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I used to buy Whole Foods Sea Salt Caramel and devour them within days.  At every turn, I would pop these into my mouth until the last piece was gone and I start bemoaning the fact that I had ingested enough sugar to fuel a 100 watt light bulb.  Sadly, they aren’t available at my local store.  There was nothing like coming home from a long day of work, and sinking your teeth into one of these chewy nuggets.  So I decided that I should try my hand at making my own caramel.

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Heat up sugar and cream, and let it set.  It doesn’t seem like such a hard thing to do, right?  But my first few attempts were quite disappointing.  They didn’t seem to harden quite enough to hold its shape.  But third time’s a charm!  This recipe uses honey instead of corn syrup, which is not only tons healthier (well, as healthy as candy can be) but gives the caramel a richer taste. I also used raw sugar for a bit of molasses flavor.  If you slice them into pieces and wrap in wax paper, they make great treats to hand out to friends.  Now that I know how to make caramel, I can’t wait to try them over shortbread.  That’ll have to wait until another day…

Sea Salt Caramels from Two Tarts

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A long time ago, I told someone that I wished I could believe.  I wanted to, I really did, but I didn’t think I could.  That’s a weird thing to say when you’re not Christian.  Why would any rational and sensible person want to believe that some guy, claiming to be the son of God, died and rose again for us so that we can be saved from our sins?  You may say, It’s a nice story.  But it’s not, it’s not nice at all.  There’s nothing nice about death, betrayal, and injustice.  And redemption and grace is only “nice” if you only believe that humanity needs saving.  Otherwise, the gospel is just some cooked up story that’s implausible.  Fanciful.  Ludicrous, even.

When I said I wanted to believe, I asked for a lot more than I had realized.  It’s not just about accepting what Jesus did on the cross, but it’s acknowledging that something is broken.  And that brokenness isn’t from all the mess ups in my life; bad decisions, regrets, mistakes and whatnot.  It’s not about how I’ve wronged others or how I’ve been wronged.  Nor is it about weakness, pride, and insecurities.  Yea, all those things point you to the brokenness in yourself and in others.  But I believe that brokenness is when I lose sight of my purpose.  Brokenness is when I reject who I was made to be with.  Brokenness is when things are not the way they are supposed to be, because I, or we, chose to have it another way.  So when I say I want to believe, what I’m doing is bringing to Him all that I have twisted, forced, and distorted, and asking for Him to make it right again.

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I still ask to believe.  Because, damnit, believing is hard.  There are days where all I can see is ugliness and nights where I entertain thoughts of “freedom.”  I imagine how much easier and lighter it would be if I didn’t have to believe.  But I don’t have to; I can turn around and walk away.  I am not held against my will or intimidated into submission.  The ease with which I can deny my faith is frightening.  But I choose this, because even when I don’t feel like praying, even when I don’t want to seek Him, even when I am tired of believing what I cannot see or touch, I still want to believe.

That desire, it comes out when I sing in worship.  Maybe it has to do with the music, but when I let my body sway to the rhythm and I hear myself sing these words, I am convicted once again by my own desire to believe.  The desire, it feels like breath caught in my chest, as if a weight is gripping me from within and stretching out to meet God.  My eyes moisten and my heart bursts with emotion, and it reminds me that I can still feel on the days that I feel numb.  It reminds me that He can still penetrate my heart on the days I that I feel impenetrable.  It reminds me that, little by little, He is re-claiming my heart.

Some people think that when you convert to Christianity, you become “different.”  Maybe they assume you are more fake–disingenuous in your compassion, weirdly emotional, brainwashed or something like that.  But I think when we accept Christ, we are just becoming who we were always meant to be.

Shout it
go on and scream it from the mountains
go on and tell it to the masses
that he is God

Pumpkin Chocolate Truffles from Blunder Construction

I’m in my second week of graduate school, but it feels like I’ve been here longer.  In the past two weeks, I’ve tried to cram a lot of material on Statistics, Matlab, and Action Potentials into my head.  Unfortunately, I must be doing a shoddy job because I can barely keep up with lectures.  It also doesn’t help that I feel like I’m the dumbest person in class most of the time.  Sometimes, I really just want to run and keep running and not think about anything.  Hence, I’ve been going to the gym a lot.  But as stressed as I am about understanding all these new material, it’s also pretty exciting just to be here and learn all this stuff.

A few weeks ago, I received a text message from my mentor and friend from Boston:

“I really miss your energy in the lab, no one walks past my bay with such great attitude as you! You are brilliant and beautiful, so don’t let anyone get you down!

I am sure I haven’t even touched the hardest part of graduate school yet.  And I am sure I’m going to go through a lot more moments of doubt and frustration.  But I hope I can remember this message and know that somebody else believes in me.  It means a lot.  Thanks D-!

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Two weeks ago, I bought some delicious almond butter from the farmer’s market.  I finished that jar in five days because it was just that good.  But I figured I could make my own!  It turns out that it’s incredibly easy to do, especially if you have a very efficient food processor.  Just throw two cups of almonds into the machine and let it go for about 15 minutes.  The oil from the nuts themselves will slowly turn the mixture into creamy “butter.”  It absolutely does not require additional oil.  I mixed in a few tablespoons of the lavendar honey, which I also purchased from the farmer’s market.  The result is a jar of heavenly goodness that is going to be a breakfast staple from now on.  I love eating almond butter toast in the mornings.  Who needs to buy almond butter when you can make my own?

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Sometimes, I literally just eat the butter by itself.  Spoon by spoon.

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Last weekend was hectic, but I managed to squeeze in some time to make Brigadeiros.  Or chocolate truffles.  They are probably the best and most successful thing I’ve done in the past two weeks.  I feel like I should’ve made them for a special occasion, but really, I just wanted to make SOMETHING and feel good that I’ve accomplished it.  They’re the perfect sweet snacks.  Bite-sized, chewy, and keeps well even if you let them sit on your counter top for a few days.   Since I still have another can of condensed milk left, I might use it to make another two dozen for my classmates/neighbors/whoever wants to help eat candy.

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Brigadeiros from 17 and Baking