Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bakefest 2010

Mexican hot chocolate and cinnamon

chocolate and mint
meyer lemon and cranberry

eggnog and spiced rum

Last Saturday night we had a bakefest at the Elliott house.  We made approximately a billion mini-cupcakes, maybe a few more than that.  We made four varieties:  eggnog cupcakes with spiced rum buttercream, chocolate cupcakes with mint buttercream, meyer lemon and cranberry cupcakes with meyer lemon buttercream, and Mexican hot chocolate cupcakes with cinnamon buttercream.  We boxed most of them up for our coworkers at both churches...and I sent one tin to Shreveport, Louisiana. 

These cupcakes were the product of a recipe hunt online.  There are two cupcake blogs that I really like, so they were a major source of inspiration.  I also wanted to vary the flavors so that each box would have something for everyone.

I now wish that I had taken a picture of the MASSIVE amount of buttercream I made before splitting it into four parts to make the different flavors.  Picture six sticks of butter (or seven?), 3.5 pounds of powdered sugar, and some heavy cream.  It wouldn't all fit in my KitchenAid.  And that's saying something.  I definitely did not stick to the icing recipes - just added the spices and flavors until Gates said they tasted right.

Here are links to the recipes:

Mexican Hot Chocolate Mini-Cupcakes
Cinnamon Buttercream

Eggnog Cake and Spiced Rum Buttercream

Chocolate Cake and Mint Buttercream (I skipped the filling)

Meyer Lemon and Cranberry Cake (I mixed the filling into the batter)
Meyer Lemon Buttercream

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

sermon from last week

          I love to sleep.  I have loved to sleep for as long as I can remember.  I never cared much about Saturday cartoons as a child.  I never particularly liked breakfast.  I preferred to sleep through all of those things.
But my parents swear that there was a time in which I never slept, pretty much from birth until eighteen months.   My younger sister, Sara, on the other hand, slept all the time as an infant.  She was one of those quote un-quote perfect babies.   So when Sara had baby, my niece Addalie, two weeks ago, we were all hoping that she would take after her mother.  Unfortunately for Sara and her husband, their newborn seems to be more like me.  My sweet niece doesn’t sleep much at all, and she certainly does not sleep at night.  I am positive that my sister is telling the truth about this, because I spent one night last week with the baby so her parents could rest. 
At about two AM, I was tired enough that my thoughts started to wander.  I began thinking about my niece, wondering what she would be like in a year, or two years, or sixteen years.  Would she have my sister’s curly hair and ability to sing?  Would she take after her aunt and have a terrible allergy to mold?  Would she be more like Bradley’s family – have qualities that I don’t even really know about?  This precious child has been born with so many questions left unanswered -  we will all have to wait and see in order to know what she will become, who she will be.
Most people come into our lives with these question marks.  Throughout our lives we meet new people.  Some of them become our husbands, wives, life-long friends.    We sometimes know things about people before we meet them – sometimes we have heard stories or anecdotes that convince us to be someone’s roommate our freshman year of college or go on a blind date.   And sometimes, we are introduced to people by a mutual friend. 
For scores of people in Judea and Jerusalem, John the Baptist was the person that introduced them to Jesus. John the Baptist appeared on the scene to make sure that everyone would know Jesus before he arrived.  Wearing his strange clothing and eating his strange food, John went forth proclaiming that all should “prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” for the
“one who was more powerful than John was coming…to baptize the people with fire and the Holy Spirit.”  He told everyone he encountered that they had to change their lives, had to confess their sins and repent, before they encountered Christ. 
         That order of things is certainly familiar to us.  We confess our sins each week before we encounter Christ in the Eucharist.  But imagine how confusing this must have been for those who had never heard about Jesus at all.  To be told that you needed to change your life, right the wrongs you have been doing, and to be told that by someone wearing strange clothing and eating bugs?  How impossibly strange would that be?
         Almost as impossibly strange, perhaps, as trying to digest John the Baptist’s words today.  After all, for most of us, this is hardly the time to be thinking through all of the things we do and trying to decide what we need to change, what we need to confess, how we need to repent.  Instead, this is the time of year to spend a couple hours online designing a Christmas card, spend a couple more hours waiting in lines to buy presents or groceries, spend our last few hours wrapping and packing to make sure we are ready for the flurry of excitement and activity that is the holiday season.
Self-reflection?  Prayers?  Who has time for that?  After all, it will be Lent soon enough, and Lent offers plenty of opportunities to do those things.  And yet, we, like those Judean residents so many years ago, are being called to make straight the way for the Lord.  John the Baptist is calling upon us to pull our lives together, find the things that we need to change and act on them.  Lucky for us, this season has a tendency to bring out the worst in some of us – making it all the more easy to see where we might need to make a few changes. 
And we do this all in preparation for Christmas – the time in which the world first met Jesus Christ as a small baby in a manger.  A baby that surely, upon first glance, seemed just like any other baby.  And yet he would in fact become the person that would change the world. 
What if we all took this time to remember that we, too, were once babies.  We were all once very small people with very large question marks.  Nobody knew if we would be the ones to cure a dread disease or become President or be willing to host the family for Christmas.  Nobody knew if we would be the ones to adopt angels off the Clarence tree or if we would be the ones needing to be adopted.  By now, I know it seems that many of our question marks have probably been answered.  But this passage today stands as a reminder to us all that it is not too late to change some of those answers.  It’s not too late to straighten ourselves out and make changes for the better.  It’s not too late to find new questions in our lives and do our best to answer them while following Christ.
For myself, there is no way that I will ever have a hit song on the radio.  I am pretty sure we can rule out curing a disease, too.  And being an Olympic athlete.  And well, frankly, a lot of things.  But there are still so many questions left unanswered – about what kind of aunt I will be, and wife, and parent.  Will I be the person that invites my in-laws, and my sister’s in-laws, and just about anyone to Christmas?  Will I be the person who declines receiving a gift from my aunt and instructs her to buy an alternative giving card instead?  Will I be willing to take stock of my life during this season and figure out how to give more of myself to the things that delight God and bring me life?  Hopefully, I will.  And, hopefully, you will too.  ‘Tis the season, after all.  AMEN.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

the sixth of December

Last night, we went to Babalu, because I was in a horrid mood after an encounter with Williams-Sonoma.  The food was very good, particularly the shrimp tacos (shrimp was the fish of the day).  I may have to go eat the fish tacos again very soon.  We also had Mexican street corn, guac, and empanadas.  Delicious.  The best part came at the end of the evening.  I had asked to see the menu again because I thought I might try one more thing.  I decided on the corn.  Just as I said to Gates, "I really wish the waitress would come by so I could order the corn," our waitress appeared and put an order of corn on our table.  We immediately came to the conclusion that either a) Babalu has hidden recording devices listening for what people want OR b) our server was psychic.    Sadly, we soon found out that neither was true.  We had gotten the corn meant for another table.   Unbelievably, that possibility had not occurred to me. 

So, Babalu = WIN

Williams-Sonoma on the other hand...whoa.  Basically, I placed an order online using 8 different gift cards.  I know, ridiculous, but we had bunch of cards in varying denominations and we wanted a knife set.  Knives are expensive.  I arranged things so that all of my gift cards would be used except one, which had a fairly large amount of money on it (it was our merchandise return credit from returning things that we got doubles of after the wedding).   I did this so that we would only have to carry one card around.  The W-S website told me that all of my cards were cashed out except the one, so I threw the cashed out cards away.  And then...yesterday, I went to buy a few things at W-S and was told that my card had a zero balance.  Turns out, the W-S website does not take credit off the cards in either a) the order you input them or b) the order in which it says it will take the credit off.  So, their ordering system used all of my credit on one card and left the other cards active - you know, the ones I threw away!!!  because their website said they were without value!!!!   Customer service admitted that this was their fault, but was not sure that they could do anything.  They were supposed to call me back today, but I haven't heard a thing.   SOOOO frustrating.

Williams-Sonoma = epic, monumental fail. 

Before going to W-S though, I stopped by the Apple Store to get my poor sad iPhone face fixed.  It had been broken since the week of our wedding.  Much to my surprise, the guy said that they have an unofficial policy that everyone get's one do-over with the iPhone.  Since I had not taken my do-over yet, I got a brand new phone for free.  SWEET.

Apple = WIN!!

quite the day, it was.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Turkey Day

I have been meaning to post about Thanksgiving since it happened.  It was a Thanksgiving of firsts for Gates and I.  Our first to be married AND our first to have people over.  We don't have our good china together yet, but I think we made a solid effort on the table.  Here's what it looked like - before the food, of course:

It's such a joy to just have the things that you need to set a table.  That's definitely new to me.  A special shout out goes to my sister, who gave me those great placemats by TAG.  I love TAG. 

We got our turkey and ham from the honeybaked ham store and my parents brought dressing.  We made the sweet potatoes and the creamed potatoes.  Actually, it's a bit misleading to say, "we," as really I went to the Cathedral for the Thanksgiving Day service and Gates made the side dishes.  (He did a great job.)  My sister brought her husband and her newborn daughter, and Sister Schubert graciously provided the rolls.

And...I made cupcakes for the occasion:  Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream as the frosting.  I was a bit disappointed with the cake, because it to be more spicy, but I loved the buttercream.  Everyone who was not me thought that both the cake and frosting were delicious.  I used the recipes found here.  Next time I want to use this recipe, as I think it has more of the flavors I was hoping to taste.