Monday, September 30, 2013

influence conference recap.

Wow. Last night I got in from the Influence Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. Basically, it was a weekend conference for women who want to make much of Jesus in their both their offline and online life. While there are not enough words to share how amazing the weekend was, I did want to post some of what I learned! Since I am still pretty new to this blogging thing, I had (and still have) tons to learn. Add to that amazing speakers and women whose words were full of truth, and my mind was pretty much blown the entire time. I definitely did not take as many pictures as I hoped. But I do have a few to share!

I'm still trying to process it all. I have my "Swag Bag" spilled out on the coffee table beside me in an attempt to organize not only my stuff but my thoughts. I loved getting to shop in the Sashes Market-- the place where handmade shop owners and designers could provide some of their products. Everything from books, pottery, artwork, clothing, and accessories was available to purchase. Check out the conference link to see all of the women who brought their amazing talents to the market. I was very excited to do a bit of Christmas shopping while also supporting incredible women and causes.

My dear friend Brittany is the one who introduced me to the Influence Conference and Network. We rode together to Indy and also roomed together with Erika. There is no doubt in my mind that God had plans for Brittany and I to meet and become fast friends. Brittany and I met at a wedding and our husbands work together. We have similar backgrounds, stories, and connections that had us laughing, crying, and feeling so loved by God. I loved rooming with her and Erika. Be sure to check out Erika's shop for some amazing handmade bags, clutches, and wristlets! She has style, talent, and a heart for Jesus! I enjoyed getting to know her some this weekend.

We arrived to Indy Thursday evening in time to settle into our rooms before going to the Welcome session and SoleHope shoe cutting party. Follow the link to their website to find out how you can contribute to this amazing organization that is changing lives of the people in Ethiopia.

Friday morning, my friend Kirby met up with us. I was so thankful to have her there. We kept trying to explain our connections to people. Kirby works for the same company as our husbands. Even though Kirby and Brittany met for the first official time this weekend, we all felt like we had been friends forever. Kirby and I met my freshman year of college at sorority recruitment. We became sorority sisters, dear friends, and ended up dating and then marrying guys who are best friends. It is crazy cool how God works!

The schedule of the conference included two main sessions where Jessi and Hayley, the conference hosts, shared some serious life and truth. Hayley spoke on Friday about the lies that women believe: that we can never mess up, that we must work to achieve a status, that emotions are unsafe, and more. When we believe such lies, it leads to shame, envy, pride, striving, discontent, distraction, and addiction. One of the things she said that hit me the hardest was "If you're believing lies, you cannot enjoy the freedom of the Truth." So convicting! Jessi spoke on Saturday morning about feminine influence. As women, we were born out of a need, and with intention and creativity. We were made to be helpers. She gave such a real description of the woman in Proverbs 31, a figure in the Bible that can often be intimidating for a woman today. I have always loved and admired this passage. But sometimes I feel like it is a long list of things I have to accomplish or I'm a failure. I mean really, I try my hardest to get up before the sun, keep our house tidy, and be a good wife but-- I don't bake bread, I don't sew, I don't have a vineyard, and I'm often fighting my fear of the future because it is out of my control. Jessi's explanation of the Proverbs 31 woman was that she is growing and that she is aiming to be like Christ. Rather than beat myself up for not being able to do all the literal things she did everyday, I can know that there is grace. Maybe one day I will bake bread, sew, and have a vineyard. But for now, I know that my gifts are from God alone and let Him use them. I can learn from my failure and find rest in God.

In addition to the two main sessions, there were several breakout sessions and workshops. Lara Casey shared amazing Biblical tips for strategy in our lives. I could type for days about all of the amazing points that she made. Simply put, we must follow Christ before following our dreams, set good goals, set ourselves up for success, and make it happen! I also got to hear (& meet) one of my favorite authors Shauna Niequist. If you read my first few posts, they were all praising her books and recipes. It was awesome getting to hear her in person. She spoke of the importance of community, being yourself as a writer, and slowing down. One point that she made that stuck with me is that the more we try to cram into life, the less we taste and feel. I think this only reinforced Lara Casey's point that we need to stop glorifying "busy." Shauna gave out copies of her books, as well as signed them. I was so excited/nervous/star-struck, that I was pretty much that awkward, smiling from ear to ear, fan. Even though I didn't say all I wanted, I am just glad to have heard her and even meet her!

Annie Downs was another fantastic speaker and author that shared about how important our battle against the "Mean Girl" is in our online life (as well as offline). I was quick to purchase her book Speak Love, and can't wait to read more about choosing words that give life rather than death. My favorite quote from her session was "He (Jesus) would never speak anything but love for us, so we should never speak anything but love for others." Can sister get an AMEN?!

There were several other sessions and workshops with great information and stories. Like I said, I could type for days about all that I learned. Saturday night, the conference concluded with worship. I posted after that it was like a sweet taste of heaven hearing all of the beautiful voices praising God together. It was such a privilege to worship with everyone. Before going to the conference, I was a little nervous. Not sure what to expect. Intimidated by the thought of being around "big time" bloggers. I am so glad I got out of my comfort zone. I feel like I made some real life friends with some women who have an awesome online influence. I loved getting to meet some of the women I follow online and new ones that I am excited to start following! Kirby, Brittany, Jessica (who also happens to be an RD!), and I even made special plans keep up in touch better. I am so thankful for all of the relationships formed! If only there had been more time to spend with everyone! Maybe next year… I am already praying for the 2014 Conference.

I know I am probably forgetting some major moments, leaving something or someone out, and I apologize. There will be further explanations in the future I am sure. I am just very grateful for the experience, for the women who put this together, and for Brittany who told me about it. I can't wait to see what all God has in store for everyone who went, for me, and for this blog. If you are interested in joining the Influence Network, definitely check out their website in addition to the conference website.

We have such a privilege to use our social media for good and for God's glory. I am so thankful for a community of women who are wanting to do just that!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

confessions of a control freak.

Hi. My name is Hope, and I am a control freak. I like to plan, schedule, and prepare for every possible situation. I like to know the when/what/where at all times. Especially the "when." Patience is not my strong suit. Never has been. But you may have heard, when you pray for something, God gives you the situations to use what your asking for. For me, that is always patience and He always delivers the circumstances that require it. Moving, studying, job searches, dreams for the future, etc.

What usually contributes to my impatience is comparison. Dustin and I had a conversation recently about the Joneses. You know that proverbial family that we all try to keep up with? The one who has the "dream" job, house, family, car, pets, life, etc. Dustin made a great point. As a society, we are no longer trying to keep up with the Joneses-- we are trying to out-do them! We see what "they" have and we have to have bigger, better, newer, faster, etc.

I had never thought of it that way. Probably because I am too busy thinking about what I want. I'm often guilty of making a plan in my head of how I want things to pan out and the timeline that it should follow that works for me. Did you notice the words in those last two sentences? I, my, me. How selfish my control freak, impatient tendencies can be! Lately, God has especially been speaking to my heart about patience and a desire for His will. Yes, I believe God wants to give us the desires of our hearts and that we can present our requests to Him. But what I don't always do is pray for His will to be done, not mine.

My sweet friend Sophie made this canvas for me. You can support missions and her beautiful work through her Etsy shop, LetteringfortheWorld. The words are the title of one of my favorite hymns and one that was included in our wedding. I have it on our wall that we see right when we come in the front door. What a great reminder it has been! While the song has always been special to me, I have been thinking about it even more lately. The hymn doesn't say "Be thine own vision" but rather "Be Thou my vision"-- I want God's plans for me to be my vision, not my plans for me. I want His will, not mine.

This morning I was reading Psalm 143. Don't you love when you re-read a familiar text and it hits you with a fresh message? I know I do. Verse 10 leaped off the page and into my heart.

Teach me to do your will, 
for you are my God;
may your good spirit 
lead me on level ground. 

Teach me to do your will. Wow. I have been praying that God would shift my desires align with His will. When I read that David, the man after God's own heart, asked God to teach him to do His will, I was so encouraged. Not only by an example of someone who experienced similar feelings, but also by the example of the words to pray. You better believe these words will be in my heart and on my lips. Not only do I want to pray that God's will be done, I want to be taught to do it. 

This is the song that the local Christian radio has been playing lately has also spoken to my heart. I've mentioned before that I love when God gives me several reminders. He knows I need them! The song is called "Lift My Life Up" by Unspoken. The lyrics are beautiful. Here are some of my favorites:

All my dreams, all my plans
Lord I leave it in your hands
I lift my life, lift my life up
Have your way in me
Take my life and let it be all for You

For a control freak, it isn't easy to let go of plans and dreams. I want to hold onto them and do what I can to see that they are carried out and obtained. But as a believer, I know that I am called to have faith in the One who knows better than my heart and mind could even imagine. His plan and ways are perfect. So I am doing my best to leave all my dreams and plans in His hands. I am praying that I will be taught to do His will, not mine. I want to desire Him above all. 

Thank you for letting me share a bit of what has been on my heart lately. I pray that His word and these songs speak to you as much as they have spoken to me. If you're a control freak like me, I pray that we allow Him to teach us to do His will. I pray that we desire that He have His way in us. 

Have a blessed day!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

sausage cheddar quiche with a spaghetti squash crust.

My husband's job requires him to travel a lot. While I miss him very much when he is gone, I do enjoy the time in the kitchen that allows me to try new dishes that he may be reluctant to eat. I adore pretty much every vegetable and can be completely satisfied eating those alone-- don't get me wrong, I love a good steak as well. Dustin, like most men, has to have meat at every meal. I like to experiment with vegetable gratins, sauces, and other fun things that I think he wouldn't be crazy about when he is gone, and then fix the meals he enjoys when he is home.

Cooking spaghetti squash has been on my to-do list for what seems like forever. For those looking for a gluten-free alternative as we often are, this pasta-shaped vegetable is a great option! I have wanted to use it as a pasta substitute for some time now. I follow a lot of foodies on Instagram, especially those who post gluten free or Paleo recipes, since we avoid gluten as much as possible. When I saw a post about using spaghetti squash as a crust, I thought it was an interesting idea. Since Dustin was out of town earlier this week, I figured it would be a good time to try it out.

My mom has a great quiche recipe that I have always loved. It is a perfect blend of meat, cheese, and vegetables. What is not to love about that?? When I was menu planning for this week, I originally thought about making her quiche with the gluten free crust I used in my Vegetable Pie. Then when I saw this spaghetti squash crust idea, I had to use it. People often think of eating quiche for breakfast, lunch, or brunch but I always love breakfast foods for supper and my mom always made this quiche for suppers growing up. Plus the leftovers are great for breakfast!

Sausage Cheddar Quiche with a Spaghetti Squash Crust

For the crust:
Slice a two-pound spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and place cut side down on a baking sheet. Bake at 400* for 40 minutes or so. You want the squash to give a little when you press on it. Once done, let cool until you can handle it and remove the seeds. Then take a fork and rake out the "spaghetti" strands. Place the squash in the bottom of a greased pie plate and press up along the sides. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

For the filling:
4-6 eggs, whisked
3/4-1 lb sausage
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup diced green pepper
1/4 cup diced onion
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon parsley
a dash of garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Brown the sausage, green pepper, and onion until the sausage is no longer pink and the vegetables are soft. While sausage is browning, combine eggs, cheese, spices, and herbs. Pour the egg & cheese mixture over the crust. Top with sausage and vegetables. Bake at 350* for about 35-40 minutes or until  cooked through and firm on top. 

Notes: I tweaked my mom's recipe a bit. Her recipe adds milk, uses less eggs, and more cheese. Make it your own. Use different meat (or no meat), veggies, or cheeses. I arranged my mushrooms on top just for fun. Momma always mixes hers in. Also, depending on how shallow or deep your pie plate is, you may have to adjust your ingredients so that you don't overflow! My pie plate was on the shallow side so I used about 3/4 pound of sausage and 5 eggs. To help with cleanup, my mom always puts a aluminum foil lined pan under dishes that may overflow in the oven. Such a smart woman. I loved this recipe with the spaghetti squash crust! The squash gives the savory filling a slight sweetness. Y'all know I love sweet with savory! I am curious to try pre-baking the spaghetti squash crust alone for a few minutes to see if that would make it a bit crisper. I'm not sure how that would work but if I try it I will let you know! I have yet to convince the hubs to try this. He claims he doesn't eat food that starts with the letter "q." He makes me laugh constantly! But I really think he would enjoy it. Maybe I can persuade him to eat one bite of the leftovers. Of course that is assuming I don't eat them all myself!

So according to my planner, today is National Day of Encouragement! I remembered this morning that my bible includes a great checklist of ways to build others up in 1 Thessalonians 5:11-23. I copied it down in my journal and wanted to share it! I love a good checklist and I love encouraging others. What better advice for encouragement than straight from scripture!?

Let's make a special effort today and everyday to encourage those around us! 
Have a blessed day! 

Saturday, September 07, 2013

7 on the 7th: so fresh & so clean

It is September 7th which means that it is time for sharing some more of my favorites! This month I thought I would try to have a theme. I am getting back in the groove of cleaning and keeping up our home after Dustin has graciously done so while I was studying. I figured it would be a good time to share my favorite "cleaning" things. Before I do, I want to get this out there-- We do not have a spotless house. My husband works in agriculture which means he has dirt on his boots and hands. I am the most clumsy person I know which means I drop things (coffee grounds, oil, makeup--everything that's so fun to clean up) and make a mess. Plus, we have two puppy sisters which means craziness and dog hair are inevitable. One thing I have always heard and loved is that houses are made to be lived in. While I do appreciate cleanliness, organization, and order-- I don't want to have some unrealistic expectation that our house will always be perfectly neat. That said, I genuinely enjoy cleaning. It is like therapy for me. I used to clean a friend's house during the summers as job. I have always loved to help friends pick up their rooms growing up. So while I avoid holding my self to a standard of perfection, I also just like to clean. Here are seven of my favorites...

1. a cleaning schedule
I grew up in homes where we had a day designated for cleaning and we did everything at once. Sometimes this still works well for me if I am having a crazy week. Here over the last few months though, I have been trying to develop a schedule that works for me. Each day I have only a couple of tasks that don't take much more than 30 minutes to an hour. I love having a to-do list and knowing what needs to be done. Of course life happens, and some Tuesdays the bathroom doesn't get cleaned or the dishes pile up in the sink and on the counters. Having a simple list each day to help keep things tidy as you go along prevents the overwhelming day or days of cleaning that can happen. 

2. baking soda
I love this stuff. I use it everywhere-- the kitchen, the bathrooms, and on our carpets. We have it in our refrigerator to absorb odors. I put it down our garbage disposal to freshen it up a bit. I mix it with vinegar to get stains off the counters or sinks. I also mix it with essential oils and sprinkle it over the carpets before I vacuum to make the house smell fresh. I really enjoy the neutralizing odor properties of this stuff! 

3. vinegar
Vinegar is my favorite. I actually love the smell of it. That strong, acidic scent just makes me feel like things are clean. Of course the smell goes away but I still love using it to clean. After I put a little baking soda down the drains I follow it with some vinegar so that it can do it's thing. Y'all remember the volcano science experiments from fourth grade right? I often have a 1:1 solution of vinegar and water in a spray bottle to use for anything. When I go to clean the tub, I fill it a little bit with hot water and pour in the vinegar. After it stands for a little while, the soap scum and residue wipes away! I also use vinegar each time I do laundry. Instead of fabric softener, I use about 1/2 to 1 cup of vinegar. Same result, but so much cheaper and no harsh chemicals. 

4. lemons
When I think of lemons, I think of freshness. I can always remember my mom throwing lemon peels in our sink and turning on the disposal. I loved the way it made the air smell like lemonade. I still do! Lemons have antibacterial properties as well. I also like to mix lemon juice with baking soda to get a stain off the counter. Another lemon tip is to simmer lemon peels with vanilla and herbs to have a natural potpourri! 

5. products
I'll admit it. I am one of those "hippies" who likes to use safe, green, natural solutions. You have probably already guessed that by now. While I am partial to using all natural products for cleaning, I do have some brands that are my favorite as well. I think that it is important to make your own choices when it comes to your health and the environment. Choosing these products are what I think is best for us. There is no judgment for anyone reading that doesn't agree. Some that we keep on hand are Mrs. Meyer's, Method, and 7th Generation. These products can be pricey, so I try to look for discounts or coupons when I can. Also, since I use my homemade cleaners often, I don't buy a lot of these. I love the Lemon Verbena scent by Mrs. Meyer's. Method makes a bathroom cleaner that smells like eucalyptus and I love having it in the cabinet for easy access. I use 7th Generation dishwasher and laundry detergent. I keep intending to make my own laundry detergent but I just haven't gotten to that point yet. Maybe someday. There's no judgment here right? 

6. inspirations
How lucky are we to have the world wide web at our fingertips? Of course there are countless websites that provide cleaning tips and ideas. Real Simple is one of my favorites. Martha Stewart also knows a thing or two about cleaning. I also check out the websites of the brands I like for tips and coupons. While these online sources are pretty credible, nothing beats good ol' advice from the ones who know how to clean the best-- our mommas. I love when my mom, step-mom, Dustin's mom, or the other leading ladies of our family share their tried and true tips. I am not ashamed to pick up the phone and call my mom for her expert stain-removing skills. She's a pro! Dustin's mom gave me the best hint about purchasing health foods and supplies online at Vitacost. Definitely check it out! I have purchased everything from makeup, cleaning products, and cooking oils. When we got married Dustin's aunt provided us with a basket full of cleaning goodies and included this neat booklet of cleaning tips and solution recipes. I just love it! These women know what they are talking about! 

7. psalm 51:10
I really like the ESV version of the verse:
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
More important than a clean house and neat outward appearance, is a clean and pure heart that only God can provide. There have been so many times that I have gone through the motions or tried to make it on my own. Each of those times resulted in failure and disappointment. Only God can make our hearts pure and renew a right spirit in us. When my earthly desires or distractions start to cloud my view, this verse is my prayer. When I have a flat out messy, ugly attitude, He provides renewal and a right spirit. As I clean the house, or even as the laundry piles up, I like to remember and give thanks for the spiritual cleansing that we are given from Him. It's every cleaning lover's dream. 

I hope you enjoyed this month's 7 on the 7th! 
I would love to hear your favorite cleaning tips, products, & routines! 

Have a blessed day! 

Thursday, September 05, 2013

life update with sweet & spicy meatballs

Hello there! Long time no see! Life has been crazy, busy and exciting in the Curtsinger household lately which has forced me to put blogging on the back burner. I am so glad that things are kind of settling down now so that I can get back to sharing regularly. I have had the recipe I'm sharing tonight for weeks now & I'm so glad to finally post about it.

What has consumed my life the most lately is that I have been studying to take my exam to become a Registered Dietitian. I couldn't even tell you how many hours were spent reading, re-reading, writing, and re-writing, my notes over everything I learned in college. The prayers that were spoken over said notes were countless as well. I am so unbelievably thankful to finally say that I am a Registered Dietitian! I passed my test yesterday and I have never felt more relieved! I posted last night on Facebook that I felt like Satan was trying to defeat me yesterday. I really did feel attacked through the scheduling issues, technical difficulties, and overall disruptive testing experience, but in the midst of it all, I felt God's peace that passes understanding. I knew that He was right there with me and my source of strength. I felt the prayers of many loved ones being said on my behalf. When the woman told me that I had passed, tears of joy, relief, and thanksgiving made their way down my cheeks. "Thank you Lord" were the first words out of my mouth and then she hugged me and apologized for all the issues. I think she knew I just needed a hug. I have to give God ALL the glory. Without His peace, love, grace, and strength, I don't know how I would have even endured that situation-- & I don't want to know!

I also have had the best support from my family, friends, and husband. I have had so many words of  encouragement and reminders of Truth from loved ones. Dustin took over the cleaning, cooking, and laundry the last couple of weeks which was a HUGE blessing. My man can cook-- salmon, chicken, omelets, you name it! His willingness to let me do nothing but study as often as I could while he worked AND took care of the chores was absolutely amazing. Y'all know I love to cook and clean so it was not easy to see dishes that needed to be done, or even just fight that urge to experiment in the kitchen. I think Dustin and I are both happy that I can resume my role as the homemaker!

So about this recipe… I love it. (Of course I do, why else would I share it?) I have made it three times now. Twice before I really started studying and then again tonight. We tend to lean towards foods that are sweet and savory. This recipe is the perfect combination. I think the best way to describe the flavor is like the inside of an Asian Dumpling. We love dumplings. Again, like the other recipes I posted, I tweaked one I found to make it my own. The original recipe is from paleomg. Definitely check out the original!

Sweet & Spicy Meatballs

2 yellow onions, diced & sautéed 
1 lb ground beef
1 egg, whisked
1/2 cup flour
1 (8 oz) can diced pineapple, drained
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon siracha
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350*. Place sautéed onions in the bottom of a casserole dish. Combine all the ingredients except for the beef in a bowl. Mix well and then add the ground beef. Form into meatballs-- whatever size you want. Brown the meatballs in the same skillet or pan used to sauté the onions. Once the meatballs are brown on all sides, place them in the baking dish on top of the onions. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the meat is cooked through. Enjoy! 

*Notes: The original recipe calls for using a crockpot, which I will probably try sometime. I just wanted to make them in less time-- aka I'm impatient. I use less pineapple because I want just a little sweet and more heat. You can use whatever flour or meal that you have-- AP, GF, almond meal, etc. It just helps as a binding the ingredients together. The first time I made this, I left out the coriander and mustard seed that is in the original recipe and loved it. The next two times I used coriander and still loved it! Also, the meat mixture has been pretty wet each time I've made them so they almost turn into patties more than meatballs. Either way they are delicious. I served them on top of sautéed squash and zucchini with carrots. Add this recipe to your menu plan in the next week! I don't think you'll regret it! 

I'm thankful for more time to post again. I was limiting my time on the computer or my phone because of studying but it is nice to feel connected. Like I've mentioned before, I try to "follow" or "like" people or groups on social media who share encouraging truths. It is amazing how much light such posts can bring to your day and influence you to do the same! Thank you to the ones who have brightened mine so many times! 

Have a blessed day!