Saturday, September 28, 2013

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

I'm just going to go ahead and confess that I've never made bread before.  I've always had this idea of doing so and when my husband I were first married I saved all the "over ripe" bananas to make banana bread....until the bananas took over our freezer and my hubby finally asked if I had a plan for our ginormous collection.  The end result was him buying a loaf pan because, you know, that is necessary for the whole bread making thing, and making the bread himself.  I married a keeper :)

But, today when I woke up it was in the 60s, raining, and feeling like fall.  The cook in me wanted to try something new.  And, the minimalist in me is bound to actually try all my Pinterest recipes so that I'm not overwhelmed with meaningless recipes on my board that I could care less about.  The good news for my family in this is that they will get to try a lot of new recipes and break the monotony of my "staples."

So today was the day.  Pumpkin Chocolate Chip bread from the Java Cupcake sounded like the perfect treat with my coffee while we watched football and played with the kids.

It turns out they were equally as excited about it and jumped in to help so we spent together time preparing yumminess in the kitchen.  It was splendid.

This bread is fall apart lusciousness.  It may or may not be healthy.  I don't even care.  All I know is that my mouth wants more and that means you need to know about it because if I can make it, you surely can too :)

Here is what you need:
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 2/3 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup + 1/4 cup chocolate chips, divided
  • powdered sugar for garnish
    To make it:
    1)  Preheat your oven to 350 and grease one loaf pan.
    2) Sift the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
    3) In a separate bowl combine the eggs, pumpkin, oil, vanilla, and sour cream until it is smooth.  {I used a hand mixer}
    4) Make a well of the dry flour mixture and pour the wet mix in.  {I transferred the dry mix into a KitchenAid and used that to mix it}.  Blend until it is smooth.  Fold in one cup of the chocolate chips.
    5) Pour into the bread loaf pan and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of chocolate chips on top.  {Confession, I used more.  In fact these words came out of my mouth as I instructed my 8 year old future homemaker, "Oh honey, let me teach you one lesson about cooking. Never skimp on the chocolate chips."  I think this is solid advice.}
    6) Bake 60-75 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean.  {It took ours 70 minutes}
    7) Let cool for 20 minutes and then lightly garnish with powdered sugar.
    The kids, who don't normally dig pumpkin recipes, clamored over this.  We gathered around the fall apart bread like we've never eaten a meal in our lives and chowed down.  It made for a perfect Saturday afternoon.  Sans the ugly Notre Dame loss. :)
    Don't miss making this, friends.  And, if you want the printable recipe be sure to visit the Java Cupcake link.  She has nice one for you!

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    Tuesday, September 24, 2013

    Exposed {A Note to Miley Cyrus & Every Girl Who Feels They’ve Passed the Point of “Good”}

    Dear Miley,

    Today is Transformation Tuesday and with news that you’re posing nude on the Rolling Stone cover it comes as no surprise that you’re a popular pick.  From the days that the world came to know you to the image you choose today is a complete 180.

    When I first read about your photo shoot this morning I bounced right past anger and disappointment directly to sad.  My girls are not yet old enough to have “followed you” where we have to have an uncomfortable conversation around the dinner table.  But, my involvement in crisis pregnancy center ministry has lent itself to the presence of many other girls that blend into your world.  Girls that wear little to entice a lot.  Girls who hide their eyes behind the mask of thick eyeliner to block the world from spotting any pain harbored there.  Girls who feel they’ve passed the point of “good” and create a rough exterior to protect the loneliness inside.

    Certainly you are at a disadvantage.  The public spotlight would not be an easy place to age.  To have people watching and critiquing your every move, relationship, belief, and pound gained or lost would be agonizing, particularly in a Hollywood culture that encourages you to grow up before you are mentally mature enough to do so.  That is why I was saddened when Robin Thicke and the adults around you didn’t take steps to stop the award show debacle.  If we don’t train children up in the way they should go we can’t well expect them to know how to act.

    However, that is still a fine line.  At a certain point, we all need to accept personal responsibility in our lives.  Consequences to sinful choices we make are still our own.  Pain that morphs from those decisions will be real.  And, to continue chasing the wilder, sexier, more worldly life will, at some point, lead to burnout.  You can never find rest in a world with no limits or definition for achieved pleasure.  This is a lesson we all learn in different arenas of life: relationships, size of our homes, make of our cars, number on the scale, the message sent in the style of our dress….

    And today you are exposed.  People are talking about and posting pictures of the two fold Miley- the little innocent girl and the older tongue hanging out, skin laden one. 

    But I like to believe this should be a three fold picture with a blank in what is yet to come.

    You see, Miley, your story isn’t complete.  You see, young girl in the crisis pregnancy center, this doesn’t have to be the “forever” you.  You see, young girl crying in your room because of choices you’ve made or things have been done to you that make you feel like your “good” is gone, there is more to be written.  God welcomes home the prodigal with a party, remember?  He nourishes the hurt with living water.  He embraces us even in our darkest moments to help us become our brightest.

    You are not alone, Miley.  Ultimately we are all exposed to the people who know us most dearly and there is no hiding from our Creator.  But, He sees our earthly fights and promises to make beauty from the ashes.  Through His grace there is no such thing as “too far gone” only opportunity for growth.  What a gift this is for all of us.  And in those loving arms we can come exposed and leave restored.

    I’m praying for you….for all of us…that we remember this promise.  That we don’t let walls hinder our peace.  We have a good God.  He sees good in us.  And, when we trust in His ways, life becomes genuinely good again.

    If you know a young woman who needs to hear that she can make new choices and turn her life around, please consider gifting her with NOBODY TOLD ME.  It has real stories from their peers of those who have found the strength to change their ways and walk in His promise and protection.

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    Saturday, September 21, 2013

    Celebrate Your Inner Star: American Girl Party

    Today 15 girls filled our house ready to celebrate their inner star.  Apparently it's the year of American Girl parties for us.  Ava had her Bitty Baby theme party in May and now our "big girls" chose a more mature version of the same love.

    I made invites on Picasa

    And used these great free Jani Photography American Girl star printables to get started on cupcake toppers

    I also used them to make a hanging "Celebrate Your Inner Star" banner from our chandelier.

    Before the girls arrived we organized the table to show off our party activities.  First, they made "Doll and Me Necklaces."

    It was some intense crafting.

    Then they had cake and ice cream, highlighted by the "coolest ever" American Girl party drinks.  Hannah spotted these star ice cube trays at Walmart

    If that doesn't scream American Girl I don't know what does :)

    So we made them red with food coloring and served them in Sprite.

    After their bellies were full, we made "Doll and Me Hairbands."

    Using what I now know are shank buttons thanks to the precious lady at Hobby Lobby who corrected my "buttons with the circle things on the back."

    To make them we pulled the hairband through the circle and then looped the remainder of the hairband through like this tutorial shows.  Because the hairbands were a little thick, we used some of the necklace string to more easily thread the hairband through.  The girls loved picking matching sets for them and their dolls.  I loved that both activities allowed the girls to bring their individual favorite colors and styles to life.

    Before they left they put all their treasures in take home bags from Target.

    Their crafting truly brought out their inner star and the girls had an amazing time.

    "Even better" than they imagined possible according to these to adorable birthday girls.

    What a great afternoon bringing the American Girl motto to life 
    "celebrating girls and all they can be." 

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    Saturday, September 7, 2013

    On My Bookshelf: 7

    With yesterday being National Read a Book Day I would be remiss not to tell you about the book on my bookshelf. It's getting under my skin and making me borderline neurotic. The book is 7

    by Jen Hatmaker. I have long loved Jen Hatmaker's blog because she tells it like it is without pretense but this is the first book of hers that I've read. I heard it was "good" and came strongly recommended by many. My friends that told me this should have forewarned me that it'd make its readers down right nutty before I suggested it to my entire bible study. Now we have a whole group of women with constant conscience checks thanks to my suggestion. Sorry group, but I think we are better for it.

    "I can't have authentic communion with Him while mired in the trappings He begged me to avoid." Hatmaker

    * I suddenly find myself carefully calculating my meal plans so that less is thrown away and I'm more cognizant of how much I consume in a world where too many go without.

    * I think about how much money is invested in the clothing sitting in my closet and consider what percent of it I really wear. 

    * I feel guilty that I drop off clothes at the Goodwill merely to clear my conscience & it has a convenient 24 hour drop off when I could more purposefully give my used treasures to places with specific needs.

    * I look at sale signs in the store windows with sadness for how it is widening the gap between those that can't afford and aiming to fuel the accumulation of what I don't need.

    * I question if my style shows people the authentic me or if it hinders my approachability.

    "His humility appeals to the unloveliness in us all.  We are drawn in by His simplicity, then transformed by His magnificence."  Hatmaker

    * I realize that a home I call modest would seem a castle to many around the world and yet I dare call it small.

    * Time sucks from the computer and TV and electronic overkill hinder my time in the Word and giving attention to my family.

    "Don't be fooled by the luxuries of the world; they cripple our faith."  Hatmaker

    * I find myself digging toothpaste and lipstick boxes out of the garbage because they are a couple among many things that could be recycled and I was too lazy to realize it.  This is now driving my husband a small form of crazy because I told him he shouldn't be throwing toilet paper rolls in the garbage and called him out a Little Debbie box.  He's never known me to be a tree hugger but if God calls the earth good I'm convicted to take more efforts to care for it.

    *  I bought plastic sandwich and treat containers that I have to hand-freaking-wash to put school lunches in because I'm pretty sure my use of plastic sandwich bags is offensive.

    * I'm trying to support more handmade businesses that make more use of my every dollar.

    * I'm challenging myself to be more at peace with mama life that sometimes includes a few messes and still invite guests more warmly into my home because it invites friends into my real life and opens up communion with the authentic me.

    * I'm looking at the money spent on our homes and church buildings and giving and personal lives and asking myself if the Lord would truly recognize me as Christian based on how that looks.

    "Annual U.S. and European spending on perfume: $12 billion
     Clean water for all global citizens  $9 billion"    Hatmaker

    * I sometimes build more into my day than I should and the result is self-driven stress.

    * I'm aware that the sharing of an apple with someone in need could actually be the sign of God's presence & I'm wondering what I'm withholding from the expanding of the Kingdom.

    And as if seeing my world in a whole new way isn't enough to do me in, heartfelt words about their adoption call actually made me cry at the gym.  Had my face not been red and drowned in sweat from the stationary bike people would've seen my tears.

    I'm currently obsessed with The Rend Collective's "Build Your Kingdom Here" because of lyrics like this

    We seek Your kingdom first
    We hunger and we thirst
    Refuse to waste our lives
    For You're our joy and prize
    To see the captive hearts released
    The hurt, the sick, the poor at peace
    We lay down our lives for heaven's cause
    We are Your church
    We pray revive
    This earth

    Lyrics that fit the mission of this book and make me a better version of myself.  I'm convinced that the implementation of Hatmaker's ideas could change the tide of our culture.

    My bible study has met each week at the coffee shop (isn't this the perfect coffee cup for our read) and become a more thankful people with more mission focused hearts.  I thought I was doing it well, but blinders have come off and there is more room for intentional living than I even realized to be true. 

    Add it to your reading lists, friends.  I'm convinced this is a book no one should miss.

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    Thursday, September 5, 2013

    I LOVE These Faces {Family Pictures 2013}

    Friday night my fam met my awesome photographer friend Michelle for family pictures. Because the heat index was over 100 a physical meltdown seemed likely. I just hoped my little people wouldn't have an emotional one too.

    Thank the Lord for answered prayers. Success! And I LOVED what she got.

    Ava (2)


    Hannah (6 next week)

    Grace (8 next week)

    In these precious faces we see dreams come true
    And we will walk hand in hand through life
    FOREVER!  I love these people!
    Area peeps, here are Michelle's digits.  Check her out and you will be forever grateful.  A very reasonable sitting fee and she doesn't copyright the disc that'll have hundreds of photos on it.  Lucky for me, Shutterfly has 11x14s for a mere $4 right now.  I'm ordering five :)
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    Monday, September 2, 2013

    60 Snapshots of Love

    Tuesday was my mom's 60th birthday.  My brother and I intended to have an all out bash to celebrate the milestone but our lovely mother put the kabosh on it before any invites were addressed.  At a loss with what to do to celebrate this amazing mother that has loved us and everyone she has contact with well each and every day, we decided to bring what people would say to her.

    You can run, but you can't hide, mom! :)  Kids don't allow such things.  Especially mindful ones like yours. :)

    Introducing, 60 snapshots of love.

    Three days before the big day - yes 3 days because time got away from us and that's how we roll, folks- my brother and I came up with this stellar plan to have people write what they would've said to her face.  Thankfully, she was going on a trip so that bought us added time to collect and organize. 

    Before she left we gifted her with an Alex and Ani heart bangle bracelet. 

    The message was about love being our center in times of joy and times of sorrow.  Perfect for our theme since we knew people would share memories capturing both seasons of life.  I remember when we kids were little and sick she would put fresh sheets on the couch and then snuggle up next to us to make us feel better.  That is very much how she approaches life - always present for people, making them feel comfortable and at peace.  The queen of "Glamorous hospitality" as my sister in law wrote in her note.

    Grant suggested we put the notes in a photo album to easily keep them in one place.  I, being the wordsmith, came up with 60 "shapshots" of love.  The bonus to this was it allowed people to add pictures and, oh friends, there was some sweetness that came in.  At the risk of being axed from Christmas card lists and permanently defriended, I will refrain from sharing any of those images here, but can I just say that there was some sincere hilarity in the 80's?  Oh. My. Stars.  I laughed so hard I cried.

    We also discovered family ties we didn't know existed. Get this, my dad's youngest brother played pee wee ball on the same team as my mom's youngest brother!

    We had no idea prior to executing said project.

    My kids were excited to contribute

    And penned little kid love in an extraordinary way.

    The tenatacles of this project spread for and wide.  Knowing we'd potentially miss people from different areas of her life, we invited people to spread the word and that they definitely did.  Notes from people I didn't know arrived in my inbox with beautiful words. 

    I put everything together in the photo album

    in chronological order from my grandma who knew her the longest to the newest bond with my sweet Ava.

    And when we presented her the gift, she couldn't put it down. 

    Awed by all who contributed and what they wrote, she looked at it all afternoon with radiant smiles and happy tears, which every kid knows to be the sign of a gift positive for the win. :)

    Ironically, my brother and I joked that we were going to put a card shower in the church bulletin and the newspaper just to get her blood boiling (aren't we sweet?), and she freaked.  In many ways, the inner contents of her gift accomplished the modern version of that plus the party she so adamantly denied.  And, it succeeded at sharing what she did want: "Quality time with the people I love."

    MORE than 60 snapshots from people she loved came in.  Thank you to all that contributed and invited others into the project.  Now she can sit down with her book and, with your words, repeatedly spend quality time with all of you.

    Happy 60th mom!  We think of the world of you, and, as you can tell from the book you displayed on your coffee stand, countless others do too!   
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