Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cookin' makes you good lookin'

That's what my buddy P Dawg says at least. (P Dawg is Paula Deen for those uninitiated.)

I've been a baking fool this winter! During the summer, it gets so hot in my house I can't stand to use the oven at all, so I make up for it in winter time. I love baking. The best part is that you have something lovely to share at the end of it.

The next two images show my wonderful cooking heritage. Thanksgiving dinner and my aunt Annie's perfect chocolate pie. My aspiration!

Thanksgiving Dinner
Chocolate pie with beautiful meringue 
Pinterest has fueled my baking fun. Here are some of the goodies I've baked this fall/winter and the recipes when available.

Blueberry Muffins
My classic breakfast food is whole wheat blueberry muffins. I always love them, and have blogged about them before. My friend Rachel suggests making mini-muffins in many baked goods, because they help with portion control and trick your mind into thinking you're eating more.

Just 2 ingredients
I haven't taken a picture, but I've made this 2 ingredient gem several times. 1 can of pumpkin puree, one cake mix (I always use spice cake). Mix, bake. I use the recipe from Big Red Kitchen. I've never put a glaze on it. It's a perfect, not-too-sweet treat for the winter.

Monkey bread- easy and yummy
Another easy breakfast fave is monkey bread. Just do it.

Truth- from the Betty Crocker 1950 Cookbook 

This winter I made a goal to get familiar with pie. I've always shied away from it because it seemed difficult. Lots of science involved. But I knew it was something I wanted to attempt. I tried several different styles and recipes and am still coming into my own, but think I'm doing pretty well!

I personally like Pioneer Woman's pie crust recipe. However, I replace the vinegar with vodka. The crust is delicious and flakey. As you can see below, perhaps too flakey! That one was made in my mini-pie maker, and fell in on itself when I tried to take it out of the machine.

Blueberry pie- TOO flakey?

Blueberry cobbler, much prettier

Purty fudge pie, a la P Dawg with PW's crust

Mini fudge pies
Sugar cookies with icing
Piece de resistance- Homemade bread
I've always been intimidated by bread. So much can go wrong with the yeast, the kneading, the science of it all. But last night I decided to go for it. And sweet baby Jesus, it was delightful! I followed this recipe exactly, and it was perfect. It smells like heaven. It is beautiful. It is all I could hope for in life... um, I mean a bread. ;) If you've been intimidated by bread, my suggestion is to give it a shot.

Homemade vanilla from Rachel
I'd also like to give a shout out to my coworker and friend Rachel, who made homemade vanilla and gave me some. It's made all of my baking so much more delicious!

What do YOU enjoy baking during the winter? Send me some recipes you love!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What I learned from 200 high schoolers' essays

OKC bombing memorialLast weekend I served as a judge for the Oklahoma City National Memorial student essay contest. The prompt for the essay was based off of this quote from Oklahoma City police chief Bill Citty:
“It is important to remember that the majority of people are good and we can’t live our lives in fear.” 
I was a little hesitant going in, not sure what the quality of student work would be and if it would make me hopeful or fearful for the next generation, but I was very pleasantly surprised. These kids were 1 or 2 years old when the Oklahoma City bombing took place. They were 8 or so on 9/11. Here are some things I learned after reading about 250 of their reflections on the presence of good in the world.

Some kids have been through some really bad stuff

There were essays about assault, abuse, rehabilitation, suicide attempts, racism... it was very interesting to see how some kids have grown up way too soon, especially compared to their peers whose most trying life circumstance was losing their cell phone.

9/11 was a major mental impact

I'd say at least 2/3 of the students referenced 9/11, almost always talking about the intense fear and insecurity they felt after that day. My last blog was about the mental impact on me as a 19 year old, so I can't imagine being a child at that time.

Bullying is a major issue

Of course you hear about it in the media a lot, but many students wrote about being bullied. And many also wrote about using some of the tools now being taught in school to confront their bullies and try to get to know them as people, or about how some other classmates befriended them and made a real difference in their lives.

Christian teenagers think they are REALLY good

An oft-repeated theme was Christian students (they were pretty upfront about their faith) thought that giving Taco Bell and/or McDonalds to a homeless person made them a major force of good. Now don't get me wrong, that is a good thing, but I was a bit surprised by the hubris of these kids, and how often it came through. They were far more likely to talk about themselves than others.

The recession impacted these kids greatly

A lot of kids wrote about their parents losing their jobs in the past few years. It's interesting to see these kids' perspectives on the unsettled economy and how they have coped with it.

If someone means a lot to you, tell them

Many kids wrote about people in their lives. Not the obvious role models and influences, but those you might not expect. So many times I wanted to write them back and say, "Have you told this person what they mean to you? Please do it! I'll bet they have no idea." If someone means a lot to you, let them know.

It's the small things.

The best essays weren't necessarily about the major, dramatic moments of life, they were about the small, unexpected, unobligatory moments of grace, generosity and kindness.


Overall, I had a great time. I can't wait to do it again next year, if they'll have me. I left feeling optimistic about the world and thinking about all of the lights in my own life. What more can you ask for?

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I write this mostly for myself, and for history. I want to remember what 9/11/01 was like. What I was doing. How I felt. I should have written this long ago, but as the time is seared into my mind, it still feels fresh.

I was a sophomore at OC. It was probably the 2nd week of school, and the first year of the campus-wide wireless internet/laptop program. My habit was to wake up and check the news first thing. By the time I woke up, the first tower had been struck.

I can't lie; I've never been to New York, and I didn't have a firm understanding of what the World Trade Center was. The bombing of 1993 was a very vague memory, as I was 11 at the time. So the importance of the place was lost on me.

My mom had sent me several emails already that morning, which was strange. She never sent email. But she sent several, with messages like, "Did you see the news? I can't believe this!"

My roommate, Traci, was in the shower. As she got ready for class in the bathroom, I was watching TV. I remember surreally going into the bathroom and saying, "Traci, I think our country is under attack." And it felt so crazy, because there wasn't an ounce of joking or sarcasm in it.

I didn't know what to do, so I went on to class. Physical geography. I took my massive IBM Thinkpad with me so I could check the news online during class, but every news site had crashed by that point. The professor hadn't heard anything about the attacks yet, and honestly didn't believe us when we tried to tell her. Finally she stopped class to go check the TV in the teacher's lounge. She came back pale and ashen, and told us class was dismissed.

It was a crystal clear day in Oklahoma City, just like it was in New York City. As I walked across our deserted campus, I remember honestly thinking, "What if I'm not alive tomorrow?" Because at that point, there was no comprehension of the magnitude of the attacks. For all I know (and as I believed initially), they were attacking every major US city. As I walked through the student center, I stared at the TV's tuned to news channels shaking my head. It was incredible, in the most literal sense.

I got back to my room and by this time, one of my good friends who lived next door, Meredith, was also watching coverage. I remember I was sitting in her room in front of the TV when the first tower collapsed. In my life I have never had a more visceral reaction to an event. I felt like I physically collapsed on the inside when that tower collapsed. It was so unexpected. I sobbed and wailed, "those people! those people!" knowing there were so many left in the tower still. It was so painful and terrifying.

I don't remember what I did that night. Traci (my roommate) told me that I was screaming in my sleep throughout the night. I have no recollection of that or having nightmares.

The next day there were times of prayer across campus. My group of honors program girls gathered to pray, and it was one of the times of most grieving prayer I've ever been a part of.

I know the fact that this happened so early in my young adulthood had a major impact on me and my generation. I had traveled abroad for the first time in May-July 2001, and so I had no time for pre-9/11 to become "the norm" in my travels. I was so malleable in world-view and understanding. I'm not sure I'll ever understand the full impact and how I would have been different if 9/11 never happened.

Ten years. How has it been 10 years? Our world is so different. I knew that day that what was happening was massive, but I think it's impossible to live a tragedy with that mindset, so reflection is done in hindsight.

What have I learned? What have WE learned?

Tragedy brings out the best and the worst in people. Revenge is a deep-seeded, primal emotion that can overtake us if we're not diligent. Pain is pain. Life is unjust. Hate is maddening. The human spirit is resilient.

At my job, I work with students who don't really remember 9/11. They were 8 years old. I wonder how they were changed. I wonder if my recollections of 9/11 will soon be like my grandparents' recollections of December 7, 1941.

I don't know the answers. But I do know it's important to never forget, to learn, and to grow.

Monday, September 05, 2011

6 months til 30

Beyonce seems to be enjoying 30.
Six months from today I will turn the big 3-0. I would like to think that I'm going to take it with grace and class, but I'm not sure. It's freaking me out a little bit.

Among my peers, it's all the rage to make a 30 in 30 or 30 by 30 list, of things they'd like to do before turning 30 or during their 30th year. Well, I'm never good at setting goals, so I'm not doing that. And I think I can honestly say I'm lucky enough to have done a lot of the things in life that I want to do.

I have a few things I want to do. I want to see an ocean again. I have some fitness goals. There are some relationships I want to affirm or restore. I have some financial goals. There are other things as well, but nothing I'm going to post on the internet or blog about.

I hope that things will be different in 6 months. I hope that I will be different. Not through a list of items to check off, but instead through growing up and growing into myself.

So... six months. Then 30... wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Seven Links- a reflection on blogging

I've been blogging over 7 years. SEVEN YEARS?! Whoa... I have to let that sink in. Okay, well my friend Liz posted this meme on her blog and I thought it would be a fun mental exercise to think about the history of my blog and highlight some posts the recent joiners might have missed.

Most Popular Post

"Gumption." I have a handy dandy little widget in the side bar over here that tells me what the most popular post is by hits. I believe this is because people search for pictures of Jude Law and my blog has a ridiculous SEO ranking for him now. :)

Most Beautiful Post

This could be quite subjective. The first one that comes to mind is one my dad wrote when I was very sick- "Sweet Marie."

For things I've written myself, I don't know. I love my "Family Photo Friday" series I did for a while; those are all precious to me.

Most Controversial Post

Haha, oh geez. Um, well there was "Campbellism Exposed!" I'm still one of the highest Google search results for Campbellism, which cracks me up to no end.

Most Helpful Post

"Sandpaper for the Soul" expressed my deepest feelings about Honduras, and Predisan was able to use that for their marketing efforts.

Post Whose Success Surprised You

I ended up getting a lot of people weighing in on my "Why I'd Like a Husband" post, haha.

Most Underrated Post

"Good Guys and Bad Guys." Maybe no one agrees with my assessment. :)

Post You're Most Proud Of

"Only the Lonely" was a major step in vulnerability for me. "The Good Life" was difficult but important for me to write. "The Antibiotic Effect" is still something I think about often.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The care and feeding of introverts

I am an introvert. I am SUCH an introvert. (Hello classic ISFJ) The older I get and the more I learn about what it truly means to be an introvert (beyond the superficial, erroneous definition of just being "shy"), the more I feel like I understand how to make my professional and personal lives work better for my personality type.

Someone who I used to know once said, upon my noting that I was an introvert, "What?! No you're not. You like people!" To say he didn't "get it" would be a vast understatement.

When I was a kid I was shy, but I first really observed my introvertism in that being with groups of people or unknown people wears me out. Even if I'm enjoying it. It's not a matter of enjoyment, just a matter of what energizes me vs. exhausts me. I realize now that if I'm going to be in a situation like that, I have to make sure to schedule in down time to balance it out.

I saw the article on the right about the care of introverts. It made me smile, but also really struck me how true it is! There is a great deal of comfort that comes with knowing you're not alone and/or crazy for your personality traits.

I am intensely private. Ironic, since I work in a job that involves a lot of research in sharing your life online. And more ironic, considering I'm posting this in a very public forum of the world wide web.

I need time to process through things. I don't go well from one task to another with no warning. It's just amazing how well this hit it on the head.

Are there any other introverts in the house? I think introverts tend to do well in online communications because it allows them to both be alone AND interact with others. Are you an extrovert who doesn't understand introverts? Let's virtually hug it out, peeps.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

January 2007

Do you ever look back in your life and realize that there was a time that significantly changed the way you see the world? I recently realized that one of these times for me was in January 2007.

To give a little background, a short year before, I'd survived my own major medical crisis. As soon as the doctor gave me the go ahead, I left and spent 6 months in Brazil. In November 2006, I moved back to the US confused and finally processing what had happened the prior two years.

In January 2007, two of my dear friends were due to have their first child. They were really my closest friends to have a child first, so this was all new and exciting. I anxiously awaited news of the birth, and still remember the dread that filled me from bottom to top when I got the news that something bad had happened. I remember trying to process through and plan a trip to Oklahoma to be there when my friends buried their baby. But, after weeks and months of fighting, Ben made it. :) Today he is a happy and healthy 4 year old who is joy. But I'll never forget the dread and pain of that time. Something deep inside me changed, and it felt like growing up in the most painful way.

A couple of weeks after Ben's birth, I heard the news that one of my classmates from OC serving as a missionary in Uganda and died there. I didn't know him well, but having lived for ~2 years as a vocational minister abroad my heart broke for the family and loved ones of Adam Langford. His funeral was one of the most poignant, painful days as I saw so many of my college friends gather to bury this young man, far before his time. I know some people say funerals should be a celebration of life, but they are also places to pour out your grief when it hurts. And that is what happened.

I can't tell you definitively what changed for me during this month. I know I was changed. I know that loss and suffering felt more keen than ever before. But I also learning about healing. About grieving. And about living.

Some of my friends have told me that my health crises was a time like this for them. Isn't it interesting what grows us? And what we let grow us? In the words of St. Bono of Dublin, "The heart that hurts is the heart that beats."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Life with migraines

Many of you know that I overcame some major health problems about 6 years ago. Can you believe it was 6 years ago? :) I have a lot to be thankful for, and I remind myself of that often.

That said, and as years go by, I remain keenly aware of the deep connection between mind, body, and soul.

For the past 4 years, I've gotten migraines. Before I started getting them, I just thought they were bad headaches. But wow, they are a full mind/body attack, and I really, really hate them.

No one knows definitively what causes migraines, but there are tons of theories, which probably all have some measure of validity. Stress, hormones, foods (onions and aspartame?), spinal misalignment. I personally think stress has a lot to do with mine, but also having lights flashed in my eyes.

I usually get auras pre-migraine (though not always), and actually consider myself lucky to get them. If you don't know, an aura is some kind of symptomatic tell that occurs before a migraine. For me, I think of them as the heads up that a migraine is either likely to occur or is imminent. If I can take my medicine early during an aura, then the pain of the headache is dramatically lessened.

The crazy part of of auras for me is the visualizations. Mine involve circular, flashing bands of light. This is a visualization I created. :) It starts as a wide circle in my field of vision, then closes in to right where I'm looking. I can see the aura most strongly when I'm looking at a screen of some kind- TV or computer.

Anyway, after the aura wears off is when it gets bad. Let's say I've taken my medicine (God bless you Excedrin Migraine) in time. Then I get a very dull headache, all of the energy drains out of my body, I become extremely sensitive to light and sound, and very nauseous. I also get very, very confused. That is probably the most frustrating part.

If I don't take my medicine in time, then it feels like an ice pick being driven through my eyeball straight through my skull. So... bad. And every other symptom is intensified- especially nausea.

I can usually function after an hour or two if I take my medicine, but if not, then I'm really wasted for the rest of the day. Medicine or no, I still feel exhausted and as though I've been hit by a truck.

It's a strange thing. Migraines are so much more than headaches. They make me think of mini-strokes, honestly. It's a scary thing to feel like you're losing control. It's such a neurological disorder, and hopefully great strides will be made in research and treatment.

Do any of you guys get migraines? What is your preferred treatment? What do you think causes them? Any strange symptoms?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pretty as a picture- You are what you eat

Lately I've been trying to think of ways to add more veggies into my diet. Eating fresh fruits is easy for me, but veggies have been a mental roadblock. Sure I'll throw spinach on my sandwich or whatever, but I needed to be intentional about including them as often as possible.

I've been going out to the farmer's market on Saturdays to get more inspiration. This weekend I got a seriously beautiful haul!

I noticed last week when I bought even a few items that having beautiful food makes me want to cook meals worthy of them. So yesterday I started grilling some of my goodies. I was struck by how beautiful it was! So I took a picture.

Then I thought, "At least once a day, I should have a beautiful meal that is worth photographing."

I don't actually want to be a food blogger or anything like that (the world has more than enough), but I really like the premise, even if it's just for my eyes. Is that candy bar beautiful? A handful of broken chips? A boring can of coke?

But how about bright and lovely fruits and veggies? Yes! Even if it's just a photo in my mind's eye.

Surround yourself with beauty- heck- even eat it up!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Not yo mama's fairy tale

Last night I finally watched Tangled, Disney's new spin on the Rapunzel fairy tale. It was the first Disney fairy tale I'd seen in quite a while. I was struck by modern take on the story and how clearly it reflected changes in culture from when Snow White first released.

The major thing I noticed was the interaction between the boy and the girl. To my recollection, Flynn (the male lead in Tangled), never actually saves Rapunzel. In fact, she saves herself and him, in spite of all his bumbling and bad intentions. Even when Flynn dashes in to save the day, he is injured and removed from the fight immediately, and she saves him. The happy ending is not their wedding, but an addendum that they got married a few years down the line.

I'm a pretty progressive person, and I definitely don't believe fairy tales are real, but it's just so interesting to see the progression from prince charming as savior to man as a loveable doofus, in spite of himself.

Many Christians are involved in the John Eldredge movement, which says that men and women have divinely seeded archetypes of gender roles, echoed in fairy tales. I have conflicted feelings. At one point I totally bought in to it, at another I was totally against it, and now I'm somewhere in the middle. My question is that if our storytelling makes this shift in a large cultural context, will that impact what the children of today expect from their romantic relationships?

Of course there are pros and cons to both, and ultimately there's probably not any movie from which you should base your expectations for life and love. And deep down I have a feeling that girls will still want to be swept off their feet, but hopefully they will also know their own strength and beauty with or without their prince. :)

*Interestingly enough (or probably not), I actually wrote a paper on this exact topic in my college film class comparing Cinderella to Ever After.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Estate Sale Pro Tips and Finds

Those who know me well or follow me on twitter know that I am a bit of an estate saler. I love going and looking at all the stuff. Props to good friend Auvrey for introducing me to this sport years ago!

A lot of people seem interested in estate saling, but many have questions, so I thought I'd give you some of my tips and tricks for the estate sale world.

Tip one- Good fuel

Ok this isn't necessary, but my Saturday morning routine involves getting a treat from Prairie Thunder Baking Company. My current faves are the chocolate croissant and the blueberry peach danish.

Okay but for real.

Where do you find out where estate sales are?

You might find this hard to believe, but long ago and far away, there were these things called newspapers that had classified ads. That's still where I look- the online version.

If you're in OKC, I'll even link you to it! The Oklahoman Classified- Estate Sales. They only list per the actual day it is.

Types of estate sales

There are a few types of estate sales. These are my own classification, nothing official. The bottom line difference between a garage sale and an estate sale is that the estate sale items are charged tax.

Estate sales are daunting for the family. I've never been through it myself, but I have seen enough that I think it's safe to say.

Because of this, some people bring in professional firms to hold their estate sales. They price the items, advertise, run the sale the actual days, and handle the tax stuff. If you are a shopper, these types of sales have pros and cons. PRO- no traumatized family members to deal with, items are usually priced to move, overall a better experience. CONS- Many times items are slightly overpriced because they have a better understanding of what items are worth, but they're still not retail prices.

Sometimes, families hold their own estate sales. I think this is a good idea if you have someone in the family who can emotionally disconnect from the experience and has a good idea of the end goal. Do you want to get rid of everything? Do you want to make a lot of money? Those two questions are important and can drastically change pricing. Some of the WORST estate sales I've been to have been family run. Sometimes the children are too emotionally connected to the items. Sometimes the person is there themselves, and that makes it even worse. One sale I went to, the entire family was wearing shirts with pictures of the deceased on it. Not a good idea.


Let me give you some major tips. If you ever need kitchen items, go to an estate sale. Cheap and easy. Same for tools, books, linens (although I do not use used linens to sleep on or bathe with). You can really stock up.

On Sundays, estate sales are slashing prices by at least half, usually. They want to get rid of stuff. Granted, the selection is lower, but the prices are drastically lower.

If you like DIY projects, estate sales give you great materials to work with.

Bargain! Bundle items (ex, get more than $10 worth of stuff and ask if you can have it all for $10)


A lot of people find the concept of estate sales creepy. I've often heard it called "dead people stuff." Okay, so here's my take. One, a lot of estate sales are not actually for deceased people. Many times they're for people downsizing or moving into assisted living.

Beyond that, I just got over it. I will admit the first couple of months I went, I'd get pretty sad going through peoples' houses. But then I decided I was giving their items new life, and helping the family out by buying it. It's an odd type of recycling, in a way.


Okay, here are some of my favorite finds from the past few weeks.

This coat is beautiful! Lovely embroidery all over it, and only $4. It's not an every day, all year long item, but I think will look rockin' in the fall.

I have a weakness for old suitcases. This one is beautiful, although in damaged condition. I love the fabric on the inside. I have some ideas for making it into an end table. $1

I found these bead strands for $.25 each, and the pin (from ~1900) was $4. I put them together and they're a beautiful summer accessory.

One of my favorite books, with the beautiful original artwork. I think $.50

I just thought this was funny. It's worth clicking on the 2nd image and reading the description of the suggested game. :) Maybe $1?

This is actually from Habitat for Humanity's Renovation Station. I also like to go there every few weeks. They have great spare parts like this window, which are just ripe for DIY (do it yourself) project ideas. In fact, I have 2 of these and have some fun ideas in mind...

Well there ya go! If you have any more questions, let me know!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Summer Day

The Summer Day
by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My (cousin's) big fat Arkansas wedding!

I have an oddly proportioned family. I feel as though my family is huge, but in some ways it also feels very small. For example, I have 2 first cousins. And one sister. But my dad has over 50 first cousins, so my 2nd cousin circle starts to explode, and from there on grows exponentially larger. AND all of those folks are very close, both geographically and in each others' lives.

All that to say, my cousin got married last weekend. She is almost exactly a year younger than me. In our youth, my grandmother liked to dress us alike, although I had brown hair and blue eyes and she had blonde hair and brown eyes. She's my first cousin to get married, and in a lot of ways the first family wedding we've had. It was lots of fun. But it was HOT. A June wedding at 2pm in Arkansas is not for the faint of heart. :) My great aunt asked me to please get married under a tree. And at the last minute I was put in charge of music. I worked the CD player like a pro. ;)

Sister and Me
Mom and me
My aunt, cousin, and grandmother
Happy bride and groom
Beautiful bride!
Reflections upon a bride
My parents
My uncle and my dad

Monday, May 23, 2011

I'm a (board) gamer... sort of

The good thing about friends is that they always end up getting you to do things that you wouldn't normally do.

I am not a board game person. My family was not a board game family so although I've always moderately enjoyed them, they're never my "go to" entertainment activity. But in recent years I have realized that several good friends are board game junkies. So they have broadened my horizons and introduced me to some really cool games.

I have become a fan of the game Ticket to Ride. It's pretty sweet.

And there was a game called Carcassonne, which was harder to pick up, but also fun.

But of course the key ingredient to any game night is great friends. :)