Food Post: Tzatziki Sauce

Greetings readers, I have gotten back in the kitchen! As some of you know, I spent a semester overseas in Greece 4 years ago and fell in love with the country, and especially the food. This is my second attempt making this delicious cucumber sauce. I found a new recipe and it looked great so I gave it a shot. And it turned out to be delicious! This is my modified version of this recipe by Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa).

Here’s a list of the ingredients:

  • 16 oz greek yogurt (get the strained kind)
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, peeled and seeded
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced dill
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper

A word about the ingredients. The original recipe said for the cucumber to be unpeeled but I think the skin is kinda tough for a dip/sauce so I peeled mine. Also, I used a hothouse cucumber but 1 1/2-2 regular ones would probably work fine too! I used dried dill instead of fresh. You could probably use lemon juice from a bottle but I used fresh because I love the flavor it adds. If I had kosher or sea salt I would have used that but table salt worked fine too.

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The method:

The original recipe calls for regular unstrained yogurt and requires you to strain it for 3-4 hours through a cheesecloth or paper towel sieve. I just bought the strained kind and it saved me 3-4 hours of waiting :). It also says to add the salt to the cucumber and put it in a paper towel sieve as well. I assume the salt draws the water out. I opted not to drain the cucumber for 3 hours. All this really means is you may have some liquid at the surface of the sauce when you pull it out of the fridge. Just give it a good still.

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The photos:

1: Wash, peel, deseed, and chop the cucumber. If you have a chopper or food processor, use that. If you don’t want chunks of cucumber in your sauce, chop them very small. Then salt the cucumber.

2: Open the yogurt and pour out any liquid that may be on the surface. Add to a large bowl.

3: Add the salted cucumber, the garlic, the olive oil, the vinegar, the lemon juice, the dill and the sour cream. Basically the rest of the ingredients. Oh and the pepper. So yeah, add all of it.

4: Stir it all together, mixing it well. You want all the liquid and the yogurt/sour cream mixed together well so you don’t get a bite of just yogurt or just sour cream. Maybe this goes without saying, lol.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: it has a lot of salt so start with less than is called for and add more if you want more!

And, you’re done! Serve immediately or chill it for a while and let the ingredients blend well. Serve it with pita bread or another flat bread, or on chicken or with potatoes of some kind. Enjoy, it tastes great!

And questions or comments, post them below and I’ll get back to you asap.

 

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Letter to My 16-year-old Self

I got the idea for this from a blog I came across. You can actually find tons of these online. So let’s just say I can’t take credit for the idea and move on. What would you say if you wrote a letter to yourself when you were 16?

Here’s mine. Letter to My 16-year-old Self:

Dearest Lacey,

First of all, I want you to know you are not alone. Your hurt is real and your feelings are valid and important. Please don’t feel like no one understands because that’s not the case. This life gets lonely but the absolute truth is you are never alone.

I wish I could tell you that things are going to get easier. I wish I could tell you that pain in your chest goes away soon and that the weight on your shoulders gets lighter. But I can’t.

What I can tell you is that you have so many beautiful things ahead of you. You have so much yet to experience. The things you think you know will be challenged and you will grow. You will learn so much in the next few years, and you will change for the better. You will become a better daughter, sister, and friend. Your view of the world will change radically and you’ll learn to love and appreciate diversity as well as the things that unify humanity.

Unfortunately your deep sadness won’t go away forever. It will come back and there will be long seasons in your life when you can’t shake the despair. But you will be stronger each time you face the darkness. You are a fighter, did you know that? And not only are you a fighter but you will be surrounded by people who love you and will stand beside you and fight with you. And I believe you will come out on top in the end.

As much as it hurts me to tell you this, you are going to do many things you said you’d never do. You’ll cross lines you shouldn’t and you’ll say things you wish you hadn’t. But you’ll also learn a lot about forgiveness and redemption. Most importantly, you will learn how to forgive yourself.

Relationships don’t get any easier. Some people, no matter how much you love them, won’t understand you or your struggles. And sadly, you’ll wake up one day and realize that you’ve lost several friends. And it will feel like it’s your fault but I promise it is not all your fault.

The things that will get you through your darkest moments will be your heavenly Father, his Son and the Spirit that lives inside of you. Other things that keep you going are your loved ones, music, and the pursuit of truth and honesty. Stay grounded as best you can and rely on these people and things to help you along the way.

I know when you are struggling that the end seems enticing. But giving up is NOT an option. Your pain is not your fault and you are not what you’ve done. You are made new and clean each day that is given to you. The past will never really leave you, but you cannot dwell on it. It will leave you paralyzed. Do not look to the future and fear what is to come. But instead live fully, taking in each moment and being present in everything.

When you feel like you cannot go on any longer and the pain feels like more than you can handle, get help. You are not meant to walk this journey on your own. Do not be afraid to admit your weaknesses and allow others to strengthen you.

Finally, be true to who you are. Honesty will be your best friend. Embrace it, and be real. A genuine heart is a rare find and it will be a comfort to others.

Know you are loved, and never forget it.

Inspiration

What inspires you?

Inspiration can come from anywhere. People, places, things, words, experiences….basically anything can be a source of inspiration. When I’m trying to get to know someone, I love to know what inspires them. It tells you a lot about that person and what they value and enjoy.

So, to answer my own question, here is what inspires me:

People. My friends, most specifically. They inspire me to be the best I can be and to never stop pursuing my heavenly Father’s will for my life. They inspire me to grow, move, change, all for the better. And they inspire me to be the best I can be without regretting what could have been.

Nature. The environment around me inspires me to pursue all that’s beautiful. It inspires me to be organic and real, simple and natural. Trees and clouds and leaves are my favorite parts of nature. I love to compare life to these things. I love to compare myself to a tree. Rooted in love, supported by the strength of many who have gone before me, and meant to branch out in love and encourage others. And nature inspires me to do this.

Words. I think words are the coolest things. One word can have so much power and meaning. Words are versatile and inspirational. They can give so much but they can also take so much away. Power is given to those who use them wisely. Words inspire me to think carefully and use them with caution. I am inspired to constantly learn new words and expand my vocabulary.

The life stories of others. I love hearing what God has done in the lives of others, whether I know them personally or not. But I think the coolest thing is to meet someone and then later find out their background. You never see it coming. I always underestimate God’s power and his ability to work through people’s lives in amazing ways. I am inspired by the experiences of others to find purpose in all of my pain and to share it with others so that they too may be encouraged by God’s work.

Music. If you know me at all, you knew this one would be on here. If you don’t know me well you should know that I am obsessed with music. All kinds. Even the occasional twangy country, even though its not my favorite. I love the sick beats and bass drops of dubstep, the rhythmic guitar progressions of acoustic rock and folk, and I love a screaming electric guitar riff. I love the brilliant and artistic lyrics. But I also love instrumental music in its raw beauty. But this isn’t a post about music, it’s about inspiration. Music inspires me to be creative and express myself. It reminds me of the human struggle and of the triumphantness of the gospel (yes I made that word up). More than anything, music inspires me to be me.

Good design. I am not a graphic designer but I have dabbled in web design and I love finding great designs and typography. I love colors and organization and sometimes even organized chaos on a screen or in print. I also love and appreciate brilliant product design (which is part of why I love Apple inc. products). Good design inspires me to be creative and innovative, ever learning and changing for the better. If you read my blog often you may notice that the design will change often because I love to change it up. Unfortunately right now I’m using a free theme and not something I’ve created because I don’t have the money for a hosted site. But maybe someday I will have the money needed to customize this site more to fit me. Anyways, back to how design inspires me – it keeps me looking for fresh ideas and a fresh perspective.

These are just a few things that inspire me. What inspires you?

 

The Art of Blogging

Blogging is an interesting thing. It’s a mix of simply writing for your own satisfaction and enjoyment and writing hoping that someone else will read and enjoy what you write. As someone who has been blogging for several years, I can tell you that it is necessary to realize the possibility that either a) no one will read your blog, or b) people will read it without really getting anything out of it. And then, of course, there is the issue of feedback, or comments. I try to comment on friend’s blogs when I read them because I know how awesome it feels to get a comment on your writing. It tells you that someone cares enough to read, that they appreciate what you said and that (most importantly) it sparked something inside of them which compelled them to comment. Now, I think I know why people don’t usually comment. They don’t want others to read their thoughts, or they are just busy or whatever. But I also know that many people start blogging and quit because they don’t think anyone reads their posts. It is important to press onward and try to Be passionate about your blog whether you have tons of commenters and followers, or even if the only person who comments is your mom or dad. :)

In this day and age, we also have stats for our blogs. For those of you who don’t know, I can see statistics of how many views each of my posts and pages receive and, if you visit my blog by following a link from another site, which site referred you to my site. Another great feature I’m implementing into this blog for the first time is ratings – you can rate each entry on a scale from 1-5 stars (and I’m pretty sure this is anonymous but I’ve never tried it). Also, I’ve added some social media icons that appear under each post. You can “like” my posts through Facebook, or WordPress if you have an account with them. You can also reblog my posts in Tumblr if you have one.

Anyways, enough about the cool features and back to the art of blogging. Finding the right balance between writing for the benefit of yourself and writing for the benefit of others is key. It can’t be so self absorbed that no one can relate to it, but it has to be personal enough to reflect who you are through your words. So once you’ve gotten that balance and you’ve accepted that you will get hits on your site but maybe no comments, you are ready to go.

What I would love is to have more of a conversation in my blogs. Something where people comment on my thoughts and I comment on theirs and so forth. This could potentially be really cool but I doubt it will happen. Let me pause and say that if it sounds like I am just being really hard on people who don’t comment on my blogs, I am really sorry. That’s not my intention. I am more so trying to encourage others to embark on a blogging adventure themselves, and give them some small pieces of advice to do so.

It’s pretty much inevitable, though, to wonder what people are thinking when they read my posts and don’t comment. I wonder what the 40 something readers thought about my Bonnaroo Weekend post. Did they disagree? Relate? Did it interest them?

Luckily I am not going to stop blogging even if I don’t get responses, and that is mostly because I have stats to reassure me. Even people I don’t know, people outside the US read my posts sometimes. And that is enough to keep me going.

To those of you who love to write, those of you who have thought about starting a blog, let me say this: do it! Even though you may think you are insignificant or have nothing to share, you do. God created each of us with unique thoughts and experiences. Just share your heart. You never know who may read and who may be blessed by your thoughts. I am always amazed when someone tells me about how something I’ve written has affected them and I have to stop and praise God for his power…and how cool is it that he chooses to use everyone, even someone like me, to his glory?

I hope you feel inspired to write, to express, and to share with others. Sharing in life with others has been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever experienced.

Share with me in this experience of written/typed words?

Uncertainty

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“MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

– Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude”

This is seriously one of my favorite prayers I’ve ever come across. I think it’s beautiful and I relate to it in so many ways. Especially now that I have finished all of my graduation requirements and am just counting down the days until I have my diploma in hand and begin my career. Not that I have a clue what that will be. “I do not see the road ahead of me,” Merton says, and I agree. I doubt I would understand the road ahead of me even if God gave me a sneak peek of it. Rarely do I look around at my life and circumstances and think to myself, “OH! THAT’S what God is doing!” Instead, I ask question after question instead of being still and acknowledging that my lack of knowledge is sufficient because I do not need to know the answers. I’m only hurting myself in my tireless pursuit of the all encompassing knowledge that no human possesses. And even after something happens, I still don’t always have the 20/20 vision that they say hindsight brings. Often I’m still asking why did this and that happen, too stubborn to stop asking and start listening. 

Be still and know that I am God. Well, God, I don’t know how to be still but I think I am trying. I want nothing more than to learn to trust God. I think that will be my greatest accomplishment in life if I can learn that. My greatest accomplishment will be loss of myself and life in him; trusting him fully for my every need. 

“I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

Friendship

I used to think I knew a thing or two about friendship. I remember thinking my friends loved me unconditionally at one point in my life.

I’m not saying that any one of my friends in particular didn’t love me unconditionally, but they didn’t need to. At the time I hid anything about myself that could be considered troublesome, unlovable, you name it. Who needs unconditional love if there’s nothing hard to love about them? I think my theory was that I had to be easy to love or no one would love me. And the fear of being unloved kept me adding fuel to fire of a secret life.

Now, years later, I’m unraveled. I have no secrets. I am raw in my honesty with those who want it and it’s not easy but it’s right for me to be this way. The more I hide the more I become someone I’m not. So I choose to live in the light.

Becoming someone rooted in honesty and love was hard for me because my life was a mess of lies and secrets. Luckily I’m not on my own and my Father in heaven has helped tear down the walls of lies in my life. I’m not perfect and I do still struggle with truth and honesty. But daily and sometimes hourly I choose to be true to who I am.

Do I still fear that I am unlovable? Yes. Every day. But I am learning to overcome that fear. And, my friends are helping me do that. I’m still friends with some of those people who didn’t need to love me unconditionally because they didn’t know the real me. I’m happy to say that many of them do know me better now and do love me without limits as best a human can.

But I also have other friends. The ones who have always know the true me- the real Lacey Jane. They didn’t know the version of me I tried to create that would be easy to love. And you know what? Despite all my flaws, fears, and failures, they do love me!

A friend told me the other day that I am easy to love. I have been told that maybe once before but this time it really hit me in the heart. But this person knows me better than almost anyone, I thought, how could they possibly think I’m easy to love after all I’ve done?

But I don’t think they were saying I’m easy to love despite who I am or what I’ve done. If I know this person at all they were saying to me, “Lacey I know who you are. I know you are often sad and confused and I don’t understand why you have all this unexplained pain in your life. I know what you’ve done and I know you’re going to mess up again. But, all these things included, I love you. You are you. And I love all that goes into making you who you are.”

That is real friendship.

Be love.

Bonnaroo Weekend

Well, it’s been a crazy weekend. For those of you who don’t know, Bonnaroo Music Festival (which is sometimes referred to as the modern day Woodstock) just so happens to be held in the town I live in right now in Tennessee. I have gone the past two years and got the opportunity to go again this year. And considering the great lineup of bands and the fact that two of my best friends were able to drive up for the festival, I was super excited about getting to go.

I had a great time. But, there was no shortage of exhaustion associated with the weekend. The festival is held in a huge field that used to be a large farm. The lineup includes an awesome variety of musical artists and comedians, and the grounds are full of vendors (selling anything from jewelry made from recycled guitar strings to rope sandals to beautiful art). This year my favorite shows were Bon Iver – check out their music if you haven’t yet – and Foster the People. Coming behind in a strong third place position was Skrillex, a dubstep artist. There were several other shows I enjoyed but those were my favorite.

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding Bonnaroo, and there are good reasons for both sides of the arguments. On one hand, there are lots of drugs and alcohol at the festival that people bring in, and it makes for a loud, crazy weekend that disturbs many residents of Manchester. And while I don’t necessary approve of those parts of Bonnaroo, there is something beautiful about it.

Being around 80,000+ people for several days gives you a good picture of humanity. And I realized something this year that I hadn’t really thought of before. Anyone can judge Bonnaroo attendees and say they’re just a bunch of potheads or whatever looking to party. But what those people who will judge don’t realize is that everyone at Bonnaroo is so nice! There is very low crime at the festival and I have seen many examples of complete strangers looking out for each other. They are music lovers and lovers of all things beautiful. They are regular people who are hungry. They are hungry for truth (which is part of the reason they love music – the lyrics speak to them). They are hungry for community with others. They are hungry for love and for peace.

The only problem with most of these people is that they haven’t found anything yet to satisfy them. They go through life bouncing from one thing to another looking for contentment and satisfaction. Maybe they’re trying drugs, alcohol, sex, or even religion to satisfy that hunger they have. But what I realized this weekend is that what people in general are really hungering for is Jesus. They can find all the things they need and want in him! I am DEFINITELY not saying that no one at Bonnaroo knows Jesus or has a relationship with him. Bonnaroo is just an example/the place where I came to my realization. But what I am saying is that I don’t think as humans we would look to drugs or alcohol or whatever to satisfy that next craving of “hunger” if we truly knew Jesus the way he wants us to know him. And while it’s sad to see so many people in the world lost and confused and turning to things other than Jesus to satisfy them, it gives me a sense of direction and purpose. It makes it easier for me to know how to live my own life – in pursuit of a healthy relationship with Jesus AND encouraging others to pursue the same.

My prayer is that when we see people struggling we will not judge them but will see them as a beautiful child of God who is searching. Searching for the one who can truly satisfy our hunger. The one who can bring us truth, love, peace, and much more.

We are all lost in some way. And we are all searching at times. Let’s walk this journey together and encourage each other in pursuit of Jesus.

School’s Almost Out!

Well, as a lot of you know, I am about to finish undergrad (in one week to be quite precise). If you knew how many times I had to retype the word undergrad just now until I got it right you would be a little worried about my upcoming entry into the “real world” but I assure you, I’m just getting used to my new keyboard.

Some of you may be a little surprised by my first statement because you thought I graduated last December. I hope no one feels like I misled them, but I knew at the time that I had one and a half classes left (which ended up being two, long story)…but anyways I didn’t take the time to explain to the entire world that I had 1 1/2 classes left because my time at Harding had come to an end. You see, many private universities like Harding cost around $5 million dollars to attend per year. So, naturally, I ran out of money and as a result finished my last two classes online through Oregon State University. Random, yes. Alas, I have learned a lot more than I ever wanted to know about microeconomics and managerial finance in the past 10 weeks. And it will be a joy to finish.

What is the next step for me? Arkansas, Lord willing. My BFFs live there. I am trying my best to find an IT job in Little Rock or Conway, AR so I can move in with my BFFs. There are also many people I love still at Harding and I would LOVE to be closer to them as well. I don’t predict that I will live in Arkansas ‘forever’, that’s not like me to be in the same place for a long period of time. But, it should be a fun adventure for this next phase of my life.

Since I’ve decided to re-start my blog again, I may need some suggestions of what to write about. I love writing, and though I’m no Bronte or Thoreau, it does bring me enjoyment. If you’ve read any of my entries and have enjoyed them, you should let me know what they were about, and maybe you’ll see more of it. I actually prefer to write more abstract things that full sentences like I am doing now, so you may see more of that too.

I’ve decided not to put aside a specific day or time to blog, and I’m not committing to a post daily or every other day or whatever but I will commit to write regularly and post often. I hope that if you read my posts you will not only enjoy them, but that you’ll also get to know me better. Inviting you to comment is what I’d like to do next. Everyone thinks that it’s embarrassing to comment because everyone else can read it or whatever but I’m not asking for comments here necessarily. I would be a lot more likely to write though, if someone had thoughts about my writing and sent me an email or facebook message, or even left a comment here. It’s thought-provoking, and I need people in my life who will challenge my thoughts, reaffirm me, and offer me their own thoughts.

Let’s converse, walk through this journey together, and see where life leads us.

Peace and love to you all.

the story of me 2.0

I shared this with my social club tonight. I hope you are blessed by reading it and seeing how God is working in me.

I want to tell you guys a story. It's a story of hope and forgiveness, redemption and love. Many of you have heard bits and pieces of my story or at least know that I struggle with depression but I want to give you a look at the bigger picture.

My first depressive episode began when I was 11 years old. It was the summer before I started middle school. I felt a rebellion sink into my heart and began to turn from God out of shame and confusion. I saw myself as a bad person who didn't deserve forgiveness or salvation. At this age I began to push others away and build walls around my heart. I didn't know that the deep sadness and hopelessness I was experiencing was most likely depression. Out of shame I kept all inside and didn't tell anyone what I really felt.

When I was 13 I tried to kill myself, and it is only by God's gracious hand that I am here before you today. When I was 20 I got a tattoo that says "I have been forgiven" in Hebrew because the God of the old testament is the same loving God who has forgiven me for my greatest sins.

From age 11 to 18 I went through short periods of happiness and long periods of despair and depression without telling anyone. I was living a life of lies and it was killing me. I felt alone and unworthy of love.

After finally telling a few close college friends about my struggles I decided to talk to my parents a couple years ago. It was a hard conversation but my parents couldn't have been more loving and supportive. After that conversation I was ready to get help for my depression and anxiety. I began medication and therapy.

Since that day I have seen 5 different therapists and counselors, and have tried several different medications. Last semester I took the semester off and spent a few weeks at a residential treatment center in Illinois after my depression took a very intense turn for the worse in March. Over the summer, after lots of treatment I felt like I could try to come back to school. I started summer school and still struggled a lot even though I was doing all the things you are supposed to do when you have depression. Nothing seemed to be working.

Now comes the good part of the story. At my most hopeless moment God brought me hope. At a time when I felt I had tried everything I decided to try one more counselor. And I'd like to read you an email I sent to my counselor two weeks ago about how our awesome God has been working in me. This is the best part of the story.

Here's what the email says:
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I haven't been to church in almost 6 months and haven't picked up a bible except maybe twice for counseling assignments. I pray very often but my prayers have been mostly selfish prayers, begging God to take my life or something cowardly like that.

In many ways I had given up hope for my life. I have always had this sense that I will lose the battle of depression and either intentionally kill myself or unintentionally through some type of destructive behavior. The bottom line is I felt that darkness was simply in my DNA and sadness and chronic unhappiness intertwined with every cell in my body.

Living a life with no hope seems pointless. People constantly tell me to think of all the good things in my life. I do. I know I am insanely blessed and am extremely thankful for it. But happiness and joy haven't come with those blessings for some reason and people don't understand that. I've been stuck in a cycle of apathy and numbness. Until this weekend.

My prayers have started to change. I try to pray for others more than myself. God has spoken to me this weekend in ways I can't really explain and what I've learned is that there is no such thing as a truly hopeless situation. There would be if humans were in control but I thank God that he is in control rather than us. I've spent 11 years in darkness for a reason- a reason I don't understand or claim to know but he is molding me. I may never be happy in the worldly sense of the word but there is still hope for me. Because there is more to this life than me and my little situation. God is painting on a canvas bigger than me and my life.

I went to church Sunday morning and held back tears the entire time. We sang the song "how he loves us" and it really meant something to me for the first time. I just felt like God was calling me to come back to him and give up all of my burdens and the control I've been trying to hold onto. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I know exactly what God is saying to me, and it's a message of hope and redemption, forgiveness and love.

Me

Who I am and who I've been- the two things that I'm holding in;
Too scared to speak, too tired and weak;
Too terrified you'll turn and leave

All the promises and all the wishes,
No one's cleaning up my dirty dishes.
Want to know what I do and what I've done?
You may as well start to run.

For who I am and what I do
May come as a surprise to you.
I'm not how I seem, I'm not what I say
I'm worried you'll look and then turn away.

You size me up, you look at me
But do you really see who I am and what I want to be?

Rooted in love, planted like a tree.
Plagued with sadness, odd as it may be.
Scared a lot, but I'm not through.
Am I worth a second glance to you?

Just give me a chance,
Let me try to prove
These words are mine to use.

I've made my choice,
I've found my way.
I know who I serve at the end of the day.