Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Decidedly Indecisive

One of the things Joe and I have had to learn about each other, especially since getting married, is that we both have very different approaches to decision-making. Joe can usually make up his mind pretty quickly, unless it's a situation where he doesn't really care one way or another (quite frequent). I, on the other hand, prefer to check out the options at least a bit, to be sure I am making a choice I will be completely happy with - and in the end I do usually have a pretty distinct preference. Thankfully this hasn't been a real source of conflict, but we've both definitely had a chance to learn patience with each other. :)

The funny thing is, before I got married I thought I was decisive and able to make up my mind quickly. Ha! I'm realizing now that I was comparing myself to my family and...well, let's just say that they tend to take a while to decide on pretty much anything. ;) Guess that's what happens when two second-borns get married, hehe. Growing up in that environment definitely taught a lot of patience to this naturally go-to, decisive firstborn - God knew I needed it to become more balanced. :)

This familial indecisiveness has resulted in some hilarious experiences over the years, as I recorded in a journal entry from 2004 (a few of you may remember seeing this on LJ back then). Names have been changed to protect the innocent. ;)

Scene: A vanful of 10 people, three generations. Characters are tired from a 4-day trade show; most have head colds in various stages. Time is 7:00 p.m. on a dark winter evening.

The trailer is finally packed with booth remnants and characters load into the van. Amid noisy protests from Tired People, Hungry People cautiously bring up the idea of getting something to eat before heading home. Head Of The Family is favorable to the idea, especially when a sub sandwich coupon is found. Hungry People's hopes rise.

Driver finds Subway in the maze of the unknown city and parks vehicle. An observant Tired Person points out that the coupon in hand is not actually for Subway. Head Of The Family suddenly remembers that "gobs and gobs" of crackers and granola bars are already somewhere in the van, and suggests that Hungry People eat them.

Hungry People want something besides crackers and granola bars, but resign themselves to such if that is what the Head Of The Family wants. They don't have to have more food. They will survive.

Head Of The Family reconsiders, saying that maybe Subway will accept the coupon anyway and asks who will go in and find out. Finally two Hungry People and one impatient Tired Person go in to Subway with the Head Of The Family. After ten minutes of reading the shockingly high priced menu, they come back out and announce that Subway does not accept the coupon. Hungry people sigh and resign themselves to starvation.

Confused Driver starts van and heads for the highway. Head Of The Family sees a grocery store and tells Confused Driver to stop. Do the Hungry People want to see if the deli has something reasonably priced? Do the Hungry People want to buy bread to make sandwiches? No, even crackers and granola bars sound better than deli food. Tired People's hopes rise.

Confused Driver again turns van towards the highway. Head Of The Family sees a pizza shop and realizes he has a coupon for it. Do the Hungry People want pizza? One Very Hungry Person replies with a definite affirmative. Head Of The Family tells Confused Driver to stop, but it is too late. They must go all the way to the end of the busy block and turn the awkward rig around in a small parking lot.

Finally back at the pizza shop, Head Of The Family goes in and orders a pizza. The next ten minutes are spent deciding if the Hungry People, the Tired People, or the Head Of The Family should pay for the pizza. The Tired People end up paying for it, even though they have no plans to eat any themselves. Hungry People feel bad for bringing up the idea of food in the first place.

Head Of The Family goes in and fetches the solitary pizza. It smells good, but the crust is literally cracker-thin, the cheese is sparse and runny, and the hamburger is represented by distantly-spaced lumps. Even the Hungry People vehemently agree that it wasn't worth $10.

Confused Driver quickly consumes a flimsy piece of pizza and then finally turns the van homeward, much to the relief of Tired People and Hungry People alike.

...and now you all know why we usually end up taking all our own food with us on trips. ;)
So, tell me: are you decisive? Do you think it has anything to do with birth order or upbringing, or just the way God made our personalities all a bit different?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Herbed Onion Focaccia Bread

This is a recipe I often make for company, as it's very fast, pretty much fool-proof, and everyone seems to like it. Goes great with any kind of soup, and is hearty and filling - nice when serving a crowd! I usually make it ahead of time, then slice and butter it, warming it up in the oven and placing it in a basket under a cloth just before serving.

A recent guest requested the recipe - so here you go, Jessica! Enjoy. :)

Herbed Onion Focaccia Bread

2 c. warm water (I just turn the faucet on hot and let it warm up a bit)
4 tsp. active dry yeast
2 Tb. sugar
1/4 c. finely chopped onion (or a couple tsp. dried, minced onion if you're in a hurry)
3 tsp. salt
2 Tb. grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dill weed
1 tsp. rosemary (optional)
5 c. flour (I use 2 c. whole wheat and the rest unbleached white flour)

Dissolve yeast in water with sugar for 5-10 minutes. Add rest of ingredients and mix thoroughly until dough forms a ball and is no longer sticky (add a little more flour if needed).

Knead lightly. Divide dough in half and form into two ovals on a greased baking sheet.

1+ Tb. olive oil
1 tsp. dried parsley flakes
1 tsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. salt

With a pastry brush, spread olive oil on top of loaves, then sprinkle with rest of topping. Let rise till doubled - about 45 minutes. Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes, until loaves are golden brown.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Our Wedding: Memories and Miracles (part 2)

This is part 2 in a series of posts sharing stories from my wedding, the preparations for it, and all the amazing little ways God blessed us in that time...see Part 1 here.

Remember that you can click on any of the pictures in this post (or any of our posts here) and see them in a larger size, as a slideshow. :)

Finding the perfect dress for me was one thing; getting outfits for the rest of the wedding party was another. I wasn't one to spend a lot of time planning my wedding before I even had a ring on my finger: tempting as it was, I knew it'd only make me more impatient as a single. Yet for several years before Joe came along I'd had a pretty good idea what I would want my bridesmaids (a.k.a., my sisters) to wear for my wedding whenever it took place.

I guess I should thank my friend Pamela for this, as it all started with her. She graciously asked me to be a bridesmaid for her September 2007 wedding, and this involved sewing the outfit that I would be wearing. I wanted to test the pattern before cutting the navy satin she had selected, so I bought a few yards of cotton in a gorgeous cranberry color - it had a slight shading/heathering pattern that almost made it look like velvet from a distance. The test shirt ended up fitting perfectly, so I finished it off with tiny pearl buttons down the back and wide piece of ivory tatted lace around the neckline. I really liked how it turned out, and wore it to my brother's wedding as well as several other events. And though I didn't think about all that much, I knew that this top, paired with a simple A-line black skirt, would make a perfect bridesmaid outfit.

So when the time came to begin planning my own wedding (such a surreal thing!), I knew the fabric and pattern I wanted for my bridesmaids. The pattern I already had was the right size for my sisters, so all that needed to be done was to find more of the fabric. One of my sisters was disappointed that I wasn't choosing a more traditional, all-satin outfit, poor girl. ;) I was quite certain in my decision, though: besides not being a huge fan of satin I also wanted to choose practical outfits that would be wearable to other events. The black skirts would go with just about any other nice blouse, and the tops would be very appropriate for more formal occasions. So the decision was made, and I just had to wait for a chance to go shopping in Des Moines.

Meanwhile, I spent a Saturday at the thrift store my sisters and I volunteered at. During the afternoon many items were donated, and I began sorting through the boxes. Imagine my surprise when one box revealed 14 table runners in the exact fabric I planned to use for the bridesmaid tops! They were in perfect condition, sized for 8-foot tables, and finished off with lovely gold tassels on each end. They couldn't have been more perfect than if I'd special-ordered them myself, and I knew it was a direct miracle from God (seriously, what are the chances of such a coincidence?!). I paid $10 for the set and couldn't wait to tell Joe about it when he called that night: just one more example of God's incredible goodness and attention to even the smallest details.

Soon the big Des Moines shopping day arrived. Since it had been almost 3 years since I had initially purchased the fabric, I knew it might be difficult to find more. Unfortunately, this turned out to be correct. My patient family and I spent a whole day going to 5 different fabric stores (along with a bunch of thrift stores, where we looked for wedding decor), and didn't find even a remnant of The Fabric. I was getting pretty discouraged by that point, along with being completely exhausted. As usual I'd stayed up half the night chatting with Joe (his quiet night-shift job made the late-night hours the best time for us to talk), and it had been a very long day of decision-making.

By the time we reached the final Wal-mart stop, I asked my mom and sisters if they would mind running in for me since the only thing we needed to look for was that fabric. They kindly agreed, and I breathed a quick prayer that God would help us find the fabric, or else an alternative I could be equally or more happy with (though I was doubtful such existed, especially within our price range - and I wanted it to match the table runners!). Then I dropped off to sleep in the front seat of the van.

The next thing I knew, my mom and sisters were returning with big smiles and a bag in their hands. Turned out that not only did that store have a full bolt of the cloth, but it was on sale! They bought the whole bolt at only $2 a yard, and we ended up having plenty to make all the bridesmaid outfits, ties for Joe and the groomsmen, vests for the ring bearers, a lining for the baby buggy that my baby flower girl rode in, a cover for the guestbook, and probably a few other things as well. It was absolutely perfect, and just what I had wanted. :D

As I thought about it on the way home that day, I found myself thanking God for planning things so we didn't find the fabric until that last store. It was just one more evidence that He was in control of the whole situation, that all the blessings were coming directly from His hand. What a clear reminder to trust Him with all the other wedding items that needed to be decided on and purchased! Wish I could say this meant I never got worried or flustered about anything else during the wedding preparations, but it wouldn't be true. I still have a lot yet to learn about trusting God. But these experiences did go a long way in strengthening my faith and helping me find peace in the very busy and often stressful season of wedding planning.

Just a few more notes regarding outfits for the rest of the wedding party:

We had originally asked Joe's sister to be the 4th bridesmaid and had begun making her outfit, but when she decided to step out about a month before the wedding my sister-in-law Ami graciously agreed to fill the position. Her mom was a wonderful blessing, making Ami's outfit at the last minute and modifying the pattern as needed. She's a talented seamstress and Ami was beautiful - I am honored to count her amongst my sisters! Ami's mom also made an adorable flower girl dress for my niece Ruby: it turned out perfectly and was exactly what I had envisioned.

Aunt Laura was also a huge help with the sewing: she handled the creation of cousin Grace's flower girl dress as well as vests for both the ring bearer boys. They all turned out fabulous, as did the ties for Joe and the groomsmen (Lydia and my mom did these). Aren't I blessed to have this much talent in the family? :)

I had the flower girls wear wreaths in their hair - the same ones that Susanna and I wore as flower girls at Aunt Julie and Uncle Steve's wedding in 1985. They were still in great condition and with just a bit of freshening up they fit in beautifully with everything else. I'm sentimental, so it was special to be able to reuse something from my own flower-girl days, recalling all the good memories that I have from that time.

We found a couple of the bridesmaids' skirts at a thrift store (I knew what kind of fabric and style I was wanting - to match one I already had - so we checked dozens of stores). Didn't end up finding the last one needed, so we bought a couple yards of matching black fabric (sort of an imitation suede) and Ami's mom made it up for Ami to wear. I made the tatted lace collars during long phone conversations with Joe (hehe), and we found the shoes on sale for about $10 each - very comfy black flats with a bit of decoration on the toes. I was pretty jealous that I didn't get to wear a pair myself. ;) The total cost for the bridesmaids' outfits (tops, skirts, and shoes) came to $20-25 each. Not too shabby. :)

We took a while to decide what to do for the guy's outfits. In the end, we just asked that each of the groomsmen select a simple black suit and white shirt and black dress shoes, leaving it up to them if they wanted to rent or buy the outfits. Joe bought one a little nicer for himself, and all the guys looked mighty snazzy. I'd be pretty surprised if any of the guests even noticed that none of the suites were exactly alike. ;) This alone saved a ton of money, besides being much more practical than having them all rent matching tuxes.

For the ring bearers, we looked into cheap suit and shirt sets on ebay, but ended up just going with black dress pants and a white shirt, with the matching red vests that Aunt Laura made. Pretty cute! The ushers were asked to wear black pants, white shirts, and a dark red tie - this ended up working out great and again I'm sure no one noticed that they weren't completely matching.

Sure, it would have been fun to splurge at get mini tuxes for the ring bearers, and it would have been easier to order all the ties and bridesmaid outfits ready-made. But all in all, I was completely happy with the way it worked out and felt that we were able to have everyone looking nice without spending a fortune on outfits that couldn't be worn again. Everything fit together well with the traditional, classy, yet slightly old-fashioned look I was going for overall. Just perfect. :)

Note: I've added this post to the Frugal Tuesday Tip linkup. Check out the other posts here.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Truth Chronicles...moving "write" along

Just a brief update on the progress of The Truth Chronicles. Book 4 is nearly finished, and we're expecting it to be available around March. Books 5 and 6 are coming along. The possibility exists that both of those will be available before August.

If you still need to read Books 1-3, you can purchase them through regular book outlets such as www.barnesandnoble.com and www.amazon.com, or you can get them directly from me (I'll even sign them!). I charge $20 for all three books and $2.50 to ship them; if you buy multiple sets at once, I'll only charge you $2.50 for shipping.

If you've already read Books 1-3, please take a moment to write a review for each book on Amazon, and help get the word out about this series!