Challenge Yourself In 2016

2015 was a year of many changes and bumps in the road. I am very thankful for my family this new year. A family that has grown closer and closer as we lean on each other through trouble and heartache as well as joy and laughter. It will be interesting to see what 2016 brings our way. As my mom says, “It’s going to be a good year!”

This year I want to challenge myself in a different way. It’s time to set some goals and have some fun. I might be getting overly ambitious here but, along with some personal goals, I am joining the Reddit 52 Week Cooking Challenge, creating my own reading challenge, and starting to cook my way around the world! (Monday is Afghanistan.)

Today I completed Week 1 of the 52 Week Cooking Challenge by making Lentil Sweet Potato Soup for lunch. I also put together my own reading challenge book list. My personal rules for this challenge are simple. 1) I have to already own or borrow each book I read. 2) I can’t use one book to complete multiple categories. 3) I can’t cheat and make SciFi/fantasy books fit every category. I’d love for you to join me this year as I work on reading a book from each category! Feel free to follow my rules or come up with your own.

Salt For Flavor 2016 Reading Challenge

Read a book that was published the year you were born

Read a book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with

Read a book that has been translated from another language into English

Read a book about a culture you are unfamiliar with

Read a book you should have read in high school

Read a book recommended by a family member

Read a book that intimidates you

Read a book set in your home state

Read a book of short stories

Read a book recommended by your significant other or best friend

Read a book from a best sellers list

Read a book that is at least 100 years older than you

Read a book published this year

Read a memoir

Read a food science book

Read a play

Read a book that you started but never finished

Read a book recommended by someone you just met

Read a book that you already love

Read a trilogy

Read an autobiography

Read a book about ancient history

Read a book from the Harvard Classics

Read a book that has been turned into a movie

*I’ve posted this list separately and will be updating it regularly with the books that I read.

I’m excited to expand my literary and culinary horizons with these challenges. I’m also hoping to post as many of the recipes as I can (pictures may not be included), so check back in!

There are many more great reading challenges available online. Here are three I especially like:

Tim Challies 2016 Reading Challenge

Read more women and writers of color

BBC Book List Challenge

 

What are you doing this year to challenge yourself?

To Help Or Not To Help

There is some controversy over whether or not we should give handouts to homeless people. Scammers ARE out there. My boss used to watch people park up the road and then walk down to the corner to stand holding a sign day after day, almost like a regular 9-5 job. Supposedly you can average at or above minimum wage if you’re willing to hold a cardboard sign and look sufficiently destitute. I once had a woman ask me for help to feed her hungry grandchildren and then refuse to let me buy her whatever groceries they might want. She only wanted money.

I am unwilling to let the fear of giving to a hustler deter me from trying to help someone who is actually in need.

There are many legitimate reasons for someone to be homeless. It’s easy enough to look at a seemingly healthy adult and think, “Why doesn’t that guy just go get a job? Flip some burgers. Do SOMETHING besides beg on the corner”. We don’t know everything they may be dealing with. It’s not up to me to judge. It’s up to me to treat everyone like the human being that they are. If all I can do is smile at someone as I walk by them on the street and make eye contact instead of looking away then I need to DO that! I’m being very hypocritical as I write this. I don’t always smile. I don’t always make eye contact. I’m really good at pretending to be busy on my phone. But I want to change that! I know that it can be necessary at times to “play dead” in order to avoid a potentially dangerous situation, but 95% of the time that isn’t the case. Everyone just wants to be noticed, to be treated like a normal person, to be seen as an individual instead of one of many, to be treated with respect. Think about it. We all know the difference. Imagine a time when you went out to eat or through the coffee shop drive-through and the person who served you acted like they actually saw YOU instead of just another customer. Try it sometime. Pick a stranger, smile, and say hi like you mean it.

As a rule, I won’t give strangers money. There have been a few rare occasions where I’ve given someone the spare change at the bottom of my purse. Normally I say I don’t have any cash. I figure at least that way I can avoid contributing to someone’s drug habit.

I will offer someone food if they approach me and ask for help. That’s really the least we can do, right?? Feed the hungry. I mean…who wouldn’t give someone else food if they were asked and were able to. It’s kind of the basis of humanity, isn’t it? It’s definitely the basis of the Christian “Do unto others” mantra. And then there’s this. Matthew 25:35  “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…”

Why stop with food? Why not do more to help? While it isn’t always a wise idea to just hand a stranger money, you CAN give money to organizations that work to help the homeless. Don’t want to give money? Give time! Years ago I volunteered once a week at our local homeless shelter. Let me tell you, that experience changed my life. There is nothing quite like dishing up food for a long line of people who have NOTHING to put your own problems in perspective.

I saw a video today that brought tears to my eyes and made me incredibly happy at the same time. These ladies volunteered their time and talent to give homeless men, women, and children a little bit of dignity. So awesome!

I want to encourage you to consider the ways that you could help the homeless in your area. You might be surprised at how much you gain from giving to those who are truly, desperately in need. At the very least, make eye contact and smile the next time you are tempted to look away.

Eden: a sex slave’s story

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Wearing just their underwear, the girls line up with their backs to the wall, arms by their side, heads down, frozen to the spot. They dare not move.

Their captors walk up and down the line – picking them seemingly at random and tapping them on the shoulder – ‘You, you, you and you… come with me’.

In the back of a warehouse truck, they are driven for miles across the scorching Nevada desert until they reach a hotel. There, they are forced to have sex with up to 25 men one after the other.

This was life for Korean-born American Chong Kim who, at 19 years old, was sold as a domestic sex slave in 1994 to Russian gangsters and held captive for more than two years.

“The clients never came to the warehouse,” she recalled “That was just where we slept. There was nothing there but bed mats…

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Slavery in Today’s World

It’s here, it’s real, and it will only get worse if we don’t start fighting!

Human Trafficking

I had several interesting conversations today about this horror that plagues our world…our nation…even our own neighborhoods.

It even showed up in a TV episode that I was watching while trying to write this post.

Human trafficking is everywhere and we can NOT ignore it any longer! It’s not just something that happens in other countries, or in big cities. People are pressed into slavery in, and trafficked through, the most innocent looking places.

“”Because of Interstate 5 going through [Whatcom] county between Vancouver B.C. and then Seattle and Portland, we are a corridor for trafficking that we don’t necessarily see or hear about, but it’s traveling right through us,” Sue Ann Heutink””

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“Every year, over 100,000 American children are trafficked for sex: stalked by pimps in their schools and neighborhoods,brutally exploited in a $9.8 billion a year industry. Children. Their average age is 13. They are lured away with promises, and coerced with threats. They are starved, drugged, imprisoned, beaten, tortured, gang raped. They are sold—filmed and photographed; rented by the hour for sex; sometimes killed. And it’s happening in the Pacific Northwest.” (Read more here.)

What is human trafficking?

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From the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime website: “Article 3, paragraph (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines Trafficking in Persons as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”

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How is it possible that this is happening right under our noses? How can we be so blind to the plight of those around us?

What can we do to put an end to human trafficking? We need to spread the word and tell people the facts.

Educate yourself. Do a search. Read the data. Learn what you can and share the information you find!

Here are a couple of great documentaries that I highly recommend watching.

Nefarious: Merchant of Souls

Volviendo

Get involved. Find out what others are doing in your area. I’m running a 5K in May to raise money and awareness in the fight to end this injustice.

There are organizations and groups out there that need our help.We all have to fight before any kind of major change will take place.

Here are a few links to help you get started in your search:

Abolition International

Shared Hope International

Washington Engage

Let’s stop being naive and take a real look at what we can do to put an end to human trafficking. It’s up to us.

(Pictured statistics taken from Abolition International)

New Year, New Blog Post

It’s been almost a year since my last blog post. Ha ha! *cough* Sorry. That is going to change! The last year has been full of many changes. My computer died. I switched jobs and apartments. Went from regular internet access to buying coffee and borrowing a friends computer when I desperately needed to email anything longer than a paragraph. (Smart phones are only good for so much.) I just bought a new (refurbished) computer and my friend and I are sharing internet…one of the many perks of living next door to one of your best friends!

This year contained several other significant changes. Like I said, I changed jobs. I found my perfect play job! I get to cook at a place where I have the opportunity to spend my free time hiking during the summer and snowboarding or snowshoeing during the winter. Pretty much perfect! My co-workers aren’t half bad either. Actually, they’re pretty awesome 🙂

Other changes… One of my best friends had a BABY and I moved next door to her and her adorable little son. It’s so much fun! Because my work takes me out of town all the time it is incredible to know I’m coming home to two people who are always excited to see me.

Work has been crazy busy this year and since two of my jobs take me out of town pretty often, I haven’t been able to make it to my home church regularly. That’s been the hardest part of my “perfect job”. Thankfully, when I’m traveling for my catering job, I am able to go to my parents church or some other church in the area where I’m working! I’m pretty sure I’ve been to my parents church more often during the last few months than I have to my own church. I’m extremely thankful for a church family that calls to check up on me when they haven’t seen me in a while! I’ll be there this Sunday!

Here’s to friends, and church family, and family family. Here’s to change, and new beginnings, and fresh starts. Here’s to a whole new year!

Rainy Day Creations

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New cover for an old journal

This is what happens when I’m in a funk and need to distract my mind with something creative and cheery!

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The back

All you need are some old magazines, a glue stick, some scissors and something made of thick paper or cardboard to cover with your creation.

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Make a pot of your favorite tea, put on some great music and start creating…

Mission like Jesus

Wow! What?! It’s been how long since I’ve posted? Sorry friends… I’ll try to do better…

One of the things that’s been distracting me is a great book by Tim Chester called  A Meal With Jesus. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to be inspired by the way that food and christian fellowship can change lives, as well as  to anyone who wants a little insight into the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

I love the following part of the introduction:

” How would you complete the sentence: “The Son of Man Came…”? The Son of Man came… preaching the Word… to establish the kingdom of God… to die on the cross.

…..There are three ways the New Testament completes the sentence, “The Son of Man came…” “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45); “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10); “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking…” (Luke 7:34).

The first two are statements of purpose. Why did Jesus come? He came to serve, to give his life as a ransom, to seek and save the lost. The third is a statement of method. How did Jesus come? He came eating and drinking.

The Jews of Jesus’ day would have said the Son of Man will come to vindicate the righteous and defeat God’s enemies. They didn’t expect him to come to seek and save the lost. And they would have said the Son of Man will come in glory and power. They would never have said he would come eating and drinking.

….Jesus spent his time eating and drinking – a lot of his time. He was a party animal. His mission strategy was a long meal, stretching into the evening. He did evangelism and discipleship round a table with some grilled fish, a loaf of bread, and a pitcher of wine. “

 

Don’t you love it? I get chills every time! (Maybe I’m just a big food nerd…)

My mission for you is this… Find this book! Read it. Live it.

When I Like Rain

I don’t (as a general rule) like rain. I am a sun person to the core! (Weird how I ended up in NW Washington.) There are, however, a few exceptions to the no-rain rule. My favorite rain of all time happens in the desert in the middle of summer and is ideally accompanied by thunder and lightening. Any summer rain beats winter rain in a heartbeat.

And right now… tonight… I love the rain that is falling outside. Keep it up a few weeks more and I’ll be sick of it. But for now… I am content.

There is something so completely refreshing and cleansing about getting done with your job in a hot kitchen and stepping out into the dripping pouring dusk.

I love driving in pouring rain just as it’s getting dark. Add wind and I’m not as happy, but rain I like. Everything looks so dramatic… Black roads cut only by shining beams of yellow lamplight. The mist that covers the far edges of the fields makes it easy to imagine that ghosts exist. I can see a softly glowing figure walking alone in the distance with trailing hair and dress.

The rain is coming down and most of my car windows are fogging up and I smile as I near the well known spots on my drive home that are sure to capture extra water. Water that will tug my car to the right and surge over my tires. It’s fun when you’re prepared for it!

The spray from the road combines with headlights to create a friendly yet visibility destroying glow around each passing car.
For now – I like rain.

Car Camping – Farris Style

I am a big fan of camping! Particularly – car camping. (However I recently purchased a backpack and hope to become proficient at the kind of camping where you haul everything up the trail with you in a little bag!) The great thing about car camping is that you can chuck everything into the trunk and backseat of your car in about 15 min for a last minute camping trip and if you bring too much stuff or forget something and have to run to the store – it doesn’t matter! 

If you haven’t figured it out yet – we Farris’ like to eat good food. And if I’m going to be camping I’m going to be cooking over a fire. (None of that bring-your-own-gas-grill stuff for me!) So the challenge is to make good food over a wood fire! Veggies, some kind of meat and some sort of bread seem to be a winning combination!

For dinner there was grilled shrimp on a skewer along with grilled veggies and lightly toasted bread! (Tip: I always bring my own grill grates to lay over the top of the rusty one that may or may not be provided.) I cut up some zucchini (long big strips), quartered some bell peppers and cleaned some mushrooms (leaving them whole). Tossed the whole bunch with some olive oil and salt and pepper and grilled them until just tender! Also sliced up some crusty bread and threw that on the grill. The shrimp we kind of cheated with by buying them pre-skewered from the seafood section of our local grocery store. When grilling shrimp it is important to keep a close eye on them and pull them off almost before you think they are done… Over cooked shrimp is dry and chewy.

Of course… because we waited too long to get all of this going, we were cooking in the dark (no pictures) by the light of one small flashlight and the dimly burning camp fire. It was challenging. All-in-all though – it was a delicious meal!