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Archive for the ‘life’ Category

For my first “thing,” I knew exactly what I wanted to tackle.  It’s been written on my to-do list for almost four months: “Complete Paul’s anniversary gift.”  You see, when our first anniversary came around on November 8, 2009, we decided to celebrate by taking a week-long vacation.  We agreed to exchange gifts at some point upon our return, given that they were under $15 (we blew everything else on the vacation!) and went along with the first-anniversary theme of “paper.”  Well, of course, life happened, and we never did end up exchanging gifts!

Over the past few months, I’d gathered the supplies to create a message in a bottle.  So tonight, I wrote out a love letter—in cursive, no less—in brown, archival ink on handmade paper I found at a stationary store called Pleasant Thoughts. Then, I filled an unusually shaped cork-stopped bottle (from The Container Store) with some sand-colored pebbles originally meant for one of those elementary school California Mission projects (from Michael’s).  Hehehe, well, I figured real sand would be way too messy!  For a romantic touch, I tied on a charm with an embossed key and the word “love” with some pretty red ribbon (also Michael’s).  It’s a fairly sentimental gift for Paul, but that’s what I was going for, since his wedding gift (an iPhone) was decidedly unsentimental.  I presented the message in a bottle to him this evening, and he loved it!  Now, where’s my anniversary gift?  ;o)

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Mardi Gras Feast

My whole family loves New Orleans and Cajun/Creole cuisine, so for Mardi Gras this year, we spontaneously threw together a feast at my parent’s house, with each of us cooking one of our favorite dishes.  What we ended up with was a lot of fried food and carbs! Hush puppies, fried okra with spicy mayo dip, fiery Cajun shrimp (with the extra juices as a bread dip), chicken and sausage jambalaya, red beans and rice, and beignets.  Everything was so tasty.

I made the beignets, which was quite an adventure.  While making the dough after work, I realized I was missing an ingredient (shortening) and sent Paul for an emergency trip to the grocery store.  By the time he returned, we were running late to dinner, and in my hurry I mixed everything together in the wrong order, resulting in a ruined mess.  So, we tossed that batch, gathered up the rest of the ingredients, and headed for my parents’.  While they fried okra and hush puppies, I made the beignet dough a second time (correctly).  Before letting it rise, the recipe called for kneading the dough.  It was so wet and sticky, kneading was nearly impossible, but I did what I could.  Rising took two hours (which is why I was supposed to make the dough ahead of time… hehehe), so we watched the Olympics after dinner while we waited.  The dough did rise and roll-out nicely, but it was just as wet and sticky.  Instead of cutting perfect little dough squares for frying, I made all kinds of crazy shapes.  My mom and I laughed over pieces that resembled rubber chickens and shrimp with tails.  But, I have to say, by the time we fried them up and bathed them in powdered sugar, the beignets were phenomenal.  Totally Café du Monde quality.  I can’t wait to make them again.  And I’m looking forward to future themed family feasts.  We have ideas in the works…

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Happy Valentine’s Day

Even though Paul and I decided to not exchange gits for Valentine’s Day—opting instead for cards and a fun night out—I have begun campaigning for this necklace for Valentine’s Day 2011.  The Heartstrings Necklace, designed by Lisa Leonard, is one of the cutest examples I’ve seen of custom-designed, dog tag–style jewelry.  You can add up to four heartstrings and 30 characters to the sterling silver disk, and finish it off with a dangling pearl, if you’d like.  She also has some cool leather cuffs for men and name-stamped spoons for babies.  Be sure to check out her creativity-inspiring blog, too.

As for tonight, Paul and I will proceed with the plan to see the movie Valentine’s Day, even though it has been universally panned.  (It was even graded “F” by Entertainment Weekly.)  I love that he lets me pick chick flicks on V-Day dates; plus, I’ve seen everything else that’s playing.  Ah well, with extremely low expectations, it should exceed them.  Happy Valentine’s Day, all!

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Pro-Con: Kidney Stones

Ugh. I have The Kidney Stones That Won’t Go Away. This is my third time experiencing the thrill of extreme flank pain.  The first two lasted about 48 hours.  I’m going on day 10 with this round.  To get some perspective, I have compiled a pro-con list.  But let’s start with the cons…

Con
– Severe intermittent pain, as if someone is stabbing me in the side with a knife every six or so hours.
– Pain meds that make me vomit unless taken with about 1,241 pretzels.
– Burning through most of my sick days.
– The pending emergency room bill.
– Total loss of appetite.

Pro
– Getting through three seasons of Gilmore Girls on DVD.
– Being taken care of by my husband.
– Bonding with my kittens.
– Losing two pounds without even trying.

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photo by Rick Loomis, L.A. Times

The title of this post is a lyric from the hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”  We sung it in church this morning, and I found it particularly moving in light of the past week’s events.

I had been following the devastation in Haiti as best I could (I don’t have television, so I relied on Internet news, Facebook, and Twitter) since the earthquake hit, and several hours in, I realized I knew someone who was there—and missing.

Dan Woolley was the webmaster at Azusa Pacific University when I was an intern in the school’s marketing department. My job was to fact-check and update the many academic pages on the site, and while he wasn’t my direct supervisor, Dan and I crossed paths often. I kept in contact with the marketing staff for many years following graduation as a freelance writer for the website and alumni magazine.  And it was from them I heard that Dan was in Haiti, gathering footage of children in need for Compassion International.

From what I’ve been told, he wasn’t feeling well the day of the quake, so he and a colleague returned to their room at the Hotel Montana, a popular hotel for tourists and dignitaries in Port-au-Prince. They would have been in the lobby or on their way to the room when the 7.0 earthquake struck. Tragically, like most buildings in the Haitian capital, the five-floor hotel collapsed.

Friends and family of those missing at Hotel Montana came together on Facebook through a “Haiti Earthquake Hotel Montana” fan page.  They posted photos and information on their missing loved ones, linked to the latest news articles, and supported each other with prayers, candlelight vigils, and words of encouragement. It was heartbreaking reading through the posts as the hours and days passed. With the airport crowded and roads destroyed, aid was slow in coming, and there was little these people could do but sit and wait for news—and in the chaos, sometimes that news wasn’t reliable. Twelve students were missing from a Lynn University outreach team, and for a full day people thought that all had been found, only to learn that the reports were erronious, and four were still unaccounted for.

People can only live so long without food, and especially water, so rescues after a couple days were nothing short of miraculous.  An astounding 65 hours after the quake, Dan Woolley was pulled from an elevator shaft. I was floored. I was overwhelmed with joy for all those who knew him—especially his wife and two young boys.  And I was so thankful to God for his mercy and grace.  Incredible.  There really are no words to describe the weight of this miracle.

His story gave hope to many, and it was picked up by many media outlets.  You might be interested in reading the coverage by The Gazette, Dan’s local paper, as well as the Los Angeles Times, which featured the photo above. NPR has some audio, and this French video captures Dan’s rescue (about halfway through the video).  To get a sense of the scene, the Palm Beach Post has an interesting, detailed story from a reporter who was allowed into the collapsed hotel with a rescue team.

I wish this happy ending could have been for everyone. Dan’s colleague, David Hames, is still missing, as well as hundreds more in Hotel Montana. In the end, tens of thousands of people will have perished in the Haiti earthquake. I ask that you support the recovery effort by donating money or time to a charitable organization. Compassion International and World Vision are Christian organizations that already have people on the ground in Haiti, so your money will reach recovery efforts in a timely and organized manner.  I’d recommend them.  And I’d encourage you to check in with these organizations over the next few years, as recovery will take some time and the needs will only increase.

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A Year Ago

On November 8, 2008, I married my best friend, Paul. This past year has been absolutely amazing. We both turned 30; we bought a new condo; we traveled to Disneyland and Las Vegas. It’s incredible how much closer we’ve grown in 12 months—and how much our love has grown for each other. Paul is a man of God, of strength, of integrity—plus he’s great at laundry and dishes, and makes a mean tuna casserole. I am blessed.

On an entirely different note, planning a wedding was so much fun—certainly the biggest creative project of my life! I had always dreamed of being married in autumn, and November 8, which is my parents’ anniversary, just happened to fall on a Saturday. They’d been married for 33 years, and it seemed like a fitting tribute to them, as well as a “lucky” date for us. We booked the church we were currently attending, which was also the place we met when we attended its private high school. I decided on an usual timeline. We’d have the ceremony at the church, followed by a dessert reception. Then later in the evening, we’d have a sit-down dinner with just our families and the wedding party. It was the best way I could think of to celebrate with extended family and old friends (the guest list topped 300) as well as to slow down at the end of a long day and enjoy a more intimate setting with the people we’re closest to.

The color scheme was fall reds, browns, oranges, and yellows.  Kristy Rice and Momental Designs, who I discovered through some late-night Web surfing, created gorgeous hand-stamped save-the-dates, invitations, program covers, and favor tags.  I don’t know a lot about flowers, but the ladies at East Bay Flower Company took my fuzzy vision and made it come to life in bouquets, centerpieces, and on lanterns that lined the church aisle.  The cake by Katrina Rozelle was one of my favorite things—it was more beautiful than I could have imagined.  A chocolate and caramel cake, covered in chocolate ganache, wrapped in edible “ribbon,” and topped with real flowers. I knew I didn’t want a cake topper (I find them kind of cheesy), but I did purchase the Willow Tree “Together” figurine, which sat on the cake table among rose petals and candles.  The team from Barbara Llewellyn Catering whipped up all kinds of sweets and treats for the dessert reception, including a chocolate fountain, gourmet cheeses with crackers, homemade pretzels, kettle corn, cookies and petifores, a selection of candied nuts, a float station with personalized Jones soda (root beer, orange, and cream soda) and vanilla ice cream, a coffee and hot coco bar, and a candy buffet with build-your-own favors. The children were in heaven. We wrapped up the evening with a four-course dinner at Postino, an Italian restaurant housed in a gorgeous brick building covered in ivy. I had the most amazing swordfish and a chocolate souffle. It was the first time Paul and I had eaten, having chit-chatted through the entire dessert reception. Lastly, Jessamyn and Robert from Jessamyn Photography captured all the great moments on film. We just received our album, and it is awesome!

I didn’t have a wedding planner, so I just had to wing it. And I had SO many amazing friends and family members helping me out, from Melody making name tags for photo frames and Erin editing music to my mom making five million trips to World Market and Michael’s to all the bridesmaides assembling invitations and programs. It was like a larger-than-life craft project, and it was so much fun.

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Keeping Busy and Saying Goodbye to Blue

Whew.  Well, this week threw a wrench in the new-post-each-day plan!  I’m in the midst of a double production cycle at work, producing the October issue of Diablo and the Fall/Winter issue of Napa Sonoma at the same time (thankfully, that only happens twice a year!), so I come home most evenings feeling rather brain-dead.  I’m also trying to ready the new condo for an open house next week, and I keep taking on random side projects just because I’m crazy.  But anyway, expect a bunch of new blog posts in the coming days.  In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this little story…

So, I went to Pier 1 on the way home from work the other night.  Alone.  Never a good idea.  I love Pier 1 and Cost Plus, and I never escape without doing some damage to my checking account.  I found this gorgeous, swirly red and black platter—perfect for above the kitchen cabinets.  And there was this rustic-looking bird cage with a little red metal bird perched inside.  Our kitchen is, technically, blue.  But I had to have them.  So I bought them.  When Paul came home (ah… I need to properly introduce you new readers to Paul!), I explained, “I purchased some items and kinda spent a lot of money but they can be returned if you absolutely hate them but how could you not love them because they are so perfect and by the way do you like red because I think we now need to change our kitchen to red.”

Thankfully, Paul is typically amused by various quirky LeeAnne-isms, plus he’d been singing the praises of my interior decorating ability over the weekend while we hung up the various mirrors, decorations, hooks, and frames I’ve purchased since the wedding.  But these kitchen purchases marked the first time I’d changed my mind about something, and he was a little concerned.  He said, “Uh-oh.  Are you the kind of roommate that needs to redecorate each room every year?”

Muah-ha-ha-ha!

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