Here in Atlanta, we’re experiencing our biggest snow since about 1993 (measuring six pure, fluffy, delightful inches on the patio furniture). I cannot tell you how much I HEART SNOW DAYS. It’s especially exciting since Mikey is stuck at home, too, and we’re keeping up the unflinchingly rigid Waldrop family tradition of making donuts on snow days (another recipe for another day). The Price is Right comes on in half an hour … I love my life.

All this calls for a killer comfort food recipe. I made this for the first time on Saturday, and our tongues beat our brains out trying to get to it. It took several hours to make, but every hearty bite made the time and effort worthwhile.

GUINNESS POT PIE
Makes 6 big servings
Prep & cook time is about 3 hours (see busy day option at bottom)

olive oil
3 lbs beef stew meat
1 onion
½ teaspoon dried rosemary (or one sprig fresh rosemary)
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, peeled and chopped in chunks
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut in ½” chunks
8 oz portobello mushrooms, quartered
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
salt
pepper
2 tablespoons flour
11-oz bottle Guinness (or if you have the 15-oz cans, one of those works, too)
beef stock (about 1 cup)
8 oz extra sharp white cheddar, shredded (I like Cabot Seriously Sharp White Cheddar)
1 puff pastry sheet, thawed
1 egg, beaten (with a splash of water for egg wash)

1. In your biggest oven-safe pot or dutch oven, brown beef in hot oil in batches (it doesn’t have to cook all the way through). It might take as many as six batches, but your patience will be rewarded. Be sure to not overcrowd the pot or the beef won’t brown. Once browned, move to separate bowl.

2. Add a little more oil to the pot and sauté onions until tender, about 5 minutes, then add garlic and rosemary and sauté another 2–3 minutes. Add carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, butter, Worcestershire, salt, pepper, and flour, and stir to combine. Add beef (WITH juices in the bottom of the bowl), Guinness, and enough beef stock so liquid level is just below beef/vegetables, not fully immersed. Bring to a boil and transfer to oven.

3. Braise at 350° for 90 minutes, until the sauce is good and thick. Remove from oven and stir in half of shredded cheese (about 1 cup). Increase oven temp to 375°.

4. Pour stew into a greased 2.5–3-quart baking dish and top with remaining cheese. Roll puff pastry sheet so it’s big enough to cover top and to create a seal on the edges of the dish. Press puff pastry to edges of baking dish, and brush puff pastry top with egg wash.

5. Line a jellyroll pan with aluminum foil and place dish on it to bake. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown and stew is bubbling around edges. Make sure you have some good crusty bread with which to soak up every drop of the delicious Guinness-y stewiness.

BUSY DAY OPTION

Brown beef, then cook onions/garic/rosemary in pot. Combine this and everything else through beef stock in a Crock Pot and cook on low for 8 hours. Then, stir in half the cheese (about 1 cup) and pick up with step 4. I haven’t tried this yet, but fully intend to in the next few weeks. Can’t see why it wouldn’t work well for a weeknight dinner.

No pictures to share … sorry … we plowed into it too quickly.

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I’ve been a mother for 12 weeks and 6 days.

Who is that tiny baby? I barely recognize her.

What’s better than I expected:

  • When she looks at me and knows I’m her mama – bonus points for smiles when she sees me.
  • When we’re “talking” – I’m making sounds and she’s trying to mimic them. It’s like connecting with extra-terrestrials.
  • Watching her discover things – that she has hands, that she can use those hands to bat at her toys, the look on her face as we stroll outside.
  • My excitement about her first Christmas – cannot WAIT to get that girl a stocking on the mantel.
  • My parents as grandparents – they’re even more incorrigible than I anticipated. I love every second!
  • The spiritual lessons I’m learning – too numerous to count.

What’s worse than I expected:

  • Guilt. I feel guilty about everything – When I mess up her schedule. When I wake her up to eat. When I give her the horrid-tasting vitamin supplement. When I can’t change her clothes fast enough to keep her warm. When she scratches herself because I haven’t cut her fingernails in the past hour (they grow so fast!). And so much more.
  • Hormones. I’m playing with a theory – and I’m not saying this as a cliche – that hormones are a tool of the Evil One. They lie to me. Regularly. See above.
  • The feeling I get when she’s really wailing. Not just fussy, not bored, but angry. It’s bad enough when it’s because she’s getting a shot, but it’s much, much worse when I don’t know the reason.
  • When her schedule is messed up / changed / otherwise impaired. The wheels seem to come off. I heart Babywise.

[Hee hee … new category … yay!]

After a recent ultrasound appointment:

Mike: Did you see the hand of God in our ultrasound pictures?

Me: Erm … yes? Well … like, how?

Mike: Like in your belly. Holding our baby girl’s foot.

Me: I definitely missed that.

His proof:

Look closely and you’ll see a man’s hand wrapped around my baby girl’s foot – thumbs along the top of her foot, fingers along the bottom. Yes, I know it’s just a void of amniotic fluid and muscle, but look at it. How much more perfect could it be?

Her Creator already has her in the palm of His hand and she isn’t even born yet. I pray she’ll stay there the rest of her life.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Psalm 139:13 (NLT)

Before Saturday, I’d forgotten what it was like to be in a room FILLED with some of my favorite girls. My mind went back to a little over seven years ago when I was preparing to become Mrs. Mike Nelson – it was surreal to look around at a party and not only know everyone in the room, but love everyone in the room. Much love and many, many thanks to everyone who came to celebrate this baby girl at the shower on Saturday.

As I looked around the room, I realized that every woman in the room has helped pray my little girl into existence. Without the faithful and passionate intercession of each of the 20-or-so people who were there (not to mention several of their husbands, the girls who couldn’t make it, and many other family members and friends), we might not be getting to experience all this right now.

I thank God every day for His unfailing kindness and perfect faithfulness. What a fortunate girl I am!

Me and the grandmas (but don't call them grandmas!)

Roughly 30% of shower attendees was with child ... amazing! We lined up in order of due date left-to-right: Danielle (due in a couple of weeks - boy), Kristen (girl), Michelle (TBD), me (girl), Dana (twin boys!), and Jenny (due in September - girl)

The Friday morning girls group (but missing Carmen). They were sitting in Starbucks with me when I got the call on December 11, 2009 that I was pregnant. One of the high moments of my life - I LOVE these women.

Mike Nelson the Great and I returned a few weeks ago from a delightful seven days on the left coast, more specifically, northern California. The plan had been to flit across the sea to England and spend our last-hurrah-before-baby trip touring London, Oxford, Bath, and Edinburgh, but the day before we were supposed to leave, we woke up to the news that a little volcano was pouring ash into the skies above western Europe. So that ended that. We regrouped, though, and headed in the opposite direction a few days later, to San Francisco and surrounding areas. Here’s what I learned.

  1. So what if your church is across the street from a psychic’s shop? Where else would you suggest they put it?
  2. The average median income for a family in Sausalito, California is $123,000. Median. That means the middle.
  3. My husband has a wicked good eye for photography.
  4. Sometimes you don’t know that your hotel is on the edge of the seedy side of town until a local tells you. Just walk in the opposite direction. Problem solved.
  5. The inspiration for the default desktop on Windows computers comes, very clearly, from the landscape surrounding Silicon Valley.
  6. Some of God’s handiwork can literally take your breath away.
  7. Seriously. Breathless.
  8. You can’t be afraid of bed and breakfasts.
  9. I need to grow this shrub at my house. Fifteen points to the first person to identify it.
  10. Alcatraz Island is a creepy place even in the daytime. You’d have to be half out of your mind to go at night. But we did anyway.

We have come again, at last, to my favorite week of the year – Holy Week. Lent has been moderately less sacrificial for me than usual this year, what with the baby I’m working on (Giving up coffee? Check. Alcohol? Check.), but it’s been no less meaningful.

This morning I read in John about the Pharisees’ plot to kill Jesus. After Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, the people start to get pretty high on Jesus. The Pharisees, feeling threatened, say, “This man keeps on doing things, creating God-signs. If we let him go on, pretty soon everyone will be believing in him and the Romans will come and remove what little power and privilege we still have.” (John 11:47-48)

Now we’ve come to a little segment I like to call, “Really?!?” with Beth Nelson.

Really, Pharisees? Really? You’re the religious leaders of the day and you’re scared of a guy doing religious things? You are supposed to know God better than everyone else, but you’re not happy about a guy who is “creating Godsigns“? Really? And also, here’s a tip. You would probably make a better priest if you were more fearful of God than you were of Rome taking away your power. Really. Yeah, really.

I’ve been a little busy lately.

I’ve never been clear on why this song gets sung only at Christmas, but it’s one of my favorites. Words are below.

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.
His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell,
His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.
For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.
I’m weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest a while:
I’m weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest a while:
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.
This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive:
This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive:
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

PJDecisionSpinnerHT: Mark Bradley of the AJC. I heart PJ.

A while ago in real-people time (as opposed to blog time … in blog time it was only a couple of posts ago), I wrote about something I learned in Philippians 4:6 – 7. Beth wants an answered prayer. God says He gives peace. I think my exact words were, “I’m not looking for peace. I’m looking for an answer. More specifically, a yes answer.

Well, God showed me.

A couple of weeks ago, as I pondered a desperate situation in which I found myself, I began to pat myself on the back for keeping a strong spirit, for not being afraid, and for keeping faith in the face of trouble. As I journaled, the words came to me: “I really feel like God is guarding my heart and my mind in Christ.”

It was one of those times where you can almost feel God tapping you on the shoulder. I lunged toward my Bible and opened it to Philippians 4:7.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Well, would you look at that. I got what God said I would get. Which is what I needed the whole time.

Huh.

(Hat tip to Amanda Rose for getting me off my arse and finally writing again. Your turn.)