Who needs cell phones anyway?

If someone asked you, what is something you’ve done that’s had a lasting impact on you, what would you say? Skydiving? Backpacking through Europe? Starting a non-profit organization?

For me, it was being pregnant. There were a lot of special moments I treasured, like knowing I was never alone, seeing his hair and big feet in the last ultrasound before his birth, and watching my husband say silly things in a very loud voice to get the baby to move (it didn’t work). I still savor these moments even though baby Christian turns one this month.

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Yes I had a massive belly. But at least the brain still worked.

And then, for most pregnant women, there are those parts of pregnancy that are memorable for not such fun reasons:

  • The realization that being able to bend at the waist is pretty dang convenient,
  • An appreciation for having a waist,
  • The acceptance that snoring is not just for men,
  • The shocking reality that you can’t turn from one side to the other in bed without shifting your weight ten times,
  • And pregnancy brain.

Lucky for me, I only had to experience the first four of these. I should be thrilled I was so lucky, right?

Not so.

I got the pleasure of experiencing post-pregnancy brain instead. For the first six months of Christian’s life, I trained myself to stop asking my husband Dale, “Where is my phone?” Instead, I started brainstorming with him to narrow down the universe of possible locations of my device. This exercise never included naming any “normal” places like on the kitchen counter, in my purse, or on the bed, because my brain was anything but normal during those sleep-deprived days.

“My phone isn’t in the refrigerator,” I’d say to him. “It’s not in the oven or the dryer. I didn’t leave it on top of the car this time.” Smile. “What about the dresser? Did you look in the drawers?” After a few weeks of this mega waste of time, I decided to just let it stay lost for awhile, unless Dale was around to call my phone so it could alert us of its location.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, things were elevated to the next level when I went to Costco with a girlfriend. I stocked up on all the usual things, and then tossed a gargantuan bag of chocolate chips into the cart because it was time to get back into my baking groove.

Two days later I opened my trunk and gasped. There was the bag of chips. I’d unloaded everything but them. When I picked it up it was a melted bag of gooeyness. Great. I’d committed chocolate abuse.

That bag still sits in my pantry as a painful memory of my mental incapacity. Now if I want to bake with chocolate, I have to slam the bag into the back patio concrete to break it into useable pieces. This is wrong on so many levels.

What bizarre or funny things have you done when mentally out of it?

When spicy just don’t cut it

After a seven month hiatus spent working on my mystery novel, the time has come to return to the world of blogging. Admittedly, some final editing remains to be done on my book, but I could wait no longer to return. I’ve missed sharing our travel adventures, my “I’m newly married and loving it” cooking creations, and the random funniness that life brings.

And so here I am, and there you are – united again.

When spicy just don’t cut it

Our meal on the fourteen hour train ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Our meal on the fourteen hour train ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Thailand = spicy food, right? Not if you’re Dale and Heather Harshman, the apparent heat experts of Escondido, California.

When we arrived in Thailand this past May for two weeks of eating pleasure and a few aggressive Thai massages, our taste buds were prepared to be smokin’ hot during most meals. Within the first twenty-four hours in Bangkok, we realized our journey to hot heaven would be more challenging than we envisioned. The food at most places we ate at throughout the country ranked a three on the heat factor, maybe a four at times.

We were devastated.

And so we got strategic. “Let’s eat in the non-touristy areas,” Dale suggested. “Find a hole in the wall and tell them we want it hot.”

It didn’t work.

“We need to find restaurants that have big pots of food out front from which everyone gets served so we know the locals are eating the same thing,” Dale said.

It didn’t work.

“We need to become Thai,” I suggested.

It didn’t work for a number of reasons.

And so we settled in to a low heat Thai vacation during which we looked forward to having smokin’ hot taste buds again when we returned home. Next time we go to Thailand, we’re taking a bottle of Tabasco.

Failed heat seeking mission #2

Failed heat seeking mission #2

Keep to the right. No, I mean left. Yes, left.

Dale and I chose New Zealand and the Cook Islands as our “babymoon” destination last May. Being five months pregnant at the time, I wanted to have a few reliable things that I had previously been willing to fudge on: flushing toilets; toilet paper; comfortable beds; clean water; safe food. And so we trekked around the world to investigate the many treasures of New Zealand.

DSC03113Waiheke Island is one such special place. It is about 40 minutes from Auckland by ferry. We arrived first thing one cool autumn morning (their seasons are opposite ours) and rented mountain bikes. I thought it was humorous that our handle bars both had a “keep left” sticker with an arrow pointing in that direction. Wondering how many people needed that reminder, we set off on our ride around the island, using the left side of the road, of course.

We climbed hills, rode by pastures, caught terrific views of the ocean,

Waiheke Island, New Zealand by Heather Zuber-Harshman

Waiheke Island, New Zealand by Heather Zuber-Harshman

and got some good laughs. Our first good chuckle was worth stopping to snap a picture of. I wanted to buy some of the convenient roadside manure just to say I had, but then what would I do with it?  Good question.

The next giggle came from the “Oh, I get it” we experienced when we biked past a number of wineries that offered wine and beer tasting. When we checked out the handy map we were given, we counted twelve vineyards spread across the island. At that point, the “keep left” reminder started to make sense since a biking wine tasting adventure is the best way to experience the island.

The final hee, hee of the day came when we watched some people trying to play an almost life size game of chess – imagine the game Harry Potter style, but the board and pieces were 1/4 the size as in the movie, and they didn’t move themselves, which appeared to be rather burdensome for the players. Based on our observations, chess moves are harder to visualize when you are one with the pieces rather than staring down at them.

And so ended our one-day adventure by bicycle on Waiheke Island. We’re looking forward to returning on our next trip to New Zealand. I’m thinking a second babymoon is in store before our second child is born . . .

My transportation for the day

My transportation for the day

When living in the desert isn’t such a bad option

The high desert along Highway 395 by Heather Zuber-Harshman

The high desert along Highway 395 by Heather Zuber-Harshman

It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife.

 Proverbs 21: 19

I’m sure a number of interesting thoughts went through your mind when you read this verse. Maybe you thought, “I’m not quarrelsome” or “What about husbands?” or “The desert isn’t so bad.”

When I read it, I thought, “Gee, could I really be so awful to live with that the desert would be a better option?” If any of us were to ask this last question, we would be humbled by the resounding “yes” that would boom down from heaven.

This train of thought brings to mind an interesting phenomenon: people tend to be on better behavior when they are around strangers, friends, and co-workers than when they are with the family members they care most about. We are more prone to being impatient, unsympathetic, quarrelsome, and even big complainers when we’re at home with our loved ones than when we’re with those who are here and gone in our lives. Why is this?

The high desert along Highway 395 by Heather Zuber-Harshman

The high desert along Highway 395 by Heather Zuber-Harshman

Perhaps it’s because we know our family members love us and will endure our presence no matter how we act. It’s not like our young children are going to move out if we snap at them all the time, or our spouses are going to leave because we’re grumpy every morning, right? We excuse our behavior because we’re sure they’ll continually forgive or at least accept our behavior because “that’s just the way I am.”

The verse above pushes us to change how we view home life. It should be a place where we practice the fruits of the spirit everyday (joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,gentleness, faithfulness, self-control, love). Of course we won’t succeed on all fronts each day, but we should aspire to put our best foot forward, despite being stressed, tired, or just plain weary of our routine.

How can you improve life in your home today?

Life = Ministry

Henry W. Coe State Park in Morgan Hill, CA by Heather Zuber-Harshman

Henry W. Coe State Park in Morgan Hill, CA by Heather Zuber-Harshman

I am coming to visit you after I have been to Macedonia, for I am planning to travel through Macedonia. Perhaps I will stay awhile with you, possibly all winter, and then you can send me on my way to my next destination. This time I don’t want to make just a short visit and then go right on. I want to come and stay awhile, if the Lord will let me. In the meantime, I will be staying here at Ephesus until the Festival of Pentecost. There is a wide-open door for a great work here, although many oppose me.
1 Corinthians 16: 5 – 9 NLT
 
 

Paul was a mover and a groover. He only stayed in one place long enough to accomplish what God intended for him there, then moved on to the next place.  It’s amazing how much he traveled considering he didn’t have the luxury of toting himself around in a 4-door sedan.

Part of me feels tired when I think about how much time he spent in transit and working with people, and another part of me admires how completely he devoted his life to ministry. He was zealous about his ministry, seeing opportunities to pursue God’s work in all situations. Paul didn’t sit on the sidelines waiting for opportunities to present themselves; he actively sought them out.

In the past week a number of ministry opportunities popped up in our life. A few friends were sick or experiencing other health problems, which meant it was time to deliver homemade chicken noodle soup. An 89 year old neighbor wanted to reminisce about his younger years so I lent him my ear.  A family at our church had a lot of stressful things going on, so we provided them with dinner. Some friends were feeling overwhelmed by fostering a seven-year-old girl, which presented an opportunity to send them a care package to let them know they are loved and cherished.

Henry W. Coe State Park by Heather Zuber-Harshman

Henry W. Coe State Park by Heather Zuber-Harshman

These ministry opportunities made for a busy yet satisfying week. They also opened my eyes to the realization that life is ministry, meaning, we could spend everyday serving others and never run out of people to help. I used to fret about deciding which charities I should volunteer with, thinking I needed to do so in order to give back to the community. Now I see, like Paul, that there are people everywhere, in all walks of life that need our love and attention; all we have to do is open our eyes to the opportunities that are sitting there, waiting to be pursued.

What ministry opportunities are there at your church and  work place? with your friends and family? with your neighbors?

Some like it hot, whereas others like it hhhooottt

A romance with roots in hot sauce. That’s how I would classify one aspect of my relationship with my husband Dale. Being from Louisiana, he is used to having hot sauce as a “side” with almost every food, oatmeal excluded, of course. I, on the other hand, was raised in Iowa, where hot sauce is imported for people from Louisiana.  When Dale first learned that this Midwest, corn fed girl was obsessed with hot sauce to almost the same degree as he was, his love for me instantly grew brighter.

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Dale by the ferry to Belize

Since we’ve been together, our general attitude about hot sauce has been the hotter, the better. Or so we thought until we stepped off the ferry in Punta Gorda, Belize. We were spending one night there before traveling north for some island time.

That evening we wandered across town to a family restaurant where they served food buffet style. The decor was nothing to boast about, but the food was tasty and diverse. The best part, though, was that they made their own hot sauce. Score!

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Luckily we were able to find a place nicer than this for our one night stay

We sampled the mild sauce. It was flavorful but didn’t satisfy our thirst for heat. Next, we both put a couple drops of their yellow “hot” hot sauce on a bite of food. The instant it touched the inside of our mouths we both gasped for breath and flapped our hands in front of our lips, like the breeze we were creating could really calm the inferno roaring inside.

Pain is the best way to describe our existence for the next five or so minutes. We couldn’t eat, think, talk – nothing functioned. It was as though the heat from the sauce had melted our brains.

Once the fire abated, we both said something we never thought possible: “I’m never going to try a hot sauce that hot again!” And so began our vacation in Belize.

Oh How Sweet Life Is Recipe #3: When Carrots Meet Scrumptious

I like carrots. They come in a size for all – bite size, rabbit size, stew size. They are a nice accent to many dishes, especially soups and roast. Raw carrots make a very satisfying crunch when you eat them. They apparently can turn you orange if you eat enough. And best of all, they meet scrumptious when baked into cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Yowzers.

If carrots are your thing, go crazy making a triple batch of these tasty treats so you can freeze some for a rainy day (like today in San Diego). If carrots aren’t your thing, I challenge you to bake the cupcakes and take just one bite – that’s all it takes to hook you. If it doesn’t work, and you still don’t like carrots, mail me the rest of the cupcakes so I can dispose of them for you.

DSC_0144Diabetic Friendly Cupcakes:

4 beaten eggs

2 c. whole wheat flour

1 c. sugar

1 c. Splenda or  Apriva

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ground allspice

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

2 1/2 c. finely shredded carrots – do not pack them into the measuring cup

3/4 c. cooking oil

1/2 c. finely chopped pecans (optional)

Mix the eggs, oil, and carrots in a small bowl. I suggest using a food processor on high speed to shred the carrots. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry. Stir until combined.

I suggest using paper liners for your muffin pans because it saves time on clean-up and makes it easier to DSC_0148share the cupcakes with others. A tip: Michaels frequently has patterned liners in the dollar bin area. They are much fancier than the basic one color liners.

Fill the liners 3/4 full with the batter. Bake in a 350° F. preheated oven for 13 – 15 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Place on a cooling rack. The recipe makes about 18 cupcakes.

Cream cheese frosting:

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

1/4 c. butter or margarine, softened

1 tsp. vanillla

2 1/2 to 3 c. powdered sugar

Beat the wet ingredients with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar until the mixture becomes spreadable. Frost the cooled cupcakes, then sprinkle them with nutmeg or cinnamon.