Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Chocolate Chili Redeemed

Thanks to a certain tsmith, I gave chocolate chili another try.

Here it is. It looks tasty doesn't it? But was it?


Casey and my guest (Blake) gave it two thumbs up! Thanks Terry. This will definitely make the Community Group dinner list!

For anyone interested, Terry was nice enough to post the recipe on her blog. You should check it out!

Monday, January 28, 2008

CookingLight...You Done Me Wrong!

For a while there, CookingLight magazine was adding a number of delicious recipes to my recipe box. However, the last three recipes I have spent time and money on have not been so successful. 1. Garlic Chicken - Okay, but not a keeper. 2. Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies - Also okay, also not a keeper. (By now my confidence is low...I need a winner!) 3. Tonight's dinner, Chocolate Chili.

Let's talk about this Chocolate Chili for a moment. It's not actually chocolate chili, rather, chili with chocolate, which I had heard was the secret ingredient for killer chili. So, I was very excited to get to work on this dinner. Casey was at school, Braelyn was in bed, I had the whole kitchen to myself, to cook for myself. No rush, no distractions, no one's opinion to consider but my own.

Here are my ingredients, all ready to make some culinary music.

Here's the secret ingredient, melting it's way to glory.

And here's what I ate for dinner. Pimento cheese sandwich. :|

CookingLight, what-a-ya say we keep chocolate where it belongs, huh? I just don't know how much more of this I can take! What if I had had guests?!

To everyone else, on a different subject, there's my title. The font is showing up a little jagged on my computer, so we'll try to mess with that some more. I'm still wondering about the Bible verse I had up there (Psalm 16:5-6). I would really like to use it, that's where I got my title from, but I don't know that I'll like how it looks up there. All in all, I think I like's growing on me. Please continue to share your thoughts.

The Title Is Coming!

Well, it's a start. Casey put the title on there for me last night, but I couldn't remember where the file was or how to do it myself, so the title will return soon. If any of you have ANY suggestions (color, photo size, title placement, blog description/no blog description, etc.) I would appreciate your help! I was all excited to do this, and then once Casey and I got in the middle of it, I realized I have no idea what I am doing!

Thanks so much for your votes and comments! I'm glad everyone like this picture. It was one of my favorites too.

More changes to come!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Extreme Blog Makeover

I can't take it anymore! Time for this crusty, old blog to get a personalized makeover. For such a serious project...I need your help! And I might actually take your advice this time...:)
Here are some pictures that I liked for the title section of my blog. I'd love to know what you think!

1. I love this old, wonderfully used journal.

2. I thought this one was kinda fun and interesting.

3. This was a pleasant place, I thought.

4. Bluebonnets...well, cause you know, Brenham has bluebonnets.

5. I like the idea of a silhouette, but I would probably try to use my own. This is just one I found.
6. Steph...You should keep looking!

So those are just some ideas. If you choose #6 it won't hurt my feelings! Be honest! I don't know anything about this kinda stuff, so any input you have is much appreciated!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Baking with Ol' Whitey

First off, in a previous post I wrote about choosing a white Kitchenaid mixer over a red one, and just to be silly, I briefly referred to it as Ol' Whitey. Well, someone understood that to be what I named my mixer, as if it was my pet or something (although I do admit that I referred to my asexual mixer as "her"). Let me assure you that I did not intentionally name my mixer, but since it's out there, and since it's sort of funny, and since I love this someone...Ol' White she is!...the mixer, not the someone, although she also happens to be white :)

So, Ol' Whitey and I have been busy girls! Our first project...a batch of lemon poppyseed scones. Delish! Could of used a little bit more lemon zest though. Anyways, once those were gone, I thought we'd have another go at the scones. This chocolate chip. Another success! Although, they were very moist, and I sorta feel like scones should be kinda dry. What do you think?

If anyone has a good scone recipe...pass it on! I love a good scone, don't you? :)

My Copy Cat Movie Post

One of my favorite gals in all the world, Erin, did a super fun post about her favorite movies. I considered listing mine on her comment page, but thought better of it as I would have been very long-winded. I simply can't resist an opportunity to make a list with elaboration, of course. So here we go...

My favorite movies of all time:

~ Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightly and Matthew Macfadyen:
I fear that this movie may break some of the Cutshall guidelines for excellent filmmaking, but I can't help it, I adore this story. As you know, I love the book. Elizabeth Bennet is one of my favorite characters ever written and I think Keira portrays her beautifully. As for Mr. irresistible Mr. Darcy! Oh my gosh, I just watched it not long ago, and seeing the picture makes me want to go put it on!

~ Moulin Rouge starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor:
:::sigh:::What a movie! The singing, the dancing, it's like nothing you've ever seen. Even if you didn't like it, (which, really, how could you not?) you have to admit that it was something new! The dancer in me can't help but love the rhythm and drama of this film.

~ Empire of the Sun starring Christian Bale and John Malkovich:
I don't even really know if I can explain why I love this's based on a true story and Steven Speilberg tells it beautifully. A very young Christian Bale plays a young boy who is separated from his parents during WWII. The relationships are interesting, the music is breath-taking, and by the end you have experienced a hundred different emotions. The last scene of this movie grips my heart every time. Always tears!

~ Breakfast At Tiffany's starring THE Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard:Ah! She is just so stunning! Anyways, it's just a could you not love it?

~ Little Women starring Winona Rider, Christian Bale(again), and many more:I have loved this movie for a long time, and I am just now reading the book. Once I read a book, I usually grow less fond of the movie, but I don't think that will be the case in this instance. I typically enjoy movies with an ensemble cast, and this movie has a superb group of actors. As with Pride and Prejudice, it's the characters I love, and to see them love each other is what puts this story on the top of my list...on film or in print.

~Sliding Doors starring Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah:
What a great little British flick! Sliding Doors is a sweet, thoughtful movie about how the smallest, most insignificant choices we make every day can change our whole life. I'm always a fan of Gwyneth, but John Hannah almost stole the show..for me anyways.

Movies that cannot go unmentioned:
~ Atonement: a second viewing of this may bump it to the top of my list.
~ Casablanca
~ Butch Cassady and The Sundance Kid
~ Clue
~ When Harry Met Sally
~ The Lord of the Rings trilogy
~ It's a Wonderful Life

Well, this was really fun. I'd love to hear what you think of my picks and what movies are in your Top 5 List...(or Top 6 List...but who's counting?!)
Thanks for letting me copy cat your post, Erin!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Book Review: A Wrinkle In Time

I realize that many of the books I've been reading and reviewing lately are books that people read when they're in school. Sometimes I don't know how I graduated with so few literary essentials under my belt. It makes me think, "What did I learn in school?" However, I am wondering if it's not to my advantage that my school system failed me in this way. I think if I had read these great books as a student, I might not have appreciated them for the treasures they are. I might have read these books and perhaps even liked them, but I am certain that much would have gone unnoticed. As for the characters of these novels, would I have enjoyed them as I do now? Would I have admired them as I do now? Would I have recognized the authors' genius as I do now? Who knows?

I share all this because A Wrinkle in Time is a children's novel, and as I was reading I couldn't help but wonder if I had read it as a child, would have missed the point. It is a fine story, indeed. The plot alone is captivating and interesting and magical. But, there is much to discover beneath the surface. This fantasy fiction is rich with spiritual allegory, not to mention the Word of God itself. It is an examination of good and evil. L'Engle's interpretation of a place controlled by darkness baffled my imagination and compelled me to consider God the Artist, delicate and fascinating and fabulously unpredictable. Never before have I taken so much pleasure in the weaknesses and oddities and the humanness of people. Likewise, she invites us to imagine life without "darkness." All I can say is that her words paint a beautiful picture of love, a thing worth hoping for.

Whether you are a fan of fantasy fiction or not (I am not generally drawn towards that genre), the characters alone make this novel a worthy addition to anyone's library. The family of characters that L'Engle has created is the most delightfully awkward group of outsiders. Her characters are in many ways what we all try so hard to hide, but they are all the more precious for it, forcing the question...why are we so ashamed of our imperfections?

It is a charming novel, a great read no matter what your age. There are some (conservative evangelical Christians) who have questioned the book's value and fear its potentially harmful influence on young readers. I do not agree. A Wrinkle in Time poses amazing questions, stirs the imagination and provokes priceless conversation. Thank goodness, I am not alone. In 1963, A Wrinkle in Time won the John Newbury Award "for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children."

Friday, January 18, 2008

I FINALLY Made A Decision!!!

I must apologize for keeping you, especially you voters, in suspense for so long. I know you must have been losing sleep, night after night, agonizing over whether I chose the red mixer or the white mixer. Well, sleep well tonight my pretties, I finally made a decision! The final vote was 6 for red and 5 for white (counting one vote per voter...sorry Cutshall). Despite the fact that red earned more votes, I went I realize this defeats the purpose of a vote, but there are a couple of important reasons I overrode the vote.

1. Even though my mom did not vote on the blog, she purchased the white mixer, and therefore that counts as a vote for white. With her vote that's a tie.
2. There hasn't been much opportunity for mixer hunting.
3. I'm REALLY ready to use it.
And 4. What if this is my kitchen one day? It really might be, so I'm just thinking ahead. Anyways, thanks for voting. I hope my disregard for the outcome will not deter you from voting for other ridiculous things in the future. It was so much fun to read your votes...and, by the way, that is my most commented on post to date...19 comments!

I cannot wait to get mixing! With Casey on the first of many Disciple Now weekends and with this cold, nasty weather, I figured it would be good time to break her in. I'll let you know what me and ol' whitey mix up together! :)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Just Thinking Online

I have been processing a couple of different thoughts lately, so I thought I'd share.

1. Somewhere along the way, I started thinking of my quiet time as "my time with God." And it is, don't get me wrong. It is certainly a time to pray and to worship and to enjoy His Word. But thinking of quiet time this way implies that once it is over, so is my engagement with God and I may go about my day and my business. This, I think is quite contrary to what Scripture teaches. Take 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 for example. So driving to Bunco the other day, I had a bit of an epiphany. What if my "quiet time" is not so much my time with God (although I'm sure He will be present and I will enjoy Him there), but rather, it is a time of study and preparation for the rest of the day when I will be spending time with God. A time to study who He is and who He is not. A time to study who I am and who I am not. A time to prepare my thoughts and my heart and my schedule and my words to worship Him and acknowledge Him all day long. Let us pray for theory to be put into action!

2. The burden of the Law really struck me today. What freedom we have in Christ! Imagine what our lives would be like if we were constantly having to right our wrongs with God. Sacrifices and offerings and ceremonies and washings...never ending! Imagine all that on top of the normal things of life that must get done. How could we possibly love others and enjoy God when we are ever covering our own tails! is done! Finished! We are free to love God and love people without guilt or shame. Why on earth am I tempted to want to manage my own sin?...foolish, foolish girl! He entered the holy place once and for all, having obtained eternal redemption. Hebrews 9:12 AMEN! I love when God reminds me of the beauty of the Gospel!

Braelyn, Your Face is Not a Napkin!

Lately, my daughter has decided that she does not like her hands to have food on them while she eats...can't really blame her, I guess. However, she has discovered that her face and hair prove to be a very handy's always available, it's eco-friendly and most importantly, it gets the mess off her hands and out of the way.

On a related side note, the Cease family endorses the Barefoot Contessa chocolate chip cookie mix. A little pricey, but oh so delicious!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Hair Pictures...As Requested

I suddenly have the urge to sing country western music and ride a mechanical bull.

Showin' off the ugly, right here!

Here I am handling it all, like a real trooper.

There you go. My humiliation is complete! :)

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Hair Saga

Every 2 or 3 years, I find myself in a serious, virtually nonrecoverable hair drama. In the past few years, I have had some okay haircuts and some great haircuts, but apparently my luck had run out, because on Tuesday I received "the worst haircut ever." That my friends, is a direct quote from my loving, but honest husband. Normally, Casey is fairly unsympathetic to my hair fits, his lack of reaction forcing me to grasp some rational perspective, but even he could not deny that my hair had been cut and feathered and texturized and thinned beyond repair and could not blame me for my loud and tearful hair tantrum.

I actually had found an amazing, big time hair stylist, here in little ol' Brenham. I had only been to her once but I loved what she did. Casey, Blake, Braelyn and I called her our stylist and friend. Unfortunately, some things happened with her and after Christmas she did not return to Brenham. But it was time for a haircut and so I just went to another lady in that same salon. After she was done, and I was looking at the final product, I knew it was bad, but I thought, "maybe it's just the way she styled it, it's usually better once I wash it and dry it myself." Ladies, she gave me a bob on top, which stuck out like a mushroom cause my hair is so thick, and then underneath she left longer, thinner hair. Casey says it looks like she gave me two different haircuts. It is so bad. Surprisingly enough, I was handling this very well. We couldn't believe what we were seeing so, I was still able to chuckle at the situation.

The next day, I came home from story time and Casey said (and I agreed) that I had to go get "that" fixed. So, I ran into Capelli's, a cute little salon downtown and asked if anyone had time to work on the mess right then. Sure enough a girl was available. She thinned out the mushroom on top, which helped a lot, but there was not much to do with the longer hair underneath. At that point I really didn't want to have short hair, so I was not ready to give into the bob. So she said that I could take a couple of days and if I still didn't like it to come back and she would cut the bottom.

Well, it's been a couple of days, and there is just no way around it...I have horrible hair! All I could think about was the months of ugliness ahead of me...that's when the tantrum hit. Needless to say, it's been in a ponytail ever since, which is a battle in and of itself. Yesterday, I resolved to cut it all off. I've given into the bob. However, having no trust in the hair "professionals" that Brenham has to offer, I am going to a trusted stylist in Houston. Friends, this lady was far when I lived in Sugar Land! But...I've been to her before, Cat has gone to her for years, and I am running out of hair to mess up, off to the big city. Hopefully, I will return with happier hair.

So that's the hair saga. I feel like this happens to me a lot and that it only happens to me...maybe I'm just the only one silly enough to get three haircuts in one week. Anyways, if you have had a hair drama, I'd love to know I'm not alone...please share. I'm not the only girl who throws hair tantrums, right?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Little Jar of Diligence

I have given myself a project. This little project was not born out of creativity or craftiness, no ma'am! It was born out of necessity and shame. You see this Little Jar of Diligence is a friend, a friend to those who procrastinate. I am a procrastinator in the worst way. I look around the house and there are dozens of little tasks that have been left for tomorrow...and then a year goes by. For example, I have a beautiful white-framed mirror that I got at Round Top almost a year ago. This antique treasure is just propped up against my dresser, waiting and waiting to be gloriously displayed above our bed. I also have some white antique plates (also purchased at Round Top) that are to be hung in our bathroom. They're just sitting in a bag. The list goes on and on. It is so shameful!

So...fed up with myself and this nasty habit, I created the Little Jar of Diligence. I wrote all the projects and chores that I have been putting off down on little strips of paper, folded them up and put them in the jar. There were about 25 items total, and I am constantly thinking of more that need to be added.

Here are the rules of the Jar:
~ I pick one item out of the jar at a time and I have one week to complete that task, unless otherwise specified. (I have a few major projects that would take more preparation, a garage sale for example, and so, for those jobs I give myself a month.)
~ Once I complete a task, I may draw another item.
~ Once I draw a task, I cannot put it back and draw another. (I have already broken this rule...I drew the garage sale need to get crazy right off the bat!)
~ I may complete a task before it has been chosen, but it may not replace the task that was chosen for that week.
~Once I complete a task, I can reward myself with a pedicure...just kidding. That would be fabulous though, wouldn't it?!

So, my friends, jobs are already getting done around here! Like today, I called and made a dentist appointment. After I made the call, I went to my jar and picked out Wash the Duvet Cover. Guess what I'm doing tomorrow? Washing the duvet cover! Now that's diligence!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

7 Years...

To Casey...
1. I love you because we have fun together.

2. I love you because with you, I'm not afraid to do anything...

...or go anywhere.

3. I love you because you love Braelyn with all your heart and there's nothing you wouldn't do for her.

4. I love you because you keep your promises..the big ones, and the small ones.

5. I love you because you genuinely love people. You are the truest kind of friend.

6. I love you because you worship the Lord with your words and your life. You lead me and challenge me. You take responsibility for your mistakes and mine. You are a man of integrity. You are a man who fears the Lord.

7. I love you because I don't remember life without you. We've grown up together and I adore the thought of growing old together.

Happy Anniversary, My Love!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

2007...It's Been A Good Year!

I am not really one for New Year's resolutions, and I did not make any last year. Yet, here I am looking back on 2007, and in spite of my aversions towards resolutions (yes, probably due to cynicism), I find myself quite changed...for the better, I think.

~ We started recycling,composting and using reusable grocery bags! Go Green!
~ I have fallen in love with reading. I am reading all the time, as you know...both classic literature and Christian literature.
~ I have gotten more comfortable in the kitchen. I now look forward to trying new recipes and I no longer want to cry when I am called upon to cook for others.
~ I started the blog! I love this little community. I love reading about your lives and I love keeping a written and visual record of mine.
~ I have gotten in touch with some old friends that I had lost contact with. One day I just couldn't shake the fact that I had been a really bad friend to a couple of really important people. In some cases, I just caught up with them and let them know I still thought of them, and in others, I had to make some wrong things right. This has been a difficult thing, but I have been greatly blessed by it. We all have those friends we've been meaning to call...I encourage you to pick up the phone! :)
~ I sewed one pillow. Honestly, I had hoped to be able to say that I had learned how to sew, but that is not the case. But I will not let that get me down...I wanted to start sewing and sewing just one pillow qualifies me as having started sewing. :)
~ I have been more often in the Word. Sure, I have missed my days, but this year I have drawn from the Word and loved the Word and learned from the Word more than I have in quite a while. I am so thankful to God for this!

So there's that. These are the things that have made my life richer and fuller and funnier and scarier and more interesting. So, if I just had to make a New Year's resolution for 2008...MORE OF THE SAME! (And maybe figure out who in the world I might possibly vote for in the coming election...politics...ugh!)

Happy New Year!