Monday, December 21, 2009

A Few of my favorite things...

Completing a state-to-state move, being 7.5 months pregnant, and having my husband work out of town for 14 days this month has made this holiday season a bit different than most. Even still, we are enjoying our new home and enjoying several days together as a family this week.

It has been so fun to share this Christmas season with Jason and Alex. We are grateful for another little one who will join our family soon. Especially during this season, we are reminded that God is the giver of life. So many years ago He sent His own Son to earth as a baby...To live as a Man and as God...And to lay down His life so that we might have a new one. This season, above all else, we are grateful.

Here are a few of my favorite things this season. I hope you are making your own holiday memories this year with lots and lots of favorites.

One of my favorite photos from Alex's Christmas photo shoot.

The live wreath on my door. I love the real ones for the way they smell and look.

Pivner. This is a new favorite for me - a Danish cookie specifically made at Christmas time. It's a longtime tradition in Jason's family and now, ours. Thanks to my mother-in-law for the family recipe!

Christmas cards received from friends - many of them welcoming us back to Texas.

Fresh flowers delivered to me when my husband was out of town. Oh sweet man of mine!

This tiny little stocking on our tree, in honor of Baby #2.

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas week!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Lemon Harvest

I just picked all these lemons off the lemon tree in our backyard. And there's about 100 more still hanging on the tree! If any of you have any favorite lemon recipes, pass them on. Pies, cakes, savory stuff, anything you can use a fresh lemon for - I will not discriminate much against any recipes at this point. I have a feeling I will be making lots of lemon treats in the coming years!

Monday, December 14, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in our new house. Once I get a little more organized I'll post more but I simply had to show y'all how cute Alex is checking out the Christmas tree!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Oh, the irony.

Snow in Houston today?! Yep, that's right - even 4 inches in some areas! We have not quite made it to Houston yet (we are still with family in Dallas/Fort Worth), but I would have loved to be there in the middle of a rare snowstorm in South Texas. I thought we were saying goodbye to snow weather, but maybe not...?

All I can say is that I hope those lemon trees in my new backyard weathered the storm. I will be so sad if all the tropical plants in the yard are dead before we arrive.

Oh, global warming, you are such a crock!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


If you haven't been keeping up with me on other social media, you might not be aware that we are moving to Houston, Texas in a few weeks. We are so excited about a new city and being closer to friends and family. Jason and I both are "city people" so it will be fun to explore all the city fun Houston has to offer. If you are interested in more details, read about it here on our family blog.

Oh, and thanks to google images for the pic of downtown Houston. I haven't had a chance to take my own yet!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bell's Palsy: The Final Chapter

If you are a long time reader, you might have been looking for an update on my Bell's Palsy. I blogged about it last July and last November, but haven't really updated you all since then.

To be honest, I think I have been waiting to announce that the Bell's is completely cured and my face has returned to look the way it always has. But it turns out that I am in the 10% of people who get most of their facial nerves back, but not all of them. It h
as taken me a long time to be ready to talk about it simply because there has been sort of a grieving process. I never thought that I'd grieve so much over my "old" facial expressions!

There is good news, though. You'd probably never notice I had Bell's Palsy unless you knew me well before and noticed that my previously animated expressions are a bit toned down now. If you'd never met me, you probably wouldn't notice that my right eyebrow doesn't move and my right upper lip doesn't move much either. Thankfully, though, I've had months to work on correcting my smile in the mirror and for photos. I am happy to report that it's barely visible anymore...especially for photos, which is where I really noticed it most. I'd say that's real progress.

I appreciate all of you who have shared your Bell's stories, prayers, and encouragement. I hope that by following my story, maybe you'll understand what it means when a friend or relative tells you they have Bell's Palsy. You can tell them that you know someone who had it, lived through it, and is completely healthy and happy afterwards.

A friend took this picture on my birthday and I think it's the best post-Bell's picture so far.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I heart Target.

So since the ascent of my shoe size has begun (pregnancy will do that to you), I have been on the hunt for some cute new flats a half size bigger. Target came through for me again - and at $12.99, I figure these bronze flats are a steal! Thanks, Target for keeping me somewhat stylish during pregnancy. Cause we all know that pregnancy is no excuse for being out of style!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Just past the halfway mark!

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Little Lion.

On a whim today, I decided that Alex should try on his Halloween costume (or Fall outfit, or Harvest Festival clothes, whatever you want to call them...) so I could take his picture. He was a very good sport. And, of course, I'm biased, but I think he's the cutest Lion ever. I'm going to put some different pics on our family blog, so check there if you want to see more of today's shoot.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

2 Years Today. Oh Happy Day!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Chris & Mary

Our good friends Chris & Mary are expecting a baby girl in a couple of weeks. I was thrilled that they took me up on the offer to do a pregnancy photo shoot with them. It was my first, so they were good sports as we learned all about pre-baby photo shoots. Thanks, guys, for a super fun Sunday afternoon downtown!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Clever. Very clever.

Many are getting tired of the health care debate at this point. After all, it's been going on for sooooo long. I must admit, though, this major issue facing Americans has brought out some real political marketing creativity. If you read my blog, it's obvious what side of the debate I'm on. I don't support a government take-over of health care. Reform yes, "government-run options", no.

I really like this little spoof called Listen to Overpaid Celebrities (a Public Service Announcement). It's the second video. I had to include the first one - even though I disagree with its message - so you'd see the genius of the second one! Enjoy!


Monday, September 28, 2009


Today the air was crisp and the wind was blowing the leaves all over the neighborhood - Fall has arrived. I was inspired by today's weather to try out a new recipe for Stuffed Winter Squash. I got the recipe from a West Texas cookbook called Barbecue, Biscuits, & Beans. It's a fabulous little collection of real deal cowboy recipes. They even tell you how to make sourdough over a campfire! The winter squash looked so yummy in the photos I had to give it a try. As a bonus, it was on sale at the grocery store last week for $ .39/lb. I love seasonal veggie specials!

Not only did it taste fabulous, it looked fabulous. I am a sucker for food that looks pretty and tastes good. Of course, I changed the recipe a bit. (Shhh...don't tell the cowboy cooks.) After all, I am a mostly vegetarian dieter now and I'm trying to watch the pregnancy weight. Both of those factors necessitated me omitting the entire stick of butter and adding some whole grain brown rice to balance out the chicken. And yes, I'm aware that the cowboys would probably not appreciate that brown rice bit. But look at it this way, I am totally giving them credit for a tasty and beautiful Fall recipe!

Stuffed Winter Squash

6 Winter Squash (Acorn or Butternut)
3 8-oz. skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon salt
2 ears of corn, kernels removed OR 1 cup of frozen sweet corn
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cups cooked long grain brown rice (follow package instructions for cooking the dry rice)
1 can vegetable broth*
1/2 c. dry white wine*
1 Tbsp. Smart Balance non-hydrogenated margarine*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut top off squash and remove seeds. Place cut side down in 1/2 inch of water in a baking pan. Bake 45 to 50 minutes until squash is tender. While squash is baking, prepare stuffing.

STUFFING: Cook chicken breasts in vegetable broth + salted water to cover until done, about 20 minutes, then dice. Save the vegetable broth/water mixture from cooking the chicken. Melt margarine in large skillet and add onions. Saute about 5 minutes, then add wine and veg broth mixture if you need more liquid. (This method of cooking saves you a ton of fat instead of cooking the onions in the butter!) Add corn to onions and cook for about 8 minutes. Again, if you need more liquid - you don't want it to boil dry - add the veg broth mixture. And, hey, even add a little more wine if you have it! Not more than a 1/2 cup, though. Add bell pepper and chicken and cook for about 3 minutes over low heat. Remove from heat and add the rice to the mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.

Dry inside of squash with a paper towel. Add stuffing and bake, stuffing side up, in same pan without water for 10 minutes. Serve hot. Add a salad and you have a whole meal in less than an hour!

* If you'd like to try the full fat method, omit the veg broth, wine, and margarine. Use a whole stick of butter instead. The cowboys also recommended you add some diced jalapeno to the onion mixture, but I couldn't bring myself to add it for fear that my 14-month-old wouldn't eat it!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mary's Baby Shower

Our small group from church is getting quite good at throwing baby showers. At any given time, there are anywhere from 1-4 pregnant ladies in the group, so we have a grand time celebrating all the babies and the mamas. Yesterday we hosted a brunch for Mary and her baby girl, due to arrive October 20. It was a fun, girly party. Ladies, we should do this more often!

Pink roses for soon-to-arrive Little Miss Ryan.

The lovely Mama-to-be.

Most of our small group ladies and babies. (we missed you, Carolyn!)

Virgin Mimosas. Yum.

I contributed the sunflower cupcakes, thanks to Hello, Cupcake! Seriously, y'all, these cupcakes are way easier than they look. If you like creating cute things in the kitchen, that cookbook is a jewel.

A closer look at one of the cupcakes.

The buffet.

Anja says, "where's my mimosa?"

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Prendergast Family

This past week I got to do a photo shoot with Kristin, Mark, and Cole. Cole is so sweet and photogenic, which made for a very fun shoot.

After several of these family portrait sessions, I feel like I'm finally getting the hang of it!

Friday, September 11, 2009

I wrote this blog entry three years ago on the 5th Anniversary of 9/11. Since today will forever be a day when people think about where they were and what they were doing when the attack happened, I thought it was appropriate to share...

(September 11, 2006)

On this five year anniversary of 9/11, I’m sure most people are remembering where they were, what they were doing, and who they were with on September 11, 2001.

Me too.

On 9/11, I was living in Turkey. I remember that it was about 3:00 p.m. and I was walking down a busy Istanbul street on my way to a popular shopping area with my friend Elizabeth. There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary that day, other than the “normal” of everyday life overseas…constantly speaking and thinking in a foreign language, practicing care to not look men in the eyes (important in a Muslim culture), and smiling at the beggar children who always followed us down city streets asking for money.

My cell phone rang and an American friend who also lived in Istanbul said, “Hey there’s something going on in New York. I’m watching CNN and it looks like the whole city is on fire.” “Okay, Clay,” I said. “Thanks for calling.” Then I hung up and was actually annoyed that he would interrupt my path to the mall with news of a fire thousands of miles away in New York. Within fifteen minutes, he called again and said, “Nicole, as soon as you guys get to the mall, you need to find a department store with a television. You won’t believe it. There’s been a terrorist attack in New York and this is big.”

We sped up our pace to the mall and immediately went to the electronics department of the biggest store we could find. Without asking, we switched the channel from a Turkish soap opera to CNN in English. Then we saw the pictures of the towers – both smoking by this point. I stood about a foot from the TV in disbelief and I remember thinking that my mouth simply wouldn’t close. It felt frozen in shock. Within minutes, the Turks standing around us took notice of what was happening on the screen. This was the first they had seen of the news, and a crowd gathered around the television. They began to say in Turkish, “Change it to Turkish! I can’t understand English!” So they switched the channel and the reporting was now by a Turkish reporter, displaying the same images we’d just seen of the towers.

My cell phone rang again and I heard my mom’s voice. I couldn’t help but break down and cry. “Mom, what’s happening?” “Are you okay? Where are you? What are you doing?” She asked a million questions and I remember saying to her, “Mom, you’re in America, not me. Nothing is happening here. It’s happening there!” I remember her saying at the end of our conversation “The day is not over yet.” Then it hit me that it was early morning in the U.S. and she was right. Who knew what the rest of the day held?

The next few days we (me, Elizabeth, and other Americans living in the city) were sort of in a holding pattern. I remember our company issuing plans with all kinds of scenarios and emergency plans to evacuate if that was necessary. We sat glued to CNN all day for three days.
Things I remember most about those days:
1. I felt helpless.
2. I cried a lot.
3. I didn’t want to go back to work when things began to settle down.
4. I wanted my mom.
5. I prayed non-stop for the families who had lost people they loved.

I also remember my Turkish neighbors and friends who expressed so much concern for Americans and sadness at such a cowardly act of terrorism. They really were sympathetic. One neighbor even broke down in tears when she was telling me how sorry she was for our loss. Turkish people (and much of the rest of the world) understand the effects of terrorism. They have lived with it as long as they can remember and stand alongside anyone else who is affected by its devastation. I also remember many of them saying “This is NOT the way of Islam.” They were heartbroken that now Islam had been the basis for such an act of terrorism.

It’s been a long five years. This is not the place to comment on the state of things now. But it is a place to share a story and hope that many others, on this day, will remember that our world is broken. It is in need of redemption. My faith in Jesus Christ tells me the kind of redemption that’s needed can only come through Him. If anyone does, He understands betrayal, pain, surrender, and ultimate victory over evil. In Him, there is goodness, hope, healing, and salvation for all people on earth. May we be reminded of those things today…

Rarely do I use this blog for entries like these because it seems like more of personal journal entry than something to be public. But, in this case, it is part of me seeking to identify with other people’s experiences on that day and offer a word of hope, even on a day that is very solemn for many Americans.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Vacation Pics

A couple of favorites...

Hubba hubba in a plastic lawn chair. I'm biased, but I think I have the cutest husband ever.

Alex on the sandy beach at Edward Lake in Minnesota.

Alex in the hammock swing.

Walking in the water with Daddy.

Happy splasher.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Our Favorite Snack.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus is our absolute favorite snack. We eat it with just about anything: raw veggies, pita bread, chips, you name it! Since we love it so much, I thought some of you might like the very simple recipe:

1 Roasted Red Pepper (directions for roasting your own are below, or you can use the jar stuff. Personally, I prefer the fresh roasted one, but up to you.)
1 can of chick peas/garbanzo beans
1/3 cup of fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup Tahini (ground sesame seeds)
1/4 - 1/2 tsp garlic salt (to taste)

For Hummus:
Drain the chick peas and pour them into a food processor. (This could probably work in a blender, but I haven't tried it.) Add the tahini, lemon juice, and garlic salt. Puree the mixture until it's smooth. Scrape down the sides of the processor or blender, then add the red pepper. Puree again until it is well-blended. This will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Serve at room temperature.

To Roast your own red pepper:
Spray a 8x8 square pan or round pie pan with non-stick spray. Place the whole red pepper in the pan, broil on high. When the top side of the pepper is blackened and bubbly, turn it. You should evenly blacken every side. This process takes about 30 minutes. When the pepper is blackened, take it out and put it in an air tight container (Tupperware or a bowl tightly covered with foil or press 'n seal). Let it sit for about 30 minutes, until it is cooled and softened. Peel all the skin off, core, and seed the pepper, reserving the juices. Add the pieces of red pepper to the hummus and puree.

Yum! Even Alex loves it!

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Schulz Family

Back in July I had the chance to photograph our good friends and fave bloggers, The Schulz Family. They were so gracious to participate in one of my little portrait practice sessions this summer. They are a very photogenic bunch, don't you think?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Baby #2

This is our Baby #2's first of many, many photos.
We are grateful for new, healthy beginnings!