Monthly Archives: August 2013

Journey Journal: Days 214-231

The last few weeks could be characterized by copious amounts of coffee accompanied by fabulous fellowship and foodie adventures, intermingled with thoughtful musings on articles and video clips. Check it out below.

“The relationship between coffee and well being” – picture courtesy of Stephen Altrogge

Day 214: Friday, August 2, 2013

Had another wedding today. Picked up the various pieces on Wednesday, started working on them on Thursday night, and finished up Friday morning–and actually got a full night’s sleep on this one!

This weekend’s wedding flower lineup included white hydrangeas, calla lilies and roses, blue delphinium, purple statice, peach wax flowers, green hypericum berries and grass…oh, and blue thistle!!  It turned out to be a beautiful combination! Here’s a sneak peek. I’ll post professional pics soon.

Day 215-216: Saturday and Sunday, August 3-4, 2013

More house projects. A FaceTime “coffee chat” with one of my best friends, Katie. Church. And a “breakfast for dinner” get together on Sunday night as a send-off for three of our friends who are moving away from Greenville–two to work with a church in NC (while the husband pursues ordination with the intent towards chaplaincy), and the other to teach English abroad. It was a really good time…though we will miss our friends.

Day 217: Monday, August 5, 2013

On Monday, a friend from church dropped off their first batch of eggs from their farm! Of course, that automatically meant I “had” to have eggs for dinner. So we made a batch of sausage gravy and served it over toast with a farm-fresh omelet filled with onions, peppers, goat cheese and basil, topped with arugula. So delicious! You know the eggs are fresh when they yolks are perky and deep orange. I was super excited to start getting these each week…that was, until a coyote (or neighbor’s dog) got into the chicken coop. Sad day…because these eggs were amazing! We savored egg dishes the rest of the week!

Day 218: Tuesday, August 6, 2013

One of the video clips I was fascinated by this week is below. Talk about “trash to treasure”–this “Landfillharmonic” clip is amazing! Makes me thankful for all that we have:

Day 219-220: Wednesday through Thursday, August 7-8, 2013

I had some perfect peaches, so I decided to make peach pie to share with our Shepherding Group. It turned out pretty good, but I’m still working on my pie not being too runny. After Shepherding Group on Wednesday, I made stuffed peppers for the first time in ages. I found several recipes online and adapted them to be my own unique creation–recipe here.

On Thursday, I heated up the stuffed peppers and took them to lunch with my friends Shannah and Annette. Annette brought a corn salad and a cucumber salad; Shannah shared a fresh spinach salad with homemade maple vinaigrette and homemade peach pie with latticed crust and all–it was perfect!

I had plenty of leftover stuffing left that didn’t go in our peppers, so on Friday, I used them to fill hard corn taco shells–and they were fantastic! I topped the tacos and stuffing with fresh arugula, cilantro, and a dab of sour cream, along with the avocado sauce.

Day 221-222: Friday and Saturday, August 9-10, 2013

Friday lunch with an old high school friend that I was recently reunited with through work. Had our friends Kevin and Melissa over for dinner and games–recently we’ve been playing a lot of Dominion with them, but tonight they taught us a new game, Elder Sign–which is really fun! (Definitely on the Christmas wishlist 😉 ). Saturday was more work on the house. Helped the couple moving to NC pack up a bit and said final goodbyes (not that we won’t see them again soon). 😉 Lunch with my folks and sister–my parents were picking up my sister’s boys for a few days at the farm before school started. Then ran some errands and ended the day with having my sister Michelle and her husband Alan over for dinner (with only the new baby girl). We just made simple sandwiches and she brought some potato salad–and we taught them to play Dominion. It was a lot of fun! We should do that more often.

Day 223: Sunday, August 11, 2013

First Sunday not teaching in the children’s ministry for several years. It was kind of weird trying to figure out which Adult Life Application Group we fit best into. We ended up in Marriage Foundations, since we know a lot of the people in that class, and we really enjoyed it. We want to visit a couple more before we make our final decision–though any of them would be really good, I think.

Day 224-228: Monday through Thursday, August 12-15, 2013

Monday was a hugely successful day: got all my data exported and submitted for conversion at work! AND we got the majority of the insulation put up in the new room! Phew! I just have to say…if I “had” to install insulation in a hot room on a hot day, at least I got to do it with my hot husband! 😉

Read a really good article on marriage: God Loves Odd Couples. Marriage isn’t about being “perfectly compatible”…it’s about reflecting Christ. Very encouraging article.

Tuesday, I had my semi-annual dentist appointment, followed by a free birthday cupcake from Chocolate Moose–no, I didn’t tell the dentist where I was headed after my cleaning, and, yes, he did tell me I won a “mouth of the month” award! After work, I went on a long walk with a good friend, Jan. She’s a fantastic young mom of two and even though we aren’t able to get together as much as we’d like, every time we get together is always refreshing and uplifting.

Wednesday night after church, I had two friends over. Great night of fellowship with sisters in Christ who love Jesus, the Gospel and the power of Redemption! Enjoyed precious gifts of conversation, edification, good coffee, and orange cinnamon rolls.

Thursday night was dinner with some more friends, Ben and Ashley, whom we haven’t been able to catch up with in forever. Forgot that the 2 1/2 cups of coffee that I drank at dinner tonight was NOT decaf. Fail.

Day 228: Friday, August 16, 2013

Nothing like James Galway and fresh coffee on a rainy morning! I love classical flute! It’s been far too long since I played. After work, I grabbed a few ingredients and we headed over to our friends Daryl and Adrianne’s house. It was my first attempt at from-scratch banana pudding with meringue topping! I added freshly grated nutmeg and soaked the bananas in a little lime juice before adding them to the pudding with the Nilla wafers. While we made the dessert, the guys watched the grill and practiced their target shooting. It doesn’t get more Southern than this:

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Day 229-230: Saturday and Sunday, August 17-18, 2013

Progress on the house…windows and door are finally in in the new room! …along with framing, wiring, insulation, and subflooring! Plus new white posts instead of green rails on the front porch! More to come, but excited for the progress so far!

Sunday, we stopped by Panera and Starbucks for breakfast before church (wanted to use my free birthday drink). Caught up with several friends at church. Afterwards, we used some more birthday “freebie” e-coupons (World Market, etc.), then lunch with Bryan and an evening of hanging out…just the two of us! It was kind of a perfect day!

Day 231: Monday, August 19, 2013

Today I turned 32 years old. And the word that comes to mind is…blessed. I had a fantastic birthday! Tim and Debbie took me and Bryan out for lunch today, my friend Tami brought by a cute little flower pot to the office, the sun came out, and Bryan’s taking me out again tomorrow night for a nice dinner…plus lots of phone calls, messages, and emails that made me feel loved and appreciated. So thankful for the family and friends God has brought into our lives. As you can tell if you read the above post, it’s a busy stage of life for us, but it’s so rewarding and fulfilling!

Recipe: Corn Salad by Melissa McKinnon

photo-21Ingredients:

  • 1/3 c. mayonnaise
  • 1/3 c. sour cream
  • handful of fresh basil and cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 ears of sweet corn, husked, scrubbed, and kerneled
  • 1/2 small Vidalia onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 3 radishes, finely chopped
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cubed

Instructions:

  • Chop herbs and whisk together with mayonnaise, sour cream, salt and pepper. (If vegan, dairy-free, or you just don’t like mayo: substitute mayo with vegannaise and corn milk for the sour cream–after cutting off kernels, run flat edge of knife down ears of corn to release the sweet milk.)
  • Clean vegetables.* Cut kernels off of corn (discarding the cores), and chop other vegetables to desired sizes (I like the radishes and onion to be fairly tiny and the cucumber and avocado to be a little bigger, personally).
  • Toss vegetables into dressing and mix. Serve with sprigs of herbs as garnish, if desired.

*Note: All vegetables are raw in this dish–no cooking required. So, it’s a fast dish with fantastic colors and flavors. Since everything is raw, make sure you use the freshest produce possible and clean everything well. This salad is a great alternative to potato salad or coleslaw at a picnic or as a “salsa” on top of curried chicken and rice. Serves 6 to 8.

Interesting Articles and Tips for College-Age Students

It’s back to school and the blogosphere is flooded with tons of helpful tips, advice, and info about heading back to college…or jumping in for the first time.

First, I read two articles specifically addressing “20-somethings.” The first was “The 20 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me at 20” by Dr. Karin L. Smithson on HuffingtonPost.com. It has some good reminders worth reading as so many head back to school…about picking friends, staying healthy, the importance of family and faith, etc.

The second was “20 Things 20 Year Olds Don’t Get” by Jason Nazar on Forbes.com. For all my friends heading back to college…or just out of college…or just trying to build traction in your careers, this article contains some fairly sound advice. It’s not necessarily that young people “don’t get it” but rather some good career tips that they “should get,” or maybe “don’t get yet,” or “what to strive for.” From productivity to professionalism, online etiquette to face to face communication, reputation and fiscal responsibility, this article hits the key topics that are crucial for young people to grasp early on if they desire to be successful.

Also, I’m noticing lots of college-age or recent post-college grads struggling with “discerning God’s will for their lives.” One book I recently read that I wish I had read when I started college is Kevin DeYoung’s Just Do Something. See my recent book review here. Also, remember that you don’t have to read every spiritual self-help book known to man; if you have a Bible and read it regularly, seek godly counsel, and prayer, those three things are more valuable than any “how to” book or article out there.

In regards to what to major in, I read “The Decline and Fall of the English Major” by Verlyn Klinkenborg on NYTimes.com. It is sad to hear that the number of students majoring in English is declining. I could have majored in a great number of things, but I am continually thankful that I majored in English. It has been invaluable in every aspect of my life–personally, professionally, socially, even spiritually. The most beneficial classes I took were probably Critical Writing with Dr. Horton and Philosophy of Education with Dr. Salter (both should be required by every major, in my humble opinion). To think clearly and logically and to be able to write concisely and coherently are two of the most precious yet neglected treasures in this culture. Klinkenborg writes: “Writing well used to be a fundamental principle of the humanities, as essential as the knowledge of mathematics and statistics in the sciences. But writing well isn’t merely a utilitarian skill. It is about developing a rational grace and energy in your conversation with the world around you.” and “No one has found a way to put a dollar sign on this kind of literacy, and I doubt anyone ever will. But everyone who possesses it — no matter how or when it was acquired — knows that it is a rare and precious inheritance.” Well said, Verlyn.

Finally, it’s important in your college years to stay healthy in this fast-paced, stress-filled season of life. Here’s a fun “Cheat Sheet for Healthy School Lunches” from The Honest Co.:

Recipe: Mel’s Stuffed Peppers with Avocado Sauce

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Stuffed Pepper Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 pound ground chicken (or turkey)
  • 1 tsp. sriracha sauce
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground sage
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 1/2 c. chopped red and green bell pepper
  • 2 c. stemmed and chopped kale leaves
  • 1 c. vegetable broth
  • 1/2 c. uncooked red quinoa
  • 6 whole bell peppers
  • parmesan rind and freshly grated cheese (optional)
  • fresh cilantro leaves (optional topping)

Stuffed Peppers Instructions:

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Sauté onions and peppers with salt and pepper until almost translucent. Add garlic and cook for one more minute. Add ground chicken and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Don’t worry about getting it fully cooked yet–it will keep cooking through to the end. Stir in sriracha, Worcestershire, and spices.

Add water, quinoa, and kale, and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover, and cook for 10-15 minutes (see quinoa package cooking instructions for time length; if you have parmesan rinds available, add them during this step).

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425ºF and prep whole bell peppers by carefully cutting off (and reserving) pepper tops. Remove seeds and pith. You may need to remove a small portion of the bottom of the pepper so it stands upright, being careful not to cut through into the shell of the pepper.

Stir stuffing till mixed evenly. Oil a medium size casserole dish and line with about 1-2 cups of the stuffing. Stuff peppers and place in stuffing bed in the casserole dish.  Place pepper tops back in casserole dish as well. If there’s any remaining stuffing, add it to the casserole dish around the peppers to help them stand up. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake uncovered 15-20 minutes, until golden brown on top. Meanwhile, prepare Avocado Sauce (below).

For serving, remove parmesan rinds, drizzle with Avocado Sauce, and top with freshly chopped cilantro leaves and freshly grated parmesan, if desired.

Avocado Sauce Ingredients:

  • 4 cloves fresh garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. water (or more to desired consistency)

Avocado Sauce Instructions:

Add all ingredients except olive oil and water into food processor (or high power blender) and blend till smooth. Slowly drizzle olive oil in till emulsified, then slowly pour water in until sauce reaches desired viscocity.

Note: This dish is great to make the night before and reheats very well. On the second day (if there is any leftover stuffing), use as taco filling and top with chopped fresh tomatoes, sour cream, avocado sauce and fresh chopped cilantro.

Journey Journal: Days 202-213

Days 202-212: Sunday, July 21, through Wednesday, July 31, 2013

We’re just going to fast-forward through the last couple of weeks. Needless to say, it’s been super busy between work, family in town, church events, the renovation project, etc. With the extra events, I haven’t been as strict on the dairy-free diet, and I definitely notice a difference, so starting back tomorrow I’m doing the dairy-free thing again. Last week, we cooked up a big batch of ground turkey and seasoned it for tacos or taco salads, chopped up several veggies, and ate on that most of the week. I also made a big egg casserole with fresh spinach and mushrooms, cheddar and chipotle gouda cheeses, and ground sausage. It worked really well to have food prepped ahead of time and just grab quickly. And I really enjoyed sitting down to a fresh cup of coffee with my mom every morning and evening. 😉 I’ll miss having her around, but I know she’s glad to be home. I am definitely looking forward to things slowing down…but I’m not sure when that will be yet–maybe October?!

Day 213: Thursday, August 1, 2013

Breakfast was a fried egg sandwich, using coconut oil and whole wheat toast. Lunch was pumpkin black bean soup with blue corn chips, a fresh tossed salad with tomatoes and avocados, and some strawberry-blueberry pie. Snack of hummus and lime tortilla chips. Dinner of shredded wheat cereal with a fresh South Carolina peach and soy milk with some blueberry-peach-mint water. It was a delicious, nutritious day…and very productive!

And now to work on flowers for another wedding. Pictures to come…