Friday, May 16, 2014

A Quiet Day

It's a quiet day in la nostro casa.  Last night we went to some friends' house to "watch" the Thunder game, and this morning, Matthew awoke with a rumbly tumbly.  I talked him into staying home, since it wouldn't do much good to go to work if he was having to leave the room every five minutes.  I made him some oatmeal for breakfast, then made my own tweaks to Pioneer Woman's Chicken and Rice soup for lunch.  It's Matthew's go-to "I'm sick" meal (mine is Coca-cola and Saltines, so he goes for a much healthier choice).

Delicious, beautiful chicken and rice soup
Probably once a week or so, I make roasted chicken.  It's usually a little cheaper than buying breasts, and I boil the carcass with some veggies to make homemade chicken broth/stock for my other recipes for the week.  Also, we typically only eat one breast off of the roasted chicken, so I use the remainder of the meat for soups, casseroles, sandwiches, whatever.  Today, I'm making the chicken and rice soup mentioned above, with a few tweaks: I left out the yellow food coloring, used carrot instead of pimento, and added two cloves of finely minced garlic and a few sprinkles of Italian seasoning. Also, instead of adding the rice into the soup, I serve the soup over the prepared rice.  That way I can freeze the chicken soup that's left over and have chicken and rice, chicken noodle, or chicken dumpling soup by reheating the soup and adding the rice/noodles/dumplings.  It's great for a weeknight dinner or a lazy day.  Plus, it makes the house smell all homey and cozy, especially when served with homemade bread.  Yum.

Happy Friday, all.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Why I am considering never buying another Apple product.

I have been a super-de-duper fangirl of Apple products since I bought my first iPod, in the realm of seven years ago (I think).  I have since bought two iPods, four iPhones, an iPad 2 and an iPad mini.  And yet this experience, this one experience, has been so annoying, I am considering switching brands.  

About two months ago, the iPad 2 I bought suddenly stopped working.  It was fine when I went to bed, working perfectly, and in the morning it had restored itself and would no longer activate.  I did some troubleshooting at home--reset and restored multiple times--and couldn't get the bugger to do anything.  I checked the wifi, reseated the sim card, did everything I could find to do to get it back working.  Nothing was working!  So I got an appointment at the apple store and brought it in.  I talked to the genius bar guy and he asked me if I had tried resetting or restoring it.  Of course.  I told him I had, and he said, "Well, we'll try it here." 

Guess what.  It didn't work.  He returned the iPad to me and said, "Well, we're not really sure what could be causing this, and we don't know how to fix it.  It's our suggestion that you replace the iPad.  It would be $250."  This didn't seem like a great option to me.  I had already spent something like $500 on the gadget in the first place, and to spend another $250 for a refurbished older model seemed...idiotic.  Also, it struck me that Apple's kneejerk reaction was to replace the item, rather than trying to find out what was wrong with it. 

When I tried to get a second opinion, I was told that I would need to pay $19 for customer support by chat or phone.  So not only is there no guarantee that they will not say exactly the same thing the guy at the genius bar did, I have to lay out money before I even get an idea of what might be wrong or if it is fixable. 

It frustrates me mightily that a cheap PC of the same era, (an Asus bought for something like half the cost) can experience problems, be restored and reset and still work fine, but there is no way for me to access the same kinds of tools for Apple products.  

I must admit, it is wonderful to have gone something like seven years without an issue, but the truth is, I'd rather have more frequent issues and be able to solve them than to have bought this item and have Apple suggest buying a new one at the first hint of a problem. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Happy National Sticky Bun Day!

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 pkg dry active yeast (1/4 oz pkg)
  • 4 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • cinnamon

  • Vanilla frosting:

  • 1/2 bag Powdered Sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla flavoring
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1/4 cup Brewed Coffee
  • pinch of salt

  • 1. Heat milk, vegetable oil, and 1/2 cup of sugar in a medium saucepan over medium until warm. Make sure not to heat the mixture too thoroughly, so as not to kill your little yeasty friends. 

    2. Add 4 cups of the flour. Stir until just combined, and the dough looks like this: 

    Cover with a clean, moistened kitchen towel, and leave on the counter for an hour. Now add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and the remaining 1/2 cup flour. Stir thoroughly to combine. Put your towel back over the dough and place in the (turned off) oven overnight to rise. 
    3. It's morning! Time to beat some dough.  When you pull your dough out of the oven, it's gonna be huge.  It's cool.  Just punch down the dough until you have a ball again.  Preheat the oven to 375°F. Flour your counter (or if you have an uneven counter surface like tile, throw down some parchment paper then flour it).  Dump the dough from the pan/bowl on your counter and roll the dough into a big ol' rectangle, about 30 x 10 inches. The dough will be pretty thin, but still thick enough to handle. 

    4. Time to make ooey gooey goodness.  Pour 3/4 of the melted butter over the surface of the dough. Get your hands dirty by using your fingers to spread the butter evenly. Sprinkle ground cinnamon and 1 cup of the sugar over the butter. 
    5. Now, roll up the dough.  Start at a long end and roll tightly.  When you get to the end, do a pinch and twist maneuver to seal the seam.  Oozing is allowed.  Flip your log of deliciousness over so that the seam is on the bottom flip the roll so that the seam is face down. 

    6.With a sharp bread knife, make 1/2-inch slices, shooting for about 24 rolls. Pour half of the remaining melted butter into 2 9x13 pans.  Use your fingers to spread the butter across the bottom and sides of the pans. Place your slides in the pans. Cover both pans with kitchen towels and set aside to rise on the countertop for at least 20 minutes before baking. Remove the towels and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden brown and delicious. 

    7. While your buns are in the oven, make the frosting.   In a large bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, half and half, coffee, and salt. Splash in the vanilla flavoring. Whisk until very smooth. Taste!  Add ingredients as needed until the icing reaches the desired consistency and taste: viscous, but pourable and fantasmagorical.

    8. If your oven heats unevenly, rotate the pans about halfway through the cooking process.  If you have a fancy awesome oven, don't worry about it.  When your buns are beautiful, golden beacons of tastiness, pull them out of the oven.

    9. Immediately drizzle the buns with frosting and let soak into the buns...if you can resist eating them long enough..  


    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

    Hanging Twinkle Lights

    I feel like I am almost always in a state of waiting. Or maybe worry.  I have the tendency to think almost constantly about what is coming next.  When will I find a new job? When will I have kids? Should I have kids? What should I take next semester? Will I be able to find a job once I get my Master's degree?  Should I even be getting a Master's degree? What program should I pursue? A thousand questions with no clear answers which, I think, is a common state.

    But, as I work on this bible study I've been doing, I keep getting the message, "Be patient."  The study keeps talking about how David was patient and waited for God to answer his questions before he acted.  God spoke to David clearly and worked with him to further God's will for the Israelites.  Also, I think it's important to note that David was a broken man, clearly following God's will in some areas of his life, but not in others (just like me).  Though David was broken and not entirely holy, God used him to create the nation from which Christ came.  Amazing.

    Throughout the study, one of the themes is patience for God's timing.  And every time I think about that, I think about You've Got Mail. In one scene, Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) is faced with the realization that her business is slowly dying.  Her business manager asks her, "What are you going to do?" and Kathleen replies, "It'll all shake out. Meanwhile, I'm putting up more twinkle lights." In other words, she was going to carry on, and make the best of what she was doing right that moment. What a lesson.

    Right now, I'm asking God to help me put up more twinkle lights.  What can I do today to make my world more beautiful?  How can I be thankful for what is happening right now?  I know I can rely on Him to take care of my future, even if I have to close the metaphorical store and try something new.  Today, I'll hang more twinkle lights.

    Saturday, January 25, 2014

    Rachel's Jambalaya

    My mom makes this jambalaya that is beery and soft and super tasty.  I asked her for the recipe and she told me it's an amalgamation of several different jambalaya recipes in a few of her cookbooks.   I got the basic gist of how she makes it, then cut the size down (because I'm not trying to feed an army here) and adjusted the meats included.  It's different from most of the other jambalayas out there because there are no tomatoes.  But trust me, it's delicious.  You'll be happy that it crossed your tongue.

    Rachel's Jambalaya

    1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
    Tony's* for seasoning chicken
    1 lb smoked sausage**
    1 Tbsp butter
    1 Tbsp oil
    1 lg onion, finely minced
    2 ribs celery, finely minced
    1/2 bell pepper, finely minced
    2 cloves garlic, finely minced
    8 oz beer
    8 oz broth of your choice (I like chicken or vegetable)
    1 cup rice, rinsed
    1 tsp Tony's
    bay leaf

    Cut the chicken into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces, then season with Tony's.  Slice sausage thinly.  Heat oil and butter in a heavy bottomed large pot (I vote for a 4 quart dutch oven).  Brown meat in the oil/butter.  Remove meat from pan with slotted spoon and set aside.  Place minced veggies into the oil and sweat until onions are turning translucent. Return the meat to the pot.  Add the beer, broth, rice, and Tony's and stir well, making sure to get up the browned drippings off the bottom of the pan.  Place the bay leaf on top of the mixture and put the lid on.  Bake for 1 1/2 hours at 125 F.  Makes 6 to 8 servings of yumminess.

    * Tony Cachere's Creole Seasoning.  I guess you could use other seasoned salt, but Tony's is bomb.  Seriously, try it.

    ** I like my sausage from Ardoin's in Washington, LA because it is pretty much the best sausage in the world.  If I don't feel like driving 10 hours to get sausage, I might use German smoked sausage from Meunster, TX.  If I don't feel like a three hour drive to get sausage from Texas, I will use some kind of spicy sausage from a local grocer.  But sausage is a pretty big deal at our house.

    Thursday, January 23, 2014

    It's almost Valentine's!

    Awesome Photo Credit goes to Jacob Edmiston
    So, if you've known me for ANY amount of time, you know that I am pretty much in love with Valentine's.  Matthew and I are pretty affectionate throughout the year, but on Valentine's, I like to go over-the-top!  This year, I'm getting Matthew a special, just-between-us present that's pretty pricey, so we won't be going out and enjoying a meal on the town.  Instead, I am going to plan a nice evening in. :) Matthew has to work, but I don't have any classes that day, and it's on a Friday, so we can stay up as late as we want.

    Here's the plan from morning to evening:

    1. Hand-make and mail him a Valentine's day card to arrive (hopefully) on the right day. :) 
    2. Make him double-heart shaped french toast for breakfast with strawberries and coffee on the side.
    3. Sneak love notes into the pockets of his work slacks and jacket.
    4. Leave lovey post-its in his wallet and lunch so he finds them when he shows his ID to get into work and when he stops for lunch. 
    5. Send Matthew love texts on the hour, every hour while he's at work. 
    6. Stick balloons with love quotes and messages in them in his car.  (I've done this before and it was really fun!) 
    7. Make Matthew a "Top 10 Reasons I Love You" video and send it to him at the end of his work-day. 
    8. Serve him the meal I made for our first Valentine's date: filet mignon, boursin stuffed potatoes, and green beans, with creme brulee for dessert. 
    9. Give him a basket of his favorite things: a bottle of scotch, summer sausage, his favorite crackers, his favorite kind of cheese, and his main present. 
    10. Play poker and drink (cheap) scotch (for him) and cranberry vodkas (for me). 
    I think it will be AWESOME!  I hope he enjoys the actual day as much as I'm enjoying planning it! 

    Wednesday, January 15, 2014

    Go ahead and start yelling now

    I was surfing Facebook this morning and found someone had linked to Matt Walsh's "Monogamy is Unnatural."  He received a letter from a college professor condemning him for being "uneducated" and saying that monogamy is unnatural.  He further accuses Walsh of professing that only one model of marriage is right.  Go read it.  It's interesting, and certainly provocative.

    There are a couple of things I feel need to be addressed though.  Is this speaking the truth in love? Probably not.  It seems to me to be a condescending and angry response to a personally offensive prod.

    Also, in the comments, I see arguments about how Matt's (and the biblical) definition of marriage should be used to formulate the laws of our society.  I have heard the "one man + one woman = marriage" argument more times than I can count.  But that's not true is it? In reality "one man + one woman + God = covenantal promise of marriage." There are plenty of unions out there made of only one man and one woman that don't meet the Christian definition of marriage.  Some don't protect and cherish their spouses. Many don't seek to be a helpmate to their spouses on behalf of God.  Some marriages American society defines as "healthy" are completely godless.  There are also a number of Christian marriages that end in divorce or heartbreak. If we are going to use the biblical guidelines to create laws about marriages, how will we determine if a man and woman are truly intending to have God at the center of the marriage?  Furthermore, whose God will we be checking for?

    I believe in the separation of church and state.  I know lots of my contemporaries would disagree and believe that we should live in a society that is forced to abide by biblical standards.  I understand that this would make walking the Christian path easier in a way.  If you are jailed when you tell a lie, you are much more likely to tell the truth.  The consequences wouldn't just be spiritual or social, they would be legally punitive.  But, if we serve a fully Christian government, a government that does not allow us to worship the religion we choose, we are setting the groundwork for the government to choose our religion for us...and in the future it may not be our religion.

    This is why the "biblical definition" argument against gay marriage doesn't work for me.  I believe that gay people should be able to be legally married.  I think the argument against using "marriage" and asking that gay couples be "civilly joined" is hypocritical and frankly, silly.  The people who give a marriage meaning are those who are actually in it.  If you want to have a biblical marriage, you should do that!  I highly encourage it.  It's a transformative and extremely rewarding experience.  Biblical marriages are shaped only by the couple being married and God.  Those three ultimately decide what the signs, sacrifices, and oaths of marriage will be.  The government can just stay out of it.

    I applaud Oklahomans on taking a step toward allowing gay marriage.  I believe they are protecting the civil rights of its citizens by not enforcing the moral standards of specific groups within specific religions as law.  I am equally glad that the Oklahoma government allows me to make my own choices about how I worship and how I define my own relationship.  Not only do they allow me to choose, they protect my freedom to choose.