Friday, February 26, 2010

The Waco Hippodrome is Closing

And I'm afraid it might be my fault!

I want to preface this by stating how much I love the Hippodrome.  I love all old theaters, but the Hippodrome is a particularly beautiful one.  Sure, it needed a little more upkeep than it was getting, but the good people behind it did the best they could to keep it going with limited resources and very little support from the community.

And I just think it was so cool to have something like the Hippodrome in Waco.  In addition to musicals and plays, the Hippodrome also began airing classic and contemporary movies the last couple years.  I've attended a Vanguard High talent show and a handful of concerts there as well.  And the Rocky Horror Picture Show hoop-la engineered around the Hippodrome last year was just SO MUCH bizarre and crazy fun.  All my experiences with the Hippodrome have been beyond positive.  I have been a firm supporter.

So a few weeks ago (right before my birthday actually) when the Hippodrome screened the classic film Dr. Zhivago, we just had to go.  And it was lovely!  There was great old-timey music playing as we arrived.  We got popcorn and candy and drinks.  We sat in our seats and admired the unique details of the old building while we waited for the show to start.  The film itself was totally engaging and entertaining (it was my first time to see it).  It was a memorable and delightful experience.

Only one problem.  As lovely as the everything was, the seats are old.  Like, really old.  And fine for sitting an hour or two at a time.  But Dr. Zhivago?  Is a long movie.  The overture began at 7:00 and it was 9:00 before we even hit intermission.  Intermission!  There was still an hour and a half to go.  And our backs were kind of hurting (because we're old) and our knees were cramping (and feeble) and the seats were made for smaller people (because people were so much smaller back then, not because we're so big) and we just couldn't sit there that much longer (because we're also pathetic).

So during intermission we grabbed our coats and our empty soda bottles and our candy wrappers and we just kind of slipped out the front door.  We figured as much as we were enjoying the movie, and wanted to see the end, we could totally rent it and watch the last half with our feet propped up on the coffee table from the comfort of our own couch (which is, let's be honest, our favorite way to watch any part of any movie, beginning or end).  And then we scurried over the street to Austin's on the Avenue to toss back a couple of delicious gin and tonics and toast my birthday (again).

At the time it seemed like the perfect ending to a really cool night.  But now I feel guilty.  I bailed out.  I didn't see things through to the end.  I clearly wasn't willing to work hard enough.  I displayed less than the utmost rapture and regard.  And that kind of rejection can be painful, debilitating even.  Especially to an entity as proud and venerable and, well, old as the Hippodrome.

So is it my fault?  Did I kill the Hippodrome?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I Want to Save the World

I want to make things better for everyone I know.  I want to keep those I love from experiencing pain and heartbreak.  I see people hurting or struggling or drifting and I just want to DO something.  And it's beyond just that milk-of-human-kindness desire to be able to help.  I want to do MORE than just help.  I want to guide and direct everyone and everything down the exact right path to becoming exactly who or what they are supposed to be.  And it saddens me, sometimes beyond bearing, when I can't.

There are a few problems with this little penchant of mine:

A) I could let it run away with me.  Sometimes it feels a little like my life should be a constant crusade.  And it could easily become one.  In fact, I've lived that way before, for a period of years even.  Running around trying to fix everyone, carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. Feeling both responsible for and powerless over the people and events around me.  And let me tell you, it is freaking exhausting.  And unhealthy.  And ultimately useless because of B and C.

B) I just don't know everything.  Most of the time I act like I do, and a lot of the time I can even fool people into believing it (including myself!), but the truth is I don't have all the answers (I know, you're SHOCKED!). This never slowed me down before, because frankly, I didn't realize it.  Somehow, if I felt strongly enough about something, I became utterly convinced that whatever I felt was right.  I am no longer that confident (or optimistic, or naive, or self-deluded).  Now it seems like the more I learn the more convinced I become of one thing (and one thing only)- I still have so much left to learn.  So now I know that no matter how much I want to help, fix or rescue someone, I don't have the first clue how to do it.  Or what it is they really need.  Basically, I'm just as dumb as the rest of us, and sometimes I just need to remember that and butt out.

C) We all have to learn how to fix ourselves.  Really, no one else can do the fixing for us.  We have to experience mess-ups so that we can learn so that we can grow.  And there's just no way around that.  There is no short-cut to developing character.  And I truly believe that's one of the most important things we do with our time here on earth.  We suck and then we grow and then we change and then we hurt for a little while, but in the end we become better for it.  And no one else can do that for us.  And we can't do it for anyone else.  We just have to dive into our own life and deal with it and do as much as we can with what's given to us.

So now I'm 29, and I'm obviously so much wiser than I was at 18 or 22.  And when I find myself burning with the need to save someone I try to remember the things I've learned.  I try to release myself from the burden of responsibility that was never mine in the first place.  I try to trust in the Grace that has carried me along thus far, and I pray for it to cover the ones I love and lead them too.  And then sometimes (like this week) I still get really sad and really angry and I have to practically sit on my hands to keep me from meddling in a way that would probably only make things worse.  And I remember that I'm still growing and learning and fixing myself.  And I look forward to the day when I'm a little older and a little wiser, and have learned everything there is to know so I finally can save the world.  Or at least maybe by then I'll have stopped needing to.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Adventures in Cooking

We made another home run dinner (adapted from the South Beach diet cookbook) last night.  It was quick, it way easy, and it was adventurous.  This one is such an interesting recipe; a completely ingenious mix of distinct flavors that I would never have thought to combine.  Salmon, mint, and feta?  It sounds a little scary.  But I promise the flavors come together to complement each other so well!  Instead of tasting each individual flavor, they blend together perfectly to create something entirely new and delicious.  It tastes very fresh and light and slightly exotic.  Recipe below (for the daring and stout-of-heart):

Adventurous Pasta Salad

I apologize for the sub-par photo.  I forgot to take any pretty ones last night.  This is a shot of the leftover pasta that I ate for lunch today.  It was still just as good, if slightly less photogenic.

1 lb. salmon fillet (skin removed)
8 oz. (shaped) whole wheat pasta
1/2 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup reduced fat feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup reserved pasta cooking water
Juice of 1 fresh lemon
Sprinkle of salt

Heat oven broiler.*  Cover a pan with foil and coat lightly with cooking spray.  Plop the salmon down on the pan (no need to season it) and put it under the broiler until lightly browned and flaky on top.  Took about 12 minutes in our oven.  Could be a couple minutes over or under in yours.  Just watch it.  When it's done, let it cool a bit, then cut it into bite sized chunks and put it in a large bowl.

While that's cooking, boil a big potful of lightly salted water for your whole wheat pasta and cook it based on the package directions.  The recipe says to use "shaped" pasta.  Not quite sure what that means.  We used whole wheat rigatoni, but I think anything that's not long and stringy would do just fine.  Add peas for the last 2 minutes of cooking.  When pasta and peas are done, strain them and add them to the bowl with the salmon.  Don't forget to reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water for the sauce.

Whisk together (I love the word whisk) the feta, mint, pasta cooking water and lemon juice to make a sauce. Pour it over the salmon, pasta and peas and toss it all together.  Add a dash of salt (to taste), serve it up and enjoy.

*Side note: last night was the first time we ever used our oven broiler.  Up till now, we thought it didn't work so we always just turn the heat up really  high and over-bake when a recipe says to broil.  Last night I was frustrated and I turned the knob really hard until it suddenly clicked and when I opened the oven door behold, the broiler had fired right up.  Our fish tasted so much better properly broiled.  Moral of the story:  if you've got an old damn oven like I do, make sure you turn the knob until it clicks when using the broiler setting.

Quotation Inspiration

"Prometheus gave man fire, but the power every one of us carries each day, heartbeat by heartbeat, is his story.  Come to the circle, bring your spark.  We can live as men without fire, but without story, without art, we freeze alone in the cold white waste."

- Shawn Craig Smith  

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dear Mrs. Stokes

You may not remember me very well.  We attended DaySpring together for several years and our paths crossed briefly on several occasions.  I heard that you've moved to Mississippi to live in a retirement home near your daughter.  I remember you, quite vividly, and wanted you to know how much you've touched my life.

The first time we met, you caught my eyes across a crowded room and you face lit up with a gorgeous, beaming smile that only grew with each step you took toward me.  I felt so special, to be smiled at that way.  You took my hand in both of yours as we introduced ourselves, and you told me that you were so happy to meet me and to see me at DaySpring.  I knew you meant it, with every fiber of your being and I felt so welcomed and loved.  You made me feel like you were waiting for me, and I knew that DaySpring was the church home I had been waiting for.

Another time you called to me from across the parking lot as we were walking toward the front doors.  You beamed that brilliant, constant smile of yours as you complimented the sky-high heels I had on, and my ability to walk in them.  As I smiled back and waved, I realized I was walking even a little bit taller after your words.

One day, you joined my husband and I as we waited for our Sunday School class to arrive.  You sat down beside me, at the tiny table squeezed between a makeshift partition and the kitchen that served as our 4th-6th grade classroom.  You told us about your late husband and that same contagious smile spilled out the light of your deep love for him. Somehow, being witness to that love for that brief instant, taught me how to love my husband better.  You held my hand and you told us what it was like when you and the small group of founders first started DaySpring, the church that I now love so much.  Hearing your stories made me feel like I could be as strong and brave and courageous and faithful as you had been, and still are.  You patted my back and brushed my hair over my shoulders as you told me how I reminded you of your daughter, and how much you missed her.  I laughed and smiled back through eyes brimming with tears, because your touch and your dearness reminded me of how much I missed my own mother, and grandmother, and great-grandmother.  Your hug felt like a hug from them, one I needed very much.

Every single time you ever saw me, you always went out of your way to speak.  You always told me how very glad you were to see me, and I could see that you meant it, and I felt so loved.  You always smiled that magnificent, ever-present smile.  The one that drew everyone else straight to you.  The one that somehow always injected a kind of peace and joy and courage straight into my heart.  You always touched me, both physically and spiritually.  From the moment of that first smile, I knew we were and always would be fast friends.  So thank you, Katy Stokes, from the bottom of my heart.  I pray that I will learn to share love and light and joy, even half so well as you do.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Birdies and Owls and TWINS, Oh My!

On Saturday morning several friends and I hosted a baby shower for Erin Hughes and her soon-to-arrive TWIN baby girls Kristen Marie and Adelyn Grace.  It was SO MUCH fun!  Sara, a fellow-hostess, is super creative and came up with some brilliant ideas to incorporate Erin's nursery theme into the decor of the party.  Once that got the ball rolling everyone else just ran with it!  All the food was delicious, Mommy and Babies received lots of love and encouragement and everyone seemed to have a wonderful time.  Pictures posted below because they are just really too cute not to be shared.

Sara themed the invitations to match Erin's nursery bedding.

View of the entire table.  Menu included mini frittatas, green apple-turkey sandwiches with cream cheese on cinnamon raisin bread, savory sausage balls, sugar cookies that were practically works of art, bird-shaped biscuits with honey-butter and jam, and fruit parfaits.  

Close up of the sandwiches and frittatas.

Close up of the cookies.

Sara hand-crafted this birdy mobile which made the perfect center piece for our table, plus an extra special gift for the Mommy-to-be.

And I made this garland of patchwork owls.  I spent a week pricking my fingers with needles cursing myself, wondering why I had once again attempted to do crafts?

But I guess it all turned out alright in the end.

*Photos are courtesy of Sara who blogs over at Daffodil.  Because, as per usual, I forgot my camera!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Slow-Cooked Sunday

I love to cook.  The smells, the sounds, creating something delicious, it's all a bit of an outlet for me.  The last couple of months Keith and I have been working hard at healthy eating (we're trying to drop a few pounds), and the resulting meals have been fun and flavorful.  It's been a challenge to both our skill and our creativity to fix food that is tasty and exciting but also low-fat and full of nutrients.  We've found tons of inspiration from a couple of cookbooks (and I just got a new one for my birthday) and really, everything we've attempted so far has ended up being delicious and completely satisfying (as well as good-for-us).

I especially love using our slow cooker on Sundays after church.  Something about tossing everything in and just walking away from it seems perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon.  Last night we made a delicious chili.  It's based on one of our South Beach diet cookbooks but because I never exactly follow a recipe and because I wanted to use the slow cooker, I made a few improvements.  Here's my version of Slow Cooked Pork and Poblano Chili:

Slow-Cooked Pork and Poblano Chili

3 poblano peppers (remove seeds and roughly chop)
1 bell pepper (remove seeds and roughly chop)
1jalapeno pepper (remove seeds and roughly chop)
3 cloves of garlic
1 medium onion (roughly chopped)
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 can unsalted diced tomatoes (with liquid)
1 can white beans (rinsed and drained)
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 pound pork loin (cut in 3/4 inch chunks and sprinkled with salt and pepper)
1 tsp. ground cumin

Take all your peppers (be sure to remove seed unless you really like the heat), plus your onion and garlic and pulse it in the food processor until finely chopped (but not pureed).  You may have to do this in batches if you're like us and have a smallish food processor.  

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Dump all your chopped veggies from the food processor into the skillet and cook until well softened (about 10 minutes) stirring occasionally.  

While your veggies are cooking, set your slow cooker on high and dump in the tomatoes, white beans (we used cannellini but any white beans will do just fine), broth and pork.  Sprinkle cumin over the top and stir to combine.

Once your veggies are nice and soft go ahead and dump them into the slow cooker as well.  Mix it all up real good, put the lid back on and let it cook down together for a good 3-4 hours on high.  Stir it every hour or so.  Or if you're like me, stir it every time you think about it, because you can't resist going in and checking on it and ooh-ing and ahh-ing over how great it smells and how good it's going to be.  

Serve it hot in big heaping bowls and toss on a little jack cheese and salsa on top for good measure.  Add a little sour cream and lime juice as well if you've got it (use low-fat cheese and sour cream, of course!).  Then dig in with a giant spoon and enjoy!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Special Delivery

I was out of the office ALL DAY on Tuesday for meetings in Dallas.  I walked in the office today to find a package waiting for me.  In the refrigerator.  Because it came from my mom, in the same box she uses to ship coffee cakes and Nancy, our sweet front office lady, recognized it and assumed it must be a cake.  

It was not a cake.  It was something even better.  Behold!

Mom is selling these beautiful bracelets in her shop for Valentine's Day.  They're handwoven into LONG strands of leather and beads (or in my case pearls) and then you wrap them around your wrist.  Mine wraps five times around.  There are some longer ones that I think may wrap ten times around.  More styles can be viewed (and obsessed over) here.  Or if you want to buy your very own, just email me and I'll get you some more details.  Or you can check out mom's website (but I don't think she has pictures of these bracelets up yet).  They're not cheap, but mom is able to sell them below retail so they're kind of a steal.

And they're BEAUTIFUL.  I just LOVE mine!  Never want to take it off.  Although I guess I have to to shower.  On another note, this arrived today as a Birthday/Valentine's surprise from my Daddy.

It' orchid.  In a pot made of bark and fungi.  With some kind of weird leaf-propellers?  It's....pretty, I a very modern, floral-arrangement-as-art sort of way.  But it's not exactly my taste.  And it's definitely not something my dad would pick out!!  I mean, look at the close-up view of the base.

Interesting, right?  Do you see those mushrooms tucked in around the leaf-propellers? Mushrooms!  Leaf-propellers! 

Although I have to admit, the flowers themselves are gorgeous!  So, do I have to water this thing?  Plant it in the ground?  I have a very black thumb and an even worse track record with all things plant-like.  Does anyone know how to take care of an orchid?  Or feel like adopting one?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Praise and Pleading

It's all happening so fast.  Wednesday night we were crossing fingers and toes, waiting on pins and needles and considering kitty sacrifice.  By Thursday we were dancing with glee and over the weekend more and more things continued to fall into place.  And now we are moments away from making it official...on March 4th Professor Reich will officially become Dr. Reich and I will be Mrs. Dr. Reich.  Cheers!

All dissertation chapters are approved by all essential persons involved and there are just a few more formalities to observe, then the dissertation defense on March 4th.  In other good news, Keith has his first (of many, hopefully) phone interview for a professorial position.  This one's in North Carolina.  Small school, small town, looks promising.  We'll see.

So now begins the pleading.  Please let everything between now and March 4th go smoothly.  No hiccups, no wrinkles, no last minute problems.  Please let there be jobs available.  Please let the interviews go well.  And please let it all end with the right job.  In the right place.  Somewhere we can fall in love with and sink roots into.  Somewhere we will want to make a life.  Please let us have peace and trust that we are being guided and directed for a good purpose.  Please let us take advantage as much as we can of the time we have left with friends we love, and a church we love, and a town we love (to the astonishment of many).  And above all else, always, always, please let us keep growing, and loving, and seeking, and learning, and living in awe and wonder and grace.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

What Happened Last Night

Keith is getting very close to completing his dissertation and becoming a full-fledged PhD.  I mean VERY
CLOSE.  Like three out of four main chapters approved with one still hanging in the balance.  And last night, that critical fourth chapter was in the hands of one of his pickiest readers, awaiting judgement.  Keith was on pins and needles all night.  Much praying was heard.  And cursing.  And the merits of animal sacrifice were debated.  For instance, if we sacrificed the newest kitten in our menagerie, the tiny white one that keeps peeing on the laundry room floor, might that be just the element needed to cement the reader's decision in Keith's favor?  I mean, we love our kitties but we really, really need this dissertation to go through and pronto so Keith can graduate this semester.  So we joked, and hoped, and prayed.

And then later I fell asleep on the couch watching Gilmore Girls while Keith alternately read and muttered about what a bitch Rory is (we're watching Season 3, while she's tennis balling it between liking Jess and liking Dean and it really isn't her finest moment).  Anyway, I'd been asleep for I don't know how long, and these weird sounds started to penetrate through the fog of dreams.  There were random noises and shufflings and whispers.  It was honestly a little creepy.  I flung off my sleep haze and popped open my eyes with a gasp to find Keith crawling around the living room on his hands and knees hissing "Eowyn!  Eowyn!" in the loudest whisper ever.  For those of you following along at home, Eowyn is the gray, fluffy kitty.  We have four, it's okay if you're confused.  We are too (clearly).

Me:  What are you doing?
Keith (slightly startled):  I'm....trying to get Eowyn to purr.
Me:  .....
Keith:  I got rejected by Ransom and Falcor and I'm not going to bed until I get one of the cats to purr.
Me:  Are you drunk?
Keith (sheepishly):  ....maybe. A little bit.
Me:  .....
Keith:  Let's go to bed.

And then he crashed into our closet door.

And yes, I know that the first part of this post isn't at all related to the end of it, except that both things happened last night.  And I find them amusing.  And will probably regret recounting them here.  Oh well!


The big premiere was Tuesday night.  Lost.  Season Six.  The final season.  The beginning of the end.

It did not disappoint.  As predicted we got more new questions than we did answers.  But oh, such good questions!  Left my brain aching and my mouth gaping.  Am at a loss for words.  So much so that I can't even come up with a decent title for this post.  Am still trying to get it all straight it my head, but it seems like there's not enough room for all of it to be in my head at the same time.  Overload!

I don't want to spoil things for the (crazy) few of you out there who haven't seen it yet, and there's no need to get into an in-depth discussion dissecting on the meanings because 1) someone else has already said it all much better than I could, and 2) brain.  meltdown.  can't-take-it-in!!!  

So I'll just leave you with this little reminder of what was (for me) the best part of the episode.

Richard (to FakeLockManInBlackSmokeyMajig): You?
FLMIBSM (smugly):  Me.
All of Us Watching Along at Home:  WHO?!?!? (as our brains splatter all over the wall behind us)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

10 Reasons Why I Heart February

February has always been my favorite month of the year and now it feels like there are even more reasons to celebrate.  So without further ado, here are 10 Reasons why I Heart February.

  1. Lost Returns-  I cannot think of a better way to kick off the best month of the year, than the return of my favorite show, Lost, for it's sixth and final season.  Tonight marks the beginning of the end, my friends.  There will be tears, there will be drama, there will be nicknames, there will be pointless love triangles, there will still be more questions than answers- but I truly believe that at the end of it all we will get a fitting resolution to one of the best dramas on television.  Let the amazingness begin!
  2. 28 Days- I don't know why, but I've always thought it's kind of cool that February is the only month with its own number of days.  Not 30.  Not 31.  It doesn't fit the rhyme.  February is a rebel.
  3. Birthday Month- February 8th, ya'll, it is almost here!  Yes, I overindulge myself by celebrating my own birthday for not just a day or a week, but an entire month.  But I promise, it's not as narcissistic as you think.  It's not so much about celebrating ME (although, let's face it, I do merit celebration), as it is about celebrating how incredibly grateful I feel to have experienced one more year of this fan-freakin'-tastic thing called life and how incredibly blessed I am by the amazing folks who share it with me.  Plus, birthday month leads directly to reasons 4 and 5.
  4. Birthday Cake- Shouldn't need an explanation for this one.  This year, I've requested strawberry cake.  Yummmm.
  5. Birthday Party- Again, it's not about celebrating ME, it's about celebrating WITH all of those WONDERFUL people who make me want to keep getting out of bed every morning.  So thanks for that, world.
  6. Super Bowl- Yeah, this is a whole lot more exciting for Keith than it is for me.  But when he's happy, I'm happy.  And it's another great excuse to get together with good food and good friends and be excited about something.  Personally, I'm crossing my fingers that the Saints will pull it off. 
  7. Great Light- There's a certain slant of light this time of year.  I don't know what it is or how to explain it, but the world just looks prettier and more hopeful.
  8. Valentine's Day- I'm not at all a big fan of schmaltz, so the lovey-doviness of Valentine's Day can sometimes kind of get to me.  And I think that most women make far too big a deal about it (says the girl who celebrates birthday month, I know, I know).  But it's also an entire holiday devoted to flowers and chocolate and hearts and the color red.  Now that's something I can get behind.
  9. Anniversary Month- It is quite amazing to think that at this time just one year ago, Keith and I were crazy stressed, running around like insane people trying to get all the last minute details in place for our wedding.  It was the most perfect of perfect days, and on February 28th, we get to celebrate one full, beautiful year of being hitched.  
  10. Anniversary Celebrating- We're going to spend a night at the Cotton Palace Bed & Breakfast (where we stayed the night of our wedding), each a fabulously decadent dinner at the Green Room Grille (Waco doesn't have a lot of fancy foodie places, but this place does everything right) and get a couple's massage (we got one on our honeymoon and have been addicted ever since).  Perfect way to end a perfect month?  Yup.  It sure is.
Why do you heart February?