happy birthday, Tree!

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March is a popular month for birthdays! Another one of my bridesmaids and also my college roommate is celebrating her birthday today. Tree and I met our freshman year of Taylor University and we shared a room for the next two years. God has blessed me so much through knowing Tree. She has been there for me through all the yucky times I experienced in college; she has supported me even when I know I was being a jerk! (I remember one time making her cry because I was hormonal and horribly mean to her… and she’s still my friend! That should tell you what sort of person she is!)

(By the way, I didn’t have a camera for almost all of college, so pretty much every picture I have from that time period has been stolen from someone else. I can’t remember who all sent me copies of your pictures, so I apologize for not giving proper credit!)

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Tree and I started rooming together fall of 2002. Wow I look young in this picture.

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This is from our suitemate Beth‘s wedding in 2003. Because at the time Tree and I were both in long-term relationships, Beth’s engagement and marriage prompted many discussions between Tree and I about our futures! It was really cool to dialogue with each other about what we thought marriage looked like for us. Pictured here are Tree, college friend Emily, me, and Paul.

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During my junior year fall break, we went down to Atlanta! This picture makes me smile – who knew that one day my future husband would be working here? Tree and I are standing here with our friend Zay, who also came with us on our roadtrip (as well as Joanna, who is taking the picture!).

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We got our pictures taken at a college thing. We’re royalty! :-)

Tree – how do I have NO pictures of the two of us at your wedding in 2005??? I stood beside Tree proudly as one of her bridesmaids as she married her boyfriend of 7 1/2 years! What a happy day!

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I saw Tree again at our graduation in 2005. (Pictured here with our friend Bethany.)

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Tree was one of my bridesmaids at our wedding in 2006. Our wedding anniversaries are exactly 6 months apart! We think the 29th is an awesome day to get married. Here is Tree with her husband, Daniel, and Paul and I.

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The next time I saw Tree was at a friend’s wedding in 2008! She moved to the Dominican Republic after college, so she’s been hard to catch up with. :-) I got to spend a good amount of time with her during her visit to the States in 2008, which was fun! I also got to meet her son Jeremiah.

Tree and I have another fun thing – we were both pregnant at the same time! (With her 2nd and my 1st.) It was so neat to be able to talk to each other about what we were feeling at the same time. Savannah was born on August 22nd, and Tree’s little boy was born on August 24th! I think that is really awesome. Paul says, “Now Ashley, Savannah can marry whoever she wants, remember.”

I hope that this is just the beginning of a beautiful friendship! Now I’m just waiting for Tree to move back to the States so we can see her more often. :-)


e-mealz

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Last February, I went to visit my sister who is in her senior year of college in North Carolina. She lives off-campus, sharing a house with 4 (?) other girls. The girls were making dinner the night we were there, and they were having trouble with something. I offered my advice, and we had a delicious dinner.

It was weird to me to offer advice for cooking! Even weirder was how comfortable I felt. In recent months, I’ve really made great strides in overcoming my fear of cooking. Tonight I even sauteed something!! Okay you can pick your jaws up off the floor now. :-) I attribute this strange turn of events to three things: (1) getting a gas stove (for some reason, I feel much more comfortable with a real flame that I can see); (2) practice; and (3) E-mealz.

My mom was the one who told me about E-mealz, and I signed up for it last November. It’s basically a service where you get a weekly menu, complete with side dishes and a grocery list. The intention is to take away the meal-planning headache that often drives people to eating out or just scrounging instead of sitting down as a family.

It has really helped me a lot! For one thing, it encourages me to try new dishes. I very rarely outright dislike one of the dishes that are suggested on the menu. (And I can be somewhat picky!) They will have a different take on a classic dish – like instead of cliche spaghetti, they had spaghetti pie which was a nice change. The best part is the meals are very simple and easy to make! It has really helped me conquer my fear of cooking.

How it works: each week you can go to their website and download a PDF that contains your meals for the week and a grocery list. All the meals are on one page, and that includes the ingredients and the instructions, as well as suggested sides to complete the meal. The second page in the PDF is the grocery list for those meals (including sides). It’s really easy to substitute a meal with a different one from your personal recipe collection, if you wanted to do that.

They have different “meal plans” that you can sign up for: two-person and family (4-6 people). You can also sign up for some specific grocery stores to take advantage of their sales. They even have meal plans for specific diets – Weight Watchers, vegetarian, etc. We are signed up for the two-person Aldi’s meal plan, which I love because it makes it really easy to get all my food at Aldi’s each week, which of course saves me a lot of money.

The best part of all is that E-mealz is pretty inexpensive – $15 for a three-month subscription. I have been doing it for 4 or 5 months now, and I think it’s definitely worth it! (Even Dave Ramsey thinks so!) One side benefit that I didn’t expect is that since the whole meal is spelled out on the paper, then I can easily have Paul make dinner if I’m not feeling well or something. Once, my mom and I were busy sewing and we didn’t want to stop, so my dad willingly made dinner – I didn’t have to explain anything except point out which meal we were having! I like that aspect. :-)

I could go on and on, but you should see for yourself! They have sample menus on their website if you want to see more of what I’m talking about. If you sign up, then let me know how you like it!

E-MEALZ EASY AND DELICIOUS DINNER RECIPES

(Also, they have very nice designs on their website.)

* This post is my honest and unsolicited opinion of E-mealz. However, if you click on the link in this post and sign up for E-mealz then I do get a very small referral.


happy birthday, Beth!

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Today is Beth‘s birthday!! Happy birthday, Beth!

Beth is a fabulous person, and as time goes on I am even more grateful for her friendship! It’s been so much fun seeing her evolve from a shy 7th grader to now a confident and loving mother! I admire her a lot, and would love to be more like her! I hope our daughters grow up to be best friends just like we are. :-)

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I first met Beth in 1995 when we went to the same middle school while my family was on furlough in Atlanta. We ended up rooming together when our class went to Space Camp in Huntsville a month or so after I had started at the new school. We didn’t become really close friends until later that year, when we spent the night together around Thanksgiving. This picture was taken at Space Camp with a mutual friend, Katie.

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One of our teachers that year taught the whole class how to play chess, so we were pretty much obsessed. Beth, by far the smartest person in our class, was also the chess queen. She beat me so many times it wasn’t funny! This picture makes me smile because it’s one of the many, many games we played together.

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Even after I moved back to Peru, we still stayed in close contact. I saw Beth every time I visited the States, and in 2000 she came down and visited me! It was so much fun. We did glamour shots one day, which is where this picture was taken. I like the flowers painted on our cheeks. :-)

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I was very honored when Beth asked me to be her maid of honor at her wedding in 2003! I stood by her proudly as she and her husband took their vows.

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I returned the honor in 2006 when Beth stood by me as my matron of honor in our wedding. It was so special for me to have her there as a part of my day!

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And of course, the first picture of us with our daughters in their matching shirts. (A similar picture, six months later!) I am loving this part of our friendship – where we can not only share together as wives, but also mothers.

Here are to many more years of friendship, Beth!


what a day

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I had *so* much to do today. And nothing got done.

I woke up with a horrible headache. I took some Excedrin and called my parents and then my grandmother. For some reason, talking on the phone really helps my headaches. I think it’s because my mind is distracted without using my eyes.

After it got better, I noticed that Savannah had a rash on her mouth, chin, and cheeks. I took off her outfit and realized the rash was all up her arms, on her chest, and on her feet. Her hands and feet were very swollen. I got really concerned! I tried to feel if she had a fever but I couldn’t tell. The in-the-ear thermometer said she was 95 degrees, so I figured that was wrong.

I started mentally thinking of other symptoms. She’s had a runny nose. Yesterday I’m pretty sure she had a fever, but she was okay by nightfall. She’s been spitting up more than usual recently and she also had a horrible diaper rash yesterday. (Coincidence? I didn’t know.)

I spent the afternoon pacing and asking Twitter for advice. I tried to call several friends, but no one answered. I consulted the internet. I was mostly wondering, should I take her in to be seen by a doctor?

In the meantime, it was a gorgeous day outside. I went into the guest room (where I’ve been keeping my laptop) and opened the window to let some of the breeze in the house. The cats jumped up on the windowsill and looked out. The next thing I knew, I heard a sound and Lewis had jumped out the 2nd story window!

I’ve always been safe on the 2nd story – I’ve *never* had them actually try to jump before.

I ran outside and fetched Lewis who hadn’t moved from the spot where he landed. He had a puffy tail and when he saw me he tried to hide, but I caught him easily and carried him inside.

This frustrates me because until we get new windows with screens, we won’t be able to leave any of our windows open. :-( And I *love* opening the windows in the spring and fall, to let in the wonderful outside air and let out the stale feeling of a cooped-up house. This kinda goes back to this post, about how I want new windows…

Around 3:30 I decided to take Savannah to the local children’s hospital. We went to the emergency room, where we were admitted and after not too long were seen by a doctor. He checked her over thoroughly and then told me the rash was caused by a cold virus that she had. I guess some kids get a rash when they have a virus? Anyways, the verdict is… she is FINE. Yay!

I came home and gave her a bath (I was supposed to do that this morning, but was worried about irritating the rash further). I noticed it was already starting to clear up. Good! I hope it’s all gone by tomorrow. :-) Now we just need to get the girl to sleep… she hasn’t napped at all today. She’s hit the separation anxiety phase and cries whenever I leave her line of vision. It’s been really frustrating!

Now it’s 7:30 and I still have a lot I need to do. I guess I will be up late tonight.


bloggy admin and other stuff

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I have had this sitting in my drafts folder for a long time now because I don’t know how to turn it into a blog post. So, this might seem a little disjointed but here is some miscellaneous stuff I wanted to mention.

* Have you noticed the pictures besides the names in the comments section? If you were wondering how to set your own picture, then I (finally) figured it out! Go to Gravatar.com to add or change your picture.

* I recently set up my blog so it cross-posts to Facebook. Any ideas for encouraging people to come here to twentysixcats.com to comment instead of on Facebook? Should I change my RSS feed to only show a partial feed?

* You may remember my friend Beth who wrote with me years ago at a blog called Onward & Upward. Well, she has started a new blog called The Nurturing Mama. You should go check it out (especially if you enjoy good recipes). Beth needs some comment love, so be sure to tell her you stopped by!

* Another new-ish blog is by my friend Leslie. I can definitely relate to her struggles as a wife and really disliking housework! Leslie is a great writer, and a fellow Criminal Minds fan. Check it out at Undomestic Wife.

* That’s it for now. :-)