Tuesday, September 29

It’s All in the Sauce

Ragu vs. Publix

One of my and Brandon’s favorite meals is spaghetti. Not the “stay in the kitchen all day, homemade Italian” kind of spaghetti, but the “hurry home and want a delish meal” kind of spaghetti.

Those of you who know me know that I doctor up EVERYTHING in my kitchen. Nothing comes out “store-bought”. I take a quick “semi-homemade” approach (thanks for the show Sandra) and make it my own. My huge kudos moment goes to the meat I use in my spaghetti – hot Italian turkey sausage. It makes the dish. In addition to the sausage, I do tend to spruce up whatever kind of sauce I buy, but not too much… well, that is if I buy the BEST sauce.

Today, more than ever, it is important to save a few bucks when grocery shopping. Although coupon clipping is a must, most of the time I buy Publix brand items to add to my savings! Last week when sifting through my “coups” I found one for Ragu spaghetti sauce. Thinking that there might be an advantage to this, (buy the name brand and get a better tasting sauce) I decided to go for it and purchased two jars of Ragu.

The ultimate test came last night when spaghetti night rolled around. Using all the same ingredients – minus the sauce of course – I whipped up our bi-weekly spaghetti fix. My sauce review was a must after the meal…

Ragu vs. Publix – The Review: Hands down the winner is Publix brand. With a simple outside, the jar of sauce flowers with flavor. The rich tomato and spices excite the taste buds with Italian flair. Using two different flavors, which is a trick of mine, only adds to the grandeur of aroma that erupts from the spaghetti. The thick sauce envelops each noodle and perfectly coats the sausage to complete the full perfected spaghetti experience.

The Ragu sauce is far behind even others – Publix, Classico, Barilla, etc – in taste, smell, and texture. The sauce has a sinfully sugary taste causing one to think of desert rather than the main course. The smell emits no aromatic stateliness as it is covered by the smell of a burning candle and the cooking sausage. The texture is a watery mess that runs along the noodles instead of draping it with excellence.

Sunday, September 27

A Splash of Color

In desperate need of some color in my life, and mainly my home, I decided that paint was in order. Living in an apartment, surrounded by plain cream walls, gets real old after several years. With agreement from Brandon I selected a nice Dijon mustard yellow color that matches my dining room table and accent couch pillows.

Here are the before and after pictures… much better I’ll say!



Wednesday, September 23

The Starving Artist

Wordle: Life Dreams

Nearly three years ago I graduated from college and returned home to Atlanta eager to continue learning, begin my career, and network with new people. Diving into the public relations field I felt like I was in the perfect spot - I had made the right career choice. Today, a few changes and years later, I am beginning to feel differently. Being in a creative field is tough work, each day demanding new and exciting ideas - a great design, the perfect press. That is the side of PR that still drives me; it's why I get up and head to work. I chose a creative degree for one reason, so I could be creative! My problem lies in the constriction of my field. How can I obtain total creativity, when I’m forced to work with one topic? What happens to all my other know-hows?
I’m feeling bogged down with the extreme amounts of creativity that I have – all of them in areas other than business of course. My daily routine of a little graphic design here, and a minute amount of writing there seem to be limiting my creative expression. I long for days filled with endless hours of uninterrupted creativity. I want to write. I want to read. I want to be an artist, a photographer, a baker, a seamstress, and a scrapbooking genius. I want to be someone’s inspiration, someone’s storyteller, and someone’s reader. I want to use my talents and all of my inspirational hobbies to make my life whole, to find where I need to be, but how? I feel as though I’m a starving artist – starving for the ability to use my art as my lively means.

Maybe I could start my own business… a crafty kitchen type thing. A company that specializes in my favorite things: cooking, writing, sewing, photography, reading, and the like. I’m not exactly sure what the purpose of the business would be, but I do know that I would enjoy work forever! Until I can begin my crafty kitchen, maybe I should stick with what I know. The monotony of a touch graphic design here and a tad of writing there pays the bills, and these days, it is all we can ask for.

Iced Coffee Coming Up!

Quit stopping by Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts and McDonalds… I’ve got a “Better Than Starbucks” iced coffee recipe that will help you wipe the sleep from your eyes and refresh your morning senses on a budget! So here it is… Steph’s “Better Than Starbucks” Iced Coffee…

     Your favorite coffee – regular or decaf, flavored or not

     The night before, brew a double strong pot of coffee by using double the amount of coffee. (For each cup you’re making use one scoop of coffee.) I usually make 6 cups for the week (4 day work week + 2 cups per day = 6 cups). After the coffee is finished brewing, add your sugar, as you like. Since I make 6 cups, I put a little less than ¼ cup in the hot coffee. Make sure all sugar is dissolved and place coffee in refrigerator overnight to cool.

The next morning, fill your glass with ice and pour coffee 1/3 full. Top off with milk. Stir and enjoy!

Sunday, September 20

Sunday Dinner: A Lost Tradition

"Families are like fudge - mostly sweet with a few nuts."

Today while sitting in the traffic leaving the church parking lot I asked Brandon what he wanted to do for lunch – the same question I ask each week. Most of the time we head to a local spot with family and friends to spend a few more minutes together before separating in preparation of beginning the new week. Today was different though. Running low on cash, it is not always easy to drop and extra twenty every Sunday. As I asked Brandon the question about lunch I thought about the meatloaf fixings I had sitting at home. Meatloaf it is…

Once at home and while mixing the meatloaf with God’s built in shovels, I started thinking about Sundays past; Sundays from my childhood when good ol’ Southern cooking greeted us weekly. Then I thought to myself, where has the Sunday family meal tradition gone? Has it only slipped from my life? Or have new generations simply missed out on a once treasured time?

At that moment I made my decision – I’m bringing it back. Yes, it is coming back… just like Justin Timberlake when he brought sexy back. My family was going to be invited to join us in delectable goodness known as Southern Tradition. Why should we fixate our lives around restaurants when we have the God given gift of Southern cooking?! What a waste!

Next week the tradition will resurface with a family gathering around my table for the first time in years. Not exactly sure what the menu will hold, but I’ve got nothing but time for that.

Bring your appetite folks because it is gonna be a good one!

Saturday, September 19

Revamping Life’s Look

Change is a constant thing, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. I enjoy slight changes in my life, on an occasional basis, when it comes to every topic but style. I enjoy having new looks for the upcoming season, a new pair of shoes to spruce up an old favorite, a shiny new purse that just seems to brighten my day… (Let me interject here to say that I’m not a fashion diva, nor will I ever be. I have entirely too little money for that and I shop no name brands.) Change is something that is a must for the new season, I can feel it. As you can see, I’ve even gone so far as to change the look of my blog. It is just one of those things, when I want change… I’m ready for it yesterday.

On Monday I decided that money or no money, I was going shopping. I pulled my JC Penney credit card out, ready to spend whatever was necessary, and headed to the Mall of Georgia. Riding up the escalator I was setting my limit: “ok, a couple new work to play outfits should only cost $200 max… that’s all I can spend…. I’m broke anyway!” Arriving in the women’s section, I quickly veered to the right to begin sifting through the racks of my favorites, and quickly is how it went. I walked past rack after rack of fall clothes that did absolutely nothing for me. There was none of the “must haves” in the store. Loosing interest I went down to Old Navy to be slapped with the same experience. Fall shopping day number 1 was a total disaster. Not one swipe of the card for me. On the money side of things, that was a blessing – but for my new look, not so much.

I want my new look to be something, cute but edgy; simple yet extravagant. I like the rocker mixed with bohemian style look, but I’m not quite sure I could pull that off. (For gracious sakes, my family and friends think I’m nuts when I paint my nails black!) I don’t want to be way over the top, but maybe on the upside of the swing.

Maybe I’ll wait to try shopping day number two until the weather starts changing a little more, when the leaves begin to turn brilliant colors, and the air cools. The new season’s beginning may be inspiration enough to find something perfect – the new style I’m waiting for.

Friday, September 11

Eight Years & Counting

Just like any other morning I had pulled myself out of bed, prepped and scooted off to Central. After taking first period to wake up, I managed to slump into my seat in the band room. There was an interesting buzz flowing through the air… something about a plane crash. I thought nothing of it considering that I still wasn’t 100% awake. After the bell I scurried across school to the math wing, where I found my teacher glued to her television. “A plane has crashed into the Twin Towers… emergency crews… death… fire…” As we all silenced and placed our attention to the announcer it happened… the second plane hit the towers. For the remainder of the day everyone in the school feared for their families, their friends. What was happening? Who was responsible? How could this happen in America?

Eight years later, I think back on that day as if it were yesterday. The vivid emotions and pictures, the sounds and thoughts still swirl through my mind haunting me. This morning while I was on my way to work, the Regular Guys paused for a moment to reflect on that day. This caused a stir in me that I feel every year since 9/11/01… It made me think back to that day. It made me remember. Sometimes I feel that we forget what sacrifices total strangers have made for us.

I would like to thank every man, woman, and child who has sacrificed something for our country. Because of you, everyone else has the great gift of living free… God Bless You All and God Bless Amercia!

Wednesday, September 9

That’s Ms. College Football to You

My favorite time of year is upon us… yes, college football season.

For the second year in a row, I’m participating in a football pool. Each week we make our picks, plug them into the computer, and hope that things work out our way. Since last weekend was the first week of the season and the pool, I thought I’d brag a moment… I have a nice solid lead… by nearly 10 points! Great way to start out the season!!

One thing that I find amusing is the fact that MOST guys just assume that because I’m a girl, I’ll mess up my picks, leaving my $25 buy in for them. Ha… you are greatly mistaken. Growing up in the wonderful state of Georgia, with the college football lovin’ family that I have, I KNOW COLLEGE BALL. Fridays smack talk was muffled yesterday by whispered “congrats” and “any advice?”

As the season progresses, I’m sure I’ll have off weeks… everyone does. The fact of the matter is this; I’m here to play hardball. I know which teams to pick and why to pick them, so don’t assume that, because I’m a girl, I’m an easy last place. You know what assuming does right?

Quick shout out to mom too… she’s holding on to second!

Things look mighty fine from the top spot… on to week #2!

Tuesday, September 1

Inspirational Baptism

Sunday at 12Stone was inspiring.  Witnessing Open Baptism for the first time I was absolutely awestruck at the amount of people who gave their lives to Christ.  I felt honored that I was able to be a part of each person’s dedication.  It was amazing!! 

Watching the baptisms Sunday made me think about my own spiritual track, my own baptism.  Being raised Presbyterian; I was baptized as an infant.  Presbyterians believe that “the baptism of a baby signals that God acts on our behalf even before we are able to respond.” (Presbyterian Church USA – pcusa.org)  I still believe this, but after witnessing the power of God on the hearts of the 12Stone attendees Sunday, wondered if God could move me to be “re-baptized”.  Is it even possible or proper to be baptized more than once in your lifetime? 

It makes sense to me, but I’m not 100% up on church doctrines.  To me, if I ever decided to be “re-baptized”, it would signify that I was reaffirming my parents’ decision.  It would be my decision to show the world that I was giving my life to Christ.  Make sense? 

Although, I do not feel that I need to be baptized again to fulfill my walk with God, I do think that it would be an option to keep open…

One thing that Open Baptism Sunday did for me was inspire me to finally begin a yearlong walk with the Lord.  To follow along, you can check out my new blog / Bible journal http://stephsbiblejourney.blogspot.com/.