Thankful.

Today, I am thankful for…

Amazing friends. The real ones… the ones who forgive me for my shortcomings. The ones who I don't connect with for months- years, even- and our friendship doesn't skip a beat. The ones who love me enough to let me be me and who cherish me because of who I am. The ones who encourage. The ones who have been around forever. The ones who just walked into my life. The ones who will never walk away. The ones who show me who they truly are and let me love them. Those who are near and those who are far. I am SO THANKFUL for you.

My family. The time I had with Mum Mum before she died. The new time I get with Amma. The fact that my dad is still here and better than ever. My brother and sister and their endless love and generosity. My mom and her support and her unconditional love. My husband's family. The way that they all love my daughter to the moon and back.

My husband. His patience. His love for the Lord. His encouragement and support to help me follow my dreams. His new role as the most amazing dad I've ever seen. The way he looks at me. The way he looks at our tiny little girl. The joy that's written all over his face when he's with her. That he loves me sacrificially and stands by me through thick and thin. That I love him just as much.

My daughter. The light that dances in her eyes. The way she grasps my index fingers like mini vice-grips signaling that she wants to go walking. Her opinions. That she knows how to sign for "more" and it's so dang cute. The way she dances to music or when I sing… when I sing anything to her. Snuggling her in the mornings. Her excitement over our pups. Putting bows in her long, blonde hair. Making her giggle uncontrollably. The sheer joy and privilege of being her mama. Wondering every day why God decided to bless me with this amazing little creation. Watching her grow… and learning what it is to experience a love so big and vast and wide that I would give up my life and my world to keep her safe.

Photography. Seeing the world in snapshots. Capturing moments in my own life and those that I love that can be cherished long past our expiration dates.

My fur-kids. Those sweet little white fluffs that demonstrate forgiveness and unconditional love in a way that only dogs can. Their wet kisses and black noses. When they cuddle up next to me when I cry because they know that sometimes I just need a hug and a quiet reminder that I am loved.

My job. I work with two amazing women who have become like big sisters to me. They understand, support and give me advice on how to balance my life as a mom and a professional because they've been there. I get to travel and connect and be creative and just be me. A year ago I didn't know what we were going to do to support our soon-to-be family of three… and here I sit, in a better place than I could have ever dreamed up at the time.

The beauty that is there if we just take the time to look for it.

The contentment that can be found in nothing but Jesus and given to us by the Spirit.

This life that I have been given… the moments that have been entrusted to me… the responsibilities that are mine alone and the joy it is to have them. My health, my home, my love, my life. That I am not without knowing Who these things came from.

I am thankful for so much today, and I pray that you are too. May you be given the eyes to see that your blessings do indeed outweigh the hardships in your life. Our God has made it so, for He is good, all the time.

"I thank my God every time I remember you."
-Phillipians 1:3

Happy Thanksgiving, dear ones. You are loved.

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Recipe on-the-fly.

Last night after returning from a fantastic weekend in Sedona with some of our dearest friends, I began flipping through one of our cookbooks and came across a recipe for bow tie pasta with red pepper sauce and peas that looked pretty tasty. But because we simply didn't feel like getting back into the car to go get the necessary ingredients after a long trip home, I decided to see if I could improvise with what we had on hand. What I came up with was actually quite tasty! There's nothing better than making a great meal with little notice using what's already sitting in the pantry.

I started by chopping five cloves of garlic into eighths (I didn't finely chop them because they are too easy to burn for a novice like me) and sautéing them in olive oil for a few minutes. I then added a can of diced stewed tomatoes that were lightly seasoned with herbs, some julienne cut sun-dried tomatoes, Italian seasoning, basil, coarse sea salt, and fresh-ground pepper, and let it simmer on low for an hour or so before I began preparing the rest of the meal.

The rest of the meal consisted of whole wheat fusilli pasta and cooked frozen peas. I thought we had regular frozen peas and was worried that the sweet peas with butter sauce wouldn't work with the recipe, but I decided to chance it and it was delicious! The butter sauce was light enough that we couldn't taste it- only the sweetness of the peas came through. 

Cody made chicken breasts marinated with garlic and herb sauce, and we sliced that up and put it on top. I preferred mine without a lot of chicken but it added a good bit of protein to the meal, something that my pregnant body needs much of these days. 

Tonight, I'm going to make salmon cakes with French cut green beans, yet more ingredients we already have on hand to make a great meal. 

On a slightly unrelated note, I went to the grocery store to stock up for the weekend with my budget-friendly-and-delicious-too-cooking-sensation friend Jessica. This girl is a champ at coming up with delicious meals on a budget, and that's exactly the goal we had in mind for our weekend jaunt up north with our group of six. We purchased the ingredients for five meals for six people, including snacks, for less than $100! It came out to a little more than $30 per couple for three days' worth of food. The only meal we didn't make ourselves was lunch on Saturday because we were in Flagstaff. I take no credit for any of it- she came up with the meal plan and made the shopping list- but it was great to shop with her because I learned a lot about saving on food for a family. 

We had a fantastic time. The house where we stayed, which belonged to our friend Alex's parents, was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to, but most of all Cody and I enjoyed bonding with these two amazing couples with no agenda except to rest and relax. Our pups, THOR! and Hanalei, were clearly in heaven, what with encountering a tiny human for the first time (which was a great run-through for us!) as well as access to floor-to-ceiling windows where they could watch every conceivable desert creature scurry by. Cody and I didn't take any pictures, but being the professional photographers they are, Jason and Jessica documented our time there, complete with a mini photo shoot in Flagstaff, so stay tuned. 

We can't wait for the next trip. But for now, it's dinner time!