big news

Many of you are aware that last summer, Jon interviewed for his dream job at the children’s hospital in Denver, which is his hometown, and is where all of his family still lives. The search process for that position has been long and drawn out. At first we thought we might hear something in the fall, then after the holidays. In all of that time, uncertainty hung over us. I had trouble sleeping, and my neck and shoulders seemed constantly tense. I tried not to consciously worry, but I basically just stuffed all of those feelings into my muscles, apparently.

Well, we finally heard a couple of weeks ago, and now that all the appropriate folks know at his current job, we can tell the world: Jon landed his dream job in Denver. We’ll be moving most likely in July. This is obviously huge, life-changing news, and a big new adventure for our family. I feel like I’m now feeling many conflicting things at once. I’m so proud and excited for Jon professionally, and I’m thrilled that our girls will be getting to grow up near a lot of family who love and support us. But this means we’re leaving my home state, a life we love here, and family we love here. Leaving is HARD, no matter how exciting the place you’re going. And I’ve actually never lived outside the South before. I might have some culture shock in store.

The cousins the girls will be growing up with in Denver.

The cousins the girls will be growing up with in Denver.

Now we are working on getting ready to list our house here, and hoping it sells well. While also trying to throw a fabulous fourth birthday party and enjoy the time we have here with the people we love. If the emotions and worry were making it hard for me to write before, life has been getting in the way of me writing ever since we found out. Still, I hope having the cat out of the bag will make some room in my head to get back to the creative pursuits that give me life. Especially when our life seems to be in a lot of flux right now.

And if you’re one of our Little Rock friends? Let’s hang out. A lot. From now until July. OK?

menu planning monday

I promise eventually my life will slow down enough (more on that eventually) to do more than post menu plans, but today is not that day. We spent the week getting our den ready for new carpet to be installed (thanks, tax refund!), and spring cleaning in general, so not many deep thoughts were thought, which isn’t very conducive to writing. Even when I’m not writing, though, we gotta eat. Thus, Menu Planning Monday.

Meal Planning Monday | The Adventures of Ernie Bufflo

Last week’s meals.

While spring cleaning, I found under our guest bed four giant binders of recipes I had torn out of magazines in the pre-Pinterest era. Now that my husband wants to get into cooking, I realized the hardest part for him will be deciding what to cook. He’s not a Pinterest-er, and he doesn’t read food blogs or peruse cookbooks. When I found those binders, though, I realized I could basically make him/us an analog Pinterest binder of vegetarian and seafood recipes that take less than 30 minutes. And since most of the recipes were from my old Real Simple and Rachael Ray subscriptions, they’re all pretty fast/healthy/easy, too. I went through all the binders and pulled out all the best-looking recipes, and now we can flip through them anytime. I can see it being useful to have the girls flip through and pick out some things they would like to eat every now and then, too.

Here’s what we’ll be making this week (reminder: if you’re reading via an RSS feed, you may need to click through to see the embedded pins):

The first recipe Jon picked out of the recipe binder:

One pot always wins me over:

Will likely serve these tuna cakes with cheesy grits and sautéed zucchini:

I have a bunch of kale that needs to be used before it disintegrates, so this tried-and-true recipe will take care of it, and it’s another one pot recipe:

And because I have a craving for some Costa Rican deliciousness, gallo pinto:

What about you? What’s on your menu this week? Made anything tasty lately?

menu planning monday

Back by popular demand, our next few dinners on deck. My favorite thing we ate last week? The spinach and mushroom lasagna. I even made my own noodles with the pasta maker I got for my birthday, and they turned out amazing. The spring vegetable paella also turned out fabulous, even though I didn’t remember to get pimientos and threw in some saffron for extra flavor. We ate it with fried eggs, and Claire had like 3 helpings! We still haven’t eaten all the meals I planned last week, so we’ll be having the cauliflower and chickpea tacos this week for sure.

Other things we’ll be eating this week (note, if you’re viewing this in an RSS reader, you may need to click through to see embedded images and be able to click through to recipes):

We’ll likely have this potato tortilla with a side of salad and some olives and cheese, pretend we’re in Spain:

Recently our girls have been liking roasted brussels sprouts, so I think this is worth a try:

Might make a bean and corn salad to serve on the side with these tostadas:

We’re also hosting a Friday Night Meatballs this week (with eggplant based “meatballs” since we gave up meat for Lent–I may even try to write up my recipe for these, so look for it next week) and planning to go to our friends’ house for dinner another night, so that’s it for this week’s plans!

In other food news, my love for Michael Pollan is well-documented, so you won’t be shocked to learn that I love his docu-series “Cooked” on Netflix. On the night we watched the third episode, I immediately got up and mixed up some bread dough because I was so inspired! Check it out, for sure!


menu planning now that we’re mostly vegetarian

Since I’m home alone on a rainy day luxuriously planning meals and making my grocery list while my husband has the kids at the science museum, I thought I’d follow up my post about our recent diet change with a post about how this has affected our meal planning and eating.

Spoiler alert: it actually hasn’t affected it all that much. You may remember from my “meal planning for the easily bored” post that I rely heavily on hyper-organized Pinterest boards to plan our meals. When we decided to commit to being mostly vegetarian (really, we’re pescatarian), I went through my pinboards and micro-organized them further. Instead of just a pasta board, I now have a vegetarian pasta board, and it’s up top. I did the same with soups and stews, Tex/Mex/Tacos, and veg+grain meals. Now all the boards that are compliant with how we’re eating are right up top and easy to find.

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 10.01.40 AM

Today, I checked out what we already have on hand and what’s on sale at our local store and then opened up Pinterest. I picked out one vegetarian pasta, one vegetarian soup, one vegetarian tacos, one veggie+grain, and one seafood recipe. I mostly eat leftovers for lunch, and the kids eat sandwiches/soups/cheese and crackers/fruit, so I really only plan dinner recipes and keep basics on hand for breakfasts and lunches: bread, yogurt, eggs, fruit, cheese, peanut butter, jelly, etc. Planning dinners is really the bulk of my menu-planning.

If you’re curious about what we’re having for dinner this week, here’s what’s on deck:

In other family food news, Jon and I went on a marriage retreat over the weekend, and one thing we discussed was having him cook more. I happily do most of the cooking because, if you haven’t guessed, I love cooking and see it as a creative outlet. He usually takes the kids to the park in the afternoons, so I really enjoy my me-time in the kitchen, listening to podcasts and making good food. However. we’ve realized that our girls may not realize that I cook because I love it, and might get the idea that cooking is a woman’s job. Since he has a flexible schedule that often has him home in the evenings, he could totally cook– I just haven’t offered him the opportunity. We want the girls to see that their dad is also competent in the kitchen, and that it is reasonable for them to expect a partner who shares cooking duties. Since I kind of usurped the kitchen years ago, I will likely at first set him up for success by doing some of the prep work, almost like a Blue Apron sort of thing, but I am going to try to stay out of his hair and let him do his thing.

You can often check out our meals on Instagram, where I often use the hashtag #bigdinnerlittledinner to document what we’re eating. I’ll let you know when a meal was prepared by my better half, too!


How do you plan your meals? Would it be helpful if I start sharing our weekly meal plans on a regular basis?

I think we’re ready for the next step in our family’s food evolution

Arkansas Made, Arkansas Grown: raising locavores and Farm2Home

I’m currently co-teaching a class based on Shane Claibourne and Tony Campolo’s Red Letter Revolution at my church. It’s a great book about taking the things Jesus actually said seriously, and I’m enjoying our group discussions every week. On Sunday, one of the chapters I taught was about environmentalism, and how important it is for followers of Jesus not just to take caring for creation seriously, but to become partners and co-workers in God’s restoration of all of creation, a project that ultimately ends in the Revelations-vision of a garden-city in the New Jerusalem when heaven and earth finally become one. The book also makes a great connection between the fact that the price of environmental degradation is almost always paid heaviest by the poorest among us, and notes that creation care is inextricably tied to ideas of justice for the poor.

One way the book suggests we can minimize our environmental impact is through our diets, and this reminded me of the journey my family has been on food-wise since 2009. In 2009, I read an article in National Geographic magazine that started me thinking that my diet was incompatible with some of my deepest concerns for the poor and the environment. As I wrote then, “According to Bourne, 35% of the world’s grain is used to feed livestock instead of people.  Think about that.  I’ve read that it takes 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat, and more and more, that bothers me.  It gets to me to see photographs of starving babies and know that the tasty meat I eat is contributing to the food scarcity that is killing children all over the world.”

Of course, at the time, I was very much a beginning cook, and I didn’t really know how to cook a meal that wasn’t based around a chicken breast, which I bought frozen in giant bags. Knowing that a little change was better than nothing at all, at the time, we committed to one meat-free meal per week. That may seem small (or, depending on how much meat you usually eat, huge), but it actually makes a difference– I had read that if every American committed to one meat-free meal per week, it would be like taking 5 million cars off the road, and if every American committed to one meat-free *day* per week, it would be like taking 8 million cars off the road.

Newsflash: Instagram is Filtered | The Adventures of Ernie Bufflo

Since that first commitment in 2009, we’ve slowly changed our diet from Meatless Monday to Mostly Meat-Free. In fact, after revisiting that 2009 blog post, I suggested to my husband that we might be ready to commit to eat meat ONLY one day per week. He agreed wholeheartedly. After slowly inching in that direction over all this time, it doesn’t feel like a huge leap. We’ve gotten used to eating “mostly plants” as Michael Pollan says, while still rounding out our diets with eggs, dairy, and seafood. (If you want to see some of the meatless meals we love, I’ve got a pinboard for that.)

I’ll say now like I said then: I don’t envision an entirely vegetarian life for us. We like meat, even if we can largely do without it. Once in a while, we like to split a ribeye at Maddie’s Place or roast a chicken for dinner, and I think we will always want to have the freedom to indulge in something we like once in a while, especially when traveling and getting to know other food cultures. I don’t come at this from the angle that eating animals is wrong, though I respect friends’ choices if that’s what they believe.

I guess I’m writing this now to say: little steps make a difference. You don’t have to try to change the world or even your diet all at once. If you currently eat meat at most meals, you might be where we were in 2009. If you want to try just starting with Meatless Mondays (or any other day that works for you), it will make a big difference in the impact you have on the environment and the global food economy, I really believe it.

And if you’re ever interested in what we’re eating around here, I like to Instagram our dinners with the hashtag #bigdinnerlittledinner

I took my dad on a date to the Clinton Center and we both loved it

This is a sponsored post written in conjunction with my role as a Social Ambassador for the Clinton Center.

If you’re from Arkansas and you travel at all, when people find out where you’re from, they will always ask you what you think of the Clintons. I happen to be a fan politically, but I’m also a huge fan of the Clinton Center, which not only houses the Clinton Presidential Library, but also temporary historical, educational, and cultural exhibits that change frequently. I’ve been there to see Legos, de la Renta gowns, Chihuly glass, and had to make several trips so Etta and Claire could check out the dinosaur exhibit that closed last fall. Having frequently paid to see the exhibits with my family, I was thrilled to be asked to be a Clinton Center Social Ambassador this year. This means my family gets a membership to the Center, and I am compensated to attend events and help spread the word about this amazing place that I love.

Coca-Cola: An American Original at the Clinton Center

My first event as an ambassador was on Saturday, in conjunction with their Coca-Cola: An American Original exhibit which is open until February 15. When I realized it was a Coca-Cola exhibit, I knew I had to bring my dad. He’s a Coca-Cola man the way you might have said Don Draper liked drinking whiskey– his fridge is always stocked with Cokes, which I swipe on my way out the door to enjoy on the hour drive home, a little treat I associate with him. He also collects a particular type of Coke bottle, and I knew he would enjoy the exhibit, which focuses on the 100th anniversary of the iconic Coke bottle, and the event, which involved an Antiques Roadshow-style appraisal of locals’ Coke collectibles with Ted Ryan, the director of Heritage Communications for Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola: An American Original at the Clinton Center

It wasn’t until we were on our way to the Clinton Center that I realized I can’t remember the last time my dad and I got to hang out, just the two of us. I loved getting to tour the exhibit with him, and he loved peppering Ted with questions about the history of Coca-Cola’s advertising art, represented by several Norman Rockwell originals on display. Dad wanted to know if Coke invented Santa Claus, and the answer was yes and no– they didn’t come up with the idea of Santa, but the American image of a rosy-cheeked, chubby, bearded old man in red and white was created by Coke artist Haddon Sundblom. If the Coca-Cola brand is one of the major things Coke sells– at one point, Ted said “All we make is syrup and advertising,” Santa’s brand also owes a lot to them.

Coca-Cola: An American Original at the Clinton Center

The first iteration of the Coca-Cola polar bears, the iconic Barefoot Boy by Norman Rockwell, and Santa as portrayed by Sundblom.

Coca-Cola: An American Original at the Clinton Center

I loved these WWII-era servicewomen with their Cokes.

We both thoroughly enjoyed the Collectors Convention, especially seeing the vast knowledge Ted carries in his head about the brand, its advertising, and Coca-Cola items. No matter what people brought up to show him, he was never stumped. We saw a pretzel bowl valued at $800, a metal spinner ad that used to sit atop a gas pump valued between $600-1,000, a 1961 Westinghouse Coke machine valued at $1,500, and a stamp holder from the early teens valued at $500, among many other things. My dad, sadly, learned the vintage bottles he collects aren’t worth very much, because literally billions were made.

Coca-Cola: An American Original at the Clinton Center

After the convention, we headed upstairs to check out the rest of the exhibit, which tells the story of how the Coke bottle became what it is today. We learned that the original design was to look like the pods of the coca plant, but it was slimmed down to fit into the mechanized bottling equipment. We also learned from Ted that the phrase “soda pop” came from early bottles for carbonated beverages– the cork was inside the bottle, and the carbonation pushed up on it to maintain the seal. In order to drink the beverage, you had to pop the cork down into the bottle. I particularly loved the vintage photographs of celebrities and presidents drinking from Coke bottles, and a series of pieces Andy Warhol did, inspired by the famous brand. I’d like to think Warhol would enjoy the fact that I busted out my selfie stick and subjected Dad to his first selfie in front of the Warhols.

Coca-Cola: An American Original at the Clinton Center

Dad’s first selfie! He even almost smiled!

After we had finished checking everything out, my mom, sister, and daughters met up with us for lunch in the Clinton Center’s restaurant, Forty-Two (because President Clinton was the 42nd President). I don’t think many folks know what a lovely, family-friendly dining option Forty-Two is, but they have an excellent kids menu and high chairs, and we have dined there with our girls many times. Saturday was unseasonably warm and we got to sit out on their fabulous patio and watch cyclists and walkers pass up above us on the River Trail. As we ate, Claire asked my dad, “How was your date with my mommy?” “I’m still enjoying it,” he said. I’m so glad I got to take my dad to this exhibit, and might have to convince him to come along to the next one too, which I am told will be Olympics-themed to tie in with this summer’s Games.

Coca-Cola: An American Original closes February 15. Be sure to check it out before then! A great opportunity to do so would be Saturday, February 13, as they are hosting free Valentine’s Day family activities from 10am-2pm.


don’t talk about my kid that way

“Raging Sociopath.” “Little Criminal.” “Corrupt.” “Depraved.” “Demon Child.”

If someone said those things about either of my children, they’d be facing a very angry mama bear. Imagine my surprise to find them littered throughout an ostensibly Christian parenting book (Parenting by the Book, by John Rosemond) my Sunday School class has started studying! I had so many issues with the first lesson of the study that my head almost exploded, but this is one of my biggest issues with the author’s entire view on parenting, because the way he speaks about children, I think, has a lot to do with the harsh manner in which he advocates treating them.

Can you imagine the Jesus who said “Let the little children come to me,” and who encouraged all of us to have faith like a child speaking of his beloved little children in those terms? It’s hard to imagine a Bible that says “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen,” (Ephesians 4:29) seeing such terms as “building up” or “beneficial” to children.

I gather that in order to understand “sinful nature,” some people must force themselves to believe that children are basically depraved sinners. I just don’t think that in order to accept that all humans have a capacity to sin I must see my children in only those terms. While my children have their periods of selfishness (which it seems to me is pretty much the root of all evil, even in my own heart), nearly four years with them has taught me that kids have great capacities for love and empathy. They genuinely want to please the adults in their lives. They genuinely want to show love to the people around them. One of the highest compliments I can pay my girls is to tell them what loving hearts they have, and how happy my heart is to see them being kind to others. When I do, I can see them radiating joy. They have a capacity for selfishness, too, but the answer is not to tell myself or them that they are basically monsters. The answer is to encourage and nurture their naturally loving little hearts, and to learn from them.

I am often quoting author Thomas King, “The truth about stories is, they’re all that we are.” I’ve also read that our voices will one day become the voices in our children’s heads. The words that we use to think about and talk about our children shape the way we treat them and the way we speak to them. They will do their best to live up to the selves they see reflected in our eyes. I want them to know that I see their best selves, that I feel privileged to know them and to be their mom. Imagine my surprise to find a Christian parenting expert speaking of children in terms I'd sock a stranger for using about my kids!