Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ode to Friendship Collection 2009

Here's the line up for the annual mix CD I make for my nearest and dearest.

1. The Farewell Drifters- Sweet Summer Breeze

This Nashville-based bluegrass band was recommended by a friend.

2. Blitzen Trapper- Sleepy Time in the Western World

One of my favorite bands from this year's Pitchfork Music Festival.

3&4. Brendan Benson- A Whole Lot Better, Garbage Day

I happened upon Benson, of Jack White's The Raconteurs, during an interview on 93XRT. I was obsessed with this CD and couldn't pick just one song.

5. Brett Dennen- Follow Your Heart

Dennen was a rare blind buy after reading a recommendation in the Chicago Tribune. I liked that his CD was titled “Hope for the Hopeless.”

6. Owl City- On the Wing

Recommended by an old high school friend, Owl City is reminiscent of Postal Service and Mae. You may have heard “Fireflies” on the radio.

7. Alexa Woodward- Spoon

My old roommate learned that her old friend Alexa had put out a CD- good stuff.

8&9. Oren Lavie- The Opposite Side of the Sea, A Short Goodbye

I loved a song in the movie “Prince Caspian” so much that I watched the credits to learn who it belonged to: an Israeli-born musician. That song is only on the PC soundtrack but his first CD is just as mesmerizing.

10. Missy Higgins- The Wrong Girl

I couldn't get her radio hit “Where I Stood” out of my head and was pleasantly surprised by the depth found in her CD

11. The Antlers- Epilogue

The Antlers' dark but beautiful CD is appropriately named Hospice, leading to a profile on, a palliative care website I follow.

12. Craig Cardiff- Heaven

Cardiff's song “Smallest Wingless” was playing on the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep website, an organization that provides photography services to families whose baby has died. I was so taken with the song that I explored the rest of his repertoire and was blown away. How have I not heard of him sooner?

13. Ben Arthur- Exit Wound

Another case of waiting to ID a song through the movie credits.

14. Rich Price- Empty Glass

Discovered in the indie film “I'm Reed Fish.”

15. Willow Fair- Last Dance

A Christmas gift last year, this CD is the gift that keeps giving. I'm lucky to have met half of the duo through a small group Bible study this past year.

16. August Rush soundtrack- August's Rhapsody

I adored the movie “August Rush” and found this original composition by Mark Mancina to be very moving.

Christmas Bonus:

17. Relient K- In Like a Lion (Always Winter)

I can't resist a song inspired by “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.”

18. Bebo Norman- The Rebel Jesus

Last year I found this to be the most worshipful Christmas CD I've ever experienced. This Jackson Browne cover cuts to the core of why we celebrate this season and lends much needed perspective.

Sunday Morning Sticky Rolls

This recipe comes courtesy of Jodi Picoult's latest book Handle With Care. I loved how recipes were woven in to the story and thought Sticky Rolls sounded too good to pass up. This is something you need to start Saturday night as it needs to proof for 12 hours before baking. Enjoy!
Sunday Morning Sticky Rolls
  • 3 ¾ cup flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1 c heated milk
  • 1/3 c butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ c dark brown sugar
  • ½ c unsalted butter
  • ¼ c light corn syrup
  • ¾ c pecan halves
  • ½ c pecans, chopped
  • 2 T sugar
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • Separately: 2 T butter, softened

To make the dough, mix together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Add the heated milk, the egg, and 1/3 cup butter, and beat at low speed for a minute, pausing frequently to scrape the bowl. Add flour if necessary, to make the dough easier to shape.

On lightly floured surface, turn dough out and knead five minutes, until it is smooth and elastic. When finished, put into greased bowl and turn over once, so greased side faces up. Cover and let proof until double in size, about 1 ½ hours. It’s ready if you poke it and the mark of your finger is left behind.

Caramel comes next: Stirring constantly, heat 3/4 cup brown sugar and ½ cup butter to boiling. Remove from heat and add corn syrup. Pour the mixture into a 13x9x2 inch ungreased pan. Sprinkle with pecan halves.

For the filling, mix together the chopped pecans, the 2 T of sugar and 2 T of brown sugar, and the cinnamon, set aside. (Next time, I will try doubling the amount of sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon so the filling is more noticeable.)

Take your fist and punch down the dough. Then, on a lightly floured surface, flatten it into a rectangle, about 15x10 inches. Spread with 2 T of butter and then dust evenly with the chopped pecan mixture. Beginning at the 10 inch side of the rectangle, roll the dough up tightly and pinch the edge to seal.

Roll it, stretch it, mold it until it is even, a cylinder.

Cut the roll into eight slices, and place in pan, not quite touching. (I ended up with 9 pieces, which worked out fine.) Wrap pan tightly with aluminum foil and refrigerate at least 12 hours, overnight.

Heat oven to 350 degrees and bake 35 minutes, or until golden brown.

Immediately invert on a platter (This is a little tricky- just have your platter ready and hope for the best!) and serve warm. The caramel hardens fast so if you don't eat the whole batch at once, you'll want to reheat the Sticky Rolls.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Paperdoll ponderings

I recently learned of the book Paperdoll by Natalie Lloyd from another blogger I follow. In response to the book, she wrote: "If I'm really honest, I don't know that there's ever been a time, even in my most confident and contented moments, that the question of "am I beautiful?" has not been lingering quietly somewhere deep down. It's difficult to not feel the pressure from the media, magazines and even just interacting with society. Will I ever be thin enough, pretty enough, funny enough, smart enough...or just enough? Ahh, see, the problem is not the question, but where we look for the answer. If I seek the world to know my definition of beauty, I will most certainly always fall short. If I seek the true Artist, the Creator of beauty, the one who knows my inmost being and every flaw and shortcoming, and yet STILL calls me beautiful...that, my friends, is where the answers to all my questions lie."

Her words struck a chord with me. In my head I know that only God's opinion matters and that he created me to be exactly who I am and for an exact purpose. In my heart it can be a constant battle to remind myself of those truths and not let the world (or a magical "if I just had this in my life" wish) define who I am. The book is geared toward young adults but sometimes it reads a bit younger- it would certainly be appropriate for high school and college girls to read. There's also an option to go through this book with a friend or as a small group- there's a pretty in depth study guide in the back complete with song recommendations. The song recommendations of course include the requisite Christian music bigwigs but there's some gems on there too- how many people have even heard of Rosie Thomas or Laura Story?

The premise of the book is "what happens when an ordinary girl meets an extraordinary God." Lloyd unpacks the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, how she must have felt as she walked to get water, unaware she had a divine appointment waiting for her. The back cover reads "True love- the kind that makes you healthy and whole, as you are meant to be- is waiting at the well. If you feel like your life is flat and two-dimensional, it's time to let God fill you up with the kind of love that makes extraordinary things possible. You'll never be ordinary again." Lately I've been feeling stuck. I want God to use my life for his glory and I don't want my baggage to get in the way of it. In the middle of all of this, I've been praying about a big life change and trying to figure out all the ramifications if I move forward. At the same time, I want the Holy Spirit to be leading me now during this in between time. I want to trust that just because my dreams aren't being realized now, doesn't mean they never will or that God won't do immeasurably more than I ask or imagine. Sometimes I feel like I've been dealing with the same issues for far too long but when I look back at my life, I do see the progress and I know God has been helping me tackle these issues one step at a time. The process of sanctification is never as fast as we'd like it.

I read the first chapter last night and it resonated with me in several parts. I think this book might be one to savor, to allow the truth settle in every part of me. If I manage my time properly, I'll try to write about my thoughts as I process the book. For now, I'll leave you with two parts I've been mulling over.
-"There's something about feeling two-dimensional that makes sense to me; a certain make-believe element that I still bring to the world. My doll-playing days are over, but I still tend to dwell in "maybes" and "what ifs." I still think my life begins later, in some dreamy far-off someday I imagine but never seem to find. I think God can't use me right now while I'm still waiting, wondering, and becoming."
-"There is something different about the Man by the well. He sees the real truth behind our smile. He knows when our smile is fake. He sees the motive behind our actions. He sees where we've been hurt in the past, and He wants to make us whole again. And He wants all of us- the brave part and the insecure, the bright and the brooding. We get to bring the mess of who are to Him and sort it out there in His presence. Just like the story of the woman at the well in John, he offers us His time."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Welcoming the Stranger review

I'm looking forward to discussing Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate (Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang) at Book Club tomorrow night. While I believe it to be an important issue, I've never looked in depth at the issue of immigration before, much less discerned what a biblical response might be. The book has a great many insights and the authors are skillful in examining all sides of the controversial matter. If only this could be required reading for anyone involved in (or wants to have an opinion about) immigration reform! Click here for a brochure of the most commonly asked questions about immigration.

Here are a few points/passages to ponder:
-"The present immigration dilemma, however, presents a special challenge, as Scripture's many references to immigrants never mention or consider their legal status- a concept which may not have applied during the biblical era, just as it did not apply during the early history of the United States, when there were practically no limits on immigration and when all immigrants were, as far the governing authority was concerned, legal. Indeed, many Christians would recognize that they should care for immigrants and refugees in a general sense, but they are troubled by the legal status issue and are not sure that they want to or should assist individuals whose presence in the United States is unlawful." (p. 107-8)
-Current laws make it very difficult to people to immigrate to the US, even as the economic and/or political situation makes life in their home country difficult, or in some cases, impossible to survive. Most undocumented immigrants are not eligible to enter the US legally because of their poverty; they often enter illegally so they can work and provide for their family. It is a catch-22.
-It's important to note that most immigrants work and pay taxes. However, most of them are ineligible for public benefits. However, their children may attend public primary and secondary school, they can be treated in an emergency at the hospital even if they can't pay, and they can use police, fire, and municipal services. Stephen Moore, an economist, did a study and found that the average immigrant (legal immigrant, refugee, and undocumented immigrant) pays about $80,000 more in taxes than he/she will receive in benefits over a lifetime. That's a nice benefit to the government, isn't it?
-Comprehensive Immigration Reform, as proposed by Congress in 2005 was defined by 4 principles: 1) Border protection policies consistent with humanitarian values, 2) Reforms in family-based immigration to reduce backlogs, 3) Creation of legal avenues for workers and their families, and 4) Earned legalization of undocumented immigrants (this would appear to appeal to those who are opposed to amnesty.)

I hope that you are sufficiently interested to read this book yourself. While Soerens and Hwang certainly advocate certain beliefs, they also allow room for those who would disagree. However, by examining the Bible and remembering God's mandate that we care for the widow, the poor, and the alien (multiple references), we may find our direction as the immigration debate continues.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pumpkin Pie Crunch

15 oz. can solid pack pumpkin
12 oz. evaporated milk
3 eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar
4 t. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 t. salt
1 pkg. Duncan Hines yellow cake mix
1 c. butter, melted
1 c. chopped pecans (I've used walnuts or you can skip this step)

1. Combine pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in a large bowl.
2. Pour mixture into 13 x 9 baking pan.
3. Sprinkle cake mix evenly on top.
4. Top with pecans or walnuts, if desired.
5. Drizzle with melted butter.
6. Bake at 350 for 50-55 minutes or until golden.

Fresh from the oven