Monday, August 30, 2010

Here's My Life

Saw this ad over the weekend and could totally relate to it. (Not that we have a Subaru or anything.)

Just watch it, and you'll understand.



Oh, and by the way, Abby got her license on Friday.

Shelly

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Good Reads

Boy, I've read some good stuff this week. I hope you get a few quiet minutes to read some of these this weekend.

I have always been so thankful that my kids really like going to church, but I am well aware that not every teenager likes it that much. And sometimes parents even have to force their kids to go to church. Imagine. Joanne wrote an excellent post about how she and her husband handled the problem.

I've already written about how I've been praying for my girls this week, but here's another wonderful post about praying for our daughters. Written by Lysa, need I say more?

Wondering about the new movie, "Eat. Pray. Love."? I have too. I haven't seen the movie . . . yet . . . but I've been considering it. Kay has written some great thoughts about the movie from a Christian perspective which I found very interesting.

I'm pretty sure this recipe is in my future.

If you need to choose just one post from this list, make sure you read this one. And then have your spouse read it too. You think I'm kidding? I'm not. At all. Go read.

And enjoy your weekend!

Shelly

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fabulous Friday Food - Mmmmmm Ribs! (For Jenn)

Have a seat. This is going to be a long one.

Before we get to the recipe, I have a bone to pick with you. You know who you are.

See, yesterday I made "Aunt Mary's No-Bake Blueberry Pie" and since I don't have the recipe written down anywhere (I got it off of Facebook from my friend, Jennifer), I went to the best source I knew--right here! I looked at the recipe . . . and then I blinked and looked again. And then I realized that I had made a HORRIBLE mistake!! Instead of telling you to use a cup of water, I wrote down a cup of flour!

I was mortified. Mortified, I tell you!

I quickly went in and changed the post, so the recipe reads correctly now, but seriously, if you've made that recipe (and I know that at least a couple of you have because you told me) and figured out my mistake (it doesn't take a personal chef to realize that a cup of flour is somewhat different than a cup of water), WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME?!?!

I count on all of you to keep me on my toes. To be my eyes and ears. To hold me accountable for incorrectly written recipes!

I implore you . . . next time you read one of my recipes and it just doesn't seem right to you, PLEASE let me know. Send me a quick email (it's on my profile) and just say, "Hey, Shelly, I think your recipe is going to stink. You might want to check it out." or something like that.

O.K., on to one more sidetrack-y thing and then I'll get to this week's recipe.

I'm tired of giving and never getting. I know there are great cooks out there just hoarding all of my best recipes for yourself, but now it's time to share and share alike. So next week I'm going to put up a McLinky (or whatever that thing is called) for all of you to share some of your best recipes.

I'm giving you a week to think about it, so think hard and get a Fabulous Friday Food post ready for next Friday. I hope you'll join in and share some of your favorites. If it goes well, maybe we'll do a theme week every now and then.

And honestly? If it doesn't go well, maybe I'll take my recipes and keep them all to myself. *Hrumph* I didn't plan to keep this thing going past the summer anyway, but I've gotten such great feedback from many of you that I guess we'll keep cooking for a while.

My family thanks you.

Now, on to this week's recipe which I've subtitled "For Jenn" because my sister called this week and was like, "Hey, could you give me your rib recipe sometime?!" and I was all, "Hey, you're in luck! You'll get it on Friday!" So, Jenn, this one's for you.

And everyone else who's reading.

I have to thank Maggie for this one, too, because she's the one who found the recipe in Real Simple magazine earlier this summer and tore it out and asked me to make these. After you make them, you'll thank Maggie too.

Here we go.

First, go buy some ribs. I don't really care what kind you buy--I think these are baby backs--but I'm pretty sure this will work with just about any kind of ribs. Some people are persnickety about their ribs. I'm not. (To be honest, I think the Real Simple people want you to use spareribs, but I'm a rebel like that.)

Next, you make a rub. You'll be amazed by all the ingredients in this rub, but don't leave any out, especially the coffee. Yes, that's right, I said coffee. Along with some chili powder, cumin, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper.



Did I mention that these are spicy ribs?

Now, the next step is extremely important: cover your baking sheet with foil. Heavy duty foil, if you've got it. This will save you lots of headaches in the end and will make clean-up so much faster. And I'm all about the fast clean-up.



Place the ribs on the foil-lined pan.



Then rub them all over with all that spicy goodness. Mmmmmm.



**Edited to add: Make sure you cover them tightly with foil.

Bake these in a 275 degree oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, until the meat is tender and pulls away from the bone easily.

They will look something like this:



Now comes the good part. The sauce. Oh my, the sauce! That sauce has become an obsession in this house. In fact, Kate would like me to put this sauce into jars and sell it, it's that good. Spicy, yes, but sweet.

Let's just say that my college girl was really bummed that she missed out on the sauce last week. She likes to take pretzels and just dip them in this sauce, it's that good.

Anyway, while the ribs are baking, you can do this. Throw together some ketchup, apple cider vinegar, molasses, tomato paste, brown sugar, cayenne, and black pepper. Simmer it good.



You know, you might as well just go ahead and double that sauce recipe because you'll definitely need it.

O.K., last step. Once the ribs are tender, take them out of the oven and place them on the grill. The Grillmaster, B, has found that only grilling them with the bone-side down eliminates some of the meat sticking to the grill. So do that. Bone-side down for about 5 minutes, slathering the ribs with that delicious sauce all the while.



I wish I had a photo to share with you of the finished product, but, alas, we were so excited to eat these babies that I forgot to take a picture. I guess you'll just have to make them for yourself. You can take a picture of your final product and send it to me.

So there you go. Ribs that are so delicious, you'll never want to order them in a restaurant again because whatever you get in a restaurant will be a disappointment. Trust me, they will, because that happened to me recently at a place in Chicago that is well-known for their delicious ribs. I ordered some, and after dinner I felt like coming home and making these because mine are so much better.

I'll never order ribs in a restaurant again.

Mmmmmm Ribs! (For Jenn) (From Real Simple)

1 T. chili powder
1 T. ground coffee
1 t. ground cumin
4 T. brown sugar
3/4 t. cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and black pepper
6 pounds ribs (2 racks), trimmed of excess fat
3/4 C. ketchup
1/3 C apple cider vinegar
1/4 C. molasses
2 T. tomato paste

1. Heat oven to 275 degrees.

2. Make the rub. In a small bowl combine the chili powder, coffee, cumin, 2 Tablespoons of the brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of the cayenne, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper.

3. Place the ribs on a foil-lined baking sheet with a rim. Rub the ribs with the spice mixture andn tightly cover the baking sheet with foil. Bake until tender and the meat easily pulls away from the bone, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

4. Make the sauce. In a saucepan, combine the ketchup, vinegar, molasses, tomato paste, the remaining 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer 1/2 cucp of the sauce into a small bowl for serving.

**Insert editorial remark here: Who are they kidding? One-half cup of sauce? That's barely enough for one person around here! Double the sauce recipe.

5. Heat grill to medium-high. Grill the ribs, basting with the remaining sauce about 4 to 5 minutes. Serve with the reserved sauce.

Now go. Buy some ribs and make these THIS WEEKEND. You'll thank me. I know you will.

Shelly

Thursday, August 26, 2010

More Than Enough

I’m kind of consumed with the start of school this week.

Office Depot loves me. And tonight, Famous Footwear is going to love me too.

Don’t even get me started about Target--we’re BFFs these days.

But amidst all the rushing around, buying new clothes, making sure we have all the necessary school supplies, there’s a certain bit of angst in our house these days. It’s called middle school.

Maybe it’s called junior high where you are. I grew up going to junior high, but my kids have gone to a middle school; I have yet to understand the difference. Different curriculum? Different set up of classes? What is it? Personally, I think the phrase “middle school” kind of softens the blow somehow. Makes it seem like a natural progression to the next phase of life rather than a waiting-for-high-school kind of thing.

Maybe that’s just me. It probably is.

One thing I do know, however, is that middle school or junior high or whatever you want to call it, is just about one of the toughest times for a girl. (I can’t speak about boys here because I don’t have one. Feel free to comment away about the boy-aspect of middle school.) I cannot tell you how many people I’ve talked to who have said that their junior high experience was so terrible that it’s the reason they chose to work with junior high students at church. Or others who said it affected their future career choice. Or others who just stay away from middle schoolers at all costs.

Seriously, it’s a rough go.

I’m currently going through middle school for the third time with my own girls, and each one has handled it differently. One seemed to breeze through middle school, only to tell me later that she hated every minute of it. Who knew?! Certainly not me. Another withdrew a bit, probably trying to ward off every cruel thing another person had said to her. Self-preservation becomes an art in middle school.

This time around is different still. We’re more concerned with our appearance. We’re straightening our hair and buying clothes in new and different stores. We’re much more concerned with the opinions of others.

And it’s this last aspect that had me on my knees today. Or walking, which is my preferred prayer stance.

I have always told my girls that I don’t want them to be known as the “smart girl” or the “athlete” or the “musician” or fill-in-the-blank. I would be much happier if the other kids at school think of them first as “the kind girl” or the “friendly girl” or, best of all, “the girl who really loves Jesus.”

The outward stuff just isn’t important. It’s the inward stuff that will shine through in the end.

But, you know what? You really can’t tell that to a junior high girl. Oh, you can tell her, and the sounds you are coming from your lips might reverberate around in her head a little bit, but there’s something that just makes them not hear it. Really hear it.

And so you have to come up with lots of different ways to say the same thing which is, “Just be yourself. Be the kind and loving person I know you are, and other people (the right people) will be drawn to you.”

Unfortunately in middle school, that just doesn’t register a whole lot. And so this morning I was praying for my girls, especially that sweet middle schooler with a whole bunch of angst about stuff that really doesn’t matter, and God somehow broke in through my mumbling and had me pray this:

“God, please help her to see that you are enough.” Just that. Enough.

Today I want my precious girl (all of them, really) to know more than anything that her clothes, her hair (as gorgeous as it is), her outgoing personality, even her talents in the classroom . . . none of it will ever be enough. Because there will always be someone to come knock her down a peg, or someone who feels like it’s their business to put her in her place, or someone who just gets a kick out of being cruel. All of the outward stuff will never be enough to make her feel good about herself.

But Jesus will.

Today I am thankful for a God who knows my daughters.
A God who knows when they sit down or stand up.
A God who knows their thoughts.
A God who knows when they go out and when they lie down.
A God who is familiar with all their ways.

These verses are loosely paraphrased from Psalm 139, and they bring me a lot of comfort. As a parent, it’s great to know that this God knows my daughters better than I do. He knows what’s best for them, and He even knows their mistakes. He still cares for them, watches over them, and loves them deeply.

Later, the Psalm goes on to talk about how God’s works are wonderful—that means you, junior high girl! About how God knew each and every day of our lives before we were even born and how He planned them all. And about how precious is each and every thought God has about us.

That part amazes me. Every thought God has about us is precious!

So on those days when it seems like we need the opinions of others to make us feel good about ourselves (Who are we kidding here? I have days like that too.), we can remember that God thinks highly of us. And that is enough.

He is enough for junior high. He is enough for high school. He is enough for college. And beyond.

More than enough.

Shelly

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It's All a Matter of Perspective

I was going to write a post today about Kate leaving for college. About how my house feels quieter, bigger, emptier.

I was going to write about how we left her at Wheaton last Saturday, not knowing when we’d see her next, but knowing that it wouldn’t be as long as the mom from Thailand who stayed with us through orientation. Or my friend from California who was here also.

I was going to write about how I’d surprised myself this weekend by being stronger than I thought I would be and not crying when we said goodbye.

But I received a comment on Friday’s post that has laid me out flat and has put every little thing I’ve been experiencing into perspective for me. (“Little” being the operative word here.)

The dear woman who left the comment is going through some trials. Some very personal, and some she might not want her family to know about. But deep, deep waters.

When I read of her sorrow, her feelings of helplessness, and her illness, I suddenly realized that I have nothing at all to be sad about.

Sure, my daughter left for college. For COLLEGE! First of all, how many kids in this country, in the world for that matter, even have that incredible privilege?

Sure, Kate is grown up and out of my house, but isn’t that what I’ve raised her for? She’s smart, she’s capable, she’s healthy, and, most importantly, she’s following the Lord’s leading in her life. What more could I ask for?

For me, as a parent of a new and out-of-the-house college student, to whine or complain about how she’s not with me anymore would be ridiculous. She is exactly where I want her to be.

As a bonus, she’s right down the street.

Would I feel differently if she were across the county? Maybe. But then I would think of my dear friend, “BJ,” and I would realize anew that I have nothing in my life so big that God cannot hold it.

“BJ” is facing some really big stuff right now. Not only is she sending a girl she loves away to school, her life is being turned upside down. And what is she doing? She’s praying. And trusting. And believing in the God who has brought her this far.

Will you pray with me for “BJ” today? I don’t know her personally. I have no way to contact her. But she has asked for prayer, and that’s what I intend to do.

I intend to be grateful for the abundant blessings in my life and in the lives of my family members. I intend to share in the sorrows of others. And I intend to pray for those who ask me, like “BJ.”

Will you join me?

holy experience


Shelly

Monday, August 23, 2010

Starting School



My friend, Rebecca, is sending her first child off to kindergarten this week. I’ve been thinking about her a lot, and since I’ve walked the road she’s about to step onto, I thought I’d give her some pointers to help her through the minefield called “school.”

Be prepared. Take Kleenex on the first day. You might feel happy that, after all those loooooong years with your child at home, she’s finally heading off to a minimum of 13 years in the classroom. (I know I was.) But suddenly, on that first day, I found myself crying as I watched my daughter walk into the building. It hits you at the strangest moments, so be prepared.

Thankfully, that stage doesn’t last long.

Walk to school as much as possible, even when it’s 20 below zero. Because that might be the only time you have to tell her about boys when she will actually listen. And it might also be the only time she will tell you about how Johnny tried to kiss her on the playground the day before but she wouldn’t let him because she slugged him. Hard.

You might want to consider enrolling her in a self-defense program. That playground can be rough.

Enjoy your child’s new friends. They can teach you a lot about your child. Like how she’s the official classroom Play Dough taster . . . or how she likes to sing the “ABC” song at the top of her lungs in the hallway . . . or how she likes Johnny, really, even though she slugged him.

You know how they say there are no stupid questions? Don’t believe it. There are. Don’t ask the teacher about bathroom procedures. The kids will figure it out. Don’t ask if you can leave a couple of days early before Spring Break. It’s always better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

And finally, don’t ask how they teach reading—whether she uses a whole language or phonics-based approach. Because the teacher might just look strangely at you and tell you, “This is kindergarten. We don’t teach reading in kindergarten.”

Not that I would know anything about that. I’m just sayin’.

Field Day. This is a day toward the end of the school year when the entire school comes together to play games. Running games. Water games. Relay games. Games that would require proper attire, and by proper attire I DO NOT MEAN A DRESS. But unless you actually know what Field Day is, you might not know what proper attire for that event would be. Learn from my mistakes, or your children might remind you about how lame you are for the rest of your parenting life.

Which is forever.

And that brings me to my next point: the job never ends. It just gets harder.

So have fun with that one.

And while you’re at it, realize that you are about to embark on one of the most fun, most rewarding, most challenging at times, most amazing rides of your life. You’ll meet great people, some of whom will become your closest friends. You’ll learn when to speak up and when to be silent. You’ll learn more about your child than you ever thought you could.

School is awesome. I’m a big fan of school. I’m a big fan of you, too, Rebecca, and I know you will do just fine.

Enjoy the ride.



Shelly

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fabulous Friday Food - Comfort Food Edition

Dear Mom,

I'm coming home this weekend, and I'd like to place my order now. Chili. Sloppy Joes. Pot Roast. Chocolate Chip Cookies. Chocolate Cake. Homemade Ice Cream.

Thanks, and I'll see you this weekend!

Love,

Shelly


I think the letter I sent from college went something like that. Not much how-are-you business going on. I was all about the food. Mom's food. Oh, how I missed it.

There was something just, well, comforting about my mom's cooking. Mom is the queen of comfort food.

As a young farmer's wife, my mom had to learn to do a lot with a little. The woman could make just about anything with a little ground beef and some imagination. And a can of soup? Whoo boy! A can of soup could put the entire meal over the top.

My mom is still a wonderful cook, and I love visiting her because I know--I KNOW!!--that when I walk into her house I will be hit with some delicious smell coming from her kitchen. For the first night, anyway. (Today, Mom is the queen of going out.) But on that first night, she will always have something delicious and comforting waiting for us.

It won't surprise you, then, that I got this comforting recipe from my mom. I think her mom probably made it when she was a little girl--all of the ingredients would have been readily available even back then.

My family calls this "Homemade Hamburger Helper" because it kind of is like that, only much, much better. Sure, it's got the ground beef and the noodles and the cheese, but that's where the similarities stop. It doesn't have the MSG and the polysorbatewhatchamacallit or the high fructose thingamajigs. It's just good food.

This is what I make when I have PMS or when it's getting cold out or when I just need a little comfort in my life.

So here we go. Your ingredient list is pretty small, so pull together some ground beef, an onion, green pepper, celery, a can of tomato soup, a can of corn, and some noodles. That's basically it.

Oh, and there's one little not-so-gourmet ingredient that embarrasses me just to put on my blog that I'll tell you about later.



First thing you do is brown the ground beef together with the onion, green pepper, and celery. I'm not showing you a picture of this because, frankly, browned ground beef in a pan looks kind of gross.

After you drain the meat, add a can of tomato soup, 1 1/2 cans of water, 1 can of corn (drained), and some salt and pepper.

Here's what it will all look like.


Oh, and don't forget to add the 2 cups of dry noodles. Stir them in, even though it doesn't look like you are supposed to do that.


Simmer everything together for about a half an hour.


Place the mixture in a pretty casserole dish (because we all know how I feel about pretty dishes).

Now comes the embarrassing part. You have to top the whole thing with sliced Velveeta cheese. I know, I know. The only, and I repeat ONLY, time I buy Velveeta is when I make this casserole. You could try cheddar cheese, but it won't melt into the noodles in quite the same way that Velveeta will.

But go ahead. Try it with cheddar if you must. If you're a food snob or something like that.

But remember, the best part about the Velveeta is the grilled cheese sandwich you can make with the leftover cheese (is it cheese? Or should I just call it "product"?). There's just something about a grilled cheese sandwich made with Velveeta.

Anyway, slice the Velveeta and place it on top of the ground beef mixture. Then bake it for about a half an hour.


See how the cheese just melts all over? Mmmmmm.


So there you have it--Sunday Night Supper. Even a comforting name.

Sunday Night Supper

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 large green pepper, diced
1 Cup celery, diced

Brown all of the above together; drain. Then add:

1 can tomato soup
1 1/2 cans water
1 can corn, drained
2 cups dry egg noodles
salt and pepper to taste

Simmer for about 1/2 hour, then top with Velveeta. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

And there you have it, comfort in a beautiful dish. Hope you enjoy it!

Now tell me, what fabulous food will you be making/eating this weekend?

Shelly

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Random Thoughts for Tuesday

Today's Facebook status: "Clothes shopping with my girls. Lord, give me strength."

Later in the day my mom emailed to find out how it went, and I told her it's amazing how much better the day goes when one prays about it ahead of time.

I know that sounds trite, but, seriously, I did pray. Shopping is not a fun endeavor for me. It's stressful. Especially when one child is, well, picky and usually ends up crying suffering because of it. (I just hope she stays picky when it comes to choosing a husband!)

In the end, I would say we had a most pleasant day of shopping. Everyone found a couple of things that we had been looking for. And lunch at the Nordstrom Cafe just topped off the day.

Even Mom came home with a little something--a couple of pairs of jeans, which I desperately needed as we move into Fall. It might have been just a little embarrassing, though, when Maggie told the sales lady, "Yeah, that's pretty much all my mom ever wears."

*gulp*

At least she's paying attention!

------

Our dear former-Governor basically got a slap on the hand today. Blago got convicted of making a false statement to the FBI, which, to me, seems kind of like . . . well . . . a slap on the hand.

I mean, who doesn't do that?

And who doesn't try to sell their available Senate seat to the highest bidder?

Happens every day.

------

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this or not, but Kate has been in the wilderness for the past 2 1/2 weeks. She's been canoeing on Lake Superior and hiking through the Porcupine Mountains as a way to get ready for college.

What she hasn't been doing is showering.

So I ask you . . . does that make her ready for college?

------

Kate comes home tomorrow, except that she really doesn't come home. She gets dropped off on campus nearby and heads to her dorm room, sleeps in her sleeping bag just six blocks from home, and waits with the rest of the new freshmen for her parents to bring all of her stuff over on Thursday. It's so weird to think of her sleeping over there when the rest of us are over here, and not being able to call her or check up on her.

I SO do NOT want to be a helicopter parent. I've decided that even though she will be living just six blocks from home, I need to pretend like she's six hours from home. Or sixteen hours, which is what it would have been if she had gone to her other top choice school.

I'll take six blocks.

And a hug.

On Thursday.

------

Needless to say, things are getting really busy this week. You'll get a Fabulous Friday Food on Friday (duh!), but probably not much more than that this week.

So enjoy your week and get ready for next week because the munchkins go back to school. Oh my!

Shelly

Monday, August 16, 2010

Frustrated

I’ve been frustrated this summer. With myself.

I’ve hesitated to share this here, but since there hasn’t been much of any substance around the old blog this summer, I thought I’d shake things up a bit.

God’s been dealing with me, oh yes He has, and He’s been using a 15 year old boy to do it. Funny thing is, that 15 year old boy probably doesn’t even know me.

I think this all started back when I read Jason Boyett’s book, “O Me of Little Faith.” I’ll be honest, I didn’t like the book much. I felt like Jason had a bit of a my-faith-is-weaker-than-your-faith-isn’t-that-cool?-thing going on, and it made me feel old because I don’t find that very funny or encouraging. And so I wrote the nicest review I thought I could write about the book and called it a day.

But God kept that book on my mind, and I think He did so for a reason. I think God wanted to point out my hypocrisy and my judgmental spirit. And my lack of faith.

Jason and I could be pen pals.

Shortly after I wrote the review, an accident happened to a boy in our neighborhood. A terrible accident in which he drowned and was without vital signs for 10 minutes, but miraculously he was revived. I asked you to pray, and you must have because Matthew is a walking miracle.

Not that this hasn’t been the hardest summer of his or his parents’ lives. It’s been terrible. And amazing. And good.

But ever since Matthew’s accident and his subsequent healing, I have become more and more aware that my faith is no better, probably worse, than Jason Boyett’s. And it’s annoying me. Frustrating, really.

Remember when I asked you to pray? I went over to our local elementary school to join hands and hearts with our community. I prayed earnestly, and have all summer, that God would heal this sweet boy and bring relief to his family.

But later, upon reflection, I realized that as I prayed I totally did not expect to see God move. I totally expected the worst. And throughout the summer, God has shown me that I am so much that way—hoping for the best, but always expecting the worst.

This, my friends, is a complete lack of faith.

All summer long, I’ve read the family’s CarePages updates. I’ve seen how God is clearly at work in that situation, and yet I’ve seen how I have doubted that God would heal him. Just so we’re clear here . . . I don’t doubt that God CAN heal him, I just doubt that God WILL heal him. There’s a difference. I truly believe that God is who He says He is. I truly believe that God can do miracles.

I just don’t expect miracles.

And this is what’s frustrating to me. I don’t expect them. And as a result, I don’t see them. My eyes are not open to what God has placed in front of me, and I’m frustrated by that.

It’s not God. I totally don’t blame him for anything.

I blame myself.

Just look at the progress this boy made during one week in July.

July 4 (Just a few days after his accident) – Matthew began to communicate “yes” and “no” to his dad.

July 5 – Matthew dabs at his chin with a washcloth and recognizes his mom when she comes into the room.

July 6 – Matthew transferred to Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. At this point the family does not know how long he will be there. Weeks? Months?

July 9 – Three days later Matthew is transferred to a rehabilitation facility right here in our town.

July 10 – Matthew walked about 15 feet before getting tired and then indicated to his dad that he wanted to go home. He’s frustrated (like me!), but making progress.

Today, August 16, Matthew is home, walking, even riding his bike! He has made amazing, miraculous strides, and his family credits the Lord for His faithful care.

I am so thankful to Matthew and to his parents for sharing their road with the world because it has encouraged my faith so much. It has reminded me that God is still in the business of doing miracles. Big ones. Small ones. Every day is a miracle.

Someone left this comment on Matthew’s Care Page this summer, and I just had to copy it because it meant so much to me. A woman wrote about how, 21 years ago, she had suffered a brain aneurysm and was not expected to ever walk again. She was determined to do that, and she has. At the end of her note she wrote this, “I have prayed that Jesus will show Himself to you in your head. So, look for Him there. He will help you as you fight. You will have His resurrection power as I had. He gives it freely. We are praying and praying and praying. He has done so many miracles in you already and He will do more, as many as you need. We love you little brother. You are becoming a man!”

I don’t know why, but something about that last line just made me weep. God is doing this thing in Matthew to help him become a man, and that is a miracle too.

I guess God is working in me to make me more of a woman after His own heart. To help me see Him every day, all around me, even in my head. God is showing me my weakness so that I will rely on Him for more faith.

And that’s a miracle in itself.

Shelly

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fabulous Friday Food - Blueberry Crisp

Snark alert: It's hot here today. Really hot. Not that I'm complaining or anything because my entire family lives in the South where it's REALLY hot. But for us, it's pretty dang hot. And I'm feeling a little snarky because of it. So beware.

Boy, do we love us some blueberries around here. My freezer was full of them a few weeks back (alliteration much?), but now I only have about half of my stash left. That makes me sad. Like I don't want to use the berries at all because I won't have any more. (Hoard much?)

But that's stupid. We love the berries and need to use them, and so last night I used them, yes I did, to bless some friends who came to dinner.

I made a blueberry crisp--one of my favorites.

Why "crisp" and not cobbler or pie? Well, we all know that I can't make a pie to save my life. At this point, I've pretty much given up on the whole pie thing. (I'll just have to wait until the next time my mom comes to visit because the woman can bake a pie.) Cobblers are good, but I prefer peach cobbler, not blueberry.

I don't know, there's just something so satisfying and easy about making a crisp. I just love them, and so does my family, so we go with the crisp.

Now, a quick internet search will give you thousands of potential Blueberry Crisp recipes to use, so let me make it easy on you . . . just use this one. It's good. Really good. I've made it twice this summer already, and I'm sure I'll make it again.

[Side note: this is a Gina and Patrick Neely recipe, and while I'm sure they are really wonderful people, they totally annoy me. I can't watch more than five minutes of their show because of all the lovey-dovey-kissy stuff they do. (Sorry, Gina and Pat! I'd love to meet you sometime because I'm sure you're great, but you need to tone down the show a little bit.) That said, their food looks amazing. Everything I've ever tried of theirs has been really good.]

But I digress . . . again. It must be the heat.

Let me cut to the chase and stop these ramblings. First, you take 6 cups of blueberries, rinse them quickly, then toss them with 1 Tablespoon corn starch, 1/4 Cup sugar, and a pinch of salt.

Put them into a 2 quart dish like this. A pretty one, preferably, because that just shows your family that you care.


In another bowl, put 1/2 Cup flour, 1/2 Cup quick-cooking oats, 1/4 Cup packed brown sugar, 1/4 Cup granulated sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.


Shhhhh. Don't tell Gina and Pat, but I used more like 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon because I really like cinnamon and I'm rebellious like that.

Next add 3/4 Cup chopped pecans.

If you like that sort of thing.

If you don't, just leave them out (and maybe put in a little more oatmeal).


Once that's all combined, add a half a stick of cold butter. Gina and Pat tell you to use room temperature butter, but really, who cares if you just take it out of the fridge and mix it in? I don't.


And, again, my rebellious side comes out because the recipe says to use your fingers but I'm all like "gross" about that, so I use a pastry blender.


So mix in the butter and pour the crumbly mixture over the top of the blueberries.


Bake it in a 375 degree oven for about 40 minutes until it's all bubbly and gooey and yummy. [Note: if you're using frozen blueberries, it might take just a little longer. Because they were cold. Get it?]

I would show you a picture of the finished product, but I don't have one because in all the excitement of having guests over last night I forgot to take one. But I served the warm crisp with Costco's vanilla ice cream which, if you've never had Costco's Kirkland Vanilla Ice Cream you haven't lived. It's that good. Amen.


6 Cups blueberries
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 Cup sugar
pinch of salt

Topping:

1/2 Cup all-purpose flour
1/2 Cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 Cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 Cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (or more)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 C. chopped pecans
1/4 C. butter

1. Mix first four ingredients together. Place in a lightly greased baking dish.

2. Mix the rest of the ingredients together. Pour over blueberries in baking dish.

3. Bake at 375 for about 40 minutes.

There! See how easy that was? Even an idiot who can't make a pie can make this stuff.

Enjoy!

Now tell me, because I'd really like to know. . . what are you doing this weekend?

Shelly


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Because it's hot . . .

. . . and because you could pretty much do this right now:



. . . and because it's this time of year . . .

. . . and because we're having people over for dinner tonight . . .

. . . and because I have ideas for about 10 blog posts, but nothing's coming together . . .

Because of all this and more, there will be no productive posting today. You'll have to check back later to see if my brain came up with anything (hopefully it will) or if I had time to write (probably not).

But definitely DO come back later. 'Cause I love you and I'd be sad if you didn't.

Shelly

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How fun is this?

Travel Insurance website picked up one of my England posts and featured it in this round-up of 44 vacation stories.

I'm thrilled!

Thanks, TI!!

Shelly

Monday, August 9, 2010

Eight Weeks

Think back eight weeks.

Don’t remember eight weeks ago? What if I asked you to remember everything that has happened since June 14. Could you remember eight weeks ago then?

June 14 was the day Abby left for camp.

Today she returns.

In eight weeks I took a road trip to Dallas, Texas; we’ve remodeled a bathroom; I’ve travelled with my family to the U.K.; and we’ve sent a child off to college.

A lot has happened in eight weeks!

And I know better than just about any mom on the planet just how long eight weeks is because my heart has hurt just a little for every minute of the eight weeks that Abby has been gone.

Every time I’ve thought of her, my heart gave a tug. Every time I prayed for her, my throat tightened up a little bit. Every moment that she’s been away has been hard on me.

So why did we do it? Why did we allow our 16-year-old daughter to live six hours away from us for eight long weeks this summer?

It would be easy to just have told her no. To rationalize that she is too young to be away for that long. Or to say that I needed her here (my heart certainly did!). Or to demand that she get a job rather than pay all that money to scrub toilets all summer.

Why?

I’ve had several friends ask me that question, and I’ve asked myself the same thing so many times over the summer. Why let her go when the alternative would have been so much easier?

Now, really, you should all know how I feel about letting go by now. As hard as it is, it is a necessary part of every child’s growing up and every parent’s growing away. It just has to be.

But today, as her bus is about to return her to me, I keep asking myself, why did we do it? Why did we let her go?

There are several reasons.

First, she is a child who needed to be let go right now. She needed this summer of independence and, especially, of being at a place she dearly loves. Her heart needed to be there as much as my heart needed her to be here with me.

Second, this wasn’t just a summer camp of fun and games for eight weeks. She signed up for the Service Team, which means that she was working every day, five days a week, for about eight hours a day (sometimes more). As parents, we place a high priority on service, and we want to teach our children to live as servants, so what better place to learn to do that? Developing a work ethic along the way probably isn’t a bad thing either.

And finally, it came down to spiritual preparation. The camp Abby attended was a Christian camp where we knew she would be nurtured in her walk with Jesus. We knew that she would have plenty of opportunity to fellowship with other believers, but also to spend precious time alone with the Lord. All of this, we felt, was so important for her spiritual development.

Today I turned to Philippians chapter 1 where Paul expresses his deep love for the Philippian people. He talks about how he prays for them with joy because of their partnership in his work.

And then Paul speaks of his confidence that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” A few verses later Paul tells them that he prays that their love would grow as they gain knowledge and insight and that they would “be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.”

This is what we want for our daughters: Growth. Good work. Love. Knowledge. Insight. Discernment.

And we felt that for this summer, Abby could best gain those things while serving and learning and growing closer to Jesus at camp. Away from us and all the baggage we bring into her life. In a place she loves.

Could she grow here at home? Absolutely. Does this mean every one of our kids has to spend eight weeks at camp? No way. Not every one of our girls is cut out for that kind of work. Not every one of them would even want to put herself into that kind of position. But we have to take each girl into consideration—her personality, her unique needs—and we felt that for Abby, being who she is right now, this was what was best for her.

And we intentionally chose to let her spend the summer away from us, serving at camp.

Intentionality. It stinks sometimes. It means that we have to give up time with a girl we love deeply in order to help her grow. But we trust in the One who gave her to us to complete the good work that He has already begun in her.

And we’re really looking forward to having her back with us again tonight!


Shelly

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Good Reads

While I put off making dinner, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite posts from the past couple of weeks.

Now, I love Beth Moore as much as the next gal (well, O.K., maybe not as much because I've never done one of her studies and never finished one of her books, but I love what she does), but Lisa makes an excellent point about her or any other famous Christian here.

Once again, Ann speaks to my heart. This post on "How to Hear from God" is just beautiful.

I love Mary's vulnerability here. Plus she's a really sweet person.

And you know I can't NOT link to Jon Acuff. This post is about a month old, but it seems to fit with the theme here.

There you go. Read up. There will be a quiz. (Just kidding! I just miss threatening people with quizzes.)

Shelly

Friday, August 6, 2010

Blog Hop '10


If you're here from Robin's Blog Hop, welcome! If you just somehow randomly turned up here, welcome! If you're intentionally here, well, thank you--you're the best!

In order to keep this short (*ahem*, Robin!) I'll just give you the basics about me:

WHO am I? A mom of three daughters and wife to my college sweetie. I love to read, write, and travel. I formerly worked as an adjunct professor, a marketing professional, and a fundraiser. Even though I'm now considered a stay-at-home mom, I'm rarely here. I may be travelling. I may be speaking to a women's group. I may be attending a conference. But whatever I'm doing, I'm trying to do to the best of the abilities God has given me.

WHAT do I write about? Life. Travel. My family. Parenting. Cooking. Christianity.

WHERE do I live? In the Chicago suburbs. I love it here.

WHEN do I write? Mornings, usually. I don't do nights very well.

WHY is my Life on the Wild Side? I have three teenage daughters, need I say more? And one crazy dog. And my philosophy really is that "Every day is an adventure!"

So pull up a chair, sit a while, and join me on the journey. I hope you'll come back often.

And now, tell me something about you!

Shelly

Fabulous Friday Food - M&M Oatmeal Bars

Get ready to bake something this weekend! Because once you see these cookies you're going to want to make them. And eat them.

These are some of our family's favorites (in fact, Maggie is sitting here while I write and she says to tell you that she loves them so much), and they come from Southern Living Incredible Cookies, a cookbook I bought at a Southern Living party years ago when those Southern Living parties were popular.

So, here we go! Get your ingredients together: Quick-cooking oats, flour, brown sugar, pecans, baking soda, salt, butter, M&Ms, and sweetened condensed milk.


Put the oats into a mixing bowl.


Add the flour.


Add the brown sugar.


And the pecans.


And finally, the baking soda and salt.


Mix these together.


Then add 1 cup melted butter.


When it's all mixed, it will look crumbly, like this.


Set aside 1 1/2 cups of the crumb mixture.


Press the remaining crumb mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased jelly roll pan and bake it at 375 for 10 minutes.


Meanwhile, heat 1 C. M&Ms in the microwave for 1 minute (stir, then put them in for another 30 seconds, if necessary).


Smash the M&Ms with the back of a spatula to break them up a bit, then add the can of sweetened condensed milk.

Yes, this looks kind of gross, but trust me . . . it's gooooood.


So now you'll have three elements to your cookies: the bottom crust, the gooey middle, and the crumbly topping (add the rest of the M&Ms to the reserved 1 1/2 cups crumble mixture).


After the bottom crust comes out of the oven, reduce the heat to 350.

Pour the melted M&Ms and condensed milk over the baked bottom crust.


Add the crumbly mixture to the top. (Side note: I have no idea why this picture keeps coming out sideways. It doesn't look like that in my photo group. Hmmm.)


Bake another 18 minutes, until slightly browned.

Cut into small squares and enjoy the ooey, gooey goodness.


I'm telling you, this is one you'll want to keep handy because your kids will be begging you to make them often. They don't last long around here!

Also, if you don't like nuts or are allergic to nuts, you can leave them out. Just add a little more oatmeal to the crumbly mixture.

So here's the "real" recipe. I'm going to write it out the way I do it because, quite honestly, the way it's written in the book is a little confusing. And we can't have my readers being confused now, can we?

M&M Oatmeal Bars

2 C. Quick-cooking oats
1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
1 C. firmly packed brown sugar
1 C. chopped pecans
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 C butter, melted
1 1/2 C. M&Ms, divided (a medium sized package)
1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk

1. Combine first 6 ingredients, stirring well. Add butter, and stir together at low speed with an electric mixer until mixture is crumbly. Reserve 1 1/2 cups crumb mixture, press remaining crumb mixture into a lightly greased 15 x 10 inch jelly-roll pan. (It will be thin in the pan.)

Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. Cool an a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 350.

2. Place 1 C. M&Ms in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave on high for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, stirring after 30 seconds. Press chocolate pieces with the back of a spoon to mash them. (The candies will almost be melted with pieces of color coating still visible.) Stir in condensed milk.

Spread mixture evenly over crust in pan, leaving a 1/2 inch border on all sides.

3. Combine reserved crumb mixture with remaining 1/2 C. M&Ms. Sprinkle over chocolate mixture; press lightly.

4. Bake at 350 for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden; cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Yield 4 dozen.

Have yourself a yummy weekend!

Now tell me, what will YOU be cooking this weekend?

Shelly