Stop the Presses

Big news in the world of fried chicken everybody: Chick-Fil-A has come to town. That’s right, you heard me, Chick-Fil-A and all its glorious golden fried chickeness has landed just minutes from me and my life is finally, officially, complete. There are exactly two Chick-Fil-A’s in the great state of Massachusetts {which is clearly an atrocity} and one of them, as of today, is near me…be still my soul.

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Also, there are fries…crisp heavenly little bites of all that is good in the world.

And there is sweet tea. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a proper cup of sweet tea in New England? Hard my friends.

And there are biscuits. Biscuits! Flaky, buttery biscuits drizzled with honey…I can’t even take it…my mind is blown.

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The baby is pretty exited too. Actually, he won’t stop talking about this glorious manna with which he is now being fed and has humbly asked that I please feed him fried chicken every day; I wanting to be a good mother see no other way forward. I like Martin Luther must plant my feet and say, “Here I stand; I can do no other.” I’m almost certain Martin Luther liked sweet tea and fried chicken. It just makes sense, you know?

{Bread and Wine Book Review} Life Around the Table

Have you heard of Shauna Niequist? I’ve been gobbling up her writing lately so when I had the chance to review her latest book, Bread & Wine, I jumped at the opportunity.

Bread & Wine is all about building life and friendship and community around the table. It’s about opening your heart and home to people and letting them in to be fed and loved.

Shauna writes:

“This is what I want you to do: I want you to tell someone you love them, and dinner’s at six. I want you to throw open your front door and welcome the people you love into the inevitable mess with hugs and laughter” (p. 256).

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After finishing Bread & Wine, that is exactly what I wanted to do—throw open the door to my home and let people in to be fed and nourished. Shauna’s book is filled with a collection of recipes—some her own, some from friends, others from restaurants and cookbooks—all look delicious. I decided I would take Shauna’s challenge to let people into my home and life by inviting a few friends over for dinner.

I have a group of friends who get together every now and then for what we call “Girls Night.” All that means is the husbands watch the kids and the girls hang out watching a movie or going out to eat. After reading Shauna’s words though, I thought it would be nice to have all the girls over for a real dinner made at home instead of snacks or restaurant food. I chose a couple of recipes from the book and worked out a time when everyone could get together.

I have to admit, I’m not a very good hostess because I get nervous about everything not being perfect. My house is tiny and there are never enough matching glasses or chairs at the table. I’ve let little things like this keep me from having people over. I always tell myself I’ll be more hospitable when I have more room…when we have a real dining room and enough forks for an army…sure, sure.

Shauna encouraged me with this:

What people are craving isn’t perfection. People aren’t longing to be impressed; they’re longing to feel like they’re home. If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul, they’ll take off their shoes and curl up with gratitude and rest, no matter how small, no matter how undone, no matter how odd” (pp. 106-107).

I reminded myself of those words whenever I worried about not having enough room or messing up the food.

On the day we were all getting together my friend Sarah stopped by early, when I was still in yoga pants with messy hair, to drop off home-made Mexican ice cream. I tasted a spoonful before she left and about died and went to glory—it was that good.

I spent the day grilling chicken and corn and prepping the food. Evening rolled around and the girls trickled in one by one, two by two. Jessie came first with a salad. We stood in the kitchen talking and laughing. Next came Sarah with Emily. We spread out in the kitchen and talked some more. Maya and Alicia came last with my little baby nephew. I took the baby out of his car seat and snuggled him up with kisses…aunties rights, you know.

We were crowded in the kitchen now with dishes coming out and different conversations bubbling over into laughter. We filled our plates we enchiladas, salad, and Mexican grilled corn. I didn’t have enough chairs at the table, of course, so we ate in the living room instead. Even then, three of us ended up sitting on the floor with plates in our laps. That is one of the reasons I don’t normally invite very many people over—who wants to have company sitting on the floor while they eat dinner? Well you know what, it didn’t matter a bit.

We talked and laughed, told stories and went back for seconds; we looked at pictures and caught up on each other’s lives. Soon we were streaming back into the kitchen for bowls of Sarah’s Mexican ice cream and brownies on the side. We filled mugs with coffee and hot chocolate and talked and talked.

Before Darren left that night he asked what time I thought we would be done. We were getting together at six so I told him we would probably be done by eight…I think it was ten. We just kept talking and laughing and every time someone would say something about needing to leave, another story would start and no one ever quite made it out the door. I love that. I loved the whole night. In fact, I think I needed it.

Life is busy and demanding and I forget sometimes when I’m hurrying through one day right into the next that I need to stop and make time for people, for love and friendship and community. I need these girls in my life because they remind to slow down and live for what really matters. They make me laugh and build me back up when I’m tired and torn down. They love me and encourage me even though I’m not perfect and never have enough chairs at the table. I need them and I’m so thankful Shauna’s book reminded me of that. I’m so thankful Shauna’s words gave me the push I needed to throw open the door to my home and my heart. I’m so thankful I invited people in and they came and filled a need I’d forgotten I had. I need friendship and love and community. I need life around the table to feed my heart and soul. We all do.

Look kids, I’m not trying to sell you anything. It’s true, this book was given to me to review but what I’m telling you are my own thoughts and feelings. I love Shauna’s words and I love this book. I hope you will read it because I sincerely believe you will love it too. You will be challenged and encouraged to slow down and live. To taste and feel and to let people in. That’s the truth and that is all :]

shauna1About Shauna:

Shauna Niequist is the author of Cold TangerinesBittersweet, and Bread & Wine. Shauna grew up in Barrington, Illinois, and then studied English and French Literature at Westmont College in Santa Barbara. She is married to Aaron, who is a pianist and songwriter. Aaron is a worship leader at Willow Creek and is recording a project called A New Liturgy. Aaron & Shauna live outside Chicago with their sons, Henry and Mac. Shauna writes about the beautiful and broken moments of everyday life–friendship, family, faith, food, marriage, love, babies, books, celebration, heartache, and all the other things that shape us, delight us, and reveal to us the heart of God.

Shauna blogs at ShaunaNiequist.com

Raise your Glass to Dunkin Donuts!

Be still my soul

I grew up in Missouri. Missouri has very few Dunkin Donuts; this is tragic and out of my control. I moved to New England. New England has a Dunkin Donuts (or two or three) on every corner in every town and no, I. am. not. exaggerating. Every corner people. Dunkin Donuts is the best thing that has ever happened to me. They say “America runs on Dunkin”—one thing is sure, New England runs on Dunkin like cars run on gas. We complain about the rising cost of fuel; no one complains about the cost of Dunkin fuel. You know why?

a) It is not expensive. It is the people’s coffee unlike other snooty brands that start with star and end with spending big bucks.

b) It does not matter if it is ever expensive because the people will pay for it and the people will drink it because the people of New England must needs have their Dunkin. Hail Dunkin Donuts!

Yes, I hug giant mugs of coffee in the middle of airports

There have been several major natural disasters in the last year around here. To start, there was a tornado. Said tornado came offensively close to hitting our house. It did hit our car and our trees but you know what? After my husband and I confirmed that our house was still standing, we next wanted to know, “Is our local Dunkin okay?” It was, by the way and it’s a good thing because I dare say we would have moved to a different town altogether if there were no Dunkin left standing in ours.

Dunkin zipping around town with us

Then there was a snowapocalypse  in October. Everyone and their uncle in New England lost power for days and days. Let me tell you, we had no power for almost a week. It was freezing out and we had no heat, no water, we couldn’t even flush the toilette. Oh, and my parents were in town visiting (of course they were). And the car was well nigh out of gas and there were no gas stations open and we were almost out of food and no grocery stores were open. And you want to know what the worst thing of all was? Of course you do. THERE WERE NO DUNKIN DONUTS OPEN FOR LIKE THREE DAYS. I almost killed myself. That’s what happens when you become dependent on a substance and bam, you can’t have it for three days. Let me tell you folks, them were the worst three days New England’s ever seen because you have all these coffee deprived zombies wandering the streets looking for a cup of Dunkin. It was very nearly the end of the world.

Shockingly excited over a tiny cup filled with Dunkin munchkins brought home by the husband

Dunkin Donuts makes me happy.

I would like to be a world traveler you know, but I’ve come to reconcile myself to the fact that I cannot leave New England and stray too far from Dunkin. I will never live in another part of the country because it’s too big a risk that I’ll have to drive more than a mile to get a coffee.

This is my dream car. This bad boy was in our town parade

Iced mocha latte with whole milk and sugar! Be still my soul.

Mint hot chocolate with a Turbo shot of espresso and extra whipped cream! Welcome to glory.

Hot pumpkin latte with whole milk and sugar! Have mercy.

Dunkin goes to the beach with us

Oh, and did I mention the amazingly friendly staff at Dunkin that always have my husband’s coffee on the counter for him made to his exact specifications before he even gets up to order? THESE PEOPLE SHOULD BE RUNNING THE COUNTRY! Move aside Obama, it’s time for change. Talk about uniting parties, yes, I dare say Dunkin can do that. I vote we truck Dunkin into the Senate and see how quick they start loving and hugging.

DUNKIN TO THE PEOPLE!

Logo for world peace

Around Vermont

Vermont seems to be one of the go-to vacation places for New Englanders–especially when you want to get away from everything for a while. We went camping in two different parts of Vermont this summer–first in South Londonderry which is in southern Vermont and then in Barton, which is in northern Vermont (just about 30 miles from Canada I think). Here are a few pictures and highlights from our little camping adventures (some pictures are from last year but I really wanted to share them

This is Crystal Lake in Barton–Darren’s family has camped here every year since before he was born; this was my fifth year camping here.

Every year when we’re in Barton we go to the Orleans County Fair. This year at the fair I tried fried dough for the first time and am absolutely and irreversibly in love with it; I should have taken a picture but I ate it too fast to stop and snap a shot; I also road the ferris wheel which terrified me

On our way home from camping in S. Londonderry we stopped in Brattleboro and explored the shops on Main Street. We had lunch at a sandwich shop called The Works–it was so yummy! The food was so fresh and flavorful–I wish it was closer so we could go more often. The building was really cool too–they used lots of recycled and refurbished items from the local area to create a very arty, unique look. Here’s a couple of pictures of the food and the shop

Vermont just sustained heavy damage from floods caused by hurricane Irene so I’m not sure how downtown Brattleboro looks today but if you ever get the chance to visit the city, be sure to check out The Works–also, Beadniks, a fun unique shop also on Main Street–they sell vintage toys and games and beautiful greeting cards and beads of course; we spent a good part of an hour in there checking out all the fun stuff–some of the games and toys brought back memories from when we were kids, like pongo sticks  and paddle boards. Click on the links below to check out The Works and Beadnicks!

Beadniks

The Works