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Wacotown

I’m writing this from the comfort of my air mattress, the only spot to sit that isn’t floor in our apartment at the present. However, we’ve just crossed a major married life milestone: we finally bought furniture!  It’s just not here yet.

Where is here? 2018 has seen us in 5 different countries and 4 different states so if you have no idea where in the world we are right now, you’re not alone.  I’ve lost track myself a few times.

The Sayers have landed in Waco, Texas and given our new status of furniture – owners, we’re here to stay (for now).  It’s been a week of Texas living so far and while it took some time to get used to the faint scent of barbecue in every breath of fresh air, we’re loving our new home.

Luke is beginning studies and work at Baylor University this summer as part of their English PhD program while I run a bookkeeping business from the comfort of our furniture free apartment (for now).  We do have real non-air-filled furnishings on their way from Michigan but we’ll be roughing it for a few more days until they arrive.

I’m looking forward to sharing more about life in Texas and the new lessons and liturgies this season of life brings. Thank you to everyone who has supported us through the ups and downs of the last few months!  We have an extra bedroom for the first time too and we’d love to host visitors.

Love from Waco,

Chloe

Right on Red

It’s 6:42 on a Monday morning and the New Hampshire roads here are coated with black ice as rain sleet crashes against my windshield.  I’m already late for work because it took 15 minutes to defrost the car but I’m taking it slow because I’d rather get their late and alive than dead and on the side of the street.

Only half a mile away from the office now and I’m sitting at a red light trying to turn right while straining to make out headlights through the precipitation.  My caution and respect for my life and the other drivers on the road is rewarded by a long honk and rude gesture from the driver behind me.

This happens to me a lot, actually.  When there’s terrible weather or I’m at a new intersection, I’m hesitant to turn right on red.  I know it drives people behind me crazy but I’m not legally obligated to turn right on red (in fact, I’m obligated not to if it’s not safe).

While the blaring honking is unnerving what really drives me crazy is the arrogance that these rushed drivers demonstrate.  Even though they do not have the same line of sight that I have, they assume that their desire to get where they are going supersedes my safety and discernment.  From their vantage point a car or two behind me, there’s no way they can tell whether it’s safe for me to turn right on a red or not. But they think they know best, despite their lack of complete information and the fact that they don’t have the same safety values that I have.

Everytime this happens, I feel a wave of frustration and then a sharp pain of guilt.  How often do I do this to people off the road? I think I know best for my friends, family, and the general populace.  I want to honk my horn at their hesistency, their inability to make the decision I think they should make. Even though I don’t see the full picture.  I can’t assume that we share the same values or decision-making matrices. Instead, I have to assume that they are making the best the decision they can, given where they are positioned in life and what their vantage point shows them.

Others’ decisions may impact my life but that doesn’t mean I get to make those decisions for them or honk at them when they don’t do what I would behind their steering wheel.

More Than Enough

Last weekend was the $10 bag book sale at our local library and we made out like bandits.  In the mad rush of fellow bibliophiles grabbing titles off the shelves and shoving them into bulging bags, I snagged a copy of Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist.  I started the book Saturday afternoon and finished it Sunday evening.  Needless To Say, I’d highly recommend it.

In the same vein as some of my other favorite books, Necessary Endings and Essentialism, Shauna provides a raw view of her journey from busyness addiction to whole self healing.  There were plenty of chuckles along the way and I interrupted my husband’s reading at least a half dozen times to share a particularly poignant passage.

What really struck me about this book; however, wasn’t the funny anecdotes or deep wisdom.  As I read Shauna’s story of hustling to the point of exhaustion, I saw myself–but not my current self.  I saw my high school self and my college self before senior year. After three years of literally running from classes to meetings to events, I knew exactly how far I could push myself and what I was able to accomplish.  In my last year of college, I wanted to find out how little I could do and still be a productive, well-rounded, grounded, contributing, and happy soul. I hunkered down in my underground single dorm room, went to bed at 10 pm and exercised as much as I wanted to.  I still do that and it’s wonderful.

Not to say that there aren’t days when I let the lust of others’ affirmation and the pride of being a do-it-all direct my steps and steal my joy.  But those days are few and far between nowadays. Just the other day, Luke and I looked at each other and realized: we have more than enough time. How crazy is that?  Each day feels sufficient for the work, play, walks, reading, and reflection that we desire and there’s often time left over to let the mind wander.

After watching this Ted Talk with Laura Vanderkam about time management, I made a personal vow to never say “I don’t have time for X” when I really mean “I am not prioritizing X right now.”  It’s forced me to be more truthful with myself and others. We always have time for what we prioritize, irregardless of whether our priorities are aligned with our long-term goals and happiness.

Millennials

I enjoy reading articles and infographics about millenials just like we all enjoy taking personality tests.  It’s fun to read about yourself.  It makes you feel important that somewhere out there, some junior copywriter did all this Googling and researching about millennial trends and handed it in to a senior copywriter and that senior copywriter scribbled all over it with a red pen and  then turned it into this pretty little image with bar graphs and clip art because it doesn’t matter what age you are anymore, none of us can read.

My hat’s off to that junior copywriter because they probably know more about millennials than I do, considering I barely know myself comprehensively. I do know my husband fairly well, so I’m up to a data sample of two out of 80 million which is statistically irrelevant.  

The best thing about millennials is that they are perfect fodder for today’s currency: content creation.  This is only my first taste of that addicting elixir of millennial-focused pieces which thousands of copywriters, marketers, speakers, YouTubers, politicians, brands, writers, singers and everyone else have already drunk deep and are now enjoying the instant attention any content receives with the keyword “millennial” sprinkled in liberally.

Sprinkles.  I think that’s something we are supposed to love.  Along with the color pink, delaying life decisions, racking up student debt, giving to charity, Instagram stories, avocado toast, and socialism.  

My boss once asked me if I met my husband online because I’m A Millennial.  I told him that my husband didn’t have a cell phone until we had been dating for two years and we communicated mainly via intracampus snail mail.  That was the end of that conversation because when we talk about millennials or any conglomerate “group” we really are just looking for things that verify what we already think.  The reality is, millennials don’t exist.  We can create pretty graphs when we group cohorts of a certain age group together, but as a collective, we don’t exist.  

This year (is it too late for New Year resolutions?), I want to focus on getting to know people better as individuals instead of aggregates.

3 Years Ago Today

Did you know that on this day 3 years ago I was writing a blog post?  I didn’t know either.  Yet Facebook, Timehop, and Google Photos want to make it impossible to forget what we ate for breakfast at that super cute brunch place 6 months ago.

I’ve been earning money for the last 5 years as a social media specialist.  I’m the person who’s hyper-targeting the ad so it reaches you: the recent home buyer with a birthday in the next month who is friends with someone who just got engaged.  

So I’m confident that social media and information giants like Facebook and Google never do things without a reason.  And that reason always comes down to their bottom line, as it should.  The currency of all things internet is views, impressions, and active user counts. More Millennials sharing photos of their lattes on Facebook = better active user statistics = more advertising $$.

There’s an intrinsic motivation for social media networks to keep people addicted to sharing every mundane moment.  What better way to do it than to become your scrapbook, time capsule, and memory?  They’ll keep track of the details of your existence so you don’t have to.

But you better have a life worth remembering.

Since Timehop first introduced the concept of constantly being reminded about what happened on this day in your personal history, I’ve started to see a change in the way we take photos.  We must always snap some representative shot of what that day entailed because otherwise, there’d be nothing to reminisce over in a year. 

And if we must take a photo every day, then we must be doing something fantastic with amazing people every day to photograph.  Or at least some latte art.

But  life isn’t always #darling.  Sometimes it’s #painful and #unphotogenic.  And sometimes, we miss the real moments of life, even the gritty hard ones, when we’re constantly on the lookout to find today’s best picture.

This is just a PSA that Facebook and Google Photos and Timehop know what they’re doing.  The more they addict you to seeing a younger version of yourself every morning on your phone, the more you’ll feel the need to keep photographing and posting so you can remember THIS EXACT MOMENT next year.  Just be sure it’s actually you who is in the picture.

All is Calm

This has been the calmest December of my life.  No holiday parties, parades, or paraphernalia.  No white elephant, secret Santa, or cookie exchanges. This Christmas, all is calm.

But all is not bright.  We’re edging nearer and nearer to the winter solstice and the sun only feebly attempts to show its for a mere six hours a day.  All is calm, but all is dark.

The absence of a frenzy of festivities combined with long shadows make for a very different Christmas experience this year.  These dusky days are teaching me the importance of light and hope, a lesson that’s easy to forget in sunny San Diego.  My advent reading included this prophecy from Isaiah chapter nine – a beautiful reminder that it is in the darkness that the hope of Christ’s coming shines all the brighter.

Isaiah 9:2-4

2  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.

3 You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil.

4 For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.

I showed the original “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” cartoon to one of my ESL classes yesterday.  It’s one of my favorites although I failed to anticipate the difficulty in explaining words like “bizilbigs” and “fliffer bloofs”  While most Christmas cartoons today center around a mad rush to save Christmas, this classic reminds us that a celebration of Christmas is not a collection of things but an expression of gratitude, love and hope.

Like the Whos, there will be no whoboohoo bricks or pankunas on Christmas morning this year for Luke and me.  We’ll be celebrating alone on the 25th, amidst a culture that doesn’t celebrate the holidays until New Year’s Eve.  Like much of our experience here in Russia, everything seems so different than what we are used to and yet the important things are still the same.

God’s love has not changed.  His gift of salvation through Jesus Christ is still ours.  Our hope still rests in Him alone who has the power to create worlds and recreate our lives.  I’ll take that over roast beast any day of the year.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Wishing you a day filled with true gladness of heart for the life God has given us, now and eternally.

P.S.  You are welcome for not titling this one “The Reason for the Season”.  So tempting.

#Selfie

I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror this morning and it caught me by surprise.  I hadn’t seen my face in a while.  Since I don’t wear makeup and my hair doesn’t listen to me anyways, my morning routine doesn’t have me looking in the mirror very often.

My strategy for staying body-positive in our social media world has been to ignore how I look.I work out because I want to be strong and my capsule closet is an insurance plan to cover clashing so there’s no reason for me to spend much time examining my features.

Here’s what I discovered:

  • Looking at my face isn’t as scary as I thought
  • My eyes really are more green than brown
  • My hair really is out of control

I’ve found myself with more time for reflection (both literal and figurative) during this time in Russia.  I don’t plan on becoming a millennial selfie queen but I am very grateful to be forced to take life a little more slowly.

In high school, I studied and volunteered and worked to fill out my college applications.

In college, I studied and volunteered and worked to fill out my resume.

In California, I studied and worked to fulfill my duties as an employee and make a living.

Here, I’m finally free to take a deep look in the mirror and learn more about what I actually enjoy doing.  There are no more applications to live for, no more resumes that cry out to be updated.

For the last 10 years I’ve been running away from not being enough, not doing enough to get where I thought I needed to go.  And now I’m finally able to look forward and whisper “Onward and upward!” and mean it.  I walk slowly and cautiously as I explore what the future could look like.

Everything But The Dutch Oven

The mission: find as many different recipes as possible that all call for basic baking ingredients: flour, yeast, baking powder. Baking Basics is a fun cooking challenge I’ve been on since moving to Russia and today’s installment features two favorites of gluten lovers everywhere: artisan bread and homemade biscuits.

Luke and I have been making our own bread since we got married 2.5 years ago. However, we usually employed a bread machine so we could come home to the delicious wafts of freshly cooked bread meeting us at the door.  Without our plethora of appliances, I went back to making bread the old-fashioned way–in the oven.  Here’s how to make artisan dutch oven bread without a dutch oven:

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INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon active yeast
  • 1¾ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1½ cups warm water
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine flour, yeast, salt, water in a bowl. Stir until combined. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let dough sit on the counter overnight, or for at least 12 hours.
  2. When ready to make the bread, place an enamel oven-proof stock pot in the oven at 180 degrees Celcius while the oven preheats, around 30 minutes. While  the pot is heating up, transfer dough to a floured surface, it will be bubbly and sticky. Add a little flour and gently fold and tuck it into a round ball (it will still be a pretty loose dough). Using oven mitts, carefully take the hot pot out of the oven, add just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pot (olive, sunflower, vegetable whatever) and drop the ball of dough into the hot pot. Cover with the lid and place back into the oven to bake for 25 minutes..
  3. After 25 minutes, rotate the pot, remove lid and let it bake another 15 minutes or until brown.

NOTES

Recipe adapted from http://www.nutritiouseats.com/rosemary-dutch-oven-bread/

RESULTS

Wonderfully fluffy and flavorful bread that is perfect with lentil soups.

Another recipe recommended by a friend was the classic biscuit.  The only glitch with this recipe was it calls for buttermilk which very well might be available for purchase at my local grocery store, but I have no idea what buttermilk is in Russian.  Instead, I used my trusty trick: add 1 TBS white vinegar per cup of milk and let it sit for 5 minutes.  Voila!  Buttermilk biscuits without the buttermilk.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup milk + 1 TBS white vinegar

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius.
  2. Add 1 TBS white vinegar to 1 cup milk, let it sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Mix together the dry ingredients. With two knives, a pastry blender, or your fingertips, cut or rub the butter in  until the mixture looks like bread crumbs.
  4. Add the liquid all at once, mixing quickly and gently for about 20 seconds until you have a soft dough.
  5. Drop the dough by the spoonful onto a lightly floured baking sheet.
  6. Bake the biscuits for 15 to 20 minutes, until they’re lightly browned. Remove them from the oven, and serve warm.

NOTES

Recipe adapted from https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/baking-powder-biscuits-recipe

RESULTS

Fluffy, not too sweet, biscuits that warm up a Russian winter, especially when served hot with butter and honey.

Capsule Closet Part 4 | Are You Ready?

Note: This article was originally posted on http://www.beautifulchristianlife.com and can be found by clicking here.

A capsule closet is a curated wardrobe built around a few foundational clothing items, designed so that each piece is multifunctional and can be worn with any other item. I’ve been on my capsule closet journey for over a year now and have thoroughly enjoyed the process.  If you’re on the fence, ask yourself these four questions.

1. Are there pieces of clothing I haven’t worn in a year?

Image credit: @colorsofspring
Image credit: @colorsofspring

If so, it might be time to pare down the pantsuits in your closet. Here’s a helpful hack: turn all your hangers to face the same direction in your closet. When you wear and return a piece, flip the hanger so that it faces the opposite direction.  After six months, clear out all the items you didn’t wear (hangers not turned) and put them in a bag to donate.

2. Do I get frustrated trying to find an outfit to wear?

Rummaging around in your closet and coming up empty-handed is not the best way to begin the day. If you consistently find getting dressed to be more of a chore than a joy, one of the reasons could be that you can’t find pieces that work well together. A capsule closet filled with pieces that you love and that love each other could help reduce your stress getting out the door.

 

3. When I buy something new, do I return home to find it doesn’t match anything in my closet?

Image credit: @cladwellapp
Image credit: @cladwellapp

You just found the perfect blazer or skirt. It fits like a glove, and even better—it was on sale for fifty percent off. When you get home to show your piece its new home, you realize that it clashes with all your tops and bottoms. How did you let this happen—again? A capsule closet designed around a few base colors with two or three coordinating accent colors ensures that you always match.

 

4. Do I feel comfortable with the way I look in most of my clothes?

This was an unexpected benefit for me after creating a capsule closet. I was able to let go of those dresses that never lay quite right and that pair of jeans I couldn’t fit into anymore. Whenever I put on a piece of clothing now, I know it will fit well and make me feel great wearing it. Instead of feeling self-conscious throughout the day, I feel confident and comfortable.

 

Creating a capsule closet isn’t about forcing someone else’s restrictions on your wardrobe, in fact, having limits can be a huge boost to creativity. Pretend you’re on the food show Chopped while you clear out your closet and design a curated wardrobe.   After all, the train is most free when it’s on its tracks.

Hey Sugar, Sugar

Baking is my love language.  It’s how I love myself by providing time to play with dough and decompress by kneading the heck out of bread.  It’s also how I try to love others, by pumping them full of sugar and carbs.  Who wouldn’t want to be my friend?

Fun fact: I thought I was a good student in high school but had several teachers tell me they gave me A’s because I brought in baked goods.  Were they kidding?  Probably.  But you never know…

We’ve been living in Russia for three months and once I got a lay of the grocery store land, I figured I’d have to hang up my baker’s hat for the time being.  A lot of the ingredients I was used to relying on (vanilla extract, chocolate chips, nuts, etc…) were hard to find.  Plus my gas oven is persnickety and I only have one oven-safe baking dish.

I’ve decided to rise to the challenge instead.  I asked you guys a few weeks ago for your favorite recipes that don’t require a lot of fancy ingredients and you delivered!  I’ll be trying them all out (full list found here) and sharing the recipes and adaptations on the blog.

Without further ado, today’s baking basic is the classic sugar cookie.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar, for rolling

PRE-STEP: Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Wipe baking dish down with butter wrapper. Set aside.

STEP 1: Stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, vanilla sugar and baking powder in your large bowl, then realize you need the large bowl for the next step and dump it into a medium size bowl. Set aside.

STEP 2: In a large bowl, cream together the butter, and granulated sugar until combined using all the arm strength you’ve got.

 

 

IMG_20171018_183353STEP 3: Add egg yolks.

STEP 4: Add flour mixture and mix until just combined.  You won’t overmix it, because your biceps are exhausted.

STEP 5: Using your hands, scoop dough into balls about 2 tablespoons each, roll in sugar and place onto prepared baking dish.

STEP 6: Bake for 9 minutes, rotate pan to compensate for oven unevenness, then bake for 8 more minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet before moving them to a makeshift egg carton cooling rack.  Let cool completely or eat immediately.

This recipe was adapted from Soft Sugar Cookies by Deliciously Sprinkled.

Luke ate 6 of them in an hour, so I say they are a success!  Crispy on the outside with a soft middle. Next up: buttermilk biscuits with no buttermilk and dutch oven artisan bread without a dutch oven.