The Saga of My First Pintrocity

I have been working on the guest room most of the morning and the early afternoon with the goal of getting just one room exactly the way I want it.  It’s a small room and as you can imagine won’t include much stuff, but still its taken much longer than I expected or intended.  Part of the problem is that there are so many projects I want to work on in “The Parsonage” that in the midst of my hunt for some vase or painting to use in the guest room I was distracted by another little job that simply must be done right in that moment.  [smile]  I’m not entirely done as I sit down for a writing break, but the last few tasks are essentially just hanging some art and my favorite handyman is at the office.  I could probably hang the art myself, but it’s much more fun to have Caleb help so I’m on pause until he gets to a stopping point on sermon prep for Sunday.  [smile]

Can I make a confession?  I promise to get back to the titular post in a moment, but first I must confess that despite moving in, I mean really moving in with decorating and organizing, the whole life we are building here still feels a bit surreal.  It feels like we’ve been given this really fantastic house to “play” or “pretend” in.  Living in the apartment with Caleb never felt that way and so I can only assume that the extra space to make my own has something to do with this feeling of “playing house.”  I took a photo of the guest room last night after I had made the bed to text my family to show them that whenever one of them decides to drop in we have a bed (and now a room) ready and couldn’t stop staring at the photo.  I told Caleb that I thought it was just so cute and he responded that of course it was because it was in our house. “That’s our guest room, darling.”  The thought of it was much more profound to me than his simple words would indicate to someone else.  Alright enough about all the adjusting that I’m discovering comes along with a move and onward to the pintrocity!

The cupcakes when finished baking.

The caramel centered cupcakes when finished baking.

This post could also be called “How Margaret Quick Thinking Prevented Major Dental Disaster.”  [smile]  Caleb’s birthday was about a week ago and in advance of his party I asked what kind of cake he’d like to celebrate.  True to his sweet tooth loving form he requested some kind of chocolate caramel creation.  Of course my first thought was to search Pinterest for a easy recipe with a twist.  I love to incorporate a twist in my baking creations! [smile]  I came across a super easy recipe for a chocolate cupcake with a caramel center and knew at once it was the one to try.  I’m used to making my own caramel, but realized I wouldn’t have all the time in the world and was swayed to try this recipe because instead of having to make homemade caramel it used Kraft caramel squares.  The absence of homemade caramel should have been my first clue that disaster was imminent, but I so wanted it to work so I ignored any apprehensions I might have had.  [smile]

The recipe called for the Kraft caramel squares to be inserted into the cupcakes for the last five minutes of baking.  So dutifully I plopped one in each cupcake, but when I removed the cupcakes I was immediately dismayed to find that the caramel square had barely lost its shape let alone melt into the cake.  I was so disappointed with the results that I decided to not make another batch with the caramel squares which turned out to be a good idea because it helped me discover an alternative.  [smile]  When the icing was finally prepared, I found that the caramel had re-hardened to form a very dense and quite brittle center that I thought for certain that meant a cracked tooth was in very near future for one of the party-goers.  A quick fix was in order.  So I deconstructed the existing caramel centers and filled the cupcakes with a mixture of a few of the second batch cupcakes that my oven decided it did not want to bake to perfection anyway and the caramel sauce I used for the icing.  I was sure that they would still not be the best cupcakes I’ve made, but was pleased to receive rave reviews from the rest of the family at the party.  My adapted recipe for chocolate caramel centered cupcakes and the recipe for caramel frosting I used is below.

The finished cupcakes!

The finished cupcakes!

Cupcakes: (from Southern Living Cookbook)

20130711-200921.jpgYou will need:  1/2 cup shortening, 2 cups sugar, 2 large eggs, 4 (1 oz) unsweetened chocolate squares, melted, 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 3/4 cup buttermilk, 3/4 cup water, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Beat shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add sugar, beating well.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition.  Add chocolate, mixing well.  Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; add to chocolate mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Mix at low speed after each addition until blended.  Add water, mixing well.  Stir in vanilla.  Spoon batter into paper-lined muffin pans, filling each cup half full.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes.  Remove from pans, and cool on wire racks.

Frosting: (slightly adapted from Cara’s Cliche)

You will need:  1 cup unsalted butter (softened not melted), 2 teaspoons vanilla, 1 teaspoon salt, 2/3 cup caramel sauce (I used Smucker’s Ice Cream Caramel Sauce.), 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Mix butter with hand mixer until smooth and fluffy. Now add the vanila, salt, caramel and vanilla.  Mix until fully combined. Gradually add the powdered sugar mixing each time in between.

20130711-200945.jpgFilling and Assembly:

You will need:  5 or 6 baked cupcakes, approximately 1 cup caramel sauce (I used Smucker’s Ice Cream Caramel Sauce.)

Spoon out the center of each cupcake.  Set aside centers in bowl with 5 to 6 crumbled cupcakes.  Add about 1/2 cup of caramel sauce to crumbled cupcakes and mix until a gooey mixture forms.  Squeeze or spoon about a teaspoon of sauce into each cupcake and add a 1/2 tablespoon of the gooey mixture to each cupcake center.  Frost with salted caramel frosting as desired.

-Margaret

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Growing in Gratitude: 633,782

Growing in Gratitude: A weekly series on “Daily Musings on Life Together”
The psalmist wrote, “Sing a joyful noise to the Beloved all peoples of the earth! Serve the Lord with a glad heart! Join hands in the great Dance of Life!” (from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying). Join me in this dance each Monday as I practice giving thanks for things big, small, tangible, and intangible. Feel free to count your blessings in the comments.

Originally I was hoping this post or one like it would be what would mark our move day, but honestly I simply too exhausted to move when we finally got everything unloaded and the essentials ready for our first night in our new home.  After my forced sabbatical during the time of no internet and my struggle to get back into the habit of writing daily, I am finally getting a chance to put thoughts to paper about moving into our first home nearly 2 weeks to the day of our move.  All in all given all the upheaval I’m willing to cut myself some slack on delaying this reflection.  I hope that’s okay with y’all.  [smile] Below is the start of the post I was writing on move day.  My added thoughts begin after the italics.

Today was move day! We arrived around a quarter to 10 and unloaded our big UHaul with the help of some great volunteers from the church and Caleb’s parents. [smile] After the boxes were unloaded, the first thing we did was head to the bedroom to ready our bed for this evening when we would collapse from exhaustion. We have a bed to sleep in under a roof that is our very own! We are so blessed.

For the seven weeks we were without a home of our own I wrestled with how to describe our situation. While in transition, the word that seemed easiest to use was also a word that carried with it so many connotations that I paused each time it escaped my lips.  Homeless.  In a literal sense of course we were without a home, but after living for three years in a city with one of the largest homeless populations in the country its hard not to think twice about using that word so casually.  Although for seven weeks we were in transition, we were not one of the 633, 782 individuals who were without a safe place to sleep.  Although for seven weeks we lived out of a suitcase, we were not one of the 633, 782 individuals who didn’t have a place to store those belongings during the day.  Although for seven weeks our daily routines of life were interrupted, we were not one of the 633,782 individuals whose health and well-being was threatened by the hardship of not having a home.  Despite whatever inconveniences we experienced during our brief stint between homes, we were blessed and I am grateful.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, approximately 633,782 individuals “experience homelessness on any given night in the United States.”  Can I just say for the record that I think that is 633,782 people too many?

Today I am thankful for my home and I cry out for justice for the 633,782 persons who remain unhoused.

What are you grateful for?

-Margaret

Growing in Gratitude: Hospitality [New Home Week, Day 1]

Growing in Gratitude: A weekly series on “Daily Musings on Life Together”
The psalmist wrote, “Sing a joyful noise to the Beloved all peoples of the earth! Serve the Lord with a glad heart! Join hands in the great Dance of Life!” (from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying). Join me in this dance each Monday as I practice giving thanks for things big, small, tangible, and intangible. Feel free to count your blessings in the comments.

Amazingly enough given how small our seminary was Caleb and I managed to only take 2 classes together during our 3 years there.  The first was “Church History 2” before we began dating and I hate to admit that I don’t remember him being in the class.  I sat in the front and can be fairly oblivious to a lot of things when I’m in scholar mode.  [smile]  The other class was “Hospitality” during the semester that we were engaged.  I can’t quite imagine a better class for the two of us to be in together while dating and through our engagement.  Not only was our professor, Dr. Amy Oden, simply a fantastic teacher, but cultivating a welcoming and hospitable home is something we both desired/desire for our marriage.  In class, we discussed the broad themes of the importance of preparing our spirits and spaces to welcome; of how genuine hospitality may be at times risky and is self-sacrificial; and how hospitality is modeled on God’s divine, triune nature.

Dinner on the Grounds

First Sunday’s Dinner on the Grounds

As wonderful a class as it was however, there is only so much you can learn theoretically about hospitality before practical experience must come into play.  Over the last seven weeks of transition into our new home, Caleb and I have been the recipients of such gracious hospitality that I feel like my understanding of what it means to welcome and receive people in love has been stretched by leaps and bounds.  [smile]  There really are too many people to thank us for making us feel at home and welcome during our transition so I’ll just list the top 3 below:

  • We are grateful for the hospitality of our parents, Raymond, Lisa, Bill and Sue.  We’ve been alternating time between both families for about 6 weeks now and our parents have been so understanding about our need to go back and forth.
  • We are grateful for the hospitality of the parsonage committee and the volunteers at the church.  We had church volunteer at the parsonage from last Wednesday thru today cleaning the parsonage and preparing the space for our arrival tomorrow.  As a PK I have lived through a number of parsonage horror stories and so I had prepared myself to move armed with cleaners and mops in hand.  [smile]  Thankfully we have had the exact opposite experience!
  • We are grateful for the hospitality of the church on our first Sunday.  We were embraced yesterday with such care and love.  My heart is full.  After worship we were treated to a wonderful spread and celebrated “dinner on the grounds.”  We were also “pounded” or showered with housewarming gifts.  Aren’t southern church idioms charming? [smile]

Today I am thankful for genuine hospitality.

What are you grateful for?

-Margaret

New Home Week!

Over the threshold of our first parsonage!

Over the threshold of our first parsonage!

We had the best end to our first Sunday at the church– a chance to hang around the parsonage for a couple of hours before move in day on Tuesday.  One of our members snapped this picture after Caleb scooped me up.  We’d done the traditional carrying over the threshold into our apartment after our honeymoon, but it felt completely appropriate to practice the ritual again at our first parsonage.  [smile] Like then, now we’re entering a new chapter both as the preacher’s family and as “homeowners” with new challenges and new joys!  I am so excited!

To celebrate the big move day, I’ve decided to try to work all the posts this week around the theme of our new home.  Thank you for all your support through the transition process and for helping us celebrate!

-Margaret

Missing: Blue jean capris

The crazy back and forth of our in between lifestyle has finally taken its toll and I’ve started misplacing things left and right. First it was a pair of blue jean capris that were last seen (and I’m certain are still residing) in my mothers laundry room in Georgia. Then last night I forgot the power cord to my computer in Caleb’s office at the church. Minor frustrations that are easily fixed, but plenty of evidence that this living out of a suitcase is wearing thin. [smile]

Still there have been some definite highlights to life in In Between Land of course. Getting to spend so much quality time with our families is at the top of the list! After living in DC and so far away from our parents, it is really nice to not feel so rushed to cram a whole lot of experiences into one visit. We have also gotten to see so many different places in the last 6 weeks. The driving back and forth from Georgia, to Tennessee, and to North Carolina has felt a bit like a series of mini vacations. I’ve decided though that vacations are nice because they don’t go on forever. [smile]

I’m a creature of habit and I miss the mundane routine of everyday life together. Plus getting back into a routine has the added bonus of not forgetting my pants in odd places. [smile]

– Margaret

“There is nowhere like your first appointment.”

Our move day has been pushed back to a week from today.  While I’m bummed we’ll be in transition for another week, I am also very grateful that the church’s parsonage committee is being so proactive in preparing the house for our arrival.  What a blessing and a tangible expression of their desire to welcome us into their community!  [smile]  I know that I have said it before, but we really are so excited to begin ministry at “The Church.”  We’ve discussed about how we really need a find a different word to describe how we are feeling.  We’ve probably said “we are excited” about a million times in the last month, but no other words seem to capture the anticipation and joy that we both feel when we think about the future we are moving toward.

On Sunday we met a retired minister and his wife who are members of my dad’s new church.  When we shared that we were about to take our first appointment they responded that “your first appointment is always special.  Every church will be special, but that first church is particularly so.”  My parents and grandparents have all suggested the same in our conversations with them over the last month.  When the subject of first appointments comes up, everyone seems to retreat into a memory for a moment and usually the story of some special person or special event from those years at the first appointment is shared.

I was born while my parents were serving their first church in rural South Georgia.  The magic that surrounds the stories my parents have told me about my earliest years of life has always been doubled in my mind because all of the special firsts happened at Cook’s Union UMC, the special community who nurtured them at the first of their ministry.  [smile]  When I went back to Cook’s Union with my parents about 5 years ago for a homecoming celebration where my dad was the guest pastor, I was welcomed back as their now grown “church baby.”  [smile]  I am entering this next phase of my life with Caleb with the knowledge that not everything about being “The Preacher’s Family” will be easy.  Sometimes we will feel like we are living in a fish bowl and the moving will always be hard, but accepting this calling to be in full-time ministry will also be so rewarding.  We will have the opportunity to get to know so many wonderful people and that’s what I am looking forward to.

In seminary, we were warned that our first appointment could really set the tone for the rest of our ministry.  “That first appointment can make you or break you.”  I think there is some truth in that, but certainly that doesn’t mean that the first church you serve can make you or break you.  I am so thankful that the church is preparing for us, but I also know that we also must be preparing our hearts to receive their hospitality.   A first appointment becomes a special memory by this commitment to mutual blessings.

So yes we are excited about beginning our ministry with “the church,” but never has excited packed so much meaning! [smile]

-Margaret

And then the butter splattered everywhere!

Although I try not to dwell on it, there is a bit of stress created by this whole process of moving– the little stresses of not being able to find some favorite book or piece of jewelry because its packed in a box and the bigger stresses of anticipating that feeling a little like you are in a fish bowl on moving day.  Yesterday surrounded by the boxes at my parents’ new parsonage and with thoughts on our own approaching moving day, I had a mini breakdown in the middle of the kitchen.  Thankfully my mother and my husband were both around and were quick to give the strong supportive hugs I needed to reassure me there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  [smile]

After the tears were wiped away, I began to tackle the task of deep cleaning the fridge.  Don’t get the wrong idea.  This parsonage is pretty fantastic as parsonages go.  It is certainly the most spacious house my parents have ever lived in and the newest build!  It is also fairly clean, but my mother and I are meticulous housekeepers and wanted to clean the fridge to our standards before completely settling all of our food into the space.  [smile]  It took a little more than half an hour but afterwords it was sparkling!  Sadly it didn’t stay that way for very long and thus begins the story of “The Great Butter Incident of 2013”!

Date: June 17, 2013
Time:  Approximately 9:30 p.m.
Location:  Bill and Sue’s Kitchen
Situation:  Post-dinner clean-up

We had just finished our first almost full-family dinner (we were missing my little sister Rachel) around the nice round kitchen table in the “breakfast nook” of the new kitchen.  It was so nice to all be gathered there in a familiar way and began the process of making this house feel more like our home.  [smile]  We were all helping to clear the table and load the dishwasher.  I was standing in between the end of the counter and the fridge.  We were nearing the end of the clean-up.  The dishwasher was full and the table was wiped off.  An unsuspecting tub of butter had made its way from the table to the counter and having been wiped clean was waiting to be put back in a top cubby of the refrigerator.

Looking back the witnesses all said that just before the incident it seemed as if time had slowed.  The door to the refrigerator was open and as I slowly reached for the tub of butter, Bill was at the sink; Caleb was cleaning the table; and Sue was at the oven.  Somehow in the process of conveying the tub of butter to the small shelf in the door of the refrigerator it slipped out of my hands.  The top popped off and the softened butter splattered all over me, the open fridge, and the kitchen floor.  Splattered butter was found on the back of Bill’s pants and the dishwasher.  Sue swears that the butter shot all the way up to the ceiling.  [smile]  I immediately froze in place as everyone turned to assess the situation.

It didn’t take more than a minute for the “butter finger” jokes to start rolling in.  I was renamed “Margaret Butterfingers Bagwell”– Caleb thought my maiden name sounded better with the new nickname.  [smile] My favorite joke of the evening courtesy of my loving husband:

“Next time somebody drops something I’m going to say: ‘I can’t believe it’s not Margaret!'”

When your whole family is laughing about you, all you can really do is laugh along! [smile]   Combined with the stress of our impending move, this could have easily led to more tears, but I’ve decided “The Great Butter Incident of 2013” will be the first of many great family memories in this new house and if my clumsiness was the cause then so be it!  In the grand scheme of things a little or a lot of butter splattered around a kitchen is pretty minor.  [smile]

-Margaret