Rainbows, More Rainbows & Good Dinner Links

Hey-o!

I feel like I’m writing a letter to one of my best friends.  Except, like way back, when I was eleven years old and we used lined paper and Lisa Frank pencils.  Can I PLEEEEASE geta’ shout-out for Lisa Frank?  I STILL see Lisa Frank paraphernalia and I have to taper back the enthusiasm in my eight year old heart to purchase it.  “It’s for Dani” I say… finds us coloring together later;-)

Kittens, rainbows and butterflies?  Yes please.

lisafrank (1)

Dolphins, SMILING with purple sunsets while playing beach ball?  Absolutely.

lisa-frank-is-real

Pink dolphins are my spirit-animal.

This post is brought to you by Lisa Frank.  Inspiring and affirming all of the wonder of little girls hearts.  How cute and classy is Lisa in her shades-of-lavender rainbow sweater?  I would expect nothing less of a childhood hear-e-o (that is how my kids pronounce hero;-)  “Thanks Lisa” – Love, all the Little Girls from the early 90’s.

lisafrank

Alright, on to even more exciting things: Rainbow sandals.

I am approaching year nine on this pair.  Yes, NINE.  I’ve worn these every summer, possibly more than any of my other shoes.  Rainbow sandals are forever sandals.  Here is a gorgeous photo that I ran downstairs to capture of my sandals in their natural state.  I titled this, “resting after another hard days work.”

IMG_4499

You’ve served me well Rainbows.  They are beginning to crack on the top leather and I’ve all but worn down the bottoms.  It is time for a new pair.  If you’ve been searching for a pair of casual sandals then search no more. Nordstrom also sells them if you’d like to try them on.

Time for food.

A few months ago, I went on a super quick girls weekend to Napa with two of my dear friends.  They were both in my wedding and when we lived together we created a pretend sorority.  We named it after ourselves, Beta (Bek), Sigma (Sarah) and Kappa (for Jen’s last name because we either couldn’t find the Greek letter for J or it doesn’t exist, and her last name started with C at the time so it was close enough).  We have Christmas stockings with glitter glue immortalizing this time of our lives.  Beta Sigma Kappa forever in our hearts.

Here are Sarah and I with some friends (Annie is second from the top and my friend Bonz is on the bottom) doing important things, obviously.

DSC02140
As you can tell we were a fancy sorority with only fancy events.  One of our house parties involved giving the weather the what-for by pretending it was summer in the middle of a rainy March.  We insisted on summer by turning up the heater, dressing in tank tops and skirts and drinking margaritas over spring break.  We made fake summer and it was awesome, take that rainy days in March when they are naturally occurring.

Now that we’ve walked down memory lane, on to the food.  On our trip we discovered that we were all in a dinner rut involving the same few favorite meals that were quick go-to’s.  One of them came up with the brilliant idea of sharing our top faves in an email (we are SO original).  So, having done so, without their permission, I am going to share with you some of my favorites and some of my friend’s favorites.  These recipes HAVE BEEN tested and eaten and enjoyed so much that they are the tops of the tops.  We literally cook them a few times a month, if not weekly.  Now, Sarah is a vegetarian and Jen and I often cook vegan in our homes, so many of the meals are vegetarian, vegan or close enough;-)  But please remember how much I like ALL food.  I often cook vegan at home because I believe it is incredibly healthy, but I’m not about to sacrifice tastiness.  All that being said, this food can be plated among my favorite fish tacos or a delicious fried chicken and hold it’s ground just fine.  It’s not, “good for vegan food”, it’s just good in general and happens to be fairly healthy.  So give the veggies a try.

#1: ‘Cept it has chicken, sub for grilled tofu if you like :http://www.recipetineats.com/satay-chicken-noodle-salad/

#2: Easy summer recipe with guac exception below: http://ohsheglows.com/2013/09/18/tex-mex-spaghetti-squash-with-black-bean-guacamole/

USE THIS guac and add black beans to it: http://www.recipetineats.com/best-ever-authentic-guacamole/ this guac is my favorite guac.  I make it all the time without the chilies, because I couldn’t find them.  Side note: you can freeze chopped red onions and toss them in frozen for the next time, they smashe up easier when cold.

Here’s the guac on top of a summer enchilada from Happy Herbivore’s Meal Mentor Trial.

IMG_4628

Yes, I made an enchilada salad.  It was really just a good excuse to eat an entire avocado.  I’m serious.

#3: Time consuming, but delicious: http://www.chowhound.com/recipes/vietnamese-style-summer-rolls-with-peanut-sauce-10641#!

we serve them next to: http://www.neverhomemaker.com/2010/07/noodle-salad-and-peanut-sauce.html

#4: Quick and delicious: http://damndelicious.net/2014/04/19/quinoa-black-bean-tacos/

#5: Instead of take-out: http://damndelicious.net/2014/05/30/pf-changs-chicken-lettuce-wraps/

#6: Be still my heart – last meal of my life type of situation (sub with soyrizo): http://www.recipetineats.com/mexican-breakfast-tacos-chorizo-and-egg/

#7: I really like this girl because she has a photo of herself putting food in her mouth.  Solid work: http://rachelschultz.com/2013/02/28/better-than-takeout-easy-pad-thai/

* for this one, I’ve made QUITE a few changes, picture attached below.  We eat it once a week.  It’s great as cold leftovers for a lunch to-go.  We leave out the Sriracha in the cooking process and use it as a condiment instead.  I use udon noodles and we usually add an entire bag of shredded carrots from TJ’s.  Love me some carrots.

IMG_3890

Be sure to double the sauce, otherwise it’s just a sad, sad bare noodle situation.

100% eat some of the leftovers cold on top of a bed of dinosaur kale.  Be sure to slice out the thick stems on the kale, they are the bitter!

IMG_4591

Crazy good lunch.

Dinner intermission with…

SNACKS:

I make this often and serve with sliced granny smith apples: http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2011/05/23/want-to-eat-an-entire-bowl-of-cookie-dough/  This girl has some GREAT oatmeal recipes, desserts and otherwise.  

Back to mealz… 

#8: These are coconut cauliflower tacos.  Ate these tonight.  Davin made them for us.  All by himself.  LOVED them, LOVE him: http://www.veggieinspiredjourney.com/2015/05/23/crispy-coconut-lime-baked-cauliflower-tacos/

#9: Jen mentioned she uses the chickpeas and cauliflower as left overs with brown rice the next day as a work lunch: http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/roasted-cauliflower-and-chickpea-tacos/?m Pretty sure I made these and FORGOT the cauliflower, and they were still yummy, also sans the jalapeno.

10: Summer salad (especially if you have zucchini growing in your garden): http://www.marthastewart.com/1014032/quinoa-salad-zucchini-mint-and-pistachios

11: Easy peasy: http://iowagirleats.com/2014/10/15/caramelized-sweet-potato-kale-fried-wild-rice/

12: These pita “gyros” are quite good.  Although I STRONGLY recommend buying the Tzaziki.  Making this one is a BEAST in my opinion compared to standing in a store, literally moving your arm towards a container in the refrigerated section, grasping it with your hands and then letting it go near your cart.  Sweet girls first instruction on, “the worlds best tzaziki” was “1. Strain yogurt using a cheesecloth or coffee filter for 30 minutes to 3 hours to remove some moisture.” Followed by mine:

  1. Cry.
  2. Try to get soul back into body.
  3. Buy tzaziki from the store.

http://www.liveeatlearn.com/roasted-chickpea-gyros/

Well my friends, being an ENFP, compiling that list in any sense of order about did me in.  I did it for YOU though, because I like you, and vegetables.  And vegetables are good for you and I.  And we should all eat a little more sometimes, but not all the time.  Sometimes we should eat chocolate.

Travels, Barfing and an Angel – Merry Christmas!

For Christmas, my family and I went to Colorado.  My husband’s  parents live there, on a beautiful five acre property in horse country.  We had a white Christmas, fresh snow on the ground and all.  IMG_1949

We went sledding, the kids made a snowman with their Papa. IMG_2041

We had a snowball fight
IMG_2048

sunroom hot tub-runs out into the snow and back into the warm water,
IMG_2005

hot chocolates from Starbucks and an hour spent in the indoor Chick-Fil-A play area (one of the kids highlights for sure).

IMG_2167

Most importantly, we were all together under one warm roof,

IMG_2133

IMG_2180
IMG_1961

snuggling under blankets by the fire with tasty food (including mom’s famous TV Mix), celebrating Jesus and his birth.
IMG_2031

We opened presents, Skyped Aunt Keeli & Uncle Jake and enjoyed being together as a family.

thumb_IMG_2084_1024

Getting there was a different story.  We flew on an airplane.  These photos are from the way home, since I didn’t take any on the way there.

That’s Rosie, the class mascot.  We had the privilege of taking her to Colorado over Christmas Break!

IMG_2182

Such a happy girl on the plane!IMG_2198

Six people, four of them five and under.  Please understand the luggage situation alone involving FOUR carseats.  You know that TSA line was LOVING us.  They were actually crazy nice aside from a Desitin confiscation.  All that AND I was completely disabled by a serious flu.  Pardon me if I am too descriptive, but I feel like the details are imperative to this narrative, so bear with me.

It was Monday, December 21st and we were on our way to the airport when I started crying in the car.  Crying a rare occurrence for me, I was beginning to get delusional, for reals.  The kids had all just gone through a horrible flu.

Here is the day before, all Christmas smiles and celebrations for the special school performances they were about to be a part of.

IMG_1798


IMG_1865

The flu started Friday night around three in the morning with Dani throwing up, six hours later Eli and then six hours later, Ellie.  And it wasn’t just barf.  It was the kind of flu that completely disables its victim for about 24 hours.

It had been a tough weekend of wiping up puke, holding kids, changing sheets, cleaning carpets and doing lots of laundry.  We had made it through just in time for our Christmas flight on Monday.

We call this photo, “trying to celebrate Christmas…”

IMG_1884

I woke Monday morning with a queazy stomach.  I decided to work out, believing that I could sweat out the virus.

5060176

Since the worst of it looked to be about six hours with the kids, I totally thought I could still make it to Colorado.  I’m tough after all.  We’d booked our flights, and changing them would not only be expensive, but because it was Christmas maybe not even possible.  My choices were, keep the whole family home and try to find flights once I was better, stay home alone with the baby who’s nursing while my family flies to Colorado and try and catch a flight later, surviving the flu alone, or get on the plane and tough it out.

Being the ever optimistic enfp that I am, I really thought it would all just work out fine.  I also had been given a flu bomb of oils, worship music about healing and had friends and family praying for me.  None of that changed the fact that I was about to get crazy ill.  And for future reference, Davin has declared that he will never, ever take my word for it again when I say, “I’m okay, I think I can do this” if I’m sick and start crying in public ever again.  He said that he’s never, ever letting this happen again.

By the time Davin had unloaded all our luggage to the sidewalk, asked me five times if I wanted to go home and then went to find parking, I was shivering and crying while leaning up against the windows of the airport.  I couldn’t stop shaking but I was determined my friends, determined to get on that plane.  I had packed ALL the kids suitcases and stuff.  We HAD to get on that plane.  Dani was holding me and rubbing my back, Eli was telling me that it was going to be okay.  I just kept trying to do the next step.  It took us two hours to get through check-in and TSA because I was so violently ill.  At one point I was puking in the middle of the airport while Davin held a plastic grocery bag.  It was horrendous and is probably on YouTube.  I also still had to nurse the baby, so I was drinking water by the gallons so I could at least produce milk, since all the liquid was fast leaving my body.  When we finally made it on the plane, I told the male flight attendants that I was going to need a few bags.   Fortunately we were in the back a few rows from the bathroom.  Most of that flight is a blur.  Davin said I got up every fifteen minutes to puke and otherwise in the bathroom. One time I didn’t make it and was actually barfing IN THE ISLE into a bag.  Those poor people around me!  Everyone was so nice, they probably assumed I was airsick since all the kids were healthy and happy.  I tried not to touch anything and washed my hands a ton so others wouldn’t get sick.  I sat on the end by Eli while he watched Whinny the Pooh, Davin held the baby in the row next to us with the girls.  Davin said it was such a crazy contrast to hear the kids laughing and squealing with delight during take-off and landing while his wife was almost passed out from the flu.  I remember three different times, almost loosing consciousness.  My eyes wouldn’t even stay focused where I wanted to look, they kept drifting off.  When I had to nurse the baby, she felt like she weighed fifty pounds.  I remember wondering what happens when someone passes out on a plane, wondering where they would put me.  The entire flight I was shaking and vomiting and otherwise.  Every joint and muscle hurt.  All I wanted to do was lie down.  I just kept thinking all I have to do is make it to Colorado.  I wonder if this is what hell actually feels like?  Except Jesus felt close, so not that part.

When we landed, they had a wheelchair brought out for me.  Then we caught a ride on the golf cart thing that the cute old ladies get to ride on in the airport.  One sweet older woman looked at me and said, “you don’t look well.”  I was like, “yea, I’m not (eyes roll back into head, praying I don’t get her sick).”  It was all such a daze.  It’s funny how much we care about how we present ourselves in public most of the time, but when I was that ill, I couldn’t care less if every tv camera, the president and the entire internet saw me.  I couldn’t care stinkin’ less.  I probably looked like the walking dead and I certainly felt like death. Except my outfit.  I had a very cute outfit on, black leggings, black loose top with a cropped dark brown leather jacket and matching booties, and a topknot.  It was pre-flu planned, oh and I wore gold stud Tory Burch earrings that Keeli got me last Christmas, I live in them right now with a hands grabby baby in my arms all the time.  My outfit was super adorable, despite feeling super horrible.

And now, here’s the very best part of the entire dramatic, horrific photo-filled, miracle-ending story.

When we finally made it to the carport pickup area, Davin and Ellie went outside to find his parent’s cars.  I say cars because there are so many of us, they have to bring both their cars just to get us home.   The older two, the baby and I waited just inside on a bench, because I already couldn’t stop shaking, and the cold was just making it worse.  On the second bench next to me, sat an Old-World-Russian-looking woman possibly in her seventies.  I glanced at her and normally would have smiled or even started up a conversation with her (I have a strong affinity for Old-World Russian looking ladies) but this time I just sat there, looking down shivering and silently mouthing, “Jesus help me”.  After a moment, she walked over to me with this large, dark-green, decorative fleece jacket.  She spoke zero percent English and motioned to me to put on the jacket.  It was not a suggestion.  I was now a five-year old little girl and she was going to put that jacket on me.  She even zipped it up for me.  Then she wrapped her arms around me and just held me.  I started sobbing.  I have never felt grace like that before.  This woman didn’t know me.  She didn’t know if I was a nice person or a mean person.  She didn’t know anything about me and yet there she was taking care of me in the middle of the Denver airport.  She rocked me and held me for the next five minutes while I cried.  I think she was praying over me in Russian because she kept saying in almost a soft song what sounded like, “Do Papa, Do Papa” in her sweet Russian voice.  I just cried and cried because I was so sick, in so much pain, and so tired just trying to make it for my family and here she was holding me.  I hadn’t done anything to deserve this grace and yet I found myself in the very center of God’s grace.  I knew God hadn’t abandoned me, I didn’t know why I was so violently ill even after I and so many others were praying for me, but there in that moment, it was as though Jesus was right there holding me.

Here’s the most interesting part.  When Davin came in to get me, he just said, “They’re here, come on” and walked away.  I thought it was so strange that he didn’t come over and ask who the woman was holding his wife or ask why I was wearing a stranger’s jacket.  He just motioned for us to come outside.  So, the kids and I got up, I gave the jacket back even though I wanted to keep it in THE worst worst way to save and treasure it for the rest of my life.  I thanked her as best as I could in English and hand motions and we left.  When I glanced back at her she sat back down in her same spot, all alone.

When I was later retelling the story to our friends over a New Year’s dinner, they asked Davin if he saw the woman.  I thought that was such a strange question because I had just assumed he had, but was trying to hurry, although I had thought it peculiar he hadn’t acknowledge her.  And here’s the craziest part.

He never saw her.

How he never saw her I will not understand, because she was literally covering me.  I had to peek through her arms to even see him when he called us.  She was draped over me like a blanket.

He never saw the woman, or her coat.

The older two kids saw her.  I saw her and she certainly seemed like a real person.  She smelled like a real person, she looked like a real person.  But that experience was something very different.  I’ve never felt so clearly the grace of God as I did in that moment while she rocked me, prayed over me and I cried the tears of understood grace.  I’ll never forget it.  The contrast of feeling terrible, and yet feeling so absolutely and unconditionally loved and cared for by a complete stranger.  It was worth having norvirus on an airplane.

Months earlier, I had been praying about understanding unmerited grace.  Reading again and again of the prodigal son. I had been telling God that I am so much like the older grouchy son, who thinks’s she’s got it all together in so many ways and I longed to feel and accept the overwhelming grace of God like the younger son did, but without all the shenanigans.  To truly stand where I should not be able to stand in God’s presence, and recognize the absolute grace of Jesus Christ.

The thing about the older son is that he is just in denial.  He thinks he’s all great but really his heart is in a prideful state and he’s just as much a sinner as the younger son, the sad part is he doesn’t realize it.  So he misses out on the blessing.  He never even comes to the party.  I kept longing for the feeling of getting a coat, and a ring and feeling the full weight and grace of Jesus on my life.  Having been lost and then found.  I always thought growing up a christian would feel different than someone whose lived a wild life and then later comes to Christ.  At least, that’s what I thought.  I was always a little jealous of the believers who’d have amazing stories of meeting Jesus after all the years of crazy and really truly understanding his love and mercy.  However, the grace is just the same if we only look for it.

And that is where I found myself.

In the very center of God’s grace, with a coat put on me and all!

And Jesus used that terrible situation for good.  How sweet is Jesus to meet me there at the airport when I was having one of the worst experiences of my life?

It’s true that God uses all things for the good of those who love him.

Merry Christmas from 2015!