Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Baking Lovers Favorite Ingredients

Well we’ve come to the end of the road of the January Blog A Day challenge (can’t believe tomorrow is already Feb 1st, wasn’t it just Christmas?!). While I may not have kept up with it like I wanted to, it was still so much fun to participate in! I had actually been having a terrible case of writers block for quite some time and the writing prompts from this challenge really helped me to overcome that. I felt for the first time in a long time the writing just sort of flowed… hoping that this continues. So big thanks to Katrina and Lindsay for hosting this awesome challenge! :)

The last topic for January Blog a Day (day 31) is Favorite. So seeing as how one of my very favorite things in the world is baking, I thought I would share a list of my favorite baking ingredients to have on hand. For a self professed bake-aholic like myself there’s nothing better than a well stocked kitchen. I love opening up my cabinets and fridge to find everything I need to spend a day in the kitchen baking my heart out. So below is a list of some of my go-to baking lovers favorites! :)


  • Cocoa Powder
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Brown Sugar
  • Spices such as: Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, Cloves
  • Sea Salt – When I bought some of this stuff last year I never knew how much I would use it. Just a sprinkle of sea salt truly makes anything with chocolate and caramel better (as if they really needed any help). And it goes a long way, I bought a medium sized bottle and even after using it quite often, still have half a bottle left.
  • Extracts such as: Vanilla, Almond, Peppermint, and Lemon – those are the few I have in my cabinet right now.
  • Food Coloring
  • Molasses – I love keeping molasses in the kitchen not only for recipes but for making emergency brown sugar when I’m fresh out. It’s a little baking trick I learned a few years ago. All you have to do is mix molasses into white granulated sugar with a fork until it’s all incorporated, and viola!, you have brown sugar!
  • Chocolate Chips – My favorite kind is Ghirardelli 60% Bittersweet. I love them because they’re more like discs than chips and they look so much better in cookies. Plus, they taste amazing! I could eat them by the handfuls.
  • White Chocolate Chips


  • Peanut Butter Chips
  • Bars of baking Chocolate - Again I always go for Ghirardelli if given the choice.
  • Unsalted Butter – I’ve learned using unsalted butter is truly best for making frosting.
  • Peanut Butter – Creamy. Always Creamy.
  • Cream Cheese
  • Mascarpone Cheese – I love not only using this stuff for Tiramisu but I also love mixing some of it into chocolate frosting. It makes it super rich and creamy!
  • Heavy Cream – For making homemade whipped cream, ganache, mixing it into frosting, ect.
  • Sweetened Condensed Milk – Ah, if you aren’t a fan of this stuff than you and I won’t relate. Want to put it in everything.
  • Honey
  • Coffee – It’s not an essential baking ingredient, but I love to put a little coffee or espresso in my chocolate cake batter. It makes the chocolate flavor even richer.
  • Cute Cupcake Liners – While not an ingredient I couldn’t leave it off the list. They are just simply a fun must have. I love collecting them.
  • Sprinkles – Again another fun must have. My philosophy is that you can never have too many sprinkles! :D


Flaws & Learning To Accept Them

The Day 30 topic of the January Blog A Day challenge was “Your Biggest Flaw”… which was …um …yesterday (which should come as no shock seeing as how I haven’t exactly been keeping up). But I decided to go ahead and post about it anyway.

I’ve actually been thinking a lot about flaws lately. It’s hard to say what my biggest flaw is because on most days I feel like this imperfect human being made up of so many countless flaws. And I am…

* I’m the worlds worst procrastinator

* I can’t seem to keep up a work out plan to save my life these days

* I eat semi healthy for a few days then end up caving to the evils of chocolate or Dr. Pepper

* There’s a hole in my jeans

* I can be stubborn and hot headed

* I can be crazy insecure

* Slightly clumsy

* Hopelessly awkward

* Too afraid

And the list goes on and on. But out of all these flaws I’d say my biggest one is not accepting my flaws and not accepting myself.

I am imperfect and I am flawed… but I ‘m finally at the place where I’m ready to stop lamenting it and start accepting it. To accept myself… just as I am. Just who God made me. Flaws and all.


Now that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to improve myself…because I do. I desire to grow and learn and become all that God wants me to be. But I think that may start with being comfortable in my own skin. Learning to love and accept myself. Being good to myself instead of beating myself up over all these flaws.

There’s a beautiful freedom in letting go of the idea of perfection, because perfection does not exist. And I’m glad that it doesn’t… I mean how much would I truly rely on God if I was “perfect”?

This is something I feel really compelled to work on this year. In fact, I even dedicated a page in my art journal to this idea as a reminder:


This art journal page may not be perfect and I may not be perfect… but that’s okay. :)


Friday, January 25, 2013

Loving a Person - It’s No Small Thing

“Loving a person just the way they are, it’s no small thing. It takes some time to see things through. Sometimes things change, sometimes we’re waiting. We need grace either way.” – Loving a Person by Sara Groves 

Today’s January Blog A Day topic 25 is love. I didn’t really know for sure what I wanted to share about this topic, as you could take it so many different places. I wasn’t planning on sharing anything too personal but as I was thinking about the subject this song by Sara Groves called “Loving a Person” came to my mind… and soon this post came spilling out.


There was a point last year when I was ready to throw in the towel and give up on a friendship with someone whom I love with all my heart. It puts a lump in my throat even typing it. But it’s true.

I could’ve never imagined myself feeling this way. Not in a million years. The fact that all of this was happening was hard for me to even grasp. You have to understand this is someone with whom I grew up with, someone I was so close to,… we were always inseparable. It was one of the strongest bonds in my life and I would’ve thought nothing in this whole world could possibly break it. But somehow, in what felt like a blur, something did break it. It all unraveled so fast that I honestly didn’t even know what had hit me. In a flash things had changed, we had changed faster than I could wrap my head around. I couldn’t understand how things got so screwed up.

After a lot of turmoil and pain it came to the point where we barely even spoke. Which in a way felt easier but in a much bigger way was killing me. But so much had happened that it just seemed easier to cut ties, let go, and walk away for good. I had been so very hurt by this person so many times that I just wanted to get away and stay away. Trust had been broken and I felt like there was just no way to go back to how things used to be. No matter how much I loved them. That love just didn’t feel like enough to us through this dark time. I guess when we get hurt our first instinct is to run away.

“There's a lot of pain in reaching out and trying
It's a vulnerable place to be
Love and pride can't occupy the same spaces baby
Only one makes you free.”

Now make no mistake, I did my share of hurting too. I don’t want to put all the blame on that person, I definitely played my part. I could’ve reacted differently, more lovingly to what was going on. But as the saying goes, hurt people hurt people. And we just both hurt each other over and over again. It was a vicious cycle. Where once there was so much love… now there was only hurt and anger. Even attempts to talk things out and make it right only yielded more fighting, more tears, and one of the worst things of all, blame. Oh yes, the blame game.

“If we go looking for offense
We're going to find it
If we go looking for real love
We're going to find it.”

I honestly thought there was no hope but finally… slowly, painstakingly, we were able to work things out, forgive, and start rebuilding a friendship again. But it took us both making the decision to swallow our pride, let go of the anger and hurt, forgive, and give each other grace. To decide that our friendship was worth salvaging no matter how hard it was. Deciding to not run away but to stay and show each other unconditional love. A love that keeps no record of wrongs. Because in spite of it all, we loved and needed each other. And that in the end was more important. It just trumped everything else. 

I’m not going to lie and say that it’s been easy. Truth be told, I still sometimes fight those feelings of unforgiveness. It’s a process and everytime those feelings start to come back, I know that I just need to hand them over to Jesus and let him take care of it. I simply can’t do it on my own.

Proverbs 10:12 says “Hated stirs up strife but love covers all sins”. I really believe that. The love of Jesus covers my sins… and therefore His love living in me can cover the sins of others. It’s choosing to forgive, daily. It’s choosing to love (because love is a choice), daily. Choosing to love and accept each other just the way we are, mess and all. Because loving anyone is messy. Choosing to hold onto each other and not let go just because it’s seemingly easier.

I feel like I have so much to learn about what it looks like to love well… to love like Jesus. Really loving someone well is no small thing, it takes time, but it’s worth it.

“Hold on to me
I'll hold on to you
Let's find out the beauty of seeing things through”


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes

Dessert… if you know me you know it’s one of my favorite topics. Yes, I love to share what meals I’m currently making but dessert is just so much more fun to talk about. It also happens to be the day 23 topic of the January Blog A Day challenge! Right up my ally!

Okay, so yes, I know that Christmas was almost a month ago now but I decided to share this recipe for Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes with you anyway! They are just that scrumptious. 

I made these lovelies for my churches Christmas dinner. These cupcakes, which are a play on the yummy holiday drink from Starbucks, had been calling my name. And I thought this was the perfect excuse to make them. So I spent a couple hours in my kitchen the night before mixing batter, melting chocolate, and piping on luscious peppermint buttercream. I tasted the finished product and was so crazy happy with the outcome. A slice of heaven in a cupcake, let me tell you!

The next day at the dinner, I set out a dozen of these peppermint babies on the dessert table… and not one person even touches them. Nope. Nobody. Nobody ate even a one! Granted there were other desserts there… most of which were store bought… all of which were gobbled up. So I’m like, either I’m crazy or they are, ha!

So what if I slaved away to make these yummy cupcakes for all to eat and hopefully enjoy. It’s no big deal… live and let live I say! To each their own, right? I mean if you’d rather have store bought pie than homemade Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes… I may not understand you, I may think you’re slightly insane but I can… tolerate you. You know, who am I to judge?

Anyway, I took half home and gave the other half to family… family who raved about them, by the way! So there! ;) But really if you love the chocolate, coffee, and peppermint combo you’ll love these cupcakes. Who cares if it’s after Christmas, be a rebel and make ‘em anyway. Go ahead, I fully support your rebellion! :D

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes -


(Recipe adapted from &

Theses cupcakes are decadent but not overly sweet. I actually combined two different recipes to make them. The original recipe called for Peppermint Swiss Meringue Buttercream. And while I think Swiss Meringue buttercream is hands down the best frosting ever I’ve yet to work up the courage to try and make it. It seems complicated and I also didn’t have the amount of butter and eggs it called for. So I looked up a recipe for regular peppermint buttercream and was so happy with how it turned out! It was delish and the perfect compliment to the cupcakes.

Moist chocolate cupcakes infused with coffee and bits of Andes Mint candies, fluffy peppermint buttercream frosting, chocolate drizzle, topped off with peppermint candy. I actually used chopped up peppermint Hershey Kisses, which made the perfect topping. Hope you give ‘em a try! :)


Cupcakes -

1 cup (4.5 ounces) all purpose flour

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (7.3 ounces) sugar

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1.5 ounces) Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and warm

2 large eggs

½ teaspoon peppermint extract

1 tablespoon instant coffee (recommended: Starbucks Via)

1/2 cup hot coffee

3/4 cup chopped peppermint Andes

Fluffy Peppermint Buttercream Frosting -

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature

1 3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 1/2 Tbsp. heavy cream

1/2 tsp. peppermint

Chocolate Pouring Sauce -

2/3 cups dark chocolate

2 tablespoons heavy cream

4 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted

4-5 tablespoons water, warm


Cupcakes -

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F and line cupcake pan with cupcake liners. Add flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and mix thoroughly to combine.

Add in the butter, eggs, and vanilla and beat on medium speed for one minute. Add half of the coffee into the mixture and beat for 20 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add remaining coffee. Beat for 20-30 seconds until the batter is smooth.

Fold in chopped Andes. The batter will be thin enough to pour. Divide it evenly among the lined cups. Bake 18-22 minutes just until a toothpick inserted into a few of the cupcakes comes out clean.

Set the pan on a rack to cool. Frost the cupcakes when they are completely cool. Makes 12 cupcakes.

Fluffy Peppermint Buttercream Frosting -

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter on medium-high speed until very pale and fluffy about 6 – 8 minutes, occasionally scrapping down sides of the bowl. Add in powdered sugar, heavy cream and peppermint extract then mix on low speed until combine, then increase mixer to medium-high speed and beat until very light and fluffy, about 3 – 4 minutes, occasionally scraping down sides and bottom of the bowl.

Chocolate Pouring Sauce -

Place chocolate and heavy cream in a bowl over simmering water. Let chocolate and cream sit for 2-3 minutes to melt without stirring. Then slowly stir mixture to combine. Add powdered sugar and mix to combine. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing after each addition until pouring consistency is reached. Set aside and let sauce cool to warm.

To Assemble Cupcake -

Frost cooled cupcakes with buttercream frosting. Freeze frosted cupcakes for ten minutes. Drizzle chocolate pouring sauce over frosting (reheat chocolate pour in microwave as needed to keep pouring consistency). Sprinkle chopped peppermint Andes on chocolate sauce. Finish with a peppermint candy on top.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Beautiful Words

Today’s January Blog A Day topic 20 is “Beautiful”. There are a lot of beautiful things in this world I could talk about but one of my favorites is simply, words. Beautiful words. I love to write them, read them, and hear them. The right words at the right time can be life to your soul.

I came across this spoken word poem below last night as I was looking up TWLOHA’s event, Heavy & Light. Which is basically a night of great music and speakers all there for one purpose, to share hope. I was planning to attend the date in GA next month with my sister but unfortunately won’t be able to make it. But as I was looking at the line up for this year, I stumbled on Anis Mojgani’s amazing spoken word poems on YouTube and was moved to tears. This man writes beautiful words full of so much hope.

I watched a lot of his videos last night and was so inspired. This one below, “Come Closer” is my favorite. I found myself just listening to this with my eyes closed. You can feel every word he speaks. My favorite line is, “He made you when He was happy. You make the world happy.” That just made my heart light up. I think it may be one of the best things I’ve heard in a long time. I hope you’re blessed by these beautiful words as much I was. :)


Friday, January 18, 2013

The Best Advice I’ve Ever Been Given


I’m sure glad this January Blog A Day thing is super casual…because I pretty much stink at keeping up with stuff like this lol. So I’m jumping back in on day 18 for “Advice”. The best advice I’ve ever been given is short and simple… yet so very important.

Ever since we were kids my dad has always told my sister and I the same thing: “Never run from God, always run to Him.” I can’t begin to tell you how many times that advice has played through my mind over the years. I venture to say of all the important things my dad has taught me, this is probably the most valuable.

We all have a tendency to run from God, to stray, from time to time. We let ourselves fall into sin or even just sinking so far into the pain of something we’re going through… and we run from Him. Out of anger, fear, or shame. Just like Adam & Eve, our first instinct is always to run & hide, to cover ourselves up. I know I’ve been there.

There are times we just rather not let Jesus into those places of our hearts and lives. Maybe we’re just not ready to give up whatever sin is slowly destroying us or maybe we’d rather wallow in the pain instead of letting him begin the healing process in us. It can be so painful to surrender sometimes.

But when we finally get sick of running, when we can’t stand the distance we feel from Him any longer, when our hearts miss Him so much it’s hard to breathe (cause make no mistake, if you have ever truly known Him, you will miss Him)… is when we finally look up, and almost fearfully offer up a prayer. Are you there, God? It’s then we see that He never left, He was there all along. And we start to realize the most amazing thing, a miracle, God’s not angry with us. No, in fact, He welcomes us back with open arms. It’s simply the miracle of the grace and love of God.

Surrender can be so painful… but it’s when beautiful change can take place. And all of the sudden you can breathe again.

I don’t know what you’re going through, where you’ve been, or what you’ve done… but I do know, without a doubt, that Jesus is not mad at you. He loves you. His grace is sufficient for you. And He’s just waiting to welcome you back with open arms. Call on him today. Don’t wait. The best advice I could ever give you is the same advice my dad gave to me, never run from God, always run to Him.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Is This the End of The Civil Wars?

Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” – Plato

It’s no secret that November 6th 2012 was a very upsetting day for a lot of people. There were tears. There was anger. There was confusion. And quite frankly, I am still in mourning. No, I’m not talking about the election… I’m talking about the day one of my very favorite bands, The Civil Wars, broke up. Or, aka, the day the music died.

the civil wars2

Yes, I was perfectly fine stressing about the election that night until I saw a tweet, a tweet that broke my music loving heart to shreds. Someone I follow on Twitter said that it looked like The Civil Wars had … broken up. Insert gasp and me loudly yelling “Noooo!!!” at the computer screen here.

So, after I regained composure and started breathing again, I immediately raced to their Facebook only to have my fears confirmed by their official statement:

“We sincerely apologize for the canceling of all of our tour dates. It is something we deeply regret. However, due to internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition we are unable to continue as a touring entity at this time. We thank each and every one of you for your amazing love & support. Our sincere hope is to have new music for you in 2013.”

I think I can speak for all fans when I say we were somewhat shocked and confused. Was this a canceling of just a tour or the break up of a band? And really, that still remains to be seen. They did after all say they hope to have new music out this year. But “internal discord” and “irreconcilable differences of ambition” certainly doesn’t sound good.

Not gonna lie, my reaction was something akin to this lol. I mean c’mon, it had to be a joke… a totally not funny, super late April Fools joke, right?… Right?! I knew they had canceled some of their shows but to cancel the slew of sold out European tour dates that were already underway … I never saw that one coming. So at that point, as you can imagine, I was like “who cares about the election?! Don’t you understand The Civil Wars just broke up?!” lol. Okay, slightly over dramatic, maybe. I guess it just goes to show you where my priorities lie, ha!

The Civil Wars formed when two burned out musicians, Joy Williams and John Paul White, had a chance meeting in 2008 at what’s called a “songwriting camp” in Nashville, TN. Straws were drawn to decide who would get paired up to write together first that day and John Paul was the straw chosen for Joy before she even arrived. The two say that as soon as they started singing together they could tell that this was something different, something special. And the rest as they say is history. Oddly enough, later on they found out that they both tried to get out of even going that day. Meant to be? I think so.

I think the news came as even more of shock to those of us who’ve been around since the two began and have watched their incredible rise to success.

I’ve actually been following Joy’s career ever since her very first CCM album (still have it, by the way, ha!) in 2001. And it’s been amazing to watch her musical progression and see how she’s grown as an artist over the years. I remember being really excited when in 2009 she announced on her MySpace a new duo she was a part of called The Civil Wars along with musician (& Johnny Depp doppelganger), John Paul White. And later that year seeing the music video for their first single, “Poison and Wine” and being totally blown away. You couldn’t help but be moved and fall in love with their music, their voices, and their striking chemistry. There was no denying, this combination was pure magic.

While The Civil Wars were still gaining steam, in the spring of 2010 Joy released a solo EP entitled, "We Mapped The World". My sister & I fell in love with those songs and decided to try and get an interview with Joy for our blog, The Waking. Joy was so sweet to answer all of our questions about the EP, songwriting, and of course, The Civil Wars. This was very exciting for us and something that still makes me smile to look back on.

Not long after they released the next single from their yet to be released album of the same name, "Barton Hollow", things really took off for the band. They were quickly selling out shows, making their rounds on the late night talk show circuit, and stealing people’s hearts. The album released in February of 2011 to much anticipation and just a year later won two Grammys and earned the band a small spot performing on the live telecast. “Barton Hollow” went Gold in September of last year selling 500,000 copies.


So what could cause a band who in the matter of just a year won 2 Grammys, an Americana Music Award, was nominated for a Golden Globe, & had a Gold record, to either break up or go on hiatus? I don't know. What could've caused irreconcilable differences of ambition and internal discord in a duo that seemed to have a really strong bond and such insane chemistry on stage that they were often mistaken for a married couple (they're both married to other people)? At this point fans can only speculate.

And speculate they are ... almost daily it seems on the band's Facebook. In fact, the mood is turning rather hostile as some fans are angered by the bands confusing explanation. While I understand the confusion, I also think it's pretty sad considering these same fans claim that The Civil Wars are their favorite band. We need to remember that while Joy & John Paul are musicians, and amazing ones at that, they are also people. Whatever happened that caused them to make this decision, I feel pretty safe in saying, it probably wasn't made lightly.

Though I am still lamenting the fact that I didn't get to see them live! Ugh! I can't even stand to think about it! The band that Adele called quote, "the best live band I've ever seen"... and I missed my chance to see them. This has actually made me pretty paranoid about seeing my favorite bands live a.s.a.p lest they soon share the same fate.

If “Barton Hollow” is The Civil Wars’ first and last album I see it becoming a classic. It’s something we listeners will pull out even years later and still be completely enchanted by because it’s simply timeless. I see it as an album that our children will discover as they’re rummaging through our cd or vinyl collection. They will fall in love with it and treasure it too. They will also be totally heartbroken to learn it was the bands one and only album.

The irony is not lost that a band with a name like The Civil Wars is now going through a war of their own. Their name inspired in part by the Plato quote at the top of this post. Hopefully this war will have a happy ending.

So Joy and John Paul, on the very off chance you ever find yourself reading this blog we fans truly hope you guys can work things out. But just know that we are thankful for the magic you’ve given us through your music, even if it was for just a short time. It will be terribly missed. But if you two ever come back, whether together or (dare I say it) apart, know that you have a slew of fans just waiting to welcome you back with open arms and ready to sing along to new songs. Grace & peace to the whole Civil Wars crew.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Creamy Tomato Soup with Brown Butter Garlic Croutons

So yes, only four days into the January Blog A Day and I skip a day. Ah, it was so bound to happen. But the day 14 topic is “Food”, and well that just happens to be my specialty!
I thought I‘d share a recipe with you guys that makes for the perfect way to warm up on a cold day. We here in TX have been experiencing some wintery weather in the 30’s & 40’s these past couple of days. And while most people may not consider that very cold, we Texans tend to panic when the temps fall below 50. So I’d say some comfort food is in order! And what says comfort food more than the classic Tomato Soup?
I made this Creamy Tomato Soup with Brown Butter Garlic Croutons last week and it went so fast there were hardly any left overs the next day. Even my dad, who is especially picky, ate two bowls of this stuff.
While winter has never been my favorite season, curling up in a warm blanket with a hot bowl of yummy soup makes these cold gray days feel cozy. This is comfort food at its finest! 

Creamy Tomato Soup with Brown Butter Garlic Croutons -


(Recipe adapted from

This soup is really flavorful and super creamy thanks to two kinds of cheeses, Mascarpone and Havarti. I had to leave out the Havarti though because my super market is just not cool enough to carry it apparently. But leaving it out didn’t really seem to make any difference.

While I liked the Brown Butter Garlic Croutons, I found they got a little bit too soggy in the soup. So I actually just prefer eating it with garlic toast instead. But the croutons do have a really lovely flavor though thanks to the brown butter and garlic. Everything is better with brown butter, in my opinion, as it gives things a warm, nutty, caramel taste. And browning butter is actually pretty simple so don’t be afraid to give it a try!

Spoon on a dollop of left over mascarpone and devour! Hope this soup keep you warm today! :)


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 sweet onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 (28-ounce) cans whole, peeled tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup freshly grated Havarti cheese

Croutons -
2 cups cubed whole grain bread
3 tablespoons
brown butter
2 garlic cloves, minced

Heat a large soup pot oven medium-low heat and add olive oil and butter. Add onions, salt, pepper, seasonings and smoked paprika, then stir well to coat. Cook until onions are soft and translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in garlic and tomato paste, using the back of the spoon well to mash the tomato paste and evenly distribute it throughout the onions. Cook for another 5-6 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, allowing the tomato paste to become golden in spots.

Add in both cans of the tomatoes (with juice) and the stock, bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let bubble for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. While the mixture is simmering, I occasionally mashed the tomatoes down just to make them easier to blend.

While the soup is cooking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Brown the butter and let it sit for 2-3 minutes, then toss in the minced garlic cloves and stir for 30 seconds. Add bread cubes to a large bowl and pour the garlic/butter mixture over top, tossing well to coat. Place the bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, tossing once or twice during cooking. If you desire them more golden, bake a little longer - just keep an eye on them.

After the hour is up, very carefully add the mixture to a blender (you will probably have to do this in two parts) and puree until totally smooth. Add back to the pot over low heat. Stir in the mascarpone and Havarti, stirring until it's completely melted. Taste and season additionally with salt and pepper if needed. Serve in big bowls with an extra dollop of mascarpone and bunch of croutons on top.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

I Believe In Recovery

Because today is the 3rd anniversary of the tragic earthquake in Haiti, the January Blog A Day topic 12 is “Recovery”.

If there’s one thing I can say definitively about recovery it’s that I do not see how true recovery is even possible without the healing hand of Jesus Christ. At least that’s the one thing that’s been proven true time and time again in my own life as well as in the lives of those around me.

I’ve had my share of hard times (we all have) and walked through some really dark places with people I dearly love. Times where I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Times when I really wasn’t sure if things were going to get any better. Times where I truly believed some things were permanently broken. There have been times when the idea of recovery seemed nearly impossible. But God always has a different plan.

I believe in recovery. I believe in healing. I believe, like the organization To Write Love On Her Arms often says, hope is real, help is real, and rescue is possible.

I believe in recovery of the mind, body, soul, and spirit. I believe that with God we can recover and heal from anything. He uses all kinds of things to help us get to a place of healing; people – a loving community, timely words of encouragement, doctors, medicine, music, books, movies, creativity, creation… this is just the short list. Anything really to get you to that place.


I’ve had the amazing privilege to see first hand people I love recover and heal from some of the darkest places. And while the roads were long and hard, I wouldn’t trade getting to see it for anything in this whole world. Watching God healing someone’s heart and restoring their life is one of the most beautiful things on earth.

Recovery is actually a really interesting word for me as well because, honestly, life has put me through the ringer real good these past couple of years. And I feel like I’ve spent the better part of the past 5 or 6 months in a state of recovering. No, I’m not there yet but I’m getting there. It’s a work in progress as most issues of the heart are.

Recovery and healing are beautiful realities but only possible, I believe, through the grace and love of God.


Friday, January 11, 2013

5 Confessions


Confession is the hot topic for day 11 of the January Blog A Day challenge. I decided to air a little bit of my dirty laundry and give you these 5 oh so scandalous confessions below!

1. Despite my utter disdain for reality TV I somehow always end up getting pulled into watching The Bachelor or The Bachelorette (head hung in shame). Season after season I promise myself I’m not going to but then I get a little curious & watch a few minutes of it. And as you can imagine these few minutes turn into the whole show… then slowing but surely, the whole season. Ugh! Can you say vicious cycle? I watched half of the season premiere on Monday and while I like Sean, the girls were so embarrassing I could barley stand to look at the screen lol. Seriously they were making me ashamed of my gender. So maybe that’ll break the cycle. 

2. I can make things like Crème Brulee and Tiramisu but just barely learned how to use the toaster. I know, I know! Ironic, huh? But in my defense I never was much for toast, toaster waffles, and never even ate many pop tarts. So you can think me crazy all you want but the toaster and I just never had much of a use for each other that’s all. I simply had no toasting needs. But all is well, I can now make toast if need be. I caught on pretty quickly, I‘m smart like that.

3. I may be half Spanish but I can’t speak it to save my life lol. I’ve tried to learn a little over the years; both my dad and grandma tried to teach my sister and I when we were kids. I quickly realized my white side took over when I tried to speak it lol. So needless to say, it never stuck. Except my grandma did teach my sister and I , per our request, to say “oy with the poodles” (a Gilmore Girls reference for those who don’t know) in Spanish which I think was oy con la poodles lol. But that’s about it. But I like to think the fact that I can cook really good Mexican food makes up for this. I actually would love to learn how to speak French, it just sounds so lovely to me.

4. I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie in the theater. It’s been years. I know, it’s a little crazy. Most people can’t believe that when I tell them lol. But I’m not much of a movie person and my family never was either; plus it’s so expensive. I usually just wait for movies I want to see (which honestly are few and far between) to come on pay per view. But at the same time I do kind of miss it. And kinda wish I could’ve seen the last Twilight movie in the theater… hmm, that was sort of a confession too wasn’t it? Ha! This one was a double whammy. :D

5. I’ve sort of been in a blogging funk since summer and I can’t seem to shake it. Oh I have ideas of things I want to write about but can’t seem to get them out of my heart and head onto a computer screen. And I’ve just been frustrated with the whole blogging thing in general lately. I just get so tired of all the perfection. The need for things to look perfect and sound perfect. It sometimes feels like we bloggers are on a constant quest to have more professional looking layouts and photos. It can start to feel more like business than fun; how to get people to shop at your store so to speak and how to get them to keep coming back.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make your blog as good as it can be but it’s when I find myself getting caught up in it all that it becomes exhausting. I simply can’t live up to that perfection. It’s easy for me to forget that I started blogging for self expression not perfection. 

So there are 5 of my dirty little secrets… would love to hear a few of your confessions if you’re game to share. Also, if you want to get involved with the January Blog A Day head on over to either one of these ladies lovely blogs, grab a button, and get to writing! :)


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Favorite Memory – Serenaded By A Stranger


I must say I’m quite proud of myself for making it to day 10 on the January Blog A Day challenge. Which…yeah okay, since I started the challenge 9 days late is technically day 2 for me…you know if you want to nit pick and all. But that in and of itself is a small miracle really. :D Especially since I’ve never been one of those blog everyday type of girls. But it’s a good way to get the creative juices flowing and get writing.

Today’s topic is “Memory”. One of my favorite memories involves two of my very favorite people, my sister, Cecily and my cousin, Pam. If you know anything about the three of us it’s that we love music, especially live music. We’ve gone to several concerts together over the years, more than I can count actually. And while all of these shows and the road trips to & from have created a lot of fun memories, the one that sticks out the most to me involves being serenaded under the April stars by a random musician we met in Dallas.

In April of 2009 my parents took the three of us to a concert in Dallas called The Rock & Worship Roadshow. It was an awesome show at the American Airlines Center where we, along with 19,000 others, rocked out to Hawk Nelson, Jeremy Camp, MercyMe, Tenth Avenue North, and Addison Road. We had a blast!


(My sister, my cousin, and I outside the American Airlines Center before the concert in 2009.)

The next evening, after going out to dinner and indulging on yummy cupcakes from Sprinkles, we went out to the hotel pool, coffee in hand to start writing a review of the concert for our blog, The Waking. As we were writing, a guy comes walking out with his acoustic guitar in one hand and beer in the other. He walks over to us and asks if he could play us a few songs, we skeptically said yes.

He then asked if we had any requests and what were some of the bands we liked. We named off a few bands to which he asked, “Jesus music?”, ha! I suppose it was obvious. He asked “What about Glory Glory Hallelujah?” But instead of singing that song he just made up his own words and in turn really surprised us. For one thing we, in all honesty, weren’t expecting him to be that good lol. And then for a guy who wasn’t even a Christian to make up a really pretty worshipful song like that on the spot was rather impressive.

He had a voice reminiscent of Jason Mraz or G. Love. And while he wasn’t particularly handsome, he had a great smile and beautiful blue eyes hidden behind glasses. He looked to have been in his late twenties and was cute in a rugged band guy sort of way. He introduced himself as Rusty Reed and said he was in town to play a show later that night with Bob Marley's band, The Wailers.

We then spent the rest of the evening out by the pool with the cool breeze blowing talking, laughing, and listening to him sing us songs. Songs such as “Black Bird” & “Let It Be” by The Beatles, “No Woman No Cry” by Bob Marley,  a Snoop Dog cover done country style, per our request Britney Spear’s “Oops I Did It Again” lol (which was better than the original actually), and an original song inserting in all of our names, ha!

We talked about playing the guitar and how he used to play worship songs for a church youth group when he was younger. He had a really sweet kinda chill personality about him. And though I think we were trying to fight it the three of us were smitten kittens with this guy. Googley eyed and giggling way more than we’d even care to admit. It was the guy with the guitar thing, darn it if we weren’t suckers for that (Well I still kinda am… the other two are now married … to non guitar players no less ;))

It was getting kind of late and just about time for us to say our goodbyes. But before we did we asked if we could film him singing one of his original songs for our blog. He came up with a really cool song on the spot, we filmed it and then said our goodbyes. I had this video on my computer all these years but unfortunately lost it when my computer crashed this summer. Luckily, I’m pretty sure my sister has it on hers.

Rusty may not have known it but he made a really fun random memory for three girls who loved anything having to do with live music… and cute musicians. ;)


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Remember To Make It With Love


I may be a little tardy to the party but I’m joining in the fun anyway. I stumbled upon this January Blog A Day on yesterday and decided to take on the challenge. Which, ahem, in all honesty could be pointless because I’m really bad with stuff like this … I’ve started the “photo a day” challenges a few times and have not made it past the first day. So don’t be surprised if this turns out the same way and this is the only one you ever read lol.

The day 9 challenge is “Made with Love”. This phrase instantly makes me think of what my dad sometimes tells my mom and I when we’re in the kitchen together cooking, “Remember to make it with love” or “Be sure to put love into it”. There are also those times when things don’t turn out quite right and he’ll say, “you didn’t put love into it”. Which honestly, between you and me, can be a smidge irritating when you’re lamenting a recipe gone wrong. But don’t tell him that I told you that, ha! He can always tell if there’s something missing in a recipe and just by tasting it, tell you exactly what that something is.

He’s probably like this because of my grandma, who’s wonderful cooking, full of lots flavor and yes, lots of love, spoiled us all. She would often times be known to cook up a big pan of Enchiladas, Spanish rice (she made the best Spanish rice known to man!), beans, and homemade tortillas on any given day for the whole extended family to come feast and enjoy. And feast we did! Oh and don’t even get me started on the holidays! I can still see her in her tiny kitchen cooking up a storm. The most amazing aromas wafting through the house. We still make her recipe for dressing every year. It’s simply a classic.


(A photo of my grandma cooking in her kitchen in the ‘90s. This is one of my favorite photos of her.)

She very much embodied what I think it means to make food with love. She loved cooking for her family. She loved being around her kitchen table, surrounded by her family talking, laughing, and sharing a meal. My grandpa, who was also a great cook in his own right, always there by her side assisting her. If one of her kids or grandkids asked her to make tortillas for them she would instantly spring into action, making a dozen (sometimes more) perfect tortillas in no time. And she always did it with a happy disposition. She always seemed glad to do it! I think it was one of the ways she showed her love.

I still remember as a kid when she would let us make our own tortillas. We’d form the dough and roll it out with her rolling pin then she’d cook them for us. I loved eating those tortillas right off the stove with butter. No store bought brand even compares, trust me. In recent years my mom, my sister, and I have ventured to recreate them and just can’t seem to get them right.

Gigantic pancakes on early Saturday mornings, roast and potatoes Sunday after church, her dressing & potato salad on Thanksgiving & Christmas, Coconut Cake on Christmas, tamales on New Years Eve. Those are just some of the special dishes of hers I still swoon over today.

My grandma past away a little over a year ago and we miss her like crazy. But I’m proud to carry on her recipes and traditions. Getting in the kitchen, putting on one of her vintage aprons, and cooking up her recipes is a fun and special way for me to keep her memory alive. Even though at times it can feel like a guessing game as there are rarely any exact measurements written down in her recipes. She was simply a pro at just eyeballing it. So it takes a little testing and tweaking to get the food just right. But it’s so worth it!

My grandma really taught me what it means to make food with love. She taught me that cooking for people is a way of showing them love. That sharing a meal together is important. I may not be as good of a cook as she was yet but because of her I will always strive to make my food with lots of love.


Monday, January 7, 2013

A Peek into My Christmas 2012!

A week into January and the tree is finally down and the decorations are put away… and I must say that I’m already going through Christmas withdraw. Christmas 2012 was such a good one! I feel like it totally made up for Christmas 2011, which in all honesty, was kind of a dud with a lot of stressful things going on and being sick with the flu. But this Christmas was so nice! I feel like I really got to soak up every single second of my favorite holiday. It was full of a lot of decorating, too much baking, lots of Christmas music, shopping, movie watching, a Christmas concert, enjoying old traditions & creating new ones, and time with family.

Christmas day was really low key as it was just my parents and I. We opened presents that morning and then got to open a few more on Skype with my sister who now lives in GA with her husband. It was our first Christmas without her here and we missed her, thankfully Skype makes it a little bit easier. Even though it was just the three of us my mom and I still cooked up enough food to feed a whole army lol. Needless to say, we had left overs pretty much all week. After eating we basically spent the rest of the day watching Christmas movies.

As much as I love Christmas day I really think all the days leading up to Christmas are honestly my favorite part. There are so many fun and happy memories made over the course of the whole month of December. So here are some of my favorite photos from this holiday season. :)

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My Christmas season started out a little odd as I was asked by a family friend to help judge a Christmas dog costume contest my town was having. It was just so goofy I couldn’t resist! These little cuties; dressed as a crab, a shark, and fish were the prize winning pups. Oh the wonders of living in a small town. ;)



Our living room all decked out for Christmas!


Handmade Christmas tree ornaments! My sister and I went all crafty this year. I made cupcake ornaments and sent a couple out as gifts to her and my cousin. And my sister made the bulb with fake snow and a picture of all of us at her wedding. So beautiful, makes for such a sweet keepsake!


Table set for Christmas dinner!

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Christmas in the kitchen and my pretty pink tree! I would honestly have a tree in every room if I could.


Yes, it’s a Christmas tree made out of cupcake liners!! Thank you Pinterest! :D


Oh the holiday baking! So many treats so little time. These are Peppermint Bark Brownies!


Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes I made for my churches Christmas dinner. So delish!


S’more Pops also for church dinner.


Some of the ugliest sugar cookies you will ever see courtesy of my mom and I. Yes, we have the cookie decorating skills of a 5 year old... and I have made peace with that lol. Though I must say, I was quite proud of my star shaped “peace” cookie. A small victory for me really. Contrary to what they look like they were actually pretty tasty.


The very best toffee I have ever made in my life, thanks to a book I received for Christmas called “A Homemade Life” by author & food blogger, Molly Wizenberg. This was Molly’s mom’s recipe and let me tell you, it’s utter perfection! Never in your life have you tasted toffee so amazing! I made this on New Years Eve and it went fast! By the way, if you haven’t read Molly’s book, do it, it’s part memoir part recipe collection. If you’re a foodie you’ll fall in love with it, trust me.

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And last but not least, the bay in my town all decorated for the holidays! It’s so lovely to just take a stroll at the bay with the cool December air blowing and everything all lit up. Very peaceful!

So that’s a little peek into my 2012 Christmas season! Hope you enjoyed looking around and that your holidays were lovely as well! :)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Those Days Are Grace – New Years Reflection


Happy New Years, friends! Hope you’re having a lovely 2013 so far… even if we are only 6 days in. I rang in the new year with my parents. We ate way too many tamales, had the most amazing toffee for dessert, watched the ball drop, had prayer together, and toasted with sparkling grape juice. This has become our yearly tradition and I kinda love it. How ever you said goodbye to 2012 and hello to 2013 I hope you had fun!

Oh boy, reflecting on 2012 is honestly kind of hard and I think I’ve been avoiding it. The blogosphere has been exploding with year end thoughts and new years resolutions all week. I had been wanting to write something but considered skipping it all together because… well, because frankly, a lot of 2012 kind of sucked lol.

Really, even though it may not sound like it right now, I’m usually a positive, glass half full type of person but hey, just being honest here. 2012…and 2011 were not particularly fun years. I mean there were definitely good moments but majority of the past couple of years were full of things I’d just as soon forget if I could. They were wrought with a lot of turmoil, tears, and hurt. Broken relationships, broken trust, saying goodbye when I didn’t have a clue how, losing a couple friendships that I really didn’t want to let go of…but wasn’t given much of a choice.

However, I simply can’t ignore the beauty in the midst of the ashes. In the midst of all of the turmoil God has been working … sometimes ever so quietly but I’ve seen his fingerprints. Relationships are being restored and hearts are in recovery, I believe. Forgiveness is always on going but it’s happening. This has also been a year of God bringing my dreams, dreams that I let die in all the pain, back to life in my heart. But in a new way.

And the biggest thing of all is that I got to see God do something this year in someone’s life that I never ever thought I would see happen. I had given up hope that it would ever happen. I wish I could go into more detail because I hate when people are so vague sometimes but all I can say is that it’s a true miracle. And I am so glad that I am getting to see it. It hasn’t been the easiest road and there is still so far to go but man is God working. And my heart can’t express how grateful I am for that.

I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned this year is that God loves us so much that he’s not content to let us just stray away from him. No, he passionately and relentlessly pursues our hearts. He will do whatever it takes to bring our hearts back to him. He’s not a passive God. He loves us even in our mess but he loves us too much to just leave us in our mess. And maybe 2012 was worth it just to get to see this in action.


I feel like I’m entering into 2013 with a healthy dose of excitement and admittedly a little bit of fear. There’s a lot of changes ahead this year and Lord knows I’m not good with change. But these changes are good. I’m finally going to pursue something I really love and am really passionate about. I’m finally taking steps to making these dreams of mine come true. And that’s a good thing. I’ve known what I’ve wanted for a really long time but have just been too scared to go after it. So it’s about freakin’ time, I think.

And really in the end, while I’m afraid of all the changes and I know it’s not going to be easy, I think I’m more afraid of not changing. I’m more afraid of entering into 2014 not having pursued any of these dreams spilling out of my heart.

So yes, while 2011 and 2012 were rough they are in the past now and I’m so glad that they are. And I don’t plan on taking them with me, I can’t. I won’t let the past weigh down the future.

I remember some years back reading a blog by the founder of To Write Love On Her Arms, Jamie Tworkowski (who’s kind of a hero of mine), where he said something that always stuck with me, “Yesterday is dead and over. Wrapped in grace. Those days are grace. You are still alive, and today is the most interesting day. Today is the best place to live”. That’s how I want to live in this new year, knowing that those days that are dead and over are wrapped in the grace of God. That today is the very best place for me to live.

2011 and 2012 are grace. 2013 is the best place to live.