What We Ate: So Far This Summer

FBF72E5D-19DE-4A9D-B227-B9FEE0F2CF3FLook, they’re not all from Smitten Kitchen!

Pork chops with citrus dressing
These chops were nice and moist with great flavor. I served them with couscous on the side, which soaked up all of that delicious juice and dressing.

Chimichurri chicken (pictured)
Fine Cooking calls for oven-roasting these chicken legs, but I used chicken quarters and put them on the grill. The flavor was amazing, and I don’t know why I don’t make chimichurri more often.

Tomato and bread salad (also pictured)
I served the chimichurri chicken with Basic Tomato and Bread Salad, also from Fine Cooking. It was the perfect accompaniment and I even drizzled some chimichurri on my salad, too. Yum.

Smashed potatoes and peas with lemon and dill
I served this side with more pork chops and some green vegetables. I got fresh peas from the market, which were so sweet and delicious, but I don’t find frozen peas really taste much different than fresh. My babies love peas, so this was a hit.

Quick cherry crunch
And for our favorite summer dessert: a sour cherry crisp. The recipe is originally from The Joy of Cooking, and I grew up making it in my mom’s kitchen often. The recipe linked calls for canned cherries, which probably wouldn’t taste half as good. I used fresh-picked sour cherries, which I also froze to use for this dessert. When they’re fresh, or thawed, you can squeeze plenty of juice out of them to make the tapioca mixture. I like lots of crumb on my crisp, so I usually do one and a half the recipe of the crumble. Serve this with homemade vanilla ice cream, and it is summer in a bowl. I could eat this every day.

(15:1) Mater Dolorosa

mater-dolorosa-by-currier-ives

A new acquaintance of my husband’s recently suggested that he take 15 minutes every night to write. I took this suggestion to heart as I have missed writing but always feel like I don’t know what to say. While I don’t plan to share every evening’s thoughts, I thought I might share some. I am one to often start projects or have grand aspirations and then never follow through, but this is one that I hope (desperately plan) to keep. You are welcome to hold me to that!

Sunday, July 16
John Henry is sick with a high fever today. He spent the whole day sleeping on me, resting on me, whining on me. It is days like these that I am struck by the sheer uniqueness of motherhood—there is truly nothing else like it in all the world. My child is part of me: began in me, lived in me, even now grows from me. So much of him is me. He takes, and I give. He lives, and I slowly die. I feel his pains and his sadness and his discomfort in a way no one else does, for so much of him is me.

All of these moments as a mother make me think of Christ’s mother. Of course she felt as I do when Jesus was sick. She held him, and rocked him, and knew she would do anything to take away his pain. There is a special position, then, for women, for mothers. We can identify with Mary in a way no one else can. We have shared the love we feel for a child, the joy of their smiles, the heartache of their tears. And although we don’t know it fully, we can know in a distinct way the sorrows of this mother at the cross. Standing at its foot with the Mater Dolorosa, we can feel—although only a taste of the depth of her experience—the nails driving in, the spear bringing water and blood, the agony of her Son crying from a cross of wood. Such horror and such grief. Yet such a gift.

Be it done unto me according to Your word.

Throughout her life, Mary assumed an attitude of not mere acceptance, but gift. She does not just passively receive what comes; she presents herself—her womb, her breasts, her maternal heart—as offerings to the Lord. She gives to Him all that she is, she offers herself as a living sacrifice to God. And while she receives the greatest of sufferings, she also receives the greatest of rewards.

Oh, that I might be more like this Blessed Mother. That I might not simply receive what is given as if I am only a passive object of God’s will, but that I might open my heart and open my hands and offer all that I am for the sake of Christ, embracing His will as a small part of His great plan of salvation.

Speak, Lord, your servant is listening. Not my will, but Yours be done.

What We Ate April

Processed with VSCO with a7 presetSo, if you want to skip this post and just head to Smitten Kitchen, you would probably save some time. But I have collected a few recipes that aren’t Smitten Kitchen to make this a decently legitimate post.

Ramp, asparagus, and bacon hash
I was inspired by this hash which is amazingly delicious, but sadly I can’t seem to justify purchasing pancetta on a regular basis. So I made my own version and added some beautiful ramps, a delightful little-known spring vegetable. All of this topped with a beautiful, runny fried egg is just perfect.

Piri Piri Chicken
This was the best dinner I have had in weeks, truly: Smitten Kitchen’s Piri Piri Chicken. The grill perfectly chars the marinade on the skin, and I made the sides that she included in the recipe. Everything was just perfect. A note on the red chile: I didn’t have time to search for one and just used chile flakes instead. Next time I’ll probably just add a little more of the bell pepper.

Creamy One Pot Chicken Marsala Pasta
Here is one of the few meals that didn’t come from Smitten Kitchen, and I will definitely make it again. This pasta is delicious and full of wonderful flavor. I bought some especially nice shiitake mushrooms from the farmers’ market and it was worth it.

Warm Lentil and Potato Salad
I am always looking for good, nutritious lunches that I actually want to eat, and this salad is just my sort of lunch. The cornichons and capers add a great kick to the dressing. I prepared all of the elements ahead of time and can eat this for at least a few days after.

Classic French Toast
And to finish with our favorite breakfast: French toast. This is a pretty simple, classic recipe but I think the key is the bread. Challah. It makes the best French toast.

Mothering in secret

Processed with VSCO with a7 preset
Real life.

(Lately words have been slow in coming. I hope you will forgive a half-baked, incomplete piece. Perhaps this is more of a conversation. Me to you, whoever you are who might need to remember this as much as I do.)

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6)

Lately my thoughts about this exhausting season of life are less-than pretty. But most of them center around this one question that I find myself asking again and again: Where is my recognition?

It is a human feeling, right? The desire to be seen, the desire to have our hard work noticed.

For me, motherhood brings this question to the surface especially often, since a mother’s daily labors seem fruitless and trivial. In a world where titles and job descriptions and accomplishments bring praise and recognition, the role of mother sounds underwhelming and invisible. Even those closest to me don’t see most of what I do day-in and day-out.

Most of motherhood is entirely hidden. The 12 a.m. and then 2 a.m. and then 5 a.m. wakings; the patient word uttered to a toddler in the midst of a meltdown; the nap time spent chopping herbs and boiling vegetables to prepare for dinner. Most of these moments go entirely unnoticed.

I am not here to discount the encouragement that a word of recognition can bring. I am not here to ask for praise.

I am here to remind myself, and hopefully another mother or two who might also need to hear it:

The things we do in secret are often the most important—and the most sanctifying—ones.

I have been thinking often on Christ’s instructions to His disciples in Matthew 6. Let your giving be in secret. Shut your door and pray to the Father in secret. Keep your fasting secret. These are some of the most fundamental practices in the Christian life, and we are exhorted to practice secrecy in all of them.

And with each of these practices, there comes a promise: And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

How humbling and beautiful to read those words. I am reminded again that it matters not what man thinks of me. I am seen and known by a Heavenly Father who accepts my small offerings of sacrifice. What is the praise of man compared to the reward of God?

Motherhood is a practice in “letting no opportunity go by for serving others in love,” its sacrifices “a bouquet of insignificant little blossoms that are daily placed before the Almighty—a silent, life-long martyrdom.” (St. Edith Stein)

I am asked only to be faithful in the tasks I am given, to look not for the praise of man, but to work and wait and pray that one day I may hear the only praise that matters:

Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into your rest.

Two Years

_SMO5473 copy copy(HERE are my thoughts on year one.)

“In God’s new kingdom, the role of the human couple has changed; it has become a relationship of mother and son. The Son of God is the Son of Man through his mother but not through a human father… does it not indicate the nobility of motherhood as the purest and most elevated union of human beings?” (St. Edith Stein)

“What was it like when you saw her face for the first time?”
“Like I’d been missing her all my life.”
(Call the Midwife)

My baby girl is two tomorrow.

It is remarkable to me how a child’s birthday is just as much about memory as it is about anticipation. It is a child’s and a whole family’s celebration of what has been and anticipation of what is to come: all of the learning and growing and developing. But a birthday is also about memory; often silent memory, memories treasured in a mother’s deepest heart, quietly recalled and reflected upon in between diapers and meals and bedtimes.

These last few days hold so many memories for me. While I know that in the immediate, these moments weren’t as magical and beautiful as they seem now, memory almost reveals to us the deep sweetness in the moments that feel impossible, overwhelming, even terrifying at times. It seems that memory returns those moments to us so that we might see within them the meaning and the wonder that they held. Here are some of those memories, given to me now, as moments of deep grace.

No sleep for three days. My mom not being able to keep up with me on our walks because I was so determined to move this baby along. Blooming aliums in the gardens. Going to the midwife, going home again, going to the midwife, going home again, discouraged, not progressing. Pleading with my mom to help me make the petocin decision. The anticipation of finals still to take hanging over Travis’ head. A night of contractions, breathing, walking, Christmas lights, Audrey Assad on repeat. Pushing, and wanting to cry, and sleeping for a few seconds here and there, water, blood, fear, pain, encouragement, pain, relief, victory, sunshine.

Our windows faced east and she came with the sunrise. The dream ended, and mercy met us with the morning. The magic in that was unmistakable.

Two years later, she is everything we thought she would be. Hilarious, passionate, energetic, demanding, smart as a whip, and a live production every moment. We go to bed every night laughing about something she said, wondering at her newest trick or her recent excitements.

Of course with every new baby, the magic is new again. But there is something about first firsts that I’m not sure I will ever quite get over. She was my first pregnancy, my first labor, my first delivery, my first baby, my first time breastfeeding, my first 2 a.m. alarm clock, my first everything.

She is the first to teach me that “love is the stuff of life.” (Call the Midwife again.. I kind of love it.) Love creates life, and love gives life, and love sustains life. I am certain there is no love like this mothering love on this side of heaven. It is hard, and inconvenient, and exhausting and it demands a lot of me. But it is invigorating and profound and tenacious and delighting.

And it is love that comes to me and reminds me that I am loved even more than I love my children. My children are loved even more than I love them. Oh love divine!

That morning in our hospital room, when I saw her little fingers and her sweet nose and the day dawned, this love came and met us and filled us. And I discovered what I didn’t even know I was missing.

Written Words, II

Processed with VSCO with a7 preset

The Bright Field, R.S. Thomas

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.