Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cake Weekends

Sometimes I go a month or two without baking/decorating a cake and I kind of hate those times because I start to feel out of practice.  Then I over-compensate and take on multiple projects.  I kind of hate those weekends, too.  Friday night and Saturday morning I spent gobs of time (and ingredients) on mini-cakes for a bridal event at work.  I started with a mini-cake pan that we sell because I was certain the little cakes would be perfect.  They weren't.  Not the first time (wrong batter, I decided).  Not the second time (should have beaten the pan on the floor to lose the bubbles, maybe?).  Not really the third time (though at that point, I was done and sprinkled the best ones with some powdered sugar).

In an effort to use the rest of the batter from my third attempt (and having had it with the cute pan), I made mini-cupcakes in a pan I already had.  After I took that batch out, I had a brainstorm--slice off the little cupcake tops, turn them over, and decortate them as little mini-cakes!  I quickly whipped up a batch of devils food cake batter and churned out four more dozen mini-cakes.

Saturday morning I had a devil of a time figuring out how to decorate the little things, but J saved the day with a quick trip to Kroger for sprinkles (did I mention he made a trip to Wal-Mart late Friday night for Pam and other non-stick sprays?).  Here's the end result:  mini-cakes glazed in royal icing, then topped with a bit more royal icing and a spattering of sprinkles.  How cute are these??

I went off to work with my mini-cakes in tow, then returned home to bake more.  Sunday morning, we said goodbye to our Youth Minister.  Lakeya is heading to Belgium for a year to serve as the youth minister at a church for American youth in Brussels.  After a quick brainstorming session, we decided that nothing says Belgium like waffles and chocolate!  Lakeya's favorite cake is traditional yellow birthday cake, so I did a three layer yellow cake with regular vanilla buttercream frosting.  In between the layers, I added chocolate shavings, then on top I placed a ton of chocolate shavings and waffle pieces.  Yum! 

After Friday night/Saturday morning, it was kind of a relief to just put together and frost a traditional layer cake Sunday morning.  As with any hobby, it is fun to immerse myself in it for the weekend, but it is also fun to finish the project and step back for a few days! 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Getting closer...

Thanks so much for your comments about the lighting fixture in the bathroom!  I've looked at several, and we've even managed to narrow down what we're looking for.  Cross your fingers on that one! 

In other bathroom related news, the artwork for above the toilet is at the framing shop and will be ready to pick up next week.  I've been back and forth on whether to hang a print we bought in San Francisco six years ago or to put up glass shelves in that space.  When I couldn't find shelf brackets I could live with for less than $50 per shelf (and of course I wanted two or three), not to mention that I didn't find any I really liked, I decided maybe it was a sign.  Since the print we're hanging is pretty much a sunk cost at this point, I just needed to find a framing option that cost less than the shelves to make it worthwhile.  Thanks to a half price sale on a frame (and one already with glass in it, too!), I've managed to get the artwork done for $50 total! 

We're almost there!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

This, That and the Other

Part of the beauty of Free-Style Sunday is the option to write about whatever I want to write about.  Often, that is a great thing, but today I kept stumbling across new topic ideas before the last one had been fully developed.  Now, it's nearly 11:00 and I haven't managed to put together one solid blog post.  Instead, I've decided to toss out all of the under-developed ideas and thoughts.  Don't expect a common thread--it's been one of those days! :)

This morning, our priest's sermon addressed security blankets and items we use to bring comfort.  I don't think I ever had a security blanket (a la Linus' blanket) per se, but I did have Bawlmer, a teddy bear I received for Christmas when I was five or so.  I didn't go anywhere for long periods of time without Bawlmer (the hospital when I had surgery in eighth grade, the camp where I was a counselor, college, etc.), but I don't remember taking him with me everywhere.  Something I found interesting was a study Fr. Johnnie mentioned--one that found that children with security items were more confident, more likely to speak their minds than those who didn't have a security item.  Today, Bawlmer still has a place of honor in our guest room (I finally moved him off my bed when I got married).  Did you have a security blanket (or other item)?  What was it?  Do you have it still?

In another flashback to childhood, the tendonitis in my wrist and hand that started in eighth grade reared it's painfully ugly head again today.  For the back story, one afternoon in eighth grade, my friends and I were practicing hurdles at track practice.  I am not sure why I was, as I was never terribly good at them, but my brothers were hurdlers and I guess I thought I should be, too.  Well, apparently I shouldn't have been.  My girlfriends from college can confirm I am not the most graceful person and I managed to trip over one of the hurdles.  I caught most of my weight with my right hand, and sprained it pretty badly.  Periodically since then, if I overuse that hand (like painting a room by myself) it will flair up a bit and be particularly bothersome for a couple of days.  Recently, the pain has been more frequent (though still no more often than a few times a year), but this time I don't even know what set it off.  I do know that the firm handshakes during the passing of the Peace this morning did nothing to help! :)

Finally, I'm almost embarassed to admit this, but I recently rediscovered the awesomeness that is our public library system!  I used the local branch of our library often in grad school, but I guess I had not visited in several years.  One day last week I decided to drop by the branch closest to our house.  There are a couple of books out that I'd like to read but would prefer not to buy, and I've not really warmed to the electronic book craze.  First, I needed a lesson in the card catalog system (entirely on-line, not a wooden case in sight).  Then once I'd mastered that system and gone in search of my books, I had to go to a different computer to register for a library card.  At a third computer I checked my books out and was on my way.  What a difference from the old way!  The best part of the system is that I can go online and reserve books.  When they become available, the library will send me an email, and I can grab them from the hold shelf just inside the doors at my convenience. This may not be news to most of you, but I am thrilled with my "new" discovery.  This morning, I finished the second of the books I checked out and went online to reserve several more!

Have a great week!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saturday Smells Like . . . Cauliflower Low-Carb Pizza

Hello all, J. here. JE has gotten herself into another sticky wicket with Time. I have repeatedly asked that she mend her differences with him, but the two continue to banter back and forth like two school children playing the dozens. Time always complains when
I intercede. He protests that two against one is not square, until I remind him that, by the very rules of the game, he will win in the end and, as such, it is only sporting to let JE win some battles along the way, by hook or by crook.

Time then typically responds by sharing new euphemisms for "lawyer" that he has learned since we last met.

Taking Time's example, I hope to share with you a new dish I recently made: pizza with a low-carb cauliflower crust. Now, I know what you're thinking: "That sounds like the worst idea I've heard since letting your kids sleep over at Neverland Ranch." Hear me out.

If you've been following the blog, you know I've been trying to lose some weight. Actually, about half of me, give or take a few stones. I focused on Atkins, because (a) it involves bacon; (b) it involves cheese; and (c) the whole insulin/glycemic index angle kind of makes sense to me from a evolutionary perspective (yeah. It's really more (a) and (b).). Also, I know that I'm not a "sweets" guy, so I figured that temptation would be minimal.

I neglected, however, to consider my love of bread.

I love me some bread. My mother will tell you that there was a period in my life, from about 12 to 18, when, if given the option, I would put whatever meat you gave me between two pieces of bread, and would likely add a slice of some sort of cheese. Since then, my mixing of bread with meat and cheese has only expanded from the basic sandwich. From bacon tomato cups to homemade pizza, bread + meat + cheese is, to steal a phrase, "Good Eats" in my book.

My biggest struggle in this regard has been pizza. If I love me some bread, I would marry me some pizza (For my more conservative readers, please read "civil union" if you feel that pizza marriage would threaten the institution.). My and JE's recent experiments with homemade pizza only fed the grade-school kid in me that loved pizza day in the school cafeteria.

Given my predicament, I did what any modern man would do: I consulted the interwebs.

And what I found was awesome. You can make pizza dough out of riced cauliflower, which is both nutrition dense and Atkins friendly. Now, I will not bother setting forth the recipes for the following reasons: (a) others have done it superbly; (b) in fairness, I should drive some traffic to their blogs; and (c) have I mentioned I'm lazy?

My first attempt went fairly well. It tasted great. The cauliflower browned a bit and added a nutty tilt that creates a layer of flavor absent from regular pizza. My only problems were (a) I added cream cheese, because I thought it would help the crust bind (I was wrong); and (b) I probably didn't cook it long enough for it to firm. So, be patient and don't add cream cheese, and I'm sure you will enjoy cauliflower pizza as much as I did.

I'd like to share the pictures of my attempts, but JE has them. I'm sure she will come behind me and add them. (hint, hint)

All that said, I will leave you now, as I'm writing this after a run, and my body is ordering me to turn my brain off and just lie in cool dark of the basement, marinading in a mixture of my pain, sweat and self-loathing.

Enjoy the pizza and your holiday weekend.

Update: I was hungry and had some cauliflower left over, so I took another run. Here's what the mixture looks like spread onto a pan. I've taken a few liberties, adding garlic, basil and a light coat of butter for browning purposes.

This is what it looks like straight out of the oven:

After that, you just add the sauce (make your own. Seriously, it's cheap and easy. Just simmer some diced tomatoes, some tomato paste and some tomato sauce and add seasonings as you like.) and toppings. Then pop it back in the oven for around 5 minutes under the broiler.

Then, take it out, let it cool and enjoy.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday again? So soon?

Oops!  I almost missed a Friday post, didn't I?  I'm not quite sure what it is about Friday posts, but they have such a knack for sneaking up on me!  In this case, we joined friends for dinner last night (well, I did; J was still making his way back from EKY), and I developed a splitting headache just after leaving.  I went home, curled up in bed, and was zonked out long before my normal bedtime.  It was after work today before I realized that I had not prepped a post.  What does this mean for you?  More time to weigh in on the new Friday theme.  Maybe we'll debut that next week with the new month!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thankful Thursday--May 26

This week, perhaps more than anything, I'm thankful for our basement (and air mattresses).  It's such a relief when storms come through overnight to just move our little family into the basement. 

I'm thankful, too, for husbands (well, a certain husband) who take the grocery budget to heart and find more affordable options (which left enough change to pick up roses for the kitchen table this week, too!).  It's been years since I was in a grocery store as small as Aldi, but it felt good to get almost as many groceries for half the price!

Finally, I'm thankful for friends and co-workers who give me the opportunity to practice my baking/decorating.  May has been a busy month for cakes and I have two more opportunities to share this talent this weekend!

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Outside looking in

I love driving down our street (any residential street, really) at night when you can peak inside other people's homes and, in a way, their lives.  Yesterday, one of my new favorite bloggers posted a picture of her dining room from outside, and it inspired me to do the same.  Forgive the awful quality--I just grabbed my phone and ran outside--and the clearly visible eggs on the mantel--it's still Spring and I think they're pretty

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Flourless Chocolate Cake

So my friend Becky has a birthday this week (Thursday, so head over there and wish her a good one!), and our game night group had a little celebration in her honor on Saturday. Since one of the couples in our group is gluten-free, I decided to bake a gluten-free cake for the gathering. And, since I've kind of mastered gluten-free cake mixes (thanks to Pamela!), I decided to branch out and try my hand at a gluten-free cake from scratch. That said, I've not worked up the courage to get into the various non-gluten flours, and decided instead to bake a flourless chocolate cake.

After googling and reading several recipes, I decided to use the Whole Foods recipe for the cake and Gluten Free Mommy's recipe for the frosting. Below, I've listed the recipes and instructions for both (how I did them) along with pictures! Believe me when I tell you that this was an incredibly easy, incredibly delicious cake to make. If you are looking for a gluten-free option, or just a fabulously rich chocolate cake, I definitely recommend this one!

Cake (from Whole Foods)--Note that this recipe is for one 8 inch layer. I mixed the batter for each layer seperately.

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
6 eggs
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

Prepared cake pan: Cut a piece of waxed paper to the size of your cake pan. Place circle in the bottom of pan and Pam (or some other cooking spray) the entire pan. Whole Foods recommended a springform pan, but I just used a regular cake 8 inch round cake pan and it was fine.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Melt butter and bittersweet chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat. Wisk throughout to keep chocolate from sticking. When it has melted completely, pour the melted chocolate/butter mixture into a medium/large mixing bowl. Add sugar and stir together. Then, wisk in eggs, one at a time. Finally, fold in the sifted cocoa powder until it is just mixed into the batter.

Pour batter into prepared cake pan.

Bake 35 minutes to 40 minutes. The center of the cake will rise and be kind of firm. When the cake is finished, set it on a rack to cool for about ten minutes, then invert it onto the cooling rack to remove from pan and continue to cool. Let cool at least an hour before attempting to frost.

Frosting (from Gluten Free Mommy)--Note that I made two batches to completely cover a three-layer cake.

2 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons confectioners sugar
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon bourbon vanilla

Place heavy cream into mixing bowl. Add confectioners sugar, cocoa powder and vanilla. Honestly, I just threw all the ingredients into the mixing bowl of my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer, set it to a six and walked away for a few minutes. It definitely got past the 'soft peaks' stage mentioned Gluten Free Mommy's instructions to more of a mousse-like texture, but it worked well for my purposes.

To frost this cake, I trimmed the crusty edges off of each layer (notice in the picture of the inverted cake how it looks a little like a pyramid) and stacked, adding frosting in between each layer. Then, I topped the cake with the frosting and used the remainder to cover the sides. Finally, I added raspberries and blackberries to the top of the cake.

Understand that three layers of this cake, even a small slice, will be very rich. J commented that he was glad for the berries because they actually cut the richness. It isn't a particularly sweet cake, but all of that chocolate (24 oz of bittersweet chocolate and about four cups of unsweetened cocoa powder, not to mention 6 sticks of butter, if you weren't keeping count) do add up to one rich product. And yes, J strictly avoided carbs all day so he could have a small slice! Enjoy!!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Let there be light!

Specifically, let there be someone out there who can find a bathroom light for us!!  I've been looking for a new light to put up over our vanity, and just haven't been having much luck.  Solution?  Turn to our readers for some suggestions.  Please take a look at the fixtures we have already and leave your suggestions (links are much appreciated, but general websites and names to google works, too)!

So here is the hole we're looking to turn into a light fixture:

And these are the fixtures we're looking to accomodate (bad lighting/iPhone camera usage has the colors all off, but they do actually match in person):

The towel bars--

The sink faucet (a little on the modern side in terms of what we're looking for, but the finish was right)--

The drawer pulls on our vanity--

So there you have it.  Please help!!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sleep-inducing Sunday

So I failed to get back with details of the chocolate cake (I know, you're shocked!).  In short, it turned out really well and everyone loved it.  I'll share more details soon, I promise! 

J can tell you that I often mis-judge how long it will take me to get things done, so I deliberately made a short list for Saturday.  Even with a short list, making time to load pictures and write a blog post just didn't make it in. 

We spent our Saturday evening at two birthday parties (one for an adorable five year old and on for the friend who received the cake), and didn't get home until midnight. After church and a long afternoon at work, we headed out to a birthday dinner tonight, so I'm completely wiped.  I think that means that MP Monday's post may be late in the morning, too...

I hope you had a great weekend!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Saturday smells like... GF Chocolate Cake

Today's post is a two-parter, which is to say that I'm writing it early in anticipation of a pretty yummy smelling flourless chocolate cake (Gluten Free by it's very flour-less nature) that I'll be baking this morning.   This is my first attempt at a GF cake that doesn't start as a mix.  No offense to Pamela, as she's still my go-to girl for GF cake (and pancake) mix, but I always want to try new things. So come back later for pictures and details!

P.S.  I realized as I started this post that yesterday marked our 250th post here at the MP.  Woohoo!  Hard to believe that 150 of those have been since October (when we marked 100 posts). 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fickle Friday

Okay, so it has been decided that Furnishing Friday has sort of run its course (while we've got a nice accumulation of other people's stuff, it's not a huge accumulation that can sustain itself forever).  I hope to still post one Furnishing Friday post a month to finish out the family antiques and cover some pieces that we've purchased along the way. 

The other three (or four) weeks out of the month need to be filled with something, too, though.  So, if I've been reading the stats tab correctly, we seem to have about 15-20 regular readers.  I'm counting on you guys to help us decide.  You are, after all, the reason we're writing this blog--to share and inform someone.

So.  These are two ideas I've come up with.  Let me know what you think.  Do you like these ideas?  Would you read posts about them and share them with others?  Which do you prefer?  If you don't like either, what do you want to read about on Fridays?  (Remember, I really like the topic name to somehow tie in with the day of the week--see the other daily topics at the top of this blog.)

Idea One:  Playing off of Furnishing Fridays--Family History Fridays--will dig for some family stories.  We have a binder of information the J's grandmother shared with us, and I really need to spend more time nagging my grandmothers for some good dirt, so I think this could be pretty interesting.

Idea Two:  Totally unrelated, but potentially useful for J and me--Physio Fridays--will chronicle where we are in terms of our health.  J blogged on Sunday about his running and the fact that we (well, he talked about himself, but we both are) are overweight.  We think this might bring about a bit of accountability for us to report in regularly on our progress to become heathier people.

Click on the little grey comments link below and tell us what you think!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thankful Thursday--May 19

I used to joke that if patience is a virtue then I wasn't a virtuous person.  I got a chance to practice patience this week, and I'm thankful for that.  I am thankful, too, for friends who shared their time (and their kids time) with me this week.  With nieces and nephews so far away, I enjoy getting to shower hugs and attention on the little people we interact with, and I appreciate our friends letting me get my fix on their little ones.  Finally, I am so thankful for J this week (and his job).  He's been insanely busy the last few weeks (which is a blessing in itself), and he still manages to put on a happy face when he gets home.  I know he's tired and totally stressed out, and I appreciate his effort!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A rose by any other name...

This week, Wordless Wednesday is a two-fer--one a wide shot of our gorgeous roses, and one more close up so you can actually see them.  This is one of the very few plants left by the previous owners that we've kept (to be fair, it's also one of the very few pretty plants the previous owners left for us...), and I think the crazy weather this spring has done amazing things for it!

Crazy blurry because a. I used my iPhone and b. the wind kept blowing the flowers around.  Sorry.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A talent by any other name...

I had the good fortune this weekend to attend the wedding of one of my old co-workers with several co-workers, most of whom no longer work for the organization (J had the bad fortune to join me and spent much of the evening being 'left out' of the general conversations as we caught up and shared memories.  One of the things we joked about had to do with a personality test that employees were given in an effort to help us better understand ourselves and our co-workers.  In it, we found that I am generally what is referred to as a "yellow"--an easy-to-get-along-with, encouraging, pleasant person.  Yellows work well in groups and generally try to be sure everyone is involved in decision-making.  When stressed, I become "green".  Greens are generally your finance/accounting detail-oriented people.  In my case, when I go green, it generally means that a spreadsheet is close behind.  This part of me is also keenly interested in 'rules'--knowing them and being sure everyone follows them. 

I'm not a terribly exciting person to be around when I 'go green'.  I know this, and I generally try to mask it as best I can (because really, if I'm green for too long, even I don't care to be around myself).  But I realized this weekend that my green tendencies are a real talent.  If you want to know the rules to a game, I'm your girl.  Same thing with knowing how things work (I'm a fan of reading the instruction manuals, as well as a fan of the show "How It's Made").  And seriously, I think I could teach a course in Excel (2000...I've not had the opportunity to become familiar with 2007).  Today, when a friend asked me to think about ideas for a cake that will be served more than four months from now, I immediately put together a sketch and sent it off for approval. More times than I can count, I've irritated my best friends from college by pointing out that there may have been some rule-breaking going on (sometimes from the legal perspective, sometimes just the rules that have evolved over the almost fourteen years of our friendship).  These quirks make me resistant to change and slow to adapt, but doesn't that also mean I am reliable and consistent?  I think that's a talent, and I'm glad it is one I have.

Monday, May 16, 2011

In Praise of...the Filtrete Water Station

J and I are water-drinkers.  For years, that has meant we are bottled-water drinkers, since I'm a little picky and prefer my water be of the well-chilled variety rather than straight out of the tap.  Now, I don't know if you've priced bottled water lately, but it isn't exactly cheap.  In addition, the idea that we were constantly throwing away plastic bottles didn't set well with us.  So, we decided to look into other options. 

Our first try was to purchase a large bottle to keep in the fridge.  This probably held three gallons of water and had a spout-like thing to pour water from.  Well, we couldn't figure out how to make the spout work, so basically we decanted the water into pitchers and kept them all in the refrigerator.  In other words, FAIL.  Actually this plan failed for two reasons.  The first is the obvious--three pitchers + the large container of water took up a lot of space.  We lost basically 20% of the storage space in the fridge.  The second, and less obvious, reason that this solution failed is that apparently I really prefer to drink water out of a bottle.  Crazy, right?  I think so, but during the two weeks that we tried out this solution, my water consumption went way down, and worse, my diet Coke consumption went way up!  Now, it's normal for me to drink one or two cans of diet Coke in a day.  While I aspire to drop it back down to zero, I think this is an acceptable amount for now.  During our experiment, I drank four or five a day.  That's not acceptable.

We moved on two Option 2, which has worked out incredibly well!  Enter (cue choir of angels):  the Filtrete Water Station!  It is (for us) the perfect combination of filtered tap water and refrigerated bottled water.  Basically, the Water Station is a unit that holds four bottles under one large filtered pool of water.  You pour your water in at the top, it flows through the filter, then is diverted to empty bottles below.  In a stroke of good fortune, when we decided to purchase ours through amazon.com, we found an option that included two additional bottles to use as spares.  So now, we always have four bottles in the station and two additional bottles to take to work, throughout the house or to keep in the fridge.  (I just checked, and that option doesn't appear to exist at amazon anymore, so I do think we got lucky).  J and my bottled water consumption has gone back up (J even refills his at work using their filtered water system, which he never did before), and my diet Coke consumption has gone back down. 

It will probably take us a month or two to make back our money on the Water Station, but we are drinking more water than before and cutting back on our diet Coke consumption (and spending), so I think it will even out pretty quickly.  And, we no longer have that bad feeling about throwing away plastic bottles!

Note: We're hardly cool enough (i.e., we don't have nearly enough readers) to get free stuff from companies in exchange for positive reviews, but I feel obligated to make that very clear.  We bought and paid for our Filtrete Water Station with our own money.  I just wanted to share in a broader way (everyone I've spent more than five minutes with in the last week has heard about it, too) what a great solution this is for the MP.  Now, if someone from Filtrete is reading this and wants to send me a filter or two to use when this one is exhausted (in about three months), I wouldn't say no.  I'd even give you props for it! :)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Freestyling with J--The Anger Chronicles

Hello all, J. here. JE is not tired, and might have already posted an entirely separate item for today. This post is not me trying to help her out. Rather, it’s me trying to work something out, specifically, what is the place of anger in the life of a follower of Christ? (If you don’t want to read ramblings, perhaps you should move on. I understand. Really. Perhaps you would prefer some of our lovely posts regarding the bathroom? Otherwise, let’s proceed to the caveats.)

Now. Let me start by being completely up front. I am not a biblical scholar by any means. As a child, I had a great illustrated Bible (in essence, a Bible comic book), and my retained knowledge of the Bible finds its genesis (see what I did there?) more from that version than I should admit. I have read the entire Bible (non-illustrated) once and various parts many times. That said, I do not read Greek/original versions, I have no historic context in which to place subtle elements and am generally just relying on my own comprehension of the words on the bare page. So any Bible references I make should be taken with a grain of salt and the knowledge that I am ignorant rather than trying to twist passages to fit an agenda.

So, you ask, “Why does someone who has incredibly little knowledge of the Bible desire to walk around in the deep end, just asking to drown in things of which he does not know?”

Hi. I’m Jonathon Melton. Do you know me? Srsly. This is what I do. I generally find that by walking around asking people about stuff I don’t know (typically in a sarcastic/annoying way), I eventually, sometimes painfully, learn just enough to be dangerous. ( But not in a Sarah Palin way. More in a “failed Jeopardy contestant” way.)

Also, I do not deal with anger well. I tell people I know this, and many of them do not understand. But as my wife, Derrick, James, Carter, my Dad and likely my sisters can attest, when I allow myself to get angry, it gets ludicrous pretty fast.

My dad probably understands this best. He’s got the same problem. I, depending on your perspective, learned/inherited it from him. For him, once he’s angry, he isn’t looking to calm down. A part of him, likely the largest part of him, is looking to ESCALATE the situation. You see, at that point, the anger is like a drug. The adrenaline, etc. just makes you feel so powerful, etc. that you just want more of it.

At that point, I actively LOOK for reasons to increase my anger, even twisting your words to make anything you say an attack against me. And I’m pretty good at it. I’ve best described the resulting mental state as “I will cut off my own arm, even if I can’t beat you with it. I’ll cut off my own arm just in the hopes that I can bleed on you.” In some perverted reality it even makes sense-- if I can destroy me and you, I’m still winning, because, in that mental state, I am convinced that I will be able to recover faster than you will.

Now, the problem with this is, after years of disavowing God, I’ve come to accept that faith is one aspect of human conception of reality (That is a long story that I will share with you if you ever want to hear it, but it’s outside the scope of this post.). And my faith is as a follower of Jesus Christ. Yes, that Jesus Christ. The guy who, despite being divine and souped up on omnipotence, allowed himself to be sacrificed for the sins of us all. The guy who, at least in one gospel, asked for the forgiveness of his persecutors, “as they know not what they do.”


Notwithstanding this obvious contradiction, anger obviously has a part to play in the human experience. I happened on this today, while running. Now, I don’t run easily. I am what some would call “efficient,” but most others would call “lazy.” Nevertheless, my “efficiency” has left me with a “surplus” of “food energy” stored on my person. As Dr. Hiter (JE’s dad) points out, this would be a plus if a famine were around the corner, as my ancestors obviously PWNED during famine conditions and passed on their genetic gifts for dealing with such circumstances to me. That said, I’ve been fat for a while, and the famine hasn’t happened yet. Thus, I have reluctantly started running. And I run faster and feel better when I listen to angry music and work myself into a (for me) mild anger while running. Say what?

So, how do I, as a follower of Christ, square being angry with my perception of God?

For me, I guess I think back to the only instance I can remember of Jesus getting mad—the money changers in the temple. Now, depending on the gospel, Jesus: (1) “drove out” the money changers, saying that his Father’s house is a house of prayer, not a den of thieves; (2) turned over tables and chairs and drove out the money changers, again making the house of prayers/den of thieves statement; or (3) drove out the money changers with a whip of cords, overturned chairs and tables and poured out coins, commanding that the traders not make his Father’s house a “house of trade.”

So. What do we make of this? Some people might say that the Bible was written after the fact, meaning that people might justify things that were done as “God’s will” (e.g. David killed Goliath. Rather than saying that maybe violence wasn’t the answer, you dress up the act of killing with God as a justification). And, this holds some appeal. God as human having a human moment of anger, permits God to experience how human failings begin. And for God to truly be among his people and experience it, wouldn’t he have to allow himself to be imperfect? From this perspective, anger takes the place among all human failings, another reason to be thankful for Jesus’ sacrifice, able to take comfort that even the Almighty lost his temper now and again.

While this vein holds some appeal, I can’t really wrap my mind around it. The logical contradiction of a perfect being allowing itself to be imperfect does not compute. By that I don't mean to say that it has to compute logically. I imagine that logic is no barrier to God. But it is a barrier to my understanding of how God would have me, a (relatively speaking) logical being, serve and worship him.

If Jesus’ actions were not a moment of imperfection, then anger must have some place in the life of a follower of Christ. But to stop there misses the nuance, perhaps.

At the temple, Jesus’ anger is not the intoxicating anger that I describe in myself. Rather, it seems to have been more of a protective anger. And, as we learn in the immediately following scriptures, Jesus expelled the merchants at a time when the chief priests and scribes were already seeking to destroy him, and the expulsion of the merchants likely increased their desire. For a person who knows what’s coming, knows of the desires of the priests and, is maybe experiencing the beginnings of the sorrow described at Gethsemane, moving against the money changers might be something you’d be willing to let slide. I mean, right after he throws out the money changers, Jesus goes and heals the sick. Wouldn’t it have been easier to just let the money changers do their thing and focus on healing the sick? Wouldn’t a rational person, mind unclouded by anger, decide that there are some battles you just don’t pick?

But Jesus, angry—by John’s account, as we’d say back home, FIRED UP—is motivated to act for the glory of God. He doesn’t hurt anyone (although he might threaten it, depending on if John’s right about the whip and upon whom, the oxen or the money changers, he’s using it). He has a hissy, throwing tables and chairs and allows God’s house to be for prayer, not exploitation.

So, maybe, the place of anger in the life of a follower of Christ is to short circuit your logic, to give you the impetus to do right when it’s not convenient or in your interest, to stand against injustice when it’s not easy.

If so, the trick is to walk that line. It’s not about intoxication, feeling powerful or anything to do with you. It’s about loving God and your neighbor so much that you feel the wrong to them, or the injustice, and react to right it, even when it might be stupid to do so.

Or. Have I entirely missed the point?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Unplanned Outages

If you dropped by Friday (or dropped by any other Blogger blog), you know that Blogger experienced some sort of outage that started Thursday afternoon and ran through Friday.  It's strange, but that outage, imposed by Blogger, was enough to knock me off the roll I've been on.  For the first time this year, we missed a posting.  Then, when Blogger came back online Friday, I was completely confused--should I get up a Friday post?  Prep Saturday's post?  Obviously, I did neither.  I prepped for a meeting today instead, and I felt good about that.  I think I see now why some bloggers take breaks.  Maybe, after almost 150 straight posts (minus a stray post here or there when J took over), I needed a couple days break.  J mentioned earlier that he might want to blog in tomorrow's Free-Style Sunday spot, so I'll be back Monday with a new MPMonday post.  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Thankful Thursday--May 12

I had a pretty busy weekend (which accounts for some of the ways I am thankful this week) followed by a pretty clear week.  I think I'm most thankful for the things that made my weekend busy--the opportunity to bake and decorate a cake for a large group of women who weren't friends or family and for surviving an overnight with my Sunday School class.  That said, I think I'm just as thankful for a quiet week to recover from that weekend!

What are you thankful for this week?

Pardon me boys...

Yep, I'm back to using a song lyric as a post title.  Do you know the next line?  Well, instead of the Chattanooga Choo-choo, J and I took a trip on the Lexington choo-choo Tuesday night.  My Old Kentucky Dinner Train, which is typically based out of Bardstown, KY, did a special run out of Lexington this week, and being the train people we are (I talked about one of our past adventures here), I jumped at the chance to buy tickets.  Here we are getting ready to board:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How To: Re-hang an Interior Door

Part of the big bathroom remodel involved removing the door (so we could pull up and replace the old tile).  The new tile (and really, the new subfloor) raised the height of the floor, so the door needed to be shortened before it could be put back up.  Here's my take on how we did that (not necessarily to be confused with how to do it the right way...the end result is the same, though!).

First, be sure you like your hinges.  We changed out the metal of our fixtures, towel and shower curtain rods, even our swithplates, so it made sense to swap out the 1970's brass door hinges for satin nickel.  This was a relatively easy swap, though it helps to take an old hinge (or at least a picture of it) with you to the store.  There are several shapes/sizes of interior door hinge to choose from.

Then, measure your door.  I did this by measuring the door frame in two places:  first, the distance from the bottom of the lower hinge to the floor, and second, from the bottom of the door latch hole (totally not the official name...) to the floor.  In theory, when you transfer those measurements to the door, you can draw a straight line across and trim the door at that line for a custom fit.

Third, cut your door.  We actually tried to just sand the door down.  We're working with ancient hollow-core doors and I didn't want to damage the hard wood spacer in the bottom of the door.  This didn't work.  Eventually, the jig saw had to come out.  When you cut a door, particularly this kind, you should definitely tape the door to keep it from splintering.  I did the first few times (see below for details on how many times...), but got lazy (frustrated? impatient?) towards the end and splintering occurred.  Luckily, what I added didn't come close to the splintering already going on with this door (remember, it's old and we've no idea what the PO did to it), and we're planning to eventually replace it anyhow, so I didn't really mind too much.

 Next, hang your door.  I am sure there is a "right" way to do this, but I'm not blogging about the "right" way to do this project--I'm blogging about the way we did it.  It worked for us, so that must count for something.  First, I attached the hinges to the door frame (using the holes from the previous hinges).  Then, I attached the top hinge to the door, again using the previous holes.  Finally, I attempted to attach the bottom hinge to the door.  This is when I discovered that sanding the bottom was not sufficient and would need to bring out the saw.  (Then the door sat un-hinged for a couple months.  When J or I needed to use the room privately, we just lifted into place ourselves.  Workable for us, but not really for our guests...) 

After two more attempts (Attempt One:  Sanding not enough; Attempt Two:  Cutting almost works, but erring on the side of caution not at all necessary; Attempt Three:  Just right), I was ready to screw the lower hinge onto the door.  This is when I discovered that the "pre-drilled" holes in the hollow-core door were no longer usable.  A quick phone call to my mom and I discovered how to fix that--toothpicks!  Just break a couple in half, add a touch of wood glue and hammer them into the hole.  Works like a charm, and the screw gripped well! 

Then I shut the door and realized that of the two seperate sets of "pre-drilled" holes in the door frame, I'd picked the wrong set.  Off came the door again, and I shifted the hinge over to the other set of holes.  I put the door back up and discovered that I'd just changed the angle of the door.  I attempted to sand it down using a piece of sand paper wrapped around a super-thin piece of the door spacer (from a previous cut in Attempt Two).  While this worked a little, it just wasn't enough.  Attempt Four was complete (complete Fail), and the door came down for another small slice off the bottom.  While it was mostly okay, the door caught about 3/4 of the way through it's swing.  This is about the time I realized the floor wasn't level (not our fault, and it explains why the cut on the bottom of the door before I started looked a little funny.  Thank you, again, PO).

Attempt Five:  Since I was able to open the door all the way to the point of sticking (and since I was more than a little irritated that this "quick" job had taken me two hours), I did the best thing I could think to do--I quit worrying about how close the door was to the floor.  I grabbed a magazine (Men's Health, I believe) and used it as a straight edge.  I laid the magazine flat on the floor and drew a line across the door just at the thickness of the magazine.  I pulled the door down one last time, cut the door on the line, and hung it back up.  Is the distance between the door and the floor big?  Yes, on one side of the door, when it is closed, there is a noticable gap.  Does the door swing open and closed without scratching my floor?  Yes.  Is that more important than a part-time gap?  Absolutely!

I'm linking up with Beth's How-To party over at The Stories of A to Z today.  Head over there for some fabulous tutorials!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Thinking Ahead

J and I are planners, and we like to plan ahead for projects around the house.  There's a saying that God laughs at our plans, and sometimes I think that our house is His comedy club. We've been aware for years that our deck would need to be replaced, and made it a savings goal this year to complete the project this summer.  Just for kicks, I decided to ask Lowes to give us a quote on fully replacing it for us.  Apparently Lowes is my comedy club!  While much faster, going the non-DIY route is also at least three times more expensive than we planned for.  We now have a DIY Deck Building book and a promise from my dad to help when we're ready to tackle it ourselves. 

Luckily, the MP has provided us plenty of time to read the book and plan our deck.  You see, we need new gutters.  As in, the snow and ice this winter gouged out a gap between the gutter and house, and the foot of rain we've received in the last month has done more damage than we can live with.  So, while we want to use the money we saved all winter to replace the deck, we have to spend most of it on gutters (and the wood to hold them up) instead.  Argh.  MP Comedy Club, open for business.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mothers Day 2011!

While the cake is a bit more specific (made for a Catholic women's group), for me the sentiment holds true in the broader sense, too!  Happy Mothers Day to my mom, J's moms and all of the women who've taken on the roles of mothering each of us as needed!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Saturday Smells Like . . . Atkins Induction Friendly "Spaghetti"

Hello all, J. here. Please contain your excitement; it's embarrassing for us both.

JE tired herself out again, this time baking a cake for a Catholic women's group. She still needs to wake up early today (I'm writing at around one o'clock) so she can do the actual decorating work, including making a big hydrangea out of frosting, sweat and love. She was getting ready to collapse into a heap for sleep when, ignoramus that I am, I asked if she had written a post yet.

Now, I've only been doing this husband thing for a few years now, but I've learned enough to know when I've crushed JE's spirit (yes, I do it enough that I can recognize it. Pathetic, huh?). She looked so tired that I had to take pity on her. Especially since she let me check out a new game store that recently opened and didn't get mad when I got sucked into a draft while asking questions about the pre-release that's happening tomorrow (Yes. I will play in two Magic events within one twenty-four hour period. Insert pitying sigh for me here.) So, I'd already cashed in some husband points today, and, never one to get too low, I figured I'd take the opportunity to earn back what I've spent today.

All that said, this Saturday smells like Atkins induction-stage-friendly "spaghetti." I know. You're thinking, "His candle never was that bright, but now it's totally blown out. Spaghetti cannot be low carb." You are correct. Spaghetti cannot be low carb. "Spaghetti," however, can be low carb. The difference quotation marks make is our secret ingredient here.

First, we'll start with an ingredient list. You'll need about one-half pound ground meat (beef, turkey, etc.) and another half pound of chorizo or hot Italian sausage, about four cloves of garlic, minced (or an equivalent amount of pre-minced garlic), one-half of a medium onion diced, one bell pepper diced or one pablano pepper diced, two cans of diced tomatoes (or, if you're lucky, the equivalent amount of fresh tomatoes), one can of tomato sauce (you can puree' a fresh tomato and season it up instead), various Italian spices (at least basil, but oregano, rosemary and thyme are also good), salt, pepper and either splenda or truvia. The final ingredient is the trick to it all--you will also need one medium to large spaghetti squash.

You see, spaghetti squash, instead of having a cohesive interior that is much like the interior of other squashes and similar vegetables, have an interior that is made of long strands of angel-hair-pasta-sized "noodles" of squash flesh. Thus, by baking the squash, we will have a low carb "noodle" for our dish.

Cut the spaghetti squash in half, place it on a cookie sheet covered with a silpat (cut side down), and stick it in the oven at 350 degrees for about thirty minutes. Then start browning your two meats in a skillet. While those are cooking, break down the non-squash vegetables listed above. As the meat releases grease, throw in the onions to soften a bit, followed by the pepper, and finally the minced garlic. After the onions are not quite translucent, add the tomato sauce, the two cans of diced tomatoes and season with salt, pepper and truvia/splenda to taste. Let the sauce simmer down until you've got it about as thick as you want it, and then throw in the Italian seasonings to taste, taking care to taste often, as one can easily over-season spaghetti sauce.

By the time the sauce thickens, the squash should already be out of the oven (or be near ready to come out of the oven). Take the squash out of the oven, and let it cool for a bit. Once it is cool enough for you to handle it, take a fork and use it like a rake to scrape the interior of the squash, pulling strands of the squash flesh to be used as a low carb pasta substitute. Top with around a tablespoon of butter for each bowl of "noodles." Then top with the sauce after it has thickened as you like it.

The resulting dish is fabulous and tastes very much like regular spaghetti. That said, if I were to do it over again, I would add a step between putting the squash noodles on the plate and adding the sauce. The spaghetti can give off a good deal of water while cooling, etc. Accordingly, I would pat the noodles down after being scraped out and before adding the sauce to prevent the water from diluting the flavor of the spaghetti sauce.

I really enjoyed this dish, as I get the best of both worlds--the taste of a carb-loaded favorite, but without the guilt. You can bet that we will have it again.

I hope you enjoyed the post. I'm going to sleep now, as I've almost fallen asleep twice while writing this post (I guess that does not bode well for entertaining the readership, huh?). So good night and good luck today at the Derby.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Now taking suggestions...

Hi Friends!

We've got a bit of a problem with Furnishing Fridays.  In a nutshell, there are more Fridays than the MP has furnishings (or at least furnishings with a story to share).  So, for those of you familiar with our home, is there anything you'd like to know more about?  I've got a few more items in mind for future posts, but I'm afraid that weekly Furnishing Friday posts just aren't something I can keep up for much longer.

What other ideas do you have for Friday themed posts?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thankful Thursday--May 5

This week it's easy to be thankful. 

I'm thankful for our military (including my big brother) who didn't give up on their mission, and for the many Americans who remembered this week what it felt like almost ten years ago to stand together. 

I'm thankful that J's wisdom teeth extraction went well, and that he has recovered quickly.  I'm thankful, too, for modern medicine that provided the various pain pills, antibiotics, and decongestants that helped him through.

I'm thankful for new opportunities to learn and grow.  I'll share details later, but for now I'm just thankful for possibilities.

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

After all the cold and rain...

I've said before that J and I aren't beach people, but after this impossibly long cold winter and an equally long wet spring, I've actually been looking at old pics from Gulf Shores with a bit of longing.  Something about warmth and sunshine, I think...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How To: Patch holes in your drywall

This week's Tuesday post is less Tuesday Talent and more How To's-day.  Believe me, there is no talent involved in patching small holes in your drywall.  Patching large holes?  That takes talent.  Small holes?  No talent required!

So for starters, you need a hole or two to patch.  If you're reading this, you probably have one.  Our bathroom had several.  There were six from our numerous attempts to hang the shower curtain rod.  There were also divets from my failed attempt at priming, gaps around the light switchplates (from apparently buying smaller "standard size" switchplates than the older "standard size" switchplates they used to have), and holes and weird lines from the old shelf and toilet paper holder that I just painted over about three years ago (and that have driven me nuts ever since).  So we've established that I had lots of touch up work to do.

Some sort of spackling compound, a putty knife, sand-paper

Seriously, that's it.  This was a poorly thought out plan for me, so I just picked up everything at Lowe's while I was there picking up something else.  It's all located in the paint section, and would likely be in that general location in any hardware store. I've used DAP in the past, but I really liked the "lightweight" and "non-shrink" labels on this one.  I also just grabbed the super cheap plastic putty knife and sanding block.  All together, maybe $10.  Also, you can tell from the picture that I got the small container.  I second-guessed that decision until I actually started using it.  I'm pretty sure that every hole in the MP has been patched now, and I've still got more than half a container.

How To:
1.  Clean your wall.  Just wipe it down so there is no dust/grease/random bits to get in the way.

Outline of shelf, before patch

2.  Fill holes with spackling compound.  Load you putty knife and swipe across the hole at a 45-degree angle to press the compound into the hole.  Smooth over with another swipe of the putty knife.

Four of the six 'wrong' holes.  After taking this picture, I realized I needed to do that area in the bottom center, too.

3.  Let dry.  I wandered around the house looking for more holes to fill while the bathroom patches dried.  Give it 30 minutes or so.  If you have a thick area of coverage, you might need to wait longer.

The lighter white/blue area has been sanded.  
The rough part will be covered by the switchplate (and is pretty hard to sand).

4.  Sand.  No need for further explanation on that...

Awesome, right?

5.  Paint.  No need for further explanation there, either.

It's that easy!  I'm linking up with Beth at The Stories of A to Z this week.  Head on over to check out the other fabulous How To posts showcased there!

Monday, May 2, 2011


So back at the first of March, I shared my list of things I hoped to accomplish around the MP before May.  Well, I think I need to amend that timeline.  Maybe before May is over?  Here is where we are:

Main Bath
  • Order vanity top
  • Seal floor
  • Install base tile
  • Install vanity/sink/faucet
  • Install new shower curtain rod
  • Buy/install new switchplate covers
  • Put up shelves/artwork
  • Trim and install door
  • Buy and install mirror

Family Room
  • Paint wall/ceiling
  • Clean off pool table
  • Call Stanley Steamer

  • Install shelves and doors on cabinets
  • Stain shelves
  • Install countertop and shelves on cabinets
This is obviously the room that is on my list for May.  We've also gone ahead and started laying out the design plan for the deck, which I noted would be our summer project.  J and I had a lot of time this weekend to talk about the house and projects we'd like to work on (Well, I talked, sketched, and researched...J mostly nodded and grunted).  This lead to a much better design for the deck/outside area, and I look forward to making that happen this summer. 

In the meantime, we're soliciting recommendations/comments on composite decking.  Have you used any composite decking?  What brand?  What do you think about it?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Happy May Day!!

Contemporary May Pole Dance

I hope you all enjoyed your May Day!  I spent more of my day serving as nurse to J, who is coming along nicely in the whole wisdom teeth extraction recuperation thing.  I feel so blessed that I was able to stay home with him these last three days (well, other than leaving for a bit this morning to teach my Sunday School class).  I'm not generally a great caretaker, but he's been an awesome patient and has made my job easy.  I'm a bit nervous about sending him off to work tomorrow, actually.