"If the God you believe in as an idea doesn’t start showing up in what happens to you in your own life, you have as much cause for concern as if the God you don’t believe in as an idea does start showing up. It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling." ~ Frederick Buechner

31 August 2012

On My Hook

Here's a sneak peek at what I'm currently working on.
And my last - very pink - square finally came in the mail from the international square swap I participated in (everyone was to have finished and mailed their squares by June 1st, but one of the ladies broke her arm - or wrist, and two went MIA).
I'm so excited to put together the afghan - it will definitely be a colorful one! I'll post pictures when I'm done. It might not be until after our move!

28 August 2012

TTV Jewelry Flash Sale: Only 6 Hours Today!

Ten Thousand Villages is having a FLASH SALE  
on their jewelry TODAY
between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. 
Shop fair trade and support artisans all over the globe! 

27 August 2012

Red & Gold for a Golden Lady

We celebrated our friend Sher's 50th birthday over the weekend at a surprise birthday party. 

I've tried to upload the video of her walking into the party about a million times now with no luck, so you'll just have to settle for pictures. 

We were told to bring index cards with memories with Sher, as well as pictures of us together. We put these into a scrapbook when we got to the party. Even Little B wrote colored an index card and had his own picture (of Sher's first time holding him, the first night we were home after he was born).
Since we're moving soon, I felt that a handmade afghan would be an appropriate birthday/thank-you-for-being-wonderful gift. She likes to decorate in reds and golds a lot, so I selected colors accordingly. I hope she loves it!

3108 Children in 1 Month

My journey with Compassion International began while sitting in chapel at Houghton College, listening to someone talk about sponsoring children from developing nations across the globe, providing them with access to nutrition and education, and rescuing them from the vicious cycle of poverty. Although I did have a part-time job, being a freshman in college, I knew I wouldn't be able to sponsor a child by myself, so I sent out a feeler email to some of my new friends, asking them to prayerfully consider sponsoring a Compassion child with me. And overwhelmingly, there were nine who enthusiastically agreed. We took a vote to decide boy or girl (boy) and decided together what continent (Asia).

Madeleine at age 14
The ten of us co-sponsored Pilison, a little boy from India, through all four years of college, sending him letters with pictures of ourselves. When it came time for us to graduate, my friend Andrea offered to take on the sponsorship by herself.

A few years later, when my husband and I got married, one of the first things we did was look for a Compassion child to sponsor. Africa is dear to our hearts for multiple reasons, since I grew up there and N served some of the most meaningful months of his life there while in the Navy. We were matched with Madeleine, who is now 15, and we have really enjoyed growing our relationship with this beautiful girl from Burkina Faso. Madeleine is blessed in that both her parents are alive (and healthy), married, and able to farm. She goes to school and helps out her parents at the farm and with her siblings. She sends us letters filled with news about both school and home, accompanied by her own colorful illustrations, often of pretty flowers and of the crops they grow.

A couple months ago, I was made aware of an opportunity to join Compassion Bloggers, a way that bloggers can partner with Compassion for their primary goal of releasing children from poverty. I felt that it was a small but meaningful way that I could give to an organization I support wholeheartedly. I contacted Brianne at Compassion and received the approval email with in a few days.
Well, I'm jumping in at just the right time, because September is BLOG MONTH at Compassion! Instead of the once-a-month writing assignments we get throughout the rest of the year, this month, we will receive an assignment every week with the goal of getting more children sponsored via the internet than any previous September.
This year's goal is for 3108 children to be sponsored between September 1-30.

Of course, there are some prizes involved for the bloggers, and you guys, the ultimate prize is a FREE SPOT on one of Compassion's blog trips in 2013. I would get to blog while on location, visit with some of the families and children that Compassion supports, and meet other incredible people. If you know me at all, you KNOW how much I would love that!

But really, beyond all that, I really would love to see you all building a relationship with a young person from a culture that you may be somewhat - or not at all - familiar with, to learn about what life is life across the world from you, to learn to love a child you've never met, to invest in a soul. I have been incredibly blessed through sponsoring Pilison and Madeleine, and I would love for you to know that blessing, too.

Would you consider sponsoring a child* today?

*Every day, on the Compassion badge on the right-hand side of my blog, you will see a child in need of a sponsor whose birthday is today. It is nine-year-old Akiduhaye's birthday today. He is from Rwanda. What a great birthday present it would be for him to learn that he has a sponsor who will help him go to school, to learn new skills, to give him the resources to break out of the cycle of poverty?

23 August 2012

TTV 50% SALE: Dog Days of Summer

Ten Thousand Villages is having a "Dog Days of Summer" sale every day this week, with specific items on sale for 50% off.

Today's item is this gorgeous wastebasket made of recycled post-consumer snack bags and candy wrappers using a traditional, Bangladeshi basket-weaving technique. I just love the vibrant colors all woven together. It reminds me of the beautiful diversity of the body of Christ.

Support a fair-trade organization that supports artisans in developing nations all over the globe and get yourself - or someone else - a beautiful piece from their collection!

21 August 2012

Slow Cooker Chicken & Dumplings

I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical about this recipe when I saw it this morning. I was searching for something I could make in the slow cooker, because I had two extra kids with me today, as well as a brunch and a doctor's appointment. With so much "extra" going on, I knew I needed to have a dinner plan that I could prepare during Little B's nap and be able to dish up when we got home from the doctor's.

My friend Lindsey has become an overnight blogging sensation, racking up daily posts, sponsors, followers, and giveaways galore.

I found this recipe on her site today.

The picture of the recipe skeeved me out a bit. I mean, what ARE those brown things floating at the top? There are no brown things in the ingredient list! But then I thought, "Hmmm, sounds similar to chicken pot pie. N really likes chicken pot pie. This might be worth a shot."

I made some changes, though, for a few reasons: I don't usually measure exactly, to make it a bit healthier, canned vegetables are disgusting, and because I didn't have refrigerated biscuit dough.

Here's what I did.

In a slow cooker, on high, for five hours:
- 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
- 1 T butter
- 1 10-oz can of cream of celery
- 1 can-full (I used the cream of celery can to measure) chicken broth
- 1/3 bag each frozen corn and peas
- 1 c sliced carrots
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- sprinkle of cayenne pepper
- 1/2 onion, diced
- dash of salt

Once everything was in the slow cooker, I made a ball of biscuit dough from scratch, floured it, and stored it in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic wrap. Three hours later, I took it out and added it to the slow cooker by tearing off ping-pong ball-sized lumps.

It was yummy. Even my toddler, who was a tad off-kilter from getting shots this afternoon, ate a small bowlful.

Sprig Chiffon & Great Fathers

These just came in the mail yesterday from Liz of Sseko Designs. I wore them for the first time this afternoon, and I have to say, I LOVE them! The chiffon is softer and stretchier than the regular cotton on my starboard straps, so they are quite comfy.

In other news, Little B had his 18-month well-baby visit to the pediatrician today. He got two shots and was just miserable afterward (which is a bit unusual for him - normally, he does quite well with shots). Thankfully, Daddy had bought B a little something special while he was out last night, and he gave it to B tonight before dinner. It helped serve as a good distraction from the "ow-ee" in his legs throughout dinner.
It's a Subaru Impreza WRX, just like N's car, except N's is blue.
Thank heaven for great fathers.

20 August 2012

A Summer Day in Hague with A Bunch of Hillmans

We met Dan and Nancy when all of us used to live in Virginia. This was long before they had children, and before Nich and I really even knew one another.

We have remained friends through the years, and it has been fun to learn new things about one another...
Funky dance moves
meet babies as they have arrived...
visit one another in new homes (they now live in Pennsylvania)...
There are SEVEN people in this picture! :~)
and celebrate various occasions together.
Last summer, they invited us to join them (and their extended Hillman clan members) as they camped in the Adirondacks. We were not brave enough to camp overnight with our then four (or maybe five) month old baby, but we sure enjoyed hanging out with them for the day on the northern end of Lake George.
The invitation came again this year, so we happily packed up our beach gear and drove up to Hague for the day.
We hiked to the beach.
Happy little hiker!
Beautiful Lake George
Kids playing happily in the sand.
Into the water we go!
Daddies and babies
Post-dinner spaghetti ("noo-noo" = noodles) "beards" :~)
We sure will miss these Adirondacks when we move to Texas, and even more, we sure will miss these Hillmans!

Happy Scribbles

From this day:

I dream my painting and then paint my dream.
(Vincent Van Gogh)

15 August 2012

Substitute Gifts (Which Are Really Just As Good!)

I don't feel that I can post all of today's Joy Dare (3 Gifts Ugly-Beautiful) in a public forum, but ...
There's a roast in the slow cooker for dinner tonight,
N brought home a GORGEOUS rose for me yesterday from Jan's Florist
down the road because I had some heart-breaking news,
And this company, among many other beautiful businesses/organizations, exists!

All the above Sseko pictures are from their website.

I first found out about Sseko Designs when my friend Rachel began talking about them from Uganda, where she worked as a librarian in a seminary, updating the library and equipping students to effectively make use of its resources. I love a good cause and my heart is always soft for Africa, but I just couldn't afford sandals for myself. 

But I wanted to support the cause, so I emailed Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond about Sseko Designs, asking her to feature their business on her blog. She often blogs about different causes, and I felt that this was one that really did deserve some publicity.

This was months and months ago, and in the interim, Rachel offered to purchase a pair for me in Uganda (where it was cheaper than through their U.S. website because the shipping and processing costs aren't an issue there) and send them to me. I jumped on the chance.
I picked the "Starboard" straps. Aren't they fun?! I have them tied in a "slip-on" tie, because with an active toddler, I don't have time to re-tie my sandals every time I go out. I've worn them almost every day this summer.

Then, two days ago, THIS was posted with a shout-out from Ree to yours truly and a couple other ladies who also are supporters of Sseko Designs. And Liz (the beautiful blond founder of Sseko Designs pictured above) emailed me an offer for a gift of new straps as a thank you!

So those are my three substitute gifts for today's Joy Dare. Think about yours (share them if you'd like), and please check out Sseko Designs and consider supporting their cause!

An Artistic Endeavor

13 August 2012

First (Major) Haircut

This happened over a week ago, but I thought I'd share anyway.
I bribed him to sit still with a special treat ("teeet").
Ta-da! I think I did a pretty good job. And yes, he's rockin' that farmer's tan.
He gave himself a sticker for doing such a good job holding still.
 Today's Joy Dare (via Ann Voskamp): 3 Gifts in Green
- My little basil plant sitting on the kitchen window sill
- Toddler art smears on B's first painting
- Brussel sprouts for lunch

What are yours?

12 August 2012

Our (Probably) Last Time in Lake Placid

4 years and 8 days ago, on 8.8.08, under a dramatic Adirondack sky, N and I made the most important promise of our lives to one another.
The weather was much worse yesterday as we set out for our belated anniversary dinner last night, but as we took the exit off the Northway, we saw this gift in the sky.
Breath-taking Adirondack mountains
Lake Placid Village
We had one of the best and most memorable meals of our honeymoon here.
N: "The best meat I've ever had in my life!"
We sure will miss these mountains.
Saturday: 3 Gifts of Metal
- engagement/wedding rings (thankful every day - even on the HARD days - for my marriage), crochet hooks to make many gifts of love, airplanes that bring people together all over the world

Sunday: 3 Gifts Half-Hidden 
- my sewing machine that sits on top of the dryer in the laundry room, so B can't get at it; a frame sitting on the kitchen counter that holds a photo of much-loved, not-often-seen-in-person faces; the stereo that sits on top of the kitchen cabinets that plays music to which we have stompin' kitchen dance parties every day

What are yours?