On A Lighter Note

Hello! I know it’s been a bit heavy around here recently. The blog has reflected the pit in my stomach that’s been there since the election. I know I’ll write more about that soon.

But today is a break in our regularly scheduled programming. Two wonderful things to share:

  1. Our house in North Carolina is officially under contrast as of TODAY!
  2. I created a delicious popcorn topping recipe tonight that I just have to share with you all.

I absolutely love popcorn. It has long been one of my favorite snacks, and I’m always looking for new, interesting ways to eat it at home that don’t involve a lot of fake butter and salt.

Tonight I had the idea to combine parmesan cheese, lemon juice and cayenne pepper to make a Mexican-style popcorn topping. Lemon juice and cayenne pepper are seasonings common in authentic Mexican foods. I didn’t measure anything, but just threw it all together in a bowl with some microwave popcorn. (My new favorite popcorn is Orville Redenbacher’s Naturals–it is only lightly salted and doesn’t taste like microwave popcorn at all.) And it was so delicious – spicy, tangy and salty. You can customize the spiciness level to your preference based on how much cayenne you use. This will definitely be a common late-night snack for me from now on. I hope you enjoy!

Spicy Mexican Popcorn

Ingredients:

  • Microwave/stove-popped popcorn (recommended: Orville Redenbacher’s Naturals)
  • Lemon juice
  • Parmesan cheese (shredded or grated)
  • Cayenne pepper
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As you can see, the bowl is already half empty!

If you make this, let me know how you like it!

6 Resolutions for Life in a New City

Yes! You read that right. In less than a month, we are moving from this…

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to this.

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10 points if someone can tell me what this picture makes them think of…

Pretty much my whole side of the family–parents, siblings, grandmother and now aunt–lives in Atlanta. My parents have been trying to convince us to move there for pretty much the whole time we’ve been married, and we’re finally doing it! Even though we could have moved before now, many factors are now converging to make this the right time. We’re going to be moving in to my grandmother’s house two doors down from my parents, while Grandmommy will be joining the crowd over at my parents’ house. My mom is going to watch Jonah full time. Financially this move is a no-brainer.

I’ve moved a lot in my life–if my count is correct this is number 14! But this one feels different. As far as we’re concerned, this is it: home forever. Atlanta is big enough, diverse enough and with enough opportunities and resources that we see no reason to ever move again.

So I’ve been thinking about goals I have for my life in the new, big city that will most likely be our permanent home. Here are six things I will and won’t do in our new town.

  1. I will be intentional about finding friends sooner rather than later. I wasn’t so great about this in Greensboro. With work + family + pups + miscellaneous responsibilities, my life is pretty full already, but I still need friends–not just long distance, but in person. Spending time with friends is good for me. It’s part of taking care of myself. 
  2. I will invest in activities that I enjoy. I’ll be okay with spending a little bit of money to do fun things, both with my family and by myself. (Like yoga! I’ve got to get back to it!)
  3. Jonathan and I will have a regular date night. Since money will be a little looser and there will be a multitude of potential babysitters around, this will actually happen on a regular basis.
  4. I will walk the dogs every day–and I’ll make Jonathan help me! Our yard is going to be much smaller so this won’t really be optional, plus it’ll be a good way to make sure I get daily exercise.
  5. I will not let work consume my life. It took me a while to find this balance in Greensboro, and now that I’m contemplating teaching again (easiest job to find from a distance) I need to make sure that I maintain that balance.
  6. I will not spend more than 20 minutes commuting to and from work. This is important as everyone knows Atlanta’s traffic is legendary. I’ll be miserable if I’m spending my whole day in the car.

(In case anyone is wondering about our plans to become foster parents, that is on hold for now due to the move. It is something we still want to do in the future).

Other people who have moved to a new city/state recently…any goals/ideas/positive changes for post-move?

5 Crucial Things I Learned About Marriage As A 22-Year-Old Bride

Dear Young Bride,

I was you. My husband and I got married six years ago this June, when we were 21 and 22 years old. This was young even by the conservative standards of the small southern town where I grew up. Jonathan and I didn’t know much about anything when we got married, but we knew we were in love, committed to each other and saw no reason to wait.

And it’s been six years, so I think I’m now in a place to give you some advice. Take the following with a grain of salt, as I know you will. You are young, after all. Here is my honest advice for you:

1. Marrying young is not for everyone. Be prepared.

I would not recommend that everyone get married at 22. When I hear now about people fresh out of college getting married, my first thought is “That’s not a great idea” before I remember that we were that age, too.

Read the rest over at YourTango.

Six Thoughts On Six Years of Marriage

Yesterday was Jonathan’s and my sixth anniversary. Six years is hard to believe! (What’s even harder to believe is that we will have been together for TEN years in November.) We were such little babies when we got married. Check out these kiddos:

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This is right after the ceremony. I love this picture because it was a candid shot.

Jonathan and I got married when we were 21 (him) and 22 (me), two weeks after we graduated from college. I wish I could link to a post I wrote that is running on YourTango in a few weeks, about marriage advice for other young brides, as it has a lot of the thoughts that are running through my head about marriage these days. Here are some other thoughts I’m having around our anniversary:

  • Anyone who says their marriage is always easy is a freaking liar. So…
  • You have to be willing to ride out the crap, say you’re sorry and try again to somehow talk to each other. And…
  • Marrying young can sometimes make it harder, because you both have growing up to do. But…
  • Over the years my marriage has taken on this easy rhythm and comfort level that is really wonderful, and that wouldn’t be there if we were just now getting married. For example…
  • We have learned what works for us and what doesn’t. Like the whole “Don’t go to bed angry” thing? Not good advice for the Loves, because we both need our space and usually feel completely better in the morning. We finally learned that. Ultimately…
  • We are a team. We are willing to entertain each other’s seemingly crazy ideas, like renting out our house and buying another (him) or seeking to adopt from foster care (me). I feel confident that no matter what happens, Jonathan is always in my corner.

So there you have it; this is where we are after six years. In my posts, I try to portray a real picture of what my marriage is really like, because I know when I read status after status saying things like “My husband deep-cleaned the whole house, mowed the yard, potty-trained the toddler in one day and brought me breakfast in bed, I’m so lucky!” it makes me wonder if something is wrong with me/my marriage because I struggle to get Jonathan to pick up his dirty underwear from the bathroom floor. (A lesson I’ve learned about that? Pick your battles.) I’m not saying those people are lying, but that that is just not everyday life for most couples, and acting like it is is a bit deceptive.

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This is my marriage, real and unfiltered, and still beautiful.

Dreams, Hopes, Thoughts and Plans

The following post may be ill-advised. I’m going to write about a dream that Jonathan and I are developing for our family. We haven’t completely decided on it yet, and it has been more or less a secret. Not for much longer.

Writing about something is one of the main ways that I process it. This topic being one of the main things I have been thinking about recently, the time has come to write about it. Here goes.

Jonathan and I are thinking and praying about adopting a child from foster care.

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This idea developed in the way that a lot of plans do in our marriage. Jonathan mentioned something, I agreed, and I got to work on researching the details and the best way to carry it out. I’m obviously the planner in our family. (I kid you not, this seems to almost always be how we make major decisions. This is how we came to rent a house, get a dog, buy a house, get another dog, have a baby, and buy another house).

We have talked about adopting since before we were married, and I’ve read about adoption issues in the past, but we hadn’t discussed it recently. About a month ago, Jonathan mentioned in passing that we could adopt for Baby #2 rather than get pregnant again. “Why have another biological child when we could give a home to a child that’s already here and needs one?”

And so I began to research again. I decided pretty quickly that international adoption and domestic infant adoption weren’t for us, partly because of the expense, and partly because of the potential for ethical issues in these types of adoptions. (Especially international adoption).

Foster care adoption is not without its own ethical issues, but to me it feels the closest to finding parents for a child who needs one rather than finding a child for parents who need one.  I’ve been reading a lot, and I’ve learned a lot, especially from blogs written by and for adult adoptees. (Like these here, here and here). I’ve read some things that almost scared me off. That’s right: I’ve learned that adoption isn’t cut-and-dry, all positive happily-ever-afters. (I plan to write a post about all the things I’ve learned about adoption, and problems with the way many Christians discuss adoption, another time.)

But still I return to the idea: more than anyone else in modern society, infants and children in foster care need homes. They are truly the “least of these.” The statistics for those who age out without a family are horrifying. 

Do you ever feel like God puts an idea in your head, and then keeps pointing you to it to make sure you don’t forget about it? Rarely have I felt as strongly like God was telling me to do something as I have with this. Ever since we first began talking about it, something related to foster care or adoption has come to my attention at least once a day, without me seeking it out. One of many examples: I pulled up one of my favorite blogs earlier this evening and this post was staring at me from the front page. Alright, I get it, God.

So, yeah. This is what has been going on with us. I’m a little scared of it. I’m not sure exactly where it will take us, or when. We may decide now isn’t the time. We may decide to wait until our biological kids are grown and then to foster/adopt older children or teenagers. Who knows? What I do know is that God’s heart is here. And it’s where mine is, too.

Recipe of the Week: Sesame Garlic Beef Tacos

A couple of weeks ago I shared the recipe for the white chili I was making that night, and a lot of people really liked it! So from now on I am planning to post one recipe a week–whatever I happen to be cooking that I think readers will like and be interested in.

Funny story about how I came to find this fusion taco recipe: Last week at work I was preparing for a children’s event when I discovered that I had forgotten to prepare a crucial component of one of the craft activities, thereby resulting in me needing to cut out 2,450 magazine pictures in 2.5 days. Yes. That happened.

So as I was in the midst of cutting out pictures from Better Homes and Gardens I came across this recipe for sesame garlic beef tacos. I was about to cut up the page when I looked again and decided to save it instead. I made it for dinner this past Tuesday. I’m so glad that I did, because it was really, really good. And easy. Even with a crying toddler clinging to your leg.

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Here is the recipe:

Sesame Garlic Beef Tacos

These are beef tacos with a pickled slaw on top, topped with Siracha for extra heat.

Time start to finish: 30 minutes (*Note: This actually took 30 minutes, and it always takes me longer than what they say.)

  • 8 white or yellow corn tortillas (I used corn.)
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp. packed brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stack tortillas, wrap in foil. Heat 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, brown ground beef in a large skillet. Drain fat, set aside.
  3. Add sesame oil to skillet. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds over medium heat or until lightly browned. Stir in soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, water and crushed red pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Return beef to skillet, heat through.
  4. To serve, spoon beef onto tortillas. Using a slotted spoon, top with Quick Pickled Cucumbers and Slaw (below). Serve with lime wedges and Siracha for extra heat if desired. Makes 4 servings.

Quick Pickled Cucumbers and Slaw:

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 2 tbsp. sugar, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Add 1 cup very thinly sliced cucumbers and 1 cup shredded red cabbage. Let stand 15 minutes or up to 6 hours.

1 taco: 250 calories

My whole family really liked this. I actually plan to make it again next week! (Gotta use up that whole head of cabbage now.) Next time I’m going to make it a little spicier as I thought the flavor was a little on the sweet side if you didn’t add Siracha. And I also overcooked the beef while making this due to the aforementioned crying toddler, so I’d like to see how much better it will be the second time.

Ease of making recipe while simultaneously caring for a young child: Difficulty level 1/5

If you make this, let me know how you like it!

Crockpot White Chicken Chili

Jonathan started his new, full-time, well-paying, one-year contract job with the Post Office today. (Praise the Lord!) This is such amazing news, y’all, and an answer to so many prayers.

Jonathan starting his new job means something else for me: I’m taking over dinner again. I had pretty much given over cooking to Jonathan since Jonah was born, because for most of the time I was working and he wasn’t. I like to cook, but it tends to be the first thing to fall by the wayside when life gets busy. But now I’ll be getting home earlier in the evening than the hubs, so I’ve offered to take this responsibility back over.

I like to think that I am a pretty good cook, though it’s in a very particular way: I am a good easy cook. Easy meaning that for the most part I use what is on hand, what saves time and money, what is simple to prepare, and what I already know will taste good. I’m an expert at finding substitutions for ingredients in a recipe that I discover I don’t have in the middle of cooking. Easy was already important for me in cooking, but now that Jonah’s in the picture it matters even more.

Anyway. Tonight I made an old favorite–White Chicken Chili in the crockpot. I’m somewhat of a chili fiend, and this is one of the types that I make regularly. I’ve been making this recipe for going on six years now. It comes from this old well-utilized classic, which was the first cookbook that I ever made anything from as a newlywed.

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Note all the bookmarks…

True to form, I made some adjustments based on what I had on hand, which I’ll note below.

Here is the recipe:

Crockpot White Chicken Chili

Makes 8 servings

  • 3 15-oz cans Great Northern Beans (I used 2.)
  • 8 oz. cooked and shredded chicken breast (pro tip: I’ve discovered that there is no reason to pre-cook chicken before putting it in the crockpot for a soup, so I don’t. Just put it in raw, and it cooks just fine. If anyone knows something I don’t about this, I’d love it if you would share.)
  • 1 cup chopped onions (I didn’t have any onions.)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow, green or red bell peppers (I used poblano peppers this time–they give a much better, smoky flavor.)
  • 4 oz can green chilies or 2 jalapeño chili peppers, chopped (I used green chilies.)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (jar of garlic for me)
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 31/2 cups chicken broth

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Mix it all together in the crockpot, and cook on low for 8-10 hours. At the end of cooking time, shred the chicken. Serve with sour cream, tortilla chips and shredded cheddar cheese.

Jonathan and I added hot sauce to ours to make it spicier because that’s how we roll.

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The poblano peppers and green chilies make this a bit spicy, and I was a little concerned that Jonah wouldn’t eat it, but he actually liked it!

So there you have it. Prep for this probably takes 15 minutes if you don’t pre-cook the chicken, and the crockpot does the rest (which is why it’s pretty much a working mom’s best friend). Doesn’t get much easier than that!

What did you make for dinner tonight?

What My Parents’ Marriage Taught Me About Fighting With My Husband

Spoiler alert: Not much.

My parents have an idyllic marriage. Really. This August they will have been married for 32 years and they still make eyes at each other, kiss in public and hold hands under the table.

I can count on MAYBE five fingers the number of times I was aware of them arguing during the 18 years that I lived at home. When you think about it, that’s quite something.

I think this can be attributed to two things: 1) My parents are both pretty agreeable people who just don’t argue much, and 2) They were very intentional about having disagreements behind closed doors/after us kids were asleep.

On the one hand, this made for a very peaceful, loving environment to grow up in, and it gave me a nice picture of what a beautiful marriage looked like. I really respect my parents for the way they approached this issue. On the other hand, however, it did not provide me with many realistic expectations for how to deal with conflict in marriage.

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public domain image via pixabay.com

Because I almost never saw them, I wasn’t aware that it was common for married people to have disagreements, and to work through them. As a child, the few times that I did notice my parents arguing were pretty upsetting, because it was just such an uncommon occurrence. I immediately assumed that arguments meant serious problem/separation/divorce. And it took me a while as a newlywed to realize that there wasn’t something wrong with my marriage just because we seemed to fight more than my parents did. I expected perfection because that is what I was used to.

My marriage is different than my parents’. Jonathan and I are two passionate, headstrong, opinionated, sometimes contrary first-borns, and we both have a tendency to want our own way. These characteristics make great things happen when we are united toward a common goal, but they can be a real pain when we have a disagreement. Things can get heated quickly.

But you know what? Disagreements happen in marriage. They just do. We disagree, get angry at each other, take some space, work it out, apologize and move on. While it is very important to me that Jonah not be forced to hear things that are inappropriate related to his parents arguing, I do want my son to be aware that married people disagree sometimes, but they always work it out, and they love each other through it all.

We’re still working on this, but I think disagreeing respectfully in the earshot of children is a very important skill to have. This means things like keeping our voices even and our language neutral, and when we can’t do that, we table the conversation until a later time. Often, the act of having to wait to hash out an issue makes it resolve itself anyway.

In the early days of my marriage, I wish I would have known that married people can disagree sometimes but still love each other and be happy, and that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be really darn good.

 

What is your approach to arguing in front of your kids? How is it similar or different to your parents’ approach?

Important question: What do you keep stocked in your pantry?

I didn’t have much experience cooking when I got married. We were straight out of college, so I can’t blame myself too much. Actually, the plan was for Jonathan to be the main one who cooked for us. You can probably guess what came of that–lots of fast food and me gaining 10 pounds our first year of marriage.

I’ve done better since then, and a large part of that has to do with keeping a stocked pantry. One thing that I eventually learned was that it was easier to keep certain things always on hand than to have to run to the store every single time I needed flour, chicken broth, oregano or onions. This is now one of the biggest pieces of advice that I give to newlyweds/recent graduates/those just starting to cook: If you always keep the basics on hand, it’s not that hard to throw something together when you have limited time/energy to prepare dinner.

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Pantry envy right here…

So what do you keep on hand in your pantry? For me, it’s generally the following:

  • Baking supplies (flour, sugar, baking soda/powder, cornmeal, brown sugar, etc.)
  • A variety of spices
  • Vinegar
  • Peanut butter
  • Canned beans (black, kidney, and Great Northern)
  • Green chilies
  • Diced tomatoes, Rotel tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste
  • Cream of chicken/mushroom/celery soup
  • Pasta and pasta sauce
  • Chicken and beef broth/bouillon cubes
  • Onions
  • Potatoes

You can tell what kind of a cook someone is by what they keep in their pantry. I like to make lots of different kinds of chili/tortilla soup/taco soup, thus the diced tomatoes. I typically cook in the crockpot about once a week, which tends to use creamed soups. You can tell that I’m not totally hung up on using fresh ingredients–though I do try to–because sometimes you just have to do what is easiest.

I’m interested to hear: What do you keep stocked in your pantry?

Why I Would Rather Be 28 than 18

Jonathan and I will have been together for 10 years this November. 10 years! That is over a third of my life. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how I have changed over the last 10 years, and I think I’ve changed quite a bit, in mainly good ways. Holly Love at 28 is a different person than Holly Gushee was at 18.

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Check out these babies! I was 19 here, but close enough.

People talk a lot about “the best years of your life,” as in, “enjoy college, those are the best years of your life.” I find statements like this problematic. If certain years really are the best of your life, what about the rest of your life? Is it just all downhill from there?

I like to take a different approach. Common sense says to me that there are good and not-so-good parts of each different life stage, and that we should appreciate the best parts of the stage that we are in. And I’ve realized the best parts of my current stage are pretty awesome. Adulting has some good things about it, amirite? Here’s what I’m enjoying about being an “older” young adult:

  1. I’m not afraid to ask for what I need.

If I want something–at home, at work, etc.–I’ve learned that it’s okay to say so. It’s fine to say at work that I have too much going on and that I can’t take on another project. It’s fine to tell Jonathan that for my mental and physical health I want to make going to yoga a priority, and that we should be able to spare the money for me to do it. If I need something, I’ve learned to verbalize it and to advocate for it. It sounds so simple, but this isn’t something that I did much as a “younger” young adult, and this is something I’ve also noticed in the younger people that I work with. It’s so much more effective to directly say what you need than to hint around it, keep it to yourself and then get upset when you don’t get it.

2. I appreciate my body more for what it can do than for how it looks.

Having a child has fundamentally changed the way I feel about my body, for the better. Carrying, giving birth to and nurturing Jonah with my own body has helped me appreciate my body for the amazing things that it can do, and has helped me to cut myself a little slack for my body’s imperfections. Case in point: I am currently trying to lose about 8-10 pounds. Four years ago, I would have been pretty obsessed about this and upset that I was having a hard time fitting into my size 4 jeans. Now, it’s something that I’m working on, but it’s nowhere near my main concern.

3. I know the true value of money and material blessings.

Nothing will teach you the true value of money than going through a time in your life where you don’t have much of it. I had a very blessed childhood and young adulthood. This past year money was kind of tight for Jonathan and me, and it’s increased my feelings of thankfulness for what we have.

4. Some of my ideals have died. 

I planned to be a teacher forever. I wanted to change the world. But I’ve learned that my family and my mental health are more important. I don’t have to be involved in direct service to make a difference in the world.

5. I’ve learned that not everyone is just like me.

This is a big one. The first step to empathy is realizing that many, many people have a difference experience of life than you do. Since being out in the world, I have been exposed to many different kinds of people, and I’ve realized 1) my privilege and 2) that not everyone experiences life in exactly the same way as an upper middle-class Southern Christian white girl. Once you really get a glimpse of what life is like for others, it is much easier to love, and much harder to judge. (Many politicians need to learn this! *cough* *Donald Trump* *cough*)

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Present-day Holly, Jonathan and Jonah

What have you learned as you have gotten older? How has growing older changed you for the better?