Monday, July 29, 2013

A Very Strong Force

If I were to take the Myers Briggs test, it would show you that I am an ENF/TJ.

If I were to take a spiritual giftings test, it would show you that my top three strengths are Leadership, Teaching and Encouragement.

If I were to take a DISC assessment, it would tell you that I am highly social and organized with very little dominant personality traits.

If I were to show you my report cards, test scores or trophy case, it would indicate that I can usually speak in complete sentences and am somewhat physically coordinated.


If I were to show you how well I can flirt with a cute guy who I find both charming and intelligent (a rare combination, trust me), who is gainfully employed, loves Jesus, has very impressive triceps and is completely emancipated from his mother, you would find that I am a COMPLETE AND TOTAL MORON.

Apparently, my awkwardness is a very strong force.

That's awesome.

Thursday, July 25, 2013



Help me out with something. For the life of me I cannot understand hashtags. Yes, I know they help you get all linked up with people and topics on Twitter, but why do people use them in non-Twitter related venues?

Like, they use them in real life. On real written documents. In real conversations with real people.

I don't get it.

Perhaps you do this. Perhaps you are one of those people who close every Facebook post or text or email with a hashtag of some sort like #tacosaremylife or #mondaysarelame. I am not judging you. Nope, I am merely saying that THEY DRIVE ME TO THE BRINK OF INSANITY.

Why can't you just spell out what you are trying to say like a normal person?  For the love of 10th grade English, let's all use proper grammar and spelling and punctuation. Makingallofyourwordsruntogetherneverhelpedanyone.


And why is it a hashtag? Who declared the pound sign/number sign to be the universal symbol for throwing the much-needed space between words out of the window? Is that what our society has become now, a bunch of punctuation-hating technology lovers who don't care if the next generation knows how to write a sentence?

Can you imagine if Shakespeare lived during this time? #ohromeoohromeowhereforarthouromeo would become increasingly more difficult to read. And none of us need that, his stuff is already a Mensa challenge.

Or, you know, the Bible. If Moses thought the hashtag was appropriate, I am pretty sure #inthebeginninggodcreatedtheheavensandtheearth would lose a little of its punch, don't you think?

Look, all I am saying is that I think we should keep the hashtag in its proper place and not in everyday life where the rest of us are trying to read your ridiculous sentences. I just think the world would be a better place that way.







Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Five Things

I have this new blogger friend. She found me on Facebook on my Gourmet Girl to Go page and invited me to participate in a "Five Things" question series. I agreed right away because 1.) I need blogging material and 2.) I cannot say no to new friends.

Her name is Kris and you can find her blog here. I am a big fan already.

So, without further ado, here is a snapshot in time, or, in other words, a ton of information you have never wanted to know about me. Just think of it as my contribution to helping you get through hump day.

(Which, by the way, I am LOVING this commercial:

Totally brilliant.)

Okay, now without further ado, here it is:

Five Things I am Passionate About:
1. A simple life. My mind is often so cluttered with stuff that I forget to live well. So simplifying is my theme right now. And I love it.

2. Food. I love food. I love growing it, eating it, cooking it, baking it, sharing it and preparing it for anyone who will eat it. It is my love language and my spiritual gifting, if that were a real thing.

3. My family. They are a crazy bunch of people, but they are my people.

4. My friends. I have amazing, incredible friends. Holy cow, who knew I was I cool enough to have friends like that?

5. Jesus. Amen.

Five Things I Would Like To Do Before I Die:
1. Get married. I practically have it planned out on Pinterest anyway and I would hate for that board to go to waste. But in all honesty, I am one of those girls who has thought about her wedding since she was little and I would love to experience it with the right person.

2. Hike Machu Pichu. I know many of you must be shocked over the word "hike" but that is one hike I would gladly tackle.

3. Own another horse. I was 12 years old the first time I got a horse and I would love to see how I would handle it now. Besides, they smell really, really good.

4. Take a week-long cooking class in Europe. Italy, France, Spain, Ireland, any of those countries will do. I want my entire week to be covered in sugar and flour. And chocolate. And maybe some cheese. I don't think that is too much to ask, do you?

5. Memorize large sections of the Bible. Isaiah 40, the entire book of James, 1 John and any of the psalms are on my list. I am horrendous at memorization unless it is put to a song. So I guess this is fair warning if I ever sing verses at you. Don't be alarmed, I'll try to jazz it up a little.

Five Things I Say A Lot:
1. It's not my yard.
2. I could stick my entire head into this bowl.
3. Salted caramel is my love language
4. Seriously.
5. I'm over it.

Five Books/Magazines I Have Read Lately:
1. Country Living Magazine. Naturally.
2. The Harbinger. This was a few months ago but it was a quick and intense read.
3. Treasure Island. It has been over 20 years since I last read that book and it was totally different than what I remembered. It's funny how that happens.
4. The Spirituality of Fundraising (Henri Nouwen). I re-read this all the time because it is essential to my job. It's good stuff.
5. Joy the Baker's Cookbook. I love her, her writing style and her recipes. I highly recommend following her blog!

Five Favorite Movies:
1. The Goonies
2. Pride and Prejudice
3. Braveheart
4. Lord of the Rings
5. Strictly Ballroom

Five Places I Would Like to Visit:
1. New Zealand.
2. Peru
3. Greece
4. Egypt
5. Montana

Now, I am supposed to invite five other people to participate but I am kind of lame and don't know many bloggers. So, if you would like to tackle this list, go for it and just let me know! I'll link you up.

Oh, and happy Wednesday, people of the world wide web.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Kick Off Your Sunday Shoes

Last night, I went to the Kenny Loggins concert with one of my dearest friends, Kathleen.

Let's just let that soak in a minute.

First off, Kenny Loggins. I lived the entire decade of the 1980's in the single digits, so needless to say, I was on the younger side of the population pool last night.

Second, my pop culture intelligence was somewhat limited during that time and I only knew of Bon Jovi from the posters my gorgeous cousin Sherry had on her ceiling.

And on top of that, I was home schooled during that decade, which meant I wore more denim jumpers than leg warmers. And that just makes me sad.

However, I wasn't totally in the dark because out of that decade came some of the most iconic movies of my lifetime. And a lot of that has to do with the musical genius and cinematic treasure that is Kenny Loggins. Without him, Top Gun, The Karate Kid, Footloose and Caddy Shack would have been completely lame.

I mean, can you imagine Footloose without "Footloose?" Nope. Not at all. Kevin Bacon would have all these pent-up dance moves without it. And there is nothing I love more than Kevin Bacon dancing. Nothing.

So, in honor of the fantastic evening I had last night, and because it is Monday in the middle of July and we all need a reason to dance, I give you this video.

A couple things I love:
1. Kevin Bacon and his bow tie
2. The shoes
3. The copious amounts of glitter
4. Willard's tux
5. Kevin Bacon and his bow tie

You're welcome.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Gourmet Girl and 3 Cooks in the Kitchen

My second cooking class last week left me covered in cheese and licking caramel sauce off my fingers.

(That very well could have been the best sentence I have ever written.)

My amazing friend Sheryl, with whom I traveled to Senegal and Morocco a few years ago, works with college interns every summer. She asked me if I would come to her house and teach a few of them a couple of new recipes. Since there is nothing I love more than to teach others how to make food less complicated and more delicious, I quickly agreed.

Besides, my Friday night plans up to that point had been a bag of chocolate chips and Netflix. Don't be jealous.

So, on the menu:
Homemade pizza with caramelized onions, mushrooms, pesto, garlic and cheese
Vanilla bean ice cream with salted caramel sauce
Raspberry and dark chocolate banana bread (for breakfast, of course!)

Sheryl, Kelsey and Holly: the cooking dream team.

The girls, Kelsey and Holly, jumped right in! We talked about the scariness of yeast and its potential to take over your kitchen. We learned how to speed up the caramelizing process of onions by adding a little butter and brown sugar. We discussed the finer points of pesto and the beauty of a pastry brush. All the while, Sheryl created a fabulous salad so we could at least pretend to be healthy.

By the time we sat down to dinner, we had an amazing pizza, fresh salad, and salted caramel sauce bubbling on the stove. Before dessert, we mixed up our banana bread and baked them in small loaf pans, perfect for interns to eat for breakfast or lunch or in the middle of the night when all good cravings hit.
The girls entertained me with their stories about family, life in college and their summer in Colorado. I almost started talking about my time in college and then I remembered that I am not nearly as cool as I think I am because they were six years old my freshman year.
(That could have been the most depressing sentence I have ever written.)
Overall, the evening was fantastic! I love teaching people about food and the joy it can bring to any gathering. And I love feeling like I am one more fall away from a broken hip and a walker with tennis balls on the feet.
God bless the young.
If you would like to sign up for a cooking class, feel free to visit the Gourmet Girl to Go website! You can also LIKE me on Facebook where I post my latest culinary successes and disasters.
And if you want, we can even talk about the glory days of college where Chandler Bing was a household name.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Gourmet Girl and the Women's Group Cooking Class

Last night, I held a cooking class for some of my most favorite friends! The girls from Women's Group (Abby, we missed you!) asked if I would teach them a few dishes in honor of Heather and Jenn's July birthdays. And I said "Does Pluto still wish it was a planet?"

Heck yes.

So, on the menu:
Quinoa salad with fresh veggies in a lemon herb dressing
Baked ricotta with baguette
White chocolate tart with peaches and raspberries.


The girls tackled the dishes like pros! They diced veggies, whisked dressing, melted white chocolate, mixed cream cheese, prepared ricotta, sliced peaches and made an overall fantastic meal! And at the end, we all sat around the very same table we sat around over 10 years ago on the night we all first met each other. We had come full circle! And we still looked 23. What are the odds?

Here are a few action shots:

Here is Jenn mixing garbanzo beans, fresh corn, tomatoes, orange bell pepper, green onions and lemon herb dressing into the cooked quinoa. She is such a great stirrer.

Heather, Natalie and Kim (with Rachel's arm) adding peaches to the tart and licking the bowls.

Rachel presenting their amazing white chocolate tart. And no, there were no leftovers.

The girls: Rachel, Heather, Jenn, Natalie and Kim. 

I seriously love these girls. And I loved our meal together. You know you have good friends when they hire you to cook and you put them to work instead.

Great friends, actually.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Recipe Round-Up: Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Fresh Fruit

Even though the 4th of July is over, you still need cake. And cream cheese frosting. And any design you want.

This cake knows how to party. It is incredibly versatile and delicious and can be made every single month of the year. It is divine in November with a hot cup of coffee. It is delightful in April for a perfect Easter lunch. And it fits nicely on your patio table when you are singing the Star Spangled Banner.

What else do you know that has that track record?


This cake is where it is at. And it can be personalized.

Peaches on top?
No problem.

What about blackberries? Strawberries? Mango?
And yes.

How about pecans and walnuts?
You're brilliant.

What if you just want it plain with extra frosting?

Not only can you have conversations with yourself about this cake, but it is simple to make. Combine wet ingredients then dry ingredients, mix, bake, frost, eat.

It is fail-proof. For reals.

Let's get started:

Combine sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla and grated zucchini. Bam! Done!

SIDE NOTE: My mama grows zucchini every year in her garden. They are the rabbits of the vegetable world because they multiply like crazy. Together, we grate them up, measure them out into freezer bags and store them in the freezer. When you are craving a zucchini cake or bread, they are ready to go! It almost makes you feel like you live in the pioneer days, except for the electricity and your cell phone.

Now, mix it up.

Once it looks like this...

...add flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Total flavor explosion.

Mix it up and pour it into a cake pan.

Put the cake in the oven and whip up some frosting.

*Let's pretend I took pictures of me making the frosting.*

Once the cake is baked and cooled, pile on as much frosting as your little heart desires. My little heart desires a lot.

WA- LA! Finito! See how easy it is? I adore this recipe.


...if you would like to bust out the sparklers and host a 4th of July party (or any party, really), just grab blueberries, raspberries (strawberries will also work) and some additional frosting. Proceed like so:

First: blueberries.

Next: raspberries.

Last: Pipe on stars and stripes.
(Sorry about the blurry photo. I blame the frosting.)

 And there she is. God bless America.

Enjoy, hungry friends!

Zucchini Cake (high altitude instructions in parentheses)
3 cups sugar (minus 9 Tbsp)
1 1/2 cups oil (minus 5 Tbsp)
4 eggs (5 eggs)
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups grated uncooked zucchini
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder (minus 1/2 tsp)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
11/2 cups pecans, if desired

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla and zucchini together until well blended. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Add nuts. Pour into a greased 9X13 pan and bake for 1 1/2 hours or until brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. (I usually set the time for 1 hour and check on it every 10 minutes.)  Cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting
2 8oz. packages of cream cheese, room temperature
4 Tbsp butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
3-4 cups powdered sugar

In a mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add salt, vanilla and sugar and slowly mix to incorporate. Once the sugar is mixed in, turn mixer on high and beat for 2 minutes. (Start with 3 cups of powdered sugar and work your way up to 4 until you have the consistency you want.)

Frost cooled cake and decorate with fresh fruit if desired.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Six Months In

So, today is my half-birthday! I realize I may be alone in the celebration of this. It's not like Hallmark has half-birthday cards. But they totally should.

When I was young, my grandma and my mom would make a cake and serve half of it with half a candle. It is one of my favorite memories and needs to become a tradition because it means we have survived six more months, and sometimes that is a miracle in itself.

I also love this day because it is the birth date I wish I had. You see, summer represents all things wonderful and happy and magical and winter is like a vast wasteland of coldness and death. What can you do in January? Ice skate (um, hello broken elbow!) and freeze. But in July, the sky is the limit! Plus, the daylight is around for nearly six extra hours!

Feel free to join my half-birthday pity party.

However, this day also makes me think of all the things I did not do the first half of this year. It is a mile marker of sorts, helping me gauge my productivity, or lack thereof. But it is also a wonderful motivator and confidence-builder because you realize you actually contribute to society sometimes.

First off, here are a few of the items I have either accomplished, experienced or navigated. Stand back.

1. I started my own business. I have two cooking classes this week so let's pray for safety for all involved.

2. I survived the month of June at work. I am now taking naps under my desk.

3. I have yet to break a bone or sprain a muscle. Amen and amen.

4. I have begun taking the extra fluff out of my life, namely the news and blow drying my hair. Those two things really save so much time.

However, I still have a few things I would like to do in the next six months:

1. Visit a new country. This is a goal every year. Anyone up for Greece? Norway? Peru?

2. See more of my cousins. I miss each one of them, all 46,720.

3. Find a new hobby. I am thinking fly fishing or ballroom dancing. Or both. Or not at all. I really don't know.

4. Fall in love. People do it all the time, or so I hear. And I am really great at it.

5. Rediscover joy. I seem to have lost some of mine and I would like it back. It's a tricky thing, that joy.

6. Run a 5K. Oh, did I just type that? That must have been a mistake. I am so funny.

7. Take a cooking class in something I have never tried before, like French pastry or sushi.

8. Be more kind, generous and patient. It should just happen.

9. Be unbelievably brave and courageous. It is hard to plan for this one but I want to be if the situation arises.

10. Save up now for Christmas presents instead of paying it off in January. You would think I would have this down by now but somehow December 25 always sneaks up on me!

And a bonus goal...

11. Eat more watermelon. It is freaking delicious.

So, I have my work cut out for me. I have learned that I need goals in my life otherwise I wither into a pile of nothing who only watches Hulu and eats yogurt. It's not pretty, trust me. These will hopefully keep me on track to actually living life instead of watching it. Sometimes I need these little reminders, these little motivators to get me out of a rut and into a groove.

Bring it on, second half!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

My Most Favorite Holiday

Today is the day before the 4th of July, (otherwise known as the 3rd of July). It is the eve before my most favorite holiday.

Last night, I attempted to hang red, white and blue bunting from my front porch as an expression of my patriotism. I nearly catapulted myself into some shrubbery, but thankfully I stayed upright due to my amazing core strength. Due to a variety of circumstances, plastic siding and faulty Velcro being the main ones, I failed at my attempt. Nevertheless, I will try again. I consider it my civic duty.

The 4th of July is every good emotion and memory I have wrapped up in one explosive day. I love everything about it, even the possibility of losing a toe because of a wayward Black Cat.

I love the 4th of July.

I love big, juicy hamburgers on the grill, smothered in onions, tomatoes, ketchup, mustard and dill pickles.

I love cousins who spend their entire year's allowance on fireworks and happily light them off in the driveway.

I love the hot sun on my shoulders and the freckles that result.

I love the Star-Spangled Banner. I could hear it everyday of my life and not grow tired of it.

I love homemade ice cream and my Aunt Marge's homemade fudge sauce.

I love the endless possibilities of how one can use a water hose on your family members.

I love the sense of unity, of community, of celebrating something that people are still fighting for.

I love cream cheese frosting, especially in the form of the flag.

I love parades, floats, marching bands and kids riding their bikes with streamers flying off their handlebars.

I love tradition and celebration, using this day as an excuse to get together.

I love this country. Having traveled to over 25 others, I am still glad this is the one I come home to.

 I hope your 4th of July is fantastic in every possible way.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

And the Trophy Goes To...

Do you remember when I said that my family was having a miniature golf tournament? I think I mentioned duct tape and a trophy were involved. Between work and a general lack of will, I never updated you on the results. It was neck and neck until the bitter end.

I will just tell you now that this was one of the most fun things my family has ever done. Trust me, if you want to have a good time, just go throw some boards together, add a water hazard and dig a few holes in your yard.

Not wanting to leave you hanging, I thought I would show you just how impressive our course turned out to be.

Correction: I may have gotten the word "impressive" confused with "ghetto fabulous."

Behold. The Course:

(Try not to be intimidated by our engineering genius.)
The Prize:
 A few of the players:

The game was intense. And brutal. And hilarious. No clubs were thrown but there were a few disputes about the score. The good part was that you maxed out at 10 strokes per hole. The bad part was that some holes required at least 15. (I'm talking to you, Hole #2.)

The game was close. As evident by the scoreboard, I had the lowest score for the first round, which I consider a minor miracle.

However, like all good professional backyard miniature golf tournaments, a playoff round was necessary for the top three players. So Sam, Noah and I hit up three more holes.

By the end, only one true champion emerged, and he gave a speech during the trophy ceremony and thanked his fans.

All in all, it was a highly successful, extremely robust game of homemade miniature golf. The yard is back to normal, Noah has found a spot for his trophy and we are already plotting next year's holes. It looks like this has now become a Father's Day tradition.
Good luck to whomever I marry, apparently "Miniature Golf Hole Construction and Execution" is now part of the criteria.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Simple Life: Phone Home

I left my phone at home today.

Not on purpose, of course. Who in the world would purposefully leave their lifeline at home? That's just ridiculous.

I am partial to lifelines, particularly ones that tell me how much money I have in the bank and how many calories I will waste if I eat cookies for breakfast. It also has all the pictures I have taken in the month of June while I was buried in work and family birthdays and not having time to blog. I am sure you are dying to see those pictures and the first priority of my day was to show them to you so you didn't think I had run away or joined the circus or had forgotten how to type.

I also need my phone because what if I actually have wait in line for something and I don't have Pinterest to distract me?

Or what if I need to check the weather? People! The weather! How will I know?

And I am sure the Facebook world is missing me. I am an expert Facebook lurker and liker. It's just what I do.

And what if I wanted to run a 5K after work? (Let's just pretend, people!) My phone is the only one that can tell me when to run, when to cool down and when to pass out.

Oh, and just in case we forgot about the original function of a phone, it has all of my phone numbers in it. It probably has your phone number in it, especially since the only ones who still read this blog either share my last name or are trying to find out if I survived last month. And don't even begin to ask me if I memorized phone numbers because the only two numbers I have memorized are my office's fax number and my home phone in 7th grade.


That stupid phone. It is just sitting there on my bedside table, probably lighting up with texts and reminders and wondering where I am.

And all I can do is just sit here and live my Monday with carefree abandon that no one needs me right now and that the world is still turning without me making sure of it. I just have to struggle through my app-free day, without  a text, without an email, without the constant desire to make sure I didn't miss a status update from that guy I met three years ago who knows my cousin's husband's sister. I have to endure the freedom of a zero data day.

How will I survive?

I guess I'll just go outside to check on the weather. This Simple Life is harder than I thought.