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Showing posts from 2013

Friendship

I know that for you, my friends in my inner circle, it can be quite exhausting at times. I'm relentless and aggressive in evangelizing my outlook on life. I can't help it. I so firmly believe that there is joy to be found around that next corner that the enthusiasm for what's to come just bubbles out of me. I am excited about the magic within our reach. Life *is* magical. Life is a miracle. Every day is an amazing gift! I want to live mine to it's fullest potential and I want to see you do the same alongside. I know that God created the universe and from end to end it's filled with wonder. I'm an optimist because the most powerful all-mighty God set things in motion to come together for the best and that's not just a fairytale but a promise we can count on. I count on it. I expect it. When you're in my inner circle my joy is going to knock on your heart over and over again. It's going to whisper to you, 'Believe. Believe in love. Believe in joy.…

Still miss you Daddy

After my father died and in the midst of my grief I found that I wanted to hear his voice more than anything. I scoured my voicemail archives, searching desperately for even one message from him. And then I found this, played it, and felt comforted. He died in March of 2011 and I have probably replayed this voicemail thousands of times since. At first I played it over and over and over again every day but as the time passed I find I need to come back to it only once every few months or so.

Note that if you're viewing this post through the email subscription distribution you probably won't be able to playback the audio; you'll need to come to my blog site to listen to to.

Butternut Squash Tart with Sage & Chile Honey

adapted from Bon Appetit ingredients1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed 1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water 1 small long butternut squash, peeled kosher salt 1/4 cup honey 1 habanero, scotch bonnet, or red Thai chile pepper, minced 3 tablespoons olive oil 12 fresh sage leaves 1/4 cup shaved Parmesan black pepper preparation Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Unroll 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry onto prepared sheet.
Cut stem off squash. Using a mandoline, thinly slice squash from stem down through the neck, preserving base of squash for another use. Steam the squash slices until al dente. Brush pastry with 1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water. Arrange as many rounds of the butternut squash over pastry as you prefer, overlapping as needed and leaving a 1/2" border. Brush squash slices with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with kosher salt. Place tart, uncovered, in oven and bake until pastry is deep golden brown and cooked t…

Butternut Squash, Sage, and Ricotta Ravioli with Hazelnut Brown-Butter & Brussels Sprout Leaves

Butternut squash ravioli has been a trendy item at fine dining establishments the past few years. I’ve wanted to try my hand at it for awhile now so when our friend Michael asked me to teach him how to make ravioli from scratch (we covered how to make fettuccine last month) I thought it was the perfect opportunity to perfect butternut squash ravioli. I started with a recipe I found online for the filling, refined it (changed the cheese it calls for, added roasted Brussels sprout leaves) and used Marcella Hazan’s recipe for the ravioli dough. From start to finish this dinner is a time consuming process (multiple hours) but well worth it. Make it for someone special who will appreciate your hard work. IngredientsFor ravioli2 cups flour 4 large eggsFor filling2 pounds butternut squash* 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups) 1 1/2 teaspoons ground sage 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 1 garlic clove, minced 3 ounces ricotta cheeseFor sauce1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter 1/3 cup hazelnut…

Gratitude

Today a new acquaintance thanked me for the time and grueling effort I put into working with the mentally ill back in my days as a counselor (my first career before I got into IT). Nobody has ever acknowledged or thanked me for this before and I didn't realize how much I needed to hear that. The world of mental hospitals and physical restraints and Ativan and trying to help people who struggle with helping themselves is a horror story that I'll never forget. When I have bad days at work now (which is rare btw) I think back to what it was like working in those mental health facilities - scraping human feces off the walls, dealing with violent outbursts, or trying to comfort a little boy who was kept in a cage and fed nothing but dog food and table scraps till he was 9 - and I count my blessings. My thoughts and prayers go out to those who are dealing with mental illness as a patient, family member, or health service provider.

Book Review: Diary of a Wildflower

Over my vacation, I read Diary of a Wildflower by Ruth White.

Lorelei is one of many children in the Starr family, growing up in an isolated mountain area in Virginia in the early 1900s. Diary details her childhood - very reminiscent of the Waltons, but a bit darker - and her eventual horizon-broadening introduction to city life and upper class society. Inevitably Lorelei crosses paths with a handsome and kind upper class gentleman and together they bring her Cinderella tale to its happy conclusion. I am a sucker for happy endings and so White has found a fan in me.

White is an accomplished children's book author and this is her first foray into adult literature and the adventure that is Kindle self-publishing. She's done very well here and other than a few typos inherent in self-publishing and an abrupt and stark change in accent & writing style for Lorelei's character (our narrator) late in the novel, I find Diary to be a great read.

Recommended; 3 out of 5 star…

Book Review: The Wicked Girls

Just finished reading The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood. It bills itself as a psychological thriller and it definitely delivers. Probably one of the most riveting books I've read all year.

At the age of 11, Jade Walker and Annabel Oldacre are convicted as juvenile offenders and co-conspirators in the brutal murder of a 4 year old girl (Chloe) in their community. Because of Walker's dysfunctional upbringing, no one is surprised at her involvement in this kind of trouble but Oldacre comes from a proper well respected family and so she is viewed with more derision as "she should have known better". Likewise, Jade's rehabilitation is more generous and forgiving allowing for her poor upbringing while Annabel is dealt with by the court system more harshly. Annabel has her own family troubles as well - just deeply hidden from the public spotlight- making the way she was singled out for stiffer punishment seem especially cruel. Years later, aged out of the juvenile pri…

Book Review: Lies You Wanted to Hear

Lies You Wanted to Hear is a well paced, well styled, and engaging debut novel by James Whitfield Thomson. A lot of discussion has taken place regarding the author, who at age 67, has made quite an entrance onto the literary scene. In Lies, Thomson showcases the rocky relationship between Matt and Lucy from courtship through its eventual unraveling. Lucy is depicted as wholly selfish and troubled while Matt's character is more nuanced. The decisions that each of them make wound not only each other but their children as well. For a lot of fathers reading this novel, Matt's sentiments on the family court system and his moral dilemmas on how to protect his children will hit a little to close to home. And I don't doubt that for a few mothers who look back on their decision to settle for a 'nice' guy and  wrestle with feelings of wanting more - more excitement, more fun, more passion - that Lies will hit a little close to home as well. This, THIS is the dark version of

Trip Report: Guyana

One of the beautiful things about mile running is the adventure that awaits when you open yourself up to traveling wherever the sales lead you. Out of the more than 80 countries pinned to my wish list board, Guyana, a small country in northeast South America, has never figured in at all. And yet when Delta dangled an unbelievable sale to the country I didn’t hesitate to book a flight for myself and the dear husband for a September 2012 weekend getaway.Once the tickets were purchased and I started to complete the preliminary research for the trip I was taken aback. Typhoid risk: palpable. Yellow Fever risk: moderate. Malaria preventatives: required. Ahh well, all in the name of adventure right? So hubby and I endured the shots, ordered the preventatives and steeled ourselves for the unknown.  We also put up with a lot of good natured ribbing from coworkers and friends who questioned our judgment on selecting Guyana as a destination. Sale or no sale, they couldn’t see the appeal.Making …

Book Review: Stick With It

Reviewing business books has mostly been depressing as I’ve found so many of them directly contradict my values and theological understandings as a Christian and prescribe strategies for “success” wholly incompatible with the Christian walk. So I was particularly pleased with the themes Lee Colan advanced in his new book, Stick With It as they avoided such deficits. Colan reminds us (or informs those who weren’t already aware) that perseverance is the hinge on which the doors of success are opened. While strategic planning is necessary for success it is never sufficient; follow through is key. Colan breaks down perseverance (or adherence as he refers to it) into three essential components:1. Focus (on our mission)2. Competence (to complete necessary actions derived from our mission)3. Passion (for the whole of the work before us and what it stands for)For each component, Colan provides a detailed blueprint for building and sustaining the intensity necessary to succeed. He includes use…

Ducks with Hats

Suzanne reminded me of one of the best parts of our Pacific Coast Highway trip last year that I forgot to share with you readers. And it would be such a tragedy if you didn’t get to share in this joy.Presenting ducks with bad toupees. Yes, ducks with bad toupees. Or perhaps ducks with fascinators if you prefer to imagine they’re wearing little hats. These fellas lived at one of the hotels we stayed at and wandered inside our room one morning.

Trip Report: Pacific Coast Highway

Almost one year ago, three of my favorite people and I flew across the country, crammed ourselves into a convertible and drove the Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego to Santa Cruz. We lifted our itinerary from my dog-eared copy of National Geographic Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Greatest Trips. Both the book and numerous other guides online recommend driving from south to north for the best views, so that’s just what we did. Our first night we stopped in Santa Monica to enjoy dinner with my Uncle Lucien at a seaside restaurant before settling in Santa Barbara for the evening. Traffic was pretty bad from San Diego onward but given the mess that Washington, DC metro traffic always is, it was not more than we could handle. The next morning we were up early and ready to take on the Pacific Coast. We spent a bit of time touring the Santa Barbara Mission (known as the Queen of the Missions) in the morning before heading out onto Highway 101 and it was a great little start t…

Trip Report: Alaska 2012

Every few years my best friend and I try to get our families together for a summer vacation. LiteraryEllyMay and her husband had expressed interest in taking a cruise so Jon and I invited them to join us on a Celebrity cruise to Alaska in July (2012). We’d previously cruised with Carnival as well as Costa but this time we wanted to do something a bit more upscale; the kind of cruise with enrichment programs and gourmet food. Celebrity came highly recommended to us and so we booked passage on a one week Alaska sailing leaving from the Port of Seattle. Departing from Seattle was an added bonus because it allowed us to show our friends around the city and spend time with Jonathan’s brother Joel and his family who live out there. We arrived into Seattle on the fourth of July and spent two days sightseeing before boarding our cruise ship to set sail for Alaska. Another happy coincidence was that Jonathan’s younger brother Jerry (lives in Chicago) and his family happened to be in Seattle vi…