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Favorite Books From My Middle School Years

Yesterday I posted some of my favorite books from my childhood. Here are some from my early adolescence. I read many of these several times. As I ransacked my mind for this list, I remembered that a great many of my favorite books were from the Newbery Award book list. Interestingly enough, the only books I really remember reading and loving from this time period were fiction. Fairytales, many of them. The Two Princesses of Bamarre.jpgElla Enchanted and the Two Princesses of Bamarre. The first has been made into a movie (the book is better), though it is really the second that deserves to be made into a movie. Bamarre‘s main character, Addie, and I had a lot in common. She had a big sister who was brave and adventurous (and liked to act) and she was afraid of many things. When playing pretend with her sister Meryl, Addie was always the damsel in distress, but when her sister became deathly ill, it was Addie who had to be the courageous adventurer who sought the cure. And, of course, she meets a guy. Holes by Louis Sachar. This modern-day story of ancient curses and treasure is full of hilarious lines, like “You boys aren’t digging for treasure! You’re digging to build character!” He also wrote nonsensical stories I read when I was younger, like Wayside School Is Falling Down. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit: this one has been made into a movie, actually doing great credit to the book. The book asks the reader, “If you were given the chance to live forever, would you take it?” The Westing Game. This story is a riddle, and the reader is lucky if she can figure it out before the main character, a bright young girl, is able to do so. Poppy by Avi. My, how I loved this series. It is probably because of these books that I wanted to name a future daughter Poppy (Unfortunately, my husband thinks she will get nicknames “poopy” and my mother reminded me that the poppy is the source of the drugs opium, morphine, and heroin). The books in the series are Ragweed, Poppy, Poppy & Rye, Ereth’s Birthday, Poppy’s Return, and Poppy and Ereth. The stories are about the adventures of some field mice and a porcupine who find friendship and love. completely charming.    I love Karen Cushman books, especially these three. Cushman showed me what life for a girl might look like in middle ages England.   The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. The reason I liked this story so much was probably because I recognized it as a retelling of an old Grimm brothers fairy tale with the same name. Taking a story from 7 pages long to novel length was delightfully done. (Plus the princess has super powers)

Man, I loved these books. And now that I look at them, all but Holes has a female protagonist.

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2014 in Just Talking/Thinking

 

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My Favorite Books from Childhood

Two days ago I reviewed 30 of the books I have read this year. But I have read so many books, I thought you might like to hear some of my favorite books from three different arbitrary time periods of my life: 6-10, 11-16, and 17-22. Here is the first.

ImageI was homeschooled until the 11th grade. One thing I loved about being homeschooled was the literary approach we took to learning certain subjects. The curriculum would provide lots of historical fiction, which we would use for spelling, vocabulary, history, and writing assignments. I couldn’t get enough of books. In this one, which we also listened to together as a book on tape, we learned about life in Michigan during the Great Depression. I can still hear some of the lines in my head, like “I’ll take the image of you driving away in my car just outside of Owasso, Michigan at two-thirty in the morning to my grave with me!” Even though life was tough for the orphan, Bud, he was determined and optimistic about finding a family.

ImageOh, how I loved this book series on tape. It is a silly story about how a boy saves a dragon from slavery and makes a friend. Elmer has to out-think tigers, boars, a rhino, a gorilla, monkeys, and crocodiles on the island of Tangerina.

 

ImageRoald Dahl has always been my favorite kids’ books author (despite some gruesome descriptions of how some beasts/witches/Twits like to eat up little children). I have read nearly all of his children’s books. I especially love The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, The Twits, Fantastic Mr. Fox, George’s Marvelous Medicine, and Danny: Champion of the World, though he is more famous for his Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach stories. His stories encourage kids to dream big and wonder. It challenges them to rethink what is beautiful and what success is. And of course Quentin Blake’s illustrations are just as wonky as the stories. Splendid.

ImageThis is a British book that my mother read out loud to the three of us kids once. Only once, but I never forgot the story of the proud teddy bear that kept getting passed off to someone else, gradually humbling him and opening him up to be loved in the end.

ImageOh, this was the best. Grover is told that there is a monster at the end of the book; he is terrified, and tries to keep the reader from finishing the book. He uses paper clips and bricks, pleading and begging, only to find that the monster at the end of it all is himself. And surely he does not need to fear himself! What a relief. I loved the drawings and how Grover looked like he was talking to me.

ImageImageThese two Treasure Tree books were written by a Christian who wanted a way to explain to kids about a common personality sorter. So four friends go adventuring together: a commanding lion (Choleric), a loyal golden retriever (Phlegmatic), a playful otter (Sanguine), and a precise-measuring beaver (Melancholy). Through the whimsical stories, kids can see how people are different from them (and that is a good thing!). They have different thought patterns and take different approaches; this diversity is a help, not a hindrance, from the group goals. Since I am a phlegmatic, my favorite part of the first book was when Honey the dog heard the small voice of someone needing help, and was able to save him through her attentive empathy. I taught me that even quiet people can do important things.

So those were a few of my favorites. I am pretty sure that if I am blessed with children, I will make sure we own all of these books.

What were some of your favorite books to read as a child?

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2014 in Just Talking/Thinking

 

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Quote

“What we do here today [at church] is radical insofar as it makes clear that we are not individuals who happen to show up once a week to convince ourselves that the eccentric opinions we hold are not that odd. Rather we are a people, as Rowan Williams suggests, whose imagination is constantly renewed by a celebratory sharing in the great narratives that hold them together, the narratives of God’s actions which have brought them close to each other and whose resonances they recognize in each other.” ~Stanley Hauerwas, Without Apology: Sermons for Christ’s Church

I love these words of Stanley Hauerwas.

Our imagination, as Christian people, is renewed. We are reminded. We are a storied people. We live into and see our lives through the same Story: one of love, new life, and new mission. The gospel defines us and holds us together as a people. We see God’s work in each other, transforming us and conforming us into the image of the only begotten Son, Jesus the Christ.

What We Do Here…Is Radical.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2014 in Just Talking/Thinking

 

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30 Books I Have Read This Year

A normal tradition for Americans on New Year’s Eve is to make a promise, a resolution, in an attempt to improve their lives or self-discipline. After two or three weeks of very honestly trying to uphold the ideal, we listen to the excuses our minds tell us for why we really don’t need to go to the gym today. A day or two goes by, then a week, then two, without our touching whatever it is we promised. We recall our resolution with regret, and find comfort in the fact that none of our friends had kept their resolution, either. I think the problem here is that we either really don’t want to do whatever it is we promised, or that we didn’t put in place an accountability system in place to keep us on track.

This year, I picked something I do want to do (read) and then told people about it. I decided my resolution should be to challenge myself with the goal of reading 100 books in a year. Since I took a gap semester between college and seminary, I had plenty of free time to do this.

I have read (…wow, has it really been thirty?!)30 books so far. There are classics and newbies, science fiction, historical fiction, and biography, young adult fiction, cookbooks, and theology. As I went along, I kept notes. I thought maybe you would be inspired to pick up a new book.

One Hundred Books in a Year – 2014

Title, author, yearpublished, date I finished it, # of pages, my evaluation/thoughts

1. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, Max Brooks, Jan 2, 342 pg. A rather gruesomely captivating story, full of foul language, this book of eyewitness accounts contains the fictitious “history” of the spread of the undead infection and the living’s hard-earned journey to regaining control of dominion. Interesting to read once; won’t read it again.

2. The Island of Dr. Moreau, H. G. Wells, Jan 3, 185 pg. Another frightfully engrossing story, this parable by Wells explores the tension between humanity and animals. The animals which were distorted into a kind of human resemblance by Moreau’s vivisection stand as a reminder of our own more primal urges. Wells sought to express his own exasperation at the suffering and lack of purpose of the human race. Glad I read this classic sci-fi.

3. The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson, Jan 4, 253 pg. This is a collection of funny and philosophical cartoons depicting a boy and his stuffed tiger. Calvin and Hobbes deal with many of the troubles of a six-year-old, like dealing with a babysitter, his girly neighbor, and the daily homework. Good stuff, rather delightful.

4. The Spymistress: a novel, Jennifer Chiaverini, Jan 6, 351 pg. This historical fiction follows the life of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Unionist living in the Confederate capitol of Richmond, Virginia, during America’s Civil War. Using her power, wealth, and friendships, Lizzie supplied crucial information to General Grant about military and political movement in the city. A good way to learn historical facts in a narrative style.

5. A Good Neighbor: Benedict’s Guide to Community, Robert Benson, 2009, Jan 9, 92 pg. This short book looks at how some of the core principles of St. Benedict’s Rule (obedience, humility, suffering, confession, mercy, and serving) are also key to fostering community with those one is given to and those given to one. Written by a quiet Anglican layman who I could easily befriend; delightful read.

6. Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life, Margaret Kim Peterson, 2007, Jan 10, 165 pg.  “Of course housework is about making a home, but a Christian home, properly understood, is never just for one’s own family. A Christian home overflows its boundaries; it is an outpost of the kingdom of God, where the hungry are fed and the naked are clothed and there is room enough for everyone. […] Housekeeping is about practicing sacred disciplines and creating sacred space, for the sake of Christ as we encounter him in our fellow household members and in neighbors, strangers, and guests.” (pg xiii) This book contains a thoughtful theology of making a house a home. It rambles a bit, but is worth reading.

7. Another Man’s War: The True Story of One Man’s Battle to Save Children in the Sudan, Sam Childers, 2009, Jan 13, 223 pg. A man once addicted to drugs and alcohol turns his life over to Christ and puts his fighting spirit to better use protecting orphans from the Lord’s Resistance Army. It is clear that he is a pastor from how he writes, and he is very down-to-earth. It was Childers who inspired the movie Machine Gun Preacher. This book made me rethink my opinion of NRA people.

8. Monk Habits for Everday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants, Dennis Okholm, 2007, Jan 14, 137 pg. Okholm is a Protestant professor who fell in love with the lifestyle of Benedictine monks. He writes about how all Christians can implement St. Benedict’s Rule guidelines: meditation on the Word, disciplined speech, common goods, submission, humility, hospitality, stability, and balance in all areas of one’s life. I appreciated his natural sense of humor.

9. Man of Blessing: A Life of St. Benedict, Carmen Acevedo Butcher, 2006, Jan 15, 167 pg. Starting with what little we know about St. Benedict’s life, Carmen fills in the details with what we know was going on culturally and politically in Italy during his life. She tells miraculous stories about him that have been passed down, which all point to Benedict’s peacefulness, grace, and humility. It made me want to become an abbess.

10. Open Heart, Open Home: The Hospitable Way to Make Others Feel Welcome and Wanted, Karen Mains, 1976 and 1997, Jan 20, 208 pg. This book is perfect for any Christian who has been gifted with hospitality! This pastor’s wife goes into Biblical examples and exhortations of hospitality, the necessary humble attitudes that must accompany it, and the ministries that are possible when a person offers an open heart and welcoming home. Good for my soul.

11.The Hidden Art of Homemaking: Creative Ideas for Enriching Everyday Life, Edith Schaeffer, 1971, Jan 22, 214 pg. This book is written with the foundational idea that “a Christian, above all people, should live artistically, aesthetically, and creatively” (pg 32). Because God, the great Creator, has created humanity in His own image, Christians should strive to make the most of their creative giftings, whether it is in decorating, growing plants, cooking, writing, or reading aloud. The author filled the book with ink illustrations she drew herself, which add character and prove that she is not just talking the talk. It is filled with good ideas.

12. Let Me Be a Woman, Elisabeth Elliot, 1976, Jan 23, 175 pg. This easy read is Elliot’s letter to her eldest daughter Valerie, about biblical womanhood and marriage. Her tone is gentle and wise. I’m going to recommend this to other Christian women.

13. Austenland: a Novel, Shannon Hale, 2007, Feb 12th, 194 pg. Here is a fiction about a thirty-some year-old woman who is obsessed with Mr. Darcy and Jane Austen’s romances, but she has never found a good man herself. Her great-aunt leaves her an Austenian vacation in her will, but what a strange place! She battles feelings of confusion, shame, interest, and wonders if she is ready to give up on her fantasy—and even on men! Surprising ending. Great for getting me out of my reading slump.

14. The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, Kathleen Flinn, 2011, Feb 17th, 272 pg. Flinn tells the story of how she took nine women who had almost no cooking skills and taught them how to feel at home in the kitchen. She records what everyone says and how her basic classes changed their lives. I learned a lot about cooking in just reading the book! It has recipes in it, too.

15. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley, 1932, Feb 18th, 259 pg. In this dystopian novel, Huxley paints a picture of a completely hedonistic world, where promiscuous sex and drugs are demanded by the culture which mass produces humanity with the goal of blissfully ignorant happiness. A man named John is born in a “savage reservation” and is introduced to the modern London. The clash of mocking and meaningless philosophy climax in suicide, which I suspected all along. A very intriguing book indeed.

16. Bread and Wine: a love letter to life around the table with recipes, Shauna Niequist, 2013, Feb 23rd, 280 pg. Shauna tells stories about life—precious memories and lessons learned—all entwined around food, tastes, and smells. She reminds me of my mother.

17. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky, 1866, March 13th, 551 pg. This old classic follows what happens in a few weeks in the life of a Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, who commits murder in St. Petersburg. Though it is a rather long story, by the middle, I was hooked. I had no idea how it would end. Surprisingly, one could say that it ended with resurrection and the story of Lazarus. Totally worth it.

18. Til We Have Faces: A Myth Retold, C.S. Lewis, 1956, March 15th, 309 pg. Jack rewrote this ancient Greek story of Psyche and Cupid through the eyes of her older sister, Orual. Psyche makes Aphrodite jealous with her beauty, but is saved by her son, Cupid, who marries her. Orual does not understand everything, and convinces Psyche to disobey her husband and look upon his face. This causes consequences which include much suffering, as well as Orual finally coming closer to understanding the intentions of the gods. A bit of a strange story, but one filled with wonderings about things that are beyond human understanding.

19. Divergent, Veronica Roth, 2011, March 17th, 557 pg. Set in a dystopian future in Chicago, this teen-fiction novel tells the story of Beatrice, who must choose her own faction. There are five, which are based on the virtues of bravery, honesty, knowledge, harmony, and selflessness. What Tris doesn’t know is that she will not fit into any one box, because she is divergent. I read this because the movie comes out next week; it was rather enjoyable, and I finished it in about 5 hours.

20. Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? Gary Thomas, 2000, March 19th, 268 pg. Gary’s point is that marriage can be a tool to make us more Christ-like, more forgiving, and more selfless. He tells great stories. A must-read for married Christians.

21. Our Haggadah: Uniting Traditions for Interfaith Families, Cokie and Steve Roberts, 2011, March 26th, 180 pg. Written by a Jewish man and his Catholic wife, this book is the product of decades of having the Passover meal with friends. It explains traditions and includes both Hebrew and transliteration of blessings as well as the English translation. There are also Seder recipes in the back. Good resource.

22. How God Became King: Getting to the Heart of the Gospels, Tom Wright, 2012, April 3rd, 276 pg. In this book, N.T. Wright digs deep into the Scriptures, explaining the over-arching story the Bible. God reigning as king over God’s people has always been the goal. The last third of the book is about how the Kingdom of God is related to Jesus’ death on the cross—perfect reading during Lent. Takes some perseverance to get through it, though.

23. Emma, Jane Austen, 1816, April 15th, 320 pg. This is the story of a young woman who thinks she knows everything about love. Her attempts at matchmaking fail as she finds out she doesn’t know anything. But she realizes she is head over heels herself and finds true love in the end. Good stuff for a girls’ soul.

24. Life of Pi, Yann Martel, 2001, April 18th, 319 pg. The story of a 16-year old boy who is shipwrecked and survives over seven months on a lifeboat with an adult male Bengal tiger. In the end, he retells the story with people instead of animals, letting the reader decide which of the two versions to believe. A fascinating story recently made into a movie.

25. Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld, 2009, April 21st, 440 pg. This is a steampunk novel, reimagining World War I as a battle between “Clankers” who fight with enormous machines and “Darwinists” who use genetically-engineered animals. Alek, who must hide the fact he is heir to the Austrian empire, meets up with the airshipman Deryn, who must hide the fact she is not a man. A quick read teen novel set in a very creative world.

26. Behemoth, Scott Westerfeld, 2010, April 22nd, 485 pg. This is the second book of the Leviathan trilogy. This one covers Alek and Deryn’s adventures in Istanbul. A very good read. Looking forward to the third.

27. Goliath, Scott Westerfeld, 2011, April 25th, 543pg. Deryn’s secret gets out in the midst of escalating war tensions. It was good stuff, seeing how WWI could have gone (in a Darwinist/clanker reality). I read all three books in three days.

28. Jane Austen’s World: The Life and Times of England’s Most Popular Author, Maggie Lane, 2013, April 27th, 140 pg.  This educational book is full of pictures; each pair of pages tackles a topic related to Jane Austen. There are five chapters; they are entitled “Jane Austen’s Life,” “Who was Jane Austen?,” “Daily Life in Jane Austen’s England,” “Society and the Spirit of the Age,” “The Visual World,” and “The Immortal Jane Austen.” That just tells you how in-depth this book is! Sheesh.  I quite enjoyed learning about Regency England, though.

29. Women of Excellence, Delores L. Kendrick, 2012, May 5th, 86 pg. Probably the best part of this short guide can be found on page 20: “I believe there is a woman inside waiting to come forth, a woman who is healed emotionally as well as physically[…] who has discovered her identity at the foot of the cross, and is ready for all God wants her to be. She does not have to imitate or mimic anyone. […] She is comfortable in her womanhood and does not have to impress anyone by placing a mask over her emotions and becoming something she is not in order to be accepted[….] she can be just that—a woman of excellence.”

30. Without Apology: Sermons for Christ’s Church, Stanley Hauerwas, 2013, May 13th, 169 pg. This is a collection of an American theologian’s sermons. Each one is short and thought-provoking, though I have never encountered sermons that had such a familiar tone before. It has inspired me to read more of his work.

Book Count: 30                Page Count: 8,160

 

If I had to pick a top 5, here is what I would choose:

5. The Spymistress, because I am a sucker for a good historical fiction.

4. Sacred Marriage, because I really believe that mutual self-sacrifice is the key to a good marriage.

3. The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, because it made me want to start teaching people how to cook, though I’m no pro myself.

2. Brave New World, because though it is fiction, it dealt with real-world issues.

1. Crime and Punishment, because in the end, he finds a kind of resurrection through another’s love.

 

I’m a little behind if I want to read another 70 books in the next 7 months.

Hey, looks like 43% of these books were written by women! Woot! Go ladies!

What are you reading? Or what is a book that changed your life/way of thinking?

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2014 in Vibrant Life

 

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An Ode to Tea

Tea.

From your home

Plucked

In unbearable heat

Dried

Into plastic

Packaged

Flown into countries

Foreign

Purchased by persons

Proselytized

Consumed in mornings

Peaceful

Brewed in evenings

Uneventful

Sipped by humans

Grateful.

Thank you, Tea.

2011 - probably chamomile (though drinking it now makes me feel like there is some college homework I'm evading)

2011 – probably chamomile (though drinking it now makes me feel like there is some college homework I’m evading)

I have been a tea drinker since the Mother-Daughter Tea my church had when I was eight. I started on the easy stuff: a teacupful of mint tea with two packets of sugar. I slowly worked my way through trying all sorts of tea and inviting friends over to share in the relaxing ritual. As I write this, I’m drinking a high-quality green tea that my uncle-in-law bought in Beijing. It is amazing! One reason I am such a fan of tea is that it isn’t like other beverages, like grabbing a soda. With pop, you just twist the top off of the bottle and you can chug it down. Not so with tea. Drinking tea at my house has an entire ritual that goes along with it. First, the tea  kettle must be filled 3/4 with fresh water and set on the stove top to boil. I pick a coffee mug from one cupboard and turn to choose a tea. Because I love tea, my friends give it to me as a present. Consequently, I currently have stocked up the following teas: green tea, blackberry/sage, chamomile, and blueberry/acai herbal teas, Downton Abbey English breakfast tea (best ever!), Teavana’s Samurai Chai Mate and Youthberry, Earl Grey, Bigelow’s Constant Comment, Vanilla Chai, black tea from London, orange pekoe, rooibos, lemon mate, mint, green jasmine, decaf vanilla nut creme, Twining’s Irish breakfast tea, white tea (that I don’t like and hope a guest will drink the last lonely bag of), decaf pumpkin spice, jack o’lantern tea (whatever that is), organic roasted dandelion root, and cinnamon twist tea. Now, before you start thinking I am crazy, let me emphasize the fact that some of the mentioned types had only one or two tea bags representing it. I don’t have boxes and boxes of tea.

But believe what you want. If it comforts you to believe you have found the tea equivalent of the crazy cat lady, I would accept the title. Just call me the mad hatter.

 

 

How about you? Do you drink tea? What is your current favorite flavor?

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2014 in Just Talking/Thinking

 

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Chocolate Cupcakes Filled with Peanut Butter and Dipped in Chocolate Ganache

Say that three times fast!

Here’s how I did it.

These are probably the most complicated and delicious cupcakes I have ever had. They turned out so professional-looking. And all of my friends raved about them.

Usually, when I am baking, I do not think to take pictures until it is in the oven. Until now! Unfortunately, I took the pictures with my smart phone, so they are rather blurry. Sorry about that, dears.

This recipe is a mash-up between Squidoo’s chocolate cupcakes and FoodandWine’s double dark chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter filling. 

It is easy-peasy normal baking stuff until it gets to the filling and dipping stuff, which can take a while to accomplish. I think this entire project took me 2 1/2 hours. Not a quick project, but definitely worth the trouble for the fancy result. It was my first tango with ganache (which is pronounced gah-nosh), but it came together rather easily. This will be quicker the next time around, I think.

Oh, and don’t be afraid of the filling. I always have a lot left over because I secretly think if I squeeze too hard that the entire cupcake will explode. This overcompensation tends to leave me with less filling than needed. Be brave! Get messy! Make mistakes!

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I filled the cupcakes with a Wilson icing bag/tips set that my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas. But let’s think…if you didn’t have that fancy stuff, you could probably fill a sandwich baggie with icing and fill the cupcakes (especially if you scoop a little cupcake out first). It would be tricky, though.

The recipe:

Chocolate Cupcakes w/ PBFrosting&Ganache

Yield: 2 dozen cupcakes

Ingredients for cupcakes:

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Soften the butter at room temperature, while taking the eggs out to also warm to room temperature, approximately 20 minutes. Grease the cupcake pans, and if desired, line them with cupcake wrappers and set aside. Meanwhile, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl, then set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 350° F. Beat the butter in a mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add the eggs, then add the sugar gradually until fully combined. Scrape the sides and beat again until combined. Beat in the vanilla, adding the milk and flour on low speed. Beat on a higher speed for one minute, or until well combined and smooth.

3. Pour the batter into cupcake pan, filling each indention no more than 3/4 full.

4. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of a cupcake. Cool for at least 15 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from pan to cool completely on wire rack.

Peanut Butter Filling:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

5.  In a medium bowl, beat the peanut butter with the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter until creamy. Sift the confectioners’ sugar into the bowl and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Spoon all but 3 tablespoons of the peanut butter filling into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch star tip. Holding a cupcake in your hand, plunge the tip into the top of the cake, pushing it about 3/4 inch deep. Gently squeeze the pastry bag to fill the cupcake, withdrawing it slowly as you squeeze; you will feel the cupcake expand slightly as you fill it. Scrape any filling from the top of the cupcake and repeat until all of the cupcakes are filled.

Chocolate Ganache:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

6. In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a simmer. Take it off the heat, add the semisweet chocolate to the cream and let it stand for 5 minutes, then whisk the melted chocolate into the cream until smooth. Let the chocolate icing stand until slightly cooled and thickened, about 15 minutes. Dip the tops of the cupcakes into the icing, letting the excess drip back into the pan. Transfer the cupcakes to racks and let stand for 5 minutes. Dip the tops of the cupcakes again and transfer them to racks. Spoon the remaining 3 tablespoons of peanut butter filling into the pastry bag and pipe tiny rosettes on the tops of the cupcakes.

I had a good amount of melty chocolate deliciousness left over, of which I may have guiltily eaten a third. I should have dipped some strawberries into that stuff!!!

Remember, these are best eaten the same day!

Good luck!

–The Mrs.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2014 in Food (Noms)

 

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Not a Piecrust Promise

Okay guys, I want to be a more consistent blogger. And hopefully narrow my theme.

There are so many things I am passionate about: baking, singing, drinking tea, hospitality, Christian camps, Christian ministry, Church history, reading, kids’ movies, flowers, living wisely, composting/recycling, reading, etc. How do I decide which to focus on?

So I have decided to challenge myself to write a blog post here for 30 days straight. You guys have to be my witness and keep me accountable. I will try to write about all kinds of things I am interested in. Hopefully, I will find that I really click with a certain topic. Otherwise, I may find that blogging really isn’t my thing. Or, even more scarily, that I am not your kind of thing. Perhaps there is nothing I could say here that others would find useful.

 

Really, that is why I continued to keep this blog.

Originally, it was set up for when I left for college. Then I hoped it would help chronicle my study-abroad trip to Uganda, which (as you know) didn’t happen. I got so anxious about leaving the continent, I ended up giving myself serious anxiety/panic problems, which triggered IBS, which I still have (as well as a ridiculous number of allergens). What this blog lacked was a purpose: a focus.

As I am ADD, that is trouble enough to keep a hold of already.

But the reason I started this and the reason it remains is this: I have a voice. I am worth hearing.

I have always had trouble believing this. I like to blame the fact that I am a middle child, a peacekeeper, and agree-er. I like to take in information and understand things. Oh, how I love to learn. To become proficient–even, to become a resource that can answer others’ questions. But that assumes that I have the nerve to speak up.

I have a younger brother who is bigger than I am. Before he was bigger than I am, he was louder than I am. I can be rather timid and easily frightened. He liked to argue with our mom, because he thought he was always right and that she was being unfair in her rulings (This mostly took place while my dad was deployed in Iraq). Long story short, they would argue. I would try to show him why she was right, and be logical and fair. But since that is not what he wanted to hear, he would turn on me and brusquely say things like, “Who asked you?” and “I didn’t think you were part of this conversation” and “Just stop talking.” Sufficiently cowed, I would retreat to my room and turn up my radio and silently promise myself that I would never butt in or get involved again.

The problem was, I started to believe that I had nothing important to say, and even worse, that my words did not matter. I thought that while I was great at taking words in, I would never have the charisma/extroversion or bravery to let words out. I am ordinary, and *gasp* do not have an unchangeable/definite opinion to offer at any given moment. I struggle with speaking extemporaneously (without preparing for it). I hate when I trip my words up in everyday conversation, because others laugh, and I am ever more convinced that words should not escape my lips. I can’t think very quickly when verbally asked a question, and I am terrified of looking more a fool than I feel.

God called me into ministry, and the first I told God was “just don’t ask me to preach.” But God did. And I do. With much preparation and a manuscript.

This blog is my way of rehabilitating myself, I think.

I know that I cannot fix myself. I know that only God can heal those wounds and help me forgive. I know that only God speaking to me, reminding me that I am God’s special creation and dearly loved, commanding me to speak, will actually coax me into the vulnerability and bravery that it would take for me to speak up more.

This is just a tool.

This free space, along with the few and far between readers who listen in on my musings, is where I remind myself that if I have something to say, that I am worth hearing. I am worth someone’s time.

And that is why I am promising to you that I will write every day for a month. I’m doing it for me.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2014 in Just Talking/Thinking

 

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