Sunday, February 27, 2011

on days when I'm feeling down...

...this curious face pops up and cheers my day:

"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion."


Saturday, February 26, 2011

the question I get asked most often at work... far, is, "where was your desktop background picture taken?" While I knew it was some place in Italy, I wasn't exactly sure of the name. All I knew was that it was someplace I'd like to go, and I use it to take a mental vacation every now and then (well, not really, but that's a nice thought). So I decided to do some research.

photo by Tony Helsloot

It's a place called Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy...and isn't it beautiful?

The second most often asked question is probably a close tie between, "what are you doing for lunch today?" and "what do you have against wearing socks?" :)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

star quality

This week in Phillipians, we discussed the importance of eliminating complaining. As a more Christlike alternative, we should instead choose to trust Him in the face of disappointment. Not to mention, disappointment usually comes from our own self-sought expectations.

Phillipians 2:12-18 (NIV)
Shining as Stars
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16 as you hold out[a] the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

If we attempt to become blameless and pure children of God, we'll "shine like the stars in the universe", offering a reflective life of who Christ was and is. This, in turn, will bring hope to the despair.

It's funny how many times in conversation I will bring up something negative. I have no idea where it comes from or why I do it. Negativity feeds on negativity. I can't imagine how much more beneficial it would be to replace every negative thought or word with something encouraging instead!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Photography class

Last Saturday, I took a photogaphy class with my dad at the Nashville Zoo in lieu of our monthly breakfast. It was a lot of fun! Highlights of the day were getting to see the giraffes up close in the barn and feed them leaves, as well as get to see the baby giraffe. I also enjoyed seeing the baby meerkats (so cute!). We had two great photo ops: a close up of the elephants and a photo shoot with a young Eurasian Lynx.

A tip that I learned about animal photography, aside from camera setting specifics, was to take pictures at the animal's eye level for the most dramatic shots. This is in stark contrast to people and landscape shots that are best taken from below and above for interesting photographs.

Not all the animals were out that day due to the cold weather conditions. Nonetheless, I went through four batteries and took nearly 1800 pictures. Here are a few more of my favorites from the day:

If I go back to the zoo, I'd like to spend more time with the cats and in the aviary.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

humility: strength in being Christ-minded

I'm just now getting around to writing about the discussion at church two weeks ago, but I've been absorbing some of the points and finding personal challenges I can focus on in my own life.

Philippians 2:1-11 (NIV)
Imitating Christ’s Humility
1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Verse one discusses all the benefits of having unity with Christ, then transitions into the challange we should all take on:

We should consider our motives.
Romans 12:3 (NIV)
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

We should adjust our attitude.

We need to avoid thinking about ourselves only.

He focused on humility, and defined it as freedom from having to think about oneself. I tend to get very introspective sometimes and like to think about my hopes and dreams and everything in my life. Realizing that this time could be better spent thinking about others around me, about others that God has placed in my life, really hits home. I have no need to be selfishly ambitious. I like what Pastor Rick said, "If you work only for yourself, your success dies with you, but if you work for others, the work will never be done." That reminds me of what someone once said. We are only a small part of the larger story. Our challange should be to make as much of an impact as we can.

John 12:24-25 (Message)
Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you'll have it forever, real and eternal.

We'll find fulfillment in Christ by having total abandonment of our selfish tendencies, demonstrating genuine acts of love toward one another, and really portraying a servant's heart.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Craft: A Date Book

Last week, my roommate Stephanie and I decided to do a craft night and make some gifts for the boys. We both pulled out all our scrapbooking and crafting material and tried brainstorming on what we'd like to do. To be honest, my addiction for paper and scrapbooking supplies was a bit overwhelming, and it took a while for both of us to find any direction with our projects. I decided that the theme I was going to go with was quality time, since both Sean and I really enjoy events and activities together.

I started by making a card, shown below...

...then created a date book, which was a calendar of local events with additional ideas for the two of us, envelopes with vouchers that can be used throughout the year, and gift cards, etc. It was a fun crafting project, and I was pleased with how it turned out!

(And the real accomplishment is actually finishing a project within a decent amount of time!)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Roasted Leek and Potato Soup with Arugula

I love this recipe that I found on Farmgirl Fare's website, which she credits to Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients. I have made it twice now, each with variation from the original recipe. I think the second time was even better than the first!
2 pounds potatoes (about 5 cups), peeled and cut into 3/4" dice (I used Yukon Gold the first time and Russet potatoes the second, and prefer the Yukon Gold potatoes)
1 pound chopped leeks (about 5½ cups), white and light green parts, cleaned well
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
4 cups baby or wild arugula, lightly packed (I used a little extra)
4 to 5 cups chicken stock (I used 4 cups since I like it thicker)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano (I used a little more cheese the first time and I would probably up this amount again when I make it next)
1 more teaspoon kosher salt
More fresh black pepper
Optional garnishes:
Freshly Grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
Snipped fresh chives
A Dollop of Sour Cream
Crumbled crisp bacon

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Combine the potatoes and leeks in a large bowl; add the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper and toss to coat the vegetables evenly. Place in a roasting pan or on a baking sheet. Roast, stirring occasionally, until they're very tender, about 40 to 50 minutes. Then add the arugula and toss to combine, then roast for about 5 more minutes, until the arugula is wilted.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven and place it in a crockpot. Stir in 2 cups of the chicken stock and cook over low heat for a few minutes, scraping up any dark and crispy roasted bits that are stuck to the pan. Stir in 2½ more cups of chicken stock, 1 cup of heavy cream, the Pecorino Romano, another teaspoon of salt, and several more grinds of fresh pepper. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup, adding more chicken stock if it's too thick. Cook over low heat until hot, check the seasonings, and serve, garnished as desired.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Publix boys

The roommates and I decided to have people over tonight for the superbowl because the purpose of living together was to enjoy the company of each other and our friends. So today after church, Katie and I set off to grocery shop for the occassion. It was a productive trip, and it ended with the best feeling ever. Not only did I load up a cart full of fruits and vegetables (some potato and leek soup is again on the menu for this week), but the checkout guys are soooo friendly. It just makes my day. The bagger was asking what I had planned for the evening, and I asked if he was getting off work to enjoy watching the game. They always offer to help take out the groceries, even if it's just one bag, which it wasn't this time. They are just so friendly and genuinely caring. I love it! I had the hugest grin on my face when I left. Then, as Kate and I headed toward the car, we just had to laugh at the sound of our carts going over each of the cracks in the sidewalk in unison as we followed each other. Something so small yet funny. The trip just made our days brighter.

Is it that simple...that we can make someone's day just by being a little bit brighter, a little bit friendlier, and to share a smile with a stranger?