Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas

This time of year causes me to reflect on my childhood more than any other. The Hershey's Kisses bells playing We Wish You A Merry Christmas, the M&M's encountering Santa, Charlie Brown Christmas playing on TV, Christmas Canon or Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas playing on the radio, or the smell of fresh cut Christmas trees instantly take me back to our living room fully decorated with tacky tinsel and my mom baking cookies while my sister and I watched one of the various Christmas shows she recorded for us. Or heading to pick out our Christmas tree and stopping to eat lunch at Burger King before we went home where my dad would proceed to chop off part of the stump and unruly branches with ol' hickory - the sharpest and largest kitchen knife we owned. Or driving around listening to Christmas carols while looking at Christmas lights. Or "sleeping" (mainly laughing and talking all night) with my sister every Christmas Eve with the radio tuned to The Key where they played 24 hours of Christmas music. And so many other memories I cherish in my heart.

I can barley watch those commercials and shows or listen to the songs these days because while they are so happy and I love them I get very emotional. Emotional over the simple, innocent, and care free days of childhood. The feeling of safety and comfort from having two parents around who took care of everything and would do anything for you. While a majority of my friends came from divorced homes, my sister and I were blessed enough to grow up in a two parent household full of love until I was 17 and she 16. And while we didn't grow up in Hills West (the then fancy area of town) like some of our friends, I would never trade what we had. Two parents home every night and a mom who stayed home to take care of us as young kids is worth a million fancy homes. And every year when I first hear that Hershey's Kisses commercial my heart flutters with pure joy and excitement. Even though it's short lived and adulthood sets in again when I look at the dishes in the sink or the laundry in the basket. Those moments of pure childhood bliss come to life in my heart so vividly I want to cry. I do not have children with which to relive this joy through and Jeremiah doesn't understand so much because he came from a broken home at a very young age where the back and forth parent to parent experience jaded him. That may be partly what makes me sad. It's something that was so magical that existed for me and I know I can't go back and I know not every child had or has that. And I don't know with certainty that Jeremiah and I will have children. So for now, I relish in those sounds, sights, and smells that revive my memory and watch as my niece and nephews look at this magical Christmas world with wonder and amazement.

I feel incredibly blessed and humbled by the love and joy God bestowed upon me as a child. What my parents were able to give my sister and I was something money can never buy. And even though they are no longer married, those memories are not tainted in anyway and those times are filed away separately from the later years when their marriage quickly went downhill. The happy childhood memories I have are a continual gift that I receive every year when Christmas rolls around. The gift that truly keeps on giving. If you can give this to your children or those around you, do. Memories are a priceless gift that stay with us forever. And I'm thankful to my parents for giving that to my sister and I. And thankful to God for taking what could have made for rough circumstances for two little girls and blessing it. He really can make everything for good. Thank you, Jesus.  Merry Christmas, indeed. 


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Pumpkin Maple Nog Oatmeal

I haven't posted in way too long. But I'm back with one more Fall recipe I just had to share. With my current state of lactose intolerance, I decided to try some SO Delicious Coconut Nog and was not disappointed. I shared it all over social media it was that good. Fast forward to Thanksgiving week when I really wanted some more and could not find it at any store in the Tri-City area. As I watched my family sip the regular dairy nog on turkey day, I might have had a few choice words run through my head, but I kept them to myself... mostly. But now the nog was all I could think about, but there was nothing I could do. I did end up finding some on the Sunday night after Thanksgiving, in case you were worried. This town just ain't big enough for more than one lactose intolerant person. Now onto the delicious recipe I concocted with the nog! A yummy Pumpkin Oatmeal that you do not want to miss out on. It's very simple and easily customizable. So don't be afraid to get crazy with it. :)

Pumpkin Maple Nog Oatmeal:

Prepare oatmeal according to directions. I used rice milk to prepare mine and gluten free oats. Next, add 1 tablespoon pumpkin purée, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and a couple tablespoons SO Delicious Dairy Free Nog Coconut Milk to taste. Add a handful of raisins and nuts, if can tolerate, and mix well. Then devour. Because it's so tasty and festive and filling and comforting! Yes , that's a lot of "and's," but I'm pretty sure they're all necessary. ;)

*No I am not being compensated by SO Delicious. I just love this nog and wanted to use it here all on my own. You could use regular egg nog, milk, or plain coconut milk and add cinnamon and nutmeg to flavor if you cannot find a good nog to use. Don't forget - this recipe is customizable to your allergy needs. Use whatever dairy free, egg free, nut free, etc. ingredients you need to. The pumpkin, maple syrup, and cinnamon/nutmeg are the staples here.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers

I struggle to find new foods to tantalize my palate and make me feel full and fulfilled in the cold Fall and Winter months. I have always wanted to try stuffed peppers, but they looked like a lot of work and kind of messy. I must've been feeling adventurous the other day (or just really starving) and happened to have the ingredients on hand so I went for it. I peeked at some random recipes online and then tweaked a few to fit my unique dietary needs. The result was a delicious comfort food that even my husband enjoyed. I included cheese in the recipe because I used it in my husband's peppers, but you can omit the dairy or anything else you cannot tolerate. Or you can add onions, tomatoes, and whatever else you like, if you are able to enjoy those foods. Just add them by the half cup full or so. Now give these babies a try. They are very tasty and healthy! 

Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers 

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 teaspoon garlic
1 8-oz package mushrooms, stems removed , caps sliced very thin
3 large carrots, grated
1 14.5-oz can homemade chicken stock or store bought; if can tolerate 
3/4 cups quinoa
1 15-oz can black beans 
1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese (omit if dairy free), 1/2 cup reserved
Salt and pepper to taste 
4 large bell peppers, halved lengthwise, ribs removed

Preheat oven to 350. 
Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add celery and sauté until soft, about 5 mins. Stir in garlic and mushrooms and cook until soft, about 1 minute. Stir in carrots, vegetable broth, and quinoa. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Remove from heat and stir in black beans, corn, and 1 cup cheese (if using cheese). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Fill bottom of baking dish with about 1/2 inch water. Fill each bell pepper with 3/4 cup quinoa mixture and place in baking dish. Cover with foil and bake 40 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle each pepper with 1 tablespoon of reserved cheese (if using). Bake 15 minutes more or until tops of peppers are browned. Let stand 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy. 

Homemade Crockpot Chicken Stock - Intersitial Cystitis Friendly

Soup is a Fall/Winter staple. Comfort food at its finest, warm to the bones on those cold winter nights, and healing to the body on those sick days. However, nearly all of the prepared canned or boxed soups from the store are not IC friendly. Good thing a yummy soup stock is easy to create and tweak into something we IC-ers can enjoy. Just throw everything into a crockpot and go about your day. I recently made a whole chicken so not only did I have dinner for a couple of days, but then I used the chicken carcass to make my stock. I definitely recommend doing it this way- two birds, one stone. If you're looking for an IC friendly crockpot roasted chicken recipe, check out my Instagram. It's so easy! Just throw a whole chicken in your crockpot with a little water, top with all of your favorite seasonings, and let your crockpot do its thing. Easy peasy lemon squeezy... okay, maybe not lemon. Our bladders wouldn't like that. ;) Now get that crockpot out, do yourself a favor, and make this. Trust me, you'll thank yourself. Hello, easy Fall comfort food!











Homemade Crockpot Chicken Stock

Yield: Makes about 2 quarts of stock.

Leftover bones and skin from a cooked or raw chicken carcass
4 stalks celery, chopped to fit in crockpot
1/2 small onion, if can tolerate
4 carrots, chopped to fit in crockpot
2 tablespoons parsley
2 tablespoons oregano
2 tablespoons basil
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon thyme
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
6-8 cups water
Put leftover bones and skin from a chicken carcass into a crockpot and cover with cold water. Add veggies and seasonings. Cook on low heat 8-10 hours. Remove the bones and strain the stock. Store in refrigerator overnight. Skim fat from top once cooled (I have skipped this step and it really didn't bother me to have the extra fat on top, it reheats and blends in just fine). You can then use within a few days or freeze for a few months. Again, feel free to omit or add anything you like. Enjoy!

Xx, A!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Tomato Free Red Sauce

This is a recipe I've been wanting to toy around with for some time, but wasn't sure how easy it would be. But I miss pizza, spaghetti, and all of the other red sauce dishes off limits to us IC-ers so much so that I finally just went for it. It ended up being pretty tasty and hit the spot - especially on my homemade pizza the other night. I originally saw a similar recipe on a site and based mine off of similar ingredients, but couldn't use the recipe itself since it contained vinegar and lemon juice. Ouch! I have also seen a recipe on the IC Network site that I plan to try next time and compare the two. Always nice to have a few options with this diet restricted lifestyle. Hopefully, this hits the spot for some of you and makes you realize where there's a will there's a way! :)

Tomato Free Red Sauce

Feel free to omit anything you cannot tolerate or add anything you think would replace or enhance it. :) 

1/2 t garlic powder 
1 cup carrots cut into 1/2 inch pieces 
2 small sweet potatoes
Salt to taste 
Pepper to taste (if can tolerate)
1 red bell pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 T dried basil
1 T dried oregano
1 t parsley

In large sauce pan sauté garlic, carrots, sweet potatoes, red bell pepper, salt, and pepper in a little olive oil about 5 mins. Add water to just barely cover vegetables and bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer (covered) about 20 mins until veggies are soft. Blend contents in blender with olive oil until smooth. Return to sauce pan, add herbs, and simmer for about 5-10 mins. 

Enjoy on everything. :)

XX, A!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Becoming the 12th Man and Our Anniversary

We were lucky enough to attend the Seahawks vs. 49ers game in Seattle a few weeks ago to celebrate our 5 year wedding anniversary and the 12th Man did not disappoint. It was my first pro football game and I was a little apprehensive that it might be too rowdy for me. After all, it was the night where the 12th Man was attempting to break the world record for the loudest fans in a stadium, ever. And yes - we did!

Let's just say, this trip was an adventure from the ride up, to finding drugs in our hotel room, to thunder and lightening at the game, to the late night arrival in Ellensburg Sunday, to finally coming home sick on Monday. I think the long weekend and weather caught up with me. In addition to being in the rain capitol of the world, on Friday we were in Pendleton, OR for the Pendleton Roundup and it was 96 degrees. The next day we were in 60 degree Seattle. No wonder I got sick. And am still sick. Regardless, it was an adventure with my love and a great way to say "Hurray" to 5 years marriage!

Here are a few memories we shared:

Friday, September 20, 2013

I was almost a Southern Bell

This Summer we were offered a great opportunity to move to the South. Greenville, SC to be exact. For those who don't know, Jeremiah worked for Fluor Government Group and the group he worked for (and their headquarters) are located there. Over the years, he traveled to Greenville several times and the invitation to move was always extended. However, it was never something we wanted, despite the financial benefits. But this Summer Fluor decided to close all of its Richland offices as of the end of September 2013 and offered relocation packages to a select few. Jeremiah being one, of course. The retention offer and benefits of moving were very enticing. And most would have gone without hesitation. But we have other priorities and values in our lives. We love that both of our families are here and we want to raise our babies with family near them. Also, my health issues make me apprehensive to move away from my doctors and support system. So while we really do love Greenville and the opportunity presented was great, we knew we needed to pray.

We went ahead and accepted the position to move (just in case), but knew God would take care of us no matter what we ended up doing. Well, it had barely been a week when out of the blue Jeremiah got a call from another company who wanted to interview him for a job. Apparently, another co-worker interviewing for a different position mentioned his name to the company who had been seeking to find a new analyst for months. Talk about a God thing! Within a couple of weeks Jeremiah interviewed and was offered a position at a very competitive rate to what Fluor had offered. We accepted and Jeremiah shared the news with Fluor, where they were very understanding. They knew his reasons for not relocating before and were sad to see him go, but respected his decision.

I know it wasn't easy for Jeremiah to leave the co-workers and position he held with Fluor and give up the financial benefits of moving, but I am so thankful he values my opinion/wants/needs and is on the same page with me and what we want in life. I am also thankful for the new opportunity awarded to Jeremiah and what appears to be a better/healthier work schedule and stress level with the new position. I pray this job brings him happiness and success and he can be an equal blessing to his new employer at Energy Northwest! So proud of my hubby! He has made quite a name and impression for himself in the MIS world and co-workers from Fluor have already called for help in the past few weeks. Another even called to tell him he quit to move to a new position with a better work/life balance.

All the glory to God! He's real and He works for your good! :)


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Rebecca - Senior Session

I recently had the opportunity to take senior photos for my niece Rebecca at their beautiful property in Finley. This meant open fields, horses, hay, streams, bicycles, and cowboy boots. We even got her boyfriend in on a few shots. Oh young love. :)The sun could not have been more perfect and the photos turned out like a dream. Rebecca is a gorgeous young woman with a bright future ahead of her. She is full of spunk, fearlessness, and kindness and can rock a dress and shotgun at the same time. Love this girl! Congrats and enjoy your senior year, Becca!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

5 Year Honeymoon

This past August we celebrated 5 years of wedded bliss. Or as Jeremiah's favorite joke goes, 3 years happily married. 5 total. Hardy har har, Mr. Atkins. I cannot believe we have been married five years! It seems like it was just yesterday Jeremiah was bringing Lil' Jackie cat treats to steal my heart and taking me on wild and crazy trips to woo me. It all worked and I'm glad it did. Being married is the most meaningful adventure I've ever been on and one of the most awesome experiences in life. Even for all you marriage haters (I know I was there) I recommend it. ;)

For our anniversary, we originally planned to go to the San Juans, but that quickly changed when I decided I wanted to go to a Seahawks game instead. And Jeremiah being the awesome guy he is, bought me tickets for our anniversary. Lets try and forget about the 500% mark up on Stubhub we had to pay. Yikes! We still planned to do a weekend or day trip on our actual anniversary, as well. However, we are in the middle of a serious indoor remodel of our home and when the weekend came upon us we both looked at each other exhausted and had no desire to do anything. Haha. We both just wanted to stay home, keep working on the house, and get some sleep. So not like us! We love to get away and use every celebration as an opportunity to do so. So you know we were tired! It was nice to know neither one of us was letting the other down by not wanting to go. So Jeremiah got his Swiss Army Victorinox watch he'd been eyeing for a while and I got my game. So excited we still have that to look forward. It will be the perfect celebration of the place we got engaged and a welcome to Fall. 


Monday, September 9, 2013

If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere!

* Never posted this on the old blog because I intended to add more pics, but eh who cares. This will do! :)

In May, I crossed another 2013 goal off my list and made it to New York City!

We originally planned to do a tropical getaway and even considered a cruise. We had a very short window of time in which we could take a vacation so as the time got closer and everyone and their dog was giving us advice on where to go or not go and blah blah blah we decided to fool them all and go to New York! Then came the annoying questions of, "Why are you going to New York?" Why not?! I have wanted to go since I was a child and most people never make it there if they have no reason to and we didn't want to be those people - since we really have no other reason to head that way, either. I am so glad we didn't listen to other people. This was the perfect trip for a couple of DINKs. I cannot imagine doing this if we had children! We went at the perfect time of year. There was a glorious heat wave that made the old concrete jungle hotter than the TC's so we were happy to get away to the city for some fun in the sun! There's so much life to live and adventures to go on and I am so glad Jeremiah loves to experience it all with me! Mr. Atkins, I adore you and your love for life and me!

Overall, the trip was a blast/exhausting/intense/nonstop/unpredictable/expensive and probably a once in a lifetime thing. So of course, we crammed in everything we could! I have some great recommendations if you ever need them! :)

In the meantime, here are some of our favorite Big Apple moments:

Times Square - Arriving just in time to see the Lego X-Wing Fighter before it moved to San Diego that night!

M&M World/Toys R' US (with indoor ferris wheel)/Hershey's store - 3 Childhood dream stores right in Times Square and just a hop skip and a jump from our hotel.

9/11 Memorial and the new Freedom Tower

Wall Street/NYSE (New York Stock Exchange)/Charging Bull - NYSE is a beautiful building, but don't let the bull fool you. He is not worth wasting your sweet precious time in line for a photo.

5th Ave Shopping - Saks. Tiffany. Bergdorff Goodman. Need I say more?

FAO Schwartz  - Channeling our inner Tom Hanks in Big. Except for the whole avoiding the athlete's foot on the Big Piano which was crawling with barefooted little rif-raff.

Apple Store - Man heaven.

J&R Electronics - Ditto to the above. Although, we did buy an external charging device for my phone to charge up the battery. Can't be without Google Earth on the iPhone in the big city!

Staten Island Ferry - It's free and offers fantastic views. Plus, seeing the hustle and bustle of the local working folk makes you feel less touristy. Or maybe more. I'm not sure on this one...

American Museum of Natural History - Unlike Night at The Museum, nothing came to life. Bummer. And we even brought gum!

Zabar's - I am obsessed with bakeries and authentic foods (at least the ones I can have) so I found Zabar's before we even left and knew we had to go there. It's a Jewish market with cheeses and baked goods galore. All delicious! Took our fair share back to the hotel that night.

Keen's Chophouse - Only surviving original building in the theater district. 138 years old and features smoking pipes from Babe Ruth and ex-presidents, in addition to the best steak of Jeremiah's life!

Empire State Building - It looks like a Christmas tree!

Macy's Flagship Store - 9 floors of glory with beautiful old wooden escalators. We may have spent one too many days here trying to find Jeremiah new shoes.

MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art) - Fantastic and authentic art. Best museum the city has to offer.

Seeing Wicked - And to think I didn't even want to see a Broadway Show! Loved it!

Brooklyn Bridge - No big deal. Just walked across in 91 degree 70% humidity. Oy!

Chinatown and Chinatown Ice Cream Factory - The website made it look better.

Harbour Cruise - We cruised around Manhattan and saw Lady Liberty up close and personal, in addition to the amazing views of the city and it's famous landmarks.

Shake Shack - One of the best burger chains in the US. And the custard and shakes are beyond words!

Today Show - Waited around in hopes of being seen on the small screen, but alas - no. But I'm pretty sure I caught a glimpse of Matt Lauer in the window on commercial break. ;)

MOMA - I can appreciate lots of art. Even when I don't understand it all. But I will never allow myself to consider that throwing a dildo in a glass case or making a naked video of your self boxing yourself is art. There are much more useful ways for one to spend their time. That is a self-indulgent and selfish use of oneself and time, if you ask me. You do not better the world or bring beauty or talent by doing these types of things. I have very strong feelings on this! ;)

Top of The Rock - We heard Top of The Rock had better views than Empire State and it's true! It's not quite as high, but is still insanely high and the view is truly unmatched!

Rockefeller Center and where the famous rink and tree and go.

Central Park - I think the below photo says enough of the beauty.

Traveled by plane/subway/boat/taxi/foot and spaceship - Okay, maybe not the last one. ;) After all that crazy travel we upgraded for the ride to the airport to the Denali parked outside our hotel. Pretty sure I've never spent that much on vehicular transportation in my life.

Saw Upper/Lower/East/West Manhattan/Chelsea/New Jersey and everywhere in between. Amazing city with amazing history. No place like it.

I really do LOVE New York!


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day

Today was the big day - the day I got my braces off. After two and a half long years of cutting my corn off the cob and every other fruit and veggie into bite size pieces, I headed to Dr. Ostler to reveal my new straight pearly whites. It should have been a fantastic day. Not only were my braces coming off, but our new California King Sleep Number Bed was set to arrive. But for some reason this day went wrong from about 4am.

Here's a quick look at how it all went down:

Had to work early due to orthodontist appointment.
Woke at 4am with bad stomach pains and never fell back asleep.
Went to work, where it was obvious to all I did not feel well, and left for my appointment with a less than happy tummy around 9:30am. Figured the anxious/excited feeling I had about the braces coming off might have been part of it.
Once at the appointment, my tummy was not happy and neither was my bladder, as a result.
Hygienist had trouble getting a few brackets off and it hurt - this was by far the worst part of the entire braces experience.
Ask to use restroom thanks to bladder/tummy issues. Due to leaving my purse in the car, I put my iPhone in my back pocket and forgot. Next thing I know, kerplunk! Why, why why?!?!?!?!
Head back to chair and let everyone know what just happened. Still feeling yuck and end up needing to use the restroom a few more times. They think I'm sick and need a towel and garbage can next to me. Super embarrassing. However, it is very hard to explain IC to people so I just let them think that.
They hurry along and send me to get impressions where they have trouble and have to take them twice. The impressions aren't so bad, though, thankfully!
Come home and see the bed arrived in the few hours I was gone that morning and they left it in our driveway. Thanks, guys. Thankfully, Jeremiah ran home and helped me get it inside.

All in all, the braces are off and the bed arrived. I have no clue if they gave me any instructions at the ortho because I was so out of it/embarrassed/feeling blah. This stuff only happens to me. I swear! Hopefully, tomorrow when I get my retainer it will go much smoother - my day included!


Monday, August 19, 2013

Elizabeth - Senior Session

While I haven't done a photo session in ages, I was asked by niece if I would take her senior photos. There is a lot of pressure in doing that - But I said yes. I felt really rusty and in over my head during the shoot and I am sure they could tell. I haven't completely given up on photography, but I certainly do not have the gear or editing software to take the photos I wish I could. I am happy with how these turned out, but for sure need to invest in an editing monitor. For now, here is my session with the beautiful Elizabeth.