Dear Reader – (day 9) Guerrilla Love

Dear Reader

I wasn’t sure if I would write about this here, but I went to our small group this morning and it’s the only thing on my mind right now. If I don’t write about this, I’m going to end up writing about my messy house or how I don’t feel like working out or how I ate too much junkfood this weekend – and we’ve already done all those things too many times.

So here it is. You’re going to get what’s on my mind.

As a group, we are supposed to decide on a project we can do to reach out to the community. We’re supposed to dream big and expect large and seemingly impossible results. We are supposed to decide and move forward and watch God go to work as we move to intentionally love the world around us.

This is the thing though.

I don’t know if I can dream big and impossible right now. I don’t know if that is really what God is asking of me at the moment.

I don’t know if I’m really supposed to focus my efforts on something that feels so big I can barely wrap my brain around it, and it makes me feel like I’m being sucked down a vortex as I puff a brown paper bag.

I understand what the author is trying to do. I get it, and I don’t totally disagree.

I just partly disagree, for me, right now.

Because I just came to understand that it’s OK to look at my life in the context of seasons. My season is not the same as your season, or my pastor’s season, or my group leader’s season, or my bff’s season. It’s ok if I can’t do it all. God loves me anyway. I don’t have to perform. My season is one with four school aged kids, nighttime activities, trying to provide home cooked meals, and civil homework time. I’m trying to keep Loving Mama in the house instead of Mama Grizzly.

It’s a season where I consciously chose not to go back to the shelter this school year because I felt I needed to be available to help out in the kids’ elementary and because I felt a stirring in my heart to make art with an abandon I’ve never afforded myself. These are all things I chose carefully and prayerfully.

Less. More focused. Reign in my orbit and do smaller but more genuine things.

So why now, am I in this group whose purpose is to focus out and big?

I don’t know if I can go big or go home. If they make me chose, I might have to go home.

And this is where guerrilla love occurred to me.

Why not stay right here in my community. duh.

And know these people well. duh.

And find out how I can best love them? duh.

Why don’t I: JUST. DO. THAT?

I don’t know if this defeats the purpose of the study. We are all supposed to do a project together.

But what if we all chose to Guerrilla Love?

What would that look like?

15 people loving ferociously and on the sly.

It might look like showing up unexpectedly to stock the freezer of a recently widowed friend with 3 homemade soups, 12 burritos, 2 roast chickens, 3 lasagnas and 3 batches of Picadillo.

It might look like muffins for the security guards at school, who keep our children safe.

It might look like hand-written notes to the people in our lives who changed us at our core.

It might look like a phone call to a friend who’s battling depression.

It might look like taking a few extra minutes after class to hug the friend who just lost her sister in a car crash.

It might look like donating funds for a sick mama.

It might look like making a CD crammed full of inspiring music for a friend whose spirits need lifting.

It might look like babysitting for a mom who’s been pent-up with her sick kids for 2 weeks.

It might look like showing up with a take-home dinner for your little one’s teacher who you just learned leaves her house at 6:30 AM with her two littles and doesn’t return home again till 8:30PM, then turns around and does it all again the next day.

It might mean sending an encouraging note to someone who’s doing a hard thing right now.

It might mean having meaningful conversation with the grocery store clerk and learning that she’s having surgery in a week, and maybe she could use a help picking her kids up from school.

It might mean taking several minutes to put away your phone and focus here and now on these people under your roof. To look them in the eyes, touch their cheeks and really hear how their day went.

And if that’s all from one person in one week – all those lives touched, about 20 – if each of our 15 people chose to consciously Guerilla Love –  that’s 300 people whose hearts have been touched.

Those are some staggering numbers. And this is how God speaks. Through us.

At first glance, it might seem small fry. . . But I don’t think it is. These are things that matter. They’re things that people will feel, genuinely. These things require us to connect, to invest, to care.  And whatever we choose to do now, for this project – it’s supposed to be something sustainable.

Isn’t this how we want to live, truly? With our eyes open, appreciating, loving, aware?

While I’m in this season, I think I can actually do this. This doesn’t feel like a vortex suck, this feels like an exhale.

I can manage this. I want to do this. I already believe in this, but now is the time to DO it instead of just think it.

Sign me up for Guerrilla Love.

Dear Reader (day 5) – It was that kind of morning.

Dear Reader

Dear Reader –

We had a “trenches” kind of morning earlier this week.

This is where it gets tricky for me, because I want to tell you all the details of the ridiculous drama that took place  in our house as we prepared for school, because here, truly, you’d be able to nod your head (especially mammas of little people) and say, “Oh heck yes, I know (or remember) those days.”

But out of respect for all the people under my roof who never chose to have a blog, some things must remain rather vague.

Let’s just say, there were over-tired people (hello. . . ME TOO) and there was an overabundance of stooooopid, yet normal and age appropriate, FREAKING OUT happening at too high a decibel. (I don’t know how much freaking out is apropos at my age, but I’m sure I hit the nail on the head as well. . . . )

And I lost my cool.  I lost my noodle. I lost my *!@%.

I might have, in a very loud and not very nice voice, threatened to carry someone into school, crying or not, and still wearing pajamas, plop them in front of the teacher, and walk away.

I’m not proud of this, but I don’t feel particularly remorseful either. The offender was wrong, and I was right. (Of course.)

But this is the reality of having kids. I don’t like when we have mornings like this, and I usually walk away from them feeling a little heart-sick. Sometimes it’s just how it goes though.

Thankfully these types of shenanigans don’t happen every day. If  they did, you might find me in a straight jacket instead of comfy old sweat pants every morning.

We laughed our keisters off when our brother and sister-in-law shared this video with us.

Whether you have kids or not, (They don’t, and – obvs – we do) it’s for sure worth the 7 or so minutes. (It’s very clean, as far as modern comic acts go.  There are a couple itty bitty bad words in there; the s-word, and on more mild one I think – but no F-bombs. Use your own judgement if kids are within earshot.)

It’s appropriately called, “What People With No Kids Don’t Know”.

“Ah yes. People who don’t have kids. There is so much you never even knew you didn’t know,” I thought that morning as I dropped my little nuggets off at school – no one crying, red eyes gone, giggling, climbing rocks, small-talking about the scary animal dreams they have on occasion. . . . No one would ever have guessed the chaos that blew through our house 20 minutes before.

These are the times where I’m so thankful for Grace – from up above and from all these people I get to call my own.

Back to the Blog – Part I

sunrise

Ohmygoshitsbeen4months!! (PLUS!!)

I’m telling you, I’ve popped over here a few times just to check in and see what’s happening. I’ve fiddled around on the “new post” page, as though I were going to write something.

Ha! As though.

The thing is, I had no idea where to (re)start.

Summer? It was long, and really – honestly! – wonderful. We traveled more than usual, we barely did anything when we were home, and I was nowhere near ready for the kids to go back to school when they did. In fact, I suffered a minor emotional breakdown at 11pm on the eve of the first day, I was so not ready for school to start yet. It felt like we barely had any time off, and I said so much (and much, much more) to my husband, who found me to be an odd and unpredictable creature in that moment. He had no idea who I was. It’s not unlike me to happily participate in a champagne toast with my girlfriends to celebrate the first day send-off. Not this year folks. I’m slowly figuring out what is causing this emotional unrest, and I’m pretty sure it has to do with the fact that I’ve been in full-time mommy mode for 17 years and counting, and I’m itching to be a “grown up” and do grown-uppy kinds of things (basically: hone skills beyond wiping bottoms and policing homework). At the same time, I’m hyper aware that this is the last year of all six of us under this one small and precious roof. In a few fragile months, our biggest will be off in the real world living his own grown-up life, and that’s crazy scary/exciting/sad/amazing. It’s the first year of not having a little-ish wing man (or girl) with me everywhere I go, every second of the day, which is liberating/sad/exciting. . . . As a family, we’re playing with the idea of moving to a house that works better for our family in as many ways as possible. But have I ever told you how I feel about change? I don’t like it. I like predictability. I like what I know. I don’t like having to put on big girl pants and do the stressful grown up things like – oh, I dunno – find a house and a community where we can best raise our family/grow into old, wrinkled grandparents together (maybe), weighing pros and cons of schools, commute times, old neighborhoods vs. sprawling suburbia, distance from friends and established relationships, plus honor All The Feelings regarding necessity vs. overindulgence? That’s a lot of pressure. You know what happened to me last time we moved – 13 years ago?? Migraines. Lots of migraines. Do you sense the trouble I’m having with my emotions at the moment? Grown-up vs. not-grown-up? #reallife

Books? I read like it was my (part-time) job this summer.

Orphan Train (can I just say yes? Go get it, and read it. Lose yourself and feel all the feelings. It’s beautiful.)

Dancing on Broken Glass (I wanted to love it, I really did. I’d give it a solid 7 out of 10. The writing style was engaging, and the light shed on bi-polar disorder was eye-opening, but, I dunno. It just wasn’t all there for me to feel emotionally attached to it from now until forevermore – like The Help, and Kitchen House, and Me Before You.

Wearing God – oh my. It’s on my “must read again” list because – well: 1) big words and 2) so much to think about 3)it’s so poetically composed I’m certain I missed a few big points purely because I was simply swept along by her writing. This one gets a permanent spot on my bookshelf where I’ll go back to the oldies but goodies over and over again.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up – ummm, yes. Let me just say: You’re supposed to work start to finish on one particular category and finish in one day. My closet took me three between all the snack-getting and child-shuttling and play dates. It was a disaster during all those middle hours, and I was fairly ruthless with my discarding. Out of just my own closet and drawers (and I don’t have much storage space!) I eliminated nearly eight kitchen garbage bags full of clothing and shoes I wasn’t using because of the way they made me feel. And I don’t miss them. This was the state of things mid-project:

tidying in action

Don’t be jealous. . . .

I moved on to the kids’ closets the next week, and accumulated another 4 bags. I’m not finished yet – the next phase is books, and I know I’m going to need to be ruthless all over again. I just know being ruthless with books is going to be much more of an emotional challenge for me. . . .

For the Love –  I’m such a fan girl of Jen Hatmaker, it’s almost embarrassing. Along with thousands of other women, I secretly wish she could be my new best friend.  I snort-laughed my way through her chapters on turning 40 and the atrocious fashions these days, and I felt real knots of tension and guilt unravel through her chapters on calling and motherhood. Oh! And I made the Beef Bourgiunon on page 40. I might still be dreaming about it. . . .

Bittersweet, by Shauna Niequist. I want Shauna on my BFF list too. Her writing is just so genuine and true. I found this book at the library after reading Bread and Wine (which I also LOVED) and once I finished it, I promptly ordered two more for dear women in my life.

Currently, I’m in the middle of Show Your Work, Simply Tuesday, and Tattoos on the Heart.

There’s so much more to catch up on, friends – but this post is getting too, too long.

Check back soon, because we’re catching up in installments. Part II will be coming shortly – and in that one, there will be cake!!

xoxo!

After the Absence

Heart shaped leaf

I took an unintentional leave of absence. (Leaf of absence? Heh, heh. . . . )

It wasn’t pre-planned or meditated, it just happened as I sunk into life and let myself figure a few things out by mostly unplugging. (Instagram has been my tether to the Internets).

Continue reading

Crock Pot Chicken and Mushroom Ragu

Slow Cooker Chicken and Mushroom Ragu

Sometimes I wish I could travel back in time.

Like, I wish I could sit in the crowded bleachers at my dad’s high school football game and watch him run the one and only touchdown my mom ever witnessed.

I wish I could sit in my grandparents’ Latin class and watch my grandpa ask my grandma out on a date over and over and over again until finally, one day, she turned the tables and asked him to a Sadie Hawkins dance.

I wish I could  walk the 7th grade hallways with my husband, in his Z Cavariccis and spiked hair, and meet the teacher that would eventually inspire him into the field of oncology.

I wish I could flash back to a barn dance in the 1940’s and watch my mom’s parents tear up the floor with their jitterbug.

I wish I could be seven years old again, playing outside in the summer time with my sister and making mud-pies with a hidden center of saw dust.

I wish I could revisit the births of each of my children and hold their tiny, warm, squishy bodies and smell their little baby smells and stroke their tiny little baby fingers.

Sometimes, I wish I could be a teenager again. Sixteen and sleeping in. SLEEPING IN.

Do I need to say it again?

Sometimes, I think I’d like to go back to our newlywed apartment, to the fresh married years where I was an excellent housekeeper and we had a retro 1960’s glass dining table with olive-green velvet chairs, one whole living room wall was devoted to toddler artwork, and we had a spare bedroom. Spare. Room. . . .

Sometimes it’s simpler. Like I wish I could rewind just an hour or two and not say that awful embarrassing thing I said. I wish I could shake my head like and etch-a-sketch and just erase. ERASE!

Sometimes, I’d just like to travel back twelve or 24 months, and invite the myself to dinner at my house then – because I just browsed over the last two years of July foods, and I want to eat them again. Heirloom tomato flatbreads? Pesto Guacamole? Summer squash and corn chowder? Veggie stuffed pasta shells? Sweet potato chips and creamy avocado dip?? Yes, please. To all of them.

And this one? This chicken and mushroom ragu? Well, it wasn’t too long ago that it sat, steaming on the kitchen counter, but I’d go back to it in a flash. Tender chicken pulled into delicate shreds, Italian sausage spicing up each bite, Parmesan cheese and fresh basil sprinkled over the top – making the whole dish fresh and bright. . . .

And the flavors get better as the daysslow cooker chicken and mushroom ragu go by, so YES TO LEFTOVERS!! (T-shirt, anyone?)

Whether you like it piled over rice or pasta or served alone with some crusty bread, it’s all up to whatever your seasonal little heart desires – and the whole crock pot situation means it’s a goodie in the summer OR the winter. So yes – future me will be revisiting this one come November or February, or. . . next week.

Crock Pot Chicken and Mushroom Ragu

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 4 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: 10-12 servings

Crock Pot Chicken and Mushroom Ragu

This is a great dish for summer (no kitchen heat in the hot evening!) or winter - (hot, comforting supper!), but most of all, it's easy enough for a weeknight and it makes a gigantic batch. With one batch, we feed a family of six with enough left over for another night or lots of lunches - and as it "ages" it becomes even more flavorful. You can freeze your leftovers, or refrigerate them and use them within a few days.

Ingredients

  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 1 large (or 2 small) Yellow onion, peeled, and cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 (12 oz. package) AidellsItalian Chicken Sausage, sliced into discs
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 (26 ounce) carton Pomi finely chopped tomatoes
  • 12 ounces sliced button mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup minced fire-roasted red pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, and roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6-8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (equaling roughly 2 lbs)
  • additional salt to taste
  • fresh, chopped basil for garnish
  • fresh grated parmesan for garnish
  • pasta or rice prepared according to package directions.

Directions

Heat a 10" skillet over medium heat.

Add bacon slices, and cook till crisp.

Remove bacon from skillet to paper towel. (When cool, crumble and add to the crock pot.)

Add onions. Allow wedges to brown well, turn, and brown on other side.

Remove onions to crock pot.

Add a single layer of sausage slices to the pan. Allow to deeply brown, then flip. You only need to do this with about half the sausage slices, so you can save some time here!

Add the browned sausage slices, as well as the others to the crock pot.

Turn the stove off and remove the pan from heat. Pour the wine into the pan and scrape up all the browned bits with the wine. Pour wine and scrapings into the crock pot.

Add tomatoes and next 6 ingredients to the crock pot and stir everything together.

Nestle the chicken thighs evenly throughout the crock pot, cover with lid, and cook on low for 4 hours.

Shred chicken in the pot, taste for salt. Serve hot over pasta or rice, and garnish with fresh basil and shredded parmesan cheese.

Source

Sara| Home Is Where The Cookies Are

http://www.wherethecookiesare.com/2014/08/01/crock-pot-chicken-and-mushroom-ragu/

Mid Vacation Muse

Morning Beach So we’ve been on vacation for a while.

One solid week of it spent at the beach.

Filled with high tides and low tides, mudslides, and triple cherry virgin daiquiries.

Appearances were made under moonlight by “Hey Hey Crabs” – as named by the shorties in our crew while they hunted the side-skipping rascals by headlamp and plastic cocktail cup. Hey Hey Crab Once in while, we’d find one little feller who’d missed the boat and hung out till sunrise.

It’s OK, Little Feller. The moon’ll be back tonight. . . . Just hang out for, like. . . 15 hours. Surf Lessons We made friends with surf bums and poolside waitresses, slathered ourselves in pints of coconut sunscreen, and some of us braved pre and post storm waves. morning beach Some of us – *ahem* – attempted to brave them.

Then, after choking on bucket-loads of salt water, returned to shore weak kneed and shakey-elbowed.Done for the day of rough-wave jumping with minimal confidence in the skilled-swimming department.

Blended iced lemonades are more my speed. Under an umbrella. With a book.

Mama’s a watcher, not a swimmer.

And books there were. A thinker. A dreamer. A heart breaking sad-story turned good. And magazines with summer food.

And a 1000 piece puzzle in which I would not partake. Puzzles, in this lady’s book, are crazy making. Stick me in the kitchen instead. I’d rather make tacos, and fry beer-battered fish, and chop tomatoes for bruschetta. A cocktail just to the top right of the cutting board is a nice touch too. Beach People Now we’re here, in our home.

Coming home is so sad and still so nice at the end of sunny, surfy, carefree days.

It’s time to swing ourselves back into routine. Sort of. Maybe.

OK, maybe not yet. morning beach Time to plan meals and tidy up.

Seize days and live by the moment. Love by the second.

Remembering that it’s all fleeting. Life, really, is not under our control. Waves I wish it was, but I’m reminded over and over again that I’m not the driver of this train.

Somehow though, it goes where I need it to go, whether I actually want to go there or not.

Summers, I’ve learned, always hold a mixed bag for me.

Some lovely, some ugly, but always something that needs doing.

And that’s the way life goes.

So far, the hubs and I have tackled roughly 24 combined vertical inches of stacked paper on the kitchen counter.

His has been lingering for about 6 months.

Mine has been lingering since Easter of 2013.

I’m not proud of this.

It’s just who I am.

A stack-of-paper hater/procrastinator.

But it’s gone now.

Don’t you dare come back, Paper Stacks. With your smug little faces. I’m a changed woman.

My counter space is MINE.

We’ve been cooking too. Tasty things that will eventually show up here.

But my camera has been tucked away, snug in the cupboard, while I hoard this family time to myself.

I’ll break it out and dust it off soon.

We made a version of this pesto rigatoni.

I recommend it. It was a hit all around – and that’s saying something given the kale content, which is: ANY.

Because my family doesn’t like kale – when they know about it.

Also? We made these. Again.

I fiddled with the flour content a little because they came out so thin, but just add a little more and: swoon.

Oh! And this for flashy dinner dessert with friends.

We fell back on these burritos and this sauce. Because staples are staples for good reason.

Aaaaand, I’m pretty sure my summer will not be complete until I try this cocktail.

I can’t. even. think.

Next? I don’t know. I’m ready for the beach again.

XOXO until next time, friends.

Happy New Year!

New Year's Bonfire

Things have been quiet around here.

I haven’t really been cooking – except for short ribs and mashed potatoes for Christmas, fondue on Christmas Eve, egg casserole and monkey bread on Christmas morning, and burritos with guac on New Year’s eve. . . .

And I just might venture into the kitchen today to make a broccoli salad.

Maybe.

It’s like all that baking before Christmas stole all my cooking wind. Continue reading

Embracing Our Traditional Thanksgiving Menu

Traditional Thanksgiving

It’s dripping rain outside.

Still dark at 6 a.m., the drops are coming down rhythmic and thick.

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, and each time this reality settles deep inside me I feel like a kid on Christmas eve.

Excitement tickles my belly, a happy jumpiness threatens to throw me off-balance, and I hope, (but wonder IF), I will be able to maintain my cheer beyond the morning hustle.

Today I will make classic sweet potatoes. SWEET. Potatoes. We’re talking the real deal topped with an avalanche of mini marshmallows.

I’ll corral Yukon Golds into make ahead mashed potatoes, rich with butter and sour cream, and I’ll throw together a good ol’ green bean casserole topped with french fried onions from a can.

I thought about making the casserole from scratch this year, because, you know – healthy.

But our family is full of staunch traditionalists who balk at the new when it comes to holiday fare. Continue reading

Pumpkin Pie Spiced Coffee; Fresh and Clear

Pumpkin Pie spiced coffee

Don’t you worry.

I’m not going to brush off all the wonders of fall flavors by shoving spiced coffee in your face.

There’s some baked apple goodness coming your way in a couple of days, and I will shove that in your face,  but this. . . .

This coffee thing just happened yesterday. Continue reading

Toasty Coconut Wedges (Oat & Coconut Shortbread Cookies)

Toasty Coconut Wedges | Home is Where The Cookies Are {www.wherethecookiesare.com}

There is a recipe of my Great Grandma’s that has been floating around in our family for generations.

It’s one that remains on the regular cookie rotation in our house today, and when I share those cookies, it never fails that friends fall in love with them too.

When I started Home Is Where The Cookies Are, I was sure this recipe of Great Grandma’s was one I would share, but then I came to realize that secret family recipes are a treasure to be closely guarded. Continue reading