Wednesday, December 31, 2008

new year, new changes

The relationship aspect of marriage is wonderful. Getting used to cooking every night, all of the dishes each meal creates, and this haunting tower of dirty laundry is not so wonderful! Amy, Jolyn, how do you guys DO it?!?! My meal creativity is running low, it seems the dishwasher is always running, and I'm struggling to complete LAST week's load of laundry while the bedroom hamper is now full and waiting for a wash! Perhaps it's more difficult now because we're still trying to unpack boxes and put things away. The house isn't completely put together yet, so that's another thing I feel I'm always two steps behind on.

One thing Josh and I are excited to do once life calms down a little bit is get back into our community. We're looking for a place to invest some time into through volunteer work. It will be really great to start that up in the near future.

We're having a New Year's party for a few of our friends tonight, and I'm really excited! I guess this is kind of easing back into social life. I got a great cheese dip recipe from Jineane that I'm anxious to try out, and other people are bringing snacks and such too. The apartment is really starting to look nice! We need to get some more wall art and such, but it's becoming such a home! It's amazing how wonderful it is to have a place to call your own.

Monday, December 29, 2008

sleepover

I think it will be nice to blog again so I can keep up with people who aren't always in the area. I am absolutely cherishing this brand new marriage. I've had middle aged people who are cynics by time tell me that it will fade, I'll chop off all my hair, we'll hate each other in no time, etc etc and all that nonsense.

Josh and I are having SO MUCH FUN!

Last night we cozied up on the couch and ate Christmas goodies while watching Dead Poet's Society. It's one of my favorites, and he'd never seen it before. After the movie, we crawled into bed and started chatting. We talked about the movie, our theories on certain concepts of it, and how much the story line resembles the Messianic story. Then we started laughing out heads off over stories from junior high and high school. We shared stories that showed our naive side, our nerdiness, how we'd changed, and even some serious stories about how we'd been shaped by events in our past.

"This feels kind of like a sleepover, doesn't it?"
"I was thinking the same exact thing!!!!"
"You know those sleepovers where you stay up late talking in bed till your voice is hoarse and you're so tired? Then you look at the time and think, 'Wow, we better go to bed!'"
"I loved those! Especially where you built a fort with sheets!"
"Oh my forts were the absolute BEST....."

We continued laughing and talking about sleepovers, forts, and other things.

Then he grabbed my hand.
"You're my best friend."

I think I'd be very happy if everyday with my husband felt like a sleepover with your best friend. :-)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Unity

I thought I had known togetherness and communion with Josh when he was my fiance. But it's nothing compared to the incredible sense of unity we feel now. On the last night of our honeymoon we laid in bed chatting together. We agreed that already, we'd felt so much closer together than before. It's this mysterious thing that I felt as soon as we were pronounced married, and I've only felt it growing more and more every day.

I can't explain the concept of "one flesh."

I just know now how real it is. And it's wonderful.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

resurface

I've been abandoning this blog because I just haven't had a whole lot of time lately. It's been very interesting....

I am going to graduate. I think. There's just a little bit left to finish, and I think I can do it.

I'm waiting to hear back today about an amazing job opportunity. It would be a dream job for me--amazing and humbling. I'm so anxious. Just to have an interview made me feel honored and even if I'm not selected for the position, I may opt to volunteer there after the New Year begins.

I'm getting married this Saturday. I will be Mrs. Joshua Miser. When I went to a Dr.'s appointment and scheduled a follow-up for six months out, the receptionist put my married name on my appointment card. "Kelly Miser."

Wow.

I don't know if I'll ever get used to that!

But I can't even begin to say how excited I am right now, so I won't even try. :-)

This Saturday...

It's gonna be sweet.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

my parents

I seriously have the best dad EVER.

I'm struggling soooo hard to graduate and get married and move and stay physically healthy all at the same time. He sees my stress and instead of pounding over my head what a dumb decision trying to do all this at once was, he's been nothing but an encouragement to me.

Every morning, I wake up and find a new piece of paper on the kitchen table. The first day, it was of a runner crossing the finish line. Yesterday, it was a picture of "The Little Engine that Could." This morning, I found a cartoon character charging ahead with determination.

I've been hanging every single one on the refrigerator and I intend on keeping them as a memory.

My mom has also been amazing in her own ways too! She has totally stepped in and taken on my wedding plans for me. And I LOVE IT. She doesn't even ask anymore... she just sees and does. It is such a relief to know that someone else thought of the garland or the fake snow, and that she decorated the wreaths and flower girl baskets for me. I would have NEVER gotten around to those things. She leaves me notes of questions about things still to be done and reminders of things left to do. (Like this morning. Marriage license? Yeah... totally forgot about it. Seriously.)

If it weren't for my parents love and support, I would NOT graduate this year and I would have a half assembled wedding and a completely broken down body and emotions. But because of them.... I can see the end in sight. I'm not there yet. There's still a LOT of work to accomplish. But because of them, I know I'm going to make it.

I really love my parents. <3

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

life lessons

It's a beautiful thing to learn from your friends.

To share a piece of your soul with them. I love having relationships like that, because each one is different and unique. That means that only the two of you can know the depth of the relationship and only you two will be shaped in a certain way from that connection.

I have learned some valuable lessons from the people in my life lately. And I've learned that life is good. Life is beautiful. It's worth living. It's an opportunity to grow, and there's always a way to move forward.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

winter beauty

This morning my eyes drank in a beautiful sight.

I walked to the patio window in the dining room and froze from what caught my gaze. Everything was covered in inches upon inches of white. It rested on the grey-brown trees, on my neighbors roofs, and created a rounded pile upon the picnic table. The stone bird feeder had a poofy mound of the snow bursting from it. The world had that echo-y and insulated feel to it, and with my breath caught up by the sight, there was not a sound to be heard.

And then I saw the birds. Scattered all through the yards on our many, many feeders. Their features and flutters were accentuated by the white background around them. I saw little brown sparrows near the door clinging to a nylon sack of seed. Swooping in to join them was a full bodied red cardinal with a regal head and beak. To my left on a cluster of feed hung a large woodpecker. He had the rusted red head with the intricate black and white wings and white belly. He sat there pecking away at the seed block, and he was very very large. Back a little ways with the brightest Bluejay. He was not in their typical fashion of obnoxiousness, for everything was quiet as can be.

There was only a glass window and a whole other world separating me between this community of birds. It was gorgeous and rare. Some of them flew in and out, but not one truly left because the other was there. For some reason, not even the big birds gave much intimidation to the little ones. They all settled into their places and continued feeding and gathering. All of these variations of birds eating, living, and flitting about together in a gorgeously colorful existence. Against the crisp winter background, it was a truly mind capturing sight.

I thought of their diversity. Their community. Their mutual existence. And the peace and quiet. As I backed away from the glass, I wondered to myself what humanity would be like if we all behaved a bit more like these birds.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

it's coming together!

Of course it's not finished yet, but things are really coming together for the apartment! So I just wanted to post some pictures of the main rooms to give out of town people an idea of what it looks like. :-) (You can click on the pictures to get a larger view)



This is the overall view from near the door.



Our dining area



The buffet acts as a great room divider



Our cozy couch and record player



One corner of the room--Josh's techie-ness



The drop-down ceiling above the couch/buffet



The other corner of the room--our cute little reading area. (Notice the table and chairs!!!!!)

Sorry if the pictures weren't very clear or if they were grainy. I took them with my BlackBerry camera, so they're not the best. But it gives you a good idea. :-)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hitting close to home

I read this article in my local news paper today, and I felt the tears brimming across my eyes. This is my community. These are the people I live with, drive on the roads with, shop with, and breath the common air with. I want to do something, but I'm not really sure what to do...


Pantries see more in need


Group aims to stock shelves as layoffs fuel dilemma

By JOSEPH DITS Tribune Staff Writer

SOUTH BEND -- Arthur Hensell is beat. A diabetic, he admits that he doesn't eat enough some days to keep up his health. He can't afford the food.

So he climbs aboard his bike. His right leg still gives him pain, amputated last year after a bad fall in 1996 led to eight surgeries and an infection. But he extends his artificial leg to the pedal and rides a short distance from home to the tiny food pantry at 2406 Mishawaka Ave.

"I've been through a lot," says Hensell, 37, washed out from spending the last week and a half in a hospital. He takes a seat and a cup of coffee here at The Church Lady and Friends Outreach Ministries. He says the doctors want to test him for lung cancer.

Another face, another pantry. It could be anywhere in this country or this county. Check just about any newspaper, and you'll read about the same dilemma.

Incessant layoffs and lack of jobs are forcing a dramatic rise in the number of clients at food pantries, including those who once were donors.Pantries are reporting from 30 percent to 70 percent increases over last year.

That's why the United Way of St. Joseph County and several agencies are urging the public to join People Gotta Eat. The initiative seeks dollars because it's more efficient than a food drive. Numbers vary, but the Food Bank of Northern Indiana estimates $1 can garner up to $8 worth of food.

The goal is $180,000 through this winter, the estimated cost of feeding 1,000 families of four for six months, says Karen Sommers, the United Way's vice president of community investment. About $4,000 has been raised so far.

A proposal is being written to access United Way dollars for People Gotta Eat, too, she says. The United Way is asking several companies to join its own fundraising campaign for the first time; if they say no, Sommers says, they can help People Gotta Eat instead.

Half of the money would go to the Food Bank of Northern Indiana. The other half would go to 46 pantries in St. Joseph County.Pantry donations started to dry up this summer at the St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Joseph County, says pantry director Penny Cyr. Clothing and furniture donations are down now, too.

But the phone rings so much that the staff can't keep up with it. Needy callers get testy, she says.

"There's a certain desperation out there," she says. "It's frightening."

The requests for food there have leapt from 10,500 in 2006 to 17,630 in 2007 to 19,000 in 2008, Cyr says.

The Penn Township Food Pantry sets a new record for clients each month, says Director Mike Hayes -- 451 households in September with 1,124 people, 388 households in October with 1,188 people.Nine out of 10 of the Penn pantry's clients say they were laid off, he says.

Most pantries give out a two- to four-day supply of food, allowing one visit per month. But if they're short on food, they give out less per household.

The Rev. Mary Booth Lyons says she opened her pantry in September 2007, and it's grown quickly. (Yes, The Church Lady is named after the old "Saturday Night Live" skit.) This month Lyons served 75 households, or nearly 300 people, here in a space she shares with the Mountain Top Faith Apostolic Church, which has about 13 members.

She drops food into plastic bags for Hensell, and except for canned salmon, he agrees to everything -- canned beets, peanut butter, Jell-O.

"I count on these people to get me through," he says, adding that he hits this and other food pantries, but not every month.His disability benefits from Social Security, a total of $538, leaves him $38 after he pays rent.

He says he has about $100 in food stamps, but he cannot use them because he lost his state benefit card and other IDs. He's been trying to replace the card for more than a month, to no avail.

The mess-up, he says, is that the local welfare office knows where he lives, but the place that issues the card has an old address for him.

"Can't slow me down," he says, explaining how he's managed to climb a ladder with one leg so he could do odd jobs -- painting or roof work -- for cash.

As he talks, Lyons softly exhales, "I can't take it.""The Lord has just put a burden on my heart," she says. "My definition of neglect is seeing a need and not trying to take care of it."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

mmm.... home

I'll try to put up pictures in the next few days, but Josh and I have moved into our new apartment! Well, I don't sleep there yet, but we've started to arrange it how it will be once we're both living there permanently.
Saturday there was a call for rain and snow all day long, so I was dreading the move. I just imagined wet boxes, wet furniture, wet and grumpy people. But except for a short time and after things were moved in, all the rain held off! We definitely praised God for that!
I felt so extremely blessed by the help and generosity of people. So much has been provided for us by friends and family that it got a bit overwhelming at times. Our families were amazing, but I was also blessed by the friends that came to help us move. It let me know just how special Kevin and Anna are in our life! Kevin has been helping us for almost a week now with packing and now unpacking the apartment, and Anna put in so much gumption with those boxes, cleaning, and helping me decorate! Watching Josh, Kevin, and Jeremy take the couch up three floors was also really amazing! I can't believe they did it.
Our home looks so nice! The spare room/office and bedroom are still being worked on, but the main living space is basically complete! The dining room is beautiful with the red lace tablecloth, Asian placemats and bamboo wall paintings. We have the antique table and hutch that's been in my family for years, and it the hutch is a nice focal point.
We set up the bookshelves in the living room and they look really nice with those chairs and little table I painted! Oh yes! Remember those that I bought at the beginning of the summer? My dear mother finished them for me, and they look amazing!
It was so fun cooking for Josh and I this Sunday. Josh went "Awwww" when he realized it was our first meal together in our new home! He'd gone out for a while and when he came back he said, "It was so comforting to walk up the stairs and smell dinner and know it was coming from my home."
For lunch, I made penne noodles and for him there was beef and gravy to pour over it, and I made a peanut sauce with tofu for myself. For dinner I made Mujaddarah, which is an Egyptian recipe of rice and lentils and I put in cinnamon, cumin, curry powder, and raisins. Josh said that out of all the meals I make, this one smells the best. :-)

I'll try to put up pictures of the apartment soon so everyone out of town can see!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

So I've seen a LOT of people taking this new online quiz lately. It's basically one of those personality quizzes that matches you to something. At first, I thought, "Oh that's such a waste of time--I already know what my personality is." But then I thought, "I love vintage era celebrities. It'd be fun to see who I'm matched with."

I obviously never knew Ingrid Bergman, but I can attest that these personality traits listed are DEAD ON when it comes to myself. Hmm.... kinda fun. :-)


You Are an Ingrid!



You are an Ingrid -- "I am unique"




Ingrids have sensitive feelings and are warm and perceptive.




How to Get Along with Me

* * Give me plenty of compliments. They mean a lot to me.
* * Be a supportive friend or partner. Help me to learn to love and value myself.
* * Respect me for my special gifts of intuition and vision.
* * Though I don't always want to be cheered up when I'm feeling melancholy, I sometimes like to have someone lighten me up a little.
* * Don't tell me I'm too sensitive or that I'm overreacting!




What I Like About Being an Ingrid

* * my ability to find meaning in life and to experience feeling at a deep level
* * my ability to establish warm connections with people
* * admiring what is noble, truthful, and beautiful in life
* * my creativity, intuition, and sense of humor
* * being unique and being seen as unique by others
* * having aesthetic sensibilities
* * being able to easily pick up the feelings of people around me




What's Hard About Being an Ingrid

* * experiencing dark moods of emptiness and despair
* * feelings of self-hatred and shame; believing I don't deserve to be loved
* * feeling guilty when I disappoint people
* * feeling hurt or attacked when someone misundertands me
* * expecting too much from myself and life
* * fearing being abandoned
* * obsessing over resentments
* * longing for what I don't have




Ingrids as Children Often

* * have active imaginations: play creatively alone or organize playmates in original games
* * are very sensitive
* * feel that they don't fit in
* * believe they are missing something that other people have
* * attach themselves to idealized teachers, heroes, artists, etc.
* * become antiauthoritarian or rebellious when criticized or not understood
* * feel lonely or abandoned (perhaps as a result of a death or their parents' divorce)




Ingrids as Parents

* * help their children become who they really are
* * support their children's creativity and originality
* * are good at helping their children get in touch with their feelings
* * are sometimes overly critical or overly protective
* * are usually very good with children if not too self-absorbed

Sunday, November 9, 2008

touching

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

the next morning

I don't care how one or another person voted.... I feel that everyone should be excited to take part in such amazing history.

Sitting alone on the couch late last night, I was knitting away at some fingerless gloves, when I heard, "There will be children in the white house...." and I looked up and my eyes bugged out. "Wow," I quietly whispered.

I have a lot of respect for both candidates, and my favor swung back and forth between them a LOT. And my respect only grew last night for both of them.

McCain's concession speech was beautiful, honorable, and full of dignity. I've rarely heard a more beautiful concession speech, and he was so respectful. As I listened, I thought, "He's a good man. He's a really, really good man."

Seeing the excitement on people's faces for Obama's win was also really endearing. For me, all political feelings were set aside, and I just watched the crowds. I saw the smiles, the jumping, the flag waving, and the tears. And you know what? I cried too. There's things I disagree with Obama on, but I was proud of my country. Like McCain said, I can't imagine how all those who have felt marginalized by society must have felt for a black man to become president.

What was really cool is that this is NOT a black victory. It was not just minorities crying and cheering last night. It was all races, all socio-economic classes, both genders, and multiple religions. This is an American victory and American history. Seeing everyone cheering together made a feel a little like we're a lot more unified. I'd been so tired of all the race remarks and all the accusations the last few months, and it did my heart good to see that it wasn't entirely true. There IS unity in this country.

I've been wary and cautious of Obama at times, but I sat there last night and thought, "I can't wait to tell my kids about tonight." I have high hopes for Obama. Josh mentioned that seeing the crowd last night was amazing, because he hadn't seen hope and joy in Americans like that in years. And it's true. So, I hope he doesn't let these people down. I hope Obama does great things and is a great president. There's some policies I'm not looking forward to, but others I am very interested in.

Democrat or Republican, I feel this is a very exciting time in America. I'm praying that it stays this way.

I feel like it's a good day.


Song for the moment: "Last night I had the strangest dream" by Simon & Garfunkel

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day!



I VOTED!
My first presidential election ever!

It was a beautiful day today, too.

Monday, November 3, 2008

tomorrow

So here's my plug to go out and vote....

VOTE! :-)

I'm really excited this year, because it's my first election. I actually get to participate! If you don't know WHERE you're supposed to go vote, both Obama and McCain have resources on their web site to figure out your polling location.

This weekend was pretty eventul. Josh and I went to see about getting approved for a lease, and if we are approved, we move things into the new apartment on the 15th of this month! O_O Filling out the application was such a wave of emotions for me. It made it more "real" that Josh and I aren't just throwing a big ceremony, but our LIFE will actually be spent together. It made me feel both joyous and also heavy with the weight of responsibility. I cannot believe that I'll be married in six weeks.

Anna and I drove down to Cedar Point yesterday to meet up with Josh and some of his "coaster buddies." We had a great time! I even got Anna to try a few roller coasters she didn't think she would have normally tried. It was great to spend the time talking with her in the car, and except for a few times, the weather was REALLY nice!

Tonight Josh and I are planning on finishing the invitations while watching Once. :-) I'm going to make him some Mexican Hot Chocolate, and I'm bringing home Cambodian-Thai food for dinner! YUM!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

edward hopper

I am an avid Edward Hopper fan.

Josh and I were talking this evening about how to decorate our living room. I'd already chosen the colors blue and white, and I'm incredibly excited about the blue and white stripped couch slip cover I registered for. I painted two antique chairs and a little table a distressed white. But we hadn't paid much attention to wall art!

Together we decided on a Maritime theme. We both love beaches, marinas, and water, and coastal living, so I feel it suits us nicely. Another added bonus for me? Edward Hopper. Here are the paintings which I hope to acquire.


Martha McKeen of Wellfleet


Lighthouse and Buildings, Portland Head


I have some sea glass that I've collected from the shores of Lake Michigan, Hawaii, Maine, California, Spain, and Portugal that I would like to display creatively somehow, but I'm not quite sure what that would look like yet. Hmmm.....

Thursday, October 30, 2008

overwhelmed

Sometimes, this is all just way too much. I am trying to conquer so many giants in my life. I feel like a minuscule version of David--without his sling, or like Joan of Arc without her sword.

I always vowed that my marriage would NOT revolve around money. Being in Sociology, I know the statistics. Money stress is the number one cause of divorce. It grays your hairs, blackens your heart. I realized tonight that my mind has been filled with budgets, credit card payments, how to be a frugal wife to save money, apartment renting, etc. I've felt so much pressure because I desperately need a full time job, and right now, I've had my doubts about acquiring one.

A couple years ago, I have this naive and ideal image in my head conjured up by fiction books and Hollywood movies. It was the romantic story of a young couple, poor as can be, probably artists or something, and they didn't know where the rent was coming from or how long the electric would stay on, but it didn't matter. They were happy, and it was as if financial issues could never touch them. They were the young, indie couple surviving on love. Maybe it's the whole "RENT" philosophy.

As much of a swooner as that story may be, it's not nearly as easy as you may think. I called Josh tonight, crying and freaking out. I told him that I was scared, because we've been preparing to be married in the worldly aspect SO much lately! Our time has been consumed with budget spreadsheets, apartment hunting, job searching, trying to figure out where the rest of our furniture needs will come from... And that's all good, responsible, and extremely necessary. But I felt scared because I felt like the relational aspect of our lives was suffering. We were preparing for married living, yes, but I felt like we stopped preparing to be a married couple! The development of the relationship, the most important part of a marriage, had stopped amongst growing dollar signs.

I expressed all of this to him, and he said, "You're right." So, he said that as soon as we can next week, we should have a "Josh and Kelly night." For one night, we get to lay aside all talk of wedding planning, me trying desperately to get my school projects done, finances, and moving into the apartment. Oh praise Jesus! When he said that, my tears were a mixture of relief and joy, but also still filled with stress and fear of the future. Such a mixture of emotions I can't fully explain. For the first time in quite a while, I will simply get to bask in the joy of having a soul mate. We will get to enjoy each other's company for who we are and the relationship we've built. As important as everything else is, for one evening, we get to TRULY build our home--our relationship. It makes me cry again out of utter happiness and appreciation for my man.

I know we'll make it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

supper = fail

Josh and I set out to do some wedding things this evening at his apartment. I wanted to cook dinner for us just to make it a bit more special. I experimented again. It faaaaailed. lol

I bought some sushi rice and cooked it up. I also bought some tofu. I got this great idea of flavoring it with lime juice and ginger. The flavor was actually quite good, however.... I forgot and bought the wrong kind of tofu. I don't know why, but there's this one brand of tofu that no matter how I prepare it, it falls apart and feels too soft and even slimy. It doesn't keep a firm texture or hold. So, the flavoring concept was great, but the tofu...... bleck. But then, I was thinking about the lime. I thought, "What could I do to the rice to spice it up and go with the lime flavoring?" The correct answer was NOTHING. But what did I do? I searched the Internet for recipes that included ingredients similar to what I'd already used. Somehow, through a long time of recipe searches that got more and more abstract, I came up with the "brilliant" idea of vodka. Yes. VODKA. I thought I would put vodka in the rice to simulate vodka sauce. But without the tomatoes. Or the sauce. Uh-huh. Yeah.... it was SO BITTER. Never doing that again.

But I swear, I am getting the best husband EVER. Because get this: HE ATE IT! haha! He admitted to me that it wasn't very good, but he still ate it. He ate more than I could handle! And then.... my darling even ran out after dinner and brought us back some Dairy Queen. :-) I haven't had dairy queen in over a year, I believe. He was sweet enough to bring me some--even after my horrid dinner.

Monday, October 27, 2008

FIRST SNOW!!!!!!!

It snowed tonight. The first of the season. :-)












possible flu???

Well, there seems to have been a sickness coming around, and it has finally reached me. I thought my steady stream of vitamins, walking, and healthy food would make me invincible to the evil virus, but I was wrong.

This morning, I ate a delicious breakfast of oatmeal, some vanilla yogurt, and peanut butter. It didn't stay in my stomach. :-(

So, I've been sitting on the couch with the heat turned up abnormally high and a couple of blankets spread over me. I watched "The Importance of Being Earnest" in the morning after a failed attempt at going back to sleep. Recently, I discovered the amaaaaazing blog VeganDad, and I've been sifting through his food recipes to write down in my recipe book. I'm starting to build a collection! Maybe I won't be as stumped on what to cook for Josh and I after all!

I did manage to eat a small lunch. I cut a piece of bread in half to make a small sandwich. I made a grilled apple peanut butter sandwich. All you do is slice the apple thinly and lay it onto the bread and spread the PB onto the other slice and then I grilled it in my panini maker. It's actually reeeeally delicious, and then you just eat the leftover apple!

Hopefully I feel better this evening. Josh and I are supposed to have our first premarital counseling session, and I really don't want to cancel!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Apple Lentil Stew

For the first time in awhile, I have an original recipe to share with you! Tonight I threw together something I'll just call Apple Lentil Stew. But FIRST! A poem! By Robert Frost.

October

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes' sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost--
For the grapes' sake along the wall.


Josh and I were sitting on a bench swing by the river this afternoon as the wind was blowing and the leaves were swirling around us, and I read this poem to him while we were sitting there. I thought it was perfectly appropriate for today. And now... my recipe for Apple Lentil Stew. (I warn you, my spice measurements are approx., because I don't actually measure it!)

(makes 2 servings)

1/2 c. green lentils
enough water to make soupy lentils (maybe 3 cups???)
2 tbs olive oil
1/8th onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 apple, peeled and cut into cubes
a few shakes of garlic (1/8 t???)
1/4-1/2 t. curry powder
1/2 t. allspice
1/2 t. cinnamon
salt to taste

Bring water to a boil and add lentils and chopped carrot. Cover and let cook. Meanwhile, in a small pan, saute onion, garlic, curry, allspice, and cinnamon in the olive oil. When the lentils are about half way cooked, add the apple cubes. Then, add the onion and spices mixture to the lentils. Add salt to lentils according to taste. Lentils should still have some water in it--enough for a stew consistency. Pour into bowls and enjoy!



Mmmm.... the apples make a nice sweetness to the stew and pairs with the spices really well. This is a great main dish, and it's vegan!

For dessert, I had a bowl of vanilla yogurt with three sliced strawberries. (It could easily be made vegan through soy yogurt.)



My mother walked into the kitchen and said, "You remind me of a hippie--cooking all this natural food and wearing long flowy skirts like that." I smiled and laughed at her. I'm just trying to be comfortable and healthy!

Hmm... I'll let you guys decide:



(And because I get asked this all the time--yes, that is my natural eye color)

My "song of the day" -- You Don't Have to Move That Mountain by Nickel Creek

Photos!!!!

So here's the pictures from Saturday's canning!



Mmmm.... a whole bushel of apples! And they were ALL peeled and cut by hand!



I've always liked the look of Ball and Mason jars. Such a homey and country feel...



A batch of apples ready to be cooked!



Can you see how tired my eyes are??? Canning is exhaustive!




This is my friend Anna--seeming very excited about her apple slice!



The jars are sealing!



HOORAY!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Canning and Cookies

I spent almost ALL day making and canning applesauce for Josh and I to have for the winter season. At 10 am, I went to Shelton's which is a local grocery store that sells produce and such from the local farms in our area. While I was there, a really nice older man showed me the apples they had available. He showed me their "utility grade" apples, which are basically apples that have blemishes on the skin or a small bruise, but are still good for eating or cooking. They're also half the cost of the "perfect" apples! So I bought a 1/2 bushel of Mcintosh and a 1/2 bushel of Crofton apples for 6.99 each.

I decided not to add any sugar or cinnamon to the apples, so I just cooked them in a large pot. I like more chunky applesauce, so I mashed them with a potato masher. I'd never canned anything before, but I'm proud to say that ever single jar sealed!!! It was such a wonderful feeling of accomplishment to make the applesauce and can it. I think that home cooking and canning is such a lost art in America today. My mom told me that hearing the popping sound of the lids was a comfort memory to her because her mother used to can goods all the time and they would listen for the pops. Some of the jars I used today were my grandmother's, which is also kind of a neat thing. :-)


(I love vintage advertisements! This reminds me of when I was a kid with my mom!)


It took me till 4 pm to finish everything! I was exhausted by the time I was done, and the kitchen was so hot from all the steam and boiling water! Anna came over in the afternoon and she helped me with some of the peeling and cutting, and my mom helped me out too. I was so grateful!

I'm really glad that I have a friend who likes to "be domestic" with me. :-) After dinner, Anna and I also made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, but we both agreed that what made them so good was adding cinnamon to it. The chocolate and cinnamon together reminded me of a cookie version of Mexican hot chocolate. (Mmmm.... one of the best winter treats!) They were quite addicting--I won't say how many I had!

We put the jars of applesauce in a box, and now they're just waiting for a pantry to be stored in! I hope Josh and I can get the apartment fairly soon. I'm thinking of also canning some butternut squash while it's still in season. It would be so convenient for making soup in the wintertime.

I'll post pictures of the canning process soon!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Food Project

In doing research for my independent study, I ran across two really cool organizations. One of them is the Red Hook Community Farm project in Brooklyn. They created a miniature urban farm right in southern Brooklyn to help their community gain access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and they also employ teenagers to work their farm for them.

The Food Project is a similar and slightly larger operation in a town just outside of Boston. They own several urban farms and a great big suburban farm just outside of the city. Half of the food they produce are donated to the local food pantries, and the other half is sold through CSAs and Farmer's Markets at more affordable prices. They also employ local youth to work the urban farms. Another interesting project of theirs is the backyard gardener mentoring--they teach those living in the urban area to grow a backyard garden and offer free lead testing for their soils.

Organizations like these are really amazing because they help deliver healthy foods to people who have less access to it, they employ teenagers to give them a productive activity and it helps them gain useful skills, and it is also an advancement towards sustainable and environmentally helpful agriculture.

Here is a video about The Food Project that goes into greater detail about their organization and mission:

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Discouragement and Hope

Friday was such an interesting day for me. I woke up extra early to go into my job at the bank. It was going to be a full day and a Friday at that. Fridays at bank are like hell--for the customers and for the tellers. As I was inching my way along with the traffic in downtown South Bend, eyeing the time, I just had this random thought of, "What on earth am I doing?"

As a sociologist, I know all about the Industrial Revolution and the Protestant Work Ethic, and I can spout off to you reasons why America became a work-obsessed nation. But the day to day human inside of me still can't understand how a whole people could get sucked into this terrible lifestyle. I thought about how I am starting to live my life to work, how my soon to be husband practically lives his life to work. I thought about how my parents see each other about 5 minutes total in a day because of how much they both have to work. Struggling to turn into the parking garage, I suddenly burst out, "HOW PATHETIC!" I just could not understand WHY we allow ourselves to live like this--no matter if this is the cultural expectation or not.

Then I finally got to walk into the bank and I looked at my coworkers and silently thought, "You're nice people, but I'm getting tired of you!" It wasn't them personally, it was just the concept of how much time I spend working. I looked at my manager and thought, "I will see you today more than I will see my fiance. There is just something dreadfully wrong about that."

I'm not saying these things as a lazy person or someone trying to get out of work. I thought about Europe and that sacred tea time or siesta where the businesses shut down and families get to go home for about 2 hours and just rest and be with their spouses and children. As my day droned on with cash counting and explaining overdrafts, I thought about how wonderful it would be if America was more like Europe. I think my days would be so much less stressful if I could hug my Josh and share a cup of tea with him halfway through. But then I also thought about how far away everything in America is now. It's not like the nice segmented villages where you can walk to every house and business you need. I take a 20 minute drive to work and a 30 minute drive to school into another state every day. How desperately I wish it was a 20 minute walk instead.

I've spent my morning looking at various job openings in the area. I'm about ready to graduate, and although I don't have 3-5 years experience, maybe some compassionate soul will let me into a professional position to get that experience. I actually submitted a resume to a local social service agency. There's a couple positions that I might be qualified for (minus the preferred experience.) It would be nice to work in a social service position. You never know--anything could happen.

On the upside, my weekend in Ft Wayne was really really wonderful. Josh and I were really blessed by a wonderful shower from his side of the family. Once again, I felt humbled by the generousness of family and friends helping us prepare for our marriage. Aunt Julia and Jodi decorated the shower so cute too--all in pink! I'll post pictures of it later. We also went out for Jeremy's (my future brother in law) birthday to this great Thai restaurant where I had this fantastic rice/tofu/coconut milk/peanut sauce dish that was sweet, but also so hot it made my mouth and lips BURN.

Mmmmm I cant wait to go apple picking. I want to can homemade applesauce for Josh and I to have through the winter.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mobile blog

I'm actually writing this short blog post from my BlackBerry phone. Its not that I couldn't grab my new laptop (thanks Josh!!!!) From the living room, but I'm already snuggled into bed and don't feel like burrowing out of my mountain of blankets.

Blogging may be few and far between the next 8 weeks. Work has been killing me with their hourly demands and my body and spirit is quite worn out. Most of my leftover energy is going towards trying to stay on my schoolwork and wedding stuff.

Josh and I are currently in the process of addressing invitations and making out picture slideshow. I'm also planning on making my own veils (a ceremony veil and a birdcage veil for going-away), so I'll be shopping for those materials soon. We are also on the hunt for living room furniture. I've been scoping out Craigslist lately.

This Saturday, Josh's family is throwing me a shower in Fort Wayne, so I will be there again this weekend.

Well.... That's about it!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Spinach Strata

This evening, my mother and I decided to make Spinach Strata. For my birthday, she and my dad bought me a cookbook called Vegetarian Meals by Good Housekeeping. I was thumbing through the recipes this afternoon and decided this one would be a good dinner to try. It's sort of an interesting twist between a sandwich, quiche, and french toast.

We cut the recipe down from 6 servings to 2 servings. Here is the original recipe:

8 slices firm white bread
4 oz. mozzarellas cheese, shredded (1 cup)
1 package (10 ounces) frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 T. butter or margarine, softened
2 c. milk
6 large eggs
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. ground black pepper

1. Grease 8x8 inch glass baking dish. Place 4 bread slices in dish; top with 1/2 c. cheese, all spinach, then remaining cheese. Spread butter on 1 side of each remaining bread slice; place in dish, buttered side up.
2. In a medium bowl, with wire whisk, beat milk, eggs, basil, salt, and pepper until blended. Slowly pour egg mixture over bread slices. Prick bread with fork and press slices down to absorb egg mixture. Cover baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight.
3. Preheat oven to 350. Remove cover from baking dish; bake strata until knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Each serving: Aprox. 290 calories and 17g. protein




The things I changed in the recipe:

I used more cheese than what was called for--I sort of just sprinkled on there what I thought was good.
I don't think I used enough spinach. I also sprinkled on there what looked decent, but it ended up not being enough.
We used soy milk instead of regular milk.
I used whole wheat bread since we don't buy white bread (I didn't feel it made any difference anyway)
We didn't have fresh basil leaves, so we only used 1 T. of the dried basil flakes



We both felt like you could REALLY taste the basil in here. It had a nice, smooth taste to it--probably from the cheese and egg. Despite the basil, we still felt like it could have used a bit more flavor. This could be because we're so used to using lots of herbs, but the two things we thought could be good were either garlic or some rosemary.



The shininess you see in the picture is actually the strata still boiling since it had just come from the oven. Because we had a smaller amount, we used the toaster oven to bake it. Maybe this is from being in a smaller area like the toaster oven, but about 15 minutes into the baking, we felt like we should put some foil over it so the top wouldn't get too brown. Perhaps this would be different in a conventional oven. It also took a bit less time to bake. We uncovered it for the last 10 or so minutes so the top could get more brown. It's not quite as neat and pretty as the cookbook oven, but it looked and tasted really good!



We paired the strata with a grilled peach with cinnamon on it as our dessert. Everything was so good! The strata was pretty filling--I couldn't eat all of mine. I think this is a definite make-again!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Maple spice cooki... erm... scones!

So I've determined that I'm much better at cooking than I am at baking. Which is sad, because in theory, I like baking so much better! I can't make bread for the life of me, and apparently, my cookie talent is getting worse too! I've had a craving for traditional "fall foods," so I set out to make some maple spice cookies. Somehow, they ended up tasting exactly like maple scones instead! So, if I just pretend that I intended to make scones, everything is ok then! Right? Hmmm....

Anyway, here is my recipe for maple spice SCONES!

1/2 c. margarine, softened
1/2 c. pure maple syrup
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 c. white flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt

Cream together margarine, maple syrup, vanilla, and the egg. Add flour and spices till combined. Bake 15 or so minutes at 350 degrees till bottoms are slightly brown.



Mmm.... the batter had a nice texture to it, and even before I began baking, the house had a nice, crisp, spicy smell to it!



I formed the dough into little disks, thinking they'd flatten out like cookies do. But no--these aren't cookies--they're scones! So they stayed relatively the same shape, but it did end up being nice little pieces.

Because the syrup was the only sweetness in the scones, I made a glaze to pour over them.

1 T. butter
1 c. powdered sugar
1-2 T vanilla soy milk
some drops of maple extract.

I poured the glaze on the scones directly out of the oven. Then I topped each one with a walnut. They're actually quite delicious! They make a great breakfast snack and go really well with tea.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Eventful weekend

Friday evening was quite eventful! My dear friend, Anna, came down from St. Joe to meet me at my place, and I cooked dinner for her. I made a chickpea based veggie burger with chickpeas, onions, carrots, parsley, and a host of herbs and spices. I set it open face on a whole wheat slice of bread accompanied by a side of Havarti cheese and some grapes. (Sorry, it didn't cross my mind to take a picture!) I'd never made this recipe before, but we both thought it was delicious! I personally thought it was a bit too salty though, so I would cut that down next time.

Then we headed out to Trio's in South Bend to listen to the jazz music and relish in their great appetizers. We ordered the baked Brie, and it was fantastic! Personally, I like the baked Brie better at Indigo on Seventeen, but Trio's was still very good! It came with a size of strawberry preserves, granny smith apples, and a variety of crackers. The flavors were their fullest when you combined EVERYTHING together.



The atmosphere of Trio's is really nice, because the Jazz Club area and the regular sit-down restaurant are in two separate areas, however, they're both very open, so the sound can spill out from the club and into the restaurant. I thought that was a nice touch to separate the two, yet keep them together.

This morning, Josh and I went shopping for my wedding band. I've looked around over the past several months for a wedding band, and the way my ring is designed lends for a difficult like. The prongs on the sides of my ring mean that a regular circular band won't fit well next to it. But lo and behold, today we found a beautiful, petite guard wrap that really accentuated my engagement ring nicely without taking away the attention of the e-ring. I just love it! I told Josh that we didn't need to go anywhere else--this was the one I wanted!

Friday, October 10, 2008

From one book to another

Well, I've finished "French Women Don't Get Fat." My final review is that it's an EXCELLENT book with a lot of helpful advice. A lot of it is common sense, yes, but the vast majority of Americans don't eat with common sense. I think it's also a good book for people who want to be healthy and slim but have an abhorrance for gyms or a dread of giving up chocolates or other indlugences. What's nice is that the author shows how French styles of eating allows for these indulgences in moderation and how to get your exercise (walking) in a non-intrusive or intimidating way like the StairMaster (the author's personal abhorrance.)



Last night, I started another eating/food lifestyle book called "Skinny Bitch." (Yes, there is a swear word in the title.) And although the "potty-mouth" and sassy style of the book IS likely to turn a lot of people off to it, the content is still very much true. Despite all the sacrcasm, there is a lot of backed-up scientific information about health, the food industry, and body chemistry. Some of it is the same information I've already learned because I've been reading more extensively lately, but there's still new things to learn, and you can also learn the same thing in a new light or with an added concept.

They are avid vegan proponents and give details of the modern meat industry. I've already know these things, but it's worth reading again. Eating meat may have been ok in the 1800's when you or neighbor Farmer Joe raised it, but today's meat industry IS very shady in letting conditions get extremely filthy and diseased and supervisors fail to follow testing procedures on the meat. Not to mention that slaughterhouses are the number one most dangerous job for workers and there's pretty horrific accidents that occur daily on account for more and more production at a faster and cheaper rate.

However, there's one downfall to the book. What is supposed to be meant as witty sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek attitudes can be a bit dangerous to people with low-self-esteem. It's not a language to be taken seriously--only the facts laced within them. I can see how, if someone took the attitude of the authors too seriously, it could lead to a poor self esteem and a fear of food. That's been the main controversy surrounding the book through other reviews I've read. That being said, I think it IS possible to read this book and learn something from it. But there are far better ones that can be read. This book isn't a necessity to a good food lifestyle like I would say of the previous book I read. Therefore, I wouldn't DIScourage someone from picking it up, but I would give a word of caution that there is language, there are sarcastic put-downs about what you eat, and it has to be taken lightly with a grain of salt.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Re-cap

I've had an extremely eventful last several days, so I think I'll just give a summary of it all since there's so much!

Thursday Josh and I rushed out of work to meet up and head to Chicago. We were meeting Stephanie and Andrew for a Weezer concert. The concert was absolutely amazing. Now, small confession on my part, I've never been to a real "rock concert" before--I was pretty much raised on stage theater and symphonies. So this was a new experience for me! I definitely did some strength training that night in holding my own through pushing and shoving crowds! We were only about 4 or 5 people deep from the stage. And of course, Weezer gave an amazing performance.

We didn't get home till about 3 am, and then I had to be up at 6:30 the next morning for work. Three hours of sleep, working a full day at a bank, on a Friday, during the beginning of the month. I think my concept of customer service died that day and I just ran everybody through my window like cattle. lol

If that wasn't kinda crazy enough, when Josh and I got out of work Friday evening, we then ran off to Fort Wayne for a BEN FOLDS concert! Ben was playing with the Fort Wayne symphony, and I really enjoyed it. He even played some of the older stuff from Ben Folds Five. I wished he'd played a few more songs off his latest album--he only did about two or three. But it was a good concert, and I bought the tour shirt.

We stayed the weekend at Josh's mother's house. Josh's mom is really good at making the American "comfort foods." It's soooo delicious, but it's the kind of food that's already not good for you in the first place, but you can't help going back for more! My health-food mentality and I had several internal wars over the weekend!

I also went to the Vera Bradley outlet sale over the weekend. I like their purses and stuff, but I'm not nearly as into them as Josh's mother is! Nevertheless, I still had a really good time and I got some amazing deals there too. I don't think I'd ever pay full price for any of their items ever again. I think my favorite purchase would be their belts for a dollar a piece.

While we were in the Fort, we absolutely HAD to stop at De Brand's. I pity anyone who never in their life gets to experience De Brand's chocolate. It makes the South Bend Chocolate Company seem as cheap as Hersey's. They make these exquisite fine chocolates in all of these exotic flavors like Aztec with chili powder, or candied jasmine flower chocolates, or even a Mayan chocolate that actually has gold flakes sprinkled on top the chocolate. I'm telling you--it's absolutely DIVINE.



This is there connoisseur collection. Just one of these little squares are above 2 dollars a piece, but I would pay every cent--they're absolutely worth it.

We got back into South Bend on Sunday afternoon just in time to meet my parents for a birthday dinner at Papa Vino's. As soon as I sat down I began to indulge myself in their Italian bread and herbed olive oil. I don't know what it is about olive oil, but I absolutely adore it. I had an amazing tri-colored tortellini dish. (No picture, sorry.) Our waitress was very nice, and she even sent home with me a raspberry cheese cake with homemade raspberry sauce for my birthday.

My parents gave me a VERY lovely gift for my birthday--they have me an earring and necklace set of solitaire brown pearls to wear for my wedding. They're so elegant--I can't wait to wear them for the first time! I wanted something that I'd be able to wear again after the wedding was over, and these are absolutely perfect. I'll put up a picture of them later for everyone to see.

Last night when I came home from working out, I had a bit of a scare. I found my mother in a panicked state, and she told me that her brother has in the hospital and was having a heart attack. This particular uncle of mine (because the Lord knows, I have many) is really young--still in his 50's. We waited around to find out how his surgery went, and it appears that he'll be alright. They put stints in the arteries, and my mom is going to go visit him this afternoon. I know there were a lot of prayers for him that evening.

Today is my actual birthday and I kicked off my celebration with oatmeal mixed with 1/2 banana, yogurt, and a spoonful of peanut butter. Yumm... I'm going to keep on celebrating at the Secretary of State in a little bit because my license expires today! Yippee! Tonight, Josh is taking me out to dinner at Indigo on 17 which I am extremely excited about! I've never been there, but I've heard many good things about it. Then, if the rain holds out, we're going to go to a corn maze where you try to get through it in the dark! (I love how Josh and I ALWAYS do a random and unconventional mixture of something fine and sophisticated and then something more casual and silly. What a blend!)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

From one book to another

I have finished "In Defense of Food," and my review is that it should be required reading for every American. I learned a lot about science through food chemistry, natural science, and even biology through this book which greatly helped me understand food, nutrients, and the like. I think one of the biggest lessons I took from the book was his mantra that "A food is greater than the sum of its nutrients, and a cultural cuisine is greater than the sum of its foods." Basically, reductionist science doesn't work in the culinary world of diet and health, and it's not necessarily about the solitary nutrients like protein, fats, etc etc. I liked it.

In his "food principles," I think my favorite suggestion of his was to "never buy anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food, and that includes never buying anything with INGREDIENTS your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food." I liked his funny example of how "Go-gurt" is NOT yogurt.

And now, my new book to read is "French Women Don't Get Fat." I'm three chapters into it, and I ALREADY consider it a "required reading" for every American--woman OR man. I'm incorporating it into my independent study bibliography because it gives insight into French culture, and it's also the perspective of a French woman on the topic of American food habits. It's really great, and easy to read. Plus, I'm excited about all the recipes she includes. I think her basic premise of the book is that you really can eat whatever you want--it's a matter of when, how much, and of what QUALITY you eat it. Thus far, my favorite sentence of wisdom is based on indulging in chocolate. To paraphrase, she says that, "A small piece of fine, dark Chocolate will excite and satisfy your palate far more than twenty Snicker's bars ever could." Indeed, how true. I'll let you know my final review of the book once it's finished. (I'm anticipating that shouldn't take *too* long.)

My mom came to the gym with me today, and she even signed up--she liked it that much! We did some cardio together, and then I did some killer weights, and then we basked in the pool, the hot tub, and this amazing steam room that smells like eucalyptus. That room REALLY clears out your sinuses, and one woman in the room said it was also great for headaches. Nice! I'm excited to have a workout buddy when I get married. I've been trying to get Josh to work out with me ::crosses fingers::, however, the Fitness USA gym is segregated except for a few cardio machines in a small room, so even if he joined that particular gym with me, we couldn't REALLY work out together. But that's ok, because my mom and I both agreed that this would be a great way to get together after I'm married!

Monday, September 29, 2008

A REAL workout

Over the weekend, I joined a gym. Today was my first real experience working out at a gym and having a trainer follow me around to give me guidance. I think it makes ALL the difference! When I was working on the weights, she said to me, "This won't be your whole work-out. You're working new muscles here, so we'll just do a bit and get you up to the whole thing." ::bug eyes:: I already "feel it," but it's a good feeling it.

First I did 10 minutes of really fast walking on the treadmill, and then I did 10 minutes on the elliptical, and finally I did the recumbent bike for about 8 minutes.

I did LOTS of weights and machines, and I don't remember what they all were. There was a lot of working the arms, the legs, the stomach--all really good stuff. I finished it with doing a short 5 minute spurt on the elliptical again.

I'm excited about trying out some of the classes--especially the yoga classes. But I think I might branch out and try things like kickboxing too.

Today at work, one of my co-workers and I decided to become accountability partners with what we eat and how we exercise. I think we might even work out together every now and then too. We both started a keeping a little booklet as a "food diary" to help us review our eating habits and such. I think it'll be really great!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

This has been an eventful weekend! Thursday evening, Josh and I held an "Office Premier Party." We started out the evening at Chili's, and I'm very proud to say that I did NOT OVER-EAT, and I checked the nutritional guides ahead of time and ate accordingly. :-) The party was great. Beforehand, I bought some Barbie dolls from Goodwill and spray-painted them gold for the "Dundette Awards" for everyone there. Josh came up with some catchy awards such as Kevin's "Leaky Roof Landlord Award," and everyone seemed to get a kick out of it. We even made Jello with mini staplers and calculators in them. We also played Office Trivia during the commercials and snacked on soft pretzels. :-D

Friday night a bunch of us went to Notre Dame's midnight drum circle. I hadn't gone since I was a freshman, so I thought it would be fun. It's not exactly "my thing," but I did enjoy it and enjoy being with people. It was fun to see all the excitement and pretend like I knew the cheers. ;-)

Saturday I went to a baby shower for my friend Amy. I DID overindulge with all of the yummy snacks Jineane prepared, I must admit! We had cute petit fours, grapes, and bread squares with an amazing cheese dip or olive oil. Mmmm I just couldn't stop! I tried to make up for it later by going to the gym. I worked on the treadmill, elliptical, and the recumbent bike. Then a bunch of us got together at Kevin's house and just hung out and I was presented with more snacks. Ugh. But I mostly munched on yummy apples and a few cracked wheat crackers.

This morning, I've skipped church. Yes, I'll admit it. I don't advocate doing that very often, and I enjoy church. But this morning, I just felt like I needed a day to myself. I got up around 9 a.m. and I did a 50 calorie warm up on my elliptical, and then I grabbed my dumbbells and took a 20 minute walk around the neighborhood. It was such a nice and cool morning. I loved listening to the little creeks and hearing the birds chirp. However, I almost got pummeled by a big green nut of some sort. They're the size of golf balls, and they're falling out of this one type of tree. It made a big, loud "THUD/SNAP" on the ground right behind me just seconds after I'd taken a step from the very place it landed. I eyed it for a second and thought about how badly that might have hurt if it had decided to crash onto my head.

I've never fasted in my life before, whether it be for religious or health reasons. When my youth group did the whole "30 Hour Famine," I was never able to do it for health reasons. But all that stuff is cleared up, and today I'm attempting to do a water and tea fast. I'll probably keep it up for the duration of the day, and towards the end of the evening, I think I'll have a banana and crackers or something small like that so I don't go to bed on an empty stomach. Today will be filled mostly with reading to catch up on my homework and prepare for Wednesday's quiz in Crisis Intervention!

For the record, I've lost 13 pounds so far. :-D

Friday, September 26, 2008

Engagement Pictures!

You can see all of them in the same blog that I linked for the slide show. I'll just post a few of them here. :-)











Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Crisis Intervention

My favorite college course this semester is probably my crisis intervention class. I love it because it is so applicable to every day life. Everyone needs to be valued and feel important, and everyone goes through a crisis at some point in their life. I've taken several human services/counseling/psyc classes, and this is by far one of my favorites. Tonight's topics felt really potent.

First we discussed mental illness in relation to law enforcement and those who are incarcerated. It was really interesting to study the reactions of policemen who have crisis/mental health training compared to those who don't. There's a high percentage of mentally ill people incarcerated for misdemeanor crimes by officers with no intervention training, and the number drops dramatically (7% I believe) for arrests when an officer DOES have special training. The difference is the ability to recognize mental illness and take the alternative route of helping the offender into a rehabilitation center.

We also did a study of the mentally ill who are in prisons. It's amazing how prisons are just holding spots for people--the majority are not bent on rehabilitation whatsoever. If a person with a mental illness does not have money or resources, then they don't get the medications they need, and their disease normally just deteriorates the person, when some simple medications would really fix a lot of the issues going on.

We segwayed into the issue of homelessness by talking about how many people who are mentally ill become homeless. It's amazing to hear the stories and situations. We watched another amazing video clip about homeless people who are mentally ill. In the video was a really striking and convicting statement:

"Homeless people who are mentally ill are worse off than stray dogs. At least stray dogs are picked up and given shelter. We don't even do that for these human beings."

I was really moved and bothered by that statement. I guess I never paid much attention to the issue of mental illness and the chain reaction that can happen in our society. It's amazing what a broken system we have.

I love my class because it opens my eyes to the worlds of other people and situations outside of my own life. It gets me out of my bubble. I feel like it also really helps me prepare for talking to people on a day-to-day basis.

We had to do this exercise where we got in pairs, and for 5 minutes, we had to role play a person in a crisis calling a hotline, and the other person was the hotline crisis worker. It was SO HARD. When I was portraying the crisis worker, a solution that seemed like an "well, duh" situation became me stammering and wondering, "How do I convey this concept to a person in the midst of confusion, pain, and possibly even danger?" Or better yet, "How do I guide this conversation to help this person be able to come to a safe and wise solution on their own and in their own terms?" It was NOT EASY. You can't just go into the advice-giver, "this is cut and dry, now do it" mentality. I've really been forced to look through the eyes and minds of other people lately and get outside myself. It's been challenging, but SO GOOD for me.

I'm not intending to become a crisis worker, so I guess I'm just really hoping to leave this class a better friend, a better wife, daughter, co-worker, and overall, better human being with a greater understanding of others and how to be a safe place for people in crisis.

Man, I really love this class!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A (healthy!) chocolate fix

Well, if cayenne, ginseng, Vit C, Zinc, and all the other vitamins out there can't cure a cold, then at least there's CHOCOLATE!

I've mentioned the blog Eat, Live, Run a few times before. The author of the blog is a woman named Jenna, and I read ELR on a daily basis. I've discovered several new foods and vitamins thanks to her! A few days ago, she posted her own recipe for vegan brownies. It looked awesome and really easy, so I decided to try and make my own tonight. They turned out fantastic!

However, I can't seem to ever leave any recipe completely alone. The one thing I changed in Jenna's recipe is that I used 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour. Other than that, I followed it exactly. Here is Jenna's Vegan Brownie recipe:

Makes 12 brownies

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa (preferably organic. I like Green and Black)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cup soy milk
2 tbsp pure maple syrup

1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8”8” baking dish with nonstick spray.
2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the chocolate chips and stir until combined.
3. Add the olive oil, soymilk and maple syrup and stir gently only until combined. Don’t over mix.
4. Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 45-50 minutes. Let cool before slicing into 12 squares.



For my oven, the time was too long. It was in there for about 45 minutes when I noticed the sides were beginning to pull in and the top was cracking (you can see that in the picture), so I quickly pulled it out. However, I don't think that hindered the yummy-ness factor in the least. Jenna claims that a serving of these brownies have approx. 200 calories as opposed to 400 calories in a "traditional" brownie consisting of eggs, butter, etc.

She was right that it is a bit more of a cake-like texture and not the flat and gooey brownie that you're probably used to. But I don't think this recipe sacrifices taste OR texture AT ALL. I think this recipe will become a norm for me when I make brownies.

Mmmm....



(Click on the picture of the slice to get a bigger and fuller view of it. It looks even more enticing when you can see it in all its detail and glory! YUM!)

Hmmm.... no title here

"Kelly, do you realize we only have 10 weekends left before we're married?" --Josh

::gulp:: Cripes! Never has a statement implemented such a mixture of excitement AND fear inside of me! I'm so busy as it is right now that I feel like my head could fall off from the weight of all the thoughts, plans, to-do lists, and over-due to-due lists bogging down my mind. Towards the end of October, my friend Jineane and I are going to go shopping for "the little things" that are necessary in a wedding like an aisle runner, spaklers for leaving the reception, etc etc. There's still so much that needs to be done, like a meeting with the head of the reception hall, shopping for a flower girl dress for Emily, honeymoon things, etc etc. and if I keep thinking about it, this post will become a to-do list! ;-)

The Office season premiere is this Thursday evening!!!!! I am so excited to the point of flipping out. Josh and I are throwing a party in its honor with some of our friends. Yesterday, I worked hard at shopping for the necessary supplies, food, etc. We've got some fun and cute things planned--I hope people have fun! Ah, yes. I can't wait to dive into the Jim and Pam saga again!

Last night and this morning, I've felt really sick. I hope it's not a cold or anything long term. My eyes have felt sore and heavy, my appetite has deceased, and I feel so much fatigue that sometimes I seem lightheaded and woozy. I've taken all of my regular vitamins and supplements, a lot of which are supposed to aid with colds and the immune system. However, I think I'm going to try to find a recipe to make tonight that contains both ginger and garlic because those are also two helpful herbs, and I'll probably drink my Ginseng/Green tea tonight too. Mmmm.... any excuse for extra tea.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Recipe Review: Homemade Tortillas & Vegetarian Enchiladas!

I love Saturdays, because it's a day when I actually have the opportunity to cook! I'll normally cook on Saturday and make a large amount of the food for leftover lunches throughout the week. It's a good time saver!

This morning I started out by making homemade tortilla shells. I'm trying to get away from bleached and enriched flour, so I thought I'd use the organic whole wheat flour I bought to make my own shells! I found the recipe I used here. One weird thing about this recipe is that I cut it down to yield twenty servings. I rolled these babies as thin as I could, and I got seven medium size tortillas out of the dough. So if anyone wants to use this recipe, I would plan accordingly. The recipe I'll post here is for the original "60 servings." Here it is:

Ingredients:

* 5 cups all-purpose flour
* 2 tablespoons shortening
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 1/2 cups boiling water

Directions:

1. Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt in large bowl. Cut in shortening to resemble cornmeal. Add water slowly, mixing with your hands to make a soft dough. You may not need all the water.
2. Knead a few minutes on floured surface until smooth and elastic. Lubricate top with oil, put back in bowl and let rest, covered for 10 minutes.
3. Divide into small balls the size of golf balls and proceed to roll out into size and thickness you prefer.
4. Cook on top of stove over medium heat using a cast iron grill or heavy skillet until top is slightly bubbly then turning on opposite side for a minute or two.
5. Keep stacked and warm inside a clean dish towel.

They turned out really tasty! I think it's something I'll make on a continual basis just to have. I like them a lot better than the store-bought ones anyway.



Then I went on to make the filling for the enchiladas. I sort of just used things that I found around the house. Earlier in the morning I pressed a whole package of tofu to squeeze out of some the water. For the filling, I started by caramelizing a chopped onion in olive oil on the stove. While I did that, I steamed some broccoli. I added cubed tofu to the onions, chopped broccoli, chopped carrots, cilantro, parsley, fresh sage, and oregano. While that was in the saute pan, I worked on the sauce. (I also added a little bit of cheese afterwards when I was placing the filling into the tortilla shells.)



The recipe I used for the sauce was more so a mixture of a bunch of recipes I found that I combined together. Here are the ingredients that I used:

1 t. cayenne pepper
2 T. cumin
3 t. flour
1 t. oregano
1 t. parsley
2 cloves garlic
1 t. pepper
2 1/2 c. vegetable stock
Cheese

I would actually recommend only using 1/2 t. cayenne pepper. Although I liked it the way it was, it was on the high end of hot and spicy for me. You make this just like any sauce--combine the ingredients (except the cheese) and boil it till the flour makes it thicken. Then you add the cheese into the sauce to melt. The tortillas should be filled and lines up in a casserole dish and then just pour this sauce over everything.

I let it bake for about 28 minutes, and it made the house smell REALLY good!



Even my mother liked it, despite the fact that she was wary of the tofu! ;-) I think it's something I'll make again. It was really filling and I loved the full flavor of all the spices. Between filling the shells and the sauce, I used a whole brick of cheese. Even though it was made to feed 6 people, I think that was a bit much, and I'll probably use less next time.

Because the tortilla shells weren't pre-made, this took me a LONG time. The entire morning, as a matter of fact. However, I think that if I have the shells already made, it will go a lot quicker next time.

Oh! In other news, Josh and I met with the wedding planner a few days ago, and things are coming along really well! There's still so much to be done, but things are starting to fall into place! We took our engagement pictures last week with our photographer Katie from Guided Light Photography. (The link is to her blog where you can see a slide show of our pictures!) We've seen the pictures, and absolutely love them! They're so fun and carefree--totally us! She was fantastic, and I'm so excited!