Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Goodbye Dessert

Monday night, as I was making one of our family's new favorite desserts, I had a revelation.

This had become our "goodbye dessert".

I don't know about you, but certain foods evoke special memories for me.  Chicken and dumplings reminds me of my Mamaw. Prime rib and popovers reminds me of my first Christmas with my in-laws.  This cake reminds me of a friend in Virginia. Bruschetta reminds me of a family trip to Italy and a tucked away restaurant. Breakfast pizza reminds me of Christmas morning.

While telling friends and family about our completely unexpected and out of the blue move to Katy, we attempted to sweeten the news with a little dessert.  Hoping that a burst of warm, fresh blueberries with a delectable maple-y topping might soften the blow just a little bit.

I'm not at all sure that it worked.

I distinctly remember reaching for kleenex rather than my bowl sitting on the coffee table, melty ice cream over berries, slowly turning purple.

Until Monday night, it had been a while since I made this dessert.  I think my heart was starting to ache just a little every time I thought about making it because I was associating it with good-byes.

And it's just too good a dessert to have a sad memory tied to it.

So I made it Monday night.

And shared it with my parents.

And no one said a word about good-byes.

As I scraped my bowl clean, I had another revelation.

Side note here - I am perfectly agreeable to getting revelations through the eating of dessert.

This could just be a friendly dessert, something to serve for any occasion.  A warm and sweet way to say good-bye, or hello, or welcome to the neighborhood, or congratulations, or happy birthday, or.... you get the idea.  Best of all, it could just be a regular-old-night-of-the-week-hanging-out-with-the- family kind of dessert.

So good-bye sad little dessert.

Say hello to the new happy little dessert.

Click here for the best Blueberry Crisp you've ever eaten, courtesy of Shauna Niequist.

photo courtesy of shaunaniequist.com

Don't like blueberries? Then do apples, peaches, blackberries.... you get the idea.

Enjoy.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Bittersweet

Don't you just love those kinds of friends that you may not have spoken to in years, yet when you call them up out of the blue, they just pick up the conversation right where you left off?

Like all that time never even passed.

Are we friends like that?

I dearly hope so.

Because I dropped the ball on our conversation.  And now I am calling you up, hoping that we can  just pick up where we left off.

Have you heard of someone who, at the start of a brand new year, picks a "word of the year"?  A word that means something special or a word that will be a focus for the year?

Well, I've never done that.

I mean, how does someone go about choosing one word for a whole year? What if you pick the wrong word? What if three months into the new year, you change your mind and wish you had picked a different word? Can you change it or are you stuck with it because you called it "The Word of 2014"? What if someone else picks your word? Is it ok to share a word?

I just can't take the pressure.

But this year was different.

I felt like my word was supposed to be surrender.  And there was no getting around it.  It was like God had written the word on a steamy mirror after a hot shower. Like those people who see Jesus' face on a piece of toast, it was right in front of me, obvious and undeniable.

So I moved forward, declaring my word for 2014 to be surrender.

I was just so happy to finally join the ranks of the "word of the year" people that I never really put much thought into living the word of the year.

Otherwise, I might would've picked something like "sleep" or "read" - things I am 100% confident that I can really live.  And live abundantly.

God had more in mind for me and my word of the year than just getting it stamped on a cute silver bracelet.

Being married to a pastor can be an adventure.

Because ultimately, your husband's boss is God.  And it's not like God sits your spouse down at the conference table, reads his resume, assigns him to one church, presents him with a long-term package outlining his salary and benefits, pats him on the back, and sends him on his merry way with a few good ideas for sermons.

While that might be nice at times, there's a little more mystery and faith and trust and discernment involved.

And at the end of the day, even if God is your boss, you still have a choice.

The choice to listen or ignore.

The choice to trust or to doubt.

The choice to fight or surrender.

Surrender. That word again.

Ryan and I were recently faced with an opportunity that, while shaking us to the very core of our beings, has been nothing more than an opportunity to exercise belief and trust and surrender.

My husband is an incredible preacher.  He tells stories and shares the word of God in practical and life-changing ways.  He has an amazing heart for the family and wants nothing more than to heal so many of the world's hurts that stem from broken people living in broken families.

Not like he's got a real big goal or anything.

But he is also an amazing pastor.  A leader who loves his people, shares in their joys and sorrows, and  truly desires to invest in the lives of his congregation.

When you're married to a man like that, you start to love people, too.  You listen to their stories, rock their babies, feed their teenagers, freeze at outdoor Easter services together, and study God's word alongside them.

And because you care, people love you back.

They listen to your stories.

They come sit with you when you have a newborn who quits breathing occasionally and you're afraid to stay at home alone with her.

They send you to Houston for a month for your daughter's open heart surgery with so many groceries and gift cards that it fills a suburban top to bottom.

They bring you whole cakes so you can give them to the nurses so you'll be their favorite patients and they'll bring you the best recliners and pillows.

They host your teenagers in their homes, feeding them and driving them all over kingdom come.

They send you on vacations, give you free eggs from their backyard chickens, take care of your cars, host benefit yard sales, read your IEP before ARD meetings at school, send your girls gift cards for no reason, bring you real maple syrup, babysit your youngest, mow your grass, feed your family for six months after heart surgery, send you interesting special needs information, take your big girls to the movies and shopping, and on and on.

We do these things because this is what family does.

And our church is our family.

But when you're married to an amazing preacher and pastor, word gets out.  And calls start coming in; churches looking for a pastor.

Because this is family, we say no. Our people are right here in Austin. We are right where we need to be. Right where God wants us. We are here for the long haul.  Locked and loaded.  Amen.

So when one of those calls came in February, Ryan was surprised by God.  Taken aback to discover that maybe God might have something different in mind.

No, God did not sit Ryan down at the conference table and share the latest news with him.  And we did not see Jesus' face in a piece of toast.

But Ryan felt God giving him a slight kick in the pants.  A not so gentle reminder of who Ryan works for.  A hard question - "Do you have a career or a calling?"

Yikes.

And here I am, happy and clueless with a cute silver bracelet stamped with "surrender" circling my wrist.

Change is hard. And when you love the place you're living, the people you serve, and you have not one reason to leave, why would you create change?

Only because God says so.

And He is the boss of us.

So after much wrestling, many tears, several sleepless nights, and two jars of Nutella, it became abundantly clear that God was telling us it was time for the next part of our story.

We are leaving our beloved church and city, the place we felt so clearly called to ten years ago, for a new church and city, the place we feel so clearly called to right now.

Bannockburn has been a blessing that words cannot describe and a piece of our hearts will forever remain in Austin.

Now, we will create a new home, learn our way around a new city, and shop in a new Target.  We will find "our" Sonic, get lost many times, and find the best barbecue in Katy.

But mostly, we will listen to new stories and share in the joys and sorrows of a new congregation.

Because church is family.

And that's what family does.






Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Best Mystery Series Ever. Period.

You know that I have a deep love for reading.

And over the years, I have read a lot of books.  Like, a lot.

So when I say I've discovered the best mystery series ever, you can be 100% sure it is the best mystery series ever.

No need to ask questions. No need to research.  Just take my word for it.

The best mystery series ever is the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny.  In the author's own words, here is how she describes her books:

"And finally, a small note about the themes in my books. They're inspired by two lines from a poem by WH Auden, in his elegy to Melville. Goodness existed, that was the new knowledge/his terror had to blow itself quite out to let him see it.

How powerful is that?


My books are about terror. That brooding terror curled deep down inside us. But more than that, more than murder, more than all the rancid emotions and actions, my books are about goodness. And kindness. About choices. About friendship and belonging. And love. Enduring love.

If you take only one thing away from any of my books I'd like it to be this:

Goodness exists."

In the words of yours truly, I describe the books as "a thinking man's mystery series". 

Click here to visit Louise Penny's website and get behind-the-scenes scoop on all the books and the author herself.

So here is your to-do list, straight from me to you.  

Tuck the kids in bed, maybe even a little bit early.  I won't tell on you.

Put on some of these comfy pajamas.

Make this Easy Hot Chocolate from Kathy's Kitchen Table.

Curl up with one of those awesome no-sew fleece tie blankets, like this one.

And read the best mystery series ever, starting with Still Life.  Yes, you must read the books in order. Trust me on this.


Are you still here??

Go.

Read.

After all, it's on your to-do list.



Friday, December 13, 2013

Five Favorites: Products That Make My Life Easier

As the mom of a special needs child, my time is precious.

So I'm always looking for products that make tasks easier so that I can spend my time doing things I really want to do.

Like take a nap.

So today, I'm going to share with you my five favorite products that make my life easier.

1.  A good eyelash curler, like this one from Shu Uemura.





For a long time, I kept switching mascaras, always dissatisfied with the results.  And the time it took to apply them.  Until someone reminded me that an eyelash curler makes even a mediocre mascara better.  Now it's a quick squeeze with the curler, a few swipes of mascara and boom.  D-O-N-E done.

2.  Windex Touch-Up



I discovered this at my mom's house over Thanksgiving break.  Just set this right beside your kitchen sink and anytime you need to do a quick wipe of the kitchen counters, just touch the top with a paper towel, swipe, and toss.  Easy as pie.

3.  Neutrogena Make-Up Remover Wipes




These wipes are a true time-saver.  I can take off my make-up in 30 seconds flat.  I don't even have to run hot water.

4.  Immaculate Baking Company's Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough

Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough

While I don't mind baking most of the time, special diets do generally require that most baking be done from scratch, especially if you want the best taste at the best price. But when I just don't have time or I just need a couple of cookies for Lily's lunch box, I reach for this cookie dough.  And bonus?  It's dairy free, too.  And so good that it will convert even the most hardened gluten lover.


5.  Aerolatte Handheld Milk Frother



Forget the fancy cappuccino/espresso machines that you need to a tutor to show you how to use.  A few seconds with this frother and I'm good to go.  It even works well just stirring things up - like half and half and chocolate syrup, topped with whipped cream.  Not that I would personally know that.  You know... a friend told me.

Now it's your turn.  What products do you love that make life a little bit easier for you?  Do share!


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Gift Guide for Special Needs Kids - Lily Bird Edition


Even though Lily Bird has been with us for seven Christmases now, shopping for her hasn't really gotten any easier.  There's just so few things she gets genuinely excited about that we have to think really creatively to come up with some items that might strike her fancy.

And this is the first year I think I've done just that.

I'm excited to share some of what Lily will find under the tree this year in hopes that it will help you with your own child, too.

Let's get started!

Little Lock Box by TAG

Little Lock Box

There are two reasons I think Lily will like this Little Lock Box.  One, she is fascinated with her Dad's tool box and likes flipping all the little compartments open.  And two, she likes latches and locks.  So this should make her one happy little girl.

If the Little Lock Box is a little too pricey for your budget, try this Deluxe Latches Board by Melissa And Doug.




Lily has some of the motorized gears that work on a flat magnetic board and she enjoys watching them spin.  So I'm thinking that lots of spinning gears on a vertical surface might be even more enjoyable.  

However, my fridge is not magnetic.  So don't tell Ryan but he'll be doing a little DIY this Christmas.  I'm finally going to incorporate this idea I saw on Pinterest, the oil drip pan magnet board.

 IMG_7377+%28Medium%29.JPG
photo courtesy of http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/oil-drip-pan-magnet-boardnic-a-155606

It'll give Bird a nice space to arrange and watch all her gears.  Plus, I can occasionally sneak in some fun learning games, too.


I've seen these before but when we were in Virginia for Thanksgiving, a bookstore we visited had one set up in a corner of the bathroom and Lily loved it!  The ocean sound and the underwater gentle wave motion projected on the walls makes for a soothing and relaxing environment.


Puffer Ball - 2 inch

and Hairy Tangle Jr

Both of these fidget type toys would be fun and relaxing for Lily to roll around in her hands and up and down her arms and legs.  Of course, her favorite way to enjoy them would be if I bought enough to fill up a tub and let her bury herself in them.  Like a ball pit, but better.


EKORRE Hanging seat with air element IKEA
We've actually had this swing for a while now but we're finally going to hang it.  Yet another DIY project for Ryan.  Fun times in the Rush house.

Well that's about it for the Bird but check out these helpful gift guides for even more great ideas:

http://fourplusanangel.com/2013/12/ashlyns-gift-guide/
http://www.lovethatmax.com/2013/11/holiday-gifts-for-kids-with-special.html
http://www.friendshipcircle.org/blog/2012/12/13/24-great-toys-for-kids-who-dont-play-with-toys/

What about you?  Have you found the perfect gift for your kiddo this Christmas?  I'd love to hear about it.  We can all use another good idea or two!


Friday, December 6, 2013

A Twist on Traditional Pancakes

I've shared my mad love for the cookbook "Cooking for Isaiah" here more than a few times.

Cooking for Isaiah: Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Recipes for Easy, Delicious Meals


The author, Silvana Nardone, is the former editor-in-chief of the Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine.  When her son, Isaiah, was diagnosed with gluten and dairy allergies, she not only made it her goal to safely feed him tasty food, but to make him forget that the food he was eating was allergy friendly.

And I'm here to tell you she has not only met that goal, but blown the doors right off it.

I have yet to try a recipe in this book that isn't amazing.  Of course, I lean towards her baked items because... DUH.  I am a fool for a good brownie.

But today let's talk pancakes.

Or rather, a little outside-the-box pancake.

The corn cake.

A delicious cross between a pancake and cornbread.  Perfect for breakfast.   Or, even better, the ever popular breakfast for dinner, when you can serve them alongside runny fried eggs and crispy bacon.

Heaven.

Let's cut to the chase and get right to the recipe, shall we?

Griddled Corn Cakes with Strawberry Syrup

1 1/4 cups rice milk (I've been using almond milk & it works, too)
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup Silvana's Pancake Mix (recipe below)
1 cup cornmeal, preferably medium grind
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs, at room temp, lightly beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Syrup:

1 cup strawberry jelly
1/4 cup water

To make the corn cakes, in a small bowl, stir together the milk and vinegar.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the pancake mix, cornmeal, and salt.  Add the milk mixture, eggs, and oil; stir until just combined.

Spray a large nonstick skillet or griddle with cooking spray, then heat. Pour about a 1/4 cup batter into the pan and cook until the pancakes are golden and set, about 2 minutes on each side. (I make mine silver dollar size)

Meanwhile, to make the syrup, in a small saucepan, warm the jelly and water over low heat, stirring occasionally, until syrupy.  Serve with corn cakes. (Or you can skip this step and just slather on strawberry or peach preserves like we do)


Silvana's Pancake Mix

Click here to get the recipe for Silvana's Flour Blend and make it first.  Then do the following and voila - you've got pancake mix.

9 cups Silvana's Flour Blend
1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp baking powder
2 1/4 tsp salt

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Transfer to an airtight storage container and store in a cool, dry place or in the fridge.

Now that you've made all that good flour and pancake mix, connect with Silvana on her Easy Eats online magazine  and her blog, Silvana's Kitchen to get more yummy recipes.  And go buy the cookbook!

You can thank me profusely later. 

Have a warm weekend, my lovelies.

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