Monday, December 22, 2008

Three Days 'Till Christmas

...and all through the house, every creature was stirring, even the mouse (in the garage!). We are crazy busy here getting ready for family coming in today and tomorrow. We are going to have a houseful of guests all week, but I promise to come right back with stories and pictures galore! In the meantime, Merry Christmas! May God bless you this season and in the coming new year!

P.S. Fun Christmas tidbits:

1. Bella has asked Santa Clause for a baby doll this year.
2. Bella has been singing "Yes, Key Kaws (Santa Clause) bring me baby doll" to the tune of Jesus loves me
3. My favorite was when she sang the above song at the top of her lungs in Walmart!
4. Bella loves to dress up like Mary and carry her own Baby Jesus- wait till you see the pictures!
5. Gingerbread men are the "cookie with face"

I love the season from the bottom of my heart. Seeing it through the eyes of a toddler brings me such joy! I love it!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cookies, cookies, and more cookies

'Tis the season to be baking, fa la la la la, la la la la.

Just as the season began, catastrophe struck and our hand mixer died. I began to have heart palpitations imagining all the cookies and tamales and potatoes that could never be without a mixer. Fortunately, I have a very sensible husband who calmly suggested I go buy a new mixer, and one that will last for a while. I headed to Bed Bath & Beyond armed with a 20% off coupon and got myself a new best friend. Here she is. Isn't she lovely? Her name is Vanessa.

Vanessa and I have been busy ever since. Sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, snickerdoodles, gingerbread cookies, and icing galore!

Bella and Irene making snickerdoodles


Irene hard at work with the gingerbread men

Our army of oddly clad cookie men

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A couple more

Katie and I

The largest and most gorgeous wedding party in history!

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Wedding, Part 2

Eliot running down a country road!

Sigh. Doesn't it feel like a home? I loved it there.

It's taken me a while to sit and write this. I'd love to use all the easy excuses (like Thanksgiving, for example), but honestly it just comes down to one thing; my heart was so full I could barely process everything. I needed a week of reality before I could sit down and try to relay to others what my time in Texas meant to me. I left on Wednesday, the 19th and was gone until Sunday night. By myself. For the first time since having Bella, I went somewhere without her. I had such mixed feelings about it. I missed her like crazy, but in the end, I was so grateful for the uninterrupted time I had with my dear friends.

What everyone wants to know is what it was like to a) be re-united with Katie and Melissa and b) be there for Melissa's wedding. I'll try and tackle "b" first.

Because I was there early, I was able to be a part of a lot of the pre-wedding stuff like making bouquets and decorating the church and reception hall. We had a blast Thursday just hanging out together and watching everything unfold. The reception hall went under a dramatic transformation and turned out so pretty! And the nice thing about working together on these projects was the time it gave us to get to know Melissa's other friends. There were fourteen bridesmaids! It was like one long, extended slumber party! So much fun!

Melissa, the night before her wedding

One of my roomies on this trip, Sarah!

Melissa making arrangements while decorating the reception hall on Thursday

My other roomie, Catherine, who has been Melissa's friend since they were babies!

Katie, looking gorgeous and acting silly!

Melissa and her mom at Mel's bridal shower

Saturday, Melissa was calm and radiantly beautiful. There is no other way to describe her. She was glowing with excitement, but sure and certain. Regal. I've known Mel almost two years and have never seen her like that. It was a particular beauty that came from within herself and it took your breath away. What a privilege it was to be there and be a part of her day! Something remarkable about Melissa: she took time on her wedding day to do the hair of all of her little sisters, herself, and her best friend!

The wedding was emotional. I've never felt the Holy Spirit during a wedding ceremony like I did last Saturday. The presence of the Spirit in that sanctuary was palpable. The music was gorgeous. Just like their own lives, the ceremony for Scott and Melissa focused not on themselves, but on Christ. I was blessed by being there.

On to "a" and what it was like to be with my girls again. There are no words. It was as if not a day had gone by. Except we're all wiser these days. The time we spent in Antigua together bonded us as friends, but our individual struggles there and beyond have seasoned us. Oh, it felt good to be there. And it was so much fun! Katie delights me. She's funny, ridiculous,thoughtful, intelligent, insightful and I could go on and on (and she would like me to!). Spending four days with her was like having a gigantic band-aid placed over my heart. Spending those four days celebrating with Melissa was icing on the cake. It did my heart good. Let's do it again soon, girls! Miss you and love you both!

My new favorite picture

Eliot striking a pose

Katie being silly with my camera after breakfast

Katie and I

And Mary Margaret: I love you, sister.

Monday, November 24, 2008


More soon. Laundry first.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tamale Recipe!

It's that time of year again, my friends. I've had several requests for my tamale recipe so I thought I'd put it up here for all the world to see :) For those of you not accustomed to Guatemalan traditions yet, tamales are traditionally served on Christmas Eve (at midnight!) with a cup of hot chocolate and a slice or two of crusty bread.

This recipe is a combination of three recipes - one part from our housekeeper in Guatemala, one part from the book "Favorite Recipes From Guatemala", and one part from the Maseca recipe on the bag of masa mix. I tried to keep it simple but authentic and delicious. I hope you enjoy them!

Tamales Colorados

4 lbs of tomatoes
1/4 lb tomatillos
2 onions
6 red bell peppers
4 chile guaques (can substitute chile guajillos)
1/4 tsp achiote (annatto)
3-6 tablespoons of lard or shortening

Place all vegetables and chiles in water and bring to a boil, then simmer for thirty minutes. Then take the vegetables out, strain, and add to blender. Puree. Add 3 tablespoons of lard or shortening to a large pot, heat over medium heat until melted. Pour in vegetable puree and cook over medium heat for fifteen minutes. If your sauce is not very red and you would like it redder, add the achiote. Salt to taste. Also add additional lard or shortening to taste. Can be prepared a day in advance.

4 lbs banana leaves frozen or 14 fresh banana leaves (can substitute foil if you cannot find banana leaves)
Kitchen twine
3 lbs raw chicken, turkey, or pork
2 red bell peppers, sliced

-Masa Dough-
(instructions on the bag of Maseca for Tamales)
2 cups maseca (corn flour)
2 cups broth
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2/3 cups lard or shortening

This dough recipe is only a partial recipe, taken directly from the Maseca bag. You must increase it depending on how many tamales you would like to make. I lost count of exactly how many times I made this recipe! It takes exactly one bag to make enough tamales for the above sauce recipe, but I don't remember how many cups are in the bag- sorry! :)

Put corn flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Mix well. Beat lard or shortening until fluffy. Add dry mixture to lard, add broth, and mix with your hands to remove any lumps. Then beat until the dough is a spongy texture. Chill for at least an hour.

Prepare your banana leaves by tearing into 12" squares and placing in hot water for ten minutes to soften them.

To assemble the tamales:

Place two leaf squares in front of you, smooth side up. Put one cup of dough in the center. Make a well in the center of the dough, building up the sides. Spoon 1/3 cup sauce into the center of the dough. Place raw meat in the sauce and place two bell pepper strips on either side of it. You want your tamales to end up rectangular, so you will fold your tamales in thirds. Fold the bottom leaves up and over the dough, snugly. Then pull the top section down, over the first. Then bring in your sides- just a simple fold up. The folding needs to be as snug as possible. Now take your twine and wrap it around the middle section, turn, and wrap lengthwise and tie a knot just as you would a brown paper parcel. If you have no leaves, use foil and seal your ends with double folds. You will not need twine.

Once the tamales are assembled, place in large pot- stacked however you can get them in, as tight as possible. Fill the pot 2/3 full of water, cover, bring to boil, and then simmer on medium heat until meat is cooked (1-2 hours depending on how many tamales are in the pot, how tight the seal is , etc.) Freeze or serve immediately. If you freeze them, reheat by steaming.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Autumn Leaves

I've said it before, but it's worth repeating; I love the fall! I love the crispness in the air, the gorgeous trees, the harvest fruits and vegetables... I'm a happy girl these days. 'Tis the season for soups and other comfort foods that warm you up from the inside out. Today it was a creamy tomato bisque for lunch. Mmmmm....

Helping Daddy

Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!

Where's Bella?
A very tall mound of leaves...
with a Bella inside!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Family Day

I cannot believe that we have reached this milestone. There were so many days during our extraordinarily long adoption that I wondered if this day would ever come. When Greg and I signed with our adoption agency in February of 2006, most Guatemalan adoptions were processing in 4-6 months. Two months into our adoption, I moved to Guatemala to be with Bella for the next "couple" months while everything was completed. Little did I know at that time the journey I was actually embarking on. To say we hit a couple roadblocks along the way is a dramatic understatement. From the week I moved to Guatemala, there were serious complications with our adoption that made every single step more difficult. And beyond those complications, our file kept getting stuck in bureaucratic red tape. Guatemala is famous for "changing the rules" as they go along. One of those changes caused our file to get stuck. Really stuck. So stuck that our agency was concerned our adoption may not be possible to complete. All the while, I was living with this baby and loving her more each moment we were together.

2 Corinthians 10:5
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Each day was a battle against the enemy and his lies. Each day I had to capture all the thoughts of "What if they can't fix this problem?" and "What would I do if they come to take her away?" and other horrible thoughts like that. Each day I had to reaffirm my faith that God is in control. I had to willingly choose to trust and believe. The thoughts came back over and over again, but every single time I would take them captive, God blessed me with peace. What a gift that was during those long months.

All together, our adoption took a little over seventeen months to complete- MUCH longer than we had anticipated. I lived fifteen of those months in Guatemala, apart from my husband and support system. Needless to say, the day that all four of us got on a plane in Guatemala, heading for the United States, was an emotional day for us. We were victorious! Never have we felt so elated, so exhausted, so emotionally raw, and so, so relieved in all of our lives.

We celebrated our first anniversary of that day yesterday. We're calling it Family Day. It was fun to reminisce about what we were doing this time last year and how we were feeling. We went to our favorite Mexican Restaurant for dinner and then came home and had some cake. It was pretty low-key. I've been telling Bella her story of how she came to be part of our family for a while now. She doesn't really understand it yet, but I don't think we're too far away from the first bits of understanding. In the future, we'll spend more time on Bella's Family Day looking at pictures and talking about the journey.

November 9, 2007
At the airport in Guatemala City


Plane number one

Layover in Houston

At Cracker Barrel that night for dinner on US soil!

November 9, 2008

We are so blessed!