7 Quick Takes

Today I’m linking up with one of my fave blogs, Conversion Diary. If you’ve never read her, you should really check out yesterday’s “Explore God” post. Her video is really powerful to me.

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This is one of my favorite pictures of my parents, from my wedding.

Monday is my mom’s birthday. She is a saint, and I think everyone that knows her recognizes that. As much of a blessing it is to work at your own church, it is also a huge test of grace and patience! Happy Birthday, Mom!

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I love undergraduates. They may text too much and obliviously wear headphones when I’m yelling out my car window to cross at a crosswalk, but for the most part they’re a breath of fresh air. I just finished judging undergraduate research posters, and I’m still advising the Delta Gamma chapter here, and they really can amaze sometimes!

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This recipe, made in a 9×13 with phyllo on bottom and top is my jam right now. So much easier than little packets and yet so delicious. I use olive oil instead of butter & breadcrumbs between the layers.  Ina is my girl.

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I really hope Southern Miss football will get it together. We’re driving down to see them play Marshall later this fall, and we’d love to see a win!

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We got to meet Willie Geist in New York last month. He is the single-best reason to watch the Today Show. If you have not read his article, “How to take your 4-year-old daughter to a football game,” stop what you’re doing right now and read it. You will love him forever, I promise.

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Because it’s my blog, and I’ll get political if I want to, if you haven’t seen this ad yet, you probably should. From the people who brought you invasive ultrasounds… Seriously people, “generation opportunity” is not down with your creepy scare tactics. And if you’re against government intervention into health care, set down your ultrasound wands.

— 7 —

Finally, if you’re looking for a new time sink, check out Camp Patton. I recently discovered Grace (one of the last to do so, I know), and her writing is hilarious and her three tiny Pattons are a-dor-a-ble. Worth a read.

Happy Friday!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Canadian Delicacies

I have long held a love and appreciation for Tim Horton’s thanks to trips to Canada with my family growing up. We were thrilled to find out that the original Tim Horton’s was in one of the cities we were planning to visit on our trip, Hamilton, ON. We set off to find it one afternoon. The original Tim Horton’s was opened to serve a blue-collar neighborhood, and it is still that way today. When we exited the expressway, we were suddenly in a tangle of steel mills and railroad tracks. Despite the plaques outside and displays inside, this Tim Horton’s was just a regular place. We had to get a coffee and a few quick photos before we left!

Clearly Sara's dream has come true, Tim Horton's #1 Hamilton, Ontario

The pilgrimage.

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The original sign above.

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We ate the Port Dalhousie Tim Horton’s most mornings on our trip.  It was just steps from Lake Ontario.

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We visited the Steam Whistle Brewery while we were in Toronto. The building that houses the brewery is historic. Toronto wanted to build a parking garage underground on that spot, but it was illegal to teardown the building due to its historic status. They took the building apart brick-by-brick and beam-by-beam, built the parking garage, and then rebuilt the building. There was a lot of graffiti on the building, so they built it back inside out. Pretty amazing!  The brewers later took over the building. They only brew Pilsners, so they gave us lots of samples of just one kind of beer!

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Of course, we had to try poutine while we were on the eastern side of Canada. It doesn’t seem to be such “thing” on the west coast.  I was pretty skeptical of the whole thing because I’m not a huge gravy person, and I *thought* I wasn’t a cheese curd person.  That is, until our friend from Wisconsin brought us back fresh cheese curds from a trip home. They are pure, squeaky deliciousness! They remind me of rich, little string cheese nuggets.  Although the picture may not do it justice, poutine is crazy good.  The poutinerie we visited does all kinds of riffs on poutine, but we went traditional. It did not disappoint!

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Ontario Trip: Wine Region

We didn’t know until we started planning our trip that the Niagara region is Ontario’s wine region. It’s on about the same latitude as wine producing areas in the northwest United States.

The Niagara region is most famous for their ice wine. Before this trip, I was totally unaware of ice wine. Ice wine is produced by letting grapes freeze on the vine through the coldest part of winter. We visited the Niagara College Teaching Winery, and they said they send their new class of students out into the vineyards at about 2:00 am to pick the grapes for the ice wine. It must all be picked in one night, and it needs to be below -8 degrees C, or about 18 degrees F. Hazing, much?

We had a red ice wine on our visit to the vineyard, and it tasted like strawberry jam. So delicious! I think they said some of the whites tastes like honey. You drink ice wine by letting it sit under your tongue and then swallowing.

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Open house at Stratus, one of the hipper wineries. That windmill in the back is used to cool down the fields. Pretty crazy!

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The college was really fantastic, and all the proceeds from the wine sales go back to funding the school’s programs and students. They also had a teaching brewery on site.

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Wine casks.

Ontario Trip: St. Catherines & Port Dalhousie

We took a fantastic trip to Ontario this summer. We stayed in St. Catherines in the Niagara Wine Region between Niagara Falls and Toronto. We were just minutes from the shores of Lake Ontario at Port Dalhousie. The weather was absolutely perfect, and it was so nice to be near the water.

Pier at Port Dalhousie, St. Catharines, Ontario. Lighthouse in distance.

The pier at Port Dalhousie

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Port Dalhousie has a historic carousel that you can ride for 5 cents. We only rode once, but there were kids in line with dollars worth of tickets!

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You can see the skyline of Toronto faintly across the lake.

The watering down of American Girl

A new American Girl Doll store opened this week in Columbus.  My childhood dream come true.  We visited the new store last weekend before the grand opening, and while some of the magic was still there, it was sad to see what American Girl has become.  A small corner of the store is devoted to the historical dolls I loved as a child, and the rest of the store has been overtaken by the narcissistic and boring “looks like me” dolls (full disclosure-I had one of those dolls as well, so I get the appeal.  But, she was more boring than my historic dolls, just like me.)  Apparently old school American Girl Doll lovers everywhere feel this way:

“American Girls aren’t radical anymore” from The Atlantic

“Even more terrible things are happening to the American Girl Doll brand than you thought” from The Washington Post

And, just a bonus, “What your American Girl Doll says about you” 

I was a Kirsten, by the way, but I was spoiled lucky enough to have a mom who loved the dolls and books as much as I did, so I have all the original dolls up to Addy.

Which doll did you have/want/love the most?

What you should make for breakfast this weekend

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I love America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country.  Their magazines and tv shows are great, but I also really love their special magazine-style cookbook issues, like their annual “best of” issue pictured above.  One of my favorite recipes for weekend breakfast (or Tuesday…we may have had one this morning) is ATK’s Dutch Baby recipe.  It’s basically a skillet pancake, which is great because it’s hands-off once the batter is prepared, and it’s all done at once, unlike regular pancakes.  Plus, you can control how sweet it is with the amount of powdered sugar you put on at the end.

Dutch Baby
(adapted from ATK)

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 c flour
1/4 c cornstarch
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp lemon zest
3 eggs
1 1/4 c milk (they say skim; we use 1%)
1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted & cooled
2 tsp vanilla extract
powdered sugar
lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Put the 2 tbsp of vegetable oil in a 12 inch skillet, and brush to coat the inside of the skillet. Heat the skillet in the oven for 10 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, salt & zest. In another bowl, whisk the eggs until they are light and frothy. Then, whisk the milk, butter, and vanilla extract into the eggs. Add about half of the liquid to the dry ingredients and whisk together until smooth. Whisk in the remaining liquid. Pour the batter into the preheated skillet. Just pull out the oven rack and leave the hot skillet in the oven to pour the batter in. Trust me…you don’t want to try transporting the burning hot skillet back and forth. Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown around the edges. Don’t be alarmed if it rises out of the skillet; it will deflate when it comes out of the oven.

Once that baby’s out, squeeze lemon juice over it and sprinkle it with powdered sugar. Delicious!!

Smile. You’re in PA.

Over Spring Break we headed east to Pittsburgh for a little getaway.  We had heard Pittsburgh was a pretty cool, underrated city, so we found a hotel deal on Hotwire and headed to the Steel City.

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Entering Pittsburgh you go through a mountain tunnel.

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At the University of Pittsburgh, there is this giant tower, the Cathedral of Learning.  Part of the inside look like a typical classroom building, parts of it have classrooms that are replicas of classrooms around the world, and the top floors have amazing views of the city and house their Honors College offices.  The Honors College offices make you feel like you’re in an old British university.  Very fancy, Pitt!

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Checking out one of the African classrooms.  Pitt holds regular classes in these rooms!

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Pittsburgh is a city of many cultures because so many immigrants came to work in the city in its heyday.  We loved Little Italy, and found this giant, amazingly tasty chunk of tiramisu in a little Italian grocery.

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The Duquesne Incline.  This is a cable car ride that was opened in 1877.  The red lights are the path you ride up the mountain.  It’s a great view from the top, but the ride up (and down) in the wooden car made me a little uneasy!  You know there had to be that dad on the ride that thought it was hilarious to scare his kids (and the rest of the passengers!) by shaking the car.

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City view from the top!

German Village & Annie Leibovitz

Saturday we took the day off from working and had brunch at Pistacia Vera, visited Schiller Park in the German Village neighborhood of Columbus, and went to the Annie Leibovitz exhibit at the Wexner Center on campus with our friends Zoe & Nick.  For those unfamiliar with the Wexner name (I was until I moved to Columbus), Les Wexner is the chairman and CEO of Limited Brands and a generous donor to Ohio State.

Beautiful, warm November day in Schiller Park
This was our first time at Pistacia Vera, and we had fantastic croissants and macarons.  There are so many little hidden treasures in the different neighborhoods of C-bus.  
The Annie Leibovitz exhibit was cool to see because she is so well known and has photographed so many notable people, but one of the best parts for me was walking into a room in the gallery and seeing big portraits of Eudora Welty & Oseola McCarty.  I’m sure few people who saw Ms. McCarty’s photo understood the significance, but I know any Hattiesburg resident or Southern Miss alumni certainly would.  Also loved seeing Eudora Welty because of her legacy in Southern literature, but also because she reminds me of my grandparents and mid-century Jackson life.  I always loved reading about Ms. Welty’s normal life, and going down to the Jitney Jungle.  

Recipe I’m Loving

I know everyone loves the Pioneer Woman, and so many people have found success with her recipes.  Early on she talked a lot about her “Best Lasagna Ever,” or something like that.  We love lasagna and red sauced Italian food in general, so I had to give it a try.  Pat gave me a strange look when I mentioned that cottage cheese was on our grocery list…and maybe second guessed our decision to make the dish when I mentioned it also called for breakfast sausage….  I said, “It’s supposed to be ‘the best lasagna ever,’ you’ve got to trust the process!”  Well………

I WAS WRONG!

That lasagna was horrible.  I know there are lots of reviews to the contrary (although quite a few people agree with me, too), but that was hands-down one of the worst dishes we’ve made.

All that said, I still love Ree Drummond, and I had to give more of her recipes a chance to overcome the the world’s worst lasagna experience.  That’s when I found this little jewel:

Three Cheese-Stuffed Shells with Meaty Tomato Sauce

I adore this dish.  It’s not very hard to make, and it’s incredibly delicious.  I make a couple of changes to the recipe, though.

  • I use a 12 oz package of shells because that’s what they had a my grocery store.  It’s worked out great, though, because I increase the other ingredients a little too and make more.  
  • I use the amount of cheese she calls for, but I usually just use the ricotta and asiago because I get a big chunk of asiago at Sam’s Club and always have it on hand.
  • When my basil plant isn’t producing, I substitute dried.
  • For the meat I either use hot Italian sausage or a mix of ground chuck and sausage…I usually use a little more than called for because I use more shells and sauce.
  • I use two 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes instead of what she calls for.  
This dish makes a lot, especially since I use more shells and sauce, but it freezes really well!  I usually make a 9×13 dish full for now and freeze a smaller casserole dish full for later.  

Contentment

I constantly struggle with being content in my current circumstances.  I hope and believe that what we are doing here will pay off in the future, but keeping that in perspective now can be incredibly difficult. I sure do miss my friends and family in the South, and having a job at my beloved Southern Miss before coming here made it all the harder to leave.  With the holidays approaching, it is all the more a reminder that we live so far away from most of the people we love.  As seems to always happen, I got a little reminder at just the right time that we need to be content in all circumstance and work for good where we are.  This was The Upper Room’s devotional yesterday:

Paul wrote, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”
— Philippians 4:11 (NIV)

Four young men in their prime were forcibly removed from their homeland and taken to a foreign, heathen kingdom. Not only were they of noble blood; each one was gifted with intelligence and wisdom. Daniel, one of the young men, had the ability to understand dreams and visions. And it’s clear from today’s reading that these talents were given by God. Amazingly, the young men entered the king’s service and remained there throughout Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. We know from the story in the Book of Daniel that these young men remained loyal in prayer and worship, serving God even while under the authority of a heathen king, even when in danger from lions or fire. How often do we find ourselves wishing we were in a different set of circumstances? We may feel sure that we could be far more productive in a different job, a different state, a different country, or a different church. Sometimes we dream of an ideal situation in which we could serve God fully. But the lesson from these young men who could do nothing but wait on God is to serve wherever we are, in whatever circumstances, to the best of our ability. If we are willing servants, God can use us for divine purpose anywhere. 

http://devotional.upperroom.org/devotionals/2012-11-11

A good and timely remind for me, and I’m sure for many of us.