Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I love when I get to take some sabbath time. But recently I have started to contemplate what that really means to me and for me. I know it is supposed to be a day of rest. But can we be a little more specific? Is it a break from work? Is it a break from chores? Is it a day of simply being lazy? I can't speak for everyone on this subject, because I feel that there really are no universal standards for what is and is not sabbath. For me it's a little bit of all of these things.

On the one hand, it is a break from work and responsibility. However, it must be an intentional break. It is rarely a "lazy day" where I sit around in my pajamas and do nothing. It rarely involves going somewhere else, because that is often a rather stressful experience rather than a relaxing one. Family vacation almost never qualifies as sabbath. It does not happen by chance, but it also cannot be planned, created, or forced.

For me, sabbath is a celebration. A time to put stress and worry and so many other things on the shelf, either for a few hours or even a few days. An opportunity, and often a reminder, to relish the blessings of my life. Not to show off or be excessive or extravagant, but to take a moment to enjoy the here and now. Rather than simply squeezing a little "oh by the way thanks" into my prayers before more "gimme, gimme", I want to take the time to BE thankful. To be a good steward of the resources that I have, even if the greatest resource is my time. To take some time to not only care for my needs, but to actually love and value myself and my desires.

I do not believe that sabbath has to be on a certain day of the week or last a certain amount of time to be valid. I would rather have two hours of true sabbath in the middle of the week so that I can have my soul fed, than to have a weekend of laziness that left me feeling more drained than when I started! Obviously, for me, Sunday isn't a great option for taking my sabbath. In many respects, it isn't an option at all. In fact, taking days away from work, while they are an important step towards sabbath, are not in themselves enough to constitute sabbath.

Right now, for me, Thursday is my sabbath day. Thursday is one of my days "off" from the church. Generally I wake up whenever I feel like (or whenever the dog feels like I need to be up) and I do what immediately needs to be done. This is rarely more than taking out the dog or maybe getting something to drink. Then I sit down to read my e-mails, check on the news, and maybe play a game. My morning is pretty leisurely. If necessary, this is the day when I do my grocery shopping. For me, shopping is a perfect sabbath activity because I enjoy it and it gives me some time alone with my thoughts, without too many distractions. I will do things around the house, but only as far as they help to keep me from being distracted and allow me to appreciate what is around me.

How do you observe Sabbath? What are your obstacles? Do you have any suggestions for things I could add to my own sabbath practices?

Sunday, August 29, 2010


I have been thinking a lot lately about locks, particularly on the doors of the church. I have been having an ongoing debate with myself as to whether or not the church building should be locked. If so, when? Why or why not? Who should have keys? Are there ever exceptions to the rules?

The church where I grew up was always pretty secure. But it wasn't a big deal for people to get a key or be let in when they needed to be. It made sense for the church to be locked. We locked our house, so why not our church? I don't remember personally, but remember hearing about the time that the brand new handbells were stolen from the church. And entire set valued at several thousand dollars. We didn't have handbells for almost ten years after that. Locking doors was a part of life that made sense.

Then I went to divinity school and nothing has made sense ever again. We had a conversation in one of my theology classes about having locks on churches and the principle of sanctuary. It was an important reminder that sanctuary isn't only a place, but a state of being. That we, as the church, have a certain obligation to provide that without judgement.

I think about being in college and the fact that the chapel was always open. I believe there was a lock on the door, but I don't know that it was ever used. Even during holidays when the whole campus shut down, the chapel stayed open. I know this because I often retreated into its darkness in the wee hours of the morning to think, pray, read, write, cry, laugh, and play the piano. It was a time I absolutely cherished and an opportunity I very much miss.

I think about the example of a church that was broken into, and there wasn't anything especially valuable taken. Simply part of a couch, a microwave, and some food. Later, the pastor's wife was interviewed about it and she said she wasn't angry at the people who broke in, but that if they needed these things to provide for their family then she was glad that the church was able to provide them. And when given the chance to send a message to the thieves she said "Come on back and we'll give you the rest of the couch and some more food!" WOW! What an example! I have no idea if I could do that. I'd love to think I could, but I'm really not sure. But I'm grateful I have such an example to remind me of what exactly the "right thing" can be.

Then I think about the church where I served in Nashville and the church where I am serving now. I think about locks and alarms and regulations on keys. I think about safety and security and locking myself inside when I am working. I think about fear. I think about liability. I think about responsibility.

And somehow it all leads me back to thinking about God. Thinking about the reason I do what I do. The people I am called to serve.

I don't have this issue resolved. I may never have it resolved. But it's something I will continue to think about and I hope you will think about it, too! And please share your thoughts with me!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Crock Pot Chicken and Brown Rice

I know I should eat more brown rice. I am just not used to it. And I'm not great at making it. I've done one beautiful pilaf with it once, and haven't been able to replicate it since. I figured this would be a good first step for me, so I tried it out. Basically, it's a crock pot version of the casserole I made all the time right after we got married. The biggest difference for me than the original crock pot recipe was that I didn't make my own "cream-of" substitute, I used the stuff in a can. I'm working on a recipe I can make in bulk and freeze that will be better than the stuff in a can, but hey, we're taking baby steps here!

So basically, this is my version

1 1/2 cups brown rice (I think this is about 1 regular bag, but mine was in a cannister)
2 cans chicken stock
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 Tbsp dried onion
2 - 3 chicken breasts (I used 2 but they were pretty gigantic)
paprika, salt, and pepper

Mix it all together and cook on low for 8 hours

I started with 1 can of chicken stock, but after about 5 hours the rice still wasn't done and it was getting dried up, so another was added. I don't know if this is because I used a larger than necessary pot (6 quart) or if my rice simply soaked it all up. Either way, use two! I did end up adding a little bit of water in the last hour because some of the rice on top didn't get quite mixed in as well as it should have (or it dried out) but you could have just kind of scooped that off the top and everything else was perfect.

Verdict: Not bad at all. This will definitely be making a regular appearance at our dinners during my residency, although Jeff requested white rice from now on. The only change I would make next time would be to maybe add a little bit of garlic powder and perhaps some chili powder or even a little cayenne because it didn't have a ton of flavor on its own. I could also see trying it with pork. You could easily mix in a bag of your favorite vegetables, but since I don't have a favorite vegetable, they didn't make an appearance in my dish.

Give it a try, and let me know what you think (especially if you have any favorite spice combinations!)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Five - Dorm Life

Today's Friday Five is a lot of fun to me. As much as I love the freedom of owning my own home, I do miss my days in the dorm. I had great room/suite mates and we had a lot of fun together. The "back to school" season was harder on me than I thought it would be this year and I was exceptionally jealous of all those who were buying these exciting new things in fun, bright colors. My dorm room was done in varying shades of purple so I had a good time trying to find purple stuff in the midst of all the bright pink, green, blue, and black. I was good and resisted the urge to buy all kinds of organizational goodies, but it was fun to reminisce.

What was the hardest thing to leave behind when you went away to school for the first time? - I really don't know that I had a hard time leaving anything. I was so excited about going and I knew I was only an hour away from home so nothing seemed impossible to access.

We live in the age of helicopter parents. How much fuss did your parents make when you first left home? - Not as much of a fuss as I think they (and I) had anticipated. My brother had gone away to boarding school the year before and I think it threw everyone for a loop to have the baby move away before the older one. Then, my mom was having health problems and had been in the hospital the week before I moved and she was unable to physically help me move in. She came to visit later because she insisted on seeing my room for herself, but overall it wasn't as big a deal as I expected. I think they had a harder time once I was actually gone!

Share a favorite memory of living with schoolmates, whether in a dorm or other shared housing. - Christmas the year I lived on the 7th floor of Bruno with Sarah, Sarah, Shelley. I decorated over Thanksgiving so we had a tree and lights and garland and stockings and all kinds of stuff all over the place. We had our very own little "family" Christmas during exams and opened presents and acted completely goofy and it was wonderful!

What absolute necessity of college life in your day would seem hilariously out-of-date now? - It was only 7 years ago that I first went away to school, so I don't know if that much is different. I guess the closest thing to "out of date" that I had was a land line phone!

What innovation of today do you wish had been a part of your life in college? - Wireless internet and laptops in class. I had them for my M. Div but not at Birmingham-Southern and they would have made life SO much easier!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hunan Garden 2

Jeff and I first learned about Hunan Garden 2 from our friend Karol Ann. This has been one of her favorite places since she was young and is now in our back yard, so we figured it was worth a shot.

The atmosphere is pretty much your average Chinese restaurant. They have cups on the table and came around with a pitcher of tea. If you want something else, you better speak up quickly!

The first time we went, it was for lunch. We got lunch specials that came with our entree, fried rice, soup, and an egg roll (Karol Ann's favorite part!). It was tasty, filling, and a good deal. I got the Sesame Chicken with Egg Drop Soup and Jeff got the Sweet and Sour Chicken with Hot and Sour Soup. We both enjoyed it very much. They do feature daily lunch combination specials - for $5.62 (tax included) you get a combination entree that is almost always two kinds of chicken (usually sesame chicken and somthing else), fried rice, soup, egg roll, AND your drink. Not bad at all!

Dinner another day was an interesting experience. Everything is served family style, but there is nothing on the menu that indicates this! We both ordered Sesame chicken thinking that it was individual plates, but ended up taking one whole order home because we could have easily shared one (or ordered two different things!) Entrees are typically served with steamed white rice, but there is nothing on the menu that indicates this, either. You can get fried rice for an extra charge, but again, not on the menu (the server did tell us there was an extra charge when Jeff specifically ordered the fried rice)! This also means that if one person orders fried rice, everyone gets it! I have no idea whether the extra charge is per table or per person. At dinner when you get your fortune cookie with your check, you also get a "fried banana", which is sliced banana wrapped in a wonton wrapper, fried, and topped with honey. Jeff enjoyed it! In fact, he gobbled up both of them, so I didn't get to try it! I'm not a huge banana fan usually, but I was willing to try it. I guess I'll have to wait until next time!

They do offer "family dinners" for two or more people. This usually runs around $12 per person and includes a mixed appetizer plate that includes egg rolls and a few other things, soup, and an entree for each person. The options for this are pretty limited to what I would guess are some of the most popular items (Sesame chicken isn't an option, boo hiss!) Like the other dinner offerings, white rice comes standard but fried rice can be substituted for an extra charge. I am really not sure if your drink is included in this or not. That is about what we ended up paying for our dinner because Jeff got an egg roll and soup on top of his dinner (but I didn't) so next time it would probably be worth doing that if we are in the mood to try something different.

This is definitely a "regulars" place. It's good food and a pretty good deal. But it isn't particularly "welcoming" to new people who aren't familiar with the system. I guess they've been in business long enough that they don't really need a ton of new customers. We will be back, but we won't ever order two of the same thing again!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Favorite Things - p.33

... to tell me about YOUR favorite things. No topic, no theme, just whatever is on your mind. When you see "favorite things" what is the first thing that pops into your head?

Share away!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Pizza

This one is really simple. The ingredients are all in the title. This is actually an adaptation of a savory tart that is essentially the same, but uses puff pastry as the crust.

Although the ingredients are very simple, it still requires some work. Caramelizing onions isn't hard, but require some patience. I used vidalia and red onions because they are naturally sweeter so they caramelize well. I also put just a little bit of balsamic vinegar on them. When they were done, I piled them on the crust (whole wheat thin crust) and crumbled some rosemary goat cheese over it and let the cheese get melty on the grill. It wasn't covered with cheese like the average pizza, just enough to add a little contrasting flavor and texture. Because the cheese had herbs on it, I didn't really need to add much else.

*Quick note about the cheese - The cheese I used is called "Rosey Goat" and came from Costco. I have yet to find it anywhere else. It is a harder goat cheese, so it doesn't crumble like you would expect (you can shred it if you like) but it also has a milder flavor. The closest thing to this cheese I have been able to find elsewhere was an herbed goat cheese at Whole Foods. It is the softer, more crumbly goat cheese so I imagine has a bit stronger flavor. Nothing wrong with that if that's your preference, just a friendly heads up that not all herbed goat cheeses are created equal!

Holy Mother of Goodness! I really wish I didn't have to share it. Apparently I wasn't the only one! My brother said this was his favorite of all the pizzas we made. This would make a wonderful (and relatively simple) appetizer if you were to put everything into the little puff pastry cups you can find in the frozen foods section.

If you try this (or come up with improvements) let me know about it!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Crock Pot Mac & Cheese

This is a variation on the recipe from A Year of Slow Cooking. I did make a few notes and tweaks, so here is my version

2 cups macaroni noodles (should be about 1/2 pound)
4 cups shredded cheese or about 1 lb (I used a mix of sharp chedder, colby, and monterrey jack)
4 cups milk (I used 1%)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
salt and pepper

I used a plastic crock pot liner but I couldn't resist the urge to spray it with cooking spray even though it wasn't supposed to get too casserole-ish. Then I added the noodles and cheese and sort of tossed it all around with my hands.

Because I'm lazy and don't like washing any more dishes than necessary, I cracked the eggs into my large measuring cup and beat it up, then added the milk and stirred in the spices. An average size egg will be about 1/4 cup (this is also a helpful tip for making pancakes because then you can pour your batter straight from the cup and it won't make as big a mess!) Then I just dumped all of that over the noodles.

I set my cooker on low and started checking on it after about 2 hours. The pasta was soft and the cheese sauce looked nice after about three hours, but one taste told me it wasn't ready. The sauce was still a little grainy and it didn't taste quite right. I realize this is where the recipe probably "should" have been done. But I kept it cooking for another hour (total - 4 hrs) to see if it would come together a little bit better. It was very "casserole-ish" and not creamy at all when I turned it off.

Verdict: This one definitely deserves a re-do. The biggest mistake I made was using the extra sharp cheddar. It didn't melt well and so it gave the "grainy" texture when I first checked it. Had that not been there, it would have been great. Even when it was technically over-cooked, it wasn't that bad. It tasted like other casserole mac and cheese I've had. We'll definitely eat it, but I'm going to give it another try to refine it.

One thing I think I am going to try is using the pre-shredded cheese in a bag. Because of the cornstarch that has already been added to it, I think it will help thicken the sauce, the cheese will melt a little better, and I can get a good blend and save myself a little of the work of grating!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cilantro Lime Steak Pizza

I'm sorry I don't have any pictures of this. It didn't last very long once I got it off the grill! Try it and I think you will understand why!

This pizza is a cross between a recipe provided by Boboli and a great pizza I have had at California Pizza Kitchen.

I did make my salsa to be used as the sauce. It was basically the same, but I refined it a little (and made a smaller batch) - 2 small cans tomatoes, 1/4 tsp. cumin, about 1 tsp chipotle pepper in adobo, juice of 1 lime, 1/2 onion (diced), about 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, and salt to taste. It must have been pretty good because I used about 1/2 cup on the pizza and the rest got eaten with chips while we waited.

I used some basic fajita steak strips, but a flank steak would be fantastic here. I marinated it in lime juice, a little olive oil, and some fresh cilantro the night before. Then I sauteed it quickly in a pan and cut it into chunks for the pizza.

The pizza was topped with the salsa, steak, onions, green chiles, and pepper jack cheese on a "regular" crust and grilled just until the cheese got all melty and beautiful. Then if that's not fantastic enough, top it with sour cream. One bite, and you will understand why this was such a hit! Even the folks who aren't normally a fan of "exotic" pizza really enjoyed it.

I suppose if you used bell peppers and onions that had been sauteed you could call it Fajita Pizza. In fact, I think that is exactly what I am going to do from now on...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ocean Waves and God

Something about the beach makes me feel very close to God. As much as I love my experiences at Camp Sumatanga, to me they speak more about the kingdom of God and the community of faith. It's more than simply a place. But there is something about the solitude and vastness of the ocean and the feeling as though you are standing on the edge of creation that make me feel the closest to God.

When I went to the beach in June, I was excited about the fact that it was a little stormy. There is something about that power of the elements working together, of the waters below and the waters above and the way they come together that makes me feel as though I am witnessing a part of creation over and over again. And it also didn't hurt that there were very few people on the beaches to interrupt my time with God. I never got to see any dolphins this time, but that's okay. They'll still be there and I'll be back!

When it started to storm on us, I was the last one to retreat. I laid on the sand with my beach towel snuggie protecting me from the "sand blasting" and letting the rain pour down on me. All I could hear was the wind and the waves. I couldn't see anyone or anything else. I wasn't distracted by reading or music or tv or responsibility or anything except that glorious moment. Even my retreat was half-hearted. And it was only a partial retreat. I slipped into the hot tub that was just about body temperature (so not really hot at all) and I floated there on my back for several hours. I felt the rain on my face and listened to the water in my ears and the roar of the waves on the sand just a few hundred yards away. I wasn't entirely at peace, but I was in the presence of God.

I think one of the things I love so much about the beach is that it is constantly moving and changing. Not necessarily for better or worse. Not usually in ways that are readily apparent. If only faced with ocean and sand, it's very hard to note immediate change between one wave and another. In many cases it only becomes apparent over time, or with the help of some "extra" something like a toy or a shell or some sort of marker. But even when we can't see the change, we know it's happening. And it's not always what we would expect. It's not always the ocean slowly taking the beach away bit by bit. Sometimes it's one area being changed more than another. Sometimes something is added to the beach. It's not better or worse. It's simply different.

I look forward to going back to the beach. I look forward to being reminded of these changes. I look forward to feeling it happen right under my feet, literally all around me. Because in some small way, I often feel myself changing along with it.

The beach certainly isn't the only place changes are constantly happening, but for some reason it is the place I notice them the most. I am excited to see what the change of seasons will bring for me, for my family, for our house, for our neighborhood, for our town, for our state, for our country, and for our world. I look forward to feeling change even when I can't see it. I hope I can remember (and perhaps continue to remind others) that change is not always better or worse. Sometimes it is simply different. And no matter what, God is in it all.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Five - Clutter

Today's Friday Five is about something that is a very familiar part of my life - clutter. Right now, my little corner of our bedroom is clutter free. It will probably stay this way for at least a couple more weeks, but I doubt much more than that. Then, slowly, things will start to pile up and up until I get around to de-cluttering (or at least moving) the clutter.

What things do you like to hang on to? - Things with comforting memories attached, things I think may one day be special to other members of my family, things that have been given to me.

What is hard to let go of? - Anything that was a gift, especially if I liked it; anything that reminds me of my family, especially those who are now deceased; anything that I may not be able to replace

What is easy to give away? - Clothes and shoes are the easiest, books I've already read, large items that are no longer useful and are taking up too much space

Is there any kind of stumbling block connected with cleaning out? - Yes! Memories! Cleaning out always takes me twice as long because I have to sit and reminisce about everything! And then I get attached to the items all over again and have a hard time giving them away!

What do you like to collect, hoard, or admire? - I guess the closest thing to an "active" collection I have now are my Madame Alexander dolls. I have some old figurines my mother got for me as a child that I won't get rid of. My current weaknesses are bibles, purses, and kitchen tools.

Bonus: Here are a few thoughts on de-cluttering - One thing that sticks in my mind about the "stuff" in my life is the questions "Do you need it? Do you love it? Does it make you money?" and the assumption was that if it didn't do one of those three things it didn't need to be a part of your life. On the one hand I agree. On the other hand I feel like there is something missing from this assessment. I think the thing that it is trying to get at is passion - there isn't room in life for things that don't inspire or involve passion. But there is still a little room to refine this. I'm not exactly sure how this should be refined, but I'm open to suggestions!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

How to Grill Pizza

The whole point of our House Party was to try something new - grilled pizza. I have heard of grilled pizza, but had never tried it. I must say, it was quite an adventure. It wasn't that hard, but it was different and we weren't quite sure what to think!

It was actually quite simple, but we had one key issue taken care of for us already - the crust was already baked. We didn't have to worry about it getting baked through or sticking. I know it's possible to really bake a pizza from scratch on a grill, but we're not that daring yet.

We started with the grill. We used our gas grill, but you could also use charcoal, whatever you have or feel like using. The grate had been cleaned really well and, after we let it heat up for a while, we turned off two of the three burners and just left the one on the far side on. This is important because it doesn't risk catching your pizza on fire or having a very blackened bottom to it! We gave a little spray to the grate with cooking spray (no pans or foil here!) and put two crusts on. You grill each side for about three to four minutes, just enough to get it warm and just a little crispy on the outside. Then, after it's warmed on both sides, pull it off and dress up your pizza. (You can see some coming recipes for suggestions on how to do this!)

After the pizzas are all dressed just the way you like them, pop them back on the grill until the cheese gets all nice and melty. The crust is pre-cooked, so that's not an issue and the toppings that need to be cooked are already done, so it's really just warming everything up and melting the cheese. The directions we had said 8-10 minutes, but it took us a little longer, probably about 12-15 (but again, we were doing two at a time, it would probably go quicker if you only had one)

Once it's all melty, pull it off, slice it up, and enjoy!

For me the best part of the grilled pizza was the combination of the soft and crispy crust. Even the thin crust wasn't like eating cardboard, but it wasn't too "bready" either. It was still pretty soft and chewy like you expect good bread to be, but it did have a nice crunch on the bottom from the grill. I guess if you put your pizza straight on the rack in the oven it would have a similar result, but the grill was actually a really easy way of doing it and didn't heat up the whole house!

Fire up the grill and give it a shot! Then let me know what you think!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Favorite Things - p.32

Here are a few of my favorite things about my birthday this year

Feeling loved - Maybe I'm a little vain or a little selfish, but I really love getting messages from people. It makes me feel so special and loved, and that's a wonderful thing.

Getting mail - I guess I am perpetually six years old, but I get so stinking excited about getting mail. It's especially nice when it's something personal, just for me! It seems like my birthday is the best time for that, although Christmas cards are a close second!

Sleeping late - I got to sleep late Monday. Not all day by any means (in fact, sleeping "late" for me is now 9am!) but it was great to not have to be up and go anywhere or do anything.

Cold Stone Creamery - Founder's Favorite with cheesecake ice cream in a chocolate dipped waffle bowl. Who needs cake when you can have that?

Seeing family - This is the first time I can remember that I have gotten to see all of my immediate family, including my brother, within a few days of my birthday. Even some extended family got in on the action, which was nice!

My new toy - I got myself a new "toy". And it's not anything I would have ever guessed I would want or be excited about, but I couldn't be more thrilled. I got an archery set! Normally my gifts to myself are very domestic (and I will probably still get something like an immersion blender or a snuggie or something) but this was wild and adventurous in every sense of the word. Stay tuned to see how this goes!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

CPE and Pregnancy

The road to the CPE residency, while not all that long, has involved several headaches. I sort-of knew what was going on before I was ever able to say anything to anyone, and that was hard. The biggest reason was that I was excited! I wanted to be able to celebrate and do a happy dance, but I couldn't! Because my facebook status had sort of revolved around my application, interview, and the wait for a response, once I began to get some answers I posted a rather ambiguous status update that I was "excited and hopeful". Well, this was met with lots of assumptions, both direct and implied, about the state of my uterus. I quickly responded that I was in fact NOT pregnant and did not elaborate further at that time.

Later, I was discussing the whole thing with a chaplain friend who was very aware of the whole process and knew exactly where I was in it all. His somewhat smart response was "Well you kind of are (pregnant)!" I laughed, but the explanation made sense.

You start out feeling sort of different, even before you know what's going on

You get really excited.

Then you get really nauseous.

Your eating and sleeping habits change dramatically

You feel growing pains in places you didn't know you had

Then you start to feel better and for a while you feel like you could go anywhere and do anything

Then you start feeling bad again

And you start getting kicked. A lot.

You get to a point where you don't think you can grow or stretch or develop any more

And the entire experience is incredibly painful

But when it's over, you block out a lot of that pain and end up with the general attitude that "hey, that wasn't so bad!" And the end result is SO very worth it, even if it does take you a while to start sleeping "normally" again because you develop a new standard for what is normal!

Too bad this is going to last longer than 40 weeks and I won't get any parties or cute gifts! I'll leave the verdict on how much poo needs cleaning up for a later date!

Monday, August 16, 2010

25 years ago...

This iconic photo was on the cover of the June issues of National Geographic

Back to the Future was the #1 movie

Bo Jackson from Auburn University won the Heisman Trophy

"New Coke" was introduced and quickly vanished

Bottled and canned cherry coke was introduced. It's still around

Nintendo was introduced

The wreck of the Titanic was discovered

Madonna married Sean Penn

The first mandatory seat belt law went into effect in NY state

I was born!

Two of these very special events happened on the exact same day. See if you can guess which ones!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Boboli "Beat BBQ Boredom" House Party

We had our house party on Saturday. The rain put a bit of a damper on everything. We were able to grill, but had to do it inside the screened porch. Because of this, everyone else was inside, and we were running back and forth so it was a little awkward. Plus, the grill was only big enough for two pizzas at a time, but it ended up working out because by the time we got the next two done, the first two had been eaten up! For this reason, I don't have any pictures to share. I know, I'm slacking! But on to the important part, the verdict on the pizzas ...

Veggie on Whole Wheat Thin Crust - We used red bell pepper, mushroom, red onion, banana pepper, and olives. The peppers came from our garden and we used the Boboli red sauce. Everyone really enjoyed it and it was gobbled up pretty quickly. Mamaw admitted that she didn't expect to like it but was pleasantly surprised.

Caramelized Onion on Regular Thin Crust - This one was really well received. I wish I'd put a little more cheese on it, and maybe had some sort of sauce, but it tasted really good. I'd do this again as an appetizer or something!

Pepperoni on Regular Crust - This was the most basic because it was the Boboli tomato sauce, pepperoni, and cheese. I didn't get to try it, but it got gobbled up pretty quickly too.

Cilantro Lime Steak on Regular Crust - This was everyone's favorite. I used my homemade salsa in place of pizza sauce, pepper jack cheese. lime marinated steak, with red onion and green chiles on half and sour cream as a topping after it was done. I may seriously have to make more of this!

Honey Mustard Chicken on Whole Wheat Thin Crust - This was the only pizza that had any left. It wasn't really bad, but it was just sort of ok. That, combined with the fact that it was one of the last ones we made, was probably the reason it had some left. It had honey mustard in place of regular pizza sauce along with mozzarella cheese, grilled chicken, and red onion. I think it was a little on the bland side. I don't know that I would make it again.

Rosemary Chicken and Potato on Regular Thin Crust - Everyone seemed to be both a little bit scared and very intrigued by the idea of putting potatoes on a pizza, But I love it and it was gobbled up! This was a recipe I found online (and tweaked a little) that was supposed to be like the California Pizza Kitchen creation that has since been discontinued. I'd make this one again, but I don't know if anyone else would really love it like I do. The sauce itself was a big hit, so maybe without the potatoes (or put the sauce on some pasta!)

Stay tuned! Over the next couple of weeks I will be posting some more specific tips on grilling pizzas and the recipes for these pizzas as well! As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

New Beginnings

I have been accepted as a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Resident at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) hospital. I could not be more excited about this! The program begins on Monday, September 27th and will last a whole year. This is going to be a brand new experience for me because it will be both the best and worst parts of school and working full time in a high-stress environment. Yikes!

This is going to mean some big changes for me. For starters, I will be out of the house more than I am here. That also means I will have to develop some new habits. One I am going to make a big priority is making better food choices. So I am working on some better recipes that can be prepared relatively quickly or without a great deal of advance preparation. Although I won't know all the details of my schedule until I start, I can assume that I won't be home until almost dinner time (and will probably not be in much of a mood to cook!) so I am exploring new crock pot recipes and will be test-driving several of those between now and the end of September. If you have any suggestions, shout them out!

This also means I will have to go shopping for some new "grown up" clothes. I have gotten away with a lot at the church and since I rarely "need" to dress up, I don't have a full wardrobe of professional attire. My only requirements at this point are that they look professional, be comfortable, and be relatively easy to maintain (the less ironing I have to do, the better!) I promise to share any new additions to my wardrobe! Although I don't have anything specific in mind right now, here's what I'm guessing I will end up with - khakis, two-in-one sweaters, twin sets, and more "travel knit" (or other on-call appropriate attire!)

All in all I'm very excited about what I will be doing in the next six or so weeks to get ready for my first day, and then all the new things that will happen from there. I'm sure there will be lots of twists and turns along the way and I doubt things will go the way I plan. Still, I know it will be wonderful. Stay tuned for more on this!

(photo taken from the UAB website)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Five - Dog Days of Summer

It's that time again! Another thrilling installment of the Friday Five! The original author of this post is writing from Wisconsin, and speaks of these hot, humid, miserable days as though they are a new phenomenon. And perhaps, for her, they are (at least this year). However, not so much here!

  1. What is the weather like where you live? - Miserably hot, humid, and not nearly enough rain.
  2. Share one thing you love about this time of year. - Probably the ice cream truck coming through the neighborhood.
  3. Share one thing you do NOT love about this time of year. - The power bill required to run the air conditioner to even keep the place liveable (and I'm still hot, sweaty, sticky, and gross!)
  4. How will you spend the remaining days leading up to autumn? - Inside! Trying new recipes, getting stuff organized, trying to get some more sleep, and possibly getting a few new clothes.
  5. Share a good summer memory. - From this summer, I guess it was our trips to the beach. Nothing in particular except getting to spend time with people I love doing absolutely nothing and staring at the ocean!
Bonus - What food says "summer" to you? - Homemade ice cream! I don't why we are never inspired to make homemade ice cream in the winter (because goodness knows we eat enough of it no matter what the weather!) but we usually aren't.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Nino's - Pelham, AL

I have driven by Nino's on several occasions, but until this past week never thought about or had an occasion to stop. We didn't have any real reason for going except I was in the mood for pasta.

We walked in at about 7:45 and the place was just about empty. They were pretty busy by the time we left, but I was a little hesitant walking in! We were greeted warmly, handed menus, and told to order at the counter and they would bring it to our table. I immediately went for the chicken alfredo with penne because it was what I had been craving. Jeff got the baked ziti with meat sauce and a side salad.

Jeff was handed his salad at the counter along with cups for our drinks (which were self-serve) and our order number. We chose a booth in the middle and after just a few minutes were brought a basket of garlic bread. It was made with halves of sandwich rolls which gave me a little giggle, but it wasn't bad. Jeff was a little disappointed with the salad simply because he wasn't given a choice of dressing, it simply came with a cup of the house dressing, which tasted to me like a tomato and basil vinaigrette. Not bad, but I could tell he definitely would have preferred ranch!

Dinner was pretty good. Mine had a choice of linguine or penne and I chose the penne. It was cooked well, had a good ratio of sauce to pasta, and had a good flavor without being too heavy, greasy, or salty (all of which I have encountered in alfredo sauces!) I wasn't terribly impressed with the chicken. It was sliced very thin and sort of just tossed on the top of everything. It actually kind of reminded me of the chicken you often find in frozen food. I ate some of it, but left about half of the chicken. I ate all the pasta though! Next time I'll save the $4 price difference for the chicken and use it for dessert! Jeff's baked ziti looked good. It must have tasted pretty good too because he scarfed it down and I never got a bite!

I definitely got the impression that the red sauces were more their forte. I can't say I'm surprised. Truthfully I was more surprised by the fact that they even had alfredo sauce! Looking over the menu they definitely use it, and it seems that the chicken is more of an after-thought than the sauce! From a managerial standpoint I understand it, because that's the kind of chicken that would do well on pizza (which seems to be the bulk of their business) but as a customer it doesn't seem to be worth the price they charge for it! They had three or four dinner specials for the evening written on a board above the register, but as I looked at the specials and the regular menu, the only thing "special" about them seemed to be that they came with a salad included in the price. The prices seemed to be the same as the regular menu, but we didn't pay that much attention seeing as how neither of us got a special!
I will definitely go back. I would like to try the pizza, the lasagna, the pesto pasta, and the gnocchi. I came very close to getting the gnocchi last time, but was a little scared and really was in the mood for penne alfredo. Over all, from this experience, I'd say it was pretty middle of the road. Nothing really major to complain about, but nothing that jumped out as being spectacular either. Perhaps if I were popping in at lunch for a slice of pizza or calzone, I might feel a little differently.

If you try it, let me know what you think. And if I have any revelations on subsequent visits I will be sure to pass those along as well!