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.

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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.

Cedar fever!

It’s that time again– the time that all cedar-sensitive persons in central Texans dread. It’s cedar fever time. UGH!

2011 was the first year it ever affected me, which is crazy because I’ve lived in the area since I was thirteen years old. But apparently, that happens with cedar. I finally realized what all of these people for all of these years had been complaining about. It’s terrible: itchy eyes, constant runny nose, sneezing, headache, sinus issues for weeks!

My husband is also a victim of cedar. He’s been dealing with it since he moved to Austin, and it hits him hard. The cold front last night brought the cedar with it, and thus, my poor husband spent the entire day in bed.

Now, I’ve previously mentioned that Brian is not the best patient, but he was honestly very ill today. I brought him meds and checked in on him every now and then, but this stuff just knocked him out. So… I had a whole, big, quiet house to myself.

We made yesterday our Sabbath, so today, work needed to be done. I cleaned and scrubbed and mopped and organized. I ironed and folded and sorted. I made a PowerPoint lesson and notes for the kiddos. And I read 100 pages in my novel. It was beautiful!

Brian woke up and spent the evening with me. We ordered pizza and watched Downton Abbey. It was delightful. He seems to be feeling somewhat better, but I don’t want him to let his meds lapse. I’m hoping he’s functional for work tomorrow. He’ll be without a nurse 😉

 

Failure to rest

It’s not a resolution. It’s something that came up in a conversation with my WDP leaders at the end of the semester. And then God kept bringing it back up.

I don’t take a Sabbath. Yes, God tells us to. I get that. But I’m busy. In fact, I’m exceedingly busy. He gets that, right? Well, that’s what I kept telling myself anyway. But when someone pointed out that not taking a Sabbath was a sin, well, that didn’t sit real well with me.

It’s not a harsh thing to point out one another’s sins. We’re actually supposed to do that in Christian community. No one was pointing fingers or anything. Part of WDP is learning to fight sin– in our own lives as well as in the lives of those around us. It was actually in a conversation about my own self-righteousness that the whole Sabbath thing came up. While it isn’t finger pointing, I sure did feel ganged up against that night. But it was for my good.

And they were right. About both.

So, God kept bringing it back up, I began to have anxiety attacks due to negligent self care, and thusly, yesterday, I vowed to have a Sabbath.

I pretty much failed.

I cleaned house, did laundry, ironed, planned lessons, and cleaned my shower doors. The only Sabbath-like activities were reading a couple chapters in a book on prayer and going to church. Oh, and Downton Abbey— but that totally counts as rest 🙂

And then today at work when the other teachers were talking about how rested they were, how ready to teach and love these kiddos they felt, well, I realized that I wasn’t. When we prayed during morning devotion, I realized I had read about prayer, but I hadn’t actually done it. Sigh.

If we were perfect at everything, we wouldn’t need a Savior. I need him. I need God to keep showing me that I was designed for a day of rest. I need him to remind me that he and I are in a relationship and relationships need quality time. I need to trust in Him that the Sabbath takes priority over the to-dos and accept that some things won’t get done. I cringe even as I type that last sentence… I need him to teach me to trust.

So, I’m 0 for 1 on the Sabbath thing so far. Brian said he was actually really proud of me– he’d never seen me take and hour to sit in silence and read on a Sunday! And God wants us to come to him as children– and children aren’t very good at things on the first try– so at least I nailed that part 😉

Out on the golf course

We have house guests. We have our first house guests as a married couple. This is a yearly event in Brian’s life, and now it is one in mine– when Justin and Monica come for Memorial Day weekend. It’s been wonderful.

Today, we played golf. Well, my husband and our guests played golf. I was along for the conversation and sunshine. It was my first time on a golf course. I learned a lot. Here’s the short list of today’s observations:

  1. There’s alcohol on a golf course. In fact, someone drives around selling it to the players.
  2. Golf seems really relaxing. We got to talk all day and drive around in fun little carts. Note: this is the girl who didn’t do anything!
  3. Driving a golf cart is highly amusing. Putting the pedal to the floor is encouraged.
  4. Sand traps suck.
  5. The water features are pretty, but suck.
  6. Everything inside of me wants my husband to succeed at everything he attempts. I’m his proudest cheerleader.
  7. A day outside with friends is relaxing, exhausting, and pretty wonderful.

Go Brian, go!!!

I loved driving this thing!

Brian got on the green of this par 5 in two shots– woohoo!!!

Our dear friends and first house guests, Monica and Justin

A day full of nothing

Today Lindsey and I had a wonderful day full of… well… not much.

We slept in. We enjoyed our time together. We ate breakfast and laughed at each other’s jokes. I got some reading done, Lindsey indulged in her pleasure in cleaning. We ate lunch. I worked on a writing project and Lindsey cuddled with the dog on the couch. We closed out the day by going to church with our friends and an episode of Game of Thrones. As I told Lindsey a few moments ago it was a normal, but great Sunday. We need more of these days.

Lindsey’s days are full of children, 11 year-olds to be precise. I cannot imagine a more horrific fate, but she loves it. She truly loves teaching them. But, there are two weeks left and it seems to be wearing on everyone’s nerves. They don’t want to be there. She’s trying to prep them for a final, but no one listens. The teachers are restless, the kids are restless. Every day wipes her out. She needs a weekend like this.

My job is not quite so exhausting, but it wears on me nonetheless. I need weekends at home with my wife doing nothing. I need the reading time, I need the time to write, and I need the time with her.

We’re settling into quite the nice little married life. We know our days won’t all be this easy, and we are ready for those other-days. But, forgive us for wanting more days like today.

Today was a good day

Today was a great Sunday. We went to see The Avengers last night (go see it, seriously, no matter who you are) and got to bed late. So our plan was, quite literally, no plan.

We woke up around 10am, well I did anyway. Lindsey was up and relaxing by doing the little chores around the house that make her feel better. For the record, I don’t see how this is considered relaxing, but given the benefits I won’t argue. I got up and she made me pancakes and coffee. Awesome.

I spent the afternoon cleaning and organizing my office/library. It’s been a mess for weeks and I’ve taken to working at the kitchen table on my work from home days. I finally decided that enough was enough and got to work. We have not figured out how to merge Lindsey’s sizable library with my own, but that is a much bigger problem for a different day.

Grading consumed Lindsey this afternoon, and I think she made a lot of progress. I say I think because I don’t ever ask questions like that. Keeping up with grading English students appears to be quite the sisyphean task, so I just don’t ask.

We went to church and saw most of our community group there. We love going to the services with them and getting to worship together and spend some more time with them. It was really a great time today at the Stone.

Finally we came home with Thai takeout, watched Game of Thrones together, and Lindsey is sitting at the table next to me planning the week’s meals for a grocery trip tomorrow while I write this post.

Days like this have been few and far between since we have been married. We have been so busy, had so many commitments and dealt with so many (external to our marriage) challenges that a day like today was a true blessing. So we are enjoying it while it lasts, and hoping another day like today comes along soon.