Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My Favorite Things - p.25

I am leaving for Branson on Sunday. Wahoo! In honor of that little adventure, I wanted to share a few of my favorite things used for/with/while traveling.

iGo - whoever came up with this, I want to give you a BIG hug (and also a little smack, but we'll get to that). It's so very convenient to be able to just take one charger with me for everything I do. All you have to do is change out the little tips. Right now I have one for my Blackberry and one for my Kindle. I need the tip for my iPod and one for Jeff's phone. We have already been through two different tips for his phone. The first didn't fit. The second fit but wouldn't charge. GRRR. They also don't make a tip for our GPS which is quite unfortunate. I do enjoy having a splitter where I can charge multiple things at once. Overall, a very handy thing to have.
3-in-1 shower gel - I'm really loving this because it's that many less tiny bottles I have to keep up with. I'm trying to convince myself that I love the whole ecological impact of less packaging and production (and I do) but my driving motivation is simply convenience. The stuff I'm currently using is Strawberry Mint. I have my eye on some from Philosophy (pictured above). I'll let you know how that works out for me.
Soft-sided luggage - Yes I recognize that generally all luggage is soft-sided now. I am talking more specifically here about the quilted stuff that doesn't have much structure on its own. I am not the neatest re-packer in the world. In fact, I am generally a pretty horrid re-packer. My stuff always seems to expand on the way home. And no, I do not fold my dirty clothes. That's how I know they need to be washed - I can't just put them back into my drawer or closet! But I have discovered that, although generally smaller, the soft luggage tends to be a bit more forgiving and will allow for some creative shoving and the addition of a few souvenirs. The photo here is not of anything I own. I do happen to have a small duffel this style, but in a different pattern. However, as nice as this is, it's not my favorite. My favorite bag is a square bag from a collection called Gloria Rae that I can't find anywhere anymore. It holds enough for at least three days and makes the perfect "carry-on" for bigger trips because it then sits perfectly on its flat bottom atop my rolling bag!
Cross-body purse - this is becoming less a vacation thing and more a life thing. I love having a purse that can go across my body. For one thing it frees up my hands. For another it makes me feel more secure about it, and number three I don't have to worry about setting it down and something happening to it or my forgetting it because it never leaves my body. The only down side is that it doesn't hold as much, but with a little creative arrangement it works for almost anything! This is a picture of my current favorite purse (which happens to have been my anniversary gift). It is the "Saddle Up" style from Vera Bradley in the "Caffe Latte" print. The strap does adjust so it can go all the way around you, but is certainly cute carried as-is. I think the fabric has now been discontinued, but I am pretty darn certain I will buy this bag again in another fabric eventually.

Do you have any favorite goodies that make your traveling life easier?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Worship can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Being that I'm a minister (and a dork!) I will admit that my first thought goes to a traditional sanctuary with stained glass windows, hymnals, a piano or organ, a robed minister, and a Sunday morning. I think of sacraments, or order, of liturgy.

The irony of this image is the fact that some of my most meaningful and truly worshipful experiences rarely have fit into this picture. Yes I have participated in, and even led, several fantastic worship services that fit into this mold. But I have also participated in and led just as many more that did not.

For me, I think that true worship comes down to honesty. Forget the pretension. Forget the expectations. Forget the ritual for the sake of ritual. Keep the passion. Keep the emotion. Keep the simplicity that is breath-takingly beautiful. Keep God at the center and the rest will fall into place. Unfortunately, this is not what happens. We, as participants and leaders, won't allow it to happen because we get too bogged down in the details of what we do or don't do. We don't open ourselves to that level of honesty in our community and the community doesn't open itself to that level of honesty with us, either. Its unfortunate.

It's been a long time since I have been able to simply sit back and worship God. I am often stuck in the planning, preparing, and "performing" of worship. The community lacks cohesive connection. I spend more time critiquing the form of the sermon than opening myself to its message. I miss the experiences of my stomach fluttering and my heart soaring.

I was very blessed to have the opportunity to simply worship God at camp. Maybe it was because it was such a "safe" space, free from judgement, pretension, and expectation. Maybe it's because of the honesty of youth. Maybe it's because it is simply something different. Whatever the reason, it is something beautiful and special and exactly what my soul needed. Even in a position of planning and leading worship, it was so exciting and such a special experience. I am already excited about the possibility of returning next year.

Like all camp experiences, I know it can't last forever. Truthfully, I don't think I would want it to. Part of what makes these camp experiences great is the fact that they are indeed special, not simply a new norm. However, I do hope that I can remember some of these good things even when times get hard and hold on to those memories until I can have another wonderful experience!

Monday, June 28, 2010


Canning is something I have always wanted to learn how to do. I was always fascinated by shots in movies and even old photos of row upon row of glass mason jars, stuffed to the gills with fresh foods and saved away, topped with squares of pretty cloth and given as gifts, and generally filling an important place in peoples hearts, homes, and tummies.

Nobody in my family ever canned. This wasn't something that happened regularly or a tradition that could be really handed down in my family. But since deep down I have fantasies about one day living in a giant old farmhouse with a cellar built just for holding all of grandma's peach preserves and green beans, I want to learn. And this year I made up my mind that I was absolutely going to do it!

Step 1 was acquiring the equipment. A big canning pot had somehow made its way into the home of my childhood (I had no idea that's what it was until recently because obviously that was never how it was used!) and later into the home of my in-laws, so I repo'd it. Then I made a trip down to the store and got an "intro to canning" kit with a nice, flexible little rack for lifting out the fully processed jars, a wide-mouthed funnel, a few extra lids for when I inevitably messed one up, and several dozen glass jars.

Step 2 (which was actually done about the same time as step 1) was acquiring the produce to can. I figured the safes and easiest thing to make starting out was pickles, so when we were picking out the plants for the garden, I got a small flat of pickling cucumbers. Jeff built a funky little cage for the cukes to grow up, and I'm incredibly glad he did because it made picking the 5 million cucumbers we got much easier.

Step 3 was to find a recipe. I actually had a couple of recipes for pickles that had come from my mom's recipe box. Where she got them, I'm still not sure. I think at one point she tried this same adventure but then had kids and a life and it wasn't a trend that continued. I'm hoping this is something I can continue to do so that I can teach it to my kids if they ever want to learn. Anywho, I also decided that, while I was at it, I would make some more of my salsa. If I ever perfect a homemade tomato sauce, that also might make it into the mix. That can be my project for winter when I don't have any more fresh stuff and I'm itching to practice my canning techniques!

Step 4 is to get my butt in gear and actually do it! More about that is coming. Are you excited about joining me on my adventure through the world of canning? I hope so!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Camp Recap

There are still a lot of emotions that go along with a trip to camp. I am still working on processing it, and I will get to it all eventually in bits and pieces, but for now I will just hit a few of the highlights with you.

This was my first time to do elementary camp. It was also my first time back in 7 years. It was great to be back. It was strange not seeing all the same people, but definitely not bad.

I got an unexpected reassignment (I'm hesitant to say "promotion") from counselor to assistant director (AD). The work really did suit me better. I can say that honestly because I filled in for a MIA counselor for a couple of days. I would definitely like to do the AD thing again, but will have to remember to bring more fun reading if I do! Downtime at camp without mudpies and the marble game is not cool

I got to spend a lot of time with Nurse Buck just hanging out. It was good stuff. I needed it. Laughter sometimes is the best medicine and he can certainly provide plenty of it!

I got my first ever case of the camp funk. Let me just say, I'm not a fan. Thankfully it's almost gone now.

I got to help in the planning and leading of morning watch, vespers, and communion. It was so stinking amazing! I even got to take some serious creative liberties with The Great Thanksgiving and experience worship in ways that I had almost forgotten existed. Plus, getting to serve communion to friends, both new and old, is probably one of my favorite experiences EVER! This is why I'm called to be an Elder - the sacraments are AMAZING things!

I got to drive up the mountain twice and spend some time at the chapel. I love that place. Almost as much as pool camp. I had forgotten how to get up there, but I can't wait to take Jeff up there now.

I tried Archery for the first time ever and really loved it, even if I stunk. Stay tuned for a deeper reflection on the important life and faith lessons I learned in the process.

I did get a little sad thinking about things that had happened between the last time I was at camp and this time. A lot of life happens in 7 years. I did some serious reflecting about leaving camp. It was good reflecting and I came to the conclusion that it was the right decision for me to make. I probably should have come back about two years ago, but I'm glad it was here and now. I feel like I'm finally ready to be here again, but in a new role.

It is harder for me to adjust to coming home than it used to be.

I never thought I'd say it, but I miss the camp food! I got spoiled having someone cook 3 meals a day for me. I kept hoping something good would appear in my fridge today but it never happened. I finally broke down and made myself something about 5pm. I may have to start getting up and actually cooking breakfast for myself!

I had an amazing time and can't wait to go back! Lots of love to all those who will continue to be there through the summer!

Saturday, June 26, 2010


This post brought to you by Nurse Buck and my week at camp. I have other fun hydration/dehydration facts, but I'll save them for later. Print out a copy of the chart and hang it in your bathroom! I've gotten so used to seeing it that now my bathroom feels like it's missing something!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday Five - Summertime

Today's Friday Five invited everyone to post a list of five things you love (or don't love) about summer. I've already posted a few things I love about summer, so let me post a few things I don't love about summer

1. Chiggers - I absolutely love summer camp (and I will be posting lots about camp) but I don't love chiggers. I don't think I got too many chigger bites this time around, but the summer is still young...

2. Humidity - I love sunshine but I don't love the heat and humidity of summer in the south. It even makes it hard to breathe! I definitely don't like going out in that mess!

3. Crowds - I love kids, but I hate that so many parents can't control them. And when kids are out of school for the summer, life gets a little crazy and it makes me cranky.

4. Pests - snakes, mice, skunks, any of them. I don't like them at all!

5. Sunburns - I don't get burned as often as I once did, but it still does happen on occasion and I am not a fan!

So is there anything that you don't like about the summer time?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Homeschooling 2.0

Here are a few of my expanded thoughts on homeschooling in light of some of my new thoughts and discoveries. Please bear with me (or feel free to stop reading here). This is just a little sneak peek at the conversations I have been having with myself.

Where do you get your curriculum? - The joy of the internet is the amazing connections and access to resources you may not be able to find otherwise. I have a great curriculum package that I currently love marked with a big circle in my mind.

What if I don't like everything in it or the kids aren't in to it like I am? - First of all, they can get excited about just about anything. This is all brand new and can be a really great experience. My attitude will go a long way in making that so, and if I'm excited I think they will be too. As for specific resources, there's nothing that says a package deal MUST always be used. I think it's a good place to start and something that can easily be reassessed and tweaked as needed. And As for learning styles, that is something that can also be assessed later and changes can be made.

Isn't that a bit of an unfair advantage to give the child so much control over learning? - No, not unfair at all. If anything, the notion that all children must learn the same things in the same way at the same pace is very UNfair and a huge DISadvantage to everyone. Those that struggle are dragged along or left behind and those that excel are left bored and unchallenged. How is that fair to anyone but the few in the middle and the teacher? Education shouldn't be about the teacher. It should be about the student. (No offense to any teachers, I know you do the best you can with what you're given!)

What about the stuff you can't teach? - No, I'm not confident in my ability to teach math over about Algebra 1 without some help. Science I have very little desire to even try to do much more than physical science/physics. But I'm a quick learner, and I can re-learn it with my child and help him/her learn it. And if I can't teach it adequately, there are lots of groups and classes that can help. I am amazed at the things community organizations are able and willing to provide for home schoolers. It's very encouraging.

A few examples locally are science classes and labs through the McWane Center and the Birmingham Zoo, "dual enrollment" classes through community colleges and a few private schools, career exploration programs that cover everything from medicine to cosmetology and law enforcement to photography. For the little ones there are field trips and classes and play groups and all kinds of great things to explore.

Another thing I am definitely skeptical about is my ability to lead or enforce any sort of physical education on my own. Thankfully, there are lots of great things I've found like dance, gymnastics, team sports, swimming, yoga, and even kids fitness and training at local gyms. I feel like, with this, I won't have to force my child into any one thing long enough to make them terribly resentful, but just provide a few options and say "I don't care which one you pick, but you have to pick one and at least try it for a few months!"

I think the best part to me is that so much of this can start at such an early age. Not the academic side specifically, but the creation of an environment that fosters learning and exploration and can help to blur that line between "school" and "play" just enough to keep life interesting. The curriculum I really like starts with a 3K set. No lesson plans or work sheets or flash cards here. Just time spent reading and learning and making that an important part of your daily routine. Throw in some mom and me classes with the local park and rec, gym, or pool and the pre-school play group at the zoo or the McWane Center and you've got school going! When you are able to do these things with a little bit of deliberate attention, suddenly when you get the "real" school stuff for kindergarten or first grade it's not such a strange and new transition into something scary, it's just what you do every day!

This also opens doors for deliberate learning in fun and interesting ways away from "home base". You can GO and DO and SEE the places and things you're learning about. Even Disney World has classes specifically designed for school groups (including homeschool groups.) And life experience really can make stuff (especially the "boring" stuff) come to life.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My Favorite Things - p.24

These are a few of my favorite snack foods I find especially good for grazing.

Alexia Onion Strips - I love LOVE these things. They are expensive so they are a special treat. I particularly like the "savory seasoned" ones. They aren't just your typical salty snack because they have amazing flavor. Mmm...
M&Ms - they are just the perfect little bites of sweetness.

Nuts - I'm not too picky. It's pretty rare that I meet a nut I don't like. My favorites are pecans and macademias, but I will eat any of them that are close to me.

Frosted Oatmeal Cookies - I am especially partial to the Publix brand ones that come in the bag. I don't feel quite as bad for eating more because oatmeal is supposed to be good for you and they are small. Plus the bag makes the damage not quite as obvious as the plastic tray!

Dr. Pepper - Good for any occasion and goes well with just about anything! I blame this addiction on my dear friend Lauren and still think of her each time I drink one!

Snyder Pretzel Sandwiches with Cheese - These are good because they are small, bite size, travel well, and are actually pretty filling. They are also rather expensive so they're also a treat. They come in small bags so they travel very well.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I have already shared the fact that I am addicted to a couple of reality tv shows - Top Chef and True Beauty. True Beauty I rarely watch on Monday nights when it actually comes on, but I don't worry because I can watch it online and generally stay caught up on it. I caught the premiere of Top Chef and I am greatly lamenting the fact that I will miss it this week while I'm at camp.

But having spent a fair amount of time watching both of these shows, it really makes me think about myself and what I say and do all the time and with different groups of people. I probably run my mouth a little too much at home. I am guilty of saying things that I probably shouldn't and sometimes things that I don't want others to hear. I love being able to share things with my husband and probably need to work on not being so ugly, but at the same time I know that if I don't get some of this stuff out of my head I will explode. Perhaps a journal would be a wise investment for me!

I often wonder how people would react if my life were a reality TV show. On the one hand, I think most people would be really bored. My life isn't terribly exciting. There isn't a ton of drama, especially not direct drama. I just don't know that many people or have that much of a life! On the other hand, I feel like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sometimes and my evil side comes out when I'm not around anyone else! And people would probably have many of the same criticisms of me that I have had of others.

So what does any of this have to do with Top Chef? Well, I think part of the reason that I like that show in particular is that I like to learn about cooking, but I also enjoy it because they don't show drama just for the sake of drama. It's just a part of the nature of life when you put a whole bunch of people together, especially in a competitive environment with so many different personalities. Drama and conflict are parts of life. And eventually stuff is going to hit the fan and you're going to explode. The question becomes what will you do and what will people see?

My challenge to myself is to live my life as though I were on a reality show, with cameras watching every move I make. Yeah, I'm going to screw up. Yeah I'm going to be less than perfect. But at the end of the day, can I still be proud of what I have done and who I have been? Stay tuned to find out!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Peanut Butter Pie

This is probably Jeff's all-time favorite dessert. It's very simple, doesn't even require baking. You can also tweak this however you would like to meet your personal preference.

Mix 1 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky, whatever you prefer), 1 cup confectioner's sugar, and 8 oz softened cream cheese. Then fold in about 1 cup whipped cream.

Scoop into a graham cracker crust and refrigerate for several hours (overnight is better). You can eat it as-is, drizzle the top with chocolate sauce, or cover it with more whipped cream and chopped peanuts. I'll take all of the above please!

I am sorry for not having a picture, but I haven't made it recently to take a picture. Truth be told, it's not terribly pretty to look at, but it sure is tasty, and that's all I really care about anyway!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Camper

I am headed back to Camp Sumatanga for summer camp. I haven't been back for camp in 7 years. This will be a new adventure for me because I will be counseling an elementary camp. I have never attended or counseled an elementary camp before so I'm not quite sure what to expect, but I think it will be fun. It will be good for me, even when it isn't fun! Several of my boys from church are going so I'm sure I will see them around and will be available if they need me. This will be their first ever camping experience, so I'm excited for them.

Of course, this will mean leaving my home and my husband and my dogs for the week, and that will be hard. I'm sure that when it's all said and done I will be very glad to get home. I'll be gone June 20-25.

Want to send me some mail? The address is

Sandy Herren
Elementary 2
3616 Sumatanga Road
Gallant, AL 35972

I'll tell you all about it when I get home (and recover a little!)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Five - Running Late

Today seems to have been a day of running late for lots of things. Thankfully, I'm not the only one, as the Friday Five reflects.

Do you tend to be a late person or one who is timely, arriving on time or earlier? If I can, I like to be at least five minutes early for anything. Being late bothers me. Even if I'm right on time, I feel like I'm late.

Have you forgotten anything of importance lately? Not that I am aware of at the moment. I did realize a few minutes ago that I didn't pack a flashlight for camp, but I'm going to fix that shortly! I guess the big test will be tomorrow to see what I forget to take with me!

Is procrastination your inclination? Why or Why not? Generally not. As I previously stated, I don't like to be late. I generally don't like to be rushed either. Procrastination seems to lead to both of those things. I like to plan and prepare. (and just for the record, it's only classified as procrastination when there is an obvious deadline. otherwise, it's just dragging stuff out, when I do have a tendency to do!)

Do you like schedules or spontaneity? Which works better for you? I'm very much a schedule-driven person. However, when I am able to give into spontaneity, I generally have a very good time. It is somewhat anxiety-producing at the outset, but usually ends well. Why I can't let that help me become more of a spontaneous person, I'll never understand. I just like to know what's going on!

How do you stay on track with the things you need to do, people you need to meet, etc.? I have a big calendar that is just perfect. I've tried the phone thing, the computer calendar, and the day planner, but the big picture is what does it for me! I really love the UMC worship planning calendar because I can have everything in one place and it's absolutely perfect!

Bonus: Whatever comes to mind about forgetfulness or lateness. To me, lateness is easier to forgive than forgetfulness. I can understand being late on occasion, but it is one of my biggest pet peeves when it becomes a habit. I don't like people having to wait on me. I don't like feeling rushed. I like a little "wiggle room" in my schedules, especially where new experiences are involved. I want more time than I'll need to get to where I'm going. I don't want to have to get stressed about traffic or worried because I had to circle the block looking for a parking place. To me, it's a respect thing. Not only for the person I am meeting with or the activity I'm participating in, but also to myself. To my ability to relax and enjoy myself and be fully present in whatever it is I am doing! I like to be able to know what's happening and what's needed and be able to have some sort of tangible measure of progress and record of happenings. Blame it on the OCD or simply on my quirkiness, but it makes the world a happier place for me!


Jeff and I got ourselves a new toy the other day. I know we probably don't need to be buying stuff like this, especially with him out of work, but we needed a little something and this was perfect.

We got a pool! It's nothing terribly fancy, it's just 15 feet in diameter and about 4 feet deep. We got it set up and have really enjoyed it. We got a little underwater light and are continuing to work on the little corner of the yard where it is tucked. The next projects include mounting citronella torches on the fence posts, finding a radio to stick under the deck, and I need to find the perfect float.

I always hated the idea of an above-ground pool when I was a kid. I know this is mean and stereotypical, but I just always had images of them set up outside of double-wides! I refused to have anything like that in my yard! But then my step-mom got one and I've seen lots of them done well, and Jeff started looking at me with the big puppy dog eyes when he found them on sale and I couldn't help it. It's a million degrees outside, I need a little something! I figure the more time we spend out in the pool the less time I'll spend inside and so the less we'll have to run the AC!

It really is perfect because it's just the right size that you can get a few people in comfortably, and it's deep enough that I can float without my feet touching or my rear end scraping the bottom!

We're going to have Jeff's mom and step-dad over for his step-dad's birthday, so we are giving him a hard time about his pool party! We'll probably just cook out, but I imagine we will spend a little time in the pool before and/or after dinner!

So come on over! The water's fine!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Annual Follow-Up

It's hard to believe that I started this "new" blog a year ago. I figured this would be a good chance to follow up on some of the things I've written about in the past.

Meatloaf - I have yet to attempt a new meatloaf recipe after my first epic failure. I have a few recipes that sound promising, I just have to figure out which one to try and then actually try it!

Crocheting- I never officially even finished the thing I started when I first posted about crocheting. I figured out what I did wrong, but by the time I did it was too far gone to be fixed and all I had left was a mis-shapen mess. Eventually I'll get it together and try again.

Extraordianry Women Conference - This conference came and went without too much thought on my part. I had planned to apply to be a volunteer and do something different, but it just didn't happen.

Fairs and Festivals - We didn't make it to the Bloomin' Festival this year, which was sad. On the up side, we learned about several events in and around our new hometown like the Alabaster City Fest and the Buck Creek Festival in Helena. And of course the Southern Women's Show is coming up. Anyone in?

Bread - I haven't tried baking bread again since that first attempt. It tasted good, but it was just SO much work! I'm torn between getting a bread machine or just trying those mixes and baking it in the oven. I do have a "quick bread" recipe I want to try soon. I have not even come close to trying the pound cake or orange rolls like I said I would!

Homeschooling - I'm not entirely sure why, but this has been on my mind a lot more lately. Maybe it was attending another Heritage Academy graduation. Maybe it was stumbling across countless other resources. Maybe it was the Pioneer Woman. I haven't resolved any of my initial questions necessarily, but I keep coming back to the notion that, "yeah, I can do this." Because the knowledge and the resources are no longer limited to two parents and a few books. It's amazing the stuff that is available. Stay tuned for more on this.

If you have any burning questions about things I have written on and not followed up, please ask, I'll be happy to let you know where they are in my world today!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My Favorite Things - p.23

These are a few of my favorite ways you can make a difference in the world around you

Donate Money - This one seems pretty obvious. There are lots of great causes out there that do lots of great things and all need financial support to keep going and doing the things they do. Even loose change can go a long way toward making a difference.

Give Blood - Yes, I have given blood before. I was 17 and in high school. I can still show you the little hole in my arm if you would like to see it. Despite my fear of needles and all, I'm glad I did it. I'm not eligible to donate anymore but it really is a wonderful thing to do. It makes such a huge difference!

Plant something - Plant a tree if you have room. Plant a pot of flowers or herbs if you don't. Invest in a topsy-turvey full of tomatoes or strawberries or whatever else you like. Green things are not only beautiful, but they help the air quality. And even a little pot of something on your front steps or in your living room can make a difference.

Write a note - It could be a "hey I've been thinking about you" e-mail, a "hope you have a wonderful day" text, an "I love you" on a piece of an old envelope hidden in a pocket, or a "thank you" on your good stationary. Write a note to someone and make their day!

Pick something up - It seems so simple, but we so often don't do it. We walk past paper, cans, bottles, whatever that has been carelessly discarded on the ground and we think about the evils of littering but how often do we actually pick the thing up and carry it to the nearest trash can? Go on, it takes three seconds!

What do you like to do to make the world a better place?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Grilled Onion Blossom

This is one of my favorite sides, especially in the summer time. They are very simple to make.

Take a good sized sweet onion, cut off the tips, and peel it but LEAVE IT WHOLE! Now, cut it into about 8 wedges, but not all the way through (just like an onion blossom, but not tiny petals).

Set your onion on two sheets of foil. Make sure the foil is long enough to wrap completely around the onion and leave a stem on the top. It'll make it easier to open later!

Before you wrap it up, put a small pat of butter and a splash of Dale's on your onion, then wrap it up really tightly and stick it on the grill.

Let it cook for at least an hour. You'll know it's done when you squeeze your little bundle with a pair of tongs and it gives easily.

Use a knife or pair of kitchen shears to cut off the stem and open the foil package. Enjoy your yummy onion with steak, chicken, burgers, or anything else! They are great warm and are ok room temperature. They don't make very good leftovers that I have found, but that's rarely a problem around here anyway!

I've seen a variation on these using A-1, but have never personally tried it. I'm also guessing it would work well in the oven, but also haven't tried that. If you do give it a try, let me know what you think!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Five - Work Out

I am not an athletic person. I really do wish there was some sort of fitness routine I could get into and actually enjoy. Sure I like going on walks with the dogs - if it's not to hot or to cold. I've done some yoga/tai chi before and enjoyed that, but never joined an actual class or practiced on my own with any devotion. I would love to take some sort of dance classes, but I think for now I am too self conscious and can't afford a private instructor.

Do you work out physically, spiritually, or psychologically? - Physically, no way. I'm still sort of wrestling with what it means to work out spiritually or psychologically. I guess it would mean to participate regularly in activities that stretch my mind or my faith in ways that are beneficial to health and development. I think I do some of these things, although for the life of me I can't really nail down specific examples of either right this second and I don't think I quite have the "participating REGULARLY" part down.

I feel like spiritual work outs were a frequent thing in school and, although they happen now, they definitely aren't as frequent or as intense. I feel that, just as with a physical work out, to really be able to push yourself you need someone (or a group of someones) to challenge you and someone to spot you so that if there is a problem, you won't get badly injured. I have had a lot of great spotters and coaches and I miss them. I need to get out there and be more intentional about finding more and spending some quality time with them!

Are you more inclined to join a gym or a book club? - I don't know that I'm more inclined to JOIN the book club (I've joined plenty of gyms thinking it would motivate me) but I am definitely more inclined to PARTICIPATE in the book club!

Are you more inclined to read self-help books or religious books? - Really, I don't know that I'm terribly inclined to read either one. If I had to choose between the two categories I would say the religious books. If those are grouped together and the question is phrased "these or something else?" I would definitely say the something else! I like reading books that make me laugh. Sure, I like stuff that inspires me on occasion, and I even like a good mystery that makes me think from time to time. But I feel as though I take life too seriously as it is, and any help I can get lightening up is very needed and appreciated!

Are you a loyal fan of a sports team? Or do you jump on the bandwagon when the local team is winning? And if so, which one? - Yes, I am a loyal fan of college football. I'm not, however, a die-hard fan. I loyally support both the University of Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn University Tigers. I want them both to do well. However, when they are playing against one another, I want Auburn to win. I am not as big a supporter of Birmingham-Southern baseball as I once was because I don't know anyone there anymore, but I'm still a fan. Of course I still support the Cullman Bearcats in just about anything, but I'm slowly starting to think of the Thompson Warriors as "our" school since it's literally in our back yard now!

Or do you lean more towards having a favorite theologian/spiritual writer or self-help author and if so who? And why? - I probably have about as many favorite authors and thinkers as I do favorite sports teams! Bishop Joe Pennel and Dr. Doug Meeks are two of my all-time favorite theologians, probably because they are "mine". I have really enjoyed reading Henri Nouwen and Frederick Buechner as well. Of course we can't forget John Wesley (although there are times when JW and I have some interesting conversations, but that's another post for another day!) I want to make some time for reading more Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Majorie Hewitt Suchocki, but haven't done it yet.

Bonus - What was the last playoff series you watched and did your team win? - The SEC national championship, and yes they certainly did!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My Favorite Things - p.22

I will admit, I am not a wine snob. I am not only a prissy drinker, I am a cheap one too! These are a few of my favorite wines

Saracco - a sweet Italian wine that is perfect with dessert or a good brunch. I highly recommend it.

Beringer White Zinfandel or White Merlot - I will admit I am a snob about this one (well, as much of a snob as you can be about "pink" wine!) I have tried many a White Zin and this is really the only one I like. The White Merlot is something my mother-in-law introduced me to. I haven't decided which one I like better but I'm beginning to think it just depends on my mood.

Adesso - I really don't know much about this one. I have had it once but I loved it and saved the bottle so I will have a reference for my quest. I believe the category is "Cagnina de Romana" so obviously it is Italian. It is a sweeter red that is rich without being overpowering. I have yet to find a place in Alabama that sells it!

Barefood Pinot Grigio - I know I've mentioned this one before, but I will mention it again. It's good stuff, and not too expensive.

Livingston Red Rose - this is my new favorite party wine. It reminds me a lot of the White Merlot and is very drinkable. Plus, it's cheap, which is always a plus.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Chick-Fil-A Spicy Chicken Sandwich

Chick-Fil-A has now unveiled their newest offering, the spicy chicken sandwich. I believe the regular cost is $2.99 for the sandwich (not sure about combo price increases). I was lucky enough to get to try one for free last week, thanks to a special promo they were running.

I must admit, I was a little bit scared about trying it. I love my Chick-Fil-A, I grew up on the classics, and I really wasn't sure how I felt about anyone messing with it.

For the most part, I was pleasantly surprised. It had a really nice flavor. It was a little spicier than I would prefer personally, but I'm a wimp when it comes to heat! The spicy chicken sandwich was wonderful in its simplicity - just like the original it's no frills, just a couple of pickles. I probably would have preferred to have a large fries and coke instead of the regular size because I needed a little help toning down the spice at times. Perhaps I just need to add some ranch or find some other sauce to help me manage it!

One lovely new option is the ability to add pepper-jack cheese to your sandwich for an additional $0.30. I believe that cheese has been offered on a few other sandwiches in the past, but has never been something I was especially interested in trying. I think for my personal preference, adding the pepper-jack cheese to a regular chicken sandwich would be just the amount of kick I can handle!

This sandwich is made for people like my husband, who prefer their food to be a little more "exciting". Jeff absolutely loved it, and I believe he as a new favorite item! I enjoyed my free sandwich and am looking forward to having this exciting option, but don't see it replacing my old favorites.

But don't take my word for it! Give it a try and decide for yourself!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Straight Lines

For as long as I can remember I have loved to create. Paint, draw, cut, it doesn't matter. But the one thing I never did very well was to make straight lines. I always got excited. I was more interested in the end result, in finishing, in seeing my vision come to life. As I have gotten older, I have developed a new-found appreciation for straight lines. When I need them or want them I often have to employ some unconventional means to get them, but I make it work when necessary.

It was not until recently that I was able to appreciate how this reflects not just my impatience in creativity, but my general approach toward life, work, and responsibility. I don't like lines, but when they are necessary I usually don't go with straight and simple. Dips and curves and blurs are much more "me". However, I have learned that I NEED those lines and boundaries for the sake of my own sanity.

I have officially started with a few new professional boundaries. This includes keeping regular "work" hours in which I will either be in my office at the church or generally available to write, return phone calls and e-mails, meet with people, and research things. It was very important for me to draw those lines as boldly and as straight as I possibly could. No meandering crayon or drifting colored pencils here! This called for big, black sharpie and the ruler!

Now that I have drawn the lines and they are officially in effect, I'll be interested to see just exactly how well they are respected, not just by others but especially by myself. I made the decision not too long ago that, rather than simply saying "this is how it will be forever and ever amen" I will start with "these are my hours for summer" so that they can be changed as needed. We'll see how it goes.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Annual Conference Reflections

I usually really enjoy annual conference. I love the chance to come together with other leaders from our conference. I love the chance to reconnect with friends I haven't seen in a long time. I love to find out what is going on in my church. I love the chance to learn and grow and become a better minister.

What I don't love is the politics and the drama that goes into these things. I know it is human nature. Whenever you get a group of people together, there's going to be drama. When you get a group of people together surrounding something like faith and religion and morality and salvation, there's going to be all kinds of trouble you can't even imagine.

I was able to retreat from the world of conference for about four years while I was in school. There were lots of changes that happened in those years so when I came back into all of this last year, it really threw me for a loop. This year I felt like I was a lot more prepared, but was also a lot less excited.

While I was in school, I got really spoiled. We did lots of conferencing in school. We did lots of talking and listening, learning and debating, friendship-building and connection-making. But we did it all respectfully. We didn't feel like it was our sworn duty to convert the world to our way of thinking, so we didn't try. We respected personal, professional, and spiritual differences and were able to grow as individuals.

I was lucky because conference was, for the most part, a positive experience for me. I got to see lots of people I hadn't seen in a long time and it was really nice to get to catch up. The business sessions were a little exhausting, but were generally good. I was pretty pleased with the way everything went. I really loved the learning sessions with Adam Hamilton.

Most of all, I have a lot of great ideas. They are probably going to be hard and I don't know that I will still be this excited in 9 months, but I'm looking forward to another year of ministry!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday Five - Patience and Persistence

The Friday Five for today asks some important questions about patience, persistence, and their place in our lives. They're good things to think about. Here are my thoughts.

Is Patience a virtue you possess? If it is then is it something that comes naturally, and if it's not then how do you work at it? - I can possess patience at times, depending on the situation. I have gotten much more patient, but I think it is because I have also become more trusting. I think too often patience becomes an excuse for laziness, procrastination, and avoiding work. The only time I am really impatient is usually around gift-giving because I want to tell people, and I REALLY hate it when people lord a surprise over me. I don't like surprises at all!

Being patient with ourselves can be a huge challenge, we are often our own worst critics; is there anything you need to be patient with yourself with at the moment? - There really isn't anything I can think of off the top of my head, but I will marinate on it and get back to you if I come up with anything good!

Are you the kind of person who can/will persist with a difficult task? How much of this is personality related? - I will definitely persist with a difficult task, especially if I am doubted and/or it is something I feel passionately about. I am really not sure how much is personality and how much is training. I feel like both are something that came from my mom, I'm just not entirely sure which is which.

Can you spot when persistence turns into pig-headed-ness, or do you never get there? - I definitely get there and there are times when I have a hard time recognizing it (and there are times when I just plain don't care!) I think that stubbornness has its place and isn't always a bad thing, but I definitely am not sure I have a good handle on that one!

Post a song or poem that helps you re-group, re-focus, and carry on - I really can't think of anything right now because it just depends on the mood, situation, etc. I'm not sure that music or poetry are even my outlets of choice. If anything, I think when I reach that point of teetering on the edge, the music that is best and most helpful to me is usually very high energy. It would seem counter-productive, but actually giving me an outlet for expressing all the compressed energy and emotion helps me to get it all out so I don't explode. It's sort of like opening the lid slowly on a bottle of Coke that's been shaken up. You release all that pressure in a controlled way, and even though there may be a little bit of over-flow, it's a heck of a lot better than if it had exploded!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

My Favorite Things - p.21

Memorial Day has come and summer is now officially here in all its sweltering glory. Sadly, a bit of the appeal of summer has gone far away now that I don't get a much-anticipated break. Still, there are some good things about this time of year. Despite the fact that I will be perpetually sticky and exhausted for the next several months, these are a few of my favorite things about my months on the surface of the sun!
Sweet Tea - I am always up for a glass of sweet tea, especially fruit teas, but there's something about enjoying it in the middle of summer that makes it that much better! The same is also true of lemonade!

Peach Park - Stopping at Peach Park in Clanton was always a part of our family trips to anywhere south of Birmingham during the summer months. We would walk around, hang out in the rocking chairs, and of course get some ice cream and fruit cobbler. I still love the smell of fresh peaches as it mingles with car exhaust!

Lightning Bugs - Watching lightning bugs remind me of the magic of summer vacation when I was in elementary school, and the joy and laughter of cookouts with friends. Even now, I love to sit on the porch, watch them light up the night, and try to guess where they are going to be next. So much fun!

Watermelon - Watermelon is one of those things that I absolutely love, but only when it's like a thousand degrees outside and it's really fresh and juicy. I don't like watermelon flavored stuff, just beautiful fresh watermelon with juice that runs down your elbows! And no, you can't eat it with a fork. That's totally cheating!

What are some of the things that you love about summer?