Friday, January 28, 2011

Checking in

We had a very meaningful time with family in Michigan, and are so grateful it worked out for me to accompany Eric for the trip. The funeral was a heartfelt celebration of a wonderful lady whom we'll all miss. One of Eric's cousins put together a beautiful photo slideshow set to Steve Green's song, "Find Us Faithful," and I don't think there was a dry eye. The Scrabble board I showed you a couple of weeks ago ended up being displayed at the visitations and the funeral, so that was neat. Grandma sure did love that game!

I think one of the most special things that happened during our quick visit was the evening following the funeral. My in-laws have a wonderful and supportive group of friends who offered to "cater" and serve a meal at a relative's house. I was so touched by this collective effort. These dear people brought dozens of dishes (roast, chicken, lasagna, and more sides and desserts than one could possibly sample), served us dinner, and even cleaned up afterwards. It was to me a beautiful picture of the body of Christ.

Our experience this weekend made me think back to a post I wrote on supporting others following the death of a loved one. You can click here to read it--Monica shared several ideas and insights after her father-in-law passed away. Another lovely idea from this weekend that I want to add to the list is that one of my sister-in-law's friends blessed the family with a breakfast basket. Our large family shared three breakfasts together, and this friend included something for each morning: a coffeecake, some muffins, and a delicious, easy crockpot oatmeal. (I can e-mail you that recipe if you're interested--just leave me a comment.)

On another note, thank you for all the birthday wishes! I definitely felt remembered with the many comments, e-mails and phone calls I received. {As a random sidenote, I tried a fun beverage recipe from a birthday edition of an e-newsletter. They suggested brewing a cup of tea, then mixing in a packet of hot cocoa. I wished I had some mint tea, but I tried it with raspberry, and the drink was a fun twist on two old favorites!}

Have a good weekend! I'll be back next week with the progress on my January challenges (getting rid of 32 things and eating from the pantry).

Monday, January 24, 2011

Happy Birthday!

Good morning, it is Monica here - hijacking Carrie's blog! Today is Carrie's birthday and I thought it would be fun to surprise her with lots of birthday wishes!

Carrie - I am so thankful to have you for my sister and hope your day today is a fun celebration of the gift of YOU! Love you!!

What's in a name?

A couple of notes: I wrote this post awhile ago, and set it to publish this morning, as we were scheduled, Lord willing, to return from Michigan late last night.

Second, I had the privilege of writing a guest post over at Offering Hospitality on the subject of personal retreats. If you have a few minutes, I'd love for you to stop by!


Today, my 32nd birthday, seems an appropriate time to thank my parents for not just my life, but for my name. Because the truth is, I like my name. I remember being told that my parents considered the name "Caroline," and even though that is clearly just a tad different from their final selection, I don't think it would suit me as well. More important than the sound of the name is the meaning. I wrote a poem about my name in college that I shared here a few years ago, but I thought I would re-post it today.

I pushed into the cold
two months early,
instead of staying tucked safe inside
'til St. Patrick's Day.

Immediately detached
from my warm jelly sac,
I was placed into a heated glass box.
My skin was yellow and wrinkled and hairless,
and my body was scrawny,
less on the scales
than a standard bag of white sugar.

Daddy held me in the palm of his hand.
My tiny fingers fought tenaciously to grasp his,
so my parents named me "Carrie," which means "Strength."

Despite my current name appreciation, I do recall as a young girl that I really wished my name was Victoria. I also remember that when Monica and I would play dress up, I wanted my name to be "Karen Puff." Quite humorous, especially when you consider how similar the names Karen and Carrie are!

So, what about you? What do you think of your name? And do you know what your name means?

A couple of "Cliff's Notes" for the poem: My due date was March 17, so I was born 7 weeks early. I weighed just 4 pounds, 13 ounces, and the heated glass box refers to the incubator I spent my first days in. A standard bag of sugar used to be 5 pounds, not 4 like it is now.

Finally, as usual, best wishes to my birthday twin, Abbey!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

In His presence

A few days before we left for Colorado last month, we received a call from Eric's mom that his grandma had suffered a series of mini-strokes. She has also had on-going heart and kidney issues, and it seemed that the toll of all of these conditions combined was showing her days on earth to be very numbered.

Updates we received at the cabin caused Eric to question if he should fly home to Michigan to see his grandma one last time. After much prayer, agony, and discussion, Eric decided to make the long drive by himself at the end of our trip. He spent less than 24 hours in his hometown, but had some sweet moments with his grandma and other family members. Since that time, we've been expecting the news we received yesterday: Eric's grandma is now safely Home. We rejoice that she is with our Savior, and that she is no longer suffering from physical ailments.

Here are a couple of our favorite photos taken with Grandma K:

I love this pose of her laughing with young Nathan.
We were married on Grandma and Grandpa's 59th (!) wedding anniversary, so it was only fitting that they joined us in cutting the cake.
Anyone who knew Grandma K knew that Scrabble was her favorite game. She even played avidly on Facebook! I couldn't resist making her this message board which I showed her via the wonders of Skype. She was a wonderful lady!
We'll be leaving later this week for a quick trip to Michigan, so I'll be back in touch next week.

Friday, January 14, 2011


When it comes to referral links, I always feel a little conflicted. As someone who cares deeply about stewardship, I don't want to ask myself or others to waste time or money. With that in mind, I share the links below with you not to encourage needless spending, but rather 1) as I mention again below, it seems like good stewardship to me to take advantage of the resources offered by some referral programs, and 2) to share those opportunities with you in case you care to do the same. Take 'em or leave 'em. =)

*I've been slow at jumping on the bandwagon, but I would like to say that I am a big fan of Swagbucks. I've read about it for a long time, and even signed up over a year ago--but then I never did anything with it. After using my mom's computer in CO, and seeing that she was an active Swagbucks user, I decided it was time to try it for myself. I do a lot of on-line searching, particularly for the work I'm doing at home for the college, so it's fun to be earning points towards Amazon gift cards--just for doing something I do every day! At the rate I've been winning points, I'm guessing it will take me less than two weeks to earn a $5 gift card with minimal effort on my part. Woo-hoo!

*I was also slow to join Groupon because we don't live near a major city, but I signed up last month, and I've been interested to see that quite a few offers are not location-specific. I'm guessing if you live in a more urban area that you could get some pretty good deals through this program, so it's worth checking out if you haven't already!

*I've been using Ebates for a few years now. Like Swagbucks, it's a great way to earn a little something if you're making on-line purchases anyway. To start earning cash back, all you have to do is sign up for an account and then click on the store you want to browse via the Ebates site. Super easy!

*This is not a referral link, but I want to encourage my sister in her latest endeavor as a consultant for a new Dayspring company called Blessings Unlimited. I am so proud of Monica--she has many gifts and abilities, and I think she will be a wonderful addition to their team. If you would also like to encourage Monica, please take a few minutes to browse the BU catalog. There are lots of neat gifts and home decor items, all with a Scripture or uplifting message. I know she'd enjoy hearing from you if you stop by!

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Pantry challenge

I had so much fun participating in the popular pantry challenge last year, that I wanted to try it again this January. For me, the overall goal is a financial one. As I accomplished last year (barely!), I'm aiming to spend half of our usual monthly food budget. If I meet this goal, I want to bless others with the surplus again. It was so motivating to send a gift to Samaritan's Purse following the Haiti devastation last year, knowing they needed the funds far more than we do!

To help pull this off, I did another inventory to list items I specifically need to use up, which will make my menu planning even more strategic. A friend recently recommended a fun show called "Pantry Raid"* that has inspired me to be extra creative and resourceful in the kitchen! I could use your help, though--anyone have any creative ideas for using crunchy taco shells? Also, I scored two really cheap cans of evaporated milk, but I'm not sure what to do with them. Would love to hear your ideas!

Anyone else care to join me for a version of this challenge? Other ideas are limiting what you can buy (such as only dairy and produce), limiting how many trips you make to the store, etc. What a privilege to be able to even do something like this--considering some people's "pantry challenge" is that their cupboards are bare. Thank You, Lord, for Your provision!

I hope to do several monthly challenges this year, and I will plan to keep you posted on all of that. A smaller thing I'm doing this month is getting rid of 32 things before my 32nd birthday on January 24. I'm scouring our house for 32 items to donate, sell, share, etc.

*I was unable to find an active link for the show, though there's a brief description here. I've been accessing it through our gift subscription to Netflix. Speaking of Netflix, it recently occurred to me that they also offer exercise DVDs. Anyone have a fun one to recommend that's neither too long (over 3o minutes) nor too extreme (50 sets of crunches, 2 push-ups)?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Family photos

As promised, here are some favorite selections from our family photo shoot at the Colorado cabin:
This first one makes me laugh because Natalie spotted an airplane and had a hard time looking away. =)
Love, love, love my family! You can see more shots over at Monica's.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Colorado Christmas

I didn't end up with very many pictures on my camera from our recent trip to CO, but I wanted to share the ones I do have of wonderful time with loved ones:
The cousins had a wonderful time playing and eating together.
A group of my high school friends and their families gathered for a nice brunch.
Our family was supposed to have a professional photo shoot done during our time together, but we had to make some last-minute adjustments. Friday, I'll plan to share some of the photos from our amateur shoot (read: Monica, me, and a patient friend).
Happy new year, everyone!