March 28, 2011

Fried Catfish and a Hungry Toddler

I'm the mother of two young boys (an almost 3-year-old and a 1.5-year-old) with ferocious appetites.  Feeding these boys is almost a full-time job in itself!  Although I would love to spend more time in the kitchen slaving over the stove, it's hard to do with two little ones running all over the house wreaking havoc everywhere they go.  So I have to be able to whip up delicious meals that are fast and easy.

Like this one.  Tonight's menu was fried catfish, steamed green beans, and avocado salad.

First off, I took a cup full of organic frozen green beans and placed it in the steamer for about 6-7 minutes until tender.  Then I chopped up an avocado, sliced a handful of cherry tomatoes, threw in a can of black beans (washed and rinsed first), and sprinkled a little fresh lemon juice to make a quick side salad.

The farmed fresh catfish was bought from Costco and came in a pack of 6 (we love us some Costco; in fact, it was one of CJ's first words).   I threw the fish in a bowl, seasoned it with garlic powder, salt, pepper, old bay, fresh lemon juice, and added just a touch of bread crumbs.  Then I threw some olive oil on a frying pan, fried the catfish on each side for about 6-7 minutes.

And voila!  Meal complete.

I wanted to take a few more shots of the dish while the sun was still out.  But as I said before, I have two little ones with ferocious appetites and trying to do food photography when you've got a hungry toddler around can get interesting.

{ What doesn't belong here? }

By the way, do you see what he's aiming for?

I don't know if anyone else has this "dilemma", but this boy loves his vegetables.  CJ will clean off the green beans, tomatoes, and avocado first.   I have to force him to eat the the protein on his plate.  Yes, yes.  I've been told this is a good "problem" to have.

What makes me happiest as a mom is to see the boys eat and enjoy every morsel of something I've made.  Not every meal is a huge success, but tonight was a good night.


March 25, 2011

Preparing for the Harvest

This is our little garden and our little 18-month-old gardener, Nathan.  It's almost time to start putting our compost to use and get the soil ready and fertile for this year's crop.  Last year, we reaped fresh cherry tomatoes, little cucumbers, fresh beds of lettuce, spinach, and kkae-nip leaves, some basil and parsley, a little eggplant and the spiciest hot chili peppers you ever laid your taste buds on (I was the only person who could enjoy them, and I savored every mouth-burning morsel).

What to grow this year . . .

What are you growing in your garden?



March 23, 2011

Walk on Water

{ circa May 2007 along the coast of Big Island, Hawaii }
Some days you feel like you can barely keep your head above water.

The waves come crashing over you and you hold your breath kicking, splashing, and flailing with everything you've got.  You swallow gulps full of water and then come back up for air only to have another wave wash over you.

And in a moment of sheer desperation, you muster up just enough strength to whisper a simple plea.

"Rescue me."

This is where I've been.  Overwhelmed, exhausted, and crying out for relief.

But what I'm realizing is that I've been relying on my own strength to keep me afloat instead of resting in the Lord and trusting in His power.  I've been crying out for a life preserver when Jesus himself walks out on the water, commands the waves to stop, holds His hand out and says, "Take courage!  It is I. Don't be afraid." (Matthew 14:27)

When we don't have the strength to hold on, the amazing thing is God walks on water, reaches out His arms, and holds on to us.

March 21, 2011

When Life Throws You Lemons

When life throws you lemons, well, you have yourself a good cry and then you bake some cookies as consolation.

The past couple weeks have been such a whirlwind of emotions flying in every direction.  Life has been complicated.  And many days have been spent wondering when things might get a little easier.

Then I visited my best friend while I was in Virginia, and as we talked, she offered me a fresh batch of lemon cookies.  I devoured one chewy, lemony goodness after another and couldn't stop myself.  And when I found out how easy they were to make, I thanked God for simple joys and pleasures in life.  Like these cookies.  And 20 year friendships that withstand the test of time, offensive amount of Rave hairspray, acid wash jeans, stupid boy crushes, and five pregnancies between us.

It took a simple afternoon with a dear friend and some cookies to remind me there is much to celebrate and take delight in, even when life is anything but easy.  But this is what I hope I'll be able to do every day:  find joy in life's simple pleasures.  I look forward to sharing this journey with you all.

Lastly, I am participating in the NYC Bake Sale for Japan.  It's a simple means to help in a big way.  Sometimes we don't think our simple acts amount to much.  But I love this quote on the bakesaleforjapan.com site:  Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. - Howard Zinne

Additional bakers and volunteers are still needed for the New York bake sale.  If you'd like to contribute in any way, please contact Lillian of Sweets by Sillianah at NYCBakesale@gmail.com.  And if you'd like to get involved in your own area, check out bakesaleforjapan.com for more information and to see participating locations.

Blissfully Simple Lemon Cookies
{Makes 24 cookies; Prep-time: 10 minutes; Bake time: 10 minutes}
Adapted from AllRecipes

1 (18.25 ounce) package lemon cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar for decoration

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  2. Pour cake mix into a large bowl. Stir in eggs, oil, and lemon extract until well blended. Drop teaspoonfuls of dough into a bowl of confectioners' sugar. Roll them around until they're lightly covered. Once sugared, put them on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  3. Bake for 8-10 minutes in the preheated oven. The bottoms will be light brown, and the insides chewy.  Transfer to wire rack and let cool completely before serving. 

    P.S.  They're even better the day after they're baked.

March 18, 2011

Talented / Joseph Vincent & Clara C

Back in the days when I used to dream of writing and recording music, it looked something like this:

So, so talented.

March 16, 2011

Mr. Chatterbox

I haven't been much for words these days.  My 2.5 year-old, on the other hand, is a nonstop chatterbox.

Watching this video, you'll note (1) he loves dinosaurs, (2) he loves to sing, (3) he's still learning his manners, (4) he amuses himself, (5) he loves dinosaurs, and (6) he is incredibly sweet and charming.

Apologies for the horrible video quality, but this was recorded with just a nightlight on.


March 2, 2011

Love is a Choice We Make

{ along the streets of New York near my office }

I’ll just say it.  Being a mother is not easy.  In fact, it’s the most difficult job and role I’ve ever had.  And this is one I can’t quit . . . even on the days I want to.

And yes, that thought has crossed my mind.

One evening after midnight, both my children woke up screaming and crying.  Exhausted, drained, and frustrated, I attended to them but couldn’t help but think how they were infringing on what I wanted most at that moment.  Peace, quiet, and rest.  And then it crept into my head, almost out of nowhere.

The thought, “Wouldn’t my life be easier if I just walked away?

It sounds awful, doesn’t it?  Just writing it makes me feel like a horrible mother and wife.  But the truth of the matter is I know I’m not alone.  Mothers everywhere - particularly those with very young children - wrestle with the “what if …” and spend time daydreaming of another life.  Perhaps one that’s simpler, or more exciting and exotic, or just one that doesn’t involve dirty diapers, potties on the head, washing out food stains, or dealing with inconsolable tantrums.

On the difficult and challenging days when life is just a blur and nothing more than going through the motions, the thought occurs more often than one would like to admit.

But I love my children!  I love my husband!  I could never do that.

Of course we say that, and of course we mean it . . . at least most of the time.  But love is not just a feeling.  It's a choice we make.  Sure, sometimes it makes your heart beat and flutter and feel all warm inside.   But when that fades away or those emotions are absent, then what?  Is love gone?  And then is it time to move on?  Well, that does seem to be the trend these days.

But no.

Love is caring for someone even if it means sacrifice on our part.

Love is choosing to give your heart fully and wholly to someone, even if it means becoming painfully vulnerable.

Love is choosing to be by someone’s side, even if it means carrying the weight of their burdens and struggles.

Love is doing the mundane and seemingly insignificant, because it may mean the world to someone else.

Love is saying, “I will be there with you,” even when hitting the high road would be so much easier.

Love is entering into the deep, dark, difficult places together and walking hand-in-hand toward the light.

Love is seeing all the ugliness of a person and choosing to embrace him or her still.

Love is going through life together, no matter how messy and complicated it gets.

What will I choose?

I'm reminded Jesus had a choice.  He could’ve easily walked away.  And you know, the thought did occur to Him as He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane before His crucifixion.

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me . . .” (Luke 22:42a)

Wouldn’t it have been easier to just get up, silence His assailants, or just ascend to heaven right there and then?  Why go through the suffering and the incredible pain?  Why make the sacrifice, especially for the sake of those who mocked and scorned Him?   Why not take the easy way out?

Because He chose love and obedience.

“Yet not my will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42b)

And that is the thing about Jesus.  He never lost sight of the big picture.  Even as nails were hammered into His wrists and feet, and He was mocked with a crown of thorns upon His head, sweat and blood dripping down His face, gasping desperately for breath as He hung on the cross, He was always mindful of His Father’s kingdom, His Father’s promises, and His Father’s love.

On the days when I’m tired, exhausted, and wondering what the point of all this is, I need to focus on the big picture.  God has called me to care for my family.  He has entrusted to me and my husband the care and nurture of two young precious boys, soon to be men before we know it.   They are His glorious creations, and this is the glorious work He has called us to.  He equips us with all that we need and more.

I choose to love.  I choose to trust.  I choose to walk through this complicated, messy, beautiful life with my husband and children.  I choose to say, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
                                                                               - Romans 5:6-8

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