halfway flasback : june

I loved this picture and this lesson and this post. A prefect way to wrap up June’s Making Things Happen series!

Here is the crux of Making Things Happen, at least for me:

You have to be willing to let go of what you want to make happen.

Case in point:

A few weeks ago I was sitting in my apartment, working furiously on blogging and emailing and job searching and to-do listing. I had a pile of projects to get done before the night was over and I was bound and determined to finish them. Friday Night Lights was on in the background and I was perfectly content to productively wile the evening away.

I looked up from my laptop and noticed that the sunset was casting gorgeous colors on the bathroom shower tile. I had an internal debate about whether or not to Instagram the scene (“It’s so pretty!” “Really, no one wants to see your shower.” “But the colors!” “But seriously…it’s a shower.”) and decided in the end to snap a quick picture and post it:

Done! Pretty! Back to the to-do list!

But I couldn’t help but look outside at the sunset…wondering what it really looked like…not just what it looked like reflecting off of bathroom tile. I’d look out the window and then get back to work. And then repeat. And then repeat. There was this nagging feeling that I should do what’s most important: value the real beauty, not the productivity.

I knew I wanted to go see the sunset. But I did not want to go see the sunset, for a laundry list of reasons. Namely:

  • I did not want to leave my apartment (hello, have you seen Tim Riggins?!)
  • I did not want to leave my parking space and have to find a new one
  • I did not want to stop progress
  • I did not want to take pictures and have to edit them after
  • I did not want to make the effort

In the end…the sunset won. At the last possible moment I ran out of my apartment, out to the car, and drove up to Cobb’s Hill to see this:

A gorgeous sunset over a city I love and a memory I’ll have forever.

I was so glad I made the effort.

So to review, what I wanted for myself was this:

What God wanted for me was this:

Clearly, we have a winner.

When I get stuck inside of my own plans, I get left with only what I can do for myself. What’s easy, what’s comfortable, what’s right in front of me. That night, all I wanted was to check things off of my to-do list. I was content with a shower stall sunset.

But when I respond to what’s tugging at my heart, to the things that God gently guides me to, I get so much more. SO much more! Things I never could have dreamed on my own. I’ve always loved the verse from Ephesians that reminds us that God is capable of doing “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” It’s so true.

It’s important to do the hard work to make things happen – to have a plan, to take action steps, to look fear in the face, to have big dreams. But I think it’s most important to allow plenty of room for God to make things happen for us – immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine.

 

making things happen monday : the final lesson

Here is the crux of Making Things Happen, at least for me:

You have to be willing to let go of what you want to make happen.

Case in point:

A few weeks ago I was sitting in my apartment, working furiously on blogging and emailing and job searching and to-do listing. I had a pile of projects to get done before the night was over and I was bound and determined to finish them. Friday Night Lights was on in the background and I was perfectly content to productively wile the evening away.

I looked up from my laptop and noticed that the sunset was casting gorgeous colors on the bathroom shower tile. I had an internal debate about whether or not to Instagram the scene (“It’s so pretty!” “Really, no one wants to see your shower.” “But the colors!” “But seriously…it’s a shower.”) and decided in the end to snap a quick picture and post it:

Done! Pretty! Back to the to-do list!

But I couldn’t help but look outside at the sunset…wondering what it really looked like…not just what it looked like reflecting off of bathroom tile. I’d look out the window and then get back to work. And then repeat. And then repeat. There was this nagging feeling that I should do what’s most important: value the real beauty, not the productivity.

I knew I wanted to go see the sunset. But I did not want to go see the sunset, for a laundry list of reasons. Namely:

  • I did not want to leave my apartment (hello, have you seen Tim Riggins?!)
  • I did not want to leave my parking space and have to find a new one
  • I did not want to stop progress
  • I did not want to take pictures and have to edit them after
  • I did not want to make the effort

In the end…the sunset won. At the last possible moment I ran out of my apartment, out to the car, and drove up to Cobb’s Hill to see this:

A gorgeous sunset over a city I love and a memory I’ll have forever.

I was so glad I made the effort.

So to review, what I wanted for myself was this:

What God wanted for me was this:

Clearly, we have a winner.

When I get stuck inside of my own plans, I get left with only what I can do for myself. What’s easy, what’s comfortable, what’s right in front of me. That night, all I wanted was to check things off of my to-do list. I was content with a shower stall sunset.

But when I respond to what’s tugging at my heart, to the things that God gently guides me to, I get so much more. SO much more! Things I never could have dreamed on my own. I’ve always loved the verse from Ephesians that reminds us that God is capable of doing “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” It’s so true.

It’s important to do the hard work to make things happen – to have a plan, to take action steps, to look fear in the face, to have big dreams. But I think it’s most important to allow plenty of room for God to make things happen for us – immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine.

staying hungry : leftover pulled pork wraps

Yes, I’m serious.

Sometimes, dinner is a challenge. Some other times, lunch is also a challenge. These are the weeks when you find yourself eating yogurt and granola bars for lunch three days in a row because you failed to plan a vegetable situation. These are also the weeks when you find yourself taking leftover pork out of a takeout container, sticking it in a wrap, and calling it a recipe.

These weeks are this week.

That’s grammatically painful but realistically true.

This isn’t so much a Dinner Challenge meal as it is a Public Service Announcement, a plea to take your leftovers home after going out to eat even if you don’t think you’ll have enough for a meal. People, please. You can always make a meal out of leftovers!

Case in point: the above.

My general rule of thumb when I go out to eat for a substantial meal is to split everything on my plate in half with the plan to eat half then and take half home. It’s good for the waistline and for the budget.

So at Sticky Lips on Sunday I ate half of my sandwich and took the other half home. My mom also donated her leftover sandwich half because they were traveling for a few hours home and nothing says long car ride like eau de pulled pork.

I also ate half of the corn and fries. I didn’t heed my own advice to take them home because I thought they wouldn’t reheat well. Um, duh. They would have made a killer breakfast scramble.

Lesson of the day: always take home your leftovers.

Always.

Back to what I did take home: Monday dinner arrives and I have a takeout box with two half sandwiches inside my fridge. Good news! But rather than reheat both and call it a meal, I opted to switch things up a little bit. Since I don’t routinely consume restaurant-sized meals at home, I made it a little more my style by adding a generous side salad (spinach & arugula, blueberries, dried cherries, walnuts, goat cheese, balsamic) and applesauce…because it’s been sitting in my fridge for months and because who doesn’t love the combination of apple and pork?

The bun on the pulled pork had seen better days so I swapped it out for my favorite wrap and used some of the balsamic vinegar as extra sauce.

I think I might have enjoyed it even more the second time around!

And, by splitting up the leftovers like this, I got TWO meals instead of one! And if I had just taken home the corn and the fries I could have had three or probably four! (The time to let it go has already passed, but really…it frustrates me.)

Rating: 4/5. Lame? Yes. Delicious? Yes! I’ll deduct a point for level of difficulty and call it a darn good meal.

staying in rochester : sticky lips

Get ready to throw things:

I’ve lived in Rochester for almost 8 years now (OH MY WORD?!) and until last weekend…I had never been to Sticky Lips BBQ.

It’s a true story. It’s a sad story.

But no more! The rents and I visited on Father’s Day. I’m sure it was the first of many visits.

Really sure.

First things first, the atmosphere is perfect. It’s just fun to be inside, packed with retro signs and magazines from floor to ceiling without being overwhelming. And then you get the menu…

where to begin?! It’s HUGE.

We began with fried pickles to see what all the fuss was over. No discredit to Sticky Lips, but we didn’t utter much fuss. Maybe we’re just not a fried pickles family.

But that’s just fine because it allowed extra room for the real star of the show. Original Pulled Pork with Cajun Corn and Sweet Potato Fries:

Um, yes.

The sandwich was awesome. I’m more of a sauce-in-my-meat rather than sauce-on-my-meat kind of girl, but that was easily remedied with the huge selection of bottled sauces available on the table right alongside the ketchup and mustard.

The sides…oh, the sides! Because there was just so much goodness to sample we all decided to get one different side so we could try a bunch. I got the Cajun corn – a solid decision. My mom’s baked beans were top notch. But my dad struck gold with the cheddar grits. These grits were the stuff that dreams are made of. These grits made me want to say y’all and move south just for the opportunity to further bond with all things grits.

I’d go back again just for the grits.

And the sweet potato (three tries to spell potato just now, in case you were wondering) fries? AMAZING! I think they were tossed in a cinnamon sugar mixture, and they liked it. I did too.

The dessert list was tempting, but ultimately we were too full to say yes. Another reason to go back.

If you’re in the Rochester area, don’t wait 8 years to visit Sticky Lips. You’ll wake up in the middle of the night murmuring about cheddar grits and missed opportunities and wondering how early is too early for sweet potato fries.

making things happen monday : little fires

One of my favorite steps in The Challenge is making a list of what fires you up – the things that ignite a spark in your life and make you feel alive. Given my general enthusiasm for…everything…this was a tall but enjoyable order. Here’s the abridged version of my final cut:

scripture
love
Romans 12
color
beauty
light
creating
breakfast
coffee
photographs
typing thoughts into words into blogs
long runs
long walks
long weekends at home with Mom and Dad
snow
sunrise/sunset
being outside
s’mores
sweaty workouts
arugula/spinach/field greens
shoo fly pie
brownie sundaes
nouns
laughter
speaking truth out loud
praying alone out loud
country music
driving with the windows down
driving while having a revival-style worship jam session in my car
encouraging friends and strangers
Sundays
football
Gilmore Girls
magazines
healthy food
design
mentoring
Pennsylvania
the Packers
soft serve ice cream
road trips
flying
finding new restaurants
ESPN
NFL Films
The Food Network
cookbooks

The challenge for me isn’t knowing what fires me up. Clearly. If you have an hour or seven, I’ll be glad to tell you all about the things I love most about life. And, for the most part, the challenge isn’t even doing these things. As someone who veers on the creative side I have a natural tendency to cover all of my spaces with things that inspire me. I also have a natural tendency to protect time to invest in the things on the list above.

The hard part for me is consistency. Because, well, life is inconsistent. If I have a day with lots of free space I will jam-pack it with everything above. But on a normal day with lots of normal things – work and workouts and meals and bills and just LIFE – it’s hard to remember what’s on the list unless it’s starring me in the face.

So I decided to make it stare me in the face every day. I started lighting little fires to fuel the big bonfire above.

What can I realistically do daily to stoke little fires in my life? I can have time and space for the Lord. I can create a beautiful room that I want to live in. I can quit trying to work during breakfast and use that time to flip through magazines and watch ESPN (more on this coming soon!). I can commit to a workout program that makes me to sweat every day (another coming soon!). I can spend a free afternoon in the kitchen cooking to my heart’s content.

But probably the one thing that has made the biggest difference required the smallest commitment:

I can walk around my neighborhood every night, even for just a few minutes.

On almost every night since I’ve come home from Making Things Happen I’ve kept to this commitment. Because it encompasses SO many things that fire me up – time spent outside, the beauty of old houses, tree-lined streets, and nature in full bloom, perfect temperatures, long walks, peaceful quiet or thoughtful reflection or upbeat music, taking time to slow down and really SEE the gorgeous nouns in my life after paying more attention to the verbs during the workday, just taking time to be rather than do.

Sometimes these strolls start out cranky. Begrudgingly. Sometimes they end that way too. But 99% of the time, I come home markedly improved. More peaceful, more joyful, more grateful. And just plain happier.

It’s totally worth the 5 – 50 minutes that I probably would have spent on the internet instead. I’m getting something so much better in exchange.

So, friends, what fires YOU up? And what can you do to sustain little fires in your life (and roast a few marshmallows while you’re at it!)?

And Just To Review:

You can still sign up for the mini Challenge here on the blog! Here’s how to participate:

1. Comment here or on ANY Making Things Happen Monday Post to let me know that you are doing The Challenge.

2. DO The Challenge! It’s a 10 Step process that will set you up for success in every area of life.

3.  During The Challenge, you will receive email encouragement from me and a nice surprise in the mail when you successfully complete all 10 Steps (and you will successfully complete all 10 Steps!).

4. One lucky duck will win a prize package, announced at the completion of The Challenge.

I can’t emphasis what a game-changer this is. If you are a student, a mom, a business owner, a summer vacationer – if you are a human and you want to live life well – you can greatly benefit from the lessons you’ll learn from The Challenge! If you are serious about making the most out of every single day of your life, this is a really great place to start.

Ready Set GO!!!

staying real(ist) : the water inside my glass

I am a realist to the core. I have no idea whether my glass is half-full or half-empty. All I know is that there’s water inside and I like water.

Over the past week I’ve encountered some car problems. That sentence should actually read, “Over the past decade I’ve encountered some car problems,” because that seems to be my lot in life. Or perhaps I should just stop buying/driving old cars. It’s a vicious cycle.

In any case, I’ve been able to see both sides of the situations that have made themselves all too available to me this week. And because I’m fresh out of other blog fodder to talk about today, I’m going to tell you about them:

Problem: My car was broken into.

Downside: Stolen GPS, spare change keeper, and a few pieces of gum.

Brightside: Apparently the perpetrator wasn’t a fan of Sweet Mint, since that package was left unharmed. Good news, because that one is my favorite! Also, I’m sure the world has derived great joy from watching me navigate the old school way: post-it note directions on the steering wheel interspersed with trial and error. Emphasis on error.

Problem: My AC doesn’t work anymore.

Downside: Open windows + lip gloss = sticky disaster.

Brightside: I live in Rochester, so I use the AC approximately twice a year. And often less than that, because I actually prefer open windows to AC.

Problem: My car did not sound well when I pulled into the parking lot at Wegmans on Saturday.

Downside: Momentary anxiety that I would not be able to restart my car after running into Wegmans for a few things.

Brightside: Have you ever BEEN to the Mt. Read Wegmans??? It’s beautiful! Problems? What problems?

Problem: My car did not sound well when I pulled out of the parking lot at Ontario Beach a few hours after the Wegmans run…and is that smoke? Oh, yes, that is definitely smoke. Accompanied by a fragrance not endorsed by Yankee Candle: burning motor parts.

Downside: The smoke and burning smell pretty much covers it. The noises weren’t ideal, either.

Brightside: Lack of flames is always a plus.

Problem: I need a tow.

Downside: I need a tow.

Brightside: I have Triple A!!!

Problem: I need to hitch a ride with the tow truck driver.

Downside: Considering my track record with this sort of thing, there’s about a 110% chance that this will not end well. When I mentioned to my parents that I’d call when I got home so they’d know I hadn’t been abducted, my mom followed with, “Well, if he holds you ransom and wants money…we don’t have any…so we’ll see you in heaven!”

Brightside: Not being held ransom. And having a great conversation! He called when he entered the parking lot to find me and said, “Wow, I haven’t been here since the 80’s.” So I said, “Oh, really? How come?” He answered, “Well I’m old and fat now, so it doesn’t really hold the same appeal anymore.” And thus began a very enjoyable 20 minute drive to the mechanic.

Problem: I need to walk home from the mechanic.

Downside: My decision to bring 8 magazines, 2 liters of water, enough snacks for everyone at the beach, and the entire contents of my regular purse in my beach bag for the day lost it’s luster when faced with the prospect of dragging said bag across the city on-foot rather than in-vehicle.

Brightside: Free, unexpected weight training! And on a beautiful day, no less!

Problem: I had planned to stop at the grocery store on the way home to get toilet paper. And because I’m excellent at planning ahead, this had become a dire need.

Downside: I realized this after I had already walked the entire way home…and passed several stores which would have gladly sold me a variety of toiletries.

Brightside: I live across the street from a gas station.

Problem: Gas station toilet paper is expensive. 

Downside: I paid $4.30 for two rolls of toilet paper. Let’s review that: I paid $4.30 for TWO ROLLS OF TOILET PAPER.

Brightside: There is no brightside to paying $4.30 for two rolls of toilet paper. That’s just crazy.

And to close: an observation.

These car problems began when I was in North Carolina for Making Things Happen. When I arrived at my hotel I popped the hood…so that I could stare blankly at what was underneath. But in a parking lot that couldn’t have held more than 10 cars, it took 30 seconds for two people to come over and ask if I needed help. One of them offered to check my oil. The other went back to her room to get me a flashlight…so I could stare blankly with good lighting.

On Saturday when my car started spewing smoke and sounding like a dozen cats were trapped beneath the hood I was in a parking lot that held hundreds of other cars. While I was looking for a safe place to park so that I could get towed out, some girl yelled at me, telling me to turn off my car already. Sage advice, there. After that, it took nearly an hour for anyone to stop, which wasn’t a problem because I was just waiting for Triple A to come to my rescue so I didn’t need anything anyway. But the woman who did stop said, “I keep seeing all these big guys walk right past you sitting there with your hood up and I’m like, ‘What the [bleep] is wrong with people?!’ You okay, honey?”

The pessimist would say that people are rude. The optimist would say that nice people can be found everywhere if you wait long enough. This realist says that people are funny, and I love them.

staying in rochester : f. olivers

When my parents were here last weekend we ate lunch at Magnolia’s and then wandered down Park Ave to F. Oliver’s, purveyor of flavor-infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars.

After the WONDERFUL store employee showed us around and let us sample a thousand different combinations…my Mom and I decided to get two bottles and then split them at home: Orchard Ripe Red Apple and Farmstand Strawberry.

I can tell you with confidence that these bottles are no longer half-full. They are now almost three-quarters empty.

Because OH MY WORD…this stuff is incredible!

I love many things about these vinegars, and let me tell you about a few of them: First, I love it that what is on the label is what is in the bottle. There is no Red #5 or Strawberry Flavor in the Farmstand Strawberry, there is just pure strawberry goodness infused into a smooth balsamic vinegar. And that’s another thing I love – these aren’t your runny, grocery store vinegars – these guys have body and heft. They’re almost closer to a reduction in consistency without being quite so syrupy. They also don’t have the bite of traditional vinegars, so they taste AMAZING as-is over salads, pastas, ice cream, straight from the bottle, etc.

And don’t even get me started about the flavors we left behind.

F. Oliver’s, you have a customer for LIFE.

staying out of rochester [nc series] : north carolina

I understand why in your mind you’re going to Carolina, Mr. Taylor.

And can we just talk about those last two for a minute? I thought New York was filled with trees, but North Carolina is filled with TREES. Oh my goodness! I LOVED all of the greenery!

And the flowers…OH, the flowers!!!

Later today, we’ll take a little non-Instagram tour through the Sarah P. Duke Gardens and the Bolin Creek Trail. Yes…I actually whipped out my real camera on this trip.

But oh, North Carolina, you did my heart good.

(My stomach, too. We’ll talk about that tomorrow.)

Going to Carolina in My Mind,

Beka

staying in rochester : birthday weekend food tour

I celebrated my birthday over the weekend. And by celebrated, I mean I ate an abundance of really good food with a lot of really good people.

OH…the abundance!

In highly uncharacteristic fashion…I didn’t photography ANYTHING that I ate. Who am I?! I’ll return to normalcy next time around, but for now, enjoy the logos and website links!

Here’s how it all went down:

Thursday:

Location: Napa Wood Fired Pizza

Napa

Order: The Medusa (wood-fired pizza with basil pesto, goat cheese, the Napa cheese blend, figs, and caramelized onions instead of pineapple)

Friday:

Location: Yotality

Order: Vanilla, Pink Lemonade, and Pomegranate Frozen Yogurts with Toppings

Location: Dogtown

Dogtown - Where the best hot dogs live

Order: The Schnauzer (traditional dog with sauteed onions and brown mustard)

Location: Yotality (Round Two)

Order: Peanut Butter and Chocolate Frozen Yogurt with Toppings

Location: Village Bakery (full post coming soon…this place stole my heart!)

Order: Farm Table Salad (organic greens, carrots, tomatoes, avocado, goat cheese, croutons, nuts, lemon vinaigrette), the Daybreaker (espresso, steamed milk, honey, vanilla simple syrup, cinnamon sprinkles) (OH MY WORD.)

And…there’s still a trip to Simply Crepes left for next weekend! Does life get any better?

Here’s to good food and extended celebrations!