cooking

What I’m Into: February 2016 Edition

 

The past few days have felt positively spring-like here in South Carolina and I am hopeful that it’s here to stay. As someone who is cold 95% of the time, even the mild winters we experience in the south can feel long to me, so I’m all about spring showing up. I’ve been struggling with my health a bit this month, and feeling generally tired and sluggish, and I think warmer weather might help with that as well. Linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into this month.

What I’m Reading:

Mr. Kiss and Tell (Veronica Mars #2) by Rob Thomas. This is the second Veronica Mars book in what I hope will be an ongoing series. As I said about the first one, if you are already a fan of Veronica Mars as a show and a movie, you will love these. If you aren’t familiar, you might still enjoy them just for the mystery-solving detective aspect, but some of the tone and the connection between the characters might be lost on you.

The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman. This is the third book of Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I read the first two books and I think half of this one several years ago. I was intrigued by the first two, but remember feeling like this one dragged. This time I listened to the audio version which is a dramatized reading almost like a radio play. Even with the great reading, it still felt a little long and plodding and much more heavy-handed than the other two in his criticisms of the church and of religion. Definitely not my favorite of the trilogy.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. This is another of those YA books that I wouldn’t give to my young teenager, but maybe to the right older teen. The really powerful thing about this book is that it is an honest and revealing portrayal of mental illness in teens that isn’t always talked about openly. Violet and Finch meet on a ledge of the school bell tower, both contemplating their own deaths. In meeting, they save each other, at least for the day, and their meeting leads to a friendship that helps and challenges each of them in different ways.

Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe. I am fairly recent Rob Lowe fan with most of my exposure to him coming from Parks and Recreation and his new show, The Grinder, so I enjoyed these stories about Rob Lowe’s show biz journey, starting as a teen heart throb in the 80’s If you’re not very interested in the movie and television industry then this might not be the book for you, but if you are interested in it or just like Rob Lowe in general than this is a fun and easy read.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes. I’m a huge fan of The Princess Bride so I really enjoyed this book telling some of the behind-the-scenes stories about the making of the film and the people involve from Cary Elwes, who played Wesley. In particular, the stories about Andre the Giant, who played Fezzig in the movie, are funny and heartwarming.

In January I read about half of Sarah Bessey’s newest book, Out of Sorts, and fully intended to finish it this month, but I sort of lost momentum. It shouldn’t take too long once I pick it back up, but I’ve been distracted by other things. If you want to see what I’m reading and what I think of it, be sure to follow me on Goodreads!

What I’m Listening To:

I’ve been really enjoying Modern Mrs. Darcy’s new What Should I Read Next? podcast. This is a concept she used to do on her blog sometimes and has now converted into a podcast format where she invites a guest to answer three questions – name a book you love, a book you hate, and what you read most recently -and then gives three book recommendations based on that discussion. It’s lots of fun.

What I’m Watching:

I’m slowly working through the final season of Revenge on Netflix. Jonathan and I are trying (and sometimes failing) to stay current with Brooklyn Nine Nine, New Girl, and our new fave, The Grinder. To be honest, we’ve been busy and haven’t spent a ton of time watching shows together. We did see Hail, Caesar! at the theater this past weekend and we both enjoyed it even though the trailer is a bit misleading. Channing Tatum is hysterical in it.

What I’m Eating:

I went through about a 3-week period where I was eating Chinese takeout every Sunday evening. I just had to have it. The cashew chicken at Yummy Yummy II is bomb. I also made a ton of cookies and strawberry cream cheese muffins for the Bible Study retreat I went on at the beginning of the month. I use this bread recipe and just do muffins instead. I also add chocolate chunks because, why not? Follow me on Pinterest for more recipes.

What I’m Writing:

On the blog I wrote about mindfulness with this post on walks without destinations. I shared a spoken-word poem about love in honor of the 9 year anniversary of my husband and I becoming a couple. I shared Vol. 2 of What’s on my Bookshelf. And I wrote about my continual struggle to fully live in the present even as I look with expectation to the future.

For Modernize I wrote an article on ways to hide cords, cables and other eyesores and started a series of style 101 posts. So far I’ve tackled Minimalist Style and Rustic Style.

What I’ve Been Up To:

For such a short month, February has packed a punch. The first weekend of the month I went away for a women’s retreat with the women from my Bible study. We stayed in this amazing house at Lake Lure, NC, which is where Dirty Dancing was filmed. In fact, it was a very Dirty Dancing themed weekend, complete with my friend Buffy and I doing a lip sync dance to Time of My Life incorporating some signature moves from the movie. Besides all of the great fun, it was also a rich and meaningful time and a great opportunity to get away.

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I heart these people. I heart them hard.

The following week I subbed at the school I tutor at for the entire week, so that kept me pretty busy. That weekend was Valentine’s Day and we had an oh-so-romantic dinner of burgers and fried pickles after which I fell asleep. Epic romance.

The next week we had agreed to stay with some of our friends’ kids for five days while they were out of town. We moved into their house on Wednesday night and stayed with their 3 kids and 2 Saint Bernards until the following Monday. It was fun and tiring all at once and kind of a unique opportunity to imagine what life could look like for us in 15 years. I think Jonathan and I may have had slightly different experiences of it, but it was fun to do together.

What have you been up to and into?

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We took our temporary kids to see this giant tree. Cause we’re super fun like that.

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Our temporary dog was not as easily won over.

 

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Mindful Mondays: Mindful Eating

 

I’ve never understood those girls who eat like birds, picking over their food like chickens in a hen yard, a bite here and a bite there until they push back their plates declaring, “I’m so full!” before they’ve even made a dent in their meal.

I was born with a huge appetite – both for food and for life – that’s never quite satisfied. Cooking is a passion of mine – something that relaxes me and brings me joy. In my free time I read cookbooks and pin pictures of fabulous meals and research new restaurants and try new techniques. Even when I’m not eating, I’m thinking about eating.

Like most young adults, something happened to my metabolism the year I turned 23 and I lost the ability to follow my appetite wherever it led me. Nowadays my metabolism goes so slowly that I gain weight if I eat more than 1200 calories a day (which is the amount most people eat when on a strict diet). Unfortunately, my slow metabolism has not changed the fact that I still want to eat all the food in the world. In fact, I want to eat them all twice. What it has done is increased the need for me to be mindful about my eating.

I don’t mean mindful eating in the sense of dieting and restricting. I mean being aware of what I’m putting into my body and why. If my body can only process 1200 calories a day then I want to enjoy each one of them. It’s so easy to eat (especially snack food) mindlessly while doing something else. It’s easy for me to cram handfuls of food into my mouth without even noticing while I watch TV or work on my computer.

I want to learn to pay attention. I want to stop and ask myself – Why am I eating? And if the answer isn’t because I’m truly hungry, then I need to stop and find something else to do. And if the answer is because I’m hungry then I want to slow down and savor. I want to fully appreciate the gift of good food-how it tastes, where it comes from, and how it somehow miraculously nourishes my body.

Lately I’ve forgotten the value of mindful eating. This week I want to hit the reset button. I want to make conscious choices about what I eat and when I eat and why I eat. Tonight I’ll try a new recipe for balsamic glazed chicken with acorn squash and roasted root vegetables. I’ll prepare this meal with my own hands, chopping the vegetables, tossing the chicken in the tangy sweetness of the balsamic, and roasting them all together in my oven. Then I will sit down to eat it with gratitude for the earth that produced the squash and for the chicken who died so that I could eat this meal.

Eating good food is itself a great pleasure, but when I slow down and practice mindfulness I create a little more space for beauty. And the world can always use a little more beauty.

What I’m Into: April 2015 Edition

Even though I was counting down the days to the end of April and the beginning of our little spring vacation trip to Taiwan, somehow the end of the month What I’m Into post crept up on me. So here it is, a little late, but not forgotten. As always, I am linking up with Leigh Kramer for this monthly round-up.

What I’m Reading:

I’m actually super confused about what I read this month. I had to look back on Goodreads and check the dates because I couldn’t remember… yeah, it’s been that kind of month. Apparently, I read 5 books. I’m at 20 for the year so far which is on-pace for my goal of 60.

51gKBPHun-L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor. I really love Barbara Brown Taylor. This book was a breath of fresh after so many books (and sermons and churches and Christians) who intentionally or unintentionally separate the spiritual life from the physical world. This book made me feel so grounded in my body and to this earth. I especially loved the practical disciplines she suggested for making the world a place of worship. Things as simple as taking a walk or working with your hands. or being still and resting. The thing I loved most about this book was walking away feeling that a simple life could be good and honest and holy and true when so often I feel the drive to be more and do more, even from the church.

imgres-1A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. (First book in the All Souls Trilogy). Oh man. This book drove me nuts. I read it because several bloggers and fellow readers who have similar taste to mine raved about it. This book is Twilight for grown-ups mixed with The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Since I really hated both of those books, it makes sense that this book drove me crazy. However, if you really really liked either or both of those books, then you will love this. Diana Bishop is a witch who inadvertently discovers an old manuscript that all of the non-human community has been searching for for years. Vampire Matthew Clairmont stumbles upon Diana while in pursuit of this manuscript, and the two fall immediately, madly, and passionately in love despite the fact that a union between vampires and witches is forbidden. This book is 600 pages of almost nothing happening. And then when something finally does happen (around 400 pages in) it is resolved within 20 pages. I could not connect with the main character, Diana, at all. I didn’t understand her reactions throughout most of the book.  There was so much tea drinking and wine drinking and not-having-sex for somewhat inexplicable reasons (very reminiscent of Twilight) and what essentially felt like the same conversation happening dozens of times–Matthew saying, “No, Diana, you cannot do x. I won’t allow it,” and Diana saying, “Matthew, I am my own person I can do what I want.” And Matthew responding in awe, “Will you never cease to amaze me?” Diana also did a lot of telling people that Matthew was in charge and they all had to listen to him, which rubbed my feminist side the wrong way. And yet…at the very end of the book things suddenly got more interesting. And now I kind of want to know what happens in spite of finding this book almost painful at times. Dilemma.

imgresOrdinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down by Tony Merida. The author of this book is the pastor of a church in North Carolina that was supported by my former church in Raleigh. I picked this up because it was pitched as a sort of anti-Francis-Chan’s Crazy Love. It was supposedly about how God doesn’t call us to be radical, he calls us to be faithful in ordinary lives. But then came the twist. And the twist was convicting. Because Merida pointed out that our ordinary lives should be about extravagant justice and mercy, especially to the poor, the orphan, and the widow, because these things are the very fundamentals of what it means to follow Christ. I didn’t think this book was especially profound, but it was challenging and convicting.

imgres-2Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Lookby Emily T. Wierenga. I had a complicated relationship with this book. First off, I think it’s mis-marketed in a way. I didn’t get the sense that this book was about finding “home” even though the author shares life experiences that occurred in various parts of the world. To me it it was more about finding herself, coming to terms with her faith and with her family. The writing is poetic and moving at times, but at other times it feels like she is drawing connections without fully explaining them. In other words, it probably makes sense to her how these things are connected, but it doesn’t always to the reader. There were quite a few times when I wanted to know more or to understand more. Wierenga writes candidly about growing up with a missionary/pastor father who was distant throughout her childhood, about her struggle with anorexia as a child and again as an adult, and about the pain and the healing of moving home to help her father care for her mother who was ill with brain cancer. The stories she tells are poignant and evocative, even if some left me wanting more. Overall I thought this was a lovely memoir.

41YwlLvuaIL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I also want to give another shout out to my friend Brett “Fish” Anderson’s book i, churchIf you are interested in a realistic view of the problems with the church coupled with a hope for how the church could be, you should check this out.

What I’m Watching:

Television: Finished The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (sometimes hilarious, sometimes just OK) and The Mindy Project and caught up on Pretty Little Liars (total guilty pleasure show). Still making our way through the new season of Community and staying current with Brooklyn Nine Nine (hilarious) and Nashville. Also picked up where I left off with The Good Wife a few months ago. I’m mid season-2 now and still love it.

Movies: Avengers: Age of Ultron – entertaining, but I didn’t love that the villain is essentially a computer. I think Loki is one of the most fascinating villains in the realm of superhero mythology, so I missed him.

What I’m Eating:

Wraps. Guys, I just figured out that if I take a fairly boring salad and wrap it in a tortilla – Bam! Magic. I tried it out with a recipe of Bang Bang Shrimp and it was probably the most excited I’ve been about lunch in two years. Tonight I made buffalo chicken wraps. I sort of feel unstoppable. Follow me on Pinterest for more of what I’m cooking.

Photo by: cinnamonspiceandeverythingnice.com

Photo by: cinnamonspiceandeverythingnice.com

On the Internets:

My sister-in-law sent me this article called “I Followed My Stolen Iphone Across the World and Became a Celebrity.” It’s kind of long, but it’s so amazing. And hilarious.

This post from a sort-of-internet/sort-of-real-life friend Abigail Heath about wanting life to be a fairytale. I actually have a lot of thoughts about this that I plan to share in an upcoming blog post.

The news about actor Jonathan Crombie’s sudden death made many of us sad and nostalgic about the role his most famous character, Gilbert Blythe, played in our childhoods and adolescences. Here are two great posts that express some of my own feelings about what Gilbert Blythe meant to me and how one person, even playing a part, can impact the lives of so many: this one from Kelsey Munger and this one from Sarah Torna Roberts.

I was also moved by this piece “How Christians Have Sex” from my college friend, Rachel. I’ve always admired Rachel’s frankness, but more than that, the way she finds poetry in the raw truth. While our experiences are very different, this post gave me a lot to think about and I admire her courage and her willingness to express confusion and doubt in a world that prizes certainty and self-assuredness.

Also, just everything on my blogging friend Angela’s travel blog. Especially all of the spectacular apartments she and her hubby manage to find around Europe.

This video that my mom sent me made me cry. Let’s all walk through the door marked, “Beautiful,” OK?

On the Blog:

I’ve really tried to stay committed to posting three times a week though I admit that sometimes it’s a challenge. Thankfully, I have my 52 Weeks of Adventure posts and my Friday Book Chats to keep me focused. This month I wrote about unplanned loveliness, a coastal hike in Busan, a professional baseball game, and a major hair change. I wrote about my favorite spiritual memoirs, about books I own but haven’t read, about the most interesting fictional characters I’ve encountered, and about my favorite books to re-read.

I also wrote about my struggles with wholeheartedness in the midst of failures and about combatting shame with self-compassion. I wrote about gratitude and started a Thankful Thursdays guest series with this post from Pradnya Vernekar.

My most-viewed post this month was an open letter to my sisters about love and regret followed by my Geronimo post about giant leaps of faith which was part of a link-up with my friend Karissa.

Also, if you just can’t get enough of me, you can like my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter and Instagram. I will probably follow you back if I can figure out how. 😉 And I will definitely keep you updated on flash Kindle deals and other stuff I’m discovering day-to-day.

What I’ve Been Up To:

Things are starting to crank into high gear as we make preparations to move back to America. At this point we are about 3 1/2 months away. For a while I was so excited for the next step that it felt like it couldn’t come quickly enough, but nowadays I’ve become more hesitant. I’m anxious about all of the unknowns of what comes next, but also realizing how much of this life I will miss and how quickly it will all feel like a dream. I am a complete mess of contradictory emotions.

We went through some major ups and downs as we considered whether or not we should buy a house when we return to the US (we landed on not, for the record) and I struggled through some serious homesickness when all of my college roommates got together a few weeks ago to help with planning my best friend’s wedding.

I continued to wade through awkward interactions with CoT this month (which have actually declined a bit as we’ve fallen into a routine) and got to witness the school’s Sports Day at the end of the month. It was similar to Field Day in my school growing up with tons of strange relay races and athletic competitions. There was also a lot of parent and even grandparent participation built in which I thought was kind of sweet.

The first-graders had to roll this giant ball around a cone and back in pairs. It was unbelievably adorable.

The first-graders had to roll this giant ball around a cone and back in pairs. It was unbelievably adorable.

We have two short trips planned for May, one to Taiwan and one to Tokyo, so I expect this month will move quickly. I have a few guest posts coming up this month for other blogs that I am excited to participate in as well as continuing my Thankful Thursday series with guest writers here on my blog. I really enjoy opportunities to collaborate with other bloggers and I hope you enjoy those posts in the coming weeks!

What I’m Into: November 2014 Edition

As usual, this is my monthly wrap-up post for Leigh Kramer’s “What I’m Into” link-up.

What I’m Reading:

If last month was a bit excessive on the reading front I think I’ve evened it out by only reading four books this months and most of them were lighter reading as well.

19715106Delancey by Molly Wizenberg. I really enjoyed this book. I love books about food and the food industry and this one – about a young couple opening a specialty pizza restaurant in Seattle, both satisfied my voyeurism about that world and broke down some of my romanticized notions about what owning a restaurant is like. I’ve heard others say this book was not as good as Wizenberg’s first book A Homemade Life, but as I haven’t read that one yet I don’t have anything to compare it to.

17557750Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. Moyes’ books are all over bestseller and other kinds of book lists, but I’d never read anything of hers before so when this one went on sale for $2.99 in the Kindle Store I thought I’d try it. (It is actually still on sale for that price if you want to check it out). I wanted a bit of lighter read in a modern setting. Well, I got the modern setting part right. Ambitionless twenty-six year old Louise loses her job and takes a temporary position as a caretaker for a 35 year old quadripalegic who challenges her to live life on a grander scale. This was a quick read, but light it was not. I’m glad I read it, but be warned that you’ll need Kleenex.

17925145Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson. Jackson is another writer of what might be called “women’s fiction,” but is not really chick lit. More domestic drama? I never really know how to describe it. I admit that I didn’t love the main character of this book – I found her a little annoying – but the other characters and the situation were interesting enough that they outweighed those feelings.

 

19398490-1All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This book has made all of the Best of 2014 book lists this year and I can understand why. I admit that I am not quite done yet, so I can’t comment on the ending, but everything I’ve read so far is very compelling. In alternating chapters the book tells the story of a blind French girl whose father is the Keeper of the Locks for the Museum of Natural History in Paris and a German orphan boy whose talent with engineering gets him recruited into an elite military academy and then sent into the field tracking the Resistance during WWII. It is a gorgeous and haunting book.

This month so many books I’ve been wanting to read went on sale for Kindle and I couldn’t resist buying them since many of them had been on my wish list for eight months or more. (I do still prefer physical books but living abroad makes the Kindle so much more practical). You have permission to scold me if next month’s books do not include some of the following: Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber, Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Found by Micha Boyett, and The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.

You can also follow me on Goodreads if you want to keep up with my reading.

What I’m Watching:

My internet seems to be struggling more and more these days so I never really know when I’ll be able to stream shows or which shows I’ll be able to see. I am a little behind but trying hard to stay current with Nashville, Parenthood, New Girl, Mindy Project, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Modern Family.

This month’s new discovery/obsession: Jane the Virgin. The premise sounds kind of dumb, but I’m finding it irresistibly charming a la Ugly Betty. We also finished the entire season of the BBC’s Broadchurch which was so fantastic. Highly recommend it.

On Netflix I am nearly finished with the last season of Veronica Mars and have made it halfway through season five of my Gilmore Girls re-watch. Hubby and I have also been watching more episodes of Frasier, a show he grew up on, but that I’ve never seen before.

I saw both Interstellar and Catching Fire, this month’s two big movie releases. I love everything Chris Nolan’s ever done and Interstellar was no exception although I admit that it took me a little while to decide how I felt about it – I didn’t really know much about the plot going into the movie, which was fun but also meant it took me a while to digest it.

What I’m Listening To:

SERIAL!!!!  Need I say more? For anyone who doesn’t know (though I can’t imagine who doesn’t know) Serial is a podcast that is an off-shoot from This American Life (my other favorite podcast). Serial is a one big investigative journalism story that is being told one episode at a time. This is the first season they’ve made and it is completely addicting. This season’s story is about a murder that happened in the 90’s where an 18 –year-old boy went to prison for supposedly murdering his girlfriend. But did he really do it?!!!!! We just don’t know. We are down to the final few episodes and I am so torn. If you haven’t listened to this, you need to catch up. It’s absolutely fascinating.

I also loved hearing this original song from Lauren Daigle, a friend of my little sisters’. I think she’s got a really cool voice and she is such a sweet girl.

Fawn Larson is a friend from high school who is a pretty awesome blue grass kind of artist releasing her first album. If you’re into that kind of music and supporting indie artists, you should check her out and buy her album!

What I’m Eating:

All the Thanksgivings! Thanks to a great expat community here in Korea we got to participate in three separate Thanksgiving dinners with all the good stuff. My contributions included apple crisp and this pumpkin cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Pretty serious stuff.

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Photo by: cozycakescottage.com

Follow me on Pinterest for more recipes.

On the Internets:

I adored this post from Jamie the Very Worst Missionary about the obnoxious misuse and overuse of the word “Blessed.”

Also, my friend Brett has had a few different series going on over at his blog, Irresistibly Fish including perspectives on racism and reconciliation, what single people want their married friends to know, and what married people want their single friends to know. Basically, there’s always something new happening over on Brett’s blog.

If you are one of the people who is also obsessed with Serial, these charts are fun.

If you need a laugh, here’s a great video of how German sounds compared to other languages. Cause it’s always fun to laugh at people speaking other languages. 😉

 

I also enjoyed this humorous post in the New Yorker about the benefits of coconut oil. “A few dabs of coconut oil in my ears and I could hear the ghosts of all my ancestors. “You’re fabulous,” they whispered. “The triumph of our bloodline.”

On the Blog:

As most of you know I was honored to be Freshly Pressed by WordPress this month, ironically for my post about how going viral doesn’t necessarily open all the doors you think it will. Thanks so much to all of you who sent encouraging comments and messages. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to respond to each one, but I have read all of your comments and appreciate them so much! I’m really humbled by all the love and encouragement I’ve received.

I also had my friend Meredith share her story of uneventful virginity for my Sex and the Church series. (There is one more piece in this series coming this week! Stay tuned!) I wrote about why I don’t jive with phrases like, “This World is Not My Home,” about learning to speak thankfulness as a way of showing love, and about my favorite passage on gratitude.

What I’ve Been Up To:

My students all participated in an arts festival at the beginning of the month where they performed songs and dances and other routines for all of their parents. They were adorable, though I did find the song and dance to “Summer Lovin’” from Grease to be mildly inappropriate for elementary school students. I figured they didn’t understand what the lyrics were really about…

The semester is winding down so I’m about to enter the frenzy of planning for English festival and the three separate English camps I have to run over the holidays as well as (the much more exciting) planning for our two weeks of vacation in January (hurray!)

I spent a lot of time this month running in preparation for the half marathon I ran last weekend with my friend Courtney. We finished in 1:57:07 which was my first time running a half in under 2 hours.

This week we had all the Thanksgivings including one with our friends Michael and Sophia who are a Korean couple in their 60’s who just retired to Korea after living in New York for most of their lives. They were a little homesick for American Thanksgiving so we all went to a big international hotel downtown that had a big Thanksgiving buffet in their main restaurant. They didn’t really know how to cook a turkey but they had an amazing selection of food so I can’t complain. Especially since we had two perfectly cooked turkeys over the weekend.

Tomorrow, we diet!

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Look at that beauty. 28-lbs of turkey carcass.