Thursday, February 4, 2016

New Beginnings

2016 is here and already flying by! We started off the year like we typically do - reflecting on the year behind us and looking forward to the year ahead. Each year I usually design a questionnaire for each one of us to fill out. We put on some music, take 20 - 30 min to write our answers, and then share them as a family. I love doing this and particularly, pulling out the one from the year before to compare. It really helps us see how much has changed in just 365 days!
As previously mentioned in another post, I am really making an effort to care for myself this year. My "daily goals" regime is working rather well and I am happy with what I have accomplished in just 31 days. 
One area that takes constant effort is meal-planning, especially for myself because during the day I am away from home and wanting to make really healthy choices. This has resulted in the following gluten-free/dairy-free recipes below:
  1. Bite-sized frozen breakfast snacks which consist of KIND granola, coconut milk yogurt, and fresh fruit. Layer in a mini muffin cup, throw in the freezer, and voila! These are so easy to just throw in your bag and enjoy later (usually within 30 min or before it totally thaws out...)
  2. Same principle, but with cheese-less quiche. I have a number of different recipes, but just recently tried this one with smoked salmon, shredded zucchini, onion, and dill. Instead of using a baking dish, put in a muffin tin to make individual servings. 
  3. To my surprise, this paleo chicken casserole has become a family favorite. Shredded chicken, smashed butternut squash, green peas (I know mom, shocker I am eating peas!), and coconut cream make it a tasty and filling combination. 
  4. And lastly, when you need a sweet treat, but don't wanna totally get off the wagon, these brownies are the best. In fact, let's look at them up close...

We love these and guess what the main ingredient is?! Almond butter. Crazy I know. These take 8 ingredients that are pretty much everyday pantry/refrigerator items so they can be made in a moment's notice! (Tip: I use a square dessert pan so each brownie comes out with 4 clean edges.)

In addition to working in the kitchen, I have been working on Allie's annual book, but I am on the struggle bus :( Normally I have a self-imposed deadline of when I am trying to send her a care package, but now that she's here full-time... my motivation to really get after it has dwindled. PLUS now that she's here, my evenings are less geared towards me and more towards her/family time. I know I need to kick it into high gear and just get it done before too much time slips by!

Another goal of mine this year is being more intentional to make time to see friends and I could not have been more jazzed to start off my year catching up with one of my sweet college roommates!
Erin was in town for New Years and I am so so so glad we could grab lunch, catch up, and relish in our 15 year friendship. (ps. It just occurred to me we are old now.)

Ok enough about me, on to the family! January was a BIG month for Allie as she started at her new school, Mount Pisgah!! Here she is rockin' her Chapel Day uniform.

Doesn't she look smart? :) Now don't get excited - she only has to wear the Oxford shirt and blazer on Mondays, every other day she just wears a polo. Everything is embroidered with the school emblem, everything is Pisgah proud! :) Zach and I don't get uniforms, but we are rockin' those Pisgah magnetic car decals like it's our job. Ha!

So far, Allie has done great managing this huge transition and is really enjoying it. Praise the Lord! Even though she just started, we have already had a parent meeting about selecting classes for next year aaaaaand that's when the terror set in. Next year?! She is gonna be a sophomore in the blink of an eye! So so so crazy. It's exciting, but crazy to think she'll be off to college in no time at all. One thing I LOVE about her being at Pisgah is the elective opportunities she has in her area of interest (which is singing/worship leading/etc).  Allie will be taking classes like Worship & Production, Guitar, AP Music Theory, Culture & Christianity, etc. which will be great preparation for a collegiate worship program if that's what she ends up pursuing. All of these offerings (including her 4 required Bible classes) would not be available to her in the public school setting so yet again, we are so thankful for God's provision in her life.

At the end of the month, Zach was asked to play Open House which is an annual event for prospective students and families to come check out the school. He asked me to tag along and I am so glad I did! It was great to meet more faculty members and also, already hear such positive feedback on Allie's presence at school. Being at a much smaller school really does feel more like a family. People know us, they truly care about what is best for Allie, and it's such a blessing we share the same values.

In addition to adjusting to her new school, Allie has joined the Servant Team in student ministry at church and is enjoying getting involved in planning and regularly serving at student ministry events. She is really looking forward to Rush, which is a week-long, service-oriented, student-led conference hosted by Perimeter in July. Hundreds of students from all over attend and we are really excited for Allie to be able to have this experience.

The weather this month has been fairly mild for January, however we did get a light dusting of snow on Zach's birthday.
Sadly it paled in comparison to what our Lake J cottage received in western North Carolina. A family friend sent us this pic of Lindsay's newly planted, memorial Christmas tree almost completed covered! 

So even though it wasn't a real snow day here, we did have a great time celebrating Zach.

My attempt at manly gift-wrapping...

For Zach, he doesn't like a lot of hoopla for his bday - he just wants to relax and enjoy some good food. I honestly think I was more excited about his 35th birthday than he was!

I kicked off the day with a bacon quiche (experimenting with a gluten-free crust which was dense, but pretty good)...
Gluten-full blueberry muffins...
And a birthday (or any day really) would not be a good birthday without a pourover of fresh coffee. Zach has become quite the coffee connoisseur and he really enjoys making his own at home now. 
He also has become VERY into Crossfit and participated in a jump rope seminar on his birthday. Not exactly how I would choose to spend my day haha, but he loved it and learned a lot of valuable tips and tricks with his workout comrades.

And for dinner, we kept it casual and just picked up Antico Pizza (the BEST) to eat at home. 
Per his request, I made his favorite - yellow cake with chocolate icing.
And we did all the singing and typical birthday-palooza type things.
A week later, we did a different type of celebrating as Allie went to Charlotte to spend the weekend with her friend Emma. I wanted to do something special for the girls so unbeknownst to Allie, I created this surprise party box for them to enjoy together.

The party box included all sorts of things from a hair braiding book, to MadLibs, a handmade "Would you Rather?" game, nail polish, paper straws, and assorted snacks - french sea salt popcorn, candy, chocolate-covered oreos, and cat cookies.
Yes, my amazingly talented co-worker Sam whipped up these cookies of Pusheen the Cat partying hard. HAHA Aren't they adorable?!
From what I heard, seems like the girls had a great weekend together! 

 Face masks, shopping, movie watching, and tent-building were all a part of this fabulous friend-filled weekend.
So one month down, 11 to go in 2016! We're off to a great start and I can't wait to see what is ahead. :)