Tuesday, November 30, 2010

30 Days of Thankfulness - #30

Can you even believe that today is the last day of November? Where did it go? Wasn't it just Labor Day? Shouldn't I still be 24? What happened to the 7th grade?

Actually, you couldn't pay me enough to repeat the 7th grade. Let's just say a grown-out perm, braces and a crush on a guy named Hans were included. Try not to let that mental image sink in.

So, for the final day of my thankfulness campaign, I want to let you know that I am thankful for running.

Take a moment. I know this is overwhelming. I myself am living in a state of complete shock.

I  know this is contrary to everything I am and everything I stand for, but I seriously love running but I seriously love the benefits of running. While I am actually running, I loathe every bite I have ever eaten. My heart feels like it is going to explode, my legs want to quit and shrivel up and my lungs are on the verge of shutting down completely.What's not to love, right?

But in all honesty, it makes me feel  like an Olympian. For years, I have tried to be athletic. I have always worked out. I have taken up salsa dancing. I have even participated in a variety of sports, including softball, volleyball, tennis, ballet, soccer for a day and baton-twirling. I was a rock star at baton-twirling.  But none of those made me feel like I owned an ounce of coordination.

That is where running is different. And do you know why it is different? Because it requires ZERO TALENT. That's right, all you need is perseverance and a paramedic. No talent necessary.

So thanks for letting me share this with you. And just in case you were wondering, my new fondness of running will never, EVER translate into a new love for hiking. If that were to ever happen you would know that the four horsemen of the Apocalypse were right behind me.

And thanks for giving me so many reasons to be thankful. You are the best.

Monday, November 29, 2010

30 Days of Thankfulness - #29

I am oh-so thankful for traditions.

Let's be honest, folks, there are some pretty wacky traditions out there. Eating black-eyed peas on New Years Day, kissing people under clumps of tree fungus at Christmas and those insane groups of people who think it is fun to jump into the Arctic Sea once a year just so they can be on TV.

But I LOVE traditions. They bring comfort and predictability to my world, and that, my friends, is sometimes hard to find. So, here are a few of my faves that I would like to share with you:

Tradition #1: Every time we drive over the state line of Oklahoma, we sing "Oklahoma." Every. Single. Time. We all have parts: drums, bass, alto, soprano, beat boxer, and one singer who adds flair and drama to the song. It is quite magnificent. And if you are driving alone, then you call up someone on the phone so they can sing along with you.

SIDE NOTE: My siblings and I have even performed this on request at dinner parties, birthdays, gatherings, etc. However, due to an increase in maturity and dignity, and the invention of YouTube, we will no longer be taking requests.

Tradition #2: For the last seven years, Women's Group has exchanged pajamas. I love this for two reasons: 1. My WG is off the hook (do people still say that?) and 2. New pajamas are utterly divine. Seriously, you can't have too many pairs of PJ's.

SIDE NOTE: However, this year we are exchanging something a bit more...adventurous. Apparently traditions can be somewhat fluid.

Tradition #3: My dad's family loves to get jiggy with it. I love this on so many levels, especially because we are a bunch of white Okies who can bust a move like the Jackson family. For example, every time a family member drives away from a family reunion, the rest of the family stands in the yard waving good-bye. However, this does not last for long because approximately 27.6 feet from the driveway, the driver will slam on the brakes, put the car in park, and every one will jump out and dance in the street. Subsequently, everyone in the yard will also start dancing. A few seconds and a couple of curious neighbors later, the driver and his crew jump back in the car and drive away. Now that's a way to make an exit.

Tradition #4: I eat homemade ice cream every 4th of July. I don't think I can live without it. I'm serious.

Tradition #5: We put jingle bells on the doorknob of our front door at Christmas. We have done this for as long as I can remember. I love the sound it makes and it never fails to get me in the Christmas mood. It can also come in handy if a perp should ever decide to break into your house via the front door.

So my friends, what are some of yours?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

30 Days of Thankfulness - #28

I am thankful for leftovers.

I love not cooking.

I love copious amounts of cooked cranberries.

I love eating desserts that I never eat and not feeling guilty about it.  Well, maybe just a little guilty. I swear I hear my treadmill taunting me. I hate that thing.

And I love carbohydrate comas.

Is that a valid excuse not to go to work tomorrow? It totally should be.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

30 Days of Thankfulness - #26

I am thankful for kettle corn.

I am making my own tonight. It may or may not turn out well. I will keep you posted.

Have you ever made your own? What recipe did you use? And have you ever caught anything on fire?

Okay peeps, I am going in...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

30 Days of Thankfulness - #25

I am so very thankful for my family...especially the men who volunteered to do the dishes.

Don't worry, I took pictures.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

30 Days of Thankfulness - #24

I am thankful for a God who is bigger than my funk cloud.

I'll be honest, peeps: I am in a bit of a funk. I am tired. Worn-out. A little frustrated. Discouraged. Underwhelmed. Overwhelmed. And maybe, just maybe, I am throwing myself a pity party. I would invite you to come but I just don't think you could handle the fun.

Surrounding my hazy cloud of funkiness, I know there are many, many things to be thankful for, such as:

A friend's successful surgery

An uncle who is on the mend and home for Thanksgiving

Chunky babies with disappearing knee caps

Food on my table (read: pumpkin cookies)

Clothes in my closet

Amazing friends

A fantastic family

A great job that sends me to the far corners of the world

A car that is completely paid off

A healthy body that now likes to run even though I am screaming for it to change its mind

And my list could go on and on and on...

But sometimes my heart and my head just don't connect. I know I should feel thankful, but right now I only know that I am. Do you ever have those days? Do you ever have those days the DAY BEFORE a national holiday dedicated to THANKFULNESS?

So today I am thankful for a God who understands my shortcomings and chooses to shower me with His blessings anyway. I am thankful for a God whose grace extends far beyond my funky cloud and who gently and ever-so patiently points my eyes back to Him. And I am thankful for a God who does not allow me to wallow for too long, but with equal amounts of kindness and discipline, He sets me back on track with a new perspective.

I am thankful for a God who can lay the smack down on my funkiness.

I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.
Psalm 9:1-2

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

30 Days of Thankfulness - #23 (Recipe Round-Up: Warm Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce)

I am thankful for my new favorite recipe: Warm Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce

Peeps, you need to make this cake. Pronto. In fact, I would HIGHLY encourage you to add this to your Thanksgiving menu. It is super easy and feeds a crowd. I have served it four times this season and it was a hit! Plus, it has homemade caramel sauce. Need I say more?

I think not.

So, here's how you do this:

Start with sugar, oil, vanilla, eggs, flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, dates, walnuts and apples. For the caramel, you will need butter, brown sugar and heavy cream or milk.  But really, why not just bust out the cream, right?

First up: throw in some sugar...


and mix.

SIDE NOTE: I am not going to even mention my lack of KitchenAid Mixer.

Next up: add some vanilla...

three eggs...

And mix.

SIDE NOTE: See, I told you this was easy.

Now, throw in some flour...

a little baking soda...

some cinnamon...and a dash of salt. You know, just a pinch. A smattering, if you will. Just enough to enhance the flavors.

Now, mix that up.

Okay, now comes the dates. Don't be scared, these suckers will take your cake over the top. And you can find dates in most grocery stores. Trust me on this, dates are your friends.

Now, chop them up. It will take a little muscle power, but I know you can do it.

Throw them in a bowl with a little bit of flour and mix. This will keep the dates from sinking to the bottom of your cake. Cool trick, eh? I didn't invent it but I wish I had.

Once they are nice and coated in flour, throw them into your batter.

Here come the walnuts. I love walnuts.

Give them a rough chop and throw them into your batter. Oh man, that batter is so flippin' happy right now!

Now come the stars of the show: apples. I used both Gala and Granny Smith. Or whatever is on sale...but the tarter the better!

SIDE NOTE: Is "tarter" a word?

Take three or four and begin to peel them...

Just like that.

Next up, cut out the seeds and slice.

And then dice.

SIDE NOTE: Did you get that? I rhymed! I am such a "Rymer!" Oh, I kill me.

Now, throw the apples into the batter and bust out the red spoonula and give it a stir.

There you go, keep mixing...

Until is looks like that. OH. MY. GOSH. This batter is to die for! Go on, give it a taste. I DARE YOU.

Pour it into a greased pan and pop it into the oven for about 40 minutes.

SIDE NOTE: Go run 2 miles on your treadmill. And then do P90X. Followed by a 10 minutes of jump rope. And several lunges.

Or you can just watch a re-run of The Office and call it good.

When it comes out, it will look like this: brown and gooey and delicious.

Once it has cooled, grab a fork or a skewer and poke holes all over the cake. Make sure to get the edges!

Keep going...

There you go! The more holes, the better!

Now comes the caramel. Did you think I had forgotten? Shame on you.

Grab some butter and brown sugar and throw it into a small saucepan.

Let it begin to melt...

And pour in the cream. You can use milk but why? I also add a pinch, a smattering, a dash of salt. Just a little bit. It will enhance the flavor, I PROMISE!

Now stir it around...

And let it get bubbly and smooth. This should only take about 2-3 minutes.

Pour the hot caramel into a pouring vessel. Or whatever they are called.

And slowly, slowly drizzle the hot caramel over the cooled cake.

There are no words to describe this. NO. WORDS.

Keep pouring until the cake is sufficiently covered. If you have any extra, save it and serve it with the cake.

Let the cake set for a few minutes (if you can wait that long) so all the caramel seeps into the holes.

Then I HIGHLY RECOMMEND serving this with vanilla bean ice cream and drizzling any left-over caramel sauce over the top. And at that moment, your eyes will roll back into your head and you will pass out from an extreme epicurean experience. Bake this today, my friends. TO-DAY.

Here is the official recipe.

Apple Cake with Homemade Caramel Sauce:
Adapted from Bakearella
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups oil
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
3 cups diced apples
1 cup chopped dates rolled in flour
1 cup chopped walnuts

Caramel Sauce

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup milk/cream
pinch of salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 X 13 pan. Combine sugar and oil using a mixer until blended. Add eggs and vanilla, mixing until combined. Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon and a pinch of salt and mix well. Stir in nuts, dates and apples. The batter will be very thick. Pour into pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until done. Cool cake and using a skewer or fork, poke holes in cake. Cook caramel ingredients on stove until mixture bubbles. Pour caramel over cake and let it set for 5-10 minutes. Serve with ice cream and enjoy!

SIDE NOTE: This recipe can easily be cut in half; use 2 eggs.

Monday, November 22, 2010

30 Days of Thankfulness - #22

I am thankful for my cousins. All 38,519 of them.

And that is only a handful. Don't get me started on the other side of the family.