11.30.2011

midweek confessions

A blogger I follow does midweek confessions.  I love the idea so I thought I might try it so here we go...



1.  I feel guilty that I haven't been blogging more.  I know I have posted stuff but it's kind of been a cop out.  Recipes and book reviews just don't count the same as a more "self-reflective" type post.

2.  I am supposed to have a review at work and I am not waiting patiently.  There have been a lot of work load changes lately and I really want to have my review so I know whether all my hard work as paid off.  I know I am being vague but I don't know who reads this so I need to stay quiet for now.

3.  I bought 'Jesus Calling' and I have not been reading it daily .. more like every 2 or 3 days.  And no, I don't have a valid excuse.  I simply haven't made the time.  I feel really bad about this.

4.  I had the energy to decorate my tree but it ran out before I snapped a picture.  I wanted to do a post to show you my tree (and it will happen .. eventually) but as I sit on my couch at night and look at it .. I just can't seem to muster the energy to take the pics and download them .. yet other chores get done.  What in the world!?

5.  Baby fever is back. I thought I had it under control.  I don't.  Enough said.


So hopefully I will start making this a weekly thing .. maybe.  I don't want to commit so we will just see how it goes :)  What are some of your midweek confessions?

11.29.2011

I'm still here..

I feel like I have been completely MIA lately.  I promise I am still here.  Going out of town for the holiday plus a whole lotta craziness at work means that I have not had time to even think for myself.  I have officially caught up with the piles of paper on my desk, my Christmas shopping is done and my house is somewhat clean.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel and I can see it!  All this to say .. things might slow down here for a bit but I have not abandoned HWE.  I promise :)

11.28.2011

Review: Beard


Beard
Beard by Matthew Rainwaters

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



Well that was unexpected.

This is such a quirky book but I loved it. I bought it for my husband as a gag gift and it turned out to be a great find! The pictures are taken straight on; shadowless and completely honest. It fronts as a book about beards but, in reality, captures the heart of their owners. I know it seems weird to speak so passionately about a seemingly transparent book but it took me by complete surprise. I would recommend this book for two reasons. One being the obvious superficial one of 'hey let's check out some weird hair'. The second being it serves as a fantastic example of amazing documentary photography. Check it out.



View all my reviews

11.26.2011

Tortellini with White Beans

This is a great weeknight meal.  It's quick and easily adaptable.  Just use whatever you have in your cabinets.  This is one of those recipes I consider a "base" and will add and subtract to it constantly .. never being the same twice.


Ingredients:
1 bag frozen cheese tortellini
1 can cannellini beans, drained
1 pkg frozen spinach, thawed
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
1.  In a large pot, cook the tortellini according to package directions.  Drain in colandar and set aside.
2.  In the same pot, saute the onion, garlic, mushrooms and spinach.  Add the beans and tortellini to the pot.  Mix well.
3.  Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.

Jingle Bells vs. Wedding Bells

Why, hello Christmas...I didn't see you come in. Give me a second, please, while I finish my turkey. Thanks.

Christmas always comes so quickly every year. After dinner on Thursday, my parents, Mark and I went over to my other aunt and uncle's house to see more family. We hadn't finished dinner an hour earlier and when we got in the car to ride over, Christmas music was on the radio the entire way. I mean, c'mon!  I love Christmas as much as the next guy but it just doesn't seem like Thanksgiving gets a fair shake!  Is it just me or is Thanksgiving the ugly stepsister to Christmas' Cinderella; the placeholder for the more favorable holiday.

As I sat around the kitchen table I watched my cousins look through the newspaper and analyze the coupons and Black Friday deals.  I wish I had been the marketing exec that came up with that one. I just don't get why so many people are enthralled with it. The idea of going out at the wee hours of the morning to get assaulted over sale items just doesn't sound appealing to me.  People claim it's fun but it just sounds like a bunch of drama.  Christmas cheer anyone?  To each his own, I suppose.

Today one of my cousins is getting married.  His wedding is outside at a local plantation.  The weather is gorgeous so I am looking forward to it.  It's going to be amazing.  I have heard a few details already and it's going to be one to remember.  The wedding is at 5:00pm so that should give us plenty of time to celebrate and visit before we have to rush home, put on our jerseys, and prepare for the Gamecocks to beat the Tigers.

GO COCKS!!!

We are heading back home tomorrow.  I love my family but I miss my home and my pup so it will be nice to get back.  I hope everyone else has enjoyed their vacation and takes full advantage of these last couple days.  December is always a crazy busy month so make sure you take time to rest.  Have a great Saturday!!

11.23.2011

To Do List Totalitarianism

Confession:  My to do list has been running my life.

It's not that I am feeling overly stressed, per se.  It's just that I seem to be checking my to do list more often than my email and that is saying something.

I have a "sticky note" app on my phone.  It has a widget function that sits on the main profile and stares at me when I wake the screen.  Every time I think of something that needs to be done, or a reminder for myself, it is all too easy to quickly add it to the list.

I don't think I am coming up with more things lately, I just think I am remembering them.  Before now, the fleeting thought that came to mind while processing reports at work would have been gone by the end of the work day.  Now I simply just notate it on my phone the second it pops up and I will forever be reminded of it .. until I check it off.

I would be completely lying if I said I didn't like it just a little bit.  Afterall, if I truly hated it then I could just delete the app.  This is totally self-inflicted.   

It's kind of a joke in my house but I am terrible at memory recall with certain things.  I can remember numbers from things years ago but I can not remember names of people I met five minutes ago.  In mid-conversation I will blank on someone's name that I have known for YEARS and have a close relationship with.  People just laugh at me because they know it's not for a lack of familiarity .. just my brain doesn't work.  All this to say, if I don't write things down, like the grocery list, I will be in the middle of the store .. remember there was 4 things I had to get ... only have 3 in the basket .. and stand there looking baffled until I remember what the fourth thing is.  It's kind of frustrating.  So in all actuality .. I love the app.

This brings me to the holiday season.  Up until now I usually keep a running list of three or so items.  Right now I have nine and this morning it was 16 (!).  I have just felt so incredibly rushed for some reason to get things done .. NOW.  Mark and I have managed to already complete our Christmas shopping (minus 2 gifts we have to pick up in town).  We ordered most of it online because it seems everyone is running a 'free shipping' promo right now.  (If I don't have to pay for shipping then, by all means, I will avoid the store.)   

Now I tend to be organized but getting Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving is a little much .. even for me.  Like I just said .. I have felt under pressure.  There seems to be a million things to do and not enough time to do it.  Mark and I are leaving town for the holiday but not until tomorrow.  I took today off just to get some things done.  I was up at 7:00am this morning tackling "the list".

Hopefully my early start this year will mean that the to do list will dwindle early as well.  I am not thinking it will.  If I know me, things will come along to replace them.  I won't let it bog me down though.  If something doesn't get done, well, it doesn't get done.  My relationships and down time mean too much to me to completely lose my cool .... but if I could just get my carpets cleaned, call the insurance company about that one thing and get that craft project done .... that would be all the better. <sigh> Happy Holidays!

Do you keep a to do list?  Is yours taking over your life or are you stress-free?  Have you started Christmas shopping yet?

11.22.2011

Anniversary Gift Giving

Mark and I have never been big on holiday gift giving when it comes to each other.  We love to buy things for family and friends, but when it comes to ourselves, we would rather just save the money or make a larger purchase together.  With that being said, we are adults now with real jobs and can afford to to do something special every now and then.



Mark and I started dating in 2001 and we married in 2008.  We still count our total years together and celebrate both anniversaries (we were not about to start at zero when we got married!)  In a little less than a month, we will hit our first big milestone .. 10 years together.  We thought, since it was a big one, we should exchange gifts.  Now the question is ... what do I get Mark?



We thought it would be fun to stick with the traditional anniversary gift criteria.  Don't know what that is?  See the chart below:



Traditional Wedding Anniversary Gifts by YearFirst: Paper

Second: Cotton

Third: Leather

Fourth: Fruit or Flowers

Fifth: Wood

Sixth: Candy or Iron

Seventh: Wool or Copper

Eight Bronze or Pottery

Ninth: Pottery

Tenth: Aluminum/Tin

Eleventh: Steel

Twelfth: Silk or Linen

Thirteenth: Lace

Fourteenth: Ivory

Fifteenth: Crystal

Twentieth: China

Twenty-Fifth: Silver

Thirtieth: Pearls

Thirty-Fifth: Coral

Fortieth: Ruby

Forty-Fifth: Sapphire

Fiftieth: Gold

Fifty-Fifth: Emerald

Sixtieth: Diamond


So I am looking for aluminum or tin?  Grrrreat.  Seeing as aluminum is Mark's favorite metal (yes, you read that right) it should be fairly easy to come up with something.  Combine that with the fact that there are a lot of engine parts, tools, etc made from aluminum and this should be a piece of cake.  So why am I completely stumped?!



I have googled ideas to no end.  Mark just does not fit with the "typical guy" criteria used to come up with the gift ideas out there (and yes I am totally ok with that). 



Golf clubs ... not a golfer.

Cuff links ... does not wear dress shirts often ... much less French-cuff ones.

Money clip ... um, no.  He doesn't carry cash and he much prefers alternative wallet materials (ie duct tape or tyvek .. hehe)

Engraved picture frame ... seriously!?  He's a g-u-y.  'nuff said.

A multitude of paper weights ... He may sit at a desk all most of the day but it isn't made of solid mahogany.



So basically all my googling as turned up nothing.  Through regular brainstorming, I have come up with a VERY short (aka: three) list of possibilities though.  I will, however, not be divulging those on this post since the Mister tends to read my blog every now and then .. but that doesn't mean I can't brainstorm.



One of my gift ideas is looking to be way above my budget.  I am trying to find a deal or get the hook-up somewhere but I am not thinking it will work out.  I am going to keep pushing towards it but I need a feasible back-up, too.  That's where #2 and #3 come into play.



My second gift idea is looking to be the most likely candidate.  It's something he has never specifically mentioned wanting but it plays into the bigger picture of things that we want down the line.  I think he would be excited (not to mention the seller has a decent return policy).



The third item is kind of a cop-out.  I know he wants it.  He's mentioned it before.  But what's the fun in that!?  I love giving gifts that are at least a little bit surprising and I feel like this doesn't do the job.



Mark is a really good gift-giver.  Like I said before, we don't gift during every holiday, but when we do, he usually nails it.  He always puts a lot of thought into what he gives me and it often stems from a comment I made months and months prior.  Whether it is sentimental or practical .. and whether he spends $20 or $200 .. I know he's thought about it and I know I will like it.



Which brings me back to my little list of three items.  I know he would love #1 and he would be shocked because, if I can get one, he would never suspect it because of the price range.  Gift #2 is a little risky only because he's never directly mentioned it.  And Gift #3 is a sure thing but totally boring.



At this point I am going to get #2 and possibly #3.  They aren't related but, combined, are still within my budget.  Hopefully #1 will come to fruition in the next week or so and it will all be moot.  I know this post seems to be kind of worthless but, by typing it all out, it has helped me sure up my decision-making and made me feel better about the whole thing.



Do you have a significant other that you celebrate with through gift giving?  Do you stick with gift list ideas like the one mentioned above or do you just pick something random that they would like?  Can you think of something awesome I should get that is made of aluminum?





UPDATE:  I bought items #2 and #3.  I will let you know what they are and if they were a success soon.

11.21.2011

Thanksgiving Tips and Tricks


Thanksgiving Day is a time of fellowship and food.  It can also be a source of stress due to the elaborate meal.  I have compiled a quick list of tips and tricks for you.


- Accept help from others.  Get your family to help pitch in, whether it's last minute cleaning or filling glasses with ice, you don't have to do the whole thing yourself!

- Plan your holiday table in advance.  Make sure to lay out everything you need for dinner and ensure everything is ready and clean.  You could even go ahead and set the table the night before!

- If someone offers, allow guests to bring a dish!  There is no shame in getting help.  You never know, you might discover a great new recipe and you will allow that person to share a bit of their own tradition with you.

- If applicable, plan for children.  If you will have a lot of kids at your house make sure you plan for them.  You don't want them in the kitchen and under foot with all the activity.  Outdoor games, coloring books, movies, etc would be a great distraction.

- Cook early.  If possible, prepare as many dishes as you can the day before.  This will cut down on prep the day off.  Label each dish using a stick note with the cooking time/temp.

- Most importantly .. enjoy yourself amongst your guests!  Don't be a slave all day to the kitchen.  Mingle and relax.  It may not all be perfect but it will still be wonderful.


* If you are a crazy planner like me then there are a ton of "sample timelimes" on the web.  They are a great tool for figuring out what your day might look like.

Is this old hat for you?  What are some tricks and tips you have learned?  What is some good advice for newbies?

11.18.2011

CDO .. hahaha


This was sent to me by my friend Allie.  She definitely knows me.  LOVE IT!

Happy Friday!

11.17.2011

Review: Anna and the French Kiss


Anna and the French Kiss
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



When people read these types of books they are typically looking for an escape. They want the happy ending and mildly predicatable road to get there. They want to try to relate to the characters and we swept up in the magic and love. But here's the problem: Most authors take it too far. They cling a little too tightly to the Disney effect: perfect/popular/rich falls in love with average/unpopular/but secretly more exciting counterpart. Loose ends get tied up to easily. Everything just flows a little too nicely.

Like I said .. people want this .. thus it sells. But sometimes people want a touch of realism. They want the boy to be cute but not perfect. The girl relatable. Their budding relationship plausible.

Stephanie Perkins did this. It is still the same old story. But this one has had some of the sugar knocked off. It has it's moment of complete predictability but overall it seems like there may be some real life stuck in there too.

I enjoyed the whole story. It was quick and let me smiling at the end. I only had one complaint:

The title is terrible. Anna and the French Kiss? Really?! I can think of a dozen better titles that would widen the appeal of this book. I am sure many people may even read that and think 'no way' without even taking a closer look. It's a shame. I actually took half a star away for that.

But then all I got to thinking about one last thing:

I wonder how Nicholas Sparks feels about being made so villanized. I personally don't care for him so I actually liked that part. And with that I regifted the half a star.



View all my reviews

Thanksgiving Menu



It seems like the actual Thanksgiving meal gets more press as the holiday itself.  It's the one day a year people allow themselves to gorge on homemade goodies they don't normally have.  Whether you are a newbie without a clue or a veteran who wants to switch it up ... Below is my idea* of what I would love to serve when it's my turn to cook the bird!

(Click on the links below for recipes)

Deep-Fried Turkey
Sausage, Apple and Cranberry Stuffing
Broccoli Casserole
Sweet Potato Souffle
Mac & Cheese
Bacon-Wrapped Green Bean Bundles
Deviled Eggs
Cranberry Sauce
Rolls/Butter
Libby's Famous Pumpkin Pie
Chocolate Pecan Pie

*My idea is based on approximately 12 people.  It is not vegetarian and is not tailored to any specific dietary needs.  I went with what I thought was traditional and what would please the most people in my family.

What are you serving this year?  What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

Chocolate Pecan Pie



Chocolate Pecan Pie

Ingredients:
1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell
2 cups pecan halves
3 large eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons good-quality bourbon
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
Directions:
1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2.  Cover bottom of pie crust with pecans.
3.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and melted butter. Add the corn syrup, sugar, bourbon and the chopped chocolate. Stir until all ingredients are combined. Pour mixture into the pie shell over the pecans and place on a heavy-duty cookie sheet.
4.  Bake for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake for an additional 25 minutes or until pie is set. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Libby's Famous Pumpkin Pie


source


Libby's® Famous Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients:

1 (9 inch) unbaked deep dish pie crust
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 eggs
1 (15 ounce) can LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
1 (12 fluid ounce) can NESTLE® CARNATION® Evaporated Milk


Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2.  Combine sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in small bowl.
3.  Beat eggs lightly in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into pie shell.
4.  Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean.
5.  Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. (Do not freeze as this will cause the crust to separate from the filling.)

Cranberry Sauce



Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients:
12 ounces cranberries
1 cup white sugar
1 cup orange juice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup Grand Marnier

Directions:1. In a medium sized saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the orange juice.
2. Stir in the cranberries and cook until the cranberries start to pop (about 10 minutes).
3. Add the cinnamon and Gran Marnier and mix well.
4. Remove from heat and place sauce in a bowl. Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools.

Deviled Eggs

source

Deviled Eggs

Ingredients:
12 eggs, boiled
1/4 onion, shredded
1/4 mayo
2 tbsp pickle relish
dash of hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste
paprika, for garnish


Directions:
1.  In a large pot, place eggs gently in the bottom and fill with cold water until all the eggs are covered.  Place pot on stove and bring to a boil.  When it comes to a full boil, turn the heat off, cover with a tight lid and let sit for 12 minutes.
2.  After eggs have rested, pour into a colander and rinse with cold water to cool off so you can touch them.  Crack the eggs on the egg of the sink and peel.  Set aside.
3.  Slice each egg in half, long ways, and place cut side up on a dish.  Place yolks in large bowl.
4.  In a large bowl, mix egg yolks, onion, mayo, relish, hot sauce and salt and pepper until well blended.
5.  Take a gallon-sized ziploc bag and place yolk mixture inside.  Remove as much air as possible and seal.  Snip off a small corner of the bag and pipe the yolk mixture into the egg halves.
6.  Sprinkle with paprika and serve.  Chill in the refrigerator if not serving immediately.

Bacon Wrapped Green Bean Bundles

source


Bacon-Wrapped Green Bean Bundles


Ingredients:
1 lb. fresh green beans
5 strips of bacon
3 tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 clove garlic - pressed/finely chopped
1/8 tsp soy sauce


Directions:
1.  In large pot, boil green beans until tender.
2.  Meanwhile, fry the bacon in a skillet over med-low heat. You want the bacon to cook ‘soft’ so do not crisp the bacon. Place aside on paper towels to cool and reduce grease. Cut the strips into halves.
3.  After beans have been drained, I like to put a little butter in the post to melt on the beans (this is optional and not included in the ingredients above). In a 13x9 pan lay one of the ‘half’ pieces of bacon and place several beans (about 6-7) then wrap the bacon around the bundle of beans and secure with a toothpick. continue doing this till the beans are gone.
4.  Melt the 3 tsp of butter in small sauce pan. add brown sugar, garlic salt and soy sauce and mix continuously over med-high heat. Once completely blended, brush over the bundles until mixture is gone.
5.  Bake at 400 degrees in the oven for 10-15 minutes.

Macaroni & Cheese


source

Mac & Cheese

Ingredients:
Butter, for greasing dish
12 ounces wide egg noodles
2 cups heavy cream
2 1/2 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for pasta water
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups (packed) grated Fontina
3/4 cup (packed) finely grated Parmesan
3/4 cup (packed) grated mozzarella
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

Directions:
1.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Butter a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish and set aside.
2.  Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Drain well, but do not rinse.
3.  Whisk the cream, milk, flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper in large bowl to blend.
4.  Stir in 1 cup Fontina, 1/2 cup Parmesan, 1/2 cup mozzarella and parsley. Add the noodles and toss to coat.  Transfer the noodle mixture to the prepared baking dish.
5.  Toss the remaining 1 cup Fontina, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and 1/4 cup mozzarella in a small bowl to blend. Sprinkle the cheese mixture over the noodle mixture.
6.  Bake until the sauce bubbles and the cheese melts and begins to brown on top, about 20 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Sweet Potato Souffle


source
Sweet Potato Souffle

Ingredients:
3 - 15oz cans yams
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/2 cup milk
1 cup flaked coconut
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup melted butter


Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.
2.  In a large boil, combine the yams, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, spices and milk. Spoon into a baking dish.
3.  In a separate bowl, combine the coconut, flour, brown sugar, chopped nuts and melted butter. Sprinkle over the top of the sweet potatoes.
4.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.

Broccoli Casserole


source

Broccoli Casserole

Ingredients:
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped broccoli, cooked and drained
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups crushed crackers
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
2.  In a large mixing bowl, combine broccoli, mayonnaise, cheese, soup and eggs. Mix well with a metal spoon.
3.  Place the mixture in the prepared baking dish. Top with the crushed crackers and pour the melted butter evenly over the crackers.
4.  Bake for 35 minutes or until set and browned.

Sausage, Apple and Cranberry Stuffing


source

Sausage, Apple and Cranberry Stuffing
Ingredients:
5 cups cubed sourdough/white bread
1 pound ground sage turkey sausage
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped celery
2 1/2 teaspoons dried sage
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 Golden Delicious apple, cored and chopped
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
1 egg
1 cup turkey stock
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the bread cubes in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes in the preheated oven, or until evenly toasted. Transfer toasted bread cubes to a large bowl.
2.  In a large skillet, cook the sausage and onions over medium heat, stirring and breaking up the lumps until evenly browned. Add the celery, sage, rosemary, and thyme; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes to blend flavors.
3.  Pour sausage mixture over bread in bowl. Mix in chopped apples, dried cranberries, parsley, and egg. 4.  Drizzle with turkey stock and melted butter, and mix lightly. Spoon into baking dish.
5.  Cover dish and bake for 30-45 minutes, stirring halfway during cooking.

Deep-Fried Turkey




Deep-Fried Turkey Marinade

Ingredients:
1 (16 ounce) bottle Italian dressing
1/2 cup cayenne pepper
1/2 cup black pepper
1 cup Creole seasoning
2 tablespoons garlic powder

Directions:
In a medium bowl, mix 3/4 Italian dressing, cayenne pepper, black pepper, Creole seasoning, and garlic powder. Rub over turkey, using remaining Italian dressing to fill cavity. Allow turkey to marinate 8 hours, or overnight, before deep-frying as desired.

NOTE:  Rub over skin, under skin and in cavity.  If you prefer, save a little of the marinade to inject into the bird at the last minute. The flavors mellow during cooking so it is not too spicy.


Deep-Fried Turkey

Ingredients:
3 gallons peanut oil for frying, or as needed
1 (12 pound) whole turkey, neck and giblets removed
1/4 cup Creole seasoning

Directions:1.  Once you have set up your turkey fryer outside and BEFORE you had oil or turn on the heat, place the turkey (still in the marinating bag) into the pot and fill with water until is just covers the bird.  Remove the bird and note the water level.  This is the amount of oil you want to add to your pot.  Add the oil and heat to 400 degrees.
2.  Remove the turkey from the marinade and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Rub Creole seasoning over turkey inside and out. Make sure the hole at the neck is open at least 2 inches so the oil can flow freely through the bird.
3.  Place the turkey in the drain basket. Slowly lower basket into hot oil to completely cover turkey.  Maintain the temperature of the oil at 350 degrees, and cook turkey for 3 1/2 minutes per pound, about 45 minutes.
4.  Carefully remove basket from oil, and drain turkey. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh avoiding the bone; the internal temperature must be 180 degrees. Finish draining turkey on a paper lined platter.

SAFETY TIPS:
~ The turkey needs to be completely thawed and as dry as possible.  This will prevent splatter and boil over.
~ Turn the propane off before putting the turkey in.  This will prevent any problems in case a little oil does bubble over.  After the bird is settled, relight the burner.

11.16.2011

Review: The Postcard Killers


The Postcard Killers
The Postcard Killers by James Patterson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



I like James Patterson in general but sometimes I find his stories a little much (too predictable, too cookie-cutter, to "I saw that last night on tv"). This was a nice change of pace. I can often figure out the ending early on but this kept me guessing. If you are a Patterson fan then go ahead and read it. If you've never read him then this is a good place to start.



View all my reviews

Holiday Transitions


 I love family holidays.  I don't have one of those families that have a lot of drama so when we get together we have a genuinely good time.  With that being said, I have grown pensive over the past week because I realized my current definition of a "family holiday" will soon change.

Growing up my family always kept the same pattern.  Aside from my parents, almost my entire family lives in Charleston.  For every big holiday we drove down to see them.  Thanksgivings were spent with my dad's family.  Christmas was split; the 23rd with my dad's side and the 25th with my mom's side.  When Mark and I got married, I was all of a sudden faced with the prospect that I wouldn't be there every time.  Mark had his own family and traditions that now had to merge with my own. 

The first Thanksgiving Mark and I got lucky.  My aunt/uncle/cousins on my dad's side came up to my parents house to spend the holiday.  Since Mark's family lives ten minutes from my parents' house, that made it easy.  We spent the afternoon with his family and the evening with mine.  When Christmas came, we I still hadn't come to terms with splitting the holidays.  That first Christmas involved a lot of driving.  We drove to Charleston for the day on the 23rd.  Spent Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with Mark's family and then drove back down to Charleston Christmas Day to be with my family.  Driving home, completely exhausted on Christmas Night, we realized we couldn't keep it up.  We had to share.

The next holiday season went more smoothly.  We spent Thanksgiving with my family in Charleston and the entire Christmas with Mark's family.  It was a lot of change but it turned out fun.  We have spent several holidays rotating back and forth (the next Thanksgiving was spent with his family and Christmas with mine .. so on and so forth) and everything seemed settled.  I spoke with my cousin on the phone earlier this week and it occurred to me that everything was going to get messed up again sooner than later.

Most of the changes are occurring on my side.  Cousins are growing up and starting families of their own.  I have one grandmother left.  Our 20+ person Christmases are dwindling.  Mark and I will be starting a family in the next couple years and that will complicate things further. The current arrangements will no longer work.

This year we are spending Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with Mark's.  This means we will be traveling to Charleston to see my Aunt and Uncle.  Already the shift is happening.  Two of my three cousins on that side will not be there.  One lives in Indiana and will be spending the holiday with her husband's family.  The other one works in DC and can't get off work. 

Christmas isn't fairing much better.  My aunt and uncle's house, the one everyone gathers at on Christmas Day, is up for sale.  They have an offer and may be closing on December 15th.  No one has decided what to do about Christmas Day yet.  Both my sister and I will be with our respective in-laws so my parents will be the only reps from our family this year.  My cousins on that side are scattering as well.  I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later.

I know this is coming off as totally depressing and I certainly don't mean it that way.  Changes are exciting.  It means everyone is growing up and starting their own traditions.  It just means we will have to do the same. The family units are shifting and we need to jump on board. I do get excited thinking about the possibilities though.  Will we have Christmas at our house with both families?  Will we have some sort of rotation?  I don't know yet.  I actually am not planning anything (shock, I know!) because there are too many variables left up in the air. 

No matter what the future holds and what changes are made, the one thing I do know is that our holidays will always remain family-focused.  It's always been that way and it's the one thing that will always remain constant.

11.15.2011

Thanksgiving Decor

With Thanksgiving coming up I thought I would give everyone some inspiration for decorating.  I figure that most people decorate for fall before Halloween but switch out a couple "holiday specific" items.  No matter whether you are already done decorating or haven't even started, here are some pictures to get your imagination in gear ...


Cute Oreo turkeys that everyone woud love!

Gourd Candle Centerpieces are a great alternative to large flower arrangements. This could also be a good option for a kids table since they are so low.

I grew up with pine cone turkeys made with construction paper tails but pear name tags are much cuter!

Try these hurricane tissue paper lanterns to cast a warm glow on your party.
Whether you serve buffet-style or not .. wrap silverware with folded cloth napkins for easy retrieval.

Cornhusked-wrapped votives provide gorgeous ambient light while allowing your guest to see each other across the table.


This would look great on a mantle or sideboard!

I do not have the source for this (google images) but this is my idea of a perfect setting!
Love this! Have everyone write down something they are thankful for and share with the ones you love!

Once again, no true source (google images) but if I had mantle I can guarantee you I would try to duplicate this!


I love wreaths so I had to throw in a fun fall one!


11.14.2011

No-Bake Peanut Butter Crunch Cookies


This is a recipe I received from my friend Alisha.  They are SO good and super simple to make!


Ingredients:
1 cup light Karo syrup
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups favorite peanut butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
5 cups corn flakes

Directions:
1.  In a large pot, bring Karo syrup and sugar to a boil.
2.  Once the sugars are melted, add the peanut butter and stir until blended.  Remove from heat.
3.  Stir in vanilla and cornflakes until well blended.
4.  To portion out, you can either spoon individual cookies onto wax paper OR you can press the entire batter lightly onto a lined cookie sheet.  Once it is cool you may cut into squares.

Note:  If you want to add extra goodies like mini chocolate chips or extra peanuts, stir them in with the cornflake step.

Being Thankful


Thanksgiving is upon us.  I feel like it came out of nowhere this year.  It was summer and then bam! it's November now.  This week I am going to focus on Thanksgiving themed posts.

Thanksgiving is traditionally a time for reflection.  Sometimes it is easy to forget that we have things to be grateful for.  Some days are tough and everything seems to go wrong.  Those are the hardest days, but even when things go badly, you are still alive and you are still loved.

Below is a list of 30 things I am thankful for.  A reason for every day this month:

1:  I am thankful for my God.  He is always there for me to protect and guide.  He shines a light on my path and, even in times of darkness, with Him I will always be able to see.

2:  I am thankful for my marriage.  Not everyone gets to be married, and of those that do, not everyone gets to marry their best friend.  I got to.  I married my best friend and I have never been happier.  The past ten years have been amazing.  We've had our ups and downs but, at the end of the day, I would never choose to go through life with anyone else.

3:  I am thankful for family.  They are my support system. The group of people that love me unconditionally and always want the best for me.  My parents gave me a wonderful childhood and my sister was my companion.  I am so glad they are mine.  I also have great in-laws.  I know some people don't get along with theirs but I see mine weekly and have always considered them my other mom and dad.

4:  I am thankful for food and water.  There are many, many people in this world (some right in this city) that skip meals not by choice but because they have to.  I have a friend that works in a lower-income school district and she spoke about how she can tell when the food has run out at home at the end of the month because the kids come in starving.  Poverty is not just a third-world issue.  I am thankful that I have food and that I have never known true hunger.

5:  I am thankful for my health.  I take this for granted more often than I should.  God gave me a wonderful body and I should treat it with more respect.  I taken a lot of steps to improve/maintain my health but there is always more I can do.  I am thankful that I continue to get second chances and that nothing too serious has ever happened.  If I ever get sick, I hope to use it as a reminder to cherish the well times.

6:  I am thankful for my education. I was blessed with a college degree.  I had the opportunity to pursue my dream and take advantage of many opportunities.  I wish I could say education was a priority for everyone but it is not.  It is a privilege that I got to partake in.  I know my life is improved because of it and for that I am thankful.

7:  I am thankful for friends.  I am close with my family but nothing replaces great friends.  I am blessed to have a network of people willing to come to my aid at any time.  To know that you have people in your corner gives you a kind of strength that's hard to get anywhere else.  I love my friends and try to tell them often.

8:  I am thankful for God's provision.  He meets me where I am and He never puts me in a situation I can't handle.  Most people think that He gives you a set of tools/skills and that you might use these for all situations.  This is not true.  Every day you wake up, He prepares you for that day.  If something comes along, he will provide you the strength, courage, support, etc that you need.  Always.
9:  I am thankful for joy.  This, too, comes from the Lord.  I am thankful for the joy in my heart.  I am not always perfectly happy but, through Him, I always have my joy.

10:  I am thankful for children.  It may be cliche but it is true .. they are our future.  I am thankful that one day I may have the opportunity to be a mom.  The responsibility to shape a young life is huge and I am grateful for the challenge.

11: I am thankful for freedoms.  We have so many freedoms that we take for granted.  There are big freedoms like the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion.  Then there are smaller freedoms like the ability to take a day off of work whenever you like or the ability to shop and have fun.  Many countries don't have this right.  Their governments tell them what they can and can not say and what they can and can not believe.  They have to work no matter what .. even if it kills them.  They can't spend a Saturday leisurely.  I can.  I have to remind myself that these privileges are not worldwide.  I need to be thankful for this at all times.
12:  I am thankful for football.  This may seem silly but it represents more than the game.  I am a big fan of college sports and especially SEC football.  This means that during football season there is much camaraderie, tailgating and socializing to be had.  This is what I am thankful for; the fellowship, food and fun that is only found during this time of year.

13:  I am thankful for church family.  This is a big one.  Church has nothing to do with a building.  It has to do with the people.  You can have "church" at someones house.  You can have it in a multi-million dollar building.  It doesn't matter.  With that being said, my church/church family is a big part of my life.   They are some of the best friends I have ever had.  I love them so much and am SO thankful they are in my life.

14:  I am thankful for diversity.  How boring would it be if everyone was the same?!  Diversity is a great thing.  I am thankful that all my friends are not the same as me.  I certainly need the balance in my life.
15:  I am thankful for my job/paycheck.  This is a big one, too.  Not everyone can say they have a job and a paycheck that pays their bills.  I can.  Enough said.

16:  I am thankful for books.  I am an avid reader.  I am thankful for books and their expressive nature.  They stoke the fire of my imagination and allow me to discover new things.  This also falls under freedom of speech.  Double thanks.

17:  I am thankful for my dog.  He is my "four-legged first born" and I am thankful for him.  I am thankful for the lessons he teaches me in love, forgiveness and devotion.  I am thankful for this demands for belly rubs and his company.  He's the best.

18:  I am thankful for music.  Once again, this falls under the freedom of expression.  Music has the ability to fill in the blanks where words can't.  It evokes emotion like no other.  It's a huge stress reliever.  For that I am thankful.

19:  I am thankful for having a home.  Once again, some people can not claim to own a roof over their head or even have a roof.  I do.  It's mine and I own it and there is no current threat that I might. (Thanks paycheck!)

20:  I am thankful for flexibility.  I am a planner and like schedule and control but I am not so OCD where I have lost my flexibility.  I am thankful for this.  If I was so obsessive where when one tiny thing went wrong I would lose my mind .. this would sadden me.  I have maintained the quality of my life through flexibility and for this I am thankful.

21:  I am thankful for grace.  This is another God-granted gift.  This gift is in regards to salvation, mercy and love.  I am a sinful creature but do to His grace I can get a do-over.

22:  I am thankful for forgiveness.  Like I previously mentioned, I have a sinful nature.  I am not perfect.  Forgiveness from God and the forgiveness from my family and friends is crucial. 

23:  I am thankful for down time.  This also reference lazy Saturdays.  I am thankful that I have the ability to relax.  I am not on a constant search for food, shelter or money.  I have a roof over my head everything I need.  I do not have to be in constant motion in order to live.  This is all a good thing because I love my couch.

24:  I am thankful for Thanksgiving.  Yes, the holiday.  As Americans we move so fast all the time.  Sometimes it takes a national holiday for us to slow down.  This is it.  I am thankful that there is an entire day devoted to giving thanks and showing the people around you that you love them.

25:  I am thankful for Black Friday.  This is purely about money.  Some people have a little, and some people have a lot, but the majority of people have at least a little something extra in order to buy something nice for someone. (How many some- could I get in one sentence? Geez!) I am thankful for all the "extras" in life.

26:  I am thankful for family traditions.  These are the common threads that trickle down through the generations.  These are the things that connect great-grandchildren with great-grandparents.  These are the things that live on long after we are gone.  I am so thankful for all of these memories and traditions.

27:  I am thankful for blogging.  I've said it before.  This is my outlet.  This is my form of expression and I never realized how much I needed it until I did it.  Through this blog I have the ability to share what is on my heart.  I can give to others through stories, tips, recipes, and ideas.  It allows me to organize my thoughts and share in the process.  I was never one for keeping a written journal .. turns out all I needed was a keyboard.

28:  I am thankful for readers.  I am SO thankful for you guys.  When I started this I never thought I would have people read this.  I always hoped, sure, but never expected it.  Months later, I have readers.  Some of you visit me regularly and some of you only visit me every once in a while.  No matter what, I am thankful that you have read my words.  It means a lot to me.  Truly.

29:  I am thankful for the past Novembers.  This is more about the fact that I am thankful for the past.  From that past we learn lessons and make mistakes.  We gain perspective and hindsight.  There are things that I regret but I would never ever take them back because the lessons I gained are far more valuable.

30:  I am thankful for the future Novembers.  I am thankful for my future in general.  I have no idea what tomorrow brings but I know I will love it.  There are so many "milestones" that I have yet to reach.  I am thankful for the chance to do so.


What are you thankful for?

11.10.2011

Review: Imaginary Girls


Imaginary Girls
Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

My rating: 2 of 5 stars



This book left me a little speechless. Since I am unable to find appropriate words, I am stealing them from another reviewer who posted here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/190001232

This is the first time that I've considered NOT rating a book. I felt, and still feel, like whatever number of stars I might give are not going to truly reflect my opinion nor do Imaginary Girls any justice.
So keep in mind that my rating in this case is just the result of a mathematical addition of factors, of things I liked and didn't like.

The story is, in a nutshell, a mystery. It's difficult for me to give you a synopsis of the plot, but suffice it to say it involves a mysterious reservoir, two sisters morbidly obsessed with one another, a dead girl in a rowboat and a series of unexplainable events.

This is one of the most distressing books I have read this year or, probably, ever and all I feel is that I just did not get it.
Let me make some comparisons that might help you out:
If it were an artistic movement, it would be Surrealism.
If it were a movie, it would be a David Lynch movie.
if it were music, it would be jazz.

Disturbingly creepy, oneiric, harrowing and full of suspense, it kept me on the edge until the very last pages. The word predictable does not exist in this author's dictionary, I'll give you that much.
But that the long awaited climax was, in the end, so anticlimactic distressed me very much.
For about 80% of the book I could not figure out, for the life of me, what was happening and why. I was expecting some paranormal element to give an explanation to all my questions but, in the end, there wasn't. It was just all surreal.

The strong points of this book are, objectively, the amazing writing style and characterization. The writing is exceptional and evocative and, thanks to that, some of the characters, Ruby in particular, come out well formed, palpable and yes, disturbing.
The fact that I could not find one likable character in this book though, really detracted from my enjoyment. Not only I could not justify the absurdity of some of the actions of the characters, but I could never, not even at the end, sympathize with any of them (view spoiler)[ with the exception, maybe, of London, whose sole guilt in the whole process was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (hide spoiler)]. Least of all Ruby.

The obvious deduction of all these ramblings is that this book, evidently, was really not for me. I can see why it might appeal to other readers but it really didn't happen for me. I just didn't get it. It was all over the place, and it defies logic.

Definitely recommended to people who do not recognize themselves in this review, you won't be disappointed.

*** added points for the beautiful, completely relevant cover.




View all my reviews

Fruit of the Spirit

source
I spent last weekend with a group of amazing women.  Twenty-seven of us traveled to North Myrtle Beach, SC for a time of fellowship and worship.  I go every year but this year was especially poignant for me.  I felt Him and I was challenged.  The theme this year was Fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  I have spent this week camping on these terms, doing word studies, and below is a brief summation of what I have found. 

I know I most often use my blog for fun things like cooking, organizing and decorating but, through all of this, my goal is transparency.  If I am to be transparent then I must show you what has been so heavily on my heart...

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.  For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.  Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
- Galatians 5:16-23 (NASB)

LOVE ~ We are to love one another.  Loving someone who is nice to us and loves us back is the easy part.  It is also only the tip of the iceberg.  We are also called to love those who do not love us back.  The ones who openly hate us.  The ones that aren't nice.  The ones that are down and out.  The ones that have nothing to give us in return.

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;  bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
- Colossians 3:12-14

JOY ~ Joy is a choice.  This is really important.  It is not just a feeling any more than love is just a feeling.  It's a decision.  Also, joy does not equal happiness.  I have most often found the joy in my life during periods of trial.  Ever heard the phrase "I may love you right now but I don't necessarily like you."  Joy is similar but instead should read "I may have joy right now but I am not happy".  When things go south it is easy to become downtrodden.  You have to have joy.  Joy means believing in your heart that God has your best interest at heart.  Even when times are tough, focus on all the ways God IS providing and be thankful.

I will be full of joy in the Lord, my soul will be glad in my God; for he has put on me the clothing of salvation, covering me with the robe of righteousness, as the husband puts on a fair head-dress, and the bride makes herself beautiful with jewels.
- Isaiah 61:10

PEACE ~ Peace is a hard one.  It's being content and knowing God is in control.  For me, my nature is to plan and try to take care of everything.  The hardest lesson for me to learn is that sometimes .. the only thing I can do .. is let go.  God never sleeps.  He is always in control.  At times when I am calm and at peace and I can sleep easily with the storm raging around me .. those are the times that I know I have found peace.

The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.  Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock.
- Isaiah 26:3-4


For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.
- 1 Corinthians 14:33

PATIENCE ~Waiting.  This is a really hard thing for me.  It's part of my nature as a planner.  I think I have everything figured out and then He doesn't move when I "need" him to.  I purposely put the quotations because no one knows what I need better than He does.  He always has my best interest at heart and he will always provide what I need.  Therefore, I need to wait. Patiently.  Quietly.  To us, hindsight is 20/20 and we always see why things worked out for the better.  God sees 20/20 in the past, present and future.  He never says "if I only knew" because he always does.

I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry.  He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, an He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.
- Psalm 40:1-3

KINDNESS ~ I think kindness comes most naturally.  I also believe that I often think of kind things to do but never actually do them .. all the while still giving myself some sort of credit for it.  This is not done consciously but it is still done.  Giving a helping hand, a smile or a kind word is really important.  Try to say something mean with a smile on your face.  Or tell someone you love them while frowning.  It is really hard to do.  I think if you smile more often then your actions will follow and I wouldn't be surprised if your mood is bolstered because of it.

For length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.  Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.  So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.
- Proverbs 3:2-4

GOODNESS ~ Goodness is multi-faceted.  It is a combination of kindness, grace and purification from wickedness. 

For it is by grace you have been saved through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not as a result of works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
- Ephesians 2:8-10

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.  At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.  We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.  This is a trustworthy saying.  And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.  These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
- Titus 3:1-8

FAITHFULNESS ~ When I think of faithfulness, I think of a promise of unconditional devotion.  It means "I am pulling for you. No matter what.  Every time."  We don't see a lot of faithfulness in the world.  People tend to get finicky about things; whether it's because it got hard, unpopular or inconvenient.  We tend to root for our teams .. until a better team comes along.  Faithfulness means you will always keep the best interest at heart.  You support and love without ceasing.  God shows us unwavering faithfulness and we should do the same.


Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, or his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is tour faithfulness.  I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."
- Lamentations 3:22-24

I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, "Move from here to there" and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.
- Matthew 17:20-21

GENTLENESS ~ Gentleness is akin to kindness.  I have learned that sometimes I just need to be gentler.  I need to control my tongue more.  I need to listen more and talk less.  I tend to be a little too blunt and a little too forceful with the ones I love.  I know that they love me unconditionally (especially my husband) but that does not give me the write to hurt his feelings.  This does not mean I need to sugar coat or lie, though.  It just means that I need to take in consideration the other person's feelings before I end up steam-rolling them.


A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.  The tongue of the wise makes knowledge axceptable, but the mouth of fools spouts folly.  The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good.
- Proverbs 15:1-3

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
- Ephesians 4:1-3

SELF-CONTROL ~ This is the fruit that I need to work on the most.  Most people assume I have a lot of self-control because I seem organized and on top of things.  This isn't a false front.  I am organized and I typically am on top of things.  This is not what I need to work on. This is not what self-control means.  Self-control has nothing to do with self.  It has nothing to do with my works.  It has everything to do with me surrendering my control and allowing God to take over.  And this is precisely what I need to work on.  I have spent so much time controlling my "bubble" and really it's all in vain.  God has a plan and he is in complete control.  I get so wrapped up in the daily minutiae and I need to stop.  There are some things that, no matter what, I can not plan or control them.  A big example of this is starting a family.  I can not control when I get pregnant. I can do everything right but I will not be successful unless it is God's will.  I can not plan and make sure we are ready because we never will be.  I will never have enough in savings.  I will never have everything figured out.  I need to stop pushing so hard, gain some self-control and ALLOW myself to give up.  It is not weakness.  It is strength.  It is not failure.  It is success. 

Here's my confession:  We want to start a family but I have not allowed myself to give up the control yet.  I haven't allowed myself to come to terms with the fact that .. no matter what I do .. I will never be prepared.  I know all of this is my head but I need to know it in my heart.  I need God to move in me and allow me to release these stresses.  It is my personal battle and I am losing.  I have put my own comforts (comfort in knowing "we got this covered") ahead of my love for God and my love for my husband.  My husband has been completely patient and is waiting for me.  Because of this study I have made vast improvements.  I am not out of the woods yet but I have called out my sin and uncovered it's face.  I can not hide anymore and I need to face the truth.  This is the only way I can move forward and praise Him.


But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:8

Therefore, prepare your minds for actions; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.  As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.  But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be hold , because I am holy."
- 1 Peter 1:13-16


Perfect Sunrise.  Perfect Promise.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
- 2 Peter 1:5-9


By the way - The picture below is of the shirts I had made for the retreat.  My friend Heather at Fermata Threads created them.  She is great to work with and has secured my business from now on.  If you have any tshirt needs, please visit her.  Thanks!


Thanks Heather!


11.09.2011

Daily Devotional

If I am being completely honest with you then I have to admit that I do not have a daily quiet time.  I want to set time aside daily but I have not made it a priority.  There is no one to blame but myself.

Sometimes, if you pay attention, you will see the same thing coming at you from different angles in life.  When you finally notice the pattern .. pay attention!  Recently, that "thing" for me has been a book called Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.

This book has come across my path repetitively.. and for a long time now.  I'm embarrassed to say that I am just now catching on.  I am an avid reader and so people tend to recommend books to me quite often.  Most of them go in one ear and out the other.  It's not that I don't respect the opinion of the one recommending it .. I'm just picky and often don't try hard enough to remember the title. Anyway, this title has made an appearance so many times (and in so many ways) that I remembered not only the title but the author.  It seemed about time that I took a closer look.

After a very brief internet search, I realized two things:  1) this is a daily devotional and is meant to not be read all at once and 2) there is a free app available that gives you a week trial of the book.

Bingo!

My desire to have a quiet time, but my lack of focus, has now been rectified.  I read daily already so taking a few minutes to meditate on a book entry won't change my routine too much.  Also, I don't buy books (because I read too many too quickly) and so a free app is a great way for me to test drive it first. 

I know me and that means I can not jump head first into something that completely alters my routine.  I won't stick with it.  If I gradually start just reading the book during my existing "reading time" (i.e. lunch break) then I have added something new but not changed everything.  Eventually I will, hopefully, add a second break (ideally in the morning before work) just for this.  This may sound non-committal to some, but for me, it's the exact opposite.  I am trying to change my behavior.  I have to take baby steps.

I downloaded the Jesus Calling Lite app for droid and this is what I saw for today:


Sit quietly with Me, letting all your fears and worries bubble up to the surface of your consciousness.  There, in the Light of My Presence, the bubbles pop and disappear.  However, some fears surface over and over again, especially fear of the future.  You tend to project yourself mentally into the next day, week, month, year, decade; and you visualize yourself coping badly in those times.  What you are seeing is a false image, because it doesn't include Me.  Those gloomy times that you imagine will not come to pass, since My Presence will be with you at all times.


When a future-oriented worry assails you, capture it and disarm it by suffusing the Light of My Presence in to that mental image.  Say to yourself, "Jesus will you be with me then and there.  With His Help, I can cope!"  Then, come home to the present moment, where you can enjoy peace in My Presence.


Then Jesus said to this disciples:
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.  Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.  Consider the ravens:  They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them.  And how much more valuable you are than birds!  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"
- Luke 12:22-26


"Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."
- Deuteronomy 31:6


"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
- 2 Corinthians 10:5

This excerpt spoke volumes to me.  It met me where I am today and I know it met you where you are.  We are in different places so it speaks to each of us differently.  This is a valuable book .. especially to someone like me who does not currently have a quiet time.  It can be completely overwhelming to think "OK, I am supposed to sit down for "quiet time" and do what!?  Do I read the bible?  What do I read?  How long do I read?  What am I supposed to feel?  What am I supposed to say?"  These are all things that I felt and I know I am not alone.  I truly believe that's why this book has come into my life.  It has provided me the structure I am looking for.  I am sure once I become more comfortable with the process then I will be able to branch out and build my own version of quiet time, but for now, this seems perfect to me.

We are all at different places of our walk with God. Maybe you don't even know who He is.  I encourage you to pick up this book.  If you don't even want to do that, then I encourage you to read my posts.  I will try to let you know about any entries that hit especially close to home. 

If you have any questions, please email me.  I can not promise to have the answers but I do promise to help you find them.  If you are currently using Jesus Calling as part of your daily devotional and have any words of wisdom or insight, you are welcome to let me know as well.


Here's the Amazon link if you would like to buy it.
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