New Recipe!

I threw this dish together last night and it was so, so good. I have no idea what to call it or how to describe it.

The filling was leftover smoked chicken thighs, sausage, a bit of okra, onion, celery, garlic, bell pepper, ro-tel ("tomatoes with chiles", for you Owens out there) and cream cheese, all cooked down in the cast iron skillet, then topped with a fabulous cornbread mix and baked. The moisture from the filling gives the cornbread a nice moistness. It's a little bit cajun, a little bit like cornbread "dressing".

This is a great way to use up all the leftover bits of this and that one has inhabiting the fridge and freezer. Southern living would advise you to serve it with a green salad to make a meal, but alas all we had were apples, so that's what we ate. I think it lends itself to variations (crawfish instead of chicken, for example). Hope this inspires you to make your own version!

(the cornbread recipe is courtesy of Southern Sideboards)
for the cornbread topping:
1/2 c. butter
1 c. milk+1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar
1 cup self-rising cornmeal, or, (regular cornmeal+1 tsp baking soda and 3/4 tsp salt)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 egg, beaten
thinly sliced or grated cheddar cheese (less than 1/2 cup)

For the filling:
1 1/2 Tbsp of Fat (oil, lard, butter)
1/4 large white or yellow onion, small dice
3 small stalks of celery, small dice
2 cloves, garlic, chopped
1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped
1/2-1 cup okra, sliced
1/2 pound of sausage, quartered and sliced
2-3 chicken thighs, de-boned and chopped
1 can ro-tel
1/2 block cream cheese, sliced

Preheat oven to 350

In a skillet over med-hi heat, warm the oil and add the onions and celery, season with salt. I chop as I cook, so while that is cooking, work on the next items, adding to the skillet as you go. Make sure the sausage is nicely cooked and add the ro-tel, plus one more dash of salt. Turn the stove to med-low and let the filling simmer. (hold off on the cream cheese for now)

While the filling is simmering, make the cornmeal topping. Pour 1 cup of milk into a cup, add 1 tsp vinegar or lemon juice and set aside. Melt 1 stick of butter (or 1/2 cup lard--which I did not use--this time. ahem). In a bowl, stir the cornmeal, baking powder, salt and whole wheat flour together. Beat the egg into the milk and add to the dry mixture. Stir, set aside.

Turn off the burner on the filling, and top the filling with slices of cream cheese. Pour the melted butter into the cornbread mixture and stir. It will seem like a lot of butter, but keep stirring. Spoon the cornbread mixture over the filling keeping it somewhat even. Pop into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, checking for doneness around 25 minutes. When you check it for doneness, sprinkle the top with Tony's and a bit of salt and the cheddar cheese. Return to the oven until the cornbread is "done" and the cheese is melted.

Oh goodness, I am swooning just thinking about this recipe and the possibilities! Crawfish! Black eyed peas! Nothing but okra! (okay, I love okra too much)

Hope you enjoy!


How We Met Part Nine--More Declarative Statements

In the days of my youth, when I was full of crazy ideals and expectations, I would have quickly informed anyone that I would not kiss anyone until I was married, I would definitely not declare my love to anyone FIRST, nor would I have done what I am about to share with you all.

Isn't it lovely how God humbles us and teaches us that perhaps we didn't have it as right and all-together as we thought we did?

Over four years, God had constantly opened and shut doors, weaving my life in a way I never expected and finally, I was in a most unexpected place: Hattiesburg, Mississippi; going to school at USM and head over heels for a boy I never would have chosen for myself.

And, yet, in Fall of 2001, there he was. And at that point, Tuan met nearly every criteria on my high school "list".

Am I the only girl who made such a list in high school?

I think the only "qualifications" he didn't meet were: playing the guitar (bass and trumpet instead--acceptable), being taller than me (exactly the same height--mere superficials) and being a "Twin Lakes Guy" (still, he was a "camp" guy--Twin Lakes was to come).

The truly essential qualities, though, he met to a "T": loving the Lord, treating his Mama well, being Reformed, putting the toilet seat down (thanks, Mrs D!) and so on and so forth.

In about a three week span, several things were happening. I had confessed my love to Tuan (blush, run, hide), I had had a heart-to-heart with my dear friend Josh Fortier, who had prayed for me in the Wal-mart parking lot, and I was seeking counsel from my campus minister, Clint Wilcke.

I was one of Clint's first RUF'ers and I'm sure I was keeping him busy with my questions. One day, as I was going over the whole "Tuan situation" with him, Clint said,

"Paula, the problem is, you are making it too easy for Tuan to not make a decision. When he comes around, you are there. You need to draw the line in the sand and cut him off, so he has to make a decision."

Yikes. Crazy. Campus ministers love to provoke and say hard things. They also like to strongly encourage people to marry, but that is for another post.

Spurred on by Clint's encouragement, I realized that he was right and I needed to follow his advice. Did I mention that I was terrified?

The weekend of October 13th, Tuan came home to Columbia for the weekend and we made plans to hang out that Saturday. We spent the morning with Troy and another friend, then I left them to go to a shower for one of our RUF girls.

I was as nervous as can be. I was literally sick, because of what I needed to do and was so not sure of how to do it!

Unbeknownst to me, Josh Fortier, in his big-brother way, had sent an e-mail to Tuan laying it all out. Tuan says it was a "if you don't realize it, Paula likes you--here's your sign" kind of letter. I so wish I had a copy of that e-mail, but it is gone. Anyway, Tuan checked his e-mail while he and Troy were hanging out and read it very quickly before anyone saw what it was.

Tuan has been known to dwell in the land of oblivion at times and he says that despite my declaration of love at the bonfire, things had not altogether clicked. It wasn't until he read Josh's email that afternoon that he became more aware of what was going on deep down within himself.

Tuan says he went from a "I could be in a relationship with Paula" kind of place, to a "I should be in a relationship with Paula" kind of place.

So, all these things were coming together, much like the end of _The_Gods_Must_be_Crazy_, where the guerillas, the bushman, the scientist and the school teacher all collide in one glorious plot explosion.

That night, we hung out with Troy and another friend and watched _You've_Got_Mail_. I don't know if I paid much attention to the movie as I was still sick and nervous about it all. When the movie ended and everyone got up to leave, I asked Tuan to stay behind. It was late--somewhere around midnight and we went back into my apartment and sat on the couch facing each other. My roommate, Jeanine, was back in her room, oblivious to the significant and important event occurring in our our living room.

What happened went something like this:

"Um, er . . . " I stumbled, "I um, well, you need to make up your mind what you're going to do, because I'm tired of hanging on a limb."

That was not quite what I intended to say and every time I've shared with with my single friends, I encourage them NOT to do things the way I did. But God in his providence worked things out that way for us, and Tuan, having already been awakened by Josh's email, quickly decided what we were going to do.

"Okay, then, we are going to do this"

That's what he said, more or less.

We spent the next hour or more hashing things out. Each of us had a few concerns or reservations and we spent some time talking about those things. My roommate be-bopped into the living room at one point, realized the seriousness of the situation, then fled. A few minutes later, she walked into the room again, loudly announcing that she needed the radio and some ice cream and grabbing those essentials, returned quickly to the safety of her room.

Saturday turned into early Sunday morning and we reached compromise about our concerns and differences. Tuan may be laid back, but when the rubber meets the road, he is decisive and sure. At the end of our conversation, we were in a committed relationship that was definitely heading towards marriage.

Towards marriage, as in, we were practically engaged.

Tuan is a very intentional guy.

I walked him to the door, where Tuan kissed my hand, said good night and I watched him walk to the Jeep. It was a warm fall night and the air was slightly humid, making the streetlights a bit blurry and atmospheric.

"Wait!" I called out. He stood on the Jeep's running board and said, "what?"

"What are we going to say?" I asked.

I was asking what we were calling this new relationship: dating? going out? courting? betrothed?

"I LOVE YOU!" he called out.

"No, no, I mean, I love you, too but what are we?"

And that, my friends, is how Tuan and I met and started dating.


How We Met Part Eight-declarative statements

Oh, goodness, we are so close to the resolution. Obviously, we are now married and have three children, but still the question remains: just HOW did we get together?

I'm not going to begin with the impression that this is the last post. I just don't have time tonight, but we are getting very, very close--as in one more post after this!

I stopped Part Seven around August of 2001. I had become increasingly convicted about my own obsessions with Tuan and had basically thrown it out to the Lord and was waiting to see what He would do.

I was trying to focus on school and RUF and work. Tuan and I were still e-mailing and talking, but I was definitely in a different kind of place. There was more of a trusting in the Lord happening within me and less of a constant wondering and wondering and thinking going on. I was at a place where he really and truly could have begun to date someone else and I would have been okay.

It is funny how things work out. When I let go and truly gave it all over to God, things began to happen. I also cut my hair off.

It was short.

I had gone on a silly lark that spring and had my long, thick hair permed into a body wave because my roommate had the coolest, thickest curliest hair imaginable and I wanted to experience life as a curly girl. It took hours to roll my hair into hundreds of rods and set it. Not to mention the expense! The ridiculous splurge on a 6.00/hr salary of 75.00 to put in a body wave!

Curly girls do have more fun.

When the humidity is all right and ideal.

I had a LOT of fun with a head full of curly hair. But as time went on it grew out and I hit the awkward stage where the top was straight and the bottom curly. My roommate and I tried to straighten it, but it only resulted in straight top and wavy-bottomed hair. If I took the time to roll it or blow dry with a round brush it was lovely.

But I never took the time.

When camp came, I trimmed it, but still had this awkward straight/wavy mess. On the first day of the week and the last, I hot rolled my hair for the sake of camper parents and the rest of the week, the humidity took its toll and looked AWFUL!

The week the summer staff stayed with us, one of the girls I had worked with, Hilary, had gotten this cute post-camp cut which inspired me to go shorter.

My cut wasn't so cute.

When I got back to Hattiesburg, I found a girl--Tameka-- who knew what she was doing and she fixed my hair, but by then it was super, duper short.

I need to find a picture.

Oh dear, I did digress! The whole point of this was that all my college years I had very long hair. As in down my back long and it got lots of compliments. Boys would say, "oh, don't cut your hair!" and then they would start dating girls with short hair.

I was amused and discouraged by the hair hypocrisy surrounding me.

That is why I was even further amused that when my hair reached phenomenally short lengths things started happening to me in the romantic realms.

Not to imply a Sampson connection.

So, the hair was very short and I was at a place of walking with God and trusting in him.

Tuan was e-mailing and every now and then would say something very sweet, but I was much cooler and relaxed about it.

One week in late September, we made weekend plans. Tuan was coming home and invited me to come out and visit that Saturday evening. Somehow we decided a bonfire was in order for the evening and I made plans to come out after I worked the ropes course at Twin Lakes.

When I got to Tuan's house, he was not there, having run to town with his Dad for groceries. Sonny, Mrs. Dorothy and I decided to play a little prank and hid my car behind the house. When he got back they told him I'd called and couldn't come out because I was too tired, blah, blah, blah. I feel bad for doing that now as Tuan had spent the whole day chopping wood for the bonfire, but it was fun in the moment. Long story short, I surprised him and we had a lovely bonfire with his family, who all eventually drifted off to bed, leaving us out there under the stars. We talked a while and then it was time for me to leave.

Tuan walked me to my car and gave me the usual side-arm friend hug.

But this time it lasted a little bit longer than usual.

I sighed and effortlessly, out of my mouth came the words,

"I love you, Tuan . . . "

Oh stink! What had I done?!?!

I got out of there as fast as I could.