Thursday, July 2, 2015

Faux-Fancy 4th of July Fresh Cherry Tart

Ever find yourself feeling a little fancy right around the 4th of July?
Me, too.

Except my kind of fancy is always at least half smoke-and-mirrors. (The other half is patently unfancy, which is why if you ever meet me in real life, you'll think you probably just caught me on a bad day. ("This is me trying my best."))

I basically cancel myself out, every dang day.
But you didn't come here to provide free, invisible therapy.

This dessert combines five of the fanciest things I can imagine in life.
  •  A fluted tart pan
  • Fresh fruit
  • Cherries! (easily one of the fanciest fruits, since I'm stunned by even their on-sale price every. single. time I buy them. Worth it!)
  • Glaze
  • The color burgundy (“He had a voice that could make a wolverine purr and suits so fine they made Sinatra look like a hobo.”)

Despite its near-threatening elegance, this tart is a cinch to make.
It's the exact opposite of spending 45 minutes to look like you just woke up that way.
It's a natural, unfussy beauty.
It's Rachel McAdams (who is reportedly dating Tim Riggins, but that's for another day...)

And if you artfully arrange it on a blue towel, unlike myself, you could rock the whole patriotic vibe. (Or throw in a handful of blueberries! Omw.)

Here's how to pull this off, but first I need to warn you, there's a cost.
Fancy isn't free, man. Rachel still has a little maintenance work.

You have to pit those cherries.

Honestly, spend 15 minutes with a paring knife and a bowlful of burgundy stone-fruits and tell me it wasn't therapeutic.

From there you'll need:
  • 12 graham crackers (full sheets)
  • 2 Tablespoons plus 1/4 cup sugar
  • 8 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 8 oz block of cream cheese, room temp
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound fresh sweet cherries, pitted and halved
  • 1 Tablespoon seedless jam (any kind) 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, pulse graham crackers and 2 T sugar until finely ground. Add butter, and process until combined. Transfer to a tart pan with a removable bottom (mine is 10 inch. If yours is smaller, you might not use all of the crust crumbs.) Press crumbs into bottom and up sides of pan firmly. Bake until browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. 
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat cream cheese, vanilla, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add cream, and beat until soft peaks form. Spread onto cooled crust.
  3. Lick beaters, bowl, and spoon. Hide in bathroom from children if necessary. 
  4. Scatter magical fruits on top.
  5. In a small bowl, combine jam and 1 teaspoon water; microwave until melted. (30-60 seconds) Brush across cherries. (Sometimes I skip this part.) 
  6. Refrigerate tart at least 30 minutes or, covered, up to 1 day.

I can't go a summer without making this at least once.

It's one of my fanciest traditions.

Festive Greetings to All,

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

On Church and Endurance

Sitting in our usual pew, everything felt out of whack. 

Our pastor was out-of-town, the guy who leads our music had also gone missing. We were scattered around the sanctuary like a fistful of hay seed on a gusty day, sprouting up in patches with too much earth in between.

I've written many times about the way God surprised us by this small, aging body of believers who gather at the end of our street. They've taught me much about what matters across the wide arc of faith, particularly what matters in the ways we express it on Sunday mornings.

When I showed up nearly three years ago with my old ideas and untested hunches about church shoved deep inside my pockets, my soul was overdue for a little basic care.

God uses His people to show us the value in trading hard opinions for complicated community, where we're free to ask questions and tell the truth. I have been welcomed as the sojourner. I have felt the embrace of a frail body defying its own death - You came to us. Please, don't leave. 

Week after week, God has used the willing hearts of His imperfect body to turn my face back to Him. This is what matters - the only thing, in fact.

But a church filled with humans is bound to careen off-track now and then, in desperate need of being yanked back from the destruction of our own selfish wills stacked stone-on-stone until all we see are the ways we have become the disappointed. We sweep over our eagerness to cast blame, our visceral need to be right, our bone-deep yearning to be the served rather than the laborer. I am never the problem.

The church is built through the communion of sinners seeking grace, fused by the Spirit we're desperate to touch.

It is broken when we refuse to confront ourselves as exactly who we are.

God saws a nick on our hearts and the needle skips back, "Endurance produces character."

I'm not sure what endurance looks like now, or how character will ever manifest itself in this dry land.

We've watched friends walk out the doors without looking back. We love them. We trust they are hearing from God. Why can't we be among them? Why can't we go?

I sat wondering what it might look like to leave, feeling for the first time that maybe it's inevitable. Of course God's presence was among us. Why did it feel so faint?

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Holy God, forgive me first. It is only by this miracle of being made new that I will ever look at my neighbor in the pew and see myself.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

We are here, one broken body. You deliver our weary collective, often through each other. Convict us. Unite us. Strengthen us.

For thine is the kingdom.

I cannot fathom why You love us the way You do, why you sacrificed everything to redeem us, why you let us to show up with balled fists and pockets full of bad news. You endure the slow work of turning us Your way, shaping misfit renegades into a body of believers who dares to trust your presence.

Move. Yank. Shove.
Allow us to endure when it feels uncomfortable or hopeless.

Do whatever it takes to shape our character.

Have Your way.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Taylor and Arrows and Podcasts

It's Friday morning and the air is breezing through the windows in the very best way. Silas is up cleaning his office and blaring Taylor Swift's album because IT'S HIS JAM. He really loves "Picture to Burn", because it has the words "stupid" and "hate" in it. And I know it's wrong. I do. I should probably shut it down. The only problem is, sometimes things are stupid. Some things are kind of worth hating. Sometimes angsty kids need an appropriate channel to vent the stuff they spend all their time squashing. Who's to say Taylor isn't the answer?

(Sidenote: I have now blogged about Taylor Swift twice. Life is weird.)

 Poor Silas. He shuffled into our bedroom at 7:30 this morning in a full-on whine and I was all, " we go..." Then he said this, "I didn't get my money. The tooth fairy forgot. Again."

Again, people.


As in, it's officially a "theme".

We can't be trusted with stuff like this. We're great okay with big picture stuff, but details like this evade us. At least there's the clause that if the tooth fairy is "too busy" and "doesn't get around to all her stops", she leaves double the next night.

(BUT WE'RE STAYING WITH FRIENDS TONIGHT. If we can't remember in our own home, what hope do we have in unfamiliar surroundings??)

And we wonder why he's so obsessed with Taylor and that stupid. old. pick-up truck he never lets her drive.

Since we're on the subject, this morning Si asked, "Mom, does X-Box work with Samsung TVs?"

We have never owned a gaming system of any kind and if my life depended on it I couldn't have told you we had a Samsung TV. I feel like he's got a shipment coming in. He's made a few calls from his office. He's working a deal.

In other news, I shared photos of our quirky, summer-fun living room over at Midwest Living.

And...I recently spent an hour gabbing on the phone with my new friend, Jamie Ivey for her Happy Hour podcast. You can listen in right here.


It was so much fun to be a part of Happy Hour. I'm new to listening to podcasts, but hers was the first one I ever listened to and I've listened to tons of them now. She does such a good job, and it makes cleaning the basement or walking laps feel infinitely less mundane.

That's all for me.
What are you up to today?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Vacation in Pictures

Warning: I'm about to test your limits on the acceptable number of photos in one post.
But to offset my, uh, extravagance, I'll keep my commentary brief.

You've heard that before.
I know, I know!

All I really need to say is this: Cory and I spent more time IN the actual ocean on the first day of this trip than we did during all three of our past trips (sans children) combined.

Oceans creep us out, okay?

And don't make me humiliate myself again by confessing that I can't swim.

The point is, vacationing with kids is pretty rad. It honestly could have gone either way. But we know things now, and the main thing we know is that we already want to go back.

I'll warn you, these photos will paint a fairly rosy view.
Just stay tuned for the next post, where I'll smack all our hineys back to reality.

"I'm proud of myself!"

The well-worn path from the pool to the condo.
(I got in the pool every single day. Who is Vacation Shannan???)

When you need to frame your world, just look up.

Makin' pancakes like ya do.

The atmosphere called in the big guns for us every single night.

(Related: next time I go somewhere beachy, remind me to only pack 1/10th of what I think I'll need.)

He be flingin'. Erryday.

This is how the kids felt every night at dinner when we were waiting for our food.

Art journals.
(Long Live god!)

Breakfast and lunch were in the condo every day.
Dinner was out. Except for when it was in-ish.

When you are Silas Park, the only option is to pick it up and sweep the street the whole way to Royal Scoop Ice Cream.

Also, when you are Silas Park, your mom will pack an empty mustard bottle in her suitcase for you because she adores every little thing about you, but especially the quirky way you "play".

From our balcony to the ocean. (heart eyes!)

I appreciated this rainbow confection up the way.

Bless it.

I "had" to chill out in a quiet condo a couple times while Silas slept off his residual vacation demi-rage.

My kids had trouble processing why I wanted to sit and read so much.
{Counting By 7's - READ THIS IMMEDIATELY! My fave of the year.}


"You can get up at 6:30 every day on vacation, but it's not what I choose to do." - Me

Lunch on Sanibel.

Fine Florida sand is Si's spirit animal. Or whatever.


Cory, in the ocean! Proof!

 Hours of this...

 ...inevitably lead to this.

Vacation was so good to us.

** On/off the subject - Canvas People is running an amazing sale right now - 65% off and free shipping! You can click here, or on the ad I added to my sidebar. Get it while it lasts. You can even upload straight from Instagram! I'm trying hard to narrow down my choices, but I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Heart-Wrestling on a Saturday

It's Saturday, and I'm back home in my lived-in house that loves us all so well. It's never the wrong time to return to who we are, and I suppose I'm most Shannany here, with my mug of morning tea and dishes drying on a towel.

I spent last evening inside these hushed walls, frontal-lobe deep in what it means to really be in community. What does it look like? What does it mean? How can we ever hope to make our home among the poor and hurting without delineating their lives from ours, saying, essentially, "I am well; you are not"? The hard truth is, we have to know them enough to love them. We have to understand our own poverty. We have to come nose-to-ugly-nose with the ways our abundance and wealth hold us back from the rich kingdom of Christ, acknowledging the fact that this was not the way of Jesus.
So, now what?
How can we surrender and be rescued?

For now, I'm sharing two links, and I hope you'll listen to both if you find some down-time.

The first is a TED talk by Alive Goffman entitled How We're Priming Some Kids for College - and Others for Prison. I've now watched it twice and it rocks me to my core because, oh, could I toss the stories I know into her pot and stir. These 16 minutes are vitally important, especially in light of the continuous and mounting attacks on our shared humanity at the hands of racism and hate.

We cannot love what we do not know. And we cannot hate what we refuse to acknowledge.

Lastly, I listened to this NPR On Being podcast titled The Calling of Delight: Gangs, Service, and Kinship, featuring my ultimate homeboy/mentor for life, Father Gregory Boyle. It's him at his essence, and it will make you weepy. (Listening is so easy, just click over from the link and click Play Episode at the top right.)

"At Homeboy Industries, we seek to tell each person this truth: they are exactly what God had in mind when God made them - and then we watch, from this privileged place, as people inhabit this truth. Nothing is the same again. No bullet can pierce this, no prison walls can keep this out. And death can't touch it - it's just that huge." - Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle

May this weekend be one more step along our path to growth and loving more fully. I'm proud to call you part of my community and grateful for the chance to learn together.

*Thank you, Jenn, for sharing the TED talk with me and thanks to many of you who alerted me to the Father Boyle podcast. I have the best reader-friends ever!

*Amazon link

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Dinner & Books - Summer Ed.

If I'm being totally honest, my multi-cultural palate is probably owed to my kids more than anything. Become a mom to a bunch of kids with vastly different roots, and you start to notice and care about things you didn't use to notice or care about.

It's not that everyone operates like this, it's just that I was always content with Pineapple Chicken prior to 2006, which doesn't really even count as Chinese food.

I once ate at the Indian buffet when we lived in DC and it didn't ring my bell. "Too stewy," I said. Like a fool.


This is a recent home creation, and it knocked all our socks clean off. It's seriously something special.
And if it sounds too complicated, it's totally not. You probably just need to go to bed earlier tomorrow night or take a mental health day. WE CAN MARINATE CHICKEN IN AROMATIC OIL. I promise we can.

Grilled Tandoori Chicken Thighs
Indian-Style Stir Fried Cabbage
Mango Salsa - Dice one mango and one peeled cucumber. Stir together with the juice of half a lime, salt, pepper, and chopped cilantro.

Since food and books pair together like, well, food and books, I'm going to go ahead and blab about what I've been reading.

Very different from his other books I've read, but insightful and an easy read.
I don't read parenting books very often, but this is the kind that reminds me of what a gift it is to guide our small people (and taller-than-us people) with intention. I want to be a more grace-giving mom. I'm tired of parenting from a place of fear (mostly of what other people will think) or worry. This is an excellent read.

My friend Kim loaned me this one because it still had time left on it at the library. It didn't wow me, but I finished a novel! I haven't done that in a while.

This is so freaking fun and fantastic and thoughtful. It's kind of like Jen Hatmaker's 7, only grittier. It has given me tons to think about and she's a great writer.

Kid reads:
Made me cry. #adoption

Super whimsical and full of wonder, with great illustrations.

Every little brown girl needs to own this book! It made Rubes smile so big.

Calvin = obsessed.
Example: "Mom, if you could be the daughter of any of the Greek gods, who would you pick?"

Ruby = obsessed.
These seem so odd to me. There are a bajillion. Sports fairies. Flower fairies. Science fairies. Gymnastics fairies. (???) Weather fairies. (Not even playing.) Baby Animal Rescue fairies. Rock-and-Roll fairies. School fairies. Not to be outshined by...the Green fairies. (Again, ????? To all of it.)

I found this at the thrift store (holla!) and had to bring it home. It's such a cool little book about a boy who lives in the city, in South Africa. Africa! You're so rad and varied, with so many layers and so much to teach us.

That's what we're eating and reading.

How about you?

Monday, June 15, 2015


We're on the first-ever Martin family vacay, and you can't even imagine how geeked we all are. We've thrown caution to the wind and are allowing our kids to order pop at meals sometimes - and they don't even have to share!  (what.)

(Sidenote: We're not anti-pop, just total cheapskates.)

I've got a stack of books and my SPF 50.

I'm contemplating profound things and profoundly contemplating the beauty of lolling about and shirking most responsibilities.

I'm not sure what you have planned this week, but my agenda begins and ends with tossing all my cares to sea.

Be back soon, skaters!

PS - My most pressing question right now: AM I allergic to shellfish? My entire life, I wasn't. And then somewhere around 2002, I was. Maybe. So I've spent the past decade+ thinking I'm allergic, though I've never been able to resist swiping a shrimp when it's in my proximity, and I've never swelled up. Now, here I am, in the land of plenty, and I'm feeling a tad overconfident, but too scared to really chance it, because no one wants to be the mom with lips the size of her clawhands on the first-ever family vacation. At least there's the taco stand. ("There's always money in the banana stand.")

The end.

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