Tuesday, November 23, 2010

the look of happiness

oh the sweetness of a nephew!
Can being an auntie get any better?

Monday, November 22, 2010


I've been trying new recipes but sometimes I forget to tell you about them... but I definitely wanted to share about these babies!!

Walnut Cupcake with Brown Sugar Frosting
adapted from Cooking Light magazine

1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c packed brown sugar
6 Tbsp butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 c buttermilk
1/3 c plus 2 Tbsp walnuts, toasted, chopped, and divided

1/2 tsp cream of tartar
3 large eggs whites at room temperature
3/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c water
dash of salt

1. Preheat oven 350 degrees

2. Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Increase speed to high; beat for 1 minute.

3. Combine flour and next three ingredients (through cinnamon), stirring well.  Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating until just combined.  Stir in 1/3 c walnuts.

4. Place 12 muffin cup liners in muffin cups; divide batter evenly among cups.  Bake at 350 degrees for 19 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging.  (Cupcakes will look slightly pale.) Cool in pan 5 minutes. Remove from pan; cool on wire rack.

5. Place cream of tartar and egg whites in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form.  Combine brown sugar, water and salt in a small saucepan; bring to a boil.  Cook, without stirring, until candy thermometer registers 238 degrees.  Gradually pour hot sugar syrup into egg white mixture, beating until stiff peaks form.  Frost. Sprinkle with remaining nuts.


My sister-in-law Becca whipped the egg whites and made the frosting because my peaks never even made it to soft... I struggled with whipping them.
So she taught me how to make the most beautiful whipped frosting.  Aren't those peaks awesome?

Friday, November 19, 2010

these are a few of my....

Isn't the blogging world great? I mean, really great? You can surf people's blogs and most of the time meet genuinely wonderful people on the other side of your computer screen.

Well, today I stumbled upon this blog 320 Sycamore through first going to this blog Jones.  Click. Click. Click and suddenly your "sitting" in someone else's living room whilst wearing your pajamas and reading about their lives. I love blogs.

I think I love blogs so much because while I lived in Japan, it was a break to read and communicate with people in English.  Blogs made me laugh.  Blogs were a way to pass time and rainy days when I felt misunderstood or alone.

Anyway, I am a fan of blogs.  So I wanted to join the "party" of bloggers who are now posting...

and tell you a couple of my favorite things....

fall leaves, fall flavors, pumpkins, reds, oranges, the chilly air, jeans being worn, boots coming out of closets, football, again I say, football (in case you missed it)... I love everything related to fall!! 

(click here for photo credit)
I have traveled the world and found no coffee that compares to my beloved Java House.
Java House was my favorite job that I have had to date and leaving was not a smart decision. If I lived in Iowa City, I would beg Tara to hire me back. :D
If you live anywhere near Iowa City or are traveling through on i-80 let me know and I'll get you directions! Best. best. BEST coffee ever! 

One of my favorite things is my family's history and history in general.  I find history to be very interesting.  My friend said it the best when he commented that to think of people alive before our times is mind boggling. (my own paraphrase of what he said)
This picture is of my Grandma. I love to hear the stories of how she lived with a bunch of girls in Peoria, worked as a housekeeper for awhile and how she impressed my Grandpa with her farming skills.... or maybe it was how cute she looked in bib overalls.
I love that my Grandpa farmed before there were tractors or cars.  He was plowing fields by horse.
I love that my other Grandparents met in a grocery store and that she asked her mother for cookies, her mother refused and my Grandpa thought to himself, "If she were mine, she could have all the cookies she wanted."
I love that my Grandpa was in Japan during the signing of the peace treaty in World War 2.
I love that my parents met in pep band and that they walked the quad where my dad (illegally) picked a tulip for my mom.

I love my family's history. And hubs and I are trying to get more history from his side of the family. 

 Speaking of which, Hubs is absolutely, hands down, without a doubt one of my favorite things.
He makes me laugh and makes me smile.
He puts up with my crazy ideas and a 100 miles a minute talking.  He's just so much fun and I totally am in love with Hubs.
It's my personal quest to keep him entertained.
hmmm... was that in the vows?

A recent favorite would be birds.  I can't get enough about birds right now.  It kind of started with the verse about how God knows when a sparrow falls and how He cares for us more than that.
But then it's just become an obsession.  
I love birds!

And that, is a small but starter list to a few of my favorites!!
Go to 320 Sycamore and join in the fun!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010


 A way for me to get daily exercise (#21 on my 28 things) is to set a goal.  
So when I found out there was a 5K in Normal the same time I was going to be there,
I said hello to my new goal.
It was really fun training for it and having it before me.

the one thing I was not ready for was the cold. It was so cold and windy that day that I hardly knew what to do with myself.
I basically just dealt with it by wiping the snot on my sleeve and pressing forward. 

I finished in 31 minutes and 48 seconds.  Not a world record, not even close... but a time to start with and compare to all the future (Lord willing) races that I will be signing up for in the future.
I think I can do my next one under 30 minutes with more training and less wind! 
Midwesterners are awesome crazy people!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

full cup

I am feeling full at the moment.  Full of life and love and thankfulness.

I'm super thankful for my family.  I love that we kiss each other. Sometimes on the cheek, sometimes on the mouth.  I love when I hang out with my extended family and I hear stories of their lives and I think "that is so me. I am so like that person."  it makes me feel connected to them in some ways.  I love that I can be myself and be crazy and sing random songs and they let me.  I love that they get me.

I love that my home is not located so much in a place... but in people. I love that I can be in Iowa, snuggling with a snotty one year old and feel just like I do when I'm curled on my couch, talking with a good friend in California.  I love that my friends greet me with a smile and a huge hug... even when it's been years since we've hugged.

I'm thankful and totally worshipping God that there are fall leaves on the trees still.  Hmmm I caught the end of fall in the midwest.

I'm thankful for friends who are generous and offer to let my husband take the pillow that he was so enamored with.  There wasn't even a second thought of, "oh but what will we do without that pillow?".  I'm thankful for friends who fight to pay for the check and who share their lives with us, letting us sit around the dinner table and "shark pray" or eat pizza or tickle their sweet babies.  I'm thankful for every one of these babies for all my friends who I prayed for and with for these sweet babies.

I'm thankful for people who are genuinely interested in hearing about Japan and about our lives.  Who say, "Ohhhh Joanna... two years in language school....." and I smile and just laugh.  They know me.  They know that I am a people person and two years in a book would dry my heart up.  But I assure them, I'll meet neighbors.

I'm thankful for good coffee.
Good conversations.
Fireplace moments.
Cinnamon scones and the guy at the grocery store who helped me find cinnamon chips.

I'm thankful for a husband who drives across states and flies across the country and gobbles up tiramisu and is so gosh darn cute....

I'm thankful for so much.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

October 2010

October oh, October!
You were cold. You were rainy. You were everything a poor midwestern girl could hope for in California.  You even produced some red and orange leaves in a few trees along my drive.  I have loved you.

October was full of cooking successes and failures.
I experimented with the "Weeknights" book and was able to cook a couple times for friends.  I think I'm going to like the book. I just have to tackle the veal pages that I am not really looking forward to.
I had a major downer in the form of an apple cake.  How can apple cake be depressing? When it turns out to look like baby poop.  I was so sad by my cake I almost made another one.  But then I realized that was incredibly vain and wasteful.  So I served my ugly apple cake to my friends who were gracious eaters.
I also tackled a couple recipes out of a Cooking Light magazine I picked up at the grocery store.  Totally love this magazine.  I made a roasted chicken with pinot noir sauce, buttered green beans and mushrooms and rosemary roasted potatoes. Yum.
I also made a cooking light's recipe for banana bread for my fellow jury duty jurors. Yes, you read that right. I am that nerdy!
Mikey and I were able to take a Jamie Oliver's cooking class in Redondo Beach and that was probably one of the highlights of my month.
We went to this class as a wedding gift from my awesome siblings and we cooked four different dishes.
Jamie Oliver's big "revolution" is about "saving America's health" through education (about what is in our food) and making small changes that can really add up!
Along with the Jamie Oliver recipes we also learned cool tips like cutting an onion so you won't cry, cutting an avocado and avoiding the mess (good for people who like to make sushi) and how to hold a knife properly.
I loved the class. I had so much fun!!

I had a craft day with some friends where we worked on projects we had going including scrapbooking, felt flowers and satin flowers.  I may post a tutorial to some of the things we may but if you are too antsy to wait, go to jonesdesigncompany.com and there you have the source of all my crafty ideas recently. :)

I finished the fabulous book
The Nine Tailors by Ms. Dorothy L. Sayers and was again impressed with Lord Peter Wimsey's wit and intellect that eventually solved the crime.

I'm a bit Sayers obsessed recently, aren't I?
I might have to take a break.

I'm in the midst of reading another book which I will tell you all about when I finish.

What else can I tell you, my precious friends?
I think that is about it for crafts, reading and books.
Enjoy your November!

Monday, November 01, 2010

passing on

Recently, I have been working through the book, "Truefaced" written by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and John Lynch.

This book is a light shining for all the weary wanderers who have no idea what God wants from them and their efforts have been exhausted.  How do we please God?  How do we draw near to Him? How do we hide ourselves deep in the refuge of His Presence while we are so overwhelmed by our sins and their persistent presence?

I began reading this book because my friend wanted to go through it and so I reluctantly decided it would be good.  I had no idea what to expect and was joking with another friend that I did not want the floodgates of my "issues" to come out as I was very comfortable with the dam holding me together.

My expectations going into the book were "someone digging deep into my life with no resolution except the kind, but sometimes unhelpful, words of 'Jesus loves you'."  I feel terrible that those words have become somewhat unhelpful in my life but as I continued reading I found a paragraph that rocked my heart.

The authors write, Many Christians know God loves us and wants to be with us, but we also believe our sin has put an impossible mass between God and us.  We understand that Jesus has made a way for us to one day be together in heaven, but right now- until we get better, do better or start to take things seriously- we believe we'll have to settle for rare moments of intimacy with him.  We know ourselves too well, and there is no way we're ever going to be able to keep from sinning.  We believe God loves us, but we also believe he's pretty disappointed with us.  We expect to see him someday, but for now we can only hope that some days we will feel his touch on our lives.  That's as good as it gets on this earth... or so we've come to believe. (pg. 65)

And it hit me.  Jesus is not standing on the other side of the mass.  The book goes on to explain that God doesn't stand on the other side of our sin waiting for us to get it together.  Instead, God stands next to us, with our sin in front of us wanting to work on our sin together.

I don't know about you but that takes a lot of pressure and guilt off my shoulders.

God is not expecting us to work on our sin, to finish our sin... God knows that is impossible.  We cannot manage our sin ourselves.  God wants us.... wants me to instead entrust my entire self with Him and work on my sin together.

God wants me to come out of hiding and embrace His forgiveness and love.  The book of Jeremiah says we were created to cling.  To be dependent.  We were created to depend on Jesus, not to live this life alone.

Aren't you tired of trying to fix yourself on your own?  I know I am.  I'm no good at managing my sin and being a better person.  I've got to get back to my roots... I was created to be dependent.

I hope this is encouraging to you. I really just wanted to pass on the good news that was given to me.  God truly does not stand condemning us.  At the time we come to recognize Him as Lord and every day, every moment thereafter! 

Be encouraged my beloved friends.