Friday, November 1, 2013

Has the Father Told You He's Proud?

"Let's enter His presence with thanksgiving! Let's shout out to Him in celebration!"

This Thanksgiving as you're counting your blessings--thanking God for the day, your family, your friends, your job--there is one question imperative to growth and improvement in your journey to spiritual discovery: how is my relationship with God a reflection of my relationship with people and how shouldn't it be?

In consideration of Laura Trice's words about praise and thanksgiving how do we translate our own needs and vulnerabilities to God--not just each other? What is the significance of giving thanks to the Lord? Certainly He is not insecure about our intentions towards He?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Finding Your X

"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." --Matthew 6:21

One of my earliest memories was that of digging around in the backyard for buried treasure. I often played games of pretend in the backyard, and this particular occasion was shortly after a neighborhood best friend had moved and I was sad. As I squatted in the backyard imagining that I would find any number of hidden pieces of history or gems, at seven years of age I made a confession out loud that would resonate with me through the lonely times of High School and College: "Friends are the real treasure in life."

Since then, I have built upon that concept of relationships and values. You need only examine a few days of your life to determine where your treasure lies. Observe your activities as you move throughout your daily plan and ask yourself these questions:

1. Where am I spending my money?

2. Where am I spending my free time?

3. Where am I spending my thought life?

Answering these three questions will place an X on where you've buried your treasure. You may be very pleased with the results--you may not. Revealing your treasure can be a taxing process of digging and discovery none of us want to begin. But to establish goals and continue growth we must acknowledge where our spending--whether monetary or otherwise--is guiding us. If you think that being fit is what you value, you may find that your time at the Drive-Thru window and your lack of frequency at the gym tells you otherwise.

I have invested in friendships for decades, forgoing work or school to spend time and money on building community. Friendships are valuable and friendships are an investment. To become greater, I have turned my focus inward to develop the strengths and skills needed to grow my investments in myself. I've started school, I've organized a cleaning schedule, and I've changed my hours at work to make family a focus (including my dog). Life will progress. Reinvent yourself and as you continually seek your own values, give yourself permission to let your focus change. If you don't like where your money, time, and thoughts are headed, change them--and don't allow anyone to force guilt, shame, or obligation to other things. We may shift and change and shift back but letting go is often necessary for us to grow and become more than what we've been.

Is there a relationship or connection that has become stagnate? Are you involved in habits or thought patterns that are unhealthy and are robbing you of your treasure? Is one colleague at work or a child's obstinate teacher constantly taking up space in your mind? Are you investing your earnings in possessions that are not a reinforcement for a permanent future? Are you in a relationship that is draining you emotionally or spiritually?

This month find your focus in digging a little bit deeper. And remember that in the process of discovery it is often that "ex" marks the spot.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Relishing Dinner

Cooking dinner has become a weekly lesson plan as I've noticed how broad my understanding of food has developed. For instance, my understanding of relish had been restricted to the image of a green, pickled condiment in a squeeze bottle. I've never been an enthusiastic fan, although if offered for hot dogs or Western egg sandwiches I'd most likely add a spoonful.

What do you know--relish is not just pickled green stuff. You can make relish out of a variety of vegetables, fruit, and dressings.

Here is a variety of items you may include in relish:

  • white beans
  • red peppers
  • scallions
  • jalapenos 
  • red onion
  • cilantro
  • parsley
  • green olives
  • spinach
  • blue cheese
  • apple
  • honey
  • white wine vinegar
  • lemon juice
  • mayo
  • mustard
I've discovered a great idea for making dips, salsa, relishes or other sides and condiments--a prep party. Everyone should bring an apron and a few items on the list above and the friend with the biggest kitchen block should host it. 

Everyone shares in the chopping, mixing, and most importantly--the sampling. Have mason jars available so that everyone goes home with a souvenir. Of course for a relish Prep Party you should probably prepare a grill so that you have a platform to try your samples. 

Prep Parties are a creative way to get together with friends and usurp the standard cook-out. The guests and hosts get to share in the work and trade secrets and skills, not to mention everyone gets to go home with something more substantial than leftovers: you can take pride in knowing that the pretty product you carry home has been made with love and community--and you got to help!

If you're hosting a Prep Party, you may keep things very casual or provide favors for your guests in addition to what they'll take home. Several ideas that can supplement your party are as follows:

Using chicken sausage instead of pork or beef sausage cuts the calories in half. Sausage is one of the foods higher in calories so making a lower fat choice is what I recommend, especially since I use FitDay and cringe on the days I have burgers or Mexican food. But if you want to indulge, you can switch it up with kielbasa, andouille, chorizo, or bratwurst. This is an easy dinner that only takes about 15 minutes since all the prep is making the relish and all you have to do is cook the sausage.

Remember to take the casings off--I didn't!

I thought that orange and olives sounded a bit off, but this relish was delightful and simple and because of the oranges it's high in vitamin C and antioxidants because of the olives.

I'd like to give away a set of relish from Cottage Lane Relish out of Orange County, NC. In the tradition of the South, the names of Cottage Lane's two offerings of relish are embellished by their names as much as their ingredients: you can experience Southern heat with "Get Me a Switch" or shake in your fishin' boots with "Cape Fear" which is appropriately named since it goes well with seafood.

The only requirement I have for giveaways is that you subscribe to my blog. You can follow these instructions--it's free and it doesn't take a lot of time to do. This giveaway ends September 6th.

My Woman's Day blog is purposed to share my life, educate others, and most of all, build relationship and community. I always pick random subscribers to share gifts, surprises, and conversation and believe that the best way to grow and experience life is to reach out and share who you are and what you've experienced.

I always end my giveaway blogs with some of my best advice: accept invitations to parties and dinners, challenge yourself to try new things and share your interests with others, and keep your commitments to your family, friends, employer, and others. If you do, you will increase your potential in all areas of life, prevent fear from being your motivation, and increase confidence and recognition in others of your value and influence.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Must Have Mustard

There is some argument on the internet, but I think it's safe to assume that the most popular National Mustard Day arrives on the first Saturday in August. The National Mustard Museum, located in Middleton, WI (because we all appreciate a dollop with cheese--am I right?) celebrates the canary condiment with free hot dogs, games, and mustard sampling.

I have used mustard in everything from smashed potatoes to macaroni and cheese.  For my Woman's Day recipes, I have used just about every kind of mustard there is: spicy brown, whole-grain, Dijon. I never knew there were so many levels of flavors and varieties of many condiments before I started my Woman's Day journey but as you can see, I've acquired quite a collection. The satisfaction of buying speciality foods and being able to use them with such versatility is a blessing to the palate and the wallet as well.

Since we are almost out of a few varieties, I thought it would be fun to explore my options as I am certain I will be using mustard going forward for many recipes, not to mention for the traditional hot dog, hamburger, and corn dog (or brown hound as you Yankees say).

Terrapin Ridge Farms covers the spectrum from spicy to sweet. Honey, you are no longer the only touch of sugar in mustard: welcome beet. Beets have been sweetening an assortment of dishes and beverages, including wine, and it's no exception in Terrapin Ridge Farm products as they offer Sweet Beet and Horseradish mustard--which is their most unique offering as far as I'm concerned.

However, their other mustard varieties range from Caesar Dijon (Dijon mustard is defined by white wine) to Wasabi Lime. Adding these specialty mustard blends to dips, marinades, or soup would be creative and delicious and just a few ounces should last for a considerable amount of time.

For the more daring, Miller's Hot and Spicy Mustard is made with banana peppers! Here is another product that started in someone's own kitchen, sharing with family and friends just for fun. I love businesses that start with just plain fun and passion and these jars are way affordable and make great gifts for the pepper lover in your life. If you're a friend of mine reading this you know that's me.

For an exotic flare, you might overlook the honey mustard for Vermont's Epicurean Brand of mustard--Maple Country Mustard. I have always been a sucker for maple products because I love autumn and always reminds me of Yankee Candle Company's Maple Pancake candles. Yes--they smell absolutely amazing.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Crispy Spaghetti and the Infinite Menus

Part of the absolute joy of following Woman's Day besides the comfort of tradition is their pre-planned meals each month. The advantages have impressed several ares of my life and I would really like to share how it has affected me:

1. The menus being printed out ahead of time and organized into sections per week is so efficient and convenient for someone who had ADHD and struggles with organization and time management, not to mention memory.

2. The menus are planned in such a way that one odd ball ingredient goes into several things. For instance, if you buy Hoisin sauce and use a tablespoon for one recipe, you don't scoot it into the door of your refrigerator and then a year later, pull it out and throw it away when you do your annual scrub ( that just me?). In buying those vegetables, condiments, and sauces you actually USE them which brings me to my next several points.

3. You learn how to cook naturally. After using the previously mentioned Hoisin sauce for a recipe, I came home one day needing to make something fast. I decided to make stir fry. Because of the practice you get in making meals even just three or four times a week, you learn what works together, the chemistry of food, and the special touches of chef specialties that make meals a delight. That particular evening was the first time I made a meal that tasted like restaurant food. My stir fry was just like going to a Japanese steak house. I was amazed.

4. Because you are using all your groceries, you are saving money. I buy one or two simple items for breakfast and have enough leftovers and groceries to make simple or complex lunches and snacks. You are wasting less, learning new skills and recipes, and gradually making your own versions of recipes and building a repertoire

5. I'm eating healthy. The meals that are scheduled usually consist of lean meats, vegetables, and natural foods. I always try to buy local to make my meals including my produce, meats, and items like honey or nuts. I get to see how many calories are in a serving and I get to constantly acknowledge what a serving actually looks like. We overeat in the United States and I feel better controlling my portions and not wasting food.

I think the menus could be a problem for large families or working moms who don't have much time to cook. There is a lot of discipline and practice in chopping vegetables ahead of time as well as other prep, and don't even get me started on the dishes. I luckily have a helpful partner who does his share if not more of the housework even though we both work.

Also the menus could be an issue for people who are picky eaters. I don't have that problem, thankfully. We do have food allergies in the household and I am just as equally thankful that we have learned how to make gluten free pizza crusts for all the fabulous Woman's Day pizzas and found fantastic wheat-free pasta options.

This particular night I enjoyed yet another unusual concept that I had never tried--fried spaghetti. We were able to pick up a big package of spaghetti at Sam's Club so I just picked up zucchini, parsley, and Parmesan.

I was a little skeptical at first of the possible results--there is no real sauce and it's very simple if you can get the hang of the frying and the flipping (the recipe suggests a lined baking sheet--I suggest a pizza pan with aluminum foil) but the results were a pleasant surprise.

I enjoyed one serving with a salad and local tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and my mom's garden basil.

It's been a journey to get to a place where you routinely cook, set the table, and (EEK!) wash dishes every night but the peace and enjoyment of the fruits are a reward, just like everything else in life.

May everything we accomplish in life produce leftovers that do not disappoint.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Ploughing Through

Ploughman's lunches are as English as blood pudding, shepherd's pie, and afternoon tea. A traditional pub meal, the components central to a Ploughman's Platter are crusty bread, cheese, pickles, and chutney. Although images of hunks of bread and hearty slices of meat may invoke thoughts of farmers with their dented pale or pub patrons gathered around their ale, there isn't a lot of evidence to support that Ploughman's Platters date back much further than the mid-twentieth century when the Milk Marketing Board promoted the meal.

Regardless, bread, cheese, meat, and a medley of condiments make for a delectable lunch and an aesthetically delightful combination.

Choosing the presentation for a wine pairing, picnic, or patio party is as diverse as the platter. There are a variety of options to make serving the meal as enjoyable as eating it.

Selecting the board will accentuate where you are, who you're serving, and what you're serving and direct the ambiance of the meal as efficiently as a compass. Having a game night? These boards from BryanBuildsNC are a perfect accent in handmade, checkerboard maple.

There are literally hundreds of cutting boards on Etsy alone--you can purchase cutting boards in shapes, with engraving, or rustic pieces that appear to be fresh from the forest to the table.

Crusty bread is best with a standard cheese or meat if your additional fare is favoring exotic. My favorite condiments for a Ploughman's Platter are chutney, whole grain mustard, and infused olive oil for dipping. If the cheese and meat are the stars of the show, you may be replacing a cheddar or Havarti with brie or goat cheese alongside anchovies or pâté. If that's the case, keep your other fare simple or light by incorporating more fruits and olives or hummus. 

Woman's Day offered a beet salad recipe, which I had never considered but seems like a refreshing and healthy option. You may also consider a variety of textures like crisp radishes or pickled eggs instead of boiled eggs.

Edward Fitzgerald translated "a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou," obviously in celebration of the Ploughman's Platter, for it is now up to you to decide whether you will enjoy a traditional pub beer with your plate or refine your fancy in favor of wine. If this is a business lunch you may forgo the spirits all together for San Pellegrino sparkling water, sweet tea, or ginger ale. 

For my Ploughman's Platter, I found a lovely little tray for only $3.00 are our local department store, Roses. This was really super easy to carry from our apartment to the patio. We found an olive bread from our local bakery and a sofi aware winning plum chutney from Virginia Chutney Co. Then we added an assortment of cheeses from chipotle Gouda, cheedar, goat cheese, and Havarti and paired it with salami and pepperocini.

It was a pleasure to enjoy with a local Cabernet Sauvignon as it complimented nicely with light pepper and currant notes.

The Orchestration of Life

"Sing a new song to Him; play well and joyfully." --Psalm 33:3

On a recent wine tour, we met a very pleasant couple from Florida. He was a conductor; she was a musician. They confided the pleasures and challenges of their employment in an orchestra as they viscerally enjoy the investment very literally heard in their livelihood, yet endeavor to translate their passion to a seemingly disconnected generation.

"They think it's elitist," she almost whispered, as it was unmistakable that classical music had been an intimate benefactor for many years of her life.

And I felt sad. There are traditions and values we are losing to a outlying generation. As we have adopted bulging schedules, technology, convenience, and overall newness, I reflected upon what we will lose in another 25 or 50 years with an aging generation that often feels irrelevant--convicted and unwavering but irrelevant. Willing and compromising, yet increasingly irrelevant.

The contention for me is how to maintain appreciation for tradition and custom while building onto a foundation?

Many orchestras have conceded to playing contemporary music. Others have started to sway their focus more into the community. They are finding ways to break the image, defuse the massive gulf that seems to lie in economy and demographics.

I am observing that resilience is not only a quality, but a value:

1. We must adjust to realize old and new are both worthwhile.

I have discovered that life is not as much like a box of chocolates for me as it is like macaroni and cheese--you can throw in a powder or something fancy but you always boil elbow macaroni and it's probably gonna remind you of something you love.

Kraft macaroni and cheese is bright orange, cheap, and terribly bad for you but I'm probably not alone in that it reminds me of both childhood and my early twenties. Every Thanksgiving I make my Great-Grandma Tinsley's macaroni and cheese and know that it will live on to garnish the table of my own great-grandchildren. I remember how my own Grandma taught me how to make it every time I'm going over the mental check list of the ingredients. There is no other macaroni and cheese like it.

There are new recipes for macaroni and cheese that I have added to my cook book as I have discovered a passion for cooking and baking. If I would have stopped at Kraft, how would I have ceased to enrich my life?

2. We must learn that not all people have shared life experiences.

I was raised to appreciate classical music. It means something significant to me. I understand the passion. I remember many days doing homework and listening to classic soundtracks. It touched upon an experience--new friends in private school, film that touched my life, feelings of peace and tranquility. These are emotions and feelings that we all share. The disconnect that most people have is they will not realize the same emotion in a different vehicle. If we are reaching out to motivate others to understand our cause or art or inspiration, isn't part of the growing process recognizing what we may be missing in our own lack of experience? We should motivate ourselves to invest in the interests of others with an open mind and heart.

3. We must not compromise the message.

As we "sing a new song" in our lives, we must recall the motivation and the execution are center stage. As we play an instrument, knit a blanket, pioneer a new business, write a book, the profit is often how we are doing and not what we are doing. As you consider a task, hobby, career, entertainment venue, what is your incentive? Is there purpose in your choices? Does the investment of time involve a new skill, a new friendship, a perspective that may challenge and stretch your imagination? Does your execution of learning or applying yourself underscore joy, graciousness, perseverance, humility?

I really internalized one of the definitions of the word "symphony" taken from Webster's Dictionary: harmony of sounds.

May the new and the old join together, to be pursued  in a consistent, orderly, and pleasing arrangement.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Let Freedom (Ear)Ring

"I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to Your commands." --Psalm 119:45

It is undoubtedly a challenge to gain freedom from many of life's addictions. People struggle with weight loss, cigarette addiction, codependent relationships--the list goes on. My struggle has always been letting go of things.

One of my earliest memories was of a pick up truck backing up in the yard to take away my toys. I was three or four years old and my mother had hauled them out to be taken away as garbage. I remember my plastic Mickey Mouse on the top of the heap and I remember crying and wanting to hold them and keep them. Or at least say goodbye.

Then my best friend moved when I was seven. I didn't have many friends since I was home schooled, so Denise, my neighborhood friend, filled many hours of time in the evenings (in the days that children still played outside until dusk). It was the first time I had to say goodbye to a friend. Weeks later, squatting in the yard alone, pretending to bury treasure, I paused and said aloud,"Friends are really the only treasure." I think God heard me. I have been blessed with friendships most of my life.

But I still have a lot of crap.

Every note passed to me in High School, every photo taken from every year at summer camp, rocks, soda cans, broken necklaces--and the toys from childhood I became old enough to pilfer. Each memento became a trademark of a person or emotion--a mile marker of remembrance. Eventually it becomes overwhelming. You face the piles of refuse. You intend to clean. But you can't dispose of much because as the item dangles over the Hefty bag your actions reek of betrayal.

Sometimes saving and neglecting stems from fear.

The last gift my brother gave me before he died was a set of diamond earrings for my 30th birthday. I used to wear them as often as I could find an occasion. After he died, I wore them at his funeral and never again. I am afraid of two things: I would be devastated to lose them and if someone tried to steal them, say in a robbery for instance, I believe I would at the least hesitate in handing them over or flat out refuse.

It's possible that I would compromise my life for a possession. It's a valuable and meaningful possession but it's not worth my life. Yet my instinct has been that, life or death, I would cling to that last, meaningful and precious gift.

How are our possessions costing us our life?

I've discovered it is hard to throw away things for several reasons:

1. We feel we are betraying a part of ourselves.

2. We feel we are betraying others.

3. We are afraid of forgetting.

4. We are afraid we will stop caring about the event or person connected to that thing.

5. We are afraid that we will lose our value in losing our things.

I kept notes from High School because it was one of the most pivotal and precious times in my life. I met my best friend, my first love, the first adults who believed in me, I discovered my talents and my identity, my own thoughts and opinions.

It's necessary to confront the motivation for keeping those old things. How am I honoring the truly valuable aspects of that time in my life? That question is worth the time it takes to consider and evolve into an eternal result; keeping trash is not honoring the person I was, the people I knew, the values that are so engrained that they are irreversible.

We are such a Disney generation that everything we own has feelings. That stuffed dog, that old clock, the sea shell we picked up when we were seven on our first beach trip. We have identified parts of ourselves with inanimate objects. This sentiment is glorified in a astonishingly profound children's film called The Brave Little Toaster. In this movie, 4 appliances who live in a summer home have fond memories of their "master"--a child who has grown up and moved on to college. They spend their adventure trying to reconnect with him, addressing subjects including loneliness, insignificance, and apathy.

We are not a summary of what we possess. Our character and personal growth is rather a summary of how we possess.

Before we address our unnecessary "stuff" we can prepare by following a few guidlines:

1. How you own is more important than what you own.

Honoring investments of time and detail to your things by cleaning, organizing, and using the things that are a blessing to you is a result and reward of good stewardship.

2. Gratitude for what you have is more than a fortune cookie adage. It's a means for increase.

Using and valuing what you already have sounds very Mickey Mouse but how often do we follow impulse and eat a burger instead of cooking what we already have at home? Did you buy those new shoes when there were already an unworn pair in the closet? Obtaining more things when possessions at home go neglected can be an often ignored sign of ingratitude, lack of self control, entitlement, and neglect. Convenience and excess robs of us the valuable time and talent and truly many times it destroys the potential for the things we really want out of life.

3. Possessions can exemplify the root of our problems or the source of our victories.

Examining where you spend money is one of the best ways to determine what you worship. Looking at what you already have is as equally tell-tale. It is easy to say that you love having company over for dinner. It is harder to prove that when your house is always a mess. It feels good to say "I love to cook" but it is harder to prove when all the gadgets you buy for cooking are gathering dust in the pantry. We spend our lives in denial and bondage when we cannot take an honest look at our surroundings and accept what they are telling us: you don't love people as much as you love your things. You're not investing in becoming a cook, you're investing in items you don't make time to use.

My brother bought me earrings because he was proud that he could, because he loved me, and because he wanted me to wear them and when people asked me where I got those lovely earrings, he wanted me to be able to say,"My brother bought them for me."

If fear is your motivator you will never truly live a free life.

My brother will never be alive again on this earth. I can never get another present from him and that is just one more thing that makes those earrings so dear to me. But with or without the earrings he gave me, I am still his sister. I am alive, I remember him, and I can honor him by not being afraid to wear the gift he so generously gave to me on such a special birthday.

Sometimes we must let go of what we will inevitably lose to truly possess those things that cannot be destroyed.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Macaroni and Cheese: Yesterday, Today, and Forever

Whenever I prepare macaroni and cheese that doesn't take 15 minutes to make and arrives on my plate in a fantastic orange hue unavailable in nature, it is typically my great-grandmother's recipe. I have explored a variety of macaroni and cheese recipes, all of them good, but none like Valley Tinsely's.

She passed away in 1985, but I remember her--the smell of her apartment, her dishes, her soft spoken manner (her daughter, my grandmother, must have taken after another family member). She was German and Irish and what a blessing it is to remember loved ones through such an enjoyable means as sustenance. It's a human experience we all share: we enjoy those who have gone on before us through our senses and our tangible memories.

It's hard to compare any other macaroni and cheese to the original and most ideal macaroni and cheese. So I won't.

When I started this recipe, I asked Erik what we should have in addition to the dish. I think of macaroni and cheese as a side--don't you? He's already enjoyed the Gruyere cheese of our onion soup experience so, upon learning that particular cheese was involved this recipe as well, he decided that we would call it a casserole and roll it out without accoutrements.

I have a few kudos and criticisms for Double Cheese Macaroni and Greens:

1. My favorite pasta is rigatoni. I had no idea what mezze rigatoni was because you can't find it in the poor or rich person's grocery store. It's super fancy. SUPER fancy.

2. Gruyere cheese is totally awesome. It's got this smokey, meaty, hearty flavor and the texture is medium soft. Everyone loves cheddar. It's a given.

3. It's healthy (kind of) because it has Swiss chard, which is high in vitamins A, K, and C.

4. As a negative, I really don't like the cooked milk aspect of this recipe, making a sauce. There's just something about it that's a little "homemade from a jar" to me, concerning the taste.

 5. I bought the Swiss chard organic. This is the issue with organic:

A dead spider fell out and it was full of dirt. On the flip side, it also was not full of deadly, cancer-causing chemicals, so a minor glitch is what we'll call it.

We enjoyed this dish with a Williamsburg Riesling, which is safe with most pasta dishes, although a good bet for a cream sauce is usually a Chardonnay.

It's not Grandma Tinsley's, but it's an introduction something of my own to pass on one day.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Condiments, Fast Food Signs, and the Search for Geery

The following statement has nothing to do with anything: I never thought I would get so much use out of condiments before my Woman's Day (although often sporadic depending on health and/or cash flow) adventure. In the refrigerator at the moment we have 4 types of mustard and 5 types of vinegar.

Now, Dijon and Champagne have something in common: they both make good names for the children of ridiculous Hollywood actors and they are fares that are distinguished by a region, specifically, France.

There are distinctions in the vinegars as well. Please don't ask me to explain them all because I don't want to, but I know you should only use white vinegar to clean and cider vinegar is used the most for slow cooked pulled pork and slaw. You'll have to research the rest on your own.

I will also share that it is near impossible to find select condiments unless you go to your rich-part-of-town's grocery store and buy them, because white trash like myself will hear "hoison sauce" and believe the next best thing--since this crap is not in our own grocery store--is ordering Japanese take-out and stealing a few extra containers of Yum Yum. On the list of other things you will not find: red pepper jelly, pequintas, wasabi paste.

Today's journey led us to afore mentioned rich-people-grocery-store twenty five minutes away from home so that we could stock up on a week's worth of condiments, vegetables, and cheeses that no one has ever heard of and sure as hell don't know how to pronounce. I found myself whispering a question to Erik in the profound, Kroger-desert expanse of rich folk cheese: where does a yocal like myself begin their search for Geery? Yes,Geery--sort of like Gary and eery all meshed together into one purely arbitrary cheese entity. Erik, eager to avoid being seen with someone wearing sweats and no makeup--obviously out of place in rich-people Kroger and ignorant concerning the pronunciation of Swiss cheeses--wandered off to stare at the 50 year old, spiky haired guy who had lost his way on his journey to Los Angeles to secure a touch up on his botox. 

I  couldn't blame him. I didn't want wealthy, affluent people to know that I was looking for Geery and that I couldn't ask for help because I didn't know what to call him. Flashes of my best friend at age twenty-two asking for "quasadellas" at Applebees flooded my memory. We finally found mercurial Geery lurking amongst the goat cheese. He cost $7 and 10 minutes of my life I'll never recover.

We later discovered that Geery's true identity is Gruyere (pronounced "grew-yare"). He smells like smoked meat and tastes like the stuff of Hickory Farm baskets from Christmas long ago. I asked for Hickory Farm gift packs as a child. God, I was a weird kid. And my love of cheese knew no age limits.

I also wasn't paying attention and bought organic onions which I believe cost me around $9 for 3. At least they were already peeled. Oh, how we suffer and learn.

So I get home and make this soup. This lovely, winter combo is essentially French onion soup (you don't put the bread on top with the cheese, which I am assuming is the reason it's not called French) and roast beef sandwiches.

Here is my feedback about the soup: please make sure the wine you use is dry. I suggest Leo Grande 06 or 07 Chardonnay, locally, maybe a dry Riesling otherwise. Cooking this soup smells similar to the gravy I make at Thanksgiving and it's yummy, but this recipe makes a lot so you really need a big pot to cook the onions or you need to cut down on the amount of onions and increase the amount of broth. I like broth anyway, but that's me.

Roast beef sandwiches evoke memories of the big, crazy-shaped sign that reads "Arby's." I was ten years old before I realized it was a hat. I was too busy eating Hickory Farms cheese.

The sauce that goes on this sandwich is simple, cheap, and versatile as I could also easily call it a dip or dressing. It's been included in other recipes and we've enjoyed it quite a bit. I used to hate horseradish but I'm over it now. You get older and you start liking more things or start liking less things. This usually relates to people a high percentage of the time but also applies to food.

I tried a search for what goes well with roast beef sandwiches in the adult beverage field. If you choose a wine, given the horseradish topping, I'd recommend Malbec. For this dinner I grabbed a Roanoke Railroad Track 1 Amber Lager than does pair well with medium spicy foods.

It also pairs nicely with a giant cowboy hat if you're known to wear costumes with your meals. I would suggest "Midnight Cowboy" for theme night.

Please stay tuned for a homemade version of the film in which Hot Dog Mustard plays Joe Buck as he teams up in an unlikely friendship with Rice Wine vinegar as "Ratso Rice-o."

If oranges can have mouths on YouTube and score millions of hits, I can sure as hell give my condiments one brief moment of fame.


"When you lie down, you will not be afraid; your sleep will be sweet." --Proverbs 3:24

With the exception of rare bouts of insomnia that coinside with my depressive disorder, I have never had trouble sleeping; waking up in the morning--now that's a different story. I know people who can't sleep well due to medical issues, new babies, the demands of a career or other life circumstances. I am blessed to enjoy peaceful sleep and often amaaaaazing (it's an inside joke) dreams that include intricate space ships, colorful places and people who introduce themselves in the living room of my inner eye lids, and supernatural insights into...I can't remember in the morning.

What I cannot tolerate on a week to week basis is the horror of leaving the apartment.

My doctor believes that I've developed a mild form of agorophobia that is often related to the fear-like feelings associated with grief and post traumatic stress disorder. In one of those not-so-coindicental incidents in 2011, I read Paul Deen's autobiography, which was sitting around my Grandmother's house. I truly enjoyed how each chapter culminated in a chapter-related recipe--obviously I enjoying culinary delights. What I also deeply appreciated was her candor concerning her early experience with grief with the double loss of both parents and the following battle with agorophobia.

Next month is National Counseling month. I am working through a number of issues involving my anxiety, fear, and other physical issues caused my grief. My encouragement to everyone this month is to care for your own body and mental health and refuse the notion that these types of issues are something you can just "get over" with enough prayer or moral fortitude. Mental and emotional health are closely related to the body and spirit. We are holistic beings. Seek help, accept support. Accept yourself.

In the mean time, if you have trouble sleeping, I've heard magnesium really helps a lot.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ruby Slippers and Space Shoes

I have never had a sense of style--I admit this. In order to put together a stylish outfit I usually have to ask for help or consult a magazine. The reasons for this are many. One, I never had to buy a lot of clothes as a teen because I wore a uniform, two, my mother and grandmother usually bought all my clothes, and three, all I really want to wear all the time are boot leg jeans, a wife beater, and either sneakers or boots. I would wear that outfit every day of my life. In fact, my roommate and best friend from Bible College can attest to the fact that I wore the same outfit once 3 days in a row. Pure awesomeness.

A fourth reason would be money. Clothes are expensive, let alone shoes and accessories. I would like to work on being stylish and trendy but I am lazy and poor.

I thought if I could hold on to a few key trends ever once in a while, I could slowly step into being trendy and "with it" (I'll also have to stop saying "with it").

Let me be clear though, that when I do choose fashion, I do not shy away from Hollywood flash and edgy trends. I also want to be clear that I love shoes and used to have over 100 pair when I was a shoe manager at Macy's. I found this web site through Woman's Day and I am amazed at the diversity of the shoes and the prices. Now, I went here looking for the little flats under $20 but I quickly became distracted by some of the more peculiar shoes that no one in my town would own (if I wanted to go out to a club again like last Friday and bruise my wrist and booty by falling down several times trying to dance in 5 inch heels).

Here are some of my favorites. You can buy all kind of patterns and colors that won't require a stunning ensemble--everyone will be looking at your shoes:

                                                              (Qoors Spike Heels $15)

                                                         (Bumble Bee Wooden Platforms $43)

                                                              (Neon Pink Space Shoes $32)

Now, I originally went there to check out their flats, which come in a variety of colors. I discovered that emerald greens, teals, oranges, and reds will be big for spring. You can get a jump start with a wide variety of flats (I found replicas at my preferred store, Belk for no less than $59-$80) less than $20.

I'm really excited about ordering. You can even get free shipping.

Now if I can only grasp what to wear with my new shoes...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Taste the Rainbow of Lasagna

I'm a fan of your standard recipe going created. For instance, on one of the reality cooking shows last year, I noticed a ravioli made with barbeque meat instead of ground beef--what a fantastic idea! I haven't gotten that creative yet, but this recipe for spinach lasagna inspired me:


    1 tablespoon(s) olive oil
    1 small onion, finely chopped
    Kosher salt
    2 clove(s) garlic, finely chopped
    1 package(s) (10-ounce) frozen leaf spinach
    1 package(s) (10-ounce) frozen broccoli florets
    1 container(s) (15-ounce) part-skim ricotta
    6 ounce(s) (about 1 1/2 cups) part-skim mozzarella, grated
    1/2 cup(s) grated Romano cheese
    1 cup(s) whole milk
    4 ounce(s) cream cheese, cut into pieces
    1 pinch(s) freshly grated or ground nutmeg
    8 no-boil lasagna noodles

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion, 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until very tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  2. While the onion is cooking, thaw the spinach and broccoli according to package directions. Squeeze the spinach of excess moisture and pat the broccoli dry. Roughly chop both and place in a large bowl. Mix in the ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, and 1/4 cup Romano.
  3. Add the milk to the onions and whisk to combine. Bring to a simmer, then whisk in the cream cheese, nutmeg, and remaining 1/4 cup Romano. Gently simmer (do not boil), stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce on the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. Top with 2 1/2 noodles (breaking as necessary to fit). Spread a third (about 1/3 cup) of the remaining sauce over the top. Dollop with a third (about 1 1/3 cups) of the ricotta mixture. Repeat twice.
  5. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella, cover tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until the noodles are tender (a sharp knife should go through with no resistance) and the top is golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes more. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.

I have never made a lasagna with a white sauce and I don't think I would have ever thought about cream cheese being in the sauce. 

So I thought, why couldn't you use the special flavors of Philadelphia soft cream cheese to make variations of this recipe? For instance, the Spinach and Artichoke flavor would have been perfect for this recipe. 

The Tomato and Basil flavor would go great with sauteed red onions, red peppers, diced chilies and tomatoes, along with the spinach. 

The Chive and Onion may be suited for the addition of bacon, lemon flavoring, and cheddar, like a baked potato lasagna.

Obviously the Pineapple version would go over well if it included ham, then I think I would include the red peppers and bacon in that dish as well. 

Last year I became obsessed with making gourmet deviled eggs. I may have found a new obsession.

Garden Vegetable and the sweeter blends like Strawberry and Honey Nut Spread are left. I think the Garden Vegetable would be great for a breakfast lasagna but would be curious to any cooks out there about using the sweet spreads for a lasagna or something even more creative.

In the mean time, this dish cost me around $5 per serving. By the way, you can use Parmesan cheese in replacement of Romano. It tastes almost exactly the same. If I had known that, the dish would have been around $3.50 a serving.

Also, the sauce for the lasagna is fantastic. You could easily use it for a host of other dishes if you don't mind the fat, calories, and cholesterol.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Cheap Beer, Oiling Up, and Other Steamy Stories...

You should be aware that our household contains beer snobs. I am the most gracious of the beer snobs, which include two, since I will drink Bud Lite and even order it on occasion if it's on tap cheap for Happy Hour.

Erik, on the other hand, will not drink bad beer--and Bud Lite is, in fact, bad beer. Someone had to tell the truth. We may have Dos Equis, Killians, Guinness, and many varieties of craft beers, but Coors or Miller--heavens no.

Some of you may feel the same way. You may throw little shindigs and invite folk, instructing them to "BYOB." And they do. They snarl and pickle up their noses at your bitter beer while you pity them in secret for drinking watery horse urine by the six pack.

And then they have the audacity to leave it at your house. Never.

That's why I'd like to advise all the ladies out there that their husbands no longer have to shoot the leftover cans of Natural Ice. There's a purpose for that cheap beer. A higher calling. Redemption, if you will.

The hops in beer apparently add smoothness and shine to hair. Did you know? Rinse with a can or bottle in the shower, wait 5 minutes, then rinse again (unless you want to go to work smelling like an alcoholic).

Since I've started my new workout routine, I have vowed to have a spa day at least once a week. That could include a pedicure, a facial, or using the hot stone massage set my friend Kristy gave me for Christmas.

I rarely actually go to a spa. I try to save money by using natural remedies and concoctions at home. For instance, sugar scrub is an amazing exfoliant and the olive oil will act as both a moisturizer and a protective sealant. I use it on my legs to prevent ingrown hairs and skip the hassle of putting lotion on every morning. When I use sugar scrub I don't have to use lotion.

All this preparation can also benefit from steaming your face, either over a vaporizer or pot of hot water (not too close) which will open the pores to cleansing and moisturizing.

Olive oil is a marvelous invention, lending itself to moisturizing masks as well. Olive oil is high in fat--in the same way that avocado is high in fat, which is great for the skin. One avocado and 2 tablespoons of olive oil, left on for 10 minutes, will leave your skin smooth. If you can resist the temptation to lick your own face, you're good to go.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Always Put Your Foot in the Potatoes

I would love to start out this blog by saying I make the best mashed potatoes ever, but that would be incorrect. My Grandmother does. She taught me everything she knows and I added to it thinking I may do better. There's something to be said about the original. It's simple, it has just enough salt, and it will make you slap your proverbial pappy.

But my potatoes are good.

After our feast of roast beef on New Year's Day, I was pleased to discover the horseradish sauce (made simply with horseradish sauce, sour cream, and whole grain mustard) was almost exactly what today's recipe for Seared Chicken with Smashed Potatoes and Cream Sauce called for. I didn't have to whip up a new batch and I could use what was left over saving time and money. Hurray!

I'm not saying this recipe was bad--because it wasn't--but it could have used work. I guess I just can't help myself--smashed potatoes? They are disappointing next to mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes--mine anyway--have chicken broth, evaporated milk, butter, and salt (and on occasion, ranch if no one else is eating them). But let's move on to something a bit more positive. Let's proceed with one of the best aromas in the entire universe--simmering wine. Wine over heat, especially combined with other tremendous odors like garlic or lemon, is just divine. My gravy, if you'll recall, is my favorite dish from Thanksgiving--it goes over everything. The sauce for this recipe certainly could have been doctored a bit, but it was, by far, the best part of this dining experience.


    1 1/2 pound(s) small red potatoes (about 20)
    Kosher salt and pepper
    1 tablespoon(s) olive oil
    4 (6-oz each) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    3/4 cup(s) dry white wine
    1/4 cup(s) lowfat sour cream

    1 tablespoon(s) Dijon mustard
    1/4 cup(s) fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

  1. Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, add 2 tsp salt, reduce heat and simmer until just tender, 15 to 18 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water; drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Gently smash with 1/4 cup of the cooking water (adding more if the potatoes seem very dry).
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken with 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper and cook until golden brown and cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes per side; transfer to plates.
  3. Add the wine to the skillet and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the sour cream, mustard and parsley. Spoon over the potatoes and chicken

I use my favorite dry white Chardonnay to make sauces, because it truly makes all the difference in the flavor. Then you can also pour a glass with dinner as a compliment.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Gluten Free Pizza

Last year I learned how to make a fantastic pizza crust that was easy and cheap. This year, it's a challenge to learn how to make wheat-free bread products in an allergy household.

I am so happy to discover Bob's Red Mill products. I read Bob Moore's biography last year and discovered he has stellar character and he's magnanimous to boot. I feel good about buying his products, especially since I can either buy his products at the local Kroger (where I earn reward points) or our local Amish Market.

The downside to this pizza is that the dough is a little sticky, but if you buy rice flour, you can add it to your hands when removing it from the bowl. If you do that, I will spread beautifully onto a 16" pizza pan. This recipe calls for store bought dough for a square tart, but I found that it lasts longer (for those of you who save money with leftovers) if you make the larger pie.

I have not yet made a crust pizza with tomato sauce--and I've made 4 within the last year, at least. You don't even have to make white sauce or any sauce. If you mix your topping with olive oil and spices, the pie tastes great. I have learned that you can add kale or potatoes or even almonds to pizza to make it more healthy and unique.


    1 pint(s) grape tomatoes, halved
    1/2 jar(s) (12-oz) roasted red peppers, cut into ½-in. pieces
    3 scallions, finely chopped
    2 clove(s) garlic, finely chopped
    1 tablespoon(s) olive oil
    Kosher salt and pepper
    1 (sheet) frozen puff pastry, thawed
    3 ounce(s) Asiago or provolone cheese, finely shredded
    Green salad, for serving

  1. Heat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, roasted peppers, scallions, garlic, oil, ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper.
  2. Unfold the pastry onto a piece of parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, roll pastry ½ in. bigger on all sides. Slide the parchment (and pastry) onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle the entire pastry with ⅓ of the cheese.
  3. Top with the tomato mixture, leaving a 1-in. border all the way around. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake until the pastry has puffed and is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with a salad, if desired.

I added fresh Parmesan squares around the crust. 

Once you commit to cooking, things get better. I am quicker washing the dishes, and being prepared to prep food and think ahead for shopping to buy local and get fresh produce. Also, since I've become a member of I've been more mindful of my portions, plus you get a better idea of how much fat, calories, and nutrition in general are in a portion of food. 

This extra large pizza lasted both of us for 4 days, through lunches and breakfast. It's approximately $14 per pie.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Fergie is Nothing Next to my Ham Hock

I don't know that there is any food more Southern that black eyed peas. It is one of our blessed traditions in the South to eat black eyed peas on New Years Day, and enjoying them at your dinner table on January 1st is representative of anything from wealth to good health.

It is thought that the tradition of eating black eyed peas for good luck started during the time of the Civil War (think Scarlett pulling up carrots) when Sherman's army took ravaged the South's food resources, but ignored the peas, which are rich in fiber, potassium, and iron.

Our New Year's Day dinner consisted of roast beef and shallots, mashed potatoes, and Hoppin' John black eyed peas for good luck. I learned a few things:

1. Shallots are smaller, mild, bundled onions that you have to travel to 4 stores to find. You will finally find them at the store that is furthest from you, in my case the Kroger store in Forest, VA. God bless Kroger and their unusual offerings of strangely named produce and health foods.

2. Louisiana hot sauce is a unique hot sauce with a Cayenne pepper base and are specifically made in Louisiana and are officially Cajun products.

3. Tying a beef roast is done so the meat will not fall apart.


    1 pound(s) dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and soaked overnight and drained
    3 tablespoon(s) olive oil
    1 package(s) (13- to 14-ounce) kielbasa, sliced 1/2-inch thick
    2 large onions, chopped
    6 clove(s) garlic, finely chopped
    2 (about 1 1/2 pounds total) ham hocks
    4 scallions, thinly sliced
    1 jalapeño pepper (seeded for less heat if desired), thinly sliced, plus more for serving
    Kosher salt
    2 cup(s) long-grain white rice
    Louisiana hot sauce, for serving


    Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the kielbasa and   cook, turning once, until browned, 2 to 3 minutes; transfer to a plate.
    Reduce heat to medium, add the onions and remaining tablespoon oil, and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
    Return the kielbasa to the pot and add the soaked peas, ham hocks, and 3 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until the peas are tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
    Twenty-five minutes before the peas are done, cook the rice according to package directions.
    Transfer the ham hocks to a plate. When cool enough to handle, shred the meat, discarding the skin and bones. Stir the meat back into the pot along with the scallions, jalapeño, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Serve over the rice with additional jalapeño and hot sauce, if desired.

4. This horseradish sauce (I used to pass on horseradish but I'm finding the older I get--not that I'm old at all of course--the more I am open to different flavors) is great on meat, but can also be used as a sandwich spread and a dip:


    3 tablespoon(s) mixed peppercorns, black, white, pink, and green
    1 (4-pound) boneless rump or rib roast, at room temperature
    Kosher salt
    1 1/2 pound(s) (about 20) medium shallots
    2 tablespoon(s) olive oil
    3/4 cup(s) sour cream

    1/4 cup(s) prepared horseradish
    2 tablespoon(s) whole-grain mustard
    1/4 cup(s) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Place the peppercorns in a resealable plastic bag. Using the bottom of a heavy pan, crush the peppercorns.
  2. Tie the beef, if desired, and place in a large roasting pan. Season with the crushed peppercorns and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, pressing gently to help the peppercorns adhere. Roast for 40 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, peel the shallots, cut them in half, and place in a large bowl. Toss with the oil and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
  4. Scatter the shallots around the roast and continue roasting to desired doneness, 130 degrees F for medium-rare, 40 to 50 minutes more. Transfer the roast to a board and let rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing.
  5. While the beef rests, make the horseradish sauce. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, horseradish, mustard, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper; fold in the parsley. Serve with the beef and shallots.


The roast--which was all natural, organic beef from our locally owned meat shop--was $3.47 per serving.

The shallots were $5.15 if you don't include the gas spent trying to find the suckers.

The sauce was $0.48 per serving.

The black eyed peas were $0.94 per serving.

I think we've learned an important lesson together through these recipes.

Skip the cussing shallots.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Perfect "Fit"

Like most people, I always make a New Year's Resolution to lose weight and become more healthy. Since 2003, when I was diagnosed with ADHD and mild bipolar disorder, the antidepressants contributed to an average of 5 pounds per year. So by the time I quit my antidepressants in 2009 (I don't recommend this without a doctor's approval) I had gone from a 140 to a 170. In clothing terms, that means I went from a size 8 to a size 14 in 6 years.

The consequences (and there are many) of having a mental illness and a learning disability--or maybe I should positively say "challenges" include poor memory, lethargy, and fluctuating weight gain and loss, as well as poor organizational skills (how can you do something if you forget--make a list? you lose it!). It's always been my intent to lose weight by keeping a calorie log and lately, since I've had other health issues, someone recommended I keep a log of my mood, symptoms, etc.

Stress is also an issue for those who have ADHD. As I mentioned, it's extremely difficult to remember tasks, where you have placed something, or any other regular details that most people can easily glide through daily because, when you have ADHD, your mind is constantly playing your life's soundtrack on the fast track. Seriously--things move so quickly in your mind you have to concentrate to pay attention, willfully intend to stop, and you struggle to remember hour to hour, day by day. The stress from having the disability alone is overwhelming at times so if you have other life challenges, it's debilitating at times.

But I'm a naturally positive person and fairly simple (when I'm not being complex) so I was overjoyed to learn about

Fitday takes care of several issues that I have because of ADHD:

1. The FOOD portion of the program allows you to find the foods you eat, select the portions, and add them to your daily food journal. What that means for me is that I no longer have to look at my labels, write down and calculate calories or fat grams, or keep track of any of it. I tested the accuracy of the calories for my breakfast this morning, including 1/4 cup of oatmeal and an egg. The journal was 100% correct in it's calculation. I was elated.

2. The MOOD portion of the program allows me to keep a written journal of how I felt that day, what I was going through--basically anything I want. Then it will give a scale of different emotions, you choose what end of the spectrum you're on for that day (sad, angry, hungry, etc) and it will color code if you are having an average day, below average day, or a good day.

3. There are pictures, graphs, and charts that are clear and accurate. You log your credentials in one area, then view your progress within another area. This section of the program allows you to see a color coded pie chart of your fat, calories, alcohol intake, etc.

4. You can track your calories burned vs. your caloric intake. It's awesome. I hate doing any form of math--this makes things so much easier. Plus, just like your food catalog, it will allow you to search what you've done (swam for half an hour, walked 2 miles) and will automatically tell you how many calories you've burned.

                                            (my friend Amber and I, at our first 5K)

I'm really excited about how easy this is going to make my life going forward in relation to my health and weight loss goals. You can join this site's Premium program for a little over $4 a month. I don't see the benefit of upgrading so far, besides not receiving ads, which may occur since you provide your email and food log. I don't care about that though. If you do, it could be a negative factor of the service.

Perhaps one day soon I can reach my goal weight, what I was in my twenties. Until that day, I can at least enjoy the relief of organizational burdens this fabulous site provides.

                                                         (Joe Elliot and I, circa 2000)

What Comes Before Everything

"Do everything in love." --I Corinthians 16:10

Maybe it's the skeptic in me, but every time I read a warm and fuzzy Bible verse I think to myself,"Yeah, but what was the context of this verse? What command or demonstration of faith or trial occurred in order to arrive at this "nice" instruction? Maybe it's not the skeptic: perhaps I desire to know the means by which we become obedient.

In this particular passage of Scripture, what the Corinthians are instructed to do before "everything in love" smacks of valor--be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. I can only assume these are only a few of the prerequisites for doing EVERYTHING in love.

As you revisit your New Year resolutions this month, think about how your commitments affect others. For me, writing more involves reaching out to others with my words and experiences. The more connection we make with others, the more at risk we become for hurt and trouble but it is also opportunity for healing and restoration--which is why the more faith and courage we have to fortify our understanding and execution of love, the better.

Also, the instruction to do everything in love helps us to question our motivation. Paul also said to the Philippians,"Do nothing our of selfish ambition or vain conceit, rather in humility, value others above yourself."    What are your intentions within your interactions with others? Is your purpose to love them, value them, affect their lives? Are you thinking about the motives and intent of others in context of how they are affecting you or how you may affect them?

This is one of the considerations that has most affected my relationships with people.

I would encourage you this year to make a list of the people in your life with which there is or has been conflict or whom you have not forgiven. Then throughout the year, gain strength and freedom by working through forgiveness.