Saturday, June 30, 2012

baked potato

So yesterday, I posted about an easy summer meal we ate this week (tilapia in the frying pan.)  My qualifications for a summer meal in our house were: cheap, quick, minimal oven, somewhat healthy. 

This meal was not quick, took so long in the oven that our whole house was steaming hot, and it was not the healthiest of meals.  However, it wasn't completely junky and it was cheap.  So, i guess we're 1 1/2 for 4.

Now that I look at the picture, it's not very diverse in color either.  :)  Before you judge, I did not eat 2 baked potatoes.  Not sure why I had 2 on my plate in the picture... I think my eyes were bigger than my stomach. 

Now, you are thinking... why keep reading?  there is clearly no recipe here... just bake the potato and voila.  Basically, yes.  But i tried a new way of baking potatoes and they were PERFECT.

Perfect Baked Potato
preheat oven to 400 (45 minutes) or 350 (60 minutes)
1. scrub under cold water (not hot)
2. dry with towel
3. poke holes with a fork 3 or 4 times on each side
4. cover with a little vegetable oil
5. roll potatoes in salt (not too much!)
6. place the oil and salt covered potatoes on a rimmed cookie sheet - NO FOIL!!*
7. bake at 400 for 45 minutes (or 350 for 60 minutes)

* I read about this online... wrapping potatoes in foil is essentially like steaming them.  for a true "perfect" baked potato, no foil.  You can check my source here :)

I fried up some bacon for the potatoes along with cheese and a tad bit of sour cream.  If you've never had bacon on a baked potato, you need to try it.

The 400 degree oven + bacon frying = tons of smoke in our kitchen.  And it was 101 degrees outside.  Not to mention I wear long sleeves when frying bacon to avoid greece splattering on my arms :( Poor planning on my part.

However, the meal was delicious. 

We served it with corn and fruit.  (I explained in yesterday's recipe - corn here in nebraska is cheap and delicious.  And when fruit is in season, I go to town!)

Enjoy :)

Friday, June 29, 2012

easy summer meal

goal for summer eating in our house: cheap, quick, minimal oven, somewhat healthy.

this yummy tilapia was exactly that.

I used tilapia filets that I buy frozen in a big bag at walmart.  If I'm grilling salmon, I go for the fish at a real grocery store from the fish deli (or whatever that place is called where they have the lobsters swimming around near the butcher.)  Anyway, I've found that for this tilapia recipe (which is by far our favorite so far) the frozen walmart tilapia works deliciously.   If you're a fish snob, feel free to get it fresh.
If you get it frozen, pull it out early enough to thaw (a few hours or so.)

You will need these ingredients:  (you don't need the coffee maker...)

You'll need some sort of shallow dish to mix them in.  I use a cake pan.

Unfortunately, this is one of those trial and error no amounts recipes.  Don't run away though.  It's so stinkin' easy and I'm pretty sure it doesn't matter how much of each ingredient you use.  If I was one of those super fabulous recipe bloggers, I'd have figured out amounts but meh, not my style.

Combine the following in your shallow dish:  handful of flour (approx 1/2 cup ish), thyme, pepper, garlic powder, salt. 

Mix it all together.  (i use my hands to mix it... clearly, since you can see a tiny outline of my hand print. woops.)  sometimes i add a little more at this point if it doesn't look/ smell seasoned enough. 

Heat butter or oil in a frying pan while covering the filets in the flour mixture (both sides).  I cover them really well.  (the left filet you can barely see in the picture below)

Sautee for a few minutes on each side on medium-high heat, until the outside looks somewhat crispy and the inside flakes with a fork

Pour a little lemon juice over the top.  Serve with fruit or veggies of your choice. We do a lot of corn on the cob around here... plentiful supply (aka: cheap!!) and so so good.  Rice would be a yummy side too!  Enjoy :)

I got this recipe from HERE (there's a video to watch with 3 ways of cooking tilapia, including this recipe.  It's short.)  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

june in pictures

we celebrated my FIL's (father-in-law's) 50th birthday. 50 beers for 50 years.
 the celebration continues... we planted 50 trees.

This beautiful couple tied the knot!

This beautiful couple is next :) we love hanging out with them!

Looking tired and pregnant good at said wedding celebration

with one of my best friends in the whole wide world (who happens to become an aunt today- the best friend that is!)

This sweet friend turned 24!

our first time playing mini-golf together (weird- how have we not done this?) my brother was with us, but he's not in the picture. 

we've played lots of Settlers of Catan...

ben and I like to play (christmas) sequence

Ben and I also like to get ice cream at Ivanna cone.

i got a new planner today... eeeeek!!!! (i LOVE getting a new planner. and it only happens once per year.)  have you ever seen a horizontal one? i haven't. it's pretty small and about $7 at target :)

isn't the inside fabulous!? vertical lists for each day are so much more convenient.

this is my current read. i'm on page 55 out of 759.

when i got the planner, i had to get these pretty file folders. they were calling my name. i'm so excited to begin organizing for school! (i still love school supplies... don't you?)

good morning. our grass is so happy now.

what have you been doing in june?

fun links

Lately I've been having a lot of this smoothie (minus the flax seed because I keep forgetting to get it at the grocery store)

I want to make this quilt!

Sweet story - 9 women have a secret business.

when I have young kiddos, i  want to set up an outdoor art station like this blogger describes

a beautiful barnyard rehearsal dinner

Saturday, June 23, 2012


we haven't been living at our house really.  we've been condo-sitting for a professor of Ben's.  it's only been a few weeks, but i'm ready to be home.  i feel all over the place.  living at someone else's house, making many trips back to my house (for piano lessons, items i forgot, ingredients for a recipe...), weekends in Chicago or Omaha.

sometimes it's nice to just sit and be in one place for a while.  June 26 we will be back in one place - home sweet home on good ol' Franklin street.  until then, i'm trying not to run around like a crazy lady in limbo.

this is the ONLY picture I have of the front of our house...

the back is much prettier :) 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Wise Men

My chronological reading through the Bible brought me to the birth of Jesus last week.  In using this SPECK tool to help me study the Bible, I spent more time thinking about why and how the wise men are good examples to follow as I re-read this story everyone knows.  (think: we three kings of orient are, bearing gifts we traverse a far... following yonder star.)

They were seeking Jesus. "Wise men from the east came to Jerusalem saying, 'Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.' ... Herod sent them to Bethlehem saying, 'Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me the word that I too may come and worship him.'  After listening to the king [Herod], they went on their way.  And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was."  (Matthew 2:1-2, 8-9)

They were expectant"When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy" (vs. 10)  They hadn't even gotten to Jesus yet, but when they finally were outside the place where they knew he was, their hearts filled with joy.  Can you imagine their excitement and the anticipation?

They worshiped him"And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him."  (vs 11)  I have a feeling they didn't have too much idle ice-breaker chit chat.  I imagine them walking in the door, looking at Jesus, looking at his mother, and then falling on their faces and worshiping the King of Kings, this innocent toddler.  (Notice, they didn't worship Mary...)

They fell down before him"And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him."  (vs 11)  As I read this, I heard the Lord whisper to me - do you take your access to God's throne for granted?  Because I don't have to travel hundreds of miles by camel.  Yet, sometimes I don't even make the effort to get up and get to my couch in the morning to get to Jesus.  I have unlimited access to the God of the Universe, the Savior of the World.  Lord, help me not to forget this. 

They brought him what they had.  "Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh."  (vs 11)

They listened.  Their spirits were sensitive to God's leading.  "And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way."  (vs 12)  We don't get much information from this passage.  I wonder if they were hesitant?  I mean, it'd be easy to chalk up the dream to a weird dream. (Although, probably if God shows up in your dreams it's pretty obvious.)  It be easy to second guess themselves.  I'm guessing they took the most direct route on the way to Jesus, so returning to their own country another way could be hundreds of extra miles (by donkey? or camel? or foot?)  They obviously took God seriously.  And their hearts and minds were open to his spirit's leading. 

God's Word is life-giving.  It's so full of truth and guidance!  Whether the passage is new to you that day or you've read it 100 times.  Lord, help me to be like the wise men who eagerly sought to meet their Savior. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012


I have been following a read-through-the-Bible-chronologically plan (and I finally made it to the New Testament!!)  It's been really great to see the scope of God's plan for His people played out throughout history and reading the events chronologically has been so helpful.

But lately, I've been craving a way to study God's Word more deeply.  I've tried different things over the years and kind of long for some consistency without becoming mundane and routine. 

In the fall, I am hoping to take a class at our church how to study the Bible exegetically.  Exegesis is interpretation.  "The goal of Biblical exegesis is to explore the meaning of the text which then leads to discovering its significance or relevance." (wikipedia) Bible scholars, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think one strategy (so I've heard) in employing exegetical methods is knowing how to use Greek and Hebrew (and Aramic) to understand the words and context in the original language.  English isn't as descriptive as Greek.  An easy example - Greek has 4 different words for 4 different types of love.  In english, we imply that "I love you" to your husband is different than "I love eating Portillos" but it's the same word.  All that to say, understanding the original languages of Biblical text and having resources to help with interpreting the original language would be helpful in studying the Bible.  (I'm not saying using Greek and Hebrew is NECESSARY for understanding God's Word, but rather an added helpful tool, like so many other things.)

Wow, I got side tracked.

Anywhooo, I was looking for a way to study the Word better rather than just read a passage and think to myself "huh. interesting" or "that was nice."

The Bible IS the Word of God.  And God's Word is LIFE!  It is living and active.  It is good for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righeousness.  I must be aware of when I fall into the habit of reading it like any old book.

I stumbled across this little tool on a blog, and have found it really helpful just in this past week.  I don't think this is a tool I'll use forever, but while I try to learn from others and ask God to show me better ways to read His Word, this little acronym is very helpful: SPECK

Sin to avoid
Promise to claim
Example to follow
Command to obey
Knowledge about God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit.

I didn't make it up.
The original blog post is here
Here is what the creator of this method says about how to use it:

"Basically, I pick a few verses (or a chapter to read). I suggest starting in the Gospels or New Testament. Then, I look for one of the categories above (not all of them).
  • Does this passage talk about a sin I need to avoid? Am I currently participating in it?
  • What about a promise to claim? Is that promise conditional? Meaning… does it rely on an action that I need to do first to claim the promise? ex: John 3:16 “… whoever believes in Him will be given eternal life.” The condition is “believe in him” to receive the promise of eternal life. Or is it unconditional? Something God promises no matter what?
  • Is there an example to follow (or maybe NOT to follow)?
  • What about a command that God gives me that I should obey?
  • And finally – maybe there is just a new knowledge about God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit that God wants to teach me that day.
Usually, after a few days of using this method, I will start to see life in God’s Word again. And my spiritual legs won’t feel so useless.
And if that doesn’t work, I’ll often invite someone to come alongside me and help me get out of my funk. I’ll ask them what God is teaching them and experience the life of the Word through them."

Wake up.
Make some coffee.
Get in the Word.
Choose life.
God loves you.  There is no better day to start than today.

Ren :)

Saturday, June 16, 2012


I've never been much into fantasy.  I read a ton of non-fiction.  But, I do love The Chronicles of Narnia (which I'm working my way through currently).  I also surprisingly loved The Hobbit, and put the rest of the LOTR series on my list, though I have yet to start tackling them.  Last summer I saw the 2nd part of the 7th Harry Potter movie with family.  I only went 'cause everyone else was going.  I've never read the books, thus my younger brothers (in law) had to update me on the story so I could somewhat follow along.  And I asked a LOT of questions during the movie.  (yeah, i was that girl.)  Well the movie's themes were so strinkingly and obviously Christian I was almost in shock.  I left thinking to myself, self, how did Christians get their panties in a twist over this?  (Side note - this was not the reason I never read the books.  honestly, i just never got into them.)  Anywhooo, I don't want to judge and if you have your reasons for not reading them, fine.  But that movie intrigued me.

Well, this summer I finally started them (It's kinda a committment, as you may well know from experience.)  I read the first book in a few days.  My thoughts, you ask? (or maybe you don't care...)  A fun kid's story with some great quotes and characters.  My favorite being:  "As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all – the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them." - Albus Dumbledore

Also, I couldn't get over the fact that the good house is represented by a lion and the evil house represented by a snake.  love that.

I was committed, so I ambitiously brought the next 3 books on our road trip vacation to Arizona and Utah.  I demolished them in about 5 days.  After #3, I was completely hooked.

I had a similar reaction to number 2 as number 1, although I have been impressed with Rowling's storytelling from the get-go.  She is a GREAT storyteller.

But after #3 and #4, I was amazed.  The plot and characters are so intricately woven throughout each book.  It quickly went way beyond a children's story.  Not to mention, there is so much wonderful symbolism (more about that another time). 

Thursday night, I finished the 842nd page of book number 5 and will be purchasing number 6 for our trip back to Lincoln from Chicago. 

They've only gotten better and better.  One of my favorite things about the books is the clear line between good and evil.  Some characters might walk the line for a while, but they ultimately are on one side or the other.  She leaves no room for an inbetween. 

I don't know if i'll become one of those people who reads and re-reads them.  And I won't be signing up for any fan clubs soon.  But I will be purchasing a set to read to my kids when they're old enough one day :)   And I may or may not sit through all the movies... we'll see.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes so far.

Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.
- Quote by Albus Dumbledore

Indeed, your failure to understand that there are things much worse than death has always been your greatest weakness.- Quote from Dumbledore to Voldermort

If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.- Quote by Sirius Black

When you have seen as much of life as I have, you will not underestimate the power of obsessive love.- Quote by Albus Dumbledore     while some might interpret this quote, thinking of their own love relationships here on earth (not a bad thing), I couldn't help but think of the greatest love the world has ever known.  "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have eternal life."  (John 3:16)  Now THAT is some obsessive love. 

It is our choices… that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.
- Quote by Albus Dumbledore   Here I am reminded of this proverb: "Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right."  (Proverbs 20:11)

Have you read them?  Did you like them?  Why or why not?  Who is your favorite character? 

Friday, June 15, 2012

a few fun internet finds

if i taught elementary school, i would totally use these for an end of the year present.  (or maybe someday when i have young grade-school kids and have life put together enough to coordinate something so cute.  ya right!!)

i couldn't have written this better

hilarious SNL digital short.  not 100% clean, but close. 

a great quote:

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” - C.S. Lewis

6:59 am

we are on vacation in sweet home Chicago - visiting family and friends and headed to an awesome wedding of a very dear friend. 
i love being here, espeically now that it feels like a vacation and not like daily life.  i get to see many of my favorite people in one 5-day stint, and our time here is always a blessing.

in true vacation form, my body woke me up at 5:00 this lovely Friday morning.  i tried to resist it for half an hour. rolled around. closed my eyes. tried to stop dreaming about harry potter (i finished the 5th book at midnight.)  but alas, i was up.  so i embraced it.

went downstairs, made tea, got some breakfast and read the Bible. 
6:45 rolls around and my parents are up but the house is still pretty quiet. what to do, what to do?  so i reheated the rest of my tea and cozied up to the computer to read some blogs and browse the web.

i stumbled across this video (which already has 2.2 million views) but in case you are not one of those people who has already viewed it, i HAD to share it. 

and yes, i was extremely teary at the end of it, by 6:59 am on a Friday. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

back to school

I took a job teaching elementary music (K-5) in Lincoln Public Schools for this upcoming school year.  I'm excited for a lot...

to have something to do every day
to sing silly songs with little kids every day
to help kids learn to love learning
to get lots of hugs
to hear ridiculous statements (if you teach elementary school, you know what i'm talking about)
to meet other teachers
to work close to home
to work from  8- 4 instead of 4-8
to have dinner at a reasonable time
to have weeknight evenings free with the hubs
to have a reason to get up early in the morning
to work with good principals
to teach.

i have been trying to organize my picture files on my computer (yikes!!) and in the spirit of being excited about teaching, i thought i'd share some elementary music pics :)

2nd grade "silly picture"

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Solfege ladder

who doesn't love a little recorder?

receiving a card from sweet 2nd grade

this is how my students always look - hands folded, criss cross apple sauce, mouths closed, awaiting instructions

oh wait - that's what they look like.
aka: 2nd graders didn't know how to behave so we had to add rules and behavior incentives

1st graders acting out the itsy-bitsy spider (the rest of the class is singing along with the CD- this is no regular itsy bitsy spider either... it's the song on steroids. you'll just have to hear it for yourself)   :)

the rain and the sun

every song is more fun if it has a dance that ends with jazz hands

the most prized instrument

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yay!  these pics make me excited.  God is good.  i'm so thankful for the gift he's given me and for each season he has me use it in.  i'm looking forward to this new season of elementary music. 

- mrs. cook

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

oh hello again

hey there

it's been a while.  over a month actually.  i just didn't feel like blogging recently.  i took a break from reading blogs (not intentionally, it just happened) and thus i took a break from writing.  then recently, i've had some time to read blogs but still haven't felt like writing.  not sure why, no good reason. 

however, i don't process as well when i'm not blogging or journaling of some sort.  i am a verbal processor.  and if i don't process out loud, it helps me to process in writing.  (i have an entire home-depot-medium-sized-box full of journals dating back to the 5th grade.  can't bring myself to throw them away.) 

so back to blogging it is.
nothing profound today, but i've been browsing other people's more interesting blogs for the last hour and found some fun stuff to share.  a simple way of jumping back into blog world (because it requires minimal thinking on my part) :)

a fun 10-year-old girly party
summer snapshots
cool craft website
a pretty quilt

dinner tonight is this pasta salad  + soup and bread from panera.  it's 89 degrees out but i still like soup.  especially panera soup.

:) ciao!!