Monday, April 27, 2015

I love to cook!

I have always loved to cook! Probably because I love food, which explains why I am also trying to be more consistent with an exercise routine and eating healthier food. The problem though is I REALLY love to try new foods and will almost anything once. The adventurous side of my food affair has only developed as I have gotten older but I have always enjoyed cooking and trying out new recipes. If I had my choice, I would never eat the same thing twice (well except chips and salsa!).

Lately, since I have really started falling in love with Sri Lanka, I have been on a journey to learn how to cook Sri Lankan food. It has been great fun, and I have enjoyed learning about my new friend's favorite foods and trying to make them. I have attempted many new recipes, been successful at a few, and exposed my family and friends here in the US to lots of new dishes.

My favorite things I have tried have been Milk Rice (kiri bath) and a pumpkin curry I made at Thanksgiving. I have made several different kinds of curry and some short eats or appetizer type things as well. I also attempted string hoppers and a milk gravy (kiri hodi). With each attempt I feel that I am gaining a better grasp of how to prepare the food. AND I have started to want to eat curry more and more! I also have gotten more comfortable with the idea of savory food for breakfast! My Sri Lankan friends eat curry for breakfast too, a very foreign idea to us Americans.

So recently (April 14th) was Sinhala and Tamil New Year, and there are so many fun and festive foods they make for New Year and I wanted to give it a shot. However, none of the recipes seemed very easy.... I did try a cashew toffee sort of praline thing. And while I don't think it looked much like the pictures I have seen, almost everyone who tried it said it tasted amazing and several people asked for the recipe. So, while it may not have looked exactly like it should have it did taste pretty good!

This made me want to start writing about my food adventures. Trying new foods and making new foods, I just thought it would be nice to have a record of some of those experiences. So my plan is to try one new recipe each week!

This week I am going to try to make Kokis. It is a special treat made particularly around Sinhala and Tamil New Year. For my American friends, Kokis is like a very thin crunchy funnel cake. I ordered the mold needed to make it and have everything else needed so I thought it would be fun and one of the easier things to try! So here goes.

2 to up to 2 1/2 cups rice flour (can be found at Indian Stores usually)
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
1 egg
salt to taste
oil (will be used for frying the kokis) I used coconut oil.

First step is to mix the batter. Mix the rice flour, coconut milk, water, and egg in a bowl. If you have fresh coconut milk, even better, but I used can coconut milk.

The second step is to heat your oil on the stove. Once the oil is heated then dip the mold (I couldn't find a traditional kokis mold but I did find a Norwegian cookie mold on Amazon that was similar in shape and also came with the fun butterfly shape you see below. It was made by Norpro.)

Once the oil is heated and you have dipped the mold in the oil for about 30 seconds to heat the mold, let the excess oil drip off and dip the mold into the batter. DO NOT cover the top of the mold with the batter or the kokis will not remove. Once you have dipped the mold in the batter then place it back in the hot oil, hold it there for a couple seconds then gently shake the mold to release the kokis from the mold.

It will then float in the oil and start to turn light brown. Flip the kokis over and allow to cook a few more seconds until it has turned a light brown color all around. Once it is cooked, remove it from the oil and allow to cool. My kids thought they were awesome drizzled with honey and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. Definitely like a crispy funnel cake. I would have sprinkled powdered sugar on them if I had some in the pantry.

The one recipe of batter made this many kokis and more... We ate several before I took this picture... They were fun, fairly easy to make, and delicious!

This was the best one I made, AND it was the very first one! Even Makenzie, my 8 year old, had a great time helping make them.

So, until the next food journey...

If anyone tries this (and you haven't before...) let me know how it goes!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Courage to Trust

This year has really brought about the question "do you trust me?" several times in my life. Do I trust God? Do I trust the people God has placed in leadership and mentoring roles in my life?

I have had to seriously consider do I trust them? Sometimes I wonder why God is doing things the way He is. I question his plan. If he has given me passions and desires for certain things, then why am I not able to live out those passions and desires? I keep expecting God to bring about new life from things I invest in, but I am not seeing new life. It becomes frustrating to me, and I have to ask myself, "Do I trust God?" And immediately I answer, YES! Of course I trust God, but it is one thing for my brain to say I trust him and a completely different thing for my heart to agree (silly heart again!). I tend to just run head first into things and I trust God to go before me, but when I struggle trusting God is when my hands have to get out of the way of the work. When it becomes less about me doing the work and more about Him doing the work, and the holy spirit doing the work. That is when I really start to wonder.... what are you doing God? I don't like to wait on His timing all the time. As I struggle with this it is a daily battle of recognizing I have to trust God that 1. He has me exactly where he wants me for the time (a whole other story!) 2. His timing is perfect and I have to trust that He will work to bring new life to things I invest my time into, and 3. trust that His desires are for my best, and He may not always give me exactly what I THINK is best for me. I have to really build up some courage to let go of a few things and really trust with both my head and my heart. It means that I give up some control in a few situations, and spend a lot of time on my knees praying and pouring my heart out to the One who loves me most, and then I leave it in HIS capable hands.

So this trust thing trickles down into so many other places in my life as well. I mean with school, volunteer work, church work. There are several places where God has placed people in my life that I have to trust they are making the best decisions. Many of the decisions they make affect me in some way, and I have to trust they really want what is best for me and in turn the people I am reaching out to as well. Not only people above me in certain jobs, but even mentors and friends. Trusting that they genuinely care about me and aren't just trying to squash what I really want. There are so many times I hold so tightly to what I want to happen, that I don't listen (I may hear them, but don't take it to heart) to the people around me and I may get what I want, but sometimes without the outcome I hoped would happen.

THUS, this week I have started releasing a bit of my will (strong will) and started to really try to trust the people around me and the God who loves me. It is going to require some biting of my tongue, some time spent praying (maybe a lot of time spent praying!) and some relaxing on my part to know that God is really in control. I may not know exactly what is going to happen, but that is okay... I can trust that God does know what is going to happen.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The infinite to-do list... and the power of NO!

So have you ever heard of the time management prioritization strategy with the 4 squares? You label square one Urgent/Important, square 2 Urgent/Not Important, Square 3 Important/Not Urgent, and square 4 Not Urgent/Not Important.... looks something like this...

Someone I used to work for showed me this and it was like it was supposed to revolutionize how I got things done... like it would magically make it so easy for me to see which of the thousands of things on my to-do list needed to be done first... the only problem was I spent forever trying to decide what to put in each box!

I mean in my mind the "Urgent/Not Important" category is a joke... why would something be urgent but not important! The word urgent clearly makes it IMPORTANT! But if you read about this strategy they give examples (one I still don't agree with...) I have a mental block that if something is Urgent it immediately gets Important status so it moves to the "Urgent/Important" category... which as you will see at the end of this post is my biggest category!

So "Urgent/Not Important" has left the box now down to 3. The next category I found to be a complete waste of time is the "Not Urgent/Not Important" category... why would you even need to have a category for that???? If something was not urgent or important it really shouldn't be on my list to begin with! I mean seriously?? I don't have time for not urgent and not important things.... So, down to 2 categories...

This leaves me with 2 categories: "Urgent/Important" and "Not Urgent/Important." These two boxes are where I live... I mean really I live in the "Urgent/Important" category, because come on most important things eventually become urgent if you put them off long enough.... So this is why I have an infinite to-do list all the time. I keep one of those flippy notebook paper pads around all the time. I currently have 5 in my back pack... each one full of lists of things I have to do and all the notes that go along with what I have to do. You would thing that they might be organized some way too, but no each pad is full of stuff from all different aspects of my life.. So I spend time flipping through them just to figure out what it is I am supposed to be doing next, and then I end up just making a new to-do list.... it really is a never ending cycle.

I know the person who showed me the 4 square organizing time management strategy was trying to help, but again it just added to my constant list of one more thing to do and I always started an argument with myself about the non-essential two squares. And, I have had other people offer strategies for time-management and organization as well... but to no avail.. I still have an infinite to-do list. The list keeps growing even after I cross things off...

Thus, I am left to find a solution in which I am able to cross stuff off my list, but not add things, AND find a way to determine which things on the list must get done first etc. So, I finally decided this week to say NO! That's right just say NO! We have all heard it a hundred times right? I mean "Just say NO to drugs!" We heard a thousand times growing up... Well you know, doing stuff is my drug...adding things to my to-do list is like a drug... I am constantly looking for something else to do and if someone asks me to do something there is a very slim chance that I would tell them no... I just can't resist. I want to do whatever I can to help other people, and so I always say yes. However, this week I officially took one thing off my list and handed it over to someone else. It is something I was sort of looking forward to doing, and their would have been great benefit and fun involved, BUT the cost of my time was going to be too high. SO I SAID NO. Someone else asked me about doing something next school year and being in charge of some small thing, probably not even a huge task, but I said NO.

 This made me realize that not only do I need to say NO I am going to have to decide what can go undone. What is going to be the thing I take off the list and let it fall into that "Important but not Urgent" Category for now... because in my mind EVERYTHING is "Urgent and Important" yet I have to decide some things can just wait....

Again, I made a decision. My house is driving me nuts. It is a wreck, there is no other way to put it. And I would be embarrassed for someone to see the state my house is in right now.. stuff everywhere, laundry everywhere, the floor is scary seriously. But you know what, we are functioning, the kids don't care, my husband doesn't care, I am the one who is always flipping out about the house... and so I decided the house can wait. I will do some light picking up each day, just so we can sit and eat and that kind of thing and prevent bugs (that is important), but I am not going to stress about it. I am going to focus on what I need to get done and what has a deadline and check it off the list and then I can work on my house.... and by no means can it go in the not important not urgent box (worthless box!) but it can sit temporarily in the "Not Urgent but Important" box.

After what I feel like were some revolutionary decisions for me, I spent the day doing school work (On a Saturday), but I was able to get soooooo many things crossed of my list today! And that means I can go home and focus on the people in my house (ignoring the mess!) because those people are always going to be in the "Urgent/Important" box. All of these decisions have been in the works for a while, but it has just taken time for my heart (silly heart - read the last post) to let go of some things and my head and heart to get on the same page. I have to accept that I am only capable of doing so many things and as much as I would like to do everything all the time, I have to pick and choose...

If you are an expert at time management and organization and have strategies for the non-organized share away! I can't say that I won't get a mental block that your strategy just won't work for me, but perhaps someone else out there is like me and lives in 2 boxes constantly contemplating the urgency and importance of everything in their his/her life.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

My toughest critic....

The definition of a critic is a person who expresses an unfavorable opinion of something, or a person who judges the merits of literary, artistic, or musical works. I think that is really interesting. The definition alone almost guarantees whatever the critic is going to say will be negative. I love to watch shows where people, cook, dance, sing, design, whatever it is and then are judged on their work by the "experts" in that field. I find that I myself become a critic as I watch judging what I think and expressing my opinions on what they have just done. Whenever someone gets a negative review they either, bust into tears, begin arguing why they disagree and what they did was so good, or they take the criticism and turn it into fuel to work even harder the next time. That last reaction is rare though. Why do so many of these contestants get so emotional over their work? They take all of the comments so personally, and they let it either fill them with sadness, anger, or defeat, even if what they created was really awful. 

I find that I too handle criticism in much the same way. When someone says something negative to me, I take the criticism very personally, and I see it as a reflection of myself. It doesn't matter if what is being criticized is something I have done, said, or actually me, I view the criticism as a direct result of who I am. 

This week a student said something to me that made me instantly become hyper critical of myself. With one comment from an 18 year old I immediately began evaluating everything I had done and am doing looking for weaknesses to pick a part. I took the comment very personally and was hurt by it. If I had been a cartoon character you would have probably seen steam shooting from my hears and my face would have been bright red (which I am sure it was already a bit red for real!). I had to fight back tears and emotions that were not appropriate for the classroom, and had to finish that class, and make it through another class before I was able to fully process how what had been said, and my reaction to it. 

Why did I take it so personally? Why do those people on tv in these competition shows take the criticism so personally? What causes such an emotional reaction? 

As I thought about this incident this week, I began to realize that I have always been overly sensitive to criticism. It started at a very young age. I remember never wanting anyone to be unhappy with what I had done. I would cry when someone scolded me or I would get angry at the criticism. As I have gotten older I think it has just gotten worse. I know I tend to overreact to criticism in some form or fashion. This really got me thinking. Why do I overreact to the feedback people give, even if it is done in a way that is positive? 

And I finally came up with an answer, one I should have made the connection with a long time ago. Everything I do, I pour my entire heart and soul into. Whether it is loving my family, doing my school work, planning lessons, helping people, being a friend, whatever it is that I am doing I am going to give it 100% of myself. I think this is why I sometimes don't want to do some things if I can't focus all my attention on it. If I can't pour every bit of myself out into what I am doing, I would rather just not do it. The only problem with this is that because I have poured every bit of myself out into what I have done, when someone criticizes my work, or how I do something, or how I don't do something well, or any other number of things, I take it as a direct criticism of ME. Everything I am is a part of what I have done, and I suddenly take that negative critique and twist it to be about me, and how I am lacking. I don't view it as what I did is lacking, but it must be ME who is lacking in some way. I let my heart get so connected to what I am doing that I can't help but take whatever is said personally. 
I saw this picture and I couldn't help but think, "THAT is exactly the problem!" My heart can't help but get involved in everything I do... And while that is a good thing in some ways because I put forth an extreme amount of effort, and I care intensely about the people and things in my life, it also means that I let any criticism of how I am doing things cut to the heart. I think I am already so hard on myself about things, and over analyze my work thinking it is not good enough that when someone else says something negative it is like a double whammy!

It is the same way for those people who are on those shows, as good or bad as their singing, dancing, cooking, designing, or WHATEVER it is they are doing, they have poured their heart into it. And it cuts deep when someone says what you have spent so much of yourself to prepare just doesn't measure up. 

So I find myself in a conundrum. I either should try not to invest so much in all I do, or I should try to not take it so personally when someone criticizes my work. And that's the thing. Often what they are criticizing is just my work. It is something I do it is not who I am. I have to be able to separate who I am from what I do just a little bit, so that I can take the criticism and effectively use it to be one of those people who take the critique and go and work even harder to come back on top. 

Ultimately, I have to remember that everything I am doing is for the Lord, not for men, and if He is pleased with me then I have done my job, and I can't let one comment, criticism, or negative steal my joy. 

"The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving." Psalm 28:7 

Monday, April 6, 2015

I need a workout buddy...

Seriously, I have had a fitness/weight loss goal for over a year now, and I think the biggest reason I haven't reached it is I need a workout buddy. I need someone who will look me in the face and say, "Missed your workout today? Ummm.... NOT acceptable!" And I need someone to say, "Ate a cookie? WHAT?!? That is so not okay! Ate chips and salsa too!?! Get with the program and have some discipline already!" I know not everyone appreciates someone in their face, but if I am going to meet my goal (and not meet it only to within a few months be right back where I started), then I am going to have to be accountable to someone. Sadly, being accountable to myself has not worked.

I really don't enjoy working out, and I am not a runner. I somewhat enjoy biking... but really that's just okay too. I've been contemplating trying to become a runner... and then I remember I really don't like to run... I mean I watch people in the neighborhood run all the time. I am a great runner watcher... there is the guy who is training for the next tough mudder competition, he decided running sounded fun when you mix it with mud and crazy obstacles and its not too intense of a run, more of an intense experience. There is the newlywed couple who runs while staring into each other's eyes, I mean come on, someone is going to get hurt, but I guess if making googly eyes at one another is what gets you to run, good for you. Then, there is the "I have to look like I am sweating and working hard without actually sweating" runner girl, it is all about the looks for her. There is the guy who runs with no shirt and my kids yell, "He's Naked!" whenever we pass him... yeah we are obviously still working on defining those terms at our house. Then there is the trained marathon runner who puts all other runners to shame... and somewhere I think to myself... maybe I could be a runner.... but then I would just become the "wow, look at that crazy girl trying to run" runner. Anyways, I think I could be a runner... if a bear was chasing me.

So, since running is not my thing, and I enjoy biking somewhat, but to get a decent workout on the bike I have to spend like FOREVER riding it, and who has forever when you work and have 3 kids. I have had to come up with some way to get a decent workout in. Thus, the Beachbody home workout has been my go to. And honestly, they aren't bad. Typically it is a 30 minute workout that is super intense and focused to get the maximum results in the minimum amount of time... The problem is... I make so many EXCUSES! I can find so many different ways to get out of doing my workout. I don't wanna wake up early because I stay up so late working, then I don't wanna do it have work because I am trying to make dinner, clean up the kids, homework, bedtimes, etc..... and by the time I have 30 minutes I just want to fall into bed. Or, I'll say, "Oh I'll wait for my husband to work out with me" (I've been waiting 3 months...) and I'll say, "hmmm maybe it would be better to start next week for ___________ (fill in the blank with some lame excuse...). So! I have decided. NO MORE EXCUSES! I am making this week the week I work out everyday, and the week that begins many weeks of working out everyday! I CAN DO IT! (and a little voice inside says, "yeah right!") Which is why I am putting this in writing, no turning back now!

The lack of working out is just one factor in not reaching my fitness/weight loss goals... my eating habits have had a huge affect on the lack of reaching my goals. I generally am a pretty healthy eater... then stress enters my life, and forget all the cortisol stress mumbo jumbo science stuff... I gain weight when I am stressed because I eat junk! I did an amazing job last year for like 3 or 4 months eating amazingly well, and really being disciplined.... and then things got crazy and I sort of just stopped caring, and then life got even crazier, and well now I am back at square one. The biggest reason I did so well was I had to tell someone everything I ate. Well my pride wouldn't let me eat junk because I did not want to admit to having eaten something I knew I shouldn't have. When I don't have to be accountable to anyone slipping a cookie, a bag of chips, a slice of pizza, whatever it is at the moment that I think sounds good is too easy. When I know someone is looking over my shoulder I am so much more likely to follow through with my commitment. (How sad is that right? I mean I should be able to keep myself accountable!) But you know, today alone there were donuts, cookies, chocolate, candy, delicious breads, and more placed in front of me at work, with my kids, and at dinner. It is no wonder I cave in when I am constantly surrounded by things I know aren't good for me to eat. So, it is time to purge the house, (which is hard because I have a husband who eats junk and junk only(I know we are working on it...), and I have kids who occasionally like a treat), and it is time to say NO! This week I am upping the discipline, and I am going to make an effort to have healthy snacks on hand, and avoid temptation of things I know I should say "NO" too.

I say all this because I have a goal I want to reach, but I really want to model for my kids what healthy living is. They need to know that eating junky food is not fueling your body. And they need to know not to eat their problems. I want my kids to know that being physically fit and in shape is important in life to help you live a fuller and happier life where you can do things that want because your body is healthy! And if I continue to not model that for them, they will never make it a priority.

Lastly, I ask you a favor. If you see me this week, say, "Did you work out?" And if you see me reaching for that cookie... well tell me to put that cookie down and walk away! And if you see me running, you better start running too... because there must be something chasing me.

So, who else needs a workout buddy?

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Guard Frogs, Full Moons, Potty Breaks, and Inescapable Things...

So we have this stack of bricks by our front door. I left them there one day and when I went to put them away I noticed this Frog (well toad, i know there is a difference, but I still call it a frog) and it was living in the bricks. Every night and every morning we could see it poking its head out of the holes in the bricks. I could not bring myself to move the bricks after that. One, I was like free bug killer and mosquito catcher right there by the front door! Score! Two, the kids loved seeing the frog every time we came in and out of the house, and it became a game to see if we could find him (or her who knows!), so I left the bricks.

Well, that was like 3 years ago... and every Spring we have "guard frogs" again. Last spring our guard frog had little frog babies and the kids went nuts! These teeny tiny baby frogs hopping around, and we watched them grow up all summer long! Yesterday, we witnessed the return of the "guard frog," and it got me thinking... they will always come back. That spot in those bricks is a great home for these frogs. And where we only had one the first year each year since we have had more and more.

They really do hang out right by the front door, and it is like they are guarding the house. (I do sort of worry when I walk in the house after dark that I am going to step on one!) Last night I counted 5 of these little "guard frogs." It really hit me... I am so glad there are certain things that just happen. Some things that are just inescapable facts of life. Spring time comes...frogs come. They will live in those bricks all summer until the first cold snap here and then they will disappear for the winter, and next spring they will come back. It is life. And in the craziness of my life, knowing certain things just will happen is really nice...

Just like every Spring our frogs return, every month there is a full moon. It just happens. God created the world with order, and in the midst of the chaos of my life the world continues to function in perfect order. 1 Corinthians 14:33 says, "God is not a God of disorder, but of peace." And I do find peace in the order of his creation. The last few weeks things in life have seemed just out of control. And seeing the return of our "guard frogs" and the full moon made me realize even though my life may seem out of control, God has everything in perfect order. I can rest and have peace in knowing that I am not in control but He is.

It is just like I know the moment we walk in the grocery store, one of my children will say they need to go to the bathroom. We will walk to the bathroom and I will ask all 3 to go. Only one will, even though I make everyone try. We will get all the way to the back of the store and kid 2 will ask to go to the bathroom, AND It will be an emergency, so we will run to the front of the store, and everyone will go potty AGAIN! We will resume our shopping trip, get to the back of the store again, and wait for it......... kid #3 will say they HAVE to go to the bathroom! It is inevitable. EVERY TIME. It used to drive me crazy, and it definitely prolonged my shopping trips. But, I have started to embrace the multiple potty trips. It is an inescapable fact of life. And as I said there is a comfort in knowing certain things will just happen, when sooo many uncertain things take place every day. Don't get me wrong, solo shopping trips are still my favorite because it is like going to the spa or something equally relaxing. I actually take longer at the store when I don't have the kids then when they are with me.... But again that is just one of those inescapable facts of life.

So, with the frogs, the full moon, the kids and their potty breaks, I began thinking about the one thing I know I just can't escape. Psalm 139: 1 - 12 says,
"O Lord, you have examined my heart
    and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
    You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
    and when I rest at home.
    You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
    even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!
I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night—
12     but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you."

It doesn't matter that I don't know what tomorrow will hold, and I don't know what next school year holds for my kids, and I don't know what next school year holds for me, and I don't know what the next 5 years hold (yes, I wonder about the future... more than I should), and it doesn't matter that I am behind in my school work, and it doesn't matter that life seems really chaotic at times.... 

I just have to accept the inescapable love of a Creator who brought perfect order to darkness. A Creator who shaped nothingness into something and brings "guard frogs" every spring, and full moons every month, and yes even a Creator who gave me 3 children who will inevitably ALL ask to go to the bathroom at DIFFERENT times at the grocery store.

I have to rest in the peace of knowing "Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure." (Ephesians 1:4 - 5) 

With Easter coming, and the reminder of Jesus dying to pay for my sins so I can spend eternity in heaven with God, something I am so unworthy of, it is a great reminder that God decided a long time ago to save me, and ANYONE who accepts the gift of salvation through Jesus. And I don't accept that gift lightly. It is not a gift to take advantage of, but a gift that leads me to want to live a life pleasing to my Father in heaven, and be grateful for the order and peace that only He can bring. So, in my chaos, I have to stop and praise God for his perfect plan and I have to remember that my God is a God of peace and order, and with His help, I can step out of the chaos and disorder, and rest in the inescapable love that God has for me.