Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Quote Christianity

In the social media business, we run across a lot of quotes. There are business quotes, inspirational quotes, cheesy quotes, and, yes, quotes about faith. I rarely see one that really hits me. After day after day of words scrolling by, they start to all sound the same. "Be better!' "Be godlier!" "Sell more product!" "I am innovative!" 'I'm nothing special, but the guy that said me is!" Most of them don't really say anything at all.

In my opinion, the worst are the Christian quotes. Now before I offend someone, I don't think that reminders of faith are bad. I don't think that art is bad. I think it's the "quote culture" that I think when we reduce our expression of Christianity to a sound byte or a board on Pinterest that we lose something really valuable. When we shrink such powerful and amazing concepts down to an aesthetically-pleasing color pop for out kitchenette, without ever pausing to re-expand them, it's easy to forget them. To let them fade into the shabby-chic background.

So I was surprised when I stumbled upon this one. Instead of shrinking faith down to a nibble-able nugget, it offers a challenge that jolted me.

That's what a quote should be. Not a decoration on the wall, not something to add to a collection, but a powerful reminder that we can, and should, be better.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Emma Blessed

I remember the first time I heard the phrase "If you want God to laugh, make plans." I decided that God would never laugh at me because we were always going to have the same ones anyway.

My whole life was filled with grand dreams and even sometimes very specific plans about my future. I was going to work for my church in Boston, cuddling up under a hand-knit blanket in my cute Cambridge loft on the weekends. I was going to start a farm with a sweet kitschy name in rural Vermont, sun-browned and happy, harvesting berries every evening to enjoy on home-cultured yogurt for the next morning's breakfast. Then that farm was going to move to some impoverished urban setting, like Detroit, where I'd introduce local kids to the wonders of tomatoes. Then I was going to get my foot in the door with the government in DC, spending late nights in my tiny office, feeding off the incredible energy surrounding me. Then I was going to study something official-sounding like economics at university in Berlin, while my posh, metrosexual German boyfriend (a blond, named Lars or Jan) read Hegel by candlelight on the opposite end of the couch.

Clearly God and I have been on the same page every step of the way.

The last six months of my life have involved a number of gifts greater than I imagined. From faith to friendship to health to growth, I have been richly blessed. I am looking forward to sharing the story in person.

But before then, I have a major announcement:

Monday, November 18, 2013

My Favorite Cookie

I like to cook exotic things and new recipes. I like to try new foods and dream up exciting combinations for the familiar and the not so familiar. I like to experiment. I like to check Pinterest. I like to tweak and refine.

But I also like simplicity. I like satisfying sweetness and classic combination.

I like these chocolate peanut butter cookies. They're lick the spoon, eat four before they're cool, sneak one as a midnight snack, and feign ignorance when your family asked if you baked today good.

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter (VERY important to use only the natural unsweetened kind)
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup honey ( I usually use closer to 1/4)
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life brand chocolate chunks)
How To:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Cream the peanut butter, the honey, the egg, the baking soda, and the salt together until thick and gooey. Fold the chocolate chips in.
  2. Scoop in tablespoon-fuls onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for 10-ish minutes. They will be gooey and soft when they come out, and they will not look done. Resist the urge to bake them longer -they will firm up!
 Makes two dozen. So enough for one evening ;)

**Note, although I've never tried it, these would probably be great with hazelnut or almond butter too!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Super Simple Salmon

I REALLY like salmon. I would even go as far as to call it my favorite meat. When life gets busy, good cooking can seem like a luxury. It shouldn't have to be, though, so I found a really quick (really delicious) way to get a filet from fridge to table in just 20 minutes total, or less (!!!!)

Salmon Seasoning Mix (for 2 filets)
-2 tbs. fish seasoning (I used Sven's from Sonnentor -so yummy!)
-2 tsp. ground mustard seed
-1 tbs. coconut flour 
-salt and pepper to taste
-Olive oil

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix your ingredients in a small bowl with a fork. Rub your filets gently with olive oil. Lay on a foil-lined baking sheet. Spoon seasoning over the top of each filet generously. Bake at 450 for 10-15 minutes or until desired done-ness.

Serve with salad.

Friday, November 15, 2013

In Pictures: The Altstadt

Bank of China occupies the primest of prime real estate
Each German city has an Altstadt (literally "old city"). It's the part of the city where the old churches, the Rathaus (seat of the city government, usually the prettiest building in a German-speaking city), and other major tourist attractions are. It's also where the shopping is -from super ritzy to budget.

Kinder Quotes

Anyone with kids knows that they really do say the darndest things. Especially this little guy. Keep reading for my favorite quotes (mostly) from my favorite 4 year old.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

In Pictures: St. Pauli

Entrance to the famous "Herbertstrasse." The sign reads:-entry for those under 18 and women forbidden"
St. Pauli is the quarter between mine and the Altstadt. Home to the infamous red light district and the Reeperbahn, it's the party center of Hamburg, full of bars, clubs, and seedier establishments, it's also the center of prostitution here.

Prostitution is legal, and the ladies both cluster on a specific corner (right in front of the local police precinct!) and solicit. They're required to check in and check out each evening. I go running down the Reeperbahn many weeknights, and it's not uncommon for a slow walking man in front of me to be pulled off to the side by a blonde woman in skinny jeans and a puffy vest wearing a fanny pack and a bulky ID badge (seems to be their unofficial uniform).

The Reeperbahn is actually quite safe, particularly during the week, and it's not uncommon to see families with small children drinking juice and hot cocoa at the outdoor bars (not that that's a practice I endorse!). There are some cafes and souvenir shops, as well as St. Pauli Fussball gear (the cult-favorite soccer team is headquartered there). On game days, the whole district is flooded with fans sporting the skull and crossbones logo. Pauli (as the team is known) is famous for its counter-cultural beginnings, it's strong anti-racism, anti-nazi stance, and for its unique fan base.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

In Pictures: Altona and Ottensen

Fall in Altona (by the church)
The place I call home is a quarter of the city of Hamburg called Ottensen, on the western part of the city. It's separated from the Altstadt (the city center, where the old churches, government buildings, and shopping is) by the St. Pauli district. That's where the partying happens and where (bow chicka woww woww) the red light district is. I spend the majority of my time in these three areas, and traveling through them to get to the others.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Introducing a New Series

Hi readers old and new! I'm about to unveil a brand new series called "The Emma Enthused Guide to Studying Abroad in Germany." I'll reveal valuable tips, tricks, and questions from my long experience living, traveling, and yes, studying abroad in Germany.

Stay Tuned for Posts Covering:

What to Bring
Saving Money
Traveling in Germany
Hassle-Free Hostel Travel
Not in Kansas Anymore: Weirdest German Things  
Best Drugstore Products
What to Eat
What to Eat: Tuebingen Edition
How to learn German
Umgangsprache 101
Only in Germany
City Profile: Tuebingen
City Profile: Munich
City Profile: Stuttgart
City Profile: Dresden
City Profile: Nuremburg
City Profile: Hamburg

...and more

Looking forward to have you join me on an inside look of Germany to help you make the most of your semester abroad!

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Great Lip Balm Review

I'm torn on winter. On the one hand, I love snow. I love the fantastic views out my window. I love sledding, and warm boots, and hot tea, and long walks, and roaring fires, and cuddling under the covers in my favorite sweatpants.

On the other hand, as someone with dry skin, winter wreaks absolute havoc on my lips, hands, feet, and face. It's the time when I haul out my extra-strength lotion collection and write myself a note to stock up on lip balm.

Lotions and lip balms are a big choice. They're a commitment. For one, when you're on a budget, buying a whole bunch of different ones that may or may not work is a real gamble. When you have sensitive skin and a sensitive nose, it could be a real disaster.

So I present to you many seasons of lip balm research. From the good to the bad, from the popular brands to the cult favorites, Emma's great lip balm review.

Starting with the Natural Balms:

Burt's Bees Lip Balms are hugely popular. But I'm not sold. I have tried their regular, honey, mango, pomegranate, acai, and tea tree balms. The only ones I would purchase again are the pomegranate and honey balms.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Really. Good. Brownies.

For those of us on restricted diets, recipe suspicion is a common phenomenon. What does that mean, exactly? Well there are a lot of recipes out there that make big promises: "perfect," "gooey," "tastes like it contains gluten!" As a former everything-eater believe me, I have tried them ALL. Some of them have been close -the first bite was heavenly, and then the grainy rice-flour taste kicked in.  Eventually, you fight through the denseness and the crumblies and stop trying to replace the old flavors, and learn to embrace the new ones. Nothing will ever taste like your mom's chocolate chip cookies. But that's ok, because there are other delicious flavors and textures out there.

But once you get over that hurdle, it's still not over. Some of those new recipes still call for ingredients you can't eat. Like potato starch, almond meal, corn starch -of course you can substitute, but sometimes you just want to sit down and bake something without furiously checking your pantry for substitutes and racking your brain for equations.

Sometimes you want something simple. And sweet. Something that just perfectly satisfies that bit of you that longs for moist chocolatey crumbs that don't have a bitter quinoa aftertaste.

Enter these brownies: