Thursday, September 26

Who You Are

These words are not my own. They are a transcript of the truth; the truth that is sometimes impossible to believe. This video was posted on Facebook tonight and I opened it. These words are not my own. These words are His words, spoken into broken hearts, tired minds, strained and desperate souls. These are His words.

You are beautiful. You are smart. You are funny. You are kind. You are unique. You are worthy of love and affection. You are never too much, and you are always enough. You are precious. You are a diamond, a rose, a pearl, the most stunning of all God's creation. You are worth more than you could ever imagine. More than numbers on a scale or the hair products you use or the shoes that you wear. More than how many girls wish they were you or the number of guys who wish they had you. More than the price tags on your clothes or the percentage at the top of your math test or even the number of followers you have on Twitter. Your worth surpasses all earthly things because in the eyes of the Lord God you are loved, and you are worth dying for. 
Regardless of who you think you are, whether you model in a magazine or you model pottery with grandma, whether you're on the hot list or the not list, whether you're a head cheerleader or a high school drop out. Whether you're miss popular or you've never had anyone you can call a friend. Whether you love yourself and love your life or you can't stand to look in the mirror and you feel as if everything in your life is falling apart. Whether you're such a winner or you feel like the worlds biggest failure...regardless of who you think you are, the reality is YOU DESERVE someone who would give up their life for you, because you are powerful, strong, capable. Read about the women in the Bible: Esther, Ruth, Martha, Mary; these women changed the world FOREVER. And inside of you, each and every one of you is a woman with that same power, that same strength, and that same world changing capability. Your responsibility is to find that woman and to set that woman FREE. This is WHO YOU ARE. Any voices in your mind that try to tell you otherwise is from the enemy. So the next time you hear these voices, you say "No, not me Satan. I am a daughter of the living God: cherished, loved, adored, above all things, by the Creator of all things, for the glory of Him, who is greater than all things. I AM AWESOME.

God has such incredible ways to speak to us. Please check out the Anima Series on Youtube.
DISCLAIMER: This is a transcript of his video, not my own words but spoken into my heart.

Saturday, September 21

All Woman Cancer isn't Pink: Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

When you think of September, what comes to mind? Changing of the seasons, warm sweaters, jeans, chunky knit scarves, Starbucks PSL, steaming hot stew? While all those things might be true there is also one thing many people don't know about September: it's Ovarian Cancer Awareness month. 

Ovarian Cancer, represented by a teal ribbon, is a type of cancer that begins in the ovaries and is "a growth of abnormal malignant cells that begins in the ovaries- the women's reproductive glands" according to Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. One of the saddest aspects of Ovarian Cancer is that it often goes undetected, earning the nickname of the "silent killer". Why does this type of cancer have a terrifying rate of late detection or no detection? Women typically don't realize something is 'wrong' until it's spread, mostly because the symptoms are so common to women: bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and urinary symptoms. As a woman, these symptoms can be extremely common during certain times of the month, so it's so easy to let things slide by and go unnoticed.  

The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance believes that symptoms, although common, are still extremely relevant, but they aren't a definitive diagnostic tool. Since there is not currently a diagnostic tool for ovarian cancer, one of the most important things is to KNOW YOUR BODY. You are your best advocate; you, more than anybody else in the whole world, know when you're just feeling a bit "off", when these symptoms happen more than normal. 

Ovarian Cancer Awareness is something that is super close to my heart for many reasons, but one of those reasons is the incredible women I've met, survivors, warriors, battling soldiers who have or are still going through this awful disease. It's a beautiful thing to witness, the sisterhood that they have formed around such difficult circumstances. The women I have met, the families that have been affected, the stories I have heard are why I support Ovarian Cancer research and awareness.  

September is a month to come together and stand up against this silent killer. September is  a month to spread the word about Ovarian cancer. September is a month for women to understand their bodies, and more importantly listen to their bodies. September is 30 Days of Teal. 

For more information, please visit Ovarian Cancer National Alliance webpage for more information. Also please check out Teal Diva for support & information and The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition webpage.

"Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion" Psalm 103:2-4

Friday, September 20

Stop & Be Still

"The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all." Psalm 34:19 

How easy is it to get overwhelmed and stressed out in everyday life? Little things suddenly add up and before you know it- boom- your plate has exploded. Getting to work on time, working out, packing a lunch, balancing the checkbook, paying bills on time, trying to figure out dinner, walking the dog, laundry, ironing, filing the car with gas...I know I don't need to go on because everyone goes through the endless checklist in their head on a daily basis.
However, although it's so easy to get caught up in the day to day monotony, it's important to remember who is in control. When life feels like it is spiraling out of control, it is so difficult to maintain order, maintain a gracious heart and keep a positive spirit. It would take every once of my being to maintain a graceful spirit when my life is falling apart, and that is why I constantly need God's Holy Spirit to renew my heart and cleanse my spirit. Don't stress about getting it all done.

I was reminded recently how busy everybody is, but someone asked if we were too busy for the Lord. How many times do we delay quiet time because we need to finish something at night, or skip church because we want a day to sleep in? I've found myself many times skipping out on reading the Word at night because I was so exhausted from a long day at work or not go to church because Sunday is my only day to sleep in. It was highlighted to me recently that when we listen to God and give him what he wants: our heart and our attention, he blesses us beyond our dreams. When we tithe, when we spend time praying, when we spend time in the Word, when we sit and listen and when we just sit in silence God uses those moments to mold, shape and change our lives.

Stop. Be Still.

Thursday, September 19

One Year

One year ago today I set foot on English soil and my life changed forever. In a moment that I can recall so vividly I can almost feel the electricity pulse through my veins, my plane landed at Heathrow Airport in London and survival mode kicked in. After 48-hours of traveling full of delays and running frantically through airports, I had finally arrived at the place I had dreamed about my entire life; England- the land of Jane Austen, the Royal Family, high tea, beautiful hats, coat tails and gentlemanly behavior. Alright, so my idea of England might be stuck in an 19th century interpretation, heavily influenced by BBC productions of classic novels and Jane Austen period dramas, but still I had made it across the pond to a whole new country, an island of dreams, adventure and hope in my mind.
My arrival into England wasn’t exactly as expected. I was supposed to fly into Manchester. I ended up flying into Heathrow. I was supposed to be picked up by a bus. I had a real-life “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” experience that took me 6-hours. I was supposed to be with other foreign exchange students. I had God’s protection over me as by chance, I met another Keele bound traveler who kept me from getting straight back on the plane and heading home. However, in those pivotal first hours alone, abroad and exhausted I redefined myself, realized I was a much stronger woman than I ever thought, and that this wasn’t going to be the beginning and the end of my time abroad. 

Just in case traveling to England and to University wasn’t enough of a struggle, the first 24-hours weren’t much better. After three planes, two trains, one bus and a taxi I arrived to this small little English village where I would live in one of the blocks for the remainder of the year; completely alone with American-size luggage to haul up 3 flights of stairs with no lift. Managing to get to the third landing, I tried to get into my room and it was locked. Pulling out the key I was assigned I tried opening the door, and to my chagrin it wouldn’t open. Logically, what is a girl to do in this situation? Exhausted, warn out, emotionally fried, dirty and desperate I sank to the floor and cried for 10-minutes straight realizing what I had just gotten myself into. In my head I saw it play out like a movie, a joke really; dreams dashed away as quickly as they were realized. This couldn’t be happening; this wasn’t how it was supposed to happen. Then again, life doesn’t happen how you imagine it will sometimes and it’s in those moments that some of the most incredible moments in life happen.

Eventually I did get into my room (the door was horrendous the entire time there; it was rickety and old and barely locked). After three days alone in the flat, other people moved in and the place quickly became bustling with life, laughter and absolutely crazy nights filled with hours of lying on the landing watching movies, eating meals together and getting ready to go out compliments of our residential DJ. I did things I never would have had the courage to do in the States (why, I’m not sure). I tried new things. I experienced culture shock. I got myself into situations that looking back could’ve been a CSI episode. I made new lifelong friends. I tested the boundaries. I met someone, I was burned by someone. I learned what I truly believed. I let my walls down for the first time in years. I smiled and laughed like never before. I was me for the first time in a really long time.

It was one year ago today that I left home for the first time and tearfully said goodbye to my family at the airport. One year ago I wasn’t sure what I would experience while abroad but I knew I was ready to experience it all. One year ago I didn’t know how much of an impact one decision would make on my life. One year ago I wasn’t the same person I am today, and because of that I look back and smile at how far I’ve come and where I am headed.

They say that travel is rebellion in its purest form. We follow our heart, we free ourselves of labels, we lose control willingly, we trade a role for reality, we love the unfamiliar, we trust stranger, we own only what we can carry, we search for better questions, not answers, we truly graduate, and sometimes...sometimes we never come back.

One year Later 

Saturday, September 14

GF Adventures: Homemade Chewy Bars

The weekend is prep time for me: prepping for lunches, snacks and dinners throughout the week. By the time I get off work, head to Crossfit and bust my butt (almost literally), drive home and shower it's nearly 8 p.m. and who wants to be on the struggle bus trying to eat a healthy, gluten free meal? This means no calling to pick up a pizza on the way home, no cereal and toast night, or throwing pasta on the stove for a quick pasta meal. Gluten-free, organic living calls for a little planning ahead. One of the things I miss is having quick grab-on-the-go snacks like granola bars so when I saw one of my favorite people ever, Ree aka The Pioneer Woman, posted a yummy looking granola bar recipe I decided to tackle it today and convert it to GF! 

[Chocolate Chip] Granola Bars

  • 6 cups Rolled GF Oats (not Quick Oats)
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter, Melted, Plus More For Greasing
  • 1/4 cup Vegetable Or Canola Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Honey
  • 1/4 cup Apple Juice
  • 1/4 cup Molasses
  • 3 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1-1/2 cup GF Rice Krispies
  • 1/4 cup Roughly Chopped Almonds
  • Semi Sweet Chocolate Or Dark Chocolate (optional)

Preparation Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a bowl, toss the oats with the canola oil, melted butter and salt. Spread the mixture out on 2 baking sheets and toast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, shaking the pan twice and making sure they don't burn. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Reduce the heat to 325 degrees F.
In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar, honey, apple juice and molasses. Heat the mixture slowly, stirring until all combined. Stir in the vanilla

Toss together the toasted GF oats, GF rice cereal, pecans and almonds. Pour in the sugar mixture, stirring as you pour. Toss to combine; it will be sticky!

Press into 1 baking sheet (thoroughly greased with butter, or line pan with foil and grease foil) and bake until golden, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Cut pieces with a sharp knife and remove from the pan.
They turned out nice and crunchy and the chocolate melted nicely. Now it's time to let them cool, wrap them up and store for the week!

Friday, September 13

GF Adventures: Homemade Pesto

Summer is officially coming to an end and the garden is quickly disappearing so I decided to go out and pick a bunch of the fresh basil and make some homemade pesto to store up for winter. 
It takes a whole heck of a lot of basil to make just a small amount of pesto so cut up about 2 cups of basil leaves
 Wash & dry the basil and then place it in a food processor with salt and pepper. Add in a few cloves of garlic and a heaping handful of parmesan cheese. 
With the lid on, drizzle in several tablespoons of olive oil and voila - homemade pesto. Store in an air tight container and freeze until ready to use. Perfect for pasta, pizzas, and chicken!

Saturday, September 7

GF Steak & Ale Pie Night

After a super tough Crossfit Workout, one in which I thought I was going to vomit and die right there on the floor, I was craving something filling and with a little bit of nip in the air, something with a taste of fall. Time for some steak and ale pie. It's super filling, deliciously warm and tasty, and makes the entire house smell of fall for hours. So came the time to experiment on how to make this gluten-free friendly.

Gluten Free Pie Crust
*Based off of Bob's Red Mill Recipe

1 1/2 cups GF All Purpose Flour (I used Trader Joe's All Purpose)
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 cup of Butter (one stick)
4 Tbsp Cold Milk

Combine flour and salt, then cut in butter using a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle in milk, one tablespoon at a time, while blending until all ingredients are moist.

I rolled the dough mixture into a ball and pulled off small pieces and pressed them into the bottom of the pie dishes. 

Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until the bottoms are just enough done.

Now time for the actual pie mixture! Our families favorite is Pippa Middleton's "Celebrate" Steak, Guinness Cider and Kidney Pie. 

2 pounds beef chuck, trimmed of fat and cut into cubes
1 pound of ox or lamb kidneys, cleaned and cubed (optional)
Salt & Pepper
6 tablespoons all-purpose GF Flour
6 Tablespoons of sunflower oil (or veggie oil)
2 Tbsp butter
6 ounces small button mushrooms
1/2 onion, halved and sliced thinly 
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 large fresh Thyme sprigs
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 3/4 Cups Gluten Free Hard Apple Cider (YUM)
1 3/4 Cups Beef Stock
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Bay Leaves

Season the beef and kidneys (optional) well, then coat in the flour. Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven or saucepan and brown the meat in batches. Remove and set aside. Add another tablespoon of the oil and half the butter into the pan and brown the mushrooms, scraping up the residue in the pan from the meat, then remove and set aside with beef.

Add the last of the oil and butter to the pan and cook the onions over medium heat until soft, then add the garlic, celery, carrots, thyme and sugar and sweat for another 5 minutes.

Return the meat and mushrooms to the pan, pour in the Cider, stock and Worcestershire sauce and add the bay leaves. 

Partially cover with a lid and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom. Remove the lid and continue to simmer, uncovered, for another 30 minutes, until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened. Season well.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spoon the beef mixture into the individual pie dishes. brush the edges of the pie dish with a little beaten egg mixture and roll the left over pastry over the surface, trimming off any excess so it fits the dish nicely.

Brush the top of the pastry with the remaining egg wash and cut a small cross in the middle of the pastry to allow the steam to escape. Put the dish in the middle of the oven on a baking tray for 25-30 minutes, until the pastry is golden. Let stand for a few minutes before serving.

The GF substitutions worked out great :) 

Friday, September 6

GF Adventures

With the recent diagnosis of gluten intolerance, things have been slowly clicking and after years and years of, I'm finally starting to feel better. Who knew, after four years of random diagnosis, that GF might be a possible solution. One of the hardest things is that for 22-years I have enjoyed everything with gluten, and I'm not sure I'm ready to give up everything I used to love just because of the gluten; time to start experimenting. Tonight was a quiet night with Abby so I made a GF Fish & Chips for us (Okay, she got the scraps...)

Baked Gluten Free Fish & Chips

Olive oil cooking spray
1/2 cup GF Rice Krispies
Salt & Pepper
Lemon Pepper Seasoning
1 egg white 
Pinch of salt
1 tilapia filet (I used a frozen piece of tilapia, thawed)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees 

Set a wire rack on a baking sheet and coat with cooking spray. TIP: This gets the bottom crispy too!

In a shallow bowl, combine the egg white and a pinch of salt and whisk with a fork until frothy.

In a second shallow bowl, crush the Rice Krispies using your hand or the bottom of the measuring cup. Add seasonings.
Dip the fish in the egg whites, then roll in the cereal crumbs to coat. Place the five on the rack. Bake the fish on the bottom oven rack until crisp and just cooked through, about 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve with "chips".
12 minutes later...voila! Bon appetite. 

The "chips" were some gluten free sweet potato oven fries as I was too exhausted to make homemade sweet potato chips tonight :)