Derby Party, pie included.

Despite my general love for Washington and our life here, Kentucky will always have my heart. You better believe that I would hightail it back to the Bluegrass state in an instant if the opportunity presented itself.  This love prompts lavish and extreme excitement over Kentucky-centered events that often passed more or less unnoticed when I was actually within its blessed borders. Thus, while we have never actually attended the Derby, some of my fellow Kentucky DC-based diaspora came together to throw a party for the Kentucky Derby.Derbyday-21Derbyday-4Derbyday-2Derby hats… excellent for hiding the hair that was not exactly on point because I burnt my finger on the iron on the first curl and promptly gave up. Derbyday-6 Derbyday-8 Derbyday-10Of course, like all celebrations, this one was a clever ruse to eat all the tastiest treats. I’m pleased to say that our Kentucky crew and adopted natives represented with all the classics. Derby pie (x3!), bourbon balls, beer cheese, horsey treats, mint julep punch, Appalachian apple cake, and mini hot browns, just to name a few.Derbyday-11 Derbyday-12 Derbyday-17In marriage, you learn to pick your battles.  I learned in the first year that getting James in a bow-tie was just not a battle worth picking. Which is why I’m doing the bordering-on-scary smile of excitement that he donned that dapper orange bow for the party.Derbyday-18 Derbyday-20Though not everyone would consider bunting an important thing to keep on hand, I have found that whipping out yards of homemade bunting at a moments notice can only ever improve the situation. Bless that husband of mine, who has nobly climbed up on many a ladder to hang and rehang bunting over the course of our relationship.  Derbyday-24 Derbyday-25 derbypartyDerbyday-26 Derbyday-30 Derbyday-32That my friends, that is Derby Pie bliss face.  I wore that face all evening… and the next afternoon… and the following morning for both breakfast and afternoon snack. Should you be interested in getting your own Derby Pie bliss face on, I’m sharing the recipe that we used. And by we, I really mean my friend Rachel, as I managed to make very little/ none of the food for this fête. Therefore, even if the horse I was rooting for thanks to our blind buy-in lost (poor Materiality!), I’m pretty sure I was a winner. I wish there were more pictures of this amazing pie, but alas, I was too focused on eating it.Derbyday-33

Derby Pie

  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 tbsp bourbon
  • 3/4 cup white corn syrup
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 3/4 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 pie shell
  1. Layer shell with chocolate chips, then pecans.
  2. Beat eggs. Stir in the rest of ingredients.
  3. Pour filling over chips and nuts. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes, or until pie is set and golden.
  4. Cool and consume with fresh whipped cream. I maybe liked it even better chilled the next day.
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She runs. [How moms are like Marines.]

I was raised by a strong woman, and I was raised to be a strong woman. I love when women stand up for each other and when they stand beside one another. With Mother’s Day coming up, I’m thinking even more on the type of woman who taught me what femininity means, and the type I want to be [someday] for my own daughters. Today, instead of my normal words, you get to hear from one of my favorite bloggers, Ashley.  She writes about so many things, so many good and important things that need to be said. And she has such a heart for God’s love for women, his love of dangerous and un-nice women. Not only does Ashley write about her own amazing mama, she writes about and for the women the world over made weak by their circumstances, and how we can help them realize their own strength. Take  a minute to read her post and make sure to check out the great Mother’s Day download at the end!

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_DSC2358 bwWhen I think about my mom, I think about the Marines.

It’s an unlikely pairing, given that the only uniform my mother has ever worn is a cringe-worthy little number from her high school cheerleading days. However, several years ago my husband’s dog-eared copy of It Happened on the Way to War by former Marine Rye Barcott radically altered the way I thought about motherhood. It’s a gripping read that made me forget to breathe more than once, arresting my attention with the repeated refrain, “Marines move toward the sound of guns.”

The fierce imagery of that captivated me. The defiant, almost irrational courage of unquestioningly running toward what others are running away from makes my heart beat wildly. I see that same unflinching courage in so many mothers across the globe—women who run toward danger simply because that’s where they’re needed. It’s a universal truth that transcends culture, race, and socioeconomic status—from suburbia to the Sahara, where you find a mother you will find a woman fighting fiercely for her children.

My mom isn’t a Marine. She’s a world traveler, an unapologetic risk taker, a passionate activist, and a killer chocolate-cake baker. Pint-sized and with an unflappable conviction that both zebra stripes and sequins are neutrals, she imparted the delicate art of sarcasm to me like it was a precious family heirloom and taught me that walking with Jesus is about infinitely more than being a “nice girl.” You’re far more likely to find her in a pair of feisty red heels than combat boots and fatigues—and she is the single bravest woman I’ve ever known.

Every year when Mother’s Day rolls around, Hallmark tells me to buy her a flowered card with a cotton-candy-fluff sentiment penned in careful cursive—something the Ingalls sisters might have given to Ma. The absurdity of it puzzles me—something about a generic pink card has never quite seemed right for my mom. Or, I think, a lot of moms.

My mama is a force to be reckoned with. I remember standing wide-eyed and nauseated in our kitchen as a little girl when, without warning, I began to projectile vomit all over the white-tiled floor. The whole scene looked like something from The Exorcist—minus a Catholic priest or two. Indelibly etched into my mind is the memory of my mom running toward me, her hands irrationally cupped open.

She’s been running toward me my entire life.

My mother’s unflinching bravery carried her from the comfortable little town she grew up in to a doll-sized apartment in the post-communist city of Kiev, Ukraine. She packed up three children under the age of six and as much Jiffy peanut butter as she could stuff into her carry-on and moved our lives to a place where the only thing she knew how to say was a hopeful, “Do you speak English?” In a city with no workable educational options, where those who had come before her had thrown up their hands in surrender and left, she opted to start a brand-new school for her children to attend—one that still exists today. Her bravery has carried her into crumbling refugee camps and crumbling marriages—to the places that looked irreparably dark and broken. Very hardest of all, two years ago it carried her into a dark ICU where she held her 21-year-old baby’s hand as he died of cancer.

No fear in love.It’s what mamas do, isn’t it? They run toward the hard, the ugly—they run toward the sound of guns. Our mothers bravely dive into dark and splintering brokenness with us and show us who Jesus is over and over again. They’re the first on the scene when our bones and hearts are shattered, when savage insecurities rear their ugly heads and our dreams feel worn out and hollowed. They hold the midnight watch beside cribs and cancer beds, speaking life over our dead places and believing on our behalves when nobody else will. Our mamas love wildly and fiercely, mirroring the God who runs toward us as they teach us to be like Him—second-chance-givers, hope-bringers, restorers.

My belief in the power of motherhood is an enormous part of why I love HOPE International so much. Through the power of the gospel and a small loan, HOPE empowers mothers around the world to keep running toward hard and holy things, to keep bravely fighting for their children, their communities, and the broken world around them. At HOPE, we have the breathtaking privilege of watching mothers trapped in poverty harness the power of a small loan and a safe place to save their money, and run toward the most broken places in their communities. Day after day, they courageously step into the hard work of building stronger families, neighborhoods, and churches, one person at a time.

Mamas and marines—they have more in common than I ever imagined. This Mother’s day, if a generic pink card doesn’t quite reflect the valor of your mom, consider joining me in framing this for her instead. “There is no fear in love”—moms across the globe put flesh and bone on it every day.

If you’d like to join me in giving this digital print to your mom, you can snag a free download here.

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Megan & Kellen

Lacy-Dwyer_015 Lacy-Dwyer_016 Flowers Lacy-Dwyer_034 details Lacy-Dwyer_054 Lacy-Dwyer_056 bwbride Lacy-Dwyer_099 Lacy-Dwyer_129 Lacy-Dwyer_131 Brideinfur Lacy-Dwyer_176 Lacy-Dwyer_180 Lacy-Dwyer_187 Lacy-Dwyer_191 Lacy-Dwyer_193 Lacy-Dwyer_216 Lacy-Dwyer_219 Lacy-Dwyer_245 Lacy-Dwyer_250 Lacy-Dwyer_261 Lacy-Dwyer_272 Lacy-Dwyer_302 couple Lacy-Dwyer_305 Lacy-Dwyer_316 Lacy-Dwyer_334 Lacy-Dwyer_357 Lacy-Dwyer_345 Lacy-Dwyer_367 Lacy-Dwyer_382 reception Lacy-Dwyer_421 Lacy-Dwyer_515 Lacy-Dwyer_521 Lacy-Dwyer_423 Lacy-Dwyer_442 Lacy-Dwyer_455 Lacy-Dwyer_498 Lacy-Dwyer_505 Lacy-Dwyer_503

PS: Megan and Kellen’s engagement shoot back here!

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Hey.

Oh hello there. I accidentally took a little week off of blogging to cap off this impressive semester of stuttering out maybe a blog a week. But just in case you were wondering, I did indeed pass my comp exams and proceeded to take this smug picture in the back alley beside the trash cans, as one does.Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetMy  reveling lasted about the length of the world’s fastest happy hour, followed by a drive to Pittsburgh where we took in some games and I photographed a wedding. Don’t worry, you will certainly not be spared the onslaught of those photos at a later date. That weekend was followed by a frantic two days of laundry, grading, editing, and packing, before I hoped on a plane for a long weekend in the greatest place on earth.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetBeauty. Perfection. Vaguely the shape of a fried chicken leg. Home to some of the best people, scenery, and eating there is.  I mean, just look at it:Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetIt’s like a postcard. And mud.

I didn’t just come to town to bask in the greatness that is the Bluegrass State, though that is a totally legitimate reason enough for a trip. But alas, basking is the stuff of summer vacation, and we still have a couple weeks of the semester left. I came with a couple colleagues to take part in a conference for foreign language academics. If you are thinking it’s a nerd fest, you are right.  I’ll spare you the details of the paper I presented (“Acting Out the Absolution: Contemporary Theatre as Eucharist”), and instead thrill you with other highlights of our wild weekend in Kentucky. Things like walking all over downtown Lexington and appreciating this beautiful city…Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset… and getting haircuts. No visit to home is complete without getting my hairs did with Barbara, world’s best hair stylist. That cutie in the red coat above? She’s one of my coworkers who had Barbara cut off around 14 inches so she could rock that cute bob. Nothing as drastic for me, but only because I’m a huge hair chicken. All of you who boldly whack off your hair into cute pixie cuts and face framing lobs – I salute you. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset  Luckily, I was able to eat Whole30 style while I was in town… Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetYeah…. right. Feasting is an integral part of visits to Kentucky and MUST NOT be missed. I hit up some of my favorites, like Great Bagel, Atomic Cafe, Alfalfa, and National Provisions (shown below), as well as tried out some new places like Limestone Blue (shown above). Those pancakes above? Stuffed with Nutella. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset This evening, it’s back to DC and the busyness of the last couple weeks of school. Hopefully, with the studying of exams over and this conference paper behind me, I’ll ease back into slightly more regular blogging, peskily inserting my words in your inbox to the tune of a couple times a week. But then again, I do have a semester of neglected tv shows to catch up on… so no promises. Last time I checked in with my friends over at Pope and Associates, things were pretty dire, and I couldn’t even begin to tell you what Disney characters are washing up in Storybrooke these days. Obviously, I’ve got work to do.

Happy Monday!

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It’s Friday, and these are my feelings.

Untitled-1Yesterday I had the 4 hour written portion of my PhD comprehensive exams and this afternoon I finish off with the 2 hour oral section. Which is to say, I am feeling pretty preemptively excited, because after this afternoon they will be DONE.

….And then it occurs to me that this means I actually have to buckle down, commit to a dissertation topic, and start writing. That makes me feel like I want to vomit and then go hide under my bed. (The latter is obviously not possible since those who live in tiny spaces must use the under-the-bed space as a linen closet/ wrapping paper storage / catch all of homeless house sundries.)

Yesterday I woke up to a bag of donuts that James went and fetched in the wee hours of the morning. Nothing says brain food like sprinkles and pink frosting. I’m feeling pretty blessed to have married someone who speaks my special brand of love language. He’s put in a lot of extra work around our home while I have been zeroed in on studying over the past couple weeks and I can’t emphasize enough how much I appreciate that.

This weekend we are headed to Pittsburgh for a wedding, and managing to catch a Pirates game while in town. I’m feeling pretty excited for baseball food and that all-American glow that surrounds the ballpark.

Thanks to all your many awesome suggestions last week, we have booked our travel and lodging for our adventure this summer, and I’m feeling pretty relieved. My initial internet wanderings quickly turned into panic as EVERYTHING WAS BOOKED AND EXPENSIVE. But alas, we have places to stay and crazy cheap tickets in between them.

And now, some feelings that I invite you to share with me. Because it’s Friday, and you should have them too:

I felt ALL OF THE FEELINGS this week when I watched this video. For real you all – drop what you are doing NOW and go watch it. I promise that it is way more important than this blog post.

This list had me cracking up. I feel this way all the time, and am constantly wondering what people see in some of those shirts. Every time you are tempted to declare “la vie est belle!” remember that the true French response is: ” Life is all right at best. I mean it can be beautiful, but if you need a T-shirt to get a reminder then it’s sad.” The quote that should really be on a shirt?

“The subways are always more covered in pee on the other side, am I right?”

Finally, this trailer has me feeling all sorts of anticipation. Han Solo held my heart for the first 25 years of my life (Yes, I did get married at 24 -don’t bother doing the math), and I am seriously looking forward to Christmas. If they ruin this, I will never forgive them. I’m not even sure who “they” are, but they sure messed up those other sad attempts at building on the original.

It’s Friday. What are your feelings? Leave a rant below, blog on your own and link back, or ignore entirely. Happy weekend!

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When college friends come to town.

Bethanyvisit-1Bethanyvisit-2 Bethanyvisit-3 Bethanyvisit-4 Bethanyvisit-5 Bethanyvisit-6 Bethanyvisit-7 Bethanyvisit-8 Bethanyvisit-9Last fall, my college roommate Bethany asked if I wanted to run the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler with her. If you’ve been reading this blog for a long time, you might remember the last time I ran this race. I certainly remember that there were ZERO blossoms, rendering the name a wicked tease. When Bethany brought up the race, I initially balked. My running motivation has trickled off dangerously over the last couple years, and ten miles? That’s a lot of miles. But alas, I can’t pass up a chance to spend a weekend with a bestie that I haven’t seen in over a year.

We did run the race, in case you were interested. Faster than I anticipated, and with only a couple moments where I wanted to die, moments that were aided by the presence of those perky signs held by runners and former track coaches. I tend to fall in the “cherry blossoms are overrated” camp, as the crowds are terrible and it’s hard to appreciate the blossoms when you can barely move. But they sure were amazing on our run. We spent at least a solid third of the race running through fluffy trees on either side, meeting above like the White Way of Delight. Bethany waxed poetic and quoted Housman, and I even briefly reconsidered my ban on Tidal Basin photo-shoots during blossom season. Which, though I have done them for the past two years — see here and here — always involves such a lengthy parking search and frustration at the crowds that I have sworn them off.

But really, the run was just the excuse for our weekend together. We made brunch Saturday morning, dragged James shopping, sampled the region’s finest donuts, marveled at the amazing DC spring foliage, lazed around in the park Sunday afternoon, and laughed our way (again) through some of the first season of 30 Rock. The majority of my weekends this semester have looked alike: a long run Saturday morning, followed by a long afternoon of studying, and a quiet evening in. This weekend, in all its sunny spring glory was such a nice way to shake things up. My PhD exams are tomorrow and Friday, so it should have been stressful, but instead it helped me work diligently all spring, knowing that I would have a magical weekend off right before my final days of crunching.

I said it on Instagram and I’ll say it again:  there’s just something special about college friends. You spend four years together in a place totally removed from reality, but yet so real. You become friends at a moment when your world is expanding and shifting so much, and that momentum carries you forward after college.  I know that so many people lose touch with their college friends, as is inevitable since we all go different ways. But there’s just something there, something that will always be there, resurrected every time we come together.

Here’s to sunny weekends and donuts and running under the blossoms. Here’s to friendships that last.

PS: James did not run, but he cheered us on from the sidelines with the appropriate encouragement of “RUN FOR BRUNCH! RUN FOR GLORY!” And after running in all our glory, we did indeed brunch likewise. Plus, after some kitchen mix-up that had us waiting over an hour for our meal, we got our whole meal free. HERE’S TO FREE BRUNCH.

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Friday Questions: European Adventure Edition!

Remember that dream, that it’s-not-going-to-happen-but-maybe-someday dream?

It’s happening.

c1b1997b7ac0aabf8abbda1d9385a921We have talked about it for the past year and a half, but every time there were so many reasons that it wasn’t possible. The cost, limited vacation days, the cost, the fact that James was living in another state, the cost, the fact that I didn’t really speak any German and hate being a terrible tourist, the cost, busy schedules, THE COST. But this June, it’s happening. I am overseeing a short-term study abroad trip for my university in southern France, which means that the school covers my round-trip ticket. When they told me I could arrive and leave anytime I wanted, I jumped at the chance to arrive early (because, PARIS) and stay late (because, EUROPE). Plus, after some careful calculations, we decided that if I live pretty frugally with my stipend while there, we can squirrel it away to fly James over after the students go home and we can have an adventure.

So….

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetAway we go! We are meeting up in Milan and then hopping a train to spend several days in Cinqua Terre, on the Italian coast. After that it is up to Munich, where we will spend five days living out the German dream. Munich was selected after after I asked my German co-workers where I could go that would act as a base camp for day trips and would look like a German post-card. But, as the semester is busy, I’m hoping to outsource a lot of my trip planning to you, fine people of the internet. 0351a3691e1fe16120e75359dcb1ce64

Where should we stay, play, eat, etc. in Cinqua Terre? I basically have just always wanted to go because it looks beautiful, but I would love some guidance on specific restaurants, walks, sights, and lodging. Airbnb? Hostel? Cheap hotel? Give me alllllll the suggestions!

Where should we stay, play, eat, etc. in Munich? We are planning day trips to castles, cute places in Bavaria, and Salzberg, but where should be our home base in Munich? Any places you have stayed/ things you have done that you just want to pass on? I have been sitting in on German all semester, which means I am totally fluent when it comes to labeling office furniture and expressing my love of eating and watching TV (hello, easy verbs).

Finally, any pro tips for all that train travel in between? Are some of those rail passes really worth it? James reallllyyyyy wants to take the train through the Alps, but it looks so long and kind of pricey.

Thanks people! I promise to reward you with way more Instagrams and blog posts than you ever wanted.

Images via here and here.

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