November 29, 2010

So much Thanksgiving. So little stomach.

I think I'm still full.

Yea...we're cute.

Wine. Handsome guy stoking the fire. Smile.

Thanksgiving day with my family. Boyfriend meet the crazies. All in all it was quite tame. I shouldn't have been worried. Aunts remained sober. Embarrassing childhood photos were kept at a minimum. We came. We ate. We were on the road before the tryptophan could put us down.

A beautiful drive set to the smooth sounds of Jon Yerby.

Oklahoma bound! Three days that could arguably demand that this post be re-titled "How much can we eat in 72 hours?" Turns out the answer is - a lot. A whole lot. Chocolate cookies. Banana pudding. Oyster stuffing. Garden eggs. Lasagna. Blueberry french toast. More garden eggs. Turkey sandwiches. And that was just the first stop.

Cow babies!

Then it was off to Tulsa. More family. More food magic. Taco Bueno (which is, in fact, bueno), duck, ribs from Jameel's, pecan pie with whiskey sauce (yes - whiskey sauce!!). We also managed to fit in two trips to Jamba Juice and a quick pop-in at Topeca Café in honor of Momma West. I almost forgot the biscuits and bacon gravy (mmm....I hope Nanny is willing to do that every year). Oh and Schlotzsky's. Ah geez. Thinking about all this food again makes me want to take a nap.

Wish you were there, momma! 

All in all, a really great trip. Meeting the extended families part one concluded and, I think, a big win. This girl is excited about part two coming in two weeks. Watch out Peoria. Here we come. We're on a roll.

November 24, 2010

Baking, baking, baking....

Schedule yesterday:

Work. Meetings. Work. Power Nap. Bake. Cousin. Bed.

....alright...I also watched some Friday Night Lights on Netflix streaming. Season 4. I'm addicted.

November 22, 2010

Tasty Treat turned Perfect Gift

Thanksgiving is Thursday, this Thursday. I'm not sure how that happened. It really snuck up on me this year and, this year, is a big one. There will be the traditional afternoon eat-your-heart-out-two-turkey-lots-of-sides dinner at my mom's house and then it's time to hit the road again and head to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

I'll be spending the majority of the holiday weekend with various members of a certain handsome guy's family. I'm really looking forward to it. There will be naps, walking around on the farm land and, I'm pretty sure, I've heard something about a trip to Jamba Juice (?). I'm also hoping to sneak in a trip to Topeca Coffee for a cup of Santa Ana roast. But, all this to say, that a girl shouldn't go meet the extended family empty-handed.

What does it take to turn a tasty treat into the perfect gift? The packaging makes all the difference. You could just stick some Holiday Pecans in some regular old tupperware or you could put on your crafting hat and snazz up a few mason jars.

What you need:

Mason Jars (I happened to have a few mason jars in the basement, but you can also pick them up at almost any discount or grocery store. They'll run you about $15 for a dozen, depending on the size and type you choose.)
White Shipping Labels or Craft Paper and Tape (You'll use these to make your own labels)
Ribbon or Fabric

I designed my stickers on the computer and printed them directly on the shipping labels. It takes a steady hand to cut them out, but creates a nice sharp look. You could also get extra-crafty with some markers (a great job for little ones if you're making this a family project).

Wrap some pretty ribbon around the body of the jar and fasten with your sticker label.

Next, divvy up your treat of choice (I'm using Holiday Pecans) evenly between your mason jars and be sure that the lid is sealed tight. Ta-da!

I kept everything pretty simple due to time and travel, but you can go all out with your jar decoration. They make great containers for any bite sized gift. Go. Bake. Decorate. Give.

November 21, 2010

Holiday Pecans

Consider my holiday baking procrastination ended.

The Recipe:

This is my mom's recipe. She makes them best, but mine turned out pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. Making the pecans is easy, it just takes some time. I tripled the recipe below so I'd have enjough to enjoy and share.

1 egg (separated)
4+ cups pecan halves (the sugar mixture is enough to coat more than the 4 cups of pecans the recipe calls for)
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

Beat the egg white until foamy. Gently stir in the pecan halves until lightly coated. Set aside.

Combine cinnamon, sugar and salt. Sprinkle over pecans and toss gently until coated.

Spread coated pecans on a lightly greased 15x10x1 in. Jelly Roll pan.

Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Cool completely and store in an air tight container.

November 17, 2010

The Other Hand

Holidays are quickly approaching. Actually, that's an understatement. They are headed straight for us like a train with no brakes. On one hand, I can't wait. On the other, I feel like I'm tied to the tracks.

The One Hand (Things I can't wait for):

1. Cookies. They are just better at Christmas. It's like there's extra love in there. And people go all out with the sprinkles and careful packaging. A plate of Christmas cookies says I'm so glad to have you around and I love you enough to spend hours mixing butter and sugar and rolling out dough in my kitchen to make you this plate of goodness. Enjoy! It's time to dust off the cookie tins and break out grandma's recipe book. Let's bake.

2. Snow. That's right, snow. I know, you just spent four hours on Saturday, hair dryer in hand, weather proofing your leaky windows (so did I). It's cold out there. It's cold in here. Oh, but still, I love snow. I love the way it makes everything look clean and bright. I love to sit inside on my couch with hot tea and a fuzzy blanket and watch it fall through the light from the street lamps. With good company, it's even worth the chill to venture out, take a walk, hold hands and come home to mugs of hot chocolate.

3. Advent. It might just be my favorite season. I love the tradition, the candles, the prayers. The past few years I've been able to gather with various friends and ponder the season. We pray and talk and wonder at the fact that God sent His Son to us. Advent is the time when I most experience awe in my relationship with God and I love it.

The Other Hand (Things that keep me up at night):

Note: Um. I'm taking my boyfriend home for the holidays. I'm not sure how much more I need to line out here, but hellllllooooo weird, wonderful, stressful. It will be strange because I've never done that before - brought a man around. Which is almost exactly what makes it wonderful. I'm so excited to share it with him. I won't have to explain what it's like when Aunt (name removed to protect the guilty) has "just one more glass" or what exactly creamed onions are and why on God's green earth my mother still makes them. He's going to smell those for himself. 

1. What will my father say when he meets my boyfriend? Can you tell me? I'd like to be prepared.

2. Do I buy presents for his parents? Siblings?  I think the answer to this is a definitive yes. The real question is what to buy. Something homemade (see cookies with extra love above)? Some sort of classy ensemble of smoked salmon and wine? Blerg. I'm not so great at buying gifts. I mean, every once in a while I have a lightbulb moment, but if inspiration doesn't strike it doesn't go so well (just ask my 10 year old brother about the Make Your Own Soda kit he got from me last year).

3. What are all the expectations? What are all the questions? What will happen exactly and how will he feel about it all?

What? You can't answer all these questions for me? No predicting the future? That takes all the fun and adventure out of life you say? Hmpf. Score one for you.

November 12, 2010

Surprise Visit

The only thing better than having old friends strewn across the county is when one of them lands on your front door.

Old friends make the best surprise guests - especially if you were once roommates, because you don't have to flip out if your bathroom floor hasn't been mopped in a while and if all you have left in your refrigerator is half an onion, a Diet Dr. Pepper, expired milk and a couple eggs. (Yes, it's time to go to the grocery store.) So it was when Sara stopped in for a visit last night.

Things I love about Sara:

1. The girl can SING. You should check her out and buy her latest CD. She's going places. You can say I told you about her way back when.

2. She doesn't ask me about the weather. A conversation with Sara is sure to be honest and real. 

3. She makes a great hostess. This summer all the roommates gathered at her house for days of talking and eating and general merriment. 

Having one of these ladies around brings a piece of all of them a little bit closer.

Movies that make me swoon.

"Don't you just love New York in the fall. It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address." - Joe Fox; You've Got Mail

Even though I'm in St. Louis, autumn does make me want to buy school supplies (!) and watch You've Got Mail.  Although, now it's more like Christmas shopping (because I want to stay ahead of the chaos) and watching only my favorite scenes (because I'll fall asleep on the couch if I try to stay up past 9).

Elinor: "I do not attempt to deny that I think very highly of him, that I greatly esteem him, . . . that I like him."
Marianne: "Esteem him? Like him? Use those insipid words again and I shall leave the room this instant."  - Sense and Sensibility 
I had to watch this one in three parts (see above comments about the reality of adulthood), but, oh, how I do love it. I hope to be strong and faithful in my love like Elinor and, at the same time, passionate and unashamed like Marianne. And, like both of them, I wish to throw myself in with my whole heart.

November 10, 2010

Night for the Town

I think that it would not be a leap to say that most of us want to be a part of something that is bigger than ourselves. I do.

Almost four years ago I was working in retail. Now, it was retail so I didn't love it. But, I had a good job working for a good company and really shouldn't have complained. It wasn't what I wanted to do with my whole life though. I wanted to be a part of something bigger. I wanted to give something back, to contribute, to make a difference. I didn't (and still don't) really know what that means, but I started volunteering one or two mornings a week at a local urban school reading with kids.

It turns out it wasn't so much about the reading (although it was definitely about the reading and the homework help). It was about connecting with kids. So many of them just loved the consistency we provided them by being there every week. Something dependable. Something safe. Someone to help them sound out that word or fight with fractions. It was about being there - on the same team with real kids, partnering with real teachers and a principle who was fighting to make a difference for these kids, in this neighborhood, in our city. It felt big. It felt like it meant something.

I first heard about Mission: St. Louis at my church, they are one of our non-profit partners in St. Louis - they hope to transform our city by connecting churches with people and neighborhoods in need. The Morning Reading program at Adams Elementary is just one example of how they are active in St. Louis. You can read more about them, who they are and what they do here.

This Saturday they are hosting their annual Night for the Town event. It raises funds to support them as they continue to serve the neighborhoods of St. Louis. It's a good time. You should come. And, if you can't - maybe think about sending them, or a similar organization in your own town, a donation this year. Get involved somehow. We're God's people, let's be part of his redemptive work in our cities.

November 2, 2010

Making A List

...and checking it twice.

Is it too early to be making my Christmas List? I feel a little guilty, but really it all began because I started shopping for others. That makes it ok, right? Well, maybe because I need to add $10.47 to my Amazon cart to qualify for Super Saver Shipping so I started thing led to another...

Also, I really need new socks. These are pretty, but I'd love these just the same. Oooo....or RocknSocks. I heart RocknSocks. Is it pathetic that I'd really love new socks for Christmas? Talk about a great stocking stuffer.

Doesn't painting your nails make you feel pretty? Wouldn't you love an excessive amount of OPI colors in your polish box? I would.

I've also been dreaming of a French Press ever since I saw my dear friend Beth this summer. Throw in some beans from Topeca or Kuva and I think I could kick off the New Year wide awake.

And...if I were wide awake, I could make a really, really tasty breakfast with a lovely cast iron skillet. I might also make some Goat Cheese Drop Biscuits.

I guess, while I'm asking, I might as well tell you I could use a few of these cookie sheets and I wouldn't mind a beautiful blue Le Creuset Signature Round Dutch Oven. I'm not even sure what I'd make in that yet, but I know I could come up with something good, like this.

November 1, 2010


Meet our pumpkin. He's a cute fella.

He says: Happy Halloween and All Saints Day!

P.S. Only three groups of kiddos came to the door last night. So, there's lots of left over candy. If you know where my office is you should come get some.