Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday Five - Friendship

Today's "Friday Five" is all about friendship. Now, you may be wondering what in the world these questions about friends, both past and present, have to do with being a minister. But let me share this quote from the RevGalBlogPals entry for today.

"In parish life the boundaries are clear and they are there for a reason, but it can make the life of a minister a lonely one. It is such a tremendous gift to spend a few days with women who not only are wonderful and gifted, but who also get exactly what you do and why you do it. The hugs are genuine and free and the laughter is awesome."

This seems particularly appropriate since I have recently found myself reflecting (quite frequently) on how much I miss the wonderful community of friends I had in Nashville. Don't get me wrong, I love my life. I love my husband and my home and my job. But it is indeed a lonely life because everything is still very new and fresh and I have no idea how to make new friends around here! I have good relationships with other church people (both lay and clergy) but they are still professional relationships and not the same thing.

I am very blessed to have such a wonderful community of friends, even if they are a few hours away. I remember through my first year of divinity school I was so afraid of letting anyone "in". As most of you remember, that was a rough year. And I pretty much had to be forced to let anyone share it with me. Despite my flawed coping strategies (which is a whole other post), I was terrified of making friends and forming relationships. Because I knew exactly what they would mean at the end of my three years in Nashville. They would end with incredible pain. Because I knew I wasn't going to spend my entire life in Nashville. I knew that eventually school would end and we would all go our separate ways. And I couldn't stand the thought of that. I had already gone through too much of that. I didn't want to do it again. I am incredibly blessed to have the friends I have. But make no mistake about it - being away from them absolutely sucks. Thanks to blogs and e-mail and facebook I can keep up with them. But it's not the same as sharing physical space. As breaking bread together. As glancing at one another and bursting into tear-inducing laughter. As wrapping one another in an embrace and saying everything that needs to be said without ever speaking a word.

So here's to you my dear, dear friends! I love you and miss you very much! Please come visit (or let me come visit you!) And to all my potential new friends in the Birmingham area, please come out and let me know where you are! The great thing about great friends is that you can never have too many!

1) Do you remember your first best friend? What did you do together? Are they still in your life? Yes, her name is Tyler. We were neighbors when we were born and sort of grew up together. We went to preschool together, had sleepovers every week, and did everything but go to school and church together. We really grew apart in about middle school, but reconnected somewhat several years ago. We still keep up with one another through facebook.

2) Did you ever have to move away or have your best friend move away from you? Yes, it sucked the first time and it sucks now. I don't know that it will ever change.

3) Are there people in your life now that you can call 'friend'? Absolutely. I don't see them on a regular basis, but that doesn't make them any less my friends!

4) What are some of your favorite things to do with your friends? Talk and laugh and eat. We do all of these things so well together!

5) What is a gift friendship has given you? Too many to even list - patience, compassion, trust, laughter, tears, hugs, memories, but most of all the knowledge that I am loved and valued!

Thursday, April 29, 2010


I don't quite know what to do with myself. I think I have finally established a schedule that works for me. On the one hand I am thrilled because I really do thrive on order and schedules and plans and preparation. On the other that has just NOT been my life for over a year now. I ALWAYS had something that had to be done. I always felt like I was playing catch up.

Don't get me wrong, there is stuff that I could be doing, like unpacking the boxes in the basement. I probably will attempt a little of that before the day is over. But there is nothing that DEMANDS doing right now.

I really do get a lot more work done at the church than I do trying to work from home. I'm just not as distracted at the church. True, it's not as easy to do things online, but the essentials (like returning e-mails or looking up a phone number) CAN be done. Plus I'm not tempted to play on facebook or anything else and things get done pretty quickly.

My sermon is prepared. I have a plan for Sunday school. I have all my notes typed and printed for the VBS meeting on Saturday. I have the movie for Saturday night. The house is clean. The beds are made. The laundry is done and put away. The dishes are done and put away. I have a plan for dinner.

Now I think I'll watch a movie and do some knitting!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Favorite Things - p.16

These are some of my favorite classes I would love to take or things I would love to learn how to do.

Quilting - I love fabric crafts and would love to learn how to quilt.

Grant-writing - I don't know that I'd ever use it, but if I ever decided to volunteer or work for a non-profit it would be something good to have.

Ceramics - I never even thought about wanting to do something like this, except after I saw some of the really neat stuff that Jeff's mom, grandmother, and aunts have made it makes me really want to learn to try it.

Dance - I think I would enjoy taking some sort of dance lessons. Part of me wants to take an adult ballet class, and another part wants to take something like ballroom dancing. Either way something active would be good for me.

CPR - I've taken CPR before and at one time was certified, but I would like to get re-certified. This is one I think everyone should have to do!

Latin - I don't know why I can't be interested in something even remotely useful like Spanish, but I want to learn Latin.

Cooking - I think it would be fun to take a formal cooking or baking class, especially in ethnic cuisine that I probably wouldn't learn how to make otherwise.

What are some classes you want to take or things you want to learn to do? I'm all about being class buddies!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Dining Out For Life

For all my Nashville-area friends - Do you have lunch or dinner plans for tomorrow? If not, make some! Tomorrow (April 27) is Dining Out for Life! In case you are not aware, this is a day where lots of local restaurants pledge to give a portion of every check to local AIDS charities. Don't know where to go? Check out this list - Dining Out For Life Nashville

For all my Birmingham-area friends - Do you have lunch or dinner plans for Thursday? If not, make some! Thursday (April 29) is Dining Out for Life! In case you are not aware, this is a day where lots of local restaurants pledge to give a portion of every check to local AIDS charities. This is the first year for Dining out for Life in Birmingham, so that is even more reason to help make it spectacular! Don't know where to go? Check out this list - Dining Out For Life Birmingham I am thinking lunch at either Jackson's or Cantina and dinner at the Silvertron Cafe. Anyone want to join me for either?

For all my friends elsewhere - check out Dining Out For Life to find out when it is being celebrated in your city and where you can enjoy a very tasty meal and help a great cause!

Please let me know where you go!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

China Luck - Pinson, AL

China Luck is a little place over in Pinson that I found through my wonderful husband. He absolutely loves Chinese food and would probably eat it every day if given the chance (and I believe for a while in high school he came pretty close to doing just that!) Chinese is one of those foods that I will occasionally get a craving for, but for the most part can't eat all that often. I must say, I am a bit disappointed that this place is so far away because I really love it.

It's run by a very sweet husband and wife team. The dining room is always spotless, the service is usually very prompt, and the food is fresh and very tasty. I have only ever been for lunch, but I have been quite impressed with the lunch specials. For less than six dollars you get a bowl of soup, an egg roll, and a big plate of food. I am never able to finish mine (even with Jeff eating my egg roll!) The best part is that everything is always very fresh, especially the fried rice! My meal of choice is the sesame chicken with wonton soup. Yum... The sweet and sour chicken is also quite tasty. Part of me wants to try something different but it's tough when I know how fantastic these things are! Maybe one day I'll try the mongolian beef.

Although I am not a fan of spicy mustard, I must add that they do make their own "house recipe" spicy mustard. I can smell how spicy it is but can also tell it's more than just heat, it has good flavor. This is probably Jeff's absolute favorite part of this particular dining experience!

I really don't have any thoughts on ways they can improve because I have always been very pleased with everything from the quality and quantity of food to the speed of service and appearance overall of the whole establishment. If you are ever around the Pinson area I strongly suggest you stop in!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Five - Smiling

Here are the five questions from RevGalBlogPals for today. Please feel free to answer for yourself in the comments!

1. When were you smiling lately?
Definitely yesterday. It was great to get some things done around the house and still spend the better part of the day on the couch in my PJs!

2. What happened unexpectedly to you this past week? I had a really great day Wednesday. Even though it was long (10 + hours at church) it was productive and very pleasant. I wasn't exhausted when I got home. And Jeff's grandfather finally made it home from the rehab center!

3. How was a catastrophe averted (or not)? The meeting at the church Wednesday was actually quite pleasant. I didn't really do anything to avert it (so I guess I'm telling you the "when" and not the "how".) but it definitely had the potential to be catastrophic.

4. What was the most delicious thing you ate? Lunch at the All-Steak on Monday. Monterey Chicken, Rice Pilaf, Baked Potato,with Sweet Tea and Orange Rolls. (I was also supposed to get a congealed salad but never did. Oh well! Still a great meal!)

5. Did you see any good movies or read any books or articles? I read some helpful stuff about VBS and I feel like Jeff and I watched a movie on TV sometime this week, but now for the life of me I can't remember what it was! I need to get some more pleasure reading in my life!

So there you have it. Things that have made me smile through this past week. Lets hope there are lots more smiles coming next week, too!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My Favorite Things - p.15

I'm just going to admit my dirty little secret (which is really not much of a secret)- I'm not a trendy person. I don't keep up with fashion. I don't spend a ton of money on clothes. I prefer function and comfort over fashion and appearance. And for the most part I don't get overly attached to clothes. But I do have a few items that can be classified as favorites, so here they are.

"Save the Ta-Tas" shirt - Breast Cancer was never really one of my "pet" causes when I was younger, but it does hold a special place in my heart because my mother-in-law is a breast cancer survivor. I love this shirt not just because of the cause, but because of the fun way it supports the cause. It also doesn't hurt that it fits great and is very soft and comfy.

CJ Banks jeans - I have a hard time finding jeans that fit and are comfortable. Probably because I'm cheap and don't want to spend more than $50 on a pair of jeans. As a result of this little personal conflict, I hardly ever traveled in jeans (preferring instead to wear stretchy pants or shorts) But these do indeed fit very well and are very comfortable. The ultimate test for me was 1) they don't fall off my butt and 2) I can ride in the car for 2+ hours in them without feeling the need to unbutton them. These do both. And they look pretty cute too. They kind of show off my butt, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing!

Old Navy gauchos - I got 1 pair to take on the honeymoon and fell in love with them. I don't really love wearing shorts so this was the best of both worlds for me. Super comfy, super light, and still let me get my feet wet if I want! Plus they were cheap, which is always a plus. I have looked and can't find any more, but I'm going to keep searching.

Coldwater Creek travel knit - I stocked up on this travel knit stuff before I went to England the last time because it's neutral, nice looking, and doesn't wrinkle. It's also very comfy. It is somewhat loose fitting and lightweight so it stretches and even when I probably could use a larger size, it doesn't really look it. I wear it more than I probably should in the winter and it's not very warm, but that's more a reflection on me than the clothes!

Yellow Box flip-flops - I was never one for "expensive" flip-flops. I didn't particularly care. the $3 jobs at Wal-mart suited me just fine. Then somewhere along the way I got picky and discovered that flip-flops that don't have plastic on them are just much more comfy! Plus lots of my cheap ones fell apart on me which wasn't cool. I do indeed have about 3 pairs. I can usually get about 9-12 months out of them before they start needing to go to the "ehh" pile. There's nothing really wrong with them by that point but they are often stained beyond washing, scuffed up and/or knawed by the dog, and just no longer in pristine condition. I'll still wear them, but by that point if they need to be discarded I won't be too heartbroken. Pretty much whenever they go on sale at Belk, it's my indicator that maybe I should start looking for a new pair. I may end up with two new pairs this year. I'm torn between the "dressy" sparkly ones and some with yellow flowers.
Thing One hoodie - I got this as my birthday present to myself when Kathryn and I were in Orlando during the Tropical storm and it was cold and raining. I needed SOMETHING and I liked this. It was cute and made me smile. It still does. I wear it almost everywhere. It was my "winter coat" for the last two years! And people are always asking me about it. This is the design, but not the shirt (obviously).

What are some of your favorite items of clothing? Why do you love them?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Los Angeles Burrito

If you are in the greater Shelby County area and have not yet tried LA Burrito, you are missing out! It was featured in a column not too long ago as one of the Birmingham area's hidden treasures.

For our first adventure Jeff got nachos and I got a quesadilla. Both were good. But the thing that absolutely won my heart forever was the tacos.

The greatest taco I've ever had in my life was during my Borderlinks trip to mexico. The closest thing I was able to find was steak quesadillas with limes. Not at all what I'm after.

LA Burrito is truly authentic mexican food. Everything about these simple creations makes me happy - freshly made tortillas, well-seasoned meat, topped with fresh cilantro and onions, and served with a slice of lime.

These little handfuls of heaven are $2 each. I could easily make a meal out of 3-4 of these little beauties and a drink and be perfectly happy. I highly recommend it!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Saturday Six

I have recently started attempting to follow a pretty cool networked blog called RevGalBlogPals. Does the name give away the subject matter? It's pretty cool for resources and whatnot. I'm not technically a member yet so I can't officially post anything, but they always do some neat stuff. One thing is what they call the Friday Five where five questions are posed about a topic that may or may not be directly related to church stuff. But because I am a slacker and it's Saturday (and really there were six questions this week) I'm going to do the Saturday Six. Please feel free to answer these questions about yourself in the comments. Today's topic has to do with packing for a trip.

1) Some fold, some roll and some simply fling into the bag. What's your technique for packing clothes?
I use a combination of folding and rolling, depending on the item, the size of the bag, and where in the bag I want the item to go. Pants are generally folded, t-shirts rolled, and undergarments stuffed!

2) The tight regulations about carrying liquids on planes makes packing complicated. What might we find in your quart-size bag? Ever lose a liquid that was too big?
I don't do a whole lot of primping, so my quart sized bag usually has at least a little room to spare. It sounds like a lot but it really isn't - shampoo and shower gel or 3-in-1 bath gel; mascara and lip gloss; toothpaste; deodorant; contact solution. That's pretty much it for my liquids. Because I have room I always carry my razor blade and extra handle, toothbrush, contact case, advil, wide toothed comb, hair bands, and a pen or two in my little bag. If I remember I throw in my makeup remover wipes, but seeing as how I rarely wear makeup it's not a great loss when those aren't there.

No, I have never lost a liquid that was too big. I make sure I check everything very carefully. Plus, I don't fly all that often and I keep my travel bag packed and ready to go all the time so I rarely have to even think about what's in it!

3) What's something you can't imagine leaving at home?
I always bring a long sleeve shirt or sweater, even in the summer. I'd rather have a really cold room and have to put on sleeves than to be hot. I also can't stand to be without pens and a notebook.

4) Do you have a bag with wheels?
I do have several bags on wheels. I generally have to be gone more than a week to justify carrying any of them.

5) What's your favorite reading material for a non-driving trip (plane, train, bus, ship)?
I have a variety of things on my kindle, but my favorites are entertaining stories that really don't require me to think too much. Janet Evanovich is my favorite author right now, but as long as I have a lot of whatever it is, I'm pretty happy.

6) But won't I be sorry if I don't bring _______________?
I am generally sorry if I don't have extra clean underwear. I'm not just talking enough for the trip, but I always want to have at least one extra!

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Ice Cream Failure

I don't think it's fair that I only write about my domestic pursuits that go well. So, in an effort at transparency and an attempt to learn from my mistakes, I want to share about my latest culinary mis-adventure.

Several years ago I decided that an ice cream freezer was an essential component missing in my life. I purchased one rather cheaply at wal-mart along with some mix and gave home-made ice cream a shot. It went decently well, although I knew my technique could stand to be improved.

Fast forward to now - As we were packing up the food-stuffs that we wanted to bring to the lake, I grabbed a leftover pack of ice cream mix and put an extra gallon of milk on the grocery list. We decided our second evening would be the perfect chance to make ice cream. So we got out everything, mixed the powdered mix and milk, and put the whole contraption in the sink to do its thing while we finished preparing dinner. The joy of the electric freezers is that they will simply shut themselves off when they are finished doing what they need to do. Well, it had been a while since I made homemade ice cream and I forgot exactly how long it took, but I was thinking about 45 minutes.

The one thing I did remember was that, as the ice around the metal canister melts, you have to add more so that everything will keep freezing. Well, about 20 minutes in (what we figured was about halfway), Jeff added some more ice. Almost as soon as he did this, the motor quit running. Well, this was not at all what we were expecting. We took it out and looked at it but it was still soupy. We stirred it up to make sure nothing was stuck anywhere inside and didn't find anything. We checked the motor without hooking it up to anything and it spun like a top so we knew it still worked. Something was just not right.

We stuck the "ice cream" into the freezer and ate our dinner, hoping it would harden a little bit and still be edible since it was pretty well mixed by this point. Still no luck. After about an hour of letting it chill, Jeff decided to make himself a mug since it was more like a milkshake than ice cream. I decided to pass. Before bed he had gotten sick. I don't know if it was the sinus/allergy stuff he had been battling or the ice cream, but whatever it was, it wasn't pretty.

My only guess is that something is wrong with the freezer (which is possible) and/or the mix was old. I have a few recipes for homemade ice cream that I may try just to test the freezer theory. I still have to check the final packet of mix for an expiration date and see if that had anything to do with it.

One of these days I would like to get the ice cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid. Hopefully that will solve all my ice cream troubles once and for all!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My Favorite Things - p.14

This is a few of my favorite things that are currently on my wish list.
Cricut - I want a cricut so flipping badly! I would love to have a place to set it up and leave it and use it all the time. I would love to have a "craft" room. But alas, I do not. I probably will not as long as I live in this house (unless I want to put a table up in the garage!). This is the biggest thing keeping me from wanting a Cricut Expression, because it's larger. But it's not so large and difficult that it couldn't be used. Knowing me, it will take up semi-permanent residence in the dining room. I just have so many ideas I want to try!
All current episodes of "Private Practice" - I am addicted to Grey's Anatomy. And I've seen just enough of Private Practice to know I want them all so I can get caught up. I can watch and generally keep up at this point (if I remember to watch!) but I want to get all the details. Plus, it'll be a good distraction during the next long car ride!

Miss Julia Books - More specifically, the kindle downloads. They are supposed to be very good. I know they got passed around my family at one point but I had so much other stuff I was reading at the time I never got a turn with them and now have no idea where they are. I need more giggles.
A Limo Ride - I've never ever ridden in a limo. I didn't have enough friends to get one for senior prom and it wasn't practical to get one for the wedding. I just want to do it to say I've done it. I think it would be fun.

A trip to Italy and the Vatican - This is my absolute dream vacation. I'm a dork I love history, especially religious history. I love old churches steeped in ritual and heritage. And even though I'm not Catholic, I do appreciate and respect the Vatican as being very influential to me and my faith as the "mother church".
Dinner at Shula's - Jeff swears that Shula's is better than Ruth's Chris. I want to find out for myself. I have had some of the leftovers before and really enjoyed it. Plus, it's been a long time since I had an excuse to get all dressed up and go out.

China Cabinet - I found a lovely china cabinet I would love to have the last time we were at this place called "Southeastern Salvage". It's expensive, but so worth it. That's the only piece of furniture I would really love and don't have! I looked and looked but couldn't find a picture of anything quite like it. I wish I'd thought to take a picture with my phone while we were at the store.
Ice Cream - I always want ice cream

What are a few of your favorite things you would love to have in your life?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

El Potro

When Jeff and I bought our house in Alabaster we were thrilled to discover Two Pesos a mere 3 minute drive from the house. The food was good, cheap, and the place was never very busy. We ate there several times and were generally quite pleased with it. Then, a mere two weeks after we moved and were becoming highly addicted they closed. We were not at all pleased.

Then, about a month ago, a banner went up under the old sign - "coming soon - El Potro mexican restaurant". On the one hand we were quite excited because we thought maybe the same people were opening up under another name and no longer wanted to be associated with the Two Pesos in Pelham. On the other we were a little leary because, although the food was good, the service was not. It wasn't horrible but we did a lot more sitting and waiting, especially for drink refills, than either of us was really happy with. We watched anxiously as a new sign went up and waited for the "coming soon" banner to be replaced with one that said "now open".

Today, our patience was rewarded. On our way out to run errands we noticed the "Now Open" banner and cars in the parking lot. Well, we didn't stop but were excited at the prospect of their being open. We continued about our business, but on the way home the pull was too strong and we had to stop.

We could tell right away that this wasn't a Two Pesos remix and were very excited. The staff was very friendly and efficient. All the servers wore black pants and white golf shirts. Call me crazy, but the appearance of the staff really does play an important part in the whole dining experience. Nobody was sitting at the bar or hanging out in the back just talking and ignoring you if you aren't at "their" table - everyone pitched in getting drinks, more chips, bringing food, etc. It was quite nice!

The food was really tasty! Jeff ordered the Nachos Supremos and I got the Enchiladas Suizas lunch special. Jeff actually ordered a full order of the nachos and only got a half. Thankfully, they only charged for a half and he was very full and happy when he finished anyway so it really worked out for the best. I guess I should have paid closer attention when I was reading the menu because I guess I just assume "chicken" and "green sauce" when I see Enchiladas Suizas on a menu. I did notice the phrase "special sauce" in the description and just moved right along to the fact that it came with both rice and beans. I'm normally not a bean person, but Jeff likes them and it was a new place so I just got them and let Jeff try them. No sense being difficult the first time out! Getting the food out took a bit longer than I would have anticipated, but it was well worth the wait (and when I say longer than I expected, it took about 10 minutes, not a bad wait at all, I'm just used to "instant gratification" Mexican!)

I immediately saw chicken peeking out of the end of one enchilada and green sauce over the top of what seemed like cheese sauce (this must be what they meant by "special sauce"), so I dug in. I was about halfway through my first enchilada when I realized that it didn't have any meat in it, just cheese! Hmm, well I have encountered this in the past. And I didn't really recall seeing the word "chicken" in the description. Oh well, I guess that's what happens when you assume. But there was no mistaking the fact that there was chicken peeking out of one of them. Hmmm. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it just wasn't what I was expecting.

I'll admit, I wasn't thrilled with the prospect of my middle enchilada. I had already gobbled up my cheese one (which was very good, by the way) and could clearly see the chicken in the other, so that left two options - beans or beef. Now beans I would have just given to Jeff. But I kind of figured it wouldn't be beans. I was thinking beef. More specifically, ground beef. I don't know why, but ground beef in tacos or most anything else just doesn't do much for me. I figured I could try it and if I didn't like it, pass it off to Jeff and make a note to ask for an extra cheese one next time. So rather than peek, I just cut my next bite. But as I was cutting I was greeted by a sight I was not quite prepared for - SHREDDED beef! My heart did a little happy dance and I couldn't help it and started to grin from ear to ear. Jeff looked at me like I was nuts and just said "What?" and I told him with glee that my enchilada had shredded beef in it. He just rolled his eyes and went back to his nachos. He was not nearly as excited as I was.

I must say, the shredded beef enchilada was the highlight of my lunch. It had lots of great flavor in the meat and was very tender. I was thrilled! Although I know about shredded beef in mexican cuisine, this was my first time to actually try it and I was quite impressed. The other highlight of the visit was the service. Even as they took our plates away, they were offering us more chips. Normally, if we want to sit and chat after we've finished eating we have to BEG for more chips and still get dirty looks for not leaving their precious table before our last bite is even swallowed. I really love that they didn't try to rush us, were attentive, and really did try to give us the best possible service.

Another thing that really intrigued me was their menu. Sure, there are the typical mexican restaurant foods. But there are a few things that you just don't see every day. The first is the fajita baked potato. It makes sense - fajita meat and veggies on top of a baked potato, covered in cheese sauce, and served with lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and guacamole.
Another one that has me slightly curious and also a little scared is the hawaiian fajitas - pretty standard fajitas, except that it includes pineapple chunks and shredded cheese. We may try that eventually.

But not next time. Next time I will be enjoying two shredded beef quesadillas and a very large margarita!

Friday, April 9, 2010


During our semi-horrible visit to the home and garden show (that was incredibly disappointing, by the way) Jeff decided we needed to register for every giveaway going on. Well, I knew exactly where this would lead. One of these included information for an alarm company. Of course they called and scheduled an appointment to come give us a free estimate for an alarm system. Jeff fielded the phone calls so it wasn't a huge concern of mine.

I didn't think much about it until one Tuesday afternoon a few weeks ago. I came home from a long shift at the hospital rather tired and cranky. I immediately start dinner because I'm hungry and looking forward to relaxing that evening when the doorbell rings and sure enough the woman from the alarm company was here to do our estimate. FRICK!

She was really nice and I liked her a lot, but I really didn't think this was the time for us to be buying alarm equipment or signing a service contract. I let Jeff do the house tour because he knew all about alarms (having had alarms before and worked at an alarm company) so I just stayed in the kitchen and tended to my macaroni from a box. The next thing I know they're in the kitchen and contracts are coming out and he's holding a pen!

I knew he really wanted an alarm and I don't mind having one, so we went ahead and got it since the equipment and installation was free.

I guess it's just because I'm not used to having an alarm but it makes me really nervous! I'm afraid of setting it off, even though I can give them our password and I won't have my house swarmed by police! I know it's a good thing to have and is saving us money on our insurance and all that, but I'm still not sure whether or not I like it.

I guess the monitored smoke detectors are nice. I think that's one of my biggest fears - the house catching fire and something happening to the dogs. I'm still tempted to get one of those "pet alert" stickers to go on the door.

Who would have thought that home security equipment would make me so insecure?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My Favorite Things - p.13

Since Easter was Sunday (and the easter season is still in full swing) I thought I'd make a list of some of my favorite things about Easter.

Bunnies - I love bunny rabbits. I have ever since I was little. It probably goes back to my love of Beatrix Potter and the Peter Rabbit characters. I just love bunnies. I have a special place in my heart for the brown ones. Not the white ones that get pulled out of a magician's hat (although they can be cute too). The abundance of bunnies and bunny-themed decor this time of year excites me.
Pastel colors - Again you can blame this on my unsquelchable prissiness but I love the pastel colors associated with springtime. The green and yellow and blue and pink and purple just have a special place in my soul. And my home decor.

Buttercups - I love all kinds of spring flowers. But buttercups get special recognition because they seem to always be the first spring flower you see (except for dandelions, which I also secretly love). Plus they just have happy memories associated with them. And the yellow color is so cheery!
Candy - I don't know why it is I love Easter candy so much more than Christmas candy, but I do. Maybe because Christmas candy for me isn't any different, it just comes in different colored paper. But Easter candy is indeed special, at least in my experience. The giant chocolate bunnies and the marshmallow peeps and the jelly beans. Yes, I know you can probably get most of these things all year long, but it's just not the same. Russell Stover is my candy of choice for Easter just because that's what I grew up with and always made into baskets for my grandparents. The Cadbury mini eggs are always a favorite, but I can only ever find them at Easter!

Hunting Eggs - I love to hunt for Easter eggs. I love to hunt for anything. I don't know why. I just like stuff like that. It's exciting.

My Easter Basket - I never got a different easter basket every year. My brother and I both had nice wooden baskets that we used all throughout childhood. John's was just a little less sturdy than mine and in one rearrangement or move or something, his got broken. We were just about too old for easter baskets anyway, but it was still kind of sad. Thankfully mine survived and is now home with me. I've never seen another one like it. It's very sturdy, painted white, and decorated with little flowers. It's pretty big and it's beautiful. I never want to get rid of it!

So what are the things about Easter (or springtime) that make your heart go hippity-hop?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sugar Cookies

There are absolutely no redeeming health benefits to these cookies (unless of course you eat them with a glass of milk...). I found the recipe in high school and fell in love with them. I don't make them often because they make a TON and I don't need the temptation, but what the hey! For this occasion, I just cut the recipe in half, but I'm giving you the whole thing in case you need a zillion delicious cookies in your life.
Cream together 1 c. powdered sugar, 1 c. oil, 1 c. sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 c. butter, 2 eggs.

Then sift in 4 1/2 c. four, 1 tsp. soda, 1 tsp. salt.

You're also supposed to add 1 tsp. cream of tarter but I accidentally left it out this time. The cookies came out fine, so if you don't have it don't sweat.

I added my dry stuff in 1/2 cup increments for a couple of reasons. Number one, it keeps the flour from flying everywhere and it gets incorporated more quickly. Number two, that's all my sifter will hold!
This is what the finished dough should look like. It'll be pretty thick and pull away from the sides a bit.

Roll the dough into small balls, the flatten slightly (unless you like your cookies a little on the thick side)

Sprinkle the tops with sugar. I used my pink sugar because I had it and it's springy!

Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees. Don't let them get too brown. They'll need to cool for a few minutes.

Enjoy! They are very rich, but very tasty!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Recap

Easter was really wonderful. I was honestly scared about how this whole day would play out and what kind of mood I would be in when it was all over.

I didn't get much sleep Saturday night. When Jeff took Patches out he accidentally set off the new alarm system (another post on that coming later) which is not a pleasant way to wake up. Fortunately he got it shut off before we got a phone call! We were both up relatively early. The dogs went out, we were able to have a relatively non-rushed morning, and still get to church early.

Sunday school was less inspiring than I had hoped, but it worked and I feel like they learned something. I was really nervous about how I would feel about the Easter service. The one thing I miss about East End is the music. I especially miss Lee and the organ and "He is Exalted" (which I have been singing for about two weeks). But today everyone was in great spirits and while it wasn't the same my heart still soared when we sang "Christ the Lord is Risen Today."

My sermon went really well. I think this is probably my favorite sermon I've ever written and I actually wrote it last year for my women's preaching class. Essentially, I told the Easter story from John in the voice of Mary Magdalene. And the major point that I attempted to make was that we have to turn our backs to the places where we expect to see Jesus if we are ever going to have a personal encounter with him. I was a little worried about how it would be received, but everyone seemed to really get into it. Even the kids that normally don't pay any attention! Maybe one of these days I'll share it.

After church I made up a bag of food from our food pantry for the neighbors of a family in the church. Then, Jeff and I got drinks out of the fridge and a goody bag of candy left over from the egg hunt on Saturday. We piled into the car and ate our candy on the way to Remlap. We had Easter dinner with the extended in-laws (there were 20 of us total over the course of the afternoon). I normally don't look forward to Easter because I'm not a huge ham person. But this ham was actually really good! It didn't hurt that we also had macaroni and cheese, strawberry pretzel salad, and cookies (plus a bunch of veggies I don't eat!) The one thing I missed was sweet potatoes! I brought home leftover ham for ham and potato casserole. That adventure will also be coming soon.

After lunch there was lots of sitting, talking, grazing on sweets, and even the hunting of eggs. I'm glad I'm not the only grown up who enjoys doing that! Jeff and David had fun hiding and Barbara and I had fun hunting (even if it was really hot!) We didn't make it home until almost 8:00pm. It was a long day, but a good day. Now all I need is a chocolate bunny...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

May the joy of resurrection fill your heart and may you have some chocolate bunny ears to call your own!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Bacon Ranch Cheeseball

This one is complicated, so get ready. Are you sure you're up for this?

2 blocks cream cheese (softened), 1 packet ranch dressing mix, 5 strips bacon, chopped (or bacon bits), and pecan pieces.

Dump your first three ingredients in a bowl together.

Now mix it all up.

Scrape it all together and form it into a ball. This is easier to do when it's still a little soft. Then press pecans around the outside. This is also much easier when it's soft.

Now, you can do one of two things - you can serve it with some crackers or your can cover it with plastic wrap and stick it into the fridge to get a little more solid. I recommend refrigerating over night to let all the flavors mix and mingle. It does get much better!

Now, as for the little bit left in the bowl that didn't quite make it into the ball... Well, you certainly don't want to waste!

Cheese balls also freeze well. Wrap in plastic wrap, then put into some slightly more solid container and stick it in the freezer! Then when you need it just let it defrost in the fridge for about a day

*Variation* Want more of a dip than a ball? Use 1 block of cream cheese and 8 oz of whatever combination of sour cream and mayo that suits your personal taste. Then skip everything after "mix it all together".

Friday, April 2, 2010


I have a few confessions to make. This may come as a shock to many, but I am a dork. I like learning new things. And I like teaching other people about the things I have learned about. I get really excited when other people are excited about something new. And my heart soars a little bit every time a child asks a question that leads to deeper understanding on the part of both the person asking the question and the person answering it!

This past summer, the stories of VBS were around the life of Moses and culminated with the story of Passover. Everyone got really excited about it. And the inevitable question came - why don't we celebrate passover? And so, that's how I ended up researching kosher foods, passover menus, and the mysterious world of cooking without butter.

I found a great family haggadah online. I highly recommend it. It comes with coloring pages, which always excite me. I will tell on myself. I spent almost an hour trying to get it to print two pages to a sheet. I got it to print, but it kept coming out backwards and bugging the heck out of OCD little me. It wasn't until I was about to scream that it hit me - Hebrew (and thus, a haggadah) are read right to left, not left to right like we're used to seeing things! I felt really silly, salvaged all my previously rejected pages, and got them all put together quickly after that!

Because I felt crummy and procrastinated, I never made it to the grocery store on Monday or Tuesday. This left me with two options - I could get up at the butt-crack of dawn to go to the grocery store on my way to the prayer meeting or I could wait and go somewhere down in Fultondale Wednesday afternoon after the prayer meeting. So early morning won out. I discovered that grocery shopping at 7:30 am is actually a pretty pleasant experience. I just don't recommend it if you haven't eaten breakfast and the smell of freshly baking bread causes you to swoon. I was quite hungry by the time I left!

Our kosher for passover menu included roast chicken with two potatoes, apple salad, deviled eggs, coleslaw, and parsley salad with macaroons and fruit compote for desert. I tried to incorporate the various elements from the seder plate into the actual meal. I tried to follow the basic rules of keeping kosher for passover, but I know I wasn't able to follow them all. At least I am trying!

Both the meal part and the ritual part went very well and were very well received. Not only did we have a really good time (once the kids got involved and ate!) but I think everyone learned something. The food was tasty and everyone was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't "weird". I don't know if this will become an annual tradition or not, but we really had a good time and I enjoyed being able to share it.

One of these days I want to go to a "real" seder where I can participate and not lead, but this was a really great experience.

If you want recipes for anything, let me know.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Party Recap and Punch recipe

The open house on Saturday went very well. We had a nice group come out, but it wasn't so overwhelming that it took us forever to get everything back to normal. The house was still relatively clean when everyone left. There wasn't a ton of leftover food to be put away. Almost everything fit into the dishwasher in one load.

Our menu was quite simple - fruit and vegetable tray, cheese and sausage, bacon ranch cheeseball and crackers, spinach dip and tortilla chips (not homemade this time!), sugar and forgotten cookies, citrus punch, and wine. Nothing terribly difficult or fancy but it was a nice spread. I was pretty proud, even if I did have the little cubes of cheese that I can't stand! (they were my husband's choice!)

The weather was perfect. We were able to open the french doors between the living room and the screened porch. We actually spent most of the day on the porch just because it was so nice out there. I love having a place to sit where I can enjoy the fresh air and be comfortable and not have to worry about bugs! I can definitely see spending some quality time out there again with a glass of wine!

In preparation for the party and as a gift from his mother, we got the swing for the front porch. It looks really nice and we enjoyed sitting in it waiting for everyone to come over on Saturday. I want to get a cushion or something for it, and I can see napping on the swing. Hopefully my snoring won't scare the neighborhood children!

Because I'm a slacker I totally forgot to take pictures of making the punch, but there isn't much to take pictures of. It is very simple.
1 (12 oz) can orange juice concentrate - thawed
1 (12 oz) can lemonade concentrate - thawed
1 (12 oz) can limeade concentrate - thawed
6 cups water
2 liters ginger ale and/or Sprite (I used 1 liter each)

Basically you just dump this all into a punch bowl and mix. Save the soda until right before you serve it so it doesn't go flat. If you want it to be sweeter you can also add some pineapple juice, although I would also add a little more water if you do. Serve over crushed ice and you have a very tasty beverage.

*Variation* - for a grown up version you can obviously use champagne in place of the soda
Also, if you prefer slushy punches, add another 2-3 cups of water to the juice concentrates and water, then freeze overnight. Let it thaw slightly before adding the soda and serving. Obviously this way you don't need the crushed ice.