Crockpot Orange Chicken

Despite the high of 80 degrees today, I broke out the crockpot to try the Crockpot Orange Chicken that I've seen floating around Pinterest. Deric loves any meal thats fixed in a crockpot and he loves rice, so I figured I couldn't go wrong with this recipe. Plus, I challenged myself to try a new recipe each week during September so I had to keep that up.

I read through the comments on the recipe before starting anything and I'm glad I did. One reader recommended adding a few extra ingredients such as ginger, soy sauce, and the like. So I added a few things I thought would work and played around with it until it tasted good. Deric liked it too, so we can add Crockpot Orange Chicken to my repertoire!


Living Room: Before & After

I was waiting to post pictures of the living room until I had all the details right...frames on the wall, mantle decorations, pretty furniture, etc. But then I realized that's never gonna happen so I should just post what it looks like now.

Here's the before, taken right after we moved everything into the house and all our helpers went home. Poor Deric was exhausted from maneuvering a U-Haul and a car trailer through the mountains in the rain. 

These colors are my inspiration for the room (but swap the yellow for tan).

About two months ago (I know, its sad how far behind I am) we painted the living room Nantucket Fog by Benjamin Moore. We were hoping for a blue-gray that wasn't too much of either color, but in my opinion its unfortunately much more blue than gray.  But Deric's happy with the color and I don't dislike it enough to pay for more paint, so it gets to stay.

Although I'm not a fan of pink or purple, I chose that particular color scheme because we have a purple recliner that was handed down to us. My hope is that by incorporating purple into the room in other ways, the chair will blend more with the rest of the room. We'll see how it goes.

I've got a to-do list a mile long for this room, just as everyone does for their house. I always want things to look "perfect", but that's not a reasonable goal. I've got a limited budget and limited time, so I have to remind myself that this is a long process. I do have quite a few frames (you can see some on the mantle) that will be getting hung in the near future. All of my other projects involve purchasing or making things, so those will take some time. Baby steps.

Despite all the projects I have in mind for this room (and the rest of the house), I still love it as-is. Its a huge step up from our last house in terms of size and space, and we're grateful for it. And I'm grateful to have a place to do projects and to paint and change things around. Its always a challenge to be content, isn't it?


My First 5K!

I did it! Our 5K was this past Saturday and I ran the whole dang thing, hills and all!

I was nervous going into it because all my runs the week leading up to the race were awful. Awful. I ran four times the week before, and each time I had no energy and couldn't get myself moving faster than a slow shuffle. And on my last run before the race, I couldn't even finish 3 miles. So come race day, I was definitely nervous I wouldn't be able to finish it.

The morning of the race, Melanie and I got to the race location about an hour and a half before it started so we could find parking, get our stuff in order, get our timing chips, etc. It was freezing that early in the morning so we walked around for a while and people watched and I tried to keep myself positive, which is probably the hardest part in all of this running. Mind over body.

Once we got running, the nerves were gone. It was still a hard course because there were quite a few big, gradual hills and a few steep ones too, but we settled into our pace and talked and it was just like all the other runs we'd done over the past months.

The best part of the race was actually the worst part, too. We'd just passed halfway, we'd just finished the gradual hill that sapped all of my strength, and we had two steep hills coming up one after the other. For the life of me, I couldn't keep myself positive. (This is where Melanie comes in-- she's pretty good at pep talks.) As we're running these hills, a woman comes up next to us and joins in on our conversation like she's been there the whole time. So we started to talk with her and get to know her, and she told us she'd just retired from teaching after thirty years. I told her I was trying to find a teaching job and asked if she had any advice, and she began to offer all these different tips for getting into the school system and told me who I could contact at her former school in order to get a foot in the door. Then she told us that she had done the Couch to 5K program too with women from her church, so we talked about churches and it turns out we'd all done the same Beth Moore Bible study.

As we're talking about all these things, I realized that we were already into the last half mile-- which was thankfully all downhill-- and in no time we crossed the finish line! I tell ya, God's timing was perfect. He knew how negative I can be and He knew how much I'd been dreading those hills, so He sent someone we could talk with and who could distract us in order to get us through the race. It was such an enjoyable race, mostly because of our conversation with that woman (who also introduced me to a couple of her teacher friends after the race-- how sweet is that?). And it was such a great feeling afterwards to realize that I'd officially run a 5K, which is something I never thought I would do.

Sadly, we only got one picture of the race after it was all over and we were sweaty and gross. :) Check out my cool shirt from the race...look closely and you'll see a dog on top of the sign, painting a 9 after 5K. Get it? (Say it all together...5K 9...har har.)

Next up is an 8K by Thanksgiving! Look out world...I'm officially a runner!


Notes in the Margin 9.25.11

I haven't had many trials or hard times in my life. There have been times of pain and sadness, times of disappointment, frustration, and hurt feelings, but I've really never suffered. Not in comparison to others. I've never lost a friend or family member I was close to, never dealt with severe sickness, never wanted for anything physically, and never been completely alone. I realize how good God has been to me, and I'm grateful for His goodness.

But I still know that life can hurt. And usually when life hurts, I don't understand why I have to go through this or that particular hurt. I try to stay positive, knowing that God always works things out according to His plan. But sometimes most times, its hard to see His plan, and it makes the hurt worse because I can't see the reason behind it (yet).

This morning, Jason had us look at Acts 5-8, which includes a few stories of the church and/or the apostles undergoing persecution. He outlined a few reasons for why we suffer, and he mentioned at the end of the sermon that he hopes our church family is there to support us when we go through hard times.

Fast forward to tonight, and I'm doing my homework for the Beth Moore 'Living Beyond Yourself' Bible study. Go figure that tonight's homework is about finding joy in the midst of suffering. Beth had a few reasons for suffering to add to Jason's, but one in particular stuck out to me.

2 Corinthians 1:4 says "[the Father] comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." As Beth put it, we need to "make use of our miseries by allowing God to turn them into ministries". I can remember the first time that God helped me use a painful experience to relate to and comfort someone else. When I realized how God had used my pain to help someone else through their pain, I felt peace about that painful experience because I'd just identified one purpose behind that difficult time.

I'm grateful to have friends, family and a church family that share my suffering as well as my comfort. But I know that even if my friends and family weren't there with me, Jesus has suffered far more than I ever will, and He's the only one who can say "I know how you feel" and really mean it. There's always comfort in knowing you're not alone!


The First Day of Fall

I'd like to take a moment and congratulate myself on the first time I've ever posted on the same day as the actual event about which I'm posting. (Does that make sense?)  Most posts are about things/events that happened at least a week before, but probably two. Looks who's growing up! ;)

Deric, Chad and I went hiking in the Smoky Mountains today. We planned it about a week ago and then I realized today was the first day of fall, so it was a perfect way to "celebrate" the beginning of fall. It was the perfect weather for hiking-- low 70s and overcast. I made them pick a shorter hike because my 5K is tomorrow and I didn't want to overdo it. So we hiked about a mile up to this waterfall, ate lunch and climbed around on the rocks, then hiked back down.

The view during lunch.

Looking away from the waterfall. 

Deric and Chad somehow managed to get to the top of the waterfall and no, they didn't climb the actual falls. But they were discussing how Bear Grylls could probably climb up the falls with just a paperclip.

A closer look at the "conquistador" pose they're striking. 

In honor of The Office premier last night...it killed me. :)

I doubt anyone else cares, but I thought these steps were genius. Its just a log that's been carved into steps, but I thought it was so smart. And it beat having to climb up some serious rocks next to it.

Deric's snake, Rocky Balboa Constrictor.
(I'm still laughing at the name...don't lie, you are too.)

The first tree we saw that had completely changed colors! Bring on fall!

And now I'm off to bed. I'm running my first 5K in the morning! Wish me luck!


Whitestone Inn

We spent Monday and Tuesday on a staff retreat with (you guessed it) the staff at our church and their spouses. We went to the Whitestone Inn, an absolutely gorgeous property out in the middle of nowhere. Think rolling hills, a view of the river, historic Thomas Kinkade-esque buildings, and you've got Whitestone. 

Two days was not enough time to thoroughly enjoy the Inn. They had hiking trails, tennis courts, canoes and paddleboats, croquet, and more. Plus, can you imagine the Inn when the leaves are changing color?? I'd go back just for that.


Spinach Lasagna Rolls

One of my goals for September is to try a new recipe at least once each week. I thought this would be a challenge for me because I'm more picky than I realized, but I've done pretty well this month. Last week I tried Spinach Lasagna Rolls from The Girl Who Ate Everything. I haven't worked up the courage yet to try making a real lasagna, but the rolls are easy. 

Considering I don't love spinach or ricotta cheese (the only two ingredients in the filling), I thought these were pretty good. The multiple layers of lasagna in each roll made the filling not as dense as I'd expected. The recipe says you can put chicken in too, so next time I'll try that. But with a side of garlic bread, I give Spinach Lasagna Rolls a seven out of ten. Deric and Chad (our next-town neighbor/friend from college/ guy who always shows up right around dinnertime) agree, although they both want meat in the rolls next time. Chad almost wouldn't eat them when he found out they were 'vegetarian'. Deric made some joke about eating vegetarians, an unfortunate trait he's picked up from my dad. Thanks, Dad. :)

Lame vegetarian jokes aside, these are delicious and easy to make. They've officially been added to my slowly-growing repertoire. 


Notes in the Margin 9.18.11

Deric showed a video from Ray Vander Laan's series "The Dust of the Rabbi" to the youth yesterday morning. (If you haven't heard any of Ray's teachings, you should check him out. He explains the Jewish cultural references behind a lot of Scripture, which helps me make sense of the Bible.) This particular video was entitled "Living Stones" and Ray taught about how the body of believers is the living temple of God.

 When Ray teaches in the videos, he's always in the actual location he's teaching about. So for this video, he was standing in the ruins of a temple to Athena in modern day Turkey. He explained that in the quarry, stones were cut for the exact place they would be put in the temple. They were usually labeled in the quarry so that once on site, builders could put each stone in its specific place. In the same way, God has a specific role within the Christian body He designates for each believer. Over the course of a Christian's life, God molds us into the shape He designed for us. Together with other believers, we are God's living temple. When people come into contact with us, they come into contact with the Spirit of the Living God. When we love each other, we declare to the world how great and loving our God is, just as the extravagant temples declared how big their god was. But when we can't show each other love, the power of God's message is lost and the presence of His Spirit is hidden. Communities that live out the love of God change worlds.


This Day Last Year

This time last year, Deric and I were waiting...and waiting...and waiting on three churches in three different states to hurry up with their interview process so we could figure out our living situation. From August to October, we lived with his parents in Indiana. While it was frustrating at the time to be unable to plan our future, I realize looking back that it was a really enjoyable hiatus from 'real life'. Besides phone interviews and filling out applications, Deric and I got to spend all day together. We got to live basically for free. We spent multiple afternoons at Barnes & Noble reading through books we were too cheap to buy. We took bike rides and walks, and played cards with his parents almost every night. Deric went golfing with his dad most weekends. One weekend, I ventured out with them to the golf course.

By no means did I plan to golf. That'd be the worst idea ever. I brought a book, a camera, and declared myself the golf cart driver for the day. It was a gorgeous early-fall day, about 70 degrees and sunny.

Maybe I do like golf after all. Wait...no, I take it back. I just like driving golf carts.


Breakfast Heaven

On Saturday morning, I woke up with the desire to make cinnamon roll pancakes after seeing them on Pinterest. Good thing I had to run that morning because these things have to be so, so bad for you. So I ran to Kroger (about a mile away, so it fit right into the running schedule) to grab powdered sugar and ran back, then got to baking with the help background entertainment of Deric and Chad. It took a few pancakes to get it right so each pancake looked much better than the ones before.

These pancakes were probably the third round. The first two definitely don't need to be shown. :)

 You can probably tell which ones are from early on and which are a few batches in...but no matter the appearance, they were so good. Add cream cheese frosting and I was in heaven.

We ate breakfast outside since it was (amazingly) in the 70s. Oh, and we ate around noon. So maybe it was brunch, not breakfast...


Couch to 5k, Week 6

Last night, my running partner Melanie and I finished week 6. We're a little off schedule due to her family vacation last week, plus our schedules now seem to conflict almost every day. I teach the days she doesn't teach, I have Bible study one night and she's got hers the next morning, we've got middle school small group one night, she's got her son's baseball games. Whew. Welcome to fall!

But despite the craziness, we did squeeze in a run last night. We ran about 8:30 last night so it was nice and cool. We had to run 2.25 miles to finish out the week (which is .25 more than last week's run) and I was feeling nervous since I barely survived last week. We were more concerned with distance last night than with our time so we used my pedometer to track our progress. Thankfully Melanie still timed it because according to the pedometer, we'd only run 1.5 miles in 21 minutes. That wasn't right-- last week I ran two miles in 22 minutes and I was moving a lot slower then. We realized the pedometer had to be off because I'd also driven the route before we ran and it was an even 3 miles. We decide to run back to our cars and just hope that was about 2.25 miles. We ran a total of 27 minutes which I figured had to be at least 2.5 miles. At least I hoped so, because I was feeling exhausted and awful.

As I drove home, I felt pretty discouraged that I was so tired after 2.25ish when I've only got two weeks to get up to 3.1 for our race. But Melanie called me as I was driving and told me she drove the route again to check the distance, and it turns out we ran at least 2.7 miles! Hallelujah! I felt so much better once she told me the good news. 2.7 miles is much more than I would have thought I could run at this point, and even though I was so exhausted for the rest of the night, it was worth it to know that I'm that close to the 5k goal. Like I said, I've got right under two weeks until the race so I'm going to try to run at least four times each week, if not more, so that I can run 3.1 a few times before the actual race. I can't believe my first 5K is in two weeks!


Notes in the Margin 9.11.11

I taught preschoolers today during church, so I missed out on Jason's sermon this morning. This thought is from a video from the Crazy Love series by Francis Chan that Deric showed to the youth group this evening.

The first video of the Crazy Love series focused on the routine we get into as Christians. Sunday mornings tend to follow a similar routine, our prayer lives fall into routine, and everything else about our spiritual lives and our relationships with others can fall into a routine. Speaking specifically about our prayer life, Francis mentioned something he read that drastically changed how he approached God in his prayers: John's description in Revelation 4 of the throne in Heaven.

Revelation 4: 3-6
"And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal."

Can you imagine that scene? I try, but I'm sure my imagination can't compare to the real scene in Heaven. Picture that scene and consider this question: What do you think would come out of your mouth the moment you saw God? What would be the first words you would say?

I have no idea what I would say. I'd either be speechless or immediately start praising God. But picturing God in the throne room when I approach Him in prayer makes me realize how I've taken direct prayer for granted. Instead of reverently approaching God on His throne and praising Him for Who He is before even thinking about myself, I saunter into the throne room and tell Him everything I need before even acknowledging that He's there. 

Imagining that scene from Revelation also makes me realize what a huge gift Jesus gave me when He became the mediator between me and God, which allows me to approach God directly. There is no way on earth I should be allowed to enter the throne room...which is yet another reason to be so much more humble when I pray.


The Friday Five

 I just read Laura @ Meet Virginia's blog and today she started 'The Friday Five', where she posts five things she's enjoyed that week. She said she wants people to link up to it, so I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon. Without further ado, here are my five things I've enjoyed this week.

1. Fall temperatures outside (briefly) = fall decorating inside. I'm working on two projects from Pinterest and will hopefully have them finished this weekend!

2. Divergent by Veronica Roth. Laura from Meet Virginia mentioned on her blog that this book was similar to The Hunger Games, so I had to pick it up. It is very similar, but it doesn't come close to the Games in my opinion (but nothing can). Interesting, though. Especially when I've got four hours to sit and do nothing. :)

3. Newk's pesto chicken sandwich. Deric and I rarely eat out because it gets expensive, but last night we treated ourselves to sandwiches from Newk's. I had the pesto chicken, Deric got the club. He was nice enough to switch me the last half of the sandwiches because I was afraid pesto chicken wouldn't taste so good for my lunch today. Bonus of eating out: no lunch to make the following day!

4. New running shoes came in the mail yesterday! I haven't bought new running shoes since my 17th birthday (6 years ago), so Mom & Dad were kind enough to treat me to a new pair since I want to get into running. These babies are awesome, especially compared to my worn-out, broken down Nikes. They're much prettier, too!

5. The Help. I've read the book and it was fantastic, and tonight we're going to see the movie! I always try to read the books before I see the movies, and usually the books are better by far. But I've heard quite a few people say the movie followed the book pretty closely, so I can't wait to see for myself. Mom told me to bring tissues.

So there's my five things from this week. I'd say its been a good week, and I'm looking forward to a good, relaxing weekend. The only to-do for the weekend is to apply the nailhead trim to our headboard, which I'm hoping will be easy. Happy Friday!