Monday, August 30, 2010

with everything, part 2

There comes a time in every girl's life -- or five -- when she simply needs a new beginning, a fresh start, or some semblance of a blank page. With my twenty-fifth birthday on the horizon, I'm full of wonder what my new page is going to look like. I guess you could call it a quarter-life crisis long coming, though I could contend that I've been through a few already. I do seem to go through things early: puberty, marriage, graduation from college, ascent in the corporate world. Maybe it's a first-born thing.

And if you've been following this blog for any time at all, you can't tell me you didn't see it coming with all of my self-help projects I've planned for myself that didn't last more than a few weeks.

My theme for year 24 was "With Everything," based on my absolute favorite song, and I'm still trying to figure out what that looks like. So let me explain. I know that the utmost desire of my heart is to invite the Lord into all that I am, in all that I do, no matter how many times my selfishness causes me to fall asleep praying, choose self-indulgence over service, or lose control of my tongue. Because that happens a lot.

Second on the priority list, I want to be more intentional with how I spend my time. Even if it involves spending a little more quality time with my planner. But never fear; this will include marking huge blocks of hours off for fun things like sleeping in, picnics, reading, writing, baking, napping. I'd better learn to fit these things in or there's no way they'll ever happen when I become a mother. Basically I'm tired of saying "I don't have time" for the picnics, books, and baking because what I'm really saying is "I don't make time!" This has to change.

Enter the search for meaning. (From Stage Left, crossing to Center Stage.) The search is universal because everyone goes through this beautiful train wreck at one point in time or another. Some may even say that that search motivates every action and decision in life for many. I'm glad I know in Whom my meaning lies, but that doesn't mean I don't want each individual moment in my life to be more meaningful. I want to do more serving/doing/creating/experiencing instead of coping/passing by/recovering/automating.

Henceforth, my "quarterlife crisis" shall be known as "The Quarter Life Awakening." And here is my working list for "25 for 25" -- things I want to accomplish this year.

1) Wear more dresses
2) Try being vegan for a month
3) Go gluten-free for a month
4) Run a half marathon (scheduled for 11/21/10)
5) Get professional pictures done with JT
6) Write something. Everyday.
7) Take time to listen to God and be intuitive about what He's saying to me
8) Take the GRE
9) Learn how to play the piano
10) Finish at least the first draft of my novel
11) See a Texas Rangers game at the Ballpark
12) Cook at home more and blog more recipes!
13) Plant an herb garden
14) Decorate my house (walls still blank; entire rooms still unfurnished)
15) Plan my meals every single week!
16) Find the perfect pair of boots and rock them this fall and winter and spring
17) Host a shrimp boil
18) Become a coupon clipper
19) Send thank you notes
20) Stay on top of messages (emails, letters, etc.) better
21) Go social media free for a week each month
22) Show and live love more creatively (esp to JT!)
23) Be more sensitive and responsive to others' needs
24) To be written
25) To be written

Saturday, August 21, 2010

dear future LB,

make this winner for your next dinner guests

you'll thank me later. 

love, ghost of LB present


Thursday, August 19, 2010

not your typical weeknight dinner

On Tuesday night, JT let me pick up takeout for dinner. I'd been craving cheap Chinese (I have to clarify because we also love Asian vegetarian food -- which is not so cheap) since Saturday and needed my rare MSG fix.

So last night I knew I had to make up for it. I had pork chops, pears, and blue cheese ready for a recipe I'd found from Whole Foods. I love getting their recipes straight to my inbox. They have so many delicious ideas to use fresh food! You should really sign up for their emails if you haven't already.

My only problem? My pears were not so fresh any more. They were a little overripe, to put it gracefully. But for once, I wasn't panicked. I thought of a good Thanksgiving-like flavor profile and it ended up working out really well with the pork chops. Then I used my excess blue cheese to create a very alliterative salad. Even more ambitious still, I thinly sliced some sweet potatoes into chips and roasted those up.

We didn't eat until 8:30 after late workouts, but it was delicious and we have lunch all set for a few days. Here are the recipes for my ambitious weeknight creations.

Pork Chops with Cranberry Apple Salsa
adapted from Whole Foods' Grilled Pork Chops recipe

(serves four, or two for dinner and a few lonchies)


1/4 cup dijon mustard
4 pork chops
1 apple, cored and diced
1/2 onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 handful dried cranberries, chopped
1/2 cup chicken stock


Place pork chops, 3 T of dijon mustard, and 2 cups of water in a gallon Ziplock. Mix well and place in refrigerator for 2-4 hours. (I did an hour and a half) When it's time for dinner, preheat your grill or grill pan to medium high and coat a second sauté pan with EVOO or butter and add apple, onion, celery, and cranberries with black pepper. Cook until onions are translucent and ingredients are beginning to soften. Pour about 1/2 cup of chicken stock over ingredients, add salt and pepper to taste, and bring to a simmer, checking frequently and stirring when needed occasionally. Let the juices cook down and infuse in the ingredients, about fifteen minutes or so, or until fruit and vegetables are softened.

Meanwhile, drain the pork chop marinade from the bag thoroughly and combine 1 T of dijon mustard with about 2 T of EVOO in a small bowl. Brush mixture on one side of pork chops and place that side down on the hot grill pan. Brush the other side while first side is cooking. Watch for golden brown grill marks and then flip and cook until it's done.

Serve topped with the cranberry apple salsa and enjoy!

B Salad
Baby spinach with blueberries, blue cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette


3-4 cups baby spinach leaves
1 cup blueberries
1 handful blue cheese crumbles
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup EVOO
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey
freshly ground black pepper


In a small bowl, combine balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, honey, and black pepper. Using a fork, whisk in EVOO until vinaigrette has emulsified.  In a salad bowl, combine spinach, blueberries, and blue cheese. Toss with half of the dressing, adding more if needed so the salad doesn't become too soggy. Top with additional blue cheese, if desired.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

welcome to the family

On Saturday, I welcomed new running shoes into the family. I get new running shoes less often than most runners do, but I felt like my Asics had run their course. (ha.) The process of finding new shoes began sometime in May. With all the expenses of moving in May, JT said I could get new shoes in June, and the searching ensued. Finally, it was time to bite the bullet.

It was out with the old, and in with the...NEW?

"Is there even any difference?" some have asked me.

If you are a runner, you know there is. My new Asics Kayanos are perfect for me. After eight pairs I tried on, I really thought I was going to go with some Mizunos, but as much as I tried to be unbiased from my Asics snob ways, my Asics won me over. Again.

Maybe it was their pillowy softness, their stability for my pronating arches, or maybe it was their sleek design that won me over. But I cannot wait to lace up these puppies and blaze a new trail with them!

Interesting fact: when I got home and put my old shoes in the new shoebox -- aka the green pastures of retirement for running shoes -- I noticed the box said size 10. Oh, they must have made a mistake at the store and given me the wrong box, I figured. But the tongue doesn't lie. Maybe that's why my size 9 Asics were giving me conniption fits and exploding toenails toward the end of their life.

New Running Shoes, Tonight is our maiden voyage, and I have a feeling this is the beginning of a beautiful partnership. I know a lot of mornings I will fight you, but you have to be strong and get me through this half mary. We can do it together!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

weekend highlights

 New Shoes!!
(entire dedication post to come!)

 a three-hour nap
(cutest picture EVER!)

 realizing my love for black movies :)

date night

Sunday, August 15, 2010

the o'bb muffs

Some people call it fate, some call it a God moment, but whatever it was that brought me to Our Marriage Project, I'm glad for the blogstalking refresher this weekend. They are a newlywed couple who surprised their family and friends by getting married at their "engagement party" (they'd been engaged and secretly planning for months). Now they are documenting their first year of marriage, Julie and Julia-style.

With this lovely couple's permission, I'm going to share with you a recipe I found on their site for which I just happened to have all of the ingredients on hand, a hankering to bake, PLUS an excess of blueberries I needed to use as soon as possible or else feed them to the bitter jowls of my garbage disposal.

Here is the cute, cute recipe card she made:

...and here is my finished product:

So delicious! Even though I broke the cardinal rule of baking and added my dry ingredients to the same pan as my creamed wet ingredients because I was too lazy to dirty a bowl. (The horrors!)

Enjoy this tasty treat and delicious new link love!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

an update on running

A few months ago I talked about how I signed up for the Route 66 Quarter and Half Marathon in Tulsa. While it sounds crazy and really daunting to me, I believed I could train reasonably and see what my body could do.

Then my dad invited us on a two-week vacation that scheduled us to arrive home the night before the Quarter Marathon. Ugh, a little, but doable.

So I created a little schedule for my training. I could already run 2-3 miles easily, so this was cake, right? My body would prove me wrong. Around mid-June, I got sick with my ulcerative colitis stuff. While it was manageable throughout the day, running literally made me sick. Plus, I got put on prednisone, which makes me really hungry and retain water. It was not fun and really frustrating.

Early July, I finally started feeling better, but I got an ingrown toenail infection -- we think caused by my running shoes since the are the only closed-toe shoes I wear in the summer. I've had ingrown toenails in the past, but never like this. It was so infected I could feel pain all the way in the base of my toe. And it was explosively disgusting.

Still, I was determined to run the race, no matter how out of shape I was. I'd already paid the money, and it was something I really wanted to do, so I figured I'd just walk/jog it. But a few days before the race, I got an email and found out there was also a 5K that day, so I bit the bullet and decided to switch from the Quarter Marathon to 5K, roughly half the distance.

Extremely disappointed, I drove downtown to the running store to switch races, feeling like my tail was between my legs. Even though I knew it was something I had to do, I felt ashamed. To make things worse, when I told the official I wanted to switch races, they immediately assumed I wanted to switch to the higher distance, and I had to lay down my pride even more and announce to everyone I could only do the 5K.

On race day this past Saturday, I was a tiny bit nervous. Not because I was afraid of what others might think about me, but because my stomach issues had created a HUGE mental hurdle for me. I knew my time would be less than stellar, so at 6:16 a.m., I told JT and Sampson to stay home, snoozing away through the 7:30 start time. (They WILL be at my half marathon, though; that's the big deal to me!)

I drove downtown and found a parking spot, another thing I was nervous about. I found one person I knew, who I was not expecting to see at all. She's a friend of my mom's who had joined a Couch to 5K class at the running store. It was so encouraging to me to find someone I knew and to see the group in the blue shirts who were running their first races!

The race started and I just told myself to keep my pace slow. In other races, I've started toward the beginning thinking if I started out quickly, I could slow down and still keep a good time.

Not so much.

But this time, I enjoyed my music, concentrated on breathing, paid attention to signals from my body and actually enjoyed it a lot. In fact, I ran the entire time despite maybe only running a handful of times in the last two months. I was slow, but I was consistent. And I actually had fun!

With this being my third race (I've run a 15K and another 5K in the past), it was the first one that was truly fun for me. As I ran, I took little mental snapshots of what was going on around me. Feet pounding to the rhythm of my iPod. Smiling faces cheering and giving out water and Gatorade. Tired and determined soldiers trudging through the same battle around me. Inspirational music for monster hills (The race staff was playing "Chariots of Fire" when I reached mine). Crossing the finish line both with my feet and with my mind.


The finish line is a victory, I'm realizing, regardless of a runner's shape, size, or completion time. But I have to admit I was most proud of the group in the blue shirts who gathered the courage, strength, and gumption to set their minds to something and do it.

I'm excited to get back into running, to buy a brand new pair of running shoes tonight (!!!), and especially to see the finish line of the Half Marathon in November.

Monday, August 9, 2010

music monday

If you want to know what kind of mood I'm in, just rip my earphones out of my ear and see what's playing on my iPod at that given time. At any given moment, I could be listening to anything from rap to bluegrass to goth rock. I have it all, and I'm proud of it!

Music is very important to me. I am a singer. I am the girl who goes to a movie a second time to watch it with my eyes closed if I really like the score. And I am the girl who cried all through Les Miserables on Broadway because the music was so moving. 

I don't know what made me think of one of my favorite bands from college, but while on vacation, I had a huge hankering for Sigur Ros, particularly my favorite song, "Staralfur." While trying to explain what I loved about it to JT, I realized that I designate it as a particular music category, what I like to call hauntingly beautiful.

(This is not the same thing as a genre, as you'll discover later.)

Hauntingly beautiful is not the same thing as the overly emotional ballad (a la Boyz II Men, Bon Jovi, or the mid-90s boy band sensations) but they are similar to me because they both evoke emotion. Cheesy or not, I'll admit I like certain songs in both categories, and others I do not like. Basically, my favorite music is the kind that communicates a message so convincingly that it not only relays the emotion, but transfers it, if that makes sense.

Curious about this new musical taste identification I'd given myself, I decided to compile a list of my favorite hauntingly beautiful songs -- only to discover I had almost 30 just off the top of my head. Here they are!

Judy Garland - "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"
Sigur Ros - "Staralfur"
David Crowder - "How He Loves Us"
Westside Story - "Somewhere"
Eva Cassidy - "Over the Rainbow"
Bon Iver - "Blindsided"
Les Miserables - "On My Own" (Lea Salonga)
Sara Bareilles - "Gravity"
Explosions in the Sky - "Your Hand in Mine"
Andrea Bocelli - "The Lord's Prayer"
Bryan Adams - "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?"
Nicholas Hooper - "Possession" (Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix)
Iron & Wine - "Flightless Bird, American Mouth"
Chanticleer - "Ave Maria"
Cat Power - "How Can I Tell You?"
Cincinnati Pops Orchestra - "What a Feeling" (From Flashdance)
Enter the Worship Circle - "You Are Mine"
Craig Armstrong - "Glasgow Love Theme"
No Doubt - "Dark Blue"
Nickel Creek - "When You Come Back Down"
Sade - "By Your Side"
John Rutter - "A Gaelic Blessing"
John Williams - "The Force Theme" (Star Wars trilogy)
Josh Groban - "Un Giorno Per Noi" (Intro)
Mazzy Star - "Fade into You"
Enya - "Aniron" (Fellowship of the Ring)
Norah Jones - "The Nearness of You"
The Notebook - "Our Love Can Do Miracles"
Michael Lynche/Maxwell -"This Woman's Work"

As you can see, this is a big variety of songs, most of which you probably haven't heard of. Some of these songs are instrumental; some have words. Some have a happy message; others have a sadder tone. Some are classical; others are contemporary.

But all of these songs are perfect when I need to listen to something that makes me feel. Are there any songs that do this for you?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

giada's short rib pasta

What do you do for friends who have already done so much for you and meant so much to you in the short time you've know each other? Why, cook them a great meal, of course! (Food is definitely my love language.)

To back things up, I have been stalking reading Meseidy's food blog, The Noshery, for awhile. So when she announced that her dogs were having puppies, I asked about them, and I think you know the rest about our love story with Sampson. But what you don't know, is that the second we stepped into their house to meet the puppies, we connected with this dynamic couple. (The second we were out the door, JT and I both commented how we thought we'd like them based on the books in their house.)

When we asked to meet the yellow puppy a second time, she asked us to stay for dinner and made us perhaps the best dish we'd ever eaten. These great friends even helped us move a few days later, so to say thank you, we invited them over for dinner.

Having made Giada's short rib pasta multiple times, I decided this hearty dish would be perfect for a food blogger and her carnivorous husband. And I also decided I'd put myself in Meseidy's shoes and play food blogger myself for a minute. So here's How to Say Thank You, Undomestic Style.

channel The Pioneer Woman and assemble ingredients 

the BEST

prep veggies

create delicious veggie puree

dredge short ribs in flour/salt/pepper mixture while pancetta is cooking
slightly burn pancetta and "neglect" to take a picture

return pancetta, ribs, puree to pot and add aromatic ingredients

 spend 20 minutes trying to open wine bottle

Google "How to Open a (mutilated) Wine Bottle"

Get it!!!

Clean house while pot braises

Console sad, neglected puppy

 Friends arrive while hair is still wet, (bagged) salad is unmade, and short ribs are not shredded

Swallow pride and allow friend to assemble bruschetta

EAT! (thirty minutes after they arrive)

Meseidy's amazing dessert

In typical Undomestic style, my dinners are generally "semi-homemade." I am not afraid to serve a bagged salad with a little embellishment. My absolute favorite is Dole's Perfect Harvest salad kit with a little goat cheese crumbled on top. So delicious! 

The moral of the story is, love and friendship matter more than details. 

Or a perfectly clean house.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dear JT,

Can I take this moment to tell you how thoughtful you are?

For example, the other day when I woke up from my nap, I said I was hungry for a snack. You not only brought me a wholesome snack, but it had a message for me.

Now that's what I call service with a smile!

You also do thoughtful things like go to the grocery store when I need something last minute and stock up on things I like without having to ask, like natural peanut butter, pickles, and the cranberry juice you thought would make me feel better :)

Thank you for pursuing me in creative ways. I hope I can love you better everyday!

Love, Your Co-pilot

cake batter cookies

This recipe will change your life. 

Need an impressive dessert to take to a party with only minutes to spare? Bake these up while you're getting ready. Unexpected guests? Here is the easiest ticket to hostess with the mostess land.

Since discovering this recipe, I have made it for my office, our neighbors who rescued Sampson, my Bible study, barbecues. Andrea Cherie's husband Jason came over while I was baking a huge batch, and let's just say it's a good thing it's hard to spoil his supper or else I would have been in trouble :)

They are far from healthy, but I'll go out on a limb and say they are the perfect hybrid of cake, cookie, and brownie. Here it is!


1 box of your favorite cake mix (I use dark chocolate fudge)
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I use Smart Balance oil)
1 cup (or more) of your favorite mix-ins (nuts, M&Ms, choc chips, etc)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix first three ingredients until combined. Fold in mix-ins. Spoon onto greased cookie sheet and bake for eight minutes. Voila! You can get about 20 cookies out of this, depending on how big you make them.

Flavor ideas: Our favorite is dark chocolate cake mix with dark chocolate chips (very rich, just like we like it!), chocolate cake with white chocolate chips, red velvet with white chocolate chips, M&Ms, pecans, chopped heath bar, chopped Andes mints. The possibilities are endless!
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