Monday, August 23, 2010

Devotional: Start of Something New

Weekly, I write devotionals for my sorority. I'll post them here, as well, in hopes that they will encourage you in your walk with God!

It's the start of something new and you know what that means! Time to look back on the old and review its lessons!

I'm talking about the school year, of course. Here is a list of things I've learned over the past year. You'll likely be hearing more about these as I write devotionals this semester. Hopefully this list will spark some reflection of your own.

1. I've learned the importance of quiet time with God. As difficult as it is to do, making time for myself to read quietly, pray, and rest pays off. God rewards us in big ways when we seek Him fully. Seeking Him often means making quiet times to pray and listen to His voice. Jesus frequently separated himself from the crowds and disciples in order to spend time with God alone. So should we.

2. I've learned the importance of proactivity. In both my Christian walk and school work, getting it done now is always the best choice. Procrastination is simply not worth it when compared to the reward of being done.

3. I've learned the importance of prayer. Never before have I made a conscious effort to pray regularly. It's amazing how regular prayer increases your ability to hear God, love others and changes your attitude for the better. Regular prayer has actually resulted in less temper tantrums, less stress, and less frustration for me. It's amazing! Why didn't I realize this before?!

4. I've learned the importance of community. As Christians, we simply cannot do it alone. Christianity is not a religion we can practice by ourselves. We need others to challenge us, instruct us, inspire us and encourage us. God speaks to us through others and His Kingdom is a place full of people. It is with people that we grow and improve. It is alone that we get off track and become deceived. I must go to church. I must engage in worship and prayer with others. I must speak with other Christians. I must pursue that community, or my relationship with God stops flowing properly.

5. I've learned the importance of reading the Bible. When I started reading the Bible, I thought that it was a risky venture. Surely I'll come across some verse that makes me doubt God's love or that I won't understand. Instead, I've found that God's word teaches us who He is - inside and out. It gives me confidence, reveals more of Him to me, and is actually interesting reading. There are some pretty intense stories in there! With about 20 minutes a day - split between morning and evening readings - I'll finish the Bible on December 31st, and start again the next day. I haven't regretted a day, yet.

6. Most of all, I've learned the importance of putting God first. He has given us promise after promise to bless us, reward us, love us, provide for us... All with one stipulation: we have to put Him first. First in our time. First in our finances. First in our friendships. First in everything. Daily, I have to submit myself to Him. I have to make a choice each morning to follow God and His will for my life. Sometimes, that means I bite my tongue again and again to hold back sarcastic comments, and ask for forgiveness when they slip out. Sometimes, it means I walk through my day feeling like He is at my side, dancing with me. It's a daily choice. In surrender, there is freedom.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Homemade Bread

I confess! There has been a great lack of fresh photography on this blog lately... I give my deepest apologies and assure you that it will change just as soon as my camera batteries are charged.

In the meantime, I'd like to discuss something with you.

Homemade bread.

Few things smell or taste as good as homemade bread.

This week, I found our bread machine tucked away in the laundry room in Bowling Green. Naturally, I pulled it out and conducted a search for the accompanying recipe book.

We searched high and low.

Thankfully, it was low (under a bench in the back hallway) and we didn't have to move into sideways searching (complicated).

A few grocery purchases later, I was prepared with whole wheat flour, brown sugar, water, butter, salt and bread machine yeast. You add the ingredients to the bread machine in the order listed in the recipe book, pick the right "bread number" for what you're cooking, then press start. Four hours and twenty minutes later, you have a loaf of fresh bread.

We bought the machine from a friend who no longer wanted it. She sold it to us for $25, which is a steal for the simplicity and amount of bread the thing produces.

The wonderful part about a bread machine is its simplicity. There is none of that complicated business of kneading, covering, rising, kneading again, covering again, rising again, etc. The bread machine does all of it for you. Perhaps this is cheating. Perhaps it does not taste as good as bread done by hand might. Perhaps. But when I read recipes for real bread, I get winded. Just the idea of all that work for one loaf of carbohydrates... Wears me out.

For now, I'll just enjoy the fantastic, delicious, wonderful Raisin-Walnut Whole Wheat bread I just pulled out of the machine... It's warm and tastes fantastic with butter.

(Pretend there's a picture of delicious toasted bread with butter here).

Now, who wants to come over and eat some?

Monday, August 16, 2010

What's for Dinner?

I'm making these for dinner:

Whoops! Wrong picture!

Can you pull your eyes away from Phelps' abs long enough to see the redheaded official in the background?

That's my cousin.

This is how he spent his summer a couple years ago. He worked as Cord Control Dude for the main cameraman in the Water Cube.

Pretty cool, huh?

I thought so, too. That's why this picture is still on my desktop.

THIS is what is for dinner:

Potato Bundles, photo courtesy of

These are the changes I made to her recipe:

I diced and sprinkled the leftover green onion we had in the fridge, instead of using white onion like she does.
I skipped the extra seasonings and sprinkled a little of Mel's Seasoning Salt, which has a bit of spicy, a bit of flavor, a bit of everything. It's delicious.
I used Half'n'Half instead of heavy cream. We don't have heavy cream around here. Isn't it sad?
I used two sweet potatoes and two russets, divided up between five bundles. The potatoes I had were too large, so splitting them up made sense.

They'll be served with shredded cheese, extra butter, sour cream and other typical potato toppings. We don't eat baked potatoes very often, so I'm sure this will be a treat.

As an added bonus, I accidentally set the oven to 425 instead of 375... WHOOPS! We're about to find out if this worked....

NOTE: The potatoes were delicious! They were fantastic! Wonderful! A hit!

Go forth and cook.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Jade is the New Black

I shopped for this color all summer and finally found it! Well, that's not entirely true. Actually, I found this nail color at the beginning of the summer. Every time we went to the Cosmetic Market (and that's a frequent event for the ladies in my family), I would pick it up and look at it.

I would carry it around the store.

I would hold it up to my fingers, to my face, and stare at it for extended periods of time.

Then I would put it back on the shelf and leave.

Well, yesterday, after a bit of encouragement from Mom, I bought it. Her encouragement sounded something like this, "You better buy that nail polish. You talk about it all the time, so buy it!"

Here it is:

Jade is the New Black

That's not my hand. It's a Hand Model's hand. This hand makes me want to get a manicure.

I want a shirt this color. And earrings, and shoes, and eyeshadow. I love this color that much.

I'm going to paint my toes and fingers now. Have a happy Sunday!

Friday, August 13, 2010

My Social Networking Rules

People can get themselves into a lot of trouble with social media. I don't mean trouble like giving out your social security number or address and being robbed (though that is certainly a concern). I'm talking about social trouble. Examples include:
a) getting into a light argument in comments that quickly becomes a feud
b) insulting another person in view of all of your friends and family
c) complaining about your life so often that it darkens your reputation and the way you are perceived.
All of these do nothing for yourself and do nothing to show others who God is (if you're a Christian seeking to live for Him).

These are the guidelines I've laid out for myself. I consider facebook, twitter, social media to be a place where I can pour goodness and positivity into the lives of others. These "rules" help me accomplish that goal. Since I intend my social media to be a ministry (that is, a place where I encourage, lift, and hopefully impact others in a positive way), I've written down the things that I believe directly oppose that purpose. If you'd like to know the guidelines I use for positive social media experiences, here they are! All of these are a direct result of my mission statement (kindness always, respect, hospitality, service, encouragement, always kindness).

1. Avoid writing a negative status and if you must, make it funny. In the broad scheme of things, most of your online "friends" are probably more like "aquaintances" and they do not want or need to hear about your bad day or your pet peeves. Most of the facebook and twitter community does not care about your bad day. Sure, your close friends and family might be sympathetic - and if you make the status funny, you'll get a laugh out of others - but the majority of users will just glance over this update and think something like "well, sucks for her" or "oh, I hope the person he wrote this about doesn't see this update!" The purpose behind a status is to a) tell the world what you're up to or what is on your mind and b) entertain your readers, lift their spirits, and endear you to them. Negative-toned statuses do not accomplish either of these purposes. If you post negative statuses often enough, you'll make people think you need medical help. Not good.

2. Avoid posting your strong opinions and convictions about controversial subjects online. This tends to make enemies. Ranting and raving about political figures or topics will only alienate some readers, anger others and fire up the rest. Some will express their agreement with your position, but others will write a long response about how wrong you are. Perhaps this is the response you want, and that's fine, but for many people, facebook is not the place to discuss political or religious controversies. Once again, your posts should entertain your readers, lift their spirits and endear you to them. Generally, your daily posts will give others enough information about you to guess which direction you lean on the political scale. No need to broadcast it daily (unless you love political discussion and consider your political views a big part of your career, examples include people who study poli-sci or are running for office). Please note that I'm not saying you must be politically correct or that you shouldn't let people know your political standing. Most people like to know where you stand, but social media is no place to start arguments about politics or controversial stuff. I follow this guideline because I do not feel confident in my ability to argue my political opinions and I tend to avoid conflict.

3. Never, under any circumstances, post negatively about someone else. Even if you think you are being discrete about who wronged you, most of your regular facebook readers will be able to guess. When I see someone do this, it makes me want to avoid them at all costs. What if they were to get mad at me and post all over the social media world what a jerk I am? This is the quickest way to alienate people and lose trust with your friends. Here is another problem: posting about your conflicts with another person draws your readers into that conflict. If they know both of you, they will be pressured to pick sides. It gets even worse if you "make up" with the person - now those people who picked sides think both of you are crazy and will distance themselves from you both. Again, this is the quickest way to paint yourself as petty, immature and untrustworthy. Don't ever do this. If you must "warn" people about another, do it in person. If you insult another person on facebook, it's much more likely to taint your reputation than theirs.

4. Avoid commenting or posting on the walls of people you do not regularly interact with. It's just awkward. Obviously, since you're friends with the person, you know them well enough to comment occasionally. Frequently commenting on the statuses, wall posts, pictures of someone you rarely see, however, will probably make you look like a creeper/stalker type. Use your own discretion here. Also, never comment on someone's photos unless you're friends with the person. We all know you can see albums of people you don't even know, but they don't need to know you're stalking them.

That's about it! I didn't write these to tell you what to do. I wrote them for you in case you'd like to know how I govern my online presence. Basically, it all comes down to the following:

Social media should entertain your readers, lift their spirits and endear you to them. That's what it's all about. That's what being a Christian is all about - healing hearts, drawing people to God, showing others who God is through your actions and choices. Being kind and loving. That's all for now!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mini Wheats, Oven Guy, and the Pantry

1. It's August 11th, a beautiful day here in Nashville. And by "beautiful," I mean it's sunny. And when I say "August 11th," I mean it's hot.

2. I have been to five stores today and one restaurant. Three of the stores were in the mall, so it doesn't really count.

3. I was actually awake at 6:50 yesterday morning. This morning, I woke up at 7:30. I'm working my way up, people! Tomorrow I'll shoot for 7AM.

4. My last day working at Bruster's was Sunday, but I got someone to cover for me because I needed to be home with the family when Popo was put down. I sort of miss the ice cream shop already. While here in Nashville, however, I've already wracked up a full card at Sweet Cece's! I talked Mom, Dad and Robert into going to two-punch Tuesdays at Sweet Cece's last night. It was delicious!

5. I actually ate Frosted Mini Wheats yesterday. I was desperate. There was no food in this condo. If you know me at all, you know that I eat cereal only if it's the only thing left in the house. Cereal tends to leave me hungry. I can eat a giant bowl of cereal and be starving an hour later. Not to mention, the milk with dry crunchy stuff in a bowl doesn't appeal to me much... That is all.

6. Don't worry, we made it to the grocery today. The kitchen is stocked up and ready for business! Except for the fact that the oven still hasn't been fixed...

7. The oven guy is coming tomorrow.

8. Thank God the oven guy is coming. We really need an oven. I don't know what to do without it.

9. We bought almost 9 apples today on accident. Boogie went and got apples, but I didn't know, so I got more apples later. By the time we discovered the double order of apples, we were checking out. So, we bought them and I'm planning on making an apple tart.

10. I'll need the oven to be fixed to make the apple tart.

11. Just wanted you to really grasp the desperation behind this broken oven deal. The apples will go bad unless that oven guy hurries up and gets here!!!

12. I gave the women working at Victoria's Secret the run-around today. I think I tried on 8 or 9 items, was in and out of the dressing room three times and had the ladies calling other stores in search of things for me... I ended up going with choice #1. I felt guilty, but satisfied that I had exhausted all other options and made the best choice.

13. I completely emptied the pantry and re-arranged it today. It is now organized, shiny, new. All the cans are on the same shelf. The baking ingredients are lined up and compartmentalized. The chips are placed on top of the extra cans of coke. It's lovely.

14. Off I go to eat dinner before church! No, I'm not having Frosted Mini Wheats. Ha, very funny.

Rough Weekend

It was a rough weekend (yes, I know it's Wednesday and the weekend was days ago). After a long family discussion Friday evening, prayer individually and as a group, followed by more discussion Saturday morning, we decided it was time to put our Golden Retriever down. He was struggling to breathe and hadn't slept in days. A tumor was growing under his face and making him very uncomfortable, though we do not believe he was in any pain.

Needless to say, Sunday was a long day. Our vet is a good friend and an active member at our church. He came to the house and was a very kind, respectful participant in the funeral and burial. We were all crying and crying. This is the first family dog we've had to put down.

I'm grateful that we were all able to say goodbye. I'm grateful that we had a few days to prepare ourselves. We did not rush into it and it didn't happen suddenly. God walked through every step with us - from the timing of the illness to His peace which was present throughout. When you are walking with God, fully submitted to Him and committed to His purposes in your life, you notice Him in events like this one.
We see how He timed it. Popo was put down about a week before school starts, giving us all something new to focus on while dealing with the grief.
We see how He controlled it - Popo was not in pain, only uncomfortable and exhausted.
We see how He provides you with the right people - our vet is a patient friend who came to our house unhesitatingly, we did not have to take Popo to a hospital room.
We see how He influenced it - we all felt peaceful about the decision. There was unity in our family and in our hearts, and we were sad but not disturbed. His peace flooded each of us.

Perhaps some of you would say these things are lucky or coincidental, but I choose to believe that it's my loving God, making a difficult thing into a smooth transition. Healing our hearts before the wound was even inflicted.

I will praise Him forever.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Kitchen Confession is Good for the Soul

Confession is good for the soul, and is encouraged in the Christian faith. I felt like making a list of my kitchen disasters so far. Perhaps you have ones that are worse than mine (then again, probably not).

I think that I have accidents in the kitchen because the Devil is trying to keep me out of the kitchen but I'll show him! I'll show you all! Mwahaha!

1. I set my cast iron skillet on fire at school this year. I left it on the still-hot stove with oil in it. I'd read that you should keep your skillet oiled to keep it seasoned... But I suppose I misinterpreted that one...

2. I've ruined several pans of cupcakes so far. I cooked one set for 40 minutes... Recipe said to cook for 20-25. Boogie gracefully ate one to prove to me that they were not totally ruined... They were, though, so we threw them out. I over-stirred one batch. The batter was so smooth it was like milk by the time I finished whipping it around. They came out sticky and sunk in the middle, like mini-craters. I ate one, but That Cool Guy spit his out.

3. You probably remember the time I turned the oven on broil and closed the door. The glass inside shattered. Yeah, that was fun...

4. This week, I was steaming some dumplings and ran out of water under the steamer. I didn't notice until the burning smell from the bottom of the pot got to my parents.

5. We were in a hurry once and I invited two of my friends at school up to my apartment for grilled cheese sandwiches. It was quicker than going to a restaurant, and cheaper! Well, I promptly burned one of their sandwiches. We didn't have time to make another. She ate the burned one without complaint, but I sure felt like a dork.

6. I frequently skip steps in the recipe without meaning to. Example: when I made those baked apples, I did not pour water into the bottom of the cooking pan until about 15 minutes into their time in the oven... Thankfully, I corrected the mistake and they still turned out. I also accidentally leave ingredients out.

7. Substitution is a big challenge for me. I substitute regularly. The thing is, I stay pretty aware of all the groceries I buy and I make a serious effort to use everything up. If a recipe asks me to buy X and I think I could just use Y because it's already in the house, I'll do it. It doesn't always turn out.

I suppose that's enough for now. Don't be surprised if I come back and add to this list later. Mayhem in the kitchen will likely be a regular event this year, as Boogie and I share the condo in Nashvegas.

Now I must skip off to make some homemade waffle mix before Momma gets up and uses the box recipe... Hehehe

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I got a haircut.

Good evening,

I got a haircut.

Just thought I'd let you know.


Summer's Ending? Quick! Do something fun!

Happy Thursday! I now have less than 3 weeks to get ready for school. Add to that the fact that we will likely be in Nashville for a week very soon, and I have about 1 more week to get ready for school. It's so distracting, I found myself making three lists (all school-related) during church last night. Eventually I found the willpower to put them down and listen to the message. Here's a list about my week:

1. We cooked and cooked on Tuesday night. We made Baked Apples Stuffed with Wild Rice and Quinoa. The recipe came from Vegetarian Times and was delicious! Even the carnivores went back for seconds. That's sayin' somethin'. In case you're not familiar with Quinoa, it's a grain-like seed used in many vegetarian dishes. The recipe was sort of labor-intensive. The Wild Rice needed to be cooked for nearly 50 minutes, then the Quinoa was added and the mixture had to cook for 20 more minutes. This is all to make the stuffing that goes on top of the apple halves and can be done a few days in advance to make it go faster night-of. It was fantastic (did I mention cream cheese was involved?) and was a great example of a vegetarian main course meant to be embellished with vegetarian side dishes.

2. We make Pioneer Woman's Mac & Cheese. Click the words for a link to that recipe. Let me tell ya - it took about 20 minutes to get it into the oven, and it came out delicious! I have a feeling that, once learned, this recipe could be the kind you whip up again and again. The best part is that you can easily change and add ingredients to fit your tastes or shake things up. We followed her recipe pretty strictly (since it was our first time cooking it). However, I'm looking forward to making it with Mozzarella, tomatoes and basil. And again with broccoli and a mix of cheeses. It's a fantastic alternative to the Kraft box. Just sayin'.

3. If you haven't been to Pioneer Woman's website, you need to go there now. Read, learn, laugh, and make food. Go forth and be fruitful!

4. Due to Dad's generous offer to add me to his Amazon Prime membership, I now consistently receive packages in the mail. Amazon Prime is a paid membership that has certain benefits - namely, free second-day shipping - that make the thing very appealing. It costs extra, but Prime memberships can include a whole family. Many everyday items we use are cheaper on Amazon because if it arrives the second day without shipping charges, it's been cheaper for me to buy many things on Amazon instead of in person.

5. It's great! Yesterday I received enough fish tank filters to keep the tank running for almost a year. Isn't that great?

6. Popo is still struggling. Conversations around here are grim. We all agree that we don't want him to suffer. We also don't want to pay $700 for a test that will only tell us that he's going to die, anyway. None of us, however, are ready to let him go. He does not appear to be in pain, but he doesn't move around much. It's heartbreaking.

7. I keep telling myself that I will wake up bright and early at 7AM tomorrow. This will, in my theory, help me ease into the early school mornings that are fast approaching. I keep sabotaging my own plan by staying up until 1 or 2, reading and praying and reading.

8. Dad and The Cool Dude (I know my nicknames for my brother change all the time. It's an indication of just how cool and complicated he is in real life) told us all about their 10-day Boy Scout Trip. They went up and down the New England coast, visiting many historic landmarks. Dad brought us a souvenir from almost every stop they made. Most were pencils that we'll be able to use all year. I also received a Snowflake cookie cutter, two charms for my bracelet, and a bookmark. I've already used many of them, but the Snowflake cookie cutter will have to wait until fall. Unless we get some sort of freak snow in August. Wouldn't that be awesome?

9. Today, I'm going to make these: goldfish dumplings! Mine will be made with regular dumpling dough bought at the store, however, so they won't have the fun colors pictured on the blog. I have lots of leftover stir-fry ingredients from the cooking we've done this week. Basically, you stir-fry your mixture and put it in the dumplings, then steam them.

10. Speaking of steaming, I bought a silicone steamer yesterday at the mall. It was exactly the steamer I examined time and again at the Viking Store, but never bought. Well, I'm a vegetarian now and we steam stuff! That's my final answer.

11. Boogie had a dream I got married last night. She said that his hair was about the same color as mine. Beyond that, she didn't remember much.

12. The Master of Cool (again, referring to my brother) is going to take his driver's test today. Your prayers would be appreciated. We really, really need him to have this license!

13. I fed the fish peas this morning. It always takes them a while to figure out that the food has sunk to the bottom of the tank and isn't floating on top. Their bubble eyes give them pretty weak eyesight. It's pitiful and hysterical at the same time.

14. Oh, did I mention that I've already started my Christmas list? So far:
  • A Viking Cutting Board
  • Chef's Knife
That's all so far....

Have a great Thursday!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Praying, Peace, and Love

I went to work yesterday evening then went out to eat after closing. This means I came home very late... Around 12:30.

Expecting a quiet house, I found my Mom and sister both still up and rather upset. Popo, our 11 year-old Golden Retriever, has a mass under his face that is obstructing his breathing and right eye. He was struggling to breath through his nose, looked exhausted but seemed unable to sleep.

We knew that there was nothing we could do about it so late. We're in touch with the vet and he told us that Popo needs a CT or MRI scan, which no vet in Bowling Green can provide. So, we prayed, turned on a CD with scriptures about healing, and went to bed. I was still praying when I fell asleep.

Popo seemed much better this morning. At 8AM, he was sound asleep in his kennel, breathing heavily. He has not moved around much today, but we know he's not in pain and he seems peaceful. He is a little disoriented because he can only see out of one eye.

Today was the first day the vet used the dreaded word... Cancer. He said it's either cancer or fungus. The CT or MRI will show us what is going on. We needed to find a vet with the equipment to do the scan. He (our vet here in Bowling Green) said he would make some calls. We made some calls of our own to fellow pet-owners in Nashville, looking for an animal hospital with the right tools. We prayed.

In a matter of two phone calls, Mom found a vet in Nashville that can do a CT scan for Popo and... (this part will blow your mind).... They're located on 12th Avenue South. Our condo in the Gulch is on 12th Avenue South. My brother's college preparatory tutorial is on 12th Avenue South. My Dad's Nashville office is on 12th Avenue South. My favorite burger place is on 12th Avenue South. In other words, this place couldn't be in a better location.

The bad news was that this scan could cost an estimated $700. That's just the scan. If he has to have surgery, recovery, etc., the costs will increase. Mom and Dad are talking about how far they are willing to go and how much they are willing to invest in him. It's grim but necessary.

I have felt surprisingly peaceful throughout this ordeal. Some people do not believe animals go to heaven, but I think they do. I think that our dearest pets will be there for us - waiting just inside the front door of the mansions Jesus prepared for us, tails wagging and big smiles. While I want Popo to remain here with us, I also know that my life is full of love and peace. I remain hopeful. God loves and provides for the smallest animal, how much more will He love and provide for those animals that have loved us, His children? If Popo's time is drawing near, my prayer is that God give him comfort and peace, that he would not suffer. He is a God of miracles, however, and we will continue to pray and minister to our puppy. God has already provided for Popo - the needed equipment is just down the street from our condo. He is on our side and ready to love us to the end - even by loving our pets.

Tonight, Popo is already asleep. I hope he has sweet dreams of chasing tennis balls and carrying his favorite stuffed animal.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Sunday List

A Sunday Morning List

1. I bought Silk Soymilk French Vanilla creamer this weekend to put in my coffee. Now every cup of coffee tastes like a vanilla latte. It's wonderful!

2. I like to take joy in the small things. Actually, I like to be joyful and happy always. I have a very low tolerance for negativity.

3. School starts in 25 days. I've already gotten a good cry in over this and I'm now working on an attitude adjustment. School isn't about me - my needs, my wants, my happiness. It is about others - my friends, my peers, my professors. How can I minister to them? How can I give to them? How can I bring them joy, peace, happiness, love?

4. I think one of the reasons I haven't met my future husband, yet, is that he can't afford the ring I deserve. He needs more time to save, so God is giving him that time. It's just a theory.

5. We had this with our breakfast (click "this" to visit the link). Hey, it has blueberries and an egg in it somewhere. It counts.

6. It's Sunday and we're back in Bowling Green, about to go to our wonderful church - Bowling Green First Assembly - but because I haven't quite left Nashville, yet, I also watched my pastor in Nashville online this morning while I was getting ready. If you're looking for a powerful, God-centered church in Nashville, Oasis Worship Center is the place to be!

7. These were on the front porch when we got home on Friday. They're making the idea of school a tad more bearable. They are boots from Sperry Topsiders. I can't wait to wear them with my skinny jeans or a skirt, ruffly top and big earrings.

8. My To Do Before School list is freaking me out. I need a haircut, I need to pack, I need to figure out the best moving procedure for the fish, I need to clean the car, I need to read a book...

9. That reminds me! I have to feed the goldfish and get in the car. Have a wonderful Sunday!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Few Last Vacation Pictures

After a blissful week in paradise (aka Nashvegas), we're back in Bowling Green. I've been struggling with that a lot lately. Rather than bore you with my inner struggle, how about we talk food!
This is a picture of the three of us at our second cooking class - Tuscan Dinner Party. We learned a lot in that class because the chef focused more on teaching us techniques than on just allowing us to follow the recipes. We cooked and cooked and then... We ate.

There were two other ladies taking the class with us, both were business owners and best friends for over 20 years. We had risotto, seared chicken (which I ate because we paid good money for that class and food!), tomato soup and dessert... The best not-chocolate-dessert ever.

That, my friends, is a baked pear with lovely sauces made of all kinds of things - but mostly sugar and cream - topped with brown sugar and cookie crumbs! It was DIVINE!

In the end, we had a lot of fun on our last few nights! I unclogged a toilet. We don't even know if it was clogged, but it wasn't flushing right and I took care of that business! Since it was my first time, I had Boogie take a picture of me. For one last hoorah, Mom and I made it to the pool for an hour Friday afternoon. It was such beautiful therapy time!

I'm back to my vegetarian ways, back in my Bowling Green home and starting my To Do Before School List.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Vacation Day's 2, 3, 4 and 5

Today was our first day of cooking class! But before I dive into that, I'll briefly recap the past three days...

1. We went to Oasis Worship Center Sunday morning and spent a lovely few hours at the pool, chillaxing. Pastor Danny did a message on something he does best - worship. It was a fantastic way to begin the week!2. We watched my favorite movie of all time that evening - Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

3. Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, The Bondinator woke up hungry. She was in a bit of a rush and pulled half of an Everything bagel out of the freezer. Placing the bagel on a cookie sheet, she flitted off to put on makeup. Remembering her breakfast, she ordered her sister to put the bagel in the oven on broil. Poor Boogie did as she was told, shut the oven door, and left the bagel to roast.
Or toast.
Or warm up.
Or whatever.
About five minutes later, just as The Bondinator rose to rescue the now-burning bagel, a sound like a gunshot went off. In one freaky moment, the glass inside the oven door shattered.

And we wept.

Not really, but I almost cried. We think it must have overheated. The Chef at our cooking class told us that most ovens have a heat sensor that shuts the oven down when the broiler overheats. He also said that the glass ought to have been able to withstand temperatures even hotter than the 500 that the broiler reached. The glass must have been defective. Warranty should cover the damages... I hope...

4. We had no time to worry about the glass incident. We had things to do! After quickly finishing makeup and hair, we went to see a friend in the hospital. She is 12 and is in the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital recovering from surgery. We enjoyed visiting with these old friends before we picked up a newer friend for lunch. The whole day was spent talking, eating and laying by the pool. It was delicious!

And then....

5. Once upon a time, Mom and I decided to leave the condo at 9PM and run some errands before bed. We were in a rush to reach Borders before it closed at 10, so with haste we put on our shoes and jackets. Suddenly, as we rushed out the door, Mom thought "I'll be passing the trash chute, I might as well take the bag out!" She casually dragged the bag down the hall. It was late and I followed, whispering, "Mom, stop it! Pick it up! The bag might break!" She merely giggled and hurried along. I turned my back for just a moment, and when I glanced up, glass shards from the morning's event were spilling trailing out of the bag and down the hall. "Mom!" I hissed, not wanting to wake the neighbors. She looked and gasped and tried to lift the bag but by now the damage was done and more glass spilled out into a large pile outside the trash room. We managed to get the bag into the room and down the chute, but not without emptying most of the glass onto the floor in the hall and trash room. Laughing too hard to say very much, I stumbled back down the hall to our condo. Boogie was on the couch, about to start some homework. "Come here! Come on! We need you!" I cried as I grabbed the broom and dust pan. We were in such a rush to reach Borders by 10, we left poor Boogie to clean up our mess. We were laughing so hard, the men on the elevator thought we were drunk.

6. Tuesday morning dawned bright and early. Boogie met up with Mr. President (her boyfriend) and went on an all-day-date with him. Mom and I made our way out to do some much-needed shopping. By the end of the day, I'd spent over $50 on skin and hair care. I also ordered these adorable boots from It was an offer I couldn't refuse!

7. We also ordered all our school books on Don't ask how much school books for two college students and a high-schooler cost. It's an unholy number.

8. Oh! My new watch finally arrived! I am so happy!

9. Wednesday we went to cooking class. We made three Thai dishes, all while learning about Thai food and special cooking techniques. At the end of class, we'd finished cooking and it was time to eat. We ate and ate and ate. Rather than make a fuss about the vegetarian thing, I had some of the shrimp and beef included in the dishes. There wasn't much meat and I was able to avoid most of it. It was also organic so I wasn't worried about the health factor. Over all, the three-hour experience was well worth the price and we learned a lot about Thai food! We took home both our leftovers and some wonderful recipes. I can't wait to try cooking again! Tomorrow's class is Tuscan Dinner Party.

10. Church again tonight! Looking forward to spending time with God, worshiping, and learning about the body of Christ.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Vacation Day 1: Shopping

So, this is what we did Saturday. We basically spent the whole day at the mall. Oh, and I had a cupcake for lunch, half a Panini for snack, and Sweet Cece's for dinner. I call it the new "sugar & bread vacation diet." I told Mom that I can't keep eating like this. It's wreaking havoc on my system. I lay awake in bed until almost 1AM before the sugar/caffeine rush abated enough for me to sleep.

This is Mom and Boogie, enjoying their Panera treats. Their straws matched their shirts.

I really wanted to buy these Jonas-Brothers-style-Tortoise-shell glasses. But Mom wouldn't let me. She said they made me look dorky. I don't know what she was talking about.

Stores Visited:
Victoria's Secret
Brooks Brothers
Banana Republic
Ann Taylor Loft

Restaurants Visited:
Sweet Cece's

All in all, I'd say it was a great start to a great week!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

It's Girls Week! Partay!

It's Girls Week! Dad and the Cool Guy have gone on a Boyscout trip for - count 'em - 10 days.

10 blissful days of girl time.

10 days by the pool.

10 days of shopping, eating, etc.

10 days of estrogen.

Save me.

But really, here's what we're doing this week:
  • We're going to take two cooking classes at the Viking Store in Franklin, TN. Thai Cooking and Tuscan Dinner Party. I can't wait!
  • We're shopping. Today, we hit up Green Hills. We might make a trip to Hermitage to pick up a dresser.
  • We're setting up the condo for Boogie and I to live in this school year. We need things like a dresser, some way to store shoes, some cork board for jewelry and schedule stuff... Things like that.
  • We're doing lots of church stuff. We went to an old church last night to hear Mary Frances Vallaro speak and it was powerful. God moved in a major way and really told us things we needed to hear before we start the year. This will be my best year, yet! I just know it. We're going to Oasis Worship Center this week, as well.
  • We're seeing old friends. We've laid out Monday as a day to have some of our oldest buddies over.
  • We're going to try and spend at least one hour at the pool each day. This could be our last chance to get tan!
  • We're eating. The destinations include: Hot Diggity Dogs, Sweet Cece's, Burger Up (a favorite), and possibly Sambuca. We're also cooking a lot.

Now, I think it's about time for a second cup of java before we head to the mall!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Another Baking Adventure

Once again, we went on a baking adventure. This time, however, I took pictures not only after the event, but during the fun, as well!Step One: Make Cupcakes.

I made plain 'ole chocolate vegan cupcakes. Boogie helped me a lot. We topped them with buttercream frosting slightly flavored with coffee. I wish there were more coffee flavor in the frosting, but they taste fantastic regardless!

Step Two: Make Frosting.
The vegan buttercream frosting is made by creaming together Earth Balance Buttery Spread and Vegan Shortening - both of which I purchased at Whole Foods in Nashville. Then you add powdered sugar, vanilla extract and soymilk until you have the right consistency. We substituted coffee for soymilk today.

Step Three: Ice the Cupcakes

I bought a set of disposable pastry bags at Hobby Lobby. I also bought one pastry tip and the little gadget that holds it on (I can't remember what it's called...). The piping is great fun! You can see what a great time Boogie is having! Haha
Step Four: Spread icing on little sister's face while she has her hands full.

Step Five: Eat Icing (Watch out with this one, because your sister might seek revenge while your hands are full of icing and the camera.)

I love that I snapped a picture with her finger on my face...
See? She got me!

P.S. Did I mention I'm a Phi Mu? Well, now you know.

This is happiness.

This is summer.

This is me with icing on my face.

And my Disney hat on.

I love this.

Wish you were here to eat them with us! Have a great night, folks!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

This Dirty Room... Beware: Graphic Content!

I'm going to show you something that few eyes have ever beheld. Something embarrassing and wrong. Something disgusting and obscene. Something crazy.

Just, do me a favor... Don't share these with too many other people. I don't want my reputation totally ruined. See, this is my room. I've never been a very tidy person, but I'm usually pretty organized and neat. I'm usually not this filthy. But it's gotten so bad this summer, I've actually found it pretty hilarious. Yesterday, I decided to clean up the whole mess. Here are the "before" pictures.

Prepare yourself as best you can.
Grab a cookie and glass of milk.
Wrap yourself up in a blanket.
Hug a pillow.
Whatever you typically do when scary things happen.

The Clothes Pile. Yes, it is dirty clothes AND clean, all mixed together. Horrid, isn't it?

The closet. I haven't been able to close the doors for weeks. The box is stuff to donate. Note the recipe books and notebook on the floor. Also, my beloved Sperry's.

This is where I sleep. The books don't ever move off the bed. I just sleep next to them. Creepy, isn't it?

Finally, the bookshelf. Not as bad as it looks, and yes, those index cards are more recipes. I don't know where Eclipse is at this moment.

Time for some "after" pictures:

There. Isn't that better?! Nothing like a clean room to help you sleep peacefully at night!

Now, you may go on with your life, knowing that, as bad as your messy room may be, you are not the worst and certainly not alone.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Slow Loris, Almost Barefoot Running, Country Boys

1. I got up to go for a run this morning. I was dressed and about to walk out the door at 8AM sharp, only it felt like 90 already and like the humidity was at about 180%. (Here's the actual forecast). So, I came back inside.

2. For a few minutes, I was tempted to scrap the workout plans entirely.

3. Then I figured I'd go ahead and do some Pilates, since it was an indoor sport and I was already up.

4. I haven't done Pilates in weeks, and I was feelin' it this morning. This is a good thing, since it means my core has quite a ways to go and I will make progress. If you think an exercise routine done on the floor must be easy - (hey, I get it... I mean, you are laying down) - you should try it. It's not easy, and you'll be introduced to muscles you didn't know you had.

5. As a reward, I fixed myself a cup of coffee... Coconut coffee with Vanilla Almond Milk.

6. Last night we watched Walk the Line. Country music has never appealed to me, but Walk the Line tempts me to buy a few country CD's and listen to them while drinking a beer on the back porch (just kidding, I would never). It's a fantastic, intense movie meant to be watched with your full attention. Based on a true story, Walk the Line features a Franklin, TN native - Reese Witherspoon. Reese sings in this movie, which is quite a treat! Oh, and they talk about Nashville, the Ryman and other places that are so familiar to me. I loved that bit.

7. I later joked with Mom about how we should watch a movie about Kentucky next, just so we keep it even between our two home states. Seabiscuit or something...

8. All this talk of horses and country music has me tempted to buy cowboy boots. This longing goes through ups and downs. Sometimes, I see myself in skinny jeans with shiny boots and a cute top marching down Music Row. Then I picture a man in a plaid shirt and a hat walking next to me - just to complete the picture - and I freak out and grab the nearest Brooks Brothers magazine to bring me back to my first love.

9. Not that cowboys are bad, I just like boys who read a lot. And boys who can talk business and politics. And who read. And who have iPhones.

10. I have a list about boys that is more detailed than that in #9, but it's too long to post at the moment. Some day, however, I will likely post it.

11. As a parting note, I give you this quote from Mom this morning, "Something I've learned about being happy is that you have to make the effort to surround yourself with what makes you happy. Other people usually won't do that for you, and it's important."

12. This makes me happy: Slow Loris Being Tickled

12.1 And this makes me happy: (That was my birthday).

12.2 This makes me happy, too: Eat More of This

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

God in Time

The Christian walk is high-maintenance. By high-maintenance, I mean that it will require a lot of time, effort and dedication. The rewards are outstanding and nothing else in this world can compare. However, if you're looking for a religion that only requires a few hours each month, Christianity isn't the way to go. With Christianity, you're working with a living God, not just a set of rules. Relationships, especially your relationship with God, take time and regular attention to maintain. As you pour time into your relationship with God, you find yourself wanting more. You fall in love with Him, because He is already in love with you. I say all this because one of my current methods of maintenance of my relationship with God - a current method of spending time with Him - has been through reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Since the purpose of this blog is to share things with you, that includes sharing my current readings and the parts that strike me as particularly captivating/interesting/striking/wonderful! Here ya go!

I learned some really cool things about God the other day. Have you ever thought about God's relationship with Time? How does it work? He obviously thinks very little of Time, since He has eternal life. But C.S. Lewis took this thought a bit further.

"Almost certainly God is not in Time. His life does not consist of moments following one another. If a million people are praying to Him at ten-thirty tonight, He need not listen to them all in that one little snippet we call ten-thirty. Ten-thirty - and every other moment from the beginning of the world - is always the Present for Him.

That is difficult, I know. Let me try to give something, not the same, but a bit like it. Suppose I am writing a novel. I write 'Mary laid down her work; next moment came a knock at the door!' For Mary who has to live in the imaginary time of my story there is no interval between putting down the work and hearing the knock. But I, who am Mary's maker, do not live in that imaginary time at all. Between writing the first half of that sentence and the second, I might sit down for three hours and think steadily about Mary. I could think about Mary is if she were the only character int he book and for as long as I pleased, and the hours I spent doing so would not appear in Mary's time (the time inside the story) at all. . .

God is not hurried along in the Time-stream of this universe any more than an author is hurried along int he imaginary time of his own novel. He has infinite attention to spare for each one of us. He does not have to deal with us in the mass. You are as much alone with Him as if you were the only being He had ever created. When Christ died, He died for you individually just as much as if you had been the only man in the world."

I'll be chewing on that one for a while.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Introducing... My Darlings

The defining quote of this blog is "People with many interests live, not only longest, but happiest." (See above). Today, I share yet another of my interests with you... My babies.

Meet Maverick (black) and Goose (gold). Taking photos of fish is tricky business, so forgive the poor quality. Maverick and Goose refused to sit still and pose. It was probably the severity of the flash hitting their giant eyes, but whatever.

I bought Maverick for my little 1-gallon tank at school in March. Some dumb mistakes on my part killed Purl, who had been my faithful companion all fall, and Maverick was Purl's replacement. He was tiny when I purchased him. And my, how he's grown! With the help of the internet, my goldfish care skills have dramatically improved. I bought the 5-gallon tank this summer and rescued Goose a few weeks later. Now they are two of the happiest goldfish out there! Maverick is a Black Moor, one of the hardiest kinds of goldfish and - in my opinion - one of the most beautiful. Poor Goose was slowly dying in a pet store when I walked in one day, looking for telescope-eyes. I saved him from a potentially horrible fate. Within a few days his fins brightened and he was alive again! The two have become the best of pals and tend to follow each other around the tank. Don't let anyone tell you that fish don't have personalities. Maverick, especially, tends to be moody and shy. Goose is sort of dumb and adventurous. Since Goose entered the picture, however, Maverick's confidence has improved and I've even watched him explore their tiny cave (A note about the cave: it was specifically chosen to be small enough that they wouldn't attempt swimming into it, but that didn't stop either of them and I nearly lost it when Maverick swam in there. I'm convinced one of them will lose an eye that way. Don't laugh, it happens with telescope-eye goldfish!).

Some things you might not know about goldfish:
  • Goldfish are completely capable of eating vegetables. Peas, cucumbers, lettuce!
  • Goldfish are prone to overeating and constipation. So you have to be careful with the amount of food given to a goldfish.
  • You can leave a goldfish for the weekend - don't worry about feeding him, he'll be fine. They're great pets for frequent travelers. (Or people who live in two cities at once...)
  • If a Black Moor is exposed to warm water, his color will become more golden.
  • Telescope-eye and bubble-eye goldfish are handicapped. They just don't see very well and tend to run into things. Care must be taken not to expose them to sharp decorations and to give them plenty of time to find food and eat.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sharing Happiness

The Maque Choux was a complete success!!! Mom and Boogie made it; I handled the rice and reheating the fried okra from yesterday's lunch. A big spoonful of Maque Choux on top of white rice made for a colorful meal. Someday soon I'll buy a good camera and start adding pictures to these descriptions! I'm excited about the vegetarian sausage we used in the recipe. It was delicious! I can't wait to try the brats and other products by Morningstar. No meat replacer will ever have the same texture or taste as real meat, but this one came close enough for me!

Now, I can't write for long because the Bachelorette is on and nothing else matters when the Bachelor or Bachelorette is on. However, everyone knows how much I love to share happy things. Finding myself on YouTube, I decided to look up an old classic and play it for my family. They all loved it and I hope you will, too!

Click Here Just for Kicks

Have a great night!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Food! Food! Food!

Well, I finally did it! I finally went to the farmer's market! It all started - as it so often does - with a recipe...

Okra-and-Corn Maque Choux (Beware, there is no picture of the dish online. The picture in the magazine, however, makes the dish look really good!)

Our local farmer's market is only open on Tuesdays and Saturdays, so I stopped by before work on Saturday. I had very little time to waste and the luxury of browsing will be saved for another day. In a matter of minutes, I located a tent with all the veggies I needed, loaded up a bunch of bags, and paid only $6 for all the delicious fare! I only wish I'd been able to visit and browse.

I still went to Kroger after work to pick up some other things I needed. I bought rice to serve with the Maque Choux, and veggie sausage to substitute in the recipe. I'll let you know how that goes later. I'm planning on making the dish tomorrow or Tuesday... The weekend has been too busy to bother much with cooking.

So far my experiences with veggie versions of meat products have been negative ones. With the exception of Morningstar Spicy Black Bean veggie burgers, I have yet to find a "fake meat" that tastes good. Speaking of Morningstar Spicy Black Bean veggie burgers, I had one yesterday on Ezekiel bread with tomato, avacado, and cheese (and a side of fries). It was the best sandwich I've made at home in months! I toasted the bread first, and it was yummy! And crunchy! And divine! By the way, a friend of mine has a soft spot for hot dogs and texted me after making a trip to her favorite hot dog place in Nashville... She said that they have veggie dogs that are rumored to be very good! I can't wait to try them! The shop is called Hot Diggity Dogs. If you get there and have a veggie dog before me, tell me how it goes!

In other exciting news, it looks like Southern Living has caught on to the cupcake craze! Check it out here. The thing about cupcakes is this... Single serving. Fun size. Each one looks like a whole piece by itself, not like some small part of a larger whole. How can you help but love them? I made peanut butter cupcakes yesterday night. They are moist and crumbly with melted chocolate chips on top. I really like the texture of the recipe and will probably make these again. They're vegan, of course.

New food finds that I'd recommend:

Amy's Kitchen
soups and chili. Many are vegan and make for quick, easy meals. Organic section of grocery.
Raphael's Coffee. Coconut coffee with real coconut flakes! I've had it every morning for almost a week and it is fantastic! I'd love to try other flavors and this coffee is a delicious way to treat yourself and support locals.
Ezekiel bread products. Found in the organic section in the freezer, it's a bit rough and rustic at first, but addicting in a good way. Benefits of sprouted grains are explained at their website. P.S. Christian company!
Publix. I will always love Kroger, but Mom and I made a stop at Publix last week and the most amazing thing happened... All of the organic food is........... *drumroll here*.......... mixed into the aisles with the regular food!!! For example, on the baking aisle, there is a section of shelf labeled "Greenwise" with organic versions of all your baking ingredients! Imagine a world where you don't have to split your grocery run into two parts - organic section and regular. Pretty sure Publix is where God does His grocery shopping... Just sayin'.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I'm from the South because...

  • My Mom cooks sausage with Mrs. Buttersworth Syrup and/or honey.
  • We have every Southern Living Cookbook, from the mid 1980's to date.
  • I don't feel comfortable unless my toenails are painted. I really don't feel comfortable if my nails and toenails are two different colors.
  • Despite my Dad's efforts, we have yet to go skiing. The family vote always goes to the beach vacation.
More to come later...

Friday, July 9, 2010

I quit drinking coffee... It was a rough three days.

In the past two weeks I have....

1. Driven to Nashville, stayed the night and then driven back to BG, only to turn around and drive back to Nashville the next day.

2. Contracted Strep Throat, probably from a baby in the nursery last week, and was convinced it was a mono relapse. I didn't go to the doctor for days and days, because there is nothing a doctor can do for mono... So, I exposed all of my family to the Strep virus. Learned a lesson about making doctors visits earlier, rather than waiting until symptoms are really bad.

3. Watched Star Wars Episodes 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 over the course of two days. Spike TV usually does themed holiday weekends and this weekend was the Force of July. Of course, since my family is mostly comprised of brainiacs and nerds, we watched most of it.

4. Hardly ate anything over the weekend cause I was nauseous. Then ate a whole lot on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, cause my appetite was back.

5. Made S'Mores cupcakes. They were not my favorite. The cake part was a gingerbready-cakey-graham-cracker-y flavor... It was weird. In typical Bond Family fashion, not many of us liked it because there wasn't a lot of chocolate involved.

6. Quit drinking coffee for a few days because I thought it was making the mono worse. (I was really sold on this mono idea). This led to #7.

7. Bought a latte as soon as we finished up at the doctor's office and I knew it was Strep. I bought the latte before I even bought my prescription, if that tells you anything about my desperation.

8. Fell in love with the Publix in Brentwood. All of the organic food is scattered throughout the store, not just in its own area. There's an organic section on each aisle and the soymilk is next to the regular milk! Who would've thought this was possible?!

9. Saw Avatar: The Last Airbender and LOVED IT! Many hardcore fans are upset that they messed certain things up. Here is what I say to that: Someone finally made a movie out of one of your favorite series, and it's not perfect. It is never going to be perfect, so enjoy everything that you can - like the special effects and cool costumes and rockin' action sequences - and quit ruining it for yourself by getting upset about the little things like name pronunciations.

9.5 P.S. Don't write your angry rants on my status. No one wants to see people get upset on facebook. It's inappropriate.

10. Drove back to BG with a table and four chairs packed into the back of my little sister's Prius. Let me tell ya, visibility in the rearview mirror was low.

11. Listened to the Eclipse soundtrack the whole ride home. Loved several songs on there. Including this one. Beware, the main singer needs to put on more clothes, but the lead guitarist has a really neat guitar.

12. Finally watched the Bachelorette with my sister and Mom. The drama continues! It's our guilty pleasure. Don't judge.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

Figured it was time for another post. It's the 4th of July, and instead of celebrating by canoeing the Harpeth with my cousins, siblings and parents, I'm sitting on the couch watching Star Wars and drinking juice. I defeated mono last summer and now I've relapsed. It isn't nearly as bad as last time, but the symptoms of the disease are all present. It explains many of the odd ways I've felt lately - anxious, tired, unable to sleep, sore throat, etc. I'm fighting the symptoms by resting, taking lots of supplements, drinking lots of juice and tea and mostly just paying attention to my body. Hopefully I'll have it back in remission by the end of vacation.

There is nothing that matches time with family, and today I am reminded of the thousands of men and women who have fought to make this nation free. Their service has protected all of our families. I was saddened to see a friend of mine update their status, saying that today is a day for mourning those who had no choice but to fight and give their lives so that new freedoms could be attained. I disagree. Perhaps some of us mourn, but I choose instead to celebrate. If I were to give my life so that another could experience freedom, my hope would be that they enjoy that freedom to its fullest. So, today we'll watch TV and shot off fireworks. But we'll also pray for those who are living without family members who gave their lives to service. I am thanking God for their bravery, for His provision and His grace.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Made more cupcakes! One failed batch (I forgot about them and left them in the oven an extra 20 minutes... They were nasty), but the second time they turned out perfectly! Here they sit, ready for consumption! I'm having some people over before we go see Eclipse tonight at midnight (yeah, yeah, I hear your snickers all the way over here). In my defense, I read the series before it became mainstream. So, I'm a legitimate fan.

Anyway, here are two pictures of the new cupcakes! I haven't eaten a whole one, yet - waiting on the guests to do that - but I've tasted the ganache and peanut butter filling. Both were DIVINE! Did I mention they're completely vegan? Down to the Earth Balance Shortening I bought today. Coffee's brewin'. Time to welcome the guests!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream Filling.Topped with Chocolate Ganache and more PB Buttercream Filling!

Also on the menu tonight: Kale Chips (Kale chopped and tossed with salt and oil, then oven-cooked until crispy) and Espresso. And whatever the guests bring. Oh, and Edward Cullen. Mmmm-mmm!

P.S. Location: Nashville condo in the Gulch.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Christianity Defined... by Lewis

I'd like to share an amazing book with you. This is my second summer to try and finish Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and I am thoroughly enjoying it. The book requires a lot of thought, so I am working slowly through the chapters, taking time to underline particularly good pieces and reflect on all of it. Lewis writes the book as a definition of Christianity without diving into theologies that are particular to any one denomination. Instead, he does his best to explain Christianity in its simplest form - the tenants of the faith, morals and principles, what all Christians believe about Jesus and God, etc. It's a wonderful book for someone who is not a Christian but interested in what Christianity is all about. For any person who has heard only the basic plot of Jesus' tale and might be curious about the rest of it, I'd highly recommend Mere Christianity.

For those of us who have already committed our lives to Christ, Lewis has some fantastic reminders and wonderful ways to explain our dearest held beliefs. He will re-affirm your faith and leave you looking forward to the next life with a renewed sense of purpose in the present life. He might even answer some questions you forgot you had. If you haven't already read it, it should be added to your list ASAP.

If you have already read it, you'll enjoy these favorite snippets I've underlined so far:

"God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot giveus a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended - civilizations are built up - excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin. In fact, the machine conks. It seems to start up all right and runsa few yards, and then it breaks down. They are trying to run it on the wrong juice. That is what Satan has done to us humans." (50).

"Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. . . Can we do it if God helps us? Yes, but what do we mean when we talk of God helping us? We mean God putting into us a bit of Himself, so to speak. He lends us a little of His reasoning powers and that is how we think: He puts a little of His love into us and that is how we love one another." (56-57).

"The Christian is in a different position from other people who are trying to be good. They hope, by being good, to please God if there is one; or - if they think there is not - at least they hope to deserve approval from good men. But the Christian thinks that any good hi does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us..." (63).

Good night and God bless you!

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Humidity is at 76%... That is all.

Thank God it's Friday! I almost didn't get out of bed for my run today, but I found the willpower and I'm so glad I did! It was a beautiful 77 degrees and cloudy, with the humidity at a whopping 76%. All of nature was out and rejoicing in the dampness. After almost a week of 100-degree, sunny weather, the rain and clouds were welcomed yesterday and the continued dampness felt really good this morning. I went for my longest run/walk, yet - 25 minutes in my neighborhood, working in 1-1.5 minute runs and 1-minute walks. I tried not to allow myself to walk for more than a minute.

Summary of my thoughts, in list form:

1. I didn't even need my Vibrams for the first 10 minutes or so! This means two things (oh boy, a list within a list?!)
a) My feet and skin are toughening up.
b) My form has improved, so I am not damaging my feet as much (this is probably it, since I listened and found that my barefoot steps were nearly silent today!)
c) The very-slightly-damp ground provided just enough slip to prevent excess friction (yeah, this one's a little far-fetched).
Post-run assessment reveals no blisters, only hot spots. I am so excited!

2. Maybe it was just the humidity, but today's run was hard. I was out of breath more quickly than I normally am, and my muscles would start to burn sooner than normal. Maybe I'm just a pansy, but at the end of a minute of jogging, my legs felt like lead and I was gasping. I think it's all mental. Maybe taking an iPod would help keep me going a bit more next time?

3. I'm beginning to grasp the importance of frequency. I need to run frequently to stay where I want to be and keep making progress. I need to work out frequently to perform better on my runs. Sounds like common sense, right? Since I can't go for a run Sunday, I might as well get out there again tomorrow morning.

4. Other odd aches and pains included a cramped right calf, strange ache up nearly the top of my left leg, my left ankle still popping all the time. I think there's something wrong with it. It doesn't hurt. Just pops and messes up my "run silent" goal. Stretching has taken care of most of this. Not the ankle, though. Stretching doesn't improve Snap-Crackle-Pop Lefty, though.

5. Perhaps my other runs were better because I had my coffee before the run.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thursday is All About Food

Today, I'll make this:

Summer Stir Fry by the Pioneer Woman! I love, love, love her website. I visit it daily for inspiration, laughter and hope. Substituting tofu for the shrimp. Serving it over rice.

And these:

Vegan Mint Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. We have two of the Cookies'n'Cream cupcakes left... Wonder who I can give them to? I bought my first foray into cake decorating yesterday at Hobby Lobby. Just a set of disposable icing bags and the parts that go on the end of it. Hopefully I can post some pictures tonight!

My little brother is at Scout Camp this week, so it's just us women around the house, chit-chatting all day. We went shopping yesterday, met Dad for lunch, and I worked the closing shift at Bruster's Ice Cream. Today the subjects we keep circling around seem to be our favorites: relationships, relationships, relationships! (not just the romantic kind, either).

Another great event has happened this week...
Mom and Dad ate veggie burgers for dinner Tuesday night. Willingly. Of their own accord. No encouragement from me! Boogie ate a regular burger, since she is blood type O and the Blood Type Diet encourages her to eat a whole lot of meat - all the time. Both Mom and Dad are A's like me and the Blood Type Diet says that we should strive to be vegetarians since our bodies and blood respond well to organic, simple vegetables. With time, my family will hopefully switch to organic meat, since I've continually reminded them of the terrible hormones, antibiotics, etc. that are present in non-organic meat. I refuse to be a nag or a bother, however, and mostly let them do what they want. Thankfully, my family has always been interested in doing what is healthy. I told them that I just want us all to live to be really, really old together.

I also washed my hair with vinegar and baking soda today, trying to get all the conditioner and shampoo buildup out. I'd like a fresh start with my hair. Curls can be fussy. has been such an inspiration to me, and I've been very encouraged to just enjoy my hair for what it is - wild and sexy! More on that later.

The stir fry was FANTASTIC! Boogie and I both had second helpings and it is truly worth it to shuck the corn and cut it from the cob, rather than use frozen or canned corn. It just tastes better!

The cupcakes were a little more complicated. Well, they were fine, but the icing was complicated. Perhaps the trouble came from the fact that we used coconut oil instead of shortening. It took almost five cups of powdered sugar, instead of the prescribed three, to get it to piping consistency. Needless to say, it's too sweet. The cupcakes themselves turned out beautifully! I used cake flour instead of plain ole all-purpose. It was a great move! We put the too-sweet mint icing on half of the cupcakes and the leftover cookies'n'cream icing on the rest. Looking forward to more deliciousness this week!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dessert, Anyone?

My book arrived today! Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World! It took me a long while to choose a recipe, because they all looked so delicious! The book is full of fabulous pictures and the cupcakes I made actually look as fantastic as they taste! After a lot of debate (and mostly a lot of rummaging to figure out what ingredients we had on hand), I settled on the basic Chocolate Cupcake recipe with Oreos mixed into the buttercream frosting on top. The actual cupcakes were very simple and took hardly any time. I spent a lot more time cleaning up the kitchen than baking. The frosting took a little longer. It needs to stay in the mixer, just beating and beating, until it reaches a certain consistency. Even after I felt like the icing was spreadable, it was still a little soft for my taste. However, it will likely harden up a bit overnight and the creamy frosting/moist cupcake combination was a winner. Mom and Boogie both had one and both approved! Mom is quite the baker and can be picky when it comes to dessert, so her "I like them!" counts for ten people. I can't wait to try the banana split cupcake recipe and Dad is stoked about the Lychee cupcakes! Happy baking days are ahead! I believe I'll invest in a cupcake tote and display stand...


Barefoot runnin' time! I headed out this morning around 8AM and it was already nearly 80 degrees outside. Today the high is 98 and it will be sunny, not a cloud in the sky! Definitely the kind of heat that makes you want to stay in.

I wasn't pleased with my performance this morning. I ran for about 2 minutes at a time and walked for a minute or two at a time, but I was hoping to be up to 3 or 4 minutes of jogging for every minute of walking by now. The good news is that I took my Vibrams and went barefoot for the first eight minutes, then put on my Five Fingers before any major damage was done. I'm excited about this! The Vibrams will allow me to retain my running form while letting my skin toughen slowly. Still have some tender spots under my toes, but they're doing well and not turning into blisters.

My new cookbook - Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World - arrives sometime today! I am very, very excited! My Dad added me to his Amazon Prime membership only four days ago and I've already taken advantage of it twice! Yesterday I ordered a Burt's Bees skincare kit from Amazon. With the free shipping, most items are actually cheaper through Amazon than at my local bookstore or grocery!

My skin has dramatically improved since I made some changes last week. For four days, I didn't eat dessert and I cut back on dairy. Then I bought a supplement formulated for skin, hair and nails at the Vitamin Shoppe a week ago. It's probably too early to really tell if there will be lasting difference, but my skin has certainly improved over the past week. It's increasing my confidence in a major way, as well.

On the recipe to-do list this week:
Thrive Homemade Sports Drink
Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
Homemade Granola Bars