Good Gifts, Round 2

I received a lot of positive feedback the last time I did a "Favorite Things" kind of post, so I'm going to try to make it a semi-regular occurrence. I'm calling it "Good Gifts," because I love thinking of these things as reflections of the Father who gives good gifts to His children. So here are some highlights, and again, I would love to hear what other people are enjoying right now. Please comment below or on FB/Twitter/IG to let me know what you're enjoying, and maybe I'll enjoy it (and feature it) next time!

Reading

The Prince Warriors by Priscilla Shirer. My husband and a co-worker made the trailer for this book, and our kids have been excited to read it since they saw it. We're just a few chapters in, but already enjoying it. Sometimes when I'm reading aloud to my kids, I throw in a surprise phrase to see if they're paying attention. So the other day I was reading about a younger brother who was mad at his older brother as he listened to him getting ready for bed. I threw in the phrase, "He didn't rinse the toothpaste out of the sink," to see if my daughter was listening, as she is notoriously bad about this. We laughed, then I kept reading. NO LIE. At the top of the next page, I read these words:

"He could hear his brother using the bathroom and getting ready for bed. Clean the toothpaste out of the sink, he thought. Xavier never cleaned the sink. It was disgusting."

It was at this moment I fell in love with the book. And also later when the mom comes in and gives her son a "Mom Talk" (something I'm notorious for, and they tend to go on and on). There is something so relatable about a book written by a mom. So I'm a fan.

My favorite blog posts lately have been:

My Superstitious Faith - Written by Trillia Newbell, this short post hit on something I struggled with--the fear that because things are going well now, God must be waiting in the wings to bring me hurt and pain. 

8 Lessons Learned from Serving 100+ Meals - Written by Abigail Murrish, who loves Jesus and specializes in agriculture and food. I love this brief look at hospitality.

Which brings us to the next point. 

Cooking

Last fall I went to India to visit my sister-in-law and her family and I fell in love with Indian food. I had never really eaten it, and wasn't sure what to expect. But I was instantly a fan. A couple of months ago I ran across this book at the library and I love it.

 

I've made four or five recipes from it so far, and we've enjoyed them all, but this one is my favorite. Pav Bhaji. 

This is a street food, served on white rolls (I use Hawaiian rolls). My kids really liked it the first couple of times I made it. Then I went overboard and made it way too frequently, and they are now totally turned off. So don't be like me. But here's the recipe. It does require a few Indian spices, but they are worth it!

Disha's pav bhaji

Serves 4

7 ounces mashing potatoes (Yukon Gold, red or white all-purpose)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter (plus extra to finish)

2 large onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 3/4-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated

2 medium eggplants (1 lb in total), cut into 1/4-inch cubes

14 oz strained tomatoes (such as Pomi)

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon garam masala

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

optional (I don't have this): 1/2 teaspoon amchur (dried mango powder)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

3/4 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 head of cauliflower (around 9 oz), broken into 3/4-inch cubes

TO SERVE:

8 to 12 soft white bread rolls

butter

1 red onion, finely chopped

a handful of cilantro

a couple of lemon wedges, to squeeze over

Peel and chop the potatoes into equal-size chunks, then boil them for around 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain, mash, then set to one side.

Put the butter into a wide-bottomed, lidded frying pan on a medium heat. When it starts to foam, add the onions and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden. Add the garlic and ginger, and stir well. After a minute, add the eggplants to the pan and cover. Stir them every now and then until they're soft -- this should take around 10 minutes. Add the strained tomatoes and tomato paste, and cook for around 5 to 7 minutes until it is a thick mash, rich and dark red.

Add the cumin, coriander, garam masala, and turmeric, the amchur if using, and the salt. Stir and taste, adding the chili powder if you'd like more heat [I add this...it's not too hot]. Finally, add the mashed potato and cauliflower. Stir to mix and put the lid on, leaving it to cook for around 10 minutes, or until soft.

Taste and adjust any seasoning. Transfer to a bowl and use a potato masher or a fork to mash it. The consistency should be somewhere between mashed potato and thick pasta sauce -- you can add some hot water to loosen the bhaji if need be. For a final flourish, add a generous pat of butter and stir it in.

Serve with halved and toasted bread rolls, generously spread with butter. Put a layer of pav bhaji in the middle of each roll, and top with a sprinkling of red onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lemon juice. 

home

A few weeks ago we were at our home group in a friend's new home and I was so impressed with how neat and organized everything was. Organization is not my gift. Clutter stresses me out, but I don't know what to do about it...it just keeps coming. And I'm generally not motivated to decorate my home or declutter until I have a meltdown. But Grace inspired me. So I threw tons of stuff away, sorted clothes, etc. Granted, there's still clutter, and always will be. But there's less.

So I thought, I want to do a little design work in my home--maybe paint the walls, which are still builder beige downstairs, and possibly paint the kitchen cabinets. But how should I determine what my style is? Through an internet quiz, of course!

Enter the Stylescope Quiz. It seems kind of ridiculous, but my results were actually pretty accurate, I think. 

I got an Urban Funk/The Traveler/Boho combo. It helped me realize what I like and what my eye is drawn to. 

GAMES

I don't know when this even started, but a few weeks ago, I rounded the corner to climb the stairs to our bedroom, and at the top of the stairs I saw a man smiling down at me from around the corner of the door. Then the next day, he was here in our bathroom closet:

Dr. Russell Moore, President of The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (AKA, "That guy Papa works with," as he's better known to my kids), peeking around the corner (and yes, there's something on his nose...not sure how that happened, but I blame my kids). Thus began a game between Erik and me, where we took turns hiding Dr. Moore behind corners to greet one another at unexpected times and places. Then our daughter wanted in on the fun, so she joined in hiding and finding him.

A few days later, we discovered this excited guy on the back of a cereal box, so now he has started popping up in random places. Even our 5-year-old is enjoying this weird game. 

So there's that little snapshot of the crazy Parks family and their abnormal games. 

SUMMER

I have been so excited for my daughter to be out of school. She finished two days ago, and while I've been waiting with glee to have both of my kids home, I also knew we needed some structure or we'd all go crazy. So I found this idea on Pinterest from several sources, and adapted it to work with our family. It's only been two days, but so far it's working really well. They sometimes lose track of time while playing, creating, or reading, which is better than I could have asked for. And they're doing more work around the house than we sometimes have time for during the school year. 

wearing

I'm an ambassador for Noonday Collection, and right now they have a great sale going on. Every item is made by artisan business partners around the world, who are paid fair wages and, as a result, are making a huge difference in their communities. But this month is especially exciting to me because I'm able to donate my commission--20% of each purchase--to my friend Randi, who has 5 kids in Honduras who call her mom. She and her husband visit their kids several times a year, and I wanted to do something to help with those travel costs. So if you're in the market for a gift/accessory/gift card/bag/necklace/whatever, maybe take a look at the sale or the other products on the site? 

Writing/talking

This doesn't really fall under the "favorite things" category, lest I reveal my narcissism. But, I got to do an interview with Carrie Abbott of The Legacy Institute in Seattle the other day. It's in two parts, both about planning Christ-centered weddings. If you have a friend planning a wedding, or know a pastor who performs weddings or does counseling, maybe forward the links? I pray it's encouraging to those who listen!

Day 1

Day 2

I also got to write this short piece for Christianity Today's "The Local Church" section the other day. It's about how a local church helped in the rescue efforts for a kidnapped child in East TN. 

So that's a snapshot of my life right now. How about you?

I need new music suggestions and some good summer reading...any recommendations?

Or easy summer recipes?  

Let me know what you've got, and thanks for reading!