Thankful

Thanksgiving is almost here and I couldn’t be more excited.  It has always been one of my favorite holidays because it’s so family-centered, much less commercialized/crazy than Christmas (although I still looooove Christmas…I have been blasting Christmas music starting 3 weeks ago in my car), and plus it’s fun to load up the table with delicious things.

Apparently people who are grateful tend to be happier also, so maybe that’s another reason why I feel happy around Thanksgiving time.  Anyways, I love putting in writing what I am thankful for, so here goes:

Our nice cozy apartment with a washer/dryer in unit
Flowers that I received for my birthday last week which are still blooming beautifully
Being able to drive
Rain
The means  be able to to bake and cook and host
The holiday snack section at Trader Joe’s
Family nearby for Thanksgiving
That husband has Thanksgiving day off, thanks to his amazing co-fellow
That I get to have every day including Thanksgiving day off
Wednesday morning Pilates class
Warm cozy jackets and boots for the cold
Husband and how he loves, serves, and cherishes me
TJ Maxx and their great deals on kitchen stuff
Church family, near and far
the delicious Turkish kebab restaurant around the corner from our current church
Wonderful parents who, after showering me with “early birthday presents” for months, STILL asked, “did we give you your birthday present yet?”
My sister who called me nearly every day for months because she was worried about me
Photos to look back on and relive fun memories
Sweet friendships across the decades and miles 🙂
Disability insurance checks
God’s faithfulness and kindness
My car
Glee soundtracks to blast and sing along with in the car even in horrible traffic (effective to combat road rage 🙂
Sea salt caramel anything

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! 🙂

20s

So, I’ve grown a bit nostalgic as I approach the end of my 20s.  When I think about it, this decade has been the most challenging and also the most rewarding by far.  In no particular order:

Met and married my wonderful husband
Took the California license plate off of my car
Lived in 4 different states, and moved 5 different times
Road-tripped across the country
Added a few more stamps to my passport
Celebrated at many weddings
Mourned at funerals
Experienced beautiful fall, crazy winters, and seasonal affective disorder for the first time
And related, bought my first long puffy jacket and snow boots ever
Also related, saw negative degrees on my car thermostat for the first time
Discovered the greatness of wing nights at local bars
Discovered the Global Missions Health Conference in Louisville, which is where my heart is at home
Participated in some very memorable, highly unsafe overnight 12-16 hour drives (not recommended)
Went on my first medical missions trip
Made friends with some very sweet, very old neighbors
Became a surgery resident
Became more goal-focused, anal-retentive, impatient, and detail-oriented than I ever thought possible
Got attacked by bees INSIDE my apartment, which just reinforced my fear of bees
Discovered such things as apple picking season and maple sugaring season
Found the most delicious donut place ever, Donut Dip in West Springfield
Learned to appreciate the quietness of life in the country
Left surgery residency
Met some amazing, hilarious, kind, dedicated people with the biggest hearts who will be lifelong friends
Had total of 3 surgeries on my eyes
Continued to appreciate and enjoy delicious food

Most importantly, I’ve gotten to know God more deeply as I’ve walked with Him, depending on Him completely as I reached the end of my own strength and abilities so many times.  He has been my anchor every time circumstances, people, and locations changed.

My struggle with insecurity is ongoing, but God has still freed me from so much over these past 10 years.  He has constantly reminded me and grown my understanding of who I am in Jesus Christ — precious in His sight, beautiful, a new creation, known completely and deeply loved, holy and set apart, secure and safe — regardless of my failures or accomplishments.  He has also revealed a lot of dark and ugly things in me that needed to be brought out into the open and dealt with.

During my 20s, I’ve seen that He is powerful, faithful and SO good, even when I don’t understand why something is happening.  I’ve learned to be grateful for the simple things in life and to be thankful for each day.  I’ve experienced the power of prayer and the sweetness of praying with and for people.  I’ve learned that He will always provide and therefore it’s OK to be generous with “my” time and finances.

So thankful for the joys, hardships, and experiences of my 20s, and for the constant support of my wonderful family.  I can’t wait to see what the next decade holds!

And now, some pictures from an early birthday dinner with husband last night. 🙂

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Clockwise from top: my appetizer – delicious pate/foie gras served with spiced shallot chutney, dijon mustard, and cornichons; David’s entree, a delicious Berkshire pork chop; beautiful fresh salad with warm goat cheese; David’s appetizer – duck leg confit (so tender it was falling off the bone); my entree – duck cassoulet with duck breast, duck sausage, and bacon inside – rich, tender, smokey deliciousness.

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Clockwise from top left: David’s apple tart with caramel; my molten chocolate/hazelnut cake with raspberry sauce; the initial presentation with a gorgeous spun sugar cage

And in case you were wondering, we completely cleaned our plates except for the duck cassoulet which too rich to eat all at once. 🙂

Reading List + 2 versions of Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

Whenever I travel, I find myself downloading a bunch of new books in order to keep myself occupied.  A good book passes the time so quickly!  So does playing Plants vs Zombies but I figure I should try and keep my mind stimulated.   So, over the past year, I’ve gotten to read and reread a lot of  books:

The entire Harry Potter series (yet again)
5 Love Languages
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking
Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery (I haven’t finished yet, but this book is pretty powerful, containing personal stories and explanations of the underlying cultural, economic, and political factors that drive the sex trafficking industry in various regions of the world, including right here at home in the U.S.  Both heartbreaking and eye-opening)
The Case for Christ (also still working on this one)
Various Robin Jones Gunn books (because I think I may be a teenage girl at heart)
The Hiding Place (Corrie Ten Boom, who is a hero of mine)

In between reading, crocheting, and traveling, I had the urge to bake again, despite husband’s pleas to not do so for the sake of his waistline.  I tried to make slightly healthier things this time (oatmeal is healthy right?). There is nothing cozier than curling up on the couch with a book, a cup of coffee and a cookie, watching the snow fall through the window. By the way, I can’t even believe that it’s snowing already!  It feels like summer was just yesterday!

Here’s one version of peanut butter oatmeal cookies with Reese’s cups.  This is a really delicious way to use up leftover Halloween candy!  Really peanut buttery, crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.  Original recipe here.

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Yield: 20 cookies

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (if PB is salted, use only 1/4 tsp)
1/4 cup olive oil (the extra light tasting kind. Sounds weird, but you won’t even know the difference, trust me!  Plus this makes it ever so slightly healthier)
3 tablespoons of butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar (or Zsweet)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter (chunky or creamy)
2 cups quick oats
1 1/2 cup chopped Reese’s

Preheat oven to 350
Mix together flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder
In a separate bowl, mix together oil, butter, and sugars until smooth
Blend in egg and vanilla followed by peanut butter, mixing well after each addition
Add in flour mixture, mix until combined
Fold in oats and 1 1/4 cup of chopped Reese’s
Scoop by rounded tablespoon onto parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, flatten gently
Bake for 11 minutes
After removing from oven, press remaining peanut butter cups into top of cookies, then allow to cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before cooling on wire rack.

This is is a flourless/butterless version with chocolate chips that I made yesterday.   It sounds crazy, but these were surprisingly yummy.   They were definitely soft and cakey, if that’s what you like in a cookie.   I also modified the recipe slightly by using 1/3 cup each brown and white sugar instead of all brown sugar, and adding 1/4 tsp of salt.

Flourless PB oatmeal cookies
Happy eating and happy reading everyone! 🙂

California Love

For the past 2 weeks, I have had the joy of hanging out in sunny California.  Seriously, sunny everyday amazes me now that I’ve been away for so long.  I got to reunite with old friends, celebrate new marriages at 2 beautiful weddings, see my family, and of course, eat tons of good food!  There is definitely more of me to love after two weeks of eating delicious meal after delicious meal.  In fact, I pretty much hit everything on my list, except for In-n-out (although I’m actually not that fanatical about them anymore) (yes, I make a mental list of things to eat that I can’t get here on the east coast…Californians understand).

What do I love most about visiting California?  Well, I really like seeing the sights, even if I’ve been there before.  It’s especially fun when husband is there, because I think he’s hilarious and visiting tourist places is always more interesting with him.  This time, we got to go to the zoo and the USS MIdway Museum together which was great. If you ever get to go to the Midway, the flight simulator is worth the few extra dollars.  After husband left, my parents and I drove along the gorgeous California coastline and also visited the Wild Animal Park, which I had actually done only once before.

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“Daddy, why does the baboon have a rainbow butt?”
-4ish year old boy with his parents. Hilarious

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USS MIdway.  Super impressive

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I also definitely enjoy the food scene in California.  There are just so many options! I didn’t take too many pictures because I was too busy eating.  Some of my faves from this trip:
Sushi Ota in SD, family owned Korean place also in SD (Do Re Mi), the most delicious Japanese ramen at Shoki Ramen in Sacramento, happy hour at Jamaica Bay Inn in Marina del Rey, Hot Italian in Sacramento, Bottega in Napa, and shaved snow from Class 301 in Irvine and from the dessert place in the Zion food court in SD.  So if you ever find yourself in these cities, be sure to check out these places!
(photo, clockwise from top left: Ramen, pastries from Bouchon bakery in Napa, wine tasting at Mondavi, deeeelicious bolognese from Bottega)

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The main reason why California is so near and dear to me is because of the lovely people who call it home.  While I have been blessed with amazing friends from MA, WI, and elsewhere, these people with whom I have so much history hold a special place in my heart.  I was so excited to hang out with my family, visit my sister and see her life in Davis, and catch up with old friends from high school, college, and med school.

As someone whose primary love language is quality time, my soul is nourished and satisfied after getting to have so many good conversations with people.

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Congratulations Yee-Shing! Beautiful bride! 🙂

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Med school lovelies, and a new baby!

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Haha, it’s an underbite family! (Mollie, Ian, and Barley corn!)

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Congratulations to the Jennifer and Wayne, the gorgeous bride and handsome groom! 

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Roommate love, and those crazy hilarious kids/family from college 🙂  It’s fun that the group is growing too!
Alice summed up this wedding really well on her blog.

Thank you so much to all of those who made me feel so spoiled and loved.  Until next time, you stay classy, San Diego!

*To the person who accused me of being lazy and updating my blog too infrequently, is this good enough? 😉