Archive | March 2013

Good Reads

Lately it’s been all travel and crafts and recipes here on Two Girls Turning Thirty so I thought it was high time I brought you another book review….or two in one.  Last year when I was working on my 30×30 list, I set the goal to read a book a month and I did just that.  My husband then discovered the website Good Reads which is basically a social networking site for bookworms.  🙂  You set up a free account and then can track the books you have read, are reading, want to read….you can leave reviews, become “friends” with people you know (or don’t know!) and read their reviews, check out their bookshelves, etc.  It’s really great!  You can also set a reading goal of books to read in a year and track them through the site letting you know if you’re behind, or a head, and by how much. Husband set a goal of 30 books for this year.  (that’s 2.5 books a month!  yikes!)  Not to be outdone, I also set a 30 book goal and I’m a little behind, but catching up steadily.  I thought I’d bring you mini reviews of two recent reads.

This past year has been an all-out-full-speed-ahead-grab-bag-roller-coaster-o-change. I don’t need to recount all that has happened, but suffice to say, they winds of change, they are a blowin’. One of the most notable changes for me has been vocational. This past August 20th, I came on board as the personal assistant/road manager/violinist to speaker/author/singer/Bible teacher Kelly Minter. The months that followed have been wonderful.  I absolutely adore both my new job and my new boss.  However, she has written 4 Bible studies and 3 books plus has about 5 CDs of music, so it’s been like drinking from a fire hydrant to take in all of her material and KNOW it well enough to explain it to readers at the product table, answer email questions, etc. in such a short period of time.  I started with her books and read The Fitting Room on my trip to Mexico in January.

I love her writing style…it’s conversational and easy enough to follow that you can breeze through it without getting a headache or juggling a concordance, Bible and dictionary to understand what she’s talking about.  But don’t let that fool you.  It’s also deep and powerful and provides an opportunity for us to look at our lives and examine our hearts.  I feel so freed of the need to strive to be the sort of person I feel like a follower of Christ is “supposed to be” and encouraged that all I really need to do is love the person of Jesus and God the Father and the rest falls into line.  It’s like I had the process as the goal instead of the end product.  I’m halfway through her book No Other Gods now and I’m loving that as well. (p.s. just know if you purchase anything from her website, I’m the one personally packaging up your order and sending it your way!  just a fun fact.)

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After giving my spirit a little check up, I figured it was high time I worked on my body again, so I picked up Born to Run at my local REI store and tore through that on the endless flights home from India last week.  I love how McDougal also writes so conversationally as he recounts tales of ultramarathons, epic trail-races and a long-lost tribe of Mexican ultrarunners.  By the end of the book I was convinced that I too could run 50 miles barefoot through the mountains of Mexico.  (Instead I ran 5 miles in tennis shoes through the streets of Nashville, but whatever.)  McDougal starts as a mediocre runner in search of help learning to run without back and knee pain and what unfolds is an epic adventure sure to appeal to anyone with a spirit of adventure, or at least the appreciation of one.

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So there you go.  Two book reviews on two TOTALLY different topics.  The character of Christ, and ultrarunning.  Oh that I could be good at both.  And if you join GoodReads, be sure to friend request me!

If it’s Friday, this must be Virginia……Part 1

I always start off strong blogging on trips and then jet lag sets in and I end up not being as faithful to post as I’d set out to be.  This trip to India was no exception.  A few solid posts, then…..crickets.   Right now I’m sitting in my hotel room in Fredricksburg, Virginia. “Virginia?” you say.  “I thought you were in India.  Or Amsterdam.  Or back in Nashville.”  Yes.  I’ve traveled a few miles since last I posted. Let me catch you up to speed via a photo-tour of the past few days.  Speaking of photos and traveling and Mary-Hall, you may have noticed the new “Insta Pics!” sidebar feature on the blog.  That came about when I texted MH from India and asked her to figure out how to make that happen….and she did.   In like 30 minutes.  Because she’s the awesome-est.

Our third and final project visit was to a CSP project.  The Child Survival Program is an amazing arm of Compassion that works with mothers and babies from pregnancy to 3 years old.  These moms gave us a sweet reception and we loved spending time with them, learning about the amazing things they are accomplishing, serving them lunch, buying their needlework, and holding their babies.  We also had a sweet visit with one of the mothers in her home.

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Mothers and toddlers in the CSP program shower us with flowers outside the project!

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Young mother and her son with the sewing machine she uses at the Compassion project to make clothes and other sewn goods to sell to make a living.

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I’m not sure which one of us was more content. The momma had to practically pry her 5 month old daughter away from me. sweetest moment of the trip.

We also had an awesome time visiting a church for a Sunday morning worship service.  So fun to see the LDP students teach songs to the congregation, translate the pastor’s sermon from Hindi to English, and share some of their own stories.

Children from the local church singing songs in Sunday service.  So cute!

Children from the local church singing songs in Sunday service. So cute!

We were thrilled to get some sightseeing time in as well.  India is such a beautiful country and we wanted to experience the culture as well as spend time with Compassion.  A highlight was a trip to the local market where I purchased a beautiful saree (I’ll post photos once I learn how to wear it!!!) some curry spices and Darjeeling tea.  We also took a boat ride on the Ganges river with the LDP students.  So fascinating to see all the Hindu temples that line the river and people bathing (clothed) on the steps that lead into the water.  We also got to visit the Victoria Memorial….essentially a palace built in honor of Queen Victoria (outside of which we also accidentally crashed a super awkward Bollywood music video shoot) and took a horse and carriage ride around a lovely park.  And all the girls got Henna tatoos.

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my beautiful saree. such amazing fabric

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Neha, me and Sudeshna. My two favorite Indians cruising the Ganges!

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These two could be models. For reals. Not sure about the one in the center. haha.

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Keith and I on our carriage ride around the park! Love getting to travel the world with this amazing man.

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our carriage ponies.

And that’s officially all I have energy for tonight….but there’s more to the journey, so I’m making this post a two-parter.  And then I swear I’ll let Mary-Hall have a turn at blogging again.  🙂

a little song, a little dance, a little……goat.

Our second day in India started off with a visit to the Compassion East India office. I love visits to country offices to meet the staff there: the folks who are on the ground in-country overseeing the work this amazing organization is doing. It’s also exciting to see how all the letters are processed to and from the children and their sponsors, etc. After touring the office and participating in the weekly devotional time with the staff, we set off on our first project visit of the trip. It was a sweet day as one of our travel companions got to meet her sponsor child (read about when I first met my sponsor child, Rukia, here) and Keith and I got to go visit the home of a teenage boy who participates in the project. It always inspires me to hear the stories of these children and the circumstances they face and how they overcome them.

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Mural on the wall outside the East India Compassion office. I loved this scene from it!

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Sammat, me and Hatboi. These country office staffers have made our trip possible!

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These four ladies have a busy job! They make sure all the letters from the sponsors get to their sponsor children….and vice versa! They process about 14,000 letters a month!

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My friend Blaire meeting her sponsor child for the first time!

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honored to have visited with this Compassion sponsor child and his grandparents in their home.

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Compassion students in their school classrooms.

Thursday we headed North to a “rural urban” project only 15 miles south of the Bangladesh border. Many people in the community were refugees from Bangladesh. The trip to the project took about 2 and a half hours in a little convoy of mini-SUVs. Driving in India isn’t quite like driving in the US. In fact, I think you should watch this short clip that my friend Ryan shot before you finish reading my blog….just so you can understand what our trip to and from the project was like. One of the guys in my vehicle started feeling pretty queasy about 10 minutes into the trip, and sure enough, about an our later, threw up his entire breakfast in my plastic zipper toiletry bag. Apparently even the Indian Compassion staff that were traveling with us in other vehicles were popping Dramamine like tic-tacs, so we were all comforted in knowing that even the locals thought the driving was terrible.

The project visit itself was amazing. We were greeted at the road by a drummer and the project’s scout troop and then ushered inside the church to watch a program where children sang and danced and then two of the Compassion LDP students shared their testimonies. The children all wanted to shake our hands and showered us with gifts: vases made of popsicle sticks and glitter, roses, oregami flowers and drawings were plentiful. We in turn decided to teach them songs. “Head, Shoulders Knees and Toes” was a huge hit so we decided to try our hand at “Father Abraham” when we found out that the kids didn’t know the story of Abraham in the Bible. Naturally we filled them in on that narrative and then belted out the Sunday School tune until we were all horse and dizzy.

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Esther (right) shares her story in English while Sudeshna (left) translates into Bengali. Both are Compassion LDP students.

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Me with some of the kids from the project. I’m holding my popsicle stick vase and roses.

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The teachers from the project sing a worship tune in Bengali before we leave.

We split off into three groups after the project visit to visit homes of some of the Compassion students. This little girl lived with her mother. Her father died 7 years ago and her 17 year old sister had gotten married a few months ago because her mother couldn’t afford to provide her with school or basic needs any longer. She said that it was too late for the older daughter now, but that she hoped her younger daughter might be able to finish school and become a teacher (she wanted to teach English) and not have to marry young. She hopes her younger daughter can break the poverty cycle.

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Me with the mother and daughter whose house I visited on my home visit.

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This goat belonged to the mother and daughter pictured above. The tiny goat had only been born the day before.

Wow. So I’m kind of exhausted thinking back over all that’s happened and I’m going to draw to a close here so I can get some sleep. But I’ll give you another report on today and tomorrow soon with lots more photos, of course. Continue to think about us as we start the last half of our trip. And stay tuned…..

P.S. If you are interested in reading more about our trip from the perspective of some of our travel companions, check out the following blogs of Blaire Wickham and Ryan Childress. So far, they have blogged about the first day of the trip and meeting their sponsor child (Blaire) as well as a project visit (Ryan). Check em out!

The Mother House

The journey to India is long…a total of 34 hours of airport security checkpoints, standing at gates and baggage claims and immigration lines, flights and naps stolen along the way.  But it’s not just the miles covered and the hours spent.  The soul journey is long too.  I’ve been here less than 24 hours and already I know my heart is different.  I’ve heard that India gets in your blood.  To be quite honest, it was never on my “list” of places I’d have chosen if I had an open-ended airline ticket.  But when the opportunity to accompany Keith on a Compassion International trip arose, I was excited to get to come along to see this land that has always seemed so far away that maybe it didn’t even exist except in stories and theory.

A taxi cab outside the Kolkata airport.  Such a quaint and beautiful city.

A taxi cab outside the Kolkata airport. Such a quaint and beautiful city.

After breakfast, a long nap, and lunch, our group started the trip with a trip to the “Mother House” of the Missionaries of Charity, the order of nuns founded by Mother Teresa, now “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.”  I think I would have been contented to spend the whole day there…perhaps my whole trip.  Despite being in the center of a crowded city with honking horns and too many people, a cloud of peace truly shrouds the whole structure.  You enter and off a small courtyard are a series of doors: one to a small museum, one to a stairway to her room where she lived and received visitors, one to the chapel and one to a room where her tomb is.  When we arrived, the novices were all gathered around Mother’s tomb singing hymns.  I then wandered upstairs and spent a good deal of time praying in the chapel alongside several of the nuns whose calloused fingers easily slid from one bead to the next on their rosaries.  After a short tour of the museum and peeking in Mother’s bedroom, I went back to the tomb room in time to catch the last half of a homily by Fr. John, an Indian priest.

On Friday we will be serving alongside the sisters in various capacities at homes and orphanages they have scattered across the city.  Sister Mercy Maria briefed us on the work we will be doing.  Her kind manner made me feel like I knew her and I loved hearing her share her story about answering the call to become a nun.  “I resisted for a while,” she said after telling us she had joined at the age of 38, later than many of the sisters who joined as young as 17.  “But in the end it was a simple as being in a relationship with someone and them asking me to do something and I said ‘yes’.”  “Jesus simply asked me to follow him and I finally accepted.  It was my call.”

I left the home inspired by the simplicity in which the sisters live, their devotion to prayer and service,  the intensity with which they love, and the humility that abides in their spirits.  I’ve been reading up on Mother Teresa the past few weeks in preparation for this trip and I’ll leave you with a passage that has caused me to pause and think about my own relationship with the Lord and how I approach my spiritual life.

“Does your mind and your heart go to Jesus as soon as you get up in the morning? This is prayer, that you turn your mind and heart to God. In your times of difficulties, in sorrows, in sufferings, in temptations, and in all things, where did your mind and heart turn first of all? How did you pray? Did you take the trouble to turn to Jesus and pray, or did you seek consolations?

Has your faith grown? If you do not pray, your faith will leave you.

Ask the Holy Spirit to pray in you. Learn to pray, love to pray, and pray often. Feel the need to pray and to want to pray.

If you have learned how to pray, then I am not afraid for you. If you know how to pray, then you will love prayer—–and if you love to pray, then you will pray. Knowledge will lead to love and love to service.”

Novices pray and sing next to the tomb of Mother Teresa.  I wish I could have captured their music as well as their image.

Novices pray and sing next to the tomb of Mother Teresa. I wish I could have captured their music as well as their image.

The latest journey

So I’m sitting at a gate at BNA, the good ole Nashville International Airport. I was here yesterday too. And the day before that. Last night I saw my dear friend Amy at baggage claim. We hadn’t seen each other in about two weeks. And my friend Keely had gotten out the door only moments before Amy and my boss Kelly and I rolled up to claim our luggage. This whole scenario made me realize how crazy life really is.

Today was spring forward day which only compounded the exhaustion already lurking in my bones. I got home from Ohio last night and immediately went to work finishing up details from that trip and getting ready for today’s trip. Fortunately, I’m a little OCD so I’d already made some preparations.

Today, Keith and I are headed to Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) India with Student Life Camps and Compassion International. I’m thankful, overwhelmed, excited and a million other emotions I can quite put into words right now.

We appreciate your prayers and thoughts for safe travel. I’m sure to post along the way (pretty certain that a few tasting-new-foods adventures await me) and give a full report when I get home.

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The Bangles: A FotoFriday with a Trim

Bethany says:

Just like one should never go to the grocery store hungry, or to Target with money in one’s pocket, I learned today that it’s also not wise to go to the hairdresser discontent with one’s current haircut.  Or maybe that’s exactly the state one should go in….

I’ve been thinking about getting bangs for about ten years now.  I even claimed to have gotten bangs last June….but lets face it….I still looked the same.  (A childhood friend claimed I still looked the same as when I was 10.  So. Yeah.  Mission NOT accomplished.) But every time I go to the hairdresser, I chicken out.  I get all timid the minute my butt hits that pleather chair, and I walk out looking the same as I did walking in…minus the dead ends.  I’ve changed hairdressers about 10 times thinking that’s what I needed.  A new stylist would surely do the trick.  But then I give each one the same set of parameters and thus, I look the same Every. Time. For. Years.

I’ll spare the the details of the morning, but suffice to say I marched in to the The Green Pea salon and plopped down in Erika’s chair and basically said, “I-think-I-want-bangs-cut-them-now-before-I-change-my-mind.”  And cut them she did.  And I loved them.

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hair credit: Erika Wright @ Green Pea Salon.

And then I got home and husband and I had a mild freak-out and decided neither of us were sure we liked them.  And then I cried.  And then I did what every wise girl does in situations of glamour-gone-awry…..I took an iPhone self portrait and texted it to the besties….who both gave the instant stamp of approval involving kind words, comparisons to Alexa Chung, and other forms of encouragement.  And then I loved them again.  And then husband decided HE loved them.  And then in a weird twist of same-wavelength-blogger/bestie-happenstance, I got a text from Mary-Hall and this joint post was born……

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from Mary-Hall:

I promise we don’t plan this stuff or even talk to each other that often.  So when I got Bethany’s photo and text, I felt a shudder of both excitement and terror, for I had my own hair appointment in 5 hours and similarly crazy plans.  If B did it, then well so could I, right?  But hair terror? Yes, that is a real thing.  For me though, the terror faded quickly.

Bethany’s gorgeous NATURALLY highlighted brown locks have been always been long and have always looked beautiful, even when she hasn’t even brushed it in 4 days.  I, however, have had the blessing of experiencing many many different hair phases – long, short, curly, frizzy, straight, horribly hacked by a barber in China, been there done that.  Moral of that story: bad haircuts are really no biggie.  They always grow out.

So I also marched into the salon and gave the stylist full control.  I guess it was “big-chunky-bangs” day for stylists across the Southern US, ’cause that’s what I got!  I like them a lot.  I’m not super stoked about the rest of the haircut {yet} besides the bangs, but you know what?  That problem is easily solved – ponytail!

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So BLAM.  Mark it down in history.  March 7, 2013.  The day we both got bangs. For the first time ever (Bethany) and for the first time since.. oh, 1987-ish (me).

Cooking Up Some Love…..

One of the items on my 30×30 list last year was “take an official cooking class.”  I did check this one off the list…just under the wire, I might add….by taking a class on how to make Guacamole at the Hilton Los Cabos.  But just between you and me, it didn’t quite satisfy what I had in mind when I originally added “cooking class” to my list.  The guacamole class was of the freebie, pull-up-a-chair, watch-the-demonstration-then-chow-down sort of variety.  I was thinking more along the lines of buy-the-class, go-to-a-bonafide-cooking-school-location, and chop-up-some-food-and-cook-it-under-the-watchful-eye-of-a-master-chef (not the hotel hospitality director).

Keith and I thought that this year for Valentines Day, instead of fighting crowds of sappy couples for the best tables at local eateries, or dropping some of our hard-earned cash on chocolate or stuffed animals, that we’d celebrate out-of-the box by taking a cooking class.  Unfortunately, others must have had the same idea because the Feb 14th class at our local Viking cooking school was sold out.  We found another class elsewhere that still had openings, but probably because the menu consisted of “beef tartare.”  I wasn’t sure I wanted to pay money to eat cow-sushi.  However, in his search, Keith came across the “Valentines 101” class at our local Whole Foods Salud! Cooking School, that was offered on the Sunday BEFORE Valentines.  The menu looked amazing, and Keith’s mom just happened to be coming in town for a Compassion International event, so plans were quickly hatched to learn how to make our own romantic dinner for 3!

We LOVED the class!  If you live in Nashville, you really need to check out all that Salud! has to offer.  We’re blessed to have one here as the only other three in existence are all in Atlanta.  Chef Karen was as personable as she was knowledgeable.  She walked us through not only the recipes (we got to make everything ourselves!) but also some kitchen basics as well.  I totally need the kitchen basics. (a few weeks ago, an old friend reminded me of how I once “boiled a chicken” for him and his roommate.  As in, I stuck a chicken in a pot of boiling water and then stuck it on a serving plate.  Yeah.  That happened.)  The school itself was pretty state of the art with fabulous appliances, a video screen system where you can watch whats cooking in the pots on the stove-top from your seat in the classroom, etc.  The menu was amazing….. winter salad with diver scallops as the starter, then filet mignon with madeira & wild mushroom sauce served with creamed spinach custards and oven roasted fingerling potatoes with rosemary as sides and then a La Bete Noire (“The Black Beast”) chocolate flourless cake with drunken raspberries and whipped cream for dessert….as if we needed more food after the starter and dinner!  [note: scallops were totally a new food for me!  Let the new-food tasting continue!]

If you’re like me all, you really want out of this post is some photos of us cooking awesome food and then a recipe, (and of course I am not one to disappoint in the photo-and-recipe department), you’ll totally enjoy the rest of the post….which consists of exactly that: photos and recipe from the class!  And if you’re still in the beginning phase of your cooking journey or you just don’t have time to cook, you’ll be pleased to know that the recipe I chose is super duper simple…the rosemary potatoes.  It’s cheap, its easy, it’s quick, and it’s a great addition to any meal….it’ll even make your boiled chicken more gourmet. 🙂

Hard at work chopping up something.  Don't I look like a real chef?

Hard at work zesting some oranges and lime. Don’t I look like a real chef?

Keith minces shallots like a pro.  Makes my eyes water just thinking about it.

Keith minces shallots like a pro. Makes my eyes water just thinking about it.

Keith's Mom and I working on the mushroom sauce.  No, we're not teaching the class....but I'm happy to let you think that we are.

Keith’s Mom and I working on the mushroom sauce. No, we’re not teaching the class….but I’m happy to let you think that we are. Check us out on the TV screens at the top of the photo!

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Our table for 3 with all the yummy food we cooked! They even let me take the tulips home.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes w/ Rosemary

Kitchen utensils needed:

*an oven

*a tablespoon

*a large ziploc bag

*small round or square cake tin

Ingredients:

*1 pound unpeeled Fingerling potatoes (or other small/baby potatoes 1 to 1 & 1/2 inches in diameter)

*1 tablespoon olive oil

*4 large fresh rosemary springs

*dash of kosher salt

Preparation:

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. Place potatoes, olive oil and kosher salt in ziplock bag.  Shake vigorously.

3. Pour contents of ziploc bag into cake tin.

4. Pull “leaves” off the “stem” of the rosemary.  (this makes the flavor stronger.  For a more mild flavor, you can toss in the whole sprig). Toss rosemary sprigs in the cake tin with the potatoes.

5. Roast until the potatoes are tender and beginning to brown in spots.  Usually about 35 minutes.

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Of course potatoes aren’t on the “Approved” list for us Paleo folks.  So.  I’m posting a similar Paleo-friendly recipe that I found on the internet, and not at the cooking class.  And remember when I was tasting one food a month?  I took this poll and brussels sprouts did not make the cut of the original 8 foods.  However, since then I’ve bitten the bullet…er…sprouts, and discovered I love them!  Keith and I probably make this recipe at least once a week.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Kitchen utensils needed:

*an oven

*a tablespoon and a teaspoon

*a large ziploc bag

*small round or square cake tin

Ingredients:

*1 and 1/2 pounds brussels sprounds (with the ends trimmed and yellow leaves removed.)

*3 tablespoons olive oil

*1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

*1 teaspoon kosher salt (warning…go easy on the salt…….I speak out of experience.  don’t use more than a teaspoon.)

Preparation:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place brussels sprouts, olive oil, ground black pepper and kosher salt in ziplock bag.  Shake vigorously.

3. Pour contents of ziploc bag into cake tin.

4. Roast in pre-heated oven for 30-45 minutes.  Every 5-7 minutes, take pan out and shake so that the sprouts brown evenly.  They will be darkest brown…almost black…when done.  (Don’t be scared if they look black on the outside! They won’t be burned inside!  Just yummy!)

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