Day 7: Friends and beans.

Dear friends,

beans

I’ve long been a fan of Martha Stewart, even after she went to jail for insider trading. I’ve watched her show, purchased many of her books, and plopped down more than a few bills at Macy’s for her signature home goods. But when she recently criticized food bloggers — well, that’s more than I can stomach.

Practically all the new recipes I cook come from food bloggers. Some of my favorites are Rebecca at Foodie with Family, Lisa at the Cutting Edge of Ordinary, Ree at Pioneer Woman, Krysta at Evil Chef Mom and Annie at Phoo-D.

Krysta and Annie fall squarely into the “not professional” category that Martha dared to snark about — meaning they do it for the love of food and aren’t professional chefs, stylists or writers. Both have been on long hiatuses (they have real life to attend to), but I continue to go back to their archives regularly for favorite recipes. And I can only imagine how much Martha must look down her nose at Pioneer Woman. A home cook who landed on the NY Times Bestseller List and scored her own cooking show? Sacre bleu!

Every single one of women I’ve mentioned on my short list are individuals I’ve gotten to know outside their blogdom and whom I consider friends, even if our relationships are purely virtual. And who wouldn’t rather turn to a friend first for a great recipe?

So suck it, Martha. You’re talking out of your you-know-what on this one.

Case in point: Krysta reappeared on her blog this week with a new recipe that Mr. Mom made for me last night. It’s pure heaven and I want you — no I IMPLORE you — to try it.

Frijoles con todo, otherwise known as bean magic.

Click here for Krysta’s recipe. I won’t bother to say anything more than you deserve to cry in your beans in you never try these beans.

Mr. Mom wants you to know he doubled the recipe and thought it was just right for our family of three. That probably says more about our lumberjack appetites than Krysta’s recipe. I will simply say we ate 2-3 bowls each, because they’re that good, so you really might want to cook more.

With gratitude {for friends with great recipes and frijoles con todo, the perfect comfort food for a chilly fall night},

Joan, who’s also offering a shout-out for her home cook who takes requests, aka Mr. Mom

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Blessedly boring.

Dear friends,

I’ve been away for a while, transfixed by a life that is blessedly boring.

Last night I sat in my easy chair watching the storm coverage on cable. I had a computer on my lap and a dog wedged in beside me, as well as a blanket and a beverage and all the comforts of a working power grid and an intact roof.

Our cold and overcast Midwest weather seems like a gift by comparison.

I ran yesterday morning in humid, 29-degree weather and I won’t offer a single word of lament. Yes, it’s unseasonably chilly and yes, I’d prefer a little sunshine — but so what? I have a blanket and a dog and a computer on my lap. No one can complain about those conditions!

You know what I’ve been doing since we last chatted?

Nothing.

Really, nothing. I’ve napped — in between long, winter’s snoozes. I’ve read. I’ve cooked and eaten plenty. (Pioneer Woman’s salisbury steak is great, by the way.) I’m watching television and running and chatting with friends.

In other words, life is sedate. Easy. Relaxed.

Maybe that’s what autumn is meant to be?

I don’t know, but I know I’ll take it any day.

With gratitude {for my currently boring life},

Joan, who was about 30 before she learned the definition of a bore is not a boring person

The happy thing. Part 2.

Dear friends,

Yesterday I told you about readers Karen and Wendy over at After the Kids Leave and their shout-out for Debt of Gratitude. As part of paying it forward, I’m delighted to tell you about 7 blogs I adore.

First this: I don’t read very many blogs. I’m ashamed, really, because being a good citizen of the blogosphere means reading widely and commenting frequently. Thing is, I’m a slow and tortured writer. Keeping up with my day job and composing almost-daily posts is about all I can manage. So despite my shallow knowledge of the best and brightest bloggers out there, here are 7 writers I follow, week in and week out, no matter how busy I get.

Ree @ Pioneer Woman — Yeah she’s blogging royalty and everybody knows her. But did you know I know her in real life? Her mother grew up in my hometown and is dear friends with my first cousin, Betty Marie. (Betty Marie, Joan-Marie, we like our Maries in my family.) I have memories of Ree  — who by the way is really named Ann Marie — from the time she was a pipsqueak hanging out with my younger cousin. As cool as Ree is, she’s not the most amazing woman in her family. I adore her mother (a kindred spirit in many ways) and I idolized her grandmother, a teacher that I always thought embodied grace and kindness. Several years ago, before Facebook, my cousin Betty Marie set up a “family and friends” website where we could all post photographs and exchange news. Ree joined us every now and then until one day she posted a message saying she had started a thing called a blog and invited us all over to the Pioneer Woman. I remember her very first post. And the rest, they say, is history.

Kate @ SweetSalty — She is the writer I aspire to be. Her exquisitely undulating prose startles me with its beauty like none I have ever read and leaves me breathless. There is nothing more to say except read her. Start with this.

Glennon @ Momastery — More blogging royalty and now under book contract and appearing regularly on HuffPost. I’m convinced Glennon can single-handedly change the world. She’s funny and she’s real and she’s the most moving female voice in the blogosphere. And, she manages to writes zealously about God without making me want to run screaming from the room. For that alone, I love her.

Yoona @ Yoonanimous — She’s a young working mother with a whip-smart sense of humor and crushing sense of style, who I suspect is a little left-leaning and therefore my kind of gal. Yoona is the only writer I know who can be both wickedly funny and sweetly earnest at the same time. She’s such a clear, fresh voice in the crowded blogosphere.

Sizzle @ Sizzle Speaks — I have no idea how I tripped across Sizz years ago, but I did and I’ve been reading her forever. We’re even connected on Facebook now and though I’ve never met her, I consider her my friend. When I first found her, she was single and living the kind of urban, hip life I imagined I could have if I weren’t, you know, old and uncool and stuck in the Midwest. Now she’s about to be married and she and Mr. Darcy have bought a house in the ‘burbs. I’ve loved tagging along on her journey and I’m standing firmly behind her and sending her love and light as she navigates a cancer diagnosis.

Kristin @ Going Country — She’s another woman I tripped across long ago. She lives on a small farm with her husband, mother-in-law and two children in the kind of pastoral fantasy I always dreamed about. In fact, when Mr. Mom and I were living on a postage-stamp lot in the middle of town, we used to talk about Kristen’s Blackrock and how we could so live their lives. Several years later, we’re on a acreage larger than Kristen’s, but there are no tomatoes, no sheep, no chickens, no cisterns of any kind. Turned out, we just like reading about Kristen’s Green Acres rather than cultivating our own. Go with God, Kristen, and keep sending us updates.

CJ’s Mom @ Raising my Rainbow — CJ’s Mom is the mother of all mothers, a smart, composed, my-God-she’s-a-saint of a woman writing about the “adventures of raising a fabulously gender creative son.” I hope you’ll open your heart to her and her family.

So that’s it. Seven women, seven fabulous blogs, seven ways to spend a few minutes in the company of virtual friends who will sustain and delight you. Give them a shout.

With gratitude {for writers who inspire and entertain me},

Joan, who loves her some good words and has been squirreled away writing some new stories of her own