Monday, June 28, 2010

lemontree3...Coming Soon!

This Wednesday, June 30, I'm launching a new blog with two of my besties. It's called lemontree3 and we hatched the idea late one night in March. Now we're making it come to life. In fact, you already know these two friends of mine because I wrote about them here. I'm so excited to be blogging with them. They're both good writers and have interesting things to show and tell. I hope you'll be even more enriched by reading lemontree3 than you've been so far by a-lemon-tree. You can subscribe to our new blog here.

As it did with the name, lemontree3 will probably also take over a lot of the content of this blog, though I haven't yet decided what to do with Dissolve it completely? Take it in a different direction? Any ideas?

Thanks for reading, friends. I am so honored that you'd share life with me.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Favorite Things for Summer

For one of my baby showers last fall, my sister (who is married without kids - yet) bought me a gift bag-full of her favorite things for fall. She told me, "I don't know about babies or what they need so I got you this instead." I'll never forget that gift. I absolutely loved it. It helped me stay fashionable and trendy as a new mom during a season when I didn't have too much energy to think about myself. Plus, I loved opening each and every item and hearing her commentary about each one. So here are a few of my favorite things for this season. Take them for yourself or as gift ideas if you so desire.

*nautical stripes on anything and everything

*boat shoes (If you decide to invest in a great brand like Sperry Top Siders, go with a classic color - navy - like I did.)

*color: coral! (I bought a pair of jeweled H&M hair clips; my friend Steph gave me OPI's new Hot N Spicy nail polish; my mom gave me a J.Crew cardigan for my spring birthday. Plenty of coral to saturate my summer.)
*black patent leather peep-toe flats (A classic that will span several seasons and an overall wise update for my wardrobe.)

*vanilla italian sodas with fresh lime (vanilla syrup + club soda + ice + fresh-squeezed lime slice = yummy and refreshing goodness!)

*Burts Bees shimmery body lotion with royal jelly (A pampering gift from my friend Brenda when I had a baby - I love this stuff!)

Happy summering!

Monday, June 7, 2010

How to Make Your In-Laws Happy

I had a sublime idea (if I do say so myself!) that I wanted to share with you all so that you can claim it as your own and reap all of the happy benefits. I call it: A picture a day for a month. I don't know where the idea came from. I guess God.

If you're unmarried or don't have kids yet, archive this one for future reference.

For every day this month, my husband and I are emailing one picture of our 6-month-old Howard to his grandparents (and my sister). Sometimes it comes with a little caption; it always comes with the subject line: A picture a day for the month of June. They LOVE it. They might even text you if it gets to 8pm and you haven't sent a picture yet. I seriously feel like the daughter-in-law of the year. And I'm really not. And it's so easy (especially if you have a smart phone) and really fun!

Disclaimer: Be selective and wise in who you send the pictures to; not many people can tolerate a picture of your little one (as adorable as he or she may seem to you) every day for 30 days straight.

Just to whet your appetite, this was today's entry:

Mom took me on a bike ride in our new bike trailer...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Easy Healthy Fruity Frozen Dessert

We're cleaning out our fridge and freezer these days. I've found that it's a good habit to get into every six months or so. And so we're having to get creative in the food department. Let's just say that some creativity turns out better than others.

I don't know about you, but frozen bananas are a staple in my freezer: I peel, saran wrap, and freeze mine whole whenever they're starting to get brown. There are many yummy things I've found that you can do with them. Here's one.
 Fruity Frozen Dessert
1 frozen banana, coined
1 cup frozen berries (blackberries and blueberries are the faves at our house)
1/2 cup vanilla coffee creamer (This may sound weird, but if you think about it, it's pretty much lower-calorie melted ice cream!)

Pour creamer over frozen fruit. The fruit makes the creamer almost instantly slushy. You can put the whole thing in the freezer for an additional minute or two if you want. Enjoy!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Celebrating 5 Years; Here's to 105 Years More!

Happy Anniversary, J.

How can it be that I love, trust, and respect you more today than I did that rainy day May 21, 2005 when we were wed!? Oh, but I do.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

I Heart: Homemade Pesto

How great is pesto!? I love it because:
1. It's heart-healthy
2. It's easy-as-pie to make a big batch and freeze
3. It whips out of the freezer and plops onto plain noodles or pizza dough (with meat and/or veggies if you want) with panache
4. A little bit goes a long way
5. My hubby likes it a lot

Here's the recipe I used recently:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup pine nuts, chopped
2 cups fresh basil leaves, firmly packed
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
5 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
a dash of s & p

We had it a few nights ago atop whole wheat spaghetti noodles, alongside chicken pieces, sauteed asparagus, peas, onions, and mushrooms, and topped with feta cheese. Yum!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

An Antidote for Hard Times: Gratefulness

I'm a new mom. And it's hard. I think it's the hardest thing I've ever done to date.

I'm disappointed that hard times bring out the worst in me. My friend Todd told me once that it's hardest for him to care about others' needs when he's sick or going through a hard time personally. I've noticed the same trend in my life.

I was reminded recently about gratefulness and how important it is to practice being grateful. It might sound weird to practice gratefulness, but I know that for me it doesn't just come naturally. Especially during hard times. But it's exceptionally important for me to be grateful in hard times because it helps me get the focus off myself and on God and other people, which I think is the best place to live. And life could always be worse than it is.

So I've resolved to exercise my grateful-muscle more often. Here's a start:

I'm grateful for a healthy baby Howard who lives at my house and not in the hospital.
I'm grateful for a husband who cares for me and Howard, and that I don't have to care for Howard all by myself.
I'm grateful that Howard is napping right now so that I can even be writing this post.

How have you seen gratefulness change your perspective?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Book Review: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My LifeI just finished Donald Miller's newest book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It has the usual Donald Miller feel: raw, memoir-esque, easy to read, personal. I was both personally challenged and pleasantly surprised by its relevancy for many 18-35 year old readers. (It is a frequent concern of mine that many current bestsellers - especially Christian bestsellers - are good, but published just one generation too late.)

My husband and I have been having a ton of fun dreaming together lately about all of the possibilities of what our lives might still hold. What might we do? Where might we go? We keep telling God that our lives are His and that He can do whatever He wants with them. In a scary and delightful way we wonder, then, just what might God do?

Thank you, Donald Miller, for affirming those dreams and calling me out to live a bigger story than the safe but extremely boring one my affinity for comfort secures for me.

A few quotables:

"...people are just people even if they are world leaders." 165

"Part of me wonders if our stories aren't being stolen by the easy life." 186

"When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are. And when you stop expecting material possessions to complete you, you'd be surprised at how much pleasure you get in material possessions. And when you stop expecting God to end all your troubles, you'd be surprised how much you like spending time with God." 206

"A good movie has memorable scenes, and so does a good life." 212

Has anyone else read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years recently? What did you like and learn?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Yay! and a Giveaway for Three Winners

Yay yay yay! for Carla F. and Janelle R. who went for a run in response to my March 24 post How to Be a Runner Vol 2: Start Now. Carla posted a comment and Janelle "cheated" and texted me. I'm oh-so-happy to be just a smidgen of inspiration to both of you.

As I hinted I might do, I'm sending both of you something scrumptious - a 1/2 dozen each of my very own homemade granola bars made fresh from the recipe on my March 4 post An Easy and Healthy On-the-Go Snack. These ones are blueberry coconut bars made with cashews, macadamia nuts, and (a nut I've never used in this recipe before) soy nuts. The soy nuts gave them a special extra crunchy texture. Carla and Janelle, we'll be in touch so that I can get your addresses and your granola bars can be on their merry way!

You may have noticed that the title of this post suggests three winners. I'd love to send just one more of my runner-wannabe lucky readers a few of my granola bars. Just post a comment for us all to see after you go for your first newly-inspired run.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

How to Be a Runner. For the run of it: Vol 4. Don't live to run.

Run to live. Don't live to run. My life is better with running in it, but running is not my life.

A word of advice about how to be a runner and stay motivated? Don't let running become your everything. Don't let it become the thing you obsess over or the thing that defines you. I've been there. It's destructive, defeating, and disappointing. And you'll drive your friends crazy.

Let running bring freedom, challenge, discipline, and fun to your life. But don't look to it to bring fulfillment.

I really need to keep different areas of my life in check, in a healthy balance. So, I often ask myself, "What if _______ was taken away from me? Would I just be sad, or would I be devastated? Would I be upset, or would I be beside myself with self-pity? Would life eventually go on, or would I isolate myself, buried in self-destructive thoughts?"

I love running so much that I have to ask myself that question about running from time to time. "What if running was taken away from me?" At any moment, really, I could get really busy at work, break my ankle, or develop a life-threatening illness. I'd be disappointed for sure, but I wouldn't be in despair.

Have you ever been there - looking for fulfillment in all the wrong places?
How do you keep from letting something become your everything?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

How to Be a Runner. For the run of it: Vol 3. Find a friend.

Finding a running partner is unarguably both the most difficult and most rewarding thing to start and keep you motivated to run.

I'm lucky. I have Megan.

We're a perfect fit. We run at just the right pace. We talk just the right amount and about all kinds of things. We inadvertently take turns challenging each other to run harder, longer, and up steeper hills. We both run to clear our heads, exhaust our bodies, and be away from our beloved but sometimes tiring day jobs.

I love Megan so much. One thing I love about her a lot is that the further she runs, the more she loosens up. We share life together: the wonderful and the difficult. On occasion, we have to stop in the middle of a run because we're both crying over the life we're sharing. We stop and just hold each other and cry and wipe the snot on our sleeves (the only time it is acceptable for adults to do this).

In conclusion, do whatever it takes to find a running friend who is a good fit for you. And when you find one, don't ever leave them and don't let them leave you. Megan and I won't even talk about "What happens if one of us moves away?" I'm hiding in the back of her U-Haul when she moves.

If you want, I'll pray for God to bring you a Megan. Just comment and ask me.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Love Triangles of Friendship

This past weekend a very scrumptious and wonderful thing happened to me: two of my best girlfriends (Amanda & Stephanie) came to be with me. Amanda is getting married in just 1.5 months and so we were celebrating.

I needed to be with them. They took turns holding my baby; we ate good food; I went on a run with Stephanie; Amanda brought me presents; they helped me finish an art project in my baby's room. One night we stayed up late, dreaming and planning and creating, then woke up early the next morning only to pick up right where we'd left off.

We have a unique friendship. I've known each of them for 4+ years. But only over the past 1+ years did they complete the triangle and become close with each other. I can say with confidence that we all (by God's grace!) genuinely want what is best for the other two. We trust each other and always believe the best about each other. It's because of this that we can talk behind each others' backs without gossiping and confront each other out of love when appropriate. I love love triangles. Of friendship. I believe that they have the potential to be some of the healthiest kind of friendships. "A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."

I'm even so blessed as to have one other love triangle of friendship in my life.

Have you ever experienced friendship like this? Did it work better or worse than a one-on-one friendship?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How to Be a Runner. For the run of it: Vol 2. Start now.

If you aren't a runner but want to be one: Start now. Stop reading this blogpost, lace up your shoes, and go for a jog. Just move those legs, even if you only jog very slowly for 3 minutes. Then come back, read the rest of the post and post a comment that says you did it so that we can all celebrate with you. Maybe I'll even give something away to everyone who does it.

I'm serious. Go. Now. Get out of here. The sun is shining nicely where I am. I'll pray it warms up wherever you are.

If you already are a runner and want parallel advice about how to stay motivated (as promised in For the run of it: Vol 1), it kind of boils down to making it a priority. The idea of priority rings especially loud and clear to me now that I'm a mom. And a four-month-old nursing mom at that; sorry if that's TMI for any male readers out there. Keep in mind that, pending serious bodily injury or 143 feet of snowfall, it could always be more difficult than it is right now for you to run.

So, in a word: prioritize. Every so often, and especially when my stage of life changes, I take care to re-evaluate my priorities and then plan my weekly schedule and day-to-day activities around them. Not the other way around, which so easily happens.

In this busy world, how do you prioritize the things that are most important to you?

Post Script (If you're not already tired of reading.)
In road-races I ran B.H. (before Howard), I would regularly get beat by moms. (I knew they were moms because they were often organized in teams wearing snazzy pink t-shirts that read things like "Moms on the Move" or "If you're reading the back of my shirt, you're getting beat by a woman who has pushed a baby out of her vagina. Beat that." OK. I've never seen that last one; I made it up.) When these amazing gals were kicking my bootie, I would always think, "How are these moms so hard-core?" And now I know. It takes a lot of planning and prioritizing even to get out the door with my running shoes and a not-too-spitty-uppy shirt on...let alone run. By the time I'm out there, no matter what the weather's like or how tired I feel or how much my stomach's growling I'm running.

Monday, March 22, 2010

How to Be a Runner. For the run of it: Vol 1. "I wish I could be a runner."

I hated running. I played track in high school but only socially, and would frequently find reasons to walk most of our longest jaunts. The burning lungs, the shortness of breath, the sore and tired muscles. What is there to like? Some people make it look so glamorous, but it feels as far from glamorous as can be.

But now... I guess I'm a runner. Aristotle said, "You are what you continually do." Other than a 2-month break four months ago when I was very pregnant with my first child, I think I've run 2-3 times per week for the past seven years. I can't believe I'm saying this, but the 1/2 marathon has become one of my favorite things.

Lately, running has seen a drastic spike in popularity. More often than not, whenever I self-disclose as a runner, people say, "I wish I could be a runner." And I always say, "You can! I believe in you!" And they say, "But it's SO hard!" I agree. It is hard. But you can do it.

As a former hater and a converted lover, I thought I'd start a blog mini-series with some ideas I have about how to be a runner if you aren't and how to stay motivated if you are. If you care, stay tuned. If you don't ever aspire to be a runner, know that there are tons of more important things to be and that I believe you still have significant things to contribute to our planet. Plenty of my nearest and dearest are non-runners.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Howard's Pennant Garland

Pennant garlands are so in right now! I see them everywhere I turn in blog-land. Howie has been relentlessly begging me for one - a monogrammed one, no less - to hang on his bedroom door. So, for his 4-month birthday, I made him one. And had so much fun; this is definitely the stuff of relaxation to me! Here are some pictures that document my process, in case you feel so compelled to join the trend.

I reinforced the monogram with cardboard via ModPodge, then attached it to the ribbon with safety pins.
I used whatever fabric I could find around the house for the pennants: leftover upholstery fabric from recovering the glider chair in his room, extra trimmings from the curtains in my living room, and scraps from an old chenille bedspread my mom gave me. I attached each of the pennants to the ribbon differently: some sewn on with embroidery thread and an over-under stitch, some threaded directly onto the ribbon because they were cut from old fabric that already had a hem, some paper-clipped on with multicolored paperclips, and some fastened with masking tape.
So, there you have it. Happy 4 months Howie! Sometimes I still look at you and wonder where you came from and how you got in my house!
I think I was going for: classic, fun, vintage-modern, and whimsical. How'd I do?
Did anyone out there have one of these growing up? I haven't seen any retro pics of any pennant garlands, but would love to if they're out there.
Oh, and pretty please post your pics if you make one, too!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Walt Whitman and Thoughts about Nature

Howard was an unusually happy baby for me today - delightfully long enough for me to read some of The Treasury of Religious Verse, compiled by D.T. Kauffman. Taking care of a 4-month-old is physically taxing and causes mental bankruptcy. I try desperately to reverse the deterioration by reading things that challenge me at a variety of levels. This was my favorite thing I read today.

"I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars,
And the pismire[1] is equally perfect, and a grain of sand,
and the egg of the wren,
And the tree-toad is a chef-d'oeuvre[2] for the highest,
And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven,
And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery,
And the cow crunching with depress'd head surpasses any statue,
And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels."

from Walt Whitman's[3] SONG OF MYSELF

My notes:
[1] an ant
[2] a masterpiece
[3] I couldn't help but refresh my brain about Whitman by looking him up on Wikipedia: Deeply influenced by deism, Whitman embraced all religions equally; he accepted all churches and believed in none. Though apparently I disagree with his theology, I was fascinated by how much I agreed with his thoughts in these verses.

What about you? Any thoughts about Whitman's perspective on nature?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Spring [Closet] Cleaning

My closet is one of my favorite rooms in our house. I love it for one main reason: it's huge. I can see all of my clothes in one passing glance and so I wear more of them more often.

A huge closet is just one of the wonderful home additions that resulted from the efforts of my valiant, handyman husband Jason who nearly single-handedly finished our unfinished basement over the past year; there remain only a few last trimmings left to complete. Our last closet my clothes (I blame them entirely) swiftly overtook. His clothes made a courageous effort to hold their tiny turf, but mine stood firm on the ground they had taken and advanced with stalwart fervor. Now we have ample room for both.

But lately I've noticed a fascinating phenomenon: everything inflates to fill its space. Food in a fridge; office supplies in a desk drawer; spending in one's income; and now...clothes in my closet. It's hard for me to decide to dismiss an article of clothing. Maybe I'm good at seeing potential. Or maybe it's because every style that goes around comes around again. Or maybe it's my StrengthsFinder Input Theme.

Have you noticed this phenomenon in your life? And how do you decide when a clothing item is ready to visit the Thrift Store?

Some of my favorite bloggers at Young House Love are thinking about the same things.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

An Easy and Healthy On-the-Go Snack

Coconut Cashew Granola Bars: One of my go-to favorite snacks to keep around the house to grab on-the-go. I found it in a Runners World mag several years ago and tore the page out.

1 cup shredded coconut
2 cups raw oats
1/2 cup raisins (or other dried fruit - I've tried both blueberries and cherries!)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, shelled
1 cup raw cashews
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
1 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mold into 18 bars and place on a baking sheet. Bars will not increase in size, so they can be placed close together. Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes.

What's your favorite healthy on-the-go snack? Did you try mine; what did you think?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A New Beginning

I love fresh, new beginnings. The flawless and untainted canvas of a new beginning excites the perfectionist in me. I love them so much that I'm slow as molasses to make my first mark on them. Untouched snow looks so much better to me than a snowman and snow-angel. I want to know ahead of time each stroke I'll paint, each letter I'll type. I want everything to be just right.

That's how I have felt for the past few weeks about this blog. What will it be about? How will it help people? Who will even follow it or care about anything I write? What do I really have to offer anyone?

But now it's time to make the first mark. I just need to be OK with the evolution of it. And know that almost no one will even read this first post.

So hello, world! Here's to new beginnings on a nondescript day, at a nondescript time, in my nondescript living room, doing one of my particularly favorite things: listening to my husband Jason play guitar and watching my 4-month-old Howard watch him, intrigued.