Tuesday, February 27

The Naked Chef

I haven't told many funny Kaden stories lately, so I think it's time to share some toddler humor. Now, to set up this story, you have to know that Kaden runs around with a naked bottom 80% of the time we're at home. We start out with clothes in the morning, but he usually completely disrobes the first time he has to go to the potty. If we go to the Y or outside, we of course reclothe him, but the next time he has to go potty? Yup, there go the clothes again. Even the socks have to come off! It's kind of a never-ending process.

So last night, Daddy was home for dinner, and he made a delicious meal for us. Kaden got tired of waiting for dinner to be ready, so he had a little bowl of cereal to hold him over. While Josh and I were enjoying our expertly-cooked venison, Kaden turned around in his seat and said, "Hey! Look at my butt!" So we looked, and said, "Uh-huh." (Nothing extraordinary to see his naked cheeks.)

But he said, insistently this time, "No, LOOK!" So we looked again and saw a Peanut Butter Swirl peeking out between two clenched cheeks. Oh my. That was enough to earn a few chuckles. [I know, I know, we shouldn't encourage it, but it was FUNNY!] But it got better.

Kaden pulled the cereal out and proudly said, "This one's for next week!!" Our chuckles quickly turned to all-out laughter. We just couldn't hold it back!

Turns out, for toddlers who prefer nakedness, the good 'ole gluteous maximus is the most convenient, perfectly logical hiding spot for after-dinner snacks.

Toddlers have a way of inserting humor into the most ordinary of moments. I love this boy!

Saturday, February 24

Comfort Food, Comfort Friends

Hugs, smiles, laughter, reminiscing, and making new memories...Thursday was one of the best days I've had in a while. We had so much fun with Luke & Luci (Congdon) Perry, and we also got to enjoy Jeremy & Kenya Whaley's company for dinner at our house. Jeremy & Luci were some of our best friends at Cedarville, and we haven't all been together since Josh and I got married in May 2001. It's been WAY too long! But now that Luke and Luci are both Southwest employees, they occasionally get long layovers in Nashville and even get to travel standby for free for as long as they're employees. Pretty awesome, right?

Josh, Delaney, and I (Kaden stayed with our neighbor for the afternoon) picked up Luke & Luci at their hotel near the airport. We then headed down to Cool Springs to visit Laurie and Petite Boutique. [The pic above is L-R: Laurie, Me w/ Laney, and Luci.] Laurie had fun dressing Luci up in just about every outfit in the store, and Luci had fun being a model. ;-) She even picked out a few things for the road! Delaney was surprisingly sunny and pleasant. Not that she's not sunny and pleasant normally, but I figured she'd get bored without toys. But I think she's already aligning herself with her gender...she was happy as a lark while we were shopping! (Get a grip on your wallet, daddy!) I guess she figured that being 5-foot-4 or under qualifies her to shop at Petite Boutique. :-) She loved admiring herself in the big mirror Laurie has outside the dressing rooms, too.

So after the shopping adventure (the guys went to get a snack while we shopped), we headed back to our house for dinner. Since Kenya is a vegetarian, I wanted to make something that she could eat, and I recently watched a Food Network show called Everyday Italian that had some tasty-looking vegetarian dishes: Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables and Veronica's Veggie Meatloaf with Checca Sauce. In the words of Rachael Ray, YUM-O!

I am very new to this whole food photography thing, and so far, I stink. Josh said, "Hmmm...that dish tasted a lot better than it looks in your photo." But nevertheless, I had to include it here just to practice. :-)

I made the veggie loaf completely vegetarian, but I decided to add some chicken to the baked penne for the rest of us meateaters. I also made this dish gluten-free by using GF pasta.

Gluten-Free Baked Penne

1 package of boneless/skinless chicken breasts or tenders
Olive oil/PAM spray/Broth -- whatever you want to cook the chicken in
2 red peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch wide strips
2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
6-8 white mushrooms, quartered
1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced into 1-inch strips
PAM spray
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb mix
1 pound Gluten-Free penne pasta
3 cups marinara sauce
1 cup cubed fontina cheese
1/2 cup cubed mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/3 cup for topping
1-2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place your rainbow of veggies on a cookie sheet with 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, and the Italian herbs. Spray the top with PAM and lightly toss together. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes until tender.

While the veggies are roasting, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a separate saucepan, cook the chicken for a few minutes on each side. When it's almost cooked through, cut the tenders into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

When the water boils, add your pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. [You want the pasta to be undercooked so that it doesn't get soggy in the oven when you cook it a second time.] Drain the pasta.

Combine the pasta, veggies, marinara sauce, cheeses, peas, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper in a big bowl. Stir gently until all of the ingredients are incorporated and the pasta is coated with sauce.

Pour this mixture into your favorite baking dish, approximately 9x13 in size. Top the pasta and veggies with the remaining 1/3 c. Parmesan cheese, and dot the top with a bit of butter (or skip this if you're cutting back on fat, like me!) Bake until golden-topped and heated through, approximately 25 minutes. Enjoy!

I don't have a picture of the Veggie-Loaf, but I highly recommend it as well. A couple of comments...I did not make the checca sauce from scratch. I used about a cup of Basil/Oregano canned tomatoes, and it came out great. The fresh basil really stands out in this dish, so if you love basil, you will go nuts for this veggie-loaf. In fact, I would rename this dish "Basil-icious Veggie-Loaf"! Oh, and it's naturally gluten-free (watch your broth, but it's easy to find a gluten-free stock at the market). Give it a try--everyone here gave it 2 thumbs up!

To our dinner party guests: Luke, Luci, Jeremy, and Kenya -- it was a blast. Let's get together again soon. :-) Seeing old friends and sharing life together in a totally new phase is a pretty amazing blessing.

Thursday, February 22

Thankful Thursday

Yes, folks. It's that time again. This will be short b/c I'm right in the middle of preparing for company...

1.) Luci is coming today!!! Luci is one of our best friends from college, and she's visiting today with her husband, Luke!!! We'll be meeting Luke for the first time, so we're pretty pumped. We're going to stop by Laurie's store, Petite Boutique, because Luci is one of the 5'4 or under people. :-)

2.) Josh is off work today -- we have him all day to ourselves!

3.) I've had some free time to paint some blank frames that we got at IKEA. I also put 5 small prints that we got on our honeymoon in Banff in a frame and hung it up in our room. We've been dragging this stuff around with us from house to house since 2001, and now they (and we) finally have a home that we're settled in. I'm thankful for the chance to hang up pictures and put down roots.

4.) Warm weather. We didn't wear coats yesterday! Tennessee winter weather keeps us on our toes. Sometimes it's in the 20s, sometimes it's in the 60s! It looks like another beautiful day out there today.

5.) Laney's cheeks. :-) They're extremely kissable, and they make me happy, happy, happy!

Well, folks, I'm off to make a delicious dinner so that it's ready to go in the oven when we get back from Petite Boutique. Have a wonderful day, everyone. :-)

Tuesday, February 20

Modesty Survey

I spent part of my toddler-free day today (Tuesday is preschool!) perusing this Modesty Survey, which I first learned about on one of my favorite blogs, Girl Talk. Some of the answers were surprising to me, but I appreciated the thorough questions and the overall intention of the survey. Check it out and see what you think. Here's some info from their site:

TheRebelution.com has launched the results of their massive Modesty Survey. Over 1,600 Christian guys have answered questions on everything from glitter lotion and lip gloss to swimsuits and skirts! It's everything girls have ever wanted to ask guys about modesty, but were afraid to ask. Most importantly, the survey is presented as a resource to help Christian girls (and guys), not a list of legalistic rules, and it is accompanied by the Modesty Survey Petition, which encourages young women to focus on the heart, not the hemline, to honor their parents, etc.

The results were released on St. Valentine's Day as a gift from 1,600 Christian guys to all Christian girls -- and now the survey is being endorsed by people like CJ Mahaney (Sovereign Grace Ministries) and Shannon Ethridge ("Every Woman's Battle")!

Go check it out for yourself at www.therebelution.com/modestysurvey. But also make sure you spread the word to all your friends. We want as many Christian girls (and guys) as possible to see this!

I don't think women, including me, will ever really understand what goes on inside a man's visually-stimulated mind, but I think this project will help its readers balance personal expression in dress with helping guys stay away from temptation. If you read through it and want to comment, come on back and tell me what you think! Did these 1,600 guys get it right?

Monday, February 19

Foodie Blogs

Josh and I are embarking on a new project of sorts, and I'm wondering if any of you could help me. I normally don't have a lot of commenters, but if you have some info here, please speak up!

Do you know of any restaurants, chefs, or wine/cheese bars that write a blog? I'm doing some research and would love some feedback if anyone knows of anything!

How about your favorite food blog? Anyone?? ...

Thursday, February 15

Thankful Thursday

So I woke up this morning and had two realizations: 1.) It's Friday!, followed quickly by 2.) I didn't blog yesterday! Oops. So I'm here a little late, and I'll post date it to make it look like I was on the ball. :-) In no particular order, here are a few things that made my heart happy this week...

1. My very first iPod! My valentine gave me a cute little iPod shuffle for VDay. :-) I'm always bugging him for his when I go to the Y, and now I have one of my very own. The best part was that Josh saved up his cash tips, the money he usually uses for odds and ends, with my gift in mind. I thought that was sweet. :-)

2. Kaden's new nicknames for us: "Honey Mom" and "Honey Dad." (He also calls me "Sir Mom" and "Ma'am Mom," but I prefer "Honey Mom." He cracks me up!) I'm not sure this counts as something to be thankful for, but it does make me smile every time he says it, and since I make up the rules for Thankful Thursday, this one counts. No one in our family actually calls each other "honey," so I'm not sure where this one came from...but it sure is funny. He's always sure to include this nickname when he's asking sweetly for something that might be off limits.

3. This is a bit belated, but I'm really thankful that we made it through the month of January without any financial boo-boos. January's always a very lean month at Josh's job, but God provided!

4. I mentioned this on Valentine's Day, but I want to say again that I am very thankful that my parents are back together. It was a difficult eight months for them...and for all of us. This is a huge praise and answer to prayer for my entire family!! My parents are continuing to rebuild their relationship, so if you think of me, please say a prayer for them. Thanks!

5. My newly reinstalled healthy living plan is going well. I'm getting healthier as we speak! :-)

Well, I think that's good for today. I hope everyone's having a great week!

Wednesday, February 14

A Day to Celebrate Love

Like most of my other blogging friends, I'm sending out glad tidings to everyone to wish you a very Happy Valentine's Day!!!

To my sweetheart, my husband, my best friend...I love you! You're much, much more than I deserve. I'm proud to call you my husband.

To my newest loves, thanks for giving my days (and sometimes my nights!) the greatest purpose I've ever known. Being a mom has taught me all about selfless love, and I'm celebrating that kind of love today, too!

And to celebrate a real-life love story, I wanted to share with all of you some great news I got today: my parents are officially un-separated, back together, and reconciled. For those who didn't know, they have been separated for about eight months. I'm so proud of them for putting in a LOT of hard work during their separation and for showing people that marriage is a commitment worth working on, a commitment intended to last forever.

Mom & Dad...I love you, I'm proud of you, and we'll be praying for you as you continue rebuilding your relationship. Thanks for not giving up.

I hope you have all had a great day of celebrating the people you love and the people who love you. I've had a wonderful Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 9

Unhappy Meals, Unhappy Americans

I don't know about you, but I have spent many years wondering how to go about eating a healthy diet. The majority of my relationship with food has been unhealthy, confusing, and frustrating. Trying to stay current with whatever food fad or diet craze the scientists were recommending that particular day left me feeling very confused about what healthy really was.

When I was in high school, low-fat was all the rage. As long as it said low-fat on it, you could eat as much as you wanted. Nevermind calories, carbs, or sugar grams. Then during college, the low-carb thing began to take hold as people everywhere breathed a sigh of relief and ate up all the fatty foods they could find -- steaks, bacon, real sour cream & butter...anything but the dreaded carb. But the fads didn't make me feel any healthier, didn't lead to a long-term healthy weight, and ultimately they just made me doubt that there was such a thing as a healthy, nutritious way to eat.

It seemed like every month a new someone was saying something new: "Eat this, don't eat that, eat exactly this much of this _______ (insert super-food X, Y, or Z)." If the experts couldn't agree or make up their minds as to what foods were healthy, I subconciously decided I wasn't going to bother trying to decipher what a nutritious diet really looked like. So what the heck, I thought, might as well just chuck it all and eat whatever I feel like eating.

Enter pregnancy. Enter eating free-for-all (eating for two!). Enter baby weight gain. Enter frustration!

So after we moved to Nashville in August 2004, I was in a new town, a new church, I missed my friends and support system in Ohio, I had a new baby, money frustrations, and oh yeah -- one distinctly unhealthy body. I felt tired, depressed, lonely, and downright yucky. I knew I needed and wanted to figure out what was healthy for my body, but I wasn't sure where to start. The food pyramid? The latest diet fad? A new exercise gagdet or program? With so many conflicting voices, I wasn't sure whom to listen to. I was doubly confounded by my gluten-free diet, which I embarked upon starting in February 2003 when I was diagnosed with celiac disease.

Through the sound recommendation of my friend Laurie, I began seeing a Christian nutritionist, Scotti, and what I have learned in the last 2 years has been pretty life-changing. Since November 2004, I have been on a journey of readjusting and reeducating myself about nutrition and food, essentially attempting to change my relationship with this whole eating thing in general. The road has not been easy, I have fallen off the bandwagon a few times, there was another pregnancy thrown in with another round of baby weight still to lose, but here I am on the other side, still working at not just what I eat, but why I eat.

Okay, so that was a long intro. On to my point. I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Gluten-Free Girl (which BTW is a great read for gluten eaters as well), and she mentioned a New York Times article by Michael Pollan entitled, Unhappy Meals. It sounded interesting, but I didn't have time to check it out right away. About a week later, I noticed that this same article was the most popular article on the NYT's website for the entire month of January. That piqued my interest again. So a few days ago, I finally got around to reading it. Wow! I just had to talk about it on my blog because in my view, this man is so right on the money (other than a few random references to evolution).

The essay is a couple thousand words long, and it took me a few sittings to make it the whole way through, but oh man! was it worth it. I highly recommend reading it. Pollan discusses the American love affair with "nutritionism" -- the idea that we tend to fixate on one ingredient, vitamin, or food group. Finally! A term that partially explains my frustration with conflicting medical advice, diet crazes, etc. Check out this excerpt:

"To enter a world in which you dine on unseen nutrients, you need lots of expert help. But expert help to do what, exactly? This brings us to another unexamined assumption: that the whole point of eating is to maintain and promote bodily health. Hippocrates’s famous injunction to “let food be thy medicine” is ritually invoked to support this notion. I’ll leave the premise alone for now, except to point out that it is not shared by all cultures and that the experience of these other cultures suggests that, paradoxically, viewing food as being about things other than bodily health — like pleasure, say, or socializing — makes people no less healthy; indeed, there’s some reason to believe that it may make them more healthy. This is what we usually have in mind when we speak of the “French paradox” — the fact that a population that eats all sorts of unhealthful nutrients is in many ways healthier than we Americans are. So there is at least a question as to whether nutritionism is actually any good for you."

Interesting, right? If you're not already enticed to check out this article, I'm going to give another sneak peek at the author's final conclusions at the end of the article. These suggestions make up his nine-part answer to changing the way Americans think about food and nutrition, and I say, "Hooray!" (Pollan elaborates a lot more than I have here.) There is something in me that longs for more natural, more whole, less refined/processed, and less artificially fortified. Here goes:

1. Eat food. [As opposed to "food products."]
2. Avoid even those food products that come bearing health claims.
3. Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number — or that contain high-fructose corn syrup.
4. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. [Think local farmer's market instead.]
5. Pay more, eat less.
6. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves. [Pollan suggests a "flexitarian" diet -- one that includes meat, but is heavy on plant foods.]
7. Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks. [People who eat according to the rules of a traditional food culture are generally healthier than Americans are.]
8. Cook. And if you can, plant a garden.
9. Eat like an omnivore.

What I have learned thus far on my food journey meshes pretty well with these suggestions, so I'm going to keep mulling them over and incorporating this info into my food choices and lifestyle. I believe it's another stepping stone on my journey. If you read the article and want to post anything about your reactions, I'd welcome your comments.

Here's to happy meals and healthy bodies!

Thursday, February 8

Thankful Thursday

It's time to share five of the things that made my heart happy this week:

1. Quiet moments with Laney. We have Tuesdays all to ourselves when Kaden goes to preschool, and it's fun to have some girl time. I love it when we have time to look into each other's eyes and get to know each other better.

2. I love it when Kaden says grown-up stuff in his little boy voice. On Saturday AM, we all went to the Y together and then stopped by Starbuck's to keep chipping away at a gift certificate I have. Kaden calls anything from Starbuck's a "special drink," and he loves having his very own. They make a $1 kid's drink called "Vanilla Cream," which is basically steamed milk w/ vanilla flavoring in it. This was his first time having this drink, and after a few sips, he gleefully declared, "This is WHEELY WHEELY good!" It was probably funnier in person, but it made Josh and me laugh. There's so much joy in the little things!

3. The YMCA's free childcare. Enough said.

4. My wonderful hubby who is helping me find time to see my nutritionist again and make time to exercise. Thanks, babe!

5. When Laney and Kaden see each other for the first time in the morning, they both break out into huge smiles. It never fails to make me happy!

What are you thankful for today?

Sunday, February 4

What You Don't Know 'Bout Me...

Well, I've been tagged by my friend Shelley to post 5 little-known facts about myself. So here goes...

1. One of my growing-up dreams was to be a backup singer. No, really. :-) Even though that didn't come true, I now live in Music City USA!

2. I am tactilely challenged. Some people can't eat things if they have a weird texture, but for me, certain substances make me freak out. As a child, I banned all stuffed animals and dolls from my bed b/c I hated feeling fake fur or hair on my fingers. Weird, huh? Now it's mostly reserved for dirt, sticky stuff, anything germ-y, or anything glutenous. I wash my hands a lot. :-)

3. I'm really anti-pet, even moreso now that I have the never-ending job of trying to keep a house clean and tidy. With two little ones under three, I officially have enough messes to clean up without a puppy/dog, too. (Thank you very much!) Oh yeah, animals sort of fall into that I-don't-want-to-touch-them category...they kind of freak me out for some reason.

4. I'm an East Coast gal. I've only ever been west of the Mississippi twice: Canadian Rockies for our honeymoon in 2001 and San Diego to visit my sister in 2006. Kind of crazy, huh?

5. My husband's suggestions for weird and/or little-known things about me? I sleep with my socks on, and I put lotion on my lips. Little known, but not weird, right?!

As my friend Luci did, I tag anyone who wants to participate... :-)

Friday, February 2

You + Barilla = Hunger Relief

I saw an ad in February's "Parenting" Magazine about The Celebrity Pasta Lovers' Cookbook, and I decided to check it out tonight. I also saw it highlighted on one of the morning talkshows, I think it was The View, so maybe some of you have already heard of it. The basic gist is that if you go to the Celebrity Pasta Lovers' Cookbook site and download a free copy of this cookbook, Barilla will donate $1 to America's Second Harvest, the hunger relief organization. I checked out the recipes, and they look really tasty! There's no drawbacks here...FREE yummy pasta recipes and help to those who need it!

Here's some extra info from the site:

Hunger affects more than 38 million people in America today - and 14 million are children. It's a challenge that requires constant attention and support, and food producers and chefs are in a unique position to help raise awareness and money through projects like The Celebrity Pasta Lovers' Cookbook.

Every time you or a friend downloads a copy, Barilla will donate $1, with a total donation up to $100,000, to America's Second Harvest - The Nation's Food Bank Network, a national charity that secures and distributes more than 2 billion pounds of donated food and grocery products annually. America’s Second Harvest is the largest charitable domestic hunger-relief organization in the country with more than two billion pounds of donated food and grocery products distributed across the country annually. Just last year, we provided food assistance to more than 25 million people in the United States. We appreciate your help in alleviating hunger in America, and we hope you enjoy the cookbook!