The Juniors Department

Sometimes I make brilliant fashion decisions (read: jeans that fit, and shirts that cover the button that holds them together) and other times, not so much (read: Von Dutch hats, anyone? Popping that polo collar a la 2005?) That being said, there seems to be a fine line between “age appropriate” and “how old am I?”

I’ve been on the hunt to spend some birthday cash that’s burning a serious hole in my pocket-not that I generally wear pants with pockets because: leggings and because: two kids. Anywho, this nagging desire to get rid of the moolah rudely convinced me that I should go into Abercrombie & Fitch and try on their jeans since they fit so well when I was 19 ( 9 years ago..) and they were on sale. So in I went. With my 4 year old and 10 month old children. I looked like I belonged on one of those half nude posters on the wall, nary a stitch of black eyeliner or love handle to be seen. I was on point in my oversize Jayhawk t shirt while pushing a stroller.

I found the biggest size they had, pulled them on up sixteen inches, and realized this wasn’t going to happen. Where in the world am I supposed to shop as a 28 year old woman whose bust is deflated, ribcage had expanded, and has clearly long past the days of no hips and going with the ever-changing flow of what’s “in?”  The thought of paying more than $15 for a single item of clothing is irritating. Which is why Target is usually where I grab stuff. I’m already there buying twelve other things I don’t need so why not up that number to fifteen? “Why yes, Handsome Husband, I did need that sweater as I ran in for lotion and a kitchen brush. You’ll  thank  me later when I don’t recycle the same outfit for date night. Target sweaters really scream “We still intentionally purse each other weekly which is why I pulled on this little no-fuss number. You are welcome.”

The craziness of needing to fill my closet brought me to Dillards and Nordstrom- their Juniors sections. Where high school aged kids and sorority homies shop. Places no well intentioned mother should go. I don’t need a shirt that says “Shine Bright Like A Diamond” or “Turn Down For What?” I just need something that pulls up easily so I can feed my kid when he’s thoroughly unimpressed with his surroundings and loose enough for me to chase after a little girl with all day bed hair.

Why can’t I just accept that those clothes are cut for kids. For little girls. For children. I DO NOT HAVE MY LEARNER’S PERMIT! I CAN DRINK BEER WITHOUT A FAKE ID. Heck, I can afford some Dornfelder and a good craft Double IPA-the days of Franzia and Corona are long gone, sister. You have arrived.

I need to shop somewhere that’s not Justice or Gymboree while not yet committing to Talbots or J Crew for all of my outfitting needs. I try to keep my vanity in check but I’m SO OVER TUNICS AND LEGGINGS. I’m tired of them being my default to cover the weight I’m never going to lose from bringing these two baby tornadoes into the world. I’ll make time for Shaun T and his Insanity ways soon enough, but right now, WHERE TO SHOP?!

I need clothes that allow me to feel like I’m not turning into a hag. I’d say there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel confident in your appearance. I don’t live and die by the label on my shirt but in my own experience I feel significantly less guilty about eating extra french fries or dessert for the third time that day if I feel confident in my statement necklace and functional top. And so the journey to Where to Shop continues. Today I’ll lounge in my pajamas without the pressing issue of what to wear in public because my only leggings and yoga capris are in the dryer. And people who can’t wear clothes from Abercrombie have laundry to finish.

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Bittersweet.

When we moved South it was no big deal. My college friends and I had already seperated (though still remained close) despite moving to different states and cities and my new adventure of staying at home with my daughter was going to be awesome. I didn’t realize that I’d hate my new role tending to house cleaning and interacting with a little person who didn’t speak for several months. It took significant time and growing relationships for me to finally feel at home in our new city.

And so the time has come to move on. To move further south. To try and stay home and be a sub-par parent in a new city with no safety net of girlfriends. Girlfriends whose home we can go to at early morning hours I  never saw in college (unless I was still awake from the night before…) while still wearing pajamas and the possibility of teeth not being brushed is high. Though I trust God’s hand in this move I am deeply broken at the though of leaving a group of women who  have sustained me and my family on many levels for the past three years. *Que ugly cry*

This season of making new friends, finding a new church, and living in corporate housing while finding a new home is one that I firmly believe will draw me closer to the Lord. If I’m being honest, forever, I’d rather stick with my bubble of contentment and comfort. Where reading my Bible can be a checking of the box and calling girlfriends to vent can easily end in an impromptu drive to one another’s home. I’m leaving behind a home. One that’s on solid foundation and that I’ve poured myself tirelessly into.

It’s bittersweet, though. I know God’s provision for our family is great. His blessings are many and often appear in ways I never imagine. Girlfriends will come. A church home will happen. Playdates will resume. These friends turned family I leave behind will continue to be a part of our life, though in a different way.  My college friends have met my church friends. My old church friends will have to meet my new church friends. And, I suspect, in a few more years the new church friends will have to meet my New new church friends because we clearly like to buy and sell homes every three years. Seems legit.

The excitement of a new home, granite countertops, more square footage, and finding a Target that suits my needs is plenty but the waves of sadness are still present. I’m not nieve enough to think that we won’t make this place our new home, and I’m deeply convinced that some of the relationships we’ve made are not just because we happen to live in close proximity to one another. My desire to publicly name these women and speak profound volumes on what their influence and presence in my life has done to better me as a woman is high, though the significance of their impact and expressing that is much more suited for something more sentimental, more meaningful.

So here we are mere weeks from packing up and shipping out. I’m on auto pilot making arrangements with the moving company and preparing for extended time moving in with my parents (because being 27 and moving back home is SO cool.) The magnitude of the move has not yet hit me, but when it does, I’m thankful for girlfriends whose relationships are not defined by proximity and  a Father whose comfort is more than enough.

See, What Happened Was…

All too often we build a pedestal for ourselves then climb on top wondering why we hadn’t been up there before. After all, the view is so much better.Sometimes we even snag a bedazzler and a boa and fix it up real pretty like- you know: lots of designer names and stacked rose gold bracelets, Tory Burch flats if you’re really on top.

Even if you sub the Tory for some Target you still wear the flats and look pretty cute in them too (I won’t tell anyone if you’re just trying to hide your peeling toenail polish).

Maybe you use your material wealth to host fancy parties so people will like you and compliment your culinary creations-Guilty. Maybe you use your blog to appear like you’ve got something intelligent to say on parenting, marriage, or Christianity- Guilty. Heck, maybe you even decide your kid can wear her Cinderella dress to Kroger so you can be the portray the image of being the cool mom-Guilty. *sigh*

The point is we purposefully or inadvertently boost ourselves to some sort of standard where people can come to us-like our wisdom or the way we carry ourselves is worth imitating. I’ll concede the notion of “imitate me as I imitate Christ” is a good one, for the right people. People like Matt Chandler, Todd Wagner, Jen Hatmaker, JP Pokluda, Beth Moore, Jim Congdon…you know…people who are too legit to quit. People that are not me.

The humbling experience of taking yourself off your own altar is one worth experiencing, I assure you that much.

See, what happened was, my desire to go before others to secure my reputation, my insecurity that fueled my gossip, and my realization that I’ve built a soapbox in vain was driving my actions far more than my resting exactly where I’m at. Mark 4:19 has begun to describe me all too frequently: “…the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it

Taking the time to do a heart check for motivations, especially in the form of blogging, contributions I add to conversations, or how I spend my down time, is not a new concept for me. Sadly it’s just one I’ve finally become convinced is important. Before we seize, or create, the opportunity to lead others, it’s important to figure out if you’ve put yourself there out of selfish ambition or are truly doing what God has called you to do.

Perhaps you can identify with some of my own motivations: Is your hobby causing arrogance? Is your usage of social media an idol to the point where you know your mindless browsing is hindering your ability to enjoy what God’s laid right before you, be it kids, a husband, or just being still? Are you quick to have all the answers (even if it is abundantly clear to you and everyone else that your homie really should just chill it with the pride and arrogance?) Is it impossible to admit that you’re defensive when pressed to act in a more Christ- honoring way?

My interactions with the world around me are more effective than sitting behind the screen of a Samsung Galaxy. Counsel I give others is more heartfelt when in person and not reduced to a text message or hidden behind passive aggressive thoughts that thankfully never get verbalized. My heart’s desire is to care so little of my own abilities that I become thankful for the desire I have to write and do it to honor God, not to win favor from the world. That may be a lie. OK, it’s a lie. I’m still this side of Heaven so my selfishness is ever-present but certainly will not define me.

I choose to take the opportunity to just listen and yield to what way God will allow me to use my gifts that I enjoy very much. Removing myself from a position to constantly speak on how to do much of anything besides unload the dishwasher correctly, and even that’s up for debate, has been a difficult process. One where I’ve argued with God about whether or not to remain on social media, keep watching Nashville, or whether or not to continue living in the blogosphere. I take my praises and accolades and pridefully feel like the world will simply not go on as it should unless people know the trillion and seven thoughts I have on this life. And the truth that Earth still turns is proof that my contribution to society in the form of a stream of consciousness blurb really isn’t all that significant.

And I’m ok with that.

Just Be Kind

Be-Kind-Quote

source: http://dishondesigngal.com/be-kind-always/

I’d say I pretty consistently rank at an 8.2 on the Nice Scale. I’m exceptionally friendly and outgoing (over the top, even)  in familiar situations but can withdraw a bit when I’m uncomfortable that makes me appear rude and standoffish. I assure you I’m neither. That being said, if I’m only a “B”  on the letter scale of how enjoyable being around me is (and maybe I’m self-scoring too highly) then there’s lots of room for improvement.

I’ve come to realize that every interaction matters. How polite I am when I’m in a rush at the store and the new cashier is being trained is usually directly correlated to how much time I’ve spent in my Bible or how closely I’m abiding with Christ that day. Well, that and my caffeine intake. Regardless, the minuscule comings and goings can be just as relevant as those deep, intimate relationships we have with those around us.

Let me expand.

Today I was blessed to run into a gal from my small group in a first time mama’s group at my church. The gal I ran into is a self-professed non church goer. We saw each other for about an hour a week for nearly two months. The conversations were usually around how the adjustment from having it all together to slowly losing your sleep deprived mind is going. Because our interactions were minimal at best, the role I played as a co-leader of this group was to exchange pleasantries and the like with the long-term goal of the group being to establish rich relationships between mama’s in the same life stage. I was reminded that though we’re acquaintances there’s still such opportunity to be an encouragement and affirm others regardless of how intimately we know one another.

Logistically speaking it’s nearly impossible to create deep, meaningful relationships with each person you meet. Those acquaintances, strangers, and familiar faces that you don’t have a name to put with them yet, are all opportunities to just be kind. To smile and get outside of yourself. Each interaction doesn’t have to be about theology and why not all belief paths lead to Heaven.

I know my insecurities are raised when I’m around thin, beautiful, fashionable women. My deep wounds from childhood still make me, at times, revert back to my 10 year old, blue eye shadow wearing self. Living in an area where elaborate material possessions are on display for all to see it’s hard not to get sucked into the game of “Why Don’t I Have That?” There are many chances for our own preconceived short comings to hinder us from fully engaging with others. Women who could ultimately encourage us to be better, more confident versions of ourselves are in your small groups, the next office over, and on the soccer field.

Maybe tomorrow’s your day to jump from a “6” to an “8” on The Scale. Heck, even from a “0” to a “0.3.” I’m unsure the hurts from your past or the stress of your present situation but I assure you holding the door, taking the cart back to the store, buying a latte, or a quick compliment could be just enough to restore someone’s view that not everything in the world has to be terrible all the time. That kind people do exist. And that you’re one of them.

Notebooks

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I don’t know about you but back to school supply shopping is one of my favorite things to do. I’ve been out of school for several years and I still get giddy with excitement for new pens, notebooks, paperclips, folders, you name it. The brighter the colors the better.

 90s-Lisa-Frank-school-accessories-90565907159

 

 

source:http://hellogiggles.com/90s-back-school-supplies-couldnt-live-without/90s-lisa-frank-school-accessories-90565907159

Don’t act like you didn’t have these. I mean: you made it when you rolled out the Lisa Frank. AND the Trapper Keeper. *sigh* I’m so Uncle Rico. I really peaked in the 90’s with my colorful stuff. I like to think I was just ahead of the times now that my closet looks something like those pencil packs. I’m a walking Rainbow Bright some most days. 

Anywho, I can’t get enough of the Office Supply aisle. I have no less than a trillion and nine notebooks for home school work, Bible study, journaling, “just because”-ing, and “oh that’s cute, surely something important will happen and I’ll need to write it down in this book”-ing.

My name is Elizabeth and I hoard notebooks. 

My intentions are always great. I want to look back on prayers that God has answered that I wrote down months earlier. I  want to have brilliant answers in my small groups at church. I want to have penmanship that doesn’t resemble that of my toddler. In theory, if I could write legibly and be consistent at what I start things would be smooth sailing and we wouldn’t have a small fortune in lined paper with glittery/chevron/polka dot covers. 

These great intentions always start with a great heart. The early mornings with coffee when the house is quiet is so calming. The revelations poured out from the Lord when I am still and let Him be enough are incredible. 

Unfortunately I lack discipline. This particular struggle manifests itself in many areas of my life namely poor food choices, inconsistent exercise, and dusting my furniture. To chalk up this aspect of my life as something that’s just “who I am” doesn’t do me or anyone around me any good. You can get away with poor habits for only so long before their consequences begin to weigh you down. The number on the scale goes up, your clothes fit poorly, your home becomes unsanitary, things just aren’t as they could be.

This has weighed heavily on me for awhile. The notebooks sit half-filled, the pens dry up, and the index cards get strewn about. The evidence of incomplete tasks is undeniable. Why is it we start out with such gusto only to fizzle out and retreat to old, comfortable habits? Not old and comfortable like baggy sweatpants and a pint of Ben and Jerrys, but gross and detrimental. It’s as if chasing after the next thing will finally bring us joy. As if all the joy we need to sustain us isn’t found in God above. How easy it is to forget this. The pleasure of a Pumpkin Spice Latte or a back massage is certainly appealing. And awesome. Heck, it even brings joy, but eventually the Starbucks cup is empty and the masseuse’s (read: husband’s) hands get tired. It all ends. 

My commitment to things being different starts with choosing several times a day to make the right decision. To be disciplined enough to read the Bible before I work, parent my children, love my husband well, offer advice to a girlfriend is something I crave. I’m overwhelmed with excitement to see what God has in store for me and my family. Perhaps tomorrow everything will be taken from me. Perhaps a blessing I couldn’t even dream of is on it’s way. Regardless of what God decides to do with my life I can’t fully praise Him without being diligent in my pursuit of Him.

The Bible is often so…difficult…to desire. I’d be hard pressed sometimes to walk away from a long Pinterest-browsing session feeling the same way I do after reading a seemingly endless geneology of Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Just keepin’ it real, folks. I really like recipes and fashion. I don’t exactly feel as strongly about bloodlines. 

I’m not committing to change the world one blog post at a time. I am committed, however, to fixing the bad habit of inconsistency. If I’m a woman strongly convicted that she needs to be one full of integrity whose word means something then the days of letting other areas be fluid and haphazard have to come to an end.

I’ll probably do a little more damage on the Back to School sale at Target and let Kerrigan help me put the goodies away in just the right spot. I may even share (who am I kidding? I’m not sharing.) I’ll hit snooze a few times on my alarm and be a little angry that morning came so soon. But these lines are getting filled. Filled with observations, awe, answered prayers, anger at the world around me, and intimate thoughts between my Father and me. There will be days, even in succession, that I fail. There’s grace to be given and an understanding that there’s nothing perfect about this journey. I’ll relish this sweet season and be thankful for scribbled in pages that are filled Truth to sustain me when things are not as bright as Lisa Frank. 

 

Dear Elizabeth

As you prepare for your new role as “wife” let me quickly suggest you don’t wear your hair half up on your wedding day. Put it all up. It just doesn’t look right in pictures. Also, ignore Chris when he wants to leave the reception 30 minutes after it starts. Clean the cake off your face he rudely smashed everywhere, and enjoy your day.

Anywho, you, my friend, are blissfully ignorant. In fact, rose colored glasses don’t even begin to describe how nieve you are. You will scream and curse at your husband frequently, and on occasion, become physically aggressive. Your inability to control this other person will deepen your own insecurities and make you think that anything you do will ever change your husband. The movies, your friends, and the internet will tell you if you lose weight, let him have more guy time, cook or clean more that suddenly your relationship will rain sunshine and sugar cookies. This is all lies.

You’ll spend several years feeling inferior because of your salary, your sheltered view of the world around you, and frequent lack of common sense. You’ll allow yourself to be defined by mistakes of your past and try futile attempts to be your version of good enough for your husband. Logging miles on the treadmill and pushing yourself on the bench press will only remind you that though you’re naturally athletic, you don’t possess the mental discipline to stick with any fitness plan. Scouring cookbooks for new recipes only to substitute vinegar for cooking wine will yield the worst Chicken Piccata ever served-but your husband will eat it and thank you for the meal. You’ll compare your career in Social Work to those women who are climbing the corporate ladder with your man and decide your heart to serve and love others is inferior to creating Excel documents.

I know right now this sounds ridiculous because you have a large group of friends that are the opposite sex but hear me when I say, “Do not be alone with another man.” Though this is pretty out of left field, just trust me. This includes while at work behind closed doors. This includes dinner. This includes shopping. Your intentions are likely pure but Satan is sneaky and you possess the ability to be gullible and think simply loving your husband is enough to keep you from wondering “what if” about anyone else. The boundaries you set with other men will speak loudly to those around you of your awareness that sin does not discriminate. That you are just as likely to fall prey to the sweet-sounding words offered by a man as anyone else. You are not above temptation but you are capable of limiting those possibilities.

When you say “divorce isn’t an option” don’t throw it around as a threat in your arguments. If it’s not an option then it’s simply not. It doesn’t matter how sad, mad, irritated, embarrassed, frustrated you are. It is not  an option. Not funny. (Side note: you’ll be the only one who throws that phrase around. Chris is a man of his word. Kiss him for that. A few times.)

 

Despite the sub-par view you have of yourself, your husband will continue to validate and encourage you. It won’t be enough. Regardless of the amount of positive reinforcement you’ll get from those around you, you’ll continue in a works based system of approval, directly correlating any good that happens to something nice you’ve done for another. This warped mindset of love and acceptance will continue as you grow into your position in motherhood.

At some point you’ll grow up and realize that because of your short comings, not despite them, you are in a position to speak boldly about the transforming power of Christ. The anger and control issues you struggle with will be a thorn in your flesh, one you constantly battle and frequently ask forgiveness for. You’ll begin to grapple with the concept of abounding grace and new mercies. The sin nature you were born with will not control or define you. Because of Christ alone you’re not defined by that.

The man you married is one of noble character. One whose dedication to his faith, family, and profession is strong. The man you married is also flawed, he can be selfish and is extremely strong-willed. Together your ability to face conflict will become one of your strong points because of the frequency you’re working through it. Eventually you’ll stop storming out of the house and packing bags as if you really have somewhere to go. Stay your butt at home, work it out, and move on. Put on your big girl pants, own your feelings and humble yourself.

Trust me when I say you’ll be far more comfortable in your skin when you’re a size 10 and not a 4. You’ll see your creativity in the kitchen as a way to bless and serve others, not as a way to build your self esteem. Your commitment to your husband will be the strongest asset you bring to your family.You will create an environment for your children that lets them know that when their mom and dad made a covenant vow in front of God and their family-and sticking to it-it meant something. You will be consistent in your discipline of your children-frequently working through teachable moments but often out of anger. These opportunities to ask for forgiveness and model tangible examples of Christ’s grace and mercy will be infinitely more valuable to their character shaping then pretending you’re a perfect Mama.

Enjoy this life you’re creating with this wonderful man. Cuddle your babies just a little longer. Take naps with them. Wake up early and have some tea and a stroopwafel and just thank Jesus that you’re exactly where you are. Watch a movie on the couch with your husband (falling asleep doesn’t count.) Call your girlfriends–you’re a grown woman, Facebook is not a substitute. Don’t forget the importance of initiating conflict resolution and assuming the best in others. You’ve got a journey ahead of you, girlfriend, I suggest you slap on some lip gloss and bring a latte for good measure. You’ll need the energy to handle the beautiful, beautiful chaos.

 

Cookiepalooza!

Today 8 mama’s and 15 kiddos gathered in my home for Cookiepalooza-a wheels-off dessert fest of epic proportions. There was zero lack of calorie consumption going on.  Great times were had by all, kids will likely pass out from their sugar overload and sprinkler jumping.

Here’s some of  the recipes, Mama’s!

 

Brown Butter Salted Caramel Cookies -From Two Peas and Their Pod

ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose Gold Medal flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, sliced
1 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
1 cup caramel squares, cut into 1/4’s

For Rolling the Cookies:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Sea salt, for sprinkling on top of cookies

directions:

1. In a medium bowl, Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

2. To brown the butter, heat a thick-bottomed skillet on medium heat. Add the sliced butter, whisking frequently. Continue to cook the butter until melted. The butter will start to foam and browned specks will begin to form at the bottom of the pan. The butter should have a nutty aroma. Watch the butter carefully because it can go from brown to burnt quickly. Remove butter from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the brown butter and sugars. Mix until blended and smooth. Beat in the egg, yolk, vanilla, and yogurt and mix until combined. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

4. Form the dough in a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. You can chill the dough overnight.

5. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Measure about 2 tablespoons of dough and roll into balls. Flatten the ball with the palm of your hand and place a piece of caramel in the center of the dough. Wrap the cookie dough around the caramel, making sure the caramel is completely covered with dough.

6. In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar. Roll the balls in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place dough balls on a large baking sheet that has been lined with aSilpat baking mat or parchment paper. Make sure the cookies are about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle the cookie tops with sea salt.

7. Bake the cookies 8-10 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown. The centers will still be soft. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes, or until set. Transfer cookies to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.

(Note: I refrigerated the dough overnight, flattened them a bit to sprinkle the coarse sea salt and baked them for only 8 min) 

Blueberry Sour Cream Bars– From My Recipes.com

  • Crust:
  • 4.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup) $
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats $
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice $
  • Cooking spray $
  • Filling:
  • 1 1/3 cups dried cranberries (about 6 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup sour cream 
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind 
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten 

Preparation

  1. 1. Preheat oven to 325°.
  2. 2. To prepare crust, weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through cinnamon) in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Drizzle butter and juice over flour mixture, stirring until moistened (mixture will be crumbly). Reserve 1/2 cup oat mixture. Press remaining oat mixture into the bottom of an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.
  3. 3. To prepare filling, combine cranberries, sour cream, granulated sugar, and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well. Spread cranberry mixture over prepared crust; sprinkle reserved oat mixture evenly over filling. Bake at 325° for 40 minutes or until edges are golden. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
  4. Cherry-Oatmeal Bars: Substitute dried cherries for the dried cranberries and lemon rind for the orange rind in filling.

(Note: I omitted orange juice from the crust and orange rind from the filling and substituted dried blueberries for cranberries. I also did not reserve crust mixture for a topping and instead drizzled 4 oz white chocolate chips mixed with 2 T shortening melted together for a glaze.)

 

10 Things That Simply Must Stop

1. Oreos that are not “Double Stuf.”

For various reasons like “stuff’ has two “f’s” not one and the cookie to vegetable shortening creamy center ratio is simply unacceptable without the extra saturated fat. Everyone knows the center is the best part. True story: I used to sit in my room in elementary school with a bag of Oreos, scrape out the filling from every single cookie and roll it in a ball. The cookies would get trashed and the filling would be stored in the fridge for me to eat. Don’t judge me.

2. Crop top shirts and dressing half your age

We all realize you’re paying the same price for half the material to slightly cover your body, yes? It’s both financially irresponsible and ridiculous looking. Put some clothes on, girls!

3. Selfies

Not the kind of pictures you have to take because you’re finally on a date with your husband in forever but the kind that get posted to social media twelve times a day with duck lips, peace signs, or other overplayed poses. I can get off my anti-selfie high horse for a minute if you’re having a good hair day, feeling exceptionally good looking and are finally confident for what may be the first time in who knows how long. Otherwise you’re just being narcissistic. Stop that.

4. Body shaming

That body with love handles, a six pack, double chin, or high cheek bones is a gift. I don’t care if you do CrossFit or just have the Couch to 5K app on your phone with no intention of using it-that body is made to do miraculous things. You woke up this morning-what a blessing-now stop complaining and embrace the rolls and muscles.

5. Pretending everything’s OK-or everything is perpetually awful

If you have no flaws then let me gently suggest you struggle with pride. If your life is seriously falling apart-I feel for you, sister. It’s a leap of faith to be fully and intimately known. It’s also the most rewarding relational gift I’ve been given in the context of community and marriage. Support groups like Re:Generation, Celebrate Recovery, and the like are probably in your area. Don’t struggle alone. And don’t attempt to fool anyone else into thinking you never do.

6. Going to Target “for a couple of things”

This will never happen.

7. Not prioritizing alone time with your spouse

I assure you my marriage is the most conflict-filled when we’re the most children-centered. I’m not sure what intentional time in your marriage looks like but the grandeur of date nights pre-kids is probably out of the question. Spending $50 on a sitter just to go to dinner and a movie is not a good stewarding of our resources. Hello, mommy friends and the free babysitting swap! Set a blanket in your room, lock the door, get some cookies, cheese, wine, or Squeeze-It’s and have a conversation. You know what? You can even flirt a bit with your man. It’s allowed! After years of marriage you don’t have to be a fuddy duddy.

8. Paying $5 for a latte

I have bought the lie that 1 oz. espresso, 10 oz. milk and 2 oz. flavored syrup is a good value at $5. Granted the effects of my being caffeinated help keep my kids alive during the day but the reality that I can make my own, and better, at home for half the price weights heavily on me. Coffee shop trips for me are now a treat-not something I’m entitled to. And I make really awesome chai so keeping that as a staple in the fridge is uber helpful for a mid-day pick me up.

9. Not supporting your friends

I have a few girlfriends who are my biggest cheerleaders. Between linking my blog to their social media pages, encouraging me via text, or sending a gift card in the mail “just because,” they really make a girl feel loved. It’s easy to let the gifts and kind words get in the way of being equally supportive. Go to Target. Add a $10 gift card to the list of ” a couple things” and bless a sister. Actually call the gal, set up a lunch date (probably at Chick-Fil-A) so the kids can run amok) and foot the bill. Watch her kids so she can have a Mommy Morning. Put yourself aside for these gals. They’re pretty much amazing in every way.

10. Thinking you’ll ever have it all together

When you’re excelling at physical fitness, loving your man well, parenting, pursuing Christ, making advances in your career, etc. something else is failing. It’s just the truth. There’s no way to have Miranda Kerr’s body, have enough date nights or intentional time  with your kids while being as devoted to the Lord or having a spotless home all at the same time. It just can’t. And that’s OK. Something’s gotta give. Deciding your priorities (do you pick up the kitchen or play Elefun? Do you go on a date alone with your husband or have a family night out? Do you waste time on the internet or have quality time with Jesus?) will free you from the daunting task of wearing a trillion and seven hats. You’re probably a wife, mom, sister, and friend all at the same time during some point during the day. Being aware of your limitations will allow you to excel in areas you’re responsible for and get rid of the burden that the trash still is in the garage or you’re rewashing the same load of laundry for the third time.

 

Are We Done Yet?

Talk about baby #3 has been happening in our home lately.

Side note to my mom: I know you’re thrilled. We may even have five just to keep those grand kids rolling in 🙂 (There’s significant sarcasm here).

Anywho, my swearing up and down that I’ll never have another natural childbirth has proven me a liar. This is our plan again. It’s not the delivery that’s stalling my desire to try to bring another life into our family, rather it’s the whole being pregnant thing. There are few things I loathe in this world. The top of my list includes the state of Missouri, Costco on the weekends (or anytime really), packing for vacation, and being pregnant. I get irritable just thinking about it.

Our logic up until this point is we’d get the having toddlers part of parenting “over with” so we can “move on” with our lives i.e. vacation, ease in travel, sanity in the evenings, sleeping in, you know-our own comfort.

This morning I’m convicted of our outlook. I’m convicted of the selfishness in my heart. I’m convicted that I’ve been rushing my children to grow up so I can sleep more, exercise (ha!), have my house in order, my whatever, my this, my that, my, my, my. *Sigh*

I have not treasured as well as I should have the past 3 1/2 years with our daughter and 5 months with our son. I’m all at the same time ready for K to be in school and fearful at the thought of her being gone all day. I’ve begun feeding our son solids and been cranky that he’s so attached to me that I’m the only one who can put him to sleep at night. My resentment to not having what I think as enough time for myself and the things I want to do has become painfully clear to me. As C still wakes once or twice in the night and K  wakes up in the morning with the energy of an entire pep rally rolled into one little body, I find myself looking for some peace.

Trying to create peace looks like being absent, mentally and physically. I’m just hoping that we can get on to the next phase so our life will have ease. The Bible assures me this side of Heaven that is impossible. It’s never gonna happen. Sure, there will be periods of stillness and each part of my life should be abounding with joy, but the reality is my life is just going to be pure chaos until I choose to embrace this season and not wish it away.

The wretchedness of my own heart is so clear. I have many friends who would give their material possessions for a life with two off the wall children. I have friends with children who are not healthy. I live many hours from both sets of my children’s grandparents and I assure you they’d love to snag them all day, every day, just to cuddle them. Lately I have done a poor job of appreciating my gifts. And I am sad.

Our next child, God willing, will be another layer of pandemonium. We will embark on waking every hour or two through the night for six weeks. We will navigate through potty training and attempting to keep two other munchkins from burning the house down or injuring each other while I nurse the new baby. We will not spend enough alone time with each child because we’ll have to decide whose immediate needs or “needs” should be tended to first. Our attempts to have intentional, quality time with each child individually while also figuring out how to incorporate play with a newborn, toddler, and a preschooler will probably make me lose a few brain cells.

But this is just a season, and what should be a sweet season. One we aren’t rushing through to get on to our own personal preferences on scheduling and life living, rather, one that relishes the moments, tantrums and all, and thanks God for the opportunity to be trusted with their sweet little spirits. When they’re slamming doors, going through a break up, or fighting with friends, we’ll probably wish they could just be toddlers again to shield them from the pain of the world.

So today I choose to not see hauling my children in the car to run errands or picking up the living room for the 28th time today as an inconvenience. I choose to teach our daughter more skills of self-sufficiency by having her help clean. I choose to make our errands a learning opportunity-even if it’s just “Hiding in the Rounders at Nordstrom is not a Fun Game for Mama. Now Get Out.”  I’ll let C sleep on me just a little longer, because despite his deceptive man-child size, he’s still just a baby. I’ll continue to be prayerful about God’s will and timing to bring another child into our family in an effort to keep my hedonistic outlook on our family in check. Hopefully waiting for our life to resemble what it used to is rejecting God’s gift and essentially telling Him He’s got it all wrong.

We’ll deal with the early, or late, bedtimes and the crying for seemingly no reason. We’ll cherish the hugs and the “I love you’s.”  We’ll watch no less than a trillion and seven episodes of Daniel Tiger or Sofia the First. We’ll get spit up and peed on. We’ll go to bed exhausted knowing we worked hard serving our family-knowing full well that one last cuddle and and drink of water provides our children with a great sense of love and safety.I want to keep being just a kiss away from making injuries feel better. I want to be one feeding away from providing comfort to our son. I want to just enjoy being enough to be able to meet so many of their needs.

So, are we done yet? I sure hope not.

Culinary Weekend-Farmer’s Market Date

This week/weekend was such fun. Chris and I had an at-home date night on Wednesday-complete with Truffle cheese, candied figs, and a delicious sour beer. We’ve had to get creative in how we spend time together since C’s bedtime routine starts about an hour after Chris gets home and K follows suit not long after. By the end of the day I’m spent and since we eat dinner at 5:30 I’m usually looking for some sort of snack before bed. Chris has really been into some series on TV that’s all sci-fi or war centered so I take the opportunity to prop myself up with pillows on the floor, hand him the lavender oil, and get a massage. It’s a win-win.

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Thursday I made a batch of Two Peas and Their Pod’s Oatmeal Cranberry Sandwich Cookies. My take away-more cranberries, less sugar in the filling. Chris took the left overs to work because neither he nor I could restrain ourselves. I think there were maybe five left by the end of the day. So good. So very good.

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For the first time in 3 1/2 years K got a haircut. By me. My calling is not in cutting my own hair but since I regularly cut Chris’s I figured I could try my skills on my preschooler. I cut off a little more than I planned but it turned out great and she thinks she’s the coolest kid on the block with her shorter locks. High five, self!

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We had Chicken Schwarma this week, too. K is learning to be more helpful at dinner time with unloading the dishwasher and setting the table. See below. It has been nice to have her help while I prep dinner. She helped me decide when the tzatziki was done and ate nearly an entire cucumber for dinner. That girl loves herself some cucumbers!

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Chicken Schwarma

Ingredients

1/2 c greek yogurt

1 T salt

3 T schwarma seasoning

1 T vinegar or lemon juice

1/3 c olive oil

3 lb chicken breast

Method

1. Combine yogurt, salt, schwarma seasoning, vinegar/lemon juice, and oil in a storage container. Mix well.

2. Thinly slice chicken and place in marinade, making sure to coat well. Refrigerate overnight.

3. Heat a large skillet and dump chicken and marinade mixture in it. Cook on medium heat until heated through-about 25 minutes.

4. Serve on pita with tzatziki, cucumber, tomato, onion, olives, and/or hummus.

Tzatziki

Ingredients

1 large cucumber

1 c whole milk greek yogurt

juice of 1 lemon

salt and pepper to taste

1 T olive oil

1/2 t each-dill, mint, tarragon

Method

Mix all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Allow to sit for one hour, minimum, before serving.

 

On Friday I realized I needed to use a spaghetti squash and bunch of kale I had bought during last weekend’s grocery trip. Chris has a leftover chicken breast from his lunches and I  had a little bacon from breafkast so Crazy “Spaghetti” was born.

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Crazy “Spaghetti”

Ingredients

1 large spaghetti squash, cooked and scraped out

3 slices bacon-cut and fried

1 large chicken breast-diced

1/2 white onion-diced

1 t each-salt, pepper, parsley, paprika, garlic

1 c cherry tomatoes

1 bunch kale

1/4 c kalamata olives

3 oz goat cheese

Method

1. Fill a large baking dish with 2″ water. Slice squash in half and remove seeds. Place squash cut side down and bake at 400 until tender, about one hour.

2. In a pan sautee bacon, onion, chicken, and seasonings until warmed through. Add tomatoes and kale. Cover to allow kale to reduce in size-about five minutes.

3. Remove squash from flesh and place in a cast iron skillet or baking dish. Top with kale and chicken mixture. Add olives and goat cheese if desired.

4. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes until warmed through.

 

Saturday our sweet friends took both our kiddos for the morning to Chris and I could check out a local farmer’s market. After stocking up on some Meyer Lemon Rosemary bread to snack on as we looked around and some other yumminess to take home, we continued our date into the evening. The steaks, mushrooms, garlic, and onions were all cooked in a cast iron skillet. We also had Wagyu beef and some jalapeno cheddar bread along side the homegrown tomatoes with balsamic vinegar. I think we both could have eaten another serving of each but showed restraint given I had just baked a double batch of Buttermilk Apple Cake.

 

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Buttermilk Apple Cake

Cake Ingredients

13 T butter

3/4 c granulated sugar

3/4 c brown sugar

2 whole eggs plus 2 yolks

1 T vanilla extract

1 1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1 T cinnamon

1 t cardamom

1 1/2 t salt

3 c flour

1 1/2 c buttermilk

Apple Mixture

4 apples, peeled and thinly sliced

1/3 c brown sugar

1 T cinnamon

1/4 t each-clove, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, salt

1 oz Crown Royal (or other whiskey)

1/2 c orange juice

 

Method

1. Cream together butter, sugar, and salt.

2. Mix in baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and cardamom

3.  Add in eggs one at a time and mix until well incorporated.

4. Starting with the flour in 1 c increments alternate flour and buttermilk (in 1/2 c increments) until all combined-ending with the buttermilk.

5. Spread in a well greased 13×9 baking dish.

6. Peel, core, and thinly slice four apples.

7. Combine whiskey, orange juice, sugar, and spices in a large bowl. Add apples and coat well. Place apples on cake, pressing in slightly.Reserve leftover juice mixture.

8. Bake at 325 until done-about one hour. Serve warm with reserved juice/whiskey mixture.

 

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I was so stoked to find this White Mountain ice cream maker while we were at the Market. It was the exact one we had when I was a kid. The hours I spent sitting on that thing waiting to lick the paddles are filled with fond memories. I immediately sent it to my dad and got caught up in the nostalgia of it.

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Sunday dinner:gumbo! We opted to not fry the okra from the Market and instead go Cajun. No recipe since Chris was in charge. Our Sunday was jam packed with deep cleaning the attic, cars, and house so a pot of goodness on the stove waiting for us after we finished being good stewards of our home (since I drop the ball all week long) was perfect.

I was craving a chai latte and refuse to pay the exuberant price for the Tazo stuff so I whipped up a batch to have on hand during the week. I’m on a cooking roll this week, y’all!

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Chai Tea

Ingredients

2 family sized tea bags

8 cups water

1/2 c brown sugar

1/4 c granulated sugar

2 t cinnamon

1/2 t each-black pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, clove

Method

1. Stir together all ingredients in a pot and allow to simmer on low for 15 min.

2. Using a tea strainer or sifter, pour tea into a pitcher allowing excess spices to be caught by the strainer.

3. Serve warm with frothed milk or cold over ice. I find using a 1/2 milk to 1/2 chai concentrate makes it too “milky.” Mix and match with the milk/tea ratio to find your favorite balance!

 

 

Finally, I remembered some amazing goat cheese samples I had at the Market and decided I could do a decent job trying to recreate something simliar. Blueberry-Cranberry Balsamic Goat Cheese Spread was born. It’s safe to say I’ll be eating that in place of a meal several times this week. Pretty sure my new favorite anything has goat cheese in it. Behold, the creamy goodness! (Can’t you tell we just love Costco in this house?!)

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Cranberry-Blueberry Balsamic Goat Cheese Spread

Ingredients

10.5 oz goat cheese

4T each, dried cranberries and dried blueberries

4T water

2 t honey

1 t balsamic vinegar

1/2 t salt

Method

1. On medium heat stir together water and dried fruit until reconstituted-approximately 5 minutes

2. Using a blender mix together goat cheese, honey, balsamic and salt until creamy.

3. Strain out berries from water and stir into cheese mixture. Serve on sourdough crisps, a baguette, or as a fruit/vegetable tray dip.