Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks with a Grateful Heart

Over these past few weeks, I've found myself reflecting on all the blessings I've received over the past few months. These months haven't been easy- a new marriage, a new vocation, a new town, and a new church family. Different traditions I must now accept, a different culture, and in some ways, a different view on life. But as I realized once again during church tonight, different doesn't have to mean bad. Of course, I find myself not always appreciating the different, especially when it comes to traditions (not surprising there- I am very traditional and very much a proponent of my own traditions). But that doesn't mean God stops blessing me. Although the months haven't been easy, and there have been weeks I wondered if I could make it through, God continues to pour blessings down upon me, in ways I may not even realize at the time.

Aside from my faith, the biggest blessing I have is my husband. Yes, it's been a challenge at times learning how to live with someone who is almost my complete opposite in every way. But honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way. I know that when I have a great day, he's there to celebrate with me. And when I have a rough day, he's there with foot rubs and hugs. He encourages me to be and do my best no matter what, and most importantly, to be myself. Living in a world different from many other married women- the realm of the pastor's wife- where it's not always easy to be my true self, I've been given a great blessing in my husband as an encourager. There isn't enough good I can say about him, so just know that I am truly thankful and can't imagine life any other way.

The Thanksgiving Dinner sponsored by our church last weekend also showed me another thing for which I have to be thankful- the ability to provide for others. Even though we're currently living on one salary, and have disgusting amounts of student loan debt looming on the horizon, we're still able to live comfortably and don't lack anything we need. What's more, we're able to help others through gifts of food, time, encouragement, and anything else we can give. What a blessing that we're able to help others in such a way!

We've been blessed to join such a warm, welcoming church family who cares about and provides for us, both financially and spiritually. When I find myself frustrated with certain situations at church, I remind myself that we could have been called to a very different congregation, which would have made the transition into ministry much, much more challenging. As it is, I'm blessed that although differing in some respects, this congregation is actually very similar to the congregation in which I was raised. And for that, I'm thankful. I'm thankful that members are so welcoming, that they're patient with me as I learn everyone's name and face and as I adjust to living in such a "small" town.

And finally, I'm thankful for my knitting group. Although I did feel somewhat awkward and out-of-place, this group welcomed me from the beginning, giving me a once-a-week-relief from all the other stresses and frustrations of life. It gives me a chance to be seen not as the pastor's wife, but as a normal, young wife living in a small town for her husband's job. And it's allowed me to meet other people in our town outside of church, which has helped me make all these adjustments more quickly.

For all this, and so much more, I give thanks with a grateful heart.

And finally, since tomorrow's Thanksgiving, I leave you with a pictorial representation of the deliciousness that came from my kitchen today: Pumpkin Apple Bread. Hostess gifts for the Thanksgiving festivities ahead (and the wrapping turned out surprisingly cute!).

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mondays: A Case of the Leftovers

As a busy, full-time grad student, I often find myself cooking big meals on the weekends (at least, that's what I try to do...) so I don't have to cook as much during the week when enmeshed in legal issues, preservation considerations, and reference questions. Over this past weekend, we had the huge Thanksgiving Dinner at church, with about a roaster and a half of leftover turkey. I took home a sandwich bag full of turkey, intending to use the leftovers sometime this week before the Thanksgiving festivities of the weekend. And I still had the leftover roast and rice in the fridge from the other night. Enter Mondays: A Case of the Leftovers.

Delicious, right?
Lunch time found me finishing the last of the leftover leftovers of turkey. Last night for dinner, I made Pillsbury's Savory Crescent Chicken Squares, substituting turkey for the chicken and omitting the pimentos (only because I didn't have any and didn't feel like going to the store for one item). I added onion powder, garlic salt, and paprika in the mixture, also omitting the fresh onion/chives (again, because I didn't have any). Delicious. I made these as a child, begging my mom to let me in the kitchen to make them for supper. So good, and 10 years later, they're just as tasty. I made D's by mixing Tastefully Simple's Sweet Pepper Jalepeno Jam with the turkey (instead of the cream cheese mixture) although upon trying mine, he declared it good, but not as good as his. Naturally. :)

Southwestern Leftover Beef Vegetable Soup
And now that the weather's finally gotten cooler and feels like fall (hurray!), and it's been rainy and foggy a lot lately, I decided tonight was a good night for soup. With my knitting group meeting on Monday nights, and D having to work half the time, I'm usually looking for quick easy supper ideas that aren't too filling since we eat earlier. Enter soup and garlic bread. So simple, and so good. I took a can of Campbell's Southwestern Vegetable Soup, added the leftover rice and chopped up roast (and bacon!), simmered it for a few minutes, and voila! Tasty soup, yummy garlic bread with cheese, and just the right portion for Monday nights.

As an added bonus, my fridge is now emptier of leftovers (anticipating the post-Thanksgiving fill!) and we had two delicious, healthy meals with little preparation on my end.

Tomorrow's task: making Hamentaschen for our Tuesday night Young Adult Bible Study at church. We finished studying the book of Esther last week, and the curriculum provided this recipe. I've also got a few loaves of pumpkin apple bread to make for hostess gifts over the weekend. Yum!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Culinary Adventures

Tomorrow at noon, our church is sponsoring a Thanksgiving Dinner for both our members and the residents of Sunset Village. Members of our congregation were asked to help provide various items for the dinner. Having never cooked a turkey before in my life, I wasn't about to have a wrestling match with the bird this year. So...

The mission: 10 pounds of mashed potatoes, pumpkin cake, and a beef roast for supper tonight. Not necessarily in that order.

Well..... knowing I would arrive at church hours before my potatoes were expected to make an appearance and feed the crowds, I decided against making the potatoes before the crack of dawn. I may be crazy, but not quite that much! And so it was: I spent my afternoon puttering around my kitchen, and let me tell you, it smelled wonderful!

Herb-Crusted Beef Roast
First up, I decided that we needed a roast for supper tonight. Enter The CrockPot, one of my best friends. I may have mentioned it before, but I have this simple little cookbook entitled 365 Easy Slow Cooker Recipes with which my mother gifted me some time ago. Let me tell you, I have yet to be disappointed. This little book contains some super simple recipes requiring only 3-4 ingredients; other, more complex recipes may require ingredients not always available in the average kitchen. Regardless, the variety of recipes and simplicity of slow cooking keep me coming back to this book time and again. Tonight's selection was the Herb-Crusted Beef Roast (complete with bacon!), and it lived up to my expectations. D enjoyed it (of course, it had bacon), but we agreed gravy would have been an excellent addition. I did substitute a few of the herbs for ones I preferred and had on hand, but it took maybe 5 minutes to put together and turn on the crockpot (ignoring all the time I waited for it to defrost in my fridge this morning.... I may not have planned that one very well in advance). But that's the beauty of crockpots- there's not really a need to plan ahead. Just throw some meat and random veggies, maybe a sauce or glaze in there, turn it on, and it's ready by supper time.

Look ma! 12 cups of pumpkin!
Next up on the list: Pumpkin Cake for Thanksgiving Dinner tomorrow. I wanted to bring a dessert as well as the potatoes. There's no rule against bringing more than one thing, and I have 4 QUARTS of pumpkin to use, thanks to my Mother-in-Law's "accidental garden" aka compost pile (and that's only half of what she gave me!). Well, 4 quarts of un-pureed pumpkin. So step one: Puree the pumpkin. Oddly enough, the puree button on my blender isn't currently working (sad face). 12 cups of pureed pumpkin later, I was ready to make the cake. I tried a new recipe for this one (although to be honest, all pumpkin cake recipes are new to me), from The Pastors Wives Cookbook, which I received as a wedding present. I wound up making two smaller cakes (8x8), and had enough left over for 6 cupcakes. D, who doesn't even like pumpkin all that much, bravely agreed to taste-test one for me. Rave review. Added a little cream cheese frosting (I cheated and used the store-bought kind), and they're ready to go for tomorrow!

Holy potatoes, Batman! 
And that finally brings us full circle to our potatoes. 10 pounds seemed like a lot, and it was. Especially for one who cooks for 2, and 1 of those 2 doesn't even like potatoes. He doesn't know what he's missing, poor guy. I went with the basic butter and milk, omitting my secret ingredients (you didn't think I'd give them away, did you??), although in retrospect, I kind of wish I would have. Oh well. They may not be the fanciest potatoes there, but they taste good, and they're made with love (sorry! not the secret ingredient).

I also helped decorate at church for tomorrow, and it looks cute! I've got one huge pumpkin (the second one from my Mother-in-Law's "accidental garden") that I'm bringing for final decorations. We're definitely going to have our hands full tomorrow morning, but I've enjoyed my afternoon's labors of love and thanksgiving for what I have that I can use to bless others.
Pumpkin Cake! Om nom!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Our Heroine's Thursday

It appears a common trend among bloggers to post reviews of their otherwise normal days. For lack of anything else to discuss that I haven't already, and because I felt as though I didn't get much accomplished today, I thought it might be good to prove otherwise to myself.

Our heroine began her Thursday a bit unusually. Needing the car for an appointment in the late morning, she actually woke before her husband and took him to work. Unlike last week, she had no stops to make on the way back home, and proceeded to busy herself upon arrival with the task of Organizing the Kitchen. After The Great Pumpkin Adventure 2011 last night (post forthcoming), there was still order to maintain. A breakfast of eggs and potatoes later, we find our heroine somewhat relaxing on the couch, combing through emails, checking class discussion boards, and catching up on the daily news.

Our heroine then visited the dentist (again) for a simple procedure (the first time dental work did not involve extractions!), and rewarded herself with some grocery shopping. A bottle of German wine (for Christmas!), cranberry white cheddar cheese, various meats, holiday baking necessities, and a Holiday Blooming Cactus later, she joined her husband for lunch and some good old fashioned Looney Tunes. The afternoon defined itself in an awesome $10 haircut, a few last grocery items, attempts at homework, and an indulgence in BOGO Starbucks Christmas drinks. Fortified with a delicious dinner of tortellini, salad, and breadsticks, along with the company of her good Italian husband :], our heroine settled in for an evening of more homeworking, knitting, and movies.

She looks forward to Thanksgiving break next week, The Great Pumpkin Baking Adventure 2011, finishing her knitting obligations on time, and the tasty vittles carefully stored away for Christmas.

Monday, November 14, 2011

This week...

296 total pages to read for ONE CLASS this week. (What? Really? Break can not come fast enough!)
40 pages for another.
2 court cases and accompanying materials for the third.

Additionally, working on various term papers and projects due beginning immediately after Thanksgiving.

Oh, and on top of that? I've forsaken all other Christmas knitting and decided that I need to make a blanket for a shower at the beginning of December. Yup. I'm taking on the challenge of knitting a blanket in less than a month. Crazy much? I think so. (Hey. At least I got through the border last night and can start the pattern body today! And it's a pretty purple color... whee!)

Looks like it's going to be a very. busy. week.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Christmas knitting (!) is coming along well. I'm unfortunately not going to post any pictures of FOs until after Christmas, just in case anyone that's receiving some lovely hand knits is reading (hi Mom!). I'm finding though that the knitting is keeping me sane during an otherwise stressful time of homework, final projects, church obligations, and the general domestic endeavors.

I'm also planning on going to the Show-Me Crafters Show today? (Yes, the question mark is purposeful.) Hopefully, if I can find some time. Never been to one, and maybe it'll give me enough of a mental break- at least for an hour. Then it's back to the homeworking and quiz meetings (although I don't dread those, just the constant stress of interpreting legalese and hoping I mentioned everything in our answers that should be... other than that, it's a good time.)

Other Christmas festivities and traditions (can you tell I'm my mother's daughter) are also already in the works. Cookies, meals, presents, stockings.... and no shame that I'm currently enjoying Starbuck's Christmas Blend. Sometimes, you just have to break the rules (No Christmas before Thanksgiving) and indulge. But I'm looking forward to starting some new Christmas traditions this year with our new family as well.

Definitely looking forward to Christmas break and the opportunity to have a few more adventures in domesticity and take a few days to watch movies, read, and knit- ALL DAY LONG. (I'm thinking it's about time to indulge in some Little Women again.) Twill be glorious.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Goldmine of Information [It's Mine!]

After a few fruitless endeavors, I am finally locating information for my Preservation term paper!! Expected, yes, since I am an MLIS student. Exciting- even more so- because I have a knack for choosing relatively obscure paper topics.... it's always been my bane during every term paper, but I can't seem to operate any other way. I think part of it is the knowledge that no one else from class will write on my topic. But honestly? It's also part of the fun. Hunting for information that may seem obscure, even though you know it's out there somewhere...

I was working on this assignment earlier today, and finally grew tired of hitting dead ends. So, I went for a walk to clear my head, which produced some excellent results. Except for my poor husband- he was on the receiving end of what I'm sure were very cryptic text messages. Thank goodness for unlimited texting- I knew I had to write down the questions and ideas somewhere before they were but a fleeting memory.

Now I finally feel like I'm getting somewhere! And.... I should probably focus a bit on the assignment due for Monday, right?

Other reasons for rejoicing today:

  • I made breakfast, washed the dishes, got my husband to work, and finished grocery shopping all before 9 am. If that's not productive, I don't know what is!
  • I found my licensing agreement for my Legal Issues term paper, and it's (naturally) longer than others I located. But hey, what's grad school without the challenge?
  • No cavities. 24 years and counting. :D

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I'm feeling pretty good about the end of the semester. Not only is it in sight (finally!), but I'm pleased with my grades so far, I feel I'm grasping the material reasonably well, and my paper/project topics are finally established. Time to start hunting down resources, I suppose.

One of the things currently bolstering my spirit are grades on two of the papers I wrote over the weekend that was The End of October. Aced both of them, and even got some encouraging words from the professors in their respective feedback. Legal prof said I answered the question on licensing "like an experienced negotiator!" SCORE. Apparently I'm good at deciphering licenses-- I'm not quite sure what that says about my legal skills, but I'm quite pleased with myself regardless.

[So much that I think I'm going to answer the licensing question for our final project. Although part of me feels like it might be the easy way out? Considering the project is due three weeks from today, I'm not so sure if any of the questions are "easy."]

Anyway. The other paper currently boosting my self-esteem is the observation paper for my Reference class. Feedback stated that I asked a particularly good question (health-related), because with those types of questions, an interview is crucial to understand the true information need. Too bad neither of my "interviews" really consisted of much other than an initial question. TOPIC WIN.

Today, I'm thankful that school doesn't seem so unbearable and that I'm actually happy with my success for once. That's always been a difficult thing for me to deal with, which I suppose will happen when you're a super-over-achiever. But there are so many things to look forward to: getting these papers and projects done in a reasonable amount of time, fieldwork next semester (hopefully!), picking new classes for next semester (Archival Outreach is being offered! Yippee!!) and the rest of my school career (not quite sure how I'm going to fit in everything I want to take with the credits I have remaining, but we'll see what happens).

And finally, in other tangentially related news, I've been forcing myself to have some downtime, which I've found to really help me stay grounded with everything going on. As a result, I've been enjoying some quality time with Big Bang Theory, knitting, and reading (for fun?! When was the last time that happened??). Even though I read the series years ago, I'm immersing myself back into the time of settling the Red River Valley, with Lauraine Snelling's Red River of the North series. Heartwarming, and full of courage, these books are a delight to read when I need a break from the heavier reading of the LIS field. (Although I must confess I'm wholeheartedly looking forward to Christmas break when I can read and knit for my own enjoyment all day long. :D)

That's all for now, as I've got a few legal issues lectures waiting in the queue.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Is it break time yet?

Well, we've arrived at that magical point in the semester where brains are officially overworked and official break is not yet in sight. I suppose you could say we're in midterms, although so far in the program, I haven't exactly had those dreaded midterm exams in my courses. But I'm definitely ready for a break.

I survived the crazy-busy weekend that was The End of October, full of three different church-related events (two of which required us to be in two places at once, always a fun game to play!), an observation paper (which required cutting out about three pages of material to comply with professor-sanctioned guidelines), a set of 20 practice questions (not difficult, but time-consuming), plus all the various and sundry housewifery that comes with the territory of a newlywed housewife.

And tonight, I spent the past 2.5 hours going over the quiz with my two lovely quiz-mates for Legal. It was a productive 2.5 hours, and I'm glad we were all able to be there, but my brain is fried. At least for tonight. I was going to at least start on my readings for Preservation after we finished, but now I'm thinking it may just be more productive for tomorrow. Although tomorrow morning will consist of a crash course on Library Confidentiality and the USA PATRIOT before our semi-weekly chat. Can you tell I'm excited? :/

Thankfully, the reading load seems to be significantly less than the past few weeks, although participating remains the same:
Reference: Two articles. Required discussion.
Preservation: Three chapters. Two articles. One exercise. One discussion post, two comments.
Legal: Three statutes. One powerpoint (and only 159 slides this time!). Two lectures. One meeting/chat.
Also on the docket for this week: Officially begin panic mode re: not yet starting term projects due in a month.

In other, more exciting news, the schedule for next semester is out! And now I get to pick classes I love at the moment, but will inevitably loathe tire of by the end of next semester. I'm planning on doing fieldwork (woot!), so I've got two spots open with four contenders. And comps? Are we brave enough to take comps?? I don't feel near ready enough now, but I think I'd rather take it during Penultimate Semester than the Semester of Cap and Gown. I'd be terribly devastated if I took it the semester of graduation, failed, and had to take another semester just to pass. Although then perhaps I'd get to take more classes I wanted to, but couldn't fit in...

SIX WEEKS. The end of the semester is finally on the horizon.