Friday, June 29, 2012

We're Having a Heat Wave

You know the song, "We're having a heat wave, a tropical heat wave, the temperature's rising, it isn't surprising, she certainly can can-can" (at least I  know that song from the movie White Christmas). We're certainly having a bit of a heat wave in St. Louis right now (in addition to much of the United States). Yesterday our high temperature was a whopping 108°F (about 42.2°C). That was a new record high temperature (for St. Louis), and it's actually the hottest temperature ever recorded in St. Louis in the month of June. I think that's mighty impressive! 

Even though the temperature was sizzling, it actually could've been a lot worse because we lucked out in the humidity department since it was extremely low yesterday (only 13% humidity) that's almost unheard of since this is the Midwest and we're known for our humid, muggy heat. Yesterday it was hot, but it was more the dry kind of heat that you experience out West in the desert.

Mother Nature sure has been wreaking havoc in our country lately. A few weeks ago, nine inches of rain fell in Duluth, Minnesota, in a 24-hour period and caused serious flooding. Tropical storm Debby recently dumped tons of rain in Florida resulting in major flooding and other problems, too.

On the other extreme, things have been super dry in my area, as we haven't gotten any significant rainfall since April. My lawn is getting SO brown and there are tons of dried leaves on the ground that have fallen from the river birch tree in my front yard. (You'd think it was autumn from the look of things!) And now wildfires that are raging in Colorado. Have you seen pictures?! The devastation is extensive and my heart breaks for those poor people who have lost their houses and all of their possessions. These disasters have far-reaching effects that affect everyone along the way, like higher gas and food prices.
I think these forces of nature definitely qualify as acts of God, which make me wonder what what God is trying to say?! In Biblical times, God caused things of this nature to happen to the wicked to get them to repent. I'm not sure why God is allowing these things to happen (because He definitely could stop them/prevent them if that were His plan). One thing's for sure, I know that disasters and calamities like this will continue to happen on a more consistent basis as we get closer to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. That's a scary reality!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Windows to the Soul of a Brown-Eyed Girl

They say that the eyes are the "windows to the soul" so today's post starts with eyes. I've always been envious of people with blue or green eyes; the kind of eyes where when you look at someone and their eyes just stand out because they are so striking. I've always wished for those kind of eyes, but sadly, these were the eyes I  was born with:
Plain, old brown eyes that are ordinary and boring. Personally, I've always thought that brown eyes are the least attractive/desirable of all the eye colors. What would I look like with blue eyes or green? Would it help to give me a more striking, attractive appearance? I've always wondered, but I guess I'll never know. (The grass is always greener, right?!)

The reason I'm wondering is because I've always felt like a bit of a "plain Jane" with an average, ordinary, forgettable face. Sure, I was pretty enough, but there wasn't anything unique about me to make my appearance memorable or anything out of the ordinary.

Since my accident I've adapted well, but one of the things that has been difficult is my struggle to be happy with my physical appearance. If only I could go back now and look the way I used to! I long for the way I used to look, which is kind of ironic since I was never content with my looks back then. I just hate the toll that paralysis has taken on my body/appearance. Aside from the obvious fact that I can't move, the things that bother me are relatively small things that I'm probably the only one that notices. Why is it so easy for us to be our own worst critics?!

A lot of times when my mom gets me ready to go out in public I'll look in the mirror and say, "I look ugly." My mom always reassures me that I look fine and I'll say, "But I feel ugly." That's when my mom says, "Heather, all you have to do is smile," which usually makes me laugh. However, I don't think that simply smiling is enough to take me to a 10 when I'm feeling like a 5. 

Mom just might be onto something, though, because people often tell me what a beautiful smile I have. I definitely don't think there's anything especially nice about my smile itself, but I think when I smile my inner beauty shines forth and is evident to others. I guess I just need to trust Mom when she tells me I look nice because that inner beauty is hard to see when looking in the mirror. I wish I could see myself the way others see me, instead of noticing all of the things that I don't like.

So why am I bringing all of this up? It's definitely not a cry for compliments. It's because I think this is something a lot of people will be able to relate to. Feelings of ugliness, being inadequate or not measuring up are some of the tactics Satan uses to make people feel miserable (because that's how he feels). We are all God's creations and are beautiful, special and unique to Him and He loves us just the way we are. I need to remember this, especially when those ugly feelings pop into my mind.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"Heaven Is Here"

My mom and I just finished reading a great book that I'm excited to tell everyone about. The book is Heaven Is Here, an inspiring memoir written by Stephanie Nielson. If you haven't heard of Stephanie before, she's the young wife and mother who was burned in 2008 when the plane her husband was flying crashed shortly after taking off. 
Stephanie's been writing a blog called Nienie Dialogues since 2005. I've been following it for the past several years, so it was a real treat to be able to meet Stephanie in March of 2011 when she spoke at a women's conference at my church. That was an awesome experience!
Here are some pictures of Stephanie, her husband Christian and their family before the plane crash:
In the book Stephanie talks about being burned and how her severe injuries turned her ordinary life upside down. After the crash she was in a coma for months and since that time she's endured dozens and dozens of surgeries and procedures to graft her body back together again. At first Stephanie had little to no movement and she had to relearn to do the simplest of things over again since her body was damaged so severely.

After months and months of surgeries and therapy Stephanie was able to leave the hospital, which was a huge milestone, although going home was just the start of an even more difficult task… learning how to care for herself again so that she could be the wife and mother that she was before she was burned.

In the book Stephanie talks candidly about her recovery and what it was like having her husband and children see her again for the first time. She also talks about her feelings of self-consciousness, going out in public where people invariably stare at her and becoming comfortable in her new skin.
One of the things that worried Stephanie the most after her accident was the reality that she might not be able to have more children. Stephanie said that she's always wanted lots of children, and although she already had four children before her accident she and her husband were hoping to have more. Earlier this year on April 3, Stephanie had another baby, a little girl named Charlotte Christiansdatter Nielsen. (I love her patronymic middle name!) 
Here are some beautiful pictures of Stephanie and new baby Charlotte (or Lottie as they've nicknamed her):
The Nielsen family appeared on Anderson Cooper's talkshow in May. (Needless to say, I'm extremely jealous that she got to meet Anderson!)
I loved the book and there were so many things that I could that I could relate to Stephanie on since I've also been in a catastrophic, life-changing accident. When reading about the different feelings she experienced I thought, "I've been there," or "I  know what that's like." I truly feel like she and I are kindred spirits!

If you love true stories that are inspiring and uplifting, you will definitely enjoy this book!

Monday, June 25, 2012

You've Gotta Try These!

I've recently discovered two recipes on Pinterest that I want to share with everyone because they are that good! The first is a bacon guacamole grilled cheese sandwich. When I saw the picture I thought the sandwich looked really good, but it's been my experience that a lot of times things don't either taste or look near as good as they are described or pictured. I'm pleased to say that this recipe didn't disappoint! Here's the picture and recipe:
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 2 slices sour dough bread
  • 1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup jack and cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons guacamole, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon tortilla chips, crumbled (optional)
  1. Cook the bacon until crispy and set aside on paper towels to drain.
  2. Butter one side of each slice of bread, sprinkle half of the cheese onto the unbuttered side of one slice of bread followed by the guacamole, bacon, tortilla chips, the remaining cheese and finally top with the remaining slice of bread with the buttered side up.
  3. Grill over medium heat until golden brown and the cheese has melted, about 2-3 minutes per side.

The next recipe is for a buffalo chicken pasta salad. Again, I was a tad skeptical at how this dish would be, but again, it was really yummy. This cold salad is perfect for summer! Here's the picture and recipe:
8 ounces small uncooked pasta (such as mezze penne)
1/2 cup Frank’s hot sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
2 cups precooked chicken or rotisserie chicken, chopped
1 1/2 cups crumbled blue cheese
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
(optional) 1/2 cup red onion, chopped


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente in adequately salted water. Drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water (if serving hot, don't use cold water).
  2. While pasta is cooking, whisk together hot sauce, oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, onion powder and celery salt in small bowl until well combined.
  3. Place the pasta in large mixing bowl. Stir in chicken, blue cheese, carrots, celery and onion (optional). Slowly mix in desired amount of dressing. You may not want to use all of the dressing.
  4. Can be served cold or hot. If serving cold, refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes 6 – 8 servings.

*Notes: If you would like it to be spicier, use more hot sauce and less olive oil. If the pasta salad seems dry after being in the refrigerator, add a little olive oil or hot sauce.

I definitely give both of these recipes an enthusiastic two thumbs up. If you try them I hope you love them as much as I do. Happy eating!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dentist and Fast Food

Yesterday I went to the dentist for my regular six-month checkup. It went well and I'm still holding onto my record of never having any cavities in my permanent teeth. I'm sure the day will come when I eventually get a cavity, but I'm doing my best to fight tooth decay! (Actually, I have my mom and Chandra to thank for that, since they are the ones who brush and floss my teeth on a daily basis.)

On the way home from the dentist we went to Burger King for lunch since I've had a bit of a BK hankering lately. We each got Whopper Jrs and we were all surprised at how small the  Whopper Jrs have become in the past few years. The buns were smaller and the meat patty didn't even come close to filling the circumference of the bun. YET, the food has gotten more expensive. Our food tasted good, but that being said, I still left not really feeling satisfied.

I didn't have my camera so I couldn't photograph our Whopper Jrs, but they looked very similar to these, except even smaller (and without cheese!):
Something I've been noticing more and more in recent years is that the quality of food isn't as good as it used to be. Fast food and the food that I get at other restaurants just doesn't seem to taste as good as it used to. The actual sizes of things keep getting smaller (while the cost stays the same or even rises) and I think restaurants are using poorer quality ingredients in order to cut corners and save money. I've noticed this more and more lately and I don't even eat out that often compared to your average American. 
One thins Burger King does have going for them is their new thicker cut french fries that they introduced a few years ago. I've always liked Burger King's french fries better than McDonald's since they were just a little bit thicker (and these new french fries are a little thicker than the ones Burger King served before) so they were perfect! I'm the kind of person that likes my french fries to be nice and thick without being too thick, like I think crinkle cut fries or steak fries are. In all reality I'd probably never turn down any french fries regardless of their thickness so long as they were hot and salty, but I really think that Burger King has hit the mark with their new thicker cut fries.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

One Year Older

One year older, but I don't know about one year wiser! ;) [At church one of the songs that the young children sing for their birthdays has the line, "One year older and wiser too," so that's where this post's title originates from.]

Yesterday was a lovely day. I didn't do anything extravagant or exciting; I just spent the day at home doing my normal thing, but it was still great. I loved getting visits from a few friends, reading birthday cards that I got from my family and friends (especially the ones from my nieces and him nephews) and I loved reading the dozens of birthday greetings  that my family, friends, acquaintances (and even perfect strangers) sent me on Facebook. These FB greetings kept rolling in all day, so that was really fun.

Here are some of the fun things that my family and friends gave me for my birthday. (If you pay close attention you'll notice a butterfly theme this year. It was kind of ironic, but I guess people who know me well know that I love butterflies!) 

This is from my dear friend, Kate:
My sister Chandra always makes me a homemade card. She's definitely not the kind of girl that likes to craft/scrapbook, but she always makes me a homemade card every year and it's always my favorite part of the gift!
This is from Chandra: a framed (real) butterfly. She knows how much I love pretty things like this. She also gave me a photo album; it just so happens that I've been looking for just the right photo album to store my postcard collection in, and this definitely fits the bill! And also CHI's Iron Guard thermal protection spray; I love the way this product smells!
My mom knows that I've been a British kick lately and I've been enjoying watching different BBC productions of different Classic books (from authors like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens). She gave me these adaptations of Little Dorrit and Oliver Twist (both written by Charles Dickens). I'm glad to welcome them into my collection! Mom also gave me a perfume I've been wanting; Viva La Juicy by Juicy Couture (it smells SO good!). Plus, some Irish Spring body wash that smells so nice and not at all like the bars of Irish Spring soap that my mom used to buy when I was a child. 
Above is from my friend Linda: Love Begins, the latest movie in Hallmark's Love Comes Softly series. I own all of the other movies, so this makes my collection complete (until they make another one), plus some nectar for my hummingbird feeder, one of my favorite lotions of late (Into the Wild by Bath and Body Works) and more candy that I don't need but happily accept! :)

This is from my dear friend Lacee: a gift card to Target, a picture frame and a little friendship plaque. 
Above is a scarf from my friend Katherine. I've been wearing a lot up scarves lately, so this sparkly, purple one is very me.

My friend Elizabeth brought me this huge Reese's peanut butter cup back from her recent trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania. The picture really doesn't capture just how big it is, but it's much larger than your average peanut butter cup! I've been savoring it and have just been cutting little slivers of it at the time.
And finally, these beautiful pink roses from my friend, Kellie. I love flowers; they make me happy! The picture doesn't do them justice since it doesn't capture how beautiful they are (or their lovely scent!), but that's the way it is with fresh flowers!

I had such a fantastic birthday and I look forward to what this next year brings. I'm so blessed to have such a wonderful life!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Birthday Get Together

Tomorrow is my 28th birthday; it's hard to believe that I'm transitioning from my "mid 20's" to my "late 20's!" In a lot of ways I don't feel old enough to be 28, however, I have been through a lot of interesting things in my life that have aged my soul. I guess that's why they say that age is a relative number. ;)

I had a get together with a few of my friends last Saturday night since that seemed to work the best for everyone's schedules than to try to have it in the middle of the week. We had lots of yummy food: buffalo chicken dip, a peanut butter mousse cheesecake and a cookie pizza with marshmallows, peanut butter cups and chocolate chips. Everything tasted great! I had a great time playing games and visiting with everyone. I'm really blessed to have some of the sweetest friends.

Giant cookie pizza and peanut butter mousse cheesecake:
Some great pictures of my friends and me:
Playing games:

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