Wednesday, August 29, 2012

2012 Walk for Life

The 2012 Walk for Life is coming up! On October 20, I along with (hopefully many) other participants, will gather in the front of Alpha Pregnancy Center, split up into teams, and load our arms up with gifts and packages. We will cover miles on foot as we deliver these gifts to families who used the services offered by Alpha this year. We will bless those who have overcome obstacles, those that have done a very difficult thing, those who have struggled in choosing life. And we will thank them! (and praise God for them!)

This will be my second year participating in the Walk for Life. Last year, I had a great experience and felt like I got to know the center better and the people they serve. It was great to wander the halls and think of all the conversations that have happened there, all the lives that have been saved there. On the walk, I met a family who had been given hope and encouragement by Alpha so many times. I saw how her kid's eyes and mouths opened wide as they opened their presents. I saw joy overflowing in her family.

With your help, I raised over $400 for the walk (well over my original goal of $250).  And I hope we can do that again! I'm hoping I can persuade a few local friends to join me to make up a team and I'd like to set my goal a little higher this year and raise $500.

Would you consider giving toward this cause? You can give online by going here or send a check in the mail made payable to Alpha Pregnancy Center (contact me for my mailing address).

Below are a a few links about Alpha and what they do.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Creating Space

Several months ago, I joined Pinterest and one of the first things that I "liked" was a spice rack that was attached to a cupboard door. Well, it has taken me several months to actually get to it, but I did it! With the help of my handy-man husband, I now have some extra space in my cupboard!

I also picked up some 3M hooks to hang my measuring spoons and cups which created a lot more space in my utensil drawer for other things!

I love finding space saving ideas for my little city apartment!

Surprise Birthday Party

We had a surprise birthday party for our friend Mark last night. It was a pretty relaxed get together with pizza, cake, ice cream and games. I had a lot of fun and I hope he did too.

I thought I'd share a few recipes with you as well as my latest creative endeavor that were enjoyed by all at the party.

First, the decor:

I made the birthday banner out of scrapbook paper and printed letters on our black/white printer and cut them out. It turned out really well and can totally be used again . . . and again! We picked up some helium balloons too which was totally fun. I loved them. Seriously, I played with them for an hour after everyone went home.

Now, the cake:

Alright, before you laugh at my lettering . . . okay. I'll wait! Let me just say now that you are done laughing, that this is the best cake recipe ever! It's the same cake I made last time. It's Betty Crocker's "Best Chocolate Cake," and it does not disappoint. I have issues with frosting, so I was a bit nervous about this one, but the recipe I found online was really easy and it turned out great.

Here's the recipe for Betty Crocker's Best chocolate Cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour or cake flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
4 oz. melted unsweetened chocolate (cool)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour baking pan (13x9x2 or two 9-inch or three 8-inch round layer pans). Measure all ingredients into large mixer bowl. Blend 1/2 minute on low speed, scraping sides of bowl constantly. Beat 3 minutes on high speed, scraping bowl occasionally.  Pour evenly into pans. 

Bake oblong 40 to 45 minutes, layers 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool.

 I also made Butterfinger ice cream! Sorry, no photos of that. But in case you are interested, here is the recipe.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Living Fearlessly

At the end of October, I will be going to a Women of Faith conference with a friend of mine. I was doing a bit of research on the speakers and looking into what they had written when I found Living Fearlessly by Sheila Walsh. It's one of her older books, written in 2001. It was the only book I could find available at the library so of course I had to get it!

But more than that, the title hit the nail on the head as far as what I needed to be reading. I have been feeling a lot of fear lately, for all sorts of things, most of which are unwarrented and out of my control. I find myself being a "worst case scenario" thinker all the time and with those thoughts comes a mind filled with anxiety and fear.

I'd like to say that Walsh's book has healed me, but you know that's not true. More than tell you how to live fearlessly she shares her own struggles with fear and uses the testimonies of others who have overcome the worst case scenarios and have a stronger love of God because of it.

The book is written in three sections: Telling the Truth, Facing Your Fears, and Finding His Peace.  She says that all fears stem from two main ideas: 1) Losing what we have or love and 2) Never receiving what we want most. I think that is so true. All of my fears are centered on one if not both of those things. 

Her last few chapters provide the perfect reminder of the hope we have in Christ. That the God we know and love is faithful . . . even if bad things happen. She talks about the faithful grace of God being the only thing that will get you through those worst case scenarios. 

And perhaps, even, its when you go through those bad things that you realized just how much the Lord is really there for you.  In all honesty, I hate that. I don't want to go through something awful just so I can be closer to God. Can't God be closer to me now, while I'm healthy and doing well? 

My heart was touched by the last few chapters, and I want to share three things that Walsh writes:

Here is the truth as I see it now about this life we are clued to life: It is painful. At times it is lonely. It's scary. It's unknown. But . . . But . . . Here in all his wonderful grace and glory stands stands God. He stands up in broken places. He stands up in broken people. He stands firm on bloodied feet. He stands among us.

Here's a quote she shares from Mother Teresa:

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered; Forgive them anyway. 
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway. 
The good you do today; people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; 
Give the world the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; It was never between you and them anyway.

Walsh ends her book with a passage of scripture she has quoted several times and it is the best reminder of living fearlessly we can have:

The Lord is my light and my salvation -- whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life -- of whom call I be afraid?
--Psalm 27:1


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Shopping Spree at Safeway

I went to Safeway yesterday to pick up just a few things, you know the essentials. Cereal was on the list since they were having a Buy 4 Save $4 sale and since I had a few coupons for cereal I planned to stock up. But we really didn't have much else on the list so we just grabbed a basket instead of getting a cart.

But Safeway surprised me.

In the cereal aisle, we realized we would need more than just a basket. There were more cereals on the sale than I originally expected!

Then on our way to pick up the last few things on my list, we passed the clearance shelf. Their clearance shelves are never well stocked. At least not with anything I usually buy. But today it was filled with granola bars and nuts (and several other things, but those didn't interest me). And I had coupons for the granola bars! Score!

You should have seen us walking with two over-stuffed baskets (and me with my coupon binder trying to keep track of all my coupons)!

Fiber One - on sale for $2.99; I used a store coupon for $1 off and a manufacturer coupon for $.75 off. Price: $1.24
2 boxes of Cheerios - on sale for $1.49 each; I used a $.50 off one. Price: $2.50
4 boxes of Wheat Chex - on sale for $1.49 each; I used a $1 off when you buy three and $1 off when you buy two General Mills cereal (paired that with the other box of Cheerios) Price: $3.96
Life cereal - on sale for $1.99 (no coupon used). Price $1.99

8 boxes of cereal: $9.19 or $1.14 per box!

Nature Valley granola bars were $3.99 and $4.29 each; on 50% off clearance sale and I had a coupon for $.50 when you buy two. Price: $3.65
South Beach protein bars were $3.69 each; also on the 50% off clearance sale and I had two $.55 off coupons. Price: $2.58

4 boxes of granola bars: $6.23 or $1.55 per box!

I didn't have any coupons for the walnuts or pecans, but we go through them so quickly we decided to stock up anyway. One bag of chopped pecans was regularly $7.99 but was 50% off making it only $3.99. We bought two bags of chopped walnuts which are regularly $6 each but with the 50% off clearance sale they were only $3 each! 

3 bags of chopped nuts: $9.99 or $3.33 each!

Our cupboards are stocked! (And my wallet isn't empty!)  Days like this make it fun to go shopping.

Monday, August 6, 2012

29 Forever

Yesterday was my 29th birthday. I really don't know how I feel about it. Twenty-nine is different than I expected. I don't hate it . . . but I'm still trying to figure out what it means. I feel old in some regards . . . my aches and pains, my fatigue, my desire to stay home instead of go out. In other aspects I don't feel old enough to be 29.  I don't have a put-together-life that I see many people have when they are this age. I don't own a home, or have kids, or a great career. I don't feel old enough to be one year away from 30.

I know I probably have skewed ideas of what being 29 is suppose to look like. Growing up it seemed like it was the magical age. After all, everyone older than 29 still said they were 29-years-old. . . mostly woman that clearly were not! I have memories of my grandma telling me she was 29 years old, which I knew wasn't right because my mom was older than that! True age was kept a secret and 29 was the age people desired to be . . . and stay.

I've been joking around saying that I had my "first 29th Birthday." As in I too, will stay 29 forever!

There are a lot of things I am looking forward to this year, and that makes me think 29 will be a great year.  We are traveling to Europe next month, hoping to experience places like Italy, The Netherlands, France and England.

I'm also looking forward to more opportunities to take photographs and families and babies. Chris bought me a tripod for my camera which I am really excited to use! (He was really listening to me all those times I said, "Man, I wish I had a tripod for this!") After church on Sunday I even put on my "brave face" and asked a few new parents if I could take their photos sometime! (Ah, I'm nervous!) I'm really excited for these opportunities as this is something I think about doing all the time.

Anyway, I spent my birthday watching The Dark Knight Rises at the IMAX (would highly recommend it!) and eating dinner with my favorite guy. I was blessed by a stack of mail that arrived on Saturday which I opened over breakfast on Sunday, and had a few lovely phone chats with my family. It was a great birthday!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Language of Flowers

Every so often I do a search on my library's website for new books. If the title or brief description interests me, I'll request it to be sent to the library closest to me and I'll pick it up when it's ready. I really love the way our library system works.

That's how I found The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. I really had no idea what it was going to be like, but it captured my attention right away. It's a story of a little girl in the foster care program who grows up in the system, going in and out of homes, finding herself emancipated at the age of 18 and on her own. She's never held a job so she ends up living on the streets pretty quickly.

So, where do the flowers come in? That's really the interesting part of the story. I had no idea every flower had a meaning behind it. A message. The foster girl ends up living with a woman for a year who loves flowers and gardening. She knows every meaning of every flower and over the course of the year, teaches that knowledge to the little girl. The girl clings to this knowledge and from then on, uses flowers to communicate her true feelings.

Once the girl is out on her own, she meets a man who communicates the same way! And then even more drama unfolds.

I don't want to give much more of the story away, it was a really quick read and an interesting story. It also took place in San Francisco so that may have been another aspect that kept me reading. I also liked the format of the novel; the chapters alternated between telling the past and the present in a way that revealed hints of the future and a better understanding of the characters.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

More Drama in the Bike Lane

I've been riding my bike for about six months now. Most of the time things go really well. I feel pretty comfortable out there on the roads. Having a bike has become a convenience for me. I can get just about anywhere faster than driving, I get a workout without having to go the gym, and it gets me outside.

That being said, there are things that aren't so great about being a biker. Like falling (which I've already shared with you), or riding in thick traffic, avoiding cars that don't see you, and maneuvering around all sorts of things in the road. I've heard so many stories of bikers getting hit by cars, of bikers running into pedestrians, bikes being stolen, etc. It would be easy to let fear stop me from riding. But I can't let it.

Today, I rode my bike to the gym after work, locked it up as I always do and headed inside. After twenty minutes of mat/core work I walked over to the elliptical machine which is near a window. My bike was parked right in front of the window. It was still there, but it looked different. I couldn't quite figure it out right away, but then I realized . . . the seat was missing. Argh. Seriously! Someone stole my bike seat (and the post)! Attached to the seat post was also my blinking tail light.

Again, I found myself struck by fear; I felt a little violated. It had only been twenty minutes since I'd locked up my bike, it was broad daylight and on a busy street. Someone later said, "They were probably watching you." -- That just makes it worse! I don't want to be watched. (Maybe I need to change my daily routine . . . )

Anyway, I called my husband who so chivalrously picked me up from the gym and took my bike home. But now I have a bike without a seat. I don't think it will be too expensive to replace, it's just a huge inconvenience. I'm really not one of those stand-up-while-you-ride type of girls, actually with my sensitive back, I've never even tried! It may be a few days until I can get it fixed and be back on the road.

So, there's one more aspect of being a biker in this city I can add to my list of experiences.

At least I still have the bike!