Too cold for outdoor grilling

I've been wanting to grill so badly for the past two weeks, and I thought we might be able to do so over the weekend. Alas, it was just too cold and damp. "If only I had a stovetop grill pan," I thought. Well, guess what my husband bought me on Saturday- a Cuisinart Green Gourmet grill pan! Oh, how excited I was. I think we're going to grill all week.
Nothing motivates me to cook like a new piece of cookware or a new kitchen tool. Kyle knows this, and I am pretty sure this is why purchases these things for me.


Why I really love to bake

Grandma taught me right. Once a bowl licker-
Always a bowl licker.
Kyle took this picture. He just thinks it's hilarious.


Better Pictures

Lately I've been thinking a lot about capturing history. I want to preserve and document stories about my family that could easily be lost. This is driving my desire to take better photographs through the roof. This is a newspaper clipping of my great grandmother and her brother. There is a beautiful story that goes with it that I would hate to forget.

That old colloquialism, "A picture is worth a thousand words," is really true. I want to capture the places and faces of my life, and the lives of former generations. I really want to tell their stories in words and photographs. I suppose it would be photojournalism for my family.

This summer, one of our dear friends, John Corson, has agreed to give me some basic photography lessons, and also teach me a thing or two about using Photoshop. John is a Master of Fine Arts (that's a really big deal), and this is such a privilege. I promise, John, any instruction will be put to very good use.

Ah, yet another reason I can't wait for summer!

I love dirt.

It's that time of year again where I start writing about birds and flowers and all sorts of lovely things that most people my age don't care about! I started digging a new flower bed that will run the full length of the side of our house. I've never attempted anything this big before, and I am extremely pumped. I was bustin' sod all day. I still have a little more than half way to go down the length of the house, but it's looking good.

As I was digging, I came across the usual worms which don't bother me, the creepy, fast-moving, centipedes which are tolerable at a distance, and these unknown creatures. (Sorry for the poor focus in the picture. My little point-and-shoot camera is beginning to have issues.) I think they might be some kind of larvae. They are all white, with big black spots on their heads, and six legs on the anterior portion of their bodies. There were many of them all curled up and they barely moved when exposed, unlike all the other creep-crawly things.
I know my Poppy's reading this and getting out his insect books right now. Oh, wait, he probably doesn't even need to look it up. What was I thinking? My dear old college roommate, Lynn, is currently getting her Master's degree in Entomology. I bet she would know too.

UPDATE: Poppy called to say they are grub worms, probably a June Bug larvae. Whew! I knew he would have the answer!


When I don't know what to cook

Disclaimer: I had no intention of turning my blog in to a food blog this week, but it seems I've been in the mood to cook. The following chatter and photos might make you hungry. Again.

On nights when I have no idea what I want to cook, I go to my recipe keeper. I love my recipe keeper. It's not really my style, but I love what's inside. My mother-in-law gave it to me as a shower gift and filled it with some of her stand-by meals. As the wedding drew nearer, women began to shower me with recipe after recipe.Then I began to request recipes from my mother and grandmothers. I searched through literally hundreds of old family recipes and cookbooks. I gathered all the ones I wanted and wrote them out by hand.

It is nice to have the secrets of a long line of fabulous cooks at my fingertips. Of course, there are some dishes I love so much, that I have not yet attempted to make them myself. I suppose that's not logical, but I just don't want to ruin them. Ham loaf (my great grandmother's recipe) would be one of those dishes. My grandmother's stuffing is another.
As much as I love the wealth of information and variety of meals in my recipe keeper, some nights there's nothing in there I want. Typically when this happens, I turn to All Recipes, or see what other people are cooking. Unfortunately, the amount of information in those places can be overwhelming and I don't feel like looking at all of it.

When this occurs, I make up something very (un)creative like this: Fiesta Chicken Nachos. Chicken marinated and cooked in the salsa of your choice, chopped up and placed on top of tortilla chips with melted cheese. It was crazy easy and crazy good. Next time I'll try to make it fancier, but it was pretty darn good the first time around.
p.s. If someone would like to make me this binder for recipe keeping, or teach me how to make such a thing, I would be much obliged.


Cinnamon Rolls

Oh, my goodness. These cinnamon rolls will knock your socks off! As soon as I saw the recipe, I knew that I must make them.

Gooey, sugary dough. Oh, me, oh, my.
When I began making these, I had no idea how many pans of rolls this would make. After the dough had risen, I became concerned. What am I going to bake all these in? Fortunately, the corner market had aluminum pans. Look at that hunk o' dough!
Buttered, sugared, cinnamoned, rolled, sliced, and rising.
Now just top it off with a sinfully sweet (I mean this might actually be sinful) maple frosting, and voilĂ !
Did I mention the smell? The sweet, sweet, heavenly smell? I had the windows open, but wanted to close them just to keep the fragrance inside. After they were finished I sent one pan to the in-laws, one pan to my own kitchen, and four pans to the Baptist Student Center. Within 5 minutes, this was the scene. Then the moaning began. Exclamations of "best cinnamon rolls ever" were coming at me from all different directions. What a wonderful thing to hear! Particularly after you spend hours preparing something. If there had been any weaker a reaction to them, I'd have gone back to Grands, but now I just don't think I can. Believe me, if you had tasted them, you wouldn't be able to either.


Old Music Tuesday: Bruce Springsteen

Old Music Tuesday is a day to reflect on the music that shaped my childhood and early adolescence. As always, if you have a shared memory with a song or artist featured on OMT, please share it!

I honestly can't say that The Boss had a mega influence on my childhood. I don't even recall my parents liking him that much. That being said, there are some significant memories of his music that are probably shared with most Americans. While there were dozens of classic Springsteen songs from which I could choose, I kept the list to just three songs. They may not all be what you'd expect.

1. Born in the USA- Alright, so this one's almost a given. Every. Single. Fireworks show. I really think that nearly every Independence Day celebration requires the playing of this song. I can remember sitting on a blanket by the lake in Sherman where my friend lived, and hearing it in the background. I remember traveling downtown St. Louis with friends when I was 17 to watch the fireworks shoot off the barge in the mighty Mississippi, and for all of it, Bruce was there. And he was there for so many more 4th of Julys, and more to come, Lord willing...

2. Merry Christmas, Baby- Now I'm guessing that when most people think of The Boss, they don't think of Christmas, but I do. We had this cassette tape, "A Very Special Christmas" that had tons of 80's and 90's pop stars singing Christmas songs. I'm pretty sure it resided in my boombox from September to January every year (unless, of course, Mariah was in there), and this was on that tape. Oh, the hours I spent in the musty old basement of our house singing Christmas tunes with Bruce.

3. Secret Garden- The angst of early adolescence I associate with this song. It first became popular in the film, "Jerry Maguire." I remember them playing it repeatedly on the radio with sounds clips thrown in from the film. I dreamed of being in love. It wasn't until much later that I heard the song was about either a prostitute or a "religious" woman. I suppose, either way, I don't care. Still, a lovely, melancholy song.


Kitchen Organization Ideas

It seems a girl can never have enough cabinet space. I have a serious shortage. I've done a lot to compensate, but I still have issues. My biggest dilemma is tupperware lids! I don't have any drawers in which to keep them, so my po' lil' lids get thrown about the cabinet. When I actually need to find one, it's kind of a pain. So I want to know, what are your best ideas for organizing your kitchen?


Ranch Chicken

There's no "ranch" anything in this chicken recipe, but the woman who first made it lives on a ranch. My taste buds were in throws of passion with this chicken. I modified the original recipe just a bit based on what I already had in my kitchen. The main substitutes were honey mustard for dijon and honey, and fiesta cheese for cheddar. Other than that, I stayed pretty true to her recipe.The chicken marinades while I plan for the next day's cinnamon rolls.
Thick-cut pepper bacon to go on top. Oh, how tempting that smell was!
I'd never pan-seared chicken before. In fact, I'd never pan-seared anything before. I put the chicken in when the skillet was not yet hot enough. Don't do that. It doesn't sear properly. If you do, though, it will be okay, just not as pretty.
Top with bacon and shredded cheese. The chicken will finish cooking in the oven. Then the smell will almost be unbearable.
Served with a potato and a glass of wine. It was quite the meal!



I realized this morning that after 2 1/2 years of living in Carbondale, I have never blogged about our favorite local spot, Harbaugh's Cafe. We have Chase and Alisha to thank for introducing us to this glorious culinary delight. One of the first weeks we attended our church, they invited us for lunch. We stumbled on over to some little place on a street that was kind of familiar and into the door of what looked to be a dive. We discovered quickly that Chase was a foodie, so when he said this place was good despite appearances pointing in the other direction, we believed him.

I ordered the first thing I saw on the menu, Viva la France, their own little twist on French Toast. Alisha ordered the same. Good sign. The decor is quirky and delightful. I began to look around and notice that there were some real characters in there. Waitresses wearing tutus, retired ol' country boys sipping coffee, college kids in who appeared to have rolled in wearing last night's bar clothes, and families in their Sunday best. Good food brings diversity, I thought. If this many different people have chosen to have their Sunday brunch here, I thought, it must be good.

And it was, oh, how it was. To this day, I've only ever ordered the Viva la France with Ranch Potatoes. It's so good that I can't bear the thought of going there and not eating it. Kyle, likewise, only ever orders the ham and mushroom Skillet. Perhaps we're not very adventurous, or perhaps those dishes have some sort of addictive properties.

If you're ever in Carbondale from 7am to 2pm on any given day, I would HIGHLY suggest you eat there. I don't think you'll regret it. Don't let the polka dots fool you, or the fact that the rest of the old building seems to be crumbling, this place is seriously good.
It's the kind of place to which you can wear pajama pants, and no one says anything or looks at you funny. Except, of course, for the crazy girl across the room who's taking pictures of you!What a delicious spread!
The Viva la France, you'll never want French Toast from anywhere else again. Trust me on this. If you like eating French Toast at Bob Evans, or if you think your mother's is great, by all means, DO NOT order this. You won't be able to go back.
The Skillet omelet. I don't really what it consists of. I'm too scared of mushrooms to even ask my husband. Let's just say, it has him in raptures, so that's good enough for me.
Please excuse our gluttony while we lick our plates clean.


A dilemma for today

SIU is having Safe Zone-Ally training this Friday. All people in my department are highly encouraged to participate. On one hand, it could be a great opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ to the LGBT community, on the other hand, it could be seen as approval of the LGBT community. There's a lot more to it than that, but that's my dilemma in a nutshell.

There's been some related discussion on the topic lately because of Wesley Hill's article.



A crafty chain letter?

The first five (5) people to respond to this post will get something made by me.
This offer does have some restrictions and limitations so please read carefully:

1. I make no guarantees that you will like what I make. Whatcha get is whatcha get.
2. What I create will be just for you, with love.
3. It'll be done this year (2009).
4. I will not give you any clue what it's going to be. It will be something made in the real world and not something cyber. It may be weird or beautiful. Heck, I might bake (!!) something for you and mail it to you when you least expect it. I may even create something totally unbelievable and surprise you at work!! Who knows? Not you, that's for sure!
5. I reserve the right to do something extremely strange.
6. In return, all you need to do is post this text into a note of your own and make 5 things for the first 5 to respond to your note.
7. Send your mailing address if you don't live close to me!

IMPORTANT: This offer is null and void if I do not see you post your own note to pay this forward.

*Feel free to respond even if I didn't tag you!*

So I was tagged and agreed to participate. You can reply here or on Facebook.


Colloquial Obnoxiousness

I have a list of pet peeves. Well, not a real list on paper, but a list in my head. One sub-list contains words and phrases that I find particularly obnoxious. You could find these slang terms on it.

1. vacay (vacation)
2. tinis (martinis)
3. drunkies (people who consumed too much alcohol)

I suppose that sometimes it isn't the words themselves, but the person who uses them that gets on my nerves. Related to this, I have a severe disdain for LOL speak (u kno, like all the kidz r using these dayssss. lol. its sooo bad it makes my skin crawlll but they loveee it! lol) However, I could write a whole other post on that.

What words or phrases would make your list?


URGENT: It's a Fabric Emergency

I've decided to make new curtains for the spring/summer out of one of these two fabrics. I just need some input. Help!


In our house, if we buy something remotely expensive, it must be practical. Of course, I think my idea of practical is a little more fast and loose than the average penny-saving housewife. My idea of practical would include pretty things that sit on a table and do nothing but make you feel happy when you look at them.

The newest "practical" item on my wish list are these faboulous dish towels from Anthropologie. But even I cannot justify spending $18-$24 for just one dish towel. I'm pretty sure the ones I've been using for the last three years came in a 5-pack at Target for $5.99. The other problem is that I would be too scared to use them because they are so cute. If only I new how to embroider, I would make them myself. Maybe Target will come out with something similar soon...

A picture worth 300 words, maybe.

I think this would pretty accurately sum up the way I felt from Friday-Monday.


Old Music Tuesday: Spacehog

Spacehog is a little known 90's band, and a one-hit-wonder, but one that I love. My biggest memories of this band come from the summer of '95.

It seems their hit song, "In the Meantime" was everywhere that summer. It played on the radio out of the garages while I ran from yard to yard with neighborhood friends. It played over the sound system at the roller skating rink. Most memorably, it played over and over while I lounged by the pool in our backyard.

It seems half my childhood was spent in a swimming pool. Until my family moved to Virden in 1998, we always lived in homes with pools, and I loved it. As soon as my mom got home from work, I would immediately ask to get in the pool. Weekends were all-day swimming bashes. I remember family visiting and everyone spending the day outside grilling and swimming. I terribly miss family swimming days.

Even now, I wish I lived closer to Springfield so we could spend summer days sitting by my mom's BEAUTIFUL pool. (Isn't it beautiful?) Maybe we could even listen to some Spacehog.


Some thoughts on the Maryville incident

Last night I laid my head down next to my husband, waiting for the NyQuil to kick in, and my mind began to wander as it always does. Last night, however, my thoughts were not on my own problems, but turned towards another. As I lay there listening to Kyle breathing deeply and peacefully, I thought of Mrs. Fred Winters.

The night before last, I suspect she laid her head next to her husband's in the same way. Perhaps her mind was even full of the responsibilities of the next day, getting the kids ready, praying for her husband before he steps up to the pulpit, other various tasks that would be waiting for her when they arrived at church. Whatever she was thinking that night, I'm fairly certain it did not include the events of the next morning.

I flashed forward to that moment. I wondered what thoughts were running through her head. Was she able to sleep in that same bed where she laid with him the night before? What had she told her daughters? Would she be able to truly forgive the one who murdered her beloved? Would I be able to do that?

The answer is no. It's an impossible task to find that kind of forgiveness apart from Christ doing an absolutely miraculous work in us. In my sinful heart, you would find hatred, anger, and bitterness.

How quickly I forget that I am really just like this man, Terry Sedlacek, who murdered Dr. Winters. My sin held Jesus to the cross. I put the crown of thorns on his head, and the nails through his hands. The perfect son of God was slain so that he would be exalted, so that we could know him, so that we could know forgiveness and in turn forgive others. Praise God for this undeserved intervention, for it is all that separates me from Terry Sedlacek, but it is available for him too.

Satisfaction in Christ alone is what completes this circle. It is the answer to the question, "Why, God?" When Mrs. Winters can turn and say that God is enough, that though her circumstances may fail her, God is good, and he is enough, it points to the glorious grace of Jesus. I am fervently praying that she will, and soon.


Kiwi Lime Pie

My taste buds have been a bit skewed the last few days. Therefore, I have been craving things with very strong flavors. Kiwi Lime Pie is just what the doctor ordered. Let me tell you, it was de-li-cious. I very highly recommend it. It's just a Key Lime pie with freshly sliced kiwi on top.


What's the difference between wimpiness and real sickness?

I'm not a good sick person. In fact, I might even be a bit of a hypochondriac. Nonetheless, I'm pretty wimpy when it comes to pain or discomfort. I do, however, have one surefire tell to know difference between true sickness and wimpiness... I don't sing along with the music that's playing.

You can ask my husband; I sing all the time. If I hear just a small bit of a song, it's instantly in my head. If I'm not singing, there's something wrong with me.

I haven't sang much the last few days.

I'm curious, what's your tell?


Have you met our cat?

Her name is Olive Snook.
We just call her Olive, or Itty Bitty.
She's the friendliest little stray who just started coming around.
She is still young.
She lives outside, but we've been feeding her.
Her personality reminds me of my childhood cat, Gus.
If she's still around when we move, we're going to take her with us.

Care package to an overseas friend

Hershey's Chocolate
Fancy foreign chocolate can be good, but I'm one of those Americans who loves American chocolate.

I don't know of anywhere else in the world that has TP as soft, but I know plenty of places where there is none.

Peanut Butter
When someone in another country puts food in front of your face, it is extremely rude not to eat it. However, if it really stinks, you can always make due with bread or crackers and peanut butter in your room.

Maple Syrup
Almost everywhere in the world there is some version of a pancake, but nowhere else do I know of maple syrup outside of the North America.

What are the plainest of jeans here, are a luxury almost everywhere else, and you just can't have too many pairs!


Why is this the best Monday ever?

A wonderful day puts a bad day in perspective. Yesterday was a bad day, but here are the reasons this day was great.

1. When I got up this morning, one of the first things I saw was that our dear, dear friends, Drew and Yvonne got engaged yesterday! I called Yvonne and started squealing and jumping like a little girl. Words cannot even explain how excited I am for them.

2. I got to my first class, almost on time for once, and had a pop-quiz. I got 100% of the questions correct. Our teacher said Wednesday's class is an optional review session for Friday's exam. Those who did well on the quiz probably would not need to attend. YES!

3. On the way to my next class, I decided to stop in my advisor's office to see if I could change my appointment with her for Fall registration. Instead of changing it, she took me back right then and there. It only took about 5 minutes for her to help me figure it out. Graduation is in sight! Only 18 more hours! Also, I only have class on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday next semester.

4. An easy extra credit assignment was given in my second class. I'll take it.

5. I stopped into SIU's new library, and let me just say it is amazing. It's really a beautiful place. Also, it was very easy to find what I needed.

6. I went to lunch at CHIC-FIL-A! After over a year of anticipation, it finally opened!

7. Quite unexpectedly, the Language Development exam I took on Friday was given back today and I got 97%. I was prepared to get a 'B' on it since it was the first test in an extremely demanding course. It was a mercy from God above.

8. I got an encouraging email from our banker about the home-buying stuff. Every time I start to doubt whether or not we're supposed to buy a home right now, God opens the door even wider.

9. The sun was shining all day.

10. I get to spend the whole evening alone with my husband.