Monday, December 26, 2011

Dutch Baby for Christmas Breakfast

Matt and I had a very quiet, laid-back Christmas this year.  We are usually with Matt's family for Christmas, but Matt's brother went on a cruise with his wife's family for Christmas, so we celebrated with their side of the family one week early.  My family gets together to celebrate Christmas in January, since everyone is married with kids and in-laws it's just easier and less stressful this way.  So, this Christmas we slept in, watched a couple movies, got some stuff done around the house, and I cooked and baked!  I'm starting to feel better as far as the nausea goes (the Strep throat that turned into a cold is another story), so it was a Christmas present to myself AND Matt that I was able to spend a lot of time in the kitchen making the day special even though it doesn't really seem like Christmas.  It was probably a good thing we stayed put this year, because my throat started hurting again today and I need to kick this bug out of my system already!

I started the day by making a big Dutch baby, then made chocolate crinkle cookies, and for dinner we had prime rib roast with thyme potatoes and green beans with glazed shallots in lemon-dill butter (I'll share the dinner recipes later).  It's been a really long time since I had a Dutch baby.  I used to live near an Original Pancake House, and their Dutch babies are mouth-watering.  I've never attempted to make one before, but thought it would be a treat, so I ventured out Christmas Eve to buy a cast iron skillet. On the first try, the Dutch baby didn't rise like it's supposed to, but we ate it anyway while I did some research on what to do differently.  After reading through several other recipes and some reviews I came up with a recipe for breakfast round #2, and we think it was a success.  I found the key was making sure the eggs and milk are at room temperature.  If you don't have time for them to sit out and come to room temp (like myself), you can warm up the milk in the microwave for about 20 seconds and let the eggs sit in some warm water for about 5 minutes.  I used nutmeg in the first Dutch baby, and left it out for the was good both ways. 
What You Need:
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 4 large eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup milk (at room temperature)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch nutmeg (optional)
  • 1/2 cup flour (sifted)
  • 1 lemon
  • Powdered sugar
What You Do:
  1. Place 12-inch cast iron skillet in oven and preheat oven to 425 degrees F. 
  2. While oven is heating, beat eggs until light and slightly frothy
  3. Mix in milk, vanilla, salt, nutmeg (if desired).
  4. Slowly mix in sifted flour until well combined.
  5. When oven is up to temperature, remove skillet and melt butter so it completely covers the bottom of skillet.
  6. Pour batter into skillet and place skillet in the oven, bake for 25 minutes or until edges puff up over edge of skillet and are golden brown. 
  7. While Dutch baby cooks, slice lemon into wedges for serving.  Serves 2.
I cut the Dutch baby into four sections to make it easier to eat and served with butter, lemon juice, and powdered sugar.  It's also good with some maple syrup.
Merry Christmas!

Pregnancy Points:
  • I'm 13 weeks today!
  • I have now replaced my shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and hand soap.  Much better :) I've found that I can tolerate fruity smells just fine.
  • I bought new prenatal vitamins.  They're soft gels, don't smell or taste, go down much easier, and don't upset my tummy.  YAY!
  • Nausea is starting to improve.
  • So far, I haven't gained any weight, but now that I'm able to eat again I'm sure that's going to change.
  • I'm so looking forward to the day I feel Baby B moving around!

Friday, December 23, 2011

I have a bun in the oven and the timer is set for July 2nd, 2012!

October 25th, 2011, I woke up anxious and excited. I normally hit the snooze button a couple times, but on this day I woke up like I was eight-years-old and it was Christmas morning (going to bed felt like Christmas Eve). This was the first day I could take a pregnancy test, and knowing this could be the day our lives would change forever was highly anticipated.  As big of a responsibility creating and shaping a human being's life is promised to be, we were ready for the responsibility.  The first thing I did upon waking was pee on a stick, and then I brushed my teeth while trying not to look at the pregnancy test.  I didn't make it to the end of my Sonicare's 2-minute cycle before glancing down at the test and I saw this!

I stopped brushing my teeth before the 2 minutes was up so I could go jump on the bed and share the news with Matt, who was still sleeping.  He said he knew it was positive by the way I opened the bathroom door (I was not quiet), and we had a moment to let what was happening sink in before I had to focus and get ready for work.  Oh baby, I wanted to tell the world right away, but we decided to wait until I reached 12 weeks (which is now) and kept the excitement to close family and friends. 

We had Matt's birthday dinner with his parents one week after we learned I had a bun in the oven and we were so excited to share the news with them.  They've waited patiently for a grandchild, and Baby B will be their first!  I am the youngest of five children and the last of my siblings to have a child, and Baby B will be grandchild #13 for my parents!  To tell Matt's parents, we gave them these gifts...

We had our 2nd appointment with Nancy, our Midwife, last week when I was 11 weeks along and we got to see our little Baby B kicking its arms and legs around and stretching (very active baby!), but most exciting was hearing the heartbeat for the first time.  I am amazed at the miracle of life, I always have been, but even more amazed when the miracle is taking place inside of me.  Life is a blessing, and we are honored to have been given this life we are anxious to meet in 6 months (due date July 2).
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
Psalm 139:13-14

Pregnancy Points
  • Nausea started around 5 or 6 weeks and is worse at night (which I prefer over the morning).  Luckily, I've only actually "ejected" a handful of times.
  • I have no longer been able to wear my retainer at night nor use my Sonicare, and I've had to change toothpaste.
  • I cannot stand the smell of our shower gel, my shampoo/conditioner, most of my face products, and the hand soap in 2 of our 3 bathrooms.  Don't even get me started on what the smell of Bio-Oil does to me! I plan on a trip to Bartell's tomorrow to update some items; I can't take it any more.
  • I have really been slacking on grocery shopping and cooking because, well, for obvious reasons (sensory overload!), but Matt has been very helpful and understanding. 
  • We have about three boy and three girl names picked out already.  The list may change/grow over the next 6 months, but as of now we agree on our #1 names. 
  • Today's craving:  Sweet Tarts and orange juice.  Actually, acidic/sour/vinegar has been a pretty constant craving throughout, such as Greek salads, pickled baby corn and green beans, kiwi, oranges.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Half the Sky

This book was recommended to me by my dear friend Brea and has been sitting on my book shelf for about 1 year now.  Well, I finally dove in and read it and am sorry I waited so long.  This book lays "out an agenda for the world's women focusing on three particular abuses:  sex trafficking and forced prostitution; gender-based violence, including honor killings and mass rape; and maternal mortality, which still needlessly claims one woman a minute".  The hope of the authors, husband and wife, is to "recruit you to join an incipient movement to emancipate women and fight global poverty by unlocking women's power as economic catalysts". 

It's difficult to explain this book in my own words.  As heartbreaking and difficult it is to read, it's empowering and so hopeful at the sane time.  It's easy to think about injustices taking place around the world and become overwhelmed; to think it's too big of a problem.  It's even easier to ignore these injustices that are not just taking place around the world, but also within the communities in which welive.  The challenge and encouragement throughout this book is that there is SO much we can do!  It's not easy to read, but I truly hope you do, and I hope you find it educating and empowering.

Every Tuesday night for the past year I've been meeting with a great group of women from church.  It's a book club / Bible study...and a lot of fun!  At the end of each study we seek out a service project, and at the beginning of this year we bought two llamas through Heifer International.  I believe the llamas went to families in Burma.  (Please take the time to read through Heifer's website if you're not familiar with this wonderful organization). Half the Sky ended with a story that really hit home and gave me hope...

     "We'll leave you with a story that is a fine reminder of the impact we can have. The children of the Niantic Community Church in Niantic, Connecticut, bought six goats through Heifer International, as a gift for Africa. The goats are listed in the Heifer International catalog at $120 each.
     One of those goats went to the Biira family in Uganda, near the Congo border.  The goat was named luck and lived up to its name:  it promptly produced twins.  The Biira children drank the milk for a nutritional boost, and the parents sold some of the milk to raise a bit of extra income.  They had not been able to afford to send their daughter Beatrice to school, keeping her home instead to do chores.  But with the extra income from the milk, the parents decided to send the girl to the village school. 
     Beatrice was nine years old, while all the other first graders were just six.  But she worked diligently and rocketed to the top of the class.  She was such a prodigious student that she eventually won a scholarship to Uganda's best girls' school.  Finally, she became the first student from her village to go abroad to study - and in 2008 she graduated from Connecticut College.  "I am one of luckiest girls in the world," Beatrice declared at her graduation party, and she added to us: "It's all because of a goat!"  Now Beatrice is earning a graduate degree and working on a United Nations project for the millennium goals - but there are so many other girls who are left behind, for want of a goat."

Eggplant Pasta

There are two types of people...Italians, and those who wish they were (as the saying goes).  I am one of those who wish they were.  The language beautiful, the country rich with history and gorgeous architecture, and the food...oh, the love of food!  I'm proud of my English and Native American heritage, and as much as I do like 'Bangers and Mash' and salmon...I'm pretty sure I could eat a big bowl of pasta every single day.  Matt, on the other hand, thinks differently.  Although he likes pasta, he doesn't want to eat it nearly as often as I do because he doesn't want all the carbs.

This Eggplant Pasta recipe is a good compromise, and Matt likes it as much as I like a plate of whole wheat linguine with a thick tomato basil sauce.  He made it very clear that I can make this one again :)  This is a recipe from food science expert Alton Brown and comes from the Food Network Favorites: Favorites from our All-Star Chefs cookbook (it was a gift at one of my bridal showers).

What You Need: 
  • 2 medium to large eggplants
  • Salt
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 small tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons basil, chiffonade (fancy name for cut into ribbons)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • Black pepper
What You Do:
  1. Peel each eggplant, leaving 1 inch of skin unpeeled at the top and bottom.  Slice the eggplant thinly lengthwise, about 1/4 inch thick.  Evenly sprinkle each slice with salt and lay out for 30 minutes on a sheet pan fitted with a wire rack (or just place in a colander to drain in the sink for about 15 minutes like I did).  Rinse with cold water and roll in paper towels (I skipped this step and it was fine).  Slice the pieces into thin fettuccine-like strips.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes, and cook until garlic is lightly golden and aromatic.  Add the eggplant "pasta" and toss to coat (it will seem like a lot, but it cooks down, so use all the eggplant).  Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes.  Add the cream and increase heat to thicken sauce. 
  3. Finally, add the basil and Parmesan and toss to combine.  Season with black pepper to taste, but no salt, as the eggplant will already be salty (I added more salt, because it tasted like it needed it to me).


Sunday, October 2, 2011

To every thing there is a season

Change:  to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of something different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone. 

Change is a powerful, emotional thing.  Change can be intimidating and terrifying, and can also evoke an electrifying excitement that's difficult to contain.  Our entire lives are full of change, whether or not it's welcomed. We can spend years planning for a change, or roll with the punches when change catches us by surprise.  Looking back at my previous 29 years, I see a ball of yarn full of changes that has led me to where I am today.  Holding this ball of yarn in my hands looks like a big confusing mess, but when I take the time to unravel it, there is one straight line from A to B and it all makes sense.  I am thankful for the changes of my past, and am looking forward to what the future brings.  I am on the brink of a new season, of yet another one of life's changes...ready, waiting, praying. 

"There is no growth without change."
- Rick Warren

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."
- Ecclesiastes 3:1

Monday, September 19, 2011

The snooze button was inspired by the devil

I have failed miserably at transforming myself into a morning person.  The problem lies in the fact that I'm a night person and just haven't succeeded in forcing myself to go to bed early.  I will not give up on this grand feat and my alarm still goes off at 5:55 a.m. every single morning, followed by my smacking the snooze button until my alarm reads about 6:30.  I then jump out of bed and throw myself together, and I'm out the door by 7:00.  My passion for a cozy, warm bed in the morning has by far exceeded my desire to have more time in the morning, which I am not proud of.  For the few weeks I was actually succeeding in obeying my alarm clock, I absolutely loved my morning time.  I loved my morning time not only because I didn't have to eat my breakfast while driving to work, but mostly because it gave me time to start my day right...with reading the Bible and daily devotion.

Starting my day with some one-on-one time with God is the best way to start the day, in my opinion, and reading a daily devotion of some kind is a great way to connect to the scriptures.  I have been relying on Encouragement for Today daily devotions for women.  Thanks to technology, I have bookmarked the website on my phone and can read it at any time during the day.  If I get to work early, I'll read the devotion for the day before I go in to work, or I'll read it on my lunch.  But this is not my desire for my Bible reading and devotion time.  I don't want to squeeze in what I can, when I can; I want it to be my priority.  I came across a book called, Becoming the Woman God Wants Me to Be:  A 90-day Guide to Living the Proverbs 31 Life.  I have not read it yet (it's on my ever-growing list), but while checking it out on Amazon, I was drawn to an excerpt from page 61:
"I'm sure the snooze button was inspired by the devil. It's his secret weapon against Christians... if he can get you to snooze away the thirty minutes you would have, could have, should have spent with God, the devil has the upper hand against you for the rest of the day." (p. 61).
Haha!  It's true, I enjoy my day so much more when it's started right.  So, I just wanted to share the daily devotions that I love on Encouragement for Today and encourage you to check it out. 

Snooze button, you will not win!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Wingless Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Some nights, (like last Tuesday night) I just really don't feel like spending a lot of time on dinner, and this is one of my go-to fast dinners I started making back in 2009.  It's not quite a "30 minute meal" in my opinion, but it is brought to you by Rachael Ray, and if you've made many of her recipes you're probably already aware of the fact that her 30 minutes exist in an alternate universe where ingredients are prepared and messes are cleaned up by invisible people.  There are no commercial breaks in real life, not in mine anyway. 

To speed up the preparation process and turn this recipe into a legitimate 30 minute meal, use pre-cooked chicken strips (like THESE) or use leftover chicken from a previous night's dinner.  Also, I use Whole Wheat Boboli prepared pizza crust.  The sauce on this pizza tastes just like a buffalo wing sauce, and it's so easy to adjust the heat.  Prepare a green salad while the pizza cooks, and dinner is ready to eat...and you get to keep the tip in your piggy bank and Pizza Hut gets to hang on to one more cardboard box. 
What You Need: 
  • 3/4 pound chicken breast cutlets
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • 2 teaspoons grill seasoning, (recommended: McCormick Montreal Seasoning) eyeball it
  • 1 pizza dough, store bought or from your favorite pizzeria (I use Whole Wheat Boboli)
  • Cornmeal or flour, to handle dough
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, eyeball it
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons hot sauce, medium to spicy heat (2 are plenty for us!)
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, a few generous handfuls
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
What You Do: 
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Preheat grill pan to high.
  2. Place chicken on a plate and drizzle extra-virgin olive oil over the chicken then season with grill seasoning. When grill is hot, add chicken and cook about 3 minutes on each side.
  3. Stretch dough to form pizza using cornmeal or flour to help you handle it. If you let it rest and warm up a few minutes it will handle even easier. Set pizza on pizza pan to the side and clean board.
  4. In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt butter and stir in Worcestershire, hot sauce, and tomato sauce.
  5. Remove the chicken from grill and thinly slice it. Add chicken to sauce and coat. Cover the pizza dough with the saucy Buffalo chicken, cheeses, and scallions. Bake 18 minutes or until crisp.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tyler's Ultimate Potato Salad

Last month, we had a get-together at Matt's cousins house; it's become a new tradition and we love it!  I volunteered to take a potato salad with the realization that I haven't made potato salad in a LONG time.  So the search was on for a great recipe and I began scouring the internet.  Many potato salad recipes sound the same, but once I read through Tyler Florence's recipe I was sold, and once I tried it, I think it's my new favorite.  I'm not a fan of celery in potato salad, so it was a plus this one has none, and I think the capers and dill give the salad that little "something" that makes it different.  I've added notes to Tyler's recipe because after reading the reviews, I took the advice of others and tweaked the amount of dressing.

Here's the link so you can also watch the quick video of Tyler making the salad...Potato Salad

What You Need: 
  • 2 pounds small Yukon gold potatoes
  • 2 large eggs
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 bunch sliced scallions, white and green part
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 2 cups mayonnaise (I only used 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dill pickles with 1/4 cup juice, about 2 pickles
  • 1/2 small red onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 bunch dill, chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
What You Do:
Put the potatoes and eggs into a big saucepan of cold salted water. Bring to a simmer. After 12 minutes remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and let cool. Continue cooking the potatoes until a paring knife poked into them goes in without resistance, about 3 minutes longer. Drain the potatoes in a colander and let them cool.

Reserve some scallion greens and capers for garnish. Meanwhile, stir together the mayonnaise, mustard, pickles and their juice, onion, remaining scallions and capers, parsley, and lemon juice in a bowl large enough to hold the potatoes (I suggest making the dressing in a separate bowl and adding to potatoes and egg little-by-little until you think it's enough.  The recipe makes a lot of dressing!) Peel the cool eggs and grate them into the bowl (I just chopped them up with a knife). Stick a fork into the potatoes and lift them 1 at a time out of the colander. Break up the potatoes by hand into rough chunks (Again, I just chopped them into large chunks instead), add them to the bowl and toss to coat with the dressing. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Drizzle with a little olive oil before serving (I skipped this step).

Enjoying the last days of Summer; looking forward to Fall,
Amanda :)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Take 2 Recipe: Pepper-Honey Cedar Plank Salmon

If you remember my Pepper-Honey Cedar Plank Salmon post, I was left with three salmon fillets and some sauce that I let hang out in the freezer for about a month until I thought "I want that salmon again!"

This is such a fast and easier dinner, since I had already done all the work!  I just let the salmon and sauce defrost in the refrigerator for a day, threw together a quick salad, placed a fillet on top, and drizzled with the leftover sauce.  Matt pretty much inhaled his...but he was also really hungry :) 

Bon Appetite!

Mission Trip to San Ramon, Nicaragua: June 23 - July 2, 2011

As promised, I'm going to share some more details regarding my mission trip to Nicaragua.  I've had plenty of time to process the experience and I've done my best to share the experience with friends face-to-face.  I kept my journal updated constantly while in Nicaragua, and here are some excerpts from my daily entries along with some pictures, my best attempt at keeping this as condensed as possible...
June 25 - Saturday - 1:00 a.m.
We made it to La Quinta in San Ramon and it is lovely!  I am in a room with 5 other ladies.  The girls' dorm downstairs is a huge room with about 20-30 beds.  Although I'm sure that would be a fun experience, I'm so glad I'm's SO much quieter up here.  We don't have running water yet, so we brushed our teeth with bottled water and used the toilet...but no flushing.  I was impressed with how quickly everyone (about 120 of us) had the buses unloaded.  All the bins and luggage full of supplies and donations went downstairs.  It's awesome to see all those donations! 
Entering La Quinta

Dining Room

My bed under the painting

All that luggage is full of donations!

June 25 - Saturday - 4:30 p.m.
Today was the first clinic day for some of us while others stayed behind at La Quinta to keep working on unpacking and organizing supplies and donations.  The clinic was a small, short day to help us get used to what we'll be doing next week.  We bused about 15 minutes from the Quinta and set up the medical clinic inside a church and the dental area was inside the pastor's home next door.  The home was made of cinder blocks and wood planks and corrugated metal.  The walls were not complete in many areas, there were no doors, and floors were dirt.  I believe we were set up in what would be used for bedroom.  We didn't have a translator at first and that made it very difficult, but then we got Elina and she was awesome and so helpful!  Along with Lyne and Lynet (mother and daughter from the Bahamas, Lyne was the only other hygienist on the trip) we were the dental team for the day.  None of us have been on a mission trip before, so we are learning as we go.  This morning, we gathered supplies we would need (gloves, fluoride varnish, garbage bags, toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc...).  By the end of the clinic we were working very well together and had a great system going.  It breaks my heart to see such decayed teeth that need to be extracted or a filling and not be able to do anything but show them how to brush, talk to them about what sugar does to their teeth, and apply fluoride.  There will be dentists on the trip in February and they know how to use the mobile dental units...maybe I'll return then. 

I asked our translator to thank the pastor's wife for allowing us to use their home and the wife responded with many thanks to us and how grateful they are and said she will ask God to bless us.  Day 1 was short yet tiring for many reasons I'm not familiar with.  Language barrier, 97% humidity, rain, mud, standing.  I got a blister from all the walking in my flip-flops in the previous days and it burst open today from being in my sock and shoe today.  Luckily I have 2 nurses in my room who hooked me up with some neosporin and moleskin.

One interesting fact I learned today from our translator:  It's common to see t.v.s and radios in a home but no bed.  Also, 1-4 families will live in one home, sharing food and rent. 

My shower felt amazing after the mugginess and muddiness today (and since there was no hot water it was especially refreshing).  I'm in the room alone now and thought this would be a good time to journal.  I'm going to go find my dental team so we can tally how many people we saw and how many donations we gave away and prep for tomorrow.  I'm so ready for dinner and bed! (48 patients treated in dental today).
In the home we used for our dental station.

Our translator for the day, Elina.

June 25 - Saturday - about 10:30 p.m.
We sorted SO MUCH clothes and shoes tonight!  I even found a shirt Matt donated because it shrunk and no longer fit, so I took a picture with it.  For a moment it was like he was here with me...I wish he was.

June 26 - Sunday - 9:30 p.m.
Today was a great day despite my neck/headache.  The other hygienist and myself will split up and go with different teams for the remainder of the week (3 teams go to 3 different villages each day).  Bill and Danielle (father and daughter) were my dental team today.  We didn't have a translator, but Bill was so helpful and I wrote down phrases in Spanish for myself.  We handed out toothbrushes and toothpaste and, if needed, denture cleaner and Rincinol.  We also showed them how/when to brush especially after eating/drinking sugar. There is a frozen sugar substance in little plastic bags, like Sno-cone, the kids are constantly sucking on and it rots their teeth.  It's heartbreaking not having a dentist with me, and not having the experience to know what else to do.  We saw 56 people in dental today, plus whatever the other dental team did in their village clinic.

We had chapel tonight for the 1st time and I SO needed it.  My heart was so heavy from not being able to provide the needed treatment for the Nicaraguans today and I needed the refreshing.  Several villagers asked me if I could pull teeth for them and it broke my heart to say, "No, lo siento." I am sorry.

Danielle and Bill reading through the helpful
Spanish dental phrases.

"Abre le boca, por favor."

June 27 - Monday - 7:45 a.m.
I just finished breakfast and I sat next to Bill worked with me in dental yesterday.  He told me he didn't get a chance to tell me last night how great a job I did yesterday.  That was a blessing to hear, thank you Bill.  I woke up with my neck/headache feeling so much better! I need to stay hydrated so it lasts.  I need to go find my dental peeps for the day.
*          *          *
Today was great!  We served 60 people on our dental team today and I had Kyle and Stuart from Colorado with me today.  They were great, jumped right in speaking Spanish and Kyle was eager to apply fluoride varnishes.  It was the first time Corner of Love has been to this village so no one knew what to expect.  We originally set up under the roof of the church but the sun moved and so we moved to the shade under a tree.  Not soon enough though, because I got burned on my left arm, face and neck.  There were tiny ants in the grass that stung/bit/burned...not sure how to explain the sensation.  Sitting around chatting with others tonight, the joke was that I literally had ants in my pants.  I had one up near my hip under my scrubs while with a patient and I was using my elbow trying to get it since I had gloves on.  The gal as was treating at the time was looking at me like I was crazy and I wasn't able to communicate with her, so all I could do was laugh and say "lo siento". 

I had fun with Kyle and Stuart!

The clinic setup inside the church.

The "ants in my pants" location (dental station is the chair in the center; very basic setup on this trip).

June 28 - Tuesday - about 9:00 a.m.
This a.m., we got to sleep in.  We had a Bible study with Pastor Chuck from Colorado, just about 10 of us there.  We read Philippians 2 - perfect!  (You can read more about this in my Like Stars in the Sky post).
*          *          *
6:00 p.m.
This a.m., we went to Nelson Amador's parent's house down the road from La Quinta in San Ramon.  They were kind enough to let us tour their house/property full of fruit trees and had the opportunity to buy items from their store.  We then headed to the construction site of the leadership school Corner of Love is building.  It will also be used for supply/donation storage and clinics.  We blessed the property and then distributed shoes and clothes.  We washed feet first, then fitted them with socks and shoes so kids can continue to go to school (Nicaraguan law has a specific dress code for school children).  I was so blessed with opportunity to massage their little feet.  My limited Spanish prevented me from talking with them as much as I would've liked, but I said what I could.  Oh ya...I almost stepped on a tarantula!
*          *          *
This afternoon is nice and relaxing.  Nap, shower, dental supplies packed and ready for tomorrow.  I'm now sitting upstairs in a rocking chair near the porch listening to people chat and guitar coming from the chapel.  Feeling such peace right now.

Outside the Amador's general store.

June 29 - Wednesday - 7:45 a.m.
Last night I got dressed up (kind of) to go out to dinner at a restaurant in Matalgapa and it was SO good!  Local chicken and beef with onions, salsa verde, rice, beans, tortillas.  Sounds simple, but it was divine.  I sate with Corey and Doug from Florida, and Melanie and Ashley from Colorado.  We had a great time, many laughs, and Melanie had a great conversation about intentional friendships. I missed the bus yesterday for the home visits....COL sponsors a few families who are desperately in need.  During the bus ride back to La Quinta after dinner, Corey showed us pictures he took during the home visits.  One woman has a 25 yr old son with Down's Syndrome and before COL started sponsoring her, she would have to lock her son in a "cage" while she went to work because he would wonder off.  Another family has a 4 yr old who is severely malnourished, and COL delivered a new stove to another family.
Ashley, Melanie, Myself, Doug, and Corey.

About 6:00 p.m.
Today, one of our buses got a flat tire on its way to pick us up and we didn't leave La Quinta until 10:00 a.m.  Our village clinic location today was gorgeous!  A large, beautiful house on a coffee plantation with flowers and lush green vegetation everywhere.  We saw about 107 people in dental today (plus whatever the Red team did)!  After applying fluoride varnish on a 15 yr old girl and then turned to start with her father.  The next thing I know, the girl has fallen off the chair and landed on her face on the stone courtyard.  She was having a seizure.  Before I could even process what was happening there was nurse Irene and doctor Cat.  The seizure was over very quickly but then the girl was limp for a minute, and we helped her sit up and Irene placed ointment and an ice pack on her scratched cheek.  With the help of a translator, her father told us the seizures started about 2 yrs ago and she will have them multiple times a day with little memory of the occurrence.  He brought her to our clinic in hope of receiving medical attentions for her, but we are not equipped with those types of medications.  Although my heart broke for this young girl and her father, I was also encouraged to see everyone come together so quickly to help.  The father and daughter were scheduled to go to prayer station next, but instead, we had prayer station come to us and we all prayed with them.  About 6 teenagers and ladies circled around the girl and her dad and prayed in English and Spanish.  When we finished praying, the dad went around and hugged everyone and thanked us.  Doctor Cat spent more time talking with him, giving advice for the seizures, and hopefully COL can follow up and help him seek the medical attention his daughter needs. 

Tonight it rained...HARD!  Everyone in La Quinta had to just stop talking because we couldn't hear each other any more, so people flocked to the balcony to just watch and listen.  Very cool.  We've been very blessed to only have a few sprinkles during our's their rainy season. 

Wednesday's dental team

Applying fluoride varnish
(carefully keeping glove use to a minimum)

June 30 - Thursday - 7:20 a.m.
Yesterday, 2 little girls showed up at La Quinta after walking 1.5 hours because they heard we were giving out shoes.  People are desperate here and very grateful for what COL is able to offer.  It reminds me of something I read in Max Lucado's book Outlive Your's not their fault they were born here in an area of Nicaragua with limited resources.  I'm getting mentally prepared for prayer station today.  I'm excited to be doing something other than dental, but am apprehensive and a little nervous, yet very excited at the same time.  I think this will grow and challenge me.  Buses are here...time for our large clinic day...all 3 teams are working together in one location today!

9:30 p.m.
Today was mentally exhausting and overwhelming but I'm glad I got to end the week in prayer station.  I pretty much cried my eyes out all day long while we prayed with about 150 people and it was so difficult and heartbreaking listening to the prayer requests.  Husband is alcoholic, son is in jail, husband out of work for 5 months, daughter in hospital with diabetes,one lady told us she has to be out of her house tomorrow and has nowhere to go.  Many problems we'd hear in the U.S. I heard here as well...but here, there are no resources.  No work source, no welfare, no unemployment checks.  Even if they have a home church, their church can't do much to help either.  My partner at the prayer station today was Lisa from Colorado and she was fantastic.  I was "forced" to finally go eat lunch at 2:30 after praying with people nonstop for about 5 hours.  When I returned, we had acquired an additional interpreter and Youth Pastor Zack from Colorado.  We continued to pray for people for about 3 more hours, but the afternoon was not as busy with the extra help.  We would hand out the Book of John and would fill out a card for them in Spanish that said who/what we prayed for, a scripture pertaining to their prayer request, where we were from, our names, and told them we would continue to pray for them once we returned home.  "Dios le bendiga" --"God bless you". 

Our prayer station was set up inside a classroom.

Lisa and I with our amazing translator Scarlet.

I'm never going to forget crying with a grandmother while holding her hand while she told us her son passed away this year and she is now the caretaker of her 3 grandsons, their mother had to move for work.  She had 2 grandsons with her who had accepted Christ 2 weeks ago.  She wanted prayer for strength to provide for the in her old age.  The boys are 9 and 11.  We prayed that the boys would continue to grow strong and healthy and grow into men full of integrity and Christ's love; to be head of household for the future families.  Men here are not the best at providing for their families nor staying around.  STDs are rampant along with parasites from the water, tooth decay, and many other issues.  The need is great in the 2nd poorest country in the Western Hemisphere (after Haiti).  I feel like I could keep writing about my experiences this past week, there are so many stories.  I also won't forget how desperate and grateful Nicaraguans are for a pair of shoes.  They will wear 1 pair for years. 

July 1 - Friday - 9:00 a.m.
Today is my last morning at La Quinta in San Ramon.  In a couple hours we head back to the hotel in Managua.  A bunch of local artisans were invited to set up outside this a.m. so we could have a chance to buy some souvenirs and support their crafts.  Last night we got to watch a 30 minute video of pictures taken throughout the week.  It was amazing...and emotional.  I am packed and ready to go, my bed is stripped, email addresses exchanged, and I just watched the artisans walk up the hill with their left over goods to head home.  I hope they made a lot of money today.  I had a great time rooming with Leslie, Camille, Lisa, and Michelle...all mothers, most here with their daughters.  I hope to do the same when we have kids. 
My roomies for the week (plus Lisa #2)

8:35 p.m. - Managua
I'm back at the hotel in Managua and in bed ready for my early departure tomorrow.  I have to be in the lobby by 5:30 a.m.  We stopped in Matalgapa on our way to Managua for 1 hour to see La Catedral de San Pedro de Matagalpa, built in 1874 and reflects the opulence of Matagalpa in that era.  Tonight was relaxing...dinner, some time updating the blog, and some chatting before giving hugs and saying goodbye to new friends.  And my forehead is already peeling :(  Buenos noches y adios Nicaragua!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Last Shall be First

"When a child is withering away it really does not matter whether the cause is drought, ignorance, or social injustice. It is a precious child that is dying. If we determine that any person is of less value because of where they were born, we have lost our humanity."
- Dave Eller, president of World Concern.

(click to enlarge)
Courtesy, Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS) projection of the 2011 Horn of Africa famine for July-September, using the IPC scale.

I am paralyzed with disbelief, especially when I see the images.

I cannot begin to comprehend what walking for 200 miles in search for food feels like...only to reach the destination and find little or none.  To have parents die along the journey from malnutrition and starvation because what food they did find was given selflessly to their children. 

I don't know why afflictions like this occur.  I don't know why.

I am not even sure what to pray anymore.  I have Brooke Fraser's song 'Flags' constantly running through my head, especially the last portion of the song.  Matthew 20:16 "So the last will be first and the first will be last". 

These lyrics continue to run through my head as I pray for the 12 million people suffering in the Horn of Africa...

You who mourn will be comforted
You who hunger will hunger no more
All the last shall be first
Of this I am sure

You who weep now will laugh again
All you lonely be lonely no more
Yes, the last will be first
Of this I'm sure

I don't know why the innocent fall
While the monsters stand
I don't know why the little ones thirst
But I know the last shall be first
I know the last shall be first
I know the last shall be first

To learn more about this crisis, to read what World Concern is doing to help, and to contribute to their relief efforts, please visit

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Like Stars in the Sky

I haven't shared much about my experience in Nicaragua since I've been back.  Honestly, it's just that I don't even know where to start.  I feel like so much happened, and I experienced so much in one week that I don't know how to share it all.  Even when someone asks me "How was Nicaragua?", I don't even know how to begin, or what else to say other than "It was great!".  Maybe that's what everyone's first mission trip experience is like, and maybe it feels like this each time...

As we set off on the bus ride from Managua to San Ramon on Friday night, I was sitting in a single seat alone preparing my iPod with Brooke Fraser's "Flags" album to keep me company while others chit-chatted around me.  Not long after we took off, a young boy named Johnny (from Florida) came up and sat in my seat next to me and said "Can I sit with you?"  I had met him and his family after arriving to the hotel that Thursday night.  "Of course you can", I replied.  He then let out a big sigh and said "I'm tired".  The next thing I know, his head is laying against my arm while the bumpy bus ride jostled his head around like a bobble-head doll.  He eventually found himself curled into a little ball with his head in my lap.  It was not conducive to a comfortable 2.5 hour bus ride for me, but I feel God sent my little friend to keep me company.

The sky became darker and the stars became brighter as we drove further away from the city.  I'm sure Brooke's voice singing Flags into my ears intensified the moment, but I couldn't help but cry as I gazed at the stars with the anticipation of the week before me.  I knew I was about to have a life-changing experience, yet not quite sure what that was going to look like.  I remember an overwhelming feeling of connection coming over me as I saw those stars...the same stars I see at home in the U.S.  I felt SO incredibly blessed in that moment, and not just because of where I was born.  Yes, I am very blessed to have been born in a part of the world full of so much opportunity and freedom, but I felt even more blessed in that moment to be able to share a piece of my heart with Nicaragua.  Because I was able to go to school and enter into a good career, I am now able to travel to where the hands and feet of God are needed and to share not only my knowledge but a piece of my heart as well. 
Four days later we had a small Bible study at the Quinta led by Pastor Chuck from Colorado.  I was stunned when we turned to Philippians 2:3-4 and Philippians 2:14-18.  Philippians 2:3-4 is one of my favorite pieces of scripture and I also used it in my support letter...

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others."

Then came Philippians 2:14-18...

"Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me. "

I was so thankful for that Bible study and for Pastor Chuck delivering that message.  I really feel God was confirming my decision to go to Nicaragua.  I thanked Pastor Chuck afterword (and cried yet again...I was just a mess that week!).  Now that I've been home, I think of Nicaragua each time I see the stars; I think of Wendy and Juan Manuel, and all other the other men, women and children I met while there.  I promise I will share in more detail with events of the week.  I just wanted to prelude the with this...stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Radiance Fruit Salad

I found this recipe from Food Network chef Ellie Krieger last summer when searching for a fruit salad recipe.  I was assigned "fruit" to bring to Matt's family's annual summer BBQ and wanted to show up with more than just a watermelon tucked under my arm.  This is now my go-to fruit salad dish and I make it every chance I get.  It's especially delicious when it's sunny and warm out, which it hasn't been much of lately, because the cold fruit topped with mint and lime is incredibly refreshing. If you live in Washington State like us, the only state in the U.S. with temps below 100 degrees right now (we're still in the 60s to be exact, with some random 70-80 degree "scorchers"), you'll still love this...just minus the sun and warm weather.

Radiance Fruit Salad

What You Need:
  • 1/3 cantaloupe, cut into 3/4-inch chunks (about 2 cups)
  • 1 (16 oz) container strawberries, quartered (about 3 cups)
  • 5 medium kiwis, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
What You Do:
  1. Place all of the fruit into a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the honey, lime juice, zest, and mint.
  3. Right before serving, pour the dressing over the fruit and toss gently to combine.
Excellent Source of: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K
Good Source of: Fiber, Folate, Manganese, Potassium

(HERE is the link to Ellie Krieger's recipe on Food Network)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wild Goose Chase

I was playing around with a video program tonight (staying up way past my bedtime) and thought I'd share and little video I made of our Maltese, Goose.  The original video was taken March 2010, and each time I watch it I smile (side note: The song I used for this is also the last song played at our wedding reception, which got everyone to the dance floor one last time).  Our Goose brings so much joy into our lives and keeps us so entertained!  We love him so much, yet understand when our kiddos come along he will be "just a dog".  For now, he's our baby. 

I hope Goose brings a smile to your face today too!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Pepper-Honey Cedar Plank Salmon

    I haven't done much cooking since I've been back from Nicaragua and I felt the urge to try something new this weekend.  So I was excited when I saw a segment on the morning news which featured a local group of women who call themselves the Make-Ahead Mamas.  They get together every 8 weeks to make meals together in which they can take home to freeze and serve to their families later. 
    I turned the t.v. off fairly soon after the segment started, but looked them up online later and quickly added this salmon recipe to my weekend dinner menu.  The recipe comes from the website and is a tried and family-tested recipe used by the Make-Ahead Momas.  We love salmon and although I mix up the marinades and flavors, I always cook it in the oven.  We have a bit of untreated cedar scraps laying around with the deck finished and the trellis almost complete, so I didn't have to look too far for those.  I have seen cedar planks at Fred Meyer near the deli if you don't happen to have some laying around.
    *Warning:  You WILL smell like a campfire after preparing this salmon...just in case you have plans after dinner.  Also, this salmon has a little "kick" to it, which we like, but if you are not a fan of spicy leave out the cayenne and/or some of the pepper.
    What You Need:
  • 2 (12-inch) untreated cedar planks (I used 3 "planks")
  • 1/4 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 6 (6 oz) skinless, boneless salmon fillets
  • Salt and pepper to taste
What You Do:
  1. Soak the cedar planks in warm water for 1-2 hours.  Add a splash of bourbon to the water if desired.
  2. Bring the pineapple juice, soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, and honey to a simmer in a saucepan over med-high heat.  Reduce heat to med-low and stir in the sugar, black pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, and garlic powder.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has reduced to a syrupy consistency, about 15 minutes.  Set the sauce aside.
  3. Preheat an outdoor grill for medium heat.  Place the planks on the grate.  They are ready to cook on when they start to smoke and crackle just a little.
  4. Season the salmon with a light sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Place the fillets onto the smoking cedar planks, close the lid of the grill, and cook for 10 minutes.  Spoon a small amount of the sauce over the salmon fillets, and continue cooking until the fish turns opaque in the center, about 5 minutes more.  Serve with the remaining sauce. 
The cedar soaked in the kitchen sink for a couple hours, turning a few times.

If the cedar catches fire, just blow it out or spray with water from a water bottle.

Matt ate two, and I ate one fillet.  I let the remaining 3 cool, placed them in a Ziploc bag, and then the freezer.  The remaining sauce also went into the freezer.  When I want to prepare, I'll thaw them in the refrigerator and then broil until heated through...I hope that works :)

Salmon Snippets:
  • A 4-ounce serving of salmon provides an entire day's recommended does of Vitamin D (something we've definitely been lacking in the Pacific Northwest this summer).
  • Salmon also has very high levels of niacin and B12.
  • Salmon is loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids which do all kinds of good things for the body:  relieve inflammation, improved memory and focus, help alleviate symptoms of depression, beneficial in cardiovascular health, helps lower risk of stroke as much as 27% when consumed 1-2 times a week, reduces menstrual pain, and more. 
  • Farmed salmon may contain up to 10 times more contaminates (such as lead) than wild-caught salmon, and sometimes dye is added to improve the coloring. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

3-in-1 Book Review: The City of Joy, The Year of Living Biblically, and Outlive Your Life

It's been a while since I did a book review, so here are three short reviews from the last three books I've read:

My sister-in-law recommended this one to me and also warned me it was a "difficult read".  This book is amazing, but what makes it a difficult read, in my opinion, is the truth you can't escape while reading it; the poverty that exists in this world.  It's a lengthy and emotional true story about a 32-year-old Catholic priest named Stephan Kovalski who moves to Calcutta to live among the poorest of the poor.  The book also follows Hasari Pal and his family as they do what is needed to survive, as well as those met along the journey.  I agree with my sister-in-law in that it's "a difficult read, but SO worth it". 
Here is the link to Amazon and to read more lengthy reviews than mine.

I read this one with my small group from church and thought it was great.  The only reason I gave it 4 stars was because of the discussion questions.  I found the discussion questions to be rather shallow and repetitive at times, and didn't dive as deep as I would have liked.  Apart from that, I loved it!  This was the first Max Lucado book I have read, although I had been wanting to, and am looking forward to reading more of his work.  I love Max's writing style and story-telling ability, he conveys his points very well by linking them to relatable stories.  This book focuses on what we were put on this earth to God and love others, and gives us tangible ideas in which to do so.
HERE is the link to Amazon and to read more reviews.

After reading The City of Joy, I wanted a light and easy read and this book delivered.  With Jewish roots, agnostic author A.J. Jacobs decides, for various reasons, he wants to explore religion and the Bible.  This memoir is his 1 year attempt at following the Bible as literally as possible.  As the back of the book says, it "...will charm readers both secular and religious.  It is part CliffsNotes to the Bible, part memoir, part look into worlds unimaginable.  Thou shalt not be able to put it down."  Personal beliefs aside, I loved it!
HERE is the link to Amazon and read more reviews.