monkey bread.

She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household… vs. 15a

A few nights ago I decided to make baked bananas for my two roommates. Well, I had just bought a bag of bananas. They were neon green in color. They weren’t quite ripe enough. But I thought, surely if I bake them, they will still taste okay. Basically, I was too impatient to wait a few days because I really wanted to eat bananas with honey and cinnamon on top THAT INSTANT. Let’s just say: bad idea. Whenever I went to peel it, the peeling looked like a corn stalk. Still yet I thought: it probably doesn’t taste that bad. One bite into it changed my mind about that too.

At this point, my two roommates and I could practically taste sweet goodness in our mouth. We all three had been so excited to eat a little dessert that night. So, I thought…what should we make instead?

As I shared with you in my post yesterday, there’s this website called My Fridge Food. You can here about how awesome it is here.

Anyway, we put in the items that we had in our pantry, freezer, and refrigerator and then narrowed it down to “dessert.”

Monkey bread came up…and we had all of the ingredients! Sounds like it was meant to be.

So monkey bread is what we made.

I would definitely recommend making this. For 3 reasons: It takes very little ingredients, it is really really delicious, and it seems like you spent hours on it when really it was about 30 minutes.

Here are the ingredients…

Step 1: Cut the biscuits in half (if they are small) or in quarter pieces (if they are big).

Step 2: Mold the pieces in little balls and roll them in a sugar/cinnamon mixture. (about 1/2 cup sugar with a few dashes of cinnamon).

Step 3:  Form balls into pan (a bundt pan is best, but we didn’t have one) to create the bread. Then pour a boiling mixture of butter and brown sugar  (about 1/2 cup butter and a couple tablespoons of brown sugar) over the bread.

Step 4:  Smash the balls together so they aren’t so uniform looking.

Step 5: Bake on 350 degrees for about 20 minutes (or until brown) and let cool before you dig in. It should look something like this…

Serve and enjoy!

* This is part of the Blue Cricket Design link party.

surprise party of the century: part 2.

She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.vs. 12

In case you haven’t heard, Sunday night was coined the surprise party of the century. To learn more about it check out The Surprise Party of the Century: Part 1.

Guests started arriving about 6:30pm and everyone was there by 7:10pm. Skyler, our good friend, made Kaleb a sweet banner in his honor…

p.s.- he informed us that the banner is true in that it is the actual weight of an iMac! You non-geeky readers may not understand. It’s okay, we forgive you.

Then the man of the hour arrived and everyone jumped out from hiding in the deep corners of my apartment….

We screamed, “OPEN IT! OPEN IT!” He realized his iMac had arrived, and thanked His Father in heaven….

Then we ate, socialized, laughed A LOT, and burned up the dance floor with some Wii action… I think the pictures explain it all…

Well, I think that says it all. I can’t wait to have more surprises for Kaleb the rest of our lives.

Many of the pictures are by Joyce Young…check out her blog!

surprise of the century: part 1.

Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. vs. 31

I like to call Sunday night The Surprise of the Century. It’s pretty much an event that will go down in history in the future Cook household.

One of my New Years goals was to have more spontaneous surprises for Kaleb. Let me preface by saying that…I am gonna marry a really funny, frequently spontaneous, good- surprise-giver kinda man. And he’s gonna marry a woman that is organized and likes a lot of structure. Okay, okay. I am not as much of a bore as I sound.

So I thought…I am going to challenge him in this and try to be even better with spontaneity in 2012. I like to think that a little competition in a relationship is healthy.

Kaleb is a film/advertising/design guy. In May, he is graduating and starting his professional career. Well, he and I decided that it was important for him to get an iMac computer for his work. It was an investment. So, he and his step-mom, Cyndie, ordered it about 3 weeks ago. It was supposed to come in Jan 3 or 4th. I called Cyndie and asked her to tell him it was on back order. And when it actually came in (on the 3rd) to call me and I would get it and keep it until his party. Then on Sunday, Jan. 8th, with 23 of his closest friends, we threw him a surprise iMac opening party!!!

What in the world is that you might ask? It was a fun, kinda-geeky surprise party to let him know that we support him and believe in him in his future endeavors. AND an excuse to have all of our closest friends in the same room, at the same time. With much planning, invites sent in the mail, and a whole lotta lies…..Kaleb was completely blown away whenever he walked into my apartment and all of those people jumped out and yelled SURPRISE!!! After I explained why everyone was there on his behalf, we started chanting, “OPEN IT! OPEN IT!” And he did. We ate lots of food. And then danced all night on the Wii. I will have more pictures on another blog post soon of the order of events. However, I wanted to do the surprise of the century: part 1 by talking about the food that was there.

Cooking for that many people is a tall order. I was up for it though. I spent the whole day in the kitchen after church, and honestly, I loved every minute of it. I pre-planned a menu to keep things organized (remember what I said early about me? I’m a tad obsessed with organization). I cooked the main dish and some side dishes, and I had some friends pitch in for other side dishes. The menu looked like this:

Tuscan Bean Soup with Shrimp

 BBQ Meatballs

Deviled Eggs

Caesar Salad

Homemade Bread

Watermelon

Apples & Caramel Dip (you’ve gotta have apples at an Apple party!)

Veggie Tray & Dip

Apple Chips (too much apple stuff?! nah!)

Black Bean Dip & Chips

Dessert by Amber

Oreo Pudding

Homemade Punch (Hawaiian Punch/Mix, Sherbet, Lime Water, Orange Concentrate)

Soda

Kaleb loves seafood, and I thought that soup goes a long way in a large group of people, so the Tuscan Bean Soup with Shrimp was the perfect choice. This recipe was from The Pioneer Woman…obviously! Who else?

I tripled the recipe…yep, that’s right…16 cups of chicken broth, 9 cans of great northern beans…I’m telling ya, we had a feast.

Here are the ingredients for this delicious soup:

After simmering a lot of the ingredients on the stovetop, I cooked, simmered, and kept it warm in this bad beast…

Can you smell the aroma? mmmmm

So that was the main dish for the evening…then there were lots of other choices for the guests and the man of the hour…

To see more about the surprise of the century…look for the blog post part 2. Coming soon!

gift idea for a friend.

She is energetic and strong, a hard worker. vs. 17

My friend Jordan is one of my favorite people to hang out with. About two weeks ago we went on a road trip, and she was talking about how her birthday was coming up. Then we got in a conversation about organization. She said, “Sarah, you are one of the most organized people I know.” Hmmmm what I compliment! But I often wonder why I get coined the “organized one.” I like organization; however, I am far from being perfect in that area. Either way, I liked that she said that. AND THEN she asked me if I would be interested organizing her closet. So we decided that one of her birthday gifts would be for me to come over, give her some tips, and organize her double closets and make them look like a piece of art.

On Tuesday night, we went to TJ Maxx and got a lot of organizational tools. (Basically, she got a shoe rack, a sweater rack, and a “as seen on tv” vacuum bag).

Then on Thursday, I went to her house…she cooked me lunch and while I was eating she looked at my sewing machine (which is messed up….whew! It’s not the machine operator that’s the problem, it’s the machine! what a relief. p.s.- I like to tell myself that to make myself feel better; however, the machine operator still doesn’t know how to use or fix the machine. So that’s only partially true. But you know what? I’m not givin’ up!)

After that, we tackled the closets.

BEFORE:

Making progress…

Let me tell you about these “as seen on tv” vacuum bags. When Jordan first picked them up, I was thinking, “Why are you looking at vacuum bags right now? We are looking for organizational items!” Then I realized what they do!

You put something like clothes in them (like maybe your off-season clothes), and then you hook the vacuum up to this little suction nozzle. Turn on the vacuum.  Then it’s kinda like a miracle..it’s sucks every bit of air out of it.

It’s really more fun if you fist pump and yell when it is happening…

It looks like this when you are done…

Ok. You ready to see the after?!

……………you sure?

TA DA!

I was trying to be a combination between the Mad Hatter & Vanna White…you think it worked?

All joking aside, look at her closets!


So, if you want to give a good gift to a friend, organize her closets. I offered to do it all myself; however, she insisted on helping which was awesome. More than anything, this 4-5 hour organizing event turned into a really fun hang out time. And I think that any friend really appreciates time. In a busy society like ours, I think giving time is one of the best gifts you can give.

kiss the cook?

She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. vs. 27

Yep, that’s right..I deserve a big smooch. Why? I’ve been cooking a whole lot!

No, I’m kidding. Well, about the kiss, not about the cooking.

More specifically, I have been doing a lot of baking. Maybe cause it’s the holidays?

On Saturday, I went to my parents house, and my mom and I baked our annual Christmas cookies. This year we made sugar cookies, candy cane cookies, and walnut cookies. Delicious. Let’s just say I ate a lot of cookie dough!

I was in charge of the sugar cookies. Here are the ingredients: (this was a simple recipe from All Recipes)

Here’s the result…

Then on Sunday night, Kaleb and I wanted to spend some time with Joyce, our friend and talented wedding photographer. So we had her over to my place. She brought a Vietnamese dish, and Kaleb and I prepared an asian style salad, bread, asparagus, punch, and cinammon cake. Let’s just say we feasted.

You can find the salad recipe from All Recipes.

Here is the asian style salad ingredients… (by the way, I will be making this again. It turned out great!)

And here is what it looked like…

If I could have any time of dessert, it would be something with cinnamon in it. In Joyce’s words, cinnamon just makes you feel a certain way, and it’s good. Here are the ingredients for the cinnamon cake: (by the way, this recipe is on my Pinterest board).

This is how it turned out…

Warning: it will melt-in-your-mouth. Another warning: this recipe takes longer than you would think. First, you have to make the cake batter, then you have to make the cinammon topping, then you have to make the glaze. I was rushing around the kitchen like a mad woman because I didn’t leave myself enough time to make all this food for our dinner party with Joyce.

Thankfully, Kaleb came over and helped. He made the punch and set up the table…

The we ate and had great conversation.

The more I cook, the more comfortable I get with it. One day, I hope to not even use recipes but create something from nothing. It really is an art.

keeping traditions alive.

Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. vs. 31

I am not a very traditional gal. What I mean by that is, I like out-of-the ordinary, new experiences. Our wedding, for example, is going to be a bit unique and non-traditional. And breaking out of the status quo kind of excites me a bit.

However, there are some traditions that are important and worth keeping. And one of those is: The Charlie Brown Christmas Party.

It’s put on every year by Abbie Jean Short (wanna know what  Proverbs 31 Woman looks like? Look at her life).

Every year about 2 weeks before Christmas, she has tons of people over to her place in Norris City. Some of these people she grew up with, went to college with in Illinois and Kentucky, and go to her church. And somehow, we are all connected. Every year I go, I feel like I know everyone. And mainly, our common connection is Abbie. She cooks a delicious meal, we watch Charlie Brown Christmas, laugh, and play games.

This what it looked like this year:

By the way, many people dress all Christmas-like (that’s kinda tradition too)

The whole gang for this year…

Feelings of excitement doesn’t even describe it. It’s more like love.  And I am thankful for the example Abbie sets on how to love other people like Jesus loved us. You can just feel it in the room, year after year. That’s a tradition worth keeping.

gatherings.

She is energetic and strong,  a hard worker. vs. 17

I have discovered something about myself in this past year. I love having people over to my house. The more, the better.

I frequently like to invite various people over. Every Tuesday, we have small group, and we prepare a full meal. But besides that I like to have: couples, kids, families, a whole bunch of girls, and anyone, really over to my apartment. It’s kinda like the epitome of my week if I get to have a gathering at my place.  So, I have learned a few tricks of the trade with having girls nights, dinner parties, small group, etc…

Sometimes I invite 20 people and 4 show up. Is that ok? Yes, yes it definitely is. Sometimes I invite 20 people and 25 show up. Is that also ok? It’s more than ok!

I thought I could give some tips on how to successfully have a gathering at your home:

1. Talk it up.

If you invited a whole bunch of people say on facebook, talk to them face-to-face about it too. And whenever you see them say things like, “Man, I am so excited for the get-together on Saturday! I’ll see you there right?” It really works. Because then they talk to their friends about it, and suddenly everyone is really excited about this get-together.

2. If you are doing a full meal for someone, ask if they have allergies or have a special diet.

This is really important because I sometimes have people over that are on a fast, are vegans, or are lactose intolerant. You want them to be able to eat just like everyone else. If you have knowledge of these specifications, they you can prepare something for them. And, they will appreciate you all the more.

3. Ask people to bring something.

A full meal alone for 10+ people can easily cost $30. I like having people over; however, I don’t like draining my bank account. Most of the time, people are more than happy to contribute in some small way.

4. Don’t get discouraged if not a lot of people show up.

Let me tell you a secret….come real close….. Sometimes less is more. Numbers does not equal fun or quality time. Sometimes, I enjoy just having 3 close girls over so we can share our deepest secrets rather than 20 where deep talk gets lost…it’s okay if it didn’t go as planned. Roll with it.

5. Smile.

I have a problem. Whenever I am in charge, my mind is so busy, and I forget to smile. I sometimes will have a room full of lots of people, and I feel so busy getting everything ready and talking to everyone that I forget to just laugh, smile, and be in the moment. Enjoy the company…they will feel your stress, even if you pretend like you’re not stressed. They can feel it. So don’t stress!

6. Try preparing new foods.

While it’s simple to grab a frozen pizza and pop it in the oven, go outside of your comfort zone, and make something new. Some unique salad or dessert no one has ever heard of. I bet they will talk about it later and tell how much they enjoyed it. Disclaimer: frozen pizza for parties is not bad. I just mean, don’t be afraid to try something new.

7. Set out plates, silverware, cups, etc.. ahead of time.

This is important because whenever people get there, they are probably pretty hungry. If they see all this food, then they just want to start eating. Whether you are using glass plates or paper plates, set the table early or set the plates out buffet style before they get there. Organization is key.

8. Have fun!

Enough said. Relationships with people is probably one of the best gifts besides salvation God has given us on this earth. Enjoy it, and make time for it. You won’t regret it.

wonderland.

She makes her own bedspreads.  She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns. vs. 22

I love small group.  It’s what I look forward to all week. Lots of fun people coming over to my house for supper and talk about our Savior. Good stuff.

Once a month we meet with other small groups, and this is called our Discipleship Community. Well, we had our annual DC Christmas Party on Tuesday. A BLAST…to say the least.

The concept this year was everyone dress up like a movie/tv character. Our group decided to all do the same movie….Alice in Wonderland. Heck yes. But see, whenever you choose an elaborate movie that Tim Burton directed you can’t just throw a few items together and say it’s good. You gotta go ALL OUT. And that’s what we did.

On Sunday afternoon, we went to the GoodWill to dig for costumes, props, etc..

Being in theater for many years means I was able to get my hands on some awesome stage makeup from a friend.
And on Tuesday at 5pm, the dressing up began. Many people came over to my apartment and we painted faces, sprayed hair, and assembled props.

Transforming Tom into the Rabbit…

The Red Queen MUST have heart shaped lips…

Then we arrived at the party. And there were some great costumes there. Yet we were quite proud of ours.

Have a little look…

Cast of characters: Alice, the Rabbit (you know, “you’re late for a very important date!”), the White Queen, Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dumb, the Red Queen, Hamish, the Knave of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, Fiona Chattaway, the Card Queen of Hearts

We even acted like them….

A little overboard? Nah!

What a great looking couple of sorts.

I must say: I am part of a great small group. Everyone was so excited and willing to participate.
Lesson learned: You can find anything at the GoodWill.

bridal day.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. vs. 30

Saturday was one of those days I always want to remember.  Bridal Day. I ordered my wedding dress in July, and it came in this month. I bought it on a whim at a bridal sale that my future sister-in-law and future mother-in-law said, “It looks perfect for you.”

So, whenever it came in, I decided to make a fun day out of it: a trip two hours to Evansville, bridesmaids, mom, and lots of fun. I tried on the dress and came out and was able to show all of the girls. The big reveal is what I called it. Laura was able to model the bridesmaid dress  next to me wearing the wedding dress. Everything that has been in my head about how I wanted all of us to look came together. Obviously, some pictures cannot be shown due to my fiancé  not seeing it until the wedding….however, here’s some highlights:

Then we went to eat at Olive Garden. We had an awesome server and stayed there for a long time talking, laughing, and for some getting to know each other better.

Then we went to the mall. I must say, this was the best part. We found bridesmaid shoes to go with the wedding dress, went to Victoria’s Secret, and then played with makeup in Sephora.

Whenever I walk down the aisle, I imagine looking like Audrey Hepburn. So I bought red, peep toe shoes and then tested some red lip stain at Sephora.

You like? Well, I did. So I bought it to wear at the wedding. The best part is that since it’s lip stain, it’s not supposed to come off on the big moment: You may now kiss your bride.

Then we decided to have a little fun with the red lip stain.

I am sure thankful for these girls and my mom. They are some of the most supportive women in my life. They all teach me what true beauty means..that it is reflected by the heart. If the heart of a woman fears the Lord, that is truly a beautiful woman. May I remember that the day I walk down the aisle to become one with my man. May I be one with my Lord so I can be one with my husband.

days of thanks.

I was able to celebrate Thanksgiving many times this weekend. I attended three different meals between both of our families and got to catch up with some friends from back home. Gee, it was some good days of thanks.

On Wednesday, Kaleb and I were able to have two Thanksgiving feasts. One at his Grandma Ollie’s home and another at his Mom’s newly built home.

His Mom always goes above and beyond to make every detail of the dinner to the presentation amazing. She decorated the table with beautiful fresh flowers and hand-picked gourds. Fall time decorations to the max.

I like her style. I can learn a lot from how much time, effort, and love she puts into family meals.

Friday night we were able to have one of the most exciting friend reunions I’ve had in a long time. I LOVE these people! We ate at Tequila’s, of course.

After a good meal of laughing and catching up on life, we went back to Abbie Jean’s home. We played games. Lots of games. Kaleb came up with a lot of improv games that we played. This group of people are the perfect candidates for improv games. It was quite entertaining, to say the least.

This night entailed lots of video taking and laughter.

And of course, lots of acting.

On Saturday night, we had Thanksgiving at my parents house with my Omi from Chicago. This was an interesting day. That morning I got a call from my Dad saying that our two dogs got into a fight, and as my mom was trying to break it up, one of my dogs bit her. My Dad had to take my Mom to the Emergency Room. He asked me if I could cook Thanksgiving dinner. Well……I have never cooked the entire Thanksgiving meal before, but I thought: “Let’s give it a try!”

I went over to their house and my Omi prepared the turkey while I prepared all of the other dishes. Whenever they got home from the E.R., the turkey was ready for me to carve and all of the other dishes were coming out of the oven. Somehow, the timing was just right.

My parents, Omi, Kaleb, and myself sat down and had a Thanksgiving meal. It was quite an unconventional day. My Dad joked that he will never hear the end of how I “saved Thanksgiving dinner.”  It was a great learning experience for me.

In Jordan Sparks words in response to me having to cook Thanksgiving dinner last minute, “What a woman!” That kinda made my day.

Sunday was a day to go to church, catch up on homework, spend times with some girls, and rest.

My weekend consisted of many days of thanks, not just one. I am grateful for the experiences I had this weekend. God is teaching me everyday what that Proverbs 31 woman looks like.