Christmas Pre-Func(tion)

Do people even say Pre-Func anymore?
Anyway, we had some old friends over for dinner last night. The house is all decorated (but that in no way implies we are ready for Christmas. No ma'am, we are not), there was a howling windstorm outside, and all was cozy inside.
A perfect night for a post-mortem on Thanksgiving, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and to give each other a pep talk for the upcoming holiday which will be equally rife with shenanigans, expectations, and probably too much of ALL THE THINGS.

So. To get the party started we had this.


My younger daughter had returned from a Young Life camp this past summer raving about BIG COOKIES and MOM I GOT THE RECIPE except IT FEEDS 900 PEOPLE. 
900 people. I'm not one to shy away from big projects but...The math to scale that recipe was crazy making, so I tossed it aside and turned to my good friend Mr. Google. Thankfully, Big Cookies, aka Pizzookies or Skillet Cookies, are a total thing so it wasn't too hard to find a recipe.


Yes, we ate it straight out of the pan. I put plates out, what was I thinking.
I was pretty convinced that we wouldn't be able to finish it and wondered how I would wrap up the leftovers.


Forgive the blurry photo. Just needed proof that yes, I clearly underestimated my friends. We polished the whole thing off. 
We definitely got the holiday season off to a good start.

Peppermint Bark Big Cookie

1/2 cup butter softened to room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup all purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped peppermint bark (see note)
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts (optional)
1 pint peppermint stick ice cream 
Hot fudge sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 12 inch cast iron pan with baking spray.

Cream together the butter, sugars and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the egg and mix well.
Add the flour, baking soda and salt and mix on low until combined. Stir in the peppermint bark and nuts if using.
Spoon the dough into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 18 minutes.
Allow the cookie to cool for about 5 minutes. Top with the pint of ice cream and then spoon some hot fudge over the top. Serve immediately with spoons for all, clearly who would need a plate for this.

Note:
I did not have peppermint bark so I used 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and a cup of Andes brand peppermint crunch baking chips.
If you live in the Pacific Northwest, Snoqualamie Ice Cream Peppermint Stick Gelato will serve you well.





We Were Naive

My friend and I.
We thought these summers were endless. Summers filled with kayaks, piles of wet beach towels, giggles and whispers drifting upstairs from the basement, long walks, and late night campfires with both our families snuggled close.

A well loved backyard at the cabin

Our blissful summers by the lake were soon interrupted by camp counseling gigs, dropping kids off at unversity, summer internships, study abroad, and career changes.

All grown up. New Years Eve 2014.

I can't say that I begrudge our kids any moment of the story they are writing for their lives, BUT.
I'd like to turn back the clock.
I want a moment to memorize the sound of their collective laughter.
I want to freeze a snapshot (or two or twelve) of them playing, teasing, becoming siblings.
I want to go back and take advantage of those days that I thought would always be.

This summer took me off guard. But it is still good. Really good. The older kids caught up with each other while studying abroad, the youngers grabbed each other in between their summer comings and goings. I think it was a glimpse of what their adult friendships will look like.
And us parents? We spent a few evenings contemplating the looming empty nest.

Empty. Nest. Can I just say that the term "Empty Nest" conjures the image of champagne AND tissues. A totally celebratory weepfest.

Anyway...

One hot summer evening the twins dropped by with a bag of peaches from the over abundant tree on their property. They were perfectly ripe and smelled heavenly. I had planned to use them in a pie but the week got away from me, as did the peaches. They quickly became more suitable for jam. And what better way to preserve our summer memories than in a few jars of peach butter.


Lakepoint Place Peach Butter
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

4 pounds peaches, pitted, peeled and quartered
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
Juice of one lemon

Place peaches and water in a large, heavy pot. Bring to a simmer and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove the peaches from heat and puree, I used an immersion blender. I made mine very smooth but I'll leave it up to you as to how you like your fruit butter.
Return the peach puree to the pot and add the sugar, and lemon juice. Bring this to a simmer/low boil and cook for 40 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent scorching.
Now, the peach butter is done when a wooden spoon leaves a clear trail when scraped across the bottom of the pan. IMPORTANT NOTE: I cooked my peach butter for an hour and a half and still did not achieve this. I gave up out of boredom and spooned it into jars and called it good. It's a bit on the thin side and could double as a sauce. All I can say is whatever.
Kept airtight in the fridge it should last you two weeks. If you want directions on how to can the jars see the original post on Smitten Kitchen.

One Day Soon....

Senior year. Senior. Year. 46 days until she graduates. I can't even.

This child who still holds my hand, snuggles in close, and whispers that I am her best friend is ready to fly. She is so very ready to fly.


I'm not ready to let go. Not yet. There is still so much to be said, to be taught, to experience. Have I made her understand how remarkable she is? She is brave, and a truth teller, and tender hearted.
So tender hearted.
She is GRACIOUS, and merciful. And... she can be a handful.
There is a reason we call her Le Petit Générale.

Bali Indonesia 2003

Her sister used to say that Morgy was just like the center of a cinnamon roll. Warm and soft, and squishy. If you had the pleasure of knowing her when she was a child you would remember her hands. Oh Lord, those hands. Little pillows of squishy goodness.

So I am grateful for these days. For early mornings when my family room is filled with her friends who have come for breakfast before school. For soft murmurs of them praying for each other. For snapchats, and texts, and a Gilmore Girl binge watching companion. I am even grateful for all the times she loses things and needs help to find them. Every mom knows it is nice when they still need you a little bit.

And while one day soon she will fly, we have some time left.

School Nurse Stories, My Messy Beautiful

Taking a break from cooking to bring you this. Me and my little blog are heading over to Glennon Melton's  Momastery to be a part of her Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project. To learn more about us click HERE , and to learn more about the New York Times Best Selling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, click Here

I'm a school nurse. Yes, the person who calls to tell you that your child fell off the monkey bars, bit another student, has a fever, or GOD FORBID, lice.

Yeah, we know all sorts of crazy happens after that phone call.

I approach any phone call home with more than a little trepidation. It doesn't matter the reason for my call, the response is always the same. I introduce myself. There is a brief moment of silence followed by a sharp intake of breath, and then you, slightly panicked, trying to play it cool: OHMYGOODNESSWHATHAPPENED!

Take it easy Tiger; maybe I'm just calling to get your cupcake recipe from the bake sale. Do we always have to assume the worst?

This is one of my favorites. I'm really fond of my long slender neck and slightly startled look.

As part of my job I get asked a lot of questions and I hear a lot of stories.
Questions.
And stories.
From YOUR children.

Lets just take a moment to ponder that.

Those characters of yours tell some whoppers that make me laugh until I need my inhaler.

As evidence, I present to you these little gems:

Student: Mrs. Donahue my mom asked me to tell all my teachers about my new diagnosis. I let them know that I have Leprosy.
Me: That's great! I'm proud of you for being so responsible! (I then spent the afternoon making urgent phone calls notifying his teachers that he had Epilepsy and not Leprosy. Worrisome yes, but you know, on a different level)

"Mrs. Donahue, I just violated myself in the bathroom." (After further questioning it was determined  he had only vomited, but kudos for putting that new English vocab word to use)

"Do you think I might have Parkinson's?" (No, I think you drank too much coffee.)

Student: I'm pretty sure I have Fattigoo.
Me: Hmmm. Can you spell that for me?
Student: f-a-t-i-g-u-e

"We just studied sexually transmitted diseases in class. Do you have any tranquilizers?" (Oh little lamb, lets call mom)

"Are you sure I'm not dying?" (Metaphysically or right now from a disease?)

"Mrs. Donahue, I think the carbuncle on my buttock popped." (I have no response for this.)

"Can you look to see if I have a tapeworm?" (No.) (Hell no.)

Do you see what I'm working with?

I call this one Rainbows and Ice Cream Cone, or Rainbows and Baby Jesus in a Manger from my heart to yours. I also adore that she spelled her name wrong and that there are googly eyes. The world would be a better place with more googly eyes.

But, its a two way street. I also have to ask a lot of questions and get the story behind what is going on. A carbuncle you say?  Tell me all about it. What exactly do you mean by "popped?" Like, running down your leg leakage or sticking to your underwear leakage?
Gather information, get the story, and make a plan. Don't roll your eyes, snicker, or gag. And NEVER looked surprised.
That's my job in a nutshell.

Over the years I have found two questions that are key to my job. What do you need, and tell me your story. What do you need right now? What do you need to get through class? What do you need to make it through today?

Sometimes though I need to close the door, silence my phone; sit down and say, "Tell me your story." I need to hear the story behind the stomachaches. I need to hear why you attended three different schools this year. Sometimes, sometimes I can only help after I have heard the story. Because at times the most appropriate treatment is not a Band-Aid or Tylenol. It is being heard. Sometime the healing can't start until the story is told.

And so I found myself the other day, sitting across the table from a very young mother and father. They were frightened. They were ashamed. They felt judged. They were crying deep ugly sobs. Their children had been removed from their home. They didn't know what would happen next.

I had worked with this young family for months, and in the end their lives derailed. I was conflicted in the most uncomfortable of ways. I felt as though I had somehow betrayed them. After all, aren't they are just broken people trying to find their way? On the other hand....I was so mad, my inner sense of justice yelled "They deserved this." But, I believe in GRACE, and I believe that God is in the relationship business, and the family business, and the healing business. So I put aside my frustration, and put the lid on my anger. I set down my notebook, capped my pen, silenced my phone and closed the door.
I grabbed a box of tissues and asked my question.

Tell me your story.

"Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable."
-David Augsburger




Let it Ride

Sometimes God quiets the Storm.
Sometimes God quiets His child.
-Pastor Bob

Sometimes God just lets it ride.
-Shelly

This weekend there were storms of the weather variety. While driving to Seattle the rain was pelting so hard and fast I could not see out my windshield. It was like driving through Snoqualmie Falls.


Yes. That is totally an exaggeration. I do that.

Had I been able to see well enough to pull over I would have taken the nearest exit and hung out at Starbucks. I could not. I crouched over the steering wheel trying to see better. I started to get panicky and sweaty. I said bad words. I prayed. They were not prayers like my Sunday School teacher taught me to pray. There was no Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. They were prayers that sort of sounded like me telling the creator of the universe that he needed to step up and do His job. I mean don't you think that if He could bring the world into existence He certainly had the power to make the $@&* rain stop.

Create the world - Check
Make a covenant with Abraham - Check
Defeat death - Double check
Stop a rain storm - Let it ride

The whole thing left me feeling all stressed and sweaty, and wondering if it was a good thing to try and boss God around. Anyway, I decided to totally check out and not use my brain for any reason (other than to possibly recall my credit card number while I surfed the internet.)

And here is the product of my labors. I present to you my recipe to recover from a storm.

First of all you need something comforting to drink. The Woods Coffee does the best sugar free hot chocolate made with coconut milk or almond milk.

I just discovered a local artist, Stephen Cousens. I first saw his work in our principals office. It was a gorgeous pastel of City Hall here in Bellingham.

Read through a few blogs.......in no particular order.
Apartment Therapy/The Kitchn
One Green Bee
Joy the Baker
Djibouti Jones
The Domestic Man

Got lost down the rabbit hole of Pinterest and Stumbleupon

Watched House of Cards. Can't. Stop. Watching. Everytime I see Kevin Spacey I have the urge to yell "SHARK." He reminds me of a Great White on the hunt, in human form of course. He is creepy and entirely delightful all at once.

Dreamt about making this for dinner.

 Photo cred to Cooking Light

Grilled Skirt Steak with Mint Chimichurri and Honeyed Sunchokes.
Couldn't find sunchokes but this recipe is on my list to make soon!
We settled for leftovers.

And now all is right with the world. No worse for the ride.

Game Time

I predict that one of these two teams will win the Super Bowl
-Gilbert Gottfried


I'm pulling for the 12th man and the Legion of BOOM!

We haven't watched the Super Bowl in years. With the time differences of the places we lived it never worked out to watch it on Sunday and even if you went totally radio/media silent to try and watch it after work on Monday, someone would let slip the score. Eventually it just wasn't on our radar and we stopped watching.

But this year! It has been a lot of fun catching the 12th man spirit, wearing green and blue, being loud and proud, and cheering on the Seahawks!

And what would the Super Bowl be without snack and other goodies.


Bacon topped with Guacamole and tomato. Yes. They're pretty awesome.
And.......

BeastMode Cookies (Yes, I hand picked the blue and green candies out of 2 pound bags of M&M's)

The cookies are Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from America's Test Kitchen. The BEST chocolate chip cookie recipe on the planet. But that's just my opinion. I swapped out the M&M's for the chocolate chips.

We've got our jerseys on, the ribs are in the oven, the beer is chilling....Can I say that I really need this game to be over. The suspense has been killing me. 

GO SEAHAWKS!

Kale Haiku

Kale, a Superfood
or loathsome vegetable
Stuck between my teeth



Ah, kale. The darling of the farmers market. The badge of the Paleo police. The leathery, chewy, leaf that is just EVERYWHERE. That stuff is not my favorite raw. I gritted my teeth, quite literally, through a bag of mixed salad greens I had bought for my lunch last week. I swear I cut my lip on its jaggedy edge. But, braised, with some olive oil, chicken broth and garlic? That's nice. Sliced into ribbons and swirled through a garlicky, brothy soup? It becomes all silky and adds nice structure to the broth. Bake it until crisp and sprinkled with a little sea salt. Pretty darn tasty.

It just has no business mixing it up with my romaine.

Baked Kale Chips
Preheat the oven to 300

Remove the stems and tough ribs from the leaves of one bunch of lacinato kale. Wash the kale thoroughly (unless you have a thing for grit) and dry it very well.

In a large bowl toss the kale leaves with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, (you could also use avocado oil or coconut oil) make sure the leaves are evenly covered with the oil.

Lay the leaves in a single layer on a sheet pan that has been lined with parchment. 

Bake the leaves for 20 minutes or until dry and crispy. Immediately after pulling them from the oven sprinkle them with some sea salt.
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