Sunday, December 12, 2010


From Italy -- My favorite.

My mom collects nativity scenes.  She probably has 30 or so scattered around the house, each one with a different origin, but all telling the same story.  She sets them out every year before Christmas, each has its own place.  Everywhere you look, you encounter a visual reminder of the story of Jesus' birth.

From Mexico

Last week someone asked me what my family or I do to prepare for Christmas.  My church lights advent candles, starting four weeks before Christmas.  Advent means "arrival" or "coming", and the lighting of the candles helps build anticipation and reminds us that the day we celebrate Immanuel's birth is coming.  But I didn't have an answer for what I do.

I've been reading the gospel accounts of the birth of Christ, but I'm wondering this:  What do you do to prepare for Christmas?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Bereans

What is the most important thing about you? Or me, really?  
What matters more than anything else?

A.W. Tozer, in his book Knowledge of the Holy, says this, "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."

Reading the newspaper yesterday, I came across an advertisement promoting a controversial city policy whose headline began, "God does not exclude..." and I got upset, because that's wrong.  Scripture is plain and clear that we are included into or excluded from God's family based solely on our faith in Jesus Christ.  God does exclude.

This kind of thing is rampant, and I want you to know that it is vital to your spiritual health to have a good grasp of theology*.  Anything you hear or read about God must be founded in scripture. You cannot believe in whatever you like and be a Christian.  God is not always what you imagine him to be, so you must learn to adapt to God, instead of adapting God to you.  If you don't, you are not worshiping God, you are worshiping a figment of your imagination.  As Tozer says, "They that know thee not may call upon Thee as other than Thou art, and so worship not Thee but a creature of their own fancy..."

It's good to remember that God and his nature are not mysterious or unknowable--although at times, unfathomable.  Who God is and what he is like are plainly and clearly revealed in scripture (which is why it's so important to read the Bible).

Now, it's important to ask where we learn theology.  Everywhere.  Really, most everyone I've met has an opinion about God.  Your friends and family may or may not have Bible-based theology.  The Christian books you read may or may not be theologically correct (and it's not always bad to read them, but you need to be responsible when you do).  The songs you hear on the radio may be teaching you something contrary to scripture.  Since the most important thing about you is what you believe about God, it only makes sense to filter these things.

Final thought:  Be like the Bereans.  Examine scripture to see if the message you're hearing is true, because knowing God and worshiping him rightly is the most important thing.
"Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11)."

*Theology is the study of the God.  Your theology is what you believe about God.

Monday, December 6, 2010


It's December already? Wow.  Well then, long-time no-see, friends!  I trust you've been keeping yourself busy.  I sure have.  (You can thank the hubbs for the photo below.)

We've enjoyed celebrating autumn in the Spare household.  We didn't get to carve pumpkins on Halloween since I had other things to do (see above picture)... so we had our own Fall Festival.  (There may or may not still be an uncarved pumpkin in our hallway...)

Another thing I did this year was experiment with making pumpkin pie from fresh pumpkin.  Did you know that people actually do that?  And that it tastes pretty spectacular?  I mean, it's not weird or anything.  I'll just show you some pictures and keep talking about it.

Grandma's pie crust recipe.

I used to be afraid of making pies from scratch.  They just seem hard.  Unpredictable.  Touchy.

Pie crust is sooooo easy to mix in a food processor.

But, for those of you who are in love, you know that you will face your fears to please the object of your affection (e.g. the hubbs really likes pie).

Me & the apple pie I baked last V-day.

I actually first faced my fear last Valentine's day when I baked Nathan a double-crust apple pie ALL BY MYSELF.  I think it was good.  I can't really remember, actually.  This pumpkin pie was my second from-scratch pie.

When I'm in uncharted territory, I do what any engineer would do.  Research.  Luckily for me, there's enough pie research (some call them recipes) online that I didn't have to work too hard.  I studied common components, failure modes and the advice of experienced pie-makers.

I halved the pumpkins & steamed them in the microwave ahead of time.
Then I pureed and froze the flesh for later use.

Research showed that the best type of pumpkin to use is called a "Sugar Pumpkin" or "Pie Pumpkin". Bred especially for eating, they have a smoother texture than the traditional Jack-o-lanterns.

When it was time to make the pie, I defrosted the puree in the
sink, which is the safest way to quickly defrost something.

And, in a bind, engineers have to be creative.  So, I came up with this little contraption to reduce the amount of water in my fresh pumpkin puree.

Bowl + Flour Sack Towel + Rubber Band = Pumpkin Puree Strainer

I'm sure you're biting your fingernails, wondering how my pie turned out...

Just like mom's. Mmm.

Fear conquered.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Purple Pride

I don't really talk about my school much in my blog.  I'm really not one of the super-fans that goes crazy on game day and feels a deep, personal hatred for anyone who goes to a rival school.  I do, however, think my school's a really great place to be.

I really enjoy the campus.  It has beautiful trees and flowers, the buildings are limestone and some are very grand and castle-like, and things are generally close together (about a 20 minute walk across campus).

I also really enjoy the color purple, and the fact that almost everyone wears it!  I generally jump on the school-spirit bandwagon, because sporting events are really fun.  We have our own traditions and cheers--my favorite is the Wabash (that other link has some good live footage, this one is just funny).

The hubbs and I spent a good amount of time watching/listening to football this semester, and I have learned to enjoy it (this is part of what marriage is about).  I was especially excited for the KSU-KU game, because they're our in-state rival!  It's always awesome when we win, because I can tease my cousin who graduated from KU.

But, this year I couldn't bring myself to tease her too much.  It was a little rough.  Actually, I got bored.  And when I'm bored, I usually end up baking something.  Hence, the cookies.  They were really good.  (If you like them soft, a little cake-y, with a sweet, glossy frosting, that is.)  They even froze well, which makes them more awesome in my book.

The Best Sugar Cookies

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

Cream butter and shortening.  Mix in egg and vanilla.  Stir together dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Add dry mix to butter mix.  (Refrigerate for 1 hour if you sub butter for the shortening.)
Roll out on lightly-floured surface, cut shapes or use a small cup to make round shapes.  (Or, scoop out balls and flatten them with your hands, like I did.)
Place on un-greased baking sheet (I used parchment).  They won't spread much if you used shortening, but will spread more if you used all butter.
Bake at 350 (deg F) 8 to 10 minutes, until light brown.
Yield: 30-36 cookies

Click here for a link to the FROSTING RECIPE on (I had to add more milk than the recipe says).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Walking with God

I heard somewhere than women speak about 3x more words than men do each day.  (No surprise, then, that I am the blogger and not my handsome hubby!)  Despite my talkative tendencies, Nathan and I have a lot of interesting conversations.
Recent examples include:
  • Do carrots fail in a ductile or brittle manner? (Material science convo over lunch.)
  • Does Orange Leaf or Coldstone have a better business model?
Although I know you are dying to know our conclusions, I want to tell you about another conversation we had.
Last week we were on our way to meet with our small group from church, going over the sermon notes from Sunday and talking through the questions on the sermon guide.  The sermon was about King David's last words to his son, Solomon, in 1 Kings 2:1-4.  He charges his son to be strong and show himself a man through following God and obeying Him.  The sermon expounded on those words and charged us to be strong in God to be faithful in the tasks he's given us to complete.  This is the best way to live.
Here is the question that struck me:
  • Are you convinced that there is nothing better than walking with God?  Why or why not?
Well, every Christian knows the "Sunday School" answer to the first question.  Yes.  Of course.  That's why I'm a Christian.  But, when we talked about it in small group, one friend pointed out the word "convinced".  She said that, intellectually, she was sure, but in daily things her actions proved otherwise.  Ouch.  I knew she was speaking for me, too.  Often, my actions prove that I am a doubter.  Like the apostle Thomas, I want to stick my hands in Jesus' wounds--experience is the truth (John 20:24-29).
However, my hubby's response felt like a crescendo and a comforting hug to me.  "God is the creator of everything," he said, "and that means that I'm created."
"Remember the example of a combine.  Just as its maker knows best how to use it, and how to fix it, so God knows the best for my life."
He's exactly right.  God is smarter than me, he's stronger than me--anything I can do, He can do better.  Infinitely better.  And he knows exactly how I work, because he made me (and not like a mad-scientist's creation-gone-wrong, but he made me--and you--just like an artist carefully crafting a masterpiece).  He leads me better than anyone else.
Now, the only question left is:  Are you convinced?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Superhero Apple Cake

Some of you may not know this, but when I was younger I co-hosted a TV show with my brother.  We embarked on many daring adventures, including capturing a Siberian tiger, as well as performed skits and puppet shows.  The DeeDee and DooDoo show will forever hold a dear place in the hearts of its viewers.
Sadly, its reign ended when we learned what "doo-doo" was, and realized that it wasn't a suitable alias for my brother.

One particular evening, during a script-writing session, Eli informed the family that he had acquired a new skill.  It could, perhaps, be called a... superpower!  His particular talent was to help others discover their superpower.  Who knew that mom could smell anything from exactly 100 yards away?  Or that I could make cupcakes appear on top of anyone's head?
He didn't guarantee that we'd ever be able to harness our power, just that the potential was there.

My mom encountered a different sort of superhero recently.  One who had learned to harness his raw supernatural power for the good of his fellow man.  His skill?  Apple-retrieving.
I listened eagerly as my mother recounted the tale.  A nimble, blond seven-year-old scaling a tree, some rustling, and suddenly small, bright red orbs falling from above.  My mother even brought evidence.  Three lovely little apples.  "You'll make something delicious out of this, I'm sure."

Well, mom, I thought this cake was pretty delicious.  Moist, full of apples, and crowned with a sugary-sweet crust.  Mmm.

I got the initial recipe for Spiced Apple Cake from Joy the Baker, who got it from The Sweet Life.  But, the original recipe didn't call for Superhero Apples... I'd consider them a specialty item.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Happy Halloween!

I was an engineer for Halloween, and Nathan was a bum.

What that really means is that I did homework and studied, and Nathan didn't do much of anything... and he spilled some orange smoothie on his shirt.

We topped off our night of celebrating with a fun twist on our Sunday night tradition of popcorn and smoothies.  Green popcorn and orange-colored strawberry-banana smoothies!!

Hope you had some sweet treats, too!

(Please note that our tongues are green, due to the green food coloring I whisked into the butter for our popcorn!)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Man Cannot Live on Bread Alone #2

Hi everyone!  Can you believe I made those?  They were really yummy.  Turns out I can bake bread.  You see, for once in my life the problem did not occur because of operator error.

I had a hard time diagnosing it, though, because bread machines are so fickle.  The instruction manuals, er, I mean, recipe books, are very insistent... even threatening in some cases.  (You know, all-caps bold-face warnings, such as:  IF YOU DON'T PUT THE INGREDIENTS INSIDE IN THE PROPER ORDER YOUR BREAD WILL TURN OUT GNARLY LIKE A WITCHES' FACE AND YOUR MACHINE WILL EXPLODE.)

Anyway, here's the deal.  And it will seem tangential, so stay with me.

There's two types of mechanical engineering students (that scientists have identified thus far).  There are the ones who've grown up around machines, taking stuff apart and putting it back together, greasy hands and always tinkering, and they're getting a degree so they can get paid to do what they already do... all of the time.  Then, there's the ones who knew they wanted to do engineering, and knew they wanted to get a job... but have never touched a motor and are pretty sure they couldn't decipher between an amplifier and an inductor.  I'm spilling my guts here, but I'm definitely the second category.

Lucky for me, I have lots of friends who fall in category one.  Like my brother-in-law.  He took my misbehaving bread machine and had it running like a humming bird thirty minutes later.  (Uhh... whatever that phrase means.  Is it real?  You know what I meant, anyway.)

The moral of the story is:  I had to make bruschetta, so (in the mean time) I baked two french loaves.  Which weren't too shabby for my first time ever.  I mean, look at that photo.  Are you salivating?  I am, and I'm not even hungry right now.  Mmmm.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Week's Recap & Thoughts

Conversation while brushing our teeth last night:

Me:  Do I smell like boy?
Hubby:  (quizzical glance)
Me:  ...I had to borrow your shower gel...
Hubby: (after sniffing me) You smell good.
Me: (a few moments later) You didn't answer my question.   I asked if I smelled like a boy.
Hubby:  (grins.)  Babe... you gotta understand this.  There are only two kinds of smells for guys:  good and bad.  I said you smell good, there's no category for "boy".


I learned something new-ish this week.  I don't really like eggplant.  I mean, I know it's not a common favorite food anyway (secretly, or not so much, I'm kind of bummed, because I usually like usual things).  I made Baba Ghanouj (middle-eastern roasted eggplant dip) for a par-tay this weekend, along with hummus and feta cheese dip.  I apologize to everyone who ate it.  Becca said it was better with carrots that chips (I think she was trying to make me feel better).

Moral of the story?  Listen to mom.  She always said you should never bring new things to parties, which could probably translate to me not making eggplant dip and then trying to get other people to eat it.


Dear Inventor of (Baking) Parchment Paper,

I want to shake your hand.



Dear Ray's Apple Market,

Thank you for the most inexpensive apples in town (you know, those 99c Braeburn apples... seriously, you're the best).



October vs. November

October -
Halloween, Candy Corn, Red  & Yellow (& crunchy) Leaves, Silly Costumes, Caffeine Addiction Recovery Month, National Squirrel Awareness Month, Our Bi-Month-iversary

November -
National Peanut Butter Lover's Month, Leftover Halloween Candy Sale, Thanksgiving/Fall Break, Family Stories Month, National Novel Writing Month, Sweet Potato Awareness Month, National Bible Week (21-28th), Our Tri-Month-iversary


Now, off to use those apples to make Apple Spice Cake, which I saw on Joy the Baker (food blog... by the way, I looooove food blogs, especially with pretty photography), who read it in The Sweet Life.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Even Though Man Cannot Live On Bread Alone...

Confession #1:  I love bread.  Seriously.  I could live off the the jail-food diet (you know, bread and water).  And so--coupled with my love of cooking and homemade-anything--it should not be surprising that I have tried to make it.

Confession #2:  All my attempts have been unsuccessful... so far.

You see, I really, really enjoy making things. Mostly because I like to keep my hands busy, and I like that I can make others happy with good food.  Which is why it is upsetting that I've had so much trouble developing my bread-making skills.

Confession #3:  I've been using a bread machine.  Which may explain why my attempts have been ugly block-masses of crumbly disaster.  But, I don't have the patience to do it all by hand (and to wash all of the dishes after I do it all by hand).  I don't know if it's the recipes I'm using... the yeast... the machine... the machine-operator...  But despite all of my research, I can't get it to work!

Confession #4:  I'm not giving up.  I'm a little funny when it comes to challenges--as in, sometimes I just refuse to give up (even with "loaf" after "loaf" of ... "bread").  And now I have some new ideas and a few new weapons in my arsenal ("Hello, vital wheat gluten!").  I'll keep you posted.

On the bright side, it's finally cold enough that I just may bake a loaf in the oven... maybe.  It's a new day for me and my bread-making skills.

The Latest Loaf (approx. 3" at its highest point) - 1.5 lbs. of Glory
For now, I'm making these French Breakfast Muffins.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Dear Mom,

(**To Mom, and Anyone Else interested in my newest Kitchen Caper**)

Dear Mom,

We've been pretty busy here lately, but I found time to do a little cooking (surprise, surprise!) this weekend.  I used my new favorite nonessential kitchen appliance...

the pasta machine you gave me!

Nathan went and played golf for a while... so I made a mess.

The instructions said to mix the flour and eggs straight on your work surface if you're kneading by hand, which I was doing (I really enjoyed cracking eggs onto my counter).  I rolled little balls through the flattening attachment to make long sheets.

Then, I let them dry out a little bit before I cut them, so they didn't stick together.

I loved that the machine came with a C-clamp (to attach it to your counter-top).  I told Nathan that any appliance that comes with a C-clamp has to be awesome!

I used the Fettuccine setting, because I was going to make chicken noodle soup, and wanted thick, rectangular noodles.

After they were all cut, I laid them out to dry on a rack.  But, there were TWO settings on the machine.  And since I was experimenting...

I couldn't leave the Spaghetti setting unexplored.

When all was said and done, I got four thumbs up from two hungry boys.


Sunday, August 1, 2010


Baked Cinnamon Rolls for Mom 
(2nd ever attempt at from-scratch)

Hung Out with the Little Man
(T-shirt says "I bet you wish I had an off button")

Stalked Someone's Wedding Decor @ the Church

Saw Nathan For the First Time in 6 Days!!!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Status Bar

Whenever I start up my computer and I watch windows load, I always wish it had a status bar telling me how far along it was in loading (and frankly, how long I have left to wait).  I like to track things, especially when I'm looking forward to the end of my wait.  So, without further ado, here's what I'm tracking:

Summer Internship
Total number of days in office:  50
Completed days: 44
Percent complete:  88.0%

Bag of Rice Provided by Smurthwaite Kitchen
Total number of cups given:  3
Number of cups eaten:  2.75
Percent complete: 91.6%

Summer Break
Total number of days off of school:   99
School-free days so far:  68
Percent complete:  68.7%

Box of Thank You's
Total number of thank you's purchased:  50
Remaining (estimate):  ~19
Percent used (estimate):  62.0% 

Total number of days to be engaged:  224
Number of days engaged so far:  208
Percent complete:  92.9% (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

A photo from 0% completion of our engagement!