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Carpe Diem

"Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone," Colossians 4:5-6.

Carpe Diem...Seize the Day, in Latin. Is anything really a coincidence in this life, or is it a "God-incidence"...a divinly orchestrated moment? As followers of Christ we must be ready to seize the day and tell others about how Jesus has become Lord of our lives.

A certain situation at work had left me alone in a car for at least a half hour drive with a much older man. He's a little on the akward side and maybe even what some would call "nerdy". As I got in the car, the casual, "Hello, how's your day going?" seemed to be drowned out by a cd playing in the back ground. Not music, but more of a book on tape.

As I began to pay close attention, it was clear what he and now I were listening to: "Why I'm an Atheist". All I needed was a pulpit, because I practically began preaching to the man! I told him how a mere two years ago, I had left religion for relationship and found the love of my life; Jesus Christ.

Although he thwarted most of my statements and questions with "scientific facts", I gave my account. When we parted ways, he told me he envied my faith, but said he was never willing to "go back". He was once a believer and the cards dealt to him had made him decide to leave it all behind.

Whatever the result, I knew I had planted a seed and seized the moment.

What's the latest "coincidence" you've had?

 

Heavenly father,

Help me not to judge, but show others how you've changed my life. Help me to always be ready to give an account.

When I speak about you, keep my words light, yet impactful.

I love you for who you are and everything you do!

1 Peter 3:15

"...And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way..."

Growing Green

With gas prices skyrocketing , I'm willing to cut back on luxuries but  I won't compromise the quality of food that comes out of my kitchen!  I love using fresh herbs  and each time I have a glass of ice tea at Shirley Ray's house, she always throws in fresh mint. So, I thought I'd ask her for a little education in regards to  planting a mobile herb garden.  Recently I showed up with a clay pot and a few herbs and my lesson began. She took me step by step through the process .

Herb gardens have few limitations. They can be planted in the ground , a clay pot or any kind of a wire basket. They can live by a kitchen window, a back yard or an apartment balcony. Shirley begins by lining the basket with her favorite landscape fabric,  WeedFree Pro. This allows water through but keeps roots inside the container.

On this particular afternoon, she put together a couple of herb gardens. I thought this aged bicycle basket was  a perfect place for a mobile garden as well as  the traditional clay pot I brought with me.

Shirley prefers inexpensive gloves, rather than a name brand.

With  numerous choices of herbs to choose from we started off with basil, rosemary and mint. She keeps several kinds of  mint in her garden like pineapple mint, chocolate mint and spearmint. She planted multiple  herbs in each garden, but left sufficient room for each to grow and spread.

Fennel has a long droopy leaf and she planted it in the bicycle basket by the outside edge, giving it room to fall over the basket. She doesn't really cook with fennel but she informed me that caterpillars are attracted to it and  by planting fennel she'll also have butterflies in her garden.

This is called the Butterfly Bush, a member of the lilac family.Its rich nectar attracts butterflies, hummingbirds and beneficial insects.

Shirley plants lavender in her garden  just because she loves the fragrance. In fact, a small pouch of  dried lavender  tucked inside your pillowcase is supposed to help you sleep.

While she's not picky about her gloves, she is particular about the soil she uses and she pampers her plants with

Miracle Grow.

After just about an hour in Shirley's backyard, she had put together two distinct herb gardens and guess whose front porch this mobile garden calls home?

Shirley Ray: personal style-Texas casual

I'm inspired by memories of my grandmother's garden. Every time I walked into her backyard, it was wall to wall flowers.

Shirley is  also the founder of Shirley's Creative Solutions. She is a caterer, event planner, provides services as a personal assistant and whips up unique hand made gifts.

Grocery Store Grumble

"Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others." Colossians 3:13.

The grocery store. The place where we pick up daily necessities like bread and milk.

However, it can also be a place to pick up offenses. What? You've never left the store angry because someone ran their buggy into your heels, or the person in line ahead of you leaves mid-transaction to go get something else?

Supermarkets can be the devil's stomping ground disguised by rollback prices, taste testers, and tabloids.

Recently, I found myself leaving the grocery store incredibly offended and downright angry at the remarks that not one, but two snippy women had made to me.

As I fought the urge to give them a piece of my Un-Christian-like mind, the Lord reminded me of what He once said to the Father...not after someone took the last package of cookies on the shelf, but after being tortured and nailed to a cross. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

I left the grocery store and for days wrestled with the dirty looks and remarks the women made. Needless to say, I finally got over it.

If this is how long it can take any one of us to forgive someone for something so petty, would we have the grace to do the same for someone who beat us, whipped us, and then nailed us to a tree?

If we can't even bestow grace amid the aisles of produce and packaged goods, how are we being Christ- like?

Dad, I'm not even going to lie. Some people just frustrate me. To be really honest, some people hurt and offend me. Help me to not be easily offended, but instead bestow grace upon those who I don't feel like bestowing grace to. Grow my love for those I enjoy doing life with and even more for those that make it difficult. Teach me to forgive. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Genesis 4:7 Matthew 18:21-22

Making Dreams Come True

Opening the email, the first sentence read, “Would you like to bless some people?”  My immediate thought was, “Of course.  Who doesn’t like to bless people?”  Jennifer and Chad were going to be married in two months, November 11, 2011.  Their lives had changed dramatically within one week.  They lived in Bastrop, Texas, where fires burned businesses and residents for over a week.  Their home and the venue they were to be married in were burned to the ground.  The Oaks Events Center staff met with Jennifer and Chad two days after receiving that email. Jennifer’s face beamed.  She smiled from ear to ear when she walked into the bridal suite.  Her eyes met with the ornate gold hook that her wedding dress would hang on and a tear rolled down her cheek.  It was a look I will never forget; surprise, joy, and peace.  As an Event Manager, the most important rule is; if the bride is happy, everyone else is happy.  Chad had a sense of relief as he watched his bride to be have a moment of joy in the midst of loss.

There was a huge sense of community in the two months preparing for Jennifer and Chad’s wedding.  From linens, to Tiki torches, to a sunset wedding ceremony on the front lawn, cake, catering, an evening of laughing and dancing, and bubble blowing as a farewell to the bride and groom; the day was spectacular.  The Bastrop community, friends and family of the bride and groom, and The Oaks Events Center all pulled together to make Jennifer and Chad’s dream come true on their wedding day.

Stacy loves to share with groups of people; to Inspire you to dream big, to Empower you to become better in spirit, mind, and body; and to challenge you to Share what you have learned with others. Some of the topics she is passionate about are: health and fitness, relationships, leadership, communication and conflict resolution within any environment. She has been on staff at her home church, Shoreline Church, in Austin Texas since 2002. She is the Event Manager at Shoreline Church and The Oaks Events Center.  To learn more about Stacy, please visit her website www.stacymcvane.com.

Brown Rice, Mexican Style

Anywhere there's Mexican food, you'll find rice. Enchiladas and rice, tacos and rice, beans and rice. My mother, grandmother and mother-in-law each prepared rice with their own twist and now I've added mine. I hope you'll try this easy, yummy recipe which takes brown rice, full of nutrients, and packs it with flavor that will fill your kitchen with a heavenly aroma.

Mexican Brown Rice

Ingredients

1 c. brown rice

2t. canola oil   

1 T. chicken boullion

2 c. water

½ t. ground cumin

2 cloves minced garlic

1/3 c chopped onion

3/4 c diced or crushed tomatoes

1c chopped vegetables –combination of any of the following: mushrooms, cooked garbanzos, chopped carrots, celery, bell pepper, frozen peas)

Cilantro (optional)

 

Pour brown rice  and canola oil into 2 qt. saucepan, stirring continually until toasty. ( This will make cooking time shorter and rice will have a wonderfully  firm texture.) When rice has browned sufficiently, add water, cumin, tomatoes and garlic. Bring to a boil then lower temperature to a simmer.  Add vegetables and cilantro after rice has been cooking for 20-25 minutes.Cook an additional 15-20 minutes until all liquid has been absorbed and rice is al dente.

Makes 4 c or 8-1/2 c. servings

Vegan Lemon Macadamia Cupcakes

Spring is just around the corner and what better way to welcome it than a Vegan Lemon Macadamia Cupcake with Lemon Buttercream frosting from the cookbook Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World??? (my stomach is growling as I type this)

Lemon Macadamia Cupcakes

1/3 cup canola oil 3/4 cup sugar 1/4 cup yogurt 1/3 cup milk 1/4 cup lemon juice 1 tbsp lemon zest 1 tsp vanilla extract 1 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp baking soda 1/4 tsp salt 1/3 cup ground macadamia nuts 1/2 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine oil, sugar, yogurt, & milk. Add juice, zest, & vanilla. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, & salt in a separate bowl. Incorporate dry ingredients into wet ingredients in two batches.  Add in ground macadamia nuts, then fold in the chopped macadamias. Bake for 20-22 minutes, then allow to cool on a rack.

Lemon Buttercream Frosting

1/4 cup shortening (I like Earth Balance) 1/4 cup margarine 2 cups powdered sugar 2 tbsp lemon juice 2 tsp lemon zest

Cream together and frost or pipe onto your cupcakes. Enjoy (preferably in the sun with a good book/Frank Sinatra)!

Lord, Bless My Holiday Stress

Most of us love being generous with others and connecting with friends and family at holiday festivities, but there is fact that cannot be denied. Holiday fun is connected to the stress of busy schedules and endless opportunities to help the less fortunate. I love living in a community that is so others oriented. In the last twenty-four hours I’ve been invited to to feed the poor, buy coats and shoes for those without and donate toys to needy children, and Christmas is still four weeks away!!! However, my question is, “How do I show love to others AND manage my time, money and energy responsibly?” Holiday demands can do one of two things: 1) squeeze the life out of you or 2) squeeze life from you. I know I’m not the only woman that has run herself into the ground with busyness and counted down the days until the holidays are all over, but I’m learning some things I’d like to share.

  • The weight of the world in NOT on your shoulders. –Spend a little time analyzing the needs in your community. Decide what and where you’ll give and be at PEACE!! Your gift will go farther and have a long-lasting effect when the motivation behind it is joy and not pressure.
  • The world won’t come to an end if you STOP and take a break.-Do the unexpected and give yourself a moment of refreshment. Put your pjs on at 5 in the afternoon, let the kids have popcorn for dinner or skip washing the sheets, just once. (If you bathe before bedtime, they’re not really dirty anyway.)
  • NO is not a curse word!!-Saying no doesn’t mean, “I don’t love you” or “You’re not important.” In the right context, it means, “I realize I’m only flesh and bones and I’m going to be smart enough to take care of this flesh.”

When holidays, needy loved ones or career goals pressure us to give from an empty tank, life is siphoned from us and we end up empty-handed for the “life assignments” that do belong to us. Recognizing our limitations isn’t weakness. It’s smart, it’s mature and it’s freeing!!

There’s a fruity cliché that says, “When life give you lemons, make lemonade.” I've decided I want my life to be like a plump, juicy orange and therefore am initiating my own fruity expression...

”Freshly Squeezed-Giving Life!”

Holiday Classic - The Pumpkin Pie

For the past 2 years I've had the pleasure of cooking Thanksgiving dinner for our family Thanksgiving with my in-laws. I don't think I slept 2 hours on Thanksgiving Eve the first year worrying about "am I cooking enough food" and "did I leave enough time for the turkey to thaw". I love cooking but that first year was a lot of pressure on a girl! One thing I've learned is that you don't have to be a gourmet cook as long as you have a great Pumpkin Pie :).

Versions of the Pumpkin Pie have been around since 1621 when they would fill a pumpkin with spices, milk, and sugar and cook it. Now, nearly 400 years later we have a a few other (and tastier!) options. Here is my favorite "Class Pumpkin Pie" recipe.   

Classic Pumpkin Pie (William-Sonoma)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • Prebaked and cooled deep-dish piecrust

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 375ºF.

In a bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Add the pumpkin, eggs, cream and milk and whisk to combine.

Pour the filling into the prebaked piecrust and bake until the center is set, 60 to 65 minutes, covering the edges of the crust with aluminum foil after 30 minutes if they brown too quickly.

Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool completely, at least 2 hours, before serving. Top with real whipped cream, savor, and enjoy your loved ones! Serves 10.

Chicken Tacos

Coming from El Paso, Texas, I have a special love for Mexican food.  Known for it's varied dishes, spices and flavors, Mexican cuisine is without a doubt my favorite. Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 onions minced
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced into 1/2-inch chunks
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 Serrano pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Tex-Joy* seasoning - to taste
  • ¼ cup tomato sauce
  • ½ cup water

* Tex-Joy is one of my favorite seasonings and can be used in a myriad ways.  I cook with the salt-free variety which allows my family and guests to add salt at the table, if they prefer.

Method:

  • Heat a medium to large saute pan over medium heat and pour in enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
  • Add the garlic and onions and cook until soft and nicely caramelized, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  • In the meantime, season the chicken with Tex-Joy and pepper.
  • Sprinkle the flour over the chicken and toss to coat.
  • Heat another medium to large saute pan over medium-high heat and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • Cook the chicken until it is lightly browned, about 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Once the onion mixture is caramelized and softened, add the serranos, paprika and Tex-Joy.
  • When the chicken is done, transfer it to the pan with the onions. Pour in water and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce cooks down and  is thick and delicious, approximately 20 minutes.
  • Adjust seasoning with Tex-Joy and pepper.
  • To serve the tacos: Place the toppings and chicken filling in bowls and allow guests to build their own tacos.

Toppings:

  • Chopped romaine lettuce
  • Diced red or yellow onions
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Grated cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Salsa
  • Avocado slices or Guacamole
  • 1 to 2 packages corn or flour tortillas

Serve chicken tacos with a salad or go all out by adding rice and beans and your family/friends will sing your praises for days!

It's muy sabroso . . . enjoy!