Monday, November 30, 2009

eye of the tiger

So many times, it happened too fast you trade your passion for glory.
Don't lose your grip on the dreams of the past you must fight just to keep them alive.

It's the eye of the tiger. It's the thrill of the fight. Risin' up to the challenge of our rival. And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night. And he's watching us all with the eye of the tiger.

Risin' up straight to the top had the guts, got the glory. Went the distance, now I'm not gonna stop. Just a (wo)man and his (her) will to survive.

That's right - I DID IT! I had the eye of the tiger and I was not going to accept defeat. I posted every single day for all 30 days of November. I realize they weren't all Pulitzer Prize-worthy, but that's not the point Negative Nancy. The point is that I set a goal (trivial, yes, but a goal nonetheless) and I achieved said goal. There were definitely nights I wanted to throw in the towel and just go to bed, but I love a challenge and refused to give in.

Speaking of challenges, did I succeed in the Thanksgiving Challenge or fail miserably? Any guesses? Well if you guessed success, you guessed right! If there's one thing this Frugal Frannie knows how to do, it's how to stretch a dollar. I even passed up Torchy's Tacos this weekend, so you know I was dedicated and not going to fudge the numbers.

Truth be told, I actually came in about a dollar or two under the $70 goal and it definitely made me rethink my trips to the grocery store. I can certainly be more resourceful in terms of my lunches during the workweek and have every intention to continue making batches of soup to last the week. Also worth noting is the incredible, edible egg. They are truly a low budget wonder and got me through many a dinner.

So, I'm going to make the grandiose claim that November was a very productive month. I set not one, but two goals and managed to stay the course and complete both. I shall now give myself the veritable pat on the back and thus conclude this rather pompous post.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

hanging on by a thread

I have arrived home after about four days in Austin and I'm hangin' on by a thread. The drive was fairly dicey with some heavy downpours and several traffic jams. Nevertheless, I navigated my way back to P-Town and made it in one piece.

At the present moment, my bed is calling my name and after four days of kicking it on a couch, I'm SO ready to embrace the comfort of my insanely comfortable bed. Therefore, I don't have it in me to author a proper post, so I leave you with a video courtesy of Princess Haylee ~ enjoy!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

stay tuned...

I'm in Austin.

I just ate an amazingly delicious meal that China and I spent about seven hours preparing.

I'm in the middle of a scrabble game...losing...nothing new.

AND, I have a very comical story to share at a later time. It involves a grand plan to run the trail at Town Lake with my cousin and involves getting lost in the woods.

Stay tuned...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thankful Thursdays (a day late)

So when we returned home to Austin (from Houston) last night, I just really didn't have it in me to be thoughtful or deliberate in terms of a blog post. However, I am here today to post my "Thankful Thursday" a day late (but hopefully not a dollar short).

As I am pondering all of the things I have to be thankful for on this day, I am immediately moved to simply put God's love and call it a day. BUT, since His love manifests itself in so many ways and through so many outlets in my life, it would be remiss of me to not list a few specific things I am grateful for during this Thanksgiving weekend.

1. my precious niece and her sweet laughter
2. parents who are still married and love each other after 30+ years of marriage
3. fousins who challenge me spiritually and encourage me biblically
4. countless opportunities to prepare home-cooked meals with family and friends
5. the beauty of God's awe-inspiring nature
6. a sister who shares life with me through all its ups and downs and loves me unconditionally
7. God's grace which never ceases to amaze me
8. a body that allows me to run, jump and most importantly, dance
9. music that speaks to my heart and makes my soul sing

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

happy thanksgiving.


I am feeling sufficiently stuffed and ridiculously lethargic, so this post is going to be short and sweet. Since my family is in four different places for the holiday, I wanted to send some love their way via abundant life.

Mom - I hope you are surviving the frigid Minnesota tundra and have eaten plenty to keep you warm on what promises to be a most chilly night. I am so grateful you are my mom!

Dad - I heard you made my corn pudding and I hope it was a hit. Did you bite the bullet and make my homemade cranberry sauce? Whatever you feasted on, I hope it was tasty and that you were in the presence of the most pleasantest of company. I am so thankful for the man you are in my life!

Sister - I missed you SO much today and wished we could be cooking and dancing in the kitchen. BUT, I hope all your dishes turned out amazing and that you enjoyed a delicious spread. I am beyond grateful for you, Pearl, Mere-bear and Nick. You are all so precious to me and I love you dearly.

Wherever you are and whomever you are with, I hope you had a very Happy Thanksgiving and took the time to give thanks to God on this day for "every good and perfect gift is from above."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

thank heaven for little girls!

Breaking news: my cousin Lianna just found out she is having a girl. The Lyons' family tradition continues (although Natalie and Molly need to get on the train) with more girls!
The baby's name will be Sophia Rose (how beautiful is that) and I cannot wait to meet the little princess.

May God's hand be on her even in the womb and may she always pursue Him as her first love.

baby's just a little bit tired of the city...

Billboards and B.S. got her down. Seems like you need a little Hill Country. Little back roads drivin'. Little bit of that 'ole top down.

It's that time again: time for me to head south on 35 for Turkey Day with my favorite Austin family. I like to call it my home away from home, and in all honesty, it truly feels that way. I know their kitchen like the back of my hand and have probably cooked as many meals there as I have at my parent's home. There is something so welcoming about my aunt and uncle's house and I love pulling into their driveway and walking into the front door. It just feels right, if that makes sense.

We will actually be spending Thanksgiving with my cousin's side of the family tomorrow. (How gorgeous is that table setting?)
But no worries my friends, our Fousin Thanksgiving Throwdown 2009 will be taking place on Saturday. It is then we will be able to pull out all the culinary stops and showcase our cooking/baking prowess. Granted, it is not technically taking place on the actual holiday, but we're not letting a little thing like a calendar get in our way. It promises to be an epic feast, no doubt, and I'm anxious to get in the kitchen and "make some bad decisions together" (Fred Claus anyone?).

Just to give you a preview to whet your appetite, our tentative menu includes:

Turkey (duh, but we won't be handling the bird. It's not our bag)
Pumpkin soup
Stuffed mushrooms
Savory bread dressing with pears
Glazed carrots
Sweet potato souffle
Garlic mashed potatoes
Corn pudding
Ginger-lime cranberry sauce
Green beans w/caramelized onion
Sweet potato pie
Pumpkin cookies
Pumpkin pecan pie
Plum-gingerbread upside down cake

I am jazzed out of my mind to get in the kitchen with two of my most favorite cooks. I have visions of dance parties, impromptu sing-alongs and a whole lot of sauteing, mixing, blending, stirring and TASTING!

If I had to pick a favorite dish, it would probably be the dressing because I only eat it on Thanksgiving and Christmas. But I'm actually also really looking forward to the actual turkey. It's been too long....

Reader question: what is your favorite dish at Thanksgiving (i.e. the one you go back for seconds and thirds even though you're stuffed to the brim)?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tasty Tuesdays: the 23rd edition

Song, song of the south. Sweet potato pie and I shut my mouth. Gone, gone with the wind. Ain't nobody lookin' back again.

Can you see where this is going? In case you're a bit dense, today's Thanksgiving recipe is my version of sweet potato casserole. Once again, this is based on a recipe from Cooking Light, but have no fear or trepidation my friends, it is anything but light. In fact, I will typically have just a scant serving with my actual meal and then really pile it up when I make my dessert plate. It is truly that rich and decadent.

I will always remember this dish at Thanksgiving at my Mimi's house. At the time, I had an underdeveloped palate (sad day indeed) which was unable to appreciate the delicious goodness of sweet potatoes; therefore, I would surreptitiously scrape the toasted marshmallows off the top and leave the shunned sweet potatoes behind. I was so stealthy back then. Oh, how the times have changed!

Now, there may be some who would want to taint their dish with pecans or some other unwelcome intruder, but I am firmly against this. And call me crazy, but I would also be more than happy to forgo the marshmallow topping, but I believe that would be committing sacrilege according to my family. I suppose some things are sacred...

Streuseled Sweet Potato Casserole (and I shut my mouth)

5 large sweet potatoes, baked (using my method as posted on a previous Tasty Tuesday: use a fork to poke holes, wrap in foil and bake at 450 degrees for an hour and a half) and peeled
3/4 cup half-and-half (or milk, depending on desired richness)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 T butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
Cooking spray

1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Place potatoes in a large bowl. Add half-and-half, brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, butter and vanilla. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth.

3. Add the eggs and beat well to combine (mixture will be thin).

4. Place mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

5. To prepare topping, combine flour, brown sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.

6. Bake at 375° for appox. 30 minutes.

7. Remove from the oven and top with marshmallows. Broil until golden brown.

I guarantee this will be a hit among your Thanksgiving spread. I mean, honestly, butter, brown sugar, half and Ina Garten would say, "how can that be bad?" Even if you don't follow my recipe for the actual sweet potatoes, I highly recommend mixing up the topping and sprinkling it over your own sweet potato recipe. It provides such a lovely caramelized top that can't be beat.

I hope you have enjoyed the Thanksgiving recipe installments over the past few weeks. Get ready for some Christmas recipes coming at ya in the weeks to come!

P.S. It should be noted that my sister was royally miffed and highly cheesed off at the fact that I do not necessarily follow my recipes implicitly. She was rattling off 20 questions regarding my homemade cranberry sauce and couldn't believe I did not note in the recipe that I didn't always grate lime peel or use freshly minced ginger. Oh the horror! So, for what it's worth, feel free to forgo the lime peel and use ground ginger in my cranberry recipe.

Cooking should be a creative endeavor, so I say, go with the flow. This might be scary at first, but it is so much more fun. If you feel inclined to throw in a shot of triple sec (like I did this past weekend), go for it! If you don't feel like grating lime peel, don't bother! Make recipes your own and constantly taste your product throughout the cooking process to see what you think should be added to make it unique and extra special!

Monday, November 23, 2009

check and check.

Greetings to you blogger friends! I hope you all had delightful weekends and have managed to get through another Monday in the flashiest of flashes. Hey, no matter how bad your day may have been (or how much you didn't want to get out of bed on this foggy morning), visions of turkey, pie and football dancing in your head are surely helping you to keep it all in perspective...or maybe I'm just speaking for myself?

My weekend was pretty much perfect if you ask me. It was the perfect combination of all my favorite things and was capped off with a birthday celebration for my mama bear.

Let's have a little rundown of my weekend checklist, shall we?

1. Babysit the love of my life and watch Mickey's Christmas Carol eighteen times so my sis could have a much-deserved date night (and margarita). Check!
2. Get in the kitchen and bake up a little amaretto birthday cake covered in a sugary blanket of butter cream icing. Check!
3. Volunteer with my prayer partner to serve in West Dallas and spend Saturday morning cleaning up the community. Check!
4. Take not one, but two glorious naps on the couch. Check and check!!
5. Prepare and consume two beautifully delicious meals involving the likes of grilled salmon, baked shrimp, sweet potatoes, beer bread, salads featuring gorgonzola cheese, pear and caramelized onion, roasted brussel sprouts...are you drooling yet? Check!

6. Attend church on Sunday morning whilst sipping a jazzy Starbucks holiday beverage. Check!
7. Toast my mommy's life with some delectably divine wine. Check!
8. Watch two Christmas movies (The Family Stone and It's a Wonderful Life) and bust out the Christmas CDs. Check!
9. Become overwhelmed (for about the thirteenth time this week) over God's faithfulness, love and answer to prayer. May-juh check!

I hope your weekend was beautifully blessed as well!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration

Just like Paul established the Nicene Creed and the apostles authored the Apostles' Creed, a group of national religious leaders recently came together to create a document which would effectively, concisely and definitively state what we, as a church, believed and stood for today. The following is the preamble from the document created this past September.

Christians are heirs of a 2,000 year tradition of proclaiming God’s word, seeking justice in our societies, resisting tyranny, and reaching out with compassion to the poor, oppressed and suffering.

While fully acknowledging the imperfections and shortcomings of Christian institutions and communities in all ages, we claim the heritage of those Christians who defended innocent life by rescuing discarded babies from trash heaps in Roman cities and publicly denouncing the Empire’s sanctioning of infanticide. We remember with reverence those believers who sacrificed their lives by remaining in Roman cities to tend the sick and dying during the plagues, and who died bravely in the coliseums rather than deny their Lord.

After the barbarian tribes overran Europe, Christian monasteries preserved not only the Bible but also the literature and art of Western culture. It was Christians who combated the evil of slavery: Papal edicts in the 16th and 17th centuries decried the practice of slavery and first excommunicated anyone involved in the slave trade; evangelical Christians in England, led by John Wesley and William Wilberforce, put an end to the slave trade in that country. Christians under Wilberforce’s leadership also formed hundreds of societies for helping the poor, the imprisoned, and child laborers chained to machines.

In Europe, Christians challenged the divine claims of kings and successfully fought to establish the rule of law and balance of governmental powers, which made modern democracy possible. And in America, Christian women stood at the vanguard of the suffrage movement. The great civil rights crusades of the 1950s and 60s were led by Christians claiming the Scriptures and
asserting the glory of the image of God in every human being regardless of race, religion, age or class.

This same devotion to human dignity has led Christians in the last decade to work to end the dehumanizing scourge of human trafficking and sexual slavery, bring compassionate care to AIDS sufferers in Africa, and assist in a myriad of other human rights causes – from providing clean water in developing nations to providing homes for tens of thousands of children orphaned by war, disease and gender discrimination.

Like those who have gone before us in the faith, Christians today are called to proclaim the Gospel of costly grace, to protect the intrinsic dignity of the human person and to stand for the common good. In being true to its own calling, the call to discipleship, the church through service to others can make a profound contribution to the public good.

Please click on the link above for the entire document and sign the declaration if it does, in fact, coincide with what you believe. My pastor at Watermark happened to be a contributing member of the declaration and I'm incredibly proud of the final product.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

worth the wait

Well, I suppose that statement is entirely subjective, but I FINALLY uploaded all four of my videos to the post I wrote three days ago. I think, or hope you will find it to be worth the wait.

And please, by all means, ignore my less than stellar accompaniment. I may or may not have realized it would taint the final product.

So...scroll down about three posts for your listening enjoyment and have a very Happy Saturday!

P.S. T minus 5 days until Turkey Day - woo hoo!!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

a note from God

During our time of worship at church last Sunday, we were instructed to sit down and listen to a song sung over us as though God were singing it to us. I had heard this particular song before, but had never really meditated on the words to realize it was written in the context as a note from God.

Take a look at the mountains
Stretching a mile high
Take a look at the ocean
Far as your eye can see
And think of Me

Take a look at the desert
Do you feel like a grain of sand?
I am with you wherever
Where you go is where I am

And I'm always thinking of you
Take a look around you
I'm spelling it out one by one

I love you more than the sun
And the stars that I taught how to shine
You are mine, and you shine for me too
I love you yesterday and today
And tomorrow, I'll say it again and again
I love you more

Just a face in the city
Just a tear on a crowded street
But you are one in a million
And you belong to Me

And I want you to know
That I'm not letting go
Even when you come undone

I love you more than the sun
And the stars that I taught how to shine
You are mine, and you shine for me too
I love you yesterday and today
And tomorrow, I'll say it again and again
I love you more
I love you more

Shine for Me
Shine for Me
Shine on, shine on
Shine for Me

I love you more than the sun
And the stars that I taught how to shine
You are mine, and you shine for me too
I love you yesterday and today
And tomorrow, I'll say it again and again
I love you more

Than the sun
and the stars that I taught how to shine
You are mine, and you shine for me too
I love you, yesterday and today
Through the joy and the pain
I'll say it again and again
I love you more
I love you more

And I see you
And I made you
And I love you more than you can imagine
More than you can fathom
I love you more than the sun
And you shine for me

(Lyrics by Matthew West)

As I sat there and listened to the lyrics, God's presence just completely overwhelmed me and I caught a glimpse of His love for me. I am but filthy rags and He loves me. He longs to be in relationship with me, as a lover pines after their beloved. And it is through nothing I have done that He seeks to be in communion with me. It is not by acts, deeds, service or sacrifice. I am saved by grace through faith alone. Period.

It is exceedingly difficult to wrap my head around this gift of salvation. Specifically, how on earth could God still desire an intimate relationship with a petulant lover who constantly cheats and chases after other "lovers" to satisfy the desires of their (my) heart?

While I cannot fathom His love, I quite literally live for these moments when He reveals Himself to me. They are sweeter than honey and satisfy my heart's desires.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thankful Thursdays?

No, I'm not necessarily instating a new weekly series, BUT I thought it entirely appropriate to perhaps designate the next two Thursday posts as "Thankful Thursdays." In the spirit of giving thanks, I would like to share with you a few, albeit superficial, things I am thankful for today.

#1. COFFEE: Thank you Lord for creating a bean that distributes a substance called caffeine which I then, in turn, pump through my body everyday so that it is coursing through my veins a minimum of 365 times a year. And just so we're clear, I'm not referring to some sugary, cream laden impostor of a coffee beverage some out there label as "coffee." No, my friends, I'm talking pure, unadulterated coffee goodness.

#2. my fluffy, comfy BED: Thank you for my amazingly plush bed that I get to burrow into...I mean, sleep in every single night. From the dreamy feather bed to the down comforter, I adore it all. What a blessing to have such a snuggly place to lay my head.

#3. the SUN: Thank you for the delicious sun that warms my face and soothes my soul. We have been exceedingly fortunate the past few weeks with dozens of sunshine-y days. It's been positively glorious and I'm grateful for every minute of it.

#4. CHRISTMAS MOVIES: Random, yes, but I'm thankful for Christmas movies that I have already begun watching. So far, I've checked The Family Stone (What do we got goin' on here in Santa's workshop?), Elf (I like smiling. Smiling's my favorite.) and The Holiday (Are you embarrassed by this game I've started to play?) off my list, and I have every intention of crossing off It's a Wonderful Life (Buffalo girls won't you come out tonight.) this weekend. If you have yet to get started on your Christmas movie watching, I highly suggest you get your head in the game and start plugging away. Christmas will be here before you know it and you can't watch all those movies in one day.

So, there you have it. Those are just a few things I'm grateful for today. I hope you manage to find some things (great or small) to be grateful for during this upcoming Thanksgiving week.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

the best laid plans of mice and men...

So, I had every intention of posting an awesome entry for today, but "Blogger" had other ideas. My videos are taking HOURS to upload and I don't even think they'll be ready to go before the night is over. Sad day indeed.

Therefore, I am throwing up a post in a lackluster effort to "comply" with the rules of National Blogging Month, but I heartily apologize for the absolutely pointless entry. It is never my goal to post for kicks and giggles. I value my lovely readers (and your time) far more than that.

In an effort to extend an olive branch, I will leave you with a picture of my little chalupa. Get a load of those brown eyes...swoon...

a "swell" time

A couple weeks ago, I was informed I had "surprise" plans scheduled for this past Saturday. Always down for a good surprise, I resisted perusing the events section/citysearch website so I would not spoil the fun. I'm SO glad I resisted the urge because I was in complete and total shock to learn I had a ticket to see the "Swell Season" play at Palladium Ballroom.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the group name, they are from the movie Once. The movie is essentially about two musicians who have a fortiutous meeting which transpires into making amazing music resulting in recording an album, etc., etc. If you have not had the pleasure of viewing the movie, do yourself (and me) a favor and put it in your queue.

Back to the friend Nicholas graciously took me to see said band and it was better than anything I expected.

They were exactly the way I envisioned them based on the movie. He was brilliant and she was meek, mild and completely unassuming. They played all the hits from the movie, a little Van Morrison AND some new material, which was pretty amazing. Since words cannot do them justice, please have a listen of the following videos from the show. (I urge you to play these since it took approx. five years to upload them. If you have a blog, you know exactly what I'm talking about.)

I am thrilled to have been able to see them play live. Thank you so much Nicholas for orchestrating the musical night!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tasty Tuesdays: numero 2-2

Brrrrr! I know sharing recipes has nothing to do with the weather outside, but I MUST comment on my disdain for this weather. As I ran, I mean walked across campus this morning, I was cursing the drop in temperatures and already longing for the summer days to be back. I quickly regained composure and told myself I wouldn't be able to fully appreciate the warm summer days if I didn't have bouts of cold weather to remind me how amazing the warmth of the sun feels on my face. So...I'm going to try my best to smile through the pain.

Now then, let's get down to business shall we? I promised you Thanksgiving recipes for the next few weeks and that's what you shall get. I hope last week's post inspired you to ditch the canned cranberries this year and if so, I promise you will not be disappointed. In fact, I just made the recipe on Sunday and it was as delicious as I remembered it.

As for today's recipe, it is a definite winner if I do say so myself. While I normally favor fresh, wholesome ingredients that highlight the natural flavors inherent to what is being used, this is most definitely an exception to that rule. This recipe is 100% Southern (see also Paula Deen, butter, heart attack-inducing, etc.) and has absolutely ZERO nutrional value, but it's too darn good to leave off the Thanksgiving dinner table. I guarantee this dish will be a crowd pleaser with your mom, dad, cousins, aunt, grandma...heck, even your in-laws will sing your praises!

So, without any more pomp and circumstance, I give you my version of corn pudding. This has been adapted from a couple recipes (Kraft Foods, Cooking Light, etc.), but I've sort of morphed it into one.

Corn Pudding

1/2 C (one stick) butter, softened
1/2 C sugar
2 eggs
1 C light sour cream
1 can of sweet kernel corn, drained)
1 can of cream style corn
1 box of Jiffy* corn muffin/bread mix

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an oven-proof baking dish.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

3. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

4. Stir in sour cream, both cans of corn and muffin mix until blended.

5. Pour into baking dish and bake for about one hour or until set.

(If edges begin to brown too quickly, cover with foil for the remaining baking time.)

This may be a far cry from any of the gourmet recipes you might see in Saveur or Bon Appetit, but sometimes you just need a little Southern comfort. I hope this one makes it onto your table. T minus 9 days until Thanksgiving!!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

pony up!

In an effort to both enjoy the last bit of gorgeous weather and exploit my elite staff status, the pops and I attended the SMU football game this past Saturday. The tickets were free, the parking cost nada and the sun was shining. There was no reason not to take part in a little college football. (We'll leave the discussion for what constitutes legitimate college football for another day.)

We arrived early so we could witness "The Boulevard," which is essentially an on-campus tailgate complete with a live band and copious amounts of brewskis. As we made our way through the sea of pastel chinos (a la Andy Bernard/the nard dog) and sundresses, we quickly realized we weren't in Kansas anymore. I think actually wearing any school paraphernalia is frowned upon. I couldn't figure out if we were at a football game or a clambake...

After snagging a few freebies at various tents along the way, we made the hike to the stadium and grabbed our seats just in time for kickoff. The 'stangs started off at a strong gallop in the 1st quarter, but couldn't quite sustain the momentum through the 2nd quarter. However, they did pull off some pretty sweet plays, managed to score three touchdowns AND held UTEP to just ten points at the end of the first half...not too shabby.

We stayed to watch a bit of the halftime program, but had to skedaddle before the 2nd half began.

All in all, it was fun to attend the football game and the weather could not have been more glorious. Thanks Dad for being my date to the game. You'll always be my #1 guy!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

don't worry. be happy?

The following is on a note card that I have posted on my bathroom mirror (thanks to Cryssie who printed it out for me):

Worry implies we don't quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what's happening in our lives.

Stress says that the things we are involve in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace toward others, or our tight grip of control.

Basically, these two behaviors communicate that it's ok to sin and not trust God because the stuff in my life is somehow exceptional. Both worry and stress reek of arrogance.

Francis Chan, Crazy Love (pg. 42)

Wow! If this doesn't spell out conviction in my life, I don't know what does. Every single moment I spend worrying or stressing about the minuscule details of my life, I am sinning against God.

As someone who is constantly worrying about money, where I'm going to live, what job I'm going to hold, how I'm ever going to pay off my student loans (ha), and so on, this hit home with me in more ways than one. According to this, I REEK of arrogance. You can smell me from a mile away and the stench is distinctly arrogant.

Forgive me God. I desperately plead for your mercy to cover this sin. May you redeem this pattern and draw me into a peace which transcends all understanding.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

open for business!

Well, kind an effort to launch my bakery, Meagan commissioned a birthday cake for a trio of Cavanaugh (or former Cavanaugh) ladies who were celebrating their birthdays this past weekend. I was honored she would pay me for one of my creations, and she requested my amaretto cake with cream cheese icing. It is my signature cake, so it was quite fitting that it would be my "first order." Here is a look at the final work.

I know it's a far cry from bakery standards (appearance wise), but she said they enjoyed it and that's what matters to me!

So, thanks again Meg for your business. If anyone should be interested in purchasing one of my baked goods, just let me know - I'm open for business!

Friday, November 13, 2009

keeping me honest

As you may recall, I embarked on the "Thanksgiving Challenge" for the month of November which basically limits spending on food to $100. Always the over-achiever, I decided to lower the figure to $70. I might have been a bit too ambitious...

So, how am I doing? Have I opted for a rice and beans diet? Not exactly. I didn't think it would be very challenging to forgo my normal meals, so I've been trying to roughly stick to my normal grocery list, while still making every effort to meet my goal. I have made two shopping trips so far totalling: $25 and $12 respectively. The $25 shopping trip really threw me for a loop. I was totally shocked (and appalled) that I had managed to spend over a third of my budget so early in the month.

However, I have since regrouped and decided to be more aggressive with my efforts. I have managed (so far) to bypass a shopping trip this week, and instead of my usual salad, I made soup with ingredients I had on hand. I also cut back on my one soda a day habit so that I would only have to purchase one more 12-pack to get me through the month of November. That being said, I will most likely have to make a trip today, but I'm going to ONLY purchase the bare minimum.

Right now I sit at $37 spent which leaves me with $33. Can I do it??? I'll keep you posted. Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

dear mom.

To my mother on her birthday,

I know I have not always (or hardly ever) extended you grace. I know I have constantly taken you for granted and been unkind to you on numerous occasions. I know I rarely give you the credit you deserve for everything you do and have done for our family. I know I do not tell you or show you nearly enough how much I love you and how much Christ loves you.

BUT, on this day, I want to tell you and the (blog)world what I really know to be true about you. I know there is no one who has felt my pain in this imperfect life more than you. I know there is no one who have prayed more desperately for me than you. I know there is no one who works harder and more diligently than you. I know there is no one who has sacrificed more than you do on a daily basis, despite chronic pain and fatigue. I know, without a shadow of a doubt that you would lay down your life for me, and as scripture tells us, "there is no greater love than he that would lay down his life..."

I could go on, but I will be succinct so that my words do not lose their meaning or get shrouded in an incorrect perception of insincerity. For all the times I have failed to tell you and in all the ways I have failed to show, please know I love you.

I hope you have a very, very HAPPY BIRTHDAY! May this year in your life surpass all the years past. I pray for God to pour out indescribable joy and transcendent peace.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

thank you.

Since today marks Veterans Day, I felt it only appropriate to devote today's post to all the service men and women who have dedicated their lives (whether past or present) to our country. It seems so trite, trivial and hardly sufficient to merely say thank you, but it is really all I am able to do.

I honestly cannot imagine selflessly committing my life to both a thankless AND highly dangerous profession. Not only do these individuals willingly put themselves in harm's way, but their families also make a huge sacrifice in allowing them to protect and preserve freedom.

We owe so much to these heroes who have fought and died while serving our country. I know I don't think on it often enough, but I am exceedingly grateful to our veterans. Both my grandfathers served in the army, as well as a couple of my uncles. My sister's husband, Nick, was actually an elite Ranger and I'm so proud of all my family who served in the military.

Happy Veteran's Day to all the veterans and may God be with each member of our armed forces.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tasty Tuesdays: lucky #21

Well hello November! Can you believe we are just 2 1/2 weeks away from Thanksgiving?!? I for one am in total shock at the rapid rate with which this year is coming to a close. I started Tasty Tuesdays back in June of this year and it seems like yesterday. What a whirlwind!

In honor of the month of Thanksgiving, I have decided to dedicate the next three installments of Tasty Tuesdays to some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes. This is by no means an all-inclusive list, but rather just a few of my faves that I've been making for several years now.

Today's recipe is for a homemade cranberry sauce that I first made four years ago. Had I known how ridiculously easy it was to make your own cranberry sauce, I would have banned the canned version a long time ago. This is a recipe from Better Homes and Gardens and if you have never made your own cranberry sauce, this is your year to change that.

Ginger Lime Cranberry Sauce

1/2 C sugar (I use Splenda)
1/2 C pure maple syrup
1/2 C water
1 1/2 tsp finely shredded lime peel
2 T lime juice
1 12-ounce package fresh or frozen cranberries (I always use fresh)
1 tsp minced fresh ginger (I don't use fresh)

1. In a saucepan, stir together sugar, maple syrup, water, lime peel, and lime juice. Bring to boiling and reduce heat.

2. Simmer, uncovered, about 3 minutes or until sugar is dissolved.

3. Stir in cranberries and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Stir in ginger. Simmer, uncovered, about 6 minutes more or until berries have popped and mixture starts to thicken, stirring occasionally. Cool.

I always make this a day or 2 in advance because it holds up beautifully in the fridge for several days. I love recipes like this because it allows me to cross something off my cooking/baking to-do list.

Monday, November 9, 2009

a few tricks and a whole lotta treats

While I've never really been a huge fan of Halloween, I do like the opportunity to dress up, wear crazy makeup, eat yummy pumpkin treats and see my nieces dressed up in their insanely A-dorable costumes. This year's festivities included all that and a whole lot more.

Since I had a big bash to attend/host later in the evening, I headed over to see Minnie Mouse and her cat, Figaro in the early afternoon. Haylee and Meredith made quite the pair and I'm so glad I was able to snap a few photos with the girls. I am a proud aunt and happen to think my nieces are the cutest girls in the whole wide world. Check out Haylee's red lips in the photos...I die!

After I had properly documented (photographically speaking) my nieces' Halloween 2009, I hightailed it home to prepare for the night's festivities. First, I had to get busy icing the cake for the birthday boy. Who knew making orange icing could go so darn tricky? That icing is a finicky little bugger.

Once that was done lickity split, I had to get myself ready. Since I'm pretty much anti-spending any money on a costume I'll be wearing for one night, I put together a "fairy princess" ensemble combining a thrift store wedding dress (borrowed from a friend), fairy wings, a tiara and a wand (all borrowed from Pearl's dress-up collection). Twas a makeshift costume, but you can't beat the $0 price tag. I figured if I put on enough makeup and glitter, I could make it work. Once I had piled on more glitter than you would see at toddler beauty pageant, I was out the door and headed to a "Bloody Birthday Banquet."

Halloween happens to be my friend's (Nicholas) birthday. Obviously, the party planning crew (i.e. me) was in full swing for another rip-roaring birthday bash. Here is the text from the Evite:

Come one and come all, our dearly departed. It's time once again to get the party started! We'll eat and we'll sing. We'll dance by the pool. A birthday we're throwing for our favorite ghoul. Nicholas is aging and since you're his buddy, please come to a banquet that's sure to be bloody. Werewolves and goblins, a vampire or two, you better bring food or the food might be you. After dinner we'll toast and sing by the fire, then more guests will arrive in their ghostly attire. Your absence we would most certainly lament, so please, by all means, beware of the basement. All guest must select a course to provide. If you fail to do this, may fate be your guide. The night draws near and fills with more terror. Forgetting to RSVP might be your last error. So be sure to steer clear of the cellar with wine. We look forward to this time to drink and to dine.

I was given full access to his primo kitchen to prepare my dishes for the "potluck." To say it was a dream would be a gross understatement. I only wish I had such facilities at my disposal on a daily basis. I would definitely host my own cooking show and put it on my blog for your enjoyment. I digress...

I made baked shrimp with feta, tomatoes and artichokes, green beans with caramelized onions and pears and beer bread. Also included in the spread was pork tenderloin, mixed veggies, spaghetti (random), cornbread, salad and a couple of dips. I was a snob and ate mostly my own food - ha!

The dinner setting was as delightful as the food. There was a lovely table set up outside underneath a white tent with twinkle lights. It rivaled a scene out of a movie.

We also felt the need to test out the dance floor in between courses. Luckily, Krystal and I had the perfect ensembles and were more than up to the task. Some others joined in as well.

It was only a slight diversion and we were back to the food. Obviously, every birthday celebration requires a birthday cake. I baked up a real doozy: my rum-soaked cake with cream cheese icing.

After the candles were blown out, the cake had been cut (and devoured) and the kitchen scrubbed down, it was time to prep for the may-juh after party that was scheduled to commence at the witching hour. The haunted house had to be set up in the basement, the bedroom had to be turned into a photo studio (see pics below), the sink had to be filled with beverages, the fog machines had to be filled and the disco light needed to be hooked up. Whew! It was loco, but we got it done and it was time to party...or in my case, cut a RUG!

This party was B-U-M-P-I-N-G, BUMPING! Holy cow. I don't know if I've ever been in a house with so many people. And let me tell you that in the span of about 4 hours, I did NOT leave the dance floor for more than a few minutes. I was a dancing machine, and had the time of my life. Highlights included "Thriller," "Don't Stop Believing," "Groove is in the Heart" (shoutout to Michelle and the fousins), "Billy Jean," "Shout"...and so many more. Gosh, I don't think there was a song that didn't prompt me to bust a move AND sing out loud! Here's a video for your viewing/listening enjoyment.

Obviously, breaks for pictorials were absolutely necessary. Here are some of my favorite shots of the evening.

After the last bag of trash had been taken out and the last dish was dried, a few of us enjoyed a much-deserved dip in the hot tub. It was the perfect end to a memorable night and I'm so glad I was a part!