Thursday, January 19, 2017

On the Hard Days

As I ran out the door to take a hot lunch to my seven year olds classroom today, I found myself thinking, "A better Mom would have brought a vegetable."

Despite having baked four stromboli loaves from scratch, despite having been up since 4:30 a.m., despite having kept four children alive for another day, I somehow thought (however briefly) in that moment, that I wasn't good enough.

Of course half way to town I shook myself out of it. I reminded myself that it wouldn't have mattered if I brought the perfect vegetable pairing or take-out pizza or casserole from a box. The only thing that mattered was that I was going to show up.

I was going to bring a meal to a great group of kids, who could not care less what they were being fed. They were just happy to get food; kids are easy like that.

I am sharing two posts that I wrote awhile back, because I needed the pep talk today. And maybe I am not alone, maybe you need it too.

No matter who you are, no matter your battle, if you got up this morning and faced another day, then you are showing up for life, and that is a strong, and incredible thing to do.

Your failures are in your head.

How do I know? Because you got up and tried today.

Sometimes its all you can do to get out of bed and take that first step, but there is power in simply refusing to stay down.

You are not perfect. You do not have it all figured out.

But you are here, and you are trying and that is good enough.

Pass it along to someone that needs it.

With all my love...

A Little Encouragement

Truth 



Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Recipe for a Cold Day

Its cold outside. Not just a little cold, like it dropped below zero and will not be going much higher for quite sometime, COLD.

Soup weather? I think so.

The hubs is not much of one for soups, unless they are a thick, hearty stew, that you can pretty much eat with a fork. So this is a soup I make for myself.

Literally.

I waited until every, single child, husband, attention demanding, creature in this house was in bed. Then I stayed up and made this for myself.

It's what I do to unwind.

Then I leave all the dishes in the sink to wind me up again the next day... but I digress.

I hesitate to post recipes, because I am not a rule follower. I use what I have, I use what sounds good. I rarely measure. And soup is perfect for this kind of cooking.

Soup is forgiving.

So be daring, be brave, take this recipe as a starting point and jump.

Here's a quick walk through of my version of an easy French Onion Soup with bacon!

In a large pot fry up some bacon, always a good place to start. I made this for one person, add more for each additional person you will be cooking for.

Then remove the bacon, save some grease and throw in a bunch of onions thinly sliced, not diced.

Cook the onions on low-med heat, add some butter, add some dried rosemary, throw in some salt and pepper. When the onions start getting really soft, and smelling really good, throw in some minced garlic (from a jar is fine, we are not food snobs here) a little goes a long way. The slower and longer you can go with the onions, the better. If you are in a hurry, turn up the heat a little and go faster, it'll all be ok.

Pour liquid into the pot. Use what you have. I had chick bouillon cubes that I added to some water, added a little worcestershire sauce and the last of a dry red wine sitting on the counter. But if I'd had beef stock, I would have used that instead.

Let the onions and broth simmer as long as you've got, at least long enough to come to a good simmer.

I cubed up some old bread threw it in a pan with some butter and salted it generously and tossed it around in the pan till it was toasted.

Put the soup in a bowl, top with toasted bread cubes (otherwise known as croutons), add some cheese, (if you want to throw it in the oven to melt the cheese, even better, I was in a hurry and hungry) and finally sprinkle on the crumbled bacon.

It's such a great soup for a cold night. It feels like home. It tastes like comfort.

Here is an approximate recipe for those rule followers out there.

Quick French Onion Soup

Serves 2

Four pieces of bacon. 

Half an onion, thinly sliced (Red is good, but white or yellow is fine! I like to combine different kinds.)

1/2 tsp dried rosemary

1/2 tsp minced garlic

4 cups broth

Bread cut into 1 inch cubes

1 TBLS butter

Cheese for topping

Fry bacon in a pot (a dutch oven works great). Remove, bacon, reserve 1 TBLS grease. Add onions, rosemary, salt and pepper, after 15 mins add garlic. Cook for another 5 minutes. Add broth. Bring to a simmer. Simmer for at least 10 minutes.

While it simmers add bread to separate pan with melted butter and toast them. 

Pour soup into bowls. Top with bread cubes, sprinkle with cheese and crumbled bacon. 


Go make some soup, love your people, and stay warm friends!


















Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas Exhaustion

Mary must have been exhausted.

She was carrying a miracle, yes, but she was also carrying an out of wedlock baby, on a long journey, to give birth in rudimentary settings, with no family around, and no idea what would happen next.

Christmas Eve found me sleep deprived, anxious, and preparing for an evening ahead that would require more energy and happiness than I could muster.

So I sat in a church pew on Christmas Eve and cried for Mary and how tired she must have been, for how unfair it was that she would never fully comprehend the awesome power that her sacrifice would bring to the world. I cried because that one little baby would make every single one of my mistakes ok.

Maybe you are in the middle of your own exhaustion. Maybe you are carrying something wonderful and powerful, but right now it just feels like a burden. Stay strong, your burden may become a light for others.

If you are still happily enjoying the extra time with kids, and the extended bed times, and the family filling up the house, then celebrate with joy.

If you are on the flip side of things and feeling the merriment drain out, and are staring down the dreary grey of the month ahead, know that it is ok.

If you yelled at the kids today for just being so dang loud all the time, it's ok. If you had two cups of coffee before you could even look at putting on clothes, its ok. If you have been at work for the day and wishing more than anything to go back to bed, it's ok.

The baby was born, we celebrated, we drank, we ate, and now we are heading back into the world.

No matter how you mess up today, it will be ok.

You are loved, just as you are. You are loved. You are loved. You are loved.

Take those words, store them deep inside, hand them out readily.

Amid all the new years resolutions you will soon hear, might I suggest just one?

Love harder.

Love those around you, love those you meet, love the unlovable. Pass it along and watch the world around you change for the better.

You may brighten a day, change a mood, or even save a life.

Happy new year friends. You are loved.









Saturday, December 17, 2016

Christmas Inspiration


Christmas is just a week away! 

Time to get in the Holiday spirit!

  • I can read all day about Edie's love for people and hospitality .
  • A friend sent me this beautiful idea for passing on the tradition of Santa. 
  • We make these cookies every year. 
  • We have begun cutting way back on Christmas gifts for our kids, and I love what this article has to say about that. 



I hope you all have a blessed and very Merry Christmas!








     

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Stuffed Mushroom Recipe

If you never cook another dish in your life, I simply ask that you make this one dish and then you may die in peace having cooked the most perfect dish ever.

Maybe I am being dramatic, maybe I'm not. I guess you'll have to taste it and see for yourself. 

I made this dip again for Thanksgiving recently. My local grocer couldn't get in Fontina, so I substituted mozzarella and monterey cheese. It was a major hit. 

I had the herbs left over, so I got to thinking about what I had in my fridge and what I could make to go with the herbs. 

And thus, this dish was born. 

Seriously amazing. 

Mouth watering. 

Divine happiness. 

So dang, stinking good, I did not take a single picture before we devoured them. 

Just make them. 

I am being bossy. Try them, then you'll understand why. 

Have I made myself clear? 

Good. Let's get started. 

Best Stuffed Mushrooms... Ever
Ingredients
1/2 tsp thyme finely chopped
1/2 tsp rosemary finely chopped
1/4 cup roughly chopped or shredded parmesan
2 oz softened cream cheese
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella 
1/4 tsp minced garlic
A pinch of salt and pepper
Mix everything together in a small bowl. 

Clean an 8oz package of Mini Bella mushrooms. (I have read you are not suppose to wash mushrooms, it makes them rubbery, so I just rub mine with a paper towel to knock off any dirt.)

Pop off the stems. Then place the top part of the mushroom down on a sheet pan covered in tin foil, so the bottom is upwards like a little bowl. (If you have mini muffin tins, they work great to hold the mushrooms! Just set the mushrooms in the muffin tin upside down and place on a tinfoil covered sheet pan to catch any spills.)

Place a tablespoon or so of the mixture in each of the mushrooms. Some mushrooms will hold more than others, adjust accordingly. 

Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 12-15 mins, until cheese is bubbly. 

(As a disclaimer, I never measure when I am cooking. I just mix till it looks right. So the measurements are approximates. Don't be afraid to experiment. Use what you have, make it your own!) 

*                   *                    *                  *                   *                      *                       *                       *                   *               *

And that is it.

Make it. 

Enjoy it. 

Let me know what you think! 

Happy Holidays!




Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Holiday Juggling

I have never been able to figure out if I am an extrovert or an introvert.

If you know me personally, you probably think right away, "She's an extrovert!". But as much as I love people, and gatherings; I love, love, love being at home. I love being here with my people, watching movies, playing board games, just existing, together at home. It's my favorite. 

So when I have running around to do, it can get stressful for me. I can quickly feel overwhelmed, constantly picking up one kid, dropping off another, going to town and back again several times a day. And when things are scheduled on a Sunday, my tolerance level peaks out. I like my Sundays to rest, reset, and breathe. 

This month I do not have a single Sunday that will be spent at home. 

I am dreading it already. I want to curl up and cry. I want to stomp my feet and say, "No, No, No". I want to put on my pajamas and Christmas music, lock the door and pout. 

But since that does not appear to be an option, I am trying to manage the best I can and look for the silver lining. 

Here are two small things that I have been doing to keep the chaos from taking over. 

Bullet Journaling  This is not the crazy, doodling, over eccentric version that you see on Pinterest. This video discusses using a  practical, all in one notebook to organize and schedule all the busy-ness. I've only been doing it for a month, and I already swear by it! 

Short daily devotion I'll admit, I am a failure at reading a daily devotion, but I also know for a fact that on the days that I do read it, it changes my perspective and puts me in a much better mindset. 

There is no magic key. Life can be overwhelming. I am doing both of the things listed above and I still feel like a swirling mess on some days, but at least it's only somedays, and not everyday! I still managed to schedule a church Christmas party at the same time and same day as my daughters school Christmas program. I will not be winning any organization awards, but only one hiccup (so far) feels like a triumph with the schedule I am trying to balance lately!

I use my journal as more of a planner, to write my To Do List's, my notes from various meetings, and shopping lists. It just helps to have it in one notebook, rather than scattered around on various scrap papers like I had before. The biggest thing for me is the index at the beginning. It's the simplest thing and a life changer as far as being able to find my notes for a particular topic. 

I still use my calendar on my phone, and set alerts for upcoming programs, snack days, special events, meetings, etc, but I also write down the notes for those things in my bullet journal. I like having something tangible that I can grab and jot down whatever I am thinking about and not have to worry about forgetting my idea or train of thought. And good grief, that train threatens to de-rail a hundred times a day!

Enjoy the holiday season, it'll be over before we know it, and then its just cold and January! I'm off to tackle some of my To Do's while the babies sleep!



Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Love a Little More

The baby didn't sleep last night. As in, he was awake every, single, hour, and intermittently, his sister woke me up as well. I should be sleeping right now, truly, but he just laid down for his nap and there are words I want to say. So I give them to you.

I have a friend who is hurting right now. She has received hard news, and her heart is broken and my heart breaks for her. I would fix it all if I could; wouldn't we all, given the chance?

But of course I can't. I can pray like crazy, I can listen and I can be supportive. I can also cook and I can bring drinks, because sometimes, you just need good food and a good drink.

There is a lot of negative in the world right now. I could blame it on the recent election, but I think it has more to do with our mindsets. It's easy to latch onto the doomsday mentality. It's easy to get sucked into our own head space and worry and turmoil.

The holidays for me are a beautiful, magical, wonderful time of year. I know that is not true for everyone, but for me, it is.

So I begin celebrating early. I am ok with that. It makes me happy, it makes me feel good, and if I end up sharing my holiday goodies with you on a random Wednesday, then I am willing to bet you will judge me a little less harshly.

So I beg you, don't freak out if someone is singing Christmas carols already, or if they have their Christmas decorations out. Don't tell me "IT'S NOT EVEN THANKSGIVING YET", because isn't the fact that we get to celebrate Thanksgiving at all, circle back to that little miracle baby we celebrate at Christmas?

Wouldn't the world be a better place if we could all live every day with that special shimmer that Christmas brings, or even if you are of a different religion, the warmth that comes from the holiday season? Shouldn't that be something we try with all our might to bring to others all year round? Not everyone is better at the holidays, there are the few whom it bring out the worst in. I've seen it, I know them.

But overall, if you look past the gift buying, and the rushing around, if you look at the smiles and the joy, for all that is good, look at the children. It's the one time of year that even the kids who have it pretty bad, get a chance to dream, get a chance to believe. As a society, we tend to remember those less fortunate this time of year. And I for one, would love to see that all year round.

So I will hold my head up high, I will sing my Christmas carols at the top of my lungs, I will put up my Christmas decorations the minute I feel like it might bring extra joy where it is needed and I will not feel badly about it.

Whatever brings you joy, go and do it and if it can bring joy to others, even better.

Open yourselves up to the world around you, everyday. Don't wait for a special holiday or a special season or even a special occasion. Light up the world around you with love and with happiness, others will feel it too.

I want my people to feel that love everyday and I want just a little extra of it during the holidays.

So if I start feeling festive and begin loving on everybody a little harder a month earlier than I am suppose to, then so be it. I am ok with it. It makes me happy, it makes me smile, and how can that be a bad thing?

Go make this chex mix recipe, turn off the tv, bring out a board game, gather your people. You will thank me. Your house will smell delicious, your friends will like you better and you can freeze it in gallon baggies to bring out during the holidays later because it makes a huge batch! Go forth, eat, drink and be Merry (or at the very least, a little less cynical).

Happy holidays!


Holiday Chex Mix

6 cups cheerios
6 cups wheat chex
6 cups rice chex
one bag of thin pretzel rods
1 can mixed nuts
2 cups peanuts

Mix all of the above in a large roasting pan. I use one like this, (without the rack in it!). You can even buy a large disposable one at the grocery store!

In a medium sauce pan, heat the following on low on the stove top till the butter is melted.

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3/4 cup salted butter
1 1/2 tsp celery salt
1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
4 TBLS Worcestershire 
1-3 TBLS Tobasco sauce (depending on if you like a little kick)

Pour over the cereal mixture. Give it a good stir. Put it in the oven at 200 degrees for 1 and 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.