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

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

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

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

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


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.}