Pikes on the move

If you had asked me four years ago (heck, four months ago!) if we’d build a house, I probably would have laughed at you. Now, we’ve got a foundation, walls and a roof – my how quickly it all came together!

The next couple of months will undoubtedly be filled with excitement, stress and questions. I’m blowing up on Pinterest and watching way too much HGTV. Soon our stuff will be in boxes to move to our sad little interim apartment where we’ll wait (and hope, and pray) for our house to be ready on schedule. Underneath all of this stress I’ve fabricated lies a grateful heart. A heart that’s full of memories from our tiny little condo downtown, and full of gratitude that we were able to sell it in just three days.

We pretty much started our relationship in the condo. We had fun parties, sweatpant nights and ACL recoveries. We made it through our first year of marriage without throwing each other off the balcony. We got our first dog. We argued over the sensibility of the most beautiful draperies from Pottery Barn (which now hang in our bedroom), and we laughed – a lot. It’s a place we’ll always cherish and be glad for, and while it’s time to move on, it’ll be hard to let go.

The thing I’ll miss the most, you ask? The view, of course:

Best view in the city!

High five to the grocery store daisies

I love buying flowers for myself at the grocery store. After fighting soccer moms and college students of Raleigh in the parking lot, the flowers are my solace. My happy place before the chaos of my list. My treat to me. That small bundle of yellow daisies (or, more lately, colorful tulips) is something that never ceases to please. I buy  flowers on the four for $12 VIC deal on the regular, but I’m not sure I ever stop to appreciate the way having fresh flowers in my home improves my every day.

Last week, I was honored to hear one of our leaders at the YMCA, Bruce, talk about work/life balance at our annual directors’ retreat. Bruce has an amazing story (see his incredible blog here). He also has great perspective on establishing priorities and creating a more balanced life. I was deeply moved by what he’s been through, and how he’s turned an incredibly difficult time in his life into positive change.

He talked through eight tips on how to improve life balance. They ranged from things like evaluating priorities and making time, to saying no/cutting out things that sap us, to improving prayer life and others. In true Mary Cole fashion, I immediately started to devise a plan in my head about how to tackle them all at once. But before I could create my very own perfect life of balance, he gave us a directive: just start with one thing. Focus on one thing. Y’all know I love multi-tasking, so this was a little hard to swallow. But, it makes sense.

I decided to tackle his suggestion to appreciate the small things more. The little things like my grocery store flowers, or the way that wrinkly dog of ours runs to me when I come in the door, or simply the fact that I wake up in an incredible city that I love every day.

I’m convinced the small things are God showing us more about who He is. I see His sense of humor when I look at our dog, Otis, because nobody would ever make a dog like that and not laugh about it later. I see the humbleness of Christ in my Harris Teeter special flowers – knowing that something so simple as a flower actually has a really complex and deep structure that just works. The small things are part of something bigger, and it’s high time I started recognizing that.

Beauty

Delicious, easy starter

Toasted bread with Prosciutto

Toasted bread with prosciutto

Now, I say this is a starter, but you can totally eat it as a meal with a salad. This recipe for grilled bread with prosciutto comes from Ina Garten (AKA the Barefoot Contessa, AKA my kitchen muse). Here’s what you need:

  • 6 slices Tuscan round bread, sliced 3/4 inch thick (I usually use Italian bread)
  • 1 large garlic clove, cut in half
  • Olive oil
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto (torn in pieces)
  • 2 ounces fresh smoked mozzarella, grated (I’ve actually just bought a ball of mozzarella and sliced it, which is easy and just as good)
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
 
While Ina tells you to grill the bread, this can be done without a grill (read: I live in a condo and I don’t feel like trekking all the way down to the common area with all of my stuff to grill bread). I preheat my oven to 425-450, depending on what else I’m cooking.

Place the bread directly on the racks of your oven and let it cook until the bread is golden. Pull the bread out and place it on a platter. Rub each piece immediately with the garlic clove. I like my bread really, really garlicky, so I rub each piece pretty hard.

Note: Over time, I think I’ve just grabbed too much hot stuff with my hands, so they’re not extremely sensitive to heat. Woops. For those of you with tender hands, you’ll probably need to use an oven mitt while you’re rubbing each piece of bread – they’re pretty toasty!

After you’ve gotten your garlic on, drizzle a little olive oil on each piece. Then, place the torn prosciutto on top of the bread, followed by your sliced mozzarella. I like to place 2-3 thin slices of mozzarella on each piece, but if you like lots of cheese, you may want to add more.

Place your amazing, delicious-looking slices of bread back in the oven (if you have a platter that can go straight in, I recommend that) and let the cheese melt (1-2 minutes).

Then, drizzle a little more olive oil, sprinkle with parsley, salt and pepper. Voila, you’re fancy!

 

 

Dependence

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“We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”
-Tim Keller

The implications of the Gospel are huge. When I read this quote from Tim Keller yesterday on one of my favorite new blogs, #shereadstruth, (click on the image at the end of my post to read the full blog) I felt like I just needed to back away from the computer and take a deep breath. All the time I think about how I’m not quite good enough, how I fall short, and that’s all about me, not what Christ has done to correct that feeling.  And certainly not how much I am loved – through Christ – by the God who created everything.

Even when I begin to think about how flawed I am, there’s no way I can comprehend the depth of my sin. That’s the beauty of the God we serve. He allows us to depend on him and gives us amazing grace and mercy that surpasses our depravity. The key word in that sentence is depend.

We have to depend on him to fully receive the gift of his grace and love. Sometimes I think I’m doing this, but unfortunately I slip back into my own need for control and independence. And, ultimately, I hear the lie that I’ll never be quite good enough or that I’ve got to fix myself before coming to Christ.

We don’t have to fix ourselves, we just have to become dependent and let God do the work on our hearts he so desires to do. It’s truly an amazing thing, this grace.

1a

Kicking off 2014 (with enthusiasm and food)

Each day is an opportunity for something new; something challenging; something worthwhile.

Each day is a gift.

I’m hopeful I can approach each day that way in the coming months, and ultimately, long term. It won’t be easy, but I don’t think I can live into what Christ is calling me to do if I view the morning light as more of a grim reaper instead of the blessing it really is. As a wife, a daughter, a sister and friend, I have an opportunity to share some enthusiasm and optimism with others. Even when it’s hard. I’m looking forward to seeing where that takes me this year.

Each day is a gift. And don’t you forget it, sister.

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One of the other promises I made to myself was to try to cook at least one new thing every week. I like to try new things in the kitchen, but it’s easy to get stressed, bogged down and fall into the old familiar. Or, I try something that’s so complicated I end up crying on the floor covered in flour begging for takeout. That’s why I’m going to make myself keep things simple, but new. It could be a new smoothie, a side, an entree, or God willing and the creek don’t rise…a dessert.

The day one dish? Pork with Hoppin’ John – one of my mother’s best dishes. The recipe and photos are below, and I’ll tell you what – this should be eaten always, not just on New Years day. It was delicious and actually extremely easy!

Pork Roast with Hoppin’ John Stuffing

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1.5 cups cooked long-grain rice (I used Uncle Ben’s and threw a little more rice in the mix – the seasoning packet worked out well too)
  • 1.5 cups frozen chopped collard greens, thawed
  • 1 (15 oz.) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup diced cooked country ham (recipe calls for half a cup, but I added a little more)
  • .5 tsp. sugar
  • .5 tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 (2.5 pound) boneless pork loin roast (I used a tenderloin and it worked out just fine!)

Saute onion and bell pepper in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat. Add the rice and the next five ingredients (through salt); stir in egg. Set stuffing aside.

Butterfly the pork loin roast by making a lengthwise cut down the center of one flat side, cutting to within half an inch of the bottom. From the bottom of that cut, slice horizontally to half an inch from the left side; repeat on the right side. Open the roast and place between two sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap. Flatten the roast to .5-inch thickness with a meat mallet or a rolling pin.

Spoon 1.5 cups stuffing evenly over the roast, leaving a .5-inch border. Roll up the roast and tie with a string at one-inch intervals. Place, seam side down, in a lightly greased 11×17 baking dish.

Bake at 375 degrees for 55-60 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted in the center registers 160 degrees. Reheat the remaining Hopping John and serve with roast. Yields about 8 servings.

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I’m telling y’all, this was incredibly easy and it looks so fancy when it’s finished. Plus, it tastes delicious! I served this with roasted butternut squash and finished the night off with some simple mini cheesecakes. See recipe here. (It makes 18, so I ended up freezing 12 of them) Looking forward to breaking those out soon! :)

Here’s hoping for a great 2014 full of enthusiasm, growth experiences, awesome memories and tasty food. And, here’s hoping I can pause as often as possible to soak it all in.

Giving thanks and remembering

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“We love the things we love for what they are.” – Robert Frost

The holidays are most certainly upon us. Every year around this time I start feeling nostalgic, as I’m sure most people do. Yesterday I spent a little time reflecting on some of my favorite memories of Thanksgiving. Clamoring up the tree at my Aunt Helen and Uncle Robert’s house with all of my cousins. Watching as my Uncle Jack – a giant of a man – effortlessly fell asleep in a recliner built for a normal-sized person. Fighting over who got which party favor at my Aunt Frances’ house (she always had the best favors). Crowding around the television with my siblings to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (which I still do).

Then there’s more recent Thanksgiving memories. Watching as my grandparents enjoy time together on the sunroom. Debating the merits of corn pudding – and going back for seconds. Loosely watching football games, but mostly napping. Laughing as my future father-in-law (on our first Thanksgiving together) set a sweet potato casserole aflame with too many marshmallows. Sitting at the kids table regardless of my marital status. And overall, just soaking up time with the people I love most.

My Thanksgiving may not look like it’s straight out of Pottery Barn or HGTV, but I love it exactly for what it is – mine. As the holidays approach quickly, I hope to take more time to reflect on what makes them special.

Brightening up the door for fall

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I love a good wreath. And, I love it when it’s seasonal. Bear in mind that I’ve been holding back on doing this for a while because we’ve got nowhere to store wreaths in the condo, but I really couldn’t help myself with the newest one I made for fall!

Fall has a funny way of sneaking up on me every year. I love its colors, its smells, and all the fun it brings. Football, mittens, a chill in the air, casseroles galore, leaves, chili, and a genuine sense of change. I just love it.

So, why wouldn’t I make a wreath to commemorate the start of one of my favorite times of year?!

IMG_1745I usually can find all of my wreath-making supplies at Michaels or AC Moore, but it seems that more folks than me had the same idea so stuff was pretty picked over. I found the base for the wreath at Michaels, and headed over to Garden Ridge (woah, overwhelming) in search of florals. Of course, they had a ton. With my supplies in tow, I headed back to the house and grabbed the trusty glue gun and got to work.

I cut all the flowers off almost at the base, applied some hot glue and started placing the larger ones first. Before I really got going with the glue, I laid out the stems to see how much I needed to space them out. After about 30 minutes, voila! A new look for the Pike door was nearly complete.

IMG_1746 IMG_1744 IMG_1747But, nothing’s really done until you put a bow on it. This is why I always keep raffia in the house – it’s extremely versatile and it suits every season! :) Well, it suits me every season.

IMG_1749All this is to say that it doesn’t take long (and it doesn’t have to cost much) to add a little fall to your door. Wishing a hearty welcome to a lovely season!