Shauna’s Mom’s Blueberry Crisp

Confession: I’m writing and posting this from my phone. I’ll either be impressed with the WP iPhone app or not. We’ll see how it goes… 

This summer I’ve been nannying two little boys (Kiddo #1 is 6 and Kiddo #2 is 4). They eat fruit like monkeys at the zoo. I can say that because we have been to the zoo a lot over the last 6 weeks – perk to living outside San Diego!

 When I saw a bunch of blackberries not being eaten, I knew I needed to find a creative use for them before they molded. Enter: Shauna Niequist and her book, “Bread and Wine”. It was just sitting on the kitchen counter and one morning, while I was doing the “Eat your breakfast” song and dance with Kiddo #1, I cracked it open to find good stories paired with what looked to be good recipes.   

Ingredients

4 cups fruit (There were 3 cups of blackberries, so I supplemented them with 1 cup frozen blueberries.)

Crisp Topping:

1 cup old-fashioned oats (We only had plain instant oatmeal packets; 3 packets is 1 cup and they sufficed well enough.)

1/2 cup raw, unsalted pecans, chopped

1/2 cup almond meal

1/4 cup maple syrup (I’m not Ina Garten, so I don’t care if you use the “good” stuff or Aunt Jemima. We used Auntie J and it was just fine.)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Mix crisp topping ingredients together. I had a 4-cup measuring cup and measured and mixed everything in there. Hey, fewer dishes and its topping, not science. 
  2. Pour fruit in 8×8 baking dish. Spoon the topping over it. 
  3. Bake at 350 degrees 35 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and delicious.    

 I added a pinch of cinnamon to the topping because I love cinnamon. This crisp is not terribly sweet, so it would be good with vanilla ice cream or maybe a good sprinkling of brown sugar on the top. It also goes well with a cup of coffee in the morning, kind of like a dressed up oatmeal.   Sorry, I was halfway through my fancy oatmeal crisp breakfast snack before I thought to take a picture. 

Rick Perry…Really?

The Twitterverse and presidential primaries. They never fail to suck me back into the commentary vortex. I was doing so well, too, in my recovery from campaigning. Last night I had a relapse courtesy of Rick Perry & Co.

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Ugh. Let’s start at the beginning:

1.  “Defending conservatism” — Every candidate in this primary is going to try to be the most conservative. Welp, sorry, fellas, the word “most” only allows for one in this context. Not everyone can be the most conservative. Governor, you’re a really nice guy and I am supportive of a lot of what you did during your tenure as the leader of Texas, but you’re not going to win the Most Conservative Award, not with crap like this, that, these, and those on your record. Maybe instead of “conservatism” you could use a word like “principle” or “values”. Strong message, less liability.

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2.  “against the cancer of Trump-ism” — Oy. Dude. Really? You just took Donald Trump, the equivalent of “Annoying House Fly” and elevated him to “Cancer”, one of the scariest words in the English language. As someone whose parents are cancer survivors, I’m surprised you’d throw the word around so loosely as political rhetoric. Also, you should recognize that you just put all of Trump’s supporters in the “cancer” category, too. You do realize that those are people you could actually get to, ya know, vote for you, provided you don’t compare them to the evil that kills more than 1,500 Americans every day, right? Way to go, isolating your potential supporters. Great comms strategy. Brilliant.

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3. “I hope you’ll join me Wednesday in DC” — Yah, because we can all drop what we’re doing to camp out at The Willard for a whopping 30 minutes. Also, The Willard? As in the $500 a night hotel? How about a link to the streaming coverage instead? Know your audience, please.

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Rick Perry (read: his people) would have us believe Donald Trump is the Governor’s biggest problem right now. He’s given more attention to The Donald than he has to Planned Parenthood, the taxpayer-funded entity that just got busted aborting babies and selling their organs for cash. Twice.

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Rather than drawing attention to an issue that brings conservatives, Republicans, lots of Independents, and even Democrats together because, let’s face it, strategically killing an infant so as not to damage its little liver because “a lot of people want liver” and enough baby liver can buy Dr. Frankenstein a Lamborghini is worse than evil, Governor Perry has his undies in a twist because some reality TV star is doing what reality TV stars get paid to do: be obnoxious. Donald Trump is show business. It’s his bread and butter. Being pro-life, Governor, is yours. It is for any conservative. This isn’t rocket science.

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Again, with that tweet, you elevated him from “nuisance” to
“a very real and scary threateverybodyrunawayasfastaspossible!”

panicGovernor, you have at your fingertips the hottest economic model in the country (hint: it rhymes with Lexas) – use it. American families are hurting. Gas is up again, especially in California. Food prices are going up as a result of the fuel costs. Unemployment is still a problem (well over 6% in some states). Obamacare is failing aga- still. The IRS is out of control. Small businesses are under attack. The Congress was just trumped by the UN (sorry, poor word choice). And you’re over here distracted by Donald Freaking Trump.

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To The Girl In The Pew In Front Of Me

Dear girl in the pew in front of me,

I don’t know you, but I can tell a couple of things about you just from looking at your back for 20 minutes last Sunday: you are beautiful; you are athletic and work hard for those awesome legs; and you can wear a pair of daisy dukes WAY better than I can. Girlfriend, you’ve got it.

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Ah, California. The land of sunshine and beaches, which sometimes means itty bitty clothes. I mean, I know the shorts are getting shorter these days and I’m a 31-year old fogey (I have been known to shout “Get off my lawn!” and go to bed before 9pm), but I have to wonder if you know how short those shorts really are. If you don’t, my guess is you’re thinking “that’s just the style these days, grandma”. If you do, there is probably a reason why you choose to wear them. You can’t wear something like that that leaves your bum in the wind and not expect people to notice, but, hey, I’m not here to shake my fist or call you names. I’m just here to encourage you.

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Encourage you? Yah, betcha didn’t see that coming, huh? You deserve more. You are a beautiful young woman who deserves more than what those shorts give you: the cheap, fleeting attention of men, the superficial confidence, the less-kind chicks who will make assumptions and then gossip to their friends about you, even if they’re wearing the exact same pair of shorts. It sucks, but it’s true: the mean girls will always hold a double standard. Whether you like it or not, whether you know it or not, that’s what those shorts do. They give the world a false impression of you and invite quick judgments. You deserve more than that.

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I’m not going to pretend to know what’s going on in your life. Maybe you think they’re really just a cute pair of shorts. Maybe no one has told you another inch or two of fabric wouldn’t hurt. Or maybe it’s worse – maybe you have been hurt in such a way that your only sense of self-worth comes from how much attention you can get from men. I know lots of ladies who have been in that dark place. Maybe you thought if you wore something outrageous enough, your family wouldn’t make you go to church. Sadly, if this is the case, it probably won’t work – it’ll likely just make their resolve stronger. I don’t know. Whatever the reason you opted for those navy blue daisy dukes is none of my business. You don’t have to justify anything to me. Moreover, your reason doesn’t lessen the fact that you deserve more than what you’ve been getting.

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If you have been told “if you’ve got it, flaunt it”, you deserve better advice. If you have been hurt, you deserve to be surrounded with people who will help you heal, not excuse it as a phase. If you’ve been ignored, bullied, or shamed, you deserve more. “More?” you ask, “Like what?” You deserve to be protected, honored, respected, cherished, and loved for who you are, not what you look like. You deserve to be more than a terrific pair of legs because, darlin, you are so much more than that. You are a fearfully and wonderfully made child of God! There is no one else with a heart or mind like yours! We should absolutely be celebrating that.

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My sweet, precious girl, you are indeed lovely and I’m willing to bet you will remain so for a very long while, but I hope, for the sake of your heart, that your identity isn’t found in those compliments. You deserve to be known for your intelligence and wit, your athletic abilities or artistic talents, maybe you have a fantastic passion for healing or innate ability to teach. The contribution you make to this world will not be a fabulous body, because we deserve more than that from you and we know you have more to give.

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I’m not saying you have to dress like a nun or be ashamed of your body – not at all! All I want you to take away from this note is I think you have the potential to do great things (and I don’t even know you!), and I want other complete strangers to see it, too. You know how quick this world is to make judgments and spread rumors – you don’t deserve to be bogged down in that mess. Those shorts, though, are a VIP invitation to that mess, which is too bad because, if anyone can pull them off, it’s you.

With sincerity and love,
The random chick who wished someone would have told her these things when she was your age (which was, like, a million years ago)

REVIEW: Chef

I’m willing to bet that “Chef” is the best movie of 2014 that you’ve never heard of. Well, if you’re a foodie and have a sense of how the internet works. Okay, I realize that’s probably a small contingent of you. Whatever.

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Let’s start by running down all of the A-Listers who are in this film:

  • Dustin Hoffman
  • John Leguizamo
  • Sofia Vergara
  • Robert Downing, Jr.
  • Scarlett Johansson

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Yah. I know. Have have you not heard of this movie? It stars Jon Favreau (of Iron Man and Avengers fame) as Carl Casper, a chef who has sacrificed his relationships (including his now-ex-wife and son) to become an amazing chef. It was all going seemingly well until Dustin Hoffman (who owns the restaurant) shows up and goes all Cruise Director, demanding a clichéd menu, to include chocolate lava cake, to impress the world’s best food blogger and critic. Chocolate. Lava. Cake.

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Needless to say, the critic has nothing but awful things to say about the dining experience and things just go downhill from there, largely thanks to the internet.

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Now, I’m not one to give away spoilers (or if I do, I give a warning right up front), so I’m going to stop with the plot line there. What I will say is the movie made me laugh out loud, as well as embrace my love of food. Seriously, he makes a grilled cheese that made me want to crawl through the TV, face-first into that crunchy, toasty, gooey, melty pile of bread and cheese…

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It’s a show about food and restaurants, so there is a solid level of foul language. But, amid the f-bombs, there are sweet father/son moments, bonds of friendship, and an encouraging story of what it really means to do what you love and love what you do. Check it out on Netflix, and don’t forget to rate it!

Life is a Highway

I’ve had my Jeep 7 months. We got it new and I’ve taken quite a liking to it. That baby now has 13,303 miles on it. I drive. A lot. My Jeep and I have been around southern California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, and (duh) Texas.

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Y’all, I thought Houston was my motoring nightmare until I met southern California. Sure, there are good drivers somewhere – there have to be! I’ve been toying around with these letters in my head for months and every on ramp has only justified the snark that is about to be spewed.

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Dear Suburban Driver of Southern California Roads:
stopDoes it physically pain you to stop at a stop sign? No, really. Because no one seems to stop at them EVER, but if it’s your turn and someone doesn’t stop for you, whoa, Houston, we have a problem. Also, brake lights: are they optional? You have them. I can see them. So why don’t they work? Lastly, I am almost convinced that the blinker is the vehicular equivalent of an appendix in your mind, Suburban Driver of Southern California Roads. Much to your chagrin, I assure you that little stick on the left of your steering column does have a purpose, and a good one: it lets people around you know what the heck you’re about to do.

Sincerely,
Not Miss Cleo

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Dear Fast Driver of Southern California Roads:
literacyI know, I know, you’re in a hurry. Guess what, sugar britches? No one cares. We all need to get somewhere, but you don’t see all of us raging around, in and out of lanes, no blinker, mere inches between bumpers. If it’s really that important, find yourself some lights and sirens. Might I suggest you put your middle finger back on the steering wheel? Please and thank you. You may do well with some smooth jazz or classical music to soothe your ragey nerves. 88.1FM or 105.1FM are good options, as are SiriusXM 66 and 76. Oh, and those pesky speed limit signs: I know you say to yourself, “Fast Driver of Southern California Roads, I know that sign reads 70 miles per hour, but they really meant 90.” WRONG. Literacy isn’t that hard, my friend.

Yours Truly,
Simmer Down Now, Here’s A Baby Animal

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Dear Slow Driver of Southern California Roads:
slugThe pedal on the right makes the car go. You should step on it. Everyone else is flying by at 80 miles an hour and here you are, putting along somewhere between molasses and grandma. ProTip: the fast drivers occupy the left side of the road and the slow drivers creep on the right. It makes sense: traffic needs to slow down to exit, ergo right lane is slower than other lanes. Don’t worry, you don’t have to exit – just stay there and cruise along at 47mph. No one will care. I promise. It’s just when you trudge along at the speed of a turtle when the rest of the road is going Ludicrous Speed, you’re a liability. Someone will hit you, or get unnecessarily aggressive and cause you to have a bad day. Just move to the right. Get out of the way. And, no, driving with your hazards on doesn’t make it any better if you’re not in the right lane – lookin’ at you, rusted blue 1989 Ford Ranger.

Sincerely,
The 68 MPH Speed Racer
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Ashley (Finally) Watches Star Wars

Some how I have managed to make it almost 32 years on this planet without seeing Star Wars. Any of them. I know, I know… the horror, the agony, the distress, or something. BUT tonight, surrounded by friends and their kids, we broke that reign of deprivation.

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V Observations from an Adult Star Wars First Timer

I. It is really, really difficult for someone who has seen Spaceballs a million times to not want to throw in every applicable line from the spoof into the original. Comb the desert! While Mel Brooks has always had a special place in my heart, I believe his schwartz genius is that much bigger greater after having seen the real Star Wars.

ludicrousII. C3PO is kind of a jerk, not to mention moody. He could really benefit from some Xanax, ya know, just to level him out. At Disneyland, they made him out to be paranoid and eccentric, but I straight up wanted to reach through the screen and beat him with his own arm. R2D2, on the other hand is a peach and I like him a lot. Beep beep whistle to you, too, doll.

beepIII. I get that Episode IV Luke Skywalker is young, that he lost his dad and is now living a life he clearly doesn’t like, but does he have to be so whiny? For being the hero of arguably the most epic story of the 20th century, can’t he be a little more, oh, I don’t know, alpha? I guess I just expected him to be a little more like Han. Maybe he’ll grow out of it (most teenage boys do), but until then, I will remain disappointed.

lukeIV. Why didn’t Chewie get a medal?! #WarOnWookies Also, I had no idea Storm Troopers could talk. Lastly, was it some inside joke or purely coincidence that the one rebel fighter pilot who wasn’t a toothpick was named Porkins? (Asking for a friend.)

medalsV. When I grow up, I want to be like Princess Leia: unafraid, sassy, and fighting against evil. I’ll have a better shot though (really, girl?) and I’ll be sure to have an accurate and extensive family tree committed to memory. Hey, there are some things that have just become common place in our culture and that’s one of ’em. No movie required.

leiaSo there y’all have it. The honest musings of an adult who sees Star Wars for the first time. We already have plans to watch the next 2 movies and I’m pretty stoked about it, so that’s a good sign, right?

HIMYMMight I remind you that it’s important to approach these situations with grace and without judgment. If you are a fan of the franchise, think of yourself as an ambassador: don’t get all stabby if someone makes Harry Potter or Spaceballs references; give the newbie space to draw conclusions and grow into liking the character. And whatever you do, be mindful that someone can only see this for the first time one time so don’t ruin it with spoilers and commentary or even expectations. There’s a lot of pressure on first-timers to like it, so slow your roll, chief.

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**Nobody in the group of people I watched this movie with did any of the aforementioned things, for which I am grateful. No, really. They were awesome. Even the kiddos. 🙂

The Happiest Place on Earth

My mother-in-law is in town for a week and before y’all give me the “yowza” look, let me just say I totally lucked out in the MIL Department. She is awesome. She also loves Disney so, seeing as how my house is a hop, skip, and a traffic jam jump from Anaheim, when she said she wanted to go, I said, “Well, we can do that.”

I haven’t been to a Disney park since I was 5. All I remember from that trip was being terrified of Space Mountain, the teacups, and the caterpillar in the Electric Light Parade. Sorry, Mom and Dad; I know y’all dropped $1,000 back in 1988 to take us to Florida and that’s all I remember. Whatcha gonna do…

In true blogger fashion, I opted to record our trip in pictures with the intention of sharing them with you! So, here we go:

IMG_7837When we got to the park, my skeptical, reasonable, frugal, and germaphobic adult self was nowhere to be found. Instead, it was replaced by an enthusiastic, energetic, OH-MY-GOSH-IT’S-MICKEY-AND-SENSORY-OVERLOAD!!! 5-year old.

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Once I calmed down long enough to remember to look both ways before crossing the street and the merits of STRANGER DANGER! we went inside. We wanted a 1-day pass for both parks, but the ticket employee said, with our military discount, it’s actually cheaper to buy a 3-day pass for both parks. While this might not make sense to a lot of people, let me say that Disney is brilliant. I mean, off the charts brilliant. You will drop a ton of cash in this park, whether it’s for food, souvenirs, parking, or stroller rentals. If they can get you to come back 2 MORE TIMES, you’ll drop even more dough than you would have if you just came once.

Ash & Mr. ToadI found the nostalgia of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride highly entertaining. I recall “The Wind in the Willows” from my childhood, but I only remember a totally irresponsible toad stealing (and crashing) a bunch of cars. Apparently, there were some darker parts of that story, like being hit by a train and traveling through what appears to be a sugar-coated version of hell. Maybe I should read that book again, as an adult, before subjecting my kiddos to it…

IMG_7858 (1)When we made it to Space Mountain, I thought I was ready to ride the roller coaster that had been such a nightmare to my kindergarten self, but then I saw a 5-year old boy was there with his mom, dad, brother, and sister. Y’all, he was horrified by this roller coaster. I remember feeling exactly the same way he did way back in 1988. My heart broke for him. His dad encouraged him, gave him lots of hugs, and when things got really bad, held him so he wouldn’t cry. That’s the dad photobombing my picture. I can’t poke fun at him for the photobomb because he’s just such a good dad! Way to go, mister!

awesomeI don’t know what happened to that kid, but he probably cried his eyes out – even I was a little freaked out because holy smokes, Batman, it’s dark! Just remember, kid, to come back 26 years from now, see the children crying in line, remember how your dad reminded you “it’s going to be okay” and “we’ve already waited half an hour to ride this thing, so we’re going to ride it” and realize your trauma was and remains totally normal.

IMG_7865Then we moseyed next door to Star Tours and — hold on, hold on. Y’all, I have to confess something. I can only imagine the shock, horror, disappointment, and pity that is going to bombard me when I say this because, honestly, I feel like I kinda let everyone down. When I think about it. I don’t know how it happened, or why, but it did and I’m sorry.

*deep breath* I have… *deep breath* I’ve never seen Star Wars.

breathe-gifI know. Do you need a minute? Can we still be friends? I want to see all of the movies, so at least it’s not like I’m opposed to them. Maybe I should start a GoFundMe so I can buy the DVDs or something. Just think of the awesome blog posts that experience will yield. I mean, you can only watch them for the first time once, so maybe it will be entertaining for y’all to read.

confused smileAnyway, we went to Star Tours and were greeted by R2PO and C3D2…KIDDING! R2D2 and C3PO. No, I didn’t google it. The premise of the 3D ride is a spy for the Rebel Alliance has boarded the ship and Darth Vader is in hot pursuit! The ship, captained by a nervous and high-strung C3PO, traveled to various planets seeking to escape Stormtroopers. Want to hear the craziest part?! I WAS THE REBEL SPY! I’m pretty sure they picked me because I was the only one who very heartily laughed at the guy’s Chewbacca impression.

RebelSpyI don’t know what that means, but it made me enjoy the ride THAT much more. The only one who had never seen the movies was the one singled out as the cool kid on the ride. Sorry, not sorry. There’s a t-shirt in the gift shop that reads “I am the rebel spy” and I might just go back and fork out $50 for it because, hey, that needs to be commemorated. On second thought, that $50 is my spending budget for a week and a half. I really don’t need that shirt… Don’t lose the irony in the following gif:

brokeBefore we called it quits for the day, my sweet tooth started acting up, ya know, like it does, and I was jonesing for one of those Mickey Mouse rice krispy treats. And not just any ol’ rice krispy treat. The one with the chocolate-dipped ears and sprinkles. The one that costs $4.95. I was so appalled excited I mutilated ate half of Mickey’s head before I thought to take a picture, which this guy apparently wanted to be in.

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Whatever floats your boat, dude. The fact of the matter is Disney will take you to the bank all day long but this trip is one I will never forget. My inner-child was pleased and my adult self appreciated every last minute detail, top-notch hospitality, and the sacrifices so many families make so their kids can experience a little bit of magic in a fallen world.

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So exhausted, but so happy. Thank you a million times to my MIL for a magical day!