Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I hope today finds you enjoying the blessings of faith, family, and fun as we celebrate the One who came to save us.



The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Praying

You know, I've struggled in the last few days with what to do or say in this space. With the horrible events that took place on Friday in Connecticut so fresh in all of our minds, I just can't bring myself to keep yammering on about recipes or movies or funny conversations at home. At the same time, I feel like anything I could try to say about grief or comfort would only sound trite in the face of this unthinkable tragedy. So I'll just say this: my heart aches for Newtown...for those lost and for those who remain. My thoughts and prayers are with them, as I'm sure yours are.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Like a child

Well, here we are.

It's December 13. If I were any decent sort of blogger, I'd have already written weeks of thoughtful posts filled with spiritual insights about Christmas and glossy photos of all the wonderful things I'm doing to make the season more festive. But the truth is, I just haven't been in the mood. Isn't that terrible? For a person who loves and looks forward to Christmas as much as I do, it's nigh-on catastrophic. I don't even feel like myself. It's lucky our kids are old enough to decorate the Christmas tree, because if it had been left up to me, it might still be sitting there in all its bare, Charlie Brown pathos.

We've had a lot on our plates lately, with some emotional stresses, a long list of yet-unfinished Christmas projects, and a full calendar due to Agent K's first foray into team sports (more on that later). So I've found myself feeling that Christmas is just a blip on the radar in the midst of the practical, the immediate, and the worrisome.

And I wonder, when did this happen? When did the reality of Christmas get lost in the pressures and demands of life? How did I get so jaded that celebrating the incarnation of my Savior -- the wonder of that little baby in the manger being the God who holds the universe together -- is lost on me or, worse yet, is an inconvenience that just adds to my to-do list?

I'm working on it...I've stolen a Thanksgiving idea and started taking note of ten things I'm thankful for every day, whether it's a beautiful little sliver of a crescent moon out the bedroom window at 6:30 am or Agent K scoring a point with a great serve in volleyball. I've meditated on that beautiful passage in Isaiah 9 that reminds me that though I do indeed live in a land of deep darkness, a light -- the light -- has dawned. I'm baking dozens of cookies and looking forward to gifting them to our neighbors and friends. I've gone to my children's Christmas concerts at school and taken a deep breath, cleared my mind of tomorrow's schedule, and just enjoyed the music.

And speaking of music...



I can't remember the last time I heard a song that so perfectly articulated my feelings, and it's reminding me to let go of all the trivial things that crowd the real meaning out of Christmas. I'm weary of being paralyzed and defeated by my own expectations and anxieties. Let's be like the shepherds in that lonely field at night, reacting to the good news by running to go see Jesus and by praising God for His wonderful gift...let's be like Joseph and Mary, saying "yes" to God's plan in their lives...let's be with the angels, singing "Gloria."

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,  “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Luke 2:8-20

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The great dilemma

The scene: the breakfast table, Saturday morning.

Pirate Boy: Mom, could you cut up my pancakes for me?
Me: You can do it, buddy...just use the edge of your fork and kind of saw it to cut off a piece. You never know, you might be on a desert island someday with no mom to cut up your pancakes...it's a survival skill you want to learn.
Agent K: Yeah, you're not going to live with her forever, you know.
Pirate Boy: I might...
Me: Well, you can if you want...but if you don't want to live with me, I'm sure you could live with Agent K and her family.
Agent K: No way. I don't need another mouth to feed.
Me: Hey, he's going to be designing and selling Iron Man suits, remember? He'll have money.
Agent K: Well, he can use the money to buy a house.
Me: True. But then there'll be no one to cut up his pancakes for him.
Pirate Boy: Awwwww!
Me: ...Unless you get married, and find a girl who wants to do it for you.
Pirate Boy: Ew, no! (thinks for a minute) I don't want to kiss, but I don't want to cut my pancakes. K, would you rather kiss, or cut your own pancakes?
Agent K: I don't know.
Pirate Boy: Definitely cut your pancakes.
Pause.
Pirate Boy: It's a horrible choice.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Red-letter day

I guess my confession for today should be "I haven't blogged in over two weeks."

So, to recap: Thanksgiving happened. A change of venue for the festivities meant that for probably the first time in my life, I didn't eat my dad's turkey and stuffing for Thanksgiving dinner. On the bright side, I'm happy to say that I can cross "try turducken" off of my bucket list. But you know how it just isn't Thanksgiving unless you eat the food you grew up with, and some people don't serve the can-shaped cranberry sauce with its little wobbly ridges, and other people put giblets in their gravy, and still others fancy up the stuffing with add-ins like sausage? (I must begrudgingly admit that stuffing with sausage is pretty darn good. There will be no discussion of oysters or chestnuts or raisins or similar atrocities.) Yeah. So this weekend we had a second Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' house with all my childhood favorites, including even deviled eggs. (But no can-shaped cranberry sauce, because I bought it and then forgot to bring it.) At lunchtime today, I swear I could hear angels sing when I opened up the fridge and saw all my precious containers of leftovers waiting for me. And of course I had to have both kinds of pie for lunch-dessert.

And I couldn't have returned to blogging at a more appropriate time because, like most of the world, I was greeted this morning with the thrilling news that William and Kate are expecting their very own little bundle of joy. I'm more excited for them than any complete stranger should be, and I can't wait for all the cute maternity fashions and baby names and pictures and various sentimental moments that make me go "awwwwww." My heart does go out to Kate and her miserable "morning" sickness, poor thing -- as someone who gets sick 24/7 for the first four to five months of pregnancy, I'm here to tell you that's no joke. Feel better soon, Kate! Hope the baby has your hair!

Should we take bets now on which magazine will scoop the inevitable "Uncle Harry" pictures that are destined to become computer wallpaper all over the world?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Confession is good for the soul

I've stolen candy from my children's buckets every day since Halloween.
It hurts my feelings when people I don't even know unfollow me on Twitter.
I don't think Prince Harry is good-looking.
I got the Disney Fairies Fashion Boutique app for iPad "for my daughter" and I spend more time playing it than she does.
The drive to pick up the kids from school makes me a little sad because it's my last chance to sing as loud as I want to.
I haven't exercised in a week.
I roll my eyes when people complain a lot on Facebook.
I forgot to return movies to the library today.

...and there you have my deep, dark secrets of the moment.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

One thing crossed off the to-do list

So...last week was fun, right? Well, okay, maybe not. But it's a new week, and being fresh off a three-day weekend automatically puts me in a good mood.

Y'all, I have so many things I need to get done, you can't even believe it. I just realized yesterday that Thanksgiving is next week (!) and everybody knows after that it's all downhill until Christmas, and I have a whole stack of gifts that aren't sewing themselves. I'm starting this week with a firm resolve to ramp up my productivity and start accomplishing more every day. So, naturally, I spent the morning watching a movie. At least my patterns and scissors were in the room with me while I watched Elizabeth: The Golden Age, which was really very good. It's an older movie, and the sequel to Elizabeth, which I just watched a few months ago and by which I was decidedly underwhelmed. I enjoyed this installment a lot more...great acting, gorgeous costumes and sets, lots of intrigue and drama, some of those great, soaring, sweeping moviemaking moments like when (SPOILER!) the English defeat the Spanish armada, and can I just tell you that I never really got the whole Clive Owen thing before, but suddenly I think I get it? Two thumbs up all around.

Speaking of celebrities, you're probably asking yourself: I wonder how things are going on Twitter? Well, I'll tell you. As of today, I take back any vaguely flattering comments I've ever made about Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, because the man crossed a line with this tweet.



Congratulations to Dwayne for earning himself a place on a little list I call "People Who Are Dead To Me," because the weapons-grade rage I feel toward people who are noisy in hotel rooms can't be overstated. I abhor rudeness to begin with, but when rudeness intersects with my real Kryptonite, which is not getting sufficient sleep, things really get ugly. I've spent way too many nights on vacations lying awake, staring at the ceiling and wishing a pox on inconsiderate buffoons who decide that 3:00 am is the perfect time to have a party or crank up the television or practice their gymnastics, to ever think that kind of thing is cute. I SAID GOOD DAY, SIR! (And who are these 763 cretins who approve of this behavior, and who may very well end up next door to me in a hotel someday?)

And now I will bid you a fond farewell for today, because I have about an hour to actually do something with those patterns and scissors before I have to hide everything away again and go pick up the wee ones. Enjoy your afternoon!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Re-post: Sovereign

I wrote this post in the weeks leading up to the 2008 election. It still captures everything I feel today, good and bad.

**********************************************************************************

With only a few weeks remaining until the presidential election, it's only natural that there's lots of talk about politics these days. As a rule, I try to avoid paying too much attention to politics because I honestly find the whole shooting match pretty depressing, and our current situation is no exception. Because this isn't a political blog, I won't go into my opinions on the two candidates, but as is generally the case, I will find myself voting against one candidate more than for his opponent.

This is the first time I've felt so anxious and unsettled about an election and its probable outcome, and I'm trying to put my finger on why. Perhaps because it seems to represent a noticeable shift in the values and moral center of American society -- people seem to be building momentum to make changes on so many levels to what is accepted, embraced and promoted in our country, and getting behind a candidate who promises to make that happen.

With all this on my mind, I was reading my Bible the other day. I'm currently in the thick of the action of Exodus, with the plagues and the Moses vs. Pharaoh smackdown, and I was struck by a verse that I hadn't really noticed before. God instructs Moses to tell Pharoah -- cruel, mocking, hard-hearted Pharaoh -- "But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." (Exodus 9:16)

I don't know about you, but I tend to have a mental list of people that I think of as having been raised up by God to accomplish his purposes. People like Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Esther, Nehemiah, Daniel, David, Peter, Paul. They're the All-Stars of the Bible, the people everybody wants to meet when they get to Heaven. But I was reminded that there is another, far less illustrious list of people whom God used ultimately to advance his kingdom. Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Caiaphas, Pilate, Nero. People who certainly weren't motivated by the goal of serving God, but through their opposition and even persecution, God demonstrated his glory and his power to overcome the world and to deliver his people.

If God did it in the Bible, he can do it now. Like Israel demanding a king, America will get what it asks for -- for better or worse. But regardless of how the votes are cast on November 4, God will still be God. He was and is and is to come, and he sits on his throne and holds the universe in the palm of his hand.


He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Daniel 7:14

Monday, November 5, 2012

In which I make my first foray into gluten-free baking

We were invited to dinner on Friday at the home of some new friends, two of whom eat a gluten-free diet due to allergies. Since I never like to be an empty-handed guest and I'd just happened to pin a tasty-looking gluten-free cupcake recipe on Pinterest a few weeks ago, I volunteered to bring dessert. I got my hands on some gluten-free flour and got to work making these luscious vanilla-chocolate chip cupcakes glazed with chocolate ganache and topped with a little cloud of vanilla buttercream. You want one already, right?


The cupcakes looked great and tasted delicious...there was a definite difference in texture because of the GF flour, and my tastebuds detected a little difference in the flavor as compared to their wheat-flour counterparts, but overall, the verdict was that they were a success. They're definitely worth whipping up next time you want to make something special for your gluten-free homies.

Chocolate-Vanilla Cupcakes
adapted from glutenfreecanteen.com

Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
10 tbsp butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 whole egg plus 2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp orange extract
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tsp all-purpose gluten-free flour

Chocolate Glaze
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Vanilla Frosting
4 tbsp butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
Milk, as needed

Preheat oven to 325. Place liners in a muffin tin and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a microwave-safe bowl melt butter and cool slightly. Whisk in eggs, then vanilla and orange extracts and milk. Add to dry ingredients and beat until the mixture is well-combined. In a small bowl mix the chocolate chips with the teaspoon of flour (do not skip this step! I did, out of sheer laziness, and ended up with black-bottom cupcakes) Add chocolate chips to batter and fold in. Scoop into liners about 2/3 full. Bake 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely.

Glaze: In a microwave-safe container, heat cream until bubbling. Pour over chocolate chips in a bowl and let stand for a few minutes. Stir gently until all the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Let the glaze stand for a few minutes, then spoon over the tops of the cooled cupcakes. Let cupcakes stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes, or until the glaze is set.

Frosting: With a mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Add milk to thin to piping consistency if needed. Pipe frosting onto the center of the set chocolate glaze.

Enjoy!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Friday favorites

I haven't done a Friday favorites post in a while...so here's what's floating my boat this week.

Halloween candy
One of my biggest weaknesses. I mean, I have a huge sweet tooth and love sugar in almost all its forms, but I love candy. And we happened to buy a big bag with all of my favorites in it, and we happened to end up with most of that bag left over after the trick-or-treaters had claimed their share. Yesterday I ate a peanut butter cup, a Twix, an Almond Joy, and a Kit Kat for lunch-dessert, and that's just not a sustainable lifestyle. My solution? I make McGyver hide the candy from me so I don't even know where it is, and therefore can't raid the bag and eat myself into a sugar coma every afternoon. Of course, we do end up having the conversations where I'm like the woman who's told her labor team in advance that they shouldn't give her the drugs even if she asks for them, all, "hey, could you get me a Reese's and a Twix?" "But you said you didn't want to eat--" "GET ME MY CANDY!"

My new favorite lip balm


I was restocking a few beauty must-haves on Sephora.com when I came across the Tokyomilk Dark brand and these cute little tins of lip balm in a range of unusual, complex scents, and I couldn't pass up the chance to try one. When my order arrived, this was the first thing I dove into and holy cow it's fabulous. The packaging is so elegant and pretty, and the scent is a-MAZ-ing. Cocoa, milky vanilla, a little bit of cherry and rum...it sounds like a weird combination, but it adds up to gorgeous. I can't wait to get my hands on a couple more of these in different scents. Of course, Pirate Boy caught a whiff and asked, "what is that smell? Phew!" so I guess one person's intoxicating loveliness is another person's noxious fumes.
 
My new favorite notebooks
 
 
So I spent yesterday afternoon wandering the aisles of Target with a friend, and I spotted this great little set of notebooks, each an homage to a different world-renowned city. At this point, being something of a collector, I probably need more cute notebooks like I need a hole in the head, but they were so different and cool that I had to have them, and I'm actually really impressed with the quality of these little beauties...nice and substantial, perfect for lists and notes and plans and musings. And for $6.99, you can't beat that with a stick.
 
An old favorite song
 


I've been a fan of Sting's music since I was just a kid, and "Every Breath You Take" is one of those all-time favorites that belongs on the soundtrack of my adolescence (you can imagine my disappointment when I got old enough to realize it's actually a stalker anthem and not the romantic ballad I always thought), and I just now discovered that Sting had done a version of this song years ago as a duet with Mr. Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr. I didn't even know the guy could sing, and since I generally have my finger on the pulse of pop culture trivia, I can't help but feel like I've let you down. Anyway...he can sing, in one of those rugged, rough-around-the-edges voices for which I am a total sucker, the song is fantastic, and I may or may not have listened to it four times on repeat last night during my workout. Enjoy. (Oh, and please excuse all the pin-up pictures of RDJ...YouTube is being wonky and this was the only video I could get to embed, and you can cancel the intervention you were probably going to stage if I embarked on another celebrity crush. Awkward.)

On that note (see what I did there?), have a great weekend!
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