Our Year Review: 2018

2018 has been a year full of blessings and hardships, sadness and joy, and lots of huge life changes. It has been both one of the hardest and one of the best years of my life.

January

On January 2, the day Sam and I left Mississippi to return to Romania, I found out that I was pregnant. It was unexpected and I was terrified, and it definitely made it hard to leave. Not long after we returned we decided to return to the States before our baby was born, but there was still so much unknown. Where will we live? What will we do? It was a difficult time for us, but God always knows best and He helped us through all the uncertainty.

I was sick and depressed the first several weeks of my pregnancy, which did not help the situation. Plans started coming together and Sam and I tried to stay encouraged with the work in Romania as we continued to volunteer, attend events, and host studies.

February

Things started getting a little better. I started going to the store by myself, which was a huge feat! Sam turned 25 and I made him a birthday dinner, though I’m pretty sure I ended up just eating toast or a potato as I was still feeling sick from the pregnancy.

By the end of the month I began feeling better and I started back running, slowly, but surely. Sam and I checked off our bucket list to go skating in the Craiova center!

March

We traveled to Brandon, England for Sam to do a week study on evangelism with the church there. We enjoyed our time in England and got to visit a dear friend from Florida College in Cambridge where she was attending school.

April

We travelled again, this time to Israel! I was still feeling slightly nauseous at times, but overall things were getting so much better.

Sam and I began volunteering at an after school organization, teaching English, and I also began leading an English book club at the local library.

May

We traveled to Moldova on an overnight train (an adventure for sure), and when we returned to Bucharest my family flew in for a visit! It was absolutely wonderful to show them where we lived and take them on all sorts of adventures. Daddy, Clay, Sam, and Sam’s dad all ran a trail race at Transylvania to add to the adventure of the trip.

June

Sam and I celebrated our one year anniversary! It is still hard for me to believe that we’ve been married over a year now. Our first year of marriage was challenging, but it was wonderful. For our anniversary we took a trip to Bulgaria. Our list of countries visited had grown quite long over our year of marriage!

We also had two evangelistic events this month in Craiova. Sam and his dad tirelessly advertised, spoke to people, planned and taught the lessons, and we had a great turnout both times!

July

We returned to the States when I was 32 weeks pregnant. I turned 21 the day after we got back! I went to the doctor and we found out we were officially having a little girl! I was told my baby was “probably” a girl at 13 weeks when I was in Romania, but it was good to have confirmation. We spent this month trying to get settled with life back in the States and we lived with my parents while we looked for a place to live. Sam began preaching and also began a full time job as a healthcare corporate data analyst.

August

We found a house and closed on it August 22! Then on August 24 our lives changed forever when I was induced and our precious, perfect baby Mae was born. We wanted to do some work on the house before moving in, and I wanted to be near Mama for the first couple of weeks after Mae was born, so we continued to live with my parents.

September

Sam’s parents and two of his brothers and their wives (and Mae’s cousin baby John!) came to visit. They also helped a LOT with preparing our house to move in, and towards the end of the month we officially moved in. I thought the timing was perfect, because by the time we moved in I was feeling much more confident with caring for Mae by myself. I was so spoiled the first 2-3 weeks of Mae’s life because Mama would rock her to sleep every night, allowing me to get a few hours of sleep before she would need to eat again.

October

Sam preached a Gospel Meeting at Rienzi, the church where he preaches. We continued to get used to our new life with a new baby and Sam’s new jobs. Life was so good, but it was also really hard at times. We had so many life changes at once. But we also had so much support and help that got us through the harder times. I went through a hard phase with breastfeeding Mae, and for a time I thought I would not be able to breastfeed exclusively. Again, with lots of help and support I was able to boost my supply and Mae began gaining as she should.

November

Mae continued to grow like a weed! She was developing and growing into the sweetest personality. Some days were hard for sure (and still are!) but I feel like every day I get to know her more and enjoy her more. It is all going too fast!

I started back doing online school to finish my Bachelor’s degree. It was a struggle at first. I felt very torn between finishing my degree (I was so close!) and wanting to quit and completely focus on being a wife and mama. I have amazing support in my parents and in Sam, and I am learning how to balance it all. I will be so thankful when I finish if I stick with it!

Mae had her first Thanksgiving at Mimi and Pop’s house (my parents, and I think they finally decided on these grandparent names!). We also had two more Thanksgivings, with Daddy’s siblings and family, and then with Mama’s brother and his family.

December

We began the month with Sam working diligently on his master’s thesis and me trying to stay motivated to do school. Mae started laughing and continued to grow and be the happiest, sweetest baby!

We had our first Christmas together as a family of three and it was wonderful. We are so blessed. We are so thankful. We have a wonderful life! I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us in 2019.

Our First Christmas

Yesterday was our first Christmas as a family of three! We decided that yesterday was the best day for us to do our family Christmas because of other family gatherings we have. We plan on being with my parents and all of my siblings on Christmas Day.

Our little family of three! Sam is wearing the sweater I knitted him for Christmas. I finished it before Mae was born!

We began the day while Mae was still asleep. We made coffee and gave each other one gift–a book. We decided that one of our family traditions would be to give each other a book to read all day, because we both love reading. Hopefully our kids will too! We read together for a while, then we decided to give each other the rest of our gifts before Mae woke up.

Reading our Christmas books

After Mae got up around 8 we had breakfast, which was crock pot apple oatmeal. We both love oatmeal and eat it every morning, but this was “fancy” Christmas oatmeal.

The rest of the day we just hung out, read our books, and played with Mae. I made Indian curry, potatoes, and flatbread for our Christmas dinner. When we were dating there was an Indian restaurant near the school where we loved to go on dates, and we both love Indian food. I have a huge cookbook of Indian recipes and I bought some special spices just for these recipes. I followed the recipes exactly (a rare occurrence for me) and they turned out really well!

Mae already loves to read

We ended the night watching It’s a Wonderful Life. It is a wonderful life, indeed.

Merry Christmas!

Getting Ready for Christmas part 3

Christmas baking!

The last two days have been filled with Christmas baking! I went over to Mama and Daddy’s house so we could do our baking together. I never would have gotten even a fraction of this done on my own!

We have all our recipes for goodies we make every year, such as oyster crackers, rice krispy goodies, or reindeer food (also known as muddy buddies). You can read on Mama’s blog here to get all the recipes for these goodies. We also usually try a new recipe, and sometimes it gets added to the normal, but usually we just make it once and decide it is enough. This year I found two new recipes to try. The eggnog cookies are good, but I’m not sure they’re going to enter the traditional Christmas list. The Christmas bark, however, was so easy to make and it looks so pretty! It stands a greater chance of being added to the list 🙂

Eggnog Cookies

Ingredients:

1 c. softened butter

1 c. sugar

1 c. eggnog

1 egg beaten

3 and 3/4 c. flour

1 t. baking powder

1 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. nutmeg

Frosting:

1 and 1/2 c. powdered sugar

1/4-1/2 c. eggnog (to spreading consistency)

1 tsp. light Karo Syrup

1 tsp meringue powder

Instructions:

Mix together butter and sugar.

Add in eggnog and egg.

Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.

Chill for at least one hour.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Cool on drying rack.

Mix all the ingredients for the frosting with a whisk and frost the cookies. Let them dry for a bit and the frosting will harden so you can put them in a tin to give away (or to put on a plate to eat yourself)!

Christmas Bark

Ingredients:

2 packages chocolate almond bark

Christmas colored M&Ms (I used peanut butter M&Ms, but you can use any type you like)

Roasted peanuts (or omit for peanut allergies)

Pretzel twists

Christmas colored sprinkles

Instructions:

Melt almond bark in a microwave safe bowl until soft and melted.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and spread the melted chocolate in a thin layer (about 1/4” thick)

Top with M&Ms, peanuts, pretzels, and sprinkles and let cool

Break into pieces and enjoy!

Have you done any Christmas baking this year? What is your favorite recipe?

Magical Chicken Potpie

I think every time we have guests into our home something goes wrong. It may be that our toilet is broken or the floors are dirty. It may be that my guests don’t like the food (and barely pick at it, offering polite excuses), or that I forgot to offer drinks or get napkins.

Last week was no different.

Mama made a homemade chicken potpie one day a couple weeks ago and it was delicious. I had it for lunch at her house one day, and she ended up sending me home with the leftovers for our supper so I didn’t have to cook. I texted her and told her it was “magical,” and we enjoyed every last crumb for supper and the next day for lunch.

So when we invited a family over for dinner I decided to make the magical chicken potpie! I made it early and froze it, because we ended up having to reschedule the dinner. The day of I got it out of the freezer and set it on the counter in the morning. I ended up putting it in the oven a little later than I would have liked because I was feeding Mae, but I still felt like it would be enough time since I thought it had thawed.

We saw our guests pull up and I checked the pie. The top crust was still white and pasty, but it looked like the filling underneath was bubbling (I had also forgotten to take the foil off the top, which I only meant to leave on for a few minutes). I turned the oven on high to try to brown the top and welcomed in our guests.

“Julie?” Sam asked me and pointed at the oven, which was smoking. The top crust was almost completely burnt.

But I tried to stay calm and I decided just to take off the burnt parts, and we could still eat the filling. I had a nice loaf of French bread, so I warmed it and softened some butter. We could just have bread instead of crust.

Then, once we began serving the pie we discovered that the center was still frozen, though the edges were bubbling and hot. I asked everyone to serve their potpie before their salad, and we just heated it in the microwave (the inside was fully cooked).

Our guests were so gracious and told me not to feel bad, but that everything was delicious.

I told them now I just have another story to tell!

Here is the recipe for the magical potpie. Just don’t freeze it unless you have to, and if you do make sure it’s fully thawed. Also, take the foil off the top and just tell your guests it’s not quite ready, and don’t try to speed things up. I hope it is delicious and magical for you!

“Magical Chicken Potpie”

Ingredients:

3 cups water

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

1 medium russet potato, peeled and diced

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 cup frozen English peas

3 oz (6 tablespoons) salted butter

1/3 cup all purpose flour

2 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 cups half and half

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon thyme

4 cups cooked chicken

1 piecrust (I used a refrigerated pre-made one)

  1. Preheat the oven to 425. Boil the carrots, potato, onion, and peas in the water until crisp tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. In the same pot, melt the butter. Add the flour, stir, and cook until the mixture is golden brown. Slowly add the chicken broth, half and half, and seasonings and cook until the mixture thickens.
  3. Add in the vegetables and chicken and mix, then pour into a lightly greased baking dish.
  4. Top with the pie crust and cut slits in the top for steam to escape
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown and the filling is warm.

What to Write?

I want to blog more regularly, but I am often at a loss of what to write about. If you read my blog, please tell me anything you would be interested in reading!

We began this blog for others to be able to keep up with our life and adventures while we were living thousands of miles away as newly married missionaries in Romania. Now our life is still full of adventures and craziness, but it is also quite normal.

I am a stay at home wife and mother, whose days are filled with caring for my baby and our home. There is never a dull moment as I try to cook supper and keep the house somewhat clean in between feeding, rocking, changing diapers, and playing with Mae. I also try to fit in finishing my Bachelor’s degree somewhere in the day.

Sam’s days are filled with his work as a corporate data analyst and various studies as he is a full time student on his way to getting his Master’s degree, as well as a full time preacher.

When we have spare time together we enjoy walking to the coffee shop half a mile away from our house, reading books, cooking, or just enjoying our baby.

We are not exceptional or doing anything exceptionally exciting 😉

I don’t have boatloads of spare time, but I really enjoy writing. If my writing can ever be of help, encouragement, or just entertainment to someone else it is even better!

So I’d like to ask for your help.

What do you like about other blogs you read? What do you like about our blog?

What would you like to read on our blog?

Thank you!

Strive for Perfection, but Settle for Your Best

In my spare time (haha!) I have been working on writing a reflection, or a memoir of sorts, of my experience in Romania. I am still working on writing the first month of our time there, and the story of our first experience with having guests over got me thinking about perfection and hospitality.

I am a perfectionist, and anything less than perfection tends to make me feel like a failure, but I’m learning…

I had just gotten married two months ago, and moved across the world to Romania a week ago. My husband, Sam and I lived with his parents for a week while we looked for our own apartment, and the Friday after we arrived we were signing a contract for our very first home together.

We were blessed to find an apartment with plenty of room to live and entertain, though it was old and needed work. The air-conditioning was broken and the toilet wouldn’t flush, and everything was covered with a substantial layer of grime. Our landlord promised to fix what was broken and I began scrubbing every surface before unpacking anything.

We scrubbed, unpacked, and shopped for household necessities that wouldn’t fit in a 50 pound suitcase on Saturday, and on Sunday we were scheduled to have our first guests over for dinner after worship.

At 5:00 the next morning I was up and working. I began to boil pasta, chop vegetables, and make dressing for a cold pasta salad. I also sliced bread, placed butter on a decorative plate, and cut a huge watermelon into cubes.

Once all the food was crammed into our dorm-sized refrigerator after much rearranging, I began unpacking all the boxes of items we had purchased the night before. I put pots and pans into cabinets, hung up towels in the bathroom, and hid all the boxes under our couch. We had a bucket in the middle of the hall to catch the dripping from the air conditioner and we had to “save flushes” in the toilet, but at least everything was cleared off the floor. I mopped the living room floor one more time before changing into my skirt for worship services.

Our Romanian friends, along with their three-year-old son and one year old twin daughters came home with us following services. I moved the bucket aside as they walked through the hallway and made sure they were comfortable in the living room.

If they noticed the dirt or broken items, they did not say a thing about them. They ate the food with gusto and praised my cooking. It was probably unlike anything they had ever had.

The twin girls crawled all over the floor and ended up with brown hands and knees. I began to apologize profusely, but they simply laughed it off and said it happened all the time at home.

They left when it was time for the kids to have somn de pui, or literally translated “chicken sleep,” or nap time. I began working on the mountain of dishes left in the sink, but I felt a wonderful sense of contentment and relief.

The first time we entertained gusts in our new house back in the States it was a Sunday afternoon potluck for our new church family. I had a 6-week old baby. Many outlets and light switches were missing their cover plates, and two rooms did not have doors (they were leaning up against a wall in the living room). I swept the kitchen that morning with Mae in her sling, but I left the pile to get up later when I could bend down without Mae in the sling.

When everyone began arriving Mae decided that she needed to eat right then. I texted Sam from our bedroom where to put food and what items to get out. When we began setting things up we realized that we forgot to buy paper bowls for the chili, and we also had no napkins. After Mae finishing feeding I went into the kitchen and saw the pile of dirt on the floor that I had not swept up.

But again, our guests were so much more gracious than I am to myself. No one cared that I had to leave to feed my baby, and I don’t know if anyone noticed the dirt on the floor. We used paper towels for napkins and we got to use all the lovely bowls we got for wedding gifts for the chili. When we ran out of bowls someone used a plastic cup and didn’t even seem to care.

God does want us to do our best, as if it is for Him and not for man, but He also wants us to be joyful and encourage the others around us. We need to do our very best for God, and also cherish the fact that both He and others around us will graciously accept our attempts, no matter how far we come from perfection. We need to strive for perfection, but settle for whatever is our best.

Getting Ready for Christmas part 2

Our next part of getting ready for Christmas is decorating!

We are keeping it pretty simple for many reasons, but I think our home has just the right amount of “Christmas” to feel festive and pretty. One reason is time, of course, and it will be nice in January to only have a few things to put away.

I love Christmas decorations, and one of my favorite Christmas decoration items is nutcrackers. (It is also on my bucket list to see the Nutcracker ballet someday!) Over the past couple of years my family has given me a number of nutcrackers to put in my own home someday, and I was so excited to use them all this year.

My younger sister Leah hand painted this nutcracker! She gave it to Sam last year for Christmas, and this year I have it set up on the shelf by the sink. It makes me happy when I wash dishes!

This is one of several nutcracker ornaments we have 🙂

Sam and I were blessed to receive a huge, very nice Christmas tree from some dear friends. They had a relative who was trying to get rid of it, and they said they immediately thought of us. We gratefully accepted it and put it in the room with the highest ceiling, and we still had to bend over the top a bit, but it is beautiful and we love it. Mae’s sweet stocking

Mine and Sam’s stockings we got last year from Romania

Last Friday night we turned on Christmas music, made coffee (our favorite drink!) and I defrosted banana bread from the freezer. It only took us about half an hour to put around our little decorations and trim the tree, which was perfect for Mae. She only wanted to be held, so I just went around with her in one arm and we decorated together.

What is your favorite Christmas thing?