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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Only Salsa You Need in Your Life

Good salsa is life. And store-bought salsa is a sad and expensive substitute for the kind of life you deserve to be living.

If you have one or two homemade salsa recipes up your sleeve, you can throw together a few kinds, rip open a giant bag of chips, slap some meat on the grill and have a spring/summer backyard get-together to rival anything Giada could host. (And Giada doesn't even make salsa so you've got a leg up already...)

I started making this basic restaurant salsa forever ago and it quickly became my go-to. It's simple; you dump the ingredients and pulse in the blender, it makes a giant batch (two full quart jars), keeps for weeks in the fridge and is made with ingredients I pretty much always have on hand.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Restaurant Salsa 
adapted from Pioneer Woman's recipe

2 cans diced tomatoes
2 cans Rotel  (I use one can regular and one can of mild, adjust for how spicy you like it)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 big handfuls cilantro (cilantro is also life)
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
(Opt. for those of you who like it HOT - chop and de-seed one jalapeƱo, add it to the mix)

Note: This makes a HUGE batch. It's a simple thing to half the recipe if you're not hosting a shin-dig and won't eat it quickly enough. But...if you're going to all the trouble to make your own salsa, you should probably throw a party and share the love.

Throw all your ingredients in a (large) blender or food processor and pulse 5-10 times until well-blended and at a consistency you like. Test with a tortilla chip and adjust seasonings to your preference. If you can, make this ahead of time and refrigerate for a few hours so the flavors can really blend.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Small Beginnings at the Pull-Up Bar

Yesterday I was mindlessly scrollaxing on Instagram when I came across this image. I immediately rolled my eyes and flicked past it.

Being a beginner sucks.

I'm not sure anything unsettles me more than appearing to not know exactly what I'm doing. Being an expert at all things is kind of my thing. If by some unfortunate turn of events I have to be a beginner at some point in time, I do everything possible to ensure my graduation from total-newbie to decent-amatuer under the cover of darkness. I'm careful not to tell anyone what I'm up to to so that when (if) I fail, it goes unnoticed and un-remarked upon.

On a study abroad trip in college (undertaken with the singular goal of improving my Spanish through daily use) I took a bus two hours out of my way because I didn't want to risk exposing my beginner Spanish. I knew enough words to ask the driver for clarity, but I also knew I would probably bungle it a bit, so I kept my mouth shut and hoped for the best. (I ended up getting off in a small village that was clearly not my destination as dusk approached and finally humbled myself and got on the right bus.)

Here I am at age 34 and if you see me doing anything that I appear remotely good at, odds are good I have been practicing for MONTHS or YEARS sight unseen. This hatred for beginnings is one of many reasons motherhood has been so tricky for me. Either I'm the beginner or these kids are at pretty much everything we do, all day long. Beginners are the WORST. They are slow. They make mistakes. If I'm not them, they are in my way. And if I am them...well I'm in someone's way and they are judging me hardcore from atop their non-beginner pedestal.

All of this hatred brings me back to that quote I quickly scrolled past. ..

You might remember that one of my new year's resolutions was to do a pull-up. One pull-up. A small thing, but one that has been out of reach my whole life. So for me it's a big thing. I downloaded a training plan in January, but have yet to buy the over the door pull-up bar thingy for the house, so I have started training at the gym. In the free weight section.

Where the only pull-up bar is positioned in the very center of muscle-y man-ville.

Two months ago I pulled open the double doors and headed toward the walls of mirrors defining the lifters' territory for the very first time. To my left 50 year olds were trying to out-press each other on the bench. To my right a cluster of high school boys nodded to their Beats while knocking out sets of curls with 40s.

No beginners here.

Oh wait, except for me. The little (comparatively speaking) girl with the ponytail and floppy arms. I pretended to look at my phone while really watching the guy making strides toward the pull-up bar.

He jumped up, strained against his grip and flexed his back. His body was lifted. It appeared weightless as he flexed and hung, flexed and hung, his torso a plank moved by the simple lever of his arms.

I waited for him to finish out his set, gave myself an internal pep talk and casually walked over to the bar.  I turned to face my reflection, framed perfectly in the mirrors and jumped up. I flexed my back, and strained against my grip. Nothing happened. No lift. No slow but steady movement towards the bar. Not even a little twitch. Literally nothing happened. It was as if all my muscles had colluded to humiliate me.

I hung there for a good thirty seconds and dropped down, casually sauntering over to my water bottle like the hang had been exactly what I was going for. I thought I would have at least been able to flex my arms and make it part of the way there.

As I was rolling my eyes and flicking past that beginner quote above yesterday, thinking about how frustrating it has been to work towards this pull-up, the phrase below came to mind.

I didn't realize it (I thought it was just a pretty Pinterest saying) but as it turns out, it's from the Bible.

In the book of Zechariah, the prophet Zechariah is talking with God (as prophets do) about re-building the Jewish temple and in chapter 4, verse 10, God says, "Do not despise these small beginnings..." Another translation asks, "who has despised the day of small things?..." 

(Insert emoji of blond girl raising her hand) Oh hey...I do! Me, God. I hate small beginnings. I despise days of small things. Big things are more my style. I prefer grand finishes, big finales, ticker-tape parades, confetti cannons. You know, winning.

But you know what the second half of that verse says? "Do not despise these small beginnings...for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.

The Lord REJOICES to see the work begin.

You know why? Because while we are all people of small beginnings, God is a God of big finales. In Philippians 1:6 Paul says that God, "who began a good work in you, will perfect it..." The grand finish, the ticker-tape parade, the confetti cannons. They all belong to Him and come in His time.

During days of small things we are laying a ground work. Small beginnings necessarily precede big finales. The days (ahem, years) of small things are not a waste, not embarrassing, not insignificant.

And God knows that I in particular need a continual IV drip of beginner's humility in my life. Out of His great affection toward me He put this seemingly inconsequential goal on my heart and directed me to the pull-up bar at the gym. Where my pride is laid low and the work begins. He is using this silly pull-up thing to teach me again, that He rejoices to see me begin, that He is with me and that He will carry me to completion. Because as I am learning, in my weakness, He is strong.

Friday, March 10, 2017

What I'm Loving Right Now (Vol. No. 7)

Listening to: Blue Babies Pink
I discovered this podcast and @bretttrapp via a friend's Instagram account. She posted a picture, he left a thoughtful comment, and I had to know - who was this male stranger leaving well-worded comments on pictures of kitchen counters in Insta-land? Turns out Brett is a 34 year-old with a life story not much different than mine if you discount the facts that 1. He's male and 2. He's gay.  I fell down the BBP rabbit hole and furiously listened to this "Southern Coming Out Story" this past week. I didn't realize Jen Hatmaker recommended it recently until yesterday, so maybe you're already listening. If not, I highly recommend it.

Preparing For: Daylight Savings Time
My friend Ryan posted this fabulous little article on Facebook, reminding me that I should try to move the kids' bedtimes up gradually over the next few nights, rather than slam them with an hour change on Sunday evening (or wake up with all of them at oh dear heaven o'clock on Monday morning.) Again, highly recommend this method.

Reading: Circling the Sun
This is a fictionalized account of Beryl Markham's life written by Paula McLain (author of The Paris Wife). Beryl grew-up in colonial Kenya, became the first female racehorse trainer in that colony, the first licensed female-pilot in Kenya and the first female pilot to cross the Atlantic east to west. Wikipedia describes her as, "Impetuous, single-minded and beautiful, Markham was admired and described as a noted non-conformist, even in a colony known for its colorful eccentrics."
If that description doesn't make you want to read it, we probably have little in common literature-wise.

Writing: 7 Reasons You Should Be Going on Day Dates
If you missed it, I had the opportunity to guest-post on a blog I adore, Rage Against the Mom Jean, last week. The blog's author, Sherri is hilarious and relatable (even if she does have a far better bag and shoe collection than you do). I highly recommend checking out her site if you are a mom or like jeans or just like to laugh.

Eating: Tuna Salad
I am all about some tuna salad for lunch these days. I'm sure half of y'all are vomiting in your mouth right now and the rest of you are salivating. I'm discovering there's little middle ground when it comes to tuna salad. Personally I love it because it's quick, cheap and packed with protein. Which is a necessity these days because I'm also totally loving...

Working Out: Erin Stern's Elite Body 4-Week Trainer 
In the name of finally getting my pull-up, I went searching for weight lifting routines and found this gem on If the name of that website terrifies you, I get it. I was skeptical about using routines recommended by a site featuring ginormously muscled men on virtually every page. But this plan is by a woman, for women, and has fantastic video and pictorial tutorials with daily work-outs and nutrition tips for a full 4 weeks. P.S. This is what I look like when I'm curling.

Watching: The People VS O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
I remember the events of this story from the 90s so vividly. I remember my dad's frustration when NBC cut to the Bronco chase during the NBA Finals. I remember listening to the verdict on WGN radio in the middle of 7th grade English class at Madision Junior High School. I remember hearing some students cheer and other students swear. I remember being bewildered by the difference in their reactions. If you viewed the nation's obsession with this story through your childhood eyes, it's fascinating to watch this dramatized account and see all the nuance you missed as a kid.

Reflecting on: the book of Isaiah
I'm following the daily She Reads Truth plan to read the book of Isaiah along with commentary for the duration of Lent. It has been a beautiful journey so far and a grounding reminder each morning that my sin is great BUT his Love is greater.

What are you guys watching/reading/eating these days? Do you use the gradual push-back method for bedtime around the time change or just deal with the chaos for a few days while everyone adjusts? Any good book recommendations or new podcasts I can binge listen?

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