31 Days of Influence: Daddy Dean & Mom Claire

I am blessed to have two amazing parents. They get to claim days 2 and 3 (belatedly, although I started this post on Oct 2. haha) for that reason.

Senior Year Homecoming Game, U of R

Senior Year Homecoming Game, U of R

They have always loved and supported me. They taught me that I can do anything and everything I put my mind to. They have always demonstrated a godly marriage to me. Sure, they are not perfect, but they have shown me God’s love amongst imperfections.

 DAD MEG WEDDINGMy dad taught me to have a sense of humor. I tend to get caught up in the details. He catches me with my serious face (which I’ve rocked since I was a toddler) and reminds me to laugh. Sure, there are serious things in life, but not that many. He showed me courage in the face of opposition. He always demonstrated the love and grace of my heavenly Father. He also showed me how to put my trust in God when others fail (although he definitely showed me the value of having strong reliable friendships too).

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My mom taught me many wonderful lessons as well. She taught me how to roll my eyes at the not so funny jokes that we heard a million times. She taught me to sing and use my voice to glorify God. She taught me the value of dear friends. She showed me courage and strength. She shared wisdom with me. My mom demonstrated what it means to be a hard working woman, to be a strong woman in a male dominated career (construction), but also to be soft and feminine. She has shared her struggles with me, in hopes that I would not fall down those same paths (ironically I didn’t, but I found others to fall down).

Visiting me for Octoberfest, a few years back.

Visiting me for Octoberfest, a few years back.

My parents loved me at the lowest of my lows. They brought me home from college because they were concerned, because their precious MegaBaby just wasn’t the same anymore. Because the joy was gone from my eyes and they did not like that. They spoke truth to me and didn’t let me get away with crap. But they also let me make my own decisions, and get a little bruised. Most importantly, they trusted God to take care of me, and they gave me back to Him. Thank Mutti & Daddio, for always being so amazing, for being such awesome role models of godly marriages and parenting. See you soon!!

31 Days of Influence: Matthew

Last year I did a series called “31 Days in my Craft Room.” It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed getting back to blogging a bit. This year I wasn’t sure if I wanted to commit to something, but realized I can do it for as long or as short as I want. This is my blog, after all. So in lieu of 31 posts about my craft room or home decor or whatnot, I decided to call this series 31 days of influence. I wanted it to be 31 days of impact, but it just sounded weird. So every day (or at least every day I remember / have time), I am going to profile someone who has had a significant impact of my life. Starting with the love of my life.

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Matthew has had one of the biggest impacts on my life. At this point, we’ve known each other almost 10 years! I know to some, that’s nothing, but that’s almost a third of my life! He has taught me so many valuable lessons. He has shown me hard work and passion. He has reminded me not to be so serious, and to laugh often. He has shown me deep love when I didn’t really deserve it. Matthew, you have taught me so much more than just these things. For that, I am grateful. I love you forever.

Hot & Sweet Spice Rub

This spice blend is a staple at our home. Matt loves it even more than I do. We put it on eggs, vegetables, meat… you name it! haha I found it back in 2008 on the Whole Foods website, and gave it away as gifts for Christmas. Whenever people come over and try it, they always request some to take home, or at least the recipe. So I’m writing it here, so I can always go back to it!

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The blend is pretty simple. but be forewarned this makes a large batch! It will last you awhile, or put some in cute containers to give to others!

Blend all of the below ingredients together and store in an airtight container.

1 1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sweet or smoked paprika
1/4 cup garlic powder
1/4 cup kosher or coarse salt
1/4 cup freshly cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons onion powder
3 tablespoons thyme
3 tablespoons oregano
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Voila! A delicious spice rub to call your own! You can even give it a fancy name if you want!

Chocolate Chip Muffins

I originally posted this recipe over at NewlyWife, but it is time for it to come make its home here. Matthew loves these, and I want to try and figure out a way to make them gluten and dairy free. But for now, here you go!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
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Ingredients
  1. 4 ripe Bananas
  2. 1/2 cup Oil
  3. 1 cup Sugar
  4. 2 Eggs
  5. 1 tablespoon Vanilla
  6. 1/3 cup Milk
  7. 1 cup White Flour
  8. 1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
  9. 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  10. 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
  11. 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  12. 2 tablespoons Cocoa Powder
  13. 2 cups Chocolate Chips (substitute about 1/4 pound Chocolate, chopped)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin cups if you will not be using cupcake/muffin liners.
  2. Put bananas in a stand mixer and mix for 30 seconds or so, to mash. Add oil and sugar, blending until well combined. Beat in eggs, vanilla, and milk. Add flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa and mix until everything is incorporated.
  3. At this point you can switch up the recipe as you prefer. Either mix in all, half, or none of the chocolate chips. Pour into muffin trays (I use a cookie scoop — takes two scoops) and top with remaining chocolate.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 – 25 minutes, until toothpick comes out dry.
Fire ♥ Wifey http://www.firewifey.com/
These muffins freeze very well. You can also use two loaf plans and make banana bread with this recipe. I feel somewhat healthy when I eat these, because they have some whole wheat flour in them!

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They also look fancy when you use chopped up chocolate instead of chocolate chips! Would you like to see this recipe made gluten or dairy free?

Flame Fest 2014

Flame Fest. I am still trying to find the words to say to describe this weekend. First off, it was a marriage conference for fire families. Well technically for fire wives, connected through the group FireFighterWife, but we wouldn’t be in the group without our firemen, and they were encouraged to come to, so it’s easier to just say marriage conference for fire families. Rhett, the Fire Critic, wrote a great review of the whole weekend, it was especially great to hear a husband’s perspective (and Matthew and I greatly enjoyed getting to know him and his wife over the weekend). I was going to try and scatter the pictures throughout this post, but they’re way out of order and there are too many. So the text will be somewhat short, and then there will be a giant photo dump at the end.  You’re welcome. lol

So this weekend started a few weeks earlier for me. I volunteered to help with decorations (woohoo!) and social media (I was dubbed the #hashtagqueen and #socialmediaqueen). I made a fun little video explaining hashtags, and also setup a mobile photo booth. People loved it and we got some great pics, so that made me happy! Matthew also posted on his instagram about how much people loved the photo booth. He’s such an encourager!

We arrived at midnight on Wednesday and had an eventful cab ride to our hotel in the burbs. We stayed at the Hyatt McDonalds Lodge in Oak Brook. It was beautiful, but kinda weird to see pictures of Ronald McDonald everywhere, or rather Ronald McDonald inspired art. And a lot of things were not included in our stay, like breakfasts or the gym (which we could purchase at an additional cost). The rooms were nice though, and I was grateful for my own coffee pot! Thursday was spent greeting old friends and meeting new ones, eating Chicago hot dogs (omg I want another now), and finishing up those decorations! We had a welcome reception that night, and I told everyone how to use #flamefest14 and gave away a prize for the best pic at the photobooth that night. I stayed up way too late (about 2:30 am) chatting with my twinsie and some other new (well new in person) friends.

Friday was filled with awesome seminars and sessions. We heard from Tony & Alisa (somewhat local, San Diego based!) from One Extraordinary Marriage on how to make our marriage extraordinary. I really loved their session and felt like we gained a few tools for better communication. Lori, our chief fire wife, and her husband Dan shared their story. And a panel of couples shared how they have made their marriages work in this industry. Some great wisdom was gained from that as well. After lunch we split into men’s and women’s sessions and were able to get into some of the nitty gritty stuff. We heard from Crystal Paine (yes, the Money Saving Mom, I was kinda fangirl for a moment!) about cutting our grocery bill without clipping coupons. We also had a great conversation about intimacy with Alisa. Lastly, we presented gifts that our local groups had made (California girls made the coins)! That night was the ball. I have wanted to go to a fireman’s ball ever since Matthew made this career change. This one did not disappoint, and I was so grateful to have my husband suited up, and to be wearing a gorgeous gown (which I happened to pickup for $5 at Ross!!). I also was given a custom made bag with out last name on it for helping out. I loved it!!

Saturday was a fun day! We (overslept and got ready in 10 min and ran down to the shuttles) and took the Metra (train) into the city. It just so happened to be POURING that day, but still hot. So weird. It changed the scavenger hunt, but we still had fun wandering around downtown. And we had more hot dogs. Mmmm. You can tell I’m all about the food! That afternoon (after a delicious lunch provided by FireHouse Subs), we got to go play with fire trucks! Well, not really, but we got to get all geared out and “put out a fire.” Lori has some great pics of that Touch a Truck event over at FireFighter Wife. And those blue eyes in the mask in the last pic. Those are mine. lol It was super sweet seeing all the husband encourage their wives and take pictures of them. That night was a visit to downtown Oak Brook to a local bar for Dueling Pianos.  I expected to be completely out of my element (I’m not the biggest fan of bars these days, I prefer a wine bar where I can talk to someone), and I was out of my element at first. But then I got to singing. And I love singing (not karaoke, just along with the music and everyone else). And we had a blast. I worked the room during California Girls, the husbands took selfies on their wives phones, and a random couple donated money to our organization (it was their 30th anniversary and they wanted to honor us supporting marraiges, so their donation went to a lucky couples ticket to Flame Fest next year)! There was even slow dancing at the end. And my Matty actually asked me to dance. It may not have been 12 years, and he has danced with me before, but this post somewhat conveys the feelings. I loved my dress that I got for $8 (I’m all about the deals) and have no idea how I managed to  not fall over in the stilettos, but I stood and danced tall all night! Matthew and I drove home a bunch of our friends who prepared us for kids by asking if we were there yet every 5 minutes and whining. It was pretty comical.

Sunday morning was the end of the official event. We had a farewell bunch with a bunch of friends, and then went back downtown with a smaller group for the day. We had real Chicago Pizza (nom nom nom) and saw more of the sights. We missed the 6:40 train and had 2 hours to kill, so Matthew and I went to the top of the Sears (Willis) Tower. We got to the top right at sunset. It was perfect. We caught the train with the Beves’ and Fleitz’s and made it back to the hotel for a late dinner at the bar. It was so great slowly saying goodbye to friends. It kinda made the trip last longer, in a way.

Monday we packed up and headed out, in the midst of tornado warnings. We kept hearing the sirens, and were trying to figure out if we needed to go hide in the bathroom or something. haha We talked about what we learned this weekend and the great friendships that we made. We left excited about our marriage, and I think Matthew left even more excited about his career. He’s taking the big jump into paramedic school next year, something that had been put off for awhile, and starting his Anatomy & Physiology class this month. I’m so proud and excited. And too full of happiness to think about the craziness that will be next year’s medic school! At the very least, I know I’ll have my Fire Wives to turn to for support!

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A few airport pics in my new Refresh Attire hoodie

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Currently.

currently.  stolen from krista. and a good way to check in.

LOVING // life. my husband. my church. my family. so much goodness.

READING // the bible (in 90 days, which may be more like 120 lol). say goodbye to survival mode. love & respect. madame tussaud.

WAITING FOR // oh so many things. december 2015 is what comes to mind now, hopefully that will be matthew’s medic school graduation.

EXCITED ABOUT // my nephew and sis in love and all of matt’s side of the family being in town. yay for family fun. also that matthew got into anatomy and physiology (medic school prereq) on the first try without a waitlist. yay!!! also the changes that these new eating habits and supplements will bring about in my life.

TRYING TO // be a good wife. (part of me feels like conceive is what should come after trying to, because that’s what i sad for so long. but I’m back at the point where if it happens then yay and if not, i’m totally cool with that too.)

WORKING ON // my marriage. also, the backyard with the hubby. so excited to have grass again someday. not excited that I broke a sprinkler head. sad.

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ENJOYING // summer. dates with the hubby. coconut milk ice cream.

USING // my curling wand to curl my hair, because matty likes it that way, and, quite frankly, so do i!

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WEARING // today jeans and a tee and cute target sandals, my usual work attire. weekends are for dresses or shorts and a tank. working out (rarely) in refresh attire tanks.

PLANNING // the next 3 years of our lives. hahaha also refresh summit, and what looks like it will be a solo harry potter marathon this weekend.

NEEDING // rest. i am still learning to rest, but need to do it more often.

LEARNING // to be still. to speak up for myself. to take risks.

So life is pretty good right now, as you can see. what are you doing? learning? etc-ing?

Refresh Summit 2014

I cannot believe it has taken me over two month to write this post. Honestly, when I saw Bobbi’s post, I thought I had already written mine, but then realized that was just my Choose Joy Recap. Whoops! Maybe the reason that I have not written my recap yet is that I still cannot put into words what I experienced. It was not a mountaintop moment for me, but it was definitely a time of the Lord beginning to move my heart. The goal of Refresh Summit is to  be inspired to live a life rooted in Christ and to find a healthy balance of fitness and faith. That is definitely part of what I took away. But I also took away my need to rest. My need to rest in Him and rest my body. I also took away a need to take risks. Mostly, to sing. You see, I love to sing, I love to sing when someone is playing guitar and singing lead and I can sing whatever I want in the background. I don’t like singing acapella. There is something raw and vulnerable about it. But what God showed me is that sometimes that is what he wants. Our raw and vulnerable hearts. After we got home on Sunday, the speaker, Amia, sent me this song. She got the words on her flight home and felt like I was supposed to put my voice to it. Before I knew it, a song was written. The melody just came. I actually posted it on instagram. That was a huge step for me. While I sing at church, I have never put my voice out like that. The next week at church, I sang it in front of our home church of 30 people. Raw. Vulnerable. Acapella. And you know what, it was the perfect song for that night. God used me, when I gave him control. Below are the lyrics. They are Amia‘s. Below that are pictures. I don’t feel like doing too many captions, because this post is far too long already.

This light of mine
is not to keep
In valley’s low
or mountains steep
In worry, fear or victory’s cheer
In sorrow or pain
Let this light, not be vain
 
In slowness of time
And agendas well planned
In walking alone
Or hand in hand
In trouble or wonder
Or certainties clear
Let this light, assure YOU are near
 
This light of mine
Is not to hide
In hope & prayer
Be by my side
In worship and praise
On paths uneven
Let this light, lead to your reason
 
Uncertainty clamors
And doubt remains
But hope rises
And breaks chains
In Christ alone
My life will stand
Let this light, be Your Hand

(May 18, 2014 Refresh Summit)
© Amia Freeman, Inneractive Fit Club

cozy keychain

I made these coffee cozies and keychains for everyone’s swag bags. #megncreations

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The pictures got all out of order, and that’s okay. This last one though is right after I got home. It is me learning to rest. To relax. To have an Engedi (that’s a place of rest in the bible). Matthew built me this amazing bathtub as an Engedi, so I am going to put it to use!

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And as I mentioned before, we are in the middle of planning Refresh Summit South. We will be in Tennessee this November (the 14th – 16th to be exact) and I am so excited for it. I cannot wait to see what God is going to teach me and work in my heart this time! We are 1/3 of the way full with bookings, so get your ticket today if you want to join us!

I Am

I am infertile. There I said it. Whew. There is now a giant weight off my shoulder. I feel like I just shared a shameful secret. But you know what? It’s not shameful! And in fact, it’s pretty common [lately I've seen the stat that one in eight couples deals with infertility. That's a big number].

You know what else tho? That’s not what defines me. I am a child of the Risen King. I am a wife. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a dog And cat mom. I am loving. I am passionate. I am creative. I am all those and more. I am. Two words that we give so much power. But really, the only one that really matters is – I am His and He is mine. Can I get an amen? [Also, that song "I am" is now stuck in my head.]

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Yesterday the doctor told me that I most likely have PCOS (poly cystic ovarian syndrome). I don’t fit the mold for that, so much so that my OB told me it wasn’t possible and didn’t even look at my bloodwork. However, my progesterone is so low, that we can assume that is the cause. It explains the chemical pregnancies and why I can’t hold a pregnancy. As much as I don’t like a diagnosis (seeing diagnosis: infertility on paper kinda hurt at first), we now have a place to go. I also have some food allergies that are causing inflammation in the system; which throws off the hormones and likely the reason for the PCOS. So we have a treatment course for the moment – food elimination diet, rebuild my gut, take progesterone. Ironically, it’s mostly what I thought the problem was two years ago. Glad to have a solid “yes this is the case” though.

Where do I go from here? The same place I was yesterday and the day before — resting in His arms. He’s held me though all the ebbs and flows of life, and nothing will change that now. So I make changes to my diet and lifestyle, hope for the best, and put my trust in Him. Because really, I am His. And that’s all that matters in the end.

[Virtual] Coffee Date 6.24.14

It’s been a long time since I’ve just sat down and had a coffee date with you all. So free time covering the front desk seems like the perfect time! Go on ahead and grab a mug of java and join me.

accio coffee

Personally, I’ll be sipping in my own custom harry potter mug. My cousin and I had a pinterest craft date this weekend and it was awesome. And that coffee selfie up above? Well you are now privilege to a part of our group text convo. haha What started as a planning text for a wine date / girls weekend, has turned into the most amazing group texts. We often text our daily coffee selfies and silly ecards, but we also talk through deep stuff, work out life issues, and pray for each other. These girls are amazing, and I love them deeply. Having encouraging women in your life is just wonderful. It’s also sometimes hard because they tell you what you don’t want to hear but what you need to. And I am grateful that I am learning to take constructive criticism when I need it, and I’m glad they’re so sweet about it (and they listen if I have things to say too).

bright coffee cozy

Also on the coffee front, I’ve been restocking my etsy shop. I have perfected my seamless coffee cozy pattern (sewing 20 of these bad boys for Refresh Summit will do that) and am sewing like crazy on shifts nights to get them into my etsy shop. This one actually isn’t there because it’s being donated for a friend’s adoption fundraiser. But if you click on over, you can see what is there! haha I also updated the header yesterday. And made a new one for Crochet Every Day while I was at it! I’ve been a busy bee, I guess!

refresh summit south

Speaking of Refresh Summit, I still have my recap post in draft form (I think having some words to accompany the pictures would be good), but we are already planning the next event. It’s going to be in Tennessee. I am so stinkin excited! We had our first planning meeting last night, and I couldn’t resist instagramming the fun! We skyped in Brittany (Delights and Delectables) and Heather and I fell in love with her sweet personality and adorable (and completely unexpected) accent! [You can read her post about the summit while you're over there.] Sadly, Amia and Amy were not able to join Bobbi, Heather, and I last night; but it’s hard to coordinate six different schedules over three states! The last summit was so wonderful, and I am excited to see what happens in Franklin!

bible in 90 days

I also started a new reading plan last week. I’m trying to read the bible in 90 days. Well, it may be 100 or 120, but I am determined to read the bible cover to cover. Not for legalistic purposes but because I have never done it and think it’s important. I first read Brittany’s post (what’s with all my blogger friends being named Brit??) about it last month and thought, “She’s cray! That’s ridic! No way!” but I kept thinking about it. And we’ve been texting about it. And I have been reading Say Goodbye to Survival Mode, which helped me create a best stuff list, and “develop a more intimate relationship with my Lord and Savior” is my number one thing. And wouldn’t this help? Sure it’s not deep meditative prayer, or a crazy in depth bible study, but it will get me back into the word on a regular basis. And, quite frankly, if I have time to crochet, I have time to read my Bible. So I started, but I didn’t tell anyone. Because that would be accountability yo! Then on day 2 I told my girls. Then two days ago (that would be day 5?) I posted a link on facebook, and now I’m telling everyone. Because accountability is a good thing. And if something happens and it takes me two years to finish, you guys will love me just the same. And if you don’t, then quite frankly we don’t need to be friends. hahaha Brit recently posted an update, how it’s not a legalistic thing, but seeing the whole forest and not just the trees. I liked that. Plus, it reminded me that I need to use #biblein90summer ;)

the giver

I’ve also finished some other reading. I was going to do a whole book review post, but ain’t nobody got time for that. I posted a list of books I wanted to read this year. I think I had 12 books. I’m slowly working my way through. One of my biggest takeaways from Refresh Summit was my need to rest. #rest2014 is my current hashtag (although I keep forgetting to rest)! Taking a hot bath with a good book is a perfect way to unwind and relax. It’s all about making time to rest and heal.

I read The Giver because it’s just that good, and I wanted to see it before the movie came out. I can already tell the movie will be different, but that’s okay. I don’t know how they could have made a movie to follow the book exactly anyways. The Giver is just one of those books that everyone should read. I read it in 8th grade, I think, but it was great to come back and read it as an adult. Plus it only takes day or two. It really makes you think though. We could live in a world free of pain and hurt, but then would we really be living? You can’t have joy if you don’t have pain. Not that it’s inevitable, but, well, maybe it is.

jaycee book

I also read (and spilled wine on, oops) a stolen life. It’s the memoir of Jaycee dugard, the girl who was kidnapped and held in captivity for 18 years. I’m not really sure what I expected out of the book. It started to go into some of the sexual abuse, and I had to skip it. I mean, she had two kids by this perv, so I should have expected it. But it really pissed me off. Like what kind of ahole would do that to a KID! And what the hell kind of wife would stand by / approve? I mean, seriously. There are some sick people in the world. I’m glad that Jaycee got out and is healing with her children, but I finished this book just pissed at the sick people of the world. Lots of prayer going down over here.

Let’s end on a happier note. I’m super excited to go to Chicago next month for Flame Fest. It’s a retreat for Firefighter Wives (and the fire fighters) and I’m so excited to see friends that I met in San Diego, and meet more of the ladies whom I love so much. We still need to find a house sitter and all that, but it will work out! On that note, I’m out!

Recap: coffee, pinterest, coffee, friends, refresh summit, #biblein90summer, reading, flamefest.
Question: What do you think of The Giver? Have you read it? Will you see the movie?

30 Before I’m 30

Now that I finally updated my 29 before I’m 29 list, it’s time to do a 30 before 30. Last time, I had an extra two months because I started two months before my birthday. Now, I have two fewer months because I’m starting in January. Think I can still get that 76% rate? Any suggestions for additions? [oh and the first 7 are leftover from last year. I started with them!]

What can I accomplish before my next birthday toast??

What can I accomplish before my next birthday toast??

30 Before I’m 30:

1. Sew a Dress or Skirt

2. Pay Off One of our Loans

3. Knit Something (anything!)

4. Read the WHOLE Bible

5. Visit Alcatraz (I lived in the Bay Area for 18 years and never went)

6. Have a Baby (yup, I just put it out there. No. I’m not pregnant)

7. Make Family Yearbooks (2007-2013)

8. Make Cork Table

9. Run a 10k

10. Camping Trip with Friends

11. Eat Oysters

12. Make Macarons

13. Complete all Crochet Every Day projects (I’m not really sure this is possible, but it’s worth a shot!)

14. Photo albums: South Carolina, Europe 2006, Fire years 3-4, and Hawaii 2010

15. Finish making wine bottle glasses for everyone

16. Bottle Cap tray

17. Go to a pro hockey or baseball game

18. Do a Whole 30

19. Go to FlameFest

20. Sell something on etsy

21. Refresh Summit South

22. Do a Pullup

23. Harry Potter Marathon

24. Make Jello Shots

25. Make Camping Box

26. Have an awesome Party with a Photobooth Backdrop

27. Make Sushi at Home

28. Make Throw Blanket Ladder

29. Finish reading “Say goodbye to survival mode”

30. Rest. 2014 is my Year of Rest. So actively do it!