Monterey Clam Chowder

Editor’s Note: I thought it fitting for our first recipe post, during the mid-winter time, to be something warm, hearty and delicious! With that said, I would like to introduce my dear friend, Noelle. She grew up in Pacific Grove, CA, where she was surrounded by amazing sea food and clam chowder! Shortly after she and her husband moved to Portland, Oregon, Noelle started a food blog, called Portland Palates. She is so good at blogging and gives step by step instructions (with photos). Noelle recently made her 100th post! This post is particularly special because it is the food of her hometown… Monterey Clam Chowder! Below is a portion of her 100th post. To get the full recipe, you can click on the link below. Enjoy!

Everyone who grew up on the Monterey Peninsula knows about Old Fisherman’s Wharf and it’s clam chowder debate. I don’t think there’s much debate really. You should visit for yourself and decide for free! After about 11am nearly a dozen of the restaurants on the Wharf post their staff outside (giving out samples) with a large pot of “their chowder” enticing you in. It’s practically lunch to try them all.

It didn’t always used to be this way.

Old Fisherman’s Grotto used to be the only one. You know the one. Right past the candy store on the left hand side. It was my favorite part as a kid. First, there was the dancing monkey and his owner that never seemed to age. Immortal entertainment. Then as you entered the Wharf, you could smell the taffy and fudge. EVERY kid went in. And EVERY kid wanted to work there when they grew up. Then, right when you thought you’d had enough sweets there was Old Man Grotto… or one of the workers, pouring you a sampling of chowder in a styrofoam cup. It was perfectly hot, smoky, clammy, not too many potatoes, just salty enough. I remember trying to get my tongue to the very bottom of the cup, desperately getting every last drop. I learned that if I chewed off the top part of the cup (making it smaller) I could actually reach it.

It’s still no contest. They make the best. Hands down.

And guess what? I found the acclaimed recipe. I just had to try it to see if it’s what I knew as the best…

CLICK HERE for full Clam Chowder recipe!

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Posted in Recipes | 3 Comments

War Horse

If you’re like me, you love going to the movie theater. Buying the tickets, smelling the popcorn, finding the perfect seat in a huge theater, seeing the previews, and then the feature film on the enormous screen; it’s an event that I always look forward to. American cinema is a favorite among pastimes, and has had tremendous influence over cultural changes and trends over the past century in this great nation.
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I do a bit of acting myself, and enjoy knowing all the “behind-the-scenes” stuff.  My husband is also getting into film scoring, so music in movies is always a highlighted part of my movie-going experience. I appreciate all the work that goes into making a film, and love to see how creativity can bring a story to life and touch people so deeply…or not. As much as I thoroughly enjoy films, I also can’t help but be aware of the messages they project into our culture. They give images that tell us what is beautiful and what is not, what’s funny, what’s acceptable, what’s admirable, noble, who/what we should aspire to be like. As a Christian, I think these things are interesting to observe and important to be aware of. My movie reviews may include a few of these observations. Now you’ve been warned. =)
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First up:
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War Horse
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1. Theater-worthy! See it!
2. Definitely rent it.
3. Stream it on Netflix, if you must.
4. Don’t even bother.
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(Warning: spoiler alert)
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Directed by Steven Spielberg, this is basically an inspirational film about a beautiful thoroughbred horse (“Joey”) and a teenage boy who has a special bond with him. The horse gets sold to a soldier heading into the Great War (WWI), and subsequently wins the hearts of several compassionate souls throughout the war. The boy, however, calling Joey his “soulmate”, is determined to reclaim his horse and bring him home safe and sound. The movie takes its viewers through that journey which is just dripping with cinematic drama.
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Visually, the film reminded me a lot of Gone with the Wind. Lots of unbelievable sunsets with barren fields, war-torn soldiers and smoke-filled skies. Lots of very dramatic, even drawn out, intense scenes, romantic and tragic, really set this film apart from any other you’d normally see in theaters these days. Because of that, some loved it and thought it award-worthy. Some didn’t love it, and thought it was over-the-top, confusing, and unbelievable – like me.
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At one point, the friend who was with me watching this film leaned over and said, “Ok, so the target audience for this film is 12-year-old girls.” Not long after that, two young soldiers were being shot for cowardice, and then there was a gruesome scene where the horse was entangled in barbed wire and being basically ripped to shreds. It was devastating, horrifying, and definitely no longer a “film for 12-year-old girls”. I couldn’t figure out who the target audience was.
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Then there was the issue of the horse being portrayed as much more important than the humans. Ok, I like animals. I have a dog that I adore a little too much, and I think horses are absolutely amazing creatures put on this planet by God. That said, I was shaking my head in the scene where the dozens of wounded and dying soldiers were abandoned by the medic who decided to tend to the injured horse instead. And by the end of the film, no human character had been developed enough for us to really care about them. At one point I caught myself thinking, “Oh sad, another person bites the dust. But who cares? The horse is still alive!” What disappointed me the most, though, was that the horse wasn’t even heroic. It didn’t save anyone (unless you count its attachment to its other war horse “friend”) or help win the war. It’s more like people were giving their lives for the horse. It seemed like the value of life was a tad bit mixed up. So, to be totally honest, I wasn’t quite sure what was supposed to be particularly “inspirational” about this film. And the whole “soulmate” tie between the boy and the horse was kinda creepy in my my opinion.
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Something I did love about the film was the moment when two soldiers who were supposed to be enemies came together to help free the horse from the barbed wire. It was a particularly powerful scene. The soldiers abandoned their differences and united to save a life rather than being divided and taking lives. I also applauded the portrayal of bravery throughout the film. To not let fear determine whether or not you will fight for what you believe in is courage, a quality to be highly commended.
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Posted in Culture & Media, Movies | 1 Comment

Even a Cup of Cold Water

In 2011 many of us were inspired by best-selling book and hit movie, The Help. Whether it was Kathryn Stockett’s written masterpiece that captivated you or Viola Davis and Emma Stone’s brilliant portrayals of Abileen and Skeeter in the summer blockbuster, one way or another it seems like everyone loved The Help. As I reflect on the story line, I can’t seem to shake one very important quote, “Write about what disturbs you, particularly if it bothers no one else.” This of course was the advice the publishing company gave Skeeter that inspired her to write about the way maids were treated in her community. It’s exceptional advice applicable not only to any writer but to anyone willing to make a difference in their community.

For me it forces an essential internal conversation. In the broken world we live in today, what disturbs me? What injustices speak closely to my heart? And perhaps most importantly, what am I going to do about them? As Christian women, we are called to action. It’s not enough to hear stories of struggle and see the faces of pain and simply empathize with people. We are blessed by the Father with endless gifts, talents, and resources that can help those in need, let’s use them! 1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in various forms.” Can you sew? Sew cute baby clothes for the local crisis pregnancy center. Are you the queen of couponing? Help stock the shelves of your local food bank. Are you the proud owner of an amazing dog? Volunteer your time and puppy to read with underprivileged kids at a local community center. Be creative.

If you have a passion for something, it’s likely that God has given you some gift that could be a light of His love to others. Matthew 10:42 says, “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” Even a cup of cold water. Take time to think about what you can give to those in need in your community. Let’s share out of the overflow of our hearts with others, with the ones whose causes breed outrage in our minds the most. Because after all, while we were still sinners, dead in our transgressions, we had a Savior willing to take up our cause, willing to die on the cross for our sins. Not because we deserved it, but because of His great love. So today let’s decide to love others with our gifts and talents, because our Creator and Savior first loved us.

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Posted in Social Justice | 4 Comments

Tangible Grace

It was sometime right after New Year’s in 2010, and I was up late while my husband had already gone to bed. I thought I’d find something mind-numbing on TV to watch that would hopefully lull me to sleep. Somehow, I ended up watching the movie My Sister’s Keeper. I’d secretly kind of wanted to see it anyway, so I decided to commit to the two hour movie even though it was way past my bedtime. For those who’ve seen it, you know it’s a touching but brutal story. The oldest sister has cancer and goes through chemo just to stay alive, the effects of which only allowing for a partial life. The younger sister offers herself in some of the most sacrificial ways possible to help her sister, and, well, I won’t give it all away. But the film chronicles the battle this young girl has in living with this cancer, and also the battle the family goes through to keep her alive. I was . . . horrified. I was grossed out, frankly. Watching the chemo being administered followed promptly by violent illness, and seeing this poor girl live her life like that was just normal; it was just unthinkable to me. I had an aversion to hospitals, a disdain for needles, a deathly fear of throwing up, and an overall weak stomach toward all things medical. So I kept thinking to myself, “why am I torturing myself by watching this movie?” But, being a person who isn’t easily emotionally involved in things, I stayed somewhat numb to the whole thing and forgot about it the next day.

Just a couple weeks after watching that movie, on January 17th of that year (one of my best friend’s birthdays, actually), I was diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia. I want to tell this story because, selfishly, it’s part of my healing process, but also because it is a testimony of what I’ve come to think of as a tangible grace from God that I’ve never known as powerfully as I came to through this experience.

I went into immediate denial, FULLY convinced that my hematologist/oncologist was totally misinterpreting my blood tests. As I lay on the ER bed, I was told I’d be starting chemotherapy treatments almost immediately. I was so completely blindsided, and all I could think of was My Sister’s Keeper. My mom and husband were in the ER room at the hospital with me when the doctor delivered this news. They, at least outwardly, remained calm and started making necessary calls to people they thought should know, and pray. First thing was first though, I had lost so much blood that I started getting all kinds of transfusions. I found out that day that my blood type was B-, something I’d always wondered. Good thing I found out, because when they brought me red blood cells in B+ at one point, I knew to object. In three days I had over twenty-five blood transfusions. At that point, the tally in my head got too large to keep track of. I received countless more over the course of the next five weeks, the duration of my stay at that hospital.

People would ask how they could pray, and I was immediately ready with my answer. Obviously, pray that this cancer disappears. That would be fantastic. But I had a sense God wasn’t done with me. I wasn’t going to die. So what I really needed was grace to take what was about to come at me, and mercy . . . to keep me from the things I couldn’t handle. And every day, miserable though I was, I could not deny the blatant grace and mercy I knew I had.

A somewhat sugar coated account in real time was documented in multiple notes I posted on Facebook, so if you’re interested (no particularly gory details, so don’t worry), you can check those out. I won’t go into it all here.

The day I was admitted to the hospital, I had so many friends and family in my room to support me, it was unbelievable, and largely what got me through those initial days. I was actually physically feeling better because I was starting to get all the healthy blood products back in my system: platelets, plasma, red blood cells, etc. I didn’t realize how much I needed those! I couldn’t start chemo until I had that all up to par. At that point I was just scared, and still in denial.

I was transferred to the oncology ward: the 4th floor of the old wing of the hospital. Since there weren’t enough cancer patients to fill the floor, it was shared with the mental patients. Uh hu. This room was tiny, with one sliver of a window that looked out over the hospital roof. The room stank, it felt dirty, the TV only got one channel (kind of), no internet, and no door on the bathroom. Not to mention my neighbors were screaming for no reason at all hours of the day or night, walking around naked, and acting out “aggressively” toward passersby. Knowing this was going to be a long, painful, boring stay, I was honestly thinking, “Ok Lyndsay, find something to be grateful for right now. FIND SOMETHING. Oh yeah, I’m thankful I’m in a hospital with a doctor and medicine that will save my life. Yep. Keep that in mind.” Thankfully my nurses did not care about me breaking the “only 2 visitors at a time” rule, cause we would pack ’em in. My friends brought me magazines, movies, new pj’s, socks, snack foods (for my guests; I couldn’t eat them), decorations for my walls, all kinds of things! They were champion supporters. I didn’t know at the time how much that would bless me – how much I would need that.

Just to give perspective, I’m the girl who thought getting shots for my overseas mission trips was brave. After years of doing that, somewhere along the way I developed the habit of randomly passing out sometimes while getting a blood test or shot. I’m also a highly independent person. My mom claims I was born independent. I had left home on January 17th thinking I’d go to the hospital, get a pill, and be sent home, and back to work. I did not picture myself being held hostage in a white-walled room, constantly prodded with what I considered torture devices for weeks on end.

As I started the chemo, I knew nothing. I mean, I might have been told information, but I didn’t have the mental or emotional wherewithal to absorb anything other than “I’m a healthy 26 year old woman, and they’re telling me I have cancer”. Two nurses came in to my room in garb loosely resembling astronauts. They were in long, protective gowns with masks, caps, and these extremely thick, latex gloves. They asked everyone to leave the room. All I could think was, “Oh Lord, please help me.” They started administering this orange stuff through my IV. I was told I would feel “funky.” Ha. The nurses marked my progress on a huge calendar on my wall, and, three days into my chemotherapy treatments, my doctor came to tell me that the initial chemo wasn’t doing the job. They’d have to start an additional one right away that would be going through my IV twenty-four hours a day for seven days straight. They would keep the anti-nausea meds flowing for me as well. Thank God for those. Seriously.

By the end of my initial chemo infusions, I was depressed more than anything. Yeah, physically you could say I felt “funky,” but it was so stinkin’ hard to find “the bright side.” I was bored, sick, and desperate to go home, to be in my own bed, to see my dog, even to go shopping at Target. I confided in a close friend about this, knowing that though this was a physical battle, it was almost as much a mental battle. She prayed faith-filled prayers with me as I sobbed. As the chemo did its thing, I became keenly aware that it was actually affecting my brain (thus the term “chemo brain”). This made it extremely difficult to process new information, but it also profoundly affected my emotions. I would burst out in tears for absolutely no reason all the time. I would laugh at myself in the midst of it, thinking how pathetic I was being. I would say things without any filter at all (hopefully I’ve apologized at this point to everyone I’ve offended, including some nurses). Mainly though, I was really depressed. As a naturally content and generally happy person, this feeling confused and frightened me. My doctors would offer me anti-depressants, which I refused. Every medication I had to take seemed to come with its own long list of side effects, and I thought I’d rather deal with the depression than the side effects. Looking back, I probably should have taken them.

People would assume that I was finding my strength in the Lord during that time through things like prayer and meditation, reading, and worship. Had I been in their shoes, I would have assumed the same. Friends and family would bring me worship music and all kinds of books from Christian cancer survivors to encourage me. While these were kind gestures and made sense, I couldn’t actually read (I couldn’t process things; it was like reading a different language, mixed with the frustration of knowing it’s not actually a different language), and listening to worship would instantly send me into hysterical tears, something I was really sick of. I would pray, “God, I know you haven’t left me. I know you have a plan. I know you are good no matter what. I just can’t find you right now. Help me.” I felt like God was gone. I knew He wasn’t. I was trying, with my chemo brain, to figure it out.

It took a while for it to sink in, but God had actually shown me He was close early on. Remember how I said earlier that I asked people to pray for grace and mercy for me? God was undeniably, actively answering those prayers. While I was initially going through my chemo that first week in the hospital, one of my best friends flew out from Boston to stay with me for several days. She slept on a camping cot we had borrowed from someone and took care of me. She ran me to the bathroom, made sure I was eating, made sure the nurses were on top of things, and kept me entertained. I remember distinctly feeling that people like her, like my husband (Wyley) and Mom and several other amazing friends, who stayed with me 24/7 — they were embodying the grace of God for me. His grace was tangible, undeniable, amazing.

One day I was trying to take a shower and I had finally just gotten too weak. I couldn’t even hold the shower spray thingy over my head. I got out and nearly passed out. The nurses were rushing to take my blood pressure and put me back in bed. My mom dressed me and from then on she bathed me. I could no longer be self-sufficient at all. I had no choice. If I wanted to get out of my room I had to stay in a wheelchair. No more walking around for me. One person would man the chair and one person would man my IV stand, and they’d wheel me around the various wings of hospital – a place that was starting to become like home.

I knew the day was coming when my hair would make its exit. I had very long, very curly hair and I couldn’t style it every day when I was there, so I would have friends braid it to keep it managed and out of the way. My mom would blow dry it for me because I couldn’t. I felt like a child, and I hated it. But there was nothing I could do about it. One day, I had put off showering for too long for fear that the next time I took out my braid would be the time my hair would start coming out. I had to do it though. My mom bathed me, dressed me, and was combing out my strangely matted locks, and out it started to come. She didn’t say anything, but I knew by the long pauses in her brush strokes that she was discarding hair. The thought of trying to maintain the rest of it, being partially bald, seemed pointless. So we started making calls to have someone come in and remove the remaining curls. Later that day I had Wyley, Mom, and some close friends with me, holding my hand, letting me cry, as my head was shaved.

A few days later it was Super Bowl Sunday. I asked Wyley to bring me some guacamole and chips to eat while I watched the game on the one fuzzy channel I got on the TV (I wasn’t technically allowed to eat that, per my doctor, but I chanced it anyway). My aunt, who had recently overcome breast cancer, was flying in that day from Colorado to stay with me for the next ten days. She was just in time. My immune system was on the verge of crashing due to the chemo. Literally meaning I would have no ability to fight off any sort of infection, virus, etc. We had to tell everyone they could no longer come and visit, to keep me from being exposed to any potential illnesses. My mom got sick, my husband was on the verge of getting sick, and my overnight support system was pretty exhausted. I felt like, through my aunt, God had sent me an angel. She stayed healthy the whole time, and took very good care of me, and even managed to keep me from being too terribly bored. She, like everyone else, was there completely selflessly. I was more blessed, and experienced God more deeply in those weeks, than I could possibly have known at the time.

Anticipating my post-hospital needs, my friend’s very sweet parents offered to buy me a wig for when I got home. They came to my hospital bed and measured my head. I was so relieved, knowing how costly that can be and knowing how unlike myself I felt without my long hair. I’m such a “ducks in a row” type personality, and knowing that was lined up for me was so soothing. We all sat around looking at wigs online to see what I might like. While this was a very overwhelming experience for me (internally freaking out — how could this be my reality right now?), I was grateful beyond words for that kind of support when I needed it.

The day my aunt left to go back home to Colorado, my blood counts were rapidly rising back to normal. The chemo had worked, I was regaining my immune system, and I knew I would be released from the hospital by the next day. One of my closest friends stayed with me that last night. She gave me a pedicure, brought me magazines, and packed up my room for me (there was . . . a LOT of stuff to take home). My family and friends were at my house disinfecting the whole thing (my immune system was still not fully up to par – better safe than sorry), so she and her family packed me up and took me home the next day.

Of course that’s not the end of the story of my battle that lasted nearly two years, but it was five weeks of my life that I was desperate for God’s mercy and grace in a tangible way like I’d never been before. Mercy: there was literally nothing I went through during that time that I absolutely could not handle, and I went through some pretty crazy things. More specifically, I didn’t even puke once. That may seem trite to some, but for me it was supernatural mercy. Also, finances were potentially a huge source of anxiety for us, as I couldn’t work the whole time I was gone (obviously) and Wyley, who is self-employed, took a month off work to be with me. That was a lot of money we had to come up with. Our church raised all of the funds – every last dime. We were totally taken care of. Grace: it was what I considered “tangible” through the people that God put by my bedside every day. It was exactly what I needed to get through, and God knew that.

Lyndsay at her “Goodbye Cancer” party, Fall 2011

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV) “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Posted in Adversity, Grief & Loss, Health & Fitness | 30 Comments

Etsy Wintry Wish List

Winter came late for Boston this year. I can’t complain! It’s been lovely. However, the past few days have been frigid! Living in the city means bundling up. Walking to the subway, walking around campus (which is situated on a windy peninsula), and walking my active Siberian Husky, in the coldest part of the winter, are a few of the reasons why I need to be warm! I have found that the best way to keep warm, besides having a warm coat, is by having a good scarf and hat.

Royal Windsor Knits (an Etsy Shop) has 100% positive feedback. I have the “Canterbury” chunky red cowl- and I love it! Everyday, someone asks me where they can get one. Most of these cowls are large enough to use as a hood.

Today, Royal Windsor Knits announced on Facebook that they will be releasing a new scarf called the Ascot (below)…

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! Enjoy relaxing and online shopping!

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”. MLK, Jr.

Posted in Beauty & Fashion, Etsy | 3 Comments