Thursday, December 31, 2009

Extraordinary Women

Did you know there isn't a whole lot to do at 5 am? Especially if you're trying to be considerate and not wake your husband with the TV! I ended up looking around online for events similar to the Southern Women's Show to see if any such thing was scheduled to be in Birmingham in the near future. (How I got there involves a journey through my thought process that I doubt you want to take!) Well, no such luck. But something on the BJCC events calendar did catch my eye - The Extraordianry Women's Conference. Ok, it's a conference and not a show, but it might be interesting.

After doing a little digging, I discovered it was a Christian women's conference. My little red Vanderbilt flags start going up, because clearly this can't be that great. It appeals to the masses. It uses several speakers and concerts and *gasp* ALTAR CALLS! Oh this can't be good at all! I finally stop skimming and actually start reading. And I come across the statement of faith for this group. And there isn't really anything that jumps out at me that I just cannot agree with or endorse. And so I start to consider the idea of going. It seems like the kind of thing the women of my church could really get on board with and it might be really helpful in my ministry to them.

And then, the thought that I have been trying so desperately to force back pops into my head - I think I would enjoy this!

Oh no! What have I done? I can't enjoy this! I might be able to tolerate it or learn from it, but enjoy it? I'm educated! I'm a theologian! I'm supposed to know better! How dare I say I might enjoy something like this!

About 5 years ago, I probably would have been all over this. I wouldn't have thought twice. I would have marked it on my calendar, saved my money, and made it happen. But the more my life has been taken over by theology, the less it seems to have been influenced by faith. On the one hand, I feel like I am a better person for knowing what I do. But deep down, the biggest reason I value my academic education about contextual and historical understandings of theology is to refute bullies. I don't like mean people. I don't care why you're being mean, I don't see any reason for it and I don't like it. I especially don't like it if you are attempting to use someone's weakness to beat up on them.

But this group, this conference, does not seem to be preying on weakness. Instead, it appears to be more focused around empowerment. Sure, it's more about inspiration than education. But is that really such a bad thing? If it weren't for the inspiration, the encouragement, and the affirmation in my life I never would have had any desire for the education. I think about the things I object to at events like this - they're intense and emotional and have a lot of psychological influence that comes from these enormous groups. None of those are the ideal situation for making life-changing decisions.

Except, that's exactly when these types of decisions are made. I think about my years at Camp Sumatanga. I think about all the tears I shed and all the prayers I prayed. And I think about all the decisions that I made. Many of them were life-changing. And I think about the decisions I am going to have to make about my life, my faith, and my ministry as the years go on. And they will be life-changing too. And I have no doubt that the process of making those decisions will be difficult, emotional, and involve the input of a number of people. So what makes them so different?

Serving in a small, local church that is much more laid back in its worship has brought me down from my Ivory Tower. Interacting with these amazing people on a daily basis has taught me a lot along the way. And I think it's finally time for me to dismount my academic high horse and get back to what it is I'm supposed to be doing.

Making Disciples and Loving my Neighbor.

Yup, I can do that! I might even have a little fun in the process. Who knows? Maybe there is even an extraordinary woman inside of me!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Chef Kevin Gillespie

I had this brilliant and eloquent entry all written in my head during the week before we moved and I didn't have the time or the internet access to get it typed up. So, after much contemplation, here is what I have been able to remember and put together.

I think everyone is a little prone to hero worship. Especially when it involves celebrities. There is a little part of us that wants to have that close encounter with fame, fortune, and brilliance. And I have been lucky enough to get to meet some pretty awesome people in my relatively short life. I have met authors, musicians, actors, and others. But there is something I have learned through all of this. Most of the time we are drawn to character or images, not the actual individual. And in some cases it's a bit of a letdown. Not always, but sometimes. And I think that's why my list of famous people I want to meet has dwindled down to almost nothing.

But there is something about Chef Kevin Gillespie that makes me feel like a googly-eyed 12 year old. And not just because I literally salivate when I even think about what he can do to a piece of meat. But because I respect him in ways I never thought it possible to respect an individual that I have never even met! I respect him for what he does, but I also respect him for who he is. Because in many ways, those two things are one and the same.

His work is not just a passion, it's a calling and a ministry! He does what he does because he believes in it, but also because he knows he is called to it. He does it not just because it makes him money or because he personally enjoys it, but because of the benefit to others and his own responsibility. His dedication to seasonality and sustainability are the definition of what it means to be a good steward of one's resources. His passion is contagious! His notoriety puts him in an interesting place. I have no doubt that national TV exposure and thousands of fans are good for one's ego. But what I have seen him do with that notoriety is probably the reason I admire him the most.

He chooses to take the time to educate. Now on one hand it could be argued that an understanding of the benefits of farm-to-table, sustainable, seasonal, local cuisine is good for his business. But it's about more than that. It's about the responsibility to share with others in order to encourage good stewardship. Because there is a sense of responsibility not just for his own backyard and not just for the people he knows and loves.

I would love to meet him. I have no doubt that, if given the chance to shake his hand and tell him thank you for his work and to share how much I admire him, I would probably get a bad case of the stupids or the giggles or both. And I know that the chances of my ever getting to have a REAL conversation with him are slim to none. But I can dream! In fact, I literally had a dream that I got to sit across the table from him and just talk. It was lovely. Unfortunately I had finally worked up the nerve to ask some really deep questions just before I woke up and never got my answers! Alas, such is life!

I don't know what his religious affiliation is. Because he made a comment on Top Chef that he goes vegetarian for Lent, I assume he is Christian. I am tempted to assume he's Catholic, but at the end of the day it's really not my business (or anyone else's for that matter!) and knowing doesn't change what I think about him. But I would love to get his thoughts on the connection between food and faith in his life and what he sees as the implications for others. The connections between what someone believes, what they eat, and how they live the rest of their life are powerful. And while I have the perspective of a theologian who is interested in food, I would love to compare that to the perspective of a chef with an interest in theology.

One day I'm going to actually be able to eat his food. And if I'm really lucky I'll be able to thank him personally for making the world a better place, one tasty bite at a time!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Update

Life has been a bit crazy lately. We got moved into the house. Everything looks great. The chimney got fixed, Jeff has started some of his touch-up projects, and we got decorated for Christmas. I've still got one box that is only halfway unpacked, but that's better than what I normally am at this point! It helps that we are having people over so I feel like I have to get it presentable!

Our plans for Christmas are church tonight and Jeff's family Christmas Eve party. His mother and Ray are spending the night. Ray has to leave early and go to work. We're going to Cullman to see my folks for lunch, then to Center Point to do his big family thing for dinner. The weekend will be quiet because Saturday Jeff and I are both grounded. We're not going anywhere or doing anything except spending the day being lazy together! Then Monday my extended family is coming to see the house and we're all going to Cullman to do the family get-together.

One thing I have noticed about Alabaster (especially in a very family-friendly neighborhood) is that Christmas is HUGE around here. Santa will even be riding around town and stopping in a lot of neighborhoods. He will be stopping about three houses up from us, so we can probably stand on the front porch and watch. The quoted time is 7pm and we should be home by then, so I may have to check it out!

The house has been taking up a lot of my energy and brain cells, but I think we are finally to a point where we can sit back and enjoy it. There is plenty that still needs to be done, but that is always going to be the case with a house! I think that is the biggest difference between owning and renting - everything is my problem now, and more importantly I CARE!

The dogs are good. They have adjusted well to the change of location and like their new home. Patches loves getting to run up and down the stairs whenever he wants. Cocoa seems a little unsure of things occasionally (I think she gets lost!) but seems to like having new hiding places.

We will have an open house sometime in the spring (once Jeff decides he is done with the outside) but you're welcome to come see the house sooner if you want!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Nomad No More

Friday is moving day. I can't believe it's finally here, but at the end of this week Jeff and I will be living in OUR house. And my life as a nomad will be ending.

I feel like my life has been a six and a half year long game of the hokey pokey. I can't remember how many times I've moved in and out and had to shake it all about! The best count I can come up with is at least ten different times in the past six years. It stinks. It truly does. And I'm over it. It may have been an exciting adventure a while ago, but no more.

I'm ready to be settled. I'm ready to give away all the boxes. I'm ready to recycle all the paper. I'm ready to throw out the foam. I'm ready to put nail holes in the walls and make height marks on door frames and carve our initials into a tree. I'm ready to have a place that truly feels like home!

And as much as I'm looking forward to being in our new home, the process of getting there is making me nuts. I HATE packing. Unpacking I actually enjoy because I can organize as I go. There is nothing more exciting to me than a set of empty shelves or a wall of empty cabinets. But a stack of empty boxes? That is the stuff nightmares are made of. I am haunted by thoughts of flat cardboard and packing paper and foam wrap and that awful tape!

Right now it's a tease. We have new furniture for the dining room and the living room. The dining room was a good find at a secondhand store. We got a nice oval table, the pad, 2 arm chairs, and 4 side chairs. The living room furniture is our Christmas gift from both sets of parents. We got a couch, a chair, a coffee table, and 2 end tables. All this stuff is in the house. The living room furniture still needs to be moved, but at least it's there. The fridge, washer, and dryer are all there. The house is liveable. We just aren't there yet!

Thankfully, we have hired movers this time. They can do all the heavy lifting and the hauling up and down stairs. I can smile, direct traffic, and start unpacking the moment the right boxes hit my kitchen!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Vacation Revelation

New experiences are great educators. Often, our greatest lessons are about ourselves and can be found in the ways we react to these experiences - the good, the bad, and the ugly. Here are a few things that I have learned about myself on this trip. This is not to say that my way is better or worse than anyone else's, they're just mine!

Watch the Clock - I am a very schedule driven person. I also take my word seriously, particularly when I know others are depending on me. I have always known that my preference is to be on time or even a little early if I can help it. I absolutely despise being late anywhere. I have come to realize that I also take the word of others seriously. If a plan is made and it is not then observed, I can get uncomfortable or even upset. I'm not good at being spontaneous. Sometimes I wish I were. But for now I work on a plan and a schedule.

Change it Up - I don't consider myself to be an exceptionally adventurous person. I'm certainly a creature of habit and find comfort in familiar surroundings. But when I change things up, I like to go all out whenever possible. I have heard several people tell me that whenever they travel they try to make it a rule to not go to places they have access to at home. And I really saw the wisdom in that. I'm not going out of my way to totally immerse myself in a new place and sometimes I really crave something of home, but I feel like the farther you go from home the more you should want out of the experience. This primarily applies to dining, but also to shopping and entertainment at times. I may still eat familiar foods, but for the most part try to go to a restaurant where I don't know the menu by heart! I like familiar brands, but want to hit stores that aren't as easily accessible to me if I'm shopping. And I'm all for watching a familiar movie one night on TV, but I'm not going to go out of my way when there are other things I could be doing with that time!

Balance is Best - Everyone enjoys different things and has different priorities for their ideal vacation. Some people like to relax, some like to be more active. And in general there is room for all of this. But it's important to ask who wants what. I'm not the best at this and I need to be better. I know what I want and will do anything to get it. Sometimes, the best thing you can do to get your own way is to compromise. This is probably the biggest challenge to most group activities - people either roll over or won't budge. And because compromise is a two-way (or sometimes a three, four, or more way) street, it takes tremendous participation and often a little determination as well.

Don't Torment the Caged Animal - I need a certain amount of freedom. Whether it's frequent stretch breaks while driving or the chance to get out into the world after about 24 hours of no outside stimulation, if I don't get a break I get very crabby. And it doesn't take much to make me mad or upset. This also means that, the longer vacation goes on, the easier it is to push my buttons and the less likely I am to laugh it off. I do hold grudges longer than I should and some of my strongest have been known to come from long vacations!


Friday, November 20, 2009

Ornament exchange



This is the ornament I got from my ornament exchange. Isn't it pretty? That's our new house in case you can't tell!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Turkey


I'm going to be honest. I am absolutely, unashamedly bragging here. I roasted my first turkey tonight. Actually, it was just a turkey breast, but it was still a huge hunk of bird. And this was pretty important since this is the centerpiece of our thanksgiving. I was kind of nervous, but I'm quite pleased. I just stuffed it with onion, rosemary, sage, garlic, and lemon and roasted it for about 3.5 hours. And yes, it tastes just as good as it looks. I may have to start roasting turkeys pretty regularly and not just saving them for holidays!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thanksgiving to Go

For our first major holiday as husband and wife, Jeff and I will be hitting the road. And not just us, but also his parents and grandparents so it will be a small family get together, just relocated.

We didn't set out to travel for Thanksgiving or any other holiday. But right after we got engaged we bought this vacation package thinking we may use it to go to Hawaii or something for our honeymoon. Well, we decided against that and were left with this vacation voucher that will expire the end of this year. Jeff's grandmother had mentioned how much fun it would be to swim with the dolphins after we went the first time and she has been all kinds of adventurous in the past couple of years. Since his grandparents are incredibly hard to shop for, we decided that taking them on vacation would be a good gift for them!

The plan right now is to drive down on Saturday, go to Sea World on Sunday, and do the Discovery Cove thing on Monday. Tuesday will be another day at Sea World and then I think Wednesday we may try to lay low and go to the outlets, maybe go back to Sea World if we feel like it. Thursday we don't have any plans except to watch the parade on TV and eat. An afternoon nap will probably also take place! There's always the possibility of shopping or Sea World, but nothing is planned. Friday we will definitely go back to Sea World, then next Saturday drive back.

I am pretty well packed. I will double check everything probably tomorrow and make sure I have what I want to take as far as clothes. I've been to the grocery store and have some snacks and whatnot. I need to go pick up a few frozen casseroles, but my biggest challenge at this point will be roasting the turkey and making the macaroni and cheese and getting them packed up. I have some green beans and rolls that will just need to be heated. I'm going to pick up ham, sweet potatoes, and a pie tomorrow. Mamaw is making dressing and a cranberry mold. I also have some wine, so all we will need is some tea once we get down there.

I'm so excited about getting away! I have been resisting the urge to download the iTunes season pass for Grey's Anatomy, and I have missed several episodes so far, so I am finally going to download them all and watch them in the car. Saturday morning can't get here quickly enough!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Slacking

I have been a slacker about a lot of things lately. I can always find SOMETHING to blame my slacker-ness on, which in the end only makes me more of one in the responsibility category. Let's start closest to home, shall we?

I have not been taking care of myself like I should. I am not eating well (and usually not on a regular schedule either!), getting out in the sunshine to walk, or any of a number of other things I know I should be doing. The one  thing I am doing more of is sleeping. On the one hand it's good because it's at normal hours. On the other hand it's not because, well, I'm not doing anything else!

I have not been the domestic diva I know I could be. I'm not cleaning the condo nearly as regularly as I should, I've all but given up on cooking, and errands really aren't getting done in a timely manner either. Again, I have plenty of excuses but the bottom line is, stuff just isn't getting done.

I have not been nearly as much of a go-getter about work. I'm still doing my job, but I'm definitely not doing the quality of work that I normally do or that I am happy with. Again, I'm full of excuses but it doesn't change anything. Thankfully I think I am bouncing back on this one!

I have not been nearly as good about getting my commissioning stuff done as I should have been. It's now one week from the due date and I'm still not done. I'm getting pretty close to being done, but I'm not there yet. I keep telling myself it's no big deal, I used to do this in school all the time and a week will be more that enough time, but I have a lot more distractions now (which is why I've slacked off this much up until now!) I know it'll get done, I just hope I'm happy with it!

Friday, October 30, 2009

So it's official...

Jeff and I are homeowners! We signed all the papers yesterday and the whole process (once our offer was accepted) was really pretty painless and went very smoothly. After we got done with the papers and everything our realtor took us to dinner and then we went to look at furniture. 

We are going in a little while to get the water put into our name, measure square footage for carpet and paint, and get some new locks. We may do a little more looking at furniture, too.  

If all goes according to plan the work can happen pretty quick (if nothing else, on the inside) and we can move by mid-december.

I'm very excited about it. I will probably work on some before and after pictures, but if you've got an excuse to be in the Birmingham area, you're welcome to stop by and see the real thing!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Packing

So we have already established that I'm a bit of a bag whore and can't have enough luggage. I'm also more than a little OCD and I love checklists and organization. So how do these two things interact? I usually start packing for any trip at least a week before I'm scheduled to leave. If it's a really big one that involves the purchase of new items, I will usually start even further out. I started packing for our honeymoon at least two months out. In my defense, I was purchasing new clothes and just wanted them to stay nice and neat in their packaging, plus with all the craziness of moving and what not I wanted to have that suitcase separate and set apart so it was one less thing to worry about. 

We are now less than 4 weeks away from our departure date for the Orlando vacation. All the reservations have been made or confirmed. I have all our important papers in one folder. I am very excited and need to be doing something for it. So I started packing! I have one more load of laundry to do now and I can get several important pieces packed. I have a very short shopping list for a few essential items that will hopefully be taken care of by the end of the week. There are only a few pieces that I will not be able to pack until right before we leave, and those will be on a note pinned to the suitcase so nothing gets forgotten. 

Yes, I am a nut. But I am, at times, a useful nut! And it really doesn't take much to amuse me!

The only thing I have left to tackle - Thanksgiving dinner!

Now, as for my trip to Chattanooga in a little under two weeks - I have not begun to pack for that. In part because I don't know what to pack! Do I dress casually or professionally? I know I'll take the computer but do I need the "grown up" computer bag? Maybe it's because Chattanooga doesn't seem quite so foreign to me or maybe because it's a shorter trip, but I'm not quite as worried about it. Then again, maybe I'm MORE worried about it so I'm putting it off. I have no idea. Like I said, I'm a nut!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Christmas shopping

In an attempt at keeping my life relatively stress free after my Thanksgiving vacation, I have decided to get a head start on my Christmas shopping. Technically I started Christmas shopping in about March (maybe even before) because Jeff and I decided that we would take his grandparents to Discovery Cove over Thanksgiving. We purchased everything in April and then I had to keep my big mouth shut until we gave them the details in July. That took care of Jeff's side of the family for the most part. 

The extended family is going to be pretty easy - copies of the family photos taken at the wedding in a nice frame (and any other photos we think they would enjoy). 

My immediate family is normally a challenge, but I already know what I want to get everyone, it's just a matter of making those purchases. 

I am rather proud of what I came up with for my brother. The challenge is that the original price I saw on it was a little more than I was planning to spend. So Jeff suggested I look on E-bay. I know I am very much behind the times, but I have never used e-bay before. I know Jeff has gotten me a few things from there so I know there is some good deals to be had, but it makes me nervous. I haven't decided what I'll do yet.

And that just leaves the dogs! They are probably getting new beds/pillows, collars, and of course some treats in their stockings!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Garage Sale

Last weekend we had a garage sale with Jeff's extended family. It was a lot of work but it was fun. We got rid of a lot of stuff that was just taking up space. We ended up donating quite a few things, but we also sold a lot. We made a couple of purchases too. I got a small vintage suitcase and carry-on bag that had been his grandmother's, and he got a CB from his uncle. His mom and step-dad actually ended up spending more than they made, but they weren't bad purchases! I think the best part was seeing what everyone else had and was getting rid of. 

I'm not ready to do another one anytime soon, but maybe in a year or so I would consider another one!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Spaghetti x 100

We had our semi-annual UMW spaghetti dinner at the church today. Usually they do a supper where most everyone eats in at the church. Last time they did a few lunch carry-outs so they decided to do that again. Well, we got so many lunch orders that we had to just do carry out lunches as the whole thing. There was a bit of skepticism about how well it would go or how much business we would do, but we sold over 100 plates and had tons of cake left over so all of us that worked got extras!

It was interesting trying to serve that much food in only about two hours with only 5 of us working. But we got it done and really had a good time doing it. We also learned how to streamline the process for next time. I'm still wearing quite a bit of spaghetti and resisting the urge to eat another piece of cake, but after a nap I fell pretty good about the whole thing!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fairs and Festivals

There is something glorious and exciting about celebrating. And somehow it seems to make things even better when you are celebrating absolutely nothing at all. Everyone is created equal because there are no "guests of honor" or particular people to be the center of attention. It's just a chance to celebrate life and community and all the goodness that goes along with it.

Last weekend I went "home" to Cullman to gather stuff from the house for the yard sale in a few weeks and to also spend a little time with my dad and step-mom (and pick up the wedding pictures!) I put home in quotes because it feels less and less like my home now. I've been kind of torn about where my home is for several years, but that is beside the point.

Last week was the Cullman County Fair. I used to enjoy going to the fair when I was young. It was just nice to have something going on in a small town that gets kind of boring in the fall. As I have gotten older I don't have the desire to go to the fair I once did, but I can still respect it as a part of the life of the community. My dad took us up there for a little while. Since he's in the Lion's Club and they sponsor it, we got in free which was good. Catherine rode one ride and we watched her. We checked out all the exhibits and visited a little bit of livestock, and strolled through all of the fairgrounds just to remind ourselves why we didn't want to stay too long. There were lots of rednecks and the place had a very distinctive odor of fried food, animal poo, and tobacco spit. Still, I have a few fond memories of the fair from childhood and probably always will.

We are going back to Cullman this weekend for round two. And this weekend marks the beginning of the Oktoberfest. I am very excited about all the food and the German Festival at Sacred Heart. In elementary school my best friend went to Sacred Heart so I would always go to the German Festival with her. In high school I played in the German Band and got to go to quite a few varying events. No matter what, the food has been and will continue to be my favorite part of it. I don't think I would be quite as excited if good German food was readily available in the same way that so many other foods are. I never did get to try out the Gerst Haus in Nashville. Maybe one day when I got back for a visit. 

I like getting to celebrate absolutely nothing and have an excuse to get excited about things. Not just these, but all the different fairs and festivals that are out there. My other favorites are the arts and crafts fairs or any other seasonal thing. If you know of a good one and want to share the experience, let me know!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Wedding Photos

I got my wedding album back from the photographer on Friday. This is just a little preview. If you want to see the whole thing you have to visit in person (or let me come visit you!)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Southern Women's Show

I went to the Southern Women's Show in Birmingham on Thursday. I never thought much about anything like this until I went to my first race expo and had a really good time. Then I went to a bridal show and had a good time with that. So I have been really looking forward to this for several months.

I was up bright and early Thursday morning. At first I was a little hesitant to go early because I had worked a health and fitness expo while I was in college and I remember even right around opening time, there weren't many people and a lot of the exhibits were still being set up. But when I had to hunt for a parking spot for almost 15 minutes and saw the line to buy tickets, I decided early was better! 

It was really nice. It wasn't super crowded and after I got in I never really had to stand in line for anything. There was a lot of shopping, which I looked at but didn't really buy anything. I spent over five hours just walking around, so I saw just about everything. I enjoyed lots of food samples, watched a cooking demo, listened to a seminar about using coupons, and had a fantastic time!

Of course, I also came home with some giveaways - a tiny jar of mayo, several packets of seasoning, a pen, two re-useable shopping bags, a koozie, a jar gripper, a magnetic clip, a tea towel, several balloons and buttons, a calendar, two nail files, a bracelet, and I'm sure some other things. 

I did buy a few things - the first thing I got was a little ceramic plate that has tiny teeth on it for grating garlic or nutmeg or whatever without cutting yourself (because it's not metal blades). Yes, I already have a little microplane and I usually buy garlic in a jar, but I really wanted one of these. I first saw it on the show "Pitchmen" and thought it was really cool. I also got a cannister of pepper spray because I didn't have any (although I did get the pink keychain holder for it). I also got a new set of sheets for our bed. They are very soft and comfy, but the biggest thing that appealed to me was the fact that it came with four pillowcases instead of just two! Plus, they threw in a free pillow so I feel like I got a really good deal. 

I really would love to go back tomorrow for a few hours, but I doubt Jeff will go for it. We'll see though! 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

144 Kentwood

I have been keeping this kind of quiet because there's always the chance of something happening to derail this whole process but...

WE FOUND A HOUSE!

It's a beautiful place in Alabaster. It's a foreclosure but it's in surprisingly good shape. It's not move-in ready by any means, but it doesn't have any major structural issues. The biggest thing we will have to do after closing is replace the siding on the chimney, paint inside and out, trim the shrubs, and replace all the carpet upstairs and the kitchen floor, replace the microwave and maybe the stove, plus make a few minor repairs. 

The plan right now is to move around the first of the year. That way we can get all the updates done, have the place deep cleaned, and survive the holidays before we tackle moving.

We haven't set a closing date yet but it will definitely be before the end of the first week of November. We're hoping for the last week of October. One of the conditions of the contract is that the seller gets to choose the closing stuff. Well, the owner is technically in California. If they want us to come out to California to close, I am FINE with that! I really doubt that's going to happen, but I can dream!

Coming soon - The Southern Women's Show, Yellow Cake, Beef Stroganoff, and Christmas Shopping.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chicken 2.0

Last night I tried roasting just the chicken breasts. I think they came out surprisingly well. It would have been better had I had whole sprigs of rosemary, but all in all it was a dinner success.

It was basically the same recipe as before - onion, lemon, celery and carrots with rosemary and butter on the skin to make it crispy. Roast it for about an hour at 375 and let it rest a few minutes before eating.

I have been a slacker about cooking lately and it has been good for me to get back to it. The meal plan is a little off thanks to the craziness of life but here is the plan as it stands right now.

Tonight - leftovers. We have a choice of burgers, pizza, chicken, or jambalaya
Wednesday - beef stroganoff or smoked sausage and potatoes
Thursday - whatever we don't have Wednesday
Friday - probably go out for DQ  if we're not home in time for dinner.
Saturday - chimichangas 
Sunday - more leftovers
Monday - baked spaghetti
Tuesday - pizza or roast
Wednesday - pork chops 

Let me know if you want to come over for dinner! I'm excited about the baked spaghetti because I have a new recipe. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Gardening

I am not a farm girl. I have never really had to work the land or grow my own food. Working outside in the sun and the dirt has never been something that appealed to me. But recently I have discovered the amazingness of watching something grow in a garden.

I'm sure you may be wondering how you grow stuff in a garden when you live in a second floor condo. Well, we received an upside-down patio garden as a wedding gift and planted a few things. We weren't really sure what to expect, but we decided we would just be thrilled if everything survived, we weren't expecting a whole lot to be produced.

We have been amazed by the output from this tiny little plastic tower. We were able to put in one banana pepper plant, one basil plant, one parsley plant, and three tomato plants. So far we have gotten a dozen tomatoes off the three plants, with at least a dozen more still on the vine yet to be ripe. We have gotten more banana peppers than we can count! There are at least a dozen in the fridge and two dozen more on the plant at this moment. The parsley is all over the place, I'll never use it all. And my basil plant has turned into a TREE! We've had to cut off at least half of it and just throw it out because it was choking out everything else. 

I had a small thyme plant but it was kind of sickly looking from the very beginning and the parsley and basil exploded so fast that it couldn't get any sun and it died. Oh well, maybe next time!

In addition to sitting back and watching everything grow, I've actually enjoyed the work of maintaining the garden. Jeff does the watering when it doesn't rain and will spray for bugs if we need it, but I go through and pick off the dead or eaten leaves. And it's actually really rewarding. 

I want to have a few more things when I have some more room. I still want some thyme (I'll just know not to put it too close to the basil or the parsley!) and I would love a rosemary bush, but that would definitely have to go in the ground and not into a pot!

Solo Travels

I am now planning for my first "business trip". I've been to several meetings, workshops, and seminars as a part of school and now that I've got my big-girl job, but they've all been day trips. In November I'll take my first major overnight trip. And the exciting/frightening thing is that I will be doing it totally alone. I will not be traveling with anyone and I don't know anyone who is planning to be at this seminar. It will be in Chattanooga so it won't be totally foreign territory, but it will be exotic enough to be a little adventure! 

Jeff went to the beach with his family this weekend and since I had to work on Sunday I didn't get to go. Because of that, I'm thinking about taking a little vacation on my own in the spring. I have a few ideas in mind.

#1 - go down to Orlando to meet up with Kath and Stu. I would probably end up driving because it would be much cheaper than flying. At first the idea of an 8 hour drive on my own was somewhat intimidating, but I've done it before and it was actually kind of fun. Plus, Jeff isn't much fun at theme parks anyway so I wouldn't feel guilty about riding stuff and just leaving him standing outside.

#2 - go to Nashville for a few days. I would probably still spend the money on a hotel rather than staying with friends (even though I know it would be cheaper!) I don't have anything in particular that I would want to do while I'm there, just hang out. Oh, and go eat at the Loveless Cafe! It would be nice to spend time with my TN friends but it wouldn't exactly feel like I was all alone in a strange city or that I have to be with people the whole time either. 

#3 - someplace else I haven't thought out the details for! Suggestions are welcome

Friday, September 11, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I used to love to bake cookies when I was a kid. I still love eating them but hardly ever go to the trouble to make them. It's not that it's that hard or makes that big a mess but I just don't do it. Last Christmas I went on a cookie-baking frenzy and tried all kinds of new recipes. But the one thing I didn't make was good old-fashioned chocolate chip cookies. 

I don't know what got me thinking about them recently, but I decided I wanted to make chocolate chip cookies. I can't remember the last time I made some that weren't from a package - probably high school, maybe even earlier. It was a good way to waste some time and not have to feel quite so bored and lonely.

They came out very well. Then again, it's kind of hard to screw them up! I'll probably take them to the UMW meeting tomorrow since I forgot to get milk and can't eat them all right now!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Food and Wine Classic

I never even knew there was such a thing as the Food and Wine Classic until I started watching Top Chef. I have fallen in love with Top Chef so I have gotten curious about the Food and Wine Classic. 

I don't necessarily claim to be a "foodie" because I am a picky eater. And I love junk food and certain classic comfort foods that are certainly NOT gourmet. But I have had a few chances to experience really GOOD food, and I really enjoy it when I can get it. 

I started thinking about it and looking into it. It looks like it would be an AMAZING vacation. I would love to visit Colorado, but I'm not a skiier so summer would definitely be the best time to go. The tickets are SUPER expensive - even the basic ones are over $1000, and it's only a weekend. But you do get 7 seminars, 5 tastings, and a million exhibits and the chance to be in the presence of culinary genius. Then there is the option of the "green pass" which is basically a VIP pass, and gives you a lot of other benefits including "free" gifts, tickets to several special dinners, and $1000 of the $3100 cost is donated to a charity. Part of me would like to do that, even though it would cost me an arm and a leg and I probably wouldn't like a lot the food at the dinners! And really, are the gifts worth that much more that I would be paying? I really doubt it. At the same time, getting the VIP seats at the seminars and all of that would be FANTASTIC and probably well worth it in my book. 

I'll keep dreaming about it. Maybe one of these days I will make it out there! If you want to go with me in maybe 2011 start saving now and let me know!


Monday, August 24, 2009

Bread

Today I made a big step in my attempts at being a domestic diva. I took on the challenge of baking bread. 

I have never made bread before that I can remember. I have made pizza crust from a mix or biscuits from a can, but I've never done bread. I got a recipe from a lady at school and today I finally tried it out.

I was actually really scared. It's not like I've never screwed up something I've tried to make, especially the first time around, but I knew that if I screwed this up I know Jeff would never let me forget it. Apparently his aunt (who is an AMAZING baker) had some trouble the first time she tried to make bread for her husband right after they were married. She probably killed the yeast or something but she spent all day in the kitchen and yet her bread came out very very flat and just not right. And she has never heard the end of it. And Jeff has kept reminding me of this since before we got married whenever I talked about making bread. 

It took a good chunk of my day to make. I probably spent almost an hour putting everything together (I imagine it will go faster in the future as I learn what I'm doing). Then it had to rise for an hour. Then I had to beat it down and divide it which probably took 15 - 20 minutes then it had to rise another 40 minutes. Then it had to bake for about 30 minutes.

But when it was all done I was SOOO excited because it came out fabulous! The recipe was for two loaves but I couldn't find my second loaf pan (I don't even remember if I have a second loaf pan!) so I divided the second loaf into rolls. I had to keep an eye on them so they didn't burn because they didn't take as long to bake, but they came out great. I ate several of them with a little bit of butter right out of the oven and they were quite tasty.

Next baking adventure - pound cake and orange rolls

Sunday, August 23, 2009

General Update

I have been a blogging slacker lately, but not a whole lot has been going on in my life.

Birthday was nice. Thank you all for the lovely wishes. 

Last week I spent a whole lot of time in meetings. Thankfully they all went well.

I'm officially oriented and ready to start volunteering again. I'm very excited about getting started.

Work has been going well. I need to buckle down and do my ordination papers. I'm hopeful that my office will be officially cleaned out and I can use it by the end of September!

House hunting has been going very well. We went and visited several places this week. We found one that we both just fell in love with. It's a nice foreclosure that only needs some cosmetic work but is very reasonably priced, so we're really thinking about acting on it soon. It would be nice to be able to have all the work done before we want to move in. And the sooner we can get into a permanent home, the happier I will be!  (Plus if we can be moved and settled by March, I can go on vacation after Easter!) 

It looks like Jeff is going on vacation without me in a few weeks. His grandparents have a timeshare in Gulf Shores, but it's Friday-Friday so our schedules just don't overlap enough for me to be able to go with him. Oh well!

I haven't been doing a ton of cooking lately. We've enjoyed the weather and done some grilling out but nothing terribly exciting. I still haven't re-tried meatloaf yet (it's on the to-do list) and Jeff is requesting spaghetti, plus I want to try roasting just chicken breasts. I'll let you know what I come up with for this next week!

Jeff is going to be teaching again for the fall, which will be great. It's a new class that he's never done before, but I think he's really looking forward to it. 

The dogs are doing well and enjoying the nice weather. We're working on better habits with both of them. Cocoa is getting better at night and Patches is learning not to jump and how to shake. 

So that's pretty much it. Life is good!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Oh Baby!

No, I'm not pregnant. I don't pan to be for several years. But I have been thinking about it lately. I know Jeff has too. His long-time crush from high school (I might even go so far as to call her his first love) is now expecting. And I can see it somewhere in his head that he's thinking about having kids. 

Whenever I think about having kids, of course the first thing to come to my girly little brain is decorating! How do I want to decorate the nursery? What kind of playpen, highchair, stroller, and car seat do I want? I have a few things that have been made in my family and handed down (that are all gender neutral thankfully!) so I know I want to use them. For the most part, I've decided to keep everything yellow and green and not any particular pattern, just solids and perhaps a gingham. Because I have handmade items from the last couple of generations, I want to make something for my baby too! Part of me wants to learn to quilt so that I can make the quilt or a pillow or something. I'm sure I'll come up with something I can make, I'll just have to wait and see what it is! I would love to have as much handmade stuff as possible because there is so much love that goes into making something for someone and I want my child (or children) to be surrounded by as much love as possible! 

The next thing that came to my mind was work and maternity leave. I have always said that I would love to be a stay at home mom. Part of me thinks I still would, especially when the kids are tiny because I don't want to miss any major milestones. But, at the same time, I know you can't see everything. I remember my friend Julie's little boy rolling over for the first time while I was babysitting for him. She was a stay at home mom but it just happened to be in those couple of hours that he actually rolled over for the first time. And I was thrilled to get to see it but part of me thinks if it had been my child I would have been heartbroken to not see it. But at the same time I know he did it again and again and there were lots of other firsts that she got to see. And I think that taught me that there's no way you can see everything and if you try you will only be disappointed. You won't be able to relish what you do see because you'll be grieving what you don't get to see. 

Right now working part time has been an interesting experience for me. I think I would have a very different opinion of the whole experience if I had an office and got out of the house more. But when I'm home I feel like I'm just kind of worthless because I'm so unmotivated and lazy. And I go absolutely stir crazy if I don't leave the house (and sometimes don't even get dressed) for a couple of days! And I feel like I would be the same way as a stay-at-home mom. I think it would be perfect for the first few months (especially before the baby is sleeping through the night!) but after a while I think I would go a little nuts. I don't want to put my child in daycare if I can help it, but I feel like I will go nuts if I don't do SOMETHING. And as much as I would love to volunteer, I feel like I would need to be making money that I could turn around and spend on a nanny! 

I know I would like to take a maternity leave of AT LEAST two months, maybe more. But unless I've got a "real job" or am in a good place to do something else, I don't know that I would want to take a full year's leave of absence from the conference. I know there's plenty of time to sort it all out and I can't do too much until I know I'm expecting, but it's a lot to think about! 

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Six Flags

Yesterday Jeff and I went to Six Flags with his mom, aunt, and two cousins. It was totally last minute (we got offered the free tickets at 9pm on Thursday!) but we had a good time.

I got incredibly dehydrated because it was SO hot and crowded. And I got a little bit of sunburn on my chest and shoulders. But despite all that we had a good time. We road a few things and walked around. It's been a long time since most of us were at Six Flags so it was interesting to just see the park and how things have changed. 

When we got home I was thinking about how a trip to a theme park (or any kind of family outing) teaches you a lot of good "life lessons." There were two in particular that came to mind - patience and compromise. Not only do you have to have patience when you are waiting in line, you also need it while you are waiting for people riding something you don't want to ride. Compromise comes into play on most every family anything because there will always be differing opinions about what to do and when to do it. You just have to go with the flow and look forward to doing your thing!

Normally I'm a planner. I like to know ahead of time what is going on. Especially if it comes to doing something big like a trip. I've only ever taken a couple of these last minute trips. But every time I do they are a lot of fun. I don't have any bad memories or experiences of disaster that have come from any of these little day trips. Perhaps I should do them more often!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Frog Song

In elementary school, my music teacher taught us this very cute little song about a frog who wanted to be an alligator. I loved it. And everyone I knew loved it. But I haven't thought about it in at least five years. I really can't remember when the last time I thought about it was, much less heard it or sang it.

And yesterday morning, I woke up and my first thought was "Why can't I be an alligator?" which is the first part of the chorus. And I've been singing/humming it ever since! 

I put it on my facebook status this morning and it's amazing the comments I've gotten! It has been so much fun to remember this withe everyone. And you can't help but smile when you hear it.

So you need to go listen to The Frog Song. It will make your day, I promise!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Holidays

Holidays are probably the most exciting and most dreaded part of any new family. There's nothing like having to break old family traditions in order to make new ones.

If you know me and Jeff and have followed our relationship from the beginning, you will know that holidays have been a challenge pretty much from the beginning. And not just the major ones like Christmas, basically any sort of holiday that could possibly be celebrated. See, here is the conflict - his family celebrates EVERYTHING. And when they do, they involve EVERYONE. My extended family does the biggies together - Thanksgiving and Christmas. If there is a major milestone birthday there might be a little something special, but that's about it. Part of this is because of our distance, but I think part of it is just kind of how we are as a family.

Now, I won't lie, Jeff's family traditions really bothered me at first. And there are a few that I'm still not crazy about, but I understand it and can respect it even if I don't like it. But for the most part, they are starting to grow on me. 

Christmas - This has been the biggest challenge for us. We got engaged just a few days before Christmas so that is a special time for us as a couple. This has always been the one big holiday for my extended family to get together, on Christmas day. Jeff's family has several Christmas traditions including Christmas Eve AND Christmas Day. The newest twist is now the fact that it is a religious holiday, and that makes it a work day for me! And that means that traveling more than an hour or two and being gone any longer than one night is pretty much impossible for us. Negotiating time with everyone is going to be a challenge, but I'm sure we will learn as we go.

Thanksgiving - This one is usually a bigger deal for my family than it is for Jeff's. But this year we're going on vacation that week so we don't have to worry about negotiating much of anything! In the future I'm sure we'll have to figure something out, but I would really love to start hosting a family holiday (especially once we get a house) and I think this would be an ideal one for us because it's not religious and is guaranteed to not be on a Sunday so no matter what I won't have to try and manipulate it around work. I get a pass for this year and next year can start negotiating our first new (permanent) tradition.

Easter - When I was young we always celebrated Easter with my grandparents and even when I was in college I always came home for Easter weekend. Jeff's family will always make a weekend of it, but it's much more low key and flexible than other holidays. The past couple of years it's been a work day for me, and that is going to be the case from now on. On the one hand I would love to have people come see us, but because I'll be working I don't see myself really being able to do a whole lot. I'm sure it will matter more once we have kids but we can cross that bridge once we get to it.

Birthdays - Jeff's family makes a much bigger deal about birthdays than my family ever has. And I am not a big fan. I think big birthday parties are fine when you are a kid and if it's a milestone birthday, but beyond that I think big parties are just unnecessary. Yes, I have had very crummy birthdays for a long time with no real sign of a break in that trend, so I am not eager to make a big deal of it. I don't like cake, I don't like singing, and I don't like going out with a million people for dinner. Jeff's family is all over all of this. I think birthdays are a personal thing. And if you want to make a big deal of your birthday that's your choice. But I just can't get them to understand that I really don't like celebrating MY birthday. This year my birthday is a work day so hopefully it will be low key. We can cook out on Saturday and then maybe go out for lunch after church on Sunday and that will be the end of that. 

Valentine's Day - Jeff and I were very sweet and romantic on our first V-day. After that, it just didn't really seem to matter that much. This year we may do something, but we'll have to wait and see. Thankfully this one is not a family holiday!

Halloween - I actually really like halloween. I love seeing all the little kids dressed up, the cool weather, and the pretty fall colors. We usually decorate at least a little bit, although I don't know how well that'll work this year in the condo. I will probably dress the dogs up for pictures though!

Anniversaries - I think anniversaries are personal. Milestones MAYBE have a little party or something, but in general they are between the couple and should be left alone. My family never made a big deal about other people's anniversary. In fact, we were doing good to remember other family members' anniversaries. Jeff's family doesn't have parties for everyone every year, but they do make it a point to call everyone and wish them a happy anniversary. I'm still deciding how I feel about that. Next year we won't get to celebrate much because, again, I have to work. But, I doubt I will answer the phone if anyone calls! They can leave a message!

4th of July - this is not a holiday that has ever even been on my radar as a holiday! We might go over with friends to cook out when I was younger and we would buy fireworks to shoot off, but now I don't even think about it. This was the first year I have done anything in a long time. We had a big family cookout at Jeff's grandparents on the 3rd because that was when everyone was off work. Then, his grandparents came over on the 4th and we cooked out. Finally we went to see Thunder on the Mountain with his aunt, uncle, and cousins. Personally, I kind of miss letting it pass without a thought! 

I like having an excuse to celebrate as much as the next person. But I also feel like celebrations lose some of their special-ness and excitement when you celebrate everything! I think special achievements deserve special celebration, but when you have some sort of "big family celebration" at least once a month, you're not going to get excited about much of anything after a while. And that really isn't fair when you have something that is really worth celebrating!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Volunteer Work

I love doing volunteer work. I have for as long as I can remember. Don't get me wrong, I like getting paid for work too, but there is something special about doing something out of the goodness of your heart. 

I have been doing volunteer work since I was probably about 12. Sure, I did service projects when I was younger through girl scouts and whatnot, but nothing independent or recurring until I was 12. I started with working with the Child Advocacy Center, then the marketing department at the hospital, then Camp Sumatanga, plus a nice assortment of church and school projects.

When I went to BSC and went through Rush, I always asked about the philanthropy stuff and working with some of the projects that each sorority sponsored. And most of the girls looked at me like I was crazy. They didn't care anything about actually working WITH the people or groups they sponsored, they just wanted to have a party and send them a check. I wasn't cool with that. I NEEDED volunteer work because something just felt like it was missing when I wasn't doing it.

So to solve that  little problem, I went through volunteer training at Children's Hospital. I didn't have a particular area where I wanted to work, I just wanted to do something. I got trained and interviewed but just never got a placement. And so I sat in limbo for almost a year. Then I decided to contract my month with the Pastoral Care department and ended up working with them for quite some time. In addition to Children's, I also worked with a Brownie Girl Scout troop and with Rape Response. It broke my heart when I moved to Nashville and had to start all over again.

I didn't do nearly as much volunteering in Nashville, but I knew I had to do something, so I defaulted to what I knew best and was the easiest to get into - hospital work. I ended up working with the pastoral care department at Vanderbilt Medical Center for about two years. 

In the past year life has been a little crazy and volunteering hasn't happened. And now that life has slowed down and routine has returned, I am ready to return to volunteering. 

I went by Children's yesterday to inquire if the pastoral care department could use a volunteer and was thrilled to get a yes. I went to volunteer services immediately and since I am a returning volunteer they are helping me streamline the process and I'll have my interview on Tuesday! I'll be so excited to go back to work with them. It's a great place with great people where I feel like I can make a difference. 

I'm very excited!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Married Life

In the two months since our wedding, I have often been asked the question "How is married life?"
Well, I really haven't been able to come up with an honest and concise answer to that question yet.

"Great!" - Married life really is great, at least my married life is. I love getting to share life with Jeff. I look forward to his coming home every day and getting to actually talk to him in person rather than over the phone. I love having someone to cook for and to eat dinner with. I love sitting next to him on the couch and watching nothing on TV. I love sharing all the mundane little details of life with him. It really is wonderful to truly be sharing our lives.

"A Challenge" - Right now, our biggest challenge to married life is learning to live together. It can be something as simple as compromising on what we want for dinner on a particular night to trying to figure out when we want to go to bed and get up to accommodate our different schedules. I'm sure it will work itself out, especially when if I start having office hours like he does. It's nothing major, but over time those little things that you aren't used to dealing with can build up. The biggest thing is reminding ourselves and each other to communicate.

"Hard Work" - Married life has meant the taking on of some interesting new responsibilities. In addition to the housekeeping and walking the dogs,  there are some serious business aspects of sharing a life with someone, the least of which is the management of household finances. So far this has gone very well, but it doesn't happen by itself! I have also found myself with a few new duties including packing Jeff's lunch for work every day. It's also been an adjustment to have someone to whose needs I have to be responsible. When I was single, if there was a night I didn't feel like cooking and wanted something quick and easy I could just do what I wanted, but I can't do that now. I'm sure I will learn how to manage all of these new responsibilities, but for now it's still a learning experience.

"An Amazing Journey" - Married life is a journey, no doubt about it. There are all kinds of twists and turns, and the pit stops along the way sometimes provide the greatest entertainment. But ultimately, it's about the journey and not the destination. Like any journey I know there will be times when I am tired and frustrated, but it is SO worth it.

So if you feel the need to ask me how married life is or has been, just pick whichever answer you like best, because it is all of the above!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bags

If you know me, you know I have a thing for bags. It started out just as purses. But it has expanded to include tote bags, suitcases, backpacks, and almost any other kind of bag! 

When I was in high school, I was known for my "momma purse" because I was ready for just about anything and had almost anything anyone would need in it!

While I was in college and then in grad school, I rarely carried my purse, but I had my backpack/school bag ready for a variety of situations.

Now, I have several bags. The first is my "regular" purse. The second is a big tote bag full of "work" stuff that I call my portable office. I keep a notebook, a couple of folders of important papers, a bible, this year's preaching guide, a calendar, a church directory, and anything else I think I might need that I can take with me. 

Over the years, I have gotten very particular about the kinds of bags I like. For a purse, I want to be able to put it across my body. I want it to be big enough to keep a bunch of stuff in it, and I prefer it have a few pockets that I can organize things in. In backpacks, I want nice padded shoulder straps and lots of pockets also. For a suitcase, I want something lightweight, if it's big enough I want wheels. Even smaller bags, I want something to zip all the way. 

My number one requirement for everything is that it be durable. If I have something, I'm going to use it. And I want it to last. I don't want to have to worry about it getting thrown around being loaded onto a plane or a cruise ship or getting in and out of the car. And because I expect quality, I'm willing to pay for it. I don't like spending tons of money, but I'm willing to do it. But to make that sale, you have to be able to give me exactly what I want. Because if I can't get it from you, I will go somewhere else!

I recently found a bag that I absolutely love the style. It is a small (carry on size) duffel bag that has a hard bottom. The only ones  I have found are kind of cheap and are in funky patterns. While I love a little funky every now and then, it's just not what I'm looking for. The closest thing I have found in a similar style that is more durable is much larger, and part of the appeal of this one is the fact that it's so small! Alas, I shall keep searching!

Furry Children

I love our dogs. They really are a part of our family. And they really are like children with their own developmental needs and unique personalities.

Cocoa is my chihuahua. She is five years old, so she is more than an adult. But she is also only four pounds! She was picked on by the littermate she lived with before I got her. As a result she has developed a few personality "quirks" that we have been working to overcome. 

The first is that she is kind of neurotic. Part of this is her breed, too. But she is very skittish and scared of just about anything. This has really improved thanks to Patches, amazingly enough. She has done really well learning to live with another dog. As a result, she has gotten a little bolder when it comes to meeting strange dogs. She will not only allow them to sniff her, she will often walk right up to them, which is nice because I know she can be more social. She's getting a little better about socializing with other people as well, but we still have some more work to do there.

Her second quirk is her eating habits. Although the other dog she lived with was smaller, the other one was the Alpha and would push her away and not let her eat. When I first got her, she would only eat at night when all the lights were out and nobody was watching her. She will now eat at normal times during the day, but still doesn't like any people to be around watching her, but if she's started eating she will let you watch her eat it. She is still a little funny in that she will take a piece of food and carry it away from the bowl and eat it, then come back for another piece.

I have recently become aware of the fact that she likes to get up in the middle of the night for a drink of water. I think part of this is my fault because she is used to staying up much later with me and now I am not staying up as late but she hasn't quite adjusted to our new schedule. This may have been going on for a long time but she always was able to get on and off the bed by herself (sometimes with the help of a stool or something to give her a boost) so I never had to get up with her. Now she can't get back on the bed by herself and we usually close the door at night so I have to get up and let her out, then wait till she comes back and put her back on the bed. 

Even though she was about two and a half years old when I got her, she wasn't quite as potty trained as I was told she was! I'm sure part of it was the transition to a new home and the fact that we moved about every year and that's a lot for anyone, but especially a little dog with nerve issues already! We have finally gotten her almost totally trained. She still doesn't always tell us when she needs to go out and if we wait more than about four hours while she is awake, she can sometimes have an accident. But for the most part, she is really good. 

Patches is our black lab/australian shepherd mix. He is about a year and a half old. He still has a lot of puppy in him and is full of energy. He has calmed down a lot when he isn't around other big dogs to cause trouble. But has a few quirks of his own.

The first is just that he sleeps on his back with his legs up or sprawled out. It's really funny to watch and makes us laugh.

Like any lab puppy, he loves to chew on things. We try to give him rawhide bones and other things that he is allowed to chew on, but he has eaten flip flops, a comforter, rugs, and even pulled a small fabric case for my contact stuff out of my purse and ate that! He also ate a huge hole in Jeff's grill cover! He is learning not to chew on things, but I have a feeling there will be some other casualties!

Although he is a big bundle of energy, I think being around Cocoa has taught him the joys of being a lap dog. He isn't allowed on the furniture, but loves to sit right next to us and just be petted and loved on. He also loves to give kisses, but can stop if you tell him no. He still gets really excited and loves to jump, which can almost knock you over! We're trying to teach him and he can be really good at listening to "no" or he can be totally oblivious, depending on his mood. 

Despite their quirks and areas for improvement, they are wonderful additions to our family and I can't imagine life without them!

Friday, July 17, 2009

House Hunting

Jeff and I are officially house-hunting. We called a mortgage company and got our pre-approval. We've called the realtor and have an appointment to meet with her next week. And now we are looking around on the internet.

Shopping for a home is actually really stressful. We don't want a "starter home", we want a place where we can settle down and raise a family. And we already have some pretty specific criteria. I want a formal dining room and possibly a separate formal living room.  We want three bedrooms at least (4 if we can get it!) in northern Shelby county (Pelham area). We want a fenced yard for the dogs and a garage (2 car if at all possible). If there is room for a workshop for Jeff, that would be ideal. 

Most of what we have found that meet our criteria and are within our price range are older houses, usually built in the 70s. That means they aren't as cute as I would like them to be, but we can update it in a few years if we need to. 

I have to admit, the whole process is absolutely terrifying, but also very exciting. Stay tuned for the continued adventures of our home safari!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Swimming

When I was a kid, swimming was probably my all-time favorite summer time activity. It ranked right up there with sleeping late, watching tv all day, and eating whatever we wanted for lunch. But in recent years, I have discovered that swimming just doesn't hold all that much appeal to me. I'd much rather sit in the shade with a book or just relax in a hot tub (if it is available). 

Maybe it is just a grown up thing. But diving for toys or change and doing handstands and giving piggy back rides just doesn't entertain me for hours the way it used to. I'd much rather hang out and float or just sit with my feet in the water. I used to want to go swimming every day, sometimes multiple times a day. Now, about twice a year does me just fine! I'm also kind of funny about the fact that I am no longer content to throw dry clothes over a wet suit or ride home squishy. So I like to get out a while before it's time to go home so I can dry off. 

Jeff is practically my opposite. He can't get enough of swimming and gets really funny when I don't want to go with him or if I walk down but don't want to get in. Maybe it is just because he got so used to going swimming all the time when he was younger and it never really stopped. I don't know. 

I got two new bathing suits this week. I haven't had new suits in three years, and the old ones clearly don't fit anymore, but as often as I go swimming, I make it work. I figured that, since we are going to Discovery Cove again in November and because Jeff is taking me swimming more now, I should get them. I didn't spend nearly as much as I normally would but am happy with what I got. And now that I have suits that are comfortable and fit right, I actually feel a little more willing to go swimming more often.

Now if I could just get one of those floats with an umbrella on it ...

Furniture Shopping

One of the perks of setting up a home is getting the furniture to put in that home! We currently have some very nice furniture, but the vast majority is stuff that has been inherited from one of our families. We're both happy with it for the moment, but we eventually want to get some things of our own that we have picked for ourselves.

We didn't go out intending to shop for furniture. But we had some time to kill and decided to go wander around. We ended up at Rooms to Go first. We wandered in and were accosted by the sales guy named Elvis. Although he didn't stand over us, he followed us around the store. On several occasions I saw him staring at us and it was just plain creepy. He never really offered any help, just kind of creeped us out. We found a few things we liked ok, but nothing we really loved. We walked out feeling a little bit let down.

We decided that, since neither of us had ever been up to Ashley Furniture and we were close, we would pop up the hill for a bit. When we walked in we were greeted by a very friendly salesperson named Johnita. She explained the set-up of the store, told us to look around, asked our names, and promised to check on us soon. And she left us alone! I could look over my shoulder and not see her staring at us, and it was wonderful! We stopped and looked at a few things along the way and she caught up with us and explained how to read all the little sales placards. And once again she left. Again, she gave us a while and caught up with us, this time we had questions for her. She answered our questions and explained everything very well. We continued to make the rounds and she continued to just check on us periodically, answer all our questions, and generally make it a great experience. 

When we were finally ready to go, we were in love with a dining room set, a sofa set, and a nice storage ottoman. She gave us her card and printed out pictures of the sets that we liked. We will be more than happy to go back and give her business! 

And if you're in the market for some furniture in Birmingham, go down to Ashley Furniture in Hoover and see Johnita!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Roast Chicken

I have officially roasted my first chicken. And I must say, it was quite a successful attempt. I also learned a lot and think I can do an even better job next time! 

I must admit, I've never been a huge fan of working with whole creatures. It makes them seem, well, like animals and not just pieces of meat! I can see how people can be vegetarians when you look at it that way. I mean, I know intellectually where meat comes from, but I have a really hard time bridging the gap between farm and market. And even really large animals like cows and pigs don't bother me. It's the little ones like chickens and our goats. I've never had a burning desire to try goat meat, but I really think I would have a problem with it now that we're raising them. (That's another post for another day). 

Anywho, as I set about the work of preparing my chicken, I felt rather odd. It was quite compressed in its little package, so in order to clean out the insides I had to spread its little legs and open it up. And I felt like a perv! Stuffing it with the lemons, onions, celery, carrots, and rosemary had a similar effect. But I was pretty proud of myself and my stuffing abilities. 

After it was stuffed, I had to give it a massage with butter and season it with salt and pepper. Again, massaging a chicken was odd, but the results were very much worth it! I also stuck a little bit of lemon and rosemary under the skin. It was good It took about two hours total to roast, but it came out pretty darn perfect. It worked out well because I gave it about 10-15 minutes to rest while the rest of dinner finished so it was still nice and juicy but the skin was crispy and delicious. 

My carving skills need a little work but overall it was a very successful dinner. Next time I will probably not put the rosemary under the skin, just stuff it inside and lay some in the pan around the bird.

If we can catch a turkey on sale sometime I may just making our own roast turkey for sandwiches!

Coming soon: Bread, Dogs, Cleaning, and Movies

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Cleaning

While I can be very OCD about organization (some types of organization more than others), cleaning is not something I am terribly passionate about or enjoy very much. But now that I really have a home to take care of and am taking a little pride in it, I'm sort of enjoying it. It really does help to have someone to help me keep everything up. 

One task I know Jeff wishes I were better about is making the bed. I usually forget about it at least once a week. I appreciate that he lets me sleep when he leaves for work and I know that's the price I pay for that. But half the time I will get up and take the dog(s) out for a walk, and then I may or may not go back in the bedroom for quite some time. Usually I make the bed when I take a shower/get dressed. And on the days when I am lazy and want a bubble bath or just to hang out in my t-shirt and sweatpants, then I usually forget about the bed. We are compromising - Jeff does it on the weekends when he's home and will sometimes make it if I've forgotten it after he gets home (and is learning to do it without making smart comments!), but he can also just leave it on occasion which is nice. I'm trying to do better about remembering it, but at least I have stopped napping in the afternoon which is a step in the right direction I suppose!

Doing the dishes has become an interesting endeavor for us. On the one hand, I absolutely despise doing dishes, but since it mostly means just rinsing plates and loading the dishwasher, I'm taking ownership for it as one of "my" jobs, and am therefore picky about the way it is done. Bill Engvall has done several little bits about his wife and the dishes and the way the dishwasher is loaded. And I have always and will always laugh at them, but I am now that wife! Rather than getting on to Jeff for the way he does it, I just go behind him and fix it. He is slowly learning the way I like it and is trying, and I am learning to work around the way he does it. I still maintain the rule that if you don't want something in the dishwasher, you have to wash it by hand yourself, which seems fair.

I really dislike vacuuming, so that is Jeff's only major regular housekeeping job. He doesn't really mind it, so it works out pretty well. We share laundry duty and he is slowly learning what "delicate" means. I'm learning how he likes his socks folded. We still need an iron, but we're moving in the right directions. Dusting is one of those jobs neither of us likes so it usually only gets done once a month or whenever we have company (whichever comes first). I keep the bathrooms clean, but it's really not too terrible. The master shower has one of those scrubbing bubbles auto shower things so that kind of does itself. The tub/shower in the hall bathroom only gets used when we're in a hurry and both want to get ready at the same time or I want a bubble bath (that is "my" bathroom). Everything else is pretty easy to maintain.

I will be very glad when summer is over and Patches isn't shedding so we don't have black dog hair all over everything in our world!

I doubt I will ever actually like cleaning, but I am learning to appreciate the results enough to desire them!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Television

I have never been a huge fan of popular TV. My favorite shows are often things that have been off the air for years and are being re-aired on Lifetime. Starting in high school there were about three channels I would watch - courtTV, Food Network, and Lifetime. And it stayed that way pretty much through college. I never really got into the whole "newest episode" of anything. And I loved re-runs of shows I'd already seen, especially if I'd seen it more than once because my attention wasn't glued to it. It was simply background noise. I like studying to spoken word better than music, so TV worked for me.

When I moved to Nashville, I didn't get cable. It was just an un-needed expense, and I had a pretty good collection of DVDs so I was happy. When I lived in the house we had cable but I couldn't ever figure out how to use the directTV or whatever it was so I probably watched it maybe a dozen times in the year i lived there. I just stuck to DVDs in my room. The last apartment I inherited a set of bunny ears but still no cable, so it was mostly DVDs still.

Somewhere in there, I discovered Grey's Anatomy. Like I said, I'm not one to jump on the "new show" bandwagon, so I was about three seasons late in getting started. I just downloaded them all and spent my Thanksgiving break watching all of them up to that point. And of course I was hooked, so I got as caught up as I could and anxiously awaited new episodes. I still wasn't one for "appointment TV" so I looked forward to my new download from iTunes and that was when I'd watch it. 

There is only one show I ever watched as it aired, start to finish, every week without fail and that was "True Beauty". I don't think I would have gotten quite as into it if it were longer than 8 weeks, and I think the only reason it worked was because it was right after I got home from a late class and it was perfect to switch it on while I ate dinner. 

Now that I am not working and have access to TV, I am getting hooked on so many different shows - Ice Road Truckers, The Deadliest Catch, Top Chef, Crossing Jordan, The First 48 and the list just keeps going! I have even spent an entire day watching a full season of America's Next Top Model! 

I am really getting into all of these and I honestly don't know what to do with myself! I need to be more productive.

Sleep

There are very few things in the life of my home that are sacred. I mean in the sense that they shouldn't be disturbed, interrupted, or otherwise messed with unless there is a MAJOR emergency. But the one thing we do have that is sacred is sleep. Bedtime, Sunday afternoon naps, and even dozing in front of the TV are all things that are just respected. 

For the most part, we keep a relatively normal adult schedule. We try to be in bed before 11 and are usually asleep before midnight. Jeff is usually up before 6 am during the week and 8am on weekends because he has to walk Patches. I tend to stay up a little later and sleep a little later, but I generally try to avoid the "up all night, sleep all day" cycle, if for no other reason than I have to be up at least two days a week. 

If we get a phone call after about 9pm, our hearts race a little because it's unusual. When the doorbell rings unexpectedly after 10pm, pure panic sets in. It seems only natural. In an age where everyone seems to have instant access to any number of means of communication, a visitor in the middle of the night who didn't call first is not going to be the start of any type of good situation! 

We had a surprise "visitor" (who has tentatively been identified) that decided it would be fun to ring our doorbell and run away at midnight on a Saturday. This seems like a typical childhood prank, except that we are hidden away so we know it was not random. And Sunday is one of my work days. Even though Jeff was still up working in the office, I was happily tucked all snug in my bed with visions of sugarplums dancing through my head.

It is not easy to sleep after that kind of panic-induced adrenaline rush. And there will be retribution for those who feel the need to mess with my sleep. 

Meatloaf

Meatloaf is another of those foods that I've never really eaten but am deciding I might actually like. My mom used to make it, but the only meatloaf she liked was her own. Personally, there was just something about it that wasn't too appetizing. The first meatloaf I remember really trying and liking was at the Loveless Cafe (an experience that probably requires its own entry). Then I had it again this year at a potluck, so I decided to be brave and give it a shot. 

I have my mom's old recipes, so I figured that the best place to start would be close to home. I remembered seeing it made, but not paying too much attention to it. This was mistake number one!

I discovered that this recipe was a little different - rather than using bread crumbs as the binding, it used potato. Because I was too lazy to peel and grate my own potato I used a handful of frozen hash browns (this was, amazingly, not at all problematic). The rest of it seemed straightforward and everything seemed like it was coming together pretty nicely until I got to the last ingredient - one cup of scalded milk. 

I will probably never know how that ended up as a part of the recipe, but it didn't do anything but make a royal mess! I had to pour the whole thing into a loaf pan rather than just shaping it and putting it on a baking sheet. It all held together (enough to be sliced after baking, but it did NOT look pretty. It tasted pretty bland, too.

Jeff was a trooper and ate several slices (I just ate leftovers, after all the trouble i went to to make it, one bit was all I could stomach). When he went to re-heat the leftovers they started to fall apart. Because there wasn't a terribly strong flavor of anything, he added taco seasoning and turned it into taco salad.

I am not deterred though! I am going to try my hand at meatloaf again, only this time with a very different recipe.

Stay tuned for Meatloaf 2.0

Smothered Pork Chops

Pork chops have never been one of my favorite foods. We didn't have them very often when I was a kid, and when we did they were usually pretty dry, bland, and tough. Plus they were always cooked with rice, a side dish which i refused to touch at the time, so it was just too much work scraping every last grain of rice off the bottom of my chop. Nope, I wasn't a fan. 

As I got older I discovered that pork chops did have some redeeming qualities (as did rice, but that's another entry) and so I experimented with ways of preparing them. They were definitely edible, but never something I really loved or just couldn't get enough of.

Tonight, I discovered the wonders of the smothered pork chop. And I must say, I could eat my weight in these glorious little morsels. They were AMAZING. I literally ate a whole one out of the pan while they were still cooking. I called it testing (at least for the first bite) but it was just stuffing my face.

This is a very imprecise recipe because I was mostly eyeballing everything, but you'll get the idea.

I started with what I'm guessing to be about 1/3 - 1/2 lb of pork tenderloin cut into about 1/2 inch thick medallions/chops. They were lightly coated with a mixture of AP flour, cayenne, salt, and pepper and then browned on either side in a little bit of olive oil.

After the chicken pieces were browned, I removed them to a plate, and add a little more olive oil to your pan plus one small yellow onion that has been sliced, 3 cloves diced garlic, and about 1/2 cup of diced bell pepper (I buy a bag of the frozen little pieces so it was just a handful, but I'm guessing this is about what you'd get from one average pepper). Cook all this until it's soft and yummy smelling, then add a couple of tablespoons of Dale's seasoning (i think you're supposed to use worcestershire but this was what i had and it was really good). Then add about 2 cups of chicken stock, scrape all your bits from the bottom, put the browned pork pieces back in the pan, and cover. Allow the whole thing to simmer about 20 minutes until everything is tender and fabulous. If the sauce gets too thick, just add some more chicken stock.

I served it over pasta to help soak up all the sauce, but i think I may use a simple rice pilaf next time.

Other things to do differently next time: go easy on the breading, it kind of slid off when it was simmering. The seasoning was great though. 

When everything was said and done, this was definitely a new favorite. I will keep playing with it. But when you end up with something so tender you can cut it with a fork, can you really go wrong? If you try it, let me know what you think.

Coming Soon: Hospitality, Sleep, and I still haven't forgotten about Meatloaf and Crocheting!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Just a Number

For basically all my life, my age has seemed like a hurdle. From day one, I was too young! I was born several weeks early and tiny. Not sick, just young. 

When I started school I was one of the youngest in my class. Several of those who had birthdays about the same time I did were held back a year, but my parents sent me on to school because they felt like I was ready. I never had any trouble and just settled into my role as the youngest.  It wasn't terribly irritating until I reached high school and was one of the last to get my driver's license. 

In college, I had an academic head start and was able to finish in three years. I was always too young for the fun stuff of college. Lots of people tried to encourage me to stay another year, but college life just didn't appeal to me. I didn't have to struggle with where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do next. I was confident in my calling and the path I had to take to get there, so I just wanted to get on with it. 

I turned 21 on my first day at Divinity School. I was officially THE youngest person my first year. And it was no longer a matter of weeks or months difference. It was not a matter of years. And at that point, years meant life experience. And I became incredibly insecure about it all. 

I wrestled with "the age thing" as well as "the authority thing", more specifically doubts about my own authority (which was pretty obviously tied to the age thing!) And I would feel better about it for a while, then something would happen that would make me go a little nuts and start doubting everything all over again.

I'm sure part of my insecurity had to do with the fact that, although I was now in my early 20s and qualified as an adult for pretty much anything, I had been a student my whole life and I was not financially independent. Graduation and then getting married sort of legitimized me as an adult in a way that I hadn't ever felt before.

But nothing compared with starting my job at the church. I know I was floundering for the first week or two. But suddenly, I feel like everything has clicked. I am confident in my authority, my ability to make decisions, my power to make changes, and my voice to state my opinion, and my mind that I have something to teach. 

I have started doing a few things a little differently. I was very nervous about "rocking the boat" so early, but I also knew that there was just no way that I could do things the same way as the previous minister because we are very different people with very different leadership styles. And it has been well received!  

And now, my age is not a hurdle, but a motivation. My energy and attitude are a benefit, not a liability. And my experience as a student has made me into a better teacher. 

It has taken a while, but I finally feel comfortable with the statement that "age is just a number".

Check back with me when I hit 40 and see if I still feel that way! 

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Trailer Life

Until I met Jeff, my experience with recreation vehicles was nothing more than theoretical. I thought a nice motor home would be a great way to have a family vacation out west, especially driving across the country. Several years ago I talked it over with a co-worker and she agreed that her family would love to take a trip like that and how much better it would make traveling with their two young children (ages 8 and 3 at the time) so I made up my mind - at some point in my life I would take an RV vacation.

When I met Jeff, I became much more involved with the life of the RV community than I ever could have dreamed. Heck, I really didn't know there was such a thing. I thought the point of these lovely homes on wheels was to be independent and do your own thing and not have to worry with travel groups and all of that hassle. My vocabulary has since increased to include words like "travel trailer", "pop-up", "slide out", "fifth wheel", "park model", "C class", "toy hauler", and many others. And the best part is, I can explain them all to you, or at least the basics of them! 

Almost all the members of Jeff's family own travel trailers, and most of them have memberships at Mountain Lakes Resort on Lake Guntersville. His grandparents have taken several big trips with theirs including several cross country trips and even a venture to Mexico. They have a lot of great stories, and it's an easy and relatively cheap way to have a family getaway. 

"Our" travel trailer is technically owned by his mother, but we have our own membership at Mountain Lakes and Jeff has the truck to tow it, so it's a joint venture. The first time I stayed in it at the lake was an interesting experience, but all in all I have to say I enjoy it. It's a 1990 model so it's pre-slide outs and is therefore a bit "cozy" The newer ones give you more room to relax and you can get a few more people in them. 

This year I ventured with Jeff to the RV show, and it was an experience. The "show" was very small and rather disappointing - only a few dealers came and they probably had a bigger selection at their lots. The biggest draw was the discounts if you bought one during the show. We looked at several and found a style that was rather unique but was a good fit for both of us. We won't be making a purchase anytime soon, but I do still visit the catalog from time to time. 

I don't know that I will ever be totally sold on having the trailer as the primary mode of vacation. I still like hotels and am not a huge fan of driving long distances, but I can see the appeal and I definitely enjoy the possibility of weekend getaways. I'll probably take advantage of it in the fall and winter as a quiet place to get away and work on sermons without distractions. 

I'm interested to see where trailer life will take me next!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Table-Settings

Call me old fashioned, but I think setting the table is an important skill to have and something that a person should pay attention to. Don't get me wrong, I love pizza in front of the TV as much as the next person. But there's just something nice about a pretty table. 

Perhaps I am a snob and a perfectionist, but there is a right way and a wrong way to set a table. There are diagrams and descriptions all over the place so it's not a hard thing to learn. And once you learn it, there's really not any good excuse for not doing it right. This becomes especially important when it comes to entertaining. I have a pretty broad definitions of "entertaining" and that is any time you have someone who is not a resident of your home come in, particularly for a meal. I may relax this understanding later, but this is where it stands right now.

I know that because I'm a little OCD, I probably make a bigger deal out of some things, but it really does make a difference in the whole environment of a meal, whether it's for 2 or 20.

When we were preparing to host one of Jeff's family Christmas events last year, I went out and bought 24 buffet plates (they were at the Linens N Things going out of business sale so I didn't spend a ton!) and several tablecloths. I really wanted covers for the folding chairs, but I may have to get those this year. The night before the party I set to work setting the tables. We were expecting about 16 people, so there were 2 folding tables, the kitchen, and the dining room to set. I literally set every place with silverware, a napkin, and a glass. Every table had a centerpiece. I put a lot of work into making it look nice. I didn't have enough plates or glasses for everyone's to be identical, but I did make sure that every table had all the same pattern. I put a lot of time and energy into making everything look nice. And through it all Jeff looked at me like I had two heads! He was used to a much more relaxed atmosphere involving paper plates and whatever forks you could find. But it all looked really nice and it really set the tone for a much nicer party.

Jeff's mom and I both have a thing with dishes. We love them. And although she has always only had service for eight in any of her patterns, I was taught to do service for twelve. Given the size of their family I am actually quite shocked by this because they have twelve just from with Jeff's grandparents, the five kids, and their spouses without listing any of the grandkids, their spouses, or the great-grandkids. She got new dishes for her birthday in service for eight because that's what she asked for. But just before father's day, she went out and got four more because she really liked them. And it made for a very nice dinner because there were ten of us there for dinner and we could all use the same "real" plates. They were square Corelle, not fancy china but pretty. But once you added a nice tablecloth and cloth napkins with napkin rings, suddenly these "everyday" dishes looked absolutely beautiful and it was a very elegant table setting.

Little touches make a big difference. It doesn't mean you have to spend a lot of money, but invest in a few nice things and spend a little bit of time and you can be amazed at the difference it makes!