Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pizza crust and brownies

Remember how last week I wrote about how things seemed more normal at work and I was glad the fall semester had started? I take it all back. This week has nearly killed me. On top of the chaos of a new semester and a new schedule, we attempted to launch new apps and a registration system. It's been a disaster to say the least.

But instead of writing about that, I'm actually going to write about cooking! I tried a couple of Pinterest recipes in the last week that I thought I would share.

I love making my own pizza crust and having some in the freezer as an easy dinner option. I've tried several in the last couple of years, and it felt like time for a new one: Perfect homemade pizza crust. The instructions are pretty useful, and actually included instructions for freezing. I didn't have the right mixer or attachments, so I did it all by hand. It turned out thicker than I would have liked. I rolled it out thinly, but it puffed up a lot when it was cooking. I'm not sure if that is how it is supposed to be or if I did something wrong in the process. I have two crusts in the freezer, but I'm undecided about whether I'll make this one again.

For the first day of school, I decided to make treats for work. I had some brownie mix and a recipe for peanut butter brownies on a Pinterest board. I love chocolate and peanut butter together, and this was a great combination. They were a hit with J and students in the newsroom (not that it's a tough crowd).

Lastly, I have to share about my Amish experience. J and I went out to Amish country several weekends ago. It was interesting and a fun day trip. I thought it would be more of a village where we could walk between the different stores. Instead everything was separated by about a mile of gravel road. So it was a lot of getting in and out of J's truck, but we happened on some cool places.

The main spot on my list was the bulk foods store. I stocked up on dried spices (a whole tub was $1), pepitas (aka shelled pumpkin seeds), sprinkles for baking and some other cooking staples. They were also selling packaged mixes for buttermilk biscuits and pancakes. I bought a bag of each. It wasn't until I got home that I realized there were no directions on either one. I just had this flour-type mix with no idea what to add to it to actual make biscuits or pancakes. I let them sit in the cabinet for weeks, and this I finally did some Googling and found out I just needed to add water, and I eventually figured out the right proportions and cooking time. I just felt so dumb for not asking about that when I bought it from the girls working at the store.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Returning to normal life

Well, the semester has started, and things are crazy but yet feeling more normal at work. I told J the other night that I think this has been the best summer of my adult working life. Ireland and London probably would have put it on top anyway, but it wasn't just that. J and I got to do a ton of fun things that I didn't even know existed around here and I wouldn't have done alone. I spent the better part of a week at home with my family, which was long overdue. And the change in the rhythm at work made it more relaxing. Yes, I was really busy when I was at work, but when I left, I was able to walk away. There was no grading or planning for class, and the level of drama with students seemed less.

So on Sunday I was pretty bummed about getting back into a new semester. But what I found is that I was actually ready to be back in the rhythm of teaching and interacting with lots of students instead of the same dozen I worked with all summer. There are a ton of students in the newsroom this semester (more than 100 reporters), and I love how loud the newsroom is all of the time. In fact, I feel like I work better under those conditions. I spent last week hiding in my office, prepping for class stuff, and by Thursday afternoon, I was dying to be out in the newsroom instead of in my quiet office.

I realized that the semester is what is normal to me, and the summer was a nice break that was just the right amount of time. I'm glad all of my co-workers are back in the office, and we have a regular schedule so there is less complaining about how much everyone is working.

Of course the change in my schedule has been pretty dramatic, and I'm still getting used to not only getting up at 6 a.m. but also going to bed earlier. I realized that I've never had a job where I worked only days. I have always had to work at least one later shift a week. And the last time I consistently got up before 7 a.m. was high school. It's a big adjustment for me, but I am loving walking out the door at 3 p.m. It feels like the day flies by.

And I just have to add in an unrelated small world story. I posted a picture on Facebook of J and I at the state fair on Saturday night. A friend that I was in journalism school with commented that she knew J. It turns out she not only grew up going to J's church, but her grandfather was the pastor there for several years and her mom still attends. I tell myself constantly that Columbia is J's Signal Mountain because everywhere we go we see someone he knows, but what I didn't consider is that his Signal Mountain is also my collegetown and there is obviously some overlap I didn't realize.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Not always joy

A lot of my friends from different parts of my life are in the having kids stage. I love seeing pictures of their little ones and often find it hard to believe that someone my age has a kindergartner. I got to see a good friend from high school while I was at home and meet her 18-month-old daughter. It is so wonderful to see my friends as parents.

But this week I realized that the having kids stage is not always filled with joy. A friend from college and a friend I knew from an internship both delivered stillborn babies in the last two weeks. When I found out about the second one on Sunday, tears spilled down my cheeks. Both of the couples are fully relying on God for strength in this and trusting Him in the hardship, but my heart just breaks for them. I know the nurseries were ready, names had been chosen and showers had been thrown, but there's no baby to bring home.

And then another friend I know from my first job is waiting to find out if her 3-week-old son has cystic fibrosis. Whatever the diagnosis, I know that little boy is lucky to have my friends as parents, but I just ache for them as they wait for news and could have to navigate a difficult disease.

I know that God is in all things and is comforting these friends, but it is still hard to see them walk these hard roads.

This is a depressing post, but this has just been on my heart for the last few days.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Quick update

Well, it's the week before classes start, and things are going about 100 miles an hour. But here's a quick update on what's been going on.

J and I went to a Zac Brown Band concert in St. Louis a few weeks ago. We met up with a friend of mine from college and had a lot of fun. It was great to hear them live.

And then I headed to Tennessee last week to see this precious girl.

I hadn't seen her since Christmas, and I couldn't believe the way she had turned into a little person. She talks and talks and has such personality. I wanted to bring her home with me.

But I returned to reality and the craziness of the week before classes start. Campus has come to life again, and the traffic has returned. I'm spending the week hiding out in my office and preparing for class. I still have a long to-do list, but I'm already much more prepared for class than I was this time last year.

It's going to be a busy semester. I'm taking a graduate class, and the weekends are filling up with really fun things. Of course, all that to say I might not be posting much.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Olympics

You probably knew this post was coming.

I am a huge Summer Olympics fan. Soccer, women's gymnastics and diving are my favorites, but I'm also enjoying swimming. I was dreading being at work and knowing everything before it was on TV, but keeping things updated on the website at work has actually been a lot of fun. I follow what the wire service posts, but I also watch a lot of it live online.

On Tuesday, I had three screens going — iPad, desktop and laptop. On the iPad I had the live NBC feed, on the desktop I had the wire service and the administration for our website, and on the laptop my Twitter feed and email. And I do the same thing at home, but add in the TV and phone.

And even though I know everything that happens and have usually watched everything on primetime, I still watch it all on primetime when I get home.

So I know a lot about what is going on at the Olympics every day. In a work meeting on Tuesday I questioned some of what we were doing in print related to the Olympics and revealed how closely I follow everything. So later on, there was a debate about something Olympics-related in the newsroom, and my co-worker sided with me, saying I'm the mid-Missouri expert on the Olympics. I wouldn't go that far, but I will admit I'm Olympics-obsessed right now.

Some of my favorite things:

1. I love how unpolished and real most of these athletes are. When I watched Missy Franklin on the podium Monday night, I could see in her watery eyes that this has been her dream for most of her 17 years. It was real emotion, not manufactured. With all of the reality shows on TV, everything feels manufactured and fake. But these athletes are the real deal. They aren't always going to be eloquent or "quotable" in interviews, but you know they are speaking from the heart.

2. Gabby Douglas. She is the Shawn Johnson of this Olympics. She is so good, and you can't watch her without smiling. And she meditates on Scripture.

3. The Lochte/Phelps rivalry. This is manufactured by the media. But on Saturday, I made a bet with the sports editor that Ryan Lochte would win more medals than Michael Phelps, purely because I'm tired of the hype around Phelps. Neither one is really proving to be as great as expected, but I'm ahead by one gold medal at this point. The bet — I have to admit to him that I was wrong if I lose — is keeping things interesting and is probably why I care about swimming in this Olympics.

4. Twitter and the Olympics apps. There's a lot of complaints about NBC and the tape delay. NBC has definitely had its moments, and the tape delay is frustrating, but since I'm watching online and on TV later, their plan must be working. But I've loved following everything on Twitter and seeing the athletes tweet. I also have the NBC Olympics app on my phone, and I've really enjoyed the primetime companion. There are facts, photos and trivia updated during primetime. J loves trivia and is really good at it, so we've had fun answering questions while we watch.

5. Soccer. It's so rare that I get to watch soccer, I have to find a way to watch it when it is on. I had it on my iPad at work on Tuesday (so glad I can use work as an excuse for watching soccer). And I'm really looking forward to being on vacation and at my parents' next week for the finals.

And my one complaint: The Olympics can really make a 28-year-old feel old. These athletes are sometimes a little older than half my age. Some of the girls on the gymnastics team weren't even born when the U.S. won the gold medal in 1996. I vividly remember watching the '96 team practice at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. And I'm only a year older than Michael Phelps, but the TV people make it sound like 27 is 40. I hope these athletes are able to move on and able to enjoy the rest of their lives when they leave their athletic careers. Your life is definitely not over at 28.