One of My Favorite Fall Meals

Last weekend autumn started blowing into my little corner of the world. The humidity is tapering off. Driving with the windows down is once again a feasible non-sweaty option. And I found these leaves starting to change:
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I’m kinda excited about fall, in case you couldn’t tell. Last week I was house/cat-sitting for this cat named Ellie:

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In this photo she has stolen my class notes and when I tried to retrieve them, she hissed at me. I let her keep them as long as she wanted because sometimes when she hisses, she is saying that she will definitely bite me. She’s a bit temperamental but she eventually curled up on my lap so we’re still pals. Besides, subliminally I was begging her for a study break.

I invited my friend Naomi over for dinner, one night while invading Ellie’s territory. With the evenings being cooler, I decided to make her one of my favorite fall meals: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili, Cheddar Corn Muffins, and The Best Fudgy Brownies. We happily chatted while we ate and then I introduced her to Call the Midwife, a seriously great show on BBC. Oh, BBC, how do you manage to make such fantastic television?

So, since I can’t make you all dinner (even though I’d love to), I thought I’d share the recipes and then you could make it yourself sometime. Continue reading

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Tennessee, You’re Good Enough For Me

Tennessee, you’ve been good to me
Yes, I’ve come to believe you’re where I wanna be
You may not be what everybody needs
but Tennessee, you’re good enough for me

The lyrics to Mindy Smith’s “Tennessee” have been echoing around in my heart. I was getting my haircut last week and the gal asked me if I’m from here. How do you answer that question? I mean, no, I was born in Indianapolis and we quickly moved to Michigan for a couple years. I spent my preschool/elementary years in Ohio. So, I guess I’m technically from the North. Which shows in the fact that my family still roots for the Cincinnati Reds and The Ohio State University. I also refuse to call all soft drink products Coke. A Sprite or a Pepsi is not a Coke.

But, the summer before seventh grade we moved to Tennessee. I’d spent time here before. A hallmark of my summers growing up was driving South with my grandparents to spend the time at their house in Arkansas. After a week in Hot Springs, they’d bring us kids to Franklin, TN where my aunt and uncle lived for Fourth of July. My parents would drive down for the holiday, we’d grill out, watch fireworks, and then we’d head back to Ohio. The oppressive heat and humidity defined my summer trips. The beauty of the magnolia trees worked it’s way into my heart.

So, although I was not happy about moving, of all the places I could have moved this is was the lesser of the evils. And I quickly grew to love it here. There’s nothing quite like it. I can be in the thick of Nashville in under twenty minutes. City lights, The Ryman, Hillsboro Village- these are a few of my favorite things. But while I live in the suburbs, in less than ten minutes I can be driving down a country road hollering, “Hello!” to a pasture full of baby cows. And if I want that small town feel, I can head over to downtown Franklin, which may be one of the quaintest places I know. It’s much busier now then it was when I was in high school. How many nights did we walk downtown once the streetlights came on and have only a few others cross our path? It may not be Stars Hollow but it’s close. Continue reading

It’s Really Not My Fault I Can’t Decide What to Have for Dinner

It shouldn’t be that big of a deal. I know that. I really do. I’m not trying to decide whether or not to invade Syria. I’m not picking out a wedding dress. I’m not attempting to determine if I should donate my kidney or if I’ll need it in my old age. But still I hem and haw and go back and forth.

What do you want for dinner?

How many times has this question been tossed out over the years? Better question: how many times have I actually had an answer? Sometimes I just know. I’ve got a craving for a particular place. Or I’ve decided to whip up a recipe I found online. But far, far too often my answer is the one I know offers zero help, “I don’t care.”

So, we go through the list of places we frequent in the local area or we toss around things we could make. And I can usually quickly veto what I do not want. “See, ” my dad says, “You do care.” Of course I care, I just don’t know what the best, right option for dinner might be.

Because I don’t want to make the wrong choice. Isn’t that what all this dinner dilemma is about? If I’m just providing my own meal, then I can usually quickly pick out what I want no sweat. There’s no one else’s tastes and preferences to factor into the equation.  I don’t have to concern myself as to whether or not they will like my choice. This makes everything easier.

But it’s not just about factoring other people into the equation. When we finally land on a place to get food, then comes the decision on what to get. Do I want this or that? Do I want my “usual” or do I want to try something new. If I try something new and it’s not good, will I regret not ordering what I know I really love?

I know I’m not alone in this. There’s a restaurant called I Don’t Care for goodness sake:

I’ve noticed this seems to be a much bigger problem in the female population. I’m not trying to be discriminatory here, it’s just what I’ve observed. I mean sure I’ve seen guys debate a few times but not to the level that gals do. Continue reading

Why I Needed Youth Group and Wholeheartedly Believe in Teenagers

I got caught in a downpour on my way home; one of those summer afternoon storms that soaks everything it touches. I’ve lived in Tennessee for fourteen years and I’m still amazed at how the thunder echoes across the mountains. Walking  in the house, surrendered to the fact I couldn’t avoid getting wet, I found myself thinking, “This is camp rain.”

I cannot tell you how many summer afternoons we spent at youth camp with the same warm, soaking rain falling out of the skies. Sometimes we played in it, dancing around, maybe even getting a little muddy. Other times I can recall sitting in a cabin, eating smuggled snacks, talking (usually about boys) with the best girls I knew. There are so many great memories I have of being at camp. Actually, so many good memories of being in my youth group.

I had an incredible, crazy-cool, youth group experience. I’m not saying there weren’t rough patches or that everyone got along or that we liked all the changes or programs introduced along the way. But I am saying, I was a very blessed girl to be along for the ride.

Growing up, I was a fairly studious, pretty quiet kid. I had a few close friends but I lived in a world of books. I was comfortable there. I could easily entertain myself for hours. And I did, past my bedtime and wound up being grounded from reading. Yeah, I was that kid. So, when my family moved right before I started seventh grade, I was not happy about it. I did not have a good attitude. It wasn’t so much that we were moving as it was I would have to make new friends- and I was not very good at that. I hadn’t had a lot of practice. I was in the same school with the same kids from first through sixth grade. I never had to meet new kids at church for most of that time. When you are one of the pastor’s kids, everyone gets introduced to you. You are the one who knows the drill and helps the new kid meet everyone else. Plus, I’ve always been what people could consider shy (and I consider taking-my-time-wanting-to-know-if-these-are-people-I want-to-know-my-life-story) around new people.

So, there I was, in a new town, terrified I wouldn’t have any friends. I cried about it a lot. But school started and slowly I met people. Some of them I liked a lot and hoped we could be friends. Time after time, when these new people told me where they went to church they said the same name. My family started church shopping. It wasn’t an easy thing for my parents to find a place that they liked that was also a good fit for their kids ages: 13, 11, 9, and 5. After months of searching, we finally ended up walking into the doors of the place that most of my school friends claimed as their own. During the week after my first visit, an amazing lady and a couple of the students showed up at our house to welcome me and tell me more about the programs for students. I wasn’t home at the time, but their visit made me excited and I think it helped my parents know this would be a good place for me. God knew I needed this youth group.

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