Words on Grace

Friday, October 23, 2015

You should also know that I'm over at Hannah's blog taking part in her "What Grace Means To Me" series!

I'd love to have you pop over there to read my post. See you there! :)

Four Became Five: A Thursday Drive

I was planning to share these pictures with you yesterday...but, I didn't get around to it, so today it is!!! I was going to tell you all about the Thursday drive I took and it was going to be the prettiest post ever with the perfect balance of beautiful pictures and nostalgia. It's Friday and the drive didn't happen exactly four Thursdays ago anymore. BUT. That doesn't change anything other than one little word.

Today, four became five.

I woke up to RAIN on my first day in South Carolina. To be honest, I was hoping for some good southern storms, so I really wasn't bothered by it at all. We decided to brave the rain (which happened to be coming and going) and head to the mountains. My Dad got off of work early and we were able to head out as soon as we finished lunch. My Dad did the driving, my aunt sat in the front seat, and I was crammed into the back with my Grandparents thinking about how many times we had made this same drive before. I use the word crammed in the fondest of senses, by the way.

Our first stop was the flowering bridge at Lake Lure. My Grandma has been telling me about this bridge for ages. She and my Grandpa sometimes drive up there to walk it one more time and have ice cream when they are done. We got out and enjoyed looking at every plant. I was amazed to see a banana tree and all kinds of things that I had never seen before. We stopped for the longest time to watch a hummingbird and TRY our best to get some shots of him.

After we left the bridge, we headed into the village where they planned to poke through the gift shops and get ice cream. Unfortunately, I thought we were there to hike, so I was trying to hurry along because I knew it was getting late. I turned up the ice cream and then realized that we wouldn't have time to do the hiking that day after all because we had to be at a car dealership to pick something up before it closed. Have the ice cream and take your time to enjoy it! 

After we loaded ourselves back into the car, we made it the dealership in plenty of time and that's when the day started to get interesting. We ran into an accident on 26, so my Dad immediately got off and took a different road. That road ended up backing up because of a million people having the same thought that my Dad had and the city also had a crew out doing some surveying.

Our day wasn't over yet! My Dad wanted to make sure we got in some sort of hiking, so road block after road block aside, we had a destination in mind. At that point, we stopped in at a McDonald's because everyone was ready for something besides the snacks that my Grandpa packed. Fun note: It was there that I discovered they would begin rolling out the all day breakfast menu. We loaded back into the car one more time and thanks to the food in our bellies, we felt unstoppable. At least, I did.  I decided that it was time to make the most of this day. Things weren't going as planned, so it was time to enjoy plan b! And that's exactly what I did...

That was part one of our Thursday drive (there will only be one more part to this post, I promise)!

I'd love to hear all about your idea of a perfect drive.

Pumpkin Bread

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

When October rolls around, I have finally given into fall and I start craving comfort food. This fall has been no different. My oven has been on. Dinners have started to include warm vegetables and gravies and slow roasted meats. In the mornings, I find myself reaching for something warm and spicy and filling. 

After looking high and low for a pumpkin bread recipe that wasn't loaded with seeds or topped with some kind of streusel crumble or maple glaze, I gave up and decided to develop my own. With the confidence given to me by my research (aka pouring over my favorite quick bread recipes), I decided that I was ready to take the leap and give it a go. 

I wrote out a recipe. I gathered ingredients. I got out the measuring spoons and mixing bowls. When I went to take the bread pan out of the cupboard, I realized that my bread pan was at the other house. At that point, I did what every desperate baker would do. I went over to the neighbor's house and asked Don if I could borrow a bread pan. He assured me that I certainly could IF he could find one. He looked and looked and then gave up, but told me that if he found one in the next ten minutes he would bring it over.

That's when I trudged back across the street in defeat. I was going to be making the pumpkin bread, but if Don couldn't find a pan I had to decide whether I would try another neighbor or make a quick trip to the store to buy one. Thankfully, about six minutes later, Don rang the doorbell with the look of victory on his face!

Now that my bread pan saga is out of the way, let's get baking! Gather your supplies. If you don't have a bread pan, you know what to do! 

We begin by mixing all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. I use a wooden spoon, but you can use whatever you prefer. Make sure that all of the clumps of brown sugar are nice and broken up, then set the mixture aside.

Once you've got your dry ingredients together, you're ready to start working on the wet stuff. Crack your egg in a small bowl and whisk it until it is smooth.

Add in the rest of the wet ingredients. This was the trickiest part of the recipe. Pumpkin is moist on its own, but when you deal with pumpkin you still need to add quite a bit of extra liquid.

Now, we add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. And...

 STIR. Remember what I said about baking with pumpkin? If your batter looks too dry, add a bit more milk. Don't be shy about it. You can handle this adjusting thing!

Pour your batter into your your neighbor's greased bread pan that he so kindly let you borrow and pop the bread into the oven for about 55 - 60 minutes.

When a knife comes out of the bread clean, your loaf is ready to come out of the oven! Place your bread onto a cooling rack. Or, in the case of my current hodge podge kitchen, an upside down muffin tin (which I did NOT borrow from Don). Let your loaf rest for about 10 minutes, then run a knife along the edges before removing the bread from the pan. Once it is completely cool, wrap it in plastic.

I was going to keep this bread stored on the counter, but decided that it might be better off in the fridge. When I want a slice of pumpkiny goodness, I cut a piece off of the loaf, put it under the broiler for about five minutes and then give it a nice bit of butter.

If you happen to be into putting nuts or raisins (or even chocolate chips) into your quick breads, I would tell you to GO FOR IT! This recipe has all kinds of room for adaptations!

I really should have called this bread "You Can't Stop Me Pumpkin Bread", because despite countless obstacles, it came together exactly as I hoped it would! Let this be a lesson to all of us. No recipe? No problem. No bread pan? Borrow one. No cooling rack? Improvise.

Happy Baking!!!

Pumpkin Bread

2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
pinch nutmeg (less than an 1/8 tsp.)

1 egg
1/4 c. cooking oil (peanut, vegetable, melted coconut, it's up to you)
1 c. pumpkin puree
3 Tbsp. buttermilk + 1/2 c. milk

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease loaf pan.

Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, making sure all the clumps of brown sugar are broken up. Set aside.

Whisk egg in a small bowl. Add the rest of the wet ingredients and stir until smooth.

Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients, stirring until combined. Adding more milk if necessary (it doesn't need to be buttermilk).

Pour batter into greased loaf pan and bake for 55-60 minutes or until knife comes out clean. Allow to cool on a rack for about 10 minutes before running a knife along the edges and then removing the loaf from the pan.

Once completely cool, store the bread wrapped in plastic. Whether you leave it on the counter or pop it into the fridge is up to you!


Do you have a favorite quick bread recipe?

Do you have any funny baking stories? I'd love to hear about them. 

Ask & Answer pt. 6

Friday, October 16, 2015

September 30, 2015

These posts are a great way for us to get to know each other better! You guys always come up with great questions...I can't wait to hear your answers in the comments! Here are mine:

What are you working on currently?

The thing that has been weighing on my mind the most is getting this blog back up and running. After taking things REALLY slow the last few months, I know I need to do better! This list of resolves has also been something I've been going over.

What is your favorite food?

I think I answer this question differently every time I come across it...Today I'm going to go with hamburgers. It's my default when I go out to eat and it's also the thing I crave most alllll summer long. 

Of all the things that you are into, are there any that caught you by surprise? 

I wrote about it last fall, but I've developed a love for poetry which is something I never thought would happen.

What are five things that are bringing you joy right now?

Opening the curtains first thing in the morning, the colors of fall against the blue sky, getting to know people through our church and the play my brother and sister are in, a few minutes in the afternoon sunshine, evenings at home (though they are few and far between).

Be sure to share your answers to each of these questions!!! Feel free to leave me more questions for next time. I keep a list going, so leave them in a comment or email them to me whenever you think of them!

Butterfly Minds

Thursday, October 15, 2015

September 24, 2015
"Our culture encourages us to have butterfly minds, flitting from one thought to another without going deep into anything." J.I. Packer

We are constantly surrounded by all kinds of things seeking to grab our attention, even if we only give them a few seconds of our time. Chances are that before you clicked on the link to this post, you had just finished reading a post or two before it. Perhaps you were scrolling through some form of social media.

The fact is, Packer's words are spot on and I firmly believe that this is not the way God meant for our minds to function. I will be the first person to admit that I am so guilty of using my mind in ways that are in direct rebellion to God. I've been very open about my tendency to worry. These words by Packer clued me into the diagnosis of another problem that I was only vaguely aware of.

I don't have to tell you how butterfly minds work. You know and I do too. If you find yourself lost in the fog of flitting from one thought to another, you're not alone. BUT, we don't have to give into the tendency that our culture encourages.

The mind is a gift and a tool and when the Spirit breathed new life into our soul, He also did a work on our minds. Our minds are not part of this culture. If we let allow them to fit into it, they will, but there is grace that shows us the way out of this trap.

When I read the Gospels, Christ's relationship with the Father is what inspires me more than anything else. I want to have the mind of Christ living in me. The mind of Christ was no butterfly mind - it was focused, it was sure, and it was aimed at guiding the body of the God-Man to live and think and act for the glory of the Father.

The fact is, that same mind is ours because of Christ. In Philippians 2:5 Paul exhorts believers to, "Have this mind [of humility] among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus..." We know from reading the Bible that Christ was no flitter. We know from experience that flitting does not satisfy.

We are here to experience and share and magnify the name of our Lord. Romans 12:2 explains the importance and result of being freed from all of this flitting, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

 It's up to each of us to figure out what it will take to teach our minds to stand strong against distractions. The outcome will be worth the effort because transformation happens by the renewal of our minds.

Do you share this struggle?

How have you or are you working to overcome it?

My Idea of Comfort Food: A Recipe For Salisbury Steak

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Getting dinner on the table for a family of five can prove to be a challenge. Add busy schedules to the mix and sometimes you find yourself cooking said dinner only to eat it by yourself. Oh, they'll eat the food, it just might be a few hours. That's the season we're in right now.

It used to be that dinner was on the table most nights somewhere around 5:30. Everybody would show up and eat and then one lucky person would find themselves on KP duty. We'd go around the table talking about our day or quizing each other on some kind of trivia or mental math. If somebody couldn't make it to dinner, so be it, but most of the seats were always filled.

Now that my younger brother and sister are at the height of their teenage years, family dinners look a lot different. Lately, we've been eating sometime around 4 so that we can have the kitchen tidied and be on our way out the door to rehearsals with plenty of time to get there.

The point to all of this is: people need to eat. I believe in fixing full meals and sitting down to enjoy them. Sometimes you chat with people, sometimes you read the newspaper, and sometimes you plunk down in front of the tv. I like food that tastes good, fills you up, and begs you to take your time with it.

Salisbury Steak is a main dish I put on my list of foods to master last year. It's one of my favorites and whenever I make it, I feel so accomplished even though it is super simple. I like to serve it alongside mashed potatoes and green beans heated with one beef bullion cube (my Mom's secret to THE best green beans). This whole meal can be on the table in about 30 minutes.

Salisbury Steak
adapted from allrecipes and Taste of Home

1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 1/2 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1 egg
1/2 c. fine dry bread crumbs
1 tsp. Lipton Onion Soup Mix, reserve rest of packet for sauce*

Mix meat with all the ingredients above and form into about 7 patties. Patties should be about 4ish-inches long and oval shaped.

Brown patties on both sides in a skilled over med-high heat. Remove from skillet.

1/2 pkg. mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 TBSP. butter
2 TBSP. flour
2 c. water
Remaining Lipton Onion Soup Mix*
1/4 c. ketchup
1 TBSP. worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. ground mustard

Brown mushrooms in about half of the butter over med-low heat in the skillet you used to brown the steaks.

Add the rest of the butter and then sprinkle with the flour, stirring until the flour is absorbed.

Add the water and stir.

Add soup mix, ketchup, worcestershire sauce, and ground mustard, stirring to combine. Turn up the heat to get a simmer going. Continue stirring.

Once your mixture begins to look like gravy, turn down the heat, add the steaks, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Enjoy!

*I have made this without Lipton Onion Soup Mix. Before starting the recipe, I mixed the following spices together in a bowl: 1 1/4 tsp. onion powder, 1/4 tsp. dried parsley, 1/8 tsp. paprika, 1/8 tsp. pepper.

I used about 1/4 tsp. of this mixture in the steak and then used the rest in the sauce. I added 1 tsp. of Beef "Better Than Boullion" when I added the water to the sauce and found that the ketchup needs to be reduced to about 2 TBSP. with this rendition of the recipe.

*   *   * 

Just in case getting everything on the table at once is not your thing, I've added my tips to the recipe page. The process of preparing this meal and then sharing it with the ones you love is pretty much exactly what I have in mind when it comes to comfort food!

What's your idea of comfort food?

What season are you in when it comes to family dinners? 

First Sunday In Autumn

Monday, October 12, 2015

I found myself in South Carolina for the first Sunday in autumn. Rain was coming down softly and gently for the fifth day in a row. I woke up early like I do so often and eased my way into the day all by myself while I waited for the rest of the house to begin their stirring. My brother answered his phone with that rough morning voice of his saying that he wasn't quite ready to face the day just yet.

My Dad got up and turned on the TV for the weather report. We really wanted to go hiking but it turned out that the rain was going to keep us from my beloved mountains. After the news, there was a snippet with some footage of the leaves changing somewhere in New England. In that moment I knew that I wanted to go take some pictures of my own before the day was over.

We headed to my Grandparents' house to spend the day with them. We listened to stories of days gone by, sat in comfortable silence, and tried to figure out what we should do with the day. When the rain eased up a bit, I announced that I was going to go take a picture walk. My brother and his dog came along and then we were joined by my Dad and Grandpa too. We walked through the pasture and down towards the lake before the rain started up again. We waited it out in the cover of the trees testing out my brother's new ear muffs and plinking a few cans. We came across a frog that had seen better days on our walk up the driveway. And then we headed back down to the house where I challenged my brother to a few games of backgammon. For a day we were kids again with nowhere to be and no goodbyes in sight...

The day was rainy and gray and the sun was shining in my heart! The ache of missing is deep, but memories are a real gift from God. I hold onto the sunny days like that first Sunday in autumn where memories are made. When I do, their light shines through. God puts us in families for a reason and I'm so glad for the all the love that flows through the souls He has placed into my life.

Tell me about a memory of yours that reminds you of the gift of family that God has given you. I'd love to hear about it!

Currently: October 2015

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Sept. 24, 2015

The leaves are dropping, the temperatures are all over the place, and the days are getting shorter. Life has been going a mile a minute, but I've been doing my best to stay calm and take things as slowly as I can. Whenever life gets unpredictable, I cling to things I can predict. Things like dinner making and house cleaning. Those routines are stable and sure and I pretty much love them. 

I'm currently...

Eating: Mashed potatoes with everything, fruity pebbles, and I'm craving pumpkin all of a sudden now too. Don't worry though, I'm balancing it all out with salad.

Exploring: Life in a new church and poetry. Whenever we're at "The Queen's Cottage", we'll be going to one church and that place has been my favorite thing about this half-move thing we've got going on. I'm taking a poetry class again this fall and even though it's tough, I'm really enjoying the opportunity to steep myself in a type of writing that is really uncomfortable to me. (Just to clarify, I'm not writing poetry, just studying the work of other poets.)

Admiring: My brother. He graduated from police academy the Friday before last and it's been a real treat to watch him go through the process of achievement.

Collecting: Memories. I never know what fall will hold. This one held a half-move to a new city, teaching some online classes, joining my brother and sister as they take part in a different theatre, and a whirlwind trip to the south to surprise my brother for his graduation. 

What have you been up to? 

Link up with Jenna and Anne to share your list of currently if that's something you're into. 

I See

Saturday, October 03, 2015


Yesterday was the kind of ordinary day that says very little about a person. I taught a class, gathered dirty towels to be washed, pulled meat out of the freezer, went shopping for some props, had a simple lunch, and then I raked some leaves. No one driving by knew who I was or how long I would be out there working. I raked by myself and thought back to the Saturdays I spent raking leaves in Massachusetts with Hannah and Glenn or Rachael and Shauna five falls ago. I had my iPod playing in one ear and I listened to the sounds of the neighborhood with the other. 

As I pulled the red garbage can along beside me, I found myself trying to figure out exactly how we used those sheets to contain the leaves before we dumped them into the woods behind the house. I never did figure that one out. I kept raking and scooping until the garbage can was full and then I drug it over in front of the garage where I left it until I figure out exactly what we're to do with leaves here. 

I went inside, took off my shoes, and laid down on the couch for a nap. When I finally woke up, I wasn't sure that I'd ever actually get up and make dinner...but then I did. The next hour was spent in the kitchen with my black notebook reminding me how to prepare Salisbury Steak and family drifting in and out to chat about the episode of America's Test Kitchen podcast that was playing. 

The salad was prepped, the potatoes were peeled and boiled and handed off to my sister to mash. Dinner was ready with just enough time to eat before we had to run out the door for another rehearsal. 

All day I was thinking about the Friday before it. I was in SC watching my brother graduate from police academy and then I was in his car driving back with him swapping songs and enjoying some time to be with him in person. There were two songs that I especially liked that day, but the one that I keep humming is Ed Sheeran's "I See Fire". We ate hamburgers with our Uncle George, Aunt Linda, Aunt Pauline, a few cousins, and my cousin's wife. On the outside, we looked like people who get to do that sort of thing aboslutely all the time. My brother and I made it back home just in time for me to whip up some garlic bread to go with our Dad's spaghetti which we ate around my aunt's dinner table to celebrate the graduation one more time.

Today is Saturday. It'll be ordinary and I'll be thinking about the time I got to spend with my Uncle George's family a week ago today. That day was spent cooking breakfast, watching home movies, playing apples to apples, talking about life with his boys, and watching my cousin's football game.

As I remember, I'll head back out to fill the red garbage can again and no one will even know how full the last week made me feel.