Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"I'm baaack...mwuahahahaha..."

...says the awful temperatures of summer.  Apparently it got jealous of our breezy and humidity-free afternoons.  The forecast for the next few days is upper 90s.  Summer always tries to pop back in when fall has begun its gentle entrance.  But I do see highs in the 70s after this weekend.

Are you like me, busting at the seams for pumpkins and changing leaves?  A house near mine already has up its Halloween decor.  I wouldn't go that far just yet, but tomorrow is September which to me signifies fall.  Yesterday was my birthday, and my sweet husband has the tradition of always getting me a fancy nancy candle that smells like autumn.  I already have this on my door:
It's not all pumpkins and scarecrows, but it is sort of autumnal.  I have these giant grapevine wreaths leftover from my wedding and finally decided to learn how to make rosettes.  I have to admit that I am still not on Pinterest but I imagine I can only hold out for so long. 

When do you think is the right time to put out all of your fall decor?  Between all the nesting going on in my head [boy does my honey have a list this weekend!] I haven't wanted to move on to decorations because I need to get so many practical things finished.  Like painting her room, finding a solution to storage [we have no furniture as of yet for her], and also I suddenly hate our makeshift entertainment center. 

Last year one fun thing I did was paint pumpkins. 
I made a few as gifts for friends.  This year I'm thinking of painting one or two all black and using those wet chalk markers to write on them.  I happen to love Halloween [can I say that as a minister's wife? haha] and am excited to say that we should be home this year for the first time ever to greet trick-or-treaters.  Unless the baby has been born on that day.  She'll be the sweetest treat ever.

Do you have any fall ideas to share?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It is my birthday.

Today I am 28.  I will remain 28 for the next 12 years, and then I will turn 30.  Ok?

I almost forgot that today was my birthday, and kind of figured other people would forget since all the attention is on this baby.  Thank goodness Facebook so kindly reminds us of these things.

What does one ask for one's birthday gifts when one is getting old and has a child on the way?  Money is always good.  What about a foot spa, or a carpet cleaner?  Still too young for that, I suppose.  I have asked for an uninterrupted trip to Hobby Lobby, but I'll have to wait until my next trip to the big city [Friday] since the closest thing we have to that where I live is well, nothing. 

I'm not really doing anything special today.  I'm home on the couch with the dog and no vehicle to go anywhere, even if I wanted to.  When your birthday is on a Tuesday, it kind of stinks.  One day when it's my birthday I'll go to a spa.  Maybe have lunch with friends [that I'll hopefully live near] and not have to do laundry.  For the record, I could let the laundry go another day. 

What kind of cake am I having?  Well, I wasn't going to have any.  Even bakers shouldn't have to make their own birthday cakes.  There's an amazing bakery about an hour away that I'd love to get some cupcakes from, but it's an hour away.  And today is Tuesday, if you forgot, and my husband is working.  So we are going to make homemade coconut chocolate chunk ice cream.  But what's a birthday without cake?  Maybe I could make one anyway.

I'm thankful for another year of life.  I'm thankful, nervous, excited, uncomfortable for this little 32 week gestated bundle of chubby wubby that we get to meet soon.  Thirty-two weeks from now she'll be about 6 months old.  Wonder what I'll write about then?

Here's to a great day.  Wish you could share some cake with me.  At least, if you were here, I'd have a reason to make a whole cake. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

This week's menu

Soooo...I definitely fell off the menu planning wagon the moment I started throwing up way back in February.  I used to be so efficient at grocery shopping and having everything ready for the next couple of weeks as far as eating was concerned.  Now that the nesting syndrome has kicked in gear, I am ready to get more organized.  Also, I know that after the baby gets here there are going to be people coming and going and I'll be super embarassed if there's a lone pork chop and a can of black beans to our name.  Time to stock up, get some meals in the freezer, and EAT!  I'm easing back in, though.  Here's a sample of some dinner ideas we've eaten/planned since Saturday.

Buffalo Chicken Enchiladas
These are man food all the way, baby.  My man made these for me and I loved them, but if you make them for your man he will certainly be pleased.  We love any kind of enchiladas at our house, and while these are spiiiicy, they are delish!  Just cover them in sour cream and you can handle the heat.

Tomato Salad
Aren't these just gorgeous?  I picked these yellow and chocolate grape tomatoes up at the farmer's market on Saturday.  I am obsessed with tomatoes that are not red.  Don't get me wrong, I eat all tomatoes, but the other colors are where it's at.  I halved these up and added salt, pepper, red wine vinegar, and olive oil.  You can also throw in any other veggies that you have on hand like cucumbers or peppers. 

Roasted Chicken
We love roasted whole chicken.  It's inexpensive and goes a long way.  It can be intimidating [don't forget to take out the guts!] but if I can do it, so can you.  There are so many ways to cook it, but I have found the easiest and best way is to cover the bird generously in olive oil, salt, and pepper.  That's it.  No stuffing it with fruit or trying to get a compound butter underneath the skin.  Even though I take all the skin off [after it's roasted], somehow the salt and pepper still penetrates the meat and it is so flavorful.  Not to mention juicy.  I start it out in a 425 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes, just to get a nice crust on the skin.  Then I turn my oven down to 350 and let it go until it's finished, usually about another hour.  You can also cook it in the crockpot, but I've never done it that way.

Um, is it ok that I'm almost 30 and looove me some sloppy joes?  But please, none of that canned stuff.  We've tried lots of different recipes and the one I've linked is by far the best Jerry, the best!  It literally [enter Rob Lowe] takes 15 minutes from start to finish, and you probably have all the ingredients in your pantry.  I love these so much that I might request them for my birthday dinner tomorrow.  Lame?  Oh well.  I'm entering the lame stage of life, so I'll just embrace it.

This picture looks like a hot mess.  And I guess that's kind of what a fritatta is.  People can try to church it up, but it's still just a bunch of stuff [leftovers, anyone?] thrown in a pan with some eggs and cheese.  My little trick is to take a couple of small potatoes and microwave them.  Adding the potatoes makes this dish more substantial, and par-cooking them in the microwave avoids burning them in the pan.  Once they've taken a few turns around the microwave, I slice them up and cook them in the iron skillet in butter and/or the fat leftover from the meat I've added.  Get them all crispy and then you can add the rest of your ingredients.  It's a great way to use up veggies that are not quite fresh.  You can add bacon or sausage, or go meatless.  I think you should use at least 4 eggs for a nice medium thickness on your fritatta.  All you really have to cook stovetop is the potatoes and the meat if you're using it.  Once everything else is in the pan, put it in the oven at 350 for about 10 minutes or until it's set in the middle.  I don't even know if I'm spelling it right, but this is so simple so get at it!

Shrimp Poboys on Homemade Ciabatta
Maybe it's kind of silly to make homemade ciabatta only to top it with store-bought frozen shrimp, but I'm silly and there just isn't anything I can do about it.  We live in a land-locked state and I had a coupon for Sea-Pak.  I hope none of my beach-dwelling family reads this part.  As we speak, I'm in the middle of the second [or third?] rise on this bread.  It's very high-maintenance.  Come to think of it, maybe that's why this is my favorite kind of bread.  I knew there was some kind of connection.  Anyway, when the father of my child gets home tonight he'll whip up a remoulade [he's a great saucier] to top these sammies.  Oh, that reminds me, I need avocado.  Do you like avocado on sandwiches?  Try it!  Hopefully the bread will turn out and we won't have to eat our poboys on Sara Lee.

I hope you found something you might like to try from this week's pathetic attempt at menu planning.  I'm easing my way back in.  Maybe next week I'll actually plan 7 meals.  Peanut butter and jelly is getting a little old.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I bet you've got 2 seconds to spare

Would you take a couple seconds to vote for Compassion?  If they win, they get to take over the @water Twitter handle for a week and use it to get the word out to over 400,000 followers about the amazing life-saving filter they've created to get clean water to thirsty kiddos.

You can read all about the filter here.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Frozen waffles/pancakes [a quick school morning breakfast]

The other day my husband and I were perusing the frozen food section at our local superstore, amazed [and disgusted] at the vast array of frozen options.  There are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pastries, and even biscuits with sausage gravy on the inside [um, gross].  "Microwave to your heart's content!," screamed the brightly colored boxes of chemically derived products.  If we are so busy that we can't make our own PB&Js, there's more than one issue at hand.

With a little planning, breakfast doesn't have to be so hard.  You definitely don't have to sacrifice money and nutrition to get a great meal in your kids [and yourself] each morning.  It is, after all, the most important part of the day. 

Here's a great idea to try out.  On Saturday morning, when you're probably already making waffles or pancakes, make a double batch.  Seperate them on a sheet pan lined with parchment and let them cool.  Then freeze until solid.  Pack them into ziploc bags after they've been frozen; this will keep them from sticking together.  Then on a busy morning, all you have to do is pop them into the toaster and there you have it, breakfast!  Pair it with a boiled egg that you cooked the night before and you've got a balanced--not to mention quick--breakfast.

For some great pancake and waffle recipes, check out Joy's breakfast section.  Your life will never be the same.  Also, for a great bulk pancake mix to keep on hand, you've got to check this out. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

If you can't say anything nice [fill in the blank]

It has been said [by my mother] that I have a branding iron as a spinal cord.  For this reason, I walk away from heated discussions and don't attend church business meetings.  I have learned to control it around the public and usually the only person who hears my honest thoughts is my husband.  Of course, if you ask me, I'll tell you what I think but I try not to go around volunteering those things.  I'm pretty sure I learned in kindergarten about the things a person just doesn't say out loud. 

One of those taboo topics is pregnancy.  I don't think you should ask any woman anything about her alleged pregnancy unless she opens the conversation.  Never just ask a woman if she's pregnant.  That can be deadly.  I have started just telling people no, or that I just ate a big lunch.  It's too much fun to watch their faces.

From the time we announced my pregnancy up until now, I have tried to be patient with the off-hand and sometimes rude comments, bits of advice, and horror stories that everyone from sweet old ladies at church to the check-out lady at Kroger have bestowed upon me.  I try to give people the benefit of the doubt because surely they didn't mean that.

One of the most fertile [pun intended] environments for these comments is church, especially when you're one of the minister's wives.  I'm on public display as it is and my poor daughter just didn't stand a chance.  For some reason, that gives people a sense of ownership to your business and to your baby.  People who have never so much as asked me my name are now assuming rights to the details.  And that's ok, for the most part.  I know people get excited about babies.  It's an exciting miracle.  Even people I've never seen before when we're out in public get in on the action.

BUT, if you can't say something nice, please just don't say anything at all. 

"No, I am not having twins.  Really, I'm not.  The marvels of modern medicine can actually see if there are two in there."  I've said those words at least 6 times.

"You're never going to make it to your due date." /"You're too big to still have this many weeks to go."/ "Wow, you're huge!"  These sentences have been said to me and about me to my husband.

"Pregnant in the summer?  You're going to be miserable." Wow, really?!  I guess I should have thought of that back in January.

Once I apologized for being out of breath to an older lady, letting her know that I had just walked up the stairs.  She remarked that maybe if I wasn't so fat I wouldn't get winded.  She literally told me that she thought she was seeing double.  Who knows, maybe she was.

Can you understand my sensitivity?  After hearing comments like this week after week, it gets a little old.  I'm barely 5 feet tall, just where exactly is this baby supposed to go?  I have severe back problems, so that's why I walk funny.  I'd be limping a little, pregnant or not. 

I'm not really angry, but to be honest it does hurt my feelings a little bit when people make comments about my weight.  That would hurt any woman's feelings.  I know that God has created this little girl for Him and He has made my body to nurture and deliver her in His time.  I'm writing all of this so that the next time you see a pregnant woman, here are some great things you can say to make her day.
"You look beautiful!"
"What do you still need from your registry?"
"I am so excited to meet your little one.  Is there anything I can help you do to get ready for her arrival?"

Or better yet, just don't say anything at all. :)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Get your game face on

I can almost hear the ESPN Gameday theme song through the lingering thickness of summer's humidity.  There are only a few more days until the mighty pigskin begins to fly across the perfectly manicured fields of every college in America.  I can hardly wait, can you?  It won't be long before crockpots of chili, portable grills, and team-specific desserts are a part of our Saturday routines. 

I can't remember when I began to care about football, but I do remember that it has always been something I looked forward to when August began to set in.  I don't come from a large football family, but most of them are University of Florida fans.  Tim Tebow not withstanding, I do not like Florida.  I am a bonafide orange and white University of Tennessee fan.  Yes, I know we're supposed to suck this season.  Let's just wait and see.  I didn't have the opportunity to attend a major university when I went to college but I did attend my fair share of ball games in Neyland Stadium.  There's something so intangibly exciting about the crispness of a fall Saturday when I put on my school colors and either head to the stadium or get ready for a football watching party at home.

Incidentally, I married a Kentucky fan.  It's a mixed marriage.  For most of our relationship, it's been tough being the one whose team always won.  That will not always be the case, I'm sure, but it's a fun rivalry.  I do know enough to hate the Louisville Cardinals, though, and that is enough for my dear husband.  Together, my husband and I cheer for TCU.  It stems from our time living in Fort Worth and often times, the Horned Frogs were the team that brought us together after a day of friendly competition.

I've had the opportunity to live in several different states and I must say that nobody does football like the SEC.  I'm not sure how I feel about all these other teams trying to join our club, but the more the merrier!  Here in the South, we get dressed up for football games.  No matter what state it is, we ladies like to accessorize with monogrammed necklaces, high heels, and handbags in our school colors.  In Georgia the guys dress like they did when people used to sit on their wrap-around porches sipping lemonade.   Heck, we even dress our dogs up in little jerseys.  And then there's the mascots. People have them tattooed on their biceps, etched on their windshields, and even name their pets after them.

Somehow people become much friendlier during football season.  If you see someone else with your team's shirt on, you're brothers for life.  Especially at away games.  I have seen my father-in-law [not the most social person in the world] become best friends with random Kentucky fans in Razorback Stadium. 

I don't know about you, but I can't wait to see Desmond, Kirk, Lee, and Erin on my Saturday morning TV screen.  Get your car flags ready folks, it's almost that time!  May your team always win, unless they're playing mine.

Friday, August 19, 2011

I hope I never

Here's a list of the things I hope I never do.

1. I hope that I never have to go skydiving.  Even if I were appointed some top secret mission from the CIA, I wouldn't do it.  I'd rather spend my life in prison.

2. Take myself [or my husband, my kids, other people, etc] too seriously.  Life's too short for that nonsense.

3. Further, I hope I never take myself, my husband, my kids, my family, etc for granted.  Life's too short for that, too.

4. Get coersed into riding a roller coaster.  I'll hold your stuff and sit on a nice bench while you put your life into the hands of a twisted piece of metal with thin wheels.  Fine by me.

5.  I hope I never get so old and dusty that I think rules, regulations, and my opinion are worth more than people.  I pray that as my husband and I age, our ministry continues to be about the Message of Jesus Christ, not the message of "us".

6.  Eat organ meat.  I'll try anything once, and I love all kinds of food, but I'm really not going to be psyched about eating the pancreas of something. 

7.  I seriously hope I never run out of butter.

8. Stop myself, at my dog, at life.

9.  Forget where I am and start breakdancing in a shopping center or some other public place.  Because that's bound to be awkward.

This has been a fun exercise in self-exploration.  However, it has made me kind of bummed because I have been thinking of all these other things that I hope never happen and now I'm kind of sad.
-Get struck by lightning
-Run over someone's dog
-Become a widow...seriously negative stuff here people.  Perhaps it would be better to make a list of what I do hope happens. 

Starting with "I hope I can become a more positive and less worrisome person as I age."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Of Mice and Trashcans...

What I am about to tell you is a harrowing tale of mischief, mayhem, and lots and lots of bleach. 

On Sunday evening I heard some strange noises coming from my stove.  I was using the crockpot that day, so there was no reason for the oven to be making that popping sound it sometimes makes as it's cooling off.  After some investigation which involved the highly techinical method of standing and listening, I dismissed it as nothing and went on about my business.  On Monday, the same thing happened once or twice but I told myself I was just hearing things.

Yesterday [Tuesday] after breakfast I heard some rustling around and knew that some thing  was in my kitchen, I just didn't know what.  After a quick glance around my eyes landed on the place where I had prepared my oatmeal.  There were blueberries strewn about and the leftover oatmeal was still in the pot because I'm lazy that way.  Suddenly I saw it: mouse poop.  There were at least 25 little pellets of poo on top of my flour countainers and all over the counter.  It was NOT there when I made my breakfast [at least, I'm telling myself that I would have noticed it].  Furthermore, how much can one mouse poop?

Naturally, I sent an alarming text message to my heroic husband stating that a rodent had indeed taken up residence in our tiny galley-style kitchen.  By the time he got home I had already stripped the appliances off the countertops and bleached everything.  The disgusting creature had gnawed on sweet potatoes, dragged a cherry tomato behind my cookbook stand and eaten half of it, and done a number on my organic pink lady apples for which I had just paid $7.50.  I think I had to throw away $15 worth of produce thanks to that Ratatouille wannabe. 

My smart and savvy husband put on his Bear Grylls persona and went out into the wilderness that is Wal-Mart and returned with mouse traps.  Ah, my hero.  Except I really did not want to wake up to a half-dead mouse dragging itself across the linoleum with a mousetrap attached to its ankle. 

Fast-foward to dinner time [9pm at our house, it seems].  Here's where it gets good.

I was standing at the stove and my husband was to my left, washing his hands at the sink.  Suddenly he began to scream.  I asked him what was wrong but he kept screaming so then I decided to scream.  He pointed to the counter that was between us and there was the little mouse who was probably also screaming.  I did the only thing I could which was to run across the house into the laundry room.  The dog followed.  My husband asked me what we should do, all the while thinking that he could just cut its head off with his chef's knife.  Thank goodness he decided against that.  He realized we couldn't replace said knife and truly, he hasn't got it in him to kill anything more than a spider. 

Back to the mouse.  While I was hiding in the laundry room and Justin was deciding against decapitation [all of about 3 seconds] the mouse scurried across the countertops and sailed off the edge and into the open trashcan.  What luck!

At this point, I'd started to have mild contractions and was imagining telling my poor daughter the events that led up to her early arrival.

Thank goodness we didn't have to kill it.  Justin tied up the trashbag and walked it across the street to the opposite edge of the field where he released the mouse out into the wild.

I like to think that's exactly what Jesus would have done.

And thank goodness I didn't have to clean up any mouse guts this morning.  On another note, my kitchen is so very clean.  One more thing to check off my "things to do before baby" list. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

In case you've been wondering about her...

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.
  Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. -Groucho Marx

Thursday, August 11, 2011

To my husband: some things I just love about you.

1.  You make me laugh.  How could I do life without your humor?

2.  Even though you went to seminary and even though you're a "pastor", you still seek the Lord like it isn't your job.  I appreciate that.

3.  You balance me out.  When I don't have control over my emotions, you're calm, and vice versa. [And we both know it's mostly vice versa.] 

4.  You think I'm great.  You always brag about me and even though I act like it embarasses me, deep down I know it's because you really do think I'm great.  And that's important for a wife to know.  I think you're great, too.

5.  When your job is full of thankless tasks like cleaning up garbage or unclogging toilets, you never complain.  Even though I sometimes want to go get you a job application to Home Depot, you keep pressing on and doing what you know you were put on earth to do.  I don't understand it, but I admire it.

6.  I am also thankful that even though your job can be demanding from other people, you never let anyone jump me in line.  You always put me first, and you don't care what other people think about it.  You are a great example for other men [especially pastors] in this.  You understand that it isn't about balancing work and family but simply put, family comes first.  End. of. story.  Booyah.

7.  You are a great daddy.  Even though she isn't here yet, our little girl is fiercely loved and protected by you.  I can't wait to watch you hold her, teach her how to kick a soccer ball, and some day--tear-- walk her down the aisle.

8.  You love to cook.  I know sometimes I'm picky about how you do things, but you forgive me anyway.  I do love to let you cook, really.  BUT...I mostly love cooking with you.

9.  You keep getting handsomer.  Is that a word?  Thank you for taking care of yourself physically so that not only you get to complete the ministry you were called to do, but so that you can be here as long as possible for our family.  I like still being attracted to you...and I know you like that I like that ;).

10.  You've been such a trooper through this pregnancy.  Even though you never held my hair back while I puked, you've given me enough massages to more than make up for that.  For something that can be so scary [not to mention disgusting], you've handled it with grace and been a great support.  Thanks again for that time you had to pull off the side of the interstate real quick so I didn't have to puke in my purse.  That was a close one.

11.  You love to help me.  Whether it's the time I decided to make 500 cupcakes in 1 day or when we need to vaccuum behind the couch, you're there.  And I know when it's time to swoosh the baby's poopy diapers in the potty, you'll be there then too.  Wait, have I not told you about that?  It's part of cloth diapering 101, which I haven't presented to you yet...

12.  You spoil me.  I never have to take out the trash or do any "dirty" work, unless I just want to...and I usually don't.  You encourage me to get pedicures and buy all the things I "need".  It's nice to be taken care of.

I hope this made you feel good, honey.  :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

wet eyelashes

The title of this post is the same as the name of my friend Beth's blog.  It was on her blog today that I learned her little girl was stillborn yesterday.


A word that sends cold chills up my spine, a word that you hope you never have to say. 

Her name is Elsabeth.  Isn't that beautiful?  It means "consecrated by God" or "God's daughter". 

Please pray for my friend, her husband, and toddler son. 

I wish I knew why these things happen.  It's not fair and I want to run kicking and screaming to God and demand an answer to this unjustice.  But then my mind is flooded with Scripture about how we are wonderfully made and all of the days ordained for our lives were known by the Lord [Psalm 139 13-16]. 

We'll never have the answers to these kinds of "whys" here on earth.  This is where our faith comes in, trusting that His plan is better than ours, even when it breaks our hearts.

I think every mommy to be has a fear of loss, but you just don't let yourself go there. I can only trust that my daughter is in His hands.

In His hands...even if we never took a breath, there we would be.  There Elsabeth is.  And there her parents are right now, even as they grieve.

I pray they feel held tighter now than ever.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fall Projects

It's this time of year every year that I really start to get antsy for fall.  The Fourth of July has passed [although you wouldn't know if from my front porch decor], our anniversary has come and gone, and it's almost my birthday.  My birthday is always around Labor Day which to me, signifies the unofficial end of summer.  After Labor Day I only have to wait a couple more weeks before I can start putting out pumpkins.  Did you know that we are only 45 days away from the first day of fall?

I have to really be on top of things since Baby is coming right before Halloween.  I'm planning on making a wreath this weekend to transition the time between now and pumpkin time.  This may not be the case where you live, but here in the upper part of the southeast [according to me] the seal on the pressure cooker seems to have broken--as of today.  It's only 83 right now, hallelujah!  At least for the next 10 days there isn't a forcasted temperature above the mid-80s.  And that is just fine by me.  I am a cardigan girl and when it's too hot for one of those, it's just plain too hot.

As I'm waiting for fall--and the baby--here are a few projects that are on my list.

This is an Anthropologie knock-off from Just a Girl--- so cute!

Monogram plate from Crap I've Made

Ruffle Butt Onesie from Crap I've Made

Stenciled canvas from The Brassy Apple

These are just a few of the ideas I have for crafting as fall creeps its way in.  What do you have up your sleeve for fall?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Can you help?

Yesterday in the town we live in, something happened with a water pipe something-or-other that resulted in a boil water advisory through tomorrow.  So, I loaded up in the car, drove to Wal-Mart and bought a few gallons of "spring" water for $0.88 each.  For a few dollars and 20 minutes of my time, I ensured that my family has safe drinking water.  I have access to water 24/7 from my faucets, I own an expensive water filter and have at least 15 water bottles for bringing water with me as I go about my day.  We all do, and it's something I think we take for granted.  It's just the way our life is.  The same with access to food, shelter, and basic human rights.

Many people in our world do not have those same privileges.  We know this, but we don't have to see it every day.  Yes, it's terrible that people are starving all over the world but what are we going to eat tonight??? 

I hope you're aware of the famine going on in Africa right now.  The UN is calling it "the world's worst humanitarian disaster".  And yet, if you go to CNN or Yahoo or wherever, there's no headline about Africa.  In my search for information last night, I found out about the $10 million profit Ben Stiller made off of the house he just sold.  I also was enlightened about the unemployment rate going down a half percent and oh yes, they might have found D.B. Cooper's niece.  What a relief.  Still, no information about Africa. 

No one cares about Africa.  If it were on the news and in our sight as much as what's going on in the world of America's Got Talent, we'd have to do something about it. 

It's amazing that in situations like when the earthquake hit Haiti and the tsunami hit Japan, that's all we heard about.  We were given many opportunities to help.  It was in your face.  And that's great, because the world needed to know.  But if this famine is indeed as the UN said, "The world's worst humanitarian disaster", why isn't anyone talking about it?

As someone who is always thinking about food, I can't stand the thought of someone going without.  I know what it's like to go without.  I know how it feels to have the options for dinner be limited to PB&J or nothing.  But I've always had access to something.  The people who are suffering across Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia have access to nothing.

Here's my challenge to you, reader: do something.  We can't all hop across the world to go hand out rations.  But we can give financially to an organization who is doing so.  I recommend Samaritan's Purse.  If you're not familiar, they're the ones who sponsor the big shoebox drive at Christmas, "Operation Christmas Child".  But, they do so much more than that. 

I bet we could all sacrifice going out to eat this weekend, buying those new shoes, or whatever it is that is "extra" to give to those in need.  Even $10 will go a long way in Africa.  Here's a great article on Samaritan's Purse with a link for how to donate. 

Can you help?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Four Years

I can hardly believe that we're celebrating our 4th anniversary today.  It's hard to believe because it feels like 40 years...!  I don't mean that in a bad way.  Before we were engaged we moved across the country together.  We were married a year later and the year after that, on our first anniversary to be exact, we packed up a truck and moved back across the country in the other direction.  That's probably why I don't look so thrilled in this picture from our first anniversary.  After loading boxes and furniture all day in the triple-digit temperatures of Texas in August, it's hard to feel like celebrating.
We still managed to celebrate by going to a fun Italian restaurant with live music and dancing.  Only we were too tired to dance.  I'm still waiting for that dance, actually. 

Not a great shot at all, but this is us on our second anniversary.  We were in Atlanta at the time. 

Another stellar we are on our third anniversary after we moved to Kentucky. 

Unfortunately, even though today is our actual anniversary I will be by myself most of the day.  Justin has been working a lot and today is no exception.  Hopefully he'll be home before I go to bed.  We do plan on celebrating this weekend, we just have to make it through today!

We've been on quite the adventure.  We started out as friends back in college, and then we fell in love.  And I still keep falling!  I couldn't ask for a better friend, support, and soul mate.  I can't wait to see where we end up next.  We haven't celebrated an anniversary in the same state twice until this year.  Who knew that 4 years after we said "I do" that I'd be entering the third trimester with our baby girl.  It's funny how things work out, and then again it's funny how they don't.  We definitely aren't where we thought we'd be, but that's not how life works now is it?

Here's to many more years, more babies, more moves, and lots and lots of love!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Banana Pudding

My favorite element of cooking is other people.  Cooking and baking are a great way to show someone how much you care.  If you invited me to your house and made me something as simple as a sandwich, it would make me feel great.  You can bake something as a welcome to the neighborhood, a get well wish [mmm, chicken soup], or even as a thank you. 

A man in our church blessed us with a very generous gift for our baby.  There is no way to say thank you enough--and I know he doesn't expect us to--but I decided to make him his favorite dessert: banana pudding. 

I wanted to do something different, though.  Ya'll know I like to do it all the hard other words, all from scratch.  I did not want to make vanilla wafers last night, so I decided to go with peanut butter cookies.  These cookies are chewy, peanut buttery, and also gluten free.  My mom has celiac disease so I started making these for her after she was diagnosed.  They are so easy and because they don't contain flour, you can eat at least a dozen before you start to feel full.  :)

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies
1 cup all-natural creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda

Just mix all of these ingredients together and bake at 350.  I like to use a small cookie scoop so mine are done baking in 10 minutes.  You can add chocolate chips and nuts if you like.  They also make great nutella sandwiches.  :)
See how tiny they are before they bake?  The end up spreading out to around 2 inches.  Cute!

Ok, onto the pudding.  I like to make homemade vanilla pudding, and the recipe I like can be found here.  But you are welcome to use Jello.  Luckily I had a box of Jello on hand this morning because for some reason my pudding didn't set up.  Obviously, if you need to eat gluten free for your health please use safe ingredients.

Lets give this pudding some personality.  I happen to love vanilla pudding as is, but I think it needs more when it comes to banana pudding.  Take 1 cup of heavy cream and whip it up with a tablespoon of powdered sugar until it gets stiff peaks.  Put it in the fridge to chill for a few minutes.

While that's happening, add about half a can of sweetened condensed milk to your prepared vanilla pudding.  Then gently fold in the fresh whipped cream.  And there ya have it!  Try not to inhale it and get ready to layer your pudding.

I don't think there's any right or wrong way to assemble banana pudding.  I did a layer of peanut butter cookies, covered them in bananas, and then filled with fluffy pudding.  My dish was deep enough for 2 complete layers topped with more bananas and crumbled cookies.  Then you can just chill this baby in the fridge until you're ready to eat it! 

If you have extra pudding, cookies, and bananas...
And you're the cook and deserve a little taste...
You can do this:
How cute are desserts in mason jars?  You can layer this however you want.  I alternated crumbled cookie, bananas, and pudding.  You could make a whole tray of these for a party.  They look so fancy but they are so easy!  What a fun way to get some calcium and potassium into your kiddos. 

Because vitamins are what this dessert is all about, right?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Weekend Recipe Wrap-Up

On most weekends my dishwasher really gets a workout.  Between church events, entertaining, and just wanting to reward ourselves after a long week of salad-eating [yeah, right], there's a lot of cooking going down in my kitchen from Friday to Sunday.  I had 3
out-of-the-park recipes that I just had to share with you.

Every Sunday I make breakfast for our college Bible study.  It's usually muffins, but you never know when someone else might show up with Hooters dip, a cheese ball, or meatballs.  At least one of those has actually been placed next to the coffee pot in our meeting room.  I'll let you figure out which one.  Whoooo can guess?   

Yesterday I made these Lemon Poppyseed Muffins from Joy.  They were quick, lemony, and oh-so-delicious with a nice cup of coffee.  On Sunday mornings I usually eat 3 muffins and drink 2 or 3 cups of caffeinated coffee spiced up with some kind of flavored creamer.  I used to think the baby really liked the music at church but now I think it's just the sugar.  Try these!

Last night we had a game night with the students and the theme was Street Food.  I don't know how these homemade Oatmeal Cream Pies fit with the theme, but they are AMAZING.  I can't tell you how delicous they are!  You have got to carve some time out [they aren't quick] and make these soon!  They taste so much like Little Debbies, but better because they actually contain real oats.  Ok, before you accuse me of hating on the snack cake princess, hers may have oats but they aren't as visible.  I'm sure hers have a gazillion ingredients and lots of preservatives, too.  You won't need any preservatives if you make these because they won't stick around for long!  You end up with a pillowy but not too sweet marshmallow filling between 2 spiced and chewy thin oatmeal cookies.  YUM!

Last but not least, on Saturday night I decided to make Nutella brownies.  I think I've mentioned before that I am really terrible at making homemade brownies.  These brownies from Baked are the best recipe I've eaten/prepared to date.  But, when you get a craving for brownies the last thing you want to do is wait.  So I found this recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod for Nutella brownies and decided to give it a whirl.

I followed it pretty much as they described, only I used vanilla in place of hazelnut extract and added in a teaspoon of espresso powder.  Also, I didn't measure the Nutella...I think I used half the jar rather than 1/4 cup.  Oops.  These are great because I had them mixed up and in the oven within 10 minutes and they baked in about 30 minutes.  Why the pie shape?  I feel that all brownies should have the equal opportunity for a chewy crust and a gooey middle.  It's just what I believe.  Enjoy!