Monday, August 30, 2010

Psalm 139

I had a rough day today, and when I finally got home and into my comfy chair in the study, I flipped open my Bible and immediately turned to Psalm 139. It's my favorite Psalm these days. I've underlined the heck out of it and read it over and over, and it always has a fresh word for me no matter what I'm facing. When I feel conflicted and full of turmoil, this Psalm comforts me. For the sake of space, I'm going to focus on verses 1-18.

"O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord."
Sometimes I look back over my day and I replay every action, conversation, and email, and I beat myself up for not doing it as well as I could have. I try to think how I would have done it differently and how I failed at this and what people are going to think and how I'm going to do better next time. What a comfort and relief it is to know that God knows all that is within me - the good, bad, and very, very ugly - and he has not left me yet. My co-workers may look down on me if I drop the ball, and people in my life may think less of me when I mess up, but God knows everything I have done in a day - including every word and thought and movement, and he still loves me.

You hem me in - behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty to attain.
This is probably my favorite part. I'm someone who loves comfort, who used to be tucked into my bed each night by my parents. What a wonderful image of our God who goes behind us and before us and tucks us in-between since we can not be trusted to go off on our own. Thankfully, he will never leave us. He will always prepare a way for us and then follow behind to help us, comfort us, and clean up our messes. This part of the Psalm became very real for me last week when I went to Detroit, Michigan for four days to train a team of English teachers at a school there. How I got there is completely God's doing - he orchestrated connections and relationships in my life that have taken me places I never thought I'd go. As I looked out my hotel window in Detroit across the river to Canada, I marveled at how I had gotten there solely by God's doing. It became clear that God had gone before me even there in Michigan. The whole trip felt right, as if it were all planned out before I came to be, which I know is true. I loved the teachers and administration, and the training went smoothly. They are even opening a "YES" school there which I was unaware of - I visited and it was like walking into my school in Houston - exactly the same. How marvelous is our God. I would never think to ask or even imagine that God would put a YES school in Michigan and then send me there, but he did it all the same.

Where can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee from you presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
Weather I wander physically all over the country or mentally when Satan makes me despair, God is with me. There is NO WHERE I can go where he will not be. What a wonderful thought to have every day of my life.

If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me", even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
What seems like the darkest situation to me is light to God. There is NOTHING he can't handle - he's teaching me to go to him with the littlest requests for my job all the way to major life decisions. How comforting that even the evil of this world can be used for good because it it is all light to God.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; you works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.
If I feel guilty that I didn't workout or I ate an extra helping of dinner or realize I will NEVER look like the girl on the cover of Shape magazine, it doesn't matter. God has made me exactly how he wanted to make me, and nothing I can do (or NOT do) can change that.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
The beauty of this verse almost leaves me breathless. Nothing I can do will thwart God's plan for my life. God has planned works in advance for me to do. All I have to do is walk in his word.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.
This is the part of the psalm that fills my eyes with tears every time. The creator of the universe, the holy Lord of all the Earth thinks of ME more times than there are grains of sand. This brings a great satisfaction to my soul that I can hardly express. So maybe I got a negative comment on a survey about my work or maybe I'm not recognized for something I do, or maybe I feel lonely, or maybe I totally messed up and I want to hide. None of that matters because no matter what I've done, God thinks of me and he loves me. And when tomorrow comes, his mercies will be new and I will still be with him.

I praise you, Lord, for your wonderful, beautiful, and true word.

If you haven't checked out Psalm 139, I highly recommend it. It's a good one :-)


Sunday, August 22, 2010

No-Recipe Chicken Kebabs

As much as I'd like to, I can not take credit for this no-recipe favorite. I heard about these chicken kebabs by browsing the blog of a friend-of-a-friend, Annalee. You know how that works. I love reading about her cute kiddos and her busy mom strategies. I'm not a mom, but I'm busy, so I appreciate her tips and recipes. You should check out her blog here.

These chicken kebabs are slightly more labor intensive than the other no-recipe recipes I've posted due to the chopping and skewering. However, there is something strangely calming about putting these together. The last time I made them Brent said, "You're having fun, aren't you?" Well, yes, add a glass of wine and I'm having a blast! In all reality they are pretty quick. They also get you a good dose of veggies, are very versatile, and have a pop of decadent flavor with the addition of a little bacon. Everyone knows bacon makes anything better. Finally, the unique spice rub you sprinkle on top gives this dish a special touch. Annalee advertised it as a "no grill" meal that tastes like it's fresh off the grill. It's totally true. Love it!

Step 1: Chop up your ingredients of choice into small bites. Put each chopped ingredient in a separate bowl for easy skewering later. I use: whole mushrooms, bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, and chicken breasts. You could also use pineapple, squash, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, pork, shrimp... I mean really anything.

Step 2: Cut a few pieces of bacon in half. Wrap half of your chicken pieces in bacon. I like to wrap only half of my chicken pieces so I have that bacon taste but I don't go overboard. The plain chicken pieces are delish, too.

Step 3: Get artistic and skewer your ingredients however you'd like. I'm a bit OCD so I like to follow a pattern: mushroom, bell pepper, jalapeno, chicken. Sometimes I get crazy and put two mushrooms in a row. You can use metal skewers like I have or you can buy wooden ones at the grocery store for like $2. Drizzle the completed skewers with a little olive oil and Kosher salt.

Step 4: As you finish the skewers, place them across a rimmed cookie sheet so that they are not touching the bottom of the sheet (see picture below). This is important because you want the veggies and chicken to get crispy and brown. They will get really juicy while cooking, so laying them across the cookie sheet lets you collect the liquid without letting your kebabs get soggy.
Step 4: In a small bowl, mix equal amounts of brown sugar and chili powder. Sprinkle liberally over all the kebabs. I like to spin mine around so the chili/sugar goodness gets all over. This spice mix gives the kebabs a great color and a spicy/sweet kick once they're cooked. You can't skip this step. It's pretty important.

Step 5: Cook in the oven at high heat (I think I use like 410). Watch it and cook just until chicken is opaque. Then, turn the broiler on high for five minutes or so to crisp up the bacon and finish roasting everything else.

Step 6: Remove from oven and serve! They are really good with a small baked potato. And, like all good no-recipe meals, they are FABULOUS left over.

Thanks, Annalee for this new Norwood family favorite! Happy cooking!


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Let's Hear it For the Boys!

Did you know?? Very soon I'm getting a NEPHEW and a BROTHER! AND... my cousin just had a baby boy adding another stud to the family! I am blessed by these great boys, and I couldn't be more excited about the new additions!

To start, my precious sister-in-law Wendy and her husband Luke are expecting their first baby in September. It's a boy, and we can't wait to meet the little guy! I'm pretty certain he's going to be freaking cute. Here are some pics of her recent baby shower:

Wendy with her Grammy, Maureen. Aren't they cute?

Wendy opening one of her two adorable diaper cakes. Because you have to have at least two diaper cakes in order to have a baby. (Duh)
Praise God that I am friends with T-Rog, The Loj, cReams, Bradley, Lynch, and L-Merc who are baby shower EXPERTS. By reading their copious baby shower posts, I became aware of the famous "blessing branch". So, I straight up stole the idea and made this blessing branch for Wendy's shower. It turned out cute! The cards had little footprints and said "tiny little thing, great big blessing".

After we welcome baby Patterson in September, I'm getting a BROTHER in March! That's right... my sister Julia is engaged!!!!!! She got engaged last month to her amazing fiance, Darrell. He's super sweet and perfect for her. We've had lots of fun getting to know him at family gatherings. Alas, he lives in Virginia, so Julia will be a true Virginian now. That's OK... we knew it would happen! We're going to celebrate a beautiful Southern wedding in March in Charlottesville. I am officially old because I am Julia's "Matron" of honor. But it's OK... it will be super fun!

Darrell proposed at a beautiful barn where they met for the first time at a friend's wedding.
So sweet!
Here's the rock!
... And as if that wasn't enough joy, my oldest cousin Lee and his wife Jamie just had a beautiful baby boy named Parker Drew (cutest name ever!) Here is my cousin Lee with his new son. This is the same cousin who used to make farting noises with his armpits and chase me around my grandmother's house until he smacked into me and knocked my teeth out, so it's heartwarming (OK, kind of jarring) to see him with his own baby!! Just kidding Lee... you'll be a great dad!! I'm not sure what Parker would be to me relationally. Brent insists that he's my cousin-nephew, so I guess that's it. Meet my cousin-nephew, Parker:
Little Parker at his first photo shoot. Adorbs.
Parker and his mama. I can't wait to squeeze this little man at our next family gathering!
So there you have it... it's the year of the boys. And I couldn't be happier. Joy abounds.


Monday, August 16, 2010

No-Recipe Steak Tacos

I have another no-recipe dinner for you! A special shout out to the three people who liked my last post on no-recipe cooking: my mom, my mother-in-law, and the fabulous Kate Gavos either already tried the meatballs or are going to. Today let's talk about my favorite food in the whole entire world: Tacos.

I've never met a taco I didn't like. Tacos are a definite standby in the Norwood household and I may or may not request Mexican food every time we go out to dinner. I definitely love the ground meat and taco shell variety, but here's an idea for an upscale, unique taco with sophisticated ingredients that comes together in mere minutes. You could definitely make this for company and pretend like it took all afternoon.

Step 1: Season a flank steak with salt and pepper (Improvise: You could also season the steak with chili powder, cumin, or whatever else you like.)

Step 2: Heat a bit of olive oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. Sear the flank steak on both sides (about 4 minutes per side). The steak will be slightly underdone, but that's OK - it's going to cook a bit more later. Let the steak rest on a cutting board in the meantime.

Step 3: Thinly slice 1 yellow onion and 1 or 2 poblano peppers. Add onions, peppers, and one package of exotic sliced mushrooms in olive oil in the same skillet you just used for the steak. (Improvise: You could also use red onion, green or red bell pepper, button mushrooms, or eliminate one of these ingredients). Add a little salt as the veggies saute.

Step 4: When the veggies are soft, slice the steak thinly and add back to the pan with the veggies. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes until everything is cooked to your liking and all the flavors meld together.

Step 5: Place some of the steak mixture on heated corn tortillas. (Improvise: Use whatever tortillas you like.) Top with store bought pico de gallo and store bought shredded cheddar. (Improvise: Use any salsa or cheese you have on hand. You could also add guacamole or sour cream). Heat up some microwave rice and you're done. Tacos are infinitely adaptable, and pretty delicious, so I love that this one uses a lot of healthy veggies and lean flank steak along with healthier corn tortillas. Hope you enjoy!


Thursday, August 12, 2010

No-Fail, No-Recipe Spaghetti & Meatballs

School has been super busy lately with lots of late nights, so I find myself relying more and more on my favorite "no-fail, no-recipe" meals. Basically, I have a list of meals in my head that are quick, easy, healthy, and DELICIOUS. These meals find their way onto my menu just about every week, sometimes two or three times a week. This week, I have been glad to have an arsenal of no-recipe meals to whip up when I get home super late from work, church, and/or meetings.

These are meals that once started out as recipes - I'm sure that at one time I followed a recipe from my mom or a magazine. But over time, I've made them so much that I don't need a recipe anymore. With these meals, you can improvise, add things, take things away, and (most importantly) not measure anything. I love cooking no recipe meals, and you will too! Tonight I made no recipe spaghetti and turkey meatballs. We are on a kick with this one and seriously make it at least once a week. Here's how:

Step 1: Make meatballs by mixing the following ingredients in a bowl: one pound of lean ground turkey, Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, one egg, chopped parsley, salt, and red pepper flakes. Don't measure! Just throw in whatever looks good. If you don't have one of those ingredients, no big deal. Well, except for the turkey. That's kind of a big deal.

Step 2: Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Once oil is good and hot, place meatballs in the pan, not touching each other.
Step 3: Turn meatballs until every side is golden brown - yum!! Then, pour some chicken stock over the meatballs and simmer to cook through. This keeps them really moist and adds flavor. And you should always have chicken stock on hand.
Step 4: While the meatballs are cooking, boil water and throw in your favorite whole wheat spaghetti. For the sauce, just use your favorite jarred pasta sauce (easy enough!) I usually doctor mine up with some sauteed onions, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Right now I'm loving a marinara sauce from Bertoli with Burgundy wine... so delicious. You could make the sauce your own by adding mushrooms or anything else you like.

Step 5:
Toss together the pasta and sauce. Top with meatballs and Parmesan cheese, and eat up!!!
...and there you have it: homemade, healthy, no-recipe goodness. Yes, please. Can't wait to eat the leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

More no-fail, no-recipe posts to come!


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

It's Not Boot Season Yet...

... but I really, really wish it was.

I shopped a pre-season boot sale online at DSW (I love DSW more than the average person should) and ordered these little cuties:

They showed up on my doorstep today, and it was like Christmas in August. Today the heat index in Houston was 110 degrees, but that didn't stop me from putting on my new boots and walking around the house. I can not overstate how much I LOVE these boots! They are super soft and comfortable, have a cute wedge heel, and let's be honest... that ruffle had me at hello. And get this... they are only $59 at DSW!! Can you afford NOT to get them? I will be READY when that first cool wind blows and you better believe I'm wearing these babies the first chance I get.

As much as I love the boots, my favorite part about receiving them this evening was when I modeled them for my husband who would most likely place "boots" at a zero or negative one on his list of priorities. Nevertheless, I wanted him to admire the boots. He was busy working in the study, and the conversation went like this:

Me: Aren't these boots so freaking cute???
Brent (Not looking up, monotone): Yep.
Me: But, I mean do you like them?
Brent (Not looking up, monotone): For sure.
Me (pointing at the boot, as if this would help): But, did you SEE the cute RUFFLE?
Brent (Not looking up, monotone): Yeah, it's my favorite part.

Haha! God bless him.

Personally, I think the best way to beat the heat is to do a little online shopping and pick up some cool weather treats. You'll be glad you did come November. You're definitely going to need the ruffle boots that I got, and you're also going to need these:

And these:

And maybe even these:
Was that a cold draft I just felt? I thought so.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunday Snack

I committed the cardinal sin today by going to the grocery store hungry! I had a lot of food to buy since I've been gone for 3 weeks, so my shopping took a while. While I was shopping, I looked for a healthy snack that I could munch on in the car so that I didn't go crazy and eat everything in sight once I got home!

I've been eating a lot of nuts lately and they are such a good snack! I can eat a handful of walnuts and be full for hours - plus I feel like I'm doing something good for my heart. So when I saw these Sahale almonds, I knew I had found today's winner. They are so good, I deemed them blog-worthy. Each individual almond is glazed with a crisp coating of honey, chopped cranberries, sesame seeds, and a bit of sea salt. Yes, please! I'm always on the lookout for good salty/sweet snacks (you may remember the Fleur de Sel ice cream I was obsessed with along with many of my blogger friends - let us have a moment of silence for this ice cream that you can no longer purchase in stores.)

Anyway, I highly recommend the Sahale almonds, and I've heard that their other flavors are great, too! The package says it contains four servings, but strangely, mine only had two!
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