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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pot Roast and Garlic Bread

Oh, it's been one of those weeks...
We had 19 at our house for Thanksgiving--I LOVED it!  Right on the heels of I Heart Ashland I had no time to rest as I prepared my home for the festivities and had to finish sewing the enclosure for my back porch so I could actually hold 19 people in my house.  After breaking three sewing machines trying to complete it, I finally got it (mostly) done Tuesday night by hand sewing the final main seem of the last panel.

One of the results of Thanksgiving was a cousin who introduced me to Pinterest.  I have been seeing little posts on Facebook about Pinterest and "pinners" who are addicted to it.  I thought it was some new game on FB.  I had no idea what it really consisted of and once I did...well, that's the other reason why I haven't posted anything on the blog lately.  I've been totally engrossed in it.  By the way, it's not a game; it's the most amazing bulletin board of food, crafts, photographs, etc...  

Anyway, as a matter of discipline, I am posting a quick recipe we enjoyed this week and then I'm off to bed.  I love easy dinners and this one takes a little prep but then you can sit back and let it cook until eating time (thank you, crock pot!).

Pot Roast With Fall Vegetables
1-3 lb Roast (I used a tri-tip because we have a bunch of them frozen, but you can use any cut you like).
2 lbs carrots
2 lbs parsnips
1 lb brussel sprouts
1 large onion
1 pkg onion soup mix (like Lipton's)
1/2 cup water.

Remove the ends of the carrots and parsnips, rough chop in 1"-2" chunks.  Trim and cut the brussel sprouts in half.  Cut ends off onion and cut into thick slices.  
Make a layer of the vegetables in the bottom of the crock pot.  Set the roast on top of the vegetables.  Place the remainder of the vegetables on top and around the roast.
Sprinkle the packet of onion soup mix on top of the roast and vegetables.  Follow with 1/2 cup of water.
Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or on low up to 8 hours.

I put all the veggies on a platter, sliced the roast and put it on the same platter.  I also added a little cornstarch to a bit of milk and make a nice gravy from the remaining juices in the bottom of the crock pot.  Yum!

Also, for quick bread (perfect for sopping up that yummy gravy), here's another quick recipe.

Quick Garlic Bread Braid
2 tubes refrigerator biscuits (10 count)
1/4 butter or olive oil
Garlic Seasoning (I used Johnny Garlic Seasoning)
Grated cheese (optional)

Separating the biscuits and layer them, standing up, side-by-side, in a loaf pan. 

Drizzle with butter or olive oil, making sure to let it get into all the crevices.  Sprinkle with garlic seasoning and grated cheese, if desired.
Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes. 
I just used one tube of biscuits because that's all
I had, so I just had a half loaf, which was perfect for our family.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Perfect Roast Turkey

It's a lot of preparation and work, but this turkey recipe is the ultimate centerpiece to our Thanksgiving dinner.  The turkey is moist and succulent.  Even with the addition of citrus and the maple glaze, the drippings are still great for gravy.  So give it a try if you're feeling adventurous and industrious!
13 lb turkey
2 oranges
2 lemons
2 grapefruit

3/4 cup salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
8 cloves of garlic, peeled
water to cover

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 medium white or yellow onion, minced
1/4 cup minced thyme leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
1/2 teaspoons salt

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
5 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

DAY 1 (yes, this is a lengthy recipe!)
  1. Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey.  Rinse well with cold water inside and out.
  2. In a container large enough to snugly hold the turkey, combine the brine ingredients with a cup of cold water.  Stir well.  Place turkey in the container and add more cold water until covered.  Put a plate on top of the turkey to keep it submerged.  Refrigerate for 24 hours.
  3. Combine the stuffing ingredients in a food processor until smooth.  Put the mixture on wax paper in a log shape.  Roll the paper around it and refrigerate.
DAY 2:
  1. After 24 hours in brine, discard the brine and rinse the turkey well with cold water.  Pat dry.  At the neck cavity, gently separate the skin from the breast meat on both sides with your fingers, working from the neck end back to the tail, making a pocket to hold the stuffing.  Be careful not to rip the skin.
  2. Remove the stuffing log from the refrigerator and cut into slices.  Insert the rounds under the skin.  From the outside of the skin, use your fingers to smooth the stuffing evenly over the breast meat.
  3. Quarter the citrus and stuff as many as will fit into the cavity of the turkey.
  4. In another bowl, combine the baste ingredients.
  5. Place a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat and when it is hot, add the turkey, breast side down.  Cook until the breast skin is an even brown all over--about five minutes.
  6. Place the turkey breast side down on a roasting rack in a 4" deept roasting pan.  Baste the exposed skin well.  Put the turkey, leg end first into the lower third of 350 degree oven.  Baste every 30 minutes.  Cook the turkey, breast side down, until the innermost thigh meat registers 165 degrees.
  7. Turn the turkey breast side up and check the temperature in the thickest part of the breast.  Baste well and return to the oven.  Baste every 15 minutes until the breast meat registers 152 degrees.  Remove the turkey and let it rest 30 minutes under an aluminum foil tent before carving.
  8. Use the drippings to make gravy. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Quick Recap of I Heart Ashland

How do I even begin to put into words what I have been a part of these last few weeks, and witnessed in the last few days?  I don’t think I can do it justice but here goes…

If you’re a friend on Facebook, then you’ve seen all my posts about I Heart Ashland and the Day of Service planned for November 19th, so you have a little idea of what went on.  It all started for me a few weeks ago when my pastor asked me if I would be the project coordinator for many of the projects the leadership group had planned for I Heart Ashland. I accepted and I was excited that I could be a part of this event. 

Over the next few weeks, I really caught the vision of what we were trying to accomplish and I immersed myself in contacting project leaders, sorting through volunteers and putting together a last minute plan to organize 150 volunteers to clean 200 fire hydrants in the city of Ashland.  It was a whirlwind of excitement!

I know our church has been diligent in praying for this event.  This past week leading up to the 19th we had two prayer services a day and called for those who felt lead, to pray and fast as we prepared to show the love of Christ to the city of Ashland.  Pastor Mark was specifically praying for 500 volunteers to come forward and serve.  We had about 450 spots on our website where people could sign up for individual projects and by Tuesday, they were all filled!  Still, we were told by those who had done this before in other towns we could expect a 40-50% turn-out—lower if the weather was bad.

Saturday, when I got up, it was snowing in Medford.  I had been watching the forecast for days and kept waiting for the high of 37 and 80% chance of snow to change but it didn’t.  BUT, by the time I arrived in Ashland at 7:30 the clouds had parted and the sun was shining.  We had 409 volunteer check-in at Grace Point Church (that would be a 91% turn out) to head out to the volunteer opportunities they had signed up for.  There were another 40 volunteers as part of a college group that served in another area.  There were at least 40 more who were a part of the evening volunteer team that served at the concert—but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The band Elliot came and lead worship for those gathered at Grace Point and Nick Vujicic also spoke briefly to motivate those who had come together.  We dismissed the groups and sent them out to serve from 10:00 to 2:00.  I made myself available, expecting a busy four hours as I awaited phone calls from group leaders and planned to run errands for those who needed it.  I received only one phone call from one group leader who had a very simple question.  That was it—not another hiccup, difficulty or any disasters.

By 11:00 it was beautifully sunny and 50 DEGREES!!! Miraculously gorgeous weather!  I
joined my pastor and his wife to drive through town and see the work that was being 
 done.  Volunteers were busy at the
high school weeding and planting over 200 
plants that were donated by a local nursery.
We saw some fire hydrants that had been
overgrown with weeds and bushes, all 
cleared and made accessible for the fire
 department (I won't go into detail about
being locked out of Pastor Mark's truck and
having to wait for a tow truck to let us back in...). 
In addition, we had groups that did repairs and cleaning on the home of a family who was caring for their daughter with cancer and couldn’t do the maintenance themselves; three different groups did weeding and clean-up at City parks; a group did painting at Lithia Springs Youth Home; two busses full of youth conducted a food drive (they collected over 
 1400 items!); a group organed donations at the Ashland Emergency Food Bank; two other groups worked on a senior 
home in Talent and a mobile home park in Phoenix; plus we had those who signed up to volunteer for registration, check-in and set-up/tear-down of the gym at Ashland High.  

After the volunteer projects finished at 2:00, there was brief time to rest before the leadership team met at 4:00 to prepare
for the evening concert at Ashland High School.  That was a hectic time as we finished up last minute details (there was a frantic run to Radio Shack for some headphone adapters and to Safeway to 
supply the green room).  I got the opportunity to meet the band members of 
Elliot and, once again meet Nick Vujicic (I got have lunch with him on Friday as part of
the leadership team, too!!).

Nick had already spoken at Ashland High School and the Middle School on Friday.  There had been such a great response from student and faculty that AHS asked Nick to come back in June and be their commencement speaker.  He announced that evening to us that he had worked it into his schedule and he’d be coming back to Ashland in June (that’s so FANTASTIC!!).

We packed out the main gym at Ashland High, which has a capacity of 2700.  We asked for those attending to bring food donations, as well.  That evening alone, we collected 3,000 pounds of food for the Emergency Food Bank (that doesn't even include what the youth collected during the day)!!
Elliot rocked the house and played some of their amazing worship songs.  Nick came out and made us all laugh and cry. 
I can’t even begin to summarize his testimony, so I won’t.  All I will say is if you ever want to find out more, go to and watch some of his videos.  He’s an amazing servant of God and is being used profoundly to lead others to Christ.   Speaking of which….

At the end of the evening about 160 people came forward and asked Jesus to change their hearts and lives forever by forgiving them and being Lord in their hearts.  We did it all again on Sunday morning with a smaller crowd but another 40-50 came forward then, as well.  Over 200 people were moved to accept a life of hope and a future!  I was a blubbering crybaby through the whole thing, both days.

Sunday afternoon I collapsed in a heap and took a nice restful nap.  I can’t say how grateful I am for Pastor Mark to have thought of me when organizing this event.  My heart has been filled to capacity with joy and love as I worked on this project.  It has been phenomenal to see God work over and over and over and over again through the people and circumstances of these past few days. I know I couldn't have done it without the support of my husband and mother.  My mom served on this project by taking care of my boys, sometimes at a moments notice so I could go to meetings, run errands and be available all day Friday and Saturday to work.  My husband missed out on the Saturday night concert to stay home with the boys and let others have the extra seats.

This is just a quick and dirty recap of what I Heart Ashland was all about and what was accomplished.  We want to spread the love and I’m praying for I Heart Rogue Valley to come to fruition next year.
I’m pretty sure over the next few days I will have some more reflective and introspective entries on the whole experience.  For now, I actually need to think through all those reflections and recover from all the effort that went into serving…and prepare for having 15 people at my house for Thanksgiving on Thursday (so maybe not so much resting, after all), but I sure have a lot to be thankful for!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Marriage Letter to Future Generations

As part of an assignment in a marriage Bible study Joe and I just completed, we were instructed to write a letter to a future generation regarding marriage.  This is my letter.  It’s not all-encompassing and I would surely have a lot more to say if I were counseling one of my children, but in an effort to be concise (I know I didn’t completely succeed), this is what I would tell someone getting married or who may already be married…

I don’t have all the answers.  Not even close.  I’ve been married 11 years and I know that I belong with the man that I call my husband with every fiber of my being.  I have no doubts about that.  In many ways that makes words like “commitment” and “vow” a little easier for me because I don’t think about any other alternatives.  Why would I divorce this man, when I belong with him?  Why would I look for someone else to satisfy my needs when I know he’s the one I’m meant to be with?  What could possibly be better for me than remaining with the one and only love of my life?

Our marriage hasn’t been easy and it isn’t perfect.  I’ve been heartbreakingly disappointed at times.  I’ve wondered if it wouldn’t be better for us to separate for a time until our perspectives changed, though that’s never actually happened.  I have spent many hours in prayer and sleepless nights in tears.  But I’ve never doubted my decision to marry him or wondered if it were the right thing for my life.  I know it was and is.  As a result, our marriage has also been one of the most rewarding and spectacular parts of my life.  When we’re working together and loving each other like we were meant to, then there is no better feeling.  But we’re both human and we make plenty of mistakes.  That doesn’t mean we made a mistake in pledging our lives to one another.

What can I say to someone who is about to embark on marriage?  I would tell them they need to feel the same way about the person they’re about to marry.  You have to know that this person you’ve chosen to spend of the rest of your life with is the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with.  There’s no other option.  They’re the person who was created to be with you and whom you were created for.  If you’re wondering if there could be someone else out there for you, then stop.   Either stop thinking that or don’t get married.  You can’t allow doubt to be a part of marriage because once the seeds of doubt are planted almost nothing can prevent them from growing and spreading, like the most noxious, virulent weed.

Once doubt is planted you begin to wonder if you made a mistake.  You begin to wonder if there is someone else out there that you were meant to be with that isn’t the person you’re married to now.  You begin to wonder if you’re ruining not only your own happiness but that of your spouse and that mystery person that’s out there waiting for you.  You begin to justify why it would be better to leave—how much happier you both might be.  You begin to tell yourself that you deserve to be happy and to seek your own happiness because that’s what our culture teaches and ingrains in us.  “The pursuit of happiness” , we are taught, is one of our unalienable rights that we, in our nation, declared during our independence.  But God never said we had the right to pursue happiness, nor to expect it in this lifetime if that is our pursuit.

We are to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, not our own happiness--that comes when we do what we're supposed to.  We are commanded to love sacrificially, just as he did.  Jesus is our example of what love is and he never divorced himself from any of his people, no matter what they did to him.  Marriage is supposed to be our living example of the love of our God for his children.

I’m not trying to be over simplistic or suggest that those who are being harmed should not consider divorce.  God knows we live in a broken, imperfect world with broken imperfect people, which is why divorce even exists—why it’s specifically addressed in the Bible.
I’m saying that what I have seen and heard time and again, is that people have the wrong perspective on marriage.  They rely on the feeling of love to sustain them and don’t delve deeper into action—the verb—of loving.  What happens when those heart-lifting, inspiring feelings fade?  Do you give in to the ebb of emotion?  If you do, you will be a victim of emotional whims and fancies.  Loving someone is more than a feeling, it’s a matter of commitment and devotion, coincidently, so is being married to someone.  It is also a choice.  You can choose to love someone, even when you don’t feel love for them and what’s so important about that choice is that by actively making it, those feelings will return.

What can I say to someone who’s embarking on marriage?  Choose to love, sacrificially.  Decide, without a doubt that the person you are committing your life to is the one and only person in this world that you belong with, because once you are married to them, it’s true, whether you believe it or not.  And ask them honestly to do the same for you.  Ask him or her to choose to love you sacrificially even when you are wrong, when you hurt them, when you mess up more than you ever thought you would.  Ask them to make sure that they believe you are their one and only, for the rest of their life.  Be committed to one another, not just in love with one another.

The last words I would leave you with are these: until you are married, it’s never too late to step away.  If you have doubts, postpone.  If you realize this may not be the right thing, don’t go through with it, no matter how much money has been spent, how many people are excited to see it happen, how much you think it may hurt those involved.  Marriage to someone you’re not committed to hurts those involved even more deeply.  

Don’t ever stop praying and seeking God for the strength it takes to love your spouse and be the husband or wife you are called to be.  More than anything, that’s what God wants for you because it illustrates in a real and practical way how he loves us.

Enjoy your marriage and the love that grows, blossoms and matures in it.  There is nothing in this world like it.  It truly is a miracle and little piece of heaven.

As I celebrate 11 years of marriage to my husband, I don’t regret for one moment taking this journey.  I am grateful for all we have learned together and how both of us have learned to love more than we ever thought possible.    

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Surprise Get Away (well not a surprise for me ;-))

I’m sitting here on a nice quiet Friday morning, with a yummy cup of hot coffee.  Both my kids are in school and Joe is at work.  I have quite a few chores to get to—some, I’ve already accomplished this morning—but this is my quiet time.  I’m getting ready to start on my Bible study and reflect on the week that’s passed and the one that’s ahead. 

You won’t be reading this until at least Saturday afternoon because I can’t risk Joe reading this until Saturday afternoon, and he’s pretty good about checking out my blog when I post.  The reason I can’t take that risk is because I’m kidnapping Joe Saturday when he gets home from work and we’re heading off on a much needed weekend of rest and couple-time.

I’ve been planning this for a little over a week, when I realized we might actually have a weekend without obligations (well, I still have some but I have made arrangements to be present via Skype) and I’ve watched my husband slowly run out of fuel.  He’s been on empty for at least a week now but has still managed to keep a great attitude and keep on going.  I was worried that he would volunteer to do sound at church or that he’d have to go to his second job on Monday and this whole weekend would fail—but miraculously, he his sound schedule was clear and the plumbing job was postponed, which left him with two actual days off this week. 

The next matter was finding care for my kids.  My mom graciously stepped up to watch them, including most of the day Saturday, Saturday night, all Sunday & Sunday night, along with getting them off to school on Monday.  I’m extremely grateful, especially knowing how much this weekend is going to mean to Joe and I to get to relax and enjoy some quiet time together without any responsibilities (I can’t tell you the last time we’ve gotten to do that).

My head is spinning as I contemplate packing for two days for the boys, including medicines, instructions with dosages for those medicines, church clothes, school clothes, school lunches for Monday, the dog and food for the dog.  Then I need to pack for us, including our computers and Joe’s schools books (I’m sure he’ll have some homework—though he’s already told me he doesn’t have much), clothes & toiletries for both of us, food (we’re staying in a condo, so we need to prepare meals), movies and things to occupy our time (it’s supposed to rain/snow all weekend so we’ll be trapped indoors by the fire place—DARN!).  I’ve got to do all of this without Joe noticing, that means mostly tomorrow morning before we leave.

I can’t wait until he arrives home Saturday afternoon and I order him into the car and tell him we’re leaving.  I envision telling him “Taken care of” at least ten times as he asks about his school work, the boys, the I Heart Ashland project, my meeting Monday morning, the pets, etc…  I so love surprising him!

This weekend we will get to reconnect and reflect on how amazing and wild the last 11 years have been for us.  On November 8th we will have been married for 11 years after having eloped to Las Vegas on a week’s notice to our parents and close friends.  It’s been tough…REALLY tough. It’s been heartbreaking at times and disappointing.  And it’s been the most rewarding endeavor I’ve ever embarked on in my life.  It has been my greatest joy and thrill.

Recently, as part of a marriage Bible study Joe and I participated in, we were asked to write a letter to a future generation about marriage, specifically what I had learned in marriage and what advice I would give to someone embarking on the same journey.  I’ve been contemplating what I would say and how I would say it.  I plan to finish that letter this weekend and post it in honor of our 11th wedding anniversary on the 8th.

But until then, I’m going to enjoy the next few quiet moments left in my Friday morning before everything else invades and I’m going to enjoy the anticipation of surprising my amazing husband with this wonderful weekend.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Happy Halloween

Time for a quick re-cap!

We survived the Halloween weekend without any meltdowns or too much craziness.  Of course, the boys were off the chart excited yesterday and there was a lot of silliness.  On the drive home from our church’s Harvest Party, there was a mandatory enforced silence for the last 15 minutes of the car ride.  But, we made it!

As promised, here are pictures from the finished costumes.  Yoda came out great, afterall (at least everyone could tell he was Yoda).  And Asher made a perfect Wolverine (the bladed gloves were fun to make and he loved them!).

Hope everyone had a fun and exciting Halloween.