Saturday, December 10, 2011


This word has swirling around in my head for the past few days ever since I read the following story from this blog:

"Kids get grace...  McRae, my youngest daughter, reminded me of this a few months ago.  While we were leaving Chuck-e-Cheese, the only place she ever picks for our daddy/daughter dates, we heard a police siren... In the backseat, I heard McRae sigh and say, “Ohhhh, I love that sound.”
That’s a strange thing for a six year old to say, so I asked her why. Without missing a beat she said, 'Because that’s the sound of someone getting rescued.'"

That's the sound of someone getting rescued.  Seriously.  I never, ever thought of that.  And yet, I know that everyone's been somewhere that their only hope is rescue.

And, I suppose, there's someone reading this who knows exactly what that feels like.  I hope you'll listen to this song and know that it's true.  God is here to rescue you.

Who, oh Lord, could save themselves, 
Their own soul could heal? 
Our shame was deeper than the sea 
Your grace is deeper still 

You alone can rescue, You alone can save 
You alone can lift us from the grave 
You came down to find us, led us out of death 
To You alone belongs the highest praise 

You, oh Lord, have made a way 
The great divide You heal 
For when our hearts were far away 
Your love went further still 
Yes, your love goes further still 

We lift up our eyes, lift up our eyes 
You’re the Giver of Life 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Lessons from Handsome

So I had a salad for lunch today, and as I was putting my plate away I saw the tupperware of sugar cookies on the counter and thought to myself, "I'll have one of those."  As I pulled off the lid of the container and grabbed a napkin for my cookie I thought, "I eat salads for lunch so I don't feel guilty about having cookies for 'lunch dessert'."  But then I remembered Handsome's words when I had related a similar story to him, "I never feel guilty about eating food."  What?  You don't feel guilty when you have two cookies or eat all of your meal at Applebees?  This man-thought was new and intriguing, and, honestly, his words have shaped my thoughts and self-image tremendously.

I have learned many, many things from Handsome.  As a good breaking-the-2-month-blog-silence post, I want to encourage you with some of them.
  1. There is no need to feel guilty about any food you eat.  Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full.
  2. You are beautiful.  Really.  Inside and out.  Believe it, embrace it.
  3. All you can ever do is your best.  If it isn't good enough for someone, know that it's good enough for God, and his opinion is what matters the most.
  4. You will not find joy in comparing yourself to others.  You have your own unique things to offer.
  5. It's okay to be a girl in a man-dominated world.
  6. You are more than your grades.  It's okay if you fail sometimes, you'll move on.
  7. Accept gifts and trials from God's hand, even if it is not what you expected.
  8. Never, ever complain.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween from the Spares!

The FE exam is over, and we (I, really) had a little free time to do something fun, so we picked up some pumpkins and got creative.  I think they turned out really great, don't you?

I made a Minion pumpkin!!!
(Google "Megamind" if you don't know who it is)
Handsome made a PowerCat pumpkin!!
Go State!!
I love candy, silly costumes and being creative!  I hope you had a wonderful evening!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Drama Queen

Handsome bought me a lovely Pink Star Fittonia plant last valentine's day.  I love having it around, especially how low-maitenance it is.  Sometimes, I forget to water it, because it doesn't need it very often and this is what happens:

It's so droopy and sad.  Even now, just looking at it makes me feel like the worst plant-momma ever!

But, I give it a good drink and in just a little while it's as perky as ever!

See, happy as can be!  Reminds me of a clip from one of my favorite (in the running for #1 all-time) movies:

If you haven't watched Megamind (and you have a dry sense of humor like me), you should go watch it.  Like now.  I laugh so hard every time I watch it!

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Just wanted to show you guys another craft I was working on for a friend.  She just picked it up, so now I can share it with you!

36" x 36" (I think), Acrylic

I wish the colors turned out a little bit better, but it's hard to photograph a painting.  The sky is not as light as it looks behind the tree (black), and the ground is dark brown.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Crafting: A BIG Bag

Hi friends, just wanted to show you what I finished last weekend (while listening to K-State win their game!).

I used a Simplicity pattern, and some pre-quilted fabric (in my favorite colors!) from Joann's that I got 40% off (still $12 a yard, though).  It's my first project with my new-to-me sewing machine that mom got me, which is exciting, but it also looks (up close) like a first-sewing-in-a-long-time project.  It will be great for a weekend or overnight bag.

See how big it is?!  (I put one of our throw pillows inside to fill it out, and there was still plenty of room.)

In other news, look at our farmer's market finds!

We made fried okra, spaghetti squash with marinara and meatballs, jambalaya with the red pepper, upside-down pizza with the green peppers, smokey sweet corn and jalapeno dip and bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers.  We haven't cooked anything with my sugar pumpkin yet, because...

I'm using it as a centerpiece, for now!

Happy autumn, friends!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Recipe: Homemade Granola

I think I've made this recipe a hundred times.  It is magical.  Even if you don't think you like granola, you will probably like this.  Once, a friend's parent sent me a box of granola ingredients so that I could bake granola for my friend.  It's that good.  (It really happened... isn't that funny?)

This is based on Pam Anderson's recipe.  Not the anatomically disproportionate blonde TV star, but the amazing cook with great, approachable recipes.  Check out the link for many, many, many variations on her basic granola recipe.

The original copy straight from USA Weekend magazine

I'll do a step-by-step for this, mostly because I remembered to take (not so good) pictures.  So, let's begin!

Here's all that you will need, unless you are gluten-free (see my note at the bottom -- you won't use wheat germ) or diabetic (again, see notes at the bottom for what I've done).

Mix all of your dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Measure the oil into your 1/4 cup measure, you'll thank me later...

Mix all of the wet ingredients in a small sauce pan and simmer just to warm everything up and help it combine.

And if you followed my advice, the syrup with slide right out of your measuring cup!

Nothing exciting will happen in the sauce pan.  Just warm it up, the oil will still be separate from the other ingredients.

Pour the wet over the dry, and wonder how I could take such a sick picture (I left the flash on... oops!).

Stir it all up and pour it onto your greased baking sheet.

Here is where I deviate from Pam.  She suggests "clumping" it with your hands, but I found I get the best clumps if I lightly spread it out flat to cover the sheet (but don't pack it down).

After 30 minutes, add these on top.

Use a spoon to gently break up the oat mixture and mix in the cranberries.  There's no stirring happening, just gentle, gentle mixing.  You don't want to break up those clusters too much just yet.

When you're done, it will look like this.  Not stirred, just lightly rustled.  A little pushed around, ya know.  Not harassed.  Be gentle! :)

I usually let it cool on the sheet, you can also pour it out onto wax paper to let it cool.  Once cool, break up any clusters that are too big for you and store in an airtight container.

Cranberry Vanilla Almond Granola

2 cups Old-fashioned Oats
½ cup Wheat Germ
2 Tbsp Dark Brown Sugar
¼ tsp Salt
¼ cup Dark Corn Syrup
3 Tbsp Canola Oil
1 Tbsp Water
1/2 cup Sliced Almonds
1 cup Dried Cranberries
2 t. Vanilla Extract (not imitation)
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position, and heat oven to 275 degrees F (135 degrees C). Coat a 9-by-13-inch metal pan with cooking spray, then set aside.
2. Mix oats, wheat germ, brown sugar, salt and almonds in a bowl. Bring syrup, oil, water and vanilla to a simmer in a saucepan over low heat. Drizzle over oat mixture, and stir to combine.
3. Pour mixture onto prepared pan. Pat into a flat layer. Bake for 30 minutes, but check at 20. Break up layer and gently stir in dried cranberries and continue to bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool. (Granola can be stored in an airtight tin for up to two weeks.) Makes one quart.

  • LIGHTEN UP:  Replace 1/2 c. of oats with 1/2 to 1 c. of rice krispy cereal.
  • GLUTEN FREE:  Replace wheat germ with pulverized oats (I put 1/2 c. of oats in my food processor and process until it turns into a fine meal.)
  • SYRUP:  Any syrup will work, really.  Pam suggests maple, but I'm cheap so I use corn syrup.
  • DIABETIC:  Use sugar-free syrup and splenda brown sugar (using 1/2 the amount).


  • REESES:  1/2 c. chopped peanuts, 1/2 to 1 c. chocolate chips (add when granola is cool), 1 T. peanut butter (instead of vanilla)
  • CINNAMON WALNUT or PECAN:  1/2 c. chopped walnuts or pecans, 1 t. cinnamon (instead of vanilla)
  • GORP:  1/2 c. chopped peanuts, 1/2 c. sunflower seeds (shelled), 1/2 c. mini M&M's (added when granola is cool) , 1 T. peanut butter (instead of vanilla)

Friday, September 30, 2011

For the Engineers

I do some of my best thinking when I'm supposed to be listening to lectures and taking notes...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Recipe: Apple Nectarine Crisp

You know what?  Marriage is a wonderful thing.  Two people coming together and becoming one flesh.  Each person brings all of their life experiences, traditions, hopes, fears, expectations, sins, etc.  It's the beautiful and messy juxtaposition of two lives, and I am overcome with how wonderful it is.

My husband brought his love of peaches into our marriage.  He has taught me the joy of a bowl full of juicy, sliced peaches shared with someone you love.  (However, it would take a pretty large bowl to hold enough for the both of us...)  Before I was married, apples were my favorite fruit.  I usually ate at least one apple a day, and didn't get tired of it.  Now, peaches are my new favorite fruit, joining apples & tying for the #1 spot in my heart.

This apple nectarine cobbler is pretty darn close to the marriage of my two favorite fruits.  Nectarines have a nice skin, though, so they worked better for this than peaches would have.  Always peel peaches when you cook them.  It's a life rule of mine.

So, without further ado, the recipe:

Apple Nectarine Cobbler
by Lauren Spare

2 Med. Apples (I used Gala, but use what you like), sliced
2 Med. Nectarines, sliced
1/3 c. White Sugar
1 T. Corn Starch
1 T. Lemon Juice

1/2 c. Rolled Oats
1/2. c. Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 c. Turbinado Sugar (or sub another kind and use a little less)
1/4 t. Salt
1 1/2 t. Cinnamon
2 T. Melted Butter
2-3 T. Canola Oil

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Stir together filling mixture and set aside.
  3. Stir together dry ingredients of topping.  Drizzle butter and 2 T. oil over the top.  Stir together and add additional oil if mixture isn't coming together (there should be no dry bits at the bottom).
  4. Pour filling into a 1 1/2 qt. casserole dish and sprinkle topping over it.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes, or until topping is browned and fruit juice is bubbling.
Notes: I didn't peel my fruit, since the peel has extra nutrients, but do whatever your heart tells you.  Handsome preferred them peeled.  Also, I used whole-wheat because I wanted to feel like it was sort of healthy... again, follow your heart (belly).


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September... Are You Sure??

Hi ya'll.  Handsome and I are headed to Austin this weekend to witness some covenant-making of one of my lovely Forge sisters with her soulmate. That's why I said "ya'll", I'm getting prepared.  I should probably start wearing my cowgirl boots and eating fried chicken... but I digress.

I wanted to let you know I've not dropped off the face of the earth.  In fact, I've been brewing some lovely blog-posts in my head the whole last month... but I have neglected to post them.  So, I haven't forgot about you, lovely readers.

I'm pretty sure in my mind it's still May, so I'm glad it's cooling off again.  It's still a little cool in Kansas during that time of the year... this cool weather is good for my psyche.

Time has been flying, especially now that school's started.  I've begun my victory lap with a sprint, and hope to slow down to a nice jog next spring.

Now, for a picture that makes me happy (because good blog posts have at least one relevant picture, and the best ones devote more area to pictures than text...):

Two of my favorite boys and I at a Labor Day parade!

Happy September, friends!  Please go on a walk and step on any crunchy leaves you find (just for me!)... and if you do, leave me a comment so I can share in your joy! :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Recipe: Tatertot Casserole (Sans Canned Cream Soup!!!)

Ah, dear memories of my grade school cafeteria lunches.  My favorite meals were (HUGE) homemade cinnamon rolls with chili (notice what's listed first there...), cheeseburger stromboli,  and... tatertot casserole!  Such a humble casserole, really.  Comfort food at its finest.

Fast forward to now.  A few weeks ago I had a craving for tatertot casserole, the creamy, beefy goodness topped with crunchy tatertots.  But one thing stood in the way... canned cream of mushroom soup.  Over the years I've developed a mild distaste for canned cream soups--chock full of sodium and they keep the shape of the can when you dump them out (a non-Newtonian fluid, by the way).

I tried buying "Lite" soup and making a casserole, but it was bland.  No amount of additional salt or pepper could salvage it.  I was quite disappointed.

Luckily (for my tummy), I didn't give up.  Tonight, I set out to make my own "cream soup" sauce for casserole.  No half-pint gelatin salt-block "soup" was going to stand in my way!!!

Guess what!  This time I was successful.  As full of flavor as comfort food gets, and both Handsome and I had extra helpings!

Tatertot Casserole
by the Spares

1 lb. ground beef
2 1/2 c. frozen green beans
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 T. butter
3 T. flour
1 c. beef broth*
1/8 t. dried thyme
1/8 t. black pepper
3/4 c. milk
1/4 c. parmesan cheese (optional)
1 lb. frozen tatertots (1/2 of a 32 oz. bag)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray an 8x8 baking dish with nonstick spray (or a deep-dish 9" pie pan).

Brown ground beef in a large skillet.  Drain and pour beef in baking dish.  Spread the (still frozen) green beans over the ground beef in the baking dish and set aside.

Melt butter in the skillet you used earlier.  Saute onions until translucent, about 2 minutes.  Stir in flour and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring often.  Add broth, milk and spices.  Heat to a low boil and cook until thickened, stirring often.

Pour sauce over beef and green beans in the baking dish.  Top with parmesan cheese (if using) and spread tater tots on top in one even layer.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, until tatertots are brown and sauce is bubbling.  Let cool 10 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!!!

*You could replace part of the broth with wine, if you like.  This would work great if you used low-sodium broth, because wine helps food taste salty (without the added salt).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Farmer's Market: Fennel (Plus Heirloom Tomatos & Okra)

Fennel is a whitish bulb with long, light-green stems and feathery leaves.  I cut the stems off before I remembered to take a photo, but here's what my bulb looked like.

Raw fennel is crisp with a spicy, black licorice taste.  When cooked, it (supposedly) loses the harshness and takes on a soft nutty flavor.  After some research, I chose Rachel Ray's Good Fennels Pasta, because she hadn't let me down before!

As I was cooking, I uttered the famous last words, "I hope this is good... because this recipe is making a LOT!"

Turns out that I must have done something wrong.  It wasn't very good.  Salvageable, but not good.  Not enough sauce and the fennel wasn't soft like the onions and peppers were...  I added an extra two cups of tomato sauce and some parmesan cheese and baked it for 30 minutes, which helped, but it was still a crunchy-licoricely-studded fennel minefield.

In the end, I've learned that there are only a few foods that I will pick off of my plate:  blueberries, blue cheese, and now... fennel.  (And, believe me, I have been picking and picking during lunch this week... ah, leftovers.)

I'm not done, though.  Maybe next year I'll get up the courage to try it again...

On the bright side, the next night we had hamburgers topped with a thick slice of an heirloom tomato (in place of ketchup, for me).  They were delicous!  I ate the rest of the tomato with some salt and pepper!

We also bought a pound of okra, and I fried it to go with the hamburgers.  I adapted Paula Deen's recipe, but it turned out to be a little bland for us.  Nothing salt couldn't fix, though!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 27

(Full list.)

A Picture of You and a Family Member

Since I miss this little guy and he didn't make it into the last post...

My fireball of a nephew, Justice!

Isn't he cute?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day 26

(Full list.)

A Picture of Something that Means a Lot to You

Parents who loved me and encouraged creativity and curiosity...

A mother who loved me enough to give me away...

And a new family that raised my soul mate "in the way he should go"*...

* Proverbs 22:6

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Farmer's Market: Shallots

My favorite vegetable is onions.  Hands down.  They are so versatile: salsa, soups, sandwiches, salads, casseroles, omelettes, cake... well, maybe not cake.  Anyway, I thank my mother for my love of onions.  She's Italian, and she cooks like it (minus the garlic)... there's onion and green pepper in most of the family recipes, and, growing up, we always had those two veggies on hand.

Last Saturday, I ventured alone to the farmer's market.  It shouldn't surprise you that I bought a box of small yellow onions.  We've already used three or four of them!  I also bought a close cousin of the beloved onion: shallots.  They are small (thumb-sized), garlic shaped onions.

I bought a small carton of shallots for my next farmer's market cooking adventure.  After some research, I decided upon Ina Garten's (Barefoot Contessa) recipe for Carmelized Shallots.

First step, peel off the papery skin!

See how they have little "cloves" like garlic?  They're also juicy and layered like an onion.  And, boy, do they smell like onion.  My eyes were watering by the end of the stack, and my eyes hardly ever water when I chop onions!

Next step, brown!

Is that butter?  Oh yes, and sugar, too.  We're carmelizing these suckers.  Yum-o!

Cook until they look like this, shaking the pan every once in a while:

Magic, I tell you, magic.

You'll then add Red Wine Vinegar, salt and pepper, and cook until soft.  (I skipped the oven, and just put a lid on the pot--it was 100 degrees today, and my little apartment heats up fast!)

I couldn't get the colors right in this picture (the lighting in my kitchen isn't set up for photography, imagine that), but you can see that they are getting soft and the sauce is thick and coating the shallots.

In the end, you'll get something quite delicious.  Try not to salivate when you look at the photo...

I served this with the easiest chicken ever (recipe below--makes it very tender and moist) and zucchini and squash casserole.  Handsome and I ate the shallots with the chicken, and it was delicious!!!  I would definitely make this again, and look forward to trying out more recipes with this dear cousin of my favorite veggie!

Crockpot Chicken
from my friend Suzanne

Chicken Breasts
Chicken Broth

Put raw chicken breasts in crock pot.  Pour over chicken broth to cover chicken.  (I used 3 chicken breasts and 2 c. broth in my small crock pot.)  Cover and cook on low 7-8 hours.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Recipe: Homemade Salsa

Handsome and I looove chips and salsa.  When we were first married, we would eat at least a jar per week.  Handsome realized that it was adding up really quickly on our grocery bill, so he suggested that I make salsa from scratch.  I wasn't too keen on the idea at first, because it sounded hard and the last time I tried to make salsa it ended up disgusting (I know, you're thinking "How can salsa be gross? It's so good!", but I managed it...).  Maybe a month later, after some gentle prodding, I decided I would attempt something.  I had a basic idea of what goes into good salsa (my childhood best friend's mom is famous for her salsa, and she once showed me how to make it... a loooong, long time ago... sorry, I don't know what's up with the repeated o's... long day at work?).  It actually turned out good.  I was a little surprised.

We now make this about twice a month.  It lasts us 1 to 2 weeks.

You will need two 28 oz. cans of whole peeled tomatoes.  The store brand works juuuust fine.  You could also use fresh tomatoes, just blanch them to remove the skins and go for it!

Drain them both.  This is important, unless you like really, really watery salsa (which I do not).

You will also need 1/4 of a red onion, a clove or two of garlic, 2 oz. of chopped canned jalapenos (or a few fresh ones, seeds removed), and a big handful of cilantro (depends on your taste).  Put all of these in a blender and add one can of tomatoes.

Puree this to death.  Chop it up really good so the flavor gets distributed throughout the salsa.  It should look like the above photo, but maybe even more green if you added lots of cilantro.  Remove to a separate bowl.

Now add the other can of tomatoes and pulse in your blender until coarsely chopped.

It's hard to tell in this photo, but it's not as smooth as the first mixture, because you want a few chunks of tomatoes.  Unless you don't... then puree away.  Your prerogative.

Now you need a can of green chilies.  This will add a little spice and some colorful chunks.  I'm all about the chunks in my salsa.  I like something with body, something my chip can hold on to, something I can sink my teeth into, ya know?

Stir in your chilies, pepper, and cumin.  Taste it with a tortilla chip and adjust seasonings to taste.  You may want to add some salt, but I usually don't.  I also never add sugar or vinegar.  Those things don't belong in salsa at our house.  Yours may be different.  Just go with it.

You should now have some delicious homemade salsa to stuff your face with.  Go ahead, you're eating so many vegetables... it makes my brain spin that something soooo tasty is basically vegetable dip.  Evidence that there is a God, and that He loves us.  Just sayin'.

Here's the recipe in full form:

Homemade Salsa
by The Spares

2 (28 oz.) Cans of Whole Tomatoes, Drained
1/2 (4 oz.) Can of Diced Jalapenos or 1-2 fresh Jalapenos (seeds removed)
1/4 Medium Red Onion (or whatever onion you have)

1-2 Cloves Fresh Garlic (you may sub garlic powder, just add it with the spices at the end)
1 Big Handful of Fresh Cilantro
1 (7 oz.) Can of Diced Green Chile Peppers
1/4 t. Black Pepper
1-2 T. Ground Cumin
Salt (optional)

In a blender, add jalapenos, onion, garlic, cilantro and one can of tomatoes.  Puree until smooth. Pour in a separate bowl.
Add second can of tomatoes to blender and pulse until chopped.  Pour into the bowl with other ingredients.
Stir in chilies, pepper and cumin.  Taste with a tortilla chip and add salt if necessary.

I'm not sure how much it makes, but I'd guess 4-5 cups.