Thursday, December 30, 2010

new beginnings

I must admit, I have a pretty amazing birthday. I get to start each year off thinking about the prior years in review as well as plans for the upcoming year…all with a little celebratory fireworks, noisemakers, perhaps a Happy New Year tiara, and parades.

In years past, there was a lot of speculating what I’d like to see happen and what I’d like to expect in the upcoming year. Last year and this year, I’ve changed that up just a bit with what things that I enjoy that I’d like to do in the year and how I can make the year count, not only for myself but for those I love and care about. The overall themes I'm planning for the upcoming year are to enjoy life, try to enrich myself with things that are important, and to make a difference. I’d say last year was a success…and I’m looking forward to 28.

Here’s my carryover list from last year's New Year’s “resolutions” and a few new ones:

1. Take more photographs.
2. Read a new book each month. Don't buy any new books until one is finished.
3. Plan a special mother-daughter event. Maybe we can do a trip to Chicago...
4. Take my dad out to breakfast each month.
5. Learn to play the piano.
6. Take a trip somewhere new. This year I’m thinking of possibly going to Savannah or Charlston with the roommates.
7. Try a new recipe each month.
8. Throw a dinner party.
9. Host a girl's night.
10. Treat myself to one thing each month.
11. Paint at least 4 paintings.
12. Complete an art piece for Angela.
13. Draw a picture of Charles and Jen from their wedding.
14. Start journaling and/or blogging and update semi-often.
15. Stay consistent with devotionals. Go through a study. Dedicate a time.
16. Try to stay positive (be less critical, stressed, or overwhelmed).
17. Be more organized.
18. Eliminate debt by year end 2011.
19. Make conscious health decisions. Drink more water. Eat healthier. Floss daily.
20. Exercise regularly (6 days a week) to avoid getting sick. Do a cardio activity at least 3 times a week.
21. Make a habit of getting more sleep at night.
22. Be more social. Attempt to find out at least one new thing about someone every day.
23. Smile at strangers and make eye contact. Smile more in general.
24. Learn to be punctual.
25. Send out cards to friends/family more often.
26. Find a service project to get involved with (womens clinic, homeless clinic, humane society, etc.).
27. Donate blood.

I'm excited about what 2011 has in store for me!

Monday, December 27, 2010

on journaling...

"Your Journal shouldn't be a dumping ground, but a place to create, recognize and celebrate the beauty and joy, that which is in all things. It should be a friend you have a great time with, not a shoulder you whine on. Commemorate the positive. Eliminate the negative."

-Danny Gregory

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Slovak family Christmas traditions

Religious family traditions and customs bring truths of faith into the home. One of these beautiful customs is Oplatki. The breaking of bread is a sign of charity, unity, and fellowshjip. The wafer is blessed and broken by the head of the family and distributed to each member. A simple prayer is said for God's grace and the welfare of the present and absent members of the family. While doing so, each family member is kissed and wished a joyful feast. The members then greet one another in the same way.

Traditional Slovak Christmas Meal—Oplatki
(which means to mourn or remember someone or an event)

1. Pass around to each person at the table a bread wafer, served with honey, sliver of garlic, and sprig of parsley and horseradish immediately following a prayer or giving of thanks.
a. Cracker: represents Christ, the Bread of Life
b. Honey: Sweetness of Christ
c. Garlic: Family trek to/from Egypt
d. Parsley: return to Nazareth
e. Horseradish: demonstrates the Life of Christ—He was a Man of Sorrow
2. Wine: represents first miracle at Cana
3. Fish: White baked/smoked Herring with rye bread.
4. Cheese (w/ crackers) is a product from sheep’s milk (We are His sheep: He is our Shepard)
5. Sauerkraut soup: Humble Meal for the homeless Christ.
6. Perrogi: prune/cheese filled
7. Haluski: Cabbage dumplings Simple Lifestyle of Christ and his disciples
8. Openkance: Poppy seed dumpling
9. Roast: Lamb or Beef (Represents our Slain Savior) (No fowl is served because rooster proclaimed man’s denial of Jesus)
10. Rice/Potato with gravy: Meals the Lord had with rich man like Simon, Zacchaeus and others.
11. Kolacki: Poppy seed/nut roll, other desserts (Christ’s fellowship with friends)
12. Fresh Fruit and Nuts: bounty and abundant life we have through Christ (We are fruitful and productive for God and the kingdom).

Christmas Sauerkraut Soup (mentioned above)

• 2-3 lbs. Chuck meat
• 3-4 lbs. Spareribs (meaty)
• 2-3 lbs. Smoked or fresh Polish sausage
• 1 TBS. Salt
• ½ tsp. pepper (fresh crushed is best)
• ¼ tsp. paprika
• ½ C. barley, washed and rinsed
• 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
• 1 bay leaf (REMOVE when soup is done)
• 12 prunes (one for each of the disciples)
• ½ tsp. caraway seed (opt.), crushed in coffee grinder
• 1 C. DRY mushrooms that are soaked overnight (Shitake)
• 1 medium onion, sliced thin
• 1 lg. Can or bottle sauerkraut (Bohemian style)
• 1 can northern beans (white)

Use largest soup pot you own. Rinse meat and ribs in cold water; set in large kettle. If using fresh sausage, put into pot with meat. Smoked sausage will be added later. Cover with at least 12-14 cups water (more be needed as the soup simmers). Bring water to quick boil; lower flame immediately and simmer to bring up the foam. Skim foam and discard. When foam no longer appears, add Salt, bay leaf, pepper, paprika, caraway seeds and washed barley, mushrooms with liquid, crushed garlic, and beans. Let this simmer for about an hour. After 1 hour, sauté onion lightly to glaze; add to soup along with sauerkraut. Then add prunes and smoked sausage at this time.


Simmer additional 2 hours, or until meat falls easily from the bone. Take meat out of soup into large bowl or roaster. Store cold.

• 4 TBS. Margarine
• 4 TBS. Flour

Brown flour into melted margarine to a golden brown. Remove from flame and slowly add:
• 1 ½ C. water
• 2 tsp. vinegar

Over a medium flame, continue to thicken roué. Add 1 cup soup stock to make it thinner; add all this to soup and simmer soup for about another 15 minutes.

Soup is best tasting when made the day prior to serving; this allows it to marinate. When reheating soup, add meat back to soup, heat and remove meat to roaster. Place in warm 200° oven while eating soup, until ready to serve.


May He grant us peace in our lives, length of our days, and joy in all we do. Amen.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

the gift of presence

I arrive home from a day at the office or running errands, and I am greeted with a joyful greeting from my little Easton. His routine is always the same. He will step out of his crate, tail-wagging, lower to the ground and wait for a rub down. He’ll stretch. He’ll then rush excitedly to search for a toy to come show me. The most important thing in his life is companionship, and he always looks back to make sure I’m watching, following, or listening. If I’m not, he is sure to get my attention in the ways he knows best. A cracked blackberry, destroyed camera card, chewed pair of eyeglasses, and shredded pair of panties later, I could not be any more certain that my dog knows how to get to me. Afterall, his greatest moments are those spent with his mama.

Everyone wants to be loved and to feel a sense of belonging in some way or other.

For those of us who have friends and family near and dear to us in the holiday season, we cherish the moments together. For me, I am most excited about the thought of simply gathering together, possibly celebrating with food, and possibly celebrating with a bit too much food. This is the season that traditionally affects our waistlines, our wallets, and possibly even our sanity. There is a countdown clock at work that plagues me with the greatest of anxiety, and I’m even keeping it simple this year! Despite these challenges during the busyness of the season, it is with the greatest of anticipation that I still countdown towards the day we celebrate the birth of our Saviour. Pastor Rick of the People’s Church shared a message this past Sunday, reminding us of the ultimate gift, stating, “God has come down to man…for a reason…and promises to never leave us.” In this it is made clear that we are children of God to which His presence was made known among us. Even more extraordinary is that Jesus gave up divine privileges so that He could make a way for US. He became the connection. This was the fulfillment of God’s promise to us, and further proof that He would never leave us or forsake us, as is written in His Word.

So it is in this holiday season that we get to enjoy the presence of God.