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Archive for January, 2013

Sorry, Julia

Bart and I spent two weeks in Europe in September of last year–my awesome graduation present! While we were in France, Switzerland, and Italy, we ate lots of delicious food, and that inspired us to try a few of our favorite recipes once we got home.

One French classic we enjoyed while in Paris was the quiche lorraine, something I was quite certain I could reasonably attempt on my own. When I started meal planning a few weeks ago, it came to mind that I hadn’t made one yet, so I put it on the list and went hunting for a recipe. Where better to start than Julia Child’s own recipe? It was simple yet elegant, exactly what I was looking for (and it had bacon). Unfortunately, I was a little lazy about having to chill the dough for two hours. For a meal to put together after work, ain’t nobody got time for that.

So, I’ve been putting it off for a few weeks now, but today I decided to give up on Julia’s crust recipe and find a quicker yet appropriate substitute. Sorry, Julia.

I decided to try this quicker quiche crust (try saying that five times fast), and it turned out pretty well. It wasn’t terribly hard to roll out and lay in the tart pan.

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I still went with Julia’s recipe for the innards (including bacon).

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The final result was quite delicious and pretty and comparable to ones we ate in France. The crust turned out pretty well, if a bit on the heavy side. Now I have to figure out which delectable European treat I’ll try next!

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Bart and I have, on two separate Saturdays, almost made the two-hour drive to Hershey, PA to visit Hershey’s Chocolate World. For various reasons we never made it either time. However, last weekend we decided the time had finally arrived, and we also decided that this time we would go big or stay home. Instead of just a day trip, we got a cheap Priceline hotel deal and made a weekend out of it.

Saturday morning, we got up and hit the road. We headed north to Baltimore, our first time going through the city. We even drove under part of the bay on I-95, which was a new experience for us formerly land-locked types. From there, we took the back way into Pennsylvania and Lancaster County. We saw a few Amish there, one man in his field with a team of oxen and passed a horse and buggy on the road.

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We had lunch in Lancaster at diner #1, then headed a few miles east to Columbia, PA to the National Watch and Clock Museum. I had never heard of this place before doing a little internet recon for this trip, and I knew that, as a time nerd, there was no way I would pass up this place.

This is actually a pretty neat little museum. There must be thousands of clocks, from pocket watches to pendulum clocks to even some modern atomic clocks:

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The first is the Atomichron, the world’s first commercially built atomic clock (1960, National Company of Malden, Massachusetts). The second, which has a neat yet somewhat antiquated dial face, was unknown to me, or to my boss when I later showed him the photo. It had no plaque at the museum, but we decided that it must be based on ammonia. That boring-looking HP box looks like something we’d have stuck in the corner of our lab under an old spectrum analyzer; it’s no different than the modern instruments we use today. And yes, those were the only items I took pictures of in the whole place.

That evening we drove to Hershey, where we ate dinner at diner #2 (yes, two diners in one day) and stayed the night. We got up Sunday morning and visited Chocolate World. We took the “tour” ride about how the factory produces various chocolate bars and also took a chocolate tasting class. If only all my classes in college were that satisfying.

No, I did not come home with that Reese’s.

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From there, we drove back into Maryland through Hagerstown and Frederick, the way we came when we moved, only it was much more interesting and less stressful in the daylight and after two months of learning how to actually get to our house.

This was a fun, laid-back getaway for a sunny winter weekend. There are lots of things to do in the area here, but most of them aren’t very fun when it’s cold outside. But we enjoyed seeing some new county and eating diner food and chocolate. Best of all, I still had another day off for MLK Jr Day/Inauguration Day after we returned. First Pennsylvania trip: success.

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Two months

Bart and I have now been in Maryland for two months. Given that we’ve been here during arguably the busiest season of the entire year, one would think the time has just flown by. In a way, maybe it has, but I actually feel like it’s been forever since leaving Colorado.

In a way, I’m settling in and finding a groove–at work, around town, during my commute, etc–but just when I start to feel like I’m getting moderately comfortable with life here, I immediately am reminded of something frustrating, and I despair of ever finding this place to be “home.” Groceries are expensive, houses are expensive, our house is drafty and cold and full of bugs, I miss owning my own house, we haven’t met many people yet, it’s dreary and cold. Bart pointed out that we would have to make these or similar adjustments anywhere we moved, and this just takes time. I still struggle, though.

Here are some things we’ve done after being here two months:

  • Bought a little furniture, including a dining table
  • Celebrated our first Christmas not in Arkansas.
  • Used a sick day
  • Used a vacation day
  • Teleworked
  • Made a long weekend trip away from home
  • Visited a couple of churches multiple times
  • Avoided the Mayan apocalypse
  • Finished a knitting project
  • Started another knitting project
  • Celebrated our anniversary
  • Noticed some daffodils or tulips already poking through the ground by the front door
  • Purchased a truck bed load of firewood
  • Texted or emailed or called to keep up with some friends

Things we still haven’t done, some of which are on our radar in the near future:

  • Have house guests
  • Cross the Mason Dixon line
  • Visit Pennsylvania, Delaware
  • Eat fresh seafood on the coast (Bart, at least)
  • Cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel
  • Visit the International Spy museum in DC
  • Visit the Air and Space museum near Dulles
  • Have coffee with my high school friend who lives in Virginia
  • Text or email or call more friends

 

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It’s Friday! I successfully made it through the first normal week we’ve had in a while. No holidays, nobody sick, just almost boring, right? 🙂 I guess it hasn’t actually been boring. We’ve had a few things going on at the Taylor household recently that make us feel like we’re starting to clip along a bit like normal.

First, after many weeks of flailing about in the kitchen without a rhyme or reason, I decided that I had to start meal planning to bring some semblance of order to kitchen chaos. One of the worst things about moving has been replenishing my pantry supplies and trying to find decent grocery stores in the area. I could complain about this for hours, but I’ll refrain at the moment. Anyways, I’ve finally got a working source of food both at home and from the store, but my typical MO of going into the kitchen and staring at my fridge to see what I have to throw together for a meal each night was not cutting it. I decided my grocery shopping and cooking needed a little focus and direction. So I made a list of things I hadn’t cooked in a while, made a grocery list, stocked my fridge for the week, and have been cranking out some yummy dishes, such as the Pioneer Woman’s cajun chicken pasta and my pork loin roast, as featured at Thanksgiving. This evening we had breakfast for dinner, featuring home-made hash browns and made-from-scratch southern style biscuits. The consensus at the Taylor house: mmmmmmmmmm.

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This week, my amaryllis bloom finally opened up. I grew my first bulb last year at Christmas, and I really enjoyed the vibrant color brightening up the gloom and grey of winter. There’s also a second shoot (you can see it hiding behind the big blooms) that will be blooming in the next week or so.

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In order to bulk up the furniture shortage in the Taylor household, Bart and I recently decided to try something completely different and take a chance on purchasing a few accent pieces online. When we were at his sister’s house over Christmas, we got to see an ottoman she had purchased on Overstock.com. We were surprised at how nice it was, and since we were had actually been looking at ottomans (ottomen?) and coffee tables for the den, we decided to give it a try ourselves. We purchased an ottoman (not pictured) and an upholstered bench, shown below. We weren’t looking for benches and it seemed a little bit of a strange item to purchase. However, when we saw it, we were immediately drawn to it. As we finished browsing for other stuff, we decided that at the price point, we could go ahead and try it. I really like it; it’s got some interesting script French text on it and a nice color. It will look great filling up empty space and will be really useful for extra seating (one of these days maybe we’ll actually know some people to invite over!).

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And speaking of furniture, our dining table finally came in! We just got the call from West Elm today, so we’re going to go pick that up tomorrow. We still won’t have the chairs, as they were backordered and shipping separately, but when I get everything in, I’ll share a picture of the final result.

It’s also worth noting that we got our copy of A Memory of Light, the last installment of the long-lived Wheel of Time fantasy series. After many long years of waiting, it’s finally time to wrap up the series. Bart and I are reading it aloud to each other, something we enjoy doing, but it does take a lot longer. Nevertheless, we’ll both stick it out together and finish at the same time.

So, not a bad week at the Taylor house. This weekend we hope to take care of some errands, do some more church shopping, and also do something fun, including watching the Broncos win their playoff game on Saturday. Go Denver!

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Church shopping

More than any other of the dozens of adjustments, large and small, that we have faced moving across the country, this is undoubtedly one of the most gigantic we have to deal with.

It’s no secret that our faith is of primary importance to Bart and me. More than anything we can achieve personally or professionally, individually or together, we strive for the worship of God and the work of the gospel to be accomplished in all we do. The way we are equipped and encouraged to accomplish this work is by partnering with like-minded people around us–that is, a local church. In the church, we also equip and encourage others in their ministries, and we pool our resources to reach places we can’t go alone.

Bart and I were incredibly involved with our church in Colorado. Most of our closest relationships were there, and we invested a lot of time and energy into various ministries of the church. It certainly wasn’t perfect (no church made up of imperfect humans will ever be!), but it meant a lot to us. It was probably one of the hardest parts about leaving, so much so that it was hard not to wonder if we were even making the right decision to leave it.

Well, we have never doubted that it was the right decision, even if it was a hard one. The one fact that has sustained us through the toughest, most discouraging times of the move has been knowing that God has to have some reason for wanting us here; something to accomplish within or through us. We obviously don’t have a complete understanding of what that is yet, but we’re pretty certain that being a part of a church will be a significant part of our being here. In fact, until we find a church, we will probably not make any significant, deep relationships until we do. By the way, if you’re keeping track, so far the Taylors have zero close relationships here so far.

We hit the ground running when we got here, and we’ve been visiting churches each of the eight weeks we’ve been here. Having absolutely no leads here, nobody to ask about churches, we’ve been blindly searching via the internet and cold calling churches that sound reasonable from what we can discern online. During that time, I feel like my thoughts and expectations have changed half a dozen times. I know I’m guilty of assessing each church we visit at a high analytical level–how are they organized? How do they interact with visitors? What’s happening behind the scenes? What ministries do they have? How have they prepared for this service? On the other hand, I am also there ravenously hungry for some basics–who here might be our friends? Where are people our age? Where do we fit in? And, one of the most interesting questions I find myself asking, am I needed or wanted?

I could make a million observations after eight weeks of church shopping, way more than I can address here. I could probably write an entire book about everything we’ve felt and struggled with as we’ve shared our different experiences at places. Some things we’ve agreed on, but a surprising number of things we haven’t seen eye to eye over. I guess one of the things we struggle with is trust. We gave so much at our previous church, and we expect to give as much again. Since we are dealing with imperfect humans, there’s always the possibility of something bad happening; this has happened before and is bound to happen again. We aren’t trying to protect ourselves from it, just trying to make sure we’re in a place that’s the right fit for us with as much as we anticipate investing into it.

Another significant issue is location. We visited a number of churches close to us, but they just seemed to be lacking something we were looking for. We expanded our search and found some better places, churches that seemed a bit more vibrant and meaningful, but some of them are a little further away. That could be challenging if we went for something during the week, as evening traffic is a nightmare here. Furthermore, we have no idea where we will permanently locate after we are done renting here. Do we pick a church that’s close now and drive from wherever we land? Do we pick a church regardless of location and either drive later or pick our place of residence to be moderately convenient to both work and church? That’s an answer neither one of us has any idea about.

In a way I wondered if we would just know the right church when we found it, but so far, even finding a few good ones, this hasn’t been the case yet. At present, there are two churches we’ve liked well enough to visit multiple times, but neither are a for sure slam dunk just yet. We’ve started to carefully get to know them a little better and see if we can tell where God is leading us. We also haven’t ruled out visiting other new churches if we come across them. We don’t want to take it lightly, but we don’t want to way overthink it, either (which we’re both too good at doing). And while we also don’t want to rush the decision, we also are getting tired of making no new relationships and having nothing to be involved with. But we’ll be best off if we are patient and let God show us where He wants us to be.

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Hello, 2013

So much for 2013 starting off less eventful than 2012. It seems like the last few days have been full of sad news and discouragement. For one, Bart got sick on Sunday, and I followed suit on New Years Day. I even had to take my first sick day on Wednesday, the first day everyone else in my group was finally back after Christmas (of course, I had been healthy and at work every other day before that). Ah well. I managed to go in today, thinking I was mostly better, but two nights of not sleeping well made me kind of zombified. Bart is better now, so hopefully I will be soon, too, since I seem to just be a couple of days behind. In addition, we’ve gotten multiple pieces of bad or unfortunate news from family and friends. Some have turned out okay, others not. Even bits of good news have just added to the amount of news overall, and like I said–I was kind of hopeful for less eventful in general.

Bad news, not feeling well, and lack of sleep are the perfect cocktail for a little discouragement. It doesn’t help that we’re in a new place, still trying to get settled, still trying to figure things out. I know it’s only been three days, and things aren’t bound to be dismal for the entire year; it’s just a strange way to start it. I’m sure things will look up when I no longer have a snotty flood coming out of my nose and I stop trying to hack up a lung. And a good night’s sleep and some good new goes a long way to a sunnier outlook!

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