Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Life Lately: Verbs Edition


Making: button bracelets for the girls. I started LC's back in April. Finished it today. Meres wanted one too. I decided the prudent thing to do would be to start and finish on the same day. Otherwise it might not be ready until she ties the knot.

Drinking: water, coffee, and tea. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Wanting: a butcher block for food photography

Watching: Maleficent. If you like Sleeping Beauty (it's my most favorite Disney movie besides Cinderella), this might not be your favorite movie. Just sayin'. Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Hilarious. Clean. I didn't know what we were getting into, but it was well worth the watching.

Listening: Judah and The Lion, The Piano Guys. Judah and The Lion were the concert at Allume this year. They are a toe-tapping folk band. It reminded me of one of the groups at the Blue's Concerts this summer. And The Piano Guys. Loving their newest album, Wonders. But, their music videos are where it's at.

Eating: all kinds of new things. The Fit & Healthy plan for She Plans Dinner has me trying out all sorts of new recipes. And so healthy. I shared my favorite last Friday. But, it is just one of many. Seriously, you should sign up.

Smelling: cookies baking.

Wishing: that the snow would go away until December 20, and then hang around until January 15. And then be done for another winter.

Enjoying: reading. When I am not reading I forget how much I enjoy reading. I love both fluff and stuff that entertains me and solid stuff that challenges me.

Loving: online shopping and getting packages in the mail almost daily. It's the thrill of non-bill, non-junk mail.

Hoping: that 2015 is the year that She Plans Dinner takes off. All I need is just.one.more.subscriber. Not really. I am grateful for each and every person who has shown faith in my dream and has signed up. But, the work is the same, whether I am making menus for 10 people or 10,000. The income is slightly better for 10,000 though.=)

Needing: sunshine. Lots of sunshine and warmth.

Feeling: really rested and at peace.

Wearing: Jeans, and these awesome long-sleeved Tek Gear t-shirts from Kohls, and cozy infinity scarves. Everyday. Can I just say that I wish they came in black and white, and I may run out to Kohls to buy another couple because they are that warm and comfortable, plus I like the tailored lines? And the price!

Bookmarking: But, who needs bookmarks? Just turn down the page corner. Seriously, this and this. Not a pleasant topic, but so needful in our culture. Oh, and the Kohl's link above, so that I can get me some more of these t-shirts.


What have you been doing lately?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Comparison: It's a Lose-Lose Propostion


Every time.

Christians are called to look unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. When we remove our eyes from Him, to others, things goes south really quick every.single.time.

Whether you are comparing good things or bad, comparison sucks.

Don't Compare...

Suffering and trials. God puts us each through trials in order to make each of us more like Jesus Christ and bring glory to Himself. He does that through a various assortment of trials. Someone's bigger or smaller trial does not make your trial more or less impacting.

Each trial stands alone to the particular person. I may not have cancer, or have a parent or child with cancer, but the trial I am going through could still be rocking my world. It could still be taking my breath away by its breadth and scope in my life.

Trials don't need compared.

Gifts and calling. The bigness of someone else's call does not negate the importance of your call.

Think of Elisabeth and Mary. Elisabeth was a barren older woman, who had the privilege of bearing the Voice, John the Baptist. Her pregnancy was a miracle, announced to her husband by an angel.

But, if you get to comparing, Elisabeth's call pales in comparison to Mary's. Fresh-faced, virgin Mary, bearing the Son of God. The Messiah.

Comparison would have stolen Elisabeth's joy. Instead of rejoicing when she met pregnant Mary, she would have sulked.

Each and every call is personalized from God to you. And each is significant and important for that very reason. Someone else's big call does not make my call less legitimate. There is more than plenty of room for each to serve God in the way He has called. The entire world has not been reached, God's glory is not full up to the brim. As long as there is room to serve, there is no need for competition and comparison in the work of the Lord.

Whether you are writing a book or a blog to one or to one million, cooking for a crowd or cooking for your family-it is all significant, in as far as you are doing what God has called you to do.

Blessings and small graces. It has become vogue in the Christian world to list the good things we enjoy and hashtag blessed (#blessed).

But there has been some rumblings. If we say we are blessed because of these things, does it imply that people who don't have these things aren't blessed? Maybe they're cursed?

While I get the fact that the terms blessing and blessed encompass far more than physical and tangible things, I don't see the harm in calling these things blessings. I choose to accept these things as gifts from God. As signs of His favor to me. Thus blessings. They are all grace. Undeserved and unearned on my part.

The flip side of not thanking God for these things would be utter ungratefulness. And, I am oh so grateful for all kinds of things. Hot water. Cold water. Clean water. My bed. My clothes. And on and on and on.

Saying I can't denote myself as blessed because some other person, even a Christian, doesn't have the same thing, is falling into a comparison trap again.

Comparison puts me in the place of God. All powerful, all knowing, sovereign. Whether I am comparing blessings, or callings, or sufferings.

But, I'm not God. I don't know God's purpose for me or for someone else other than the big picture stuff. Bringing glory to Himself and continuously changing me into Christ's image. I certainly don't know how He is working that out via blessings or callings or sufferings.

I just know He is working.

And that is why I know that comparison is a losing proposition. It steals joy and contentment. Comparison makes me doubt God's goodness and faithfulness and love. Comparison is tinged with pride-in my self and my accomplishments.

Conversely: keeping my eyes on Jesus Christ brings contentment and joy.

I have learned in whatever state I am in, therewith to be content.

In Thy presence is fullness of joy, at Thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.

That's a win-win situation.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Snovember and Healthy Comfort Food


Well, it has been a snowy week. Remember those gorgeous sunset pictures from last week? Here is the same view this week. We got over a foot of snow in about 24 hours. Which was on top of another 4-6 inches a couple days before. We've beat out the 115 year record for amount of snow in November. We are up to over 28 inches that have fallen, and we still have almost 10 days left.

Have I mentioned that I am not ready for the whole snow thing yet? 'Cause I'm not. Cancellations abounded-both Monday and Tuesday. My kids did not get a snow day, but I did let them play outside way earlier than normal. It makes my heart feel all warm and fuzzy to see them trucking around out in the snow.

Snowy weather makes me want to cook (and eat) comfort food. It must be a primordial hibernation instinct or something.

But, who says that comfort food has to be unhealthy?

Today I have two comforting recipes to share. Lemon Rosemary Chicken and Cinnamon Roasted Butternut Squash. What's more comforting than that? These two recipes are both gluten-free and dairy-free. They both utilize a high roasting temperature (425-450 degrees), and they both are simple and delicious.

Lemon Rosemary Chicken uses fresh rosemary and lemons. Which is great because I am loving the unique taste of fresh herbs lately. I know its not the season and they are a splurge, but fresh herbs taste and smell different than dried herbs. Fresh rosemary smells rather piney. Dried rosemary is tough and hardly rehydrates even when cooked a long time. Fresh rosemary has a pleasant taste and texture.

The skin stays on the chicken through the baking. It seals in the flavor and moisture. Feel free to eat, or not eat, the skin according to your preference. Like I tell my kids...if you don't want that, I'll eat yours... 

The pans for both recipes are lined with foil for ease in clean up.




Lemon Rosemary Chicken
8-10 bone-in chicken thighs or 4-6 bone-in chicken breasts
1-1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1-1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1-1/2 Tbsp olive oil

-Early in the day (at least 4 hours before cooking), mix the rosemary, minced garlic, salt, pepper, zest, juice and olive oil in a small bowl.
-Rinse and pat dry the chicken breasts. Rub the rosemary mixture into the breasts. Place on a pan and cover with plastic wrap. Marinate 4-6 hours.
-Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a roasting pan with foil, and place the chicken breasts on it, skin side down. Roast in a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes, flip over, and roast another 15-30 minutes, until the meat is tender and the juices run clear.


Cinnamon Roasted Butternut Squash
2 medium butternut squash
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
dash cayenne

-Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with foil.
-Prepare squash by peeling, seeding, and cutting into 1” cubes. You want 12 cups.
-Toss the squash cubes with the oil, sugar, cinnamon, salt and cayenne until well coated. Divide between the 2 baking sheets, trying not to crowd or else the edges won’t brown.
-Roast the squash for 40-45 minutes, turning the squash once and rotating the pans once, until the edges are golden and the centers are tender. Check occasionally to make sure it is not getting overdone.

Note: I cook both recipes at the same time/temp (450 degrees) and I just watch the squash and shorten its roasting time as necessary.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Holiday Gift Guide for Women


So, what do you get the girl who has everything and needs nothing? That is the question of the year. And the qualifications for the perfect gift are rather strenuous...

Unique

Pretty

Practical

Cheap(ish)

Smart

I've assembled a gift guide of 25 items. All are under $40. All are special and will tell her she's special. (each name is a link)

Whimsical and Unique (Not necessarily necessary)

JessicaNdesigns-etched spoons. $17-$20 each. Adding a note a sunshine to the morning drink routine.




Camera Strap: $29.70. A step above the strap that comes with the camera.



Hour Glass-$9.95. Unique, eye-catching and useful. This one is a 15 minute "hour" glass. I love it!



DYI-Message in a Bottle. Whimsical. Purchase cute jars at World Market ($2.99) and write appropriate messages. Thank you would be perfect for the teachers in your life.


Zipper Pulls/Key Chains-$7.00. Joan's Gems makes my favorite fan pulls, but these zipper pulls are unique and fun too. 


Jewelry (always a winner)


Vi Bella Sienna Necklace -$39.99. Any of Vi Bella's jewelry is pretty, and your purchase helps women around the world. 

Antique Spoon Ring-$24.00. Ring lovers of the world unite! Lovely!



Keeping Her Warm (when you have to be elsewhere)

Infinity Scarf-World Market-$24.99. Cozy, warm, stylish.


Frilly Fingerless Gloves-$24.00

Crochet Hat-$39.00-So cozy, and the flower is adorable!

Boot Socks Leg Warmers-$24.00. The resurge in popularity of tall boots has led to a surge in boot socks and cuffs. 

Art (to frame and to share)

Greeting Cards by Sarah Beals-6 for $16. Gorgeous prints/cards painted by my New England friend, Sarah. A fun, unique gift.

Prints by Gracelaced. $16.00 for most of her 8x10s. Art and scripture...





Books (fluff and stuff or not)
Nesting Place: $19.99. Decorating inspiration.

 Bread and Wine-$18.99 -Essays and recipes.

Ina Garten Cookbooks-$35.00 for an autographed copy. I've heard over and over that these cookbooks are gorgeous and the recipes work.

Auntie Mame-$9.25. Hilarious, but.... It is one of my all time favorite LOL reads, but there are reasons it is called, An Irreverent Escapade.




For the Home (home is where the heart is...)
Offbeat Striped Pillow-$14.99. Stripes are always a good idea. Or so I'm told...



Felt Yellow Flutter Pillow-$29.99 (Because there is no such thing as too many pillows)


Throw Blanket-$19.99 (Sam's Club membership required) Ruffly and cozy.


Dish Soap Dispenser-$16.50. Much cuter than the Dawn bottle.


Handmade Soap-$5. Look at those swirly colors...Another great teacher gift.



Dipped Utensils-$29.60. Just for fun. And available in a wide range of colors/color combinations.


She Plans Dinner Subscription-$5 per month. Each month, 2 e-mailings each containing a menu with 15 dinners, all the recipes, and a complete grocery list.



Important to Note: Most of these are online purchases, many from Etsy shops. That translates to...don't delay. Shop today. Bookmark the shops for the next few days. There will be a lot of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday sales, and you may get an awesome deal.

Happy Shopping!

Monday, November 17, 2014

You Will Never Come At All


Come, ye weary, heavy laden, bruised and broken by the fall,
If you tarry till you're better, you will never come at all.
Not the righteous- sinners Jesus came to call.

Venture on Him, venture wholly, let no other trust intrude:
None but Jesus can do helpless sinners good.
-Joseph Hart

In modern vernacular, Joseph Hart was talking about having a come to Jesus moment.

I love this poem. This is one stanza of a hymn written in the 1700s. The lyrics are very powerful and rather convicting-whether as a saved, or unsaved, sinner.

This poem points out two issues. We either feel we have no problems and thus we don't really need Jesus right this minute. Life is clicking along just fine. I've got this handled pretty well by myself, thank you very much. That's the righteous of the poem.

Reminds me of the Laodiceans...because you say, "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing," but you know not that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. (Revelation 3:17)

Either that or its that we feel the need to get our junk taken care of before we come. Our bruised and brokenness, burdens and general weariness. Jesus doesn't want me like this.

The fact of the matter is that we need Jesus whether we are willing to admit our need or not. If we think we don't need Him, we are deluding ourselves.

If we don't admit our need for Jesus in whatever condition we are in-"fine" or needy, we will never come to Him.

If you tarry 'til you're better, you will never come at all.

And never coming, that's a tragedy.

Come.

Approach. Draw near.

It's such a peaceful word. Compelling. Strong. Comforting.

When Jesus says come, it is to approach Him. He's there. He's the difference to our issues.

He doesn't ask us to clean up our act first. It's the idea of pouring out our heart's questions to God. He already knows the deepest, darkest thoughts that we are unwilling to even admit to ourselves. We come, He works.

Getting our junk in order is not a qualification that precedes our coming to Jesus. Actually, getting our junk in order precludes our coming to Jesus.

Coming is an act of grace. There's nothing I can do to earn this love. This relationship. I don't deserve this help. This healing. It's all Him, not me.

I come, hands held out, full of my issues. I come, hands held out, empty of any solutions. I come, placing all my eggs in one basket, not hedging my bets. I come venturing everything on Him and His abundant and abounding grace.

Come to Me all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Come, let us return to the Lord.

If any man thirsts, let him come unto Me, and drink.

Come, let us reason together, with the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Come.

Have you come? Will you come?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Warm Tomato Asparagus Salad

It has been a normal week. Nothing fancy...
just a gorgeous sunset sky
We are back to normal life after vacation. Decent bedtimes (9:45 for me), and up early to swim and/or run. House cleaning for the first time since vacation. Maybe that leaving a clean house/coming home to a clean house isn't a bad idea after all. Three weeks, people! That is how long that cleaning job lasted. We were gone for 12 days of that, but still...


I've managed to do a lot of reading since we got home from vacation. I've made time to do a lot of reading. I don't know about you, but if I am faced with a book that is too ____ to finish, I just stop reading altogether. I feel bad about giving up the book as a lost cause. And so it molders on the nightstand, while I read nothing. 

The book getting in my way this time was Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Galbadon. I really like these books, but each one is an almost one thousand page commitment. And they are rather smutty at times. But, I have learned a lot about the Jacobites from them, and I do really enjoy them. Nevertheless, I read the previous book in the series almost 2 years ago. There were threads from that book carried over to this one that I had forgotten. Pretty key threads. And the smut factor seemed even more pronounced in this book. It was racier than a whole lot of romance novels. If she had left out those scenes, the book could have been 25% (or more) shorter. Seriously.  I just wasn't getting into it. Not at all. I returned it to the library after having it almost 5 weeks. I am debating rereading the entire series and then trying this one again or just giving up on the series...


I did manage to get the majority of my Christmas shopping finished in one.fell.swoop. Online shopping, oh how I love thee! You are so convenient. I sit in my rocker and deal with websites and my debit card. No crowds involved. No gas. No running around checking prices. It's click, type, click. And soon the items are winging their way towards my home.

It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. Is there anything more efficient than online shopping?

What does not give me a warm fuzzy feeling is wrapping presents. Now I enter that month (plus) long period of time that I gaze at brown boxes in my laundry room and think, oh I should wrap those. And yet I don't. Not until about the December 20s....

(this would be where the Just Do It point of Wednesday's post would be apropos.)



I have been cooking a lot of new recipes the past two weeks. Because I need photos for She Plans Dinner. I have not made corn bread in all of my married life. I haven't even bought cornmeal in all my married life. But I did last week. I had fun playing with the corn bread and my camera. The afternoon light was perfect and I got some good shots. I think... 


This is another new recipe I tried. Isn't that gorgeous?! And so healthy. And it was fast. 

It is called Warm Tomato Asparagus Salad because both the tomatoes and the asparagus are drizzled with olive oil, roasted and served warm on a bed of lettuce. I ate only one egg on mine, but the boys all had two. I was plenty satisfied. I think it would make a great meal for a girls'  brunch or a light Sunday supper after a big Sunday dinner.

Did I mention that it is gluten-free, and dairy-free (if you leave off the Parmesan), and vegetarian?

Win-win-win.

It is a really fluid recipe. Since you plate it for your people, the quantities are based on how many people you are cooking for. So, just think that way and you will be fine.

Warm Tomato Asparagus Salad
6-9 Tbsp olive oil, divided
4-6 tomatoes, quartered
36 asparagus spears (about 2 lbs)
6 cloves garlic
3 Tbsp butter
4-6 eggs
4-6 cups mixed greens (1 cup per person)
4-6 Tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese (1-2 oz)
salt and pepper

*use the 4-6 quantities based on how many people you are serving
-Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
-Quarter the tomatoes and place on a baking sheet lined with foil. Drizzle tomatoes with 4-6 Tbsp of oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Roast for 15-20 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft. Remove from oven and set aside.
-Snap tough ends off asparagus. Mince the garlic. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with the remaining oil (2-3 Tbsp). Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast along with the tomatoes until the asparagus is bright green and crisp tender.
-Add the butter to the skillet and let it melt over medium heat. Crack the eggs into the skillet and cook until the whites are set. Flip and cook for an additional minute, if desired.
-Meanwhile, place a cup of greens each on 4-6 plates. Split the asparagus spears evenly between the plates. Top with the roasted tomatoes and parmesan cheese (1 Tbsp each). Top each plate with a fried egg. Serve immediately.


Have a glorious November weekend!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Enjoying Abundance, Eliminating Waste


4 ways to stop throwing away food

It is Thanksgiving time. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays-not least of which because of the huge feast I enjoy with my family. Turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, squash, green bean casserole, jello, cranberry salad, multiple desserts. It is delicious and abundant and I love it.

Yet, one of the biggest social issues of the modern world is hunger. Many, many go to bed hungry every single day. Often, in developed countries, we feel guilty for our abundance while others lack.

Guilt about abundance is not the answer.

...It is good and comely for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor that he takes under the sun all the days of his life, which God has given him. Ecclesiastes 5:18

Also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor, it is the gift of God. Ecclesiastes 3:13

It comes down to the matter of stewardship...to whom much has been given, much will be required." Luke 12:48

How well are you using what has been given you in the area of food?

The goal should be to enjoy abundance and eliminate waste. Waste is wrong. Waste is buying more than you need and throwing it away when it spoils.

Unused. Uneaten. Untouched.

Is not that we have more-it is that we have so much. Too much. Too much in our cupboards to eat. To much in our freezers and refrigerators to eat.

In fact, it's the fact that a whole lot of that food doesn't get eaten. Some rots before we ever touch it again after purchasing it. Some molds as it sits as leftovers that no one cares to eat or that no one is creative enough to reuse.

It is a travesty. Some would say it is sinful. But, it doesn't have to continue.

You can greatly reduce or even eliminate food waste. Please join me over at Womanhood With Purpose for my Top 4 Ways to Stop Throwing Away Food.