Homemade Hummus Recipe

The other day, as I was routinely going through my stack of recipes in the "to try" category, I came across one for homemade hummus and one for homemade pitas using my bread maker. I decided to give them both a go and see how they'd turn out. As you can see from the photo, they actually turned out quite well!

(By the way...the secret to the pitas? After baking them in the oven at a really high temperature, you take them out and put them into a brown paper bag and let them sit for awhile. I was a little doubtful, but it really worked!)

Michael loved the homemade hummus, which took about 5 minutes total to whip up. Faster than even running up to the grocery store and waiting in line! Plus, I used chickpeas that had been dried that I'd already cooked and frozen, so that sped things up as well!

Homemade Hummus
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed (this is about 1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas)
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1 T lemon juice (I cheated and used the kind from the little squeeze bottle)
1 t ground cumin
3/4 t salt
dash of chili powder

Use a cheese grater (or I'm sure even a vegetable peeler would work) and grate the garlic. Add it to the food processor, along with the chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, salt and a small sprinkling of chili powder. Puree until smooth and creamy. (You can add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water to make it thinner if you like, but I didn't need to add any at all.)
Scoop into bowl, drizzle with add'l olive oil if desired and dig in! (Makes 1 1/2 cups.)

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How My Husband and I Met Two Years Ago Today

It was two years ago today--the last Sunday in June--that I first saw him, the man who would, just over a year later, become my husband.

Sunday night was when our church youth group met, and I was one of the adult volunteers. In the spirit of summer and a season of R&R, we were forgoing formal times of teaching for fun activities; tonight's was a capture-the-flag water-balloon-fight. Talk about laying the stage for romance.

I had picked up one of the girls in my group and remember pulling into the church parking lot and spying this guy I'd never seen before, hauling a big bucket filled with water balloons. I caught myself staring at him and had to snap back to attention, lest I model poor behavior for the sweet sixteen year old in my passenger seat!

The youth group pastor (who also officiated our wedding the following summer) divided the kids and volunteers into two teams; as it turned out, the cute new guy and I were on opposing teams. Having no desire to get hammered with water balloons, I decided to stay back and guard the flag. Of course, it would be my luck that he would be the one to come and snatch our flag. I threw a few lame attempts to stop him, but whether you blame it on my bad aim or his debilitating good looks, it was inevitable, and he got away with the flag.

It was at this point when one of the girls on my team ripped the flag away from her little sister, whom cute-new-guy had passed the flag to. So here I was in a dilemma; cute-new-guy and the little sister are looking at me to chastise the older sister for breaking the rules. I've never been one for confrontation and I barely know anything about disciplining someone, even when it's only fair and out of love. I'd been acting as a leader for the youth group for about two years at this point, and so I saw these girls as little sisters. I halfheartedly told the older sister she needed to give the flag back.

I immediately knew I had not handled that situation appropriately at all. When the game wrapped up (only moments later), I went and talked to the older sister and had her apologize to her little sister. Then it was time for me to apologize. To him. This was our first meeting. I went up to him, introduced myself, and told him I was sorry for the flimsy way I handled the interaction earlier. He gracefully accepted and I walked away, tail between my legs but knowing the apology was necessary.

Afterward, some of the other volunteers and I went up to the Sonic up the street to hang out after all the kids had been picked up and gone home. The youth pastor came and who did he bring with him but the new guy. As luck would turn out, one empty seat was right across from me, the other was catty-corner to me. I was well aware of this great, providential positioning. And cute-new-guy, my future husband, chose the seat catty-corner to me, where we got to begin to mend our ill-started friendship over french fries and milk shakes.

There was next to no flirting that night, nor for many nights afterward. It was a month later that he asked me out on our first date (actually a double date with our youth pastor and his wife). But each year since, we've made it a point to go back to Sonic and memorialize that fateful meeting of water balloons, my first apology, and milkshakes at sunset.


Being Intentional about Saving Money

Over the winter, Michael picked up a book from the library that he devoured about smart spending and saving. The logic is completely down-to-earth: suggesting that if you want to save more money, start by spending less. The family's goal was to be completely debt free and live simply enough so that the husband and wife only have to have part-time jobs to support themselves and are completely set for retirement.

Boy, does the idea of only having to work part-time sound like such a luxury to me!

Anyway, one of the things the book recommended was to create budgets and savings for all of your expenses. So there's a line-item in your budget not only for groceries and eating out but also for more periodical purchases like oil changes for your car or gifts or vacations.

We decided this was something we wanted to do, but it wasn't until we took our trip to Savannah (and came home and typed our receipts into our monthly budget) that we decided to get serious about setting up a bank account strictly for traveling. I wanted to do this so that when we decide to get out of town, even if it's just a weekend trip like Savannah was, we don't feel guilty about it because we've already put the money aside and that's what it's been earmarked for.

We also set up a savings account like this for our car; to sock away money to cover oil changes and other necessary upkeep, but also to save up for whenever we need to buy our next vehicle. (Which was soon put too use last week when we had to get our brakes replaced!) When I bought my Civic, I was fortunate enough to be living at home at the time so even though I bought it new (used Hondas were more expensive than brand-new!), I'd already saved up enough for a hefty down payment and was able to pay the whole thing off in less than a year. On an entry-level budget. That was such a freeing experience that I would love, love to be able to continue to do that in the future--pay our debts off ASAP and get out from under that monthly burden.

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Embracing Seasons of Anonymity in Our Lives

These are the days that no one sees… goes part of a Paul Westerberg song. …they run together for company.

I think it’s safe to say that for most of us, we struggle with feeling like we’re not achieving what we should, we’re not making a difference, we’re not living up to our potential, and we can easily get discouraged by it all.

A couple years ago I read a book called Anonymous, which talks about this sense of “anonymity” we often feel. The author, Alicia Britt Chole, looks at it a different way, though, seeing these seasons of our lives as an opportunity from God to prepare us for our seasons of action, of affecting the world.

One of the analogies she uses is of trees and how the different seasons affect them: During the summer, their leaves are full and coat the limbs, but when winter comes, the leaves fall off and all that is left is the tree’s infrastructure. So it is with us: What the plenty of summer hides, the nakedness of winter reveals. When the winters of our life hit, we are stripped down to bear the strength of our infrastructure–our character.

But we must take time to grow and build up to be able to withstand those winters. It’s these seasons of anonymity, when we go unseen and seem unnoticeable, that protect us and prepare us so that we have time to create and forge that infrastructure. Then, when we undergo the winters of our life, our underlying strength will be strong enough to shine through and sustain us.

Chole writes in the book, “Anonymous seasons are sacred spaces, they are formative and to be rested in, not rushed through–and never regretted.” And, “We can easily mistake fruitlessness for failure. We naturally grant more weight to the visible than the invisible, so it’s easy for us to underestimate its vital importance. We must not think unseen = unimportant.”

This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
which will not be destroyed.

Isaiah 55:13

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{ photo by manunited }

Why I Blog

I've always loved writing, ever since I was a young girl and in second grade we got to write and illustrate our own picture books. I must have created a dozen different stories. I remember going on a family vacation to Florida and sitting in the back of our station wagon (lovingly named "Big Boy") and penning my own version of Pippi Longstocking.

There was something about words that I loved even then and the creativity of it all. By high school, my thesaurus became a great friend, as I began discovering new words like "pastiche," "panache," "euphoric" and "harbinger." I even kept a little notebook of the singsong words I came across, eager to fill my writing with the flowery vocabulary. With the vantage point of time, it's embarrassingly obvious that it lacked all the poetic vigor I'd hoped for, instead coming off clunky and forced, like an actor awkwardly clamoring onto his scene with a loud clang. Yet, still, I was learning and loving.

It was that joy--especially encouraged by my teachers--that encouraged me to take my love to the next level and pursue writing as a career. So I went to the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, a school that prides itself on its journalism prowess. ("There's no Journalism without OU" one school-pride shirt read.)

I found my niche there in magazine writing, working for our alumni magazine, interning for a few magazines throughout college and even creating a fake shelter magazine of my own. Upon graduation, I found a job working as an assistant editor at a design magazine that just-so-happened to be in my hometown. Providence? Yep.

One thing I quickly learned quickly upon entering the working world, though, was that I didn't really love writing that much after all. What I realized is that I love writing about what I want to write about. This came as quite a surprise to me; I didn't realize how much the words behind the words mattered to me and motivated me. Which was one of the reasons I decided to try my hand in the Christian publishing sector, because there I could write about what had, over the years, become my utmost passion: my faith. Even there, though, something seemed missing; I was being paid to write the words "God" and "Christianity," but it still wasn't the writing that made me excited and that poured from my fingertips.

In journalism school they tell you, "Write what you know." At the time I thought that meant you write your biography or some clip of a moment from your life. It's only now that I realize what that means and that it's through this burgeoning blog of mine that I've finally discovered that. That I've finally rested upon the sort of writing that got me started in the first place: The writing that is personal but also practical, where I can express my emotions but also seek to help others learn a lesson or two in the process. It's been a little over six months since I first started this blog, with little plan except I needed a hobby in a new city and there was a nagging feeling on my heart. Now, I can see how it's morphed and grown up ever so slowly. Like a symbiotic relationship, this is the kind of writing that fuels me and why I sit behind this blog and type and post and edit and brainstorm some more. 

P.S. To stay updated, you can have all my future blog posts sent directly to you via email or RSS feed by clicking on those links. Thanks for reading!   


Cooking in Real Life: This is what it looks like...

Want a glimpse of what cooking at our house really looks like? This is it, making our beloved black bean burgers: the messiness and imperfection of it all, giggling as I shove my bean-covered hands at Michael. This is food made with love!

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Recipe for Making Your Own Shampoo

Yesterday, I shared about why I decided to make my own baking soda-and-water shampoo, as a healthy shampoo alternative and a way to keep from having to wash my hair daily. Today, I wanted to give you a glimpse into what it was like to use this stuff to clean my hair, followed by the recipe to make your own!

My Experience Using Baking Soda Shampoo
Day 1 - Can't tell whether it's working, since there are no suds to go by. Fingers crossed!

Day 2 - What do you know, but my hair has not yet turned oily. Hallelujah! This might just work!

Day 3 - Still not oily, but I figure I shouldn't press my luck. Let's kick the every-other-day routine into gear!

Day 6 - Yesterday was a wash day, but for some reason today my hair decided to turn oily all of a sudden. I ended up washing it halfway through the day. Hoping it doesn't let me down!
Day 12 - Hair seems to be adjusting to baking soda shampooing and oil levels evening out. I think I figured out that the culprit is the fact that it's gotten hotter outside and likely more sweat on the brow, so to speak. I expect that when the weather turns cooler this fall, I can start experimenting with going two days between shampoos.
I'm now about two months into the process, and I just finished my second full bottle.

The main thing I've noticed is that my hair's texture/oil is much more consistent now than before; usually after shampooing my hair, it would be on the dry end (even with conditioning) and by the end of the day or the next morning, it'd be super oily to compensate. Now, whether it's right after a shower or the end of the day, it's about the same oily-ness.

Around the middle of day two, sometimes it will start to feel oily, though often when I go to check in the mirror, it doesn't actually look oily. By hour 48, the oil does start to show (some days more than others), but even then, it still has not gotten as oily as it used to at hour 24.

Which, for the simplicity of the product, I count as quite impressive. I wouldn't claim it to be a miracle solution (but, then, what is?), however I do think it's much more reliable and effective than previous shampooing, which is why I've decided to stick with it.

Recipe to Make Your Own Baking Soda Shampoo
All it is a mixture of baking soda to water; I took a bottle with a pump-head that I'd saved (there's always some use waiting!) and filled it 1/8 the way with baking soda, the rest with water. (The ideal ratio is about 1 tablespoon of baking soda per 1 cup of water.) I'd read online about adding rosemary to your mixture if you have dry scalp, so I added some dashes of that, as well.

Then you shake it up and are ready to go. (If you end up adding rosemary, like I did, the water will start to turn brownish like in the photo above. In my first batch, I just dumped the herbs in but after awhile they started clogging the pump and also would sometimes squirt out into my hair--not quite the accessorizing I'm often going for. One alteration I made with my second batch was to bundle the rosemary in a swatch of gauzy fabric, kind of like a homemade tea bag to avoid that, which has worked exceptionally well so far.)

One thing is that the mixture is really runny, which means it takes a little longer to get my hair fully coated with it because I keep squirting more on. Once I can feel it's coated my hair, I let it sit for a minute and then rinse it off. Some people choose to use an apple-cider-vinegar rinse for conditioning, but I don't need to do that at all.

I can finally go more than a day between shampoos. Who would have guessed the answer would be as simple as a kitchen staple?!

P.S. If you are new to this blog, thank you so much for stopping by! You can feel free to browse all my other posts about my journey toward a lifestyle of simplicity and DIY, as well as some of the ways my husband and I are learning to save money. I also write about my faith, my marriage and everything in between, which you can explore in the archives.

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Why I Started Making My Own Shampoo

You have no idea how many times I've tried to get my hair to comply with my wishes. How many times I've tried to be patient with its disobedience as I wean it off its preferences and wait for it to catch on. All the way back to sixth grade when I got a home perm (oh yes), it has had a mind of its own. What I anticipated to be loose, bouncy ringlets became poodle kinks. (Fortunately I think all photos are destroyed from that era.)

Over the past few years, the latest plea I've presented to my tresses is not having to wash  them everyday. All I'm shooting for is every other day. They get their washing wish. I've tried all sorts of shampoos, dry shampoos, baby powder, conditioners or no conditioners at all to try to make it to the 48-hour mark. Yet when the 24 hour mark hits, the oil gushes forth and there's no hope for going even an hour more.

Especially because I have such fine, thin hair, I know it's healthier for me to not be washing my hair everyday. But until now, there seemed no feasible (or attractive) solution. Forgoing my collection of shampoo and conditioner bottles, I have started using the shockingly simple answer of: baking soda and water. Yes, not a soap sud in sight. But it works.

When I went to the hairdresser last, I absolutely loved the shampoo they used on my hair. I really, really wanted to buy some because a day after getting my hair done, my hair was still not oily. This was the first time I'd ever experienced such a thing! Such freedom! But when I looked it up on Skin Deep (a site that rates how safe certain cosmetic and beauty brands are for you and the environment), it was marked as having "developmental/reproductive toxicity." Whoa. Which sent me on a search to find a shampoo that would be kind to my hair and to me.

After looking up a half a dozen "safe" shampoos to no avail, I happened upon a recipe to make your own shampoo using just baking soda and water. I was a little weary how this solution would work, but since I had both ingredients on-hand, I decided to give it a go.

Tomorrow, I'll post my day-by-day reactions to trying this new "shampoo," as well as the recipe for this ever-so-simple little concoction, if you'd like to try it for yourself. Skip ahead to Part II.

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Life Outside the Fish Bowl

I’ve been reading The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey for awhile now, and just finished last week. It offered an interesting look at the life and ministry of Jesus through the lens of history, the biblical narration, various insights from theologians and modern-day interpretations. It gave me a more well-rounded understanding of life during Jesus’ days as well as how cultures over the years have viewed different aspects of his teaching.

Filled with research and thoughtful commentary, I flagged many pages while making my way through the manuscript. Such as Christ’s selection of ordinary people to stand alongside him and a humbling look at Mary’s response about what God was doing in her life.

Here’s one last poignant quote from the pages of Yancey’s The Jesus I Never Knew that offers a vantage point about why Jesus coming to earth was so vital and how it was the only way for humanity to really begin to understand and know and love God, in spite of everything he’d done before.

Yancey writes:

"I learned about incarnation when I kept a salt-water aquarium. Management of a marine aquarium, I discovered, is no easy task. I had to run a portable chemical laboratory to monitor the nitrate levels and the ammonia content. I pumped in vitamins and antibiotics and sulfa drugs and enough enzymes to make a rock grow. I filtered the water through glass fibers and charcoal, and exposed it to ultraviolet light. You would think, in view of all the energy expended on their behalf, that my fish would at least be grateful. Not so. Every time my shadow loomed above the tank they dove for cover into the nearest shell. They showed me one 'emotion' only: fear. Although I opened the lid and dropped in food on a regular schedule, three times a day, they responded to each visit as a sure sign of my design to torture them.  I could not convince them of my true concern.

"To my fish I was a deity. ... My acts of mercy they saw as cruelty; my attempts at helping they viewed as destruction. To change their perceptions, I began to see, would require a form of incarnation. I would have to become a fish and 'speak' to them in a language they could understand."

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Learning About God's Loyalty Firsthand

I am pleased to share that today an article I wrote is posted at Ungrind.org!

"The Loyal God" shares about the first time I really ever had to step out in faith and trust in God's loyalty. It was only a couple of years ago, but that experience has shaped my life and bolstered my faith like nothing else. At the time, it was terrifying. But now, only in hindsight, I can see how life-giving and foundational it was for me.

And for those of you unfamiliar, Ungrind.org is a webzine catering to 20- and 30-something women to encourage them in their faith. "Here at Ungrind," the website explains, "we hope you'll find that word. It's our goal to churn out weekly encouragement by being honest and transparent about our struggles, but in a way that inspires hope, faith, and perseverance. Consider us friends. The kind you feel comfortable sitting across the table with at the local coffee shop."

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The Answer to a Long Day: Baking Brownies

Yesterday, I understood for the first time what people mean when they say that baking is cathartic, therapeutic. A way to release tensions through the measuring, the stirring, the pouring of batter, the waiting for it to transform into edible delights.

After a day fueled by running errands, waiting in lines, driving around and having to read a grisly novel for work, I was feeling drained. And so I decided to do something I hardly ever do.

I decided to bake.

I am always a sucker for sweets but never really feel inclined to make desserts, viewing them more as a luxury than a necessity. But yesterday was different. Yesterday, baking became a necessity, as I let the stresses of the day melt into the batter, sift through the ingredients, and turn out a sweet, happy-go-lucky confection: Brownies. Baked to perfect, bite-sized dimensions in a muffin pan, no less.

Recipe for Making Brownies in a Muffin Pan
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. instant espresso or coffee, dissolved in 1 tsp. water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Mix ingredients together until smooth. Pour batter into muffin pan, filling each section about halfway.
Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, until puffed but still soft to the touch. Be careful to not overbake!
Makes 12, shallow muffin-sized brownies

(Plus, see that beautiful green dish of mine? One of the perks from when I interned in Alabama after graduation. I worked at the same company that printed Southern Living, and a couple times a year, they would host prop sales, where you could buy items featured in their photoshoots for next to nothing. That scallop-edged bowl was one of the items I nabbed during my few short months there, and one that seems to cheer up any spread!)

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May: Progress on My Goals for This Year (Part 2)


May: Progress on My Goals for This Year (Part 1)

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