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Archive for the ‘home’ Category

I am learning in life to slow down.  When I first moved to the DC area, I was fighting crazy commutes from Springfield to the Navy Yard with 3 colors of metro lines in between.  Then after the long commute home, I’d trek up to McLean for an evening event, and I would find myself talking on speaker phone and painting my nails while sitting driving in traffic.  I would plan 2 social events in one afternoon and inevitably be late to both due to traffic and my inability to leave the house on time (always rushing – literally running from bathroom to bedroom to grab my things and get out the door).  I would have 35 minutes of “free time” before a choir rehearsal and decide that I could make it in and out of Tysons mall (parking alone takes 10 minutes) with a visit to the Ann Taylor Loft sale rack.  My record time was in and out of the store with a purchase in less than 7 minutes.  (Am I proud of this?!  Needless to say, I was late to rehearsal.)

Constantly rushing.  Running.  Apologizing for being late and doing nothing to change my habits.  Having important phone conversations in the grocery store check out line.  Making to-do lists during meetings.  You get the picture.

Even when we have interviews in the corporate world, we pride ourselves on multi-tasking.  I can have 10 documents open at once and keep my head on straight!  Well, maybe, but I bet I’m not being as efficient or productive as I could be if I just focused on one thing at a time.

Look!  I can paint my nails and drive!  (BAD IDEA – no explanation needed.)

I’m a good friend!  I can talk with you on the phone and grocery shop simultaneously!  Well, my friend hears beeps in the background and me saying “say that again?”…and my shopping takes 40 minutes instead of 15. (still working to get away from this habit…)

Even the Harvard Business Review understands the problems with this method of operating, as explained in the article “The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time.”  The main trade offs to multi-tasking are that we are much less productive, we run out of steam, and we’re only partly engaged in everything, rather than being fully engaged in anything — not to mention that some multi-tasking can lead to physical danger!  (<cough>, like the time I completely changed clothes while driving down the highway because stopping for 3 minutes to change would have been a damper on my 2.5 hour drive.)

I really don’t want to be an inefficient worker!  And I really don’t want to be the friend who’s talking to you but looking around the room for the next person I need to grab (though I know I do at times).  I’ve improved my focus while driving, though I did drive with an apple and spoonful of peanutbutter in hand the other night…

One hidden blessing that has taken me a while to appreciate is how marriage has taught me more of how to slow down and focus.  Part of it stemmed from living much further from friends and having an introverted husband who cannot physically spend every waking moment with a group of friends, jumping from event to event.  I was resentful of these things at first and missed my overwhelmingly full social life;  now, however, I actually have time to rest. I have time to read.  When I see a friend, our time and conversation are intentional.  I’m more punctual (well, working on it).   At home, Jon and I sit down to watch a movie – and there is no simultaneous texting, emailing, half-doing.  We eat dinner at our table, even if it’s a mish-mash of leftovers, and there is no TV droning in the background.  We go on a walk and talk.  We have important conversations (usually) while looking at each other, not while typing on the computer or doing something else distracting.  It’s amazing the difference it makes!  I definitely have room to grow here, but the benefits of slowing down and taking one thing at a time have already been a blessing.

honeymoon in Dominican Republic

(Looking at the ocean is definitely one easy way to single-task; I could stand here forever and just look and think.)

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1.  Looking back at my 2012 new year’s resolutions and seeing that I have actually done most of them!  We are running another 5k tomorrow morning, we went to the Newseum in DC when my parents visited, I’ve been resting/reading/reflecting more in the evenings, we’ve enjoyed our back deck and grill in this nice spring weather, and we finally had a neighbor over for some delicious mango ice cream the other night!  What can I say, I shot low with my resolutions this year because I rarely ever succeed.  The one I’m clearly missing the mark on, however, is “eat only one serving of dessert per day”….yikes!

2.  Making this awesome Indian butter chicken last night.  We used the boxed spices mix, reduced some of the butter (whoa, this is not a low fat meal), and probably used too few tomatoes, but it was still AMAZING.  I haven’t made that many sound effects while eating in a while.

3.  Enjoying a good, long story, and the sense of accomplishment with finishing such a massive book (and building arm muscles from holding the heavy thing on my commute).  I finished East of Eden this week (thanks to some friends for recommending) and thoroughly enjoyed this very dark story about sins of generations, what the lack of love will drive a person to do, the battle of good and evil, and human nature.  I’ve also loved using Good Reads to track my book list!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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Tastes like summer

Despite the rain and chilly air the past several days, the past weeks have had more than a few glimpses of summer, and Jon and I have had a major hankerin’ for summery food.

My mom always made fresh strawberry pies in the summer, and with this easy recipe, I got some major “oohs” and “ahhs” from the boys who ate it. (Recipe below)

Jon surprised me last weekend with this delicious grilled meal of chicken and veggie kabobs.  Perfect weather, nice summery grill smell, good food, good company.

After 2 rounds of homemade vanilla ice cream with our fab garage sale find, we decided to branch out and try for mango ice cream.  You cannot go wrong with a can of mango pulp.  Ever.  My friend who loves to cook Indian food introduced me to mango lassis a few years ago (drink made basically of yogurt and mango pulp), and I thought – surely you can turn this into ice cream!  YES, YOU CAN.  AND IT IS AMAZING.  (Recipe below)

What are some of your favorite summer fares?

Fresh Strawberry Pie – recipe from my mom

Buy or make a deep dish pie crust.  Bake and cool.  (wayyy better homemade, even if it looks messy; here’s a good start)
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 T strawberry jello (1/2 small package)
3T cornstarch
1 quart fresh strawberries, hulled, washed & dried
1 cup water
whipping cream (as you can see above, I made almost equal parts pie and whipped cream – you can never have enough)

Mix sugar, water and cornstarch and boil until thick, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and add strawberry jello.  Stir.
When almost cool, add strawberries.  Stir well and pour into baked and cooled pie shell.  Serve with homemade whipped cream.  (Refrigerate)

Mango Ice Cream – adapted from here 

2 cups sweetened mango pulp (very cheap at our favorite Asian market)
2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar (can be less – just taste and see what you like)
1 T lime juice

Whip the cream with a hand mixer in a chilled bowl.  Fold in mango pulp, sugar, and lime juice.  Put in ice cream maker and make per directions.  Eat, and try to contain your excitement.

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1.  Jogging/dinner/Parks and Recreation date nights with Jon.  These have pretty much become our Thursday nights.  Jon runs slowly with me (and then sprints up and down the sidewalk, while I huff and puff at my normal pace), and when I take walking breaks, we talk; when we run, he talks at me, and I give him thumbs up when I agree.  Back to Parks and Rec – Ron and Andy are our favorites.  Annnd I think sometimes I can identify a little too much with Leslie Knope.

2.  Pretending flowery weeds are are real flowers and laughing at the ridiculousness when I pull a whole plant out of the ground to take home.

3.  Under the Sycamore – now this is a blog worth reading.  This sweet mom of 4 (who is currently in the adoption process for a 5th – from China!) just asked for a small donation this week to help fund a baby incubator for the orphanage in China. Due to her great blogisphere following and compassion of the readers, upwards of $8,000 was donated in just a few days, which will cover the sponsorship of 9 children for an entire year and provided cleft palate surgery for 7 children in the past week!  What a treasure! (plus, she partnered with a blogger friend who gave away this cool print in honor of the adopted baby named “Song”!)

4.  Thursday Dessert Days at work (not the overrated candy bowl, but real, homemade desserts).  I have successfully started dessert days on 2 teams at my company.  The first team took it as healthy (describing the competition here, not the food) competition and made some outstanding treats.  The second team has had fits and starts with just a few contributors, oftentimes myself…so it’s extra special when someone else surprises the team and makes something tasty! (yesterday’s treat from E. – just double the saltines and cut the butter down by 1/2 a stick – delicious!)

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A neighbor of ours is often in his back yard using a power saw to cut wood and such.  Naturally this intrigued Jon, who then struck up a conversation with him to learn that our neighbor redid his entire kitchen himself (which Jon would like to do for ours in the coming months – exciting!).  Jon saw the kitchen and loved it, so he took me back to see how much they had changed and how well it had turned out.  We got to meet him and his sweet wife and their two adorable boys.  As we were leaving, the youngest (maybe 5 years old?) told us to wait because he was making us a book.  After some tears because it wasn’t quite turning out like he had hoped, we ended up with this fabulous piece of art on our refrigerator!

He even told us the story about a mom and a boy and…(couldn’t quite make out the rest, but I’m sure it was interesting!).  Then the older son let us know that even though Michael made us a book, he was going to perform for us.  He proceeded to engage in a light saber battle with himself.  I’m sure there’s never a dull moment once you have kiddos – especially boys!

It was a treat to know some new faces and be welcomed into their home (truly a “homely house” with doors flung wide!), and hopefully we will visit each other more!  I am always saying how tough it is to live in the suburbs and be far away from friends, but maybe we have some right in our back yard. 🙂

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Buffalo Everything

One thing I am thankful for is that both Jon and I love buffalo anything:  wings, sandwiches, buffalo pulled pork (made it this week – yum!), homemade pizza with buffalo sauce instead of pizza sauce…

I chastised Jon for buying a gallon of Frank’s hot sauce from Sam’s club a bit ago.  Now, my guilty pleasure is getting a pedicure on a Saturday; Jon’s is going to Sam’s club without me and finding the largest container of anything and bringing it home to show me the deal he got…

…in less than a year we have consumed almost the entire jug.

YUM.  No complaints.  (and zero calories!!)

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DC: Could It Be Love?

In pre-marital counseling and books Jon and I have read as newlyweds, there is a prevalent theme on commitment love – the kind of love where love is a verb; you act lovingly even when perhaps you don’t feel too loving, and the majority of the time feelings will follow.  It’s not that I don’t have a deep love for my husband, but we all go through days where we’re selfish, frustrated, and probably years down the road will not always feel the hot flame of love.  That’s when we choose to love (as a verb), and much deeper feelings will follow. 

My friend Amy wrote a fabulous post a few years ago called DC is a Dude – he (DC) is great for a quick fling, fun for a time, but definitely not the one you want to commit to forever – you have to read this!  (Amazing how dating metaphors work in so many situations!  Well, my 2nd favorite is the “everything in life is like sorority rush” metaphor – I’ll save that for a later post.)  Anyway, when I first moved here, I was overwhelmed by the traffic, the pace of life, the people.  I hear often hear myself say, “everything here is just hard.”  Tiring.  Busy.

After some time and commitment to the DC/NoVa area, however, I am starting to wonder: has my commitment love actually started to produce feelings?  Even feelings of admiration…or…love?

A few things that have helped me love this place:

1)  Committing to my lonnng commute and making the best of it with good books, finding humor and meaning in my interactions with and observations of strangers, and taking advantage of  forced quiet/thoughtful time while crowded in a tiny metro car.
2)  Adapting to hectic life pace here and the need to plan ahead for everything (even simple errands have to be strategically planned to avoid traffic!); hopefully we won’t live this way forever, but for now it’s the new normal.
3)  Getting involved in the Lay Counseling Institute of Washington by attending classes and being counseled; this has been a gift to us and is a wonderful ministry!  I realize LCI is unique to this area, but hopefully if we move away some day we can carry some of it with us!
4)  Submitting to the crowds and traffic to enjoy beautiful DC, the Cherry Blossom Festival (coming soon – can’t wait!!), Great Falls National Park on pretty days, Skyline Drive…

This is a busy city.  A crowded city.  One of pressure and power struggles and frustrated people.  But the Northern Virginia/DC area does offer some really wonderful things.  We need to take more advantage of them while we’re here! 

What is your favorite thing about NoVa/DC?

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