Tuesday, October 18, 2011

God bless you and what not...

Dear all,

"God bless you."

We have all heard this phrase at some point in our lives.

A lot of us who are Christian will use it constantly. Some of us even tag it at the end of our emails to replace such things as "sincerely" or "regards".

I personally love when we use it right after another person sneezes.

But what do we really mean by this phrase? We would hope that we don't just throw it around as Christian jargon when we are around our Church friends. We should know better than to use something pertaining to the Almighty in such casual banter.

When we say it, we should mean it. 


When we say the phrase we are actually saying a prayer. I like to see it as a short, strong, ninja prayer. It's like a little bolt of blessing being thrown on to the person which we are saying it to.

For example

When it's to affirm a person's presence: "Hey it was really good seeing you today, God bless you."

When it's expressing thanksgiving: "You saved my life against those zombies, God bless you."

You can even pray for someone you don't like: "You took my parking space, God bless you."

Prayer, is efficacious regardless of the length. But the intention of the "God bless you" is important so next time you decide to throw it out there take a spilt second before you say it and mean it with your heart and mind.

----------------------

Being a Blessing

Since we are on the topic I also wanted to share more on blessing. God blesses us and we can see it daily. Just look at how we are able to wake up in the morning and stumble out of bed and meet the glorious sunrise with fervor and excitement (ok so not all of us are like this). We are blessed everyday and I believe that the Lord blesses us for two reasons:

1) Because He loves us like crazy.

2) Because He, in turn, wants us to be a blessing to others.

To bless others... crazy... in other words we have to be a blessing. Our lives should bless other lives. I believe this a reality worth living by.

What I mean by your life being a blessing is simply equated to the fact that your life makes this world better. And we should know that for this to happen this takes effort, it is not something that automatically happens. This effort can be described as the actions that we do to achieve this end, whether we do it knowingly or unknowingly. Let's call this concept, goodness. Check out this mathematical explanation:

You + life + goodness = Blessing

You + life + goodness = Non existence (where did you go?)


You + life + goodness = Dead :-(

You + life + goodness = Pointless existence

Please note that the amount of goodness you do does not affect the outcome of you being a blessing. Small amounts of goodness still equals a blessing. Even if you do something as small as voluntarily going out of your way to tell someone how nice they are (granted they are nice and you are not just butt-kissing), congrats you are being a blessing. The cool thing is that the more goodness we do, the bigger the blessing we are to people. Go big or go home.

However, if our lives make someone else's life worse (please note that in the case of those who are mentally/physically sick or in other situations that render them incapacitated in any way, the suffering they go through and the burden they place on their loved ones is actually an opportunity for growth in holiness, therefore being a blessing in disguise), then we can say that we could be the opposite of a blessing. See below:

You + life + bad = This

What are you? Is your life blessing someone else? Are you making the world a better place?

Love,

Vince and Cay

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Relationships and Baking Bread...



Dear friends,

You may be asking, "What do relationships and baking bread have in common?"

A lot actually.

And now we are going to share our insight on the links between the two and to top it all off, we are going to give you a fantastic bread recipe so you can make your own at home!

Before we get started, let me give you a background. Our dear friend, Vanessa-Jane (aka Aness), was over the other day for some quality time with us before she makes her move to University in the UK. She is a dear friend to us and we will miss her tons. We were fortunate to try out a new bread recipe when she came to see us before she left, and one of the things we talked about while we were baking was relationships. Now, raise your hand if you are in or have ever been in a relationship. Good... I thought so.

So here we go... relationships and baking bread.

1) You have to be prepared - You can't bake bread unless you are ready. You need to have all the right ingredients (more later) and equipment. If you are missing one thing (like an oven), it ultimately affects the outcome and you end up with a less than optimal piece of bread. Same thing with relationships. You have to be ready. If you are missing something, like your heart that was broken from a past relationship, how can you be ready to give it again? You're missing an important part for your recipe, how can the outcome be good?

2) You need the right ingredients - Substituting baking soda for baking powder is not suitable, neither is using margarine instead of butter. It just doesn't taste quite right. With relationships its similar. When you have two people who are not quite right for each other but are searching for fulfillment, it doesn't end well. It's like people who are in love with the idea of being in love. Not the right ingredients.

3) You have to be patient - Bread making requires patience. You have to wait for the yeast to proof. You have to wait for the dough to rise. You have to wait for the bread to bake. Waiting is vital. Bread and love cannot be rushed. Love means that when one person is not ready the other person has to wait and reassure that person that they will always be there for them, or have the courage to admit that it's got to end. Even if the ingredients are perfect, if the timing is off, it still doesn't make a good piece of bread. Also, patience is also needed when you are in those times when you are utterly annoyed with your loved one's various bad habits.

4) You have to work - Have you ever kneaded bread? It can be a bit tiring on the hands. Labor is necessary for a good dough. Love requires work as well. It doesn't just magically happen. Ask any couple that has been married for 30 years. It requires work and struggle and all that good, but hard stuff. Of course the good thing is that when you are kneading dough and you have another person with you, you can share the labor. It's always easier when you have someone to share the labor with.
Labor of love.

Ok, so enough with the talk... here is the recipe :-)



Taken from Allrecipes.com

Amish White Bread Recipe (no I'm not Amish)

Ingredients

2 cups of warm water (110 F/45 C)
2/3 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 cups bread flour

1) In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in the water and stir in the yeast. Whisk and then set aside allow it to proof until it becomes creamy and foamy.

2) Mix salt and oil into the yeast. Mix in flour one cup at a time.

3) Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth (this will take some work).

4) Place in a well oiled bowl, and turn the dough to coat. Cover it with a damp cloth and allow it to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

5) Punch dough down. Knead again for a few minutes and divide in half.

6) Shape into loaves and place into two well oiled 9x5 inch loaf pans. Allow to rise for 30 minutes then bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes.

Enjoy!

Love,

Vince and Cay

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Treats for a Cause!


Dear everyone... we would like to proudly unveil our latest undertaking...

Instead of futher description, I will now provide you with a link. Everything you need to know can be found by clicking on the link! :-)

Treats Come True


Love you all,

Vince and Cay

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Top 10 Things We Learned as New Parents

Greetings friends!


It has indeed been a long time since we have updated. We blame it on Elijah. Sorta.

Anyways... as I type this I have Elijah sleeping very comfortably on my chest. I must say that he is a very good baby. He rarely makes a fuss and is a very smily and happy baby. He even has his moments where he bursts out in random baby laughter. These moments melt our hearts and make us realize that the nights of sleeplessness are worth every second.

Elijah is now 4 months and 22 days and we cannot believe how fast the time has past. It seems like yesterday that he was swamped in his newborn clothing; now he is busting out of the seam in his 4 month old body suits.

In these 4 months we have learned invaluable lessons about parenting that has only come through experience. Allow us to share them with you now (they are in random order):

1) You can never have enough baby wipes. Not only are these for wiping baby butts, but you can also use them for cleaning up virtually any mess out there (i.e. ketchup on your mobile phone)

2) Sleep when the baby sleeps. They rarely make it through an entire night so get the sleep when you can!
3) Do not bathe your baby everyday. This is a tough one considering we are both neat freaks. Bathing your baby everyday is a sure way to dry out their skin and will surely cause dry rashes and bumps

4) Loving Grandparents are your biggest asset.


5) There is more to it than you would think with breastfeeding... and you can never know enough. You would think it all comes naturally, but it can be quite frustrating in the beginning.

6) The person that knows your baby the best is you. Trust your gut.

7) Starting to save now is essential! We all say the same thing as parents, "Man they grow up so fast!" And we figure this is true. We have been saving and investing already for Elijah and plan to do the same with the future kids.

8) Going on dates is a necessity. I know it sounds challenging to schedule, but we believe they are still important (if not more so now). Plus, you can even bring baby with you; and when they are small it's even easier :-)
9) Get a light baby stroller. The heavier they get, the more overall weight you have to carry - especially if you live somewhere with stairs!

10) Readers please share... we would love to hear your input/stories/rants/raves/etc.!



Love,

Vince, Cay and Elijah

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wow We are Now Mama and Papa...


Dear friends,

Greetings! The weather here in Vienna has been off and on. The Viennese say that this is the "typical weather" for the spring - unpredictable.

Speaking of unpredictable, I must say that if you had told me five years ago that I would meet the woman of my dreams and have the most beautiful son I would have chuckled and changed the topic; but this is now the reality, and I must say that I am loving every moment of it.
Cay and I were talking after I got home from work today about our life as it stands. We have both realized that we are the happiest that we have ever been. For myself, I cannot recall any moment in my history that I have been this happy.

We also realized that becoming parents is a huge change from not being parents (to put it simply). Let me explain. It was one thing to get married - to go from dating and engagement into married life. Yes, it was challenging, and yes, there were times we wanted to tape each other's mouths shut. But to go from not having a child to having a child is another earth-shattering thing altogether.
For Cay, it is noticeably different in every way. First of all you have this beautiful tiny human that needs the mother in every way possible - from comfort to food. Cay can't simply take a break from Elijah (well, at times she can; thanks mama and papa!); he is fully dependent on her for everything. Cay needs to feed him and comfort him. Don't get me wrong and don't underestimate my role; I do try my hardest to help in this department. But there is a bond (emotionally, physically, and perhaps, spiritually) between the mother and the child that cannot be substituted. I even notice as I try to hold him while he is crying and Cay takes him from my arms... it's like he is instantly soothed. Elijah knows who his mother is.
I asked Cay if she felt this difference and responded with a strong yes. She said that it just feels different now that he is in the world. She said she feels more protective now; and not just over Elijah, but over me as well. I believe that she has truly become a mother. She now knows what it means to sacrifice not just her time, but her body as well for another person. This is extremely profound.

For myself, I feel as if the world has changed as well. I have felt myself being more protective as well. When Elijah was born last week, the midwives were saying he was a bit small. I must say that I have never prayed for a woman to produce more breast milk! I'm interested now about things from health insurance to school-systems.

I think now my mindset has changed. The fear that I had has been replaced with a firm resolution to be the best man that I can be; for not just Cay and Elijah, but because that is what the One who has made me has designed me to be. Like a soldier defending his country, this is something I am both compelled and bound to.

The world is different now with the birth of our son, Elijah Rene Granado.
In our talk, we both concluded that our life is "different". And it is different in an amazing and beautiful way. We both agree that we cannot imagine our life before he was born, and it's like we, through our marriage, are finally becoming the people that we were intended to be: mother and father. We can now say, although with a short time of experience, that parenthood has been the most rewarding, beautiful, challenging, awesome and transformative experience that we have both gone through.

Blessings to you all,


Vince, Cay and Baby Elijah

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Welcome to the World Son!



Dear beloved,

May we present to you our son, Elijah Granado. He was born today, 21 April 2011 in Vienna, Austria at 9:14am.

We will give you more details shortly :-)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Close Call...

Dear all,


Today was an interesting day for all of us here in the Granado/Santayana home.

As usual Cay and I went to work (although we left a bit earlier today).

We went our separate ways in the office (Vince works in Nuclear Safety and Cay works in Human Resources).

And usually we meet up for lunch at around 1pm.

That is the usual routine and we have done this hundreds of times since we both started working at the UN.


Today was different....


I called Cay at around 11am, after a very hectic morning of running up and down stairs between two offices, to vent to my wife about how I was dramatically improving my cardiovascular condition from all the running and stair-climbing. I asked her, "Honey, I have had such a crazy morning. How are you?" (As I have been mindful of her super-pregnant condition as of late)


Her answer nearly took my breath away.. "Umm, not too good. I am leaving for the hospital, because I am feeling pains in my lower back."

At this point I remembered what our doctor told us at the last visit, "...the contractions could feel like lower back pains in some women."

WOAH. I thought to myself... He is really coming now! Elijah is on the way!

My mind completely filled with wonder, panic, fear, excitement, happiness, and almost every other emotion. But most of it was filled with the joy that our son was about to be born...

I blurted out a question, "Are you having contractions? Is this it?"

She answered, "I don't know, but I'm going to the hospital; Mama and Papa are on their way to pick me up."

WOAH (again). My mind again was filled. IT'S REALLY GOING TO HAPPEN! All these months and here it is!

I asked again, "So this is it? I'm coming too!" She answered calmly, "No don't go yet; it could be nothing. I will call you when I get to the hospital and let you know if it is really happening."

My mind was already made up that this was it and all that I could think about what Elijah's arrival.

My colleague was working on something as I hung up the phone and she asked me if I could do her a favor. I said, "It's really happening and I'm a bit nervous."

She answered, "Don't be nervous, just answer the questions confidently." She thought I was referring to an upcoming job interview in the department.

"No, the baby is coming! I think." I exclaimed

"What?! What are you doing here? Go!" She was flabbergasted.

"My wife told me to wait, because it could be nothing."

"Oh, well then. Nevermind. Can you fix the funding line on this document?" Her wisdom took over as she knew that false alarms were very common in a pregnancy.

In short friends, it was indeed a false alarm. Elijah was not born today and although he is 3 weeks away each day seems like an eternity. It's like waiting a the top of that tall rollercoaster before you take the first plunge downward. Your stomach churns in anticipation and every discomfort that my wife shows I quickly ask if she may be in labor. The anticipation is killing me and yet my beautiful wife is calm and serene as she always is.

But here is some food for thought. Where is YOUR heart in moments of panic or close calls? I believe that in instances like these we really see where we have invested ourselves.

Comments welcome :-)

Love,

Vince and Cay

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Debt Free at Last....

Dear brothers and sisters...

Greetings on this gorgeous Saturday. We woke up to sun (a bit of wind) and very cool spring weather. It was the perfect sleeping weather on a Saturday morning in Vienna.

Although there is much to do today, the stillness in the morning was well needed after such hectic weeks of travel and work. We are also sure that baby Elijah is enjoying less stressed mommy and daddy.

So this morning we are writing on debt.

Debt is a noun, and it is typically referring to something, usually money, that is owed or due.

Now that I'm thinking of it, I am reminded of famous Greek philosophy on debt. They believe that there are certain debts that can never be repaid no matter how much you work to chomp away at it. One kind of debt like this is the debt that is owed to your parents. In that your mother bore you in her womb for nine months it is incomprehensible to think of the amount you could give her to par with that expense. It would be impossible to pay off that debt; you would simply have to be indebted (through love) and grateful to her for the rest of your (or her) life and try your best to care for her in her older years. That's the ancient Greek mindset at least.

However, there is debt that can be paid off. And the debt that should be paid off, above most debts, is financial debt.

When you are financially indebted, no matter how much you are on top of things, you always know it. You can try to forget it, rationalize it, etc., but the simple truth is that (unless the institution you're indebted to dissolves your debt OR you declare bankruptcy) you will always owe. I am speaking out of personal experience here when I say that when you are in debt it is as if there is a weight placed upon you.

And some of us have heavier weights than others.

But today my brothers and sisters I am here to tell you that we are 100% debt free! Vince payed off the last credit card today and now we feel as if the last weight had been taken off of our backs. It's actually physically relieving to know that you owe no one any money!

You may be asking how we did it, and we could give you the whole plan on how Vince did it. Chances are if you are intrigued by this you have seen all the plans for paying off your debt (consolidating credit, spreadsheets, financial success classes, etc.), and you may have tried many of them. If you want the in-depth plan that Vince made in killing our debt, email him at vinceandcay@gmail.com

But the simple truth is that the way to kill your debt is simple:

SPEND LESS THAN WHAT YOU MAKE AND RIGHT BELOW NECESSARY LIVING COSTS, TREAT YOUR DEBT PAYMENT WITH PRIORITY.

Spending Less

When Cay and I got married we quickly agreed that we need to monitor our spending so that we could live simply. We both agreed that we have a lot of things and that there was no NEED for anything more; anything else we were to acquire in our life would simply be a luxury (not that there is anything against luxury, but like all excesses they need to be kept in moderation). We agreed that shopping sprees were bad and that we would talk about practically everything we bought (from books and shoes to houses). It took some getting used to, but it works and we are now enjoying the rewards of this philosophy. The most important thing is this aspect is that you DON'T BUY ANYTHING YOU CAN'T AFFORD. This means not using your credit card. Actually it may not be a bad idea, if you are addicted to yours, to cut it up until you have paid it off.

One thing Vince asks when he wants to buy something is, "Can I use this 5-10 years from now?" and then he says, "I will wait till the weekend is over and if I still think I need it then I will buy it."

Debt Payment

We both work and Elijah has not been born yet therefore we have made it a priority to save a large majority of our paychecks. Why? Because there will come a time when Cay may not be able to work. And all of you with children know that kids (in a nice way) incur expenses. So when you can save you should.

But more importantly, above saving, you should attack your debt like warrior in battle. Do not let your credit card, loan, mortgage payments ever get through the lines. And when you can, pay more than the minimum. Vince was able to pay off his credit cards by paying at least twice the minimum payment. There were times that he paid 4-5 times the minimum. It may seem like a lot, but you will be saving thousands in the future.

Tithing

Wow... this is a big topic. What is tithing? In the Old Testament the Israelites were to give 10 percent of their riches to the Lord as their first offering. What does that mean to us? Well, if you want to speak in terms of strictness it means that you give 10% of your total household salary to the Lord, usually through your Church. Cay and I like to give 5% to the Church and 5% to our prayer community. Sometimes we will give our tithe to a charitable organization (like the Japanese effort organizations), but the most important thing is that right off the top 10% of our salaries go to helping others.

How does this help with your debt you ask?

In helps in a couple ways:

1) If really makes you budget your expenses. When you commit to tithing, automatically 10% of your income is gone and now you have to work with what you got - with debt attack as the first priority, right after food and shelter.

2) We believe that the Lord has a lot of money and when you give back to Him, He does not fail to bless you. One concrete example for us this year has been His generosity to us through the Austrian Government. We have been tithing strictly this entire year and just recently we both received checks from the Austrian Government for the pre-tax Euros we were contributing before we joined the UN. (The UN has it's own pension scheme, so there is no need to contribute to the Austrian one) After we started working at the UN, the Government gave us back nearly all the taxed Euros we contributed since we started working in Austria. Anyways... it was a very very big check. And we believe that it is due to divine intervention through the Austrian authorities. GOD IS NEVER OUTDONE IN GENEROSITY.

So in conclusion... kill your debt. Live simply. And when you are finally debt-free you will know what I am talking about when I say that a weight will be lifted off of you. Moreover, contrary to pop beliefs, there is no such thing as "good debt"; the only good debt is no debt.

Blessings to your weekend!

Let us know what you all think in the comments :-)


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Crazy Couple of Weeks...

Dear all,

Greetings! I hope you didn't think we fell off the face of the earth. These past couple of weeks have been a challenging one.

Vince has been pretty much away for the past couple of weeks. He was in London two weeks ago helping plan out a youth conference and then this past week he was in the Netherlands for work. For those of you who think the charm and delight of travel is amazing... well, it is. But it is really difficult when you have someone(s) who are waiting anxiously for your return.

It's also tough when you are traveling and you don't have someone to share the beauty of the moments with.

You all know what I am talking about.

We were talking the other day and we remembered the times we traveled to different locations (before we were together) and we both said to our respective selves at the time, "This place is beautiful/breathtaking/wonderful/etc., but it would be so much more when you have some one to share it with."

When Vince was in Amsterdam this past weekend all he wanted to do was call and tell me how beautiful the city was.

(side note: He was in the Redlight District and it was very interesting for him to see women pent up in windows and to smell marijuana up and down the streets.)

The thing is that when you spend so much time with a person, a person you go to sleep with and wake up next to, its weird when you aren't around that person for a while. It's like you are not entirely whole. Like that person now contains a part of you and you of that person.

Thoughts on this?


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Eat SLOW Food - Arroz a la Cubana (Filipino Style)




Dear Family and Friends,

Simplifying life, especially during the Lenten season!

That is what we have been attempting through our own small ways, and ne way we have been trying is through cooking. Vince and I are passionate about good food, and we love to cook and eat. Therefore we thought of trying different recipes.

Some of you may think, what does cooking have to do with simplifying your life? As some of you may be flustered with the idea of heating up a pot and then have to clean it after the fiasco - something far from simple. Well, as in a homily we heard a few Sundays ago, our world is obsessed with everything being done in an INSTANT. Even with food, we forgo the good quality home-cooked meals for instant meals such as; instant soup, microwavable meals, fast food, etc.

We want the food in front of us with just one push of a button and we want it now!

Vince and I thought, let's do less of the "instant meals" and try cooking the "long" way. Mind you, it not only helps you to slow down your life, but it also promotes health (unless you are cooking with lard and such). The idea is to use less of the pre-mixed spices, or sauces, or broths and truly make everything from scratch. You then know exactly what you put into your food. Plus it is more fun and fulfilling knowing that you prepared a dish on your own, without help from those premade spice sachets.

One of the recipes we would like to feature today is:

ARROZ A LA CUBANA - Filipino style!

One day the dish just popped into my mind and I asked Vince if he ever tried it. And to my surprise he had not heard of it, which gave me more more motivation to cook the dish so that he could try something he never had before.

Arroz a la Cubana or Arroz Cubano means Cuban-style rice. It is a Spanish dish that consists of rice, fried egg and tomato sauce.

Arroz a la Cubana is also popular in Peru and there the dish consists of rice, fried egg, fried hotdog and fried bananas.

The Filipino style is somewhat a mix of the Spanish and Peruvian style. Arroz a la Cubana in the Philippines is made up of rice, fried egg, fried bananas and minced beef sauteed in garlic, onion and tomato sauce.

As we have modified the ingredients and method, our recipe is based on the one on the following website:
http://www.homecookingrocks.com/arroz-a-la-cubana

(note the website's name: home cooking rocks) :-)

****************************************************
INGREDIENTS:
  • Steamed or boiled rice or garlic fried rice (Vince's idea)
  • 1/2 kilo ground beef (use sirloin or top round)
  • 3 carrots, cubed 3 potatoes, cubed
  • 1/2 c. of sweet peas
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • can of chick peas (Vince and my idea)
  • 2 tbsp. of raisins (optional) we didn't add raisins (Cay doesn't like cooked raisins)
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 c. of tomato paste
  • finely chopped parsley
  • pinch of basil (we used fresh basil, from Vince's basil plant)
  • 3 tbsp. c. of olive oil
  • 1/4 c. vegetable cooking oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 eggs, fried sunny-side-up
  • 8 saba bananas, each sliced diagonally into 3, fried

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Heat a heavy skillet. Add 1/4 c. of cooking oil. Heat to smoking point. Add the cubed potatoes and carrots. Once the potatoes and carrots are half way cooked, add the chick peas. Fry until the edges turn a light brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
  2. Pour out the oil from the skillet. Pour in the olive oil. Add ground beef, breaking it up. Cook over high heat until the meat is no longer pink. Add the garlic, chopped onions and tomatoes, bell peppers and raisins, if using. Cook, stirring, just until the vegetables start to soften.

  3. Add the tomato paste, salt and pepper. Stir to blend well.

  4. Add the sweet peas. Stir and cook for another 30 seconds then put the carrots and potatoes back in. Cook for another 30 seconds.

  5. Add the basil and parsley. Give it one last stir then turn off the heat.

  6. If you want garlic fried rice - Heat cooking oil in a non-stick skillet. Add minced garlic. sautee until light brown. Add cooked white rice and mix well. Add salt to taste.
  7. Frying the bananas - If you can get hold of Saba Bananas, then great. If not, you can use the Plantain Bananas which you can purchase at an Asian store. Make sure to buy the ones that are half way ripe. Slice the banana in half length-wise. Then slice again in half from its width. Fry the bananas in cooking oil until golden brown.
  8. Et voila, serve with white rice/garlic rice, an egg and fried saba/plantain bananas on the side.

Cooking time (duration): 45 minutes (including time to cook eggs and saba/plantain bananas)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Meal type: supper

-----------------------------

The dish turned out quite successful, but I will allow my husband to truly rate the dish. One thing, you may want to make the minced beef more saucey, so add water and more tomato paste.

As for me, aside from eating good food, it gave me a great satisfaction. I cooked something for the first time and we did it with our own bare hands :-) Home cooking truly rocks!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cay and Baby Elijah...

Dear friends,

A lot of people have been asking for a shot of Cay and her belly. I managed to convince her to take a couple of pictures of our gorgeous belly.

Let me just say that as a witness to the beautiful challenge of carrying a child, I have come to greater understanding and a more profound respect for every mother.

Comments welcome...


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Vince's Ramblings on Manhood...



Hello world,

It is day 2 of Lent and let me tell you I have not missed using facebook or surfing the net one bit. I think it is because of the preoccupation of this upcoming weekend. This upcoming weekend is a men's retreat that I, together with my good friends Ian and Raynard, are putting on for the men of our Church community.

What the heck could you possibly talk about at a men's retreat? Isn't talking something of an enigma to men? True... many of our conversations with those we love can end up in grunts and "yeps" and "mm hmm". I am certainly guilt of those. But I am a person that believes that we can always improve. I am not satisfied with my "yeps" and "mm hmms", and I want to become a better man for not just myself and my God, but for my wife and my future son. In my research for this retreat I hit a pretty astounding realization:

Men, unless through intervention and transformation, become their fathers.

Wow. In this one particular book I was reading, this point was emphasized over and over. A child learns through the example of his parent, and they are far more likely to do as a father does than what a father tells him to do. Pretty crazy. Men in particular are extremely influenced by the leadership (or lack of) of another man. As boys we yearn to be like our fathers, and when we don't have them things can go pretty sketch.

And in a generation where positive examples of male role models are going out the window, I would say the little boys of this world desperately need men to emulate so that they can become the men they are meant to be: Men that love immensely.

I am pretty sure that boy never plans on becoming like this guy.

But... because of so many factors - and one of them being the absence of a solid male role model to form you, coupled with the lack of conviction to be a better man - a boy is capable of becoming the most detestable of men (sorry Charlie, I know you are a good person deep down inside).

I firmly believe that men all over need to reclaim their masculinity. And I believe that masculinity is more than just spitting, playing poker, grunting and throwing clubs around. Call me old fashion, but I believe that authentic masculinity is the harnessing and implementation of those strengths that are unique to a man, such as: sacrificial servant leadership, desire to protect the defenseless, integrity, discipline, and more.

Some men I talk to ask me how the world has gotten so bad.

I answer them with this question, "Why have we let it?"

Anyways... that is what is happening this weekend. There are about 17 of us men going and we have high hopes. I'll be sure to post some pictures!

Love,

Vince and Cay

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

40 Days...

Dear world/friends/family/and the sorts,



We just wrapped up some posts on simplifying life, and it makes all the sense in the world that we did these posts because what is around the corner? (Actually, it is tomorrow.)



LENT



Dun-dun-dun!



What is Lent? Click here for the very thorough explanation of Lent, click here.

Anyways... the way we see Lent is the same way we see a detox diet. On a detox diet you basically cut out certain (if not all) foods so that you can be cleansed and healthy. It's the same way we see the period of Lent; we are sacrificing things that we either enjoy so that we can be cleansed and have a healthier (spiritually and physically) life.

So you're probably wondering what we are giving up.

Cay and I are both giving up USING THE INTERNET.

The exception is of course email and this blog. (also if emergency arises and we have to book plane tickets or something, we'll use the net to get those)

But why?

Because as we were evaluating our daily activities we realized how much time we spend (after work) surfing the net. Do we need to be surfing the net every night after we get home? Probably not the extent that we have been. And what do we get out of giving up the net?

More time!

We foresee us having more time to read, do chores, take walks, talk.

Good stuff.

Maybe having more time will give me the opportunity to start writing a book :-)

What are you all doing for Lent?

Love,

Vince and Cay

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Excess of Activity... Part 2

Greetings friends!

So in our previous blog we enumerated the constant excess in activity that Cay and I have been facing recently. I am sure that some of you can relate to having so much going on in your lives that you just want to retreat to the Seychelles for a year. We feel for you. We want to do the same thing (after the baby is born of course). But alas, that is not possible for 98% of us. But we can give you our suggestions on how to slow down and simplify your life. We also would love to hear from all of you guys about what you do to simplify and slow down as well.

Check it out:

1) Sit down and examine your schedule for the week. I think a lot of the times we just breeze through the week and the activities, and at the end of the week we wonder what the heck happened to all the time. Examining your schedule allows you to be mentally prepared. Go through each day and what is necessary and what could possibly be taken out. Of course we know that things can change, and most of you with kids will probably attest to that, but it doesn't hurt to prepare as much as you can. Also, when you are adding things/events to your schedule discern the event and figure out where on the priority list those things go. If you a husband/wife/significant other then you should do this together.

2) Wake up early. The world is quieter in the early morning and as hard as it is, once you are in the habit it will soon become the best part of your day. Plus, in the morning you can get a lot of things done (i.e. working out, writing, meditating, praying, etc.) which will free you up for the rest of your day. Consequently this means you should go to bed earlier :-)

3) Learn how to say no. This is essential for the balanced life. Learn to say no when you have to and learn to say it gracefully.

4) Take a moment each day to be timeless. Take five minutes each day to do nothing. Get out of your office and take a walk outside and breath the fresh air. Walk outside for a moment and look at the stars.

What do you all have to add to reduce/cope/help with the business and excess of activities? We'd love to hear your input in the comments.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Excess of Activity... Part 1

Dear all,

I'm typing for my very pregnant wife right now as she dictates to me what she wants to convey. It's very lovely.

Today in we are talking about the excess of activity in our lives. WHY ARE WE SO FREAKING BUSY?!

"Doers"

Vince and I are both "doers". We have a lot of interests and thus a lot of activities that we like to do both together and separately. There has been a lot of traffic in our schedule this past week; there has been something happening every night. Usually we don't mind this lifestyle but now with the pregnancy and then the baby we are getting a bit cautious.

The question we brought up in our concern is, "Why are we always doing something?" and "Why do we feel like we always have to be doing something?"

Maybe it's because I associate having a fulfilling and meaningful life with having a full schedule. Basically I (and I am sure a lot others) have no idea that they are cramming their lives with activities. Choir practice... Church meetings... grocery shopping... birthday parties... lectures... dinners with friends...sports... etc. So many things!

Living in a Fast Age

I think part of it is that we live in a world that is packed with activity. And the activity happens fast! I mean we truly live in a digital age. We can get instantaneous access to information, food, clothing, entertainment. You name it! Everything happens so fast! Instantaneous. We were talking earlier and we realized that in previous ages, people had to take their time with certain things. Travel was not quick as it is now. Correspondence with other people would mean at times waiting for weeks/months till they replied by letters in the post. Microwaves and pizza delivery were not options.

What happened to taking your time with things? What happened to the silence in the world? Why do we always have to be racing through life a million miles per hour?

I believe the answer to these questions are found in the following:

Freaked Out by the Silence

We just don't. I think it is foreign to some of us. I was talking to a colleague of mine in the office and she told me that when her and her husband go on vacation for longer than a few days they go stir crazy and they can't handle it. Mobile phones, internet chat, DVDs, Ipods and constant chatting have been with them for so long the thought of not having them after a few days is foreign to them. They forgot that old saying in the movie theatres before the flick starts is so true: Silence in GOLDEN. It's because in silence and quiet we are faced with our thoughts and all the other junk we push away by taking up our time with the new episode of Grey's Anatomy on our iPhones. And when we are in the silence and our thoughts and issues start speaking to us, it freaks us out! I think that may be a sign that we need to practice being in silence more often. Take 15 minutes every day and shut off everything and just listen to your thoughts. Write it down in a journal if you need to. What are the things you are not dealing with?

Boredom

We live in an age where we have to be constantly entertained. One thing Vince and I like to do every night is watch a TV show together to unwind. It was almost like a bedtime routine. Grey's Anatomy or Glee (don't judge us). Side note - We hear that watching TV in the bedroom is bad, because the bedroom is meant for sleeping and... well you get the picture. It's like we always have to be stimulated in some way at every moment. We can't even be bored while we are sleeping! (Vince sleeps with an "ocean sounds" CD).

Obligated to do Things

This is a sticky subject because I believe most people reading this blog suffer from the "yes" monster. It's like we can't say anything but "yes" to things.

Example:

Can you do the PowerPoint for the Church event? Yes.

Can you drive my aunt to the hair-stylist? Yes.

Do you mind making a roast turkey for the dinner tonight? Sure.

Can you be my kid's Godfather? Of course.

Will you co-sign for my car? Absolutely.

Can I borrow a thousand buck? Hmmm... ok.

Man... the list goes on and on. And the reasons why we keep saying yes would take another post to explain. But in short, we believe that a big cause is guilt. We just feel plain old bad when we have to say "no". After all, no one takes joy in disappointing other people (unless you are a person who likes to see other's suffer - then shame on you.) And in our minds when we have to say "no" we think it is the end of the world and that since we can't pick up our uncle's-best friend's-cousin's-son in law from the airport no one else with a car can.

We can't assume all the responsibility and burden by thinking that other people will not be able to function without us. Of course there are things that are our responsibility (our spouses, children, family, friends, and dying people on the side of the street) but in a lot of cases, when we know we are already busy, I think it's ok if we say no. The world will continue to turn without us. Sad but true.

Moreover, not only is it ok, I think it is to EVERYONE'S benefit that we say, in a loving way, "No, I really want to but I can't do that this time." (Then you smack them and take their wallet... just kidding.) We should do this because it teaches us virtue of prudence. We cannot give too much or too little of ourselves. The key is balance in all things. When we have pushed ourselves too far we usually burnout and that can take its toll on ourselves as those closest to us (i.e. when we take out our stress, exhaustion, anger, etc. on them).

Plus people will begin to respect not only your "no", but more importantly your "yes". This is the key to increasing your integrity. When you say you can do something, people know you will follow through; and when you can't, they respect that too. With that said, when you do commit to something, do it all the way. But more importantly, when we say no...

IT GIVES ANOTHER PERSON A CHANCE TO SAY "YES"!

We will talk more about this subject tomorrow :-) Love you all!

Vince and Cay

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Simplicity in Material Things

Dear friends,

Happy Monday! On this end of the world it is about bedtime on Monday and the week is full steam ahead. It was a fantastic weekend with some great friends. Lots of laughter, food, wine and more laughter.


Anyhow, we said that we would begin with a series on simplicity in order to combat the excess that exists in our lives.

Let's just get one thing straight. We believe that we must combat the excess in our lives not simply for combating excess; but for freeing ourselves for more important things. In other words, we get rid of the excess so that we may have more. More of what?

More of life... love... family... quite times for contemplation...intimate moments... laughter... tears... times of joy...(you get the idea).

It sounds like a paradox and you could call us crazy, but we firmly believe that the less that you have the more you can have.

Let's start with today's topic... Material things. (It's so hard to give insight on a problem when you know you suffer with it right? Let's try anyways...) We mentioned earlier that for most of us there is certainly an excess of material stuff in our lives. The sad thing is that these multiple things are not even good quality things. Is it possible that nowadays people are just obsessed with having a gigantic assortment of poor quality things?

It seems that instead of having 1 really good product that will last a long time, we would rather have a bunch of mediocre products that last a fraction as long.

We need to simplify the way we buy and own things.

Here's how we see it:

1) Don't be Swayed by the Trends - Trends are exactly what they are... trends. They are fine now, but next year you will most likely look a bit off when you still have it. Go for classic styles and products.

2) Think before You Buy - Before you go all crazy on the 10 for the price of one at your favorite department store, ask yourself... do you really need 10 of them? Are you really going to use them? Also, avoid impulse buying. Kinda like not going into a grocery hungry (guilty right here), you can't go into a store when you are feeling impulsive. How do you know you are feeling impulsive? Easy... it's when everything looks appealing to you. It's best to approach purchasing with a calm and sound mind. And ask yourself... do I really need this leather bag? Do I already have one like this? Do I really another one? But what if it is...ON SALE! ONCE IN A LIFETIME! - Come on now. Do you think that it will never be on sale again? Or at least something like it. And even if your battery-powered-flame-throwing-espresso-machine with DVD player never goes on a sale again ask yourself again... is this really necessary?

3) Buy for Quality and Longevity - This is SUPER important. One of the things I like to ask myself when I am buying something these days is "Could I still use this 10 years from now?" Examine the quality. Ask about the product. Compare the product with other products. See if there is a warranty and ask if you can hit it with a baseball bat (just kidding). But seriously, if get the best quality in the end you will be saving tons of money, because you won't be replacing it as often.

4) Get Rid of the Old when You Bring in the New (or Just Get Rid of the Old) - Cay and I need to follow through on this. Whenever we buy something new, we should recycle something we already have. After all that's why you bought something new right? Because the old thing no longer served it's purpose. When you buy yourself a new hat, bring some of your old ones to the local Salvation Army or charities. Moreover... if you have are one of those that have tons of things, I suggest you immediately implement the one year practice: If you haven't used it in a year, then toss it (give it to someone else - charity, ebay, relatives, enemies, whatever.)

5) Try to Support Your Local Artisans and Suppliers - I love finding products that are made in the geographical area of where I am living. Plus, you are supporting the local economy; and a lot of the local artisans and craftspeople make things better than some mass producing machine. Sure it will cost you a bit more, but I the payoff is worth it when you know you have a good product that was made by someone's bear hands. (p.s. Local artisans are also more likely to repair your product if you need them to)

6) Be Minimal - One thing that I am trying to do right now is get all my belongings into one closet, and I am getting closer everyday. Why? Because I am tired of having stuff scattered all over the house. The house just seems more spacious and free when you have less things occupying it. There is something beautiful about sitting in front of a beautiful empty wooden table in the morning. I believe that being minimal with belongings gives you more room to move and think and just... be. When you have less you have more.

7) TAKE CARE OF THE THINGS THAT YOU HAVE - Now that you have the thing. Take care of it. Put it in a proper place and keep it in good condition so that you will not ruin it. Clean out your coffee machine and put shoe trees in your quality shoes. When you take care of the things that you have it lengthens the life of the product.

8) Be a Good Example to Your Family - Remember that children do what the parents do (so I've heard). What kind of example do you want to set for your kids? Sit down and talk with them about the importance of being prudent with things and how to take care of them.

9) If You Can't Afford it then You Don't Need it - Pure and simple. This will surely get the excess out of your life. I cut up my credit cards 2 years ago and have paid everything with cash since then. It has been challenging when it comes to buying things like plane tickets, but I have never felt more free than I do now. We do not buy anything that we cannot pay and cash, and if we can't afford it now, then we SAVE till we can.

10) You Own Things, not the Other Way Around - Ponder this statement.

More to come...

Love,

Vince and Cay


Friday, February 25, 2011

Simplicity in living...

Dear all,

Cay and I had a great conversation this morning when we went for a walk. It was a really sunny day (which is rare here in Austria this time of the year) and our conversation was great. We tend to talk very deeply when we go for walks, which is one reason why our walks take a long time. Anyways... we came to some realizations today.

We realized that (even in our lives) we have an excess of STUFF. And it ranges from all aspects in our lives, from physical things (clothes, cars, computers, teddy bears, etc) to obligations and commitments. We even came to find out that some times we carry an excess of feelings (particularly guilt). And furthermore, in this age, it seems that “excess” is not only acceptable; it is necessary.

I mean seriously, look at the condition in the United States (and maybe other countries as well):

You need to have a credit card in order to buy a… house, car, land, donut shop, etc.

TRANSLATION: You need to have debt to have more debt.

WTF? Why would I want more debt to have even more debt?

Perhaps the deeper question is actually: Why do I want these things so badly? And what will do to get them?

In the end we don't really need that much to survive. If you want to get technical what you need is simple: food, water and protection from the elements (i.e. clothing, shelter, a Gore-tex jacket if you live in Austria during the winter). Ok, I realize as well that we need love and human contact as well, so go ahead and chuck that up there as a necessity.

But we believe that anything more than the above mentioned, and we are actually living in excess, or more than what is necessary. (Again, Cay and I are just as guilty as everyone else). Here is a simple example: go to your coat rack and count how many coats you have. Chances are that you have more than one. You may even have more than one for the season. I am mortified as I look at my closet, because I actually have 3 different coats that I can wear for the winter. The bottom line is that we have an excess of stuff in our lives, and I believe that this does not always make things simpler, or even enjoyable for that matter. A lot of times when we have these excesses we are not satisfied, but quite the opposite; we want more. Over the following days we are going to publish a series of blogs that Cay and I have really thought about. The theme is simplicity.

Why simplicity? Because it is the opposite of excess. (Notice I didn’t say “having nothing” is the opposite of excess… I’ll explain more about this in a later post). Simplicity, or simplifying allows us to examine our lives and to take out the excess stuff that is cluttering all the aspects of our lives. Man, and we have a lot of it. Some of us have no idea how much we have.

Stay tuned for more…

- Vince and Cay



Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Contest is Finished! The Amazing Stories...

Dear friends,

The contest is done and now it's time to dish out the goodness!

I have always found it hard to judge things such as contests. And how can you judge stories that are based on love?

But there has to be a decision in this case, and after much debate and thought Cay and I realized that there was only one story that actually followed the instructions of the contest (You were supposed to perform a small act of love and write about it)!

Therefore we decided that in all fairness only one person will get the promised prize.

However, because the other two stories that touched us were so good (very good actually) we are still publishing them, and we are splitting the prize meant for the second person and sending it to the writers of the two stories.

So... the big winner of our contest is Kristina (aka Tin-tin) from Texas!

The two runners up are Mary (New York) and Chiara (Texas). Their stories can be found here:

Mary


Chiara

I am not going to write much about their entries, because I want them to speak for themselves...

Anyways... congrats to Kristina, Mary and Chiara and expect your prizes of Lindt and Milka chocolate to jump across the pond and be in your mailbox any day now!

So without further ado... here is Kristina's story:

--------------
So, here's my act of kindness...

Everyday, on my way home from work, I pass by this homeless couple on the corner of Buckner Blvd. and Interstate 30.

They hold signs that read: "Red Lobster would be nice, but even McDonald's would be a treat. Just hungry."

And everytime I pass them, I feel conflicted. I never carry cash and it hurts to just turn my head, especially since they're asking for food, not money. So, I made it out to Albertson's during my lunch break, bought some food, and filled two paper bags. I got apples, chips, donuts, bottle waters and little cereal cups. And, on my way home yesterday, I gave them one bag each.

They kind of looked confused, but when they looked inside, they were thankful.

Thank you both for giving me the kick in the pants to do what I've been wanting to do for some time now. I also have some old clothes that I think would fit the homeless woman. I might pack it in a Central Market reusable bag and give it to her next time I see her.

I love you both!
--------------

Kristina... this reminds me of a quote made by a very beautiful woman...

"We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love" - St. Therese of Lisieux

Blessings to you all,

Vince and Cay