October 31, 2011

Life Is More Fun (For All Creatures) In Costume - Happy Halloween!

Click Here for EPIC cuteness!

I love Halloween! I especially love to dress up in costumes. As I was planning my Halloween costume for this year I was reminded that my 10 year old bunny, Jackson, would be left out of the fun. So, I decided to remedy that by finding her something to wear that is AWESOME! Fortunately for me, Jackson wears size Chihuahua and I was able to find her something that shows off her cute sense of style while still being spooky - the skull 'n crossbones glow in the dark - She needs to be visible when trick or treating - Safety First!

So today's blog honors all the animals in the world who are forced into costumes by their owners! We are sorry animals, sometimes we just can't help ourselves!

Happy Halloween!
Trick Or Treat Responsibility!

October 28, 2011

Soup and Salad - Part Two

Soup and salad are a classic combination. Whether you opt for a traditional chef salad, or try one a new take on a old favorite like this caprese salad, it is a fun way to eat your daily allowance of fruits and vegetables.

What is your favorite salad? Have you put a new spin on an old favorite recipe?

{Cherry Tomato Bites | Fall Salad Served in Apple Bowls}

Soup and Salad - Part One

I have not ever tried to cook with beets before, however this winter when we are snowed in, I am going to give it a try. Not only do beets have a beautiful purple color, but they also contain anthocyanins which act as powerful antioxidants. This soup recipe was recommended by a fellow Eckerd alumni. Thanks Alex!

Share you favorite soup recipe with us. Stay tuned - salad up next!

{Image source}

Jack-o-lanterns! and yummy pumpkin seeds

Turns out it's hard to take pics of lighted Jack-o-lanterns... they're either wobbly like this one or have too much flash to be spooky (see below).

The Carving
The hubby and I found pictures of ourselves and amped up the contrast until it was mostly black and white (no gray). The we printed out the pics and traced them onto the pumpkin. Unfortunately our carving skills and giant knives kept us from the picture-perfect execution we were hoping to achieve, but we think we got the gist across.

The Seeds
We scooped the seeds and rinsed them. Then I sprinkled them with olive oil, chili powder, salt and pepper. I tossed them with the spices and spread them on a cookie sheet, trying to keep one layer. I was baking something else, so the oven was already on 350. I let them bake for a bit, stirred them around a bit (un-sticking them from the pan, mostly), and let them bake some more. I don't remember how long it took, I just kept tasting them till they were crunchy enough for me!

-- J

October 27, 2011

Couponing Queen

About a year ago I went to a couponing seminar. Dorky, right? If going to CVS and having them pay you $7 to shop there is dorky, then I'm queen of the dorks. There's a learning curve to couponing so you have to dedicate some time to it in the beginning, but once you get the hang of it, it is addicting. I am now consistently saving about 25%-50% on my grocery bill. I'm not one of those crazy hoarders who takes everything off the shelf. Normal couponers hate it when people do that. I mean, who needs 43 toothbrushes?

So here are a few tips to get you started. I'm only sharing a few things because it can get overwhelming.

1) If you live in the Tampa Bay area, go to www.truecouponing.com. Find a class near you.
2) Buy your Sunday newspaper in multiples of two. This is because when things are BOGO, you can apply a coupon to each item - the one you pay for and the one that's free.
3) Plan ahead. Just about every item will go on sale on a 12 week cycle. If you LOVE ketchup (like A does), you'll want to wait until it is on sale, then buy enough to last you about 12 weeks.
4) See if your grocery store makes their own coupons. You can "stack" coupons, which means that if spaghetti sauce is BOGO, you can use 2 manufacturers coupons and 2 store coupons. In this case, you'll get two jars of spaghetti sauce for about 50 cents, depending on the coupon amounts.

I now use coupons for everything! I save on tire alignments, Dunkin Donuts, online clothes purchases, groceries, cleaning supplies, toiletries, facials, etc.

October 26, 2011

Newest neighbor

Just in time for Halloween...

This lady visits and creates a giant web just outside our front door. (I know it's the female b/c I googled it. The male is smaller and hangs out nearby, but not in the web.) She is terrifyingly large, but not poisonous (also googled). Then I noticed one on the back porch.  And one over the big rosebush at the corner of the house. And one in the garden.
I looked them up to keep myself from panic. But it turns out they will not crawl into my baby's room and eat her. They just eat bugs.

So now I feel some affection for her (and her friends). Perhaps I should come up with names for them? Any suggestions?

October 25, 2011

Happy Crafty Halloween

Although I am not involved in crafting my daughter's costume this year, I do love a good theme party. (I learned from the best - A can throw a theme party like nobody's business!) Halloween presents a perfect opportunity to make fun center pieces, decorate recyclable bags for candy, and make decor from material that you may have around the house. Will you be handing out candy or trick-or-treating this year?

PinCandy Corn Candles via Woman's Day
PinHalloween Labels via Oscar + Emma
PinWreath via Twig & Thistle

Winter Wishes

This winter my number one wish item is the Sorel Women's Joan Of Arctic Boot. But after being unemployed for a year, and now returning to school, nursing school more specifically, wish items are rarely being purchased. Luckily for me, my wish item has a doppelganger.  Target comes to my rescue once again. I believe this winter, the Champion® Natausha Fur Trimmed Lace Up Winter Boot will be my footwear of choice! 

Have you had any luck finding a less expensive version of your winter wish item?


October 24, 2011

Like This if You Love The Lord...

Matthew 22:34-40 (NRSV)
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
Once again we have another story of a challenge and confrontation between Jesus and the religious leaders and elites. In this case, the Pharisees. Today we hear Jesus confound the scribes and Pharisees with his superior biblical knowledge and irrefutable logic.When asked which commandment is the greatest, Jesus takes the words of all 613 commandments of the Law, and cuts to the chase of God’s will, cuts to the core of God’s purpose.
I can almost hear Jesus saying to the lawyer, “I know that you’ve read the Scripture, but let me give you the divine purpose for every Scripture that you’ve read.” Jesus answers the lawyers question by quoting Judaism’s most fundamental, ancient, and widely recited biblical passages, the Shema:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment, and the second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Then before the lawyer could ask, “What about the other commandments?” Jesus said:
“On these two commandments hang all the law and all the prophets.”

We hear this and it sounds nice. I am sure that as parents and teachers we have even used this when we are making a point when there are disagreements with our children. However, our understanding of love is limited. And this is a problem for us in interpreting this double commandment. I think that our culture has lost sight of the biblical meaning of love.
Our culture has equated love with overly romanticized intense emotion.

We love chocolate: we cannot help ourselves.
We love a movie: it entertains or moves us.
We love a boy or girlfriend: they make us happy.
We love a spouse: they complete us.
We love the color pink - okay maybe I am getting carried away and that one is just for me.

Jesus is not talking about this kind of love. So then what makes the love that Jesus talks about different from the love that what we know and understand?

We know warm fuzzy love.

Jesus is not talking about warm fuzzy love.

In fact, Jesus is using some seriously radical language to talk about love. Jesus radically links love of God with love of neighbor and self as the "Greatest." By doing this Jesus makes all other laws about purity, cleanliness, rituals, sacrifices, secondary. In other words, with these two commandments, Jesus has just cut the privileged status out from under the feet of the religious leaders, whose position depends on these secondary laws. It is no wonder that the Pharisees saw Jesus as a threat to the status quo.

This love that Jesus is talking about is radical love!

When Jesus answers the lawyer, he is also providing a summary of his mission and ministry. The two commandments are alike in the sense that they interpret one another. This is made clear in what happens next in Matthew’s narrative. In the scenes that follow our text today,
Jesus criticizes the scribes and Pharisees for misunderstanding and misusing the law; He says that they "use Moses' seat" as a way to lay heavy burdens on others and draw attention to themselves (Matt 23:1-12).

In quoting the Shema, Jesus points out that the aim of the law is to orient one's entire life towards God.

However, one cannot love God without loving what God loves!

One cannot love God and oppress or exclude any of God's creatures - even one's enemies.

While the scribes and Pharisees used the law to place severe limits on those whom they were obliged to recognize as their neighbors, Jesus joins these texts, about loving God and neighbor, in order to smash all the limits and boundaries of neighborliness.

As Jesus pointed out in his Sermon on the Mount:

"God makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous" (Matt 5:45).

Therefore, one who truly loves God will also love his or her enemies. It is the only way to "be perfect, therefore , as your heavenly father is perfect" (Matt 5:48).

To love God is to love in the way that God loves - indiscriminately.
To love God is to love what God loves - everything.
To love God is to love who God loves - everyone - yes, even the people who are hard to love.
Wow - this sounds tough! This will not be easy!
In fact, love like this is controversial.
Love like this means going against the flow.
Love like this means that there will be people who will turn against us.
Love like this turns cultural norms, turns whole societies, turns governments upside down and says - No, there is a better way.

No - it is certainly not easy to love like this.
People die for this kind of love.

But love like this - is not impossible. We can love like this. We can love like this because we have been loved like this.

We have a God who is the source of all life and love - A creating, sustaining and loving God that makes all things possible.

We have a God who is the example for us - Jesus.
Jesus sets the example for us. Jesus comes to serve, and through serving shows that true greatness is not in power, but in service - Love is not having authority over others, but is helping others, having compassion on others.
Jesus loves to the point of dying for all - even for the people who hate him.
Jesus proves himself to be true and faithful interpreter of Scripture, silencing his critics with knowledge and wisdom.
Jesus is the Messiah who loves his enemies, who loves as God loves, who is Emmanuel "God with us" (Matt 1:23).
So with God with us, who can be against us.
This love that Jesus is talking about is radical love!
It is life giving love. It is a love that, rather than taking your breath away, breathes new life into you – and into the people God empowers you to love…
It is a wonderful love.
A love that is so full of wonder that all we can do sometimes is praise God and say WOW!

October 23, 2011

Attempted recipe

E, to respond to your question...

I use Closet Cooking as an inspiration and this weekend in particular tried THIS RECIPE, a pumpkin gorgonzola quiche.

I didn't have all the ingredients for the crust, so I faked that bit, but otherwise it was pretty good! We carved Jack-o-lanterns the other night and I used the cut-out bits (eyes and mouths and such) for the roasted pumpkin part of the recipe.

I'll post pics of the jack-o-lanterns soon.


October 21, 2011

Recipe Sources

My method of cooking differs greatly from my husband's. His approach is organic and without any guidance from a recipe. I, on the other hand, have to look at a recipe at least once - especially when it comes to baking. Recipes that I have been most successful with are found primarily via Food Network. Now, mainly thanks to Pinterest, I have a growing list of must-make recipes shared by food bloggers. Two I have already tried and loved are a slow-cooker minestrone soup and a glazed grapefruit quick bread.

What is your favorite website for finding new recipes?

October 20, 2011

T's Favorite Places in St. Petersburg

I have lived in sunny St. Petersburg, Florida since 1997. So much has changed since then, mostly for the better. St. Petersburg is in one of the most densely populated counties in the United States. Our downtown has seen a facelift that has increased tourism, fed the arts, and drawn the locals out to play. If you are ever in St. Petersburg, here are a few places to visit. By the way, these are in no particular order.

1. Skyway Jack's - St. Pete's greasy spoon (and cheap too)
2. Saturday Morning Market - organic fruits and veggies, hand made goods, live music
3. Red Mesa - don't miss the Sunday brunch
4. Sunken Gardens - I love this place so much that I got married there
5. St. Pete Shuffle - the largest collection of shuffleboard courts in the world; a scene from Cocoon was filmed there; live music, great company, and free on Friday nights
6. Schakolad Chocolate Factory - I love the turtles and hot chocolate
7. Hooker Tea Company - I learned how to knit here over a steamy cup of chai
8. The waterfront from Downtown to Coffee Pot Park - hang out long enough along the sea wall and you'll see dolphins and manatees; also a great place for a jog
9. Hook's - the best sushi in town
10. Weedon Island Preserve - a great place for kayaking


Dear Lord, Thank you for giving me a friend.

With one more hour of J's Birthday to go, I wanted to share my prayer for the day (it is the same prayer that I had on her wedding day!)

Dear Lord,

Thank you for giving me a friend.

Thank you for giving me a friend that will laugh at all my jokes even the ones that are not so funny.

Thank you for giving me a friend to cry with, laugh with and cry because of laughing so hard.

Thank you for giving me a friend to tell secrets to, who will trust me with hers as well.

Thank you for giving me a friend who believes in me when I stop believing in myself.

Thank you for giving me a friend who is happy about my victories and shares in my sorrows.

Thank you for giving me a friend who is always there to listen, even when I have nothing to say.

Thank you for giving me a friend who's smile is bright, who's heart is generous, and who's laughter is contagious.

Thank you for giving me a friend who brings out the best in me.

Thank you for giving me a friend who brings out the fun in me.

Thank you for giving me a friend who motivates me to do good, be better, live happier.

Thank you for giving me a friend who encourages me, motivates me and inspires me.

Thank you for giving me a best friend.

And thank you for making this friend J.

Happy Birthday, J!

May the beach balls never stop flying, And may there always be a "full moon" for the albino turtles to find each other.


October 19, 2011

Happy Birthday J

Hope you had a wonderful day!
Image via Amina Samy's flickr stream

How J met A

This is fourteen years ago now.  Hard to believe.  I don’t remember exactly how we met. But I do remember how we bonded. Somehow we met so that our first night in college, at the freshmen mixer the school hosted, we knew each other’s names. It was a faux beach party in the middle of one of the dorm complexes, with tons of decorations and props. Beach balls were scattered among the crowd.  A and I quickly found one and tossed it back and forth a bit before losing it in the crowd. Upon going to recover it, we met the group of people who had caught it. An idea was born.  A and I, in spite of both of us being very inexperienced with boyfriends, were quite boy crazy.  Soon enough, we were throwing the beach ball in every direction, “accidentally” losing it to the cutest guys in the crowd. It was easy to start conversations as we recovered our beach ball. We ended the evening taking a long walk along the sea wall with two guys. We never dated or even kissed either of those guys, but they did become friends with whom we spent time throughout college and beyond.

More importantly, I became friends with A for college and beyond. That night of silliness could only happen because of a mutual courage we gave each other.  From that time forward, when I was with A, I was invincible.  I was brave, confident, funny and beautiful. And it wasn’t pretend or put on. It was my real me.  I think she felt the same way with me.  This helped when we were at the beach bars together, but it also helped when we led a youth group together. It happened when we had fun together, but also when we went through the trials of broken hearts, bad grades, family drama. We have laughed and cried, loved and lost, made decisions both reckless and wise, taken incriminating photos and destroyed them for each other. (At least I have destroyed them. A?)

A was my maid of honor and is the Godmother to my baby girl. When we are together, I know I can survive anything. When I talk to her, I get an infusion of joy and courage, no matter the topic. I am thankful for A and thankful to A every day.


October 18, 2011

Emergency Cooking

How many times have you gone to make cookies, thought you had baking soda, but didn't? I have forgotten or assumed I had an ingredient more times than I can count! This list of emergency substitutions is extremely informative. I am printing a copy for my refrigerator.

List courtesy of Yummly Nibbles & Bits

Hanging By a Thread

My to-do list for next spring is already growing. My husband and I are constantly working on the outside of our home. Ok, well mostly my husband!

When either of us cook, we love to have fresh herbs on hand. A garden never came to fruition this spring, but this hanging gutter garden might be the perfect addition to our side yard next year. It seems like a terrific idea for any small yard, patio, or balcony.

Is your spring must-do list already growing?

Images c/o aHa! Home & Garden

October 17, 2011

A Day In The Life of a Rural Vicar - Harvest Season

A day in the life of a rural Vicar sometimes means
spending a day in the life of a local farmer during harvest.

Today was that day, and today was awesome!
As for my bucket list - riding a combine can be checked off the list.


October 14, 2011

Ginger Tofu Noodles

Most Fridays we will be sharing our favorite recipes. Here is a way to use tofu for a quick dinner.

This is a favorite new recipe of mine. My once vegetarian husband seems to appreciate my tofu technique as well! Thank you Rachel Ray for an easy meal.

Do you have a favorite vegetarian meal?

October 13, 2011

Tribute to Bacon

Oh bacon, how I love thee,

I just can’t stop at three.

Your fatty glory makes my mouth sing,

when you wrap my shrimp, I say “cha-ching!”

The perfect balance of salty and sweet,

bacon and chocolate is a tasty treat.

Atop my salad you give my lettuce flair,

I’ll keep eating you without worry of my derrière.

You make good company to any food,

you have the power to lift my mood.

Fried slices of pig belly fat,

hell yeah I’ll take more of that.

I might love you more than cheese,

no wait, that’s ridiculous, more of both please.


October 12, 2011

J meets her Tennessee neighbors

1) Shiloh, our ten-month-old puppy, has been misbehaving lately. We are probably bad trainers/parents. She will be starting lessons at PetSmart soon.

2) The new house has a fenced-in yard, which is great for her to run around. (Rob and I like to play fetch with her, though she still hasn't mastered the idea that she's supposed to drop whatever it is she's fetched when she brings it back to us. She brings it, but then fights us when we try to get it so we can throw it again.) This fenced-in yard is not so much attached to the house. There are ten-ish yards from the back door to the gate. 

3) We live on a pretty busy road. It is the main road in these here parts.

1+2= Shiloh got out the other day in between the gate and the house. She usually will go straight from yard to house, but this time she ran all over the place. +3= I was scared of her getting hit by a car.

I ran inside and grabbed her treats, which are usually quite enticing, and to which she will almost always run. I went out the front door to see her dilly-dallying in the road. I called and called, and finally she crossed the street into our neighbor's yard. From this yard we frequently hear barking, so I figured she was curious and trying to make friends. I walked over after her and saw some kind of Doberman mix. I begged Shiloh, shook the box of bones to get her to come back home to me, but to no avail. Turns out Doberman was friendly and they sniffed each other's butts. I was glad about that, but still trying to get her to follow me home.

Neighbor man (probably 25-30ish yeard old) sticks head out the window: What's goin' on out there?
Me: Just trying to get my dog to come back home!

Finally, after more calling and shaking of dog biscuits, I walked back across the street and knocked on the church's office window to get Rob to come help me. He came out, but I was already back to crossing the street.

Other neighbor man (similar age) was pointing a hand gun at our puppy. Yes. Pointing a HAND GUN at my puppy.

Me (clearly channeling my inner youth group leader): Put that thing away, that is totally unnecessary!

Him: Well, at least she's sitting still. (It's true, she was sitting in front of him as if waiting for a treat, tail wagging.)

Me: That is ridiculous!

First neighbor man (has a mullet) comes out with shotgun/rifle thing (I don't know the difference, I must need to watch more CSI). In aiming said gun, which was initially pointing at the sky, he points it past my head and then down at the dog (still wagging tail).

Me: You ****ing *******s! What the **** are you doing!

Rob (catching up to me): What the?! Please stop (I was not sure if this was about me cursing them out or about them pointing the guns... Rob, will you clarify?)

Me: What the **** is wrong with you, you *** **** ********?!

Rob: Shiloh! (Of course she comes right over, she loves him better than me.) We are calling the police, this is nuts!

Then we took happy tail-wagging dog back to our house.

And we called 911. Yes, I realize this was not an emergency anymore, but I do not have the real phone number to the po-po anywhere. Two sheriffs came, we told them what happened, they went across the street and talked to the neighbors. Apparently they are allowed to "defend their land" against scary puppies. And they claim it was an air rifle. Whatever that means. It does not explain the handgun. Or the mullet.

That is how we met our neighbors.


October 11, 2011

More Than Cake

Welcome to The Darwin Girls. We are excited to be blogging about anything and everything under the sun.

Over the past thirty-some years, I have had some exciting birthdays - a visit to a nature center and the opportunity to wear a snake and a crazy 21st bash with all The Darwin Girls, friends, and even people I didn't know just to name a few. Nowadays, I am happy to have friends, family, and a Dairy Queen ice cream cake. Recently on Pinterest, I came across this pin. It seems like the author of Mix, Mingle, and Glow spent her birthday completing 38 acts of kindness. I love this idea, and hope I able to do something similar in the years to come.

Have you every done anything special for your birthday?

{All images c/o Mix, Mingle, and Glow}

October 10, 2011

Let Go – The Trees are Doing It

Autumn is here, and I am very happy about that. Autumn has always been my favorite season. I love the changing color of the trees; the fresh smell of wet leaves covering the ground; breathing in the cooler air; wearing fuzzy scarves and gloves; tasting the Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks; and this year I have something new to look forward to - experiencing harvest and hopefully a combine ride (hint hint to all the farmers in Emerson). Autumn is filled with a mixture of nostalgia, blessings, and potential.

One thing that is hard to miss during the autumn is the falling leaves. As we watch the leaves fall to the ground, we can be reminded that nature’s cycles are mirrored in our lives. As the trees let go of their leaves, so too we can let go and release the things that weigh us down - burdens such as pride, anger, regret, guilt, anxiety, hate, doubt, and prejudice. When trees drop their leaves they are open for Nature’s creative process of new growth, and new life. When we let go of our burdens, we open ourselves to experience God’s creative process - A creative process that showers us with love and wisdom; heals our hurts; dissolves our fears and doubts; and feeds our hunger for assurance and peace. Like the trees, we are God’s creation - a creation that God calls good, and we have the assurance that God’s power is ever at work within every circumstance. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope - Jeremiah 29:11. Even as we near winter, and our days grow darker, we have the promise that God continuously makes dark places light, and empty places full. Yes, the tree may lose it leaves and be bare, but come spring, light and rain showers transform the tree with the new buds of life that bloom, and grow. A tree that has let go of it’s leaves is a tree with great potential.

There is a saying, “Let Go, and Let God!” It is a good saying. It is short and to the point. So this autumn: Let go and let God transform you. Let Go and let God heal you. Let Go and let God fill you. Let Go and let God bless you. With your hands open to receive watch what grows. The love and grace that God plants will bloom, and grow and will blow forth from you like seeds to others who also thirst for God’s presence.

October 8, 2011


We, The Darwin Girls, would like to welcome you our blog - our blog about everything under the sun. The four of us met in sunny Florida at Eckerd College, and have been a family ever since. Darwin was actually a dorm that housed most of our family at one time or another. Although we are now living in four different states, we are still in touch. Throughout the year we meet as often as possible for graduations, weddings, showers, and girls only reunions. Our blog content will span everything - and we mean everything - religion, family, relationships, school, parenting, travel, art, cooking, sewing, photography, and perhaps even politics!

Thank you for stopping by, and we hope to hear from you soon.
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