Saturday, January 29, 2011

NYC Trip 2009

A few years ago, I had a great trip with my mom, aunts and grandparents to NYC to visit Ellis Island where my grandma came to the United States. She was born in Czechoslovakia and raised here in the US. We had a great time, and were able to see many sites in a short time. The food was also amazing.

To document the trip, we all took a lot of pictures. You can view my album here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

beauty surrounds

Late at night, when most people are sleeping, I dream about traveling and seeing more of the world. Below is a short list of US Cities I would like to visit very soon:

1. Portland, OR

2. Seattle, WA

3. Chicago, IL

4. Savannah, GA

5. Charlston, SC

6. San Francisco, CA

Thursday, January 27, 2011

financial freedom

...This is another dream of mine. For one, it's not healthy to stress over finances. More importantly, it limits what God has called us to be able to do, namely serve others, and is not how He intended us to live.

I've been working on this for several years, and each year have made a little progress. With school and car loans paid off, that leaves the other giant known as credit card debt. Who knew these would be just as hard or harder than the larger balance loans?? Still, I feel hopeful and determined that I can tackle it this year.

There are plenty of valuable articles and resources available online to help with the process. I like using for creating a monthly budget and sticking with it. Before setting a budget, I found it was helpful to take a retrospective review and comb through six months of expenditures, categorize all spending, and figure out where the money was actually going. At this time last year, I discovered that the majority was going to car repairs, vet bills, and food...not to mention the random trips to Target and Walmart that were uncategorizable (if this is such a word)! I had to better plan for those occassions so that they wouldn't end up a part of the never-shrinking credit card monster. To help with food cost, I decided to eat out less, set a monthy grocery and dining budget, utilize coupons every now and then (though I have not gone as far as studying the fine art of couponing), and online shop for pantry items. offers free shipping on all orders, combines offers with coupon deals, and will even send reminders of when you might be low on an item.

When moving last year, I was able to sell quite a lot of unwanted furniture, electronics, and media on, at McKay's, and Ms. B's Used Books. This wasn't incredibly rewarding, but it meant less to move and freed up space in the new place. The downside was that I felt the need to replace, fought the urge as best I could, and did not win that battle!

Avoiding clothes and home goods shopping is doable for me. I simply don't have the space. I've had to ask myself many times, "Is this a necessity?" and more ofthen than not the answer is, "no." I struggle with my desire to want a morning latte and to eat out. Lattes are such a treat...and supposedly have less caffeine than coffee (just enough to start off my day). While I do enjoy cooking, it's hard to manage portion size and eat leftovers quickly enough. I'm still working on these last two.

Progress has been made in being able to balance my checkbook. In the past, I solely went off my online bank account and never balanced my checkbook. Then I heard someone tell me, "If you don't manage your money, your money will manage you." It has really helped to keep me in check. I tried carrying cash at one point, but that was difficult to stay organized and track where it was going.

The method for paying off credit cards has been to focus on the smallest balance first and then take that payment and add it to the next until they're all paid off. It just so happens that the smallest balance cards have the larger interest rate so it worked out better that way too. I heard initially to pay the minimum on all the other cards while focusing on the one. Recently I was told that your credit score reflects the payments you make, so if you pay anything above the minimum, it will show that you pay more than the minimum...even if it's only 5 dollars. I only have four cards with balances, and one on the verge of being paid off (Friday!) so I'm not talking 20 or anything. Still, it's a good way to make goals and feel like I'm making some progress at least. Another two will be paid off next month!

I'm excited to accomplish this goal!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I will judge a book by its cover

The other weekend I had the pleasure of meeting my Dad for breakfast at Pancake Pantry. After filling up on the Sweedish Pancakes and my personal favorite, the French Toast with side of crispy bacon, we headed over to Borders to see if we could catch some deals on books. My parents, avid bird watchers, were looking for some books to use for their backyard pleasure and travels to the mountainous East Tennessee. My dad found 7 or 8 books that he found interesting, and eventually narrowed it down to three. They were great deals that he just couldn't pass up. Meanwhile, I headed over to the photography section to see if I could be as fortunate to find something brilliant and inspiring for 70% off. Since I would like to get more involved in photography this year (as professed in my new year's resolutions), I was hoping they'd have some helpful books. Much to my dismay, there were so many with hideous covers. I was perplexed! Photographers, of all people, should have an eye for this sort of thing! If it wasn't technically boring, say with a picture of a camera on the cover, it bordered on overly complicated justaposition of 80's pinks and greens with randomly displayed photos. I'm ashamed to admit this, (because I don't believe it transfers to other areas of my life but you never know...), but I hesitate buying a book if the cover isn't to my liking; I just prefer not to add it to my library! :)

That said, i found one that seemed really interesting. It wasn't on sale, and is cheaper on Amazon, but it is on my list for future purchase.

Check out Photo Op by Kevin Meredith

faith in context

This week, the discussion at church centered around Phillipians 1:3-11. It's beautiful scripture, but often taken out of context.

Thanksgiving and Prayer
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Verse 6 is often used to say that God will finish that which He started in each of us. There's more work to be done on our part for this to happen, but that part is often neglected. Pastor Rick brought up the three questions we should ask when trying to figure out the context of scripture-easily put, to who, on what, and why. In this instance, the letter was written to the church of Phillipi because of their partnership in the gospel. Why is Paul compelled to write to them? He wanted to make sure that the fruit of God's activity was evident in their lives. To apply this to us, we should be focused on whether there is evidence of fruit in out lives considering we are saved. We should be living with authenticity and blamelessness. Salvation should have two parts:

1. Faith: We should be trusting fully in god's power
2. Fruit: We should have evidence of God's presence in our lives

Galatians 5:22-23 (New Living Translation)
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

so ready for springtime cheer...

The salt trucks are out once again, which can only mean one thing: there is likely going to be more snow. That or Nashville is being a little over-precautious. I can only hope for the latter. I am so ready for spring...

1. Up Top by honeytree on etsy
2. Ruffled dress by LC Lauren Conrad
3. pink frosted cake
4. Gatekeeper: Sunset Balloons
5. wall paper by trove
6. peonies
7. oil painted hydrangeas
8. Ruffled cream umbrella

Florabella Collection

Right now Florabella Collection is giving away free Valentines cards and bookmarks. These are so cute and would make great gifts!

Check out the blog for more details!

Friday, January 21, 2011

snow day pancakes

There's a downside to living in prime location with a view that overlooks the city lights through bare trees. It makes it nearly impossible to travel up and down the hill that is my street when it ices over.

For today's snow day, I decided to whip up some blueberry pancakes since I had a tub of blueberries in the fridge.

Blueberry Pancakes

2 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teasooon salt1 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup fresh or frozen thawed blueberries, rinsed

In a small bowl, beat egg whites until stiff; set aside.
In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Beat egg yolks in a medium mixing bowl; add milk and melted butter. Stir egg mixture into dry ingredients; mix until batter is smooth and stir in blueberries. Fold in beaten egg whites. Bake on hot greased griddle.

These blueberry pancakes were just the thing needed to brighten my day, bring the sun out to shine, and gradually melt away the ice covered hill!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tilapia with broccoli quinoa

Well...I had every intention of trying the spiced cod with broccoli quinoa pilaf. All the ingredients were purchased and I was all set until I read the reviews that said it fell a little short. I looked up a quick alternative, and made some slight alterations with what I had in the cabinet. It turned out great!

The Double Broccoli Quinoa recipe by 101 cookbooks was my inspiration for tonight's dinner.

Broccoli Quinoa

2 cups dry quinoa, pre-rinsed
5 cups raw broccoli, cut into small florets and stems

3 medium garlic cloves
2/3 cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorina Romano
2 big pinches kosher salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup heavy cream
1-2 sliced avocado
sliced purple onion, to taste
cubes of goat's milk gouda
dried cranberry

Cook the quinoa according to package instructions and let steam in large, lidded pot.

Pour 1 cup of water in a medium pot and add pinch of kosher salt. Add the 5 cups of broccoli and let steam on medium heat for 2 minutes. Then set aside.

The broccoli puree was made with three cups of the cooked broccoli, garlic, 1/2 cup of the almonds, Pecorina Romano, pinch of salt, and lemon juice in a food processor. Since my processor is a small version of the larger one, I had to do this a little bit at a time and transfer to a larger mixing bowl. I drizzled in the olive oil and cream and used a stick wand to puree together.

Before serving, toss the quinoa, remaining broccoli florets, avocado, onion, and aliced almonds with the broccoli pesto. Turn out onto a serving platter and top with the gouda cubes and cranberry.

Almond-Crusted Tilapia (courtesy of Southern Living)

1 cup sliced almonds, divided
1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
4 (6-oz.) tilapia fillets
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil

Process 1/2 cup almonds in a food processor until finely chopped, and combine with 1/4 cup flour in a shallow bowl.

Sprinkle fish evenly with salt; dredge in almond mixture.

Melt butter with olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat; add fish, and cook 4 minutes on each side or until golden. Remove fillets to a serving plate.

Add remaining 1/2 cup almonds to skillet, and cook, stirring often, 1 minute or until golden. Remove almonds with a slotted spoon, and sprinkle over fish.

Final product:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

thinking and dreaming of food...

Today I am inspired most by food and how amazing I feel after eating something delicious and satisfying (note: eating, not to be confused with OVER-eating!).

Below is a list of my favorite three soups, breads, and cheeses:

Sauerkraut soup
Potato and Leek soup
Cream of nearly anything soup that Sean's grandmother makes

Pecorino Romano
Frico Gouda

Potato Bread
Asiago Cheese Bread

These are great fillers, but not the most nutritious in terms of fiber, vitamins, so on and so forth. In the new year, I'd like to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into my cooking. Specifically, I'd like to cook with more arugula, sweet potato, leeks, brussel sprouts, and possibly try quinoa.

A few recipes on my list to attempt are:

Coconut curry pot pie with sweet potato crust
Pork and sweet potato stew
Spiced cod wth broccoli quinoa pilaf

Mmm....this talking about food is making me hungry!