Easy Fall Dinner

I had a craving for tomato soup a few weeks ago. I thought about opening a can and spicing it up a bit. But there were plenty of fresh juicy tomatoes overflowing from the garden.

I decided I would try to make some homemade cream of tomato soup. I loosely used this recipe from thepioneerwoman. http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2008/02/sherried_tomato_soup/

Except I skipped the sherry and I used all fresh tomatoes. It was divine. I can't wait to make it again.

Although the soup would have been plenty hearty enough by itself, I decided to make thepioneerwoman's olive cheese bread to go along with it. I have been dying to try this recipe since oh forever, or at least since her cookbook came out. I suggest you make this ASAP. You will not regret making this recipe. You may however regret eating half a loaf yourself. Here's the recipe. http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2007/06/olive_cheese_br/


Demurely Hardcore

It was two years ago that I visited Madrid, Spain on a mission trip.

Madrid made me fall in love with its busy streets and the broken city stole my heart.

The dirty streets, the bright nightlife, the high-heeled prostitutes, the lovely siestas, the homeless....

.....the memories will never escape.

Near the end of our trip, I decided to get my ear pierced.

I can't quite explain why I got the idea, I just thought of it and for once in my life, acted on impulse.

I wanted my piercing to be a reminder of Madrid, the memories to be relived, and to be a call to prayer. A reminder to pray for the homeless, the young girls caught up in the sex trade industry, and the missionaries showing Jesus's love to the sinful city.

I must admit, I do not pray for Madrid as much as I should. I am glad to have a reminder pierced through my skin, because it does help me not to forget.

Just a couple weeks ago, I was at a concert where the illegal sex trade and red light districts were mentioned. My fingers fiddled with the metal bar as I closed my eyes and walked right down the red light district in my mind.

Needless to say my piercing is attached to my heartstrings. Not only does it mean so much to me, but it is a great conversation starter. Not many people get to say they got pierced in another country and have a real story behind it. I get to share how amazing Madrid is and why I want to remember to pray for the city.

So my co-worker said the other night, "Sarah, I thought you were hardcore when I saw your piercing. As I've gotten to actually know you, I've realized that's not the case at all. You're actually very demure."

I just kinda chuckled and said that I was indeed hardcore. A weak attempt to protect my lack of hardcore.

But in all honestly, I am both hardcore and demure.

I am hardcore when it comes to the things I love and that I am madly passionate about.

I am demure. I am modest and I am reserved when need be. It's an active choice of maturity I believe.

Therefore, I am demurely hardcore.
p.s. That is me and Jess being hardcore and standing next to an AWESOME car in Madrid.


I never met my grandparents. Not a single one of the 4 of them.
It's something that breaks my heart quite frequently.
I feel I know them from the stories I've been told, from the things they made that I can hold in my hands.

I wish I could have sat on the porch with them and heard them tell stories I've never heard.
I would have loved to have sit by my grandmothers' sides as they canned or quilted or spun or wove.
I would have loved to seen my Grandpa McConnell laying brick with precision and skill, and to see him creating instruments by hand.
I would have loved to have heard all the war and bootlegging stories from my other grandpa.

In all honestly I would love to have any memory with them, but alas I do not.
What I do have are scraps of them, scraps of who they were and what they did.
I have pictures. I have quilt pieces. I have a banjo. I have so many little scraps.

I feel it in my heart to take these scraps, that have been scattered near and far, that have been abused and ignored, and to piece them into the complete story of their legacy.

I want to be able to tell my kids and their kids about who my grandparents were. I may not have memories to share with them, but I will be able to share those scraps pieced together into a beautiful legacy that will last for generations to come.


25 Random Facts About Me- Part 1

1. I'm crazy passionate about the things I love
2. Every time I sit and observe nature, I fall more in love with our Creator.
3. I have a fondness for mountains that is unexplainable.
4. Every day I learn more and more why my parents are my heroes.
5. I usually feel inadequate.
6. I dream of being a chef one day. (I've already designed my whole restaurant concept)
7. Family is my lifeblood.
8. I wonder if my grandparents would be happy with my obsession of their heritage or if they'd tell me to quit dreaming of a past I never knew.
9. The older I get the less I listen to "popular music" and the more I appreciate the true artists.
10. I'm the biggest romantic you'll ever meet that hasn't been in love.
11. I love to observe human interactions.
12. I have the memory of an 80 year old on the verge of getting Alzheimer's.
13. I can't wait to be a mom someday.
14. Cooking is pure bliss. I wish I had the time and money to whip something new up each day.
15. Patience is one of my best qualities.
16. I'm a fan of mixed cds. Every now and again I'll find some old ones and they will transport me back to that part of my life. "Love Songs" that was made in 9th or 10th grade just cracks me up now.
17. When I was a kid (3-5 years old) I would wish that I could stay a kid forever because I didn't want to deal with the real world where bad things happened and people died.
18. I miss the person I transformed into when I performed in guard.
19. I want to learn to play the banjo my Grandpa McConnell made more than anything.
20. Some of my favorite places on Earth are: Iona Beach, Scotland, Douglas Lake, the once open field by the family cemetery, the old fish pond, the "farm", and amusement parks.
21. I embrace being an Appalachian.
22. I have attended 5 institutions of higher education, and I'm still graduating college in 4 years with a double major and a minor.
23. I like movies that are so "real" that they make me cry. (i.e. Life as a House, Crash, Two Weeks, etc.)
24. I don't just believe in a Mighty God because of how I was raised, but also because of observing examples of true Jesus followers, my intellectual exploration, and life experiences.
25. I adore shortbread cookies.


Super Mario Bros. just for my bro's special day!

So, it wasn't very long after my brother had proposed to his girlfriend that I decided I wanted to make his Groom's cake.
I planned the thing for months.
I researched how to use fondant and gum paste and coloring and just about everything else under the sun having to do with cake decorating.
I just wanted something really special that was just for him on a day that wasn't going to have much to offer him but awkward families and neck ties that seemed to get tighter by the minute.
I kinda love him that much, even though he doesn't know it.
I spent hours on my research and prep of this silly cake, and it didn't turn out as good as I wanted it to. I had pretty high expectations, I guess.
The bottom layer is an artistic rendition of the first level of the original Super Mario Bros. game. The second layer is obviously the green pipe. The top of the pipe on up is fondant covered Styrofoam. Oh and EVERYBODY knew it was Styrofoam too because my 6 year old cousin felt the need to tell anybody and everybody.
I was going to buy plastic Mario and Princess Peach figurines but I couldn't find any that were larger than 2-3 inches, and I knew I wanted bigger. The week before the wedding, I pretended to have some kind of artistic ability and make Mario and Princess Peach. Well, let's just say they got the point across and that was enough for me at that point in the game.
My favorite part about this cake would have to be the Goombas. I think they actually looked just like the little life shrinking monsters from the game ;)
It's pretty sad that I have no close ups of the Goombas and other smaller details. Me, the person who loves to takes pictures, and even moreso loves to take pictures of my food creations, did not get a single picture of the cake for myself.
So get mad at me if you want, but I kinda had a busy day going on...ya know I was curling my hair and trying to be super nice and not falling in my heels and smiling at the hottie of a groomsman that walked me down the isle. :D
Kinda a busy day for macro shots of a cake.
I'll have to hunt up the actual recipe I used for the cake. I tried a couple before I decided on what I nicknamed Death by Chocolate, with a chocolate cake, chocolate ganache filling, and a chocolate buttercream frosting.
Yeah, it tasted even better than it looked.


Sustainable Economies in Appalachia

How are we to preserve what is worth saving about Appalachian culture?

Maybe that isn't the proper question, maybe it should be "how can we showcase or share true Appalachian culture in the essence of all that it is (people, place, way of life, art, craft, food--both past and current)"?

I think we have to find a way to form sustainable economies that showcase "Appalachia" in order for any culturally accurate views of Appalachia to reach the U.S. as a whole, and especially for the following generations.

Is setting up partially accurate historical tourism going to get us there, full of stereotyping to fill in the gaps? Absolutely not.

Is adventure tourism going to be the big money maker? Maybe so, but without proper handling our mountains can get shorthanded in the deal. Pollution. Noise. Erosion. No thanks.

I could go on about how so many different concepts will not be entirely successful while still being protective of Appalachian culture, but I won't.

What I will say is that we as Appalachians need to highlight what is unique, what is natural, what is worth sharing with the world. We as Appalachians need to stop selling out and using our treasures as a money making scheme. We as Appalachians need to support the local businesses that are in it because they love what they are doing and want to be in Appalachia doing it. They are using the economy to help bring more value into the area, not using the area to bring more money into their pockets like many we have seen.

If you just look around you, there are some fantastic opportunities to discover places and ideas you never knew existed in the area.

(I will admit that my two examples are rather non-tradional for Appalachia, maybe I will get into some more traditional examples at a later time.)

Take for example a lavender farm (in Scott Co.) and a vineyard/winery (in Wise Co.)...who would ever have guessed treasures like these existed in southwest Virginia without the support and publicity of us, the locals.

Scott County Lavender

-I'm unsure if the farm is still operational. I need to check on that.

MountainRose Vineyards

- a lovely experience, even for those clueless about vino

Go search out the awesome local businesses like these (and proudly support them) so Appalachia can make money and be able to kick those crazy guys wanting to sell hillbilly and Indian memorabilia as far away from here as possible.

OK, I'll step down from my passion podium now ;)


Broken or Beautiful

It has been way too long since I've written anything at all, let alone blogged anything.
I have decided it's way past time to change that.
I want to start writing something at least once a week on here, whether it be a new recipe I've tried, creative writings, or simply rambling about life.

As time just continues to slip through the cracks of life, I want a record to remember what on earth I was thinking. This blog, my friends, will be that record...however broken or beautiful it may seem.


Exploding cocoa and overcoming fears

As I look back over the past year, words seem to fail me. And I'm not usually the kind of person who is grasping at words to explain the deeper meanings of her life and yearnings of her soul. So the best I can come up with at this moment is exploding cocoa and overcoming fears. I guess they explain my life this past year fairly accurately.

A few friendships have grown over the year, and a few have fallen to the wayside
friendships don't fit well with me, mainly because it takes forever for me to trust
and several I have grown to trust have let me down, but we're all human and I know that
I forgive and I forget, but not without learning from each experience
and all of them have been worthwhile
losing certain friends this past year has been difficult to say the least
but sometimes there are no other options
I just had to walk away for my sanity
and its crazy bittersweet to think that could have been prevented if I hadn't been so eager to fall
and its just sad that all those possible new friends are nothing more than acquaintances because I couldn't find the time

I've realized it is less and less often that I am truly myself around friends, and maybe that's simply because I'm not sure who I want to be anymore

I just feel so drained of who I am because all I've known for the past 10 months is research and thesis and class. Research, thesis, class (repeat until all you want to do is run as far away as possible) It's been a broken record that won't let me play my own song. So I haven't been dancing through life so much. Trudging is more like it.

But its so difficult to be bitter and fed up and sick of all of it, because its really such a blessing. Not for a moment do I forget that it is a blessing. I'm getting an amazing education and will be graduating without a dime of debt. I'm blessed beyond measure. I should simply stop my whining and be grateful.

This past year has been quite a lonely one. Not because of a lack of people in my life, or even lack of quality people in my life. Nope that's not why. I'm pulling away, or pushing away, or both. It's almost time to say goodbye. Goodbye's are my least favorite thing. Seriously, I have to agree with Charlie Brown when he says there are too many goodbyes in his life (or something of that nature).

With the stresses of school and anticipating goodbyes, my life feels like its about to become an exploding cup of cocoa, which is messy and majestically beautiful all at once.

And that overcoming fears part, I no longer run screaming from spiders. Now if I could just move on to overcoming that fear of growing up...

P.S. My life has kinda felt like a generalization of Grey's Anatomy this season...a big awkward mess


Colors of the Wind

Not only one of my favorite songs from my childhood, but the overall mood of my day. The crisp morning air had that "Fall is finally here" chill in it. The mug with espresso warmed my hands after walking the dog. Ah, espresso. I am honestly thankful for the day I was introduced in Spain to the glorious drink known as espresso. Such lovely memories. God, send my love to Madrid until I can return someday.

As I was walking to my 8 o'clock class this morning, I couldn't erase the child-like grin off my face. I can't really explain why it was there. It just was, smacked right on my face. The first few yellow leaves were twirling about the edges of the sidewalk and I thanked God for Fall.

I'm still attempting to understand this smile that came out of nowhere. I'm guessing it has something to do with submitting independence as my friend Joel said the other day. After a tough spot in my life several months ago, I said I'd take the reigns because dependence left me hurt. I thought I'd try it my way, control what I wanted and give what I wanted still being unsure of His plans after they turned out so differently than mine that day the earth was plowed in preparation for growth. Now it is harvest time my friends, and the lessons learned and experiences gained are in abundance.

I remember this time last year. I was the closest I had ever been to God. I'm not sure why, other than continually seeking Him. I look back on the past year with some regret because I didn't get any closer, and at times I even wandered further away. I love consistency and despise change (or at least I used to). And since God never changes in this equation of a supernatural relationship, I'm the one left counting the coins I made. So I'm horrible at consistency, yet desire it madly. There is no other area of my life that I want consistency than in my relationship with God. It is something I am earnestly working on, and hopefully I'm making some progress. Ask me about it sometime.

The need to depend on God is ever increasing as the future is looming ahead, just mere months until I graduate from college. But I'd rather delay those thought processes as long as possible, so we will just think of how brilliant my favorite season is.

After freezing at the lab, I decided to go to the store and obtain in my cart at the expense of my shallow bank account the following: tortilla chips, processed cheese & salsa dip, Hormel turkey chili, and a butternut squash [among the other fall-themed things that just so happened to jump into my cart ;)]. So for lunch I entertained my senses with chili cheese nachos. Can we say football game??? Later on I decided to get all fancy with that weird looking gourd I bought. Ginger spiced butternut squash soup, all thick and creamy. Cumin, Garlic, Onions, Coriander, Cinnamon, Butter. It was my first attempt at squash converted into soup ever, and I must say it will not be my last. Sadly enough my camera is permanently broken and I couldn't share at least the gorgeous bowl that beckoned the crisp wind to keep twirling the first colored levels that have fallen.


Wildest dreams, reality, synonyms right?

I've recently looked back upon the past few years of my life, only to realize that I'm living an amazing life that I never could have dreamed of. When I think of what I have learned and accomplished, I'm just flabbergasted. When I think of all the opportunities that have been put in my path, I can barely stop to thoughts of gratefulness.

I've been to 3 countries, I'm doing research, I've been on not just one but two mission trips, I have such an amazing family, and some pretty awesome friends if I may say so myself. And that's just the tip of the iceberg really.

I don't believe anybody deserves this kind of happiness in life, but that God has graciously provided me with some very blessed times recently. My life wouldn't be what it is without "Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us"