Posts Tagged With: Panda Poses

Sam’s Salsa

Did you know you can make your own salsa?  I didn’t until last year when Sam prepared for a party by hijacking our blender and using it to make the most delicious salsa I’ve ever tasted.  He uses fresh ingredients and gets to adjust it exactly to his taste so it has the perfect level of spiciness.  If you make salsa this way, you’ll save money and gain pride in yourself.  It’s so much more fun to bring homemade salsa to a party than to just show up with a jar from the store.

Sam has become fairly famous in our circle of friends for his salsa, but here’s a secret… He seriously just makes it up as he goes.  It’s exciting to watch him just dump whatever he feels like into the blender and see what happens.  Each batch he makes is different from the last, but they’re all delicious.

Here’s what you’ll need to make your own salsa:

6-8 Roma tomatoes
1 white onion
1 bunch of cilantro
1-3 jalapeño peppers (depending on the level of spiciness you like)
Lime juice

Okay, ready?  Let’s go!

Chop up all the veggies into small, manageable pieces.  Sam has been known to toss whole tomatoes into the blender, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  Make sure to chop the onion as finely as possible, unless you like chunky salsa.

Be very careful when handling jalapeños.  When Sam first made this salsa, he forgot to wash his hands and paid dearly for it later when he tried to take out his contact lenses.  I have never heard him scream like that.  Also, add the jalapeños one at a time, and taste the salsa before each one.  You can always add more if it isn’t spicy enough, but if you can’t eat your salsa without sobbing in pain then you’ve defeated the purpose.  If you can’t handle jalapeños at all, leave them out for a tasty mild salsa.

Now for the fun part.  Toss all the ingredients bit by bit into a blender.  If you have a food processor, that would probably work even better, but we don’t have one so a blender does the trick just fine.

Don’t overload your blender!  It will explode salsa all over your kitchen.  Trust me.

Here’s what it should look like after a few minutes:

Keep blending!  After a while, it should look more like this:

Yum!  Now, grab a bag of tortilla chips and taste your salsa.  Too much onion?  Add more tomatoes.  For this batch, Sam made a strong salsa with lots of onion.  At this point you can add salt and lime juice to suit your taste.

Amazing!  This batch was so spicy and strong, I loved it!  It’s more orange than most salsas, but like I said, he didn’t use many tomatoes this time.  The more tomatoes you use, the redder your salsa will be.

Now, share it with friends!  This recipe is also great to put into mason jars for gifts.  Just keep it refrigerated like any other salsa, and you’ll be good to go!  ¡Buena suerte!

Categories: Revell Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

My Three Favorite Places on Earth

Today has been a wonderful, lazy Sunday.  The power went out at our apartment about an hour ago, and we spotted the electrician in his truck playing Solitaire on his laptop, so we figured it might be out for awhile.  That was the perfect excuse for a trip to Starbucks!  Progress reports for Sam’s students are due tomorrow, so he’s busy entering some last-minute grades and he needed to use the internet.  I got him a Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino and I got a Raspberry Mocha Frappuccino, so we are both happy at the moment.

I wasn’t sure what to write about today, but I promised Sam I would post something on my blog while he worked on his progress reports so he wouldn’t get discouraged watching me play games on my phone while he was working hard.  Fair enough.

I started browsing my pictures and thinking about all the places I’ve been and the things I’ve seen.  I picked three places on Earth that are my absolute favorite and posted pictures I took of them.  These are the first places I would go if I had the power to teleport.  If someone told me to close my eyes and “go to my happy place,” one of these places would pop into my head.


1.  The Front Steps of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, London, UK

When I studied in London, I visited this spot every few days for several months.  There’s always something to see and people to watch.  If offers a great view of Big Ben and Nelson’s Column.  I loved picking up a sandwich and crisps from Tesco and sitting on those steps to watch the busses drive by.  This is the place I sat on my last day in London and bawled my eyes out (much to the disturbance of some nearby tourists).  Those steps offered me peace in the midst of chaos, love in the midst of loneliness, and I want to sit there again so badly.


2.  The Panda House at the Smithsonian National Zoo, Washington, D.C.

I’ve already covered how much I love pandas, so this one shouldn’t be a huge surprise.  I first saw pandas at the San Diego Zoo when I was 11, but the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. is the first place I visited pandas with Sam.  I went back a second time last summer, and I could’ve stood there watching the pandas all day.  This is a place that gives me hope.  I see a species that has struggled to survive and the efforts people have made to save them.  I love pandas so much that seeing them in person makes me positively giddy.  Mei Xiang and Tian Tian feel like friends whenever I see them.  I’m that annoying “big kid” front and center of the exhibit who won’t move to let other kids see the pandas.  Sorry.  They’re my favorite.


3.  Beckham Courtyard, Hardin-Simmons University, Abilene, TX

You’ve probably never heard of this place, and that’s all right.  This place has an extra-special place in my heart.  Sam and I went to school at Hardin-Simmons, and this courtyard is where we had our first kiss in October of 2009 and where he proposed to me in January of 2011.  This place has so many fantastic memories, and I love each and every one.  Sam and I would sit at the bench there late at night and talk for hours.  When I sit there, all I think about is how far we’ve come and how excited I am for our future.

(Jenny Linh Spradlin took this picture.)

(Rebecca Henschen took this picture.)

(Rebecca Henschen took this picture.)

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Proud to Wear His Name

The Panthers did not have a good week… The Junior Varsity team lost 54-0 on Thursday night, and the Varsity team lost 39-0 last night.  Did I mention last night was their Homecoming game?  It was pretty brutal.

A few weeks ago, I made a “Revell Sprit Shirt” to wear to the football games to support my favorite coach.  I didn’t really like the ones they were selling at the game, but I felt bad for not wearing the right colors to the games.  So, I went to Hobby Lobby, bought a shirt and some iron on letters, and ended up with this super cute shirt!

Wearing it to games is both fun and unsettling.  It’s so much fun to see Sam’s students rush up to me and gush about how much they love his class, how he’s their favorite teacher, etc.  One girl said she recognized me from the wedding picture Sam has on his desk.  The nice people at the concession stand always comment on my shirt and tell me how they love supporting the team.

On the other hand, the team hasn’t been doing well this season.  They’ve won one game out of the seven they’ve played so far, and they have three more to go this season.  Many parents are quick to blame the coaches for their sons’ performance on the field.  I’ve received plenty of sharp looks at games recently, and sometimes parents sitting behind me let their whispers carry a little too far.

Not only is this Sam’s first year of teaching, but it’s also his first year coaching football, or any sport for that matter.  He didn’t go to school to be a coach; he just ended up in the assistant coach position because that’s what his school needed.  He’s been working 70+ hour workweeks to get the team in shape and train them to play.  I think he’s done a great job so far, and I’ll tell that to anyone who says otherwise.

Maybe I’m just being a defensive wife, but I’m the one who sees him when he gets home from work in the evenings.  He puts down his bag, slips off his shoes, and goes straight for the bed to lie down.  He’s so dedicated in his work and he really cares about the team.  That’s why I never hesitate to wear my Revell Spirit Shirt to games.  I’m not ashamed of him.  I’m proud of him.

Categories: My Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Will Not Stay in Place, Will Not Stay Still

Today, I packed up my computer, drove to Starbucks, and spent several hours researching national poetry journals and their submission guidelines.

This is something I’ve been meaning to do since I finished my senior project last year, which involved compiling a poetry collection.  My creative writing teacher encouraged me to begin applying to creative writing master’s programs and submitting to poetry journals right away.  Obviously, I haven’t been able to follow through on my desire to complete an M.F.A. in Creative Writing yet.  It’s still one of my dreams, but the timing has to be right.  There are several programs on the top of my list, but they’re scattered throughout the country and they’re very competitive.  Since we live several hours from the nearest university on my list, now isn’t a good time to apply to the programs.  I’m hoping one day I’ll get the opportunity to complete a program at a university of my choice, but you know how life gets in the way.

However, submitting to poetry journals is something I can do from anywhere, and I’d like to go ahead and get started on that.  I have several strong poems that I’m interested in submitting, but I have to be careful.  Most journals publish quarterly, or four times a year.  Each journal rejects simultaneous submissions.  That means I can’t take my strongest poem and send it everywhere; I can only send poems to one journal at a a time.  If the poem is rejected, I can re-submit it to another journal.  The response time is anywhere from a few weeks to six months.  That’s why this process could take several years of waiting and rejection before anything gets accepted.

I took this picture in London, England. It’s been over two years since I studied abroad, but I’m still so inspired by my experiences in London and everything I learned there.

Being a poet isn’t a job; it’s a lifestyle.  No one makes a living as a poet, not even the most famous poets.  They all have other jobs (editing, reporting, teaching, motivational speaking, etc.) to back themselves up.  The luckiest poets (in my opinion) teach creative writing at large, successful universities and take paid sabbaticals to work on their collections.  Poetry journals generally don’t pay more than $100 per poem, but getting paid is rare.  Most journals pay writers with a submission to the journal itself.  Poets submit their poems because they want to be read, not because they want to be rich or famous.

Being published is a dream of mine.  When I tell people I love to write, most ask me if I’m working on a novel.  At the moment, I’m not.  Honestly, I don’t know how to write a novel, and I still haven’t figured it out yet.  It takes so much dedication, and a very good idea, to complete such a huge project.  I want to write a novel one day, but the right idea hasn’t hit me yet.  Poetry has always been my first love, so that is where I’ll begin.

I expect rejection.  These journals receive hundreds– even thousands– of submissions every year, and I don’t know if mine are strong enough to stand out from the crowd.  I’ll never know if I don’t try!  Time to get to work.

Here’s a quote from one of my favorite poets, T.S. Eliot, about writing:

Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still.

Categories: Creative Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Luckily, Our Apartment is Missing the Self-Destruct Switch

We moved into our apartment on August 1.  That was 77 days ago, and I still don’t know which light switch works what.

It’s really a 50/50 shot every time I try to turn on the fan.

I’m having trouble settling into our new home.  Don’t get me wrong; I love our apartment and I love living here.  I’m just having trouble transitioning.  In our old house, it only took me a few hours before it felt like home, a safe place, a happy place.  Our apartment doesn’t feel like that quite yet.

It could be that our apartment isn’t the “friend hub” our college house was.  In college, our house always hosted social gatherings: birthday parties, Halo nights (for Sam), board game nights, etc.  It wasn’t at all unusual for friends to just stop by unannounced at odd hours of the night.  It was always exciting, and I loved keeping our house looking clean and cute for everyone to see.

Here, we’ve faced a big change.  Now, having friends over is a special occasion, one usually planned at least a week in advance.  Our house is quiet.  It’s strange to say, but having house guests is part of what made our old house feel so homey.  It was always full of people to share it with.  Here, it’s harder to settle in because we’re in a town with few acquaintances (I literally know one friend who lives here).  In our college town, we knew everyone.

Another reason why I’m having trouble feeling at home is this town.  It’s a beautiful town– nothing against it at all.  It’s full of beautiful ponds and lakes and I’ve enjoyed going for walks and seeing all the ducks and birds.  The problem is, I’ve never lived here, or anywhere close to here, before.  The entire area is new to me, and I haven’t done much exploring.  I only know where the grocery store, major fast food joints, the library, and the bank are.  Maybe I can fix that tomorrow when I browse some of the downtown thrift stores.

Finally, this isn’t home yet because we haven’t put down roots.  We’re renting our apartment, and our lease is only for a year.  We’re not sure how long we want to stay, and I don’t have a job I’m committed to yet.  All this uncertainty means I still get lost driving around, and I still can’t tell all of our light switches apart.

Categories: My Life | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Letdowns and Upsides

This morning, I woke up with a huge headache, the kind that makes it hard to stand up and turn on the light.  However, I rolled out of bed and turned on the light anyway because I didn’t want Sam to be late for work.  Every morning I wake Sam up at 6:30 and get him ready for the day.  Sam is not a morning person, and if it was up to him, I think some days he might go to work in his pajamas or just not go to work at all.  (Just kidding, Sam has very good work ethic.)  I mostly like to get him ready for the day because it allows me a half hour every morning to just be with him before the day gets crazy and he has to drive off for 12 hours.  I like putting my hand on his sleepy face and whispering in his ear that it’s time to wake up.  I like helping him button his shirts while his eyes are still half shut.  I just think it’s cute and I don’t like wasting time with Sam.  This morning, though, he saw me grimacing as I laid out his clothes and sent me straight back to bed.

After he left, I had to send my friend Jessica a message explaining why I had to turn down this amazing internship she offered me in Dallas.  I truly felt terrible rejecting the internship, but it was too far away and life is just too rocky for us right now for me to be driving that far for an unpaid internship.  I need something a little closer to home base to keep an eye on things.

Without going into too much detail, Sam is having a rough first year of teaching (I know, I know… what first year of teaching isn’t rough?).  We’re currently facing some big decisions that will affect us and our future family for many years to come.  Sam even mentioned that he’d rather me not work right now and take care of things at home because we have so many things to work out.  I’m glad to take care of our family and it’s my number one priority.

However, I haven’t stopped casting lines to see if I can get any bites.  I had a big bite today while I was in Wal-Mart grocery shopping.  A man from ITT Technical Institute in DeSoto, TX called because I applied last week for a position as a library assistant.  He seemed very interested in my resume.  When he described the job, it seemed like everything I wanted: helping students, conducting research, organizing books… It sounded great, until he mentioned the hours.  12-9, Monday through Friday.

If I wasn’t married, I would’ve jumped on it in a heartbeat, but I made a commitment when I married Sam to no longer think selfishly.  I have to include him in all my thoughts.  We’re “one flesh,” after all.  So, I told him, no, I couldn’t work evening hours because I wanted to spend time with my husband, and he said he understood and promised to keep my resume on file in case any daytime positions became available.

So, I’ve had a frustrating day.  I keep running into dead ends: either flat-out rejections or opportunities that I have to turn down because they’re not right for us right now.  Some of you might be thinking, “You shouldn’t take a backseat to your husband,” or, “You should work whatever job you want to work.”  Those are valid concerns, but that’s just not how our relationship works.  We’re a team, and there’s no room for “me” thinking.  Sam goes to his job every day and works hard to make money for us, and I would do the same thing if I had a job right now.

This whole experience has been a lesson in humility.  I used to be a straight-A student with a great job… Take that away, and who am I? That’s the question I’ve been coping with, and I’ve found some interesting answers.  I’m a creative person.  I like taking care of our house and cooking dinners.  I like reading and writing.  I like playing with Rigby and learning new things.  Those things will be true no matter where I work or how many degrees I earn.  I can’t put my self-worth in money, because money is fleeting and will one day be spent.  I choose to put my self-worth in love and let everything else fall into place.

No job for now.  I’m still looking, but I’m not in a hurry or panicked anymore.  We’re going to be okay.  God has provided us with so many blessings, and he’ll provide the right job when the time is right.  In the meantime, I’ve had time to get to know myself and that’s a wonderful thing.

Here’s a peek at our “Blessings Board” and a few of the people we’ve gotten to see since we moved.

Sam with our good friend Will, who is currently living in New York City. We were lucky to snag a visit with him as he was passing through Dallas.

My friend Morgan who has been a loyal friend through many, many years. Not only is she adorable, but she’s living here in Waxahachie while she’s going to college so I get to see her often.

This is Sam with his mom, Sue, and his sister, Sara. They came up to Maypearl to watch Sam coach one of his football games. It’s always nice to see family, and it was especially nice of Sara to bring Sue up all the way from Austin. Sue is struggling with the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and each visit with her is precious.

This is Jeremy and Rebecca posing with giant chess pieces. They are some of our best friends from college, and we were lucky enough to get a visit from them last weekend.

That weekend, we also got a visit from Jeremy and Erica, some of our other wonderful friends! They gave us some awesome housewarming gifts and came over to share soup and talk. We are so lucky to be friends with these people!

Those pictures don’t even cover the visits we’ve had from our friends Ben and Camille or from Sam’s brother, Scott, his wife Chrissy, and their kids Johnathon, David, and Lizzy.  I’ve never been an aunt before and I love seeing my niece and nephews!  I love Scott and Chrissy and they are definitely role models for Sam and I.  It’s also always wonderful to get visits from Ben and Camille because they love to hang out and have fun with us.

Good news: my headache is feeling better. There are plenty of other upsides to life, and most of them involve the people I love most.  I guess that’s the most important lesson I can learn: happiness in life doesn’t come from money or success, but from the people you share it with.

Categories: My Life | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Rigby’s Decision-Making Tree

My two favorites.

Recently, a graphic has been floating around the internet discussing a cat’s decision making. I love this graphic because it shows cats’ complete disregard for anything important to humans.  Continuing the theme from yesterday, Rigby (our faithfully cute chinchilla) not only shares traits with dogs, but also with cats… and maybe parrots, according to the above picture.

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Chinchilla Shaming

Set aside the next hour or so, because is so funny you won’t be able to stop reading the posts!

On this site, people submit pictures of their dogs being “shamed” by something they’ve done.  They write their dogs’ mistakes on notecards with the dogs in the background.  Most of them are very cute and relatable.

Well, we don’t have a dog… But we do have a chinchilla named Rigby who can be very mischievous sometimes.  I think if there was a Chinchilla Shaming website, he could easily have the first entry.

It’s a good thing he’s so adorable.  :)

Categories: My Life | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Famous Rankin Family Cookies

This is my absolute favorite recipe of all time.  My mom has used this chocolate chip cookie recipe for as long as I can remember.  She adapted it from the classic Toll House cookie recipe, and it has always served my family well.  It’s helped us make friends in every situation.  When you show up with a plate of these to a party, everyone will remember you.  They will invite you to the next party and request your cookies.  They make amazing Christmas gifts, get well soon gifts, and sweet “I love you” gifts (Sam can attest to that).  I received very heartfelt thank you notes from Sam’s Spanish II class, who got a few dozen of these cookies for their “Fiesta Day.”  They’ve helped me and Sam get extra points at work.  I mean, the potential for these cookies is endless.  They are magical and world-changing.  They’ve made my mom, my older sister Taylor, and me (the Rankin women) “famous” among our friends, and our cookies have always been unforgettable.

The recipe doesn’t have any secret or special ingredients.  In fact, chances are, you might have everything you need in your cabinet right now.  We kept the recipe under wraps for many years, but I’ve started sharing it recently.  I have to warn you: my family has a running joke about the “curse” that accompanies this recipe.  Legend has it, anyone outside of the family who tries to make it never successfully replicates the cookies correctly.  Something always mysteriously goes wrong.  This has most recently been proven by my friend Rebecca, who followed the recipe to a “t” but ended up with crumbly dough.  I have no idea if the “curse” is real or not, but friends have had similar results for over a decade.  I’m interested to see how the family recipe holds up in other families!  Good luck!  :)

This recipe makes the perfect chocolate chip cookie.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  It’s not too chewy, not too crispy.  It’s the perfect, blissful medium.  It’s important to use these specific ingredients I have listed.  Don’t use real butter, don’t use milk chocolate chips, don’t use wheat flour.  Just stick with these ingredients and follow the directions, and you’ll have beautiful gooey heaven.

Rankin Family Cookies

  • 2 C. Shortening (Butter Flavored Crisco)
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. dark brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 2 t. salt
  • 2 t. vanilla
  • 5 c. flour
  • Semi-sweet chocolate chips

Pretty simple, right?  No nuts (blech), no extra fancy stuff.  Just classic ingredients combined in exactly the right way.

First, beat the crisco, sugar, and brown sugar until smooth.  This is where my lovely KitchenAid mixer comes in handy.  Add eggs, baking soda, salt, and vanilla.

Add flour one cup at a time.  Mix until just combined; don’t overmix the dough!

Add chocolate chips slowly.  I don’t have an exact measurement because I just add them until I know it’s enough.  If I had to say, it would be a standard-sized bag of Toll House chocolate chips.  I just go by instinct and make sure there are not too few and not too many chocolate chips.  You want the dough and chips to balance each other, not overtake each other.

This step is important: refrigerate the dough for at least an hour.  Overnight is even better (although beware of sneaky midnight cookie dough thieves).  If you bake the dough right after mixing it, the cookies won’t be as fluffy.

After the dough is refrigerated, form it into 1-inch balls and place evenly spaced on a cookie sheet.  I know in the picture it shows them on aluminum foil, but they bake so much better on parchment paper.  I definitely recommend baking them on parchment paper because it helps them bake evenly and not stick to the cookie sheet.

Bake at 375 degrees for 10-11 minutes.  Let cool completely before serving.  Freeze if not serving within 3 days.  Yield 6 dozen cookies.  Prepare to change the world.  :)

Categories: Revell Recipes | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

“We’re Going to Offer the Job to Someone Else.”

It’s been over five months now since I last brought home a paycheck.  My days are long and quiet, and slightly lonely.  Sometimes, I sit quietly with a glass of ice water and gaze out our apartment window at the factory across the street.  All day and all night, trucks drive back and forth loading and unloading supplies and goods.  It reminds me of an airport, the way the semi-trucks pull up to the loading docks and idle for a while before speeding off towards the interstate.  The hundreds of employees in that factory work around the clock to make sure everything runs smoothly.

It’s surprising to me how my perspective has changed, how isolated I feel not being in the “workforce.”  When I go to the grocery store, I notice the cashiers, what they’re wearing, what they’re doing.  At the bank, I study the teller’s nametag.  I watch our apartment manager ride around on a golf cart handling resident concerns.  It makes me feel cut off from society, not working or going to school.

That’s why I was so hopeful today when I woke up.  Remember that crazy interview I had a couple of weeks ago?  I had lost hope in the prospect until yesterday, when I received a call from their office.  They wanted me to come in for a second interview!  I was so excited and nervous because I was really interested in the job.  It was everything I wanted: friendly boss, good pay, reasonable hours, and it would look great on a resume.  The interview was today at 12:30.  I was worried it would be another group interview, but this one was just me, the doctor, and his assistant.  The interview went very smoothly.  They laughed at all my jokes and I didn’t fidget too much.  I was honest, cheerful, and friendly.  I told them about my optimistic outlook on life and all the ways I would contribute to the success of their business.  They kept saying things like, “That’s great,” and “That’s just what we’re looking for,” and “That’s definitely a plus.”  I left the office on Cloud 9.  I felt like we were already friends and that I had really done great.

But on the car ride home, I started reviewing the interview in my head and thought of what I could’ve done differently.  They asked me about my math skills, something I’m not very comfortable with.  Maybe I should’ve studied more about what a chiropractor’s work truly involves.  I had mixed feelings by the time I got home.

They said they would call me that afternoon with an answer, so I waited anxiously with my phone for the next several hours.  By the time I saw their number on my phone’s screen, my confidence came rushing back.  “This is it,” I thought.  “All this waiting and searching, it’s finally over.”

You know that feeling when you lean too far back in your chair and start to fall?  That’s how the phone call ended.  “We’re going to offer the job to someone else, but you were definitely one of our top choices and we’ll keep your application on file.”  Splat.

[Just a side note: Never judge someone walking around Target crying.  Maybe she just got some bad news on the phone while shopping.  Chances are, she’s not crazy so try not to look at her like she is.  Moving along…]

I was so sure that job was mine!  I even had a celebratory blog post all planned out.  It’s disappointing to hit another dead end, especially after getting so close to the top.  Now, I’m back to square one scouring the classifieds and Craigslist and other job postings.  It’s easy to get discouraged, and I was for a while today, but I’m feeling a little better now.  I know God knows where I need to be, and no amount of tantrum-throwing from me is going to change His mind.  Maybe I need to be home for now.  Maybe the right job is waiting for me in a few weeks.  I don’t know where life will take me, but I have a roof over my head and a husband who loves me, and that’s enough for now.

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”
Proverbs 19:21.

Categories: My Life | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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