Friday, November 21, 2014

Fabulous Friday Food :: Pumpkin Bread

For us, Thanksgiving is usually anything but traditional. See, we don't have family nearby, so for Thanksgiving we're on our own. We've tried having Thanksgiving at home with just the five of us, but something about just the five of us sitting around our dining room table makes me a little sad.

So over the years we've tried different things. We've gone to the big city a number of times for Thanksgiving dinner. We've even stayed in a hotel in the city a couple of times (it's actually more fun than it sounds!).

We've gone to friends' homes, which is also very nice, but a reminder yet again of how we don't have family close by.

Last year was probably our favorite Thanksgiving yet: we drove to Washington DC to visit Kate who was studying there for the semester. We rented a house through VRBO, which turned out to be perfect for us. We walked a ton, we saw the sights, and we went to one of our favorite DC restaurants, Founding Farmers, for Thanksgiving dinner. Oh my, YUM! Totally non-traditional (we did have turkey, though), but such a great memory. We still talk about it.

This year is a little different because we've decided to actually stay home for the first time in a long time. Since Kate doesn't live with us anymore and Caroline is away at school, we decided that a nice, quiet, traditional Thanksgiving at home might be just the thing we need this year. 

Today I decided to get a little head start on some baking for next week, so I whipped up a batch of our favorite pumpkin bread. This is a recipe I got from a friend of mine probably 25 years ago (crazy that I've been making this bread for that long)--it's really and truly the best pumpkin bread recipe I've ever tried. 

And easy? Yep. Totally easy. You probably have everything you need right in your pantry. 

So here we go. (This won't take long.)

Basically, cream the butter, sugar, eggs, pumpkin, and vanilla.


In a separate bowl, sift the dry ingredients.


Mix the two together until well blended. Add nuts or chocolate chips, if you want. 

Our family always wants chocolate chips.

Be sure you butter and flour the loaf pans before you add the batter. 


I don't know about you, but I seem to have a hard time getting loaves of sweet bread out of the pans.


Anyway, bake the small loaves for about 45 minutes (larger loaves take an hour). When they're done they will look beautiful, like this.


This bread would be great for a breakfast treat or on your Thanksgiving table. It's delicious and moist and tastes like fall. Whatever you do and whenever you serve it, be sure to enjoy your time with family and friends.

Happy Thanksgiving!

For a printable version of this recipe, click here.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

When the Gospel Seems Too Good To Be True


“It’s like it’s too good to be true or too scary to be real.”

A friend and I were sitting in my family room drinking tea, talking about how God can transform a life, and this is what she said.

I thought about it for a second, then nodded my head and agreed with her. Sometimes the thought of God reaching down into my mess seems too good to be true. At other times, the thought of God actually seeing the mess that I am is too scary to be real.

How could He actually do that? Why would He even want to deal with me when I’ve let him down in so many ways?

The gospel does sometimes feel too good to be true. Not in the literal sense—I believe that the gospel is indeed true—but in the figurative way we use that phrase.

When we say something is “too good to be true” we don’t mean that it’s actually untrue, but that we just can’t believe something that great would happen to us.

The first time (well, every time, actually) I set foot in England, I felt like it was “too good to be true.”

Every time I held my own newborn baby I felt like it was “too good to be true.”

Some days, when we’re clicking on all cylinders and my husband looks at me with love in his eyes, I feel like it’s “too good to be true.”

But these things are real. These things have happened to me. They aren’t “untrue.” They just feel too good to be true.

And that’s when I resoundingly agreed with my friend.

The gospel IS too good to be true. The fact that God allowed his only son to leave heaven to come to earth to live among sinful human beings only to be tortured, beaten, and crucified is beyond my comprehension. That’s a love that is “too good to be true.”

And too scary to be real? Yeah, I get that one too.

The power that raised Jesus from the dead? Pretty awesome power. Power, which, if we really understood it, would make us fall on our knees, overcome.

The kind of power that sees into our very souls and still loves us and wants a relationship with us? That’s kind of scary too, when you think about it.

The kind of power that can heal our diseases and has authority over demons? Wow. Amazing, yes, and scary.

Still, it’s real. He’s real. I believe it because I see it every day. I see it when the sun comes up in the morning. I see it when my family gathers around the table. I see it when I walk my dog through the park nearby.

I see it when He takes hold of the life of someone who thought she was beyond hope, and He brings hope once again.

Of course, my mind immediately went to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:


“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.” 

“Too good to be true and too scary to be real.”

I get it. It’s called Awe. Amazement. Wonder. These are just the things that the gospel should make us feel.

Friday, November 7, 2014

How to Give Thanks in a Storm

Exactly seven years ago today, I was one sick mama. And I mean that in the most literal sense.

Seven years ago, I was admitted to the hospital not knowing that I would stay there for twelve days.

Twelve days! Nobody stays in the hospital for twelve days anymore, especially not a mom with three young, terrified daughters at home and a husband who works 45 minutes from home who is suddenly thrust into the role of both Mom and Dad while trying to conceal his role as worried husband from those three young girls.


We were in a storm. . . .


Want to read more? I'm sharing over at Mothers of Daughters today. Click here to see the rest.

Monday, November 3, 2014

What do you do when you’re bone weary?


The phone on my nightstand sounds an alarm at 5:30 a.m. 

I’m not ready.

I swipe, and then I sleep.

Until 5:45 when my second alarm sounds.

I rub my eyes, say hello to God, and slowly peel away the blankets. It’s cold, and climbing out of the warm cocoon I have built overnight is just about the last thing I want to do.

As I begin to sit up I realize that I am not refreshed, but weary. Bone weary.

As I slowly trek across my bedroom floor toward the shower, I run through my day—all the “shoulds,” all the “need tos,” all the “must dos” race to the forefront of my mind, and the weariness that has enveloped my soul for months wraps its tentacles around my heart yet again.

Being tired isn’t the same thing. I’m not tired, really. My mind is racing, so I couldn’t lie down and sleep some more.

No, it’s just a weariness that has seeped into my bones and into my heart that won’t let me go.

Is this what getting older feels like?


I’m fighting. I do not want weariness to be my hallmark. I do not want to be one of those people who, when asked how I’m doing remarks, “Oh, I’m O.K. I’m just tired.”

Who wants to be around that?

There’s nothing wrong with me, physically; the myriad of doctors I visited this summer assured me of that.

It’s just this soul-sucking weariness that has taken over, and I must figure out how to get rid of it because the truth is, life isn’t going to change. This pace that we have chosen is not going to stop.

The ministry we have, the places we serve, the family we love all bring me to the same place: my life is amazing.

So why do I feel so worn out?

Honestly, I have no answers.

Burdens are burdens and some are not meant to be shared, but we carry them every day.

Life is life and it is meant to be lived, but some days I’d just like the roller coaster to stop its ups and downs.

Work is work and it is fulfilling, but some days I’d like someone else to step in and do it for me.

What’s the solution? Where is the relief? When will it come?

I think the answer is found the moment I am awakened by my alarm: open your eyes.


I think of the story in the Bible of the man who was born blind. I’m sure he was weary, tired of begging for crumbs, exhausted before he even woke up every morning. Then one day, Jesus sees him and miraculously heals him, and everyone keeps asking him, “Who opened your eyes?” His immediate answer: “Jesus.”

My alarm should truly alarm me. Am I opening my eyes to the burdens of the day or am I opening them to Jesus, who, by the way, has offered to carry those burdens for me?

Am I waking to thoughts of my creaking bones or thoughts of the One who truly sees me?

Am I living in life-giving gratitude or in life-sucking negativity?


This is my reminder to myself today: Open your eyes. See Jesus.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Fabulous Friday Food: You Don't Have to Do It All

Happy Friday, friends!

I've had a busy week, thus, no posting.

I was out of town at the Allume conference last week. SO GOOD! And then I came back to the usual stuff--classes, college group dinner, a concert at the high school.

Oh, and I'm painting our guest room. Because my college roommate is coming next week (yea!) and that bedroom needs redecorating.

So, even though I do love to cook, some weeks I just don't have the time.

Maybe you've had a busy week, too. Maybe you've dealt with kids or crises or just Halloween costumes, which used to send me right over the EDGE I tell you. (I'm not a very creative mom, and when it comes to creating costumes . . . UGH . . . I'm the worst!)

Anyway, when those busy weeks come, sometimes it's nice to get a little help. Because you know you don't have to make everything from scratch, right?

A couple of weeks ago I was wandering through Williams-Sonoma, my happy place, and saw this sauce-in-a-jar.



Along with it was a recipe for Pumpkin Lasagna with Fontina. Are you kidding me?! Pumpkin, pasta, and fontina cheese all wrapped into one delicious dish?

Count me in!

So I bought a jar. Yes, they got me. Yes, it's expensive. And, yes, it took a little time.

But, by golly, it was worth it.

Totally.

So I went home and made this beautiful lasagna.


I followed the recipe exactly as it was given to me on the Williams-Sonoma website, and my lasagna turned out pretty much like this.

Plus it was delicious.

Looking for something special to serve to friends this fall? Try this one.

Because you don't have to do it all.

[P.S. Williams-Sonoma did not pay me to advertise for them. I just really liked the lasagna I made!]

**Photo credits




Friday, October 24, 2014

Fabulous Friday Food: Caramel Apple Dip

Fall is showing off for us this year. The trees are vibrant reds, oranges, and golds; the weather is gorgeous (I'm ignoring the week we had two weeks ago--ugh!); and the leaves are dropping quickly.

I don't know about you, but weather like this makes me want to throw a party. Football? Hockey? (Yes, please!) Halloween?

For the past four years I have hosted a Halloween party for a group of very special college students. We'd have taco soup and chili and lots of snacks and the kids absolutely loved it. So did I! But that group graduated last year and they now live all over the world, so this will be the first year in a long time that I haven't hosted a Halloween party.

I cannot tell you how sad this makes me.

I just might have to recruit a new group of college students.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure that this little recipe was on the menu every year--I make it several times each fall and it usually gets gobbled up in no time.

Just last week I was looking for a quick snack that I could give to a group that was coming over to our house. This dip was just perfect because it only requires four ingredients that I usually have on hand in my pantry.

And apples. Which are just about perfect this time of year.

So, if you're like me and in the mood to throw a Fall-themed party, grab these four ingredients and get cookin'!


All it takes is butter, brown sugar, Karo syrup, and sweetened condensed milk.

I didn't promise you a healthy snack, did I?

Start by melting a stick of butter in a 2-quart saucepan.


Then add the brown sugar and Karo syrup and mix well. Keep the pan over medium heat.

Once that is thoroughly combined, add the sweetened condensed milk.


Stir everything together and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring continually until it begins to boil. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has thickened.

Keep stirring! You do NOT want this to burn on the bottom of the pan. (Trust me.)


After a few minutes, your caramel dip will lighten, like this, and when it's just the right consistency, you're done.

Take it off the heat and allow it to cool just a bit before transferring it to a pretty bowl and serving platter.

Serve your Caramel Apple Dip with apple slices. And watch the party begin!


As they say in the South: "Happy Fall, Y'all!"

For a printable version of this recipe, click here.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fabulous Friday Food: The World's Best Chili

Prepare yourself.

Because after you try this chili you'll never go back to your old, boring chili recipe.

I've been making chili for years--since college, really. And I always used my mom's recipe because, well, she's mom and she's an amazing cook and she made a pretty good chili when I was growing up.

But some years ago I found this recipe in a Texas cookbook that my sister had given me. It's called "Roger Hicks' Cookoff Chili," but since I've tweaked it so much since I first started making it, I think I can now safely call it "Shelly's Chili Will Beat Your Chili in a Cookoff Any Day."

Or something like that.

So, now that it's fall and we're taking rainy-day walks with our dog, scuffling through the leaves, and wearing long sleeves, it's time for chili.

Oh, and football. Isn't chili just the perfect food to eat when the game is on? Piled high with fixings like sour cream, cheese, and cornbread. Yum.

So, now that your appetite is fully whetted, let's get down to business, shall we?

Start with the basics: ground beef, onion, and garlic.



Let that "get happy," as Emeril used to say.


(Where even IS Emeril these days? I miss him.)

Add your tomatoes and kidney beans. Sorry to all the true Southerners out there--I'm a Midwestern gal, and we here in the Midwest add beans to our chili. Only one can, though. We don't want it too heavy with beans.


Next come the spices, some of which might surprise you: cumin, paprika, chili powder (duh!), and cayenne pepper (just a dash). The real surprise, though, is the cocoa powder. And the sugar.




Mix everything together, then add what I think gives this chili its distinct flavor: beer. I recommend starting with a half a bottle, just to see what you think, but if you really like it, add the whole thing.


Now let the pot simmer for a good three hours, uncovered. Just pop by the stove every now and then to give it a stir--don't neglect the chili. And if things start to get too thick, add a cup or two of water and let it keep simmering away.


After three hours, your chili will become thick, rich, and have a deep red color that can only be developed with time. The flavors will come together so well, and you'll have the best bowl of chili you've ever had.


Seriously, if you try this, please pop back here and let me know what you think. I hope you like this one as much as I do.

Have a great weekend!

***

For a printable copy of this recipe, click here.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Good Reads

Happy Sunday!

I hope you're enjoying rest and football and delicious fall weather and whatever makes you happy today.

Here are just a few of my favorite posts lately--maybe they will add to your happy Sunday as well.

The 7 Fear-Nots of Every Writing Project :: Leslie Leyland Fields at WordServe Water Cooler.

6 Reasons This Blog Has Gone Cold :: Jen Pollock Michel

Greater Grace :: Your Mom Has a Blog (don't you just love that name?!)

Why I'm Not Always Opposed to Religious Tourism :: Emily T. Wierenga on TGC

Finally, two videos from this week. One that made me think and one that made me laugh. You can figure out which one was which.

The Meta Picture

FaithTap

Have a great Sunday!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

He Takes My Hand


I don’t know how or when it started, but I would guess that it was after a fight.

You know how some Sunday mornings go: a rush to get out the door, a disagreement about whatever, some lingering bitterness from harsh words exchanged the night before.

I hate those Sundays, I’ll admit. I don’t want to worship, and I certainly don’t want to worship next to him. But our seating arrangement (yes, our family likes its rituals and where we sit in church is definitely one of them) mandates that I sit next to my husband in church.

Usually, I like that arrangement. I think it speaks something subtle, yet significant, to our girls. At least it speaks something to me. It speaks that we are in this together—church, parenting, life—and that we do this all side-by-side. No kids sitting between us. It’s been that way from the beginning.

Oh sure, others do it differently. Others serve as gatekeepers to the pew—no escaping, kids! Others might not even think about their subtle seating chart or might not even have one.

But we do. And on those Sunday mornings when things don’t quite go as planned or when there might be open hostility between us, I dread our seating arrangement.

And I especially dread the benediction.

Because some years ago, I’m not sure when, and probably in the middle of some argument about something completely insignificant but one in which I harrumphed my way through church, my husband took my hand. During the benediction.

And now it’s such a habit that there’s no getting out of it.

May I let you in on a little secret? I love it. Because when he takes my hand during the final blessing--the "go in peace"--I am reunited with my love and recommitted to my marriage.

He takes my hand when we’re fighting, silently.

He takes my hand when we’re united, completely.

He takes my hand when we’re afraid.

He takes my hand when we’re sad.

He takes my hand when we’re in the middle of a difficult decision.

He takes my hand when the week has been rough or when it has been joyful.

He takes my hand when I want to run and when I want to stay.

This small grasping, a seemingly insignificant coming together that is probably overlooked by everyone around us, reminds us that we are one. Always.

No matter what we were when we stepped into the sanctuary, we are a couple when we walk out.

*****


I’ve wanted to write about this for a while, but today I read about R.C. Sproul’s regret that he didn’t hold his wife’s hand more when she was alive. I’ve had many of the same regrets, but one I will never carry is that we missed the most important moment (to us) to hold each other’s hand.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Fabulous Friday Food: Illini Bars

Did you know I have a Recipes page? And did you know that it's chock full of fabulous recipes?

For a long time I posted a Fabulous Friday Food recipe each week. But then I stopped cooking or got tired of it or felt like it was too much work. Or something like that.

I've been thinking about resurrecting Fabulous Friday Food for a long time now, but wasn't sure if I had the energy for it or not. But will Fall being here and all of the wonderful food that comes along with it, and also when I realized this week that I've never even blogged my famous chili recipe (stay tuned . . .), I decided that it's time.

And then when my friend, Rebecca, told me this week that whenever she doesn't know what to make for dinner she just looks on my blog . . . well, that was all I needed. Thanks for the push, Rebecca!

But here's the deal--I need your help.

If there's something you'd like to see here on FFF, would you let me know? If you have a cooking-related question that I can answer, would you ask? Maybe that will help me think of something to write about on Fridays.

And if you're new to Fabulous Friday Food (little shout out to Ina Garten in the title because she's just fabulous), let me know that as well. I hope you get a little inspiration here and some encouragement to keep cooking. I know I need that sometimes!

So here we go.

This week I'm making these bars that go way back in our family history. My mom made these when I was growing up, and she always called them "Illini Bars," I think because my parents would take them to tailgate parties at the U of I way back when. I'm not quite sure where they got the name. Basically, these are caramel brownies or turtle brownies or something like that.

But at our house, they are Illini Bars.

These are an autumn staple around here. I'm not even sure why we only make them in the fall, but, again, it must have something to do with football games. All I know is that when the weather turns, it's time to make Illini Bars.

Here's what you'll need:

1 1/2 packages of caramels, unwrapped
1 small can evaporated milk
1 German chocolate cake mix
1 1/2 sticks of butter
1 C. chopped pecans
1 package chocolate chips

How easy is that?!

(The chocolate chips are behind there somewhere, I promise!)

In a saucepan, melt the caramels with 1/3 Cup of evaporated milk.


Here's something that drives me crazy. Back in the day, when Mom was making Illini bars, a package of caramels was much bigger than a package of caramels today. So if you choose to only use one package of today's caramels, you'll probably get a runnier, less-caramely consistency to your filling.

Trust me on this one. Use a package and a half of caramels. You'll be glad you did.

Moving on.

While the caramels and evaporated milk are getting acquainted on the stove (low heat, please!), melt 3/4 cup of butter (that's a stick and a half). In another bowl, mix together the German chocolate cake mix, the melted butter, another 1/3 cup of evaporated milk, and the 1 cup of chopped pecans. You can leave out the nuts, but why would you?

Take half of the chocolate cake mixture and press it into the bottom of a greased 9x13 inch pan.


You can use a spatula, like I did, or your fingers, which work just as well.

Just make sure you get the whole thing covered.


Now bake this for six minutes at 350 degrees. After six minutes, take the pan out of the oven and cover the mixture with chocolate chips.


 Put the pan back into the oven for just a couple of minutes until the chocolate chips melt.

Or not. (I really think you can skip this step. I know I have.)

Now add the melted caramel to the top of the chocolate chips, like this.


You don't need to spread it out--the oven will take care of that.

Now take the rest of the cake mixture and place it on the top of the caramel. This is the only tricky part of this recipe. The cake mixture will be kind of thick, so you won't be able to pour it on. What I usually do is take small pieces and pat it out into a flat disk and place it on top.

You'll have something that looks like this:


Don't worry. Everything will work out in the oven.

Bake for 15-18 minutes at 350 degrees, and in the end you'll have a wonderful pan of brownies/cookies/bars that looks something like this:


The funny thing is, we gobbled these up so fast that I didn't even have time to take a picture of the finished product sitting pretty on a plate like most "real" food bloggers would do.

Trust me, they are THAT good.

So, have a wonderful Autumn weekend and go bake some Illini Bars!

*****

Illini Bars

1 1/2 packages caramels, unwrapped
2/3 C. evaporated milk
1 German chocolate cake mix
3/4 C. butter, melted
1 C. pecans
1 package chocolate chips

1. Melt caramels and 1/3 Cup evaporated milk over low heat, stirring occasionally.

2. Mix together cake mix, 3/4 C. melted butter, 1/3 C. evaporated milk, and 1 C. pecans. Spread half of the cake mixture in the bottom of a greased 9x13 inch pan; bake six minutes at 350 degrees.

3. Add chocolate chips to the top of the baked mixture. Add caramel mixture. Add rest of cake mixture to the top. Bake 15-18 minutes at 350 degrees.

For a printable version of this recipe, click here.

*****

Now tell me, what are YOU cooking this weekend?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Ugly Truth about "Life's Not Fair"



Yesterday I got a knock on my office door. A young man from one of my classes stopped by for some help with a paper, so, as is my personality, I tried to break the ice by asking about his weekend.

“Oh, it was O.K.,” he said with a slight grin. “One part was a little hard, but the rest of it was good.”

I pursued the “hard” comment; I’m pushy that way. “What happened? What was hard about your weekend?”

“Well, ma’am,” (he always calls me ma’am), “I was out late one night walking with a friend of mine, and we got stopped by the police.”

“Really?” I asked. “Were you out past curfew? I know they really come down hard on that around here.”

“No, ma’am. It was around midnight, and we were just walking down Main Street. The policeman stopped us, but when we showed him our IDs he kept asking us questions. He even questioned my friend about the color of her eyes.”

“That’s weird,” I said.

“Yes,” he continued. “And they kept questioning me about my address because it didn’t match the one on my driver’s license.”

“Did you show them your school ID?” I asked. “Did you tell him you were a college student here?”

“Yes, ma’am. But he didn’t seem to care. He just kept asking us questions.”

And then it hit me. My student, a very tall, very dark, African American male, walking with a girl down the main street of our town, had been harassed by someone on our police force.

Frankly, I was stunned. I didn’t even know what to say to my student because I couldn’t believe that something like that would happen here.

I’m pushy, but I’m also na├»ve.

Finally, after listening to his story—one told with not a trace of bitterness or anger—I simply said, “I am so sorry that happened to you.”

“Oh, it’s O.K.” He shrugged his shoulders.

Was it resignation? Was he used to this? I didn’t know.

And then he smiled his huge, beautiful smile and laughed his joyful, belly laugh and said, “The rest of my weekend was good, though.”

*****

Later, I recounted his experience to my husband.

“I get that the police stopped him. It was midnight. We’re close to the train. He was with a girl. I get all that. But once he showed the cops his school ID that should have been enough. End of story. But it wasn’t. They continued to question him like he was a criminal. It just makes me so mad.”

And then I started to cry because, for the first time, the plight of a young, black man hit home to me. It wasn’t fair that my student should suffer that kind of questioning, that kind of humiliation. It wasn’t fair that he should be singled out to be questioned when there might have been others out walking late at night. He wasn’t doing anything wrong, and yet he was stopped.

It wasn’t fair.

I cried for myself, who had never and who probably will never have to face that kind of situation. I don’t have to fear the police. It’s not fair that my student will have to think twice when he walks on our city streets late at night.

And I cried a tear or two of thankfulness for his quiet, forgiving attitude. “The rest of my weekend was good,” he told me. He had already moved on. He had already forgiven. He wasn’t going to let this situation drag him down.

*****

I tell my kids that “life’s not fair,” and I mean that. But I think it’s unfair when I get too much ice in my drive-thru sweet tea or when I don’t get the best seat at a concert because everyone else pushes in ahead of me.

But this? This puts everything into perspective.

For some, life is more unfair than it is for others.

Last night I shed tears over injustice, maybe for the first time in my life, I’m ashamed to say.

Oh, I’ve prayed for those who suffer. I’ve “felt badly” for those who don’t have the same opportunities as me. But if I’m perfectly honest, injustice isn’t something I think about on a daily basis. It’s just not something I’ve had to deal with much, being a white woman from a wealthy suburb.

Yesterday, though, nearly broke my heart.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Seven Things I've Been Doing Lately

You guys.

I didn't mean to go radio silent on you all, I really didn't.

But sometimes life gets in the way, doesn't it? You all know what I mean.

And sometimes the world just feels so heavy and you have All The Thoughts about it, but just can't seem to find a way to put those thoughts down on paper or computer screen or whatever you call it these days. The Thoughts are what's important anyway.

And sometimes you just have so much going on, some of which seems a little trite compared to all the big things in the world, and you feel like writing about your own little corner of the world just doesn't really matter any more.

These are the thoughts that have been rambling around in my brain lately. And I just didn't know where to start again.

But I miss you, those of you who care enough to click over here and check every now and then.

And I miss writing. I really miss writing.

So, in an effort to jump start what I had going on here a while ago, I thought I'd just tell you not All The Thoughts about the world and life and parenthood that I have right now, but instead I thought I'd just tell you where I've been and what I've been up to over the past couple of months.

I just downloaded the pictures from my phone, and I'll share a few in an effort to tell a story. About my life. So you can keep up, or I can.

Whatever.

1. Probably the most significant thing that has given me pause lately has been moving this girl . . .


. . . into her first apartment. In the city.

Which means that she doesn't live here anymore. (*wah!!!!*)

She bought her very first piece of furniture: this very fine, retro velvet sofa.


Isn't it the coolest? And the best part is that I found it at a local resale shop for $44.

It is, without a doubt, the heaviest piece of furniture I've ever moved.

We also bought furnace filters.


A girl's gotta have furnace filters, you know?

2. Back in August, I picked up Kate at work one day so we could check out her new apartment together, but before we got to the apartment we decided we were hungry and a restaurant we've been dying to try just happened to be on our way.

So I got to cross a big item off my bucket list.


Girl and the Goat was every bit as amazing as everyone says it is. Make your 2015 reservations NOW.

We ate the most interesting food.

Soft shelled crab. Oh my!


The most amazing green beans I've ever eaten.


And something called the "pig face" which, literally, IS that. (Don't read the Girl and the Goat website if you don't want to know what's in it.)


You know what? This was melt-in-your-mouth amazing. The combination of textures between the crispy hash browns, the oh-so-tender meat, and the soft egg is something I'll never forget.

3. Another thing we've done a lot of this summer has been attending weddings. We got invited to six weddings (sadly, we had to miss one of them), all of which were very special and lots of fun.

Here are my three beauties at the last wedding we attended for Kate's dear friend, Mary. Obviously, Kate was in the wedding.


Such a special evening for a very special friend.

(Ginny, Kate, and Mary--best friends since Day 1 at school.)

This weekend marks Wedding Number Six for us, and the close of Wedding Season 2014.

But this weekend also marks the wedding I've been most excited about as my first niece is getting married on Friday. The family will be gathering in Texas later on this week to celebrate Kira and Jon, and we couldn't be happier.

(Check Instagram for photos that are sure to amaze!)

4. What else?

Well, school started again. Here's my "first day of school" picture.


And teaching again forces me to do lots of this:


5. But I do manage to have fun on my days off. Like this day when my friend, Kathy, and I snuck into the city for some exploring and lunch.

This place was so cute and absolutely delicious.


6. I've been trying to walk outside as much as I can because I know that one of these days the weather will force me back inside.

Here's the path where I walk a lot of times:


Ahhhhhhh. Pure relaxational bliss.

7. Since Kate moved out and Caroline headed back to school, we've been moving things around. Julia moved into Kate's old room, leaving her room to eventually become a dedicated guest room. (Until the next time someone needs a place to stay.)

So a couple of Saturdays ago Julia and I painted her "new" room.

Before . . . . . . . . and . . . . . . . . After

Julia's going for the muted, more grown-up look. I like it. What do you think?

Anyway, after a Saturday of painting, I was pretty much wiped out. 

Until the following Saturday (last Saturday) when I gave cooking lessons to a group of college girls, including my own!, which was so much fun we all decided to do it again sometime. 

I love college girls!

But now I'm tired. And I can't seem to shake the tiredness from my bones. It never leaves me. But don't tell me to take vitamins (I am!) or see a doctor (that's another thing I've been doing all summer--I've just had random checkups for random things, and I couldn't be healthier.).

I guess I'm just in a tired season that's going to be that way for a while.

Probably because I've had just a few things going on for the past couple of months.

What about you? What have you been up to? I'd really like to know, so leave me a comment!