Friday, December 31, 2010

a year in review, 2010

little did i know when i did a similar post last year what would happen in 2010. it's been a CRAZY year!

i perfected a bloody mary recipe, i ran a wild 5k and subsequently injured myself the next day and it finally snowed in nashville! (and i took pictures)

we had an amazing and sweet valentines day with amazing flowers, and then...well, life kind of started exploding...and not in a great way.  it was mid-february that anthony's granddaddy entered the hospital with some sort of unknown (at the time) pain

anthony's granddaddy passed away only a few days after discovering that he had stage 4 cancer. i celebrated my birthday (anthony gave me a wii!) and found out that the mortgage company had made a huge error...

God remained ever faithful -- that seemed to be the theme of this month.  i got the official word that i had lost my house, and i had 10 days to move out.  and that's when the CRAZY God-stuff began happening. anthony's sister got baptized at church on the last day we were moving me out.  i was the featured WOW blogger one day. i had a massive asthma...event...among other things...and ended up in the ER and staying in the hospital overnight. i was thankful to see the calendar change from april to may until...

the first weekend in may, nashville flooded.
one of my best friends in indiana got married and i was in the wedding, anthony had his first published article, i spent a fantastic weekend in the gatlinburg area with my suitemates from college.

i spent a long weekend in delaware with laura and izzy, started a new summer nanny gig with two precious kids, i wrote a little about provision and other deeper subjects

God signed me up for a fantastic retreat weekend (no, really), anthony's grandma passed away, about 20 minutes after her graveside service my car was totaled when it was parked on the street -- hit and run, i headed to the beach for a whirlwind trip with some girlfriends
i began working for my friends as a nanny to their sweet little boy, we traveled to kansas city and loved our time with family there, i replaced my car

this was the month of CRAZY weekends!  we went to st louis with friends, had a retreat with the youth group,  we went to holiday world, i went to arkansas with natasha.

i attended an awesome prophetic conference where i actually was on a team that GAVE prophetic words...amazing, i got pretty real on the blog

i took the time to finally write out how God has orchestrated my every move for the last 2.5 years, we continued our tradition of visiting the christmas village, we found out a favorite nashville store was closing

we got not one but TWO white christmases!  we visited my family in indiana for our first christmas in mid-december...and it snowed.  and it snowed here christmas eve and christmas day which was a lovely thing.  it hadn't snowed here on christmas since anthony's childhood!  i joined a wonderful cell group of Spirit-filled and amazing girls.  december was pretty much a blur and i didn't blog very much of it...but that just means i was out living it :)

so 2010.  it was a very interesting year.  what a range we've been through!  heartache, loss, love, provision, abundance, and just crazy things!  i think i'll look back on 2010 as one of the best years of my life, as strange as that sounds.  yes, i lost so much in the material sense.  but what i gained in return -- what God has blessed me with -- is so much better than anything i had before. 

i can't WAIT to see what He has for me -- for us -- in 2011.  if this year was this crazy and amazing...just wait.  buckle up, guys.  i have a feeling it's going to be one awesome ride!


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

hey, it's ok (tuesday) .5

please visit amber for the original!

... to totally invite yourself to a new year's celebration. 
... to want to take pictures in the christmas snow, since it only happens in nashville every 20 years or so.  so, maybe when our future children are teenagers we can take more christmas snow pictures.
... to wish they had somehow figured out a way to get MORE caffeine into coffee.
... to be surprised by things you find on facebook.  for example, the guy from college who continually creeps you out suddenly being in a relationship.
... to not understand the appeal of silly bandz, but to buy them for the kids in your life anyway.
... to be so glad that it snowed in nashville more than once this year...and to be completely ready for spring to come.
... to possibly be plotting a trip to starbucks while taking kids to a fun outing.  hey, that makes it more fun for ME too!
... to have snuck the laptop into the bathroom to take a shower and listen to some awesome worship music while the kids have breakfast
(it's the only time the little one is contained enough for me to shower!)

can you tell i'm babysitting today?  i have two boys -- 3 years and 18 months -- monday through wednesday this week.  we're having a blast and i'm LOVING how early they go to bed.  not so much the wakeup call, but it's still later than i normally have to be at work, so hey.

much love, all!


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas, 2010

when it all comes down to it

it doesn't matter if we wrapped our gifts perfectly
with creased paper and curled ribbons

it doesn't matter if the presents contained in the beautiful wrappings
are perfect for each recipient

it doesn't matter if we gather with a small family unit
or a large ball of chaos

or if the food is perfect
or if the table settings match

it doesn't matter if we've pleasantly wished holiday greetings
or militantly insisted that only CHRISTmas be used

it matters that in the most unlikely place
to the most unlikely people
and in the most unlikely way
a tiny Child was born

and He would save the world

merry Christmas, all
and much love


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

hey, it's ok (tuesday) .5

hey, it's ok

... to have equally wanted all 4 groups left to win the sing-off.  mostly.  but to have been quite excited about the top two, and to have been proud of the US for choosing in the right order :-)
... to love fruit snacks, even though you know there's little "fruit" in them
... to sometimes leave the christmas tree lights on all.night.long
... to get just as excited as the 3 year old co-chef about making sugar cookies together.  and to indulge in a heavily decorated by said 3 year old's sugar cookie.
... to buy 99 cent mint water from trader joe's on occasion just because it's yummy.
... to be overwhelmed with laughter at times when you think about God's provision in your life
... to ignore the healthy options at home and head straight through a drive-thru after a rather stressful last-minute shopping trip.  salads can be had tomorrow.  :D



look up

when i was little i thought there was something magical about the christmas tree.
and i still remember deciding that what i wanted more than anything
was to be able to sleep underneath it
with all the lights on
and the nativity scene behind me

my parents realized that this was a true desire
and eventually they allowed me to spend ONE NIGHT every year under the tree

it was a night i always looked forward to
i think it was looking up in the lights and branches that enthralled me
that seemingly endless beauty
that lifted up, to where my young eyes could barely catch a glimpse of the angel

it was looking up
that was my favorite part

and as i look at my tree
sitting by a seemingly unfamiliar window
a window that isn't "mine" really

i'm captured again by the lights
the beauty
the simplicity
and i'm reminded
to look UP

in this season of the year, it's important
and in this season of my life...
well, it's vital.

(...peace on earth...)


Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday's Memory: the one with the white elephant exchange

once upon a time, in that wonderful small group i was in
(before things came to light that eventually caused our necessary disbanding)
we gathered for a Christmas party, complete with a white elephant gift exchange

all of us aimed for goofy gifts.
and they were all fantastically silly

but i will never forget that when i opened the gift i had selected from the pile
(right before the laughter broke out)
my friend michael (his son is the one i now nanny for)
said calmly and dryly
"well, you can be assured that no one will want to steal THAT one."

(here's about the point where he said it, actually.  i had no idea i had photos of that moment!)

 yeah...if you can't tell, i'm holding two identical plastic bags
both of which contained a fish
the look on my face kind of says it all.

(i told the group that if they stayed at my house they would be named "cat" and "food".  thankfully i taught across the hall from a teacher who had a fish tank in her they became extra Christmas gifts for her!)

what's the funniest gift YOU have ever received?


Saturday, December 18, 2010

it's a great day for a tea...and more!

this week's wordle:

(gee, wonder what time of the year it is!)


teaching, tea and making some cash!

that pretty much sums up today.  a piano lesson this morning, a tea party with some girlfriends this afternoon and an evening of babysitting first for all the children of a small group and then for the hosts kids while they attend a work party!

it'll be crazy, but productive and definitely fun :0)  i may even don a cute little dress for the tea! :-)


Friday, December 17, 2010

LOVE this


tonight's gonna be fun because it's our youth group outing to buy items for Youth Encouragement Services holiday store...followed by a little party. time spent with middle schoolers who are passionate about making a difference? that makes a pretty good night.

what about you?


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thursday's Ten: Christmas traditions

today's list: your favorite personal or family traditions for this time of year :0)

1. opening one (just one!) gift on Christmas Eve
my parents always let me, and i loved it.  i think i'll continue the tradition with my kids with Christmas pajamas :)
2. Christmas Eve Mass
i'm not catholic, but i love the service
3. sleeping just one night per season underneath the Christmas tree
that wouldn't be hard for me this year...considering the tree is just across the room from where i sleep anyway...
4. black Friday Christmas shopping -- online and in person
i know some think it's crazy but i love it!
5. wrapping presents. it may not be a tradition, really, but i have a rule at Christmas that there will be NO bags involved unless it's just a particularly hard gift to wrap.
i love wrapping gifts.  is that weird?
6. movies -- A's family watches the same movies every year, starting with Elf on thanksgiving night and including White Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life...and a few others ;-)
and anthony and i watched Love Actually tonight...and i think we'll do Four Christmases before Christmas day
7. the Advent wreath. this year I put it up late, and didn't prepare by finding any books to do during the unprepared, but hopefully this is the only year that will be a problem.
there's something so peaceful and lovely about lighting a candle and whispering simple words
8. my open house party...that's another thing that just isn't happening this year :( 
but there are plenty to attend, and i hope that next year's will more than make up for this year's lack
9.  caroling.  i haven't done it for YEARS, but maybe i should change that.  my cell group (small group) talked last night about the possibility of caroling sometime before Christmas, so who knows? :-)
we actually snuck to a friends house to sing a song for them last night...which is what brought the conversation up 
10.  playing Christmas music...constantly
normally i have only holiday music playing after thanksgiving.  this year has been a little strange in all regards.  i'm missing directing a choir, i'm missing decorating a space that's truly mine, and i've discovered pandora to play in the car...but i suppose i could choose a pandora Christmas station...

i'm sure as the years go by and i have children things will get even crazier.  but those are the simple traditions i've kept for the last 5 years or so.  what about you?


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

nashville snow drivers

and have done my fair share plus of complaining about nashville drivers in the snow

today i'll give you a slight glimpse of what i'm talking about.  which is timely because ICE is predicted today.  oh joy!

as i see it there are a few distinct categories of nashville (or southern) snow drivers

in no particular order (except how it comes to my brain) here they are

the recent transplant
characteristics: doesn't understand what everyone is complaining about, forgets temporarily that tennessee gets less snow and more ice, also forgets that nashville is very hilly
driving style: at least 20 mph faster than everyone else on the road, over-confident
(for tractor trailers, add 10 mph and a whole lot of aggressiveness.  yikes)

the nervous nellie/ned
characteristics: have rarely if ever driven in snow, decide that wherever they need to go is clearly more important than the safety of everyone else in the city, bundled up in a heavy coat, thick gloves and a hat that keeps dropping over their eyes but they are too afraid to take their hands off the wheel to push it up
driving style: at least 20 mph slower than everyone else on the road, frequent braking, hands at 11 and 1 on the steering wheel and sitting at the very edge of their driver's seat

the native
characteristics: is only experienced in driving to his or her local grocery store for bread/milk/eggs but feels that experience is just as good as anyone else's
driving style: speed varies, but braking is frequent

the oblivious
characteristics: knows there is snow/ice on the road and that it's slowing everyone else down, but doesn't feel as if it affects him/her, often spotted with "multi-tasking" items such as cell phone or coffee in hand, or makeup brush poised
driving style: at least 20 mph faster than everyone else, reckless when there ISN'T winter weather, so completely hazardous when there is.  avoid this person at all costs.

on a scary(ier) note, here's actual footage of tennessee drivers on ice.  yikes!
and some tips, should you need them.  i kid in this post (kind of) but in ALL seriousness, be careful out there!

(all photos from google images)


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

a simple (or not so simple) question

those lyrics that say "break my heart for what breaks Yours?"
when i sing them, i mean them
and sometimes i feel like i get a glimpse of what breaks the Father's heart

this question started burning in my mind a few days ago
like, can't get it out of my head 
must get it out
sort of burning it is.

while you are busy hating the homosexual
fearing the Muslim
banishing the refugee
walking the other way from the homeless
refusing to serve the illegal

who exactly is being Christ to the above?

i'm pretty sure i've seen more Christ-love behavior
from each of those groups
than from many who bear His name
(don't get me wrong -- there are many who bear His name in the above groupings too)

perhaps evangelicals need to remember why they are CALLED evangelicals
and protestants need to stop protesting everything that doesn't fit into their box
and catholics need to worry less about what one council says and more about how One Person lived
and charismatics need bring some of that energy into serving the least of these

there's no perfect answer
and we're not perfect people
but the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart
and the second
to love your neighbor as yourself

and we can't choose our neighbors, folks
but sometimes i wonder
if they are chosen for us
by Divine intersection
how many of us speed through without even looking?

so there it is
it's a simple question

while we are so busy elsewhere
who is showing His love?


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thursday's Ten: the last moment gift edition

i thought we'd do holidays for the month of i'm going to go ahead and tell you the next 2 weeks' topics.
next thursday: your favorite (family or personal) traditions for the holidays
the following: funny christmas -- in photos, stories, etc. i love the meaning of this season, but sometimes it is lovely to just enjoy the humor that can ensue when you get family together, etc.

but today...
today we'll do gift ideas

here are the ten things i thought of while sitting on my couch today ;)  i'm sure there are better ideas out there, and i'm hoping YOU have them!  so play along, please?

1. gift cards with purpose. starbucks has the red program for example.  if you're getting someone (or me!) a gift card from starbucks, could you make it a red card?  it won't cost you or the user anything extra, but it will ensure donations are made to help out with AIDS treatment in africa.  bonus?  those cards are reloadable.  you bettter believe i'll be reloading the free one i got when i took advantage of the buy a pound of coffee get a $5 gift card deal...
2.  from the heart ideas.  yeah, you could be branded as "cheap".  but do you really care?  i make jewelry for some, and for most everyone on my list this year i'll be including some of my peppermint bark.  hey look -- you can too because i've given you the recipe :)
3.  date nights.  do you have a couple friend that you hang out with?  give them a gift that the 4 of you enjoy and can do together.  or if they have kids, give THEM a date night.  offer free babysitting and give a gift card to the movies, or to their favorite restaurant.
4.  hobby baskets:  have a book lover?  put together a "comfy reading basket" complete with a bookmark, nice mug and yummy tea, fuzzy slippers or socks, and possibly a copy of that new book they've been wanting, or just a gift card to a local bookstore. 
if you have a crafter on your list, besides the obvious gift card to hobby lobby or michaels you can do something similar -- compiling some 'staple' items for their crafts.  ribbons for gift wrappers, findings for jewelry makers, tapes and stickers for scrapbookers.
5.  pampering kits for new (or not-so-new) moms are always good.  what female among us doesn't enjoy a nice bubble bath with a candle, some pedicure stuff and nail polish?  actually, scratch the moms part out and just give to any female.  add some good chocolates for good measure.
6.  for the kiddos: i love to give books, and will until they're old enough to ask for something else!  and then i pretty much stick to their lists.  however, stationary stuff for little girls is always a hit...and i haven't yet met a male child who didn't love to build with legos or lincoln logs.  but when in doubt -- double check with the parents!
7.  games for family members or close friends.  it's really nice to be able to sit around the table and giggle over apples to apples...or even just gather around the tv for a rousing night of rock band.  the bonus is that it's really a gift of time...because it'll bring you all around the table (or couch) together and will start conversations that normally wouldn't have happened.
8.  don't forget the furry friends.  emi usually gets a new toy or something for her Christmas gift :)  i'll never forget that my dad always gave my family's cat a bit of turkey on thanksgiving day...and said "it's thanksgiving for her too".  it was kind of out of character for him to spoil her in any way...and it's kind of inspired me to give a little something extra to my pets at Christmas too :)
9.  memories.  photo calendars, a mini scrapbook (or photo album if you're not creative that way), framed photos, etc
10.  gadget helpers, offbeat fun things.  for example, i really need these iphone gloves, and could someone please make me a sun jar?  or there's always the funny tshirt companies like threadless or busted tees.

mmmkay, did that help?  hopefully you have ALL your shopping done, but just in case...


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

hey, it's ok (tuesday) .4

 hey, it's ok! possibly love wrapping the presents as much as anything else at this time of year think that those fruit in a pouch deals for babies and toddlers are pretty awesome...and to consider adding a few to your own pantry since you never eat fruit and this would be one way to change that giggle a bit at the baby terrorizing the cat before actually stopping said baby from said terrorizing
(really all he was doing was standing at the chair she was sitting in and reaching out to pet her.) realize that a good number of your "hey it's ok" points involve children when you don't even have kids yet get a little giddy about "the sing off" kind of wish you could hibernate for this season because it's COLD have been slightly freaked out when the mother of a couple of your students placed an albino ferret in your arms when you were dropping off some music at their house, followed by the realization that the animal was actually quite adorable and very snuggly!


Saturday, December 4, 2010

it's a great day for more conferencing!

quick explanation of the wordle i do (most) every saturday, because some of you are new around here:

a couple of years ago (i think) i stumbled across a blog thing called "weekend wordle". i discovered it about the same time as i found "six word saturday"...actually i think it was because my blog buddy megan was participating in both!

anyway, i stopped doing both for awhile because my weekends are so crazy, and when i started back up i discovered that blog hosting the "weekend wordle" was not really staying active with it any longer. however, i thought it was fun enough to keep going!

if you want to play along, you can find the place to make the wordle here. just type in your blog address and wait for it to create! you can play around with fonts and colors, although i usually just leave it at random.

like this week's.  totally random.

and now for a blog thing that is VERY active :)

those e.d. commercials make me squirm!

seriously, have you noticed that?  all about turning normal moments into romantic ones, 4 hours, blah blah.  i'm thrilled that couples can enjoy each other's company in that way with medical aid...but i'd rather not watch 6 commercials regarding the ways in which that happens while i'm simply trying to take in this week's episode of csi:ny!

today's events include another prophetic that means that literally anything could happen!   it's sure to be an exciting day, that much is for sure :-)

have a good one!


Thursday, December 2, 2010

thursday's ten: my favorite nashville holiday traditions

please share your favorite things to do in YOUR area of the world during this season!  i'd love to read them...and maybe plan a visit! :)

1.  the Christmas village.  every year that A and i have been dating we've gone, so it's become a fun little tradition.  basically it's a huge craft and foods fair where you can buy gifts for everyone on your list...or just wander around and admire.
2. opryland hotel.  after the may flooding, we weren't sure about this year's holiday there was much rejoicing in town when we found out that the hotel was re-opening just in time for the holidays.  we always go to see the lights, but there's also a huge ICE display, the rockettes are in town for awhile, and there's tons of other festivities in the opryland hotel complex.
3.   local theater.  one of the standards is a tuna christmas at tpac, but there are shows going on EVERYWHERE that are both funny and heartwarming.  :)
4.  downtown Christmas trees.  nashville being the state capitol and all, we have both the state tree and the city tree downtown.  there's been a lot of push to plant a tree in the future (at least for the metro tree), and i kind of hope that goes through.  it'd be nice, not only from a eco-friendly aspect, but also to know that you're looking at the same tree year after year :)
5.  Christmas lights.  every year there's a county-wide contest, and every year the winners are announced in early to mid december.  the announcement includes addresses, so it's fun to see the winners year after year.  it DOES sometimes seem like we're going to the same houses over and over year after year, but it's totally worth it :)
6.  parades, naturally!  of course there are your normal street parades, but there's also a more creative approach.  not in nashville proper, but a bit north...when i lived on that lake i spoke about, i could watch the hendersonville lighted boat parade.  boats decked out for christmas.  it was way cool :)  one of these years i'll have to get up there again for it -- definitely a lot of fun!
7.  not to be outdone, south of nashville in little franklin...every year holds a street festival called "a dickens of a christmas".  unfortunately, we're going to be out of town this year...but i hope to get there next year!
8.  tons of amazing church concerts and the like.  my favorite every year is the Christ Church Choir one.  they're amazing!
9.  the live nativity -- actually the live walk through bethlehem -- at a church on hillsboro rd.  now, i've never actually MEANT to go to this, but just about every year i get stuck in traffic because of it.  and i smile...
10.  and some places just pull out all the stops.  cheekwood, for example, has a TON of stuff going on all season long.  cookie decorating, wreath making, and something called martinis and mistletoe that i think i need to investigate.

one that isn't really a tradition but i love is snow pictures...if we're lucky enough to get a snowfall.  i've lived in nashville for 11 winters now, and it's only happened a couple of times that i get GOOD snow to take pictures in.  so, because it's such a rare thing it makes it all the more special.

what about you?  what fun things do you and your family like to do to enjoy and savor the season?


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

hey, it's ok (tuesday)'s ok
(go visit amber for the original!)

... to put redi whip in your coffee if you're at a house that has it. it's just like creamer, riiight?

... to laugh at the words "sarah palin misspoke again" simply because you don't really think they are necessary anymore.  and that has nothing to do with politics, really.

... to watch phineas and ferb.  by yourself.

... to marvel about how people are obsessed with superficiality as you flip through a people magazine.  and then realize that the only reason you're looking through that particular magazine is because you're sitting under a dryer while the highlights your stylist just put in take effect...

... to really want to smack the wiifit lady in the face when she says "oh" in THAT tone of voice when you step on the board. 


Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday's Memory: the one with my lake

do you have one of those places that calls you back from time to time?
times when you're discouraged
at a decision point
that feel so much a part of you
that going there in the midst of chaos sort of sends everything scattering to the right place again?

when i first graduated college i moved
about 30 minutes north of the city
(logistically a nightmare, which is why i lived there for precisely ONE year)

the draw though
was that i had a ground floor apartment
that was directly across the street from a gorgeous lake
and i could literally step off my patio and walk across to it anytime i wanted

i have this thing about water
and this lake
was just special.

in november of 2008
just a couple of months after losing my job
i felt lost
without direction
nothing had materialized
and while i was "working" for a few families
i had no idea where to go from there
(little did i know the journey i was ALREADY on!)

i revisited "my" lake
and somehow
things seemed right again with the world
 if only for that 20 minutes.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thursday's Ten: thanksgiving '10

(you should all participate in this one. just sayin')

today i am thankful

- for the table we will gather at with anthony's family.  for them, their hospitality, and their immediate acceptance of me.  and that they asked me to bring something that's traditional in MY family today so i'm bringing green bean casserole and pumpkin pie.  and so incredibly grateful i didn't get a preparatory letter like this one with instructions. (read it.  you'll laugh)

- for the man i love and our time together so far...and for SO.MUCH to look forward to.  for future plans that excite me, for knowing that he loves God more than he loves the balance is alllll gooooood.  and that he's a dork, just like me.

- for emi, who scrunches her face up into "her" chair, who sits on the piano bench more often than i do, who jumps up on the bed to be loved on as soon as i walk in the door, who runs to greet me when i arrive, who sometimes just runs around the house like a crazed animal, who is stingy (but rewarding) with her purrs, who loves to chase a laser light, and who most nights will cuddle with me at bedtime just for a little while.

- for life in the garden, in the herb planters.  and that i've managed to keep a cilantro plant alive for a whole month now.

-  for the fact that i just drove to anthony's apartment with my sunroof open.  on thanksgiving day, people.  it's in the 70s today :D
(and yes, it'll be cold tomorrow.  but i can be thankful for warm weather on thanksgiving!)

- for friends who get me.  and for those who don't, but accept that i'm a little crazy ;-)

- for the spiritual communities that have shaped my faith.  this journey has been a wild ride, for SURE  but i've told many people to buckle up and raise their hands because it's the ultimate thrill ride!

- for the privilege of being called to live this way.  so completely dependent on God for provision and strength that i pretty much live just like this quote:
"But God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through"
(Francis Chan)

- for my wii, dvr, laptop and iphone that serve as distractions when i need them, entertainment when i'm lacking, exercise when it's hot/cold/rainy, and connections with those i love. yes, all of them have their downsides, but using them for their intended purpose has been a blessing

- for so many countless things in addition: my dog magnet that has dogs of all shapes, sizes and breeds flocking to me and giving me affection.  for starbucks and my ridiculous collection of travel mugs.  for road trips with friends.  for snuggles on the couch.  for naps.  for worship.  for babies and the privilege of watching them grow.  for the families who have supported me and entrusted me with their most valuable possessions -- their children.  for learning about and beginning to operate more fully in my giftings.  for laughter.  for family.  for so.much.more.

and of course...for all of you.  who come here and read what i have to say, who humble me with the way you respond, who encourage me with your friendship.  i started blogging just for me, and i'm ever surprised and blessed that you hang out with me here in this small corner of the internet. so thankful that our lives (and blogs) have crossed paths.  :)


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

recipe of the week: stuffed shells casserole

**please excuse the lack of pictures.   it was so good that we kinda forgot about that part.**

i LOVED the idea of this recipe
who doesn't love stuffed shells?
who doesn't get frustrated when making them because either they fall apart, leak all their filling, or just in general don't turn out the way you expected?
(ok, maybe i'm the only one who prepares to make 12 stuffed shells and ends up with 7 - 9 actual shells and 3 - 5 shells worth of ripped fragments)

but even if they work out perfectly
they're kind of a pain.  yes?

so this recipe from rachael ray comes in to make our lives a bit easier.
it's CERTAINLY not a 30 minute meal
more like three times that
but most of that is kind of passive time
so you can set the table, make other foodstuffs, etc while the sauce is cooking or the casserole is baking :)

stuffed shells casserole
for the sauce:
extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, chopped finely (i minced)
3/4 of 1 large (or 2 small/medium) onion, chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped or grated
salt and pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano or marjoram
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed with the flat edge of your knife
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped (i only had dried since my thyme didn't survive all summer!)
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry wine, white or red (i used white)
2 cups chicken stock
2 cans crushed italian tomatoes (i used diced this time around, use whatever.  also, the original recipe calls for 28 oz cans, but i used 2 regular sized cans.  it was the perfect ratio for us, but if you prefer a more tomatoey sauce, use the big cans.)

for the "stuffed" bit:
1 pound medium or large pasta shells
2 boxes frozen spinach, defrosted and wrung dry with a clean towel (i used 1 bag from trader joes because it's about the same)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
the other 1/4 of the large or two small/med onion
2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano - reggiano cheese 
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten

in a large pan, heat about 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil.  add the garlic, onion and carrot.  season with salt, pepper, oregano, crushed red pepper, fennel seeds, and thyme and gently saute for about 10 minutes.  add in parsley and stir, then add wine and reduce a minute (unless you're me and forget that step), chicken stock and tomatoes.  bring to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer.  simmer sauce for 45 minutes.

after sauce has been heating for 30 minutes, preheat oven to 375゜

bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta.  salt the water, and boil pasta for 5 minutes.
at the same time, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  add garlic and onion and saute for 5 minutes.  add spinach, pulling apart and separating as you go. stir to combine well and add nutmeg, salt and pepper.  turn off heat.
(ok, to save time, i had the defrosting spinach in a bowl, wrung it out, and then went ahead and seasoned with nutmeg, salt and pepper while it was still in the bowl)

drain undercooked pasta and return it to the hot pot. add spinach mixture to pot, along with ricotta and parmigiano cheeses. stir to combine and then add egg yolks.
(erm, again, i saved time here by mixing the spinach, cheeses and eggs in the large bowl the spinach was defrosting in.  i then added the drained pasta and stirred it all up)

pour a thin layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish.  fill dish with pasta, and then top with another layer of sauce.  if you wish, you can save some to dish on at the table...i just dump all the sauce in :)  bake 30 minutes.
extra fresh parmigiano on the table is never a bad idea ;-)

enjoy!  just so you know, this recipe makes a TON.  anthony and i ate big helpings, i sent him home with 2 really large servings of leftovers for he and his roommate, i put aside a serving for his grandpa, an additional serving for me, and i STILL had 2 large servings to freeze.
we're taking another dish of this to a friend who just had a baby this week, along with a salad.  pasta and sauce is always a winner :)


Saturday, November 20, 2010

it's a great day to enjoy the weather

surprise!  it's gorgeous out there today!

funny. it's been cold here all week and today? gorgeous. i don't mind this trend of cold miserable weeks followed by a rewarding gorgeous weekend!

i've already taught a lesson this morning and i babysit starting at 5 -- first for a small group (at minimum 12 kids, but the parents will be right.there) and then when small group leaves i'll stick around.  tis the season for holiday parties, and the hosts of the small group have one to go to!
yay more monies :)

have a wonderful day out there -- hope you enjoy it immensely!