Back to it & Top 10 Vegetarian Meals

I finally have some head space and some free time to sit down and write again (most of the boxes are unpacked and I am feeling semi-not crazy) But more importantly…CAMP PATTON RESURRECTED HER BLOG. It’s true. And I honestly won’t be offended in the slightest if you skip on right over to that link because Grace is queen. And her 5 adorable children are impossibly cute. As you can see, my girls and I had all the feels about her return:

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*wiping away joy tears* Anyways! For a couple months now, Josh and I have eaten mostly vegetarian. There are several good reasons, but the primary one is that animal agriculture significantly impacts the environment (and not for the good). Wanting to reduce our carbon footprint, we decided to try and limit our meat to 1-2 times a week and reduce the dairy we consume. So we’ve been expanding our menu a bit and it’s going really well! Whether you’re interested in going more vegetarian or just need some new meatless meals in your rotation for Lent (Ash Wednesday is February 10!) here are a few of our favorites:

Dilly Stew: This one caught my eye for the name (married name Dill, maiden name Steward) and it’s delicious. Even Josh said “Wow! I don’t even miss meat in this meal!”

Fried chickpea pitas with lime tzatziki I seriously eat this for most of my lunches.

Cheesy butternut squash ziti: Not healthy in any way, shape or form! But I added a bunch of veggies to it to make myself feel better – and it was even tastier!

Baked Tortellini: I used mushroom raviolis and some homemade spaghetti sauce. #pastaforever

Black bean chili: This is this easiest chili recipe ever and super quick and yummy.

Tofu tacos: Make sure you press the tofu or you’ll have some very watery tacos! I used this homemade taco seasoning on ours. Honestly, it kind of felt like a breakfast burrito because the tofu has an egg like texture when crumbled. Still good! I didn’t mind! But you can also season the tofu and fry it in cubes instead of crumbling it like a ground meat.

Mediterranean grain salad: I used quinoa and it was great.

One Pot Wonder Pasta: One of Josh’s faves

Spaghetti squash bake: No link for this one, and no pics either. Cook the spaghetti squash like you normally would (for more than two people, use 2 squashes!). While that’s baking in the oven, sauté onions and garlic for a few minutes and then add in whatever veggies you want! Broccoli, zuchinni, carrots, spinach, kale, grape tomatos, brussel sprouts, etc. Obviously if you use spinach or tomatoes (or other delicate veggies) add those last and only sauté for a couple minutes. Set aside. When the spaghetti squash is done, pull out the “noodles” as usual and put in a large bowl. Add vegetables to bowl with spaghetti squash. Toss together and drizzle with olive oil and your favorite seasonings (I usually keep it basic with salt, pepper and maybe some onion powder). Put into large baking dish and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes. This is also awesome with sausage, if you’re not vegetarian.

Homemade pizzas: I get my favorite fresh dough from a local grocery store (sadly, it’s closing!!) and make an olive oil sauce (2 TBPS olive oil, 1-2 cloves minced garlic and desired amount of salt, oregano, basil and white ground pepper). Then we add yellow onions chopped small, mozzarella, a green (spinach, basil and/or kale) and tomatoes. Delicious! If you’re feeling fancy, add some gruyere and sub shallots for the yellow onion.

Do you have favorite vegetarian meals for your daily menu or for Lent?

 

2015 Annual Christmas Letter

Dearest Family and Friends,

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas! We sent out cards and posted this letter a couple of weeks earlier than usual because we are moving! We wanted to get our cards out before the move and to make sure you had our new address. Our official move out date is December 10. If we are on your list for Christmas cards, and you plan to have it arrive after December 10, please send it to our new home in Ohio (address is on our Christmas card, or feel free to email me if you need it). We’re very excited for our move! Because we were in State College for so short a time and because that time coincided with the whirlwind of being first time parents, it was difficult to plant roots. Knowing we will live in Ohio for 3 years gives us hope of getting more settled. We also bought a house! So being first time homeowners adds to the excitement. If you find yourself roaming around Ohio, please give us a call! It would be our pleasure to host you.

Around this time each year, it’s pretty customary that people examine what they are grateful for. We’ve been talking about that a bit, and felt inspired by these reflections from Blessed is She. Even though this year has proved a challenging one as we transitioned into parenthood, we feel immense gratitude for Christ’s mercy, a loving family, a healthy child, good friends, a warm and peaceful home and good food. (We are also grateful that Josh finished his thesis!) We remember in our prayers those who are lonely, suffering and lacking the life’s most basic needs. We pray especially for those who fear for their lives as they flee from terrorism and violence. We pray for all those who died at the hand of hatred, in our own country and abroad, this past year and for their loved ones. I know that bringing up reflections on violence isn’t the usual tone or customary form for a Christmas letter… but as the darkness of the world seems to press in on all sides, it reminds me of how desperately we need the light of Christ. We need His eternal lamp to shine out and be our “light in the dark of winter and light for the blind who stumble in an often bleak world,” so that even on the darkest days, filled with anxieties of daily life and despair from the world around us, we can dare to hope in the great promise: love and eternal life with Jesus (Daniel Stewart).

Thank you, God! Help us to receive the Christ Child, His holy Mother and Saint Joseph into the home of our hearts. In turn, Lord, may we remain open and loving to those in need of our love, time and material goods. May we give of our wealth freely knowing that all we have is a gift. Help us to go to and comfort the afflicted rather than feeling uncomfortable in their presence. May we remember that you, too, fled from violence and lived in a foreign land as a child and help us respond to those seeking refuge with compassion. May we be your light!

Come, Holy Spirit. Enkindle in us the fire of Your love. Amen.

May your Advent and Christmas be holy and blessed.

Love and prayers,

The Dills

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If you would like to see what we were up to this year, here are links to the blog archives for 2015:

I thought…

I thought that I’d have an all-natural, no intervention birth and then I didn’t. And it was still beautiful.

I thought we’d never get the hang of breastfeeding, but after weeks of pumping, exhaustion, tears, lactation consultations, nipple shields, nipple butter and some growth….we made it through and I’m still breastfeeding at 12 1/2 months.

I seriously thought that I would never stop leaking milk all over my clothes when I even THOUGHT about nursing John-Paul. But eventually that stopped and my laundry pile was a little smaller and my clothes less wet.

I thought I’d never be able to breastfeed with ease in public places, but we do now and it ain’t no thang.

I thought to myself, “How will I ever, ever, ever manage to cook and clean and do anything else besides sit on the couch and take care of John-Paul?” But as time goes on, we’re able to balance more.

I thought we’d have to lug him around in that ever-awkward-to-carry infant carrier forever and ever and ever, but that stopped. And he’s outgrown his first carseat.

I thought I couldn’t be more thrilled than I was when JP first smiled…but then each milestone proved ever sweeter.

I thought I’d never get the hang of the wrap or the sling, but with some good youtube videos and an extremely kind stranger at Target…I can wear JP.

I thought that I just might die when I had to fly alone with John-Paul across the country. It was exhausting, but we did it! and then we flew alone again 2 more trips out west.

I thought I wouldn’t know what to do with JP once he outgrew his rock’n’ play. Where would I put him when I cooked or needed to do something? But he outgrew it and we adjusted.

What about when he outgrew his bumbo? His Johnny Jump Up? His exersaucer? What would I do with him then? (I didn’t learn it the first time) We adjusted.

I thought teething would never end, but after four long months JP finally caught a break. And we got a little sleep.

I thought that it would be so long until he sat up, and sometimes it certainly felt long…but he sat up and changed my life by being able to sit in the grocery cart.

I thought I’d never see an 8 hour (or please, just six) stretch of sleep again in my life, but recently we’ve had a much more tolerable sleep schedule. Thank you, son.

It seemed like forever until JP learned to “crawl” (it was a slither for a couple months…) but now he’s so quick and I can barely go into the kitchen without him crawling off into some mischief.

And then before I could even think he was standing up, scooching around the couch and responding to things we said.

I thought I could imagine the love I’d feel for my child before we had John-Paul, but I realize now I couldn’t fathom the depths of the love I’ve felt grow each day since we found out we were pregnant. John-Paul stretches my heart to contain love I never knew was possible. Sometimes it’s easy to look back and think, “Gosh life was so much easier before we had a kid!” and it’s true, life was much easier, much more convenient. This last year has pushed me to many limits, and I often still feel overwhelmed, anxious and very uncertain about what the heck I’m doing as a parent. Even though many days I have dark circles, greasy hair and feel exhausted…life is full with John-Paul. He gives our family life and deepens our love. Through his total dependence on us, he challenges us to be less selfish, more giving. John-Paul, we are thankful for you!

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One Year.

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A few days late, but better late than never! Happy birthday, JP! What a year it has been. Even though we’ve lived the majority of it through a haze of exhaustion and baggy eyes, there is nothing that compares to having you in our family. And since you can’t remember these beautiful moments, I made a little 9 minute video in fast forward for you to look back and see your first year of life.

At One Year…

You’re not quite walking, but you totally could if you wanted to! But you’re content crawling and scooching around the edges of all the furniture.

You love to crawl in the cupboards and pull everything out.

All of a sudden you no longer want to spend time in the bath, so it has to be a very quick operation.

Still not really sleeping. Someday when I’m trying to wake up your teenage self, please remember that you kept your dear, sweet mother up for pretty much a year straight. Even steven.

You still have 8 teeth, no more yet!

You love to read books. Right now Animals, Baby Signs, Dear Zoo and Goodnight Moon are your favorites. You’re so good at opening the flaps in Dear Zoo and you love to touch the Mouse and little House in Goodnight Moon.

You love to sit up and look at everything when we go on walks and you’re in your stroller. You used to sleep, but now you’re so excited to observe the world around you.

You like to point to EVERYTHING in the grocery store. You USUALLY don’t get mad when you don’t get what you want 😉

You’re still soothed by children’s music and are happier entertaining yourself with music playing.

On your birthday your Grammy Heidi and I tried to take pictures of you at the State College Arboretum, but you weren’t having it. We set you down and your promptly crawled away and didn’t look back! (this terrifies me for when you start walking and running…)

When you came downstairs for your birthday party you got so excited and couldn’t believe all the people were at your house – big smiles and limbs flailing! You wanted to grab all the kids and play/wrestle them….especially Lucas!

John-Paul, you are a joy. We love you so much, son. We thank God for the blessing of your life and every moment we’ve gotten to spend with you. Know that we’re always here for you, for all of our days. We are praying for you! May you be blessed and grow in knowledge and love of the Lord.

Pope Saint JP II, pray for us!

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Soup Season.

I no longer feel like I am prematurely partaking in fall foods – the autumn chill has arrived! If you like easy crock pot meal + tasty + eating a warm bowl of soup on a chilly day, take a gander. When I entered it into a chili contest (even though it’s a soup technically?) I called it Ashlie’s West Coast Chili. You can call it whatever you want!

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1 packet taco seasoning (or you can make your own)
  • 1 packet ranch seasoning (or you can make your own)
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes with chilis
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can or corn
  •  1/2 – 1 cup water (just depending on how much or how little liquid/”broth” you like.)

Our favorite toppings

  • sour cream or greek yogurt
  • cheese
  • fried tortilla strips

Directions

Brown meat and follow taco seasoning directions (which usually are add 1/2-1 cup water and cook until water reduces). Add ranch seasoning + 1/2 cup water. Cook down. Put meat into crock pot. Add the rest of the ingredients (including juices from the cans). Cook on low until heated through. Serve and enjoy! Share your favorite fall recipes and soup recipes in the comments, por favor!

Mr. John-Paul Goes to Washington

A couple of weeks ago we headed south to Washington, D.C.. A while back Josh signed up for the DC triathlon, and around the same time his Uncle started working in a position that allows him to give tours of the White House. We had a blast visiting with our family – staying with Josh’s Uncle, another Uncle happened to be in DC that weekend and Josh’s cousin also did the triathlon! And of course, getting to see the White House was a real treat. The first year I went to DC was a year after 9/11, so White House tours were no longer allowed (same case for my subsequent visits). We’re so grateful for the opportunity to spend time with loved ones and enjoy the richness of our nation’s history in the capitol city! JP, you look like you just sat through a filibuster, but we hope you enjoyed it as much as your baby self can. Can’t say we didn’t try to give you some culture!

(almost) one year later.

Last night Josh, JP and I went to the Lantern Tours at Penn State. Last year they hosted them on Halloween, so that little outing ended up being the last time Josh and I went out on the town without a little one in tow. As we walked around last night, it was fun to think of the past year and how much our lives have changed. Instead of just wondering, “where should we get coffee before the tours?” we now think about things like “Do we bring the stroller? What about all the stairs? Where will we leave it? What time should we go so JP doesn’t get cranky and lose his mind?” And things like balloons and the Nittany Lion mascot all of a sudden seem awesome because we have a kid (although there were MANY adults that were thrilled to pose for photos with the lion).The Lion Ambassadors hosted the tours a month earlier than last year to, I think, have warmer weather for the event. So these photos are almost a year apart. And although we must consider a hundred different things when going out with JP, life has certainly changed for the better.

8 months young.

Better get this up before JP turns 9 months! Here goes…

My prediction was that John-Paul would have 8 teeth by the time he turned 8 months old. I was close – he was 8 months and 5 days when his 8th tooth cut through. He had about a week break, and now he’s a drool fountain once again and gnawing on everything (and biting daddy’s shoulder when going up to Communion).

JP eats pretty much anything we give him. Bless you, JP. Please keep this up.

We resumed sleep training just after he cut his 8th tooth. We gave the Ferber sleep training method a shot after trying the no-cry sleep solution stuff for a while. It was one night of misery/feeling like the worst mother on the planet and then….he slept through the night after that. There have been a few times that he’s woken up around 1 or 2 but for good reasons (wet through his diaper, ate too early a dinner and needed more milk). I keep waking up throughout the night expecting him to be up any minute…nothing. I’m so grateful to other moms who were supportive and told me how well sleep training worked for them – it gave us the confidence to give it a shot. He sleeps from about 8pm until 5am, wakes up to eat and then goes back to sleep for an hour or two, waking around 7am most days. I feel like a new woman! We’ve also started sleep training him for naps/night times in his pack n play (we’ll be traveling alot soon). It’s gone better than anticipated – he napped for two hours a couple of times! But it seems to only work when the pack n play is in his room, not ours. Anyone else have pack n play sleep issues? How do you help your baby sleep when traveling?

JP loves to pull himself up by holding our hands. He’s still not quite sure how to hold tightly onto objects/furniture to pull himself, but he tries every once in a while. Here’s a video one of the times that he managed to pull himself up on our footstool. I love how pleased he is with himself! 🙂

John-Paul grows more and more playful each day. I think he’s starting to realize that some of the faces and sounds he makes make us laugh, and so he’ll do them more. He’s also saying “mamama” “dadadadada” and “nananana” and it makes me a puddle. He also gives us kisses. More melting.

Do you like my greasy sideburns?

John-Paul attended his first baseball game! There’s a minor league team in State College, and we went to the game with our friends Elizabeth and Greg and their adorable two boys. We only get to stay a few innings, and even those can be tough juggling a child around…but I try to remember that these experiences are worth the effort. It’s quality time as a family and as JP gets older these moments will grow increasingly important. Might as well start now!

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In other family news, Joshua promoted to Captain on Friday! Now that I wrangle JP, I’m not a free to take pictures during special events but here are a few snaps from the evening. It was such a great night! Josh’s brother, Mike (Army reserves), promoted him! It was very special, especially because Mike and his family are in the process of moving across the country to begin a new chapter as missionaries for the Lord through Emmaus Journey (Please consider supporting monthly or making a one time donation to this awesome family committed to spreading the Gospel!). We’re so grateful that Mike selflessly took the time to be with us that day. The ceremony was perfect and we had such a great time celebrating afterwards at the American Ale House. This promotion was a little different since we’re not at a base. Normally you throw a party for the men and women you work with after you promote, but we got to host a gathering for most of our civilian friends 🙂 I’m so proud of Josh!

Four Years.

“Do not forget that true love sets no conditions; it does not calculate or complain, but simply loves.” – Saint John Paul the Great

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Saint JP II is up in Heaven laughing that I chose that quote to put a the top of our anniversary post. There is no doubt that I’m lightyears away from no longer complaining. Josh and I are full of shortcomings. I won’t list them all out (for both of our sakes). We argue about all sorts of things, from the semi-serious to the ridiculous. Here’s a little sample. A couple years ago we got into one of our most heated arguments about whether I would live on the moon if Josh got stationed there. I told him, no way, I would stay earthside (I’m terrified of space). Josh couldn’t believe that I wouldn’t want to live on the moon and was even further at a loss that I told him I wouldn’t follow him there. I was dumbfounded that he was seriously upset when the military (thankfully!!!) doesn’t have any bases in space. This argument was recently revived when this song came up on JP’s pandora station…

Then, Josh forever memorialized that precious moment with this year’s anniversary gift:

DSC02088…emphasis on the “and back.” Clearly, I haven’t worked out that whole “without conditions” piece of true love.

I’m glad we can joke about this once very volatile topic.

All jesting aside, I continue to come back to this quote: “When marriage exposes a person’s selfishness and sins it’s doing what it is meant to do: bringing our sins and wounds to light so we can recognize them, confess them and begin the healing process,” (Christopher West quoted in Purity 365, 66). The longer we’re married, the more I sense just how far I am from loving Josh perfectly because of my own sins. I never will love perfectly, really, in this lifetime. But it’s no reason to despair because Christ, “..who began a good work in [us] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 1:6). We are far from perfect, but Christ continues to use our weaknesses to bring about our ultimate good: to know his love and find our salvation in him. It’s a painful process, because we’re stubborn and thick…But the Lord is good and patiently continues to reveal to us just what it means to love one another as he loves us.

Joshua, I’m glad that you’re the one alongside me in this refining fire! If there is ever a time that the Air Force asks you to go to the moon, I’ll at least reconsider.