10 things: 04.2013.

10things_witness

  1. d & i started a blog together!
  2. we went to our first hockey game. it was extra special since it was part of dustin’s birthday celebration :o)
  3. we got to spend a whole weekend with eli.
  4. these nanas know what’s what: the 9 nanas
  5. sadly, we have seen too much tragedy lately. i’m reminded over & over again how precious life is. thankfully, in the midst of tragedy, heroes rise up.
  6. we’re finally getting some warm weather!
  7. we got dustin’s wedding band. eeeeek!
  8. we’re at the cake-recipe-testing-invitation-making-suit-shopping stage of wedding planning. so fun!
  9. i’ve said it before, and i’ll say it forever: we have the most wonderful wedding photographer. she sent us a date night package with gourmet popcorn & movie theater tickets!
  10. ohmygoodness: bacio’s french toast.

carrot cake cupcakes & honey vanilla cream cheese frosting.

i whole-heartedly believe that there are legitimate moments & experiences that warrant being “the best ever.”

the first time i had the ipsento at ipsento in chicago was for sure the best latte i’d ever had (it’s still the reigning champ, even tho the boone’s beard at bull run here in minneapolis is thiiiiiiiis close). the day i got to stand up as the maid of honor for one of my very dearest friends – definitely one of the best days ever. meeting & snuggling my dearest friends’ babies – hands down, more best days ever. the day dustin proposed – it goes without saying ;o)

but, overall, i kinda cringe when i hear of this, that, & the other thing being the. best. ever. ditto for everything being amazing. everything can’t be the best ever, and surely we can stretch our minds a few adjectives beyond amazing. did that statement just hurl me into the “practicing mom” category? licking my thumb & cleaning things off of children’s faces and responding to “whys” with “because i said so’s” may not be far off…

with all of that said, we made these carrot cake cupcakes on Easter, and they were really, really, really good. they aren’t the best carrot cake i’ve ever had, but they are incredibly close. and they are definitely the best carrot cake i/we’ve ever made (gotta throw in the “i’ve” because they are the only carrot cake “we’ve” ever made).

i got the carrot cake idea stuck in my head a week before d’s birthday & wanted to surprise him with them. i didn’t ended up making them because we wanted to spend time together, but the birthday idea turned into a giant craving, and Easter seemed like a good reason to make cupcakes, too (because i really had to look hard for a “reason” for cupcakes?). making them a little later meant we got to make them together (which is always, always more fun) and share them with nate & mary for their birthdays, too. so it all worked out perfectly.

i searched the depths of the interwebs for 10-15 minutes comparing carrot cake recipes but ended up returning to the very first post that i found. it was titled “the BEST carrot cake,” and, well, i’ve already made my feelings clear about statements claiming something is “the best.” much less “the BEST.” i kept my expectations reasonable & was pretty pumped when, one drop of batter outside the bowl & one finger-swipe-and-lick later, i almost abandoned making cupcakes entirely to lick the bowl & utensils clean. instead, i froze, looked at d, & quietly uttered, “you need to try this batter.” resisting all urges & demonstrating the strength of our last strands of willpower, we slid the cupcakes into the oven & moved on to the frosting.

oh, friends – the frosting. i found the recipe on hannah’s blog, honey & jam. d & i have a soft spot for honey, so it was a no-brainer. honey & vanilla are a natural pair in my mind, so we added vanilla extract, which was a great start. next time we will for sure also add vanilla bean (we were baking at mary’s & forgot to bring one from the house). it’s not a necessity, but the tiny black speckles & delicious flavor pops are irresistible. it wasn’t tough to take as it was, tho, i promise. it’s a miracle any frosting made it to the cupcakes.

the only thing that held us back from devouring multiple cupcakes after dinner & changing our meal plan to include a cupcake at every meal was being able to share them.

:: carrot cake cupcakes & honey vanilla cream cheese frosting ::
adapted from tech love design & honey and jam

carrot cake cupcakes with honey vanilla cream cheese frosting 2

the cake had great texture & layered flavors from the coconut, grated carrot, crushed pineapple, & toasted, chopped pecans. we whipped the frosting until it was light & fluffy, and the flavor was rich & deep from the cream cheese, honey, & vanilla. although the nuts can be skipped, i can’t imagine carrot cake without them.

tailoring these recipes:
– you can omit the coconut & nuts from the cake, if you would like, without needing to compensate for the omissions.
– vanilla beans would be a delicious addition to the frosting, as noted above & included in the recipe below.

carrot cake
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
pinch of cloves
pinch of ginger
1 cup shredded carrot, packed
1/2 cup coconut, unsweetened (optional)
4 oz crushed pineapple, reserving juice
3/4 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted & chopped (optional)
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature (1/2 cup vegetable oil works also)
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs

frosting
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 – 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (optional)

to prepare cake
prepare muffin tins (cupcake liners) or baking pans (non-stick spray/oil/butter and flour or lined with greased parchment paper), and preheat oven to 350º.

in a medium bowl, whisk flour, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt, & spices.

in a large bowl, blend butter until light & fluffy. add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, and vanilla. mix in carrot*, pineapple, coconut , & nuts.
*we like texture, so we shredded ours using the larger grating side of the grater. feel free to use a fine grate if you prefer.

sprinkle the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients in batches. blend well after each addition to make sure everything is incorporated, blending after the last addition for about a minute. do not over mix.

divide batter into prepared pan(s) & bake:
– cupcakes: 25-30 minutes
– 9″ cake(s): 35-40 minutes
– 9″ x 13″ cake(s): 45-50 minutes

overs can vary so, to be safe, it’s a good idea to:
– rotate pans half way through baking
– set your timer for the lower time in your desired cake’s baking time range & check the cake for doneness; you can always add time :o)
– test the cake for doneness in whatever way(s) you prefer: it should be golden brown, should spring back when pressed, & a toothpick should come out clean.

to prepare frosting
in a medium bowl, blend cream cheese, butter, & honey with an electric mixer. start blending on medium speed, increase to medium-high, & blend 4-5 minutes until light & fluffy.

add powdered sugar & blend on low until incorporated. add vanilla & vanilla beans & continue beating for another minute or two.

to assemble
once cupcakes have cooled completely, you can frost them. we scooped the frosting into a ziplock bag, snipped the corner, & crowned our cupcakes with the delicious goodness before sprinkling them with more toasted pecans. spooning or spreading the frosting works great, too.

heck, i’d applaud you if you chose to dip your cupcake in the frosting one bite at a time. after all, in the end, the only thing that matters is getting the frosting & cake cozy, right?

10 things: 03.2013.

10things_witness

  1. our community is incredibly kind, generous, & encouraging.
  2. i got as close to tears* as i have so far with wedding stuff when the girls picked, to try on, what they ultimately chose as their bridesmaid dress.
    *i get ridiculously happy & excited but, oddly, haven’t cried yet. still baffles me…
  3. it was SO fun to have a whole weekend with alli & joy (even tho i ruined the surprise for joy’s visit).
  4. celebrating dustin’s birthday was such a such a simple, special, fun day. and i get to celebrate him for all of his birthdays for the rest of his life. rock on!
  5. we celebrated my 2nd hospital-free-iversary!
  6. we broke below 100 days until the wedding. eeeeek! :o)
  7. it was our first Easter together. Good Friday at OD, Easter at UR.  so blessed.
  8. all four of the of the celebrations above were wonderfully timed to hit every other day for the last week of the month. such an awesome way to celebrate out of march & into april.
  9. loving this article from shane claiborne: what if jesus meant all that stuff?
  10. we learned that registering is way more draining than we ever imagined. what a well kept secret…

words with power & of peace: 2 years.

last week was full of rich celebrations. and they were so well timed – something every other day :o) we kicked things off with dustin’s birthday on monday, and wednesday brought us to my 2nd hospital-free-iversary. what a gift march 26th became two years ago. today’s post is long, but it’s an important one to me, so i hope you don’t mind.

on december 15, 2010, i gleefully checked into the u of m surgery center. early mornings are not really my thing, but this morning was different. this morning, i was checking in for my 7th – and hopefully final – visit to the operating room in 15 months. i would have hugged every single person helping mom & me that morning if it would have been appropriate.

previous visits to my beloved hospital (not a drop of sarcasm here – i absolutely love & am deeply grateful & thankful for the people there) ranged from exams under anesthesia to much more intensive surgeries. the longest stay i had had was six days, but there had been lots & lots of recovery time at home. and lots & lots of praying, hoping, & waiting. it had truly been 15 months of waiting after 23 months of not knowing what was wrong in the first place (which, not surprisingly, included lots & lots of praying, hoping, & waiting…).

that special morning, i was getting put back together & would be done with the ileostomy. needless to say, i was pumped.

the surgery went well. i remember waking up in the recovery area, gently feeling my abdomen: bag free. praise Jesus! after all of my surgeries i had always been placed on the same floor, and a benefit of my frequent visits was that i quickly grew to love the nurses, aides, & support staff. so when i was wheeled up to my room that afternoon, all put back together, we had a bit of a celebration. glory, glory!

unfortunately, the next few days went downhill pretty quickly. when all was said & done, i was in the hospital for 15 days (including christmas)…and then back 3 more times. i think i was in for 50-some days. as you could imagine, there was lots & lots of praying, hoping, & waiting. it was the most physically & emotionally tiring experience i have gone through. yet, as our Gracious Father would have it, it was also one of the most spiritually rich seasons i’ve ever experienced. there isn’t a day that has gone by in the past two years that i haven’t paused to thank God – even briefly, but often much more deeply – for my health.

over the three & a half years, i often wished i was able to journal more about it, but no matter how much i wanted to, i couldn’t. what i did, thankfully, manage to get on paper, though, were marking moments & advice from loved ones. for the past two years, on this very special anniversary, i go back & re-read those journal entries. it’s an incredible blessing to see the power those words had to move me into a new place at that time & to realize the power & peace they still have today.

  1. a dear friend introduced me to the process of Biblical lamenting, based on Psalms 13 and 28. it’s a process that begins with addressing God, describing your need or pain, affirming your trust in God, prayer for help or deliverance, and ends with praise to God for who He is. as personal & intimate as my relationship with God was and, further, with as deep as i could imagine it ever getting, i would never have imagined that God would approve of my lamenting. at the time, in my head, lamenting was on par with pouting. if God is God of the universe & had a good & perfect plan for me, what right did i have to lament to Him about it? obviously i had a lot to learn; this process continues to bring light to deep places in my heart.
  2. i read shauna’s latest (at that time) blog post. she’s one of my very favorite writers & has a way of striking a deep chord in me. her post, on asking for help, changed my perspective on how i’d been handling the doctor’s appointments, procedures, surgeries, recovery – everything. in my wanting to be strong & handle everything like a champ, i wasn’t allowing people who love & care for me the opportunity to love & care for me. i will work on this one for a long time. somewhere in me is a need to be the strong one & “keep it together.” but letting others in can be so freeing, and allowing others to do what they love & do best is a win-win for everyone!
  3. i went with my new philosophy (above) when one of my mentors called to check in on me, and i had been having a tough day. when she called, i was actually driving home, feeling particularly discouraged, tears streaming down my face. i was honest about fears i was wrestling with, and, after saying some wonderful, encouraging, grace-giving things, she said, “i don’t know how Biblical this is, but i feel like maybe you can just let us pray for you. let us hold you up.” enter: paradigm shift. to think that God would be ok with me not praying wasn’t something i’d ever considered. in all honesty, i had been feeling utterly exhausted of prayers, and that made me feel like i was failing Him. but our loving God draws a tribe around us specifically to love, refine, & pray for us.  He knows that we are weak, and He allows those around us to be His hands & feet in these times.
  4. one night, while i was praying before bed, i noticed that my whole body was tense; my hands were completely clenched tight. i bet i had been praying like that a lot: speaking words of trust, faith, & hope, braced for “what if?” probably trying to holding on to each truth so none of them could slip away. God sweetly reminded me to take a deep breath, relax, & open my hands. i returned to my focus verse, hebrews 11:1, “now faith is being sure of what we hope for & certain of what we do not see.” to this day, i focus on these three things while i’m praying, & i always, always make sure my hands are relaxed & open when i fall asleep.
  5. i think it was the day after Christmas that a close friend came to visit and, as she was leaving, i asked if she could help me get up so i could go for a walk.  walking was the single thing that I could do to try to coax my body to get better, so I walked laps around the nurses’ stations as often as possible. she asked how many laps i was going to do, and i said, quite decidedly, “seven! i haven’t had a plan for my laps before, but this is my Jericho, right?!” from that walk on, i kept track of my walks.i told a few people about my new plan, including one of my mentors, and she promptly responded that the Israelites actually marched around the walls of Jericho thirteen times before they fell. well, wouldn’t you know that it was after my thirteenth lap that i was discharged from the hospital (that first time)!
  6. the only time i actually journalled from the hospital was on what ended up being my last night there, march 26, 2011. i can still remember how raw it felt to type this entry, but i can also still vividly remember how important i knew it was to do & how healing it would be:

    as i walked the halls tonight in my routine before-bedtime walk, i kept tearing up. i blinked the tears away quickly so each nurse’s station full of nurses & aides that know me wouldn’t see, but on each straight-away, i almost fell apart.
    i’m scared to go home tomorrow. i’m so excited to be in my own house, my own bed, my own bathroom, with my own comforts & stuff…but i’m so, so scared to go home & start feeling better & get into my routine & feel normal only to end up on the bathroom floor feeling awful, again…and end up here, again.as i walked, and as i sit here typing with tears streaming down my face, i keep repeating, “God, i trust you. period. please show me that you have healed me completely. please, please let me be your example. let me be a testimony to your miraculous healing. please.” i can’t live in fear. i refuse to live in fear. i have to not only believe but live in the place where every day is a new day, and You, God, are guiding me completely. because You, God, are a God that can do infinitely more than i can hope or imagine, i am not settling for less than Your complete & total healing over my body. i will not go home for 5 days or 5 weeks & fall ill again. i will leave this hospital tomorrow, and i will not come back with these illnesses. by the blood of Jesus, i am healed, and there are no strongholds over my body, mind, or spirit. i am healed, and i will live to be an old woman, full of stories, memories & life because of what You have given me & the healing that You have made complete in me. i will live every day of my life as a testimony to Your goodness, provision, healing, miracles, & love. i will pray earnestly with thanksgiving, glorifying Your name. i am nothing without You. it is wholly due to Your spirit within me that i am able to live a life full of love, truth & grace, and i will spend all of my days learning how to honor & glorify You more truly, authentically, & intentionally. i love You more than i’ll ever ever understand. You are my God, and i am Yours completely.
  7. then there was one last entry, six days after going home, on April 1, 2011. it reminds me of three things: 1.) God’s faithfulness since before i truly knew Him, 2.) how quickly i can fall into old fears, and 3.) God’s patience & grace to set me straight again when I do:

    as I’ve been getting settled again at home, during a quiet moment this week, God brought me right back to the beginning. to the vision i had before my very first surgery [when i was 12 years old] of Him holding me. since i left the hospital six days ago, i have been wrestling the fear that caused me to fall into tears as i walked those pre-bedtime laps. fear of feeling better, but not being better. fear of getting into a routine, then ending up back at the hospital. there are no guarantees that the infection won’t come back. but i have a choice: to live each day in fear, or to live each day as if i am healed. erwin mcmanus said in his book, Chasing Daylight, “the most spiritual activity you will engage in today is making choices. …while moments are the context within which we live, choices chart the course and determine the destination.”

    this is one of my more important choices in life. i am choosing to live each day as though i am healed. so i find it quite fitting that in that quiet moment earlier this week, He brought to mind the image of me wrapped up in His arms.

     

there were many times when i thought that season might never end; but it did. as cliché as it sounds, it truly is a blessing to reflect, each year, on everything that happened & appreciate, humble myself, & rest in the goodness of where He brought me through it all.

words with power & of peace: 2 years

last week was full of rich celebrations. and they were so well timed – something every other day :o) we kicked things off with dustin’s birthday on monday, and wednesday brought us to my 2nd hospital-free-iversary. what a gift march 26th became two years ago. today’s post is long, but it’s an important one to me, so i hope you don’t mind.

on december 15, 2010, i gleefully checked into the u of m surgery center. early mornings are not really my thing, but this morning was different. this morning, i was checking in for my 7th – and hopefully final – visit to the operating room in 15 months. i would have hugged every single person helping mom & me that morning if it would have been appropriate.

previous visits to my beloved hospital (not a drop of sarcasm here – i absolutely love & am deeply grateful & thankful for the people there) ranged from exams under anesthesia to much more intensive surgeries. the longest stay i had had was six days, but there had been lots & lots of recovery time at home. and lots & lots of praying, hoping, & waiting. it had truly been 15 months of waiting after 23 months of not knowing what was wrong in the first place (which, not surprisingly, included lots & lots of praying, hoping, & waiting…).

that special morning, i was getting put back together & would be done with the ileostomy. needless to say, i was pumped.

the surgery went well. i remember waking up in the recovery area, gently feeling my abdomen: bag free. praise Jesus! after all of my surgeries i had always been placed on the same floor, and a benefit of my frequent visits was that i quickly grew to love the nurses, aides, & support staff. so when i was wheeled up to my room that afternoon, all put back together, we had a bit of a celebration. glory, glory!

unfortunately, the next few days went downhill pretty quickly. when all was said & done, i was in the hospital for 15 days (including christmas)…and then back 3 more times. i think i was in for 50-some days. as you could imagine, there was lots & lots of praying, hoping, & waiting. it was the most physically & emotionally tiring experience i have gone through. yet, as our Gracious Father would have it, it was also one of the most spiritually rich seasons i’ve ever experienced. there isn’t a day that has gone by in the past two years that i haven’t paused to thank God – even briefly, but often much more deeply – for my health.

over the three & a half years, i often wished i was able to journal more about it, but no matter how much i wanted to, i couldn’t. what i did, thankfully, manage to get on paper, though, were marking moments & advice from loved ones. for the past two years, on this very special anniversary, i go back & re-read those journal entries. it’s an incredible blessing to see the power those words had to move me into a new place at that time & to realize the power & peace they still have today.

  1. a dear friend introduced me to the process of Biblical lamenting, based on Psalms 13 and 28. it’s a process that begins with addressing God, describing your need or pain, affirming your trust in God, prayer for help or deliverance, and ends with praise to God for who He is. as personal & intimate as my relationship with God was and, further, with as deep as i could imagine it ever getting, i would never have imagined that God would approve of my lamenting. at the time, in my head, lamenting was on par with pouting. if God is God of the universe & had a good & perfect plan for me, what right did i have to lament to Him about it? obviously i had a lot to learn; this process continues to bring light to deep places in my heart.
  2. i read shauna’s latest (at that time) blog post. she’s one of my very favorite writers & has a way of striking a deep chord in me. her post, on asking for help, changed my perspective on how i’d been handling the doctor’s appointments, procedures, surgeries, recovery – everything. in my wanting to be strong & handle everything like a champ, i wasn’t allowing people who love & care for me the opportunity to love & care for me. i will work on this one for a long time. somewhere in me is a need to be the strong one & “keep it together.” but letting others in can be so freeing, and allowing others to do what they love & do best is a win-win for everyone!
  3. i went with my new philosophy (above) when one of my mentors called to check in on me, and i had been having a tough day. when she called, i was actually driving home, feeling particularly discouraged, tears streaming down my face. i was honest about fears i was wrestling with, and, after saying some wonderful, encouraging, grace-giving things, she said, “i don’t know how Biblical this is, but i feel like maybe you can just let us pray for you. let us hold you up.” enter: paradigm shift. to think that God would be ok with me not praying wasn’t something i’d ever considered. in all honesty, i had been feeling utterly exhausted of prayers, and that made me feel like i was failing Him. but our loving God draws a tribe around us specifically to love, refine, & pray for us.  He knows that we are weak, and He allows those around us to be His hands & feet in these times.
  4. one night, while i was praying before bed, i noticed that my whole body was tense; my hands were completely clenched tight. i bet i had been praying like that a lot: speaking words of trust, faith, & hope, braced for “what if?” probably trying to holding on to each truth so none of them could slip away. God sweetly reminded me to take a deep breath, relax, & open my hands. i returned to my focus verse, hebrews 11:1, “now faith is being sure of what we hope for & certain of what we do not see.” to this day, i focus on these three things while i’m praying, & i always, always make sure my hands are relaxed & open when i fall asleep.
  5. i think it was the day after Christmas that a close friend came to visit and, as she was leaving, i asked if she could help me get up so i could go for a walk.  walking was the single thing that I could do to try to coax my body to get better, so I walked laps around the nurses’ stations as often as possible. she asked how many laps i was going to do, and i said, quite decidedly, “seven! i haven’t had a plan for my laps before, but this is my Jericho, right?!” from that walk on, i kept track of my walks.i told a few people about my new plan, including one of my mentors, and she promptly responded that the Israelites actually marched around the walls of Jericho thirteen times before they fell. well, wouldn’t you know that it was after my thirteenth lap that i was discharged from the hospital (that first time)!
  6. the only time i actually journalled from the hospital was on what ended up being my last night there, march 26, 2011. i can still remember how raw it felt to type this entry, but i can also still vividly remember how important i knew it was to do & how healing it would be:

    as i walked the halls tonight in my routine before-bedtime walk, i kept tearing up. i blinked the tears away quickly so each nurse’s station full of nurses & aides that know me wouldn’t see, but on each straight-away, i almost fell apart.
    i’m scared to go home tomorrow. i’m so excited to be in my own house, my own bed, my own bathroom, with my own comforts & stuff…but i’m so, so scared to go home & start feeling better & get into my routine & feel normal only to end up on the bathroom floor feeling awful, again…and end up here, again.as i walked, and as i sit here typing with tears streaming down my face, i keep repeating, “God, i trust you. period. please show me that you have healed me completely. please, please let me be your example. let me be a testimony to your miraculous healing. please.” i can’t live in fear. i refuse to live in fear. i have to not only believe but live in the place where every day is a new day, and You, God, are guiding me completely. because You, God, are a God that can do infinitely more than i can hope or imagine, i am not settling for less than Your complete & total healing over my body. i will not go home for 5 days or 5 weeks & fall ill again. i will leave this hospital tomorrow, and i will not come back with these illnesses. by the blood of Jesus, i am healed, and there are no strongholds over my body, mind, or spirit. i am healed, and i will live to be an old woman, full of stories, memories & life because of what You have given me & the healing that You have made complete in me. i will live every day of my life as a testimony to Your goodness, provision, healing, miracles, & love. i will pray earnestly with thanksgiving, glorifying Your name. i am nothing without You. it is wholly due to Your spirit within me that i am able to live a life full of love, truth & grace, and i will spend all of my days learning how to honor & glorify You more truly, authentically, & intentionally. i love You more than i’ll ever ever understand. You are my God, and i am Yours completely.
  7. then there was one last entry, six days after going home, on April 1, 2011. it reminds me of three things: 1.) God’s faithfulness since before i truly knew Him, 2.) how quickly i can fall into old fears, and 3.) God’s patience & grace to set me straight again when I do:

    as I’ve been getting settled again at home, during a quiet moment this week, God brought me right back to the beginning. to the vision i had before my very first surgery [when i was 12 years old] of Him holding me. since i left the hospital six days ago, i have been wrestling the fear that caused me to fall into tears as i walked those pre-bedtime laps. fear of feeling better, but not being better. fear of getting into a routine, then ending up back at the hospital. there are no guarantees that the infection won’t come back. but i have a choice: to live each day in fear, or to live each day as if i am healed. erwin mcmanus said in his book, Chasing Daylight, “the most spiritual activity you will engage in today is making choices. …while moments are the context within which we live, choices chart the course and determine the destination.”

    this is one of my more important choices in life. i am choosing to live each day as though i am healed. so i find it quite fitting that in that quiet moment earlier this week, He brought to mind the image of me wrapped up in His arms.

     

there were many times when i thought that season might never end; but it did. as cliché as it sounds, it truly is a blessing to reflect, each year, on everything that happened & appreciate, humble myself, & rest in the goodness of where He brought me through it all.