Monday, December 20, 2010

Sacrificial Gifts

I'm not a deep thinker, and I'm certainly not qualified to teach anyone anything, but this just jumped out at me today. Not groundbreaking by any means, I'm sure.

People often quote Philippians 4:19 when someone they know is experiencing hardship:

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

But I've never heard anyone give the context when they offer this as comfort:

14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. 19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Paul's reassuring the Philippians that God would supply their needs after they have given sacrificially to his ministry. No, we don't earn God's grace or favor, but he does expect us to give. Anything we have is part of "his riches" anyway. We worry about the future and hoard our money and resources, forgetting that he can easily provide more if we find ourselves in need. I think saving is wise and responsible, but we shouldn't do it out of a sense of fear that we won't have enough, or at the cost of keeping it from someone else who needs it more. Christ gave sacrificially. He gave his life.

I'm sure it's more complicated than that. I don't know. Just thinking about it today.

Oh yeah, I also tend to forget about that little "to God be the glory" part at the end.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Magical Mint Kiss Cookies

I got this recipe several years ago off of a bag of mint-flavored Hershey kisses. My favorite cookie to make during the Christmas season. Lovely and minty and wicked easy. Unfortunately, they don't make mint-flavored solid chocolate kisses anymore, but this is still pretty wonderful with the newer mint truffle kisses. I suppose they'd be good with plain kisses too; they just wouldn't be minty (I tried them with candy cane kisses and didn't like them as much, probably because of the crunchy bits).

Magical Mint Kiss Cookies

2 sticks butter or margarine
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa
48 mint truffle Hershey kisses
powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla in large bowl until creamy. Stir together flour and cocoa. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Mold scant tablespoon dough around each chocolate, covering completely. Shape into balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until set. Cool about one minute. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. Roll in powdered sugar. Roll in sugar again just before serving, if desired. Makes about four dozen (I usually get just a little over three dozen out of it).

Minty chocolate-y sugary goodness.

BBQ Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts

I don't remember where this recipe came from, but my dad used to make it a lot for parties and I got it from him. Easy appetizer that's super yummy. I can only make it when there's a party; otherwise I could literally eat the entire pan myself (well, maybe I'd give Damon a couple). That much bacon is probably not so good for you.

Barbeque Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts

2 cans whole water chestnuts (6-8 oz each)
1 lb. bacon
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. ketchup
a little mustard (dry or prepared)

Drain chestnuts. If some are large, you can cut in half. Cut bacon in quarters (though the next time I make this, I'll probably do thirds as quarters didn't wrap completely around the chestnuts). Wrap chestnuts with bacon pieces and place in 9x12 pan close together.

Aren't they cute?

Next, broil until bacon starts to brown and remove from oven. Insert toothpicks through bacon into chestnuts to hold together. Drain grease.

Mix ketchup, brown sugar and mustard together and spoon over chestnuts. Heat through in oven before serving.

-to drain grease gently, tilt pan and dip out with spoon at one end.
-bacon may shrink a little in broiling. Toothpick together as best as you can.

Sorry I don't have a picture of them finished. They disappeared too quickly.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup with Carmelized Apples

So my husband is an amazing cook. I'm slightly intimidated by this fact since I'm the one planning to stay home with Eva and any other kids we may have, and I can't cook. I'm a decent baker, but cooking...I'll put it this way: I burned Tuna Helper.

Anyway, I figure I'll have to learn, but for now, here's one of the yummy recipes Damon makes for me sometimes. He made it for my triad girls this week. Love him.

It's from Wayne Gisslen's Professional Cooking, and some of the measurements are weird because it's literally for professionals. This makes 24 portions; he QUARTERED the recipe to feed 4-5 people.

Butternut Squash Soup with Carmelized Apples

French bread
4 Tb. butter

1. Cut the bread into slices 1/2 inch thick.
2. Fry the bread in the butter until golden brown (if desired, prepare additional croutons for garnish at the same time; see step 8).

4 Tb. butter
1/2 lb. (8 oz) onion, small dice
1/2 lb. (8 oz) leeks, small dice
3/4 lb. (12 oz) carrots, small dice
4 lb. butternut squash, medium dice
5 qt. chicken stock
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground ginger

3. Heat the butter in a heavy saucepan over moderately low heat.
4. Add the onions, leeks and carrots. Sweat them until they are about half cooked. Do not let them brown.
5. Add the squash, stock and browned bread from step 2. Simmer until vegetables are tender.
6. Puree the soup with a food mill or immersion blender.
7. Bring the soup back to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.

24 croutons (see procedure)
1 1/2 lb. tart, firm cooking apples (we used granny smith)
2 Tb. butter
4 Tb. brown sugar

8. Prepare croutons by browning slices of French bread in butter as in steps 1 and 2. For best appearance, use slender loaf so that croutons aren't too big.
9. Peel and core apples. Cut into small dice
10. Heat the butter in a saute pan and add the apples and sugar. Cook over moderate heat until apples are brown and carmelized.

1 1/2 cups heavy cream (optional)
additional cream as needed

11. At service, heat the heavy cream and add to the soup.
12. For each portion, ladle the soup into a broad soup bowl. Decorate the top of the soup with a swirl of cream, if desired. Heap a generous tablespoon of apples onto a crouton and carefully place in the soup.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

The first time I had pumpkin cookies was a couple years ago when I was filling in for one of the custodians at night, and someone had a plate of them out in her office with a "help yourself" sign, so I did. They were amazing and I decided I absolutely needed to find out how to make them. I got the recipe from

I usually double the recipe so as to use up the entire 12 oz. bag of chocolate chips which, as my community group could tell you, makes a lot of cookies.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. canned solid pack pumpkin
1 egg, beaten to blend
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 (6 oz.) pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter baking sheets. Cream 1/2 cup butter with sugar in large bowl until fluffy. Blend in pumpkin, egg and vanilla. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt into medium bowl. Add to butter mixture, blending well. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop batter by heaping teaspoons onto prepared sheets. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Cool cookies on wire racks. Store in airtight container.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Banjos & Daughters

For my Creative Nonfiction class last year we had to write a collection of essays on one topic/theme. I chose my pregnancy since I was going through it at the time and no one else in the class had had the experience. Here are some excerpts from my essay about a festival we go to every year that's coming up again this weekend. I may post some of my other essays; I don't know. I'm not the best writer but it was fun to record some of my thoughts during pregnancy.

Banjos & Daughters

For at least one weekend out of the year, I revert back to childhood. I can actually forget the stress of work, classes and other responsibilities. The usual frustrations are lifted off my shoulders, as light and airy as a pink paper parasol.

The Johnny Appleseed Festival is a tradition for my family. It’s a two-day event that is held the third weekend in September, and I've never missed one. Even though I'm now married and live three hours away from my parents, we still make the trip up every year. Each time, we stroll the park munching on the same wonderful pioneer-type food cooked in iron kettles over an open fire or grilled to perfection: ham and beans, buffalo or pork burgers, chicken and dumplings, and huge chunks of piping hot cornbread. We browse the country home d├ęcor before deciding that it’s not our style, search the antiques for that perfect something we didn’t know we wanted, and peruse the handmade jewelry while watching unsupervised children brandish wooden swords and pop guns.


I love it because it's familiar, it's home.

My dad, aunt and uncle are members of a folk band called Rosewood that performs every year. I like to be there to support my dad; he’s an amazing musician who can play most anything with strings.

I’ve always felt close to my dad. We have the same quiet disposition, the same desire for harmony. We understand each other without having to say anything. We are the only two members of my immediate family with hazel eyes instead of brown. It’s important to me to go to the festival, sit on uncomfortable bales of straw in front of the stage and listen to Dad play. It feels exactly the same as it did when I was a kid, proudly watching my daddy, except that now I'm bigger and he has more gray.

I knew the experience would be different this year, for the sole reason that I was pregnant. And I was right – this time around, we viewed the festival not as a carefree couple but as parents-to-be. We discussed what it will be like to carry around an eight month old girl next year and wondered if we would tire out more easily. We watched pushover fathers buy their daughters brightly colored paper parasols that looked out of place for this festival, more Asian than early American, and we saw our future.


Rosewood played toward the end of the day. I watched small children dance around in uncoordinated circles to the instrumental jigs and wondered if my daughter would one day dance with them, or if she would be like me, too shy to try anything in front of people. When the band was done, we packed up Dad's bass and autoharp, along with the banjo he built with his own hands, and drove back to my parents' house.

After eating too much of my mom's lasagna (I can blame the baby now), Damon and I got back in the car and headed home. It’s always difficult for me to leave, even though I’ve lived away from my family for ten years now. I’m a homebody at heart who got tossed into another life in another state. I’m a sap who cherishes these visits and can’t wait to share them with my little girl, to hold her on my lap so the straw doesn’t scratch her legs while we watch her grandpa play.

As we drove away from the setting sun, we didn’t have much to say. Damon leaned back in the passenger seat while I quietly stared ahead and wondered what color her eyes would be.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

I've seen a lot of recipes on people's blogs lately, so I thought I'd add one. I love this one for fall (as well as pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, which I can't wait to make soon!). This recipe is from a friend, professor and poet, Julie Moore. I made it today because my in-laws are here, but Damon's dad can't eat it because he's allergic to soy. I didn't realize until after I had it mixed that vegetable oil is soybean oil (doh!). Daughter-in-law fail. Anyway, if you're not allergic to it, it's super tasty!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

1/2 cup butter
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
2 Tb. baking cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2-1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups shredded zucchini
2 cups (12 oz.) chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in oil, eggs and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Stir in zucchini. Pour into 9x13 pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes (toothpick test).

Now I just need to figure out what to do with my leftover buttermilk - maybe scones!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Painted Lines on Pavement

So I know what the biggest idols are in my life. That doesn't mean I know how to avoid them, but I know what they are. Control, for one. I want to have a plan for every situation, and if something doesn't go the way I plan I have a really hard time dealing with it. Having a baby around for the past seven months has helped me recognize the ridiculousness of thinking I can control everything. Good thing I have a loving, gracious and forgiving God when I try on my own anyway.

Another idol of mine, I would say probably my biggest one, is the constant need for approval from others. I can't stand the thought that someone might not like me, or even that someone might be annoyed or simply inconvenienced by me. This makes being the manager of an apartment complex occupied by married college students rather difficult at times. It's fun giving a young couple the keys to their first home together, but I'm also the one who has to relay the university's policies concerning the apartments. No you can't have a dog. No you can't have a cat. No we don't have free internet. No we don't have laundry facilities. No we don't provide furniture (many new tenants assume the apartments are just like the dorms from their single days. Sorry folks, you got married. Welcome to life).

Anyway, this past week I had to deal with being the "bad guy" concerning the repainting of the lines in the apartment parking lot. The person hired by the university to do this first said he would be here last Sunday at noon (doesn't keep regular business hours I guess). I sent out two emails to tenants to have them move their cars out of the spaces, but hardly anyone read it or remembered or something, because I saw the guy drive through and leave without painting because there were too many cars in the way. Then he was supposed to come back Monday or Tuesday. We got most everyone out of the spaces and parked along the road, quite a distance from the apartments. Dude didn't show. Then he planned on Wednesday "after 3:30" - didn't show all night. Finally, Thursday morning at 7 a.m. he shows up. Takes maybe half an hour to do the whole lot. I was ticked - partly because I felt he was unprofessional (though I have no idea how much weather played into the times he didn't do it), but mostly because I thought it made ME look bad in front of my tenants. I sent out emails and made phone calls over and over to get people to move their cars, and he kept NOT painting. I was embarrassed.

How insane is it that something as trivial as this would make me feel bad? I did what I was asked to do, it's not my fault the painting didn't get done. So MAYBE tenants might get slightly annoyed about the barrage of emails with no results. Why do I care? Because way too often I don't find my identity in Christ. Rather, I depend on what others think of me to find worth in myself. It's a constant struggle.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Plan

Chuckling to myself as I accidentally typed the title of this as "The Plant". Imagining a lengthy monologue on the importance of houseplants to our existence. As I'm the staff member at Cedarville responsible for all of the indoor plants, that might not be a bad idea. Kidding.

Anyway, I've been very frustrated lately about not spending my time wisely. Yes, Eva keeps me busy, but now that she's napping for longer stretches at a time (yay), I think I need to rework stuff. I often use that time to eat breakfast or lunch or whatever and think that I'll just watch a little TV or check out Facebook while I eat. Before I know it, she's awake and I'm still sitting there even though I finished eating an hour and a half ago.

I know what I want to do - most importantly spend time in prayer and in the Word, with which I have always struggled, keep the apartment picked up, and freaking work on my senior paper so I can one day finally finish my last class at Cedarville. Oh yeah, and my job. Working from home is great but it's hard to be proactive when I basically make my own hours if I don't have anything urgent to do.

My plan is simple but I think it will be pretty difficult for me. Sunday isn't a great day for sabbath - don't get me wrong, I love being at The Oaks and always think it's worth it - but with the hour drive to get there, not being able to hear the sermon because I have to feed Eva, and usually getting groceries on the way home for the sake of convenience, it's not very restful. So I'd like to take some time on Mondays to relax a bit and refocus. I also want to get any TV or whatever out of my system that day, and not turn it on during the day for the rest of the week. I think this will be especially tough knowing that I can stream movies or, even more dangerous, entire TV series on Netflix.

So with removing TV as an option, when Eva's either asleep or playing by herself, I want to focus on Scripture and prayer first, followed by any work I have to do for my job, and then housework and writing my paper. It sounds easy when I type it out, so why have I been having epic fail in all of these areas? I think in some ways I feel like I can't be perfect in everything, so why even bother? I was really encouraged by Jackie's thoughts on self-discipline; it was kind of a motivator. I like how she mentioned too that self-discipline needed to happen in every area of her life, including food. Definitely for me too - I think food could be a whole other post as this is already too long.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I'm New Here

Hi, it's me. Created a blog thingy, thanks for looking. I didn't start this to write as much as to follow other blogs, mostly to keep up with Oaks folks I don't get to hang out with very often due to the fact that we live an hour away from the church. Hopefully one day that will be remedied. I also don't necessarily need to write a blog as something else to do; having a five month old, plus working at home keeps me pretty busy.

I am also still one class away from finishing my undergrad degree at Cedarville, and I really need to write the 25 page senior paper before I start the class, because by then it will be too late and I won't have enough time to get everything done while I'm taking it. I can take it this fall or next spring, and at the moment I'm leaning toward spring because I haven't even started research on the book I'm writing about (Marilynne Robinson's Gilead). Please feel free to keep me accountable and ask how the research is going.

The title "The Soul in Paraphrase" comes from Renaissance poet George Herbert's "Prayer". It's used as a metaphor for, you guessed it...prayer. I've always thought it was a cool image. Here's the whole poem:

PRAYER the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth ;

Engine against th’ Almightie, sinner's towre,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six daies world-transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear ;

Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,

Church-bels beyond the stars heard, the souls bloud,
The land of spices, something understood.

Hope everyone has a good weekend! We're looking forward to my parents and sister coming to visit tomorrow. Any excuse for them to see the grandchild. :)