Friday, March 27, 2020

Current Faves: Quarantine Edition

I'll be honest with you, it was a bit of a challenge to narrow down all of the possible titles for this Current Faves post, mostly because everything keeps changing so quickly! Some previous possible options were:

'Flights Are Super Cheap, Where Should We Go?' Edition

'Please Stop Yelling At Me, I JUST Washed My Hands' Edition

'My Hands Are Cracked And Bleeding, ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?' Edition

'How Do I Refund This Unusable Airline Ticket?' Edition

'It's Time To Stop Making Out With Each Other, Please Take This Seriously' Edition

'A Great Substitute For Toilet Paper Is Kale' Edition

'Jesus Is Obviously Coming Back, Why Are We Still Doing Push-Ups?' Edition


The list goes on and on. In the end I decided to keep it simple, but I thought you'd appreciate knowing how difficult this process was.

I will admit that so far, other than my kids forcing me to sit through at least 87 musical reenactments of Frozen 2 (I must say, they're either really starting to get good or I'm losing my mind sooner than I expected) and me having to repeatedly tell my son that we are not going to rename our dog "Fart", we've been doing surprisingly well. I've felt a lot of God's grace the past 2 weeks in the forms of my kid's playing really well together (a miracle in itself), the weather being beautiful, and just a sense of peace and hope that has kept me going one day at a time. I've actually really appreciated doing life in the slow lane, especially because of how busy we all tend to be. 
Although we all know that too much of a good thing doesn't end well, so we'll see how long my sunny disposition will last before I go cuckoo for cocoa puffs and start buying dozens of feral cats online to be my new best friends..
Only time will tell I guess!

In the meantime, I'm happy to hunker down and let the amazing medical professionals do the hero work that they trained for at the Hogwarts School for Jedi Masters and Agents of SHIELD or wherever they graduated from, and pray that this thing goes away quickly.

Here's some of the things that have kept me enjoying this weirdly surreal season of life:



1.) My New Puppy

Any of you who keep up with me on social media know that we have a new addition to our household in the form of a Very Good Boy named Captain, and there could not have been a better time for him to join us! He's really settled in with us well, and we've had so much more opportunity to focus on house training and crate training him than if we were still the busy little bees that we were 3 weeks ago. He is such a sweetie and we absolutely love him.

Another reason this dog's presence in our life has been serendipitous timing, is that that it's forced me to go outside multiple times a day, and getting so much fresh air on all of these walks with him has been really good for my mental health.
(Also my physical health, because I've literally been baking almost every day, so unless I try to balance all of these delicious carbs out with some exercise, I'm going to look like Jabba the Hut when this is over.)


He's been surprisingly hard to take pictures of because he's fallen slightly in love with me, or at least that's what I assume the emotion is behind someone trying to constantly sit on your face, rendering photography attempts futile.
(But the feeling is entirely mutual, even though I express myself in much more dignified fashions. Like spending one of his first nights here sleeping on the cold, hard bathroom floor with him, in a puddle of his urine. You know.. that kind of dignity.)




2.) Knives Out 

Oh, you guys. This was a good one.

I remember Knives Out being in theaters this last winter, around the same time that we were all going to see the last Star Wars (where was the stimulus package to get all of our money back from THAT, huh? Whatever, I'm over it.) and I couldn't wait to see it.
It became digitally available last week and let me tell you, we enjoyed every minute of it.

After the death of a rich family patriarch (Christopher Plummer), which very obviously looks like a suicide, a detective (Daniel Craig) joins the police investigation to interview the deceased's family and staff to find out what really happened. Seeing different perspectives of the previous night's events from each person who is questioned, you try to put the pieces all together of what actually happened, right up until the middle of the movie, when it shows how Christopher Plummer's character actually died. BUT THEN it becomes all about certain characters trying to keep the truth hidden, keeping you on the edge of your seat with twists and turns and a surprising finale.
 The whole movie has the colorful excitement of a quintessential whodunnit, while still adding original intrigue and constant suspense throughout the story.
The cast of actors did amazing, and it was so refreshing for a modern movie to be made like a classic mystery, but with better writing and quality filmmaking, and still free of gore and smut.

You HAVE to see it. And may I respectfully point out...you have no excuse not to.
 I mean, what else do you have going on right now? I say that in love.

Available to rent or buy on Amazon prime.




3.) Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

I had seen multiple people recommend this book over the past couple years, but it wasn't until my friend Karie grabbed my hand and with wide, crazy eyes pleaded with me to read it, that I jumped on the bandwagon. I recognized those very same crazy eyes, because I too wear them whenever I passionately try to talk someone into experiencing something that I just know they will love, so obviously I took her recommendation seriously.
And she was not wrong, you guys. This book is a gem.
Written from the point of view of an eccentric single woman, Eleanor Oliphant, it follows her thoughts and life happenings as her usually-consistent world starts changing for the better and she's slowly forced to confront the things in her past that have made her keep people at a distance for so long. The whole story is just charming and witty and weird and delightful, and you can't help but root for this odd, quirky heroine (who has some serious Dwight Schrute tendancies) and be overwhelmed with compassion for her as she stumbles through this sweet, hard journey of making a beautiful life for herself.

Get it on Amazon HERE either in actual book form, or audiobook (which a free trial is available for right now!)




 4.) DIY Card Display Boards

If there was ever a time in life to get our craft on... that time is now.

This particular project has been on my to-do list for over a year now, and I'm so tickled to finally have it done.
My guest room downstairs has a travel theme to it, and I really wanted a fun, pretty way to display a lot of the postcards that I've collected over the years from our different travels and the ones we've been sent by friends and family. I saw these boards on Pinterest and my search was over.



They're just stained 2x4's (but you could just as easily use pallets!) with bulldog clips tacked into them. So easy and fun and rustic. And I love that you could use them for displaying christmas cards or photos, I might even make more just for those purposes.
Here are links for the bulldog clips and tacks, and I have full faith in you to find the wood on your own. (So many jokes, so little time.)


Anyway, that's all for now.
 I really hope that the next time I post about my current faves, it will be something along the lines of 'We're Finally Free!' Edition.

And hopefully not 'I Take Back My Advice, Kale Does Not Work' Edition.


Sunday, March 8, 2020

A Confession On International Women's Day



Well I’ve got a few things to get off my chest on International Women's Day.

First of which is...
I used to think that this day was really stupid. 

(Bear with me here.) 

I think that a lot of that apathy came from the fact that I was blessed to be raised in a home where the women (along with our thoughts/giftings/status) who lived in and came through it, were just as valuable as the men. Our loud family table, filled with food and wine and belly laughs and heated debates, was always surrounded by an organic diversity of gender and color and culture. And frankly, it kind of ruined me a little.
Only in the sense that for a while it made me a little naive about the reality of sexism(and racism) and fueled a confusion and lack of understanding when it came to modern feminism. 
I also noticed early on that a lot of behavior coming out of hollywood and political arenas done in the name of “equality” were (and often still are) actually just a fight for superiority. A fight for the tables to turn and to finally have the upper hand, the same hand that has been sadly wielded with abuse and neglect by men for so many generations before us. But I wasn’t angry at men, on the contrary, I’ve always treasured the male relationships in my life, and never wanted to be apart of furiously blaming them for misogyny they weren’t guilty of.

So it took a while for my heart to be softened enough to see past those wrongful responses of women to the brokenness and injustice done to them, and the pain that came with it. (Not that that excuses or justifies bad behavior.) Unfortunately I had to learn some of those lessons through my own experiences of being dismissed and undervalued, and watching the wonderful women next to me treated the same. But still, I can appreciate now how those painful mistreatments were used to shatter my sexism-free bubble and fuel a compassion and desire to walk in a healthy middle ground, without falling into the dysfunctional ditches of extremes.

So now on International Women’s Day, I no longer roll my eyes and grumble “if there was an International Men’s Day, everyone would lose their freaking minds...”. 
While there is still a lot about modern feminism that I will always speak out against (because it's often sexist itself or just plainly objectifying), I don't make the mistake any more of throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Today I feel the pure and wholesome and righteous celebration of womanhood and I’m here for it.


I’m thankful today to God for creating two genders, both different in design but equal in value. 
I’m thankful for how special God made women, in the ways we relate to men and in the ways we are unique from them.
I’m thankful that in spite of our world history and current climate of oppression and mistreatment, that redemption is coming. That someday we will all see each other rightly, as people who all needed a savior. And in heaven, as co-heirs to His kingdom. Which neither gender earned more of a right to, but that was freely given because of the cross.


I’m thankful today for the men in my life. 
For my dad and my husband, who continuously point out my giftings and cheer me on to ‘go for it’. To run, not walk, towards who I’m called to be, and put the insecurities and lies I believe in their rightful place. 
I’m thankful for my brothers, who were one of the reasons I was so ignorant to sexism for so long, because even when we wouldn’t agree on things, we always respected and valued each other’s opinions, and I didn't know any other way.
 I’m thankful for the male friends I have who love me like their sister. The ones who give me big bear hugs, without treating my personality or body as something ‘potentially problematic’ or something to be scared of.
I'm thankful for my pastors and my church, for honoring women and very visibly demonstrating that they believe what we bring to the table is important. For being intentional about making that belief a natural part of our community culture.


I’m thankful today for the women in my life. 
The family and friends who all bring beautiful and unique colors to the painting of my world.
I’m thankful for the women who are fierce and brilliant fighters for what’s right and true and good, even at great cost.
I’m thankful for the women who are gloriously strong, because they are openly and vulnerably weak, finding their strength and freedom in Jesus. 
I’m thankful for the women who encourage, uplift, and breathe life into every room they’re in, never stepping on other women to feel a little better about themselves. 
I’m thankful for women who are creative and poetic, and the ones who are faithful and organized, both of whom I learn so much from.
I’m thankful for the women who are devastatingly funny, while still remaining classy and kind.
I’m thankful for the women who serve and sacrifice with ferocious love and gentleness, never stepping on the men and children in their life to get ahead or find narcissistic purpose.
These women are my heroes, and I make a point to be around them as often as I can, because we become what we behold.


And I'm thankful today that God gave me a daughter.
I look at her at 8 years old, and I already want to be like her.
She is sweet and caring and joyful in a way that's like the sun coming out on a cloudy day.
I love that she loves to learn and that she comes alive when she gets to teach. 
I love that she loudly sings off-key with confidence and passion and is the first to volunteer to help out with just about anything. I love that she is typically found cheerfully playing with the quiet, awkward kids, but never seems to really notice that about them or that she has befriended the outcasts.
I'm inspired by how beautiful she is on the inside as much as she is on the outside, 
and I feel a serious weight of responsibility I have to her, that makes me get on my knees to pray for both of us.

I pray that God would exemplify womanhood at it's truest and loveliest, to both of us.
That we will not only be able to flourish in our femininity, but also be humble and teachable.
That when it comes to our fears and heartaches and all of the things that make us feel out of control,  that we wouldn't scramble to comfort ourselves in destructive ways or take matters into our own hands. But that we would find peace in trusting the One who is in control, and comfort in the fact that we are not.

I pray that we both see, in our minds and in our hearts, how God delights in His daughters. 
So that on days like today, we can delight in each other too and in the beauty of our maker.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Current Faves: Am I The Last One To This Party? Edition

Hello, friends! I haven't done a Current Faves post in a while and it feels good to be back, although I'll warn you right now that most of these are not new things. Just things that I have recently discovered and fallen in love with, so I'm fully aware that my delayed enthusiasm might be met with a bunch "Yeah, duh''s, and I've made peace with that.
But on the off chance that you're like me, and don't keep up with every trending thing because you're busy rewatching old episodes of Monk living your best life, let me introduce you to some of my new delights and maybe they will become yours too.



1.) The Good Place

Alright, I'll admit that I didn't jump on The Good Place wagon until about a month ago, when the show was basically finishing up it's final season. Much like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, none of the previews I had seen for it really convinced me that it was anything to write home about. But when I finally did watch it, after my little brother assured me that I would love it, I was ALL IN, BABY.

First of all, I've never watched a show that takes so many twists and turns out of left field, and still maintains such superior quality. I mean, let's face it, typically when a show's writers decide to completely flip the plot upside down, it's usually out of desperation to stay on the air or just poor writing (looking at you, LOST. Or Rachel and Joey Dating!) and it usually bites the dust.
 But it seems like we are pretty much always safe in the hands of Michael Shur, who also created The Office and Parks and Recreation, and was obviously just put here on earth to make us all laugh.

Second of all, the cast is STELLAR. Ted Danson and Kristen Bell are already national treasures who must be protected and preserved at all costs, but then there's the other 4 main leads of the show, who were more up-and-comers when it started and who have proven to be absolutely phenomenal. Each lead character is so perfectly (and hilariously) written and well-acted, it immediately draws you in and keeps you wanting more of each of their flavor.

I really can't give you a decent enough synopsis of the show without spoiling any of the twists, but please just trust me, my darlings, and know I would never lead you astray.
It's pure magic from start to finish and I wish I could sit on the couch with each one of you and watch you laugh and gasp and laugh some more. 
(...That's not creepy right? I'm not only one who likes watching people watch things that I like? I never thought it was, but now that I write it out, I suddenly have Every Breath You Take by The Police ringing in my head and I'm wondering if I should maybe not emphasize my love for watching people so much..)

Seasons 1-3 are on Netflix and the 4th (last) season is available on YouTube TV (and probably a lot of other places because it's 2020 and Alexa runs the world.)




2.) Hot Ones on Youtube

And speaking of being very late to the party, I didn't actually know that my favorite YouTube child, Hot Ones, existed until this past fall (even though it began back in 2015!)


Sean Evans hosts this fantastic show, where in each episode he interviews a celebrity while they both eat a platter of increasingly spicy hot wings. So not only does the context of what they're doing (suffering through painfully spicy food) create this unique atmosphere of making the interviewee comically vulnerable, but the questions that Sean Evans asks are OUTSTANDING. The show obviously has an amazing research team, that dives into the subject's life/education background and career history so well that only the most interesting and off-the-wall questions are being asked and answered. But even while his guests are put a little off-kilter, what with the surprisingly thoughtful questions (which is probably more rare for them than not) and simultaneous physical pain they're experiencing, he also is so naturally gifted at putting people at ease and connecting well.


Some of my all time favorite episodes were Gordon Ramsey, Paul Rudd, Nick Offerman, Ashton Kutcher, Aubrey Plaza, Michael Cera, Dax Shepherd, Kristin Bell, Idris Elba and so many more that it's just silly to keep rattling them off. The likelihood that you've already seen or at least heard of this is pretty high, but if not, check out their page on YouTube and find one with someone you enjoy. I think you'll love it.

True Confession: I think this may be my dream job, you guys. 
So I need your advice, can you think of anyone who is looking to hire someone to cheerfully interrogate people about random aspects of their life while eating? If so, please tell them that I'm a team player, very punctual, and not above getting paid in food. 
Keep me posted.




3.) The Office Ladies Podcast

So technically I'm not too far behind when it comes to this one, because Office Ladies is fairly new and I started listening in once they had a couple episodes posted.
Angela Kinsey and Jenna Fischer started this adorable rewatch podcast, where they are chronologically doing a podcast episode for every episode of The Office and they talk about what it was like to film each episode. It's sooooo cute and fun.
First of all, Jenna and Angela are best friends in real life, which makes this even more amazing, not only because of the awkward tension their characters had on the show and the irony of that, but also because their banter in real life is just so down-to-earth and adorable. They encourage each other and tease each other and crack each other up and it just feels like such a gift to be apart of what they have and the perspective they give on what it was like on the set of such an iconic TV show.
For me, one of the most endearing aspects of their rapport is that they're such normal people. They frequently mention feeling dorky and out-of-place at big hollywood parties, or dealing with obnoxious actors who are "on" all the time, or the embarrassing learning curves of how to do red carpet situations. It's just all so charming, because they're so real about it.
They also have had a bunch of guest starts on to chat with them about whatever said episode they're on, like Rainn Wilson, Paul Feig, Creed Bratton, and Melora Hardin to name a few.

Anyway, as an Office enthusiast (who just rewatched all the seasons back in December), I've been so tickled by this podcast that gives so many behind-the-scenes views of what they went through to make each episode. Plus I am just a huge fan in general of a couple of women starting a successful endeavor, especially when they are still able to stay true to their authentic selves.
You go, girls.

I just dig this show, and I think you would too (if you haven't already gotten on board.)
Find it wherever podcasts are available, or on Earwolf for ad-free listening.




4.) Smitten Kitchen Every Day

To go back to my theme of This Is Not New, You're Just Late, I'd like to tell you about the Smitten Kitchen cookbook that came out over two years ago, but I just got as a gift this last Christmas.
To be fair, I have been a disciple of Deb Perelman for years and even just following her social media accounts, when she gets out some chicken and says "jump", I get out my trampoline and say "Yes, Chef!"

I've made a couple of the recipes out of this book so far, but my all-time favorite has been her Street Cart Style Chicken and Rice.
Fun Fact: my friend Johanna made this meal for us a year or two ago and brought it over when we had a foster baby, and I'm pretty sure I was solely responsible for shoveling 90% of it down, and I always wondered what kind of dark magic she had started playing around with to make such a simple dish SO delicious. And now it all makes sense (in a non-sorcery involved sencario.)


These chicken thighs, marinaded in a lemon juice/paprika/cumin/coriander sauce and then cooked in a skillet, alongside a flavorful turmeric rice, taste like SAVORY CANDY. I made this dish three times in one month, and my family was not only fine with it, they kept asking for it again. And all the friends I've made it for have asked for the recipe.
Let's face it, for food that doesn't have any illegal narcotics in it, that's SUSPICIOUSLY addicting.

There's a lot of quality food in this book, but it's honestly worth to buy just for this.
You can get it HERE on Amazon
(Or psst, you can just ask me for the recipe and I'll text you screenshots of the pages.)


Well there you go, I hope you've enjoyed thinking 'Been There, Done That, Elise' for the last couple minutes, but on the off chance some of this is new to you, I hope you check it out and it dazzles your whole world.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Goodbye Fall, Hello Winter

And suddenly, the year is almost over.

We've had a fun and busy fall and, just like life always is, a constant state of juggling. 
I overall enjoy the level of busy that our family lives in, because it's not too much and not too little, but with it still comes the common frustration that I'm not an actual superhero and can only juggle so many balls at once. So if there's a week or month that I'm able to keep up with all of the laundry, AND the kids are on track with their schoolwork, AND maybe I'm able to get through a book or two that I've been wanting to read... then that probably means that I haven't exercised, OR been able to write much, OR caught up with my closest friends in a while. And vice versa. 
Which leaves me with the continual decision to choose to be content in life with the things I am doing, even in spite of the things I'm not. Some balls get juggled while other balls don't. Then sometimes we need to put certain balls down so that others can get picked up again. There are some seasons when we have the energy and bandwidth to juggle more balls than usual, and some seasons where we can only do the bare minimum.
And THAT... is ok. 
And we just have to keep encouraging ourselves that it is.

And now that I've said the word BALLS enough, here's what we've been up to the past couple months: 

1.) Boaz and Vienna are a part of their christian scout clubs, Trail Life USA and American Heritage Girls.


Luke has been taking Boaz to Trail Life since last January, but then Vienna just joined it's female counterpart, American Heritage Girls, this last September. It's been such a blessing for them to go to weekly meetings at our church, where they earn badges for community service and learning knowledge and skills about anything from outdoor/wilderness expertise to the arts to cooking to travel to history to botany, and so on and so forth. They totally love it and it's become a sweet community of familiar friends.
 But obviously one of the most exciting parts about it for them is: The Uniform.
Such class. Such distinction. 
Is there anything better than doing an activity that has it's own outfit?
Not to us, there's not!


Here's Luke with Boaz and one of his best buddies, Azriel, who totally love each other because they are two overly-energetic peas in a pod. His mom and I have shared many fond memories wandering around the church together, looking for our sons who are usually off somewhere letting their vivacious curiosity get the better of them.
Last month the dads and their sons did the pinewood derby car race, and Boaz's car won 3rd place for design. It was definitely a proud mom moment for me, and it made his heart happy to come home with a little trophy. 


2.) I signed the kids up for swim lessons, starting the first week of school, because I'm A CRAZY PERSON.


I mean, yes, swimming is one of those important life skills that I'd prefer my kids have a handle on for the sake of my own anxiety their survival, but WHO in their right mind decides that September, out of all the months, would be a good time to add ONE MORE THING to their calendar?
Well, I did and I don't understand what insane ambition to came over me while I typed and clicked away on their registration forms, but I am begging you.... please don't let me ever do this again.
Because putting your kids in swimsuits at 5pm every Thursday (you know, the time to be EATING DINNER), when you have something going on almost every other day of the week, is what lunatics do. 
But whatever, they're that much closer to never drowning, so we sucked it up for 8 weeks of extra-busyness and called it a win. 

Oh and hey, speaking of more lunacy..


3.) We also decided to pack up and go camping the first week of school!

Here's an approximate timeline of my thought process:

Me and Luke, in late July: Hey! We should totally go camping up north in early September because we homeschool and have the freedom to take random trips whenever we want!

Me, in August: Huh..our schedule is filling up a lot for that month, I wonder if we might have not thought this camping thing all the way through.. Ooh look, a discounted swim class available! *registers*

Me, after Labor Day, trying to juggle starting school at home and at co-op, swim lessons, sunday school, new volunteer positions, and now packing up to pretend to be homeless in a state park for 3 days: 



But even though the timing of getting ready for it was totally chaotic, the trip itself was actually really amazing. 


We drove our truck and pop-up camper a couple hours north to Savannah Portage State Park, and ended up being on one of the best lots of the whole campground.



I mean...THIS was the view from our camper.
That lake and dock was so quiet and beautifully peaceful, it was almost unreal. And being able to just soak in all of the fall colors made our time there that much more amazing.














We spent the weekend going on fun hikes and building bonfires and carving wood and making food together, and in spite of the initial stress of trying to get ready for it, it was exactly the trip our family needed.
Although, I will say this...my pancakes-made-on-a-cast-iron-griddle game needs some work. I'm way too perfectionistic about food to tolerate this burnt on the outside, uncooked on the inside nonsense that an overly-hot griddle ends up giving you.
 I mean, is it too much to ask for a place to hook up a quality electric griddle to make some decent pancakes in the wilderness? I don't think so! Because WE'RE NOT ACTUALLY HOMELESS, JUST PRETENDING.


Anyway, our initial fall pandemonium simmered down, we got into a groove, and I learned some hard lessons in not over-scheduling us in future Septembers. And then one day, fall was basically over.
We celebrated Thanksgiving with family and then immediately rearranged our house to bedazzle it for Christmas. 






My favorite decoration has become this collection of all of our family's Christmas cards that we've sent out since Vienna was a baby. I don't know how or why I had saved a copy from all of those early years, but my hoarding turned out to be a huge blessing when I decided to start doing this in 2017.

Anyway, that basically catches us up to now. We've been in the throws of holiday to-do's, which has thankfully just been good and not soul-sucking, because we say 'No' to a lot during the holidays, so that we can keep it enjoyably peaceful. 
(Note to myself: You know these good boundaries you have that helps you balance the holidays pretty well? HAVE THOSE IN AUGUST TOO.)

 Well, even though Fall has basically been declared over, I am a believer that pumpkin-themed foods transcend both fall AND winter, so I wanted to share a recipe of a Pumpkin Soup I made in October which was delicious and psst, is even more delicious if you add bourbon. And bacon. And goat cheese. And bread.
I guess you could technically just have bourbon, bacon, cheese, and bread for the entire meal and just skip the soup altogether!

But in case you wanted a dinner with more of the food pyramid involved than just booze and carbs, here's the recipe:



Pumpkin Sage Soup
courtesy of Aldi US

Ingredients:
3 medium onions, peeled and diced 
3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced 
3 ribs of celery, halved and sliced 
4 cloves of garlic, peeled 
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced 
3 large Idaho russet potatoes, peeled and diced 
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh sage, minced 
1/2 cup Brown Sugar 
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
3 teaspoons Ground Black Pepper, divided 
3 teaspoons Iodized Salt, divided 
4 15-ounce cans  100% Pure Canned Pumpkin
2 32-ounce cartons Vegetable Stock
16 ounces Heavy Whipping Cream 
1 French Baguette, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices on an angle
 Gouda, sliced
 Fresh Parsley, chopped, as garnish

Directions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 400°. 
  2. Combine onion, carrots, celery, garlic, apples, potatoes, sage and brown sugar in a large bowl. Add olive oil, 2 teaspoons black pepper and 2 teaspoons salt and mix thoroughly. Place in a roasting pan and roast in oven for 30 minutes until fork tender. Halfway through the cooking process, stir vegetables to ensure even cooking. 
  3. In a large pot, combine roasted vegetable mixture, pumpkin, vegetable stock, 
    1 teaspoon black pepper and 1 teaspoon salt. Simmer for 15 minutes. 
  4. Transfer mixture, in batches, to blender and process until smooth. 
  5. Return soup to pot. {Elise's Advice: add 1/4 cup of bourbon right now and let simmer for 10 minutes.) Add cream, adjust seasoning, if needed. 
  6. Place slices of baguette on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, top each slice with cheese. Bake for 5 minutes until cheese is melted. 
  7. Divide soup into bowls, place two slices of baguette onto each bowl of soup and garnish with parsley. (Elise's Advice: Top with chopped bacon and goat cheese)

Monday, August 5, 2019

The BEST Chocolate Chip Cookies



This might be a pretty uncool thing to say, but cookies might be my all-time favorite breakfast dessert.

Yes-- I love cake, ice cream is good, cobblers and pies are fine, and you can never go wrong with a good hot fudge brownie-- but, I honestly just think that cookies are superior to them all.

And here's the interesting thing about cookies: even though they are probably the most casual of sweet things and have reputation for being the cool, fun person that you want at every party, they are actually probably one of the most touchy, least-forgiving of the common desserts, in my opinion.
(Oh my gosh, cookies are the Taylor Swift of baked goods!)
Not only do they have more of a drastic difference between store-bought and homemade than most other desserts, but you can mess them up pretty easily by over-baking them or leaving them on the pan for too long or just having a sup-par recipe.

Because of my love and respect for chocolate chip cookies in particular, I spent a couple of years trying out tons of different recipes in search for THE ONE. The perfect, cookie soulmate.
(This was also during the years I was chronically pregnant and nursing babies all day, so I had the time and motivation to commit to such a noble cause.)

And, you guys, I'm proud to say that my pathetic life priorities TOTALLY paid off because I found it.
The perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.



They're thick and chewy and moist (sorry.. there's really no way to warn people when that word is going to pop up out of nowhere) and perfect.

It turns out that the secret all along was: corn starch! Who knew?
Also, I like to use milk chocolate chips, rather than semi-sweet, which can get a little too rich.

Say goodbye to thin, dry, crispy cookie imposters forever, because your heroes have arrived.
The only possible downside I can think of to making these would be that people might start only liking you for the cookies and then you won't know who your real friends are. 
(Which must be how Taylor feels all the time, poor thing.)

But, who cares! You'll have cookies to drown your sorrows in!

Enjoy :)


The BEST Chocolate Chip Cookies
(found somewhere on the internet with a link that no longer works)

Ingredients
3/4 cup (a stick and a half) softened butter
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons corn starch 
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

Directions
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-Cream butter and sugars together, mix in beaten egg and vanilla
-Add dry ingredients, then chocolate chips.
-Drop spoonfuls on ungreased baking sheet, and bake for 8-10 minutes (edges should be golden)
-Transfer to a cooling rack and try not to devour all at once.



Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Marriage: 9 Years/9 Reminders



Photo by Kuenne Photography


This summer, Luke and I celebrated our 9 year anniversary and this fall, we will have been together for 10.
I love being married and I love the way that it's changed and grown me.
But it's hard.
And it takes a lot of fighting for our marriage for it to be good and healthy. Sometimes fighting each other, but mostly fighting ourselves.
Luke and I had both been hurt by marital dysfunction and divorce before we said our vows, which made those vows that much more important to us. We were going to make this work, or die trying. What we had seen was that marriages never suddenly break. They crumble. 
Grain by grain. Hurt by hurt.  Divorces are never sudden, they are always years in the making, no matter what the circumstances involved. 
We've also seen lots of God's grace and healing and redemption through those crappy circumstances. There are no ashes that He can't make beautiful again.

Even though 9 years is nothing in the grand scheme of things (if anything, the longer you are married, the more you realize how LITTLE you know), I feel like time and life have shown me what the important things are. The things I need to be constantly reminding myself of, to grow in or not get lazy about, that keep my marriage from crumbling and make it sweet and safe and lasting.

(None of these are fixes or bandaids for abusive or toxic relationships, please don't hear that. There is a lot of additional help, like counseling and law enforcement, that is absolutely necessary for those.)

This is not a How To list written by an expert, but a Reminder list written by a sinner.
If anything, this list is for myself. 
But I hope it encourages you and your marriage too.


1.) Be kind to each other.

We can check off all of the lists of best practices in marriage we want. But things like ‘Weekly Date Nights’ or ‘Never Going To Bed Angry’ won’t matter at all if we overlook this simplicity in its purest forms.

Being harsh and sarcastic and cutting each other down will cause more damage than we realize in the moment.
Being gentle and kind and patient and encouraging will always go farther than we could ever imagine.

 There are plenty of ways to joke or flirt or call each other out without taking low blows. Work hard to make genuine kindness the primary language of your home. The rewards of it will last long and leave a sweet legacy.


2.) Say “I’m sorry”, quickly and often.

Say it about the little things and the big things. 
Say it before we dig our heels in and fire back.
Say it without adding “but, if you hadn’t…” afterwards.
Say it in front of our kids so that they learn how to say it.

Say it because we value humility over arrogance.
Say it because we love our spouse more than we love our our own pride.


3.) Forgive, quickly and often.

Bottom line, we can forgive, because we’ve been forgiven. 
I can give Luke mercy over the little things and the big things, because he’s given me mercy over a million little things and plenty of big things. 
Even if he hadn’t, God has forgiven me of even more. Way more than I deserve.
When we know how desperately in need we are of forgiveness, it becomes easier to extend it.

Forgiveness doesn’t equal trust. But trust can be restored too. 


4.) Have good sex.

The world is constantly yelling in our ears all sorts of things about sex, and the Church has a sad history of barely whispering about it, if not being completely silent on the subject.

So let me turn up the volume a bit. Here’s what I mean by good sex: 

Hot, passionate sex. 
Clumsy, laughing sex. 
Half-clothed, quickie sex. 
Sick, tired sex. 
Crying sex. 
Grief sex. 

The sum of all of these parts is good sex. Not elevating one of them as the standard of success or failure, but having and appreciating it all. In different days, weeks, and seasons and frequencies.

Good sex changes with two people who are changing together. 
Good sex keeps other people out of the bedroom, whether they are real or a fantasy or behind a screen. 
Good sex is honest, and puts love and grace to where shame is. 
(Read that again. Until you believe it.)

Good sex has magical healing properties. Have it often and watch what happens.


5.)  Speak truth to the lies.

They don't love me. They don't see me. They don't care.

The list goes on and on and the lies get way more specific and way more ugly. 
But those things we believe when we're hurt or lonely are usually just that: lies.
Even when the busyness of life and both of our own selfishness makes a mess of things, there is usually always at least some evidence around us that contradicts the lies. Evidence of them loving us and seeing us and caring for us, even if it's not shown in the way we'd prefer.
There are also a million reasons why we married our spouse in the first place, and those are worth remembering when we start going down the dark hole.

See the lies for what they are, speak truth to them, and fight to believe the best of each other.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  
1 Corinthians 13:7


6.) Have each other's backs.

This covers a lot of different areas and looks different in each one.
It could mean picking up the slack when they're overwhelmed, or being the family cheerleader when they're down. (Or it could mean the opposite: not being Pollyanna for a few minutes and just being real and empathetic.)
It always means:
Being there for them to process hard things. Protecting their vulnerability. Not trashing them to our friends or family. Challenging them to be the best version of themselves. Being fiercely loyal.

Translation: Just be a good friend.


7.) Have good friends.

I’m a big believer in the importance of having deep, healthy friendships outside of marriage, for the sake of your marriage. In our closest friendships, we encourage each other, challenge each other, get REALLY vulnerable, have a lot of fun, never compete with each other, watch each other’s backs, and preach the Gospel to one another. 
 Luke and I regularly encourage each other to go out and spend time with our friends, because we know how important it is for our souls. (And we only get close with people who root for both of us and our marriage, and never against it.) The ways that both of our close friendships and our couple friends have grown us and been a safe haven have only helped our relationship.

Take the time to invest in close friendships and find couple friends. They keep your marriage stronger and make life more fun.


8.) Don’t expect them to be you.

Or you to be them. The differences of each team member are what makes them good. The differences are almost as important as our common ground.

Not everyone should be the quarterback on a team or the drummer of a band or the color red in a painting. It would be a boring, sad, dysfunctional unit if everyone was doing and acting the same. What makes anything beautiful is the combination of unique traits. 

It can sometimes drive us crazy to deal or work with people who aren't like us or who we can't understand. But there's so much good purpose in that.
Look at your marriage and see the beauty of the different qualities that you both bring to the table. Don't try to homogenize the colorful life out of it, welcome and appreciate it.
Because God will use your differences to make you both better.
And your team has way more to offer this way, than if it was just you.


9.) Don’t expect them to make you happy.

Let me explain. 
There will be, or should be, lots of happiness. 
Joking and laughing and fun and romance and intimacy are a must. Those things are gifts, and they create a deep and unique bond that fill our hearts with life and joy.

But there is a longing in every soul that’s deeper than that. It’s a desire to be known and loved and understood and satisfied. And no matter how often we ask other humans (particularly our spouse) to fulfill that sense of belonging and value, they won’t ever fully be able to. 
And often without realizing, we end up resenting it and punishing them for it.

Only God can fill that void, because He created us to have it. 
We were always meant to be satisfied by Him. 
And sin broke that. But when we put our trust in Him, and our restless souls are filled with His word and prayer and community with other believers, our void is filled. And our souls find rest.

I know I’ve used this meal analogy before (food is my thing, ok?), but it’s applicable here too:
Marriage isn’t dinner. It’s dessert. We need to stop asking it to fill us up. 
It’s meant to be enjoyed when we’re already full.

The person sleeping next to us can’t ultimately make us happy in life. 
Our kids can’t either. Neither can our jobs or our hobbies.

But Jesus can. And no matter how much we’ve run from or avoided Him, He welcomes us home with open arms every single time.

Experiencing God's love and grace doesn't just give rest to our restless souls, but it makes us able to love others for who they are, instead of who we want them to be. Especially the person we're married to. 

This is will always be the most important reminder to myself and Luke's to himself. And our constant prayer for our marriage. That God would bind our wandering hearts to himself, and keep us trusting and seeking Him together and fighting for each other.
 Until the end of our days.