Sunday, June 24, 2012

Farmers and Friendliness

This week, I felt a few pangs of homesickness - a pang for my bathtub, a pang (or two) for Mexican food, and a pang for my Durham kitchen. But despite those occasional pangs, Brent and I have felt so content here. I know the Lord is giving us that contentment and peace.  Iowa continues to grow on me little by little, and Brent and I had a great time this weekend.
On Saturday morning, we decided to check out the Freight House Farmer's Market. As it turns out, the rest of the Quad Cities had the very same idea! The market was PACKED, and it was AWESOME. It was a big, vibrant, fun farmer's market complete with fruits, veggies, honeys, jams, popcorn, flowers, candy, taco stands, cafes, clothes, dogs, and a playground. We had so much fun walking around looking at all the farmstands and people watching.

We weren't in the market for bread, but I totally would have bought some Praise the Lord bread!
We ate lunch at the farmer's market cafe - freshly squeezed lemonade, sliders, hand-cut fries, and fruit.

I purchased some peaches and tomatoes.
After the Farmer's market, we were already in Downtown Davenport, which we hadn't explored much, so we decided to walk around.

Figge Art Museum - on my list to visit soon

Riverboat casino - NOT on my list to visit soon

Skybridge across downtown

View of the Mississippi

This morning, we had the coolest thing happen to us at church.  {Now we're transitioning to the "friendliness" part of this post.}  We've been checking out churches in the area each week.  We're not looking for a permanent church home since we're only here for 12 weeks, but we want to find a place to worship and maybe meet a few people.  This morning, we went to Bettendorf Christian Church.  It was a smaller church, but not tiny.  Everyone seemed to know each other.  After the service, everyone was milling around the lobby, visiting.  Brent and I are not exactly experts at small talk, so we glanced around and headed for the exit.

We were literally pushing the door open to leave when this woman RAN up to us (almost out of breath) and said, "Wait...I'm sorry, but I don't know that I've seen you here before.  Have we met?"  We stopped in our tracks and said, "Well, no... this is actually our first time, and we're new to the area."  Her face lit up, and she wanted to shake our hands and guide us over to the welcome table to give us a gift.  She said, "We have so many things going on for young adults like you!" 

At the welcome table, we were greeted by two more ladies who wanted to give us all kinds of information about the church and what it had to offer.  They were so, so nice.  They handed us a gift bag, and as we turned around to leave, the head pastor was standing right there, waiting for us to finish talking to the welcome ladies so he could talk to us.  He wanted to meet us and told us over and over how glad he was that we were there. 

Five minutes later, we left with the biggest smiles and walked to the car.  We were both like, "WOW!  That was like the friendliest church EVER!"  We could not get over the fact that the welcome lady spotted us in a very full lobby and knew right away that she didn't know us.  Then, she CHASED US DOWN to make sure we were welcomed.  How many people would do that?  I can't say that I would.  I just saw so many people there full of the holy spirit and so many people who clearly loved the Lord so much that it came out in their service. 

... and then I opened the gift bag.  Y'all, there was an entire loaf of homemade banana bread in there.  It almost brought me to tears, and it makes me smile so big right now.  There is some lady who bakes loaves of bread every single week to hand them out to strangers who are visitors at church.  I want to be that lady!!!!  I want to make bread for strangers!!!  I want to know people at church so well that I can spot a visitor a mile away!!!  About 3 pm, we got a personal email from the head pastor, welcoming us again.  WOW.  Those old ladies and that pastor definitely gave me an example to aspire to, and it just reminded me how BIG of an impression a small thing can have.  It also reminded me that people are the most important part of a church.  I think we'll be going back just because the people so radiated the love of Christ.  And that's something I won't soon forget.  Texans are friendly.  North Carolinians are, too.  However, no one but an Iowan has EVER tracked me down to give me a homemade loaf of bread for the sake of Jesus.  Just sayin'.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Quad Cities Week One

It's been a great first week in the Quad Cities!  We had a really fun weekend checking out the area, and this week it's been pretty much business as usual with work for both of us.  Though it's not Durham by any stretch of the imagination, we have found some fun things to do!

On Saturday afternoon, we visited a place that we spotted on Day 1, Lagomarcino's.  This place had me at hello.  Lagomarcino's is an old time ice cream parlor and soda shop.  Their tag-line is "travel back in time at Lagomarcino's", and I have to agree!  It was SO COOL!  It's been family owned and run since 1908, and they carry all kinds of old-school lunch counter food, sodas, sundaes, shakes, and homemade candy.  It was a fabulous weekend treat.
The adorable street view

Lunch counter & soda fountain
The tile floors, tin ceiling, mahogany booths, glass candy cases, and Tiffany lamps are all original!

We tried the famous hot fudge sundaes.

I mean, how cute is this place?

That night for dinner, we tried a Thai place we had our eye on called Lemongrass.  It was SO CUTE and modern inside!  I do not understand why there was a 1.5 hour wait at Chili's and Texas Roadhouse, but this place had only 10 customers and no wait on a Saturday night.  Oh well... more for us.

Brent had the old standby - Pad Thai, and I had Gra Pow - ground chicken in a spicy garlic sauce with green beans, green peppers, carrots, and onions and topped with a fried egg.  It was truly delicious!

After dinner, the weather was beautiful, so we went and walked along the river.

On Sunday, we tried out a church we found driving around:  Harvest Bible Chapel.  We actually loved it!  We put on the visitor card that we're new here and don't know anyone, and a pastor personally called me this week to introduce himself and welcome us.  Very nice.  I've also received calls this week from my sweet friends and my sister, all of which made my day!  Life is good!

Things the Lord is teaching me this week:
  • To enjoy my friendship with my husband and not take it for granted.  I'm so, so glad I get to be here with him and see him every morning and every evening.  I love going to new places with him, and he's truly my best friend.  I love all the little things we do like drinking coffee, taking walks, watching TV, playing Words With Friends, and going to bed at the same time, so I'm trying to enjoy and savor them.
  • To live in the moment.  When I first got here, I cried a lot, and the time here seemed to stretch forward infinitely.  I've always been one to look forward to the "next thing", but I feel God telling me to just rest in the here and now.  He has relieved my mind from thinking too much about the past or future, and let me focus on now.  Yesterday I was even like, "oh yeah!  We have a great house back in Durham!"  I hadn't even thought about it for a while :-)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Better Burrito

Sometimes I see those ads on TV for Taco Bell burritos, and I almost (almost) want to eat one.   But then reason takes over, and I remember that those burritos are filled with cheap cheese, mystery meat, and fatty refried beans.  But what if... you could make a burrito at home that was delicious, cheap, quick, and healthy with all quality ingredients?  I've discovered the perfect make-at-home grilled burrito, and I'm here to tell you it's one of the best lunches I've ever made.

I saw the recipe in May's Cooking Light, and I knew I had to try it ASAP.  The great part about this burrito is that you can make a big batch of the filling and keep it in the fridge.   Then I had burritos for days on end with less than five minutes prep time!   If you're a Mexican lover like me, you must try these.

Chicken & Black Bean Grilled Burritos (adapted from Cooking Light)
(makes 3-4 burritos)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped in bite size pieces
1 c. chopped yellow onion
1 T. chili powder
1/2 T. cumin
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. ground pepper
2 t. canola oil
1 can Bush's low sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
2 T. chopped pickled jalapenos (optional - will add a little heat)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
flour tortillas (soft taco size - I like Mission)
shredded pepper jack cheese
cooking spray
salsa (for dipping)
light sour cream (for dipping)

Combine cut up chicken, chopped onion, and all spices (chili powder through pepper) in a bowl.  Toss to combine.  Pre-heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add chicken and onion mixture and saute until tender (about 8 - 10 minutes).  Stir occasionally.  A delectable sauce will begin to form.  Then add in black beans, garlic, and jalapenos and cook until warmed, about 2 minutes.
In the center of a tortilla, spoon about 1/4 of the chicken mixture.  Don't be skimpy.  You'll be able to fold it over - promise.  I've been to Chipotle enough to know that you can fit a heck of a lot in a burrito.
Top each burrito with pepper jack cheese (or Monterey jack or cheddar... whatever floats your boat, but I recommend pepper jack.)  I make it a point never to measure cheese.  Paula Deen would be proud.
Next, channel your inner burrito maker and roll that baby up!  I like to fold the shorter sides up first, laying the tortilla flat against the chicken mixture.  Then, roll the bottom towards the top (away from you) tucking in the filling as you go so it stays tight.
Carefully spray both sides of the burrito with cooking spray and gently place SEAM SIDE DOWN in a skillet or griddle over medium high heat.  If you put the seam side down first, the cheese and heat will keep everything glued together.  When that side is browned (about 2 minutes), flip it over and brown the other side.
Remove from skillet, carefully cut in half, and serve with salsa and sour cream.  Repeat daily.  Trust me, you want this!!  It's also husband approved.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Mom Therapy

After a few stressful weeks of wrapping up the school year and moving to Illinois for the summer, I was in need of some TLC, and no one can comfort you quite like mom.  I had to go to Houston for a meeting, so since I was already in Texas, I made a quick trip to Dallas to see my parents.  I was only there for a little over 24 hours, but it was so nice.  I may have cried a few tears at the airport going back to Illinois, but only because my mom and I had so much fun.

On Wednesday, she picked me up at the airport and whisked me to Wisteria to browse home decor.  Then we shopped at Northpark, hitting up all the best stores.  I'm so jealous that they have an H&M there!  We found some great stuff in the Anthropologie sale section, and my mom bought me treats with her ridiculous Northpark gift cards (perk of being a Kindergarten teacher in a nice neighborhood - she gets tons of gifts!)  Here is my mom modeling some sunglasses at H&M and my Northpark purchases - a dress, a top, a skirt, and a bracelet.

Next, we ate lunch at La Duni, one of my Dallas faves.  After we we had shopped the whole mall, we headed to Sonic for happy hour and picked up two diet cherry limeades.

Limeades in hand, we headed over to Richardson for our spa pedicures!  I know, my mom is great.  We got the same color on our toes.  Obviously. 

We then had a nice evening at home with my dad.  Mom & I made a Greek cous-cous salad while my dad grilled salmon.  We even Facetimed with Brent so he could tell us about his first few days on the job.  I went to bed early after our day-o-fun. 

Thursday morning, we went to Target and then met my dad for lunch at one of my favorite restaurants ever - Campisi's.  It's this great, old-fashioned Italian restaurant that looks like it's run by the mob.  It's been open in Dallas and run by the same family since 1945.  It's super dark inside and lit by candles, and there is a jukebox at every table.  We always get the salad and salami pizza which tastes the same as it did when I was growing up.  After lunch, sadly, I had to go to the airport, but I can tell you from experience - Mom therapy will cure whatever ails you!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Green and Yellow are the New Black

The nomadic Norwoods have moved again!  Last week we packed up enough clothes and stuff to survive for 12 weeks, and we hit the road.  We drove through Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, and finally Illinois and Iowa over the course of two days.  We are now official (temporary) residents of Davenport, Iowa, one of the "quad cities".  It's been a little stressful and a little disorienting, but we are settling in and doing better and only missing Durham a little / a lot :-)  Brent starts his summer internship tomorrow, and he's excited to meet his co-workers at Deere and get started on his project in the forestry division.

Here Blazer says, "Are we moving again mama?"  as we cross the bridge to Davenport over the Mississippi River.
On Saturday we moved in and unpacked as much as our addled brains and tired bodies would allow.  We ate dinner at Texas Roadhouse perhaps seeking comfort since we haven't eaten there since college and perhaps because we know nothing about this town and that was the easiest place to eat!  After collapsing in bed from exhaustion, we woke today to breakfast at Panera.  Fueled by coffee, we took a little driving tour of the Quad Cities to begin to get our bearings.  We found the downtown area of Moline where the focal point is... what else?  The John Deere Pavilion, of course.

It's basically a John Deere museum with tractors inside and out.  Here is Brent with a wheel taller than him and me with the Deere deer.
Here's a close-up of a high-tech tractor (they all have GPS and some cost over $510,000!!)  and the mighty Mississippi flowing through the Quad Cities.
We drove through the John Deere worldwide headquarters where Brent will begin work tomorrow!

After lunch at home, we ventured back out to the John Deere Pavilion since the museum part was closed in the morning and we could only look outside.  It was pretty cool to see all of the historical and modern John Deere products and get a little history.

When we were done with the John Deere Pavilion, there was nothing more to do but go home!  Kidding... sort of.  I'm sure there are plenty of other things to do here, but we're still in the process of finding them. 

In the spirit of keepin' it real, you get a peek inside our summer digs!  Our apartment is, um, basic.  Think 1973.  There is not a plethora of rental housing here, and Deere does put us up with furnishings for free, so I won't complain TOO  much.  My mom insisted that it would be "Katie cute" in no time, but I am pretty sure that is not gonna happen since we only brought the bare minimum and ONE decorating item which you will see below.

Here's our lovely kitchen.  The only decorative item I brought was my "Serve the Lord with Gladness" plate for the kitchen next to the coffee pot there.  It's a pretty important reminder I need daily, so I opted to bring it.  To the right you'll see our lovely master bedroom.

Here you see our living room.  We're going for the minimalist look.  And didn't you hear? Vertical blinds are back in style!  No?  Maybe that's just here.  Last (but certainly not least), our breakfast area / dining nook / home office.  Charming, no?
All kidding aside, this is our home for the summer, and though it's not in the five star range, I'm grateful for it and grateful I can be here with Brent.  I wouldn't want to be without him!  All day long I've been telling him how much I love him and what a great husband he is - because it's true.  I am optimistic that I will find some fun things to do here and the town will grow on me.  If nothing else, I will get some work done, read a lot of books, and hang out with my hubby.  I can sense the Lord is going to teach me a lot.

Stay tuned for more adventures from America's heartland as the Norwoods go Midwest!!
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