Loveys, here's the thing about our family, I don't like to make a lot of desserts during the week. Ashtyn is a sugar addict and would live on dessert if I let her, Linc doesn't care about sweets (unless it's Candy Corn, like mother like son) and only gets truly excited about oatmeal. Lily is like Ashtyn and leans toward sweets. Jeff and I are all about food everything--but we're old enough to understand moderation. We have sweets during the week, but it's usually in the form of something simple and not too high calorie. One ice cream bar or maybe a low-fat cookie. (Or, you know, a sad wafer cookie. Or a bowl of Froot Loops if you're desperate.)
All bets are off on the weekends, loveys. So this weekend, I made a pumpkin bread pudding in the crockpot. Talk about fallish! Warm bread pudding with ice cream and caramel sauce. Loveys, I highly recommend it. I think it could just as easily be made in the oven but I haven't tried it yet. Bread pudding is one Jeff's all-time favorite desserts. He loves his mother's bread pudding best, I think (I do, too, for that matter), but he'll settle for mine. :) And to me, it's such a comforting, fallish kind of treat. If you've made bread pudding, you know the drill, bread cubes and eggs and vanilla and cinnamon and nutmeg and ginger. The main change I saw with pumpkin bread pudding was to mix the eggs with a cup of half and half and a cup of canned pumpkin (and sprinkle in pecans). Lincoln was home with me while I made it and I let him help. He kept wanting to check on the "cake" later. It was so cute to see him so invested in dessert since he'd helped make it. When I asked him what he thought when we finally tasted it, I got a thumbs up, which is high praise from that boy.
I'm going to share another food recommendation for fall, loveys. Carne asada. YUM.
So my grandma had a Mexican restaurant for years and years, and when I was a little girl, we'd drive to the valley and go eat at Vela's and it was always perfect. I normally ate cheese enchiladas three times a day (that is not an exaggeration) but sometimes my cousin Jason would have carne asada, and just like the enchiladas, it was delicious. Jason and I are the same age and were very often playmates when we all went to Grandma's house. We don't get to see each other often these days since I'm in Colorado and he's in Texas, but he's one of my favorites forever and I love him.
So, back in the day, we'd be eating cheese enchiladas and carne asada (and chorizo con huevos and pappas and tamales) and loving basically every minute of it. Staples of a wonderful childhood: eating good food at Grandma's house (or Grandma's restaurant).
So, it occurred to me this year that I'm thirty-seven years old and had not yet ever made carne asada. For real, this seemed unacceptable. I scoured the Internet for recipes and found one that turned out to be amazing. To be clear, I've never been to a Mexican restaurant (especially down south) that served carne asada with sweet potatoes. But, loveys, there's nothing wrong with a little adventure in our lives. So this recipe originated at the fitslowcookerqueen.com (she's got some amazing recipes), and I tweaked it a bit to make a little more Tex-Mex. And it's warm and a little spicy and comforting and goes perfect with fall. Try it!
I started with beef tips. Put some flour and salt and pepper on a plate and coat the beef tips, then heat up some oil in a pan and brown them. Some onion and green pepper only add more flavor. Go crazy. Once the beef tips are nice and browned, put them (and the onion and green pepper) in a crock pot. Add in some seasonings like cumin, just a little chili powder, some garlic, pepper--that sort of thing. Now pour in a can of beef broth. I recommend squeezing in about half a lemon's worth of juice (but if you've only got bottled juice, use that, maybe a tablespoon). Now, add in a tablespoon of tomato paste. Let it cook for eight hours on low or five or six hours on high. (If the sauce is thin after awhile, add in maybe a tablespoon of flour.) Here's where it gets even more yummy: I like to make tacos using corn tortillas (the Jeffster tends to be super stubborn and insists on flour tortillas with everything. Marriage is about compromise, lovey). Tacos with carne asada and chopped salad and rice are delicious. Really. We love it at our house. But, if you want to get even crazier, bake sweet potatoes in the oven beforehand. (Tip* oven at 425 and sweet potatoes right on the rack for 45 minutes.) Once you've got baked sweet potatoes, mix in a little butter and cinnamon (because why not, lovey?). Top the sweet potatoes with the carne asada and dig in.
It's fall, you know. Time for all kinds of delicious foods. What do you like to cook during fall, loveys? I met a friend for coffee this week, and I ordered a gingerbread latte. Really, those are teeny little drops of happiness in our chaotic lives. And I'm a firm believer in seizing happiness wherever we can find it. And really, coffee always makes me happy. I've been knee-deep in editing this Western novel, listening to Eric Church sing, sipping on coffee, and wanting to buy a pair of cowboy boots.
We count our blessings, lovey. Some days are harder than others. We need encouragement and hope. We need a warm, delicious meal that comforts us. Like being a little girl, sitting in a vinyl booth, eating enchiladas for the third time that day and being absolutely happy. Moments to love. Like my son sitting at the kitchen island, a bowl of bread pudding in front of him as he gives me a thumbs up. One of my favorite things is cooking for my family, loveys. It's not every day. We have plenty of frozen-pizza nights at our house and we roll with it. But sometimes, for them and for me, I just want to make a mess and cook something we'll savor. Good food creates good memories.
Today after church I snapped a few pictures of my kiddos. It's crazy to me how fast they're growing. The weather was perfect and I'm not sure how long it will last. We've had so many Halloweens over here where all the kids are bundled in jackets. We'll see. It's my favorite kind of Sunday night. Easy. Grilled cheese sandwiches and soup for dinner. A Halloween special on TV for the kids. Maybe a glass of wine and a little Poldark later on. :)
Happy fall, loveys.
*Ingredients for carne asada!
-1 can of beef broth
-1 lemon (not a deal-breaker)
-onion and green pepper
-spices and flour
-1 tbs tomato paste (use a little tomato sauce if that's all you've got)
It just hit me all of a sudden. (Possibly has something to do with the fact that I'm hungry.)
Well, I think it's coming from a couple of places really. One, I've just started editing a fabulous novel about a cowboy. Now I'm saying "ya'll" and "howdy" and all the things I usually say when I'm back down South. Ha! So when I told Jeff I was going to be taking on this project, I mentioned that it's about a cowboy, which is perfect for me since I've known a couple in my day. (I'm laughing again at the thought of the look he gave me at that moment!)
Second, I've been watching the Pioneer Woman make salsa and prepare for a party. I love salsa and parties. Honestly, Ree Drummond and I should be best friends. At the end of the episode, you see her and that gorgeous family of hers and a million friends, having a good old time, complete with cowboy hats everywhere. And delicious food.
I want to have a party.
Maybe after the edit is over.
So I'm feeling a little nostalgic. Something about growing up in Texas stays with you forever. Texans are loyal. And when I'm there, it always feels right (and everything tastes delicious). I started thinking back, memories of going to the rodeo and carnival when I was little (and not so little). I was thinking about the cheap seats and seeing the Astros play. Horse races and riding in trucks. Loaded baked potatoes at the Hickory Hut. Boys who wore dusters to school. Listening to Deanna Carter and Clay Walker and Shania Twain. The Catfish Festival in Conroe. Summer concerts at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.
Memories of that first chapter.
So much goes into who we are, loveys. Twists and turns and roads not traveled. Disappointments and surprises and open doors. Sometimes just pure grit and determination to keep going. And there are some seasons where we fall apart and eventually glue ourselves back together and everything looks different after that.
My story began in Texas. Those are my roots. Jeff started there too. I honestly love that we're from the same place. That when I mention the Dairy Queen on Frazier, he knows just what I'm talking about. We didn't grow up together, we met my second year out of high school. But those spaces and places are roots for both of us and we share that. We've driven on the freeway from Conroe to Houston a million times (there was that one time when we ran out of gas...after I'd told Jeff we should stop and he didn't, and then he had to run a really long way, he will not be pleased I mentioned that but it's a memory! ;).
In heart-to-heart conversations with friends, when we all talk about whether or not we're where we thought we'd be--I have to say that growing up in Texas, living in Colorado never even entered my mind. Never. I couldn't ski if my life depended on it. (Still can't.)
I did know I wanted to be married and have kids and work with books.
So there's that.
I didn't know all that goes into making a marriage work. I didn't know about Postpartum depression. I didn't know about having a crisis of faith. I didn't know the sadness of seeing my spouse grieve a parent.
I didn't know that those would all be pieces of my story.
And that every story has difficult chapters (some more than others).
In some ways, I'm where I hoped I would be--when I think of my children for sure. I can't imagine life without them, or me without them. They. Are. Everything.
I can say that along the way, there have been things that were very unexpected.
All these chapters I've lived so far--each one sort of feels like a lifetime ago really. Just a little girl running through the woods on Andershire. School days and meals with Mom and Dad and the girls. Longview. My first date with Jeff, leaving late for my orthodontist appointment. Virginia--that first day on campus at LU. Traveling to Europe. Graduating. Getting married. The three-day drive to Colorado. The absolute fun of getting settled into our apartment.
Glimpses into one person's life.
Lots of pieces that make up who we are. Really, loveys, it doesn't matter too much if we're exactly where we thought we'd be. We are where we are. Change might be in order soon. Or setting roots and getting settled. Or making do until something else opens up.
But looking back--there have already been so many chapters that went faster than I thought--and there are more to come (Lord willing... that sounded Southern, didn't it? I'm telling you, lovey, I miss Texas tonight).
More pieces to my story.
I had a moment the other morning, where I was watching my kids. I posted a picture on Facebook actually. All three were standing by the fireplace, watching Curious George on TV. I was standing at the sink and I just stared at the kids for a minute, the sound of that little monkey filling the living room.
I wanted to freeze time, even just for a moment. Because I will absolutely miss this--when my mornings don't involve pajama-clad kids watching Curious George.
It's one chapter of my life, but so far, it's my favorite.
It's work and tiring and emotionally draining sometimes. It's tricky to navigate. We're getting older and changing and we have to keep adjusting and holding on to each other.
It takes work.
But I know it goes fast. These are their first chapters. I want them to be beautiful.
Because they are making this chapter so beautiful for me.
Messy. But really beautiful.
Loveys, I like pictures. This has been going on since forever. High school. College. Back when we barely had cell phones, much less a phone with a camera. This was way back when we had disposable cameras and we used the one-hour photo lab at the Wal-Mart across from LU. For someone who loves pictures, you'd think I'd have a great camera and know all kinds of photo-ish things, which I don't. Still, I really like taking pictures. I remember once, years ago, our best friends Michelle and Buddy came to visit and Buddy noticed all the many photo albums I had and he said to me that my life is very well-documented! Ha! That was before blogging and Instagram and Twitter and Facebook--I really do love to document this life. Having kids and taking millions of pictures just seems to go together, so there's no slowing down now. (P.S. Organizing photo albums on Facebook makes me ridiculously happy.) (P.S. S. I took the above photo on a walk this week. Fall is in full effect, lovey. Gorgeous. Love it.)
I was thinking the other day about the fact that I don't have a great memory. I just don't. I forget things all the time. If I don't log reminders into my phone, I won't remember anything I have on the schedule. Thank goodness for our phones. (If only they weren't so addicting. Sad.) But the truth is that I love pictures and, to me, they help me preserve all these memories that I want to keep forever. Days like today...my friend Nancy and I and a houseful of children made caramel and chocolate-coated apples. Kids ran in and out of the house because the weather was perfect. Nancy stood at the stove, stirring melted caramel. I helped with the decorating. Nancy brought Starbucks coffee. The kids ate plenty of Candy Corn and Reese Pieces and marshmallows.
And it was fall.
And because it's fall, I'm giving up on trying not to eat yummy everything. Because the real me LOVES Candy Corn and caramels and every single delicious fallish food and I can't fight it! I told Jeff tonight that I am giving up. I will start over with eating lettuce in January. For now, I'm just going to enjoy my favorites because food brings us to life and colors our gatherings beautiful.
And I want this season to be beautiful for me and my family in every way. It's going to look a twinge different than I'd originally expected because I'm taking on an unexpected freelance edit. But honestly, that fills me up in ways I need to be filled. I love being home, lovey. I love getting to spend so much time with Lily and Ash and Linc and I feel thankful that I get to. I also love editing and writing and diving into books. Those things are good for me. So, the schedule is about to look a little different. More hours working for me. But I really feel so ready to just dive in. We'll juggle the kids a bit more, we'll squeeze our schedule a bit more and it will all be fine.
I'm thinking it's a good thing that we had book club last weekend! Speaking of gathering together, book club last Saturday night was fabulous. Tara and Danielle and Krista and I talked about all things Outlander till after midnight. Snacks were eaten, bottles of wine were emptied, and girls sat around and dished about anything and everything. Those are the best nights, lovey. When I talk about things that fill me up in ways I need to be filled, that kind of gathering is definitely on the list. I wish there were more of them! (But we have all these children....and the books are SO long...and there are husbands around...and I have to clean house....so there's that.)
Back to thoughts on picture-taking and picture-posting, lovey. We all know that most of the pictures we post are of good memories. Things we want to remember. I'm not averse to posting real-life, not-completely-flattering pictures--but even those are usually capturing funny and happy moments we don't want to forget. So our life onscreen is something of a highlight reel. And there's nothing wrong with that. No one expects you to take pictures of the nights when kids are throwing up, or you and the husband are fighting, or you're bawling because you're overwhelmed and sleep-deprived, or you're yelling because everyone's fighting you at bedtime.
But we're all living it. And nothing is perfect for any of us. Not the woman in the big huge mansion. Not the mama trying to make ends meet. Despite what it looks like on Facebook or Pinterest, or the hundreds of opinion letters on every website, the mother-hood can be a lonely place. It's just true.
We can reach out and try to be friends and then be rejected. (I know this from experience). We can look online and see when we're left out. (Again, experience.) We communicate via text and it can be hard to read some people and we end up with our feelings getting hurt. (Um, this may have happened to someone I know whose initials are BRB.) It occurred to me the other day that if we can sometimes feel lonely even in our marriages--of course we can feel lonely in our friendship community. In our church even.
There's always more to the story than the pictures we see. But I get encouraged by looking through pictures of moments I want to hold on to. Something about seeing pictures of Jeff and I together over the years really warms my heart. Seeing photos of my children makes me smile every time. Jeff and the kids are my people. They're my tribe.
I think quenching loneliness starts with loving ourselves. Whenever I'm sad, I think about how Jesus loves me. That I'm enough for this moment, and if I'm not, tomorrow is another day. And if I can give myself grace to breathe, and if I can love the people in this house the best way I know how, and pray for the suffering...then I'm being the woman God wants me to be. Perfection isn't required.
If you've ever felt lonely in the mother-hood, lovey, or just in life in general--for sure you aren't alone. I'm right there with you. If the highlight reels you see make you sad or discouraged, there's always more to the story. If you're desperate for community...we all are. If you're desperate for rest....we all are.
Beautiful moments. Messy moments. We all have them.
We give up on some things and dive into others. We try to love ourselves because God sees us as lovable. And we do our best to love our people well.
This season is about to look different from what I'd expected. Seasons do that sometimes. For the better, for the worse. We roll with it. For myself, I'm giving up on lettuce and diving into fiction. That's how I roll. :)
Lovey, I hope all good things for you this season. If it looks like you expect, or if things get crazy. You're enough.