My First Sewing Project!

Foster Care & Family

I did it!  I made my first sewing item on my new sewing machine.  This is a pair of pajama pants that I will give to my sister, Gabrielle, for Christmas.   It took several hours, but I never used a patten before.  I have never made a clothing article before.  AND, this was my first time using my new Brother Innovis.  (I did it all by myself, too.)

I love sewing.  I LOVE IT.  I just hope Gabrielle likes her new PJs.  And let’s pray they FIT!

So, what does this have to do with the House on High Street?  Well, I will soon be experimenting with home interiors.  I have about FORTY window treatments to make….several quilts…tablecloths…place-mats… The list goes on and on and on.

I think it would be REALLY awesome if I could make a complete bed set for one of our spare bedrooms.

Let’s see…what else can I try to make?  OH, feety pajamas for Scott and myself!  That would be fun!

Farewell Pizza Oven!

The House on High Street

Ok, I am a little heartbroken.  Within the past few weeks, we made the decision to “ixnay” the pizza oven (in the kitchen…per se’), as it was becoming a little “too much” if ya know what I mean.  Too much weight (like 2000 pounds).  Too much space (at least 4’x5′).   And a little too much from our budget!  Just the venting alone for this extraordinary fire-operated cooking appliance, which required the installation of specialized pipe along the outside of the house…and up THREE stories, was ridiculous.

Compromise = Pizza Stove outside + In the near future

Scott gets an A+ for actually allowing me to come to this conclusion on my own.   I admit, I was rather hell-bent on my pizza oven for a long time.

Anyway, we are still determined to include special touches to our kitchen to create the look and personality that we want.

Our kitchen style?  Traditional.  Semi-Rustic.  Romantic.  Charming.  Warm.

A few ideas we have…cobblestone backsplash, authentic candle sconces, semi-worn rustic wood floors,   furniture-styled cabinets, dark with light colored contrasts, hanging pot-rack fixtures, 18th Century chandeliers, and interior window shutters…to name a few.

I never realized how much time I would spend in designing a kitchen.   I always figured I would know exactly what I wanted and have no problem in putting it all together.  (HGTV makes it look so easy!)  However, it is a lot trickier than I thought.  There are so many things to work around.

In the end, the best part is that it will be portray our personalities.  Both Scott and I are traditional, warm, and a little…authentically rustic.  I guess that’s why we had a vision with this home the very first time we walked inside.

 

The Importance of Hospitality

Foster Care & Family

indian mealThis past weekend, my husband and I attended a dinner party hosted by a lovely Indian couple that lives nearby.  Scott met this gentleman through work, and this was now the second time we had the pleasure of socializing with both him and his wife.  This particular occasion took place at their home, eating Indian cuisine, and intermingling with their friends.  We had a wonderful time, but what really stood out to us was how this hard-working couple welcomed us to their home and cooked an authentic Indian meal for us and waited on us…all for no particular reason or occasion.

Think about it.  Aside from family, how often is it that you are invited to a friend’s home for dinner?  How often is it that someone will offer to cook for you, serve you, and share their home with you?

Now, I have nothing against meeting friends at restaurants.  I mean, who can oppose to getting dressed up, getting out of the house, and having a third party cook, serve, and clean up after you?   In our times and our culture, it seems this is sometimes the only way to get together with friends.

The first time Scott and I met our new friends out, it was at a lovely Italian restaurant.  We had a wonderful time enjoying delicious food and talking about casual topics.  However, it did not come close to the intimate experience we had this weekend in their home.  We got a detailed tour of their house and listened to unforgettable stories that went hand in hand with the photographs and artifacts that adorned their walls and furniture.  They prepared delectable dishes with the unique spices of India that cannot be compared to any restaurant.  We experienced a few Indian customs and traditions.  I learned a few recipe tips.  And they refused for us to leave empty handed, as they prepared take-home bags of food.

Oh, it was just all so wonderful and…extraordinary.

During the drive home, Scott and I realized that it was more than just our palettes that were satisfied.  We acknowledged how special it was to receive an invitation such as this one.  We further agreed that it would be our intention to offer hospitality by sharing our home, our lifestyles, and our traditions with whomever God brings to our door, in the near future.

The reality today is that it is uncommon to show hospitality to our friends.  After the work day, the family obligations, and the household chores, we have neither the time nor the energy to do much more.  It saddens me to reflect on my adult years before I left the workplace when I was struggling the most with my health.   I tried very hard to keep up with the anomalous super-woman that could juggle a career, and motherhood, and family obligations, and a home.  (I happen to know women like this and they truly amaze me with their gifts!)

Since I stopped working I have more time and energy to practice hospitality, and this is important to me.  But in our culture today, people do not agree on what’s important.  I see that now more than ever.

A few weeks ago, Scott and I were at an elaborate Engagement Party.  This event also took place in a home but given the occasion, it was decked out with dozens of guests, butlered hors d’oeuvres, cocktail attire, and champagne.  Sure, it was a beautiful affair.  But the overall atmosphere was much less intimate than the environment we experienced this weekend.  Here is an example of a conversation I had with a relative.

“Do I know you?”

“Umm, I don’t think so.  I’m Scott’s wife.”

“Oh, and what do you do?”

“Uh, well…I used to be a teacher and a school administrator…but now I write…a little. 

“What do you write?”

“Well, I hope to publish a book, someday.  But, for now…I just write a blog…for women.”

“Oh.  How many readers do you have?”

“I really don’t know.  Maybe…a hundred?”

“My nieces write blogs.  They also have careers.  And children.”

(Magnificent)

“That’s really awesome.”

This is a common conversation to me.  Questions such as, “What do you do?”… “Do you have kids?” etc. are legitimate and appropriate questions; especially at an affair such as this.  But, I’ll tell you a secret, unless I feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable and talk about why I don’t have children and why I don’t have a career anymore, you’ll never know much about me.  And we will never know much about anyone unless we provide the opportunity.

In order for this to happen, we need to share a little bit of our homes, our time, our energy, and ourselves.

My mom taught me that hospitality is a gift and an action of love towards others, and that if God blesses a woman with a home and food she should share it with others who will appreciate it.

I may not have a fat paycheck these days but Scott and I are both looking forward to showing hospitality to the extraordinary couple we have come to know, in the near future and whomever else God brings to our door, for that matter.

So, how about you?  Do you feel that you would like to practice hospitality more?  If you feel overwhelmed with all the other things on your plate, perhaps these 5 tips can help make it a little more practical.

1.)   Put together a Dinner Club with a few friends in conjunction to your lifestyle. Even if it is once a year, do it.

2.)   Be selective in whom you show hospitality to.  You’d be surprised that those who have less may in fact appreciate your hospitality more.

3.)   Plan ahead of time.  Next time you make your best dish for your family…make extra and keep the leftovers in the freezer.  (I.e. I usually make extra Italian meatballs and gravy which both freeze wonderfully.)

4.)   Determine what defines your authentic touch.  If it’s your heritage, share it.  If you have a great story, share it!  If you have special artifacts, photo albums, videos, etc. share it.

5.)   Don’t go overboard making your home look perfect.  Most guests are more concerned with the quality of your time.   As long as your powder room is clean, there’s nothing wrong with closing off a portion of your house and refraining from a full home tour every time you have guests.

The most important thing is to make the time to share a part of you with someone who will appreciate it.

The Living EXTRAordinary Woman chooses to practice hospitality in conjunction to her personality and her lifestyle as a way to show love and generosity!

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Rachel Maria's Extraordinary Holiday Cookies

Rachel Maria's Recipes

Ok, here is why these cookies are extraordinary. (Secret, revealed.)

I use an already-made pie crust. Of course you can use a homemade pie crust if you prefer. But, my theory is, why do something that’s already done for you? These cookies are quick, easy, BEAUTIFUL, and oh so good.

They take about 10 minutes to assemble, and the kids love to help roll them up. I’ve been making these, in a pinch, for years. An easy crowd pleaser. Enjoy!

Rachel Maria’s Extraordinary Holiday Cookies 

Ingredients

  • 1 Pkg. (of 2) Pillsbury or Store-brand Pie Crusts
  • 1/2 Cup Chopped Walnuts
  • 1/2 Cup Chocolate Chips (Miniatures work best)
  • 1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
  • Cinnamon (for top of cookies)

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Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375º F.
  • Combine Walnuts, Chips, and Brown Sugar in a bowl.
  • Using a rolling pin, roll pie crust dough just enough to stretch and thin out the dough a bit.
  • Using a Pizza Cutter, cut 12 mini pizza-like slices. First cut in quarters, then slice each quarter into 3 skinny triangular pieces. (You can also cut into 16 slices to create smaller versions.)
  • Sprinkle the walnuts, chips, and sugar mixture along the edge of the pie crust in a circle.
  • Starting from the outside, roll each slice towards the center.
  • Assemble on an un-greased cookie sheet.
  • Sprinkle with Cinnamon.
  • Bake for 20-30 minutes. (Or when pie crust appears flaky on the ends.)
  • After cooling, garnish a plate with the cookies, powdered sugar, and Hershey Kisses.

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An Unwrapped Gift

Foster Care & Family

IMGP7436I don’t know about you, but the holidays bring on a flood of emotions for me.

A part of me feels spirited like a little girl, still anticipating the magical aspect of Christmas. I have such fond memories of my childhood; two wonderful-loving parents; a warm, cozy, comfortable home, and lively siblings that added excitement to the mix.

My Christmas childhood memories are vibrant with visions of twinkle lights, the aroma of cookies and delicious roasted meals prepared by my Italian mamma, the sound of Christmas Carols, laughter, and the overall feeling of joy, peace, and love.  This is the pleasantness of Christmas that comes from my childhood memories.

I thought of these things as I decorated our Christmas tree, the other day.  Scott and I are temporarily living in a cozy 1-bedroom condo that I am 100% determined to transform into a magical winter wonderland.  I had baked the evening before; the carols were playing, and the twinkle lights were miraculously operational!  I felt so happy as the sentiment of my childhood memories enveloped me.

As I hung the lights and delicate ornaments, there was another emotion that is either too difficult to describe or too delicate to unwrap.  It reminds me of those beautifully wrapped gift boxes that are tucked beneath the tree for aesthetics purposes only; rather than having their contents ever exposed.

It makes me think about the heart of a woman.  I imagine that every woman has an unwrapped place in her heart that contains a mystery that even she may never come to fully understand.  It may be a broken dream, a shattered experience, a loss, an unpleasant condition, and/or a longing for something unattainable.

People often say, Christmas is for the children.  And so, that being said, you can probably figure out why I was somewhat melancholy.  I realized that there is a longing for me to share the beauty; the love; and the joy that I experienced as a child with my own child.  I had to remind myself that I recently let go of this desire, as the lack of success was too much for my body to handle.

I still remember the day I whispered, “Lord, I realize you may have different plans for me, so I am done trying to control this.”  You know what?  I felt a HUGE weight lifted off my shoulders.  The burden I had been carrying in my heart for years and years was lifted, and it was replaced with an undeniable sense of contentment I had never experienced.

My faith in God’s word reminds me of His promises, and so I choose to have that faith.  But apparently, a little Bing Crosby and a dusty box of Christmas tree ornaments remind me that it is not always easy to sustain that faith.

The next day, I came across something rather extraordinary.  I was on the treadmill at the gym surfing the television channels when I came across a lecture-symposium on C-SPAN led by Hank Greely, a Law Professor from Stanford with an impressive resume in Stem Cell Research and Neuroscience.

He was sharing about a controversial topic called Human Selection in which Science can manipulate the traits in human embryos so that parents would have the ability to control the traits amongst their offspring; from the more critical health-traits, to the sex, eye-color, and even IQ level of the unborn fetus.  Greely even went so far as to mention that countries and governments might exercise control in order to regulate and therefore produce a population of humans that would fit the mold of perfection.  Ok.  I happen to know some women who I fear would be tempted to be first in line for this.

For me, however, I was quickly reminded of the promises in God’s word.

  • God is creator.  He knits us together, in our mother’s womb, uniquely in His image.  Psalm 139:13-18
  • God creates the purpose for our lives.  Romans 8:28
  • He gives us the desires of our hearts.  Psalm 37:4

It astonishes me to know that there are people who have such impressive resumes, professional credentials, years of schooling, successful careers, and a history of experiences with committees, publications, research, etc. and yet THEY ARE LOST IN KNOWING that they were created…uniquely….by God….on purpose….with a purpose….and with LOVE…in spite of their health issues…their sex…their eye color…their status…their IQ level…their past…their good parts…their bad parts…etc.

Upon listening to Mr. Greely, I couldn’t help but to think about all the babies and children out there, right now, who may not be measuring up to their parent’s expectations.   In those moments, I felt a burden like I never had to bring a child like this into my life, my home, and my arms.

“God, could this be your plan for me?”

I left the gym feeling energized physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

This time, next year, Scott and I will be in our home.  (It’s going to take a lot longer to decorate that house for Christmas!)  We are thrilled to have the space to host gatherings with friends and family.  And if and when the opportunity comes in which a child needs a place to stay…I…WE…are open to it.  I’m not sure if or how that may happen, but I will wait for it, just like that beautiful present whose purpose is to remain unwrapped.

I am going to enjoy this holiday season with my family, the love of my life, and the quiet simplicity with few interruptions!  I am excited for my future.  And, I will always feel like a little girl on Christmas Morning, because it will always remind me of the greatest gift of all.  Jesus Christ

So, how are you feeling this time of year?  Do you have an unwrapped present tucked beneath the Christmas tree?  Are you aware that God knows the innermost desires of your heart and wants to give you the comfort, hope, peace, and the promises of His Word?

The Living EXTRAordinary woman chooses to recognize that her Creator knows the secrets of her heart and believes God will fulfill those heartfelt desires no matter what the circumstances may be.

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