Thursday, October 29, 2015

#blessed




Monday was a surprise.

Just a normal Monday. Nothing on the calendar (except, of course, "The Voice").

Nothing much for dinner (except for homemade Butternut Squash Soup and some salad).

Really, nothing going on at all (except for the usual homework/laundry/Monday stuff).

Until Daughter #1 bursts through my front door all smiles (as usual) and a huge, “Hello!”

Suddenly my day was no longer just . . . usual.

She plops down on a stool at the counter and begins to recount her really terrible, awful, horrible, no good, very bad day. (It really was.)

This kid. Even though her day had cost her some serious money (hello, new brakes!) and a doctor visit, she still burst through the door as she always does—with an effervescent “Hello!”

She reminds me that I am blessed.

Daughter #1 leaves for a dinner appointment, and daughter #2 calls: “I’m coming for dinner.”

Yes you are, sweet girl. Even though it’s just soup and salad and an ordinary Monday night, you are always welcome to drop in and eat with us.

Suddenly my day is getting even better.

I quickly shout to Daughter #3 who's upstairs: “Hey, Caroline’s coming for dinner and it’s her half birthday today! Would you please run to the store to get a cake?”

All hands on deck now. Julia whisks away with her keys and my debit card.

Suddenly we’re having a party.

B comes home, the girls walk in, and just as the four of us are making our way to the table, Kate glides back in the door having just finished her appointment.

Suddenly, the five of us are standing around the kitchen island, each one talking over the other (I swear we should have been Greek, or at the very least Italian) and I have an out-of-body moment. Everyone is shouting to be heard, the noise level is just about at peak capacity--even the dog is excited!--and I realize that we are here

Together. 

All five of us. 

Completely unexpected.

And I smile because I know, in that brief moment, how very blessed I am.

*****

We have a joke in our house about the #blessed thing on Instagram. We’re nothing if not a little bit snarky and the “blessed” hashtag really brings out the full-on snark sometimes.

Got an A on a paper? #blessed

No traffic today? #blessed

Hey! Some mom on Facebook got her kid to use the big potty! #blessed

My Christmas shopping is done before Halloween! #blessed

(And also? #ihateyou)

Sometimes I feel like telling people like the guy in The Princess Bride did: “Idonotthinkthatmeanswhatyouthinkitmeans.”

But these people standing around my kitchen island all talking over each other, competing for each other’s attention, telling about our days?

That’s a stop-in-mid-sentence-and-hover-over-this-one-for-a-while moment.

I know I am blessed in so many ways, but I don’t equate blessing with material goods or my behavior or even the behavior of my kids. In fact, the idea of #blessing is sometimes confusing to me, elusive even. I’m not sure I fully get it.

I know I don’t always see it. (My sarcasm assures me of that.)

But every once in a while I am able to step out of myself and realize the greatest blessings are right in front of me—a wonderfully impromptu family gathering on a random and very usual Monday night with the four most important people in the world to me.

It makes me want to cry I am so #blessed.

*****

Here’s something else I thought about later that night after all of my people had gone back to their respective homes and bedrooms: you mamas who don’t feel so #blessed right now.

Those of you who are scrambling to come up with Halloween costumes two days before the event. (Just one of the 1,656 reasons I hate Halloween.)

Those of you who just cannot get your three-year-old to use that big potty.

Those of you whose husbands put in long hours at work and come home tired and maybe a little bit cranky and who just might need a night off from putting the kids to bed so you step in and try your best to be cheerful about it.

Those of you who tried to scrape together something resembling “dinner” when you are two days away from payday and not much left in the pantry or in the bank account.

I get it all.

How many mamas are going to bed worn out, depleted, wondering if anyone will ever notice all the work you do or if these kids will always be so draining or if you’ll ever get a good night’s sleep?

Can I just whisper some encouragement in your ear?

They do notice, whether they tell you or not.

They won’t always drain you. In fact, some day they will thank you.

You will sleep again.

And one day, when you least expect it, on a random Monday night, your beloved ones (who are, by now, potty trained) will light up your kitchen and you’ll have an out of body experience and you’ll realize that your entire life has been one very huge, totally amazing, incredibly undeserved #blessing.

*****

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

I'm Telling Stories at Mothers of Daughters Today!


We’ve had trouble with trees.
When my middle daughter was just four years old, she, her older sister, and I got caught in a tornado. As we ran for shelter, Caroline was nearly crushed underneath a huge maple tree that uprooted itself just three seconds after she ran past it. (I’m not even exaggerating!)
God spared her life right in front of my eyes.
Then, just three summers ago, another huge storm caught my husband by surprise as he drove home from church one Sunday morning. He pulled into our driveway and suddenly a tree came crashing through his windshield, just barely missing his head. As glass shattered around him and the storm raged outside, my husband was trapped inside his car.
But he was safe. Not a scratch on him!
Both of these instances have caused our family some consternation, but also a lot of rejoicing because they have made us aware of God’s protection over our family.
* * * * *
Both of those stories are true! I'm over at Mothers of Daughters today talking about how our family stories shape us. Won't you join me there for the rest of the story

Friday, October 9, 2015

Fab Friday Food: The BEST Grilled Cheese

Never thought you'd see another food post, right? Well, it's fall, and it's the time of year when I feel like cooking and sharing great recipes. I don't know why, but something about fall motivates me. I love the crisp days and cool nights, the leaves turning red and orange and yellow, the pumpkins. All of it.

Fall is my jam.

So today, because it's fall (or autumn, depending on where you live), I decided to dust off the Fabulous Friday Food series here on the old blog and tell you about the very best grilled cheese sandwich I've ever had.

Settle in. This may take a while.


*****

A few weeks ago my friend Kim and I headed into the city to meet our daughters for lunch. Kim's daughter is a couple of months away from having her first baby--woot!--and it was fun to catch up with her. Kate, of course, lives in the city and has repeatedly told me about this spot called The Allis where she sometimes goes to work or to meet friends.


I've been wanting to try The Allis, which is located in the Soho House Chicago, so that's where we decided to meet for lunch.


Let me just say right now that I'm surprised that they didn't just shoo us out the door the minute we walked in because that place is WAY TOO COOL for the likes of me. With its industrial decor and hipster vibe, I felt slightly out of place . . . but not enough to make me run. (I'm always up for a challenge.)

Besides, I LOVED the atmosphere, and as long as they didn't mind us old ladies sitting in their lobby munching on lunch (we did, after all, have our very cool daughters with us), I didn't mind the hipsters walking back and forth carrying their portfolios and working on their laptops.

We sat on an overstuffed sofa and soft, retro armchairs around an antique glass coffee table. Chic. We ordered lunch, and very soon I forgot about feeling out of place because suddenly I was in heaven. I had ordered the short rib grilled cheese sandwich (because I like to watch my calories, you know), and I was transported into another realm. The realm of the divine grilled cheese.


This was, without a doubt, the most innovative and delicious grilled cheese sandwich I had ever tasted. And I've tasted a few.

When I got home I could not stop thinking about that silly sandwich. It was a mix of amazing cheeses, caramelized onions, and short rib meat. All on brioche bread.

Divine.

About a week later I made a pot roast (I used Ree's recipe, I think) and had a little left over in the fridge. The next day my mind started to wander back to the amazing grilled cheese from The Allis and it hit me--leftover pot roast is similar to short rib meat, so I could recreate that sandwich right in my own kitchen.

Of course, we'd have to eat it at home rather than at the hipster joint known as the Soho House, but we put on our thick glasses and knit caps and did our best to recreate the experience.

Anyway, here's how I did it.

I took a beautiful loaf of brioche bread and cut it into thick slices.


Then I caramelized some onions slowly in a little olive oil and butter with about a teaspoon of fresh thyme. (There's just something about adding fresh thyme to caramelized onions. Thank you, Ina for that hint!)

I shredded some of the pot roast with two forks and warmed it just briefly in the microwave to take the edge off the coldness from the fridge.

I shredded some cheese--white cheddar and gruyere, I think. Fontina might also be a nice addition.


Then I assembled.

Bread (buttered, of course).


Onions.


Cheese. Lots.


Meat.


And then I pressed the whole thing in a panini press until it was golden brown and melty.

Oh my!


You know what? A fancy grilled cheese, even though it's easy to make, feels like such an indulgence on a chilly evening. Serve it with some soup and you've got a great meal.

Go ahead, give it a try! You won't regret it at all.

So tell me, what are you cooking this weekend? Leave me a comment and let's talk food!

*****
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