Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Keys & Burlap

So I've been a bit absent from my blog the past few months.  Life sure gets in the way of important things, like blogging, huh? :)  Well, I made a craft that was so easy, frugal, and cute, that I knew I had to come out of my routine that is life and share it here.

A few things to know before we begin...I am still trying to find cute and frugal ways to decorate my new house.  We moved in this past January, we're on a tight budget (well, at least I put myself on one after completing Financial Peace University), and I still don't have things decorated completely. I know it takes time, but I'm the type of person that thrives in organized, completed environments, so getting decor up is essential to my mental health.  Secondly, I am obsessed with burlap.  I am trying to not have it in EVERY single room of my house, but it is slowly creeping in.  Oh well.

Brown frame from Goodwill: $1.99
Roll of laminated burlap from Michaels: $2.99
Four metal keys from Michaels: $4.00
White frame: Free (it was left in our house when we moved in)
1. Pop out the picture frame glass and whatever art is in it and find another use for it
2. Cut a piece of burlap to fit the opening of the frame and hot glue it to the picture frame backing
3. Hot glue the keys onto the burlap
4. Pop it all back in the frame

See how easy that was?!  So, for $8.98, I ended up with these finished products:

Now I need to find a good spot to put these...I'm thinking on a collage wall in our front room.  Oh, by the way, I barely made a dent in the roll of burlap, so I have plenty left to infiltrate the rest of the house!

*** UPDATE: I found a place for the keys in our front room.  A big ole wall was calling out for a little more than what was already there, so I made a collage of a few pieces of wall art and mementos.  So happy with the result!  What do you think?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tasty Tuesday: Fiesta Chicken Enchiladas

Want a recipe that uses leftover rotisserie chicken and can freeze well? Then look no further, because this recipe, adapted from a Kraft recipe, fits the bill.  I pretty much just added extra cheese, salsa, and cilantro, because who couldn't use a little extra yum?

Photo credit: Kraft

1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cooked boneless skinless chicken breasts, shredded
1 1/4 c. salsa, divided
4 oz. cream cheese
2 T. chopped fresh cilantro
1 t. ground cumin
1 1/2 c. shredded cheddar & monterey jack cheeses, divided
6 flour tortillas (medium size)

* Serves 4*

Spray large skillet (I use a wok, because, believe me, you want a large skillet) with cooking spray.  Cook onions and garlic over medium heat 2 minutes.  I didn't have enough onion, so I added in some red onion.

Add chicken, 1/4 c. salsa, cream cheese, cilantro, and cumin.  Mix well and cook 5 minutes or until heated through.

Add 1/2 c. cheese and mix in well.

Spoon mixture onto tortilla. Place mixture on one side of the tortilla and start rolling it up from that side or else you will have a big mess on your hands.

Place enchilada, seam-side down, in baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.  I split the  6 enchiladas up into two baking dishes because I'm sharing one with a friend.  By the way, these foil cake pans are the perfect size!

Top with remaining salsa and cheese.

If you want to go ahead and eat, back at 350 degrees, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes.  Since this is such a great freezer meal, I went ahead and made my half freezer-ready for another day when I don't feel don't have time to cook.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

East Asia: The Children

After my trip to East Asia, my view of the world definitely became much larger...and, surprisingly, much smaller at the same time.  Let me explain.  It makes sense that seeing a new land, people, customs, and a way of life would take me out of my own American worldview and allow me to take off my ethnocentric blinders.

But meeting the people also shrunk this massive world into a familiarity that I found comfortable. "Meeting" the people in the villages entailed mostly non-verbal communication since none of us knew the language and only so much could be interpreted in a conversational way.  Who better to be transparent with non-verbal communication than children?  Their curious smiles and authenticity made for what I considered a good time of relational connecting.

The mischievousness I saw in their impish grins was the same expression I've seen on the faces of my girls at home.  The cries of protest and arching of the back were the same familiar signs that my babies used to give when they decided to assert their will.  I imagined the little girl with Angry Bird slippers squealed the same squeal of delight I hear when my girls see something in the store they really want or receive a special gift.

I could tell these little ones were precious to their mothers and fathers.  Seeing them in relation to their families made the world a little smaller, because, after all, no matter where you live, family is familiar. And even more importantly, these little ones and their families on the other side of the world are precious to God.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Farmer's Market

Although summer doesn't officially start for a few more weeks, my summer started last week.  My philosophy is that if it hits 83 degrees for a consecutive three days, it's summer.  What better thing to do in the summer than visit the local farmer's market?  We haven't been there in quite awhile...I mean, who has time to relax, peruse, stroll, and dream up creative food/gardening endeavors?  Not me.  But I forced myself to slow down the other day, and I'm glad I did.

On a side note, if your farmer's market is open on the weekdays, go then.  In the morning.  Not only do you have more room to navigate with your double stroller because the rest of the world is elsewhere, but it is much more relaxing.  Except for the fact that all the vendors see you (I feel most comfortable as a wall flower) and offer you strawberry/peach/watermelon samples every 5 feet.  And you can't politely refuse and pretend you don't exist because your fruit-loving kids think that getting bite-sized juicy snacks from complete strangers every 30 seconds is the most amazing thing ever and have to sample EVERYTHING.  Sometimes twice.

Raleigh's farmer's market is open 7 days a week, year round.  There is an open air section and a closed building that houses scrumptious things like goat cheese, fresh squeezed lemonade, and candy in barrels.  There also is a butcher's stand there, but I just pretend like I don't see it.  I love meat, just not next to my precious Lemondheads and Atomic Fireballs.

Visiting the farmer's market tricks me into thinking that I can whip up delicious veggie dishes that my whole family will enjoy.  I mean, even the fiercest tomato hater has to admit these look gorgeous:

I still haven't figured out to do with all the leafy greens.  Kale chips are all the rage now.  Just can't imagine that eating a baked leaf tastes better than a Cool Ranch Dorito.  But if anyone has a good recipe, please let me know so that I can pretend that I'm a organic mama that feeds her kiddos kale chips.

The open air section also houses a wide assortment of plants and flowers that makes me want to pull on some gardening gloves.  In my attempt to beatify our new home, I purchased a few flowers and tomato plants, hoping that I magically developed a green thumb during the move.  

If you're in the Raleigh area, the farmer's market is a must see.  If walking around, looking at vegetation doesn't tickle your fancy, there are two amazing restaurants on the premise too.  One serves fried seafood.  Can't go wrong with that.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Frugal Friday: $8.89 Thrift Trip

As a result of moving to a new house, I had the opportunity to do much purging and simplifying of our "stuff."  I get such a great feeling when I pack up a box of things that we haven't used in ages and drop it off at local donation centers.

I also get a great feeling when I find good deals at these donations centers' thrift shops :)

$3.00 for a monthly greeting card organizer with pockets to keep cards.  A little more expensive than I was willing to pay, but well worth the $3.00 to not forget family members' birthdays and have to profusely apologize.

Super cute H&M skirt for $3.39.  Can't wait to make an outfit out of this!

My best deal was these Charlotte Russe shoes for $2.50 (originally $5.00, but the thrift store was having a 50% off sale...thrift stores have sales?).  It's hard to see in the picture, but these flats have sparkly silver stitching all around.  I used to be a grossed out by the thought of used shoes, but I figured that as long as they are in good condition and easily washable with a Clorox wipe and a can of Lysol, it sure beats paying retail.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tasty Tuesday: Food Truck Rodeo

What's the best way to celebrate Mother's Day?  By exploring Raleigh's Food Truck Rodeo, of course!  Since moving downtown, I've been itching to walk to an event, and Mother's Day was the perfect day to try.  I've also been itching to eat from a food truck...don't know why the thought of eating food cooked out of a truck is so appealing to me.

So, we loaded up the girls and took a lovely stroll downtown to brave the crowds and try and decide which of the 40 food trucks would be our lunch spot.  We decided on the Olde North State BBQ truck, found a ledge to sit on, and dug in.

Happy Mother's Day to me!
The Food Truck Rodeo will be back on Fayetteville St. the following dates:

May 12th (12-5 pm)
June 9th (12-5 pm)
Auguest 11th (4-9 pm)
October 13th (12-5 pm)

Check it out!  What a fun way to experience downtown Raleigh and try some good food :)

Monday, May 13, 2013

East Asia: The Unreached

We made our trip to East Asia, and I haven't had time to process much.  A friend's question today prompted me to start putting some of my thoughts together, so I'll probably be posting snippets as thoughts come to me.

On our first trip out to one of the villages, we met this 84-year-old man on the left:

He was so excited to meet us, bring us into his home...

...and walk us up a mountain where we had a birds-eye view of his village.

We stopped walking hiking climbing and our team prayed over the village.  One of the things to hit me the hardest was the fact that there is an entire people group that hasn't even heard of Jesus and his saving grace.  NEVER HEARD.  Not like here in the States where everyone has at least heard the name Jesus or knows of a Christian and simply chooses not to believe.  Everyone living in the small houses dotting the valley were completely lost and didn't even know it.  And then it hit me how much God loves these people.

"For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching?"
~ Romans 10:13-14 ~

And so the reality of the term "unreached" burrowed into my heart and set my perspective for the rest of our time in East Asia.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My Current Racial Existential Crisis

I think I go through a racial existential crisis at least once every 3-4 years.  Usually it is brought about by some circumstance where I'm forced to intentionally or unintentionally define myself by my race.  Other times I bring it on myself through some guilty expectation that I should be more aware of my own ethnicity.

I should probably give a little background to this crisis.  I'm 2.5 generation Chinese American who spent her entire childhood in Chicago's North Shore (also known as major white least it was in the 80's).  I had a wonderful childhood, fit in well with all the blond-haired kids, and thought I was Caucasian.  Ok, I knew that I was Chinese, but since my parents neither spoke Chinese, ate Chinese food (minus the dish my mom learned how to cook from a park district is surprisingly delicious), or did anything culturally Chinese, the only thing I had going for me as far as being Chinese was that I looked Chinese.  All that to say, my Chinese-ness didn't factor in for a large chunk of my life.

Fast forward another decade and a half...I'm off to East Asia next month.  Matt gently suggested that I ask some relatives about where I'm from.  So after talking to a great-uncle, I now know that my ancestors lived here:

More specifically, from that little dot on the coast of the highlighted region.  Now I have an answer when people ask me where in China my family is from.  I used to smile, laugh nervously, and tell them somewhere in southern China.  Granted, I can't pronounce it, at least not correctly, but I did visit the city's tourism website and now have dreams that my ancestors lived in a magically beautiful place off the coast where they farmed rice and fished in a boat under the sunset.

So, what's the crisis?  Well, I'm feeling a little immensely ignorant of my ethnic history and am a little scared to actually encounter it in person next month.  Matt bought three pretty awesome travel guides at B&N, but I haven't cracked one open yet.  Somehow I feel embarrassed for having to learn about my history from this:

I guess it's a start.  Maybe I can incorporate this travel guide into Abigail's night-time story rotation so that she'll know more about the little dot when she's older.

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Fresh Start

Our 1.5 year house-selling journey has come to an end, and I cannot express how relieved I am to have finally moved and be out of the never-ending transition phase.  I won't get into the details of why it has been so hard for me to be in the house-selling mode, but trust me, I could write a book on the details!  Our new place is what Matt and I call the "ugly girl."  It is quirky, unique, and just perfect for us.  We are in love with it, though most people that visit wouldn't have batted an eye towards it if they were in the market for their own home.

While I'm still feeling stressed because of the boxes to unpack, the organizing and purging to get done, and the decorating to do (yes, my OCD personality is having an absolute heyday), I'm also ready to start living again.  In the past year and a half, we had a baby, went through the ups and downs of ministry, and moved.  I've been in survival mode, though I probably could have handled everything with more grace a a whole lot more prayer.  I've gotten much more insight into my own issues and am waiting for the day that God doesn't have to use life circumstances to bring about the sanctification He desires in my life.  Ok, I'll be waiting forever, but it sure would be nice.

All this to say, I'm excited about a fresh start and trying to figure out how to do life well again.

Oh, one last thing.  I think I'm fully embracing the fact that I'm a pretty extreme introvert.  I'm looking forward to unpacking this more and seeing how it figures into Christian community and ministry.  Most likely I'll be unpacking a bit here, which is what introverts do, right? They blog.  :)


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