Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thankful List: The Birthday Edition

On Friday I celebrated my 28th birthday - so I thought I would get my thankful list up to 28! As always, the complete list so far can be found at the top of the blog under "a thankful heart"

21. Creation. I was up early on my birthday and saw a beautiful sunrise. I wasn't that excited to be up early that day and was trying to get what I needed to done and get back in bed. Then on my way home I caught a glimpse of the sky and I said, "oh, wow!" and smiled and had that sigh of peace that only the beauty of creation brings to me. I just had to stop at the lake and grab a few pictures before heading back to the house.

My Birthday Present from God

22. The art of massage. I had my first ever massage on Friday and do believe I am now hooked. So relaxing.

23. Family. There will be more detailed thankful posts on the varying members of my family at some later date - but this weekend I have taken the time to be thankful that they are in my life - I got blessed with pretty great parents, brothers, and sisters-in law. :)

24. Television shows that aren't trashy. Watched a  a marathon of Scarecrow and Mrs. King this weekend. (Mom got me season 2 for my birthday gift)  Then, the television went back in the closet.

25. Positive, friendly coworker relationships. One coworker organized the "spa day" for my birthday celebration. This past week also had a time where we all needed to support a coworker who had a tragedy. I'm thankful to work where people care about each other in times of celebration and in times of grief.

26.  Finally hearing the explanation for that lyric in that praise song that says "heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss." - - and while I can now understand and appreciate the sentiment . . . the line still kind of squicks me out and I'm not a fan of singing it.  I pretty much just like the "oh how he loves me" part of that song ;)

27. Bible Study. Have I mentioned that before? Every Sunday I'm just thankful that God has led me to a group of people that will open the Bible and question the words in there and talk about what it looks like to live those words out in our lives. I always leave blessed and with something to think about.

28. Fun earrings. I didn't get my ears pierced until I was 23 - but have developed a bit of a love for earrings over the past five years or so. My mom sent me these for my birthday which I thought was rather providential as they remind me of the sunrise on the lake I saw on my birthday morning and will now always be a reminder to me of God's creation and the way He gives me glimpses of His glory even when I'm exhausted and tired and not looking for it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

I think maybe they did a HAES study and didn't know it.

Article:  Are The Religious Prone to Obesity?

The study doesn't prove that attending services is fattening, nor does it explain why weight might be related to faith. Even so, the finding is surprising, especially considering that religious people tend to be in better health than others, said study author Matthew J. Feinstein, a medical student at Northwestern University in Chicago

So. Wait. Did they just say that people who attend to regular religious are services are prone to be healthier AND fatter?

After a statement saying that the religious could benefit from some "targeted anti-obesity obesity interventions" the article then says:

Scientists have been studying links between religious behavior and health for years, and have found signs that there's a positive connection between the two. The studies suggest that religious involvement -- whether it's private or public -- is linked to things like better physical health, less depression and more happiness, said Jeff Levin, director of Baylor University's Program on Religion and Population Health.

But researchers have also found signs that people who attend services put on more weight.

That BUT there is so telling.  We've got all these studies that show that religious people tend to be healthier...but...those same people are fat? HOW CAN THAT BE??  It's as if the fact that religious people are fat negates all that other stuff about them being healthy- those other studies must've missed something!  I love how no one even bothers to question the assumption that fat is always unhealthy - - they never even mention, "perhaps its time to society to rethink how it thinks about fat if a group that tends towards healthiness also tends towards fatness."  Oh - wait - they do- near the end. It's because we don't smoke.  
This I'm just quoting so you can laugh with me:

Levin said one possibility is that those who attend services, along with activities such as Bible study and prayer groups, could be "just sitting around passively instead of being outside engaging in physical activity."
Right. Because all the people not involved in those activities are busy being active - not sitting around at desk jobs or watching tv or playing on the computer.

And, this one:

Also, he said, "a lot of the eating traditions surrounding religion are not particularly healthy; for example, constant feasts or desserts after services or at holidays -- fried chicken, traditional kosher foods cooked in schmaltz (chicken fat), and so on."
The great thing about HAES is that if I want to feast at a social event or a holiday - I can - or I can choose not to. I don't have to eat a plate of fried chicken because that's the only time I ever allow oil to pass my lips - - I can have just one and be done. Or - I can eat more and not have that mean that I eat like that all the time - perhaps I'm just enjoying something tasty in community with other people over a shared life necessity that can be enjoyable.   (And also like to sarcastically point out the "services" and holidays feasts that non-religious people partake in.  Superbowl, anyone?)   Note to self: write post on the celebratory nature of food in the Bible.

The article concludes with an admonition to places of worship to promote health and increase awareness of obesity.  The authors of the article would probably like books like: Fit for His Service or Fit For The King. (I'm not linking - I think they are horrible and spiritually damaging - note to self: write post on those books too.)

The last sentence  of the article is one I can get behind:

"Pastors, especially those in poor neighborhoods, could champion programs for more fresh produce and less fast food in their neighborhoods," Sulmasy added.
Yup. I really do think that the lack of access to fresh and healthy food in socio-economic challenged areas is devastating to health. I believe that fresh food is a healthier alternative to fast food.  I don't think fresh food = skinny people. I don't think that preachers should preach the virtues of being skinny. I do think as a matter of social justice that nutritional information based on health and not size should be available to everyone and the church can and  should play a leading role in social justice issues.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Groceries and such

I have no idea if this entry will interest people - but I'm throwing it out there! 

I am in charge of meal planning and everything food related for 12 people. (Though - I do have help picking menus for dinners!) I'm constantly trying to improve my grocery shopping efficiency - so I thought I'd list a few of my tips and tricks and see if you had any to add!

I do one big trip each week and typically one smaller one (it's a good week if I just do one though!)

I plan menus out a month in advance - 5 dinners a week plus standard fare for breakfast and lunches.(fruit, hot/cold cereal, sandwich and salad stuff, eggs, etc.) The other two dinners are leftovers or just whatever you find to make. :)

I make an effort to put dinners that really need fresh meat closest to the grocery shopping days and schedule dinners that can use frozen or preserved meat near the end of the week.

Examples of "end of the week" dinners - - Jambalaya with smoked sausage,  salmon croquettes made from canned salmon, a crock pot chicken meal, etc.  Things like sloppy joes, tacos, shepherds pie etc can also work with frozen ground meat. (Or frozen browned ground meat if you've been extra industrious!)

 I keep all the menus and recipes in a binder. We print a lot of recipes off the internet. If I got one from a cookbook I make a note of that as well.  When it's time to make the grocery list I can just open one binder.

I keep a Word document with my grocery list that has 5 sections.

Section 1: weekly purchases - - milk, eggs, bread, fresh fruit and veggies, etc.

Section 2: Pantry things - either what is needed for the meals that week or things we've run out of like sugar, flour, condiments, etc.

Section 3: Special requests.  These are the things everyone else adds to the grocery lists - special cereals, cookies, certain types of juice, etc.  No guarantee this list will get purchased. Each week a different person gets to choose one kind of sweet snack, salty snack, cereal, and juice flavor for the whole house to share. So - one week a kid may pick Cheerios - so I buy a ginormous box of Cheerios for the whole house and the next week the Lucky Charms kid gets her wish. It works really well at making sure everyone gets their favorite treat now and then, making sure I'm not spending a lot of money on these items, and that the house isn't overrun with sugary snacks and drinks.

Section 4: Monthly Budget. I keep a running track of how much of the budget I've spent that month and how much I have left.

Section 5: Menus for the upcoming week. I've found it very helpful to have the actual menu with me when shopping - so if I can't find a certain ingredient I know if I can substitute. Or, if the schedule only allows me a quick trip that morning - I know I can just get the bare minimum for meals the next day or so rather than the entire list.

Unless I'm 100% certain that I have a certain item I put it on the grocery list if I need it that week. Then, after the list is printed I do a quick "shopping trip" in my pantry and cross out things or adjust the quantity as necessary. I used to run back and forth to the pantry while writing my list. This got old. Fast.

On the actual day of shopping I hit three stores. The first is the store in my area that has the best produce for the best value. Next is the big bulk discount store. There isn't a lot that I buy there - but there are a few things that actually are a better deal.  I try to keep this store to every other week - but sometimes that doesn't work.  And, lastly I go to the regular store to get everything else. Typically from start to finish (including unloading and putting away the groceries) it takes me about 3 hours.

The smaller trip later in the week happens if an end-of-the-week meal really needs fresh meat or if the store was out of something on the first trip or if my brain wasn't working on the first trip. I try to avoid going to the store twice in a week though.

A goal that I have that I haven't quite taken the time to implement yet is to keep a log of the cost of food that I buy often - things that are in "Section 1" I tend to know the cost of just because I buy it so much - but the Section 2 and 3 items I don't always know off the top of my head. If I can start tracking the typical price per oz/item cost of these things and when sales typically occur - then I'll better be able to map out the weekly grocery budget when doing meal planning. Also, I occasionally have to go to the pricier grocery store to get items - they also have sales on occasion which I typically ignore - but if I know the normal cost at the cheap store I'll know it it's a deal or not to get it at the pricier store.  I don't get much into couponing unless it's a grocery store "$5 off $30" coupon or something.  Most of the time - even with the coupon - buying that item in bulk is not cheaper than buying the store brand as the coupon is usually only good for 1-3 of the items and I typically buy everything times 4 or 5 and I don't have time to hunt down multiple copies of coupons. Maybe I'll eventually get there - but no interest at the moment. :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thankful List 3/15/11

(list so far)

11. The opportunity to take pottery classes - I've got a few pieces that I need to finish up over the next couple of weeks  - but I'm going to be taking a break until at least June to free that money up to be used elsewhere. So thankful that I've been able to be creative in this way over the past 9 months though - it's been nice to be "good" at something. :)

12. Lake Michigan - I have the opportunity to drive by it on  a regular basis and look forward to the weather warming up so I can enjoy time at the water this summer.

13. Re-usable shopping bags. I started using them a single person in the suburbs and loved them and now with a large family and in the city I find them invaluable.  They hold so much more and make getting groceries in from the car twice as fast. (These are the ones I use for groceries: Click. ) On days I forget them I dread bringing in the groceries. I've also got a nylon one that folds up nice and small for my purse so that when I'm out it's easy to take it out and carry things in a shoulder bag if I pick up something from a store.

14. A regular place to meet with people to study the Bible. I love that I get to be a part of a Bible study where the Bible is studied without the use of another book to guide.

15. My growing respect and appreciation  for tradition, history, and ritual within the church. Being afraid of it as someone passionately "sola scriptura" only gave me fear. Learning about it and embracing it has offered so much richness and depth.

16. China has opened up to single women for adoptions again. With restrictions and extra paperwork and such - but it's a step in the right direction!  I don't know where my adoption time-line is at the moment with my life not conducive to having a family of my own. I still have two years before most countries (including China) would even consider me as a single - but it's always nice to hear "opening" rather than "closing" in regards to this.

17. Seasons and the coming of spring. So looking forward to the lilac trees blooming outside my home.

18.The ability to give freely - it's such a blessing when I can give from my abundance to others in need - and it's often such a simple thing that I have "more than enough" of - and I get to be blessed by giving it away.

19. Patience. I ten to actually have quite a bit- and I'm so thankful for it - it helps me keep the world in perspective and does not make me afraid to pray for more. ;)

20. Jersey sheets. Bed sheets out of t-shirt material. Someone was a genius and I'm thankful for them!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Thankful List 3/9/11

(list so far)

6. The  Liturgical Year in Christianity and the community and unity of believers it creates.

7.  Drive-thru coffee-shops. Just discovered one nearby. It makes those 6:00 a.m. drives so much more doable!

8. Being reminded that prayer is about seeking the heart of God, not about giving God information.

9. Seeing God at work and being able to hear the prompting of the Spirit in my life because of prayer.

10.  Good books. I learn things, I go on adventures, I experience the world in someone else's shoes - I'm a typical book lover.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Feels like Home

After about 19 months of living here . . . my little bit of personal space is finally starting to feel like home. Coming into a furnished room and just trying to figure out what I really needed in the space slowed me down. At my apartment I put stuff I wasn't sure about in the spare room and made the rest of the place pretty. Here - it all went into the bedroom.

It's still a little cramped and crowded for my tastes - but I'm working on figuring out what isn't needed and making the space function best for me.

I rearranged the room a bit a few weeks ago when I swapped out the TV for my sewing machine. A few days ago I found a bedding set that I liked at Marshall's and some curtains for cheap and got those. While I liked the bedding I had previously - it just never felt like me. I already feel so much more relaxed when I come into my room with my new bedding and the curtains and such.  So, basically 2 of the 4 walls of my room have been revamped to work for me. The other two need some work - there are a couple of bookshelves, a dresser, and both the door to the room and the door to the closet on those walls so I need to re-think those spaces to really get the flow I'm looking for.

Here are the two walls that are working for me right now.

You should be able to click the image to see a larger picture.

The curtains have been an interesting journey. I used to just have two long panels hanging on either side - but that didn't look all that great and didn't block any light. Then I got these curtains. My "fear of fire" won't allow me to hang them down behind the radiator - so I knew they needed to be shorter - but I really dislike the aesthetics of short curtains - so I wanted something that at least had the illusion of possible length. I thought of a roman shade idea. And then as I grabbed my safety pins and started messing with the fabric the image in my head became that of the "pick up" style dresses - basically droopy layers. I'm not totally in love with it yet and there may be more alterations in the future - but the fabric has much more of a sheen in person which adds to the "luxe" quality of the pick-up style and it's growing on me. They serve the light-blocking function well though.

I really like the bedding. The set I bought came with Euro Shams - and I've had 2 Euro Pillows that I brought with me from my bedroom in GA in my closet all this time - so it was nice to put those to use.

You can also see a couple of my sewing projects there. I made a sewing machine cover and a throw pillow out of some fabric remnants I had. Close-ups:

The sewing machine cover I copied from a vinyl cover that cam with the machine. It maybe took me two hours.  The pillow is such a simple project when you have a pillow form. At the simplest form you can literally cut one piece of fabric and sew four seams. Voila, pillow cover!  Google "envelope pillow cover" for tutorials - maybe I'll do a picture one one day. . .

Anyway, so that's 1/2 of my room. The other side has a lot more storage that I need to make aesthetically cohesive and functional. Working on it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Gifts: College Roommates

I have just one entry for my thankful list of 1000 gifts today. (Hit the "gifts" tag to see the other entry)

5.  My college roommates

I transferred to a new college after my sophomore year of college. I spent the summer in between the sophomore and junior year in Oregon. So - roommate hunting was interesting to say the least. I had absolutely no desire to live in a dorm. God had a pretty amazing puzzle going on though - I was in Oregon doing summer missions - and my partner for the summer had a friend who had a friend who went to the college I was transferring to who needed a 4th roommate in a house full of girls. Sign me up! A lease was faxed to me in Oregon and I signed it and faxed it back and moved in with three strangers a few weeks later.

I don't think these women know how much they impacted my life in such a positive way! I had always grown up around Christians who were my flavor of Christianity - and here I was around people who lived their love for Jesus in different ways - it was very challenging to me to examine what I believed and why and I grew so much! I was blessed by how open they were with what God was teaching them and their struggles.  The four of us lived together for a year, then the next year I moved into a smaller apartment with one of the girls, Bridgett. Later, after college -- another lady from that house - Jenn - and I lived in the same town for a while and we were part of a Bible study together. I really think that year that all four of us lived together really changed me for the better in so many ways - and as we continue to be "talk every few months" friends and our lives bumped into each other occasionally (and I get to facebook stalk them ;) ), I've been so blessed by these Women of God in my life.

Bridge and Nichole are in Georgia. Jenn is in Singapore. And, I'm in Chicago. However - over Christmas of 2009 we were all in the same place and got together to hang out and took a few photos. I am not the kind of person who thinks that college dorm/roommate life is an essential part of growing up - and had I been able to live at home and commute all four years I probably would have - but I'm so glad that God had this plan for me and that I was blessed to be part of the lives of these women.

Nicole, Jenn, Bridgett, and Nichole. December 2009

Things with Lids!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Gifts and Thankfulness

A number of my blogger friends have been posting running lists of gratitude - and many have been talking about the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (which I have not read - but it looks good and my friend Hippie Housewife is giving away a copy on her blog. Click here to enter the give-away!)

But I like the idea of being thankful, "stopping to smell the roses," and remembering the things in life - big and small - which are blessings.

I'm going to begin listing my "1000 Gifts" (or more?) on my blog here. I'm going to do this for two reasons.

1. I've noticed lately that I'm struggling with a sin I didn't use to struggle with: Pride. I find such ugly, arrogant, and conceited thoughts running through my head about who I am and my "accomplishments" and "abilities." I'm all for being confident and seeing yourself as valuable and full of worth - - but I think my mind has started to believe the twisted version of that - Satan coming once again to steal and destroy that which should be good. I think thankfulness directed to God will aid in keeping me humble.

2. One of the most profound spiritual disciplines I've ever done in life was to keep a daily journal of "God moments" - each night for a few months I recorded where I saw God working that day. He is indeed found when you seek Him. As the duration of that project went on - the places I saw Him continued to grow. As I list things for which I am thankful - I will strive to find those "God moments" as well - - though all of those may not be shared here on the blog.

And, so, here begins my list of Gratitude and Thankfulness - - a list of gifts.

1. Radio (as it's playing in the background right now) - as I've cut TV out of my life for the time being - I've re-discovered radio. There are some great stations in the Chicago area. Moody Radio, great stories and programs on NPR. And, while I'm not a big KLOVE fan - it's the Christian music option here and many times those songs bless me. (And there is also a decent country station for me and my Southern roots)

2. Curtains. After about 19 months of living here - I finally got curtains that cover my window. My sleep is so improved.

3. A Church community. I'm so blessed that God has lead me to a church where the Bible is studied and preached and lived out, where there are people who come together in community and encourage and challenge each other, and where there are places for me to serve.

4. A God who "settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children." (Psalm 113:9) I don't know how long I'll be in this job - and I talk to people on occasion who don't understand why I'm not striving for more in my career - but I am so content and fulfilled here.

996 more to come :)