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Monday, May 23, 2011

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Hi. Yes, I realize sweet potato biscuits might go under the category of fall recipes. And, no, no I don't care that I'm writing this on May 23rd, because they are delicious.

For some odd reason, North Carolina had weather consisting of rain and 50 degrees a few days ago. My family had baked potato soup and these. Probably the perfect rainy day combination. They're super easy. Bisquick easy.

(And since it was 50 degrees and monsooning, the pictures are horrible. Pretend the lighting is semi-decent.)
Here's what you'll need. (And 1/3 cup of sugar, which I didn't take a picture of).
Whisk 2 1/2 cups of Bisquick and 1/3 cup of sugar and form a well.
Add 1 1/2 cups of mashed sweet potatoes. This recipe is great for leftover sweet potatoes!
Add 1/3 cup of butter, sliced into pats. Make sure its softened butter so it mixes into the dough well. Unless of course you want extra butter to run off the pan and get into your oven. Not that that happened to me or anything. Because it didn't. Kind of.
Add 1/2 cup of milk, 1 tablespoon of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of nutmeg. 
Stir until fairly uniform, making sure not to mix until the dough is tough. If you're feeling really ambitious, you could roll out the dough and cut out your biscuits. If you're not an overachiever, plop some of the dough onto a cookie sheet with a cookie scooper. I did the latter and mine turned out just fine.
Enjoy - whether its October 17th or May 23rd.

Here's the recipe:
2 1/2 c. Bisquick
1/3 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. mashed sweet potatoes (about 2 medium/large potatoes)
1/3 c. butter, softened and cut into slices
1/2 c. milk 
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg

Stir all ingredients until dough forms.
Either roll out dough and cut with biscuit cutter or drop biscuits onto baking sheet.
Bake at 450 for 10 minutes

Friday, May 20, 2011

Review: Heaven is For Real

 So I had a delicious sweet potato biscuit recipe lined up for today's post, then I read this book and suddenly sweet potato biscuits seemed trivial. Sweet potato biscuits will debut next week, but let's talk about heaven now.

Just to testify to the goodness of the book, I started reading it at 6:00 p.m. yesterday and finished at 9:30, taking a break for dinner. And I'm a slow reader. That's how good it was. I couldn't put it down! 

If I give a summary of the book, I'll give away the whole book because I'm just too stinkin' excited about some of the details. The back of the book talks about Colton (the almost 4 year old who went to heaven during a life-threatening surgery) seeing his sister who had been miscarried before Colton was even born and meeting his great grandfather, Pop, who also died before Colton was born (try 30 years before he was born!). Colton also talks about Jesus, His Dad, and the Holy Spirit - who shoots down power from heaven to us. Crazy. Okay, so I didn't really give anything more away than what's on the back of the book, but seriously, there are so many more details Colton gives about heaven that are mind blowing and completely biblical. The best part of Colton's recollection of heaven is that its entirely innocent. He retells details about heaven the way any 4 year old would, making it simple but so incredibly beautiful.

Heaven is For Real just confirmed how capable young children are of understanding and grasping the Gospel. Colton gets the Gospel and is extremely concerned that people know Jesus so they can "be with his Dad." One of my biggest issues with the church and Christian parents is how children are often coddled and babied spiritually. Often times, kids are so much more ready to accept spiritual truths than parents or children's church workers give them credit for. Colton wasn't even 4 years old when he got to see heaven for real. The book discusses another 4 year old Lithuanian girl who receives visions of heaven - and her mom was an athiest! The little girl had never even heard of God. I accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was 4. Looking back now, that seems entirely crazy - I was a baby! But it was legit. Four years old is definitely not too young for a child to understand the Gospel.
Seeing young kids capable of grasping the Gospel makes me incredibly excited to get to be around children of all ages this summer and hopefully challenge them spiritually!

With every new chapter I read, I kept thinking of various people in my life who have to read this book. So, if you fall under any of these categories, you should definitely pick this book up today!
  • If you've ever had a miscarriage
  • If you work with kids in any capacity (children's ministers, nursery workers, etc.)
  • If you have kids or think you may some day be a parent
  • If you have a hard time visualizing what heaven is like and are just plain curious
  • If you've ever lost someone you love
  • If you're interested in the end times/Revelation
  • If you work with older people
  • If you love Jesus - the way Colton describes Jesus is so tender and loving, it's impossible that it doesn't not revitalize your love for Jesus and make you realize his crazy love for you
  • If you don't love Jesus and don't believe in Him - this book will at least give you some perspective of what Christians believe in terms of eternity   
  • If you love rainbows! (sounds weird, but you need to read it too!) 
Hopefully that covers everyone, because seriously everyone needs to read this book. Heaven is For Real is hands down the best non-fiction Christian book I've ever read. It's so simple and innocent and honestly, at parts, hilarious because it's all from the perspective of a 4 year old.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fruit of the Spirits Not A.... Chiquita Banana!

I am a master of kids songs. My years of helping with children's church and VBS equipped me well with crazy songs with motions that inevitably get stuck in my head for days after singing them. "Baby shark" and "Jesus in the boat" are great songs, but I think my favorite song is the fruit of the spirit one. It goes something like "Fruit of the Spirit's not a (insert fruit here, i.e. Chiquita banana). If you wanna be a (insert fruit), might as well hear it - can't be a fruit of the spirit. Fruits are (reallllyyyy fast): love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. Oooohhhh!" Repeat. This song gets really fun when you start going through fruits and doing the motions associated with each one. "Prune" is always entertaining.

You may be asking why on earth I'm posting about a VBS song on my blog. Well, friend, since you asked, I just made some new decor for my apartment, decor which displays all 9 fruits of the spirit. In order to make said decor, I had to sing the fruit of the spirit song to remember all the fruit of the spirits, in order, about 74 times. So it'll probably be stuck in my head for the next 6 days or so.

Enough about the song, here's how I made it.
First, I bought 9 of these 10" x 10" canvases. They're the canvases that are wrapped around a wooden frame, so they have some dimension to them. 
Then, I bought 9 different acrylic paints - one for each canvas. I really wanted to use watercolor paints, but holy cow - $11.99 for a 1 ounce watercolor paint bottle is too rich for my blood, so I kinda sorta turned my acrylic into watercolor. 
To make my paint "watercolor," I used about a scant tablespoon of my acrylic paint (I have no other measurement references outside of the kitchen)...
Added about 5 or 6 drops of water...
And stirred. It's definitely not as thin as watercolor, but it worked really well! If I were to do this project over again, I'd probably add more like 8 or 9 drops of water to really make it more like watercolor paint. Also, the paint gets bubbly after this process, but its okay - the bubbles don't show up on the canvas.
I really like the effect the "watercolor" gave. It almost seems grainy to me, which I love.
After I was done painting the canvases, I broke out this baby. If you've never heard of a cricut (pronounced "cricket"), do yourself a favor and check them out. They're phenomenal. They're not cheap, but they're totally worth it (granted, this coming from the girl who's allowed to use it anytime for free, since my mom is cool and has one). I've got more cricut projects to post later. Get excited.
For this project, I decided to use the Plantin Schoolbook cartridge. I just wanted simple, Times New Romanish, lower case letters. 
I tested out my letters with some black card stock to make sure the size and font were exactly what I was looking for.
Success! Just what I wanted.

Instead of having to glue a million, give or take, letters down to canvas, I (once again, I mean my mom) bought some white vinyl to use at the letters. It's basically a big sheet of sticker material, so when you cut out the design you want with the cricut, you can peel off the design and put it on your project. It's awesome.
Before I cut out all my letters, I wanted to get the placement of the canvases just right. I wasn't crazy about any of the more random placements.
I liked this placement the best because of the almost rainbow scheme, but I didn't really care for the grey canvas. So, I painted over it with white paint and mixed up my own turquoise color! That's the beauty of this project - it's really hard to go wrong or mess up. Even if you do mess up, you can easily paint over your mistake.
I finally nailed the rainbow color scheme down and made my first canvas with the white vinyl. I love it! (Punny.)
This is the final project. I couldn't be happier about how it turned out. Since I'll be in a somewhat eclectic apartment next year, I think it'll match everything. Not to mention its a great reminder of the fruits of the spirit! And the cursed song that'll be stuck in my head for the next year while these look adorable in my living room.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Brookies: A Kid Friendly Recipe!

Last week I had the privilege of hanging out with my godbrother's daughter (my godneice?). She's 2 1/2 and completely adorable. She knows all her alphabet, along with what sounds they make and is a solid counter. She also has awesome manners and never says "yeah", but always answers with "yessss" (very Napoleon Dynamite-esque). 

Since she's such a baby genius, I thought it'd be fun to try out a recipe I'd been wanting to make for a while with her - brookies. Not quite brownies. Not quite cookies. A glorious morph between the two - hence the name. 

No surprises here, you make a pan of brownies and a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough. I made the brownies the night before I was planning on making the brookies so they would have plenty of time to cool. I made a batch of Ghiradelli chocolate chunk brownies and ended up using about 1/2 of pan for the brookies. The brownies have to be cut in small squares (1" x 1/2" or 1" x 1"), otherwise the brookies end up being ginormous.
A few hours before I wanted to start making the brookies, I made the cookie dough so it could chill in the refrigerator before assembling the brookies.
Now, here's where it'd be really great to have an extra set of (little) hands. I know it doesn't look like it, but I promise, she was excited to get to help bake. My mom and I took the cookie dough (about a 1" ball) and flattened it out into a disc, perfect for our little helper to drop the brownie bite into. Apparently all the flattening of dough looked fun, because all our brownies eventually ended up that way (hence the firm, clutched little hand smothering the brownie above). It was okay though, once the brownie eventually made it onto the cookie disc (squished or not), it was completely covered with the cookie dough and sent to the oven to bake.
Note the deformed brownie & excitement
After about 10 minutes in the oven, this is what the brookies looked like. At first, it seems just like an ordinary chocolate chip cookie.
Oh, but wait. There's a gooey, rich brownie tucked away inside. Genius.
The best part, of course, is eating the chocolate chip cookie just to discover the pillow of chocolately goodness that awaits you at the center.
It might even be good enough to shovel it in your mouth using both hands, or at least that was the idea here.
And if you give a toddler a cookie, chances are, she'll ask for a glass of milk.
With a crazy straw.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

True Love Isn't Waiting

In the past few decades teen pregnancy rates have skyrocketed. Similarly, the age at which people get married has spiked as well. In 1960, the average age for men to get married was 22.8, for women it was 20.3. In 2007, the average ages had increased to 27.5 and 25.6, respectively. These rates shouldn't seem alarming, however. People are getting married later because of careers. And, in many cases, marriage is delayed because of cohabitation (which is totally another post for another time). And in most cases, couples are sexually involved before their wedding. Over 90% of couples partake in sexual intercourse before their wedding night.

So, how do Christians fit into these trends? Well, they're keeping up pretty well. About 80% of church-going, single, conservative Protestants have pre-marital sex. 

Yes. You heard me. 80%! That's insane. Obviously the church's "True Love Waits" campaign is working... errr NOT.

For many teenagers and young adults 27.5 years old seems old. Way to old to wait for sex. And, honestly, most Christian teenagers are constantly beat over the head that they shouldn't have sex, instilling fear and anxiety around something beautiful God created, but never told Biblically why they should wait. If you're a teenager/young adult reading this and this describes you, go ahead, grab some Gatorade, get comfy, and read Song of Solomon. You'll need the electrolytes because it is steamy. The first time I read the book all the way through (which unfortunately was this year) I was so relieved. People in the Bible did want to have sex!! They did passionately love each other. Hallelujah! But their love was still pure. Praise the Lord! Song of Solomon might be a little more practical and applicable than your senior pastor who's in his early 60's talking about sex. Just sayin'.

So, besides reading Song of Solomon, how should Christians respond to these alarming statistics? I personally think our parents have the most power in this situation (our as in single Christians who are in their late teens/early twenties). I'd be willing to bed that most of "our" parents got married in their early 20's. My mom wasn't even done with school when she married my dad (say it isn't so!!). I know many couples who have been married for well over a decade and got married when they were 19 or 20 and still in college. However, ALL of those individuals I've talked to about marriage have adamantly demanded that I wait until after college, even years after college, to get married. I use the word demanded because in their minds, its not a choice.  

Why did they get married early and have successful marriages? Why was it so different for the previous generation? Oh, wait. Was it that different back then? I don't think so. I realize now, in 2011, a college degree doesn't mean all that much. If you want to get a good job and have security, you basically have no other option but to go through years of graduate and/or doctoral programs. I totally get that because I'm totally in that boat (even though that seems totally unfortunate at times). However, going to school for a few extra years doesn't change your desire to be united with another godly individual and mesh lives and service. Entering into a graduate program doesn't magically turn off your sex drive or make you more fertile later in life. 

Couples who got married early in life should not hinder or condemn young couples who are looking at marriage, but encourage and support them. According to an article in the USA Today, people who get married in their early to mid-20's have happier marriages and are more satisfied with their marriage than people who get married in their late 20's and early 30's. By showing young people that marriage is a formative institution rather than an institution to enter into once you're fully formed, young Christians can shake off the burden of marrying once their lives are straight and struggling with intense lust and sexual sin in the mean time.

If you're at all interested in this topic, which I've barely scratched the surface of here, I highly recommend reading this article on Christianity Today. It's Biblical and extremely insightful.

*By the way, I'm not advocating for teenage marriage, especially when it is induced by teen pregnancy. 
**Also, I'm totally not saying that I'm planning on getting married next week or even next year. Just serving some food for thought.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Future Kids' Birthday Parties & Prayer

Since we've already established how much I love babies, I won't be redundant - I'll just jump right in. 

Sometimes I'll find myself day-dreaming about my future kids (and even dreaming about them, which, even for me, is kind of creepy). I often wonder what they'll look like, what gender they'll be, what they'll do for fun, what their personalities will be like. Will they be healthy? Will they like sports? Will they be total nerds, like me, and be captain of the Quiz Bowl team (Davidson County champs!!)? Will they play any instruments? Most importantly, will they grow up to love Jesus?

I really hope that I have at least one boy (or girl!) who LOVES dinosaurs. No matter what you believe about dinosaurs existence/extinction, you have to admit that they were pretty dang cool. They're just so surreal and so unique! I recently saw a little boy's birthday party online that was dinosaur themed - one word: awesome. At that moment, I unconsciously planned my future kid's birthday party, fossil dig and dino cake included. When I was a kid, I loved having birthday parties and its one of the things I can't wait to plan and host for my own kids to celebrate a fun day all about them (and they're not even born yet - nor will they be for a LONG time).

Okay, stay with me here, I'm working on a good metaphor.

One of my friends has talked about how he didn't ever have many sleepovers or invite a lot of people to his birthday parties as a kid because he didn't want to inconvenience his parents or make them go out of their way to cater to him. As a future hopeful parent, I want my kids to ask me for big birthday parties and spur of the moment sleepovers with crazy colored nail polish, cheesy romantic comedies, and 17 bags of popcorn. I want to be able to gift them with great memories and fun parties because even now, even though they haven't even been born, I love my future kids. A lot. I can't even fathom how much I'm going to fall in love with them once they are actually real. 

In the same way, how much does God want to dote on his heavenly children?! Take my crazy visions of dinosaur parties and multiply it by infinity. Does that mean God wants to make us rich and make our lives carefree? No. But does He want us to ask Him for things? You betcha. Aside from communicating and praising God, a huge component of prayer is about bringing our needs and desires before our Creator. Don't get me wrong - God isn't a magic genie that we only come to with our wishes. He can still tell us "no." He can tell us to wait. And that's okay. Which can, in fact, be better than a "yes."  

As a proclaimed type A individual who likes to handle things myself, I never thought I should bother God with my requests. I would pray for other people's prayer requests but I never would really pray for my own. Now I know how that likely grieved God. He obviously knew my prayer requests, but the fact that I didn't want to be annoying and didn't see my own requests as worthy to bring before Him no doubt was hurtful. Now, as I look forward to being on the prayer team through InterVarsity next year, I'm working on my prayer life. Step one: bringing my own prayer requests to God. Novel concept, I know.

Now every time I think of offering up my requests to God, I think of how excited I will be when, one day, my cute little kid with a bowl cut asks me if he can have a dinosaur birthday party.