Living Lovely

Washed and Ironed

During the last few weeks I’ve been reminded that the Gospel is a beautiful thing.  I really don’t want to preach, but I do want to be honest here and share my life with you, and that has been a huge part of it recently.  I think it began with me finally admitting again, really admitting to myself, that  I don’t have it all together. Not in the funny, messy room and burnt dinner sort of way, but in the being a good person way.  The more I look at who Jesus is, the way he loved and lived, the more I realize how far I fall short.  So far. But when I admitted that again I also saw the beauty of the Gospel again: that a perfect God came to save me because I could not save myself.  As it was put in the children’s message today, Jesus and I made a trade:  I gave him my stained and ratty shirt, and in return I got one washed and ironed. If you don’t believe this, I really hope I haven’t scared you away.  I also hope that you’ll look into what Jesus says about himself and make up your own mind about him.  As for me?  I was reminded today that he is my peace and joy and righteousness, something I could never have on my own.

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Favorites

This week saw two of my favorite things:  Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies and When Harry Met Sally.  Need I say more?  If you’re British, probably yes.  Nestle Tollhouse is a brand of chocolate chip that prints their cookie recipe on the back of the bag.  This is the recipe that most people start their baking with, and then move on to bigger and better things as their baking improves.  Not me.  Caitlin and I used to be terrible bakers.  We’d make these chocolate cookies but add baking powder instead of soda, put in too much salt, completely melt the butter, or just plain burn the cookies.  At the end of high school however, we started to get it right, and we discovered that it wasn’t just the cookie dough that tasted fantastic, the cookies were pretty good as well.  And even though I know that there are better, more sophisticated recipes out there for the perfect chocolate chip cookie, I’m going to remain faithful.  And the dough tastes amazing. My second love this week was When Harry Met Sally.  Unlike the cookies, I hadn’t experienced this until I moved into the Wesly House, or more accurately, moved in with Anna.  I feel as if I’m making up for lost time however, for this movie is quickly becoming a favorite.  I love that it’s set in the fall and winter, that “It Had to Be You” reappears throughout the film, and that Meg Ryan’s hair only gets curlier as the movie progresses. And the old couples?  I want to be that someday.

Settling

I feel like I’m starting to settle in. The kind of settling where you can curl comfortably on the couch or sit on your flatmates bed to chat.   My room, for better or worse, is starting to look lived in, with pictures pinned on the wall and laundry drying and books piled up.  I think there’s something about cold weather and socks and lots of cups of tea that is making this smoother.  The wonderful flatmates to drink the tea with probably have something to do with it as well.   Don’t get me wrong: there are some things that keep reminding me that this is not quite home.  Roommates are flatmates, desserts are puddings, and I am apparently incapable of pronouncing certain names correctly.  I still ask  “Sorry, what?” more than I should, and I spent way too long today learning the hard way that Italian sausage is simply not to be found in Scotland.  But today, for the first time, I had a friend over for dinner.  I feel like it was a big step.  We sat and talked over lasagna and chocolate and tea (what a combination), and it was so nice to be able to invite someone into my home.  So yes, I’m a month in and I still have a long way to go.  I’m learning that building a community takes time and effort and patience.  But I’m also finding that a month in, I’ve come pretty far, starting to feel comfortable in this new flat and city and community.

(I apologize for yet another random picture.  Eventually I’ll actually remember to take some photos.  For now, you get a picture of the meadows, one of my views on my walk back from class.)

Cakes and Picnics

Good news: I have another recipe to share with you!  It is for an apple cake that I made yesterday, despite the warm weather.  Edinburgh has been going through a heat wave recently, meaning it feels much more like a San Luis Obispo fall than a Scottish one.  When the weather is good here, people flock to the Meadows, bringing bbqs, tightropes, “footballs”, and picnic blankets. We decided we had to join in, so Gwen, Moira, and I, along with some friends from church, ate dinner outside last night.  As soon as we decided to to do this I knew I had found the perfect excuse to make this cake I had seen online.  What better way to make a picnic in October seem a little more season-appropriate?  The cake is delicious – it’s dense and moist and the brown sugar glaze is amazing.  The recipe is below, or you can follow this link.

(As you probably noticed, the picture is not from the picnic…I might have had more than one slice)

Fresh Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze adapted from Southern Cakes

Apple Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped apples
  • 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped (optional)

Brown Sugar Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 Tablespoon heavy cream

For the cake: Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch pan (round or square) and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.Stir with a whisk to mix everything together.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs with a hand mixer til light in color and foamy. Add the oil and vanilla and beat well.

Stir in the flour mixture with a spoon and continue stirring the batter til the flour disappears. Add the apples and nuts (if using) and stir to mix them into the batter.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Place the hot cake on a wire cake. While it’s still hot, prepare the glaze.

For the glaze: Combine all the ingredients into a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the mixture comes to a gentle boil. Cook for 3-5 minutes.

Spoon the hot glaze over the still hot-from-the-oven cake. Let the glazed cake cool completely before serving straight from the pan.

Meet Gwen

I have two flatmates, both of which will be mentioned here very often, I’m sure.  Tonight I would like to introduce you to Gwen.  A couple of things you should know about Gwen: she over-uses the word “jobby” (you should look it up), she sets up more coffee and dinner dates than anyone I’ve ever met, and she’s one of those people that live funny stories every day.  Or maybe she’s just better at telling them than the rest of us.  I’m seriously considering having a weekly Gwen post on this page, where I tell you a story or two that has come up during the week.  To give you a preview of these weekly stories, I’ll give you my favorite Gwen-quote of the day.  Moira, Gwen and I were walking to church, when Gwen announced that we had to stop.  As she phrased it, “my knickers are literally in a twist.”  I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone use that phrase so literally.

Sisters!

Caitlin came to visit yesterday, which was a completely last minute decision but a very welcome one. Although her primary reason in visiting Edinburgh was to visit a friend, we did manage to get in some good sister time. The highlight of the afternoon was our trip to the Meadows, which is a beautiful park near my apartment. The weather was wonderfully sunny, so we soaked up some last bits of vitamin D (that’s right, isn’t it?) while we caught up on all the things that happened in the week since we’ve seen each other. While we were sitting there we had two visitors, a spotty little spaniel and a snorty little pug. I think I’m in love with the pug, and would be very tempted to get one if I was a little more settled. After our time at the park we seriously considered making dinner, before deciding that that would be far to much effort, and Indian food sounded so much better. And the best part? It’s just beginning to look like fall.

PS The picture is from Cayucos, not Edinburgh, but it still works 🙂

Brownie Love

Several days ago I made the most amazing brownies.  They fall more into the shamefully decadent category than the lovely, but I feel like I owe it the world to share it.  The recipe is from Baked NYC (apparently a very famous bakery in New York) and has been featured by Oprah, so I’m definitely not the first to discover them, but I may be the most enthusiastic.  I feel that the best way to describe them would be brownie fudge.  Yum.  I’m posting the recipe below, which came from Brown Eyed Baker.  The only thing I changed was that I omitted the espresso powder, simply because I didn’t have any on hand and I didn’t want to buy some.  These brownies are gooey and soft and wonderful the day you make them.  However, I put mine in the fridge over night and they settled and became chewey and dense and even better than the warm and gooey version.  I’m in love.  You should all make these and fall in love as well.