Small Pandemic Joys

It has been so long that this pandemic has gone on.

I have lost count. I no longer care to count.

I have yelled at my kids. I have been short. I have been unkind solely because I have been so isolated. My family is great. Yeah for family but I really miss people. And so, I’m trying to remind myself of small joys. I am terrible at this spiritual practice. I know Diana Butler Bass says its a good idea. It’s healthy. It builds good things but I resist. Instead, my gratitude practice more boldly extends to conspiring with the United States Postal Service. I shared a recipe for that years ago here.

And yet, bizarrely, I find myself whispering prayers of gratitude in these strange days where my frustration feels off the charts. Beyond the obvious things (family, a roof over our heads, food in our bellies… that stuff), I feel compelled to share my growing gratitude list. It’s my own tiny reminder that small things are everything.

  • My fifteen month old baby has started kissing so that any time she goes upstairs she makes this little guppy noise to say good night. It’s not always bed time when we go upstairs but it makes me laugh every time.
  • Walks around our neighborhood where my nearly three year old daughter and I each squeal with delight at the bright colored flowers. (We live in Texas. It’s still hot here and even in the desert, there are plenty of flowers.) We are slowly learning the names of these new plants and each time I point and name a plant, I hear the distant echo of my grandmother doing the same thing over my shoulder.
  • While my children are too tiny for homeschool and we still don’t have many screens in our lives, I’ve definitely noticed my phone is in my palm A LOT. One of the ways I’m trying to separate from screens is to turn off all screens 30 minutes before bedtime and read an actual paper book. My husband wakes up so freaking early that I invested in a reading light that I adore. Right now, this is a great joy.
  • Writing prayers and hearing that these prayers are actually helpful when I know that so many pastors are on the brink of giving up their vocations out of sheer exhaustion.
  • Online church. I know I might be in the minority on this one but we moved to a new place two months ago and I still get to see and be cared for by the church community that has been the only church my kids have ever known.
  • Before it was a yeast shortage this spring, I had decided that this would be the year I learned to bake bread. I’m really grateful for my friend Meghan for buying me the book and and cheering on all of my bakes by text.
  • Teeny tiny adventures outside the house. We went to White Sands National Park last weekend which is only 90 minutes from our house and it was magical to be outside playing with our kids. I am also really keen on the fact that my nearly three year old has learned the word adventure and wants to know when the next one will be.

It’s not a long list but it’s a reminder that there is joy. There is always joy.

I pray there is joy for you too.

Cooking for the Family, Again

In less than two weeks, worship will end and I’ll hop in my car and drive off into the cornfields. After way too long apart, Nigel and I will be together again. All will be well. Alleluia. Alleluia.

Before then, there are still a few adventures to be had in the kitchen and beyond. Corey is a big fancy graphic designer. (She is actually using the art degree that brought us together in the first place.) This week, there’s an artsy shindig and I get to be her date in the big city. My parents are coming to visit this weekend and next week I’m looking to a final hurrah in NYC and a ridiculous night of fun with my dear cousin in Atlantic City.

I will not be gambling at the casinos but I might be gambling in the kitchen. You heard about my challenges in cooking for Corey and her family in my last post. It continues as I try to cook bland, boring food for children. (I’m kidding. Sorta.) My strategy has been try to make one dish that has a kid version. Sometimes that has even worked. This week is no different.

Here’s the dinner plan for the week. As usual, you’ll see that I get my inspiration from a few usual suspects.

SuperSale

Tuesday We’ll be enjoying one of my favorites from Cookie + Kate, Spicy Sweet Potato and Green Rice Burrito Bowls. The components of this work really well for kids with a little less spice. Both kids loved her other version of a burrito bowl (as did Mom and Dad). So I’m hoping they like this one too.

Wednesday We have some chicken thighs to use from the freezer so I’m excited to try Smitten Kitchen’s Sheet Pan Chicken Tikka. We’ll be using broccoli with the cauliflower though because the kids love the broccoli.

Thursday We’ll be serving Super Kale, Hemp and Flaxseed Oil Pesto. After conferring with Corey, we are hoping that the fact that it’s pesto will hopefully make the kids want to eat the yummy pesto. We might be dreaming, but we can hope.

On Friday, I’m going out to dinner with my parents but I might never have as good an excuse to make challah than blessing the shabbat table of my dear friends. So, I’m going to take a stab later this week at this Fig, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah. It’s going to be another great week of yummy meals.

Menu planning is a very occasional feature of my blog. I do more cooking in the ministry I offer in Ingredients for Worship and cooking up new and exciting Recipes for Ministry. I love to cook both in the kitchen and swap recipes for all sorts of things. So, what are you cooking this week? What’s on your menu?

Cooking for the Family

It’s been almost two months since I got married. I went on an epic two-week honeymoon and then came back to our house only to prepare the movers. We prepared as best we could in twenty four hours. I preached a sermon in there too, and then the movers arrived. We had the worst possible moving experience known to humanity, but all of the stuff got on the truck. Nigel drive off to our new home where he had to report for duty in seventy two hours and I moved in with my friend Corey.

Corey and I went to college together. A few months back, over lunch in the city, I asked her if she needed a nanny. Corey was, at that point, expecting her third child. I was looking for a place to live as I had committed to a year contract with a church. I wanted to honor that contract but we couldn’t afford two rents, so I was problem solving as best I could. Surely, we could barter. Free room for some help with childcare? That seems like a fantastic idea. Corey assumed I was kidding. I was not. I wasn’t at all.

A few months later, I moved in. Corey had the baby. She’s adorable! Her older siblings are adjusting and things are almost normal. It’s still very weird to be so far away from my husband. Also still weird to say husband. I’m not yet used to that, but weirder still because we’re not actually together. It’s weird to embark on this next adventure when we’re not doing it together. And it’s just so hard to feel settled and normal when everything is not, but thankfully I still get to cook. Cooking makes me feel normal, even in someone else’s kitchen where I can ever find the colander. I can never find the colander in Corey’s kitchen.

Cooking for Corey and her family has new challenges for me. Biggest among them is the fact that there are kids. Nigel will eat anything. He’s really a good sport that way. He’s truly game for anything I want to concoct. And though these kids are not picky eaters, they will not eat anything. Sad but true. Kids will be kids. Luckily, Corey and her husband like to eat and they also like to have someone else do the cooking while they try to feel normal with three kids, rather than too. All of this means I get to cook. I get to cook and we found a new favorite food blog which means we’re basically trying everything that looks remotely tasty on Half Baked Harvest —  which is basically everything. This week is no exception.

Here’s the dinner plan for the week. You’ll note I haven’t made any notes about what the kids are eating. I’m adapting slowly, clearly.

SuperSale

Monday Neighbors have given a stock pile of food for the family with a newborn. (Unlike the other neighbors, they haven’t caught on to the fact that I’m cooking up a storm for the family.) They bright lasagnas, two different kind of quiches ad a case of beer. We will be having the lasagna and making a side salad to go with it.

Tuesday We are trying a new recipe and are beyond excited to gobble down this Balsamic Peach Basil Chicken Salad with Crispy Prosciutto from Half Baked Harvest.

Wednesday After trying something new, we are going to repeat something we’ve enjoyed before. This is the night for 20 Minute Cashew Chicken from Half Baked Harvest. I tried to warn you that we are a bit in love with this blog.

Thursday After being good and having a salad way back when on Tuesday, we are going to go for Cheddar Cornbread Waffle BLT with Chipotle Butter from Half Baked Harvest. Without a waffle maker in the house, and mine being with my husband, we are going to make pancakes instead of waffles. It should be delicious.

 

Friday will be a wild card or the night we eat all the leftovers. It seems there will be plenty of leftovers! Of course, there are other meals to eat and therefore other recipes to try. Earlier this week, Cookie + Kate posted a new recipe on her blog. This delicious fruit salad will definitely make it unto the rotation. Last week, I also discovered avocado toast and it kinda changed my life so I’m eager to try these life-changing variations. It promises to be a delicious week.

Menu planning is a very occasional feature of my blog. I do more cooking in the ministry I offer in Ingredients for Worship and cooking up new and exciting Recipes for Ministry. (Or at least, I hope they are new and exciting recipes.) I love to cook both in the kitchen and swap recipes for all sorts of things. So, what are you cooking this week? What’s on your menu?