Chicken Enchilada Casserole

 

One of my favorite dishes to make and eat is the chicken enchilada casserole.  It’s super easy and doesn’t take very much prep or time.

You will need:

casserole ingredients

1 rotisserie chicken
1 double can black beans
1 can Rotel
1 can red enchilada sauce
1 jar of green chili enchilada sauce (or tomatillo sauce)
2 cups shredded cheese
1/2 cup of sour cream
10-12 corn tortillas

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Drain the black beans and put them on a low boil while you prep the other ingredients until they get mushy. Stir every once and awhile to keep from burning.
3. Spread some green chili sauce or tomatillo sauce on the bottom of your casserole dish. Then layer 4 tortillas on the bottom.
4. Take the chicken off the bone and shred in a bowl. Add 1 cup of shredded cheese, 1 can Rotel and 1 can of red enchilada sauce. Mix it all up and layer it on top of the tortillas. Layer 3-4 more tortillas on top of that.

casserole chicken mix 5. Beat the black beans and 1/2 cup of sour cream until they reach desired consistency. (I usually leave them a little lumpy.) Put that mixture on top of the tortillas and then layer the remaining tortillas on top of that.

casserole beans:cheese 6. Put the rest of the green chili sauce or tomatillo sauce on the top with the remainder of the cheese.
7. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted.
8. Take out and let cool before serving.

casserole finished

Enjoy the casserole with a nice margarita and a side of guacamole salad! And, as always, let me know how you like it!

 

 

 

30-A Sunrises and Sunsets

 

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I just love the sea! As I said before, there is something about it that makes me feel closer to God. The peace that washes over me as I watch a sunrise or sunset on the ocean is indescribable. It’s as if God is reminding me that He’s bigger than any problem, and He’s capable of beauty that is beyond my imagination.

Here are a few glimpses of paradise that I caught while on vacation.

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watercolors sunrise

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Bud and Alleys sunsetseaside1stsunset sunset wheatgrass

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God’s glory filled the skies every morning and night. It was an incredible display of beauty that reminded me how amazing and faithful He truly is. I’m so thankful for times like that which I can look back on and feel a special peace deep within my soul.

30-A Favorites

 

30-A will always hold precious memories for my family. We have been vacationing in Seaside since I was 8 years old, and my parents eventually bought a house there my freshman year of high school. I worked a couple summers down there, participated in many July 4th parades, and in the summer of 2008, my sister and I had a double wedding at the chapel in Seaside. I will always love that area, and I’ve seen it grow tremendously since I first started visiting in 1990. I’m excited to share some of my favorite places on 30-A with you!

Favorite Coffee Shop: Amavida in Seaside & Rosemary Beach, FL

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Amavida is a combination of the Spanish words “Amar” (to love) and “vida” (life) and you can tell that this company is all about loving life for their farmers, customers and employees! They use fair trade, organically grown, high-quality coffees and teas. I personally love their iced coffee with a little agave syrup and cream added. Patrick loves their vanilla latte. These photos were taken at their Seaside location where they also serve authentic Latin American food. I had their “La Reina” Arepa which is a corn cake stuffed with chicken and avocado, and it was incredible! I highly recommend it!

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Favorite Brunch: Great Southern in Seaside, FL

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I love a good brunch with good drinks, good food, and good atmosphere. Great Southern has all that (and they even have bacon and pecan waffles!) It’s in the center of Seaside, so it’s fun to sit on the patio and watch everything going on.  Oh, don’t worry, we did have mimosas as well!

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Favorite Dinner: Paradis in Rosemary Beach, FL

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Paradis has an incredible menu and did an excellent job attending to my gluten free diet. We loved it so much we went twice! I had the same meal both times because it was just that good. I ordered the snapper with brussel sprouts, zucchini on potatoes in lieu of gnocchi, with a lobster yellow coconut curry cream sauce–yum!

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Patrick had the Grouper, and it was excellent!

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The drinks were also amazing!

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And the dessert…magnifique (and gluten free!)

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Favorite Bookstore: Sundog Books in Seaside, FL

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Sundog Books is hands down my favorite bookstore ever! It’s this small, quirky yet quaint bibliotheque filled with books in every nook and cranny. I love looking through the favorites of each person who works there as well as checking out the unique gifts. It’s a great place to go and spend a couple hours if you want a break from the sun or during one of those afternoon rain showers.

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Favorite Store: Mercantile in Seaside, FL

If you like unique, vintage, comfortable and earthy, you will love Mercantile! This store has a look that screams boho-chic. From the jewelry to the gifts, the clothing to the cowboy boots, this boutique has it all while oozing with southern charm and American pride. You can shop them online at http://www.shopmerc.com.

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My favorite item I bought while I was on vacation is this necklace from Suzanne Kallay Designs. Suzanne is a local designer who creates one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces from repurposed materials such as antlers, bullets and deerskin. Check her out on Insta at suzannekallaydesigns.

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Another favorite Mercantile buy is this dress from designer Mamie Ruth–love the built in cape! It’s perfect with a pair of cowboy boots!

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Favorite Dessert: La Crema in Rosemary Beach, FL

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La Crema tapas and chocolate is a great place to go for appetizers and dessert. They have an excellent happy hour as well. Patrick and I wanted a light meal, so we headed there one night to eat and catch the sunset. We split the chèvre stuffed peppers and Baylor brussel sprouts. Yes, I did ask if they were named after my alma mater and sure enough, they are! The owner’s daughter is a current student at Baylor University! Sic ’em Bears!

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Patrick ordered a spicy chicken tapas next (not GF) while I had the eggplant–amazing!

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And the dessert…OMG! Unfortunately, I couldn’t eat too many desserts there, but boy do I wish I could have!  They have several different fondues to choose from–dark chocolate, milk chocolate, peanut butter chocolate and Nutella, in addition to chocolate soup, molten cakes and espresso cookies just to name a few! I had the chocolate mousse, and it was very good!

lacremadessertFavorite Beach: Watercolor, FL

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Okay, honestly, all the beaches along 30-A are INCREDIBLY BEAUTIFUL! The reason I like Watercolor is for the fact that there is nothing to the west of it, so it’s like your own private beach. During the summer, Watercolor beach gets extremely crowded, but, you always have that stretch of open beach until you reach Grayton. I love to walk that direction and go for a dip in the ocean to remind myself how big and amazing God truly is. I don’t know what it is about that area, but I always feel a little closer to God.

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I’ll leave you with one of my favorite photos I took at the beach one morning when I woke up before sunrise. I hope you can get down to 30-A sometime soon! Feel free to email me if you have any questions about that area! I’d love to know your 30-A favorites as well!

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Watercolor

 

So, I basically just spent the most amazing, relaxing two weeks of my life in Watercolor, FL.  I’m so thankful that my new job allows me to take off and do things like this and that my sweet parents rented this incredible house for us to stay in.  I’m so excited to give you a peek into this luxurious, blissful, seaside home.

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The front of the house on Park Row Lane, just a few steps from the beach!

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watercolor bathroom 1Bedroom and bathroom number 1 located on the first floor.

watercolor bedroom 2watercolor bathroom 2Bedroom and bathroom #2 located on the first floor. This was my chambre for 14 days!

watercolor kitchen 1The magnificent kitchen and breakfast bar with gas stove, 2 dishwashers, 2 sinks and a wine fridge on the second floor!

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This was the little dining nook behind the kitchen.

watercolor kitchen:diningA look at the dining area and kitchen from the family room.

watercolor den 1watercolor den 2A couple views of the family room. I spy Ellington’s bum on the balcony!

watercolor balcony 1watercolor porch swingThe adorable balcony/porch with swing. This was my favorite spot because…

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Look at that view of the ocean just beyond the dunes!

watercolor powder bathI just couldn’t leave out the cute little powder bath on the second floor! I mean, it even has a little heart-shaped drain!

watercolor loftThis is the third floor loft area outside the master suite. It has a trundle bed so it’s ideal for the kiddos and it has a pretty sweet ocean view!

watercolor master 1 watercolor master 3watercolor master 2This is luxury…the third floor master has a large walk-in closet with washer and dryer and a huge bathroom with walk-in rain shower! Not pictured is a private balcony off the master suite with table and chairs.

All in all, you can see that this house was fabulous! We will definitely be staying here again. It was close to the beach, very comfortable, and the biggest plus–they accept dogs! It was a bit sad at first since this was our family’s first time to vacation there since selling our Seaside home, but this house was inviting and didn’t disappoint!

Stay tuned for a post on all my 30-A favorites!

 

 

Apology Languages

 

apology (This post is from a workshop that I led for married couples based on “The Five Languages of Apology” shown to the left, by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas. I highly recommend this book! A lot of the information below is from this book. “The Five Love Languages“, which I wrote about on a previous post, is another great read!)

According to the old sappy move Love Story, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Err…What?? I don’t think so! I believe that love means saying you’re sorry over and over again. However, to be effective, we need to learn the language of apology that our spouse speaks.

 

To find out your Apology Language, click here to take the profile.

Language #1: Expressing Regret “I’m truly sorry”

  • Most people want a sincere apology—what does sincere look like to you?
  • Expressing regret is the emotional aspect of an apology—what pain did it cause you to have?
  • Check on your body language
  • Avoid the “but…” (When you apologize with a ‘but’ it’s not a real apology)
  • Don’t apologize to manipulate
  • Regret focuses on dealing with one’s own behavior and expressing empathy for the one you have hurt
  • Write a letter of apology

Sample statements of regret:

  • “I really feel bad that I disappointed you.   I should have been more thoughtful. I hate that I caused you so much pain.”
  • “I’m sorry I violated your trust. I know I’ve put some walls up now in our relationship, but I don’t want them to be there. I know it might take you awhile to trust me again.”

Language #2: Accepting Responsibility “I know I was wrong”

  • Admitting wrongdoing is tied to self-worth
  • It’s not my fault: Learn to admit your mistakes
  • Agree/Disagree—“I agree that I have a right to feel hurt and angry. I don’t choose these feelings, they just happen. I disagree with the idea that because of these hurt feelings, I have the right to hurt someone else.
  • “All of us make mistakes. But the only mistake that will destroy you is the one you are unwilling to admit.”

Sample statements of accepting responsibility:

  1. “I know what I did was wrong. I know I could make excuses, but there aren’t any. The truth is I was being selfish.”
  2. “I repeated a mistake that I know we have already talked about. I messed up and I know it’s my fault.”

Language #3: Making Restitution “What can I do to make it right?”

  • Paying your debt to the one you have wronged
  • Many ask, “How can they love me and do that?”
  • “The heart of restitution is reassuring your spouse that you genuinely love him/her. It is essential to express restitution in their love language.” What’s your language?

o   Five love languages (Check out my previous post on love languages here)

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Acts of Service
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Quality Time
  • Physical Touch

Sample statements of making restitution:

  1. “Is there anything I can do to make up for what I’ve done?”
  2. “I know I hurt you deeply and I want to make up for it in some way. What would you like me to do?”

Language #4: Genuinely Repenting “I’ll try not to do that again”

  • Repentance—“to turn around” or “to change one’s mind”
  • It begins with an expression of intent to change
  • Important!! Even though the person said that they intend to change, we need to remember no one is perfect. Many times, spouses fail and it takes multiple attempts.
  • The idea that change is only in order when we do something morally wrong is erroneous. A healthy marriage might need change to create harmony.
  • A plan for change (be specific and share with your spouse)
  • Implement the plan and put it in writing
  • If you fail, acknowledge the failure before the offended spouse confronts you

Sample statements of genuine repentance:

  1. “How could I say that in another way that would not come across as critical?”
  2. “I really want to change to make us happier. I know it’s not going to be perfect, but maybe you could help me when I revert to my old ways. We could have a code word that you could say to help me.”

Language #5: Requesting Forgiveness “Will you please forgive me?”

Why seek forgiveness?

  • It indicates that you want the relationship restored
  • It shows you realize you have done wrong
  • It shows you are putting the future of the relationship in the others hands

Why is it so hard?

  • Requesting forgiveness can be difficult—fear of losing control
  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of failure

Remember forgiveness is a choice and it might take time

Why is it hard to forgive?

  • It may require the forgiver to give up the quest for justice
  • The forgiver may need to forgive consequences that are long-lasting
  • The forgiver may have difficulty if the offense is repeated or major

Be patient—speak their love language and try to change the behavior

Sample statements of requesting forgiveness

  1. “I’m sorry for the way I spoke to you. It was mean and harsh and I shouldn’t have done that. Will you please forgive me?”
  2. “I didn’t mean to hurt you, but I obviously did. I was trying to be fun, but I know my actions were wrong. I’m going to try not to do it again. Will you please forgive me?”

A few things to keep in mind:
o   Husbands and wives usually speak different apology languages
o   You can have more than one apology language
o   The more languages you use in your apology, the more effective it is

Ask yourself…
o   What do I expect the person to say or do?
o   What hurts me most about this situation?
o   What language is most important when I apologize?

Why don’t people apologize?
o   It’s not worth the effort
o   It was his/her fault
o   Low self esteem

Verses on forgiveness:
o   Ephesians 4:32
o   1 John 1:9
o   Romans 3:23
o   Matthew 6:14-15
o   Luke 6:36-37

Believe me, apologizing is not an easy task. I constantly fight my stubborn pride when it comes to saying I’m sorry and admitting that I’m wrong, but in the end, the peace and resolution that it brings is always worth it in the end.

Do you have any apology tips? Please share below in the comments!

Paris Journal #2

 

France map

Here’s another look into my life when I was living in Paris.  Just another awkward moment while living abroad…

September 28, 2004

Yesterday morning was funny when I went for my doctor’s appointment to get my Carte de Séjour (the visa that allowed me to stay in Paris for a year.)  I had to have an X-ray taken for some odd reason in order to be deemed healthy to live here.  So, I was asked to take off everything from the waist up.  Not too much of a problem, but then the nurse asked me to follow her to the X-ray room…without a gown!  So there I was, fully exposed from the waist up, and I had to just walk on through the office and another room to get to the machine!  A male doctor is in there just staring at me–how awkward!  I guess the gowns that you get in the states don’t exist here in good ole’ Paris!  Note to self:  Don’t wear tight pants to the doctor next time.  I was just thankful I hadn’t worn a dress!  Quelle horreur!!

Hopefully my misfortune will help another poor soul when they find themselves living abroad in France or at least give you something to laugh about!  And I must add, in France, boobs are boobs.  They’re just another beautiful part of the body and they’re everywhere.  They’re in paintings, statues, and exposed on the beaches. Every woman has them and no one cares if they see them. So, no worries!

Noonday Collection

 

I have to share my lovely jewelry pieces I ordered at a Noonday party that I attended last weekend.  If you haven’t heard of Noonday Collection…well then, you need to go right now and check out their website! The products are absolutely gorgeous, well-made, and have an incredible story behind them. This honorable company’s mission is to “create economic opportunity for the vulnerable.” They have 28 artisan groups in more than ten countries where they create sustainable jobs. They also provide the artisans with no-interest loans, emergency assistance and scholarship opportunities. A portion of the sales from the show I attended will go towards my friends adoption. In fact, that’s how Noonday was started. The founder, Jessica Honegger, hosted the first trunk show as a fundraiser to adopt her third child from Rwanda. The response was incredible and Noonday was born.

I’m in love with my new pieces! They are very versatile and can easily be worn with other pieces that I own. The Helena necklace (top) is made in India where Noonday provides economic opportunity for over 400 families. The Bethe Rope necklace (bottom) was made with upcycled metal and artillery, remnants of the war in Ethiopia. Many of the women who make this top-selling necklace are HIV positive. I encourage you to check out Noonday and consider hosting a party for friends and family.  They just came out with their Winter Collection in time for the holidays!

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noonday4The Helena necklace is on top and the Bethe Rope necklace I wrapped around 3 times underneath it.  Bethe Rope is 78″ in length, so you can wear it long or wrap it like I did.  I obviously love the layered look!

What are your favorite Noonday pieces?

 

Juicing

 

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So, I’ve been juicing pretty much daily throughout the summer and have finally found my favorite, go-to juice! When others find out that I juice, I usually get the question, “What do you put in your juice?” Most people want a juice that doesn’t taste like they’re drinking a salad, which I totally get. I think I’ve found a good balance that doesn’t come off too “green” for the newbie juicers.

The other common question I get asked is, “What juicer do you use?” We have a Breville Juice Fountain Elite.   I love it and find that it’s not too difficult to clean. I will admit that after the first few juices, I dreaded the cleanup. But, after getting into a routine, it was much easier and didn’t take much time at all (3 minutes.)

Energizer Juice:

1 large handful of kale
1 large handful of spinach
1 small bundle of parsley
1 handful of mini carrots
½ cucumber
½ lemon
1 medium chunk of ginger (I usually cut off about 1/2”-3/4” off the root)
1 apple

Things I do to make my juicing faster and easier:

  1. Buy the spinach and kale prewashed mix at Central Market. Cleaning lettuce is probably one of my least favorite things to do, so this makes it much easier!
  2. Wash fruits and veggies ahead of time for the week and bag separately for easy access each day.
  3. Put a bag in the barrel so you don’t have to clean it constantly.  It’ll make excellent compost!

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Mindfulness

 

Mindfulness quote

How many of us actually take the time to just sit and be? To be aware of where we are right here and now, to focus on our breathing, the sounds and smells around us, to connect with our own bodies and our environment? My guess is that this doesn’t happen very often for most people. I can tell you though from experience that it’s one of the most relaxing and refreshing exercises that you can do for yourself.   Sure, it’ll feel weird at first, but that’s because you’re so used to running around like crazy every day! Mindfulness allows you to feel peace, relaxation and gratitude.

So what really is mindfulness?

Mindfulness involves learning how to control one’s own mind instead of one’s mind controlling them. It directs your attention on the here and now—the moment you are experiencing right at this second. You are being mindful when you recognize the moment, what it looks like, feels like, sounds like, tastes like (Behavioral Tech, LLC). Mindfulness is a lot like meditating. You can focus on your breathing patterns or the counts of your breath in the beginning. The point is to focus on one thing and when your mind begins to wander, as it naturally will, you teach yourself to non-judgingly bring the mind back to focus.

Isn’t mindfulness a little weird?

Not at all! It’s a practice that has been around for ages, infused into many cultures and religions. Thomas Merton, a devout monk and prolific twentieth century writer, wrote the book Contemplative Prayer to help us learn how to pray using meditation strategies similar to mindfulness. Merton states, “Contemplation is the highest expression of man’s intellectual and spiritual life. It is when life itself is fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive…It is gratitude for life, for awareness and for being” (The Thomas Merton Encyclopedia, 2002). Our culture is always saying things like “seize the day” and “live in the moment” but are we actually doing that?

What does mindfulness look like?

Mindfulness can look like a lot of things. I’ll give you a simple breathing exercise to get started with but mindfulness takes on a variety of forms. Sometimes, I will just meditate on a scripture or things that I am thankful for. Other times, I will focus on positive thoughts while breathing in and negative thoughts that I need to release when I breathe out. You can close your eyes to avoid distraction for certain exercises, or you can open your eyes to be mindful of your surroundings for others.

Here is a simple breathing exercise:

Close your eyes and get into a relaxed position.  Try to focus on your breathing—breathe in and out. Notice your breath as it enters your nostrils, fills your lungs, expands your stomach, and escapes through your nose or mouth. Don’t worry about if your breaths are shallow, deep, slow or fast. Just notice it. As your mind begins to wander—which will most likely happen in the beginning—just recognize it and bring your thoughts back to your breath. It’s important to not worry or judge yourself for outside thoughts. As you increase the frequency of this practice, you will do this less and less. The first time I led this exercise for a group, one lady actually fell asleep! That’s totally okay too—no judgment here! In this crazy, fast-paced world, it’s amazing what 5 minutes of stillness can do for our mind and body.

Try this for 3-5 minutes at first and then increase the time as you become more comfortable. Hopefully you feel more relaxed, refreshed and alive!

If you’re interested in more mindfulness exercises, feel free to contact me.

 

My Solocation

 

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Everybody needs some time alone, to get away, reflect, be still and listen. I haven’t taken a solo retreat really since I’ve been married and decided it was way overdue. Wanting to go somewhere out of the city and around natural beauty, I chose a place outside Austin, TX on Lake Travis called Living Waters. It got its name because the water running under the home was blessed by a group of monks before its construction. They host many yoga retreats and offer on-site yoga, Thai massage and holistic personal training.   Described as a B&R—Bed and Retreat, it is just that:  A place to get away from the craziness of everyday life and relax.

I stayed in the Romantic Red Eco Cabin. It was perfect for what I needed—a bed, a mini fridge for my groceries, a wine opener and wine glass. The bathroom was in a separate little eco cabin right next to mine and had a large bathtub and shower. On top of that building is the wine perch to sit and sip your wine or coffee. Although the lake is extremely low, there are still beautiful sunset views.

I enjoyed spending time at the Hamilton Pool, hiking to the Pedernales River, spending quiet time with God, reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, and drinking a glass of wine while watching the sunset. I would encourage everyone to take time once a year to get away and do this for themselves. It’s a good spiritual cleansing that will leave you feeling refreshed and at peace. I went with no expectations or plans other than enjoying each second and being led by the Spirit, and I was not let down. I’m looking forward to planning my next solocation!

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