19 days…

It’s hard to believe that time has flown by so quickly.  In nineteen short days, I will a) be baptized, b) undergo confirmation, and c) receive the Eucharist with the Roman Catholic Church.  This will all happen at the Easter Vigil, which occurs Saturday evening at sundown, prior to Easter Sunday.  From what I’ve been told, it’s going to be a very long evening…the vigil normally starts at sundown, and then lasts around 4-5 hours!

I started RCIA classes in September last year.  I had several Catholic friends, had gone to a few Catholic churches, and really just wanted to see what it was all about.  The people at our parish were so welcoming, so friendly, and I honestly felt right at home.  I felt like a part that had been missing in me had been found.  I won’t go into what a “spiritual” experience it was, because it really didn’t feel like that to me.  I met C (who would later become my sponsor), and he grew on me.  K (the RCIA leader) was this Energizer bunny of Catholic knowledge and humor.  Father D and Father C were helpful, funny, and like the big brother/father who helped you when you needed it, or would give you a swift kick in the rear (if that was needed too).  The parishioners I’ve met so far are really nice, genuinely helpful and wanting to give of their time, and throughout the process, I sort of got attached!  Now, in no way am I saying everyone is perfect…they’re far from it.  But, the people I encounter and seek out are genuine and truly lovely people.  So…after several weeks of meeting people, tons of reading and questions, and lots of internal reflection, I decided to make the commitment and become Catholic.

The Easter Vigil is actually four days of events, starting with Holy Thursday.  There are ceremonies and rituals leading up dusk on Saturday evening, when the Priest lights a fire and then a single candle is lit from that fire.  The church is completely dark, and only the catechumens (those unbaptized at this point, but going to be baptized that evening) bring candles lit from the fire into the darkened church.  They then light the candles of people in the pews, who continue lighting candles of those near them.  Eventually, the church is lit by candle light, and the priest does a series of readings.  Then, the baptism.  I am currently unbaptized, so I will undergo baptism in the Catholic church.  This happens as one of the first things…we’re dressed in dark gowns, baptized, and then taken away to get dried off and ready for the rest of the ceremony.  When we come back in, we’ll have white gowns, representing our cleansed soul.  After the baptisms, then confirmation takes place, and finally the Liturgy of the Eucharist (or Communion) with the rest of the parish.

I am a bag of mixed feelings.  I am so excited for this moment.  I’ve been working hard, doing a LOT of soul-searching and education, and I feel ready for the next step.  On the other hand, I hate being the center of attention, and I’ll be the first person baptized that evening (in front of the parish).  It’s creating a small amount of anxiety for me, but I understand that, at times, we must all do things that are difficult for us, in order to profess our faith to the world.  So…I’ll suck it up.  But I’ll be honest, I probably won’t eat, because the last thing I want to do is vomit in the baptismal font…how would that be for a “defining moment”?!

I don’t really post a whole lot about what many call our “Faith Journey” on my blog.  I look at my faith as a private thing…if people have questions, I’m happy to talk about it, but it isn’t something I bring up very often with strangers.  I try to lead by example and be a good person, and hopefully through that I can be a light to others to lead a good life as well.  I hope people see me as a joyful person, and find inspiration in that.  That’s really my goal, what I want to achieve as time progresses and I delve deeper into my faith.

So…in 19 short days, my life will undergo a drastic transformation (not that it hasn’t already started).  My journey has really only begun, but I’m excited and looking forward with anticipation.  I’m excited, overwhelmed (in a good way), and, most of all, ready.  If any of you have any questions, or want to hear more about why I’ve decided to go down this path, feel free to ask and I’ll be happy to answer!

Much love,
K.

Recipe Monday!! (Ok, it’s Wednesday…don’t judge me.)

I know I normally do recipe posts on Monday.  And, well…the truth of the matter is, Monday rolled around and I totally forgot.  Please don’t misunderstand…you all are important to me and I love sharing my food adventures with you all, but the fact of the matter is, these past few weeks have been insane.  Work has been at an all time stress level of DEFCON 1defcon 1 (please feel free to Wikipedia what DEFCON 1 is…that’s basically my life at the moment), my volunteering and social activities are ramping up, and the bathroom is still down to the studs.  On top of it all, spring is on its way and all I want to do is be outside!  I love spring (spring and fall are my two favorite seasons, by far), and this winter has been absolutely brutal, so any time the weather is above freeze point, it feels like a heat wave and I want to go outside and sun myself like a lizard on a rock.

That said…if there is one thing that I love to do, even amidst all the hustle and bustle that is life, it’s cooking.  And, with cooking, comes sharing recipes and stories from my kitchen.  I love it!  I grew up with the adage that flowers and food fix everything.  Doesn’t matter the occasion:  birth (food and flowers), weddings/engagements (food and flowers), deaths (food and flowers).  All major life events can be celebrated and/or mourned with food and flowers.  The flowers help soothe your mind and the food helps soothe your soul.  So, when it comes to life and the world around me, I cook.  It’s just…well…it’s what I do.

Which brings me to the point of today’s post!  My weekly recipe post.  We’ve been continually getting our green bean delivery on Tuesdays, so I’ve been doing my best to cook more seasonally (and locally), so we’ve had lots of fresh fruit and veg.  And I love it, truly.  But sometimes…sometimes, you just want starch.  And cheese.  CHEESY STARCH!!  This was me on Monday.  All I wanted to enter my stomach was delicious carbs.   My “go-to” meal for cheesy starch is usually macaroni and cheese, but alas, I was out of macaroni (TRAVESTY)!!  BUT!  The gods were smiling upon me, because I had beaucoup de orzo from my favorite orzo salad I make all the time.  And guess what, folks…orzo = pasta.  WE WERE IN BUSINESS!

And such, cheesy orzo was born.  I don’t have a link because I didn’t use a recipe.  PSHT…who needs a recipe when all you want is cheesy starch!  And here’s how I did it:

You need two ingredients; orzo and cheese.  Ok, you also need water (or you can use chicken/vegetable stock) to cook your orzo in it…so I guess that’s three ingredients, but who’s counting.  Boil your orzo.  I’m not going to tell you how much, because I have no idea how much orzo you can eat.  Make enough for you…or your significant other/roommate/friend/stranger down the street.  Basically, make enough to get full and move on.  Boil, boil, boil…I usually cook my orzo for about 8 minutes, or until I can chew it without breaking a molar…up to you.  After you boil it to your desired “doneness,” drain it.  You might want to reserve some of the cooking liquid (maybe 1/4 cup total), but I actually just didn’t let my orzo get super dry from draining it, and tossed it back into the pot.  I’m lazy, folks, we’ve already established this long ago.

Meanwhile, if you were smart, while you were boiling the crap out of the orzo, you were shredding cheese.  Or maybe, you were even smarter than that and had shredded cheese already on hand, in a bag.  I did not.  Nor was I smart.  So…at this point, I frantically started grating cheese.  Normally, I like a nice, sharp cheddar.  But…the cheddar wasn’t opened yet, and my Monterey Jack cheese was half used, so I said “to hell with it” and grated that instead.  Guess what…it was still cheese, and I still added it to starch, so it was still amaze-balls.

At this point, the orzo is cooked, and the cheese is grated.  Here’s the hard part.  Put the grated cheese in the pot with the orzo.  Seriously.   Stir.  Keep stirring until it’s melted (it should take all of about 4.8 seconds).  And…that’s it!  If it seems dry, add some milk, or butter, or leftover cooking water…up to you.  Mine wasn’t dry…it was deliciously creamy and cheesy and amazing.  I scooped it up into a bowl and FEASTED!  And, my tummy was happy.

Because I was so enamored with my cheesy orzo, I didn’t bother taking photos.  Sorry about that.  But it really was awesome, I promise!  You all should try it…and feel free to mix it up!  I think next time I’m going to add peas.  There’s something about macaroni and cheese (or orzo and cheese) with crunchy peas that is so filling.  Plus, those hints of green in the dish allow me to lie to myself that the meal is actually well-rounded and healthy.  And really, isn’t self-delusion worth it every now and again?

Give it a try, let me know what you thought of it!  Hope you enjoy it even half as much as I did!

Much love,
K.

Canvas Complete!

photoOne of our big home projects is finally complete!!  I mentioned in a previous post that we were having a canvas made from one of our travel photos, and we planned to hang it above our fireplace.  Now, that canvas is finally finished, and when I walked into the house yesterday from work, J had already mounted it on the wall.  I was stunned at how bright and graphic it looked…it just completely fits the space!

Now, I need to find a few more photos to blow up, because I’d like to put another one in our master bedroom, one in the dining room, and one downstairs in the guest bedroom.  I can’t wait to see how each of these turn out!  Forgive the photo, I just snapped a quick one with my iPhone yesterday after walking into the house.  What do you think??

 

Much love,
K.

Slow and Steady. Or…maybe just slow.

They (whoever the hell “they” are) always said that slow and steady wins the race.  Well, if that’s the case, we’re in for the big prize.  I wanted to do a post on our master bathroom remodel, and I had hoped to have a bigger “wa-bam!” to show you.  But, much like other things in life, it doesn’t always work out that way.  We’ve made tons of progress, it just doesn’t really look like it from the photos.  J has been amazing doing this work…he’s been working 55-60 hours a week at work, then he comes home and works in the evenings and some weekends.  For about a month or so, nothing really got done due to his father’s health issues, but we’re back in full swing now.

photo 1As of this point, we’ve finally gotten all of the electrical rewired for the bathroom.  That includes new ground fault interrupts, all new dimmer switches, and additional outlet points to accommodate things like a USB port for our phones, and a heated toilet seat (because J had one in Japan at the hotel, and now he’s obsessed).  We’re also about halfway finished up with the rerouting of the plumbing to accommodate the move in shower position, the drains, the new tub and the two sinks positioning.  After that is finished, we plan on finishing up the drywall.  This is a big deal because we’re not only drywalling in the master bathroom, but also in the basement after The Great Flood of 2014 due to the Arctic Vortex #1 (out of 843, it seems).  So, as far as drywall goes, it will really be a “one bird, fifteen stones” type of maneuver.  I’ll be glad to finish up with the drywall.  I don’t mind hanging it, at all, but the seaming bit I absolutely detest.  We’re going to have someone else do the seaming, because neither of us want to deal with it, but we’ll get it all hung first and then bring in someone else to work on it.

photo 4In addition, we’ve also put together some of our bathroom furniture (one sink and one medicine cabinet, to get an idea for placement), and those are all ready to go.  Yesterday, we put the bathtub into it’s “spot” so we could figure out where to place the plumbing for the faucet (it’s three feet tall!), which was really awesome to see.  It’s crazy to see how it’s all coming together.  We started this process over Thanksgiving of last year, but have taken several breaks here and there in the meantime.  I’m so incredibly thankful that we have two other bathrooms we can use in the meantime.  It’s really allowed us to just relax and do the work one step at a time, as opposed to rushing just to get it finished.  We still need to buy a few things for the bathroom (drywall, toilet, and the infamous glass for the shower enclosure), but otherwise we have everything already purchased.  It’s been a process, but I’m so excited to see the finished product!

Once the drywall is up, we start the real fun part.  Tiling and putting it all together!  I can’t wait for this bit…it’s the last part before we have our bathroom back!  I am looking forward to sharing it with you as we move along, so stay tuned.  What do you think so far?

Much love,
K.

Recipe Monday…Lentil Soup!

I’m sure I’ve probably posted a Lentil Soup recipe a time or two on here, but not this one.  And, in my world at least, lentils are totally worth repeating!  I’ve always felt like lentils got a bum rap in American foods…until recently, no one was really willing to embrace the magic that is a lentil, unless you were a vegetarian (said in a voice akin to saying “that damn hippy” by an 75-year-old disgruntled ex-Marine) **caveat:  I can say this because my father is, decidedly, a 75-year-old ex-Marine, who is highly disgruntled**

Anyways, as I’m sure it’s obvious, I love lentils.  They’re earthy, and filling, and vegetarian/vegan, and basically all things good for you.  So, I do my best to use them when I can.  Lentil tacos (may be a good post for next week?), lentil sloppy joes, lentil soup…hell, I’ve even been known to scramble lentils into eggs.  Yes…that is how I roll.  So, lentil soup really shouldn’t be a surprise.  And with that, here it is!

I basically took this recipe from Dinner was Delicious, and then tweaked accordingly.  One thing I’ve noticed about soups is that, even though the serving size says 6-8 servings, it’s usually enough for J and I to eat for two meals a day, for an entire week.  So, with that said, for pretty much every single soup recipe I try, I cut it in half.  Which is what I did with this recipe.  Except the onion, because who doesn’t love onion?  Not me, my friends, not me.  And, instead of celery (because we didn’t have any) I put in a leek (because we had a leek, and I’m all aboutsaute (2) using what I got).  Everything else was pretty on par!  Oh!  Except a red pepper…I added one of those too (because I had it on hand and it was starting to look a little sad, if you know what I mean).

Overall, the recipe was ridiculously easy.  For those of you, like me, who enjoy cutting up veg, this is a fun one!   I love prep-work for meals…the cutting, the dicing, the cleaning and skinning…I love it all.  It’s my favorite part of cooking, if I’m being honest.  So, because of that, I had a ton of fun with this recipe.  If you don’t like doing all that, the vast majority of these ingredients you can already buy pre-diced from your grocery, so just do that.  It’s more expensive, but if you hate the prep-work, why torture yourself??  Cooking should never be a burden, it’s supposed to be fun!

saute (1)So…basically, cut it all up, sauté it, and then add your stock and lentils.  Let simmer for a half hour or so, then eat it.  Honestly, what could be easier!  Plus, you control your sodium, the quality of the ingredients, and you can tell everyone you slaved away at it all day (because it really does taste like you did).  I imagine you could do this in a crock pot as well, but the lentils might get a bit mushy if you put them in there for the full eight hours.  I don’t really use a crock-pot a whole lot (I’m too terrified of leaving it alone while we’re at work because I’m afraid either a) the house will burn down, or b) the cats will knock off the lid and feast for hours without me to stop them), but it’s always worth a try!  Plus, you really get the “cooked all day” flavor from crock-pots, which is one of the reason why they’re so widely used (as well as for their convenience), so I would say go for it!

So, once you’re finished with everything, and your soup has simmered for however long you let it go (I don’t really watch the clock for soups…it’s ready when I want to eat it), you’re left with a really nice, thick, soup!  The lentils expand and thicken it up a bit, and the vegetables break down a bit to give the vegetable broth more flavor.  And, of course, even though I halved the recipe, I was still left with enough for 4-5 meals, so I’m sure J and I will feast on this for at least part of the week.  But, it was definitely delicious, and I’ll make it again!

soup

We’re nearly out of soup season…so I’m looking for some cold soup ideas for spring!  I love to hear reader feedback on recipes you’d like me to try, so please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll try to make them!

Much love!
K.

GOAL!

When I first started my weight loss journey, I set a goal of 150 pounds as an initial goal, with 145 pounds as a “stretch” goal.  At the point where I started (195 pounds), I couldn’t imagine ever being at 150 pounds again, let alone 145.  But, today, after 8 long months, I can officially say I have reached my initial goal!  I stepped on the scale today at 150 pounds (I’ve been at this point for about a week now, but I wanted to make sure it stuck), and I am so happy and excited for myself.  It has been a really long road, but I finally feel like I’ve made life-long changes.  I think becoming a vegetarian helped a lot, but I’ve also just spent the last 8 months tracking calories and really learning more about what I put into my body.  It’s an eye opener, and it really helped to change my mindset.

So…as of today, I am at my first goal.  However, about 15 pounds ago, I moved my “stretch” goal to 140 pounds, instead of 145.  So, I have 10 more pounds to lose before I’ve hit my stretch goal.  Obviously, if I don’t make it, it won’t be the end of the world, but I think I can.  It will be the smallest I’ve been since college (healthily, that is), so it will be quite an achievement.  I also start yoga this weekend, so I’m really looking forward to challenging my body and working on my flexibility and muscle tone!

Here is a before/after photo!  The “before” photo was taken at my dear friend, Cassie’s, wedding.  Obviously, I was in the wedding, hence the dress.  I had probably lost 10-15 pounds by this point, but I can’t remember exactly.  It’s not me at my absolute heaviest, but pretty close to it.  The “after” photo was taken today, in my work restroom (I don’t have any full length mirrors in our house).  What do you think??

photo

Much love,
K.

One step closer to total world domination…

One of the first things we noticed about our house when we bought it, was all the amazing opportunities to really deck it out and make it “ours.” There was more space than we knew what to do with (still is, for that matter), and enough natural light to never need a single lamp during the day, throughout the entire house. We got all moved in fairly quick, and were unpacked within a month, and then…it just sort of dwindled. There were still plenty of projects we wanted to tackle, but life quickly stepped up to the plate and nudged those projects aside.

But…we were able to take care of two really important ones this past week!! For the longest time, we’ve been talking about how we wanted to put shelves up on the wall in our living room, so that the cats can use them as “stairs” to get up to the overhang in our cat highwayfoyer. It’s a perfect place for them to climb up to and get a view of the entire living room, and they absolutely LOVE being up high (like most cats, I’m guessing). But, we weren’t sure where to get the shelves, or whether they would be sturdy enough to hold up the hefty weight of three cats at once (they like to pile on each other), so it got put off. And put off some more. And finally, we got tired of putting it off and, after a well-timed trip to IKEA, we bought some shelves that we could use that would hold quite a bit of weight and would work with our décor. Then, of course, it took us forever to get them put up, but that’s another story. However, last week, we finally finished one side of them! We’re going to put some shelves on the other side (through the doorway) so that they can get up and down on both sides of the wall, and then we’ll also put a few on the left side of the doorway, as another access point. We’ve been really happy with how they turned out, and the cats absolutely love it! Here’s a photo of Hana and Lieve hanging out!  They especially like that we’ve put carpet on the shelves, so they also like to lay down on them and just watch everything going on in the house.

Another major project we’ve been trying to get finished up is having one of our Prague Easter 4-23-2011 3-02-21 PMphotographs from Europe blown up and printed on canvas, to hang above the fire-place.  We spent months trying to figure out what type of look we wanted for the living room (beach?  mountains?  city scape?) and we really didn’t find anything that “fit” in with our living room.  Then, we decided to just look at our photos that were more abstract to see if we could find something we liked, and sure enough, one really stuck out to us!  It was taken during a trip to the Czech Republic (Prague) while we were hanging out in the main city center square.  They have a very large clock that would chime hourly and it was absolutely gorgeous, so we took a photo while we were hanging out.  That photo wound up being one my favorite photos from Prague, and when we were looking through our files, it really seemed like a perfect addition to our living room!  Here’s the photo we’re using, though obviously it’ll be better quality than the what you’ll see.   What do you think??

So, those are our two major projects over the past week!  The master bathroom remodel is still in the works…J has been working on the electric rewiring and plumbing over the past few weeks, then hopefully we can start with the tiling!  We’re planning to have it finished up in the next few months, so I can’t wait to do a “before and after” post on that to share it with you!  I’ll be sure to keep you updated on the progress that we’re making, and I’ll be sure to include photos!  The tiling will be the best part, I hope!

Much love,
K.