Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Grow Where You Are Planted


I was on pinterest, looking for a screensaver for my laptop, when I saw it. 
A beautiful floral graphic with the words “Bloom where you are planted” boldly centered in a whimsical font.

As I stopped to consider its meaning and life application, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and thought:

What a load of crap.

Here I am planted in a place and a season, where I have been struggling with depression and wounds from others.

Here I am planted in a place and a season, feeling very specifically like I am being held down from blooming. My giftings and passions have recently been both blatantly insulted and purposely ignored, within the confines of my christian community. 

Here I am planted, in a place and a season where my age is ridiculed and looked down upon. Disrespectful remarks about how much younger I am (than whoever I’m talking to) are so exhaustingly frequent, and almost always paired with condescending comments about what a “baby” I am, or narcissistic comments about how old they feel. 

I was opening up to a friend about some of the frustrations and hurts that have come from these comments and the hypocrisy paired with that attitude in our community, only to be met with her laughing and repeating some of the exact same patronizing comments that I was talking about to begin with.
It always hurts to risk being vulnerable about pain in what you hope is a safe space, only to learn the hard way that you shared it with the wrong person. 
(On the other hand, there is grace for that, especially when we consider how often we’ve been “the wrong person” for someone else’s vulnerability.)

All of these feelings and circumstances have felt piled on top of my heart lately and I have felt weary from the burden of it all.

This is not what it looks like to be blooming.

I have been planted in other seasons in my life where I have bloomed, but this, sadly, isn’t one of those. I wish it were.

I need to hold fast, though, to the hope that while I may not be blooming, I am growing.

Phillippians 1:6 says "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."

And Romans 8:28 says "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."

I have to read these truths and cling to the hope that God is using all of these circumstances to grow me into someone more like Him, even though I'm not necessarily feeling this growth happening in the moments of grieving.
I have to cling to the truth that He is my creator and giver of gifts, and the disrespect and disapproval of others doesn't change my value or who He has called me to be.
I have to find joy and contentment in where He has planted me right now, even though I have felt picked on and silenced.
I have to "be still", and trust that He will fight for me. (Exodus 14:14)
I have to trust that He has a purpose for all of this.
I have to take seriously the charge to "not let anyone look down on you because you're young, but set an example for believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity." (1 Timothy 4:12)
I have to fight the bitterness and pride that hurts like these can so easily lead into.
I have to forgive and extend love and grace to the unkind, in the same way love and grace has been extended to me.

I need these truths to become so convinced in my mind and so real my heart, that I can live in the freedom that Jesus offers me in this place and season.

And maybe then is when I'll bloom.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Seven(ish) Layer Taco Dip

A few years ago I was supposed to bring a taco dip to a party, so I went looking for a recipe that looked good. And even though a lot of the dips seemed fine, the thing that bothered me was that they were all either hot OR cold.

And here are my problems with that, you guys: 

1.) Refried beans should not be eaten cold. 
They taste weird and lardy, and the pasty texture completely drowns out their delicious flavor.

2.) On the other hand, when you have a dip that is completely hot, then you can't include important components like guacamole or sour cream or pico de gallo or happiness.

So when I couldn't find a recipe that solved both of those problems, I just had to make one up on my own. The key is to heat the beans up first and then layer the rest of the cold ingredients on top, which works out beautifully.

I've made this a bunch of times, and every time it's been a hit and people have asked me for the recipe. Get ready to make it and have your friends and family sing your praises.

As I said, the first step is to heat the refried beans

Because I used a cast iron skillet to serve the whole dip in, I just emptied the can in there, turned the burner on high, and stirred the beans around until heated through, making sure not to get the whole pan too hot. As soon as it's warmed up enough, take it off the heat.

If you don't have a cast-iron, or you would just rather use a pretty serving dish or a 9x13 baking pan, just heat the beans up in a separate bowl in the microwave, stirring in between 1 minute intervals.
Then spread the beans into the bottom of your serving dish.

Then layer 1-2 cups of grated cheese on the warm beans. 
The cheese will get all melty and marry them together in a holy union, as beans as cheese were destined to be.

I used a mix of sharp cheddar and monterey jack, but feel free to use just cheddar.

(Also, I recommend grating your own cheese for this dip, so that you don't taste all of that starch on the pre-grated cheese.)

(Trust me on this one.)

(You know I wouldn't tell you to do the extra work unless it was completely worth it.)

The next layer will be the sour cream.

To get it as even as possible, put dollops of it all around the pan and gently spread with a spoon.

Then comes the guacamole.

Oh sweet, heavenly Guac... how can you be so delicious and yet simultaneously look like the contents of a diaper?

One of life's great mysteries, I suppose.

I just used store-bought guac, but feel free to make your own.

Then comes another layer of freshly grated cheese.

For the next layer you could either use Pico De Gallo OR a can of Rotel Tomatoes and Chiles with lime juice.
I've used both and think either option is great, so use whichever you would like more or have available.

The last layers is where the "seven-ish" comes into play, because it all depends on your preferences.

You could add Olives!
Or Green Chiles! (if you used Pico de Gallo in the layer before)
Or Cilantro! (if you used Rotel instead of Pico)

Or all of the above!

Here's the rule of thumb when it comes to this dip and all mexican food in general: 
Follow your heart.

Because you really can't go too wrong adding as many different ingredients in this food family with each other.  So feel free to use this recipe as a basic plan to start and switch out or add as many things as you want. 
Add salsa! Or mexican rice! Or barbacoa beef! Or a shot of tequila! Or put entire PiƱata on top!

The world is your oyster. Don't let anyone hold you back.

Seven(ish) Layer Taco Dip

(Layer in dish, in the order listed)

1 large (28oz) can Refried Beans- HEATED
1-2 cups freshly grated cheese
1 (16oz) tub Sour Cream
1-2 cups Guacamole (however much you want/have)
1-2 cups freshly grated cheese, again
Pico de Gallo OR 1 small can Rotel Tomatoes with Chiles and lime juice, drained

Green Chiles
Chopped Cilantro

Monday, January 15, 2018

Pigs In A Blanket

You just can't beat Pigs in a Blanket.

They are probably one of the most beloved of party foods, right after wings and guac.

They should be called Love In A Blanket!
Wait..no. That would be inappropriate. Let's not call them that.

Party In A Blanket?

Ew... that's worse.

You know what? Let's just keep the name they already have!

Because football season is coming to an end, you might already be making plans for Super Bowl Sunday, and if you're a Minnesotan, you're also busy burning sacrifices to the football gods so that the Vikings make it to the big game in their own home state. SKOL!

(As far as the list of things I care about in life, I usually prioritize 'Sports' right in between 'Nicolas Sparks Novels' and 'Algebra', however, after last night's game, it was made clear to me that now is the time to put my big girl pants on and become a football fan. "GOOOO SPORTS TEAM!")

But no matter how much or little I've ever cared about sports, I have always deeply cared about the food that comes along with the watching of the sports. 
(This is an area where my devotion will never waver.)
 So I thought I'd share this recipe that you can make for any party you might be having or going to, which is guaranteed to be a huge hit. 
In addition to how delicious and fun they are, they are also both inexpensive and easy to make.

All you need is a package of cocktail wieners (also called cocktail sausages or lil' smokies) 
and 1-2 cans of crescent rolls.

(One can of crescent rolls makes 24 Pigs in a Blanket, so if you want to use up the whole package of sausages, use 2 cans of crescent rolls.)

Unroll the crescent roll dough and separate into triangles.

Cut each triangle into 3 smaller triangles.

Lay one sausage along the base of the triangle and roll it up, pressing to ensure the dough sticks to itself.

Repeat with the rest of the cocktail sausages and arrange on a greased baking sheet.

Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until golden.

Serve warm with ramekins of spicy mustard, ketchup, or sweet-and-sour sauce. 

You can even assemble these hours beforehand, keep them in the fridge, then throw them in the oven right before the game starts.


And Go Vikings!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Current Faves

Happy New Year!

I hope you all had fabulous holidays, that were free from family drama but filled with lots of delicious carbohydrates.
(As the Lord intended it to be.)

If your December was a busy as mine, then I'm guessing you've also been spending the last week trying to do as little as humanly possible in attempts to recover from some Post Holiday Stress Disorder. I swear all I've done this week is eat leftovers, read, watch movies, avoid text messages, and turn oxygen into carbon dioxide.

Actually, that's not true. We all went to the Y as a family on Monday, where I did minimal amounts of weight lifting and went on the elliptical for a bit. But after seriously only 2 minutes on it, my legs felt like they were on fire and I was about to curse out loud and give up, at which time Luke pointed out that I had been running backwards that whole time.
Huh. Maybe that's why my muscles weren't used to doing that.
Apparently I am an elliptical novice, which I did not even know you could be on a practically idiot-proof machine.
Anyway, after that I went home to continue my strict schedule of eating more and doing nothing.

But now it's back to reality and probably time to re-enter the world as a somewhat functioning member of society who does laundry and shops for groceries and texts her friends back.

So while my dishwasher is running (and cleaning dishes from, no joke, 5 DAYS AGO), I thought I'd share a few of my current favorite things:
 (Spoiler Alert: none of them are raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens.
It's way too cold to rain right now, and my slutty cat has had like 8,000 kittens this year and their whiskers no longer excite me.)
(What am I saying? Kittens will always excite me.)

1.) Church of the Small Things by Melanie Shankle 

I have been a huge fan of Melanie for years, of her Big Mama blog and also her other books, all three of which I absorbed like a sponge. So when her new book came out, I was pumped.
And of course, it was not a let down.
The book is comprised of a series of different essays, with various topics from family relationships to food to cutting your bangs to owning pets to being a writer to loving Jesus to walking with a friend through breast cancer. All threaded together with this theme that this beautiful life we've been given isn't as much about the big moments and accomplishments, which we tend to spend our time waiting and hoping for, but all the small moments and ordinary acts of faithfulness and love and realness.

It is a beautiful book.
It's funny, relatable, and whimsical, while also being deep and heartfelt.
I laughed and cried and put the book down feeling encouraged and inspired to truly enjoy more of the little things and to give God thanks for all of it.

Go get it here and while you're at it, pick up one of my other favorites of hers The Antelope in the Living Room. (A hilarious memoir about marriage that I will never stop recommending to people.)

2.) Spinach & Kale Greek Yogurt Dip from Trader Joe's

This isn't a new product or even new to me, but I hadn't bought it in a while until I was at TJ's last week and they were sampling it with their pita chips, when suddenly I experienced a renewed love affair with my once-favorite dip.

Even though I am outspoken about the strong feelings I have about Kale (mainly that it's a filthy liar who has tricked people into thinking that it's not disgusting), I do also believe that the only exception to the Kale Is The Worst Rule is that it is sometimes acceptable when it's been carefully hidden inside of something that's better than it is. (i.e. Zuppa Toscana, smoothies, the garbage, etc.)
And since this dip is flavorful and amazing, and doesn't taste like eating dirt, the kale has obviously been concealed into submission.

Another great thing about this dip, in addition to its deliciousness, is that it's made with less fattening ingredients so that it's only 30 calories per serving. 
Let's take in mind, however, that while they might call two tablespoons a "serving size", SOME OF US might call that "a sample at Costco" and would more likely polish off half the tub in one sitting.
(Totally hypothetical. I definitely have never done that with half a french baguette for breakfast yesterday.)

Bottom line: it's a scrumptious, healthy, and affordable (around $3 a tub) snack or appetizer, that can even be enjoyed in January, when we're all apparently supposed to be on a health and fitness bender. 
Go get yourself some!

3.) Reading Eggs

Reading Eggs is an online program that I started with Vienna and Boaz back in December after having it recommended to me by a couple of friends who had used it with their struggling readers with great success. Even though Boaz hasn't struggled and is right where he needs to be, Vienna is such a visual person, who loves art and writing, but couldn't seem to sound out even small words if her CAT or BAT or HAT depended on it. So when reading with her kept making us both want to cry, I was in search of some help. We did the 2-week free trial for both kids and within just a couple of days I was already seeing amazing progress with her. Bravo, Reading Eggs, bravo. 

It's a fun program that the kids really enjoy because most all of the learning is done through a variety of different games, with short books at the end of each level that they can now read because of what they've learned. It's been a huge blessing to me to see the struggles that I saw Vienna have finally click for her, because it was taught in a different (and more visual!) way.

I totally recommend checking it out if your kid is in the 3-8 age range, whether they are struggling or not. They have placement tests at the start of the program, and progress reports emailed to you, which has also been fascinating and helpful to see as a parent.

Check it out here.

4.) The Thin Man Movies

Years ago, when I was in bible college in Northern Ireland and flew home to Colorado for Christmas break, there was a blizzard that kept us shut inside for a few days, and my mom and I spent that time snuggled up on the couch having a Thin Man marathon. 
 I have LOVED them ever since, and happily introduced them to Luke when we were married, so we could continue the tradition of watching them around Christmas and New years.

In these classic comedy-mysteries, the main character is Nick Charles, a charming, martini-sipping former detective who retired and left his playboy ways behind him to marry a gorgeous and equally charming heiress. In every film, the lovable couple find themselves in some sort of proximity to murder and other crime, where Nick is pressured to investigate because of his famous reputation, always leading to a twisty reveal of who the actual culprit is.
In a time of film-making, when comedy was mostly cheesy slapstick and marriages were portrayed as boring and restraining, these movies offer refreshing contrast with a youthful and sassy couple who adore each other and became iconic for their dry and witty banter.

You can fall in love with Nick and Nora yourself by renting all 6 on Amazon or iTunes for $2.99 each.

Alright, well I should probably be cut off from more recommendations, but if I've left you even slightly interested in at least one of these current favorites of mine, that's all I need to find peace and satisfaction in life.

 Ta Ta for now!