Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Be Alert

Friday, December 20, 2013



It's happening.  Christmas is a mere five days away and I'm officially feeling the pressure.  There are presents to wrap, gifts that still need to be bought, cookies to be baked..... I know you get the picture.  And I know there's a good chance you're feeling it, too. This season is wrought with to-do lists and expectations and I keep having this nagging feeling that there's someone or something I'm forgetting.

Unfortunately I get the sense that this feeling is encouraged during this time of year.  The more stressed we are and the more pressure we feel, the more stuff we will buy.  The more concerned we are about forgetting someone on our list the more likely we are to buy silly knickknacks, "just in case."  The commercials on TV all show frantic, frenzied shoppers rushing to get everything in perfect order for the big day.  It's almost as if they're saying, "if you're stressed out then you're doing something right!" And for what? So that we can have one day of peace following a month of chaos?

As I read our advent devotional today I was reminded of what a quiet and unadorned event the birth of Christ was.  There were no commercial announcements, no sales in his honor; to be honest, had it happened today I probably would have missed it. I would have been too caught up in the glitter of the season to notice the baby in the manger.  Oscar Uzin said in a sermon,

"Be alert, be alert so that you will be able to recognize the Lord in your husband, your wife, your parents, your children, your friends, your teachers, but also in all that you read in the daily papers.  The Lord is coming, always coming.  Be alert to his coming.  When you have ears to hear and eyes to see, you will recognize him at any moment of your life.  Life is advent; life is recognizing the coming of the Lord."

My prayer today is that I will not simply remember to get gifts for everyone on my list, but that I will have the eyes to see Christ in everyone around me.  My prayer is that I will have ears to hear the voice of God that doesn't shout, but rather whispers.  My prayer is that I will be alert to his coming.

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Roasted Vegetable Salad with Beets & Goat Cheese

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Have you heard of Farm boxes?  Basically they are boxes from local farms that are filled with whatever produce is in season.  You pay a flat fee and pick them up without knowing what's in them.  Last Sunday we bought our first ever CSA farm box from South Central Farmers and I couldn't wait to get home and see what we'd gotten.  I've heard horror stories of people getting entire boxes filled with what looked like weeds, but I'd also heard of people getting boxes with cool vegetables that they never knew existed. We got a pretty good variety of things and there was one vegetable that immediately stood out to me- the beets.


I've never cooked with beets before and aside from borscht I had no clue what I could even make with them (with only 2 of them, to be exact.)  It was a fun challenge! This little roasted vegetable salad came out surprisingly well, though I would definitely recommend having it as a side dish (rather than a main dish, like we did) because it's pretty sweet.

Roasted Vegetable Salad with Beets & Goat Cheese
Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 Beets with their greens
  • 4 large carrots (as you can see, the carrots we used were pretty tiny)
  • 1 1/2 Cups cubed uncooked butternut squash
  • 5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp herb goat cheese
  • salt & pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Remove beet greens from stems & set aside.  Discard beet stems.  Roughly chop washed beets and carrots (no need to peel) into bite sized pieces and toss them, along with the butternut squash, with 2 Tbsp olive oil in a roasting pan.  Roast for 25 minutes or until carrots are fork tender.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a saute pan.  Saute beet greens until they are wilted.
  3. For the dressing, whisk together 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 1/2 Tbsp herb goat cheese, 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, salt & pepper.
  4. Add roasted vegetables to the saute pan and mix until evenly distributed.  Toss with dressing and serve with goat cheese sprinkled on top.

Crockpot Guinness Beef Stew

Thursday, December 12, 2013


I'm currently in the thick of finals and, as anyone who's ever lived with me can attest to, I have a tendency to stress-cook.  Cooking is extremely cathartic for me so the times when I'm the most stressed are also the times when home-cooked meals are the most abundant.  It may not be as beneficial as, say, stress-running or stress-cleaning, but I'm okay with that.

This Guinness Beef Stew is the epitome of cold weather comfort food.  The best part is that it cooks in the slow cooker so my need to stress-cook and my obligation to my studies are able to live in harmony.



Crockpot Guinness Beef Stew
Adapted from Simply Recipes
Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Lbs chuck beef roast, cut into 2 inch cubes
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Pint Guinness Stout
  • 3 Cups beef broth
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 Lb turnips, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp dried parsley
  • salt & pepper


Instructions:
1.  Season beef with salt and pepper.  Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Brown the pieces of beef on all sides. Don't cook them all the way through- we're just trying to get a little color on them here.  Transfer to crockpot (but don't pour in the butter just yet!)

2. Add onions and celery to the saute pan and cook until onions are translucent.  Add tomato paste and cook until veggies are well coated.  Add the Guinness to the pan and use a wooden spoon to deglaze the bottom of the pan.

3. Transfer contents of saute pan and the remaining ingredients to the crockpot.  Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.

4. This goes without saying, but this dish is best served with a Guinness.

What is your favorite chilly-weather comfort food?

Top 10 Indie Christmas Songs

Friday, December 6, 2013

Okay, so these don't all technically fall under the genre of "indie." But "Top 10 indie/ alternative/ singer-songwriter Christmas Songs" wouldn't fit in my graphic so we're just gonna stick with indie.

These are all songs that I feel totally fine with listening to starting November 1st because they're not traditional Christmas carols and I'm not going to hear them played on KOST 103.5 over and over and over (seriously, KOST- there are more than 20 Christmas songs out there.  Get with it!)  Plus, they just make me really happy. 



You can listen to this playlist for free here!  Enjoy :)

Unplug.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


On my last day in Chicago I was sitting on a park bench waiting for my flight back home.  Tyler's flight left about 5 hours before mine did so I had a decent amount of time to kill before I needed to head to the airport.  As soon as he left the park where we were hanging out I began making a list of the things I could do to fill my time.  I noticed this crazy anxiety welling up inside of me and all of a sudden I felt a little nudge in my heart saying "Stop! Put your phone away, walk to the edge of that dock over there, and just... be."

Why is that such a hard thing to do?  Why is it that we are always seeking distractions? We try to fill every moment of our lives with something- whether it's a TV show or a to-do list or a text message or a game of angry birds.  We always need to be doing.  Why can't we be content with just being?

I'm making it my goal this Advent season (and beyond) to be more conscious about the distractions I seek.  To not just pull out my phone any time I'm alone (or even when I'm with people- yeesh!) out of habit.  To take intentional "time outs" during my day during which I unplug and just let myself exist without any noise or distractions.   On Sunday I was particularly struck by this quote from Henri Nouwen:


"If we do not wait patiently in expectation for God's coming in glory we start wandering around, going from one little sensation to another. Our lives get stuffed with newspaper items, television stories, and gossip. Then our minds lose the discipline of discerning what leads closer to God and what doesn't, and our hearts lose their spiritual sensitivity."

Do you struggle with constantly needing distractions? What are some ways you find stillness in the midst of a busy life?

Creating a Beautiful Little Christmas

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


The holiday season is officially in full swing in our house and I have to admit, now that we are "grownups" with holiday responsibilities (that go beyond passing out presents) it is easy for me to feel overwhelmed.  Erma Bombeck said, “there's nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.”  While I think that's a bit of an over-exaggeration, it's certainly true that as we get older the holidays seem to become less magical and more stressful.

When Teri reached out to me and asked me to review her new ebook, Creating a Beautiful Little Christmas, I was over the moon.  I love her blog and was certain that her ebook would be chock full of ideas for how to create a stress-free Christmas.  I definitely wasn't disappointed! Teri explains,

"We can add meaningful touches to the mundane tasks that we do to show our love to our friends and family. We can create an environment in our home that is warm, comfortable and nurturing so that everyone can relax and enjoy themselves. We can entertain with grace so that nobody feels left out or put out!  In order to do all of these things, we need to remove some of the baggage that's in our way; the expectations that we have that are unrealistic."

I couldn't agree more.  With decorating ideas, recipes, tips for dealing with family drama, and much more, Teri lays out a simple plan for enjoying the holidays without unneeded fuss.  This ebook was a great reminder that my home doesn't need to look like a Pottery Barn catalog and my food doesn't have to be Martha Stewart worthy in order for Christmas to be special.

Sound like a breath of fresh air?  Creating a Beautiful Little Christmas is now available for only $8.99! Teri is also giving away a free copy every day until Christmas.  You can enter by liking the facebook page here and pinning the image.

Click here to visit A Beautiful Little Life.

**In the spirit of full disclosure, this is an affiliate link which means that I may get a commission if you decide to purchase this product. I only recommend products & shops that I use and love myself, so I know you’ll be in good hands! Thanks for supporting this blog and its sponsors.**

Festivus

Monday, December 2, 2013

How is it seriously Monday already?! We spent the past week celebrating the start to the holiday season with our friends and family and I'm definitely not ready to be back to school/ work just yet.


 Last weekend we hosted our annual Friendsgiving Feast.  I say "annual" as if we've been doing it forever but really this is only the second year.  But we are hoping to continue the tradition for many years to come!  We had twelve friends join us for cocktails, dinner and dessert and it is so much fun seeing "friend merging" occur.  Seriously, I just love it. (And our friends are really good at it!) This year was much less stressful than last year because I did some serious planning ahead and even made a few dishes earlier on in the week.  I broke a cardinal rule of hosting and made two main dishes that I've never made before, but luckily they both turned out fine. Here are some photos of the night, and I'll be sure to post recipes in the next week or so.




We drove up north on Wednesday to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with Ty's family, complete with Liar's Dice and awkward family photos.  We also enjoyed some wine tasting and bocce ball with Ty's parents.  It was a lovely trip that flew by way too quickly.


We found a horse! At a winery..?




Thanks for reading!