Monday, July 30, 2012

Taking my own advice for when it rains

In preparing for the move to our new house, I'd heard stories (and previously experienced) the horrors of moving. The phrase that everyone repeated in the context of moving was, "When it rains it pours."

And I started out seeing our moving situation this way. 

The week before we'd planned on moving out of our apartment, our landlord brought in a handyman to investigate water damage from Atlanta's recent storms. What he discovered was far more than water damage. The main problem was that the house's foundation was completely rotted through. As the handyman walked through our apartment, he jokingly stepped on some creaky parts of the floor and said, "I hope you don't step too hard in these places!" Well, that was the area where I used to jump around doing workout DVDs and P90X... oops. 

As a result, our living room carpet was rolled away and the crawl space was dug out so the foundation could be repaired. Unfortunately, this construction left our apartment open to all of the elements, including dirt, 90 degree weather, and an infestation of bugs. 

The hole underneath the carpet in our apartment to the crawl space

Our plan to wait until the weekend to move quickly went by the wayside. In a mad dash, John and I moved out all of our clothes and had a friend help move our mattresses out. To avoid being eaten alive by fleas, we stayed at our friend's house for the night. At this point, I was about to take on the perspective that "when it rains, it pours."

Instead, John continued to remind me that we were fortunate to have a house to move our belongings into. Thankfully, this ordeal didn't happen a month or two ago. So as a result, I started taking my own advice to view everyday choices and experiences as opportunities to see blessings

And blessing upon blessing I saw! 

To name a few, we have wonderful friends who offered us places to stay; we have a new home to move into; John's mom was able to come down at the perfect time and brave the bugs to help me box everything up and move into the new house; I have a flexible job schedule that allowed me to take the time to move; though it was HOT and humid, it didn't rain during the week of moving; we had a move crew of friends to move out all of our furniture on Saturday; and my parents are coming up this week to visit and help me get settled.

We "bribed" friends to help us move with the promise of Chick-fil-A chicken biscuits... apparently it worked!
It's amazing what a change of perspective will do, and how a stressful week can turn into a week of blessings. I also encourage you to find a "positive partner," someone who can keep reminding you to keep your eye on the positives. This isn't to minimize setbacks and struggles, but to help you see the long view.  

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Moving right along...

I've been MIA from BeEmbraced this week because of a recent, big event: Closing on our first house! John and I closed Tuesday on the house that we have been renovating the past few months. We are so blessed!

Since we're still getting settled and have a lot of unpacking to do, I'll just post pictures today. But first, a big thank you is in order for my mother-in-law, Lisa, who spent 2 FULL days packing up and moving boxes with me! Also, a big shout out to all of our friends who came and helped us finish moving the rest of our furniture and boxes this morning.

The pictures show a house still a work in progress since we haven't decorated or arranged furniture yet, but I thought I'd give a sneak peak!

We're excited!

The backyard has a gravel lot, rock path, and fire pit... can't wait for Fall!

Top left clockwise: Entrance/living room; den/office; dining room

Kitchen and hallway

Master bedroom and bath

Top left clockwise: One of 2 bedrooms upstairs; upstairs bathroom; downstairs guest bath; storage room

Thursday, July 19, 2012

From muddy yards to a muddied heart...

John and I are getting ready to move into our new house next weekend, and we couldn't be more excited! The renovation process has been much more fun than stressful, thanks to an incredible builder, crew, and realtor. It's been so rewarding seeing an empty house with just the studs transform into our new home, wall by wall and inch by inch.

I've mentioned before that being a part of the renovation process has taught me to appreciate the story behind what is seen. And the same is true for our backyard. One of the last steps to complete is the landscaping, and in one day the backyard went from being overgrown to a muddy mess.

Mid-landscaping... Hope to have a post-landscaping photo soon!
Heavy afternoon thunderstorms this past week have made the yard even muckier and messier than I expected. Yet in order to put down sod, the sloped yard must be evened out and smoothed down. It appears that it's getting worse before it gets better.

As a high achiever and recovering perfectionist, I struggle to find patience to see the vision beyond the mess - and I am not only referring to my yard. Whatever change that I want to take place - whether accomplishing a goal, trying a new hobby, or undergoing a serious heart change like accepting imperfections or being joyful in all circumstances - usually requires putting up with some muck and mud.

Especially for intentional heart changes, it is easy to see my muddied heart and despair. How will I ever change? How will beautiful flowers and green grass blossom here?

In listening to a sermon by Ted Sinn (Eph. 6:10-20) this week, I realized how often I believe the lie that if I make a mistake, such as slipping into a past pattern of perfectionism, that I cannot possibly be changing.

When you are discouraged that you are trapped being the same person you've tried so hard to change, don't allow yourself to be stuck looking at the murkiness. Instead, we must get beyond the mud and look from a new perspective. Out of struggles that seem to be moving us backward comes true refinement.

We need to allow ourselves to be embraced by the journey and trust that we are being transformed "from one degree of glory to another" because "it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (2 Corinth. 3:18; Phil. 2:13).

Don't see the mud. See each degree of glory that is taking shape.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fallen trees, illness, and blessings in afflictions

After a rainy week in February, I wrote that when life gives you mud puddles, look at what is reflected above. This past week, with thunder and lightening crashing and flashing almost nightly, that metaphor proved very appropriate.

The night of a particularly big storm, I decided by "happenstance" to not park in my usual spot. The next morning I saw a splintered limb sprawled out exactly where I typically park my car. The speed and height of the tree limb hurtling down would have definitely caused damaged - if not crushed - my car.

My car next to the fallen limb
This experience caused me to wonder how many other every day choices, like where I park my car, are opportunities to see blessings. This instance was a blatant blessing, but in what other daily decisions do I need to pause and give thanks?

For example, last week I had a virus that made me very fatigued and forced me to stay in bed the majority of the week. On top of being sick, John was out of town all week on a business trip, so I was also missing him. Yet even in this affliction, I experienced so much blessing, and was once again reminded of the blessing of living in community.

Throughout the week, my friends (who are also my neighbors) checked in on me, sat on the couch and drank tea with me, and called and texted me to make sure I didn't need anything. I also had a friend who had me over twice in one week to her house for dinner - such a blessing considering I didn't always have the energy to cook.

Not only did these touch points with friends offer me love and encouragement, but the blessing of true  community offered healing as well. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, my friends offered me the opportunity to let others share in my struggle and take joy in connecting with friends and taking part in their lives.

I share these stories with you to encourage you to see the blessings in your own afflictions, allow others to be a blessing to you, and to be a blessing to others during their adversities. As the following passage shows, our endurance and encouragement comes through living in community with our neighbors:

"We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up... May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God." -Romans 15:1-7

Friday, July 13, 2012

Day 3: Week of healthy meal plans & Summertime Clean Eating

It's almost the weekend, so here are some more recipes to try out and make your weekend eating as clean and yummy as possible!

Breakfast: Blueberry Waffles

It's safe to say that I am pretty much obsessed with Trader Joe's. It's not just grocery shopping; it's an experience. And my latest obsession (which John is now also a huge fan of) is Trader Joe's frozen blueberry waffles. There's no better way to kick off a weekend of clean eating than blueberry waffles topped with fresh blueberries and a drizzle of honey! (Just don't drench the waffles in syrup or that would defeat the purpose of eating clean.) Plump blueberries and honey add the perfect amount of sweetness.

Lunch: Veggie & OJ Farro 

Farro is a good whole grain to use for a little something different. It's hearty texture works well for a satisfying lunch. 

Directions: For this dish, I cooked the farro by the package instructions. I then added in edamame, corn, chopped onion, chopped mushrooms, and chopped yellow pepper. I tossed this combination with cayenne, ground black pepper, lime juice, freshly chopped basil, freshly chopped cilantro, a drizzle of olive oil, and a splash of orange juice. 

The orange juice gave this dish a summery taste!

Dinner: Quinoa, Chickpea, and Avocado Salad

I made this recipe up last night from a combination of things I had in my fridge. I was happily surprised and it turned out to be a filling salad (a quest I've been on to make sure my hungry man is full after eating a salad!

Serves 2-4, depending on whether it's a stand alone dish or not
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 avocado, chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper 
1 1/2 cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained from  can
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 lemon, squeezed
Freshly ground black pepper
Dash of salt
Mixed greens (I used a combination of spinach and kale, but any lettuce will work fine. Add as much lettuce as you prefer.)

Salad dressing: 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, Ground black pepper, 2 tsp. lemon zest. (These are rough estimates. Toss into salad according to how much dressing you prefer.)

  1. Cook quinoa according to package instructions.
  2. Once quinoa is cooked, mix avocado and crushed red pepper into the quinoa. Stir until avocado is a bit creamy.
  3. Combine the chickpeas and remaining ingredients through the mixed greens.
  4. Add the quinoa mix to the salad and combine.
  5. Add the salad dressing and toss to combine.

Note: This recipe would also be good topped with grilled shrimp. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Day 2: Week of healthy meal plans & Summertime Clean Eating

Here's Day 2 of recipes to hopefully inspire you to eat delicious and healthy this week! Enjoy!

Breakfast: Oatmeal Berry Smoothie and Oatmeal Banana Flax Muffins

Oatmeal is a hearty, wholesome way to start the morning, but in summer months the idea of eating a steaming bowl of oatmeal is not appealing. Instead, get creative and add it to your smoothies and muffins. You not only get the benefits of the grains but it also makes your smoothies creamier and more textured.

For the Oatmeal Banana Flax Muffins recipe, check out this post where I'd made them previously. I doubled the recipe this time because they are that good!

For the Oatmeal Berry Smoothie, blend together 1 1/2 cups almond milk, 1/2 frozen banana, 1/2 cup berries (I especially like blueberries here), 2 Tbsp. oats, and 2 scoops vanilla protein powder. So creamy and delicious!

Lunch: Avocado and Tomato Sandwich 

Avocado is one of those heart-healthy fats that is a must to incorporate in any clean eating week. For this sandwich, I toasted a slice of bread and topped it with hummus (any flavor is great, but the roasted red pepper was especially yummy with this combination!). Then top it with lettuce, sliced tomato, and sliced avocado.

Dinner: Balsamic Chicken
Inspired by Cooking Light 

Serves 6
1 cup brown rice
6 skinless chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1/4 cup chopped shallots
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 chopped seeded plum tomato
1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/2 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chopped green onions 

  1. Prepare one cup of brown rice according to package instructions.
  2. While rice is cooking, sprinkle chicken evenly with pepper and salt. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add 2 teaspoons olive oil to pan. Add chicken and cook 5 minutes per side. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. 
  3. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add remaining olive oil, shallots, and garlic. Saute for 1 minute, stirring continually. Add tomato and tomato paste and saute for 1 minute, stirring continually. Add broth and bring to a boil while scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add balsamic vinegar and reduce heat to medium-low. 
  4. Add chicken back to pan and cook for 20 minutes or until sauce is reduced and chicken is cooked all the way through. 
  5. Serve chicken over brown rice, topped with sauce and chopped green onions.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Week of healthy meal plans: Summertime Clean Eating

It always seems hard to stop craving the dessert, salty snacks, and sugary drinks so often consumed on vacation. BeEmbraced is all about appreciating life, which means that eating healthy doesn’t mean depriving yourself of tasty foods.

Instead I’ve found that for me the best way to get back on the healthy eating track is to plan out my meals ahead of time, and choose meals that get me excited. Sometimes this takes a slight change of perspective and remembering how much more delicious the in-season peaches, berries, and other produce are.  Fresh produce, especially fruits, will be naturally sweet and full of texture, and they will ultimately be much more fulfilling than food filled with table sugar or salt. 

I hope these recipes get you excited about eating healthy today! Enjoy a day’s worth of meals planned out for you, from breakfast to dinner.

Breakfast: Green Smoothie

Before adding in the milk and yogurt 

I’ve posted some green smoothie recipes before (avocado kale smoothie and avocado ginger smoothie), but this one is super summery. With berries in season, I would suggest buying your favorite berries in bulk and freezing some for a quick add in to your morning smoothie.

            Handful of mixed greens (i.e. a mix of spinach, kale, and swiss chard)
            3 Tbsp. mixed frozen berries (blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries are my favorites)
            Half banana (frozen or not)
            1 Tbsp. wheat germ 
            2 scoops vanilla protein powder
            1 cup almond milk
            2 heaping scoops of vanilla yogurt

Preparation: Mix all together in blender until frothy! 

Lunch: Kale Salad with White Beans

This salad is versatile, so throw in whatever veggies you have on hand (i.e. any color bell pepper!) You can also substitute the white beans with whatever bean you have on had. Chickpeas are also a good addition (as shown in the second picture above)!

            Kale, torn into bite sized pieces and stems removed
            White beans or chick peas
Any variety of vegetables:
            Chopped carrots
            Chopped cucumber
            Chopped tomato
            Chopped bell pepper (red or yellow are my favorites)
            Chopped red onion
Homemade dressing: Lemon juice, olive oil, black pepper

Preparation: Toss all together... That's easy enough!
Dinner: Turkey Lettuce Wraps
Inspired by Cooking Light

I used romaine lettuce instead of Bibb lettuce, which made the wraps a little messier to eat but still tasty!
Serves 4
            1 pound ground turkey
            ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
            1/8 teaspoon salt
            1 cup vertically sliced red onion
            ½ cup canned artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
            ¼ cup diced tomato
            ¼ cup diced yellow bell pepper
            2 green onions, chopped
            1 tablespoon fresh parsley
            3 Tbsp. capers
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
            ½ cup mozzarella cheese
            8 lettuce leaves (preferably Bibb)


  1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray and add turkey, salt, and pepper to pan. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring to crumble.
  2. Stir in onion and next 6 ingredients (through capers). Cook until turkey is done.
  3. Stir in lemon juice, red pepper, and cheese. Spoon ¼ cup of mixtures into each lettuce leaf.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Diet is a Dirty Word Summer Edition

Back in January, I spent a week focusing on clean eating and getting back to the basics of eating whole foods. As I said then, diet is a dirty word. Instead, it's much healthier mentally and physically to focus on a lifestyle of enjoying healthy, whole foods.

Yet if you've noticed that your healthy mindset is taking a summer sabbatical, you're not alone. John and I have been traveling a lot this summer (Bahamas, Colorado, 1 wedding in Orlando, 2 weddings in Kansas City, the beach for July 4th, and Boston up next). Travel makes it challenging to stay healthy because you're often trying to eat in between sightseeing or layovers. Plus, it's easy to justify a vacation from healthy eating in favor of a tasty poolside drink or ice cream for dessert.

Now that it's mid-summer, I am realizing the need to shape up my summer meal plans. It can be difficult to plan for meals in the summer because you don't want to stock your fridge if you're leaving on vacation or going on a weekend getaway.

So this week will be dedicated to the summer edition of clean eating. You can expect yummy recipes that are quick to prepare and require little cooking - who wants to be sweating over a stove in the summer? You can also expect to see a lot of the same ingredients in multiple dishes, which will prevent you from having to throw away unused food before you leave on vacation.

Here's to healthy, resourceful eating this week! To get you started, here is a recipe you can make for dinner tonight.

Seared Tuna with Avocado Quinoa

1 cup quinoa, cooked
1 avocado, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
2 jalapenos, diced
Juice from half of a lime
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Black ground pepper, to taste
Sprinkle of salt
4 tuna fillets

  1. Combine quinoa with avocado, onions, tomato, jalapenos, lime juice, olive oil, and ground pepper. Stir together so that the avocado is creamy. 
  2. Coat both sides of tuna with salt and pepper. Heat grill or grill pan to medium heat and cook fish 3 minutes per side, or until desired degree of doneness. 

Why all the change?

If you've been to my blog before, you've probably realized that my blog format and background keep changing. Why all the change? Partly because I'm taking my own advice and being embraced by the journey of the blogging world. As a new blogger, I'm learning what formats work best for RSS feeds, Windows vs. Safari, and iPhones. Thanks for being patient as I try to find a design that functions properly with all technology! 

As always, I greatly appreciate your feedback because ultimately it's you who I want to have the best experience at BeEmbraced! 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

When life hands you 2 pounds of lemons...

Everyone knows what to do when life hands you lemons... but what about when you come home from a work event with two pounds of literal lemons in your hands?

I took it as an opportunity to make lemonade, lemon cookies with lemon glaze, lemon water, and lemon decor! As a tribute to all things summery, make the most of citrus this summer. Here are some ideas and recipes to get you started:

The bright colors of lemons, limes, and oranges stand out as wonderful centerpieces as an alternative to flowers.

A slice of lemon and cucumber are very refreshing to add to your water bottle for work. 

With temperatures up to 106 in Atlanta, John and I threw a dessert party for after the sun went down. Brownies, ice cream, lemon cookies, lemonade, and lemon water were on the menu! See below for recipes.

John hand-squeezed all of the lemons for the lemonade... but I would recommend using a juicer if you have one! The recipe below serves 6, so we tripled it to serve a group.

Homemade Lemonade
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup lemon juice
3 to 4 cups cold water 

  1. Make a simple syrup by heating the sugar and water in a saucepan until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  2. Use a juicer to squeeze the juice from 4 lemons (enough for 1 cup of juice). If you are using yours hands, it will take about 6 lemons for 1 cup of juice.
  3. Add the juice and sugar water to a pitcher. Add 3 to 4 cups of cold water until you're satisfied with the strength. If you prefer less sweetness, add more lemon juice. Refrigerate for at least 40 minutes. 
  4. Serve with ice and sliced lemons.

Lemon Glaze Cookies

While John was squeezing lemons for the lemonade, I made Martha Stewart's Lemon Glaze Cookies. You can click the link to see the full recipe - I followed it exactly and the cookies turned out perfectly! The glaze recipe makes more than you need, so I would cut it in half next time.

So now when life hands you lemons, you know what to do... get creative and try out something new! (Remember, my summer challenge to you?) On a larger note, when disappointments or obstacles occur (i.e. lemons) don't just stop at making lemonade; instead try to find all of the hidden potential. Oftentimes one small opportunity will quickly multiply. You just have to be intentional about looking for them!