General musings on the ups and downs and ins and outs in the life of a 30 something, unmarried, life loving, some times interesting and sometimes not, mostly happy girl just trying to figure it all out!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Life and Choice

Niki and I attended a Pregnancy Assistance Center dinner last night with my church group. The group was going and everyone was bringing someone. I have a very guarded relationship with Pro Life people and I wasn't so sure I wanted to go. So I did what any normal person would do- I signed my best friend up too and drug her with me. How cute are we? Sorry for the grainy pic- my camera hates the great indoors. And before I launch into my spiel, I would like to state that I got that dress for $17.00 at a second hand store. It still had a price tag on it for $190-something dollars. I rock!

Mike Huckabee was the keynote speaker at the event and I was a bit nervous. I'm not exactly liberal, but I am surely not conservative. While I liked Huckabee when he ran for the presidential nomination- he is a former Southern Baptist preacher and I was pretty sure I would not like what he had to say about abortion and being Pro-Life. It just so happens I was wrong. I actually enjoyed his speech and I agreed with about 90% of what he said. My basic stance is this: I do not believe abortion should be used as birth control and I absolutely believe it is a choice to be entered into with prayer and much thought. I had a friend in college who "accidentally got pregnant" and went to have it "taken care of." She was careless and ended up pregnant, and she made the decision so flippantly that I was the one who sat and cried for hours and she just had it done and then flew to New York for a trip. That is not OK. As someone who faces the distinct possibility of not having biological children, I take it hard when people do not take children seriously and throw them away. On the other side, I will never, ever believe it is OK for the government to decide one way or the other what a woman can do with her own body. You may speak to them, counsel them and give them information- but you may NOT decide for anyone else. Additionally, legalizing abortion took it out of back allies and butcher shops and put it into hospitals and clinics where women could get proper care. And as hard and awful as it may be, I truly believe there are times when abortion is appropriate.

The center hosting the event focuses very strongly on not judging the women's choices who enter their doors. As a Christian organization, they do counsel for carrying the baby, however they do not force the issue. They give information, offer classes on birthing, raising young children, how to balance life as a mother and also give tangible support like strollers, diapers, baby food, etc. That, my friends, is a program that I can support.

All of that being said, I think open and rational debate is vital to any topic like this. I learned a lot from just listening last night and realized that my Christian beliefs put me in very close proximity with Pro-Life believers. The problem lies in the fact that few people can be rational when discussing these topics.

My main take away was this- I find it incredibly unfair that by being Pro-Choice I am filed in the category of Anti-Life. I am in no way anti-life. I think my arguments for the right to have a choice in certain situations is, in fact, very pro-life. This is not a black and white topic. There is no one right way. And to believe that that is the case is naive.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

That Coworker

Ugh- I have one of them, you guys! He's awful. There is just not much about him that is at all acceptable. I promise you that I have tried. I really, really have. He's just a very abrasive guy.

And it's not just me- he's quite rude to all of us. He talks down to you, gets mad and pushes when you don't put his projects first and do them right away, and flat out tells you how he wants you to do your job. We have somewhat of a support group for working with him going on behind the bosses backs.

But here's the thing... I am a woman and I'm in marketing. It's different. Everyone still thinks it's "just marketing" and that the engineers and programmers are higher in importance. So while the others just get annoyed and move on, I get thrown under the bus. I get to have the big boss copied on my emails with him.

Today, my boss asked me if things were tense between us. I was honest, but tactful. Then the afternoon ended in a "big deal" that really wasn't. And it looks like there is a lot of tension. I hate that it's looks like I pick at him and push him. It's just that my job is the only one that gets things thrown into the open.

I feel like I want to explain, to tell my boss why and what actually happened- that I was just trying to make a good decision and not put the company out of money and time. But will it look like I'm the complainer???

I just don't want him to step in and ruin what is becoming a very comfortable little life.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cheater Chicken & Sausage Gumbo

I swiped this recipe from Cooking Light, then changed it a bit. I can not follow recipes. It's a bad habit. Their recipe is called Chicken and Sausage Stew, but says it's gumbo inspired. It does start with a roux. Personally, I do not put tomatoes in my gumbo. But some people do and I've had it great both ways. At any rate, a really good gumbo takes at least a day to make. This is much, much faster and a good substitute for a quicker fix.So give it a whirl if you like.

Ingredients:
3 Tablespoons Flour
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 large onion
1 large bell pepper
3 celery stalks
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon oregano (more if you're me)
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
12+ ounces chickens thighs
1 package sausage (turkey if you want to keep it light)
1 can of corn
1 can stewed tomatoes (diced works well)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce OR can 1/2 tomato paste plus 1 cup water or broth
Cooked rice

Process:
To make your roux put the olive oil and flour in a pot over medium heat and stir until browned and the color of a cafe au lait. Add chopped onions, bell pepper and celery and cook until soft. Sprinkle with herbs, red pepper and garlic. (side note: I like to put my herbs and spices in a soup or stew onto the sauteed veggies. They stick to them and then cook into the stew better) Add chicken and sausage and cook until chicken is white on the outside and the sausage is beginning to brown. Add cans of tomatoes and corn, then broth and marinara or tomato paste. Simmer at least half an hour. Serve over rice.

As will all soups and stews (and any self respecting gumbo) it's best if it sits overnight.

Original Recipe
How you make REAL gumbo

In other news, Niki and I took Lorelei for ice cream last night and she proceeded to COVER herself in it by eating it with her fingers rather than her spoon. Good times. In a good faith effort to keep her child seat and the car clean, I just took all her clothes off. She proceeded to yell, "Naked TIME!" in front of TCBY. Love her.



Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes with Whiskey Filling

When Sharon called to ask me to come hang with Wellman Farms at a horse show this past weekend, she mentioned that it was Sean's (the barn husband) birthday and we probably needed some cake. I took the hint, but went with cupcakes instead because they're easier to transport. I perused around for a fun recipe to try and when I came across beer cupcakes with whiskey filling and frosting I was in! Sean's my drinking buddy, so it was a perfect choice. I used a recipe from Smitten Kitchen (an excellent recipe source) and modified it a bit because I have an inability to NOT mess with a recipe. These are also called Irish Car Bomb cupcakes, but I skipped the Bailey's Frosting and made some up because I just didn't feel like going to the store again.

The first thing you need is some Guinness. Walk to the gas station across the street from your apartment, they will only have a liter bottle so you will look like a lush. Great fun amongst the interstate gas station patrons.


You'll only need a cup (sans fizz), so you can proceed to take a very awkward photo of yourself drinking the rest. Honestly- it's too strong/bitter for me. I couldn't finish it all. 


Put beer and butter into a saucepan and bring it to a simmer. Add your cocoa and stir until it's dissolved (so far, this recipe is going well, right?) 



While the beer mixture cools, blend the eggs and sour cream. Mix together remaining dry ingredients in another bowl. Add the beer mix to the egg mix and blend well. Slowly stir into the dry ingredients until completely blended. Bake. The cupcakes will need to be completely cool to hollow them out. I used the freezer for this- much faster. 



While your cupcakes are cooking/cooling you make your filling. I ended up having to melt chocolate in the end, but these packets are amazing for that job. Because melting chocolate is kinda tricky at times (see below). Now, I followed her recipe and the filling was awful! 



Not sure what I did wrong, but either buy the packets that are sweetened or melt chocolate chips like I did, OR sweeten with powdered sugar. Because adding granulated sugar to melted chocolate gets you this:

Disgusting. 

OK, back on track... use pre-melted and sweetened chocolate or slowly melt some semi sweet or milk chocolate chocolate chips in a pan with heavy cream and more butter. Whisk it together until melted and blended and add remaining ingredients.


This is what happens when you let your one-year-old niece play with your whisk:


Let the filling cool and hollow out your cupcakes. She used a one-inch piping tip. Personally, I finally found a use for my melon baller and it worked like a charm. Fill cupcakes. 



After that, all that's left if frosting! If you want to go for the Bailey's icing read the Smitten Kitchen Recipe. I did whiskey cream cheese and it rocked. 


If your kitchen looks like an Irish Car Bomb exploded in it, you did it right! :)


FULL RECIPE:

Cupcakes:
1 cup Guinness (or any stout beer)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
3/4 cup unsweetend cocoa powder
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 12/ teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Bring the beer and butter to a simmer and stir in the cocoa until mixed. Cool slightly. Beat eggs and sour cream until well blended. Mix remaining dry ingredients. Add the beer mix to your egg mix, then slowly fold that into your dry ingredients until blended well. Bake at 350 for 15 - 20 minutes (depending on your oven) and cool completely. 
Makes about 20 cupcakes. 

Ganache Filling:
8oz semi sweet or milk chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons of butter at room temp
2 tablespoons Irish Whiskey
Powdered Sugar to thicken. 

The original recipe did not call for powdered sugar, but I found that my finished product was a bit thin and probably would have seeped into the cupcakes too much, so I thickened with powdered sugar. 

Heat the cream until just simmering and add your chocolate. If it needs to melt, reduce your heat and stir regularly until the chocolate is melted and blended. Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined. Remove from heat and add powdered sugar in small amounts until the mixture is thick enough to stay in the cupcakes. 

Hole-out your cupcakes and fill with ganache.

Whiskey Frosting:
3 to 4 cups of powdered sugar
3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick of butter, softened
3 to 4 tablespoons Irish Whiskey

Mix the cream cheese, butter and whiskey until blended. Add powdered sugar until you have a good spreading consistency. Ice cupcakes. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Get Off Your Knees and Pray

I didn't make up the catchy title to this post, Sheila Walsh did. This is obviously why she is the writer and public speaker and I have a marginally read blog. Yeah, well...

Get Off Your Knees and Pray is a book I picked up at the Goodwill one day for $0.99. I happened to be going through a period where I was worrying about my prayer life. God is so cool! See- I believe truly and wholly in the power of prayer. And I love that we get to pray. I have no idea how people made it when they had to go to priests to get  through to God. Because really, I chat with him constantly. But at the time I bought the book (and still some, actually) I was worried because I don't always focus well, I mean everything I pray about but sometimes don't 'feel" like I'm serious enough, and I get bogged down. Sounds like I'm an awful pray-er, right? Maybe not. This book is great! Sheila really made me feel better about who I am and where I am in my faith. It's hard sometimes to remember that we don't always have to be "on," we don't always have to be strong, and we certainly don't all have to be eloquent pray-ers. Like all religious-based books, there are parts I could do without. But religion and spirituality is so personal I believe that's always true. I kept many of the pieces of this book and carry them with me. A few favorite points:

"I no longer believe it is possible to stink at prayer."

"God hears all our prayers, the good and the bad. He is big enough to handle our honest questions and our doubts and even our anger."

"I am convinced that the words we use are of less interest to God than the intent of our hearts. God hears our heart no matter the words we use."

I have a lot more underlined in the book, but those are some main points for me. Especially that last one. Because I make a point of praying for my family and friends every morning. I stop, look at their photos and let God know I love them, am thankful for them, and what I want for them. But sometimes it feels like I am just checking off a list. The good news is that God knows how much my heart needs these people. He knows how my life is sustained by them and that the things I want for them are because I adore them so much! It was a relief to hear that He knew where my prayers were stemming from, and understood my intent- even if I don't always get it exactly right.

An example: My friend Shannon is one of the most talented, creative people there is. Unfortunately all of the world's creative people don't end up stars. Actually- that's good for me because I really need S and I never would have met her if she'd been famous because I have zero creative ability. Anyhow... S was doing some acting and singing and was a magazine editor. She took magazines that were mediocre on their best days and made them beautiful. She really, really is good ad what she does. Then she had babies. These babies are two of God's better creations to be sure. I'm obsessed with them. But her life took a drastic change when they came and creative outlets went out the window. She's a totally awesome mom, but (and I can say this because she knows how I mean it) it always bothered me a little that she wasn't succeeding in her field when she was so damn GOOD! She was glad she wasn't succeeding because she wanted to be a mom, but you know. So I chatted with God about it pretty regularly and just asked him for a good solution. Then one day (a few years later)  she got a call from a former work acquaintance for some freelance work. That freelance work turned in to the request for her to be their go-to freelance writer and fill in. DUH! Perfect- she can do it from home while Aury is at school and the world keeps getting to see her rockin work until she can get back to it more fully. Perfect solution, God. Well done!

I have no idea if you guys have stuck with me this long. But if you have, just remember that you're saved and covered. God doesn't judge you as harshly as you judge yourself. Just tell him what you think, what you need and why you're worried. He will figure it out. We don't all have to be super spiritual buffs. Some of us can just be us and love the best we can.

All About Ashley

My photo
Spring, TX, Southern, United States
Playing with and keeping up with my nephew and niece take up a lot of my time. Van Geaux takes up the rest of it. Work is an afterthought most days! I like to be outside- but not when it's too hot. I get bored at my desk all day. Niki keeps my world spinning and without her and AC I'd lose it. My work ethic crashes at 4 p.m. daily and I live my sweet puppy and my hedgehog whenever I am not at Niki's. I truly believe naps are quality pass-time events, and sometimes I say bad words at work. I'm pretty sure I'm insane on multiple levels and I believe rules don't apply to me.
It seems that my life is quite entertaining. I didn't realize this myself, but was informed of it by my friends- who are rather entertained by tales of my life occurrences.

I'm far from a professional writer. These are just stories, comments, and other items for simple amusement. Hopefully it's a fun read, as Shannon plans to edit it into a book one day! Maybe we'll become famous, and maybe we'll just have some good laughs at my expense (and some other characters in my life). Either way, happy reading!















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