Go teams!

That’s pretty much how I feel about the Super Bowl. I probably would not have known it was happening this weekend except that the church service we usually attend in the evening was cancelled today, so we had to go in the morning.

But, I do love a good theme and snack food– so, it didn’t take much convincing to get me to a watch party.

After the heart attack I created last weekend, I wanted to make a less deadly sweet. I settled on whole grain cookies with walnuts, dried cranberries, and dark chocolate. Not necessarily a “health” food, but this one didn’t involve 12 sticks of butter, either 😉

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Brian, on the other hand, went back to Garden & Gun, the infamous magazine that inspired the epic cake. He settled on bacon crackers– bacon wrapped around Club crackers, cooked on low heat for a long time. It’s buttery, bacon goodness– what’s not to love?

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We took our treats to a party with our old missional community group. It was wonderful to see everyone and get a chance to catch up. I miss them.

There were also three different snacks wrapped in bacon. Three. Bless the Lord.

Invasion

I’ve mentioned my Missional Community through the Women’s Development Program before. They are dedicated, intelligent, beautiful, loving, and crazy. And they have invaded my life in the best way possible.

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We group text a lot. We’ve had some group texts that I’ve had to edit on my phone because other eyes should never see them. We share our trial and triumphs, our needs and nuttiness.

Yesterday, we had another epic group text fest. I was home taking my temperature every half hour, so I got to participate at a level that I am not able to while teaching. What I loved most about it was that we went from the girls praying about my health, to dessert recipes, to hair stylists, to Super Bowl parties. It was wonderful and random and perfect– a lot like our group 🙂

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These pictures are from our Winter Retreat in December. The second one speaks for itself.

These women invaded my life, but most importantly, they invaded my heart.

Below normal

I have the opposite of a fever. My temperature is more that 3 points BELOW where it should be. Must be this cold, cold heart… 😉

I feel strange: dizzy, weak, foggy head, headache and major chills. If you go online with these symptoms, as with every diagnosis on WebMD, I’m dying. I’m obviously not dying. But… something’s not right.

My husband/nurse made me get in bed and not move. Then, he fell asleep– at 7pm. It’s been a long week. So, I had to break the rules and get out of bed for water and to take care of the dog. But, I’m back in bed before 9pm, and if he doesn’t read this post, he’ll never know 😉 Shhh!

I’m praying that if I get plenty of sleep, I’ll be normal in the morning. I need to conference with each of my kiddos about their writing and they’re really excited about it. Brian rolled his eyes and then got onto me when I said this. Such is the life of a teacher. There are a lot of little people counting on me– I don’t want to let them down.

My husband is a bad patient because he reverts to the five year old version of himself. I’m a bad patient because I refuse to be sick. God help us if we’re ever ill at the same time!

An epic cake

On Sunday, I set out on an adventure. Scratch that. I set out on it last Thursday watching countless YouTube and eHow videos. You see, folks– I did something that many young brides do. It’s called biting off more than chew.

But… I’m not most young brides.

I’m stubborn. I’m stubborn like my Gran– and if you know my Gran, you know that’s some serious stubborn. It’s also called “stick-to-it-tive-ness” in kinder circles– but I don’t run in those 😉

I learned lots of things from the videos and other things from trial and error. My husband also learned a few things: 1. a chef needs to eat or else she gets cranky, 2. a pep talk goes a long way, and 3. to keep thanking the chef for the tasty creation profusely so that even though on Sunday she swore she’d never make it again, she might. Maybe.

This thing took 7-8 hours total. I took a break to go to church. Brian didn’t get to taste it until 10:30pm, but he assures me that it was worth it.

I took photos along to way, so you get to share in the adventure…

The icing was Ginger Buttercream Icing. I had to peel ginger root, which really looks like something used in voodoo, and then grate it. Both of these steps required research.

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Then, the recipe called for 10 egg whites (research) and 8 sticks of butter. It’s a lot of butter…

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I, then, had to cook the egg whites and sugar to a specific temperature over a double boiler (thank you, Brian),  before about 20 minutes in the Kitchenaid mixer.

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The icing took about an hour and a half from start to finish. I was exhausted, but at that point, I only had icing. Must keep going…

There were some interesting steps for the cake batter as well. I had to core and grate 10 pears, and then squeeze them through cheesecloth…

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…toast and chop pistachios…

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…burn– I mean brown– butter…

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…and then bake it in three pans.

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And then there were the pear chips. It was a lot of work for a topping– but man, those chips were delicious!

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And several hours later, I got to show off my final product.

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I felt pretty accomplished, until we realized there were some unforeseen issues: 1. the cake is so rich and dense that one can’t eat more than a couple of bites at a time, and 2. two people cannot eat this entire cake!

Solution: share. That’s been fun 🙂

Recipe from Garden & Gun: 

Brown Sugar, Pear & Pistachio Cake with 
Ginger Buttercream Frosting and Oven-Dried Pear Chips

Ingredients (Serves 12)
CAKE:
4 sticks butter
2 lbs. (6–8) winter pears, or unripe Bosc or Bartlett pears, scrubbed clean
6 large eggs
3 cups brown sugar
3 tsp. baking soda
1½ tsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
3 tsp. vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 lb. (3 cups) toasted pistachios, roughly chopped

GINGER BUTTERCREAM FROSTING: 
1 cup egg whites, about 10 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
½ tsp. kosher salt
8 sticks unsalted butter, softened and cut into 2-inch chunks
4 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
2 tbsp. powdered ginger

OVEN-DRIED PEAR CHIPS:
¾ cup pear juice (or water)
¾ cup sugar
Juice from half a lemon
3 very pretty, symmetrical winter 
(or Bosc or Bartlett) pears

Preparation
CAKE: Adjust oven rack to center. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three 8-inch round cake pans with parchment, then lightly butter and flour.

In a small lightly colored saucepan, melt butter over low heat. When it has completely liquefied, turn heat to medium to brown the butter. It will bubble, and brown bits will form on the bottom of the pan. When the sputtering stops, strain butter through cheesecloth, and set aside to cool. You should have 1½ cups.

Core the pears, leaving the peel on, and shred using the large side of a box grater or the medium-size grating attachment on a food processor. Gather shredded fruit into a triple thickness of cheesecloth or a thin cotton dish towel, and squeeze the liquid from the pears, capturing ¾ cup of pear juice (for the pear chip recipe).

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg at medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. Then drizzle in brown butter and add vanilla. Add flour, and stir until just incorporated. Stir in shredded pear and pistachios gently. Divide the batter evenly among the three pans.

Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until the cakes have puffed and are lightly browned. Remove to a rack and let cool entirely before peeling away the parchment paper.

To assemble the cake, generously spread buttercream frosting between layers before stacking. Frost the sides and top once with a thin “crumb coat.” Chill cake for 30 minutes, then frost sides and top again with a thick layer. Chill well. Decorate with pear chips.

Make Ahead:
GINGER BUTTERCREAM FROSTING: Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl. Set it over a pan of barely simmering water. Whisk the mixture gently until it warms to between 145 and 150 degrees. Remove from heat. Using a mixer, beat on medium-high speed until the egg whites double in volume and turn snowy white and the bowl is completely cool, about 10–15 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and add in butter, one chunk at a time, giving each addition several seconds to incorporate. (You’ll see the meringue deflate during the first few additions.) Add in vanilla and both gingers, and continue whipping until evenly incorporated. Store in the refrigerator up to one week. Whip again before frosting.

OVEN-DRIED PEAR CHIPS: Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. Combine pear juice (or water) and sugar in a small saucepan, and cook over medium heat until sugar has dissolved. Stir in lemon juice. With a sharp knife or a mandoline, slice both sides of the pears vertically into ¹⁄8-inch-thick chips, placing each slice into the syrup as soon as it’s cut. Let slices stand for ten minutes. Remove each slice, letting the excess syrup drip back into the pot, and transfer to the baking sheet. Bake until the slices feel very dry, about 1½ hours, turning them over midway.

Happy Birthday, Brian!

What. A. Day.

It all began early this morning, when I got up to make breakfast. It had to be early– we both had an all day retreat to get to and a friend to pick up on the way. The Pioneer Woman taught me to make biscuits and gravy— Brian’s favorite. While I was whipping that up, I put out Brian’s birthday basket and cedar shoe valet. I also got my phone ready to play The Beatles “Birthday” when Brian came downstairs. I was having a blast jumping from the oven to the stove to the french press to setting the table. I was giddy for him to come downstairs and enjoy the fun.

Brian's birthday basket included homemade blueberry infused bourbon, simple syrup, a shoe shine kit, a monogrammed mint julep cup, and specialty beard oil-- I thought it had a "southern gentleman" feel :)

Brian’s birthday basket included homemade blueberry infused bourbon, simple syrup, a shoe shine kit, a monogrammed mint julep cup, and specialty beard oil– I thought it had a “southern gentleman” feel 🙂

Breakfast was fun, but fast! Brian enjoyed the food and coffee (my first gravy ever!), and we laughed and chatted as we got ready to leave.

Today’s retreat was all about Gospel Fluency and living that out. It was incredible. During the morning session breaks, I would run up to Brian and word vomit everything I was connecting with and convicted of from the first session. We both planned on napping when we got home, but the conversation that started in the car as we processed what we learned kept going when we entered the house. We talked for a couple of hours– confessing and sharing and marveling. During this, we did make mint juleps with the infused bourbon in Brian’s birthday gift and sipped as we talked– yum!

This is the bourbon I infused and a peek at the process

This is the bourbon I infused and a peek at the process

Brian wouldn’t let me do any housework on his birthday, so we read our novels together until it was time to leave for the movie. We saw ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ at Alamo. It was a looooooong movie, but very good. Brian liked it more than I did, but I was also freezing cold in the theater and nodding off during the very long, slow middle of the movie. In my defense, we went to a 9:40pm showing.

It was an awesome day– the first time I’ve been able to spoil my husband on his special day. I look forward to spoiling him over and over for the rest of our lives. Today was great– and I’m sure we’ll be sharing more of what we learned about at the retreat in an upcoming post.

Happy Birthday, Brian!!! I love you!!!

Flashing lights and ugly crying

“I have never seen a cop on the Indian Nation Turnpike,” said my husband on Saturday to all of our Austin friends at the wedding.

He’s said it several times before, but the way he said it Saturday was ringing in my ears as I watched the cop get out of his car and walk towards me.

I was going 83mph in 75mph zone, and as I’d had cars whizzing by me for miles, I was surprised my speed resulted in the stop. As he questioned me, though, the reasoning became clear. It turned out that the officer was very interested in the radar detector attached to our windshield.

Radar detectors are legal. Even so, the officer had several questions for me regarding the detector. When he asked me about my intent in purchasing such a thing, I inadvertently threw my husband under the bus as I stuttered my response. I didn’t know how to respond other than, “I didn’t purchase it– it’s not mine.”

Brian was respectful and calm, which balanced out my trembling and stammering. He simply removed the radar detector from the windshield, and the officer was appeased. Well, mostly. He got pretty condescending when he didn’t get the exact response he wanted from his strangely worded questions– but we got the eventually.

The officer gave me a verbal warning and we were on our way. Woohoo!

Well… almost woohoo.

There’s this thing about me I don’t like, and I’m trying to do something about. I desperately desire the approval of others. God is working on this in me, but I’m definitely a work in progress. But it really doesn’t work out well for me when I get into trouble. Since trouble is the opposite of this approval I’m obsessed with, it often results in anxiety or tears. This time, it was tears.

They weren’t immediate. We were actually talking about the weirdly worded questioning when I just said, “Stop. Stop talking about it.” Brian went silent and readjusted in his seat. He eyed me nervously– I must have been giving off a vibe. And then, they came.

I’m not a pretty crier, and getting in trouble with the law is like, serious trouble in my book. Ticket or not, that officer was not happy with me. So, I was ugly crying with lots of sound effects. I didn’t want Brian to see this, but I didn’t have a choice. This is what I do– I cry when I get into trouble… like a child.

Marriage means Brian gets the full show– with the backstage passes and in-depth interviews. I don’t get to hide the not-so-desirable aspects from him. He gets the entire package. He has the wife who cries even when she doesn’t get a ticket, just because she did something wrong and got caught. When normal people would rejoice, I’m a basket case. And I’m all his.

Wondering how

It’s Monday, I had the day off, and I’m overwhelmed.

I don’t know if it was all of the traveling over the weekend, all of the stuff I have this week, or the stuff I know has to happen for next weekend, but I’m not feeling so good. I’m staring at a week with an activity every evening, homework to be done for WDP, a pile of grading, a week without complete lesson plans, a completely booked upcoming Saturday… and my anxiety is rising.

And it’s time to go to bed. Ugh.

I’ve been working on something for the past two weeks that went really well– balance. I had work time, but then I had rest time. I had focus time, but then I had free time. I cleaned the house, but also managed to stay sane. I slept every night for way more hours that I used to. I saw my husband. It was grand. The plan was to keep all that up. But now I’m looking at this crazy week and wondering how?

Regardless of the to-dos, I’m drawing a line right now and going to bed. Not sure right now if it is the most “wise” action, but I think it may be the most necessary. I have to draw some lines. And I need to remember that previously when I did draw these lines, things still somehow got done and nothing fell apart.

Still a bit anxious, but I’m going to pray that God will take that away and bless this decision to rest. Goodnight 🙂

Weddings

I love weddings. I’m reminded if the excitement at the beginning. The unknown. The possibilities.

I’m reminded of my vows– my commitment and my future.

I’m reminded if the joys and highs. I’m reminded of the goal.

I love weddings. Here we are at one tonight…

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One of the miserable hours

We’ve been on the road for several miserable hours. I’m not sure how we managed to hit traffic in three different towns, but we did. Just my luck 😉

One of the miserable hours was spent in very heated conversation, followed by less heated, but tough conversation, followed by good dialogue.

The week had been building to this point, and we had another not so flattering moment this morning. And as always, one small, slightly unrelated thing triggered the floodgates. We’d both been hurting and both been holding back. We were both right in some things and wrong in others. But we wouldn’t have realized any of this if we hadn’t finally talked it all out.

And just like always, after the tears and frustration and apologies and give and take, I suddenly liked my husband a lot more than I did before we talked. I even smiled– and there had not been many of those today.

We’re still in the car. I’m glad not to be the one behind the wheel now. True, I had all the traffic, but I got all the daytime driving, too. Brian has the dark emptiness and my potential nap to contend with. Oh, and my car sickness from writing this blog post in the car 😉