22 December 2010

The Final Recipe: Homemade Glazed Doughnuts!

The last recipe of the FFF Challenge has been made. Wow! These are a keeper:


While time-intensive and slightly overwhelming at times, these Homemade Doughnuts are super-delicious. I learned several things in the process.

One, have more time on hand than you think you might need. While I don't encourage immediate disregard and thoughts of "That will never happen", I do encourage you to set aside about 6 hours total. Looking back, I did not have that much time and I sure could have used it!

Two, buy a doughnut cutter. While my creativeness essentially worked - a round sandwich cutter and a shot glass - it worked less than beautifully. The doughnuts looked like thick onion rings! But, no matter: they tasted delicious :)

Three, I'm going to agree with my sister's sentiment (http://shortcakessweettooth.blogspot.com/2010/12/fff-final-recipe-homemade-glazed.html) and heartily encourage you to employ your husband - or friend, or child, or pet - to help. It's well worth it in the end. ***Thank you, Sweetheart!***

Four, I would change the way I made the glaze. I stuck to just a plain ole powdered sugar glaze; my instinct was to add peppermint extract but knowing I was taking them to church for hospitality the next day, I refrained fearing some would not like that flavor. Next time: I'm doin' it! Maybe it's being used to my Mom's glazes like maple and chocolate but the plain glaze just didn't cut it for me.

Five, the fact that they are FRIED in OIL is a good thing. Yes, you heard me: a good thing. I read in "Food Rules" (by Michael Pollan) a couple months ago that the best way to limit your fried food intake was to make it yourself. It is time-consuming, messy, and intense with the end result being you won't do it very often. It's a natural inhibitor!

He's completely correct.

But: I will make these again. Just not before Christmas ;)

15 December 2010

I love December!

It happens every year.

The calendar turns to December 1st and wah-lah! -- the chaos ensues. Parties for work; parties for church; parties for friends of friends; parties for parties' sake. Not that I'm complaining - I could exist on appetizers for the rest of my life!

Week 13 of our FFF brought along my first Holiday party hosting event of the season. Three of my closest friends from college and I always find a way to share time and space together around the Christmas season; this was our 11th year! I tried out two new recipes for the brunch - Sage Turkey Sausage Patties and Pumpkin Banana Bread with Dark Chocolate Butter. The turkey sausage was pretty good; I'm not a huge fan of ground turkey but there were enough spices in the recipe to bring it up to a 'good' level. The bread was also 'good'. The kicker was the Dark Chocolate Butter! -- total yummy goodness! There was a little extra left over after the bread was gone; let's just say I can confirm that it tastes delicious on a slice of fresh pear ...

(Both of those recipes were from magazines; if you're interested in the recipe, just let me know and I'll post them for you!)

For Week 14, my sister chose "Make-Ahead Muffin Melts" from The Pioneer Woman. (Can you tell we love Ree in most every way?!)


I have to admit that just in perusing the recipe, I wasn't super-thrilled or excited.

Boy, was I WRONG.

These little babies are de-lish! I made them ahead of time, just like it not-so-subtly suggests. We had a family day trip planned for last Sunday so it was the perfect time to have a ready-made breakfast on hand. They took about 5 minutes to put on the English Muffins, about 10 minutes to bake, and about 5.7 seconds post-first bite to know that we'll be making these many times over! Adults and children alike agreed that they were a keeper. Go ahead - try them out this weekend and let me know what you think :)

Coming up next: Homemade Glazed Doughnuts. I better put in a good run this weekend!

02 December 2010

Oh. My. Dreamy. Apple. Pie.

Week 11: I'm truly sorry. You were filled with the yummy delicious goodness known as Caramel Apple Rolls. http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/08/caramel-apple-sticky-buns/ You were truly amazing and captivating.

But ...

You were quickly followed by the deceptively simple yet devilishly delicious "Dreamy Apple Pie". http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2010/11/dreamy-apple-pie/

Now you must know; going into this, I was thinking: "Of all things, an apple pie is going to blow my mind?! I mean, really - apple pie?". I've never loved apple pie. Even when my mother made apple pie (and I'll just have you know that everything she makes is heaven on your tongue), I was never lusting for more.

True story: I made two - yes, count them: TWO - of these babies within three days of one another.

I'm pretty sure my husband would snuggle with one of these. And the hard sauce: well, that's most definitely the icing you always wanted. This pie is truly a breeze to make; no crazy ingredients - the only part that takes a little finessing is the pie crust. I encourage you: be brave and try your own. Don't wimp out and grab one from the store. Click the link, make the crust; freeze it like it says and then imagine yourself Van Gogh as you start. The kitchen counter is your canvas; the pie crust, your paint; and the rolling pin, your brush! It will take time and maneuvering and piecing it all together. But you will succeed in developing a work of art filled with the most gorgeous center of apple filling you can imagine.

Key step: bake the pie slow. I baked it for 55 mins at 350*, removed the foil, and baked for 20 more mins. It turned out, as you already know, d.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s.

Dreamy Apple Pie, I will return to you again and again. In fact, you are my one and only. My apple pie recipe for all time. Or at least until Ree comes up with something even more scrumptious.

To baking: filled with the most delicious joy you can dream!

22 November 2010

So behind ... but I'll catch up!

Ok. I'm so far behind. Let's catch up:

Week 10 - Pumpkin Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

Really. They are very, very good. Especially initially. They are light for pound cake. (I know, it's irony at it's best.) And the frosting. Well, the frosting is just delicious. Make them. Make them now:


Week 11: Half of Week 11 was spent in Tampa, FL. After a SUPER 34th birthday on Wed (the 17th), Paul and I ventured to FL to celebrate our first anniversary and to run a marathon - my first, his many-th :)

Tampa is gorgeous - absolutely gorgeous! We are most definitely returning. The location of the marathon was about an hour south of Tampa, in Alafia River State Park. It was an awesome setting ... the day of the race was incredibly hot; had to pour water on my head throughout and run slower than I hoped. But, I did it. My #1 goal of 2010 is complete! Pics are not up yet online, but I will post as soon as they are :)

As for baking in Week 11, well, Week 11 and 12 will exist together for me. Caramel Apple Rolls and Dreamy Apple Pie are coming up this week. Don't they sound made for each other?! ;)

Today, I am most grateful for how God made mind and body to work together to achieve more than separately possible. And, I am very thankful that my husband trained and ran every step of the way with me in making my first marathon a dream come true. Thank you, my best friend and husband, Paul!

Be grateful. It is the most important thing you will do each day!

08 November 2010

FFF, Brownies! Oh yeah ...

Alright. Game on.

Fourteen for Fall is back with the help of Butterscotch Pumpkin Brownies:


I made these this past Saturday while Hubby was studying for his upcoming A+ exam (which he passed with flying colors today, I might add!). Super easy and fun is what I'm saying ...

Mix up everything. Well, sorta. Mix up everything for the batter. Then I made an intuitive change: no butterscotch topping. Yep. That's right - I left out the butterscotch topping entirely.

And I'm pretty sure that is why we liked them so very much. The butterscotch chips were just enough flavor on top of the pumpkin and chocolate to accent yet not overtake.

My husband was thoroughly impressed, and I'll say this: he's pretty picky when it comes to dessert. It's gotta be worth it to eat the calories, you know?!

These were worth it. Sis, make 'em again with a working oven :) I think you'll like them alot. And to my Mom I stage a question: what would YOU change?! You're the queen of all things baked and cooked, and where Tricia and I learned our love of the kitchen. Do tell - what do you think?!

To life - full of brownies of all shapes, sizes, and gooey-ness. (Just not ME in all shapes, sizes, and gooey-ness! *wink*)

04 November 2010

Week 7, Pumpkin Spice Latte

Ok, so I knew it would happen at some point. I just didn't want it to be during what sounds like a sure-thing: Pumpkin Spice Latte. Pumpkin? Always a great choice for fall. Spice? Everyone wants a little spice in their life. Latte? Who doesn't love a little steamed milk on a chilly morning?!

Week 7 of the Fabulous Fourteen for Fall extravaganza revealed a bit of disappointment. The chosen recipe of the week, Pumpkin Spice Latte (http://goodcleaneating.blogspot.com/2009/09/pumpkin-spice-latte.html) is full of promise.

And no sugar. Not that I'm addicted to sugar. Well, maybe I am.

This recipe is super-simple. Pumpkin and milk and spices on the stove-top. Add some freshly brewed coffee and wah-lah. I will admit I was curious about the absence of any form of sweetener in the recipe but I stuck to the recipe (for once in my life!) and poured the pumpkin-y, coffee goodness into cups to compliment our cinnamon pancake breakfast.

Flavor, excellent. Sugar: more please! Solution? My ingenious mom had a great idea: whipped cream on top! Now that is Starbucks-style coffee :)

Would I make the recipe again? Sure. But I would trust my instincts and not stick to it! A couple tablespoons of sugar, a dollop of whipped cream on top, and a good book in front of the fire. Now that sounds delicious!

24 October 2010

FFF Cupcakes!

To cupcakes! Yes, this week's recipe was from Smitten Kitchen at http://smittenkitchen.com/2009/07/best-birthday-cake/.

I decided to stay true to her post through and through, and made both the yellow cake recipe as well as the sour cream frosting.

Cupcakes: I love cake flour. There's something that feels so good about putting soft, smooth flour into a homemade batter! These cupcakes were relatively simple to put together and in doing so, I felt very good about how there were turning out. My one note was that I wished I had waited a bit longer for the butter to get to room temperature. There were a few chunks left in the batter as I began spooning into the cupcake stoneware. Due to time constraints, I ended up making the cupcakes separate from the frosting (we were scheduled to see my friend, Jamie, test for her first degree black belt - WOW! - that is something everyone should see!). So, I baked 24 cupcakes (plus a 10" round cake) and of course, had to taste a cupcake while still warm. YUM! Very soft and moist. Things are looking good ...

Next day: Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting. While my sister steered clear of the recipe (and rightly so - she was baking for her boss! - no need to unnecessarily take risks in that situation!), I dove right in. I like trying new frosting recipes, especially ones that involve very little sweetness. In my opinion, frosting is nearly always too sweet. This frosting? Bittersweet chocolate, corn syrup, vanilla extract, and sour cream. Yep. Sour cream. Skeptical? I think everyone would be! Good? It's excellent! The consistency is super-spreadable and matches well with a light cake flavor (like yellow cake). It does set quick so frosting the cake/cupcakes immediately is essential.

Positives: I'm not a big fan of cake in general but the inital, right-out-of-the-oven assessment was strong. Frosting - I will definitely make it again. Very user-friendly, easy to make, and tasty.

Negatives: The cupcakes taste different as they cool/age. Hmmm. A mystery you might say ... I'm unsure as to why, but overnight they turned into a pound cake consistency. Not what you might expect from a typical yellow cake. It still tastes delicious - just unexpected and random.

Overall, I'm left wondering how we could reduce the bubbles in the recipe (and yes, I did drop the pans on the counter before baking). Thanks to my husband, I also wonder what would be different if we were to separate egg whites from egg yolks and beat the egg whites before adding them to the cake batter. Egg yolks = yellow color therefore necessary. Egg whites beaten?! Fluffiness! Which is exactly what was eventually missing from the cupcake. My husband just might have found his calling yet ... food scientist ;)

For next week, I have chosen a completely different food medium, one of my favorites: drinks!

We will be testing out a Pumpkin Spice Latte. Check it out here, http://goodcleaneating.blogspot.com/2009/09/pumpkin-spice-latte.html and then check back next week for the review!

Cheers :)

21 October 2010

Fabulous Fourteen, Week 4!

Last week brought about a new wave of food in our FFF fun :) My sister chose Indian Corn Stew and Quick Cheese Bread for our dining pleasure. And it was a pleasure :)

My husband serves as the sound technician once every three weeks at our church and he was on duty until 1p last Sunday so the two youngest children came home with me (Lauryl serves in the toddler room once a month so she stayed at church too). We dove right in - well, at least Aubry and I did :) Brendan wanted to read his Bible verses from their lesson at church that morning; what an awesome kid he is!

The stew consisted of ground beef, some spices, corn, green peppers, crushed tomatoes, onions, garlic, and zucchini (although I didn't have that on hand). Concurrently, Aubry and I mixed up the quick cheese bread which was also very simple - flour, oil, eggs, sugar, baking powder, salt, and shredded cheese. This we put right in the oven to bake while we finished stirring the stew together and then let it simmer for about 30 minutes.

We went the route of serving the stew on the cheese bread rather than in tortillas. There were definitely some cheers around the table as we ate ... my husband especially. He would have voted for more spice, but when doesn't he want things spicier?!

All in all, these two recipes are perfect for a fall lunch or dinner when you have about an hour to give to the kitchen. They are easy for children to help with and will meet just about anyone's taste bud preferences. It is also yummy upon re-heating; I took the leftovers to work the next day and plowed right through them :)

This weekend?! Birthday cupcakes are on the menu! You can start checking them out here, http://smittenkitchen.com/2009/07/best-birthday-cake/, and then check back in with me for a review early next week! I'm most excited to try the frosting. Why? It looks super unique and unusual :)

To cupcakes! Always a delicious treat :)

11 October 2010

FFF, Week 3!

This week brought about Pumpkin Scones to our Fantastic Fourteen for Fall foray :)

I choose this recipe to bake with my sister and Mom this week:

Why?! I wanted to try my hand at scones again - I only remember baking them one other time - and I also love baking with pumpkin. Saturday evening I donned my bridal shower apron, turned on The Decemberists, poured a glass of wine, and began putting together the dough. I put it together exactly as it stated and found the dough easy to work with and pliable. I ended up cutting it into 16 triangles simply because I didn't want the scones to be quite as big (less calories per serving that way!). I baked them on stoneware for 15mins and they turned out perfectly done. My husband got home from work while they were baking and commented how good they smelled - always a good sign :)

The glazes were ultimately easy to stir together. I'm always heavy on the cinnamon in recipes and wasn't sorry again for this recipe. I let the scones cool for about 30 mins and then painted on the plain glaze with a brush, quickly followed by a drizzling of the spice glaze. Hubby and I couldn't resist having one with the rest of the wine - a delicious way to end the day. They got the ultimate compliment from him, a scone-skeptic: they're sweet and don't taste like flour!

The next day, we shared the scones with friends who invited us over for brunch. They made a delicious compliment to steak, eggs, hash browns, and biscuits with gravy; a sweet side to a salty brunch. I do believe the pumpkin was the key ingredient responsible for these compliments!

Today, the children were home to have a taste. Lauryl's comment: "If I were a pumpkin, I would give it 8 thumbs up!" I think that means she liked the pumpkin part too :) Aubry and Brendan enthused with words like awesome, spectacular, and great.

I do believe it was a hit all around! Up next: Indian Corn Stew and Quick Cheese Bread, chosen by my creative, amazing sister :)

Stay tuned: more deliciosity coming your way this week!

02 October 2010

14 for Fall - Week 2 - Pumpkin Cheesecake!

What a fantastic week for Cheesecake!

Today is my husband's 34th birthday (Happy Birthday, Love!) and we celebrated in many, super-great ways - including this lovely treat:


My oldest, Lauryl, and I set about making the cake yesterday afternoon. I decided to half the recipe (like my sister - http://shortcakessweettooth.blogspot.com/2010/09/fourteen-for-fall-recipe-2.html) but cheesecake experience told me to keep the FULL recipe for the crust. Good thing too - it was just enough :) Lauryl began putting together the batter ingredients while I finished up the crust and put it in the freezer to cool. As I helped Lauryl finish making the batter, I found myself curious about the amount of pumpkin and spices. Instinctively, I kept the pumpkin at full recipe amount as well as the cinnamon. With every other ingredient, we stayed true to the halving.

Let me just say that this is a winning cheesecake! It was thoroughly enjoyed by ALL of us. During the dessert-tasting, Brendan asked his Dad if he would rate the cheesecake as insanely, wicked, or extremely good (with insane being the best). Following Paul's lead, we all settled for the insane side of good. (Hmmm, we could get philosophical with that now couldn't we?! - but that is for another post).

This is a keeper! Oh, and we loved the caramel on it - as a side note, caramel topping (like you would purchase for ice cream) is a quick and easy way to 'caramelize' your desserts ... just fyi :)

Next week's pick: Pumpkin Scones with a double frosting!

28 September 2010

Recipe for Week 1

I forgot to include the recipe yesterday in my post!

Here it is; definitely give it go, everyone - it's super tasty and fun to make :)


27 September 2010

Fourteen for Fall, Week 1!

The first recipe, Easy Caramel Apple Cake, is made and the first bites have been eaten. The taste-testers - my children and husband - have entered their verdicts!

Brendan declares it a -34 on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being the best. WOW! I guess that's a compliment, in some sort of mathematical sense :) Aubry agreed with Brendan, although it was "at least a zero" in her terms; slightly less mathematically significant but I'll take it. Hubby and Lauryl chose non-verbal feedback; a second slice was quickly chosen and consumed by Paul while Lauryl took her time, savoring each bite, a trait that is commonly chosen by her when she wants the experience to last as long as possible.

All in all, I'd say that's a resounding 'yes' to this cake! My thoughts? Super moist, easy to make (as the recipe not-so-subtly implies), and made even easier by using caramel sauce pre-made for ice cream! (Yep, this was a busy weekend for me.)

On to Week 2: Pumpkin Cheesecake for my husband's 34th birthday this coming Saturday!

To Fall and all it's beautiful blessings!

20 September 2010

I'm taking up the sister's Fall challenge: Fourteen for Fall! We're going to making one new, yummy Fall recipe each week - starting the week. First up: Easy Caramel Apple Cake.

Small group, work friends, children, hubby - look out! I'm going to be baking up a storm ;) One of my favorite things to do is spend time in my kitchen. Our wedding gift from my Mom was a red Kitchen Aid Mixer - oh my goodness, I'm in heaven. (Just ask my husband how much I've been using it!) And now my sis challenges me to take up a 'season of baking'. I'm so there!

To Fall! Stay posted :)

15 August 2010

Start Now

I want to make real, lasting, impactful change in other's lives. I want to be able to combine my gifts, talents, knowledge, and personality into artwork. I want to be able to live in my strengths in every aspect of life.

I don't want to lose that dream.

Preventative Step 1:

My husband and I were dreaming about my ideal job on the way home from a southerly county last night. With some prodding (he's gifted in conversing), I began to explain my ideal 'job' (which wouldn't really feel like a job anymore then would it?!) ...

A proactive, working-alongside-you consultant to stressed leaders of children. Teachers. I want to be able to walk into their classroom, ask questions, dig into our one-to-one relationship, find out what is working and what is not, explore their passions and struggles in their classroom, offer influence and resources in my own strengths and experience, build something new together for their teaching experience, teach alongside them, tweak and replace, and ultimately - have fun again!

As I was loquaciously spilling the proverbial beans, I felt the energy inside again. You know what I'm talking about don't you?! It's the very same energy I had when I was creating a K-12 gifted program from scratch as a first year teacher. The energy I feel when I sit with my small group leader friends and create change where there was deadness. The energy I sense when, after listening intently and asking key questions, I share the clear path I see towards success for my best friend both personally and professionally.

"So what's the next step?", I sincerely ask my wonderful husband, who's been listening as well as he converses.

"Start now," he says.

All I could see were green flags everywhere.

22 July 2010

200 Miles

Life is training. Training is life.

This is not a new moniker. But I have new perspective about it today.

I just finished an astonishing book called, "Ultra Marathon Man" by Dean Karnazes. To say that he fully tests human frailty and limits would be minimal. This is a man who has run over 200 miles in one setting. He has run a marathon in Antarctica, to the South Pole. (Think about that for a minute!) He has run from the lowest point in the U.S. (Death Valley) to the highest point (Mt. Whitney) as a 135-mile footrace - see http://www.badwater.com/ - in temps in excess of 130 degrees.

This is extreme. This is a fire burning so deeply inside, nothing can stifle it.

This story is his strongest life. And it is incredibly inspiring to me to know that others hunger for a passionate life like I do. That undeniable inner "push and prod" that I just can't deny - it's my personal fire. Do I have the desire to run 200 miles in one setting? Let's just say, my 200 miles will have a look of it's own. Maybe it's in running. Maybe it's not. This I know: my strongest life will be passionately and purposefully discovering just what my 200 miles is.

And then acting on it.

08 July 2010

10 days ...

I don't think I realized it would take 10 days to be fully here. We are moved and settled, finally. It was long and hard and good and fun, all at once. And now there is peace.

I am peaceful knowing we have space with which to serve others and build relationships. I am peaceful knowing our children have room to grow together and in solitude. I am peaceful knowing my husband and I have our first home together. It is not ideal. But it is ours. And we have dreams to fulfill that will begin in this space. That is hope.

Today I read in Hosea, Psalms, and the book of Hebrew. The theme I saw was "Solid Food to Move Forward". I believe that my discipline to pursue friendship with God is the solid food I need in order to realize the dreams He gives me. That very same solid food gave me strength to get through a tough 10 days of transition. And my strongest life? It would be nothing without clarity of mind, heart, and spirit.

To solid food!

25 June 2010

All three kids are asleep at 2:59pm.

It's quiet in the house that is decorated in moving boxes.

What's a girl to do for these few quiet moments? What else: blog! :)

Thank you God for inventing "summer"! I do so love the change in pace, schedules, and aura. I love the intense heat - not so much the humidity! I enjoy the summer book lists that seem to arise of their own accord. (I just finished "Body Surfing" by one of my favorite authors, Anita Shreve - gentle yet engaging read.) And I love the dreaming - the space with with to think that summer allows. I was mowing the lawn today and realized that one of the reasons I like physical work and fitness is because it gives me space to think. I can get completely wrapped up into that one goal and just allow my mind to flow. What pops up in my soul each time I spend time there is revelatory. I love engaging mind, body, spirit, soul in the same space.

What does that look like for you?! How do you get to the inner space where thought and movement collide in an explosion of revelation?! I'd love to hear back from you, my readers :)

17 June 2010

Must-read Book!

I finished an incredible book this past Monday. "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" by Donald Miller. Incredible for many reasons. Here's how it was incredible to me:

If you've ever read Don Miller, you know what I mean when I say unique writer. He writes like one thinks. The depth of his analogies and humor makes strings of words (aka sentences) jump off the page as pictures in your mind. To say he stimulates the intellect would be minimalist of me.

This book challenged me to get up and move amidst the tiny little story called "my life". In an incredibly self-revealing way, Don challenges his readers to write an incredible story with their life. For instance, chapter 10, "Writing the World": I want to memorize it. Here's an excerpt:

"If I have a hope, it's that God set over the dark nothing and wrote you and me, specifically, into the story, and put us in with the sunset and the rainstorm as though to say, Enjoy your place in my story. The beauty of it means you matter, and you can create within it even as I have created you.

I've wondered, though, if one of the reasons we fail to acknowledge the brilliance of life is because we don't want the responsibility inherent in the acknowledgment. We don't want to be characters in a story because characters have to move and breathe and face conflict with courage. And if life isn't remarkable, then we don't have to do any of that; we can be unwilling victims rather than grateful participants."

I want a character that moves and breathes and acts upon both the good and bad in life. I want to do something bigger than I ever thought I could. I will.

Will you? For inspiration, start in this amazing work of heart by D. Miller.

08 June 2010

I will not be robbed

Today I re-visited a prior adventure in life. Leading a small group.

In some ways, I was nervous. In some ways, I was excited. In some ways, I felt prepared. In some ways, I felt completely unprepared. All the above: appropriate.

I was reminded tonight of something ultra-important. That I am, and He is all.

I love how real my life is. That I am given these grace-opportunities to love and live life with others. Others on a journey. Others with which intersections might never have happened but instead, God orchestrates a beautiful symphony.

"We get robbed of the glory of life because we aren't capable of remembering how we got here." -- Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

I want so much for my life to count. For it to be bigger than that girl who sat to the left of me in English class in high school and predicted I would become a nun. I could still be offended. I choose not to be. Because I know the truth.

I will remember my life. At least the ones in pictures and words. Thank God for ink and letters.

I will not be robbed.

05 June 2010

Here we go 'round the mulberry bush: A new perspective

Today I picked mulberries for the first time since I was a teenager. Growing up on a farm, my life knew many facets of gardening and farming. One was picking our produce and eating from the bounty of God's earth throughout the entire year. As I was picking today, I recalled the hours my Mom and I would spend around berry bushes - mulberry, blackberry, raspberry, gooseberry - you name it, we picked it. And, I remembered the bugs. The bugs were so annoying, and often the bane of berry-picking for me back then. Today, they were not my focus. As I was picking today, I circled the mulberry bushes in a counter-clockwise fashion. I did this with all three bushes available to me and found as I went, that I felt pretty confident I was picking all the ripe ones I could find. At some point, without consciously deciding, I began to circle in the opposite direction; and it became quickly apparent how many ripe berries I had missed. There were so many more, ready for harvest!

I immediately thought of the art of leading. Along with being a leader comes so many levels of impact. I've been in leadership roles for nearly as long as I can remember. It was simply expected of me as a kid, and I grew up learning how to make myself available in that way. Today, I remembered how important perspective is in leadership. Circling back through those mulberry bushes - finding all these "new" berries - it took this new perspective to find the ready harvest! That is just like leading people. One of the greatest gifts of relationship is being open to another's perspective. Leading is facilitating the artform of perspective. Gently nudging and challenging others to shift their lens on life.

I love the energy leading gives me! I love facilitating another's openmindedness - helping them find the gifts and talents God has given them and resourcing them to give 150% to that. Working in my strengths to advise and influence others in their strengths; it really all comes down to that for me.

29 May 2010

My Cup Runneth Over

I had a first today.

I made caramel from scratch!

It was fun, nerve-wracking, intellectually-stimulating, and scientific all at once. The process, being brand new, had me looking at a recipe intently (unusual step #1). It also took a l.o.n.g time. As in, 30 minutes+ long (unusual step #2 - baking typically comes quickly/easily to me). But that was ok. I was able to theorize about how this 1c. of sugar was moving towards a completely new and tasty substance. It reminded me of my own process. There are so many times when I feel "cooked down". Refined. Preparing for change. That has most definitely been the prior 6 months. Paul and I were married 27 November 2009. Since that time, there have been numerous refinements. Numerous! Here I find myself "cooking down" caramel and realizing a beautiful analogy to how God is moving and changing me in this new season of life.

I love to bake! I've been doing it since I was knee-high to my amazing mother. She developed a love of the kitchen in me and to this day, when I need to relax and learn to serve in a new way, the kitchen is very often the place that brings me relaxation as well as insight.

I also love to serve others. Hospitality is one of my spiritual gifts. Very recently, I've become more excited about serving in this way again. We found out just yesterday that we will be moving to a new space! What a gift of grace for us - it is nearly twice as big with a fenced backyard for my Tobie and a 4th bedroom so each of the children will have their own space. Of course, this also means I can entertain much more comfortably again. Ahhhh, the possibilities ...

My cup runneth over with gifts today!

25 May 2010

buck up

Good night.

Well, almost.

It's about time to call it a day. But I did want to note the discovery I made about self today. I am selfish.

Now I know that's no Nobel Prize winning discovery. And if you think that's the first time I realized it, you'd be wrong. This I have known for many, many years. Today, I remembered. I remembered it not in a self-condemnation sort-of way. No. I'm past that point in my journey. I remembered it in a healthy way. A way that says, buck up, Teresa. Keep moving. Work hard. Play hard. Laugh loudest. Especially when no one else is. Especially when everyone else is. Especially, always.

"He must become greater. I must become less." John 3:30

Every time: it's a 2X4. Remind me every day if need be, Lord.

Good night.

24 May 2010

The yet-to-be

Today was h.o.t. Correction: it's s.t.i.l.l. hot. I love how MO reminds me I'm still here: cold to hot in nothin' flat. This coming off of a beautiful, non-humidified stay in Breck, CO. How I do love thee, mountainous air and quiet, unexplored parishes of land.

Which leads me to think: if there is still completely unexplored territory in our world like the tributaries of the Blue Nile in Ethiopia or the high ice desert of Greenland, then what are my unexplored tributaries and deserts? What amazing discovery/ies might trusting my strengths lead to in this journey?

Passion. Self-respect. Confidence. Resolve. Faith. All these will lead to my yet-to-be discovered places.

23 May 2010

Strong Moments

"Your strengths are a multiplier." -- Marcus Buckingham, "Find Your Strongest Life"

This is my current read. Oh boy, do I have seed-thoughts growing out of this! I have taken notes on note cards, post-its - even made a binder to track positives and negatives in all areas of my life. Work, marriage, faith, kids - you name it, I'm thinking about it.

So, today I read this quote and I wondered about what exactly I am multiplying. I know I feel best at work when I am advising and consulting. My strong moments with my husband include training/running together, making goals and commitments and keeping each other accountable to them, and dreaming together. My strengths with my children are expanding their vision and playing hard together.

I want my full attention to be on these strong moments. I want to be able to tilt my world so that I am unbalanced: more moments of strength than moments of weakness. Next step: define my weaknesses.

22 May 2010

Bring it on!

Good morning, world! What a gorgeous day!

I finally got enough sleep last night. My body, mind, and soul say, "Thank you!".
On the agenda today - meet with my accountability partner. Go to our CSA farm to pick up our weekly goodness! Check in on my rental and 'rentees' :) Print pics for a friend who just got married. And run at the Parkville levy tonight with my handsome husband!

Let's go!

21 May 2010

live your way into the answer ...

I'm pretty sure I'm about the millionth and a half person who's decided that blogging is for her. And that's ok. My strongest life includes making decisions for myself that others might think are cliche. Or just plain crazy. I'm ok with that too because "crazy" runs through my mind at times when I stop and think about my life. For instance, I plan to run my first marathon, November 2010. I could not have imagined running 1 mile - and feeling good while doing so - six years ago. Or: going to school full-time for my second Master's degree, teaching online for UOP as my second job, and getting married concurrently. These are examples of my craziness. These are also examples of when I feel the strongest. The most 'on my game'. Like I'm adding value to the world around me.

This is me. This is me discovering my strongest life.

"i beg you ... to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them, and the point is, to live everything. live the questions now. perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer ..."

--Ranier Maria Rilke