Thursday, December 18, 2014

Quin the Elf

Wheels up!
Last Christmas season, I was discussing how I would love to do Elf on a Shelf for my team at work.  For those who reside under a rock, Elf on a Shelf is designed for children.  He comes out at the beginning of December and magically appears different places to let the kids know that he's watching and reporting back to Santa.  Some people find this practice creepy and manipulative, but people, can't we just have some good, clean fun in life?  My intent to bring the Elf to life on the job was to bring joy during the few weeks of work before we all crumble into exhaustion before our annual holiday shutdown.  

My friend, Letha, bought me an Elf last year around mid-December and I decided to redeem the final week before our company shutdown to introduce him to the team and do a few pranks.  It was a hit and I was excited for this season to bring him out again with a whole lot more antics.  I named him "Quin" in honor of our company "QuinStreet" and during the rest of the year he had a cute cupcake outfit to wear to celebrate each worker's birthday.  He donned their desktop until the next birthday, to which he was moved.  So Quin is a part of the team all year long.

Do you wanna build a snowman?
I sat down over the Thanksgiving break and created a calendar for each work day.  I outlined what Quin would do so I could procure the items needed and be sure to bring them in the day before each event.  For those who know me, this would me my OCD side coming out.  Pinterest was a wonderful resource and the more I followed, the more ideas I found.  With my current school term at that time, I was a bit stressed at pulling this off, but I'm also very Type A and determined, so it was happening.  Quin has zip-lined through the office, did an Elfie Selfie (with crayons), went fishin' (for goldfish), went deep into a bag of chocolate and, today, is trapped in a mason jar with "Help!" shining through.  Tomorrow is our last day before our holiday shutdown, and he'll have one more hurrah until next year.

I'm really a kid at heart.  And although I found a lot of joy in doing this for my team, I suspected they'd think I'd lost my marbles.  But, gratefully, they embraced the idea!  (And not just to feel sorry for me).  I don't have children and my team are like my "kids" - sad to say I'm old enough to be some of their Moms.  So since I don't have children to mesmerize with my creative abilities, my team will be my outlet.  Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Peach Blueberry Pie

This year for Thanksgiving, one of the dishes I brought to the festivities was a Peach Blueberry Pie.  I don't cook extensively very often.  This is the plight of a single gal with a very busy schedule.  But, for the holiday, I was excited to try out this recipe that I had pinned months ago on Pinterest.  I think it turned out well and is easier than it looks.  Here's the recipe for you to try…

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
3 cups, sliced, peeled peaches (I used frozen, thawed completely)
1 cup fresh blueberries (I used frozen, thawed completely)
Pastry for double-crust pie (9 inches) (I used pre-made pie crust, found in the dairy section)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon 2% milk (I used fat-free milk)
Cinnamon Sugar

In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon and allspice.  Add peaches and blueberries, tossing to coat.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Roll out one of the pastries and put into the pie pan.  Trim around the edges, leaving just a half inch from the top of the pie pan rim.  Add filling.  Dot with butter.

For the top of the pie, you can roll out the other 9-inch pastry and either create a lattice top on the pie, or keep the pastry intact as I did (see picture).  I personally like the top covered as it makes the pie more "cobbler-like" and keeps the juices in the pie, avoiding spillover.  If you choose my method, be sure to make four slits in the pie crust to provide breathing room.  After assembling whichever top you choose, seal the edges together and flute around the pie rim.  Brush the top of the pie with milk.  Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on the top.  I used store-bought cinnamon sugar to avoid guessing on mixing the right combination.  

Bake 40-45 minutes or until crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly (if you used a lattice design).  Let cool and enjoy!

Using the frozen fruit makes these summer fruits come alive during the holiday season.  The flavor of peach and blueberry is really yummy and this can be whipped together in no time, making a homemade pie effortless.  

Monday, November 03, 2014

Bravery and Dignity

This weekend I read the tragic news of Brittany Maynard who took her own life by a fatal dose of barbiturates prescribed by her doctor as part of the Death by Dignity Act in Oregon.  This story grieves me on so many levels.  And I don't want to spend a blog post judging her actions, but reconciling in my own mind why such a decision would be made.  She is being hailed as a woman of bravery and dignity, but I truly grieve for how she came about this decision.  

First off, I can't imagine hearing the news she received, so I'm not going to say I wouldn't be tempted to ponder the same thing.  I've watched people suffer and die from cancer.  It's a painful, very difficult way to die.  I would imagine most all cancer patients have the thought cross their mind, "I wish this would just end."  I've also seen those people be brave and dignified even during their worst of sufferings.  Even with my chronic illness of RA, I deal with pain every moment of every day in some form.  It's not terminally fatal, but there is no cure, just treatment that eases the pain.  Though in my weakest hours, I may ask God why or question the pain I deal with, and even, at very few times, wish it would just end, I couldn't ever see myself asking a doctor to aid me in ending my life.  

There are two things in this world that are beginning to fade into non-existence.  The belief in miracles and the belief in life.  I have seen God do miracles in the most dire of situations and grant life to one that was told "you have no hope."  What if that person had said, "I'm not in control anymore, so I'm dying on my terms."  The beauty of a miracle is murdered.

Our belief in life is also slipping away.  We don't create life, yet, we think we have control over life.  The path of this Death by Dignity Act can take a very wrong turn very quickly.  For Brittany Maynard, the world applauds her choice.  What stops this from going further?  The disabled child who can't see or can't walk may have parents who can make the "brave choice" to end their life since it surely won't be worth much anyway.  We tread on dangerous ground when our control of our destiny overshadows the plans of our Creator.  

I have watched both of my parents die.  One who suffered long and one who suffered a short time.  My Mom suffered long in her battle before death from complications from diabetes.  Six years before her death, she lost part of her leg due to diabetes.  She knew her ultimate outcome would be death, but she did not give up hope until she knew her Creator was ready to take her home.  What if she could have chosen to end her life instead of lose her leg?  She would have lost six years with my Dad and we would have lost six years with her.  Did she want to go through the suffering she did?  Absolutely not.  Did we want to watch her suffer and decline?  Most assuredly no.  But she had hope.  Hope that this life wasn't the end.  Hope that God would relieve her of her suffering in His Time.  And He did.  Though I would never had wanted to watch her decline, I saw in her a bravery and dignity I'd put up against anyone in this world.  I also was witness to what unconditional love between a husband and wife looked like.  My Dad loved her more at her lowest than he seemed to loved her at her highest.  I am thankful I was able to see that love in action.  Her life was in her Creator's Hands...the One that made her and the One that would take her home.  

My grief is for Brittany today.  I don't know anything about her beliefs, or where she was spiritually at the time of her death.  But, unless she had the hope of Christ, she chose a path where her suffering is far more greater than anything she would have experienced in the lowest of lows of cancer.  That grieves me most of all.

Life is precious.  Even in the suffering.  May I be able to say, like Timothy, at the end of my life, whenever my Creator chooses to take me to my eternal home, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tis the Season of Spooky

In five short days, it will be Halloween once again.  My favorite part of Halloween is the candy...not the spooky.  I don't like haunted houses. When I went through Disney's Haunted Mansion as a child, I kept a death grip on my Dad's hand all the way through.  I love a good road rally or scavenger hunt, but not ones that force me through haunted houses.  I don't watch Criminal Minds, CSI or any other similar show because I'll have nightmares for sure.  It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, is my speed.  

I will read a scary book, as long as it's not slasher scary.  My imagination is pretty vivid, but I can skip the scary parts and get back to the story.  I don't watch scary movies.  No horror.  No slasher flicks.  Nothing.  My idea of a great movie is one that has a great story line, good character development and can cause me to keep pondering on the movie after I leave.  Or just makes me laugh and forget about life.  This is why I watch more animated movies than most people my age without children.

Reflecting on why I have such a sour taste for the spooky, I've determined where this all started.  The Wizard of Oz.  Yes, that classic movie has forever turned me off the frightening.  When I watched this movie for the first time, I was probably 6 or 7.  I remember it vividly.   I was dressed in my PJs and curled up on the couch in our basement family room with my parents to experience my first viewing.  In preparation for the fun, I had a Twinkie and an Orange Crush.  All was wonderful and lighthearted until the Wicked Witch and her flying monkeys showed up.  Talk about spooky.  Her "I'll get you my pretty!...and your little dog too!!" scared my slippers off.  I enjoyed the movie again once she melted, but that was traumatic for a quiet, little child.  

That night when I went to bed I had my first memorable nightmare.  It involved the Wicked Witch, flying monkeys and whatever else that made me not sleep well.  I would suspect it had as much to do with the Twinkie and Orange Crush as it did the movie, but nonetheless, it has forever kept me from that which is spooky.

The moral of the story: Don't watch scary movies and eat Twinkies and drink Orange Crush.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Gospel According to Find My iPhone

In today's news is a story of a woman who was stuck in a ravine at the foothills in San Jose, California, for 19 hours while rescuers tried to locate her.  She was driving a GM car fully equipped with OnStar and when she careened over the 500-foot ravine, it triggered a call to authorities.  The problem?  OnStar was way off.  When the police went to search for the car, they had no luck locating it at the indicated location.  Two hours later, the OnStar system sent a new alert indicating the car was in downtown San Jose.

Once the search came up null, a very smart detective asked her Mom if she had an iPad.  She did and he was able to crack the iPad code to get in.  Word on the street (or at least the Today Show) is authorities are equipped with ways to crack into mobile devices for emergency purposes.  Once he got into her iPad, he used the Find My iPhone app and was able to find her exact location.  Amazing.  Hate on Apple all you want folks, but this one saved a life.

I recently added an app to my phone, Life360, that puts me in the Blackwell family circle.  My friend, Beth, lives about 10 minutes from her house and if I become unresponsive to calls or texts, she can locate me.  Since I live alone, it's a good safety feature.  But, at times, it is inaccurate.  Not OnStar inaccurate, but not perfect.

When I heard this story this morning, I thought about how this woman depended on that great OnStar add-on to her vehicle for safety purposes, but if that was all she had, it would let her down.  Thankfully, the officers knew other mechanisms that were more precise that would help them find her and her car before it was too late.  Good thing, or this story would not have had a happy ending.

So many times when we are in the ravines of life, we are depending on a faulty backup plan to get us out.  We figure we can handle things in our own strength and have all the resources we need to get out of the pit.  But, that's not the case.  We need the One who always knows exactly where we are...whether we are on the mountaintop or upside down in a ravine.  Though Apple isn't infallible, our God is and we are the apple of His eye.  He can spot us wherever we may find ourselves, wherever we may run to hide.  He will always be our Rescuer.