Friday, May 30, 2008

Adventures in Osodom

This morning while Oso was sniffing around the backyard, I snuck out on to the porch without him noticing. I sat down on the steps and watched him for a minute before he looked up and seemed to snap to attention at the sight of me. He started walking toward me slowly, like he wasn't sure if I was real or not. I smiled and said his name and at the sound of his name he started running toward me and wagging his tail as if to say "Oh, it really is you!". He is so funny.

Some recent adventures in Osodom:

1. He chewed a hole in the grill cover and proceeding to twist and turn and almost strangle himself with it. We found him that way, head swollen, starting to foam at the mouth. It was quite tramatic actually (for me, mostly). It took him a few days to recover but he's back to normal now.
2. He came camping with Kirk and I, and did great! He stayed in the tent with us, played in the creek near our site (nonstop), and went on a long hike with us. of course this led to andventure number 3,
3. Ticks. 3 ticks to be exact. Those things are pretty gross.

Here is Oso at 2 months, and Oso a couple weeks ago, at 5 1/2 months. Am I really posting about my dog as if he was a child? What is happening to me?

2 months:

almost 6 months, just hanging out in the backseat. He looks like he should have a seatbelt on.

Sorry those pictures are so bad, they're from my phone. I can never get to a camera soon enough when he does something cute.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Music: A balm for the craziness

Anxiety and Panic disorders seem to be more common every day. Is it that more people are being affected by these issues, or that we're talking about it more? I don't know the answer to that, but I have several friends who struggle with anxiety and I have my share as well. Today I read an interesting article about Jeff Tweedy, the lead singer of Wilco, and his panic disorder. This article from Rolling Stone was written a few years ago after Tweedy had gone to rehab for his addiction to prescription pills.

"For Tweedy, who tries to write and play music every day, one of the most difficult things about rehab, at first, was his loss of guitar privileges. (Because of possible suicide attempts, the hospital didn't want strings around.) Eventually, he was allowed to play during art-therapy classes. "The doctors told me, 'Your panic goes away completely when you play guitar,' " Tweedy says. "I guess my color changes, everything."

I've heard that his doctors actually concluded that music was a better remedy than anything else they gave him. I love that.

I certainly have times when music is the only thing that will calm me down. Like when I'm sitting in between two strangers on a bumpy airplane ride, or when something frustratingly tragic happens and nothing seems to make sense. Music.

Here are some songs I listen to often for calming down purposes. Because they move me and remind me of the bigger picture.

Jill Phillips- Everything
Pierce Pettis- Love Will Always Find its Way, Great Big World
Eva Cassidy- Fields of Gold
David Wilcox- What You Whispered
Sara Groves- Why it Matters
Tom Conlon- Wake Me

Chris Rice also recorded an instrumental record called "The Living Room Sessions" that has been a favorite of mine. It's all hymns on the piano and it feels peaceful to me.

What about you, what music or songs do you listen to as a kind of balm for the craziness?

P.S. Randy Elrod does this deal called Water Cooler Wednesday's and I am participating in it today with this blog. Check it out!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Perspective on a "bad day"

I flew Southwest Airlines a couple weekends ago. We often do because as you may know, they are the best at a lot of things. I'm a fan. However, I am not a fan of the current marketing for their business class.

The image that set me off was on the jetway leading to the plane. It is a picture of a woman's feet in red high heels. It appears she's walking the streets of a city, lets say New York. The heel of one of the shoes is breaking off of the shoe and it looks as if she may trip because of it. Above the image it simply says "Bad Day?".

Another is a living room scene, a bulldog is in the forefront with a cell phone in his mouth, buttons and electronics strewn on the floor around him. "Bad Day?", it asks.

And of course, it then proceeds to convince you that flying Southwest Bussiness Class is just what you need to cheer up your day.

Now... I'm not trying to be all high and mighty, because I certainly have days where the little things add up and make me want to pull my hair out. And yes, in those moments I would tell you about the "bad day" I'd be having.

But seriously? A broken high heel? A chewed up cell phone? I know it's just a marketing campaign, and a good one, if you're trying to encourage a self centered society to keep on feeling sorry for themselves and their shoe misfortunes.

You're probably thinking, "Alli.... if you wanted to rant on marketing campaigns, I can think of some worse ones than this". And it's really not that bad, but something about it hit a chord with me. I just stood there on the jetway thinking, "Bad day! You think that is a bad day?!"

Because I think of some of the Compassion kids whose bad day consists of a parent dying of AIDS, or having little to no food to eat. I think of the families in parkersburg, IA who lost their homes this last Sunday in a tornado. I think of the Chapman's, who just lost their little girl.

Those are bad days.

Just trying to keep perspective in the midst of an often skewed slew of media fireworks.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A "Must Listen" list

Here is a list of other indie artists that have recently released new records that I've been listening to and I think you should too! Here is a brief description of them followed by some of my favorite lyrics.

Jeremy Casella, Recovery
This record is so moving I don't really even know how to describe it. If you asked me which one of these records to buy first, I would say this one.

From the title track, Recovery:
No one told you that faith would come easy
No one promised the way would be clear
Turn the ground in the fields of your story
While you're sowing the seed of your tears
Under skies wide and blue as the ocean
Make your peace with your own history
So much more than the sum of your longings
Are the good and the bad - all this beauty and tragedy

Waterdeep- Heart Attack Time Machine
Don and Lori Chaffer released this delightful collection of songs that I fall in love with more every time I listen. There is something so emotional about the songs that makes me want to weep (in a good way). It's my favorite Waterdeep record, and I think Don's too.

From Good Good End
I'm amazed by life
and it's amazed by me
we're a strange old pair, me and eternity
it don't make good sense, it ain't easy to see
but I'm amazed by life
and it's amazed by me

While you're at the Waterdeep site, you MUST check out the Khrusty Brothers which is some of Don's best work by far.

Andy Gullahorn - Reinventing the Wheel

There are only a handful of writers that have the ability to make you laugh and cry in the same song. Andy is one of them. I absolutly love this record. It's this sort of music I'm consistantly drawn to amidst the changing musical trends. Great acoustic licks, simple production and compelling stories.

Stories are hard to pull lyrics from cause you really need the whole song so I'll just tell you that my favorite sone on the record is "How Precious Life Is". if you have a minute, go watch this commercial he made for the record. :)

Steven Delopoulos- Straightjacket
Steven was the frontman for Burlap to Cashmere. He is now releasing his own material which is brilliantly querky and full of poetic lyrics that give me goosebumps. This is not for the casual listener, but for the music lover who wants something different to sink their teeth into. It's pretty incredible stuff. Even when I have no idea what he's talking about, it moves me.

From the song Wallfly
The ocean, salvation
Reflecting its kindness
By lending us rivers and traffic of stream
And building of mountains
with suit and tie static
and flies of scavengers running the team

Justin McRoberts- Deconstruction
Justin has released his best yet, in my opinion. The first song is amazing, you must check it out.

Chorus of Done Living
you see the question isn't are you gonna suffer anymore
what will it have meant when you are through
the question isn't are you gonna die, you're gonna die
will you be done living when you do?

Check em out!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What are we teaching our children?

You’ll want to read my post on Margaret Mead from last thursday to make the most sense of this one.

“Our task is going to be to re-value human and artist and religious activity so that everyone involved in it will be a valid and worthy member of the community , and we won't feel ourselves impoverished by the fact that we are so rich. which is the position we're in a present."
-Margaret Mead

The obvious meaning of the word impoverished is “reduced to poverty”. But the meaning I think Margaret is talking about is “deprived of strength, vitality, creativeness.” (

Margaret said those words in 1964. She thought that was the position they were in then and unfortunately, I think it has only gotten worse in these 44 years.

What if our great country full of promise and opportunity and overwhelming wealth, is actually depriving us of some of the very things we thought it would give us?

Did you know that instrument sales are up 200% from two years ago? On one hand, this is fantastic, as I believe music has the power to engage parts of us that nothing else can and everyone can benefit from learning an instrument.

However, I would bet that most of the people buying and learning instruments today are not in it for the expansion of their mind, or to support the arts.

My theory is that our culture worships celebrity and fame. Think of what most teenagers are into these days. Myspace, Facebook, YouTube, American Idol and a hodgepodge of other reality shows. Not only are children growing up in a world where everything is convenient and microwavable, they are watching a world give attention and in some cases, honor, to the people making the loudest waves. We are teaching our children (even if unintentionally) that the most worthy and valuable contribution they can make to society is to achieve stardom. To get the spotlight to point to them, even if just for a minute.

Look, I don’t think there is anything wrong with the 13 year old girl who wants to be the next Carrie Underwood. I would be the first to encourage her to go for it! But when a large percentage of 13 year old girls want to be the next Carrie Underwood, I start to question the message we are giving 13 years old girls. Do they know how special they are without the stage and the lights? And what about the girl who reveals a little too much skin in her myspace profile pic? Or makes a slightly racy youtube video and feels a rush of satisfaction and strength when it gets a 1,000 views. What does that lead to?

I know the desire to be noticed and seen is nothing new. This is written into human nature. But I think we are at a dangerous place today. When I think of what Margaret said almost 45 years ago, I am amazed at her foresight because I think we are in desperate need of some correct re-valuing. I do think we are impoverished by the fact that we are so rich.

Check out the titles of these featured videos on youtube today:

1. How to make your first Vlog. Start today!
2. How to make a YouTube Hit!
3. How to make your Audio better!
4. How to make a web show
5. DJTV production notes
6. Weekend extra: Encoding for YouTube
7. No Lights, No Camera, No Action (how to light your webcam)
8. How to make a viral video while driving
9. Customize your youtube layout
10. How to get more views on youtube videos
11. How to gain subscribers on youtube
12. Response to: How to get featured on youtube

D.A. Carson Quote

“The controlled universe reflected in the
Bible, has God as both its creator and
sustainer/ruler. He creates in an ordered
way, and sustains and rules it in an
ordered way, so that science is possible;
but he is not bound by what he has
created, so he is at perfect liberty to do
things another way, with the result that
miracles are possible.”
--D. A. Carson, The Gagging of God

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Margaret Mead

If you haven't checked out itunes U, you're missing out! It is a whole section of itunes full of "free access to educational content from hundreds of top colleges, universities, and educationally focused organizations across the country."

I spent a good part of last weekend driving, and got to take full advantage of this amazing resource. One speech in particular caught my attention and I was totally amazed by the wisdom and insight of anthropologist Margaret Mead. If you have 80 minutes to spare, you must listen to this speech she gave on April 1st, 1964 titled "Looking a Generation Ahead" It is fascinating to hear how she imagined the world would look today. Here is a link to her speech.

If you don't have 80 minutes to spare, then take 5 to read (what I think is) the most interesting part:

Something she talks about is how not too long ago, most of the jobs out there had to do with food or other things required to live. Our occupations were also our means of survival. But now (as she predicted here in 64) so many of the jobs that used to be done by hand are done by machine. She said,

"we are going to have more food, more automobiles, more houses, than we've ever had before as our capacity is incredibly great, but we're not going to need people to make the food or the automobiles, and the only thing we've ever thought up to date as a way of feeding people is to make them work, to produce the food and to produce the other things..... we're going to have to think up some other way that people can validate their contribution to society so that people have a right to all the food and the automobiles and the houses and all the things we're able to produce."

She say's we'll have to,

"rearrange our thinking , and rearrange our economy so that each person can do the things that are needed and in turn draw enough money out of the system to buy the other things that the machines are making, because we're going to be in this odd position where we're buying from machines in a sense, rather than from each other. This is going to one of our great problems. we're going to have to rethink what it means to be a human being in a community and what kinds of contributions they have to make. "

"When you think back over the great civilizations that we go to see when we travel abroad, we judge these great civilizations by the things they built, by their temples and their theaters and their churches. We don't judge them in terms of how many hours a pheasant worked in the fields, if we did we'd judge them very harshly. We judge them as great in terms of the architecture, the cities, the music, the painting that they produced. And our task is going to be to re-value human and artist and religious activity so that everyone involved in it will be a valid and worthy member of the community , and we won't feel ourselves impoverished by the fact that we are so rich. which is the position we're in a present."

(italics mine)
This stirs all kinds of thought in me... I'll post more on it later.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My Keyboard

We are selling my keyboard. For a smaller, more travelable one. (that should be a word if it’s not)

And tonight, when we set it into it’s black cushy case to be sent to a church in New Mexico, I started crying. Yes, crying over a keyboard. Actually, at first I just got sad and decided to say some words before I zipped it up.

“You were a great keyboard to me. I wrote closer to the moon on you... (this is where I started crying). I tried to learn to play on other pianos and keyboards before, but you were the only one that worked for me...”

I asked Kirk to say some words as well and I was reminded of that scene in Garden State when they bury Sam’s hamster. Kirk didn’t really know what to say but I knew that he was sad to see it go as well.

Considering the number of times I played “Great is Thy Faithfulness” on those little keys, it’s only fitting that it would go to a church.

Godspeed, keyboard, godspeed.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Are we here to save ourselves?

Self preservation is a concept I've been thinking about a lot lately... and something I talk about in the new blog I just wrote for

Check it out and comment there if it resonates with you. It's the beginning of a conversation I'd like to continue if it interests any of you.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mothers Day!

Today we honor mothers.

I've been in Phoenix this weekend, but am thinking of my mom and grandma in Iowa and all of my friends and family who are mothers. I'm a very lucky girl to have such an amazing mother, and to know so many great moms.

Mom might kill me for posting this picture, but it's my favorite! :)
My mom, grandma and I:

I love you and miss you so much, mom! This quote made me smile and think of you. :)

A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie. ~Tenneva Jordan

Thursday, May 8, 2008

White House Cookie Recipe

Well, if you've read my blog a few times, you probably know that I'm a little obsessed with cookies. Chocolate chip in particular. I am always on the lookout for good recipe's and this afternoon I tried a new one. My mother-in-law gave me this book called Dessert University by Roland Mesnier, who was the White House pastry chef for many years. I'm loving reading some of his tips and checking out his recipes! I was SO delighted to find a chocolate chip cookie recipe in there and according to him, he baked these on an almost daily basis at the white house. His secret ingredient is molasses, he says they help keep the cookies chewy for longer than a day. If you like that more intense brown sugar molasses flavor, than you'll love these. I think they are a great upgrade from your average cookie. Here is his recipe:

3 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup molasses
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups (1 12 oz bag) chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Combine the flour, soda, and salt and set aside
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted w/ the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until thoroughly combined. Beat in the eggs, molasses, and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary. Stir in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Then stir in Chocolate chips and walnuts. Place the bowl in the refrigerator and allow to chill for 1 hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat pads.
4. Drop heaping tablespoons of #40 ice cream scoops of the dough 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets, flattening them slightly by hand. (balls of doug may be placed next to each other on parchment-lined baking sheets, frozen, transferred to sipper-lock plastic freezer bags, and stored in the freezer for up to 1 month. Place frozen cookies on prepared sheets as above, and defrost on the counter for 30 minutes before baking)
5. Bake until just light golden, 8-10 minutes. Cool the cookies for 5 minutes on the baking sheets before using a metal spatula to transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Will keep in an airtight container for up to 2-3 days.
*Don't overbake these, or they will overbrown on the outside and dry out on the inside.

*Alli's Tips:
-Butter can take a couple hours (or more) to soften if you leave it in it's packaging. If you need soft butter in a pinch, just cut it into tablespoons and set it out on a plate or cutting board. It will only take 10-20 minutes for the butter to be soft enough to mix. (don't microwave!) Once soft, I always mix the butter by itself first before I add the sugar to make sure there are not clumps.
-don't skip out on the nuts, It adds a lot to this cookie and I'm not sure the molasses would make as much sense without them.


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

In & Out video

Since we're on the topic, here is a video that Scott made during the tour I mentioned below. It takes place at In & Out Burger, which is one of the two fast food places I don't feel guilty about eating! It's delightful, but only found in four states. Mostly California. Sorry to your Iowans reading... but hey, you do have Hansen's Dairy and that's something. :)

Anyway, it's hard to believe this was two years ago! Fun Fun...

The Transpire Project

In the spring of 06 I went on a tour with Shawn McDonald and Warren Barfield. It was my favorite tour I've ever gotten to be a part of because of the people I got to spend it with. We all had a blast together and I really enjoyed that spring. Scott Erickson was one of the people I loved getting to know because has such a unique personality with the kind of passion for art that is contagious. Scott painted live on stage during every show that tour and created amazing works of art that were sold at the end of each night.

Scott started a group called The Transpire Project whose goal is "to bring the making of art - the creative process - into public places." and he is doing just that. He's been involved in an array of different live painting events and has started a blog to document his journey. Check it out here! Scott is an amazing artist and I look forward to seeing where his creative process takes him!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Especially in the Wilderness

"Hear, O Israel! Only more often than not we hear nothing because we live in a wilderness where more often than not there is nothing of God to hear. And of course it was in just such a wilderness that the great words of Moses were trumpeted forth in the first place, and the people who first heard them were in the wilderness with him, as wandering and lost as we are, with nothing to keep them going but the hope of a Promised Land, which much of the time seemed a promise so remote and improbable that even the bondage they had left behind them in Egypt looked hopeful by comparison. To be commanded to love God at all, let alone in the wilderness, is like being commanded to be well when we are sick, to sing for joy when we are dying of thirst, to run when our legs are broken. But this is the great and first commandment nonetheless. Even in the wilderness—especially in the wilderness—you shall love him."

-Frederick Buechner
From a sermon titled Faith, recorded in the book Secrets in the Dark

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie in Cedar Falls, Iowa

It's true folks, I've officially conducted my second city cookie search. And you thought I was kidding when I said I took cookies seriously!

I've been in Cedar Falls, Iowa (my hometown) for a few days now and my mom and I decided to find the best chocolate chip cookie that CF has to offer. Obviously, a city with a population of (roughly) 35,000 varies greatly from a city of 600,000. To raise our chances of finding a great cookie, we expanded our boundries to Waterloo, IA as well as Cedar Falls. The line is fuzzy anyway. I was pretty impressed with our findings. We ended up with 10 very diverse cookies from:

1. Granny Annie's
2. Gary's Restaurant & Catering
3. Casey's
4. Jags Java
5. Roots Market
6. Natalies Catering
7. Johnson's Bakery (two different cookies)
8. Panera
9. Great American Cookie

All of these places make their own cookies in house, the surprise there being Casey's. Three of them are national franchise's but the rest are local. We also drank some great milk from Hansen's Dairy and Heartland Creamery. Heartland's goats milk is some of the best I've tasted. There are advantages to living in the midwest!

My mom, brother and I participated in the taste test. We tried a slightly different scoring system this time, giving more points for taste than for texture, appearance, or smell. After some silent tasting and note taking, we discussed our findings and agreed that there was actually no clear winner. Call us non-commital, but the top three cookies were all so different that we had a hard time placing them. So the top three cookies are:

Roots Market

This cookie smelled the best and it was the one that I could not wait to take a bite out of. The flavor was not as exciting as I hoped, reminding me of the Bread & Co. cookie from the Nashville search. However, it was a pretty delightful texture and seemed the freshest of the group. And it did have a unique sweet flavor. Turns out this cookie dough actually comes from the wedge coop out of Minneapolis. So props to the wedge, I hope to try your baked goods next time I come through, and props to Roots Market in CF, for baking great cookies to go along with your rad market. (the word rad is coming back)

Gary's Restaurant and Catering

This cookie tasted like a sugar cookie with chocolate chips, which was pretty dang tasty. I think it is the only cookie of both searches so far that is made with shortening instead of butter. It was also a crunchy, crumbly cookie which made it very hard to compare to the other cookies. However, we enjoyed it and wanted to come back to this one after it was all over. Way to go Gary's, I never would have known it. No offense, I'm sure your food is great.

Great American Cookie

This cookie came from a place called Freshen's in the mall who sell great american cookies. This cookie was crunchy around the edge and soft in the middle, which seems to be a desirable trait for most people. We all agreed that this cookie was maybe the best tasting of the bunch. As much as I would rather root for a local bakery, I suppose the name says it all. Maybe they do have something figured out.

on that note... a couple observations I've made are:

1. Bakery cookies have been my least favorite. They seem to get overlooked in the land of cakes and pastries, and even take on the smells and flavors of more ambitious treats that live under glass counters.

2. Health food stores have surprisingly had the most home baked flavor and texture.

3. None of the cookies have been as satisfying as a fresh out of the oven cookie from home. Maybe it's impossible to replicate...

but I'm still on the search!

Thanks CF, for a strong showing.

Crazy Video

This is crazy! Who is creative enough to come up with this!?