Friday, June 29, 2012

Cooking with Zoe: Summer Salad

In the process of weeding through chaos in our backyard, we've found several patches where previous owners had been cultivating beautiful strawberry plants. Where I've been able to clear sufficient weeds, and the plants have gotten sufficient sun, some beautiful strawberries have grown forth. They are are delicious! 

I can hardly get over the joy of this unexpected treat. So to share some of that joy with you, I thought I'd pass along an easy recipe for a tasty summery salad that uses strawberries. This pun was unintended, but I learned the recipe from my cousin's wife, whose name is Joy. My recipe instructions here will be very loosey goosey, proportion as you prefer.


strawberries, sliced
hearts of palm, sliced
salad nuts [such as walnuts or pecans]
salad cheese [such as gorgonzola crumbles]
lettuce [I used red leaf]
dressing [such as basalmic vinaigrette]


Mix all the above, serve, and enjoy!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

stories from the shelter: part one

I worked at a Domestic Violence Shelter for the year after I graduated college. I loved that job. I learned about social work, domestic violence survivors, drug addicts, the police, and more. Most nights, I would come home with an outrageous story to tell my roommate - there was drama, comedy, inspiration. Here's a story of adventure, suspense, and a smidge of exorcistesque horror.

One day a seemingly normal woman arrived at the shelter, claiming that she was running from a verbally abusive husband. I'll call her Bertha. Please picture someone named Bertha, and you should get a good idea of her size without me needing to be mean about it. One day soon after Bertha's arrival another resident's prescription medication went missing. We had to file a police report about that, and as we gave the names of those in the shelter, the police stopped us at Bertha. They had us repeat her full name twice, then asked if she was currently at the shelter. She was, and they asked us to keep her there. 

Minutes later, two police cars arrived. The cops said that Bertha had stolen a car, and they had to arrest her. She calmly agreed to go with them, then asked if she could use the restroom before they took her in. They said yes, and she went up the stairs. Moments later, my co-worker Joel realized that we had an upstairs rear exit to the shelter, looked at me with surprise and said "You don't think she'd try to escape, do you?" 

The "you" of that sentence overlapped with an officer outside yelling "We have a runner!"

This would have been more exciting if we'd thought Bertha had a chance of getting away. Instead, they quickly tackled her and she proceeded to have an asthma attack. Or she proceeded to fake an asthma attack so proficiently that she ended up hyperventilating. Either way, they had to take her to the hospital.

A few hours later, I received a call from Bertha. She sweetly asked me to help her, and I explained that since she was not up front regarding her legal troubles, there was nothing I could do at that point. Her sweet voice dropped an octave and she said "I can't believe you're not going to help me." Shudder. Possession.

That evening, I went to the store for some groceries for the shelter, and on the way back I noticed a police car behind me turn its lights off as I approached the house. When I got out of the van, the officer asked if this was the shelter that had called 911 because a fugitive who had escaped from the hospital was there. I told them it probably was, but it was news to me. The officer told me to go around the back of the building to enter, then asked if there were any men working at the time who could assist him. "No," I whined, "It's just a bunch of us giiiiirls." He told me to get the fugitive to exit the house so that they could take her in. Lucky for him, my roommate and I had recently steeped our lives in 24, so I was totally prepared.

I entered the building, keeping close to the wall and making mental notes of my exits and any office supplies that could double as weapons. My co-worker Yesi furiously whispered that Bertha had returned. I mouthed that the police were outside. Loud enough for Bertha to hear, Yesi said "Oh, there you are, Emily! You accidentally took the key to Bertha's room with you." 

"Oh, dear! I'm so sorry," I said. "Bertha, I left it in the car. Will you come grab it for me?" Yesi and I sounded like stilted actors in a high school musical, but luckily Bertha didn't notice.

She exited the building, and I heard officers shout, "Put your hands where I can see them! Kneel on the ground!" 

They carted her away, and one of my strangest days at work came to an end.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


I've been attempting to grow a few plants in my garden from seeds. Here are a few snapshots of my progress thus far:

the nursery

tomato seedling

tomato plants growing and herb seeds soaking

arugala flowers 

Unless you count Sofia as my seedling, I recognize this last shot is a bit out of place. But all those tree shoots surrounding her are the growth coming from the tree that had to be cut down after the hurricane last fall. I discussed it in my Regeneration Trees series about Human Trafficking and am so encouraged watching how well this tree is determined to thrive. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Movie Review Monday: Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

Once upon a time, I saw Madagascar in the theater, and I wasn't paying attention the whole time, and I left thinking it was the lamest cartoon since The Land Before Time XI*. A year later, I met Jeff (my now husband), and learned that he had what appeared to be an unhealthy obsession with the film. Well, long story slightly less long, I gave in to watching it a second time and learned that it was basically comedic genius. Madagascar 2 was even more genius and we saw it twice in the theater. Therefore, my hopes were high for the third installment. Thoughts:

1. It needed more Mort. Somehow, Andy Richter giggles a few times throughout this film (and the prior two films, for that matter) and it is freaking hilarious every time. I could have used more of those moments though.

2. It also needed more King Julian. I'm not a big Sasha Baren Cohen fan (in fact, I'm such a not fan that I'm not going to bother looking up the correct spelling of his name), but this character is hilarious. Completely idiotic and completely self-absorbed, and he has no filter, which is a quality I love in an animated lemur. In the previous two films, he has been completely quote-worthy. Not so much in this one. 

3. The animal control character, voiced by Frances McDormand, was awesome. She sniffed the ground like a dog, used her unexpectedly amazing singing voice to magically heal her team and spur them on to find Alex the Lion, and I'm pretty sure she derived some kind of power from her bright red lipstick. Amusing.

4. I appreciated that there was only one scene with clowns in it despite the fact that this had a circus theme. Shudder. 

5. The first 3/4 of the film were classic Madagascar. Quippy, quick, and quirky (unintended alliteration!), it sped by. But then we ran into a whole touchy feely circus act, and the plot came to a grinding halt of meh-ness. To the point where I don't have much else to say.

In conclusion, I give Madagascar 3 one claw up. But I give the prior two films two claws up each, so please don't disregard the franchise based off this review. 

*I've never actually seen The Land Before Time XI, but...come on. Eleven? 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sabbath Sunday

Today our family went to church [barely, we arrived a bit late, oops], home for lunch, and we're now enjoying "nap time." I've gotten to catch up with an old friend, spend some quiet time with the husband, and look forward to doing a ZoZoPhoto shoot of a beautiful family this afternoon.

Per the sermon at church today, I'm meditating on resting in the hands of my God who has been faithful throughout my story as an individual, through the story of Jesus for all Christians, and the stories of David, Moses, and so many others throughout the history of scripture, which is all my history. He is a God who has been faithful and who will be faithful through the trying times I'm in now and will inevitably face into the future.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hello Ministries Quarterly Report

Since Sofia and I have been working on our "Hello Ministries," we've expanded some of our programs and services.

We have broadened our mission to include environmental initiatives. Ever concerned for our garden, we have decided that even weeds on the periphery of our property need to be extinguished, so as we walk along, waiting for students to greet, Sofia plucks the heads off dandelions. Inevitably, this is followed by my immediate retrieval of the dandelion from her mouth, as she does not yet grasp the concept of blowing on it from a safe distance, though that is probably best since the point is to keep the seeds from spreading. When we find stray yard waste that is not a weed, we teeter over to our compost bin, where Sofia loves to be the one to throw it in.

Sofia has spear headed our new litter patrol program. She is excellent at identifying anomalies. While we walk about the street, in the yard, and watch the people passing by, we're always looking for trash. It never takes long, as with all the foot traffic and sporting events near our house, there is always a plentiful supply of litter. She picks it up the offending object, identifies it as trash with great scorn, and we bee-line it for the nearest garbage bin. And by bee-line it, I mean we head in that general direction, delaying for all manner of distractions and only making it to the trash can itself about half the time. The other half of the time the trash has to get stashed in my pocket to be thrown away when we return home.

Sofia is also exploring her passion for four-legged-creatures under the Hello Ministries umbrella. Shall we call this our "canine division"? Many a creature has become familiar, as they pass by on daily walks. We are coming to know which dogs are to be avoided, which are friendly, and which are too friendly, requiring a Mommy buffer between their eager schnozes and the child who would too easily be knocked down by their boundless energy.

All of our initiatives might be cause for pride and a sense that we've brought a great blessing to our block. But we've realized that we've found and always had a great mentor while we've been here.

Ever since the first day we met our neighbor, Bob, he's been so hospitable to us and everyone who passes by. He has to go outside in order to smoke his pipe because his wife does not allow him to smoke inside. While he smokes his pipe and people pass by, he greets them. He says hello, asks about the sports games they might be going to, or how their son is doing because he knows all these people after living in the same block for over 80 years. 

So while I'd love to take all the credit for Hello Ministires, I've had to realize that we're just learning from Mr. Bob. In fact Sofia's regular interaction with Mr. Bob has resulted in his being one of the first names she's learned to say. So now our daily Hello Ministires is kicked off with an exit out the door, crossing the path of Mr. Bob smoking his pipe, and Sofia saying, "Hi Bob."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

everything is different. nothing is new.

I have been absolutely frozen trying to think of what to write recently. Too much has changed to tell it all, yet I don't really have much new going on. I moved from Virginia to California, but I'm working the same job and living in the house where I grew up for now, so I don't have a whole lot to write about here. It's oddly disorienting. I'm going to have to go with random thoughts, otherwise I may end up with literary paralysis:

  • I feel like I'm on a weird vacation, except I'm working full time so it's not a vacation at all. This is unsettling, but not in a bad or good way. It's neutrally unsettling. I have no idea when this feeling will end, but I suspect it will align with moving out of my parents' house. 
  • Since arriving in California, we have gone to In-n-Out four times, Rubio's three times, the beach once, Disneyland once, Downtown Disney once, Balboa Island once, and zip-lining in Big Bear once. I've seen two grandmas, one Grandbob, two aunts, one uncle, two cousins, one second cousin, and (obviously) my parents. I'm just saying that all the California dreaming I did in Virginia is coming true. And the weather here is just as amazing as I remembered too.
Proof of beach and nice weather!
  • So You Think You Can Dance is the best reality show on television. Please try to disagree with me. I will cut you.
  • I miss my sister something fierce. Like, I can tear up a little bit if I think too hard about it.
  • Last night, Jeff and I were following a truck with a neon pink stuffed monkey hanging off the back. It was hanging on for dear life, its long skinny legs were bouncing against the tailgate, and it was smiling. It really made me happy and I don't know why. 
  • To clarify, when I said "I will cut you" earlier, I just meant with my words. 
  • I'm currently reading two books: Rules of Civility and Hatchet. The former was a gift from Jeff's aunt, and I'm enjoying it thoroughly, though it doesn't seem to have a plot. It's basically just the story of a woman's life in New York in the 30s. The latter is a book my dad reads with his fifth grade class every year, and every year he asks if I've read it and I say no. Well, next year I'm going to say yes, darn it!
  • I recently read a couple of status updates from friends who have babies that are close to Eiley's age. One talked about her child walking for the past month. The other talked about her child identifying pictures in a book. I found myself immediately comparing Eiley to these milestones, fretting that she hasn't walked yet or that she doesn't seem near identifying objects. But let me tell you what I've already told myself - babies develop at different times. Eiley is probably doing other things faster than those two (though I am still so super impressed with Baby B and Baby C if you're reading this, ladies!!!), and she's certainly not dim or inactive or anything. Comparisons are dangerous, that's all I'm saying. And, as my husband said last night, we're going to love her no matter what anyway, so comparisons are also pointless. 
For example, how many babies can pull off this look?
  • A couple of years ago, I wrote myself a syllabus for a semester of life (which basically got thrown out the window because I got pregnant and my energy went from a 7 to a 0.5). I'm working on a new one pretty soon here - does anyone have any random suggestions?
That is all.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Love is hard.

Have any other parents out there experienced these thoughts racing through your mind, "How did I let this happen?" ["this" being parenthood] I remember a point in my pregnancy when the gravity of the idea of parenting fell down on me like a ton of bricks. I was signed up and committed to this daunting, harrowing, journey. There was no turning back. And that was in the midst of a pregnancy that was 200% planned and intentional. Apparently at least 40% of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintentional. So I'm guessing there is a non-zero amount of parents out there who can identify with me.

It's not the predominant thought in my mind related to my child, but it has come up several times. Parenting is just hard. There is an overwhelming quantity of advice out there about how to get your kid to sleep, how to get them into Harvard, how to prepare the best foods for them. There's also loads of advice about how to help your kids get along well with their siblings, how to handle bullies, how to have good manners and respect their elders, even how to learn to love God. Good relational pursuits. And yeah, we need some of that because we're desperate for help in getting the best life for our kids. But you know what I'm struck by lately? I'm struck by the lack of support in all the dialogue about how to help parents just love their kids.

Maybe it is too scary to admit that loving our kids can be hard. I know it is hard for me to admit this, especially in a public space like this, but it's true. It is hard to admit there has ever been a moment, much less, momentS, where I wasn't totally thrilled at the prospect of being Sofia's mom for life. But it's true. Are we in some sort of parenting cult where we have to make it look like it's the greatest thing ever so all the childless people out there will go out and make more babies? "Misery loves company" or something like that? Am I afraid that if I admit this, that someone will deem me unfit and come to take away my child? That last one is a bit closer to the truth. And even more core to the fear around this admission is the prospect that Sofia would find this out someday and wonder if it means that I do not love her.

But I do.

I do love her. I do love her father. I do love my own parents, my sister, my friends. AND, sometimes, loving any and all of these people can be really, really hard. Sometimes I lose my patience. Sometimes I feel really hurt, physically or emotionally. Sometimes I feel like the way I'm being treated is really unjust. Sometimes I feel like other people don't deserve my love. Sometimes I get very angry.

And it is hard to see past a wall of fire in my eyes to a human being on the other side that I do need to keep on loving. It is hard to push past utter exhaustion to find the energy to attend to another's needs. It is hard to remain tender with a screaming writhing banshie who just won't cooperate. It is hard to stick by the side of a person you care for who seems so committed to their own self-destruction, and a bit of your destruction too, while they're at it. Love is so stinking hard.

So when someone tells me what I'm doing as a mom is "so important," I feel flattered, but honestly, it is just too vague to help me through those hard moments. And when someone tells me that there is purpose in my parenthood because it'll help me meet and minister to other parents, that doesn't do much to help me find patience with my child when I'm home alone with no other parents to witness our interaction. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know I've been struggling with this for a long time. You know that God has done some work in my heart to encourage me in these hard moments. And it is still hard. So He is faithful to keep giving me more encouragement that I so deeply need.

I was studying Luke 1 the other day, reading the story of this guy, Zechariah, who was an old priest who'd been praying for years and years and years for he and his wife, Elizabeth, to have a kid. The one day in his life comes up, when he gets to offer incense and enter the sanctuary of the Lord. He goes in, and the angel Gabriel shows up to have a chat with him. After four hundred years of silence from God, no signs, no prophecies, no nothing, God breaks the silence for this scene.

Gabriel tells Zechariah that he and Elizabeth are going to have a baby boy, John, that will be filled with the Holy Spirit, have the power of Elijah, and he will prepare the way for the Messiah. Wo. This son he has always wanted and had maybe mostly given up hope for ever having was going to till the soil of the hearts of Israel so that they would be prepared to receive Jesus and to believe in Him as their savior. Wo. Wo. Wo.

Israel's hearts were so disobedient that God had cut off communication for 400 years. And now after 400 years of silence, I imagine their spiritual receptors could have been rather dried up. So how was John going to re-open those hearts that they could see God? I'm expecting to hear things like reminding them of the prophecies about the Christ, remind them of the law and how it reveals their need for a savior, remind them that they are supposed to be a people holy and set apart. So let's see what Gabriel says, check out Luke 1:17:

"With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before Him (the Messiah), to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

Definitely some reference back to old prophets, wisdom, righteousness. But what sticks out to me is this bit, "turn the hearts of parents to their children." Seems really out of left field in this context. What does that have to do with anything? Not a note in my bible of explanation. Thankfully, my friend's bible commentary was more helpful and pointed us to Malachi 4:5-6, the very last word from God before the 400 years of silence:

"Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse."

So it is not just a random insertion. It's the last word spoken before the 400 years of silence, first word spoken after, like bookends. So it seems like there could be something really important about it.

It wouldn't have been said if it were unnecessary. If it were super easy for parents to love their kids, why would this be so important for John to do? So for one, this feels like validation of the challenge to love kids, I can breathe a little sigh of relief for having that feeling sometimes.

But for two, look at the purpose of doing so. Verse 16 of Luke 1 says, "He (John) will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God." How many people find it hard to want to get anywhere near Christians because Christians have been so unloving towards them or they've witnessed Christians being so unloving towards others? How many people can identify with the struggle to love God as "Father," because their own father/parent wasn't very loving? When parents abuse or neglect their children, broadly speaking, those children have a hard time with love as they go about their life. And similarly, broadly speaking, when parents love their children, those children grow into people who know better how to receive and give love with other people. But I also believe it becomes more natural to receive the love of God. Apparently it is even a key component in helping to prepare a heart, maybe the parent's, maybe the child's, to receive Christ as savior, if I'm reading these verses correctly. So . . .

Loving my kid is hard, AND, loving my kid is really important.

I can try my hardest to feed her well, keep her healthy, make her brilliant, make her an athletic star, make her the most popular and beloved person in the world, and I'm going to fail to a greater or lesser extent in all of these pursuits. But if I can just love her to the best of my ability, maybe that'll be enough to open her heart to God, who will meet all of her truest and deepest needs without failing. When I do the hardest work, loving her, I am nurturing a heart to be receptive to a greater love than my own, a love that can push past the most unlovable characteristics and behaviors, a love that can help my child become her best possible self.

Dear fellow parents, who sometimes feel bewildered, who feel daunted by the road that lies ahead, who are all too familiar with the end of their ropes, who are afraid to admit that loving their kid is hard, and who need to know all the blood, sweat, and tears are worth the effort, take courage. There is great great significance in the love that you are about to give and have been giving to each of your children. This love in and of itself is Kingdom work. 

Dear Parents, Dear Children, let's let love come in. 

P.S. I also find great encouragement in work of the Kingdom of God, in that the work itself has important significance, but just as God's love is infinite, so the work of God seems to infinitely grow. Even though the work is significant in itself, it also tends to be a preparation for a greater work to come, and that's how the Kingdom grows, one building block at a time. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy First Father's Day, Jeffrey!

Dear Jeffrey,

This year, I have seen you persevere through 18 hours of me laboring when you'd only had about 2 hours of sleep. 

I've seen you have patience with me as I totally did not keep my cool when I had trouble learning how to nurse.

I've seen your forearm get ripped from constantly bobbing ten pounds to sleep.

I've seen your pinky get pruny from pacifying Eiley.

I've seen your face light up every single time you greet our daughter.
Photo by Sarah Grice

I've seen you willingly change diapers. Even the ones you knew would be icky.

I've seen you take the baby exactly when I was at the end of my rope.

I've seen you proudly display pictures and talk so positively about our little girl.

I've seen you carry so many bags that I was compelled to refer to you as a pack mule.

I've seen you work tirelessly to make our comedy connoisseur giggle.

I've seen you take the lead on remembering when to feed Eiley, when to change her, when to put her down for a nap, when to entertain her, and when to just let her cry. 

I've seen you love, love, love your daughter, while loving me and loving others. 

And it's safe to say she loves you back. And so do I!

You really are the tops.

Happy Father's Day!

[Oh, and to my own Daddy: I still think you're wonderful too! You may read last year's post to remind yourself of that fact. I will also add that you are an amazing Grandpa now too. Eiley would like to add "YAHYAHYAHYAHYAH!"]

Friday, June 15, 2012

a poem for miss eiley

Last night, my mom got home from work and was playing with Eiley. "Eiley, you need a song," she said. Then Eiley scooted across the room, and Mama started typing furiously on her computer. I thought she was composing an email or playing Typing Maniac, but then about five minutes later, she read this:

I know a little girl named eiley
Who most of the time is smiley…

she plays and talks and naps
she sits on peoples laps

she gives high fives and waves hello
and crawls determined, steady and slow.

On some occasion she might be a grump
There could be a reason, perhaps a head bump?

A load in her pants or too little sleep
No one could expect her temper to keep.

But the smile that wins out on this little face
Is the smile of ALL smiles, it’s our eiley grace.

It's not a song just yet, but it's a lovely little poem. Feel free to write music for us, someone.

Eiley and her Fee Faw!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Grace and gratitude

We'd had a rough morning. Honestly, it was a rough morning after a rough two and a half weeks. The morning was an exhibit in some of my less superior moments as a mother. Let's just say it was me who ended up getting the time out punishment this time. One thing that made it especially difficult was the rain that was keeping us trapped inside. So as soon as some sun broke through, it was like a race to see which one of us could bolt to the door first. 

We headed out for a nice long walk along a creek and through a neighborhood. Even with the sun, fresh air, and cool breeze, Sofia was still fussy and frustrated with me. But we powered through. The walking helped me to take lots of nice deep breaths. 

As we pulled back up to our driveway, I noticed our neighbor, Nan, across the street out gardening and we stopped over to say a quick hello. Perhaps the accountable eye of a non-mommy-person helped quiet Sofia's irritability, because she became still, calm, and alert. With things finally running smoothly, the quick hello evolved into a relaxing little visit in Nan's garden, where Sofia got to help do some digging, weeding, and general floral admiring. There were new trees, tiny birds, and more colors and flowers than Sofia had probably ever seen before, all in a shaded welcoming environment. It was just what we both needed. 

After a while, we bid farewell to Nan and headed back home for lunch. I sat Sofia in her high chair and busied myself in the kitchen getting our food together. Still in a bit of a tizzy, I sat down with her and started to feed her some food. But she stopped, clasped her little hands together, and said, "God." She halted me in my little whirlwind of culinary stress to remind me pray. This is the beautiful thing about creating family rituals, she holds me to it even when I forget! 

And so I said, 

"Oh yes, Sofia! Thank you. We SHOULD pray. What shall we thank God for?"


"Oh, ok. We'll thank God for crackers. What else would you like to thank God for?"


I couldn't have said it better myself. Daddy got us some yummy crackers this week, we were both very thankful for them. And Nan really was our rescue that morning. 

"Dear God, thank you so much for these yummy crackers and for all our food. And thank you, God, for our wonderful neighbor, Nan, and for the lovely time we had in her beautiful garden together. You placed such great neighbors into our lives and we are very grateful. Amen."

And there it was. Our day officially turned around one hundred eighty degrees, not just by Nan, but by the moment where Sofia helped us to show gratitude to God for Nan. After that, we were able to get along so much better, show so much more affection for each other, communicate our needs to each other so much more clearly. Sofia helped me to embrace an opportunity for heart change. 

Dear God, 
Thank you for blessing me with a little girl who reminds me and teaches me to be a more grateful person.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

anything once: judging some brownies

They stood in a crooked row, their blue button down shirts in stark contrast with their brown skirt, brown knee high socks, brown beret, brown vest. They each had a dozen or more colorful badges on their vests, and most were wearing black and white saddle shoes. I loathe the combination of black and brown, so my eyes were automatically drawn to the one girl with blue Toms and the other girl with white Keds. Between the two of them, Toms had better hair, but Keds had a nicer smile.

"If you could be any Girl Scout cookie, which would you be and why?" I asked, like a pageant judge.

"I'd be Savannah Smiles because they taste like lemons, and when life gives you lemons you make lemonade cookies and you smile," said Toms with the inferior smile. Irony.

"I'd be Thin Mints because they're freaking delicious," said Keds with the mousy hair.

Some of the blackandbrowns also responded, but I was thinking about Thin Mints while they spoke.

Clearly, Keds won my judgement. Thin Mints really are delicious.

In conclusion, that was all a lie. I didn't judge Girl Scout Brownies, I judged brownies that you eat. I just didn't have enough to say about that experience to merit an entire post. My office threw me a brownie judging contest as a going away party. I ate six different kinds of brownies. Amanda's won, and she admitted that she just bought a random box mix. Hey, I like to keep things simple.

I was seriously shocked at my inability to eat an entire tray of brownies.
Congratulation, Amanda!

In conclusion, this is certainly a first I'd like to repeat. Maybe if I train more I can polish off all six entries.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Movie Review Monday: I Do

I do: How to get married and stay single.

This was a fun French movie that reminded me a bit of High Fidelity. It's subtitled, but that's an advantage these days as controlling sound is key to letting me watch movies with an easily-startled-sleeping-toddler. In other words, I have not comments regarding the sound or music on this film ;).

The basic idea: This guy grows up as the only boy surrounded by a gaggle of sisters, and his mother. He's the lone male after his father, "Hercules," (what a name!) passes away. After facing a nasty break up as a result of bringing his girlfriend to meet his family, he both becomes over-dependent on his sisters to cover his domestic needs and completely resistent to settling down for fear of his sisters chasing off anyone he might love. But the sisters have enough of his dependence on them and demand that he get married. Creative solutions ensue.

This was one of the better romantic comedies I've stumbled across in a while, and I've been on the hunt for a good one. It felt fresh and entertaining, and still honest and poignant. The characters were familiar, but sufficiently complex to maintain my interest. There's a surprising plot twist a little ways through that helps it to be even more endearing.

I am shocked that this has not already been re-made in America. Rumors had it that Will Ferrel was going to star in the remake, but that was in 2010, and I don't see much news on the interwebs more recent than that. Should this follow through, I will likely see the film, but to be honest, I love Will and all, but not so much for this part. So instead, I'd like to brainstorm some potential alternative American leads.

Potential leads for the American remake:

1) Jeff Fazakerley [shameless plug for our Lobster favorite ;) ]
2) Jon Hamm [I just caught up on all past episodes of Mad Men, and he plays man-dependent-on-women-to-meet-all-needs quite well. He also has a great smile and does comedy well, as evidenced in his role on 30 Rock.]
3) Will Smith [I can picture him having a sweet but complex relationship with a bunch of sisters]
4) Gerard Butler [definitely his type of attitude]
5) John Cusak [maybe its just the residue of High Fidelity, but seems like he'd be a good fit]

If you've seen the film, please comment with your own recommendations, because honestly, I have pretty much no idea what I'm talking about, just having fun here.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Flashback! the twenty-third.

Emily emily emily.
Story time:
Once upon a time I went on this mission trip with a church that i had never been to, just to be able to go on a mission trip. Scary as heck, but one of the best things i ever did in my life. I met people there that have radically altered who i am, how i view ministry, God, and especially myself. I came into that group self-righteous [i know, i'm sure not too much has changed in that department over all], and so confident that i knew everything about God and church and sin and righteousness. The people in that group were in gangs, did drugs, and all kinds of stuff, which at first really scared me more than it lead me to judge them - largely because the 250 lb. 6'6'' dude with greasy hair was flipping his huge knife in and out of its holster ALL the time. Turns out he was a real sweetheart, and actually came to Christ that week.
Anyways. Exteriorly, they were an obviously sinful bunch. They covered all the standard no-no’s. But those kids really broke me down.  In getting to know them, i really came to love them, and the more that God worked in my heart about loving them, the more He revealed the truth about their sin to me. They did these things that would have gotten them kicked out of most churches, but our youth leader loved them and held them accountable and was patient with them and gave them opportunities to serve God anyway - even when they wanted to do it by dressing goth, make up and all, just to make the Gay neighbor to our building site furious. [youth leader wasn't thrilled with that, that's just more description of what they were like]
I guess it was revolutionary for me to see how someone could love people that way - although it was what i'd preached and "known" all my life - i finally saw a manifestation of Jesus Christ right there on that trip and throughout my involvement with that group.  It totally made my opinion of their "lifestyle" crumble, because God showed me that my sins were so much worse than what they were doing - theirs were so petty in light of what i'd done, which would be crap to hear, but surprisingly, i think it was really freeing. Because He forgave us both - the petty sins and my giant sin, His power had no difference in effecting those salvations. So while i was in that group, He did a number on me regarding humility. And i saw more and more of the hideousness of my sin.  The more i was able to feel God's love for me - the more significant the forgiveness became, which made me see more of God's love for my friends.
Have i been ambiguous enough about my own sin? I hate how preachers often do that, “we are all guilty of sins” but he’s never really vulnerable about his own so he still looks pretty squeaky clean.  So I won’t do the same. Basically, mine was tearing apart the body of Christ. I wreaked nasty havoc in very "innocent" ways that incurred some lasting damage. And i did it in 3 or 4 churches before i settled down in that group, and even there, old habits wouldn't quite die out all together. But i believe that's what God cares about the most: unity in His body – first between yourself and Him, and then the whole body together: “love God, love your neighbor.” So it makes sense that any of our sins upset Him, because it separates us from Him [until we are forgiven], but I believe He cares most about our being unified and not hindered by our judgments of each other and distanced from Him.
So thanks for hearing my apologies and forgiving me. we both love each other, we're a little closer, alot more unified, and at the end of the day, God is glorified, right? And that is a beautiful story of redemption. That is the crucifixion at work. That is grace at work. That is the love that God is. I don't mean to sound preachy, i just want to illustrate how i am crap, but God is good. All the time. And also to say thank you to you. So, thanks.
I love you Emily.
Zoe faith 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Cooking with Zoe: Mangos

It is hard for me to look at a mango without thinking back to my time in Jamaica, when my Rastafarian friends would eagerly yank one off a nearby tree, rip it open with their teeth, and offer it to me for a snack while we hammered wood together. That refreshing, smooth, sweet taste under the hot sun was pretty divine. I've been a bit obsessed with the fruit ever since. And with the touch of heat slowly making its way through into our weather, I've been craving it lately.

image taken from here
What's been even more fun than just the pure joy of enjoying the mango itself, has been introducing Mainers to their first taste of mango ever. Ok, Mainer, singular. I'm sure plenty of Mainers have had mangos, but you have to admit, it's a different climate from the Caribbean up here! But we had some students over recently and when one of them mentioned that we had introduced him to this succulent orange fruit, I decided that fact alone made the event a grand success.

Mangos are a tricky fruit, because of their softness and their awkward seed. I remember my mom once asking for advice on how to cut into it to serve for a dinner party, and my sister, just back from a mission trip to the Bahamas, offerred to help. She promptly bit into it and tore the skin away with her teeth, just like she and I had both seen demonstrated. Classy, Sissy. Classy! ;) Should you be sharing the fruit with others who do not prefer your saliva on their food, I would recommend getting your hands on one of my favorite kitchen tools, the mango slicer. This makes cutting into magos sooo much more simple AND sanitary!
So Handy! [click on the image to purchase one for yourself and give Emily and I a tiny commission :) ]

To keep on my kick of spreading the good news of mangos to even more of you, I would like to share two of my favorite uses of what is perhaps my favorite fruit.

1) Southwestern Salad Bar. This recipe came from this Best of Cooking Light Everyday Favorites book. It makes a great meal for a large group, especially where you might have a mix of people who are vegetarian or gluten free or just picky, as it allows for full customization. Basically, you get lettuce, tortilla chips, and lots of good mix-ins. Line them all up and let your guests fix the salad the way they like. Before this, I'd never had mango in a salad and it was a grand discovery! Other mix-ins include corn with taco seasoning, black beans with garlic, avocado in lemon juice, red onions, cheese, cilantro, chipotle-ranch dressing [ranch with chipotles chopped up and mixed in], and plenty of lime juice. So very yum!

Champagne Mangos:
SO sweet and tasty, but too small
to be worth it when
you are making a huge salad!
Better meat to effort ratio!
2) Zesty Fruit Salad. This is a Reyes family favorite. And I always over-do it when I make it. Again, quite simple. Basically, pick a handful of fruits you enjoy together, chop and mix them up. Then drizzle honey, brown sugar, lime zest, and lime juice on top and mix it all together. Most recently, I did this with apples, grapes, kiwi, pineapple, and of course, Mangos. It's amazing how much the little hidden additions to the fruits liven things up. My common mistake is to make this for a party and buy all the fruit at Cosco/Sams, and wind up with enough fruit salad to feed and army ten times over, I just get too excited. My most recent mistake was buying a whole box [15] of champagne mangos. For one salad. It took me about two hours to get a decent amount of fruit out of those mangos, and that was while resisting the temptation to suck all the spare fruit off the skins. I hate to think about how much good fruit was lost! Instead, I would recommend picking out a few of the larger variety instead.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Hey Jeff,

So I was going to write a post full of pictures of ALL the things we did together last year, but I honestly didn't know where to start. It's just been too much. I think we are crazy people if I reflect too hard. But, like, the good kind of crazy people. Cray cray. Holler. You know. 

Anyway, here are a few highlights:

1. We had a baby. Well, I had the baby, but you were there the whole time even though you hadn't slept. You're the most amazing dad, but still an amazing husband at the same time.

2. We survived your thesis. We survived you writing it, we survived you rehearsing it, and more importantly, my attraction to you survived even after seeing your performance.
Photo by David Polston

3. We graduated from Regent. Well, you did the graduating, but I was there the whole time you were in school. I'm taking 7% of the credit. I'm so proud of your accomplishment and proud that we worked hard to stay connected even when you were the busiest person out of all the people.
Photo by big brother
4. We endured Virginia 2011: Dismal Swamp Fire, Earthquake, and Hurricane Irene all in two weeks. And we had fun through it all, imagine that.

5. We persevered through our second cross country move, this time with an infant and a dog. This should be super stressful, but it was only stressful for that one hour at the airport. You know what I'm talking about. [Shakes fist at United/Delta/Continental Cargo dudes.]
Back at Disneyland, where we belong.

These are just highlights - we've had so much fun, grown so much, and changed together. And you're still my very favorite. I love you so! Happy Fourth Anniversary!