Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Letter, explaining Faith

Dear You-Know-Who-You-Are,
I just wanted to tell you that the comments you made today made me sad. It made me sad for you and those who agreed with you. It made me sad for me and for those who say the agree with me.

If the experiences you have had with those who claim to follow the Christian religion have been so bad that you feel one of the worst thing that could happen in your child's education is for her to learn about God and talk about Jesus, that makes me sad. But to say you want her to be able to choose her faith herself later on, yet not teach her about God and Jesus is unfair. To say that learning about God has no place in a young child's education is doing the child and society a huge disservice.

I truly believe that teaching religion in schools and at a young age will help nurture a more tolerant society, regardless of what religion you practice. Intolerance comes from not truly understanding and education can go a long way to solving that problem.

God has no place in childhood? I call foul. If God has any place it is in childhood, when we can see the world most honestly. No God in childhood? Pshaw. How are we supposed to face the rigors and hardships and stress and negativity of adulthood without such a foundation of Hope? Jesus himself called us to be more like the children, to have a child-like faith. You called it brainwashing? Not only did I grow up learning about God and Jesus, but I was also taught about other religions. As I got older, I inevitably questioned my faith, as we all do, but no matter what I kept coming back to my roots. The Christianity I follow, allows that. And I am all the stronger for it.

I belong to a religion that is mocked incessantly, derided on a daily basis. "Don't take it personally. It is just in fun." It has become a comedy staple to make fun of what I believe in, of what I base my whole life on. It doesn't get much more personal than that. People take more offense when you mock their favorite sports team than their God.

Unfortunately, I belong to a religion who's public face is that of radicals and extremists like Harold Camping, "The Army of God" and the "Westboro Baptist Church." I can tell you most certainly that they, and the countless others like them, do NOT believe in the same God I do. The God I believe in is a God of Love, of Hope, of Grace, and Understanding; a God who provides help in times of need. The Jesus I follow was Loving and Giving and Inclusive. We are not perfect and that's all the better. "Come as You Are." Jesus hung out with criminals, he hung out with the outcasts, he welcomed with open arms those others have cast aside. He loved unconditionally. No exceptions. (Hey Westboro, Jesus wouldn't be protesting with you. He would be inside comforting the grieving families.)

If your experience with Christianity has been so terrible that you won't allow you child to learn about God, then I'm sorry. On behalf of a religion of millions, I am sorry. Just like any religion, there are bad seeds and hypocrites. But don't be so quick to judge the whole faith on those people. Don't be so quick to dismiss it entirely. Don't be so quick to mock and deride.

I'm not here to convince you to be a Christian. I'm not here to start a theology debate. I'm here to explain what I believe. I feel the nature of God and Jesus has seriously been misrepresented to a wide audience and all I ask is that you try again. Try to understand what Christianity is really about.

I promise, we really aren't so bad.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

One step forward...

So a few weeks ago I joined GLAWS (The Greater Los Angeles Writers Society). They have a lot to offer writers, aspiring or veteran. I figured it would be a good way to meet people and network and get feedback on my book. I even got a membership badge!!

Today I went to my first event. It was a panel where some literary editors talked about editing and other aspects of the basics of writing a novel. I had been looking forward to it since I first heard about it and it was everything I hoped it would be! I learned a lot and I met a few people. I even talked to one of the editors on the panel and he said he'd be happy to look at my book for me!

I am such a chicken when it comes to my book. It is written from start to finish. It needs editing, obviously, but I am so scared to let other people look at it. The hubby hasn't even read it yet. Not a single word!! I don't really even like to tell people I've written a book at all. I always said I'd wait until it was about to be published, that way I don't have to tell people "Nope, not yet." or "I'm still trying..." that sort of thing.

Joining GLAWS and going to this panel today suddenly makes it all seem so real. Talking to a real editor who wants to help me means it is no longer just something I did when I had a few spare minutes. This is one big step forward to doing what I really want to be doing. If I ever hoped to see my book with my name on it on the shelves of a bookstore, I needed to step out of my comfort zone and just go for it.

I just know that today's step was a big one in the right direction :0)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Change Up Enchiladas

Welcome to my first recipe post!

I really like enchiladas, but sometimes I want to shake things up a bit, so that is where this recipe comes in. Instead of a traditional red sauce, it uses a cream sauce.

*WARNING: THIS RECIPE IS NOT HEALTHY* I won't even tell you the calories per serving.You can always justify it by saying "but I used Low Fat sour cream and low fat cream of chicken soup" which is what I do, but we all know we are really fooling anybody. :0)  Also, I'm not usually a fan of using cream of anything soups, but in this case it helps make a really nice sauce.

This recipe calls for almonds, which I initially thought was weird, but it actually adds a nice nutty flavor and some texture. I also add some corn to the mix because I did it on a whim once and it worked out really well.

  • ¼  cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 4-ounce can diced green chile peppers, drained
  • 1 3-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken or turkey
  • 12 7-inch flour tortillas or 6-inch corn tortillas
  • 1 10.75-ounce can reduced-fat condensed cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 8-ounce carton light dairy sour cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¾ cup shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese (3 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons slivered almonds
 I had cooked up my chicken yesterday and shredded it with my cool new Pampered Chef salad choppers. They are for salad, but at the party I went to, the demonstrator used them to shred chicken and it works like a dream!!

In a medium skillet cook the the onion in hot butter over medium heat until onion is tender and nuts are lightly toasted. This is where I added the frozen corn and you would add the almonds if you were using them. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the canned green chile peppers; reserve remaining peppers for sauce
In a medium bowl stir together cream cheese, the 1 tablespoon milk, and the cumin; add nut mixture and chicken. Stir until combined. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the chicken mixture onto each tortilla near an edge; roll up. Place filled tortillas, seam side down, in a greased 3-quart rectangular baking dish. Set aside.
 You know, sometimes your hands are your best kitchen tools!!
For sauce, in a medium bowl combine the reserved chile peppers, the soup, sour cream, and the 1 cup milk. Pour evenly over the tortillas in the baking dish. Cover with foil.
Bake, covered, in a 350 degree oven about 35 minutes or until heated through. Remove foil. Sprinkle enchiladas with cheese and the 2 tablespoons almonds. Return to oven; bake about 5 minutes more or until cheese melts. Makes 6 servings.

Like I said, not in anyway healthy, but it is delicious! And a nice alternative to the red sauce traditional enchiladas!

Original recipe source: http://www.bhg.com/recipe/chicken/chicken-enchiladas/

Let me know if you try this and how it turned out.

Happy Cooking!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mom worries...

As a mom, it seems I am always worried about something or another. I worry about the future mostly. I worry about whether JJ will make the right choices. I worry that he will be bullied. I worry that he will be the one bullying (what? not my sweet little man!!) I watch the news and I worry that something terrible will happen to him. I tell my husband everyday that I will never let JJ walk to and from school by himself. It maybe an overreaction and my mind my change later, but for now when it isn't even an issue yet, that's the policy. We live in a safe area, but there are too many bad people in the world and I don't want to take any chances.
For now my current worry is the fact that my 19-month-old child doesn't seem to have any interest in talking. He's growing up so fast and he seems so smart. Like, smart to the point that I know he's going to give me trouble when he gets older :0) But not so much with the talking. We read to him and talk to him all the time, but he just smiles and laughs and does his thing. He understands everything we ask him or tell him. "Who's JJ?" points to himself, proudly "Can you get your ball?" runs to his ball "Close the door please." closes the door (this one is easy. for some reason JJ loves closing doors, whether you are ready for him to do it or not.) "Give Mommy kisses." he does and it melts my heart every single time. He also loves to wave at people "hi" and "bye" but he doesn't say the words to go with it. He can also fit the shaped blocks into their spaces and feed himself with a fork (still working on the spoon, he likes to turn it upside-down). Basically, everything a child his age should be doing, he is. Except verbally.
Don't get me wrong, JJ makes a lot of noises. He talks in his own way. He is not by any means the silent type. The only "words" he seems to say are the "K" sound for milk and "up, up, up" when he wants to get into our laps. We've tried withholding what he's asking for so he'll say it, but he usually just figures out how to do it on his own or he moves onto something else instead. I've stopped looking on the internet for advice because the options people present for why he isn't talking yet scare me. And probably aren't true since most of them start with "Well, my sister's neighbor's baby sitter's little brother didn't talk..."
I'm sure he's fine. I'm sure one day he'll start talking and I'll realize I worried for nothing. He could just have delayed speech; I've read that its common with boys. Still, as his mother, I can't help but wonder if its something I did or should be doing. I'm sure I'll have that thought my whole life, but that doesn't make it any less there.
Having children is stressful!! I have been blessed with a beautiful baby who is growing up to be such a sweet, independent little boy. I love watching him grow and learn and figure out the world around him. Seriously, I could just sit and watch him all day. But that beautiful little boy is also the cause for all my worries. Still, I wouldn't trade him for anything in the world. Even if he never speaks another word for the rest of his life. :0)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Finger Paints!!

Yet another Pinterest find (there will be many, I promise :0) )  This one is for homemade fingerpaints! Brilliant, right? Kids are quick to put everything in their mouths (except for the real food you want them to eat, which takes careful and precise scrutiny before they even consider taking a bite).  The recipe is simple and quick and lots of fun.  I don't know how long it is good for, but I would imagine it would have a decent shelf life. And it uses up those baby food jars you don't want to get rid of but never really find a good use for them.

Sorry the pictures are sideways again. Apparently this is a weird thing with Blogger. Hopefully they will fix it soon.

 1. Gather all your ingredients. 3 Tablespoons sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup cornstarch, 2 cups water.
 2. Mix all the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat until thick. This doesn't take long, so don't go far.
 3. Pour into containers. I just did each jar one spoon at a time until I was out, so they would be even. Then just add your food coloring and mix until well blended. I just used one of JJ's baby spoons because they fit so nicely into the jar.  Ta-da! Homemade finger paint!

4. Set it up and let your little one have at it!

This originally came from the following site: http://easiepeasie.blogspot.com/2010/07/homemade-finger-paints.html  (which is a great blog to check out when you have to poke around!)

Happy Crafting!!

United We Stood

Ten years ago the whole world changed.

I remember this day ten years ago as if it happened this morning, and I have a feeling I always will. Woke up, got dressed, headed to the kitchen, getting ready to leave for school. Senior year had just started. I got to the kitchen and my dad was standing there, staring at the television. I had no idea up that point what was going on. The first tower was down and the news cameras were filming chaos. No one knew what was going on. Then I saw it. The second plane hit. The image is disturbing, upsetting, vivid. Like a movie that won't stop playing.

The thing is, we all saw it. We, as a nation, watched a tragedy unfold in real time. We collectively gasped when the towers fell. All 300,000,000 of us were suddenly connected on the most raw and basic level. We were all the same--whether we were in Manhattan or L.A. or Corn Cob, Iowa--we were all the same. Vulnerable, angry, shaken to our core.

For many of us, especially my generation, this was the first truly historical and significant event that we can remember. Sure, there were others, but we were so young. I remember the LA Riots, but I don't remember being truly affected by them. 9/11 affected everyone.

9/11 resonates everyday, and has done so for the last ten years. It changed the way we live our lives. We learned that we aren't immune from tragedy. We learned that we are stronger than we may think. We learned that if we band together, we can do great things, even just regular people (I'm talking to you, Flight 93. Let's Roll, indeed).

There was a surge of patriotism immediately following 9/11 which has since waned considerably. Our momentary bipartisan comfort group was all too quickly replaced by politics and finger pointing. The blame game couldn't wait any longer and someone needed to be thrown under the bus.

We live in a country now that is very divided, full of "vs": Democrats vs. Republicans, Religion vs. Religion, Minorities vs. Majorities. Every issue is polarizing, each side just as passionate as the other but most often not willing to accept that sometimes people have different opinions.
But there was that brief moment in time, right after our nation was devastated where we weren't divided. We were too busy being human and recognizing our common ground to care who was a Democrat and who was a Republican. We were all just people. We were, if only for a moment, made friends out of strangers. Its the only time in my life so far that I can think of where we truly embodied our Pledge of Allegiance. We truly were "One Nation." And I miss that.

God Bless America.

"Time is passing. Yet, for the United States of America, there will be no forgetting September the 11th. We will remember every rescuer who died in honor. We will remember every family that lives in grief. We will remember the fire and ash, the last phone calls, the funerals of the children. "
- President George W. Bush, November 11, 2001

"Now, we have inscribed a new memory alongside those others. It's a memory of tragedy and shock, of loss and mourning. But not only of loss and mourning. It's also a memory of bravery and self-sacrifice, and the love that lays down its life for a friend-even a friend whose name it never knew. "
- President George W. Bush, December 11, 2001

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Yarn Wreath Tutorial

It is no secret I am obsessed with Pinterest and this is the first of many crafts I've made that was inspired by wandering around Pinterest. I must say, I LOVE them!! So many different color combos and different things you can do with them and they are really SOOOO easy. This may have been my first yarn wreath, but I can guarantee it will not be my last!!

1. Wreath form. I used a 16" floral circle. You can use regular styrofoam. I've also seen people use plumbers foam and make their own circle.
2. Yarn in color of your choice. Yarn ranges in texture and price. Don't go crazy expensive; you don't need to. Just pick up regular run-of-the-mill yarn. But keep in mind you will need quite a bit, so don't get one of the small skeins. A medium size will do.
3. Accessories. For my wreath, I picked up a cute faux flower stem from from the floral dept. and a plain pre-cut letter "W". Just pick the flowers off the stem. You don't need the whole thing.
4. Paint in color of your choice, if you picked an accessory that needs painting.
5. Hot Glue Gun

Instructions: (The pictures were facing the right way on my computer, I promise. Not sure why they are sideways now... Blogger has changed. I'll figure it out...)

 1. Start winding your yarn around your wreath form. Button down and get comfy, this part takes awhile. I found that the bonus to using florist styrofoam is that the yarn just sticks to it on its own. No need to glue as you go.
 2. Finish your yarn where you started. You'll see I have both ends hanging out. This is where you will glue down one of your accessories. That's what will keep it in place.
 3. Paint your letter. Once the red dried, I painted white polka dots. Sorry I forgot to take a picture, but I think you can figure it out. 
 4. Dry fit your flowers. Make sure they lay out how you want them and make sure they start and finish where you want on the curves of the circle.
 5. See here where I spread the yarn and can see the styrofoam underneath? You can stick the ends of the flower stems in here and they stay pretty well.
6. Squeeze a dot of hot glue and stick your flower in place, making sure the small stem sticks into the styrofoam.
7. Just for fun and a splash of green, I added a couple leaves from the leftover flower stem. Just hot glue those down. Careful not to burn your finger!
 8. The "W" is glued on over the two ends of my yarn, holding everything together. (I threw on the little "Hello" last minute :0)  )
 So cute, right!?!?  And super easy!! Got it all done in an afternoon!

Happy Crafting!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A closet full of clothes and nothing to wear...

This has been a topic of discussion for my friends and me off and on for quite sometime (particularly Jenn and Valerie). We aren't in college anymore, but we're young. We are young, but we're moms. We are mom's, but we aren't old. Deciding what to wear has suddenly become an awful punishment of some sort. What the heck are we supposed to wear??

It doesn't help that I am a little bit afraid of fashion. I know what is in style and I know what looks good and what doesn't, but my concern is I will wear something that is in style and trendy, but people are silently thinking "who does she think she is fooling, trying to wear that outfit?" I'm afraid I can't pull it off. I'm not exactly next in line to appear on "What Not to Wear" or anything, but I don't think Clinton and Stacey would be jumping for joy at most of my wardrobe either. I know there are certain trends that only look good on certain people/body types, so that's a start in avoiding the wrong things, right?

Thanks to my obsession with Pinterest and all the people pinning pre-selected outfits from polyvore.com, I've started to try to define my style. I've decided to face my fashion fears. I've started mixing classic pieces with a few trendy things. I've also discovered that most of what I own is fine, its just how to wear it. Mixing and matching. It also helps that my sister, who is a fantastic dresser, and I have a sort of backwards arrangement. We don't do hand-me-downs, we do hand-me-ups. She's eight years younger than me, but about 40% of my closet is made up of her clothes.

I'm slowly buying new, cute and mom-appropriate items to add to my wardrobe, while going through my closet and drawers doing the "when was the last time I wore this and when will I wear it again?" test.

I don't think you'll be seeing me on the cover of any fashion magazines anytime soon, but I like to think my new attitude on couture will give me new lease on my fashion life and I can walk down the street feeling good about myself, looking cute in what I'm wearing... whether I'm pushing a stroller or not.

(<-- Me in one of my cute new outfits. It's the end of a hot day, so my hair isn't looking top notch :0/ )