Tuesday, January 31, 2012

He's Always Been Faithful To Me

For the first time this year, the whole "adoption process" had me pretty bummed out this past week. I've been contacting agencies blind, just calling whoever comes up on a google search of my state, and inquiring about services. Two of the big agencies recommended to me both turned out to be very difficult to work with, requiring work day meetings to answer questions before you are allowed to apply. All of the websites talk about the federal tax credit, which was extended to 2012, but that only applies to adoptions which are finalized in 2012 which will certainly not be us. Does that mean that money goes away next year? Then I found out that what I thought would be about $15,000 is actually between $20,000 and $30,000 almost everywhere.

I was tired. I was discouraged by how hard it seemed to get started; by how much more money I need to fundraise.

Meanwhile, my mom had to schedule a cardiac cath. It's not a big deal for most people but for those of us with Ehlers Danlos, or for people as medically complicated as my mom, that's as close as she'll come to an actual surgery for the rest of her life. Add in being allergic to the elements required for the procedure and the doctor's recommendation to "reduce stress" just barely 2 months after my dad lost his job and you have a very worried daughter.

I was tired. I was discouraged.
I knew that God is still sovereign and will always support me, it was just getting a bit harder to smile.

Then Sunday came.

My pastor's wife said she'd watch our dogs while we went up to be with my parents. A friend encouraged me with her experience with the same procedure my mom was having. Another friend brought items to donate to our adoption yard sale. Still another offered all the resources she and her husband gathered while choosing an adoption agency, and another brought a newspaper clipping of an adoption fair going on in town, with bunches of vendors in one place ready to give me information. My congregation prayed for my mom during the service, and individual friends asked how I was doing and what time to pray. I was overwhelmed with the loving support of this prayer family which has known me barely a year and yet embraced me so fully into their lives.

Right now I'm sitting in my mom's hospital room. Her procedure went off without a hitch, none of the horrible complications that could have happened from the EDS or her allergy have reared their ugly head. And while I know that God's love, faithfulness, and sovereignty do not depend on what He chooses to allow in my earthly state; that His will is perfect and His love is perfect no matter what my perspective is this side of heaven; whether I become a mother or not; whether I lose my mother or not - I have experienced the merciful hand of the Lord today. And I am grateful beyond anything that I can shout from a rooftop or a blog post or anywhere, because nothing compares to the glorious mercy of my Lord and Savior.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I Could Not Have Anticipated How Good That Would Be

Oh my goodness, so I saw those freezer-bagged, slow cooker meals on Pinterest and thought, "what a great idea!" I made up some beef stroganoff with recipe from my childhood, and I tried one of the recipes from the originator of the picture, Stephanie over at Mama and Baby Love. I made up the Chicken Curry, and after that success I will definitely be trying some of her other recipes.

Omnomnom, it was soooo good! And super easy. I would recommend being around for the last hour or two if you're making it for the first time, just so you can see how your slow cooker does with it and if you need to turn it off or add water. The recipe does not call for any water or broth and that is correct! Don't doubt it, it's right. 

Curry is different depending on where you buy it or who made it. It's not a specific spice, it's actually a spice combo. Like pie spice or taco seasoning. I prefer this stuff from above, which actually comes in tablets like CandiQuick. It's super tasty, I've been able to buy it in the international foods section at Kroger and Meijer both, in a few cities, so give it a try. The curry box is only like 2.50 and the recipe makes 2 dinners.

And there you go! Super tasty and super easy! Head over to check out the recipe here. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cake Pop Tips (and the last Christmas wrap-up)

Things I learned while making these cake pops, and while failing at making the batch before this.

1: If you're making the kind of cake pops that are baked cake mixed with icing like I did (not baked in a special pan), make sure you refrigerate and preferably freeze your pops (with stick already in them!) before dipping them. Only take some out at a time to dip, they should be as cold as possible so they stay solid in the hot coating and don't leave crumbs in your chocolate.

2. Make sure your chocolate is deep enough to cover the entire cake ball easily, including where the cake pop and the stick meet. You will probably end up with extra melted chocolate when you're done and that's better than making crappy cake pops, so just roll with it even if you're a "waste-not/want-not" fanatic like me. 

3. When you dip the cake pops, lift them out of the chocolate by using a fork to scoop them out. No one will see the bottom and it is just one more thing preventing them from falling off of the stick. 

4. The chocolate will set quickly after they are dipped, because the cake pops are cold! Add your sprinkles etc quickly after dipping them. You can dip oreos in the leftover chocolate and they'll be more forgiving. 

Some general chocolate dipping tips:

A double boiler will always work best. If you don't have one, just lay a tight fitting glass bowl over the top of a saucepan. 

Chocolate with a higher percentage of cocoa solids will melt at a lower temperature and be easier to keep at an even consistency. Conversely, chocolate with a higher percentage of cocoa (i.e. the dark chocolate bars that boast things like 65% cacao) will melt poorly and burn easily. Use a creamy milk chocolate for best dipping results, or semi-sweet baking chips if you want a "dark chocolate" coating (since they're made to melt in cookies). My favorite bars of chocolate to dip in are Hershey's Symphony bars. 

An easy thing to use if you're dipping in chocolate for the first time is the "candy coating" you can find in the baking isle. 

When chocolate goes from melty and smooth to crunchy and starts getting solid again, it is called "seizing." Any addition of water or cold milk will cause your chocolate to seize. If it starts to happen, try adding a little bit of vegetable oil and mixing well. (If I were melting most of a 12 oz bag of chocolate chips and they began to seize, I would add about 2 Tbs of oil and mix). 

We liked chocolate cake mixed with chocolate icing and dipped in white chocolate the best, it was very "cookies and cream." I was shocked when I tried these and found that one box mix of cake and one store bought icing container made 50 cake pops! Nom nom nom. Happy Dipping!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pinterest Hack FTW

The Better Homes and Gardens picture:

The hack I made for free using supplies around the house and an overdue trim of the holly shrub in the front yard:

My apologies for comparing a professional photo with one from my iPhone. It's not that it was complicated, I'm just glad it turned out cute!

Happy Sunday and Some Cookies Pictures

Hello Again! What do you think of the new digs? They are free compliments of The Cutest Blog on the Block, with super easy directions, too.

Thought it was about time to finally post some Christmas pictures, I'm going to have to get the hang of keeping up with busy seasons and still posting about them :).

I made tons of mini cutouts for gifts and to bring for family, they were super fun! Being ever short on time, I opted to use the Betty Crocker decorating icing bags which were on sale for 1$ at Aldi! They were great, set just as quick as homemade royal icing. 

Those white sparklies are from Wilton, it only takes a little and I love them for snow! I've had the same 1 oz container for years because I've only used them for cut-outs, so they have lasted all this time. 

The stars with sugar remind me of the stars in the Macy's day parade, don't you think? I used the flooding technique for the icing, where you outline the edges of the cookies and then fill in the middle, spreading the filling icing around with a butter knife or a toothpick. 

I also used the Basic Rolled Cookie recipe found here, without superfine sugar or a food processor to make it in, and it worked great. A soft cookie that's still firm enough to keep it's shape with a detailed mini cookie cutter has been hard for me to come by, so I was pretty excited!

I'll share some more pictures soon. What are your favorite go-to Christmas cookie recipes?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Winter Gloomies be Damned.

Well, winter has officially set in on the Ohio. It took awhile, and even this little cheesehead was relishing the 45* and sunny. While the new fallen snow is something I wished for in December and it certainly makes my heart sing to see the ground twinkle with white, I know that it also means colder weather, grey skies, and that little black cloud that hangs over my head increasingly heavily with every winter.... seasonal affect disorder.

I have been blessed with mental health in my life. I marvel at people who struggle day in and day out in their own mind, to fight big battles with scary enemies like bipolar, schizophrenia, or paranoia. I cannot even fathom the amount of courage it must take to face and fight those demons day in and day out. I thank God every day that those struggles are not my own, and try to constantly remember those whose mental health battles are so intimate and so severe in my prayers.

I also feel like it's my responsibility to be open about my own mental health pursuits, in order to relieve some of the stigma for those whose struggles are greater. It's the least I can do, especially from the vantage point of a minister's wife, where most of my life is lived in a fishbowl regularly examined by Christians and skeptics alike. That's how stigmas die: with openness and honestly, one person's example at a time.

Seasonal affect disorder (SAD) is more than just a bummed out day, and different than typical depression. It reoccurs every fall/winter, and can manifest in many ways. While I don't know a lot of the science behind it, I know it can have to do with decreased sunlight during the day, and messed up melatonin levels during the winter months. I may not be an expert, but these are the things that have helped me. Feel free to try them out or hold me to it when you see me next :)

1) Involve Your Close Friends and Family.
Community is really important, especially with disorders that can cause people to seclude themselves, or lack the energy to seek proactive treatments. The Crazy Minister has been great about helping me keep my diet healthy and getting me back to the gym.

2) Exercise.
Physical activity not only relieves stress and makes you feel better about yourself, it also releases endorphins, literally fighting off depression. If you think you might struggle with following through if your condition worsens, grab a friend and make a schedule to go together!

3) Hit the Tanning Beds.
If there's not enough sunny hours in the day, create some more! It will make your bones feel less creaky and your mood feel lifted. If you're worried about skin cancer risks, try going with sunscreen.

4) Eat Healthy and Add Some Vitamin D.
Fish, milk, Soy milk, mushrooms, and fortified cereals are all very high in vitamin D, the nutrient your body soaks up from sunlight. Eating healthy and even adding some vitamin C also keeps your immune system stronger to fight the cold and flu season which also pervades the winter months.

5) Find Strength In The Lord
We don't know why God lets people struggle with sickness or depression, but we do know that He desires for us all to rely on Him so He can sustain us and shine His light into our lives. Download a free Bible App and listen to it while you drive; get a Christian book on cd from the library; tune the dial to the local Christian station; hit up church on Sunday. The Spirit of the Lord will sustain you as you lean on Him, but you have to plug in.

As always with any mental health condition, see a professional. And a word to the wise: Don't wait until it's "bad enough." You can almost always say "it's not that bad." But what benefit does waiting have that could possibly outweigh the benefit of going? Go. You owe it to yourself and the ones you love to check it out, and it can't waste more time than you regularly waste on Pinterest or Friends re-runs.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Kiwi -vs- The Breadmaker

Oh my funny little one, afraid of anything that moves or makes sound.... That machine runs for like 3 hours, the poor thing ran past it like a little kid runs past the basement stairs in the dark until I managed to coax her so I could sneak some cute pics. :)

Monday, January 2, 2012

I Took The Plunge

Oh my goodness I can't believe I just did that. I mean, I've been wanting to since I was 16. My husband and I have discussed it. I have talked about it with friends and family. But now, with a click of a mouse, I just started the whole ball rolling, I committed to a timeline to all my family and friends....

I just started "the adoption process."

I just set up the fundraising and committed to friends and family that 2012 is actually it. It's actually the year we start fundraising, start our homestudy, and start the process of growing our family. It's actually here.

I cannot believe I just did that. And holy cow am I stoked.