If You Lack a Mentor: In Gratitude to Sally Clarkson

As a now “older mom” among many of my friends, I found myself in an odd and often lonely season of motherhood.  It is so easy to make friends when our kids are little.  Playdates at the park or story times at the library are the perfect conditions for forming friendships around the common experience of mothering.  But there comes a time when the kids grow up and our day-to-day interactions with them vary to such a degree from what others around us may be experiencing that mothering can no longer be an easy common ground from which a friendship can spring.  The friendships are based on other things.  Good things.  But not necessarily common parenting styles (or outcomes!).

Then there was the realization that, as an “older mom,” I lacked a mentor for myself…someone who has weathered the storms and walked through the hardships that are the reality of raising children to adulthood.  The lack was not out of desire to have one, but out of the practical nature of my life these days…finding time to sit and chat over coffee is difficult to do.  Homeschooling four children, parenting five, shuffling kids to ball practice, dance, music, youth group, doctors’ appointments, etc (and carving out time to practice my cello!) consume my daytime hours very quickly.  Then factor in the reality that we recently moved into a new neighborhood in a new town and, well, building a mentoring relationship just takes time.  Time that I haven’t had.

Do you relate to this?

Enter Sally Clarkson.

sally clarkson

I had heard of her for a couple of years and knew she had homeschooled her children ALL THE WAY THROUGH HIGH SCHOOL.  Nothing less than a heroic feat, in my book.  Because teenagers.

Anyway, I began to listen to her podcast, “At Home with Sally” and in this older woman, who I have never met, I found what I needed.

A mentor.

Sally raised four children who all turned out to be amazing, gifted adults that love Jesus and love their mama.  But that is not why I love her.  I love Sally because what she did was not easy.  Learning disabilities, mental illness, tragedy and hardship were all part of her story of mothering.  She is honest about those things, honest about her failures and successes.  She looks back through the lens of experience and wisdom and gently reminds us that, though there are things we can do to foster life in our homes, above all our kids belong to the Lord and we can trust Him with them. Somehow, in her quiet voice, she speaks loudly into my flaws and struggles, encouraging me to not let failure prevent me from taking the next step, or from loving when it is hard.  She has taught me that much of my tension comes from being highly idealistic, which is not a bad thing but can certainly be frustrating to certain members of my family.  Ahem.  She models selflessness and faith and the gift of hospitality as a form of worship.  She reminds me to light candles and warm up the pancake syrup because those little things speak into the hearts of my children and draw them close.  In the difficult seasons of my life, Sally reminds me to hope and to never, ever give up.  God uses broken vessels.

I’m most definitely a cracked pot in His Kingdom!

I don’t know if you have a mentor.  I certainly hope you do.  But if that is something you wish for I would love to introduce you to Sally.  She doesn’t know me, has no idea this little corner of the internet even exists, but I feel that so many of my friends would benefit from letting her speak truth as we drive our kids to appointments or get ready in the mornings. Nothing can replace real-life relationships and face-to-face conversation, but someone like Sally has filled a much-needed gap in my life.  And while my “real” friendships grow and develop I feel that what I am learning from her will serve me well as I move forward into this next phase of life.   I will share the links below.  I receive nothing for this.  It is purely out of a desire to bless you that I share Sally Clarkson with you.

Life With Sally – a membership site worth every penny.  https://lifewithsally.com/

Whole Heart Ministries – helping Christian parents raise wholehearted children.  wholeheart.org

At Home with Sally and Friends – if you do nothing else, subscribe to this.  I anticipate each new episode every week, listening to many of them over and over.  Rich with stories, hope and encouragement, Sally’s gentle voice is always calming to my often fretting heart.  http://sallyclarkson.com/podcast/

 

 

 

My Mama’s Chicken and Noodles

Two recipes in a row?  Well, yes, because I wanted to be sure to share this while it’s still cold outside and our bodies are craving warm foods!

My mom makes the BEST Chicken and Noodles.  I grew up with this as a holiday staple and just started making it myself in the past couple of years because, as you probably know, it always tastes best when your mom cooks it.

Am I right?

So, last week my middle and I decided to whip up a batch for our family.  It is a little time-consuming because you do hand-cut the noodles.  BUT IT IS NOT DIFFICULT.  And the process is actually fun when shared with someone you love.

Now, before I go any further I do want to let you know that I have all kinds of pictures of the steps involved in making this goodness, but none of the finished product because…

WE ATE IT.

My apologies.

But if you make it, you will understand.

Here you go!

Mom’s Chicken and Noodles

For the noodles…serves 3-4 (I double this for my family of seven, triple or quadruple for company!  It tastes even better the next day.  Trust me.)

1 egg

1 Tablespoon milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup all purpose flour (plus more as needed)

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and work together until it forms a small ball.  Work in flour, kneading in thoroughly, until the dough is very dry and will not absorb any more flour.  It must be very dry and stiff.  Divide in two and roll each section as thin as possible.  Then fold it over and begin rolling from one edge until you have what resembles a Swiss Cake Roll.

Not that I eat those.

Oh, who am I kidding?  Swiss Cake Rolls defined much of my childhood…a perfect dessert after chicken and noodles, don’t you think?

Take a sharp knife and slice at alternating angles, making VERY thin slices.  I actually should have made mine thinner.  It gives you a better texture when they are cooked.Separate the noodles and lay them out on a flour-sack towel, covered with another, to dry overnight.

Doesn’t my girl have the prettiest hands?
I love that she loves to help…Beats and all:)

Covered and ready to dry out overnight.

For the soup…this is where it gets good!

1 small whole chicken (or 2 lb bone-in thighs/breasts)

1 carton chicken broth

1 teaspoon onion powder (optional)

salt & pepper

flour for thickening

Boil the chicken until the meat is falling off the bone.  Add a little salt and pepper to the water as it cooks.  Reserve and strain the broth.  Debone the chicken and either make bone broth with the leftover parts or toss ’em.

Bring the broth to a boil when you are ready to make the soup, adding salt, pepper and onion powder (if you like) to the broth just before adding the noodles.  Once the broth is boiling add the dry noodles, one handful at a time, stirring to make sure they don’t stick together.  Add more broth from the carton until the noodles have plenty of room to move around.  Taste as you go and add salt/pepper to taste.  Simmer until the noodles are cooked completely through and just firm to the bite.  If the soup needs thickening, combine 1 Tablespoon (or more if you have made a big batch) of flour with 1/2-1 cup of cold water and whisk the lumps away.  Add slowly, stirring constantly, to the chicken and noodles and simmer until the soup has the consistency you want.

Serve this simple, yummy concoction up in bowls with crusty bread and smile as your kids rise up and call you blessed.

Because they will!

If you make this, let me know what you think!

Enjoy!

Idiot-proof Broccoli-Cheddar Soup

Ok, y’all.  You are going to laugh, maybe even smack your head and say, “Duh,” but all I know is this simple little “recipe” made my kids happy on a snowy January day.  Get ready…

This will be so easy.

You just need a can of Campbell’s Broccoli-Cheddar soup, about a cup of leftover steamed, seasoned broccoli florets and some shredded cheese.  (I used Mexican blend because, well, I am from Texas.)

Put the can of soup, one can of milk, and the broccoli in a medium pot and simmer on med-low until bubbly.  Serve up in pretty bowls and sprinkle the cheese on top.

That’s it.

Yes, it’s just Campbell’s canned soup.  It’s not on anyone’s diet plan.  But something about the extra broccoli and the fresh cheese just added a bit of oomph and, maybe it was the frigid temps messing with my brain, but it was the perfect antidote to this cold, Tennessee winter weather!

So, try it.  Let me know what you think.  And feel free to share any “not exactly from scratch” tricks you have up your sleeve in the comments!

Stay warm, friends!

Belgian Waffles. Real ones.

We interrupt your weekend preparations with a recipe sure to make your mouth water, you pants tighter, and your family rise up and call you blessed!

Belgian Waffles, just like the ones found on a food truck in the Market of Stockel in Brussels, Belgium.  Our family took a trip to Belgium a few years ago and these, my friends, were some of the most delicious things I have ever put in my mouth.  After we arrived home I had to recreate them.   I perused countless recipe sites and blogs, finally finding one that was close and tweaking it until I achieved perfection.  Even our friends who lived in Belgium, when they came home for a visit, tried them and pronounced them “spot on!”

They have become a staple of our holiday celebrations.  We enjoy them on Thanksgiving morning, Christmas Eve, New Year’s and even Easter.  They are tres delicieux!

So, without further adieu, I give you the REAL Belgian Waffle.  (Do not be fooled by the IHOP, frozen or other versions.  They are not even CLOSE!)

Stockel Belgian Waffles

Ingredients:
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
3/4 cup lukewarm milk
3 eggs
1 cup melted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups pearl sugar (such as Lars’ Own-you can order it from Amazon.  This is the MOST IMPORTANT INGREDIENT!)

Directions:
Sprinkle the yeast and white sugar over warm milk in a small bowl. The milk should be no more than 100 degrees F (40 degrees C).  Let stand for 15 minutes until the yeast softens and begins to form a creamy foam.
Whisk the eggs, melted butter, and vanilla extract into the yeast mixture until evenly blended; set aside. Stir together the flour and salt in a separate large bowl, and make a well in the center. Pour the egg mixture into the well, then stir in the flour mixture until a soft dough forms. Cover with a light cloth and let rise in a warm place (80 to 95 degrees F (27 to 35 degrees C)) until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes. Gently mix in the pearl sugar.

Then (DO NOT skip this step.  It is the secret to the hot, doughy center and crispy outer layer!) roll the dough into baseball sized portions and place them on a cookie sheet lined with foil.  You will have between 8-12 dough balls depending on how big you make them.

Do you see the little pearl sugar chunks?  I’m telling you, they are about to turn into golden nuggets of bliss!

Refrigerate at least two hours, overnight if possible.

 

When you are ready to cook these lovelies…
Preheat a waffle iron according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Place a ball of dough on the preheated waffle iron. Cook waffles until golden and crisp, about 2 minutes.

 

I mean LOOK at this.  Caramelized sugar sizzling around the edges, perfectly crispy crust with a soft, not-quite-done cookie dough texture.  Mmmm…

Repeat with the remaining dough balls. As you cook subsequent waffles, the sugar will begin to caramelize and the last waffle will be even more tasty than the first.  But don’t tell your kids.

 

 

I can hardly wait.  

 

Pretend you are being selfless and going last out of loving sacrifice for your hungry tribe.  It is worth the wait, I promise!

Allow the waffles to cool for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.  You can top them with fruit, whipped cream, etc. but, honestly, mine have never lasted long enough to be topped with anything!  They just go straight to our bellies!

Please refrain from licking the screen.

 

Try it for yourself and tell me what you think!  Bon appetite!