Thursday, October 27, 2011

Paul & Justin's Story

When I was in college at Texas A&M, I attended Breakaway for four years, and it literally changed my life.  Breakaway is a nondenominational, weekly Bible study on Texas A&M's campus.  It started in the '80s with just a few students in an apartment, and now it is held in Reed Arena (Texas A&M's basketball stadium!) where as many as 8,000 students gather every Tuesday to "break away" from college life to worship and meet with the Lord.  Breakaway has incubated a few worship stars - Chris Tomlin himself used to lead worship, and my freshman year we sang along with Shane & Shane.  Crazy!  The founding director of Breakaway, Gregg Matte, is such a faithful man of God who had a clear vision for just what God could do on A&M's campus. 

Breakaway has a huge team of volunteers that work through the campus and community on different projects.  As a student, I worked in the Breakaway office and volunteered on several teams.  Breakaway is one of the biggest things I miss about college, and I try to live vicariously through the newsletters and email updates I still get about the ministry.  Whenever I'm in College Station on a Tuesday night for recruiting or some other random reason, I always to to Breakaway, and I'm always overwhelmed with gratitude and excitement and praise for God's glory and the way he has moved so mightily on that campus to the degree that you can FEEL his presence when you arrive there. 

I finally live in a college town again, and I'm so excited to be here in a place where I have the opportunity to interact with college students and feel a bit of that old spark.  Last week, I got an email update about Breakaway, and it contained a link to this video:  Paul & Justin's Story.  I don't know if I was especially missing College Station or just needing some encouragement about how the Lord uses small acts for big purposes, but this video spoke directly to my heart.  I felt inspired and so grateful for the Lord's faithfulness in answering us when we desire to be used for his glory.  It's not a sad video, don't worry!  I was smiling and had tears rolling down my face at the same time.  But that's typical of me.

If you have 3 minutes and 54 seconds to spare, it's worth a watch.  It will do you good.  ...and if you're an Aggie and have a sudden urge to hop in the car and drive as fast as you can to Texas A&M, well - you can't blame me!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

City of Contradictions

This weekend, I got the chance to spend time in one of my favorite cities - New York City.  Brent was in the city for 5 days visiting companies on his Duke Fall Break.  He was leading the General Management Club's trip and coordinating visits for other students.  They had Saturday & Sunday off, so I was able to visit and just hang out. 

For me, New York is such a city of contradictions.  I just am not sure how I feel about it, even after all these years.  Just when you think you know something about the city or you have mastered it in some way, you find out that you really don't know anything.  I've been to New York at least ten times that I can remember, but I'm still not really an insider.  Back in college, I naively sent my resume to Kate Spade, thinking I would go live in the city and live a glamorous life working in marketing.  Do I even need to tell you how that turned out?  Not-so-shockingly, Ms. Spade did not acknowledge my inquiry, and it was just as well... the city would have eaten me alive.  So although I didn't end up with a high fashion career, I smile and praise God when I think of how many times he has brought me back to the city that so fascinated me even then.  Brent and I got engaged in New York City.  My teaching life changed forever when I began attending institutes at Teachers College in NYC.  Right now, I'm living my lifelong dream of getting my masters from Columbia, and Brent is exploring job opportunities there.  I just love how God has worked it all out for good and has been so kind to us by entwining our lives with NYC.

In the last 7 years, God has both softened my heart to the city, making me love it even more AND opened my eyes to the stark reality that is living there.  Right now Brent is exploring internship opportunities and the sky is the limit.  We could be, well..... anywhere!!  Obviously there are lots of opportunities in NYC for him now and in the future, and we're trying to decide:  Could we do it?  Is this where the Lord would have us?  It certainly would be fun and adventurous and after all we've been through with the city it would seem fitting that God would bring us full circle.  But can we do it... really?  Can we forget our big, luxurious, cheap housing in Texas?  Can we someday lug a stroller onto the subway?  Can we survive the winter?  It kind of makes me shudder to think of it.  See what I mean?  There's a contradiction around every corner. 

Here's a few:
  • There is always something to explore, but you can NEVER, ever own the city or see it all. 
  • I love eating out and the restaurants are so fantastic, but how can anyone afford to live here and eat out?  And how can regular people cook dinner in tiny little kitchens with daily stops to the grocery store?  I'm spoiled by my big kitchen and SUV.
  • I feel safer every time I'm in the city, but there is always a moment where I feel like an outsider sticking out like a sore thumb and everyone knows it and someone is going to mug me if I don't look like I know what I'm doing.
  • There are so many people around that it can feel exhilarating, yet isolating at the same time.  Full of life, yet impersonal.
  • The subway can be charming, but I've been in there in the dead of summer.  NOT FUN.
  • I love walking.  I really do.  But my ankles, feet, and legs ache after a few days. This summer I would just eat whatever I had in my fridge to avoid walking to get something else.
So maybe I have a love/hate relationship with NYC, and that is just the way it is!  I do know that I had a blast there this weekend, but (of course) I was kind of ready to come home to Durham.  Man I love Durham.  Have I said that yet?  Here's a recap of my NYC weekend even though my camera died right in the middle of it. (sorry)

On Saturday, we walked the park and visited the Met (which I've done, but Brent has not).   We stuck to the Egyptian collection and the European painters.  Fun fact:  Did you know that I've been obsessed with Monet ever since I was 6 when I read the book "Linea in Monet's Garden"?  Yep, I have.  Now you know.

We also finally went to Chelsea Market, home of the Food Network.  I know.... isn't it crazy that I've never been there?!  Well you can't really take a tour of the Food Network, but you better believe I kept my eyes open for Bobby Flay.  We loved looking in all of the specialty food shops and had an amazing lunch of a fresh lobster roll.

Then we walked the Chelsea Pier, which was super beautiful and fun.  Finally we walked the High Line Park, a relatively new park that spans many, many blocks.  Basically they took an old raised railroad line and made it into a long walking path suspended over the street.  It's very lush with greenery and beautifully planned with modern sculpture and art everywhere.  It was packed on a Sunday afternoon, but we really enjoyed walking the trail.  If you've ever been to the Katy Trail in Dallas, it's like that but, um, cooler.  :-)

We stayed in our favorite neighborhood - Upper West Side - and ate at our favorite UWS restaurants - La Vela, La Boite en Bois, and Arte Cafe.  It felt comforting and new all at the same time, which is kind of fitting.  We love you, NYC, and you have been good to us.  So who knows what might come of our growing relationship!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Nest Has a New Look!!!

When I started blogging, it was mostly becuase all the cool kids were doing it, and I was pretty sure I would keep it up for a few months and then quit.  But here I am... more than three years later... loving it and still going strong.  I'm so thankful for my faithful friends and readers.  That you would want to read my random thoughts or try my recipes or see pictures of my family humbles me.  Although I absolutely ADORED my last blog look and never got tired of it for three years, I felt it was time for an update.  Perhaps a reward for keeping this little blog going waaaaay longer than I ever thought I would.  I've published exactly 200 posts - a nice round number for a new look, don't ya think?  Here's to the next 200!

Many thanks to Lauren over at Designer Blogs who made my vision come to life and added her amazing designer touch.  She's completely awesome if your blog needs a little spicing up! 

So, what do you think?!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Guiltless Mini-Quiches

I don't know what my deal is with mini things lately - mini apple pies and now mini quiches!  I saw this recipe a while ago in Cooking Light, but it was for a whole quiche made in a pie pan.  I got the idea this week to make mini-quiches in a muffin pan.  The muffin pan was a bit hard to scrub afterwards, but other than that, they turned out AWESOME.  I love these quiches because they are made will all veggies and low-fat ingredients, and they do not have a pastry crust, so they are 100% healthy.  They are so tiny and cute you can even have two and not feel guilty.  They would be great for a brunch or shower, but I love them just for a regular weekday breakfast since you can make them ahead.  They keep in the fridge for at least 2 or 3 days, so you can just heat up what you want to eat each morning. The eggs are filling and full of protein, so they will definitely keep you full until lunch.  I've been enjoying mine with a slice or two of cranberry walnut bread and a handful of fruit.  Delicious!

Broccoli Cheese Crust-less Quiche (Adapted from Cooking Light)
olive oil
cooking spray
1/2 c. vertically sliced yellow onion
1 chopped garlic clove
3-4 cups chopped broccoli florets (don't chop too tiny, though)
1 1/4 c. skim milk
1 c. reduced fat shredded Swiss cheese (I can never find this shredded, so I just chopped up reduced fat deli sliced Swiss)
2 T. chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 t. Dijon mustard
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/8 t. ground nutmeg
2 T. Parmesan cheese
4 eggs
2 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Saute onions and garlic in olive oil until soft.
Add broccoli florets and saute another 4 minutes.  Broccoli will not be completely cooked.  It will continue to cook in the oven.
Spray 12 muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray.  Place onion, garlic, and broccoli mixture in the bottoms of 12 muffin cups. 
In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, parsley, salt, pepper, nutmeg, mustard, Parmesan, Swiss, and eggs.
Using a ladle, add some egg mixture on top of the veggies in each muffin cup.  My Swiss cheese stayed on top of each cup making for a lovely cheesy crust.  You can sprinkle the tops with additional Parmesan if you'd like.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes, until tops are golden and a knife or toothpick comes out clean.  Let stand 5 minutes, then serve warm or let cool and refrigerate for tomorrow's breakfast!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Grammy Pies

When I was little, I used to look forward to Thanksgiving at Grammy's house for many reasons:  watching the Macy's parade, making forts with my cousins, hiking Buckhorn trail, sausage at cocktail time, and PIE.  Grammy would make between 4 and 6 homemade pies each Thanksgiving (and still does!).  If you arrived the day before Thanksgiving, you got to participate in the pie making.  She would peel the apples like magic, getting the entire peel off in one piece with her paring knife.  And then she would let you eat the peel.  Of course she made homemade crust, and there was always some left over after she trimmed the edges.  She would give us the trimmed edges and let us make "pies" by sprinkling sugar and cinnamon on the dough, folding it over, and baking it.  Those little mini-pies always tasted the best!

Today I decided to make a spin on the Grammy pie.  Since making apple pie is on my fall bucket list and I just picked apples off the tree last weekend,  I decided my mini-pies should have sugar and cinnamon AND apples.  They turned out so cute and made the house smell lovely.  No need to use a fork on these babies - just pick them up and devour! 

Rinse off four medium apples.  I used five, and it was too many.  Learn from my mistakes.

Peel the apples with a paring knife.  Extra points if you can do it without breaking the peel like Grammy.  I lost.

Use an apple corer/slicer thingy to get even slices.  Yes, there's still a bit of skin on my apples.  Deal with it.  Extra fiber.

Chop your apples into little pieces.  About like this:

Add the following (and add however much you want - I totally guessed). 
1/2 cup sugar
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. allspice
1/4 t. salt 
2 T. flour
zest and juice of 1 lemon

Mix it all up.  And you'll need to taste a few apples, of course.  Quality control.

Unroll a store bought pie crust.  I used the Pillsbury pack with two crusts in a box from the refrigerated section.  Perfect.  Use a cereal bowl or something similar and cut around the circle with a sharp knife.  I got three circles easily out of one pie crust.  Then I re-rolled the scraps and got one more circle.  They don't have to be perfect.  So if you have 2 crusts, you'll make 8 mini-pies.

Pretend like you're making a taco - a delicious cinnamon apple taco.  At least that worked for me.  Put the filling in the pie dough circle like this.  Don't overfill!

Put two small cubes of butter on the apples and brush the edge of one side of the circle with an egg white & water mixture.

Fold the dough over, press it down, and use a fork to seal it up.  Place your mini-pies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.   I heart parchment paper.

Repeat times eight.  No, they're not perfect, but I like to think of them as RUSTIC.  Brush each mini-pie top with more egg white & water mixture.  Then sprinkle with sugar.

Bake in a 450 degree oven for about 25 minutes.  Watch them, and don't let them burn!  The apples are cut small, so they don't take long to cook.  You just want to pull them out when they are golden brown on top.  Let them cool (or eat them hot).  I won't tell.  These would probably be good with vanilla ice cream, but I was good with just pie!

Blazer says,  "Mmmmm those pies looks delicious.  I take some, mama.  I been very good boy."

Love you Grammy!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Virginia Is For Sisters

This is my new favorite pic and now resides on my desktop so I can smile every time I see it and remember the FABULOUS weekend I spent with my sister in Virginia!  Julia has lived in Charlottesville, Virginia for a long time now, and with the exception of her wedding, I have not been able to visit her and spend time really enjoying the area.  Now that I live only 3.5 hours away from her (Can you believe it?!), I couldn't pass up the opportunity to hang with my salsa last weekend.  Knowing my penchant for all things fall, Julia planned and executed an amazing, whirlwind fall-fest just for the two of us.  I had the MOST FUN seeing why Julia loves Virginia so much.  Texas peeps........ GET OVER HERE!!  It's so awesome I can't really even explain it.

I have for you a mostly pictorial overview of our sisters weekend.  I hope you like big pictures (of me and my sister... we're so modest!) because I went extra-large on these babies.  (I am in love with the new Blogger platform that makes big pictures so easy!!)

I drove to Charlottesville Friday evening (got totally lost... but that's a story for another day).  Julia & I had a lovely dinner out and then saw the Charlottesville Symphony.  Saturday morning we picked up a picnic lunch of gourmet sandwiches and headed out for our hike!  We hiked the humpback rocks off the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The hike was pretty steep, but it was a perfect length (40 minutes) and led to an AMAZING view!!!  It was in the 40s in the mountains and I was loving it.  That's right folks... I like the outdoors!  Who knew?  Turns out, I just hate being hot :-)

After hiking, we decided that we should have a little reward.  Namely, wine.  At three different vineyards.  Don't judge.  When in Virginia... do as the Virginians, right?

We had so much fun doing a tasting at each vineyard, and at each one I bought a bottle of my favorite wine to take home to Brent.  Each vineyard was tucked away in some cute little valley, and they were all beautiful!
Julia may or may not have had one too many tastings.  Good thing they put out that warning sign!
Sunday morning, we went to church and then got our farm on.  This was one particular instance where I wished there was a service where you could rent-a-child.  Farms and pumpkin patches just aren't as fun if you don't have a child, but we did our best!
At the farm, we picked our own apples - Gala and Jonagold.  I've always wanted to pick apples in the fall, and this experience did not disappoint.  I brought home a whole bag.

After picking apples, we ate the BEST homemade doughnuts ever. I NEVER eat doughnuts, but these were to die for. Apple doughnuts fried fresh in front of you and served hot with hot apple cider.  And you eat them in the crisp wind on a deck overlooking the mountains.  Yes, please.

After leaving the farm, we took a lovely tour of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.  It was pretty cool to see the house and brush up on our history.

So as you can see, we thoroughly made the Charlottesville rounds!!  I drove home Sunday night through some adorable small towns back to my hubby & puppy. 

Toby says bye-bye Aunt Katie!  Hug my cousin Blazer for me!
Thanks, Salsa!  It was the best weekend ever!!  It was a fall bucket list extravaganza!!
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