Changed Forever

I am back from India and don't even know where to start describing my experience. I loved it. My heart completely broke for the children and people of India - what beautiful people. If I could go back tomorrow, I would. If I could have stayed, I would. Varanasi was not an easy place to be, but the joy in sharing a smile or giving a child the first hug he has probably ever received is indescribable and worth everything to me.

There are so many stories that I would love to share. Sweet Eric has been the best listener in the world the last 3 days...I think he is beginning to wonder whether anything will ever be on my mind again. You know what? I hope not. I know I have to fit back into routine to get work done and I certainly don't want to forsake precious relationships I have here in Greensboro, but my prayer is that India remains fresh in my mind as long as it takes for me to go back.

This is a typical "house" that some of the kids we worked with come from. The boys I am with in the picture above are orphans, don't have a home; they live at the railroad stations.

Traffic was WILD - a riot!! So glad I didn't have to do any of the driving! It was hilarious.... :)



I leave tomorrow morning - ahh! Exciting. Thank you ALL for your prayers, support, and encouragement as I embark on this adventure for the next two weeks! I am just so humbled by the opportunity and am pinching myself that I will be there in 36 hours (24 of those hours will be travel...one of our flight legs is 15 hrs long - sheesh!)

We have a team blog that one of our team members will be updating as often as internet, time, electricity, etc allows. :) You can follow me making sure I am surviving the heat, the bugs, the food, the bathrooms, oh the butterflies I get thinking about what lies ahead! :) What I am most looking forward to is loving on those sweet children with lives that have been so tough I can't even imagine. http://railkids09.blogspot.com/

Also, there should be a prayer calendar on our blog which is based on our itinerary...thank you so much for your prayers!!!


Owen Joshua Has Arrived!!

I have a brand new NEPHEW!!!! :) He came into the world 7 weeks early - all ready to catch up to his big sisters! Meagan went into labor Sat. night, but being the tough cookie that she is, waited until Sun. morning to call the hospital...they told her to come in immediately!! So, Uncle Eric, Aunt Bets and Uncle Chris hung out with Molly & Annie all day while the Dr's tried to stop labor. They thought they had it under control, but "Daddy Jr." (what Josh/Meg and girls have nicknamed him) wasn't going to be stopped! By Mon. morning, it was clear that a C-section was needed, so out he came! 4 lbs 12 oz - he is TINY and beautiful. He will be in the NICU for a few weeks until he gains a little weight, can hold his own temp., and is eating and gaining on his own (currently on IV). Already he has strong enough lungs to be taken off his ventilator, so that is wonderful!
I am so humbled by the MIRACLE that a new baby is; it is so neat to be here to witness that! I will try to get some pics and post them soon!!

**UPDATE: His name is Owen Joshua Adams - sweet, huh? Owen's meaning is "young warrior" - I just love its significance with him being a preemie!


Salem Lake 10K!

I am proud to have set a PR (Personal Record) yesterday, Sept. 26, 2009 on the Salem Lake 10K Race! My goal time was 59:59, just wanted to do it under an hour so bad...well I did it - 59:37! So my pace averaged 9:36 per mile. Eric sweetly stood in the "cold" (60 degrees) and rain (yes, it rained the whole hour, but thankfully it was just 'spitting' on us), cheering me to the end! The trail is a gorgeous loop around Salem Lake (obvious based on the name, huh?) - the Lake is 7 miles around, so it's the perfect 10K (6.2 mi) setting.

My knee is a bit sore today, but I am happy to say it did not bother me at ALL during the race! Praise the Lord for answered prayer!

The rainy, drizzly day was the perfect afternoon to recover by snuggling on the couch with a few movies! I'd say it was the perfect Saturday! :)

*As you can see on the Race's logo - there were 30 K runners out there with us too...let me tell you, they were amazing and INTENSE to say the least! It inspired me to run faster!



So, now that it is official that my blog has fallen off the face of the planet...its about time to turn that around! :)

I have finally uploaded all my pictures onto Shutterfly (b/c there was just no way I could get them all onto here, one by one!) Plus, since there are over 500 pictures, you can browse at your leisure...there is a quiz at the end to make sure you got them all...JUST kidding!

I am sooo thankful for how wonderful our trip was and am happy to have the memories on film! :)

I am working on a photobook (as I am so not a scrapbooker!) on shutterfly as well and will link it to our site when it is finished! :)


Chris' Graduation!

So...this is embarrassingly long in coming...but I want to honor and congratulate my "little" brother, Chris, for graduating from Wake Forest this past May!! Chris, I was so privileged to live near you three of the four years and I'm so happy I have at least one more year with you living in Winston-Salem! I love you and am SO PROUD of you for your accomplishments at Wake! Enjoy basking in the glory of being done with your undergrad!! WOOHOO!


Reality Hits

Well, I slept in my own bed last night and though there was little sleep to be had (darn jet lag), it was very comfortable. As I sit with Marzi on the table and sort through our pictures - I am amazed to really be back in Greensboro. The feelings are definitely mixed, and a big chunk of my heart will always be in Europe, but it is nice to be done traveling for a bit. It felt like a new bed every night and after a month of wearing the same 3 t-shirts and 2 pairs of shorts, I am ready for a more complete wardrobe! What a trip. What a GREAT trip....loved almost every minute of it. It is almost overwhelming to try to post all my pictures, but I am determined, since each place we went means so much to me.

I'll pick one from each place right now, then maybe put together an online album to make it easier...
NY (awesome layover) w/ Tiffany at Serendipity


Adelboden, Switzerland



More to come.... for now, I'm off to find myself some cafe au lait, cafe latte, milchkaffee, COFFEE! :)



Here are just a few of our pictures so far...we could only upload the ones from Eric's phone...so there are more coming when we get home. We had been having a FABULOUS time and are now enjoying the beauty of the Swiss Alps in Adelboden. Ahhh...coffee, chocolate, fresh air - its wonderful.
These pictures are of our walks/hikes to the gazebo, Hochblauen, Sausenburg, and the surrounding areas.
We're having a blast!


Seattle Trip part 2

How about some pictures of the little darling I went to visit? He's so cute... :)

One word sums up what I think of my nephew: A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E.

Seattle Trip part I...a little late

Katie and Luca just left after a WONDERFUL visit in Greensboro - we were all so happy they could come!! Luca has grown already so much, after just a month since I left Seattle. I realized I never documented that trip properly. Only a month late, right?

These pictures are from my mornings with Luca...I was on east coast jet lag - so I would wake up to feed Luca for his early morning feeding (usually in the 4:30 - 7 am range) and often I wouldn't be able to fall back asleep. SO... since Luca likes walks and the weather was so incredible the whole time I was there, we would go to Alki Beach to take walks. The beauty was breath-taking...it was an awesome time to pray, reflect, people watch, and get a little fresh air. Sunrise has always been my favorite time of day and getting to share those mornings with Luca, made me cherish them as such sweet time just the two of us.

What is a Seattle morning without a cup of Starbucks, right? Luca and I each had our drink of choice. ;)


New Job!

I am excited to have begun my new job at Westover (our church)! What a blessing to have received a job opportunity to work at such a wonderful and meaningful place in my life! I spent the last two weeks training the new person at my old job; its nice to leave on such good terms with all of them.

I will have to write lots about all the ministries that I'll be involved in...but for now, the headache of "first-day overload" is making my temples throb...so its early to bed tonight! 8:41 pm or not, its time to turn in soon! ;)


My growing garden!

I worked in my garden this weekend, pulling up all the unwelcome weeds and grass attempting to take over the bed. It was pretty hot out, but I never knew I would enjoy digging in the earth and a sweating brow so much! Eric was doing yard work: mowing the grass, using the weed wacker, and laying new mulch. It was fun to be out there together.

I am so encouraged by how much my veggies plants are growing!! I am so excited about veggies fresh out of my garden soon and have already enjoyed having fresh herbs on hand. So far, gardening for me has been so worthwhile - it is relaxing to be out there, a definite stress-reliever. I look forward to honing my gardening skills in the years to come - already a life commitment after a month off the ground? Premature euphoria of my success? Perhaps - only time will tell! ;) I have already started my planning for what will go in for the fall harvest...but I'm trying not to get ahead of myself. For now, I will wait in anticipation for those fragrant green tomatoes to turn a rosy hue. I forgot how amazing tomato plants smell! On that note, let me share a little something I learned this week about commercial tomatoes that you buy in the regular grocery store. Those tomatoes have to be picked while they are still green, since they have so long to travel from the vine to your shopping cart. Then, to get them to turn prematurely red, argon gas is used, which, coincidentally is also used to slaughter poultry...huh?? Someone want to explain that one? Anyway, now you know why tomatoes from the farmer's market (aka fresh) taste completely different than tomatoes from the store (aka unripe, unnaturally processed!) Still no denying it, tomatoes are delish no matter what, but now you've heard my two cents on where you should buy them... ;)

Woah...can someone say long winded? *tap, tap* this thing on? Are you still with me?


Dill - this one has grown out of control!

My mint...isn't it gorgeous?

Fresh thyme

My green/red peppers!!! These are the biggest triumph so far! They are just babies right now, but I flipped when I first saw them!

My little cherry tomatoes...I have clusters of these all over the place!

Look at this adorable sweet banana pepper!! Eric is really excited about these!

My cucumbers...aren't these unique, beautiful leaves?

My watermelon plant...yet to bear the first bloom. I have faith it's coming though! ;)

And finally...the big mamas. The early girl tomatoes that are just waiting on their crimson kiss before their big debut!

Well that's all you'd want to know and then some! I will keep the updates coming, hopefully a recipe will be coming one day using them as ingredients! ;)


Sweet baby Oliver

My time in Seattle with Luca came and went all too fast and I have literally hundreds of pictures I've been waiting to display, to convey how proud I am to be his Aunt. He is just cute as a button - my favorite nickname that I couldn't hold back calling him is Luca Bear. He is just as soft, cuddly, and fuzzy (that soft head of hair!) as a little bear cub. I can't wait to show you how much fun we had together.

But the joy of being home again, with my husband and kitties, was dampened Saturday night. The unthinkable happened. My sweet, baby Oliver died in Eric's arms. It was a blur...a dream...a nightmare. Eric and I were relaxing on the couch; watching some Friends. Oliver was cuddled up to my legs, laying on the blanket on my lap. He jumped straight up 2 ft into the air, looking as if something had spooked him (cat's have freaky senses and sometimes get scared by something we can't even see or hear). As I looked to make sure he was ok (he had jumped off the couch), I saw his poor little body was continuing to freak out! I leapt to my feet and yelled to Eric that something was seriously wrong...both our stomachs jumped into our throats...No, Oliver, this couldn't be happening! I ran faster than the wind to our neighbor's house, who is a vet. Though it was the least of my concerns in that moment, I later apologized for having interrupted his dinner with his family. He told me where we could take him to an emergency vet (which thankfully was less than 3 min. from our house). As I sprinted back in our house, we gathered Oliver up in the carrier and rushed to the vet...but Eric already knew what was true: Oliver was already gone, having died in his arms within 2 min. of his body's initial reaction. He was taken and rushed to their examination room, and we were brought into a private waiting room. Moments later, the vet came to tell us that Oliver had passed on. The world was spinning - I couldn't breathe. I couldn't see straight with more tears streaming down my face than I knew my tear glands were possible of making. I wanted her to check again, and to keep checking until they found his pulse. He couldn't be gone - he was my baby and I couldn't bear leaving without him purring in my arms, having been assured that he would be ok. But instead, I was having to sit in this waiting room, having to say my goodbyes to the most affectionate, sweet spirited I've ever known. I feel like it is amazing how much we, as humans, can learn from our dear pets. Oliver did not know the emotion 'mad' or 'mean'. He had no concept what a grudge was or how to hold one. He only knew love and affection, comfort, and joy. Those traits of his character were the contributions he made to my life. His soft, tender purring never failed to calm my anxious or sad heart on the hard days. He would just come and sit with me, purring to soothe my concerns. On the happy days, he was a hoot - trying to show Marzell who was boss (hilarious) and barking at the birds outside. He loved to play, chasing toys up and down the hallway in his distinctively erratic and uncoordinated way. He loved to burrow under blankets or anything separating you from him, in order to get himself as close to you as he could manage. We miss the pitter-patter of little paws following us around the house; Oliver defined the essence of companionship flawlessly.

Eric and I have been considering so many reflections of life out of our unexpected loss of Oliver. We cling to each other with a renewed value on just how fragile life is. It is not something to take for granted or to expect control over, no matter how healthy or young we think we are. We are but a breath; James 4:14 says, "Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away."

The Lord gave us the blessing of a lifetime having Oliver and we will always treasure the precious memories and photos we have of him. I know time will heal and believe me, I am counting on it, because right now my heart feels broken in pieces.

My sweet baby, Oliver, you will be missed.


Little Luca Ellis

Well you won't be hearing from me much during the next 10 days, because I am completely wrapped up in spending time with my baby nephew, Luca!! He is an angel baby - just cooing and sleeping away (unless he is hungry or getting his diaper changed!) ;) I am so thankful to be out here in Seattle for this time. I am going to try to take lots of pictures, but it is hard to multi-task when I am just so focused on rocking him and kissing his soft, fuzzy hair. ;) Those chubby little cheeks are calling my name...breakfast time for Luca!


PW's Asian Noodle Salad

This is a delicious, light, flavorful salad. Having said that, it is substantially filling, b/c there is pasta in it...but it is served cool & dressed, like a salad. Eric loves the dressing that I make for it - he could practically drink it straight up (not really though...thankfully it's too rich for that!).

The salad is a delightful combination of texture and flavor; I LOVE making extra (and trust me, this recipe makes plenty) so I can eat it all week long for lunch!! It's very light, and though the prep (washing, chopping veggies) takes a little bit of time, it is the perfect spring/summer meal.
I found this awesome recipe on Pioneer Woman's cooking blog. Make sure you set aside some time to go browsing through her site, it is recipes upon recipes of delicious any and everything you could ask for. Sweets, salty, dinners, lunches, breakfasts, appetizers - she does it all. This happens to be her favorite salad and it is certainly high on my list too! I can't wait to start throwing in fresh veggies right from my garden! :)

Without further ado, here is the recipe:
1/2 - 1 package linguine noodles, cooked (but only to al dente), rinsed, and cooled
1/2 head sliced Napa cabbage
1/2 head sliced purple cabbage (I usually choose either/or for the cabbage...too expensive to buy both to only use 1/2...depends on my mood as to which I prefer, but its usually the purple one!)
1/2 bag baby spinach
2 red, yellow, or orange (or green!) bell peppers, sliced thin
1 small bag bean sprouts (also called “mung bean sprouts”)
1-2 sliced scallions
3-4 shredded carrots
1 small bag snap peas
1 basket cherry tomatoes
1 peeled, sliced cucumber
A few handfuls of cashews, lightly toasted in skillet

Juice of 1 lime
8 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
8 tablespoons Bragg's Aminos (or soy sauce)
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely or "pressed"
1 jalapeƱos, chopped finely (leave out if you don't like your food to have a little kick!)

Mix together salad ingredients. Whisk together dressing ingredients in a separate bowl. If serving a large crowd, pour dressing over salad & mix with tongs to serve. If only serving a few people, only dress what you will consume immediately, as the salad should be stored separate from the dressing in the fridge.

Also, I want to point out that the ingredient list may look HUGE, overwhelming even. But make this salad your own! If you don't like peppers, leave 'em out! If you only have celery, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, and snap peas on hand - use those instead of the listed ingredients above! You can add/subtract ingredients very easily...there is no formula for success on this - just guidelines. Don't have a lime? Use a lemon instead. Don't have sesame oil? Just add a little extra olive oil. If you love baby spinach, double it. No fresh ginger? Use the powdered ginger you have in your cupboard. I think you get the point I am trying to make: adjust as your own palate and pantry leads you!! And most importantly, ENJOY! :)

*Note to self: Take the 30 seconds required for an actually decent picture, rather than being so distracted by the gnawing hunger in your tummy that you settle for a blurry picture to get food in your mouth faster! Sheesh.... but, seriously, this recipe is so good, that you would have settled for a blurry picture too.


Power Green Smoothies

So, before you see the pictures of this "recipe", close your eyes, imagine yourself sitting in a hammock on a beautiful white beach, warm breeze on your neck, soft waves rolling in, birds in the distance. Tropical paradise...this is what this smoothie tastes like. The taste of mango beckons you to take a vacation, even if it's only for the 15 min. you are enjoying this smoothie.

Making smoothies from scratch is the only way to go. I have probably tasted a couple thousand smoothies in my day (thanks to my math man's obsession of this summer drink...even in the winter, when it is only 30 degrees out). Let me be the first to tell you that those juice shops use syrup, SYRUP people, in their smoothies, not to mention fruit juice mixes, not even real fresh fruit! Plus, though this may surprise some, those juice shops often use *gasp* ice-cream for creaminess. I know, the horror! Well, in my humble opinion, that's not a smoothie...nutritionally, its a fruit-flavored milkshake. No thank you!

Why settle for that, when a perfectly sweet, delicious smoothie can be created in your own kitchen. Lucky for you, my husband would not rest until we found the perfect method to smoothie making: 1 part frozen banana (for creaminess and sweetness), 1 part alternate fruit (strawberries, peaches, blueberries, raspberries, mango, kiwi, pear, etc), and 1 part unsweetened apple/orange juice. The important part to the frozen banana is that it creates no need for added ice, therefore the smoothie does not get watered down!! Its brilliant.

This week, I have been experimenting with some other versions that we had not tried before and I'm telling you, it is awesome. I have even passed up on my usual decaf coffee the last two days to have this instead. When I told Eric that yesterday, he took my temperature to make sure I was feeling alright - hah! :)

Anyway, the recipe below is what I did both days and loved. I will let you know what I think after trying other greens/fruit in the days to come. Right now, I am pretty content with the combo I found!

Power Green Smoothie:

-1 frozen banana
-1/2 -1 mango
- 2 cups raw spinach
- 1 tsp. agave nectar (optional)
-cold water (start with 1/2 c. and add to desired consistency)

Throw in a blender and blend until smooth! If you aren't used to this type of smoothie, the agave nectar adds a little extra sweetness. It can easily be substituted with honey.

Sounds good, right? Wait, are you getting hung up on the spinach part? Trust me, its delicious, you won't even taste it, and this smoothie is a nutritional powerhouse! Also, it is important to combine a fruit that has Vitamin C in it with the spinach, so that the spinach's iron can be absorbed in your body. Mango does the trick for me here. This smoothie is a great way to infuse yourself with a lot of vitamins, living enzymes, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber--and being already liquid, it can be absorbed right into your bloodstream!

Oh - one last thing about them - they can be made in advance and keep well in the fridge. I am usually short on time in the mornings, so I made my smoothie the night before and just grabbed it as I headed out the door. Perfect!


My Garden! :)

So...I have the sweetest friend who kindly offered to help me plant a garden...Erin Ritter, I owe all of the success of any produce I harvest this year all to you!! THANK YOU again for helping me get going on such a fun new project!

A couple weekends ago, I dragged Eric to Lowe's to buy the wood for my raised garden bed (wait, who am I kidding...dragged him to Lowe's? that kid would go there every chance he could get). Anyway, it was such a fun Sunday afternoon activity together; the weather was gorgeous and in no time, we had a lovely garden box nailed together! We dumped the various kinds of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite (fun word to say - had never heard of the stuff until 2 weeks ago) into the box as I marvelled at my beautiful, rich soil just waiting, begging me to fill it with all types of veggies, promising to take good care of their roots. Then off to the Farmer's Market to buy my little plants; sure, I could have started them all from seed, but why? I need all the help I can get and those trusty farmers do all the hard work getting them going for me. The only vegetable I am growing from seed is my carrots, but apparently there is no way around that one.

Here is my earthy soil, getting all settled in and happy.
The next picture is so you can see in perspective where the garden is in relation to the house. The herb garden is going to be in line with the chimney - just right of the vegetable bed. That project is to be completed as soon as it stops storming and raining!

So, after the garden was all ready to go, I met Erin, Susan, and Allison at the Farmer's Market - each with our own "plant lists" in hand. Ya'll, it was hilarious - while Allison and I were wandering around relying solely on the information Erin and Susan could lend us, those two looked like little kids in a candy store. No joke. They are garden gurus and know their plants like the back of their hands! I am looking around thinking it all looks the same: GREEN. Meanwhile, Erin is saying to Susan, "Oh, wow, did you see the dowzeguds?" (I'm filling in the blank for the words I didn't recognize) And Susan would say, "Yeah, amazing, huh? Check out those weiijimas. I just can't resist getting a few of those." Back and forth, their admiration was so inspiring and contagious that I found myself following them around, oohing and ahhing when deemed appropriate, even though I had no clue what I was looking at. The flowers seemed lovely and that was good enough for me and my uneducated plant eye. :) I was pretty proud of myself when I did spot a few familiar flowers; I would see a gerber daisy or geraniums and think to myself, "ah! I know this one!" What a fun Saturday morning together with friends!!
Armed with everything I needed, we loaded up and Erin drove all the way over to help me plant them. I am SO thankful she did; I would not have gotten those tomatoes plants off to the right start without her! My poor little cherry tomato plant was pretty sad by the time we got home, but after 3 days in the soil with water, it perked right back up! Amazing.

Here, Erin is planting my "early girl" tomato plant. She showed me how to do the first one and let me attempt the others. She was a very good teacher, which is evidenced by the fact that a week later, all the plants I put in are still in the soil and are already growing! ;)

Here are a few shots of my finished garden - hooray!

In the picture below: From top left -> right

row 1: tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, watermelon
row 2: jalapeno peppers, banana peppers, 2 sweet potato plants (those will go in after May 15th...the 'slips' weren't ready yet
row 3: basil, 2 yellow pepper plants, sweet potatoes
row 4: carrots (from seed as you can see), 2 red pepper plants, and one more sweet potato plant.
I did lots of sweet potatoes because a) Eric and I both love 'em b) they will do well while we are out of town since they are not harvested until August. A perfect low-maintenance veggie.

The happy gardeners! What a sense of accomplishment!

Just the next morning, I already had a chance to use some basil from my garden in a breakfast frittata! It was so fun to just go outside and bring in what I needed for what I was cooking. I am looking forward to many more opportunities to enjoy fresh, organic produce grown by in my own backyard! What a rewarding and worthwhile adventure I have embarked on! ;)