Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tuesday Tidbits

With no terribly deep insights to share at the moment, I thought I would take a leaf from my friend Ashley's shiny blog and post a few bite-size news and musings.

There is now a life-size plastic model of the human skull sitting in my living room. It has a ghastly grin. I am SO going to review my Hamlet and deliver an (overdone, of course) graveyard speech. Being an English major leads to FUN TIMES, my friends.

Speaking of Fun With English Majors, one of my very favourite English professors linked to this YouTube video on Facebook (insert ironic joke about technology here). DH thought it was pretty stupid. I was laughing so hard I almost couldn't breathe. I don't know if that's because I'm an English major, or because I have a stupid sense of humour.

My big news is that DH and I publicly became members of our church last Sunday! We are so excited about becoming part of a body of believers that we can already tell is loving, passionate about doctrine, and serious about working out their faith. God has already blessed us so much in our short time at Redeemer PCA.

DH successfully completed his first big Anatomy exam (ugh, don't even ask), for which we are both grateful! Now he is hitting the books to prepare for the next Biochem exam. I am so proud of his dedication. Please keep him in your prayers, since the schedule can be wearing. I am looking forward to the shopping trip we have planned for when he finishes the next round of tests!

If you missed Friday's post (I regret to admit, I was rather wallowing), guess what! You get a recipe for FREE! Just scroll down for Lo Mein that is super tasty and easy to make.

One more food idea--it isn't really complicated enough to count as a recipe; I got the idea from Hungry Girl: for a sweet, fluffy frozen treat, mix about 1/4 cup whipped topping (I use light dairy-free) with a 6oz container of yogurt. If you use light both, you get a creamy delicious treat that is really low calorie. Super awesome!

Monday, September 28, 2009


Alas, I did not post on Friday. I was depressed. Downcast. Despairing. Such is the life of Emily. DH and I had a marvellous, refreshing weekend and I am happy until the next morose episode.

As an apology, you get another Recipe. DH and I had this for dinner tonight and last week, too (anyone want to share what ELSE you can make with Napa cabbage?). YUM. The recipe is from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (the "Best Recipe") people. While I'm on it, I would definitely recommend this as one of the best basic, all-purpose, household recipe books you can buy. There is GOOD FOOD in here, all of the basics and more exotic flavours as well. NOT ONE recipe calls for tinned cream soup, yet the ingredients are easily found even at the supermarket in Union City, TN. A decently experienced cook will have no trouble with the recipes. The only thing I don't like about this cookbook is that the ring binding is a funny shape that makes it hard to turn the pages. SO WORTH IT.

Without further ado, I give you

Prep Time: less than 20 minutes, plus time to heat water for noodles
Serves: 4 (side dish)

8 oz spaghetti or thin spaghetti
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth (or veg broth)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or less, if you use cooking spray)
1/2 small onion, minced

6-8 oz mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 small head Napa cabbage, sliced crossways 1/4 inch thick
1 bell pepper (red, green, or yellow), seeded and sliced thin
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced


Boil water and cook the spaghetti till tender (NOT al dente). Drain, and toss with the sesame oil.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix broth, soy sauce, and oyster sauce.

Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat, till shimmering. Add the mushrooms onions and cook till browned and softened. Stir in cabbage and bell pepper; cook 2 or 3 minutes to wilt. Stir in ginger and garlic and cook 30 seconds more. It will smell AMAZING.

Dump all this back into the empty noodle pot, with the noodles. Toss and heat till the noodles are warm. THEN EAT IT. SO DELICIOUS.

Recipe Notes:
You can find oyster sauce and sesame oil in the international aisle -- usuallly right next to the soy sauce. If you are really lucky, maybe your market will have fresh Chinese egg noodles, which you can use instead (12 oz, cooked for just 2 minutes, drained, and rinsed, then tossed with the oil). Oyster sauce smells nasty, but it really makes the sauce delicious, so go ahead and dump it in there!

You will have gingerroot left over. I like to chop it into inch-long chunks and freeze it. It is actually really easy to mince frozen ginger.

If you are a vegecarboholic like I am this stuff is great by itself, but if you need protein, pork or dark meat chicken are yummy along with.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Help me, please!

I am a housekeeping disaster, people.

Two months ago, my bathroom was spotless, my floors got mopped at least once a week, the blinds were dusted. Even the eyes on the range top were shiny and clean!

One full-time job later, I am about at my limit. I didn't even mop the floors this weekend, and I haven't dusted our bedroom in ... well, I'll just say that it's been a lot longer than a week. Aside from being bothered by the mess, perfectionist that I am, I am really bothered by what I perceive as laziness and incompetence. I don't have a LOT of time to keep things clean -- work, plus working out on the way back, keeps me busy until 6:30 most nights, and once I get dinner served and dishes cleaned up it is usually after 8pm -- but I could probably do a lot better if I would just devote a good 30 minutes each evening cleaning SOMETHING.

But I don't want to be a grownup! After dinner and cleanup, I just have a couple hours to unwind, and I want to spend them on FUN by golly!

Perfectionism and laziness are a DANGEROUS combination, people. If you have any advice, I would LOVE to hear it!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Observations in Iowa

Well, it's been a couple months, and so far I LOVE Iowa. Oddly enough, it reminds me somewhat of home -- a very agricultural area. Des Moines is great because it has capital city amenities -- nice restaurants, cultural activities, international food ingredients available (!) -- but is still pretty small for a city. There are lots of farms around and many people seem to hold to more conservative, agricultural community values.

With that said, I thought I'd share a few things about Iowa (or Des Moines, really) that have stuck out to me as DIFFERENT.

1. POP. Not "coke," "pop." I thought it was kind of a joke that people farther North called all soda "pop," but they REALLY DO. Nobody says "coke" unless they mean brand-name Coca-Cola. I asked a store associate where I could find the store brand Coke last week. He gave me a really funny look and told me, "All of our pop is over there." I don't know why I find this so funny.

2. HY-VEE. Speaking of stores, I love this one. It is a lot like Iowa's brand of Kroger, and the stores are EVERYWHERE here. Tends to be a bit more expensive than Wal-Mart, but they usually have really good sales going each week. AND the one close to our house comes complete with a Helpful Produce Guy.

3. ALCOHOL. This sounds kinda bad, but coming from a dry county, it is REALLY COOL to be able to go to Wal-Mart, Hy-Vee, or Target and choose from at least a whole aisle each for wine, beer, and more serious alcohol.

4. TATTOOS. Since we're talking about Wal-Mart ;) Seriously, there are a lot of tattoos here. I didn't really notice till Mom came to visit and remarked on it. And she's right. I'd say I see a good four times as much tattooed flesh here as "back home." And I was listening to a Godless Rock Station on the way to work and apparently there is an Iowa Tattoo Festival coming up.

5. SKINNY PEOPLE. Not everybody is skinny, of course, but there are a lot MORE people walking around who are NOT significantly overweight. I guess what they say about the South is true.

6. CORN. Yep, corn. I shouldn't be surprised that fresh corn tastes SO much better here.

I have a couple more, but DH tells me that our salmon is done, so I will close, with love to my readers!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I am late posting, so I'm giving you chocolate in an attempt to buy your forgiveness. Also because my Mom asked for the recipe for Truffles. OH WOW these are good. And super easy to make, too! One of my speeches in my college Public Speaking Class was on making truffles. I thought I was going to pass out giving the speech. So, don't look for me on the Food Network!


1 lb good quality chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
2 - 3 tablespoons Kahlua, Grand Marnier, or liqueur of your choice
Cocoa powder

Chop 1 lb chocolate into little tiny bits. Use dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or a combination -- whatever suits you! Do go ahead and spring for the really good stuff, though. No Nestle or Hershey's allowed. Resist the temptation to sample too much of the chocolate, though. Alternatively, just go ahead and buy 2lb of chocolate and plan to eat half while you are baking!

Meanwhile, bring 1 cup heavy cream to a simmer in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Don't boil it!

When the cream is hot, pour it over the chopped chocolate (hopefully you have put the chocolate into a heat-proof bowl of some sort). Pour in 2 to 3 tablespoons flavouring of your choice. Liqueurs like Kahlua and Grand Marnier are great, or you can be boring and use vanilla extract or something like that. Let it all sit without stirring for a couple minutes, so the chocolate goes all melty. Then whisk the mixture until it is smooth. If you chopped your chocolate too coarse, or if your cream cools too fast, you may end up with lumps of chocolate that don't melt. That's ok -- just dump it all into the heavy saucepan (or a double boiler, if you have one) and heat GENTLY just until the chocolate melts smoothly.

Chill this fabulous, gooey stuff (or, if you are French, ganache) until it is thick enough that you can scoop it. At this point you are ready to shape your truffles!

For BASIC TRUFFLES, have ready some cocoa powder. I also like to put the finished truffles in paper mini muffin cups -- they are cute and help cut down on mess. Alternatively, a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper works.

To shape the truffles, scoop the ganache (or, in English, yummy chocolate cream) with a spoon and shape into round, truffly shapes. Roll these in PLENTY of cocoa powder, to reduce melting onto fingers, and plop into the lovely little muffin cups.

If you want to get fancy, you can also dip the truffles into melted chocolate (this is called enrobing, and it works better if you chill the shaped ganache until it is quite hard). Then you can get creative with white chocolate zigzags, crushed peppermint, nuts, or whatever crazy delicious topping you can think of.

Store the finished truffles in the refrigerator (although you may want to let them sit our 10 or 15 minutes before you plan to eat them. If you can wait that long!).


Friday, September 11, 2009

Knock, Knock ...

When I first started blogging, I promised to update twice a week ... even if I just posted knock knock jokes. It's been a full week, a good week, a LONG week (despite being a short week!), and it's a good night for something quick and funny.

Unfortunately, I have since realised that there ARE no funny knock knock jokes. Apparently once you reach the age of 8 or so all the funny evaporates out of them. Do not despair, however, dear reader. En lieu of the knock knocks, I will share one of my fallback funnies:


Dinosaur Comics often makes me smile but this is an all time favourite, and about as intellectual as I think I can manage today! I lurched out of bed at 6:15 this morning and managed to fumble my way out of bed and into the workplace, but my brain never really got the memo that it was daytime. Instead of reading Dickens or something equally pretentious during my lunch break today, I read the September issue of Allure. (My favourite shades of nail polish are "in" this season! Also, I need some over-the-knee, triple-buckle, black leather Calvin Klein high heel boots. NEED. And maybe a little tiny dress and huge earrings to go with.)

I am looking forward to the weekend! And I hope that you, dear reader, have a relaxing and fun weekend as well.

PS - I should probably add a disclaimer. Dinosaur Comics is often funny, but sometimes crude and immature. (Sometimes it's both at once!) But not every comic is one that I would link to :)

Monday, September 7, 2009

How Not To Clean A Bathroom in Seven Days Flat

I think it says something about me that I will finish 3 of what I used to call "chapter books" before cleaning my bathroom ONCE. And NOT something good! Labour Day was a great chance to catch up on housework and feel like I can start the work week really on top of things. Our apartment is LOVELY and clean (my wonderful husband vacuumed, because he knows it is not my favourite chore :) Clean floors, my friends, are HAPPY floors.

Now that I'm no longer a guilty home-not-maker, I would love to share some book recommendations, though. What I've read in the past few weeks:

The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan. This book has been around a few years, and I have actually read it several times--it is that good. The book is told from the perspectives of 4 mothers and 4 daughters; the novel begins with the death of one mother, triggering a chain of memories divulged to the reader by each woman. The centre of this book, I would say, is the impact of past history -- even unknown history -- on the present, and the disconnect between the Chinese born mothers and their very American, very modern daughters. The language barrier between Tan's generations is a literal (!) one, but I think it will resonate with any reader. Is this true for you, too? That what our mothers don't tell us sometimes is as important in our lives as what they do say. The Joy Luck Club ends on a happy note, with reunion, but always leaves me wondering how truly one person can ever understand another, however loved.

Hard Times, by Charles Dickens. One of Dickens's shorter and less-famous works, still full of his trademark, strongly outlined characters who, as exaggerated as they are, somehow manage to be believable instead of simple caricatures. Definitely not a masterpiece, this novel introduces several interesting themes -- including the disastrous effects of an education that disallows any development of a child's imagination or soul -- but simply is not long enough to develop any of them fully. This is not a happy novel -- the central characters may be redeemed morally, but few have a "happy ever after" at the end of the brief tale. As usual for Dickens, there are several central stories, all interrelated -- primarily, the unhappy marriage between an old banker who boasts of his rags-to-riches history, and the young woman who longs for something more than the practicalities and rationalities on which she has been brought up; and the ostracization of an honest mill hand who refuses to join a labour union. I would recommend this story to anyone interested in Dickens or in the period; despite its flaws it is absorbing, thought-provoking, and (for Dickens) a quick read.

Deep Secret, by Diana Wynne Jones. OK, this is a fluffy book beyond compare. DWJ remains one of my all-time favourite fantasy authors, and is one of the reasons I can still often be seen in the children's section of my local library. What makes this book especially fun for me is that the alternate-universes/magic/royal intrigue of the story occurs right in the middle of the craziness of a fantasy/sci fi convention. And does DWJ ever capture the convention crowd! So many scifi/fantasy fans manage to be both awkward misfits and, at the same time, almost pitifully mundane. (You must understand I am speaking from inside a group and not at it!) I wonder, sometimes which comes first. Which creates the other -- that sense of not-quite-fitting, or that thirst to be part of some Story, something high or deep or bright or dark, something epic and vital? I love how Wynne Jones realises that about us--that the colour and carnival of the convention world may be ridiculous, but that it's an attempt to capture something ...

Anyway, this is a Fun Book, but please be advised that it is not a Christian Book. I would rate it a PG13, meaning don't give it to your 8year old who will absorb the story like a sponge without discernment. Readers who object to stories that are witchy and/or worldly had better stay away altogether, as Deep Secret is both.

Mr. Crawford would censure me, I am sure, but NEXT week I am setting aside my beloved novels to read some improving History, in the form of Dennis's highschool text.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mandarin Orange Salad

You get an extra post today! Free, no charge! We had a church potluck today (YUM curried lentils and peanut butter Rice Krispie Treats), and I thought I would share the recipe for the salad I brought. It was given to me by one of my best friends in high school, a fun, godly young woman and a super homemaker. Also, it tastes really light and delicious and got eaten up this afternoon, which is always a good sign.

Prep Time: I dunno, about 15 minutes? It doesn't take long to make a salad :P
Serves: About 6-8, depending on how much else is available ...

For the Dressing:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons vinegar (apple cider or red or white wine vinegar are all good)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
Minced fresh or dried parsley (or if you are out, use a little basil and thyme)

Mix well and chill till ready to use. An empty jam jar or something with a lid that screws shut is the neatest way to make and store the dressing.

For the Salad:
4 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup sliced almonds (I use a 4-oz package)
1 cup celery, chopped
2 green onions, sliced
1 small can Mandarin oranges, drained
1 head Romaine lettuce, torn

In a heavy skillet (I use my lovely, lovely cast iron skillet!), heat the sugar and almonds over medium heat until the sugar melts and coats the almonds. Stir until the almonds get coated with a delicious glaze (it's OK if the sugar starts to turn a little brown). Turn onto waxed paper to cool.

Toss the lettuce, oranges, celery, and onions together. Just before serving the salad, toss with the dressing (I usually use only 1/2 to 2/3 of the dressing recipe) and with the almonds (break up any huge clumps). YUM.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Blessed ...

Some time before we were actually married, DH and I started reading through the Bible together ... from Genesis 1:1. We made it through I and II Samuel, and I respectfully submitted that we alternate between reading OT and NT books. I honestly don't think I can take much more of heads being flung over walls. (See II Samuel 20:22.)

So we are now reading through Matthew, one of my FAVOURITE books of the Bible ever. Every time I read or read from it, Matthew manages to both challenge and comfort me. The Kingdom of Heaven -- what does the rule of Christ mean to me, here, now, and always? What do I value and pursue more than anything else? DH and I read the Beatitudes this morning. I wrote 'em out on an index card and stuck 'em up in my cubicle at work (oh yes, update, I now have my own cube!). A few that really grabbed onto my brain throughout the day:

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Mt 5:5). My study Bible suggests that this verse refers to "spiritual meekness, an attitude of humility and submission to God." Christ being the preeminent example of this; God's will and pleasure was of such value to Him that He gave up what He might otherwise have desired. Am I meek? Do I really, truly desire for God's reign on earth more than I want anything else? It's hard to even think about giving up some of my own desires or plans.
I think really being meek in this sense comes down to living out what I know about the character of God. He is GREAT - He is God, and I am not. Basically, who am I to say, "But God, I wanted ..." More than that though, God is GOOD. Psalm 37:11 says "the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace." What am I afraid to give up? My plans and desires will never satisfy me the way that Christ is able to. Romans 8! If I really believe this, I can trust God's will absolutely. I don't have to worry about looking out for my own safety or pleasure.
I think it's worth noting, too, that JOY or delight is part of truly submitting to God. If I grudgingly and grumblingly give up what I really want, then I am holding something else - some wish or want or need or plan of mine - to be more valuable to me than Christ. And that is just wrong!

The second Beatitude that I really need to absorb is in verse 6: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." This goes right along with verse 5 -- and again, it really convicts me that I hold too many false values. What things are deepest, most important to me and my happiness?

If I consider the time I spend thinking or worrying about how I look, how clean my house is, what my husband, coworkers, and total strangers think about me, how much money I'm spending on groceries ...

and compare that to the time I spend mentally desiring and pursuing patience, gratitude, joy, contentment ...


So here I am, asking for the desire for righteousness! Because I really do want to believe, and live, what Christ has done for me. Does that count as hungering and thirsting for righteousness?

One more verse I read just this morning -
"I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6)

Should this cake happen?