A year ago today, I closed on my house.

closing with the title company
Me in front of my house

Yay homeownernship.


sweet + sour.

Tonight I made sweet and sour chicken for dinner. A little warning: lots of prep! It took well over an hour from start to finish, and I learned that when adding cornstarch to water, add slowly and stir like crazy. The first attempt resulted in big clumpy cornstarch that I fished out before starting over.

I even made my own sweet and sour sauce. (It's so easy! I'll probably never buy it in a bottle. It's just water, sugar, vinegar, and pineapple juice and cornstarch.) In case you didn't know, sweet and sour sauce isn't naturally orange. You're supposed to add orange food coloring. I didn't have any, so we had translucent sweet and sour sauce. Tasted great.

Sweet and Sour Chicken
  • 1 (8 ounce) can pineapple chunks, drained (juice reserved)
  • 2 green bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2 drops orange food color
  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 1/4 cups self-rising flour
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 quart vegetable oil for frying


  1. In a saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups water, sugar, vinegar, reserved pineapple juice, and orange food coloring. Heat to boiling. Turn off heat. Combine 1/4 cup cornstarch and 1/4 cup water; slowly stir into saucepan. Continue stirring until mixture thickens.
  2. Combine flour, 2 tablespoons oil, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, salt, white pepper, and egg. Add 1 1/2 cups water gradually to make a thick batter. Stir to blend thoroughly. Add chicken pieces, and stir until chicken is well coated.
  3. Heat oil in skillet or wok to 360 degrees F (180 degrees C). Fry chicken pieces in hot oil until golden. Remove chicken, and drain on paper towels.
  4. When ready to serve, layer green peppers, pineapple chunks, and cooked chicken pieces on a platter. Pour hot sweet and sour sauce over top.

matt maher.

About twice a month, we get to gather at work for a chapel service.This morning, chapel was led by recording artist Matt Maher.

If you're not familiar with Matt, you might be familiar with some of his music. He's written:

Hold Us Together

No Greater Love

Your Grace Is Enough


Matt grew up in Newfoundland! I thought that was pretty cool. He led us in worship and played several songs off his album Alive Again.


hot potato.

Tonight was loaded baked potato night. I made baked potatoes for dinner, then Nate and I topped them with bacon, cheese, and sour cream. We also had steamed broccoli and toasty French bread.

This was the first time I've made baked potatoes in the oven. They took forever. I cooked four and it took about 90 minutes for them to become soft. They turned out great, though. I also made peanut butter cookies for dessert and to take to Sam and Anne's tomorrow. We're coming up on the end of October. (Whoa, where did it go?) With a couple of exceptions, Nate and I have not repeated a dinner since he moved here nearly two months ago.

My next feat (snack-wise) is peanut butter granola. I have a pretty simple recipe to try out:

Peanut Butter Granola
  • 6 tablespoons oil
  • 1 cup peanut butter (or soy nut butter)
  • 1 ½ cups brown sugar
  • 7 cups oats
    1. Cook oil and peanut butter over low heat until it is melted and smooth.
    2. Remove from heat and add sugar.
    3. Add oats and stir well until oats are coated.
    4. Spread onto cookie sheet.
    5. Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes stirring at least once.
    6. Cool and store in an airtight container.
    That was easy.



    I did it! October 25, 2010. Age 22. Alyssa finishes her first full cup of coffee. 
    Drink of choice: Starbucks VIA (caramel flavor, with sweetner and milk).

    and … cut.

    A couple of weeks ago, our preteen team at work got together to shoot a short film to introduce ourselves and our products. Check it out on the Kids Ministry 101 blog.

    Waiting for the film to roll
    Jessica shows off her new bag phone

    "Mom! I'm calling you from a bag!" —Jeff
    My team is awesome. Work is fun. :)



    The clearest sensation that a human being has when he experiences the holy is an overpowering and overwhelming sense of creatureliness. That is, when we are aware of the presence of God, we become most aware of ourselves as creatures. When we meet the Absolute, we know immediately that we are not absolute. When we meet the Infinite, we become acutely conscious that we are finite. When we meet the Eternal, we know that we are temporal. To meet God is a powerful study in contrasts.

    R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Minneapolis, 1985), page 63.




    real simple: pumpkin spice chai.

    Today was beautiful! 76 degrees. Nate had to work this afternoon and evening, so I took a nap. Miles joined me. Then I stopped by Starbucks for a pumpkin spice chai latte. It was good! Reading, doing dishes, and watching the Missouri v. Oklahoma game tonight.

    Our writers conference wrapped up well yesterday morning. It was a nice change of pace, but I'll be glad to be back in the office on Monday. This month has flown by! Just 24 days until Nate and I fly back to Kansas. Yeah!



    I got home a little early tonight and found Nate trying to surprise me by making potatoes. They were really good. I made thai chicken to complete the meal. It was pretty tasty.

    Nate's ready to dig in
    Thai Chicken
    • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
    • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken sliced into strips
    • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
    • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
    • 1/2 cup Peter Pan® Creamy Peanut Butter
    • 1 teaspoon McCormick® cayenne pepper
    • 1/2 cup scallions, chopped
    Heat oil in large skillet and cook chicken until it is no longer pink, about 2-3 minutes.
    Reduce heat to low and add ginger, Hoisin sauce, Peter Pan peanut butter and McCormick cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until sauce is bubbly and warm, 1-2 minutes. 
    Remove from heat and sprinkle with scallions. Serve immediately. 

    This week I've been at our preteen writers conference in Goodlettsville. It's more than twice the distance than going to work, but it's nice not having to wear business casual (and starting at 8:30 ... I can sleep in!)

    I'm definitely ready for tomorrow. Fridays are great. Almost as great as Saturdays. Good night!



    Last night I made chili and cornbread for dinner. Mmm, mmm. Nate was suffering from some pretty debilitating allergies, so we took it easy and I pulled out some of my stories from kindergarten and first grade and read them. :) I like to think I've come a long way since then. Here's a peek into the mind of 6-year-old Alyssa.

    "I like ku."
    "The Giant Banana Split"
    The Giant Banana Split
    Once I had some ice cream. It was so small my finger was bigger than it! I sat there and wished it was as big as the whole world! And guess what ... I got one that night! Because I wished on a star! It was so big, my mom let me invite all the people in the world to help eat it! She even let me invite the Chinese people! It took us three million years to eat it! Then we never had to eat anything for five thousand years. That's the end of my story! THE END!

    The Pumpkin Girl (10/6/94)
    Once upon a time there was a pumpkin girl. She always collected pumpkins. One day she found one hundred pumpkins! She was so happy, she fainted. The End.

    Halloween (9/27/94)
    One Halloween night, a little boy was going to bed. He heard a "Booooo!" He was so scared he lost his eyeballs! It was so disgusting. The End!

    The Sleepover (1/9/95)
    One day Mom decided that we hardly got to have friends over to have a sleepover. So she said we could have Kaylene over one day and Melissa and Keira over for a sleepover. So we called Kaylene and Melissa and Keira. Kaylene came over just to play but Keira and Melissa came over for the sleepover. We stayed up all night! We had fun at the sleepover.

    Who Stole Christmas? (11/17/94)
    One rainy, misty morning in November, I asked my mom how many more months until Christmas? Two, said mother. When Christmas came, mother said this year on the news the police said there will be no Christmas. BUT WHY? That evening on the news I heard that they caught a man down by the river! They said that he stole Christmas! Well now we got Christmas back. MERRY CHRISTMAS! THE END



    What a weekend. The trees here are bursting. Nate says they're dangerous because when you drive down the road, all you want to do is stare at them. :) All day yesterday I was thinking it was Sunday, so today felt like an extra special treat. I got up early on Saturday to donate blood at the American Red Cross. I recently had a blood test done at work, and all my levels of everything were normal except I have really low iron. (That might explain why I've been extremely sleepy lately.) But I started taking iron supplements and my iron was sufficient to donate.

    I think it was to my advantage that I donated in the morning. The guy stuck the needle in just right and I pumped out a pint in 5 minutes and 36 seconds! It usually takes me more than 10 minutes, so I was pretty proud of myself. :)

    Also for donating, the Red Cross gave me two tickets to the Nashville Predators hockey game on Tuesday evening against the Calgary Flames. The tickets were worth $44. Nate and I have men's group and women's group at church on Tuesdays, so I listed the tickets on Craigslist and sold them together for $25, which bought groceries for this week.

    Nate has been working evenings the last few days so I've been cleaning my house and planning meals for the next couple of weeks. A Dollar General Marketplace just opened near me and I was glad to get in on some great deals. I've also been hitting up Aldi for my basics (like black beans and flour and sugar). You know I'm getting cheap when Kroger seems really expensive! At DGM I picked up a 5lb. bag of potatoes for $1.75, rotini pasta for $0.90, and 2 lbs. of onions for $1. One dozen eggs at Aldi for $0.79, black beans for $0.55, and a bottle of vinegar for $0.79. Staying under my grocery budget is kind of a rush, in a domestic-nerd kind of way. :-)

    In one month, Nate and I are going back to Kansas! I'm really excited.



    God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
     Ephesians 2:4-7


    soup for him and cake for me.

    The weather is turning cold again, and I am glad to be able to turn off my air conditioner. Cooler weather also calls for warmer food. Monday night I made minestrone soup. I was in the first grade the first time I ever made minestrone. It's an easy soup with lots of vegetables, room for alterations, and a classic crowd-pleaser. Usually I compliment this meal with some cheddar-garlic biscuits or cornbread.

    Minestrone Soup 1 16-ounce can (2 cups) kidney beans
    1 clove garlic (minced)
    ½ teaspoon salt
    ¼ teaspoon pepper
    1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    ¼ cup shopped fresh parsley
    1 small fresh zucchini, unpeeled and diced
    2 celery stalks with leaves, finely chopped
    2 small carrots, peeled and diced
    1 small onion
    1 16-ounce can (2 cups) whole tomatoes, cut up with a spoon
    3 tablespoons butter or margarine
    2 ½ cups water
    1/3 cup elbow macaroni, uncooked
    ½ cup beef bouillon or tomato juice, salt to taste
    1. Put beans in a large kettle and mash them slightly with a fork.
    2. Add garlic, salt, pepper, oil ad parsley. Stir well.
    3. Add all vegetables, butter and water to the kettle. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
    4. Lower heat, cover the kettle and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
    5. After 1 hour, add macaroni and beef bouillon or tomato juice. Simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt to taste.
    Serves 6 to 8

    • Start early! I usually plan to start 1.5–2 hours before I want to serve dinner. It takes time to chop the vegetables, and the soup simmers for 1 hour and then an extra 15 minutes after adding the macaroni. Be patient. Eat cheddar-garlic biscuits as an appetizer.
    • Instead of tomato juice, I usually save the juice from the can of whole tomatoes and add it at the end with the macaroni.
    • There is lots of room to be flexible. I usually add black beans and some extra quantities of vegetables.
    • The garlic and parsley aren't deal-breakers. If you don't have any, don't worry about it.
    • I prefer adding more than 1/2 c. of macaroni. The more extras you add, the more water you might need to add. This isn't really a "soupy" soup; everything soaks up the water pretty quickly after you remove it from the heat and the consistency is more like goulash.
    • You don't have to use elbow macaroni. Switch it up and make it fun with any type of noodle. I really like spirals or mini shells.
    Last night, Nate and I went to dinner at Mafiaoza's with Sam, Anne, and John Henry. Mafiaoza's has lousy reviews on Google, but it wasn't bad. I still think Buzzard's Pizza in Lyndon, Kansas, makes the best pizza in the world, but on Monday nights Mafiaoza's has two-for-one specials and the atmosphere is nice, so it was good to spend the evening with friends. I was a little confused by what exactly two-for-one meant, but basically whatever you order, they'll bring you two of it. I ordered a slice of pepperoni and they brought me two. (Keep that in mind so you don't end up with twice as much food as you want!) Slices start at $2.75 (they're really big) and then extra toppings are extra ($.50 for pepperoni, for example).

    Tonight I am making loaded Hebrew National hot dogs on toasted hoagie buns and milkshakes, per Nate's request. Yesterday I took a 1/2 day of vacation and Nate and I went to the park and played basketball and Scrabble and hit some golf balls. The leaves are turning here in Nashville and they are beautiful. Looking forward to some rest this week.


    chihuly in nashville.

    This morning, Dad, Karen, and I went to see Chihuly at Cheekwood. Dale Chihuly is an artist who works with blown glass. His work is on display at Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art through the end of the month. We walked around for 2.5 hours. It was pretty amazing.

    I took 50 pictures; if you're my friend on Facebook, you can view the photos here.

    We met up with Nate for lunch at Baja Burrito and then headed downtown for drinks at Starbucks before hitting Centennial Park to view the Parthenon and enjoy Musicians Corner. We came back to my house for a quick game of UNO and then finished off the evening with dinner at Corky's BBQ and a bit of college football.

    I'm beat. Sleep tonight and more tomorrow.



    Dad and Karen flew in this afternoon. They saw my house and Miles, and then we went downtown to explore while we waited for Nate to get off work. The weather was beautiful! Nice and warm. Here are some photos I took in downtown Nashville. (Photos taken with my Samsung Reality.)

    Alley view
    Mural across from the Nashville Public Library
    towering tall
    cool old buildings
    The Arcade
    Batman building
    Hard Rock Cafe
    Ryman Auditorium
    Dad and Karen
    We got some drinks at Panera on 5th Ave. & Commerce. Nate met us there, and we walked a couple blocks down to Demos' Restaurant for dinner. Demos' was good. I had a classic: spaghetti and meatballs. Heading to bed for now. Tomorrow we might go check out Radnor Lake State Park, Cheekwood, Oktoberfest, and/or Musicians Corner.
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