The One with the Rainy Bread

Today is much improved.  Besides the ceaseless rain and the inexplicable intestinal pains and a slight sore throat, I’m doing much better.  Thanks for thoughts and prayers.  
Yesterday afternoon went well too as Kevin was home for much of it. :D  Not only did he bring me home a McDonald’s hot fudge sundae (*squeal of joy*) but after taking out the trash he picked me a perfect dandilion which just happen to be his favorite flower.  :D  And I’ll have you know that little flower is still thriving!  We were able to make it to Shelby’s soccer game (a youth group student), stop by the mall for an errand, and enjoy an Arby’s meal.  Wow, that was really delicious.  I’m actually still thinking about it.  
I was super lazy this morning and I’m using my “getting over an illness” excuse for that slow on the uptake action (or lack thereof).  :D  I have managed to get quite a lot accomplished even so.  A pretty decent workout, 16 mini multi grain bread loaves (for the church sale), 16 honey wheat sandwich rolls (to be frozen for the shower), and burgers ready to be grilled indoors.  
[warning:  if either of my moms are reading this do NOT click on the “Britt’s Post” link.  It would be a suprise spoiler. :D]
I was also really excited to see Britt’s post about the gift I sent her for her 23rd birthday which is Sunday.  *happy*
Timer’s are buzzing and soon it’ll be time for worship team practice.  *crossing fingers/praying that goes smoothly tonight* 

The One with the Blah

Yesterday was fabulous. Today is…not so much.  Yesterday was warm and sunny.  Today is chilly and rainy.  Yesterday I hung laundry out on the line, dusted & vacuumed, took a long wonderful walk with Amanda and her dog Libby (we’re planning many more lovely walks next week!), and spent the best evening with my husband (who normally doesn’t get home until 10pm on Mondays).  Today I woke up with the worst sore throat and a body that aches badly.  
I started feeling better early afternoon, but now I’m feeling worse than I did this morning.  I’m having trouble figuring out if the aches are from the JM workout yesterday or because of this sickness or both.  My stomach doesn’t feel quite right either.  blah.  (And yes, I have fully considered the whole swine flu thing, and yes I have freaked out about it, and no I don’t think this is the flu at all.  But don’t worry, I’ll keep my eye on things.  In the meantime you can pray.)  

Somehow I managed to whip up 2 dozen cupcakes as well as 7 dozen chocolate chip cookies to be frozen for the Sunday bake sale.  And unlike last week’s cookies, these turned out perfectly!  If you want the recipe after viewing the following picture click here.   

The One with a LOT

What a wonderful weekend!  Friday I spent most of my day basking in the sunlight (and subsequently burning my skin).  When Kevin arrived home, I was just pulling the homemade pizza from the oven.  We enjoyed our dinner on our breezy back porch for the first time since moving here.  How glorious!  After that, we played catch for quite some time (also referred to as “or until Melanie gets hurt.)  :D  THEN (I know, the fun just keeps on going…), we sat outside for another hour or so just talking and having the most wonderful conversation.  I just love that!  
Saturday was somewhat torturous for Kevin who spent the entire day of warm and sunshine inside working hard on a “practice” grant proposal for one of his courses.  What a pain that was!  While he worked, I accomplished a ton of necessary shopping…groceries, shower planning, gifts for 2 different showers, etc.  Two and a half hours later, I was headed home when I saw an “Estate Sale” sign.  You know, the little neon green wire road signs that are so low to the ground on an obscure corner that you wonder how you saw it at all?!   Well, I am so glad I stopped.  It didn’t look like much from the outside, but one of the deceased woman’s sons pointed me to the three levels of “stuff” for sale inside.  
I spent a good 30 minutes in the first room I came to –which I will call “the Book Room”–which appeared to be where she spent most of her last days (there was a hospital bed).   I was completely taken aback by the library this woman kept.  The walls were completely covered in well-organized literature from every Christian genre and author you have ever heard of.  The first box I found on the floor was full of Bibles–most of which were probably 50 years old and had nearly every page highlighted, underlined and sticky noted.  Once I realized whose home I had step foot into, I was nearly brought to tears.  Here I was standing in the room of a woman who lived her life fully devoted to the same Lord I serve.  And though she was no longer alive, I was rejoicing in my heart knowing where she was spending her eternity.  
I ended up half filling a box with books I have had on my “wish list” for some time now (mostly Christian fiction and romance by Beverly Lewis and Janette Oke.)  I also found a perfect copy of My Utmost for His Highest, the women’s study Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free, a book by Elisabeth Elliot about the life of Amy Carmichael, and a 1957 copy of Christy.   The hardbacks were $0.50 and the soft covers were only $0.25!  The rest of my finds are pictured.
::all of the loot::

::my books!!!!::

::more pie plates and the bundt pan I’ve been wanting::

::beautiful vintage purses::

Sunday brought yet another picturesque day and I let my husband sleep in while I went for the best most peaceful run I’ve had in a really long time.  (funny how traffic is nill on Sundays at 7:30am).  I came back and prepared him a little breakfast in bed…mostly because I knew it was the only way to wake him up on the first try. :)  I think he liked it.
::eggs over easy & toast with strawberry jam::
For the first time (in…possibly ever), the worship set we played went wonderfully and smoothly.  Not once did I feel like we were too slow or too fast or too disjointed.  Wow.  That was a good feeling.  
I got a couple great comments on the sundress I decided to wear which made me really happy and we made double the profit on our weekly Bake Sale!  
After our lunch of corn on the cob (delicious!)…

…we decided to hunt down this newly opened Country Cree-mee ice cream stand where there was a grand opening event of “Buy one sundae, get one free.”  Excellent!  The rest of our Sunday afternoon was quite lovely and Youth Group went better than I could have imagined! 
Though we only had 4 teens, we managed a rousing game of 3 on 3 softball (intense, I know!) in the blazing heat and humidity.  Then we presented the plan for the message/discussion time.  Kevin would be posing as our “atheist friend” and our goal was to converse with him about our belief in God.  The teens showed great participation, raised amazingly thought-provoking questions, and respectfully debated one another’s points.  We all decided this was a format that must be used regularly.  We all learned a lot and experienced a fantastic way to challenge and strengthen our beliefs (the whole range of them!) while learning what it could be like to have real conversations with our friends about “the reason for the hope that we have” (I Pet. 3:15).
Now I’m off on a walk with a Monroe girlfriend, Amanda.  :D

The One with the Real Life Musical

Britt sent the link to this youtube video to me and let me tell you, I was impressed.  This is so cool and super fun.  In just 2 practice sessions, over 200 dancers performed a “spontaneous” rendition of The Sound of Music’s “Do, Re, Mi” in Belgium’s central train station.  I’m not gonna lie, I almost broke out in a round of applause (all by myself) as it ended.  It just gets better and better!  And I love how happy it makes all the on-lookers.  Oh, and a confession…a little tear may have surfaced too!  (Don’t mock me.  I’m emotional.)

The One with a Crazy Productive Day

For those of you who may be confused by my lingo when I say “crazy productive” I don’t mean crazy, productive day, I mean a very/super productive day.  Ok, now that we have that cleared up.  
I gave my knees a “balistic” break from Jillian (they were getting really really sore) and hopped on the ellipse around 8:30am.  I showered and did some youth group lesson planning.  I had tea. I talked to my husband on the phone as he walked back to the car and while some guy was acting all creepy across the street.  I took out the trash.  I met Pastor Dale and the church secretary Glenda for lunch at Pepperoni Grill in honor of Administrative Professionals Day.  The restaurant was tucked away in a high class mansion neighborhood as a part of the country club.  It was a really nice place, the food was delicious and the prices were very reasonable.  We had a nice time visiting.  Kevin got home early. *happy* I went to our neighbor, Rena’s house to get my bridesmaid dress pinned for hemming.  Then I spent the next 5 hours in the kitchen. 
I baked 7 dozen chocolate chip cookies for the Sunday Bake Sale.  That took quite some time and ended up being much more frustrating than anticipated.  I took the recipe and wanted to make 1 and 1/2 of the recipe.  I knew I should have written the new amounts down.  But I didn’t.  I knew the dough looked right before adding the last cup of flour.  I knew I should have followed my instincts.  Oh well.  Luckily Kevin was here for crowd control (aka keep Melanie from having a breakdown).  The cookies turned out a bit more cakey and maybe a tad too dry but in reality they are still very good.  They taste a bit more sugar cookie-like…probably because you can taste the flavors cookie dough more than usual and the cookie to chocolate ratio is a bit low.  But yes, they are still more than presentable despite what I may think of myself.  
Then I decided to find the perfect recipe to use for the giant (4-5 inch) chocolate chip cookies that I have plans for.  (I’m being criptic on purpose here, people.)  Paula Deen came through for me and you should definitely definitely check out the recipe for Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies. 

Now, be sure no one is looking and wipe the drool from the corner of your mouth.  
After baking up a storm, I threw some potato wedges to roast in the oven for our dinner.  They were delicious along side a green veggie salad.  The rest of the evening continued in productivity as I gathered supplies for Britt’s shower and updated some of the “to do” list concerning that party.  I also did some online shopping and purchased gifts for 5 important events coming up in the next month or two.  Kevin helped me decide (since they are from both of us) and I’m very happy with the choices.  Then I went to bed.
Now, I should probably get off my toucus (my behind) and keep the trend going.  Jillian, here I come! 

The One with the Perfect Burger

What a surprisingly wonderful day!  I was planning on Kevin not being home until 6:30pm due to his weekly meeting with his professor, but I had forgotton that Dr. R was out of town.  Afterhe left the house around 7am, I did my JM workout, and found out my meeting with Pastor Dale was cancelled, I was pleasantly suprised to find my love arriving back home around 2pm.  Yippee!  We spent some time relaxing and then decided to head to Sam’s Club in Canton.  Now, we admit this sounds lame, but really we quite enjoyed ourselves.  Not only did he get to partake of the hotdog & soda combo and I was able to indulge in the ice cream cup, but we spent quality relaxed time together pricing the baking items needed and dreaming about the cool computer or tv or dvd or cookbook we might someday purchase. :D  Still sounds kinda lame.  But it was totally cool!  
We got back home around 6:15pm and I spent the next hour organizing the bulk food we had bought.  My cupboards are beautifully re-arranged in the wonderful snap-lid plastic storagewareGrams bought for me.  I’m so happy. (It’s the small things, right?)
::the pantry::

::bottom shelf–baking products–flour, sugar, vanilla, oats, cornmeal::

::snack shelf–coffee, cake mixes, nuts, raisins, granola bars, crackers::

::staples shelf–pasta sauce, applesauce, pasta varieties (3), canned goods::

Oh, and we opted to buy the 10 pounds of 90/10 ground beef as it was so low in fat and cheaper per pound than 99% of grocery store prices.  It’s a lot of meat, but it will be used well.  I packaged the 10 pounds into 20 half-pound packs and they are currently freezing…Well, except for the 2–quarter pound burgers we just finished eating.  They were terrific.  

The One with the Enticing

On this–the soggiest of days–I found myself layered in cozy clothing so as to keep the damp chills out.  Thankfully, the long underwear and sweats worked wonders and I only remember being cold once today.  (Why didn’t I think of this intense layering back in January?!)
In other news, I finally remembered to buy new vacuum cleaner bags……….after a really long time (as in, the last 40 times I’ve vacuumed, the dirt has probably not been sucked up but rathered carelessly strewn about in different areas of the rug being “vacuumed”).  It was satisfying to have clean carpets once again.  I like clean things.  Did you know that? 
I also did two large loads of laundry.  I find it interesting how every week yields drastically different amounts of clothing, etc. in need of washing.  Hmm…what an interesting scenario.  Ok, maybe not so much for you. 
In the midst of kicking butt with Jillian this morning, fighting off a headache (and failing), and working on the summer youth group schedule, I managed to whip up 4 dozen Oatmeal Raisin Cookies and 5 1/2 dozen mini Banana Muffins as well as get some great photographs to post on my recipe blog.  You are definitely going to want to be checking that out about now.  And probably tomorrow. And the next day.  Let me see if I can entice your drooling mechanisms.  
::oatmeal pancakes [aka “my dinner”]::
::a small army of mini banana muffins::
::the mini banana muffin::

The One with the Healthy Heart

This morning’s “Bake Sale Sunday” went over wonderfully!  You may remember the little “poll” I took last week–“Which cookie would you be most excited to see for sale after a church service?”.  Well, I put my plan into action [driven by the idea of a fellow church lady] this weekend and boy I was impressed.  I set up a lovely little table with one basket of peanut butter cookies and one basket of chocolate chip cookies–each packaged into groups of threes and for sale at $0.50/pack.  I was going to wait until post-service to set out the cookies, but decided to leave them out before  and after.  I heard from at least five people that “you’re going to need to make a lot more next week!” or “I went to buy two packages and they were all gone!”  I’m looking forward to baking up a storm again this week.  I’m definitely sticking to the staple of chocolate chip and then adding a second option.  
OH!  and guess what?!  There is a new couple at church and Kevin & I got to know them a little bit at the last potluck.  Well, since then the wife, Chris, has been taking to my friendship…offering hugs and all.  Today we found out that we both love baking and she would really like to offer some of her baked goods for the weekly bake sale.  How cool is that?!  She plans on bringing in an apple pie as well as a coconut banana cream pie for next Sunday.  I was thrilled.  
After church, Kevin and I headed home to fulfill my craving for the Oatmeal Pancakes I whipped up for the first time yesterday.  I found this recipe online and have made many alterations.  The results are absolutely delicious in my opinion–flavorful, nutritious, and very filling!  I hope you enjoy!
Note:  this recipe serves only 1 person, but I have found that it doubles nicely.

Flourless Oatmeal Pancakes 
Serves: 1 (3–3.5 inch pancakes) 
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
2 egg whites or 1 whole egg
grated apple (~ 1/3 of a medium apple)
milk (~ 1/4 cup–until desired consistency is achieved–but keeping the batter thick)
cinnamon (~1/2 tsp– to taste)
vanilla, (~1/2 tsp–to taste)

Using a blender or food processor, grind down half of the oats to a powdery state, leaving the other half of the oats whole.  Transfer to a mixing bowl and add egg, apple, cinnamon, and vanilla.  Mix well.  Add splashes of milk until a thick batter results.  

Cook on a stove top griddle over medium heat until each side is a deep golden brown (and cooked through). 

The One with the Joy

On this, the most beautiful day Michigan has seen in months, Kevin & I were given the privilege of joining some wonderful friends in celebrating the beginning of their married life together.  After “sleeping in” (that is, not setting the alarm and still waking up at 7:30am), going for a warm run, making amazing flourless oatmeal pancakes, and enjoying a bit of leisure together, the two of us got all dressed up and headed to a lovely little Baptist church in the country of southern Michigan.  
The weather was perfect.  
Ruth was stunning.  
Seeing old friends was great.  
And the soft serve ice cream was wonderful.  
Enjoy the photo journey.
::the perfect bride arm-in-arm with dad::

::note the beautiful intricacies of her gown::

::the unity candle ceremony::


::catching THE perfect moment on film::

::lovely simplicity::
::the cut::

::so thrilled for two of our best friends::

The One with Chewy Cocoa Brownies

And now for the recipe. (If you are at a loss for what recipe I’m referring to, you must first read the previous post.)  I believe there are two forms of brownies–cakey or chewy.  Personally, I will eat anything with chocolate (that is, I will eat any brownie), though I am a bit partial to the chewy variety.  That, my friends, is what this recipe is all about.  And boy, is it delicious.  Growing up, the idea of baking brownies from scratch honestly never even occured to me.  I was a “mix” girl.  But NO more!  (Or at least not at this point in my life, when I have no children, no sports practices, and no moments of intense desire to pull out my hair.)

1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter or margarine, melted
2 tablespoons water
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup baking cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped nuts (optional) [I do not include nuts]
PREHEAT oven to 350º F. Grease 13 x 9-inch baking pan. 

COMBINE granulated sugar, butter and water in large bowl. Stir in eggs and vanilla extract. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt in medium bowl; stir into sugar mixture. Stir in nuts. Spread into prepared baking pan. 

BAKE for 18 to 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out slightly sticky. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut into bars.