Thursday, April 29, 2010


I learned a really big lesson on my way to class this morning; some might call it a God moment. My tired eyes concentrated on the highway as my mind raced until -bam!- it landed on one simple phrase:

You have taken all of me, just as I am,
And are moving me to be closer to who You are.

It's a simple phrase, really, and it isn't even all that profound. But I found such richness in that phrase. God has taken a person who loves other people, but can be really selfish at times, and He is using that person to do things that are bringing that person closer to being like Him. I realize that this has little to do with food, but is heavy on the memoir side. Here a few reasons why I am thankful today:

I've been given the opportunity to get 2 master's education that people around the world only dream of
2 deans are taking a chance on me to help them write their next book, and it's on a topic that they have lived and struggled through all of their professional lives
My husband has been an amazing rock in an incredibly treacherous part of my life
Key friends and family members have really encouraged me, even when I'm boring them with too much info about school
While I am stressed about money, school, life in general, forgotten people, policies & systems that aren't working, and my role in how I'm going to help make some sort of difference, FOOD and FAMILY have been amazing outlets in this fine balance of keeping it all together.
On any given day, I am wrestling through some problem that is bigger than me, but by some miracle, I usually sleep very soundly at night with little tossing and turning.
By the grace of God, I have just enough confidence to listen to people, hear what they're saying, look around and learn from others, and feel that I can do this--I can play a part in making life better for some people.

I don't talk about this a lot, and I certainly have never written the following out for all of the world to see online, but here's what I've really learned since moving to Waco:

Degrees don't matter. (the non-degreed are some of the wisest...they lived it) (if you aren't constantly asking questions inside yourself about the world as we have it today) (if you don't have tools for the taking)

Honesty and being completely real with where we are is crucial if we are to move forward.

Despite being overjoyed/triumphant when I FINALLY got a job at a grocery store deli, making $7.50 an hour (with a college degree and 1/2 a humbling), I WILL NEVER KNOW being poor like my neighbors and others around here. There's not an amount of role-playing or thinking or discussion or books in the world that can give me that education.

Life is hard, and God continues to be good.

I'm not sure exactly what I've gotten myself into, but I guarantee it's sticky and too late to back out now.

People need listening ears, love, and God's understanding, even if you never use the word "God."

Working 50 hours a week is nothing. Adding 15 hrs of grad school on top is tricky. But doable.

There's nothing like laughing. Nothing.

SORRY this has been a little heavy...I tend to go there sometimes. But it's not too mushy, I hope. I've learned a lot in the last 2 years. My first final is next Friday (3 of them that day!), and I'm nervous and weary, but this morning's lesson from God has given me renewed energy and purpose for why I'm combating these 4 years here. I am so thankful...even when there's a scholarship dinner tonight, I'm hosting a table, and have 3 papers to write afterward. I'm still thankful. I hope you find new ways to be thankful in your own life today. May God bless you in surprising ways.

(Sam is sleeping on the crook in my laptop...his little black hairs will be a nice souvenir on my little white computer.)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Burgers and Naps

It's the last week of classes for this semester, and that means I need to procrastinate from finishing major projects by posting again today! Tonight's dinner was muy delish...Matt grilled lean cheddar burgers, with toasted buns (ha), a tossed salada, and baked beans on the side.

The burger was cooked medium well...a little crispy on the edges and moist in the center, my favorite way. The salad was crunchy, and the beans were, well, beans. My dad used to make hot dogs each Saturday afternoon for a late lunch (post-Dad's giant Saturday morning breakFEAST), and baked beans were always the side item. I've never been big on hot dogs (EXCEPT BOSTON's SPIKE'S GOURMET HOT DOGS, which I do crave...oh!), but the baked beans I'll eat straight out of a pot or a can, they're so tasty. I love the brown sugary, mustardy kick, with the smokiness of thick bacon in them. Thanks, Dad, for my love for all things tasty and good!

Anyway, here was dinner...Matt used a combo rub and bbq sauce on it, which was muy delicioso! (And, no, Sam was not dinner.)Then it was time for a cat nap...taken by a dog.


While there are the lucky few who are able to get out of bed, walk 10 steps, and step out onto a balcony with a beautiful beachview at their fingertips, if I do such a thing--wake up, get out of bed, walk 10 steps--I'll end up running into my sleazy used car salesman neighbor named Tony, always yelling at his kids, with a 2-year construction site in his backyard. The view is no good here.

But this is the last week of classes, so why not celebrate with a SMOOTHIE?

My version has:

150 calories
No fat
No added sugar
3 CUPS per serving!

Fake Beach Smoothie
1 banana
1 orange
6 strawberries
1 mango
1/2 cup plain fat free yogurt
Splash of skim milk
Handful of ice

Peel fruits and slice down to manageable pieces. Blend until smooth and voila! a healthy, tropical, tasty treat.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Talking Shop

I gave my first full sermon yesterday in my Preaching class. What a wild thought, going to a preaching class. It doesn't involve a classroom set up with pulpit/podiums instead of desks. It doesn't have people quoting famous sermons and banging on the pulpit in rhythmic unison, and it certainly doesn't require wearing a 3-piece suit every day.

I like the class...I've learned a lot. But I am SO GLAD my sermon is over. I suppose it's a living, breathing interpretation of God's Word, but if I have to edit, repeat and revise it one more time, my head might spin.

Actually, I was a little sad when it was over. But it was a good experience. Moving on...I'm not so sure preaching will ever be a skill I'll develop regularly, but it was fun.

No cooking this week...too many projects and craziness to wind up the semester.

Happy day!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Pizza and Scones

Tonight involved a couple of fun recipes. Matt & I made a homemade pizza (how have I never made a crust from scratch before?)...the crust wasn't super pretty, but the pizza was DELICIOUS! I give Matt the credit. We made it up as we went (including the crust), and it turned out well. Who needs a cookbook, anyway? (Haha, I DO!!!! And I inherited the love of cookbooks from my mom and grandmother, so it only comes naturally, right?)

Here are the ingredients:

Mattycake, mattycake, baker's man...whole wheat crust,

Gigantor pepperoni, shredded mozz/asiago/parm, and Red/Green/Yellow bell peppers...Ole!,

Black olives,

FRESH rosemary,

Some garlic,

A little more mozz,

and BAM! Pizza! (425 in the oven for 15 min.)

If we left off that second layer of cheese, this would've been low fat. But with the whole wheat crust (made only with water, yeast, salt and olive oil--no butter), the fresh veggies and herbs, it turned out to be a pretty healthy meal.
(Of course, I forgot to make the salad...maybe tomorrow night.)

I am a self-proclaimed lover of all things baked and sweet. I can't help it, my sweet tooth has progressed to my head, limbs, and is quickly reaching my pinky toes. I try to contain it, but sometimes the only way to express my love for buttery, sugary confections is to bake it out.

These One-Eyed Blackberry Scones were based on Tyler Florence's Orange Glazed Blueberry Scones, but I completely changed it up! So, while I give Tyler thanks for the inspiration, I received a grade of an "F" for following his recipe and an "A" for creativity and making my own up. (Ha, well, I tried at least.)

1 1/2 cups of wheat flour
1/2 cup of all-purpose white flour
1/2 t. salt
1 T baking powder
1/3 c sugar
1 t cinnamon
1 t almond extract
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 c unsalted butter (1 stick, cut with pastry blender)
3/4 cup half and half (or coffee creamer)
1 egg
1 carton blackberries

Combine dry ingredients and extract in bowl, while combining butter and egg in 2nd bowl. Combine wet ingredients into dry ingredients, but not overmixing the dough.
Roll the blackberries in additional 2 T of flour; this keeps them from sinking to the bottom of the scone when baking. Roll into 2 T-increments and bake for 20 minutes at 425 degrees.

Almost too embarassing to add...

1. I've only decorated cookies twice that I can remember.

2. Art was never my strong point.

3. Matt was my sous chef.

These are the only excuses that come to mind when you see the following creation. Easter was fun...I had a few Lucille Ball moments and, if you know me even semi-well, you know that I tend to forget to set a timer when baking (burning most things). I did NOT burn the following, but my sous chef and I, well, we look like four year old pastry chefs with no skills.

We went to Lake Shore for church Easter morning, loved the service, and came home to cook the 12 pound turkey that had been thawing for the last 36 hours. Come to find out it was STILL FROZEN! So plan B was a luxurious, meaningful gourmet meal of a cultured pizza buffet for the humble rate of $5.99 a head. (Forget the rack of lamb!) We feasted on the mouth-watering cheeses on the barbeque chicken and taco pizza slices, as well as the apple and cinnamon dessert pizzas. What a way to break bread in honor of the King! (To be fair, I think Jesus would like Cici's Pizza, too.)

Anyhow, after such a feast, we decided to rest at home and make EASTER COOKIES! This is where the 3 excuses [see above] come in.

I baked a couple dozen Easter cookies, but I packed away all of our cookie cutters, so this called for putting childhood Play-doh and Silly Putty skills to work. I made giant and tiny eggs, as well as bunnies, who look more like cats. HOWEVER, they're COLORFUL!! And Matt added chocolate frosting to give variety.

Hope you enjoyed your Easter and, all kidding aside, found joy in this special day. And if your Easter weekend was less than perfect (Did your turkey forget to chill out?), hope these Kolorful Kiddy Kookies put a smile on your face!


Much too much

(our home for one more month)

There have been a whole lotta "whole lots" in my life. I grew up in a home where we would climb the highest mountains and cross the widest oceans to find a bargain, the discount stores and outlet malls being one of our regular spots for such deals. Sunday dresses, coffee tables, detergent, shoes, name it, we scoured the ads--many, many ads--and then went off in search of the greatest deal based on the Sunday newspaper inserts.

Now I wouldn't call my family cheap, perhaps thrifty. They try to be good stewards of their salaries, giving to others, to the needy, then to the stores. It was basically against my religion to purchase anything at full price...oh, the shock, the horror! Generations of women in my family would roll over in their graves if they knew I paid $50 for a pair of shoes that I could've spent $30 on at the advertised sale across the street. It's common sense, save what you can and get what you need. Or is it?

Now I'm a new 26, sitting in my den, gazing around at all of the bargains I have accomplished. It does feel like I should win some kind of award for the ridiculously good steals I've swagged from unsuspecting, naive stores "just giving it away." Each bargain in my closet hangs proudly like a shiny gold statue, in all its glory. But is all of the time spent hunting, planning, driving and waiting really worth it? Have I become a shopper of sales and clearances, rather than a consumer of life goods and happiness?

We're getting ready to move into a bigger home, nearly double its size, if you can imagine that, and I am scrambling to DOWNSIZE at all costs. Sure, all of our belongings will fit comfortably in the new place, but I am determined to go in there clutter-free, with plenty of room in my closets for air and plenty of space in my drawers for invisible, moving around space. I will try my best not to think of that new AIR and SPACE as opportunity for more bargains, but this will be a challenge against my very genetic make-up. I will have to fight the good fight against all those who came before me and loved to buy "2 for 1" and "1/2 off" their entire lives. I look forward to the extra air, but everyone can squeeze in that extra pair of shoes in their closet, right?

Food of the Day: Gigantor steaks, mashed potatoes, and -whoops!- we forgot the asparagus in the fridge.