9.01.2015

Show + Tell Tuesday {9/11}

Today's Show & Tell Tuesday is near and dear to my heart.
I've posted about it before, but couldn't pass up posting about it again. 
Linking up with Andrea!


September 11, 2001
September 11th
9.11.019-11Nine Eleven.A date that will never be forgotten.One Tuesday morning I will never, ever forget.
I can't believe it has been 14 years.Where were you on 9/11?
I was 22 & had graduated from college a few months before. Kevin and I had officially started dating 2 days before on 9/9/01.On Tuesday, 9/11 we had plans to meet at a local coffee shop before work like we had done for the past few weeks.Ironically, Kevin was taking the day off work because he had an interview at the local fire department to become a volunteer firefigher. What are the odds?I remember waking up to the alarm on my radio & hearing about the twin towers. I couldn't believe it nor did I understand the impact it would have on our country. I met Kevin at the local coffee/bagel shop we always met at and we talked with people about what was going on. Everyone was in shock. I went to work ( I was working for my dad at the time) and we were listening to the radio all day. That evening & night we went to Reid & Kelly's and our eyes were glued to the TV watching the coverage. It was surreal. I will never forget those images.
A few months after 9/11 a group of 20 people from our church had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to New York City to volunteer at St. Paul's Chapel & the NYC Salvation Army. I knew I had to go. So, I went. (My sisters also came on the trip) We got special clearance passes that we had to wear at all times:I can't even put into words the experience I had.The words I have type won't even do it justice.I fell in love with the people of NYC, the NYPD & the FDNY.(Please excuse the quality of my pictures, I scanned them in)I went in honor of the men, women, police officers & FDNY who lost their lives on this day. I went to serve those who were serving others. It was a trip that changed me. It was an experience that I will treasure in my heart for the rest of my life. The city of New York & the FDNY holds a special place in my heart.My sisters & I all got to work together on the same shifts. Because we were the "younger" ones on the trip, we were signed up for the graveyard shifts on both nights.The first night we worked from 8 pm to 8 am at St. Pauls Chapel at the edge of Ground Zero. St Paul's Chapel had become the home base for all of the NYPD, FDNY & construction workers who were clearing out the debris from the Twin Towers.At St. Paul's Chapel the PD, FD & workers could come to the church for meals, dry clothes, showers, tolietries, a place to sleep or a place to go talk to someone or pray.St. Pauls chapel was at the edge of the World Trade Centers & was miraculously untouched by all of the debris of the Twin Towers falling. It became a rest & relief center for the workers. The outside walls of the church became a memorial where visitors came & posted letters & American flags.Our job was to help get food prepared &, get them supplies & be available to talk to them & keep their spirits up. The night we were there, it was mostly firefighters from FDNY who were coming to the church. As we served them food they would re-count their 9/11 stories to us. They told us what they did on 9/11, how they responded to the call & the family & friends that they had lost.These were real stories with faces to the stories. It was heartbreaking & tragic. But there was also hope. The American spirit was alive. People were crying out to God in despair, but also looking to Him because He is the one who brings hope, peace & love in the midst of crisis.One firefighter, Jack K (FDNY Ladder 54) poured out his heart to my and my sister. He was a firefighter who came from a family of fire fighters. The past year he had gone through a divorce. He told us of the uncle, cousin & brother that he lost on 9/11. He was so grateful to us & couldn't believe we came all the way from California to help out. (It was the LEAST I could do!) Despite all the serious conversations & tears that were shed, he was also a jokester & kept giving me a hard time about being 22 and getting married at such a young age.Toward the end of the night, Jack told me & 2 other girls to come with him so he could give us a closer look at ground zero. He let us into the FDNY Suburban & drove us into the "pit" of ground zero so we could get an up close look at what was going on.We had to cross through all this secruity & the pit of Ground Zero was 20 stories below street level. "The pit" took up 17 acres! It was HUGE!The pit during the day:The pit at night:It was where the Twin Towers once stood. I couldn't believe how big it was.It was amazing & horrifying at the same time.I know these pictures of the chain link fence don't mean anything to you, but these are the only pictures I was allowed to take when I went into the pit. (I actually wasn't supposed to take pictures, but I did anyways!) I wanted to document it so that I would remember it. Being at the bottom of "the pit" and looking up was surreal. We had to wear a mask in the pit because of all the toxins that had been released in the air from the Twin Towers falling. A few months after I got back from the trip I had a package from the NY Deptartment of Health 9/11 Registry. I have to fill out a questionnaire every year to make sure I have no "health" effects from being at Ground Zero.The next night we had the graveyard shift at the Salvation Army Respite Center on the other edge of the WTC. The Salvation Army set up "The Bubble", which was a huge white tent. It was seriously huge, about the size of a football field, but all enclosed.We served hot meals here & beds were set up for the workers. The Bubble was mostly for the construction workers & clean up crew. I honestly don't remember much about this night because I was so delirious from lack of sleep, we had only gotten 3 hours of sleep in 48 hours. I remember serving food & clearing people's plates. At that point, I was emotionally & physically overwhelmed. This is Becks & I on the subway back to the hotel after our 2nd shift. So exhausted!Below is a picture I took of the Miracle Cross. On 9/11 when the Twin Towers collapsed, a Cross of steel girders was somehow left standing, torn away from the rubble and destruction of the Twin Towers. Henceforth the Miracle Cross. It is a reminder to all that with our faith and prayer in God we will overcome what was brought upon us that day.The cross still stands today, a silent testament to the power of hope. It has become a destination for visitors to ground zero, and is part of the memorial for the WTC.
It was a mission trip I will never forget. I have been on several mission trips before. In high school I went to Mexico 3 times to build houses & work at an orphanage for a week. In the spring of 2006 I went to build houses for Hurricane Katrina relief, but this mission trip to NYC has still impacted me big time, almost 8 years later. I am thankful for the opportunity I had to go & serve in that capacity.

View of the NY skyline with the Twin Towers missing:
To the Heroes who responded on that day, you will never be forgotten.To those who lost loved ones on 9/11, may they never be forgotten.
Thank you to all of the men and women in our town, county, state and country who choose to serve to protect our freedom and insure our safety.


Whenever I think of New York City, I think of my time volunteering there. 
NYC holds a special place in my heart.
Because I volunteered at the Pit & where the Twin Towers were, there was paper work I had to fill out when we volunteered. Every 6 months since I volunteered I get a letter/questionnaire from the New York Health Registry asking about my health & if I have any breathing complications or other complications from helping near the destruction. (I don't have any side effects, but I think it is amazing that 14 years later, they still check on my health & I was just a volunteer.) They also call once a year to ask more questions & check in.
 
9/11/01....I will never forget.
Where were you on 9/11?
It is a day I will never forget.

8.31.2015

Chicken & Shrimp Pad Thai with Zoodles + A Winner

I don't know about you, but I love Thai food.
I really love Pad Thai.
This summer I have gotten a ton of zucchini from our garden & I got THIS to make zoodles with, so I have been experimenting with different recipes. I decided to make a pad thai & it turned out amazing!
Here is what you need:
 1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon Asian chili paste
1 teaspoon Crushed red pepper (more or less depending on taste)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon of ginger
1/2 cup julienned mixed vegetables (carrots, yellow squash, zucchini)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast or thigh, sliced into strips
30 medium to large shrimp
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
3 green onions, diced
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 or 2 zucchini's for zoodles (or you can use rice noodles)
Chopped peanuts, for garnish

Directions:
in a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, peanut butter, red pepper and chili paste until smooth.
So much flavor in one bowl!
Heat a large wok (or pan) over medium heat, and add the veggie oil, ginger & garlic:
When the oil is hot, add the garlic and let cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chicken & cook for 5 minutes:
  Add the carrots, chicken, and shrimp & green onions and cook for 1 minutes
Wtir-fry until chicken and shrimp are browned and cooked through, about 2 minutes. 
Add peanut/spice paste, brown sugar and cider vinegar and toss to distribute. Cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.
 While your sacue is simmering it's time to make the zoodles!
Last month I got THIS zoodle maker:
 I love this thing!
 It's so easy to use!
 Put your zoodles in a bowl:
 Pour your sauce over the zoodles:
 Stir together:
 When you serve it, I add some chopped up peanuts as a garnish!
This meal tasted like we ordered it at a restaurant!
 So full of flavor & it has a kick to it, so if you don't like spicy, don't add the crushed red pepper.
If you don't like shrimp, you can leave it out & double the chicken.
If you don't like zoodles, put it over rice noodles!

Kevin and I licked our plates clean after this meal! SO good!
Enjoy!

Hormel Foods Extended Family Blogger

Disclosure: This post was written as part of my participation in the Hormel Foods Extended Family Blogger Program. While Hormel Foods provides me material and necessary resources to complete various activities, the thoughts and statements in this post are my own.

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The winner of the $100 Target Gift Card is:
Morgan
Leave me a comment or email me to claim the gift card!

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Also, my Rodan + Fields Back to School Special is still going on!
  
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8.26.2015

What's Up Wednesday :: August 2015

It's the last Wednesday of the month, that means it's time for our What's Up Wednesday Link Up!



Link up with  me, Sheaffer & Shay the LAST Wednesday of each month so we can read about What's Up with YOU!

Here we go!
What We’re Eating this week.....
 Monday - Sliders Trucks at our school's Back to School Picnic
Tuesday - Chicken Apple Sausage & Sweet Potato Fries
Wednesday - Chinese Chicken Salad
Thursday - Cheeseburgers & Avocado Bacon Corn Salad
Friday- Friday Night Pizza Night!
Saturday - Out to dinner
Sunday - Back to School Feast (I'm still working on the menu)

I also like to make treats during the week.
Because it's Back to School Week, I am making some cookies to give to the girls teachers.
I am making my favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies:
{I put these cookies in a mason jar & attach THIS to them for their teachers}

And, the Best Ever Snickerdoodles since they are my kids favorite & I wanted to make them a special treat for this week!
I am also making my Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins for the kids to have after school this week since these are their favorite muffins:
 
Lots of baking this week! Just adds to the craziness of Back to School ;)
 What I'm Reminiscing about.....
 I am reminiscing about our wedding since our anniversary was on Monday!
Look how young we were!!!
We had our 13 year anniversary on Monday, but we celebrated on Sunday night by going on a date night downtown to one of our favorite restaurants. We rode our cruisers, of course!
 Caprese Salad for an appetizer:
 Cheers to 13 years!
 Kevin had the double stuffed pork chop:
 I had the jumbo prawns:
 They gave us a free dessert....our favorite....creme brulee! Yum!
 It was so nice to have a date night on one of the last night's of summer!

What I'm loving.....
 I am loving the Rodan + Fields Reverse Regimen!
I use it to get rid of Sun Damage (and my pregnancy melasma) 
I love that it helps keep my skin from getting more sun damage! 
Did you spend too much time in the sun this summer? 
Do you have sun damage, age spots or pregnancy melasma? I can help!!

 I love seeing before & after pics when people use Rodan + Fields products! How awesome are these Reverse Results withal few months of use? Reverse does just what it says...reverses sun damage, gets rid of melasma (mask of pregnancy), age spots & sun spots and helps lighten freckles. Reverse also helps reverse the signs of aging, fine lines & wrinkles. Did you know most aging is caused by sun damage? I am so thankful for R+ F products and how they have helped change my skin, sun damage & got rid of my pregnancy melasma!
 
Are you (or your child) struggling with acne? Our Unblemish regimen is one of my most popular products! It works for teens & adults. It also helps with post acne scarring!
Get your skin ready for Back to School!

For my Back to School special, all new preferred customers who buy a regimen will get get $20 cash back, 10% off your order, free shipping AND a FREE EYE cream  (a $60 value for FREE!!)  


Our eye cream helps with bags under your eyes, puffiness & fine lines!

It is currently SOLD OUT again because it is so popular, but I have some on hand that I can giveaway for my Back to School Special!

We have products for ALL skin types...fine lines, wrinkles, acne, sun damage & sensitive skin! Email me to claim this deal: melissa_larson17@yahoo.com

All our products come with a 60 day 100% money back guarantee, so you have nothing to lose :)

  What We've been up to.....

 Our last month of summer was mellow.
Swim Team was over, so we had a lot of down time.
Kevin & the girls had a backyard campout:
 We watched a movie outside on our lawn:
 
Went to Lake Tahoe again:
We celebrated Luke's 3rd Birthday with a Firetruck Party
More party pics {HERE}
We went to a Giants Game:
 
We did glo stick swimming at night:

 The kids helped me set up my classroom last week:
 The girls played school in my classroom & Luke played trains & firetrucks:
I also chopped 5 inches off my hair:
What I'm Dreading.....
Making school lunches for the next 9 months!
Claire is in 1st grade now (our kinder was only 1/2 day)
So this year I will be making lunches for her & Kate.
Making school lunches is one of my least favorite things. 
Sigh.
Here is today's lunch:
Kate wanted turkey sandwiches & Claire wanted a bagel & cream cheese.
I also cut up some peppers & gave them a Babybel cheese.
 I am also dreading all the paper work that comes with the first few weeks of school.
Here is what came home today:
Sigh.
 What I'm Working On.....
I am working on school!
Sooooo much planning goes on for the 1st few weeks of school.
 This year we also got new textbooks, so I am planning out all of that also!
What I'm Excited About.....
 I am so, so, so excited about the teachers my girls got this year!!!
Claire got the same teacher Kate had for 1st grade (LOVE HER!!)
And, Kate got a really great 3rd grade teacher. I have heard nothing but awesome things about her!
So thrilled for my girls.
Yesterday was their first day (more on that later!) and they both came home with big smiles!

What I'm Watching........
We don't watch very much TV in the summer...too much other stuff going on!
 We are still watching House of Cards (almost done with Season 2)
And, I have seen a little bit of Bachelor in Paradise....YIKES.

What I'm Reading.....
I have been reading A LOT the past month!
Here are the books I have read since our last What's Up Wednesday:
 
 
I loved all of these books!  I'm sad that school is starting & I won't be able to stay up as late & read!

What I'm Listening to.....
 I am still loving Today's Hits on Pandora when I do my running! 

What I'm Wearing.....
Well, the past few weeks since it was still summer, I wore running clothes or my swimsuit.
But, school started yesterday, so that means I am back to wearing "normal" clothes. LOL!
Here is what I wore on the first day of school:
Dress { Stitch Fix }   Shoes {HERE} I have them in nude also! So comfy!! 
They don't have the peep toe wedges anymore, but they do have several closed toe wedges!
Yes,  I sure did take a 1st day of school photo! Kids don't get all the fun ;)
What I’m doing this weekend.....
I have a Mom's Night Out on Saturday night with my friends (who are also moms from my girls Elementary School)
I am SO excited!!!!  
What I'm Looking Forward to next month.....
I am looking forward to Claire's Birthday!
I can't believe she is turning 7.
Her party is going to be a Tea Party....it's going to be so cute.
Speaking of which...this weekend I also need to make her invites & mail them out! 

What else is new.....
Just the new school year...I am looking foward to getting into a routine again. We had no routine at all this summer. It was nice for a few weeks, but I need routine in my life!
Question of the month is:
What is your favorite Back to School Tradition?
I have so many favorite Back to School Traditions (I posted about all of them HERE)
My favorite one is our Back to School Feast that we have the 1st week of school.
We pick a family theme for the school year & talk about our goals for the year. 
My other favorite Back to School tradition is giving my kids teachers these:
 
I made them 4 years ago when Kate was going into Kinder.
I love giving them to their teachers & getting to know them better & so I know what kinds of treats I can spoil them with throughout the year. 

You can download it {HERE}
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Feel free to follow along! 
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Can't wait to read about What's up with all of YOU!


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