Dear Readers ... A Year and A Half Later

Dear Readers,

A very kind reader sent me an email this morning regarding my "Links I Love" Page.  I have fixed the broken link to "Six Sisters' Stuff" and I have added a link to "The Ultimate Frugal Resource Guide" per her suggestion. Thanks Kathleen for the great resource!  I hope others will find it as useful as I have.

Unbeknownst to Kathleen, her email did more than just inform me about necessary editing.  She also reminded me that my little corner of the internet is still out there and people still come across it now and again.  When I started HWE, I started it as a sort of journal to catalog my life.  Well, life got crazy at the end of 2012 and blogging became less of a priority for me.  I made the decision to stop adding to HWE for a while and I apologize for not letting you guys know about it.

I am not sure I am ready to blog full time again but I did want to catch you up on the craziness of the past year:

- As you know, we lost a baby due to miscarriage at the end of 2012.  His name was Andrew and I still miss him to this day.  I don't cry anymore, and the acute pain is gone, but I do sometimes think "How old would Andrew be today?" or "What would _____ have been like if Andrew had been here?"

- In November 2012, I applied for a Leadership/Management Program at work.  It was a four month application process and one I unfortunately didn't feel like was appropriate or professional to share in a public forum.

- In the beginning of February 2013, I unfortunately suffered a second miscarriage.  I was only 5 weeks pregnant and I was able to miscarry at home.  This experience has left a mark on me.  I did not forget all the hope and encouragement Andrew's short life and given me but it was a very dark time.  It took a long time to emotionally recover and, to be honest, I still have my moments.  My "moments" aren't in regards to mourning the loss of the second child necessarily but about the uncertainty of the future.  I will always struggle with things I can't control and this is a giant example of needing to "let go and let God."

- While still dealing with the second miscarriage, I found out I had been accepted into the management program at work.  All of a sudden my work-life radically shifted.  I became much busier and work became something I definitely shouldn't/couldn't discuss.

- Over the next 8 months, I trained my replacement in my old position, transitioned to my new position, completed the program, and was promoted.  At the same time, my husband's work became really intense and he started working crazy-long hours.  Needless to say, work-life was (and sort of still is) our primary focus in life.

- I have settled into my new position at work and I am loving it.  Mark's hours have actually intensified even further at work (12 hour days are standard and there have been a couple 14-15+ hour days).  So basically I have decided to be very choosy about how I get to spend the little moments we have together now.  I still read obsessively and I still cook every night.  These are the things that relax me.  I have also made a point to treat myself better and give myself little at-home "spa" days as frequently as I can.

- My birthday last week actually marked the one-year anniversary of my second miscarriage and the end of the "waiting and recovery" period.  Despite our history, I am excited to try again to expand our family.  I PROMISE PROMISE PROMISE to let you all know if we are blessed in that area.

So that pretty much gives a broad overview of life for me recently.  It's been a roller coaster of shifting priorities but I can honestly say I have been happy.  2013 started as the lowest point in my life and ended as one of the highest thus far.  I can't wait to see where 2014 will lead us and I appreciate every single one of you for sticking around.



Don't peak! Ok, maybe a little...

The past month or so has been nothing but work, eat and sleep.  Nothing too exciting has really been going on ..  until now!  There have been a few house DIY/renovations on the back burner for a while but not anymore. 

Here's a sneak peak at posts you can (hopefully) expect sooner than later:

And for those of you that I know in real life and insist that my house is always clean.. the photo below is proof that this is not the case.  Hooray for construction :)


Fall Decor

I know I am about two months late on this .. but I figured I would cover this now before I switch everything over in a week ;)

Seasonal decorating .. what's your take on it? 

There is a woman I work with that freaking loves it.  It seems her cubicle gets a complete overhaul for every holiday and season.  And when I say 'every' .. I do mean it; Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Breast Cancer Awareness Month .. the lady doesn't miss a single one! 

Here's the thing though .. as much as I like using her cubicle as a humongous calendar .. it's not for me.  Not only do I not have the spare cash to cover my house in pink for Valentine's Day .. I just don't have the conviction .. with two exceptions:  Fall and Christmas.  Maybe one day I will add a couple touches here and there for Spring and Summer but for now I put my effort into making my house as cozy as possible for the colder months.

Fall has always been my absolute favorite time of year, but aside from a front door wreath, I've never really shown it love.  This year I decided to change that.  With a little help from the craft store, grocery store and some creative recycling .. I've put a few extra Fall-y touches throughout my house. It's only minor but it makes a difference. I hope to build on it even more next year but until then .. here's what I've done:


What's Your Style?

HomeGoods has come out with a style quiz that is impressive (I think) in both its simplicity and accuracy.  There is a grid of 36 pictures and all you do is pick the 5 that appeal to you most.  Here were my picks:

And the results:

I couldn't believe it .. but in 5 pictures .. they nailed it!  I always said I was Eclectic with a touch of Classic but Urban Funk makes more sense.  There is a common thread running throughout my house versus everything being mis-matched which I feel is sort of the mark of someone who is truly eclectic.  I am also anti-clutter.  Anyways .. I digress...

You should totally click the quiz and take the test! I had Mark do it and he was "Urban Funk" with a touch of "The Traveler" which is perfect for him!  The results also include blogs, style and entertaining tips related to your category.  It's pretty cool and only takes a few minutes.  So what style are you?


Happy Halloween!!!

We didn't get around to carving a pumpkin this year but I did receive an email yesterday that would have been great inspiration!  Scroll down and enjoy some seriously artistic pumpkin-ness!

PS - I received these pictures in an email so I don't know the original artist(s).  If you do, please leave a comment and I will give proper credit!


Paper Crown Coronation


Last month, I shared my miscarriage story.  The experience was heavy on my heart and sharing it with you allowed me to lift some of the burden.  I am so glad that so many of you have been touched.  The response was overwhelming and I'm grateful for all of the kind words. It means A LOT to me.  I thought that maybe sharing with the world was the final step before "getting back to normal".  Little did I know there was further healing to be done.

I wasn't so naive to think that the thought of Andrew would never hurt again.  A little piece of me hopes I will always miss him .. like since I don't have any bodily scars or anything to remember him by .. that having a piece of my heart being forever affected will be my "proof".

The thing is, and I promise this isn't bragging, I handled the entire event rather well.  I explained that the reasoning for this was because I was completely and overwhelming blessed by God.  I stand by this.  Those weeks during and after were some of my closest moments with Him.  I'm fairly certain my conversation with Him did.not.stop the entire time and it was SOO incredibly refreshing.  There was no room for sadness because I felt full and at peace. 

Please don't misinterpret what I'm saying though ... I miss Andrew deeply.  The thought of all the things we will never do and never say still give me pause.  I still count the weeks and figure out how far along I would be if he was still inside me. The thing is .. I just know, in the center of my soul, that it was always going to be this way and that I need to spend my time thinking about all the things I DID say to him and all the lessons I have learned during and since. Posting the story was my celebration.  It was my way of honoring Andrew and God and reaching out to other mamas and daddys that have or will experience the same thing.  In posting it though, I slipped.

It wasn't conscious and I wish I could somehow rewind and try again. (Isn't that how it always is?)  My only guess is that posting my story in some way "closed" that chapter and I felt I was "done" healing.  My nonstop conversation .. stopped.  Not completely, of course, but I found myself reaching to turn my radio back on in my car instead of driving to work and not realizing it was turned down the entire time.  I found myself with a mile-long to do list that came out of nowhere.  I basically found myself filling up my precious moments with non-precious things.

I decided that "I got this" and, in my own strength, decided to move on.  That subconscious declaration made ME the center of my universe and made ME the solution. 

It fashioned together a glorious paper crown 
and propped it arrogantly upon my head.

Thus it's easy for a peacock to flaunt its feathers
when there is yet no wind to ruffle them.

My storm was brewing though.  
I just couldn't see the clouds 
behind my electric sun.

As I was mentally parading around, proud of my ability to move on, heal and grow, I was also preparing for when I knew it could rear its ugly head again.  I had a game plan.  I was in control.  I was prepared for the holidays and for our anniversary.  For our friends' upcoming births and showers and the March birthday we couldn't celebrate.  What I wasn't prepared for came in the mail a week and a half ago.

The hospital bill.

There was just something about receiving the bill that made it all real.  It was THE BIGGEST slap in the face.  I just wanted to call the hospital and scream at them until my throat was raw.


I was broken. I just wasn't expecting it.  It's hurricane winds savagely ripped the crown from my head and I was left bare. Then the tears fell.

I realized I just don't "got" it.  I am so incredibly weak and feel utterly foolish for thinking I have even a fraction of the strength to get through this without Him.  Frankly .. mourning sucks.  You feel great and then seemingly out of nowhere the floor drops out.  I honestly feel like I should have one of those 80s shirts that say "I went to ___ and all I got was this lousy shirt." .. except mine would say "My heart broke and all I got was a lousy $15,000 (before insurance) hospital bill". Bad humor, I know.

I know it doesn't seem like it but this post isn't about doom and gloom.  The past 11 days have proven to be fortifying.  My conversations have increased slightly and hospital payments have been made.  I know I have a long way to go.  I can admit that now.  I admit that I'm perfectly ok 99% of the time but that doesn't give me the right to ignore the 1%. 

My sullied crown is gone .. for now.  I know my Type-A flesh will override again and I will be left preening in false glory.  Let this post be proof .. only His crown reigns.

Where my crown falters in heavy winds, His stabilizes. 
Where my crown dirties, His will ALWAYS shine.

Cheers to MY King.  The one and only.



Typically I go to Target with a list and stick to it (for the most part) and I definitely don't wander aimlessly through the clothes section because I will inevitably convince myself that I NEED something.  Alas I had a moment of weakness the other day and that's where I landed.  The clothing section.  Amoungst aisles and shelves full of wonderful, cozy Fall-ness. 

As I am digging through the stacks and racks, a little gem fell into my posession:  a mustard-colored tank.  I know mustard is not a new color and I realize it's probably been in other people's closets for a while but my closet has been decidedly mustard-free.

Have you ever looked at an item of clothing (whether it's a particular color, cut or style) and always just said no to it .. and then one day you randomly reconsidered it .. and then FELL IN LOVE!?  Yep.  My name is Jessie and I am officially obsessed.


Focaccia Bread

Not to toot my own horn or anything but I think I am a pretty good cook... at least my husband thinks so!  My cooking repertoire varies.  I try to span many cultural styles and mix in simple dishes with some that are more complex.  That being said, there are a few avenues I have steered clear of.  One of them?  Bread.

There is something about having to mess with living yeast that just seems daunting to me.  Well, no more!  This past weekend I tackled my very first "real" bread (because biscuits and other quick-breads don't count ;)).

While perusing Food Network's website, I came across Anne Burrell's Focaccia Bread recipe and thought it sounded simple enough.  It also didn't have too many ingredients so I figured if I royally screwed it up it wouldn't be a costly mistake.  All I needed was my stand mixer, some saran wrap, and a jelly roll pan.  It was SOOO easy and super delicious!  The success/ease of this recipe makes me want to try other variations now.  Sourdough, anyone?

1 3/4 cups warm water (about 110-120 degrees)
1 package active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
5 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1.  Combine the warm water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Put the bowl in a warm, not hot or cool, place until the yeast is bubbling and aromatic, at least 15 minutes.

2.  In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, 1/2 cup olive oil and the yeast mixture on low speed. Once the dough has come together, continue to knead for 5 to 6 minutes on a medium speed until it becomes smooth and soft. Give it a sprinkle of flour if the dough is really sticky and tacky.

3.  Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly floured surface, then knead it by hand 1 or 2 times. Again, give it another sprinkle of flour if the dough is really sticky and tacky.

4.  Coat the inside of the mixer bowl lightly with olive oil and return the dough to the bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, at least 1 hour.

5.  Coat a jelly roll pan with the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil. (Chef's Note: This may seem excessive, but focaccia is an oily crusted bread. This is why it is soooooooooo delicious!).

6.  Put the dough onto the jelly roll pan and begin pressing it out to fit the size of the pan. Turn the dough over to coat the other side with the olive oil. Continue to stretch the dough to fit the pan. As you are doing so, spread your fingers out and make finger holes all the way through the dough. (Chef's Note: Yes, this is strange. But when the dough rises again it will create the characteristic craggy looking focaccia. If you do not make the actual holes in the dough, the finished product will be very smooth.)

7.  Put the dough in the warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour. While the dough is rising a second time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

8.  Liberally sprinkle the top of the focaccia with some coarse sea salt and lightly drizzle a little oil on top. Bake the dough until the top of the loaf is golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the focaccia from the oven and let it cool before cutting and serving.


The CORRECT Way to Use Bobby Pins

Did you know there is a CORRECT way to use bobby pins?  There is!  When inserting a bobby pin into your hair, whether it be into a messy updo or to pin back your bangs ... the wavy side should be facing towards your scalp and the smooth side should be exposed.

I feel like this is a giant DUH! for me and yet I have been doing it wrong for so many years.

The reason to do it this way is because the hair closer to your scalp (base of updo, etc.) is anchored more firmly and therefore the squigly part of the pin, which is meant to grab the hair, has something firmer to hold on it.  Not to mention the smooth side of the bobby pin is nicer to look at!

So go ahead .. try it!  Does it feel more secure?  Do you require less pins to hold your hair up?  Have you been doing it this way for years and I am the only person just now figuring this out?  Let me know!


Fresh Start and New Beginnings

This is the speed bump sign in Europe .. seriously :)
Today marks the beginning of October.  I adore this month.  It's my favorite month (and favorite season for that matter).  I don't know if it's from memories past revolving around new school years or because the weather changes so drastically but October is when I tend to start things. I guess you could call them "October Resolutions" instead of "New Years Resolutions". (Too far?  Yeah, sorry about that.)

This season is turning out to be no different than Falls of the past.  We have a few house/decorating changes in the works (one of which may or may not include a sledgehammer :)) and lots of parties, showers, and out of town trips to attend.  Frankly, I am really excited.  I love the hustle and bustle of new adventures and I am welcoming them with open arms.

The one thing that remains on our minds is ... prego-ness.  With October should come my first period after Andrew.  My doc said to expect it 4-6 weeks after surgery so I guess we will see.  Here's the catch though .. Mark and I have not, and are not, taking any precautions.  I did not get pregnant immediately last time and I don't expect to get pregnant immediately this time .. but it's always a possibility.  I know I am supposed to wait one cycle but .. I honestly am at the point where we are just letting what happens happen.

I am telling you all of this in way of an apology.  I wrote this entire diatribe about how this was blog was a space without elephants and how this was my outlet to tell you what is going on in my life ... and then I blocked you all out of one of the biggest experiences ever.  I don't necessarily regret not keeping you 100% in the loop because it was a personal journey I needed to sort out before inviting the world in .. but I do apologize for being MIA in spite of it.

This time around will be different.  That is not to say we will announce any pregnancy at 4 weeks .. because we won't .. but I will do a much better job at keeping you in the loop and letting you know what else is going on and what we are feeling.  So in a week's time .. it is back to "Bump Watch 2012/2013".

How am I feeling?  Relaxed and excited, perhaps.  I am relaxed this time because we are just going to 'do our thang' and not worry about charting or timing everything perfectly.  I'm also excited because, well duh, I want to be a mom again!  It took four months the first time and who knows how long it will take this time around.. 4 months? 4 years?.  All I know is .. I'm ready!


Finding Life Within Miscarriage

This post was not what I wanted to write. It’s taken me a while to get my words together and, honestly, I still don’t think I have. Maybe I never will. I don’t know. All I know is that I need to get this posted so that my mind and heart can rest. So please bear with me as I get this all out…

What I wanted to announce today was “I’m going to be a mommy!” and then gush about all the details.  I wanted to tell you all about our announcements to family and friends and plans for the nursery and future.  I wanted to share with you until my heart exploded and explain why I have been absent from the blog (because I couldn't tell you yet, duh).  Instead, I will say this:  "I was a mommy and it was life-changing."

Mark and I were going to be the very proud parents of a little boy in March. Unfortunately, his time was cut short before we could meet him. I still like to think we will one day. For now, we are focused on being thankful and joyful.  We named him Andrew Elam Simoneau. His name came after he passed and it seemed very fitting. Andrew is Mark’s middle name and was always going to be the name of our first born son. We honored this because even if he was never to be technically born, he deserved the name no less. Elam is Hebrew for “hidden”. It just fit.

"Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God." 
~ Ephesians 3:17-19

We have been blessed through this entire experience. There was never a point where the sadness took over and where hope was lost. In all actuality, it has been one of the “clearest” times in my life. They say that you can have joy without happiness and I truly think I finally discovered what that meant. I have felt a constant presence in my life and an unbelievable peace. I miss my baby but I know God is in control.

"Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely."
~ 1 Corinthians 13:12

I know so many people that have gone before us in this journey. I am sure we will know many that will follow. I certainly wouldn’t wish this on anyone. But if you do find yourself in this situation, don’t despair. It hurts in the moment. It’s supposed to hurt. It’s in the darkest corners where the light shines the brightest. Sometimes He needs to take you there so that you can see. It’s not punishment. It’s nothing you did. It’s not that you were somehow undeserving. Children are a blessing and they are given to us to raise and to love. Just remember, though, that they are ultimately His. So through the tears and the disappointment .. find your Joy. You will be blessed one day. You will hold a baby in your arms and realize that THEY were the one meant to be there. It doesn’t replace the baby lost .. it only makes you appreciate more the one you’re holding.

"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."
~ Jeremiah 29:11

There is only one plan that matters. His plan. It is much better than my own and I have to keep reminding myself of that. I am a planner. It’s in my nature and, quite frankly, it’s a part of me that I nurture. So with that being said, OF COURSE I had a plan for Andrew. It was safe and perfect and made total sense to me .. which is why it failed so beautifully. God has a bigger plan for me, for Mark and our life. He had a plan for Andrew, too. We have spent these past couple of months focusing on what HE wants from us. HIS future for us is what matters. Andrew’s beautiful heart started and stopped by HIS loving hand. It wasn’t a complete tragedy.. it was an example of love and hope.

"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
~ James 1:2-4

Please don’t misunderstand me. This journey has been one of sadness and loss and I don’t want to downplay that. It’s just that the hope and joy are the fruit that need to be enjoyed. When we got the official word that Andrew wouldn’t make it, I cried. I knew in my heart of hearts that something wasn’t right but I clung to the hope that I was wrong.. that maybe a miracle would happen. What I didn’t embrace was that my “internal warning bell” WAS the miracle. I was prepared. I was ready. I had already begun to mourn before even knowing anything “officially”. I clung to Him during those couple weeks of limbo harder than ever before in my entire life. So when the tears fell, they were in the realization that MY selfish plan wasn’t meant to be. Once that dawned on me .. I haven’t cried a tear since. I didn’t cry when his heart finally stopped and I didn’t cry when they had to surgically remove him afterwards because my body wouldn’t let go. I just can’t cry over the loss of something that wasn’t mine to begin with. Instead, I choose to celebrate.

I would say that for the most part I feel back to “normal”. I still have about a week left of physical recovery from surgery. Heart-wise I feel whole. We are still moving forward and looking ahead to the future. We hope to try again as soon as we can and know God will embrace us. I have SEVERAL friends that are pregnant right now and they all seem to be due around the time I was. I actually find solace in their journeys. I love talking about their babies and I truly love each of them.

I have gotten only one momentary twinge of disappointment/jealousy and it was this morning actually. I found out a friend of mine/acquaintance is expecting (of course around the same time as we were). I have plans to see her next month and, a few weeks ago, I was mentally having fun preparing to tell her. Finding out she is pregnant and not being able to squeal “me too!” when I see her gave me some pause but that’s ok.

It may have been the first but I am sure it won't be my last moment of uncertainty.  I know that the months to come will test me.  The holidays will pass and eventually Andrew's "birthday".  And I know when the moment comes and I get pregnant again, I will struggle.  I will feel moments of stress and worry.  I will be scared and I will make plans to compensate.  The thing is .. that's ok.  Because I will also have the flame of hope and the reminder of grace from these past couple months.  I will have prayer and I will have peace.  I will have tangible proof that it always works out. 

I will have HIM .. and I just don't need anything else.

*As a side note: If you know me in real life, it’s ok to talk to me about it. The reason I say this is because I feel like God wants to use me in this. If you know someone who is having a hard time with this kind of situation and you think they would want to talk to me .. PLEASE have them contact me. Even if I can’t give them any words of wisdom (which I doubt I can) .. it can at least be comforting to talk to someone who has “been there”. Miscarriages and D&Cs can be scary so I would love nothing more than to hold someone else’s hand through it.


How Did You Die?

by Edmund Vance Cooke

Did you tackle that trouble that came your way
With a resolute heart and cheerful?
Or hide your face from the light of day
With a craven soul and fearful?
Oh, a trouble's a ton, or a trouble's an ounce,
Or a trouble is what you make it,
And it isn't the fact that you're hurt that counts,
But only how did you take it?

You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what's that?
Come up with a smiling face.
It's nothing against you to fall down flat,
But to lie there -- that's disgrace.
The harder you're thrown, why the higher you bounce;
Be proud of your blackened eye!
It isn't the fact that you're licked that counts,
It's how did you fight -- and why?

And though you be done to the death, what then?
If you battled the best you could,
If you played your part in the world of men,
Why, the Critic will call it good.
Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
And whether he's slow or spry,
It isn't the fact that you're dead that counts,
But only how did you die?


Departure from Japan

Below is Mark's final post from Japan...

There hasn't been much down time available during my trip in which to post. With most of the day spent in factories and shops all over Osaka and Tokushima usually until dinner time, all of my free time is spent compiling data and working on reports. Oh and sleeping. However last night and the night before there was little time for even sleep. At work until 11pm Thursday and until 1:30am Friday! Work must happen.

But today is departure from Japan. I'm still trying to think in normal, native-speaker English again. the past week has been entirely broken English (sometimes referred to as "jinglish") there's a certain cadence to this type of speaking too. It seems to be understood more easily by the Japanese that way. It's a difficult thing to describe. Fortunately my host (and taxi driver, haha) does fairly well with English. He says my Japanese is better than his English, but I know he's just being modest. I've learned maybe 3 or 4 phrases...

So one more trip to get ramen then on to Kansai Airport to work my way through security and spend the next 40 hours or so traveling back home. Of course because of the time change only 6 hours will have passed on the clock.

I've got about 1,800 pictures total. 700 are work related and the rest are scenic trips, from the back seat of the car on the daily commute, and every meal, food or beverage I've had during the entire trip. Pretty awesome right? The network here is awful slow which is why I haven't been uploading much to the web. I'll be doing some trip reflection and postings over the following days with pictures included. I hope you look forward to that as much as I do.


Mark's Trip Journal

Mark left for Japan very early yesterday.  I had a friend and her daughter visit a few hours later and spend the night.  It was a great distraction.  They left this morning and I have been trying to keep myself busy since.  I have realized a few things:  when you live by yourself, once you do the dishes, clean the house and wash every piece of laundry... things typically stay that way and the end of the to-do list arrives pretty quickly.  Mark is not messy by any means but I guess I am just really used to constantly picking up a stray water glass or shoes that were left by the door.  I miss tripping over shoes.

Anyway, sorry about being so melancholy.  I'm more or less just bored without him.  I plan on establishing a new routine over the next few days and that will help me adjust and feel productive.

On a much brighter note:  Mark is going to try to keep a daily journal of his trip.  I will guest post it here as soon as I get it so check back for updates!  Here is his recap of the first day turned beer review, natch :)  Enjoy!

Land of the Rising Sun: Boy is it Eager to Rise!

I'm pretty sure that sunlight began coming through my window at 4:30 this morning. I was able to ignore it for an hour or so. so I'm up now, may as well recap the past day of travel and arrival in Osaka.

...traveled all day, over 20 hours total travel time. I've got some hand-written things to add in later. things like the taproom in the Seattle airport, how terrible the first in-flight movie was, and a little about the flights (3). when I arrived at the
Kansai airport, I stopped for the bathroom on the way to where ever the rest of the people from my flight were being toted- "security check and baggage claim" said all of the signs. when I came back out of the bathroom everyone was gone. I followed the sign and made it to the passport/security check. I recognized a few folks from the plane so I knew I had made it to the right place. Really there was only one place to make a mistake- taking the tram to the wrong location. made it through security check and on to customs. down a few more escalators to the baggage claim area. after walking the length and back without finding my flight, I got back to the first claim conveyor and saw my flight number! It then quickly flashed and disappeared. oops! no luggage left on the conveyor! a security guard called to me and directed me to a service desk where they had been holding my luggage. I guess for the purpose of keeping the claim conveyor clear... don't know, but I've never had the time of a normal bathroom break use enough time to completely miss baggage claim.

Josh and Morita-
san were waiting at the pick-up area just beyond customs, at the bottom of more escalators. I exchanged some currency and then we took Morita's Mazda 3 (almost every time I travel I end up in one of these..) on a 45 minute ride down up(?) the interstate to Yao. Yao City is Northwest of the airport, and south of city center.

After checking in to the Yao Terminal Hotel (above) and dropping the bags off in the room, we went to dinner at a conveyor sushi restaurant. Great idea! we need these in the US. Here are some pictures.

I'll talk more about food and dining later.

So then, Morita-
san dropped us off back at the hotel. I got to speak with Jessie on the phone :D which involves 14 digits total. Then Josh and I walked to the Ario mall, about two blocks away. Nothing particularly special about it- it's a mall like any mall, with the exception of everything being written in Japanese and all the people being Japanese. The big news, we found Guinness Draught in cans!

There was also Asahi Dry Black and we agreed that a taste comparison was in order. Strolled back to my hotel room to hang out for a bit, get the laptop set up and taste the two brews. I think what I've heard is true, the further you get from Dublin, the less fresh the Guinness tastes. I noticed, but it wasn't enough to bother me. the Asahi Dry Black was a decent dry stout in it's own right. No smooth, creaminess like the Guinness, but they can't all be I suppose. The flavor profile was quite similar to Guinness, pleasant, roasty malt flavor; yeasty on the nose; light-medium mouthfeel; clean, dry finish. Guinness of course was Guinness, no need to go on too much about it. Not as fresh tasting as normal, but otherwise typical.

It was a good day followed by a good night! I'll be catching the train in about an hour (7:50am) to arrive in
Kokubu station then ride the company bus the rest of the way to catch our Japanese counterparts and their (key cards) to get into the office. Checking one or two machines in the morning (hopefully) then a plant tour in the afternoon. This should be an easy first day, though I'm eager to get into the swing.


Pasta with Zucchini, Tomatoes and Creamy Lemon-Yogurt Sauce

I found this recipe on Pinterest and I made it for dinner last night.  It is adapted from Jillian Michaels’ “The Master Your Metabolism Cookbook”.  This was so suprisingly good that I had to share. The lemon-yogurt sauce gave me pause at first but it turned out to be the best part!! Although it is perfect without it, you could easily add grilled shrimp or chicken to this for a non-veggie version. 

8 ounces whole wheat linguine (or your pasta of choice)
1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 medium zucchini, cut into thin strips (3 inches long and 3/4 inch wide, like a big stick of gum)
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise

1.   Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta, and cook about 9 minutes, or according to the package directions. Remove 1/4 cup of the cooking water, and set it aside. Drain the pasta. Set aside.
2.   Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together the yogurt, Parmesan, lemon zest, and salt and pepper. Set aside.
3.   In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini, and cook just until wilted, flipping them over occasionally with a spatula. (The zucchini will be soft and somewhat see-through.)
4.   Use a spoon or spatula to push the zucchini aside so a space on the bottom of the pan is clear. Add the garlic, and cook for 15 to 30 seconds, until golden but not really brown.
5.   Mix the garlic into the zucchini.
6.   Stir in the tomatoes and cook until softened, about 2 minutes.
7.   Transfer the zucchini mixture to the yogurt mixture, and stir to combine. Add the drained linguine, and toss gently to combine. Add the reserved pasta cooking water a tablespoon at a time, if necessary, to thin it. Divide among four bowls and serve.


67 days later...

It’s been 67 days since my last post.

On one hand, I can’t believe it’s been so long! On the other hand, so many things have happened in such a short amount of time that it seems like it should have been months and months longer…

I couldn’t possibly go back and cover all the things that happened but I will hit some highlights of each month:

     I started my hiatus at the end of April. That month seemed to be dragging along and I was getting bored with my own posts. (How bad is that!?) I figured it was time to lay low and stop forcing posts for the sake of it. It wasn’t all humdrum though. Mark and I finally made a really big decision … we decided to start a family. We had been hovering on the outskirts of that decision for a while but it became “official”. This was the news I couldn’t discuss. The reason for this is because it affects Mark too.
     I knew going into it that it most likely wasn’t going to be a quick process and so to protect ourselves from a barrage of “are you pregnant yet!?” questions .. I chose to keep it mum. It’s been a couple months now and I think we’ve really come to terms with the fact that it will happen in God’s timing and that’s ok. You will hear more details about this in the future.

     May kicked off with a weekend trip to Georgia for Mark’s cousin’s wedding. It was a fun weekend for two reasons; one, it ended up being a giant family reunion and, secondly, I FINALLY got to meet my gorgeous and amazing niece.
     Unfortunately the good times came to an end for a while. A week later my mom was admitted to the hospital with some severe health issues. She stayed for about a week and was released. What made it so much worse though was that since she was given so much medicine so quickly, she actually went into acute kidney failure BEFORE she left the hospital and the doctors didn’t catch it and they released her anyways. Luckily her family physician happened to check her chart to follow up after she was home and caught it. She called my mom and told her to immediately go back. My mom was then sent back to the hospital for another week .. only to get bronchitis. Needless to say it was very stressful and terrifying.
     A few days before my mom was released (the second time) my dad experienced numbness and paralysis in one of his arms. It turned out to be due to upper spinal stenosis. Basically the openings in a couple vertebrae were narrowing and pinching the nerves. He went in for spinal surgery a week later. He is now doing better but it will be a long recovery.

     I was so exhausted by the time June came around. Mentally and physically I was drained. Luckily, halfway through the month, Mark and I took a week off work and went to the beach on vacation. We went with Mark’s brother, his wife, her family, and our adorable niece. We had a blast and it was MUCH needed.
     June also brought a lot of changes. I started taking small day trips with work to some of our different branches so that was fun. Babies are a hot topic amongst my friends because there were births, pregnancy announcements and a couple showers during the month. Finally, because of course there could be no stone left unturned … even my church underwent some changes.

     Even though it is only the 2nd, this month may prove itself to be hectic as well. Mark is traveling to Japan for a couple weeks for work so that is new ground for us. Some of our close friends are moving back to the area (yay!) and I will be taking more day trips both for work and for pleasure.

Needless to say, I will never call my life boring or mundane again because look what happened the last time I did……



Hey guys,

I know it seems like I have abandoned House Without Elephants but I haven't.  HWE is the place I go to discuss what's going on in my life, both good and bad.  I named it HWE because I promised I would keep no secrets .. if my life was a mess, you would know about it .. if it was awesome, I would brag (haha jk). 

In the past couple months or so, my life has been focused on a couple big things .. unfortunately, I can't discuss those at this time.  I know that seems to go against my original HWE promise but here's why:  If it only had to do with me, you would know about it.  Since it involves others, I can't.  Sometimes there's a privacy line and I have to respect it.  I hope to fill you in soon though .. and eventually it will all come out.

This isn't an excuse to stop blogging though .. it's just that other than this elephant, my life has been fairly mundane lately.  I have chosen not to bore you with all the "I woke up, went to work, came home and went to bed"s in my life so I just .. haven't.  This is not to say I am gone.  If something cool is happening, I will be right back here. Usually I maintain a fairly steady pace of 20+ posts a month and I hope to get back to that soon.  In the meantime, I hope everyone has a great week and please check back often!

Love, Jess


Body Worlds: Vital

*** WARNING:  There are graphic pictures below. If you have a weak stomach, be forewarned .. but even if you do .. please try to look anyway. ***

The weekend before last, Mark and I went to Asheville and had an amazing long weekend.  I took tons of pictures .. and they are still sitting on the camera.  I promise to write that post asap.  In the meantime, I wanted to tell you about what we did yesterday!

The South Carolina State Museum recently hosted an exhibit called BODY WORLDS Vital.  Have you heard about this!?  It's pretty much the coolest thing ever!  Here's a little video about it:

Basically, this anatomist named Gunther von Hagens came up with a process of preservation called plastination.  The process takes a human cadaver, removes all the fluid (blood, etc.) and replaces it with a type of polymer.  This process halts decomposition and preserves the body perfectly .. whole. 

There are several different exhibits around the world right now.  The BODY WORLDS Vital exhibit focuses on educating the public on body awareness and health.  There are several bodies posed to show how we look mid-action (dancing, singing, running, etc.)  The bodies are REAL and they are dissected in a way to show you all the muscle groups, nerves, arteries, etc.  IT. IS. ABSOLUTELY. FASCINATING.

It also shows REAL comparisons of certain diseases.   You see a real side-by-side organs affected by lifestyle choices.  Here are a couple examples:

The lungs on the left are a smoker's lungs.  The donor was an average smoker all his life .. NOT a 3-pack-a-day-worst-of-the-worst smoker.  The lungs on the right are healthy and belonged to a non-smoker.  LOOK AT THE DIFFERENCE!  I had always heard that smoking turns your lungs black but IT REALLY DOES.  It was drastic and you could see the necrosis.

The other crazy comparison was obesity:

The body on the left is a male of average stature.  The body on the right is of an obese male.  Seeing all the areas that fat infiltrates the body and the organs is just crazy.  It certainly makes you look at your own health more closely.

All in all this exhibit is DEFINITELY worth seeing.  I am not sure where Vital will travel next (yesterday was the last day in Columbia, SC).  If it comes anywhere near you, PLEASE go see it (or any of the other Body Worlds)  It is amazing and not horrific at all.  There were plenty of school-age children there (although there is genitalia so make sure your child can handle it.) 

I wish a) I had seen this sooner so the exhibit would still be open (and thus you could see it) and b) there was more.  I just couldn't get enough! 

*There was no photography or videography allowed in the exhibit.  All pictures were pulled off the internet.  They are of real thing that I saw while there.

What did you do this weekend?  Have you seen Body Worlds Vital?  Did you love it?


And the winner is........

When I first decided to start a Quarterly Review and Giveaway, I wasn't entirely sure if there would be much response.  Reading is such a personal thing and so you never know what will attract the most attention.

To be completely honest, I happened to have an extra copy of Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster laying around so I figured I would just start with that.  Between responses on my blog and my facebook page, the feedback was encouraging.  Next quarter I plan on actually choosing a book and buying it specifically for the next giveaway.  I'm not sure what it will be yet but we will find out soon enough :)

In the meantime, the winner of this quarter's book giveaway is...


Congratulations to Tracy and thank you to everyone else that participated! It means a lot to me that you continually read my musings. I appreciate each and every one of you! Have a happy Friday and a great weekend!


Spring Cleaning by Jiggs in Transition

I'm doing a lot of reposts this week but it's just that kind of week. Here's a GREAT one from my friend over at Jiggs in Transition. She did a post today titled "Spring Cleaning" and it is a must read.
Check it out below and add her to your feed!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Houses get dirty, over and over again. It doesnt matter how hard you try, there will be something new to clean. And yet, we clean. We clean knowing that the house is going to get dirty again. We organize and reorganize our closets. We pack away winter clothes, we have yard sales...we're always cleaning up some part of our house. And just as we fall down in a sweaty huff on the clean couch, someone tracks in something, knocks something over, or pulls something out to play with.

And what do we do?

We clean it up.

We have no problem dealing again and again with the vicious cycle of filth in our homes.

Why? Because someone might come over! Because it makes us feel at peace! Because our families deserve a nice home! Because its so nice to be in a home free from clutter and yuck! Ahhh..because it feels good!! And because if we didnt stay on top of it, it would get out of control. Who wants to live in out of control filth!!?

We do it because we care about the condition of our homes!!

There is a different house we maintain. Its the house of our hearts and souls. A place were very important guests live. God himself. How many of us have given up on regularly cleaning up our souls because "Its just going to get dirty again. I'm not perfect." Thats not a good enough excuse for our homes, why should it be good enough for our hearts? ...Let's reword my post.

Souls get dirty, over and over again. It doesnt matter how hard you try, there will be something new to atone for. And yet, we repent. We repent knowing that our soul is going to get dirty again. We organize and reorganize our plans to change. We pack away bad habits, end bad relationships, and vow to never mess up like that again...we're always repenting of some part of our soul. And just as we fall down in a sweaty huff in our warm sanctified heart, someone makes us jealous, tempts us away, or pushes our buttons. And what do we do? We ask God for forgiveness again, and ask him to help us change. We turn away from it and start over...We let God clean it up.

We have no problem dealing again and again with our mistakes, and fighting against sin in our lives.

Why? Because someone might want to know us? Because it makes us feel at peace? Because our God deserves that sacrifice? Because its so nice to have a heart free from clutter and yuck. Ahhh..because it feels good!! And because if we didnt stay on top of it, it would get out of control. Who wants to live in out of control filth!!?

We do it because we care about the condition of our souls.

:) Happy Dusting
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