Welcome

Welcome to my blog.  This blog pretty much reflects me, and I am one eclectic person.  I have restaurant reviews, shop reviews, posts about human trafficking, poems (written by me or just appreciated by me), reflections from sermons, events, old mission trip newsletters – and much more. I also just got married, so there’s a whole category of posts on the wedding planning.

If you are lost, don’t feel bad.  I’m still glad you’re here.

You can easily navigate the blog by scrolling down and checking out the topics on the right hand side.  I also have links to some fab other blogs and sites which I love.  I hope you’ll share the love and go see them as well.  You can subscribe here (also on the right-hand side) or just push through.

I hope you find what you’re looking for.

In Him,

Sarah ><>

Oh Boy, Oh Boy – 23 weeks

A couple weeks ago, we found out officially that we are having a BOY!

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Don’t let that cute little profile fool you – baby boy was pumping his fist at us the whole time of the ultrasound.  Pretty sure he’s going to be a feisty one.  We have picked out the name, but we are keeping that secret until he’s born – it is soooo nice to have one pronoun to call him by.

In the last post, I shared that we had adopted a puppy.  His name is Obadiah, Obie for short, and I have no idea what we did with our lives before him!  He’s a rescue – mom is a feral german shepherd-lab mix and the dad was either a daschund or corgi.  He has the long body and short legs of the dad and the ears and some coloring of the mom.

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If you would like to see more about him, follow the hashtag #ObadiahMartin on Instagram.  I am shamelessly taking lots of pictures and some vids – so you have been forewarned of the cuteness. Obie enjoys fetching…anything! and keeping his toys just out of our reach when playing.  He finds licking the surfaces of the house a wonderful past-time and setting himself into puppy fits (running laps through the house). He likes to sit just close enough that you can’t reach him to give a good pet, but when he chews on his antler, it must be right on top of one of our legs.

Back to the baby stuff!  We have planned the baby showers and I think I finally finished the registry.  We decided to stick with Amazon this time, because there are so many great products available on there!  Amazon has been awesome for finding all the items we need and, with Prime shipping, most everything will arrive in no time at no cost.

Can I just add that after we finished the Registry (and at least $10 shipped from the Registry list) Amazon shipped me a Welcome Box full of baby goodies!

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Look at all that loot!!  (This is not a paid-for-endorsement, and I have not received any goods or services other than what is inherent in an Amazon registry and the Amazon Welcome Box gift. If you would like more details about the Amazon Welcome Box, please visit this link.) We have started getting some baby products in here and there and already wondering where we’re going to put everything.

If you’d like to find my registry (because I don’t turn away gifts *wink*) click here!  The shower dates/locations are:

March 25 – Fairfield
April 15 – Springboro.

If you’d like more details about them, feel free to ask. The more the merrier!

Sickness – I caught either a really simple flu bug, or a bad cold – regardless, I was a hot mess for a few days and the doctor put me on TamiFlu.  I wouldn’t normally take it, but I had to get back to work and with all the complications people have been having with the flu, I figured we should be safer than sorry. Thankfully, all is well, but it seems that my immune system is still pretty low and I’m more susceptible to these viruses/bugs.

Other symptoms – Pretty sure that my growing belly and baby is pushing my stomach into a tight space.  I’m appetite is waning so I have to force myself to eat at times.  This contributes to heartburn, so my bottle of peppermint essential oil is never far away.

My belly has grown to such a size that sleep is getting uncomfortable.  I am no longer supposed to sleep on my back, but that means I have to alternate the side I’m sleeping on because my hips start to hurt after a while.  That usually coincides with a potty break, so that’s not too inconvenient.

Cravings – I had a dream that someone stole the last piece of my cheesecake and I was so mad afterwards that I demanded we get cheesecake for dessert that night after work.  And it was glorious.

Baby stats – Baby boy looked amazing on the scans!  Brain, heart, limbs, everything looks wonderful.  And he is so active.  His favorite time to squirm around seems to be when we’re at church trying to be still and pray.  The other day I saw my belly move for the first time with a kick (or punch).  Like a little alien moving around in there. He’s the size of an ear of corn now.  He can hear loud noises, like Obie barking at us when we play, and car honks. He does not enjoy when I’m bending over for anything and will promptly let me know with a little punch or kick right in the belly.

When Life Gives You Lemons… 14 Weeks

We are officially into the 2nd trimester!

Since our announcement a couple weeks ago, the baby has gone from a lime to a clementine to a small peach to a large lemon! I have another doctor visit this week with one of the OB’s at the practice.  This is a new one for us to see but I’ve heard really nice things about him – from people I personally know, not just online reviews.

We have another fun announcement this week – we adopted a sweet puppy this weekend!  We are working on a new name for him – I am hoping “Obadiah” will take hold.  He is a mutt and I’m totally in love with him!  He will be joining our home permanently on Saturday and I can’t wait!

Sickness – There has been some confusion about whether I really had morning sickness or not.  I honestly have not.  However, I have caught a couple bugs (respiratory/viral) that have kept me from church a couple times. I had no idea that being pregnant actually depressed my immune system.  I almost feel like the baby-powers-at-be thought I was getting off easy with no morning sickness and decided to hit me with other stuff.  Oh joy!

Other symptoms – My digestive system has been really out of whack.  Since coffee makes me sick to think about drinking, I have had to up my fiber intake to balance out my “going.”  I’m not always successful and I feel like I’m on a roller coaster of not being able to go and being able to go too well.

Cravings – Nothing wild and crazy.  This baby makes it pretty obvious to me what foods will not fly, and thankfully fruit has been a safe bet throughout.  I’m not a fan of most veggies right now so I’m trying to get my veggies through fruit smoothies – Bolthouse blends are amazing!

Baby stats – Baby can yawn, hiccup, and swallow. The arms and legs are fully formed, and toes are separated. The pattern of folds in the ears are nearly formed, but hearing is still not established.  Does this mean I don’t need to play Mozart yet?

Mum’s the Word – 11 Weeks

Well hello!  After long last!   Sorry for having taken quite the hiatus from the blog – I have no real excuse except for laziness.  We’ve been doing well since the wedding and enjoying married life – traveling, eating (lots!  particularly burgers), and then all the boring stuff like cleaning and going to work.

Naturally, I had to start back up with the blog now that we have a pretty significant life change coming on.

See what we did there?  Went over pretty well with the Fam Fam too.  Only had to hit up 3 stops on Thanksgiving to get everyone in for the surprise.  See, I’m the baby on my side and there are 4 grandkids for my mom already.  Also, there are another 11 for my dad and step-mom.  But on Matt’s side, there’s a whopping 0 grand-babies, so this was a really big deal.

We’ve known since the beginning of October and keeping it under wraps was somewhat of a challenge.  Thankfully, I’ve had next to no morning sickness *fingers-crossed it stays that way* just some heartburn here and there.  We’re due June 12, 2018 – I’m really hoping that baby comes about 1.5 weeks later.  I have my last real opportunity to be selfish and I don’t want to share my birthweek! 🙂

So here are some tidbits of info on how the pregnancy is going so far.

Sickness – not much, just some light nausea if I don’t eat in a timely manner.  Never thrown up yet.

Other symptoms – Baby fatigue is no joke!  I’ve always enjoyed afternoon naps, but I could seriously snuggle up anywhere in the office at the drop of a hat.

Cravings – Taco Bell chicken quesadillas.  But really, it’s like non-cravings.  I had to stop drinking coffee because the thought of it made me nauseous.  I have been fine with hot rooibos tea, though.  I also have no desire to eat our Sunday morning donuts at church anymore.  So sad… and a lot of veggies have little appeal to me.  Fruit is working out well though.  yum!  Water is gross to me too (more than normal).

Baby stats – Apparently baby is the size of a lime and that seems crrrrrrazy to me.  Hands are about to open and then form fists. Bones are starting to harden. We got to hear the strong heartbeat last week.

Tune in next week for more news!

Poem: October Dawn

October 25, 2016

A chill in the air and the earth, still warm from the long summer, exhales –

steam coming up from the dirt, pavement, and fields

forms a blanket of fog along the ground,

spilling into the roadways and wrapping itself around the trees.

As the sun begins to rise, the trees grasp at the earthen clouds,

trying to snuggle in to their beds  for a little longer before having to rise up themselves

with the morning.

Awake!  It’s an October dawn!

Time to shake off the slumber and crawl out of bed.

The air nips at your ears and nose and the fog slowly escapes the grip of the branches –

the branches which are also in movement

from green to burning red and the varying colors within.

The invisible Someone in the sky blows the trees as if they were giant dandelion puffs –

the leaves tremble for a moment and some release,

tumbling to the earth.

 – Sarah ><>

2016 High Hopes

My hand has been wanting to write “2016” on things for the last two months which leads me to believe that it will be a very good year.  I don’t have much else to base that on, but the last week has been utterly depressing and nearly crashed my belief in the goodwill of man – the next year can’t be much other than better!  (That was a completely ingracious complaint about troublesome customers and an overarching lack of Christmas Spirit through the area.  I’m blaming the high temperatures, no snow, and full moon. People were just such Scrooges this year, not even content when they were getting what they wanted.)

We have had a fair amount happen in 2015.

One of the branches I work at was robbed very early in the year.  It was my first time ever being in a robbery and, honestly, if I ever have to be robbed again, I’d like it to be the exact same way.  No fuss, no muss, over and done.  I was able to take on some different responsibilities at work throughout the year, helping in areas that I’ve not been a part of before.  I also took over a new function which pretty much exactly suits me.  There’s a lot of organizing, detail, and filing. I am loving it!

We did a fair amount of exploring this year, though not as much as I like. 🙂  We stopped through Greenville, OH, checking out Bears Mill, which is an actual functioning water-powered grain mill from 1849. We also walked around one of the parks in the snow and sat through a star gazing (indoor, thankfully!) We got to see the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra after a few years for me. I think even Matt enjoyed parts of it. We traveled to Virginia Beach for our summer vacation and stayed at a Frank Lloyd Wright house which was partially turned into a B&B.  Probably would have stayed somewhere else for the bulk of the week, but it was super fun to learn about the house and the couple who owns it now – just what you would expect from two old Jewish folks from New York.  We visited Colonial Williamsburg, USS Wisconsin, Chrysler Art Museum, Fantomworks, and our friends, the Mehrings. To continue local exploring, we visited Englewood MetroPark and stopped at all three waterfalls on the land.  I also went to the Lebanon Apple Fest with friends Jan and Shelby – aside from the horrendous traffic to get out, it was a lovely time. Matt went with the men in his family (and the “adopted” Ken) to see a cool car expo at the Indianapolis Art Museum.  They totally gear-headed out and came back with some great memories.

Matt dabbled a bit on his wood lathe, making some lovely little bowls.  We’ve had other projects, though, using his workshop.  He made some shelves for me in the project room (which is still being organized) and also helped me with a couple little projects I have – more to come on that in the future.  We had insulation put into the house and are anxious to see what difference it makes during the cold, snowy winter (if it ever comes).

I had my first dentist visit in 7 years with no cavities!  I also started using and distributing Young Living Essential Oils and I’ve been amazed at the difference it is making in our lives.  From the health support, emotional benefits, and cleaning products – I am learning so much and I feel like our house is already on the path to being a healthier place.  We took the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University and have made tremendous headway with our debt.  I can’t wait for us to have everything but the house paid off, it will be such a relief, and that time is approaching faster and faster!

The flowers in the garden keep coming up and getting prettier and prettier. I can’t wait to see them in the Spring, although the crocuses are a bit confused and are trying to push through even now! Our irises from Michigan bloomed and were gorgeous. I hope they spread and shoot out even more flowers this next year.

We are always seeking to honor God in our lives and marriage and want to continue growing in our faith and dependence on Him. Going to church, reading the Bible, praying together – we are lacking in quality time with other believers outside of a church setting.  We both tend to be introverted home bodies, but building into others in the church and building those relationships is a key part of growing in Christ. I am praying that we will have more opportunities and be more willing to take them, even if it’s “inconvenient” or out of our comfort zone.

I hope you have a great start to your 2016!

Recipe: Crock Pot Beef Stew

It’s been a while since I’ve had beef stew and I’ve never made one, until NOW!

And then, I couldn’t really find a great recipe online. So I asked some ladies at work if they’ve made it and have any tips – and one did! Gretchen overheard me asking and came over to give me a play by play of putting together a beef stew in the crock pot. I am going to give MY actual recipe used but also share some variation notes which I didn’t use. I more or less borrowed from a few other recipes and…improvised when I didn’t have the right ingredients. Yay for cooking!

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Ingredients:

2 lbs beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch pieces
1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil
1 daikon, chopped (about 1/2 cup) (sub with 1 cup sliced celery)
2 medium carrots, sliced
5 medium gold (or red) potatoes with skins, diced or sliced, whichever you prefer (about 1 – 1/2 cups)
1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bay leaf
1 can tomato soup
1 32 oz carton of beef broth
water, as needed

Herb Mixture:
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/4 teaspoon thyme

Directions:

1. Put the coconut oil in the bottom of the crock-pot. Then begin preparing your veggies. I did not leave the ceramic bowl in the heater basin, so that I could add the veggies as I chopped them. Per Gretchen, start with your hardest veggies first and layer up. My order was daikon, carrots, potatoes and onions. I guess that if you used celery, you would do carrots first and then celery. I forgot that I had bought some spinach to add in, but it stayed in my fridge until it was too late. I wish I had, would’ve been pretty. Top the veggies with the minced garlic.

2. Prepare the herb mixture. I was told that this is the key to getting a good texture to the soup. I just know that it tasted so good. In a small-medium bowl, add the flour and the spices mentioned above. Throw them all in and toss the mixture so you’ll have a good breading.

3. You do not HAVE to rinse beef, but mine was kind of bloody, so I did just a little. Also, it was the same price at my butcher to buy a full chuck roast or the pieces already cut. I’m all for making my life easier (and saving time in the kitchen) so I bought the pieces already cut. They looked a bit big, but once they were cooked, they were perfect. Toss the pieces into the bowl and cover completely with the herb mixture. Then lay the meat on top of the veggies. You should have a fairly heaping display of ingredients there. It was pretty impressive to me.

4. Pour the tomato soup over the beef pieces, as is. The recipes I read included either pieces of tomato, or tomato paste. I didn’t have any of these, and I’m not a fan of tomato, so I didn’t use it. Gretchen recommended forgoing the tomato paste and beef broth altogether and only use V8 juice. You could definitely try this, but I didn’t have time to pick it up. Break apart the bay leaf and drop onto the top of the ingredients.

5. At this point, I moved the ceramic bowl back into the heat basin. Pour in the beef broth and then add water until the bowl is filled to one inch below the top.  If you decide to go for V8 juice, just be sure to fill up to the same level.

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6. Add cover (do not lock the lid down, if you have that capability) and set on low. Cook for 6-8 hours.

7. When finished, stir the soup, making sure everything is mixed well. Add salt to taste and serve.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Do you have any variations you use and love?? I’d enjoy hearing about them!

Fresh Friday – Devotions

Last year, I decided to make the commitment to read through the Bible within the calendar year. I found out how many chapters there were and divided them by the number of days in a year. The number came out to just under 4/day, so I rounded up to read 4 chapters each day (with Psalm 119 taking up the spot for 2 chapters). I marked them off and plotted it out for the calendar year. With that set-up, it landed me at finishing the Bible just before Halloween. That would give me a whole lot of wiggle room if I missed days throughout the year…which I did. In fact, towards the end, I would frequently skip my readings on Sundays.

I enjoyed my reading times. I fit them in to the 1st half hour of my day – plopped down in the corner of my couch with a cup of coffee and read away. I found some amazing chapters that I hadn’t read before, relived some of my favorite Bible stories, found fodder for research throughout the day, particularly through parts of the Old Testament. Some of it was monotonous -genealogies and the rigid Mosaic laws – but some surprised me as being way more interesting than I gave credit for.  I’m really glad that I did this for the first time. I will probably read through the Bible again at some point in the future. I’ve been trying to break it down a little better so that certain days wouldn’t be so overwhelming and the reading pack would be more equal and spread more evenly throughout the year.  It could be fun to read the Bible in chronological order and not just in the Canon. I’ve even joked about reading through alphabetically! Could be fun.

I used an ESV Global Study Bible and I pretty much used it just for my daily reading, but there are some amazing gems of information in there. I love having a historical context for events and traditions. There are so many things that I don’t understand from the Bible just because I live in a 21st Century developed nation.

Now, I have this allotted time each morning which I could easily fritter away with either more sleep or just mindless perusal on the internet before getting ready for the day.  I started looking for devotionals that I could find online to do each day. It is tough! Crosswalk.com has some devotionals, but as I’ve found over the last week, they are not always updated by the time I have my quiet time. In some cases, they are too story-ish and fluffy for my taste. I want Scripture. I want depth. I want substance, not frills and feel-good.

On instagram, I kept seeing some of my favorite grammers posting screenshots from shereadstruth.com. I went through their “O Come, Let Us Adore Him” plan throughout the Christmas season. I LOVED it! On the mobile app (available on both platforms), they have a great layout. Each day has three pages. The first, Scripture. The second, commentary by one of their contributing writers and a cool square graphic with a key line or verse featured which is easy to share on social media. The third, and probably the coolest, are comments from other women readers from all over! It makes this online devotional accessible, real, and so utterly encouraging as you hear tidbits and gems gleaned by other women who are really not so different from us (no matter what we might believe).

Starting January 1st, they began a study on the Book of John. I’ve only done two days of it now, but I’m already pretty pumped to get through it.  Another AWESOME thing they just unveiled, though, is a 365-day Scripture reading plan! It’s right there on the app and, while some of the studies they offer cost a small fee, this one is FREE and allows comments just like the others. I’m all for more organization, especially when it comes to getting more Bible-reading in your daily life.

How about you?!? Do you have a favorite devotional? What do your quiet times look like? Are you a crazy, earlybird (I know for those who have kids, it might be the only down-time you have) or do you just cram it in whenever you have an opening? I would love to hear how YOU get your daily dose of God and His Word.

And if you are struggling with getting this to happen, I would highly recommend adding She Reads Truth to your daily activities. Also, feel free to check over on the Bible Verse Calendar tab at the top of the page. I am humbled that it has been getting a steady stream of hits each day. It includes free printables for a daily Bible verse calendar – each month represented. Heads up that is is US-based in any reference to holidays in the graphics. I’m not very skilled at design, so please be gracious when you see them. 🙂

Happy New Year!!!