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As most of you know, I love love. A lot. I’m a swooner, I love “awww” moments, and I’m super embarrassing when it comes to mushy love-ness. So, it would follow that Valentine’s would be the perfect opportunity to embrace the chance to shower Michael with love. I had plans to finish another 14 Days of Valentine’s for him, as I did last year, with small treats or presents each day to show him I love him.

Alas, this year it was not meant to be. We didn’t celebrate this Valentine’s with romance; we had different kinds of love. But to have this make sense, I must go back further. Sort of much, much further.
A little over two years ago, Michael and I got married. While our life together hasn’t been perfect, it certainly has been wonderful.
Michael and I first discussed trying to have a baby at the start of 2009. In January, we discussed it and prayed about it. In February, we continued praying about it, and the doctors proclaimed me a picture of health and gave me the go-ahead.

Then March came.

March was an exceptionally difficult month filled with some very significant, emotional challenges. We felt like the answer to our prayer was to wait. And we were devastated. Months passed, and in the fall, we finally felt like the time was right.

And a few months went by. And we waited. And nothing happened. And my heart ached.

The night before Michael and I left for Colorado to visit his family for Christmas, my oldest sister announced she was having a baby. It was such a happy and heart-wrenching time. I could hardly hold back the tears. I was so happy for her and so heartbroken over still not being pregnant myself. It was like the scene from Julie and Julia where Julia Child receives a letter announcing the pregnancy of a loved one. Her voice breaks as she says “isn’t it wonderful?” And you can just tell that while she’s truly, really overjoyed, she’s also terribly heartsick.

The Christmas trip was a difficult and painful one for me. I spent most of it fighting off tears and holding my months-old niece for comfort.

A week after arriving home, I decided to take a pregnancy test. Miracle of miracles, it said I was pregnant. I cried and laughed all day long with Michael, so happy I could hardly help myself. We told our immediate families and were just delighted. I found projects to try, looked at nothing but baby things, and read baby books. I dreamed up ways to tell my friends, family, and blogging world.

Just as my sister and grandmothers had, I handled the first few weeks of pregnancy beautifully. I felt all right during the day, and only felt a little sick at night. I had very few food or smell intolerances and my body only underwent a little pain. My first doctor’s appointment confirmed my pregnancy and my exam showed everything to be normal. I was so excited for my next appointment to hear the baby’s heartbeat.

A few weeks passed and days before my ten-week appointment, I had a little spotting. My mother and sister both experienced quite a bit of bleeding without any harm to their pregnancies, and the nurse assured me everything was probably fine.

Three days later, I awoke to the horrible sight of blood.

I spent most of that afternoon waiting for an emergency ultrasound to determine whether my baby was okay or not. The results were confusing and inconclusive. They asked me to call my regular doctor on Monday to see what we could do. In the meantime, I was told to lay down. Always. If I was up for more than ten minutes at a time, I was bleeding. On Monday, I was told I’d need blood work done and that we wouldn’t know till Friday.

So I waited. And waited. And waited. And it was horrible.

On Thursday, I started feeling a lot of pain. The doctor told me to come right in, and after 2 hours of waiting, she finally saw me.

The results were bad: our baby had died.

Over the next few days, I had a lot of pain as I miscarried at home. It was terrible to know that there was nothing I could do and that the baby was already gone. No amount of “well, this is probably for the best; the baby must not have formed correctly” or “it’s not your fault” comments made me feel better. I know, medically, reasons for miscarrying, but no amount of medical knowledge makes my heart feel better.

After all of these details, I’m sure you’re wondering what the love part is? Well, I’ll tell you.

1. Familial love: during the horrible physical and emotional pain, I received so many emails, texts, phone calls, visits, and cards from the people who love me most. I honestly don’t know how I could have gotten through without my mom being there for me. She and my sisters provided meals, flowers, visits, cleaning, and more. I never had to be alone, when being alone would have been awful. Our families truly rallied around us to show their support.

2. Compassion: several girls I go to church with brought meals and cards to show their love. My generous co-workers stepped up for me and found extra sick hours for me to take as I was home for an entire week.

3. Grief: my mom once told me that “grief is the price you pay for loving.” It’s true. Although we never held or kissed this little baby, we loved our baby from the moment the test read positive. More than that, it had been nearly a year since I decided I was ready for a baby and months of trying before finally becoming pregnant. I’m still incredibly broken-hearted–will I miscarry again next time? How long will it take to get pregnant again? There a lot of pains that only time will heal.

4. Peace: the Lord shows us He loves us by sending His peace. I can honestly say that through all the tears and pain and worry of the past two awful, awful weeks, I’ve felt peace. Peace that somehow it would be okay. Peace in that I don’t hate anyone who is pregnant or has been pregnant. Peace that mourning is okay and that time really does heal all wounds. Peace that this is part of a wonderful plan.

So there you have it. Much more detail than you ever hoped for, but something I need to say so that I don’t have to say it again and again. So that you know why it’s going to be hard to write over the next few weeks. Anyway, all this to say, we’ve had a much different February than I’d imagined we’d have. It hasn’t been romantic, but we’ve still had a lot of love surrounding us.

Thank you to everyone who’s given us their love and support. We feel blessed to know you!

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So… remember that quiet book I was working on? I made another one. And it was WAY cuter than the first one. Seriously.

My Aunt Kelly commissioned me to make one for her ADORABLE little boy Truman. You truly don’t know an adorable baby until you’ve seen Truman. He’s beyond adorable. Oh heaven help me…

Anyway, I thought I’d post the finished product. It was animal-themed like my last quiet book with only a few small changes. I used pretty much all felt, which I think was a great choice. Everything is somehow connected to the book, so there’s no risk of choking on things or of losing small pieces (other than the fish, but you’ll see).

Another thing I want to say (because it makes me happy) is that the entire book was hand-stitched. I didn’t use a machine for any of it. I did all the stitches by hand and the embroidery as well.

ENJOY!!!

Cover page:


Lion page:

Bear page


Octopus page:

Alligator page:


Butterfly page:


Fish page:



Frog page



What do you think? I LOVED IT!

One of the best things of being married to Michael is that he is never–ever–at a loss for meal ideas. He’s also remarkably willing to talk about food with me. I read cookbooks like mad and he is always willing to talk about what looks or sounds good.

Because he’s so accomodating, I love making things I know he’s passionate about. General Tso’s chicken is one of those things. He’s literally been talking about it for 6 months. I’ve been reading and combining recipes for months, and I finally came up with a great one.


As most recipes are, this recipe is pretty adaptable–the sauce could be used on a vegetable stir-fry or over tofu if you’re going meatless, you can make it spicier, decrease the ginger, etc. Make it your own. That’s what cooking is all about anyway.

I loved the combination of flavors–sweet, tangy, gingery, slightly spicy…everything I love about Asian food!


General Tso’s Chicken
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
2lb chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
7-8Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp salt
1/2tsp pepper
canola or olive oil
3 green onions, sliced
sesame seeds for garnish, optional

for sauce:
4 1/2Tbsp hoisin sauce
4 1/2Tbsp ketchup
5Tbsp rice vinegar
4Tbsp soy sauce
1Tbsp sesame oil
3/4c brown sugar
3/4c water
2 1/2Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4-1/2tsp red pepper flakes (depending on your heat preference)

Directions:

In a shallow bowl, combine cornstarch, salt, and pepper. Dredge chicken pieces in cornstarch mixture and tap off excess. (You can also put the chicken and cornstarch mixture in a large plastic bag or container and shake to coat).

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook chicken pieces in batches, using a small drizzle of olive or canola oil to cook each batch.

Make sauce by combining all sauce ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Return chicken to skillet and pour in sauce. Stirring occasionally, cook over medium heat until thickened, about 3-6 minutes. Top with sliced green onions and sesame seeds.


Other than Michael and cooking, Christmas may very well be my favorite thing on earth. Thanksgiving to Christmas marks the one time of the year where people generally seem nicer, celebrations and parties abound, and almost everywhere you look it’s beautiful with decorations and lights everywhere.

And then there’s the food.

Oh, dolly, the food.

Pies, cookies, brownies, cookies, candy, cookies, roasts, cookies, hors d’oeuvres, cookies, holiday Chex mix, cookies…there’s a lot to get excited about and it can be easy to overdo it.

That’s one thing I love about my family’s Christmas eating traditions. Our Christmas Eve dinner is just appetizers. We have a big spread of appetizers–jalapeno poppers, cheese and crackers, pasta salad, a vegetable tray, etc.–and it’s delicious.

The next morning is when we pull out the big guns.

We have a huge brunch of waffles with every topping under the sun (a few kinds of syrup, strawberries and whipped cream, etc.), eggs, bacon or sausage, grapefruit, orange juice, and more. That night, we just pull out the rest of the appetizers and have another light meal. It’s perfect.

Growing up, Christmas morning was about the only time we really did waffles. I love waffles and when I went away to college, I decided that waffles weren’t just for Christmas. I love making them more often and am always on the hunt for a new recipe.

This one was delicious and it smelled just like Christmas. That gingery, cinnamony smell. Ah… served with buttermilk syrup or Grade B Dark Amber stuff… oh yeah.


Gingerbread Waffles
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
3/4c pumpkin
1 1/4c milk
4 eggs, yolks and whites separated
6Tbsp canola oil
2/3c brown sugar
1/4c molasses
2tsp cinnamon
2tsp ginger
1/2tsp nutmeg
1/2tsp salt
4tsp baking powder
3c flour

Directions:
In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, milk, egg yolks, canola oil, brown sugar, and molasses. Sift cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, baking powder, and flour over top. Stir to combine well. If the mixture seems a bit thin, add 1-2 Tbsp extra flour. In a medium or large glass or metal bowl, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold whipped egg whites into the batter gently.

Cook according to waffle-iron instructions.