Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Granny git yer gun.

Have you ever in your whole life seen two almost 80 year old women wielding a gun?  A ladies' Smith & Wesson, I was told.  The woman in the top picture is Betty Lou and the one in the blue shirt in the bottom photo is my Nanny.  These two are best friends.  They've known each other since the 10th grade, and it goes without saying that that's a loooong time!
This is not exactly a great picture, but it shows the reason for Nanny's visit.  It was the class of 1949's 61st high school reunion.  Here are some photos from the evening.
These are the three amigos: Della Vern [I'm not sure if I spelled that correctly], Connee [my nanny], and Betty Lou

Some of the menfolk trying to identify someone in an old photo.

They finally call Betty Lou over to help because she knows everybody [and their business!].

Mr. and Miss Autumn Festival, 1948

 Class of 1948 and 1949, and their spouses
Just the alums

I had a small obsession with the lady on the left.  Her name is Josie, and she looks like a little teeny China doll.  She couldn't hear anything and may or may not have known where she was. 
Here are the BFFs, Connee and Betty Lou.  Nanny stayed with her Thursday thru Saturday, over in Horse Cave.  What a name for a town!  Betty is actually from a place called Bear Wallow.  On Saturday, Betty Lou, along with Della Vern and her sweet husband buddy, brought Nanny back to my house.

I honestly did invite them in for awhile, I just didn't get any photos of that.  I even sent them with apple bread, I promise!

This is Nanny hugging Buddy.  He and Della Vern married and he took her off to Montgomery, AL probably 60 years ago.  He held my hand while I stood in a chair trying to take group photos at the reunion.

This is the cake that I made.  Epic cake failure reigned down on my kitchen last week.  This was the best I could come up with, but they loved it!  Of course, half of them can't see, half of that group probably can't taste, and grandparents will like anything you make so I guess it didn't matter after all.

This is the man who paid for everyone's meal at the lovely Sahara Steakhouse in Cave City, KY.  Don Redford, a real estate giant by trade.  All the women were swooning because he still had his teeth and original kneecaps.  I will say, for an 80 year old man, he's not too shabby.  I thought he was in his 50s.

Let's get back to this craziness.

If you had ever met this woman, you would not be surprised at this photo.  When I took Nanny to her house the day before the reunion, I was schooled in the ways of the world like I had never been before.  First of all, her house is like a museum.  There are antiques everywhere.  There's even a framed wedding invitation from her grandparents who wed on Wednesday, October 30, 1895!  She has never married and lives alone.  When I asked her how old the house was she said, "Well, I was born in this room!"  'Nuff said, I guess.  For some reason, she started talking about drinking and whether or not us sanctimonious Christians should do it.  She said that the way she sees it, she can't have sex and doesn't smoke so nobody should give a @#%^ if she has a sip every now and again.  "You know how people say you shouldn't drink because it'll ruin your influence?  Well, I have a margarita every time I go to Red Lobster and if it ruins my influence then you were weak to begin with!"  Thank you, Betty Lou, for your sancitmonious insight.
Here are some other things that I learned about little old ladies this weekend.
*Sometimes they mistakingly use lip liner as an eyebrow pencil.
*They don't all wear too much perfume.
*Sometimes they get the walkin' farts.  I won't name names.
*The older they get, the more outlandish the stories are.
*Dogs are more interesting than other people.
*They will never fully understand Twitter or Facebook, but I'm too nice to tell them to stop asking questions.
*You better cook that steak right because they WILL send it back!  Multiple times, even.

And finally, you're never too old to hang out with your grandma.  Just pace yourself!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


My grandmother came to visit last week.  She left this morning.  More on that later.

Let's talk about what I've eaten while she was here.  Breakfast was healthy as usual, lunch was usually somewhere in the middle, and dinner was downright sad.  I should also mention that I've eaten dessert every night for the past week. 

Hence the yoga pants.  Wait, you can't see me...good, because I think I'm bloated.

I bought a half peck of apples so that meant that we needed apple pie.  With a homemade pie crust...full of shortening.  There was cake at the reunion [the reason for the grandmother's visit].  Saturday night we took a little break for pizza.  Carb-o-heaven.  Then there was the blackberry cobbler. 

Last night, I must have fainted and when I came to thought that I needed to make supper for 12 people.  Macaroni and cheese was the culprit of this meal.  Two pork loins were also in attendance.  At one point, the grandmother was jumping up and down to make room for all the food.  I should tell you that we do have leftovers.  Anybody wanna come over?

For the finale, we made molten lava cakes.  With fresh whipped cream.  I had to do it.  My grandmother is a chocolate freak.

There aren't many photos to post on this matter.  But we have a bartop table that was a little tricky for my grandmother maneuver. 

I would start a low-carb diet today, but I'm going to have to wait until we eat all the leftovers.  Thank goodness for yoga pants. 

Thank goodness...

I don't want to spoil anything, but here's a teaser for my next post.  I hope it doesn't keep you up at night!


Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Today I wanted to write about my dear friend CoCo.  *Names will be changed to protect the innocent.  Actually, I don't know if that's necessary but I'm going to refer to them by the names she uses on her blog.  We met CoCo and BR in seminary, and they had a little girl named Beatle.  Beatle was barely walking when we met her, and now she's in kindergarten!  They also have a little papoose named Birdie.  Here's Justin holding her at Easter.

They moved to Arkansas in May of 2008 and we moved to Atlanta the following August.  In 2009, they surprised us on Memorial Day weekend and just drove down on a whim, sans Beatle and unaware of little Birdie's existence.  This couple is the goofiest,  most fun-loving, and most sponaneous family I know!  At least, CoCo is and therefore BR doesn't get a choice.

When we lived in Texas, we'd always swap houses for dinner, dessert, crying, talking, seeking advice...whatever.  When they were at our house, you could usually find Beatle in our bed.  We have no idea why. 

Being far away from family and having the uncertainty of the future looming ahead, it was important to have friends to help keep you grounded.  You know, to remind you of what's really important in life.

This was us all on New Year's Eve, 2008.  We got all dressed up and went to the Cheesecake Factory.  We may or may not have done other crazy things.

CoCo was the one who went with me to pick out my wedding dress, and was the faithul, dedicated bridesmaid of my dreams.  God placed us both in the office of attorney James Mallory in Fort Worth, TX.  It was a lot of fun working together!  I think the first time we hung out was to go get over-priced haircuts at Ulta on a really cold night.  We also went to Starbucks.  Not long after that we all got together at Panera to introduce our hubbys and just get to know each other.  And the rest is history!

We took this photo on the last night we got to hang out before BR graduated and they were whisked off to Arkansas.

We were blessed with the opportunity to go spend Easter with this family this year.  Beatle is the funniest, smartest, most ingenuitive, well spoken, creative....I could go on and on.  She gets it from her mother.  Here is an excerpt from CoCo's blog on her bedtime prayer last night:
Tonight, during her prayers, Beatle was so cute. (Not many things in this world are as cute as kids' prayers! God must just love them!) She wasn't far into her prayer when she said, "God, I don't like you. (Long pause with my eyebrows shot sky high) I LOVE you. And Jesus, sometimes I get your name mixed up and call you your dad's, I'm sorry and I hope I'm doing it right this time. In Jesus Name, Amen"

This family is so important to us, kind of like our forever friends.  I know that no matter where God calls us in ministry, we'll still keep in touch.  Even if we only see each other once a year, we're still close.  CoCo and I talk about once a week or so, to find out what's going on with the kiddos and swap horror stories life lessons about being minister's wives.  She always makes me laugh and is very honest about things. 

Watch out, CoCo, I may be heading your way soon!!!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Extra, extra, read all about it...

"Good morning, sunshine!  What do you want for breakfast today?  Let's stay in bed and cuddle and watch the Today Show while we eat and sip our coffee.  We'll stay in our PJ's til 10 and then go out and get the mail and read it together..."

Who says that in real life?

I will say that I have the luxury of having slow mornings, being unemployed and all.  If I work too hard in the morning I won't have anything to do in the afternoon.  I don't generally wake up before 8am  ok, 8:17 to be precise.  I do wake up early when my husband has to be at work early to make him coffee and be sure he eats something. 

What do ya'll eat for breakfast?  What do you feed your kids?  I hope it's not poptarts or super sugary cereal.  Yes, I just said that.  But you can't argue with the facts; that stuff is bad for you and has little to no nutritional value.

When I meal plan, I don't typically think about breakfasts and lunches.  It's just me and my husband, so there really doesn't need to be an overload of planning in the other two meals of the day.  We don't have set breakfasts for certain days, but we do have a few things that we rotate.  We eat a lot oatmeal at our house, probably 3 to 4 mornings a week.  I purchase organic whole oats in bulk from a local source, and I would say that we go through about 3 lbs a month.  Of course, I use them in other ways besides breakfast but the bulk of it is eaten in the morning.  Here are some of our favorite add-ins, but note that we don't eat them all at the same time!
Natural peanut butter
Cream or half and half
Brown sugar
Real butter
Walnuts, almonds, pepitas, pecans...any nut or seed we have on hand!
Strawberry preserves

Other mornings we'll eat whole wheat cinnamon toast and sometimes breakfast sandwiches.  You have to mix it up so you don't get tired of eating the same thing.  When our life was much busier, we ate a lot of instant oatmeal but there is so much sugar in it!  If you plan well, you can make your own instant oatmeal packets on the weekend and have them for the week.  Just take some oats, pulverize them in your food processor, and then divide them into baggies with the sweetener and add-ins of your choice.  Add to hot water and you've got a warm hearty breakfast to get you going in the morning. 

There is one morning a week where we eat so much for breakfast that we're not hungry for lunch.  That day is usually Saturday.  It will typically be a meal with either pancakes or biscuits, some kind of breakfast meat, and eggs.  Maybe even hashbrowns!

I hope you liked my little ode to oatmeal.  Have any yummy breakfast ideas to share?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

"The Perfect Couple"

Tonight was an interesting night.  A small act of hospitality turned into a quite large one.  I'm not tooting my own horn, but lets just say I'm thankful to know that people feel comfortable in my home.  Two women, one of whom I literally just met moments before she and her child joined me for dinner, were looking at the photo album that stays on my coffee table.  My neighbor kept saying, "They're such the perfect couple".  I started to wonder who she was talking about but then I realized it was me!  I thought, "Wow, if she only knew..."  But then I realized that, you know what?  We are a perfect couple, at least to each other.  It's perfect because we made good choices, and even in our mistakes we have experienced grace from our Lord.  We might not have a lot of money, big fancy jobs, or 2.5 perfect children, but we recognize that we don't have to achieve the standards that are measured by the world.  I hope that those two women will find the match to their "perfect couple" some time soon.
This was in a scrapbook we got for a wedding gift.  It's kind of corny but applicable.

Recipe for a Happy Marriage
1 cup of Consideration
2 cups of Praise
1 small pouch of In Love
1 teaspoon of Contentment
1 gallon of Patience
2 tablespoons of Flattery
1 cup of Encouragement
a dash of Faith and Trust

Blend well.  Sweeten with generous portions of love.  Keep warm with a steady flame of passion.

Serves 2

Friday, September 17, 2010

Keepin' it Real

Does your to-do list ever look like this?  Mine does a lot of the time because I like to procrastinate.

Does your kitchen ever look like this?  This was mine after 4 loads in the dishwasher last Sunday and it just couldn't take it anymore.  So I went to bed and woke up to this mess.  And then I took a shower and my husband did them.  What a nice husband!

Does your dog ever perch on the sofa like this?  Mine does, and I have no idea why.  She is so weird.  But she's good with babies.

This was about 3 seconds before he tried to remove her nose.  She tried to let him.

They are best friends. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cheddar Black Pepper Biscuits

Today I'm going to share with you a delicious recipe for these cheddar and cracked pepper biscuits.  Making homemade biscuits is something that I think everyone should know how to do, but a lot of people say that they can't.  I'm here to tell you that you can!  As long as you resign yourself to the fact that yes, it is time-consuming and yes, it is messy, I think you can be successful in your biscuit-making endeavors!  The problem with thinking we can't do something in the kitchen, in my opinion, is that we want everything to happen instantaneously.  We've been spoiled by convenience foods to the point where we can't function without something boxed or canned.  It's kind of like me with my GPS.  I can barely find my way home because I'm so used to that thing telling me where to go.  Without it, I would end up in Illinois or somewhere when all I was trying to do was get to the Wal-Mart.  I know it's easier to open a can of biscuits and pop them in the oven.  There is a time and a place for canned biscuits.  This is not one of them.  And I promise you, once you make these, you'll forget all about Pillsbury.

Cheddar Black Pepper Biscuits
Joy the Baker
2 cups AP flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour [use AP if you don't have it]
2 Tbsp sugar
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening, cold and cut into cubes
1/4 cup butter, cold and cut into cubes
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup buttermilk, cold
3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
a touch of heavy cream and black pepper for topping the biscuits before baking

Preheat the oven to 425.  These can be baked on a cookie sheet, baking stone, in a casserole dish or a cast-iron skillet.  Whatever you have on hand that's clean!
In a mixing bowl, sift together the flours, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar, and salt.  Cut in the butter and shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add the cheddar and black pepper and toss to combine.  In another bowl, combine egg and buttermilk.  Add that to the flour mixture, stirring together to make a soft dough.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead about 15 times.  Roll or pat out into about a 1-inch thickness, but you can really make it the thickness that you want; you just might have to adjust your baking time.  Use a glass or biscuit cutter to cut into 2-inch rounds, or you can cut them into 2x2 squares.  Brush the tops with heavy cream and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your biscuits.

These make a-maz-ing breakfast sandwiches.  Put a fried egg and some bacon in between and you've got yourself a great start to the morning. In the above photo, I cut mine with a fluted biscuit cutter and made them a bit thinner.  I served them at a party with country ham and a delightful mustard sauce. 

 Make these for your boyfriend and he will propose, I guarantee it.  Make these for your husband and then go buy new shoes--expensive ones.  Serve them to your inlaws and they'll never have another bad thing to say about you.  

The great thing about these and any other biscuit is that after you make them, you can just eat what you need and put the rest in the freezer.  A lot of the time we just make 3 or 4 and then we'll have enough to freeze for about 4 more breakfasts!  I hope you'll try these out and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A warm hug.

That's what these cookies feel like...a warm hug. 
I don't know about you, but I'm O-V-E-R summertime!  I'm ready to add a second blanket to my bed and wear scarves.  Due to the cool and rainy weather last weekend, I went ahead and gave myself permission to put up my autumn wreath, and I bought a big burgundy mum from the youth group on Saturday for the front porch.  I even noticed over the weekend that the leaves are actually beginning to change!  For some sad reason, the temperatures climbed to almost 90 degrees yesterday.  It is going to be a warm week.  I'm disappointed, but I know that pretty soon it will be here to stay. 
Last night we were really feeling a need for cookies, and I had a hunk of ginger leftover from some Indian-style sloppy joes we made earlier this week.  What a coincidence!  I like to call these Sparkling Ginger Chocolate Chunk Chewies.  All you need is 2 bowls and one spoon/ mixer to clean up!  I think that the spice flavors could possibly be a little more intense, but I'm working with a sensitive palet around these parts because my husband doesn't really like intense ginger flavor.  Next time I may add some cloves.  I hope you'll make these and let me know if you played around with the spices.

2 cups flour [I used one cup white whole wheat flour and one cup unbleached bread flour]
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp roasted Saigon cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 egg, well beaten
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup organic, unsulphered blackstrap molasses
1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
4-oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into chunks/shavings
1/2 cup organic turbinado sugar

Preheat the oven to 350.
Melt the butter slowly on the stove.  While that's happening, mix together the flour, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, and salt.  Once the butter is slightly cooled, pour it into a second mixing bowl and add the egg, brown sugar, molasses, and grated ginger.  Combine well, and then add it into the bowl with the dry ingredients.  It will seem like it's too dry or hard to mix, but it will come together.  Just use a little elbow grease!  It is a stiff dough.  Once it's all pretty much combined, add in the chocolate chunks and gently fold them in. 
You can pick the size of your cookie.  The ones in the photo above are a tablespoon's worth of dough.  For the rest of the batch, I scooped out an even tablespoon and then halved it.  Whatever you decide, you'll roll the dough into a ball, toss it in the turbinado sugar, and then place it onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a Sil Pat.  For the larger cookies, it took about 18 minutes for them to bake, and the smaller ones took 12 minutes.  I'd recommend keeping an eye on them.  These cookies are very chewy, so there's a fine line between chewiness and not-quite-done. 
Yield: about 4 dozen bite-sized cookies

These cookies will crack across the top, and the turbinado sugar makes a nice little crunch.  Although these cookies contain molasses and brown sugar, they aren't overly sweet.  I think the ingredients can be switched around based on what you have in your pantry.  If you don't have white whole wheat flour, use whole wheat pastry flour, spelt flour, or even all purpose.  I hope you'll try these!  They're wonderful with a steaming mug of Earl Gray or coffee...I've already had them both ways!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The moment you've all been waiting for...

I like to call these little jewels my ace-in-the-holes.  When I don't know what to make for an event, don't know what to serve for dessert, or just simply want to make people say, "This is the best cupcake I've ever had!"...I make these.  I never have to worry about people being satisfied if I've got these in my back pocket.  I get a lot of requests for this recipe, and I certainly can't take credit for it but I'd like to share it with you. 
First, a little background.  I first developed an understanding of the science of cake-making from what else but eating really good cakes.  It's the best kind of research and development, trust me.  :)

Johnnie Gabriel of Gabriel's Desserts in Marietta, Ga makes the best cakes you will ever taste.  In fact, she makes pretty much the best everything you will ever taste.  We discovered her little restaurant shortly after we moved to the Atlanta area and began eating there pretty much every Friday night. 
It's your typical meat-and-two place, quiet, and full of friendly employees.  One of my first friends at the restaurant was a lady named Angie who was just so warm and friendly that I practically wanted to move in with her.  But then I remembered that I had a husband that I was legally contracted to live with.  Anyway, every time we'd eat there, we'd each get a piece of cake on our way out to eat while watching our Friday night movie.  I know, we're really wild and crazy.  I would like to say that I shared a piece with my husband, or saved the rest for later, but generally I was quite capable of inhaling Mrs. Johnnie's bohemeth slices of cake.  Hummingbird cake, German chocolate cake, Black raspberry cake....oh, I can feel my pants getting tighter just thinking about it. 
It's probably a good thing that we moved away from all that cake.  But even though we moved, I still take with me some very intimate knowledge of not just cakes but other desserts.  Mrs. Johnnie has a cookbook called Cooking in the South that I purchased and began working my way through.  As I had questions, I'd just call up the restaurant and ask her or one of the bakers what to do.  Because of that, I feel I really learned to bake properly from her.  Especially baking for a crowd! 
She has a new cookbook out called Second Helpings that I'll be purchasing directly from her in October when we go down to visit, but you can pick it up at your local book store or on Amazon.  I would recommend them to anyone who wants to add some classic recipes to their repetoire!  Sometimes it's easy to forget that something simple like a lemon pound cake can be so satisfying to a hungry soul.  Those are the kinds of recipes that Mrs. Johnnie has shared with the world through her books.  She is a wonderful Christian lady whom I've had the privilege of hearing speak at different events.  She has an inspiring story and I'd encourage you to look into purchasing her books!  Another fun tidbit about her: she's Paula Deen's cousin, and Paula has written the forwards to her cookbooks.

Without further ado, here is her recipe.  I have only adjusted one thing, and that is the amount of cocoa [I like to add more than she does].

2 1/2 cup AP flour, sifted
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cocoa
1 1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cup white sugar
2 jumbo or 3 large eggs
1 tsp white vinegar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 oz. red food coloring
1 cup buttermilk

Note: It is imperitive that the buttermilk and eggs are at room temperature.  That means leaving them out for at least 3 or 4 hours, or even overnight if you're planning to bake the cake in the morning.  If this bothers you, don't do it; but don't expect that cake to turn out right.  And that's straight from the horse's mouth.  :)

Preheat your oven to 350.
In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking soda, and cocoa.  Don't skip this step because you can end up with little balls of cocoa in your batter, and also the cake will not be as light and airy as you will want.
In your mixer's work bowl, combine the oil, sugar, and eggs.
In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, vanilla, and red food coloring.  Add this into the oil mixture and combine. 
Alternate adding the flour and buttermilk to the oil mixture.  Do this in 3 stages. 

Baking times:
Cake layers- 35-40 min
Cupcakes- 20-24 min
Mini cupcakes- 10-12

Let's talk about frosting.........
I have seen some people who like to top red velvet with vanilla buttercream, chocolate, and even [gasp] coconut frosting.  While those are all yummy choices, those people must be from the North.  Down here in the south, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you do not, no-not-never, over yo dead body EVER coat a red velvet cake in anything but CREAM CHEESE FROSTIING.  That's just the way it is.  There are many different versions of this delightful frosting, but they're all pretty much the same.  You probably can't go wrong with most of them, but here's the one I like to use.

1 1/2 sticks of butter [unsalted], room temp
1 1/2 8-oz. packaged of cream cheese, room temp
*I think it's ok to use the 1/3 less fat version, but definitely not fat free
1 1/2 16-oz. packages of powdered sugar, sifted
* You must sift!  If you don't want to, then just don't make these.  It's THAT important.
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Cream butter and cream cheese until it looks like an ivory ribbon.  Add the sugar in increments so that it doesn't blow all over you, your kitchen, and your zip code.  Once it's pretty much smooth, add the vanilla and mix some more.  Then frost your little babies or cake layers!

As you can see from the photo, I prefer to make mini or regular cupcakes out of this.  I don't like a lot of frosting, but you can pile on as much as you want!   The frosting recipe makes more than you need for cupcakes, but it's quite enough for doing a layer cake.  If you have leftover, just pop it in the freezer and you'll have it for next time. 
At Gabriel's Desserts, you can pick up a 2-lb piece of this or any other kind of cake for about $3.  This recipe is amazing, but it never tastes quite as good as Mrs. Johnnie's.  It's pretty darn close, though!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thankful Thursdays

They say that periodically making lists of what you are thankful for is an ideal exercise for good mental health.  Also, when you have been wronged, hurt, and angered, it helps put things in perspective.  Therefore, today I shall make a list of what I am grateful for rather than what I happen to be angry about today.  Here we go.

1.  I am very thankful for discovering Roasted Saigon Cinnamon [at Wal-Mart] and how heavenly it makes my coffee! 

2.  I'm also thankful that Bailey let me enjoy said coffee without begging for her morning walk.  She usually waits until I sit down with it and then goes bazurk, and then it gets cold. 

3.  Woodwick candles.  Ah...the crackle of the wood in the background is so soothing!  Shout out to the husband who bought it for me!

4.  Cooler mornings.  I'm trying to make myself wake up earlier [as in, before 8:15].  So far I've been up before 8 most days this week.  Not just right before 8 either, but around 7.  Then I can spend more time watching the news with my cup of cream coffee.   

5.  New old friends.  Does that make sense?  There are people in my life that I have known for years but when I've tried to rekindle our friendships, it feels like I'm talking to a stranger.  I'm thankful, though, for the people that I've grown closer to rather than farther apart over the years.  No reason to dwell on friendships that have ended.

6.  My hard-working husband.  Justin works hard and I know it's from his heart because it's certainly not motivated by his paycheck.  Even though it seems like some one's always kicking us when we're down, he keeps moving forward because he knows Who he's working for. 

7.  I'm thankful for not having a job.  While I'm always looking for a way to contribute monetarily to our home, I'm thankful that at least for right now I'm not having to do the whole 9-5 grind.  Or, 6:30am-6pm misery that I used to have to do.  I enjoy homemaking, researching, and being able to have lunch with friends. 

8.  Cooler mornings!  I am assured with each passing day that Autumn is on its way!  There are already peeks of warmer colors in some of the leaves.  I'm thankful for trusty recipes for hearty soups, chilis, and crockpot meals for those chilly evenings to come.

What do you have to be thankful for today?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Hospitality is a BIG DEAL.  Some people say they don't have that gift, and maybe they don't, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't all practice it.  I read an interesting and convicting article from Max Lucado in this month's edition of HomeLife Magazine entitled "The Beauty of Table Service".  Lucado remarks that in this fast and efficient society, we've lost our personal touch.  We're set up for isolation.  We wear earbuds when we exercise, communicate with email and texts, and enter/exit our homes with gates and garage-door openers.  He says that our mantra is: "I leave you alone.  You leave me alone."

I know and live out the fact that hospitality is a strong gift of mine.  I'm thrilled to have been blessed with the ability to bake bread, clean a mean toilet [hey, that's hospitable], and always have an open door to friends and strangers alike.  However, sometimes I don't feel like being that way.  When we lived in Atlanta, I never once met my neighbors.  I stayed in my house with all 3 locks tightly shut on my door.  I never went outside, except to walk to my car, and was kind of nervous about making eye contact with passersby.  I think we can all relate to the fact that it's easy to open our home to friends and family but we aren't always looking to fill empty seats at our table with strangers. 

Share with God's people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.  Romans 12:13 [NIV] 
I don't think I'm being given a choice when I read that verse.  In the aforementioned article Lucado says that basically as long as you have a front door and some peanut butter you can show some hospitality!  Hospitality is an ability of the heart, not an ability in the kitchen or in home decor.  You might want to run your vacuum and dust your mini blinds once in a while, though.  I like this quote: When you open your door to someone, you are sending this message:  "You matter to me and to God."  You may think you are saying, "Come over for a visit."  But what your guest hears is, "I'm worth the effort."

Did you know that hospitality and hospital come from the same Latin word? They both lead to healing.

What would happen if the church encouraged hospitality?  I'm talking about real, come-as-you-are, open armed acceptance of all people, meeting them right where they are.  Does your church do this?  I've been a part of a couple who do.  Two out of more than ten isn't really a good percentage though. 

I'm beginning to think that this lack of love is due to a cultural shift within the church, one that stems from backing away from a view of the home and its importance in sharing Christ.  A lot of ministers think that their church needs to be all things to all people when only Christ can do that.  The church doesn't have to have a million programs going on when all people really need is love.  The people within a church need to be encouraged and equipped to be hospitable.  Instead of thinking we need to get so-and-so in church, maybe we just need to have them over for s'mores in the backyard.  There are certain needs that the church can't meet without the home.  The home is essential to showing our world that we mean what we say, that we're living out what we've preaching on Sunday morning.  We all know people who never would have come to church if not for the hospitality of a friend. 

To the church, I say if you want to balance your budget, show love.  If you want to fill your pews, show love.  If you want to reach your community, you county, your country, your love.  This is how we can truly "heal" our coworkers, neighbors, and friends.  In the end, it isn't going to matter how many people were in the service this week or if the such-and-such budget is a little bit in the red.  I understand that all of those things need to work together so that the church can go on as an operation day to day, but those things aren't the main thing.  The church is no substitute for the home.  Most people will accept an invitation to your dinner table before they accept one to your spire-weilding brick building.

The believers met together in the Temple every day.  They ate together in their homes, happy to share their food with joyful hearts.  Acts 2:46, NCV

Every day in the Temple and in people's homes they continued teaching the people and telling the Good News- that Jesus is the Christ.  Acts 5:42, NCV

To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer...and to the church in your house.  Philemon vv. 1-2, NKJV

Greet Priscilla and Aquila...the church that is in their house.  Romans 16:3,5, NKJV given to hospitality... I Tim. 3:2, KJV

I encourage you to invite some people over for dinner.  Not your best friends or your cousin and his new girlfriend.  Do you have a neighbor that was recently laid off?  Is there a young couple that needs some "family" away from their own?  As someone who has been given the opportunity to receive hospitality, I want to be a giver of that same love.  I want to challenge you [and myself] to open your door to uncommon community and open your table to ministry.

To those of you who are like me, who are blessed and cursed with the "gift" of hospitality, we need to get over the notion that everything has to be perfect.  No one cares of you haven't pulled the weeds up the walkway.  The only person who sees that spec of dust behind the recliner up against the base board, just behind the shadow of the lamp is YOU.  :)  Most people don't care if you're serving filet minon, spaghetti, or Chinese takeout.  It's just nice to have fellowship.  And if you're like me, I know you would NEVER speak a negative word about someone else's dusty baseboards, so you can be assured that no one's going to talk about you either.  Don't let your need to have everything "just so" keep you from ever getting around to having so-and-so over for supper.  You will be blessed when you let that stuff go and invite your neighbor with the 6 kids over anyway.  Besides, after the company leaves you're going to have to go and put everything back in its little place all over again.

"Something holy happens around a dinner table that will never happen in a sanctuary.  In a church auditorium you see the backs of heads.  Around the table you see the expressions on faces.  In the auditorium one person speaks; around the table everyone has a voice.  Church services are on the clock.  Around the table there is time to talk." -Lucado

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Birthday Loot

"I thank you, High God---you're breathtaking!  Body and soul, I am marvelously made!  I worship in adoration---what a creation!  You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exatly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something."  Psalm 139:14-15 MSG

At our house, it's not just you're birth "day"; we celebrate for a whole week!  Not that we have lavish dinners and hundreds of presents, but it's a special time when we reflect upon and are grateful about one another's existence and purpose.  We may not use those words, but that's the reason behind the celebration.

Last weekend we were in Nashville for an Upward Sports event, but we managed to do a little celebrating.  We got to have some delicious frozen dessert at Las Paletas Gourmet Popsicles down on 12th Street.  Twice, actually.  The first time I had the Cucumber Chili popsicle while Justin enjoyed the Hot Chocolate with Peppers.  The second time Justin tried the Strawberry Chip while I went to heaven with my Goat's Milk Caramel.  We also got to go to Trader Joe's to stock up on necessities, which was AWESOME! 

We also got to eat dinner at this place.  It serves local beef and veg, with an expansive menu to meet all dietary needs, including a black bean and Quinoa burger, which I did not try.  I especially enjoyed the handcut fries and Maple Jack Daniel's Ketchup.  If you're ever in the Hillsboro area, I recommend dining here!

Let's talk about this pork loin.  Justin is an amazing chef, especially when it comes to the grill.  This pork loin was cooked so perfectly!  Moist, tender, and full of FLAVOR!  Here's the recipe for the marinade/sauce he used.  It's adapted from one of Bobby Flay's sauces.
Mustard BBQ Sauce
Whisk together 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, 1 heaping tablespoon each of Dijon and Stone Ground mustard, 2 tablespoons of honey, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, and 3/4 teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper. 
Marinate your meat for 30 minutes to an hour, baste on during the cooking/grilling, and save some for plating.  Be careful not to contaminate!  For this particular 2lb pork loin, it was grilled at about 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  This sauce is also great on chicken!  Look how wonderful my supper was, made by my hubby!

This is from my dear friend Corrie, my seminary survival buddy.  Isn't it adorable?!  I can't wait to use it this weekend as I carry food to cookouts.

Everyone in my family chipped in to get me a sewing machine and sent me some patterns.  I know the photo is crooked, but I don't know which way is up on those patterns anyway.  This will be an exciting adventure!  My sewing machine should arrive next week and we'll get started!

I couldn't believe Justin actually wrapped my gifts!  Ok, so it's a bag, but still... 
So thoughtful!

I also got birthday money and gift cards from other wonderful family members that I am excited to spend!  Hooray for entering my late twenties!  *I accidentally typed "thirties" and almost threw up.  I'm starting to sweat.

Tomorrow we are going to the "city" for the eating out event of my birthday.  Here's a couple family photos to end with today.  I've got to go make flour tortillas for supper tonight.

Here's to hopefully growing out of looking so horrible in closeup photos!