Monday, July 21

Easiest Sloppy Joes Ever

So, it's been a couple very busy weeks. We flew to Connecticut the first weekend of July and moved the second weekend. This last weekend was our first "free" weekend all month! We spent almost all day Saturday at a friend's house playing Zombicide. It took nearly 8 hours! But it was great fun. Sunday we went to church for the first time in 3 weeks and it was so refreshing. On the way home, we realized that we still had stuff left in our old apartment that we needed to pick up, so hubby volunteered to load it while I fixed lunch. So my mission was to come up with a quick meal utilizing ground beef.

I've been trying to cut down on grocery spending by shopping the sales, so this last week I purchased a 10 pound pack of ground beef from our meat market. That's a LOT of ground beef. Especially if you don't have a dedicated freezer…. Anyway, I spent the better part of Friday afternoon separating the meat into one-pound packages and browning some of those. In the end, I split the meat into 6 unbrowned and 4 browned packages and stuck all in the freezer minus one that I wanted to use on Sunday.

Hubby suggested Sloppy Joes and they sounded great, but I realized that I had never made them before! I guess I always relied on Mom… Hubs suggested that I use ketchup and barbeque sauce because that's what he "always did". I didn't have any better ideas, so I decided to go for it. I think it turned out pretty well, so I wanted to share the recipe with you!

I split the meat in half so we could have hamburgers later on in the week and browned the other half of ground beef with a very small onion, chopped up. (The onion was minuscule, so you'll probably want to use a 1/2 of a normal sized onion if you are only cooking 1/2 pound of meat like I did).

After it had all cooked, I drained the extra grease and added a glove of minced garlic. I let that heat for a few minutes, and then added approximately...

1/2 cup of ketchup,
1/4 of sweet barbeque sauce,
1/2 tsp cajun seasoning (chili powder or seasoned salt would probably work if you don't have cajun seasoning),
1/4 teaspoon of dry mustard. I would have put in prepared mustard, but we were out.

I mixed all that together and let it simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes on low heat. Then I served it on buns with sliced and pan fried potatoes and grapes. All in all, it turned out to be a great experiment!

If any of you try it, let me know what you think! Of, if you have your own Sloppy Joe recipes, share them with me! Also, sorry there is no picture....I completely forgot to snap one when we sat down to eat!

Wednesday, July 16

The Title Explained

As I promised, I wanted to share with you how/why I chose this new blog name, "Of Penguins, Pens, and Pearls". It's really quite simple, so this will be a short post. Honestly, I just needed to write something that wouldn't take very long because we are in the process of moving/unpacking this week and I don't have a lot of free time.

So first, Penguins. Many of you already know that I am somewhat obsessive about penguins. I'm not sure now how long I have favored this flightless bird, but it dates back to at least my freshman year of college. I'm not sure how it got started either, if it was a joke or I just let it slip one too many times that I adored the little creatures. At any rate, I will now proudly claim them as my "spirit animal". I have a small collection of penguin stuffed animals laying around our apartment (in fact, I'm not sure where they all are at the moment). It's funny how when people find out that you love something, they start noticing it in the stores when they are shopping and apparently can't help themselves from buying penguin-themed items for you! Due to that phenomenon, I have several pairs of penguin socks, a penguin apron, penguin Christmas tree ornaments (one of those was hand cross-stitched), a penguin on stick legs, penguin mug, and even a penguin trifle bowl and stand (this one is impressive, thanks mom!). The latest addition to my collection is a cute little stuffed guy that I named Jenkins. My mother-in-law's dear friend who lives in Rhode Island, found and bought it in Pennsylvania, then took it to my mother-in-law in Connecticut to have it shipped to me in Iowa. (If you're reading this, thanks Ms. C!)

So besides my obvious enjoyment in the adorable animal, I find the whole idea to be somewhat representative of what I want my blog to be. We all have hobbies, interests, collections (ahem, obsessions), etc. I definitely struggle with comparing myself to others and wondering if I am "normal" enough, especially in the realm of my pastimes. I love people that are unashamedly themselves and unafraid to pursue their less-than-mainstream interests. I want this blog to illuminate and celebrate our differences! Yes, I am an adult with a college degree and I still love me some fluffy penguins. I also enjoy a plethora of other activities, including but not limited to those of a creative, nerdy, or literary variety. Bottom line is, I like penguins, and I'm ok with that and I want others to be ok with their respective hobbies/obsessions. I'm excited to share more about the things I love on this blog in hopes that maybe it will benefit someone!

The Pen part is easy- I love to write and this is my outlet! And you lucky unlucky people get to read it!

Lastly, Pearls. I keep up with the news for the most part. I understand what's going on in our world. It's sad, yes, but more than that. It shows a distinct lack of our effort to reach out with the love of Christ. (Obviously that is a sweeping generalization. There are many wonderful groups of people constantly and consistently reaching their community for the Lord). However, I believe that the vast majority of American Christians are very content to sit on their butts and let the world pass them by, safe in their own little bubbles of fake devotion and complacency. We decry injustice, sin, and deception in the world as we sit in our ivory towers, unwilling to lift a finger or *gasp*make sacrifices in an attempt to change it. We judge the world by our Christian standards when we should be loving the world by Christ's standards and leaving the judging to Him. We can't expect a non-Christian to act like a devoted follower of Jesus Christ (not to mention the fact that we ourselves rarely act like that). That unintended rant leads me to this- God has called us to be lights in the world. I wish to do that here, on the internet, where I can leave my "pearls" of wisdom behind. I don't claim to have all the answers, or really any of them. I just want the opportunity and place to share what God has laid on my heart.

I'm interested to know what you all think. Do you have hobbies that you fear make you odd or out of place? If so, how do you deal with that? Do you feel that you are shining God's light in your community and being an outpouring of His love? How could you do that better? If you are comfortable, please share in the comments below! I would love to compile a blog post of ideas, or at least have suggestions to put into practice for myself!

Monday, July 7

Written Thursday, July 3. Posted Monday, July 7

I'm pretty happy right now. Like, infectiously joyful. I have a deep-seated feeling of peace, joy, and contentment surrounding me right now. "Why?", you ask. Thanks for asking! I'd love to tell you.

It might have to do with the fact that it's July and our A/C has been off for over 72 hours and the windows are open. It might have to do with the fact that I packed 5 boxes today, and our clothes for our upcoming trip to Connecticut are laundered and sitting in a suitcase. It might be that I'm excited about said-trip to Connecticut that begins tomorrow. It might also have to do with the cookies that I ate a few minutes ago that are giving me a sugar rush (let's be honest, that's a lot of it!). It might even be the music that I'm graciously allowing my neighbors to enjoy.

But to be serious, it just stems from one basic thing: I believe that I am living in God's Will for my life. That's it. I believe that I understand what God is calling me to do right now (just right now, I'm not claiming to know His Will for the future), and I'm doing it to the best of my ability.  I feel content. I feel joyful.  I feel fulfilled.

Let me give you a bit of back story. As many of you might know, I married my Hero-Prince a little over a month ago, on May 24. The day after our honeymoon, I moved into his apartment in Iowa. That's a far cry from Texas. It's been different. It's been hard. It has honestly been one of the most difficult things that I've done. The first day Hero-Prince was back at work was one of the hardest days that I have been through in recent years. The loneliness struck me, repeatedly, in the face, stomach, and heart. Poor Hero came home to a hysterical wifey. I sobbed, shook, sobbed some more, and hiccupped a lot.

But God is wonderful and true and faithful. He orchestrates life and beauty for His creations. He inspired my hubby to encourage me to look for volunteer work in the area, something to do to keep me occupied. I looked online via VolunteerMatch (great website if any of you are looking to volunteer!) and the first result that I saw was for the Des Moines Public Library.

Ya'll. I cried. I squealed and hugged hubby and cried some more. I dialed my best friend and left her an elated and totally incoherent voicemail. Then I got my head on straight and emailed the volunteer coordinator about the position. Within an hour she had responded saying that she would love to meet me and instructions on how to apply. I printed and filled out the application and took it in the next morning to meet her. Talk about the nicest lady ever! She was so sweet and understanding and "hired" me on the spot. I had something to fill my time.

The second provision God laid in my path was a trip to the Family Christian Store. I wanted a devotional/Bible Study book, but I had no idea what I wanted or needed. Somehow, I ended up with a book entitled "True Woman 101: Divine Design" (by Mary Kassian and Nancy Demoss). For a newlywed living in a new state with no job and no friends to speak of, this book has been instrumental in helping me refocus my hear t and mind on my Lord and seeking after His Will for me.

It is incredible how the world twists God's design for womanhood and marriage. Between my study in this book and a long-term study of the Proverbs 31 woman, I have been convicted that my idea of the Perfect Woman and the Perfect Marriage were wrong. Pure and simple. My ideas were stupid and cowardly and shallow and unfulfilling. I had somehow unconsciously accepted that lie that Satan tells us that Men and Women can be the same, we just need the chance to prove it. That I am every bit as strong as a man. That I can be the same. That men having "authority" in the house doesn't really mean anything anymore. I demeaned my role as a woman and a wife.

 God specifically created Man and Woman differently. We are created differently and for different purposes. And you know what? That knowledge is not stifling or caging. It is freedom! I don't have to pretend to be like a man- strong and capable in the same ways. I am a woman. I am made to support my husband, encourage him, and challenge him to grow. I am created to nest and nurture: to create a safe, comfortable environment in which to grow and know and be known. I am uniquely designed to be "soft" - calm, gentle, kind, tender, compassionate, and sympathetic. I am fashioned to form deep relational bonds with others. I am a woman designed by God with a unique purpose in life.

That's why I'm so happy. I am rediscovering what it means to be a woman and living that out in my everyday life. It's exciting, thrilling, exhilarating, even.

Have any of you had that "aha!" moment? When you realize who God means you to be in that season of your life and you start following that? What was it like for you?

PS. If any of you are wondering about my new blog name "Of Penguins, Pens, and Pearls", I will be discussing that next week when I post.

EDIT BONUS: Here's a pic of me and hubs after the wedding :)