Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Happy Birthday to Andy!

October 21st was my sweet husband's birthday.  Because I worked the night before and slept for half the day (sad) on his actual birthday, we sort of celebrated on Saturday the 23rd, instead.  (We DID stop by Not Your Average Joe's to get his free birthday dinner and dessert thursday night, though.)  We had a few friends over, and I made dinner and chocolate cake for dessert.  If you ask Andy, though, his birthday was celebrated over the whole week because I made an extra special effort to cook dinner for him every night... or at least he had a freshly cooked meal or left overs of a freshly cooked meal :)  One of his favorite foods is lasagna, which is seeming to become his annual birthday meal, so I made that for him wednesday night.  I used Ina Garten's recipe for turkey sausage lasagna but used 1/2 ground beef and 1/2 ground turkey instead.  She adds layers of fresh mozzarella and creamy goat cheese, which added a delicious, sophisticated taste to the meal.  Lasagna has never been a "favorite" of mine, though I don't dislike it.  But if I had a menu of Italian dishes to choose from, I don't think I would ever go for it.  Maybe it's the ricotta cheese?  I don't know.  If I'm going to go for an Italian dish, I want it to be creamy and cheesy.  Anyway, enough about me.  Andy loved this!  The last piece is waiting for him to heat up and devour when he gets home...

You can see the goat cheese oozing out... yum!

Then comes the chocolate cake...  I really wanted the cake to be absolutely delectable and delicious, so I didn't want to just pick any old chocolate cake recipe.  I ended up using the one from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.  I figured that it was a classic.  I look forward to the next time I make a chocolate cake.  I want to use a recipe that calls for 1 cup of cold brewed coffee next time.  This one was good, though!  Everyone seemed to love it saturday night, and it really was tasty.  I had to trim some of the layers to make them even enough to frost, and let me tell you... the warm plain cake pieces were highly addictive.  If I didn't have any self-control I might have just made a three layer cake... if you know what I mean :)  I frosted it using both chocolate buttercream and sour cream chocolate frostings.  I LOVE chocolate sour cream frosting.  It has more of a pure chocolatey taste--versus the buttercream, which is obviously very buttery and sweet.  Andy tasted the sour cream frosting as I was icing the cake, and his reaction was a little less than ecstatic, so I whipped up the buttercream to complete the rest of the cake.  (I know, aren't I a good wife?)  I'll post the recipe at the bottom.  Try it as an alternative to buttercream if you're looking for something different! 

I used the new frosting bags and tips I got at BB&B.  So fun!

Four layers!
Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
In a large saucepan melt 1 12-ounce package of semisweet chocolate pieces and 1/2 cup of butter over low heat, stirring frequently.  Cool for 5 minutes.  Stir in 1 8-ounce carton of sour cream.  Gradually add 4 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar, beating with an electric mixer until smooth.  This frosts the tops and sides of two or three 8- or 9-inch cake layers.  Halve the recipe to frost just the top of a 13x9x2 inch cake.  Cover and store frosted cake in the refrigerator.  *I did not and am not currently storing my cake in the fridge, and it tastes fine.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Vegetable (?) Soup and Chili

My mom is in town again for the weekend trying to unpack as many boxes in the new house as possible.  I got to go up today and help her out a bit, and as we were unpacking a box of old cookbooks, we came across a pink, hand-bound recipe book entitled, "Mother's Day Recipe Book May 12, 1991".  It was a cookbook my kindergarten class put together for our moms.  We filled it with recipes that we chose for our moms.  Now, as I flipped through the book, I kept thinking things like, "That's an odd recipe... No flour in those cookies?  Where's the butter in that pie crust ingredient list?  And so on."  It was only when I flipped to my recipe and really read it, that I realized WE CREATED THE RECIPES OURSELVES!  Without further adieu, I give you my very own,

Vegetable Soup
10 carrots (cut in little circles)
12 pieces celery (chop it up)
3 cups peas
5 onions (cut in small pieces)
15 lbs. pork (cut up in big squares)
5 cups salt
4 cups pepper
2 cups water
9 squares of butter

Put in a big cooking pot and cook on top of the stove for 16 hours and 4 minutes.  Serve in cups with some bread with melted butter on it.  

Wow.  I cannot imagine what that would taste like!  Hilarious.  Another favorite was for chicken soup... it required "9 chickens, cut up".  Haha!

Well, tonight I created another recipe, but this time it was edible.  Andy wanted chili tonight, so chili I made!  My mom happened to be making chili tonight, too, so I glanced at her recipe card while I was at the house, and then I improvised when I got home.  It turned out to be a really thick, hearty chili that we both loved!  I can't wait to make it again. 

1 lb. ground turkey, cooked, with grease drained off
1 onion, diced
2 cans pinto beans
2 packages chili seasoning mix
1 15 oz can whole tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 Tbl. brown sugar

Cook the onion in a tablespoon of butter.  Puree the tomatoes (not the paste) in the blender or food processor to make a sauce.  Then put all ingredients into a stock pot and simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes.  You can add more chicken broth if it's too thick.  

This definitely didn't make a ton of chili and there seemed to be a lot of beans, so I think it could be doubled, but the amount of beans could stay the same... unless you love a ton of beans!  The 2 packages of seasoning added a lot of oomph, too, so you could keep that the same as well.  I think it's a "taste and see" kind of chili :)

Thick and hearty.

Sorry, I only got a picture after I was putting the leftovers away into Tupperware.

Columbus Day

Andy and I went to Wilson's Farm in Lexington this past Columbus Day.  We decided to go there instead of picking apples because they had pumpkins, produce, flowers, and a "spooky" hayride, too!  We had fun celebrating fall.

Cute little (and some big) pumpkins everywhere!

Delicious caramel apples.  Mmm...

Andy!  We need to get some pictures of us!

More caramel apples.

Sprinkle-covered ones!

Cider doughnuts! 
The people make them with the same machine they used 50 years ago!

Fresh, warm donuts falling into a bowl full of sugar.

They also have an amazing year-round indoor grocery store, too!  Look at those bell peppers!

Andy's wonderful photography.

Huge pints of strawberries for $2.50!  They are delicious. 
On the "haunted" hayride. 

Friday, October 8, 2010


from InterfaceLift

"A wife of noble character who can find?
       She is worth far more than rubies.

 Her husband has full confidence in her
       and lacks nothing of value.

 She brings him good, not harm,
       all the days of her life..."  

 Proverbs 31:10-12

Oh, that I might be like the Proverbs 31 woman!

I feel like God is calling me to a spending fast.  Through prayer this morning, I feel like He's asking me to only buy groceries, gas, and essentials (like medicine, toiletries, etc) for the next three weeks.  That may seem easy, but that excludes eating out, coffee, spontaneous purchases, clothes, and fall decorating items!  It also means that even if I have a gift card somewhere, I won't be able to use it because I don't think it's about the money per se, it's about my heart.  Wow.

Honestly, though, I probably could have seen this coming from a mile away.  I feel like this year one of my heart's prayers has been, "Lord, I want more discipline.  Lord, I want to be obedient unto You.  Refine me.  Make me more like Jesus."  I will be the first to say that it hasn't been super easy for me to be obedient to all that He's asked of me (e.g. He called me to run a half marathon, oh LAST JANUARY, that I'm just now going to run in November), but the discipline--or at least the desire for it--has been good for my soul.  I want to be rooted deeply in God so that all that I do is fruitful and honoring to Him.  Through this process, I feel like God has been convicting me of living in my "comfort zone"... always being comfortable, not letting myself get too stretched or too challenged.  Training for this half marathon is one specific way that He is breaking me of that.  Most of my runs are hard for me and I want to give up, but, thanks to my wonderful husband, I don't give up and I press in.  This is working discipline and perseverance into my spirit.

Money is also another area where I have always experienced comfort.  I grew up in a family that was blessed financially and with a dad who is a hard worker and dedicated to providing for his family.  So I never experienced the discomforts of not having.  (Not to say that my parents said "yes" to every one of my wants.)  After I graduated from college I went straight into the nursing profession, so I have had a steady income from the get go, when a lot of my friends have struggled in different ways financially, which has caused them to lean on God in different ways than I have.  I am so thankful to the Lord for my job and the way He provides for Andy and me through our incomes and our jobs, but I will be the first to admit that I don't lean on God for finances.  I live in the comfort zone.  I don't want to live in the comfort zone!  I want to know that every single penny I have comes from heaven and that I am simply a steward of the money God gives me.  I want to experience the "pains" of not having and live in the stretching, uncomfortable zone -- where I lean on, depend on, and look to God for everything.

Ahh, so this leads me to a spending fast.  My prayer is that in these next three weeks (starting this upcoming Tuesday), I will experience holy discomfort.  I pray that I will find myself leaning on God to meet my needs and meet my longings.  I pray that I will discover that the longings I may have for the things of this world fade away in light of God's presence.  I pray that the truth God is more than enough for me will be more and more real to me.  I pray that I may become more disciplined like the Proverbs woman, and in turn may become more of a blessing to my husband.  I pray that my spending habits will be refined.  I pray that God will be glorified in my feeble attempts to become more like Jesus.

Forgive me for any rambling or run-on sentences in this post.  I just wanted to get it out right away.  I want to be kept accountable to this.  Thanks for reading!

P.S.  The reason I'm starting next Tuesday is because Andy and I are going to a farm on Columbus Day to buy apples, cider donuts, flowers, and pumpkins... or at least just enjoy the autumnal experience of a farm in October!  Check back next week for pictures!


Sunday, October 3, 2010


It's been a couple of weeks since I last posted, and I feel like so much has happened! My parents sold, packed up, and moved out of our Houston home... they bought and began to move into a new home in Marblehead, MA... I turned 25... So, as the post's title indicates, there has been much to celebrate.

The move out of 11905 Heritage Lane was emotional for our family. We have a lot of memories in that house, but after 14 years, it was time to say goodbye. I'm thankful Andy and I were able to visit one last time this past June. I don't think it has really hit me that we won't be going "home" there ever again, but I learned from God a few years ago, when I was in college and didn't feel like I could call my dorm room "home"--I didn't feel like I had a lot of friends and didn't feel comfortable in my own room, that if I first make my home in the Lord, then I will be able to feel "at home" anywhere I go. This is a heart lesson that I'm sure I will draw on when we move ourselves out to Arizona! Anyway, my parents have always wanted a home in Marblehead, where my mom grew up and where most of her family still lives. The setting is gorgeous--an idyllic New England coastal town, rich in history and full of beauty. They finally settled on a home that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean--and that's a few houses down from where my mom grew up! Andy and I were able to help out a little bit as they began to unpack this past week through the weekend. Here are a couple pictures, one of the view from the deck and a picture of the back of the house, which faces the ocean...

The Atlantic Ocean

Back of the house

The whole family is excited to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas in the new house in a couple of months!  We also celebrated my birthday last weekend, which is always fun :)  It was a busy weekend... we went to the annual Pops on the Heights gala at BC, which we've been going to for the past 7 years.  The Boston Pops play, and there is always a guest Broadway singer.  The BC Chorale performs a few songs, too, so that was fun to see Victoria sing!  We also tailgated before the BC v. VTech game, went to the game, and then I came home to a surprise party Andy had orchestrated for me (along with some of my faithful friends...)!  It was a fun weekend!  Unfortunately, I wasn't a very good photographer.  I only have a few pictures from the tailgate and game.

Chili, sandwiches, cornbread, pepperoni bread, fruit salad...
VTech blew out BC... oh well, it was still fun!
I wore an ASU shirt!  shh... don't tell...

 As I write this, it's a chilly 47 degrees outside!  Fall is really upon us!  I love it.  (Except for the fact that I can't find my black flats, so I have to wear sandals to church.  Not fun.)  I wanted to post about this Pumpkin Spice Granola I made last night because it filled our home with the most delicious of autumnal scents...  You should try it!  So easy to make. 
I put mine in little mason jars and made labels. 

Wouldn't you want to receive this as a little gift?  So cute!
I'm bringing a meal to our pastors who just had another little boy last month.  They eat very healthy, so I'm bringing this, bran muffin batter (that's good for 30 days in the fridge!), homemade hummus and veggies, and (I think) Asian lettuce wraps.  I think those are all pretty healthy things.  I can't wait to hold the little guy! 

One last picture...  I made this yummy and super easy skillet meal the other day, and I was just so excited about it.  Skillet Chicken and Mexican Green Rice from Mel's Kitchen blog.  We loved it!  Another pretty healthy dish, especially if you replace the white rice with brown (but who wants brown rice in a Mexican dish?)  Enjoy, if you make it!
Everything goes in the pan, and the total cooking time is about 30 mins!