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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tune in Tuesdays

One of my favorite Christian hymns...


Want to know what Tune in Tuesdays is all about? Read more here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Comfort food!

I've probably mentioned in every post as of late that I love fall. It's true!

One of the many perks of fall is comfort food. And here in the midwest, casseroles (sometimes also referred to as a "hot dish") are one such entree.

This week I made one of my family's favorite casseroles. Now, I'm going to share the recipe with all of you! I realize casseroles aren't for everyone, but if you're up for it, go ahead and give it a try. It's super easy and it re-heats great for leftovers.

Wild Rice Casserole

What you'll need:
  • A box of Uncle Ben's Long Grain & Wild Rice (original recipe)
  • Chicken breasts (we use Gold n' Plum extra tender breasts that come in a pack of 3)
  • 1 can of cream of chicken soup (you can also use cream of celery or cream of mushroom instead)
  • 1 can of corn (you can replace or supplement this with any other vegetables you like)
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
To get started:

Prepare the box of Uncle Ben's rice as directed.

Boil the chicken breasts (place in cold water & bring to a boil; then reduce heat and simmer over medium heat for 8-10 more minutes). When done, dice the chicken into small chunks.

When both are finished, combine in a bowl and add the can of soup, can of corn (and/or other vegetables), and about 3/4 cup of cheddar cheese and mix it all up.

Then transfer the mixture to a casserole or baking dish and pop it in the oven at 350.

After it's been baking for about 10 minutes, sprinkle the rest of the shredded cheese over the top (feel free to add more or less, depending on how much you love cheese).

Bake for another 20 minutes (it should be starting to bubble).

Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tune in Tuesdays

Every year my friends and I make an annual trip to the apple orchard and pumpkin patch. I L-O-V-E this photo from one of our visits a couple years ago. It reminds me of fall, and even more of how much I love these girls!


Want to know what Tune in Tuesdays is all about? Read more here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Lessons learned

Lessons I learned (or re-learned) this weekend:

You’re never too old to go back to grade school. This weekend was the annual fair at the elementary school that Sean and I both attended (also where we met working at the daycare center). When we were younger, Friday night at the fair was always the place to be. As adults, it’s still just as popular. The place is swarming with people. There’s great food, music, and conversation. This year we went with a few friends of ours. It was a chilly autumn night—perfect whether to bundle up and see familiar faces. We browsed the silent auction. Went head-to-head in a speed pitch game (a children’s game, mind you). Watched as the young girls screamed their heads off when the band played a Justin Bieber song. It was such a fun night, and for no particular reason even. Then, on Saturday, we returned to the fair to volunteer. Which brings me to lesson number 2.

One of the best, and easiest, ways to give back, is to donate your time. I’ve been saying for years that I want to do more volunteering—donate my time and/or services to good causes. The people who come together to help throw this fair every year (it’s a BIG fair that is wildly popular in the area) do a great job, and it was so fun to be a part of it, even if only for 3 hours. Giving back to the community we grew up in, and the church we’ll be getting married in, felt great. And it was FUN! We’ll definitely be back next year.

Owning a house isn’t always it’s all cracked up to be. Doing the Sunday laundry and finding a dead mouse. Breaking the faucet off the basement sink at 7 o’clock on a Sunday night (leading to water squirting everywhere, and the need to shut all of the water off until an emergency plumber can come and fix it). Sometimes I wonder what we were thinking getting ourselves into this. But then again, to have a place to call all our own is pretty nice, too.

Technology is wonderful. As we were having Sunday dinner with Sean’s mom and uncle, we dialed into Skype. We were able to visit with Sean’s brother and his girlfriend who moved to Denver last month. They even gave us a tour of their apartment. How cool to be able to visit with family over Sunday dinner even though we’re separated by hundreds of miles!

Fall is my favorite season. I thoroughly enjoyed sporting my fall clothes this weekend. The cool air even prompted a Sunday afternoon nap, something that I rarely do. And Sean’s mom bought us a pumpkin candle, so now our house smells downright heavenly (I love fall candles!).

Weekends are too short. I love downtime with friends and family. There just never seems to be enough of it!

Already looking forward to next weekend!  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tune in Tuesdays

In 2007, I lost someone very close to me - my aunt Morning. Growing up she was like a second mom to me. And as I got older, our relationship grew even more into friendship.

I cherished our conversations, enjoyed her company, and looked to her for advice and comfort. When I got engaged earlier this year, she was one of the first people I wanted to call. My mom said the same thing. It breaks my heart that it keeps happening, that we still reach for the phone to call her on a regular basis.

So why am I telling you this now?

Because September is suicide awareness and prevention month. And Morning committed suicide.

There's no explanation, no justification, no answers. Just the cold, hard truth that we're left to live with every day. And we wrestle with a host of emotions - anger, devastation, guilt, disappointment. Most of all, we just miss her, and wish that something - anything - could change the way things ended up.

But we can't. And at least for me, that's one of the hardest things about suicide. Trying to understand something that is not understandable. I guess most death is that way, but with suicide it seems even worse.

So this month I encourage you to learn a little more about suicide. Things to watch for. The grief process. The lasting effects for suicide survivors (those who have lost loved ones to suicide). Anything. Because you might be surprised who in your life has been touched by it.

And as for Morning, the way she died does not define her. In fact, it's the smallest of matters in a life that was so huge, so incredible, so beautiful.

And that brings us to the lyrics for this week. They're from a song that makes me cry almost every time I hear it, if only because I can relate to every single word.

Want to know what Tune in Tuesdays is all about? Read more here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering...

Ten years. 3,652 days. A lot can happen in such a span of time. Yet, I remember the day 10 years ago today like it was yesterday.

I was a senior in high school, just finishing up my first class of the day. Photography. Our principal came over the loudspeaker and told us in a sobering voice that 2 planes had hit the World Trade Center building. Our teacher, not knowing whether he meant the building with a similar name in our own city, ran out of the room in a panic to get more details.

Meanwhile, the bell rang and kids filled the halls with horror on their faces. By the time we were sitting in the seats of our next class just 5 minutes later, more information was pouring in. Teachers were wheeling TVs into their rooms, abandoning their lesson plans for the day and watching alongside us as life as we know it changed minute by minute.
{Via NY Magazine}
The rest of the day was much in the same. In every class we watched coverage of the tragedy. We were watching live when the towers collapsed. We heard the news of other crashes at the same time as the rest of the world. Teachers struggled to find words of comfort or understanding, when no one—not them, not us, not the leaders of our country—could even begin to wrap their mind around the unthinkable things happening around us.
{Via NY Magazine}

That night we went home to our families. After-school activities were cancelled. The tasks that used to feel urgent enough to keep our parents at work late weren’t important anymore. We needed to be together.

In our house, we stayed glued to the TV, frightened but still unable to turn away. I was scared. Sad. Awed. There’s no other way to describe it. I couldn’t believe what was happening, and I was afraid of what else was to come. My mom and I even talked about whether I should go to school the next day. Our country was under attack, and there was no telling whether it was over or whether this was simply the beginning.
{Via NY Magazine}
But we went on. We listened to people urging us to fight on, to stand in solidarity with an entire country of people coming together. There was an overwhelming feeling of patriotism, at least in my opinion.

And as the months and years went on, we adapted to a new world. We, as individuals and as a country, would never be the same. The events of a single day profoundly changed our lives. And it will continue to do so.

We will never forget that day. I will always get goosebumps when I watch footage of that day. I will keep in my heart the thousands of people who lost their lives, and their families who were left to mourn them. I will tell my children of that chilling day. I will remember. Always.
{Via Pinterest}

Thursday, September 8, 2011

On being sick...

Did you know that the whole “knocking on wood” thing is a silly superstition that DOES NOT work? Last week I told a coworker that I hadn’t gotten a cold in over 2 years, followed quickly of course by a knock-knock-knock on the nearest piece of lumber I could find.

Well here we are a week later and I feel as though an elephant is sitting on my congested head. I battled the scratchy throat all weekend. Pretended it was all just allergies. But there’s no denying that the fog that has settled over me is all thanks to the wonderful workings of the common—but cruel—cold.

So there’s that.

And since I missed much of work yesterday to attend my cousin’s funeral, there are no sick days in my near future. Before Sean left for work this morning, he tucked the covers tightly around me and told me I really should stay home and get some rest. Damn him for making it so tempting.

Alas, I forced myself up and out of bed anyway. I can't promise that my clothes match or my hair is presentable, but I did manage to get myself together.

So today I think I’ll be the one to prove it is possible to use an entire box of Kleenex in just 1 work day. All while daydreaming of my pajamas and bedtime, both of which can’t come soon enough.
{Via Pinterest}
But hey, on the bright side this means I’m getting this cold out of the way and I have to be immune to any that make the rounds this winter, right? RIGHT? Just humor me and say yes.

Back tomorrow...hopefully more coherent than today!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tune in Tuesdays

Because sometimes we all need a little reminder to believe anyway....


Want to know what Tune in Tuesdays is all about? Read more here.

Monday, September 5, 2011

See 'ya summer!

I know summer doesn’t technically end until later this month, but Labor Day will always mark the unofficial end of such a fun—and short—season here in Minnesota.

We had a fabulous long weekend, doing almost nothing but reveling in the fact that the weekend still wasn’t over yet. Something about that extra day can really do a lot for you.

We went out to dinner. We shopped for a water heater (nothing fun about this though). We went to the state fair again. We spent a lot of time curled up on the couch watching movies, windows open and cool air pouring in. We played cribbage. We caught up on sleep. We enjoyed every last minute of it. And it was wonderful.

Sometimes the very best weekends are the ones without a whole lot to show for it.

We did, however, get some sad news this weekend. My  24-year-old cousin on my step-dad's side of the family has been battling cancer for 2 years. Late last week he took a turn for the worse and they made the decision to make him comfortable at home in hospice care. He died Saturday afternoon. It's so sad to hear of anyone losing their fight with cancer, especially someone so young, so courageous, and so kind. Rest in peace Matt; our thoughts and prayers are with you and your entire family!

Now as Labor Day comes to a close, we prepare to head back to our usual routines. Full days—actually full weeks—of work. Let’s face it; it’s been a while since I’ve done even that.

But while I’m sad to see summer go, I think I’m ready. There are things to look forward to: Cool weather. Sweatshirts. Boots. Fall colors. Bridesmaid dress shopping with my ladies. New episodes of our favorite TV shows.
And when fall is over, winter will arrive. I’m not sure I’ll have as much to look forward to about that. BUT…when all of that is said and done, spring will arrive and we’ll be gearing up for our wedding in June. So really, it’s all just preparation for a very exciting time. I think I’ll look at it that way!  

How about you? Are you ready for fall, or wishing for a few more weeks of summer?