31 December 2011

2011 Superlatives

There are just a few hours remaining in 2011. It seems like the year has flown by! Before the ball drops, ringing in the new year (and before we go to bed while celebrating midnight with the folks on the east coast), I thought I'd do a quick synopsis of a few favorites. Here we go:

Favorite Fiction: The Help, Half Broke Horses

Favorite Non-fiction: Under the Banner of Heaven, Unbroken, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Book Most Likely to Make Me Want to Leave my Job and Home for a Farm: The Dirty Life

Most Indulgent Dessert (TIE): White Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cheesecake, Peanut Butter Cup Martini. Both at Lulu's Chocolate Bar in Savannah.


Favorite Food (Summer category): Watermelon with feta cheese and honey

Favorite Food (Winter category): Farro and Roasted Butternut Squash

New Favorite Drink (Summer category): Iced Coffee. Not iced cappuccino or iced latte. Just iced coffee with cream(er).

New Favorite Drink (Winter category): Hot Chocolate with marshmallow flavored vodka

Promise that We're Most Willing to Keep: Vacation destinations in the summer cannot be in the south. For the second year in a row, we visited lovely cities (Savannah, Charleston, Atlanta) during a heat wave. Canada, anyone?

Most Likely to Love Us Forever: Persephone. The neighborhood cat we stole from our previous house. (It was actually legal-ish. We talked to someone who lived on the next street over that approved of our adopting her.)


Best Game: Dicecapades. After eyeing it for a few weeks, I decided to buy it. Let me tell you: it's fun. Like really, really fun. In fact, it replaced Cranium as my favorite game.


Most Expensive Purchase:  In April, Husby and I took advantage of the buyers market and purchased our first home. So far, so good. Except when we wish we could call the landlord to replace a doorknob or dig the rogue crepe myrtle out of every single flower bed.


Best TV Shows: Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory, Castle, Top Chef All-Stars

Best DVD Series (you know, since we don't have cable): Veronica Mars, Alias, LOST

Happy New Year, y'all!

27 December 2011

brussels sprouts & grits

Today is the first day of sunshine after three days of (much needed) rain. The light spilling into our home feels so nice. Husby is off this week, so we're enjoying time with each other. Mainly, we do our own thing for a few hours, and then meet on the couch to watch 2 or 5 episodes of LOST, and then repeat. Perhaps we'll go on the walk we've craved over the past few days, but avoided because of the wet weather.

Yesterday, we braved the mist and headed to buy real food. It seems that with holiday treats and meals and busyness, fruits and vegetables and non-processed foods hadn't been in our home for some time. That ended yesterday. For some reason, even though I don't (or won't) shop at WalMart, I do go to Sam's Club. I mean, who can pass up those prices? Our only intent was to buy clementines. But as we walked through the fruits and vegetables, I couldn't stop placing things in our carts. We have two pounds of Brussels sprouts, a huge tub of organic baby spinach, cubed butternut squash, mushrooms, apples and clementines. That's a lot of fruits and veggies.

As evidenced by purchasing two pounds of Brussels sprouts, we love them. I saw a recipe on Pinterest recently for a similar recipe, but it calls for frying the sprouts. Because I didn't want to dodge the splatters of grease, I decided to try roasting them. It worked, and they were fabulous. I served them with some garlic cheese grits and a fried egg. It was a perfect supper: filling, but not too heavy.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sriracha, Honey & Lime
Adapted from food52.com
Serves 2-4

Ingredients
1 lb Brussels sprouts, cut in half
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon sriracha (or more, to taste)
1 tablespoon lime juice

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss Brussels sprouts with olive oil and sesame oil. Spread out on jelly roll pan so that all sprouts are cut-side down. Roast until browned, about 15 minutes, turning once.

While Brussels sprouts are roasting, whisk together honey, sriracha and lime juice. Once sprouts are done, remove from oven. Pour sauce over sprouts, tossing gently to coat. Serve immediately.

Garlic Cheese Grits
Serves 2-3

Ingredients
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup quick cooking grits
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Directions
In a medium saucepan, bring chicken broth, salt, garlic powder and onion powder to a boil. Add grits. Cover and turn heat to low. Cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in butter and cheese.

21 December 2011

-ing

Last weekend, Husby and I attended the annual Bailey Christmas Party. It's an occasion not to be missed. Each year is a food theme. {Yes, they are fabulous friends who develop a party around food.} This years them? Dessert. So, after our drive to the big city, we feasted on desserts and chatted the night away. During one conversation, I confessed that I am the queen of copying. I don't have many great original ideas so much as I find great ideas already had, and then copy them. It's an issue of which I'm well aware, and I don't know that I intend to change it anytime soon. So, I shall copy a blog idea from the hostess of said party, and perhaps a link or two.

{COOKING}

For me, cold weather is perfect for soups. Last night, I made Chicken & Dumplings. They warmed us up as the temperature dropped just a bit. We'll eat on the leftovers for the next few days.

Last week, I had a hankering (not a craving) for Vegetable Beef Stew. Having never made it before, I called my mom who advised me on the cut of meat and type of potatoes that are perfect for beef stew. My first attempt was super successful. I'm making it tonight to take to a family, and I plan to write the recipe this time. I'll share sometime soon.

We'll be at my parents on Christmas morning. I've requested that my mom make kolaches filled with raspberry or strawberry jam. Of course, she'll make her favorite: poppy seed kolaches. Along with these amazing sweet rolls, I'm making this Southern Brunch Casserole, which is a tradition with Husby's family. I'm pretty sure my family will love it!

{READING}

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. This is a challenging read for me. I love the premise of the book and have started by List of 1000 Things, but her writing is a tad too poetic for me.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. My college roommate and I decided to read this together. A year later, I'm finally reading it. And it's wonderful.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I loved her Half Broke Horses, so I'm excited to be reading this.

{WATCHING}

LOST. I've shared before that I'm 6-10 years behind on a few series. About three weeks ago, Husby and I started LOST, Season 1. Last night, we started Season 2. Oh my goodness! This show is good, y'all!

Christmas movies. I love Christmas movies that are not of the Hallmark variety. My favorites: Elf, Home Alone, Love Actually, Christmas Vacation, Four Christmases and A Christmas Story.

{CONSIDERING}

Blessed are the entitled? Just perfect in light of the goings-on in my hometown and my recent blog post about the nativity.

Santa, Strategically I like this. Santa remains in Christmas, but a minimal part.

When Christmas Gets Radical I love the idea that a family chooses gifts for those who are desperately in need. For those who would be more thankful for receiving than perhaps I ever could.

19 December 2011

Monday Miscellany

  • One perk of working in education is all of the breaks. Today begins two weeks off. I have a list of things to accomplish. I've spent today working in our office / library. About every 18 minutes, I get overwhelmed with all of the books we have. But then I come up with a [new] plan. I have most of the books shelved.
  • I inherited my grandmother's sewing machine. If you're wondering: no, I don't sew. But I want to. I figure just having it in my house brings me one step closer to actually sewing. Along with it came a small chest where she kept notions. I have the perfect place for it in the office, near the sewing machine. I've cleaned out two of the three drawers so that office materials will have a home.
  • It's taking all sorts of self-control not to carry it out to the garage and spray paint it. We have three dark wood bookshelves, so I don't really want a chocolate brown chest, as well. But I will wait for another day.
  • My mom introduced me to a new cracker. Have you had these? Fab-u-lous!
  • This video is great. An 82 year old grandmother eating Pop Rocks. So cute!

14 December 2011

4 years

Four years ago tonight, I went on my very first date with a cute guy from church. A guy with a dreamy beard around his jawline. A guy that complimented me, and even wanted to talk to me again after I totally blew him off. A guy that called me on his birthday to ask me on our first date. And who answered his phone after I was too nervous to pick up the call. (I mean, just his name on the caller ID made my heart race!) Someone who pursued me, while I played hard-to-get for just a bit. Someone who won me over pretty quickly. Someone who won me over for forever.

This is our first picture. I love it. The dreamy beard. A good hair day for me.

09 December 2011

the nativity

In my small hometown, a debate is brewing. Petitions are floating around. Friendships are being strained. No doubt you’ve heard this story—or one very similar: the nativity on the town square must be removed. A letter was received, written on the behalf of a citizen of the county, stating that the display isn’t constitutional. And do you know what? I agree. It isn’t. Feel free to have one in your yard (and I hope those who are fighting so hard DO have a nativity in the yard!) or have a creche at your church, but not on government property.
I know; it’s likely that I’m a believer in Christ who’s in the minority. And I know that some might call my faith into question. That’s okay. Others might not go so far, but would accuse me of allowing “them” to take Christ out of Christmas. I’m not. I love Him. That baby in the manger.
Earlier this week, my boss gave me a Christmas IQ Quiz. [Side note: I work at a Christian school.] Before he gave it to me, he predicted that I wouldn’t do better than 50 on the quiz. I was just certain he was wrong. Really wrong. I mean, I grew up going to church. I know multiple verses to dozens of Christmas carols. I’ve been an angel in church programs and stood proudly on the third level from the top of our singing Christmas tree. I was certain that I could score an 85 or better. I know Christmas!
Guess what? He was wrong. And so was I. I scored 55. The word you’re looking for is: seriously?! I mean I’ve sung the “Hallelujah Chorus” more times than I can count! I don’t even need the music in front of me, and I haven’t performed it for at least 6 years. That’s how many programs I’ve been part of! Although they bring such joy, it’s made the facts of the real story a little hazy for me. As I answered some of the questions on this Christmas IQ quiz, I sang verses to Christmas songs in my head. Christmas songs are accurate, aren’t they? It turns out that they aren’t always correct.
How much do you know about the birth of Christ? When was the last time you read the story out of the Bible, without adding details about the story? Before you look at these questions, I’d love for you to read the story of the birth of Jesus from Matthew and Luke. And I certainly hope that some of you know more than I did!
1.    Baby Jesus was born in a ______________? We don’t know. We only know that he was laid in a manger. The Bible never talks about a barn. What if the trough was shoved under an eave of the inn? Maybe it was used by little goats that provided milk for the inn and took shelter by the building. We don’t know. Maybe Joseph—being the [probably scared] teenager that he was—found a few rough-hewn pieces of wood to lean together to make some sort of a shelter for his young wife-to-be who was birthing a Savior. (See Luke 2:7)
2.    What animals were at the birth of Jesus? Sure, there are always an ox, donkey, camel and sheep in the nativity scene, but were they next to the manger? We don’t know. Maybe there were none. Or maybe there were noisy goats and chickens who made a huge mess!
3.    “…the little Lord, Jesus no crying he makes” Did baby Jesus cry? We know that Jesus was fully man and fully God. He cried as an adult, so why wouldn’t he cry as a baby?
4.    How many Wise Men / Kings / Magi were there? We always had three in our Christmas programs, but we have no idea how many came—only that three gifts were brought. This one got me! And they arrived much later than the birth night—they had a long way to travel. (See Matthew 2:11)
Honestly, after I took this quiz, I was a little embarrassed. I wanted to know more about THE story. The REAL story of the birth of Christ. So I read it, in both Matthew and Luke. And I read it again. Then, I wanted to know who came up with the idea of a nativity scene. The designer of the first nativity is a favorite for me: St. Francis of Assisi. It seems he took a creative license in 1223 and strayed a little from the story that’s in the Bible, adding kings and animals galore. Can you guess what his goal was in 1223? To switch the focus at Christmastime from secular materialism to Christ. Can you believe it? I think we live in a lavish time, but he was concerned 800 years ago!
Why is the nativity scene still so popular? Is it to nudge us away from the material aspects of Christmas? Because, really, it doesn’t do that for me. I know; I’m just being honest. The scene with Mary, Joseph, Jesus and a throng of animals, shepherds, angels and kings is expected. In fact, I’ve been on the hunt for years for the “perfect” nativity for our house. For me, it’s a tradition. First, put up the tree; then set up the nativity.
So why the fight to keep this scene on a courthouse square? For me, if it comes down, Christ doesn’t come out of my Christmas because Christ is Christmas.
Christ is Christmas.
Is the energy given to fighting this worth it? Or could it be better spent? What if we loved people who haven’t felt worthy of love in some time? What if our families took an extra angel off of an angel tree and forfeited a bit of our excessive Christmas? What if a group of friends gathered all of the “fixings” for Christmas dinner for a family in need? Or co-workers bought a Christmas tree with dozens of ornaments and twinkle lights to anonymously leave for a family that doesn’t have that joy this year? What if we, as Christians, did Christ-like things for the hurting and poor? Do we really need an inaccurate nativity scene to make Christ’s love more real? I don’t think so.
Be careful, brothers- and sisters-in-Christ, when you respond to others about this. Don't be mean-spirited. Yesterday, I saw hateful comments posted on websites that have reported this story, replying awfully to those who don't believe in Jesus. Today, I saw a picture of a banner suggesting that those who don't believe in Christ leave our country. The baby in the manger—the one you're fighting for—wouldn't have responded this way. Our Living Savior loves "them." Those people who hate Him. He loves those who don't know Him. We're commanded to love these people, and He loves us when we don't love others. Let others see Christ through you. Let them want to know about this baby who became our Savior and King. Love "them" like Christ loves us.
Christ is love. Christ is Christmas.
{Please know that it took several days for me to process this. I have prayed over this, wanting this post to be more than words. I want this ultimatum given to remove the nativity to spur Christians to love more and more. Let's take it down and SHOW our neighbors the love of Christ. It means more than a plastic baby Jesus in a manger. I know that not everyoneor perhaps anyonewill agree. Also, I love comments! If you choose to leave one, and if that comment it hateful or snarky or calls my faith into question, I will remove it.}

29 November 2011

salted caramel pecan pie

Thanksgiving rocked. Spending time with both sets of family and family friends was wonderful. Lots of fun, and even more food. For some reason--my family especially--cooks enough for everyone to eat on for the remainder of the year. And while fresh veggies get soggy when reheated, veggies in casseroles don't have the same fate. So the 5 casseroles will be nice over the next few weeks. Normally, I eat one bite of turkey as an ode to Thanksgiving, but the turkey this year was really good. I even brought leftovers from my parents. Unlike Husby's family who cooked one turkey for about 30 people, mine went for two turkeys for 15 people. Clearly, we're not the best at math. But give us some canned veggies and cream of mushroom soup, and we'll whip it up into a creamy something that doesn't taste like a vegetable.

The results are tallied, and the Salted Caramel Pecan Pie was a hit. Simply amazing. Fabulous. I made it twice. Husby and I don't even like pecan pie. But we both converted to the salted caramel variety. So, we're not unequally yoked in the pecan pie department.

I merged three different recipes (here, here and here). You should know that although I know how to make real pie crust, I don't like to make it. If I can find a press-in crust recipe, I'll do it. My apple pie has a similar, non-shortbread crust, and even non-crust lovers eat it. So, I thought that rather than rolling out the crust given in the original recipe that a brown sugar shortbread crust would be great. And it was!

Salted Caramel Pecan Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie

Ingredients

For the caramel filling:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup half and half

For the pie crust:
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt

Directions

To make caramel filling: in a medium sauce pan add corn syrup, butter, half and half, sugar, and sea salt. Bring to a boil then remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. While cooling, add vanilla. Once cooled, whisk in beaten eggs.

While caramel filling is cooling, prepare the pie crust. Spray pie plate with non-stick cooking spray. Cream butter and brown sugar about 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add in egg yolk and salt, mix well. Stir in flour 1/2c at a time. The mixture will seem very crumbly; this is normal. Press dough into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie dish. Freeze until firm, about 20 minutes. While pie is in the freezer, preheat oven to 375 degrees (350 if using a glass pie plate).

Remove pie crust from freezer and place pecans in the crust. Pour caramel filling into pie pan and bake in the 375 degree oven for 45 minutes.

25 November 2011

Thankfulness: Days 22-24

A spirit of thankfulness, not just for 24 or 30 days, but always.
It's a condition of the heart. But I often get busy and my heart doesn't dwell on thankfulness.
In Psalms, David cries out to the Lord over and over, lamenting.
But he continues to give thanks again and again.
As Thanksgiving Day is gone for another year, I want to remain thankful.

I will give thanks to the LORD according to His righteousness
And will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.
Psalm 7:17

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
Psalm 95:2

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.Psalm 107:1

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks through Him to God the Father.Colossians 3:17

...in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.1 Thessalonians 5:18

Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might,
be to our God forever and ever. Amen.
Revelation 7:12

22 November 2011

Thankful: Day 22

I am so thankful for a lazy day. Currently, I'm in my pajamas; I never changed this morning. We even had a friend come over to help work on the sprinklers and hang a light fixture. I brushed my hair before he arrived. Then I made us all a huge pot of coffee because fall seems to have made a comeback in east Texas. At least for the next 72 hours. Which means my plan of leggings, boots and a sweater dress will happen on Thanksgiving Day. Praise the Lord.

We celebrate with Husby's family on Thursday and with my family on Saturday. It works so well that way. For celebration #1, I was asked to prepare a green veggie. Last year, I decided on Brussels sprouts, and oh, the lamenting...FROM OUR PARENTS. I suppose there's a reason that I'd never had a Brussels sprout. 40+ years ago, in school cafeterias, the only preparation was boiling them. Guh-ross. My mom certainly didn't have those in our rotation growing up. I'm glad I didn't have to eat those. I'm happy to report that our parents and all other adults in attendance with an aversion to Brussels sprouts were happily surprised to figure out that THEY'RE NOT SO BAD. In fact, THEY'RE KIND OF GOOD. I use Alton Brown's recipe for Brussels Sprouts with Pecans and Cranberries.

Speaking of pecans. I enjoy pecans in savory dishes, but I don't like them in any sort of dessert. Which makes perfect sense that I'm making the pecan pie. My aversion to pecan pie runs deep. I remember eating it when I was about 4 years old, after a trip to Red Lobster, and then suffering food poisoning--probably from the scallops. I don't like pecan pie. Or scallops.

(Other aversions because of illness include: Cherry Sours and oranges.)

(Side note: I love anything orange flavored and [no pulp] orange juice. Just not a big fan of oranges.)

(After 12 years of not eating oranges, I tried one in high school. They're okay.)

(I don't think I'll ever eat Cherry Sours ever again.)

Anyway...I can make pies. At my mom's restaurant, Thanksgiving is a big deal. This year, the count for pies is 60. It's been like that since I can remember. So, growing up in a crazy pie-making place, I learned to make just about any pie. And just a few years ago, I learned to make pie crust. However, I decided to do something a little different than the typical pecan pie. I've decided to merge three different recipes: Salted Caramel Pecan Pie, Press-In Shortbread Crust and Brown Sugar Shortbread Crust. Because it's always good to prepare something brand new for a gathering. And it's even better to attempt to merge three recipes. Right?

On the docket for tomorrow: Christmas tree goes up, grocery shopping, pie made, and Brussels sprouts prepped. Plus a movie with Husby. For our anniversary, I gave him an IOU for the first showing of The Muppets. Tomorrow will be a good day. For that, I am thankful.

21 November 2011

Thankful: Days 15 - 21

Wow. The past week is such a blur! I was one of three chaperones that took 45 high school juniors on a three day trip through Texas and into Oklahoma. Needless to say, I was a little pre-occupied and blogging just wasn't an option. The students were awesome. Of the 45, 34 were boys. (There really are only 9 girls in the junior class.) If you haven't been around 16 year old boys recently, let me tell you that they are 234,892 times more annoying and gross than girls of the same age. At one point, I had to yell, "QUIT FARTING ON THE BUS!" Classy, I tell you.

We made it safely home after traveling almost 800 miles, and for that, I am thankful. There were no injuries. (See: boys jumping over anything they can find.) And I've already received an email from a parent detailing how her son talked for an HOUR about the trip, and all that he learned. For that, I am thankful. Boys aren't exactly known for sharing. Plus he (and hopefully others) really LISTENED on the trip. It made the hours of planning so worth it.

After returning home in a semi-sleep-deprived state, Husby was fine with a nice dinner from the Taco Bell drive through. Super thankful for an easy-to-please husband. After a chili cheese burrito (my Taco Bell favorite) and the final two episodes of Wonderfalls, I absolutely had to go to bed. After three morning of super early alarms, the earliest a 4am, I was able to rest. Normally on days off, I'm unable to sleep late. But my body knew I needed rest. I slept 9 hours! For that I am oh-so-very thankful!

Mid-morning on Saturday, we were out the door to a very important first birthday party. This little guy is the sweet son of my BFF of southeast Texas:

Photo by Charissa Foux

Isn't that the cutest picture ever?! I was able to deliver Hayden's cake, and the boy seemed to love Cherry Laurel Butterum cake. He made his mom proud. :) I am so thankful to be able to celebrate the oh-so-important events with friends like these. 

Yesterday, we were able to have lunch with my sister-in-laws family visiting from Spain. Although there was a language barrier (my 8 semesters of Spanish in high school and college didn't really "stick"), we had an enjoyable time with them. I look forward to celebrating our tradition of Thanksgiving with them. It makes me happy to see my sister-in-law loving on her mom and niece. For that I am thankful.  

And then there was today. I decided that the best time to have two root canals done was during my week off. (Note to self: breaks aren't enjoyable when you're in pain. Use sick days next time.) I am thankful that SO FAR it hasn't reached the pain level of Wisdom Teeth Extraction 2010 or Temporary Crown Loss 2009, but it's not super fun. Probably the least fun was the shot in the hard palate. And that happened twice since I had one root canal on each side. BUT my dentist saw it fit to prescribe Valium prior to the procedure. And my 12 year hiatus from laughing gas is over. I didn't see a spinning clown the entire time. Super great! Already I've noticed a difference: I DIDN'T DOUBLE OVER IN PAIN when I drank coffee this afternoon. For that, I am thankful.

The remainder of the week involves two Thanksgiving celebrations, an authentic Mexican dinner with family, decorating for Christmas and spending time with some sweet friends. My wonderful college roommate will visit; we haven't seen each other in forever and busyness has prevented us from connecting in weeks (maybe 2 months!). But we'll enjoy sitting and talking and reading and napping and drinking hot apple cider with twinkle lights glowing in the background. It's going to be a good week. For that, I am thankful.

13 November 2011

Thankful: Day 13

I am thankful for the command to observe the Sabbath.
To rest. To reflect. To be restored.
Unfortunately, I don't always do it.
I have things to accomplish.
Things that seem more important than renewal.

Currently, I have a list to complete:
straighten the house, wash the last two loads of clothes,
change the sheets on our bed, partially pack for a work trip, vacuum...
the list goes on. And so could I.
But I've decided to sit and rest. To reflect. To write and remember.
To connect with friends with notes actually mailed to them. To pray for these friends.
To drink a cup of vanilla caramel tea while rosemary apple butter simmers on the stove.

This afternoon, I'm observing the Sabbath.
In this light the Sabbath prescription is a loving reminder to take full advantage of a condition that already exists. At rest, our souls are restored. This is the only commandment that begins with the word “remember,” as if it refers to something we already know, but have forgotten. It is good. It is whole. It is beautiful. In our hurry and worry and acquiring and working, we forget. Rest, take delight in the goodness of creation, and remember how good it is.
~Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives by Wayne Muller


12 November 2011

Thankful: Day 12

I am so thankful for songs that bring me closer to the throne of Christ.
This is one of my favorites.

Captivate Us

Your face is beautiful
And Your eyes are like the stars
Your gentle hands have healing
There inside the scars
Your loving arms they draw me near
And Your smile it brings me peace
Draw me closer, oh my Lord
Draw me closer Lord to Thee

Captivate us, Lord Jesus
Set our eyes on You
Devastate us with Your presence, falling down
And rushing river, draw us nearer
Holy fountain consume us with You
Captivate us Lord Jesus, with You

Your voice is powerful
And Your words are radiant bright
In Your breath and shadow
I will come close and abide
You whisper love and life divine
And Your fellowship is free
Draw me closer, O my Lord
Draw me closer Lord to Thee

Let everything be lost in the shadows
Of the light of Your face
Let every chain be broken from me
As I’m bound in Your grace
For Your yoke is easy, Your burden is light
You’re full of wisdom, power and might
And every eye will see You

10 November 2011

Thankful: Day 10

I go back and forth with my thankfulness.
Am I really thankful?
Honestly, I feel superficial in my thanksgiving.
I've been keeping up with the Compassion Bloggers who are in Ecuador.
I'm consumed and convicted by the stories they tell and the pictures on their blogs.

The faces in these pictures, they're powerful.
The conditions in which they live are heart-breaking to me.
But not to them.
They're thankful for what they have.
Thankful for a roof to cover their heads,
even though shreds of glass litter the low lying roofs to keep thieves away.
Thankful for the potatoes and pigs they're able to sell to provide for the family.
Thankful for a job, even though a single mom is away from her children for 14 hours a day.
Thankful for $200 a month income.
And ever so thankful when a child receives a Compassion sponsor.
I can't even fathom it.
And yet these sweet people are thankful.

Through this month of figuring out how to give thanks,
my heart is being molded by the Father.
I'm learning what thankfulness is.
And what it isn't.

I'm thankful that we have resources to give to Compassion kids.
Thankful that we have two of our very own--who live in Thailand.
Regretful that I am not a more active Compassion sponsor.
Thankful that my heartstrings are being pulled to pray for and encourage "our kids."

Do you have a little extra money to give each month?
Do you sponsor a child through Compassion?
If not, here's how.

09 November 2011

Thankful: Day 9

Even though it's felt like a sauna for a week,
I've refused to dress appropriately.
For the past week, I've dressed as though it's fall.
Because, you know, it IS. Except for the temperatures in east Texas.
And I've been overly warm everyday.
 
I love sweater dresses and tights and boots and scarves.
Basically, I love feeling like I'm in my pajamas all day.
So, today I am thankful that another cool front came through!
After yesterday's storms and tornado warnings,we have fall-ish temperatures.
And I didn't sweat on my way up the stairs to my office.
Hallelu!

Now, tonight I am thankful for a toasty fire and my wool boots.
And Husby is bringing home dinner a yummy Vietnamese dinner.
Pho and spring rolls? Yes, please.
My plan is for dinner in front of the television, watching Alias.
Because, you know, I'm 6-10 years behind on a few different series.
I'm not sure why I didn't jump on the boat then,
but now I like to talk about HOW GREAT Alias is,
even though everyone already knows what happens. Shhh...don't tell me.
 I'm thankful for all of you who have put up with listening about the amazing Sydney Bristow.
Maybe one day, I'll get to talk about Lost.

08 November 2011

Thankful: Day 8

Today, I don't feel super thankful.
Is that bad to say? Probably.
I just can't think of a "great" thing.
Don't get me wrong, I have so much to be thankful for,
but I don't want my month of thankfulness to feel like a month of things I like best, forgetting the rest.
I don't want to brag about what I have, lest I covet what I don't have.
I don't want to only acknowledge the things that make my life more comfortable.
Or the situations that I adore and are easy.
 
I feel like I shouldn't be thankful only for the things that are going right;
actually, I know that I shouldn't be thankful only for the good and right and fair.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 it says:
 
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
 
Thankfulness obviously isn't supposed to be observed only for a month--or a day.
But in a society where thankfulness often is equated with possessions,
it's nice to shine light on what makes us thankful.
I know that I don't live like this regularly. I should, but I don't.
This is my confession.
 
I am thankful for a God who loves me, even when I don't thank Him enough.
And when I don't thank him for what he's supplied? He still loves me.
For that, I am thankful.

07 November 2011

Thankful: Day 7

You know that time change?
I'm thankful for it.
I'm probably the only one in the U.S.
I always love this time of year, when it gets dark earlier.
(I realize this might change when we have children.)

Although I wish I were home every night before dark,
it's almost impossible.
Tonight was one of those nights.
I had errands to run.
But as a began home, in the dark, I smiled.
There's something magical to me about headlights shining in the newly darkened sky.
I like to think that everyone is heading home, to be with family.
Though I'm sure that's not always the case.

Now, if only another cold front would blow through, it might feel like a real November.
Not like a muggy, summer morning in June.
I want to wear tights and boots and sweater dresses.
Without feeling like I'm having a heat stroke!

In time, it will come.
The season will change.
The temperatures will match the darkened skies.
The season of coziness will have made it's way to Texas.
And I will be thankful.

06 November 2011

Thankful: Day 6

I am thankful for my job.
Although I {halfway} joke about wanting to be a stay-at-home dog mom,
I'm glad that I'm able to work.
I enjoy what I do. It's the perfect job for me.
Previously, when I worked in the foster care field, teenagers scared me.
But now, I have no idea what I'd do with a room full of 8 year olds!

I love being a college advisor.
I love being able to shape dreams.
I love interacting with kids every day.
In the summers, it's so quiet!

I am thankful that I get more time off than I would ever have with any other job.
Thanksgiving Break, Christmas Break, Winter Break, Spring Break, Easter Break,
and 3 weeks in the summer!
It's delightful, and I know that it is a luxury.
I love the field of education for this luxury.
And I try not to rub it in. Especially to Husby.

I am thankful for my bosses.
My immediate boss is probably the best college guidance counselor in Texas.
I've learned so much from her in three years.
And I'm super grateful that she's back this year, after an extended maternity leave last year.
Although it was a good year, I love my smaller desk.
We rearranged the office at the end of last year, and I like to think that my desk hugs me. Ha!
During the week, I spend more time with her in the waking hours than I do my husband.
We get along really well and laugh a lot.

I'm so happy to do something that I love.
Something impactful.
Something fun.

05 November 2011

Thankful: Day 5

Although simple, I'm thankful for wonderful smells.
I love that God created us with a sense of smell.
Currently, we're brewing a second pot of coffee, and it smells delightful.
On a not-so-early-morning walk, the smell of hay filled the west Texas skies.

Other smells I love include: 
  • freshly baked rolls from my mom's restaurant (which pales in comparison to eating them, with the tops brushed with butter as they're pulled from the oven),
  • the dentist office (I'm not sure why, but I've always loved it, even though I don't love the dentist),
  • vanilla caramel tea
  • Husby's cologne
  • libraries and used bookstores
  • pork bacon while it's frying (I typically don't eat pork bacon)
  • fresh laundry
  • grapefruit
  • rosemary, dill and mint

04 November 2011

Thankful: Day 4

I am thankful for all of my friends.
But today, I am especially thankful for couple friends.
Who knew when getting married that finding a couple to hang out with would be so challenging?
The girls both have to like each other; the boys both have to like each other.
Then, the opposite sexes at least have to get along.

So far, we've been pretty lucky in this department.
We have a few sets of couple friends.
Today, though, I'm thankful for a specific set.
They've invited us to their house for the weekend.
With the promise of pumpkin pecan rolls.
And coffee.
And a drive-in movie. 
I'd be more than happy to visit them even if they didn't promise any of these things.

I've known Patti for over 10 years.
We went to Romania together.
We're soul-friends. BFFs.
I rode with her from Dallas to Denver a couple of times while she and Brent dated.
I only drove about 2 hours, total.
I'm not the best roadtripper.
I automatically fall asleep when I get in a car.
It's a Pavlovian response since I get carsick and can't do anything, but sleep, in a car.
I lurve her.

Brent and Husby get along so well.
They talk about things like Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.
They're both quite intelligent and discuss deep subjects.
At which point, Patti and I talk about the latest coffee creamer flavors.

Brent and Patti are on our hometeam.
(This term is from Bittersweet. It's meant for those people that can see you at your very worst without feeling guilt or any judgement being passed: no-makeup, in pajamas, uncleaned house, in a crisis.)
Oh, the fun we have with them!
We love them, so.

Patti & Brent

 Me & Husby

03 November 2011

Thankful: Day 3

I am thankful for a God who loves me, who is my King.
Even when I fail to treat him as such.

I am thankful for a God who hears my prayers.
I am thankful when my prayers are answered to my liking.
I am thankful when they are not, even though my heart might hurt.

I am thankful for a God who is always present.
In the good and in the great.
And in the bad.
Especially when we feel like we don't deserve something in life.
Who deserves it, really? Non-Christians who have no hope?
And do we want what we really deserve?
Even when his children are hurting, he is there.
His heart breaks with ours.
I am thankful that he is my Comforter.

I am thankful that he is my joy.
He is Redeemer.
He is sovereign.
He is loving.
He is just.
He is wise.
And, since the Bible is truth and we're created in the image of God,
then I think he is a fun God who enjoys laughter.

For all of these, I am thankful.

{This morning I read Ann Voskamp's blog.

02 November 2011

Thankful: Day 2

I am thankful for my family.

My parents are fantastic.
They are giving.
They are fun.
They are friends (now that I'm all grown up).
They are thoughtful.
They embarass me, sometimes.
My dad no longer wears socks with his sandals.
My mom never did wear socks with sandals. Thank goodness.
They are forgiving.
They're both amazing cooks.
They work extremely hard.
They love each other.
They love their children well.

Dad & Mom

My middle brother is getting married.
I couldn't have picked a better wife-to-be.
I'm super excited to get my very own sister-in-law.
(For the record, Husby's brother is married, but it's different that it's MY brother.
She's MY sister-in-law. Does that make sense?)

I am thankful for them both.
Paul often annoys me to no end.
Then he laughs.
Sometimes he tries to chase me with things dead or alive.
He loves getting a reaction out of me.
For years, my mom has told me to "just ignore him."
I've never done it.

He looks just like me.
I like to say he looks like a girl.
I'm not sure why he chases me with things dead or alive.

Brooke is hilarious. And funny.
She puts up with my brother.
And she loves him a lot.
Even when he comes after her with things dead or alive.

Brooke & Paul {They're using the same fabulous wedding photographer that we did.}

My Little Baby Brother (that's his preferred name) is Chad.
He's super cute.
And outdoorsy.
Just like his sister. Except I'm not outdoorsy.
Unless it means sitting outside in rocking chairs at Cracker Barrel.

He doesn't annoy me as much as Paul.
Except when he tries to act like a grown-up.
Then I remember that he's 25.
So he can have adult opinions.
He finally found a profession that he loves.
I'm super happy for him.
And super proud of him.
He has red hair.
I just got red highlights put in my hair.
I like them.
And I love him.

Little Baby Brother :)

01 November 2011

Thankful: Day 1

I'm thankful for my husband.

He loves the Lord.
He loves me.
He puts up with me.
He is patient with me.
He is encouraging.
He makes me laugh.
He knows all the best {sometimes quirky} television shows, including:
Pushing Daisies, Veronica Mars, Alias, Wonderfalls.
He makes really good lasagna.
He likes dessert as much as me.
He lets me have free reign over decorating our house.
He works really hard.
He is dedicated, fiercely loyal and wise.
He still chooses me.

17 October 2011

730 days

730 days ago, I made a covenant to do life with this man.
These days have been wonderful.



I wanted to type a 10 point list about the things I've learned in marriage.
But I've only been married 2 years. 
I know that I'll learn so much more in the coming years.
And it's likely that I don't even know 10 things about marriage.
(Though I'm certain I had a 10 point list about marriage before getting married!)


So for now, I'll share two things I know about our marriage.


Laughing together is necessary.
Not just a chuckle, but a good, long, hard laugh.
Like laughing till tears come is a great thing for us.


Smelling his cologne.
Sometimes life just gets in the way.
We kiss quickly in the mornings before I jet out the door, and then return home just as crazed.
When we sit still with each other, I like to be close enough to smell his cologne.
Then, I know that we can connect.


These are my things. Laughter and cologne.
Maybe next year, I'll come up with something more profound.
Or maybe something else just as simple that makes our marriage work.
Either way, I know that I'll love my husband more and more.

11 October 2011

Pasta with Avocado, Basil and Parmesan

By nature, I'm a planner and a list maker. So it's no surprise that my meals are planned each week with corresponding grocery lists and recipes printed. I know what we're having on the days that I cook, which are: Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday. I shop on the weekend for all of our groceries and rarely have to back to the store during the week.

One day last week, I was all set to grill pork tenderloin and roast acorn squash and Brussels sprouts. I reached for the squash and found that it was rotten to the touch. Gross. If you don't cook winter squash often, you should know that it can last for weeks before cooking it, so the fact that I'd bought it two days prior--and it was already bad--was a bummer. After a quick trip to the store and chat with the produce manager, I returned home set to switch meals since time was at a premium. We'd have quiche (prepared by my mother-in-law) and sauteed mushrooms. It'd be a quick dinner. Only the quiche had gone bad.

At this point, I should have called it a night and ordered something for Husby to pick up on his way home. For some reason, I didn't. I looked through the fridge, hoping that something would present itself. I had an avocado. I had pasta. I remembered pinning a pasta recipe with avocado cream sauce. I knew that I could make dinner. The only deterrent for following the recipe was that it uses a food processor. Now, I received a beautiful food processor as a wedding gift, and I'm so thankful to have it when needed. BUT...it's such a pain to use. I don't like cleaning it. So I used the recipe as inspiration for a wonderful Pasta with Avocado, Basil and Parmesan. I sauteed the mushrooms, and we ate them and some olives as a side.


Pasta with Avocado, Basil and Parmesan

Ingredients
2 cups dried pasta (I used fusilli)
1 avocado
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions
Bring 6 cups water to a boil. Add pasta, reduce heat to medium high. Cook 10 minutes.

While pasta is cooking, mash one avocado in a medium bowl. Add lemon juice, salt, basil. Stir together.

When pasta has finished cooking, drain, but do not rinse. (The starch left on the pasta will make the ingredients "stick" to the pasta.)

Add pasta to bowl with avocado. Before mixing, drizzle olive oil on top of pasta. Stir pasta into avocado mixture. Add Parmesan cheese and stir until all is incorporated.

Makes 2 servings.

06 October 2011

savannah: the food

I like to think of us as novice foodies. We like good food, wine, enjoy eating out, and love to cook. We're learning the foodie ropes. That being said, our vacations tend to have an element of food to them. I decided to keep track of our meals. We like to reminisce. About food. Our time in Savannah was no exception. I grilled the valet parking attendant at our hotel as he gave a recommendation. I wanted to know where he would go eat; not where his boss tells him to tell customers to go.

He didn't steer us wrong, even though I almost did when I asked him to give us directions. He couldn't find the location on the map, and then I discovered it was the map of Charleston. Smooth move. We walked to a pizza place called Vinnie Van Go Go's, where they make the pizza dough everyday. Although they have a multitude of toppings, we had a simple pepperoni pizza that was wonderful.

Our Ghost Tour was scheduled for that evening, but my choice of footwear wasn't appropriate for walking the streets of Savannah. We made our way back to the hotel, but along the way found Lulu's Chocolate Bar. We were both uber-satisfied with our choices. Husby ordered the White Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cheesecake; I went with a Peanut Butter Cup Martini.


The next morning, I was desperate to find a non-Starbucks coffee shop. {My name is Kristina, and I'm a coffee snob.} I don't like Starbucks. I'll drink it, if necessary, but I prefer good coffee. I used a nifty app on my phone, and we breakfasted at Gallery Espresso. It was quaint and artsy. I discovered that iced coffee is big in the South. Not iced cappucinos or mochas, just plain coffee with a little cream. It was nice, since the heat wave of 2011 hit when we arrived in Savannah. We (or maybe I) loved this little shop so much that we returned for iced coffee and muffins the next day.

After our bike tour of the city, our tour guide recommended Soho South Cafe for lunch. Although the wait put us dangerously close to the reservation we made for dinner, we stayed. Husby had a rice salad, which was refreshing. I chose a panini with ham, brie and granny smith apples. It was so good, that I've recreated it at home.

Then there was dinner. We were torn at whether or not to eat at The Lady & Sons--Paula Deen's restaurant. We heard from many locals that it isn't good. BUT how could we be in SAVANNAH and NOT eat at PAULA DEEN'S? We decided to do it. Normally, there is a wait to make a reservation, but while on our bike tour, NO ONE was in line. Husby hopped off his bike and made our dinner reservation.


Oh, dear. I really wanted to like it. I mean, it's Paula Deen. Although I'd been warned to stay away from the buffet, I wanted to know what the hype was about, so I went with the buffet. Husby ordered the chicken pot pie.
Husby's chicken pot pie was beautiful, but all of the puff pastry was a little much.
He also said that mine is better. I married such a good man!

My buffet plate (clockwise from the chicken): fried chicken, mac & cheese, collard greens,
one boiled Brussels sprout, okras & tomatoes, black-eyed peas, lima beans.
The verdict? Meh. They had very few pieces of dark meat, and the white meat was dry,
my mom makes better everything, and why in the world do you serve boiled Brussels sprouts?
No wonder people don't like them. Dessert was about the same: not worth eating.

I'm glad we ate there, but any return trips to Savannah will exclude The Lady & Sons. Although disappointed, we still had a whole day of meals to eat. After breakfast at Gallery Espresso, we toured a house, visited the old cemetery and then had lunch at Caraway Cafe. I can't remember what we ordered, but I do remember that Husby had a sandwich with basil mayonnaise. I loved it so much that I ordered a side to go with my sandwich.

After lunch, we just couldn't pass up Leopold's Ice Cream next door. Oh mercy. It was good! I had a scoop of coffee chocolate chip; Husby had the coconut. Both were amazing. The best in the South. But not the best in Texas. That's reserved for Blue Bell.

That evening, we had dinner at The River House on the Savannah River. I really wanted to try Shrimp & Grits, so that's what I ordered. It was quite good. Husby was super satisfied with his steak.

I would love to return to Savannah for a long weekend. I think it's the perfect sized town for a three day getaway: not overwhelming, but plenty to offer, especially in terms of food.

05 October 2011

savannah: the tours

This summer, Husby and I vacayed (that's the past tense of vacay, right?) in the South. 

(Just to clarify: Southerners are quite adamant that Texas is not considered as part of the South. To further clarify: east Texas--and the town where we live--is more Southern than some cities in the South. But that's fine, we don't have to be included. It hurts, but Texans are resilient.)

(Speaking of Texas, did you know that we can fly our flag at the same height as the United States flag since we were once a nation? It's true! [We also love to brag about things like that, even as others roll their eyes.])

Back to vacaying...we had a fabulous week in the South. We decided to fly into Atlanta and drive to Savannah, and then onto Charleston and back to Atlanta. That wasn't the smartest plan since it's a five hour drive from Atlanta to Savannah--it looked so much closer on Google maps! We were so tired by the time we arrived. But it paid off in the end when we were able to spend time with dear friends.

Savannah is beautiful. The architecture is stunning and the history is amazing. Although I love the great State of Texas, we just don't have as much history.



Our first night in Savannah, we took a Ghost Tour. Although I hate scary movies, I like hearing spooky stories--unless I'm going to be home alone or walking alone at night (which doesn't happen very often or ever, by the way). I didn't think I'd need my camera; I forgot about capturing spirit orbs. Dang it. Savannah is considered the most haunted city in the United States. And I'd just like to say that there should be no complaining about this: THEY MOVE GRAVES AND BUILD ROADS OVER CEMETERIES AND FORGET WHERE PEOPLE ARE BURIED. Yeah, you're gonna have a ghost or two or forty six.

We learned that a couple of terms used today come from Savannah in the 1800s. They had three bouts of yellow fever. (Again, no complaining, you brought slaves over. You deserve it.) A symptom of yellow fever is extremely low pulse. There was an occasion where non-dead yellow fever victims were buried alive. The following morning they were found outside of their graves. Dead. So they started tying string to a finger of the "dead" with a bell attached on the outside of the grave. If they heard the bell in the night, they called it a "dead ringer." This shift late at night listening for dead ringers in the cemetery was called the "graveyard shift." Cool, huh?

When we go to a new city, we also love doing some type of a walking or biking tour. Luckily, there's a bike tour offered in Savannah. It was so much fun, even though I thought our tour guide was going to melt off of his bike. Evidently, some people can't handle the heat.





There is a large Catholic population in Savannah. The Irish came to Savannah and worked as cheap labor; Savannah had a huge Irish population, and has the second largest St. Patrick's Day festival after New York City.




Savannah is laid out in a grid system and very well organized...except for the names of squares and monuments. Oglethorpe Square does not include the monument to Oglethorpe. You'd need to visit Chippewa Square to see that.

Spanish Moss [which is neither Spanish nor moss] grows along the Live Oaks and Crepe Myrtles. Supposedly Spanish Moss doesn't grow where unsettled spirits still roam.

After our bike tour.

Our final tour in Savannah was a Dolphin Tour. I was super excited about this. Until we started speeding out into the middle of the ocean as water splashed in the boat. I was convinced it'd sink. Luckily, it didn't. Our guide told us all about the dolphins he'd seen on the three previous tours that day. Including..wait for it...baby dolphins that were two feet long and swim beside their mamas. Precious! I just knew my heart would melt. Which is probably why it was a good thing we only saw ONE dolphin in an hour. It was so sad; she should have been with an entire pod. I worried that she was being bullied. She gave us a few jumps out of the water.



We had a lovely time in Savannah, even though we arrived with a heat wave. (If you're keep track, this is our second vacation in a row with record temperatures. Next year, we're headed north.) The city is laid out for walking, which we love. We had way too much amazing food. And even more sweet tea. I'll share all about that tomorrow!