Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Homemade Salsa

What's my new favorite way to use up garden tomatoes? Homemade salsa! There are probably endless recipes online. Here's the salsa recipe I've been making dug up from a January 2012 post on this blog and slightly modified. It's quite quick and easy to make and is just about the tastiest way I can think of to eat my veggies.

Four large tomatillos
Two roma tomatoes or a couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes
A quarter of an onion
A chili (Serrano? Habanero? You decide the heat level! What do we use? One tiny, fiery Thai pepper.)
One bunch of cilantro
One garlic clove

1. Roast the tomatillos, tomatoes, onion, and chili on a baking sheet under the broiler or on the grill, flipping them as needed, until they turn brown and toasty all over. Burnt spots are good. If you want to be really healthy, you can toast up whole wheat tortillas in the oven or on the grill to serve as baked chips.
2. Pulse all the ingredients in a blender or food processor until your salsa reaches the desired texture. Add more salt if needed.
3. Serve with chips. (And horchata!)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Things I've Learned This Summer (So Far)

My husband knows how to wear out a pair of sandals. For the past five years Michael has worn a sturdy pair of brown sandals every day that it hasn't rained. I thought they had worn out a couple of years ago. He decided they had worn out a couple of months ago. In a moment where my mouth ran off ahead of my brain, I suggested he look for the same sandals on Amazon. He found and purchased the same exact sturdy brown sandals, so they will be a part of our marriage for another five years. I wish women's sandals wore that well.

My daughter knows how to wear out a pair of sandals, too.

I love reading memoirs. My two recent favorites?
  • Call the Midwife - In her 20's, Jennifer Worth joined a group of nuns working as midwives in the slums of post World War II London. In her memoir, she recounts stories about all the interesting characters she met along the way from nuns to prostitutes to mothers giving birth. It's rare for a book to make me laugh out loud, and I can probably count on one hand the number of books that have made me cry real tears. This book did both. (The book is also a raved about PBS series.)
  • Twelve Years a Slave - Just like everyone else, I first heard of this book when I heard of the movie. Since it was written in the 1800's, I figured the writing style would be too antiquated. I was wrong. Solomon Northup's memoir is simple, eloquent, and harrowing. His first-hand account of being kidnapped away from his wife, children, and comfortable life in the North into slavery in the deep South has changed my view of slavery in the U.S. His words need to be read and remembered. ($.99 on Kindle)

It takes a week for a little family to recover from travel and jet lag. Coming back from Thailand at the end of June, we did practically nothing but settle in and recover for an entire week. We were exhausted. One evening, we tried to stretch Grace to her 8:00 bedtime by taking her on a walk in her stroller. She fell asleep and could not be woken up.

One-year-olds look cute in gin boxes. When I ask her to smile for the camera, this is what I get.

We own too much. Michael and I have spent the past week tossing, recycling, and Goodwilling our stuff. We just did this last summer. Where does it all come from?! I always feel like we live simply and don't own too much. But, then we start "minimalizing" and reality hits: we own too much stuff. Worst thing we found: a $200 check in a wedding card. Since it's over five years old, I feel like I shouldn't cash it!

How to get good white balance, how to get tack sharp photos, how to use leading lines, ... all from my new favorite photography blog. If you visit the website, you'll be invited to download their free ebook. Do it! It has a few good tips and then lots of helpful links to get you started on the blog.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Survival Guide for the Newborn Days

Two months after finding out we were having another baby, I thought back on the joy, delirium, and exhaustion of the newborn days with our first baby. Based on these memories, I jotted down some thoughts on surviving (and even enjoying) the first weeks with our second child. 

With the due date for number two just two months away, I write my thoughts here in hopes that they come back to me more readily when I'm in the middle of the exhaustion of those first twelve weeks. It will also be interesting to look back to see if my expectations were on or way off target.

How can something so sweet and tiny run adults ragged?
First five days...
  • Sleep as much as possible.
  • Eat, nurse the baby, connect with Grace once a day, and take a few pictures.
  • Embrace the roller coaster of hormonal emotions.
  • Let Michael take all other details.
First two weeks...
  • Let Michael coordinate meals that are delivered by friends, get food for our family, and making sure we have enough diapers.
  • Jot down the birth story.
  • Connect once with Michael to talk, cry, and/or laugh about how we're doing.
  • Go outside even if it's just sitting on the backyard swing in the morning.
First month...
  • Don't clean.
  • Don't cook.
  • Go outside the house a few times per week even if it's just a walk around the block.
First three months...
  • Don't expect much sleep, go to sleep right after Grace, and embrace feeling like a total zombie.
  • Write a blog post around the two month mark about the new baby.
  • If you feel like cooking or cleaning, do it. If you don't, don't.
  • Pray and spend time in Scripture when it's helpful. Don't guilt trip over not doing it. Once per week is plenty.
  • Don't try to lose the pregnancy weight yet. Just eat healthy food when hungry. (Which will be all the time because you're breastfeeding!)
Am I missing anything? Is there anything you would add? Parents who have had two kids, is this realistic with a newborn and a toddler?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Thailand by the Numbers

In January 2012, Michael and I went to Thailand to visit family. We also did typical touristy stuff - the Grand Palace, the most famous temples, a boat cruise down the Chao Phraya River, and the beaches in south Thailand. This time around, we did nothing touristy and got to see a lot of the "real" Bangkok. Here is my best attempt to summarize two incredible weeks.

33 hours spent on planes.

hours spent on layovers.

+14 hours - The time change.

27 weeks pregnant.

Dozens of bananas and rambutan consumed. We also ate gobs of pineapple, guava, mangosteen, and green mango. But, the bananas and rambutan were our family's favorite. We also ate dozens of Thai dishes. Only a couple of them appear in your typical American Thai restaurant. 

6 - The number of homes and hotels we stayed in during our two weeks. I highly recommend not moving around this much with a toddler. It made things a little too crazy, but it's what we had to do for the purposes of our trip.

3 trips to the pharmacy.

  • Trip #1: Thailand has too many mosquitoes. Michael's aunt's home is out in the tropical countryside and is surrounded on three sides by mostly stagnant water. Within our first 48 hours of being in Thailand, Michael was bit about two dozen times around his ankles. When his ankle bone disappeared under the swelling and it hurt to walk, we did a little online research and purchased over-the-counter Allegra for about $10. The swelling was completely gone in a couple of days.
  • Trip #2: Thailand is so hot and so humid. Grace was such a sticky little sweat ball that she developed a heat rash on the back of her neck that turned into a stinky, itchy, painful yeast infection. After emailing and Vibering my nurse practitioner mom, we went to the pharmacy, purchased cream, and the infection was gone in a couple of days.
  • Trip #3: More yeast cream.

4 - Number of malls visited. There aren't many parks, museums, etc. in Bangkok, so everyone goes to the mall instead. These malls are nothing like American malls. They are huge, crowded, posh, often themed, and there are new ones being built all the time. Inside these malls, I saw a waterfall, parrots, and a giant replica of the Golden Gate Bridge.

1 incredible conversation with three women who were formerly prostitutes. Thailand is infamous for prostitution, sex trafficking, and sex tourism. We were able to visit an organization (The Well) that works with women who are trying to leave that life. While visiting, we sat down with three Thai women to hear their life stories all the way from horrific abuse and trauma in childhood, to selling themselves throughout adolescence and young adulthood, to being healed and transformed by the grace of God, to now working with "bar girls" trying to leave the sex industry. It was such a privilege to hear their stories and to marvel at God's great compassion and power.

3 nights spent in slums. We visited another organization (Servant Partners) that seeks transformation in urban slums all over the world, including in Bangkok. The staff and interns actually live in the slums alongside the people. Incredible, right?! We got to spend time in three different communities experiencing that lifestyle. It was tiring and difficult in some ways, but at the same time, our imaginations over here in the comfy west can blow things out of proportion and the word "slum" brings to mind only refuse and crime. Life is life all over the world. In the slums, we saw people doing laundry, caring for babies, selling and buying, singing and playing, chatting with their neighbors, and simply living life.

15 - The number of hours Grace slept the first night we were back home. She was such a trooper with being dragged all over Bangkok for two weeks. But, we definitely wore her out. I've never appreciated the simplicity and routine of our everyday lives more than now.

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