Monday, September 29, 2008

Potato Soup

This weekend was pretty low-key around the Cook house. Saturday we had soccer, then Andy and I went our separate ways to work for awhile. I spent about three hours at school...he spent about eight at work. Poor thing has two major projects due this week, and no time to finish. So I went grocery shopping, did laundry, and baked for a bit. I ended up making: homemade pizza for dinner, pumpkin muffins (from the recipe in my NOG Bible study--so good), zuchinni muffins, and bread.

Sunday, I got sick. Miserably sick. We were teaching Sunday School, and I thought I was going to keel over. As soon as our class left, I looked at Andy and said, "My head hurts so much I think I'm going to throw up." We came home before church and I spent my day on the couch. I was hot and cold and had a headache and felt sick to my stomach and my throat hurt.....and it just kept on all day. I slept away most of the afternoon. Last night, I really wanted soup for dinner, and I didn't know of any way to get it without me having to make it.

So I pulled my miserable self off the sofa long enough to make potato soup...then went right back to my little bed. The potato soup was the bright spot of my day. Here's how I made it (I didn't really have a recipe...I just kind of threw stuff together)

6 potatoes, peeled and diced
3 T. margarine
1 onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks finely chopped
Turkey bacon (about half a pack, chopped)
A few T. flour
3 c. chicken broth
2 c. half and half
1 c. milk
1 c. sharp cheddar cheese

Boil the potatoes in a pot until soft. While the potatoes are boiling, melt margarine in a large skillet. Add the onions, celery and bacon and cook until vegetables soft, about 5-8 mins. Coat the vegetables with flour, stirring to combine and cover. Add chicken broth, stir until thickened some. At this point, your potatoes should be ready. Drain the potatoes and add to the other ingredients. Stir in half and half, milk, salt and pepper. Heat through. Let set for longer until you achieve the right consistency. Add in cheese and melt through.

This was so good. It was especially delightful today as leftovers. Mom, I'm afraid this is not a low-fat recipe. But it was darned good.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

That sweet husband of mine

A few weeks ago, like three maybe, something very special happened in our house. I don't know why I'm just getting around to blogging this...but I am.

I was having a really rough week at school. I had several students out for various things, and the make-up work was flying in from all directions. I had a stack of 100 essays to grade, along with grammar packets, a capitalization test, and a few other daily work type things. I was struggling to catch up.

At home, I hadn't bought any groceries for two-three weeks. The laundry was piled up. And I was exhausted. I felt so very overwhelmed. I called Andy one morning from school, because in the rush of the day I had forgotten my lunch, and that small moment was about to send me over the edge.

When I got home that night, this is what I found:
A pretty rose. Is it just me, or is that some crazy filler in that vase?

A card that said: "Ashley, don't touch the laundry!!! I love you! Andy"

And a sandwich from the one and only Subway! Even after working there for 2.5 years in high school, I am still never tired of Subway.

Seriously....what a sweetheart. That sweet husband of mine.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fall Decor

In the craziness of the last few weeks, I never posted pictures of my fall decorations. I'm pretty excited about them--especially because I finally got the bookshelf arranged in a way that I love. It's always looked off to me, but now I love it.
The wall above the sofa. Yes, those picture frames are still empty. I need some good pictures to put inside. But isn't that Harvest sign so sweet? It was only like 3 dollars at Hobby Lobby. And my fake pumpkins are from Big Lots. I got them the first and last time Andy went to Big Lots with me. He's okay with me shopping in ghetto looking stores...he just doesn't want to be there for it. And apparently the white C fell over.
The bookshelf, all decked out for fall. I added some new pumpkin spice candles to it this afternoon, so it already looks a little different. Oh...and a vase I got at the GW and spray painted white. I'll post a picture of that soon.
Closer shot of the top shelves. Those apples are sitting on coffee mugs from our dinnerware set. We ended up with four sets of our dishes...and I never have used all sixteen coffee cups at once, so I used some for decoration! The bird came from the Dollar Tree (so did the pumpkins), and I spray painted him. I made the FALL sign with scrapbook paper and a cookie sheet. And Andy and I made the "Cook family" sign as a joint effort. It didn't turn out perfectly, but it's cute enough.
Our fall centerpiece on our ugly little table with the non-matching chairs. We need a real table. Really badly.

And that about wraps up our tour. Hope you enjoyed your visit!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Back in the saddle

I had to go back to school today. After my "no power/boil water advisory" week, I had to go back to work. And I've got to tell you, it's not all it's cracked up to be.

It wasn't bad. It just wasn't nearly as much fun as staying in my pajamas, playing with spray paint and glue guns, and spending the week with my friends. This whole work thing just seems so overrated.

Speaking of my glue gun....I finished up these pretty things yesterday. I had them up last weekend, but I didn't think I did it right. Then I realized the fabric smelled like dead fish, and it needed to be laundered. So when I finally got power, I got it laundered, and I finished this up Saturday night. Those are some purty sentences, I know. I'll just repeat something I said at lunch on Saturday, "I may be an English teacher..but I never said I was a good one." Also..don't pay attention to the floral will be slipcovered soon :)

Speaking of Saturday...what a good day! My mom, and Mariah, and Tamera (Mariah's mom) were here, and we took the town by storm. We had lunch at The Downtowner (my favorite place to go...and we only go when we have guests) and wandered throughout the shops downtown, having a good old time. The next time Shannon is home (are you reading this Shannon?) she and Mariah and I are going to the paint your own pottery studio together. I think Lauren Keller should come on her next weekend off and do the same thing with me. Back to Saturday. We had a blast.

I think my mom misses me. I make her laugh so hard she doesn't know what to do with herself. I told her that I know she doesn't have nearly as much fun when I'm not around.

And they teased me about my glue gun obsession. And we went into the chocolate shop, each bought a chocolate, walked out onto the sidewalk and ate it (cinnamon truffle--so yum!). Then we crossed the street and got a scoop of ice cream. Isn't that just something that girls can do together? Andy would look at me like I sprouted two heads if I suggested that. It was like seriously the perfect day.

And that ends my fancy writing for today.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Coffee Creamer

I have a bit of an obsession with flavored coffee creamers.

Okay. I said it. Now I need to tell you the worst part.

I can never decide which one to many look so good, and taste so good.

I was at Wal-Mart earlier, and the choices were almost overwhelming. Dulce de Leche and Belgian White Chocolate Macadamia have been good to me lately, but that new English Toffee Almond looks pretty appealing....and a Cinnamon something too. Don't even get me started on the seasonal flavors. International Delights already has Chocolate Mint Truffle out, and the spot where White Chocolate Raspberry will go is marked. And Coffee-Mate's seasonal flavors pretty much rock my world. Peppermint Mocha. Pumpkin Spice. Gingerbread. And there's a new one (at least, that's what the empty, eagerly waiting to be filled spaces in the Wal-Mart cooler told me): Caramel Apple.

I may have to have a whole shelf in my newly cleaned refrigerator to make room for all my new coffee flavoring friends.

Bless my heart.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Part 2: The Aftermath, and Survival

After our weatherhead was ripped off, it was pretty clear that we wouldn't be getting any power until we paid an electrician to come fix that, so we knew power wasn't an option for Sunday.

So we went in search of something to eat. We ended up with .45 vending machine coffee and a pack of Rainbow Twizzlers that tasted like Pine-Sol. The only thing we could find was the vending machine in Plant II at Andy's work...they had "limited power."

My school was cancelled for Monday, Andy's work was still up in the air. We ended up eating leftover cold pasta from Saturday night for our dinner.

Come Monday, Andy did have to go to work. I stayed home and waited for our electrician. The power company restored power to our neighborhood (not us, though, because of the damage). I ended up throwing away the food in our refrigerator. Our electrician came and fixed everything and I paid him and he left.

At this point, we thought things might be getting better. Instead, they really weren't. The town was under a boil water advisory, which meant that there weren't any restaurants open either. So we lived on Blueberry Muffin Mini Wheats and Cheez-Its Duos for a bit. That made me sick to my stomach.

We also discovered that there was more extensive damage downtown. A lot of historic trees had fallen over, yanking out sidewalks and taking out parts of homes in the process. A few homes in the county were totally destroyed, and there was a lot of recovering to do.

Come Tuesday, Andy had to leave. He had to shower by candlelight at 4 am to get ready to catch his flight. He was in New Hampshire for some training for work from Tuesday-late Thursday. So I was home alone in the dark. I ended up going to T and MJ's for most of Tuesday afternoon/evening. They had some meat that they had salvaged and were going to grill, and we were going to attempt Velveeta Shells and Cheese on the side burner of the grill.


That didn't work out.

Instead, the grill caught completely on fire. Gas was pouring out the pipes and the whole thing was in flames. It was so horrifying! Everything inside the grill was on fire.

Once we got it put out, we gave the meat a try. The pork chops were still really good. The steak honestly wasn't bad, either.

I spent that night at their house, instead of home alone in the dark. Wednesday, we went to breakfast at a new restaurant. I will not be going back. We'll just say it was a bad experience. A really bad one.

Still no power Wednesday. I was so thankful, though, that we have a gas water heater, so we were still able to have warm showers.

Thursday was more of the same. By this time, school was cancelled for the week. I had thrown away everything that was in our fridge and freezer. There was still no power. I ended up wandering around Wal-Mart trying to figure out what to eat for dinner. I had a Lunchable, apples with dipping sauce, and a candy bar. I was on the phone with my mom for most of my trip, and it was ridiculous. She had to hear me weigh out a crazy number of options. It was like my brain had just frozen up completely, and making simple choices was difficult.

Thankfully, Andy got home late last night. We had burned through most of our candles, so I bought new today. I also bought Andy some new underpants...because he was all out. I went to school for a few hours this morning to do some work there, and when I came home--the people from the power company were in our backyard! We ended up getting power at about 1:15 this afternoon! It was so exciting.

I've been doing laundry ever since--I've never been so thankful to use my washing machine or my vaccuum. I'm going to try to get groceries in the morning, before our soccer game.

I think our lives are starting to get back to normal.

Part 1: The Storm

I'm going to post a few different entries today, to catch up on this week. This will be Part 1: The Storm.

On Sunday, after church, Andy and I came home. We had stopped at Subway on our way home, and were coming home to watch the Colts game, do laundry, and catch up on schoolwork (me, not Andy). We had a nice full refrigerator and freezer, completely stocked from my trip to the store on Friday, where I had shopped for the next 22 meals.

On the way home, Andy said to me, "Whoa--did you see that dust blow by. That was quite a wind."

A moment later, or maybe before, it's fuzzy now, we had seen an electrical wire that seemed suspiciously low. We really didn't think much of this at the time.

When we got home, we had no power. That was 11:30 Sunday morning.

Soon after, the wind started to blow like mad. Andy was outside on the roof yanking branches off our trees that he thought might hit the roof.

About an hour or so into the windstorm, I sent my sister a picture that looked similar to this:

She called me back, and read to me what was saying about the wind in our area, since you know, I had no power. As she and I were talking, I watched the ladder fly across my backyard. I thought my husband was still on the I think I shouted something into the phone and took off. He was on the ground, and all was well

Eventually, a branch from our neighbor's yard took out the power line completely (for the third time since May) and this time actually ripped the weatherhead off our house. Here are some photos of that damage.

Once the storm was over, we went for a drive to some of the surrounding neighborhoods and discovered that the damage was widespread. All of these pictures were taken within a few blocks of our house.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Give me your eyes

This week has been an interesting one. A lot has gone on. I'm exhausted, but I think it's a good exhausted. For the past few weeks, I have really been struggling with a few things. Part of my struggle is at school, trying to figure out how to be a good teacher and how to best relate to each of my students and how to best manage my classroom. I struggle with this. I have an all or nothing personality, and finding balance has been a struggle. I know that isn't totally clear. I haven't quite figured out how to verbalize it properly.

I feel like often it's too easy for me to run between extremes--to give in and give my students what they want because they give me a sob story or to be a complete stickler and not listen to any excuses, valid or not. It's hard for me to know who to trust.

But that's not been the total struggle. The struggle is really more internal. I have been struggling with my varying levels of compassion for people. I have been struggling with my own selfish heart. And mostly, just struggling with what I see going on in the world around me.

Andy had some really eye-opening, and just heart-breaking experiences with a few different people this week, and he told me that he felt like he had just experienced his first real day, where he had really seen what the world looked like.

As I started to think more and more about that, I had a serious revelation.

This week, I saw a car accident happen in a split second, as I sat just feet away with a dear friend, her mom and her two little boys in her front yard.
This week, I heard a story of anger and rage in someone who is far too young for these emotions that broke my heart.
This week, I saw someone who had been in a fight a week earlier who was missing a part of his ear. It had been stitched shut.
This week, I heard the explicit-laden screams of a student who had just had it coming from my classroom as I stood less than ten feet away.
Every day, I watch people throwing their lives at things of this world, things that will only bring heartache and pain.
Even the news, each and every day, is filled with something terrible. Right now, every news station is covering Hurricane Ike and the destruction it is causing in Texas. Some days, though, especially right now, it's the mean words and dissension between political leaders in this country. Everyone thinks that they are right, and that the other is completely wrong and terrible.

Our world is an ugly place. That wasn't really the revelation. The revelation hit me as I was reading this passage for probably the hundredth time in my life:

"What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but you don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
James 4:1-4

There are fights and quarrels at every turn. I have disagreements with my husband on a regular basis. Sometimes they are minor, but they are still quarrels. And they still stem from my desire to be right living in opposition to his desire to be right. Almost every bit of that heartache and pain I mentioned before is completely related to this passage (not the hurricane or the car accident). But the anger, the rage, the fighting, the hatred--those all stem from people wanting something they cannot have. Or should not have. People everywhere, myself absolutely included, are searching for their significance, for their very happiness in things that will only steal and kill and lead to death. I think it's something I have always known, it's just vibrantly clear to me right now.

And so, for now, I am praying for the strength to leave these idols behind in my own life. And for the wisdom to know how to pray for and care for the people around me who are struggling with the same thing.

Friday, September 12, 2008

I knew I was bad....

The other day, I was at MJ's house, for the first time in far too long. Sweet little B, my favorite two-year-old, sat down on my lap for me to read him a story. As I started to read the story, I was told that this was actually an Itsy-Bitsy Spider songbook.

I'm not so fond of the songbook thing. I'm a bit pitchy. But I figure, oh hey, he's two, he won't mind.

I start to sing the song. AND HE COVERS HIS EARS!

The best part, though, was when I asked him if he covered his ears because of my singing, HE NODDED YES! It was too funny.

That's the last time I sing the Itsy-Bitsy Spider.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Favorite Moment of Last Weekend

And there were several.

Trust me.

But this one tops them all.

As Jon and Carrie entered their reception, Andy looks me at and says,"They are a ridiculously attractive couple."

I agreed. I told him I was sure they would have stunning children.

He looked back and said, "Yeah. I hope our kids marry one of their kids, so maybe we'll have attractive grandkids."

I thought that was the best part...that he thought we wouldn't have attractive children because we are both unattractive. But it wasn't. The best part was when I asked him about it later, he really hadn't realized that he had basically said I was unattractive. Watching his response was just too much.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Exploding Dishes

I learned an important lesson today.

Do not broil Pyrex. It will explode. And shatter all over your counter and parts of your kitchen, and make you somewhat frustrated. Especially when you realize that only an idiot would have put a glass dish under such high heat. And you are that idiot.

I wish I had taken a picture of it, but I was sort of shell-shocked. My poor sister called just minutes afterwards, and I was barely coherant.

I had completely planned to share with you how wonderful my dear husband is...but that will have to wait until tomorrow. There are pictures for that story. Besides, this is shorter, and until I start to make a dent in the five inch pile of papers I need to grade, I should stick with shorter.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sweet, sweet times

We had like seriously the best weekend.

I got to do some sweet shopping with my darling second mom, and I found the perfect fabric for our living room. I'm so excited to have some time to work on my next project. I also got the cutest lamps for our bedroom at Target. They will be so sweet...especially with the picture frame I found at Meijer yesterday. (BTW--Meijer had some seriously cute stuff...I had no idea!)

Then, I got a ride up to the sweetest wedding ever. Jon and Carrie's wedding was just a real delight. It ranked up there among my favorites, which not a title I give lightly. It was very elegant and sweet, but they were the real highlight. They are just a couple that I so love, and that are so special to Andy and I. Jon has been one of my favorite people for a long time and Carrie is just too dear. I wish they lived next door to us. That would be perfect. Here are some pictures from the wedding:

Andy looks like a little Z with his beard and short hair!

Andy seriously has the sweetest friends. These men were all in Bible study together in their residence hall at some point at Purdue over the last several years. Z, in the back graduated before I started college. Steve and Blake were seniors my freshman year. Jon and Andy and Tim and JD and Colin and Blaydes were a year or two ahead of me, and Josh Weis (who I want to marry my sister) and Mikel are my age. They all bonded together in the Lord, and still keep in touch...almost daily...through an email list, and they get together once or twice a year. It's just such a special group. I doubt we'll ever experience anything else quite like it.

Hey Look! The Cooks' were there! It only took three tries to get this one!

I wish I could say that this is unusual. But then I would be lying. Andy is popular with the boys. And I do so love Blake. He and I had a wonderful chat about the chaos of my current life. I even cried a bit with him.

Steve is still single. And looking! Any takers? He's in Kansas.

And then, after the wedding, I got a sweet car ride with my husband and a visit with my parents. It was so nice to spend the night at their house and just relax with them for a few hours. And then we spent Sunday afternoon with Andy's parents again. It was seriously the best weekend I have had in a LONG time.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Dangerous territory

I'm at Andy's parents' house, and it's a dangerous place for me to be. Not dangerous because it's bad here, but because it is oh-so-good.

I feel like it's no secret that I don't love the town we live in. It's been compounded by the things I have seen and heard in my first few weeks of school. I'm certain now that I don't want to raise my own children in that place. I'm not sure I want them to know it exists. That's a little overdramatic. I have great friends, and we love our church. But when I'm not with them, it's hard for me to be positive. I'm definitely learning a lot about patience, and about not demanding my own way. Andy is learning about sacrifice this year. So there are good things.

It's just hard to see that when I'm here. I got to eat at a restaurant last night. Not Burger King. A real restaurant where they take you to your seats, bring you drinks in real cups, and serve your food on glass dishes. And I didn't have to drive 45 minutes to experience this goodness. Today, I am going to Hobby Lobby in a completely different town (Carmel...instead of Indy) and it's only going to take 10 minutes to get there, instead of 45.

Target is only five minutes away. Not even five, really. It's a glorious thing. And I just really love being here.

Tonight, on the way home from the wedding (which is a lot north of here...about 3 hours north...5 from our house), we are going to stop in Fort Wayne to pick up something. And I am finally going to get a new pair of running shoes. I have needed a pair since last May, but we haven't been anywhere that I could get one. How crazy is that? I've been wearing shoes that tear skin off my feet because I haven't been able to get to a store.

It's relaxing when we come north. I got to lay aside the stress of this past week, and just relax. I know I'm blowing it out of proportion, because this week was a difficult one. But right now, I'm perfectly content. I have half a mind to pitch a fit and refuse to get in the car tomorrow.

I'll just stay, thanks. I have some friends in town already. I can make new pretty easily. And there are tons of churches here, I'm sure we can find a great one.

And that's why this is dangerous territory.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Breaking News...from Saturday

I ate sushi.

Yes, I did.

After nearly five years of Andy begging me to try it, I finally relented.

It's a little something I like to call a compromise. It's a good thing to do when you're married.

You go shopping with me, I eat sushi with you.
You change the oil in my car, I make seven loaves of zuchinni bread.
I come up with all sorts of ideas for crafts and home improvement, you figure out how to make it work.
You give me free reign in Hobby Lobby, I'll be extra sweet on the drive home.

Those were the major moments of our weekend.

In other news, have I seriously known Andy for five years?