Monday, August 31, 2009

Easiest GF Cookies ever!

These are always a hit at Care Group or around the Szrama dinner table...
Peanut Butter Cookies
yield: approx 16 large cookies or 2 dozen small

1 c. sugar (I like to use brown or turbinado)
1 c. natural peanut butter
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla (optional)
1 tsp baking powder (optional)

Roll into balls.
Put on cookie sheets and press.
Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.
Watch closely.
Press gently on tops with a fork immediately after removing from oven.
Serve with TALL glasses of milk. YUM!! :)
Variations: we've added chocolate chips, raisins, and used crunchy peanut butter for different textures & flavors.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

37 weeks!

Three weeks to go and counting... Éowyn's nursery is comin' along! It's so fun to get things ready and take pictures of it all. I know I am so privileged to get to have so many sweet things for her, and to have a whole room to dedicate to her! (and all our future kids... and all our houseguests... but seeing as how they aren't here now... it's for her)



From I will be a healer, and love all things that growOne of the shelves - a Goodwill find- Ryan helped me hang. I'm still figuring out what to put on it, as you can see. :)

Our IKEA purchase, their very cool Expedit shelf system, with bins we bought at Target. I think I need to buy one or two more. :) I love how versatile they make the unit-- either shelves for stackables (like her sizeable board book library) or drawers for pileables (for now, her shoes, hats/bibs/pacis, crib bedding, soft toys and her cloth diapers).



I love this picture of Ryan & his brother Greg with they were little tykes. Greg's about 4 and Ryan is 2 1/2. They are so cute, and the colors match so well. I went on a framing spree the other day and this was one that finally got hung. :)

Sailboats designed & sewed by Tia Nicole, to match her crib quilt and everything in her room.


Quilt (for comparison)


Close-up of one of the sailboats. Who needs Pottery Barn Kids with a craftsy aunt on the go?


My great-grandmother had this shelf in her nursing home... it needed a little love, so my sister & I disassembled it, painted it, and put it back together. I think we'll put her crib under this. The Raggedy Ann & Andy were mine when I was little, made by my grandma Mama Lulu, the sewing Queen. (I distinctly remember how Andy's hand tasted...)


A goodwill find, painted by the craftsy Tia Nicole. It looked pretty sad there between coats (I think we used the word "craptastic," truth be told), but it pulled through just great! I'm working on letters of her name to hang on the top hangers.


My dad's parents, Daddy Ron & Mama Peggy, came by on Saturday, took us out to my favorite restaurant (PF Chang's), and bought Éowyn her carseat! Hooray! Now we can bring her home from the hospital when she comes! :)


Daddy putting together the car-seat canopy. We later installed it in our car and now look like a family-mobile, complete with baby sunshade and toy rack over the car-seat (all given to us by friends from my school).

Things are lookin' more & more like BABY LAND around here! I also just racked up at a local (massive) consignment sale, Little Treasures, and got a pack & play ($18), a stroller that works with our carseat ($25), and, my personal favorite: a glider with a footstool, that is super-comfy and will be PERFECT for nursing (a whopping $65). Ryan's picking it up with the truck right now or I'd post pictures of it... the stroller is currently dismantled and drying outside. I scrubbed and cleaned it so it will be good as new for our little one.

Éowyn is growing like a little melon. I'm right on target for belly height (width? girth?) and weight gain. I haven't had any swelling or alarming signs of anything. I do have contractions, and last night I think Eowyn took up soccer... I was up for 2 hours refereeing that match, lol. She has long legs, I can already tell. My midwife told me which parts were which, and sometimes she braces her feet on one side of my belly and her bum on the other, and s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s... and it's quite impressive! My belly looks like a hot-dog when she does that. :) Many of my maternity clothes don't totally cover my stomach if I move wrong... good thing I only need to fit into them a little longer! Sleeping can be such an elusive privelege these days, between backaches, contractions, and tai-kwon-do going on within my womb. I'm glad it's only a little longer... and glad I do have a little longer to go, both for my sake (getting stuff ready) and for my co-teachers' sakes. They say I'm not allowed to give birth until I've put in my full two weeks, so they feel adequately trained. :) I'd love to get 2 full weeks in with them, and with the precious little ones I met at our class picnic on Tuesday.

Random new symptom: shortness of breath at the oddest moments. I'll just be standing there, and all of a sudden I'm huffing and puffing like I charged up 4 flights of stairs!
Eagerly awaiting,
--Christina

Thursday, August 20, 2009

2 Year Anniversary Daycation

For our second anniversary, I wanted something special. We couldn't go out of the country as is our usual habit (Ryan has an annual work conference in Europe we've enjoyed twice now), what with the baby coming and me being huge. This last anniversary before Éowyn comes was also a great chance for our "babymoon." SO I started saving and sneakily looking around online at options for a getaway that was close, but new. Cincinnati, about 2 hrs away from us, was our solution. I found a WONDERFUL Bed & Breakfast- the 1861 Inn- which I highly recommend and to which we will be returning ourselves. The zoo, aquarium, boardwalk, downtown, museums and restaurants all looked very promising. Not to mention my dream store: IKEA (the closest one to us by far), hehehe.

Those of you who know my husband may be surprised to learn that he does not do surprises. He can barely keep from telling me what he got me for Christmas every year, and badgers me to know the endings of movies and books before we get there. He also doesn't enjoy BEING surprised if it's too out of the blue. So I told him early on that Tuesday August 18th was 100% taken by me, and no work, study, or other activity could distract him for one instant. :) He liked the idea and got settled on the idea of me planning something fun that I refused to tell him.

Monday night we started off our celebration with tickets to a Louisville Bats game-- support the local team, and have fun. I'd won the tickets (free!) at a Seminary Wives function. We had a great time and Ryan tried to make up for laughing at my baseball ignorance by buying me a frozen lemonade. Man! The heat gets to me like never before!! I'm so thankful this summer's been mild here! During the 7th inning stretch I told Ryan where we'd be going the next morning, and what he needed to pack. I also let him pick which activity(ies) we did. He picked the zoo.

Tuesday we got up early (for us in the summer), and I packed a picnic lunch (more on that later). We had the perfect day for a drive, with cloudy, cool skies but no rain. We also enjoyed Ryan's anniversary gift to me-- a 6-disk CD player which he'd had secretly installed in our car (which I usually drive). I'd sorely missed my CDs ever since our built-in CD player inexplicably choked back in January. Radio around here just doesn't cut it for me, and I have a loooong commute. Anyway, I was so pleased and have since enjoyed books on CD and favorite albums again! Once at the zoo, Ryan began taming the wild beasts (if you look at our other pictures, you'll notice that this is a theme!):


An ingenious money-maker: they "let" you do their chore (feeding the giraffes) for $1 a cracker. And it was so worth it. ;D

We had fun with our picnic- sparkling grape juice, ham & cheese sandwiches (hehe I ate more than Ryan!), Hubers peaches, go-gurts (because we're just little kids at heart), and chocolate chip cookies! Ryan kept feeding the peacocks, so they gathered around our table a lot.

We took FULL advantage of our train & tram passes. It was a welcome break for a very pregnant mama!

Hehe... we also rode the carousel. I had a little trouble dismounting. :)

The sun started to come out quite intensely just as we called it a day and headed to our B & B. Our hosts, Tom & Carol, met us so graciously and gave us the tour of their home-- being history buffs, we really enjoyed that. Then we cooled off in the pool as they served us chilled wine & snacks (don't worry- I only sipped), and we played with their 2 spaniels. To my great delight, they set the jacuzzi thermostat to 97 so I could get in without fear! It felt SOOOO good on my tired legs & back!


Dinner was Tapas in Batavia, a nearby little town which looked like it would have been fun to walk around... if I wasn't already walked out that is. Ryan got a bison burger and I got my favorite seafood: scallops!!

After our late Spanish-style dinner, we headed to our rooms, which our hosts had adorned with truffles!!
My favorite part of the room was the giant spotless porcelain claw-footed tub:

I haven't been able to fit into our bathtub for several months :(... as you can imagine, I filled that thing up to the brim and soaked away all the rest of my fatigue. As we watched Hitch-- great anniversary movie, huh?

Breakfast the next morning was scrumptious-- gluten and soy free, of course! We bade our hosts goodbye and promised we'd be back, and that we'd be referring as many friends as possible! On the way home, Ryan proved his love to me by taking us to IKEA. =D We really enjoyed this innovative store and got great ideas for our own home. It's definitely an experience! We even snagged a shelf for our nursery!


All in all, it was a smashing success. We enjoyed the city and would like to return; we got a lovely break from our routines, and best of all, we got to enjoy each other. Yes, we see each other a LOT these days, with Ryan working from home and me at home for the summer, but we don't usually get to monopolize each other's time for entire 36 hour spans. =D I love my husband, and I am so thankful that we have more & more fun the longer we're married! Thank you, Father, for yet another of Your Good Gifts!
-- a happy wife and mama

Some videos of Ryan for your enjoyment. =D Not quite Crocodile Dundy, but close...
video video video

36 Weeks!

This week the Little Princess has taken some pressure off of my ribs, which I greatly appreciate. However, this hasn't reduced my acid reflux much yet. I'm still hoping it will eventually. Contractions are regular and at times painful, but I am so glad to have them since they mean less real-life labor (so I hear). It's been a win-some-lose-some-Charlie-Brown situation as far as pregnancy aches & pains go: my upper back gets so tired carting around her weight, but my restless legs have gotten far more manageable; walking is harder than ever, but I'm not waking up to eat in the night anymore. She is taking up more room in my belly, which means that I get to "chase" her all the time with my hands. If I just lay my hand on my tummy, she moves in response, without fail! I think she must be responding to the warmth... My abdomen usually looks lumpy with some appendage of hers poking out. Her favorite position is still head-down, curled on her left side, with her heels digging into (out of?) my right side. At least now that she's lower they don't dig into my ribs anymore. Actually, I find it comforting and familiar by now. I often walk around doing stuff with my right hand on her feet. I'm sure I look sort of odd, but oh well.

We can't wait to meet this little girl and find out what she looks like! I can't wait to SEE and know I'm holding her hands or her elbows or her knees instead of trying to guess which it is! :) We continue to rejoice at a healthy, relatively easy last trimester... so far, no swelling, sugar, protein, or blood pressure problems. I had my Group B strep test done last visit, and as soon as those results come in they'll send my records to the hospital, because from here on out any time is fair game for her Grand Entrance. Our birthplan is ready and signed by our midwives, and now just has to be signed by our pediatrician.

All right, I'm off to make some waffles for brunch, write some Pre-K curriculum (more like update it) and then pick up some frames! Yay for the last days of summer. :)

PS Ryan and I had a WONDERFUL anniversary and I will post stories and pictures later.

Monday, August 17, 2009

35 Weeks and Counting

The stairs

Never come between pregnant mamas & their meat

Natasha, Me & Ashley-- all carrying girls, all 35 weeks along.

These were taken at the baby shower our church friends, Ben & Amanda Brainard and Samuel & Natasha Miesse threw for us! Ok, so mostly Amanda & Natasha. ;D But it was a Couple's Shower, and was super-fun! I'll upload a bunch of the pictures to Facebook and link them here, soon enough. My parents and sister Nicole got to be there, and Ryan loved being in on the fun... which of course included manly activities like grilled meat and corn hole. :)

I'm doing well, pregnant-wise. THRILLED at how much Mom, Dad, Ryan, Nicole & I accomplished in the nursery & around the house while they were here (baby bedding, decorations, moving of furniture, etc.). LOVING the lack of stress preceeding the beginning of this school year. Teaching pre-K two mornings a week is SO different from teaching full time with a write-your-own-curriculum-with-no-budget-available middle school choir on top of it all. I've been free to enjoy getting ready and (I hope) helping the teachers filling in for me find the ropes and prepare themselves.

I had a prenatal appointment today, and Eowyn is back to being head-down (she went transverse for a day or so. My belly looked so weird.), with her little bum up against my belly button (making it occasionally an outie) and her heels repeatedly digging into my right ribs. Last week she actually bruised me from kicking so hard. I think she's getting more cramped now, because even though she causes seismic activity, it isn't quite so violent. She doesn't have enough room to gain momentum, lol. Everything is looking good and on track-- I'm measuring 35.4 cm, am steadily gaining weight, and am having lots of practice contractions.

The past two days have been the most painful in a long time-- my lower body just aches-- from her pushing my pelvis apart, and from her greater weight pulling on my ever-extending belly. Walking takes determination to start, but at least once I get going it feels a little better. I can't sit for too long, though, without restless legs starting up (I've found out those are tied to my ITB, which has historically plagued me in running. BUT I know how to stretch that tendon quite well, and so haven't been kept awake by jumping legs lately!! Hooray!)

God is continuing to be obviously kind to us... tomorrow Ryan & I embark on a trip for our 2nd Anniversary. I've been planning and saving to surprise him for months, and I can't wait!! :)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Ta-DA!

Remember all those fabrics I bought "for the nursery?" Well, now they are no longer mere pieces of fabric! I've had so much fun making 3 fitted crib sheets (one red cotton, one red flannel and one navy cotton), and this little crib quilt, which I finished quilting last night.




Close-up of the quilting I did around some of the sailboats.

Today Nicole, Mom & I are painting little shelves, and Nicole's going to help me do some cool wall-hangings, also with the fabrics, so they'll make it on here soon. :)

I'm having contractions every day now-- just Braxton-Hicks "practice labor," but it's a constant reminder that I don't have much longer to get ready for her! Soon she'll be HERE!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pictures!

Just a few pics from our trip to South Carolina...
Nicole's sister (me) & Colin's sister (Laura), both 34 weeks pregnant.


Cassie & I

Me & Leslie

More where that came from...

My sisters & Mom took a bunch of pictures on their cameras, which I forgot to upload while I was there... placenta brain, I claim. It was a wonderfully relaxing while still enjoyably busy trip. Ryan & I arrived Monday, and Tuesday afternoon my youngest sister Anna (helped by Mom & Nicole) threw me my first baby shower!! It was really really fun, and so encouraging... I don't even live in Greenville anymore, yet these sweet women were still willing and excited to come see me, shower me with gifts, and share in my joy! That's the love of Christ at work. Not to mention all the SWEET gifts we got... most notably: BOOKS!! I couldn't have been happier. Eowyn's library is already off to a great start, with board book versions of We're Going on a Bear Hunt; Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?; Mike Mulligan & His Steamshovel; The Very Hungry Catterpillar; Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You See?; I Love You, Goodnight; and big-girl book versions of Jamberry, How Do I Love You? and Chicka-Chicka-Boom-Boom!

On Wednesday, Anna was shower-throwing again, this time with me as her partner in crime. We had a small Linens & Spice Luncheon for Nicole, with many of her long-time friends there. Anna & I had too much fun making a Jeapordy game (with category names like "Colin & Nicole 4 Eva" and "Global Wedding Traditions"), the food was all a hit, and I think Nicole was encouraged as we all shared what character traits we loved most about her, and how those would help her be a great wife. Friendly hospitality & a sense of humor were the top two!! =D

I got to go with my dad to his Small Group on Wednesday, seeing dear friends with whom I used to worship weekly. It was great to see my dad in a leadership role, to see how God is still growing and working in him, and to get to enjoy it! It was also encouraging to see many of the kids I worked with back when they were middle school twerps now grown into high school and college students who are still loving the Lord and pursuing Him.

Thursday was spent helping my Tia Olga get ready for the couple's church shower she & Uncle Steve was hosting for Colin & Nicole that night. It was a smashing success (as always) and I enjoyed getting to catch up with her as we stuffed mushrooms and made fresh salsa with her excess garden produce. I even managed to catch the very tail end of the College Bible Study afterwards. Friday evening my high school friend Cassie came over for dinner (BLTs which I'd been CRAVING!!), and then Ryan & I headed off to visit my grandparents, whom I hadn't seen since my grandfather's quadruple-bypass surgery. It was encouraging to see him softer that I ever have seen him before... we are praying constantly that the Lord is working towards salvation in his & my grandma's lives!!

Our last night "home" was of course spent up late, watching a movie with Mom, Nicole, Colin & Anna. It kept striking me that this will be "family" for the next couple of years (until Anna gets married, too). Ryan, Dad & Colin will be the only guys around for who knows how many Christmases-- they'd better start getting along!-- lol, they actually already do. Both Ryan & Colin are so easygoing I think they'd get along with anyone. It's so cool to think that Eowyn will grow up with Uncle Colin & Tia Nicole & never think twice about it, the way Uncle Steve has always been my uncle. I'll get to know Colin over the years as a brother. It's such a blessing that we actually look FORWARD to that instead of dreading it, you know? By the way, the movie we saw was Push, and it was pretty cool in my opinion...

I also managed to see my college roommate Sarah (who is getting married right around the time with Eowyn will be born), my church & college buddies Ashley, Craig & Kyle, my home-girl Lena (like a little sister to me), and my freshman-hall-mate Leslie. It was so encouraging to see how the Lord is working in each of their lives, in ways that I could not have forseen years ago when part of my being faithful was loving them with the Gospel. He is ALWAYS at work!!

Festival & Family in the Virginia Highlands




Ryan & I had a great time with our family in Virginia over the first weekend in August. I'm embarrassed because we were actually there WITH Greg & Kendi, our bro-and-sis-in-law, but I have no photographic proof of that... We enjoyed walking around the Virginia Highlands Festival in downtown Abingdon, VA, where Grandpa & Grandma Presley live. It was such a relief to my mountain-starved eyes to see the Blue Ridge! =D

The festival was wonderful!! I LOVE those sorts of things! Ryan, Greg, Kendi & I all share the same philosophy about them-- walk around slowly, look at everything, talk to the vendors-- in a word, peruse-- so it was fun. For the first time, I felt physically a difference being pregnant; the heat really got to me! When we were out walking around, it wasn't a big deal, even in the full sun, but under the tents where there wasn't much air circulating, whew! I would start to get light headed pretty fast.

We stocked up on "butters"-- pumpkin, and strawberry-rhubarb-- from an adorable round little man, who was a wonderful salesman because he was just so friendly and fun you just WANTED to buy from him. (hehe he teased Ryan and said he was in the "training phase" but that after a few more years of marriage, he'd be a real keeper) We also enjoyed several varieties of raw honey; I bought a few sticks to suck on during labor as I've heard they're a great energy boost in that endeavor. We got a really really cute photo print of a racoon... as well as all-natural soaps (the vendor, a former commercial chemist, gave us a free unscented one for the baby), and beautiful wooden cookingware. We chatted with local artists, authors and musicians, and met Grandpa's first cousin, who does really cool fitted-wood pieces of art.

Ryan & I both got a kick out of the hammered dulcimers and Appalachian dulcimers a man was selling; he'd made them himself... a former Lutheran pastor! The craftsmanship was beautiful, and they sounded so pretty! One day, I really would love to get me a lap harp or a dulcimer... I can dream!

Later in the evening, Grandma treated us young couples to tickets to see The Fantasticks, a musical which I'd never seen, but from which I had performed and seen performed selections. It was great!! The performance was at the Barter Theater, in their Barter II stage, which is small, and with the audience seated auditorium-style close around it. Like the Furman Playhouse stage. We thoroughly enjoyed it, even me and my restless legs.

Grandma, Grandpa & I had a blast sorting through old photos, and watching them trigger memories in Greg & Ryan. My summer project has been scrapbooking Ryan's life-- he now says I know more about his childhood than he does-- and this weekend gave me a lot more material with which to work. I can't wait to compare his baby & childhood pics with our daughter in a few months!! :)

Josh & Sarah's Wedding

Our buddies Josh & Sarah finally got married July 31st.

Mike Rhodes (theirs & Ryan's old youth pastor) explaining the unity sand-- apparently it's an old Hawaiian custom?

The old church off 4th Street where they had the wedding was BEAUTIFUL!

Ryan & old friends at the wedding- Mike & Neil. I always get really good stories about their past antics whenever we get together...

Shot Ryan took of me at the reception. Food was GREAT!

They were nice & proper and didn't shove food in each other's faces (I never get why people do that...)
Sarah & Josh are very good dancers. Sarah especially was showing us all that she's a white girl that CAN DANCE


The tent, the Bride, the Groom, and Ryan :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Our Trip 'Round South

Ryan & I got back safe & sound from our trip through TN to Abingdon, VA, then on through the Blue Ridge to my ol' stompin' grounds of Greenville, South Carolina. We had a wonderful trip-- everything from the Virginia Highlands Festival (where we snagged a REALLY cute matted print of a baby raccoon to frame) to our first baby shower to my sister's church wedding shower was enjoyable. I will post more (and pictures!) soon, but I am still not up to par as far as awakeness goes. Yes, it is 10:48 am... I am suspecting that the fish oil capsules I've started taking contain some soy product in them, despite not being listed on the label, because I am definitely reacting allergically to something.

Oh well. I'll spend the day trying to get back on my feet, maybe start Eowyn's quilt (I finished her sheets!!), and make some headway on my pre-K curriculum... go grocery shopping too.

We cleaned the house super-thoroughly before we went out of town, and I LOVE it!! :) May make it a habit, lol.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Cross

“The cross is not simply a lovely example of sacrificial love. Throwing your life away needlessly is not admirable — it is wrong. Jesus’ death was only a good example if it was more than an example, if it was something absolutely necessary to rescue us. And it was. Why did Jesus have to die in order to forgive us? There was a debt to be paid — God himself paid it. There was a penalty to be born — God himself bore it. Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.”

- Timothy Keller, The Reason For God (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 193.