Sunday, July 10, 2011

Towel Cake: New Business?

Today, I was able to join my friend Courtney Dunlay (soon to be Elster) for her wedding shower.  I wanted to get her something that wasn't like what everyone else was getting her and I wanted to get her something that she would actually use.  I started to think about the things that we got for our wedding showers, which were almost six years ago.  Then, I thought of the things that I still use now or the things that I've had to replace since then.  My first choice was a large crock pot, so I texted Courtney's soon to be mother-in-law and she said that was the gift that she chose for the shower.  I was thinking, "Bummer!"  So, I went with my second choice... a towel cake.

Now, I've heard of and seen diaper cakes many times and I think I saw a version of a towel cake from my cousin's baby shower, with all sorts of baby clothes in it, but I had never tried it.  If you know anything about me and giving gifts, you know that I like to give a unique gift and I like to wrap it well.  It takes me hours to get everything wrapped perfectly at Christmas.  I should probably just let it go and let Austin help me, but every year, I do it all myself.

There was no exception this time...

I wanted Courtney to have some nice kitchen utensils that tend to easily be broken or lost or just worn out.  I also wanted her to have some nice towels, since towels can wear out so quickly!

I did some searching on the internet while the boys were taking their afternoon nap and discovered that it wouldn't be too difficult to make.  This is the first look, before the ribbons and tag were added.

It includes:
1 set of wooden spoons
1 set of collapsing measuring cups
2 dish scrubbers (shaped like flowers)
2 dish scrapers
1 set of spatulas
2 bath towels
2 hand towels
2 wash clothes

I got the tulle and some orange flowers from Hobby Lobby.  Their colors are orange and turquoise, so I did my best to find items for decorating that matched.

The towel cake was a huge hit at the shower.  I was very happy with it because it fit my gift giving criteria.  Several of the ladies told me that they would be willing to pay me to make one for them sometime.  Austin actually said that he thought that I should have it as a side business.  Now, this is where I need your help.  I need to know if this would actually work.

If you could take a few moments of your time to do this for me, I would greatly appreciate it!  First, take into account the items included in the cake, then answer these questions:

Would you buy one of these from me?
What would you pay for a towel cake?

This is a front and back view of the finished product:

Thank you for helping me out with this!

If you like this, please share this blog with your friends!

I have also been brainstorming some other possible themes:
stocking stuffer
birthday party
new baby
Valentine's day

The possibilities are really endless...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Why I will not poop on the party:

Last night, we all discovered that Osama Bin Laden was killed.  My first reaction was one of a surreal nature.  I am guessing that you probably had a similar reaction, initially.  After I got over the shock, I felt a relief--not that the war on terror was over, but that he was finally caught.  I know of several soldiers that have fought in this war.  I have also heard of those that lost their lives because of this war and because of the effects of what this man did to our country.

Many people marched through the streets of America and chanted, "USA!  USA!  USA!" to display their pride for our nation.  Twitter and Facebook were a constant buzz of the news.  Then, the opinions started to appear.  Since last night, I have watched several people on both sides of the coin post their stance on the matter.  Some are glad that he is dead and some are furious that anyone would celebrate his death.

If you are a Christian, or even if you aren't, you can probably attest to the fact that Christians tend to scream and shout what they know or what they think they know about what you should do in every situation--right?  (I too have been guilty of that at times.)  I have seen posts that vary from the discussion of whether he deserved to die or not because he was "born a good person" to whether or not we should be happy when someone dies-good or bad. [I am not endorsing that people are inherently good, but that is seriously another post altogether.]

I'm not going to give you a black and white answer and I'm not going to expect you to agree with me, but I am going to share my take on the issue (after all, you are reading my blog).

So, what is the correct response?

I think it is however you truly feel about the situation.  I know some of you are squirming in your seats right now and questioning my theology.  If we trust our feelings they could cause us to sin.  If we do what we feel, it may not be the right thing because we are acting in the moment.  I am not looking at it from that perspective.  Yes, for goodness sake, if you are rejoicing, take a minute to think about why.  If you are doing it because you hate Osama and it is causing your hatred to increase, well, that's probably not healthy and it is also causing your sin to multiply in that area.  BUT if you are honestly glad that they caught him, that he got what he deserved--as far as humans are able to punish him for his wrongdoing here--then I see nothing wrong with that.  Absolutely, positively NOTHING is wrong with that!  Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

If you are rejoicing because you are thankful that maybe less soldiers will die at his hand, then please, holler, scream, dance in the streets!  Be thankful that he is dead!

If you are glad to see that he was finally held responsible for killing so many of our people on our turf, then post as many status updates as you want!  Celebrate that the families of 9/11 can have some closure.

The truth of the matter is:  no one can tell you how to feel about it.  No one.  We all remember exactly where we were when the first plane hit.  We all know how we felt, what the weather was like that day, what we were supposed to be doing at that moment, the questions we had about our country's future... all of it.  We remember the sinking feeling that invaded our chests as we watched the second plane hit, as we were helpless on the other end of the screen.  We also remember the images we saw for the rest of the day.  We remember having deep conversations with other people around us.  We remember silence--lots of it.

And if you were in NYC, you probably even have a more vivid recollection of that day than the rest of us do.  You probably remember the sounds, the smell, how thick the air was.  You probably felt the fear more deeply than the rest of us who looked on.  It was real to us, but it was actually happening in front of your eyes.

We all felt differently that day.

We all felt differently last night when we heard that Osama was dead.

Whether your reaction was silence, disbelief, screaming, yelling, dancing, or posting something online, it was your reaction.  You are the only one that can govern what you say or do.  Please don't do anything stupid.  Please don't do something that will make your life or the life of someone else more difficult.  BUT please don't let anyone else tell you how to feel about it.  Don't let anyone else make you feel bad.

And if someone wants to celebrate, please don't poop on their party.
When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices;
when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.
Proverbs 11:10

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Who is making your list?

This is the rough draft I sent in for the Inspired booklet for the May meeting of worship and production volunteers at PLC... We are reading Heart of the Artist by Rory Noland and will be discussing the chapter on jealousy and envy.
Has anyone ever quoted Psalm 37:4 to you when things weren't exactly going your way? 
Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Instantly, you wonder, “Is this person accusing me of not spending time with the Lord?  How do they know what is going on with me?  How dare them!”  Then, the I-deserve-it's kick in... “I work hard, I've practiced, I spend more time preparing than anyone else, I want it more, I, I, I...” and the list goes on and on.  Then, you just want to punch that person in the teeth for being so helpful.
Let me tell you about a time when this happened to me.
Many of you probably don't know this about Austin and me, but we are unable to have kids without a ton of medical intervention.  It has taken us on quite the emotional rollercoaster throughout our marriage.  A few years ago, after several failed treatments, we had a successful pregnancy for about 10 weeks.  Then, it was over.
To say it was difficult, is an understatement.  We deeply desired to be parents.  We really wanted to be able to hold a healthy child that was ours.  We didn't want to go through any more treatments.  We were so ready to have a family!  At times, I think it is fair to say that we reasoned that we deserved to be parents.  Out of that reasoning, it was so easy to jump to the conclusion that it was God's will for us, when in reality, it wasn't.
During that time, someone quoted Psalm 37:4 to me and it made me feel so inadequate and small.  It did this because of the way it was said to me and it seems like no one ever remembers or mentions verse 5 (NLT) in that passage:
Commit everything you do to the Lord.  Trust him, and he will help you.
The desire verse 4 talks about is not our desire, but God's desire for our lives.  If we lose sight of what God desires for us, sometimes we reason that we are entitled to certain things.  We even go as far as to say that we believe that it is God's will for us, when deep down inside, it's really what we want for ourselves, despite His plan.
When we start thinking like this, it can be dangerous.  We can start to envy what someone else has and our vision for God's plan starts to become cloudy until we are completely ineffective in the Kingdom.
After we mourned, we made an intentional effort to spend time with young children in the church we were attending.  We let a couple go on a trip for the weekend, by watching their two youngsters.  We had a 2 year old join us for lunch one day so that his mom could have a much needed nap.  We loved on kids that had stressed out parents that needed a break.  We entertained two middle school kids for an evening so that their dad, who was home on military leave, could have a romantic date with their mom.  Why am I telling you all of these things?
When we were not getting what we desired, we were tempted to throw a pity party for ourselves and wallow in the thought that God wasn't giving us what we wanted.  It seemed like everyone else had kids and we could have envied them and allowed it to consume us.  Instead, we acted in a way that reflected God's desire.  We were able to show love to children that needed it and our hearts were so full in return.  If we would have kept looking inward at our hurt instead of outward to His plan, we would have missed these opportunities to minister to these kids.
When you stop envying what other people have and start looking at what God wants for you, your heart will always be full and your focus will always be in the right place.
If you are struggling with envy in the area of serving in the worship ministry, I encourage you to take some time to ask God what He wants for you.  Put your list of wants aside and ask Him to make you a new one, a better one.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Turkey Sandwich from Heaven

Here's another recipe that caused Austin to say, "You've really outdone yourself, babe!"


Turkey Apple Sandwich (Open Face)
Kimberly Murray
*The measurements below are merely estimates, as I rarely use a recipe or measure anything while cooking.

Meat Mixture:
1 lb. ground white turkey
1/3 large white onion
2 cups finely chopped spinach
¼ teaspoon minced garlic
1 large farm fresh egg
1 ½ tablespoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground pepper
3 tablespoons western dressing
10-12 drops frank’s red hot sauce

extra virgin olive oil
raspberry vinegar

whole wheat bread
apple butter
Colby jack cheese

Heat a large grill pan (or frying pan) on low with EVOO, slowly increasing the heat as you continue preparing the ingredients.

Mix all ingredients of meat mixture with hands in a medium mixing bowl.

Form mixture into small patties and set aside.

Add amount of raspberry vinegar as desired to the warm pan.  Do not overheat oil, as this will cause a fire when mixed with the vinegar.  Allow the mixture to simmer a few minutes before placing patties onto the grill pan.

While the patties are on the grill pan, prepare the bread.  Spread a thin layer of apple butter on each piece of bread.  Place thin slices of Colby jack cheese on top of the apple butter layer.  Set pieces aside until turkey patties are thoroughly cooked.

Place hot turkey patties directly on the bread, cheese, and apple butter.  Allow the turkey to melt the cheese before eating.

Green veggies are a great side for this dish.

Chicken Soup of Deliciousness

I love to cook.  I love eating food, I love thinking about new recipes, I love trying to recreate things that I've eaten in restaurants.  My husband loves it, I love it, however, I never write anything down.  Ever.  I always make something delicious, ask Austin what he thinks and he responds, "It was amazing, but you'll never make it again, anyway..."  In an effort to be better about remembering things I've made, I am going to start sharing some of them online.  Feel free to make them yourself or share them with your friends if you like them.  The recipe titles are silly, mostly because I'm not good at coming up with clever names and I use phrases that people use to describe my food.

Enjoy my first blogged recipe:

Chicken Soup of Deliciousness
(similar to the Olive Garden’s Zuppa)
Kimberly Murray
*The measurements below are merely estimates, as I rarely use a recipe or measure anything while cooking.
**This is a large recipe.  You will want to cut it in half for a smaller batch.

Cook Time: 4-6 hours
Yields: 10-12 servings

Prepare the Chicken:
4 chicken breasts
black pepper, smoked paprika
1 box of chicken stock (not broth)
¼-½ bottle of Olive Garden dressing
half of a sweet onion, diced
green onions, chopped (only the white portion)
finely chopped spinach

Place the chicken breasts in a large crock pot, add chicken stock, cover the top of the chicken with a thick layer of black pepper and smoked paprika.  Carefully pour Olive Garden dressing over top of the chicken.  Cover chicken with spinach.  Add onions to stock.  Cook in the crock pot until the chicken is easy to break apart.  Put the chicken on a cutting board and either shred it or cut it into bite-size pieces.  Place chicken back into crock pot and add the remaining ingredients.

quartered and sliced Idaho potatoes (you will need more than you think)
finely chopped mushrooms
leaves from 4 stems of kale (remove the stem from the kale before adding it)
1 box of chicken stock
3 cups Hansen’s heavy whipping cream
3 cups Hansen’s skim milk
1 cup Kraft Italian five cheese shredded cheese
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
smoked paprika
black pepper

Allow all ingredients to cook in the crock pot until the desired consistency.  Next time I make this, I will probably wait to add the kale until the soup is almost finished.  I will also add more smoked paprika.

The ingredients from Hansen’s are available at their outlet stores (they take cash only).  The Olive Garden salad dressing is available at the restaurant.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Are you aware?

I've been noticing a lot more than usual lately that there are a lot of ungrateful parents out there...

I know, I know... "Really?  Did that just dawn on you?"

No, actually, it didn't.  There are just times in life when things are brought to the forefront of our thoughts and this is one of those times...

I've heard a lot of people complaining about their kids lately.  I've heard terrible stories of how people abuse their kids.  I've heard a lot of people even saying that they don't enjoy having kids or that they aren't sure that they even want their kids.  I wonder to myself, "Do they hear themselves?  I wonder if they comprehend the power of the statements they are making..."

I also think to myself, "I'd trade places in a heartbeat."

Now, I need you to understand that I am content with my life right now.  I am so blessed and my basic needs are taken care of.  I really have nothing to complain about.

However, when I hear you say those things... well,
this is what is happening in my heart... 

I want to be a mother.

I'd give anything to be a mother.

I will take your "brats" and raise them.

I will gladly trade you for the morning sickness and the weight gain.

I will open up my home to your child so that they feel loved and safe.

You are so blessed and you don't even see it!

God, open their eyes!

That is how I feel.  I've sat silently, mostly due to the fact that I don't know what to say to these people.  They've made me speechless.  They are blessed beyond measure and it still isn't enough for them.  They hate the things that God has given them!  How selfish!  How foolish!  Why?!?!

If you find yourself making some of these statements, please think about what you are really saying.  And if you really feel that way, realize that there are women in your life that remain silent most of the time because they don't know what to say to you.  Some have tried for years to be mothers... and some never will be...  You aren't the only person in your world.  There are people around you that are deeply impacted by the way you live your life and the things that you say.  Please be aware of that.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sometimes I wonder...

We attended a wedding awhile back that made me wonder a few things about people that call themselves pastors.  I know, huge can of worms, here we go...

Throughout the course of the weekend, Austin and I observed many men, fresh out of seminary that were doing "godly" things.  They were talking the talk, they were dressing the part, but that was about it.  As the weekend charged on, we found ourselves in the midst of conversations with these men, conversations that made us sick to our stomachs.  They were talking about how they took advantage of families during their internships.  They would visit an elderly couples' home to bring them communion and pray for them, but they would plan it around the time that the couple would probably be having supper, so that they got a free meal.  They continued to list other ways in which they took advantage of the congregations that they were serving while in seminary.

They all had acquired their own congregations a short time before the wedding, and they were complaining about how people would call them by their first name, instead of attaching the title "pastor" to it.  They ranted and raved about why people refused to call them Pastor or still thought they were seminary students.  They went on and on about how they were important and deserved great respect.

The night got even more interesting when the beer was in full swing.  I have no qualms about having a drink here and there.  I do, however, have a more difficult time having a drink when their are children present and I do have a huge problem with adults being drunk, especially in front of kids.  Well, at this wedding reception, these pastors proceeded to get sloshed.  One of them got a child to be his own personal bartender.  The kid was probably only 7 years old at the very most, but he would take the empty cup of the pastor and fill it to the top... until it was empty, then he'd do it again.  This particular child had a lisp and had a very hard time saying certain words.  The young pastors got him to repeat words after them that he was having trouble saying, over and over.  I remembered looking to Austin and saying out loud,"This is so terrible.  This child will remember this forever, while these drunk idiots won't remember this tomorrow."  We got up and went to another part of the reception hall and left shortly after the incident because we no longer wanted to be associated with that kind of behavior.

Since then, I've looked back on that situation quite a few times, and I can't shake it.  I can't shake the hurt that the poor little boy had on his face.  I can't shake the image of these men, these men who are leaders of their own congregations.  These men are responsible for hundreds, maybe thousands of people that may or may not be going to hell.  These men are responsible to the Gospel.  These men are most of all responsible to God.

As hard as it was to watch, I sometimes wonder what my life is saying to other people.  I may not go around and get sloshed and disrespect the name of Jesus in such a blatant way, but what am I doing that I need to stop today?  Are my actions getting in the way of the Jesus people should see in me?  Are my words representing a different kind of god?  Am I holding on to things that are causing others to stumble, especially those who look to me for guidance?

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24

My prayer today is:  if you are struggling with something that is causing others to stumble, that you'll take some time to confess it to God in this moment.  You may not think that there is something as disgraceful as what these men did that night, but if we are all honest with ourselves, we may discover that we are in worse shape.

God forgive me for causing others to stumble.  Order my steps in Your Word, Lord.  Guide me so that I may guide others.  Forgive me, so that I may forgive others.  Live in me, so that I may live for You.