Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Story of Christmas

A few weeks ago I attended Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God concert.  I have heard the story of the birth of Christ many times, but he ended the concert with a powerful scripture that seemed to really bring together the whole picture.
Colossians 1:15-20
 “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
      He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
 for through him God created everything
      in the heavenly realms and on earth.
   He made the things we can see
      and the things we can’t see—
   such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
      Everything was created through him and for him.
 He existed before anything else,
      and he holds all creation together.
 Christ is also the head of the church,
      which is his body.
   He is the beginning,
      supreme over all who rise from the dead
      So he is first in everything.
 For God in all his fullness

      was pleased to live in Christ,
 and through him God reconciled
      everything to himself.
   He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
      by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.”
So there you have it.  God wrapped himself up in flesh and came down to earth.  To bring peace & joy and to die to save us all.  And that, my friends, is why we celebrate Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Year of Adventure

 1. My new job – My only request when I knew that I would be moved to a new school was that they try to find me a position at the same grade level.  I’m pretty sure I said that I would go to any school in order to stay in first grade.  While I love first graders, I was actually thinking that my graduate school workload would be increasing and I’d like to know what I was doing in one area of my life!  Even though I’ve got a full class of little ones, this year is going so much more smoothly than last year.  Anyone who knew about my class last year knows that it was a bit trying.  It’s always hard to adjust to a new environment, new administration, and new teammates, but I feel that the transition is going well. 

2. Research – I’ve been thinking about my thesis topic since the day I started graduate school.  (Mostly because they told us to start thinking of one on the first night of class.)  When my research class finally rolled around, I had narrowed down the field that I wanted to study.  A few dozen articles later, I tossed out a few topics and really tried to hone in on my subject.  Here’s the best part: I actually enjoy it!  Let me clarify…reading, re-reading, trying to figure out how to cite something, and deciding how to organize thoughts so they flow nicely are not that much fun.  However, it is great to feel like I’m a mini-expert in a particular area that interests me.  Or at least I’m familiar with the names of the experts in that field!

3. The AMAZON – Last year on my second trip to Peru, the leaders started tossing around ideas about other potential end-of-trip vacation spots.  We love our little side trip to Cuzco/Machu Picchu, but there are many other places to see.  I was psyched that the first one on the list was the Amazon Rainforest.  Now those who know me best can tell you that my idea of camping is staying at a Motel 6.  But I was eager to overcome the fear of the unknown (including a yellow fever shot & malaria pills) in order to see one of the most fascinating places in the world. 
It did not disappoint!  I rode in all varieties of water craft, walked on gang planks, hiked through muddy jungle trails, wore multiple layers of bug spray & sun screen, whistled at pink dolphins, trudged carefully through the jungle in the pitch black, talked to Pedro the macaw, fished for piranha, and came home with only two bug bites.  And that’s only part of the story.  While there are many other places I would rather visit first, I’m not opposed to going to the jungle again.  I know exactly what to pack now! ;)

Stay tuned for part 3!

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Year in Review

My last blog post was in July.  Not for lack of things to say, or even from lack of time, but because I’ve chosen to do other things.  The good news is I’ve got lots of free time for the next few days and plenty to talk about! 
Since end of the year is rapidly approaching, I’ve been reflecting on some of the changes in my life.  Here’s part 1:

A Year of Loss
1. My job – This was a rough year for educators.  As our district considered the best way to reduce expenses, my name was put on the bottom of the “might be moved to a new campus” list.  I felt very confident that I would stay in the district and pretty certain that I was one of the last on the list to go from our school.  Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.  I won’t go into the sordid details, but I was told that I would be moving to a new campus.  I would miss seeing my kiddos from previous years, but even more I would deeply miss my grade level team.  Our cohesiveness was very rare in the education world.  There’s more to this story, so stay tuned.

2. My financial safety net – On the same day that I found out that I would be moving to a new school, I went to a last minute dentist appointment to see what was going on with a continual toothache.  Guess what – root canals and crowns are expensive!! This just happened to be in the midst of conflict with my apartment complex over an obscene rent hike.  I juggled some money around, tightened up the budget, and got ready for a year of more rice & beans and less eating out with friends.

3. My free time – Who knew that writing a thesis would take so much time and effort???  I’ve pulled some late nights and cram writing sessions this semester that are reminiscent of undergrad days.  I probably SHOULD be analyzing data right now, but I’m giving myself a little vacation!

4. My church community – I jumped full swing into the young professional group at my church as soon as I moved to Austin 6 years ago.  It’s been a rocky ride.  I’ve seen people come and go, numbers swing drastically for the better or worse, and experienced some amazing friendships.  Over the last year or so, a lot has changed with the group.  It’s not bad change, but things are different.  And I’m finding that I just don’t seem to fit anymore.  A lot of it has to do with grad school eating up my Wednesday nights and weekend free time, but it’s more than that.  It was unexpected in the midst of a chaotic year.  I’m sure a lot of it had to do with loss #5.

5. My friends – I’ve had many wonderful friendships in my time here in Austin, but nothing really compares to my friendships with Rachel, Allison, & Laura.  I’m not really sure why, but we just seemed to mesh well.  We met at church and we bonded through favorite restaurants, movies, Rock Band, road trips, and lots of laughter.  This year, God had big plans for them.  Amazing opportunities opened up and they each moved on to new jobs and new adventures.  But seriously, did they all need to move out of the STATE?!?! 

I know this list is super depressing, but I feel that it is essential to what is shaping me right now.  I was telling a friend the other day that God seems to have opened up a lot of space in my life.  I’m looking forward to seeing what He has in store for me next year. 

But wait, there’s more! Stick around and I’ll share some of the great things that have happened in my life this year.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cookie Capers - A Reflection

Here are my thoughts about making cookies:

1. Royal Icing is not cool. It takes a long time to make and has to be just right and it doesn't even taste good. I mean, what's the point if the icing doesn't taste good!?!?!

2. Making cookies requires lots of supplies - plenty of bags and icing tips (probably the ones you don't have) and lots of toothpicks

3. Making cookies requires space. I've dealt with less counter space before, but I'm pretty sure there are no one bedroom apartments with kitchens designed for the cookie making process.

4. Polka dots are fun! I probably will make more fancy cookies in the future, if only to make more polka dots. It's really neat to see them melt into the semi-set first layer of icing. It's hard to tell because my colors are so similar, but in real life they looked awesome.

5. I made these for Leo's six month birthday, but he didn't even get to eat them. Next time I'll make them for an older audience. ;)

That's all of my cookie capering for this summer. We'll see what free time I have in the fall. (haha!)

Cookie Capers Part 2

Again I will direct you to for tips because I am NOT an expert in the field of cookie making.

Step 1 - Make some super tasty cookies

Step 2 - Mix up some royal icing and dye it.
I needed two shades of yellow, a little pink, and a little black.

Step 3 - Outline the design on the cookie with the darker yellow.
Can you tell what it is yet?

Step 4 - Thin the icing so you can flood the cookie. I can tell that this is a process that takes many attempts to perfect. I had only two attempts so mine wasn't quite thin enough to flood nicely, but I still made it work.

Step 5 - Flood the mane with the darker yellow on a few cookies. Flood the face with the lighter yellow on a few cookies. Do a few more manes, then stop to go back and add darker yellow drops to make ears on the first few faces. (Side note: Don't accidentally mix up the colors. Side note #2: Polka-dotted cookies are my new favorite thing!)

Step 6 - Let everything sit for a few hours. (Or a few days if your life suddenly gets really busy like mine did.)

Step 7 - Use pink to make the nose and black for the eyes, mouth, and whiskers. Again this is is few days later and I was not in the mood to make more royal icing, so I cheated and bought the bottled Wilton's stuff from the grocery store. It worked great, but I realized that I did not have the right size tip. This would have been good to know when I was at the baking store looking at all the icing tips!

Step 8 - Take lots of pictures and savor the accomplishment!
...and choose to ignore the flaws ;)

Summer 2011

Summer’s over! Well, not really, but as soon as I return from Peru it will be time to get back into the groove of school. The kids may not show up until the end of August, but my job starts when I get the key to my classroom.

Here’s what I’ve been up to:
working on Peru stuff
watching New Moon (Alamo pancake style)
eating snow cones
waiting in line for the last Harry Potter (well…I will tonight)
organizing and packing Peru supplies
creating English camp
finishing two grad school classes
hanging out with friends
touring Blue Bell in Brenham
making tough life choices
more Peru packing/organizing
baking delicious treats
eating those treats
sleeping in
reading lots of Kindle books
hanging with my friends

Here’s what I have NOT been doing:
working on school stuff (yay for a break!)
updating my blog regularly (sorry about that)
working out

There are still a few more things on the summer to-do list, but they’ll have to wait until later. For now I’ve got orphans to love on and the Amazon to experience. Lots of pictures and stories to come! :)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Simple Summer Make-Up

I’m not a fan of make-up. It wastes precious morning time and costs too much. Unfortunately, I’ve been brainwashed to feel “naked” without it. During the school year I wear it faithfully, but in summer my face is free!

Here are my basics for when I need to be presentable in the summer:

Cetaphil Facial Moisturizer

No smell, lightweight, and SPF 15

This stuff is the BEST! It’s worth every penny.

CoverGirl Loose Powder

Helps reduce the glisten effect of summer heat

Maybelline Great Lash BIG Mascara

Cause you can’t see my eyes at all without it

That’s it. 4 easy steps to looking less scary each day.

Of course there are still days when I go without anything. :)

When I need to be fancier? I throw on foundation, eye shadow, and occasionally eye liner.

Cookie Capers Part 1

I stumbled across this blog a few months ago. I’ve been day-dreaming about making some super fancy cookies ever since.

Here we go!

1. Pick a cookie design to make (I’ll reveal my choice later)

2. Mix up some Vanilla-Almond Sugar Cookies – recipe below

3. Roll them out and use a glass as a cookie cutter since you have every kind of animal, Easter, Valentine’s, and Christmas cookie cutter, but not a single circle one.

4. Bake them on parchment paper. Why have I not used parchment paper before?!? This stuff is amazing!

5. Roll the leftover dough into balls to freeze and eat later. :)

6. Admire the fresh, warm cookies and try to resist eating them so you’ll have enough to decorate tomorrow.

Stay tuned for part two – Decorating the cookies!

Vanilla-Almond Sugar Cookies


3 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 c. sugar

2 sticks (salted) butter, cold

1 egg

¾ tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 350. Cream sugar and butter. Add egg and extracts. Gradually add flour/baking soda and beat just until combined, scraping down the bowl, especially the bottom.

The dough will be crumbly, so knead it together as you scoop it out for rolling. Roll onto a floured surface and cut into shapes. Place on parchment lined baking sheets. Freeze on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then bake for 10-12 minutes.

This made 21 cut-out cookies and 10 leftovers (not counting the dough that may or may not have been eaten in the process.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pretzel Rolls

So much to blog about and so little free time. Actually, I just choose to do other things with my time. For example, tonight I made some Pretzel Rolls. That’s right...this delightful treat can be made in under 2 hours with minimal hands-on time. Even at the end of a long school day.

For the recipe, check out the Tasty Kitchen Blog. I highly recommend adding that blog to your reader. Lots of delicious recipes!

Here’s my twist:

I halved the recipe because I didn’t have enough yeast for a whole recipe. This was a probably a good decision because I don’t need to eat them all.

The most exciting (and very essential) part was poaching the rolls. Be prepared for some major fizzing when you add the baking soda to the boiling water.

Wax paper is not a good substitute for parchment. It gets a little cooked in a very hot oven.

Make yourself some ASAP. You’re welcome. :)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Vintage Pearl Giveaway

Have I mentioned my love for The Vintage Pearl?

They're having an awesome giveaway today. But don't enter...cause I want the $100 gift certificate. ;)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

I Won!

I've been slowly adding blogs to my google reader over the past few months. One that I follow is Nesting Place.

Last week I entered a contest and won a pillow cover from Blessings Unlimited:

Yay for prizes!

Maybe someday I'll be a famous blogger and give away prizes of my own. :)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Your Love is a Song

In honor of the Grammy's and Valentine's Day, here's my list of top 10 love songs.  I broke it into two parts to make it more interesting.  :)


Top 5 Saddest Love Songs

5. Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler

You loved him, but now you don't.  And, there are some powderkegs.  And, the music video is really disturbing.


4. My Immortal – Evanescence

Beyond the lyrics, the pain in her voice just makes you want to cry.


3. You Could Be Happy - Snow Patrol

Letting go of someone you love because it's best for them.  Always hurts.


2. Breakeven (Falling to Pieces) - The Script

This is the ultimate break up song.  Doesn't it always seem like you're stuck with the raw end of the deal?  They're moving on and you're still miserable??  Ugh...


1. Grenade - Bruno Mars

Bruno is gold in the pop world right now.  The hyperbolic (...I hope) song is about being willing to give everything for someone, but they don't return the feeling.  Oh, the pain of unrequited love. 


Top 5 Best Love Songs

5. The Way You Look Tonight - Tony Bennett & At Last - Etta James

I know I picked two, but they're classics.


4. I Will Be Here - Steven Curtis Chapman

This song still makes my heart sigh.  Did you know that he wrote it to his wife after her parents got divorced?  


3. The Other Side of Me - Michael W. Smith

This song is actually part of a trilogy.  It's always stuck with me as a very genuine song.


2. The Only Exception - Paramore

I know this one is popular and will probably be destroyed by being overplayed, but it resonates with this generation.  Choosing to love is hard, but worth it. 


1. Head Over Heels (In This Life) - Switchfoot

This is not a traditional love song, but it's been my favorite since their Oh, Gravity album was released. Here's a little excerpt for you:


In this life, you're the one place I call home

In this life, you're the feeling I belong

In this life, you're the flower and the thorn

You're everything that's fair in love and war



Do you agree/disagree?? What songs would you have picked?


P.S. The title is another Switchfoot song I love. In fact, it's my ringtone. J


Friday, February 11, 2011

Guilty Pleasure

I ordered myself a little Valentine's Day present today:

I mean, no one else is going to be giving me a present this year. AND I'm obsessed with Vintage Pearl and have been every since I bought this necklace for myself a few years ago.

They have awesome giveaways, so I suggest following her blog.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Cranberry Files

I had two bags of whole cranberries leftover from this year's Christmas party at school. (FYI – It only takes one bag of cranberries for 19 students to make garland.)

I'm a huge fan of cranberry relish, but I decided to mix it up and try out some new recipes. Most call for dried cranberries, so I've had to do some hunting to find recipes with fresh cranberries.

Here's recipe number one:

Fresh Cranberry Muffins

1 ¾ cups flour

½ cup oats

2/3 cup sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

1 cup chopped fresh cranberries

2/3 cup milk

¼ cup melted butter

1 tsp. orange rind

½ tsp. vanilla

1 egg

Mix all ingredients together and scoop into 12 muffin cups. (I left out the orange rind and added the oats.)

Bake at 400 degrees for about 18 minutes.

The result: Super tasty and tangy. I ate all of them myself (over a few days, of course…)


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Be My Strength

This year (all six days) is not working out well for me so far. In fact, I asked God for a do-over. I'm pretty sure that's not going to happen, and I'm sure I'll come out on the other side of this with great lessons learned. In the mean time, I've found comfort and peace in these lyrics. This is my prayer and my song. I hope that it blesses you.

Please Be My Strength - Gungor

I've tried to stand my ground

I've tried to understand,

but I can't seem to find my way again

like water on the sand

grasping at the wind

I keep on falling short

So, please be my strength

please be my strength

cause I don't have anymore

I don't have anymore

I'm looking for a place

where I can plant my faith

one thing I know for sure

that I cannot create it

and I cannot sustain it

it's your love that's keeping me

Please be my strength

please be my strength

I don't have anymore

I don't have anymore

And at my final breath

I hope that I can say

I fought the good fight of faith

I pray your glory shines

in this doubting heart of mine

and all would know that you

You are my strength

You are my strength

You and You alone

You keep bringing me back home