Sunday Blessings – Prayers for Iraq

I admit I am not the best at staying in tune with worldly current events. I watch a little bit of local news and Brian Williams after work during the week, but easily get caught up in my own life happenings without much regard for the world around me. Honestly, I rely on Greg, and sometimes Twitter, to keep filled in on the most important stories.

The Christian persecution happening in Iraq has really made me think. I am not naive to the reality of religious persecution in many other places, including here in America, but the media is focusing on Iraq so that’s where my mind is specifically. As a communication major in college, something one professor said regarding the media has always stuck in my mind: “The media doesn’t tell us what to think, but tells us what to think about.” Now, it could easily be argued certain media channels are more bias towards certain viewpoints over others. That’s why I try to read/watch a variety of media outlets to get different viewpoints to make my own conclusions.

Okay, I’m not turing this into a post all about the media. The point is, out of all the issues and events in the world, good or bad, the media is focusing heavily on Iraq and the persecution against Christians. So, through the relatively little knowledge I do have on everything that’s happening, the media has caused me to think about this issue more in depth.

I’m also currently doing a Bible study on the book of Daniel by Beth Moore (amazing!!!) with a group of friends. One particular lesson of the study made us deeply question our willingness to be loyal to God even when faced with a fire, like a real life, literal FIRE right in front of us. Would we hold true to our faith and declare ourselves daughters of Christ even if it meant we’d have to walk into the fire?

It is so difficult for me to even comprehend what that would be like. Yet it is reality for far too many people in the world. In my little American suburb, my worst hardships in life are NOTHING compared to something like that. I am ashamed to even call them “hardships.”

In the past, I have been guilty of emotionally distancing myself from stories in the news like this. It may seem from thousands of miles away I am disconnected to the persecution, the hate, the torture, and the pain for being identified as a Christian. Then I read this blog post last week after a friend shared it on Instagram. Candace, the author of the blog, wrote inspiring words which have ignited a new flame in me (no pun intended). While I can’t physically put myself in their shoes, I am grateful to live in a country where I can do something – I can offer persistent PRAYER openly and freely. I pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ facing persecution, not just in Iraq, but all over the world.


Lemon Cupcakes & Silicone Baking Cups

La-la-la! LEMON! I’m feeling bright and cheery today, so a bright and cheery lemon cupcake fits in just perfectly. 
You probably remember me saying in the past how citrus-y desserts rarely catch my attention. Vanilla, chocolate, caramel, cinnamon, red velvet…all top picks above anything citrus like lemon or lime. But more often than not, I am pleasantly surprised by them. They’re refreshing and offer a balance of sweet and tart that you can’t get anywhere else. 

The kind people at The New York Baking Co. sent me these silicone cups (don’t worry – they’re BPA free!), giving me all the more reason to bake something special. The baked cupcakes pulled away ever so slightly from the cups while baking, making them pop right out without even hardly trying. No falling apart and no leaving half of the cupcake behind in the liner (not that I would ever let that happen anyway). 
Not only do reusable cups like this save on paper and waste, but they’re also dishwasher safe. Laundry and kitchen cleaning are the two household chores I dislike most, so anything to make kitchen clean-up easier gets an extra thumbs up in my book.

Enough about the baking cups. The cupcakes themselves did not disappoint. Although, it did take me a day to fully appreciate them. See, I have a problem where I never like what I bake right away. Whenever I try something right out of the oven, or even an hour later, I don’t think it tastes good. When I let some time pass and try it again later on, I will want to eat every last bite. So what changes in that time period?

One theory I have is that while I’m baking, I’m usually taking tastes of the batter here and tastes of the frosting there, which may be suppressing my appetite. By the time the real thing is ready to go, I’m not as into it.

Or, maybe it’s the idea that things simply taste better when other people make them for you. PB&J, Kraft Mac and Cheese…the simple childhood classics are always best when made by Mom or Dad, am I right? But I usually don’t have this problem when it comes to my own cooking. I’m almost always pleased with what I cook (as opposed to bake) straight off the bat.

Whatever the case may be, in the end I loved these little citrus treats and I know you will too.

I followed Jessica’s recipe for Fluffy Lemon Cupcakes, only subbed homemade sugar frosting for the whipped coconut cream (only because I didn’t have the right kind of coconut milk on hand, but I look forward to trying it next time). 

If you’re interested in the silicone baking cups, you can purchase a 12-pack on Amazon for $11.95*.

*I updated this post on 8/7/14 to reflect the increased price I was recently made aware of.

Sunday Blessings – The Blog’s 3rd Birthday

THREE YEARS! This little baby blog just turned 3 this past Thursday and to be honest I had completely lost track of time. It was my devoted and loyal reader, my grandma (GG), who commented on my Facebook page about the birthday. She’s the best 🙂 Who else could have I counted on to pay attention the date for me? 🙂 Love you, G!

With the short notice, I wasn’t able to get the celebratory post up in time. It’s all for the best though because now I can tell you in a traditional Sunday Blessings post about how blessed I am to have this outlet and readers like you. I realize some of you may be long-time, loyal readers, and some of you may be reading for the first time. Some of you have stuck with me through the consistent posting times, and got bored with my lack of posting for quite awhile as well. However it makes no difference to me. I am so grateful for each and every reader taking time out of their busy lives to read what I have to say.

It’s also a bittersweet time, because as I’ve mentioned every year, August 1st is the anniversary of my good friend, college roommate, and teammate’s passing three years ago as well. That was by far the hardest loss I’ve ever had to endure and my heart still breaks when I think of Morgan losing her life so, so young. But I also have peace knowing our beautiful angel is in heaven.

such babies we were!

On a happier note, this third year in the blogosphere was a fun one. Since last July 31st:

We bought a house, celebrated our first Thanksgiving as a married couple in said house.
I started a new job and was able to take two mini vacations in between. I went to Orlando to visit Brooke where we celebrated our birthdays by getting up close and personal with beluga whales. Then I went to Breckenridge, CO with Greg to ski in the winter wonderland.

I competed with other local bloggers in the Food Lion Frugal Cook Off. With the help of Val, our Mexican style dish won!

When springtime rolled around, Greg and I planted a garden in our backyard and were thrilled when our mixed greens were ready to harvest! We’ve also grown tomatoes galore, jalapeños, bell peppers, cucumbers, onions.

Some of my favorite recipes from the blog’s third year include:

(funny to see that all of those recipes were created right around the time I had off between jobs. I was staying quite productive in the kitchen during that transition!)

Again, I hope you all know how much I appreciate you and love sharing my thoughts on faith, food and daily life in general with you. Here’s to year #4!

See also:
2nd Blog Birthday
1st Blog Birthday
1st Post Ever!

5 Items in My Dream Survival Kit

I am usually not one for hypothetical questions. I like rationality and focusing on what is, rather than dreaming about the “what ifs.” When Man Crates contacted me a couple weeks ago asking me to consider being stranded on an island, I shrugged off the idea at first. What was the point?

Well. I thought about it some more and in the end, I went with it. By doing so, I realized how much I really do appreciate (and NEED) certain things in my life.

Man Crates asked me if I were to, heaven forbid, ever be stranded on a desert island, what would be my five absolute must-have items. So, all humans, Great Danes, and modern technology aside, this is what I choose:

1. Bible. 
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. -Philippians 4:13. Pretty much sums it up! Christ is my rock and God’s word would bring me peace in what would surely be a scary time for a homebody and indoors kinda girl like myself.

2. Down comforter.
I’m almost always cold and love snuggling up in a fluffy comforter. Even if it’s a tropical island and hot, hot, hot, I would surely enjoy something soft to lay on.

3. Journal and a pen.
Writing my thoughts and prayers would be crucial for my sanity. I could make lists and doodle to pass the time. And more importantly, I could write letters to my loved ones in hopes of seeing them again someday too.

4. Photo album.
My family is everything to me. I would need photos of Greg, Zoey and my closest family members and friends to put a smile on my face.

(such a baby!!!!)

5. Publix’s Roadrunner Raspberry frozen yogurt. I know one should never assume, but let’s just say this hypothetical desert island had fruit trees, drinkable water, and maybe some other basic foods I could kind-of-sort-of live off of (I know nothing about the wilderness, so I really wouldn’t make it long at all…) BUT if I did have some essential nutrients for my body and wasn’t completely starving to death, I sure would need to satisfy my sweet tooth somehow! Publix fro yo would obviously be my top pick.

Man Crates ships various themed gift boxes for men in their custom crates, without the wrapping paper, ribbons and other fluff men simply don’t care about. Such a cool concept! I certainly know how difficult shopping for men can be. Between my dad, step-dad, Greg and two brothers, to name a few, I struggle every Christmas and birthday to find something just right.

One thing I do love is putting together gift bags/baskets. I usually know of a few smaller, everyday things my loved ones enjoy, whether it’s a particular snack, coffee, restaurant gift cards, everyday essentials, etc. Combining all of someone’s favorite things into one package is sometimes easier to come up with than a single, more expensive gift that you’re not sure they’ll like.

I would be so, so happy to receive a gift box with any combination of those “survival kit” items on my list. (hint, hint Greg!) Ha, just kidding. He actually did get me a journal (and pink pen!) for our anniversary and a small portion of our income goes towards Publix fro yo every week so…..I’m all set 🙂

Tell me! What’s one or two things that would be in your survival kit?

*I received no compensation of any kind for Man Crates’s publicity in this post.