Sunday, March 31, 2013

pieces of our Easter

Our happy little man on his 2nd Easter!

I found this adorable fabric at JoAnn’s, and bought half of a yard to make a small table runner. The gray square is my first ever crochet! I am trying to teach myself with YouTube videos.

My mom made these s’more kits for everyone in our church. Isn’t she sweet? I designed the little card for her.

Nolan’s Easter basket. Thank you to my friend Hannah and her mom for getting us a free copy of VeggieTales “The Little House That Stood”. Nolan loves it!

I love chocolate bunnies on Easter. My mother-in-law and brother-in-law Josh gave us these from a delicious candy store in Erie!

The three of us at church this morning.

Steve sang “Christ is Risen” by Matt Maher, and it gave me chills. If you want to hear the music with it, search for it on YouTube.

”Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave!
Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with him again
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave!

Oh death! Where is your sting?
Oh hell! Where is your victory?
Oh Church! Come stand in the light!
Our God is not dead, he's alive!
He's alive!”

HAPPY EASTER to you & yours!

Friday, March 29, 2013

my weight

Lately, my friends have been asking me,

“You bake so many tasty things, who eats them all??”

“The question we all want to know is: where do all the desserts go? You stay so fit even though you make so many yummy treats!”

“You look great, Rachel. I kept 10 lbs. after each of my 3 childbirths. Working on getting that off. You definitely don't have that problem.”

Let me start by saying that what I weigh now—I haven’t seen this particular number on the scale ever before. I think I skipped over it in 6th or 7th grade. I say that to give you hope that it is definitely possible to lose pregnancy weight.

I am nervous to write about my weight. It is a pretty personal issue for me, and I’d rather not admit that I was once overweight. I don’t know who will read this, and I’m not sure I want them to know that I used to have an issue with food.

I read this quote this weekend:
“When you refuse to hide your scars, they become a lighthouse for someone else.”

So here goes… this is one of my scars.

I was not chubby as a baby/toddler/child. In comparison to my friends, I never thought I was skinny, but looking at photos of myself, I was just right.

 my sister Hannah and me (on the right)

But early on, I had an obsession with chocolate. My holiday candy would always be gone long before my sister’s. I can remember sneaking handfuls of M&Ms from the pantry. I loved chocolate frosted donuts from Dunkin Donuts, chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream from Baskin Robbins, Thin Mints Girl Scout cookies, Fannie May holiday chocolate Santas, Marshall Fields' Frango mints, and Nestle Crunch bars.

I was also a picky eater, which my extended family always got on my case about. Public comments about my eating habits didn’t make me feel very comfortable. It was always, “Rachel never has any color on her plate. She only eats yellow and red.” (pizza, macaroni & cheese, lasagna, corn, bananas, hot dogs).

So when I got to middle school, I didn’t know anything about eating healthy. I still thought I was growing taller, so I could eat whatever I wanted. (In addition, I was not athletic, and didn’t play any sports.) This is when the chubby set in. I am mortified of most of the photos of myself at this age (11-13).

This one is still okay. It’s my 11th birthday.

Then came 2001. I lost my sister to cancer in February. My mom met a man, got engaged, and married to him in 6 months. And when she got married that August, we moved away from the only home I had ever known in Chicago… to Lincoln, Nebraska. The day before my freshman year of high school.

I was pretty quiet already, but I became extremely shy in my new school, my new church, my new everything. I spent my freshman year at a middle school (where the kids had already known each other forever). Sophomore year, I ended up at another new school—one that had just been built—and started the friend-making process again. These two years, when I went home after school, I would eat. I drank Pepsi and ate Cool Ranch Doritos. I would consume a whole box of macaroni by myself for dinner. My Friday nights were spent in front of the TV, baking chocolate chip cookies, and eating probably 8 of them. I was lonely. I didn’t have self-control. And I gained 30 pounds.

I can remember being in the church van with a group of my girlfriends, and they were comparing jean sizes. Most were a 0. Some were a size 2. I was wearing a 14.

When sophomore year wrapped up in June, I saw some photos of myself and knew that I had put on way too much weight. I remember hearing a boy in my class tell his weight, and I couldn’t believe that it was the same as mine. He was muscular and played football! I started refusing nightly ice creams, drinking Diet pop, eating smaller portions (no seconds was an important new rule), and going for walks. I was down 7 pounds in June. I received some compliments about it, and could not believe how good that those compliments felt.

That summer, I read my first SELF magazine. I absorbed their advice about healthy eating habits and exercise, and I was inspired by the fit models. I joined a YMCA around this time.


all covered up in black & a size 14, and slimmed down several months later.

I prayed for self-control, and God helped me resist a lot of temptation.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” Matthew 6:25

For a lot of reasons, that summer was the time I finally came into my own.

So my junior year of high school, I was down 35 pounds. I could wear whatever clothes I wanted to (not just baggy t-shirts and dark colors). I got my braces off. I felt like my outside matched who I was inside.

senior prom

I was nervous about college and the Freshman 15, but I went in pretty confident that I already knew how to eat right, and I wasn’t going to put weight back on. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to handle the buffet-style eating. My friends and I calculated our meal plans—we were paying $7 a meal, and we felt like we needed to get our money’s worth. Nothing had calorie information, everything was free for the taking, and I ate there breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I can remember a time my freshman year when my friends and I went out for deep-dish pizza. I ate garlic bread, almost half of a deep-dish pizza, and a piece of cake. I was stuffed so full, but I was almost forcing myself to eat more. The guilt was unbearable. I can remember other nights when I ate candy until I was sick. I quickly gained the Freshman 15.

That summer, I worked at camp and lost those pounds, promising that I would never do it again.

Sophomore year—I did it again. :(  I ate at the same dining hall, and had some of the same bingeing problems. I actually gained more weight. And I felt so ashamed of myself that I knew better, but chose to ignore myself.

Again, I lost the weight at camp. It helped to have an active summer, and not have access to a kitchen or a buffet. I turned 20 that summer, and one night in the chapel at the end of the camp season, I promised myself and God that in my 20s, I was not going to have these eating problems. And God has helped me stick to that promise for 5 and a half years.

I love food. I love desserts, especially. But I know how to control my portions. I weigh some of my food on a scale—chips, ice cream, noodles. I measure some of my food with measuring cups—cereal, milk, nuts. I write down what I’ve eaten throughout the day to keep track. And I am able to eat everything delicious in moderation. Steve and I really do eat ice cream with my hot fudge every night—it’s just in a tiny bowl.

I have some bad days when I overeat at a restaurant or splurge on a large sundae. But I start new again the next morning, and I don’t punish myself, which would only make the cycle continue. I don’t give up my goal.

When I got pregnant with Nolan, I still kept track of what I ate, and roughly how many calories, making sure to always eat around 2000 calories a day. I gained a healthy 30 pounds, which came off in about three months.

Now, an additional 10 pounds has come off naturally—let’s account it to following a toddler around all day! I unfortunately haven’t gotten much exercise this winter since it’s been so cold and snowy, but I will get back to daily walks with the stroller soon.

I continue baking because I love it. I get joy from sharing my cakes and desserts with neighbors, friends, my MOPS group, and our extended families. Steve and I do end up with the majority of it—so I wish we lived closer to all of you!!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

gray van graveyard

In college, Steve drove a 1993 gray Plymouth Voyager.
Originally, it was bought by my friend Meghan’s family when she was little.
Then Steve’s parents bought it as their family car.
It later became Steve’s college car, and the car I will forever associate with young Steve.

In July 2007, on an afternoon off at camp, the two of us rode in the gray van to a Buffalo, New York Toys ‘R Us to buy a laser tag game for the camp staff to play. The van didn’t have any air conditioning, and it was hot even with the windows down. We walked around a mall in Buffalo, and he held my hand for the first time.

It was the gray van that Steve drove on our first date. We left camp to see “The Bourne Ultimatum” in Lakewood, New York on August 4, 2007. We had the amazing Perry’s “Piece of Cake” ice cream at the Ice Cream Shack. And that night, we committed to dating long-distance.

Steve drove the gray van to come visit me in Chicago several times. :)

He drove it up until he graduated college, and when we got married the next month, he started driving a different van.

On Monday morning, Steve’s dad, Jack, was driving the twenty-year-old vehicle to his new job. It was dark, and six inches of snow were falling. He ended up in a bad accident, and he has four broken bones (2 in his leg, 1 in his foot, 1 finger). He spent three days in the hospital, had surgery, and now he’s home. We are grateful to God that he is alive!

Steve went to see the van yesterday and get Jack’s belongings out of it.


Yikes.

It didn’t have the red doors back when Steve was in college. They came from another family van, which actually happened to be the first car I ever rode in with Steve in May 2006 soon after we met. (He drove a few of us from church to the movie theater to see “The Second Chance” with Michael W. Smith.)

Thanks, gray van, for keeping my husband, his dad, and his family safe all these years. Thanks for the wonderful memories!

Monday, March 25, 2013

magic cookie bars

magic-cookie-bars

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
1  1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup (6 oz package) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1  1/3 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, or almonds)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 for a glass dish). In a 13x9 inch baking pan, melt the butter in the oven. When melted, tilt the pan to spread the butter around evenly.  Sprinkle the graham cracker crumbs over the melted butter; mix together, and press into the pan. Pour sweetened condensed milk over the crumbs. Top evenly with chocolate chips. Then sprinkle coconut and nuts over the top. Press down firmly with a fork.

Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Loosen from the sides of the pan while still warm. Cool thoroughly before cutting into bars.

For these cookies, sometimes called 7-Layer Bars, you can use a variation of other ingredients. You can add a second cup of chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, or butterscotch chips. I’ve also seen layers made of candy-coated pieces, dried cranberries, raisins, and mini-marshmallows.

I didn’t include nuts in this particular batch. Also, don’t be scared of the coconut. I’m not the biggest coconut fan, but it is just a small part of the overall taste. Mmm!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

a wintery spring break | non-stagrams


After Nolan got yet another vaccine at the doctor’s, we stopped by the local cupcake shop. He understands the word “cupcake”, (and “cake” and “candy”) so he got very excited when I told him where we were going!


We split a salted caramel… delicious!


Eating some apples at McDonald’s.


Last Saturday, I was supposed to go to my friend Briana’s surprise baby shower, but instead the baby arrived that morning! Isn’t he precious? His name is Decklen Jax.


Here I am in awe of how tiny and weightless he is! (6 lbs compared to the usual 27 lbs that I carry.)


We visited my mom’s house last weekend. I went into the garage and dug through my large box of Beanie Babies to find my Veggie Tales stuffed animals from 1998. Nolan was playing with some other toys, and he immediately dropped everything to run to me when he saw them. He is in love with them, and puts them in his crib at night. Also, when we arrive at my in-laws’, he goes straight to their toy kitchen and picks out the plastic tomato and cucumber and carries them around with him.


Still very wintery!


Nolan hanging out in the pews while Daddy practiced his guitar for church.


St. Patrick’s Day—got some Mint Chocolate Chip green sundaes.


After we visited the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville on Tuesday, we did some shopping. Nolan loved playing at Barnes and Noble, and he cried when it was time to leave.


At the mall. We tried to keep him in his umbrella stroller, but he wasn’t having it, so we didn’t get much shopping done. ;)


Dinner at Olive Garden.


I couldn’t wear makeup all week because my eyelids have gradually become super sensitive to everything. They get puffy and itchy, and I’m nervous that my eyeshadow days are over! Anyone else experience that?


Coffee-love.


Picking up some goodies from Target.


Spring Oreos! I used these to make a cake.


Yesterday, I heard Nolan close the bathroom door, so I came after him, and found this cool tower that he made out of my shampoo & conditioner :)


Last night we rented “Lincoln”, and it was just as amazing as I thought it would be! Daniel Day-Lewis deserved that Oscar!

So we didn’t end up going anywhere far, or doing anything too exciting due to the cold and snow flurries, but it was nice to have Steve home from class for the week. I can’t wait for Easter next Sunday, and celebrating Jesus’ resurrection. I can’t wait for warmer weather this spring, for taking Nolan on walks again, and being able to play with him outside.

Hope you are having a great weekend!!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

flight 93 national memorial, shanksville pa


On Tuesday, we drove to Shanksville to visit the Flight 93 National Memorial. It was sobering and surreal that such a horror happened here in beautiful rural Pennsylvania.


This marker says “September 11, 2001: The distant Laurel Mountains are outlined against a cloudless, blue sky. The weather is mild, but few people are outdoors. Many sit stunned and horrified in front of their televisions, watching the World Trade Center and Pentagon burn. America is under attack. Terrorists are using hijacked planes as missiles to destroy symbols of power. People in this are feel safe, relieved to be far from any terrorist target. Shortly after 10:00 am, a large aircraft just clears the mountain ridge before you, traveling far too low. Its engines roar as it passes over the cluster of homes in Lambertsville, in front of you, wings rocking from side to side. It flies nearly overhead and disappears over the rise behind you.”


The photo on the sign above was taken 15 miles away, just minutes after the crash. The sign explains that this was the 4th plane hijacked on September 11th, and nearly 3,000 people died from the terrorist attacks on that day.
”Alerted to the events at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the forty unarmed passengers and crew of Flight 93 take quick and determined action. Their revolt prevents Flight 93 from reaching the terrorists’ intended target. Evidence later reveals that the target is most likely the US Capitol, where the Senate and House of Representatives are in session. Flight 93 crashes less than 20 minutes flying-time from Washington D.C.”


This board explains that Flight 93 was nonstop from Newark, New Jersey to San Francisco, California. There were seven crew members, thirty-three normal passengers, and four hijackers. The flight was delayed 25 minutes due to high air traffic that morning. Four minutes after the plane took flight, the World Trade Center was hit. After 46 minutes of flying, the terrorists took over the plane, and turned it around over Cleveland, Ohio. About 35 minutes later (at 10:03 am), the plane crashed into a Pennsylvania field at 563 miles per hour.


This sign says that when a terrorist on-board claimed to have a bomb strapped to his waist, the crew and passengers were forced to the back of the plane. They called family members, who informed them of the three planes that had already crashed. They took a vote and decided to fight back. They rushed forward toward the cockpit, and the cockpit voice recorder captured their shouts, screams, and breaking glassware. One terrorist yelled to pull the plane down, and the plane turned upside down and crashed, disintegrating into the ground.


The bottom photo on the sign shows the largest piece of the plane recovered: 6 feet by 7 feet. They excavated the crater—recovering evidence and remains. Excavation reached 40 feet down, at which point debris was no longer found.


“Here in Shanksville, people from across the United States join together to create a national memorial—a permanent tribute to the extraordinary courage of 40 ordinary people. The serene fields, wooded groves, and rolling hills that bore witness to such violence, are now a lasting testament to the courage of the passengers and crew of Flight 93. Follow this walkway to their final resting place.”

The walkway approaching the wall.


Faint words: “and unborn child”.


This is the spot where the plane crashed. The crater was filled in, and marked with a large boulder (it looks tiny on the left side of the photo above).

Looking out away from the crash site.

The hardest part of the memorial—seeing the faces of the heroes who died here.

They will plant 40 groves of 40 trees (one grove for each individual on Flight 93).


In the summer, wildflowers bloom across the fields of the memorial, and thousands come to pay their respects. I am grateful for this frozen, quiet March day that my little family got to say thank you.

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