Scenes page of the One City website. (can be found here: http://onecityunite.org/the-team/)

There is a lot more to this story and many details that have been perfectly orchestrated, one day I may put the entire story into words. For now I want to share a few personal things and how God confirmed One City very specifically to me. I journal almost daily, every morning I wake up before everyone else and write out my thoughts, my prayers, my dreams and just anything that comes to my mind. When we were praying about this new possibility for our community I decided to go back and read some of my very old journals, specifically looking for direction or confirmation.

What I found in my journals were paragraphs and paragraphs of me asking God to show me my place in this city, over and over again. Asking him to reveal ways for our family to serve and make a difference together. I have one specific prayer in my journal asking God to please reveal our purpose and mission to Jeremy and I at the exact same time (hello Austin). There are prayers of empathy and determination, prayers of frustration and fears. It’s all there in my own words, in my own handwriting, almost a decade of searching and asking.

I am sharing a few pictures of my journal entries that have been confirmation to my hesitant heart. While re-reading my journals I found things I don’t even remember writing or feeling. I also found my heart was stirred for our community as far back as 2007. I found where I had journaled the name One City and how it had came to me while vacuuming my floor one day in 2013, with no idea what it was meant for, until it was revealed this year. Back in 2013 when our church did the Circle Maker series by Mark Batterson. One City was the name I wrote inside my circle for 21 days, without an hint of what would be coming 4 years later. Isn’t it crazy 4 years ago God gave me the name One City with no other instructions. I was actually so confident that that name would mean something one day that I went straight to godaddy.com and bought the domain, again 4 years ago. Then I sort of forgot about it, until God spoke again 2 years ago when this whole new adventure was beginning. We knew without a doubt the name was One City and our mission would be to unite our city as ONE. I hope you go check out our website, sign up to stay in the loop and get involved!! We are excited and hopeful and we would be lying if didn’t say we weren’t a little bit scared…taking one step at a time and walking in faith and settling for nothing less than unity in Jesus.

To see some great pictures of how this all began, I encourage you to visit the website of “One City” and discover just how amazing this is for our community.  Perhaps your own community could benefit from the inspiration!  

http://www.raelennaferguson.com

Be sure to go read the short story and also visit our [One City] full website http://www.onecityunite.org. Sign up to stay connected and ways to get involved and follow us on social media. One City needs you.

We are ONE–Ephesians 4:4-6 T’here is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

I encourage you all to take a look at this endeavor and learn how you can make a difference in your own community.

Until next time,

Cheers!

How the Cat ‘Rocked’ the Boat

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I don’t know how many of your mornings begin, but I felt I had to write about the way mine started today.  If your house is anything like ours, mornings are not a great adventure. They are very stressful with people running around like crazy, clothes flying everywhere, and someone usually leaves without brushing their teeth.  Why getting two kids and myself ready for school is stressful is beyond my comprehension, but it is (of course a snooze alarm has everything to do with the situation).

So, as I sleepily stumbled into my daughter’s room this morning, the haze of slumber suddenly lifted.  Why you ask?  There was a crime scene.  Now, before I go forward with this tale, I need to back up a bit.  My daughter has a very inquisitive mind, and she recently acquired a rock collection.  This particular collection came with twenty or so different types of rocks which make up all those lovely gemstones you learned about in freshman earth science, or the kind you see at family vacation gift shops.  Each pretty little stone was nestled delicately in a plastic tray, accompanied by a book to explain about rock formations and information regarding each stone.  And this collection was something very special to my daughter, and she was proud of her collection.  I was proud of it for her!

Another thing you should know is my daughter has a cat named Cookie.  This was a rescue kitten she begged to bring home after helping out at a friend’s veterinarian office last year.  She nursed this kitten and took it under her maternal wing, so of course, the cat was going to become a family pet.  How does one argue with humanitarianism? And I am a sucker for any baby animal that has fur.  The cat also sleeps with my daughter, every night, and completely tears up her room while she peacefully rests.  If you know anything about cats, they are the laziest creatures on earth.  I think a slug accomplishes more than a cat does in one day.  Our cat is no exception, and he chooses to sleep all day and spend several hours each night running around the house or climbing anything that stands still.  He also destroys things because of his “Feline Ninja” obstacle course.  So last night my daughter brought her newly acquired rock collection upstairs to keep safely on her dresser…along with her precocious cat.

Now that you know the background, you might be able to piece together the details of the crime scene I witnessed as I tried to get my daughter up for school this morning.  As I walked into her room and turned on the lights, I noticed several of those precious little gems sprawled all over her floor, and the case had even more missing.  Panic started to set in as sleep hastily left my foggy brain.  Oh. My. Gosh.  All those rocks are not in their properly labeled spots, and I have no idea where they all go, or if I can find them!  What if the cat ate one?  Will I be hovering over the litter box for the next few days?  She saw my horrified expression before I could mask it and play the entire thing off.  Can you blame me?  I had not even had the first drop of coffee!

“My rocks! Noooooooo!” she wailed to me, tears beginning to well in her eyes.  Oh Lord, no.  Not right now when we have exactly twenty-five minutes to get dressed, get breakfast, make lunch and get out the door on time.  I console her and say I will look for the rocks on the floor and she should begin getting dressed.  Now, for those of you reading this and who know me, you probably also know that I HATE to loose things.  I hate losing puzzle pieces, game pieces, pairs of socks, and even lego pieces (crazy, I know).  So I really can’t figure out whose face was more horrified when seeing the overturned rock tray, myself or my daughter!  My obsessive-compulsive mind started to take over and I could feel the urgency to start looking.  My husband walks in and I tactfully pretend to be helping get my daughter ready while picking up rocks, but I was also going back and forth between standing and lying on the ground, trying to find the rocks.  Argh, I needed to get dressed too, though!!! Deep breath, I know I will find them.  So let’s focus on the immediate task at hand; getting ready for school.

As my first-born child sniffled and whimpered her way through the morning routine, I found myself ignoring this logical piece of advice, and instead found myself sprawled flat on the ground, scouring under every piece of furniture in her room, plucking up tiny pieces of semi-precious stones, old jelly beans (gross), and pieces of golf ball-sized lint.  Some rocks were trapped under her dresser, so I had to get a long stick to reach them and pull them out of their dusty grave.  While I am doing this, the culprit to the crime decided to join me.  Here comes Cookie the Cat.  Cats have this innate ability to give you a look of utter disdain no matter what the case.  They sneer their whiskers at you, subtly letting you know you are the dumbest thing that ever walked the planet, all while playing with a dust bunny from under the rug.  This is exactly what Cookie did to me while I am belly down on the ground in my pajamas, trying to solve a huge crisis before going downstairs to get breakfast made and a lunch packed.  Oh wait, I still need to get dressed too.

I turn my head to the side while elbowing through the trenches of my nine-year-old’s room, and there he is, poised like the Sphinx in Egypt.  I peered into Cookie’s yellow eyes while they bored holes into my soul.  I knew he was laughing inwardly because this cat KNOWS the entire scene is his fault.  He knocked over the tray and decided to play “rock hockey” all night long in my daughter’s room.  He also knows I will spend every waking minute looking for each and every stinking rock until that tray is completely restored.  Yep, he has become the Cheshire Cat from “Alice and Wonderland.”  Cat, score one thousand eighty-four; human still has a score of zero.

Needless to say, after endless searching and telling the cat to kiss off a few times, I eventually did find all the rocks.  I was forced stop halfway through the rescue and recovery process this morning because I HAD to get dressed and get things ready to go since I needed to drive the kids to school.  But the minute I came home I found myself wading through dust bunnies and dead ladybugs trying to rescue each and every rock that was lost.  I succeeded, and all the rocks came home safe and sound.  Not sure my daughter appreciated the means to get this task accomplished, but that is okay.  All my socks, I mean rocks, were safely home and in their proper place.  The world was right, and the cat continued to prey the weak and lonely in our home, unmoved by all the drama he created this morning.  Come on, he’s a cat and he doesn’t give a lick.

If you have a cat or a dog, you can probably appreciate how fast they can raise the household terror level to red.  But they are a part of the family, and now my daughter knows she needs to put anything special and small under lock and key so the cat doesn’t try to break in and destroy.  Little life lessons learned in under twenty minutes, and I still had time to make a to-go cup of coffee.  Life is good, and I hope you can find humor in some of the curveballs life throws you this weekend.

Until next time,

Cheers

 

Kale Salad with a Twist

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It has been a while since I last posted anything on this blog.  Between Easter holidays and a never-ending schedule of activities, writing has taken a back burner in my life.  But, yesterday I found myself at home doing some editing and decided I needed some good greens in my life.  That morning I had mad a quick run to the store and picked up a few of my favorite staples, such as lacinato kale and fresh avocados.  For a healthy lunch, without any animal protein, I created a salad I will definitely be making again in the future.

The ingredients for this salad are as follows:

  • 3 leaves of lacinato kale, ribs removed, sliced or torn
  • 1 ripe avocado, diced
  • 4 or 5 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/3 of an English cucumber, diced
  • 1/4 of red onion, sliced
  • 1/4 can of organic black beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup of edamame, shelled
  • 1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley, curly or flat leaf is fine

I gathered my ingredients in a bowl and then made the dressing, which was the juice of half a lemon, 1/4 cup of really good extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar, 1 or 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard, 1 clove of finely chopped garlic, salt, and pepper to taste.  I mixed up the dressing ingredients in a separate bowl and tasted it before pouring on my salad.  If you feel it needs a little more of one of the ingredients, adjust to your liking.  Everyone has different tastes, so make it your own!

I tossed the ingredients together and then just ate it straight out of the mixing bowl.  It was so yummy and I felt like I was really giving my body some good ingredients.  The kale is like food for superheroes.  It is amazing what this green leafy vegetable gives the body, like provide iron, calcium, Vitamin C, and even protein.  Avocado gave me really healthy fats, as did the good olive oil.  Good fat can be your friend, and your body needs it to function daily.  The parsley and cucumber are good for detoxifying and parsley can help your breath.  The black beans and edamame gave me the needed protein to help me stay full longer and build lean muscle.  Tomatoes provide lycopene, and they added a nice texture to the salad.

What I didn’t finish yesterday I ate again today for lunch and it was even better.  The dressing helped break down the kale leaves, making them more tender.  So, the longer it sits to marinate, the better the outcome.  But I wouldn’t go over a day in the fridge because you want the ingredients to be as fresh as possible.

Hope you enjoy my latest inspiration in the kitchen!

Until next time,

Cheers!

The Unexpected Leading to the Uncorked

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A pile of used wine corks.

I had an interesting experience this weekend with my two children, and as I flesh this piece out you will hopefully empathize a bit with me here.  To start with, my husband’s family lost an aunt a few days ago and we had to travel north towards St. Louis for the funeral.  It was going to be a short ceremony so the hubs and I figured it would be fine to let the kids come.  Other family members were going and they don’t get to see the kids much anyway, so what the heck, right?

Now, I don’t know how many of you out there have attended a funeral with children.  But let me just break it down a bit for you here.  My 9-year-old daughter had a thousand questions about it all, and my son was just wanting to know when it was over so he could talk again.  In actuality, I was very proud of my children and how they behaved.  I also thought it very intuitive of my daughter to be so inquisitive about the entire “death process.”  Neither of my children showed timidity when it was our turn to step up and stand next to the casket.  My son, who is 5, made a few loose comments and then just sat down in the front row and waited for the rest of us to do our thing.  I don’t think he really understood what was going on, to be quite honest.

My daughter, on the other hand, knew exactly what was happening,  Unfortunately, her life has already endured two funerals, both for her grandfathers, and they were under a year apart.  So she has a better grasp of death, and all the ramifications it has on a person, after watching my husband and I go through those experiences.  But this funeral was not like those, and she felt more open to ask questions and try to understand what this whole “bury the dead” entailed.

I chuckled a little bit to myself when I had to keep telling her not to touch her great-aunt. I mean, you don’t see that one every day!  “Mom, there is a bug that keeps flying around on her face!”  I told her just let it be and come sit down.  “No, mom.  I need to get it off.”  At this point I was gently grabbing her arm, trying to tug her in my direction towards the seats.  “Mom…”  Oh Lord, here we go again.  “Today’s April Fool’s Day, so are you sure this isn’t a prank?”  If I could insert the “smack my head” emoji here, I totally would because that is exactly how I felt.  I am pretty sure China heard her ask this question.  Suddenly my mind blasted a picture of this lovely woman, who was resting peacefully in her casket, sit up and yell out “just kidding!”  I guess that is what you expect when you take kids to things like this.  You go in holding your breath that nothing odd or disrespectful is said, but that gets squashed the first five minutes you walk in the door.

Just when I thought I had pulled my daughter away, she was right back up there by the casket, examining every nook and cranny.  Swiftly walking towards her I see her suddenly take one of the poor woman’s fingers and lift it up! Now I am almost running, in heels, towards my daughter while saying her name under my breath so it doesn’t echo throughout the room.  I didn’t want to be harsh because I know she was just curious, but heaven help me if someone saw her do it.  My husband saw it happen too, and he was closer to intervene.  Luckily at this point, we finally had everyone sit down so we could start the service.  Once we were graveside, my daughter then wanted to know about the pallbearers and how that all worked.  Then it was investigating the final resting place and the ground around it.  The questions never stopped and my husband and I tried to answer them as best we could.

In the grand scheme of things, it was a lovely ceremony and I have a feeling our aunt would have chuckled a bit at my daughter’s impertinence.  You just never know what you are going to get when you have children with you.  But I do know you have to just laugh it off and chuck it up as a good story to tell when she is older.  Parenting is such an endeavor and so hard, but also so fun and rewarding.  Stories like this remind me what fun children can be, and how innocent and beautiful their minds are compared to ours.  The tarnish of reality and age have not set in on how they view the world, and I find myself a bit envious of it all.

After getting through the day’s events, I thought it appropriate to open a nice bottle of wine from my dad’s collection.  I know he would have gotten a big kick out of the entire ordeal and all the questions my daughter asked yesterday.  I have this warm feeling that both my dad and my father-in-law are chuckling together in heaven, basking in the wonder of their granddaughter.

Once we made it safely home, I decided it was a great night to open up some wine.  Can you blame me on this one?  My head was still spinning a bit from the deluge of funeral and death questions.  I figured the wine I chose was going to be done Russian Roulette style.  The day had sort of held that theme.  I picked a 1990 Newton Cabernet Sauvignon from California.  It was delicious, and I am still drinking on it today as I compose this piece.

For a wine that is 27 years old, it still holds up.  But I think I need to see if other bottles are lurking around because it needs to be drunk.  With notes of blackberry and vanilla, the wine smelled so good after I opened it.  On the palate, the tannins mellowed out and had a slightly bitter taste, but in a good way.  Something you would expect, perhaps, from a wine like this.  The only thing I found lacking was the taste finished very short, so that is probably why it needs to be drunk now.

It still amazes me how wine holds up after so many years, kind of like parents.  We get through the battles and have a few scars.  But in the end, we tend to mellow out and enjoy the wonders life has to offer.  Whatever life brings your way, I hope you can at least enjoy the moment, perhaps with a glass of your favorite wine.

Until next time,

Cheers!

 

 

Siri, You Don’t Get Me

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I have to post this small little blurb today because I feel like all you iPhone users out there can relate to what I have to say about good ol’ Siri.  Now, I don’t know if you feel as I do when it comes to hands-free driving, but I like the idea of letting my voice do the work while my eyes stay focused on the road and my hands do their job of driving the car.  So when Apple developed Siri a few years ago, I thought it was going to be the next best thing to sliced bread.  Unfortunately, my Siri experience has been terrible.

Can I just take a moment to poke fun at myself?  How do you know your relationship with Siri is on the outs?  It is probably pretty clear she is just not that into you when you hit the magical button to ask a question and she repeatedly tells you “I’m sorry Samantha, I don’t understand that.” Ever had that happen?  Yeah, I thought so.

As I was driving this morning, dropping off my children at their various schools, I was needing to know when our local Barnes and Noble would open.  “Ah,” I thought to myself, “I will ask Siri.  She knows everything, right?”  Push the button and speak into the virtual microphone.  “Siri, can you tell me when the Barnes and Noble in Cape Girardeau will open today?”  Siri replies, “Samantha, I don’t understand what Noble is.”  Wait, what?  Okay, deep breath, and let me turn down my music to eliminate all background noise.  Try again. “Siri, can you please (because maybe if I am overly polite, she will give me my answer) tell me when BARNES AND NOBLE IN CAPE GIRARDEAU WILL OPEN TODAY?”  Here she goes, it’s going to happen this time!  “Samantha, here is the location for Cape Girardeau.  Can I help with anything else?”  Sure, I can tell you what direction I would like you to go…any guesses oh wise, fake language, computer voice?

Now, you have to get a visual here, because I am driving in traffic, yelling to wherever my microphone is in the car, trying to focus on the road.  If you passed me this morning, now you understand why I looked like a giraffe driving a vehicle, craning my neck towards the ceiling in search of the mysterious Bluetooth microphone.  Okay, let’s try this again.  The car is quiet and I hit the magic button.  “Siri, pretty please tell me when Barnes and Noble will open in Cape Girardeau.”  Awkward silence as I watch the colorful neon light pulse on my phone’s screen.  “Samantha,  here are the searches I found for Hungarian paprika.”  ARGHHHHHHHH!!!!!! It takes sheer strength to NOT throw my phone across the vehicle and suddenly I find myself pushing the button to tell Siri what a big loser she was, how she couldn’t understand me, and I thought she was a complete idiot! There, now see how you do, SIRI! Microphone drop, BOOM, I told her. Her response?  “I’m sorry you feel that way, Samantha.”  Whatever.

Needless to say, I had to wait until I reached a red light to search Safari for opening times of Barnes and Noble, which had absolutely zero to do with Hungarian paprika.  Still trying to figure that one out, Siri.  So, for those of you out there using iPhones and having amazing “Phomances” with Siri, good for you.  For the rest of the Siri rejects out there, I feel your pain.  And if you use another brand of phone, you may have no clue what this entire situation feels like, but then again, my iPhone has not exploded on me yet.

I was just a girl, driving a car, waiting for a simple answer.  All I got was Hungarian paprika.

Until next time,

Cheers!

The Magic of Maca

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Sunday afternoon in the kitchen, and I find myself prepping a bit for the week ahead.  Something I try to do is make easy-to-grab snacks that are healthy and filling.  Today I decided to make protein balls.  One thing my friends know about me is I hate to exact measure ingredients, which I know, is not the greatest trait for recipes.  But in my defense, I like the freedom it allows me in the kitchen, and once I have a recipe down then I figure in the needed amounts.  So here we go with today’s Sunday creation.

Last week I listened to a lecture by a man named David Wolfe.  For anyone who may not recognize this name, Wolfe is a well-known superfoods guru.  He has traveled the world and done extensive education on various things like cacao and spirulina, learning and teaching about how powerful superfoods can be for the body in today’s toxic environment.  Something new I gleaned from this lecture was a superfood called Maca.  Maca is from the Peruvian Andes and is known to help increase energy, endurance, strength, and even libido.  Maca powder also contains more protein and fiber than a potato, and it is loaded with 20 amino acids, seven of those being essential amino acids.  So in a nutshell, this superfood is a great addition to one’s diet.

Maca comes in a powder form, making it easy to throw into smoothies, yogurt, or even on top of your morning cereal.  Just don’t put it in something you plan to cook, like soup, because it breaks down the nutrients.

After finding some Maca powder at my local health food store I decided to use it in my protein balls.  This recipe is super quick and easy, plus you don’t have to bake a thing!  I made these gluten-free, but you can tailor it to your own health needs.  Here is what you need for this particular recipe:

  • Gluten-free rolled oats
  • Crunchy peanut butter
  • Almond butter
  • Local honey
  • Carob chips
  • Protein powder (I used hemp in this case because of its nutty flavor)
  • Maca powder
  • Ground Chia seed

I mixed together one cup of the rolled oats, one cup of the chunky peanut butter, 1/2 a cup of almond butter, 1/4 to 1/3 cup of honey (just do it to taste here, you know how sweet you want it), 1/4 to 1/3 cup of carob chips, two tablespoons of protein powder of choice (you may want to steer clear of flavored powders here and go for the unflavored version), one to two tablespoon of Maca powder and one tablespoon of the ground chia seed.  Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and don’t worry if the powders and chia seeds slightly change the color of the mixture.  Then simply form small balls using a rolling motion between the palm of your hands.  I make mine about the size of a golf ball, maybe slightly smaller.  Store in an airtight container and enjoy throughout the week!

If you have a peanut allergy, substitute a crunchy almond butter, or some other kind of crunchy nut butter.  You can even make your own at home in a blender to get it even closer to the source.  If honey is not your thing, you could use the same amount of brown rice syrup or agave nectar.  But honey is a wonderful sweetener, especially locally grown honey because it is full of antioxidants, probiotics, minerals, and enzymes.

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These are great for on-the-go breakfasts and snacks, or as a sweet ending to a meal.  Either way, you choose, you know you are putting good stuff in your body that your taste buds will enjoy.Until next time,

Until next time,

Cheers!