Thursday, October 31, 2013

An Update and a New Project

So, it's not that I haven't cooked in the past few days, it's just that I haven't cooked anything new to blog about.  Well, that's not entirely true.  I made an apple pie on Sunday, and it definitely needs to make it's way onto the blog.  The problem was that it was gone so fast, I completely forgot to photograph it.

So, beyond not having recipes to blog, there's not much going on in my life.  Band is super busy at the moment; our big competition is on Saturday, but still it's coming to a close.  Thomas goes to work. I clean the house, do laundry, cook, go to band.  We do some stuff together.  Our life is not what you would call "incredibly interesting" right now.

We did go back to counting calories this week.  After taking a break for several months, Thomas decided he wanted a little refresher.  It's so hard to not eat too much.  I just love to make food and eat food so much.  It's been a struggle for me to not eat too much now that I'm not teaching too.  Because, when I was at school all day, I didn't have access to a bunch of snacks.  Now that I'm home a lot more, there are always snacks in the next room, and my brain wants me to eat nonstop, even if my tummy isn't hungry.  So, we're doing a little refresher counting calories for now.

My only news is that I just warped up a new project.  Here's a sneak peek!
I don't love traditional fall colors too much, but this has a little bit of a fall feel without being too drab.  I'm going to try a new technique with this one, so I'm excited to see how it turns out!  It might take a while though, the lace technique I want to try is a little intricate and can be monotonous.  We'll see though!

Monday, October 28, 2013

So... One of Those Days {Lundi Little Lovelies}

Yep.  So, I'm having one of those days.  You know the ones I'm talking about.  When you have to look really hard to find the little lovelies in your day or your life.  

The dumb thing is that the main reason I'm feeling this way is because I just finished reading a book.  And it ended all wrong.  And this is one of the countless times in my life where the following is incredibly appropriate.
I always need a little time after finishing a book to fully process all of it.  I'm a really fast reader, so I want everything to last longer, even though I can't help myself from reading too fast.  Thomas always makes fun of me, but I go through a withdraw after finishing a book.  I'm sad that I don't have anything to read, but I'm also not emotionally ready to start another book.  So anyway, let's move on to the part where I try and point out somethings that are good in life and not all wrong like the stupid book I just finished!

Ridiculously, the first one that comes to mind is movie trailers.  Confession: my internet homepage is the Internet Movie Database.  It has been for years, and I don't see it changing anytime soon in the future.  I just love movies!  And one of the reasons that this site is my homepage is so that I can watch the newest previews for movies basically as soon as they come out.  I have been known to lose all track of time sitting in front of the computer watching preview after preview after preview.  They are about as mesmerizing as the movies themselves.  I even have a few old previews that basically make up a list of "Best Previews of All Time (In Rachel's Opinion)", and I will actually go back and re-watch these previews some days.  And just for your benefit, I'm going to pause typing this and do just that, because I know you are just dying to know what previews make my list!  *wink wink*
  1. If I had to choose, the #1 best trailer of all time would go to Clash of the Titans (2010).  It's perfect.  Seriously, I get chills, forget to breathe, can't help but smiling when I watch this preview.  The lines they chose to include, the editing, the way the music fits so, so perfectly with the sound effects and the tone of the video.  The music and the perfect editing get me every time.  Surprisingly, though, the movie was sorely disappointing after having watched this preview countless times.  It was too fast.  It could have been so epic if only the movie had been longer.  I also really like the trailer for the sequel, Wrath of the Titans.  The Marilyn Manson song creeps me out, but it just goes so so well with it.
  2. Another of my favorites is Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.  I just love that movie, and they captured some of the best moments of it in the preview.  It's a great blend of humor and action.  Probably my favorite part is at about 2:00 minutes when the music and the sword fight between Jack and Davy Jones matches up perfectly.
  3. Atonement is one of those previews that I watched I-don't-know-how-many-times before it came out.  I was just captured by everything they didn't tell you.  I simply had to see it and learn how the story ended.  And, of course, my sweet husband (then, fiance) took me to a theater halfway across St. Louis to see it when it came out because it wasn't showing anywhere close to us.  He's pretty wonderful!
 Well, I could probably name a lot more if I would resign myself to sit here on the couch for the rest of the afternoon and watch a bunch more previews, but I am going to attempt to be more productive.

Another little lovely is the gym that is now mere steps from my front door and the fact that it is FREE!  Yay!  Though I'd rather sit here all afternoon watching trailers and eating cupcakes and Oreos and pie, etc, I am going to go work out instead.

Hm... what else makes me happy today?  Hm...  Oh, yeah!  I almost forgot!  The weather!!!  It has been absolutely magnificent the past few days!  Just perfect.  On Saturday, Thomas and I loaded up the car with the lacrosse sticks, a blanket, our Kindles, some snacks, and my color guard rifle and sabre and went to a park all afternoon. It was glorious!  We walked around the park for a while and talked, threw the lacrosse ball back and forth, and then found a spot in the shade to lay around and read.  I also practiced spinning my sabre (which I haven't done in years).  Yikes!  It was the most perfect afternoon.  And then, to top it all off, Thomas took me for milkshakes afterwards.  Seriously, it was like the best day I've had in a while.  So lovely.

Well, I'm going to end on that happy note.  I should probably get my lazy butt off the couch and finish the laundry and go work out and find something productive to do!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Mom's Lasagna

Hello hello!  Today I'm going to share yet another recipe from my family cookbook.  This is another one of my mom's.  Also, Thomas is always up for lasagna.  Everytime I give him a choice between lasagna and something else or just tell him that that's what we're having for dinner, he gets really excited.

One of the things I love about lasagna is that you can customize it really easily.  Sometimes I make it with ground beef or Italian sausage, and sometimes I'll go meatless.  You can easily adjust it to make any size pan so you can feed a couple or a crowd.  And you can always use your favorite brand of sauce or mix it up with some different Italian cheeses.  It's so easy to play around with so that you get slightly different results each time.
But, as always, the worst part about making lasagna is actually making it!  The layers take some time (especially because I tend to be a perfectionist), but other than that, it's a great meal that is also delicious for leftovers.

As you'll see in the directions, my mom has a specific way of layering everything.
Noodles first...
Then sauce (she adds the ricotta on top of the sauce, but mine always turns out with big lumps of ricotta in some places, so I mix the ricotta and sauce together and add it in one layer)...
Then both mozzarella and parmesan cheeses...
And repeat until you're finished!  I usually do about 4 layers, but it's really up to you and how thick/thin your layers are, the height of your pan, when you run out of ingredients, etc.
As you can see from the photos, I made my lasagna in a 9x5 pan this time.  I didn't want a whole pan of it in the fridge for the next week (that is waaaay too many leftovers for me), so I made two loaf pans and stuck one in the freezer for some other time.

Mom's Lasagna
From: my Mom!
Makes: a 9x9 pan, 7x11 pan, or two 9x5 pans

12-15 lasagna noodles
1 lb. ground beef or Italian sausage (or you can also omit)
12 ounces mozzarella (or other Italian) cheese
15 oz. tub ricotta cheese
Regular sized jar of pasta sauce
Parmesan cheese

  1. Cook lasagna noodles as directed on package.  Drain to dry.
  2. Brown meat in a skillet and drain (if including meat).
  3. Add pasta sauce and ricotta cheese to meat and stir to combine.  (You can also add some spices if you like.  My mom likes to add oregano, and I usually throw in an Italian seasoning blend that I have.)
  4. Layer ingredients in an ungreased pan in this order: noodles, sauce mixture, mozzarella cheese, parmesan.
  5. Repeat until your pan is full or you run out of something.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes.
Serve this up with a fresh salad and some Mess Up Bread, and you've got a delicious homemade meal!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I Love Trivia! {Wednesday Wins}

Whoop whoop!  Tonight, I really have a win!

Thomas and I have started going to our local Buffalo Wild Wings (one of our fave restaurants) for live trivia on Wednesday nights.  And this week...  

We came in 2nd place!!!!!

Now I know what you're thinking... That's not really a win.  A win = 1st place.  However, 2nd place still got us a $30 gift card to BWW!!!  Woohoo!  So, next week, we get dinner for free while we try for 1st place!


That is all!  : )

Saturday, October 19, 2013

First Attempt at Candy Making=Success!

Woohoo!  I have officially made candy from scratch!  And as you can tell from the title, that was a first for me!

Basically, I tried a Heath bar several months ago (I had never had one before), and I really liked it.  So, periodically, I've been craving toffee.  A little while ago, I saw a recipe for toffee on Pinterest that looked pretty easy and didn't require the purchase of a candy thermometer.
I finally got around to trying it, and...  It worked!  Woohoo!  I was (still am) super excited about it!  I feel like it was easy to make, except that my arm was about to fall off from all the stirring, and my hand looked a little mangled after cutting the (very) hard finished product.
I got this wonderful recipe from Shugary Sweets via Pinterest, and I made the recipe pretty much according to hers, but I've decided that next time, I will make a few changes.  I've updated the recipe below to reflect the changes I will make, but feel free to head on over to Shugary Sweets to grab the original; she also has directions on how to make the toffee using brownie bite pans to keep the difficult cutting to a minimum.  Thanks to Aimee for sharing a wonderful recipe with very easy-to-follow directions!

So, here's the recipe for what I think was some pretty insanely easy toffee!
Chocolate Covered Toffee
Adapted from: Shugary Sweets
Makes: 5x9 pan, cut into 12-15 bites

1/2 cup unsalted butter (I actually bought real butter for this one, not margarine.)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 ounces milk chocolate

  1. Line a 9x5 pan with aluminum foil.  Set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, combine the butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt.
  3. Over medium-high heat, stir the mixture constantly until the butter is melted.  Continue stirring vigorously until the mixture comes to a rolling boil.
  4. Once the mixture starts boiling, continue stirring at the same heat for 5-7 minutes.  The mixture will change color slightly.  Shugary Sweets suggests it will look like the color of almonds and also mentioned that this would be at about 300 degrees.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.  Allow it to cool at room temperature until set, about 2 hours.
  6. Melt the chocolate (I use the microwave), and pour it over the toffee.  Allow it to cool and set.
  7. Cut the finished toffee into pieces.  Enjoy!
I really enjoyed my first candy-making experience!  If you've never made candy before, this is an easy recipe to start with!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fear of Mediocrity

Alright, so this post did not happen on Wednesday as it was supposed to; I just got really busy.  But I just can not keep silent about how God is profoundly working in my life.

Like I mentioned in the last post, though, this one is yet another plug for Beth Moore's Beloved Disciple.  (I promise that no one is paying me to say any of this.  I am genuinely floored by this study.)

Everyday I do this study, there is something that God uses to speak to me.  But on one of the days last week, He used Beth to speak to one of my very worst fears.


**Side note: Please, please do not take offense at the next two paragraphs.  I am not bashing anyone's life choices; I am just sharing some of my personal fears.  I, in no way, want anyone to think that I am saying that they've settled for mediocrity because they've made these choices.

I am terrified of my life just being mediocre.  There are different things that I've come to hold as symbols for mediocrity in my life.  One is having children.  Thomas and I have been married for over five years now, and we're still not anywhere near ready to have kids.  Honestly, we've always sort of been on the fence about having children.  It's not something that either of us really feels like we need to do.  And, of course, I've seen how wonderful children are, but I also know that they are a big responsibility.  Thomas and I are very adamant that we don't want to decide to have children just because that's what married couples are "supposed" to do.  If/when we have children, I want it to be because of a genuine call from God.

A second symbol of mediocrity in my life is moving back to Missouri.  I miss my family a lot.  But at the same time, I don't want to move back to St. Louis at all.  If God calls us to move there, we will go, but I can't guarantee that there wouldn't be any kicking and screaming involved in the process.  In my mind, moving back to St. Louis seems like a cop out.  I feel like, if we were to move back to Missouri, we will fall into that pattern of what you're "supposed" to do in life and lose all hope of an adventure.

So, now you know how my mind is working at this point...  *Intro: Beloved Disciple...

On day 2 of last week's study, God spoke directly to this fear that is so deeply ingrained in me that I feel like it is almost unshakeable.  And, for me, it is.  There is only one thing that can break down this fear that holds me captive.  The Word of my omnipotent God.  And if I allow him fully into my life, he can break this fear to bits.  He has already begun.  Hallelujah!

Beth had us studying John 15.  And John 15:5 says, "I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."  (NIV)  Jesus says it right there: when we remain in him, he will cause our lives to bear much fruit.  A few chapters earlier, John records Jesus saying, "...I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."  (John 10:10, NIV)  Not mediocre life; life to the full!

God has great things destined for those who believe in his Son as their savior and put their lives in his hands.  Wow!  I am very familiar with both of the passages of Scripture that I quoted above, yet God breathed new life into his word that they could touch me to the core this time.  His Word is alive!  And he has promised that a life given to him will have nothing to do with mediocrity!  Even though I've read these verses countless times, now I can feel their truth in my bones, and their promise brings me to tears.  God always, always wants what is best for his children.  And I am his child.  His beloved.  His.

Though God is still working this truth and promise into my life, coaxing me to let him tear down every doubt I've held so close, I can feel his words coursing through my veins.  As long as I give my life to him, I will never have to be in fear of mediocrity.  His best can never be mediocre.  Thank you Lord!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Few of my Favorite Things

Ok.  I'd randomly like to talk about a few of my recent favorite things.  Being at home more puts me into more mood swings.  I guess that's what I get since my mood isn't totally dominated by stressed-out and overwhelmed anymore.  More feelings!  Yay!  Lol.

Anyway... here are a few things that I've really loved lately.
  1. The tv show "New Girl" ~ Thomas and I watched season 1 via Netflix a while back, and we loved it.  So, since they added season 2 in the last few weeks, we finally got started on it.  Man-oh-man!  I have loved sitting on the couch with Thomas cackling at the tv.  Seriously, it's probably a good thing that we don't have neighbors at the moment, because they might think we were hiding a hyena in our apartment while we're watching the show.  It's so awkward... but SO funny.  (And also sometimes very inappropriate... there's your warning.)
  2. Treadmills ~  I cannot explain in words how much more enjoyable running on a treadmill is than running outside.  Seriously.  Even though the weather has started to get more incredibly beautiful lately, I still choose to go run on a treadmill.  Basically, I'm a wimp.  So, I give up pretty quickly when I'm out running on my own.  But the treadmill doesn't let me wimp out!  I set a program that changes things up every couple of minutes to keep it interesting, and I can watch the time count down, and I can watch tv, and I can see (roughly) how many calories I'm burning, etc.  I just love that the treadmill keeps the pace steady and doesn't let you slow down when you start getting tired.  Simply put: the treadmill makes my lack of will power obsolete!  Yay!
  3. Beth Moore's Beloved Disciple ~ seriously... tomorrow's post is also about this Bible study.  It's just amazing.  God is teaching me so much and telling me everything I really need to hear.
  4. My hair ~ Really, my hair is the longest it's been, I think, ever in my entire life.  And it's awesome.  It's so fun to get to play around with it and try out different styles.  I've also been French braiding it periodically, just to check and see if I can still magically do it.  Seriously, I literally woke up that one day and could French braid.  It's awesome.  I've always wanted my hair to be super long, but I also always get bored with it somewhere in the middle and rashly decide to chop it off.  But it's really long, and it's not getting chopped anytime soon as far as I can see.
  5. The YouVersion Bible App ~ Since I got my iPhone, I've been using the Blue Letter Bible app, which I really like, but I was just looking for a change a week or two ago, so I downloaded YouVersion.  There's really only one reason why this is on my faves list: they have a French translation!  I have wanted a Bible in French for years, and now I finally have one!  Woohoo!  It's awesome to get to read it in French, and I've already expanded my vocabulary too!  It's exciting.
  6. My kitty ~ She has decided that every morning, at some point, I have to sit on the couch so she can come nap on my lap.  It is positively adorable!  I will sit on the couch for an hour with my legs aching and my feet asleep just to feel that warm bundle of fur zonked out on my lap.
And lastly, some of my current cravings.  Seriously, I have cravings like a pregnant woman every day of my life.  I can't imagine what it would be like if I ever did get pregnant!  Yikes!
  1. Sprees ~ I mentioned them in passing the other day during a game of Scattergories, and now I can't get them out of my head.
  2. Ice cream ~ All the time.  All the time.
  3. Homemade Apple Pie ~ Seriously.  As soon as we eat the cake we have at the house right now, I am stinkin' making a PIE!
  4. Panera - I could eat just about everything in that place.
 So, obviously, if you can't tell from the blog's previous content, all I ever think about is dessert.  It's pretty ridiculous.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Oreo Explosion Cake {Lundi Little Lovelies}

This cake is DELICIOUS!  I took a couple of different recipes and used a mix-and-match, make-it-up-as-you-go-along theory to make it!  It's got a devil's food base (with crushed Oreos mixed in), an Oreo pudding layer, and a vanilla butter-cream icing with crushed Oreos on top!  How can you go wrong?!
It's so simple, yet no one will know that you didn't break a sweat making it!
Oreo Explosion Cake
*This cake is best when made in advance; that gives the pudding time to soak into the cake and get all gooey.

-Devil's Food Cake Mix
-Ingredients to make cake as directed
-One box of Oreo Pudding
-2 cups milk to make pudding
-8-10 Oreos, crushed
Butter-cream Icing:
-1 cup margarine, very soft or semi-melted
-2 cups powdered sugar
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
-1-2 tablespoons milk

  1. Stir together cake as directed.  Before pouring into the baking dish, stir in about 4 crushed Oreos.  Then, continue making cake according to the box directions.
  2. Once cake is baked and while it is still hot, poke holes in it.
  3. Make pudding as directed and pour onto the cake.  Use a spoon to spread it and lightly push it into the holes.
  4. Stir together all the ingredients for the butter-cream icing using an electric mixer.  Do not over mix.  You want to icing to be pretty soft because it will stiffen up once it's on the cake since the cake needs to be stored in the refrigerator.
  5. Quickly spread the icing onto the cake.
  6. Top with remaining crushed Oreos.
  7. Store in refrigerator.
I hope you enjoy it!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Wins

So, I know it's not Wednesday, but I'm going to post some wins anyway!
First off, I picked up this new journal at Marshall's for a steal the other night.  It's so cute.  But my favorite part by far is the end paper pattern.  How adorable is that?!  So, I've got a great new prayer journal, which always makes me happy.  It's like starting a new chapter in life, even though not a ton has changed.  
One thing I've started doing recently, thanks to Beth Moore's inspiration, is quoting more scripture in my prayers and praises.  I've really enjoyed it, and what better way to show my God that I love him than to show him how much his Word means to me.  It's been really cool; you should try it!

Another win is that our apartment complex just got a gym!  So now I can go run/work out without dying in the sun and heat.  Thomas and I have already used it a couple of times, and it's great!  I've kind of slacked off in running lately because it's so hot, and the band schedule makes it a little funky to work out without taking at least two showers a day, which I'm really not a fan of.

One last thing: Beth Moore's Beloved Disciple Bible study is a huge win.  God is teaching me so much through this study, and it is so invigorating!  I'm enjoying all of the revelations God is giving me through it.  Really, I finish each day's study with a joyful heart and a hunger to be closer to God and his Word.  It's just amazing.  If you're looking for a great women's Bible study, check this one out!  (The videos are a tad outdated, you'll see by Beth's hairstyles some weeks, but the Word of God that she preaches from is never outdated!)

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"Mess Up" Bread

So, here is the homemade bread recipe I've been DYING to blog.  Yesterday I had to make it way before dinner (woohoo band practice in the middle of the afternoon), so I had the time and frame of mind to photograph some of the steps.

This recipe also comes from the lovely cookbook my mommy made me (which I explained here).  But it also has even more of a back-story.  At one point when I was growing up, Mom got a bread machine.  And she used it a ton.  Seriously, unless you're just really having a bad day and you want to pound on some dough for a while, the bread machine is totally the way to go!  It basically does all the work for you, and then you get to put a delicious loaf of homemade bread on the table with literally NO work!  Anyway, one time, she accidentally set the bread maker on the "Dough" setting (which means that the machine will knead the dough and let it rise but won't bake it), and the trouble with the bread maker was that you couldn't start it in the middle of a cycle just for bake.  So Mom had bread dough but had to figure out how to finish it off to make it into bread.  So, she did her kitchen magic, and that night for dinner we had "Mess Up" bread.  Since then, it's been one of our favorite breads.  It is her (and my) go-to homemade bread for just about any meal.  And we've also never renamed it.  So, to this day when she's taking meal requests, she'll still ask us, 'do you want mess up bread with that?'

This bread is similar to a French bread loaf.  It's not authentic in that the crust is not super crunchy, but it has a French bread flavor.  It is definitely a bit of a chore to make if you don't have a bread machine, but if you do have one, you have got to try this bread!  I usually half everything to make just one loaf, and Thomas and I eat it all week with dinner.  We'll toast it under the broiler with some butter and garlic salt, or dip it in oil and Italian seasonings, or sometimes I even just butter it and stick it in the microwave to heat it back up.  It is sooo good!

If you're using the bread maker, it takes care of all the kneading and the first rise for you, so the first hands on part is when you get the dough out onto a floured surface, shape it into a ball (it's pretty sticky, so you want to just lightly cover it with flour), and then roll it out into a rectangle.  (Or an oval if you're me and can't roll things into rectangles very well.)  Also, you'll see some little specks in my dough because I added some Italian seasoning that's not in the recipe.

Then just roll it up and place it on your prepared baking sheet, like so.
Then you let it rise for another hour.  I usually set my bread on the stove and preheat my oven at the same time (even though the oven doesn't take that long to preheat) just so that the bread soaks up some of the extra heat.  So here it is ready to pop in the oven.
And once it's baked, it comes out looking beautiful!  It's so fluffy and delicious!

Homemade "Mess Up" Bread
From: My Mother's genius ingenuity in the kitchen!
Makes: 2 loaves
*This recipe also works great when half-ed, and it will make one loaf.

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon margarine, softened
1 tablespoon oil
4 1/4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons yeast


*If you have a bread maker, just put all the ingredients in your bread maker and set for dough.  This should take care of all of the kneading and the first rise, so you can start at step 7.
For those of you that don't have a bread machine:
  1. Add yeast to warm water and stir.
  2. Put 2 cups flour, the salt, and the sugar in a large bowl, add water and yeast; mix thoroughly for 2 minutes.
  3. Add oil and margarine; mix thoroughly for 2 minutes.
  4. Add remaining flour until dough is firm, but still elastic.
  5. Knead on a floured surface for 5 minutes.
  6. Place into a well-greased bowl.  Cover and let rise for 1 hour.
  7. Divide dough in half and roll each half into a rectangle.
  8. Roll the dough up starting at the long side to form two loaves.
  9. Place both rolls on a baking sheet that is greased with margarine and sprinkled with cornmeal and salt.
  10. Cover and let rise for 1 hour.
  11. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-40 minutes until golden brown.  (Baking one loaf in my oven usually takes a little over 20 minutes.)
  12. Let cool slightly before cutting and serving.
This bread is so delicious, seriously... you should make some!  Yummy!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Affection List

Thomas and I have been married for over five years now, and we've been a couple for over eight.  (We were high school sweethearts... *Insert: awwwww!*)  We've been through a lot in our relationship so far, and I can't wait to see what the future brings us too!

I think all couples go through times where the just don't get each other.  Seriously, sometimes it's like men and women speak completely different languages!  Can I get an "amen"?  So, though Thomas and I aren't by any means perfect, we have certainly had a couple of years to try and figure each other out.

One thing that always tends to come up is whether or not the other person's needs are being met.  Right now, our life group is going through a study called His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley Jr.  Interestingly enough, Thomas and I read the book version as part of our pre-marital counseling.  But it's really interesting to go back through the concepts five years later and with a group of friends to discuss with.  Thomas and I also recently read Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, which talks about a man's need for respect and a woman's need for love.

These two books, along with others, and numerous discussions between the two of us have helped us learn how to meet each other's needs in our marriage, and they've also helped us learn what our needs are.  A lot of times in relationships, part of the problem is that we don't know how to articulate what we need.  Many times it's not until someone else puts it into words that we fully realize what we've been wanting.

We've also had the reminder that love is the opposite of selfish  (1 Corinthians 13:5).  Once you've been in a relationship for a while, you start to become very comfortable with the other person.  And I'm not convinced that that's always a good thing.  Don't get me wrong, I love how honest and open I can be with Thomas, and I love that I don't have to be embarrassed about hardly anything in his presence because I know he will still love me.  But, I think we can get too comfortable in relationships in the way that we feel entitled to receive some things from the other person.  And, in my opinion, that is exactly wrong.

How is it loving if I refuse to meet a need that Thomas has because he is not meeting one of mine.  And the same goes for him; just because I am not meeting a need of his does not give him free reign to stop meeting my needs.  It's a big ole circle that will never have a start if both people insist on being selfish.  Yet, if we truly embraced the biblical definition of love, we would meet each other's needs regardless of our spouse's treatment of us.  But, man is that a hard concept to put to practice sometimes.

If this is provoking any thoughts in your mind, or even more, stirring anything in your heart, I would highly suggest that you read either or both of the books I've mentioned above.  Thomas and I have a wonderful relationship, and we always have, but studying marriage has helped us understand each other and love each other on a whole new level.

One last book I would recommend is The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.  And this book outlines basic ways that people feel love and puts them into five categories.  This book is helpful because it shows us how we interpret actions and words differently.  For example, one of Thomas' top love languages is physical touch; so he feels the most loved when I hug him, hold his hand, kiss him, etc.  One of my main love languages is quality time; so I most enjoy spending time together doing a variety of activities.  So, to most meet each other's need for affection, we have to keep these preferences in mind.

So, here's the real point of today's post:  One of the things that these books and discussions spurred Thomas and I to do is to make lists for each other.  Since I am a woman, and I don't always know what I want or what will work for me at a certain time, I brainstormed a whole list of things Thomas can do for me and with me to show me love and affection.  Thomas also made me a similar list, and after we read Love and Respect, I made sure to note some ways that he would like me to show him respect also.  Even though these lists aren't a fool-proof system, it gives us insight into what matters to each other.  We know each other really well (we should, we've been together for about 1/3 of our lives already, and we've known each other for longer), but we still need help in showing love, affection, and respect in ways that will truly mean something to the other person.

So, I would highly suggest talking to your spouse about making similar lists.  I know these have helped us, because anytime I want to do something special for Thomas but I'm not sure what to do, I just check the list for ideas.  Just to get some ideas flowing, I've got a couple examples of things I wrote on my list to Thomas listed below.  Some of them are more serious, and some of them are silly and fun, because variety is always good for me!

The Affection List
  • Tell me why you love me
  • Take me out for ice cream unexpectedly
  • Take me for a walk on the beach
  • Dance with me
  • Give me a back rub
  • Plan a date (even if it's just something simple)
  • Write me little notes
  • Give me little presents (i.e. candy, flowers, post-its*, etc.)
  • Suggest we go do an activity outdoors
*I am such a nerd and so in love with Post-its, that one time Thomas brought home a Post-it cube (with no prompting from me whatsoever, completely his idea), and it literally made my day.  I'm not even kidding; I was ecstatic!   Yes, you can laugh at me now!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Slow Cooker Beef Vegetable Soup

Ok!  So here's the post that was meant for Wednesday or Thursday... 

Creating the "Recipe Index" page brought me to a stark realization.  If you only knew me through the blog, then you would probably be under the impression that we eat only breakfast and dessert with an occasional real meal, maybe once a month or two.  Lol.  That is not the case.  We eat regular meals just as much as anybody else, but apparently I just never blog about them.  So!  In an attempt to round out the type of recipes I blog about, I've decided to share the delicious and super easy dinner we had Tuesday night.

Backstory: Before Thomas and I got married, my mom put together the most wonderful bridal shower gift ever.  She secretly gathered family favorite recipes and photos from our childhoods from both her stash and from my mother-in-law (to be).  She put all of this together into a cookbook and gave it to me for my bridal shower gift.  So, since then, I've had most of my favorite "Mom" recipes and Thomas' favorites from his childhood to cook anytime I want.  And I think that more than an extremely thoughtful gift, which it was, this cookbook helped make our new relationship a family and my unfamiliar apartment kitchen part of a home.  The recipes we grew up on are comforting many nights when our families aren't here to eat with us.  So, this now well-worn cookbook is very dear to me, as are all of the recipes, photos, and memories it contains.

So, now that the mushy-gushiness is taken care of, here's the reason for it: the recipe that I'm sharing in this post comes from that cookbook.  This recipe comes from Thomas' childhood, and it is a wonderful, comforting food!

One of the things I love about this meal is that you can change it up super-easily!  If your family doesn't like any of the ingredients in here, you can change it out for something else.  And if you're big on whole foods, just use fresh veggies instead of canned!  It's so, so versatile!

Beef Vegetable Stew
From: My mother-in-law
Servings: about 4
*Note: The recipe I given below is actually half of what my mother-in-law calls for.  An entire recipe of this meal makes enough food for an army.  Sometimes I make a whole batch (double of what you read here) and freeze the leftovers in a few containers, but I just bought my new 3.5 quart slow cooker, so half of the recipe is perfect for it.  (And I don't have enough room in my freezer for that many leftovers.)  If you're using a 6-7 quart slow cooker, I would recommend doubling everything below.

 1/2 to 1 package of beef stew meat, cut into small chunks
1 small can (6 oz.) tomato paste
1 can (14.5 oz.) corn
1 can (14.5 oz.) green beans
1 can (14.5 oz.) peas
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced potatoes
Water, optional

Dump all the ingredients into the slow cooker.  *I drain all of the vegetables and add about 1 1/2 cups of water, but you can add some veggie juice instead if you want.
Stir everything really well a few times to break up the tomato paste.
Cook on low for 5-6 hours, stirring a few times during the cooking process.  (If you're not home to stir it though, it will be fine.)
Serve with some homemade buttered bread.  

*I have GOT to share the recipe for the bread pictured here, but I always forget to take a picture of it when it's just out of the oven and looking all beautiful.  Stay tuned though!

See, how easy is that?!  It's one of those great, toss it all together, and then come home and eat meals!  And now I have another food to add to the list of two main courses I've blogged about.  Woohoo.  Lol.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Filling the Void

Well, I had a recipe all planned to blog yesterday or today, but it turns out that that's not going to happen.

I'm currently going through Beth Moore's study Beloved Disciple in a women's Bible study group at church, and today, some things hit me pretty hard.

We've lived in Florida for over two years now, having moved over 1000 miles from our families and everyone we know who are back in Missouri.  And though I absolutely love Florida, and my lifelong dream of living here is being fulfilled, I have never felt more isolated in my life.

I've struggled with feeling lonely and isolated quite a bit throughout my life.  Which is weird, because I generally enjoy being alone, and I am not a person who is comfortable in a huge room full of people.  But the isolation I have felt since moving here has been profound.  My family is no longer close by for frequent visits.  And when I was teaching, to be frank, I simply didn't fit in, so I have just one or two people from those two years whom I could call friends.  And now that I'm home, beyond Thomas, I don't have meaningful conversations with anyone.  Sure, I see people at the store, and I see students, etc. at band practice, but those interactions don't usually consist of anything that I'd call "meaningful" conversation.

And, you know, I do have friends.  But I only see the woman who I would dare to call my best friend usually once a week.  If I see her more than once, it's probably been an unusual week.  And that's through no one's fault, it's just how it is with life and families and jobs.

I feel like this is all culminating now because I am home all day.  My thoughts used to be bombarded with work and teaching and lesson plans, etc. all day long.  Though I was in just about the same boat then, my mind was so busy that most of the time I forgot about how isolated I was.  Now, though, my thoughts have free reign for most of the day.  My tasks at home are not those that take a lot of brain power.  And I feel lonelier than ever because I have time to realize it.

And today, God spoke to me through the words of Beth Moore.  I have been struggling for the past two years to remember that God is rooting for me to succeed.  Every moment of every day, he is right there next to me whispering, "Courage, dear heart."  (C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader)  Trying to strengthen me to make it through each day.  And though I perhaps know these things in my head, I am having an immensely hard time knowing them in my heart.

Beth explained that in her times of pain, she realized that there wasn't a person on Earth that could give her enough of what she needed.  The only person who could fill the deep void of need was God.  And that is a difficult lesson for me to learn.  None of my family, friends, acquaintances can fill the need I have because it is a need for God.  God is the only one who can be with me at all times.  He is the only one who can really understand.  He is the only one who can fill the lonely void in my soul.  And though I know he is my savior sometimes it's hard to remember that he's also my friend.  I've got the head-knowledge for all of this.  But to turn directly to God for love and comfort when the isolation sets in, and to really feel his loving arms around me and allow him to comfort me is something else.

Beth also pointed out Isaiah 54:10 for comfort.
"Thought the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed, 
yet my unfailingly love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,"
says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (NIV)

And as you can tell, I'm not through this battle, but while I continue to try to learn this lesson in my heart, I know the Lord is right next to me, whispering "Courage, dear heart."

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Oreo Cheesecakes

**Before this post starts, I would like to draw attention to the fact that I just added a new page to the blog.  You'll now see a tab called "Recipe Index" which is a list of all the recipes I've blogged about!  Now I won't have to search through every post to see if I've already written about a particular recipe or not!  And you will be able to find a past recipe if you want!  Yay!

Alright!  So I finally broke down late last week and bought a package of Oreos.  I love them dearly, but they're just not something I need to keep stocked in the house.  So I rarely buy them, but I've been craving some Oreo desserts, so I caved!

And on Sunday, I decided to make some Oreo cheesecakes for Bible study.  Best. Idea. Ever!  Lol.  Maybe not my absolute best idea ever, but, man were these things delicious!  And they're so, so easy to make!  And even better, the crust is just a whole Oreo!  None of that crushing up Oreos, mixing them with butter, and then pressing them into individual cupcake liners.  Nope.  Just plop an Oreo in the bottom and you're done!  Wow!

Confession: Thomas and I are still eating the leftovers of these, and it is sooooo hard to only eat one.  I'm pretty sure I could go raid the fridge right now and eat all of them, but I won't.  I will exercise what little will power I have.
Oreo Cheesecakes
From: Cate's World Kitchen
Makes: 20 cupcakes
*Cate's original recipe made 16 cupcakes.  I wanted a few more without changing all the amounts, so I just filled my cupcakes a little less full to allow the batter to fill 20 cupcakes instead of the original 16.  You could also adjust the amount of batter you put in each cup, just remember that you may have to adjust the baking time also.

26 Oreos (20 whole, 6 crushed)
16 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature (I used 1/3 less fat)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, lightly beaten, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
Pinch of salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
  2. Line 20 cupcake cups with paper liners and place an Oreo at the bottom of each liner.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese with a mixer.
  4. Slowly add in the sugar and vanilla until everything is combined.
  5. Beat in the eggs a little at a time.
  6. Add the sour cream and salt, and beat until well-combined and fluffy.
  7. Stir in the crushed Oreos with a spatula or spoon.  (I sampled the batter at this point, and it tasted pretty strongly of sour cream, but trust me, once baked and cooled, they did not have a strong sour cream flavor at all.)
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake liners.
  9. Bake, rotating the pans about halfway through, for about 20-23 minutes, or until filling is set.
  10. Allow the cheesecakes to cool in the cupcake pans for 10-15 minutes, then remove to a plate to cool in the fridge for about 4 hours.  (I only had about an hour and a half until these had to be done, so I just popped them into the freezer for about an hour and then into the fridge, and that seemed to work just fine for me.)
  11. Enjoy!
These were so delicious, and I can't believe how easy they were!  I will definitely be making these again sometime!  Yum yum!

It is finished!!! {Lundi Little Lovelies}

**So, this is just a little late getting finished since the hubs got home earlier than expected yesterday.  Don't think I'm complaining though!

Well!  I did it!  I finished my scarf over the weekend!  Woohoo!  It came off the loom on Friday, looking like this:
And it takes a little time to do the finishing touches like making sure it won't unravel at the ends and creating the cute twists for the fringe.

So, here's the finished product!
It's got purple, navy blue, seafoam green, shiny silver, and a variegated yarn that looks like a movie reel (those are the little squares you see).
 Weaving is one of those things that really does bring me some contentment.  It's such a peaceful activity that allows your mind to wander.  I can just sit and think while I weave, or I can turn on music or a movie.  I just love it!  And I especially love when whatever I'm making turns out to be something I like (which does not always happen.)!  And you get such a sense of accomplishment when you make something from start to finish.  It's such a lovely little thing!