Rotunno Mini-Update

Pregnancy
Summer Service Project
Homeschool
Writing 
Ballet
Beach Days

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Rotunno Mini-Update 

Pregnancy:
Everything seems to be going OK with this fifth and final pregnancy, thank God! Baby Girl Rotunno is doing great. So am I, except for the fact that I’m having trouble walking! I have the terrible heel pain that I’ve heard other women complain about. Now I get it–it hurts! On the bright side, morning sickness went away at 12-14 weeks when it was supposed to, and I think that my new gluten-free diet has been helping too.

Here are some sufficiently awkward selfie photos of my pregnant belly at 16 weeks and 31 weeks.

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16 weeks (5th baby)

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31 weeks (5th baby)

Summer Service Project:
Gleanings for the Hungry is a wonderful family trip for us. We get to work hard and hang out with amazing people. We come home energized and ready to take on life. Thank you to my husband Andy for planning and organizing this trip for our church twice a year, and thank you to the Gleanings staff for your love, hugs, great food, and hospitality. Find out more about Gleanings for the Hungry here.

Homeschool:
After giving it a try for a year, I still say I love teaching my daughter from home. This year I have two students: a first grader and a fourth grader. Plus two little ones. And a newborn in November. How much can I handle? Will I do a good job? Even though it seems crazy, I am really excited for this challenge. I think it will be really good for me and force me to stay organized. In case you missed it, you can read about Why I Decided to Homeschool My Daughter here.

Writing:
It is time for me to get back into a writing schedule. The amazing thing is that while I have taken a break from writing this summer, I have still been writing in my head. I have a few novels going on in my head, and I really need to write them down. I have some rough outlines, but I’d love to actually set time aside to write them out. It’s just that I have these little kids running around all day! More about How to Start Writing Your Story here.

Ballet:
My girls are starting ballet classes again this fall. I am so happy about it! They love to dance. My nine-year-old started taking tap dance classes this summer. She is getting really good, and I am having so much fun practicing with her in the kitchen. I have managed to get to ballet class myself a few times this summer. It is always healing and therapeutic for me.

Beach Days:
The moment I got to Zuma Beach, I remembered why I need to go there more often. We were pretending to surf, chasing seagulls, and examining the bright blue jellyfish that washed up on the shore.
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My feet didn’t hurt while I was on the sand. My complexion cleared up and the stresses of life dissipated. It was a beautiful day. What is it about that beach air, sunshine, and cool water?

Thank you God for new life growing inside me, service to the poor and hungry, and for the chance to teach my children at home, pouring my life into the lives of my children. Thank you for giving me writing as a form of therapy and mental exercise. Thank you for ballet as a form of therapy and physical exercise. Thank you for the beach, your gorgeous creation, where we can play, rest, smile, breathe, and heal.

Beach photos by Marisa Santiago

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Towards Life or Towards Death

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An amazing Bible professor at APU once said something in a lecture that really struck me. It went something like this: The enemy always tries to lead us toward death, and towards the things that will destroy our lives. God always wants life, and he leads us towards the things that make us more alive.

I wish I could remember his exact words, but there you have the paraphrase.

I heard these words of truth from my Bible professor at a time in my life when I was having a lot of thoughts about death. In my young adult years, before I was married, I heard the thoughts in my head almost every day:

I’d be better off dead.
My life is worthless.
No one would even care if I never existed.
They’d be better off ifjust weren’t alive.
I just wish I were dead.

I was not a super-depressed person who couldn’t function in everyday life, although sometimes I could see myself becoming that way if I wasn’t careful. Instead, I was an involved, straight-A student who enjoyed meaningful friendships and lived life to the fullest.

But I had these thoughts all the time, especially after I would get in a fight with my mom, or when I would not live up to my own expectations of myself.

I finally came to realize that I am a creature that can think about and even believe things that are not true. Not only that, but I am a creature that can hear things that do not come from my own mind or from God, but from a dark place.

If this were true, and these thoughts were false and not from God, then the world would not be better off if I were dead. My family would not be happier if I was never born. I didn’t need to die in order to solve my problems.

Lies. I could identify them as lies. Wow, I just heard a lie. That is not true. I just thought something that is not true.

In the first years of my marriage, I would hear things like this:

We are a mismatch.
We are not right together.
I’d probably be a better fit with a man like (my friend’s husband) because he is more like me.
Andy and I are too different.

Lies. For a while I listened to the lies, but soon I was able to identify them. That’s a lie. Nope, that’s a lie.

Most recently, I have been hearing things like this:

My house has to look perfect before I can invite anyone over.
I can’t go anywhere in public, I look ugly (fat and pregnant).
People probably look at me and think I’m disgusting.

Narcissistic lies.

I hope this doesn’t make me sound like a crazy person, because I do have a point. If you are having thoughts that lead you toward death, destruction, or isolation, you are free to identify them as lies, reject them, and claim the truth.

My life has value. I’m not worthless.
God has given me life for a reason.
I married my husband because he is a man of God, not because we are a perfect fit.
I am a beautiful person.
Life does have a purpose. Your life has a purpose.

Are we in danger because of the growing narcissism in our culture?

I watched a very sad video in May that you probably watched as well. It was the selfie video of the young college student who went on a shooting rampage in Santa Barbara. As I watched the video, I was freaked out because it was so creepy to see and hear a person talk about killing innocent people, but also because this young man believed the lies he was hearing in his head. He said things like,

“Humanity is a disgusting, wretched, depraved species. If I had it in my power, I would stop at nothing to reduce every single one of you to mountains of skulls, rivers of blood. You deserve to be annihilated.”

Death and destruction

and, “I have been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desires. All because girls have never been attracted to me.”

A very sad conclusion.

If we allow ourselves to listen to and believe the lies that bombard us, we are in danger of destroying our own lives and possibly the lives of others.

Who has the authority to discern truth from a lie?

When Jesus was tempted for 40 days, he was bombarded with things from the devil that were partially true but not from God. Jesus knew what was completely true even when he was tempted by other things that were sort of true.

If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.
Worship me, the devil, and I will give you authority over all the kingdoms on earth.
Throw yourself from the top of the temple and God will send angels to attend you–if you are the Son of God.
(Luke 4:1-13, paraphrase)

The enemy went so far as to use scripture to try to convince Jesus to listen to his voice, worship, and obey him.

Partial truths can also be totally wrong and deceptive.

The Holy Spirit, the guidance of God and the Bible, wisdom and knowledge, and the path toward life: these are the authority by which we can identify truth from lies, right from wrong, life from death and destruction.

“There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”
2 Timothy 3:1-4

In the midst of the death and destruction we see these days, remember the life-giving truth.

Your life has value.

God has given you life for a reason

You are a beautiful person

Your life has a purpose

 

 

photo credit: marisa santiago

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I used to think I was so ugly


i-used-to-think-i-was-ugly-postI used to think I was so ugly…

     When I was in middle school, I cried myself to sleep every night. I would lie in bed staring up at the ceiling, praying and complaining to God. Why had he made me ugly? I prayed for braces, contact lenses, a tan. I prayed that my mom would buy me clothes instead of giving me Gretchen’s hand-me-downs. I prayed for guys to like me. I cried because I thought that I could never possibly be beautiful. Once I even begged God to show me, just for a moment, what I would look like when I was older. Would I be beautiful? Elegant? Confident?

     I was sure that I was the only girl in school who cried about stuff like that. I was convinced that everyone else had a perfect family, friendships, and self-esteem, while I was a pathetic loser. And even though I knew that there were people around the world who were worse off than I was, that didn’t prevent me from feeling the pain of selfish insecurity deep down in the core of my soul. So I would cry every night, which was the next best thing to having a gentle, selfless mother hold me and rock me to sleep. I believed that somehow the God of the universe was holding me, telling me that everything would be OK. In the morning, things never seemed nearly as bad as they did the night before.

From Goodnight to My Thoughts of You, a novel about a Christian teenage girl searching for true love.

Have you ever seen a picture of yourself from a long time ago and thought, “Wow. I didn’t look that bad. I actually looked really good!”

And then “I look way worse now,” or “I need to appreciate how good I look now because I’m just going to get older and older…”

Now, when I look at pictures of myself from middle school and high school, I know I wasn’t ugly. I was cute.

I also have to remind myself that there was this thing from the 80s and 90s called 35 mm film. We didn’t get to edit or erase photos that made us look awkward. Even so, I was not “so ugly” like I thought I was.

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me and my best friend on our way to a youth group trip, senior year of high school

I remember showing my mentor at church a picture of me and saying, “This picture is OK but look at the cellulite on my legs!” She looked at me like I was crazy. Now, when I look at the picture, I know why. I didn’t have cellulite on my legs! My legs were tan and cute.

I don’t know what was wrong with me, but I have a few ideas. First of all, I was reading a lot of fashion magazines and comparing myself to beautiful supermodels. I really believed they were perfect, and they had perfectly smooth skin and legs and everything. As a teen, I thought that was how I was supposed to look in order to be considered beautiful.

Second, I lived in a wealthy neighborhood in southern California, pretty close to the beach. I want to say everyone was tan, gorgeous, and perfect. Except for me. But I know that wasn’t true. I know it was a perception that I had, a false idea that we all had. We thought we had to look perfect or we couldn’t leave the house.

Third, I was not the only one that felt this way. My friends would say the same things. Even my friends who were gorgeous and perfect! They were just as insecure as I was.

I have gotten so much more confident as I have gotten older. My values have changed. I stopped reading fashion and beauty magazines. I have learned so much from my husband about what he considers beautiful:

a kind heart

a genuine smile

good posture

laughter

self-confidence

purity

diligence

intelligence

 and a good attitude

So if you are having a day when you feel “so ugly,” I hope you can strive for the qualities that really matter. Don’t believe the lie that you have to look perfect in order to be beautiful.

Goodnight to My Thoughts of You is a full-length novel, and it’s free! Great for your summer reading list! Check it out and share with a friend. 

photo credit: marisa vasquez, marisa santiago

 

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Tutorial: How To Make a Sock Monkey

This is the little monkey I made this week. He looks just like the one I made for my daughter. I purposely placed the eyes and ears in the same spot to give him the same look.sock-monkey-on-bed

First of all, I suggest that you watch the how-to video by Professor PinCushion as you go. It will help show the details of sewing and cutting that I cannot show in a written post. The video is about 37 minutes. Depending on how fast you sew, the monkey could take anywhere from 3-8 hours from start to finish.

How to Make a Sock Monkey:

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Materials You Will Need to Make a Sock Monkey:

  1. Size Large Socks with Red Heel (Fox River sells two pairs for around $14.)
  2. Fabric Scissors
  3. Pins
  4. Ruler 
  5. Fabric Pen or Black Pen
  6. Sewing Machine with Matching Thread (Cream color works well)
  7. Stuffing (I got mine at Michael’s)
  8. Black Embroidery Thread
  9. Two Black Buttons for Eyes
  10. Red Yarn for Pom-Poms on Hat and Legs
  11. Ribbon to Tie Around the Monkey’s Neck

Sock 1: Body and Legs

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Draw Lines for Legs
Turn the socks inside out. The first sock will become the monkey’s head, body and legs. To mark where the legs will be, turn the sock inside out and fold so the heel is centered on top. Measure and mark a center point on the brown (2 in. from edge) and a center point on the cream (1.5 inches from edge). Draw a line through the points, horizontally, straight through the center of the sock, from heel to end. Then measure 1/4 inch above and 1/4 inch below that center line and draw two more horizontal lines. Draw another line 1/4 inch from the end of the sock. Draw a vertical line 3 inches from the heel. So you should have three horizontal lines and two vertical lines.

Sew on Machine
Starting at one edge of the cream end of the sock, stitch along the line and pivot at the 1/4 inch line. Continue to stitch, stopping at the 3-inch line. Backstitch both ends. Repeat on the other side. Do not stitch on the center line because that is the line you will cut to separate the two legs.

Cut
Using fabric scissors, cut along the center line up to the 3-inch line. Snip about 1 inch past the 3-inch line. You have a sock monkey body with a hole in the crotch.

Stuff
Turn the sock right-side out again. Stuff the head, body, and legs with stuffing.

Hand-Sew
Slip stitch the hole closed, adding stuffing as needed.

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Sock 2: Hat, Face, Arms, Tail, Earslines-for-arms-tail-hat

Hat
Turn sock inside out. Cut off the toe of the 2nd sock, leaving about 1/2 inch of brown on the end of the cream.

Tail
Measure a line for the tail 1-inch down from the top (shown above). Draw a line across the length of the sock. Round the white tip of the tail by drawing a curved line.

Arms
Draw a vertical line down the middle of the sock, about 1/4 inch away from the cream heel. Draw another horizontal line to mark two equal-sized arms. Curve the edges of the arms, leaving a seam allowance at the end of the sock.

Face
Leave about 1/4 inch of brown along the edge of the heel for the face.

Ears
The leftover brown rectangle is for the ears. Fold in half and pin the edge to hold in place. Draw two ears, a bit larger than you think they should be, because you will use 1/4-inch seam allowance.

Cut and Pin
Cut and pin tail, arms, and ears. The second arm will need to be the same as the first, so cut the second side that was folded and pin it. (Ears not shown).
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Sew on Machine
Leaving the brown end open, stitch around the pinned sides of arms and tail, using 1/4 inch seam allowance and removing pins as you get to them. Backstitch both ends. Sew around the individual ears, using 1/4 inch seam allowance and leaving one side open for stuffing.

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Stuff, Pin, and Hand-Sew
Tie the ribbon around the neck of the sock monkey to help you see where to pin the arms. Turn arms and tail right-side out. Stuff, using small pieces of stuffing. If necessary, use a clean chopstick or unsharpened pencil to push the stuffing into the tail and arms. When they are stuffed, pin them to the sock monkey body in their proper places and use a whip stitch to attach each piece to the sock monkey body. Whip stitch twice all the way around.

Ears can be the last thing you stuff and sew, after you attach the face. That way you can see where you want to place the ears.

Some people place the tail above the red, and some people place it in the middle of the red. I chose to attach it to the middle.

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Embroider and Sew Face
Using a backstitch and black embroidery thread, stitch a line straight across the red mouth for the sock monkey. For the nostrils, make a mark where you want them to go and make 5-6 stitches in a horizontal stack.

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Pin the sock monkey face to the head, tucking the brown seam under the cream line. Whip stitch the face to the head, leaving the top open. Stuff with stuffing and continue to stitch all the way around. 
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Eyes
I used black buttons for the sock monkey eyes, attaching them above the face. You can also choose to embroider the eyes the same way you did the nostrils.

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Ears
I pinned the ears to the sock monkey head and stitched them last.

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Red Pom-Poms
Pom-poms are really easy. Wrap red yarn around two fingers about twenty times. Remove from fingers. Tie another piece of yarn around the middle of the loops. Snip the loops and you have a cute pom pom! These red pom-poms inspired the decorations for my daughter’s 9th birthday: a sock monkey theme (shown in my last post). I used the pom-poms on the favor bags, centerpieces and birthday banner.

Tack one pom pom to the sock monkey hat and tie two more around the legs.

sock-monkey-on-bed-2Isn’t he cute? I love him! Enjoy your new sock monkey friend!

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Sock Monkey Birthday Party Pics (from March)

We celebrated our nine-year-old’s birthday at the park in March (before my morning sickness kicked in.) So here are the very belated pics from her party, which was an easy “bikes and scooters at the park” party. She chose the sock monkey birthday party theme, which was a big hit.

Here is the birthday girl with her favorite cupcakes: angel food cake with whip cream and strawberries. I let the kids spray the whip cream and decorate the cupcakes right before we served them.

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Andy took some cute pictures of the decorations, painting activities, and favors. Here is the sock monkey I made for my daughter. I love him! He turned out so cute!

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Here’s my handsome husband and son. ♥ Andy says he looks like he just took his allergy medicine. I think he looks cute.

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It was the beginning of spring, so we chose red tulips as center pieces, to go with the red sock monkey pom-pom. When they opened they had brown in the center. The birthday girl thought that was perfect.

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I found these sock monkey coloring sheets for free online at Birthday in a Box and my sweet sister Vanessa printed them and brought them for the kids to paint when they took a break from riding their scooters. We also had some brown bags to decorate with stickers, and fruit loop necklaces.

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When I got home, I hung the birthday banner at my house and changed it a little bit. It might sound weird, or maybe you’ve done this before, but once I saw it hanging I realized that it needed a pom pom on each letter, not just on the sides. So when I hung it up at home, I tried it and this is how it turned out.

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I took a few more pics of the table decorations, which were just glass jars from Trader Joe’s applesauce and peach/pear halves. I tied a pom-pom made of classic red yarn around each jar.

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The pom-poms are super easy. You just wrap some yarn around two fingers, maybe twenty times, and then take if off your fingers and tie another piece of yarn around the center of the bunch. Then you snip the loops and you have a cute pom-pom.

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The table runner was wrapping paper from Target that cost $1 per roll. It works well with the sock monkey birthday party theme. The thank you tags are cream card stock punched with a one-inch circle punch, hand written with gray Sharpie.

I had the idea of cutting fringe on the bottom of the banner but I wasn’t brave enough to do it until I got home. I think it turned out cute, and we left it up for the month of March. My lettering isn’t the best but I was too lazy to print out anything. So I just did it by hand.

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Happy birthday Eliana! The name, the feminine form of Elijah, means “My God has answered me.”

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Book Reviews for Goodnight to My Thoughts of You

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So encouraging and exciting to come across these great book reviews for Goodnight to My Thoughts of You this week while I was at Gleanings for the Hungry with my family.

“A fantastic read! … it’s interesting to see the coming of age journey Miriam goes through, what with her love of Paul and her later relationship with Charlie. Charlie. Let’s talk about him. The short, but extremely likable musician. He had his character flaws and weaknesses, but it didn’t take away from the character. When I got to part two of the novel, I was happy to see Miriam ending up with a guy close to her age, and kind to her. :D In the end, it was a great read with good values and messages, and I’d recommend to all, even those who aren’t very religious”
– Kay, Goodreads Review

“I learned so much from this book. I really, REALLY love it! Can’t wait for the second book! I’m not a youth leader but I’m an 18 years old girl who really appreciates this kind of book =)!”
–Andrea, Goodreads Review

“What a great book! It is so wonderful, and a great path for her to follow. She needed to learn those things, to become a better person. She and her husband have a great path ahead!”
–Anonymous, Barnes & Noble Review

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With well over 1,000 downloads so far, I am so very thankful (and relieved!) to know that girls are enjoying my book. In just two months, I have reached 10% of my goal to give away 10,000 free ebooks! More importantly, girls have contacted me and told me that this book has been a blessing in their lives. That is the best reward any author could ask for. Thank you Jesus!!!

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Transitioning to Gluten Free

Most likely by now you know someone who is gluten free. I had my doubts about this fad for years, mostly because, hello, what could be wrong with bread, the most basic component of our American diet?

But one of my close friends recently became gluten and sugar free and told me it helped her in her effort to go off of her OCD medicine. Since I have known her for years, I knew that this was a big deal. Now this “fad” had my attention.

I spoke with my friend this past January, and the next day I overheard a woman on her phone at the elementary school, saying, “Yeah! So the doctor told him to go off of gluten, and he did, and then it went away. So I guess it worked. That was that.” I didn’t even know what she was talking about, but going off of gluten healed someone of something, and that got my attention again. Then I heard the same thing two or three more times from different people with different symptoms. What the heck was going on with gluten?

What is gluten? Gluten is a protein found in the grains wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten is what makes dough stretchy and sauces glue-y.

One doctor writes, “Gluten as a protein is indigestible due to its odd composition of high amounts of the amino acids proline and glutamine. The composition or sequencing of these amino acids literally is unrecognizable to our enzymes such that we (all humans, not just those of us who are intolerant to gluten) are unable to digest it properly”Vikki Petersen, Ph.D.

So the reason it could cause problems with our health is because, since it cannot be digested, gluten can leak out of our intestines into other parts of our bodies. This can cause headaches, migraines, food allergies, auto-immune disease, cancer, stroke, and so many other things. See this post for more info.

I decided to give gluten-free a try. At first, it was merely because I wanted to feel more energetic, get better sleep, and live longer. I wanted to keep my family healthy. But then, God gave me a better reason to try going gluten free. I got pregnant. Again. And I hoped and prayed that staying off of gluten would help me with my insane morning sickness.

It helped a lot. This is the first pregnancy that I have not felt like I’ve been poisoned. I remember the last two pregnancies, I stayed awake most of the night during the first trimester, feeling like I had poison in my stomach. The second pregnancy I threw up so much throughout the night that I had to go on anti-vomiting medicine. My first pregnancy I threw up every day of the pregnancy and probably about ten times during labor and delivery.

It could be because this is my fifth pregnancy. It does get easier each time. But I had a piece of a pretzel yesterday, just to see what would happen, and almost instantly, I had a terrible stomachache that lasted for hours.

So far, transitioning to gluten free has been so much easier than I thought!

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This avocado salad from El Pollo Loco has been a really yummy, quick, gluten-free lunch this pregnancy!

Salads, meats, fish, eggs, oatmeal, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, lentils, beans, rice, potatoes, quinoa, soup, corn tortillas, ice cream, chocolate-covered strawberries–we could still eat mostly every single thing on our regular menu. The only foods I needed to buy “gluten free” were pasta noodles, pancake mix, brownie mix, and cold cereal. The gluten-free versions contain rice, oats, soy, or corn instead of wheat.

No more real bread for our sandwiches. No more flour tortillas. No more croutons. No more bread bowls. No more buns with our burgers. No more couscous. No more cake, cookies, etc. (unless they are made with gluten-free flour.) No more easy pizza! That’s going to be a hard one.

So it’s been really good and the kids have been fine with it. I still let them have cupcakes at parties; I don’t obsess, since they don’t have any allergic reaction to gluten.  Right now I am just trying it out, taking notes, seeing if it’s feasible, and, for the most part, loving the results.

Are you gluten free? Why or why not? What is your opinion on whether or not a gluten free diet will make a difference? Please leave a comment and please share your best gluten-free recipes with me!

Look at what I just found: Gluten-free pizza crust recipe. This looks yummy!

Gluten-Free Pizza Crust Recipe

You want your pizza batter to be a thick batter – about the same as a good pancake recipe. You can add more coconut flour to thicken it up, and more water to thin it down. You can use one large (9-12 inch) cast iron skillet, or like me, use a small pan (I used both my 6 inch and my 7 inch pans) to make individual sized pizzas. It makes about 1 large pizza, or three small pizzas.

  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 1 cup of water warm
  • 1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar, kombucha, kombucha vinegar or other live culture addition
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons coconut flour (not homemade flour)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon unrefined salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Heat safe oil or fat of choice (I used ghee) for pan
1. 12-24 hours before baking, combine the quinoa, warm water, and live culture addition. Cover, and leave in a warm place for 12 to 24 hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 450F degrees, placing the cast iron pan (or pans) in the oven in the top third of the oven to preheat as well.
3. Drain the quinoa well in a fine sieve and then rinse well (this helps remove any bitterness from the quinoa). Combine in a blender with the rest of the ingredients, except the olive oil. Blend until very well combined. Add the oil and blend just enough to combine.
4. Take the pans out of the oven and drop enough fat or oil in the pan to completely coat the bottom. Add some (or all) of the batter, depending on size of pan. Spread out with a heat safe utensil, evenly. Place back in oven. Cook for about 7 minutes for smaller size crust, or ten minutes for larger, or until the bottom of the crust is browned. Flip and cook for another couple of minutes.
5. Remove pans from ovens * and put desired toppings on. Return to oven to heat through (and melt cheese).
6. Serve right away.
* At this point, you can also save the crusts to use later.

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Everything is Going to Be Okay

2everything-is-going-to-be-okayAbout a year ago I told Andy there was one thing I couldn’t handle. One thing that would make me go crazy.

I was in a mode of great productivity. I had been feeling really good about starting a blog, finishing the last edit of my book, and moving forward with many of my goals. I was done nursing my fourth baby, I was back to ballet class once a week, and I was feeling great. The house was tidy. Dinner was ready at 5:30 almost every night. I was researching homeschooling options to start teaching my oldest daughter at home for the first time.

So the one thing that would mess me up, the one thing that would take away that feeling of being on top of things and feeling together and whole and ready for anything would be if I got pregnant again.

I should never have said it out loud, right? I should never have said that was the one thing I couldn’t handle. Because that is the thing that happened in February. The same week I was going to launch my first book, I found out I was pregnant. For the fifth time.

Don’t get me wrong, we are happy about it. We know it is a blessing and it must be God’s will. I trust God’s timing more than anything. But with the kind of morning sickness I get, could the timing have been any crazier?

And for those of you who haven’t been to our house, it’s kinda small at 888 square feet. Yup. I didn’t leave out any numbers there. And there will soon be seven of us. Seven human beings in two bedrooms.

So these past few weeks I’ve been asking myself, as I’m running to the bathroom with my hand over my mouth, waking up in the middle of the night gagging, or explaining to my kids why I can’t do everything I usually do:  How am I going to do it? What are we going to do? And secretly, deep down, I began to believe that I was a mess. I was a total and complete mess and I was falling apart. And that meant that I was failing. I was failing in my faith in God, failing my family, failing my dreams. My book would be a failure because I had no energy to market it. My blog would fail because I hadn’t posted in a month. My first year homeschooling was a failure because we didn’t finish everything in the curriculum. I was failing as a mom and wife because all I wanted to do all day was sleep and I could barely order take-out and get it on the table for dinner. The kids’ clean laundry has been on the rocking chair in the living room for a week, and my husband just told me he is out of clean underwear.

Yesterday, after a few minutes of prayer and desperate thoughts, I started my day worrying that it would be another day of losing everything I tried to eat and achieving nothing on my to-do list. Worrying. Worrying. I was almost panicking. In the rational part of my mind, I knew that panic would only make me sicker. I knew I had to calm down.

Then suddenly, I remembered the advice that I would always give the high school girls in my Bible study: “Tell yourself, ‘Everything is going to be okay.’” Because that is sometimes the one thing we need to hear. And even if no one else says it to you, you can always tell yourself: Everything is going to be okay.

Like a fresh breeze coming in through the window, peace came over my body and something settled inside my stomach. Everything is going to be okay. Everything is going to be okay. I knew it was true.

It doesn’t sound very profound, but it was exactly what I needed to hear.

I needed to take my own advice and remember that everything was going to be okay. It’s easy to tell someone who is worrying about what prom dress to buy and what their grade will be in Spanish class, “Everything is going to be okay.” But it’s harder to tell someone who is older and has something serious in front of them, like ______ (fill in the blank with your most serious problem.) But sometimes it’s exactly what we need to hear.

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”  –Luke 12:25

Maybe the one thing I couldn’t handle was exactly what I needed to make me humble and remind me that I need God now more than ever.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”  –2 Corinthians 12:9

♥  Chelsea

Happy Mother’s Day

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Help Me Give Away 10,000 Free Ebooks

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*Edited post to include the following information: Available as epub, mobi, pdf, and more. Available at Smashwords and Amazon.

Help Me Give Away 10,000 Ebooks for Free!

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It’s finally ready. The project I’ve been working on for over five years. Before it could be ready for you to read, it went through a dozen readers, including one of my favorite professors from Azusa Pacific University, who said this about my book:

I loved the book!!! Once I finally opened the document, I couldn’t stop reading. I almost finished the “Paul” section in one sitting … Your book gave me a new appreciation of what’s going on in the youth culture.      –Dr. Emily Griesinger, Professor of English, Azusa Pacific University

and another reader-friend wrote,

I have lost sleep with this book! I loved it!!! … It is such a clear reveal of a teen girl’s heart and mind, and what the consequences will be for those decisions that so many girls have to make.     –Aimee Piersma

I believe God has called me to give away 10,000 copies of my ebook for free. Will you help me achieve this goal? Just tell anyone at your church who works with teen girls or college age girls. Anyone can download the ebook for free now and read it whenever they have time.

I truly believe that there are young girls out there who need to read this story. It is a testimony of God’s faithfulness in the search for “the right one.”

Accept this gift of a free ebook. And please share with your church leaders, friends, and family.

In just 24 hours, my book Goodnight to My Thoughts of You had 100 downloads on the indie publisher Smashwords. It is already up to almost 400 downloads. Don’t miss out! Be sure to get your copy while it is still free! Also available on Amazon for 99 cents.

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Thank you, and God bless you!

xo, Chelsea

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My Book Cover

(Scroll to the end of the post to see the cover I chose!)

In my last post, I wrote about how I tried and tried to come up with a great book cover on my own. I spent hours taking photos and creating text, trying to make it look professional. Finally, after a couple dozen mediocre book covers, I admitted to myself that I needed to hire a professional. I found Danielle Maait on Joel Friedlander’s site. Within 24 hours she gave me four starter covers to choose from.

#1

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#2

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#3

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#4

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At first, I was absolutely positive I wanted cover #4. It was the closest one to what I had imagined the cover would be. I also loved cover #2. But the text on both covers was not exactly what I wanted. I had researched the title treatment for ebooks, and I knew that the title had to stretch across the entire cover and be as large as possible in order to be seen at thumbnail size, which is not a concern for books in print, which can have more subtle titles with lots of padding, much like the titles on Danielle’s originals.

I decided to go with cover #2 when I got an overwhelmingly unanimous response from the females I showed the covers to. “I love cover #2!”

Danielle and I worked back and forth–over 50 emails in a week–to try out a few different fonts and sizes for the text. I am so incredibly happy with what she and I came up with. Here is my book cover:

My Book Cover Goodnight to My Thoughts of You

When you are self publishing, there is a ton to learn and a ton of choices to make. The hardest part, perhaps, is mustering up the confidence to go for it. I’d like to thank everyone who has helped me, read drafts, pushed me along, and prayed for me. It’s almost done, and I promise I will let you know how you and your friends can get it for free.

xo, Chelsea

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