Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Healthier Eating Habits

I'm not one for making New Year's resolutions. Probably because I'm not one for sticking with them. However, I have been trying to implement some healthier eating habits, even if they're small changes. They could yield positive results. I'll be the first to admit, I like food and I like to indulge. I have a hard time saying "no" to desserts and I definitely stopped counting how many cookies, slices of pie and helpings of ice cream I've enjoyed between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Yikes! As my coworker Todd likes to remind everyone in the office, the 4th of July is just around the corner.

I'll also be the first to admit that I avoid exercise like the plague. Unless it's something fun like soccer, a bike ride, or an occasional game of tennis in the summer (who am I kidding?), I live a fairly docile life. Does rigorously cleaning the house count? Laps at the mall? Exercise is SO boring, inconvenient and tiresome. Right now I'm focusing on my diet and pretending that exercise doesn't exist. You probably shouldn't listen to me.

The following are 5 small things that I have been trying to do (although not terribly successfully). I'm hoping that putting it out there for people to read and maybe even hold me accountable might help. And seeing as it's the last day of January, I might just make the new year's resolution deadline! 

1. Drink more water
Sounds easy enough, but I don't know how people actually drink 8 glasses a day. I keep a water bottle on my desk and it takes me the whole day to even come close to drinking one.

2. Dilute juice with water
What I do love to drink is fruit juice. And lots of it. Orange, cranberry, grape, you name it. But that's a lot of sugar. So, I've been trying to cut my juice with part water or ice. It's actually not bad and I like that ice keeps it chilled.

3. Less bread
This is a difficult one if you're a bread-lover like me. A fresh loaf of crusty Italian bread is like water to my soul (or in my case, juice to my soul). I'm not planning on eliminating it from my diet, just eating fewer slices. As in, not ripping off the heal of a fresh loaf while driving home from the deli. 

 4. More salads and vegetables
I really do like salads and vegetables. It's more a matter of keeping veggies on hand and incorporating them into my daily meals. I love fruit too. I blame winter for making fresh fruit and veggies not as readily available or affordable. I'm going to need to get creative with my salad making and try to plan ahead more.

5. Fewer sweets
This. One. Is. The. Killer. I don't just have a sweet tooth, I have a whole set of sweet teeth. Brownies, cake, candy, gum, muffins - they all call my name. They are dear comforting friends. I want to make a more conscious effort to limit my sugar intake and eat fewer sweets. We'll see how this goes. Those 100 calorie packs are pretty satisfying during that afternoon junk food craving. So are caramel rice cakes. 

How about you? Any healthful eating suggestions or new year's resolutions you'd like to share?

Sunday, January 29, 2012


January always makes me think about India, and the two opportunities I had to spend time in this amazing and diverse country. Both were short-term missions trips with my church, for about two weeks each time. The first trip was to Bombay (Mumbai) in December/January 1997, when I was a freshman in high school. The second trip was to Tenali (Southern India) in January 2005, a year after I graduated college. Both trips were challenging yet life changing. India has, and always will have a very special place in my heart. 

It's hard to even attempt to summarize the experience of traveling to such a foreign and fascinating land. This was long before Slum Dog Millionaires (which is a pretty accurate depiction). It literally took trains, planes and automobiles to get us there, and something like 19 hours of travel. When we arrived, we were 10 hours ahead of home. The most difficult part for me, that has stayed with me ever since, was seeing unimaginable poverty, first hand. Our mission in traveling halfway across the world, was to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the forgotten, the least, orphans, and widows, those hurting and in need of God's love. 

My Dad (and Pastor) had been taking yearly trips to India and working with area pastors, planting churches and helping support the Grace Ministries Orphanage, since I was about 2 years old. The best part of my second trip, was arriving at the Grace Children's Home and spending time with the girls and boys that live there. They greeted us with quite a welcome - and a banner! (almost spelled Colosi right :) 

So many beautiful and unforgettable faces. You can't help but want to take all of them home with you. Talented, loving and grateful children, ranging from toddlers to 18 years old. What a blessing to know that they are taken care of, fed, clothed, educated and taught about Jesus. They are some of the lucky ones. 

In some of the very remote villages we visited, families and children were living in unimaginable conditions. My first trip was especially painful because I had no idea people actually lived like this. You hear stories, and see photographs and commercials on TV urging you to donate, but nothing can prepare you to see it up close.

Homes that would hardly qualify as such in the U.S., housed 4, 5, or 6 people. Shacks made of corrugated metal, tarp, and palm branches with dirt floors. Children searching for food among garbage heaps. No indoor plumbing. No electricity. The magnitude of the blessings that I take for granted on a daily basis, intensely overcame me. Repeatedly. My heart ached for these people and what little they had. Yet, you would never know the state they were in, based on their cheerful spirits, generosity and willingness to invite you in and offer you whatever they could. It was incredibly and overwhelmingly humbling. 

Our "host" Pastor Rufus and his family were so very gracious. They have a beautiful home in the developed city of Tenali - with electricity, running water and a Western bathroom. They cooked meals for us, were our tour guides, took us shopping and shared their lives with us.

The hotel we stayed at had modern amenities as well and was comfortable. Although the "shower" took a little getting used to. There are so many cultural differences, I could write a post about that alone.

The Indian people are some of the sweetest people you will ever meet. These ladies became my sisters while I was there. I still miss them and try to keep in touch from time to time. They took such good care of us. 

We traveled to different villages and met other Christians and attended church services and prayer meetings.
The woman, adorned with such beautiful colors and fabrics, cover their heads during prayer and sit separate from the men.

Girls in their Sunday best

I'll never forget these two adorable girls. We brought candy to give to the kids. The younger sister was trying to talk to us, but she didn't speak English. So her older sister translated for us and said, "The girl wants more chocolate!" Which made us all laugh and reminded us that universally, kids really are a lot alike.

More beautiful little faces

There is still religious persecution in India, especially for those who leave Hinduism and become Christians. I'll never forget this courageous woman who decided to be baptized, despite knowing that she might be on the receiving end of her husbands wrath, and possibly put her life in danger. I took this photo while she was walking to the river to be baptized, clutching her Bible. Such powerful faith and love for God and His Word. 

In another village, we were treated like celebrities. Some of the children had never seen Caucasian people, especially one of the girls on our team with blonde hair and blue eyes. They were excited to try out their English skills and talked about President Bush. 

Landscapes, farms and rice patties.

We went on a "plant tour" through the banana trees, which have the largest flowers I have ever seen. This photo doesn't do it justice. 

We got to experience the real marketplace. Talk about hustle and bustle. So many sights, sounds and aromas. Some good and some not-so-good. Flowers, fruits and vegetables, herbs and incense. There was also "fresh" fish lying in the hot sun, pig (all parts), "fresh" chickens strapped to a bicycle (still in tact with feathers and all), and the ever present scent of diesel fumes saturating the air. 

Movie theater and macho movie star - who seemed to be on every billboard. 

Laundry day in the country

New meaning to the term "traffic jam"

That's a lot of hay

Hand beading fabric

Door-to-door cauliflower saleswoman. I still can't even imagine carrying that weight on my head, nor as gracefully. 

So many beautiful people. 
I fell in love with bougainvillea, a stunning fuschia paper-thin flower. I also marveled at some of the brightly painted doors and decorated house entrances. 

I am so grateful I had the opportunity to go on both of these trips. And I'm so glad that I got to experience them with my Dad. I couldn't have done it without him - he is an expert on Indian culture.

We went to India in hopes of changing lives and making a difference, but I know for certain that it changed me. I am forever thankful for that. I still have to remind myself of everything that I saw and experienced, and remember all that God has blessed me with. I don't know if I'll ever have the chance to go back again, but I have memories that will stay with me for life. This recap isn't even the half of it, but I wanted to share some of my experience with you.

If there's one thing I learned, it's that God is good. All the time! 

If you would like to learn more about Grace Ministries or how you could help make a difference in a child's life, visit http://gracechristianministries.in/index.html

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Potato, Sausage & Kale Soup

January is national soup month. Did you know that? I love soup. Probably more than the average person. I could eat soup anytime - winter, spring, summer or fall. I was in the mood for potato, sausage and kale soup. Kinda like the zuppa toscana at Olive Garden. I found an easy and delicious recipe at marthastewart.com which I only tweaked a little. It was delicious!


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
5 waxy potatoes (1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
3 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) reduced-sodium chicken broth (I ended up adding an additional large can of broth, because it got too thick)  
1 bunch kale (12 ounces), stemmed and shredded
12 ounces smoked chicken sausage, cut into 1/2-inch half moons (I crumbled 4 sausage patties)

  1. In a large pot (6 to 8 quarts), heat oil over medium. Add onion and cook until soft, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic and red-pepper flakes; cook unti fragrant, 1 minute. Add potatoes and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. In a blender, puree half the soup (or keep it in the pot and mash with a potato masher by hand, like I did). Return to pot; add kale and sausage. Simmer until kale is wilted, 10 to 15 minutes.
Serve it with some crusty Italian bread, and I am happy.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sewing Starter Kit

Emma, my 11 year old niece, has taken an interest in sewing (following in her Mom and Aunt Sarah's footsteps). Lisa got her a sewing basket and some tools for Christmas. I wanted to add to her supply, so I made her a little sewing starter kit. 

I was inspired by this adorable little kit from Frugalicious Me, via none other than Pinterest.
And this simple kit from Martha

All you need is a canning jar and sewing materials that fit inside. 

Did you know they sell sewing kits like these at the Dollar Tree? It comes with mini scissors, measuring tape, box of pins, a whole set of sewing needles and 5 tiny spools of thread. For $1! 

For the pin cushion top, cut two circles of fabric, a little larger than the lid. Sew them together, stuff with a bit of cotton, and sew it closed. You can either set it on top of the lid and screw it closed, or glue it to the base with a piece of cardboard to keep it attached for good. 

I made a mini jar and cushion for myself. It's so cute! 

Just fill the jar with the supplies. I added a couple zippers and a pack of velcro. You can tie a ribbon around the top or add a tag. 

I sorted through my fabric collection and compiled a nice stack of various fabrics for Emma to use and experiment sewing with. Some small scraps and some large pieces that were never used. She loved it! I could see creative ideas starting to form in her mind. 

I remember when I was Emma's age and my Mom and I used to visit my great Aunt Virgina, who was a seamstress. She had rooms filled with fabric, and stuffing, and buttons, and projects. Literally rooms full. You had to clear a path to walk through her house. I absolutely loved looking at all that stuff. Sometimes she let me take home a box of fabric scraps and it was like a box of gold. I would make bean bags, doll pillows and coin purses. It was so much fun. I hope Emma finds the same type of creative enjoyment out of sewing that I did - and still do!