19 August 2014

chicken sausage vegetable skillet

Is anyone else completely over cooking this summer? My kids have been eating sandwiches for basically every meal because my brain is done. I stare blankly into the refrigerator every night at 5pm and am like, "I don't even know."
But last night, as I pulled out the ingredients for quesadillas for the third time in a week, a little inspiration struck. I grabbed some of the veggies I'd just stocked up on, the chicken sausage that's become a staple around here, and set to it.
And you guys, it was so good and so easy. Seriously, done in 15 minutes kind of easy.

And maybe the best part was the versatility! Once it was all cooked up, my kids ate it in quesadillas, and my husband and I had it with rice. You could mix it with quinoa, eat it with flat bread, or toss it with pasta. And, completely by accident, it's dairy free and gluten free, so almost anyone could come over and have dinner with you.
It's also totally healthy: low fat, full of nutrients. I mean, I could go on, but basically: make it, eat it, share it, the end.
Here's how.

Chicken Sausage Vegetable Skillet
serves 4ish
4 chicken sausage links, chopped (current favorite: sweet basil pesto from TJ's)
1 medium onion, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 cups baby spinach, chopped
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed well
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 clove garlic, minced
squeeze of fresh lime
salt to taste

Coat skillet or pan with cooking spray and add sausage, vegetables and beans.
Cook over medium-high heat until everything is cooked, but veggies still have some bite to them, about 8-10 minutes.
Add in cumin, chili powder, garlic and lime juice and cook 1-2 minutes more.

Serve as desired. Quesadillas, burritos, with rice or quinoa, or tossed with pasta.
For a little extra love, add cheese or sour cream and avocado.

12 August 2014

say this, not that

As a family of seven with kids of all different shades, we get a lot of questions and commentary. I have learned to find the humor in a lot of it, let most of it roll off my back, and move on. But some things still get under my skin a little. Not because I don't see the (mostly) innocent intent behind it, but because my kids are growing up and are hyper-aware of every single conversation that they are privy to. 

Can I shield them from everything that comes their way? No. Does this open up family dialogue a little? Yes. Do I feel like they should have to hear these questions and comments and observations at every turn? Really not. So, here are some helpful hints for etiquette with strangers you encounter who don't have families that look like your own.

"You've got your hands full."
Heard by parents the world over that have 1-10 children in a public setting. It's an innocent enough comment, but chances are the person on the receiving end has heard it approximately four thousand times. My son has even started to roll his eyes at this one. Best response I've heard from an instagram friend, "yep, we bring the party." Jim Gaffigan, who has five of his own, has said this is like saying to someone in a wheelchair, "I bet you don't do a lot of dancing!"
So what can you say instead?

"What a beautiful family!"
"You look like you're doing an amazing job!"
"Raising kids is hard work, but you look like you're great at it."
Even if none of the above is true, because maybe the person you're talking to is looking a little harried, frazzled and fried, it is far better to give a word of encouragement than one of pity. In my opinion.

"So, which ones are yours?"
We have heard this a shocking number of times. My gracious husband always replies, "they all are." It's not that we don't understand what you're asking, but seriously. My kids can hear you and whether you think so or not, that stuff sinks in. So, let's just recognize that they are all, in fact, ours. Blood doesn't make you family. My husband is just as much a part of my family as the children I've birthed, right? Because we are married, signed some papers, declared it to the world, and it is so. Think of adoption like that. My adopted kids are my kids, 100%. I don't want them to ever think anything different, to feel less a part of our family because strangers keep pointing out that they aren't my "real" kids. They're my real kids. Imagine me asking someone if all their kids have the same father while we're standing in the grocery store line. Awkward.
So, what can you say instead?

"What a beautiful family!"
"You are all so blessed."
And my favorite, said to us by a stranger at a restaurant, "Look at the rainbow of babies! What a beautiful sight."

"Do you run a daycare?"
"Are you hosting a birthday party?"
"Are you a nanny?"
All of these are really funny to me and I don't care that much if people ask them. Just don't follow it up with one of the above questions. How should you follow it up?

"What a beautiful family!"
Do you see where I'm going with this?

Let's be encouragers, cheerleaders, advocates for one another. 
And if not for each other, then for our children and for the kids of others. 
Because really, family - whatever it may look like - is a beautiful thing.

06 August 2014

the noonday collection: fall launch and a giveaway!

I've told you about how Noonday captured my heart.
The more I work with them, the more I know I am where I am supposed to be. Every time I read about the women and families who create each piece, or watch the video of the Noonday story, I am in tears. And I've watched the video about 49 times. Still teary. 
Every. single. time.

When I read the stories and look at the pictures from the trip that Noonday took to Rwanda this summer to partner with the International Justice Mission, my heart is heavy and light all at once. To see the joy that emanates from the artisan group there - these women who've experienced pain and suffering and have risen. They are filled with hope, they extend love and peace, they are beauty defined.

Every time I pick up a piece of jewelry, I am in awe of the mission of Noonday and the desire to create sustainable jobs, and emergency assistance, and hope in these communities. Dignified work and real relationships have grown out of this vision. And I get to be a part of it. You get to be a part of it!

And today is exciting, you guys. Because it is the launch of the absolutely beyond gorgeous fall line. I am partnering with a bunch of other ambassadors to bring you a month long giveaway party! Nearly every day for the next 30 days, one or two bloggers will be giving away all kinds of Noonday goodness each day. I am here to kick things off - and later today you can hop over to Brooke's for a chance to win even more!

Go check out the fall collection and come back to win $50 to spend on your wish list!

open to US residents
entries will be verified

Good luck!

31 July 2014

the thing about summer

Here we are in the throes of summer break. The free schedules, lazy afternoons, late bedtimes, otter pop hangover mornings. The warm air wraps itself around your shoulders, noses covered in newfound freckles, the smell of sunscreen and sunshine and play lingering on your skin as you slip under the sheets and fall into summer sleep. It's dreamlike at times.

But also, I'm going a tiny bit crazy. 

I feel a little like a pendulum, waving between the bliss of abundant family time, a whatever the day may hold wonder and an oh my goodness if these children ask me for one more snack I will die attitude. 

I love my kids. So so so much. I would die a thousand deaths for them. I would walk through fire, jump in front of a moving vehicle, swim every ocean, and whatever.
I look at each individual little face and I nearly cry over my love for them. 
But together? My three boys are either in a murderous rage toward one another, huffing around because of some brotherly injustice, or crying as though someone has just run over their dog approximately every hour of every day. There are small snippets of time where they are playing harmoniously, exploring some corner of the yard, quietly building their legos, riding their bikes around our quiet street. Snippets, people, snippets.
I have asked them 47 times in the last 12 minutes to please stop asking me for snacks and shows and treats. I just want to eat my second meal of the day at 2pm without having to jump up and do something for someone else. I promise it will only take me ninety seconds to eat if you just let me sit down and eat.

I waiver between feeling sad that there are only 33 days of summer left and seriously contemplating making a countdown chart to the first day of school. And then feeling really guilty that there are moments during the day that I am not reveling in the joys of my children's presence, but rather praying for the grace to not tear my own hair out as I clench my teeth at the sound of yet another battle. 

Here's the thing. You are still a good mom if you feel spent. If you feel like you've run out of patience and you need a break, and you don't enjoy every minute of the day, you're still a good mom. I really believe that this motherhood business is the most sanctifying thing that could happen to a person. It is hard. Some days it is damn hard, and that's just reality. It's beautiful and messy and terrible and amazing and glorious and awful and every single gamut of emotions you can possibly experience in a 24 hour period. Heartbreaking and mind boggling and completely fulfilling and not at all fulfilling and guilt inducing and full of love. It doesn't even make sense, so maybe don't try to make it.

What I want is for us to collectively let go of the guilt. Because the thing is, that guilt just shows that you care. You are pouring your life out. I'm pouring my life out. And sometimes it's hard. But it's also all I could ask for. When I sneak in their rooms at night and watch them sleep and they are soul crushingly peaceful and cute and I can't even deal with the amount of love in my heart. Or I see Ivah jumping up and down with joy when I get her in the morning, or when George sings to me, or Frances spontaneously wants to snuggle, or Eddie asks to sit on my lap after dinner, or Lute wants to tell me every detail of the story he just read. Those little moments are the ones that remind me that at the end of the day, we've really got it good. 

So, settle into that. Let go of guilt, and pray for grace in the moments that you need it. Which, for me, is about 83 times a day. 

14 July 2014

vegan cherry blueberry crumble

 I hesitate to even tell you that this recipe is vegan because I think that conjures up weird ideas in dairy loving minds, but let me just tell you - this is delicious in every sense of the word. And if vegan just doesn't jive with you, you can easily substitute butter for the coconut oil and it will be equally delightful.

We had friends over last week who have to abstain from dairy. I was excited to try coconut oil in my crumble and it did not disappoint. This is the perfect summer dessert - brimming with ripe fruit, sweet and tart and perfectly spiced. There is so little sugar in this, you could seriously eat it for breakfast and be everyone's hero and not even feel guilty.
Or like me, you can top it with a bunch of whipped cream for your dairy loving people and be a dessert superhero. Your call.

Trader Joe's has these jarred Morello cherries that are so good. If you live within the vicinity of one, get them. They're sour and perfect for any baked cherry treat you can dream up.
Mix them up with fresh blueberries, and you can't go wrong.

 And anything with a crumble topping? I mean. Really.

(vegan) cherry blueberry crumble
serves 8

2 pints fresh blueberries, rinsed and picked over for stems
16 ounce jar of sour morello cherries (drained and rinsed),
or 12 ounce bag of frozen cherries
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup almond meal
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted (or butter)
two pinches of salt

In a skillet or your favorite 9x13 baking dish, toss berries and cherries with cornstarch, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine remaining ingredients until they all come together into a crumble. Top berries evenly with the crumble mixture and bake at 375 for 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the fruit is bubbly. Serve warm or at room temperature as is, or topped with ice cream or whipped cream.