Who’s Got Olympics Fever?

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Confession time: I LOVE the Olympics! Perhaps that’s not a big shocker, considering my professed love of sports, but it’s not just the amazing athleticism on display that makes me so enthusiastic (although that certainly plays a part). I love the pageantry of the opening ceremonies, the drama of the torch lighting (and wondering what unique/innovative/crazypants method they’ll come up with for lighting the Olympic flame this time), and the emotional stories of little-known athletes who are achieving their dreams on a world-wide stage.

Of course, there’s the added drama of the host of problems that the host city, Rio, is  experiencing, from the seemingly unending construction issues to the Zika virus outbreak to–ahem–less than sanitary conditions for many of the water sports, not to mention all of the political and economic upheaval that Brazil is facing. Given the myriad of issues, I suspect that many will be tuning in to the Olympics just to see if disaster’s going to strike. Let’s hope that the Olympic spirit rises above the potential problems and these games turn out to be memorable for happy reasons.

I’ve been reading and watching a few stories to get me into the Olympic spirit:

• The other night I happened to catch “The Last Gold” on NBC Sports. It’s a documentary of the 1976 U.S. women’s swim team, a team that was expected to take home a truckload of gold medals at the Summer Games in Montreal. Instead, they were largely trounced by the East Germans, who were later confirmed to have been doping. It’s sad to think about what might have been if there had been a level playing field. It’s also sad to see what the East German women–just teenagers who really didn’t know what their coaches were giving them–went through.

• Aside from Muhammed Ali lighting the Olympic flame in Atlanta, perhaps the most iconic moment of the ’96 Olympics is Kerry Strug’s vault that helped the US women’s gymnastics team win its first ever gold. This oral history gives a behind the scenes look at what the “Magnificent Seven” went through that day.

• In addition to Team USA, I’ll be cheering for the refugee team. After reading this I think you will, too.

Do you enjoy watching the Olympics? What’s your favorite event at the games?

Book Review: I Don’t Wait Anymore

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I chose to read and review Grace Thornton’s book,  I Don’t Wait Anymore, largely based on the book’s subtitle: Letting Go of Expectations and Grasping God’s Adventure for You. Like me, Thornton is a single woman who has found herself single and childless much later in life than she expected, but I think that we all–regardless of our marital or familial status in life–wrestle with times when our life dreams and our reality do not match up. While the book is largely autobiographical, I think that it could speak to many readers across all different walks of life.

I appreciated Thornton’s openness in sharing her frustration and disappointment with life turning not out who she thought it was “supposed to”. Although she is a few years younger than me, there was still much I could relate to in her struggle to let go of those lifelong expectations and be receptive to whatever God has in store.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more from Thornton in the future.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Favorite Finds

 

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Here are a few recent discoveries that are making life a little more enjoyable for me (and hopefully will for you, as well!). For what it’s worth, I’m not being compensated in any way for any of the following recommendations; I just believe in sharing great finds with others!

ThredUP: My sister introduced me to ThredUP, which is an online consignment shop where you can both sell and buy gently used clothing in good condition. They carry women’s clothing in a wide range of sizes and brands, from high-end designers to more mainstream brands. They also sell maternity clothes, kids’ clothes and accessories, all at bargain prices. You can easily search by clothing item, size, color and condition of the item (ranging from “New with Tags” to “Like-New” to “Gently Used”).

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I was surprised at how cute the box and inside wrapping were–I’m a sucker for great packaging.

I’ve placed a few orders and have been very pleased with the quality of items. I’ve gotten a couple of items that had never been worn before, but the majority have been in “like-new” condition and I’ve not noticed any stains, rips or other wear. So far I’ve mainly stuck with brands that I’m already familiar with (such as Banana Republic, J. Crew and Ann Taylor Loft) since I know their sizing pretty well; however, I have had to return a few items that just didn’t fit right and that was a simple process.

You can use this link to check out ThredUP for yourself, and if you use it to place an order, you’ll receive a $10 credit in your account (and I’ll receive a $10 credit in mine as well).

• New recipes: I’m one of those people who actually tries many of the recipes that I pin on Pinterest (crazy, I know). This time of year,  I especially love recipes that are quick, easy and don’t involve turning on the oven, so I was thrilled to find a couple of new recipes that I’m adding to my summer meal lineup.

 

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New favorite recipe #1: The Pioneer Woman’s Asian Noodle Salad

I’ve made this Asian Noodle Salad by the Pioneer Woman twice in the past month and anticipate making it many more times in the months to come. It’s one of those recipes that is so versatile; you can easily change it up to suit your tastebuds. Next time I may add some edamame or snow peas.

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New favorite recipe #2: She Wears Many Hats’ BLT Macaroni Salad

Another new favorite recipe is this one for BLT Macaroni Salad by She Wears Many Hats. As far as I’m concerned, the BLT is the perfect sandwich, and translating that to a pasta version is genius. I made a couple of slight amendments to the recipe, namely using shell pasta instead of macaroni (since that’s what I had on hand) and adding fresh basil (which makes pretty much any pasta dish even better).

• Podcasts: I’ve gotten into the habit of listening to podcasts when I’m getting ready for work in the morning and when I’m driving. There are several that I rotate among, depending on my mood, and I’m currently enjoying two new (to me) finds.

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The HopeWriters podcast offers practical advice from a Christian perspective for writers (and aspiring writers) on topics ranging from utilizing Instagram to share your message to what authors wish they’d known before they wrote a book. The podcast is hosted by popular authors, bloggers and sisters Myquillyn Smith and Emily P. Freeman, their dad, Gary Morland, and fellow tech and marketing guru Brian J. Dixon. I just started listening to their podcast and already have picked up some valuable lessons.

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As a longtime fan of “The West Wing”, I was thrilled to learn about this newly-debuted podcast devoted to recapping episodes of the iconic political drama. I did not actually watch “The West Wing” when it originally ran on NBC but picked it up when it was in syndication and am now able to re-watch it thanks to Netflix. One of the hosts of The West Wing Weekly is actor Joshua Malina, who played Will Bailey on the show, and it’s fun to hear his perspective. The podcast frequently features guest appearances by other cast members and production staff who share some fascinating behind-the-scenes stories. If you’re a fellow “TWW” fan you’ll want to add this to your podcast lineup.

• This cup:

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Cost: under $10! (No, that’s not a typo.)

Love the functionality of Yeti cups but hate the high prices? High-tail it to your nearest Walmart and pick up one of these Ozark Trail tumblers. Like the Yetis, they do a fantastic job of keeping your drinks cold (or hot, depending on your preference) all day long–and they cost just a fraction of the price. (As in under $10 for a 30 oz.!)

I’ve now got one that I use at home and one I use at the office, and I’ve also introduced them to my family and several friends. A word of warning–I’ve heard that Walmart has a hard time keeping them in stock, so if you see one there you might want to buy it while it’s still on the shelf. I found them at my local Walmart in the camping section.

 

Now it’s YOUR turn to share–do you have any great recipes, podcasts, or other fun finds that you think we should know about?

 

 

Sanctuary

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Spending time outside in nature is one of the ways that I most connect with God. The beach is probably my favorite place to marvel in the majesty of God’s creation and spend time alone with Him, but any place that is filled with gorgeous flowers is a close runner-up. Sure, I can be alone with Him in my own house, but there’s just something special about being outside, especially when it’s quiet and I don’t have to be in a rush.

Many years ago, a friend introduced me to this small Episcopal church on our city’s outskirts. The Gothic architecture of this century-old church is stunning in its own right, but it’s the gardens surrounding it that are the true showpiece. Last Saturday, after meeting with a friend for a training run and then tackling some yard work, I decided I’d earned a well-needed break. The near-perfect weather–warm but not too warm, a bit of a breeze in the air, and very low humidity –enticed me to head over to the church with a book for some time for reflection and a little light reading.

The gardens have become a popular draw for photographers; in fact, I saw two young men wandering around with their cameras as I arrived. There are several tables and chairs throughout the gardens, which I imagine get heavy use from the church members. I can envision it as an ideal spot for a small group Bible study or Sunday school class to meet.

I truly wish everyone could experience firsthand the charm of the gardens, which feature moss-strewn brick paths, fountains and all manner of flowers and plants, both sun-loving and shade-dwelling. Until you get a chance to come to Montgomery and check out the gardens for yourself, here are a few pictures to whet your appetite.

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A graceful wooden arch beckons you into one of the moss-covered walkways meandering through the garden.
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Ferns line shaded pathways, with tables and chairs scattered around for a tranquil spot for reading or engaging in conversation.
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In the distance you can see one of several fountains throughout the gardens.
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I was delighted to see how many flowers were in bloom–truly a gorgeous sight.
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It’s hard to not feel relaxed and peaceful when surrounded by such beauty.
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My vantage spot from my little reading bench. I wish I could have stayed at this little oasis all afternoon!

Where are your favorite places to find sanctuary from the outside world and spend some time alone?