Tuesday, January 27, 2009

myTunes?

I got a $15 iTunes gift card for Christmas, and I'm having a difficult time deciding what to use it on. Any suggestions?

now's your chance

Fireproofreleased on dvd today. If you didn't see it in the theater, you definitely should rent--or even buy--it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

recipe: delicious caramel cheesecake

I adapted a caramel cheesecake recipe I found in a magazine and took it to a family gathering. It got rave reviews, so I thought I'd post it here. (I've never really taken pictures of food before, so I didn't know how to make it look all "pretty"--trust me, it's amazing!)

Caramel Cheesecake
Crust:
2 cups crushed vanilla wafers
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted

Cake:
3 (8 oz.) bricks 1/3 less fat (Neufchatel) cream cheese, softened
1 (14 oz.) can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 (12 oz.) jar hot caramel sauce (this is thicker than regular caramel sauce)
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix crust ingredients in a small bowl. Press into bottom of 10" springform pan.
  3. Using stand mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth.
  4. Mix in sweetened condensed milk, eggs, and vanilla.
  5. Stir in caramel sauce. (This may take a while.)
  6. Pour into pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until top is light brown and only the middle is jiggly.
  7. Cool on countertop for four hours. Run knife around the edge of the pan to loosen cake. Refrigerate overnight.
While cheesecake is always full of calories and fat, this version does shave 12 fat grams off of the original 28 per serving.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

an unexpected blessing

Today, I got an unexpected and undeserved gift from my boss. It was so overwhelming that my jaw dropped and I almost had tears.

As I was thinking about it later in the day, it hit me that I should have such a greater reaction to the gifts my Heavenly Father has given me. I should constantly be overwhelmed by the greatness of his love in the face of my sin. By the mercy He has bestowed on me.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

May I always live in awe of His love!

do you pledge?

This gave me chills, and not in a good way. While I agree with the sentiment behind some of these "pledges," it's the end of the video that gets me*. After watching the end, one of my co-workers said, "Doesn't this remind you of banners in Soviet Russia?"

MySpace Celebrity and Katalyst present The Presidential Pledge


*I post this not as a slam on the president but as an example of Hollywood's self-importance and Obama worship.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

finally reading again

From last May through the beginning of this month, nearly every spare moment was spent working on my big cross-stitch project. And whenever I wasn't working on it, I felt guilty about not working on it. Basically, I went several months without doing much reading. And I hated that. (But I love the cross-stitch project. Really!)

Now that I've finished the project, I've started reading again. I've finished two of my book review blogger books (Rex and Field of Blood) in the last month, and I've just ordered the third. I'm much more excited about this one: The Great Eight by . . . wait for it . . . Scott Hamilton! My love for (or perhaps obsession with) figure skating has diminished over the years, but seriously--it's Scott Hamilton!

I also have several other books on my reading list:

rex: an inspirational journey

Rex, by Cathleen Lewis, is one of those books you won't be able to put down. It is, as the subtitle states, the story of "a mother, her autistic child, and the music that transformed their lives."

Rex's story is truly amazing. A "multiply disabled" child, he is also a musical savant who can play any song on the piano after hearing it once. His musical gifts have helped forge inroads into the world around him, a world that was formerly inaccessible due to his blindness and autism. He has played concerts all around the world and has even been featured several times on 60 Minutes.

What astounded me most about this story was not Rex's abilities, though impressive; rather, I was amazed at the tenacity with which Cathleen fought for her son's rights. Whether hounding doctors for an accurate diagnosis, standing up to the piano teacher who saw Rex as more of a science project than a little boy, or confronting teachers and school officials about their treatment of her son, Cathleen poured all she had into her little boy. She is an inspirational woman, and her story, like Rex's, is one that will stick with you long after you finish reading this book.

on cloud nine

I started this post on Saturday but didn't finish it. I almost deleted it, but, even though you may not understand, I still had to share!

Those of you who are unfamiliar with high school competitive speech might not quite get this, but . . .

MY OID TEAM CAME IN FIRST AT CNFL TODAY!!!!!!

OK, so now I'll explain! We go to seven Saturday speech meets during the speech season. The two largest meets are CNFL 1 & 2. (CNFL stands for Central Nebraska Forensics League. This name often confuses kids on my team because in Nebraska, we call it "speech" not "forensics," so many of them only think of forensics as that CSI stuff.) Anyway, the CNFL meets have literally hundreds of kids competing, so it's really hard to place, especially if you're varsity.

About halfway through the day, I learned that my OID (Oral Interpretation of Drama--think a short one-act play without props and where touching isn't allowed) had placed first in the second round. I was excited, but not overly so. In such a big meet, anything can happen, so I expected that they'd place--it's such a big meet that they medal to fifteen places instead of the usual six--but I was thinking somewhere around tenth.

So, of course, at awards time they handed out all the other medals before OID. My kids were so antsy! Then they finally called the OID medalists up to the stage, and my team was called. Teams from Minden, Fillmore Central, North Platte, and Loup City--speech powerhouses--were also on stage. As the meet director called out the places, each time I expected her to say, "Nebraska Christian." Each time, she said something else! Then it got down to four teams, and she said, "We have a three-way tie for second place." Surely this is it, I thought. But we weren't the first name called. Or the second. Or the third! Then it finally registered on the team's faces . . . they were CNFL OID champions! We all stood up and screamed--and I think there may have been a few tears, too.

It was definitely one of the most exciting and rewarding moments in my coaching career!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

a week of craziness

Monday
  • Went back to school. Because we had a snow day on the day that was to be our last day before break, we ran our test block schedule on Monday. Only one of my students was back, though, so I didn't give my final.
  • Had my big toe vaccuumed. Seriously. Val was vaccuuming, and I lifted up my foot to get it out of the way. She lifted up the vaccuum and charged my foot. She thought I was watching; I wasn't, so I didn't know I needed to move my foot. Let's just say that getting your big toe vaccuumed isn't a plesant experience!
Tuesday
  • Learned my reading class would be no more. Got three new students in my Intermediate ESL class, which will now be a writing class.
  • Met with my speech kids. Found out I'd have eight entries for the meet on Saturday. (I thought I'd have two or three, so this was quite encouraging!)
  • Stayed at school late working with speech kids.
  • Stayed up late watching Jon & Kate Plus 8. (I get started watching episodes, and I have such a hard time stopping. And the show only appeals to me when I should be going to bed. I don't know why.)
  • Missed my daily Bible reading . . . so I made it through 5 days before "falling off the wagon." Knew it would happen, but not so soon!
Wednesday
  • Got home from work with only an hour and a half before I needed to be at an Awana directors' meeting. Opened up my lesson book and learned I'd need brownies for an illustration in the lesson. (Yes, I should have looked at my lesson earlier . . .) Since this year's book is on Bible heroes and goes in chronological order, I couldn't really skip the lesson. So I hurredly made box brownies while trying to cram the lesson into my brain.
  • At Awana--our Sparks secretary couldn't be there, which always makes things a bit crazy. I made one girl cry during lesson time. After I announced that I had brownies for everyone, not just for the girl who got one as part of the lesson, the kids tuned me out completely. Plus, we didn't have a sound system like we normally do, so I had to try to yell the story. It hadn't occurred to me to put the brownies into plastic bags, so as the kids took them, they created a trail of crumbs going down the church hallway, and I had to apologize profusely to the church custodian.
  • Val came over after Awana, and we watched Poseidon. It's not a very good disaster movie--Richard Dreyfuss shouldn't have a face at the end of it, part of it is a blatant rip off of Armageddon, and how on earth is there a life raft--with oars--just a few yards away from the overturned ship?
ThursdayFriday
  • Got an email from my yearbook publishing company. Evidently, the cd of our pages that I sent them before Christmas was blank or broken. After a very stressful hour and a half, I got a new cd burned, and Val mailed it for me.
  • Completely slid through a stop sign on my way home. Fortunately, no one was coming.
  • Jon, Beth, Val, and Steph came over to watch Psych. (You really should be watching this show.)
  • Made coffee for all. It was supposed to be cinnamon but kinda smelled like smoke.
  • Framed my cross-stitch project.
Saturday
  • Got up at 4:30 to get ready for our first speech meet.
  • Spent all day at the meet. I judged twice--serious prose and poetry. I really love judging! My kids did well. I ended up having seven entries, and four of them placed! And our OID beat Minden's . . . which will probably never happen again, but it sure felt good!
  • Didn't eat all day (until I got home), other than a piece of cheese at 5:30 a.m., a Kudos bar at 8 a.m., and some cheese crackers at 9 a.m. I was too busy judging and/or watching my kids perform. (That doesn't usually happen--I can only think of one other speech meet when I didn't really eat . . . normally, the coaches and judges are fed well . . . and I'm sure they were at this meet, too--I just never made it into the coaches/judges lounge!) I also didn't have caffeine all day, and I surprisingly never got a caffeine headache.
  • Crashed on my couch after arriving home. Watched several Monk episodes and knitted a little.
  • Watched an entire episode of SNL, perhaps for the first time ever. Neil Patrick Harris was the host, and he was quite funny. This part was my favorite:
Sunday
  • Took Val to church with me. We sang one of my favorite worship songs ever--"You Are Holy (Prince of Peace)". Also, Pastor Paul played the pan flute.
  • Went to Ritta Christmas, Part 2. We played this game where we all got presents that had a phrase from "Twas the Night Before Christmas" on the wrapping paper, and when our phrase was read, we had to yell "ho, ho, ho" and open our present, which Gram specially chose for each of us. I got a box of books and this note: "Becky, I know your love for reading. Maybe you can find some books here you haven't read. Enjoy. Maybe you can blog about one of these." Well, Gram, I'll do ya one better--here's a picture of all of them! And here's the wind chime I got from cousin Shawna--I love it!
  • Stayed up way too late blogging.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

field of blood: a confusing yet intersting read

I've never been one for vampire stories, and I don't know much about the vampire legends. So when I picked up Field of Blood, I wasn't sure what to expect. As I read, I was bombarded with terms I didn't understand: Nistarim, Collectors, Akeldama. I would have benefited greatly from a glossary at the beginning or end of the book.

The book is divided into four sections, and I could barely make it through the first. The action jumped back and forth between three or four settings; I didn't feel I had a handle on what was going on in any of those settings. Honestly, the only reason I kept reading was because I had committed to writing a review.

Once I got into the second section, the pace of the story picked up, and I began piecing together what was happening. This book focuses around the house of Ariston, a group of undead Collectors, and Gina, the Romanian girl they are hunting. As Gina learns more about her heritage, the reader is able to understand more of the action and even anticipate some of what is to come.

As this is the first in a trilogy, not much is resolved by the book's end. The action becomes intense in the last several pages as Gina's story finally intertwines with Ariston's, and the end of the book left me curious about what would happen next.

I'm just not sure if it left me curious enough to buy the next book.

what i did over christmas break

  • attended family gatherings, of course: in Kansas and Nebraska. (Click on the states to see my facebook albums.)
  • baked lots of bread, including rolls that take 70 minutes start-to-finish.
  • decided to read the entire Bible in 2009. This is something I've never even attempted before--my new ESV Study Bible (thanks, Mom & Dad!) came with a one-year plan, and I'm excited to do this!
  • found lots of great after Christmas specials at Hobby Lobby, Kohl's, and Bath and Body Works.
  • bought lots of butter. Seriously. I had no idea how much until I was cleaning out my freezer and found seven pounds of frozen butter quarters. I had one pound left after my Thanksgiving baking. Speaking of cleaning out my freezer, I . . .
  • threw away 2 1/2 year old frozen pork chops.
  • finally finished up my cross-stitch project. I'll post a pic soon.
  • stayed up until 4:30 a.m. on New Year's Eve/New Year's Day with Val watching What I Like About You.
  • finished reading Field of Blood (Jerusalem's Undead Trilogy, Book 1),my book review blogger book. Look for my review in the next few days.
  • visited Red Lobster for the first (and second) time.
  • played Dominoes for the first time (or maybe I've played before and was just so bored that I blocked it from my memory).

Thursday, January 1, 2009

changing my prayer

I'll be the first to admit that I don't pray as often as I should. Last summer, I read an excellent book on prayer,and for a while, I applied several of the principles in that book to my prayer life. Right now, I couldn't tell you a word that the author wrote. All too quickly, I lapsed back into my self-centered prayers.

I think we all go through seasons where one particular thing is weighing on us, and our prayers focus on that--a health concern, a relationship, a job, an unsaved friend, etc. For me, while each of those things has been the focus of my prayers for a time, the one overarching prayer that I've prayed more than any other prayer in the past ten years has gone something like this: "Lord, you know how much I want to be married. How much I want to be a mom. Lord, could you please allow me to get married soon? Help me be patient and trust you. But, PLEASE???"

It has become my default prayer--the one I go to first. It varies, of course: sometimes, it's not that blatantly pleading. But other times, it's worse.

This morning, as I was driving to a family get-together, I started to pray. "Lord, please . . ." And I stopped. I didn't audibly hear a voice or anything like that, but this thought came to me: Isn't it more important to fall more and more in love with Jesus? Isn't it more important to fully trust Him?

Then and there, I amended my prayer. I'm now praying that 2009 will be a year in which my faith is strengthened. A year in which I find myself experiencing a deeper relationship with my Savior than I could have imagined.

When you think of me, I ask that you would pray those things for me, as well.