Saturday, November 22, 2008

She's here, She's here!!!

Yaaayyyy!! Pixie is home! We picked her up last night and we've had tons of fun already. This will be a short post as there is a LOT I need to do this weekend for Thanksgiving prep, but wanted to introduce our little pumpkin and show you a few more pics (I promise, I will post recipes again very soon...but for now, puppy pics!)

Here she is! She has settled right in and is doing just fine. It's a little deja vu, because (of course) she looks a lot like Tucker did. But she's definitely her own personality and we already love her SO much.

Welcome little one!

Hope you all have a GREAT weekend!

Love, Dahrlin'

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Mmmm... Banana Bread!

Hi All and Happy Weekend!

It's so good to be back to blogging, at least a little more than I've been able to do recently! It's also been great to get back to at least a little cooking - it is my favorite time of year for cooking, after all! I have a ton of favorite holiday recipes that I hope to share with you guys very soon!

Last weekend, we happened to have a couple of lonely looking bananas laying around, and hubby suggested making banana bread. This is a huge favorite around here, but I try not to make it too often, because I tend to cut very large pieces for myself, and then eat after another! I simply have no self control around this delicious bread.

There are about as many versions of banana bread out there as there are pot roasts. Everyone's got their favorite, and this one is mine. It's a Mark Bittman recipe, and I have to agree with him that it's the ultimate that I have tried. His cookbook is a favorite of mine - if you've never picked up a copy of How to Cook Everything, check it out. There are a couple of optional ingredients, which I will point out, and I've tried making it both on the lighter side and the regular version.

Now, as PW would say, don't stress over the amount of butter called for here. Remember it's all about balance, and there is also whole wheat flour and fruit in this recipe :-) Unless you're like me you will cut this loaf into at least 8 pieces, and voila, not too much butter per serving at all. Try it the regular way once, to see how you like it, and to judge the recipe fairly. But after you've tried it the regular way once, I have found you can replace up to half the butter with applesauce without noticing much difference at all. I've also tried it with only applesauce and wasn't as happy with it, but then I tend to notice the absence of fat in foods (it's why I don't really prefer a lot of "light" recipes), but see how you like it. I bet (if you're feeling adventurous!) you could even use strawberry applesauce with nice results!

So without further ado, here's my very favorite version of this classic bread. (Okay, only slightly further ado...I love how we call it bread when we all know it's mean, butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour...but ah well...we won't tell anyone, right?!) As I was saying...

Banana Bread
Adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything
Makes one loaf

1.5 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 stick butter (8 Tbsp)
1.5 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
3 very ripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 to 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup grated dried unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9"x5" loaf pan. Combine dry ingredients (excluding nuts and coconut). Cream butter and eggs, and stir in mashed bananas. Combine the banana mixture with the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. Don't overmix or bread will be tough. Stir in vanilla, nuts and coconut if using.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake 45-60 minutes until golden brown. You can test with a toothpick and it will be mostly clean, but do not overbake; this bread is more moist than regular bread because of the bananas. Cool in pan for 15 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. If you try it warm, you may not have any leftovers ;-) But wrap any leftovers in waxed paper and foil. Makes a great breakfast, snack or (okay) dessert!

Hope you guys love this as much as we do!

Love, Dahrlin'

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Have You Seen This?

Good morning!

And it is a great morning. We're not sure what (specifically) is helping, whether the acupuncture or just time or meds... but my neck is finally improving, at least a little! And for that - and your prayers - I am truly thankful. I miss you guys and hope to be back to blogging as usual very soon.

But in the meantime, will you humor me for a few minutes, as I share a few thoughts on something? We watched a great little movie this weekend that I just loved, and I have a few comments to offer on it. So I'm going to step outside my usual food commentary and ask - have you seen the movie Facing the Giants? You can see the trailer here.

The movie came out a couple years ago, and we're just now getting to see it. But I'm so glad we did! I get so tired of watching big-budget movies that have no heart or soul, and often glorify values or causes I just don't agree with, and which don't leave me cheering for anything. So much of what is evidently considered entertainment these days seems to draw its so-called "appeal" from shock value, vulgarity or violence as much as anything. I just don't see that there is any real art or talent in that.

But this is a small-budget movie with a HUGE heart. It's family-friendly, suitable for all ages and quite well-done, and the production quality doesn't say "small budget" at all. I don't think I would have ever guessed the story behind its production, but I find it amazing.

Meanwhile, there were a few threads woven through the story that were very real to me and had special meaning at this particular point in my life. We've been through a bit of a rough few weeks around here, and I needed to be reminded of some things. Granted it's not like we've had anything truly horrible happen, and I thank God for that. But we lost our 12 year old dog over the course of three weeks of serious illness, and of course most of you readers know that I've had some pinched nerve and pain issues that have been debilitating.

Anyway, back to the movie - it's a football movie, which is my favorite sport this time of year. And it's about high school football, which takes me waaaay back! I won't give away any plot points in case you haven't yet seen it, but there were a lot of great one-liners, a very sweet story and a few underlying themes that really hit home to me after the last few weeks.

Also, the soundtrack includes several songs by some of my favorite Christian artists. One is Third Day, which includes the lyric

"never mind your worries, never mind your fears - they can only take you far from Me..."

The song is catchy anyway, and I love the group and almost all of their songs. But I especially love this lyric, because it reminds continual, constant worriers like me that there is no point in stressing and worrying over everything. It's a total waste of time and energy, as most of the things I worry over are not in my control anyway. Can I be real for a second, as PW would say? :-) I am so bad about becoming consumed with the nightmare scenarios in my own head. I can take a situation that's maybe not great, but not catastrophic, and in my head, in about 5 seconds flat, it becomes a doomsday scenario. I really am praying about my attitude in this area, but I love the message of this song, which reminds me that my real focus should be on God, and His control of my life - NOT my view of my circumstances, which is limited and dim at best, and not my lack of control over a lot of them.

This movie gently reminded me that it's not my job to run my universe (something my control freak nature needs to hear about every other second). It's God's job to be God and run the universe, and it's my job to obey Him and follow Him. He's not expecting me to be perfect at anything, any more than any human parent would expect perfection from a toddler. Compared to God, we're all children (no matter what our natural age or experience) and I need to remember that it's His job to be in charge - not mine. So whatever my circumstances may be, they aren't for me to worry over (want proof? I'm trying not to stress about this recent election ;-0). Matthew 6:27 says,

"who of you, by worrying, can add a single hour to his life?"

I know that verse by heart, and yet I never seem able to truly internalize and apply it - I get that my worrying is futile (in the sense that it just wears me down and won't change anything, anyway), but I'm still working on stopping the behavior. And I finally think I get it - it's not up to me to change me. It's up to God to do that.

Some of you know that I'll be trying to go back into the office to work for a full five days this week. After the pain and stress of the last four, and barely being able to sit up some days, I'm not looking forward to the idea of sitting (either in the car in traffic, or at my desk) for basically 10 hours each day. But there again - I need to focus on trusting and obeying, not stressing over what I can't control. And I seriously need to work on my attitude, which is a real weak point for me. I'm asking God to work on that area, too :-) I truly am thankful to have a job, thankful for understanding and patient coworkers, family, and friends - and thankful for each of you that reads this blog! In the meantime, I would ask for your continued prayers. (And thank you in advance!!)

Another line I loved from the movie is a quote from Rev. 3. In the movie, they discuss the concept that

"We serve a God who opens doors that no man can shut. And He closes doors that no man can open."

This verse reminds me that again, God is in control of all circumstances. And not in some nebulous, ooey-gooey, vague sense. He really IS in control, even over the mundane details of our lives. He's not some mystical spirit. He's real. And what He promises, He will deliver. What He raises up, will stand. And if it's His will that something comes into or goes from my life, it will, regardless of what I might try to do to change those circumstances. My job, in the meantime, is to love, trust and obey Him right where I am, waiting on His timing to move the puzzle pieces of my life, plans, hopes and dreams according to His master plan.

That thought ties into the overall theme of the movie - that of purpose. What's our purpose here? All of us. Not just our purpose as men or women, mothers or fathers, wives or husbands, siblings, friends, coworkers...but our overall purpose as humans placed on this planet? I of course realize others may have different views - but I agree with the movie's premise -

"Life's not about us. We're not here just to get glory, make money and die. The Bible says that God put us here for Him. To honor Him. Jesus said that the most important thing you can do with your life is to love God with everything you are and love others as yourself... He cares about your faith, He cares about where your heart is... we've got to honor Him in our relationships, in our respect for authority, in the classroom, and when we're home alone. We have to give Him our best in every area. And if we win, we praise Him...and if we lose, we praise Him... either way, we honor Him with our actions and our attitudes. I resolve to give God everything I've got, and I'll leave the results to Him."

So my challenge to myself this week - and to you - is this: Whether it's rainy or sunny this week, whether circumstances are wonderful or horrible, whether we sleep well or not (this one's huge for me :-) and whether things go the way we want or not - remember the purpose of this life. Remember why we're here. And seek to do everything we can this week to focus not on our circumstances, our worries or our fears - focus on God. Keep looking up, and trust Him for guidance. Be joyful!! He is faithful. He knows the way, even though we can't see around the next bend in the path. And if we just ask Him, He will keep us on His path.

I love the analogy one writer makes to the Christian walk - any of you who are parents will understand this. When we put our hand in God's, our security in walking with Him comes not from our strength or ability to hold onto Him and maintain our grasp. Parents, you know this one - when you're holding your child's hand, who's got the stronger grip? Which person is not going to let go, not going to let the other one fall, no matter what? Whether or not the child stumbles, whether or not he pulls away or even tries to run away... which person knows the way, and is strong enough and able to support and guide the other one on it? The parent, of course. And with God as our Father, our security comes from Christ's grip on us. Not our grip on Him. It is a huge relief to know that He's got hold of me, and He will never fail, never falter and never let go. That's good news, because my grip is rarely secure (and some days, I admit, I want to do my own thing and don't even want to hold His hand... but like any parent, He maintains His grip, regardless). And like that metaphorical child, I am safe not because I hold Him - but because He holds me.

One final thought - and my very favorite line from this movie - delivered by a character played by Mark Richt (y'all know I have so much respect for him as a Christian, an adoptive parent and Georgia's best coach ever!) -

"In God's word, He said 365 different times - do not fear.. Now, if He said it that many times, you know He's serious about it, right?"

If you noticed - that's one reminder for every day of the year :-)

Let me know if you've seen the movie, and what your thoughts were.

Happy Sunday - and I love y'all!


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Long Time, No Blog!

Wow, it has been weeks since I posted and I MISS you guys!! I miss blogging, and cooking things to blog about, and just feeling connected in general.

Several events we've been dealing with lately - my struggles with this neck injury and pain, inability to sit and type much for any length of time, our loss of our sweet puppy Tucker, and a couple other things have conspired to make our October one of more unhappy tricks than treats. We're still coping with all that and I will have to keep this short. But in the meantime, I wanted to share a really neat video about UGA's football coach (Mark Richt) and his family. This is about their adoption story. Hope you will take a couple minutes to watch and enjoy their story - they are a wonderful family!

I hope to be back online more often very soon. In the meantime, hope all is well with each of you and you are enjoying this beautiful fall!

Love, Dahrlin'
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