Monday, January 31, 2011

Ina's Chicken Wings!

Alright, let's get this going. Enough fooling around with cutesy post titles. This is not high school yearbook staff. Sadly. Because high school yearbook staff was awesome. But so is my blog. Not really. I clammed up there for a while. I couldn't take the heat. And let me just say, yes, when you blog, you are inviting anyone from anywhere to read your words at any time. I guess I just never anticipated how critical people would be. Not you. You know I'm not talking about you. The ones of you left that are still reading actually like me :) I know this. And I never really was writing to people who didn't like me. I mean, seriously, what's not to like?! I never imagined people would have such a problem with me! St. Louis, Misery. It was a joke, people! And it was funny. Because I was pretty darned miserable. It was good for me in the end. And I think I always knew that. But it was hard. And if I have to explain why, then never mind.

And I had some feelings there for a while. It was raw and rough. I know. It was honest though. But I think it was too honest. I guess it's one thing to be honest about what we can all relate to and laugh about, but the depths of woe is quite another thing. I think that's why God gave us the Psalms, the very private lamentations of "the man after God's own heart." If that beloved saint felt the same way as we do in our own struggles, then surely we are not alone, regardless of how lonely these times certainly feel. One of the biggest lessons I learned throughout my time in the Lou (as in the toilet?) was that most people out there really can't understand what your life is like. And they can't help it because they're not you. The hard thing is when they think they do. It makes it even lonelier doesn't it? I have friends who know this way better than me. I have looked at them in their struggles and thought, "I have no idea what your life is like." And I am amazed by the grace and sense of humor with which they have handled their circumstances. But I feel sad too because I know it was lonely for them on some level. And I couldn't be the friend they needed, and I couldn't make it better. But at least I get that now. I know "the valley of the shadow of death" in a new way. And I will tell you that the people who loved me best while I was there had been there too. So, if you ever find yourself there, if you haven't already been there and set up a semi-permanent residence there, I hope I can love you as well as I was loved.

For now though, be you in the depths or on the mountain, it is bound to change. Eventually, there is a way out of Misery. And even when you escape, your mother-in-law lives there so you have to go back and visit. (Ha ha!) And either way, you gotta eat. (The Rally's commercials taught me that.) You will probably want to eat this Sunday during the Super Bowl. I didn't even know it was this Sunday until yesterday when they announced that the food for the potluck next Sunday would be game day food. I had already decided to share this, but now it seems even more appropriate. I don't think anyone from our church here in Iowa even knows I have a blog, but just in case anyone's been a-lurkin', I'm bringing these on Sunday, so make these another time, please. Everyone else, feel free to prepare these for you various game day gatherings.

Buffalo Chicken Wings - we buy frozen chicken wings a lot because we love wings, but these are so little work and still so yummy (without being scarily beefy like some of those in the frozen section- did these wings come off a chicken on steroids?!) that they're really such an easy swap out. You're really not losing much (time, energy, effort, money) to make these over the old frozen standby.

16 wings (about 3 pounds)
1/2c. unsalted butter
1 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. Tabasco
1 tsp. kosher salt

preheat broiler. cut wings into thirds at joints and discard wing tips. melt the butter and add cayenne, hot sauce, and salt. put wings on a sheet pan and brush them with the butter. broil them about 3 inches below the heat for about 8 minutes. turn the wings, brush them again with butter and broil for 4 more minutes, or until cooked.

we serve these with our favorite ranch dressing and carrots and celery sticks. yum!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

For Calming Nerves

We went on an impromptu trip to visit friends and family last week. I had a nine year old who was in desperate need of a getaway, and, to tell you the truth, we were all pretty excited to head out of town for a bit. Now, I really do like Des Moines a lot. It wasn't that. It's just that all of our best friends and family are not in Des Moines. The problem is, they aren't collected in any one place, so there is no one place to go for a reunion. In the end, we narrowed it down to four places. There are still many other people we ache to see, but we went with the places we couldn't do without. Four cities, nine days, and 1,984 miles.

And so, last Tuesday, with my tank full of gas and my van full of kids, I headed South to Arkansas to meet my baby niece, Peyton, who is already five months old! She is adorable! I was worried that holding and snuggling a baby would make me really sad about not having another one yet, but I found myself feeling like Aunt Abby for the first time ever. I had Amabel and August before any of my family and most of my friends had any children of their own. And once everyone started having their own children, I was in the thick of seminary, sleep deprivation from pregnancy and baby-hood of number three, and all of the chaos that is having three young children. Being around my sister with her three young children made me realize how far out of that stage I am. I have kids that can buckle themselves in their car seats, put their own coats and shoes on, are out of diapers and through with naps, and are basically kids and not babies. While this is a little sad still, I have really done most of the "grieving" over the last two years. And instead of feeling sad about not having a baby of my own, I was delighted to be able to enjoy someone else's baby instead of feeling distracted by my own.

We had a great time in Fayetteville, just visiting, playing in the snow, eating yummy food (did y'all know my sister is a phenomenal home cook and her husband is a chef?), and enjoying time with cousins. The only way it could have been better is if our other cousins were there. We haven't seen my other sister in four years! She has a daughter I have never met who is three! We hope to remedy that situation soon though.

The next stop was the River House. Oh, how we love the River House. George met us in Fayetteville on Thursday, and we all drove over toward Birmingham together on Friday. The river isn't actually in Birmingham, but all our friends live in Birmingham so it fees like Birmingham, but it's really about an hour or so outside of Birmingham. Anyhoo, we were there for the weekend and it was delightful.

On Monday morning, we headed up to St. Louis with a quick stop in Nashville to have lunch with my mom at our favorite restaurant. Some of you may know that I hadn't seen or spoken to my mom in two years, so this was a nice reunion for us. In St. Louis, we had another nice reunion with George's mom, sister, and brother-in-law. We hadn't seen George's sister and her husband since we moved this summer, and it had been several months since George's mom visited us up here. We had a great two night stay. We only managed to see one family from our group of friends in the Lou, but it was a really nice visit. We need to go back with time and plans to see everyone else.

Now we're back and I am way behind on my twelve days of recipes. I have had "for calming nerves" stuck in my head as a near rhyme for "four calling birds" since I started the 12 days. In the end, I don't think anyone has noticed my off rhymes, and I really don't know where I'm going to go after "Ina's Chicken Wings" to rhyme with "five golden rings." It's the sort of thing that is just slightly cute-ish and yet, I find myself thinking about it while I'm rinsing my hair or as I try to fall asleep- totally not worth it. And what's even funnier is that I never could think of a good cocktail recipe for "for calming nerves." I have a lot recipes piled up to share, but I really wanted to have one that fit the description- what better fits than a cocktail? I know, it's silly. It comes from working on the yearbook in high school I think. And anyway, I'm a bourbon and coke girl. The best mixed drinks are like most things- made by someone else, and particularly by my friends Annie or Rebekah. Both Annie and Rebekah were part of the 2000 mile trip of 2011. And both Annie and Rebekah have delicious drink recipes. More than anything though, it is friendship like theirs that calms my nerves :)

Annie's recipe for fantastic sangria can be found here. Bek doesn't have a blog, but if you give me a day or two, I'll post her recipe for fabulous Bloody Marys and, dare I promise, Bittersweet Chocolate Torte below. Then, it'll be Ina's Chicken Wings and seven more. Stay tuned...

Bittersweet Torte

  • 3 Cups Bittersweet Chocolate (I used Ghiradelli 60% cacao chocolate chips)
  • 1 1/4 cups butter
  • 12 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Espresso Cream
  • Mixed berries
  • Fresh mint

Note on the pan size: I have a very deep 9" pie pan, and I still had enough leftover batter to fill at least one (and I think it was actually 2) custard cups. Also, the cake does rise a bit, so allow for that when filling.

Melt chocolate and butter in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, until until smooth. Remove from heat; cool. Combine eggs and sugar in a large bowl. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until well blended. Gradually add cooled chocolate, beating at low speed until blended.

Pour batter into a buttered, wax paper-lined, 9-inch deep round cake pan. Place cake pan in a large shallow pan. Add hot water to shallow pan to depth of 1 inch.

Bake at 350° for 55 minutes. Turn oven off; let stand in oven 50 more minutes or until set. Remove cake pan from water bath, and cool cake completely in pan on a wire rack. Cover and chill 2 hours. Loosen edges of cake with a spatula, and invert cake onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges, and pipe or spoon Espresso Cream on top. Top with mixed berries and mint sprigs.

Espresso Cream

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon ground dark-roast coffee (I used decaf that wasn't dark roast)
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Beat cream and coffee in a large bowl until foamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until stiff peaks form.

And the recipe for the Rebekah's Bloody Mary can be found here. Yum!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Easy French Roast

You might remember an old post I wrote about a French Beef Stew (Beef Bourguignon) that took me four hours to make and, while fabulous, was a little more work than I wanted to do again. I think about it a lot though, because yum! So, a while back, I decided to give a "French-style Pot Roast" from a cooking magazine (my favorite for those who know) that my dear friend Rebekah sent me to peruse during my days in bed when I had pneumonia a couple of years ago. I have made several other recipes from that issue, and all have been fantastic, but this particular recipe is now spattered and stained and crinkled from having gotten wet and has every other battle scar you can imagine. You see, I am a sloppy cook and this roast is phenomenal! It smells so divine that you almost don't even need to eat it. But then you think that if it smells that good, it must taste even better. I can't vouch for it being truly French, and my sister, who actually lived in France for four years and took real French cooking classes, may take issue with the moniker, but I can tell you that, compared to that other French recipe, it is definitely easy.

The magazine-who-must-not-be-named ;) claimed that they wanted to streamline the classic French roast, which often took two whole days to prepare, for the modern, busy American. I think those French people are astounded by our modernity and busy-ness- my sister told me they were completely astonished by our travel mug habits, that we actually took our coffee with us and drank it in the car or even while grocery shopping! But, it's how we are, so we might as well find yummy recipes that work for our lifestyles.

Without further ado, a recipe that I truly hope will work with your lifestyle, because it is GOOD!

French Pot Roast
1 (4-5 lb.) boneless chuck-eye roast, pulled apart into two pieces and fat trimmed
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 bottle medium-bodied red wine
10 sprigs fresh parsley
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
4 slices thick cut bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1T flour
2c. beef broth
4 carrots, peeled and cut on bias into 1 1/2 inch pieces
2c. frozen pearl onions
3T unsalted butter
2tsp. sugar
1/2c. water
10 oz. mushrooms

- sprinkle meat with salt and place on wire rack on rimmed baking sheet for one hour at room temperature.
- meanwhile, bring wine to a simmer in a saucepan over medium-high heat. cook until reduced to 2 cups, about 15 minutes. and using kitchen twine, tie the parsley sprigs, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves into a bundle.
- pat beef dry and sprinkle with pepper. tie three pieces of kitchen twine around the meat to keep it from falling apart.
- adjust an oven rack to lower middle position and preheat oven to 300.
-place bacon in a Dutch oven over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp. transfer bacon to drain on paper towels. pour off all but 2T of bacon fat and heat fat until smoking over medium high heat. add beef and brown on all sides. transfer beef to a plate and set aside.
- reduce heat to medium and add onion and cook until beginning to soften, about 2 to 4 minutes. add garlic, flour, and reserved bacon. cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. add wine, broth, and herb bundle, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits. return meat and any juices on plate to the Dutch oven. increase the heat to high and bring the liquid to a simmer, then place a large sheet of foil over the pot and cover with the lid. set the pot in the oven and cook, using tongs to turn the beef every hour, until a fork slips easily in and out of the meat, 2 1/2 to 3 hours, adding the carrots after two hours.
- while the meat cooks, bring the pearl onions, butter, sugar, and 1/2c. water to boil in a large skillet over medium high heat. reduce the heat to medium, cover, and cook until the onions are tender, 5 to 8 minutes. uncover, return the heat to medium high, and cook until all the liquid evaporates, 3 to 4 minutes. add the mushrooms and 1/4 tsp. salt. cook, stirring occasionally, until all the vegetables are browned and glazed, 8 to 12 minutes. remove from heat and set aside.
- when meat is ready, remove Dutch oven from oven and remove meat from Dutch oven. remove herb bundle from Dutch oven and stir onion mushroom mixture in. by this time, you are probably ready to slice the meat (against the grain in 1/2 inch slices) and yum it up, which is what I always do. but, if you wish, you can reduce the braising liquid with all the veggies in it even further on the stove over medium high for about 20 to 30 minutes, you can also add softened gelatin (1T dissolved in 1/4c. cold water) to thicken it up, but we're veering out of "easy" here, and I think it's fantastic without all of this last minute fuss.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Thing That Grates on My Nerves #36

I just picked that number out of nowhere. But I know that I have "things." So, let's talk about thing #36. The word yet. How is it used? In all of my internet searching, I have never seen anyone discussing whether or not this particular usage is acceptable, and I can only assume that it is because only crazy people use it this way. Crazy people being George and the Michigan branch of his family. I have heard, of course, "are you ready yet?" or "have you heard from your sister yet?" or "we haven't gotten there yet" or "he doesn't know the test results yet." I have also heard "we have yet to discover what the problem really is" or "she has yet to acknowledge that she did anything wrong." So far, so good, ordinary usage of the word yet. (And yes, I realize that for a post on grammar, there is a shocking lack of punctuation and at least one glaring fragment, but that's how most of us speak and I don't have a problem with it.) Also, yet can be a conjunction as in "He asked him to be on time, yet he still arrived thirty minutes late" or "I know that I should study more often, yet I can't ever seem to buckle down." So, the first person I had ever heard say yet in this other totally weird way was George's stepmom. I am not sure if she said it and then George's dad picked it up and now George picked it up, or if it is just a Michigan thing and George's stepmom is just the one who talks to me the most so that is why I heard it from her first. Anyway, it's unusual. And, dare I say, incorrect. Or is it? You decide:

Amabel: "Daddy, are we going on the trip?"
George: "Well, we still have to hear from Uncle Patrick and Aunt Sarah yet."


Me to George's dad when he calls on the way to visit: "Hey, how's the drive? Where are y'all?"
George's Dad: "We have a few hours to go yet."

Why is this so annoying to me? Is it grammatically wrong? In the first example, it is redundant if nothing else. In the second example it is unnecessary at the very least. It also seems like it is in the wrong place in the sentence if it is going to be there at all. "We have yet to hear from Uncle Patrick and Aunt Sarah" is an acceptable sentence (though awkward, in my opinion). And I don't know how to put yet in the second sentence. Am I crazy? I mean, besides in all those other ways. Am I crazy about this?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Quick Post- No Recipes Today

Sorry, y'all. I still promise the 12 days of recipes, they are just clearly not going to be consecutive days :) We'll get there before February though, I promise! That leaves nineteen days to get the next 10 days posted. I can do that!

I hope everyone is enjoying the snow. I went for a walk the day we got the first big accumulation and it was silent and sparkly and sublime. I wanted to walk on and soak it up forever, but twilight and suppertime determined that I had to turn homeward. I tried to take pictures for y'all, but the camera just could not do it justice. And I know that y'all are seeing it in your own neighborhoods wherever you are. I adore it. This Southern girl was starved for the white stuff all her young life, and therefore I think it will always cause my heart to sing when I hear that magic word announced.

Snow. Some Southerners dread it. I remember that I had two friends in Alabama whose husbands were also considering seminary at the same time as George. And their primary objection had nothing to do with finances or the leaving behind of friends and family and all they held dear- it was the snow they dreaded, the cold of winter, the ice and the frost. But for me, that was a perk, a significant upside (albeit only four months out of the year) to life outside the South. Now, don't get me wrong, it's no even trade, but I will tell you that, walking through my lovely neighborhood in the 17 degree cold, I found myself feeling more than a little sad that I won't be here to enjoy it next winter. And well, unless I find myself in Alabamy, or at least close enough to get myself to Jordan Hare once or twice next fall, I will certainly consider days like the last few we have had quite a loss. Put me back within easy distance of the Loveliest Village on the Plains though, and it's a different story. Who needs snow when the trees are white with Tiger Pride :) Something about all these white trees all around the country makes me think God is an Auburn Tigers fan!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Two Noodle Bakes

These are both recipes for Mac and Cheese. My children much prefer the Annie's Organic "blue box," but George and I have found both of these to be amazing, and therefore aren't so sorry that the kids don't want to eat any- we don't have to share! I am currently not eating cheese at all (I think it upsets my stomach for some reason. I got the idea from Kathie Lee, of all people, who I heard talking one day about how cheese upsets her stomach. I knew there was some sort of "mystery food" causing me to feel icky, and sure enough, when I eliminated cheese, the problem was solved), but I risked future misery twice when I made this first recipe earlier this week because it was that yummy- and even better on the second day.

Paula Deen has a lot of recipes for Mac and Cheese on and people give it mixed reviews. One reviewer expressed a theory that there are two kinds of mac and cheese people, the creamy and the eggy, and that is why there are extreme opinions on the matter. Well, I don't know about all of that. I will say that I don't want to make anything that calls for a can of soup or any amount of Velveeta cheese (it's shelf stable, y'all! that's a problem!). And based on that criteria, I rejected Paula's crock pot mac and cheese. And because of that criteria, it's not going to turn out to be as creamy as it could be, I suppose. Still, I thought this was delicious. I didn't follow the recipe to the letter, so I am changing it, by way of sketchy details in parentheses, to let you know what I did.

The Lady's Cheesy Mac

- 4c. cooked macaroni, drained (about half a box, I think- 8oz.?)
- 2c. grated Cheddar (I wanted to clean out the cheese drawer whilst also adding layers of flavor, so I put in about 1/4c. Gruyere, 1/3c. Asiago, 1/3c. white cheddar, 1/2c. Monterey Jack, 1/2c. Mozzarella, and 2/3c. regular Cheddar for color, so that, in the end, I was closer to 3c. cheese than 2- just use whatever you have, I am totally guessing at amounts, but I definitely used all of these cheeses)
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1/2c. sour cream
- 4 T butter
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1c. milk

-- preheat oven to 350
-- once the macaroni is cooked and drained, place in a large bowl and add cheeses while noodles are hot.
-- in a separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients and add to the macaroni and cheese mixture.
-- pour mixture into casserole dish (or just be like me and mix it in there in the first place- what's the big deal?!) and bake for 30-45 minutes.

This next recipe is from Ina's Barefoot Contessa Family Style. I didn't put the tomatoes in because, sadly, I have some haters in my family. I just know it would be divine with them though! I also used store bought bread crumbs and they were fine (I am not a big bread crumb topping person either way).

Mac and Cheese

Kosher salt
Vegetable oil
1lb. elbow macaroni
1 qt. milk
8T unsalted butter, divided
1/2c. flour
12 oz. Gruyere, grated (4c.)
8 oz. extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2c.)
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 lb. fresh tomatoes (4 small)
1 1/2c. fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crust removed)

- preheat oven to 375
- drizzle oil in a large pot of boiling salted water. add macaroni and cook according to directions on package, 6-8 minutes. drain well.
- meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. melt 6T butter in a large (4 qt.) pot and add the flour. cook over low heat for two minutes, stirring with a whisk. while whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 T salt, pepper, and nutmeg. add the cooked macaroni and stir well. pour into a 3 qt. baking dish.
- slice the tomatoes and arrange on top. melt the remaining 2T of butter, combine them with the bread crumbs, and sprinkle on top. bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on top.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Herbs and Garlic on a Turkey

I was gifted Ina Garten's newest cookbook, Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That?, for Christmas this year. I asked for it without ever having seen it just because I love Ina and know that whatever she puts out will be fabulous. The new book is no exception. It is packed with recipes I can't wait to try. I feel like she has gotten more and more down to earth over the years. I love all of her cookbooks and even have clippings of her old column in Martha Stewart Living from ten years ago, but so often she calls for expensive or hard to find ingredients. But with each new publication, I seem to find more and more that I could see myself making in my normal weeknight rotation. I mean, she has no children, she's like a kazillionaire, and she lives in The Hamptons, so it isn't any wonder that she eats mussels and lobster and roasted lamb all the time. But for the rest of us, it's delightful when she condescends to our level and serves up mac and cheese, chicken wings, or shrimp linguine.

She has always had a knack for beautiful and delicious no fuss recipes in regard to time, which makes for great brunch menus for your mother-in-law's birthday and fun dinners to share with foodie friends, but I guess she isn't always the most practical choice when cooking after a long day for three children under the age of ten. Even her mac and cheese, while delicious in my opinion, left my children in tears- not sure if it was the Gruyere or the nutmeg, but there you have it; and Gruyere is much too expensive to be something you end up force feeding to three children who would all list mac and cheese among their favorite foods.

Alright, so I am not sure what my point is because I haven't made but one recipe from the new cookbook, and while it was a huge hit, I will be putting up at least three other Ina Garten recipes from her other cookbooks for the twelve days, so I guess that doesn't prove anything. Still, just from flipping through, this new cookbook looks as if it offers a little more of the practical, affordable dishes that would suit young families like ourselves, but I will just have to let you know as I continue to cook my way through it. I know the one for today will suit everyone- unless you're a dark meat person, and then, maybe not so much...

Without further ado, a recipe I am super excited about and hope you will be too!

Herb-roasted Turkey Breast
serves 6 to 8

"Why do we only serve turkey on Thanksgiving! A whole turkey breast roasted with fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme is a great weeknight dinner and the leftovers make delicious sandwiches the next day. Roasting the turkey at 325 degrees and allowing it to rest for fifteen minutes ensures that it will be very moist." (Hear hear to all of that! )

1 whole bone-in turkey breast (6 1/2 to 7 pounds)
2 T good olive oil (I love how she always puts "good." People who even know the difference probably only buy good olive oil anyway!)
1 T minced garlic
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp. dry mustard (I never buy this so I used dijon)
1 T chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 T chopped fresh sage leaves
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3/4 c. dry white wine (I neglected to notice the "white" part, and I never have white wine, so I had to sub in chicken stock and it worked fine. next time I will likely by the wine though.)

- preheat oven to 325 degrees. place turkey breast on a rack in a roasting pan, skin side up.
- in a small bowl, combine olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, mustard, herbs, salt, and pepper. rub the mixture evenly all over the skin of the turkey breast. (you can also loosen the skin and smear half of the past underneath, directly on the meat.) pour the wine into the bottom of the roasting pan.
- roast the turkey for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours, until the skin is golden brown and a thermometer registers 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest and meatiest part of the breast. check the breast after an hour or so; if the skin is overbrowning, cover it loosely with aluminum foil.
- when the turkey is done, remove from the oven, cover the pan with foil, and allow the turkey to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. slice and serve warm with the pan juices.

AAGH! I just finished typing this out and went to link the book to Amazon, and wouldn't you know? They have this very recipe published on the Amazon page! Sorry, y'all! It's not very fun to get something you could have gotten just as easily somewhere else. Incidentally, the reviews cracked me up as the first two say the new book is just as pretentious as ever! Oh well, we'll see. To make up for the lack of originality, I'll post two recipes tomorrow. Not that they will be original to me either, but at least not actually on a page which I am referring to in my post! Seriously though, this is the easiest thing I think I have ever made. It's really no harder than frozen chicken fingers or boiling pasta and heating up a jarred sauce, but it's so much yummier and leaves time during that hour for sitting down with a glass of wine and emailing your friend in Iowa before you throw some green beans in a pot and tear up a salad (also, if you stick some sweet potatoes in the oven with the turkey, you're really fancy!) I realize the reason we usually fall back on chicken fingers or jarred spaghetti sauce is because we're short on time, but if it's energy and not time you're short on, definitely give this a try.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Back for a Bit

Well, Happy New Year to everyone! Here we are on the last day of Christmas, and I have missed the entire season on my blog. I have to say that it wasn't quite the same this year. I mean, a lot was fantastic. We got a gorgeous snow on the 23rd and had had snow on the ground for a while before then, so the result was a true "winter wonderland." It was lovely. And we did get to have one Christmas party, though I would have much preferred to have a full house all season long as I have grown fond of doing. I sent Christmas cards out this year, which I neglected to do last year, but I wasn't able to track down any of my favorite Winter Rose Poinsettias for the mantle, nor was I able to find time to make my wreaths or a ginger bread house. So some of our decorations were missing. I even neglected to find a fitting place for my rusty stars (though not for lack of trying)!

I think I just felt displaced. It makes sense after six years in St. Louis- though the house was different nearly every year, the city and some of the folks were the same. It may have just taken its toll on me, all of this moving and changing. Even in St. Louis, there were three churches and three schools over the years. I wonder often what it would be like to still be in Birmingham, to have been there for ten years now with our dear old friends from college, to have that established community and comfortable and familiar traditions.

Comfortable and familiar- two words I would never use to describe my adult life! But still, there is something to be said for growing and changing and the excitement of the new and unknown. I will be honest, the new and unknown has become more tiresome and unnerving than exciting and adventurous, but wouldn't I be complaining of boredom if I had it the other way? I know I would!

So hurray for 2011! I will be packing up my Christmas decorations in the next day or so, and I already know that it will be with tape and the strong smell of Sharpie because the Christmas boxes will go through yet another move before Christmas comes around again. Where will it be to? There's no telling at this point. Some of the old boxes, ones that moved us from Birmingham to St. Louis six moves ago, finally gave out this Christmas, but the generosity of family from across the country brought much Christmas cheer packed in new boxes just in time! George is mourning the loss of some of the last of the Hewlett Packard boxes with handles that stacked so perfectly in the U- Haul in "the 2004 move (our easiest move ever)."

Besides the move, I know the year holds many adventures, and that is why I didn't even begin to think about resolutions. Who has time?! I'm just doing the best I can to get by, why on earth would I throw something new in there to add to my list?! Like all of you, my "list" is cooking, cleaning, exercising, getting kids where they need to be, encouraging and disciplining said children, dressing, feeding, and grooming same children, trying to find time to serve and love on church family, extended family, and friends, loving my husband, and, unfortunately, also homeschooling.

Yep, I said unfortunately about homeschooling. I have decided it is not for us. I still think everything I've always thought about how wonderful it is. But I have pretty much decided that my ideals are not very practical for our family and that there is nothing wrong with being an average person. I aspire to be average! I mean, sure, my kids could get a kick butt education at home and learn all manner of things they never teach in regular schools IF I was disciplined enough to actually teach all of those things to them. But, hello, we're talking about me. They're lucky if I get them started by 10am and do anything beyond the 3 Rs. But I'm going to go ahead and press through the year. I didn't want them to be new in school 3 years in a row, so we'll stick to that. I'll get them where they need to be for school in the fall and that will be that. I can't wait to sell all of my homeschool stuff! What a load off!

Alright, I do feel bad about the lack of posting over the last month, and especially about the fact that I totally skipped Christmas. How very unfestive of me :) We did have a nice Christmas though. We stayed here in town and George was given the opportunity to preach for worship services on both Christmas Eve and the 26th. I think that will be an adjustment too in years to come. Where I felt like there was so much to do at home and I could have really used a hand, George was super busy at work and we really didn't see much of him until Christmas. But it was also very nice to have those obligations. It would have been easy to be lonely in a new city so far away from old friends and family, but we were delighted to have new friends with whom to spend the days surrounding Christmas Day and didn't have a chance to feel lonely.

I do have a belated Christmas gift for y'all though. The recipes have been piling up and I have not posted any in such a long time. Sooo, starting tomorrow (because I don't want to write anymore tonight), the twelve days of Christmas starts Abby style (so late that everything else is already over) with twelve days of recipes. I've got some goodies to share! And, who knows, maybe the twelve days will get me back in the habit of blogging.

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