Sunday, August 30, 2009

We had the fullest, loveliest Saturday with friends.

We started out at the Farmer's Market on Division and in Lincoln Park with our dear friends, Kirra and Taylor. I so wish I had brought my camera, but I'm glad Kirra brought hers and beautifully documented our morning on her blog. We will miss them so much when we move to Texas and are thankful for the time we are able to spend with them before we go! Kirra has been such an encouraging friend and an inspiration to me.

In the afternoon and evening, we got to celebrate Camille's 25th birthday! Camille has been a good friend since I came to Moody and it is always so good to see her. :)


Her birthday went a little something like this...


Happy birthday


to you


Happy birthday


to you


Happy birthday


dear Camille









More natural recipes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I've gotten a few emails asking for updates on how all of the natural recipes I've posted have worked so far, so I wanted to give a quick update along with some new recipes. I'm so glad you've been interested in this!

The laundry detergent has been working amazingly well! Shawn even commented that our clothes look cleaner and brighter than before. I've been adding 1/2 cup extra borax to each load (as recommended on the borax box) and our whites are whiter than they've ever been - and all without bleach!

The no shampoo routine is still going really well. My hair continues to feel more silky and look more shiny as time goes on, but without feeling greasy at all. I've found that it's key to find a good container for the baking soda solution to make sure it reaches your roots. You don't want to just pour it onto your hair as that defeats the purpose. But if you find an old shampoo bottle or another container with a small spout, you can get close to the roots and rub it in. And what about the extra shampoo and conditioner left over? Shawn will use the shampoo. And the conditioner works perfectly as shaving cream! It leaves your legs so smooth.

For an all-purpose cleaner, I've been using 1 part white vinegar mixed with 1 part water and a few drops of essential oil*. It is food safe and the vinegar smell disappears as soon as it dries. I use it on our kitchen counters, sinks, stovetop, and in the bathroom - it even works on windows and mirrors! For greasy, gritty messes, I put baking soda in a little shaker, shake it on the mess, then spray it with the vinegar solution. It fizzes and softens the mess and is so easy to wipe up (and again, is food safe).

Another fun discovery has been making my own peanut butter. I'll admit, I'm pretty picky when it comes to peanut butter. After having the real stuff without additives (like sugar), it's hard to go back to the "normal" brands like Jiff. Do you have a blender or (even better) a food processor? If so, just pour in roasted peanuts (they can be salted or unsalted, whatever you like better) and start pureeing. I was a lucky girl to get a new food processor this past weekend after saving up for it and I am loving it. I just poured the peanuts into the work bowl and started it up. The peanuts went from small bits to sand-like to clumped up in a bowl to, finally, a perfectly smooth peanut butter in about 3 minutes. And I didn't add a thing! It's a little harder to achieve in a blender, but still very possible. You may want to add a little peanut oil or pure olive oil to aid in the process. And when you're done, just scoop it into an empty peanut butter jar and refrigerate it. It's so, so good!

Last but not least, I've found an alternative to Swiffer sheets. For the wet ones (my favorite for a quick floor cleaning before company arrives), just soak a cleaning rag in whatever you clean floors with - I used vinegar and water for my tile. Normal rags are the perfect size for a Swiffer mop. Just ring them out a little bit, put it on the mop like you normally would a disposable sheet, and you're good to go! You can just throw the sheet in with the dirty laundry when you're done.

Next up? Homemade deodorant, dishwashing detergent, and toothpaste. Once you start making your own supplies from scratch, it's hard to stop! I'm just trying to run out of the products I have before I begin so that it actually does save money.

*You can find essential oils at Whole Foods or other health food stores and while they do cost more than you'd expect for such a tiny amount of liquid, they last a long time because you only use a few drops at a time.

But we rise up and stand firm.

Monday, August 24, 2009

"Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm."
- Psalm 20:7-8

One thing I have learned to appreciate about our marriage is that we pull each other outside of our comfort zones. For Shawn, that may mean joining me on thrift store missions or helping me bake.

For me, it's ball sports.

I was never known to be the athletic one in our family. I did run track and cross country in high school, but when it came to any other kind of sports (especially ones involving balls), I stayed away. I was not only just not interested, but I was self-conscious to try because I had convinced myself I was terrible at them. And perhaps because God has a sense of humor, I married a man who lives for sports (namely, soccer) and subtly urges me to give them a second chance.

A few weekends ago, we had a cookout with some friends and Shawn brought these two paddles and a little rubber ball to play with. Knowing there would be other men there, I wasn't concerned about it. But when he smiled and handed me one of the paddles, I swallowed hard.

'What?!' I thought. 'Is he trying to make a fool out of me in front of our friends? I thought he knew... I don't do ball sports.'

I reluctantly took the paddle and hit the ball back and forth with him. To both of our surprise, I did really well and even enjoyed it.

So when we went rollerblading the other night, I was cautiously excited. I hadn't rollerbladed since last summer, and State Street in Chicago isn't really for beginners. Oh, and I don't know how to stop.

We headed for an empty street nearby and as I held onto Shawn, I began to relax and was able to enjoy the calm summer breeze. He eased his hand out of mine and I skated alone with moderate confidence until it was time to stop. We saw a car up ahead, and I yelled out to Shawn, "Sweetie, I don't know how to stop!" He whipped around his skates, looking like a professional, and said, "You're ok. Just hold onto me." I skated into his arms and effectively stopped.

We continued to skate through Lincoln Park and we found an empty spot to learn how to stop.
We'd speed up, count to three, then I'd bend my left knee and drag my right skate until I had come to a complete stop. The first few times, I held onto Shawn for dear life, afraid I'd fall and break something. But as time went on, I loosened my grip. By the end, I only needed the brush of his hand to have the confidence to stop on my own.

As we headed back home, I skated on my own, but my posture revealed my insecurities. Knees bent, leaning forward just a tad too far, I looked like I was bracing myself for an inevitable fall. But as soon as I could feel Shawn behind me and could sense his touch - even the lightest touch on the back of my arm - I straightened up, relaxed my muscles, and the fear left me. I glided effortlessly over the dips and divots in the road, knowing that if anything happened, Shawn was right there and would help me.

We made our final turn towards home and noticed our friend Pops sitting on the street corner near our apartment. Pops lives in a nearby nursing home but panhandles during the day and has the sweetest smile you've ever seen. He is always an encouragement - he knows and breathes the nearness of God - and he talks openly about the Lord. He was there later than usual because he had prayed for someone the day before and was waiting for them to come back and tell him how God answered his prayer.

"God always answers, you know," he said, pointing to the sky. "It doesn't matter your situation, He's always there and He always hears."

It was just what I needed to hear before the next few days, which brought some unexpected dips and divots in our road. While we were thrilled with the news that we'll be moving to Texas, we found out that we need to move out of our apartment about a month earlier than planned. We found ourselves having to make some important decisions, and honestly, it felt for a short time that God didn't really have my best interest in mind. I would've liked to stay in Chicago longer, but it just wasn't going to happen. And as I let my mind wander, I dwelled on the many unknowns of the upcoming months: Where will we work? Where will we live? How long will we stay in Nashville? How will we meet friends?

But then I remembered rollerblading. I remembered Pops' wise words. And I remembered God's promises to be near that flood the Scriptures:

"I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken." (Psalm 16:8)

"You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great." (Psalm 18:35)

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)

"For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." (Isaiah 41:13)

Sure, I could probably make it without acknowledging His presence in my situation. But I'd be much like I was when I tried to skate alone - bracing myself at every bump, hunched over, ready to break the fall.

That's no way to live.

Instead, I choose to allow God's touch to sustain me. Fear must flee and I am able to stand tall and free, ready to face whatever comes with confidence.

My new toy.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


We spent our Saturday morning at a flea market in the suburbs. While it wasn't as grand as I had hoped, we did find a couple fun things.

First was a $3 watercolor painting of Rockefeller Center from 1959. I knew it had to be ours - Rockefeller Center is, as you know, one of the most special places on the planet to us.

The second fun find was an old (probably 1950's) cake decorating set with an icing pump and 12 different tips. For $5. I took it home, cleaned it up, and made red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting to try it out. They were soo yummy and I'm loving learning how to decorate cupcakes!





We're moving!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A letter that began this way
made our week:

Dear Shawn,
Congratulations! It's such a joy to let you know that your application for admission to the Master of Arts in Media and Communications program has been approved! We are looking forward to your enrollment as a new student at Dallas Theological Seminary in the Spring 2010 semester.

That's right. We're moving to Texas!

We've been praying about what the Lord's next step is for us in life and ministry, and we are thrilled that the doors have opened for Shawn to attend seminary. It is a 2-year program where he will further his studies in worship arts to hopefully work with the worship ministry at a church someday. He is so cut out for this program.

Not only are we excited about DTS, but we are excited to move to Dallas! It will be quite an extreme change (climate, culture, being back in school), but we're ready for the adventure.

As for details, it looks like we'll be here in Chicago until sometime in November, then we will stay in Nashville for a few weeks as we transition. Shawn needs to be at school on January 7. As you think of us, please pray that it would be a smooth transition time and the Lord would lead us to the right jobs and housing.

We're taking a big step of faith, but we hold to the promise that He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3). We are so grateful for this opportunity and can't wait to see what He has for us in these upcoming months!

Julie and Julia.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Have you seen this movie? If not, you need to! Shawn and I had not been to a movie theater since we got married, but we saw Julie and Julia on our date night a week or so ago. It was hilarious, endearing, and inspiring.

So inspiring, in fact, that I've been cooking up a storm for the past week and a half. After seeing Julia Child's passion for food, I was motivated to try some new recipes. And it has really helped with my meat-eating transition!

Here are a few samples from the week:

Strawberry cake by Martha Stewart. I made mine with almond extract (instead of vanilla) and almond whipped cream and it was soo good. We even ate some for breakfast the next day.




Chicken Marsala from The New Best Recipe. A little sweet for my taste, but Shawn loved it.


Chicken Piccata by Ina Garten. I loved this recipe! And I love Ina Garten. Anything she touches turns to gold. We'll do this one again (and I cooked the green beans in the same sauce... gotta love one pot meals).


Also, I was inspired to make my first apron! I love that Julia Child always wore an apron, and so I set out to create my own. I didn't follow a pattern, but learned a lot along the way. And it's reversible! Thank you, Grandma, for fixing my sewing machine over the phone. You are amazing and helped me so much, even from miles away.



Lastly, these just make me happy. :)



Sunday, August 16, 2009

This past week, we've had dinner guests on 3 different nights. It's just about our favorite thing to do!

On a couple gorgeous summer nights, we headed up to get a view of the city from our building's roof. It's about 20 stories up and you can see everything... the Sears Tower (ok, "Willis Tower" it's now called), the Hancock, Lake Michigan. The weather has been breathtaking this week, so it made our roof visits even better.

Mark & Mary Lynne have been dear friends of ours and, as of Sunday, will be moving back home to Oregon. Mark and Shawn were roommates, and God really answered every prayer Shawn had about who his college roommate would be. He has been such a faithful friend. And they are pretty hilarious together. We will miss them, but will definitely have to make a trip out to Oregon now that my sister and her new husband are there, too!







Two nights ago, we had the privilege of having Jonathan - my mom's cousin - over for dinner (we couldn't figure out what that makes us - second cousins?). We figured out that it had been 9 years since we saw each other last. But it didn't seem that any time had passed. When you're brothers and sisters in Christ, there's an undeniable connection there. We had such refreshing conversation with him and we look forward to living in the same town as he does in just a few months!


A trip down memory lane.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Dear Kelsey,

I was reminiscing this morning and just happened to run across some photos of us, and I knew it was time for them to make their online debut.

I had about the best childhood imaginable and so much of that is because I got to be by Kelsey's side from the very beginning.

Our first official picture together.
Me: 15 months old.
Kelsey: Minutes old.

This one always makes me laugh! No one realized until after they saw this picture that we were wearing the wrong outfits. Oops! :)

At Disneyworld... having loads of fun, obviously.

Our famous matching - same shirts, different colors. At Opryland Hotel - a Christmas tradition!

Outfits made by Mom.

Our baptism day (holding prayer books). We were baptized on the same day in 1993 and the water heater had broken... freezing but so memorable! Dresses by Grandma.

Thanksgiving Day in Grandma & Grandpa's garage. She's already about to pass me in height!

Halloween. So typical.

Again, typical outfits here.
Kelsey: Raider's hat (they were one of her favorite teams).
Me: huge bow.

One of several cruises we went on - with our Ukrainian waiter. I love Kelsey's huge smile in this one. :)

Ok, embarrassing.
I think this was the first day of school in 5th grade for me and 4th grade for Kels. I was really into slicking my hair back and spraying it to make sure there were no bumps. Oh, and apparently wearing socks with sandals. Kels loved Pooh and Nikes.

After one of Mom and Dad's concerts. Lovely dresses by Grandma.

Another first day of school pic. These are a bit out of order, but I think this was the first day of 2nd grade for me and 1st grade for Kels? Loving the Looney Toons theme.

Another very typical Halloween picture, though this year we spent the holiday in an airport (and wore the outfits on the plane...). I was Little Bo Peep. Kelsey was a Cowboys player.

Spy club! We were sooo into Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen videos and, like them, loved playing detective - using our spy kits to spy on babysitters. :)

Oh, first day pic again! 6th and 7th grade. Meet my brother, Kels. Juuust kidding. (I can only say this because she's grown into a beautiful woman, as seen in her wedding pics! No one would ever know she might have been called "sir" a few times in her life. Umm.. except everyone now.) :)

Outside of Alcatraz.

On the Empire State building during our New England vacation. Such a fun couple of weeks!

Christmas at Grandma & Grandpa's.

Last minute Halloween costumes we put together with Jen - our favorite babysitter!

Such an incredible memory! Singing "Soon and Very Soon" in a talent show on a cruise to Alaska. We made lifelong friends!

Oh the hair! First day of school our sophomore and junior years?

Time flies, huh? Can't believe we're both married women!

I love you,

PS - Please don't hate me for this. :)
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