Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Nice things follow...

After reading Becky's post, Patti thought I wouldn't have anything nice to say about her. Ha! I have nice things to say about everyone! Grandma always said, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

Patti is the Middle Child. Growing up, we were very close. When we weren't clawing each others eyes out, we got along quite well.

Patti married Adrian and instantly became a mom to his little boy, Nick. She's the youngest and coolest stepmom I know. That boy loves her madly.

Later they had their son, Alex. Alex was born early and with lots of problems. Patti had a very difficult pregnancy with complications. I remember my mom calling me and asking me about some of the conditions the doctors mentioned and trying to calm our fears. My dad is quick to point out that both Patti and Alex are miracles. Alex was born with hydrocephalus and had brain surgery several times before he was six months old. He's spent more time in the hospital more than most adults have. And yet, he's one of the happiest kids I know. He's almost never without a smile on his face, and his laugh is just a beautiful sound. I know that this is due in large part to his mother, who loves him desperately and never ceases to let him know. Patti spent days upon days in the hospital with him and never complained.

Now Patti's working to help her husband finish his degree and realize his dream of becoming a teacher.

Once, when Steven was in Michigan and I was stuck in Kentucky, Patti and Becky drove down to pick me up on Christmas Eve. We had a bake-fest, and made cookies and soup for all the couples in our housing area. That's one of my favorite Christmas memories: us laughing and hauling steaming bowls of soup and piles of cookies through the snow.

She's selfless, sweet and loving. She's always the one to call or email me and tell me she misses me. She's a great cook and makes the best cheesy broccoli soup. How could I not have nice things to say about her?

Love you, Patti and Happy Birthday! Hope you have a great day!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

We'll Leave the Light On

I just love my parents.

We had a guest preacher at church this morning. He talked about the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). Whenever I hear this story, I am always reminded of my parents and the porch light.

Whenever one of their kids were out and about, they would leave the porch light on so they can see easily enough to get in the front door. No matter how late I came home, (I didn't have a curfew) even if it was 3 AM, the light would be on, welcoming me home.

Now I live far away, but once upon a time, I drove up for a surprise visit, and lo and behold, the light was on! Now, I'm sure it was a mistake, that someone had just forgotten to turn it off before bed, but I like to believe that they were still waiting for me. Knowing I wasn't home where I belong and waiting for me to come home.

The same is true of God. No matter how far away we roam, no matter what heinous or sinful acts we commit, He is always waiting, seeing us coming from far away, running to us and crying with joy to have us back where we belong and instantly forgiving us of all wrong.

The father in the story always reminds me of my parents, so glad to have me back again.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I wonder...

I'm wondering why aging can't be graceful for everyone. My own grandmother lived to be in her 90s and just slipped off one day. By the time we knew anything was wrong, she was already gone.

Then, on the other hand, there are people like Mr. Jim, aged 86. Mr. Jim, who served his country in World War II, got shot, and went back for more, who buried his wife after a long struggle with her illness, raised a mentally impaired son by himself before losing him as well at far too young an age. Mr. Jim, whose body is "eaten up" with cancer, who has been written off by doctors and family members alike and yet continues to hold on. Mr. Jim, who currently resides in a hospital after falling one too many times and is struggling with the idea of either living in a nursing home or giving up his independence and moving in with his niece.

It is absolutely heartbreaking to see him so wasted away and despondent. His will to live is incredibly strong and yet, I wonder why. I wonder what gives a man the will to go on. And I wonder if I would be so determined to survive if I were in his position.

I love Mr. Jim dearly, and one of the best things about him is his attitude on his "good days." With everything he's been through, he'll always claim to be blessed. He never ceases to thank God for His many gifts.

It just hurts to see him in pain.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Nutritional Warning

I am about to become a complete nutritional fanatic. I'm already heading towards a Howard Hughes-like germophobia and now this!

While redesigning our diets, Steve and I have been learning about partially hydrogenated oils. Do you know that every time you eat a PHO, you might as well just drink poison? And they're in EVERYTHING!

Besides the biggie, heart disease, studies are finding links with PHOs to other major health concerns like:

* Alzheimer's Disease: A study published in Archives of Neurology in February 2003 suggested that the intake of both trans fats and saturated fats promote the development of Alzheimer disease.

* Cancer: There is no scientific consensus that consumption of trans fats significantly increases cancer risks across the board. The American Cancer Society states that a relationship between trans fats and cancer "has not been determined." However, one recent study has found connections between trans fat and prostate cancer. An increased intake of trans-fatty acids may raise the risk of breast cancer by 75 per cent, suggest the results from the French part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition.

* Diabetes: There is a growing concern that the risk of type 2 diabetes increases with trans fat consumption. However, consensus has not been reached. For example, one study found that risk is higher for those in the highest quartile of trans fat consumption. Another study has found no diabetes risk once other factors such as total fat intake and BMI were accounted for.

* Liver Dysfunction: Trans fats are metabolized differently by the liver than other fats and interfere with delta 6 desaturase. Delta 6 desaturase is an enzyme involved in converting essential fatty acids to arachidonic acid and prostaglandins, both of which are important to the functioning of cells.

* Infertility: One 2007 study found, "Each 2% increase in the intake of energy from trans unsaturated fats, as opposed to that from carbohydrates, was associated with a 73% greater risk of ovulatory infertility".

PHOs (also known as trans fats) are in many convenience foods and commercially prepared baked goods.

I say this, not to beat you over the head and insist that you become a nutritional fanatic, but so that you'll know. With Steve's health the way it is, we just can't afford to not pay attention.

Next up: Gluten!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

This says it all...

Life is too short to stay in a job I can't stand. Anybody have any suggestions?

And since Suldog says I'm not unique in hating my job (and he can talk, since he's going to be the next president) why don't we all quit our jobs and do what we love? Anyone know a job where the only requirements are sleeping late, reading, cooking and eating?

Sick Day?

I would rather be dead than go to work. If I wake up one morning, dead, my first thought will be, "woohoo, no work today!"

In the spirit of healthy meals, I was preparing a marinade for Slow-Cooked Salmon last night. One of the ingredients is lime juice, so I spent a good amount of time squeezing the limes, added the other ingredients, and went to bed. Before bed though, I had to remove my contacts, right? You can see where this is going. Me, in my seemingly infinite wisdom, stuck my finger RIGHT IN MY EYE and slathered lime juice all over it. "Hmm, feels a little weird," I thought. And then I stuck my finger in my other eye. You see, it didn't hurt at first. Yes, folks, the pain comes later. I went to bed with eyes red and weepy. My first thought? "Hmm, maybe I can fake a case of pink eye and skip work tomorrow! Sweet!"

But alas, it was not to be. My darn morals always get in the way! Ask me about soul competency.

Slow-Cooked Salmon

2 salmon steaks
1 lime
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp white pepper

Place salmon in a ziplock bag. Squeeze lime juice over salmon. WASH YOUR HANDS! Combine other ingredients in a bowl and then sprinkle over salmon. Remove air from bag, seal and roll into a bundle. Refrigerate overnight, or up to 48 hours.

Thirty minutes before cooking, put 2 tbsp olive oil in the crockpot, set to high and cover. Allow to preheat for 30 minutes.

Use a damp paper towel to gently remove the seasonings. Place salmon in single layer in crockpot, cover, and cook for 90 minutes.


Friday, September 12, 2008

A Recap and a Recipe

OK, I was looking for my blog that talks about Steven's health issues and discovered it's not here, it was on Myspace. So you all are sitting there, completely ignorant of my dearly beloved's heart problems.

Steven was born with a membrane covering one of his aortic valves. At age 16, he had open heart surgery to correct the problem. Last September he started complaining of chest pains and so I, being the good wife that I am, FORCED him to go to the doctor. The doctor referred him to a cardiologist. The cardiologist sent him to the hospital for a heart cath. And now the cheese stands alone. I mean, the heart cath revealed no blockages, but that he has a leaky valve that will eventually have to be replaced. So basically he will have palpitations and chest pains (aggravated by stress, and what normal, sane PhD aspiring, hollering preaching man married to a very difficult woman has any stress?) So we're trying to keep his heart as healthy as possible so there will be no further issues. A heart cath at age 27 certainly is a great way to help you forget the carefree ways of youth. Yeah, right.

Anyway, the point of this post was to say that due to Steve's heart, we're making an effort to eat healthier, beginning with wiping out all processed foods. And yes, people, I know that pork isn't the healthiest thing you can eat, but small changes, ok? Small changes. I love to cook, and this is just the motivation I needed to drag out all my neglected cookbooks. I found this recipe and made it last night:

Fennel-Seared Pork Tenderloin with Blackberry Sauce (recipe courtesy of The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook)

2 tbsp fennel seed
4 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp butter
1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 c chicken stock
2 1/2 c fresh or frozen blackberries
1/4 c honey
1 pork tenderloin, about 1 lb
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350.

To prepare the fennel salt, spread the fennel seed in a cast iron skillet and roast in the oven for 6 minutes. Grind in a spice grinder, and then mix with the sea salt in a small bowl.

Increase the oven heat to 375.

To prepare the blackberry sauce, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Stir in the mustard. Add the chicken stock and cook, stirring, for several minutes. Add the blackberries and honey, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the sauce begins to thicken, about 10 minutes. Strain the sauce into a bowl. Discard the berries and onions.

To prepare the pork, rub the tenderloin evenly with 1 tbsp of the fennel salt. Place a 10- or 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and let it heat for 1 minute. Add the tenderloin and cook until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Place the skillet in the oven and roast, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for several minutes. Pour any excess juice from the cooked tenderloin into the blackberry sauce. Reheat the sauce quickly. Slice the tenderloin crosswise, arrange on a platter, and spoon the warm blackberry sauce over the top.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Come on, Christmas!

My nephew (Alex, age 2) started Head Start a few weeks ago. His classroom has a camera where parents and other family members can watch the class while they play, eat snacks, and even take naps. I've been following it religiously since I discovered it. Today my sister told me to watch at around 3:00 while my dad came to pick him up. Imagine my surprise when not only my dad, but my mom, my sister, and two other nephews paraded in front of the camera, waving. I couldn't resist calling my dad so I could "see" him while talking to him. It was very sad to watch them walk away.

Hurry up, Christmas! Only 105 days left!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Ninety-nine Bottles of Non-Alcoholic Beverage on the Wall...

Otherwise known as "A Post About Random Crap."

One of my favorite (missed) traditions about living in Michigan is the annual church picnic given by my home church in Flint. I'll refrain from mentioning it's name for privacy purposes. I can just imagine Teen People paparazzi storming the place, shoving microphones in my parents' faces and demanding interviews. "We know your daughter knows someone who's related to Justin Timberlake. Give us the story or die!"

Anyway, the church picnic had been held at the pastor's house for years and years. He had a lot of space and a nice pool. We'd barbecue and basically pig out and then burn off all our energy swimming and playing with the dogs and then go home and crash and/or puke. One year, Steve and I were dating when the time for the picnic came around. Joy of joys! My boyfriend gets to see me in a bathing suit for the first time. Definitely a cause for celebration. Or a panic attack. Maybe he sensed my embarrassment, because he proceeded to pick me up, fully clothed, and leap into the pool with me in his arms.

Did I mention that these picnics, though very fun, were somewhat structured events? We'd eat, digest a while, and THEN swim until we passed out from exhaustion. Therefore, I spent the next two hours dripping wet and shivering. Thanks a lot, Steven.

Oh yeah, he also picked up my dad and tossed him in, fully clothed, including his shoes and his wallet.
I just realized that the word "won't" doesn't make any sense. "Can't" is can+not-o+'. "Wouldn't" is would+not-o+'. What the heck is won't?!

I will start saying "willn't" instead.

That is all.

Monday, September 1, 2008

What I Did on My Labor Day Vacation

Yesterday Steven and I went to a family reunion. In Gift, Tennessee. Do we have family in Gift, Tennessee? No, but as Steven says, "If you're a preacher, everybody's your family."

We didn't even have to crash!

Every Labor Day weekend, the Smith family has their family reunion. Turns out there's a ton of Smiths on this planet! Whodathunkit?

Amongst the guests were the grandparents of Tennessee's own Justin Timberlake. That's right, ladies and gentlemen. I am now famous. Teen People will be calling me for an interview any day now. Though Mr. Timberlake (the young one) was not in attendance, Pastor Timberlake (the eldest one) and Steven and I talked and they joked about stealing each others sermons. They seem like very good people.

Oh, and we had food and played with horses.

That is all.

Justin Timberlake, people!