Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thankful, for the big and small

Vander Kooi (Crisp) Thanksgiving
Feely Thanksgiving
How thankful I am for my wonderful families!

Laguna Beach

What a wonderful week it has been!  It all started with Robby taking his vacation week during my week off for Thanksgiving.  We went to Laguna and Disneyland and loved every second.  Seriously, I know we get to do a lot of fun things, but this was perhaps one of my favorite trips ever.  It was so beautiful and relaxing and put us in the holiday mood.

If you haven't had the pleasure of visiting Laguna Beach, you must put it on your list of places to go.  It's special to us because it is where we were engaged (see picture #3 - that cove was where Robby asked me to be his wife), where we honeymooned, and where we would splurge on anniversary trips.  Going in November is the way to do it because hotels are much less expensive and the town is not too busy, although just busy enough for you to know it is a fabulous place in both summer and winter.

Some amazing things to see in Laguna:
1.  The beach and the coves -- there are many of them, and they all require a little hike down, so you feel like you are in another world
2.  Alta Laguna -- we stumbled across this by accident, a high point from where you can see everything (see pictures #6 and 7)
3.  Peppertree Lane -- this is just a cute little alley built around an old historic building and (you guessed it) pepper tree that has an amazing gelato place!
4.  Tons of incredible homes in the hills -- there's a reason why Laguna Beach was a popular reality tv show...everyone loves to watch the lives of the rich and famous!
5.  Fantastic shops on the main street
6.  Art, art, and more art (we just window-shopped) -- Laguna is actually known for its artist community
7.  Pageant of the Masters and the Sawdust Festival are summer attractions
8.  A huge old fashioned candy shop called the Candy Baron
9.  Laguna Nursery -- awesome and so much more than just plants!
10.  Disneyland--not in Laguna, but close enough!

Snow at Disneyland!
Sleeping Beauty castle all lit up
The cove where we were engaged :)
Dining at its best
Enjoying Starbuck's with a beach view
The view from Alta Laguna
This looks like a National Geographic shot, right?
On one of our drives where we ooed and ahhed the incredible homes
Buying a gorgeous oregano at Laguna Nursery
Running into our friend Andrea at Disneyland!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Birthdays at the Coast

This past weekend, we celebrated my mom (11/11) and aunt's (11/13) birthdays at the coast.  Their two brothers and their families live there, so we had a fabulous time hanging out with aunts and uncles and cousins and enjoyed every second of the wonderful coastal living.  The only downside was the bit of rain on Friday, but Saturday's gorgeous weather made up for it.

Happy birthday, mama!  To many, many, many more!

Happy Birthday, Chels!

Mmm...a slice of key lime a martini, that is!
Molly helps Chels blow out all 28 of her candles!
Chels and Steph, the creator of the beautiful scarf Chelsea's wearing
Carly and Camille...we were supposed to have Bible study that night, but instead we celebrated a birthday!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Gospel in Life

Our Monday night small group has just begun a study called "Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything." It's basically a sermon series by Timothy Keller that is supplemented with questions, readings, and discussion.  I have only read the first chapter and watched the first session, but already my heart is stirred.  I wanted to share a few of the quotations, both for your reading pleasure (if that may be the case) but also for my continued reflection on this.

This week's readings focused on Christianity as the gospel, the true and right way to live, as opposed to being religious or irreligious.

From Chapter 1, "Three Ways to Live"
Timothy Keller

In "religion," people may look to God as their helper, teacher, and example, but their moral performance is serving as their savior.  Both religious and irreligious people are avoiding God as Savior and Lord.  Both are seeking to keep control of their own lives by looking to something besides God as their salvation.  Religious legalism/moralism and secular/irreligious relativism are just different strategies of "self-salvation."  [. . .] Christianity is not fundamentally an invitation to get more religious.  A Christian says, "Though I have often failed to obey the moral law, the deeper problem is why I was trying to obey it!  Even my efforts to obey it have just been a way of seeking to be my own savior."  The religious only repent of sins.  The irreligious don't repent at all.  Christians, however, repent of both their sins and their self-righteousness. (15)

To become a Christian is, therefore, first to admit the problem: that we have been substituting ourselves for God either by religion (trying to be our own savior by obedience to God's law) or by irreligion (trying to be our own lord by disobedience to God's law.)  This means we change not so much the amount but the depth of our repentance. [. . .] Second, to become a Christian, we rely on the remedy: asking God to accept us for Jesus' sake and knowing that we are accepted because of his record, not ours.  This means we change not so much the amount but the object of our faith. (17-18)

[On explaining the difference between "common virtue" and "true virtue," an idea Jonathan Edwards wrote much of]:
Nevertheless, there is a profound tension at the heart of common virtue.  If the main reason people are honest is due to fear and pride--what is the main reason people are dishonest?  Almost always it is out of fear or pride.  In common virtue, you have not done anything to root out the fundamental cause of evil--the radical self-centeredness of the heart.  You have restrained the heart's self-centeredness, but not changed it. [. . .] True virtue comes when you see Christ dying for you, keeping a promise he made despite the infinite suffering it brought him  On the one hand that destroys pride: he had to do this for us, because we were so lost.  On the other hand it also destroys fear: because if he'd do this for us while we were his enemies, then he values us infinitely, and nothing we can do will wear out his love.  Consequently, our hearts are not just restrained but changed.  Their fundamental orientation is transformed. (22-23)

Gospel repentance involves:
  • deep humility (versus pride) -- Repent by considering the free grace of Jesus until you sense (a) decreasing disdain, since you are a sinner too, and (b) decreasing pain over criticism, since you value God's love more than human approval.
  • well-guided zeal (versus anxiety) -- Repent by considering the free grace of Jesus until there is (a) no cowardly avoidance of hard things, since Jesus faced evil for you, and (b) no anxious or rash behavior, since Jesus' death proves that God cares and watches over you.
  • burning love (versus indifference) -- Repent by considering the free grace of Jesus until there is (a) no coldness or unkindness, as you think of the sacrificial love of Christ for you, (b) no impatience, as you think of his patience with you, and (c) no indifference, as you think of how God is infinitely attentive to you.
  • a "single eye" (i.e. godly motives) -- Repent by considering how the free grace of Jesus provides you with what you are looking for in these other things [need for approval, love of comfort, need for control, hunger for acclaim and power, fear of other people]. (29-30)
As I was reflecting on this chapter, I recognize how I often fall prey to being "religious."  The things I do sadly come out of sin--fear, pride, envy, control--when my desire is to live life for God and "do life" out of love and obedience to Him.  I don't want this life to be spent for my own sake, but for His.  Praise Him that the way to change is to call upon Him and spend time reflecting upon His grace!  Nothing I do will change my heart; only the holy Spirit of God can do that.  All I have to do is turn myself over to Him.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Potato Replacement

Stock Photo by Simon Howden
Life without carbs is tough, friends.  I never realized how much comfort I found in a piece of crusty artisan bread or a side of perfectly roasted baby red potatoes.  You can understand my joy, then, when I found that cauliflower truly can be transformed into a potato-like replacement.  Here's the way to do it, recipes that will give you either a mock mashed potatoes or deliciously creamy cauli soup.  

These pretty much start out the same.  The only difference is how you puree them.  So, here are the first steps, no matter which recipe you'd like to try:

1.  Core your cauliflower, then cut it into small pieces, getting rid of some of the larger, denser stems.  This doesn't have to be perfect.  
2.  Boil two cups of chicken stock.  Really, any stock will do.  This is key, though.  No stock=no flavor.
3.  Mince 2-3 (more, if you like tons of garlic) cloves of garlic and throw it in the stock.  
4.  Put your cauliflower in.  Hopefully it'll be just covered, but you can add a little water (or more stock) if you need to.  
5.  Cover and boil until cauli is soft, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Now, here's where you choose which direction you'd like to go.  First, for the mashed version:
1.  Strain your cauliflower (with the garlic, if possible), reserving your stock.  Place the cauli on paper towels to drain well.
2.  In a food processor or blender, throw in your soft cauliflower.  Add a few tablespoons of sour cream (or cream cheese), a bit of butter, some salt, more garlic if needed, and whatever else you like in your mashed potatoes.
3.  Process, adding in a tiny tiny bit of the stock if needed.  Be careful, though -- it gets runny quickly.
4.  Taste and add more salt, a bit of pepper, and anything else to taste.
5.  Process, process, process -- it needs to be smooth.  A bit of graininess ruins it.
5.  Serve!  Garnish with chives.

Cauliflower Soup
1.  Scoop cauliflower into food processor or blender.  Add a few T of sour cream, a few T of butter, salt, a pinch of cayenne, a bigger pinch of smoked paprika, and a tiny pinch of nutmeg (optional, of course).
2.  Process, adding more stock as you go until it's a consistency you like.  I ended up pouring in all my stock.  
3.  Taste and add more seasoning if needed.
4.  Enjoy!

Seriously, this was one of the most comforting meals I've had, and just so you know it's not me thinking this is great, my picky husband loved the soup!  And since you're not doing the diet, you could add some cheese and really wow your family.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Treat!

With this diet, as well as the stricter budget this past year, eating out just hasn't been the option it once was.  Even my hub has had to cut out his favorite past-time--eating at Taco Bell :)  It seems we're not the only ones who have imposed this rule.  Our friends Ben and Steph have also curtailed some of their restaurant visits, which made this past weekend's night out at Henry Salazar's (our absolute fave) seem extra special!  Here are a few pictures from the evening, which ended with a bonfire and a viewing of Captain America at their home.  Fun!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Healthy Fall

I mentioned recently that I have taken up a new health venture, which begins by basically cutting out anything yummy.  No sugar whatsoever (not even in fruit), no starches whatsoever (because it basically turns into sugar), and no beans or grains, especially wheat.  You also cut out milk products (except yogurt and a bit of heavy cream or butter--they don't have much sugar) and aged or fermented products of any sort.  Instead of all that, you eat a lot of protein, vegetables, and yogurt.  This extreme version is the first phase.  After a couple of weeks of this, you slowly begin introducing the better grains back into your diet.

I am currently in Phase 2 of this diet.  That means I got through two whole weeks of absolutely no sugar, starch, or grains.  It was so difficult.  The first few days I seriously felt like I was going through a detox.  My hands were shaky, and I was starving all the time.  I heard that that part would fade as I continued, and it did.  By the second week, I was fine, and even found I was less hungry.  Of course, when I say fine, I mean that I still had meltdowns every night because I did not want to eat another boiled egg or cup or yogurt for a snack.  But overall, fine.

This wasn't prompted by a desire to lose weight or even a desire to become healthier.  This came because I was sick of dealing with some annoying health things all the time and sick of the medications not helping.  We all know diet affects our health, so I thought it was time to try this.

All that being said, I'm feeling tons better!  I can see a huge improvement, which truly is the only thing motivating me to keep going.  It's not easy eating this way, but the benefits have been amazing.  I just hope I have the strength to keep this up, especially through the holidays.

So if you have any high protein, high vegetable, low everything else recipes, please pass them along.  I'll try to share some of mine, too.  Some were quite tasty!

(*I'm being a bit vague about it all on purpose, but if you'd like to know more about the diet, you can click on this link.  I didn't stick to this particular site's entire philosophy, but it was a starting point for me.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Farmer and his Bug

A couple pictures from our fun night at the Fall Round-up on Halloween.  I had planned on being more creative with Robby's costume, but busy-ness (and a cap on what I could spend) meant he was a farmer once again.
Our church has a cute photo-op spot where they event print you out a polaroid if desired.  Fun!
Josh and Jessica and their baby Yoda
Steph (and family) and Chels stopped by, too!
Me, Carly, and Camille
Mom and Dad - the amazing chefs of the night
Just a cute one of a bug and the Beebs

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Truly Terrifying Creation

Every year, our church puts on the Fall Round-up on Halloween night.  One of the best activities (in my opinion) is the cake walk.  Perhaps I feel this way because when I was a little girl, the cake walk was my favorite thing to do.  There were just few things that could compare to having my number drawn and getting to choose my very own giant cake.  Awesome.  I wanted to bring treats to keep the fun going, so I made the delicious yellow cake recipe Kelly shared with us recently, using the batter to make some cupcakes and a mini-cake. The cupcakes turned out just fine...simple and cute:

The is what the picture on the box looks like.  I got it from Crate and Barrel, and it's supposed to look like a mini three-tiered cake:

And mine:

Who needs spiders or fake blood?  This cake is down right scary.  I hope someone was brave enough to choose it, though, because it tastes amazing!