January 30, 2012

Three Years Ago...

And he's been sweeping me off my feet ever since.

Thanks for 3 incredible years, Cole!  Here's to a flobbity-jillion more!
I love you to the moon & I'm so thankful to be yours.


January 29, 2012

Peanut Butter Brittle

Along with the Marshmallows, I decided to try my hand at making one of my all-time favorite Christmas treats for our friends and family... Peanut Butter Brittle.  It takes the great flavor of peanut brittle and adds a creaminess and flakiness.  I have never really cared much for peanut brittle as it's far too toffee-like.  But this?  This is perfection.





Ingredients

2 cups sugar
1/4 sup water
1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
2 cups salted peanuts (though I used just over 1 cup, as I didn't want too many nuts)
2 1/2 - 3 cups of peanut butter (I found that using more peanut butter made the candy more brittle)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1  1/2 tsp baking soda

Directions

  1. Preparations: Butter a cookie sheet; place in warm oven to keep warm-to-hot.  Combine the baking soda and vanilla in a small cup and set aside.  (This creates a paste of sorts and keeps the soda from brown-flaking in your syrup.
  2. Combine sugar, water and corn syrup in heavy saucepan
  3. Brain mixture to full boil over high heat, stirring until mixture appears clear.
  4. Cook to hard crack stage - 290 degrees.
  5. Meanwhile, put the measured peanut butter and peanuts in a double-boiler and heat until liquified
  6. When syrup mixture hits 290 degrees, remove from heat and add vanilla, soda, and warmed peanut butter mixture.  Combine and stir quickly.
  7. Working quickly, pour onto the very-warm, hot, buttered cookie sheet; spread with greased spatula
  8. Cool; break into pieces.
  9. Eat until your stomach aches.

Then, make a pizza to reward yourself.
Enjoy with love.


January 27, 2012

Paralyzing Fear

I have heard the phrase used before... you probably have too.  I have heard people use the term when describing a situation in which they felt stuck, completely stuck.  They were "paralyzed by fear."
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I had never truly understood what was meant by that.  Yeah, it sounded like a nice, poetic description.... but, really?  Were you actually paralyzed?  I mean, come on.

Open mouth, insert foot (or nervous fingernail). I get it now.

Last weekend, we decided to head back to visit Cole's parents to celebrate my father-in-law's birthday.  After work, we loaded up the car and hit the road.  An hour out of town, traffic STOPPED.  While we always expect slow traffic in this particular stretch of the trip, we had never seen it like this.  Seriously.  We didn't move for an hour.

(Apparently, since we had had somewhat of a winter storm over the course of the week, local officials were requiring chains or traction tires.  And, apparently, three large Semis were not complying - thereby holding up ALL traffic.)

When traffic began to inch along, we took the soonest opportunity to take an Exit, and find an alternate route.  Our trusty GPS lead us to cross the Columbia River and continue our trip on the Washington side of the Gorge.  And the weather was b.a.d.

By now, it was nearly 8pm.  The roads were dark and windy. (Note: did you know that "windy" and "windy" are two different words?  One refers to the wind that blows - ie, a windy day; the other being an adjective referring to winding - ie, the winding road.  There, now you know.)

Then, the freezing rain began.

So, there we were. Driving through unknown, dark, windy roads... with the big, scary, dark, cold Columbia River to our right and ominous (read: this could become a landslide at any moment) cliff face to our left.  I felt completely stuck.  I didn't want to turn around, because the roads were bad from whence we came.  I didn't want to drive any further, because the roads seemed only to get worse.  One false move and we'd be free-falling into the freezing river.  We inched along at a slow 30mph.  Though, in those conditions, I felt like we couldn't drive slow enough.

My poor fingernails. The palpable fear manifested itself squarely in the pit of my stomach.  I thought I was going to be ill. My muscles began to ache from the way I sat, completely tense. And I wasn't even the one driving.

Then, Cole asked me to pray.  Nothing crazy, just pray.  As the words spilled over my lips, the conviction grew in my heart.  I heard Him gently say, "Don't you know that I love you?  Don't you see that I am in control? Remember, what I have been teaching you? That at all times, in all ways, in every circumstance, I am at work to achieve My perfect purposes."

"I know, I know... even the wind and the waves obey Your command.  But I'm scared. It's so dark out there.  And what if I don't like Your Plan? What if Your Plan hurts?"

"I know you're scared, but I love you. Remember, My Perfect Love drives out all fear.  Do you trust Me?"

"I thought I did. I thought..."

"Be still, and know that I AM God."

"But.... I want to be in control."

"Be still..."

"But worrying is easier..."

"Be still..."

I'd love to tell you that, all of a sudden, I stopped worrying.  I stopped imagining our car's slow descent into the icy water below.  I stopped chewing my nails.  But, I didn't.  It took a while.  But His still, steady voice was there... "Be still, and know that I AM God."  Be still... be still... those words slowing chipping away at the suffocating fear built up around my heart.

Up until this point, it had been one of the quietest car rides of our marriage.  The radio was off and neither one of us had said much to the other.  It was almost as if we were both afraid that simply talking might jar the car enough to send us into an uncontrollable skid.  Or maybe Cole was just concentrating and I was too busy chewing my nails.  ANYWAY.

Then, in a Maria VonTrapp moment, I started to sing. (because that's what you do when you're afraid, right?)   I started first: quietly, softly, and quite off-tune, as it is very difficult to sing when your vocal chords are constricted by anxiety.  Cole joined me soon after.  We sang of resting in God's sovereignty, we sang of trusting in His faithfulness, we sang and we sang until every ounce of anxiety had left my voice and my heart was believing the words my mouth was singing.

"Be still..."

And, ever so slowly, the fog lifted.  The roads grew bare.  The freezing rain stopped. We had reached the Summit. We were nearly home.

The remainder of our trip passed smoothly, and we chatted quietly about the weekend ahead.  With every turn that brought us closer to home, I breathed a silent prayer of thanks. We had made it.  He had carried us through.  Despite my doubt, despite my fears, He was faithful to make clear the path before us.  I marvel at His Grace in His relentless faithfulness, His relentless love.

I know that there are things far greater than roads in which to fear.  In fact, looking back, my fear begins to look downright silly.  Perhaps, this will serve to remind me - during the next time I begin to feel my heart constrict with the fear that suffocates - that the One who created me will sustain me.  His plan is always perfect. And, even if something had happened that night - whether an accident or worse - His plan would still be perfect.  He would still be glorified.

In all areas of life, it is so easy for me to slip into the habit of being fearful. (I've written about it here and here.)  It is as though I get struck with spiritual amnesia in regards to God's faithfulness.  How easy it is for me to forget the countless times that He has provided, that He has protected, that He has comforted!  What a wonderfully patient Savior He is, failing never to remind me of His perfect faithfulness in the midst of my unfailing doubt.


When anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought joy to my soul. - Psalm 94:19


January 26, 2012

Thursday's Letter

To my True Love,
Last night, you sang a rockin' version of this song while we got ready for bed, then you serenaded me with this song while we got ready this morning.  KC and Jojo ain't got nothin' on you! 15 points for performing the instrumental intro, 343 points for personalizing it, 19,834 points for making me feel loved.  You never cease to make me smile.

There's no one I'd rather be doing life with than you.  What an incredible blessing you are to me!  I love this life with you.  And I'm beyond proud of you... you're going to be an amazing doctor.


PS - Thank you for putting up with my adventures in the kitchen... you are such a good sport, and can tolerate Quinoa like a champ!

January 20, 2012

Homemade Marshmallows

I have never been a huge fan of marshmallows.  I like them one of two ways: roasted over a fire or mixed with Rice Krispies.  But really, who doesn't like marshmallows...

For Christmas this year (and inspired by my sister-in-law), I decided to try my hand at making my own.  They cooked up quite nicely and served as an inexpensive gift for coworkers and extended family.
In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.

Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by...
Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping

Whip it good.
Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.
When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.


Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary.


So. Much. Sugar.
I wrapped them up and tied the packages with twine.  They seemed to be a hit.


I used Alton Brown's recipe with very few alterations.  In the second batch, I omitted the cornstarch completely and was very happy with the way they turned out.




Homemade Marshmallows

Ingredients

  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup ice cold water, divided
  • 12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • Nonstick spray

Directions

Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.
In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.
Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.

For regular marshmallows:

Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.
When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Enjoy with Love.




January 18, 2012

On January 17th, 2012...

Remember that fun surprise I told you about on Monday that I had for the Mr.?  (If not, read THIS.)  Well, it was a smashing success!

When I got home from work yesterday, I decorated our dining room to replicate the restaurant we went to on our first date.  I had ordered some sushi from a local restaurant...  and I ordered the same rolls that we had ordered that night, three years ago.   And, after MUCH searching, I was able to find the same kind of Japanese beer that the Mr. had ordered on our first date.
Then, because I'm super cheesy awesome, I had set up a miniature golf course in our living room; and after dinner, the Mr. cleaned my clock in a round of Putt-putt. Just like he did 3 years ago.
Then he kissed me real good.

And he definitely didn't do that 3 years ago.


Happy Wednesday, Friends!!


January 16, 2012

On January Seventeenth...

I am a firm believer that life is to be celebrated.  The big things, the small things... celebrate.  New job? Good grade on a test?  Lose a tooth?  The end of a semester? The third anniversary of the first time you ate cheesecake?

Celebrate.

Clearly, God was well aware of this tendency of mine when He placed the Mr. in my life.  This man - without fail - has remembered and celebrated the 10th day of every month since our wedding day as our "month-iversary." (Technically it's called "mensiversary," but ew.  No thanks.)  And before that, we celebrated the 30th of each month (yes, the official day we started dating).  This guy knows how to celebrate.

ANYWAY, what I am trying to get at is that -big or small- events in our relationship have always been celebrated.

January 17 is one such day.  On January 17, 2009, the Mr. took me out on our first date ever.  We had been friends for just over a month, and -let there be no doubt- there was a clear mutual attraction.

Oddly enough, (and in typical overthinking-girl-fashion) I wondered during the entire night whether this was a "date" or not.  After finding out our shared love of sushi earlier in the week, he had planned a dinner out to one of the best sushi places in town.  We lingered over California Rolls (which really aren't sushi), Tiger Rolls, and Shrimp Tempura.  We talked about our pasts, our futures, our faith, our families...

It was during that dinner, I had an inkling that he was... *drum roll, please* ...the one.

After dinner, he whisked me off to experience the most platonic, but also most date-like activity: Miniature Golf.  While I had spent the last hours learning more about his character, his love for the Lord, his love for his family, and other serious stuff like that, I now got to learn more about how much gosh darn fun he is.

We finished off the night with a stop by our college ice rink to cheer on our hockey team to victory, surrounded by some of our closest friends.   And, while it wasn't another 2 weeks until we were officially dating (after he'd secured my dad's blessing), I couldn't help but be swept away by this man.

So, friends, that is why - three years later - we still celebrate January 17.  And this year?  Well, I've got a little something up my sleeve about which my sweet guy has no idea.  Can't wait!


Happy Monday.


January 15, 2012

1000 Gifts: 121-140

-The Seventh Installment of 1000 Gifts-

121.  An oven that reaches 500 degrees
123.  Watching the two most important men in my life spend time together
124.  My mother's sweet wisdom, honest correction, and gracious hospitality
125.  My husband's hard work to help make this house a home
126.  The grace and generosity with which my husband gives forgiveness
127.  A fresh start
128.  Coming home to a freshly made bed
129.  The quiet of the early morning & a fresh cup of coffee
130.  Jaw-dropping sunrises
131.  Free tire-care at Les Schwab  
132.  Morning quiet times
133.  The generosity and hospitality of perfect strangers.
135.  A movie night cuddled in his arms.
136.  Waking up with a song in my heart and praise on my lips.
138.  Brownies and ice cream
139.  Toddler fingerprints on our coffee table
140.  A perfectly cooked egg

Blessed beyond measure,

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January 10, 2012

Tonight's Dinner: Mongolian Beef

I love P.F. Changs.  Hand me some of their Mongolian Beef and you will win my heart. This is love, people.  The way the beef is perfectly caramelized; the sweet, tangy sauce... be still my Chinese-food-loving-heart.  So, last night, I attempted to replicate that incredible dish. And today, I attempt to share it with you.  Enjoy. We sure did.
Make the sauce by heating 4 tsp. vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium/low heat. Don’t get the oil too hot. Add ginger and garlic to the pan and quickly add the soy sauce and water before the garlic scorches. Dissolve the brown sugar in the sauce, then raise the heat to medium and boil the sauce 2-3 minutes or until sauce thickens a little bit. Remove sauce from heat.
Slice the flank steak against the grain into 1/4 inch slices. Tilt the blade of your knife at about a 45 degree angle to the top of the steak so you get wider cuts.
Dip the steak pieces into cornstarch to apply a very thin dusting to both sides of each piece of beef. Let the beef sit about 10 min. so the cornstarch sticks. As the beef sits, heat up 2/3 c. oil in a wok. Heat the oil over medium heat until its hot, but not smoking. If the oil is not hot enough, the beef will not cook fast enough.  I tossed a strip in just to test it to make sure.  Add the beef to the oil and saute for just 2 minutes, or until beef just begins to darken on the edges. Stir the meat around a little bit so that it cooks evenly.

After a few minutes, use a large slotted spoon to take the meat out and onto paper towels, then pour most of the oil out of the skillet. Put the pan back over the heat, dump the meat back into it and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the sauce, cook for 1 minute while stirring and add green onions. Cook for 1 more minute. Now at this point you can either remove the beef with a slotted spoon or tongs and discard the sauce OR what I did was to thicken the sauce with a cornstarch-water mixture to desired thickness and serve it over rice with the beef. DELICIOUS.


Mongolian Beef
4 tsp. vegetable oil
2 tsp. ginger, minced
2 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1 c. soy sauce
1 c. water
1 c. brown sugar (packed)
2 c. vegetable oil
2 Lb. flank steaks
½ c. cornstarch
3 large green onions

Make the sauce by heating 4 tsp. vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium/low heat. Don’t get the oil too hot. Add ginger and garlic to the pan and quickly add the soy sauce and water before the garlic scorches. Dissolve the brown sugar in the sauce, then raise the heat to medium and boil the sauce 2-3 minutes or until sauce thickens a little bit. Remove sauce from heat.

Slice the flank steak against the grain into 1/4 inch slices. Tilt the blade of your knife at about a 45 degree angle to the top of the steak so you get wider cuts. Dip the steak pieces into cornstarch to apply a very thin dusting to both sides of each piece of beef. Let the beef sit about 10 min. so the cornstarch sticks. As the beef sits, heat up 2/3 c. oil in a wok (or skillet). Heat the oil over medium heat until its hot, but not smoking. Add the beef to the oil and saute for just 2 minutes, or until beef just begins to darken on the edges. Stir the meat around a little bit so that it cooks evenly.

After a few minutes, use a large slotted spoon to take the meat out and onto paper towels, then pour most of the oil out of the skillet. Put the pan back over the heat, dump the meat back into it and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the sauce, cook for 1 minute while stirring and add green onions. Cook for 1 more minute. Now at this point you can either remove the beef with a slotted spoon or tongs and discard the sauce (this is what P.F. Chang's does) OR thicken the sauce with a cornstarch-water mixture to desired thickness and serve it over rice with the beef.



Enjoy with Love!


January 9, 2012

Cheese and Crackers

So, we just returned from a sweet weekend away to Tillamook Bay to enjoy some quality time together and lots of cheese.  Holy Moly, did we have some cheese!  I'm pretty sure that I spent a good portion of the trip trying to convince the Mr. that cheese is, in fact, a vegetable and, therefore, good for you.
We absolutely LOVED the place we stayed!  We were greeted with fresh popcorn and complementary *Tillamook* Cheese and crackers every night, and a homemade breakfast each morning.  We are now completely convinced that we should always vacation in the off-season!

We spent an afternoon just reading and relaxing and taking bad-quality pictures in the mirror.

Our hotel was a block from the bay, leaving us with this beautiful view of the fishing boats and sailboats in the harbor.
Cheese, Gromit, Cheese!!!  Seriously, it was like "Picture, Picture" from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood watching how cheese is made.


Heaven.
OH, and Tillamook makes ICE CREAM?!  As if I would forget.....

 
Outside the Blue Heron Wine & Cheese Company... following one of the best wine-tastings ever.

We went for a walk on the beach....





Our dinner out...

I cannot even explain how sweet this time together was... a time to hit "Refresh" and start the new year AND check #1 and #3 off the Forest Grove Bucket List!  We enjoyed rich conversation and the opportunity to plan for the upcoming year. What a gift this man is to me!

Blessings on a new week!

PS - Two years ago, today, the Mr. did THIS!!! And, boy, am I glad he did!
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Just Us

We will also remind you that this is just a BLOG…just the highlights. We don’t sit around happily smiling for pictures all day long. Our life is far from perfect: we are imperfect people serving a perfect God. We do strive to glorify God, but we fail miserably and find comfort in knowing that our debts have been paid and we have been set free.

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