Friday, April 27, 2012

Overnight Oatmeal

If you've been on Pinterest for more than five minutes (and we all know I have), you have undoubtedly seen at least 100 pins for overnight oatmeal. I've always loved oatmeal.  I don't really love the super sweet instant oatmeal packets, but the regular oatmeal is a bit of a time commitment to make in the morning.  Still, it seems like everyone sings the health benefits of oatmeal, so I try to eat it at least a few times a week.  I was intrigued by this "overnight oatmeal" that everyone was buzzing about on Pinterest.  I scoured a few blogs with different versions.  Some versions people complained were too chewy or made them nauseous.  Um, no thanks.  Then I found this one recipe from a blogger who claimed that she made many versions, and this was the best. I liked all of the ingredients, so I figured I'd give it a try. 

Oh My.  It is so good.  Every night now, I make the three minute investment in this oatmeal, and come morning, I am really happy I did.  No cooking required!  I love that this overnight oatmeal is not too soggy and not too chewy.  The texture is perfect.  Also, it's only slightly sweet, which I love.  Finally, the fruit stays firm, and the coconut adds a little crunch.  If you haven't tried overnight oatmeal, I highly recommend this recipe!  I'm still enjoying it, but I may play around with some variations in the future.  The sky is the limit - you could add any milk, fruit, nut, or add-in you want!  Most people on Pinterest make their overnight oatmeal in cute-sy little Mason jars and sometimes they put little bows on them.  I mean, really?  Sorry, I don't have those.  I just have Ziplock plastic containers.  It tastes just as good.  Keepin' it real.

Mango-Coconut Overnight Oatmeal
In a resealable container, mix:

3/4 cup rolled oats (regular, not quick)
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 T. shredded sweetened coconut
1 t. agave nectar (add more if you like it sweeter)
1 chopped mango (the smaller champagne mangoes are the best)

Seal the container and place it in the refrigerator overnight.  In the morning, stir and eat!  This morning I threw a handful of blueberries on top.  Yum!!  I wake up looking forward to getting this out of the refrigerator!

Saturday, April 21, 2012


If you haven't noticed, we're a bit nomadic.

I used to dream of a little house with a white picket fence, and I dreamed I'd stay there, oh, approximately... FOREVER. 

Then, I married Brent.

Brent did not dream of a white picket fence. 
And he did not dream of staying in one place forever. 

He moved me once, then again, then again. 
And at some point I realized...  I should maybe get used to moving.

Now, we've been married almost 7 years, and we've moved 4 times.  The 'big move' (to Durham) has been so positive that I have the bug now. 

This year, Brent has been exploring career options, and with those options come discussions of where we will live and what we will do and what our lives will look like when he graduates.  Sometimes, scary stuff.  But I found myself (surprisingly) wanting, even longing to go somewhere else and do it all over again.  Don't get me wrong - I love me some Texas, and we really miss being close to our families - but I have felt what I think is God working on my heart saying we're not done yet.  It's not quite time yet to settle in and build the fence. 

Brent came to business school with a background in finance.  We saw Duke as a chance for a new beginning and perhaps a change.  I'm so proud of Brent for being brave enough to leave what he knew and dare to think that there might be something more, something better, something different that God would have him do.  He felt drawn towards strategic management, and specifically, drawn towards John Deere. 

"John Deere????"  You ask.  Yes, I asked the same thing.

This summer, between MBA year 1 and year 2, there is an internship component.  Brent interviewed for a ton of internships and explored a ton of companies, but there was always a draw towards John Deere from the very beginning.  A draw to the program, the people, the lifestyle, the values, the success of the company. 

As it has been true for us so many times before, Isaiah 30:21 has been true for us this year:

"Whether you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it!" 

Oh, I love that verse.  Don't you?  If we listen and walk faithfully, the sovereign Lord promises to direct our steps.  Not always in the easiest or most comfortable way, but in the way that He wills, which... if you ask me... is the best way.

As it turns out, God may have been calling Brent to this job from a very early age.  Here is a pic his mom found of him driving a John Deere tractor at age 2 on his ranch with his dad and sister.  I mean, how cute is this?!?! 

To make a long story short, there were a lot of obstacles in the path and a lot of uncertainty, and a little bit of fear (on my part), but God was faithful, and Brent got the very internship he wanted.  He's going to be working as an intern in the Strategic Management Program at John Deere for 12 weeks this summer.  Then we'll be back to Durham for one more school year.  Should he be able to work for John Deere full time upon graduation, he would be in a management program that would require us to move often - every year or two at least.  Sound familiar???  haha...I think it's our destiny.

We are thrilled for Brent to be working at Deere, and he is so excited.  He's going to be working on a project involving forestry.  My mom is so cute - she sent us the most adorable John Deere t-shirts when we told her.  Mine is pink and says "real women drive tractors". HA!  (have they met me?)
The internship will take place at the John Deere headquarters in Moline, Illinois.  Praise God that I'll be able to go with Brent since I already work remotely.  Therefore, for the summer, we will be living in Moline, Illinois.

Wait, you don't know where that is?

I had the same problem.  It's OK.  Here's a visual.  Moline is where the red "A" is.  It's in northwestern Illinois on the border of Illinois & Iowa.

I have never been to Moline, and I don't know what our summer will look like. 

All I know is that God wants us there, so nomads we will be, and there we will go. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Best Salad Ever

Hold the presses.  Close Pinterest.  Turn off Food Network.  Alert Facebook. 

You can stop searching for the perfect salad recipe.
I have found it.  
That's right:  This is the best salad in the entire world!

I may be a little biased, but I've made quite a few salads in my day, and this one is officially the best.  It is tangy, spicy, savory, crunchy, chewy, satisfying, healthy, easy, and beautiful.  I know there are plenty of versions of this salad out there and some you can even get at Wendy's.  I'm pretty sure that this one is better, and you feel good about what's in it when you make it yourself.

I saw a similar recipe on Pinterest, and I adapted it.  I've eaten this for lunch two days now, and it will be a lunch staple from now on.  It's ridiculously easy, and you can cook up the chicken & pasta at the beginning of the week to keep in the fridge so you can throw together a salad every day in less than 5 minutes.  Here's how.

Katie's Chinese Chicken Salad

In a large bowl, toss together the following.  It's your salad, so you get to decide how much of each component you want.
  • Sliced romaine (I like to slice mine myself rather than using those huge bagged leaves)
  • Cooked pasta (I used gemelli - you can use anything you have  on hand)
  • Diced broiled chicken breast (simply broiled with olive oil, salt, & pepper)
  • Sliced green onions
  • Diced cucumber
  • Crispy wonton strips (found bagged in the produce section)
  • Sliced almonds
  • Jarred mandarin orange segments (opt for the no sugar added kind)

Then, add the best salad dressing ever (Newman's Own Lite Low Fat Sesame Ginger)

To finish it off, sprinkle some sesame seeds on top. Why not?  
Join me in salad heaven!!!  So good!!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Brent Joins the 30 Club

Last week, my wonderful husband had a birthday and joined the 30 club!  It was great to have Brent's parents in town to celebrate with us!  I was out of town for work on his actual birthday, so I wanted to do something special that he would be able to enjoy even when I wasn't there. I saw an idea on Pinterest (of course) of mailing out cards to family and friends and asking them to write a note or memory or well wishes and send the card back to the birthday boy (or girl).  I decided that 30 was a perfect milestone birthday to do this.  So, without Brent knowing, I sent out 30 postcards already stamped and addressed to Brent's closest 30 family and friends.  I asked them to write a note and mail it back for his birthday.

It worked perfectly!!  Look at all these sweet cards Brent received over the weeks surrounding his birthday.  Many of them brought me to tears because they were so sweet, kind, and funny. 

Here's a shot of what the front of the cards looked like and the back.  I just printed them on my ink jet printer!  I also included a short letter with directions.  We're going to put them all in a little book for Brent to keep and read forever!
To continue the celebration this weekend, when Brent's parents were in town, they were kind enough to take us out to our favorite restaurant in Durham (and possibly our favorite restaurant of all time) Magnolia Grill.  Magnolia specializes in gourmet southern food.  It was a great way to celebrate Brent's 30th.  Here's what we ordered!  Sorry if you are hungry after reading this... I know I am!

Magnolia has the best martinis.  I don't know what their secret is, but we love them.
Shared appetizer #1:  We get this EVERY time, and it's the only thing on the menu that never goes away.  Grits souffle with fois gras and wild mushroom ragout.  Best.appetizer.ever.
Vicky's appetizer:  Spring carrot bisque with beets, chicken confit, and beef tartare
Shared appetizer #2:  Cornmeal fried oysters with remoulade sauce.   Divine.
I ordered the steelhead trout with pesto sauce, grits, and southern beans.  Every bite at Magnolia Grill is like a taste explosion in your mouth.
Brent ordered the short ribs - incredibly tender meat drenched in a wonderful savory sauce.
For dessert, Vicky ordered candied grapefruit waffles with salted caramel ice cream.  Words can't describe how amazing this was.  I may have had one or ten bites of this.  Notice how Vicky's spoon is already in the dessert in this picture.  Brent ordered a blue cheese cheesecake (pictured at the top of the post) which was equally unique and delicious and came with a birthday candle.
Happy 30th Brent!  Love you!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter Weekend

This weekend, we had Brent's parents in town to celebrate his birthday and visit Durham.  More on Brent's birthday later!  We went to all of our favorite Durham restaurants:  Magnolia Grill, Rue Cler, Foster's Market, Guglhuph, and Bull City Burger!  We walked on the Wa-Duke trail, walked around the neighborhood, and hit up all the antique shops and fun stores.  The weather has been beautiful, so we enjoyed many evenings on the porch with wine and nights around the fire pit in the backyard.    We had a laid back Easter, worshipping at Summit Church and then cooking a Southern spring feast for dinner.  We're so glad Vicky & Terry got to take a quick vacation and join us!

Walking on the Wa-Duke 

Easter Dinner!

Chicken stuffed with spring onions and goat cheese {from Cooking Light recipe here}
Risotto with sauteed asparagus {from my own Nordstrom's inspired recipe here}
Cornbread Madeleines {from Southern Living recipe here}
side note:  These were INCREDIBLE.  So simple, yet so amazing.  Southern Living claims you will say "lawdamercy!" when you eat these, and I'm here to tell you it's true.   This recipe is worth buying a madeleine pan.
Citrus & Avocado Salad {from Everyday Food recipe here}
This was a delicious spring salad, and the citrus dressing (not shown) was light and lovely.
Carrot Cake {from Cooking Light recipe here}
Y'all, this carrot cake was divine.  We've been eating it for three days now (oops), and it keeps getting better somehow.  This is one of Brent's favorite cakes, so I made one in honor of his birthday.  Believe it or not, this was a Cooking Light "recipe makeover" where they took a 1,200 calorie slice of cake and whittled it down to below 300.  I seriously can't imagine it being any tastier.
Hope you had a blessed Easter!

Monday, April 2, 2012


Just some honesty today. 

The events of this Monday reminded me what God has been trying to teach me over and over again for the last, oh, fifteen years.  I'm in Houston for work, which is always crazy.  Today I was leading a content meeting for the 70+ teachers I support, and I just felt "off".  I felt like the day was not as good as it could have been from the start.  There are lots of reasons why I felt this and lots of things that happened, some beyond my control.  By lunchtime that little voice was pretty loud in my ear telling me that today was a failure and reminding me of all the things I could have / should have done better to prepare / troubleshoot / support / plan / react / execute / coordinate / lead.  And by the end of the day, I was in tears.  Just me alone behind my computer, beating myself up, afraid to look at the survey, dreading what people said about the day.   Chalk it up to another day that I didn't live up to what I thought I could or should.

But just yesterday, Brent and I were studying the triumphal entry in preparation for Easter this week.  Easter.  This week.  The very week I should be praising Jesus for his work on the cross for me and meditating on the amazing grace he has given me so that I NO LONGER have to strive or be perfect.  Romans 5:18 says: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says:  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; the old is gone; the new is here. 

So why do I relinquish the grace and peace that could be mine?

I have a huge issue with striving and perfectionism.  In college it drove me to study all the time and stress myself out with 50 leadership positions and cry to my professor when I got my first "B".  In my early years at YES, it drove me to stay at school until 8:30 and work until 10:30 at home and work all weekend and beat myself up for every dumb thing I did.  In my later years at YES, it drove me to take on three or more full time jobs each year, even when I swore I would take things off my plate.  It drove me to tears weekly from the stress and drove my blood pressure sky high.  It's my innate desire for perfectionism and achievement that keep me striving, reaching, and stressed. 

In my heart, I know that Jesus has paid it all!  It is finished.  There is no need to strive to be better, faster, higher up, more perfect, more accepted, more what people need, or just the better version of me.  When Jesus looks at me, there is nothing I could to to make him love me less and nothing I could do to make him love me more.  Nothing.  He loves me just as I am with all of my shortcomings and failures and imperfections.  How I long for that truth to sink in!

God has forced me to give up some of my striving and ambitions by moving me to Durham.  Praise Him that I am FAR less stressed than I used to be.  My life is slower, my job more humble, my ability to strive limited quite literally by circumstances and geography.  I needed to be restrained; that's for sure.  I feel that he is preparing me for another season of life with even less striving and less possibility for public recognition and less people pleasing.  And I'm so grateful. 

But today, I'm not in Durham.  I'm in Houston, and all the old strivings have a way of fitting right back into place like a puzzle.  I was rushing out the door to get to work super early (so things would be perfect at my content meeting), and I skipped my time with the Lord.  I didn't read; I didn't pray.  I was relying just on me.

The Lord is not through with me yet.  I'm not a hopeless case.  Today, I recognized the striving relatively quickly and identified my intense desire to please people.  While I did cry, my second response was to remember what the Lord has done and not go completely to pieces.  Today brings to mind one of my favorite Nichole Nordeman songs that speaks to this very issue I struggle with, and maybe you do too.


I don't mind
if you've got something nice to say about me. 
I enjoy an accolade
like the rest.
But you can hang my picture in gallery
with all the "who's whos" and "so and sos"
who used to be the best at "such and such"...

It wouldn't matter much.

I want to leave a legacy.
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love?
Did I point to YOU enough to make a mark on things?
I want to leave an offering:
A child of mercy and grace
who blessed your name unapologetically
I want to leave a legacy.
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