Monday, December 20, 2010


dear weekend, thank you for bringing lots of opportunities for rest, reading, writing, and watching cheesy movies. sometimes we just need a weekend that doesn't include very much work. can I have ten more of you? LB

dear JT's dad, please feel better soon. we want you home for Christmas this year! <3 <3 LB

dear short work week, I have been looking forward to you all year. three cheers for cookie baking, novel writing, and spending time with la familia. can I have one more of you? oh wait! see you again next week! LB

dear running, I miss you a lot, but we need a little break. you did something bad to my hip and knee that won't go away unless we're apart. know that I may be cheating on you with the elliptical, but I'll be thinking of you the entire time. urs 4eva, LB

dear new family tradition, we started you last year and I can't think of a better celebration of love for a kid who grew up in the late 80s and 90s. can't wait to write about you, LB

dear december, sometimes you make me a little down in the dumps. I don't know what it is about you, but there are just some moments where honestly, I don't feel like myself. maybe it's the cold weather, the lack of sunshine, or the fact that my favorite season has just said goodbye, but this year, I'm determined to find joy in the little things and make you the best ever. turning over a new leaf, LB

dear JT, I'm so looking forward to 2011 and the opportunity to be more intentional about our marriage and making it the best year for us yet. thank you for putting up with me, my tendency to "read into" things, and of course, my mule-like stubborn tendencies. love you from the east to the west, LB

:: letters inspired by Emily at Today's Letters! ::

Friday, December 17, 2010

confessions from a grinch

If I'm gonna tell it then I gotta tell it all...

I'm having a hard time grasping why it seems bad things always happen this time of year. Sure, they happen year-round, but tragedy seems to strike families in more concentrated doses in these winter months. Off the top of my head, I can think of sickness, unexpected deaths, missing family members, and totally out-of-nowhere diagnoses affecting people all around me right now. People should be spending Christmas at home, cozy, in front of a fire, stomachs full of delicious food, not in cold hospital rooms, kneeling at church altars, signing divorce papers, or waiting by the phone for news. I just wonder how many ugly Christmas sweaters and cheerful "Merry Christmas" wishes are really hiding troubled hearts. Is it just me who thinks about this stuff?

*   *   *

All I want to do is curl up with a warm bowl of Kraft macaroni and cheese (mixed with tuna, parmesan cheese, and lots of black pepper -- my fav), a blanky, and some stretchy pants, and have a Home Alone marathon.

*   *   *

I haven't bought any Christmas presents except for JT's. And I'm beginning to think there's something dying underneath the mountains of dishes in my sink. The only dish I've washed lately was a pan I needed to use again -- to make Ramen noodles.

*   *   *

Everyone knows this season is a nightmare for those who work retail, but be sure to sympathize with those you know who get paid to send information to and ask more out of those in retail. That might be a little worse.

*   *   *

I've tried to watch White Christmas exactly twice in my life, and fell asleep or lost interest both times. I can do It's a Wonderful Life, and of course, I love Judy Garland's haunting rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," in Meet Me in St. Louis (does that count as a Christmas movie?), but the revered Christmas classic White Christmas is more than a little agonizing to me for some reason. I guess I'm more of a The Family Man, A Christmas Story, or Love, Actually kind of girl.

*   *   *

On the topic, A Christmas Story is absolutely the best remedy for Christmas Eve insomnia. I've been known to be too excited for sleep the night before Christmas, so I simply start watching the movie, fall asleep, and wake up at that exact point the next time they play the movie. It's genius! Can you tell my family is really big on movies this time of year?

*   *   *

I tried to talk JT out of sending Christmas cards to some people, denying the importance of sending a picture of yourself to people you haven't spoken with in years. We discussed whether this gesture constitutes the maintenance of a healthy relationship, or if it's just an empty, artificial tradition and a waste of postage. Insisting on parameters that give people the worth of 44 cents makes me feel most Grinch-like of all.

*   *   *

Every year, my family meets in my parents' living room for a Christmas tradition. Some of us curl up on the couch, others sprawl out on the floor, listening in silence to the story of a Savior born in a manger. While most eyes in the room sparkle with deep thought, mine still tear up when my dad reads the Christmas story from the Bible. And somehow, that story trumps all of these confessions and brings warmth and hope to my heart again.

When I think about that story, and what it led to, it makes trudging through the winter slush of heavy hearts and endless to-do lists all worth it. I'm praying any one who's having a hard time this Christmas will find their needs met (even if not in the way they expected), their minds comforted, and their hearts filled with the strength and courage to face life head-on. And I'm compelled to be on the lookout for ways I can reap the blessings I've received from the cross and the manger and pay it forward. Those opportunities pop up more often than we realize, and can really make all the difference in the world if only we keep our eyes open.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

'tis the season

...for Christmas parties. Lots of them.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are kind of a blur of ham, gravy, sweet carbohydrate goodness, and of course, last minute shopping. It's been a doozy of a fall and winter so far, but I am doing my best to focus on the real Reason for the season and choosing love over busyness.

Today's Thursday (not quite) Thirteen is dedicated to the Christmas party tradition, every bad White Elephant present you'll give and receive, and of course, the countless covered dishes you'll prepare or consume in celebration with friends, co-workers, church groups, neighbors, friends, and of course, hideous-sweater-clad aunts and other miscellaneous family members.

LB's 2010 Partay Dishes
*   *   *
appetizers: because you and I both know dinner's never ready right on time.

 :: brie cheese ::  
just bake your brie to bubbly perfection, top with your favorite chutney or fruit salsa, 
and serve with crackers. definitely not just for snobbies :)

Shape magazine healthifies them with turkey dogs and a healthy dough
but they are delish with crescent roll dough, too!

*   *   *
side dishes 

the perfect mixture between bread and souffle
serve with jam or honey butter for an alternative to classic rolls

 look no further for the perfect mashed potato.
this recipe is especially good if you want to make them ahead of time

 :: cheesy potatoes :: 
definitely not artery-friendly, but a definite crowd-pleaser nonetheless
just defrost potatoes, mix everything into your baking dish, and cover with lots of cheese.

cranberries: I am not really a fan of the traditional cranberry side dish. Instead of cranberries, every year I beg my mom to make me a jello salad with cherry jello, pineapples, and marshmallows. I'll post the recipe very soon! Another amazing spin on cranberries is the one Bobby Flay made me once in a blue moon hahahaha! It's not traditional, but it's dang good. Click here for the recipe

*   *   *
main dishes: we typically buy a honey ham in my family to make things easy,
but Meseidy's turkey looks downright delicious!

delicious, succulent alternative to doing an entire turkey!

*   *   *

dessert: what we go through the motions of turkey and fixins for. 
Here are some alternatives if you're worried everyone will bring pumpkin/pecan/chocolate pie.

warm, buttery goodness you can get way creative with.
bake at 350's recipes look spot-on. 
I'll take one with 2-3 inches of frosting, thanks.
I'm planning a cookie decorating party and cannot wait! 

just a little speechless right now. wow...
go to Eat Live Run for the recipe. just trust me on this.

As always, click on the link below each picture for the source (unless you can tell it's my own iPhone shot, of course!) 

It's going to be tough to resist the temptations this season brings, as you can tell. But to me, that doesn't mean depriving myself of any of this goodness; I'm just going to have to resist eating the entire plate. It'll be hard, but I think I have the courage to do what's right and share.

On the topic of sharing, if you have any go-to holiday dishes, you'll be in BIG trouble if you don't share the wealth!

Monday, December 13, 2010

there's no place like home

I never thought this post would come, but I miss half marathon training. To me, there's a difference when you're running with a goal in mind, an accountability. I guess it's the difference between running and training, really.  Not that running's not fun, but these past two Saturdays, I've really missed waking up early and running farther than many people will drive that day.

Between blistering winter winds, nagging cold symptoms, and a hip/IT Band injury that's been bothering me for about two months, I've all but sidelined myself to the elliptical for the winter. But I still have my little yellow timing band from my half mary looped through my laces. It's a little reminder that a mere three weeks ago, I ran 13.1 miles. I really did it. And I'm going to do it again.

I don't know where or when I fell in love with running -- maybe admiring the sunset on my most-traveled route, the Jenks Bridge? -- but I do know why. There are times I have to give myself some serious pep talks to hit the trail, times when my legs and lungs scream in protest, but once my shoes are laced up, I'm reminded of the serenity that comes with running and the awesome sense of accomplishment that follows thereafter.

But this wasn't always the case. For most of my life, I've loathed running. I'd even venture to say it traumatized me. From finishing last in the Presidential Physical Fitness Test's mile run in gym class, to being diagnosed with Patella Femoral Pain Syndrome (runner's knee), to repeatedly causing my basketball team to have to run "suicides" again when I didn't complete them in the allotted time, to all the throwing up and side cramps in between, I've had lots of beef with running in the past.

A major turning point, I recognize, was the first time I willingly ran, seven times around the track above my university's basketball court. I'd run a mile at a time, walking most of it, because I asked Michelle and her sister, Roxanne, how they stayed in shape, and they said running. To tell you the truth, I huffed and puffed the entire time, except for when I ran past the wide windows of the weight room, where cute football boys were pumping iron.

Then after I graduated in 2006, I met my athletic JT, who encouraged my running endeavors. Even though I couldn't run a mile at a time without stopping, I continued doing so, until one day, I was magically able to push through the wall of tightness in my muscles and brick on my chest. With the new found knowledge that if I kept running, eventually this "wall" would disappear, I went a little further and further each time and eventually ran six miles, incredibly proud even though on my run just one day before, I had to call my dad to come pick me up at a gas station.

Since then, running and I have had our ups and downs, like my shoes collecting dust almost all of 2009 with knee pain. But now I'm back, trying to run and fuel smart, and armed with the full knowledge that if you're good to running, running will be very good to you. It's exercise, the chance to talk with God, discipline, a million life lessons, camaraderie, amazing music, and really cheap therapy all rolled into a convenient package.

I've had a lot of people tell me that they don't think they could ever be a runner. Let me tell you that until I crossed the finish line of the half marathon, it was hard for me to consider myself a runner. The brace-faced girl who fled from the school gym after a major running fail during basketball practice surely didn't think she'd ever be a runner. But if you (with the approval of your doctor) put one foot in front of the other, start out walking and add in running when you can, for as long as you can, I promise you can do it, too. Find a like-minded friend for accountability or call your local running store to see if they have a running or walking program like my mama recently did.

But most importantly, run for yourself!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

dear french silk pie,

If you are my mortal enemy, why have I been craving you since Thanksgiving?

Why can't I get your perfect, creamy, chocolate goodness out of my mind?

If our first date was such a grainy disaster, why was I so enthusiastic for a second, over two years later?

This time, I was determined to literally whip you into submission, to make you homogenous and dreamy, then pour you into a buttery crust.

Only, you were determined to be difficult again. And the second I poured the melted chocolate in, you gave it the cold shoulder and shattered it into tiny flecks.

How could you?

Listen up. You have almost 24 hours to cool it, and by that time, you'd better have your act together. Or else.

To be continued...

giada's winter minestrone

This was one of those recipes that fell into place perfectly: Cold, lazy morning. Self-imposed Food Network marathon. JT's request for a warm, hearty soup. Giada diLaurentiis's big pot of minestrone served to her ski bunny family as they returned to their Aspen Christmas paradise. Since I'd just seen it that morning, I made it by memory with a few modifications based on what we had on hand. And I baked up some honey cornbread for a little somethin' somethin' sweet on the side. Here's Giada's recipe with my notes, originally found here.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped (I didn't have celery, so did without)
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped (I subbed bacon)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 pound Swiss chard, stems trimmed, leaves coarsely chopped (or baby spinach)
  • 1 russet potato, peeled and cubed (or four red potatoes, cubed)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed, divided
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans low-sodium beef broth, divided
  • 1 (1-ounce) Parmesan rind (I didn't have a rind, but added salt at the beginning and stirred in parmesan cheese at the end)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


In a large, heavy stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, pancetta, and garlic. (I cooked down the bacon first and am convinced it contributed to the delicious, smoky taste of the broth.) Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the Swiss chard and potato. (If you're using spinach, you can wait to add it -- 1-2 huge handfuls -- as it will wilt very, very quickly.) Season with salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and rosemary sprigs. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the chard is wilted and the tomatoes are very soft, about 10 minutes.

In a food processor or blender, combine 3/4 of the beans with 1/2 cup of broth. Blend until almost smooth. Add the pureed bean mixture, remaining broth, and Parmesan rind to the vegetable mixture. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potato pieces are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the remaining beans and the parsley (and the parmesan cheese if you're going that route). Simmer until the beans are heated through and the soup is thick, about 2 minutes. Discard the rosemary stems (the leaves will have fallen off) and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.

Enjoy (with warm cornbread or without)!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

a runner's wishlist

Welcome to the second and final installment of LB's holiday wishlist recommendations! Just in case you have no clue what I'm talking about, check out my foodie wishlist I posted last week. Like my foodie list, these are all just fun suggestions the runners you know and love might like. Some of these items are stocking stuffers, others you might want to give in lieu of, say, an engagement ring. Hope you enjoy, and be sure to let me know if there's must-have stuff I left off this list!
dry shampoo
just spray on for clean hair in a pinch

smartwool socks
I'm a self-proclaimed smartwool snob :)
or your runner's fuel of choice

running tights I swear by: 
cheaper than other tights, sleek, 
and you don't have to wear shorts over them

iTunes card
to keep runs fresh and interesting
(or for a fun running app)

The Stick
it erases long run soreness like magic

lots of running shorts don't have pockets,
and this saves the awkwardness of sports bra storage

 Yogi cookie cutters
to celebrate those recovery stretches
that hurt so good!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

iPhone glimpses of a sunday night

 minestrone soup + cornbread

 + our first fire in our new house
(aka my husband is a stud)

 + sleepy puppy
(roughly the size of a baby deer)

+ recipe planning

+ cranberry oat muffins baked

+ clean kitchen
(to undomestic standards)

= bliss

a moment

I went to see my best friend LJ this weekend. She lives in Arkansas, just a little over an hour's drive away. But we still hadn't seen each other since September, before she got engaged. What can we say? We're busy girls. Luckily, we can always pick right back up where we left off, and talk via phone, email, and sometimes by video skype a few times a week.

Let me give you a glimpse of how special our friendship is: we both came away from this weekend completely recharged, and all it took was a day of doing absolutely nothing together. After going to a play and Logan's on Friday night, we watched season one of Glee in bed all day on Saturday, except for one Sonic run (and, by the way, we ordered almost the exact same thing without knowing). I'm convinced we were made for each other.

But that's not all this post is about.

On my drive home Saturday evening, I was listening to one of my favorite songs (you can find the video below), and singing along as best as I could in my flu recovery mode, and at about 4:48 into the song, at the perfect moment, this brilliant sunset erupted across the sky.

This picture was taken by my iPhone, but unedited in any way. 

Anyway, I started crying.

I don't cry very often. But I'm truly convinced it was the Holy Spirit, the part of God I believe fills us, brings us peace and comfort and joy and hope, and even convicts us when we need it. I just needed a moment with him.

Here's the song for your listening pleasure this Sunday morning. It's wonderful!

Have you ever had a moment like this? What inspires you?

Friday, December 3, 2010

confessions of a workin woman

Christmas is in full swing at my office. I found my office decorated when I returned from my stint with the flu. It's pretty!

While I was at home, I accomplished so much. I maintain that I work best in the comfort of sweats, on the floor, with my tv on. It's just the way I've always been. I need distraction to function.

JT used to have the option of working four ten-hour shifts instead of five days. If given the option, I'd work Friday over Monday every time!

We have an institution called Cave Mode. As long as there are no clients coming, (we work primarily by phone and email) we turn off our lights except for a lamp, and something about it just helps us focus better.

Celebrations are all-out in our office. And I think it really contributes to our morale. It helps that as a service-oriented company, we have lots of giving people who like to make each other feel speshul :)

We drink a lot of water. Wow.

I love my job. It's not perfect, but I'm thankful for it every day.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

a foodie's wishlist

I absolutely cannot believe it's December. For one, the weather cried Indian summer for far too long, and secondly, between Thanksgiving and being cooped up with the flu, I lost track of the calendar for a little while.

This means there's less than a month until Christmas, and it's time to get my procrastinating hiney into action, unlike my ambitious coworker, whose apartment is fully decorated and her entire Christmas list is bought and wrapped under her tree. Maybe some day I will have my act together, but this year is not that year.

Like many bloggers are doing right about now, I thought I'd lend a helping hand if you have a special foodie in your life -- or, like me, if your mother-in-law is going to come a-knockin' for your Christmas wishlist any minute now and you have no idea what to do. 

But beware, some of these items are probably more proper for a "dream-on" list and should be reserved for someone incredibly special unless you have bottomless pockets or the unique love language for this sort of thing. Most of it is fair game, though!

anthropologie apron
because every cook needs a fun and flirty apron
(or an apron period.)

this post explains everything

clean start cookbook
 love everything the clean food movement stands for.
plus, I have the sister cookbook and love it!

 microplane zester
because it's never fun to zest a finger.

kitchenaid stand mixer
forgive me, o Lord, for I have coveted
this mixer my entire marriage.
Yes, the larger size might be more practical,
but this color is so fantastic!

this planner is perfection for foodies
with an entire blank page each week for lists
(i.e. groceries, meal planning)

these are just too cute!
a very unique gift for the compassionate foodie in your life,
each shirt helps provide clean water for villages in Africa.
many have asked about this shirt, the one I wore during my half marathon,
and I highly recommend checking out
for more on the powerful message behind this mission.

So, did I leave anything out?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

butternut squash soup with caramelized onions


I had to check and double check that I hadn’t posted this recipe before. It was one of my favorite soups from last winter, and perfect for a chilly weekend when we needed something light and warm after all of our Thanksgiving feast-ivities.

Based on Ina Garten’s Butternut Squash and Apple Soup recipe, the final product is creamy with a little texture in it, a sweet and savory tug-of-war match of round flavors on your tastebuds. And if you’re like me, you’ll be very liberal with your black pepper grinder for just a bit of bite.

Shall we begin? Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

For 2-4 people, peel and chop one butternut squash and one apple in same-size cubes.  Honeycrisp, Gala, Granny Smith, whatever is fresh and tastes good to you. Your cuts don’t have to be perfect, but keep them about the same size and shape. My advice to you is use a really sharp knife because all kinds of squash can be tricky to chop. And make sure you get all the core and seeds from the apple! Mix them with olive oil, salt, and pepper until the pieces are well coated. Then spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and cook for about 20-25 minutes, turning once in the middle. This is standard practice for roasting veggies, and in my opinion, roasting really brings out the optimal flavor.


While your stars of the show roast, heat up a pot that’s wide on the bottom but still tall enough to hold your soup. Peel and thinly slice an onion (mince for less texture) and sauté in about a tablespoon of olive oil or butter on medium-high heat until glossy. Make sure to feed the onions a pinch of salt to help release their natural sugars. Turn down your heat to medium or medium low (watch it carefully) and cook them low and slow until start to brown. I think following Rachael Ray’s method of adding sugar first would work nicely, too.


I, however, bypassed the sugar for a drizzle of pure maple syrup. YOM! Stir about a tablespoon in with your already softened onions and let them keep cooking. It’s almost time for the soup to come together.


Put your newly roasted goodies in a food processor or blender and pour in enough chicken or veggie broth to almost cover them. They’re about to become something delicious. Give your mix a spin until it’s finely pureed. Pour it into the pot with the onions and give it a stir. At this point, add some broth or water to get the soup to your perfect consistency.


Now’s time to spice it up. Add about a tablespoon of curry powder and salt and pepper to taste. We love lots of black pepper in just about everything. In my version of heaven, black pepper and chocolate will go together perfectly. If you’re iffy about curry powder, don’t be. I, too, once thought curry powder was sketchy, but bought this little jar for this very recipe and didn’t regret it one bit!

At this point your soup is almost finished! Since your veggies were cooked in the oven, you just need to make sure it’s heated through and stays your preferred consistency. Something completely optional, however:


Just a little drink of cream. I don’t even keep it in the house normally, but I think I’m turning over a new leaf. A new leaf that could be very dangerous. It’s not even absolutely necessary with the starchy goodness of pureed butternut squash, sweet apple and onions, and savory curry. But a little drizzle here and there never hurt anyone, really.


Soup’s on!

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