His Faithfulness.

One of the biggest ways that the Lord has grown my faith was by experiencing pregnancy.  I’m one of the biggest control freaks you’ll ever meet… something I’ve been working through my entire adult life.  The scary (but actually comforting) thing is, I really have not control over anything — God’s in control — I know that in my heart, sometimes my brain just needs to keep that in the forefront of it.

Rowyn (left) & Miles (right)

Since the moment I came home from the hospital each time, I knew I wanted to share all the crazy ways that God was so faithful throughout both my pregnancies and each of my births.  Before all the pregnant and birthing parts, there was the trying-to-get-pregnant part.  Jarid and I didn’t even think about having babies until about 2-3 years after getting married…I was still taking classes to finish up my degree and he was just beginning his professional career.  Looking back I’m so thankful we waited to start trying because I never would’ve had the opportunity to stay at home with our kids had we had them sooner.  God knew exactly what He was doing and His timing was absolutely perfect — although, at the time, it felt like forever after I started to catch baby fever that it “finally” happened for us.  It’s amazing to me how He knows what we NEED even though we think we know what we want more.  His ways are high above our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).

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Miles – 7lb, 19in
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Rowyn 6lb, 14oz, 19.25in

I remember being pregnant with Rowyn, I was worried about every little thing – as much as I tried not to be.  As a first time Mom, your mind can play tricks on you, causing over-reactions about everything, if you allow it.  The members of my family have probably been super annoyed with many of the stances I’ve taken (although they try their best to respect it, it’s so foreign and extreme to them) on avoiding chemicals in my (and my kids’) everyday life.  I refuse to be ignorant of all the research and data proving that cancer is 90% environmental and only 10% genetic.  I’ll save that soap-box for another day, but my point is that being pregnant for me – especially the first time – was not easy.  “What if those awfully unhealthy, non-organic pregnancy cravings had ill effects on my baby?  What about the second-hand smoke that I sometimes could not avoid walking through remnants of on my way into the building I worked at because the smoker’s section was right outside the doors?  My kick counts aren’t adding up… I had an active day and I don’t remember the baby moving hardly at all?!” These were all things I dwelt on until I realized I could pray about them.  I think it was one of the most trust-building experiences in my life.  It sounds horrible to say, but I used to get anxiety before each Dr. appointment… nervousness that they were going to tell me they couldn’t find a heartbeat… that something was wrong… that my baby had a severe defect… etc.  I didn’t (and still don’t) feel deserving of these perfect little babes that He created.  My kids being healthy is SUCH grace in itself.  I don’t ever want to forget or live outside of that gratefulness.  All that being said, prayer was the only thing that gave me any peace.  The Bible says in Phillipians 4:6-7 – do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  <– This was basically my motto for 9 straight months. 

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Because of my thyroid condition, we had numerous additional sonograms after my 20 week anatomy appointment with each pregnancy.  The doctors wanted to monitor the growth of the baby and check for goiters in the baby’s neck.  Neither Rowyn nor Miles ever had any issues there, thankfully.  However, with Rowyn, there was concern that her growth dropped off in the last trimester.  They explained at one of my last sonograms with her, that she was only measuring about 5 pounds and that if I didn’t go into labor naturally, by my due date, they wanted to induce me because they were worried that my placenta was not doing its job and the baby wasn’t getting the nutrients it needed.  Mind you, with both babies, we kept the gender a surprise, so it was funny to hear all the techs avoid using the terms “his” or “her”, when referring to body parts at the scan.  Anyway, I asked for prayer from some of my closest friends and family, because God knew my heart for natural, unmedicated birth.  I really did not want to be induced and felt strongly that the baby would come in God’s time.  In the same breath, I explained to those people that I wanted to do whatever was best for the baby and if that meant that he/she needed to be delivered before labor started naturally, I would do what the doctors ordered.  I had a set appointment for 12/14/16 to be induced.  I had all the instructions on what time to be at the hospital that day.  On 12/12/16, Jarid and I got home from work, ate dinner, and went about our business — I went downstairs and walked on the treadmill for awhile and after calling it quits, took a shower and got ready for bed.  I started feeling tight squeezes in my abdominal area — nothing painful, but I couldn’t describe the feeling to Jarid.  It didn’t hit me until he said, “maybe we should start paying attention to how often they’re happening?” Since I’d never been through it before, I had no idea it was contractions, but eventually, after they became more consistent, figured it out. Ha.

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Rowyn Faye
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Miles Elliott

The Lord had His hand on the entire situation and I remember feeling instances where he planted it in my brain just to TRUST Him.  He came through for us… in fact, He has gone above and beyond in ways I can’t even begin to count.  I delivered Rowyn on her due date, 12/13/16 at 9:04pm.  Unmedicated.  Completely naturally.  After laboring for 23 hours (I can’t tell you how many times I called out to Him for strength in labor!  My Mom said the nurses were getting a kick out of it).  He knows our absolute deepest desires  — no matter how silly they may be — and He cares because that’s how deeply He loves us.  What matters to us matters to Him.  HIS babies.  HIS children.  How incredible is that?

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Rowyn Faye
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Miles Elliott

Shortly after Rowyn’s 1st birthday, we found out that we were pregnant again!  We didn’t expect it to happen so quickly, but were overjoyed and felt so blessed.  It was right around that time that I had just started to REALLY miss the “baby” stages and we had talked about soon starting to think about a sibling for Ro, so again — God knew.  Coincidentally (no such thing), our babes would be 21 months apart — the same age gap as Jarid and his younger brother.  I was sure the entire pregnancy that we were having another girl.  I’m not sure why, but I never thought I would be blessed enough to experience both raising a boy and a girl.  In fact, we hadn’t even nailed down a boys’ name, but had a definite girls’ name.  Deep down, I really wanted to have a boy (whether this pregnancy or future), but at the same time I felt guilty and ridiculous for “wanting” one gender over another.  I was just so grateful for a healthy babe.  As with Rowyn, we kept the gender a surprise — something Jarid never wanted to do, but agreed after the fact that it was the best choice for us.  The surprise was worth the wait.  As Miles made his way into the world and the doctor announced, “it’s a boy!” in the delivery room, pure elation caused tears to stream down my cheeks — I’m pretty sure Jarid’s too.  Miles was the icing on our cake.

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It was so cool to see how the Lord grew my faith even from one pregnancy to the next.  With Miles I had full confidence that He would take care of us — I need not worry.  There was very little anxiety involved in round two.  He even went above and beyond, giving us our baby boy.  Another way He came through for us this round was the time of day I went into labor with Miles.  I was nervous about how things would go for Rowyn if we weren’t home with her two days/nights and felt Mom-guilt about her being so little when he was born.  I knew she would be in great hands, but I was sure she would wonder why Mommy and Daddy left her, not being old enough to understand.  My first contractions started around 7:30pm on 9/18 (3 days after my due date) and Miles was born at 2:04am on 9/19.  We had established a solid bedtime routine with Rowyn (thankfully) and she was in bed at 7pm each night, so we were blessed enough to have been able to put her to bed that night before Gammy & Pop Pop came to stay with her — she didn’t even realize we weren’t there overnight.  Between that and the fact that we were allowed an early release from the hospital so that we didn’t have to go 2 nights in a row without our girl – God is so good.  He cares about the details of our heart’s desires even when we don’t ask for them.

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Even my attitude toward the laboring part the second time was different.  I was confident God was going to get me through it, unmedicated, instead of asking Him for strength the whole time, I already knew He was going to give it to me.  It really made me start thinking about how we should be living that everyday — asking Him for strength knowing that if we are His children and He is our God, we already have it.

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Another huge blessing this time around, was that we won a Fresh 48 session with Erin Fortney!  She came to the hospital to capture the moment that Rowyn met her little brother and it was nothing short of magical.  See? Above and beyond, He goes again 🙂

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XO
Sami

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From Mrs to Mommy

I remember making a blog post years ago which I titled “From Ms to Mrs” (or something like that), so I found it only appropriate that after such a long hiatus from writing, I make my entry back into the blog world with a copycat title.  As much as I thought that “Mrs” would my favorite title of all time, “Mommy” sure has captured my heart.  Some days I look at where we are in life and am in total disbelief that God chose to bless us with our babes.  We do not deserve them…or any of what He has blessed us with, to be perfectly honest.  I didn’t anticipate taking this post off on a tangent, but the Lord is leading, so I’m going to follow.

 

I was asked to sing a song for our Good Friday service by our youth pastor at church and when he told me the title of the one he wanted me to sing, I’d never heard it before.  As I practiced and learned the words, they took deep root in my heart and I think about them almost everyday since.  It speaks of living our lives in remembrance for all Christ as done for us.  The part that gives me goosebumps each time I think about it, is the line “You’ve been so so good to me, you’ve been so so good to me; Oh to think where I would be if not for You, if not for You…”  My life has been SO blessed because of His grace and His love for us.  The only thing good in me is because of Him.  If not for Him, I’d be the same mess I was when He found me and sought me. There are still days when I fail as a Mom, as a wife, as a sister, as a friend.

 

He’s teaching me and stretching me more than I could’ve ever imagined in this role as a stay-at-home-Mom.  This blog has a new direction.  Sure, I still have my passions — home decorating on a budget, healthy/balanced eating and nutrition, a homeopathic/chemical-free lifestyle, and fun, affordable fashion — but there’s a deeper and a greater purpose in my life as a Mom — “raising up these babies in the way they should go so they never depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). My hope is that this can be a place where we can relate, encourage, and build one another up, supporting in love and truth.  So, here we go again! Two babies later and the blog is back 🙂 I hope you’ll join me in the journey!

XO
Sami

My Armstrong Heater.

Long before Jarid was ever in the picture, one of the men that I could always count on to help me feel confident and special was my Pap.  Whenever he introduced me to anyone, he always referred to me as “his #1”.  I think that struck a chord with me so much because I was always striving to be “#1” at everything…  It was important to me to be “the best” and I took it very hard when I wasn’t…failure was my greatest fear.  I never even had to do anything to deserve that title with Pap.  I just remember feeling like a million dollars when I asked him how he was doing, and he would say things like, “much better now that you’re here!”

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Pap was misunderstood by a lot of people,  but he was one of the most gentle, sensitive human beings you could ever imagine.  Maybe he hadn’t ALWAYS been gentle and sensitive, but as long as I’ve known him, he was.  In fact, there were some things I, along with his kids, didn’t even know about him.  People’s lives that he’d touched while he was on this Earth that went unrecognized by everyone except for Jesus.  I can’t wait to see how many crowns he has when we all get to Heaven and I think that most will  be surprised.

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Some of his favorite things included Harley Davidson, the Washington Nationals, televangelists (more specifically, John Hagee), classic cars, and Ocean City, NJ — a place where just this Summer, he took his last breaths while we were on our family vacation.  Pap had been in the hospital for a little while, but like me, he gets stir crazy.  Being cooped up and not allowed to use the bathroom on his own was just intolerable.  He was a stubborn son-of-a-gun (which is exactly where my Mom & I get this trait), and he hadn’t always listened to what the doctors told him either — he firmly believed that they were “only after his money” 🙂  Good ole’ Pap.  One of the last few times I was able to stop during my lunch break to visit him in the hospital, I’d stopped at Wendy’s to bring him a Frosty (although I knew he probably shouldn’t have had it) — his face completely lit up when I came into that hospital room.  I wish I would’ve just taken the rest of the day off to stay there with him, looking back on it.

Some of the things that will always be near and dear to me about Pap were those baby blue eyes that you could see from a mile away and the fact that since I’m always cold, he would always tell me I needed to find myself a good Armstrong heater (meaning a man) – haha.  He was always VERY concerned and paid close attention to the guys that I brought around — making sure to tell them that they “better treat me right and take good care of me”.  It was the cutest thing when he bought and gave me pepper spray to carry around with me and insisted that I keep it on my key chain so it was very accessible (I think that started when I got my first apartment or when I started my job with the State downtown).  Pap enjoyed the fact that my hands were cold and my fingers were like icicles.  He would squeeze them and hold on for several minutes, in effort to keep them warm when it was cold outside.  When it was hot outside and my fingers were still cold, he would take my hand and put it on top of his bare skin head — thanking me for “cooling him off” 🙂  Pap had some of the best stories — he would tell you anything if you made the time to listen to him — there was nothing that man valued more, than your time.

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His daughter, my Mom, gave him one of his biggest desires close to the end of his life.  She and my Dad did most of the legwork, making it possible for Pap to leave the care facility he was staying at and come with us to the beach in OC, NJ one last time.  He was beyond thrilled and made the trip easily.  We’d rented a large house with an elevator, making it easily accessible for Pap to travel up floors and to basically do everything that any of us could do.  He wasn’t quite feeling up to going to the beach since we’d been there, but the atmosphere alone was something he treasured — his kids and grand kids all together in one big house, back where our family vacations all started in Ocean City.  It was Monday, June 9th, a beautiful beach day, until about 3pm.  It barely started drizzling on the beach (which is something that never scares us away–ESPECIALLY my Mom).  Before I knew it, Mom decided that we could probably head back to the house now.  Thank God she did because otherwise, we may not have all gotten to see Pap again before he passed.   I will never understand how God gives people little gifts like these and some can simply brush it off as coincidence.

This year has been a tough one for our family.  Two of the greatest men, who have been foundations in our family, have passed on to be with Jesus within just a few weeks of one another.  It’s been a real eye-opener for me to see how quickly life really does pass you by and how important it is to make every moment a special one.  Pap and I had just been sitting together that very same day of his passing, when I came back to the house for lunch.  I never imagined it would be my last conversation with him.  The scenario could not have been any better.  When we realized that Pap was struggling, an ambulance was called and he was still responding to us when they arrived, just 3 minutes later.  The hospital was only 6 minutes away.  We always try to make sense of things, wondering “what if” in circumstances like these, but especially in instances like this one, it’s evident that God’s timing prevails.  It could be the best case scenario and there is nothing we can do if God is ready to bring a loved one home.  There is no question in my mind that Pap is enjoying the beaches in heaven right now — probably sitting up there shooting the breeze with his brother, Joe and his wife, TT, and even his son, who was killed in car accident at a very young age… In fact, it was the first time Pap was able to spend Father’s Day with his son, whom he’d lost several years ago –what a special reunion that must’ve been.

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All I know, speaking for myself, is that nothing has taught me more about life than death.  This place, this Earth is so temporary, yet so many people cannot see past the here and now.  The choices you make and the priorities you keep do have eternal consequences/rewards.  I believe that both TT and Pap would’ve wanted me to tell as many people as possible and to share the good news that because Jesus died on a cross to save us from our sins, an eternity in Hell, we can have everlasting life in Heaven with Him instead.

Pap, I love you very much and you’ll always be the best Armstrong heater ❤  Miss you so much!

In Loving Memory.

I’ve been dreading the day that this post would come.  I thought for sure, I would have had at least a few more years before I would would have to face this.  I hoped that my children would have a chance to know their TT… that his example and faith would have the impact on them has it has on me.  One of God’s angels on Earth was taken home on Sunday, May 18th.  It all seems so surreal to me that it actually happened and that he really is gone, until we meet again in Heaven.

philliesOne of TT’s specialties was timing.  Throughout his years of experience, he amazed me with his ability to predict exactly how long it would take to get from point A to point B.   I would ask him, “what time do you think you’ll get here?”, or “how long do you think it will take us to arrive at the Phillies game?”  Almost every time, he was spot on… I’m talking, down to the second.

lipsI talked to TT on Saturday night.  Jarid and I were on our way home from a wedding reception and had planned on stopping to see TT.  I called him when we got in the car, and he said, “Don’t worry about stopping tonight, I think I’ll be going home tomorrow, so before you come tomorrow, you better give me a call”.  At this point in my life, I believed everything that man said.  He had God-given wisdom that I could never fully comprehend.  Looking back now, when he said he was going home, he must’ve meant to his Heavenly home, rather than his earthly one.

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Although TT told us not to worry about stopping on Saturday, I felt a need to see him,  even if he was just resting.  Jarid agreed, and as we walked through the parking garage, I couldn’t help but feel excited that we were about to surprise him.  We got to his room, 719, only to find that our precious TT sleeping.  Anyone that knows him would agree, he was the absolute cutest man in the entire universe.  Jarid and I simply sat in the chairs beside his bed and watched him rest.  It felt so good just to be there with him, whether he knew it or not.  Saturday night was when my heart started to break.  In his sleep, TT would be breathing alright for a few breaths, but suddenly it was as if he couldn’t get enough air… he was gasping and it was difficult to watch.  It didn’t make sense to me that just the day before (Friday), when we’d visited him after work, he seemed just fine.  Short of breath, only after talking for a lengthy period of time.  I was fully confident that he would be fine… after all, with modern technology and all the advances made in the medical world daily, shouldn’t they be able to fix him right up?!

birthdayAfter sitting in the hospital chair for about 20 minutes, just admiring and praying for the man in the hospital bed that I’d loved and adored for the past 25-years, we decided to head home.  Before leaving, I asked one of the nurses, tears streaming down my cheeks, if I could borrow a pen and paper, allowing me to write TT a note, knowing that when he woke up, he would see it on his bedside table and know that we were there and that we loved him.

me&tSee, I know how much TT treasures notes because once, while I as house-sitting for him, I knocked something off of his dresser and a whole pile of notes that Nana had written him poured out onto the floor…. he kept every single one of them. I think his capacity to love far surpasses anyone else I’ve ever known.  It was all the little things that he appreciated most.

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It wasn’t long before Jarid and I were winding down on the couch, in our PJs.  Almost immediately after we turned the TV on, my phone started vibrating on the end table next to me.  As soon as I saw the caller ID reading, “TT Cell”, my face completely lit up.  “Hello?” I said, awaiting a goofy response, which I’d come to expect.  “Hey!  If you ever pull that crap again…wake me up next time!”… Haha.  I explained that I was sorry, but I knew he needed his rest and I couldn’t bring myself to disturb him.  I made sure that he knew I would see him the next day and that I loved him very much.

cheeseThe next 24 hours were an absolute blur… completely surreal, like a bad dream that I couldn’t wake myself up from.  My Mom called me at 8:26am, just before my alarm went off for church on Sunday morning.  I could tell in her voice that something wasn’t right.  As she explained that TT was being “worked on” at the hospital, tears began to well up in my eyes, I jumped out of bed, threw a sweatshirt and some yoga pants on, and got ready to go.

icecreamThere wasn’t a minute to waste.  I needed to be with him that very second.  Jarid followed suit, never once questioning whether we should go or not.  He was completely on board and we left within the next two minutes, arriving at TTs room just 16 minutes later.  When we reached his room, we saw four nurses surrounding his bed, all seemingly doing some sort of test on him.

laughEvery time I began to feel hopeful about the situation, trusting that the doctors would be able to help him, something else turned the tides.  As Jarid and I waited in his room with him until Nana and Aunt Candy, and then eventually my Mom and Dad arrived, I held his hand and can still remember exactly what it felt like…soft, warm, and tender.  I don’t ever want to forget that.  While we were there, still on the 7th floor, the nurses informed us that the tests showed no bleeding in his brain, which was a good indicator that he probably didn’t have a stroke, however, they didn’t want to rule anything out for sure.

hahaThe nurses continuously asked him to “smile” to see if there was any drooping of either corner of his mouth, to which he replied, “I’m going to have to start charging for these smiles pretty soon!” 🙂  He was having pain in his right wrist, so much so, that it hurt to the touch.  Now, if you ask me, they should’ve been running blood tests to find out if there was any type of infection, since he had a fever that accompanied the pain, but they didn’t test for that until he was moved to the 11th floor a short time later.

baptismI told myself after everything had happened that I couldn’t be angry at the nurses/doctors for not catching it sooner, but I couldn’t help feeling like he may still be with us if they had.  In my mind, his heart tuckered out because his body had to fight so hard to get the infection under control, before they caught it and administered the proper medications.  In the end, the only thing that I could come up with to reason the lack of thoroughness on the part of Harrisburg Hospital, was the fact that nothing they could’ve or would’ve done had the ability to get in the way of God’s plan.  God was calling TT home, and there was nothing we could do about it.

laughingI remember the Dr. approaching Nana, asking about TT’s DNR (do not resuscitate) bracelet.  He asked her, and she told the Dr. to ask T.  I remember hearing the words of confirmation, that indeed, TT told him…he did not want to be resuscitated if it came to that.  Those words felt like a punch in the stomach, taking away my breath for what felt like minutes…  It didn’t take much to make me sob that day.  I think I knew, deep down, that things were really not looking up.  While on the 11th floor, time seemed irrelevant.

lawnmowerI don’t even remember exactly what series of events led up to the saddest moment of my life, but I do know that our entire family was there, at the hospital, going through it together.  TT wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.  In fact, the waiting room of the ICU was entirely full of just our family, each waiting for their turn to see TT.  Before too long, they asked us to keep the visitor count down to 2 people in the room with him.  He needed rest…lots of it.  My Dad ran out to pick up sandwiches for lunch at one of the downtown deli’s, but no one was really all that hungry.

semiI was frustrated that we hadn’t been getting updated very often on his condition, what they were doing to help him, or anything really.  I felt like I needed to explain to the nurse how special he was to us, and that she couldn’t allow anything to happen to him.  At one point, during the waiting period, Mom, Dad, Jarid and I went down to find the chapel.  All of us hit our knees.  My struggle came in knowing that I had to pray for God’s will to be done, rather than for him to just simply heal TT.  I know that His plans will prevail anyway, in any circumstance, and I know that the Bible tells us that we should pray not for God to change the circumstances, but for God to change US (our feelings, our hearts, our attitudes)… so that’s what I did…difficult as it was.

cheese2Another vivid memory I have of that day, was when one of the pastors were in the waiting room with us.  He spoke words of encouragement and comfort to us.  Reminding us that TT was in the hands of the Lord.  He chose a song for us to sing, altogether in the waiting room.  We joined hands, prayed, and after prayer, sang “How Great Thou Art”… Tt’s Dad, PaPa’s, (who had already passed several years ago) favorite song.  I believe that God gave us several signs that His will was for TT to come home.  The hard part was letting go for us.  Letting go of all the things that TT was to us all… a brother, a husband, a friend, an uncle, a mentor… No time with him would’ve ever been enough.  It was in those final moments that all of us were called into his ICU room on the 11th floor that I realized, his earthly heart was probably so weak because he had given so much of it, generously, to all of us.  The blessings in his life were nothing to him, unless they were shared with the people he loved…that’s where his true joy came from.

beachFor the first few days after we lost him, I woke up in the morning and had to remind myself that it was real… that I couldn’t call his cell phone and chat with him at the end of the day… that I wouldn’t be able to ask him to come down and meet Jarid & I for dinner after work during the week anymore… that I wouldn’t be able to give him the Father’s Day gift I’d planned out for this year…I think I probably freaked Jarid out some of the time, before he realized what was happening… I would just lay in bed and sob.  I know that TT’s legacy will live on through each and every one of the people his life has touched.  At his memorial, his heart for people was made even more obvious by the stories told and memories shared.  I keep thinking that things will get better with time… that I’ll soon stop breaking down and crying at every little thing that reminds me of him… I think, in a way, I don’t want to stop,  because it means he is fresh in my memory.  Someone I’ll never forget.  Some I never want to forget.  I find myself, everyday, looking for people to help, the way he did and I’m so thankful for all of the memories I was able to make with him.  They’ll last me a lifetime.  Until we meet again in Heaven, TT — I love and miss you very much! GO PHILLIES!

Gluten-Free Spinach & Pea Pesto Pasta Salad

Every summer I seem to have a favorite food discovery.  One that really hits the spot in the midst of the heat, humidity, and sunshiny weather.

This year, I’m declaring that food, Gluten-Free Spinach & Pea Pesto Pasta Salad
(try saying that five times fast!)

ImageI made it once, so far, for Bowman’s birthday party, but I can guarantee I’ll make it at least twice more before the summer concludes.  It’s creamy, it’s got a bit of a bite to it, and it’s delicious warm OR cold!

Ingredients:

  • 2 large handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1 lb. dry brown rice pasta
  • 1/4 C. grapeseed oil (olive/canola oil works, too)
  • 1/4 C. parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 C. raw almonds
  • 1/2 C. green peas
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • pinch of paprika
  • sea salt & pepper to taste (about 1 tbsp. salt & 1 tsp. pepper)

ImageDirections:

1- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and allow to cool.

2- Blend together parmesan cheese & almonds in a food processor…

ImageImage…until it resembles a coffee grounds consistency.

3- Add spinach, chili powder, paprika, garlic, salt, & pepper to the food processor and pulse until grind (you may want to grab a spatula to pause and scrape down the sides as you go — I also had to add the spinach little by little since I was using my mini processor and it wouldn’t all fit!)

4- Add olive/canola/grapeseed oil (continuing to scrape the sides down so that the entire mixture is blended together)

5- Add peas & process until combined.

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6- Add the pesto to a large bowl with noodles and toss to coat.

ImageI would recommend allowing it to “marinate” overnight, so that the noodles really soak up the pesto, but it’s delicious as is, too.  Add some grilled chicken and sliced cherry tomatoes to round out the dish!

Enjoy!

Flashback Friday.

Returning to old memories isn’t always pleasurable for me.  Before I came to understand what being “healthy” really was, I had a very skewed perception of body image, exercise, and all around wellness.

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I was an over-exerciser and an under-eater.  The combination of those two things can be very dangerous.  Don’t get me wrong, I could eat an entire bag of steamed (unseasoned) vegetables, but only after burning 1,000 calories in a high intensity cardio workout.

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High school wasn’t kind to me.  I left that place with a serious complex about the way I looked.  There were days I remember wishing I didn’t live to see the next. I felt like a disappointment and a failure on a daily basis.  family
In many cases, mine included, when you have a self-image issue, it’s hard for you to see what reality is.  It’s a sickness.  I’m not saying I had an eating disorder, because neither anorexia nor bulimia fits the  bill for what I went through.  As I mentioned, I ate a lot, but it was mainly zero calorie foods (vegetables), NO snacks, and NO fats.  I ate three square meals a day, and absolutely NO more.  Breakfast was exactly 1 C. of Fiber One cereal = 100 calories.  Lunch, was a turkey sandwich on “light wheat bread” (50 calories/slice and no more with one serving of deli turkey only), 1 slice of fat free cheese, and a bunch of celery.  Dinner was usually 1 bag of Steamfresh vegetables (carrots, snap peas, and broccoli were the favorites).  While good intentions of being more aware of what I was putting into my body can be beneficial, I was taking it too far to the extreme, eating less than 800 calories per day. I finally felt empowered, in control, and able to change the shape my body was in.

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Take note how bony my arms are, how I have NO boobs, and how sad my face looks

It was taken to the complete extreme, and although I was feeling super confident as a “skinny girl”, I was tied down, unhappy, and grumpy most of the time.  As my 5’7 frame dwindled down to a measly 104lbs.  (dangerously low, for an always athletic girl, high in muscle mass), there were several times I can remember waking up to numb arms and legs, which was very scary.  My body didn’t even have enough energy to circulate blood properly.

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Protruding collar bones

When I looked in the mirror, I could tell I was thin, but I wasn’t seeing the skin and bone that everyone else was…literally, a walking skeleton.  Slowly, my limbs became less functioning and my hair became incredibly thin and brittle… I’ll never forget when my Mom asked why I was walking so weird…it was because one of my legs/feet could hardly move along.  I was so stubborn that I would’ve paid any price to stay that thin.

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Compliments that used to be given to me, like “you look great! how much weight did you lose?!” turned into concerns from almost everyone to my poor parents who had no idea what to say.  They tried to tell me and get me help, but I refused.  I didn’t need help!?  It truly is something that must change internally before anyone can help you anyway.

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The crazy thing was, I still tried to play sports.  What killed me was one day that I decided to accompany my sisters and Dad to a basketball open gym at my Alma Mater one night… I was completely embarrassed.  Sure, I could out run everyone, but my body was so weak I could barely catch the ball or make a layup.

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In another instance, my heart was broken by my worrisome Dad, who called me downstairs one day after work.  He became desperate to help, doing all kinds of research to try to convince me to change my self-depriving ways.  The one thing he said that will always stick with me, is that “he never wants to have to bury a child, and at the rate I was going, that may become reality”.  I hated myself for putting them through that.

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It was little bits and pieces that finally came together, and with Jesus’ strength & the support of family and friends, I pulled myself from that pit of hopelessness into a happier, healthier me.  It took a lot of time, self-reflection, forgiveness, and admittance, but I got there.  I think that’s another reason why I’m so thankful to be where I am today.  I have the joy of Jesus down in my heart.  It’s been such a long road, and I’ve discussed my thyroid condition, but this is the first I’ve ever discussed my eating issues.

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I can proudly say, I’m no longer a slave to food.  I apologize for the heavy post on this lovely Friday, but I can promise you, this is much more of a celebratory post than anything.  With God on your side, anything is possible.  Through prayer, people that God put into my life, and HIS strength, I’m happier and healthier now than I’ve ever been.  He saved me… not only from an eternity of Hell, but from a life on Earth that was sad, unhealthy, and unfulfilled of His plans for me.  Praise GOD — I’m free. ❤

Curaçao – “koor-uh-sou” (Part II)

Each day for the entire week that we were in Curaçao, we found new things to explore.

 

We felt like total tourists, but apparently it wasn’t all that obvious, because a lot of the locals first tried speaking to us in Dutch. 

We were pleasantly surprised to find that American currency was almost 2x more valuable than the Florin that were used in Curaçao. 

Regardless, things were always a little more expensive there than they would’ve been back in the States.   One day we bought breakfast at Subway and it ended up costing about $9 per person?!

We saved money by eating breakfast in our hotel room most of the time (I brought peanut flour and oats & we bought bananas).  Then for lunch, we either used our daily $10 voucher at the hotel restaurant, or ate things that we bought at the “grocery store” there.  I’m pretty sure I got a grilled chicken salad almost every single day.  Dinner, is where we splurged.

I tried genuine curry for the first time and I’ve got to say, I’m a huge fan.

Another night we opt for seafood at a delicious waterfront restaurant called Scampi’s.

Jarid had some spinach mashed potatoes that he said he’d never forget,

while I ordered a grilled shrimp entree that came with a monstrous & decorative plate of fresh greens and other vegetables.

Although most of the shops were closed, like I said, by the time we were finished with dinner, the views and city life were enough to occupy us until it was time to head back to our room. 

Actually, I’m lying.  Each night we snagged some ICE cream before heading back to our hotel.

There was a little ice cream place called Don’s Ice Cream that we discovered in Rif Fort that served Edy’s brand.  I fell in love with the sugar free almond amaretto ❤

As I mentioned before, we had a voucher for one day to rent a car while we were there.  On a whim, we decided we’d like to drive the entire length of the country (which only took us about 45 minutes) to a place called Boka Park.

The trip was a little bit stressful — we had NO GPS & we had to turn off our cell phones’ data because we were “roaming” to avoid outrageous charges”.  We simply left our hotel with a map of the island, a little bit of faith, and a lot of prayer that we could make it 🙂 

It didn’t help that all of the signs were in Dutch, either.  Thankfully, Jarid & I make a pretty great team — he was about 12093895 times more nervous about it than I was. 

My sense of direction is pretty good, and his… well he’s not so confident.  We did make a few wrong turns along the way, but quickly realized it, and took appropriate action. 

The trip was totally worth the hassle of the traveling.  Shete Boka National Park is “10 kilometers of the rocky wave-exposed north coast of the island and with some 10 pocket beaches where 3 species of sea turtles are known to lay eggs“.

The park begins at stunning Boka Tabla, where huge waves thunder into an underground cavern.

Steps cut into the rocks lead you directly into the mouth of the cavern; you can sit on the very edge and watch the surf roll in.

We actually peeked inside the caves at the end, just before we left.  The majority of the time we were hiking the coast, exploring each of the little inlets: Boka Wandomi, Boka Kortalein, Boka Plate, Boka Mansalina, Boka Djegu and Dos Boka.  These inlets are protected turtle breeding areas and lie inside the park.

 

Overall, I was just so thankful to have had the opportunity to get away with my husband.  After all of the wedding chaos, exciting and as wonderful as it was, I was ready for some down time!  Time away from work, just enjoying my husband.  When it came time to travel back to the States, we were actually excited to get home! 

Not because we didn’t have a blast, but because we knew that it meant starting our lives together in a new home.  Remember back when we were house hunting?!  It feels so long ago, now, but the process of finding “the one” can sometimes be frustrating and grueling!  Thankfully, we had a wonderful agent helping us out from Howard Hannah, who helped us find the perfect starter home for us!  All about that in the next post 😉  Stay tuned!