Monday, January 31, 2011

Gratitude Journal

Just a quick list this morning. More on Blissdom to come later today,

51. A little trip to Nashville last week.
52. Prayers answered about that trip.
53. Lots of kindness.
54. The (in)Courage peeps.
55. Meeting lots and lots of wonderful women.
56. Time and space to think.
57. Unexpected encouragement.
58. Prayer time on Friday morning.
59. Gussy, who saved me a seat on the plane. (I'll probably be thankful for that forever!)
60. Coming home early. Ahhh.
61. Sitting at a college basketball game with my "real" peeps.
62. Unexpected visitors.
63. Church on Sunday morning.
64. A peek at the sun.
65. Possible blizzard?????? Could spell fun!



Shelly

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Home from Blissdom

This is a photo of the Opryland Hotel in Nashville where Blissdom was held.
It does not do justice to the massiveness that is that place. Wow.

Ahhhhh. I've had a good night's sleep and a chance to debrief, and now I'm ready to recap my Blissdom experience. It may take a few posts to figure it all out, but for today, I just want to write about what Blissdom meant to me.

In a word . . . grace. My word for the year. Grace. And it was so evident that God was showering this down on me this weekend.

For me it wasn't the stuff, the swag, the sponsors (Sorry, sponsors. You were lovely, but just not "it" for me.) or the soirees (and those were pretty nice, too!).

No, for me, Blissdom can best be summed up in the smiles, the simple hellos, the snuggly hugs. The moments of sitting down and talking, getting to know each other.

And the kindness.

All sorts of kindness all around me.



From Jo-Lynne who invited me to room with her and left a session early to walk alllll the way down to the lobby when I arrived (believe me, that was a true sacrifice). . . .

To the (in)Courage gals who provided a place for us like-minded women to congregate. . . .



To Robin who hugged me and welcomed me like an old friend. . . .

To Traci who prayed for encouragement for me one morning and not five minutes later did I meet Richella who seemed like a long-lost friend I had never met.

And finally, to dear Gussy who not only "connected" with my heart, but also saved me a seat in Row 10 on a Southwest flight when I was the next-to-the last person on the plane. Can I just say that I love this girl?! More about her to come, I'm sure.

And so, for me, Blissdom was about learning, but mostly about connecting with some really wonderful women.

I'm so grateful.

Shelly

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Why I'm Going to Blissdom

Blissdom Conference ~ Nashville ~ January 26-28, 2010

If you're not a blogger, you can probably just close this post right now because none of it will mean much of anything to you. I mean, NONE of it.

BUT, if you know what posts and links and newbies and trolls and vloggers are, hang around and I'll 'splain myself.

See, there's this conference. It's maybe just a little geeky trendy. It's got a weird name, Blissdom, and it's for bloggers. Yes, 500 women (well, and maybe a couple of guys) who spend their days writing about potty training and fashion and the best way to field dress an elk. (Seriously, there is probably someone out there who has blogged about that.) There are about a million and a half blogs out there, each one screaming into the internet to COME READ WHAT I HAVE TO SAY.

And so, Blissdom. Training for people who blog. People who speak a language that their friends and kids and husbands don't understand.

This is the third year of the Blissdom Conference, and I've always been intrigued by it, but this is the first year I've actually been brave enough to sign up to go. I still haven't told many people that I'm actually going because I'm afraid that if I do, I'll get that glassy-eyed look that one friend gave me earlier this week. You know, the look that says, "Why would you want to do a crazy-a** thing like that?"

So I've avoided all talk of blogging and conferences with my friends for the most part.

But I'm going. And I leave tomorrow. I'll be gone for five days, and I've asked myself over and over again why I'm doing this. I mean, I'm not a serious blogger. Am I? I don't do this for money. Should I? And there's so much I don't know about blogging, even after almost three years.

Which is exactly why I'm going to Blissdom.

1. There's just so much I don't know about blogging. Oh sure, I probably know more than the average Joe about blogging, but Joe (or Jane) knows pretty much nothing. I only know next-to-nothing. So I figure I should go and learn a little more than nothing about blogging.

2. There will be people I have met before. Remember two years ago when I went to She Speaks? I met some really great women at that conference, and many of them will be at Blissdom. So I'm going to reconnect with some "old" friends (which, in the blogging world, is really "new" friends).

3. There will be people I have never met but I've wanted to meet. Like Robin, who I met because she loves Kiawah Island just about as much as I do. And lots of others I've "met" through blogging--women with common interests who inspire me.

4. There are some things I need to figure out about this blog. Like, should I keep blogging as a hobby? Or should I pursue more? More readers. More stats. Just, more. I don't know. So I'm going to Blissdom in a spirit of prayer, hoping to spend some time with God this weekend and really just trying to figure out what He wants with all this.

5. Well, there might also be a few parties and swag and a certain concert with Michelle Branch and Matt Kearney. All of these will make the trip even more worth it.

So there. A few reasons I've decided to geek out this weekend and head to Blissdom. I'm excited. Kind of. Nervous, really.

I'll let you know how it goes.

So, what are YOU doing this weekend?

Shelly

Monday, January 24, 2011

Gratitude Journal

I realize that I've gotten away from recording the many things for which I'm thankful. The goal is to get to 1,000, and although I have a long way to go, I don't want to give up.

So I'm joining Ann Voskamp again today, sharing my thankfulness from the past few weeks.

33. Grace – I’ve needed a lot of it in the past week.
34. My new washing machine (!)
35. Fun times with family
36. Four-day weekends (o.k., that was two weekends ago, but still . . .)
37. A date with my husband
38. Successful lock-ins
39. Lunch with a friend with a beautiful heart
40. Roaring fires on really cold days
41. L (our girls’ babysitter when they were little) who is following God’s call to the mission field
42. Awesome times at church on Sunday
43. Bible study – gaining new insight into the Good Shepherd
44. My friends, who make me feel a little more normal
45. B, who still loves me despite the fact that I have given him very little reason to this week.
46. A great Saturday with Maggie, celebrating her upcoming birthday by going to see Wicked!
47. Daughters who are growing up and maturing in so many beautiful ways.
48. Unexpected encouragement in the form of blog comments (I'm so thankful for all of YOU!)
49. B's birthday this week
50. Maggie, whose sensitivity this morning touched my heart.

They are all around us, things for which we can be thankful. God IS good, and I'm holding on to that truth this week.




Shelly

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fabulous Friday *Football* Food


Pssssst.

Just in case you haven’t heard yet, there’s a little football game on this Sunday. It’s called the Superbowl.

Just kidding! It isn’t the REAL Superbowl, but if you’re from around these parts, it might as well be. The Bears are playing the Packers for the chance to go to the Superbowl and nary a rivalry has been seen in NFL football history.

Just a few stats before we proceed.

- The Bears and the Packers have 48 players in the National Football Hall of Fame—more than any two teams combined.

- The Bears/Packers rivalry spans 90 years and 181 games—the oldest in NFL history.

- Sunday’s game will the first time since 1941 that the two teams have played for the Division Championship.

- The temperature right now in Chicago is -1. On game day, the high is predicted to be a balmy 21 degrees.

- Both the matriarch and the patriarch of the Wild fam household were raised in Bears families, thus you know who we will be rooting for this Sunday.
Things are crazy around here, kids. All the news is about the big game on Sunday. That’s all anybody is talking about.

Well, that and the weather which has been pretty dicey this week. We had some slushy rain earlier in the week which quickly froze, leaving our driveway and front walk looking pretty much like an ice skating rink. Seriously, the ice is about an inch thick. You’re taking your life in your hands to just go out to the garage!

That said, I haven’t ventured out very much this week. You’d think I’d be cooking up a storm with all the hanging around the house I’ve been doing, but I haven’t done much of that either.

So, in honor of the Superbowl this Sunday (I know, I know), and the actual Superbowl in two weeks (when I’ll have about 40 college kids descend on my house--yippee!) I thought I’d just give you some ideas of what I might serve at these events. So, you know, you can plan ahead and all.

Ina Garten’s Pan Fried Onion Dip – oh my! This is quickly becoming one of my favorite dips.

Chili Cheese Dip

Paula Deen’s Black Bean Salsa

My sister Jodi’s homemade salsa—a definite must, but I can’t give you the recipe right now. How ‘bout I promise to give it to you soon? Just to keep you coming back. (tee hee!)

Meatball subs. This doesn’t even take a recipe—I’ll just tell you how to do these if you’ll promise to make them. They are SO easy and SO gooooood!

- Go to Costco. Buy a bag of frozen meatballs.

- Go to Trader Joes. Buy a couple of cans of their TJ’s marinara (yes, it comes in a can for about $1.79). And if you don't have a Trader Joe's near you, let's just have a moment of silence, shall we?

- Put the meatballs in a crockpot; throw the marinara over the meatballs. Cook for several hours in the crockpot until the meatballs are tender.

- Serve on buns with provolone cheese. Mmmmmm.
I’m telling you, this is such a crowd-pleaser. There’s nothing to it, and everyone will be so happy.

Now, I've got stuff to do today, one of which is to go to Trader Joe's where I'll be picking up a few extra cans of their $1.79 Marinara Sauce. And I'll be preparing for all the football-watching and couch-sitting I'll be doing this weekend.

I know we'll be having fun. I hope you will be too.

So tell me, what are you doing this weekend?

Shelly

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Guest posting!!

Hi! Just bopping in to say that I'm guest posting at "Life . . . Your Way {Full}" today. Come read about Ten Inexpensive Ways to Beat the Wintertime Blues by yours truly. Because I know ALL about those wintertime blues. I'm sort of an expert, if you will.

See you tomorrow!

Shelly

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Generosity



Recently, B and I met with some of the leadership of our church to talk about a traditionally difficult subject. It’s not something we Christians like to bring into the daylight. It’s kind of personal. And some people think it should just be kept between husband and wife.

We talked about giving.

Yes, that kind of giving. The giving-away-your-money kind of giving.

Prior to our Sunday afternoon seminar all of us had gone through a four-week devotional by Gordon MacDonald called “Generosity.” This was an interesting little book. Thought-provoking. And difficult to read sometimes because of the many convicting little zingers MacDonald has sprinkled throughout the book. (Thanks for that.)

So, with that book in our minds, we settled in for a good, long discussion about generosity and giving and how these relate to our own personal lives and to the life of our church.

Three hours later, minds blown, spirits crushed, B and I headed to our car to have a nice long cry. Not really. We actually came away energized and excited about what God is doing and has allowed us to be a part of.

During the seminar we watched several video clips, but one in particular really got to us. It was a clip of Tim Keller speaking about idols. Whoo boy! Talk about convicting! Keller basically said, “Look around you. Look at how you spend your time and what you spend your money on. Those are your idols. And don’t think you don’t have them—everybody does.”

I wondered, as you might, as I’m sure the moderator wanted us to, what are my idols? I bet my family could answer that question better than I could. They know what I value, what makes me downright cranky when it’s taken away.

I’ve pondered this question for a while: what are my idols? and I’ve come to see that one of my biggest ones is my time. Lately I’ve felt pulled in many different directions. I get tired sometimes. I realize that I’d be a terrible minister because I don’t always deal very graciously with the demands placed on me.

And yet, God keeps bringing opportunities my way. Chances to come alongside others, lend a hand, bring a meal, chat over coffee, speak to women. A privilege—service, relationships, community—that I don’t take lightly.

Pair Keller’s thoughts with something that MacDonald said: “Heaven deals with the currency of love, grace, kindness, mercy, and benevolence. It recognizes the currency of humility, service, and witness. It honors the currency of defense on behalf of the widow and the orphan, the weak and the poor, the sick and the aged.”

As I read that I thought, that doesn't have much to do with money at all, and I realized that God also stores up the hours we spend showing grace to others as treasure in Heaven.

To me, time is a more valuable commodity than money. Money, to me, is different—I haven’t made any in years. *ha!* But I do have time, a limited amount every day that God is asking me to use to His glory, to pour into others, to extend grace.

Will I be generous with my time? Will you?

Now, if you're brave enough, let's talk about idols. What are the things that make you cranky if you don't have them? How can you open your hand and let go of these things?

Shelly

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dabbling?

I walked and I prayed. These are not unusual.

I cried. This was unusual.

Yes, I’ve already confessed my penchant for tears, but I don’t usually cry when I walk my dog. Last week I did.

Have you ever felt like a failure? Like a quitter? Like you just don’t seem to do anything with your life? I have. I do. And these are the things I was talking to God about last week.

I know it probably has a lot to do with a blogging conference I’m attending next week. I feel so out of my element going to this event, like I don’t really belong there, so I was praying about that . . . wondering why God has me going far away to hang out with a bunch of women I don’t know for reasons I don’t understand.

As I was praying I got to thinking about how I don’t really have a “thing.” I mean, this blog isn’t what I’d call successful. I’ve never written that book I’ve been meaning to write. I’ve spoken a little, but I haven’t pursued this as a “career." I’ve got a master’s degree, but never pursued a Ph.D. And then it dawned on me . . .

I’m a dabbler.

So as I walked, I poured out my heart to God, expressing my frustration that I dabble in so many things, but have never had one “thing." I wondered out loud to God why that is.

Frustration came too easily that day, not peace, not reassurance. Just frustration that I have never pursued much of anything for very long, that I’ve never had what you would call a meaningful career, that my life, as I see it, is not one of accomplishments.

It’s true, I’m a dabbler.

Then, in the quiet of the morning, snow crunching under my feet and the pit-pat, pit-pat of the dog’s paws, He whispered to my heart: You’ve never dabbled in being a mom to those three girls I’ve given you.

And suddenly I know He’s right.

For almost 20 years now I have devoted my life to three little girls who have given me a Ph.D. in parenting, in commitment, in love. They have been both the hardest and the happiest years of my life.

And even though I see this phase of my life careening past me at a blistering pace, God showed me that they have been my "thing."

So I will continue to follow the One who has given me these three darlings, and I will continue to pray for opportunities to serve Him wherever and whenever He wants, and I will keep looking for that “thing” that is mine.

Even if it’s right under my nose.

How about you? Are you a dabbler? What does that look like?

* * * * *

Hey, I'm also posting over at the MODsquad blog today. I'd love it if you'd check it out!

Shelly

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Winter Has Taken Its Toll on Someone

My mom just sent me this link that I had to share with you all. It made me laugh so hard, and I thought maybe you could use a chuckle about now too.

And to my Atlanta friends, just "stay your behinds at home," you hear?!



Somehow I don't think she'd last in a Chicago winter.

Shelly

Friday, January 14, 2011

Five Minute Writing

Lisa-Jo at The Gypsy Mama came up with a great idea. Writing for five minutes just to see what we can come up with. This week she gave us a prompt to look through our camera and come up with a photo that we can put into words.

The old writing teacher in me really came out with this one since I used to do stuff like this all the time. Love those writing prompts! I had so much fun that I really hope Lisa-Jo does this again. I'll play!

So, here's my attempt at five minute writing along with the photos that served as my inspiration:




START:

Looking at photos from Borough Market from last summer.

Beautiful, vibrant flowers in purples and yellows and greens.

Cheese, some stinky, stacked ten rounds high. Samples are offered, and I take one from the Stilton vendor, allowing the pungent blue veins to melt and spread all over my tongue. I want more.

Baked goods, especially croissants, are huge and perfect and expertly browned. Croissants are my favorite, the way they softly pull apart and gently melt in your mouth.

I hear the voices of the vendors, “Sausages! Come try the sausages!”

And the grilled cheese vendor. The best grilled cheese I have ever eaten. Ever. Crunchy, perfectly browned, crunchy-crusted Italian bread. Pungent English cheddar with tiny bits of onion and leek. Stringy, salty, perfection.

The bustle of the crowd, the blaring music from street musicians, the cobbled streets, and the delicious grilled cheese all come together to make Borough Market one of my favorite London experiences.

STOP

O.K., I confess . . . I couldn't be inspired by just one photo of Borough Market, or even two. Here are a couple more that I just love.






Shelly

Fabulous Friday Food - Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Have you ever been to the National Archives building in Washington D.C.? That's the building that houses the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution and all those other important documents. It's got really thick walls and super-high pillars out front, and the doors are made of the thickest steel you can imagine.

Why the super-security? Well, because those documents are pretty valuable, not just monetarily, but also to our country's heritage. Nobody is getting near those documents (well, unless you're Nicolas Cage and you have a personal vendetta).

This is exactly how I feel about my spaghetti sauce recipe. It's a valuable piece of my family heritage, and I hardly ever give it out. Like, never.

Not that anyone's ever asked for it before. They probably haven't, which is most likely why I've never given it out, but it's nice to pretend that I'm one of those family-secret-recipe people.

I grew up watching my mom make spaghetti sauce. She'd start it in the morning and let it simmer away all day, and our entire house would smell like sauce. Yum. I learned a lot by watching my mom, but I've also tweaked the recipe some over the years. This is probably nothing like the sauce my mom used to make. It's better. (Sorry, Mom! I couldn't resist!)

Anyway, here today, I'm giving you the recipe to one of my family's all-time favorite meals: Homemade Spaghetti Sauce. I honestly think it's not that much harder than opening a jar, so you might as well take the time to make it homemade. Plus, it tastes exponentially better than that jarred stuff. With a little bit of effort, you can have a meal that your family will love too.

So here we go. Homemade spaghetti sauce.

Start with about a pound and a half of ground beef, one large (or two smallish) onion, and a good bit of minced garlic.



Brown that all together, then drain off the fat. (No picture of draining fat because . . . well . . . eeew.)

After you've drained the fat off, return the meat to the heat, but move it away to the side. (This part is the trickiest part of the whole thing. Just pay attention.) In the area in the middle of the pan, put the contents of one small can of tomato paste.


Move it around just a little until it coats the bottom of the pan. This will start to happen as the tomato paste gets warm.


Once you have some "bits" on the bottom of the pan, add a second can of tomato paste and mix everything together with the meat and onions and garlic.

Next, add a big splash of red wine (about a half cup), scraping the "bits" from the bottom of the pan.


Mix that together until nice and thick.


Now add your tomatoes: 1 large can (28 oz) of diced tomatoes, 1 large can of crushed tomatoes, and 2 large cans (15 oz) of tomato sauce. Bring that to a nice, bubbly boil.


Now it's time for some spices. A couple of large handfuls of dried basil (use fresh if you have it), one large handful of oregano, and some salt.


Now just turn down the heat a little, put a lid on it, and let it simmer for a while. The longer it simmers, the better it is. Plus, it's a little free "Spaghetti Sauce" scented air freshener for your house!

Serve over noodles and enjoy!


Here's the great thing about the recipe I just gave you: it makes a lot. As in, you can serve this to your family for dinner, then have some leftovers, and still have enough sauce to make a lasagne for next week (it's also great for mostaccioli). Or do what I do and put the remaining sauce into a couple of Ziplok bags and throw them in the freezer. Instant dinner on one of "those" nights.

Shelly's Spaghetti Sauce

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 large (or 2 small) onions
1-2 cloves minced garlic (depending on how much you like)
2 (8 oz) cans tomato paste
1/2 Cup red wine
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
2 (15 oz) cans tomato sauce
2 Tablespoons dried basil
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
Salt to taste

1. Brown ground beef with onions and garlic; drain.

2. Push meat to the sides of the pan. Add 1 can tomato paste and allow to "adhere" to the bottom of the pan over medium-high heat--this will take a couple of minutes. Add second can of tomato paste and mix with meat.

3. Add red wine, scraping the bits from the bottom of the pan.

4. Add rest of tomatoes and spices; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and let simmer at least one hour, preferably two or three. Serve over spaghetti noodles.

Enjoy!

Shelly

Thursday, January 13, 2011

It's Here! It's Here!

When the doorbell rang this afternoon, I felt like the dad in "A Christmas Story." I looked at Abby who was blithely sitting at the counter eating peanut butter cookies, my eyes reeeaal wide, and said, "It's a major award!"

It wasn't really a major award, but I sure felt like it was. Because I'd been waiting all week for this.



Isn't she pretty?

I know, I'm pathetic. Such excitement over a washing machine.

People keep asking me if I got one of those fancy schmancy front-loading machines. You know, the kind like 99% of the world now has, except for me. Because I'm one of those change-averse people who really likes my top-loading machine, thankyouverymuch. And besides, I'm thinking ahead to the day (very soon, I have a feeling) when my back won't be what it used to be and I just might not be able to bend that far over without hurting something (those front loaders sit real close to the ground, have you noticed?).

So I stuck to my guns and got another top-loader.

Besides, have you seen where I actually have to go to do my laundry? This is so embarrassing, but I will show you the bowels of my home. The dregs, if you will. The ugliest place on my planet, which is probably why I hate doing laundry.

I have to go here:



I know. I'm pathetic.

Shelly

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Life Gets In the Way

I just loved how all the moms of college students chimed in on my weeping issue yesterday. Seems like lots of you can relate to my little “problem.”

You younger moms take note. Because someday you will probably 1) send someone off to college and 2) have hormonal weeping issues yourself. We moms of older children (note that I didn’t say “older moms”) aren’t entirely crazy.

Just semi-crazy.

I was going to write a deep post today about some things I learned at church on Sunday, but that will have to wait for another day because some things have happened that have caused me to stop thinking deeply for a couple of days and just deal with life.

First, I forgot the color of my daughter’s eyes. I am traumatized. In yesterday’s post I wrote at first about looking into her “beautiful brown eyes.” And then I got a message on Facebook that said, “I'm so offended. After 18 years you still don't know the color of my eyes. Blue, mom, very very blue...not brown!”

And you know what? She’s right! She definitely has blue eyes. Very, very blue eyes. I love those blue eyes because, well, they are hers, but also because they are such an anomaly. Between my hazel eyes and my husband’s brown eyes, we should NOT have had a blue-eyed child, but those recessive genes were on our side and we got Kate. And her blueberry eyes. But I completely spaced it out and wrote “brown” instead of “blue” on my post yesterday. (I’ve since corrected it. And she has graciously forgiven me.)

Second, I had to buy a new washing machine yesterday. I woke up on Sunday and my life was in order, but by Sunday night things were definitely going south when I found out our only-five-years-old washing machine wasn’t working right. I called a repairman who came out right away and who kind of gleefully (why would he be happy about this, I ask you?) told me that the motor wasn’t working. It would cost almost as much as a new machine to replace the motor, so I went shopping.

I hate shopping. Especially for things like washing machines. Oh, and did I mention that we had to get a new furnace last month?

The whole situation just wears me out.

Finally, something is wrong with our cable connection. It's not snowing (I KNOW! We're like the only place in America where it's NOT snowing!). It's not raining. The sun was out all day yesterday, and yet, during the BCS National Championship game last night our cable decided to do this crazy fritzing thing. So the announcers sounded something like this: "And now . . . 's got the ball . . . unning down the line . . . down!" Was that a first down? A touch down? What kind of down was it? Do you know how exhausting it is to try to fill in all those blanks?

A night of football bliss just turned into a . . . -ight . . . foo--all . . . -liss. Exhausting, I tell you.

And so, sometimes life just doesn’t go as planned. In fact, I’m finding that rarely does my life go as planned. In fact, I should probably just stop planning.

I guess that’s what they mean when they say, “just hang on and enjoy the ride.”

Shelly

Monday, January 10, 2011

"I'm a Weepah"



Call it hormones.

Call it middle age.

(On second thought, don’t you DARE call it middle age.)

Maybe it’s winter, which is always rough for me (doesn’t help that it gets dark right after lunch—geesh! It’s like we live in Alaska . . . without all the beauty.).

I don’t know what it is, but lately I’ve been especially, shall we say, weepy.

I can’t get through a church service without dabbing at my eyes. I can’t watch television commercials without tearing up (all those poor people with medical issues and tax problems!). And don’t even get me started about watching the news . . . .

Yesterday I surprised myself, though, when my college girl went back to school. I drove her all of eight blocks back to the dorm in the late afternoon, pulled into the circular drive, and looked into those beautiful blue eyes. For some reason I felt like I needed some closure. (I’m big into closure, just ask my family.) So I turned to her and said, “It was a really great break, Kate. We loved having you home.” And then I cried. Just like a little baby, I wept.

Reminds me of that scene in “The Holiday” when Jude Law tells Cameron Diaz about his crying problem and he says, “I weep. I’m a weeper.” (Only in his gorgeous British accent he says “weepah.”) Yep, that’s me. A weeper.

So there I was, mind racing, realizing that half of her freshman year was already over and before I know it she’ll be a sophomore and before I know it again she’ll be halfway done with college and speeding quickly down the highway toward real adulthood. They grow up so fast. *sniff, sniff*

It’s not like Christmas break was perfect. Those three little angels aren’t exactly angels all the time. They don’t always get along. They don’t always even acknowledge each other’s existence as human beings. But they are sisters who love each other, and it’s always fun to have them all under one roof.

Which is, I guess, why I unexpectedly started to cry as I dropped my daughter at her dorm. (Of course, it could have been the huge tuition check I handed her with strict instructions to not-lose-it-but-be-sure-you-don’t-take-it-to-student-accounts-until-Tuesday.)

I looked at my daughter, growing into a woman, and realized how quickly things are changing. Those nights of having all five of us under one roof are becoming less and less frequent and more and more precious. The playful banter and raucous laughter that seems to only happen when we’re ALL here will end for a while. The noise will die down . . . A LOT . . . and the big space that seems to be filled up when all five of us are home will have just a little less personality to it.

Kate’s gone. Sure, she’s only a few blocks away. And, sure, I may see her later today with some things she’s forgotten here at home. But things have changed again, my world has altered just a little, and I must move on.

With tears in my eyes.

Shelly

Friday, January 7, 2011

Fabulous Friday Food - Honey Whole Wheat Bread

I confess, this is a repeat from last March. But I really did make this bread this week and it is oh-so-delicious and I really think you should make it too. So I'm posting it again. Consider this a kick in the butt.


To kind of go along with the book review I did yesterday [remember: last March], I thought I'd share a recipe with you for something my family loves.

I don't just mean we love it with all small letters. We L-O-V-E with all caps this recipe.

For some reason this winter I started making bread. To be honest, Jo-Lynn was my inspiration--she's the one who introduced me to Michael Pollan and is really into healthy eating. And she bakes her own bread. Imagine.

But I got to thinking that my family would probably enjoy a slice of homemade bread every now and then, plus it's so much better for them, so I bought a bag of whole wheat flour and went to town.

Not literally--I already live in town. You know what I mean.

Anyway, the recipe I'm going to share with you came from Allrecipes.com and is really not that hard. You can do it. I know you can. I've made this about five times and it has turned out perfectly every time. (And thank goodness it cooperated this time since I was taking pictures and blogging about it and all.)

First, you mix together 3 cups of warm water with 2 packages yeast, 1/3 cup honey, and 5 cups white flour (or "bread flour" whatever that is).



Let those ingredients get happy for a while, as Emeril would say. Oh, about 30 minutes, until it's ooey and gooey.



Mix in some melted butter, another 1/3 cup honey and some salt. Here's where you need some whole wheat flour--about 3 or 4 cups.



Stir it into the rest of the dough and then knead it, adding whole wheat flour as you go until it's still slightly sticky.

(The recipe says to knead it with your hands, but this is where I pull out the trusty Kitchen Aid mixer. Even though mine is a smaller model and the dough spills up over the dough hook, it's worth it.)

Let all this mess rise for about an hour or so until it's doubled. Like this.



Shape it into three loaves and let them rise in the pans for about another hour.



Bake them. When they are done, you'll have three gorgeous loaves of whole wheat bread that your family will L-O-V-E.



Now, I hear the weather around these parts is going to be on the nasty side this weekend (don't tell anyone I said this, but the weatherman said something about little white flakes falling from the sky again. I just can't bear it, can you?), so I think it would be a very good time to practice your bread making skills. Seriously. Get the pans out and have fun.

Your family will L-O-V-E you!

Here's the recipe in case you couldn't follow what I was saying up there.

Simple Whole Wheat Bread (from Allrecipes.com)

3 cups warm water (110 degrees)
2 packages active dry yeast
1/3 C honey
5 C bread flour
3 T butter, melted
1/3 C honey
1 T salt
3 1/2 C whole wheat flour
2 T butter, melted

1. In a large bowl, mix warm water, yeast, and 1/3 C honey. Add 5 C white bread flour, and stir to combine. Let set for 30 minutes, or until big and bubbly.

2. Mix in 3 T. melted butter, 1/3 C honey, and salt. Stir in 2 C whole wheat flour. Flour a flat surface and knead with whole wheat flour until not real sticky--just pulling away from the counter, but still sticky to touch. This may take an additional 2 to 4 C of whole wheat flour. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough. Cover with a dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled.

3. Punch down, and divide into 3 loaves. Place in greased 9x5 inch loaf pans, and allow to rise until dough has topped the pans by one inch.

4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes; do not over bake. Lightly brush the tops of loaves with 2 T. melted butter when done to prevent crust from getting hard. Cool completely (unless you live in my house and the bread does not even make it to the cooled stage).

Oh, I have to tell you that I have discovered the joys of bread flour. It's flour. That you use to make bread. It makes the bread wonderfully soft and perfect. So find some and use it. You'll thank me for it.

For a printable version of this recipe, click here.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Please Tell Me We're Normal

These are just some of the topics we covered at dinner last night . . .

- racism

- Sarah Palin/Kate Goselin (DID YOU SEE THAT??!!)

- Chicago mayoral elections (always interesting)

- Rod Blagojevich (question: is he stupid or not?)

- Benjamin Franklin's virtues (Maggie had to journal about this for a class. I was so proud when she told us that she has her own set of virtues and they're called The Fruit of the Spirit. Yea!)

- the new Congress (this took a while)

- "It's a Wonderful Life" (I know. We just can't seem to let it go.)

So, what did you talk about last night?

Shelly

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Good Reads

I know I usually post Good Reads on Saturdays, but I've got a whole stack of great posts ready for you to devour, so I thought I'd just get wacky and post them on a Wednesday. Go wild.

I've been thinking about words lately. A lot. Ann Voskamp is a word miracle worker, so it's fitting that she writes this post about the power of words. And the power of a parent's words especially.

I absolutely loved this post at Down on the Farm. She's vulnerable. She's real. And she didn't even bake a single Christmas cookie this year. I think I have a new hero.

Need help with your New Year's Resolution-making? Here are about a hundred or so links to help you out--everything from green living to finances to career goals. Lots of help at "Life . . . Your Way."

And speaking of "Life . . . Your Way" . . . This is a new-ish blog to me (I've been following it for a few months now), and I've got to say that finding this was a happy surprise. This week they are offering tons of free downloads for you. I've printed off a lot of these already, and I know they are going to be helpful.

Here's another freebie from the MODsquad blog (which, by the way, I contribute to monthly--yippee!). It's a beautiful calendar that you can print out. For FREEEEE!!

Two more. Hang with me here.

I always look forward to the list of "banished words" that Lake Superior State University publishes every year. This year's list is "epic," but not an "epic fail." I'm just sayin'.

Finally, Lysa TerKeurst is writing about food, nutrition, and craving God the most in our lives. This post was really practical, and convicting. She tends to do that. But I love her.

So tell me, have you found any good reads lately?

Shelly

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010 - A Photo Review

I really think I get most of my good ideas from Jo-Lynne. That's probably why her blog rocks and mine just rolls. (Tee hee!)

Anyway, Jo-Lynne (who, by the way, copied the idea from JanMary--so I'm not the only one copying ideas! *ahem*) recapped her year in pictures. I loved this idea, so I'm stealing it. Again.

Maybe next week I'll have an original thought.

JANUARY

What can I say about January around here other than it's cold? And sometimes we get a lot of snow, like on this day when I went walking with my camera.

When life gives you lemons . . . I always say.





FEBRUARY

Oh February was fun! We grown-ups got to sneak away (shhh, don't tell our kids!) for a few days of skiing in Park City, UT. We had a great time with our friends and loved staying in a gorgeous home in one of the most beautiful settings you could imagine.




MARCH

March, I loved ya! Especially since March was when Abby and I hopped a plane and landed in England of all places!

Imagine! Me? England? Who knew?


This time Abby treated me to the delights that are Liberty of London (I had never been here before).


And, of course, no trip would be complete (for me, anyway) without a trip to Borough Market.



APRIL

Looking back through my old posts, I realize that I forgot to write about this, but my birthday was (is) in April. Last year I decided that for my birthday I wanted our girls to experience a Chicago restaurant that I loved when I was in college and have hardly been back since. We weren't sure that the Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder would be as good as we remembered, but it sure was.

Thanks, fam, for indulging me in what may just become a birthday tradition. Yum!

Best. Pizza. Ever.


Best. Family. Ever.


MAY

May saw some beginnings . . . and some endings.

I wrote about the opening of our French Market in town. I call this my happy place.


And the ending of the school year brought with it post prom festivities. I had never volunteered there before, but I'm sure I'll do it again this year. Lots of fun!



JUNE

June brought with it graduation. (Congrats, Kate!)


And almost equally significant was the Blackhawks championship season. We took Maggie downtown to see the parade. Along with two million of our favorite friends.


I love these fans.




JULY

England, again. I KNOW! I'm such a princess, right? That's what I've been saying all year.

So we celebrated 25 years of marriage this year, most of them happy. Ha! That's my dad's joke.

And speaking of dear old Dad, he and mom celebrated 50 years of marriage, most of them . . . you know. And in celebration, we all went to the British Open golf tournament. Along with a few other places.

And I found my dream home. Should suit a princess, don't you think?



AUGUST

Back to school.

Some stayed home. . . .


. . . one went far, far away. Like, eight blocks.



SEPTEMBER

I think September was a time of quiet in preparation for what would be the insanity that was the rest of our fall. So I spent a little time decorating. . . .



. . . and crafting. (And if you think that was for real, you don't know me very well at all.)



OCTOBER

Twenty-five years after graduating from Wheaton College, my roommates came back to celebrate our class reunion. This is pretty much all we did all weekend--laughed.


And posed for pictures. There may have been a little food involved, too.

I miss these girls.


B and I were invited to Pebble Beach in October. And, you know, when you're invited to go to Pebble Beach you pretty much go. Because Pebble Beach is wonderful and amazing and so, so posh.

They even have birds waiting for you to take their pictures.



Not to be outdone by their parents, our girls made us take them to the second-coolest place on earth: Springfield, IL. Oh, I kid.

We DID go to the birthplace of Lincoln. And we DID have a great time. But most of the weekend was spent by all of us saying, "I miss Kate. I wish Kate were with us." Boo hoo.


NOVEMBER

I think I was busy every single weekend in October, and November was hardly any different. But the best weekend, for sure, was my trip to Florida with my girlfriends. (Did I mention that we went on a private jet?) (And that my friend, Kim's house is amazing?) (This is the view from her pool.)


I got to spend some very precious time with my Grandma Nell while I was there too.


Another highlight from November was speaking at a Women's Retreat, but I don't have a photo of that. Just imagine me standing behind a podium. Great shot, huh?


DECEMBER

The season of joy. And crazy-busyness when you throw in two Christmas teas and hosting about five different events at your house.


I don't know why I'm throwing this picture in here, but those brussels sprouts from Trader Joe's just cracked me up. And they were yummy!


We ended the year and rang in the new at my sister's house in Dallas, TX. (She's the second from the right. Holla, Jenn!) And while I'm at it, I'll just shout out to my other sister, Jodi (farthest on the left), and Mom (the beautiful woman on the right).

A few years back all five of our girls came to us parents and said, "We just want you to know that even when we are grown up and have husbands we want to have cousins Christmas." This year was a bit of a challenge, but we pulled it off.


Wow, this looking back has really been fun. Time-consuming (just ask my family who watched me pull this post together in about six hours on Sunday afternoon), but lots and lots of fun. It's made me realize a few things, too.

First, I've covered some ground in 2010. Racked up a few frequent flier miles too.

Second, our lives are probably at the height of busy-ness right now. Between B's job and responsibilities at church, the kids' activities, and my writing and speaking, things can get a little out of hand at times. But that's O.K. It wouldn't be life if it weren't a little out of control at times.

Let's just say that life is indeed full at our house. Full of fun. Full of teenagers. Full of college friends. Full of surprises. Full of love.

I'm so grateful for 2010 and can't wait to see what 2011 holds.

Shelly