Monday, December 31, 2012

Meatballs for Hobbits

This year for Christmas Eve, my family made appetizers instead of a traditional Christmas meal with all the trimmings. I decided to combine a couple of recipes from Pinterest to try my hand at home made meatballs. Here are the two recipes I adapted. Dialed-In Nutrition's Italian Meatballs and Cheesy Chicken Parm Meatballs from Tracey's Culinary Adventures. I have awakened some kind of experimenting, Pinteresting, blog-surfing meatball monster.

I am learning a lot about meatballs. And there are many different schools of thought: with cheese vs without; one egg vs two eggs; bread crumbs vs flour; spices vs. spicy sausage; veal vs lamb vs sausage. It is over dramatizing things a tad to divide the world of meatball opinions into schools of thought and pit them against each other in a battle to win your loyalty, but I really wanted to use the "vs." language so you all have to deal with the drummed-up drama. Thank you for bearing with me, at the end of this ramble there is a meatball recipe that is, I think, worth it for those who like things on the mild, predictable, Hobbity side of things. 

After all this digging and nerd-style research, I have learned one thing that is true of every recipe that I am drawn to: they all have beef and a secondary ingredient. The first batch I tried at Christmas had ground turkey. This made for lighter, less fatty meat balls if that is possible in something that is a glob of meat. I like to stick with very lean beef to begin with. It is a good foundation, and it means that if you want to add spicy sausage, or some more fancy meat, that there is more freedom to do that without worrying about your meatball being too, too heavy. See above comment about globs of meat.

I have also learned that there is actual, not invented-for-Sarah's-grammatical-whims debate about cheese worked into the meat itself so it runs throughout or packed inside like a little cheese bomb. I much prefer the second and set out to see if I can make a meatball recipe that is something I will actually write down and be able to recreate again and pass onto you. I prefer more spice (ahem, flavor) than the ones I made on Christmas.

So, for you, my faithful, blog-reading friends that put up with the randomness that is this blog, I will write down both recipes. Here, near as I can figure it, is the recipe that I made over Christmas. They were actually quite tricky to make into packets of meat with cheese bombs in them. This is primarily because I used shredded cheese, which was hard to pack inside of the raw meat. I imagine that cubed cheese would be much easier.

Meatballs for Hobbits ( and all other people who resemble my parents and like mild things. The all-knowing receptionist falls into this category - you would love these, lady!)

1 can (48 oz) crushed tomatoes
1 small onion - diced
3 cloves garlic- minced
roughly 1/8 cup red wine (more or less to taste)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp marjoram
1tsp basil
dash of pepper
dash balsamic vinegar

* Saute garlic, onion and spices in olive oil in large skillet until onions are soft and translucent.
* Add red wine. Reduce until desired thickness- was roughly 8 minutes for me.
* Add tomatoes and their juices. Simmer uncovered roughly 25 minutes.
* Remove sauce from skillet transfer into slow cooker (or a dutch oven, seeing as I don't own a slow cooker. My bother and sister in law do and this is what we used for Christmas dinner with the fam) DO NOT CLEAN THE SKILLET. Leave all those juicy, tasty bits in the skillet so that you can sear the meatballs in it. Seriously, this is the best thing ever and it makes the meatballs that much more tasty, which is important because these are fairly mild and they need to additional flavor.

1 lb lean ground beef (93/7)
1 lb ground turkey
1/4 cup flour
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup shredded parmesan
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp marjoram

* Preheat oven to 350. line large cookie sheet with foil.
* Combine ground beef and turkey in large bowl. I did this with my hands as it was easier to  ensure the meat was well mixed.
* Add egg, flour, and spices. Combine until fairly evenly distributed.
heat the skillet with 1-2 tbs olive oil on medium heat.
* Take a golf-ball sized glob (I am guessing this was roughly 1/4 cupish) flatten onto your hand, and pinch a small hand full of cheese mixture into the flattened meat. Then close the meat around the cheese so that you can't see any of the cheese. Place meat ball in skillet. Repeat this until your skillet is full.
* Turn the meatball several times so that you brown all sides of the meat ball. This way they get crispy and they get all the flavor of the sauce that is still in the skillet- making a tasty crust on your meatball and a happy marriage of meatball and sauce.
* Once your meatballs are browned on all sides, remove them from the skillet and place them on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Cook for 25-30 minutes.

Once they are done you can add them to the sauce and all live happily ever after. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Fear of Change: Fear of Loss

In the midst of so much change, and the possibility of change, and the certainty of change, this post from Keegan Lenker on Fuller Youth Institute website was timely. There is a tid bit at the end of the post that I find particularly enlightening. "People aren't afraid of change, they are afraid of loss." What a profound insight. This changes everything when framing change to those who must walk through it. What if, in the face of change, we ask a series of questions. 

What are we actually loosing in this process?

What might we lose in this process?

What is the hardest thing to let go of? Do you have to let go of it?

What pieces of the past can we take with us?

What is there to be gained?

Where are we going and is it somewhere I want to go?

Who is affected by this shift? How are they affected? How am I affected? 

If we ask these questions, what sort of conversations might we have? Are they potentially more productive? At the very least, it is helpful to remember that resistance to change is sometimes about loss. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Without a Church Home

I will just put it out there. Under the best circumstances possible, I left my church. So, I am out there floating from church to church week to week and I have no clue what I am doing. I am not sure if I am looking for a new church home, or just looking. So far it has been about 2 months since I left my previous church home of 13 years. At first I was excited to get out there and explore other types of churches and to potentially find other like-minded people who have maybe been the liberal person in a conservative environment. And I am still energized by that possibility and by the possibility of fellowshipping somewhere that is a better fit for me at this time in my life.

But, already, there are things that I would not expect. I am feeling the strain of not having a church home. I have an amazing small group, supportive friends, and many people in my life who actively hold me accountable, walk with me, pray with me, and live my Christian life with me. But, this, I am learning, is not the same as a church home. I am not all the way sure what that means yet, but it is not the same. I am craving the weekly experience of the same group of believers in a format that has some predictability. This stands in tension with the desire that I have to get out, explore, learn, and see what is to be seen in church in other iterations. So, I am not sure what to do and where to go. I have a list of churches to visit, but I find that I need to readjust my game plan.

To do what? instead of what? I am not even sure. But I think that I need to consider a different approach other than a  new church every week. This is wearing on me and it has not been that long.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I have seen a few helicopter parents in my day

As a college admissions professional I have a front-row seat to the differences between a helicopter parent and a helpful parent. This is a fine line. And it is a bit unfair of me to talk about it in these terms because adolescents certainly need their parents in this process. Man, do they ever. Students whose parents don't help them at all are severely impairing their children in the college search process. Trust me, they need their parents to be more grounded than they are, they need them to be more responsible than they are, and they definitely need them to know more about the financial investment of college than they do. And, they need  help processing all of the things that go into choosing a college, is it daunting; and it is arguable that someone at the age of 18 is not capable of fully understanding things like student loans. I digress. I shall get back to the point of this post: helpful distinctions between impairing and aiding an adolescent: between hovering and helping. 

After five years of walking students and parents through the college decision process, I am usually able to tell when a parent is hovering and when a parent is helping. Up until today this has always been more of an abstract intuition than anything else. This morning I read a post from the Fuller Youth Institute on that very distinction. They (as always) put into measurable terms what I knew by intuition. They pose three questions that cut to the heart of the difference- motivation. As I already mentioned, students need their parents.  So it is not that a parent shouldn't help their child, instead the issue is why they are doing so. In the college search process parents who step in because their child is out of their depth are helping their children.  

In my observation parents are helping their children by taking an active role in the process when their child is unused to sifting through all the jargon, genuinely doesn't understand what questions to ask, or when the student is dealing directly with the financial investment of college. I could come up with any number of examples of parents hurting their children by hovering when they should be helping, but I am not going to list them. What is a hindering action for one student could be helpful for another. The issue is not that a parent is stepping in, but why a parent is stepping in. I occasionally rant and rave about this in my workplace (and by occasionally I may mean on a regular basis and loudly at that) so now it will be nice to have words for what bothers me. And that, in turn, just might mean that I am able to complain less. And complaining less is always a good thing. Thank you, Fuller Youth Institute, for not only articulating something in a helpful manner, but also for giving my office mates a break. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Freedom to Doubt

Somewhere in my church journey I internalized the idea that doubt would undermine my salvation, and I should, therefore, only ask certain questions. I got the impression that one should be certain about Christianity; not just founded or convinced, but iron-clad, closed case, proof positive certain. I remember sitting in Dr. Lunde's office begging, insisting that there had to be a way to be certain. After all, my immortal soul, not to mention the souls of all humanity, hung in the balance. Committing to follow Christ is one of the biggest risks that any human can take, shouldn't certainty be on the table? A very frustrated Dr. Lunde replied that I only needed enough certainty to act. I only need enough to move and trust and risk.

This is a critical distinction. It certainly has been and will continue to be formative in my journey. It helps me to be able to ask questions that my younger self considered taboo. And, while asking these questions, to be able to trust Christ. I don't have to be certain about Christ, just sure enough to risk action. I can ask where God is in the death of my dear friend's daughter. I can ask how it is possible that a God who tenderly offered to gather Israel like chicks under His wings can possibly be the same God who caused the earth to open up and swallow people whole. And I can ask these things while depending on His guidance for a job, for a spouse, for the daily care of my emotions. I need His tenderness and I need His correction, and I can lean into that need and expose myself to the possibility that there might be an actual response on the other end of that need precisely because I don't have to be sure. If I had to be sure I would never move beyond self-protection. I would never cease to have a question that was valid or a reason that I should not trust a God I cannot see.

Instead, the distinction between faith as certainty and faith as risk frees me to ask myself "What do I know about this God? And is He worth the risk in this situation?" This allows me the space to have just enough information to try trusting God, to walk the next step, to put myself out there and see what I encounter. It allows me to move and to get to know this God more and more as I go as opposed to needing to know everything before moving at all. It is a much needed freedom.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

This is what I did instead of sleeping

This evening I spent and hour and a half driving around, thinking, listening to music. The roads are a glorious outlet at night when they are partially empty and accompanied by a full mind and a great playlist. Sometimes there is a song or a group of songs that hits the spot like a food you have been craving, only better. Music is such a great vehicle (pun intended) for thinking and processing. This evening I let me myself cry, pray, rant and rave, yell, and, to the best of my ability, give the whole thing over to the Lord. Music was essential to this process. The ins and outs of each song became a train to take my internal world where it needed to go. I love this about music.

The playlist:
Take a Picture- Filter
Save Me From Myself-Jone Foreman
Up All Night (Frankie Millar Goes to Hollywood) - Counting Crows
Bite Hard- Franz Ferdinand
Ramble On- Led Zeppelin
Lucid Dreams- Franz Ferdinand
White Lily No Soul- Helicopters
I Wish I was a Girl- Counting Crows
Keep Me in Mind- Zac Brown Band
Notion- Kings of Leon
Over and Over- Hot Chip
This Girl- Punch Brothers
Call It What You Want- Foster the People
Farther Along- Josh Garrels
Ring Them Bells- Sarah Jarosz
Clara- Punch Brothers
Love in Japan- Coldplay
Curtigh- Punch Brothers
Orpheo Looks Back- Andrew Bird
The Daylight- Andrew Belle

Monday, April 30, 2012

I won that battle like a boss.

Do you ever find yourself fist pumping about solving a workplace mystery? Commenting under your breath “I won, take that!” after guessing the right answer to an unimportant question during someone’s ice-breaker? Yes? Me too. We are the ranks of the irrationally competitive.

I am competitive about almost everything. Today I could not get a few simple documents to print, and after 45 minutes, several setting adjustments, and a re-boot, I won. I totally solved the problem and showed that network printer that I am boss. And I won that battle like a boss.

Too dramatic? Maybe. But let me ask you this: if that computer were to have persisted in not printing the documents, I might have been defeated and demoralized all day resulting in a significantly less productive work day, resulting in fewer students at TIU, resulting in a decline in a tuition-driven institution. Not to mention the rampant revolt of electronic devices. Don’t believe me? Haven’t you ever wondered why you can’t attach a document to an email? Why that web page edit just won’t actually update? Why an email you sent to yourself takes 1.5 hours to get to our own inbox? Why your itunes needs you download version 107.89? By succeeding in this endeavor I have successfully stayed the tide of this rebellion (you are welcome), regained my personal pride, and started the journey towards having the most productive work day ever.

I wish that I could say that the story ended on this high note, feeding and reinforcing that having a competitive mindset about inconsequential things is well worth my time and energy.

11:03 first attempt to print fails.
11:15 consult with our all-knowing office receptionist who is also stumped.
11: 17 attempt to email myself the document.
11: 35 check all wires, chords, and other hardware.
11:43 change settings.
11:48 reboot computer with updated settings.
11:52 reboot successful – documents print. (see above post for emotional state)
11: 54 settle in with said document to get some work done.
11:55 spill coffee with delightful home-made spicy creamer.
11: 56 choose to save wireless keyboard- picked it up, started to wipe it off, realized that it is still connected to my laptop and all my key strokes are showing up on the screen.
11:57 realize that unplugging the USB is a two-handed job, and I have to put down the keyboard on my chair? no, coffee stickiness on my chair is not good, on one of the guest chairs in the office? no, same problem, but with aforementioned dire consequences for the University, back on the desk? no, desk is covered with sticky coffee goodness, that is spreading behind the monitor, slowly moving towards the back of my desk and abyss that lies behind it. must act fast. precariously balanced on the recycling box? yes.
11:58 dash to closet to retrieve paper towels. discover there are only two on the roll. take those. blockade back of desk and around monitor. carefully arranged post-its are a loss.
11:58 return to closet to get another roll of paper towels. see roll. tug. bring down two plastic items in the process- those hit me in head. replace extra items. express frustration to all-knowing receptionist about her insensitivity to my height as evidenced by booby trapped closet. (note that this was not in the least her fault)
11:59 open extra roll in office and begin the process of cleaning up the coffee mess that has by now spread just about everywhere. must push monitor back to get at mess under monitor in so doing I knocked off a mug placed behind the monitor. this particular mug is still ¼ full from last week. does not spill. fist pump, taking credit for this small victory that has nothing to do with me.
12:00 assess damage: key board appears to be rescued and not too sticky. all post-its, daily lists, and mouse pad are lost. paperwork that was fruit of earlier victory against the evil printer is totally soaked. Document containing said information has random typing in it from keyboard cleaning. Delightful coffee beverage mostly gone.

And I am having a bad hair day.

But I beat the printer, dammit. I kicked the crap out of that printer. That printer is taking the walk of shame wherein it submits and does everything I ask it to do. Always. Take that for subversive printers everywhere!

Jared Allen's response at the end is my favorite example of the ranks of the irrationally competitive. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A week of Pinterest projects

Yay! Thank you, Pinterest for all the ideas, creativity, and for putting it in the voices of real people who have tried real projects. I will happily add mine to the din.

I fell in love with the idea of painting/decorating the inside of a bookshelf, and decided that the bookshelf made pantry in our kitchen was ripe for a make over. I removed all the shelves, shored up some nails in the back, then laid in face up on the dinning room floor. Then I mod-podged some craft paper onto the inside of the shelf- it took about 13 pages that were 12 inch squares. There was some piecing together to do, but not much.

It took two rounds and several hours in between for the mod-podge to dry to my satisfaction, but once I put the shelves back in it was totally worth it. 

I think it looks best without food in it, but we have to keep our pantry supplies somewhere- so it might as well be pretty!

I also made some recipes this week that were super easy, healthy, and very tasty. I always like to know which things work best for other people, so I thought I would throw these out here with my endorsement.

1. Lentil Soup from 101 She encourages us to "think of this soup is broad strokes," and I second that. I accidentally made a variation on the recipe here, and it was very good, easy, healthy, and really tasty. Dani and Betsy can attest to that. :)

I made mine with a poached egg, which I highly recommend- poaching instructions courtesy of Smitten If you have not gone there and fallen in love with it, please do so at once.

2. Gimmesomeoven no bake energy bites. I can't believe that these are not far worse for you than they are. Oatmeal, honey, peanut butter, and grains. These are the perfect snack- I am always eating one just as I start cooking because I inevitably wait until I am overly hungry to start the cooking process and don't want to wait 30-45 minutes to eat. These are perfect.

3. Finally quinoa mac n cheese by Around the Table. Belive it or not, this only has a cup and a half of cheese, several eggs, and vegetables! It is SO good for you, and really, really tasty. Anyone who knows me knows that I love cheese and this is an amazing dish. Thank you, Dani and Jon, for introducing me- it could very well be a life-long relationship.

This is all- happy pinteresting. :)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Francis Chan, Shamrock Shakes, and Fear

 You must watch this video in order to get the most of this post. Did you do it yet? Do it. Good. 

Saying that I don’t think Christians should live out of fear is all well and good until it means that I have to be weak, vulnerable, and exposed to other people. That scares me.

I am filled with much fear. I am seeing it more and more these days. I saw it this afternoon when Jordan called me out about being contrary about shamrock shakes (more on this below). Again today when I was trying to defend why I don’t like Peyton Manning. I saw it when I dug my heels in about not reading Blue Like Jazz or watching The Passion. I am fear filled. I am that person clinging to the balance beam. Worse, I pride myself on not being that person and so I am clinging to my balance beam yelling at everyone else that they should not be clinging to theirs. Ah. foolish, wayward, loved child. I can feel the Father shaking His head, sighing, and looking at me with love, affection, and a heart of correction.

I am afraid to go to Him, too. He changes me. He changes you. And He will certainly ask me to get off my balance beam and be vulnerable with others. I can feel the challenge to walk forward into being honest with people when I am unsure. Today, today it was the smallest, most shallow thing: a shamrock shake.

That is right. I had a moral conviction in the midst of a conversation about a shake from McDonald’s. (this is just more proof that the Holy Spirit must be real) I have had one, and it was not good, and I am irrationally gun shy about having another because they might be AMAZING! If they are, then I will have to have them all the time and I already have a not so small Diet Coke problem; and this would be yet another McDonald’s problem.(for those who don't know, Diet Coke is just a dollar at McDonald's. awesome. and terrible.) So, instead of admitting that, or even instead of just letting myself feel my fear, I covered it up with the desire to be right. Right that shamrock shakes are not good, because if they are not good, then I cannot be addicted to them, and therefore cannot be part of the hype about them, and therefore will somehow be protected all alone in my “I don’t like shamrock shakes and this is some kind of safe identity” place.

My own sin and weakness are dripping from my pores. The point is that I was not being wholly myself, and not really available to my co-workers and friends. I want to me more open to those around me, to heed the call of God to stand on the balance beam. I think that God is calling me to be open to being influenced by others when I am unsure, and to be honest where I am weak, or don’t have all the information .He is asking me to lay down my need to be right.

This is something I am going to have to lay down again and again as it is so deeply engrained in me. This is one way I was hard-wired to be safe in my family. If you were right, then you were in some way safe from criticism and I have absorbed that, taken it in, and made it my own in all of its green-ice-cream-resisting glory. It seems like there are dozens of ways to grow in this everywhere I look: say the affectionate thing I am thinking, say that I don’t know the answer, be open to being corrected in public, be okay with someone else having the spotlight, be okay with being in the spot light, give generously of my food and beverages (seriously, this is basically a love language for me), invite people to join me in my home, invite people to join me in other places I love (the Firkin, Caribou, Wrigley Field) , go with others to places they love, let other people’s praise and criticism affect me, wear more bright colors, sing more often and more loudly, and let myself be convicted by the Spirit.

First: try a shamrock shake with Jordan and Krystal. Yes, it sounds shallow, but it is more than that for me, and I should embrace that. There is yet another growth point- don’t shy away from depth in daily activities.

Oh man, here we go.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Tale of Two Tables

How do we explain what meaningful intergenerational interaction looks like? How do we explain the difference between where we are and where we could be? I am so thankful for the hard work of the Fuller Youth Institute to make things easy to use and easy to understand. This is a very solid explanation of the intergenerational experience of most people in Evangelical America. There are, of course, churches, individuals, and ministries that are doing this and doing it well, but they are sadly not the norm. I think that we do have two tables in the church: parallel experiences of the same church and often times the same church service. Is this accurate? What is your experience of your church?

Monday, January 2, 2012

All churches are multigenerational. Few are intergenerational.

This is such a great distinction. Thank you, Fuller Youth Institute, for finding this blog post by Matthew DePrez. As he describes it, here is the basic difference between a mulitgenerational church and an intergenerational church: an intergenerational church is one where people have meaningful relationships across generations, and a multigenerational church is one where people from each generation exist peacefully together. He gives a few outcomes of each type of church; the intergenerational church know names and bits about one another's lives, pray for each other, and can count on one another for interaction and growth. Multigenerational churches participate in the same services and church functions, but rarely have more than cursory interactions with those outside of their age group.

The obvious implication is that it is better to have an intergenerational church. But, how to build one is a more puzzling question to me. Encouraging interactions and meaningful relationships across generations seems messy, confusing, and risky. It very well might be, but oh so worth it. How do we encourage conversations and interactions? It seems to me that in my own church generations are often in settings that are conducive to such interaction - children's ministry, youth ministry, missions trips, choirs, events, etc, but that it is hard to take those interactions and make them something relationally real.

How do I step outside of my comfortable young adult bubble and learn to get to know someone older than me? How do I navigate a real relationship with someone who is not a peer? What common ground might we have? And how do we get below the surface of Sunday morning greeting time so that we can genuinely minister to one another?