Friday, December 30, 2011

2012

As the year draws to a close, I must say I am amazed at how quickly the last twelve months flew by. It seems like just a few months ago I was stuck inside the apartment waiting for the roads to be cleared of the 10+ inches of snow that had fallen overnight. I was crafting, making chocolate chip pancakes, and reading whatever I could get my hands on, but all I really wanted to do was go outside...




But that was almost a solid year ago, and winter has come to our doorstep once again (though I write this as the temperature is hovering between 55 and 60 degrees). I'm sure we'll get some more winter weather before it's all over, but right now I'm ecstatic over the sunshine and clear skies. It's like God peering through the clouds and whispering hello in the beams of sunshine filtering through the window. I love it.


But I digress. 2011 brought many wonderful, and challenging things my way. This past year, I have:

  • started a new job
  • attended quite a few weddings and celebrated with the couples as they began life together
  • celebrated one year of marriage to a man whom I absolutely adore
  • went on several road trips (Chicago, Michigan, Houston, Indiana...)
  • attended The Gospel Coalition conference
  • suffered some personal setbacks
  • made wonderful new friends
  • kept up with old friends
  • celebrated the birth of a friend's beautiful baby boy
  • grieved at the loss of my grandmother
  • trained for and ran my first 5k
  • grew a year older

_______________________________________________________________


There are a lot of memories built in to 2011, and as I reflect on what it's brought my way, I've also been considering my goals for next year. Here they are, in very particular order (as in, the order I thought of them):


My favorite hobby: reading
on the couch with my husband.
1. Read more. I always say I want to be reading, but I need to actually make time for it. I love the new book club I'm in. It not only keeps me accountable to read at least a book each month, but I also get to spend time with some very fantastic ladies who enjoy reading just as much as I do. In addition to the books we'll be working through, I'd like to read the following:

  1. The entire Hunger Games series. Thanks to John, I now own them all and can read at my leisure! But I definitely want to have them all read by the time the first movie comes out. I wasn't a big Twilight or Harry Potter fan, so this may be my first midnight movie premiere :)
  2. The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I've heard so many good things about this book, and the accompanying movie. Thanks to my mom I have the book and plan to start on it soon.
  3. Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung and Joshua Harris. John got this for Christmas and it looks really interesting. From what I've gathered, it's about how we, as Christians, spend too much time waiting for signs and supernatural words from God. Instead, we should just do something. 
  4. How to Cook Everything/How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. Ok, I know reading a cookbook sounds lame, but I love the way Bittman writes. It's casual and comforting, and makes me feel capable of actually cooking food that's healthy and tasty. 
  5. The Bible. I'd really like to spend more time reading this. I know a lot of people feel like they're obligated to say they want to read the Bible, but I really mean it. My husband has set an amazing example of dedication when it comes to reading the word of God, and I would like to follow in his footsteps this year.



Tomato Soup with Spaghetti Squash
2. Cook more. I love cooking, especially when the food I make turns out well. John and I are both eating much healthier than we were last year, and I want to make sure our meals don't become monotonous. Thanks to the numerous cookbooks and cooking appliances I received for my birthday and Christmas, I should never be at a loss for meal ideas. I'm leaning toward more vegetarian/vegan meals to cook at home, leaving the meat-based dishes for community groups and special outings. And I guess eventually I'll have to deal with things like tofu, tempeh, seitan, and vital wheat gluten, but for right now I'll be ok with trying new vegetables and warm winter soups.







mustache coasters
3. Craft more. Ok, so Pinterest is my new addiction. I don't like admitting that, but it's true. I have so many pins I can't keep up with them all, let alone actually make all the things I've pinned. But, I will say that the things I've made have been fun. I love starting out with a collection of random objects and ending (usually days later) with a finish product that looks strikingly like the tutorial suggested.

For instance, I made these coasters from ceramic tiles, mustache stickers, and lots of Mod Podge. I gave them to my brother-in-law for Christmas. It was cheap (shhh...) and really easy to make. I did a couple more sets out of scrapbook paper and they looked really cute, too! 

deconstructed trail mix
I made this from a Pinterest find as well. I called it "Deconstructed Trail Mix" because it's in layers, making it look all professional and artsy. It was easy and fun to put them together, but it was even more fun to give them as gifts! I made a few other things, like coffee warmers, scarves, salt dough ornaments, and a few random things that never made it into a gift box, too. With Pinterest I think I'm going to have to organize my time better, making sure to try out more crafts and see where my skill set lies. Who knows, I could actually be really good at quilling...






One pretty happy lady.
4. Train for my next 5k... and possibly a half-marathon.
Honestly, I feel silly telling people I ran a 5k. For anyone who actually runs, that's not a lot. And I certainly didn't beat any records that day (let's not discuss my pace, ok?). But I'm amazed that I did it, that I followed through and went out, in 21-degree weather, and ran 3.1 miles. I even got a medal :)
So this coming year, I want to at least run another 5k, likely at the end of March (John is already training with me!). And, if all goes well, I can see myself picking up the pace and trying for a 10k or half-marathon at the end of the year. Running is not something I ever thought I was capable of, so I have no idea where I can go with it. I'm just enjoying the feeling I get when I finish a day's run.




Taking in the moment...
5. Learn the art of contentment. Even now as I'm typing, I have this sense of guilt running through my mind, whispering that I should be doing something else - laundry, dishes, reading, working, running, cooking, etc. I always have the feeling that I'm not doing enough, that I'm not pushing or trying hard enough. I have an almost tangible inability to sit still (ask my husband). And when I do actually take a moment to rest, I feel bad for it. 
This year, I want to learn how to sit still. I want to be "ok" if our apartment isn't spotless, the laundry isn't completely folded, or dinner isn't the most delicious meal I've ever prepared. I want to be content in the moment, whatever that moment may be. Because if I keep struggling with discontentment, I'm going to miss out on the moments that matter most. 



So that's it. I wish everyone a happy and blessed 2012. Please feel free to share some of your goals with me, or give me some tips/advice on how I can achieve my 2012 goals. 


May 2012 be your best year ever.   :)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Vegan Week

I have been vegan for about nine days now. Why? Well, I found that I was getting tired, cranky, and my skin had lost it's glow. Not to mention that I'd just returned from a trip to Chicago, filled with Giordano's pizza, fried eggplant sandwiches, free bags of popcorn, and Wendy's frosty "parfaits." It was just time to clean up my game, buckle down, and roast some veggies. 

Coffee = good.
Coffee w/ fake cream and sugar substitute = bad.


The first few days were fun. I read lots of blogs, pinned tons of recipes on Pinterest, and got excited about the fact that quinoa is a complete protein. I bought tofu, dried beans, brown rice, almond milk, butternut squash, spinach, apples, ginger root, frozen berries, and anything else that was 1) not an animal product; 2) not processed; and 3) not sweetened with sugar, sucralose, aspartame, dextrose, xylitol, agave nectar, raw sugar, etc. (as in, no sweets). 

But then I realized....I was on a unprocessed vegan fast. 
Which meant no string cheese. 
And no strawberry jam on my peanut butter sandwiches. 
And no yogurt-covered raisins. 
And no cheese sandwiches.
And no nonfat lattes from Mama Carmen's.
And no Chick-Fil-A.
And no community group chicken chili or sugar cookies. 
And no Greek yogurt. :(

This was a hard reality check for me. And it continues to be as the days pass on, but I've finding some great alternatives. Did you know soy lattes are really good? And Thai restaurants serve a ton of vegan options? Though it's been challenging, I think it's for the best, as I am feeling tremendously better: my skin looks healthier, I feel more energized, I'm able to actually run outside without feeling like I'm going to die, and I am thinking much clearer. 

What are my staples? Well, here are some of the things I've had over the last nine days:
  • Breakfast - kamut brown rice cereal w/ almond milk and berries, fruit smoothies, pumpkin oatmeal, or whole wheat toast w peanut butter
  • Lunch - lentil soup w/ rye crackers, black bean burgers w/ pita halves and carrots w/ hummus, or minestrone soup
  • Dinner - brown rice and veggies, potatoes w/ vegan chili, or spaghetti w/ marinara
  • Snacks - Clif bars (my only processed snack, because they are delicious and nutritious at the same time), fruit, nuts, or hummus on toasted pitas.
Pita and hummus. Delightful. 

Brown rice with garlic-roasted butternut squash, tofu, and broccoli. 

I don't know how much longer I'll continue eating vegan. I'll probably go to the two-week mark and add in some Greek yogurt and cheese. But I really like the idea of eating conscientiously, making specific choices about the foods I'm choosing to put into my body. It feels good, and I'm learning a lot about what I need. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Chicago

I went to Chicago this past weekend with members of the children's ministry staff. We drove there in a white 15-passenger bus that just barely accommodated three guys, four girls, and stacks of luggage. Over the course of five days we learned a lot about each other, sharing sushi and slices of Giordano's pizza while laughing at one another's stories. It was a great time of personal and spiritual growth.


However, there was something missing...


It's good to be back home. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

For October

Sorry I left for so long. I promise it won't happen again (until the next overtly distracting thing occurs in my life...). Here is a post about my favorite season. I hope you enjoy.






So many wonderful things are planned for October. Autumn is, by far, my favorite season. I love the leaves turning various shades of orange, red, and gold. I love stepping out into the crisp chill of the morning. I love sipping pumpkin spice lattes with my favorite people. I love planning costumes and eating candy corn. It's all just a wonderful, glorious time of year. Here's what I'm looking forward to most:
Superman groom's cake.





Autumn weddings - I went to one this weekend, and it was lovely. A good college friend married her own personal superhero (complete with a Superman groom's cake), and I got the pleasure of knowing I played a role, however small, in their meeting. Another wedding is coming up in November, and I can't wait to go. I love weddings!


Candy corn - I had my first "kernels" this weekend. Twice. They are magical little bites of sugar-coated happiness. (Which is odd, because as a child I detested candy corn. Hated it. But now I find it delightful.)


Knitting - I've been invited into the Tuesday Night Knitting Club, where I am learning how to knit scarves, cowls, tea cozies, and hats for the crisp autumn weather. I learned how to knit last year when we went on a road trip to Michigan (side note: I don't like road trips), and I've actually continued to knit throughout the year. It's quite relaxing and, because of the season, quite practical as well.
My husband, on a random adventure.


Adventures - I'm amazed at the cool and random things John and I have found in our 15 months of marriage, and I can't wait to go on more fall adventures together. Last year we went to the corn maze, Eureka Springs, and Devil's Den, and this year who knows what we'll find driving or biking around...


Costume parties! - Yes, I am attending a costume/pumpkin carving party! Maybe two! And I am in dire need of ideas for cute couples' costumes. 


Autumn food - finding recipes for chili, soups, and other "cold weather" foods is a ridiculously time-consuming process, but thanks to Pinterest and a couple of awesome Facebook pages, I am all set. I did not realize how comforting a bowl of homemade chili can be on a cold autumn evening, but now I look forward to it! Especially when it's shared with our community group :)


Mama Carmen's latte
Lattes - I've found a few homemade recipes for pumpkin spice lattes that I've yet to try, but I must say Starbucks has the best PSL I've ever tasted. It's also the most expensive though, so it will probably be a very rare, but delightful treat. In fact, any warm coffee drink is delicious this time of year, and totally appropriate for the cooler weather. I am a huge fan of lattes, and Mama Carmen's makes the best ones, no question about it. I could drink 3-4 a day. (I'm not kidding.) They do something amazing with the milk so that it just foams up in and around the espresso in a fantastically creamy fashion. Mmmm.....


Pumpkin - I love pumpkin, and now is the time to bake with it. You can find recipes for pumpkin breadpumpkin souppumpkin cookiespumpkin smoothiespumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin rolls, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin ice cream...just about anything you can think up. So far this year I've made (or eaten) pumpkin cream cheese, pumpkin dump cake, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin fluff, and pumpkin cake.


Hot Air Balloons - we are planning a weekend trip to the Poteau Balloonfest! How much fun will that be!?! Both my parents and John's parents are going, and we may even (fingers crossed) get to sit in a hot air balloon! There will also be a dog costume contest, miniature airplane stunts, and carnival rides...I am excited. Very, very excited. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Time Off

I haven't posted in about a week and a half. I think I'm going to take a little break, maybe another week or so, to collect my thoughts, write in my journal, take some pictures, read some books, and breathe. 








In the meantime, a poem. One of my favorites. 






Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Miscellany - July 18th





Iced coffee. I've heard approximately 4,193 people mention iced coffee this week, either on Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Good Morning America, and/or random conversations with strangers (as opposed to planned conversations with strangers, known as "solicitation" or "stalking" and slightly frowned upon). Even McDonald's is offering a version of the drink alongside their lattes and mochas and chicken nuggets and whatnot. Last year, I do not remember this phenomenon. This year, everyone drinks it and touts the delicious, chilled beauty of the concoction. 
Even the awesome Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond herself shows up as Google's third option when one searches for "iced coffee." However, I am somewhat daunted by the act of making this chilled version as opposed to my regular morning brew. For example, the Pioneer Woman's process for the "Perfect Iced Coffee" involves somewhere near 28 steps and two days of preparation. You see, my morning coffee has three steps: pour water into coffee maker; measure coffee into coffee maker; push "delay" so it will make coffee the next morning. That's it. When I wake up, I can pour a hot cup of hazelnut breakfast blend into my favorite blue mug, add some raw sugar, a dash of almond milk, and start my day. 


There are two main things I don't like about iced coffee: 

  1. it's cold. After waiting 16 years of my life before I was even allowed to drink coffee ("you won't like it, it's for adults..."), I drank it for the next 12 years of my life hot. Like, deliciously steaming and hot. It's like giving a person a bowl of hot ice cream and saying it's the new craze - it just doesn't compute. 
  2. no foam. One of my favorite parts about drinking coffee (especially lattes), is the first sip of hot foam at the top of the mug. It's delightful and, if done correctly, tastes exactly like a warm hug on your tongue....which sounded better in my head than it does written out, but I'm keeping it nonetheless. 
Side note: I like frappuccinos. Why? Because I think of them as ice cream, not coffee. And ice cream should be cold, so it all makes sense. 


______________________________________________





I tried to sew this week. 
It did not go well, leading me to wonder if I'll ever be one of those "Look at the wedding dress I just made over the weekend!" kind of seamstresses. I can't even thread a bobbin (wait, do you thread it, or spool it? I have no idea). I wanted to make a clutch, a simple, small purse clutch with ruched sides. I purchased a nice pattern from a local fabric store, selected the fabric I wanted, and set out all my supplies. John was gone on a business trip to Chicago, so I had an entire evening to myself. I turned on Netflix, selected the 1996 version of Jane Eyre, and went to work. 




 


After 3 hours of cutting, pinning, ironing, and sewing, I ended up finishing out the bobbin 2/3rd's of the way into the project, thwarting my chances of completing the purse by dawn. I had no idea how to change/respool/fix/burn the bobbin, and no real desire to spend 30 minutes on YouTube trying to find someone who taped themselves doing it 20x faster than the human eye can see. So I called it quits and went to bed. That was it. No defiant call the next morning to "conquer this challenge!" or "finished what I started!" or "clean up after myself!"






Oh, nay. I made some coffee (hot, steaming, hazelnut breakfast blend coffee with almond milk) and read blogs on Google Reader. And made an account on Audible. Oh, and I think I did a load of laundry, too.





Thursday, July 14, 2011

Saturday

Sometimes there are those weekends that you know will be awesome. For us, they're typically unplanned and involve at least one trip to Mama Carmen's or Starbucks . This weekend, it also involved the Fayetteville Farmers' Market.


The Fayetteville Farmers' Market is one of the most popular events in NWA. People from all over the area come up to the Fayetteville Square to buy fresh produce, eggs, meat (or order it at least), and fruit while sipping on some Jammin' Java coffee and snacking on scones, cookies, or breakfast sandwiches from Arsaga's (both of which set up stands on the Square with their goodies). It's almost as much fun to "people watch" as it is to see each vendor's offerings; bands gathering crowds along the corners of the street, people walking their dogs, riding their bicycles, and holding their children while vendors sell their wares. It's an experience that everyone should have an opportunity to be a part of at some point. 




We started off with breakfast at The Little Bread Company, a bakery that is always busy. In fact, today the line was almost out the door, and John and I ate outside (partly because there were no available seats inside, partly because it was a nice morning). They are famous for their enormous cinnamon rolls, quiches, danishes, and cookies, all of which will easily throw off your calorie tracking for a full week (but you don't really care. It's kind of amazing). I selected the olive, tomato, and feta quiche. John had the ham, cheese, and egg sandwich with a side of breakfast potatoes. Yum. 


On to the market, where produce was in abundance. Cucumbers were at nearly every booth, as were cherry tomatoes and fingerling potatoes. 

I bought some cucumbers.

This was the only red cabbage at the market. 

The band, Farmer and the Markets. Clever. 

John sat and listened to the band while I went around a second time to check out the booths. They apparently played a Sufjan Stevens song he liked, so he downloaded it while he waited.  

Another set of musicians, stationed at the corner of the Square. 

It was a great day.






Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday Miscellany - July 11th



It seems like I have recently become obsessed with cakes and cupcakes lately. (Not cake pops.) With networking sites like Pinterest, Google+, and Google Reader, it seems like I am never, ever, ever at a loss for cakes spectacular. (you see what I did there? I put the adjective after the word and then italicized it to make the idea seem cooler! Grammar is awesome!) 


But I digress. Of all the cakes I've found in my "research," my personal favorite comes from Matador Life's article, "20 Incredible Creative Cakes." It's a crafty woman's dream cake, in my opinion; you'll find yarn, knitting needles, scissors, embroidery thread, buttons, a pincushion, an embroidery hoop, and all sorts of other little surprises hidden both inside the basket and around the base. This is a real cake, people. A real, honest-to-goodness, iced and deliciously edible cake. If I were a diva, I would demand this for my birthday. Actually, if I were a diva I would probably demand this for Thursday. Why? Um, because I could. Don't make this difficult. 







A close second would be this owl cake from Cake Central, because anyone who knows me knows I am obsessed with owls. (I guess if you're reading this and you don't know me, you are now aware of my preoccupation with these adorable creatures...so it works out great for everybody.) My friend Jen had a baby shower several months ago, and I walked in not knowing it would be the best owl-themed baby shower ever. I was absolutely enthralled with all the decorations and appetizers and treats and games. I took lots of pictures




___________________________________________________

Okay. I need to move on. Let's talk about food blogs. There is a new "up-and-coming" blogger posting over at The Hectic Gourmet. She's got some clever ideas about cooking, including some unconventional recipes and articles found across the internet. I love her "Five Great Roll Ups" post, especially since there is apparently such a thing as pizza bread. It's like bread, but with pizza inside. Seriously? Seriously. And for dessert, may I interest you in the Heavenly Chocolate Cake Roll, also listed in the post? 
my cinnamon swirl bread

I have made cinnamon swirl bread before, which is listed in the post, so I know that it's not nearly as difficult as most people believe it to be. In fact, I've heard many people (okay, two women) explain that rolled desserts are not difficult to make at all. When you stop and think about it, a lot of our dining options include some form of "rolling": cream cheese pinwheels, burritos, sushi...um, other rolly things that I can't think of right now.... 

Oh my gosh, can you imagine if you ate only rolled food for an entire day??? Cinnamon rolls for breakfast, sushi rolls for lunch, pizza rolls for dinner, and a slice of chocolate cake roll for dessert. Um, guys...I think I just created a new diet plan. Expect a book soon, tentatively titled, Rolling off the Pounds. It will be delightful. 

____________________________________________________


After I make millions of dollars off of this new diet book, I'll probably have a lot of time to indulge in expanding my craft repertoire. I'll have rooms of fabric and glitter. Rooms, I tell you! (shakes fist defiantly)


So, being the thoughtful person that I am, I believe I should begin on projects in which my future children will delight. Por exemplo: the dinosaur-robot. This creation was apparently featured in an Anthropologie catalog some time ago, and was not actually the invention of a crafty parent (though, I suppose the corporate/creative offices of this particular business could employ crafty parents). I think I could totally make this. I have lots of boxes, packing tape, a hot glue gun, and a box cutter. Now, I just need to find a young child to test out its durability and real-life cuteness. Because if I work 10-15 hours on this box dinobot, it had better look cute. 


I would also consider gluing together 6-8 giant boxes in a pyramid and painting the entire thing to look exactly like a massive royal wedding cake. I'd place it in the middle of my living room, put on my wedding dress, and somehow convince my husband to put on a tux so that we could be giant cake toppers. Best Christmas card photo. Ever. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Walmart Supercenter vs Walmart Express




Thanks to Collective Bias and ConAgra, I recently had the opportunity to take a shopping trip over at the new Gentry Walmart Express, a smaller, more convenient version of the sprawling Walmart Supercenter that we've all grown accustom to in the last few years (click here to see my story on intersect). Though the Express version carries many of the same items at the same competitive prices, it focuses much more on convenience, while the Supercenter seems to focus most of its energy on variety. Read below to get my take on how each one ranks in three categories: parking/accessibility, variety of products, and convenience. 


Parking/Accessibility
parking lot at Walmart Express
Hands down, the Walmart Express has it. Check out the parking lot: small, well-structured, and easy to access. Not to mention the fact that there are no stop signs in the parking area, which can frustrate drivers (i.e., me). It's just a normal open lot. For me, this is a huge benefit. There have been numerous occasions where I have shopped at a Harp's or Walgreen's store simply because I didn't feel like dealing with the Walmart parking lot, despite the fact that I had to pay more for the item.  So, in my opinion, the Walmart Express really did well here.





Variety of Products

tomato sauce at the Walmart Express
This would have to go to Walmart Supercenter. I have spent many an hour perusing through aisles of peanut butter, tomato sauce, and hair care products trying to select the right one. It seems that Walmart Supercenters carry almost every option on the market when it comes to basic cooking, cleaning, and home care products. The Walmart Express, while clearly trying to keep some variety in stock, does not live up to its larger counterpart. Here are a few examples: 
  • I like Almond Breeze unsweetened vanilla almond milk. It's available at my local Walmart Supercenter and Neighborhood Market, as well as other local grocery stores. And while the Walmart Express carried almond milk, it only carried Silk PureAlmond. Not a big deal (I mean, they did have goat milk, soy milk, rice milk, and regular milk), but I noticed. 
  • I was looking for some Hunt's tomato sauce (a ConAgra brand), and while Hunt's was represented, there were only two kinds (original and no salt added). The overall selection leaned heavily toward the Great Value brand, which is fine unless you are searching for a specific kind of sauce. 
frozen produce selection at Walmart Express
  • The frozen produce section of a Walmart Supercenter typically extends at least 2/3 of an aisle and displays several brands and varieties of frozen produce. At the Walmart Express, the display was significantly smaller, and the options were running low as well. Now, I wonder if the demand for products is overwhelming the supply Walmart expected at this particular store. It could be that they will address this soon and make sure the shelves stay stocked. Who knows.
  • On a positive note for the Walmart Express, they carried several gluten-free products such as pasta and cake mixes, which was fairly impressive considering the size of the store. They also carried a large selection of tomato sauces, soups, frozen dinners, breads, and candy. So people who would consider doing their weekly grocery shopping at a Walmart Express probably would not be disappointed by the selection.





Convenience

The Walmart Express Pharmacy
Walmart Express has a lead here, not because of the range of conveniences (you won't find a Tire & Lube Express, Vision Express, or Subway/McDonald's restaurant inside), but because of the way Walmart has thought through the needs of convenience shoppers. You will find:
  • a "Site to Store" option, which means you can order items online at Walmart.com and have them shipped to the Walmart Express (or any other participating location);
  • a full-service pharmacy;
  • aisles with towels, bedspreads, pillows, trash cans, and other home items that Walmart Neighborhood Markets and other grocery stores don't carry;
  • a Redbox in front of the store for movie rentals, as well as movies for sale inside the store;
  • a check-cashing station at the front of the store;
  • and a "convenience food" display right inside the front door with packaged, ready-to-go sandwiches, pizzas, salads, and sides.  




Verdict
If the Walmart Express wasn't so far away (it was a 45-minute drive from my house), I would shop there all the time. It's quick, convenient, and supplies most of what I need throughout the week. So what did I buy there today? A Slim Jim snack pack and two boxes of Crunch 'n Munch Buttery Toffee with Peanuts Popcorn, both from ConAgra, as well as bread, garlic, and a Vitamin Water for the trip back home. 




Please note: though I was compensated for this trip, all opinions expressed in this post are 100% mine. 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

I will be "off the grid" this weekend, so please take this opportunity to check out some of my favorite blogs and websites, from the interwebz:



  • The Gospel Coalition - where I get all my theology news (when not directly reading the Bible, that is).

  • Goodreads - addictive online bookshelf. Check out my stuff (KellysPinkBicycle) and add me to your friends list!



What are some of your favorite sites around the interwebz???



Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday Miscellany - June 27th


Welcome to Monday Miscellany, where I present the best of this week in people, places, and things  (in my opinion, at least). 


I have to put Mama Carmen's on my list, first and foremost. If you haven't been yet, you need to stop by. It's an espresso cafe serving coffee from a farm in Guatemala. The story of the coffee farm is absolutely amazing (click here to read about it), and anyone working at Mama Carmen's would be more than happy to relay the story to you. The coffee is amazing - I have tweeted about it literally every single time I go (which is a lot), and the teas are fantastic. It's one of my favorite places to chill, blog, read, or hang out with friends. They also have a Global Shoppe that "operates in the spirit of fair trade, seeking to make a positive difference in the lives of the artisans with whom we work by purchasing their products for a fair price and providing market access for their products in the US" (from their Facebook page). You can find anything from handmade bracelets and purses to carved wooden bowls and figurines. Every item is handmade by artisans who are being supported spiritually and financially by the work they produce. Great coffee, great cause.
______________________________________________________

Next, I found this infographic on Mashable a few days ago, called "Social Dudes and Fast Food." It compares the eating habits of guys in regard to, well, fast food. For your information, guys love McDonald's fries above anything else. Guys apparently also order three junior bacon cheeseburgers on a ridiculously consistent basis (it was the second most popular meal, right behind Taco Bell's cheesy Double-Decker tacos). I also found another interactive infographic this week, called "How Many Households are Like Yours," from the New York Times. For example, I can click on the "married couple" and learn that 21% of American households are married couples. I can also see the average income, ethnicity distribution, and other demographic information along the bottom of the screen. That way, I can feel bad that I don't "represent" well, or feel superior that I overqualify. Hmmm. I can also add in children, parents, boarders, siblings, etc. and see how others live your kind of life. Pretty cool. The best feature: the silhouette icons, especially grandpa. 
____________________________________________

Having just celebrated one year of wifehood, I am becoming quite sentimental and nostalgic (these are different things. Kinda.) about the memories we share together. I found this incredibly sweet journal constructed by Monika Wright on her blog. I tried to do a journal challenge this month that was similar, but (confession) I got through day four. Okay, fine, day three. But if I had a week of uninterrupted time and a room where I could spread my entire collection of glitter pens, craft scissors, glue, stickers, buttons, hot glue gun, sequins, ribbon, and crafting paper, then I could do make a journal that would Rock. Your. World. Or at least your Thursday. 
________________________________________________

Finally, a rant. So there are several baked goods I would like to master over the course of the next few years, and honestly, the "cake pop" is not one of them.
From www.bakerella.com
I don't understand cake pops, nor the recent fascination with them. Why do we need this single serving cake-on-a-stick? Why not just eat a piece of cake? Doesn't this "pop" fall off the stick after one bite, thus negating the utility of the stick itself? There is apparently even a cookbook dedicated solely to cake pops, titled, Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More than 40 Irresistible Mini Treatswherein you can learn about making martian cake pops, apple cake pops, and even bride and groom cake pops (because nothing says "Congratulations!" like biting off the bride's delicious cake-y torso). 

So instead of the cake pop, I suggest a radically upsetting alternative: the cupcake. Why? I'm glad you asked:
  1. Larger bites-per-treat ratio. With the cake pop, you get 1-2 bites. That's it. Just enough for me to get upset that I have to go back for seconds, thirds, and fourths to get an appeasable portion. Not cool. With a cupcake, you get at least 4-5 bites of pure deliciousness veiled in a rich layer of icing. Yum...
  2. Ease of decoration. With cake pops, you pretty much have to roll them in something (sprinkles, nuts, cocoa powder, sprinkles, nuts...) or make them into a face, apple, or other generally round object. But with the cupcake, you have a fantastic canvas upon which to paint your sacchariferous masterpiece. Perhaps you're throwing a basketball-themed party. How about hoops and basketballs on top of yellow spiced cupcakes! Are you into Alice in Wonderland? How about some Cheshire cats and tea cups atop chocolate cupcakes! The possibilities are endless. Endless, I tell you. 
  3. Ease of preparation. From my experience, cupcakes are made in four steps: Mix. Bake. Cool. Decorate. Simple, straightforward, and (fairly) foolproof. However, in this "easy" recipe from Little Miss Momma, cake pops seem to require eight steps (though some of her steps have steps which, in my opinion, is cheating). That means there are eight separate opportunities for me to completely screw up the entire recipe and hurl a massive cakefrostingburntchocolateball into the trash can. Four steps I can handle. But eight? Eight? Have you seen me make instant rice?! I still read the directions.
  4. You can "stuff" cupcakes. Do you grasp the implications of that statement? You can STUFF cupcakes. Rumor has it that cupcakes have been stuffed with cookies, chocolate-covered cherries, mousse, dried fruit, chocolate chunks, creme, and a plethora of other divine bakery goodies. Apparently, there is even a bakery in New Jersey called "Stuffed Cupcakes." That's their whole thing. People make a living putting sweets inside cupcakes. The best part of this is, in reality, you get two-for-one: candy, cookie, creme, etc. plus a cupcake. And any time the words "two-for-one" and "cupcakes" are combined, the gold at the end of a rainbow doubles in size. Truth. 
My wedding (cup)cakes.



So that is why I think cupcakes are superior to cake pops. I hope you feel better about this serious and highly contestable topic. I also hope you have a fantastic week involving lots of stuffed cupcakes and Mama Carmen's coffee!