Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Changes


Fred and I have been making a ton of changes in our lives lately. We rearranged the living room furniture. We adopted a kitten.


Meet Pusa, aka Ninja Kitty (seriously, watch your toes).

And most importantly, we are now looking for a new church.

We have been attending Cornerstone Community Church for a long time - thirteen years for me, ten years for Fred.  It has been our home for a long time, and a lot of the people there have been like family to us.  

Cornerstone is the place were I recommitted my life to Christ, where Fred became a Christian, where we both were baptized in the Holy Spirit.  It's the place where we learned how to "do ministry".  We were both involved in the youth ministry for several years.  I served on the board of deacons for three years.  We met at the church, and were married there too.

We've seen the good, the bad, the ugly, and the miraculous at Cornerstone.  It's hard to leave it behind.

But God wants us someplace new.  We're not sure where that is yet, but we are excited to find it.  

So, to all of our friends and family at Cornerstone - we aren't dead, and we aren't leaving because of something bad. We're going somewhere new, and into a new part of our life as a couple. Thank you for the years of amazing memories. Give us a call sometime :).


To the students in Drench - you are all amazing, and I am blessed and honored to have worked with you.  We did some crazy things over the years, and I wouldn't trade a moment of it.  All the overnighters, the camps, the late nights, the drama, Henry, the games of Red Rover that almost broke our hands, small groups with awful videos, eating contests with canned baby octopi, Braveheart, deep conversations, miracles, the mission trips, the changed lives - all of it. These are some of my best memories.  I'll never forget you.


Since I am terrible at conclusions, I'll let a better author sum up what I guess I'm trying to say:

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began,
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

-Bilbo Baggins, The Lord of the Rings-

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Legacy

A little over a week ago, I attended the funeral of a good man.  Paul was an old friend of mine who had been killed in a hit and run accident.  It was shocking and tragic.  Even though we hadn't seen each other is a few years, I felt good knowing that I could call he and his wife and it would be as though no time had passed since we had last talked.

His memorial service was amazing.  The church was packed with people, most of whom were a part of one biker club or another.  There were Hell's Angels and Bikers for Christ members present at the same time.  No one fought or argued with each other.  Many people stood up and talked about the impact that Paul had had on their lives.  He was a father to his stepdaughters.  He was a protector to his granddaughter.  He was a leader and mentor to two young youth pastors.  He was like a father to a former student.  He was a friend to anyone who needed a friend.

While I didn't stand up and declare it, Paul was a teacher of mine.  He taught me that it was okay to question my beliefs, and to search for honest answers.  His direct style of teaching encouraged me, a church kid who thought she had heard it all.  When I graduated high school and became an adult leader in the youth ministry, I got to serve with Paul.  Those were a couple of seriously difficult years; we had students who were dealing with a lot of serious problems - drugs being the least of them.  Paul stuck it out, and worked hard to connect with students who seemed unreachable.  He taught me to never give up on someone just because they look or act differently than what I am used to.

Looking back on my time with Paul, and hearing other people's stories about how he changed their lives, I can't help wondering what my legacy will be.  How many people with come to my memorial?  Who will stand up and say that I made an impact on their lives?  I don't want to be remembered as just a nice person.  I want to be a life changer.

What decisions am I going to make to be this kind of person?  To whom will I talk when they most need it?  To whom will I open my home when they need a safe place to stay?  Who will I serve when they feel like they least deserve it?  To whom will I be kind, when they are not kind to me?  To whom will I introduce Christ for the first time?  Will I ever be willing to lay my life on the line for someone I don't know?

For all the people who have done these things for me, thank you.  Thank you so much for investing in me.  Thank you for seeing past my guarded exterior when I needed you to.  Thank you for finding worth in me when I felt there was none.  Thank you for believing in me when I couldn't believe in myself.

Thank you, Dad and Mom, for being great parents.  Thank you for raising me well, and for teaching me to stick with the person I love no matter how difficult the present circumstances might be.

Thank you, Fred, for loving me so much.  Thank you for loving me when I feel like I can't love myself.  Thank you for believing in me and investing in my dreams.  I love you.

Thank you, Jeff and Lilia, the best godparents I could ever have wanted.  Thank you for teaching me about missions, and about following God's plan instead of my own.

Thank you, Scot, for being my youth pastor.  Thank you for working so hard to heal a broken and scared youth ministry.  Thank you for teaching me that it is okay to love God back, and to go after Him with everything I have.

Thank you, Gary and Sandy, for so many years of leadership and friendship.  I appreciate the love and care you both have shown me, and I treasure our many memories together.

Thank you, Claudia and Caitie, my two best friends.  I've always had difficulty making and keeping friends, and I value your friendships, which have lasted through so many years, more than I can ever say.

Thank you, Tirzah, my best sister ever.  Through you, I learned that God does answer prayer, and that my sister can also be one of my best friends.

Thank you, Sean and Amanda, for investing and mentoring me these past few years.  I've loved serving with you both, and your willingness to teach me and trust me is incredibly precious to me.

Thank you, Mrs. C-D, for encouraging me as I pursue a dream, for being one of the best teachers I've ever had, and for being a great friend.

I am your legacy.  Who will be mine?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Alphabet Questions

This is just something fun to fill the time until my next real blog post!


A. Age: 25 ("A quarter of a century - makes a girl think!" - Marilyn Monroe)

B. Book that you are reading:  I am currently re-reading The Chronicles of Narnia.  I just finished The Magician's Nephew, and will be reading The Last Battle soon.  I love and hate The Last Battle - it always makes me cry.

C. Chore that you hate: Doing laundry!  I hate sorting clothes, waiting for the washer, transferring the clothes to the dryer, waiting for the dryer, folding the clothes and then putting them away.  It's an exhausting process!

D. Dogs: I consider myself a dog person, since we had dogs when I was little, but the hubby and I have been talking about getting a kitten recently.


E. Essential start to your day: I'm usually happy to wake up in time to catch my bus...


F. Favorite color: Purple!  But not lavender.  That always feels like an old lady color when I wear it.  My sister, however, looks great in lavender.


G. Gold or Silver: I always choose silver over gold.  I know that gold is more precious, but silver is prettier.  I usually start thinking of Tolkien books when I'm looking at silver jewelry.


H. Height: 5’6 1/2".  That extra half an inch is important!


I. Instruments you play:  Technically, I can play the flute.  If I have some time to practice, and a fingering chart handy.  And the song is roughly equivalent to "Hot Cross Buns".  And the timing of the piece is not important.  I can also play Christmas carols on the piano.  With one hand.


J. Job title: Legal Assistant or Paralegal.  It's the same thing, really.


K. Kids: In a few years...


L. Live: Sacramento, CA!  I've lived here my whole life :).


M. Mother’s name: Ruth.  I've always loved her name.


N. Nicknames: Yeah, I've never really had any.  My sister has like, a hundred (right, Trizzle?).  The closest thing I have to a nickname is Rae, because the one time I went on my church's women's retreat, there were three total Rachels at the camp, and we were all in the same room.  I don't let anyone call me "Rach", so I chose to be called Rae.  It works, I guess...


O. Overnight hospital stays: None for me!


P. Pet peeves: People who complain often, the sound of fingernails on cardboard, arguments over petty things, late busses, bad drivers, people who stand in line for coffee for ten minutes but still don't know what they want when they get to the counter.  That should cover me for the week.


Q. Quote from a movie: 
“You've never heard of the Millennium Falcon? … It’s the ship that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.” - Han Solo, Star Wars.  Parsecs are real things, people.  Seriously, I've had arguments about whether or not this is a made up word.


R. Right or left handed: Right handed!  Lefties are weird!  Oh, wait, I married one.  There goes that rant.


S. Siblings: Two younger brothers and one younger sister.  When we all get together, I end up being the "responsible" one.  Also known as the party-pooper.  Yep.


T. Time you wake up: I get out of bed between 7:00 and 7:30am.  I don't actually wake up until closer to 10:00am.


U. University?  I currently attend American River College, and have plans (if I can pass Algebra 2) to transfer on to CSUS and earn my Bachelor's in Anthropology.


V. Vegetable you hate: While I am not generally picky, I do not enjoy lima beans.  They feel chalky and gross in my mouth, and the flavor doesn't do anything for me.  Also, green beans are evil.


W. What makes you run late: Not hearing my alarm go off in the morning.


X. X-Rays you’ve had: I have never broken a bone, but I had to have a chest x-ray when I was 15 because I had a cold that wouldn't go away.  It turned out to be pneumonia.  I spent the next two weeks coughing and sleeping, thanks to an awesome narcotic medication that knocked me out for eight hours at a time.


Y. Yummy food that you make: Last night for dinner, I made a roasted eggplant sandwich that was pretty darned amazing.  I also rock at spaghetti.


Z. Zoo animal: Orangutans and gibbons are my favorites!  And the tiger cub at my local zoo is adorable.  I would love to cuddle him, if he wouldn't try to bite my face off.

Monday, September 19, 2011

There and Back Again: The Return of the Team

THE FINAL BLOG CHAPTER!!!

Okay, so my goal of getting this up last weekend kind of didn't happen.  Major fail on my part.  So here is the rest of the story!  (Check out parts One and Two of this blog series!)

Day Nine Continued:

After we left the clinic, we traveled for several hours to a church called the Miracle Church.

Wheeee!

We shared a late dinner (which was amazing) with some members of the congregation, and then headed to bed.

Certain students had issues with bugs

Now, the Miracle Church has a really amazing story, but I didn't hear it firsthand.  If you would like to hear their story, check out Pastor Sean's blog post about Fiji:  Sean's Blog.  Let me just say that if I ever had the chance to spend time with and learn from a pastor, I want it to be Talatala Bill.  The presence of God was with him in a powerful way.

The next morning (Day 10!), we had a fabulous breakfast (custard cake and fruit!), and then meet together as a group.  Pastors Steve and Josh, our group leaders, told us that we would be taking up an offering for two purposes.



1.  The church from one of the last villages we visited was going to be welcoming their new pastor soon.  The pastor who had planted the church was moving on, but wanted to build a new home for the pastor and his family.  It was going to cost around $1,000 Fijian.

2.  The Miracle Church was raising money for a mission trip to Vanuatu, a nearby island.

Everyone in the group immediately dug into their pockets and wallets; several students gave up all of their spending money.

The group raised over $2,500.  We paid for the new house, and helped fund another church's mission trip while on our own mission trip.

It doesn't look like $2,500 - but it is

It was insane.  A group of teenagers gave selflessly to people that they will most likely never meet again in this lifetime.  The one age group that most people here in the States would be likely to call selfish.  God was glorified in those offerings.

I think we all felt like Pastor Josh - overwhelmed

After we took the offering and counted it, we presented it to the Pastor of the Miracle Church, Talatala Bill.  He spoke to us about our sacrifice, and how blessed they were because we had come to them.

It was at this point where I had my big "God moment".  As Pastor Bill was speaking, I started thinking to myself, "But it wasn't really a sacrifice!  Sure, it was difficult raising the money to come, but seriously, I'm only giving up my comforts for two weeks.  How is that a sacrifice?"  Please don't think I was trying to be modest - I felt very small and undeserving of his thanks.  Then, as Pastor Bill started to pray over us, God said, "Rachel, what this team has done here in Fiji will last through eternity.  The people of these villages will talk about what has been done for them for years.  The small sacrifices that you have made will multiply beyond what you can imagine."  

One of the most powerful prayers I have ever heard.  God was with Pastor Bill.

Over the next couple of days, we traveled back to Viti Levu, the main southern island.  We went to church at the Rescue Mission in Suva, went to the flea markets and shopped/haggled for souvenirs, and spent a day on Beachcomber Island.  It felt incredible to walk on white sandy beaches and swim in clear blue water.

Yep, it was paradise!
 We came home on the longest Tuesday ever - 44 hours.  We got back to the States before we left Fiji - how's that for a brain bender!  Let me just say that overseas plane rides are the WORST.  I was so glad to be home!

So here's the thing:  I miss Fiji.  I never expected to go there, but now I can't stop thinking about it.  The team members still talk about it all the time.  I'm always seeing random things that remind me of Fiji, like a lady's dress, or a banana tree, or the smell of curry.  I still say "chulo" without realizing it (it just works better than "excuse me"!).  I very much want to go back and see those amazing people again, and experience a culture that is so different and yet so familiar.  I really learned to love the nation of Fiji on this trip.

I know that God has called Fred and I to missions work sometime in our future - Germany for sure, and probably other places as well.  And it is exciting to me that I was able to go on this trip and experience to power of God reaching out to His people in some of the most remote and isolated areas of the world.  I am looking forward with great expectancy for the next nation that God will call me to visit!


*Thank you to everyone who has supported me financially and spiritually through this trip - you have all been wonderful, and I couldn't have gone without your support!  Thank you especially to my wonderful husband, Fred, for working so hard and sacrificing so much to send me.  I can't wait to go on a trip with you!  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

There and Back Again: The 4 ½ Clinics

Okay, let's jump back in, shall we?  Sorry it took me so long to post this - it's a lot to process!  WARNING: This post is huge, with a ton of pics.  It may take a couple of minutes to load, but it is worth it!

If you haven't read it yet, you will want to start with Part One!
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Our ministry in Fiji was divided into two main parts: the medical clinic and school assemblies.  The clinics were my favorite part of the trip.  People would walk for miles to come to the clinic, and waited patiently for their number to be called.  We offered the following stations to our patients:

Intake: Students asked questions about general health, and took blood pressure

Carrie and Tirzah caring for an early morning patient

Providers: Tom, Nancy and Deb provided personalized care for nearly 1,000 people

It was amazing how much three doctors were able to do

Labs: Papi was able to do basic blood and urine tests, bandage wounds, etc.

Papi was a beast at removing earwax

Pharmacy/Chemist: Prescriptions had to have both verbal and written instructions

Pastor Sean giving out ibuprofen

Optical: We gave out over 800 pairs of glasses to people who were unable to see.

Betsie is trying to find the right strength

Care Packages: The patients would receive a bag with bandages, candy, chap stick, and toothbrushes before they left.

We would also pray for their families and health
Every patient was directed to each necessary station by runners.  Not everyone needed to go to every station - I think the labs area had the least amount of traffic.  Everyone wanted to go to optical, however.  Because glasses are such a luxury, everyone wanted a pair, even if they didn't need them.  Most people got an eye exam, and if they had perfect vision, we would congratulate them and send them on their way.  Because the sun is so bright, every patient wanted a pair of sunglasses; unfortunately, we had a very limited supply.  The sunglasses went to patients with cataracts, the elderly, the chiefs and Talatalas (pastors), and some of the men who worked in the fields.  Occasionally, we would come across someone who really wanted glasses but didn't need them, and we would find a nice pair of sunglasses for them instead.

During the clinics, the majority of the students and several adults would also travel to the schools in the area and give an hour presentation to the whole school.  We sang songs like "Building Up a Temple" and "I'm in the Lord's Army"...


We did funny skits like "Upon the Stage"...
We told Bible stories as skits, like David and Goliath...


We played games, like Rugby...


And to end the assembly and thank us for coming, the students would often sing for us...




They were amazing.  I miss them.


Now that you have an idea of what happened (in general) at the clinics and the school assemblies, here is the rest of what went on that week!

Day Five - July 18, 2011:

Our first day of clinic was crazy.  We walked across the road and down another dirt road to the main part of the village (or another village, I never heard which one).  We went into a large building and began to set up the different sections of the clinic.  I worked in Optical for a while, and then was pulled to go to our first couple of school assemblies.  The Headmaster of the first school told us that our visit was the highlight of the student's entire year, and that they would be talking about us a lot in the coming months.  It was amazing to think that an hour of songs and skits could make such an impact!

Day Six - July 19, 2011:

This was absolutely the longest, hardest day of the entire trip for me.  We started off the morning with this preview of our dinner (don't look if you're squeamish):

Freshest meat I ever ate!
The group I was with didn't start out in the clinic - instead, we did door-to-door visitations.  The way it worked was this:  we knocked on the door, were invited in, took off our shoes, sat on the floor with the family, and shared our stories with each other.  We encouraged them in their relationships with God.  At the end of the visit, we would pray with the family.

The group I was with was the cool group (sorry, everyone else, it's true!).  We started walking toward the homes on the edge of the village, when our leader, Talatala Sau, spoke with someone who told him about a family whose mother had not walked in six years.  It was kind of a journey to get to their house:

This is how we traveled to the home.  On a RAFT.  So cool.

Once we got to the home, we visited with the lady and her family for a while, being sure to pray for her healing.  On the way back to the clinic, I had a chance to talk with her daughter.  I was startled to discover that by taking a few minutes out of my time to talk to her, she felt special and cared for.  It was very humbling, as I'm not the best at casual conversation with people I don't know well.

We got back to the clinic and prepared ourselves for a 40 minute bus ride out to our first school assembly of the day.  The ride was long and bumpy, but we were all looking forward to the school.  Then it happened.

*bump*

*crunch*



The bus had broken down - estimated repair time: one hour to who knows when?

So we walked back to the clinic.

Now, walking in Fiji is nothing like walking here in the States.  Paved roads?  Nope.  Flat roads?  Nope, we rode the Fijian rollercoaster!

The Journey Begins...

We walked for 3 1/2 hours.  We stopped a couple of times to rest, but for the most part, we walked.  And walked.  And got blisters.  And felt sick.  And ran out of water.  And the boys carried the girls' backpacks.  And never once did anyone complain.  Everyone spent the time getting to know one another, telling jokes and funny stories and doing our attitude check chant ("I feel good, oh, I feel so good, oh, double oh, oh!").  After the walk was over, we discovered that the two youth groups present, Hillside and Cornerstone, weren't two youth groups anymore.  We were all one group, called to Fiji to be servants together.  It was amazing.

Eventually, the bus was fixed and picked us up about an hour from the village.  We made it back just in time for the lovo, or feast, which featured the most delectable, delicious, mouthwatering pork ever.

These ladies worked so hard and fed us like kings
After the feast was over, we packed up and headed out on the road again to get to our next village.  The trip wasn't too long, and you'd think that we would unpack and go to sleep right away, right?  Not so much.  The truck with the luggage broke down, and didn't show up until 1am.

I hate this pic, and want to kill it with fire, but this is how tired I was at the end of the day
The Fijian ladies felt sorry for us, as most of the students (and I) fell asleep on the floor.  They brought in pillows and blankets from their homes so that we would be more comfortable.  I didn't even hear them come in.  When the luggage finally arrived, the leaders woke everyone up to get their luggage.  I would have shanked someone if it meant I could get a few more minutes of uninterrupted sleep, but no one was close enough, so I got up and carried in my suitcase (just kidding!  I was barely awake for the whole thing). 

Day Seven - July 20, 2011:

Clinic.  Another amazing school assembly.  That night, we were able to attend one of the best church services ever.  The students gave testimonies, did skits and sang for everyone.  We all prayed with members of the congregation and spent time with the kids after the service.  And last, but not least, was - you guessed it - a bath!!!  If you ever have the chance to bathe in a cool Fijian river in the middle of the forest - do it!

THE BEST BATH EVER

Day 8 - July 21, 2011:

This was our outdoor clinic day.  We spent the day loving on people and providing them with medication.  This was also the only place where we couldn't drink the water.  The people from the surrounding villages were all prescribed the same medication to cure them of worms - we didn't run out, and we never used the medication again.  It was, for me, the most relaxing and refreshing day of ministry.

Day 9 - July 22, 2011:

Our final clinic day was only a half day.  We went to a village close by to Savusavu, and set up the clinic in a beautiful facility.  We did one large school assembly, and also held one at a tiny preschool (the kids were adorable in their little uniforms!).  At the clinic, we spent a lot of time talking with the people of the village as they waited for their turns in the clinic.  It was sad that we were only able to give them a half a day, but everyone who came was cared for.  After the clinic, we began traveling to our next destination.

The rest of the story is now up: There and Back Again: The Return of the Team

Friday, August 5, 2011

There and Back Again: A Missionary's Tale

So, you know, I went to Fiji on a short term mission trip with my youth pastor and seven teenagers.

It was awesome.  Seriously awesome.  Mind-blowingly, life-changingly awesome.

I went to Fiji without really knowing what to expect - from God and from myself.  I am so grateful that I was able to go and have the experiences that I did.  Our students exceeded all of my expectations, and I am so proud to be able to say that I was there to see them in action.

Before I start writing what will almost certainly be (at least) a two part blog, I'd like to thank everyone who supported me and the rest of the team, both financially and through prayer - you are all wonderful, and your support has made an impact on an island nation halfway around the world.  Thank you all for your faithfulness - may God bless you abundantly!

On to the stories and pics!

Day One - July 13, 2011:

Let me start this by saying that trying to figure out dates and times is a pain in the neck.  So I might not be super specific - days of the week and morning, afternoon and evening will suffice.

We left the US on an Air Pacific flight.  It was cramped.  My little tv screen wasn't working.  I don't sleep well in moving vehicles.  It was a long, long night.

Because of the International Date Line, I never experienced Thursday, July 14, 2011.  Basically, we traveled through time to get to Fiji.

Day Two - July 15, 2011:
Everyone lined up for the bus.
This was a serious travel day.  We left the airport in Nadi and got directly onto our first of many buses.  We drove for several hours, stopping once at an open air market to buy breakfast.  If you ever go to Fiji, try the cream buns.  They were amazing!

Happiness is Fijian cream buns <3

We kept traveling until we arrived in the city of Suva.  There, we exchanged US dollars for Fiji dollars, and went to a flea market to buy our sulus (aka, sarongs).

After purchasing our sulus, we went down to the docks and boarded a ferry.  It was a 14 hours ride, and we all got to sleep in bunks (first time on a boat - check!).  I have to say, the rocking motion put me right to sleep.  And while I was asleep, apparently there was a girl from the Hillside church group who got an accidental double dose of Dramamine - apparently, the red ants were super annoying.  And no one got video!

It may not look it, but it was super comfy

Day Three - July 16, 2011:

We got into the city of Savusavu in the morning, grabbed our luggage and got on the bus (not for the last time!).  We traveled to the Hot Springs Hotel for breakfast, orientation and medical training.  We learned a lot about Fijian culture, different words to use, certain gestures that are fine in the US, but insulting in Fiji and how to sit in a sulu.  

Supplies for the clinics
After the training sessions were over, we got to work breaking down the medications into doses (putting them in individual envelopes) and sorting glasses by their strengths.  After we finished at the hotel, we walked over to a nearby park for pizza and soccer.
Working hard!
After a good night of sleep at the Bethany Assembly of God church, we got ready to go to church!

Day Four - July 17, 2011:
First day wearing sulus!

All of the pastors went out to different churches to preach.  Our group walked up the hill to this church:

Such an awesome church!
Pastor Sean preached, our students did the drama "Ragman", and Ruthie gave her testimony for the first time in public.

Ruthie, being awesome :)
We had the opportunity to pray with the members of the church, which was amazing.  After the service, the Talatala and Randini (pastor and pastor's wife) took us out back and served us a drink made with lemon juice and mashed bananas - soo yummy!

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I think I'm going to end here- I've barely talked about the first four days, and this post is already waay too long.  Can't wait to share more - it only gets better from here!

*By the way, thanks to everyone for sharing their pics!

Check out parts Two and Three of the blog!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

1 Day

We leave for Fiji in 1 day.

Now I'm feeling a little nervous.

Scratch that.  Now I'm feeling a lot nervous.

I will be spending almost two weeks in a foreign land, with a group of teenagers, in the muggy heat, serving people I've never met, and telling them about God and what he has done in my life.  This is after 18 hours of flying over the ocean, a 4 hour bus ride and a 4 hour boat ride.

Yep.  It's officially super mega scary panic time.

Thank you to everyone who has made this dream a reality - friends, family, people from church that I hardly know, and especially my wonderful husband Fred :).

I know everything will go okay - I'm in His hands, after all.

Stories and pics galore when I come back!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

LIFE! DO YOU HEAR ME? GIVE MY CREATION... LIFE!

Once upon a time, I heard someone say that chefs are the rock stars of the culinary world, and bakers were the mad scientists.  I like rock stars okay, but mad scientists, well...mad scientists are awesome.

"For what we are about to see next,
we must enter quietly into the realm of genius."

Over the past couple of months, I've been doing my own...experimenting.

I love being able to have dessert after dinner - nothing too complicated, just something to enjoy while watching a movie with my hubby.  Normally, I never have the time to bake anything, so I just buy a half gallon of ice cream.  But, let's face it - ice cream is expensive.  I eat it too fast.  It isn't very healthy.  Overall, it isn't the best choice for me to serve.

So, I started looking for a quick, easy, delicious, single serving dessert.  I ended up finding several recipes for chocolate cake in a coffee mug.  It cooks in the microwave!  The first recipe I tried was really good.  Then my laptop died, and I lost the link.  After several futile attempts to locate the original recipe, I tried another one that looked similar, and it tasted okay, but the texture was pretty awful.

Determined to find a recipe that was easy and tasty, I found a couple of other recipes, and began working out what was needed for a decent cake.  After retrying it a couple of times, I finally managed to pull bits and pieces from the two different recipes into something that looks, tastes and feels the way chocolate cake should.  I felt like Doctor Frankenstein, building my perfect specimen! [insert maniacal laughter here]

Because you know you want to try it out for yourself now, here is the recipe.  Enjoy!


Frankenstein's Monster Chocolate Cake in a Cup

Equipment:
I use a bowl cuz I'm a sloppy stirrer
One microwave safe large coffee mug or bowl
a tablespoon measure
1/4 teaspoon measure
a stirring utensil
microwave (not pictured)
Ingredients:
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 egg
1 dash of vanilla
Chocolate chips (optional)
Instructions:

Mix all of the dry ingredients together in your mug or bowl.  Add wet ingredients.



Stir until just mixed - it doesn't matter if there are a few small lumps.  Add chocolate chips if desired (they get gooey in the microwave).


Here's the tricky part:  I cook mine for 3 minutes on high.  You will probably need to experiment with your microwave to find out the optimum setting.

3 minutes away from being mine...
The cake should rise, and be spongy yet firm in the middle.  The bowl or mug will be extremely hot when you take it out of the microwave, so, you know, be careful.

This cake is not a lie.
Now, to be perfectly honest, one bowl of this cake can actually be split into two desserts.  It is surprisingly filling, so don't feel like you have to eat the whole thing in one sitting (although I certainly have, and it was delicious).  I've cut it in half and served it with fresh strawberries and a dollop of whipped topping - so yummy!

Tonight, however was powdered sugar and black berries
Let me know if you try the recipe, and if so, how it came out!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Soggy Cereal Incident and How it Changed My Life

My parents raised me well.  Of this, I have no doubt.  And of all of their many lessons, the most enduring and life changing for me involved a bowl of soggy Corn Flakes.

We had a rule in the house regarding meals: we had to finish what was on our plates, or we would eat it for the next meal.  No snacks were allowed in between meals until the unfinished meal was consumed.  I suspect that this rule came about so no one would be "too full" to finish their veggies.

Please note:  The following story is retrieved from the young and impressionable mind of a 6 year old child.  It has been around 18 years since this happened, so there may be some exaggeration involved in the details, but the main story is still all completely, horribly true.

The way The Incident started was innocent enough - Mom served me a bowl of cold cereal for breakfast.  I think I was around 6 or 7 years old at the time.  At this particular breakfast, for whatever reason, I took my own sweet time eating, and after a few minutes, the cereal and the milk had combined into a milky mush.  I was, of course, disgusted.  I refused to eat it.  Mom told me that was fine, but I would have to eat it at lunch before I got to eat anything new.   I considered this an empty threat, and left the table feeling as though I had won the discussion.  Oh, how wrong I was.

Gross.
Lunch was served around noon, and I was pretty darn hungry by now.  I had rarely gone without breakfast (usually Sunday mornings as we rushed out of the house to get to church), and was becoming uncomfortable with the empty feeling in my young tummy.  Mom served grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup - one of my favorite lunches ever.  I, however, received the offending bowl of mushy cereal.  By now, the bowl was cold, and the cereal had sort of congealed into a gross, gritty mass.  I pushed the bowl away and asked for a sandwich.  Mom asked if I had finished my cereal.  I said no.  She said no.  I'm pretty sure at this point I was on my way to pitching a fit (something I rarely did).  I left the table, my stomach rumbling.

It was a long six hours to dinner.  My stomach made noises.  I felt weak in the knees.  I was desperate for something, anything to eat - so long as it wasn't that bowl of cereal!  Dinner was finally served, and I sat down with my parents and my little brother.  They had real food, I had mush.

I'm pretty sure I cried.

In my pride, I again refused to eat the cereal, even with a tempting dinner sitting in front of me.  I left the table and went to my room.  After a few hours (bedtime was a pretty ambiguous concept for us), I went to bed, my stomach empty.

The next morning, I walked into the kitchen, dreading what was to come.  My will had been broken by the insistent call of my stomach.  I sat down at the table and faced down my greatest foe to date.  It looked just as awful as the night before.  My mouth tried to rebel further, but I was too hungry to care any more.  I took a bite.  It was like eating mealy glue.  I swallowed the mouthful and took another.  Sips of water helped wash down each bite.  Finally, I finished the bowl to my mother's satisfaction.  To my infinite relief, I was allowed a plate of pancakes or French toast, or something equally delicious.

So, now that I have finished grossing you out, what were the long term effects on me?  Well for starters, I never, ever eat cereal with milk.  I eat it dry.  My husband says I'm weird, but I think everyone else is weird for eating it wet.  I mean, how do people get over having crumbs in their milk?!?

Seriously though, I also learned to have a great deal of respect for the food that is served to me.  This means that ever since The Incident, I have cleaned my plate, free of complaints, no matter what was served to me.
Except for green beans.  These are pure evil.
I am especially grateful to my parents for teaching me this habit at such a young age because of my upcoming trip to Fiji.  Hospitality is a huge part of Fijian culture, and as visitors, we are expected to eat what is served to us without complaining or failing to eat what is served.  Thanks to my parents, I have been training for this most of my life.

Thank you, Mom and Dad!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Vindication

Every once in a while, it is nice to know that I am right about something.


This happened to me today at work.  I am a legal assistant, which means that I handle everything from answering the phone to drafting petitions.  Our field of law is Estate Planning and Probate - which is way more interesting than it sounds.  Out of all the different types of projects I do, one of the few projects that I truly hate to do are accountings.


I took one accounting class about three years ago.  I got a "B".  I'm pretty sure I managed that grade because the teacher liked me - I was always polite and said good morning to her.  I hate math.  I've failed algebra three times.  


I am currently working on an accounting that is more complicated than doing my taxes (my taxes aren't complicated, but you get the idea).  There are multiple accounts.  There are mutual funds.  There are non-taxable fixed income accounts.  There is no way I actually know what the heck I am doing.


A couple of weeks ago, I was almost to the point of telling my boss (who is the best boss ever, and I hate disappointing him) that I was not capable of making sense of the accounting, and that we should refer our client to a CPA.  Other cases became priorities, and I put off working on the accounting until yesterday.  I managed to wrangle the numbers into some semblance of order, printed it up, and put in in my boss's inbox to review.  He in turn passed it on to our associate attorney so she could review it.


This afternoon, while my boss was on the phone, our associate attorney came out of her office and told me that she had looked over the accounting, and that it was obvious that I had put a lot of work into it.  She went on to say that if it were her choice, she would have found an accountant to handle it, because it was over her head as well.  


You can imagine how I felt!  I was amazing to have someone else feel the same way I do!  It might not change anything, but at least I'll know that she agreed with me :).