Wednesday, July 31, 2013

yardsale finds: volume 4.

it's really kind of a shame that My 2 Aunts were on a plane on Saturday heading to Florida. let me be clear: it was not a shame that they were heading to Florida because hello! Florida has beaches and sunshine! but since they didnt stick around Maryland a little longer, they missed out on the chance to meet Nadine and yardsale with us. it was one of our shorter excursions, (only about half the morning) but we still managed to pack Sophie full of our fun finds. check it out:

(items listed clockwise-ish from left)

two beach chairs, fun picture frame, floor lamp, skirt for my niece, board game (i've never heard of it, but should be at least a dollars worth of fun), three books, the complete tales of beatrix potter, 6 waterford champagne flutes to gift (etched with bride, groom, maid of honor, best man, forever, and good luck), ribbon cake stand, cool glass container, book plate rubber stamp, and a cute spring decoration. (not pictured: 1 cup of lemonade)   Total Spent: $24.50

other things that we fit in the car included a pirate-y looking trunk (we half expected to find treasure inside) and a little dresser that both went home with Nadine. so in hindsight, its probably a good thing the Aunts couldnt come along this time since the backseat was pretty full even after just the first sale of the day. maybe it'll happen the next time they come visit... are there still yardsales in September?

Monday, July 29, 2013

meal plan monday: july 29.

i was told by my aunts over the weekend that i needed to take some pictures of the butterfly bush in my backyard. so i did.

completely unrelated, this is our menu for the week:

Monday: turkey burgers. (recipe)
Tuesday: zuchinni, black bean, and rice skillet. (recipe)
Wednesday: soup from a can.
Thursday: fish packets with rice. (recipe)
Friday: chicken veggie quesadillas.
Saturday: veggie omelettes with roasted potatoes.
Sunday: grilled chicken and cake.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

anatomy of a tattoo.

if you've known me for any amount of time, you probably know that i've been considering getting a tattoo for a long while. some of that consideration has been documented here, (and here) but the possibilities were bouncing around in my head even before i ever started sharing all of my thoughts with the interwebs at large.

when i was in high school, i thought i had figured out the perfect tattoo design - it was cool, it was edgy, and it would showcase my undying love for all things office-supply-ish - a safety pin, pinned through my calf. i think i still have my original inspiration picture (ripped from a magazine) stored in a box somewhere, but this one is pretty close to the same thing:

and i am SO glad that never happened. turns out i'm not quite as edgy as i considered myself to be in high school, with my baggy pants and duct tape jewelry. so instead of making a young and dumb decision, (that my parents would have never allowed anyway) i spent years pondering the physical, social, and spiritual ramifications of getting a tattoo. i determined what i considered to be the ideal spot for a tattoo, as well as a design that would be meaningful and hopefully still reasonably attractive on an 80-year old woman. i asked around and researched tattoo parlors in the area, searching out a safe, sanitary, and talented establishment. and i took very seriously the approval of my husband, since tattoos tend to stick around forever, and i plan on him doing the same.

after all that consideration, and even at one point deciding that i would be alright with never actually getting a tattoo, this is what i ended up with:

a matching tattoo with my BFITW! but what does it mean??? i'm sure you're really dying to know. so i'm really going to tell you - here is an annotated guide to my new tattoo.

1. Placement: on the top of my right foot. because i didnt want a tramp stamp, i didnt want to have to be in any awkward state of undress to get inked, it should age better here than on my stomach or arm, and i always have the option of covering it up without having to wear a turtleneck.  originally, we were looking into putting in on our instep, but we were advised by the tattoo parlor that it would not age well. (something about that spot of the body not absorbing the ink as well as on the top of the foot) they suggested that we consider the top of the foot instead, where the ink would not fade as much. so we ended up deciding on our right foot over the left because we wanted the words to read from heel to toe instead of the other way around.

2. Words: changed for good. this is a line from the musical Wicked, which is mine and Julie's favorite musical, which just so happens to have a story that loosely parallels our friendship: two girls that meet in college, initially hate one another, but then become best friends over time. just like Glinda and Elphaba, we feel that our friendship has changed us, and that we would not be who we are today without having known each other. in case you are not familiar with the song, part of it goes:

" i've heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason bringing something we must learn and we are led to those who help us most to grow if we let them and we help them in return. well i don't know if i believe that's true, but i know i'm who i am today because i knew you... like a comet pulled from orbit as it passes a sun, like a stream that meets a boulder halfway through the wood, who can say if i've been changed for the better? but because i knew you i have been changed for good." 

plus, a quote from that song was infinitely more appropriate and preferable over one from our other favorite:

"loathing. unadulterated loathing. for your face, your voice, your clothing. let's just say: i loathe it all. every little trait however small makes my very flesh begin to crawl with simple utter loathing. there's a strange exhilaration with such total detestation - it's so pure so strong.. though i do admit it came on fast, still i do believe that it can last and i will be loathing for forever, loathing, truly deeply loathing you my whole life long"

3. Cross: for my savior. the cross itself was added to the design as part of the most recent iteration, although the double meaning behind the phrase "changed for good" was always in our minds. our faith has been a huge part of our lives and our friendship: not only have we been changed by knowing each other, more importantly we have been changed by knowing Christ. definitely for the better, and definitely for good.

4. Two Stars: for my best friend. why stars? partially because we liked them better than hearts or butterflies, and then as part of our extensive research we learned that stars are a symbol of femininity and mathematical perfection, among other things, which pretty much made it impossible to pick anything else. why two? because there are two of us: one of the stars is hers, the other is mine. originally, they were both going to be aquamarine, for our birth stones, but at some point we decided to go with our favorite colors instead: green for me, and pink for her. and what a happy coincidence that our favorite colors match up with Wicked again - green for Elphaba, and pink for Glinda. these stars are the only part of our tattoos that differ from each others: each of us has our "own" star as the top one. because we are totally individuals after all.

it's been almost three weeks, and my tattoo is at the tail end of its itchy-scabby phase, and soclose to being completely healed. there's a chance i might have to go back in for some touchups on the stars (there's a couple splotchy spots-have to see how they heal) but if i do, i'll probably wait until after our western vacation, since having a scabby healing foot might be a hindrance to awesome mountain-camping activities and i am so excited about that trip i dont want to limit myself if i dont have to.

but you know they say that tattoos are addicting, and i may or may not have started mulling over some thoughts for a potential second design... i'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


took this picture over a month ago. without a tripod.
i'm pretty happy with it.

June 22, 2013

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

a month down memory lane.

we're over three weeks into July, (practically at the end already!) and i have spent the entire month in a great big nostalgia cycle cyclone. i've been digging up memories and driving through old hometowns and hugging people i haven't seen in at least four years or more. my thoughts have been spinning wildly in an attempt to process everything into intelligible words, which has been a pretty daunting task - kind of like trying to build a house of cards in the middle of a windstorm, or herding cats when it's literally raining cats and dogs.
now that the third straight weekend of july's nostalgia-fest is over and my brain isn't quite as cluttered with to-do's and packing lists and nerves, i've finally been able to organize at least most of my thoughts, and this is what i think best sums up what i've been learning in my month of july:
everything changes. nothing changes.
it all started over the 4th of july weekend, when my BFITW came to visit, and we spent an afternoon with a couple of our good friends from college who just so happened to be in the same country/state/area that weekend. it had been years since we had all been together, but the conversation was effortless and fun, and we joked and laughed like nothing had changed since freshman year.

the very next weekend, i drove home to my highschool hometown. i was there to celebrate one of my good friends - the most precious mom-to-be i've ever known. she's one of the first of my wide circle of close friends to have a baby, and i am beyond excited for her!

we spent the afternoon chatting like the old friends that we are, catching up on everything that has changed in our lives and around town since high school, (Scoopers is a dry cleaners!? sadface) and being amazed at how easily our friendships picked back up after so many years.

then just this past weekend, Mark and i headed home to Gram's house in Ebensburg to celebrate my Pap's 80th birthday. while we were in the area, and since it just so happened to be the right weekend, we spent Sunday afternoon at Mahaffey Camp with family and friends.

Mahaffey Camp has always been one of those places that feels like home, and i think by now we all know that i have some pretty complicated thoughts about that whole concept. and for as much as my thoughts like to swirl and change, i keep coming back to that baseball analogy when i think about coming home; where home can be any number of places, and the bases are the parts of life that get you from one to the other and back again. 

it wasn't until we were on our way home on Sunday night that my thoughts started to come together into anything vaguely coherent. but as we were approaching the state line, getting close to our current home, i was struck by a feeling that i was safe - that i was beyond the reach of whatever was behind me, everything i was running from. it was almost a comforting feeling, to be safe at home, but it was also a bit disconcerting considering all of the good feelings i had about the past three weekends.

i did not like the notion that for the past few years, i had been running away from the people (both friends and family) and places in my past - running away from home - but wasn't that exactly what i had done? i had avoided going back to places like Mars and Mahaffey - places that in the past i would have counted as being among my many 'homes' without hesitation. but i made excuses: it was just too far or too much hassle or i just didn't have enough time. in reality, i felt like too much had changed, and i wasnt sure how to deal with that.

so to stick with the same analogy - what is the end goal of this baseball game? because right now it feels like i'm stuck in an endless loop of base-running: circling the diamond in pursuit of home, arriving safe at home, but immediately taking off for first again towards another home, a different home. there are people i love and memories i cherish in each home, and i want to be fully present in each and every one all at the same time, but i just can't. so which one is the real home? the one where i'm really truly safe and can stop running between childhood home, highschool home, college home, my parent's home, my current home, and all of the precious people, places, and memories associated with each one?

and of course the answer just hit me - my one true home where the people who love me and the people i love most can all coexist in the same place does exist, but i am not going to find it in this lifetime or on this earth. instead, this never ending baseball game is just a holding pattern, a waiting game in anticipation of the main event, when Jesus will take His family home to heaven.

and if the past three weekends are even the teeniest glimpe into what that final homecoming is going to be like, then i can't wait to be a part of it.

Monday, July 22, 2013

meal plan monday: july 22.

confession time: in the however many months its been since i wrote this post, i have been a complete failure at exercise and healthy living. i have not maintained my workout schedule. i have not maintained my weight. i have not maintained healthy eating habits. instead, i have remembered how much i love being lazy, and how good i am at it. i have rediscovered french fries, cake, ice cream, and skittles with a passion. (i dont think i can even still call them indulgences because i just give in to every single craving because i have lost all of my food related discipline) if faced with a choice between doing any sort of physical activity or sitting on the couch flipping channels, the tv wins every time.

but i dont particularly like any of this. (except for maybe the french fries) i dont like that all of the hard work i put in last winter was basically a waste of time. i dont like that i have gained back all of the weight and inches that i had lost and then some. i dont like the sneaky hate spiral that starts every time i choose to relax instead of work out, because i know that in a few hours as i roll myself off the couch and into bed i will wish that i had chosen a different way to spend my time.

so this is a public declaration that this will be a re-starting week.  i'll be saying hello again to Tony, and goodbye to my ice cream and sweets. and i'm going to be honest: i'm a little bit terrified by the thought of just how badly this is going to hurt.

Monday: zuchinni, black bean, and rice skillet. (recipe)
Tuesday: grillled chicken on salad.
Wednesday: crock pot chicken enchilada soup. (recipe)
Thursday: fish packets with rice. (recipe)
Friday: turkey burgers. (recipe)
Saturday: veggie omelettes and roasted potatoes.
Sunday: tacos.

Monday, July 15, 2013

meal plan monday: july 15.

conversation from this morning:

*cue alarm. Mark turns it off*
Amanda: what number is it?
Mark: six.
Amanda: what DAY is it?
Mark: Monday.
Amanda: *sadface*

i really could have used another day this weekend. that way i could have spent even more time with good people: laughing and hugging and having a grand time, and the hours i spent in the car would have been a much less significant percentage of the weekend.

oh well.

Monday: zuchinni black bean rice skillet.
Tuesday: frozen pizza.
Wednesday: crock pot salsa chicken.
Thursday: frozen raviolis.
Friday: dinner on the run.
Saturday: visit to Gram and Pap's.
Sunday: visit to Mahaffey Camp.

Monday, July 8, 2013

meal plan monday: july 8.

there are not enough words to describe all of the awesomeness that was crammed into the long holiday weekend.


but unfortunately, there are not enough hours in the upcoming week to contain all of the ongoing summertime excitement around here. so basically, we're not eating this week.

Monday: Mark plays softball. our lodger arrives with his cousin.
Tuesday: Mark plays softball. Amanda Jazzercises.
Wednesday: community group. the lodger's cousin leaves.
Thursday: Mark plays softball. Amanda Jazzercises.
Friday: birthday party for Aunt Denise.
Saturday: Amanda leaves town. Mark goes to the O's game.
Sunday: Amanda drives home. Mark starves.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

yardsale finds: volume 3.

(clockwise-ish, from the left)

worst-case scenario survival game, 2-drawer filing cabinet, the softest giraffe you will ever meet, long silver necklace, big blanket basket, miniature ladybug tea set, curious george christmas ornament, potted succulent candle, kid-sized Jets jersey, nalgene water bottle, collection of pixar animated shorts, assorted paper punches, vintage painted bottle, big adorable mug, moonshine jug.  Total Spent: $24.50

Nadine's sister Courtney got to come 'sailing with us on this trip, which was great fun. some of their treasures of the day included a couple vintage cameras, new running shoes, cat earrings, cute new clothes, and even some plants. we each ended up with some fun things as well as some practical things, (even some FREE things!) and only had to endure one deprecating comment from a passing woman on a bicycle. a successful day indeed! the only thing that could have made it better would have been if the ice cream place would have actually been open when we stopped in at 10am... maybe next time...

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

fish countering.

last week, i did something a little out of the ordinary. i stretched myself ever so slightly out of my comfort zone to overcome an irrational fear of trying something new. i didnt set out with this particular goal in mind, and i was dangerously close to turning back and continuing on with my normal routine. but then suddenly there i was: buying fresh fish at the fish counter in the grocery store. fish countering, to use it as a verb.

it was for one of the new gluten-free recipes i decided to try last week, roast salmon with salsa. i probably could have just used my same old method of frozen fish in a bag, but the fish guy was so nice, and he didnt laugh at me for admitting that it was my first time fish-countering, and the whole experience was just so pleasant that before i knew it i was at home preparing fresh fish for dinner like it was no big thang.

this recipe was one of those sneaky ones that lures you in by only having three listed steps, but then hides extra steps in the ingredient list: things like 1 tomato, roughly chopped and 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped. i'm only assuming that using the handle of a spoon is an appropriate method for seeding a jalepeno pepper because that is how i did it because the recipe didn't tell me how.

so after the hidden prep steps was finally step 1: preheat the oven. thats it. a whole step just for that. so its not like they didnt have any extra room on this line to add - "chop all of the vegetables, and by the way this is how you seed a jalapeno." apparently that would be too helpful.

step 2: dump everything but the fish into the food processer and process.

their salsa looked way more appetizing than this. i'm no longer sure that my magic bullet is the same thing as a food processor. 

step 2.5 (disguised as a tip): skin the fish. the good thing about tips is that they are helpful, and they actually give information as to what exactly is the best way to skin a fish fillet.

so when they say to use a long sharp knife, they do not mean "eh, that medium sized knife with the broken handle should probably be sufficient." they mean "get the longest knife you own and even then you will wish you had a third hand to properly accomplish this task." it was messy and even a little ugly and my hands smelled like fish the rest of the night.

step 3: dump the salsa on the fish and bake in the preheated oven. btw, if you were planning on making any sides to go with this, you probably should have started them before now because the fish will be done in like 12 minutes and the asparagus will take twice that long. sorry we forgot to include that tip.

additional step 4: ENJOY! why recipe writers do not always include this as a final step is beyond me. its like a mandate to be happy with the results, and it has a subtle undertone of 'or else' which is just threatening enough to scare people into not saying anything bad about the food without being so terrifying as to make them run screaming from the room.

"but what if i dont find this food enjoyable? what is the alternative? i dont think i want to find out... the recipe clearly tells me to enjoy it, and it hasn't let me astray so far, so i must follow the recipe! mmm... delicious!"

since i was the one who added step 4, i dont have to be intimidated by it. so i can honestly say that the salmon was good. the salsa was kind of weird. and dinner as a whole, what with the triumph of the fresh fish procured by the fish countering, was kind of exhilarating and a little bit empowering, and everyone knows that the taste of victory is a sweet one. you should try it sometime. if you grocery store has a fish counter, that is. (sorry, mom. no fish countering for you)

Monday, July 1, 2013

meal plan monday: july 1.

so. gluten free week was... semi-successful. i did really well on Monday and Tuesday. and then on Wednesday i had a catered lunch meeting where i ate a delicious ham sandwich on a croissant and two cookies the size of my head. Thursday night i didnt feel like cooking dinner so we ordered a pizza. Saturday i went out for dinner with a friend to Noodles & Co. and then on Sunday we just ate leftover pizza. so... i made it 3 out of 7 days, and 8 out of 14 meals i managed to stay gluten-free. at best that's a 57.1% success rate, and at worst 42.8% depending on how you choose to measure.

i did notice that i felt better on the days and after the meals that were GF. i doubt i lost any weight this week, what with the cookies and ice cream i let myself indulge in here and there. (dont judge me, it was keeping my PMS at bay) and i didnt bother to weigh myself at all so i can neither confirm nor deny that. the new GF recipes i tried last week were DELICIOUS, so they will probably be repeated in the future and you should try them too.

Mark almost literally inhaled this steak, avacado and all. there were no leftovers.

based on this little experiment i'm guessing that i'll be able to manage one or two days each week that are GF, but its not looking to turn into a full-time lifestyle change in the very near future.

and that's really all i have to say about that.

Monday: citrus herb chicken with veggies.
Tuesday: chicken fried rice. (recipe)
Wednesday: 3rd of July party. typical cookout food.
Thursday: 4th of July party at the in-laws.
Friday: zuchinni, black bean, rice skillet. (recipe)
Saturday: lazy lasagna with salad.
Sunday: lunch out with college friends.