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.

мы идем в Санкт-Петербург

The bags are packed (almost), our visas are in hand, and we’re cleared for take off.

It’s been a while since I posted on here–the last month has been dizzily and beautifully full of family and friends as we completed our coast to coast journey.  In between visits and festivities, Luke and I have been doing our best to learn the language via online tutoring and hours of flashcards.

I’ve been working on a series about Misplacement during this season of transition and displacement from our California home as we wait to find our Russian one.  The last tweaks are almost done (yes, sometimes I actually edit things before I post them) and I’m excited to share these summer musings with you all!

In the meantime, I plan on sharing travel updates and discoveries on this blog.  I don’t want to spam everyone’s Facebook timeline with travel posts so if you’re interested in:

Joining our journey through the written word (and some pictures): follow this blog

Tracking our trek via image: follow me on Instagram

Contacting Luke or I in real time: message me on WhatsApp.

Luke won’t have a smartphone or possibly his current phone number, so your best bet is WhatsApp using my phone number.  I’m assuming you already have it if you’re interested in talking, but if not, put your e-mail in the box below and I’ll send it your way!  This will be the best way to get a hold of us directly, as opposed to messaging on Facebook or Instagram.

And so..The Adventure Begins

6 years ago this month, I was driving my trice-recycled ‘94 teal Chevy Malibu with the windows rolled down from my high school to the Senior Picnic–just days before graduation.  “Keep Your Head Up” by Andy Grammer came through the radio waves and it just seemed right.  I was full of optimism and excitement for a fresh chapter.  And what better way to kick off the next adventure than a class-wide picnic with my 700 other classmates?

If I remember correctly, the picnic was lame and I didn’t know where to put myself, like the rest of my high school experience, because some things never change.

I was driving to my last day of work this morning, in my ‘10 Ford Focus that mercifully doesn’t spray water in my face every time it rains like the Malibu did so I’m clearly moving up in the world.  Andy Grammer’s familiar tune came warbling through the FM again and I felt the echoes of that same optimism bubble up.  And then a new Maroon 5 song came on with the same tune they were using 6 years ago. Some things really never do change.

But some things do. I’m more cautious now than I was back then.  I’m not as willing to chase every idea but have learned to patiently wait for my dreams to surface.  I’ve stopped caring about eating lunch at the cool table and although I’m slower to act on new ideas, I’m braver in carrying them out.  During the last 6 years, I pushed to find the limits of how many things I was capable of doing simultaneously and now I’m content to find the few things in life that are worth pursuing deeply.

I’m thankful for nostalgic songs that inspire reflection–even if that includes some awkward high school memories–before starting this next adventure.  Besides learning the Russian language and acquiring a fur hat, one of my biggest goals for our time abroad is to grow in wisdom, character, and flexibility.  Hopefully by the next time I hear Andy Grammer on the radio in June, I can see those fruits in my life.

Until then, just gotta keep my head up.

365 Days Later

If I’m reading my Facebook news feed correctly, everyone graduated this weekend. Congrats! I personally had the pleasure of jetting up to San Francisco and watching my talent sister receive a well-deserved Bachelors of Fine Arts. Pretty sure she exerted more energy in a week of dance classes than I did in my entire 4 years of scurrying across my square mile campus.

It’s cliche, but true, that it’s hard to believe an entire year has passed since I too sweated in a black hospital gown and tried to keep my cap from escaping off my head (my hair has a mind of its own and didn’t like the competition).

Other than telling you how awesome my sister is, I don’t have a great thesis for this blog post but I’ve been in a reflect-y mood lately and figured other recent alums might be in the same boat.

Side Note: I’ve noticed lately that I over-hyphenate. See last 2 sentences for examples. Not sure when this started, but every time I read something I write I find at least 5 unnecessarily hyphenated words. I’m considering removing the worn-out punctuation mark from my keyboard. Just did it again. Unbelievable.

Post-college life has been far better & far worse than I imagined. Off the top of my head, below are my top unexpected life lessons from the last 12 months.

1. Keeping yourself alive (without spending a fortune) isn’t as easy as it seems

Most recent college grads don’t have $500 to blow on food each month. Limited grocery budgets means a lot of planning, home-cooked meals, and leftovers. Some weeks, getting food on the table EVERY SINGLE DAY takes more strategy than a pro chess game.

2. Evenings are the BEST

In college, there is no clocking out. Study, sleep, shower and repeat dominate your schedule. Once other people start paying you to do work instead of you paying to volunteer your free labor, you can actually stop working. In fact, it’s recommended if you want a working lifespan of longer than 3 month stints.

3. Everything changes but then it doesn’t.

The first few months out of college were a Wizard of Oz level tornado. Getting married, moving across the country, new job, car insurance, realizing you grossly overpaid for car insurance 3 months later, the list of “real world” acclimating to-dos felt endless. Until it ended. And then you feel sadly nostalgic and wonder why your life doesn’t change dramatically every semester anymore.

Three?! That’s all I could come up with after moving cross-country, new jobs, weddings, innumerable finger cuts from bulk slicing onions, and dozens of conversations with post-grad friends?!

I need your help, guys. What have you learned in this past year (or years) of finding our own little corners of the world?

Impossible Nostalgia

I just wish things were the way they never have been.  174984

It’s fall in Southern California, which means that it’s not fall at all.  Palm trees don’t change leaves, and over-priced cider from Walmart isn’t the same as freshly squeezed apple nectar from an orchard.

At first, I attributed my intense nostalgia to the lack of autumn here and a general homesickness.  Yet, as I attempted to self-medicate this heart sickness through Facebook crawling and copious amounts of decaffeinated tea (official sign of the end of college life), I realized that I was battling an impossible nostalgia.

1043516I have this idea that at some indeterminate point in my past, I enjoyed  quality time with my closest friends while attending a continual coffeehouse and the charms of my hometown.  The reality is, many of my closest friends from college graduated before I did.  School was stressful and cafeterias are inhumane and I was more likely to be serving coffee than sipping it in acoustic bliss. Not only that, but I have dear kindred souls from childhood and high school and none of them are ever in the same place at the same time.  And if I walked through the streets of my hometown, very few would remember my name or face.

It’s a feeling of impossible nostalgia that carries the hope of a reunited tomorrow.

I am not missing out on anything nor can I return to this rose-tinted moment that never existed.   And I have hope for my own Clapham group in the future.  Luke and I are so blessed to have such incredible friends from coast to coast.  Maybe, one day, we’ll all be within driving distance (or at least the same time zone).  I know I’m biased because the common denominator between you all is my husband and I, but I promise you it would be awesome if we gave it a try.  Because you all have already impacted our lives in so many ways for so much good.  Thank you.

Until next time,
Chloe

Hi there.

The very first word that I spoke as a 9-month-old wasn’t so much a word as it was a phrase:

“Hi there.”

Evidently, I skipped over the basics of “Mom” “Dad” “Sis” and “ball” and went straight to informal greetings.  And I’ve been  introducing myself every since.

I met my wonderful and  recently wedded friend by randomly introducing myself at a Swing Club because she vaguely looked like a girl from  high school that I didn’t even know that well but the “soul rejoices in the familiar.”

I met my recently wedded husband by introducing myself in line for a freshman informational meeting because, hey, he was cute, in my Old Testament class, and clearly interested in leadership.  Can you say spiritual leader spouse material?

Don’t worry, I just thought he was cute at the time.

A few weekends ago, I headed back east to see that dear friend get married.  Waves of nostalgia 8202592and longing rushed over me as I gazed over neat fields of Lancaster corn and farms.  Was it really last summer that I lived and loved here? Why did we move to California?

I was caught between two Lands of Lonely.  In Pennsylvania, I was with friends and families and humidity and all things home reminiscent.  Yet I was separated from my forever love.  At the same time, I dreaded returning to So Cal with all work and very little play and no friends.  I started regretting all our decisions–except the marriage one.

But as I re-crossed the country for the 3rd time in two months, I realized that I’ve been looking for the wrong things.  I’m searching for my childhood and college friends amidst strangers.

I’m going to stop searching for my past in the present.

Gold Stars & Grey Dots

For every sincere congratulations on my upcoming marriage, there’s at least one criticizing remark about the rashness of marrying young or foolishness of not continuing my education.  I don’t think the polar-opposite responses are limited to me, my fiance, or our plans.  The temptation to compare and judge runs rampant at this time of year, especially for graduating seniors.

We compare ourselves to those that are getting married, going to grad school, getting a job at XYZ company, teaching overseas, becoming missionaries, moving back home, taking an extra year to graduate, are in 5 weddings, didn’t get invited to any weddings, are getting a job at IDL company making more money than the person at XYZ company, have 3 interviews lined up, are working at a summer camp, winning this award, volunteering with that non-profit, and the person that has no idea what May 17th will hold.
To justify our own decisions, we line up all of these options, place our plan at the top of the mental measuring stick, and then demonize the rest to assure ourselves that we are wise, weare valued, our four years at college did mean something.
I’ve done it.  I’ve watched my friends do it to themselves, to others, and to me.  As I watch this phenomenon unfold, a children’s book I read when I was 7 or 8 comes to mind.
In Max Lucado’s You Are Special, there is a village of wooden people, each expertly crafted by the Creator.  Each wooden person has a box of gold star and grey dot stickers.  When someone does something impressive, looks attractive, or says something witty, everyone rushes over and showers them in gold stars.  But if you aren’t so good-looking, have a tendency to blunder, or trip over yourself, it’s grey dots for you.
It isn’t until the protagonist, a grey-dot-covered fellow, talks to the Creator and learns that he isn’t a mistake but was carefully crafted by the One that loves him despite earthly successes and failures, is he able to start shedding the stickers.  The more he trusts in the love of his Creator, the less stickers will stick to him.  This confuses the other wooden people.  They rush to cover him with gold stars for not having grey dots, but they fall off.  So they try to cover him with grey dots due to his lack of gold stars, but those don’t stick either because his identity rests not in the comparison of relative achievement or lack of failure, but in his identity as a creation of the Creator.
The story is beautifully illustrated in this 8-minute video below:
The stickers only stick if you let them.  The stickers only stick if they matter to you.
 
While the moral of the story is obviously to rest in your identity as a child of God, I particularly love the point it makes about the foolishness of comparing oneself to others.  People will love you for your lack of grey dots.  They will judge you for your lack of gold stars.  Which means if your worth is wrapped up in grey dots and gold stars, you’ll always be better and worse than someone else and you’ll always be miserable trying to change that.
As peers all transitioning from our undergraduate experiences to something, anything, whatever it may be, I think it’s time to throw away our stickers.

Layers

This is my senior year, last semester.  A multi-layer image of friendships made and lost or faded or stayed. Fun times and hard times, all dictated by the never-forgiving academic calendar and endless stream of lectures, events, chapels, dances, and the occasional game of bowling.  Everything I experience is held to the light of past experiences in the same place and time, just years later.

#1 Fan

I think people become fans of sports teams because we need something to identify with other than ourselves.  We want our moods and happiness and excitement to be based off of something beyond our own circumstances.  We can’t make life what we want it to be  so we blame our TV shows, sports teams, and friends.

It’s far easier to put the responsibility on something we have no control over than ourselves.  We can’t change things around us, but we can change ourselves and that takes courage.

Relating Relationships and Realities to a River

You’re going to need more than a grain of salt to season this one properly.  Try a handful.  Or a whole shaker-full for that matter.

Some people dream of living on a lake or ocean.  I’d rather not.  I enjoy the waves and water despite having failed at least 5 different sessions of swimming lessons.  I’m more of a stream kind of person.  I think that’s why I picked Grove City.  It had a river and a clock tower.  Those were my two main requirements.

So, I was watching the river the other day.  I started wondering if my presence mattered at all.  I could see that if I jumped into the river and started splashing around, it would change the river.  Suddenly, it would become a river with a person in it.  However, if I just sat there watching the currents, I could change it in a different way.

It no longer was just a river.  It was a river being observed by a person.  Somehow, it was changed by no merit of its own.  Just by observing something, I could change how it was defined.  At the time, this discovery of definition by proxy seemed very profound.  I wasn’t even intoxicated with wallpaper dissolvant then.

It wasn’t until I got home that I realized maybe this idea could be applied to something other than running water.  The idea that I changed based on where I was and who I was with deeply disturbed me.  It made me feel false and inconsistent even though nothing (significant) changed about me.  So, using my incredibly sharp powers of deduction, I scanned my circumstances to see what changed.

Turns out, almost everything.  I was around different people, in a different room, a different state ( of America and of mind), a different routine, and trying to fulfill different expectations.  Let’s just focus on the first one though.  Just as I turned a simple river into a bubbling brook being studied by a girl sitting on its banks, the people around me define me on some level just by being there and interacting with me.

I will never simply be Chloe.  Instead, I am a daughter, a student, a church member, a child of God, a granddaughter, a cousin, and a friend.  Even if we are only focusing on the friend aspect of me, that looks so incredibly different for each person.  Chloe as the friend of Sally might be very distinct from Chloe as the friend of Diane*.  It doesn’t mean that I changed.  The river never changed because I observed it.  It just means that if I am defined in some way by my relationships with others, it only makes sense that this is a relative reality based on location.

This comforted me in part, but what truly helped dissolve my fear that I hadn’t a shred of consistent character was that one relationship never changed: the one with my Creator and Savior.  Considering this is the only one that really matters in the long run, I could rest at ease and return to over-analayzing landscapes and scraping wallpaper.

The End.

*I don’t actually know any Diane’s or Sally’s.  Except for the one from the Peanuts but that doesn’t count because she isn’t real.