Sunday, March 22, 2015

Welcoming Spring into the Home and Garden!

My dad just told me today that my grandmother used to
look for the crocuses each spring and announce their
arrival -- I wasn't sure I had any anymore, but I found this
little guy in the front yard today!
Spring is my favorite season. Summer is my favorite, too. In fact, so is fall. But, I think the reason I love spring so much is precisely because it directly follows the one season (which shall remain nameless) which is not my favorite. After months of snow and cold and gloom, there is something almost magical about the sunshine and the revival of life come spring. That first crocus peeking through the snow. The birds beginning to chirp again. Bunnies and chipmunks playing in the backyard (they are cute until they start ravaging my garden later in the season...). Daylight that extends late into the evening. And, of course, Easter -- the ultimate celebration of new life. What can I say? Spring makes me happy!

Last weekend we had our first peek of spring, and I could barely contain myself. I spent all day Sunday working inside and out to help usher in the season. Today was not nearly so warm, but it was sunny. Although I had planned today as an indoor cleaning and project day, I could not resist the chance to get into my garden and start tilling -- since the ground had already thawed! Here's a look at how spring is making its way into my home and garden.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Fried Goat Cheese Spring Salad

Tonight's dinner truly sprang from a desire to use up the rest of a goat cheese log that I had. After some perusing on Pinterest, I found this recipe for Crispy Fried Goat Cheese and thought it sounded delicious! Then, I realized that I had recently had this sort of fried goat cheese, and it was on a salad at Leo's restaurant in Grand Rapids. It was delicious there and I thought I could probably replicate something similar at home. The recipe I came up with includes fried goat cheese, alongside grilled chicken, candied walnuts, apples, blueberries and onions over a bed of fresh arugula. Below are the details!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Two Twisted Taco Recipes

I love tacos. That's no secret. But I've been branching out recently and have tried some new variations on this household favorite...including one for breakfast and one with an Asian flair! I was dreaming of a delicious Saturday morning breakfast and taking into account the ingredients I had on hand (including a green pepper that really needed to be used up) and I thought I'd do a take on heuvos rancheros.  I've done something similar before, but never recorded what I put in it!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Crock Pot French Onion Soup

Easy Slow Cooker French Onion Soup in a Crock Pot

So, I have to be honest. I am not sure that I have ever tried French Onion Soup before tonight. It always sounded intriguing, but looked kind of weird, so I shied away. I've been searching for interesting recipes for my new handy dandy Crock Pot I got for Christmas, and I came across this recipe for French Onion Soup.  It sounded delicious, but the slow cooker is mostly for work days, and I definitely didn't have time to caramelize onions in the morning.  So, I searched for a different recipe, and found this one. As usual, there were parts of each recipe that sounded better to me (or that fit the available ingredients on hand -- let's be honest: I was looking up these recipes last night at 11pm when I suddenly realized recipe 1 wouldn't work for the morning!).  So, I kind of combined the two and came out with this:

This is Tom's latest home brew that I used in the recipe!

  • 3 1/2 large sweet onions, sliced thinly
  • 8 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup beer (I used Tom's latest home brew!)
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • A few small sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme (from the little that I have growing in my sun in my sun room. Any growth right now is debatable.)
  • Crusty bread (I think I had a ciabatta loaf)
  • Gouda cheese

So easy! Hardest part is slicing onions...
Place sliced onions in the bottom of the slow cooker. Add beef broth and beer. Top with balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, butter and herbs. Cook on low for 8 hours. Just before serving, top a couple of pieces of crusty bread with the Gouda. Bake at 400 degrees until melted, then broil for a few minutes until bubbly. Ladle the soup into a small bowl and top with cheesy toasts!

I thought this turned out great! Of course, my caveat being I'm not sure if I ever have had French Onion Soup before and hence not sure if this is the expected taste. Anywho, I'll eat it!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sriracha Ramen Noodle Bowl

I'm not sure if it's the old age kicking in or what, but I had a bit of a brain fart at the grocery store yesterday.  I knew I had seen a recipe on Pinterest that I wanted to try that was some sort of Asian / Ramen noodle bowl.  It sounded like a fairly simple weeknight dinner, and had to stop by the grocery store on my way home anyways, so I could pick up whatever other ingredients I needed.  Of course, being in a hurry, I only glanced at the recipe and quick got what I thought I needed.  Upon arriving home and attempting to cook said meal, I suddenly realized that I had saved and confused two separate, though similar recipes (one was actually ramen soup, the other was a linguine noodle bowl) -- and the ingredients I had on hand were a blend of the two.  So, what's a girl to do?  Yep, use what you've got and with the power of two recipes combined...we have: Sriracha Ramen Noodle Bowl!  I think I actually picked out the best parts of each recipe, and I was pleased with the results!  Tom liked it, too -- but beware: it's fairly spicy. Adjust to your own tastes.

sriracha ramen noodle bowl recipe - quick, easy Asian dinner

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Big 3-0: Life Lessons From Three Decades on Earth

I guess this is what 30 looks like!
Today, I turn 30. It doesn't really seem possible; the past 8-10 years have simply flown by. I remember when 30 seemed old; I don't feel old now -- not to mention I still get regularly mistaken for a teenager!  

It probably helps that Tom (and most of my friends) have preceded me into this next decade of life.  However, throughout this year, recognizing it was the last of my 20s, I began to do some self-reflection. I've had three decades of life granted me thus far -- what do I have to show for it? Have I made the most out of the time and talents given to me? What have I accomplished? What have I learned? 

This last question got me really thinking. Since the name of this blog is derived from my desire to be constantly learning, it seemed apropos to do a post in honor of my 30th birthday with 30 Life Lessons I've learned along the way. 

You'll notice some of these lessons already have related blog posts -- click on the links to learn some of my expanded thoughts on the topic. Many of these lessons have been derived from books, sermons and conversations, in addition to experience -- I've made an attempt to link to or list out some of the quotes, but my apologies for any references that may have been missed.

30 Life Lessons

1. Listen before speaking. Listen to understand, and seek to understand before seeking to be understood. Really listening means more than just waiting for your turn to talk.

2. In anything worth doing, you will have trials and challenges. Don't give up just because it's hard. 

3. Learn from the past, plan for the future, live in the present. Dwelling on the past and worrying about the future are unproductive endeavors. Let your mind be present and engaged in the "now" lest life just pass you by.

4. You can't change other people but you can change you. You can change your own actions and reactions. Instead of focusing on fixing the other person, focus on becoming the best person you can be. 

5. Control your thoughts or they will control you. Worry, anxiety or other dark thoughts can be consuming. If you don't keep them in check, they will take over.

6. Peace is active, not passive. God calls us to "seek peace and pursue it" -- not to idly stand by and avoid conflict.

7. You have to let go of the past to take hold of the future. Don't let your past dictate your future. Find freedom in letting go.

8. Never underestimate the power of a kind word. If you're thinking something nice about someone, tell them. Let others know they've been on your mind or what things you appreciate about them. Simple words of kindness can turn someone's day around.

9. Bloom where you are planted. No one gets the life they want but you get the life you have -- make the most of it. 

10. Don't settle for what is good instead of striving for what is best.

11. Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity). Humility is the opposite of selfishness. It's concentrating on the needs of others instead of your own desires.

12. Allow others the same grace you allow yourself. We often judge others by their actions but ourselves by our motives; we should allow others the same grace we allow ourselves and endeavor to see the best in people. Assume the best in others rather than assuming the worst.

13. Have a flexible plan. Goals, plans and ambitions are good, but you need to be willing to reroute when life throws a detour.

14. Life is more fun when you leave room for spontaneity.

15. Joy comes from concentrating on what you have; not on what you don't have. The greatest opportunity for joy lies in taking hold of that which is in front of you. “Every joy is beyond all others.  The fruit we are eating is always the best fruit of all.”  – C.S. Lewis, Perelandra

16. Life is an adventure. Every good story has some sort of conflict.  The hard parts are what make the story worthwhile, and, perhaps, so it is with the stories of our own lives.  The challenges we overcome can also be the greatest victories and the most important formative moments of our lives.

17. Our greatest strengths are often also our greatest weaknesses. Being aware of your own strengths and weaknesses allows you to be more effective in the task at hand.

18. Sometimes God calls us to give up our own rights. Sometimes we have to lay down our own lives for others. 

19. Pride is disgraceful. It breeds pettiness, arrogance, judgement and selfishness.  Quiet pride, underneath the surface where it can scarcely be seen may be most dangerous of all.

20. Not knowing what to do is no excuse for doing nothing. Better to try something and fail than to never try at all.

21. Learn to ask good questions. Knowing how to ask good questions drives more meaningful conversation and can allow you to draw others out. It also helps you think through problems and find solutions.

22. Our actions prove our beliefs. “The best indicator of my true beliefs and my true purposes are my actions. They always flow out of my mental map about the way things really are. What I say I believe might be bogus. What I think I believe might be fickle. But I never violate my idea about the way things are. I always live in a way that reflects my mental map. I live at the mercy of my ideas about the way things really are. Always. And so do you.” -- John Ortbert

23. Personal responsibility. Be in charge of your own destiny. Do not rely on others to do your work for you. Take responsibility for your own actions and inactions -- don't be a blame shifter.

24. We are each uniquely gifted. Our talents and abilities are gifts. Learn to appreciate what others have to offer, and don't look down on someone just because they are not gifted in the same way you are. We are each responsible for doing the most with what we are given and for using our talents wisely.

25. Sometimes sins of omission are greater than sins of commission. Failing to do something "good" can be worse than doing something "bad". “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.”

26. Don't take life or love for granted. Appreciate what you've been given in each moment. Find something to be grateful for and show your appreciation for others. Every. Single. Day.

27. Put Your Hope in God alone. Things of this world and even the people who love us most will sometimes let us down. In Christ alone we have a hope that will not disappoint.

28. Allow others the joy of giving to you. Receive all gifts with grace and thanks, recognizing that the giver is blessed as well as the recipient.

29. The more you know, the more you know how much you don't know. This goes for both my professional and personal life. You'll find the same trend in the history of science: just when we think we know almost everything, a new discovery is made that brings more questions than answers.

30. Never stop learning. There is always more to learn and room to grow! Ask the hard questions. Think in new ways. Stretch yourself. Be amazed at all there is to know and let new learning, insights and discoveries never cease to fill you with wonder.

While I may have learned the truth in these lessons, it will take many more years to learn how to properly apply them and live them out. There are more days than I care to admit when I am not the person I want to be.  If God grants me another 30 years on this earth, I will endeavor to spend them growing in these life lessons and more, striving to build character and integrity, and learning to love more truly and deeply, as God works in me to help me become the woman he created me to be.  

Thank you to all of my friends and family who have been in my life thus far and have encouraged me, supported me, loved me, and impressed on me these truths. And a special thanks to my husband, Tom, who loves me and encourages me daily, even through my failures, and who truly brings out the best in me.  Let us continue to grow together in love and life. "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." (Proverbs 27:17)

In light of that and #30 above, I'd love for you to share in the comments below some of the biggest life lessons you have learned!  

Monday, December 1, 2014

Pomegranate Cranberry Craze - Three Holiday Recipes

With Thanksgiving this past week and Christmas around the corner, I've been in a festive mood lately.  We didn't travel over the holiday weekend so it allowed me the chance to have some good downtime and also do some experimenting in the kitchen!  I've been spending [too much] time getting ideas from Pinterest, and I came across this recipe for Cranberry and Pomegranate Bruschetta, which I decided to adapt...and use at least three different ways!  All of these make would make a great addition to a Thanksgiving or Christmas gathering and will add some festive holiday cheer!

We'll start with the primary recipe.

Pomegranate Cranberry Crostini

Pomegranate Cranberry Crostini with Herbed Goat Cheese - Holiday Christmas / Thanksgiving Recipe