Monday, February 28, 2011

The Sweet Kitchen: Whats on the Menu?

I am happy to announce that I have only one meal from last week that did not get cooked and will be carried over to this week. We ended up having friends over for dinner Friday into the freezer the chicken went!

Monday: Chicken Teriyaki Sandwiches, Oven Fries, Apple Slices
Tuesday: I off for a little Girl's Night Out while the folks at home munch on leftovers!
Wednesday: Sesame Pork Tenderloin with Asian Slaw (from the SL March Issue) with Onion Rice
Thursday (Work Night): Mini Pepperoni Pizzas with Salad (aka crunchies for the little nut)
Friday: Quiche Lorraine with Spinach Salad (just been having a craving for it since I blogged about it)
Saturday: Hamburgers, Zesty Grilled Corn, and Baked Beans
Sunday: Clean out the fridge... leftovers

Let me know what all you are having for dinners this week and maybe we can each inspire one another. Don't forget to check out The Deep South Manual: March Edition post for a little giveaway action. Giveaway will end this Friday, March 4 at 8:00 pm EST. If you already have a subscription to Southern Living please enter and you can either give it to a friend or you can pick another magazine from some choices I will give you.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

The Deep South Manual: March Edition

There was a lot more inspiration in the food department from this issue than the home design. I can't wait to try some of these recipes (just add it to my waiting list).

Sweets: The eye candy that SL gives us for the inside and outside of our home
Page 16 includes a breathtaking flower arrangement with a quick step-by-step. I love the floral selection with bright pops of color that somehow still seem soft and ethereal. My question is where can you find fresh cuts of peonies, ranunculus, etc without being a florist? I would love access to fresh flowers that are different than roses, daisies and hydrangea (even though the right hydrangea makes me weak in the knees).

Treasure ChestPage 65 in the upper right hand corner shows a gorgeous custom china cabinet. I would love this in a butler's pantry. All the levels of shelving give you multiple options of accessibility. The hardware is timeless and really makes the cabinet. Any carpenters out there wanting to build this beauty? 

Garden Seat, Glazed White Ceramic- Ballard DesignsDo any of you have garden stools like the milky-white pair seen on page 96? One day I would love one like this:Garden Seat, Glazed White Ceramic- Ballard Designs or this: Vivid Garden Stool in Turquoise to go between two arm chairs in my living room. Seems like the perfect place to set a drink or book, but lacks large space that would lend its arm to clutter vulnerability.

Macau Side Chairs Set of 2- Ballard DesignsThe color of the walls and the macau chairs in dining rook on page 99 is the perfect combination of traditional and contemporary.  I have always craved these chairs for to cap my breakfast table Macau Side Chairs Set of 2- Ballard Designs.

Treats: Places to travel, shops to see, and all other odds and ends to treat ourselves.

This month's scenic route was a little circle around the coastal area of southwestern Alabama. It featured quaint places to stop and try from Mobile to Fairhope to Dauphin Island. Growing up we took many beach trips down to Gulf Shores and passed these places repeatedly. Hopefully this summer we can stop and savor a little bit of their personalities rather than driving through with only thoughts of golden sands on our minds. I know the Key Lime Bread Pudding at The Wash House looked rather tempting.

There is a beautiful spread of the Texas Hill Country on pages 83-89. My dear husband might be gathering a new client in Austin and I am already planning a little weekend getaway to this area of Texas. The pictures of bluebonnets, fields of lavender, kayaking the Medina, and driving through rustic scenery are so alluring.

Eats: Pages and pages of delicious recipes.
There are six pages in this issue that are dedicated to bacon-y goodness recipes. The Bacon Herb Cupcakes, Bacon-Peanut Truffles and Dressy Saltines are itching to make it on my recipe to-do list.

My heart has a special place just for pound cakes and this issue had some beauties on pages 111-116. I think the Pound Cake with Balsamic Strawberries and Basil Whipped Cream was the most enticing.

Next week my Weekly Menu is definitely going to include the Roasted Sesame Pork Tenderloin with Asian Slaw found on page 118. It looks super easy and packed with flavor.

There is a whole page on 122 devoted to Red Beans and Rice and all the different ways you can cook them. This girl LOVES some red beans and rice. I can't wait to try their recipe for the crock pot.

Last but definitely not least, the Peach and Pecan Muffins on page 129 are going to be whipped up and popped in the freezer. This will be great to have on hand for mornings where we are crunched for time and would can pop these in the microwave.

This is where the real fun begins. I would like to give away:

One 12-month Subscription to Southern Living

  • 1st Entry:  Leave me a comment here telling me something that you found interesting from this month's Southern Living. Whether from something you read on this post or in the line at the grocery.
  • 2nd Entry: Become a follower and then leave a comment saying "I stalk Deep South Sweets"
  • Bonus Entry: If you know how to create a fan page on Facebook, email me at and tell me how (I am little technology illiterate).
Giveaway ends Friday, March 4 at 8:00 pm EST

Don't forget to check out the Chapter Five Discussion of One Thousand Gifts.

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The Sweet Life: One Thousand Gifts Chapter Five

Chapter Five Video:

Since I am behind in chapter discussions, I am going to share a few of my favorite points on this chapter. This chapter is one that took me awhile to "get through". There was so much thought provoking material that spoke deep into my heart. I go to a weekly bible study called Community Bible Study (phenomenal and world-wide if you are looking for something) and we have been studying 1 Peter. This chapter went hand in hand with our study of 1 Peter - hmm maybe God is really trying to get a message through this mind.

I may be bottling this chapter up differently than others but I think words on a page can speak differently to each of us and what we are battling at the moment. After spending time over the last few chapters writing down our gratitude towards God, Ann leads us into the thought of how do we find gratitude within the struggles, sufferings, and injustices?

Here are some of my favorite excerpts to think on:

On page 87, it reads:
"To read His message in moments, I'll need to read His passion on the page; wear the lens of the Word, to read His writing in the world. Only the Word is the answer to rightly reading the Word, because The Word has nail-scarred hands that cup our face close, wipe away the tears running down, his eyes look deep into our brimming ache, and whisper, "I know. I know."... the lens I wear of the Word is not abstract idea but the eyes of God-Man who came and knows the pain."
Page 88
"Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened and just as I have planned so it will stand. Isaiah 14:24. As God it stands."
 "All God makes is good. Can it be that, that which seems to oppose the will of God actually is used of Him to accomplish the will of God? That which seems evil only seems so because of perspective, the way the eyes see the shadows. Above the clouds, light never stops shining."
Page 97:
"It is suffering that has the realest possibility to bear down and deliver grace. And grace that chooses to bear the cross of suffering overcome that suffering."
"God wastes nothing-"makes everything work out according to his plan." Ephesians 1:11"
Ann talks about how this is the HARD eucharisteo. We need to step back and examine our lens. Perspective makes a HUGE difference. In my trial of this moment in life, I have had to make a daily choice for perspective. That doesn't mean that every day I stray far from the "this isn't fair" mindset, but that instead of saying "why me" I ask "why not me". Why wouldn't God choose to show His glory and grace to me not just in the beautiful times of life, but also in the ugly, tear-stained times. What perspective will you choose? Will you choose to see God's grace and allow Him to reveal His glory even in the hardest of hard?

Page 99:
"The ugly can be beautiful. The dark can give birth to life; suffering can deliver grace."
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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Deep South Eats: Broccoli Cheese Soup

Everyone raise your hands if you lived in the South (a little bit more towards the West) and ate at a Black Eyed Pea on Sundays after church. This girl did and as a child I always ordered the Broccoli Cheese Soup or the Kids Pot Roast. Living large folks...really...that kid had some extreme taste buds... Well this soup stuck with me, probably more on my hips as I grew older than on my brain, and I have scoured the internet to find the closest replica. It is quick. It is easy. It is super duper awesome.

Please excuse the picture of soup in Tupperware, but I took it as I was packing my dinner for work - just keeping it real folks!


  • 1 1/2 pounds of fresh broccoli
  • 1 pint half-and-half
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 lb. Velveeta (I used the 2% milk version and it was just as good)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup cold water
  • Steam broccoli until tender. I prefer mine crispier.
  • Mix half-and-half and 2 cups of water in double boiler in top of double boiler. Okay lets be double boiler will in no way handle all this I rocked an old stock pot and stirred VERY frequently to prevent sticking.
  • Add cheese, salt, and pepper and allow cheese to melt. Cutting your cheese into cubes will provide quicker even melting.
  • Add the broccoli.
  • Mix cornstarch and cold water in small bowl, and stir into cheese mixture.
  • Heat through stirring super frequently until soup thickens. Watch closely because it will quicken...quickly.
This is great served with crusty french rolls and apple slices. Even the little nut loves this soup! 

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Monday, February 21, 2011

The Sweet Kitchen: Whats on the Menu?

Some weeks you have I have it all together (gross exaggeration) and am able to cook all that I plan. With working every other day last week it so didn't happen. I was quick to freeze what could be salvaged and turn it into meal's for this week!

Monday: Smoked Sausage, The Lady's Cheesy Mac (as in Paula Deen, THE lady), Steamed Fresh Broccoli
Tuesday: Almond Chicken and Rice Casserole, Kernel Corn, Raspberries
Wednesday: Breakfast for Dinner: Scrambled Ham and Eggs, Fruit, Muffins
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, Italian Chopped Salad, Garlic Knots
Saturday: Grilled Chicken Teriyaki Sandwiches, Oven Fries, Roasted Veggies
Sunday: Small Group Meal

What are you all eating at your house this week? I would love to hear what you guys are up to! I found some more great recipes in The Lady and Sons cookbook that I cannot wait to try in the upcoming weeks. With their usage of butter we will have to spread the wealth over a decent period of time!

Things to look forward to in the next few days: One Thousand Gifts Chapter Five Discussion - tomorrow night - better late than never, The Southern Manual aka Southern Living March Edition, and the most delicious Broccoli Cheese Soup.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

The Sweet Life: One Thousand Gifts Chapter Four

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
Chapter Four Video Link:

This chapter hit near and dear to my heart. The title itself says it all: "A Sanctuary of Time". How do you treat your time? Do you spend your time rushing, rushing, rushing, finishing one task to move along to the next or are you savoring each moment? I know I personally really struggle with not treating my time as if it were valuable. In the book it reminds us of the common saying that "time is money" but Ann puts a spin on this that time is more than money. Time is life. In order to achieve the fullest life we need to seek out the fullest time.

I really appreciated Ann pointing out that she cannot think of a single advantage she has gained from being in a hurry. I agree with this so much that my heart hurts for the things I have disgraced in my haste. I have been impatient with people, I haven't applied myself to the fullest extent but given a half effort, I haven't listened but ignored. The list could go on and on. What it boils down to is that when I rush and hurry about thinking my time is so precious and important, I cause pain and problems rather than glorifying the Lord.

And why do we hurry? What are we seeking beyond the next step, the next day, the next big project? God doesn't say he will meet us in the future, but he says "I AM". God is in the here and now and wants to meet us in the present. He doesn't want to be penciled in on a Thursday at 2 o'clock. He wants you to seek him in this moment. When we seek out the eucharisteo, the blessings God gives us, we stop and savor the moment we are in. When I stop racing around and seek Him, I am able to enjoy the beauty right here, right now. We seek Him in the moment we are in, our attention slows down and we find our time becomes abundant.

Writing down these blessing becomes a discipline and as I have found recently, in agreement with Ann, it is a stress reliever. It takes me from worry and anxiety to appreciation and thankfulness. It puts me dead center in the middle of the moment and not be wondering "what will happen next".

I leave you until Sunday's discussion (if I make it here on time) of Chapter Five with this quote from page 76.
" But time is not running out. This day is not a sieve, losing time. With each passing minute, each passing year, there's this deepening awareness that I am filling, gaining time. We stand on the brink of eternity."
Over the next few days work on being aware of the moment you are in and find thankfulness and appreciation for all He has blessed you with in that moment. Need to catch up on past chapters? Click on the "Bloom" link on the left.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Deep South Eats: Quiche Lorraine

OOO boy this is one of my favorite brunch dishes (sounds a bit like OOO cher looks like you gotta cajun in your pocket). I use it for all sorts of meals and occasions and it is simple and elegant. Over the years I have been able to perfect the cooking time and temperature to make it JUUUUUUUSSSST right! Serve it for breakfast brunch with some muffins, Poppyseed Bread, and/or fruit, or serve it for lunch dinner with a large garden salad.

  • 1, 9-inch pie crust (I prefer Marie Callenders deep dish to hold all the ingredients without spillage)
  • 12 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1/3 cup minced onion
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups of light cream
  • 3/4 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. white sugar
  • 1/8 t. cayenne pepper
  • Place pie crust on foil lined baking sheet.
  • Layer bacon, cheese and onion evenly in the bottom of your pie crust
  • Whisk together eggs, cream, salt, sugar, and cayenne pepper in a medium bowl.
  • Pour mixture evenly over bacon, cheese and onion into the pie shell (If using a deep dish shell it will come right to the top)
  • Carefully place baking sheet with pie crust in the refrigerator to chill for a few hours or preferably overnight. You can cook this without chilling, but the consistency will not be as firm.
  • When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Bake quiche on baking sheet in preheated oven for 15 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to 325 and bake an additional 30 minutes. 
  • To check for "doneness" (yeah not sure if that is a word but work with me), insert knife 1 inch from edge and check to see if it comes out clean.
  • Allow quiche to sit for 10 minutes.
  • Cut into wedges and serve.
Don't forget to check out What's on the Menu from Monday and look forward to a One Thousand Gifts post tonight or tomorrow.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Sweet Kitchen: Whats on the Menu?

Well I was busy working on a post about how to do Valentine's Day in a simple way but still make it special. Halfway through typing that booger out I realized that it would sort of be a day late buck short sort of situation. Oh well, maybe some of you will stick around to hear it next year around Valentine's Day.

On to more important things...I'd like to reinstate what's on the menu. This time though I would love for you other bloggers to copy the picture above, make a post on your blog and then leave me a comment. This way I can go read about all of your lovely menus and be inspired!!

Monday 2/14: Filet with Red Wine Reduction, Parmesan Risotto, Caesar Salad (a little Valentine's surprise for my dear husband - shhh don't tell)
Tuesday 2/15 (Work Night): Buffalo Chicken Salads (using leftover buffalo chicken strips from Sunday lunch out) and Sliced Grapes
Wednesday 2/16: Spaghetti with Meat Sauce and Garlic Green Beans
Thursday 2/17 (Work Night): Broccoli Cheddar Soup with Ham, Crusty French Rolls, and Apple Slices
Friday 2/18: Almond Chicken and Rice Casserole, Corn Kernels, and Sugared Raspberries
Saturday 2/19 (Work Night): Leftovers/Clean out the fridge
Sunday 2/20: Make-up Small Group Meal

Let me know if you would like to see any of these recipes featured and I would love to pass them on to you and your family. I am planning to showcase a Quiche Lorraine recipe that I am taking to our brunch at Community Bible Study. Don't forget to check out the Chapter Three Discussion of One Thousand Gifts if you missed!

with Belles and Beauxs

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Sweet Life: One Thousand Gifts Chapter Three

Chapter Three is the chapter of discovering the list. The list of eucharisteo, and acknowledgement and "unwrapping the gifts he bestows".

Check out the video chat with Ann Voskamp:

Think about all the lists we make in life. Grocery lists, to-do lists, packing lists, etc. How many times can you say you receive joy out of making the list? I mean crazy people like me tend to love to make lists and check off things (sometimes even writing down things that we have already done in order to check it off). At the end of the day, I can truly say I gain no long-lasting joy over my to-do list or my grocery list, even if it is broken down by the order I walk through the store. In actuality, I become anxious or disgruntled because of my lists. I gain frustration over my inability to accomplish "enough" or a monotonous task such as grocery shopping that must be done week after week.

What if there was a list that would guide me to "overcome my habit of ingratitude...learn eucharisteo... to live fully...being thankful whether empty or full"?  Sign me up! Ann explains how she was dared to write down 1,000 things she is thankful for. Discovering, as stated in the video, "the things we see each day but sleepwalk through and allowing them to awaken joy in you". Making a list such as this conjures up the picture of sitting at a bridal shower or baby shower with the person to your left carefully detailing the gift opened and the giver of that gift. All of this written down so that we can return the thanks with a thoughtful, heartfelt thank you note (you all know I have strong feelings regarding thank you notes). We are listing the things for which we are thankful to have received as gifts. Why don't we do this in regards to God? He showers us with gifts more abundantly than those that can be wrapped in shiny paper with a coordinating ribbon, but often we sit down and send out a blanket thank you to God for "all he has given us."

Are we thankful for all that he has given us? Of course, but God gifts us opportunities to discover joy in the minute, unique details of life. I love what Ann had to say on page 57:
"But in the counting of gifts, to one thousand, more, I discover that slapping a sloppy brush of thanksgiving over everything in my life leaves me deeply thankful for very few things in my life."
Instead let us realize that we are made for praise to him. Can we accept a dare to "name all the ways that God loves me"? On page 59:
"And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me"
When we use our mental capacity to dwell in thankfulness to Him we eliminate a little bit more wasting of our time in anxiety, ingratitude, and frustration.

Can we accept the challenge to find 1,000 blessings? You don't have to be "a brilliantly great writer, you just have to recognize God's love". Open your senses to the daily blessings around you no matter how small and seemingly insignificant, and write down the things that God is giving to you. Don't worry about being poetic (that is definitely not this girls gift) but find blessing even in the nitty gritty.

I will share my first three with you:
1. Smooth Sunday morning getting dressed and mouths fed (rarely happens)
2. A drool stained shoulder from sweet baby "kisses"
3. Opportunity to ease a friend's frustration and anxiety by taking her child for the evening.

These are all things that happen regularly, but by opening my heart to a beat of thankfulness, I find joy in the day-to-day, the here and now.

There are so many things I want to share from this chapter that touched me in a multitude of ways, but at the end of the day finding a list of thankfulness in your life hits the nail on the head. I leave you with these thoughts of Ann's as you think about accepting the dare to list "One Thousand Gifts":
"Life change comes when we receive life with thanks and ask for nothing to change" page 61
"Change takes real intentionality" page 43

Leave me a comment telling me what the start of your list of "One Thousand Gifts" looks like, and I can't wait to see what Chapter Four has in store for us. Need to play catch up? Check out Chapter One and Chapter Two discussions.

with Belles and Beauxs 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saturday Sweets: Tearing Up My Heart Valentines

When I saw these adorable valentines over at Dana Made-It and Lullaby Lubbock, I was absolutely smitten and convinced that this is what my little nut would take for her preschool valentines. The wonderful thing about this project is that you can make it as easy (using staples or tape) or as complicated (sewing) as you want. I decided to go with sewing because I doubted the preschool teachers would appreciate stapled valentines. I printed off an extra on plain white paper so that the nut could color some of her own and be involved. We worked on scissor skills helping her cut the hearts and then she diligently stuffed the candy into her valentines (with washed hands of course) one by one.

Grab some super cute scrapbook paper from your local craft store. Preferably a standard sheet of 8x11 printer paper. I wasn't satisfied with the standard printer size craft paper so I bought the large paper and cut it down to size. You will want one sheet of paper per two valentines.

Download the PDF over at Dana Made-It and print those bad boys out. I just love the phrases. My printer and I had to have some good "come to Jesus meetings to get them to print". Thankfully he behaved after a little time out. 

Sit down to your favorite DVR'd show and cut, cut, cut. And then cut a little more! Once they are cut out match them up with their backs and get them ready to be sewn. I found that for some reason the "Tearing up my heart" didn't match up as well with the matching back. I will explain my solution in a minute.

Sew around the border of the heart leaving a one inch(ish) spot at the top of the heart to stuff with candy. Trim the strings and use a sharpie to color in the white paper seen around where the edges didn't meet exactly.

 Use a toothpick or your (clean) finger to open up the hole in the top. This may break a few seams, but don't worry because you can fix them when you sew the opening closed.

Look at those sweet little hands stuffing the candy into the hearts! Wash your kiddos hands up good (I promise I am not a germaphobe just don't like the idea of handling candy other kids will eat with dirty fingers). Then let them stuff the chosen candy (jelly beans, M&Ms, the ideas are endless) into each heart. We were able to get about 20 M&Ms into each heart. Of course I had to text my mom (she was a teacher for years) and make sure 20 M&Ms was sufficient (I told her not to laugh when I texted that question).

Once each heart is sufficiently full make sure there is enough room to flatten out and sew closed. Run those bad boys through the sewing machine to close them up!

You can now finish them off any way you like. I used the leftover paper to make little tags since the schools directions were just to address who they were from.

We had to stop last night and enjoy a little Valentine's breakfast for dinner with blueberry muffins died pink, strawberry hearts, scrambled eggs in red cups, and bacon hearts.

I hope you have enjoyed this little craft adventure. I am absolutely in love with them and the little nut is SO proud to take them to school.

Don't forget to check out the Deep South Home: Jack and Jill Bath post and stay tuned for One Thousand Gifts: Chapter Three tomorrow.

with Belles and Beauxs

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Deep South Home: Jack and Jill Bath

One of the things that made me fall in love with our current house is the jack and jill bath upstairs. It is designed so that it can only be accessed from the two bedrooms and provides plenty of space for our little nut and one day another nut to share a bathroom. 

Unfortunately the shower and toilet area has been neglected in terms of design. Partly because no one has to see it right now, but mostly because having an empty "future nursery" on the other end can prove daunting when coming up with a color scheme that will eventually incorporate another room. I have now adapted the mindset of "who cares" and have decided to give that bathroom a little love.

My little nuts room is a beautiful display of soothing ballet slipper pinks, cherry tree pinks, and a deep espresso brown. It is all about the fabrics and prints in her room. One day when I feel like it, I will post a picture for you all to see. The fabric that was originally her crib skirt, now long gone, was an awesome embroidered chocolate brown silk. It had pink, green, aqua, and yellow flowers embroidered all over. I have been wondering for quite some time now what to do with the crib skirt since it cost a fortune and I still LOVE it. I saw this picture over at Design Dazzle and was completely smitten.
I just love the aqua-cherry pink combo. I immediately went into the creative process as soon as I saw this. My plan is to take the silk crib skirt and make it into a ruffle for the bottom of a tall shower curtain and use the rest for a little cafe curtain on the window above the toilet (seriously it is a large window to go right above a toilet). Next I want to paint the bathroom one of these adorable shades from the Martha Stewart paint collection. They are Enamelware (lighter shade) and Sunken Pool (darker shade). I am leaning towards the darker shade while my husband prefers the light. I am hoping to win this debate!

Incandescent light up top and daylight below. There is a great wire rack with hooks in the garage that is going to get a fresh coat of brown paint to go on the wall and hang towels. Now let the accessory collecting begin! It is going to be so fun to continue sharing these home improvement projects with you all as I go. Remember I am quick to create and slow to follow through!! Leave me a comment telling me what projects you are thinking of tackling in your own home.

Don't forget to check out the Chapter Two Discussion of One Thousand Gifts.

with Belles and Beauxs

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Sweet Life: One Thousand Gifts Chapter Two

I would like to start this post off with a little disclaimer. I have heard from several of you, that the writing style has been difficult to get into. I agree in some ways that writing style is different than what I typically read. One recommendation I would give is that before reading, pray that God will allow the words and thoughts from your reading time to stick with you and encourage spiritual growth. Just prayers for clarity while reading can really help me to gain a deeper understanding. I just don't want anyone to feel like it is too "out there" for them because there are so many enriching words on these pages.

Without further ado... here is the link to the Chapter Two video with Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts,

I fumbled through the first pages as Ann described waking each morning after dream sequences. To be honest I was very confused! The video brought a tremendous amount of understanding to her usage of dream sequences. What is lying in our past that we allow to effect the way we start our days and control us? Are we challenged every morning to get out of bed because of our fear of failing, because someone in our lives years ago labeled us as a failure? I can recall a specific relationship in my life where I overheard someone refer to me as a failure. While that was many years ago, it continues to effect my relationship with this person and each interaction is shrouded by the weight of my fear of failure. Is living in these "nightmares" getting you anywhere? Have you made yourself "numb" to life  or do you want to fully live outside of these fears?

On page 27:
"To live either fully alive...or in empty nothingness? It's the in between that drives us mad. It's the life in between, the days of walking lifeless, the years calloused and simply going through the hollow motions, the self-protecting and self-distracting, the body never waking, that's lost all capacity to fully feel-this is the life in between that makes us the wild walking dead." 
Are we walking through life like zombies? Just making it through? We know without a doubt that this world is temporary and we aren't sent to live forever. In other words, we have already been given a terminal diagnosis. Thankfully we have put our hope in salvation and that terminal diagnosis is one of hope instead of fear and uncertainty.  Are we living these numbered days just going through the motions? When he calls us home whoever, whenever, will we have lived fully or just empty? The question Ann poses at the end of page 29, stopped me in my tracks and the silence was deafening:
"How do we live fully so we are fully ready to die?"
Ann talks about being in a beauty salon and overseeing a woman read 1000 places to see before you die. I couldn't even begin to count the times I have said to my husband or close friend: "I hope to do/see _______ someday." I don't think there is anything wrong with hopes and dreams, and I certainly don't think that Ann is finding fault in this. I do think she is making the point that we have all the wonder we need where we are. In the video she asks:
"Do we think the beauty is only “out there” or are we stopping to recognize that the beauty is right here, right now? God is here right here right now"
Are we searching, struggling and wasting hours to see the wonder that is magnificently displayed right before us? I know for me I am often so caught up in day-to-day life that stopping and seeing the beauty, the unusual, within the usual is a battle for me. I find myself, like Ann, only focused on the let-downs and disappointment. So here we have this terminal diagnosis and we know that are days are numbered. God provides us the perfect example of a life that was destined to end and whose days were numbered through Christ. What, as Ann asks, did Jesus count the most important in his last hours? She then refers to Luke 22:19:
"And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it up to them.."
This is the meat of the story: Christ gave thanks which in Greek was eucharisteo. Ann then breaks this word into "charis" meaning grace and "chara" meaning joy. Is our ability to find true joy hidden and relying on our ability to give thanks fully? Love, love, love this:
"As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible. Joy is always possible....The holy grail of joy is not some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience...Here in the messy, piercing ache of now, joy...might be possible"
The three things Ann wants us to hold onto are: Charis=grace, Eucharisteo=thanksgiving, and Chara=joy. In the video she says it is like a braid of our Christianity.  Ann then uses the story of Lazarus and how Christ gave thanks first and foremost before Lazarus was raised from the dead.
"Eucharisteo - thanksgiving - always precedes the miracle."
What did you think of the story of the ten lepers and how Ann used it? I loved how she broke down that the leper who returned to give thanks was "sozo" completely saved! Is salvation closely related to our gratitude? Ann pointed out that when we show thanksgiving, we show evidence of our acceptance to what He has freely given us - His grace abundantly.

I truly can't wait to see where Ann goes with the concept of eucharisteo. I have already been challenged in my faith walk so much through her words and have dug deeper into the ways God wants to see me living in gratitude to Him. I pray each day for all of us as we walk this road to eucharisteo. Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts, challenges, or even the things you might not have disagreed with. I love hearing from you guys! Look forward to discussing Chapter Three on Sunday.

with Belles and Beauxs

Monday, February 7, 2011

Deep South Eats: Balsamic Chicken with Sweet Onions and Thyme

As I posted earlier this year, I am trying to post more flab friendly recipes. The key word there is "trying". I am a girl that LOVES food and LOVES to try new recipes. It can be very challenging to find healthy recipes that are exciting and actually look appetizing. This recipe was a true gem in the world of rice cakes and tasteless mystery meat. I would even be hard pressed to describe it as healthy as the flavor was out of this world. I guess since it is only 5 points I will go ahead and award it the Girl Scout healthy badge. Iron that bad boy on to your vest!


  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp table salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp pepper, divided
  • 1 pound uncooked, boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 small vidalia onion, cut in half lengthwise and sliced very thinly
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (I actually realized into the cooking process that I was out of balsamic and only had raspberry balsamic - still delicious)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme chopped (save money and use 1/2 tsp dried thyme instead)
  • 2 tsp butter
  • Combine flour, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper in a small plate.
  • Dredge each chicken breast in mixture, turning to coat.
  • Heat oil in large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add chicken and cook, flipping once, until golden in color and cooked through, approx. 7 minutes (I prefer to use a meat thermometer to check chicken when cooking). Remove to a serving plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
  • Add onions to skillet and saute over medium-high heat until lightly browned, approx 4 minutes.
  • Add broth, balsamic vinegar, thyme, and remaining 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper.
  • Bring to a boil and stir often until onions are tender, approx 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and stir in butter until melted.
  • Each serving is one 4 oz serving of chicken with 1/4 cup of onion sauce served over chicken. 
  • Serves 4 and goes nicely with mashed potatoes and a steamed veggie.
Happy healthy eating! Don't forget to check out the Chapter One post for One Thousand Gifts and look forward to a Chapter Two post this coming Wednesday.

with Belles and Beauxs

*Original recipe adapted from Weight Watchers

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Sweet Life: One Thousand Gifts Chapter One

If you have already completed the first chapter, go on over to Bloom and check out the discussion video with Ann, the author:

Where to start...where to start? This chapter far exceeded my expectations for this book. I was definitely reading the first chapter in a Taco Bell parking lot, spicy chicken taco in hand, sobbing over the things I was mentally confronting. I am sure the other patrons were freaked out by the "crazy" in the white SUV. The Lord definitely knew what he was doing when he placed this book in my path. There are many situations in my past and present life in which I have warred over the Lord's work in them and through them.

Ann opened the chapter telling the story of witnessing the tragic death of her young sister. I appreciated her using the story not for glorified drama but used its simplicity and sorrow to confront our questions we may ask of God. What are the events and tragedies in your life that have jolted you awake? When we have been complacent in our faith and/or going with the flow, what has happened in our life that has snapped us to question/think about the reality of our faith? They bring us to our knees and allow us to search our depths for His existence within us. On page 12, Ann asks:
"How do I wake up to joy and grace and beauty and all that is the fullest life when I must stay numb to losses and crushed dreams and all that empties me out?" 
It made me really think about all the times that I cannot see beyond my hurts, pains and broken-heartedness to what the Lord has placed before me. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my own disappointment that I cannot even bear to look at what God may have provided through that sorrow.

The discussion on page 15 of:
          "In the beginning our eyes were already open. Our sight was perfect. Our vision let us see a world   spilling with goodness. Our eyes fell on nothing but the glory of God. We saw God as He truly is: good. But we were lured by the deception that there was more to see: the ugliness we hadn't beheld, the sinfulness we hadn't witnessed, the loss we hadn't known."
was very challenging for me. Maybe I interpreted this differently than others, but I was really thrown by the idea that in the beginning, God was enough for me. He nourished me. He was my rock. I turned to Him in the valleys. Have I been deceived into thinking that God and His plans may not be good enough for me? Have I allowed worldly ways to worm their way into my thoughts that I would think that when God doesn't provide for my specifications I feel rejected. Instead, I am to use my disappointments, failures and losses in this world to commune with Him and have relationship. To turn to Him when I am struck by the losses in life rather than cast blame within the losses. This weeks video gave me a quote to stick with:
"You can only see light when you have dark"
I cannot look with hope to my salvation and eternity with Him when everything here in the world is perfect and peachy keen. The hope in Him is enriched through our valley journeys. We allow that hope and communion with Him to be "birthed out of woundedness."
"Maybe you don't want to change the story, because you don't know what a different ending holds."
This alone was gut wrenching for me. I can't think of the times I have uttered "if this could just be different". I need to stop placing limits on the capabilities of God when He tells me time and time again that He knows the full story. When I deeply desire and attempt to write my own life story I am limiting His ability to shine in glory through me and display His power and magnificence fully. The explanation of the "manna" that the Israelites ate for forty years in the desert, reminds us that sometimes we take what God gives whether it be understandable or simply a mystery. We allow him to provide whether in clarity or mystery. Can we use the holes in our heart, as Ann asks, to see beyond the hurts that put them there and see Him? As Angie states in the video,
"In the midst of our situation, whether we like it or not, we have to acknowledge WHO God is."
I want to finish with a line from the video:
"Reading this book is a chance to see life differently - will we default to resentment or gratitude."
Now you tell me. What impacted your faith life specifically? What challenged you? I really do desire to hear your words and thoughts whether you agree or disagree. Whether in private or in comments, what is your response to some of the questions throughout the chapter and discussion? I look forward to hearing from you and encourage you to even link up on your own blog. We will discuss Chapter 2 this coming Wednesday and I cannot wait to sit down and together grow in God.

with Belles and Beauxs

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Deep South Eats: Poppyseed Bread

Bread might be a little bit of a healthy exaggeration whereas cake may be a little more appropriate. Who cares! This "bread" is absolutely delicious and simple to make. This is a tried and true family recipe that some of you may recognize is served at a decently popular lunch place in Nashville (my 2nd cousin's restaurant). Darby, over at Fly Through our Window did a little High and Low post this week, and I thought I would carry it into my recipe post.

High: You can appropriately serve this bread at any time of day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snack - all acceptable.
Low: You have an excuse to eat this all day long. Read: Don't be expecting a thank you note in the mail from your waistline any time soon.

High: Your friends will beg for this recipe and rave over how delicious and easy it is.
Low: You will excel to fame quickly and end up in rehab or you may just run out of recipe cards on this baby.

High: You will be able to make this in your sleep it is so easy.
Low: If you took an Ambien the night before and wake up with burned hands but the house smells like a delicious bake shop, you may have actually made this in your sleep.

Onto the more important business:

  • 3 cups of flour
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups of milk (doesn't matter what "strength" you have, I have used anything from skim to milk, it will just change the richness factor)
  • 1 1/2 cups of vegetable oil (I prefer canola)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp. each of vanilla, almond, and butter flavoring (please try and use the real deal for the vanilla and almond - no imitation except the butter)
  • Glaze:
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 1/4 cup orange juice
    • 1/2 tsp. each of vanilla, almond and butter
  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Grease and flour 2 loaf pans.
  • Combine all the main ingredients and beat for 2 minutes in an electric mixer on medium speed.
  • Pour equally into your 2 loaf pans.
  • Bake for 1 hour. Toothpick should come out relatively clean when poked in the middle.
  • Combine all ingredients for glaze and whisk with wire whisk. Pour over the bread immediately after removing from oven (I do this while it is still in the pans and let them cool almost completely. Run a knife around the edge and patiently pop those bad boys out.)
Goes well for a ladies lunch with Tomato Basil Soup or for breakfast/brunch with Mix n Match Breakfast Casserole.

with Belles and Beauxs