Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Two Birds... One Stone...
It's our family update/ blessing inventory!

I know I keep mentioning it here and there, but the repainting of our house is imminent-- we have chosen a contractor and everything. We still can't believe this is being done for us and can't wait to have the outside of our home lookin' "purdy."

Christmas came early for us this year with a record-breaking show of generosity from J's parents-- we had been without a washer for months, and even when we had one, it was a one unit combo that did a terrible job with lots of noise and rubbery smells and could only take about 1/4 of a regular load at a time. They found a beautiful stacking washer and dryer, complete with warranty for us that actually fits in our cramped space! I never knew laundry appliances could make me feel this way-- it is amazing to have fresh smelling clothes, a quiet laundry day, and to actually have to wash clothes rather infrequently because the loads can be so large! Hurray!

We are thankful to not be visiting churches during the holiday season this year. We are gradually getting to know the people at our church and even had our small group over here for lunch on Sunday. We are so glad to have a church to experience the Advent season with.

Work continues to be a positive challenge for Jeff. We are still just so thankful that he has his job and barely missed last year's pink slips. We have become friends with a number of his co-workers and are so pleased and blessed that he works with such wonderful people.

His health has been much better in the last couple of months! He had food allergies tested and has a short and doable list of things to avoid, and so far he has been close to normal-- a huge answer to prayers.

Jeff is currently taking the carpeting out of the spare room downstairs and repairing the sorry-looking wooden floor underneath. This will be a big improvement, and counts as one of my blessings.

Amelia is almost 2 1/1 and at a really fun age. I am enjoying letting her help me a lot, or do household tasks independently. She loves washing the dishes with Jeff and today she helped me make cornbread. She often goes "shopping," walking around the house with a cloth sack picking things up to buy. It's also nice to have her cleaning her own messes up!

She is such a good communicator, and it's wonderful to have a whole new level of ability to understand one another. We are working on telling people how we feel, especially instead of screaming or acting out or getting walked on. Jeff and I were amazed the other day when she came up to me and we had this conversation:
A: Mama, I feel frustrated.
Me: You do? Why do you feel frustrated?
A: Because Papa said "NO." (With a very fierce face.)
Jeff was able to come over talk about the safety issue that had prompted this, and she seemed to make peace with the interaction. We couldn't believe we were able to have this little dialogue!

Sleep has certainly continued to be up and down, but she has been taking some serious naps-- a first! It's really been nice.

Here's some exciting news: Amelia will be attending preschool in January! I am so happy for her to be able to spend time with other children and get to go do so many interesting thing several days each week. Of course, there is also the benefit of me having some time freed up for work and rest. More on this later.

I have been pleasantly surprised to have a pretty good amount of business so far. In the second week that I was "open" I filled my five client quota that I had been hoping for. I have had a couple other weeks with that many, and of course a couple of slow ones. Overall, things have picked up more quickly than I had expected. One very exciting tidbit is that my chiropractor, who I have a good relationship with, will be sending me clients for cranio-sacral work. In fact, when anyone calls their very busy wellness center asking about that type of work, they will refer them to me! I have also been getting referrals from the studio I work at. I am very happy and relieved that things are going well, and plan to step up my marketing quite a bit in January.

As winter is coming quickly, I am more thankful than ever for all of the changes we've been able to make to our home over the past year. The glass doors let in so much more light, the colors are cheerful, we are no longer trying to keep white carpet clean in muddy weather, etc. I feel a big difference in how I feel, and think it will be easier to stay positive through the gray and rainy weather ahead.

As far as my health goes, I can honestly say I'm feeling a bit better. This will be a long process, but I have had more energy lately and don't feel as overwhelmed by all that I have to get done on a daily basis. I am very thankful for a good doctor that has done so much to help me through this tricky healing process. I am also thankful to those that have been supportive and helpful, especially my sister-- she has been watching Amelia once a week for me, and was even doing a load of laundry for me each week! Amazing.

I have to be honest that last year was a difficult one for our family, but even so, we have so much to be thankful for. And much of our gratitude is for what has changed for us in the last few months, and what is to come in the year ahead. Our lives are so rich!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Portland in the Fall.

I confess that last year I was too cold and depressed to really get out and see the city at this time of year, and that pretty much lasted until June when it finally stopped raining. My circumstances and spirits are much improved this year, and I have resolved to get out and do as much as possible this winter. Jeff has a break this week, and we wanted to start it off right with a fun day downtown.

Today was the last day for the Portland farmers market, and they were having some chef demos, music and other fun things happening. Man, it was THE place to be! It was packed with people, and even though it was really big it took a long time to get around. I love that Portland is surrounded by farmland, and there is incredibly fresh produce, beers and wines, cheeses, meats and seafood to choose from for a most of the year. This particular market is located in the park blocks amid PSU, and is really pretty.

I love the fall vegetable vegetable offerings-- everything is pretty funky looking, rather than sleek and shiny as it is in the summer. What we brought home: Jerusalem artichokes, chanterelles, turnips, celeriac, artichokes and a dried flower bouquet.

I am loving all of the fall foliage mixed in with the cement and brick buildings downtown.

After the farmers' market, we walked a ways to Pioneer Square, where they have a gigantic Christmas tree that they are literally trimming up and stringing lights on. Then on Friday they will "trim" it again with the ornaments and such. Amelia is newly aware of Christmas trees, and super excited about getting one. It was fun to go in search of The Giant Christmas Tree.

After we found the tree and checked out some smaller ones around it, the best part for Amelia was chasing all of the pigeons around the square.

It was pretty cold out, but we were so thankful that it never rained, and we actually had some blue skies-- that made the day that much nicer, and Portland that much more lovely!
We rounded out the day with a ride on the MAX light rail within the "free zone" to a cool toy store where we let Amelia get the ants out of her pants. I was pretty proud of us for having such a fun, full day out in the city in November. It may not seem like a stretch for many people, but at this point in my life, it seems very difficult-- yet I was pretty pleased that it was such a successfully enjoyable day and feel motivated to do it again and again this winter.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Moroccan Dinner for a Special Lady

I love to cook, but it's not often that I feel like I have a green light to spend what I want and pull out all the stops for a special meal. Maybe once a year or so. Jeff's parents have been such a blessing to us this year, so I wanted to celebrate Amy's birthday in style. Making food is probably my #1 love language, and it's especially gratifying when the recipient feels the same way about food. I only chose the menu the night before, so Jeff stayed home yesterday to watch Amelia so I could focus. It was so much fun! I thought I'd share some pictures, but I didn't remember to capture everything.

The Menu

Pomegranate, Orange, Mint and Rose Coolers

Chicken B'Stilla
(A filo pastry filled with chicken and egg, with almonds and cinnamon between layers of pastry)
I didn't get a picture of mine, but it pretty much looked like this one.

Vegetable Course:
Baked Pumpkin Stars with Caramelized Onion, Raisins and Almonds
Beets with Minty Yogurt Dressing

Lamb Tagine with Prunes
served with Fresh Baked Baguette
Garlic and Lemon Fava Beans

Homemade Baklavah
Fresh Spearmint Tea
White Coffee
(Hot water infused with orange blossom essence)

None of the recipes were very difficult, let me know if you'd like to try one of them!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Need a little budget- friendly cooking inspiration?

I really enjoyed an article by the Washington Post they did on Jacques Pepin cooking a meal for six on $24. Fun and inspiring-- go invite someone over for dinner!
(In this photo he demonstrates sharpening a blade on a porcelain plate-- !!)