Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Trees on a rainy day.

I really don't like rainy days. Like really don't like them. If I can stay in bed, I can handle about 2 hours of raininess, then I'm over it. Rainy days make me grumpy. I know... I should be able to overcome a little overcast sky, but I can't. Today my boss asked me, "Are you doing ok?" "Yeah, I am just a little overwhelmed." "What are you overwhelmed with?" I give him a list of a few things that I have to do and respond, "Ok, I guess I don't have that much on my plate. I just can't handle it like I normally would because I haven't seen the sun in two days." He laughed... but I was being serious.

The one good thing about rain (ok, other than the fact that it waters the ground and makes things grow...) is that the gray sky is the perfect backdrop for fall trees. I was walking on campus at work the other day to get coffee (hot drinks - one of the ways I try to redeem rainy days... still didn't work) and the trees looked amazing! They didn't look nearly as vibrant under the blue sky a few days ago. But my goodness... they were beautiful.

So there you have it, rainy days showcase fall trees. So I guess an occasional one isn't so bad... though I'm still praying for sun tomorrow.

P.S. One other thing I like and rain in the fall... and I don't really know why, is walking through wet leaves on the ground.. It's like a perfectly fall version of a red carpet (I know, what a diva thing for me to say) and it makes me smile. I tried to take a picture while walking this morning but didn't want to stop because my co-workers would think I'm crazy. It's blurry but we'll call it artsy. Ok? Ok!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Homemade Hot Chocolate.

Ever crave hot chocolate but don't have a packet of Swiss Miss handy? I do! So I searched long and hard (ok, not really, I googled it and went with the first thing that came up) and have found a delicious single cup hot chocolate recipe. It's really simple, quick to whip up, and uses ingredients you will most likely already have on hand. (Adapted from Hershey's Hot Cocoa For One)

Single Cup Hot Chocolate
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa (or 3 if you're feeling crazy)

Combine vanilla, salt, sugar, cocoa, and a tablespoon from the 1 cup of milk in a bowl and stir until you've created a paste. Warm remaining milk to desired temperature in a microwave or on the stove. Add chocolate paste to warm milk and stir to combine.

If you're feeling extra crazy, you can add a wee bit (I said wee bit, don't go too crazy) of Butterscotch or Peppermint Schnapps and it'll change your life.

Now you've got a new, easy recipe that'll carry you through the fall and winter. You're welcome! ;)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

New York: Recap.

(Kyle and I at Central Park.)

I'm home after a great weekend away. I was in New York for 3 days and I think that was just the right amount of time for this simple, Midwestern girl. We saw a lot of sites but my favorite thing of the trip was visiting my brother Kyle with my parents. I couldn't have picked a better trio to tour New York with...

(Mom and Dad on the subway.)

(Mom and I waiting to see Jersey Boys.)

(Kyle modeling his new hat.)

(Wafels and Dinges outside of Central Park.)

(New York pizza.)

(Mom and Dad at Central Park.)

A splendid trip, I must say.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

New York: Day 3.

(Accidentally had a filter on my camera when I took this... oh well.)

Today was another great day in New York. We walked a lot yesterday. At least a lot for Midwesterners who drive everywhere. So we thought, "We'll take it easy today..." So we took a train to the World Trade Center and took a water taxi around to see some different sites: Brooklyn Bridge, Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty, and other sites on the Hudson River. We got off and headed back to the World Trade Center and went into the 9/11 Memorial. Pretty powerful stuff...

After that, we came back home, had some classic New York style pizza, and are choosing to relax the rest of the evening because our little (lazy) Midwestern legs are tired. We leave for our beloved KC bright and early tomorrow morning...

(It's amazing how working at a place like JPMorgan changes the kinds of things you get excited about.)

(This got me excited... Whaaaat?) 

(Do you know this girl?)

(9/11 Memorial.) 

(New World Trade Center.)

(New York pizza... perfect way to end a great trip.)

Friday, October 25, 2013

New York: Day 2.

I have always wanted to visit New York in the fall. I think the desire stemmed from the movie You've Got Mail when Tom Hanks writes Meg Ryan...

"Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address."

Why that line put a dream in me to visit New York in the fall? I don't know. It's probably a combination of that line, the beautiful shots of the city, and the Cranberries background music that really stole my heart. So when I had a chance to visit New York... in the fall... I was ecstatic. My parents asked me what I wanted to do and I gave them two things, 1. See a Broadway show, 2. Walk around Central Park - because in my head I envisioned this perfect outing consisting of beautiful changing trees, crunchy leaves on the ground, the sun shining, a cool breeze... I'd hyped it up in my mind and knew there was no way it could actually live up to my dreams. But today... it did. We took an afternoon stroll through Central Park and it was everything I wanted it to be and more. The words, "This is perfect." escaped my mouth a time or two. What a day...

(Me, and how giddy I was to be in New York, in Central Park, in the fall.)

P.S. I also got to see a Broadway show tonight: Jersey Boys! It was really good. Other highlights of the day: another quick stop at Times Square, stroll by Lincoln Center, and lots of lots of Subway riding.

 (This seemed classic New York to me: Starbucks, hot dog vender, cabs, fire escapes...)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

New York: Day 1.

(View flying in. Don't tell Southwest I broke the rules to take this.)

I'm in New York! My brother Kyle moved here a couple of months ago so my parents and I came to visit. Today was Day 1 and it was lovely... Quick highlights:

We ate at a pizza place near our hotel and it had a better lunch deal than we could find in Kansas City. Rolls, salad, and pizza for $7.99! It doesn't take much to get these cheap Midwesterners excited.

We saw Times Square, Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, and other things along the way.

Then we finished our evening at this place that my mom had heard about called Ellen's Stardust Diner where Broadway performers (or wannabe performers) are the wait staff and sing while they work. Quite the experience...

Here are a few pictures from the day.

 (I love benches...)

(View down the street from our hotel in Jersey City.)

 (Yep. Radio City Music Hall.)


(Rockefeller Center ice skaters!)

(Dinner at the diner.)

(Goodnight, New York.)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Best Apple Crisp Ever.

Well folks, the wait is over. I have for you the best apple crisp recipe... ever. This recipe came from the Inman Centennial Cookbook celebrating years 1887 to 1987. (I was born in 1987.) It came from my grandma's church and has stuck with my mom. I was talking to Momma about it and she said, "Want to know the secret? ... You double the topping." Genius! (P.S. I already doubled the topping for you in the recipe below, so no need to double it... If you do, you will have quadrupled the amount of the original recipe. That would be pretty intense. It's your call.) Hope you enjoy!

Best Apple Crisp Ever

3 cups apples, sliced
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp water

Combine and place in a greased 8x8 pan.

1 1/2 cup oatmeal
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup melted butter
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Mix and spread over apple mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. (Isn't it awesome how simple this recipe is? A blogger nowadays would have taken 2 or 3 paragraphs to explain how to do it, rather than 2 or 3 sentences.) (Speaking of wordiness... I'll shut up now.) 

(Looking pretty loved on after 26 years of use.)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Try-It Tueday (or Monday): Skillet Cornbread.

I had my aunt Georgie and my mom over for dinner last night. I got excited to tell you about the recipe that I made for them then I realized that I've blogged about it before... womp womp.

I made Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili. Momma and Georgie were fans. Comments that were made: "You can't even tell there isn't meat in this." "The sweet potatoes are the right consistency - not too hard and not too mushy." I blogged about this previously here or you can go straight here for the recipe.

To go along with it I also made Skillet Cornbread. I am always looking for an excuse to use my cast iron skillet so I was excited when I saw this recipe. It was tasty! I am still on the look out for the best corn bread recipe ever, and this one isn't it, but it was pretty good. And again... it was fun cooking it and serving it out of the cast iron. I'd recommend it for that reason alone. (Despite the fact that I burnt my hand TWICE because I grabbed the handle without thinking about the fact that it was hot...)
(Not the best picture ever, but you get the idea...)

My aunt Georgie brought veggies (yum) and my mom brought apple crisp. When my mom sends me her apple crisp recipe I'm going to dedicate a post to it because it was seriously one of the most delicious desserts I've ever eaten. For sure the best apple crisp ever. More to come on that.

Anyway, here are a few recipes for you to try. Happy Trying!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Joy in sorrow.

I'm taking a small pause from The Katie Series. 1. I have something else I want to write about. 2. I've already written about everything that Katie initially suggested (ready for some more ideas, Katie!)

I mentioned the other day that I'm reading a book called Beautiful Battlefields by Bo Stern. My friend and I are reading it together because we are both are currently struggling with some "battles". Our battles are quite different but strangely similar: she and her husband are having a hard time getting pregnant and I'm having a hard time... getting married. :) Infertility and singleness aren't huge battles, especially compared to the author, whose husband was diagnosed with ALS. But, no matter how big or small, they are still on our hearts and they are still what we are struggling with. The book is good stuff. It gives us perspective on the battles and encourages us to embrace the amazing things that God is teaching us during then and the Godly women (or men) we are becoming in the process.

The last chapter we read was about joy and sorrow and how they aren't mutually exclusive. You can be experience intense sorrow and still be joyful. And really, you can't really feel or appreciate one without the other. This was my favorite part of the chapter:

"The pain of my battlefield has served as a spotlght on the things in my life that are truly love. I am learning to embrace the wonder of the colors of fall and the sounds of my family around the dinner table. I am breathing in deeply the smell of Baby Magic on my grandson's freshly washed skin and delighting in the fact that he has his grandpa's eyes. I am treasuring every cup of coffee I share with a friend while telling each other stories. These moments of pure joy must be lived fully because they are the oil that softens the suffering. Joy that shows up in the heat of battle is one of the most beautiful things I have ever known. I'm so glad I stopped believe it was impossible."

The author encouraged us to write down our joys on a regular basis. I feel like I've done an ok job at that, but want to continue here on this blog.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Katie Series: Thoughts on the Next Steps of My "Career."

I put "career" in quotes because I would have never and still have a hard time believing that I am a "career woman." But yesterday was my three anniversary with good ol' JPMorgan so I guess it's official. I have a career. No quotes.

Back in May I applied for a promotion - to become a manager. My current position is kind of like an assistant manager so that is the natural career path. They were expanding the management team by about 4 or 5 people to make smaller teams and develop our people more, so I thought, "Well hey, this is my chance." I interviewed and didn't hear anything. In June they met with me and said, "Hey, we told everyone else in your position no, but we'd like you to know you're still in the running. We just aren't ready to make any decisions yet." In July, my current manager went on military leave so I took over the manager role for a team of 25 people. He came back last week so I'm back to my old job. And they still haven't hired anyone for the additional manager position or followed up with me since June. (It doesn't help that they started an unofficial "hiring freeze" a month or two ago. Bad timing.) It's been 5 months, y'all. That's a long time.

So, my "thoughts" on the next steps of my career are mixed right now. There are two options for me at this point.

1. Stick it out. Pay my dues. And wait patiently. Our generation has a tendency to believe we should have everything now. We don't believe in paying our dues. We easily forget that my dad had to work the third shift at Hallmark at the beginning of his career until her gradually moved up to being a well-paid manager. All we remember is that my dad made a lot of money as a manager and so I should, too. I've been working for 3 years. I have little to no experience. I may need to just pay my dues and wait. A promotion will come soon enough. (Here is a really good article about this idea that my brother Joel sent me one time.)

2. Look for something else. This is the scary option for me because I don't really know what I want to do with my life so I don't even know where to start looking. I know I like: people, creativity, baking, crafts, business, writing... but I don't really know what that means for me. It's probably time that I freshen up the old resume and start looking. It doesn't hurt to look, right?

I think the solution is a "both and." (I always think it's funny when people say "both and". I'm not even sure it applies in this situation but I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that it does.) I'm going to stick it out. Pay my dues. Wait patiently. And in the meantime, I'm going to start looking for something else just to see what is out there. And you never know, maybe the reason why things aren't working out at JPMorgan right now are because there is something better in store for me somewhere else. Who knows... But prayers and words of wisdom are appreciated.

(This was a long one. Sorry...)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Katie Series: Thoughts On My Favorite Bible Verse(s).

My favorite Bible verse since high school has always been Jeremiah 29:11.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plan to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

God knows the plan and it's a good one. People probably hear me say this a lot... but the truth is, God's plan is always better than mine, and this verse is a good reminder of that.

Lately I've been praying over another verse a lot. My friend and I are reading the book Beautiful Battlefields by Bo Stern and it's all about how God is growing you during the hard times. It encouraged us to memorize Genesis 50:20.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

One thing that sets Christianity apart is that it doesn't promise a perfect life. You will never hear "come to Jesus and all of your problems will be fixed." (And if you do, run the other direction, that's not the real gospel.) We live in a fallen world and life is for sure going to be hard. Satan's going to try to use that hard stuff to hurt us, but God can and will do good things through it. That's why I like this verse. Our hard times can really bring us down, but God intends it for good, so more people can learn about Him.

That's good stuff.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Katie Series: Thoughts On How To Get Over A Break Up.

(Cheesy applicable photo.)

And The Katie Series continues... Katie threw this out as a blog topic and I thought, "Yikes, I don't want to touch that." I broke up with a guy I was dating back in February and if we're being honest, I'm still struggling to be completely over things. So what I've decided to do is make a list of all of the things that I'm doing and tell you to do the opposite. Kidding, kidding... But the truth is, I haven't arrived, I'm a work in progress, and I struggle daily. Here are just a few things that I have learned:

The Katie Series: Thoughts On How To Get Over A Break Up

1. Cut ties - if possible. You think you can be friends with the person... but you can't. It's too hard. And it probably isn't healthy, at least for now.

2. Control your thought life. That sounds a little more scandalous than I mean (but it's good to control your thought life if it's scandalous, too.) Don't let your brain go down paths you don't need to be going down. "Remember that one time he said that sweet thing..." "Remember our first kiss..." "Remember when we laughed til we cried about..." It's not healthy. The hard part is that no one knows your thoughts except for you and God, so you don't have any accountability. So you need to pray for self-control and stop when you find yourself failing.

3. Give yourself some grace. You may be discouraged because it's taking you longer than you think it should to get over things. Give yourself some grace - it's going to take some time, and that's ok.

4. Don't trash talk your ex during the process. It may seem like it makes things easier, but you're just avoiding the root issue. The truth is - there are a lot of good things about your ex, that's what drew you to them in the first place. Don't put them down, especially not to others, just so you can cope.

5. Don't rush into another relationship. It won't be good for you and it for sure won't be good for the next person you date if you rush into things before you're ready for a new relationship. Give it time. Be cool with yourself before you put that junk on someone else.

6. Give it to God. Sometimes the last thing you want to hear is "God has a plan for you." But it's actually the the truth. Remember that and give it all to Him.

That's all I've got for now. Like I said.. I'm totally and completely a work in progress on this stuff. But if I can practice what I preach, I think that things will get easier every day.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Katie Series: Thoughts on Social Media.

My friend Katie is probably my most devout blog follower. It's probably because things at her job are a bit slow and she doesn't have anything else better to do to fill her work day (ha, right, Katie?) But we'll say that maybe, just maybe, it's because she likes what I have to say and how I say it. She told me I needed to blog more and I told her that I needed some ideas to blog about... So she gave me a few... And I've decided to write about them. We are calling it... The Katie Series. (Really original name, I know. It was my idea... not hers.) So it begins...

The Katie Series: My Thoughts on Social Media.

1. Facebook: I joined it the summer before my freshman year of college. That was a pretty normal time to join back then. I don't do much on it these days. But I suppose it's a good place to announce that you are engaged or pregnant or what not so you can get a lot of likes. In my case, I'm neither engaged... nor pregnant. So things on Facebook are pretty quiet these days.

2. Twitter: I like Twitter. It's my social media outlet of choice. I like that it's quick. Most of the time it's funny. I like that people post pictures on there. I just like it. It's simple. And again, I was relatively early getting on board, so my hipster-self is ok with it.

3. Vine: Nope. Not doing it. 9 out of 10 videos are people trying to be funny that are not. I'm too cool for Vine.

4. Xanga: Flashback to 2003! Yep. I had a Xanga page. Did you?

5. Pinterest. Ok, you know I love Pinterest.

6. Foursquare. Never got into it. Wasn't really sure what the point of it was. "Heeeeyyy, I'm here. I'm now the mayor of McDonald's. Take that, suckas!" ... ?

7. Google+: I think I created a Google+ account a few years ago... still not really sure what that means though. Google, you have done a lot of things right... I'm just not sure Google+ was one of them. But who am I to say...

8. LinkedIn: Whoever you are that keeps on inviting me to join... it's not going to happen. It's not a good idea to mix social media and the business world. It's just not.

9. Instagram: I love me some Instagram. Artsy pictures? Yes please.

10. Snapchat: Sending pictures to people so they can see them for a few seconds and then they "disappear." This is creepy and strange. No thank you.

This is just a short list of social media (check out this long list on Wikipedia. Holy. cow.) My thoughts: pick a few that you like (for me: Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and maybe an occasional Facebook stalking session) and leave the rest be. Don't overwhelm yourself trying to keep up on all of that. It's not worth it. And don't trick yourself into believing that social media can replace real community with people. It's ok to tide you over until your next hang out... but face to face interaction takes the cake every time.