Monday, January 31, 2011

Doro Wat - The Onions

This weekend I tried cooking my first Ethiopian dish. It's called Doro Wat. Wat is a word for stew (or sauce), and Doro Wat is chicken stew. It's my understanding that this is a dish that is made for special occasions, like a religious holiday or when the big extended family is getting together.

I had no idea how long it was all going to take, so I started with the onions. Here is a photo journey of my experience. (Please note that I understand these photos will never win first place in an art show. The purpose was merely documentation to make you smile - my first priority was the Wat!)

Step 1: Purchase 7 large, sweet yellow onions. Check!

Step 2: Dice and cook down onions to half their size. I wonder how long this will take...
This is what it looked like when I started at 10:30...

And later...

Still cooking! The recipe says the longer you cook the onions, the better your wat will be. I want really good wat!

Step 3: After onions have cooked down, add oil and salt to fry them.

The longer you fry them, the better the Wot...

When all was said and done, here is a photo of the remnants of my 7 large onions:

Hopefully I will have really good wat! Tune in Wednesday to see Part 2 of my cooking adventure!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Treat Yourself - Waffles

Recently I found myself home alone for the weekend. Oftentimes when I'm home alone my meals get...well...interesting.

"5:00? Hmmm...I'm kinda hungry. What do we have in the kitchen? Oh! Tortilla chips - well, mostly crumbs. That can work. Maybe I could mix it with salsa and eat it with a spoon. Sweet! Some salsa left! Okay...what else...I think there was a granola bar in here somewhere. Ah, there it is, right next to the crackers. Oooh, I could have cheese and crackers too. Okay. Cheese, crackers, tortilla chip crumbs with salsa. Need a vegetable. I think there's some peas in the freezer..."

See what I'm saying? Well, this particular weekend I wanted to really treat myself. I determined that I am worth the extra time cooking - even if it's just for me.

I decided that for breakfast on Sunday morning, I would make myself waffles before heading out to church. I prepared the dry goods for the batter on Saturday night, put it in a Tupperware container with a lid, and set it on the counter. Next to the halfway-there-batter, I placed the waffle maker. I knew this would help me actually follow through when I woke up.

Sunday morning I woke up, wandered sleepy-eyed into the kitchen, and was surprised to see everything all set out for me. I felt cared for, even if it was being cared for by myself! I made my waffles, placed a large one on a plate with strawberry topping, and gobbled it down. So. Good.

Now, my batter made more than one waffle. Even more than 2. It made 11 waffles. I pulled out some Ziplock bags and carefully placed a waffle in each bag. I got as much air out as I could, and placed the bags in the freezer. Throughout the upcoming week, I pulled a waffle from the freezer in the morning, popped it in the toaster, and enjoyed warm waffles.

Could you set aside some time this weekend to treat yourself? Maybe you don't have a waffle iron, but pancakes are just as good (and just as easily frozen). Make time to treat yourself.

You are worth it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Watching My Words

When you're under the same roof as someone else, you're bound to encounter moments when you disagree. I'm a person who's emotions are intertwined with each square inch of her brain, so oftentimes when I am having a problem with someone, my heart gets wrapped up in it too. This doesn't help me choose my words well.

Tonight I realized that something was bothering me with the way things were in our house. I knew I needed to talk to Zac about it, but I was feeling very frustrated at the time. I was able to mentally step back and ask myself the question, "What's really bothering me here?"

As I tried to figure this out, I realized I had some questions for him. I didn't know all of the information and I was assuming attitudes for him that weren't necessarily true. I knew I needed to learn more.

I also knew he was tired and that if I were in his shoes, I wouldn't want to have a conversation like this so late in the evening. I had to think carefully how to bring it up, and to be honestly okay with him letting me know that now wasn't a good time to talk about it.

I thought for a time about what I needed to do before I acted. This is really huge for me, because oftentimes I just react to things without thinking them through.

I approached him and we had the conversation right there. I was calm and peaceful, and I was able to fully separate my prior emotions from the conversation we were having. I didn't feel an ounce of the frustration I had felt earlier, mostly because I was approaching the conversation with the thought that I wanted to hear his side of things and see the big picture of what was going on.

It was wonderful. Oh, how I wish I could do this every time I need to confront someone! Because I wasn't going into it making all sorts of assumptions, I could hear the truth more clearly. Because I was not calling myself "right" I could see that I had been wrong too. Because I wasn't accusatory, he did not have to feel on the defense. Good stuff.

Lord, help me approach tough conversations this way more often.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Answered Prayer

Yesterday morning I had a good chunk of time to read my Bible. Lately I've been studying the Bible using a devotional on prayer, and it always inspires me to pray more.

My mind started wandering yesterday as my Bible was open on my lap, and I remembered a prayer list I had when I was traveling with Youth Encounter. On this list, I would write down the things I was praying for, the date I started praying for them, and when they got answered. It was a great way to remember what I wanted to pray for but also to see how God was moving.

Without writing down prayer requests, it's easy to think that God doesn't hear me, or God is not answering my prayers. But when I write it down, keep a record, and pray regularly, it's amazing to see how He's working.

As I spent time yesterday with my Bible, I had the urge to begin writing prayer requests down again. I searched the loose papers in my Bible to find a scrap I could use, and I stumbled upon the very prayer requests I had recorded 7 years ago! It was so special to read them again, see how many more have been answered, and remember the people and things I had been lifting up in prayer at that time. What a treasure.

If you want to be more diligent in writing down your prayer requests, check out This free website is a great tool where you can input your prayers and it will send you either a reminder via email or text message. You can set the reminders to come as frequently as you want. Echo Prayer also has a button you can click to mark the prayer as answered, or to make notes to yourself about the item you're praying about. I just logged on to my account again this morning and read all the answered prayers. It reminds me that God is faithful.

Let's decide together that today we will write down the names of those people we want to pray for regularly. When someone says, "Hey could you pray for me about..." let's add them to our list so they don't fall off our radar. If we say we are going to pray, then let's really give it our all and do it!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fun Friday - Did That Just Happen?

When someone asks you, "What is your most embarrassing moment?" which story do you pull out? For me, it's a classic.

I was in high school, and a Target Store had just opened in a nearby town. My sister and I had gone shopping there a few times before, and were excited to be going again. Well, we arrived and I needed to use the bathroom. She waited for me in the hall, and when I came out, we headed to the Dollar Spot together to see what inexpensive items they had featured at the front of the store.

Well, after we had been viewing the Dollar Spot for a few minutes, she looks down and says, "Amber! You have toilet paper stuck to your shoe!" I looked down to find a 1-foot strip of toilet paper trailing my right shoe. I tried to step on it with one foot and pull with the other. It took a little coordinating, but I finally broke free. We quickly moved on to another part of the store, but not before I noticed that there were security cameras above us. I hope the guards on duty enjoyed the show!

What's your most embarrassing moment? If you're brave enough, please share!

Just know that it can't be as bad as this lady's.

Thanks, Paul, for posting this link on Facebook!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

We Want You

As I listened to the radio on my way home from work yesterday, some lyrics caught my ear. They went something like this, "We don't want blessings, we want You."

It's as if everything in the world stopped for a moment when I heard those lyrics.

We don't want blessings

Have I been satisfied with God? Have I been content for his presence, or do I pay more attention to the blessings He can provide?

We all have those friends - you know the kind I'm talking about. The ones that when they call, you just wonder to yourself, "What do they want now?" They never seem to call you to hang out or ask how you're doing; typically, they want your help with something. Do you get a yuck feeling in your stomach when those kinds of friends call? Me too. I wonder if that's how God feels about me sometimes.

"God, please heal so-and-so." "God, help me get through this time." "God, please give us an adoption referral tomorrow." God this, God that. Does He ever get sick of it?

Now, don't get me wrong. It is good to give our concerns up to God, and I trust that He loves hearing from His children regardless of what they have to say, but what if today I said, "Hey God, thanks for being there. I want more of You." Or "God, I want to take some time and enjoy being with you right now." I know I would feel pretty special if a friend called me just to ask to sit in the same room as me.

What do you want more today - God's blessings or God?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Adoption Thoughts

There are some great bloggers out there. I enjoy reading others' blogs just as much as I enjoy writing my own.

One blog I particularly enjoy is called The Way I See It. This family is in the process of adoption, and their timeline was fairly similar to ours for awhile. They have received a referral, and recently the author Becky posted a wonderfully elegant and well-written blog about the joy and pain of adoption. Click here for her post.

I hope you enjoy it just as much as I did. Even though you may not be adopting. I think we can all connect with the heart of her post.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

To make a list or not make a list...that is the question

I'm a notorious list-maker. I could be addicted, but I don't want to spend the time to really think it over.

Lists help me to stay focused when there is a lot to be done in a short period of time. They also help me clear my head because once an item is written down on a list, it somehow gives me permission to not worry about remembering it anymore.

Are you with me?

Well, yesterday I stood at the helm of a free weekend. No plans. NO PLANS. I can count on one hand the number of times this has happened to me in my life, and most of the times were when I was a baby. As I looked ahead to this gloriously free weekend, I wondered what I could do. I made a mental list of about 18 things.

Now, yes, I realize that's a little ambitious. And yes, I know it's not humanly possible to get it all done. But somehow I want to. Somehow I'm not only addicted to lists, but to completing things on lists.

So, do I give in to the temptation to make a list? Can I use the excuse that I'll limit it to only 5 things? Or do I force myself to relax and just go with the flow this weekend?

To make a list or not...what would you do?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Universal Letter Writing Week - Making Life Easy for You

I've been so excited all week for today's post. I knew what it was going to be, and just had to wait for today to come!

Today I'd like to give a gift to you. This is a gift that will (hopefully) make your life easier. If you need some note cards to send to the special people in your life, check out my website today because any note cards you buy from now until midnight will come with a pre-stamped envelope. Hopefully this makes letter writing more enjoyable for you because you don't have to dig through your miscellaneous drawers to find a stamp or run to the post office to purchase one. I hope that in doing this, I will enable you to send those wonderful messages to your friends and family.

Please view my Etsy shop and see if there's anything there that reminds you of the people in your life. You can also forward this link to your friends, so they can take advantage of this opportunity too.

So, stop in before midnight today, January 14th, and get a free, stamped envelope with EACH card purchase.

*No, I will not write the cards out for you. You've got to do that on your own! :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Universal Letter Writing Week - Family

I've been enjoying this week, haven't you? I received a very special note from the friend I referred to in Sunday's blog. She told me how much our friendship means to her and what an honor it is to go through life's different chapters together. It was so well-written; definitely a keeper!

I spent some time writing a note to my Grandpa today. He's been in a nursing home for quite a few years now, and I think at times it must feel so confining to him. His mind is sharp as ever, but his body has failed him. Writing notes to him is something small I can do to let him know I'm thinking about him, and that he's not alone.

Writing to my grandpa made me think about my family, and today I challenge you to write a note to a family member to let them know how much you appreciate them. If you can do a hand-written note, please do that. Those take more time and effort, and it will be a treat for the person on the receiving end. If you don't have the time or resources to send a hand-written note, try an email. Let's make sure to let our family members know we care about them.

If you're not sure what to write about, here are a few ideas:

-Write a note to your parent to share a favorite childhood memory
-Write a note to a sibling to let them know what you appreciate about them as you grow older
-Write a note to your child to let them know what you admire about them
-Write a note to your grandparent to let them know how much you appreciate them in your life
-Write a note offering forgiveness
-Write a note to apologize
-Write a note of encouragement to a family member going through a rough time
-Write a note to a family member celebrating an anniversary
-Write a note of congratulations

Pick up your go and get started!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Universal Letter Writing Week - Pen Pals

Did you have a pen pal growing up? My two longest-lasting pen pals were 2 family friends named Arianna and Sylvia.

Arianna was the daughter of my mom's high school friend. Her family lived on the East Coast, and we would write back and forth often throughout our childhood. She was a year or two older than me which made her really cool. Each year her family would come visit, and we would get to see each other for a few days. I remember my family visiting her family once in North Carolina. I was so excited to see the home of this friend I knew through letters and summer visits to Minnesota. I remember two distinct things: 1.) Mom made us stop to use gas station restrooms before we arrived so we wouldn't bombard them with bathroom requests the minute we got in the house and 2.) They picked up a special, very popular kind of donut for us called Krispy Kreme. It was our first time experiencing Krispy Kreme donuts!

Sylvia was the German cousin of my sister's friend. I'm not exactly sure how we got connected; perhaps while she was visiting our small hometown once. She and I were pen pals for quite a few years, and I always remember getting so excited when I saw one of those air mail envelopes in mom's stack of mail. I knew it was for me from Sylvia! Her English was very good, and she certainly got a lot of practice reading and writing English with all of the letters we traded back and forth!

Did you have a pen pal? What are your memories from your pen pal experience? I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Universal Letter Writing Week - Letters and Books

I love letters, and I also happen to love books. This fall I met a woman who told me about a book she read which was a compilation of letters. It was called The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie society. This book inspired her and reminded her of the importance and the power of the hand-written note. As soon as she told me about it, I immediately went to our library's website to request it!

This book was simply fantastic. I had trouble putting it down. The author weaves the story together brilliantly through these letters. She carefully chooses which details to reveal to you when, and does it so naturally that you forget these letters are fictional!

If you're looking for a nice read and looking to get inspired by the hand-written letter, pick up a copy of this book. You won't be disappointed!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Universal Letter Writing Week

Allow me to be the first to wish you a happy Universal Letter Writing Week! I was overjoyed when I stumbled upon this little-known holiday last week. How have I missed it all these years?

I'm a note collector, and have been for years. I still have a special box with the notes my childhood friend and I passed to each other over the years in elementary and high school.

During a year of volunteering after college, my grandma and this particular friend were very diligent about writing to me each week. I savored those letters, especially when I was homesick in South America. I still have my most-treasured ones.

I save every note my husband writes to me, and melt when I read the collection of them that has spanned 7 years now.

I love letters. They are the first to be sought out and opened when the mail comes. I reread the special ones, and tuck away those that contain compliments and memories. I also love to write letters. There's something so relaxing about writing a hand-written letter to someone else. It feels good to seal that envelope and imagine the little letter finding it's way across the country to its intended destination, hopefully bringing a smile with it.

Universal Letter Writing Week. Beautiful. Will you celebrate with me this year? Think of one person you can write to today and go for it.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Art of Letting Go

I think they call it the "Art of letting go" for a reason. Like painting or pottery or any other art form, either you have it or you don't.

Are you good at letting things go? Can you walk away from a pile of dirty dishes on the counter? Can you forget about that time you said that stupid thing (did one just pop into your head?) Can you let go of the time you were mistreated by a friend? Can you let go of the tone someone used with you recently?

I think we'd all be better off if we at least tried to learn the art of letting go. Let's both commit to trying today!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!

I hope that you joyously rang in the new year over the weekend. I had a quieter evening on New Year's Eve than in past years, but it was wonderful just the same.

Starting a new year feels so good. It's a book with blank pages, all yet to be written. It's a fresh start and a hopeful beginning. I look forward to 2011 with much enthusiasm and anticipation.

I'm still debating about a New Year's resolution. Last year's was fun and diverse, and I'm coming up short with ideas for this year. Oh, there are the bad habits I can try to break, or the aspirations I can try to achieve, or the commitments to relax more...but nothing jumps out at me right now.

Where are you at with a New Year's resolution? Is it something you like to do? How do you help yourself be successful in meeting your goal? I'd love to hear about your New Year's resolution if you made one!

Saturday, January 1, 2011