Saturday, April 14, 2012

Strong Storms and Flavors

Tonight we're anticipating some strong storms here in Oklahoma. I go between a sense of increased adrenaline as the tornadic activity strengthens and an unease as I wonder if I'm in the best place to ride out the storm. Oklahoma is a state of many weather patterns. It's never boring here.

This evening for supper, I ate the best salad I have ever made in my kitchen: Zesty Lime Shrimp and Avocado Salad. My brother and I really enjoyed the flavor of all the ingredients together. Of course, I do have a penchant for avocado, lime and cilantro - shrimp could only profit from companions like those.

I made a few changes/additions to the recipe, mostly because I didn't have red onions, but also because I forgot to read the instructions all the way through before I started putting things together.

Zesty Lime Shrimp and Avocado Salad

1 lb jumbo shrimp, peeled
1 medium tomato
2 avocados
1/2 jalapeno, seeds removed
1/2 small onion
1 clove garlic
4 T Lime Juice
1 tsp olive oil
Small handful of cilantro
salt and fresh pepper to taste

Bring 3 cups of water to boil. Add 1 to 2 Tablespoons of Cajun seasoning (I used Tony Chachere's) plus a 1/2 Tablespoon of garlic powder. Add one pound of shelled shrimp and cook until pink. Cool shrimp down in seasoned water if possible. This gives the shrimp a great taste so that is doesn't draw the flavor from the other ingredients.

Use a food processor to  finely chop the onion, jalapeno, garlic and cilantro together. Mix olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper with onion mixture and let set while you prep the other ingredients.

Dice tomato and avocados, and chop shrimp into bit sized pieces. Stir gently with onion mixture and serve.

Makes a light supper for 2.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

When Words Aren't Enough

On Thursday I was asked to visit with a girl that had just received news about the death of her grandfather. As I waited for her to finish with her phone call, I sat there thinking through the emotions that, I knew for a fact, she must be experiencing. Having just recently lost my own grandfather, I was trying to figure out what to say and I discovered that I really couldn't say anything. Reliving my own experience told me that, no matter what I said, sometimes words don't go far enough.

Some people are excellent at communicating through words, but we all run into situations where we are left speechless. For some of us, this happens more frequently than others. I'll find myself in a situation where I wish I could be charming and witty, but the only thing that comes out is flat and boring. I remember a situation when I was in a history club at about age 9 or 10, we were preparing a skit and we all had to give ideas. All I can remember is sobbing in front of the other girls with no ideas to share - oh, and the awkward feeling that fell over the group afterwards.

As we grow up, things change in the way and proficiency of how we talk. However, this doesn't always mean that we become great communicators. How many times do we wish that we could say what we feel and then the words don't match the emotions on the inside? The heaviness that plagues me sometimes is extremely frustrating, almost debilitating. Apparently, though, my face reveals things I may or may not be thinking, which probably just confuses the whole situation.

Hiding in these facts is a truth for all of us, and a blessing. No matter who we are or what we do, there will be times that words will not be enough to convey the pain, joy, love, and sorrow that we experience. This truth in the Christian's life is blessed by the knowledge that when we don't know how to pray, the Holy Spirit is interceding on our behalf with a groaning too deep for words. (Romans 8:26) And, here is the extra jam on the sandwich (so to speak), He is praying according to the will of God himself. He's not just conveying our deep thoughts to God, but He's actually praying the way we should. How humbling, overwhelming and gracious our God is to us.

So, as I agonize over what I did or didn't say, I can dwell on the truth that God hears what I wish I could ask. He knows my fears and my desires. And most of all, He has made me his own - of His own choosing, not because of what I say.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Russian Dish takes a Detour

One of my favorite dishes to cook and eat is Beef Stroganoff. This is inherited from my Poppop (T. Henry Jablonski) who enjoyed making it himself. When we were younger, my mom would make a variation of this favorite called "Poor Man's Beef Stroganoff, which used ground beef instead of strips of beef. I liked it in any form I could get it.

Because the recipe is a simple one, it is one of my "go to" recipes on the evenings when I didn't plan ahead. On the way home from work today, I decided it was a Stroganoff evening, and I stopped at Target to get noodles (I may have also put Season 2 of NCIS in my basket). While I was picking out my noodles, I had an urge to get some fresh mushrooms so I could make Hungarian Mushroom Soup tomorrow. I've made it once before and really enjoyed the flavors, so in the mushrooms went, and home I trotted before Kurt called to report his starvation.

Once I was home, I grabbed the ground meat from the freezer. At this time I realized it was ground pork and not beef. No worries; pork is mild and, when seasoned well, it would probably taste just fine. Kurt came in and asked if I was making Poor Man's Beef Stroganoff and I commented that it might be better called "Destitute Man's Stroganoff ." <grin>

During this meal preparation, I had a desire to be creative. With Hungarian Mushroom Soup on my mind, I decided to take some of the elements of the soup and incorporate them into the Stroganoff. After adding the appropriate seasonings (and tasting it), I ended up with a new dish that I'll most likely make again in the future.

Listed below are some rough instructions if you want to try it. If you're not familiar with Stroganoff, I can pass on what I know about it.

Toni's Hungarian Stroganoff (Measurements are approximate)

1 lb. Ground meat (pork ended up being good for this variation, I would probably use just pork or chicken since they will not overpower the seasonings)
1 large Onion, chopped
2 C of Water
2 Beef bouillon cubes
<1 Tbsp of dried Dill
<1/2 Tbsp of Paprika
<1/2 Tbsp of Lemon Pepper
<1/2 Tbsp. Ground pepper
Garlic powder, to taste
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/3 C Sour cream (You may need to add more if it doesn't look creamy enough. You can also taste to see if there is enough)
1 can of Mushrooms

Cook the meat and onion with some of the water and 1 bouillon cube until the meat is cooked. Add the rest of the water, bouillon cube, spices and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer until you think it has had time for the flavors to spread. Thicken with cornstarch water. Turn of the heat and stir in sour cream. Serve on noodles.

If any of you decide to try this, I'd be interested in knowing what you think!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Color of Bereavement

There is a song that Frank Sinatra used to sing titled, "Looking at the World Through Rose-Colored Glasses". If you're like me, you eagerly look forward to those times when everything looks rosy and pleasant. But we all realize that life has a multitude of glasses that we must look through. They could be grey when life seems to be just a collection of tasks that don't seem to lead anywhere. They could be orange when you see excitement, drive and purpose in your life. They might even be slightly hazy when you are looking at the past with fond remembrances.

But lately, I've experienced the world through bereavement-colored glasses. These glasses are unique, and I was surprised by them. If you have ever looked through a Kaleidoscope, you have seen mirrors and bits of colored items (some broken, some shiny) that form a geometric stained glass effect. This is what these glasses look like to me. Not gray for complete mourning, not yellow for happiness, and not rosy for deep love, but a mixture of all colors.

My Grandpa Swayze died on October 17th, 2011. At first the color of life darkened and was clouded with tears. The sharp corners of reality combined with greys, blues, and black of grief made a design that was painful to look at, but it echoed my heart. But, the glasses were turned and colors "fell", creating an entirely different effect. Remembrances that are so sweet, you can't help but smile at the warmth of the memory. Hour by hour in that first week, the design shifted; bringing smiles, sighs and tears in its way.

Life seemed to slow down and crawl for those first few days. My heart ached as I recalled precious times and the finality hit me. Why was the world going on as it always had? Why didn't it care that my grandfather was gone, he couldn't come back and my life would never be the same again? Then it hit me: Who else is having the same experience through grief? I'm not the only one in the world that is going through this. My eyes have been opened with this strange pair of glasses that show me that my grief is not the only one, nor my last one.

This pair of glasses will always be around, although sometimes they will be pale and almost invisible. Other times they will become as vivid as the day of the funeral. Although Grandpa is not the first loved one I've lost, the fact that I'm older lets me see differently and more clearly. I'm grateful that I can see color through these glasses, but some days I just wish for a pair of rose-colored glasses, for times gone by, and a good bear hug from my grandpa.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

For the one who showed me the Internet....

A lot of who I am, I owe to my dad. I've enjoyed computers for the majority of my life and that interest started in my dad's den. He would let me play computer games and he pointed out different things about how they work. I remember going with him to a class about computer programming, when I was about 9. I also remember when he showed me the Internet for the first time and explained how email worked. It's fascinating to see what I used to think so amazing, is now a part of everyday life for me.

Whether it was computers, detailed math equations, Theology, or even how to pour soda very carefully, my dad has taught me so much. For this, I am very grateful. So, in honor of the one who introduced me to the Internet and computers, I choose this digital medium to say "Happy Father's Day!" I love you.

Teaching by example
(I have a feeling I was more interested in the sweet stuff in my cup)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Life and Frisbee

Frisbee inventor Walter Frederick Morrison
I played Frisbee last night. No, this is not a declaration of something unusual or rare but it sets the scene of my comments. While pondering some of the plays that were made or attempted, my mind has been formulating some thoughts that might be worthwhile to others.

Playing a good game of Frisbee is my goal on nights like last night. I try to pick up tips and improve my game, step by step. A few weeks ago I was talking to some friends about team loyalty and how to adjust when you get swapped for another player. One of my struggles was switching my "allegiance" and playing well with my new team. Then one friend mentioned that working towards playing a good game can happen regardless of who you are playing with. This brought to my mind that I was spending too much time thinking about what I had done wrong (real or imagined), instead of focusing on improving the rest of the game.

I started to examine my thought process during a game. One of the driving forces to play well was to be a wanted and valuable team member. When I dropped the Frisbee or threw it poorly, my drive diminished because I started thinking about how bad I was playing instead of trying to improve my catches and throws. The more I thought about my potential to over-think my failure, I realized that life has some similarities to a Frisbee game.

Since that lunch discussion and my "analysis", I have realized that all lot of us dwell too much on the past. If you were playing a Frisbee game and someone threw you a wild Frisbee, you probably wouldn't start griping for the next 5 plays, about that thrower and how bad they were. You would start guarding someone and hope to get the Frisbee back into your team's possession. So, why do we gripe about how someone hurt us 10 years ago or how we would be different if a specific event hadn't occurred in our lives? Or even dwelling on what we thought would be pleasant things that didn't happen when we thought they should?

The reality is this: the past is important, because it is true. But, complaining, griping, and slandering people as part of your past accomplishes nothing today, except discord and discontent. In Psalm 139:16 it says:

     "[God's] eyes have seen my unformed substance;
     And in [His] book were all written
     The days that were ordained for me,
     When as yet there was not one of them."

Do you acknowledge His sovereignty? Will you accept where He took you and the things that He allowed in your life? Or will you complain and miss the next five "Frisbees" that are being thrown your way?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Tips for making your Scentsy bars last longer

Do you have a Scentsy warmer? Have you ever wondered how to make your fragrances last longer so that you're getting the best "bang for your buck"? Here are some tips to help you achieve that goal!

First, get a timer from Wal-Mart (Or your other preferred shopping place). When you set it to come on a periodic times throughout the day, you maximize the scent. It takes no more than 30 minutes to melt it. Leave it on 30-60 minutes and then have it shut off. You can have it come on a the best time for your enjoyment! I set mine to come on just before I get home from work so I walk into a room that smells great - and I know it hasn't been filling the room all day.

Second, switch out your scents periodically. This helps combat the natural anosmia that we get when exposed to a certain scent for a long amount of time. (e.g. I had Peach a la Mode going for over 24 hours, I could still smell it when I came home [albeit more faintly] but my brother, who was home all day, couldn't smell it anymore.) You can save the wax you take out and then try it again after you get tired of the "new" scent.

Third, turn off your warmers when you're cooking. The bacon that you're cooking is going to win the contest :) You will want it to fight odors that remain after supper is almost ready.

I hope these suggestions are helpful! Do you have other ideas? Please share them in the comments below.