Saturday, November 24, 2012

bon vogage

IMG_1816 by lrennie86
from our 2008 cruise to the Bahamas
We fly down to Tampa tomorrow morning to set sail on a cruise through the Caribbean. We're traveling with our friends Kevin and Jackie and plan to do lots of card playing, crossword puzzling and reading under the sun. Ahhh. The four of us have been dreaming of this trip for several years now and we're all so excited that it's finally here.

See you in December!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

last-minute winning Thanksgiving dishes

It's not too late to make one or both of these super quick and yummy dishes for Thanksgiving tomorrow! They both cook at 350, so I always make them together and pop them in the oven at the same time. Why is it we only make some of our favorite dishes once or twice a year? I really need to make both of these more often.

First up is corn casserole. If you like moist, buttery cornbread, you'll love this dish. I eat at least three helpings every Thanksgiving. (Update: two of my friends made this for their family's Thanksgiving meal and it got rave reviews!)

Corn Casserole (serves 8-10)
1 package of Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 can cream style corn
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 stick of butter, melted

Heat oven to 350. Combine first 5 ingredients, then stir in melted butter. Pour into a large rectangular baking dish and bake for 50 minutes.

Next is an apple cranberry crisp. This dish can be served as a side (instead of cranberry sauce) or a dessert (great w/ ice cream). It's great cold too—I had it for breakfast today and am working on my second helping right now. The great thing about this crisp is that it's not too sweet.

Apple Cranberry Crisp (serves 8-10)
4.5 cups of diced apples, peel on (I used 3 and 1/2 granny apples)
1 bag or 3 cups of raw whole cranberries, rinsed
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 brown sugar
1.5 cups oatmeal
1.5 sticks butter, melted
chopped pecans (optional)

heat oven to 350. pour white sugar over apples and cranberries, stir, and place into a 9x13 or 3qt baking dish. in a separate bowl, combine brown sugar, oatmeal and melted butter. pour mixture on top of fruit. bake for 50 minutes, sprinkle pecans on top, bake another 10 minutes.


Monday, November 19, 2012

2012 gift guide

while you're at it, get a few ideas from my 2011 gift guide

1. a handmade stocking stuffer
DIY strike-anywhere match jars
(see another similar project here)

2. a quirky (and oinky) conversation piece
CB2 gold pig bookends, set of 2 -$29.95
3. a sweet nightstand catch-all
set of 3 cloud trinket dishes - $22.50

4. a calendar for the new year
2013 illustrated wall calendar - $15

5. weekend vacation inspiration
The New York Times 36 Hours - $39.95

6. a notepad to add glamour to grocery lists
watercolor notepad - $12

7. because (almost) everyone loves cheese
cheese-making kit -$19

8. a new kind of arm candy
Baggu and West Elm tote- $45

9. clay animation + mockumentary + British accents = genius
(note: adults will cry from laughing so hard. kids, not so much)
Creature Comforts season 1 - $19.99
10. a Bauer-like messenger bag
Rothco Vintage canvas messenger bag - $41.48

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

planning meals for company

I have been a lazy blogger lately! I used to have this blog on the brain constantly, but lately I rarely ever think about it. Life has been so full. The last weekend that didn't include travel or visitors was five weekends ago! We haven't nailed down our Thanksgiving weekend plans yet, but we're both determined to make it relaxing whether we're home or away.

The weekend before last we had friends from college in town. We played Acquire and drank lots of coffee, ate breakfast in our pajamas, talked books and marriage and jobs (us gals), and played basketball and watched football (the boys). On Saturday night we all went downtown for "First Saturday," a monthly downtown event where the shops stay open late, wine and snacks are given out and bands play on the sidewalk. I knew we were going to be eating an early dinner downtown, so I made a big breakfast and a picnic-like lunch. I took a cue from my mom, who often serves a similar lunch when we go to the cabin. With my friend's help I set out sliced summer sausage, apples, cheese and bell peppers, along with baby carrots, grapes and two types of crackers. We destroyed most of the munchies, but whatever was left over was tossed in a ziploc for snacking on later.

I've been purposefully trying to plan fuss-free meals to keep myself from getting too overwhelmed when company comes a-calling. We had friends from Harrisonburg visit this Sunday and we didn't know when they would be arriving. I didn't want to slave away in the kitchen and be exhausted by the time they arrived, nor did I want to be cooking a whole lot while they were over. By using leftovers, I hardly cooked at all. I had made a big batch of Italian sausage soup on Friday, so I served that for lunch on Sunday along with some bread and dipping oil. For dinner I thawed leftover chicken burrito filling and all I had to do was heat up the tortillas and assemble the burritos. I did make sweet corn cake to go with the burritos, but all that requires is a few ingredients and five minutes of your time. We also had chips and salsa on the table for everyone to snack on.

Here's the recipe for the soup I made. This makes a TON of soup, but it's so good you'll be glad you have a ton leftover. You're going to need a huge pot! Be sure to leave the pasta out if you plan on freezing the soup. Otherwise, the pasta will overcook when you reheat the soup. (This happened to me and the soup was still delicious, but if you like firm pasta then I suggest cooking it separately). My advice would be to cook up pasta and ladle the soup over it.

I left out the carrots and added a can of northern beans, a tablespoon of fresh basil (in addition to dried) and several pinches of dried Italian seasoning. It was SO good. In fact, I ate some for breakfast today. (I have a cold, okay?)

Friday, November 9, 2012

one door shuts


Seven weeks ago I was furiously scribbling addresses on envelopes and stuffing them with support letters. My heart was light and full of joy. My prayers had been answered! I was going back to Uganda.

Was going.

The trip (planned for this month) was cancelled the day before I was going to stamp and send out all those letters. I cried for days and asked God why? a million different times. I prayed that God would mend my broken heart and fill it with hope and trust, because I was struggling with those things. Honestly, I felt like someone had died.

I e-mailed everyone who I had already sent letters to and let them know of the change in plans. I wrote, "I'm very saddened by this news and would appreciate your prayers as I must lay these plans aside for now."

This one of the replies I received:
"We were sorry to hear that your trip was cancelled but believe that God's plans are so much better than what we plan.  Praying that another opportunity for you to return to Uganda will come in God's appointed time."

Five days later I got an e-mail from my uncle Bill (who told me about Zion Project back in 2008). He had forward the following to a pastor at his church: "I am attaching a support letter that I had received from my niece. Unfortunately the November missions trip to Sarita’s work in Gulu that Laura wrote about was put on hold. Laura has a heart for Sarita’s ministry, she has been there before and she wants very much to go back. Please keep her contact info on hand in case an opportunity to accompany others from our church comes up." 

Half an hour later, an e-mail from the pastor popped up. It including the following fabulous note:
"You are welcome to join our trip that we are planning for February 2013."

God gave me a heart for Uganda. God knew I wanted to go back. He heard my prayers. God opened a door for me to go, and then He shut it.

And then, one week later, He opened it again.

photos from the March 2012 trip to Gulu, Uganda

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

home work

Have you checked out The William Morris Project Jules came up with over at Pancakes and French Fries?

For 31 days she chose to live "according to the famous William Morris quote, 'Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.'”

I think of that quote every time I set out to tidy a cabinet, drawer or closet. I am a terrific organizer when I set my mind to it, but the unfortunate truth is that if a spot in my house isn't organized in the first place, it's likely to stay unorganized for a long time. When we moved in April I had no idea where I wanted things to go. I basically threw stuff into closets, shut the doors and figured I'd deal with it later. 

It's been seven months and I'm still dealing with it.

This coat closet was probably the most unused space in our house until a few days ago. Right after we moved we shoved all of our flattened moving boxes in there along with yard tools, golf clubs, tennis shoes, charcoal, car washing supplies and random curtain rods. Last week I turned on my Spotify Mad Men playlist and got to work taking everything out and then deciding what should go back in. I reassembled the shelving unit that we kept in the pantry of our old house, moved the golf clubs to the basement, brought a few of our winter coats out of storage and added the fabric storage bins that were sitting empty in my closet. Now they'll hold hats, gloves and scarves.

Oh gosh. The under-the-sink cabinet. Previous bane of my existence. Not anymore! Before, this space was crammed with FIVE huge jugs of dishwashing soap and a million plastic bags were floating around. I could never find what I was looking for and I was always knocking things over. Now everything is neatly tucked away. The paper bag holds bags (shocker) and my lunchbox is hidden behind it. 

Other than the top shelf, my skinny little pantry stays nice and tidy. At first I was disappointed by how small it is compared to our old one, but I've come to realize that having a smaller pantry forces me to buy only what we need.

Next space to get the William Morris treatment — our "craigslist" room. It's a scary place!